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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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
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Today in History

Today in History
1099 At the Battle of Ascalon 1,000 Crusaders, led by Godfrey of Bouillon, route an Egyptian relief column heading for Jerusalem, which had already fallen to the Crusaders.
1687 At the Battle of Mohacs, Hungary, Charles of Lorraine defeats the Turks.
1762 The British capture Cuba from Spain after a two month siege.
1791 Black slaves on the island of Santo Domingo rise up against their white masters.
1812 British commander the Duke of Wellington occupies Madrid, Spain, forcing out Joseph Bonaparte.
1863 Confederate raider William Quantrill leads a massacre of 150 men and boys in Lawrence, Kansas.
1864 After a week of heavy raiding, the Confederate cruiser Tallahassee claims six Union ships captured.
1896 Gold is discovered near Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada. After word reaches the United States in June of 1897, thousands of Americans head to the Klondike to seek their fortunes.
1898 The Spanish American War officially ends after three months and 22 days of hostilities.
1908 Henry Ford's first Model T rolls off the assembly line.
1922 The home of Frederick Douglass in Washington, D.C. is dedicated as a memorial.
1935 President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Bill.
1941 French Marshal Henri Philippe Petain announces full French collaboration with Nazi Germany.
1961 The erection of the Berlin Wall begins, preventing access between East and West Germany.
1969 American installations at Quan-Loi, Vietnam, come under Viet Cong attack.
1972 As U.S. troops leave Vietnam, B-52's make their largest strike of the war.
1977 Steven Biko, leader of the black consciousness movement in South Africa, is arrested.
1977 Space shuttle Enterprise makes its first free flight and landing.
1978 Tel al-Zaatar massacre at Palestinian refuge camp during Lebanese Civil War.
1979 Massive book burnings by press censors begin in Iran.
1981 Computer giant IBM introduces its first personal computer.
1985 Highest in-flight death toll as 520 die when  Japan Airlines Flight 123  crashes into Mount Takamagahara.
1992 The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is concluded between the United States, Canada and Mexico, creating the world's wealthiest trade bloc.
2000 Russian Navy submarine K-141 Kursk explodes and sinks with all hands during military exercises in the Bering Sea.
2005 An LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) sniper mortally wounds Sri Lanka's foreign minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, at the minister's home.
2012 Summer Olympics come to a close in London.

Non Sequitur

Daily Comic Relief
The Psychology Edition

Did you know ...

Did You Know ...
That fish die as Alaskan temps break records

That the Detroit manager thinks union workers are "dumb, lazy, happy and rich"

About military sexual assault: it's the culture

About how H.G. Wells created hobby war gaming
And RIP prolific and always-entertaining actress Karen Black

