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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Daily Drift

So, true ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 193 countries around the world daily.
Hang out with some older persons today  ... !

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Today in History

331BC Alexander the Great decisively shatters King Darius III's Persian army at Gaugamela (Arbela), in a tactical masterstroke that leaves him master of the Persian Empire.
1273 Rudolf of Hapsburg is elected emperor in Germany.
1588 The feeble Sultan Mohammed Shah of Persia, hands over power to his 17-year old son Abbas.
1791 In Paris, the National Legislative Assembly holds its first meeting.
1839 The British government decides to send a punitive naval expedition to China.
1847 Maria Mitchell, American astronomer, discovers a comet and is elected the same day to the American Academy of Arts—the first woman to be so honored. The King of Denmark awarded her a gold medal for her discovery.
1856 The first installment of Gustav Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary appears in the Revue de Paris after the publisher refuses to print a passage in which the character Emma has a tryst in the back seat of a carriage.
1864 The Condor, a British blockade-runner, is grounded near Fort Fisher, North Carolina.
1878 General Lew Wallace is sworn in as governor of New Mexico Territory. He went on to deal with the Lincoln County War, Billy the Kid and write Ben-Hur. His Civil War heroics earned him the moniker Savior of Cincinnati.
1890 Yosemite National Park is dedicated in California.
1908 The Ford Model T, the first car for millions of Americans, hits the market. Over 15 million Model Ts are eventually sold, all of them black.
1942 The German Army grinds to a complete halt within the city of Stalingrad.
1943 British troops in Italy enter Naples and occupy Foggia airfield.
1944 The U.S. First Army begins the siege Aachen, Germany.
1946 Eleven Nazi war criminals are sentenced to be hanged at Nuremberg trials—Hermann Goring, Alfred Jodl, Hans Frank, Wilhelm Frick, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachin von Ribbentrop, Fritz Saukel, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Julius Streicher, and Alfred Rosenberg.
1947 First flight of F-86 Sabre jet fighter, which would win fame in the Korean War.
1949 Mao Zedong establishes the People's Republic of China.
1957 "In God We Trust" appears on US paper currency as an act to distinguish the US from the officially atheist USSR; the motto had appeared on coins at various times since 1864.
1958 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) replaces the 43-year-old National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) in the US.
1960 Nigeria becomes independent from the UK.
1961 The Federal Republic of Cameroon is formed by the merger of East and West Cameroon.
1962 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson debuts; Carson will remain The Tonight Show host until 1992.
1964 The first Free Speech Movement protest erupts spontaneously on the University of California, Berkeley campus; students demanded an end to the ban of on-campus political activities.
1964 Japanese "bullet trains" (Shinkansen) begin high-speed rail transit between Tokyo and Osaka.
1971 Walt Disney World opens near Orlando, Florida, the second of Disney's "Magic Kingdoms."
1971 First CT or CAT brain scan performed, at Atkinson Morley Hospital in Wimbledon, London.
1974 Five Nixon aides–Kenneth Parkinson, Robert Mardian, Nixon's Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and U.S. Attorney General John Mitchell–go on trial for conspiring to hinder the Watergate investigation.
1975 Legendary boxing match: Muhammad Ali defeats Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila."
1979 US returns sovereignty of the Panama Canal to Panama.
1982 First compact disc player, released by Sony.
1989 Denmark introduces the world's first "civil union" law granting same-sex couples certain legal rights and responsibilities but stopping short of recognizing same-sex marriages.
1991 Siege of Dubrovnik begins in the Croatian War of Independence.
2009 The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom takes over judicial functions of the House of Lords.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

That the economic inequality is reaching a tipping point

That the middle class takes home more earnings in states with high union membership

The repugicans are ready for Hillary

That ocean acidification is happening now

Fun facts about a government shutdown!

Fun facts about a government shutdown!

An actual fun fact
As we hurtle towards a repugican-driven government shutdown, did you know that:
  • Congress will still be paid.
  • Eight in 10 Americans oppose threatening a shutdown.
  • Congress will still be paid.
  • Forty percent of the 2 million federal workers will be furloughed.
  • Congress will still be paid.
  • Social Security checks and veterans' benefits could be delayed because of fewer workers.
  • Congress will still be paid.
  • All parks, museums and and monuments run by the National Park Service will be closed.
  • Congress will still be paid.
  • Major delays in processing applications for passports, visas, gun permits and mortgages.
  • Congress will still be paid.
Is it just me or do I see a pattern emerging?!

This Weird Law Dictates How Government Shutdowns Work

Ted Cruz
If rogue Republicans do not relent over the budget impasse by October 1, whatever pandemonium happens next will largely be governed by a federal statute you likely have never heard of: the Antideficiency Act. You can call it the "anti-deadbeat" law -- a collection of statutory and administrative provisions, really -- that forbid federal officials from entering into financial obligations for which they do not have funding, like paying the salaries of their employees or buying the things they need to run the government. It's also the law that wisely permits certain "essential" government functions -- like the military and the courts, for example -- to keep operating even in the absence of authorized legislative funding.
Predictably, there aren't many legal experts who have built careers around the Antideficiency Act, but I managed to corral a few. The most important messages they offer are these: 1) It's not just present federal work that's affected by the shutdown, it's future work, too; and 2) shutting down the federal government is terribly wasteful and expensive because of the re-start costs involved.
That's the point made by the acclaimed dean of Antideficiency Act scholars, University of Baltimore Law Professor Charles Tiefer ("For obscure details," he told me, "you've come to the right guy."). It's not just that many federal operations will shut down next week, Tiefer said, it's that "all kinds of planning and preparation for federal activity in the months and weeks to come" will become "increasingly neglected and disjointed if the showdown lasts more than a couple of days." Here's a key passage from the statute:
An officer or employee of the United States Government or of the District of Columbia government may not accept voluntary services for either government or employ personal services exceeding that authorized by law except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property ...

