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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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Ten reasons to love winter

by Stuart Heritage
Winter is coming. But don't be glum about the short days and cold winds. There's so much to celebrate, from big coats to bonfires.
1 The drama of saying 'Winter is coming' 
Say it out loud now. It feels good, doesn't it? It makes you feel powerful and prophetic. Now try saying it about the other seasons. “Spring is coming.” You sound like Kate Humble. “Autumn is coming.” A weird conker fetishist. “Summer is coming.” Boots advert. But “Winter is coming” is sexy. It's full of drama and foreboding. You're predicting death, essentially. You sound deep. And Game Of Thrones has only enhanced this. Now you're not just declaring that you know the order of the seasons, you're alluding to the fact that you watch good drama. You're telling people you can differentiate between a dizzying number of identically named characters. This means you're cleverer than them. Remember that.
2 Being able to see sunrises
A few weeks ago the only people who saw the sun rise were bakers, night workers and the chronically sleep-deprived. In the dead of winter, the sun doesn't rise until at least seven. Everyone sensible's awake by then, and the first thing they see is a gorgeous pastel explosion: a sky-sized swirl of reds, pinks and yellows that makes them awed to the point of tears to be living on such an impossibly beautiful planet. Then they Instagram it, and it may as well be someone's dinner or a cat's face. Seriously, people are idiots.
3 Carbohydrates are a viable diet option again
The tyranny of summer eating is over. No longer must we force ourselves along to barbecues and picnics to swat wasps and check bits of chicken for blood. Now we get to eat like civilised people: by munching on lumps of meat and potato in a hot brown sauce indoors, while covered in a duvet, drinking red wine and watching The One Show. We can eat hot pies, not cold Ginsters pasties bought from a 24-hour garage because we didn't have time to prepare anything for a picnic. We're allowed to eat hibernation food, gorging on carbs to the point of catatonia, until we become so filled with self-loathing that we buy the first celebrity fitness DVD we see in January, and leave it unopened because we can't believe we've sunk so low.
4 Winter is not summer
It isn't summer, when you can't hide your wobbly belly under a big coat. Summer, when men wear socks with sandals or begin marauding topless so everyone can see the badly spelled prison tattoo tribute to their ex. Heatstroke. Discomfort. Summer is the worst. Now, the air is getting crisper. It becomes impossible to breathe amid pints of vaporized commuter sweat on trains. There are log fires. There are ruddy-faced shopkeepers welcoming you with a hearty chuckle. There are hog roasts on every corner. There are probably lots of things I haven't just ripped off from Dickens. Either way, we can all stop pretending to like summer for another nine months. What a relief.
5 Halloween
This one's harder to explain than most, but stick with me. Now, Halloween is horrible, however you look at it. Trick or treating is institutionalized bullying, the sort of activity that teaches children how to be Apprentice candidates. And if you're over the age of 14 and you're thinking about going outside dressed as a slutty ghost pirate, it's probably time to spend a full hour standing in front of the mirror repeating the word “Why?”
But look what we'd miss without Halloween. The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror episodes. Jedward's shambolic X Factor Ghostbusters performance. The Monster Mash. Heidi Klum's annual Halloween party, which I treat as a reminder that, however bad my life may be, at least I don't have to go to Heidi Klum's Halloween party. The willful destruction of pumpkins. The boost it provides to the ailing £14.99 nylon slutty ghost pirate costume manufacturing industry. Halloween is a good thing. You just have to think hard about it.
6 Bonfire night
I'm talking about bonfire night here, not firework night. Firework night is abysmal. It's not even a night any more, as far as I can tell. The first fireworks of the year are set off at about 3pm on the first Thursday of October and continue intermittently until the middle of January. And they're rubbish. Fireworks are try-hard and samey. They get boring after about three minutes. To my knowledge, nobody has ever witnessed a full firework display without entertaining the thought of self-immolation. But bonfire night is the bee's knees. It has a romance that fireworks can't replicate. Holding a foil-wrapped jacket potato in the mistaken belief that it will ever be cool enough for you to eat. Seeing how close you can edge to the fire without being so overwhelmed by heat and smoke that you pass out. Becoming so hypnotized by the dancing flames lapping at the cold, autumnal sky that you convince yourself you're an obscure pagan god-figure. Trying to eat chips with gloves on.
7 Films stop being about exploding skyscrapers
Summer is when Hollywood tries to make everyone so nauseous from motion sickness that they're able to normalize widespread murder. Take this year's Man Of Steel: a classic summer movie, in that hundreds of thousands of people die, but we were all too busy whooping at a flying superhero to pay attention. But now it's getting cold, films start to be about people again. People from this planet, who barely ever have pitched battles with armies of exploding robots on abandoned oil rigs. Admittedly it's also awards season, so the people I'm referring to are actors and what they're doing tends to be overblown emoting. This all culminates in the Oscars, a 20-hour parade of self-importance and false sincerity, where performers try to convince us that acting is a form of social justice and not just something they did to kiss girls.
8 That bit between Christmas and New Year
Christmas is fine, if being uncomfortably full and trying to make polite conversation with your semi-estranged family is your thing. And New Year, too, if you enjoy overpriced clubs full of whooping idiots. But the real lure of the festive season is the bit between Christmas and New Year. Festive perineum, as I wish it was called. Time slows to a crawl and days lose all meaning. Your entire life becomes one of exquisite boredom. It's a time for watching that box set you never got round to. For never getting properly dressed. For eating nothing but cold meat and Quality Street. For feeling superhumanly smug about not being a nurse, or a shop worker, or one of those bargain-obsessed lunatics who queue outside Next in the freezing rain at 3am on Boxing Day. It's like a sick day where you're not drowning in mucus. It's what being kept in a Matrix-style amniotic battery pod would be like if the robots had been thoughtful enough to provide onesies and Matchmakers. It's the greatest leveler in the land. I'm already excited.
9 Pop-up calendar shops
I'm bewildered as to why pop-ups are so trendy. Lining for three hours to eat an overpriced burger in a dilapidated shed (even though there's a McDonald's right there) isn't new or revelatory. Calendar shops have been doing this for years. Calendar shops invented the pop-up, and it's time they got the recognition they deserve. They dictate the thing you'll spend an entire year looking at. Football players? Airbrushed drawings of cars? The woman who came fourth in Celebrity Big Brother? It's all there. I'm looking at a picture of Jason Statham right now. Would I be if a pop-up calendar shop hadn't caught my eye last December? Perhaps, but maybe not this specific picture.
10 The first snow of the year
When I was a primary school teacher, lessons would come screeching to a halt when it snowed. “SNOW!” the kids would scream. They'd smoosh their grinning faces against the windows to take in the wonder. This, it turns out, is something everyone does. Magistrates, funeral directors, brain surgeons, members of Cobra; at the first glimpse of snow, they'll all yelp with delight, mash their faces against the nearest window and wonder what they're getting for Christmas.
When the first snowflake hits the ground, everything transforms. Trains seize up. Schools close. Everybody gets a day off, even if they work from home. The naysayers might whine that snow never stops anything in Canada, but that's because they're genetically opposed to fun. For the rest of us, the first snow of the year – and the chaos it creates – is perfect. (Please note that this applies only to the very first snowfall, and for a maximum of 24 hours. Once it turns to slush and freezes into a rock-hard grey slab of death, or gets deep enough to go over your shoes and make your socks wet, or stops me from doing anything I want to do, I'm done with the wonder.)

