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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Daily Drift

What he said.

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Today in History

1402   Tamerlane's Mongols defeat Ottoman Turks at Angora.
1588   The Spanish Armada sets sail from Corunna.
1715   The Riot Act goes into effect in England.
1864   Confederate General John Bell Hood attacks Union forces under General William T. Sherman outside Atlanta.
1867   Imperial troops in Guizhou, China, kill 20,000 Miao rebels.
1881   Sioux chief Sitting Bull surrenders to the U.S. Army.
1917   Alexander Kerensky becomes the premier of Russia.
1942   The U.S. Army Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) begins its first training class at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.
1944   Adolf Hitler is wounded in an assassination attempt by German Army officers at Rastenburg.
1950   The U.S. Army's Task Force Smith is pushed back by superior North Korean forces.
1951   King Abdullah of Jordan is assassinated.
1969   Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin become the first men to walk on the moon.
1976   The Viking spacecraft lands on Mars and begins taking soil samples.

Non Sequitur


When Judges Assume That Men Cannot Control Their Own Sexual Urges

Women and men alike should be concerned by the Iowa Supreme Court's recent ruling that it's legal for a man to fire an employee he finds too attractive.
In Homer's great epic poem The Odyssey, penned in the 8th century BC, the male hero Odysseus barely escapes the devious sorcery and seduction of several archetypal female temptresses. Perhaps the most universally recognized of these temptresses are the irresistible Sirens, who beckon Odysseus and his crew with their hypnotic songs, songs famous for clouding men's minds and causing them to blow off course to shipwreck on the women's symbolic shores. Only stopping their ears with wax to remove the temptation succeeds in saving him and his men from the Sirens' clutches. Yet Odysseus, titillated by the thought of them, wants so desperately to hear their bewitching song despite the danger, that he tasks his men with binding him to the mast in order to prevent him from succumbing to their lure and leaping overboard to his ruin. Last Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on a gender discrimination case brought by a dental assistant who had been let go from her job because she was "too attractive." According to the court documents, the dentist who employed her, Dr. James Knight, claimed that "her clothing was too tight and revealing and was distracting." He testified that he "didn't think it was good for him to see her wearing things that accentuated her body." In fact, in their ruling, the Iowa justices wrote that Knight acknowledged that he once told his assistant that "if she saw his pants bulging, she would know her clothing was too revealing." The dentist and Melissa Nelson, a 32-year-old married mother of two, had exchanged messages about their respective children and always had a friendly relationship, one which Nelson describes as being like that of a "father figure" and daughter.
Apparently, the dentist had a decidedly less paternalistic interpretation of his relationship to her, and began sending her increasingly sexual text messages in the tenth year of her employment with him. Stumbling upon some of her husband's text messages, the dentist's wife decided that Nelson was too much of a threat to the Knights' marriage to be allowed to continue working alongside the good doctor. She was simply too alluring to him. So Knight, unable to stop his ears with wax, terminated her employment after ten years of service. Nelson, in response, sued Knight for gender discrimination. Unfortunately for her, the seven male justices of the Iowa Supreme Court, ruled unanimously both in December and on the subsequent appeal on July 12th, against her. Their ruling? Melissa Nelson was not terminated because of her gender, but because of the "perceived threat to Dr. Knight's marriage" that her continued presence in the workplace represented.
This court decision should alarm anyone who is a member of the workforce. The only basis for Melissa Nelson's termination was her physical appearance as a woman. This, her supposedly irresistible allure as a woman, was the "perceived threat" to her boss's marriage. Note the phrasing in the judges' ruling; Nelson's presence in the office was acknowledged as a "perceived threat" rather than a tangible threat. The only party who behaved inappropriately in this case was her boss, not Melissa Nelson. On one occasion, Knight texted her asking "how often she experienced an orgasm." She ignored the text. She did not respond to any of his advances. There was never a physical relationship between the two, something on which both parties agreed in their courtroom testimony. Still, through some spectacular semantic maneuvering and creative interpretation of precedence, the Iowa justices came to the conclusion that Knight had every legal right to terminate his employee in order to stop her from causing his pants to "bulge" and provoking him to send her sexually explicit text messages. The underlying assumption in their ruling was clearly that her mere presence was too intoxicating for any reasonable person to expect him to behave.