As used in this section, the term "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property" does not include ongoing, regular functions of government the suspension of which would not imminently threaten the safety of human life or the protection of property.
Preparing for the Shutdown
Here is an example of what is happening right now within federal agencies and bureaus. Earlier this week, U.S. District Judge John Bates, a George W. Bush appointee who now is director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, sent an open letter to all departments within the federal judiciary. The letter set forth in detail the protocol for what will (and will not) happen in our nation's courts if as expected the money runs out next week. Bates wrote (emphasis in original):
If Congress fails to enact a CR by October 1, 2013, most federal entities will have to implement shut-down plans effective immediately. The Judiciary, however, will not shut down immediately. We will continue operations utilizing fees and no-year appropriations for an estimated 10 business days (through approximately October 15, 2013).
During these first 10 business days of a lapse in appropriations, the Judiciary will use available fee and no-year balances to pay judges, court employees and FDO employees, and to maintain court and federal defender operations. Courts and FDOs will continue to operate, but funding should be conserved as much as possible by delaying or deferring expenses not critical to the performance of your Constitutional responsibilities.
All Judiciary and FDO employees should continue reporting to work and they will be in full-pay status during this period. After the 10-day period, if there is still no appropriation, the Judiciary will operate under terms of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which allows "essential work" to continue during a lapse in appropriations. Among the definitions of "essential work" are powers exercised under the Constitution, which include activities to support the exercise of Article III judicial powers, specifically the resolution of cases.
Each court and FDO will determine the court staff, probation and pretrial services officers and FDO staff necessary to support the exercise of Article III judicial powers. Staff performing essential functions will report to work in a non-pay status. Other staff will be furloughed.
Staff who are furloughed cannot work voluntarily or be required to work. Staff performing essential functions and working in a non-pay status should expect to be paid once appropriations are enacted; Congress will have to take affirmative action to authorize pay for staff who are furloughed.
The details will be different in each instance, but you can be sure that all over the federal government this week these sorts of letters were being written and sent in preparation for the showdown. Here is the current OMB memo that outlines protocols. Here is a April 2011 White House memo that also adds context. Some workers will simply be sent home. Others will have to work with only the promise of pay. And Congress will have the obligation, moral if not political, to clean up whatever mess it and the White House create in the next few days and weeks.
The History of the Act
"Those who disburse the money are like a saucy boy who knows his grandfather will gratify him, and over-turns the sum allowed him at pleasure," Rep. John Randolph of Virginia said in 1806. The "saucy boy" here was the executive branch, the grandfather Congress. Georgetown University Law ProfessorTimothy Westmoreland, who has a background in congressional politics, wrote via email:
All civics students learn that the Congress has "the power of the purse." The Constitution gives the Congress the decision about whether to spend money or not. This shows up in Article I of the Constitution, where it says, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law." The Executive Branch cannot make a decision on its own to spend money -- and that's clearly what the Framers wanted.
That seems fairly straightforward, but almost from the beginning of the Nation, the Executive Branch tried different ways to dodge that fundamental restriction.I've seen references to congressional complaints about this all the way back to John Calhoun in 1816 and Henry Clay in 1819.
Not incidentally, who were these congressional titans complaining about? Presidents James Madison and James Monroe. Westmoreland continues:
The most obvious tactic was for Executive Branch officials to make contracts without already having the money from the Congress. If that happened, the Congress was backed into a corner: a commitment by the U.S. had already been made by the Executive, so the Congress felt it had to make the funds available because of some sense of a moral or good-faith obligation. This was called creating a "coercive deficiency." In the early days, most of this appears to have been done by the military, but that may not be surprising since so much of the early Federal spending was for the military.
To take back its control of the spending power, the Congress passed laws just after the Civil War that made such actions illegal. The main one is the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits Executive Branch officials from obligating or spending money before it is given to them by the Congress. It also prohibits these officials from taking money given to them for one purpose and using it for another. There are civil and criminal penalties for violating the law, as well as extensive auditing and reporting requirements.
Westmoreland continues:
A version of this 19th Century statute is still the law. Agencies themselves, Inspectors General, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) all look into potential violations, and they are found every year. Some of them are simple errors. Some are disputes over bookkeeping rules or over interpreting legislation. Some are relatively small. Others are in the hundreds of millions. In Fiscal 2012, GAO reported 20 violations -- ranging from a $50,000 violation in the National Guard to an $800 million one by the SEC. Civil servants can be disciplined or fired for violating the law. They can be criminally prosecuted for a willful violation, although I don't think anyone has ever been convicted.
The Act becomes especially significant when the Congress fails to provide appropriations. At that point, government employees are legally prohibited from spending money, because they haven't been given any money to spend. So an agency head cannot authorize a government employee to come to work; that would be incurring a government obligation without having an appropriation. The law also prohibits accepting voluntary services for the government, so the agency head can't even allow people to volunteer to do their jobs.
To Whom Does the Act Apply?
The act "definitely applies to government employees and officials of the core executive and independent agencies," Harvard Law Professor Howell E. Jackson, a budget and regulatory expert, told me. This means the vast majority of federal workers will be told to go home next week in the absence of a budget deal. Those who get to stay will come from two groups -- one in which federal workers have been explicitly exempted and one in which workers have been deemed to be "essential" through analysis. "It's complicated," Jackson said, "where the lines are drawn and sources of legal authority are not precise."
Perhaps the most interesting example of a "specific exemption," Jackson says, is the Food and Forage Act of 1861 -- near the start of the Civil War. As the title suggests, that law permitted soldiers to graze their horses and take whatever other necessities were required to live on horseback. It's a law that was invoked in a decidedly non-horsey sense during the Vietnam War, again during Operation Desert Shield in Iraq in 1990, and, for a brief time, immediately following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Federal employees can accept volunteers or go beyond their funding in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property," Westmoreland says. So federal firefighters and law enforcement officials clearly are exempt, Tiefer adds, as are judges presiding over criminal (but not necessarily civil) cases. Moreover, it's the OMB, with help from the Justice Department, that makes the call on who is essential and who is not, and each federal department, as we see above in the judicial example, has formulated its shutdown protocols. Westmoreland writes:
There has been a lot of legal interpretation (including during the Reagan and Clinton Administrations) of what this means. Overall, it has been interpreted narrowly but not rigidly. But the threat to life or property has to be "imminent." Air-traffic controllers and meat inspectors can generally keep working. People writing checks or doing maintenance generally cannot.
Worried about that federal payment that may be coming to you? You may be right to be concerned. Most payments will come, but others won't. As Jackson notes, new Social Security or Medicare checks or applications may not be processed as quickly (or not at all) until funding is restored. But Westmoreland says funding for Social Security doesn't go away on October 1:
There is also another group of activities that are not really an exception to the Act because they actually meet the terms of the Act: programs that already have received an appropriation from the Congress. Most government activities are funded by the Congress for just one year at a time. But some -- like Social Security -- have permanent funding in their statutes. Others may have multi-year funding that will not expire on September 30. Those programs won't shut down, although some of the staff who make the programs work more easily or more efficiently might have to stay home because their salaries are part of the annual spending bill.
So, barring a degree of political bipartisanship that seems increasingly unlikely, a dusty law designed in the 1880s to stop excessive federal spending will be employed next week to guide the government in a dispute over, well, excessive federal spending.
"The irony is that it always costs money to restart them and they typically get their back pay for the days they don't work, the government employees, and they have to catch up on the work that's not done while they are on these involuntary furloughs," Jackson said."So it's a very expensive way to play politics over the fiscal crisis."

