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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Daily Drift

The birth of an idiot!

Carolina Naturally is read in 193 194 countries around the world daily.
Afraid ... !
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Today in History

876 Charles the Bald is defeated at the Battle of Andernach.
1690 Belgrade is retaken by the Turks.
1840 King William I of Holland abdicates.
1855 Arrow, a ship flying the British flag, is boarded by Chinese who arrest the crew, thus beginning the Second Chinese War.
1862 The Union is victorious at the Battle of Perryville, the largest Civil War combat to take place in Kentucky.
1871 The Great Chicago Fire begins in southwest Chicago, possibly in a barn owned by Patrick and Katherine O'Leary. Fanned by strong southwesterly winds, the flames raged for more than 24 hours, eventually leveling three and a half square miles and wiping out one-third of the city. Approximately 250 people were killed in the fire; 98,500 people were left homeless; 17,450 buildings were destroyed.
1897 Journalist Charles Henry Dow, founder of the Wall Street Journal, begins charting trends of stocks and bonds.
1900 Maximilian Harden is sentenced to six months in prison for publishing an article critical of the German Kaiser.
1906 Karl Ludwig Nessler first demonstrates a machine in London that puts permenant waves in hair. The client wears a dozen brass curlers, each wearing two pounds, for the six-hour process.
1912 First Balkan War begins as Montenegro declares war against the Ottoman Empire.
1918 US Army corporal Alvin C. York kills 28 German soldiers and captures 132 in the Argonne Forest; promoted to sergeant and awarded US Medal of Honor and French Croix de Guerre.
1919 The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives pass the Volstead Prohibition Enforcement Bill.
1921 First live radio broadcast of a football game; Harold W. Arlin was the announcer when KDKA of Pittsburgh broadcast live from Forbes Field as the University of Pittsburgh beat West Virginia University 21–13.
1922 Lilian Gatlin becomes the first woman pilot to fly across the United States.
1932 Indian Air Force established.
1939 Nazi Germany annexes Western Poland.
1956 Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitches the first perfect game in World Series history against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
1967 Guerrilla Che Guevara captured in Bolivia.
1968 U.S. forces in Vietnam launch Operation SEALORDS (South East Asia Lake, Ocean, River and Delta Strategy), an attack on communist supply lines and base areas in and around the Mekong Delta.
1969 The "Days of Rage" begin in Chicago; the Weathermen faction of the Students for a Democratic Society initiate 3 days of violent antiwar protests.
1973 In the Yom Kippur War an Israeli armored brigade makes an unsuccessful attack on Egyptian positions on the Israeli side of the Suez Canal.
1978 Ken Warby of Australia sets the world water speed record, 317.60 mph, at Blowering Dam in Australia; no other human has yet (2013) exceeded 300 mph on water and survived.
1982 The musical Cats begins a run of nearly 18 years on Broadway.
1991 Croatia votes to sever its ties with Yugoslavia.
2001 The shrub establishes the Office of Homeland Security.

Non Sequitur


Thirty-One Pumpkin Recipes to Spice Up the Season

Looking for a little fall flavor? Well, now that it's the season for pumpkin-y goodness, you may as well enjoy the season while it's available. If you need some new ideas of what to do with your pumpkins, you should check out Closet Cooking's list of 31 pumpkin recipes.
While I've seen a lot of pumpkin recipe round ups, this one is particularly great in that it doesn't just feature desserts. This way, you can enjoy pumpkin appetizers, snacks, entrees, side dishes and desserts for a totally fall feast.

The Secret Lives Of Kitchen Spices

Did you know your kitchen spices have secret lives? There's a warmonger, a cure-all, and a former currency in your cabinet. Do you know which is which?

Pass The Garum

In history we tend to look at the big things - the battles, the baddies, the plot and the intrigue - but sometimes it's the average and the everyday which impress most, giving us the tiniest of glimpses into the lives of the long dead. Pass the Garum is a cooking blog focused on the recipes and cuisine of ancient Rome.

Garum was a fermented fish sauce which the Romans loved to put in everything. So, much as we might say 'pass the salt', a Roman might ask their toga-clad chum to 'pass the garum'.

Did you know ...

About a tale of two blowhards

That a repugican congressman complains he's only making six figures

That a repugican senator calls Ted Cruz confab 'a lynch mob'

And despite glitches, red state residents want obamacare

Poll Finds That repugicans Are In Danger of Losing The House Over Government Shutdown

A new PPP poll looked at 24 House districts held by repugicans, and since the government shutdown 21 of them now have generic Democratic candidates leading.
PPP found that, “The surveys, commissioned and paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action, show repugican incumbents behind among registered voters in head-to-head contests with generic Democratic challengers in 17 districts. In four other districts, the incumbent repugican falls behind a generic Democratic candidate after respondents are told that the repugican incumbent supported the government shutdown. In only three districts do repugican incumbents best generic Democratic challengers after voters are told the incumbent supported the government shutdown.”
The districts, with the exception of one, all had something in common. They were seats held by repugicans in states that were won by President Obama in 2012. This poll strikes right at the heart of the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering will keep House repugicans safe no matter what they do.
As Robert Costa pointed out in The Washington Post, there are more centrist repugicans in the House than you might think. Costa wrote, “They may sometimes be silent and fearful of stirring wingnut ire, but more than 100 members of the House repugican cabal are much more centrist than you’d imagine. These are the members from purple and light-red districts, who rarely go on television and, unlike their more unruly colleagues, stick with the leadership. They are critical to sustaining Boehner’s power, and, should the repugican cabal find a way to extend the debt limit and once again fund the government, they’ll deserve credit”
Those 100 House repugicans in blue or purple states all are their seats put in jeopardy by the behavior of their repugican colleagues who reside in safe red districts. House repugicans are being widely blamed for the shutdown. John Boehner continues to refuse to open the government, and raise the debt limit. Boehner and the extremists that he is listening to are still making demands as if they are in charge of the situation.
The House repugicans who are following Ted Cruz have put themselves in a position for defeat by not facing reality. They think that they will “win” by getting the president and Senate Democrats to cave to their threats. Cruz and his House repugicans really believe that they can get the country to blame President Obama for the shutdown and any potential default.
What they don’t understand is that the country has been watching House repugicans threaten and obstruct for years. They already know who is to blame. The moderate House repugicans are trying to save their own hides by floating anonymous proposals in the media for a short term funding and raising of the debt ceiling.
John Boehner’s refusal to hold a clean vote on a CR and the debt limit could hand Democrats back control of the House of Representatives. Obamacare isn’t going anywhere, but scores of House repugicans will find themselves out of a job after November 2014.

