Welcome to ...

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.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Daily Drift

True statement...!  
Carolina Naturally is read in 193 countries around the world daily.
 Take, That ... !

Today is Video Games Day  

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

Some of our readers today have been in:
Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa
Slough, Kent and Hull, England
Kingston, Jamaica
Ottawa, The Village, Mississauga, Waterloo, Sioux Lookout, Joliette, Thunder Bay, Montreal and Templeton, Canada
Oslo, Sandsli and Myre, Norway
Mexico City, Mexico
Ivrea, Rome, Terlizzi and Bari, Italy
Ryazin, Moscow, Omsk and Vladivostok, Russia
Tehran, Iran
Kiev and Zhovti Vody, Ukraine
Frederiksberg and Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Vigo, Basauri and Madrid, Spain
Floridablanca, Colombia
Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi and Delhi, India
Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam, Malaysia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Manila and Cebu City, Philippines
San Salvador, El Salvador
Valbonne, Rouen, Meudon and Paris, France
Koszalin, Poland
Hanoi, Vietnam
Caracas, Venezuela
Managua, Nicaragua
Homebush and Melbourne, Australia
Taipei, Taiwan
San Jose, Costa Rica
Kista, Sweden
Panama, Panama
Santiago and Lo Prado, Chile
Lat Phrao, Thailand
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Curitiba and Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ruse, Bulgaria
Riga, Latvia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Doha, Qatar
Dublin, Ireland
Vinicne Sumice, Czech Republic
Tamung-Tumon-Harmon Village, Guam
Asuncion, Paraguay
Sulzbach, Eschborn and Nuremberg, Germany
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Groningen and Amsterdam, Netherlands
Newport, Wales
Bratislava, Slovakia
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Muscat, Oman
Giv'atayim, Israel
Cults, Scotland

Today in History

490 BC Athenian and Plataean Hoplites commanded by General Miltiades drive back a Persian invasion force under General Datis at Marathon.
1213 Simon de Montfort defeats Raymond of Toulouse and Peter II of Aragon at Muret, France.
1609 Henry Hudson sails into what is now New York Harbor aboard his sloop Half Moon.
1662 Governor Berkley of Virginia is denied his attempts to repeal the Navigation Acts.
1683 A combined Austrian and Polish army defeats the Turks at Kahlenberg and lifts the siege on Vienna, Austria.
1722 The Treaty of St. Petersburg puts an end to the Russo-Persian War.
1786 Despite his failed efforts to suppress the American Revolution, Lord Cornwallis is appointed governor general of India.
1836 Mexican authorities crush the revolt which broke out on August 25.
1918 British troops retake Havincourt, Moeuvres, and Trescault along the Western Front.
1919 Adolf Hitler joins German Worker's Party.
1939 In response to the invasion of Poland, the French Army advances into Germany. On this day they reach their furthest penetration-five miles.
1940 Italian forces begin an offensive into Egypt from Libya.
1940 The Lascaux Caves in France, with their prehistoric wall paintings, are discovered.
1944 American troops fight their way into Germany.
1945 French troops land in Indochina.
1969 President Richard Nixon orders a resumption in bombing North Vietnam.
1977 Steve Biko, a South African activist opposing apartheid, dies while in police custody.
1980 Military coup in Turkey.
1990 East and West Germany, along with the UK, US and USSR—the Allied nations that had occupied post-WWII Germany—sign the final settlement for reunification of Germany.
1992 Space Shuttle Endeavor takes off on NASA's 50th shuttle mission; its crew includes the first African-American woman in space, the first married couple, and the first Japanese citizen to fly in a US spacecraft.
2003 UN lifts sanctions against Libya in exchange for that country accepting responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 and paying recompense to victims' families.
2007 Joseph Estrada, former president of the Philippines, is convicted of plunder.
2011 In New York City, the 9/11 Memorial Museum opens to the public.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

Faux News' ratings lowest since 2001

That Hello Kitty planes are coming to the U.S.

5 reasons we should tax Wall Street transactions

That Joe Gandleman talks about Cory Booker, sexuality and the repugican cabal

Paul Krugman’s Stubborn Mastery of Facts Continues to Undermine repugican cabal Policy

