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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Daily Drift

Eighteen Days To Go ....

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
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Today is - National Cotton Candy Day

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Some of our readers today have been in:
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Asuncion, Paraguay
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San Juan, Puerto Rico
Navarre, Bedminster, Utica, Bothell, Ronan, Vallejo and Alpharetta, United States
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Today in History

43 BCE Cicero, considered one of the greatest sons of Rome, is assassinated on the orders of Marcus Antonius.
983 Otto III takes the throne after his father's death in Italy. A power struggle between magnates ensues.
1787 Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
1808 James Madison is elected president in succession of Thomas Jefferson.
1861 USS Santiago de Cuba, under Commander Daniel B. Ridgely, halts the British schooner Eugenia Smith and captures J.W. Zacharie, a New Orleans merchant and Confederate purchasing agent.
1862 Confederate forces surprise an equal number of Union troops at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
1863 Outlaw George Ives, an alleged member of an outlaw gang known as the "Innocents," robs and then kills Nick Thiebalt in the Ruby Valley of what would become Montana.
1917 The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary with only one dissenting vote in Congress.
1918 Spartacists call for a German revolution.
1931 A report indicates that Nazis would ensure "Nordic dominance" by sterilizing certain races.
1941 Japanese planes raid Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in a surprise attack, bringing the US into WWII.
1942 The U.S. Navy launches USS New Jersey, the largest battleship ever built.
1946 The president of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, orders all striking miners back to work.
1949 The A.F.L. and the C.I.O. organize a non-Communist international trade union.
1970 Poland and West Germany sign a pact renouncing the use of force to settle disputes, recognizing the Oder-Neisse River as Poland's western frontier, and acknowledging the transfer to Poland of 40,000 square miles of former German territory.
1972 The crew of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon, lifts off at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
1981 The Reagan Administration predicts a record deficit in 1982 of $109 billion.
1988 An earthquake in Armenia kills an estimated 100,000 people.
1988 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat recognizes Israel's right to exist.
1995 Galileo spacecraft arrives at Jupiter after a 6-year journey.
1999 The Recording Industry Association of America files a copyright infringement suit against the file-sharing website Napster.
2003 A tornado in Kensal Green, North West London, damages about 150 properties.
2006 An earthquake in Armenia kills an estimated 100,000 people.

Non Sequitur


Xmas Countdown Xmas Stories

The Little Match Girl
Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening-- the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.

One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.

She crept along trembling with cold and hunger--a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!

The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year's Eve; yes, of that she thought.

In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.

Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. "Rischt!" how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but--the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.

She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when--the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Xmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant's house.

Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when--the match went out. The lights of the Xmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.

"Someone is just dead!" said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to god.

She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the luster there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.

"Grandmother!" cried the little one. "Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Xmas tree!" And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety--they were with god.

But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall--frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. "She wanted to warm herself," people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.

Something Extra

There are many perks to spending your days at the White House, including having the option of getting married there. In October, official White House photographer Pete Souza tied the knot in the White House Rose Garden and President Obama attended. And the White House has seen many more nuptials over the years. In 1886, Grover Cleveland became the only U.S. President to get married in the executive mansion. Cleveland, who was 49 and had been a lifelong bachelor, married 21 year-old Frances Folsom in the Blue Room. At the conclusion of the wedding Folsom became First Lady – the youngest in history. Far more common is having a wedding ceremony for the President’s children. The first documented example of this is when Maria Monroe, daughter of President James Monroe, got married in the White House in 1820. Ulysses Grant, Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon are among the other presidents to also have their daughters married at the White House. Other Presidential family members have gotten hitched there, too. In 1994 Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, married Nicole Boxer, the daughter of Senator Barbara Boxer, in the White House Rose Garden. But the couple split in 2000. And back in 1942, Harry Hopkins, the assistant to President Franklin Roosevelt, got married in a simple ceremony in the President’s second floor study. Hopkins wasn’t a family member but he clearly knew the value of having friends in high places – a lesson Pete Souza obviously took to heart.