This could explain a lot ...

As Support for the repugican cabal Plunges, Ted Cruz Claims the repugican cabal is Winning

Despite the fact that polls show disapproval of the repugican cabal might lose the House, Ted Cruz went on CNN to claim that repugican cabal is really winning the government shutdown.
Candy Crowley asked Sen. Cruz about the criticism from his fellow repugicans, and President Obama about his courting of the media and shutting down the government. Cruz responded, “The fact you are seeing so many nasty partisan jabs from Democrats.” Crowley reminded him that repugicans are criticizing him too, but Cruz continued, “But you just quoted the president, and certainly Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats haven’t been shy using all sorts of ad hominem inflammatory attacks. The fact that you are seeing those attacks, I think is indicative of the fact that we’re winning the argument.”
Ted Cruz and the repugican cabal are winning the government shutdown in the same way that Charlie Sheen was #winning during his bender after he got fired from Two And a Half Men.
Disapproval of the repugican cabal is skyrocketing nationally. A just new poll released found that Democrats lead in 21 of 24 House districts that repugicans currently hold, thanks to Cruz’s government shutdown. Seventy two percent of the American people are opposed to Cruz’s strategy of shutting down the government to delay or defund Obamacare.
During the interview Sen. Cruz repeated his bundle of Obamacare lies, and then claimed that he doesn’t support shutting down the government.
Ted Cruz is trying to have it both ways. He is the man who led the charge to shutdown the government. Cruz is guiding the House repugican strategy on both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, yet he is publicly claiming that he doesn’t support a government shutdown.
This is not winning. The repugican cabal is losing, and losing badly. The only winner on the repugican side has been Ted Cruz, who has elevated himself to the leadership position of the anti-government far right. Sen. Cruz still has no exit strategy on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. He seems to be holding the delusional belief that if he just keeps blaming Obama for his mess, the Democrats will give in.
Ted Cruz and his cabal are being routed, but the arrogant senator for Texas is too wrapped up in his lust for publicity and the 2016 repugican presidential nomination to bother to notice.

The truth be told


John Boehner Loses It When He’s Caught In Several Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Lies

When caught several lies about the government shutdown and the debt ceiling on ABC’s This Week, John Boehner lost it and had himself a little angry meltdown.
There were a several parts of this interview Boehner visibly lost his cool. On each occasion that the Speaker lost his temper, he was lying.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He has not, perhaps, but I take it from your answer that you’re not prepared to schedule a clean bill on government funding.

BOEHNER: There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you sure that’s true? The Democrats say they have 195 Democrats who have already signed a letter saying that they would vote it. 21 repugicans, 21 House repugicans have said they are for it, as well. And Democrats are confident, you add those repugicans to the Democrats, a few more would come along and they have the votes.
BOEHNER: The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation. I told my members the other day, there may be a back room somewhere, but there’s nobody in it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not what you want. I want to go back to several points you’ve made about this over the last few — here you were right after the election with Diane Sawyer.
BOEHNER: It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.
If we were to put Obamacare into the CR and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So right there, you say that’s not your goal. You don’t want to put Obamacare on the CR. You did it.
BOEHNER: George, I have made it clear to my colleagues. I don’t want to shut the government down. We voted to keep the government open.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They’re saying it’s at risk because of your refusal to pass a clean debt limit. There have been some reports–
BOEHNER: We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Under no circumstances?
BOEHNER: I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.

On the three occasions in the transcript above Speaker Boehner was lying. He told other basic Republican lies about the ACA during the interview, but his defense of his own behavior was built on lies. Each time Boehner lied, he got angry and his voice changed.
The Speaker knows that he is lying. The votes are there in the House to pass a clean CR. There is video evidence of Boehner saying repeatedly that he did not want to shut the government down. There is also evidence that enough Republicans would join with Democrats to support raising the debt limit.
John Boehner is a total mess right now. He is defending a position that he doesn’t really hold, with lies that are impossible for anyone to believe. This interview was a train wreck. The only thing that the American people got to see was that Boehner is desperate to hold on to his speakership. The Speaker will do, say, and threaten anything to stay in power.
Boehner has thrown the bogus repugican position of compromise out the window, and shifted to straight threat mode. The stress is getting to Boehner. Here is a man that is cracking up right before our eyes. Rep. Boehner’s angry outbursts can’t hide the fact that he refuses to sacrifice himself in order to save his own party. With each day that this crisis drags on, the odds that repugicans will lose the House next year increase.
John Boehner is a man on the edge, and the looming debt ceiling deadline may push him over.