Calls Grow for State and Federal Investigations into ALEC’s Illicit Activities

Did You Know ...
It is little secret that Republicans and their libertarian backers detest the idea of paying taxes, and over the past forty years one of their champions has been the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In fact, ALEC wrote a model resolution for repugicans to push through Congress urging a permanent extension of Bush-era tax cuts they claimed “spurred economic growth, allowed the spirit of entrepreneurship to flourish, and all while creating new jobs and opportunities for millions of Americans.” The blatant lie that the shrub’s tax cuts for the rich created new jobs aside, the resolution revealed that ALEC is in the business of helping their corporate sponsors avoid paying taxes and it is little wonder why ALEC is being targeted for an investigation for illegally financing extravagant trips for state legislators and misleading the Internal Revenue Service about their illicit activities.
Two watchdog groups are asking the Internal Revenue Service and several state ethics committees to investigate ALEC for funneling corporate money through an ALEC slush fund to allow wealthy corporations to take a federal tax deduction for furnishing lawmakers and their families with luxurious trips at fancy resorts. One such meeting is the upcoming ALEC conference this week to celebrate the anti-democracy group’s 40th year of assisting the richest corporations to write and pass legislation beneficial to their privatization efforts and profits. The watchdogs’ complaints also charge that ALEC conceals the sources of “slush funds” from public view and obscures the amount of spending from the IRS by claiming that it holds the corporate funds in “trust,” all the while writing lawmakers’ checks to cover their trips.
The so-called “scholarship fund” ALEC uses to fund the lavish trips also raises serious questions about the corporate group’s compliance with state gift and disclosure laws that in turn brings into question the lawmakers’ ethics in accepting ALEC’s travel gifts and precipitated the watchdog’s letters to state ethics committees.  In question is whether repugican state legislators taking the fancy trips (bribes) disclosed the gifts on their state financial disclosures, or if they noted they originated from corporate donors seeking favorable votes on ALEC template legislation.
The complaints laid out by Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy contend that ALEC’s corporate sponsors contributed to the “scholarship fund” and then wrote off their donations because ALEC is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit similar to “social welfare” groups the IRS targeted last year. ALEC then writes checks out of the “scholarship fund” to pay for Republican lawmakers and their families’ trips to resorts. Both groups also called on the IRS to investigate ALEC for filing fraudulent tax returns that massively under-reported and grossly misrepresented its “scholarship scheme.” It does not take a genius to figure out that the corporate money takes a detour into the slush fund before being doled out to Republican legislators who return the favor by supporting ALEC’s templates written by the corporations paying for the trips.
The groups also sent letters to ethics oversight agencies in various states advising authorities to carefully review the ALEC “scholarship” scheme to determine if it complies with state gift and disclosure laws, as well as investigating whether or not the Republican legislators declared the gifts on their state disclosures. To determine which repugicans are attending this week’s 40th anniversary soirée, the groups are sending letters to each state’s ALEC elected chair asking for a list of legislators’ who received corporate gifts to travel to the conference as well as which corporations are paying for the trips. They also asked each ALEC chair to provide a “full public accounting” of “scholarship” recipients and funders for the past five years to discover how many corporations paid for repugicans’ trips and then deducted the money as contributions to a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit. It is apparent that ALEC is using the non-profit designation to conceal their sponsors as well as launder corporate donations to ALEC’s scholarship fund en route to legislators; a thorough IRS investigation will reveal the truth.
According to Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation, Arn Pearson, cooperation by ALEC coupled with IRS and state ethics committee investigations will show the public that ALEC’s promise of transparency was a lie. “Our elected officials really should not accept expense-paid trips and lodging from special interests, but if they choose to do so, the voters are entitled to know who is paying, and how much.” ALEC knows precisely which corporations gave gifts to legislators and deducted them as charitable donations, as well as which legislators received the free trips in exchange for cooperating in the template passing scheme. The executive director of Center for Media and Democracy said that “we now know which corporations funded trips to posh resorts for hundreds of lawmakers to vote behind closed doors with lobbyists on proposals to change state laws,” and that it is “disgraceful for ALEC to use its tax-exempt status to act as a conduit for gifts to facilitate influence peddling that advances the lobbying agenda of special interests to the detriment of ordinary Americans. This is corruption.”
Some of the topics ALEC will press repugicans to pass are the benefits of fracking to the oil industry, how to block GMO labeling, tactics to undermine renewable energy initiatives, maintain reliance on coal and fossil fuels, block minimum wage hikes, privatize schools and public toll roads, and how to eliminate occupational licensing requirements to allow any layperson to take teachers’ jobs for minimum wage. Attendees will also learn how to break unions by following the ALEC tactics Wisconsin governor Scott Walker put in place last year, as well as schemes to deny global climate change such as promoting “the many benefits of increased atmospheric CO2” ALEC funders the Koch brothers champion. All of the topics for discussion benefit ALEC’s corporate donors by giving them access and opportunity to write template legislation for and with repugicans so they can take them back to their home state legislatures and pass them into law.
For the past forty years ALEC has been the primary actor in handing corporations legislative power in Congress and state legislatures as well as advancing the crusade to privatize public entities from schools to roads and highways. They are also solely responsible for the rash of stand your ground laws, voter suppression laws, and union busting schemes around the nation at the behest of their corporate donors. However, they may get their comeuppance if their money laundering scheme is investigated and prosecuted that will touch corporate donors for deducting gifts to politicians and legislators who took free trips in exchange for favorable votes on issues to enrich the corporations shelling out the gifts.
ALEC has been on a crusade to increase profits for corporations and CEOs with corporation-voted bills to rewrite the tax code that not only eliminates most taxes for the rich, but also starves state and federal governments of revenue. With their successful crusades in the states, ALEC was emboldened to devise a way for their corporate donors to deduct political contributions to repugican legislators for their services through a slush fund and fraudulently filed tax returns that massively underreported and grossly misrepresented its “scholarship scheme” in violation of their 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
According to an investigative report, ALEC’S member companies funneled at least $4 million to lawmakers since 2006 through the “scholarship” fund, and it is incumbent on the IRS and state ethics committees to uncover the malfeasance and prosecute the violators to the fullest extent of the law.  It is important for Americans to remember that one of the worst criminals in American history eluded prosecution for years, and it was the Internal Revenue Service that finally put Al Capone in prison for the rest of his life for simple income tax evasion. Capone was a bad man guilty of hurting and killing many people, but he was a saint compared to the damage inflicted by the American Legislative Exchange Council on the American people and democracy, and one hopes the IRS can take down ALEC and their corporate donors for tax evasion as well.