'Pit of Bones' Yields Oldest Known Human DNA

by Gillian Mohney 'Pit of Bones' Yields Oldest Known Human DNA (ABC News) 
Researchers have uncovered a new clue about human origins after discovering the oldest known human DNA in a legendary Spanish archeological site called Sima de los Huesos, or the "Pit of Bones."
Researchers were able to extract DNA from a leg bone that was estimated to be 400,000 years old. After extracting the DNA from a femur bone, Matthias Meyer, who published his findings in a study in the journal Nature, was able to replicate the entire genome for the ancient human relative.
The genetic sequence surprised researchers, who thought it was likely that the sequence would reveal that remains were related to the Neanderthals. Instead, the genetic sequence revealed that this early human species is related to another genetic cousin of modern humans,the mysterious Denisovans.
Little is known about the Denisovans, who are thought to have been common throughout the regions now known as Asia and Eastern Europe. This early human species was discovered after genetic sequencing was used to map DNA through the ancient pinkie bone of a girl in 2010.
Anthropologists and genetic experts said the findings from the Pit of Bones could help shed light on how early human species evolved and spread across different continents.
"This places what we have to assume from the genetic sequence is an earlier branch of our family that goes back even further" in time, said Kenneth Kidd, professor of genetics at the Yale University School of Medicine. Kidd said since the DNA was from 400,000 years ago, this mysterious human relative likely predated most Neanderthals.
Kidd explained that one reason there is little known about the Denisovans is that "the Neanderthals may have annihilated the Denisovans," similar to how the Neanderthals died off as modern humans became more populous.
If you're wondering if you're related to the ancient DNA, Kidd said there is no evidence that the Denisovans provided any genetic material for the modern human race.
Theodore Schurr, professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, said the findings were significant since it showed clearly how DNA mapping was changing the field of anthropology. Schurr said solely from the skeletal remains researchers thought the human species appeared to be related to Neanderthals.
"This is also significant because it's the DNA coming from the oldest remains," said Schurr. "It's interesting to compare the skeletons to the genetics because the stories may not match up."

What Antarctica looks like under the ice

The ice sheet that covers Antarctica is almost two miles thick in some places. But the British Antarctic Survey is able to peek beneath the frozen surface with the help of satellites, lasers, and radar.

With Scottish independence in the offing, what would happen to the British flag?

The likely answer is "nothing much", I'd hazard, because it's just too cool to die. The British flag remains integrated with those of several other independent countries, and even one U.S. State, because it's just so goddamn sexy. But hey, the status quo is no fun!
Beyond simple color changes (Welsh green or black, for example, as above, instead of Scots' blue), it's interesting just how fast the suggestions become really, obviously terrible.
A part of this, I think, is that without Scotland, there really isn't a "United Kingdom" to speak of: radical variations on the Union flag just look silly, and slight ones a backhanded substitute. The anxiety reflects an awareness that Scottish independence would be a strange, slow thing for the islands, the beginning of something new rather than the end of something old. It would at first amount to less than expected— then, in the long run, more.
If the vote is yes, for example, Scotland would not extricate itself as completely as the United States did. It would negotiate toward some kind of manageable arms-length quasi-federal setup, a best-of-both worlds approach that lets everyone get on with life without too much hassle. Such an arrangement might even interest the Irish Republic: it has England at arms' length, of course, but The Troubles hid a basic constitutional entanglement that was never fully unraveled. Social bonds are friendlier than ever, too. Who else? The Faroe Islands, perhaps, nominally Danish but autonomous since the UK took over in World War II. It'd be fun to see taxpayers in Surrey angry at having to pay for all that Salmiakki.
If we're going to play Science Fiction Flags, show me one for a confederal Atlantic Archipelagos, unfurled on a desk in Lýðveldið the day before its accession referendum.

Random Photos


Esti Ginzburg

Did you know ...