VA says veterans' benefits would stop in long shutdown

Department of Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs clarified itself Saturday, saying that if a government shutdown occurs, and lasts at least a month, not all compensation and pension payments would continue.
"Those benefits are provided through appropriated mandatory funding, and that funding will run out by late October. At that point, VA will be unable to make any payments," spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said..The agency earlier this week said all payments would be handled.
Dillon said the agency has excepted certain workers -- meaning they can work if there is a shutdown. That means claims can be processed and beneficiaries can receive payments during a shutdown that lasts less than a month.
Among the benefits in question would be disability and GI Bill payments.
The change in position came after VA officials briefed staff members of the House and Senate veterans affairs committees Friday and other congressional staff who pushed for more information about the status of benefits if a shutdown occurs, one congressional aide confirmed to CNN.
The Washington Post first reported the call.
"Our nation's heroes, who are already waiting too long for the benefits they deserve, shouldn't be held at the mercy of gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C.," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

The repugicans are Violating The Constitution Because They Fear the Black President

One of the primary components of conservatism is opposing change and retaining traditional social institutions, and where some wingnuts seek to preserve things as they are, others called reactionaries oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were.” It is safe to say that repugicans, as wingnuts, hate change and resist progress because it is too far beyond the scope of their cognitive abilities to adapt. When they are presented with change out of their control they become reactionaries and inherently seek reverting to a by-gone era that never existed except in their limited minds. It is curious that repugicans so opposed to change reacted to the election of the first African American President by changing a long-standing Constitutional mandate that Congress pay the nation’s debts without question, or without demands to enact their legislative agenda.
The idea of a president having to negotiate with Congress before they do their Constitutional duty of paying the debt they incurred is repugicans reacting to Americans’ choice of a Black man as President. Last Thursday, a repugican congressional representative from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, lashed out at the President for refusing to negotiate with repugicans and meet their demands before they will raise the debt limit. Ros-Lehtinen said, “The American people sent us to Washington to work together for our great nation, and it is unacceptable for one side to refuse to negotiate. Where’s the president in all of this? The bully pulpit can just as equally be used for constructive leadership as it can be used for political showmanship.” Ros-Lehtinen’s newfound belief that a president is required to negotiate and meet ransom demands before Congress does its constitutionally mandated job was joined by House Speaker John Boehner who criticized the President for not negotiating over raising the debt limit and said, “Well I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.”
Boehner may be sorry, but Congress raising the debt limit free of concessions by the President is precisely how it has worked until January 2009 when an African American was sworn in office to lead the Executive branch of the United States government. It is true that Bill Clinton made a budget agreement that included a debt limit increase with a Democratic majority in 1993, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) included a debt increase, but the concept of holding the increase hostage for enacting the opposing party’s complete legislative agenda for the past two years is certainly unprecedented and a departure from the normal course of paying the nation’s debt according to the Constitution. For a party violently resistant to change, Boehner and repugicans are attempting to change the Constitutional requirements for enacting legislation and paying their bills the Constitution says “shall not be questioned.” It is true that in 2011 when repugicans held the full faith and credit hostage, President Obama negotiated with Boehner to save the nation from a credit default, but after the devastation from the crisis and severe austerity cuts, it is likely the President is not going to repeat that blunder.
America has always carried debt going back to the Revolutionary War, and every president except Harry Truman raised the debt ceiling throughout the nation’s history. Saint Ronny Raygun raised it 18 times, the elder shrub raised it 6 times, Bill Clinton raised it 4 times, and the shrub raised it 7 times nearly doubling the deficit to cover his two unnecessary wars, tax cuts for the rich, and the pharmaceutical industry’s gift; the Medicare prescription plan. Throughout all those increases to pay for debts incurred by Congress, The repugicans never held it hostage or demanded concessions amounting to eliminating laws, defunding agencies into oblivion, or enacting the entire repugican cabal's legislative agenda for the 112th and 113th sessions of Congress. It leads one to contemplate exactly what Earth-shattering event so stunned repugicans that they abandoned their wingnut opposition to change and embraced a new hostage-taking approach to paying the nation’s debt. Obviously, it cannot be because a Democrat is president because they did not demand a ransom to raise the limit when Bill Clinton was president, so it has to be because this Democratic President is African American.
The repugicans have refused to negotiate on a number of issues over the past four years and the most recent opposition is House repugicans’ refusal to consider or negotiate on any Senate version of a measure to keep the government open past October 1st that does not include eliminating the Affordable Care Act. Now they are criticizing the President of the United States because he rightly refuses to negotiate with repugicans over their refusal to do their constitutionally mandated job of paying their debts. It is the kind of change only a repugican could embrace.
The repugicans do hate change, and when Americans chose an African American man as President instead of a white repugican it was a change they could not comport so they changed into obstructionists and enemies of the people. The repugicans were never interested in governing for the entire population, but since the election of Barack Obama not only have they stopped governing, they are making it nearly impossible for anyone to govern; unless one calls holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage governing.