Today in History

1270 The Seventh Crusade ends by the Treaty of Barbary.
1485 Henry VII of England crowned.
1697 The Treaty of Ryswick ends the war between France and the Grand Alliance.
1838 Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Lorian County, Ohio becomes the first college in the U.S. to admit female students.
1899 Two battalions of British troops are cut off, surrounded and forced to surrender to General Petrus Joubert's Boers at Nicholson's Nek.
1905 The czar of Russia issues the October Manisfesto, granting civil liberties and elections in an attempt to avert the burgeonng supprot for revolution.
1918 The Italians capture Vittorio Veneto and rout the Austro-Hungarian army.
1918 Turkey signs an armistice with the Allies, agreeing to end hostilities at noon, October 31.
1922 Mussolini sends his black shirts into Rome. The Fascist takeover is almost without bloodshed. The next day, Mussolini is made prime minister. Mussolini centralized all power in himself as leader of the Fascist party and attempted to create an Italian empire, ultimately in alliance with Hitler's Germany.
1925 Scotsman John L. Baird performs first TV broadcast of moving objects.
1938 H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds is broadcast over the radio by Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. Many panic believing it is an actual newscast about a Martian invasion.
1941 The U.S. destroyer Reuben James, on convoy duty off Iceland, is sunk by a German U-boat with the loss of 96 Americans.
1950 The First Marine Division is ordered to replace the entire South Korean I Corps at the Chosin Reservoir area.
1953 US Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower formally approves a top secret document to maintain and expand the country's nuclear arsenal.
1961 The USSR detonates "Tsar Bomba," a 50-megaton hydrogen bomb; it is still (2013) the largest explosive device of any kind over detonated.
1965 US Marines repeal multiple-wave attacks by Viet Cong within a few miles of Da Nang where the Marines were based; a sketch of Marine positions was found on the body of a 13-year-old boy who had been selling the Americans drinks the previous day.
1973 The Bosphorus Bridge is completed at Istanbul, Turkey, connecting Europe and Asia over the Bosphorus Strait.
1974 The "Rumble in the Jungle," a boxing match in Zaire that many regard as the greatest sporting event of the 20th century, saw challenger Muhammad Ali knock out previously undefeated World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman.
1975 Prince Juan Carlos becomes acting head of state in Spain, replacing the ailing dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.
1985 Space Shuttle Challenger lifts off for its final successful mission.
1991 BET Holdings Inc., becomes the first African-American company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
2005 The rebuilt Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) that was destroyed during the firebombing of Dresden in WWII is rededicated.

Non Sequitur


Raise the minimum wage already

Here in America, we have some choices. 

1. Raise the minimum wage to a living wage so that people working those jobs can survive, without (or with minimal) government assistance. This will mean a minor increase in prices, but it will save you from paying higher taxes to pay for food stamps, heating assistance, etc.

2. Keep the minimum wage low, yet continue to pay higher taxes to support the poor through food stamps, heating assistance, etc. Even if you don't use the services paying minimum wages, you will help pay their workers.

3. Allow lower wages and do not pay the taxes to support the low wage workers. Turn them into virtual slaves - living on the brink of starvation and without adequate shelter.

To anyone with even an ounce of common sense, #1 is the obvious choice in a nation as rich as ours.

It's Poll Time

Are all religio-wingnuts completely stupid?


Grayson’s Firestorm

The repugican cabal Says the Truth is Unacceptable and Deplorable
Grayson said, "I'm calling them out for their hate. That's not wrong. That needs to be done. It's the only way to end it."…
Grayson KKK
During the shrub years it became commonplace for repugicans to act outraged and demand apologies from Democrats any time a Democrat spoke the truth about what was taking place.
They haven’t given up on that. They have learned it is an effective way of deflecting attacks and unwanted attention and given control of the media, they have gotten away with it time and again, ensuring that there is no debate on the things they say and do, but rather on the reactions of the liberals and progressives who object.
Alan Grayson (D-FL) has been outspoken in his opposition to the tea party and its politics. When he sent out a fundraising email earlier this week using a burning cross for the “t” in tea party he started, if you’ll pardon the expression, a firestorm. The repugicans reacted immediately, saying the truth was “unacceptable and deplorable.”
Tea Party KKK
In other words, in another telling example of tea party logic, speaking the truth about hate is somehow worse than the hate itself.
Faux News, which makes hay with “over-the-top rhetorical bomb at its political foes” somehow managed to claim, without a trace of irony, that Grayson “is known for lobbing over-the-top rhetorical bombs at his political foes.” Faux News went on to say Grayson has “a history of inflammatory comments” but Faux News itself relies on an endless stream of inflammatory comments to inflame the base.
Grayson released a statement Wednesday referencing the tea party’s habit of making racist remarks and concluded, “IF the hood fits, wear it.”
In an interview with Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV, Grayson said,
“I think the tea party should expel those members who engage in hate speech…. So many members of the tea party have engaged in hate speech against the president, against the first lady, against numerous members of the Congress and against me. And we could give you examples of that.”
Grayson said, “I’m calling them out for their hate. That’s not wrong. That needs to be done. It’s the only way to end it.”
Is Grayson wrong? No, he’s not. The tea party is a völkisch (ethnic nationalist) movement with strong ties to secessionist feeling in the South. Racism abounds in the tea party. They exchange and publish racist images of President Barack Obama and the First Lady, they wave Confederate battle flags – the flag of the Southern slave-owning states. It is a prominent part of their rhetoric. Point to any of this, however, and the tea party reacts like they are reacting now.