John Boehner Threatens to Destroy the Economy If Obama Won’t Give Him What He Wants

John Boehner Threatens to Destroy the Economy If Obama Won’t Give Him What He WantsOn ABC’s This Week, Speaker of the House John Boehner issued threatened President Obama and the country with default on debts if his demands aren’t met.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press that. There have been some reports that you have told your own members that you would be willing to put a debt limit on the floor that would pass with democratic votes, even if it didn’t get a majority of the republican caucus. Is that no longer true?
BOEHNER: My goal here is not to have the United States default on its debt. My goal is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and the debt up and the president’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He continues to refuse to negotiate, the country is going to default?
BOEHNER: That’s the path we’re on. The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assume — he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in Washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call.
The faux repugican position of compromise has now shifted to one of threats. President Obama has refused to give Boehner what he wants, so now he is threatening to blow up the economy. Speaker Boehner is sticking to the extremist position that Obamacare must be delayed, or the economy gets it.
The interview itself contained a giant Boehner lie. The Speaker falsely claimed that their aren’t the votes to pass a clean CR. This is simply not true. Boehner flatly stated, “We are not going to pass a clean debt limit.” At least 22 House repugicans have publicly stated that they are willing to vote for a clean CR.
Boehner also flip flopped and claimed that he has always wanted to use a government shutdown to get rid of Obamacare. Speaker Boehner made it clear where the repugicans stand. Kill Obamacare, or the economy gets it.