While the austerity team has been proven wrong time and again (there's zero examples of cutting a nation's way to prosperity.), Krugman's Keynesian philosophy has been vindicated over…
Every now and then a pundit publishes a piece of writing so simple, so right on, that it’s necessary to force a momentary pivot away from the gaping maw of the 24/7 news cycle to celebrate it. It’s one thing to share a link on Facebook or retweet a story, but I have to wonder if those sorts of essentially mindless activities have supplanted the demand of critical thought. And as a busy person who is as often as guilty of the “read, digest and move onto the next thing” as anyone else, I’m going to practice what I preach this week.
Because friends, Paul Krugman’s Monday morning column, “The Wonk Gap,” subtitled, “What the G.O.P. doesn’t know can hurt us,” is really what it’s all about.  I have long admired The New York Times’ Nobel Prize-winning economist for his approachable, accessible good sense. That approval went to another level in the fallout from the late 2008 financial collapse and the Great Recession that we seem unable to fully shake. While a large assortment of Krugman’s colleagues began to issue battle cries railing against the Federal deficit and debt, when it was clear that our biggest problem was the dual devastations of joblessness and demolished home value and equity, Krugman refused to throw in with popular opinion.
The result is that while the often-heartless austerity team has been proven wrong time and again (there’s zero examples of cutting a nation’s way to prosperity – see Greece, Spain, etc.), Krugman’s Keynesian philosophy has been vindicated over and over. He labeled the 2009 stimulus package too small and argued that a larger plan would pose no great threat to our nation’s long-term debt structure. With a U6 unemployment rate still hovering near 14 percent, a measure that includes people seeking full-time employment, as well as those forced into part-time positions out of basic necessity, the jobs situation hasn’t improved much in the last four years.  Meanwhile factcheck.org highlights the obfuscations of the repugican cabal’s favorite debt policy fraud, Paul Ryan, by concluding “Ryan’s chart ignores $2 trillion in deficit reduction and compounds that exaggeration by projecting the inflated deficit figures out for many decades in the future.”
If the data fails to support the repugican cabal platform and the liberalism of economists like Paul Krugman has been proven to encompass solid policy as well as human empathy (imagine!), why then have the failed ideas of the modern repugican cabal been so difficult to banish from our discourse? Let’s go to the man himself for a possible answer:
“[A sizeable portion of today's repugican leaders] are inadvertently illustrating the widening ‘wonk gap’ — the repugican cabal’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.”
Moreover by tuning out any creditable sources that conflict with the party’s wish fulfillment, Krugman writes, wingnut ‘experts’ are creating false impressions about public opinion…Modern wingnuttery has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts. Liberal policies were supposed to cause hyperinflation, so low measured inflation must reflect statistical fraud; the threat of climate change implies the need for public action, so global warming must be a gigantic scientific hoax. Oh, and Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been a real wingnut.
I experience a genuine surge of adrenaline, accompanied by an increased pulse rate, flushed cheeks and giddiness when I read truth manifestos like this one.  Whereas the majority of conservative pundits have to contort themselves to make anything resembling a logical point, Krugman’s very success is located in the simplicity of his arguments. He is unafraid to continuously point out, very respectfully, that the emperor is wearing no clothes.
I respect Krugman’s apparently genuine belief that there will be a time when facts win, when the people of this Great Union will pause to wonder why they keep getting poorer, availing themselves of less and less opportunity anytime the modern repugican cabal controls an arm of the government. More war, less jobs and the removal of the social safety net even as the top one percent and the corporate interests they represent gobble up remaining resources. There are certain weeks I feel almost too demoralized, too exhausted to continue raising my voice in an attempt to counter the efforts at middle and lower class suppression I see everywhere I look. It is in part the stubbornness of experts like Krugman, with too many credentials to ignore, that inspires me to continue. We can’t let today’s repugican cabal destroy this great democracy. If Krugman can find new and interesting ways to spread a staunchly consistent message, then so can I.

John Boehner’s Do Less Than Nothing Congress Refuses To Get To Work

With only 9 days to oppose raising the debt ceiling and funding the government, repugicans in Congress have their work cut out for them.…
Most Americans have no idea how it feels to enjoy a 5-week vacation from the rigors of going to work to do nothing but hamper economic recovery and vote to defund the Affordable Care Act. The United States Congress returns today with a laundry list of important items to address and only 9 days to solve some very important issues. If history is any indication, it is unlikely this Congress will get down to work to accomplish anything except attempting to defund the Affordable Care Act, shut down the government, and cause a national credit default, but the President has asked them to decide whether or not America should take action against the Assad regime for using banned chemical weapons in the ongoing Syrian civil war.
It is apparent that either the President has great faith that repubgicans will put aside their racially-motivated obstructionist ways and finally do the jobs they were sent to Washington to do, or continue bickering amongst themselves about how best to sabotage the economy and let Syrians sort out their own civil war. It is entirely possible that was the President’s intent all along, but of course that is purely speculation; and maybe brilliant.
Over the past five weeks repugicans have spent their vacation sucking up to the oil industry and attempting to convince their constituents that defunding the Affordable Care Act is more pressing than immigration reform, government funding levels, increasing the federal debt limit, fixing the sequester, reworking the Voting Rights Act, and restoring food stamp funding in the farm bill. Now their demand to have input into whether or not America should take limited action against Syrian forces is before them and they appear astonished they are tasked with making a decision with so many pressing domestic issues waiting for their attention. In fact, a 10-term representative from New Jersey, repugican Frank A. LoBiondo said upon leaving a briefing on Syria that “We’re having trouble walking and chewing gum already. This doesn’t make it any easier.”
It may be that the idea of intervening in the Syrian conflict and assisting the rebels in their attempt to overthrow the Assad regime is not in America, or the region’s best interests and doubtless that thought is not lost on President Obama. Let’s face it, the President has resisted repeated calls from repugican warmongers to get involved in giving the rebels an advantage for a good reason and it has everything to do with Syria’s considerable cache of chemical weapons that are the source of consternation among regional and world governments today. The rebels have promised that if the United States weakens the Syrian army, they will launch a ferocious assault to overthrow the Assad regime and there is no way of knowing whether or not a new government will be a serious threat to American interests or its allies in the region.
The specter of an extremist islamist regime with access to a twenty-year buildup of chemical weapons and the means to deliver them does not bode well for anyone in the region, but especially Israel that activated their Iron Dome defense system over the weekend in anticipation of Syrian retaliation against America’s closest ally in the region in the event Congress gives the go-ahead for an America-only military strike. The President intimated on Sunday that turning “a blind eye to images like the ones we’ve seen out of Syria, and failing to respond to this outrageous attack would increase the risk that chemical weapons could be used again; that they would fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us, and it would send a horrible signal to other nations that there would be no consequences for their use of these weapons.” The President is absolutely right and there is no guarantee that “terrorists” he alluded to will be none other than a hostile Syrian government controlled by Islamist extremists within the rebel movement fighting to overthrow the Assad regime.
President Obama has suggested over the course of the Syrian civil war that intervening on behalf of the rebels is ill-advised because there is no way of knowing who is behind the rebel forces. Likely, it is why the President spent considerable time and energy at the G20 summit attempting to marshal international support to hold the Syrians accountable for the chemical weapon attack on a Damascus suburb that claimed countless lives of innocent civilians. Now, any American involvement is in the hands of an impotent Congress that is unable to manage passing a budget, farm bill, and immigration reform because they are too focused on defunding the Affordable Care Act, shutting down the government, and bickering over whether or not to default on the nation’s debt obligation.
The repugicans in Congress, particularly the dependable warmongers who lust to bomb the Middle East, have shown no inclination to set aside their hatred for this President and support him; even to kill Muslims accused of using chemical weapons against their own countrymen. It is reasonable to assume that it may be the outcome the President hoped for after all. America cannot be the world’s police and the civil war in Syria is an internal matter and frankly, the rebels attempting to overthrow the legal government have given no assurance they have not already acquired some of the considerable chemical weapons few in the world cared to address.
The Syrian issue is a very complex problem that falls under the aegis of the United Nations and not just America. As the President has noted several times, 98% of the world’s governments signed treaties banning chemical weapons and mandated their destruction, and yet over the past twenty years Russia, Iran, European nations, and even American companies helped Syria buildup of a very substantial chemical weapons stash. The question the 188 signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention now have to answer is just how committed they are to banning chemical weapons, and if as a group they will hold the Syrians who deployed them accountable for their actions or continue turning a blind eye.
President Obama has made America’s position clear that its commitment to banning chemical weapons is not confined to signing a treaty, and sending the decision to Congress sent a message to Americans that the democratic process will decide whether America takes action. There are valid arguments on both sides why America should or should not intervene in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs, and it is up to Congress to make the final decision. For his part, the President has silenced critics that he is not willing to take a principled stand and defend America’s interests abroad, or that he is adhering to the Bush doctrine of unilaterally deciding when America goes to war. The signal to Congress is that it is long past time for them to get to work for the American people and maybe resolving the question of military action against Syria will inspire them to quickly decide that it is not in America’s best interest to risk the possibility of a new Syrian regime unafraid to use chemical weapons against America or its allies.
With only 9 days to oppose raising the debt ceiling and funding the government, repugicans in Congress have their work cut out for them and it is likely their automatic opposition to President Obama will decide the Syria issue quickly and put responsibility for addressing chemical weapons use where it belongs in the hands of the United Nations. It is unreasonable that repugicans will want to miss an opportunity to waste 9 days creating another economic crisis over funding the government and threatening the nation’s credit, and it is possible the President counted on them to reject his request all along.

