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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1014 The Byzantine Emperor Basil earns the title "Slayer of Bulgers" after he orders the blinding of 15,000 Bulgerian troops.
1536 William Tyndale, the English translator of the New Testament, is strangled and burned at the stake for heresy at Vilvorde, France.
1696 Savoy Germany withdraws from the Grand Alliance.
1788 The Polish Diet decides to hold a four year session.
1801 Napoleon Bonaparte imposes a new constitution on Holland.
1847 Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre is published in London.
1866 The Reno brothers–Frank, John, Simeon and William–commit the country's first train robbery near Seymore, Indiana netting $10,000.
1927 The first "talkie," The Jazz Singer, opens with popular entertainer Al Jolson singing and dancing in black-face. By 1930, silent movies were a thing of the past.
1941 German troops renew their offensive against Moscow.
1965 Patricia Harris takes post as U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, becoming the first African American U.S. ambassador.
1966 Hanoi insists the United States must end its bombings before peace talks can begin.
1969 Special Forces Captain John McCarthy is released from Fort Leavenworth Penitentiary, pending consideration of his appeal to murder charges.
1973 Israel is taken by surprise when Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan attack on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, beginning the Yom Kippur War.
1981 Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat is assassinated in Cairo by Islamic fundamentalists. He is succeeded by Vice President Hosni Mubarak.
1987 Fiji becomes a republic independent of the British Commonwealth.
1995 Astronomers discover 51 Pegasi is the second star known to have a planet orbiting it.
2000 Yugoslavia's president Slobodan Milosevic and Argentina's vice-president Carlos Alvarez both resign from their respective offices.
2007 Explorer and author Jason Lewis becomes the first person to complete a human-powered circumnavigation of the globe.

Non Sequitur


Awesome Pictures

The Government Shutdown Explained in One Candid Quote

"We’re not going to be disrespected ... We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is." — Marlin Stutzman, a wingnut repugican from Indiana, explains to the why the House repugicans won't just send a "clean" spending bill to the Senate.
Just like the petulant children they are

The End of repugican Wall Street Money?

While some on Wall Street may be philosophically aligned with the more libertarian/wacko
bird wing of the repugican cabal, to a man (and woman!), none of them wants the government shut down
and certainly none of them want a default (although undoubtedly many players are taking positions
to profit from this should it happen - that's only being realistic and smart, no?).

The point here is that today's repugican cabal (yesterday's John Birch Society) is a Frankenstein monster
created by rich corporate America, but one that is too stupid to understand that they are only
supposed to reduce taxes on rich people and benefits for the middle class and poor people,
not burn down the whole fucking castle.

My prediction is that more Wall Street money will flow into Democrat coffers in 2014 and 2016
as a result.  At the end of the day, money people like politicians who act rationally and are controllable,
and believe me, that no longer describes the majority of the repugican cabal but sadly (at least as to the
"controllable" part), does describe most Democrats (with the possible exception of Sarah Warren).

Keep the faith.  When Texas turns blue (in my lifetime for sure), we'll be remembering
the tea party in the same way that we remember the passenger pigeon.