Families hoard cash 5 yrs after crisis

by Bernard Condon This combination of Associated Press file photos from 2012-2013 shows from top left, a vegetable vendor counting rupees at a market in Allahabad, India, a shopper standing by a sale sign in London, a woman carrying bags with food in Barcelona, and a shopper browsing at a Sears store in Henderson, Nevada. An Associated Press analysis of households in the 10 biggest economies released on Oct. 6, 2013, shows that families continue to spend cautiously in the five years since the U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering a global financial crisis. (AP Photo/File)  
Five years after U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed, triggering a global financial crisis and shattering confidence worldwide, families in major countries around the world are still hunkered down, too spooked and distrustful to take chances with their money. An Associated Press analysis of households in the 10 biggest economies shows that families continue to spend cautiously and have pulled hundreds of billions of dollars out of stocks, cut borrowing for the first time in decades and poured money into savings and bonds that offer puny interest payments, often too low to keep up with inflation.
"It doesn't take very much to destroy confidence, but it takes an awful lot to build it back," says Ian Bright, senior economist at ING, a global bank based in Amsterdam. "The attitude toward risk is permanently reset."
A flight to safety on such a global scale is unprecedented since the end of World War II.
The implications are huge: Shunning debt and spending less can be good for one family's finances. When hundreds of millions do it together, it can starve the global economy.
Weak growth around the world means wages in the United States, which aren't keeping up with inflation, will continue to rise slowly. Record unemployment in parts of Europe, higher than 35 percent among youth in several countries, won't fall quickly. Another wave of Chinese, Brazilians and Indians rising into the middle class, as hundreds of millions did during the boom years last decade, is unlikely.
Some of the retrenchment is not surprising: High unemployment in many countries means fewer people with paychecks to spend. Some people who lost jobs got new ones that pay less or are part time. But even people with good jobs and little fear of losing them remain cautious.
"Lehman changed everything," says Arne Holzhausen, a senior economist at global insurer Allianz, based in Munich. "It's safety, safety, safety."
The AP analyzed data showing what consumers did with their money in the five years before the Great Recession began in December 2007 and in the five years that followed, through the end of 2012. The focus was on the world's 10 biggest economies — the U.S., China, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Russia, Italy and India — which have half the world's population and 65 percent of global gross domestic product.
Key findings:
— RETREAT FROM STOCKS: A desire for safety drove people to dump stocks, even as prices rocketed from crisis lows in early 2009, and put their money into bonds. Investors in the top 10 countries pulled $1.1 trillion from stock mutual funds in the five years after the crisis, or 10 percent of what they had invested at the start of that period, according to Lipper Inc., which tracks funds.
They put even more money into bond mutual funds — $1.3 trillion — even as interest payments on bonds plunged to record lows.
— SHUNNING DEBT: Household debt surged at an unprecedented rate in the five years before the financial crisis. In the U.S., the U.K. and France, it soared more than 50 percent per adult, according to Credit Suisse. For all 10 countries, it jumped 34 percent. Then the financial crisis hit, and people slammed the brakes on borrowing. Debt per adult in the 10 countries fell 1 percent in the 4½ years after 2007. Economists say debt hasn't fallen in sync like that since the end of World War II. People chose to shed debt even as lenders slashed rates on loans to record lows. In normal times, that would have triggered an avalanche of borrowing.
"Given what they've lived through, households are loath to borrow again," says Jack Ablin, chief investment officer of BMO Private Bank in Chicago. "They're not going to stretch. They want a cushion."
— HOARDING CASH: Looking for safety for their money, households in the six biggest developed economies added $3.3 trillion, or 15 percent, to their cash holdings in the five years after the crisis, slightly more than they did in the five years before, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The growth of cash is remarkable because millions more were unemployed, wages grew slowly and people diverted billions to pay down their debts. They also poured money into bank accounts knowing they would earn little interest on their deposits, often too little to keep up with inflation.
— SPENDING SLUMP: Cutting debt and saving more may be good in the long term, but to do that, people have had to rein in their spending. Adjusting for inflation, global consumer spending rose 1.6 percent a year during the five years after the crisis, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, an accounting and consulting firm. That was about half the growth rate before the crisis and only slightly more than the annual growth in population during those years.
Consumer spending is critically important because it accounts for more than 60 percent of GDP.
— DEVELOPING WORLD NOT HELPING ENOUGH: When the financial crisis hit, the major developed countries looked to the developing world to take over in powering global growth. The four big developing countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China — recovered quickly from the crisis. But the potential of the BRIC countries, as they are known, was overrated. Although they have 80 percent of the people, they accounted for only 22 percent of consumer spending in the 10 biggest countries last year, according to Haver Analytics, a research firm. This year, their economies are stumbling.
Consumers around the world will eventually shake their fears, of course, and loosen the hold on their money. But few economists expect them to snap back to their old ways.
One reason is that the boom years that preceded the financial crisis were as much an aberration as the last five years have been. Those free-spending days, experts now understand, were fueled by families taking on enormous debt, not by healthy wage gains. No one expects a repeat of those excesses.
More importantly, economists cite a psychological "scarring" that continues to shape behavior. Scarring is a fear of losing money that grips people during a period of collapsing jobs, incomes and wealth, and then doesn't let go.
The desire for safety remains even after jobs return, wages rise and financial and housing markets recover. Think of Americans who suffered through the Great Depression and stayed frugal for decades, even as the U.S. economy boomed after World War II.
Although not on a level with the Depression, some economists think the psychological blow of the financial crisis was severe enough that households won't increase their borrowing and spending to what would be considered normal levels for another five years or longer.
To better understand why people remain so cautious five years after the crisis, AP interviewed consumers around the world. A look at what they're thinking — and doing — with their money:
Rick Stonecipher of Muncie, Ind., doesn't like stocks anymore, for the same reason that millions of investors have turned against them — the stock market crash that began in October 2008 and didn't end until the following March.
"My brokers said they were really safe, but they weren't," says Stonecipher, 59, a substitute school teacher.
That individual investors would sell while markets plunged is not surprising. Households nearly always bail out as stocks drop, only to buy again after they rise.
But this time was different. In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average rocketed 118 percent over the next four years and reached a record high in March. In Germany, the DAX Index soared 116 percent and hit a record in May. In the U.K., the FTSE 100 index rose 85 percent. Yet small investors mostly sold during that period, an extraordinary vote of no confidence.
Americans pulled the most money out over five years — $521 billion from stock mutual funds, or 9 percent of their holdings, according to Lipper. But investors in other countries sold an even larger share of their holdings: Germans dumped 13 percent; Italians and French, more than 16 percent each.
The French are "not very oriented to risk," says Cyril Blesson, an economist at Pair Conseil, an investment consultancy in Paris. "Now, it's even worse."
It's gotten worse in China, Russia, Japan and the United Kingdom, too.
Fu Lili, 31, a psychologist in Fu Xin, a city in northeastern China, says she made about 20,000 yuan ($3,267) buying and selling stocks before the crisis, more than 10 times her monthly salary then. But she won't touch them now, because she's too scared.
In Moscow, Yuri Shcherbanin, 32, a manager for an oil company, says the crash proved stocks were dangerous and he should content himself with money in the bank.
Hirokazu Suyama, 26, a musician in Tokyo, dismisses stock investing as "gambling."
In London, Pavlina Samson, 39, owner of a jewelry and clothes shop, says stocks are too "risky." What's also driving her away may be something that runs deeper: "People feel like they're being ripped off everywhere," she says.
Holzhausen, the Allianz economist, says people are shunning stocks for the same reason they're shunning other investments that involve risk — less a cold calculation of whether the price is right and more a mistrust of nearly everything financial.
"People want to get as much distance as possible from the financial system," he says. "They want to be in control of their financial matters. People no longer trust in the markets."
In India, where the growing middle class seems perfect for stocks, people were pulling out even before the economy deteriorated in recent months. Indians dumped 15 percent of their holdings in the five years after the crisis.
Pradeep Kumar, owner of a fast-expanding manufacturer of water pumps and parts for electric fans, says he finds stocks confusing and prefers investing in real estate and plowing money back into his business.
"I will not venture into something I don't understand," says Kumar, 41, a father of two from Varanasi in northern India.