About these 6 American companies that make Scrooge look soft

Here's a remember: social security does not increase the deficit

The fact that the wingnuts tear themselves apart; thank the heritage foundation

That scientists witness massive gamma ray burst, don't understand it

The President starts a new initiative

The Defining Challenge of Our Time

Obama Goes All In on Income Inequality & Upward Mobility

Today, as part of the Center for American Progress’ 10th anniversary celebrations, President Obama gave what some are are calling “one of the most important speeches of the Obama presidency.”
Just as he did in his landmark 2011 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas and throughout last year’s campaign, the president laid out why America needs an economy built from the middle class out that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.
Unfortunately, as the president said today, today’s economy is defined by “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility that has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain — that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.” He called combating this growing inequality and lack of upward mobility the “defining challenge of our time.”
He’s right.
Here are the facts:
  • Salaries for CEOs have skyrocketed in the past 50 years. In 2012, CEOS made 273 times more than the average worker.
  • While the rich are getting ahead, workers are being left behind. If the minimum wage kept up with inflation, it would be $10.74 today.
  • Millionaires are making more money but paying less taxes. In the past 50 years, the 400 richest families in America actually had their tax rates fall by 60 percent.
  • As union memberships fall, middle class incomes shrink. The drop in union membership over the past 40 years is accompanied by an equally sharp drop in the middle class’ share of the nation’s income.
  • From 1947 to 1979, when the middle class received 54 percent of the nation’s total income on average, the economy grew at a steady clip of 3.7 percent per year. But from 1980 to 2010, when the middle class’s share of the nation’s total income fell to only 46 percent, growth fell by 1 percentage point to 2.7 percent.
  • Between 1979 and 2007, the richest top 1 percent of American households saw their income nearly triple. On average, the wealthy saw an increase of $973,100 per household. In contrast, the middle class saw their incomes rise by less than 40 percent.
  • Despite enacting taxes cuts for the rich and for corporations, both Reagan and George W. Bush saw slower economic growth and job growth during their presidency than President Clinton. In contrast to Reagan and George W. Bush, President Clinton actually raised taxes in 1993.
The president laid out a five key action areas:
  • Making sure our economy is growing faster. We must “relentlessly push a pro-growth agenda,” the president said.
  • Making sure we empower more Americans with the skills and education they need to compete in a highly competitive global economy. That includes making higher education affordable and reducing the crushing burden of student loans, as well as making investments in early childhood education.
  • Empowering our workers. That means protecting union rights, ending pay discrimination against women, and, finally, making it illegal to fire LGBT people just for who they are. It also means raising the minimum wage to put more money into the pockets of workers so they can buy things from businesses large and small, which creates a virtuous circle that grows the economy.
  • Providing targeted programs for the communities and workers that have been hit hardest by economic change and the Great Recession. That means making sure that “a child’s course in life should not be determined by the zip code he’s born in, but by the strength of his work ethic and the scope of his dreams.”
  • Revamping retirement to protect Americans in their golden years. That means shoring up both private and public retirement programs to make sure people can live out their golden years in dignity.
The president also took his argument straight to top Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
And as people in states as different as California and Kentucky sign up every single day for health insurance, signing up in droves, they’re proving they want that economic security. If the Senate Republican leader still thinks he is going to be able to repeal this someday, he might want to check with the more than 60,000 people in his home state who are already set to finally have coverage that frees them from the fear of financial ruin, and lets them afford to take their kids to see a doctor. (Applause.)
And House Republican Budget guru Rep. Paul Ryan (WI), who attacked safety net programs like food stamps as unemployment benefits as “a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency”:
The point is these programs are not typically hammocks for people to just lie back and relax. These programs are almost always temporary means for hardworking people to stay afloat while they try to find a new job or go into school to retrain themselves for the jobs that are out there, or sometimes just to cope with a bout of bad luck.
Finally, the president challenged Republicans, who still have not offered an alternative to Obamacare after relentlessly attacking it for more than four years, to put out their own ideas:
If you still don’t like Obamacare — and I know you don’t — (laughter) — even though it’s built on market-based ideas of choice and competition in the private sector, then you should explain how, exactly, you’d cut costs, and cover more people, and make insurance more secure. You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you’re against. (Applause.) That way we can have a vigorous and meaningful debate. That’s what the American people deserve. That’s what the times demand. It’s not enough anymore to just say we should just get our government out of the way and let the unfettered market take care of it — for our experience tells us that’s just not true. (Applause.)
BOTTOM LINE: While Republicans were attacking Obamacare and holding a hearing on space aliens today, the president laid out a sweeping agenda to expand the middle class, extend ladders of opportunity, and build an economy for the 21st century.

In North Carolina, a wingnut shift hits a roadblock

A crowd cheer in support during a speech by Rev Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP in Asheville, NC's Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday on Aug 5, 2013.
A crowd of thousands cheer in support during a speech by Rev Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP in Asheville, NC's Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday on Aug 5, 2013.
By Zachary Roth
During an appearance at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C, a key center of power for the conservative movement, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrony portrayed himself as a business-minded policy wonk, earnestly extolling the benefits of infrastructure development and government-efficiency measures. He might as well have been describing someone else.
For the last year, McCrony has engineered a hard-right shift in North Carolina that has crippled millions in his state. His 2012 election gave repugicans control of all three branches of the state’s government for the first time since Reconstruction and they took advantage of it. In 2013 alone, North Carolina has said no to expanding Medicaid under Obamacare, approved a tax plan that redistributes wealth from poor to rich, cut education by half a billion dollars, instituted perhaps the toughest voting restrictions in the country, weakened campaign-finance laws, and passed its own version of Texas’ controversial abortion measure.

Herbert Grant cheers in support during a speech by Rev Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP in Asheville, NC's Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday on Aug 5, 2013.
Herbert Grant cheers in support during a speech by Rev Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP in Asheville, NC’s Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday on Aug 5, 2013.
In short, the repugican cabal has turned America’s 10th-largest state —traditionally known as a rare bastion of southern moderation—into a massive testing ground for pure wingnut ideology. The hard-wingnut lurch has already inflicted hardship on countless North Carolinians. And it has offered a real-world glimpse of the playbook that many wingnuts—including McCrony’s hosts at Heritage—would like to use across the country.For McCrony—and his audience at Heritage—his extreme red-state experiment was supposed to deliver a success story that wingnuts could be proud of.  Instead, a growing backlash against the overreach—laws affecting women, minorities and the poor—is starting to cause real pain for the governor and his allies.  His approval ratings have declined sharply, as have those for his repugican legislators.
The pushback against McCrony’s harsh brand of governance began with home-grown progressive protests known as “Moral Monday” events. The campaign has been spearheaded not by state Democrats, but by a coalition of activist groups including the NAACP, labor unions, environmental groups, abortion-rights advocates.
A summer protest in Ashville, a lively college town in the state’s mountainous western region, drew a passionate, racially-diverse, overflow crowd heavy on teachers, students, volunteer activists, and young families.
“Don’t make any mistake, America,” William Barber III, the state’s NAACP president and Moral Monday’s most prominent spokesman, told the crowd. “This is no momentary hyperventilation and liberal screaming match. This is a movement. And we intend to win.”
“That’s why I go every Monday and fight”
For all the attention that the state’s regressive voting law has rightly received, it’s the cuts to the jobless benefits program that have had perhaps the greatest human impact so far—as Terry Johnson can attest.
Laid off last November from her customer-service job at Allstate, Johnson relied on the $320 a week she got in unemployment benefits to support herself and her two kids as she searched for work from her home in Rowan County, North Carolina. But on July 1st, the state cut off jobless benefits for nearly 70,000 struggling North Carolinians, including Johnson.
That left her unable to afford school supplies for her 10-year-old son, Coty, unsure if she’ll be able to pay the electric bill, and without even enough money for gas to get to job interviews, Johnson, a personable 41-year old with a round, open face and long brown hair, told MSNBC as she sat at a Charlotte Starbucks. She had just interviewed for a part-time Post Office position—only 13 hours a week, but better than nothing—a trip for which she’d borrowed the $9 from her sister to fill up the tank.
“It’s hard,” Johnson said, her upbeat demeanor cracking as her eyes welled with tears. “I know that I’m going to make it somehow, because I’m determined to. But it would make it a lot easier if they had not taken my benefits away.”

