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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift

It's a generational thing ...! 
Carolina Naturally is read in 192 countries around the world daily.

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Today is Worldwide Art Day  
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Today in History

Today in History
480 BC The Persian army defeats Leonidas and his Spartan army at the battle Thermopylae, Persia.
48 BC Julius Caesar defeats Gnaius Pompey at Pharsalus.
1483 Pope Sixtus IV celebrates the first mass in the Sistine Chapel, which is named in his honor.
1549 England declares war on France.
1645 Settlers in New Amsterdam gain peace with the Indians after conducting talks with the Mohawks.
1805 Austria joins Britain, Russia, Sweden and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in the third coalition against France.
1814 Andrew Jackson and the Creek Indians sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, giving the whites 23 million acres of Creek territory.
1842 The Webster-Ashburn treaty fixes the border between Maine and Canada's New Brunswick.
1859 The escalator is patented. However, the first working escalator appeared in 1900. Manufactured by the Otis Elevator Company for the Paris Exposition, it was installed in a Philadelphia office building the following year.
1862 At Cedar Mountain, Virginia, Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson repels an attack by Union forces.
1910 The first complete, self-contained electric washing machine is patented.
1930 First appearance of the animated character Betty Boop ("Dizzy Dishes").
1936 Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in track and field events at the Berlin Olympics.
1941 President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill meet at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. The meeting produces the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the two countries on war aims, even though the United States is still a neutral country.
1944 Fictional character Smokey the Bear ("Only you can prevent forest fires") created by US Forest Service and the Ad Council.
1945 The B-29 bomber Bock's Car drops a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.
1965 Singapore expelled from Malaysia following economic disagreements and racial tensions; becomes independent republic.
1969 Charles Manson's followers kill actress Sharon Tate and her three guests in her Beverly Hills home.
1971 Le Roy (Satchel) Paige inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame.
1974 Gerald Ford is sworn in as president of the United States after the resignation of President Richard Nixon.
1975 First NFL game in Louisiana Superdome; Houston Oilers defeat New Orleans Saints 13-7.
1979 England's first major nude beach established, at the seaside resort of Brighton.
1992 Twenty-fifth Olympic Summer Games closes in Barcelona, Spain.
1999 Russian president Boris Yeltsin fires his prime minister and, for the fourth time, fires the entire cabinet.
1999 The Diet of Japan establishes the country's official national flag, the Hinomaru, and national anthem, "Kimi Ga Yo.".

Non Sequitur

Daily Comic Relief
The 'That isn't right' Edition

Ten-year-old Saves Family with Mario Kart Skills

Heroes in the News
Gryffin Sanders of Golden, Colorado, was in the car with his younger brother being driven by their 74-year-old great-grandmother. The car was traveling at 60 mph when Darlene Nestor passed out!
Gryffin saw the car start to veer toward oncoming traffic, so he grabbed the wheel to steer the vehicle away -and into a ditch. His father, Sean Sanders, considers Gryffin a hero.
The car slowed down in the ditch filled with mud and he and his brother were unharmed. Passersby stopped to call 911 and help his great grandmother. Sean said there easily could have been head-on collision.

"The car could have rolled. There could've been, you know, a travesty of an injury or even possibly a fatality," Sean said. "The good news is we will never have to know."

Luckily, this is not the first time Gryffin has driven. He says he learned a lot playing the video game "Mario Kart".

"And, I'm pretty good at go kart driving," Gryffin said.
Nestor was airlifted to a hospital where she is undergoing tests. More

Did you know ...

Did You Know ...
That young voters think climate change deniers are "crazy" and "out of touch"

That a judge orders police to return $1 million seized based on a dog sniff

About mind rape and the christian right

That a new poll finds a majority of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is absolutely useless

In case you forgot, the shrub sucked

Lunatic Fringe 
The shrub has the same approval rating as President Obama? How can this be? Have the American people really forgotten about all of "Dubya's" shortcomings? But it's true, in a recent poll, the shrub was neck and neck with President Obama. Let's take a look at some of the less than exemplary actions of the shrub.

He started a "Nation Building" war in Iraq over WMD's that never existed in the first place. We never found any WMD's there, and probably never will. He approved a giant unfunded Medicare drug benefit even though the system had gone broke. He completely failed in dealing with Hurricane Katrina. He never vetoed one single bill until two years after he was in office. He failed to make any of the tax cuts that he put in place, permanent. He appointed absolute morons to high level positions solely on the basis that they were part of his daddy's little clique.    

He had no post war plan for Iraq; he just left the mess for the next president to deal with. He allowed torture by saying that The Geneva Convention did not apply to "enemy combatants." A couple of weeks before 9/11, while on vacation at his ranch in Crawford Texas, he ignored a memo from the CIA that said, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike US." He entered Iraq without a U.N. mandate. He didn't sign the Kyoto Protocol, which was a treaty that states that participating countries lower their greenhouse emissions.

He didn't supply our military with the proper body armor for the war in Iraq. He didn't include Louisiana's coastal parishes in a state of emergency for Hurricane Katrina. He gave the wealthiest Americans tax cuts trying to keep in line with the trickle-down theory originally introduced during the Reagan administration. He restricted the research of embryonic stem cells.