A Long, Hot August for the repugican cabal

Lunatic Fringe

The tea party turns on the repugican cabal

If the first few town halls of the August Congressional recess are any indication, Republicans are “[struggling] to contain the monster they created.
The monster in question is the unhinged, fact-free Tea Party juggernaut and its irrational and unceasing opposition to Obamacare. The GOP civil war over defunding Obamacare is breaking out into the open at town hall meetings across the country.
ThinkProgress’ Aviva Shen has the details:
After 40 failed votes to repeal Obamacare, several Republicans are threatening anew to block government funding unless the health reform law gets defunded. This threat is nothing new; Republicans have repeatedly demanded that every appropriations bill include a provision to repeal Obamacare since the law was passed. Tea Party lawmakers in 2011 emphasized how dire the situation was, calling for a “blood oath” to “choke Obamacare.”
Now, these empty threats are coming back to haunt Republicans who fear they will lose their seats if they take the government hostage. Several new town hall videos show lawmakers grappling with furious demands from constituents to shut down the government like the GOP said was needed to defund Obamacare.
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL)
When confronted by one angry constituent, Schock dismissed his pro-shutdown colleagues for “beating their chests” on cable news without thinking about the real-life consequences. “How many weeks would you go without paying Social Security, and how many weeks would you go without paying the troops?” he asked. “And having a young lady walk into my office, whose husband is over in Afghanistan, who can’t pay her mortgage because I’m shutting the government down because I don’t like the health care law? [...] I’m just suggesting that when you get into a fight, politically, you gotta make sure you’re willing to kill the hostage you got. And I am not convinced yet that that’s a hostage we should take headed into this fight.” Watch it HERE.
Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC)
Pittenger flatly answered “no” when a constituent asked him if he would join the effort to defund Obamacare. Pittenger argued that the vote would be pointless because the Democrat-controlled Senate would never pass the bill. His constituents yelled back that they wanted to “make a stand to get conservatives back on board.” He later released a statement explaining that he would take “responsible steps to defund or replace Obamacare.” Watch it HERE.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
At a town hall on Monday, Fortenberry warned of “very significant consequences” should Republicans go forward with their plan, and said “There has to be a better way.” In response, one audience member declared, “We elected Republicans to fight for more conservative policies.”
Many other prominent Republicans have refused to support the shutdown plan. On Sunday, former vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said “there are more effective ways” to get rid of Obamacare. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) scoffed, “It’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” while Sen. Tom Cole (R-OK) called it “a temper tantrum.” Republican governors have also warned that their state economies would suffer enormously if the party takes the government hostage.
BOTTOM LINE: As a new poll out today underscores, the GOP’s obsession with repealing — or even trying to shut down the government in order to defund — Obamacare is a political loser. This isn’t 2010 and the GOP’s repeated efforts to deny the security of quality, affordable health care to millions of Americans are dragging the party down.

As His Hate Radio Show Crashes and Burns, Lush Dimbulb Takes Credit for The Daily Show

Lunatic Fringe 
Lush Dimbulb may be months away from being dropped, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to take credit for Jon Stewart and The Daily Show.

Transcript from Lush Dimbulb:
LUSH DIMBULB: Now, it’s risky for me to get into this, because it could be misunderstood, but the Lush Dimbulb TV show was the Daily Show before the Daily Show. This radio program has always been something that, prior to it, really didn’t exist in major national media. I attempted to explain this now and then in the early days. When a mainstream journalist would interview me back in the days when I thought being interviewed was an opportunity to inform them and educate them, which it isn’t and wasn’t, but I would tell them what I do. They were not interested in hearing what I had to say. All they wanted to do was take shots at, make fun of or disagree with what my answer to them was. But the thing I said to them was that I do something that you don’t find elsewhere in the media. I combine the serious discussion of issues with irreverent satirical comedy, with credibility on both sides.
And then I would say, “Can you imagine if Letterman came out one night and actually did a serious monologue for five minutes?” People watching that show would not know what to do. They wouldn’t know how to react. That is not why they’re watching. They don’t tune to Letterman for anything serious. Ditto Ted Koppel and Nightline. If he opened Nightline with a 10-minute joke routine, a la Carson or Leno, people wouldn’t know what to do. That’s not why they’re watching. By the same token, if the Tonight Show started and Johnny Carson came out and did 10 minutes of drop dead serious politics, people wouldn’t know what to do.
I’d tell these journalists in the early days of the program, “This is what I do. I do both those things with credibility. The fact that I do satire and irreverent humor does not take away from the credibility that I have with my audience when I discuss things seriously.” But because of that, in the early days, the media still used the fact that there was a lot of comedy on this program to poke holes. “Well, Dimbulb, he’s just an entertainer. I mean, I don’t know why the repugican cabal pays so much attention to Limbaugh.” I mean, you still hear that today. “He’s just an entertainer,” meaning you can’t take him seriously. And then something will happen and the next week I will be the titular head of the repugican cabal.
Back here on planet Earth, Lush Dimbulb is on the verge of being dropped by Cumulus Media. His old television program bears no resemblance to anything remotely close to The Daily Show.
Here is a clip from Limbaugh’s old TV show:
Lush Dimbulb is a little late to the game. Glenn Brick has been comparing himself to Stewart and trying to take credit for his ratings since 2009.
If Lush Dimbulb could be funny like Jon Stewart, he might still be on television. The reality that Lush wants to avoid is that he single handedly killed wingnut hate talk radio (the only thing he has ever done correct in his worthless life).
The concept behind The Daily Show will never be a part of his legacy, but calling Sandra Fluke a slut and triggering a massive boycott against his advertisers always will be.

