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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Daily Drift

Twenty Days To Go ....

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Today in History

1776 Phi Beta Kappa is organized as the first American college Greek letter-fraternity, at William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Va.
1791 Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies in Vienna.
1861 In the U.S. Congress, petitions and bills calling for the abolition of slavery are introduced.
1862 Union General Ulysses S. Grant's cavalry receives a setback in an engagement on the Mississippi Central Railroad at Coffeeville, Mississippi.
1864 Confederate General John Bell Hood sends Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry and a division of infantry toward Murfreesboro, Tenn.
1904 The Japanese destroy a Russian fleet at Port Arthur in Korea.
1909 George Taylor makes the first manned glider flight in Australia in a glider that he designed himself.
1912 Italy, Austria and Germany renew the Triple Alliance for six years.
1916 David Lloyd George replaces Herbert Asquith as the British prime minister.
1921 The British empire reaches an accord with the Irish revolutionary group the Sinn Fein; Ireland is to become a free state.
1933 The 21st Amendment ends Prohibition in the United States, which had begun 13 years earlier.
1934 Italian and Ethiopian troops clash at the Ualual on disputed the Somali-Ethiopian border.
1936 The New Constitution in the Soviet Union promises universal suffrage, but the Communist Party remains the only legal political party.
1937 The Lindberghs arrive in New York on a holiday visit after a two-year voluntary exile.
1945 Four TBM Avenger bombers disappear approximately 100 miles off the coast of Florida.
1950 Pyongyang in Korea falls to the invading Chinese army.
1953 Italy and Yugoslavia agree to pull troops out of the disputed Trieste border.
1955 A bus boycott begins under the leadership of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama.
1966 Comedian and political activist Dick Gregory heads for Hanoi, North Vietnam, despite federal warnings against it.
1978 The Soviet Union signs a 20-year friendship pact with Afghanistan.
1983 Military Junta dissolves in Argentina.
2006 Commodore Frank Bainimarama overthrows the government in Fiji.
2007 A gunman armed with a semi-automatic rifle kills 8 people at Westroads Mall, Omaha, Neb., before taking his own life.