When it came time to rebuild the nation that he helped to destroy, he awarded the reconstruction contracts to Halliburton, who was incidentally Vice President Cheney's former employer. Shortly after 9/11 the shrub made it legal for wiretaps to take place without a warrant. He failed to capture Osama Bin Laden even after that should have been his primary goal following 9/11.

The shrub screwed this country over something awful. In this Liberal's opinion, he is by far the worst leader this country has ever had. I am really shocked that the shrub and President Obama currently have the same approval rating. That just goes to show you what can happen when we get a paranoid lunatic fringe in America, such as the tea party. They dumb down American politics. They have truly given the stupid a voice in which they can give their hero, the shrub "Dubya"  a better approval rating.

Three Reasons High Food Stamp Enrollment Is Due To The Economy, Not Fraud

It's The Economy Stupid
food stamps pic_main 
Critics have charged that the fact that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) continues to see high enrollment even as the unemployment rate gradually improves is evidence of fraud. But a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities marshals evidence that the continuing demand for food stamps is thanks to the sluggish economy.
The report points to three main reasons that enrollment in SNAP remains high because of the economy and not because of fraud or waste:
1. The labor market is still weak. SNAP spending rose quickly as the recession took hold and more and more people needed assistance. Its caseload and spending growth have “slowed substantially” while the economy recovers, the report notes, with spending just 1.5 percent higher in the first half of 2013 compared to the year before. Yet while the unemployment rate has started to drop, the number of people who are actually employed remains flat.
CBPP chart 1
2. The number of unemployed people who don’t receive unemployment benefits keeps growing. More and more people who have lost their jobs are not receiving benefits: In the first half of 2013, 11.9 million workers were unemployed, but just 6.7 million got assistance. That disparity has increased since 2009, when 14.3 million workers were without a job and 9.2 million of them were without benefits. This group is the most likely to qualify for SNAP assistance since they have neither wages nor unemployment insurance coming in.
CBPP chart 2
3. Declines in SNAP enrollment usually lag behind falling unemployment rates. After spikes in unemployment in 1992, 2003, and 2010 began to decline again, SNAP still lagged the improvement in the economy “by several years,” the Congressional Budget Office has found. Two other studies have found that the current relationship between SNAP enrollment and unemployment is consistent with what happened after the two previous economic downturns.
Many repugicans who have tried to cut the SNAP program justify the cuts by pointing to fraud and abuse, even though outright fraud has been brought down to just 1 percent. Those very repugicans have also benefited heavily from the other half of the spending in the farm bill: agriculture subsidies. Democrats who voted for cuts to food stamps have taken big sums from the farm industry.
The repugicans in the House have been particularly hard at work to undermine a program that lifts millions out of poverty, ramming through a bill that stripped SNAP from the farm bill altogether and leaving it vulnerable to drastic cuts. But even without these cuts, recipients will see a significant reduction in their benefits come November.

Worker Wages

It's The Economy Stupid

Wendy's vs. Wal-Mart vs. Costco

by Emily Jane Fox
The workers hold similar positions at these companies. Levels of experience vary but the wages are representative of the average worker we interviewed.
Can a company pay its workers well and also make money?

Many aren't quite hitting the right balance. Hundreds of dissatisfied workers at major American companies like Wal-Mart (WMT), McDonald's (MCD) and Wendy's (WEN) have joined protests nationwide in the past year demanding higher wages and better benefits.

One company that hasn't had to deal with such strikes is Costco (COST).

The no-frills warehouse chain pays its hourly workers an average of just over $20 an hour, compared to just under $13 at competitor Wal-Mart. Even President Obama praised Costco in a recent speech about helping the middle class.

The recession has been good for companies that targeted budget-minded customers. Sales at Costco have grown an average of 13% annually since 2009, while profits have risen 15%. Its stock price has more than doubled since 2009.

During the same period, discount retailer Wal-Mart's sales grew an average of 4.5% each year, profits rose 7%, and its stock price increased 70%.

Costco seems to be investing some of those profits back into its employees.

Cesar Martinez, a 37-year-old fork lift operator, has worked at a Costco in North Carolina for 19 years. He makes $22.82 an hour, gets health benefits and a pension plan. He manages to save, and doesn't worry about hospital bills for his daughter, who suffers from asthma.

"That's the reason why I've been here for so long," he said. "The company gives you a decent wage and treats you with respect and takes care of you. That's why we all give 100%."

Some experts say companies aren't able to adopt the Costco model, because they can't charge its $55 annual membership fee.

However, research shows that it pays to pay employees well, because satisfied workers are more productive and motivated, according to MIT Sloan School of Management professor Zeynep Ton, who focuses on operations management.

"How many times have you gone to a store, and the shelves are empty or the checkout line is too long, or employees are rude?," she said. "At Costco, you see a huge line that disappears in minutes."

The productivity translates into sales, she said.

According to Ton's research, sales per employee at Costco were almost double those at Sam's Club, its direct warehouse competitor owned by Wal-Mart.