Things Get Even Worse for Sean Handjob As Faux News Drops Him From 9 PM

Lunatic Fringe 
sean hannity
First, Cumulus Media announced they were planning on dropping his hate radio show, and now Faux News is moving Sean Handjob out of his plum 9 PM time slot after Swill O’Really.
Megyn Kelly has landed the 9 PM slot, top sources reveal. The shock announcement is set for later this month. ‘It’s all about Megyn,’ an insider explains. ‘She is the new face of cable news. She has it all!’”
Faux News execs believe that Kelly will inherit the mantle of top rated host from Swill O’Really once he retires. The news that Kelly was moving to primetime originally had everyone focused on Greta Van Stupid’s poor performing, by Faux News standards, 10 PM show. Nobody expected Handjob to get the boot from nine, but looking back, we all should have seen this coming.
Handjob suffered a 35% ratings drop earlier in the year, and he got very defensive about the subject in a recent interview with Playboy:
PLAYBOY: Let’s move on. Fox News’s ratings are down, and your show in particular has taken a hit this year.
HANDJOB: No, actually, our ratings are back up.
PLAYBOY: Your ratings were down 35 percent in February.
HANDJOB: Well, from the year before, which was an election year.
PLAYBOY: Rachel Maddow has beaten you in your time slot.
HANDJOB: Never! Not once!
PLAYBOY: She has in the key 25- to 54-year-old demographic.
HANDJOB: But overall, we’re at double her ratings. You’ve got to be careful how you make these comparisons.
Before Chris Hayes came along and sunk the Rachel Maddow ratings ship, the MSNBC host was beating Handjob in the demo. More importantly, Handjob could never hold O’Really’s 8 PM audience. Handjob could be counted on to lose at least 30%-40% of Bill-O’s lead in audience every night. On bad nights, the drop is even more severe. Frankly, Faux News execs believe that they can keep more of the O’Really audience with Kelly at 9 PM.
Sean Handjob is signed to a long term deal with Faux News. This means that he will still be on the network somewhere. The question is where will Handjob go? Will Faux News move Greta off of 10 PM, and slide Handjob in there? (I suspect not, because it looks like Faux would like to shift away from the divisive repugican cabal talking point trolling that is Handjob’s specialty.)
This is totally out of left field, but Faux News could pair Handjob and Van Stupid at 10, or they could give Sean the Ed Schultz treatment and move him to weekends.
Any way you look at it, this is a huge demotion for Sean Handjob.
The 9 PM slot after Swill O’Really is the best spot on the entire network. On top of this, Cumulus Media is threatening to send Handjob’s hate radio show packing at the end of the year. Handjob is definitely on a downhill slide, and it really couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy.

Since the Passage of “Obamacare,” the Vast Majority of Jobs Created Have Been Full-Time

On The Job
While repugicans like to say the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) has been a “jobs destroyer,” reality just doesn’t seem to support their rhetoric.The most recent evidence of this comes in the way of a comment made by Alan Krueger, the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers who stated that, “Since the Affordable Care Act passed, 90 percent of job growth has been in full-time positions.”
Which Politifact rated as “True.”
According to the research Politifact pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the agency responsible for tracking jobs) of the nearly 6 million jobs we’ve created from March 2010-July 2013, 87% of them have been full-time positions.  That translates to nearly 5 million full-time jobs and barely 700k part-time jobs.
Now, there is a flip-side to this article that’s not all good news for “Obamacare” supporters.  Politifact also found that a repugican claim that many of the jobs for 2013 have been part-time is true as well.  Though, that represents a 7-month window out of over 40, so one would have to be reaching to say that 2013′s numbers are an indication of our overall job creation.
Especially when you consider that even when you factor in 2013′s jobs numbers, 87% of the jobs we’ve created have still been full-time positions.
And don’t tell me that the spike in part-time employment this year is linked to the further rollout of “Obamacare.”  The Affordable Care Act was signed into law over 3 years ago, with these employers knowing what was coming—yet 87% of jobs have still been full-time.
None of these companies really expected the law to be repealed (and even the House repugicans who’ve voted 40 times to try and do just that knew it would remain the law of the land) so it wouldn’t make any sense to try and argue that part-time positions are rising due to the “anticipation” of the impact of “Obamacare.”
Because these people already knew the law was in place.  If they weren’t going to hire full-time positions as a result of the law, then the last three years wouldn’t show that 87% of jobs we’ve created were full-time positions.
And let’s not forget, the first half of this year we saw our greatest job growth for that span of time since 1999.
These facts are of course nothing repugicans want to hear.  Because like most of the jobs statistics over the last 3+ years, the numbers simply don’t support the rhetoric coming from repugicans and the wingnut media.
Then again, that’s what happens when your political ideology is based on what you want  to be real as opposed to actual reality.

Meet the Low-Key, Low-Cost Grocery Chain Being Called ‘Walmart’s Worst Nightmare’

On The Job

Customers bag their own groceries at checkout counters at WinCo Foods on Fairview Avenue in Boise, Idaho, on July 1, 2013.