The legal precedence this ruling establishes endangers the premise of equal rights in the United States, and the ramifications are much further-reaching than this isolated case. The ruling appears to establish that an employee fulfilling all of his or her obligations in a job and doing nothing inappropriate can be legally terminated for unwittingly provoking another person's desires. In other words, this ruling shifts the responsibility for a lack of impulse control and inappropriate behavior from the perpetrator of sexually aggressive workplace conduct onto the "perceived threat": the archetypal femme fatale, the provocative Siren. It's a historically well-worn response to blame female victims for provoking heinous behavior in men. Look at cases like the recent Steubenville rape trial, for example, in which a teenager was gang raped while unconscious by a number of football players at a party, videotaped, and then crudely blamed across the Internet for her own rape by a startlingly large portion of her community. The most upsetting thing about the Iowa case, however, is that victim-blaming is now being legally justified and entered onto the judicial books just as there had started to be some tangible progress for women's rights between the '60s and '90s.
The justification for the court's ruling presupposes that men are no more than conscienceless animals, unable to behave in any way other than purely instinctively and outwardly. This premise doesn't just disempower women. It also disempowers men, perhaps to an even more insidious and far-reaching extent, when they are taught from that it is not even expected of them that they would be able to control their responses to stimuli, that it is some kind of fundamental truth that men are blathering, drooling slaves to their impulses, wholly incapable of making rational, moral decisions, lacking personal agency. It's ultimately an exceedingly emasculating generalization to write into the lawbooks.
Amid all of the understandably angry women reacting to this case, where are the masses of outraged men objecting to the utterly reductionist and disempowering characterization of their gender? Rulings like that of the Iowa Supreme Court are not merely misogynistic. They are also misandrous. Where are the thinking men who will stand up against the belief that they cannot be trusted with civil behavior? Do we need to accept that the only way for them to behave in mixed company is to seal their ears or bind them to the mast as they sail past alluring women at the workplace, out on the street, in social settings, rather than to teach them to take some personal responsibility and exercise a bit of self-control as grown men? Ultimately, this assumption should be as alarming to men as it is to the women who fall victim to it. Don't the men out there want to show that they are capable of evolving past archaic gender clich├ęs?
Men must become part of the conversation. A good place to start would be to take some tangible steps to empower young boys with the belief that they are capable of making respectful choices and instill in them a sense of agency rather than helplessness when it comes to sociosexual behavior. As long as men do not recognize this as a pressing male issue that they too have a stake in, and subsequently become involved in a visible way, out on the picket lines, authoring op-ed pieces, taking vocal offense at the notion that they are unthinking creatures susceptible to being bewitched by modern-day Sirens, the fundamental belief system that fuels the disquieting gender politics in this country will never change.

Why Do Americans Die Younger Than Citizens of Most Other Rich Countries?