Obama is Outsmarting Everyone and Winning on Syria Without Firing a Shot

During interviews on CNN and Faux News, Obama's plan to destroy Syria's chemical weapons without launching a single missile became obvious, as he is outsmarting the media…
During interviews on CNN and Faux News, President Obama’s plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons without launching a single missile became obvious, as he is outsmarting the media and his repugican critics.
When asked by Wolf Blitzer if the proposal for Syria to turn over their chemicals weapons to the international community for monitoring was a way to possibly avoid a military strike, the president said:
It’s possible if it’s real, and I think it’s certainly a positive development when the Russians and the Syrians both make gestures towards dealing with these chemicals weapons. This is what we have been asking for not just over the last week, or the last month, but for the last couple of years, because these chemical weapons pose a serious threat to all nations, and to the United States in particular. That’s why 98% of humanity said we don’t use these. That protects our troops and it protects children like the ones that we saw on those videos inside of Syria, so it is a potentially positive development.
I have to say it’s unlikely that we would have arrived at that point where there were even public statements like that without a credible military threat to deal with the chemicals weapons use inside of Syria, but we’re going to run this to ground, and John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious.
One reason why this may have a chance at success is that even Syria’s allies like Iran detest chemical weapons. Iran unfortunately was the target of chemicals weapons at the hands of Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq War. And so we may be able to arrive at a consensus that doesn’t solve the underlying problems of a civil war in Syria, but it does solve the problem that I’m trying to focus on right now which is making sure that you don’t have over 400 children gassed indiscriminately by these chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, the president was telling Faux News that he expects the debate in Congress to take weeks, not days. The president said, “I am going to make sure that this is not going to change the calendar of debate in Congress, but there was no expectation that Congress would be finished with its deliberations over the next week or so.” Obama said that the American people aren’t persuaded and convinced. He added that he fervently hoped that this could be solved in a diplomatic way.
President Obama admitted that he had been discussing the international option on Syria with Putin since last year.
It turns out that all of the people on the left and right who were fooled by the pundits and hosts on cable news into believing that war was just around the corner were absolutely, completely, totally, utterly wrong. War is not around the corner. In fact, President Obama had a strategy to get Syria to the table. That strategy was to get the United States talking about striking Syria by asking Congress for authorization.
If President Obama wanted to strike Syria, he could have done so at any time. He didn’t, because military action in Syria was not what he wanted. The president wanted Syria to surrender their chemical weapons to the international community, and the best way to get Russia to listen was to turn up the heat by letting Congress debate a potential military strike on Syria.
Obama is going to keep the pressure on Assad by letting the congressional debate take center stage for the next several weeks. The best way for Congress to avoid military strikes in Syria, while keeping Assad at the table would be to seriously consider authorizing the strikes. If Congress really wants to scare the pants off of Assad, they’ll authorize the strikes.
If you don’t think the strikes will have an impact, ask yourself why is Assad trying to sway the Congress and American public opinion away from them? The reality is that Assad knows that strikes will do major damage to his forces. This is why wants nothing more than to keep the rest of the world out of Syria.
President Obama may end up getting exactly what he wanted without firing a single missile, and he may very well get Syria’s chemical weapons destroyed. Obama has no interest in getting the country involved in a civil war in Syria, but the president will not stand by and let chemical weapons be used on civilians.
Barack Obama came up with a brilliant strategy. He may end up outsmarting everyone without risking a single American life, or another dollar on military action.