The thing is, this KKK comparison has been made by scholars. As Huffington Post observed Tuesday,
Grayson’s comparison is not novel. Professors Matt Barretto and Christopher Parker, in their book “tea party, Change They Can’t Believe In,” published by Princeton University Press, make a similar case. “The authors argue that this isn’t the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege,” the book’s blurb reads. “In fact, movements of this kind often appear when some individuals believe that ‘American’ values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the tea party and wingnut reactionary movements of the past, including the Know-Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society, Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the tea party to shed light on its current and future consequences.
“How dare you tell the truth about us!” This is the same reaction we’ve seen in the recent past from various tea party candidates, including Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, and others.
The Religio-wingnut’s racist ex-president of the (anti)Family Research Council, Gary Bauer, posted just such a complaint at his Campaign for Working Families on Wednesday:
Here we go again. Liberals and their media allies constantly blame hateful rhetoric on the right for the meltdown of civility in Washington. Yet while repugicans passed bill after bill to avoid the government shutdown, Democrats refused to consider them, all the while comparing repugicans to “hijackers,” “arsonists” and “terrorists.”
With the government shutdown over, have Democrats stopped the name calling? Not a chance! In fact, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) went a step further, sending out a fundraising email equating the tea party with the KKK. An image in Grayson’s email spelled out “tea party,” but the “T” was a burning cross. (See it here.)
And get this: The context of the email was a recent interview Grayson did with Al Sharpton discussing the government shutdown. Even when discussing fiscal policy differences, liberals like Alan Grayson inevitably resort to demonizing wingnuts as racists.
If Barack Obama were serious about bi-partisan cooperation, which he isn’t, he would start by publicly condemning Alan Grayson.
Keep in mind, this self-righteous Gary Bauer is the same Gary Bauer who told the Values Voter Summit in 2012 that Obama’s supporters are mostly welfare recipients, and who, leading up to Obama’s re-election in 2012, said that Obama depended on army of welfare recipients and fraudulent votes for re-election and afterward asserted that “voter fraud is rampant in urban areas.”
In fact, this July, Bauer sent out an offensive email of his own. As Right Wing Watch relates,
In an email to supporters of his Campaign for Working Families today, Gary Bauer wondered why African Americans are still so upset about racism and continue “falling through the cracks” when “every major goal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been reached.”
In the email — “Will Holder Persecute George Zimmerman?” — Bauer laments that discussions on race can’t happen in America because “it inevitably degenerates into another round of bashing non-minorities and an indictment of America’s past sins.” Social services, “‘gangsta’ culture” and a lack of patriotic education, Bauer claims, are the real culprits for problems in the black community.
For people like Bauer, whites are the victims of racism, not its perpetrators. Truth-speakers like Alan Grayson cannot be allowed to re-direct the debate by focusing on the facts of racism, and especially not on the tea party’s hate-filled rhetoric.
The repugicans want to hate with impunity and play the victim when called out. As Alan Grayson said, this has to end. We must not let them turn Grayson into the hater. Grayson spoke truth to power and we have few enough today who are brave enough to do so.

Oopsie: Spying on Chancellor Merkel’s Phone Started Under the shrub, Not Obama

merkel bush 
After all of the concern about Obama’s spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, it looks like the NSA has been spying on her phone since 2002. Yeah, that’s right. Her phone got bugged under the massage artist formerly known as the shrub.
Reuters reported Saturday that a Der Spiegel report said Merkel’s phone had been listed by the NSA since 2002. They also reported that President Obama said he didn’t know about it and would have stopped it if he had:
The United States may have bugged Angela Merkel’s phone for more than 10 years, according to a news report on Saturday that also said President Barack Obama told the German leader he would have stopped it happening had he known about it.
Der Spiegel said Merkel’s mobile telephone had been listed by the NSA’s Special Collection Service (SCS) since 2002 – marked as “GE Chancellor Merkel” – and was still on the list weeks before Obama visited Berlin in June….
Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung also said Obama had told Merkel he had not known of the bugging.
Cue the incredulous denial by Americans who still believe that the President is in charge of the NSA, the Pentagon, the CIA, and other secretive and powerful agencies devoted to our “protection”.
The agency admitted it had not legally registered the spying branch:
In an SCS document cited by the magazine, the agency said it had a “not legally registered spying branch” in the U.S. embassy in Berlin, the exposure of which would lead to “grave damage for the relations of the United States to another government”.
From there, NSA and CIA staff were tapping communication in the Berlin’s government district with high-tech surveillance.
Of course the NSA doesn’t tell President Obama certain things, for his sake (plausible deniability) as well as the fact that he might object and that would be awkward. Frankly this is just embarrassing all the way around, especially after the White House’s carefully crafted rebuttal days ago that they would not be spying on Merkel’s phone in the future and were not now spying on her phone (note no reference to the past):
The White House responded that Merkel’s mobile is not being tapped. “The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of the chancellor,” said a statement from Jay Carney, the White House spokesman
I’m not so sure I’d believe that if I were Merkel. Maybe Obama can get them to stop spying on Merkel for now, so long as he is in office, but will they be asking permission next time and will they stop bugging others’ phones?
These agencies don’t ask permission from anyone, and as much fun as it would be to pin spying on Merkel’s phone on the shrub since it started under him, I doubt anyone serious about protecting this country would have asked his permission for anything. Not because he would have denied permission – this sort of thing was right up his alley, but because he didn’t need to know. That is not to suggest that certain members of his junta (waving at Dick Cheney) were not informed or even behind such policies.
The purposeful friction between the public’s demand for transparency and national security’s need for secrecy is ongoing and will never end. If we don’t stand up to the power grabs and the elected officials support them, they grow even larger. But they will never go away — they are not supposed to go away.
We’ve been spying on Merkel’s phone since 2002. Should we hold our breath to await the same outrage aimed at Obama to be aimed at the shrub now? Oh, I kid. Let’s not falsely equate lies about WMD or W’s egregious abuse of “terror” levels used as repugican assistance during elections with the ugly truth about national security operations.