by Jill Richardson 

We just got some bad news. Or maybe it’s some good news.
study published in the Journal of the American Medical Associationfound that Americans don’t live as long as citizens of most other rich countries. How is that good news? Because many of our top risk factors are things we can change.
By and large, people who reside in the world’s wealthy countries live longer than we do. We’re the anomaly. We’ve got the money. We can make the changes — if we want to.
Richardson-Life-UN Women Asia & the Pacific
In 2010, a baby born in Japan was expected to live to 82.6. Babies born in Iceland, Switzerland, Australia, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Israel, France, and a number of other countries could expect to see their 80thbirthdays. What about American babies? Those born in 2010 are expected to live only to age 78.2.
It’s just a difference of a couple years. But still, why do we rank below Chile?
The answer to this question requires other answers. Why are we dying young? What are the biggest risk factors? The study ranks the causes of “years of life lost:” At the top are heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Also ranking high are diabetes, cirrhosis, and colorectal cancer.
What puts you at risk for those things? All the usual suspects: poor diet, smoking, not enough exercise, and too much booze. The study specifies that, “the most important dietary risks in the United States are diets low in fruits, low in nuts and seeds, high in sodium, high in processed meats, low in vegetables, and high in trans fats.”
Yep, it’s the same stuff we’ve been hearing forever. Eat your fruits and vegetables — put down the McNuggets.
What do people in other countries do differently that makes them live so much longer? For one thing, they walk more. I lived with a British family in the outskirts of London for a summer during college, and I could count on one hand the number of times they used their car. Of course, with the excellent public transportation available to Londoners — not just the famous subway system, but buses and trains as well — it’s a lot easier to get around without a car than it is in most American cities.
Many of these countries also offer universal health care, which makes it much more likely that people will see a doctor before their condition becomes life-threatening.
As an exchange student, I was terrified when I got a painful eye infection during my summer in England. I didn’t have British insurance. Surely, I couldn’t afford a doctor visit.
Finally, when the pain became too intense, I went to the doctor. (I went on foot, of course.) My doctor’s bill? It came to $0. And the cost of the drugs he prescribed? A grand total of $18. Thank God, the problem I let malinger was simply an eye infection and not a strange-looking mole.
You know what else is more common in places where people live longer? Real food.
The French, Italians, Spanish, Greeks, and Japanese all have strong food cultures. An Italian would not even think about swapping out extra virgin olive oil for cheaper, less-healthy soybean oil. And can you imagine the reaction you’d get if you tried to serve Cheez Whiz to a French person?
In America, we spend a smaller percentage of our income on food than the people of any other nation on earth. Author Michael Moss wrote in his book Salt Sugar Fat how food companies feel compelled to produce junk because healthier alternatives cost more than customers would pay. Real food costs money. And getting sick is the hidden price we pay when we buy cheap food.
Of course, the high cost of an unhealthy lifestyle isn’t shared equally among Americans. A man in wealthy Marin County, California can expect to live nearly a decade longer than a man born in Mississippi. That’s a sad statement in a nation founded on the principle that all men are created equal.

‘America has no functioning democracy’ – Jimmy Carter on NSA

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP)
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter 
Former US President Jimmy Carter lambasted US intelligence methods as undemocratic and described Edward Snowden’s NSA leak as “beneficial” for the country.
Carter lashed out at the US political system when the issue of the previously top-secret NSA surveillance program was touched upon at the Atlantic Bridge meeting on Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia.

"America has no functioning democracy at this moment," Carter said, according to Der Spiegel.

He also believes the spying-scandal is undermining democracy around the world, as people become increasingly suspicious of US internet platforms, such as Google and Facebook. While such mediums have normally been associated with freedom of speech and have recently become a major driving force behind emerging democratic movements, fallout from the NSA spying scandal has dented their credibility.

It’s not the first time Carter has criticized US intelligence policies. In a previous interview with
CNN, he said the NSA leaks signified that “the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far." He added that although Snowden violated US law, he may have ultimately done good for the country.  

"I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial."
Jimmy Carter was President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. After leaving office, he founded the Carter Center, an NGO advocating human rights. The ex-president’s human rights credentials won him Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Carter has frequently criticized his successors in the White House. Last year, he condemned the Obama administration for the use of drone attacks in his article "A Cruel and Unusual Record" published in the New York Times.

The TSA orders airport valets to search parked cars

A woman who valet-parked her car at Rochester airport returned to find a notice informing her that the valet had searched her car, on orders from the TSA. The TSA does not search cars in the other garages, and they do not provide notice to valet parkers that their cars are subject to search. The TSA says it searches the parked cars because they are stored close enough to the terminal that a bomb could do serious damage.
John McCaffery, TSA, said, “No, those vehicles that are in the garage, short term long term parking, even if they carry pretty large amounts of explosives, they would not cause damage to the front of the airport. But for those who use the valet, the car could be there for a half hour or an hour so there is a vulnerability.”
News10NBC went to the valet parking and one of the attendants showed us the notice they put in the cars.
We asked, “You're required, they tell you, you have to search the car?” Valet Parking Attendant Frank Dettorre said, “I have to do it.”
My prediction: the TSA will erect a sign at the valet drop-off saying, "By valet parking, you agree that we can search your car." And that will be the end of it. Because in the 21st century, posting a notice of your unreasonable conduct is the same as getting consent for it.