No one ever said, "Wingnuts are ethical."

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia warns Gov. Scott Walker on giving misleading data on WI economy

scott walker no jobs
For some inexplicable reason, WI Gov. Scott Walker is an early favorite for re-election (but not a lock). At this point Wisconsin gets what it deserves if they fail to get out the vote and defeat their should-have-been-recalled voter suppressing, privatizing, union busting governor.

And now that should-have-been-recalled, voter suppressing, privatizing, union busting governor is in hot water... again.

The Cap Times has the latest:
Top officials with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia are warning Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and others that they are misusing a monthly index produced by its top economists.

Walker in recent speeches has been touting figures from the “Philly Fed,” claiming they show Wisconsin’s economy as No. 2 in the nation. WMC has been using the same number in a series of advertising buys, thanking Walker for putting the state on the road to prosperity.

But officials with the Philly Fed, who have been following the situation in Wisconsin, issued a statement Friday saying it’s a misreading of their "Coincident Indexes" to try and compare one state to another.

Some employers lying to employees

Some employers are cutting hours and cutting benefits to their employees, crying about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the employees buy it, even though there's actual proof that the new health care system is resulting in lower costs.

Obamacare could save large employers billions in COBRA coverage

Cobra sitting on stack of money.
Who came up with that acronym, anyway?
You're probably not going to be hearing Republicans saying anything about this news in the debate over shutting down government to kill Obamacare.

Health-law provisions taking effect next year could save U.S. employers billions of dollars in expenses now paid for workers who continue medical coverage after they leave the company, benefits experts say.

Insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are expected to all but replace COBRA coverage in which ex-employees and dependents can remain on the company plan if they pay the premiums. [...]

The average COBRA member cost his former employer 54 percent more—$3,800—than the average active worker, continuing a long-term trend, according to a 2009 survey by newsletter Spencer’s Benefits Reports. At one company in five, COBRA participants cost more than twice as much as active workers



More women finding passion as farmers

DeNae Friedheim of Lansing shows off the unique design inside of a Chioggia beet. She switched the focus of her career from aiming to be a doctor in public health to now being a farmer and teaching horticulture at Michigan State University.  