Diplomacy Obama Style Continues to Prove the Critics Wrong

Fortunately, President Obama wasn't deterred by fear of the varied and contradictory criticisms ranging from being called a hypocritical war monger to crazy conspiracy theories. moral authority
When a country violates an international norm, as Syria did, the political will of the international community determines the nature of a response and the outcome of a dispute.  This is particularly true of the permanent five members of the United Nations Security Council. That is in addition to the internal politics within those countries, including the United States.
There have been wrote several excellent posts addressing the primary questions of whether we should take action, if we should do it alone and whether the President can act without support from congress. She also sorted through the various fallacies such as efforts to compare President Obama and the situation in Syria with the shrub and the situation in Iraq. I applaud her for doing so.
Aside from considering our domestic interests, our response to Syria has global implications. The Obama Administration went its own way on Syria, combining diplomatic efforts with punitive airstrikes.
As reported,  some diplomatic progress has occurred.  It’s likely that the threat of force combined with Secretary Kerry’s comment that strikes may be avoided if Syria fulfills certain conditions played an important role in this achievement. In fact, Kerry’s comments were not as “off the cuff” as earlier reports suggest. President Obama and Putin discussed the weapons handover during the G-20 summit last week.
Early Tuesday, Syria accepted a Russian proposal to surrender its chemical weapons to the international community.
France is also on the verge of introducing a resolution calling on Syria to surrender its chemical weapons to the international community.  Reports say the resolution warns of serious consequences should Syria fail to meet this requirement. So far President’s approach of combining of diplomacy backed up with his willingness to use of proportionate and responsible force is working.
All of this occurred within the 24 hours since Secretary Kerry said the one way that Syria could avoid punitive strikes was if it surrender its chemical weapons. So far, diplomacy Obama style is working.  Of course, it’s possible that that Syria agreed to the proposal as a stalling tactic, or Syria might not comply with the conditions.
If President Obama followed the desires of the do nothing critics, these developments probably wouldn’t have occured.  He would send a message to rogue states and non-governmental rogue actors that they can violate international norms with impunity.  It would also be saying to our friends in the international community that they are on their own.
If he followed the do anything but force crowd, this is a case in which diplomatic efforts without  force, if necessary, would not be taken seriously. The agreement came because Syria wanted to avoid punitive strikes by the U.S. and its allies.
Another set of critics advocate the opposite extreme of the do nothing crowd – regime change, which would entail a more extensive use of force than punitive strikes would entail. Never mind, that Obama’s approach is heading in the direction of diplomatic success in a potential crisis without resorting to the extreme of going to war.
Some critics of the U.S.’s possible use of punitive strikes against Syria point to the U.S.’s lack of moral authority because of its inconsistent record with regard to violations of prohibitions against chemical weapons.  Okay, the fact is we violated international norm with Bush’s torture policy being one shining example and we looked the other way when our friends did the same. One example is Israel’s continued expansion of settlements. Suggestions that we do nothing based on these facts indulge in the fallacy that two wrongs make a right. How does turning a blind eye to Syria rectify the settlement problem in Israel? How does allowing Assad to get away with gassing his own citizens, including sleeping children, compensate for Bush’s torture policy?
As a general truism, countries either deny or spin their own violations of international legal norms and those of their friends while insisting on enforcement when it comes to their enemies. When taken to its logical conclusion arguments suggesting that doing nothing is the way to rectify this disparity, only results in reinforcing it.
Moreover, the “political will” of organizations like the United Nations is just as selective, but then they were structured to be so.  The United Nations Security Council has five permanent members:   The U.S. China, Russia, Great Britain and France.  Those members have a double veto   over every resolution presented to the Council.  That means they can veto discussion of a proposed resolution on procedural grounds and they also have the power to veto resolutions on substantive grounds. The composition of the Security Council is of states with competing and opposing interests.  The downside is it takes time for the UNSC to fashion a response to violations of international norms that fall within its scope.  The upside is the constant tension between competing interests prevents absolute and unaccountable domination by any state. Certainly, we can find flaws with the structure and outdated composition of the United Nations Security Council.
This structure also precludes the possibility of any country, including the United States, from meeting the a purist’s standard of moral authority to enforce any international norm.  As is the case when achieving consensus among any set of competing interests, it means those involved compromise and negotiate until they can agree on something. The record shows the glaring inconsistencies of the permanent five in their desire to enforce international norms, particularly human rights  and international humanitarian law.   The pattern is one in which the P5 as a collective entity reflects the behaviors and interests of its individual member states. At best, the severity of a violation can persuade a reluctant P5 member to support action against a traditional friend.  More likely, P5 members will abstain from voting on resolutions that affect their friends, but P5 members who are friendly with the offending country will simultaneously use their influence to realize a political solution.
The ugly truth is that none of the countries that are in a position to lead an international response to Syria (or any other country for that matter) fit the purist definition of moral authority. However, there are countries and leaders who are in a better position to assert moral authority than others. In reality, the purist moral authority argument amounts to saying international law shouldn’t be enforced, which isn’t too far away from saying international law shouldn’t exist at all.
We live in an imperfect world in which international law’s enforcement depends on the national interests of the permanent 5 security council members, the national and international security implications of the offending act and the offending country’s relations and value to the P5 countries. Diplomatic relations include a variety of measures including use of military options ranging from punitive strikes to humanitarian intervention, when warranted, in the name of achieving the eventual political solution.
Fortunately, President Obama wasn’t deterred by fear of the varied and contradictory criticisms ranging from being called a hypocritical war monger to the crazy conspiracy theories offered by Ted Cruz, Lush Dimbulb and others whose oppose involvement in Syria in the name of saying no to anything the President proposes.