Obama Tells repugicans He Is Going To Blow Right Through Their 'Obamacare' Opposition

 President Obama told repugicans today that their opposition to Obamacare is meaningless, and he is going to blow right through them to do what’s right for the American people.
The president started out by describing the new health insurance exchanges that begin on August 1. He states, “Insurance companies will have to compete for your business.” The president mentioned the news that in states like New York insurance premiums will drop by 50%. People who don’t get their insurance from a big group plan will now be able to buy insurance. The president said that the Affordable Care Act is doing what it is designed to do.
Obama told repugicans We’ve got a lot of problems in this country and there’s a lot of work that congress needs to do…yet instead we’re fighting these old battles. Sometimes, I just try to figure out why. Maybe they think it is good politics.” Obama said that the job of Congress is about more than politics.
The president said, “If you’re one of the 85% of Americans that already have health insurance, you already have an array of new benefits in place.” President Obama said people are getting better bang for their buck because insurance companies have to spend 80% of your premiums on healthcare. Obama said 13 million rebates were sent out to Americans last year because insurance companies weren’t spending enough of the premium dollars on healthcare.
Obama then gave examples of what Americans are doing with their Affordable Care Act rebate checks, and said that most people don’t know that they are getting money back from Obamacare. He suspected that if you took a poll, there’s a good chance that most of those people wouldn’t know that those extra dollars in their pockets came from Obamacare.
The president said, “I recognize that there are a lot of people in this town who are rooting for this bill to fail.” He said that they think this bill is about him, but it isn’t. It is about the people who got rebates. Obama asked what do the people who oppose this law think people should do with the money that they got back. He asked, “Do they think they should send it back to the insurance companies?”
He said they are steadily working through the bugs and political resistance to implementation. Obama said affordable healthcare is not some privilege for the few. It is a basic right that everyone should enjoy.
The president closed by saying that all the repugicans are offering is the same old song and dance. He closed by saying, “We’re going to blow right through that stuff and do the right thing for the American people.”
This was the kind of speech that supporters of the ACA have been waiting to hear for a long time. Now that the results are coming in, the president can argue with actual numbers that Obamacare is a good thing. The repugicans are desperate to get rid of Obamacare, because time is running out. Once people realize that they are benefiting from the ACA, healthcare reform will be here to stay.
Many people think that Obamacare doesn’t go far enough, but it is important for the long term progress of healthcare reform that this law stays in place. Without the ACA, healthcare reform advocates will be back to zero. Obamacare is a building block towards future reforms.
House repugicans can’t run on their record. They can’t run on the economy, so they are trying to replay 2010 and run on Obamacare. Times have changed, and this time the White House and Democrats are ready. If repugicans want to run on taking away healthcare and millions of dollars out of people’s pockets, bring it on.
The repugicans can offer fear, while Democrats have results. Obama and the Democrats are blowing right through this, and there is nothing that the repugicans can do to stop them.

House repugicans vote to let suspected terrorists buy guns, explosives

This story is rather incredible, but it’s not without precedent.  The repugicans in the US House Appropriations Committee yesterday voted down an amendment that would have permitted the Justice Department to block the sale of guns and explosives to suspected terrorists on the terror watch list.If we stop terrorists from buying explosives, then the terrorists win.
You see, repugicans say they don’t trust the terror watch list, and neither do their masters at the NRA. So rather than figure out how to improve the terror watch list, repugicans figure it’s better to just arm the terrorists.
Oh but it gets worse, Roll Call reports that repugicans also opposed giving local police access to the ATF  gun data. What did repugicans support?  An amendment “to block the ATF from continuing to require the reporting of purchases of multiple firearms in border states.”
Is the repugican cabal, and the gun lobby, now in the pocket of Al Qaeda?
Think that’s hyperbole, here’s an Al Qaeda operative talking about the importance of taking advantage of America’s weak gun laws.  Here’s Al Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn in 2011:
“America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at a local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle, without a background check, most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”
How big a problem is it having suspected terrorist being able to buy guns and explosives? The GAO reports (pdf file):
From February 2004 through February 2010, FBI data show that individuals on the terrorist watchlist were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times; 1,119 (about 91 percent) of these transactions were allowed to proceed because no prohibiting information was found—such as felony convictions, illegal immigrant status, or other disqualifying factors—and 109 of the transactions were denied.
This isn’t a recent problem.  Gun enthusiasts in Congress wouldn’t let the FBI check the gun purchases of terrorists immediately following September 11, lest we impinge on the Second Amendment rights of Mohammad Atta best friend.  Here’s a quote from the NYT on December 6, 2001 – only three months after September 11:
The Justice Department has refused to let the F.B.I. check its records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns, F.B.I. and Justice Department officials say.
The department made the decision in October after the F.B.I. asked to examine the records it maintains on background checks to see if any detainees had purchased guns in the United States.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that House repugicans are voting in favor of arming terrorists.  They’ve been doing it for years.