Non Sequitur


Xmas Countdown Xmas Stories

Once upon a time there stood in the midst of a bleak moor, in the North Country, a certain village. All its inhabitants were poor, for their fields were barren, and they had little trade; but the poorest of them all were two brothers called Scrub and Spare, who followed the cobbler's craft. Their hut was built of clay and wattles. The door was low and always open, for there was no window. The roof did not entirely keep out the rain and the only thing comfortable was a wide fireplace, for which the brothers could never find wood enough to make sufficient fire. There they worked in most brotherly friendship, though with little encouragement.
On one unlucky day a new cobbler arrived in the village. He had lived in the capital city of the kingdom and, by his own account, cobbled for the queen and the princesses. His awls were sharp, his lasts were new; he set up his stall in a neat cottage with two windows. The villagers soon found out that one patch of his would outwear two of the brothers'. In short, all the mending left Scrub and Spare, and went to the new cobbler.
The season had been wet and cold, their barley did not ripen well, and the cabbages never half- closed in the garden. So the brothers were poor that winter, and when Christmas came they had nothing to feast on but a barley loaf and a piece of rusty bacon. Worse than that, the snow was very deep and they could get no firewood.
Their hut stood at the end of the village; beyond it spread the bleak moor, now all white and silent. But that moor had once been a forest; great roots of old trees were still to be found in it, loosened from the soil and laid bare by the winds and rains. One of these, a rough, gnarled log, lay hard by their door, the half of it above the snow, and Spare said to his brother: --
"Shall we sit here cold on Christmas while the great root lies yonder? Let us chop it up for firewood, the work will make us warm."
"No," said Scrub, "it's not right to chop wood on Christmas; besides, that root is too hard to be broken with any hatchet."
"Hard or not, we must have a fire," replied Spare. "Come, brother, help me in with it. Poor as we are there is nobody in the village will have such a yule log as ours."
Scrub liked a little grandeur, and, in hopes of having a fine yule log, both brothers strained and strove with all their might till, between pulling and pushing, the great old root was safe on the hearth, and beginning to crackle and blaze with the red embers.
In high glee the cobblers sat down to their bread and bacon. The door was shut, for there was nothing but cold moonlight and snow outside; but the hut, strewn with fir boughs and ornamented with holly, looked cheerful as the ruddy blaze flared up and rejoiced their hearts.
Then suddenly from out the blazing root they heard: "Cuckoo! cuckoo!" as plain as ever the spring-bird's voice came over the moor on a May morning.
"What is that?" said Scrub, terribly frightened; "it is something bad!"
"Maybe not," said Spare.
And out of the deep hole at the side of the root, which the fire had not reached, flew a large, gray cuckoo, and lit on the table before them. Much as the cobblers had been surprised, they were still more so when it said: --
"Good gentlemen, what season is this?"
"It's Christmas," said Spare.
"Then a merry Christmas to you!" said the cuckoo. "I went to sleep in the hollow of that old root one evening last summer, and never woke till the heat of your fire made me think it was summer again. But now since you have burned my lodging, let me stay in your hut till the spring comes round, -- I only want a hole to sleep in, and when I go on my travels next summer be assured I will bring you some present for your trouble."
"Stay and welcome," said Spare, while Scrub sat wondering if it were something bad or not.
"I'll make you a good warm hole in the thatch," said Spare. "But you must be hungry after that long sleep, -- here is a slice of barley bread. Come help us to keep Christmas!"
The cuckoo ate up the slice, drank water from a brown jug, and flew into a snug hole which Spare scooped for it in the thatch of the hut.
Scrub said he was afraid it would n't be lucky; but as it slept on and the days passed he forgot his fears.
So the snow melted, the heavy rains came, the cold grew less, the days lengthened, and one sunny morning the brothers were awakened by the cuckoo shouting its own cry to let them know the spring had come.
"Now I'm going on my travels," said the bird, "over the world to tell men of the spring. There is no country where trees bud, or flowers bloom, that I will not cry in before the year goes round. Give me another slice of barley bread to help me on my journey, and tell me what present I shall bring you at the twelvemonth's end."
Scrub would have been angry with his brother for cutting so large a slice, their store of barley being low, but his mind was occupied with what present it would be most prudent to ask for.
"There are two trees hard by the well that lies at the world's end," said the cuckoo; "one of them is called the golden tree, for its leaves are all of beaten gold. Every winter they fall into the well with a sound like scattered coin, and I know not what becomes of them. As for the other, it is always green like a laurel. Some call it the wise, and some the merry, tree. Its leaves never fall, but they that get one of them keep a blithe heart in spite of all misfortunes, and can make themselves as merry in a hut as in a palace."
"Good master cuckoo, bring me a leaf off that tree!" cried Spare.
"Now, brother, don't be a fool!" said Scrub; "think of the leaves of beaten gold! Dear master cuckoo, bring me one of them!"
Before another word could be spoken the cuckoo had flown out of the open door, and was shouting its spring cry over moor and meadow.
The brothers were poorer than ever that year. Nobody would send them a single shoe to mend, and Scrub and Spare would have left the village but for their barley-field and their cabbage- garden. They sowed their barley, planted their cabbage, and, now that their trade was gone, worked in the rich villagers' fields to make out a scanty living.
So the seasons came and passed; spring, summer, harvest, and winter followed each other as they have done from the beginning. At the end of the latter Scrub and Spare had grown so poor and ragged that their old neighbors forgot to invite them to wedding feasts or merrymakings, and the brothers thought the cuckoo had forgotten them, too, when at daybreak on the first of April they heard a hard beak knocking at their door, and a voice crying: --
"Cuckoo! cuckoo! Let me in with my presents!"
Spare ran to open the door, and in came the cuckoo, carrying on one side of its bill a golden leaf larger than that of any tree in the North Country; and in the other side of its bill, one like that of the common laurel, only it had a fresher green.
"Here," it said, giving the gold to Scrub and the green to Spare, "it is a long carriage from the world's end. Give me a slice of barley bread, for I must tell the North Country that the spring has come."
Scrub did not grudge the thickness of that slice, though it was cut from their last loaf. So much gold had never been in the cobbler's hands before, and he could not help exulting over his brother.
"See the wisdom of my choice," he said, holding up the large leaf of gold. "As for yours, as good might be plucked from any hedge, I wonder a sensible bird would carry the like so far."
"Good master cobbler," cried the cuckoo, finishing its slice, "your conclusions are more hasty than courteous. If your brother is disappointed this time, I go on the same journey every year, and for your hospitable entertainment will think it no trouble to bring each of you whichever leaf you desire."
"Darling cuckoo," cried Scrub, "bring me a golden one."
And Spare, looking up from the green leaf on which he gazed as though it were a crown-jewel, said: --
"Be sure to bring me one from the merry tree."
And away flew the cuckoo.
"This is the feast of All Fools, and it ought to be your birthday," said Scrub. "Did ever man fling away such an opportunity of getting rich? Much good your merry leaves will do in the midst of rags and poverty!"
But Spare laughed at him, and answered with quaint old proverbs concerning the cares that come with gold, till Scrub, at length getting angry, vowed his brother was not fit to live with a respectable man; and taking his lasts, his awls, and his golden leaf, he left the wattle hut, and went to tell the villagers.
They were astonished at the folly of Spare, and charmed with Scrub's good sense, particularly when he showed them the golden leaf, and told that the cuckoo would bring him one every spring.
The new cobbler immediately took him into partnership; the greatest people sent him their shoes to mend. Fairfeather, a beautiful village maiden, smiled graciously upon him; and in the course of that summer they were married, with a grand wedding feast, at which the whole village danced except Spare, who was not invited, because the bride could not bear his low-mindedness, and his brother thought him a disgrace to the family.
As for Scrub he established himself with Fairfeather in a cottage close by that of the new cobbler, and quite as fine. There he mended shoes to everybody's satisfaction, had a scarlet coat and a fat goose for dinner on holidays. Fairfeather, too, had a crimson gown, and fine blue ribbons; but neither she nor Scrub was content, for to buy this grandeur the golden leaf had to be broken and parted With piece by piece, so the last morsel was gone before the cuckoo came with another.
Spare lived on in the old hut, and worked in the cabbage-garden. [Scrub had got the barley-field because he was the elder.] Every day his coat grew more ragged, and the hut more weather- beaten; but people remarked that he never looked sad or sour. And the wonder was that, from the time any one began to keep his company, he or she grew kinder, happier, and content.
Every first of April the cuckoo came tapping at their doors with the golden leaf for Scrub, and the green for Spare. Fairfeather would have entertained it nobly with wheaten bread and honey, for she had some notion of persuading it to bring two golden leaves instead of one; but the cuckoo flew away to eat barley bread with Spare, saying it was not fit company for fine people, and liked the old hut where it slept so snugly from Christmas till spring.
Scrub spent the golden leaves, and remained always discontented; and Spare kept the merry ones.
I do not know how many years passed in this manner, when a certain great lord, who owned that village, came to the neighborhood. His castle stood on the moor. It was ancient and strong, with high towers and a deep moat. All the country as far as one could see from the highest turret belonged to its lord; but he had not been there for twenty years, and would not have come then only he was melancholy. And there he lived in a very bad temper. The servants said nothing would please him, and the villagers put on their worst clothes lest he should raise their rents.
But one day in the harvest-time His Lordship chanced to meet Spare gathering water-cresses at a meadow stream, and fell into talk with the cobbler. How it was nobody could tell, but from that hour the great lord cast away his melancholy. He forgot all his woes, and went about with a noble train, hunting, fishing, and making merry in his hall, where all travelers were entertained, and all the poor were welcome.
This strange story spread through the North Country, and great company came to the cobbler's hut, -- rich men who had lost their money, poor men who had lost their friends, beauties who had grown old, wits who had gone out of fashion, -- all came to talk with Spare, and, whatever their troubles had been, all went home merry.
The rich gave him presents, the poor gave him thanks. Spare's coat ceased to be ragged, he had bacon with his cabbage, and the villagers began to think there was some sense in him.
By this time his fame had reached the capital city, and even the court. There were a great many discontented people there; and the king had lately fallen into ill humor because a neighboring princess, with seven islands for her dowry, would not marry his eldest son.
So a royal messenger was sent to Spare, with a velvet mantle, a diamond ring, and a command that he should repair to court immediately.
"To-morrow is the first of April," said Spare, "and I will go with you two hours after sunrise."
The messenger lodged all night at the castle, and the cuckoo came at sunrise with the merry leaf.
"Court is a fine place," it said, when the cobbler told it he was going, "but I cannot come there; they would lay snares and catch me; so be careful of the leaves I have brought you, and give me a farewell slice of barley bread."
Spare was sorry to part with the cuckoo, little as he had of its company, but he gave it a slice which would have broken Scrub's heart in former times, it was so thick and large. And having sewed up the leaves in the lining of his leather doublet, he set out with the messenger on his way to court.
His coming caused great surprise there. Everybody wondered what the king could see in such a common-looking man; but scarcely had His Majesty conversed with him half an hour, when the princess and her seven islands were forgotten and orders given that a feast for all comers should be spread in the banquet hall.
The princes of the blood, the great lords and ladies, the ministers of state, after that discoursed with Spare, and the more they talked the lighter grew their hearts, so that such changes had never been seen at court.
The lords forgot their spites and the ladies their envies, the princes and ministers made friends among themselves, and the judges showed no favor.
As for Spare, he had a chamber assigned him in the palace, and a seat at the king's table. One sent him rich robes, and another costly jewels; but in the midst of all his grandeur he still wore the leathern doublet, and continued to live at the king's court, happy and honored, and making all others merry and content.