Syria seeks reprieve from U.S. strikes with Russia plan

Free Syrian Army fighters take up positions behind piled sandbags as they aim their weapons in the eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Msallam Abd Albaset
by Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Roberta Rampton
Syria accepted a Russian proposal on Tuesday to give up chemical weapons and win a reprieve from U.S. military strikes, while its jets returned to the sky to bomb rebel positions in Damascus for the first time since the West threatened force.
Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki accepted the Russian proposal "to spare Syrian blood," state television reported.
The United States and France had been poised to launch missile strikes to punish President Bashar al-Assad's forces, which they blame for chemical weapons attacks that killed hundreds of civilians on August 21.
The White House said President Barack Obama, who called the Russian proposal a potential breakthrough, would still proceed with a vote in Congress to authorize force.
But the vote now appears more about providing a hypothetical threat to back up diplomacy, rather than to unleash immediate missile strikes to punish Damascus for gassing its civilians.
The Russian diplomatic initiative, which emerged after off-the-cuff remarks by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry alluding to such a deal, marks a sudden reversal following weeks in which the West appeared finally headed towards intervention, having stayed on the sidelines while war escalated for years.
But whether inspectors can neutralize chemical weapons dumps while war rages in Syria remains open to question.
Syria's rebels reacted with deep dismay, saying the proposal had already emboldened Assad to launch a deadly new offensive and meant that last month's gas attacks would now go unpunished.
France said it would put forward a U.N. Security Council draft resolution on the basis of Moscow's proposal. Syria would have to put its stockpiles of chemical arms under international control and face "extremely serious" consequences if it violated the conditions, Paris said.
The proposal provides a way out for Obama, to avoid ordering unpopular action. It may make it easier for him to win backing from a skeptical Congress, which could have severely damaged his authority if it withheld support for strikes.
Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, visiting Moscow, as saying Damascus had agreed to the Russian initiative because it would "remove the grounds for American aggression".
While the diplomatic wrangling was under way in far-flung capitals, Assad's warplanes bombed rebellious districts inside the Damascus city limits on Tuesday for the first time since the August 21 poison gas attacks. Rebels said the strikes demonstrated that the government had concluded the West had lost its nerve.
"By sending the planes back, the regime is sending the message that it no longer feels international pressure," activist Wasim al-Ahmad said from Mouadamiya, one of the districts of the capital hit by the chemical attack.
The war has already killed more than 100,000 people and driven millions from their homes. It threatens to spread violence across the Middle East, with countries endorsing the sectarian divisions that brought civil war to Lebanon and Iraq.
The Russian proposal "is a cheap trick to buy time for the regime to kill more and more people," said Sami, a member of the local opposition coordinating committee in the Damascus suburb of Erbin, also hit by last month's chemical attack.
But Damascenes in pro-Assad areas were grateful for a reprieve from Western strikes: "Russia is the voice of reason. They know that if a strike went ahead against Syria, then World War Three - even Armageddon - would befall Europe and America," said Salwa, a Shi'ite Muslim in the affluent Malki district.
"I'm so happy. I'm so grateful. Our country will be alright," she said.
French officials said their draft resolution was designed to make sure the Russian proposal would have teeth, by allowing military action if Assad is uncooperative.
"It was extremely well played by the Russians, but we didn't want someone else to go to the U.N. with a resolution that was weak. This is on our terms and the principles are established. It puts Russia in a situation where they can't take a step back after putting a step forward," said a French diplomatic source.
The White House portrayed the deal as a success that vindicated Obama's firm stance.
"We see this as potentially a positive development and we see this as a clear result of the pressure that has been put on Syria," White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
The Russian proposal could make it easier for members of the U.S. Congress to vote to authorize action as part of a diplomatic initiative, knowing that it will not lead directly to missile strikes which are opposed by most Americans.
Republican Senator John McCain, a leading hawk, said lawmakers were working on new wording of a Congressional resolution to ensure "strict timelines and guidelines that would have to be met" for Assad to give up chemical arms.
The White House and the Kremlin both said the Russian proposal was not entirely new and that Obama and President Vladimir Putin had discussed the principles behind it in the past. Putin's spokesman said it came up at a summit last week.
Nevertheless, it appeared to emerge out of the blue after unscripted remarks by Kerry, who responded to a question in London on Monday by saying the only way for Assad to avoid U.S. strikes would be to relinquish his chemical weapons.
In his initial remarks Kerry said such an event was unlikely, and the State Department said he was only making a rhetorical point. But within hours, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was proposing exactly that, and Obama was cautiously hailing a potential breakthrough.
With veto-wielding China also backing it, it would be the rare Syria initiative to unite global powers whose divisions have so far blocked Security Council action. Assad's main regional backer Iran has also signaled support, as has U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Gulf Arab states which support the rebels were skeptical, however: "It's all about chemical weapons but doesn't stop the spilling of the blood of the Syrian people," said Bahrain's Foreign Minister Shekih Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.
After 12 years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has had a hard time winning support for strikes from the public or Congress. Britain quit the coalition threatening force after Prime Minister David Cameron lost a vote in parliament.
Obama was still cautious: "It's possible that we can get a breakthrough," he told CNN, although he said there was a risk that it was a further stalling tactic by Assad.
"We're going to run this to ground," he said. "John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see, can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious."
The wavering from the West dealt an unquestionable blow to the Syrian opposition, which had thought it had finally secured military intervention after pleading for two and a half years for help from Western leaders that vocally opposed Assad.
The rebel Syrian National Coalition decried a "political maneuver which will lead to pointless procrastination and will cause more death and destruction to the people of Syria."
Assad's forces - which had been withdrawing from fixed positions and bracing for expected Western strikes - appear to have responded to the hesitation by redoubling an offensive to clear fighters from Damascus suburbs.
Troops and pro-Assad militiamen tried to seize the northern district of Barzeh and the eastern suburb of Deir Salman near Damascus airport, working-class Sunni Muslim areas where opposition activists and residents reported street fighting.
Fighter jets bombed Barzeh three times and pro-Assad militia backed by army tank fire made a push into the area. Air raids were also reported on the Western outskirts near Mouadamiya.
Syria is not a party to international treaties which ban the stockpiling of chemical weapons but is bound by the Geneva conventions that forbid using them in war. Syria has not said whether it possesses poison gas, while denying it has used it.
Western states believe Syria has a vast undeclared chemical arsenal. Sending inspectors to destroy it would be hard even in peace and extraordinarily complicated in the midst of a war.
The two main precedents are ominous: U.N. inspectors dismantled the chemical arsenal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the 1990s but left enough doubt to provide the basis for a U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was rehabilitated by the West after agreeing to give up his banned weapons, only to be overthrown with NATO help in 2011.
Assad's government says last month's chemical attack was the work of rebels trying to win Western military support, a scenario Washington and its allies say is not credible.
Human Rights Watch, the New York-based watchdog, said evidence strongly suggested Syrian government forces were to blame because the attack used rockets and launchers in the possession only of government forces.