Workers who are dissatisfied with pay are joining picket lines. Last week, fast food workers in seven cities from chains like McDonald's, Wendy's and Yum (YUM) Brands-owned KFC, protested for higher wages of $15 an hour. It's a demand they've been making since last November.

It's been spreading -- from hundreds of Amazon warehouse workers in Germany to Wal-Mart workers walking off work, all calling for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.

The median pay for fast food workers nationwide is $9.05 an hour, or about $18,800 a year.

"While the fast food and retail industry is making record profits, its workers are forced to rely on public assistance just to afford the basics," according to Fast Food Forward, a union- and community group-backed organization behind some of the protests.

In the News

Just the News

PBS NewsHour becomes first nightly national newscast anchored by two women 

This is cool news: The PBS NewsHour (which I have contributed to, via their science correspondent Miles O'Brien) today announced that they'll be the first nightly news broadcast in the US with two female anchors. This shouldn't be a big deal, bla bla, but come on. It is. Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff. Brian Stelter: "The co-anchor arrangement harks back to the 1970s, when Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil founded the nightly newscast that was later named “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” The two men jointly presented the program until 1995." 

Don't touch that hot stove! 

The complicated process that allows your brain to quickly cancel an order and replace it with another. 

Life in a toxic country 

New York Times China correspondent Edward Wong describes his life in heavily polluted Beijing, where he no longer feels safe running outside and, in order to bike around town, dons a black air filter face mask that makes him "look like an Asian Darth Vader". 

Unnecessary shark attack safety advice 

Your chances of being killed by a shark are 1 in 3.8 million. But, you know, just in case, here's what you do to survive a shark attack.

The real scoop on the biggest shark that ever lived 

Megalodon is dead, to begin with. (Not that you'd know that from watching the Discovery Channel's recent intentionally fake, but presented as factual, documentary on the subject.) But the extinct giant shark — 3x the length of a Great White and 10x the mass — is still pretty damn fascinating. Check out this actually factual treatment of the biggest shark that ever lived at The Contemplative Mammoth blog. 

Civil Forfeiture ...

Nations Behaving Badly

America's daylight robbery, courtesy of the War on Drugs

"Taken" is a blood-boiling, beautifully written expose on America's "civil forfeiture" laws by which people who are tangentially related to suspected drug offenses have their assets seized, even when no charges are filed and no guilt is found. The story, which Sarah Stillman wrote for The New Yorker, revolves around the notorious town of Tenaha, TX, a small town on US 59 where a corrupt system allowed cops to pull over people -- mostly brown people -- and simply take away all their possessions: their cars, their cash, even the gold crosses around their necks. The victims of the scam were threatened with the loss of custody of their children as well as time in jail, and the funds raised by this were used by the local District Attorney for frivolities like popcorn machines, as well as for donations to influential churches that helped elect her to her office.
But the story isn't limited to one town in Texas. From West Philadelphia -- where frail, elderly African-American couples have their homes seized in dawn no-knock raids because their children or even grandchildren are suspected of involvement in drug trafficking -- to towns across America, civil forfeiture is a cash-cow and an end-run around the Fourth Amendment, a way for cash-strapped towns and counties to pay for their law-enforcement infrastructure through literal daylight robbery. And it's a vicious cycle: the more the cops steal from the poor and powerless, the more money they have to hire more cops to commit more theft.
“The eye-opening event was pulling those files,” Guillory told me. One of the first cases that caught his attention was titled State of Texas vs. One Gold Crucifix. The police had confiscated a simple gold cross that a woman wore around her neck after pulling her over for a minor traffic violation. No contraband was reported, no criminal charges were filed, and no traffic ticket was issued. That’s how it went in dozens more cases involving cash, cars, and jewelry. A number of files contained slips of paper of a sort he’d never seen before. These were roadside property waivers, improvised by the district attorney, which threatened criminal charges unless drivers agreed to hand over valuables.
Guillory eventually found the deal threatening to take Jennifer Boatright and Ron Henderson’s children unless the couple signed away their money to Shelby County. “It’s like they were memorializing the fact that they were abdicating their responsibility to fight crime,” Guillory said. “If you believe children are in sufficient danger that they should be removed from their parents—don’t trade that for money!” Usually, police and prosecutors are careful about how they broker such exchanges. But Shelby County officials were so brazen about their swap-meet approach to law enforcement, he says, “they put it in the damn document!”
Patterns began to emerge. Nearly all the targets had been pulled over for routine traffic stops. Many drove rental cars and came from out of state. None appeared to have been issued tickets. And the targets were disproportionately black or Latino. A finding of discrimination could bring judicial scrutiny. “It was a highway-piracy operation,” Guillory said, and, he thought, material for a class-action lawsuit.

DEA is using NSA data, then lying about it

Nations Behaving Badly
From the part of the news world that doesn’t participate in The Emperor’s Not Naked News Service (ENN) — in this case, from Reuters — comes a story of how NSA data is funneled into the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) for use in domestic and international drug cases.
This includes, apparently, fortuitously timed traffic stops of suspected dealers — low-enders, in other words, as well as anyone falsely scooped up in local raids. No evidence of the latter has emerged, yet, but we sure have evidence of the process and data-path.
This story isn’t just about the NSA and DEA, though. It’s about all of the agencies that feed data to the DEA, and after the DEA uses it for its own purposes, all of the places this data then goes.
There’s a funnel in, a collection point (database), and a funnel out. There’s also systemic lying to conceal the data and the process itself.
Interested? Read on; it’s fascinating..

