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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.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Daily Drift

Two Days To Go ....

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Today is - Festivus Day


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Today in History

1861 Lord Lyons, The British minister to America presents a formal complaint to secretary of state, William Seward, regarding the Trent affair.
1900 The Federal Party, which recognizes American sovereignty, is formed in the Philippines.
1919 Great Britain institutes a new constitution for India.
1921 President Warren G. Harding frees Socialist Eugene Debs and 23 other political prisoners.
1933 Pope Pius XI condemns the Nazi sterilization program.
1937 London warns Rome to stop anti-British propaganda in Palestine.
1939 The first Canadian troops arrive in Britain.
1940 Chiang Kai-shek dissolves all Communist associations in China.
1941 Despite throwing back an earlier Japanese amphibious assault, the U.S. Marines and Navy defenders on Wake Island capitulate to a second Japanese invasion.
1944 General Dwight D. Eisenhower confirms the death sentence of Private Eddie Slovik, the only American shot for desertion since the Civil War.
1947 President Harry S Truman grants a pardon to 1,523 who had evaded the World War II draft.
1948 Japan's Prime Minister, Hideki Tojo and six other collaborators are hanged for war crimes.
1950 General Walton H. Walker, the commander of the Eighth Army in Korea, is killed in a jeep accident. Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgeway is named his successor.
1967 U.S. Navy SEALs are ambushed during an operation southeast of Saigon.
1974 The B-1 bomber makes its first successful test flight.
1986 The Voyager completes the first nonstop flight around the globe on one load of fuel. The experimental aircraft, piloted Americans Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California after nine days and four minutes in the sky.
1990 In a referendum on Sovlenia's independence from Yugoslovia, 88.5% vote in favor of independence.
2002 An Iraqi MiG-25 shoots down a US MQ-1 Predator drone.

Non Sequitur


Xmas Countdown Xmas Stories

Holly, Ivy and Greenery

In Northern Europe Christmas occurred during the middle of winter, when ghosts and demons could be heard howling in the winter winds. Boughs of holly, believed to have magical powers since they remained green through the harsh winter, were often placed over the doors of homes to drive evil away. Greenery was also brought indoors to freshen the air and brighten the mood during the long, dreary winter.

Top Myths Busted in 2013

These seven popular stories and myths were busted in 2013, ranging from the scientific to the sublimely pseudoscientific.