How Do Employers View Online Degrees?

Do employers think an online degree is equivalent to a traditional degree? Well, when online degrees meet three vital criteria, they are viewed as equal to traditional degrees by employers and recruiting professionals.

How Foreign Languages Mutate English Words

It's no secret that English borrows freely from other languages. And you're probably familiar with at least a few words from English that have been borrowed into other languages - for instance, le weekend in French. But do you know just how much English words can be changed when they're taken on by other languages?

The Science of Gossip and Rumors

Gossip is something that's been around for ages. It's even talked about in the Bible! Trace explains how gossip has played an important role in human evolution and how it impacts society.

You Are What You Eat

We taste like chicken--or so I've heard. Carolyn Hiler has a gift for making ordinary statements sound creepy.

Nuclear Barriers Used to Separate Soccer Fans

Portable barriers designed to be used during nuclear or biological incidents were deployed to separate exiting football fans in Devon, UK, after a match between Plymouth Argyle and Bristol Rovers.
A spokesman from Devon and Cornwall Police said it was the first time the force had used them at a game.

He said the barriers, which are metal and about 15ft (4.5m) high and 65ft (20m) long, would help them clear fans from the area outside Home Park stadium.

After the match, Acting Supt Brendan Brookshaw, said: "Everything went according to plan with a really good crowd. Just two people were arrested.

"We need to evaluate it fully, but my initial reaction was the barriers were very successful. There was no violence and no disorder in the area where we usually get problems."
The story does not mention which team won. Using the barriers in this manner seems like a good idea, to make use of expensive equipment designed for events that might never happen in order to solve everyday problems. More 

One Big Ass Ship

How big is the MV Blue Marlin, a semi-submersible heavy lift ship? Why, it's big enough to transport drilling rigs and even other big ships on its deck.
In the 2000 photo above, the Blue Marlin was hired to move the destroyer USS Cole back to the United States after the warship was damaged by Al-Qaeda bomb in Yemen.
Well, carrying one ship is impressive - but what about carrying 18 ships? Here the Blue Marlin transported 18 riverboats and a few large pontoons from China to the Netherlands.
A ship that carries a ship (or ships)? Now that's a big ass ship, but the Blue Marlin is actually not the biggest heavy lift ship in the world. That title belongs to Dockwise Vanguard (the company also owns the Blue Marlin), which has 70% larger deck-size than the Blue Marlin.
More about the Blue Marlin over at Wikipedia and Dark Roasted Blend 

Huge Semi-Submersible Ships

Semi-submersible ships are some of the most massive ocean-going vessels in the world. They are the only vessels capable of loading, transporting and off-loading extremely heavy equipment. These mighty ships are used to carry entire gas refineries, huge oil drilling rigs, and even warships and submarines, on lengthy journeys across the globe.

City of Fright

If you think the streets of Paris are enchanting, wait till you discover what lurks below.


Most visitors to Paris have no idea that beneath the City of Light is a dark labyrinth of branching tunnels and abandoned quarries. Paris sits atop massive limestone and gypsum formations that have been quarried for more than a thousand years. The Romans chiseled the fine-grained limestone into bathhouses and sculptures. The French used it to build thousands of buildings, everything from Notre Dame cathedral and the Louvre Museum to Paris Police Headquarters. As for the gypsum, ever heard of plaster of Paris? That's where it comes from.
When the mining started, the quarries were outside of town, but over the centuries the city spread and so did the quarries. Eventually Paris ended up with a 1,900-acre underground maze that starts about 15 feet below the streets and ends 120 feet underground. Parisians call the multi-level maze gruyère (Swiss cheese), and that's exactly what a cross-section of the ground beneath their feet looks like.