No longer a safety engineer in the insurance industry after a 2009 layoff, Joannee DeBruhl asked herself, "Now what?"
She volunteered at a community garden, helped harvest 2,100 pounds of produce and had "the best summer of my life."
Now the 51-year-old is a full-time farmer at a certified organic farm in Brighton, which she co-owns with 24-year-old Shannon Rau and Rau's father, Tom Rau. The two women tend to 48 crops - from corn and cilantro to red mung beans and radishes - while providing fresh produce to 100 farm members and area markets.
"It was not on my list of things I wanted to do when I grew up," said DeBruhl of Brighton. "But I actually found my passion. I feel very fortunate."
She's not alone. More and more women are finding their passion in farming.
Michigan saw a 17.6% increase from 2002 to 2007 in the number of female farmers, according to the 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture five-year census. There were 26,539 female farmers in Michigan in 2007, and that number is expected to skyrocket in the new census, scheduled for February release, reflecting greater participation by women in small-scale and organic farming.
The compulsion to cultivate dovetails with several trends, experts say. Among them: the explosion of farmers markets and Grow Local campaigns. There's also a stronger emphasis on eating healthy and organic, and a bigger awareness of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free diets. More women are going into business for themselves. And post-layoff or early retirement, some are looking to build an "encore" career that features components of community service.
"Many women are coming in as small-scale farmers looking for a niche market, looking to change what they're not happy with - whether it's the food they're feeding their kids or what their schools buy, or how they manage their own economy in the home," said Michelle Napier-Dunnings, director of Michigan Food and Farming Systems, a Lansing nonprofit designed to help minorities and women in farming.
Women, she said, are "figuring out new ways to sustain their families, their neighborhoods, their school systems, their communities."
Transforming the city
In Detroit and other urban areas in Michigan, small-scale farming has transformed vacant lots in abandoned and scarred sections. The produce, often sold at Eastern Market or makeshift stands, has helped diversify the choices for shoppers in urban areas.
Marilyn Barber, 57, of Detroit was laid off from a university employment service job and now farms and teaches small-scale farming to others at Earthworks farm on the site of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen on the city's east side. This, from a woman whose own mother called to remind her to water the backyard garden that mom traveled from Columbus, Ohio, to plant.
"The passion hadn't hit me," joked Barber, while recently tending Earthworks' Thursday farm stand. "Now, I call my mom and say, 'Guess what we grew today.'"
Akilah Muhammad, 31, of Detroit learned farming techniques at Earthworks and is using them to start a vegetarian catering business.
"How many children can say, 'My mommy grew this and picked this and now I'm eating it,'" said Muhammad, "and I think there's a growing desire for this kind of food."
Small-scale farms and community gardens also have become urban tourist attractions.
On land across from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit, Ohio-born Gwen Meyer, 27, tends the earthly abundance arising from Lafayette Greens, a bountiful urban garden bankrolled by nearby Compuware.
It contains 35 elevated beds of vegetables interspersed with flowers and herbs, and tables for downtown workers and tourists to visit on the 3/4-acre site.
"We're not a production farm. We're growing for education, esthetics and beauty," said Meyer, a college English major who opted for hands-on horticulture instead of a law career. The farm produces about 1,800 pounds of produce annually, much of it going to Gleaners Community Food Bank and Freedom House refugee center.
State offers crop variety
Michigan is a productive place to undertake farming.
"It's the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, second only to California," in variety of crops grown, said Jennifer Holton, communications director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Laurie Thorp works with an organic farming certificate program at Michigan State University. The nine-month intensive program is designed for people who are serious about farming as a career. It accepts only 15 students per year, but two-thirds of them are women, said Thorp, who is MSU's director of the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment. Many of the women are career-changers, she said, and nearly half are older than 30.
Women have always farmed, but now they're proud to call themselves farmers, says Wynne Wright, an MSU professor who has researched female farming history.
"Women have always played a critical role in agriculture since the settlement of this country," said Wright. "But it's been invisible. Their work has been devalued, and they've operated behind the scenes with no recognition of the contribution that they've made to American agriculture."
What academics call the "feminization of agriculture" also reflects work that "men have decided they don't want to do," said Wright.
Rather than impersonal, mechanized agribusiness farming, women are gravitating to small-scale farming that is very consumer-based, and doesn't require barns or silos because the food is going right from farm to farmers market. It's made farming more doable.
"Women sit at the nexus between production and consumption," said Wright. "They see the impact of food on the health and bodies of their children."
Wright grew up on a Kentucky farm and said her mother would never have called herself a farmer. Wright and her peers "couldn't run away fast enough" from the farm. "In rural Kentucky, it wasn't hip and cool" to dig, plant and do the often backbreaking work of cultivation.
"But now," said Wright, "a young woman with a college education ... is proud to say she's a farmer."
Road to the field
That's what Denae Friedheim calls herself.
Friedheim, 30, who grew up in a Dallas suburb, was supposed to be a public health specialist or a doctor. But en route to a master's degree at the University of Michigan she got her hands dirty in a summertime organic farm and switched her focus toward a health movement of another kind.
She found herself unexpectedly challenged intellectually and physically, and insatiably curious, she said. For the first time, she said, she made "an emotional connection to her food."
"It still felt like I was doing the work of public health, but in a different way," said Friedheim. "I ended up falling in love with it, deferred my grad school and then never went."
Now she's a farmer in Bath, Mich., growing watermelon radishes, San Marzano tomatoes, winter spinach flowers and 20-plus other crops primarily for local restaurants. One of her specialties is microgreens, mini-arugula or fennel often used as colorful garnishes to brighten a restaurant dish.
Friedheim runs Foodshed Farm from just 1 rented acre. She has a heated greenhouse, where she's about to put in the winter spinach and kale. And she has a passive-solar hoop house she made herself. She also has finished the first year of a three-year business plan that by 2015 should produce enough revenue to support herself and the full-time employee she has hired to start in January.
Her mother tells her to keep her part-time job with Michigan State University, where she's an instructor in the MSU certificate program that taught her - and is teaching others, mainly women - how to become certified in organic farming.
At St. Mary's College in Indiana, Friedheim studied biology and sociology. Both have come in handy, she said. Sociology studies have helped her with marketing her products.
Farming, she says, "engages all my senses."
"It allows me to be a steward of the land, and let's me be creative," said Friedheim. "Running a business is like a game. It's fun and I'm never bored. And the thought of being indoors all the time - I don't think I can handle it."
"It felt like a very natural fit," she said, "and I couldn't imagine doing anything else."
Making it work
Every day at Stone Coop Farm, DeBruhl writes a to-do list on the shed's blackboard.
"Thin parsnips. (Wear gloves!)"
"Dig up parsley, flat and curly."
"Till open potato beds."
The reminders are intended for her and business partner Rau, as well as Stone Coop Farm's member volunteers.
DeBruhl and Rau are paid with money earned by selling shares to folks who take home farm-fresh produce weekly. One of their plans costs $36 a week to receive a harvest of six to 12 vegetables, each type of produce good for four servings. Members get a cut in price for volunteering on the farm. Stone Coop also sells to local stores and restaurants.
DeBruhl met Rau at a Brighton community garden where DeBruhl volunteered after her layoff, as did Rau after graduating from college. Both wanted to continue to cultivate the camaraderie and goodwill and good eats they experienced, and pitched in with Rau's father to buy land and open up Stone Coop Farm.
Right now, although the land is producing, it's not producing sustainable salaries. DeBruhl said she couldn't make it without her husband, who restores barns for a living, including two at Stone Coop Farm, that are more than 100 years old. DeBruhl said she believes Stone Coop is on track to greater profitability in the future.
DeBruhl's business partner, Rau, says she's coping.
"It's one of those things that you learn to enjoy different things, and for me, money is not a huge concern as doing what I love doing," said Rau. "It's a romantic view on it, but that's how I feel about it."
Both women feel energized by the participation of the volunteers, all working together and defining community. Their past experiences, they say, mesh together in running the farm.
"I've done sales; I've done training; I've done consulting; I've had a home garden, and I have a background in forestry and engineering and all of that meshed together," said DeBruhl. "My entire journey has led me right here to this moment. The soil has tons of different microorganisms that make it super-nutritious for the plant. And my life has been nourished by everything I've done before."
Farming mixes together a variety of DeBruhl's skills, much like ingredients in a hearty vegetable stew.
Call her an entrepreneur, says DeBruhl. "Which I am. I just happen to be a farmer."

