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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.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Daily Drift

Ahhh, The memories ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 192 countries around the world daily.
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Today is (nothing special)  Day  

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Some of our readers today have been in:
Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa
Ankara and Mercin, Turkey
San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Jakarta, Pontianak and Palembang, Indonesia
Ottawa, Templeton, Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout, Mississauga, Montreal, Edmonton and The Village, Canada
Ryazin and Omsk, Russia
Madrid and Eixample, Spain
Milan and Rome, Italy
Riga, Latvia
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Dublin, Ireland
Homebush, Glen Iris and Brisbane, Australia
Rouen, Cerny and Loyat, France
Jundai, Brazil
Mexico City, Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico
Nuremberg and Koeln, Germany
Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Shillong, New Delhi, Hyderabad and Ranchi, India
Kluang, Kuala Lumpur and Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Kraljevo, Serbia
Roskilde, Denmark
Bogota, Colombia
North West London and Southampton, England
Rawalpindi and Islamabad, Pakistan
Lacson, Pasig and Cebu City, Philippines
Reykjavik, Iceland
Kiev and Zhovtivody, Ukraine
Santiago, Chile
Tokyo, Japan
Al Hammamat and Tunis, Tunisia
Nakon Pathom, Krabi and Bangkok, Thailand
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Tehran, Iran
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Ruse, Bulgaria
Oslo, Norway
Petah Tikva, Israel
Brussels, Belgium
Stockholm and Helsingborg, Sweden
Thimphu, Bhutan
Lisbon and Covilha, Portugal
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Newport, Wales
Tipitapa, Nicaragua
Seoul, Korea
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Today in History

1260 At the Battle of Montaperto in Italy, the Tuscan Ghibellines, who support the emperor, defeat the Florentine Guelfs, who support papal power.
1479 After four years of war, Spain agrees to allow a Portuguese monopoly of trade along Africa's west coast and Portugal acknowledges Spain's rights in the Canary Islands.
1781 Los Angeles, first an Indian village Yangma, is founded by Spanish decree.
1787 Louis XVI of France recalls parliament.
1790 Jacques Necker is forced to resign as finance minister in France.
1820 Czar Alexander declares that Russian influence in North America extends as far south as Oregon and closes Alaskan waters to foreigners.
1862 Robert E. Lee's Confederate army invades Maryland, starting the Antietam Campaign.
1870 A republic is proclaimed in Paris and a government of national defense is formed.
1881 The Edison electric lighting system goes into operation as a generator serving 85 paying customers is switched on.
1886 Elusive Apache leader Geronimo surrenders to General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Ariz.
1893 Beatrix Potter sends a note to her governess' son with the first drawing of Peter Rabbit, Cottontail and others. The Tale of Petter Rabbit is published eight years later.
1915 The U.S. military places Haiti under martial law to quell a rebellion in its capital Port-au-Prince.
1941 German submarine U-652 fires at the U.S. destroyer Greer off Iceland, beginning an undeclared shooting war.
1942 Soviet planes bomb Budapest in the war's first air raid on the Hungarian capital.
1943 Allied troops capture Lae-Salamaua, in New Guinea.
1944 British troops liberate Antwerp, Belgium.
1945 The American flag is raised on Wake Island after surrender ceremonies there.
1951 The first transcontinental television broadcast in America is carried by 94 stations.
1957 Arkansas governor Orval Faubus calls out the National Guard to bar African-American students from entering a Little Rock high school.
1967 Operation Swift begins as US Marines engage North Vietnamese Army troops in Que Son Valley.
1972 Mark Spitz becomes first Olympic competitor to win 7 medals during a single Olympics Games.
1975 Sinai II Agreement between Egypt and Israel pledges that conflicts between the two countries "shall not be resolved by military force but by peaceful means."
1998 Google founded by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Non Sequitur


U.S. health insurance is a complex nightmare

Here's Glenn Fleishman on healthcare in America, where sufferers receive outsize bills and must engage with an insane, bloated bureaucracy to chop them down to size--if they have insurance.
Explain to me how this makes sense at any level? The raw cost, the billed cost, the premiums, the rest of it. The system is designed to have as many parties interceding to make profit as possible. It is not designed to produce the best care in the world; our care is fine. It does not exceed or meet comparable developed countries with national healthcare, and we pay vastly more and have steeply increasing costs.

Did you know ..