Did you know ...

That eating with a disabled person does not make you a hero

That ties to the military takes a mental toll on teens

That female genital mutilation procedures are on the rise in Scotland

On facebook: assassination threats are OK, pregnant bellies, not so much

Call your Congresscritter today, help kill patent trolling

It's make or break time for the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), with less than two days until a crucial vote. The Act injects some much-needed reform into the patent system (though it doesn't go far enough), and it's been moving strongly through Congress, coming out of committee with a 33-5 vote. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is asking its supporters to call their reps to tell them to support the bill.
Use our tool to call your representative and tell him or her to support the Innovation Act. (You can also email your member of Congress and urge them to support the bill.)
Though the bill has seen a fair number of changes over the last few weeks as it went through the markup and amendment process—and there may be more amendments coming—it remains an extremely strong force in the fight against patent trolls.
The bill makes it easier and cheaper to fight patent trolls in court, it requires trolls to make their cases for infringement publicly and clearly, and it helps protect end users and consumers when they face suits from patent trolls.

The Article Every Liberal Needs To Show a Wingnut

Sometimes you hit a point where you can no longer sugarcoat your political arguments.  As you hear the same asinine statements constantly repeated, you just hit a point where you want to stand up and say, “Look you babbling buffoon, let me spell it out for you very simply.”Now, most times we can’t do this because the person who we’re debating is a friend or relative and we don’t want to be overly rude.
Well, I’ve decided to do it for you.
Here are a few of my simplified responses to the ignorance by many on some key topics being debated in our country (and probably others as well):
Gun Rights:
I love when I see repugicans showing off some image of a group of “good ol’ boys” holding shotguns and hunting rifles with some caption like “Want to take our guns? Good luck!”  That or someone holding a handgun with a caption along the lines of “Liberals, come and take this!”
Attention all Faux News Sheeple:
Obama never said he was going to take your hunting rifles or handguns away.  He said he wants universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines and a ban on assault weapons (a ban that every repugican pretender in the last 30 years, including Ronald Reagan andthe shrub has supported).
So, when you share these pictures, acting as if you’re “getting at liberal ignorance,” all you’re really doing is spreading an image around the internet that showcases how you–and any other repugican who sees it and thinks “EXACTLY!”–don’t know a damn thing about which you’re speaking.
We’re Out to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage

Unless you want to make divorce illegal, don’t tell me about same-sex marriage “ruining the sanctity of marriage.”
Divorce did that long ago.
Marriage is a Sacred Bond Before god
Alright you religious radicals, I’ll take you on too.
Let’s assume marriage is a “sacred bond before god”.
First, that would eliminate any government involvement to define marriage.  So your push for a government “ban” on same-sex marriage would be pointless.
Second, there are millions of christians who support same-sex marriage and many cults that would marry gay couples.  So isn’t that up to that particular coven?
Or do you feel your covenn should control all others?
Which, if you feel your coven should control all other cults (and rule every American), isn’t that a GIANT violation of the First Amendment, which gives Americans freedom of (or from) cults?
Then if you feel your cult should control all others, and all Americans, you then support a theocracy and apparently oppose the United States and our Constitutionally protected freedoms.
Because this country was largely founded to prevent, not strengthen, theocratic rule.
Same-sex Marriage overall
Honestly, I’m exhausted with the same-sex marriage “debate.”  There is no debate.
Procreation is not a requirement for the right to marry, nor are those who procreate required to get married.
“Homosexuality is a sin” comes from cults.
The term “traditional marriage” is defined from cult text.
Our country does not establish laws based on cults..
Therefore your “arguments” are invalid.
The end.
The repugicans: The cabal for 'christian' Values
If you want to say you’re the party of “christian values” and you worship jesus christ…
Start by helping the sick, the poor, the needy—not opposing programs that do.
The repugicans are for Fiscal Responsibility
Not even close.  There hasn’t been a repugican pretender that’s balanced the budget since Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served from 1953-1961.
Ronald Reagan, thew shrub's daddie and the shrub all drastically increased our national debt.
The repugicans are the cabal of Small Government
Big government regulations, they’re un-American!  They’re unconstitutional and ruining your way of life!
Unless that big government regulates:
  • What language to speak
  • Cult to follow
  • When life is created
  • Who can marry
  • Who can serve in the military
  • Invasive health procedures on women
  • That we have prayer in school
  • Mosques aren’t built in certain locations
  • Corporations are people
  • The Patriot Act
  • Unions don’t have rights
  • When alcohol can be sold
  • The requirement of an ID to vote
Then those government regulations are just fine.  How “small government” of you, repugicans!
Abortion is a Constitutionally protected right.  That isn’t debatable.
You might not agree with abortion, you might think it’s murder, you might think life starts at the moment of conception.
It really doesn’t matter.  Abortion is a Constitutionally protected right—end of story.
So when you, and the party that you support, openly attempt to infringe on that right (or outright says they want to end abortion) you’re supporting a stance that violates a Constitutionally protected right.
For more on the overall hypocrisy of the wingnut’s anti-choice stance, check out this in-depth article.

Good News!

Good News! Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Against Christian College (Video)

Supreme Court Upholds Obamacare Against 'christian' College

Liberty University’s challenge to Obamacare has been rejected by the Supreme Court. The school sued on the grounds that the government could not force a private institution to offer a certain level of health coverage, including birth control.
The school was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell and was originally called Liberty baptist College.
The Court declined to comment on their action.
This decision portends well for the Affordable Care Act in the suit filed by Hobby Lobby covering the same issues. The fight is about contraceptives, which some christian sects view as having the same effect as abortions,
However, both the retail chain and the school could potentially employ people of many different faiths. Also, oral contraceptives are often used in treating a wide spectrum of female issues.
The Hobby Lobby case, which is still pending, asks that corporations be granted religious freedom, as it is theoretically proffered to citizens.
This mirrors Citizens United that allowed corporations to donate to political campaigns in any amount, thus guaranteeing their freedom of speech.
Because having an army of lawyers on Capital Hill apparently isn’t enough expression.

In Blow To Religio-Wingnuts, SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Obamacare Lawsuit

by David Badash
Post image for In Blow To Religious Conservatives, SCOTUS Refuses To Hear Obamacare Lawsuit
The U.S. Supreme Court just announced it will not hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act filed by Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. In a shocking act of hubris, Liberty University actually challenged the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling that found Obamacare is constitutional, and directly questioned the Court’s ruling that called the individual mandate a tax. In Liberty vs. Lew, the University also challenged the employer mandate, including the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
When the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a portion of DOMA this year, Liberty University had some strong words for the Court, claiming it “has lost its legitimacy as an arbiter of the Constitution and the rule of law, and adding, “Today is the death of the Court’s legacy, because the decision in the Federal Defense of Marriage Act case defies logic and is a pure invention of a handful of Justices.”
SCOTUS Blog reports on today’s decision to ignore Liberty University’s case.
The Liberty University case that the Court chose to bypass (Liberty v. Lew, 13-306) involved several challenges to the ACA that the Supreme Court either had refused to review, or had not been appealed to the Court, when the Justices two years ago ruled on the first constitutional challenges to the law.
While agreeing then to review the individual mandate, it refused to review the employer mandate.
The Court in the end upheld the individual mandate under the government’s taxing power, after ruling that the provision was beyond Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause.  Liberty University, besides seeking to contest the employer mandate under the Commerce Clause, also sought review of its constitutionality under the taxing clause.   The University’s petition also contended that the individual mandate violated the religious freedom of the school and of its employees, under the Constitution’s First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In a belated move in its case, Liberty also attempted to challenge the ACA’s contraception mandate on employers, but the Fourth Circuit Court had found that issue was raised too late and it did not decide it.   Last week, the Court agreed to rule on the constitutionality of the contraceptive mandate in two new cases.
Liberty University, and its close affiliate, Liberty Counsel, are, of course, two of the most anti-gay activist organizations in the country. Both are home to the infamous Matt Barber, who says christians love gay people — who are going to hell, and whose Twitter account is often filled with attacks on the LGBT community.

In February, Barber penned an open letter to LGBT teens: “you are not gay.”
Last year, Barber called President Barack Obama “a white-hating, communist, Black Nationalist,” and said that “Obama’s fake ebonics accent is as creepy as any of his hateful race-baiting.” He also told “post-abortive” women they have “blood-covered hands” and the “stench of death.”

California Assembly repugican cabal set up fake healthcare site ...

... and tried to trick their constituents.
California repugicans are desperate and shameless. In the past two weeks, repugican assembly members have sent mailings out on what appears to be the state's dime to their constituents about health insurance. Only, they don't direct those people to coveredca.com to sign up. Instead, they send them to their own astroturf version at the url coveringhealthcareca.com. on their version, there are links to negative articles and twisted messages intended to sour people on signing up for health insurance before they ever land at the official health exchange site.  More
Shouldn't there be a law against this?