Time To Harvest, Time To Plan

We just don’t accept shorter and cooler days as hindrances in the garden. The near narcotic awakening of bumblebees puzzles me and I wonder if they started the day in those pollen filled outfits or had slept in them, their bed a marvel of purple asters. For my fellow urban gardeners, there are surprisingly abundant free resources throughout the year. I enjoy the floral colors, the nutritious pears and raspberries I’m still picking and a mountain of kale all easy to grow and grown by picking up brown bags of leaves and through either shredding, the best method, or dig one spade full deep and turn under a thick clump of leaves or the least effort and depending upon the site, easiest, method of simply piling leaves up. Either way now is a great time to harvest the garden and prepare the soil for winter’s important contribution to the garden. Gardens succeed on so many levels. I can much of my tomato crop and many herbs right up until this week. Into each flavorful jar is packed a stewed mixture of roughly chopped heirloom tomatoes, such as Brandywine and Black Krin, a thick savory tomato. I add lots of herbs from the kitchen plot, chives, leeks, and flat-leaved Italian parsley. Plant a culinary parcel. Chives, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, leeks, and many others are simplicity itself to grow and ask only for sunshine, moderately fertile soil, and a gentle hand that snips the ends of plants for harvest. Perhaps the details among the garden’s plants make the difference when harvesting fruits and vegetables for flavoring our homemade dishes. The steamy canning kitchen works a magical transformation that captures the sunshine of summer and packs it into quart canning jars. Don’t accept slacker fears of actual labor in life as anything more complex as lazy.
I learned to can a couple years ago and use the method to preserve a wide variety of foods, some commonplace such as marinara sauces, enormous twin pots steaming and savory fragrant and others less apparent, such as many bean relishes that allowed preservation and conquers the traditional bias of frozen to canned.
Going back and forth from the kitchen is a slow process. I save the “Mortgage Lifter” tomatoes for the last jar, the one that needs topping off. I grow Mortgage lifter in a huge four legged planter that I can barely look up into. The planter sustains a good crop of tomatoes, nasturtiums, and a few Four O’Clocks. Tall planters in the garden offer subtle advantages: no back strain to plant and water.
Harvest is from a gardener’s friend, the four foot ladder. Tall planters also reduce or with the right thickness of mulch, discourage all but the most hale and hearty weeds. Tall planters are important partners in the garden and taller or shorter, but custom matched to the most frequent user.
I start preparing next year’s soil on a near daily routine of snipping into small pieces the extra growth everywhere. I let it all fall where it may. I never have bare soil in the garden and virtually all that is removed from the garden is returned to it.
The fragrant garden is remembered when all other details lose meaning. I grow fragrant plants and you must too. It’s important for strongly scented plants to enter the garden. Insects are sensitive to the fragrances of plants and will find themselves avoiding everything in the most strongly worded sections. I like to cut back the thick and long stemmed beebalms, wormwood, lemon balm, chamomile, rose geranium, and whatever else is in bloom and quickly tie them onto a rope slung high in the garage rafters. This ancient method works beautifully. Each year I save so many different fragrant plants that potpourri begs for a better way to describe our achievement. My annual Christmas gift is a potpourri from my garden.
Soon, composting takes on greater purpose. Fewer plants will remain to harvest . Stakes, wires, wooden trellis will all be down. A thick mulch will ultimately snug all in for the deep rooted cold.

One Last Stitch to Make Sure That He's Dead

Before ships had refrigerated morgues, it was common to bury the dead at sea. A sailor's body and weights would be sewed up inside a hammock. His mates would finish the task by sewing the last stitch through the dead man's nose--to be certain that he was really dead.
Here's a description provided by one sailor from his experiences in the 1960s:
The mate sent me down to assist the bo'sun to prepare and stitch up the corpse, as he said I would be unlikely to witness such an occurrence again. The bo'sun, a North Sea Chinaman (ie, he hailed from the Orkney Isles), was in his sixties and had performed the task several times before. He was a deft hand with the palm [leather glove] and needle used to sew the heavy canvas into a shroud around the body, and when he came to the final stitches around the face he pushed the large triangular-shaped needle right through the nose. I winced, and he looked up at me and said, "That's the law of the sea, the last stitch through the nose, if that don't wake him up I know he's dead."
Apparently, it was not uncommon for sailors or passengers to be mistakenly pronounced dead. This was the final test.

Thirty-two helpful everyday tips

I'm not sure if these 32 tips really work, but I'm going to give them a try. Here are four:
  • Stop: Stop: Play. Skip advertisements in movies and go straight to the movie.
  • When receiving a call from a solicitor, simply press 9; the call will be dropped and your phone number is then put on the companies do not call list. 95% of companies support this feature.
  • If you are speeding and suddenly up ahead see a cop that clearly just tagged you, slow down and wave to him/her. Your odds of being pulled over are quite a bit reduced.
  • Get the WiFi password for many establishments by checking the comments section of FourSquare.

Daily Comic Relief


Top UK cop calls for end to war on drugs, legalization of Class A substances

Pity the British establishment. Like their American counterparts, they keep insisting -- against all evidence -- that they're winning the war on drugs, that drugs are an unimaginable scourge and far worse than tobacco or booze, and that the real problem is that we're not jailing enough addicts for long enough. Despite this, well-informed, respected people continue to publicly state that the war on drugs is a public health, economic, and legal disaster. Last time, it was UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, who called banning marijuana and psychedelics "the worst case of scientific censorship since the catholic cult banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" and wrote an amazing book about the awful state of drug policy.
Now, Mike Barton, Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, one of the UK's most senior police officers, has published an editorial in the Observer comparing the war on drugs to the American alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and 1930s. He calls for drugs to be legalized, so that their sale will no longer fund criminal gangs, and for the NHS to distribute drugs -- including Schedule A drugs (cocaine, morphine, mescaline, LSD, oxycodone, psilocybe mushrooms, and many others).
If you started to give a heroin addict the drug therapeutically, we would not have the scourge of hepatitis C and HIV spreading among needle users, for instance. I am calling for a controlled environment, not a free for all. In addition, I am saying that people who encourage others to take drugs by selling them are criminals, and their actions should be tackled. But addicts, on the other hand, need to be treated, cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction. They do not need to be criminalized.
The approach to banned substances contrasts sharply with our attitude towards alcohol. I am deeply disappointed that the government has not followed through on its initial support for a minimum price for alcohol. In the north-east we suffer immense inequalities in health and life expectancy due to alcohol addiction. Is it fair that alcohol-related crime and licensing costs society in my own force area alone at least £65.8m a year?