That the world's oldest forest is found in upstate New York

A repugican schools superintendent accused of plagiarism in anti-obama letter

These 5 reasons Chris Christie is Just as much of a  wingnut as the Kochs

The Eight Most Dumped-On Americans

by Paul Buchheit
We live in a society that allows one man to make $15 million a day while a low-income mother gets $4.50 a day for food, and much of Congress wants to cut the $4.50.
Are political and corporate leaders even remotely aware of the conditions of society beneath the wealthiest 10% or so?
The following are some of the victims of an economic system that has forgotten the majority of its people.
One out of every five American children now lives in poverty, and for black children it's nearly one out of TWO. Almost half of food stamp recipients are children.
UNICEF places us near the bottom of the developed world in the inequality of children's well-being, and the OECD found that we have more child poverty than all but 3 of 30 developed countries. It's rather embarrassing to view the charts.
Over the last 12 years, according to a New York Times report, the United States has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large, wealthy economies to having among the lowest. The number of college grads working for minimum wage has doubled in just five years.
Higher education was cut by nearly $17 billion in the years leading up to 2012-13. Through those same years large corporations were avoiding about $14 billion annually in taxes. To make up the difference, students face tuition costs that have risen almost ten times faster than median family income, leading them into their low-wage post-college positions with an average of $26,000 in student loan debt.
The Elderly
Three-quarters of Americans approaching retirement in 2010 had an average of less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts. The percentage of elderly (75 to 84) Americans experiencing poverty for the first time doubled from 2005 to 2009.
The folly of cutting Social Security is reflected in two facts. First, even though Social Security provides only an average benefit of $15,000, it accounts for 55 percent of annual income for the elderly. And second, seniors have spent their working lives paying for their retirement. According to the Urban Institute the average two-earner couple making average wages throughout their lifetimes will receive less in Social Security benefits than they paid in. Same for single males. Almost the same for single females.
Wage Earners
Workers have 30% LESS buying power today than in 1968. If the minimum wage had kept up with employee productivity, it would be $16.54 per hour instead of $7.25.
Almost unimaginably, conditions for workers have gotten even worse since the recession. While 21 percent of job losses since 2008 were considered low-wage positions, 58 percent of jobs added during the recovery were considered low-wage.
As for members of Congress who say "get a job," only one of them was present at the start of a recent unemployment hearing.
The Sick and Disabled
Over 200 recent studies have confirmed a link between financial stress and sickness. In just 20 years America's ranking among developed countries dropped on nearly every major health measure. Victims suffer both physically and mentally. A recent study found that unemployment, whether voluntary or involuntary, can significantly impact a person's mental health. Even grimmer, from 1999 to 2010 the suicide rate among Americans ages 35 to 64 increased by almost 30 percent.
In the long run, the only Americans to increase their life expectancy have been seniors covered by Medicare.
Recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that women earn just 80% of men's pay. In Washington, DC and California, Hispanic women make only 44 cents for every dollar made by white men. The only deviation from the norm is that in 47 of 50 large metropolitan areas, well-educated single childless women under 30 earn more than their male counterparts.
But the overall disparities have worsened since the recession, with only about one-fifth of new jobs going to women, and with median wealth for single black and Hispanic women falling to a little over $100. And there's no respite with advancing age. The average American woman's retirement account is 38 percent less than a man's, and women over 65 have twice the poverty rate of men.
The Economist states: Before the 1960s...most blacks were poor, few served in public office and almost none were to be found flourishing at the nation's top universities, corporations, law firms and banks. None of that is true today.
Wrong. Much of that is true today. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), median wealth for black families in 2009 was $2,200, compared to $97,900 for white families. (Pew Research reported $5,677 for blacks, $113,149 for whites). EPI said median financial wealth (stocks, etc.) was $200 for blacks, compared to $36,100 for whites.
Since the recession, black and Hispanic wealth has dropped further, by 30 to 40 percent, while white family wealth dropped 11 percent.
Blacks and Hispanics, with 29% of the population, are also severely under-represented on corporate boards and in higher education.
One of the reasons it's so hard for young blacks to be successful is that they're viewed as criminals by many white authority figures. In The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander documents the explosion of the prison population for drug offenses, with blacks and Hispanics the main targets even though they use drugs at about the same -- or lesser -- rate as white Americans.
The Homeless
The super-rich want homeless people to get jobs. But they don't want to pay taxes to support job creation. If the richest Americans - the Forbes 400 - had paid a 5% tax on their 2012 investment earnings, enough revenue would have been generated to provide a full-time minimum wage job for every person who was homeless in America on a January night in 2012.
Instead, it keeps getting worse for the homeless. North Carolina made it a crime to feed them. Columbia, South Carolina approved a plan to remove them. Tampa, Florida passed a law that makes it a crime for them to sleep in public.
So who's left after all this? Oh yes, rich white men.

The End Game for Democracy

by Bill Moyers
Bill Moyers. (Photo: Moyers & Company)Bill Moyers. Bill Moyers: We are so close to losing our democracy to the mercenary class, it's as if we are leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon and all that's needed is a swift kick in the pants. Look out below.
The predators in Washington are only this far from monopoly control of our government. They have bought the political system, lock, stock and pork barrel, making change from within impossible. That's the real joke.
Sometimes I long for the wit of a Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. They treat this town as burlesque, and with satire and parody show it the disrespect it deserves. We laugh, and punch each other on the arm, and tweet that the rascals got their just dessert. Still, the last laugh always seems to go to the boldface names that populate this town. To them belong the spoils of a looted city. They get the tax breaks, the loopholes, the contracts, the payoffs.
They fix the system so multimillionaire hedge fund managers and private equity tycoons pay less of a tax rate on their income than school teachers, police and fire fighters, secretaries and janitors. They give subsidies to rich corporate farms and cut food stamps for working people facing hunger. They remove oversight of the wall street casinos, bail out the bankers who torpedo the economy, fight the modest reforms of Dodd-Frank, prolong tax havens for multinationals, and stick it to consumers while rewarding corporations.
We pay. We pay at the grocery store. We pay at the gas pump. We pay the taxes they write off. Our low-wage workers pay with sweat and deprivation because this town – aloof, self-obsessed, bought off and doing very well, thank you – feels no pain.
The journalists who could tell us these things rarely do – and some, never. They aren't blind, simply bedazzled. Watch the evening news – any evening news – or the Sunday talk shows. Listen to the chit-chat of the early risers on morning TV -- and ask yourself if you are learning anything about how this town actually works.
William Greider, one of our craft's finest reporters, fierce and unbought, despite a long life in Washington once said that no one can hope to understand what is driving political behavior without asking the kind of gut-level questions politicians ask themselves in private: "Who are the winners in this matter and who are the losers? Who gets the money and who has to pay? Who must be heard on this question and who can be safely ignored?"
Perhaps they don't ask these questions because they fear banishment from the parties and perks, from the access that passes as seduction in this town.
Or perhaps they do not tell us these things because they fear that if the system were exposed for what it is, outraged citizens would descend on this town, and tear it apart with their bare hands.