Racist Names for Dinesh D'Souza

Nobody tells it like the Rude Pundit
Obama-hating pusbag Dinesh D'Souza tweeted this today: "I am thankful this week when I remember that America is big enough and great enough to survive Grown-Up Trayvon in the White House!"
Out of the blue. Apropos of nothing other than D'Souza's lousy sense of humor. Needless to say, some people were upset that D'Souza essentially said that Obama was nothing more than a hoodie-wearing thug who ought to be shot for looking black and suspicious.

You know, if you're gonna make a racist joke, at least make it funny. To wit, here's a list of things someone could call Dinesh D'Souza, with full awareness that this is totally racist and inappropriate and you should probably stop reading here if you are easily offended by such things, even if it is done with a sense of ironic self-awareness of the implicit racism contained in the eff...okay, here they are:
 1. Grown-up Hadji
 2. Anti-Gandhi
 3. Dumbdog Millionaire
 4. Sri Dickna
 5. Gunga Dim

 That's enough. Racist jokes are easy and worthless. Also, basically, fuck that guy.

Random Photos

From LIFE Magazine

Pizza Hut Fires Nice Manager

For Refusing to Open on Thanksgiving

Greedy, money-grubbing Pizza Hut is under fire today after a former employee came forward saying the chain fired him for refusing to open the location he managed on Thanksgiving Day.

Tony Rohr, from South Bend, Ind., said he found out two weeks ago that the franchise owner, Franchise Management Investors, insisted on opening the restaurant on Thanksgiving to stay competitive, despite having never opened on the holiday before.

“I said, ‘Why can’t we be the people who say we care about our employees?’” Rohr told ABC News.
“I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t want to make anyone work on Thanksgiving.”

Rohr alleges the company responded by forcing his resignation. “My area coach told me the director of operations needed me to write a letter of resignation. I was like, ‘Well, being fired and resigning are two very different things and I’m not going to do that,’” Rohr said. “So I wrote a different letter explaining my position on the situation and handed it in and left.”

Rohr said he wrote in his letter, “I am not quitting. I do not resign, however I accept that the refusal to comply with this greedy, immoral request means the end of my tenure with this company. I hope you realize that it’s the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible.”

Fine print says retailer can lie about "special offers"

The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal, confused by an oddly expensive "Black Friday Special", found a clause in Macy's pricing policy stating that the discount may have been in effect for months.

Man stole passenger ferry because he wanted to go to West Seattle

A man was taken into custody on Sunday morning after the Clipper IV, a  high-speed 132-foot catamaran with a water-jet propulsion system, was taken from its mooring and out into Elliott Bay. Darrell Bryan, president and chief executive officer of Clipper Vacations, was in his office and saw the boat leaving.
"I looked out my window - I'm not normally here on Sunday mornings - but I got here about 5:20 and about 6 o'clock I saw the Clipper IV 100 feet off the dock, headed in a southerly direction and we didn't have it scheduled to sail today," he said. "We identified pretty quickly that all our captains were accounted for and that somebody had taken the boat and so we contacted the Coast Guard."
When a tugboat went to retrieve the boat they discovered there was a man on board and Seattle Police were called. SPD’s SWAT, patrol and Arson Bomb Squad responded, along with Port of Seattle police and US Coast Guard boat and helicopter teams. Police negotiators contacted the man on the boat and several hours later a tactical team boarded the vessel and arrested the suspect.

The man, Samuel K. McDonough, 33, told police he “only wanted to go to West Seattle.” McDonough was booked into the King County Jail on Sunday afternoon for investigation of burglary, reckless endangerment, malicious mischief and an outstanding warrant for failure to register as a sex offender. In February 2012, McDonough was convicted of felony indecent exposure in Issaquah after he tried to break into a drive-through coffee stand, then masturbated in front of two female baristas inside.

Man arrested for impersonating Mafia boss in order to obtain free drinks and croissants

A man from Battipaglia, near the southern Italian city of Salerno, was arrested after telling a barman he was a Mafia chief in order to get free drinks and croissants.
Ubaldo Citarella, 52, allegedly “boasted for days” to the bartender that he was a mafia boss from the Camorra clan, all the while “eating croissants and drinking coffee and soft drinks”.
He even backed up the story by leaving a bottle of petrol outside the bar in Battipaglia in response to a request to pay.

The bartender eventually grew tired of the abuses and reported Citarella to the police, who later arrested him.

Argument over dinnerware led to stabbing

A man in Richland County, South Carolina has been charged in connection with a stabbing on Sunday.

Edward William Bright, 47, was charged with assault and battery second degree in connection with the incident, Richland County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. Curtis Wilson said.
Just after 6pm deputies found two men who had allegedly argued over which dinnerware to use for a meal when one of the men stabbed the other with a steak knife, Wilson said.

The man who was stabbed several times in the upper body was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Wilson added.



Thanks for Nothing

The Story of Zero

Aristotle didn't have it. Neither did Pythagoras or Euclid or or other ancient mathematicians. We're talking about zero, which may sound like nothing, but, as it turns out, is a really big something. Here's the story.


Sometime in the early ninth century, a mathematician named Muhammad ibn al-Khwarizmi (circa 780-850 AD) gained a key piece of knowledge that would eventually earn him the nickname "The Father of Algebra." What he discovered would also speed up mathematical calculation many times over and, eventually, make make a host of amazing technological advances possible, up to and including cars, computers, space travel, and robots.