What people do understand are bonds — boring, seemingly safe and, in terms of interest payments, unrewarding. In the five years after the crisis struck, investors in the six biggest developed countries poured $2 trillion into bond mutual funds, an increase of 60 percent. During that time, interest payments fell by half.
Investors have barely been compensated for inflation, if at all.
Consider a favorite German investment: funds run by insurers that hold mostly government bonds. Half the payments investors receive are tax free if they hold onto the funds long enough. Even with that tax savings, though, the investor returns can be dreadfully low. For new policies, the guaranteed interest rate is currently 1.75 percent a year, roughly the rate of inflation.
In recent months, Americans have shown more courage, inching back into stock mutual funds. But they've bought one week, only to sell the next, and they appear almost as wary of the market as they were during the crisis.
In April, one month after the Dow recovered the last of its losses from the crisis and reached a record high, 75 percent of Americans in an AP-GfK poll described the stock market as "risky." That was only slightly better than the 78 percent who felt that way in a CBS News/New York Times poll in January 2009 when the market was plunging.
Jerry and Madeleine Bosco have been forced to switch to a strange, new role for Americans: from big spenders, with credit cards in hand, to penny pinchers.
After the financial crisis hit, Jerry, who helps prepare booths for trade shows, had to take a 15 percent pay cut. Suddenly, the couple found themselves facing $30,000 in credit card debt with no easy way to pay it off. So they sold stocks, threw most of their credit cards in the trash, stopped eating out with friends and cut out ski vacations with their two sons and weekend trips up the coast from their home in Tujunga, Calif.
Today, most of the debt is gone but Jerry still hasn't gotten a raise, and the lusher life of the boom years is a distant memory.
"We had credit cards and we didn't worry about a thing," says Madeleine, 55. "Our home price was going up. We got DirecTV, and got each of the boys Xbox" game consoles.
From the start of record-keeping by the U.S. Federal Reserve in 1951 through June 2008, in booms and busts alike, Americans never failed to add to debt from one quarter to the next. Fortunately, their incomes also rose most of that time.
Then wages stagnated in the new millennium. And instead of slowing their borrowing, Americans sped it up. Debt rose from less than 90 percent of annual take-home pay in 2000 to 130 percent in 2007.
Americans weren't the only ones who borrowed recklessly. In the 10 years before the crisis, household debt as a percentage of annual pay rose by a third or more in nine European countries. It topped 170 percent in the Netherlands, Ireland and the U.K.
Then came the financial crisis and the hard times that followed.
In the U.S., debt per adult fell 12 percent the first 4 ½ years after the crisis, mostly a result of people defaulting on loans. In the U.K., debt per adult fell a modest 2 percent, but it had soared 59 percent in a comparable period before the crisis.
Germans and Japanese are culturally averse to borrowing and didn't build up debt before the crisis. Nevertheless, they've cut back since — 1 percent and 4 percent, respectively.
"We don't want to take out a loan," says Maria Schoenberg, 45, of Frankfurt, Germany, explaining why she and her husband, a rheumatologist, decided to rent after a recent move instead of borrowing to buy. "We're terrified of doing that."
Such attitudes are rife when it has rarely been cheaper to borrow around the world. German lenders are dangling mortgage rates at 2 percent. In normal times, record low rates would trigger a borrowing boom like few in history.
"But that was the world we knew before 2008," says Jim Davies, an economist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. "People have a lot of worries and concerns about whether they can make the payments."
And a lot of anger, too.
Anita Williamson of Bristol, England, says she and her husband were wrong to borrow so much during the boom — 1.3 million pounds ($2.1 million), much of it to buy a home. But she says the banks were far too eager to lend. One bank allowed a loan to be "self-certified," a practice mostly banned now that allowed lenders to take the word of borrowers that they could afford the debt.
"It's very easy for people to believe the so-called experts at the bank," says Williamson, 55, who had to declare bankruptcy to get out of most of her debt. When it comes to finances, she adds, she won't touch a bank again with a "barge pole."
Mark Vitner, a senior economist at Wells Fargo, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, warns not to see a popular revolt behind every dollar in debt that's shed. He notes that populations are aging in many countries: People don't need to borrow as much as they did when they were raising families.
Still, he thinks a new distaste for debt is playing a big role.
"A whole new generation of adults has come of age in a time of diminished expectations," he says. "They're not likely to take on debt like those before them."
In France, Arnaud Reze has stopped buying coffee at cafes to save money. The Kawabatas in Japan rarely eat out. Glen Oakes in the state of Washington used to take an expensive vacation every year, such as to Disney World in Florida. He stopped five years ago.
Around the globe, in small ways and large, in expanding economies and contracting ones, consumers remain thrifty.
You can see it on some High Streets in the U.K., dotted now by secondhand boutiques and pawn shops. Or in weak car sales in Europe, which have plunged to their lowest level in more than two decades. Or in the remarkable rise of Dollar General, a discount chain with 10,000 stores in the U.S. that has more than doubled its profits the past three years.
After adjusting for inflation, Americans increased their spending in the five years after the crisis at one-quarter the rate before the crisis, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. French spending barely budged. In the U.K., spending didn't just grow slowly, it dropped. The British spent 3 percent less last year than they did five years earlier, in 2007.
High unemployment has played a role. Unemployment in Europe is 11 percent. But economists say scarring from the financial crisis, and the government debt crisis that started a year later has spooked people who can afford to splurge to hold back instead.
Reze, 36, is the last person you'd think would feel pressure to save more. He owns a home in Nantes, has piled up money in savings accounts and stocks, and has a government job that guarantees 75 percent of his pay in retirement. But he fears the pension guarantee won't be kept. So he's not only stopped buying coffee at cafes, he's cut back on lunches with colleagues and saved in numerous other ways. He figures he's squirreling away an additional 300 euros ($400) a month, or about 10 percent of his pay.
"Little stupid things that I would buy left and right ... I don't buy anymore," he says.
Even the rich are spending cautiously and saving more.
Five years ago, Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer at Sanderson Farms, a large U.S. poultry producer, had just paid off the mortgage on his home in Laurel, Miss. He was looking forward to having extra money to spend. Then came the financial crisis, and he decided to put the extra cash into savings. "Earning nothing, just like everyone else, " Cockrell says.
"I watched the news of the stock market going down 100, 200 points a day, and I was glad I had cash," he says, recalling the steep drops in the Dow during the crisis. "That strategy will not change."
The wealthiest 1 percent of U.S. households are saving 30 percent of their take-home pay, triple what they were saving in 2008, according to a July report from American Express Publishing and Harrison Group, a research firm.
Steve Crosby, head of wealth management at PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that when he talks to the rich, he's reminded of his grandparents who held tight to their cash decades after they lost money in the Great Depression. He expects the financial crisis will haunt his clients for a long time, too.
"There was a scar, and it's measured in half-lives, just like radioactivity," Crosby says. "People want control."
The good news is that after years of living with less, paying debts and saving more, many people have repaired their personal finances.
Americans have slashed their credit card debt to 2002 levels, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the U.K., personal bank loans, not including mortgages, are no larger than they were in 1999, according to the British Bankers' Association.
People have recouped some losses from the crisis, too. In France, the value of financial assets held by households is 15 percent above its previous peak, according to the OECD. And the value of homes, the biggest asset for most families, is rising again in some countries.
Now that people feel richer, will they borrow and spend more? And, if so, how much more? Will "animal spirits" — what economists call a surge of optimism that can jolt economies to faster growth — come back?
Maybe, if there are more people like 63-year-old Sahoko Tanabe of Tokyo, a new buyer of stocks, and an unlikely one.
Like many Japanese, she last loaded up on stocks in the late 1980s, right before the country's main stock index began a two-decade swoon to a fifth of its value. She's feeling more optimistic now. "Abenomics," a mix of fiscal and monetary stimulus named for Japan's new prime minister, has ignited the Japanese stock market, and Tanabe has discovered a new appetite for risk.
"You're bound to fail if you have a pessimistic attitude," she says.
But for every Tanabe, there seem to be more people like Madeleine Bosco, the Californian who sold her stocks and ditched many of her credit cards. "All of a sudden you look at all these things you're buying that you don't need," she says.
Attitudes like Bosco's will make for a better economy eventually — safer and more stable — but won't trigger the jobs and wage gains that are needed to make economies healthy now.
"The further you get away from the carnage in '08-'09, the memories fade," says Stephen Roach, former chief economist at investment bank Morgan Stanley, who now teaches at Yale. "But does it return to the leverage and consumer demand we had in the past and make things hunky dory? The answer is no."