As Corporate Profits Reach Record Levels, Their Effective Tax Rates Decrease

taxdodgers7 17American citizens are paying an increasingly higher percentage of taxes as effective corporate tax rates fall during a period of soaring profits.  The key word here is effective, as in taxes actually paid by corporations to the federal treasury. (Advocates for cutting corporate tax rates cite the official government levies, not what corporations actually pay for the right to do business as US companies.)
What this means in plain English is that you and I are paying more to the government, on a relative basis, than big business, a lot more.
Long-time friend of BuzzFlash, Pulitzer Prize winning economic reporter David Cay Johnston explains how we are being hoodwinked by the "America can only remain competitive with lower official corporate tax code" arguments (made by DC politicians "rented" by corporations, according to Johnston):
Individual income tax payments have been rising fast since the economy began to recover, even though wages have hardly budged. But the same isn’t true for taxes for most corporations.
For the vast majority of America’s 5.8 million corporations, profits soared in 2010 — up 53 percent compared to 2009 — when the recession official ended at mid-year. Despite skyrocketing profits, however, their corporate income tax bills actually shrank by $1.9 billion, or 2.6 percent.
In an article in the National Memo entitled "Corporate Tax Rates Plummet As Profits Soar," Johnston elaborates:
The effective tax rate paid by 99.95 percent of companies fell to 15.9 percent in the robustly profitable year of 2010, from 24.9 percent in the half-recession year 2009.
Those figures do not count the 2,772 companies that dominate the American economy. These giant firms, with an average of $23 billion in assets, own 81 percent of all business assets in America.
Their combined profits soared 45.2 percent to a new record in 2010, but their taxes rose just 14.8 percent, new IRS data show. Profits growing three times faster than taxes means their effective tax rates fell.
In 2010 these corporate giants paid just 16.7 percent of their profits in taxes, down from 21.1 percent in 2009. The official tax rate is 35 percent.
The Washington Chamber of Commerce meme is that corporations are being kept from helping to expand the US economy by high taxes that make them non-competitive in the world market.  However, the stock market continues to flirt with record highs because big businesses are making big profits, distributing them to shareholders and in the form of executive compensation.  The excess profits are generally not being spent to expand plants or staff in the US because individual Americans -- squeezed between relatively stagnant wages (adjusted for inflation) and an increasing percentage of the tax burden (as compared to companies) -- can't afford to increase consumption.  So the Chamber of Commerce meme is malarkey.
Many of the largest corporations sit on their profits (Apple being a prime example of this) or throw a bone of investment to the American economy for public relations purposes.
US corporations, in general, don't need lower tax rates; they need to pay higher actual taxes given that the biggest of them don't pay anywhere near their IRS codified tax percentage.
Johnston is not optimistic that the burden will start shifting from individual citizens to big business anytime soon.  As he writes in his recent article:
Going forward, the Obama administration predicts that Washington will rely more on individual income taxes and less on corporate taxes.
Between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2018, individual income taxes will rise from 41.5 percent of federal revenues to 49.8 percent, an increase of 8.3 percentage points, the president’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget shows. Corporate income taxes – assuming current statutory rates – are expected to grow by only 2.4 percentage points from 8.9 percent in 2010 to 11.3 percent of federal revenues in 2018.
What this amounts to is corporations, as a result of their bought and paid for elected officials in DC, are skimming from the Sunday donation plate as others put in their hard-earned dollars to pay the price for the infrastructure that allows US-based corporations to flourish.
It is vital to never forget one important fact.  Although, the mainstream corporate media covers the economy as if it were one monolithic force, it is not.
The rich are richer than ever now.  Their economy is growing more gluttonous by leaps and bounds as the working and middle class, in essence, subsidize them with tax loopholes.
Johnston explains the revolving door and politician for rent game in DC:
Those rents – er, donations and perks – also ensure that those appointed to regulatory agency boards do well after they leave office, provided they have been good servants to corporate interests. Tricks like making customers pay taxes to monopolies that are exempt from the corporate income tax are one way that those appointed to regulatory boards will do well when they leave the government payroll, as my book The Fine Print revealed.
The corporate giants quietly lobby for laws and regulatory rules that get little to no attention in the mainstream news.
GE spent $39.3 million just on Washington lobbying in 2010, more than $73,000 per senator and representative.
ExxonMobil has spent on average almost $23 million annually lobbying Washington in 2008 through 2010. Walmart has spent between $6.2 million and $7.8 million lobbying Washington each year since 2008.
Lobbyists for these and other corporations have lawmakers on speed dial. As for you, just try to get a face-to-face appointment with your senator or representative.
Many years ago, the late US Senator Paul Simon (D-Illinois) announced that he was not going to run again.  I was with him at an event and asked him why he had decided not to seek another term.  His answer was telling.
"Mark," he said (to the best of my memory), "I spend 70% of my time fundraising and 30% of my time legislating. There's nothing I can do. You get elected to a six-year term and immediately your staff has you fundraising for the next election.  If some interest gives my campaign $20,000, my staff is going to make sure I answer if they call.  If a guy in a union with a lunchbucket calls, he'll get routed to an intern.  I've tried to change that, but it just seems to end up returning to the fundraising scramble and attention to the big givers. I'm just sick of the little guy or woman not being able to get through to me."
Simon was the last of a generation and retired with dignity. (He died in 2003.)
Now you can probably count on one hand the number of senators who don't wear a "for rent" sign on them.
And corporations continue to see their effective percentage of tax liability shrink as we continue to see ours rise.