Nancy Pelosi Turns the Tables on Darrell Issa and He Could Be In Big Trouble

Nancy Pelosi has had enough of Darrell Collateral Damage Issa.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is calling for a high level security briefing on the operations of Darrell Issa (r-CA), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in which he would have to be forthcoming about what information he has released and to whom after he got his hands on sensitive documents surrounding HealthCare.Gov. It would then be up to the Department of Justice to make a determination.
Ed Schultz and his panel discussed Pelosi turning the tables on Issa .
“Rep. Darrell Issa could face serious consequences after releasing classified information to the public”
Panelist Karen Finney explained that with such briefing, they would learn what Issa released and if anything leaks out, they can determine what should have been out there and what should not have been out there.
Issa finally got his hands on sensitive information about HealthCare.Gov that were it to be leaked, panelist E.J. Dionne pointed out, would make the site vulnerable to a cyber attack and would endanger national security. The release of the information could jeopardize the security of websites across the government, according to cyber security experts from across the administration IT departments.
It’s also the kind of information that someone who had it out for President Obama and the entire Democratic administration could really use, if they had no scruples and maybe had a penchant for criminal activity. Darrell Issa just so happens to qualify.
The Democrats are concerned.
The administration asked Issa for a personal briefing in order to explain the security risks, but he declined to meet with them. So they had little choice but to escalate the matter, pointing out that he had not followed protocol in the procuring of the documents and his refusal to even listen to the security concerns “reckless in the extreme”.
Democrats have been calling for a classified meeting with administration cyber security officials to discuss the proper handling of documents, including writing a letter requesting an immediate classified briefing “about the extremely significant risks of disclosing sensitive contractor documents relating to the Healthcare.gov website.”
Issa subpoenaed sensitive documents from the MITRE Corporation, the contractors who worked on the security of the ObamaCare federal exchange. He had already been given unredacted access to the information, but then he wanted a set of documents for himself. Pause for gravity, because when Darrell Issa gets his hands on sensitive information, lives have been put at risk due to his relentless alleged carelessness.
Issa has proven that facts carry no weight in his Benghazi and IRS “investigations”.
Congressman Issa allegedly inadvertently leaked sensitive information, sometimes related to national security, as he stumbled over the carefully crafted narratives the repugican caba and Faux were coordinating for the nation. For example:
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (r-CA) has placed several Libyans lives at risk in the course of investigating the alleged security issues regarding the deaths of four Americans in Libya on September 11, 2012.
Issa uploaded scores of sensitive material and didn’t redact names of Libyan civilians or local leaders, exposing them to physical danger from the very people the Obama administration is investigating regarding the September 11, 2012 attacks.
It would be very appropriate for the DOJ to weigh in on Issa’s tactics, especially after Issa’s drummed up charges against AG Eric Holder were deemed “flimsy” by legal experts. The California repugican’s consistent carelessness when it comes to leaking seems to benefit him and his cabal’s agenda. Issa’s leaks never hurt him or his cabal. They only seem to hurt the innocent.
Darrell Issa is a slippery one when it comes to the law. “He’s been indicted for stealing a car, arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and accused by former associates of burning down a building.”, but here he is, running the repugican cabal’s oversight committee. That says a lot more about the repugican cabal than it does about Darrell Issa.

Oklahoma City cops charge Keystone XL protesters with "terrorism hoax" because their banner shed some glitter

Two protesters who held up an anti-Keystone-XL-pipeline banner at the Oklahoma City headquarters of Devon Energy have been charged with perpetrating a "terrorism hoax" because some of the glitter on their banner fell on the floor and was characterized by OKC cops as a "hazardous substance." The arrest is an extreme example, but it's not an isolated one. Indeed, leaked documents show that TransCanada has an army of spies assembling dossiers on protesters, and has been briefing the FBI and local law on techniques for prosecuting anti-pipeline protesters as terrorists.
Their attorney, Doug Parr, has been involved in dozens of protest cases like this one in Oklahoma and Texas. In other arrests, protesters have faced trumped-up charges, but this is a radical escalation. "I've been practicing law since the 1970s. Quite frankly, I've been expecting this," Parr said. "Based upon the historical work I've been involved in, I know that when popular movements that confront the power structure start gaining traction, the government ups the tactics they employ in order to disrupt and take down those movements."
TransCanada has been putting pressure on law enforcement to do exactly that. In documents obtained by Bold Nebraska, the company was shown briefing police and the FBI on how to prosecute anti-pipeline protesters as terrorists.

Obama panel urges new limits on NSA spying powers, does not recommend data collection stop

"A panel of presidential advisers who reviewed the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices urged President Obama on Wednesday to end the government’s systematic collection of logs of all Americans’ phone calls, and to keep those in private hands, 'for queries and data mining' only by court order," Charlie Savage and David E. Sanger report in the New York Times. The White House released the panel's 300-page report today. [PDF Link]
The Guardian is liveblogging analysis of the report here.
Here's the Electronic Frontier Foundation's initial statement:
The President's Review Group today recognized the severe risks caused by the government's mass spying on Americans and people around the world, joining the global consensus that the NSA has gone too far. The group's report included over 40 recommendations for promoting transparency, protecting online security tools, and making organizational reforms to the NSA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the civil liberties oversight bodies. However, the report left open the door for future mass surveillance and failed to address the constitutionality of the NSA's mass spying, recently questioned by the D.C. federal court and raised by EFF in its multiple lawsuits.
“The president's panel agreed with the growing consensus that mass electronic surveillance has no place in American society,” EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl said. “The review board floats a number of interesting reform proposals, and we're especially happy to see them condemn the NSA's attacks on encryption and other security systems people rely upon. But we’re disappointed that the recommendations suggest a path to continue untargeted spying. Mass surveillance is still heinous, even if private company servers are holding the data instead of government data centers.“
"We're concerned that the panel appears to allows the NSA to continue the mass collection of emails, chats and other electronic communications of Americans under the pretext that the NSA is 'targeting' foreigners overseas," said EFF Activist Trevor Timm. "While we're happy that the panel acknowledged that foreigners abroad need some additional privacy protections, mass surveillance isn't acceptable for Americans or foreigners."