In a Private Memo, repugican Strategist Explains Why The repugican cabal is Dying

Jeff Miller's memo was meant to be private, but as part of the documents included in the investigation into the Koch brothers dark money, it is now public.…
The Koch brothers’ dark money screwed repugicans again.
In California, an FPPC investigation into wingnut groups funneling money into the 2012 state election turned a previously private repugican cabal strategist’s memo public. The memo repugican consultant and fundraiser Jeff Miller wrote to his clients was meant to be private, but as part of the documents included in the investigation into the Koch brothers dark money, it is now public.
The state ended up levying $16 million in fines against wingnut groups, which they probably won’t end up paying but a legislative point has been made.
Miller’s memo is a death knell for California repugicans, noting that the only way they are going to be able to hang on is to “to try and force the Democrats into making mistakes”. Miller has a strong reputation within the business community, so his words should carry some weight.
Cathleen Decker at the LA Times reported:
“Over the last two decades, California’s working class has slowly migrated out of the state and Latino and women voters are completely disenfranchised with the repugican cabal. There are only a few pockets of wingnut voters left in the state and they are only able to help carry the day for repugicans in ultra-low turnout elections on issues where campaign spending is at parity or to the repugican advantage, and where the Democratic and union grass-roots apparatus is not activated,” Miller’s memo said.
“There is no good way to sugarcoat this. … The repugican label is anathema to younger voters, women and Latinos — growing voter blocs with real significance to future elections.”
“We are going to be on permanent defense in California for the foreseeable future,” the memo went on, “and even then, we will need to pick our battles wisely and not spread ourselves too thin. While playing defense, we’re going to have to try and force the Democrats into making mistakes that we can use to score small victories and build momentum.”
Miller also admitted that the repugicans’ traditional funding base is the corporate world. It’s important to note this because the repugican base seems to be blissfully unaware of this fact, and the Libertarians who think they stand for freedom but vote repugican also seem unaware of this. Miller also claimed that the corporate world doesn’t want to help California repugicans anymore because they prefer to work with dominant Democrats.
Miller is not new to pointing out the inevitable failure of the repugican cabal’s current path. In 2011, he stepped down as finance chairman after warning the party that they were speaking to just 30 percent of the electorate.
Democrats the nation wide should note Miller’s concern that wingnuts can only carry the day when there is ultra-low turnout. This is why repugicans work so hard to depress the morale of the Democratic base by constantly bashing Obama, bashing any policy of Obama’s, concern trolling under fake IDs as disenchanted liberals, and using the allegedly Libertarian left to loudly denounce Obama as a tyrant who is just like the shrub.
Jeff Miller is one of the few repugicans who are dealing with reality. He can see that there is no way out of the hole they’ve dug with their failed ideology except to force Democrats into making mistakes, aka, fear-mongering and lying about Democrats. Said fear-mongering is ironically why this memo was made public. If the Koch brothers hadn’t been improperly funneling money from hidden donors into California through a “non-profit” (hello, IRS “scandal”) labeled “Center to Protect Patient Rights” and “Americans for Responsible Leadership”, none of this would have come to light.
But then, the repugican cabal’s brand collapse is hardly news to the rest of the civilized world; rather, this memo is just confirmation that repugicans know their brand is crap and all they have now is forcing Democrats into making errors and using the Koch brothers’ money to fear monger about policies that actually serve the people. So when they smug it up on TV and warn Americans about Obama spying on them through ObamaCare, just remember, they know. They know they are full of it but it’s all they have.

This repugican Makes what Might Be the Dumbest Statement about the Shutdown Yet

Before, during and now after the government shutdown, we’ve been inundated with nonstop political rhetoric.  Each side blaming the other for the entire mess and each side claiming victory once the whole embarrassing fiasco finally ended.Well, needless to say, with all that rhetoric flying back and forth there have been a number of completely boneheaded statements.
Throughout the whole debacle, one of the areas that bugged me the most was the blatantly over the top whining from repugicans over the closure of our monuments.  Granted, our monuments should never be shut down—but then neither should our government.  It always made me laugh to see repugicans force a government shutdown, then cry and complain about the ramifications of that shutdown.
And in true right-wing fashion, they found the talking point that got all of their conservatives up in a tizzy.  ”How dare President Obama deny Americans access to our national monuments!  How dare he deny veterans access to their monuments!  He’s un-American!”
Of course, repugicans took off and ran with this whole line of nonsense since it played perfectly into what their base wanted to hear.
But in the case of Georgia Representative Paul Broun, he took this rhetoric to a whole other level with his stupidity and apparent inability to know much about history or read a calendar.
During an interview, the repugican congressman had this to say:
“There was absolutely no reason, whatsoever, for this administration to block access to the World War Two Memorial or the Lincoln Memorial. It’s never ever been done in a government shutdown prior to this administration doing so.”
And you know what?  He’s absolutely right about the World War II Memorial.  During the 90′s shutdown, the World War II Memorial was never closed.
Because it didn’t exist until 2004. 
As for the Lincoln Memorial, he’s completely wrong.  The Lincoln Memorial was, in fact, closed during the repugican-led shutdown of the 90′s.
It’s this kind of ignorance that astounds me.  I’m not saying you need to be a genius to be a member of Congress, but this level of total buffoonery is baffling.
Because when he made these statements (and I’m sure he’s been beating this drum the whole time) he was either too stupid to know the facts about when the World War II Memorial was built, or willfully lied to the American people.
And you know, I could almost give him a pass for maybe being confused about the Lincoln Memorial closure in the 90′s, or maybe the date of the World World II Memorial being built, but not both.  So either he’s a babbling idiot or he’s blatantly lying to the American people to stir up fear and hatred.
But when you take into account some of the asinine remarks he’s made in the past where he called biology and geology “lies straight from the pits of hell” and said that healthcare reform reminds him of “Northern Aggression”…
I’m just going to go ahead and assume he’s simply a babbling idiot.