Faux News Uses Propaganda From The Syrian Government to Attack Obama

Obama-Fox News
During an interview with Sec. of State John Kerry, Faux News Sunday’s, Chris Wallace used propaganda from the state run newspaper in Syria to attack President Obama.

WALLACE: You talk about this is going to make it worse for Assad. After the president announced his decision, officials in Damascus were saying that the president had flinched. Had made a joke of the American administration. A newspaper out in the streets of Damascus calls this, “the start of the historic American retreat.” Haven’t you handed Syria and Iran at least a temporary victory?
KERRY: I don’t believe so at all and that is in the hands of the Congress of the U.S. The president has made his decision. The president wants to stand up and make certain that we uphold the international norm. That we do not grant impunity to a ruthless dictator to gas his own people. Anybody who saw those images. Anybody who now focuses on the evidence that I just gave you about signatures of saran in the hair and blood samples of first responds. I mean first responders died. People who went to help the people who were hurt died in this case. This is a man who has committed a crime against humanity, and I can’t imagine the Congress of the United States will not recognize our interests with respect to Iran, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, our friends in the region, the Syrian people, the opposition. America’s credibility is on the line here. And I expect the Congress of the United States to do what is right, to stand up and be counted, and I think the Assad regime needs to recognize that they have refocused the energy of the American people on him, on his regime.
What Wallace left out of his question is the fact that the source of his quote was the Assad regime’s official state run newspaper. Fox News would rather side with a regime that is gassing its own people than agree with President Obama on anything. It is ironic, but not surprising in the least, that the Republican Party’s propaganda outlet would have no problem with passing off propaganda from a dictatorship as a source of journalistic credibility.
Faux News handles repugican propaganda every day. For them, propaganda is fact.
Can you imagine the repugican outrage if MSNBC would have tried to pass off propaganda from Saddam Hussein as the feelings of the people on the ground in Iraq? The repugicans far and wide would have been screaming about how MSNBC was un-American and the pro-Saddam network. Yet, Faux News freely quotes propaganda from the Assad regime, and nobody says a peep.
There are lots of arguments that can be made for and against military action in Syria. The country will hopefully hear all of these all of these points over the next week and a half, but an American network using propaganda from a foreign dictator to attack the president is a borderline treasonous act.
As he gasses his own people, Assad now knows that he can count on Fox News to carry his message to the American people.
Faux News is so guided by partisan politics that they are siding with a dictator just so that they can oppose Obama.

Colorado Recalls Are an NRA Political Terror Campaign to Keep the Violence Flowing

For every action there is a reaction, and one need not be a devotee of physicist Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion to understand its meaning. The country has learned that for every act of mass gun violence, the National  Rifle Association reacts violently and assails gun safety measures as intrusive assaults on “law abiding citizens” dog-given 2nd amendment rights regardless they are hardly proposed much less enacted. However, in a state that has been ravaged by mass-shootings and passes weak gun safety measures, the NRA reacts with fear-mongering and outrage. Lacking dictatorial power to abolish the new laws and punish legislators who supported them, they have shown they will spearhead an effort to remove legislators for protecting their constituents. In fact, in Colorado, the NRA launched recall campaigns against four state senators and successfully put two on a special recall ballot to send a message succinctly articulated by repugicans who said, “Legislators should be scared” for opposing the NRA and voting for universal background checks on gun purchases and limiting most ammunition magazines to 15 rounds.
Colorado has hosted two of the nation’s most horrific mass shootings, and despite not acting after Columbine and Aurora, the Newtown gun massacre prompted Colorado Democrats to react and pass what most Americans believe are sensible gun safety measures. Last week it was reported that a convicted felon in Ohio who was banned from ever owning a firearm for killing one man and injuring two others was caught with 18 guns and 45,000 bullets that revealed why Colorado Democrats passed simple universal background checks for gun purchases. The Ohio U.S. Attorney, Steven Dettelbach, who prosecuted the case said, “I can’t tell you how he got all those guns and ammunition, it’s not that I won’t tell you; it’s that I can’t. This is somebody who should never have had one gun, one bullet. But he had an entire arsenal.”
It is interesting the Dettelbach cannot figure out how the felon stocked his arsenal, when any American with a pea-brain knows that he accumulated his cache because America lacks universal background checks for all gun purchases. The felon was able to amass a stockpile of guns and ammunition due to diligence of the National Rifle Association that has been on a crusade to shut down discussion and calls for background checks on private gun sales they claim creates a national registry of gun owners the government will amass to confiscate weapons and enact tyranny. The NRA’s war on sanity prevents law enforcement agencies from keeping records of gun purchases that allowed the felon in Ohio to avoid background checks if he purchased his 18 guns from an unregistered dealer, or if he bought them from a legal buyer because federal law demands law enforcement destroy a legal purchaser’s record of gun acquisitions.
Colorado’s new gun safety measures went into effect on July 1st, but the repugican (NRA) political opposition and legal challenges against the regulations began before the ink on the gun safety measures was dry. The NRA’s battle against background checks was joined by “55 of 62 Colorado elected Sheriffs” who oppose the new gun control laws that gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo boasts “brings a lot of momentum to the efforts to overturn these laws and to recall state Senators Morse and Giron.” It is not uncommon for law enforcement officials who should welcome keeping arsenals out of the hands of felons to rail against background check legislation as an act of tyranny. In California just six months ago, an elected county sheriff publicly announced that if Congress passed background check legislation, he would not enforce the laws despite that a month earlier one of  his deputies and a locksmith were slaughtered by a mental gun fanatic with an arsenal when they served an eviction notice.
It is evident that the NRA fully supports putting as many guns, and bullets, into the hands of their gun-crazed zealots’ arsenals as possible regardless they are felons, racists, or insane. The gun fanatics, especially in Colorado, are willing to take extraordinary steps to maintain their ability to cache weapons even gathering support to secede and form America’s 51st state. In June it was reported that several county commissioners in Northern Colorado were taking steps to secede because they were incensed the state legislature enacted expanded background checks for gun purchases and renewable energy standards. As an aside, the Colorado recall effort drew the attention of the Koch brothers’ unlimited cash because the secessionists and recall supporters stated that besides rejecting background checks for gun purchases, their “whole purpose of doing this is to protect the energy sector that we feel is very much under assault.” The Koch brothers will never let an opportunity slip past to fund political efforts to protect the dirty energy sector, and if they help ALEC and the NRA enrich gun manufacturer’s corporate profits, then it is a value-added benefit.
Besides the NRA whipping up skepticism, anger and gun-lust among Colorado gun owners, the state’s gun dealers rejoiced that the new laws spurred residents to buy as many guns and magazines before the new laws took effect as they could afford. In fact, a Colorado gun magazine and accessory manufacturer took advantage of the NRA crusade and handed out hundreds of 20 and 30-round magazines for free in a typical fear mongering “Farewell to Arms” festival in Glendale, Colorado. The first 1,500 adults at the event received a free magazine, and latecomers were graciously allowed to purchase up to five magazines at $10 each. NRA supporters claim the organization is not intent on putting as many guns and bullets into the hands of gun-freaks waiting to wage war against tyranny as possible, but they can hardly argue handing out free high-capacity magazines serves any other purpose than stocking their anti-government supporters’ arsenals.
Americans have to face the fact that the NRA wields an inordinate amount of power over this country that is evident in their reaction to mass shootings and responsible efforts to curb the out-of-control gun violence plaguing Americans. The sensible gun safety measures in Colorado were passed by the legally elected legislature, and signed by the legally elected governor, but like Americans’ safety, the NRA cannot comport democracy and will go to any lengths to keep their gun fanatics armed waiting for an opportunity to use their guns. The repugicans in Colorado summed up the NRA recall effort succinctly; “Legislators should be scared” of the National Rifle Association because opposing their agenda will result in secession, recalls, and if those are unsuccessful, gun-crazed fanatics, including ex-felons who are sitting on well-stocked arsenals ready to combat tyranny.