Democrats still pushing repugicans to end shutdown

First, congressional repugicans forgot what "compromise" means. Now they're confused by the word "negotiate." Maybe someone needs to send some dictionaries? The repugican cabal is struggling with its vocabulary.
It's best to expectations very low, but President Obama will at least try to broker some kind of end to the government shutdown.
NBC News confirms that John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell met at the White House at 5:30 p.m.
According to a White House official, Obama will urge the House to pass a clean continuing resolution to reopen the government, and will call on Congress to act to raise the debt ceiling. Both Democratic and repugican leadership accepted the invitation.
"We're pleased the president finally recognizes that his refusal to negotiate is indefensible," said Boehner spokesperson Brendan Buck in a statement. "It's unclear why we'd be having this meeting if it's not meant to be a start to serious talks between the two parties."
I'm going to hope that Brendan Buck is playing dumb, because the alternative is that the Speaker of the House's top spokesperson actually believes his own nonsense.
To say that Democrats aren't negotiating is to be divorced from reality at a nearly pathological level. Democrats have already abandoned every policy priority they want to accept a center spending bill -- identical to the one House repugicans embraced earlier this year -- that enjoys bipartisan support, and which would end the shutdown today if brought to the House floor for a vote. Does Brendan Buck not understand this? Is he new to U.S. politics?
As for the nature of "negotiations," Democrats have urged repugicans to begin budget talks for the last six months, with repugicans refusing literally every request. Is Brendan Buck aware enough of current events to recognize these basic details? If not, why not?
For the last few days, the repuican cabal line is that they're now eager to talk to Democrats about the budget, and can't imagine why Dems won't join them at the negotiating table. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reached out to Boehner  - with a letter and in a phone call - saying the moment repugicans end their shutdown, budget talks can begin. Boehner again refused because, well, it's not clear why. Apparently the Speaker wants the government to be shut down.
As for the repugicans' broader posture, it's genuinely remarkable. After forgetting what "compromise" means, repugican lawmakers now seem confused by what "negotiate" means.
According to repugican leaders, they've already made concessions - they're no longer demanding that Congress defund the entirety of the Affordable Care Act. This, from their deeply strange perspective, is a concession.
This shouldn't be necessary, but Judd Legum made clear  what repugicans are simply incapable of understanding.
The repugicans continue to insist, in a way that makes me think they're not kidding, that Democrats insist on getting "everything they want." That's idiotic -- Democrats don't like their own offer - but in Legum's model, it makes some sense. The repugicans want Democrats to identify which part of their own house they're willing to let repugicans destroy, and they simply can't imagine why Democrats won't answer the question in a way wingnut lawmakers find satisfactory.
I'll try and make this plain for repugican lawmakers: if you're going to take Americans' health care benefits away, you'll need to win more elections.Which isn't going to happen.

Democratic House Rep Introduces Bill Which Would Block Pay for Congress During the Shutdown

Why should Congress get paid for not doing their job?  That’s the question Democratic Representative Rick Nolan from Minnesota is asking.  Nolan introduced a bill that would block members of Congress from being paid during the government shutdown.The bill, titled “No Government, No Pay Act,” would prevent members of Congress from being paid as long as the government continues to be shut down.
Representative Nolan explained his proposal:
“The inability of this Congress to collaborate, compromise, and get things done has led me to introduce legislation to prohibit Members from being paid when failure to do their job results in a government shutdown.  It’s time for Congress to start living in the real world where you either do your job, or you don’t get paid.”
Sadly, the bill probably violates the 27th Amendment and doesn’t stand much chance at passing.  But even if it didn’t violate anything, I’m sure most members of Congress would soundly reject such a proposal.

The truth be told


The repugican cabal's Biggest Fear Is Occurring

The repugicans Are Loving Obamacare

Obamacare  Butch Matthews 
Anyone wondering why the  wingnut tea party repugicans are in a frenzy, one need only see what is happening now that the reality of the Affordable Care Act is emerging. The lies they told are coming back to bite them.
They are attempting to discourage young American citizens from going to the exchanges by telling them Obamacare will either be too expensive or an intrusion from the government. Good things are happening however. Inasmuch as the wingnuts are being outright destructive with the nation’s economy in the attempt to derail Obamacare, empirical and factual data is proven to be a hindrance to their obstructionist tactics.
The State Health Bureaucracy in Texas is actually promoting Obamacare. That is a feat in its own right. On October 1st, the Obamacare health exchange servers were overwhelmed because of the inordinately large number of people accessing it.
The coup de grace however is the stories that are now coming out of repugicans going onto the exchanges and realizing that they had been lied to. This was the case with repugican Butch Matthews, a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas. ThinkProgress reports that,
Butch Matthews is a 61-year-old former small business owner from Little Rock, Arkansas who used to wake up every morning at 4 A.M. to deliver canned beverages to retailers before retiring in 2010. A lifelong repugican, he was heavily skeptical of the Affordable Care Act when it first passed. “I did not think that Obamacare was going to be a good plan, I did not think that it was going to help me at all,” he told ThinkProgress over the phone.
But after doing a little research, Matthews eventually realized how much the law could help him. And on Tuesday, his local Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) provider confirmed that he would be able to buy a far better plan than his current policy while saving at least $13,000 per year through Arkansas’ Obamacare marketplace.  [Source]
Turns out pre-Obamacare, Matthews was paying $1069.per month with a $10,000 deductible. Matthews’ doctor visits went from a co-pay of $150 to $8. Matthews has a simple message to all Americans. He says,
I would tell them to learn more about it before they start talking bad about it,” he noted. “Be more informed, get more information, take your time and study and not just go by just what you hear on one side or the other. Actually check the facts on it. [Source]
This story is not unlike Clint Murphy’s story. Murphy is a 38 year old repugican operative. He worked for repugican US Senator Paul Coverdell in the 1990s, repugican Casey Cagle in 2006, John McCain in 2008, and repugican Karen Handel’s gubernatorial campaign in 2010. He has come to his senses and simply could not wait for the exchanges to open.
Neither of these guys has given up on their wingnut ideology. They are repugicans. The difference is unlike wingnut tea party repugicans, they are honest and pragmatic. They are willing to let the truth lead. The tea party finally realizes that their credibility has been at an end for most Americans for quite some time now.