What was it? The Hindu number system (developed in India). The system intrigued al-Khwarizmi because it used nine different symbols to represent numbers, plus a small circle around empty space to represent shunya- "nothingness." To keep from having to use more and more symbols for larger numbers, the Hindu system was a place system. The value of a number could be determined by its place in a row of numbers: There was a row for 1s, a row for 10s, 100s, 1000s, and so on. If nine numerals and a circle to represent "nothing" sounds familiar, it should. Thanks to al-Khwarizmi, the Hindu number system (known in the West as "Arabic numerals") is the system used in most of the world today.


Al-Khwarizmi knew a good idea when he saw one. He was a scholar and worked in the House of Wisdom, a combination library, university, research lab, and translation service in Baghdad. At the time, Abbassid caliphs -who claimed to be descendants of Abbas, the prophet Mohammad's youngest uncle- ruled the Persian Empire. They had turned their seat of power, Baghdad, into the "jewel of the world." Muhammad had exhorted his followers to "acquire knowledge" and to "seek learning though it be as far as China." So as Europe descended into the Dark Ages, the caliphs kept the light of knowledge burning bright. They collected as much of the world's written knowledge as they could get their hands on and had it translated into Arabic. At a time when the largest library in Europe contained far fewer than a thousand volumes, the Abbasids amassed a library believed to have held a million books.

While working for the Abbasids in the House of Wisdom, al-Khwarizmi specialized in astronomy and mathematics. He spent most of his time finding useful, real-world applications for mathematical concepts and explaining them in ways that reasonably intelligent non-mathematicians could understand. And these Hindu numbers opened up a whole new world of mathematical possibility. And he was especially intrigued by the symbol for "nothing."


"The tenth figure in the shape of a circle," al-Khwarizmi wrote, would help prevent confusion when it came to balancing household accounts or parceling out a widow's dowry. The circle was the key: If no numeral fell into a particular column, the circle served as a placeholder, as al-Khwarizmi put it, "to keep the rows straight." A merchant (or mathematician) could run his finger down each column starting from the right and be confident that the ones, tens, hundreds, and so on, were in the correct place.
If this seems less than earth-shaking, consider this: The Hindu system was based on the abacus, a counting device that some scholars say goes back to 3,000 BC. The earliest versions used pebbles lined up in columns to represent 1s, 10s, 100s, 1000s, etc. Later version used beads strung on a wire inside a frame. With this type of abacus, when you counted past nine, you flipped one bead in the 10s column and pushed the beads in the 1s column back to nothing. British mathematician Lancelot Hogben succinctly explained what was so amazing about the Hindu circle:
The invention of sunya (zero) liberated the human intellect from the prison bars of the counting frame. Once there was a sign for the empty column, "carrying over" on a slate or paper was just as easy as carrying over on an abacus …and it could stretch as far as necessary in either direction.
That, in a nutshell, is the humble beginning of zero. But a circle used as a placeholder is only half the story about nothing.

For a while, the Hindu circle remained a placeholder doing nothing more than showing that there was nothing in a  particular column. But al-Khwarizmi wasn't content with that and went back to the books. He studied everything he could find about math from the ancient Greeks and others, and he began considering the existence of negative numbers, in particular what happens when you subtract a larger number from a smaller one. Something about the available literature bugged him. There was something missing.

Take a problem like 3 - 4 = ___. Everybody had figured out that the answer was -1. But al-Khwarizmi knew that he couldn't arrived at that answer by starting at 3 and counting backward by 4 numbers. When he did that, … 2, 1, -1, -2, …the fourth number was -2, and that's the wrong answer.

Al-Khwarizmi's "A-ha!" moment came when he realized there was a missing number, one that signified "nothing." And -Eureka!- a symbol for nothing was already there in the Hindu system, stuck at the end of numerals like 10, 20, 30, 100, etc, to indicate the numeral's place in the column of figures. That circle signifying "nothing" (sunya in Sanskrit, sifr in Arabic, and, in time, cipher in Latin) needed to be upgraded from a placeholder to a full-fledged numeral. Al-Khwarizmi gave zero its rightful place: right between +1 and -1. He began using the round placeholder (0) as the missing number in calculations, and suddenly math with negative numbers worked. (His zero also provoked heated philosophical discussions along the lines of "How can nothing be represented by something?" but that's a different topic.)


Around 825 AD, al-Khwarizmi wrote a book to explain calculation using the Hindu number system. It was called, fittingly, On the Calculation with Hindu Numerals. But al-Khwarizmi didn't rest on his zeroes; he expanded his work, developing math that included rational and irrational numbers, negatives, equations, and all the other stuff you've forgotten from ninth grade.

Around 830 AD, he wrote al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hasib al-jabr wa'l-muqabala (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing). The titled gave the world the term "algebra" (from al-jabr) and the content gave the world the advance math that went with it. Al-Khwarizmi's intent wasn't to confuse future generations of middle school students with abstract equations. In his own words, it was to explain…
…what is easiest and most useful in arithmetic, such as men constantly require in cases of inheritance, legacies, partition, lawsuits, and trade, and in all their dealings with one another, or where the measuring of lands, the digging of canals, geometrical computation, and other objects of various sorts and kinds are concerned.
Al-Khwarizmi's books became popular throughout the Persian Empire, and not just with mathematicians. Storekeepers, bankers, builders, architects, and anyone who needed math to do their jobs made use of Hindu numbers and al-Khwarizmi's algebra. But it would take a surprisingly long time before his concepts spread beyond the Muslim world and into Europe.


Despite the Biblical injunction to "go forth and multiply," convincing Christians to use the more advanced system of mathematics would take about 1,000 years. In al-Khwarizmi's time, (late 8th to mid-9th century), the Muslim world was in the middle of a Golden Age of learning. The Christian world: Not so golden. When the Roman Empire collapsed in 476 AD, in the words of one modern historian, it was as if "Western Civilization went camping for five hundred years."