Tennessee, Alabama team up to land drone test site

 A consortium of companies and universities in Alabama and Tennessee are hoping to develop a site where drones would be tested.
The news site Al.com reports that if approved, the facility could become one of only a half-dozen sites approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for research involving Unmanned Aerial Systems, more commonly known as drones.
Alabama and Tennessee have submitted a joint application in an effort to be selected as one of the six FAA UAS testing sites. Testing would be done at a site near Savannah, Tenn.
Plans call for each of the FAA sites to be used to develop methods and systems to integrate UAS flights into the nation's airspace. The emphasis will be on commercial uses for drones, ranging from precision agriculture to environmental monitoring.

Wall Street's bid-rigging conspiracy

Excerpts from a lengthy article by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone:
Over 10 years in the making, the case allowed federal prosecutors to make public for the first time the astonishing inner workings of the reigning American crime syndicate, which now operates not out of Little Italy and Las Vegas, but out of Wall Street.
The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.

In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business...

More recently, a major international investigation has been launched into the manipulation of Libor, the interbank lending index that is used to calculate global interest rates for products worth more than $3 trillion a year. If and when that case is presented to the public at trial – there are several major civil suits in the works here in the States – we may yet find out that the world's most powerful banks have, for years, been fixing the prices of almost every adjustable-rate vehicle on earth, from mortgages and credit cards to interest-rate swaps and even currencies.

But USA v. Carollo marks the first time we actually got incontrovertible evidence that Wall Street has moved into this cartel-type brand of criminality. It also offered a disgusting glimpse into the enabling and grossly cynical role played by politicians, who took Super Bowl tickets and bribe-stuffed envelopes to look the other way while gangsters raided the public kitty. And though the punishments that were ultimately handed down in the trial – minor convictions of three bit players – felt deeply unsatisfying, it was still a watershed moment in the ongoing story of America's gradual awakening to the realities of financial corruption.
Lots more detail at the link.

Sad But True


Anti-Al Qaeda leader escapes assassination attempt in Iraq

Wisam al-Hardan — who was recently appointed to lead a Sunni militia that helped U.S. troops in the war against Al Qaeda and is it has been a target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors — survived after his motorcade was attacked by two suicide bombers in violence that killed six of his body guards and one civilian, and wounded eight people, authorities said. Two suicide bombers believed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda attacked the motorcade of Iraqi leader Wisam al-Hardan. This photo from last week shows people inspecting a car bomb during the increasing violent Iraq.
Two suicide bombers believed to be affiliated with Al Qaeda attacked the motorcade of Iraqi leader Wisam al-Hardan. This photo from last week shows people inspecting a separate car bomb during the increasing violent in Iraq.
 A prominent leader of a militia opposed to Al Qaeda escaped an assassination attempt Monday that killed six of his body guards and one civilian and wounded eight people, authorities said. Seven more people were killed and 15 wounded in separate violence in Baghdad and another Iraqi city as the country reels from waves of sectarian attacks.
Two suicide bombers attacked the motorcade of Wisam al-Hardan near his house in Baghdad's western Harthiyah neighborhood, but the Sunni tribal sheik was not hurt, said Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Maan.
Al-Hardan was recently appointed by the Iraqi prime minister to lead the Sunni militia known as Sahwa, which joined U.S. troops in the war against Al Qaeda at the height of Iraq war. Ever since, it has been a target for Sunni insurgents who consider them traitors.
Later in the day, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a security checkpoint near the city of Baqouba, killing four people and wounding 12, said police and hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Baqouba, a former Al Qaeda stronghold, is 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.
Violence has increased in the last five months in Iraq, with some 4,000 people having been killed.
Violence has increased in the last five months in Iraq, with some 4,000 people having been killed.
In southeastern Baghdad, police gunmen using weapons fitted with silencers opened fire on a commercial street, killing two people and wounding three, said a different police official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with the media. It was not immediately clear why the officers opened fire.
And in Baghdad's western Baiyaa area, a man was shot dead as he walked near his home, the police official said.
Most attacks on civilians and security forces in recent years have been the work of Sunni extremist groups such as Al Qaeda. But attacks on Sunni targets have been on the rise in recent months, raising fears that armed Shiite groups are starting to retaliate.
Violence in Iraq has intensified since April to levels not seen since 2008. More than 4,000 people have been killed over the past five months alone, including more than over 8,000 in August, according to figures provided by the UN mission in Iraq.