UK spies cooperated in torture, didn't want to upset US spies

A UK government inquiry into the practice of torture of suspects rendered by MI5 and MI6 found that British spies did not speak out against torture because they didn't want to offend the CIA.

Facebook monitors unposted comments

Facebook says it is within its terms of service to see what users are typing even when the status or comment is never posted on the social network.
Facebook has confirmed it tracks users' unpublished posts after two Facebook researchers disclosed that they had tracked the activity of about 5 million random users.

Free houses for writers

Writeahouse is a Detroit-based charity that trains people in carpentry and related trades by having them renovate houses, then gives the houses to writers (novelists, journalists, poets), encouraging them to relocate to Detroit. Applications open in spring 2014. Writers are given a house that is 80 percent renovated, and are responsible for finishing the work and paying insurance and taxes. After two years, they are given the deed to the house, with the stipulation that if they sell the house within five years, Writeahouse gets the right to buy it back at an independently appraised value.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Village has same plot as 1965 comic book

Mitch O'Connell says:
First I tear the lid off the secret REAL origin of Scooby Doo - and now it looks like I'm about to get real again! Almost 40 years before "M" came out with his film The Village about a hidden town of present day Amish-like occupants of a small Pennsylvania village who are made to think it's really 1897, and kept secluded by the woods from venturing into the modern (evil) world, it seems Action Comics #324 had the same plot.

Assumed John Wayne Gacy victim found alive

When construction worker Robert Hutton vanished in 1972, he was an archetypal victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy: young, white, and itinerant. But his family never gave up looking for him, and his sister just found him.

If You're The Youngest Child, Your Mom Probably Thinks You're Shorter Than You Really Are

We all know that birth order has some kind of affect on how our personalities are perceived by our family members, but according to recent findings it also affects how our bodies are perceived - specifically, it makes everyone mistakenly think that the youngest in each family appears smaller than they really are.

A group of researchers from Swinburne University in Melbourne rounded up a bunch of mothers whose kids were in the 2-6 year age range and asked them to estimate exactly how tall their children were by marking a featureless wall. When they guessed the heights of children who were the youngest in their family, they fell short at an average of 3 inches.

Just how terrible are the twos?

Since 1831, scientists have assumed that aggression and acts of physical violence peak in a person's midteens. New data, though, suggests this view is misleading — based, as it is, on arrest records, it misses the real peak in violent behavior, which happens at 24 months of age. 

The physics of dwarves in barrels

In which professor and blogger Rhett Allain uses physics to prove that Thorin Oakenshield probably stole some gold from the wood elves. (At least, the movie version of Thorin Oakenshield.).

Those Eye Floaters Live Inside You!

Have you ever seen something pass through your field of vision? Or maybe you see spots when you close your eyes. Trace explains what those eye 'floaters' are and if you should be concerned when you see them.