Who gives data to the DEA?

The DEA has a unit within it, called Special Operations Division (SOD), that is a distribution point for data generated by other agencies. The excellent John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke, writing for Reuters:
A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.
… The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred.
So start with that picture. Data pours into the DEA from:
google-dont-be-evil shirt 
▪ NSA (our friends Google and Apple again)
▪ IRS (meaning all your financial data)
▪ Homeland Security
▪ At least 19 other agencies
It then goes into a database called DICE, where it is used by the DEA and anyone else the DEA gives access to it.

Who can use the DEA-collected data?

So “two dozen” federal agencies feed data into the DEA. Who gets that data? Certainly it’s used internally, as part of the DEA’s direct work. But there’s also this, via Reuters again:
Today, the SOD offers at least three services to federal, state and local law enforcement agents: coordinating international investigations such as the Bout case; distributing tips from overseas NSA intercepts, informants, foreign law enforcement partners and domestic wiretaps; and circulating tips from a massive database known as DICE.
The DICE database contains about 1 billion records, the senior DEA officials said. The majority of the records consist of phone log and Internet data gathered legally by the DEA through subpoenas, arrests and search warrants nationwide. Records are kept for about a year and then purged, the DEA officials said.
About 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents have access to the DICE database, records show.
So who is serviced by SOD’s services? In addition to the DEA itself:
“About 10,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agents” [and all of their friends]
In other words, cop friends of the DEA, plus all of their cop friends, can ask DICE any question they want. (“Hey Fred, you’re in the Drug Unit. Can you look up … ?”) So cops and their friends.
Corrupt cops, of course (yes, they do exist), could spread DICE data even wider than that — which now means, cops and all of their non-cop friends as well. A rather large circle, don’t you think? I suspect some cops have friends with non-cop axes to grind, and ways to thank cops who grind them. Surely that number is not zero, right?
By the way, there’s a section in the Reuters article that declares the DICE database to be “an amazing tool,” then dutifully reports that the government reports that the government is obeying all of the rules, even those that have been proven not to exist. Thought you should know.

How does DEA abuse this database? By lying about its tips and sourcing to judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys

Let’s assume that collecting All Data in the name of “national security” is useful and ethical. How does the DEA then use it?
Part of the way it’s used is to generate tips and leads. (“There’s a hand-off going down at the warehouse on 9th. The guy with the dope drives a rusted-out light blue Focus, license 999 9999.”) The DEA agent, or cop friends of the DEA agent, can then stage a traffic stop (say) of said vehicle, a luckily timed pull-over and trunk-and-undercarriage search. (“Lookee here, Fred. I think we stumbled onto something. Good thing we stopped this guy.”)
Notice that in my pretend dialog above, the DEA source of the tip is hidden. This is actually standard practice, not just with the DEA-generated data, but in cop circles in general. Reuters again:
A former federal agent in the northeastern United States who received such tips from SOD described the process. “You’d be told only, ‘Be at a certain truck stop at a certain time and look for a certain vehicle.’ And so we’d alert the state police to find an excuse to stop that vehicle, and then have a drug dog search it,” the agent said. …
After an arrest was made, agents then pretended that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not with the SOD tip, the former agent said. The training document reviewed by Reuters refers to this process as “parallel construction.” … “Parallel construction is a law enforcement technique we use every day,” one official said. “It’s decades old, a bedrock concept.”
Got that? DEA gets data from almost everywhere, creates a tip database, passes the tips (or tips come out via third-party queries), and once an arrest is made, the source of the tip is hidden as a matter of course. Why? Because hiding the source of tips is always done.
Yves Smith, writing about this at Naked Capitalism:
In a weird but more disturbing analogue to chain of title abuses, where banks would forge signatures and fabricate documents to remedy the failure to transfer assets properly to securitization trusts, Reuters reported today that the Drug Enforcement Agency would doctor up where it got evidence from so it could use it in court. Now why would the DEA bother to go to all that trouble? Chorus: Because if a decent defense lawyer found out where it came from, it would in most cases be inadmissible.
Of course, Reuters does not know that for a fact, so it can’t say that. But anyone with an operating brain cell can see through this practice.
Do you have an operating brain cell? The writers at Reuters are hoping you do. This is an excellent and exclusive (and explosive) article, but not everything can be said, and some things that aren’t likely true must be said (the government’s assertion of the government’s always-innocence, noted above). That doesn’t mean you can’t connect the remaining unconnected dots. Go ahead; connect.

Where are the holes in these disclosures?