The Subversive World of Chinese Bathroom Graffiti

Scrawled dispatches on toilet stall walls show a taste for commerce, humor, and sometimes dissent
The men’s room in the passenger station in Qujing, Yunnan province will be familiar to anyone who has answered the call of nature in one of China’s provincial bus stations. Dim fluorescent lights give a clinical blue pallor to the bleary-eyed, fidgety travelers waiting their turn for the urinals and stalls lining either wall. The air is a haze of cigarette fumes, and the smell a dizzying blend of waste and smoke. Mercifully, the stalls have porcelain Asian-style squat commodes and doors—more basic bathrooms just have two latrines running along either wall with waist-high dividers for privacy. Ensconced in one particular stall and preparing to assume the squatting position, a traveler will pull the door shut and be greeted by the following message:
(Via Warner Brown/Tea Leaf Nation)
Overthrow the Communist Party!  Join [online messenger QQ] group [number obscured by editors] and rise up! We want fairness, justice, and democracy, and we oppose dictatorship and corruption!
Above the message one can make out in large, faint script “Long live the Communist Party, long live Chairman Mao,” a pair of slogans from the Cultural Revolution which someone may have written in earnest or jest.  Below, a sentence in a still different hand echoes a familiar gripe about China’s hated chengguan, urban management enforcers better known for beating people than maintaining order. There are other messages above and below the anti-government text, some with lines drawn indicating they are responses to other notes, though many of them have been painted over or scrubbed into illegibility. The call to arms is just one part of a lively conversation that a hypothetical traveler could peruse at his leisure while attending to his primary task.
One summer day, I was that traveler, and ever since I have been an avid consumer of Chinese bathroom graffiti. This summer I have checked every available stall in each public restroom I’ve entered to read and photograph the messages that are scrawled there. The click of my camera phone has raised a few eyebrows among patrons and cleaning staff, but I have persevered in order to answer those questions inspired by the toilet door in Qujing—what are Chinese men writing about on bathroom walls? Just how common is dissenting political commentary? What other "conversations" are taking place?
Bathroom graffiti can be argued to be social media before the term even existed. As a mode of communication, it shares a number of key traits with the Internet, namely anonymity and low barriers to participation. American graffiti is often no more than an isolated statement or squiggle, but in its highest form, it becomes a collective exercise that echoes an online message board. The first scrawled foul joke or lewd cartoon inspires someone to add a comment or edit to the original piece, which then draws further responses. The result is a “thread” of contributions distinguishable only by writing utensil and handwriting. Like the American Internet itself, the content is often vulgar or banal (think lone scribbled expletives and primitive drawings of genitalia), but occasionally sublimely crude, clever, or downright intellectual.
Having discovered a politically-tinged echo of the above in Qujing’s wall of grievances, I began my research, wondering if I would find enough similar examples to establish a pattern, or even a subculture of dissent on China’s bathroom walls. I did not expect to encounter only political messages, of course— I fully anticipated men might choose to write about a multitude of other topics while relieving themselves, especially if—as with the Qujing stall—the content was too hot for China’s monitored Internet to handle.
I conducted most of my fieldwork in bus stations and truck stops, both because it meshed well with my travel habits and because bus station bathroom walls are repainted less frequently than those in other places. I occasionally found examples in shopping malls and neighborhood public restrooms, but otherwise the bus stations dominated my sample. Upon observing my photographs, some Chinese friends commented on seeing similar graffiti in their university dorms and classroom buildings, but those settings were beyond my scope. In addition, 100 percent of my observations came from men’s restrooms, meaning any resulting analysis is necessarily gendered.  Both these facts diminished the representativeness of the results; the messages written in bus station bathrooms were explicitly by men, for other men, and the audience was transient, either just arriving, departing, or passing through. The transient nature of the male audience probably helps explain why so much of the content is on the outer limits of social acceptability—no one plans to hang around and suffer the consequences.
With those caveats in mind, what I discovered was this: Qujing’s bus station Democracy Wall was an outlier, and not just because of its political bent. The walls of men’s rooms in China do not lack for writing, but the content is vastly more commercial and transactional than its American counterparts. If American graffiti resembles an online message board, designed for its participants’ entertainment, then Chinese graffiti more closely resembles a newspaper’s classified pages, with a special advertising section thrown in for good measure.
The most distinguishing feature of the Chinese bus station bathroom graffiti I encountered was that almost every piece of scrawled text was accompanied by the author’s contact information (usually a cell phone number). This was true even of the would-be revolutionaries in Qujing, who invited readers to join an online chat group. Most graffiti proposed some kind of exchange, be it commercial, educational, sexual, or otherwise. Unlike in the U.S., where the wall is an interaction unto itself, bathroom graffiti in China is the first step towards some further interaction that will benefit both the reader and author—in this way, Chinese graffiti is even more social than its American counterpart. Chinese bus station bathroom graffiti is best viewed as an extension of China’s broader informal advertising subculture, in which bare-bones messages hawking services with mobile numbers are scrawled, pasted, and spray-painted onto public spaces all over the country.
Of course, bathrooms walls being bathroom walls, the content of the messages there tends to be more unsavory than the spray-painted ads you see in broad daylight.  Indeed, Chinese bus station bathroom graffiti is a veritable index of illegal and socially unacceptable behaviors in China—not the least of which is calling for the Communist Party’s overthrow. While not as outright lewd as some American graffiti, Chinese bathroom graffiti does carry on the tradition of expressing things best left unspoken in polite conversation.