Texas Voter ID Law Prevents Women from Voting while Married

womens vote suppression
If you’re a woman in Texas, getting married or divorced could cost you your vote, especially if you drive too.  In fact, repugicans are counting on it.
Under Texas’ new voter ID law, Women who were married or divorced will have to update  their voter ID to match their current legal name.
It means first, middle and surname on your voter ID must be your current legal name and must match with your voter registration card exactly. This is serious stuff.  Some estimates suggest this law affects 34% of eligible women voters. It is complicated, as a Texas judge found out the hard way.
District court Judge, Sandra Watts  was flagged for voter fraud because her driver’s license lists her maiden name as her middle name, but her voter registration form lists her real middle name.  This was never a problem for Watts during the past 49 years in which she voted with the same identification, containing the same information.
One may be tempted to suggest Watts and other women should have known to coordinate their voter registration card with the state mandated name on their driver’s license.  However, we’re talking about Texas.  As Watts noted,  the state mandated that women use their maiden name as their middle name on their driver’s license in 1964 and the problem with the registration card is a direct result of the new voter ID law.
I don’t think most women know that this is going to create a problem,” Watts said. That their maiden name is on their driver’s license, which was mandated in 1964 when I got married, and this. And so why would I want to use a provisional ballot when I’ve been voting regular ballot for the last 49 years?
Watts had to sign a “voter affidavit” to affirm she really was the person her ID said she was.  The other alternative would be the provisional ballot that won’t be counted until at least a week after an election.
Aside from the fact that getting the underlying documents for acceptable voter ID’s cost money that repugicans hope will price poor people out, access to DMV in Texas adds to the challenge, especially if you’re Hispanic.  There aren’t any DMV offices in 81 of Texas’s 254 districts, most of which are predominantly Hispanic.
Single women may think twice before taking their husband’s name or going the hyphenated route.  Married women (or women who are divorced) have to make sure their voter registration information matches exactly the information on their driver’s license.  We can hope that courts will see this for the voter version of a TRAP law that it is.  In the meantime, spread the word and get prepared.
Of course, the boys club will claim there is no trick, no complication – nothing that women can’t handle, snicker.
One might be tempted to think that repugicans did this because Greg Abbott is afraid of Wendy Davis.  In reality, repugicans in Texas should be afraid of every woman whose vote they are trying to suppress.



Five foods you should eat this fall

Think outside the box in your fall food preparation

Brussel Sprouts

Your mom probably never gave you better advice than when she said, "Eat your fruits and veggies."

But eating healthy may seem harder come fall, when favorite produce options dwindle and less familiar ones appear.Never fear. Now that warm months are gone -- and with them the berries, corn and other produce we find easier to incorporate into our diets -- a new menu of foods is available to keep you healthy and happy.
Foods in season during fall may appear less appealing -- especially if you aren't sure how to prepare them, or are feeding a family of less adventurous eaters. But in addition to the nutritional benefits of foods such as Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, you'll find another positive: the exponential number of tasty ways in which they can be prepared.
Take advantage of the opportunity and think outside the box in your fall food preparation.
Here are five foods that you should eat this season:
1. Pumpkin -- Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie are traditionally associated with this fruit, but there are other ways to incorporate pumpkin into your daily life.
The meat of the pumpkin is worth having more than one day a year thanks to its high percentage of vitamin A, carotenoids and fiber. But pumpkin seeds shouldn't be overlooked either. The seeds, a great snack, are concentrated sources of vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain an amino acid proven to boost your mood.
Simply roast up some pumpkin seeds and keep them on hand as your go-to fall snack.
2. Brussels sprouts -- Brussels sprouts have seen a recent rise in popularity, and that's a good thing as their buds are exceptionally rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Sprouts offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They are also believed to help protect against cardiovascular diseases as well as colon and prostate cancer.
If the taste isn't for you, try roasting instead of steaming: Roasting Brussels sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper caramelizes their natural sugars and brings out a sweetness that you won't be able to resist.
3. Pears -- When you're looking for a healthy snack to munch on, turn to a pear.
One of the highest fiber fruits, pears offer about six grams that'll help you meet your daily requirement of 25 to 30 grams. A high-fiber diet helps to keep your blood sugar level stable, cholesterol levels down, and is linked to heart benefits as well as a reduced risk of certain cancers.
Pears also contain vitamins C, K, B2, B3 and B6 in addition to calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
Pears are easy to incorporate into your fall menu as they'll add a sweet kick to any dish. Try them on their own, baked or poached, chopped in a salad or in a soup.
4. Cauliflower -- Bored with side salads but want to up the nutritional value of your side dish? Look no further than cauliflower.
Cauliflower is low in calories with only 26 per 100 grams, and the health benefits are top-notch. A flower head contains several anti-cancer phytochemicals and is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 grams provides about 80 percent of the daily recommended value.
It also has a proven antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals while boosting immunity and preventing infections.
Fans of mashed potatoes can mash cauliflower instead for an easy alternative with about a quarter of the calories and an equal amount of deliciousness.
5. Sweet potatoes -- Another Thanksgiving classic, sweet potatoes don't need to be candied to be enjoyed. Full of natural sweetness, nothing tastes better than simply baking them. Top 'em with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of nutmeg for added enjoyment.
Sweet potatoes are packed with calcium, potassium and vitamins. A medium-size sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10 percent of the necessary potassium.
The plentiful antioxidants found in sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial to those suffering from asthma or arthritis. You'll never even miss the candied ones.