Yves has cleverly found several more holes in these disclosures. For example, reread the two quoted paragraphs above that start “Today, the SOD offers at least three services …”. Smith again:
Do you notice all the caveats? “The SOD offers at least three services”…”the majority of the records consist of phone log and Internet data gathered legally…” So not only has Reuters uncovered that international information, which was collected by God only knows what means, is being used domestically, but the article tacitly admits that only a “majority” or the information in a ginormous database was gathered permissibly.
See? More dots connected, and all without guessing. According to the article itself, at least some of the data was gathered illegally, and there are likely more services — perhaps many more — offered by DEA to friends of DEA, and all of their friends.

Bottom line

Yves Smith has a great bottom line:
It was bad enough when we thought we knew about America’s star chambers, such as Obama’s position that he could kill any “suspected terrorist” … Now we learn of even more widespread and disturbing domestic practices. And this is only the part we’ve been permitted to see. Just imagine what else goes on.
I too have a takeway — as usual, a view from 10,000 feet above the American emotional landscape.
We long ago became a prosecutorial nation, a nation of punishers. Not all of us, but enough to swamp the rest. As a nation, we love us our cops, our prosecutors, our hanging judges. We love us our Abu Graibs and Gitmo force-feeds and Bradley Mannings chained to the wall. Dirty Harry and Death Wish Architect (the Charles Bronson character) are our heroes and protectors. This is everywhere, in low culture and high — watch Judge Judy sometime, or think of the Jerry Springer show. The purveyors of punishment are our gods, our daddies, our agents.
We identify their abuses with our balls and other gonadal parts. In a complex and perverse way, they make our child parts feel falsely and vicariously strong, and at the same time, make our frightened baby parts feel protected and confirmed in the rightness of their fear. It cements us to our fear. Adoring these men and women, we will never grow up, never be strong, never be self-reliant, despite the Orwellian self-reliance fetish-talk that washes through these circles.
The part of this nation that needs all this “security” and “protection” is the least adult, least strong, most frightened daddy-seeking population I’ve ever encountered. It’s getting what it wants, but it’s creating (has created) a world that’s unlivable by those who don’t share its determined infantilism.
Ultimately, even they won’t want what they’ve created. After all, the unstoppable predator that eats their enemies will soon turn elsewhere for food. Sons and daughters of Texas, that’s your sister’s vagina they’re groping; your mother’s and grandmother’s too. Not mine nor any of my friends’. The rest of us will avoid you every chance we can. You’re the ones stuck at home, in the world of your fear come back at you.

DC cops caught infiltrating peaceful, lawful protest groups

Bad Cops
Organizers of the United Students Against Sweatshops in DC had wondered about "Missy," an activist who always seemed to be on the scene, though no one seemed to know anything more about her. One thing they did know, however, was that Missy's appearances were correlated with DC cops showing up at the stores where they were planning (lawful, peaceful) protest actions, preventing them from taking place.
A couple of lucky coincidences and some online sleuthing revealed that Missy was an undercover DC police officer named Nicole Rizzi, who had inflitrated a law-abiding, peaceful group whose purpose was to pressure clothing retailers to buy from suppliers in Bangladesh that met minimum standards on pay and working conditions. The group has filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia, and they've asked the judge for an injunction prohibiting the police from further infiltration and spying of their group.
Light flagged down USAS organizer Garrett Shishido Strain and alerted him to Missy’s presence. Shishido Strain knew just how “Missy” had wound up at the protest: He had met her four days earlier at a USAS protest outside of a Gap. Rizzi identified herself as “Missy Thompson,” gave Shishido Strain her email and phone number, and asked to be informed of future actions so that she could attend. On May 14, Shishido Strain emailed her about a last-minute protest at the Children’s Place in Columbia Heights the next day.
Having been alerted by Light, Shishido Strain and other activists filmed Rizzi handing out flyers at the May 15 like a normal protester. Later, Shishido Strain would spot Rizzi once more, at a June 29 protest against the Gap.
In retrospect, Shishido Strain believes that Rizzi had notified DC police about the group’s plans. “One of the steps we usually take at our protest is to deliver a letter detailing the human rights abuses in their supply chain to the store/business being protested,” says Shishido Strain. “We do not break any laws and if we are asked to leave the store after delivering the letter, we do. After ‘Missy’ began participating in our events, we were twice blocked from delivering letters by the Metropolitan Police Department, who presumably had been tipped off about the time and location of our events. This occurred at the May 15 Children’s Place demonstration and the June 29 demonstration.”

Atherton, CA's police blotter: 175 out of 182 police stops had drivers with Hispanic surnames

Bad Cops
Kent Brewster made some careful notes and analysis of the Atherton, CA police-blotter, which tells the story of the arrests in one of America's three most expensive places to live. He found that when it came to traffic stops, 175 out of 182 drivers had Hispanic surnames.
Atherton, California is consistently one of the USA's top three most expensive places to live, and is (moderately) famous for its police blotter, which features an ongoing parade of first world problems.
While it's fun to giggle at all those suspicious circumstances, mysterious disturbances, construction complaints, parking hassles, and miscellaneous town ordinance violations, the data takes a sobering turn when we examine vehicle code violations from February through July of 2013.
Important node: I have in no way, shape or form "hacked" Atherton or its police department to produce this site. Every bit of it was gathered from public records put out by the Atherton PD. All posts from the Atherton police WordPress blog were carefully massaged into one large JSON object. Incident categories and dispositions have been normalized where possible; corrections or properly-sourced additions will be gratefully accepted.