Laughter is the worst medicine

A paper in the British Medical Journal reviewed the literature on harms arising from laughter and produced a wide-ranging list of laughing-related dangers, from asthma attacks to cerebral tumors. The authors concluded "Laughter is not purely beneficial. The harms it can cause are immediate and dose related, the risks being highest for Homeric (uncontrollable) laughter."
Laughter is no joke—dangers include syncope, cardiac and oesophageal rupture, and protrusion of abdominal hernias (from side splitting laughter or laughing fit to burst), asthma attacks, interlobular emphysema, cataplexy, headaches, jaw dislocation, and stress incontinence (from laughing like a drain). Infectious laughter can disseminate real infection, which is potentially preventable by laughing up your sleeve. As a side effect of our search for side effects, we also list pathological causes of laughter, among them epilepsy (gelastic seizures), cerebral tumours, Angelman’s syndrome, strokes, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or motor neuron disease.

What's in your herbal supplements?

DNA testing of 44 different herbal supplements from 12 companies found that 59 percent of the bottles contained DNA from ingredients that weren't listed on the label — and some of those ingredients are potential allergens, including soybean, wheat, and the herb feverfew.

The danger of shiny things

The brighter and shinier your inexpensive plastic and vinyl accessories are, the more likely they are to be contaminated with high levels of lead.




Newgrange's heavenly alignment suggests that the winter solstice may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.

The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.

Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstice based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay's redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals.

Jacob's Well

A Beautiful But Deadly Natural Spring

Deep in the Texas Hill Country—that’s central Texas—is nature’s perfect swimming hole. Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring northwest of the town of Wimberley. It sits on a fault line of the Edwards Plateau. Bathers often rest and play on the surface, right above a 10-foot wide shaft that leads deep, deep into the earth.
In 1948, developers made it part of a resort. You can swim at the top. But daring people don scuba gear and venture into the bowels of the spring. 10 have died while doing so.
The first chamber drops about 30 feet, then angles down 55 more. This part enjoys natural sunlight from the surface. Thereafter, Louis Bond writes, Jacob’s Well gets dangerous:
The second chamber is a long funnel to 80 feet, where there is a restricted opening to the third chamber. Inside the second chamber is a false chimney, which appears to be a way out of the well but has trapped at least one diver. Southwest Texas State University student Richard Patton lost his life in that false chimney in 1983.
The third chamber is a small room with a floor of unstable gravel. Divers must inflate water wings to navigate this chamber successfully, trying not to stir up silt or dislodge the gravel.
The passage into the fourth chamber is very tight, but the San Marcos Area Recovery Team (SMART) was recently able to penetrate it without removing their air tanks. The tightest restriction occurs 15 feet down the next tunnel where there is a knife-edge formation in the ceiling and fine gravel below. The few who have seen the fourth chamber say it is "virgin cave" with fantastic limestone formations and no gravel. Covering the bottom is fine silt that can totally obscure vision when kicked up by one misstep.
When, at great peril, divers entered the fourth chamber, they found the remains of explorers who never returned to the surface.
You can see more photos of Jacob’s Well at Amusing Planet and the Daily Mail.

Earth Wind Map

Earth Wind Map is a visualization of global wind velocity. Forecast by supercomputers and updated every three hours. Use your mouse to rotate the globe and click on 'earth' in the lower left corner to change height and projection.

Daily Comic Relief


Pet turkey snatched by fox and attacked by dog is back home for Xmas

A turkey is looking forward to a happy Xmas off the dinner table after escaping attack and surviving alone in the wilderness. Bernard the Norfolk black turkey fought off a fox and defied a dog during his outback exploits that took him five miles from home at East Ruston near North Walsham, Norfolk and saw him reunited with his family. The eight-month-old bird was bought as a pet by Ellie Waite and soon became a firm favourite among her family’s brood of chickens, ducks and dogs with his cheeky personality and inquisitive nature. He would come running when called, enjoyed cuddles and regularly wander into the house if the door was left open. So the family were devastated when two weeks ago, they went out in the morning to discover a pile of black feathers and no sign of Bernard.
Mrs Waite said: “The fox had come to claim his Xmas lunch early. My husband searched the fields to see if he could find his remains or any sign of him but to no avail, Bernard was dead. It was horrendous, we were in mourning.” Ten days later however, hopes were raised he could still be alive after the family’s next door neighbour mentioned a fellow villager had found a turkey sitting on her doorstep. Mrs Waite, mum to ten-year-old Ben, rushed to the woman’s house and was told a badly injured Bernard had indeed visited - but since disappeared. “The lovely lady had been caring for him, putting him in her garage at night and letting him in her garden during the day,” she said.