These Doritos Are Kind of Cheesy, But Also Fancy

Love cheese and Doritos, but tired of Nacho Cheese Doritos? Then you just might love the new limited edition flavor just released in Japan - Camembert flavor. These tasty treats will be available from now until January 2014, but you'll have to get a hold of them by traveling to Japan or find someone from Japan to send you some if you want to try them.
While InventorSpot questions the notion of having such a fancy, gourmet flavor on something as snacktastic and corny as Doritos, but as a huge fan of snack food and luxurious cheeses, I would love to try some of these tasty teats.

McDonald's dumps Heinz over ex-Burger King CEO

When Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway bought Heinz last June, they made Bernardo Hees CEO; previously, Hees had served as CEO of Burger King. McDonald's is apparently not happy about this: they've announced that they're dumping Heinz products in their stores. I wonder if they think Hees will feed competitive intelligence back to BK about McD's operations? Presumably he still has a massive chuck of BK stock, and you could probably derive a lot of inside dope about McDonald's by having precise insight into the supply chain for a critical element of its business. Or maybe they're just vindictive corporate barons who take the rah-rah team-sports game of company loyalty way too seriously.
"As a result of recent management changes at Heinz, we have decided to transition our business to other suppliers over time," McDonald's said in a statement.
"We have spoken to Heinz and plan to work together to ensure a smooth and orderly transition," said McDonald's, which has more than 34,000 restaurants around the globe.
A spokesman for Heinz did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Texting while Driving

How Much Getting Caught Will Cost You in Various States
While fatal car crashes are on the decline, fatalities due to accidents involving cell phones - including talking on the phone and texting while driving - are on the rise. In fact, texting while driving is now the leading cause of death for crashes involving teenage drivers.
Forty seven out of 50 states in the United States have now banned texting and driving, with a wide range of fines. Mother Jones magazine has put together a map of how much it will cost you if you got caught, depending on the state. The fines range from $20 for first time offender in California (the fines go up for subsequent offenses) to a whopping $10,000 (and up to a year in prison) in Alaska.
Some states (Montana, Arizona and South Dakota), however, do not have any legislation banning texting and driving, whereas others impose the ban only on new drivers (like Texas, for example). In Florida and Ohio, drivers can be fined for texting but cannot be pulled over unless they break other laws first (like speeding, for example).

Random Celebrity Photos


Rita Hayworth
Rita Hayworth

New HIV strain rapidly spreading in Russia

A scientific research center in Siberia said Wednesday that it has discovered a new strain of HIV in Russia and that the virus is spreading “at a rapid rate.”
The subtype, known as 02_AG/A, was first detected in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk in 2006 and now accounts for more than 50 percent of new HIV infections in the region, Novosibirsk’s Koltsovo science city said in a statement.
The number of HIV-positive people living in the Novosibirsk Region has leaped from about 2,000 in 2007 up to 15,000 in 2012, the statement said, citing Russia’s Federal AIDS Center.
02_AG/A might be the most virulent form of HIV in Russia, said Natalya Gashnikova, head of the retroviruses department at the Vektor state biotechnology research center at Koltsovo, whose specialists discovered the strain.
She said the virus could spread much faster than Russia’s current leading HIV strain, subtype A(I).
The new strain is not limited to the vast area of Siberia. It has been detected in Russia’s southern republic of Chechnya, as well as the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, the institute said.
HIV, a retrovirus that causes slow failure of the immune system, has two types: HIV-1 and HIV-2. The latter is considered less virulent and transmissible. Scientists say HIV-1 is the most common strain, and divide it into subtypes based on various forms that are grouped in geographic regions around the world.
According to the United Nations, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are the only regions in the world where the HIV infection is clearly on the rise. Fifty-two percent of the HIV-positive people that live across that area are in Russia.
The disease remains poorly understood in Russia and, according to experts at Koltsovo, research into the spread and properties of new HIV strains is underfunded. Russian schools generally offer little or no sex education, a factor that is believed to contribute to a high HIV infection rate from lack of awareness about sexually transmitted diseases.
Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s children’s rights advocate, said in September that he opposed teaching teenagers about sexual health in school, adding that Russian literature is “the best sex education there is.”

Man dead 8 years found hanging in flat near Paris

The mummified body of a man who hanged himself eight years ago was found Oct. 18, 2013, in an apartment in Bussy-Saint-Georges, a Paris suburb.
The buyer of an apartment outside Paris was shocked last week by the discovery of something more at home in haunted houses on Halloween: the hanging, mummified body of the previous owner, who killed himself eight years ago.
The dead man, who was about 40 years old, had severed ties with his family in Cambodia and was last heard from in 2005 when he filed a complaint after being fired from his job as a security guard, Agence France-Presse reported. He had hanged himself with a sheet.
The flat, in the eastern commuter suburb of Bussy-Saint-Georges, had been repossessed by a bank and was sold at auction, police and judicial sources said. The buyer bought the property sight unseen and needed a locksmith to enter.
"The body was in perfect condition, as was the apartment," one source told AFP.
Authorities could not immediately explain why the body had not decomposed and putrified or why neighbors in the four-story, 20-unit building did not detect or report any foul smells.
Some residents said that they thought the previous owner, who was not identified, had returned to Cambodia, or that the apartment was abandoned.

The Mummy's Curse

Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamun in Egypt in 1922. On March 24, 1923, novelist Marie Corelli warned him in the press that bad things happen to those who desecrate tombs. Within two weeks, Lord Carnarvon was dead from an infection brought on by a mosquito bite he suffered just two days after Corelli's warning was published. The mummy's curse caused it, of course.
The idea of the mummy’s curse was already a popular story, but Carnarvon’s demise (and Corelli’s apparent prediction of it) turned it into one of the great legends of the age. Rumours quickly spread that Carter had found warnings in the tomb itself. There were reports of a clay tablet, allegedly found over the tomb’s entrance, that read: ‘Death shall come on swift wings to whoever toucheth the tomb of Pharaoh.’ According to the stories, Carter buried it in the sand in case it scared his labourers into stopping their work. The whole situation was a gift for journalists who, four months after the tomb’s discovery, were desperate for more Tutankhamun-related news. Once the curse story took off, they began running daily updates, roping in scholars to debate whether evil spirits were to blame for Carnarvon’s demise.
In the next twelve years, six of the people who were present when the tomb was opened were dead. The mummy's curse? Not when you consider there were forty people there, and they weren't all young and healthy. Curses against grave-robbing had been around for a long time, and they were particularly attached to mummies when modern archaeologist began to exhume them. How many other mummies were unearthed with no dramatic deaths? But the power of a good story propelled the mummy's curse into popular consciousness. Read how it happened at Aeon magazine.