Man charged with stealing "entire road"

Now that's just Bizarre
A 40-year-old Russian man faces up to two years in prison after admitting that he stole a road. Eighty-two reinforced slabs of concrete went missing from the route between remote Parcheg and the Vychegda River in Russia's Komi Republic, according to a report in RIA Novosti. The unnamed man was pulled over, his truck laden with 200,000 rubles-worth of the stolen material; the Russian Interior ministry believes he used an industrial manipulator to accomplish the feat.

Chinese man's faked death thwarted by heat

Odds and Sods
A soft drink vendor's scheme to fake his own death for financial gain was revealed after the heat in central China's Hubei Province proved too much for him to bear on Saturday. The incident occurred at around 4pm, when more than 10 men were holding the sheet-covered vendor's "corpse" on a gurney near the Jianghan Road subway station in the provincial capital Wuhan.They claimed that urban management workers had beaten the man to death and demanded tens of thousands of yuan in compensation.
More than 300 people gathered at the scene, and later, over 80 police officers were dispatched to maintain order there. The crowd dispersed two hours later, when the "dead" vendor suddenly jumped up, grabbed a bottle of water and drank it before saying, "It's too hot. I can't bear it anymore."

The soft drink vendor surnamed Han and two others have been detained for disturbing public order. After being detained, Han told police that urban management workers with the city's Jianghan District clashed with the vendors after telling them that their stands were blocking traffic earlier in the day, asking them to leave and confiscating their mineral waters and other beverages.
The No. 2 Hospital of Wuhan City confirmed that some vendors and urban management workers sustained minor injuries in the altercation, but no one was killed. China's urban management workers, or chengguan, are often criticized for their violent approach to tackling low-level, urban and non-criminal regulation violations. Reports about urban management law enforcement units often appear in the media due to accusations of chengguan officers beating vendors and smashing their stalls.

Banks Putting Humans Back Inside ATMs

Odds and Sods

So first they take out all the tellers in the banks and replace them with ATMs, then they complete the circle by putting humans back ... inside the ATMs!
New interactive ATMs by NCR lets customers interact with a live person on their ATMs through videochat. Banks claim that these machines are more convenient, faster and ... as a bonus, also safer. Willard Ross of Coastal Federal Credit Union in Raleigh, North Carolina, said that "robberies basically go away with this."
Herb Welsbaum of NBC News has the story.

They can print rifles now

Did You Know ...
A Canadian tinkerer who previously claimed to have created the world’s first 3D-printed rifle, only to see the barrel crack upon its first videotaped test firing, has now created an updated version of the gun that was able to fire 14 rounds before suffering damage. The riflemaker, who goes by the name “Matthew,” posted a new series of videos on YouTube this weekend showing off his latest creation in action at a firing range in British Columbia. For the final three test shots, Matthew can be seen abandoning his safety precaution of pulling the gun’s trigger at a distance using a string, and shooting it instead by hand. “I was completely confident to hand fire and will be taking it out again with a friend with a new barrel this week,” he told The Verge in an email. Matthew said he would post the blueprints for the gun online later this summer, for anyone to download and make on their own.

Computer-generated music has a soul

Odds and Sods
John Brownlee explores computer-generated music that passes the spiritual Turing test of evoking complex human emotion.
[Imagine] your favorite author says any novel could be written this way. "I could tell my program to analyze the works of Vladimir Nabokov for style, Dan Brown for plot, use the complete cast of Scooby-Doo for characters, and the themes of James Joyce’s Ulysses, and my algorithm could generate a thousand different unique novels in just a few days!" he explains. "All you need to do is know how to tell my algorithm what all those things mean."
Novels, of course, are not written this way, at least not yet. If they were, you’d likely feel betrayed. But music is.

How A Gang Of Harmonica Geeks Saved The Soul Of The Blues Harp

Odds and Sods
In the mid-1970s, Hohner, the world's largest manufacturer of harmonicas, almost killed its venerable Marine Band harmonica when it made a very small change to the design of the instrument's reed plates.

For almost two decades, new Marine Bands, heavily used by blues musicians, were almost unplayable. Fortunately, an unaffiliated but collegial group of harp techs from around the world were able correct the damage Hohner has done to its flagship brand, and eventually convinced Hohner to right its wrong.

Biodegradable Eating Utensils That Look Like Vegetables

Odds and Sods

While you can't actually eat your knife and fork once you've finished supper, this tableware set will break down over time. Qiyun Deng, a design student at the École cantonale d’art de Lausanne, made these pieces and similar works out of biodegradable plastic.

The Mysterious Moeraki Boulders

Planet Earth
If you go down to Koekohe beach in New Zealand you can be sure of a big surprise. In front of you, scattered like enormous marbles from some long abandoned game between giants, are hundreds of spherical rocks. Or are they the egg shells of sea-born dragons?

The Moeraki boulders present us with a mystery - what are they and how on earth did they get here?