Rue 21 tells 14-year-old shopper she's "too big to be in this store"

Charming. Stacey Kafka with ABC News:
“I walked in and the lady at the front counter said hey you’re too big to be in this store, I need you to leave,” said Buster. ... After Shelby’s mom contacted us, we contacted the store. The Rue 21 district manager told us over the phone that they’re aware of the situation and are currently looking into it.

Policeman Fakes His Death for Daughter’s Scholarship

The end always justifies the means.
But for a senior Indian police officer who faked his own death, it was all too much, shattering his daughter’s future in a snap.
police1 500x297 Policeman Fakes His Death for Daughter’s Scholarship picture
When Sukhmani Hundal, a student in Punjab, forwarded her father’s death certificate to Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, she was awarded an academic grant in medicine, a privilege afforded to those whose parents died in the line of duty. Her father, Senior Superintendent Rajjit Singh Hundal, was believed to have met that fate worthy of honor and generous grants for his family members.
But in the counseling sessions that followed, university officials who closely examined the document uncovered the fraud.
Further investigations revealed that Mr. Rajjit was still serving as Senior Superintendent of the police in Punjab.
Recently, he even received the President’s Police Medal award for commendable service.
Since the fraud was discovered, the registrar who issued the certificate has been suspended, the daughter’s scholarship has been revoked, and Punjab’s home department has launched an investigation into the allegations.
Mr. Sajjit came to his own defense that both his mother and sister were killed in a 1991 terrorist attack, and that the certificate’s clauses were misleading.
But despite the fraud, the police chief told The Telegraph that Mr. Sajjit’s job, not to mention his decades-long record of good service on the police force, will not be compromised, and that the allegations have been considered a “private matter.”
Private and personal indeed, as his daughter paid the price in the end.

Random Photos

Beekeepers, vintners rediscover nectar of the gods

Mead Revival
In this Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 photo, bottles of mead are lined up at the tasting bar at Artesano in Groton, Vt. Beekeepers and vintners are rediscovering mead, an alcoholic drink made of fermented honey and water. These days, fruits, spices and even carbonation are being added for distinct flavors that aren’t a far cry from the beverage favored during the Middle Ages.
 Once called the nectar of the gods, the oldest fermented beverage is seeing a renaissance.
Beekeepers and vintners are rediscovering mead, an alcoholic drink made of fermented honey and water. These days, fruits, spices and even carbonation are being added for distinct flavors that aren't a far cry from the beverage favored during the Middle Ages.
American Mead Makers Association President Chris Webber estimates there are 200 to 250 commercial mead makers in the U.S., up from just 100 five years ago.
Some are beekeepers-turned-mead makers looking to find other ways to sell their honey. Others are craft beer brewers-turned-mead makers with some now dabbling in beekeeping to produce their own honey.
A Vermont meadery called Artesano opened in 2008 and says it sells out of 20,000 bottles a year.

Illustrations of 11 Untranslatable Words

Some words can't be translated into other languages without a lot of explanation. Ella Frances Sanders illustrated 11 such terms that won't render in English as one-word equivalents. You can view them all: Here

The History Behind The Phrase 'Don't Be An Indian Giver'