Stargazing With The Moai

Stargazing with the Moai

The Barefoot Mayor

Local Hero Takes on Sicilian Corruption

by Fiona Ehlers
The Barefoot Mayor: Local Hero Takes on Sicilian Corruption
The new mayor of Messina is a man of the people. The tireless nonpartisan is known to go barefoot through the city. And in the land of Berlusconi, he is fighting against corruption, organized crime and widespread disenchantment with politics.  More

Possible Leonardo da Vinci Artwork Found in Swiss Vault

by Liz Fields
A long sought-after artwork attributed to Leonardo da Vinci has been discovered among a private collection of 400 paintings locked in a Swiss Bank Vault.
The painting closely resembles a 1499 pencil sketch of Isabella d'Este, an Italian noblewoman, drawn by da Vinci in Mantua in Italy's Lombardy region, which is currently hanging in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
But as the great artist once said himself: "Art is never finished, only abandoned," and so it is only fitting that he should have returned to the sketch and reproduce it as a rich color portrait, as the Marquise had requested of him on numerous occasions.
Experts are claiming that the painting is a bona fide da Vinci. If proven, its discovery could herald an end to long scholarly speculation that the artist simply lost interest or ran out of time before finishing the project.
"There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo," Carlos Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history professor and expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California Los Angeles, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
"I can immediately recognise Da Vinci's handiwork, particularly in the woman's face," he told the newspaper.
Scientific tests seem to back up Pedretti's claims.
Carbon dating conducted in a laboratory at the University of Arizona confirmed with 95 percent accuracy that the artwork was painted sometime between 1460 and 1650, placing the artwork firmly within the time frame in which the artist is believed to have first met and sketched the aristocrat, who was one of the most influential women of her time.
Further testing indicated the paint pigments and primer used in the portrait also match the ones used by da Vinci throughout his career.
But Pedretti said that even after three and a half years of study following the painting's first revelation, more time was needed to determine which parts of the work, if any, may have been painted by da Vinci's students.
Not all experts are convinced that the 24-by-18-inch artwork discovered in the possession of an unnamed Italian family is an original work by the master painter.
One notable criticism is that the artwork was painted on canvas, as opposed to wooden panels, which were favored by da Vinci.
"Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line," Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of the history of art at Oxford University, told The Daily Telegraph. "Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised."
Last year another purported da Vinci masterpiece potentially worth more than $150 million was unveiled after it had sat in a Scottish farmhouse for nearly 50 years. At that time, critics also disputed the authenticity of the 500-year-old artwork depicting Madonna and her baby.
A similar discovery of what appears to be a younger version of the Mona Lisa in a Swiss Vault a month later was also refuted to be an original da Vinci, because, like the newest discovery, it too was painted on canvas rather than wood.
The "Mona Lisa" is among only 15 to 20 artworks around the world that have so far been and properly attributed to da Vinci.

Daily Comic Relief


The World's Strangest VehiclesWorld's Strangest Vehicles

Spotting strange vehicles in our usual boring stream of traffic can be as rewarding as catching a smile of a beautiful woman - or on the contrary, may only produce a yelp of disbelief 'what in the name of Motoring Mother Mary was THAT?'

Police called as man in Lamborghini dressed as Moses handed out doughnuts outside school

School officials in Bergen County, New Jersey, have urged parents to talk to their children about the perils of interacting with strangers after an incident on Thursday morning in which two men, one of whom was dressed as Moses, showed up outside Tenafly Middle School with a red Lamborghini and handed out doughnuts to children. The officials treated the incident as a teachable moment to make children aware that they should not get into cars with people they don’t know or accept food from them.
“We encourage all parents to speak with your children about ‘stranger danger.’” Ann Powell, the Tenafly Middle School principal, wrote in an email alert. “Please stress that students should never speak with strangers, should never get in a stranger's car, and should never accept food from a stranger.” Jon Singer, an advocate for educational support for special-needs children, said that he was one of the two men involved. Singer has been embroiled in a dispute with local school officials over the best program of care and education for his daughter, and how to pay for it.
Singer identified the other man, the one dressed as Moses, as a friend of his, David Zucker. Zucker owns the Lamborghini, Singer said. As Zucker held a pair of ersatz stone tablets aloft and displayed signs espousing educational rights for special-needs children, Singer sat nearby in his Mustang convertible. He was accompanied by his daughter, Rebecca, 17, who has autism and Phelan-McDermid syndrome, which causes problems with communicating and with fine motor skills.