Underwater "river" of hydrogen sulfide

Scientific Minds Want To Know
The diving gear might be a bit of a tip-off, but this fellow isn't sat on a log, fishing. In fact, he's 90ft underwater, posing above the murk that forms where fresh and salt water meet. Photographer Anatoly Beloshchin captured these and many other stunning pictures in and around the depths.

The sun’s magnetic field is about to flip

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Something big is about to happen on the sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.
“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”
The sun’s magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years. It happens at the peak of each solar cycle as the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo re-organizes itself. The coming reversal will mark the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24. Half of ‘Solar Max’ will be behind us, with half yet to come.
Hoeksema is the director of Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, one of the few observatories in the world that monitor the sun’s polar magnetic fields. The poles are a herald of change. Just as Earth scientists watch our planet’s polar regions for signs of climate change, solar physicists do the same thing for the sun. Magnetograms at Wilcox have been tracking the sun’s polar magnetism since 1976, and they have recorded three grand reversals—with a fourth in the offing.
Solar physicist Phil Scherrer, also at Stanford, describes what happens: “The sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. This is a regular part of the solar cycle.”
A reversal of the sun’s magnetic field is, literally, a big event. The domain of the sun’s magnetic influence (also known as the “heliosphere”) extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto. Changes to the field’s polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space.
When solar physicists talk about solar field reversals, their conversation often centers on the “current sheet.” The current sheet is a sprawling surface jutting outward from the sun’s equator where the sun’s slowly-rotating magnetic field induces an electrical current. The current itself is small, only one ten-billionth of an amp per square meter (0.0000000001 amps/m2), but there’s a lot of it: the amperage flows through a region 10,000 km thick and billions of kilometers wide. Electrically speaking, the entire heliosphere is organized around this enormous sheet.
During field reversals, the current sheet becomes very wavy. Scherrer likens the undulations to the seams on a baseball. As Earth orbits the sun, we dip in and out of the current sheet. Transitions from one side to another can stir up stormy space weather around our planet.
Cosmic rays are also affected. These are high-energy particles accelerated to nearly light speed by supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy. Cosmic rays are a danger to astronauts and space probes, and some researchers say they might affect the cloudiness and climate of Earth. The current sheet acts as a barrier to cosmic rays, deflecting them as they attempt to penetrate the inner solar system. A wavy, crinkly sheet acts as a better shield against these energetic particles from deep space.
As the field reversal approaches, data from Wilcox show that the sun’s two hemispheres are out of synch.
“The sun’s north pole has already changed sign, while the south pole is racing to catch up,” says Scherrer. “Soon, however, both poles will be reversed, and the second half of Solar Max will be underway.”
When that happens, Hoeksema and Scherrer will share the news with their colleagues and the public.

Dawn of carnivores explains animal boom in distant past

Scientific Minds Want To Know
A science team that includes researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego has linked increasing oxygen levels and the rise and evolution of carnivores (meat eaters) as the force behind a broad explosion of animal species and body structures millions of years ago.
Dawn of carnivores explains animal boom in distant past
Nereids, carnivorous polychaete marine worms, utilize strong jaws to bite off chunks of soft-bodied animals. Authors of a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that carnivorous polychaetes from low-oxygen regions decrease in abundance with decreasing oxygen levels [Credit: Greg Rouse]
Led by Erik Sperling of Harvard University, the scientists analyzed how low oxygen zones in modern oceans limit the abundance and types of carnivores to help lead them to the cause of the "Cambrian radiation," a historic proliferation of animals 500-540 million years ago that resulted in the animal diversity seen today. The study is published in the July 29 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although the cause of the influx of oxygen remains a matter a scientific controversy, Sperling called the Cambrian radiation that followed "the most significant evolutionary event in the history of animals."

"During the Cambrian period essentially every major animal body plan -- from arthropods to mollusks to chordates, the phylum to which humans belong -- appeared in the fossil record," said Sperling, who is scheduled to join Scripps as a postdoctoral researcher through National Science Foundation support. The authors linked this proliferation of life to the evolution of carnivorous feeding modes, which require higher oxygen concentrations. Once oxygen increased, animals started consuming other animals, stimulating the Cambrian radiation through an escalatory predator-prey "arms race."

Lisa Levin, a professor of biological oceanography at Scripps, along with graduate student researcher Christina Frieder, contributed to the study by providing expertise on the fauna of the ocean's low-oxygen zones, areas that have been increasing in recent decades due to a variety of factors. While the Cambrian radiation exploded with new species and diversification, Levin believes this study suggests the reverse may ensue as oxygen declines and oxygen minimum zones expand.

"This paper uses modern oxygen gradients and their effects on marine worms to understand past evolutionary events" said Levin, director of Scripps's Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and a 1982 Scripps graduate. "However, the study of oxygen's role in the past is also going to help us understand the effects of and manage for changes in ocean oxygen in the future."

As part of the research study, Sperling spent time at Scripps working with Levin and Frieder. He also participated in the San Diego Coastal Expedition (bit.ly/sdcoastex), a cruise led by Frieder aboard the Scripps/U.S. Navy research vessel Melville and funded by the UC Ship Funds program, which offers students unique access to at-sea training and research.