Customers bag their own groceries at checkout counters at WinCo Foods
Retail analysts say that the world’s biggest retailer has reason to fear a small grocery chain that’s based in Idaho and boasts a business model that allows it to undercut Walmart on prices. So about that eye-catching Walmart quote. Those are the words of Burt Flickinger III, a widely respected supermarket retailing industry expert who works for the Strategic Resource Group. Flickinger was quoted in a recent Idaho Statesman story about WinCo, a chain of roughly 100 supermarkets in the western U.S., based in Boise.
“WinCo arguably may be the best retailer in the Western U.S.,” Flickinger says while touring a WinCo store. “WinCo is really unstoppable at this point,” he goes on. “They’re Walmart’s worst nightmare.”
Flickinger isn’t the only industry insider discussing WinCo and Walmart in the same breath. “While many supermarkets strive to keep within a few percentage points of Walmart Stores’ prices, WinCo Foods often undersells the massive discount chain,” the industry publication Supermarket News explained last spring.
How does WinCo manage to undercut Walmart on prices? And why should the world’s largest retailer have any reason to fear a small regional grocer chain that most Americans have never heard of?
First off, the reason you probably haven’t heard of WinCo is partly because at this point its stores are limited to a handful of states in the West. But WinCo is a little-known player also because the company is a privately held enterprise that seems to take its privacy seriously, preferring a low-key, low-profile approach—which is extremely rare in a world of retailers boisterously begging for shoppers’ attention.
Simply put, WinCo “communicates low prices by delivering low prices,” Jon Hauptman, a partner at Willard Bishop, a retail consulting firm, told Supermarket News. “WinCo doesn’t do much to communicate price and value. It convinces shoppers of value based on the shopping experience, rather than relying on smoke and mirrors to convince them.”
As for how WinCo can deliver such low prices, the Statesman story details the company’s history and business model. It all began, interestingly enough, when two Idaho businessmen opened a warehouse-type discount store with a name that could have been pulled from a movie slyly spoofing Walmart. Waremart, it was called. The company became employee-owned in 1985, and changed its name to WinCo (short for “Winning Company”) in 1999.
Prices are kept low through a variety of strategies, the main one being that it often cuts out distributors and other middle men and buys many goods directly from farms and factories. WinCo also trims costs by not accepting credit cards and by asking customers to bag their own groceries. Similarly to warehouse membership stores like Sam’s Club and Costco, and also to successful discount grocers with small stores like Trader Joe’s and Aldi, WinCo stores are organized and minimalist, without many frills, and without the tremendous variety of merchandise that’s become standard at most supermarkets. “Everything is neat and clean, but basic,” Hauptman told Supermarket News. “Though the stores are very large, with a lot of categories, they lack depth or breadth of variety.”
While all of these factors help WinCo compete with Walmart on price, what really might scare the world’s largest retailer is how WinCo treats its employees. In sharp contrast to Walmart, which regularly comes under fire for practices like understaffing stores to keep costs down and hiring tons of temporary workers as a means to avoid paying full-time worker benefits, WinCo has a reputation for doing right by employees. It provides health benefits to all staffers who work at least 24 hours per week. The company also has a pension, with employees getting an amount equal to 20% of their annual salary put in a plan that’s paid for by WinCo; a company spokesperson told the Idaho Statesman that more than 400 nonexecutive workers (cashiers, produce clerks, and such) currently have pensions worth over $1 million apiece.
Generally speaking, shoppers tolerate Walmart’s empty shelves and subpar customer service because the prices are so good. The fact that another retailer—even a small regional one—is able to compete and sometimes beat Walmart on prices, while also operating well-organized stores staffed by workers who enjoy their jobs, like their employer, and genuinely want the company to be successful? Well, that’s got to alarm the world’s biggest retailer, if not keep executives up at night.
While WinCo does keep its business quiet, we do know one thing: The company is in the process of expanding to new states, with two locations opening in north Texas next year, for example. Flickinger anticipates rapid growth in the near future, with WinCo doubling in size every five to seven years going forward.

In the News

In the News

Chemists at Oregon State University have identified a compound that could significantly reduce the cost and potentially enable the mass commercial production of silicon nanostructures – materials that have huge potential in everything from electronics […]
Widely-circulated news reports in June claimed that a new eyeball licking fad among Japanese schoolchildren was spreading disease. It was too good, or too weird, to be true.

Pennsylvania man beats wife with meat 

William Neugebauer of western Pennsylvania is charged with hitting his wife with a package of frozen ground beef, then running away like a scared little bitch when the cops were called. The 51 year old man was drunk. His wife Wendy Neugebauer sustained injuries on her rib cage. She told police this was where her husband beat her with the meat.

DNA evidence reopens 50-year-old missing baby case

In 1964, a baby was stolen from a Chicago hospital. The FBI later determined that a baby, found in New Jersey, was the missing boy and gave him back to his parents. Now, DNA evidence shows that the man raised as Paul Fronczak isn't actually the same person as the kidnapped baby called Paul Fronczak. It's a heartbreaking story for Fronczak and his family, with some important lessons about the history and future of forensics. 

Great debunked scientific theories of yesteryear

Sheep do not grow on trees. Your dirty laundry cannot give birth to a mouse. Plowing the soil will not ensure plenty of rain. Check out Matt Simon's great list of these and other truthy ideas that once had mainstream traction and vaguely plausible scientific explanations. 

"Older than dirt" not really that old in the grand scheme of things

The Earth is about 4.5 billion years old. Actual dirt — that is to say, like the stuff in your backyard, not rocks that were once dirt — probably dates to about 2 million years ago. Dirt is young! (Relatively speaking.)

Twitter forms political action committee, registers lobbyist in Washington

Today, Twitter became an official member of Washington’s "influence economy," with a PAC and the appointment of its first registered lobbyist in the nation's capital. "The seven-year old private company said it wants to put a bigger priority on its interaction with members of Congress as it grapples with major policy and political issues related to free speech on the Internet, government surveillance of communications, and copyright and patent law reform."