The tea party created the threat to America, not Obamacare

By pretending that the Affordable Care Act poses such an  risk to the republic that it merits dragging our national character through the mud of a government shutdown, tea party repugicans are belittling the very real crises America soon may face.

We have a blossoming federal debt that could one day cripple our nation. Some tea party repugicans clearly want to repeat last year’s debt ceiling debacle. But refusing to raise the debt ceiling to permit borrowing for money already spent is like refusing to pay your bills at the end of the month. It might keep money in the bank temporarily, but it’s not a responsible solution for decades of overspending by the repugican cabal.

We have an economy that provides too few job opportunities for those who want to work and too much income inequality between those at the bottom and the top. Regardless of your position on free market economics, neither of these facts is good for anyone in America.
We have struggling schools, overcrowded prisons, ballooning student debts, and, yes, high health-care costs with limited health-care coverage. The solutions to each of these problems are neither universally obvious nor universally appealing. But they do not deserve a slash-and-burn approach to legislating that refuses to see reason in opposing viewpoints and condemns as a wrongdoer anyone who disagrees.
We live in a democratic republic. The people elect legislators who pass legislation and a president who signs it into law. By its very nature, there are winners and losers. Sometimes one party wins and gets the legislation it wants. Sometimes not. But most of the time we compromise. We get a little here and give a little there. We work together. I can tell you as the father of five children, this is a life lesson every four-year-old has to learn.
Unfortunately, it’s a lesson that tea party repugicans – caught in the fog of war and self-appointed last stands – seem to have forgotten.
The Affordable Care Act is not European style health care. It does not prevent doctors from gaining the rewards of their hard work. It does not stop me from seeing my family doctor or force me to wait in government lines for aspirin. Like most government programs, it prioritizes policies in ways that benefit some people and hurt others. And, though time will tell, it very likely is an incomplete, overly expensive, and misguided step toward ensuring that all Americans have at least basic access to healthcare. But it is not an existential crisis.
The 'crisis' is the one that tea party repugicans are creating. This crisis is abusing the give-and-take of the political process to such a degree that both our national pride and credit are at risk in the world. It is creating such a rift in the repugican cabal that we have to spend more time defending rather than governing.
If tea party repugicans want to avoid an  threat to the republic, they should remember that their first loyalty is not to defeating the Affordable Care Act or winning the next election. Their first loyalty is to the republic.

The Axis of Evil


Wingnuts Celebrate Shutdown of Government They Hate

2013 1002-5aThe repugicans are exercising the one power that the American People have not yet been able to take away from them: the power to destroy. Wingnuts are “giddy” over shutting down the government. This is who they are.
“We’re very excited,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann (r-Minn.). “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it.”
If you spend some time at the media outlets of the “true wingnuts” you will realize that they are “giddy” celebrating the shutdown, and “ideally” want to keep the government shut down “through the 2014 elections” because people in government are “terrified that you might discover you don’t need them.”
Seriously, this is the stuff they are saying to each other. This shutdown could go on a long time. This is who they are.
The Wall Street Journal has the story. “We’re pretty much out of options at this point,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (r., Calif.), criticizing the faction of the cabal most unwilling to compromise. “They’re all giddy about it. …”

Suicide Pact
Have you ever wondered what is going through the head of a suicide bomber at the moment he or she hits the trigger button? Just spend some time reading wingnut blogs and media as they encourage each other to blow up the government. Let’s hope this fever subsides before the debt ceiling is reached.