Goodwill drops theft charges against teen who gave customer discounts

A Goodwill store in Naples, Fla., reversed course today and decided to drop grand theft charges against a teen employee who had given discounts to poor customers.
The decision came four days after the store had fired Andrew Anderson, 19, and had him arrested for granting discounts that totaled $4,000. As recently as today, the store defended its actions saying the money could have been better used on Goodwill's other charitable projects.
Goodwill contacted ABC News this afternoon to say that the organization was dropping charges against Anderson.
"After completing our internal investigation we have determined that the individual's actions were not for personal gain, but rather for the benefit of others," the statement read.
Anderson said in an interview with WBBH TV earlier this week that he didn't know what he was doing was illegal. In fact, he says his actions mirrored what Goodwill stands for.
"I wasn't actually stealing," the teen told the Florida station. "Goodwill is a giving and helping company, so I took it upon to myself to be giving and helping because I feel people deserve it."
Anderson was arrested and jailed on Tuesday by Collier County police, but was bailed out for $5,000 the same day, according to police reports.
"The suspect advised us that he never received any money himself," Officer Chris Marotta of Collier County police said. "[He] was cooperative and apologetic. He admitted to the above actions and wishes to repay the store."
Before deciding to drop the charge against Anderson, the organization calculated that the teen cost the store $4,000.
"The thousands of dollars given away could have been used to fund our programs, including our school dedicated solely for youth with intellectual disabilities," the Goodwill statement read.
Anderson and his family could not be immediately reached for comment.

Renowned Gambler Archie Karas Arrested, Charged With Cheating

Renowned Gambler Archie Karas Arrested, Charged With Cheating (ABC News)A professional poker player's luck appears to have run out.
Renowned high roller Archie Karas, 62, is facing charges of burglary, winning by fraudulent means and cheating after he was caught allegedly marking cards at a blackjack table, according to a San Diego County District Attorney's Office news release
Surveillance footage taken by Barona Casino in Lakeside, Calif., revealed Karas -- whose real name is Anargyros Karabourniotis -- put "a subtle, but distinguishable mark on the back of playing cards" in July, cheating the casino of more than $8,000, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office said.
He was arrested at his Las Vegas home on Tuesday and taken into custody at Clark County Detention Center, where he was being held without bail. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to three years behind bars.
The card shark is famous for having the largest and longest documented winning streak in gambling history, according to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office. He turned $50 into $40 million in a streak that spanned three years in the early 1990s, only to gamble it all away.
"He really had no regard for money whatsoever," Poker Productions owner Mori Eskandani told ABC News. "He had no fear of having millions and losing it."
Nevada Gaming Control Board Enforcement Chief Karl Bennison called Karas "a threat to the gaming industry." The poker player has been investigated on multiple occasions, and has been arrested four times prior to this incident.
Karas is awaiting extradition in San Diego. An extradition hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Nevada.

No one harmed in Whac-a-Mole/Rock-a-Fire band warehouse explosion

Thankfully, no humans were harmed by last week's explosion in Aaron Fechter's warehouse in Orlando, FL, but it did leave "robots scattered around burning rubble."
Fechter invented both the Whac-a-Mole machine and the animatronic, coin-operated Rock-A-Fire robot musicians who delighted audiences in Chuck-E-Cheeses around the world. Lately, he had been experimenting with carbohydrillium, a cleaner-burning alternative to propane, which was apparently the culprit in yesterday's explosion. His warehouse was described by one witness as a "Joker's lair," and a video tour posted to YouTube shows it full of computer models, animatronic creatures, and carbohydrillium gear.

The explosion rocked downtown Orlando around 12:30 yesterday afternoon, shaking nearby office buildings and sending workers running outside to see what had happened.
One wall of Fechter's building collapsed in the blast. Bystanders who arrived to check for casualties found a bizarre scene: No humans were hurt in the explosion, but robotic limbs smoldered amid the wreckage.
"It was weird," Tim Roth, an office worker who rushed into the building, tells the Orlando Sentinel, which described the interior as the "Joker's Lair."
A recent YouTube video gives a glimpse of Fechter's work in the business, which he called Creative Enterprises. He shows off early computer models, animatronic creatures, and then his latest project: a new fuel called carbohydrillium.

Man ordered to cut down tree after neighbor complained it made him afraid and itchy

The owner of a 21-metre kauri pine in Queensland, Australia, has been ordered to cut down the 50-year-old backyard tree, after his neighbor complained it made him itchy, afraid and caused damage.

Michael Collins told a tribunal when he went into his southside Brisbane backyard, or even slept on sheets dried on the clothes line, he broke out in itchy red blotches. He said allergy tests had confirmed he suffered a reaction to the Queensland kauri pine’s pollen.
But the Tarragindi tree owner Alan McNeil, who is still fighting to save the kauri, suggested his neighbor wear a face mask in his own backyard, or stay indoors. Mr Collins says he and his family live in constant fear of the neighbors’ overhanging tree toppling in a severe storm and claims they have been bruised and cut by falling pine cones.

Mr Collins has been trying to get his neighbor to get rid of the tree since 1989 and now a Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal member has ordered it be removed within 28 days. But Mr McNeil, who also was ordered to pay his neighbor $2,365 compensation, has appealed the decision, which could end up costing him thousands of dollars for the tree removal.

Police look into mystery holes in man's garden

A 35-year-old man in Franklin Township, Pennsylvania, called the police when he found two small holes in his front yard on Tuesday.

Whoever dug the holes used a shovel, and only dug down about a foot, police said.
The holes were made sometime between 12:30am.and 6:30am on Tuesday.

Nothing was damaged or taken in the unauthorized digging, police said. The investigation continues.

Motorists failed to see 7-foot-tall gingerbread man crossing road

When a 7-foot-tall gingerbread man walked back and forth across a road in Moreno Valley, California, on Thursday morning he was invisible to most of the 13 motorists who were cited in a 50-minute span during a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department pedestrian decoy operation.
The drivers were accused of failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This crossing was in front of Rainbow Springs Elementary and just down the street from Sunnymead Middle School.

Most, Sgt. Bill Guimont said, claimed they never saw the brown fairy-tale character with the round head. “Our concern is if they can’t see a 7-foot gingerbread man, then how are they going to see their son or daughter that is only 5 feet tall walking through a crosswalk,” Guimont said.

Seven other drivers were cited for other violations, and four vehicles were towed because the drivers didn’t have valid licences. The purpose of the operations, Guimont said, is to educate drivers about the crosswalk laws and make them more aware of the dangers, especially in front of schools.