“But when she returned from work one evening Bernard had gone without a trace. My heart sank, I was too late.” Back in the wilderness, the family feared there was no way he would survive as he would not have been able to roost out of the reach of predators, due to his injuries. In a last ditch effort, Mrs Waite posted an appeal on Facebook. Her plea spread quickly across the social networking site, with everyone rooting for Bernard’s safe return - however unlikely so close to Xmas. But within two hours, Mrs Waite had a reply. “To my utter amazement I got a message from someone who had seen my cry for help. She said ‘I think I have got your turkey here’. After nearly falling through the floor I made contact with the lady who was actually in Happisburgh, about five miles away.”
Bernard had been spotted by a dog walker not far from home. Unfortunately the dog was not a bird fan and gave chase, but the ever resilient turkey fought back and managed to escape - again. The dog walker took his pet home and returned to the field, where Bernard promptly popped out from the undergrowth. Not knowing what to do with the injured bird the man called his friend in Happisburgh who keeps chickens. Bernard soon became a much-adored addition to his adopted family - until they saw the Facebook post and were able to finally reunite him with the Waites. Mrs Waite said: “He’s a bit battered and bruised but he’s fine. He’s just shown such resilience, he’s a proper butt-kicking bird. He’s the Bear Grylls of the turkey world.”

Key Hormone May Keep 'Hippie Chimps' Mellow

Males in particular show low levels of aggression, even maintaining platonic friendships with females and sticking by their mothers into adulthood.

Don't be scared of the vampire squid

The name Vampyroteuthis infernalis means "Vampire squid from hell". And vampire squid are freaky looking creatures — red with cloudy eyes that can appear blue or blood red, depending on how the light hits them. But appearances can be deceiving. Turns out, the squid from hell has eating habits more in line with those of Bunnicula. The squids' entire diet is made of "marine snow" — floaty little bits of algae, poop, and bacteria.

When the squirrels came to town

Prior to the mid-19th century, squirrels were thought of as fantastic woodland creatures, rather than the urbane, city-dwelling vermin they are today. In fact, the available evidence suggests that, up until this point, there really weren't a whole lot of squirrels living in cities in the United States — at least, not with the ubiquity that they now do. What changed? A couple of things, according to a paper published in The Journal of American History. First, human architects and city planners got really into the idea of urban greenspace for the first time, constructing elaborate parks like Central Park in New York. Second, the humans then imported squirrels from the countryside to add to the bucolic ambiance they were hoping these parks would foster. The rest, as they say, is all rodent breeding and natural selection.
At Popular Science, Lex Berko spoke with the paper's author, Etienne Benson of the University of Pennsylvania:
To be sure, squirrels weren’t the only animals introduced. As Benson explained to me in an email, they were part of a small group of creatures, including starlings and sparrows, that was intentionally brought to cities at the same time in the 1870s. However, squirrels stood out to city dwellers for three reasons: they’re a native North American species; they’re diurnal mammals that can deal with human contact fairly well; and they oftentimes look like they are begging, a characteristic that attracted those with soft hearts and extra breadcrumbs.
Following their introduction, squirrels became a cultural touchstone. “What was probably most surprising to me was in a way how surprised (and, often, delighted) urban Americans were to have them around,” Benson told me. Institutions, like Harvard University, constructed nest boxes and handed out bags of nuts in the winter time to keep the squirrels from going hungry. Meanwhile, ordinary residents also found pleasure in providing for the squirrels. Some people even became local celebrities for their efforts, like the feeders of Washington DC’s Lafayette Park, who handed out over 75 pounds of peanuts weekly.

Animal Pictures