“Rebecca had a great time,” Singer said later. “All the kids had a great time. I don’t understand why people are upset.” But school officials were not amused. Powell said several students had their pictures taken in and near the Lamborghini and that some had accepted the Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins that Singer was offering. “The police were called by building and district administrators and they responded quickly,” Powell wrote. “Yeah, they asked us to move a little bit down the road, and we did, of course,” Singer said. No charges were filed.

'Street Smart' Boy Hops on Flight to Las Vegas Alone

by Alexis Shaw 'Street Smart' Boy Hops on Flight to Las Vegas Alone (ABC News)
A "very street smart" nine-year-old boy managed to pass through a security checkpoint at a Minnesota airport and hop on a flight to Las Vegas without a boarding pass, authorities said.
The boy arrived alone at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday morning, airport spokesman Patrick Hogan told ABC News.
He was screened by TSA officials and then headed to an airport concourse, where he boarded an 11:15 a.m. flight on Delta to Sin City.
The flight crew became suspicious of the nine-year-old's travel circumstances and called the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, who took the boy into custody upon landing, Hogan said. He was then transferred into the care of child protective services.
"The fact that the child's actions weren't detected until he was in flight is concerning," he said. "More than 33 million people travel through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport every year, and I don't know of another instance in my 13 years at the airport in which anything similar has happened.
"Fortunately, the flight crew took appropriate actions to ensure the child's safety, so the story does have a good ending," Hogan said.
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police spokesman Bill Cassell told ABC News the boy was "more worldly than most nine-year-old kids."
"He was able to get onto an airline where he didn't have a ticket and made it five states across the U.S.," he said. "If it hadn't been for alert airline employees on our end, he probably never would have been discovered."
Cassell did not know if the boy had been reunited with his family, but said that the boy's mother, child protective services and Delta Airlines were working to develop a plan to bring him home after the incident occurred.
A spokesman for Delta Airlines said the incident was under investigation, but would not elaborate on the details of the case.

Awesome Pictures


The Wrong Side of the Tracks | by Callum Snape | Website | Facebook.

Man who left starving dog chained to tree for four years fined $25

An Ohio man who allegedly left his starving, flea-infested animal chained to a tree for four years defended his actions by saying, "The dog is not a human." Jeremy Shane Tempe was arrested at his Middletown home on Sept. 27 after police were told that the dog was being mistreated at the property.
Officers reportedly arrived to find a mangy, severely emaciated German shepherd tethered to a tree in the backyard. Covered in sores and tick bites, the poor 60-pound animal was shedding fur from malnourishment, and most of his teeth had disappeared. Temple allegedly told police and Butler County Dog Wardens that the dog’s skeletal appearance was from summertime weight loss.

He reportedly said his dog was being kept in such conditions because "The dog is not a human." The pet, renamed Joseph from Toby in tribute to the biblical character left for dead by his brothers only to later become a leader, was taken in by the nonprofit PAWS Adoption Center. Staff, who have so far spent $1,200 covering the animal’s medical costs, said it was "the worst case of animal abuse" they had ever seen.
Temple was fined $25, but also faces charges of cruelty to a companion animal, having an unlicenced dog, and improper chaining or tethering. The maximum penalty for the cruelty charge, a misdemeanor, is said to be six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. He will reappear in court on Oct. 14. Volunteers at PAWS said Joseph is "doing better these days" and is expected to make a full recovery before being put up for adoption.

There are news videos here and here.

Swedish police find Nile crocodile in greenhouse

Police carrying out a raid in southern Sweden were surprised to discover a two-meter long crocodile living in a residential greenhouse in Malmö. The police were carrying out a raid on a house where the owner was suspected of receiving stolen goods. But it wasn't until officers reached the homeowner's greenhouse that the unusual haul was uncovered.
A two-meter long crocodile, alive and apparently well, was found inside the greenhouse. While police were unable or perhaps unwilling to remove the giant reptile, expert veterinarians were called in to assess the situation. It remains unclear how exactly the crocodile came to be living in a Swedish greenhouse, but the wife of the homeowner said her husband had received the croc as a gift. "My husband has had the crocodile for at least ten years.
"Myself, I would have preferred to use the greenhouse for something else," she said. Experts who have seen police pictures of the crocodile told the paper they are almost certain it is a Nile crocodile. The 40-year-old homeowner, who was keeping the crocodile as a pet, has since been detained by police, who also found a dead crocodile frozen in a freezer on the property. Animal experts, meanwhile, are trying to figure out what to do with the crocodile once it has been confiscated.

"Every confiscated animal gets inspected by vets, who then make a decision about the animal's condition," explained animal inspector Paula Hultgren. "We haven't been able to find any zoos in Sweden that have Nile crocodiles, but there are some in Europe that house this species." When not in Swedish greenhouses, the Nile crocodile is most usually found in sub-Saharan Africa, where it can grow to be up to six meters long. The species, which has been listed by animal protection agency CITES as "threatened with extinction", is the second largest reptile in the world after the saltwater crocodile.