The REAL ‘Lone Ranger’ Was An African American Lawman Who Lived With Native American Indians

The real “Lone Ranger,” it turns out, was an African American man named Bass Reeves, who the legend was based upon. Perhaps not surprisingly, many aspects of his life were written out of the story, including his ethnicity. The basics remained the same: a lawman hunting bad guys, accompanied by a Native American, riding on a white horse, and with a silver trademark.
Historians of the American West have also, until recently, ignored the fact that this man was African American, a free black man who headed West to find himself less subject to the racist structure of the established Eastern and Southern states.
While historians have largely overlooked Reeves, there have been a few notable works on him. Vaunda Michaux Nelson’s book, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal, won the 2010 Coretta Scott King Award for best author. Arthur Burton released an overview of the man’s life a few years ago. Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves recounts that Reeves was born into a life of slavery in 1838. His slave-keeper brought him along as another personal servant when he went off to fight with the Confederate Army, during the Civil War.
Reeves took the chaos that ensued during the war to escape for freedom, after beating his “master” within an inch of his life, or according to some sources, to death. Perhaps the most intruiging thing about this escape was that Reeves only beat his enslaver after the latter lost sorely at a game of cards with Reeves and attacked him.
After successfully defending himself from this attack, he knew that there was no way he would be allowed to live if he stuck around.
Reeves fled to the then Indian Territory of today’s Oklahoma and lived harmoniously among the Seminole and Creek Nations of Native American Indians.
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After the Civil War finally concluded, he married and eventually fathered ten children, making his living as a Deputy U.S. Marshall in Arkansas and the Indian Territory. If this surprises you, it should, as Reeves was the first African American to ever hold such a position.
Burton explains that it was at this point that the Lone Ranger story comes in to play. Reeves was described as a “master of disguises”. He used these disguises to track down wanted criminals, even adopting similar ways of dressing and mannerisms to meet and fit in with the fugitives, in order to identify them.
Reeves kept and gave out silver coins as a personal trademark of sorts, just like the Lone Ranger’s silver bullets. Of course, the recent Disney adaptation of the Lone Ranger devised a clever and meaningful explanation for the silver bullets in the classic tales. For the new Lone Ranger, the purposes was to not wantonly expend ammunition and in so doing devalue human life. But in the original series, there was never an explanation given, as this was simply something originally adapted from Reeves’ personal life and trademarking of himself. For Reeves, it had a very different meaning, he would give out the valuable coins to ingratiate himself to the people wherever he found himself working, collecting bounties. In this way, a visit from the real “Lone Ranger” meant only good fortune for the town: a criminal off the street and perhaps a lucky silver coin.
Like the Lone Ranger, Reeves was also expert crack shot with a gun. According to legend, shooting competitions had an informal ban on allowing him to enter. Like the Lone Ranger, Reeves rode a white horse almost throughout almost all of his career, at one point riding a light grey one as well.
Like the famed Lone Ranger legend Reeves had his own close friend like Tonto. Reeves’ companion was a Native American posse man and tracker who he often rode with, when he was out capturing bad guys. In all, there were close to 3000 of such criminals they apprehended, making them a legendary duo in many regions.
The final proof that this legend of Bass Reeves directly inspired into the story of the Lone Ranger can be found in the fact that a large number of those criminals were sent to federal prison in Detroit. The Lone Ranger radio show originated and was broadcast to the public in 1933 on WXYZ in Detroit where the legend of Reeves was famous only two years earlier.
Of course, WXYZ and the later TV and movie adaptions weren’t about to make the Lone Ranger an African American who began his career by beating a slave-keeper to death. But now you know. Spread the word and let people know the real legend of the Lone Ranger.

What the Camera Sees

If you don't recognize him, who would you guess this young man in the picture to be? A musician posing for an album cover? An actor in a movie? A model on a fashion photoshoot?

This is Lewis Powell in a photograph taken in 1865. Powell was in custody as one of the Lincoln assassination co-conspirators. He was convicted of the attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Seward on the same night Lincoln was killed.

Michael Sacasas takes a deeper look at the photograph, which seems altogether too modern, in the context of how most portraits looked in 1865. Usually it is fairly obvious how old such pictures are because of the way the subjects are uncomfortable with the camera. After all, it was a fairly new invention at the time. But Powell is staring death in the face, and doesn't care about the camera's eye on him and doesn't feel obligated to cooperate with the photographer. It's certainly not a normal setting for a portrait. There's much more in the article at PetaPIxel, which, in addition to analyzing the picture, tells Powell's story.

Daily Comic Relief


Peak Form

The World's Best Mountain Shots

Peak Form: World's Best Mountain Shots
Lone climbers, stunning weather formations and alpine light grace the images submitted to this year's International Mountain Summit photo contest. They reveal landscapes accessible only to the most adventurous. More

Dinosaur Art

Images of a Prehistoric World

An interview conducted by Frank Patalong
Dinosaur Art: Images of a Prehistoric World
Douglas Henderson is probably the most important living paleoartist. Influenced by 19th-century landscape painting, he depicts a long-disappeared world. He tells Frank Patalong about the stigma attached to his art -- and the trouble with ever-changing science.  More

Ancient bacteria go under the lens

Every fourth breath you take comes from cyanobac­teria, which pop­u­late the planet’s waters. Prog­en­i­tors of these micro­scopic, pho­to­syn­thetic organ­isms are believed to have been the first organ­isms to release oxygen into the atmos­phere. Their evo­lu­tion nearly 3 bil­lion years ago is thought to have enabled all aer­obic life on Earth.
Ancient bacteria go under the lens
Tolypothrix (Cyanobacteria) [Credit: WikiCommons]
But the same process that accounts for one quarter of the planet’s breath­able oxygen has also turned cyanobac­teria into one of the most poorly con­trolled forms of water pol­lu­tion, experts say. Rising ocean tem­per­a­tures and acidity have led to dev­as­tating blooms of marine cyanobac­teria around the globe, over­whelming other native species.