When an entire city ends up on holey ground, things get shaky. Residents got their first glimpse of how unstable their city had become in 1774, when one of the tunnels collapsed, gulping down houses and people along Rue d'Enfer (Hell Street). Parisians panicked, so Louis XVI created the Inspection Generale des Carrieres (quarry inspectors) and appointed architect Charles-Axel Guillaumot as its first chief. He instructed Guillaumot to do three things: 1) find all the empty spaces under Paris, 2) make a map of them, and 3) reinforce any spaces below public streets or below buildings belonging to the king. Personally inspecting the sinkholes to a depth of more than 75 feet, Guillaumot was horrified by what he found and told Louis the truth: "The temples, palaces, houses, and public streets of several parts of Paris and its surroundings are about to sink into giant pits."


That wasn't the only problem in Paris. Thanks to war, famine, and plague, the city's cemeteries were full to overflowing. One frosty February morning in 1788, a homeowner started down to his cellar but was immediately driven back upward by a terrible stench. Egged on by his neighbors (and wearing a vinegar-soaked handkerchief over his nose), he crept back down and found 20 decaying bodies, covered in graveyard mold, bursting through the wall. The graveyards had finally gone beyond their limits.

But where others saw a problem, King Louis saw an opportunity. He closed the cemeteries and had the bones dug up and stacked into the quarries. Six million skeletons -mounds and stacks of skulls, tibias, femurs, and spines- turned the chambers into catacombs, an underground boneyard that became known as "The Empire of the Dead."


As Paris grew, the gruyère got even more full of holes. Cults dug crypts. City engineers built aqueducts, sewers, water mains, and tunnels for Métro lines. They dug conduits for telephone and electrical lines, bunkers for shelter during World War II, and garages for underground parking. And at the very bottom: the ancient quarries, their ceilings braced by nothing but limestone pillars and stacked stones.

Of the 180 miles of tunnels maintained by the Inspection Generale des Carrieres (IGC), only one mile -the catacombs- is open to the public. That doesn't stop the cataphiles. After dark, these hardcore cavers scurry down drains and through ventilation shafts.  They chisel open manhole covers and sneak through entrances in hospital basements, the cellars of bars, church crypts, and subway tunnels. Why? "At the surface there are too many rules," says one cataphile. "Here we do what we want."
While preparing an article for National Geographic, reporter Neil Shea got an inside look at what cataphiles do underground. Some carry scuba tanks for exploring and mapping abandoned wells. Some create art, such as a four-foot-high limestone castle complete with drawbridge, moat, towers, and even a little LEGO soldier guarding the gate. Other host events: An author and an illustrator staged a book signing for their graphic novel Le Diable Vert (The Green Devil). A group of people held a banquet, their candelabra casting shadows across the stone table as they dipped into cheese fondue and listened to chamber music. With cataphiles scurrying through the gruyère like mice, the city decided to hire another kind of cat to hunt them down.

"We believe deeply that the catacombs belong to us, and that no one has a right to take them away," says a longtime cataphile nicknamed Morthicia. The cataflics disagree. These special cops patrol the maze, chase offenders from their underground lairs, and hand out fines. That's business as usual… unless they stumble upon something unexpected.

In 2004, during a training exercise 50 feet below the surface, officers moved a tarp marked "Building site. No access." That triggered a tape recording of dogs barking. "To frighten people off," said an officer. Beyond the barking they found 3,000 square feet of subterranean galleries. In one gallery there was theater seating for 20 (carved into the rock), a full-size movie screen, and projection equipment, along with all kinds of films, from 1950s film noir classics to contemporary thrillers. In another room, they found tables and chairs, and a well-stocked bar. Three days later, they returned with an electrician to trace the wires being used to pirate power and phone service. But the galleries had been stripped; not a bit remained to offer a clue to the culprits. All that was left was a note in the middle of the floor: "Do not try to find us."

A group calling itself "La Mexicaine De Perforation" later claimed responsibility for the theater. "There are a dozen more where that one came from," said Patrick Saletta, a photographer who documents the urban underground. "You guys have no idea what's down there." Perhaps not, but here's something they do know: Inspector Guillaumot's 18th-century warning is still valid. In 1961 the maze swallowed an entire south side neighborhood. Small collapses happen every year, yet Parisians seem unconcerned. They have the IGC -still vigilant more than 200 years after its founding- to keep the City of Light from falling into the gruyère.

The Shattered Remains Of Afghanistan's Versailles

The ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule has been recorded down the centuries, from Alexander the Great to our own modern times. Yet it is not only outsiders who have been the focus of the ire of the Afghan people.

The first Afghan ruler who endeavored to modernize Afghanistan on a western model, Amanullah Khan, was eventually forced to flee his own country. His once opulent palaces are now testimony to the conflict and violence which have dogged this complex country for more than a century.

The New York City Farm Colony

In 1829, the government established a colony on 300 acres of woodland on Staten Island in New York. The poor, the disabled, and the mentally ill were taken there to raise crops and earn their keep -which they did, until the population aged and it became an old folks home. It was only closed in 1975. That's where the history of the site takes a more sinister turn.
Crime had been present on and around the grounds since the 1920s, when a seven-year-old boy disappeared from the woods after being seen walking with an elderly man. The nearby Willowbrook State School had a troubled history for much of its life as an institution for the developmentally disabled. A famous 1972 exposé revealed the children at Willowbrook lying naked on the floor, smeared in their own feces, with one attendant for every 50 kids. And then, in the 70s and 80s, children started disappearing.

Many of them disabled, local kids would disappear from family homes, most never to be found again. Jennifer Schweiger, a 12-year-old with Down’s syndrome, disappeared on July 9, 1987, during what was intended as a short walk, to be found 35 days later in a shallow grave on the grounds of the Farm Colony. Andre Rand, once an orderly of the colony, was blamed for the series of murders. It was rumored he lived in the tunnels under the decaying hospital, and his campsites were found on the grounds of the property.
But that's not all. The buildings and grounds are the site of urban legends of ghosts, criminals, and satan worshipers. It's also a party place. Legally off-limits, the site is accessible and popular for drug users, graffiti artists, urban explorers, and paintball enthusiasts. Add to that the disintegration of the neglected structures and the encroaching forest, and the New York City Farm Colony is now a site to see, which you can at Atlas Obscura.