JPMorgan fucked over Californians ...

... And now wants to just settle the whole matter for pennies to their billions. Tell me again why these financial terrorists aren't in jail?
The nation’s largest bank, which has previously clashed with its regulators, is seeking to settle with the federal agency that oversees the energy markets, according to people briefed on the matter. the regulator, the federal energy regulatory commission, found that JPMorgan devised “manipulative schemes” that transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers,” a commission document said.

The potential deal, the people said, is expected to cost the bank about $500 million, a record for the commission, which has adopted a harder line with wall street over the last year. For JPMorgan, which reported a record $6.5 billion quarterly profit last week, the fine will hardly dent the bottom line..

.... Like Barclays, JPMorgan faces accusations stemming from its rights to sell electricity from power plants. the rights come from assets the bank accumulated in the 2008 takeover of Bear Stearns.

But soon after the acquisition, the plants became a losing business that relied on “inefficient” and outdated technology. under “pressure to generate large profits,” investigators said in the March document, traders in Houston devised a solution. adopting eight different “schemes” between September 2010 and June 2011, the traders offered the energy at prices “calculated to falsely appear attractive” to state energy authorities. The effort prompted authorities in California and Michigan to pay about $83 million in “excessive” payments to JPMorgan, the investigators said.

... After California authorities began to object to the bank’s trading strategy, ms. masters “personally participated in JPMorgan's efforts to block” the state authorities “from understanding the reasons behind JPMorgan's bidding schemes,” the regulator, known as FERC, said. - More

McDonalds tells their employees to budget

... And gives them a sample on how to do it ... However ... They basically said you can't live on with what they pay and you'd need a second job ... And they budgeted that in for you. And, if you notice, they assume that their workers can't afford to eat ... It's not budgeted.

Real budgets as filled out by actual employees of McDonald's.

Say it ain't so ... Toronto's Honest Ed's will go

"Honest Ed's, the iconic Toronto discount store ('There's no place like this place. Anyplace') is up for sale and will be closing. You may know it from its appearance in the Scott Pilgrim comic and film, but it's been a landmark in Toronto for decades. Not a surprise, of course, since it doesn't really fit in to today's retail landscape (they have real hand painted signs for all their prices painted by real honest to god sign painters that they employ full time) but of course, that's why it's such an amazing place. It will likely be replaced by yet another condo with ground floor stores that could be in any city in the world and a little bit more of Toronto's personality will be gone."
I had an office facing Honest Ed's for a while -- I finished Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town there, and that building has always been an integral part of the neighborhood for me. My grandparents shopped there. My parents shopped there. I shopped there. Toronto, like all the world's cities, is being crushed into a bland, multinational corporate sameness that makes us all poorer, except for a few shareholders.