Terry Johnson, 41 at her home in Rockwell, NC on Aug 23, 2013.
Terry Johnson, 41 at her home in Rockwell, NC on Aug 23, 2013. Johnson lost her unemployment in July as a result of recent North Carolina legislation and takes part is protests and political rallies in the area. “They took the fight to my front door” Says Johnson.
McCrony has said the cuts were needed to help pay back more than $2.5 billion that the system had borrowed from the federal government in order to cover benefits during the Great Recession, when the jobless rate went as high as 11.3% in North Carolina. But by making the cuts, the state was knowingly rejecting over $700 million in federal money meant to be used for extended jobless benefits, the only state in the country to reject the federal money. That’s because that aid is contingent on a pledge by states not to cut benefits too sharply. Some 70,000, including Johnson, were cut off at the start of July. Another 100,000 jobless North Carolinians are likely to lose benefits by the end of the year thanks to the state’s rejection of the federal money, the U.S. Department of Labor has estimated. George Wentworth, a lawyer with the National Employment Law Project, has called the move “the harshest unemployment insurance program cuts in our nation’s history.”
Rather than despair, Johnson has fought back. Since her benefits were cut, she’s begun volunteering with Moral Monday—motivated in part by the impact on Coty.
“My son gets locked out of a lot of things because I don’t have a job, and it’s not for lack of trying or qualifications,” she said. “That’s why I go every Monday and fight.”
“Will take women’s health over cookies”
To have a real chance of reversing the repugican agenda, the Moral Monday movement will need to unseat McCrony and the repugican cabal legislature. That’s a long-term goal, but already the protesters have done more damage than many expected.
Approval ratings for McCrony, who faces re-election in 2016, have tumbled: One poll earlier this month put him at 39%—up from 35% two months earlier, but still a decline of 8 points over the last eight months. Tom Jensen, who runs Public Policy Polling, a Democratic polling firm based in the state, said the Moral Monday protesters have played a big role in that decline.
“I think they have really had an impact on the governor,” Jensen told msnbc. “What the protesters have done is really draw attention to the fact that, yes what the legislature’s doing is bad, but also the governor is very much complicit in it.”

In short, the repugican cabal has turned America’s 10th-largest state —traditionally known as a rare bastion of southern moderation—into a massive testing ground for pure wingnut ideology.
The repugican lawmakers, too, have taken a major hit. A year before legislative elections, PPP shows Democratic candidates with a 2-point edge—a massive swing from 2010 when the repugican cabal retook both the Assembly and Senate by a ten-point margin. The state Democratic party hasn’t been at the forefront of the Moral Monday protests—in part by design—but even they say they’re seeing a spike in enthusiasm from their supporters.
“We have activists calling up the party wanting to know how they can get involved,” Robert Dempsey, the state party’s executive director, told MSNBC. “This is normally the downtime, when we’re making our plans and coming up with our strategy. People are engaged and they’re enraged.”
Nowhere has Moral Monday been more effective at tarnishing McCrony’s image as a reasonable guy than on the issue of abortion.
In July, pro-choice protesters angry about the strict abortion bill McCrony had signed the day before gathered outside the governor’s mansion demanding a meeting. The bill, quietly inserted into a motorcycle safety measure, was as far-reaching as the Texas law that prompted Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster in June.
It mandated that health officials come up with new rules to more strictly regulate abortion clinics. Pro-choice advocates fear that could result in the closure of all but one of the clinics operating before the law was passed, or force them to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to meet the new standards, something few will be able to do. It also eliminated healthcare coverage for abortions for city and county employees—affecting tens of thousands of women, advocates say—and from North Carolina’s health insurance exchange under Obamacare.
McCrony’s signature on the bill violated a clear campaign pledge not to support further restrictions on abortion. But instead of sitting down with the heavily-female group of protesters, he sent them cookies—which were promptly returned untouched with a note that read: “Will take women’s health over cookies.”
“An overwhelming majority of voters in the state thought McCrony’s actions were inappropriate,” said Jensen, who polled on the incident. “Even repugicans thought he was disrespectful.”
A war on voting
The movement also has done major damage to voting rights. This summer, the repugican cabal took advantage of the Supreme Court ruling that invalidated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act—which had covered about half of the state’s counties—to pass a “voting reform” measure that is breathtakingly restrictive, even by the standards of the party’s recent all-out effort to create barriers to the ballot box.
It requires voters to show a state-issued photo ID—despite the state’s own numbers showing that 316,000 registered voters lack such an ID—significantly cuts back early voting, ends same-day voter registration, and eliminates a popular program that encouraged high-school students to pre-register to vote. The law is so strict that it could disenfranchise a 92-year old African-American woman who outsmarted literacy tests and braved cross-burnings to vote in North Carolina during Jim Crow, according to a lawsuit filed by the NAACP challenging the measure. The U.S. Justice Department has also filed suit.

Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP speaks to a crowd of thousands gathered in Asheville, NC's Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday on Aug 5, 2013.
Rev. Dr. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP speaks to a crowd of thousands gathered in Asheville, NC’s Pack Square Park during Mountain Moral Monday on Aug 5, 2013.
The repugicans tried hard to keep the focus on the law’s voter ID requirement, which, in North Carolina as in much of the rest of the country, is broadly popular. But the protesters quickly turned people against the bill by highlighting the cutbacks to early voting and the obstacles to registration, provisions which lacked even the fig-leaf justification of stopping voter fraud. Barber called the law “the most comprehensive attack on the right to vote that this state has enacted since the institution of Jim Crow.”“What the protesters did was sort of create a greater level of awareness that they’re going well beyond voter ID now,” said Jensen. “You might think [voter ID] is a good idea, but do you really like all this other stuff?”
By August, when McCrony signed the bill into law, just 39% of voters backed it, PPP found. In his Heritage Foundation appearance, McCrony blamed the media for the law’s unpopularity, saying its impact had been exaggerated.
In the latest sign of backlash generated by the measure, the man charged with defending the law in court, Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, joined the chorus of criticism. In an op-ed Cooper, a potential challenger to McCrony in 2016, called the law part of a repugican cabal effort to “systematically undo 50 years of progress.”
It didn’t help the law’s cause when a local repugican official was forced last month to resign after saying of the measure, in an interview on The Daily Show: “If it hurts a bunch of lazy blacks that want the government to give them everything, so be it.”
Rejecting Obamacare
The state’s anti-Obamacare stance, and its deep cuts to education, have been additional spurs to action for some of those left out in the cold.
Earlier this year, McCrony announced that North Carolina, like 23 other states, would reject the expansion of Medicaid created under the law. He cited budget concerns, though the federal government would pay the full cost of the program for the first three years, and more than 90% of the cost through 2020.

Paula Dinga at the Mountain Moral Mondays in downtown Asheville on Aug. 5, 2013. Dinga, a teacher, came to protest NC budget cuts for education.
Paula Dinga at the Mountain Moral Mondays in downtown Asheville on Aug. 5, 2013. Dinga, a teacher, came to protest NC budget cuts for education. She says that all of the teachers that she knows, including herself pay for school supplies out of their own pocket.
Bethany Dalton, an unemployed single mother of two from Asheville, was one of 387,000 currently uninsured North Carolinians who would have been eligible for the expansion. Because of child support payments, Dalton makes a little over the $544-a-month limit—or just $6,528 a year—that North Carolina currently deems too rich for Medicaid, she told msnbc. The expansion would essentially have raised that eligibility threshold. Without it, she’ll continue to go uninsured as she tries to improve her prospects by going back to school. Like Terry Johnson, Dalton is now active with the Moral Monday movement.The state’s public school teachers, too, have been mobilized. The budget passed by repugicans this summer contained over $500 million in cuts to public education, on top of even bigger cuts that came in 2011, the repugican cabal’s first year in control of the legislature.
Advocates for public education say it will mean layoffs for as many as 5,000 teachers, bigger classes, less money for school supplies and teacher assistant jobs, and no more supplemental pay for teachers to pursue advanced degrees.
Paula Dinga, a teacher in Asheville who attended the protest, was one of several educators who told msnbc they’re forced to buy school supplies for their students.
“I always spend money out of my own pocket,” Dinga said. “Everybody I know spends money out of their pocket. I provide crayons, markers, notebooks, folders—anything a child needs.”
“The fire’s going to grow and grow”
Despite the success that the protesters have had in damaging repugicans, no one expects the repugican cabal to lose control of either house in next year’s election. The party’s 2010 victory allowed it to control the state’s redistricting process the following year. The result: In 2012, North Carolina repugicans won 54% of votes cast for state Senate candidates, but over 64% of state Senate seats, giving them super-majorities in both houses.
“This is one of the most severely gerrymandered states in the country,” Chris Fitzsimon, the executive director of NC Policy Watch, a progressive group based in Raleigh, told msnbc. “So they’re taking what is a small electoral mandate and, because of the gerrymandering, turning it into a radical restructuring of North Carolina.”
Wingnuts also have flooded the airwaves with outside money.
Three quarters of the spending by outside groups in state races in 2010 could be traced back to Art Pope, the multi-millionaire owner of a discount-score conglomerate who has forged a reputation as a kind of state-level Koch Brother. Backed by Pope—who now serves as McCrony’s top budget adviser—the repugican cabal won both houses of the legislature in that year’s tea party wave.
But North Carolinians have had enough.
“A big part of what this movement is doing that’s different from last time is there’s an outlet to continue that beating down on McCrony and the legislature in a way that there wasn’t two years ago,” Jensen said—and compared the campaign to another recent grassroots protest movement.
“The protesters are serving kind of a similar function for Democrats in North Carolina to what the tea party did nationally for repugicans in 2009 and 2010,” said Jensen. “Giving people a structure outside the Democratic party to express their unhappiness with what’s going on.”
Barber, of the NAACP, seems to understand that the challenge will be maintaining the current intensity into next fall and beyond.
“They say the fire’s going to go out by 2014,” he told the crowd in Asheville. “But I don’t believe that. I believe the fire’s going to grow and grow.”