Random Photo

Pictures say a thousand words
So, what does this picture say?

"I saw John Wilkes Booth shoot President Lincoln."

Odds and Sods

"I saw John Wilkes Booth shoot President Lincoln."
     --  Samuel .J Seymour on CBS's "I've Got a Secret," 1956       

Why Do Americans and Brits Have Different Accents?

Odds and Sods
From Live Science
by Natalie Wolchover 
In 1776, whether you were declaring America independent from the crown or swearing your loyalty to King George III, your pronunciation would have been much the same. At that time, American and British accents hadn't yet diverged. What's surprising, though, is that Hollywood costume dramas get it all wrong: The Patriots and the Redcoats spoke with accents that were much closer to the contemporary American accent than to the Queen's English.

It is the standard British accent that has drastically changed in the past two centuries, while the typical American accent has changed only subtly.

Traditional English, whether spoken in the British Isles or the American colonies, was largely "rhotic." Rhotic speakers pronounce the "R" sound in such words as "hard" and "winter," while non-rhotic speakers do not. Today, however, non-rhotic speech is common throughout most of Britain. For example, most modern Brits would tell you it's been a "hahd wintuh."

It was around the time of the American Revolution that non-rhotic speech came into use among the upper class in southern England, in and around London. According to John Algeo in "The Cambridge History of the English Language" (Cambridge University Press, 2001), this shift occurred because people of low birth rank who had become wealthy during the Industrial Revolution were seeking ways to distinguish themselves from other commoners; they cultivated the prestigious non-rhotic pronunciation in order to demonstrate their new upper-class status.

"London pronunciation became the prerogative of a new breed of specialists — orthoepists and teachers of elocution. The orthoepists decided upon correct pronunciations, compiled pronouncing dictionaries and, in private and expensive tutoring sessions, drilled enterprising citizens in fashionable articulation," Algeo wrote.

A Brief History of Ice Cream Truck Music

Odds and Sods
When did ice cream trucks begin serenading us with their siren song of relief from the summer heat? Dave Shumka writes that the music long predates actual ice cream trucks:
So how did the chime box become the go-to music device? According to ethnomusicologist Daniel Tannehill Neely, 19th century ice cream parlours had music boxes, mechanical cylinders with pins sticking out to pluck the tines of a steel comb as they rotated. Early foot-powered ice cream carts used racks of bells and shouting salesmen to attract customers, but when trucks came along, vendors needed something louder to be heard over the engine. Inspired by their nostalgia for the old ice cream parlors, they went back to the familiar music box technology.
In 1927, the first known chime box was custom built, and it played a traditional Polish song called “Stodola Pumpa.” It became its vendor’s trademark. Ice cream trucks didn’t become ubiquitous until after the Second World War, and that’s when the Nelson Company began manufacturing chime boxes, though they weren’t terribly energy-efficient. In 1957, Nichols Electronics improved the electronics of the design, and introduced the digital version in 1985.
All that to say, when you hear an ice cream truck playing “Little Brown Jug,” you’re hearing an updated version of a 30-year-old digital unit that replicated the sound of a 55-year-old electronic unit, based on a 65-year-old mechanical unit, which was based on the music box, which was invented more than 200 years ago. And they’ve been using the same song for 70 years, and that song was written 75 years before that. A lot of technology went into making it sound so archaic, like the sonic equivalent of Instagram.

Science and Health News

Science and Health News
A father who passed the bird flu virus to his daughter gives the first evidence that the deadly strain is contagious. 
Identical twins are a rare biological glitch that may help advance science! People with identical DNA give researchers a chance to test a variety of things, from new medicine to genetic disorders. Trace details a new, truly out-of-this-world study.
People who believe in psychics feel more in control over their lives, a new study finds. 
Behavior calls into question the validity of high ratings.
Generation Y is stressed, nested and wired, completely different from any generation before.
Add it to the list of things that are bad for you: milk! Turns out this staple of western diets is something humans aren't really designed to consume. And all those health claims on TV? Not really true! Trace explains how we've been duped.

Some 3,500 year old skeletons from Mexico linked to first settlers of the Americas

Archaeology News
Nearly 30 human skeletons, dated back to the second millennia before our era, which were found in the La Sepultura cave, in the state of Tamaulipas, could be related with the first settlers of the American continent, according to the genetic study headed by experts of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
3,500 year old skeletons from Mexico linked to first settlers of Americas
Archaeologists working in "La Sepultura" cave in Tamaulipas state, Mexico. About 30 human skeletons found in the cave --which can date from the second millennium before our era-- could be linked with the first settlers of the American continent, according to a genetic study carried out by experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History [Credit: INAH]
Based on the osteometric studies, ancient DNA and radiocarbon tests, applied to the osseous remains recovered at the municipality of Tula in the Eastern Sierra Madre, archaeologists can “demonstrate that in this area they have found evidence of one of the most ancient genetic lineages in America”. These remains are therefore associated with the men that crossed the Bering Strait 12 or 10 million years before.

The radiocarbon dating of the osseous remains (teeth) and a fragment of a grass mat found in the same cave, place them among the years 1397 through 1195 BC and 1313 and 914 BC.