Randon Photos



Abandoned Cold War Listening Station Built On An Artificial Hill

A remnant of the Cold War, Teufelsberg Listening Station stands deserted, abandoned to the ravages of time and vandals. Dominating Brandenburg Plain, in the northern section of Berlin's Grunewald Forest, the permanent station at Teufelsberg was constructed in 1963. Yet perhaps the most surprising fact is that the hill itself is less than twenty years older than the listening station that sits atop it.

Teufelsberg is an artificial hill with a curious history: It was heaped up after the Second World War from part of the rubble of Berlin, approximately 75,000,000 m3 (98,000,000 cu yd) all over the city, during the following twenty years as the city was cleared and rebuilt.

Bronze Age 'boat building' discovery in Monmouth

Archaeologists believe they have found the remains of a Bronze Age boat building community in Monmouth.
Bronze Age 'boat building' discovery in Monmouth
An artist's impression of how the channels could have been left
in the ground at Monmouth [Credit: Peter Bere/BBC]
Excavations show 100ft-long (30m) channels in the clay along which experts think vessels were dragged into a long-gone prehistoric lake.

Monmouth Archaeological Society started to unearth new findings when work started on Parc Glyndwr housing estate two years ago.

The research is being published in a book called The Lost Lake.

Author and archaeologist Stephen Clarke, 71, said: "I started digging here with the society 50 years ago - I wish I had another 50 years."

He said finds had helped the group to better understand the ancient history of Monmouth long before Roman times.

The town is served by three rivers but the group said it had evidence to suggest it was actually built on what was a huge prehistoric lake which became a home to hunter gatherers.

Over millennia it drained away and finds including charcoal from fires, flint shards and pottery from the Stone Age, Iron Age and Roman times have been found by the town's professional and amateur archaeologists.

They have been excavated in sites around the town and in different layers of clay, sand, gravel and peat as the earth-bed composition changed from lake, lagoon, marsh and dry land, according to Mr Clarke.

Among the discoveries are a pair of "dead-straight" metre-wide channels in the clay shaped like the bottom of wooden canoes - along with a third smaller groove.

Mr Clarke said it supported the theory of a vessel having a support arm, adding he was seeking the opinion of marine archaeologists.

These channels were found over a mound of burned earth which has been carbon dated to the Bronze Age although other finds around the area date back to the Stone Age.

"I have seen 14-tonne machinery sliding in the clay so it would have been easy to push a boat," said Mr Clarke.

He believes the finds suggest a settlement and boat building industry although no boat timbers have been found.

"There is a lot to explain," said Mr Clarke, adding that the area "must have been alive with activity for thousands of years".

"It is so new [the findings] that most people in the country do not know about it," he said.

Giant mushroom found in Polish forest

A massive mushroom has been found in a forest in north-western Poland.
The boletus portentosus, which weighs 3kg and has a diameter of 40cm, was found in the Bydgoszcz forest by a man from Ciechocinek.

He says the mushroom is going to be used in soup with cabbage.

A 5,000-year-old leopard trap discovered in Israel

Archaeologists have unearthed a 5,000-year-old leopard trap in the Negev Desert in Israel. The trap, which was found along with a 1,600-year-old trap, was originally thought to be just a few hundred years old, and is nearly identical to traps that have been used by desert-dwelling Bedouins in the area in the last century.
5,000-year-old leopard trap discovered in Israel
The trap is designed to lure leopards in through the front with some bait, before
slamming shut behind it [Credit: Naomi Porat]
"The most exciting thing is the antiquity of these carnivore traps, which is totally unexpected," said study co-author Naomi Porat, a geochronologist with the Geological Survey of Israel.  

The findings, described in the September issue of the journal Antiquity, suggest this technology has been used to lure carnivores since people first domesticated sheep and goats in the region.

Ancient traps

At least 50 of the simple traps are scattered throughout the Negev Desert in the southern part of Israel. But they don't stand out in the landscape.

"They look like a pile of stones, like a cairn, and you need a good eye and also some digging around to realize what it is," Porat told LiveScience.

To set the traps, people would have attached a tasty piece of meat at the end of a rope to lure the leopards or other carnivores. 

"When the carnivore pulls at the bait the rope is attached to a slab door and it just closes, so the animal is trapped inside this carnivore box trap," Porat said, referring to a door made from a slab-shaped rock.
5,000-year-old leopard trap discovered in Israel
The trap, seen here from behind, was found in the Negev
desert in Israel [Credit: Naomi Porat]
Many researchers had assumed the traps were fairly modern, but Porat's colleagues were curious about their provenance and asked her to analyze the traps.

Porat used a technique called optical dating to measure the amount of radiation that had been absorbed from the environment in two of the leopard traps. By comparing that with background levels of radiation in the area, which have changed very little over the millennia, the team could determine when the traps were created.

One of the traps was about 5,000 years old, while the other was 1,600 years old. That suggests this same technology was used for thousands of years. The traps were likely used to lure leopards, but also other predators, such as foxes, wolves, hyenas and caracals, long-eared cats that are common throughout the Middle East.

The traps are near ancient enclosures used by the first sheep and goat herders around 6,000 years ago, Porat said. The herders probably used them to keep their flocks safe from hungry competitors.

From the earliest times, "this is part of their defense system against the elements, which in this case is leopards and other carnivores."

Nowadays, leopards are no longer a menace: Hunting and habitat loss destroyed their populations and the last one was spotted in the region about 10 years ago, making the wild cats extinct in Negev and virtually extinct in Jordan, Porat said.

Ten Astonishing Animals With No Eyes

What's so great about having eyes anyway? If these eyeless animals could talk, they'd tell you that vision is overrated. Each one of these ten incredible creatures has an amazing story to tell.

In the darkest environments, with nothing to go on but smell, touch and hearing, they manage to feed and reproduce, like blind super-beings with heightened remaining senses. Heres a look at ten amazing animals without eyes.

Animal Pictures


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