The repugican Tin Foil Hat Caucus Reps Get Paychecks for Putting Millions Out of Work

The irony is a bitter one: here is a group of tin foil hat ideologues who spout American Exceptionalism but represent American lunacy, greed and dysfunction. And they are getting paid for shutting down the United States government
boehner10 1John Boehner: The Tin Siding Salesman Who Sold America's Future Out to the tea party. The estimate of how many federal workers have been rendered jobless as a result of the lunatic fringe tea party-precipitated shut down of the federal government varies widely.  Some estimates are that immediately 800,000 federal employees were out of work and without pay as of October 1 (those workers deemed "essential" are still at work, but will only receive pay after the budget impasse is resolved); but even with that likely low figure, the ripple effect could reach into millions as federally contracted workers are laid off and more federal employees are told not to come into work.
Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, members of the House and Senate continue to receive their paychecks on time.  They earn $174,000 a year:
But members of Congress and the president, who are so at odds over who caused the shutdown, will continue being paid and must be by law. That's because their jobs are authorized by the U.S. Constitution and are paid with mandatory funds, not discretionary spending dependent on annual appropriations.

Rank-and-file lawmakers of the House and Senate earn $174,000 annually, while congressional leaders earn more. Speaker John A. Boehner (r-Ohio) makes $223,500 a year, slightly less than the $230,700 salary for Vice President Biden and about half of the $400,000 salary for President Obama.
The irony is a bitter one: here is a group of tin foil hat ideologues who spout American Exceptionalism but represent American lunacy, greed and dysfunction.  And they are getting paid for shutting down the United States government, putting perhaps millions out of work (due to the ripple effect), and terrorizing our economy.  While the people that they put out of work are applying for unemployment, these demented lemmings are cashing their high-salary paychecks.
They are literally getting paid to make people jobless and make the federal government dysfunctional.  Don't people get fired for that sort of egregious damage or maybe go to jail? Isn't this sort of internal domestic sabotage?
As MSNBC reported, the federal workers have been besieged by demented political revanchists. It's not just this budget crisis; they have been under siege from the anti-federal government lunatics for years now:
Federal employees have already had their pay frozen for the past three years. In addition, many of them have been furloughed without pay or received a salary cut as their employers have struggled to adjust to across-the-board sequestration cuts. For federal employee unions, the threat of a shutdown has only added to the sense that their members are under attack.

“This is a workforce which has endured three years of a pay freeze; there has been virtually no hiring, so workloads are increasing dramatically; many already have faced unpaid days because of sequestration; and now they face more unpaid furloughs because of a shutdown that does not need to happen,” said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a statement.
So this is just one strategic gambit in an ongoing crusade, and through it all the very congressional representatives who (with the exception of a few who are donating their pay or portions thereof to charity -- and Wednesday night Boehner apparently decided not to cash his paychecks during the shutdown, according to the Washington Post) are putting hardworking Americans on a financial precipice...these very miscreants are cashing their six figure salary paychecks without interruption.
If ever there were stark proof of the decline of the United States, this is it.

Temper Tantrum


The side of the political divide wearing tin-foil hats

by Steve Benen
That many Americans believe strange things is not surprising, but Public Policy Polling reports that when it comes to embracing odd conspiracy theories, the political divide matters.
PPP's latest round of conspiracy-theory related questions finds that repugicans are more likely than Democrats to believe various government-related conspiracy theories, similar to results we found on our first round of conspiracy polling last April.
If you want to maintain some degree of confidence in rank-and-file repugican voters, you may not want to read further:
* 62% of repugicans believe the Obama administration is secretly trying to take everyone's guns away;
* 44% of repugicans believe President Obama is secretly trying to figure out a way to stay in office beyond January 2017;
* 42% of repugicans fear Sharia Law making its way into America's courts
* 21% of repugicans believe that the U.S. government engages in so-called "false flag" operations, where the government plans and executes terrorist or mass shooting events;
* 27% of repugicans think a group of world bankers are slowly eliminating paper currency to force most banking online -- only to cut the power grid so regular citizens can't access money and are forced into worldwide slavery.
We can speculate about why repugican voters believe such bizarre nonsense -- maybe it's prominent repugican policymakers pushing conspiracy theories, maybe it's the result of wingnut media -- but the fact that this phenomenon exists seems hard to ignore