The Gorge at Watkins Glen

This lovely, tranquil scene is in Watkins Glen State Park in Upstate New York. Glen Creek cuts 300 feet through the rock, forming a deep gorge with waterfalls and pools. Stone walkways and bridges built in the 1930s provide access to travelers.

The Science Behind Bigfoot and Other Monsters

Daniel Loxton is a writer at Skeptic magazine. Donald R. Prothero is a paleontologist. They got together and wrote the new book Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids, which may be a disappointment for people who buy it for the title alone. National Geographic News has an interview with both authors. A sample:
All the cryptids that you discuss in the book – Bigfoot, the Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, Mokele Mbembe – are very similar to things that exist or existed in the past: bears, primates, plesiosaurs, sauropods. Why the similarity?

DL: In some cases I think it's because they are the same. Bears are often associated with ogres or wildmen in folklore because they're pretty humanlike. Once that folklore is underway, you have the opportunity for people to make these misidentification errors where they see a bear and think it might be a bigfoot.

DP: These animals look like something familiar to us because the myths grow around whatever we've already just seen. Daniel pointed out in the book that the Mokele Mbembe myth emerged right about the time that large sauropod skeletons were first mounted in New York City and illustrated by people like Charles R. Knight. Then lo and behold, someone starts reporting one in the Congo, where it doesn't have any history prior to that.
The authors also discuss the phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" at NatGeo News .

Six Weird Animal Facts Illustrated by ChaosLife

If you've always wanted to learn more about animals but don't actually like reading, then you'll love this great series of illustrations by A. Stiffler and K. Copeland of ChaosLife. With any luck, they'll add more images to this small 6 part series called Nature Is Magic.

Rescued Kitten Infected Girl With Rare Virus

In a cat rescue gone wrong, a teenager was left with a large, open wound, which took multiple doctors several weeks to determine the cause.

Bus-Sized Reptile Terrorized Prehistoric Sealife

A well-preserved fossil reveals that mosasaurs evolved to become super toothy, sleek, shark-like and speedy.

What a whopper!

Record 741-pound gator caught in Mississippi
by Dylan Stableford
An alligator hunting record in Mississippi was broken for the third time in a week, wildlife officials there say, after the state's heaviest gator was caught.

A 13-foot, 6.5-inch gator weighing 741.5 pounds was taken by Dalco Turner of Gluckstadt, Miss., on Sunday morning on the Mississippi River near Port Gibson. It took Turner and two other hunters an hour to finally snare him.

"He broke three lines, and I had the only hook that stayed in him the whole time," Turner told the Clarion-Ledger.

It almost didn't happen. "We passed it by the first time," he said. "We really didn’t think he was big enough to go after."

Turner's record catch came a week after the state record for heaviest gator was broken twice within hours.

On Sept. 1, a 723.5-pound gator was caught by Beth Trammell in a canal near Redwood, Miss., according to MSNewsNow.com, breaking the previous state record of 697.5 pounds.

But Trammell's record was short-lived. An hour after the record was certified, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ Alligator Program coordinator Ricky Flynt processed a record 727-pound gator that was snared by Dustin Bockman, a UPS driver from Vickburg, Miss., who took the 13-foot, 4.5-inch gator in the Mississippi River near Big Black River.

"He broke all the lines we could put in him," Bockman told "Gulf Live." "Finally put a snare on him and got him up high enough and put a shot on him. All in all probably took us four and a half hours to catch him from the first time we saw him.

"We're going to cook it for sure," Bockman added. "There's plenty for me and everybody else."

Both Trammell and Bockman's catches fell short of the state record for length. In 2008, a 13-foot, 6.5-inch gator was caught on the Pascagoula River.

That record stood until Turner's massive catch, which tied the mark.

"Having a state record for an alligator in Mississippi is a lot like living in a glass house," Brian Albert Broom wrote in the Clarion-Ledger. "It’s going to get broken."

Mississippi, though, has nothing on Texas. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a record 800-pound alligator was caught during a public hunt in May. The 14-foot, 3-inch gator was estimated to be between 30 to 50 years old.

Whales Get Sunburned, Too

Turns out whales like to spend time under the sun, too. But just like some people, some whales are getting way too much sun, and it's causing them serious problems. Anthony discusses what's going on and what, if anything, can be done.

Moose caught on camera vandalizing school

A moose, probably upset by its own reflection, smashed through the glass doors of a Norwegian school at the weekend.
When students at the Risil secondary school in Vestby, southeast of Oslo, found broken glass on Monday morning, security cameras showed the perpetrator was not a delinquent teenager.
"The janitor looked through the surveillance tape, hoping to identify the thug who did this, but was shocked when he saw that the damage was done by a moose and her two calves," school principal Solveig Eid said.

Eid believes the elk must have seen her own reflection in the glass door and charged towards it. A Norwegian moose can be as tall as two meters (6 ft) and weigh as much as 400 kg (880 lb).

The Látrabjarg Bird Cliffs

Home to millions of puffins, guillemots, razorbills and gannets, Látrabjarg is the westernmost point in Iceland and the largest bird cliff in Europe. Birds are lured here by the infinite rocky outcrops, protected from the northern winds and perfect for nesting... and humans come for the sheer spectacle of so many birds in one place.

Animal Pictures


Grey Heron by mattcawrey on Flickr.