by Lakshmi Gandhi
"You can't take it back! Don't be an Indian giver."
Sound familiar? It's the schoolyard taunt that's been used for generations by children (and others) to describe people so ungenerous that they take back gifts as soon as they are given or immediately demand a present in return.
"one of most offensive things you can call someone."
'Indian Giver' comes from a cultural misunderstanding that spans centuries. 
'Indian Giver' comes from a cultural misunderstanding that spans centuries.
"What it's meant to be is that someone gave you something and then changed their minds, explained the comedian. "We equate this to the Indians, because our feeling is that they gave us America and... then they changed their minds about giving it to us, and it's so offensive when you consider the truth."
But where did the concept of "Indian giving" really come from? Was there actually an instance when a white settler was presented with a gift, only to have it taken away?
The answer to that is... not really. What white settlers thought was rudeness and a lack of generosity was mostly likely rooted in a series of cultural misunderstandings.
The concept of an "Indian gift" or an "Indian giver" traces its roots back to at least the 1700s. In his 1765 , "Thomas Hutchinson defined an Indian gift as a present "for which an equivalent return is expected."
During their legendary journey West in 1804, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark often encountered Indians over the course of their travels. The picture the pair paints of Indians and their culture was not pretty. Lewis and Clark frequently suspected Indians of either stealing their belongings or plotting to do so. Gifts in particular, as Thomas P. Slaughter points out in his book Exploring Lewis and Clark: Reflections on Men and Wilderness, frequently created problems for the explorers.
Slaughter writes that in one instance, a group of Indians offered Lewis and Clark some roots, which the explorers rejected because they felt that "[the Indians'] expectation for those presents of a few roots is three or four times their real worth." Turning down the gift, however, insulted their hosts and led Lewis and Clark to label the Indians "forward and impertinent, and thievish," in their journals.
But what Lewis and Clark viewed as impertinence may just have been author David Wilton argues in his 2004 book Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends that the concept of an "Indian gift" arose when white settlers :
"To an Indian, the giving of gifts was an extension of this system of trade and a gift was expected to be reciprocated with something of equal value. Europeans, upon encountering this practice, misunderstood it, considering it uncouth and impolite. To them, trade was conducted with money and gifts were freely given with nothing expected in return. So this native practice got a bad reputation among the white colonists of North America and the term eventually became a playground insult."
This definition stuck and the phrase "Indian giver" in linguist John Russell Barlett's Dictionary of Americanisms in 1848.
By the early 1900s, seeing the words "Indian giver" in a newspaper or magazine was commonplace. "Indian Giver, Says Ex-Wife, Of Hubby" declared a 1919 headline in the Detroit Free-Press article about a husband who demanded his wife return some gifts during a divorce proceeding. The phrase seemed to frequently pop up in coverage of divorces and messy breakups. "Indian Giver Defeated in "Dream House" Suit" read a headline in the Los Angeles Times describing the actress Iris Ashton Evens' 1930 victory against her former lover, the mine owner Walter J. Browning.
In 1969, the bubblegum pop group 1910 Fruitgum Company saw climb the Billboard charts, peaking at number 5. (The song's chorus: Indian giver... Indian giver... you took your love away from me."). And perhaps the most memorable reference came in a , in which the offensiveness of the term was central to the joke.
The term mostly faded from widespread use in the 80s and 90s and many millennials today may have heard it for the first time during the Kim Kardashian-Kris Humphries divorce, of all things. The phrase made an unfortunate comeback of sorts in 2011, when reality TV star that she "hates an Indian giver... it's a gift, you should keep your gift," while referring to her soon-to-be ex-son-in-law request that the $2 million engagement ring he presented Kim Kardashian be returned.
Explorers Lewis and Clark were offended by a trade-gone-wrong and wrote in their journals that the group of Indians they interacted with were "forward and impertinent, and thievish." 
Explorers Lewis and Clark were offended by a trade-gone-wrong and wrote in their journals that the group of Indians they interacted with were "forward and impertinent, and thievish."  
Wikimedia Commons While covering the fallout of the Kris Jenner comments, :
"...I think we can all agree that it's probably not the best term to use to describe a negative act, considering it stereotypes Indians as deceitful and un-generous (not generous?), which, if you've ever been in a Native community, is about the farthest thing from the truth. Ever heard of ? or ?"
Alas, it isn't true that "we can all agree" that the phrase is inappropriate. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "a person who gives something to another and then takes it back or expects an equivalent in return." The term, the dictionary notes in italics, is "sometimes offensive."
Sigh. Even now, in 2013, the dictionary definition of the phrase only deems it sometimes offensive. While it's always startling to discover ingrained racism in the dictionary, even more jaw-dropping is the definition from 1962's by William and Mary Morris.
The entry begins on a progressive (for 1962) note, as the authors applaud the recent trend in film that rejected "the old concept of the Indian as a ruthless, bloodthirsty warrior." The article's conclusion, however, is stunning:
"If you are willing to concede that the Indians occasionally employed trickery in their dealings with the whites, you will understand why the white man came to use the word Indian as a synonym for 'bogus' or, to use a favorite adjective of children, 'pretend.' So an Indian giver is, in a youngster's own language, only a 'pretend giver.'"
Emphasis mine. Note the usage of the words "trickery", "bogus" and "pretend." It should also be noted that the dictionary this passage appeared in was right on the shelf of my local library — a stark reminder that while language evolves, the reference section doesn't always catch up. William and Mary Morris probably did not realize it at the time, but in this one paragraph, they managed to neatly summarize about 200 years of stereotypes about Native Americans.



How to: Read a scientific research paper and come away smarter

Anthropologist Jennifer Raff offers this great guide, aimed at laypersons, that will help you learn more from reading the scientific research papers you find online and prevent you from succumbing to common mistakes that often show up in Internet flame wars. Step 1: Don't rely on the abstract to tell you what's going on — read the introduction first, instead.


John D. Olson, Paul W. Czoty, Michelle Bell
Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC

Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is an advanced form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) capable of mapping the direction of water motion in tissues. Fiber tracking is a specific method of assembling DTI data to study the three-dimensional architecture of the brain. This DTI fiber tracking image shows the brain of a living female cynomolgus monkey, collected as part of a study designed to determine whether cocaine use causes long-term changes to the brain’s structure and connectivity. Color indicates the direction that the axons (the brain cells’ long “arms”) are travelling: red is left to right, green is front to back, and blue is top to bottom.
A 2013 BioArt winner at FASEB.

The Faux News Geniuses Can't Figure Out Why Miami Beach Is Eroding

by Susie Madrak

I don't know anyone anymore who argues that global warming isn't happening -- except the folks at Faux News, who are so heavily invested in protecting their right-wing denialist agenda. But even for them, this is bad.
Media Matters:

Fox News reported on the "very unusual problem" of diminishing sand at Florida beaches, terming it an "environmental ... crisis of the future." However, the network did not mention that phenomenon's connection to sea level rise, a major consequence of climate change.
Because Roger might be watching, and they want to keep their nice jobs?

On Tuesday's edition of Happening Now, correspondent Phil Keating checked in from Miami Beach to relate that some beaches in Florida are "running out of sand." This, he said, threatens the region's booming beach tourism industry and indirectly weakens an important buffer against hurricane damage as municipalities are forced to take sand from offshore to replace what has been lost. The segment went on to explain that Broward County, which contains Fort Lauderdale, has considered grinding up glass to substitute for sand.