During the Middle Ages, much of the Christian world considered Muslims to be "heretics" who rejected the "true faith." What, then, could be learned from them? In the minds of most Europeans, the answer was an unequivocal "nothing." When it came to math, there was one notable exception: the 10th-century French monk Gerbert of Aurillac. As a young monk, Gerbert had traveled to Muslim-controlled Spain to study advanced science, astronomy, and mathematics -disciplines that had been lost to the Western world. He discovered "Arabic numerals," learned how to use an abacus, and studied algebra. One man in particular was interested: Otto the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor. Otto took 20-year-old Gerbert into his court to tutor his 16-year-old heir, Otto II, in what was then called "mathesis." Otto II wasn't much of a scholar, but he knew a good teacher when he saw one. When his own heir, Otto II, needed a tutor, Gerbert was his man.

Over time Gerbert became an astronomer, a philosopher, an organ builder, a musical theoretician, a mathematician, a teacher, and …the world's first French pope -Sylvester II. In 999, Otto III, in his new role as emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, used his influence to get his former teacher elected to the papacy. Gerbert saw his elect has an opportunity to introduce Arabic numerals into the Church, replacing those unwieldy Roman numerals. Bad idea: using Arabic "squiggles" to do math was, to many, a suspicious indication that Sylvester II had gone over to the Dark Side. Rumors spread that while in Spain the future pope had either learned the "magic" we call math from his teacher's secret book of magic ..or studied with the Devil himself.

Whispers that Gerbert's math was a tool of Satan followed him into the papacy, and though he frequently displayed his abacus skills and wrote treatises on Arabic math, he died (in 1003) without convincing either the Church or the masses to adopt Arabic numerals. In 1096, just before the First Crusade to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims began, the deceased pope was, according to The Abacus and the Cross from Nancy Marie Brown, "branded a sorcerer and a devil-worshiper for having taught the mathematics and science that had come to Christian Europe from Islamic Spain."


Arabic numerals (and zero) made their next significant appearance in Western civilization nearly 200 years after Gerbert's death, courtesy of Leonardo Fibonacci. Born in Pisa to a wealthy Italian merchant around 1170, Leonardo is said to have been the best Western mathematician of the Middle Ages (not that he had a lot of competition). Leonardo was raised in northern Africa where his father oversaw Italy's coastal trading outposts and made sure his son was schooled in the math he would need to become an accountant. Leonardo's Arab teachers showed him al-Khwarizmi's Hindu-Arabic number system. "When I had been introduced to the art of the Indian's nine symbols, knowledge of the art very soon pleased me above all else," he later wrote.

As a young man, Fibonacci traveled enough to encounter other number systems being used in the West, including the awkward Roman numeral system still reigning in Europe. (He also traveled enough to earn the nickname Bigollo, which means "vagabond" or "wanderer.") To Fibonacci, the Hindu-Arabic system he'd learned in the Arab world was far superior. He returned to Pisa as an adult and, in 1202, published Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation) to share the knowledge of how to use the Hindu-Arabic system in practical ways, including the conversion of measures and currency, allocation of profit, and the computation of interest. Italian merchants and bankers loved it. Soon most of them had switched to the new system.


That didn't end the push back against Arabic numerals. In 1259, an edict came from Florence forbidding bankers to use "the infidel symbols" and, in 1348, the University of Padua insisted that book prices be listed using "plain" letters (Roman numerals), not "ciphers" (al-Khwarizmi's sifr). Though Fibonacci's book is credited with bringing zero (as well as its buddies, 1 to 9) to Europe, it took another 300 years for the system to spread beyond Italy. Why? For one thing, Fibonacci lived in the days before printing, so his books were hand written. If someone wanted a copy, it had to be copied by hand. In time, Fibonacci's book would be translated, plagiarized, and used as inspiration for books in many other languages. The first one in English was The Craft of Nombrynge, published around 1350.

Zero finally came into its own in Europe during the Renaissance when it showed up in a variety of books, including Robert Recordes's popular math textbook Ground of Arts (1543). That book may have been read by one William Shakespeare, the first writer known to have used the Arabic zero in literature. In King Lear, the Fool tells Lear, "Thou are a 0 without a figure. I am better than thou art now, I am a Fool, thou art nothing."


Lest we forget, advanced knowledge also developed in the New World, independently of Old World thought. The zero appears on a Mayan stela (a stone monument) carved sometime between 292 and 372 AD. That's 400 to 500 years before al-Khwarizmi "discovered" it.

Six Things You Didn't Know About Gray Hair

What you didn't know about gray hair.
While some women proudly sport a silver mane, most of us face the arrival of new gray hairs with dread. The good news: Scientists are hard at work on how to prevent the salt-and-pepper look. So what do researchers know that you don't?

1. Normal aging is the biggest culprit.

Okay, no surprise here. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule. "Fifty percent of the population has about 50 percent gray hair at age 50," says Dr. Anthony Oro, professor of dermatology at Stanford University. And like skin, hair changes its texture with age, says Dr. Heather Woolery Lloyd, director of ethnic skin care at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

2. Your ethnicity makes a difference.

Caucasians tend to go gray earlier - and redheads earliest of all. Then Asians. Then African-Americans. Scientists haven't figured out why yet.

3. Stress seems to play a role.

"Stress won't cause you to go gray directly," says Dr. Roopal Kundu, associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "But stress is implicated in a lot of skin and hair issues." During an illness, for example, people can shed hair rapidly. And hair you lose after a stressful event - like getting chemotherapy - may grow back a different color.