Dutch Police Recruit Rat Detectives To Sniff Out Crime

Derrick, Thomson and Thompson, Magnum, and Poirot are the newest recruits at a Dutch police department. These Rotterdam rats have been trained to keep the streets clean and are expected to save the police both time and money.

Detective Derrick and his rat partners are capable of being trained to identify an impressive range of odors - including drugs and explosives. The rats are kept in a cage with four metal tea strainers attached inside, one of which contains gunpowder. When the rat recognizes the smell, it is rewarded with a small treat. Eventually the rat will learn to move towards the smell instantly.

Sixty Newly Discovered Species in a Rainforest

This is a juvenile planthopper. It's about 5 millimeters long. Many planthoppers secrete a waxy substance which forms into long strands. These strands, which can break off, may distract a predator while the insect escapes to safety.
This little critter is one of 60 species that Dr. Trond Larsen of Conservation International discovered during an expedition to a rainforest in southeastern Suriname. You can see more photos and a video from the expedition here.

Craigslist Post Inspires Others to Help Save Battered Pit Bull

by Danielle Genet
Thanks to a Craigslist post gone viral, Mama Jade is getting another shot at life.
People who know Christianna Willis, 23, know she loves animals and could never turn away a stray. So when the stray pit bull Mama Jade wandered up to her door in Nashville, Tenn., her roommate immediately called Willis asking what to do.
"Put her in a crate, I'll be right there," Willis told her roommate.
Willis, who works as a receptionist at PetMed Veterinary Hospital in Antioch, Tenn., didn't think twice about taking her in.
"They just find me," she told ABC News.
Upon seeing Mama Jade for the first time, Willis knew she was not in good shape.
"I took off her collar and saw rope marks around her neck, bite marks all around her nuzzle and she was really banged up," Willis said. "There was blood in the crate from pressure wounds on her elbows that bust open every time she lies down."
Willis made fast food runs to feed the dog and stayed up with her all night. Willis realized the dog had been severely abused and had been involved in dog fighting. At first, Willis didn't have much hope for the dog. If she made it through the night, figured Willis, she would take the dog to work in the morning and there she would be euthanized.
However, after bringing Mama Jade to work's care, she asked her boss to put it off until the following day. She was so attached to the dog already she thought if they put her down that night she wouldn't have even been able to drive herself home.
That night, Willis sat down to her computer, checked Craigslist as she had been doing to see if anyone had posted a missing dog post, and wrote a post of her own.
She titled her post "Your pit bull has found me and I'm not giving her back," because she wanted people to click on it and see the reason why she was keeping Mama Jade, she said. Willis was so angered by the inhumane treatment Mama Jade had received, she decided to let whoever hurt the dog know that Mama Jade would never be in their hands ever again. And that the way she was treated was not right.
"I never ever thought it would get this big, ever," Willis said.
Now, Mama Jade is experiencing love from all over the world after Willis's post on Craigslist - which has since been flagged and taken off Craigslist - went viral.
Addressing Mama Jade's abuser head-on, Willis wrote in her post, "If I ever find out who did this to the dog we all lovingly know as 'Mama Jade,' I honestly don't know what I would I do. But it would probably involve contacting your mother and informing her of what a monster she managed to raise."
The Craigslist post inspired Willis to create a Facebook page in support of Mama Jade. After all, she received thousands of emails of support from people all over the world. In only three days, the Facebook page has already received more than 100,000 likes and counting.
As for Mama Jade, she is currently in the care of PetMed and has been undergoing treatment for a variety of health issues. Many people have come forward to offer their help, Willis said, and the hospital will be going through the various options and picking the ones that are best for her.
Additionally, Willis said she plans to set up a fund over the weekend for donations towards Mama Jade's care. She plans on posting the link through her Facebook page. Any additional donations that come in once Mama Jade's health care costs are covered will go to PetMed's need fund, which is a fund that helps families that cannot afford their pet's care.
Jean Harrison, founder and coordinator of Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, helped take care of Mama Jade for a few days. She warns Mama Jade's situation is not unique.
"It's great she's getting an incredible amount of attention, but she's not even the worse one we've seen this week," Harrison said.
Big Fluffy Dog Rescue has seen three severe cases in the past two weeks that make Mama Jade's condition seem tame, she added. The lack of government oversight, lack of anti-animal cruelty laws and poor regulation contributes to the prevalence of these animal abuse cases in the South and other rural areas.
Willis said she hopes Mama Jade's story will help to eliminate the stigma surrounding pit bulls.
"Mama Jade has this chance to shed light on a situation that isn't really understood," Willis said. "I strongly believe people are the problem and you can make any dog vicious."
Howard Nachamie, a New York veterinarian who did not treat Mama Jade, told ABC News that although it's hard to train an old dog new tricks, pit bulls can be sweet and gentle. The first four to six months of a dog's life are the formative years. After that, how they respond to treatment depends on how old the dog is at the time, how aggressive they are and how they were trained, he said.
Willis said the public perception of using pit bulls in music videos and dressing them in spiked collars just perpetuates the stigma.
"Even though we don't know the extent of what happened to her, she still loves people unconditionally." Willis said. "She's a little afraid when you touch her, she gets still like a statue when you pet her, because she's so used to people not touching her or at least not in a friendly manner."
Through it all, Willis says, Mama Jade never lost her spirit. Willis too has been touched. In an update she posted on Craigslist, she writes, "The response has been overwhelming and has restored a lot of my faith in humanity."

Animal Pictures


Excelsior bison, By Melanie M.