The Case of the Farting Ghosts

I'm not a cloud, I'm a fartWhen bad smells from flatulent demons were ruining his business, who Romanian lawyer Madalin Ciculescu gonna call? The ghostbusters - his local Orthodox bishop and priests - to do an exorcism, of course!
And when THAT inconceivably failed, Ciculescu decided to bring the matter to a higher authority:
A Romanian lawyer is suing his local Orthodox bishop and four priests claiming they failed to properly exorcise flatulent demons that were forcing him out of his home.  [...] The case alleging 'religious malpractice' is reportedly the first time there has been such an allegation made in a Romanian court.

He told the court: 'If they (the accused) represent the way of god then god's ways are crooked. They did not remove the demons that made these bad smells as they promised to do, and I still see all sorts of demons in the form of animals, usually crows but also other such things, that are making my life miserable.
'When I am at home they switch the TV on and off all the time, they make foul smells that give me headaches and basically roam unhindered around my house and my business.'
The man produced his mother to back up his claim saying that even the hair-dryer was possessed and a black shadow came out of it when anyone tried to use it - and she also said the fridge was infested by the flatulent demons that she confirmed left foul smells about the property.

Evolution of Gamers

Evolution of Gamers
Evolution of Gamers

What Your Email Sign-Off Really Means

'Cheers', 'all best', 'warm regards' - having to choose the best way to sign off an email is a minefield. There are few elements of modernity as vexing as the question of how to sign off from an email.

It's an easy task if you want to look like a passive-aggressive tosser, but if you don't, it's one of the most fraught decisions you'll make - and you have to make it over and over again, every day, knowing that if you slip up you might find yourself on the end of a workplace harassment complaint or scathing mockery from colleagues. I always use 'kind regards.' Which email sign-off do you use for what occasion?

If you have to take an antibiotic, should you take a probiotic, too?

It probably won't hurt, and it could help, says Scott Gavura at Science Based Medicine. But it's also worth taking a closer look at the nuance behind probiotics, too. These are promising medications and a fascinating field of research, but educating yourself on what we do know and what we don't (especially when it comes to purity of various products) is a really good idea.

The 10 Tallest University Clock Towers

While having a clock tower on campus may help students get to class on time, these graceful structures do more than mark the passing hours. Bells ring from their lofty tips, sending chimed concerts, alma mater and even fight songs out into the ether.

Some seemingly hark back to the Venetian towers of old, while others incorporate Art Nouveau elements. The towers' many architectural styles delight - as do the impressive heights to which they soar. Take a look at what are the top 10 tallest university clock towers.

Why Do Humans Like Fizzy Drinks?

Drinking carbonated water has been in vogue since at least 1767, and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. So what gives us our taste for the sparkling stuff?

It's still not clear what characterizes the sensation of carbonation. People assume carbonation is the feeling of bubbles popping on the tongue, but when people drink carbonated beverages in a pressure chamber, where bubbles don't burst, they describe it the same way. So it's not purely mechanical.

What Is Graphene?

Graphene, an emerging material that could change the way electronic components are made and help computing performance continue to grow, is everywhere in the research world these days. Graphene is an allotrope of carbon. In this material, carbon atoms are arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern.

The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2010 was awarded to Russian-born Dutch physicist Andre Geim and Russian-born British physicist Konstantin Novoselov for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene.

Random Photos

The Roof Of Africa

The Spectacular Beauty Of The Ethiopian Highlands

Do not be uncomfortable if the first words that come to mind when Ethiopia is mentioned have negative connotations. If you live in the developed world then you may easily connect the country to its well documented recent history of insurgency, civil war and famine.

Yet although Ethiopia's troubles are far from over there is much more to the country than this. Its Highlands contain the largest continuous area of high altitude land in the whole of the continent. Little wonder then that the Ethiopian Highlands are often called The Roof of Africa.

What Is An Exoplanet?