Random Photos

Half the repugicans You Know Are Insane

And the other half are lying about it!
by William Rivers Pitt
If I may, I would like to go over some figures with you regarding the current situation in America. I know numbers are boring and often perplexing in the main - I was an English Major, so if you put a pistol to my head and demanded I do long division, the pistol would have a better chance of coming up with the right answer before you painted the wall with my literature degree - but these numbers, I think, speak volumes, and have an unfortunately dramatic bearing on the state of modern American politics.
Public Policy Polling did a survey on the preponderance of belief in conspiracy theories among American voters, and the results are telling. For example, a question was posed about whether the respondents believe the Obama administration is coming to take their guns away, and 62% of repugicans answered "Yes." If you know five repugicans, that means three of them believe this, and a fourth has doubts. This, despite the fact that no gun legislation of any impact whatsoever has shadowed the president's desk since he took office.
When asked if they believe that Mr. Obama is secretly plotting to remain in office when his term expires, 44% of repugicans answered "Yes." If you know five repugicans, that means two of them believe this, and a third is halfway convinced. This, despite any supporting evidence whatsoever, and the fact that the man will be arrested and detained if he tries to enter the White House again after the inauguration in January of 2017.
When asked if Muslims are working to implement Sharia Law in America - the harshly medieval seventh-century Islamic code best represented by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Wahabists in the ranks of al Qaeda and (shhhh) a significant portion of the rebels in Syria - 44% of repugicans said it was true. If you know five repugicans, once again, two of them believe this, and a third is halfway convinced. Um...how? Where? In what way? Because women can now get free contraception and gay people have the same rights as you do? You think the Taliban is down with that?
Is the US government secretly staging "false flag" mass shootings all across the country in order to blame others and distract the country from their gun-grabbing, office-staying, Sharia-implementing ways? A full 26% of repugicans believe this, so if you know five of them, one is convinced of this, and another is well on his way. I'm sure all the left-leaning folks who believe that 9/11 was a Cheney-orchestrated "inside job" are thrilled to know their gospel has been co-opted by people who think 26 children were massacred in Connecticut so Mr. Obama could give everyone's guns to the Syrians, because that makes sense, too, apparently. Or something.
In short, and not to put too fine a point on it: if you know five repugicans, two of them are around-the-bend crazy, and a third needs a stern talking-to. That's not a majority, but it is pretty much half the crowd, and is a definite majority every time the crazy two convince the third to go their way, you know, just in case.
The thing is, those two-and-a-half repugicans you know are energetic voters, and they throw enormous weight in American politics. Thanks to the repugican gerrymandering process of 2010  and the berserk anti-information "news" bubble dominated by the likes of Lush Dimbulb, Glenn Brick, Michelle Savage, WingNutDaily and the ceaseless gibberish machine that is Faux News, repugicans in general who even occasionally look to these outlets for information have been in an enforced state of flat-out derangement for years and years and years. The ones who go to the "liberal" news media for "information" are in a slightly leavened version of the same state, but vote repugican anyway out of habit and allegiance.
Why do these people swing so much weight in American politics? That's easy: maybe 55% of the voters in America turn out for presidential elections, and maybe 30% turn out for the midterm elections, y'know, the incredibly important elections where a third of the Senate and all 435 seats in the House are up for a vote. That means, come November of 2014, less than a third of the country will choose all 435 members of the House, and a sizeable percentage of those voters are flat-out loons in gerrymandered districts where their impact on Congress is amplified by orders of magnitude.
Make no mistake about it: these people will vote in 2014, because they always vote. If it is raining live, ravening, man-eating jaguars outside, they turn out with strong umbrellas and cast their ballots for the pro-gun anti-Sharia Jesus-and-fetuses candidate. Because guns, and Sharia, and they believe everything they've heard and read from their beloved bedlam news sources.
Why is the government shut down? Because a lot of people don't vote, but these people did in 2010, like they always do, and the crazy will elect the crazy every single time and twice on Sunday, amen.
That's why the government is shut down, and a disastrous default looms, in case you were wondering.