NSA's talking points for friends and family - rebutted

Firedoglake obtained a copy of a two-page memo [PDF] of talking points for family and friends that the NSA sent to employees on November 22, so that spooks could rebut skeptical relatives around the Thanksgiving table. It's full of misleading statistics and outright falsehoods. Thankfully, Firedoglake's Kevin Gosztola took the time to comprehensively rebut every point in the document, with extensive links to primary sources, Congressional testimony, and other significant facts.

The most ignorant are the loudest

Swill O’Really: jesus is not ‘down with’ food stamps because most poor people are drug addicts

by David Edwards

No one knows what Jesus would do to feed today’s poor, hungry Americans — but Faux News host Swill O’Really is pretty sure the christian savior wouldn’t be “down with” giving them food stamps because it’s “their fault.”

After Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) recently said that Jesus “didn’t charge food stamps” in response to repugican efforts to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Pope Francis called income inequality immoral, O’Really tried to set the record 'straight' with a segment about the “nanny state” on Tuesday.

The Faux News host acknowledged that christ would have fed the poor, but objected to the idea that he would have “hurt” richer Americans to help feed them.

“The problem I have, as I stated is that you’re helping one group by hurting another group and a bigger group, and so I don’t know if Jesus is going to be down with that,” O’Really told Pentecostal agitator Joshua Dubois.

“jesus would be down for the poor,” Dubois pointed out. “He would want to make sure every single person in this country had enough food to eat. And the bottom line is if you add up every single private charitable dollar that feeds hungry people in this country, it’s only 10 percent of what we would need to make sure everyone has food in their stomachs. The rest comes from the federal government.”

“You’re making a powerful argument, but there is one huge mistake in it,” O’Reialy opined. “And that is that some of the people who don’t have enough to eat, it’s their fault they don’t have enough to eat. Particularly with their children.

Faux News Fanning the Faives of Wingnut Hate

Georgia school: We were ‘terrorized’ by Faux News’ false ‘Xmas card censorship’ report

by David Edwards

A school district in Georgia blasted Fau News on Tuesday and said that they had been “terrorized” after one of the network’s radio hosts falsely reported that Xtmas cards had been “confiscated.”
In a Tuesday report, Faux News radio host Todd Starnes turned his daily outrage to allegations that students at Brooklet Elementary School had returned from the Thanksgiving holiday to find that the school’s administration had decided to “confiscate the Xmas cards” that teachers had posted outside classrooms.

Starnes branded the schools’ actions as “Xmas card censorship.”

Brooklet Principal Marlin Baker told WSAV that the “censorship” charge was just not true and that Starnes didn’t bother checking the facts before publishing his report.

“The decision to move the poster had nothing, absolutely nothing, at all to do with any type of religious conversation that is going on in the county,” Martin explained.

The principal said that the Xmas card poster had been moved to a faculty work room in order to accommodate the privacy request of one teacher.

No, it's not your imagination - the wingnuts ARE bigots

Texas principal bans Hispanic students from speaking Spanish to ‘prevent disruptions’

by David Edwards

Hempstead Independent School District (ISD) in Texas has confirmed that a middle school principal has been placed on leave after Hispanic students said that she forbid the entire school from speaking Spanish.

A group of students told KHOU that Hempstead Middle School Principal Amy Lacey announced over the intercom on Nov. 12 that they were no longer to use their native language in order to “prevent disruptions.”

It was over two weeks later before the superintendent sent a letter home insisting that “neither the district or any campus has any policy prohibiting the speaking of Spanish.”