In addition to Sperling, Frieder, and Levin, coauthors of the paper include Akkur Raman of Andhra University (India) and Peter Girguis and Andrew Knoll of Harvard. Funding for the study was provided by Ministry of Earth Sciences, New Delhi, Agouron Geobiology, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

Man saved dog from sinking yacht before returning for his wife

Animal News

A couple and their dog are recovering after swimming to safety when their yacht ran aground near the coast of East London, South Africa, on Sunday.

Graham Anley, his wife Cheryl and their 9-year-old Jack Russell Rosie were sailing from East London to Madagascar for a holiday when their yacht hit a reef in the early hours, the National Sea Rescue Institute’s Geoff McGregor said.
Anley and the dog swam to shore before returning for his wife whose safety line had snagged on the steering gear. The Jack Russell was wearing a specially tailored dog life-jacket which has its own emergency strobe light attached to it. Once safely ashore, the couple alerted the NSRI.

When a rescue helicopter was dispatched, the couple and Rosie were found safely ashore and uninjured. However, the couple’s yacht, called The Boundless, was severely damaged. Anley is himself a volunteer for the NSRI. He said that after 22 years as a volunteer it is "humbling to have the shoe on the other foot and need to be rescued".

Thousands urge return of pet monkey removed from adoptive family after 37 years

Animal News
Thousands of people in Brazil have signed petitions demanding the return of a pet monkey taken away by environmental police after living for nearly 40 years with a family. The capuchin monkey, known as Chico, was taken to a nature reserve. Authorities in the city of Sao Carlos said it was illegal to keep wild native animals at home in Brazil.
However, Chico's 71-year-old former owner, Elizete Farias Carmona, said she had treated him "like a son". "They have taken a son away from his mother. But I believe God will allow me to see my Chico again," Mrs Carmona said. Chico had his own bed and was fed with milk, fruits and his favorite Brazilian dishes, she said. Mrs Carmona said she had been given the animal in 1976 by a family friend who worked as a lorry driver.

"I had no idea I was not allowed to keep it," she said. The authorities said they had responded to an anonymous call about Chico. "We received advice that an animal was being kept captive in that house. We went for an inspection in March and found the animal there," explained Lt Leandro Jose Oliveira, from Sao Paulo state environmental police. "The animal had been illegally captured. Mrs Carmona was given a provisional licence to keep the monkey until we found a suitable place for it, which has happened now," he said.

The monkey was taken to a nature reserve in the city of Assis, some 300km (190 miles) away. One of Mrs Carmona's sons, Ernani Furlan, said the family feared for Chico's health in its new home. "He drank milk first thing in the morning and before going to bed. He loved carrots and ate them throughout the day. Will he be getting the same treatment over there?" he asked. "We believe he is not eating over there."

The polar bear who died of climate change

Animal News
A lack of sea ice, caused by global warming, meant the bear was unable to hunt seals and starved, according to an expert who had been monitoring the animal in Svalbard, Norway
A male Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) starved to death due to climate change, Svalbard, Norway 
This 16-year-old male polar bear died of starvation resulting from the lack of ice on which to hunt seals, according to Dr Ian Stirling, who has studied polar bears for almost 40 years with the Canadian Wildlife Service and the University of Alberta.

Dr Ian Stirling, now at Polar Bears International, said the bear had been in apparently good health when it was examined by scientists in April in southern Svalbard. It was found dead three months later in northern Svalbard, far from its normal range. Stirling said most of the fjords in Svalbard did not freeze normally last winter, driving the bear further afield in the hunt for food. From his lying position in death, Stirling said, the bear appears to simply have starved and died where he dropped, having been reduced to little more than skin and bone. Arctic sea ice fell to its lowest recorded level in 2012, which scientists say is due to global warming

Trapping Africa's animals — on camera

Animal News
This great shot of a cheetah family comes from the Serengeti camera traps set up by University of Minnesota researcher Ali Swanson. The cameras are activated by heat and motion, and Swanson uses the help of citizen scientists to sort through the many, many pictures and identify species — a process that helps the scientists learn how those other big animals interact with the prides of lions that live in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.
Check out some other great photos from the camera traps at Minnesota Public Radio's Daily Circuit blog. (I'm a big fan of the dueling buffalo.)
Head to Snapshot Serengeti to help scientists learn about how animals live.

Swallows Nest in Land Rover

Animal News

A family of swallows are nesting inside a Land Rover used for nature tours in Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk, England. Five eggs hatched, and the babies continue to thrive while the vehicle is in use. Warden Darren Williams says two chicks have fledged but still follow the Land Rover around.
"I feel like a surrogate father and I'm sure all the hot air from my tour patter was keeping them warm.

"The nest is just on top of a speaker and we've rigged up a swallow hammock from a little bit of netting in case they fell out as we bounced over the rough terrain."

The nest was initially removed from the vehicle to discourage the birds nesting so close to the public, but the adult swallows began to build again as soon as it was removed.

Mr Williams said: "This is uncharted territory for us.
The tourists who travel the nature preserve in the Land Rover love having the birds along. More

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