Jesus Ernesto Velasco added that earlier DNA studies, made in the Paleo-DNA Laboratory of Lakehead University, in Ontario, Canada, made on a mummified specimen from the Escondida or Encantada cave, rescued in 2008 by the archaeologist Gustavo Ramirez, has allowed the identification of the genetic profile of these settlements.

The physical anthropologist said that the analysis will bring certainty to the origin of the prehistoric groups in the Mexican Northwest and its dispersion throughout time.

Archaeology in caves

In order to explore the vast region of the Eastern Sierra Madre and Tamaulipas, where there is a great quantity of prehistoric caves and cave paintings, an interdisciplinary team was formed with the participation of specialists of the IIA from UNAM, the University of Cordoba, Spain and the INAH Center in Tamaulipas.

By October 2011 they had rescued the osseous remains of between 26 and 30 individuals. This same year they initiated the examination of other cavities located in the Tula municipality, among these the cave of the Dead in the Naola Sierra, where they found more osseous remains along with ceramic and lithic.

The bones in the cave of the Dead were dated between 850 and 794 BC, “but the ceramic objects had a later dating: 200 through 600 AD, which is why we believe the cave was later used by other settlers”, detailed archaeologist Vanueth Perez.

Finally, to this date, they have located other cavities in the mountains of Tamaulipas with great potential, such as the Tepozan caves with the presence of cave paintings; in del Guano and el Fraile they have also found cave paintings in rocky terrains and funerary remains, among others.

Archaeology News

Archaeology News
The giant carving is being called one of the best-preserved pieces of Mayan art ever discovered.
The next step in the quest to solve once and for all who Mona Lisa was is put in motion.

Awesome Pictures

Pictures say a thousand words

Mountain Rail, Yukon, Alaska
photo via chiko
American Beauty

Fifteen Really Strange Beaches

Planet Earth
Sandy stretches of gray, brown or even white are the world's norm. Even rocky beaches or those with sheer cliffs barring passage for everyone save the bravest adventurers are not rare.

But there are other beaches on Earth that look like they belong on another planet or almost feel like they are on another planet. These unique beaches are some of the best treats nature has to offer.

St. Kilda

Planet Earth
Today’s picture we have is the archipelago of St Kilda, which lies about 40miles of the coast of North Uist in the Atlantic Ocean. St Kilda is an archipelago made up of 4 islands, Hirta(the biggest) and Dùn, Soay and Boreray. The islands are run administratively as part of the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The Islands are known to been inhabited since the Late Middle ages however, there are several architectural features from the historic and prehistoric periods of history. The village on Hirta was rebuilt in the 19th century and the way of life there was a hard one. In 1930 the islands were evacuated due to dwindling population and supplies. Now the only year round inhabitants are defense personnel; a variety of conservation workers, volunteers and scientists.

I find the following story sums up what it was like to live on the island:

"In the late 19th century, the islanders could communicate with the rest of the world only by lighting a bonfire on the cliffs and hoping a passing ship might see it, or by using the "St Kilda mailboat". The mailboat was the invention of John Sands, who visited in 1877. During his stay, a shipwreck left nine Austrian sailors marooned there, and by February supplies were running low. Sands attached a message to a lifebuoy salvaged from ship and threw it into the sea. Nine days later it was picked up in Birsay, Orkney, and a rescue was arranged. The St Kildans, building on this idea, would fashion a piece of wood into the shape of a boat, attach it to a bladder made of sheepskin, and place in it a small bottle or tin containing a message. Launched when the wind came from the north-west, two-thirds of the messages were later found on the west coast of Scotland or, less conveniently, in Norway."

St Kilda is now inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was the first of its kind in Scotland. This is due to its natural beauty, and its terrestrial natural features; such as its wildlife, especially the sheep. The Islands are owned by the National Trust for Scotland and visitors are asked to inform the trust of visits.

Chernobyl's legacy recorded in trees

Planet Earth
Scots pine logs in Chernobyl exclusion zone (Image courtesy of Tim Mousseau)Chernobyl's legacy recorded in trees Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident suppressed tree growth and appears to have a lasting negative legacy, a study suggests.

Astronomical News

Astronomical News

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have solved a 40-year mystery on the origin of the Magellanic Stream, a long ribbon of gas stretching nearly halfway around our Milky Way galaxy. The Large and Small […]
The Perseid meteor shower is here -- might it be spectacular?
While NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity looks for life-friendly ancient environments on the planet’s surface, a new probe is being prepared for launch to figure out why Mars lost its protective atmosphere.
Comet ISON might be a dud to backyard observers, but a scientific treasure trove to solar system astronomers. 
The Hubble Space Telescope has probed deep into a dense cloud of gas and dust to reveal the light of a stellar birthing.
The sun and the Earth like to flip their magnetic fields, but they do it for very different reasons. Neither seem particularly dangerous, however.

Meanwhile, in Alaska: A Bear Riding a Sea-Doo

Animal News
Graham Morrison spotted a young bear crawling on a jet ski near the base of his fishing guide business in southwestern Alaska:
Morrison said that the young bear climbed onto the watercraft in order to get closer to its mother, who was sitting in the water dining on her catch. At one point, it climbed to the end of the craft and growled at her, in an apparent effort to convince her to give up some of the meal. Then, the young bear fell in before attempting to climb back up on the craft. Morrison said that the Sea Doo -- docked at a family boat dock about a mile from the King Salmon airport -- was unharmed during the bear encounter.