Gun Nut Logic

The Cartoon Version

Son punched father in argument over missing cheese packets from box of macaroni & cheese

A family argument over boxed macaroni and cheese resulted in the arrest of a 20-year-old South Carolina man who has been jailed for allegedly battering his father.
Brian Rossi, 54, told sheriff’s deputies that he was “trying to make some macaroni and cheese for dinner” when he “discovered that there was only pasta and no more cheese packets” in the box. After throwing out the pasta, Rossi told his son Alex to “stop using all of the cheese packets,” according to a Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office report.

After exchanging a few words with his father, Alex “ran after him and began to punch him in the face and head.” The younger Rossi “eventually took Brian to the ground and continued to hit him.” When deputies arrived at the pair’s home, “Brian had a fresh laceration beneath his left eye with bruising and swelling.”
During questioning, Alex reported that he and his father “were arguing over macaroni and cheese,” adding that he “did punch Brian in the face, but that Brian also punched him in the face.” Alex, who had no visible injuries, was arrested for misdemeanor assault and battery and booked into the county jail, where he is being held in lieu of $1097 bond.

Shoplifter accused of stealing five Xbox games and one Band-Aid

A Florida man is accused of stealing five video games and a single Band-Aid from a store.

24-year-old Jared David McCowen of DeFuniak Springs, was spotted by a Walmart loss prevention employee going into the electronics department, where he picked up five Xbox games, according to a Crestview Police Department arrest report.
He then went to the toy department where he removed some of the games from their packaging and placed the empty boxes on shelves. He continued to the Garden Center, where he removed the other games from their packaging.

Next, he walked to the Pharmacy where he picked out a box of Band-Aids, removed one from the box and put it on his finger, then threw away the others. He left the store without paying for any of the merchandise. When he was detained the games were found in his pants’ pocket. He was charged with grand theft, a felony, and will make a court appearance on Dec. 10.

Bus passenger arrested after police found goblin wearing small red dress in his satchel

A self-styled prophet from Harare, Zimbabwe was last week arrested at a roadblock on the outskirts of Gweru after he was found in possession of a suspected goblin during a police security check.

The incident occurred when police mounting a roadblock stopped a bus, in which the prophet, Honest Mafa (24) of Budiriro high-density suburb was traveling in, for security checks.
It was during the search that police discovered a strange creature in Mafa’s satchel which was suspected to be a goblin. According to eyewitnesses, the creature had a human like physical appearance wearing a small red dress with artificial hair.

“We were shocked when we saw police take a human like creature from Mafa’s satchel during the security check which was conducted at the roadblock. We suspect it was a goblin because it looked like a baby, but with features of an adult human being,” said one female passenger.

Indian postman cleared of stealing less than $1 after 29 years

An Indian postal worker who was accused of stealing less than $1 in 1984, has been cleared by a court after nearly 350 court hearings over 29 years. Umakant Mishra was suspended from his job after being charged with fraud when 57 rupees and 60 paise (92 cents; 56 pence) went missing in his post office. Mr Mishra said that the battle to clear his name reduced him to penury and his family would have starved if not for his relatives.

Mr Mishra's troubles began on 23 July 1984 when he worked in a post-office in the Harjinder Nagar area of Kanpur city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. "I was given 697 rupees and 60 paise ($11.19; £6.83) which the post-office had received as money orders and I had to distribute it. I distributed 300 rupees and in the evening deposited the rest with a senior official," Mr Mishra says.
When the refund was checked, it was found to be short by 57 rupees and 60 paise (56 pence, 92 cents;). "I was charged with fraud. I was suspended from my services and a complaint was lodged with the police." Mr Mishra was jailed briefly and although he was freed on bail shortly afterwards, his long legal battle had started. "I was summoned 348 times by the court. Initially I had to sell my house in Kanpur, then I had to sell my agricultural land in Hardoi district. I went bankrupt."

He did various odd jobs to support his family and fight the legal battle and says he was helped by his relatives who "helped me and provided me with shelter". He was absolved of all charges last week after the prosecution could not produce any witnesses in the case. "I was suspended when I was in my 30s. Now that I have been absolved, I should be compensated. I should get all the money that is due to me," he says.



Crash test doggies show that pets can become deadly missiles

A dog may be man's best friend but left to roam inside a car it could turn out to be your worst enemy in a crash. Unrestrained pets or faulty restraints are turning dogs into potential killers, say safety researchers in Australia.
The National Roads and Motorists' Association has tested some of the most common dog car harnesses and found many don't work.
At a collision demonstration in Sydney, the motoring lobby's head researcher Robert McDonald warned pet owners to avoid restraints with plastic clips around the animal's chest and those that restrain by the neck.

He said the 40 per cent of motorists surveyed who admitted to driving with an unrestrained dog were putting their pets and themselves in serious danger. If the dog hits the back of the driver's seat, it could push you into the steering wheel when the airbag goes off, he said. "The dog itself could collide with the side of your head, going past the seat on the way to the dash."