EFF: the NSA has endangered us all by sabotaging security

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm look at the NSA's Bullrun program, through which the US and UK governments have spent $250M/year sabotaging computer security. Cindy is the lawyer who argued the Bernstein case, which legalized civilian access to strong cryptography -- in other words, it's her work that gave us all the ability to communicate securely online. And so she's very well-situated to comment on what it means to learn that the NSA has deliberately weakened the security that ensures the integrity of the banking system, aviation control, embedded systems in everything from cars to implanted defibrillators, as well as network infrastructure, desktop computers, cloud servers, laptops, phones, tablets, TVs, and other devices.
Thankfully, the recent disclosures have led to at least some change. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the government agency in charge of one of the cryptographic standards the NSA has alleged to have secretly weakened, has reopened public comment on its standard and has even gone as far as to recommend people do not use it anymore.
And we’re beginning to see the international computer security community come to grips with this disturbing news.
But we must do more.
    * We must rebuild the broad coalition that fought the first crypto wars, including investors, businesses, civil liberties groups, scientists and ordinary people. 
    * We must expose the vulnerabilities that have been secreted into our technologies. We must expose them and we must demand that they be fixed.
    * We must ask standards bodies, companies and individual developers to pledge, publicly and unequivocally, to reject efforts to build backdoors or insert known vulnerabilities into their products—and create transparency so that they can't secretly cooperate with these efforts in the future.
    * We must build our own tools, and support the tools that already exist that are independently verifiable as secure (most prominently, open source tools). 
    * We must support efforts in Congress to rein in the NSA and bring it back under the rule of law, and we must make sure those efforts ensure that our technologies are safe.
    * And we must not succumb to privacy nihilism.
But the public debate must start from a fundamental principle: The NSA has been making us less safe and it must stop.  Now.

Daily Comic Relief


Eat, sleep, and visit the mall ...

For tomorrow we die 
Survey-based sociology research in Israel and the United States finds a correlation between fear of death and impulsive shopping. The researchers behind these studies think that the connection represents people using materialism as a coping mechanism to deal with death anxiety

Believe it or not


Stone Lake, Turtles, Eating Bugs, Helium and a Walrus or two

Lake Natron in Tanzania is one of the most serene lakes in Africa, but it's also the source of some phantasmagorical photographs.
Sea turtles were the second most common catch on Costa Rican fishermen's longlines during the past decade. Sharks also suffered on the hooks. 
A growing number of experts claim that people will soon have no choice but to consume insects.
The House unanimously passed H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013 -- one of its last acts before the gears of government ground to a halt.
Government scientists spy a massive walrus gathering in northwest Alaska. 

Hippo vs. Elephant

Giants Face Off

by Brian Handwerk
Back off, buddy! 
That’s no welcoming smile, but a hippopotamus leaving absolutely no doubt that an African elephant is an unwanted visitor to its home turf.
hippo and elephant picture
“There is an island on the middle of the Chobe River to which this elephant had crossed. The hippo was not happy about it and was apparently defending its territory,” said photographer Nicole Cambre, a 43-year-old lawyer from Brussels who captured this scene while visiting Botswana in August.
Cambre watched, and photographed, the partially submerged hippopotamus swim toward the elephant as the latter stood impassively near the shoreline. When the hippo emerged onto the island, it showed off massive teeth and jaws in a bellicose display meant to intimidate the trespassing pachyderm.
Face to face with the largest land animal on Earth, which had lowered its head for possible battle, the hippo showed no signs of backing down—but it eventually reconsidered when reinforcements arrived, Cambre reported. “When more elephants crossed the river to the island, the hippo backed off and went back into the river.”
And while the hippo didn’t pose a lethal threat to the giant ellie, the big mammals can back up such belligerence with most other species—including humans. In fact, hippos may be the most dangerous animal to encounter in all of Africa—unless you’re the size of a bull elephant.

Rare Giant Salamanders Bred in Captivity

by Tim Hornyak
Imagine an amphibian up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) long that can weigh 80 pounds (36 kilograms) and snap chunks off your finger in a split second.
The Japanese giant salamander is one of the largest of its kind in the world: a mottled, slimy, living fossil that has changed little in millions of years.
giant salamander picture
A captive Japanese giant salamander at the San Antonio Zoo. 
Being nocturnal and mostly aquatic, these super-salamanders are rarely seen. They lurk in cool streams in mountains and foothills. Though once caught for food, they’re now protected as a national treasure in Japan.
Hunting, pollution, and river damming brought their conservation status to “near threatened,” but now a nature center says it has made progress in breeding the giant salamanders.
“Although this is the second captive breeding in Japan, it’s the first in an indoor display tank,” said Akihiro Ito of the Hanzake Nature Museum of Mizuho in Shimane Prefecture. “It took us five years.”
Breeding Challenges
Hanzake, as the creatures are known locally, reproduce by external fertilization. A female lays hundreds of eggs that a male fertilizes after doing battle with other males. The male then guards the growing larval salamanders in his role as “den master.”
But giant salamanders often don’t thrive in captivity, so conditions had to be perfect. In consultation with the Hiroshima Asa Zoo, which has also managed to breed them, the nature museum used groundwater adjusted for acidity, and carefully controlled the temperature, light, and air in the salamanders’ environment.
Staff placed two males and three females in the tank, which had a single den, but things didn’t go well at first. A male occupying the den would attack the others; in one case, a female was viciously mauled.
After several different combinations of males and females in the tank, finally a male called Daigoro and a female called Sachiko managed to mix it up, and a clutch of some 500 eggs was fertilized.
“Knowing how giant salamanders go about breeding and what conditions are necessary for that to happen comes in useful when considering how best to protect them in the wild,” said Tim Johnson, a Tokyo-based salamander enthusiast who has observed these creatures in the mountains.
“The way rivers have been modified in recent decades has made it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for them to migrate upstream to breed.”
Congrats to the new parents; we’ll keep track of how they do with their baby giant salamanders.