To its credit, Faux News explained that erosion is to blame for this sand shortage (rather than, say, aliens). Unfortunately, the network did not mention any of the underlying trends driving such changes, prominent among which is rising sea levels along with coastal development and high foot traffic. As Climate Central reported in 2012, climate change could make matters much worse:

Krzywy Las

The Crooked Forest Of Poland

Mysteries surround a special grove of trees standing in the middle of a forest in the village of Nowe Czarnowo, south of Szcezecin, Poland. These 400 or so pine trees are bent at a 90 degree curve on the base with the open side uniformly facing north.

The trees are believed to have been planted in the 1930's and were somehow bent by an unknown force and for an unknown purpose for a considerable number of years.

"Strange rocks" reported in Mexico

Strange rocks, smelling of chlorine, were found near the Mexican city of Navojoa, Sonora. Weird News reports that Juan Manuel Ramirez Sandoval, an official with the city's civil defense force, said they "don't know what these rocks are."
Perhaps it is for use, somehow, in the shower.

NASA Discovers a "Cosmic Caterpillar" That Looks Like Star Trek's Doomsday Machine

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered a star forming 4,500 light years from Earth. Astronomers describe it as reminiscent of a caterpillar:
The glowing white head of the caterpillar shape is the core of the protostar. This is where the nuclear process has just begun, allowing the dense collection of gas, plasma and dust to shine with its own light, explains Zolt Levay of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.
But Trekkies know that this is actually the doomsday machine, a planet-destroying menace from an episode of classic Star Trek.



Australians first in line to see T.rex ancestor that links dinosaurs to birds

Australia will be the first country in the world to display publicly specimens of Guanlong wucaii, a relative of Tyrannosaurus rex that helped confirm the link between dinosaurs and birds.
Australians first in line to see T.rex ancestor that links dinosaurs to birds
Guanlong wucaii, meaning “crown dragon”, is an ancient forefather
of T.rex [Credit: Australian Museum]
The specimens are on show at the Australian Museum in Sydney, as part of Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family, an exhibition of fossils, casts and multimedia projections all about T.rex genealogy.

Among the specimens on show is 160 million year-old Guanlong wucaii, meaning “crown dragon”, a tyrannosaur with feather-like structures that lived around 90 million years before its much bigger relative, T. rex.

Guanlong wucaii, which measured 1.1m tall at the hip and 3m in length, was discovered in 2002 in Northwestern China by Chinese palaeontologist Xing Xu and colleagues, fossilised in layers of volcanic ash, shale and mud stone.

Dr Meng Qingin, Director of Beijing Museum of Natural History said Guanlong wucaii was an incredible discovery.

“It was generally accepted that birds were descended from dinosaurs. People had found many dinosaurs that shared striking similarities with early birds, yet a few things didn’t quite fit. The time sequence didn’t seem to be correct, for instance,” he said.

Most bird-like dinosaurs were from the Cretaceous, from 145 million to 66 million years ago, but the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, was from the Jurassic, 201 million to 145 million years ago.

“Also, if birds were descended from dinosaurs, you would predict that their dinosaur ancestors should have feathers or feather-like structures. These fossil finds now link these two theories.”

Specimens on show in the exhibition include ancient T. rex relatives like Guanlong wucaii, Alioramus, Tarbosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Albertosaurus, Appalachiosaurus, Gorgosaurus and Teratophoneus.

Family ties

Stephen Wroe, Associate Professor at University of New England and a palaeontologist, said the exhibition helped demonstrate the complexity of evolution and of the tyrannosaur family tree.

Australians first in line to see T.rex ancestor that links dinosaurs to birds
Illustration of oldest T. rex forefather, the Guanlong wucaii, with map locating site
where it is found in China, ancestor illustrations [Credit: AAP Image/KRT]
“Over the last 10 years, and especially with respect to material emerging from China, Russia and the UK, the whole family tree for the tyrannosaurs has really been fleshed out,” he said.

“You have T.rex, which is your ultimate terrestrial predator but animals such as T.rex don’t just pop up. Tyrannosaur evolution stretches over 100 million years, with unexpected twists and turns, and T.rex was just the last of the tyrannosaurs.”

Tyrannosaurs share certain obvious characteristics — all are carnivorous, long-tailed and bipedal — but range in size from smaller than a human to the terrifying T.rex.

“T.rex had this enormous head and bone-crunching, devastating teeth,” said Associate Professor Wroe.

Associate Professor Wroe said there was now no doubt among the majority of scientists that birds evolved from a group that was fairly close to tyrannosaurs.

“Guanlong wucaii helped cement that, as well as pushing the age of the oldest bird-like dinosaurs right back. It likely had feather-like structures as its Chinese tyrannosaur relative, Dilong (also in the exhibition) certainly did. Although, exactly what the function of these structures was, we are not entirely sure. It would seem likely it had something to do with insulation.”

Australians first in line to see T.rex ancestor that links dinosaurs to birds
The exhibition will also include a multimedia show featuring large-scale, immersive
projections of dinosaurs running through Sydney streets
[Credit: Australian Museum]
Associate Professor Wroe said tests on proteins from a T.rex showed that it was more closely related to a bird than an alligator.

Mike Lee, Senior Research Scientist, Evolutionary Biology at the University of Adelaide, said Guanlong wucaii was an important specimen.

“It might be hard to imagine how Tyrannosaurus, with its huge size and famously tiny arms, could be related to birds. But Guanlong demonstrates earlier relatives of Tyrannosaurus were much more avian – more lightly built and with longer forelimbs,” he said.

Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family runs from 23 November 2013 to 27 July 2014 at the Australian Museum.

Fish Listen to Music, Prefer Bach

Goldfish are no dummies when it comes to music, and they can distinguish between two well-known composers. 
Bach?! As they say there's no accounting for taste!

Animal Pictures


(via TumbleOn)