Despite these prob­lems, researchers still don’t have an easy way of studying cyanobac­teria through genetic analysis, according to Jacque­line Piret, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of mol­e­c­ular micro­bi­ology. Piret recently co-​​authored a research paper on the sub­ject in the journal Nature along with former stu­dent Desislava Raytcheva and col­leagues at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nology and the Baylor Col­lege of Medicine.

To over­come these chal­lenges, the research team is inves­ti­gating a virus called Syn5, which infects a cyanobac­te­rial species. “A bac­te­rio­phage virus offers an oppor­tu­nity to engi­neer a vector for car­rying out genetic manip­u­la­tion in the host organism,” Piret explained. By tweaking the host genome through con­trolled viral infec­tion, the researchers can tease out the func­tions of par­tic­ular genes, such as those involved in the har­vest of light energy for photosynthesis.

But in order to use the bac­te­rio­phage to their advan­tage, Piret’s team first needed to under­stand its struc­ture and behavior, as it was still unclear how the virus assem­bled and went on to infect its host.

For her doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion, Raytcheva used painstaking exper­i­mental tech­niques to work out Syn5’s struc­ture, which turned out to be rather unique in that it has a horn pro­truding from the virus’ exte­rior shell. “Very few other viruses are known to have a sim­ilar struc­ture,” she explained.

In 2009, the researchers at North­eastern and MIT began col­lab­o­rating with their col­leagues at Baylor Col­lege of Med­i­cine, which had devel­oped an advanced microscopy tech­nique. The method allowed them to see in almost real-​​time and with striking clarity the Syn5 assembly process that Raytcheva had pieced together.

Piret noted that the imaging data com­ple­ments Raytcheva’s work, pointing to the two-​​pronged approach to get to the assembly process. “You need phys­ical evi­dence,” she said, “and then you need bio­chem­ical infor­ma­tion about the intermediates.”

This work is an impor­tant step toward under­standing how cyanophages infect and assemble inside their hosts. That knowl­edge, said Raytcheva, will be crit­ical for devel­oping methods for both studying and con­trol­ling cyanobacteria.

Bees underwent massive extinction when dinosaurs did

For the first time ever, scientists have documented a widespread extinction of bees that occurred 65 million years ago, concurrent with the massive event that wiped out land dinosaurs and many flowering plants. Their findings, published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, could shed light on the current decline in bee species.
Bees underwent massive extinction when dinosaurs did
For the first time ever, scientists have documented a widespread extinction of in bee group Xylocopinae, or carpenter bees, that occurred 65 million years ago, concurrent with the massive event that wiped out land dinosaurs and many flowering plants [Credit: Sandra Rehan, University of New Hampshire]
Lead author Sandra Rehan, an assistant professor of biological sciences at UNH, worked with colleagues Michael Schwarz at Australia’s Flinders University and Remko Leys at the South Australia Museum to model a mass extinction in bee group Xylocopinae, or carpenter bees, at the end of the Cretaceous and beginning of the Paleogene eras, known as the K-T boundary.

Previous studies have suggested a widespread extinction among flowering plants at the K-T boundary, and it’s long been assumed that the bees who depended upon those plants would have met the same fate. Yet unlike the dinosaurs, “there is a relatively poor fossil record of bees,” says Rehan, making the confirmation of such an extinction difficult.

Rehan and colleagues overcame the lack of fossil evidence for bees with a technique called molecular phylogenetics. Analyzing DNA sequences of four “tribes” of 230 species of carpenter bees from every continent except Antarctica for insight into evolutionary relationships, the researchers began to see patterns consistent with a mass extinction. Combining fossil records with the DNA analysis, the researchers could introduce time into the equation, learning not only how the bees are related but also how old they are.

“The data told us something major was happening in four different groups of bees at the same time,” says Rehan, of UNH’s College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. “And it happened to be the same time as the dinosaurs went extinct.”

While much of Rehan’s work involves behavioral observation of bees native to the northeast of North America, this research taps the computer-heavy bioinformatics side of her research, assembling genomic data to elucidate similarities and differences among the various species over time. Marrying observations from the field with genomic data, she says, paints a fuller picture of these bees’ behaviors over time.

“If you could tell their whole story, maybe people would care more about protecting them,” she says. Indeed, the findings of this study have important implications for today’s concern about the loss in diversity of bees, a pivotal species for agriculture and biodiversity.

“Understanding extinctions and the effects of declines in the past can help us understand the pollinator decline and the global crisis in pollinators today,” Rehan says.

Mopsus mormon Karsch

Northern Green Jumping Spider Spotting Image 1 
The genus Mopsus has only one spider . It is the largest Australian jumping spider, found throughout the warmer regions in the northern part of Australia down as far as Coffs Harbour. Green Jumping spiders are large, beautiful, fast spiders and aggressive predators. They hunt actively on foliage in the day time and can inflict a painful but not lethal bite with large fangs. Due to the whiskers on the sides of their faces and their big eyes the males have a strange baboon-like appearance. Females and males are about the same size, unusual in spiders where males are often smaller. Both males and females hunt during the daytime, camouflaged against green leaves. Often you can't spot them until they move. They are ready biters and can inflict severe pain. Females build their nests and egg sacs between leaves. They prey on insects and other spiders.

Europe Gone Wild

Back to Nature on the Continent

by Manfred Dworschak Europe Gone Wild: Back to Nature on the Continent
Conservationists want to turn parts of Europe back into wilderness, teeming with wild horses, lynxes and native bison. But there are varying interpretations of what "wilderness" means and conflict over how much it should be managed.  More

Animal Pictures