Some animals really can predict the weather

Science finally came up with solid evidence that animal behavior can be a predictor of weather events. But it's not exactly the behavior (or the animals) you might expect. Instead of dogs barking, think beetles f#*$ing. Or, rather, beetles not copulating, as the drop in atmospheric pressure that precedes a storm seems to result in less sexual behavior among several species of insects. Particularly interesting were the curcurbit beetles, who might still mate in the face of an oncoming storm, but seem to dispense with all foreplay.

Amazing snail facts

This snail's shell is not green.
Instead, the shell is semi-transparent. It's the snail that's green.

Beachgoers in Spain discover 30-foot giant squid

Carcass found in Cantabria is that of the mysterious and fabled Architeuthis Dux; it remains unclear whether the deep-sea denizen 
by Pete Thomas
Note the size of the eye 
Beachgoers in the Spanish community of Cantabria were astonished Tuesday when they stumbled onto the carcass of a giant squid that had washed ashore almost fully intact.
The deep-sea denizen—the fabled and mysterious Architeuthis Dux—measured 30 feet and weighed nearly 400 pounds.
It was delivered to the Maritime Museum of Cantabria, where it was cleaned and frozen, while a decision is awaited between museum scientists and the government as to what will be done with the colossal cephalopod.
(According to El Diario Montanes, there has been some argument regarding ownership, and it remains unclear whether the squid will be put on display, eventually, or dissected in the name of science. According to some reports it was initially to be simply cremated.)
Regardless, the discovery was remarkable, considering that giant squid, although they’re the largest invertebrates on earth, are extremely elusive and, thus, difficult to study.
They generally reside at depths of between 1,000 and 3,000 feet, and most of what scientists have learned has come from carcasses that have washed ashore, and rarely are entire carcasses found.
However, scientists are persistent in their quest to learn more. In 2004, Japanese researchers captured the first known live images of giant squid. In 2006, a team of Japanese researchers brought to the surface a live female squid measuring 24 feet.
The mysterious creatures, meanwhile, remain steeped in lore.
In the times of ancient mariners, Architeuthis Dux, which resides in the lightless depths of all of the world’s oceans, is believed to have spawned tales of sea monsters, such as the legendary Kraken.
Architeuthis Dux was one of the vicious creatures in Jules Verne’s classic science fiction novel, “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” (First published in 1870; made into a Disney movie in 1954.)
It was represented in other books, too, from Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” to Ian Fleming’s “Dr. No,” to Peter Benchley’s “Beast” (later adapted as a film, “The Beast”).
To many, the mere mention of giant squid conjures images of the beasts waging vicious battles with deep-diving sperm whales, although in these battles the squid is the prey and the whales are the predators.
The giant squid that washed ashore in Cantabria was photographed by Enrique Talledo, who allowed the use of images accompanying this story.
“The animal died at sea and ocean currents brought it to the coast,” Talledo said via email. “The squid was in good condition except one [tentacle] had been broken.”
He remarked the eyes were gigantic and almost lifelike.
That’s no surprise because the giant squid, according to National Geographic, possess the largest eyes in the animal kingdom. They can measure 10 inches in diameter, almost the size of beach balls, and it’s believed the size helps the creatures detect objects in their dark habitat.
There are only a handful of museums that have a giant squid carcass on display. Hopefully, the public in Cantabria will soon be able to admire this remarkable specimen.

Animal News

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Animal Pictures