Animal News

Animal News
Shark finning is only one of five top reasons sharks are in trouble.
What kind of shark takes the N train to Queens?
A massive shark-tagging effort off the Cape Cod coast sets its sights on studying great whites.
Federal scientists are investigating the 'unusual mortality event' experienced by bottlenose dolphins along the Mid-Atlantic coast.

Dragonflies Take Their Daily Shower

Animal News
Stunning images of dragonflies and flies frozen in time as they appear to by crystallized by the morning dew. The tiny droplets of water magnify the dragonflies' beauty and reveal the details and bright red, orange, green and blue colours of the flying insects.

Macro photography requires a decent light-source - and in this case it is the jewel-like droplets which capture the light so essential for these works of art.

Scientists claim swimming apes prefer breaststoke over doggy paddle

Animal News
The first detailed observations of swimming chimpanzees and orangutans suggest that they, like humans, tend to swim using a form of breaststroke. The findings imply that we may owe our swimming style to our evolutionary past. Apart from humans, great apes usually avoid deep water for fear of unseen predators that might be lurking there, but anecdotal evidence shows that they will go for a dip if they feel safe enough. Cooper the chimpanzee and Suryia the orangutan are extreme examples of this. These two captive apes, raised respectively in Missouri and South Carolina, have thrown off any instinctive fear and taught themselves to swim in a swimming pool.
Footage taken by Renato Bender at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, shows that both of the apes instinctively opted for a version of breaststroke to keep afloat – that is, they moved their limbs out sideways from their bodies, roughly parallel to the water's surface. Suryia's limbs moved mostly alternately but Cooper often kicked with both hind limbs simultaneously, more like human breaststroke, says Bender. This behavior is unusual because almost all other four-limbed mammals use doggy paddle, with their limbs moving vertically through the water directly beneath their body.

The footage also shows the apes were comfortable beneath the surface. Suryia opened his eyes underwater and could navigate visually, but Cooper preferred to keep his eyes covered, and used his hands and feet to feel for interesting objects. "You should expect deviation from doggy paddle in animals that, during their evolution, have had little contact with water and therefore almost completely lost the instinct to swim," says Bender. But why should apes, including humans, prefer breaststroke when we do take the plunge? Bender thinks it may come down to our tree-swinging past.

Our shoulders and those of other apes have joints that can move in all directions instead of in just one plane, like the shoulders of most other mammals. That might make breaststroke the natural choice, says Bender. It is a careful analysis of swimming style, says Anne Russon at York University in Toronto, Canada, and fits well with recent evidence that great apes show a range of water-based behaviors. She thinks the evolutionary scenario sketched out by Bender could explain why the chimps and orang-utans adopt a form of breaststroke broadly similar to the stroke humans use – although tree-dwelling does not necessarily encourage primates to "forget" how to swim. "Monkeys I see often in Borneo are both excellent swimmers and are highly arboreal," she says.

Dolphin giving birth caught on camera

Animal News
The birth of a dolphin calf has been caught on camera at Brookfield Zoo  in Chicago.

The three-foot long female baby weighed 40-pounds.

The mother, 26-year-old Allie was in labor for several hours and officials say she would have experienced the same pains as any expectant mammal.

The new arrival took to her surroundings instantly by swimming around with flicks of her tail fin and rising to the surface for gulps of air.

Mourning elephants seek revenge after herd member killed by train

Animal News
A herd of around 15 elephants have stopped several trains on the Howrah-Delhi route near Matari railway station in Jharkhand, eastern India after an elephant was killed when it was hit by the Kolkata-New Delhi Duronto Express. (Graphic photo). They have also attacked villages and demolished parts of a school and several houses.Villagers have been keeping night-long vigils, but haven't been to drive away the herd. 
A railway official said the train was at full throttle when the herd tried to cross the track between Matari and Gomo railway stations. One of the elephants fell into a gorge, the impact breaking its spine. The other members of the herd, hearing its cries, attacked the train and damaged its coaches. A passenger traveling on the train, Ashish Singh said: "I heard a sound similar to some explosion. All of us were extremely afraid as we thought that Maoists had detonated some sort of a bomb. Everyone in the compartment kept quiet for some time.

"We only realized what had happened after he heard the elephant wailing." A disaster management team arrived at the spot around an hour later to rescue the stranded train and passengers. They burst several fire crackers and drove the herd into nearby forests. The disaster management personnel managed to take the stranded Duronto train to Gomo station from where it moved for onward journey after engineers approval. Dhanbad DFO Satish Chandra Rai said a team of doctors led by R C Gupta conducted the post-mortem on the dead elephant and it was buried in the same area.
Wildlife activist D S Srivastava said elephants have a strong sense of family bonding and often resort to revenge attacks. He said: "Elephants often try to return to the site of such accidents as they believe that their mate has only been injured and could be rescued by them. Even when an elephant dies a natural death, their friends cover the body with bushes and small tree branches." Srivastava added that the herd will try to return to this site again and again.