A History Of The Glass Wine Bottle

Glass has been around a long time. Naturally occurring obsidian glass has been used in human tools since the Stone Age. The first true glass was produced around 3,000 BC in Northern Syria. In South Asia, glasswork was used beginning around 1730 BC.

The ancient Romans were particularly well-known for their glasswork, which was used both domestically and industrially. They developed the technique of glassblowing, which was used to make wine bottles. It’s no surprise, then, that the term 'glass' was first used by the Romans.

Ten Things To Do With Nettles When You're Bored

Normally, nettles are associated with that nasty sting that they give you should you be foolhardy enough to examine them with bare hands or unfortunate enough to have a brother or sister willful enough to want to push you in to them.

However, they have many more uses than a tool in the escalation into nastiness of sibling rivalry. So, what exactly can you do with nettles when you are bored?

Daily Comic Relief


Boy in coma can keep loyal best friend

A boy in a coma can keep his best friend - an American Staffordshire Terrier - after Berlin authorities who said she was too dangerous to stay at his side were hit by a huge public reaction. Loyal pet Tascha has visited 10-year-old Dylan, who has been in a vegetative state since birth, regularly for six years.
Her presence seems to have a calming effect on Dylan, who is kept alive by life support machines, father Eckhard Gerzmehle says. Her family bought her when they were living in Berlin but soon moved to Brandenburg where the breed is considered dangerous and not allowed. Authorities threatened to take Tascha away, which the family said would be devastating for Dylan. The dog had bitten another dog while out on a walk.

But a social media campaign built up momentum thanks to fireman Jürgen Töpfer who set up a Facebook group which attracted more than 200,000 likes. Brandenburg authorities agreed to meet the family to talk about how they might be able to keep the dog. To get around the fact that Tascha's breed is not allowed to be kept as a pet in Brandenburg, authorities have allowed the family to de-register her in that state and re-register her in Berlin, where Staffordshire Terriers are allowed.
She is now in the process of undergoing training as a therapy and companion dog for disabled people. She has already had three lessons and is doing well. “We are so happy and thankful, also for the support,” said Dylan's parents after the meeting, referring to the hundreds of thousands of people who showed solidarity with them online.

French vets advise against feeding dogs foie gras this Xmas

French dog-lovers are being warned by veterinarians that favorite Xtmas foods like foie gras, smoked salmon and dark chocolate are for human consumption only, and can do serious damage to our four-legged friends.

Veterinarians, have made a public call for French animal-lovers, and dog-owners in particular, to resist the temptation to share their Xmas treats and French delicacies with their furry friends.
Foie gras, the French Xmas delicacy par excellence, should be restricted to human consumption, said Laurent Gouardo, an emergency veterinarian at the Maisons-Afort veterinary school near Paris.

“At Xmas, I treat a lot of pancreatitis – a large inflammation of the pancreas caused by consumption of foie gras, but also by intoxication from garlic, onion and grapes,” he said. Likewise, the high salt content in smoked salmon and ham – traditionally served over Xtmas in France – means they should be kept away from Fido, warned Gouardo.

Hovercraft used to rescue deer trapped on ice

After reading on Facebook about a deer that had been stuck on the ice on Albert Lea lake in Minnesota for days, a father and son ventured out onto the lake where they rescued not one but three deer. Doug and James Kenison said they knew they had to do something.
“We decided we'll go out there and see if we can find it and kind of report back to the people that were making all the posts,” James said. The owners of Medcity Hovercraft, the pair took two hovercrafts out on the partially frozen lake and soon found three deer stranded more than a quarter mile from shore. “They weren't actually stuck in the ice, it was just so slippery that they just couldn't get their footing,” James said. “It looked like one of the deer actually came closer to us. It just seemed like he knew we were there to help."

They quickly came up with a plan. “We just tied some rope to the deer the best way that we could without hurting them and we ended up just dragging them to the nearest shoreline,” James said. “At that point you could tell the deer were really exhausted. They'd been out there a couple days." One of the deer ran off quickly while the others struggled to regain their strength. But the Kenisons said the rescue was only made possible because of their versatile hovercrafts, which can travel on land, water, and of course, ice.
“They're a good tool, especially in situations like this where the ice, you're just not sure if it's thick enough,” James said. “We basically had the equipment so we just said why not?" Taking the daring rescue in stride, the Kenisons said they were just happy to help. “There’s definitely people out there that their hearts were going out to these deer,” James said. “And just knowing that I have a hovercraft and it would take me nothing to get out there, I just felt like I can't do nothing."

Red Squirrels Show Signs Of Recovery from Deadly Poxvirus

The red squirrel population in the UK, long on the brink of complete destruction, has shown signs of resistance to a deadly poxvirus which has killed hundreds of thousands of them over the decades.

A study in an area of Merseyside in the North East of England has shown that around 10 percent of the population there now carry squirrelpox antibodies in their bloodstream. The antibodies, which enable the squirrels and their descendants to respond to the virus also indicate that a number of the animals have had the disease but have recovered.

Animal Pictures