Sixty three light-years away in a constellation called Vulpecula lies a planet called HD 189733b. While its name may sound unremarkable, astronomers proved this week that HD 189733b is, indeed, special: It's deep-blue in color and covered in clouds of liquid glass.

HD 189733b is an exoplanet. Located outside of our solar system, it's just one of more than 900 similar planets we've identified. However, scientists estimate there are at least 100 billion exoplanets - and that's just in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. But what exactly is an exoplanet?

Astronomical News

If you missed the peak of the current solar cycle, you’re not alone -- solar maximum is apparently a no-show this time around.
Welcome to the Aeolis Riviera -- the strongest evidence yet for a Martian coastline.

Climate Change Is 10,000 Times Faster Than Evolution

A lot of groups of animals evolve far to slowly to adapt to human-caused global warming.

Chaos in courtroom after bedbugs seen crawling up defendant’s neck

A Manhattan courtroom was evacuated on Tuesday after bedbugs were spotted crawling up the neck of a man. Pandemonium erupted after panicked spectators said they saw the insects on the man who was there to answer to a desk-appearance ticket. The sight sent court observers scrambling out of their seats, a witness said.

“People started bolting,” added the witness, a 49-year-old Manhattan woman. “Even the court officers were freaked out. It was disgusting.” The incident happened at about 11:30am. A court officer assigned to one of the courtrooms designated for arraignments saw a commotion in the back and asked what was going on, the witness said. A woman stood up and announced that a man sitting near her was covered with the creepy crawlies, sparking chaos in the benches.

Several observers raced out of the courtroom. The apparent offender also sprinted away from the scene, the witness said. The court officers emptied the three final rows, and the proceedings continued, the witness said. After about 20 minutes, an exterminator arrived and the courtroom was evacuated. When the room was reopened, yellow police tape was cordoning off the three final rows. “People were scratching themselves,” the witness said.

“Everyone in the courtroom was uncomfortable.” “I’m still scratching myself,” added the witness. “Just telling the story I get itchy.” Courts spokesman David Bookstaver said the incident started after “spectators thought they saw bugs jumping from a defendant. Court personnel were notified and immediately inspected the courtroom,” Bookstaver said, noting that there was no sign of the bugs. But the court workers weren’t going to take any chances, Bookstaver said. “As a prophylactic measure, the courtroom was sprayed,” he said.

Indian woman committed suicide following death of her kittens

A 25-year-old woman killed herself at Amberpet in Hyderabad on Monday evening after her pet kittens, that she had brought home recently, were found dead. E. Swarnalatha set herself on fire in her house at Maruthinagar when her mother and sister were out, police said.

She suffered 90 per cent burns and died by the time she was rushed to hospital. Authorities said that she left a suicide note stating that she wished to end her life since her kittens were no more. An animal lover, Swarnalatha had brought four kittens recently but the house owner had asked her not to keep them in the house.

The four kittens were found dead on Monday after they had been left outside the house overnight, police said. Speaking about the suicide of E. Swarnalatha, Amberpet sub-inspector T. Murali Krishna said, “Her house owner had asked her not to bring the kittens inside. So she had to keep them outside last night. The kittens were dead by morning.”

The incident came to light when her neighbors heard Swarnalatha’s screams from inside the house. They barged in and put out the fire but by then it was too late. She was rushed to a private hospital where she was declared dead. In her suicide note, she wrote, “I am depressed about their death, they were my only love. I do not want to live anymore since they are not alive.”

Leeches vs. poisonous water snakes

Please enjoy this dispatch from a beautiful summer day in central Alabama — where babbling brooks are home to both poisonous cottonmouth snakes and metric crap-tons of leeches. Intrepid writer Jim Godwin manages to make the experience of wading in one such creek seem weirdly idyllic and is rewarded with photos of an almost Syfy-worthy showdown, in which a pack of leeches go after one of the snakes. Thanks leeches. Theeches. 

Animal News

University of Adelaide research has shown new evidence that dinosaurs were warm-blooded like birds and mammals, not cold-blooded like reptiles as commonly believed. In a paper published in PLoS ONE, Professor Roger Seymour of the [...]
Years of living with humans means that dogs even somewhat think like us, recalling past events as they go about their day.
A British tourist's headaches and hearing problem were caused by the larvae of the screwworm fly.

Animal Pictures