4. Your lifestyle makes a difference.

Smoking, for example, stresses your skin and hair. "Low vitamin B12 levels are notorious for causing loss of hair pigment," says Dr. Karthik Krishnamurthy, director of the Dermatology Center's Cosmetic Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y. By contrast, eating foods such as liver and carrots may be helpful for holding off going gray, says Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, a senior dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

5. Hair and its color are separate things.

Hair stem cells make hair, and pigment-forming stem cells make pigment. Typically they work together, but either can wear out, sometimes prematurely. Researchers are trying to figure out if a medicine, or something you could put in your scalp, could slow the graying process. (Hair dye simply coats your hair in color but doesn't alter its structure.)

6. Your hair doesn't turn gray - it grows that way.

A single hair grows for one to three years, then you shed it - and grow a new one. As you age, your new hairs are more likely to be white. "Every time the hair regenerates, you have to re-form these pigment-forming cells, and they wear out," says Oro.

Making Plasma

If you’ve got a grape, a glass and a microwave, you can create plasma – the mysterious fourth state of matter!

Chemistry is mind-numbingly boring to most of us. We're about to change some minds on the subject though

Prabalgad Fort

Prabalgad Fort, also known as Kalavantin Durg, is an old and now unused fort in the Western Ghats mountain range in the Indian state of Maharashtra. As you can see in this photo, the summit is small. But if properly supplied and fortified, any encampment there would be almost impossible to capture.
The origins of Prabalgad Fort are unknown, but it was occupied by at least 1458 and was in active military use by as late as 1826. The only way to the top is through a long staircase carved into the mountain. Tourists sometimes brave the climb, which is risky because there are no guardrails.

Daily Comic Relief



Traffic is different in Yellowstone National park.

Human rights for animals?

An animal rights group has filed the first of three lawsuits aimed at securing legal personhood for chimpanzees. If all goes well, they hope to extend the definition to other great apes, whales, and dolphins, as well. This story by David Grimm at Science is an interesting look at both the reasoning behind these specific lawsuits and the behind-the-scenes planning that goes into any potentially groundbreaking legal action. 

Operation Dead-Mouse Drop

A group of 2,000 dead mice equipped with cardboard parachutes have been airdropped over a United States Air Force base in Guam in order to poison brown tree snakes.It may sound like the plot to an animated movie starring the vocal talents of Gilbert Godfried, but we assure you this is actually happening.
NBC News reports that the dead mice were pumped full of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol. The hope is that the snakes, which are invasive to the area and cause harm to exotic native birds and the island's power grid, will be drawn to the toxic rodents, eat them, and then croak. Other animals face minimal risk, reports the Air Force Times.
Dan Vice, the Agriculture Department's assistant supervisory wildlife biologist for Guam, told KUAM that the mice are dropped in a time sequence from low-flying helicopters. Each rodent is strung up to a tiny parachute made of cardboard and tissue paper.
Via NBC News:
"The cardboard is heavier than the tissue paper and opens up in an inverted horseshoe," Vice said. "It then floats down and ultimately hangs up in the forest canopy. Once it's hung in the forest canopy, snakes have an opportunity to consume the bait."
So how will workers know if the plan is working? After all, it's not like the mice can radio back to base. Or can they? The workers behind the plan told NBC News that some of the mice will have data-transmitting via radios.
The mission is part of an $8 million program from the Interior and Defense departments, Phys.org reports.  If the mission is successful, experts may expand it to other parts of Guam. In other words, maybe a sequel is forthcoming.

Burmese python genome reveals extreme adaptation

Scientists from the University of Colorado School of Medicine who sequenced the genome of the Burmese python have discovered large numbers of rapidly evolved genes in snakes. These genetic changes are linked to extreme characteristics …

The Swimming Pigs of the Bahamas

Big Major Cay is an uninhabited island in the Bahamas that is home to a colony of feral pigs. No one knows for sure how they came to be on the island, but there are several possible theories. The pigs may be feral, but they aren't exactly wild. They love tourists, because tourists bring good things to eat!
Yet these pigs are clever. They have calculated which time the boats are most likely to arrive at the island and await them patiently on the beach each day.  After all, they can always catch a few rays while they are waiting.
Read more about the Bahamian pigs and see plenty of pictures at Ark in Space.

Sea eagle created self-made wildlife film after stealing camera from near crocodile trap

A sea eagle has recorded unusual footage of Western Australia's remote Kimberley after stealing a video camera and taking it on a 100 kilometer (70 mile) journey. Aboriginal rangers had set up the motion-sensor camera at a gorge on the Margaret River in May, to try and capture images of fresh-water crocodiles. Gooniyandi ranger Roneil Skeen says the camera disappeared not long afterwards.
"Unexpectedly our camera went missing so we thought we had lost it because it fell into the water," he said. But a few weeks ago, they got a phone call to say a Parks and Wildlife ranger had found the small device at the Mary River, over 100 kilometers away. They have been able to extract three 30-second clips that reveal the culprit to be a thieving sea eagle.

The footage shows the juvenile eagle scooping up the recorder, and taking to the air. Later, it is deposited on the ground and the animal pecks at it. Mr Skeen says he and the 14-strong ranger team were shocked to see the aerial journey play out in high-definition. "It was pretty amazing because it's one of the first camera traps to ever get picked up," he said. "They've had camera traps moved [by animals] before, but not taken off, like a flying camera you know?

"It was pretty cool so we were pretty shocked. We knew it was a juvenile eagle because the adult sea eagles, once they get their food or their prey, they usually take it right up into the sky and drop it," he said. "But this one was still learning because he just took it near the cliff-side and he never dropped [it], he just put it down and started picking at it. An adult one would have flown it right up the top and yeah for sure it would have smashed that camera." The rangers say they will be bolting down their camera in the future.

Animal Pictures