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

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

We still have the flu, but we still go on ...

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Today in History

1460 The Duke of York is defeated and killed by Lancastrians at the Battle of Wakefield.
1803 The United States takes possession of the Louisiana area from France at New Orleans with a simple ceremony, the simultaneous lowering and raising of the national flags.
1861 Banks in the United States suspend the practice of redeeming paper money for metal currency, a practice that would continue until 1879.
1862 The draft of the Emancipation Proclamation is finished and circulated among President Abraham Lincoln's cabinet for comment.
1905 Governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho is killed by an assassin's bomb.
1922 Soviet Russia is renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
1932 The Soviet Union bars food handouts for housewives under 36 years of age. They must now work to eat.
1947 Romania's King Michael is forced to abdicate by Soviet-backed Communists. Communists now control all of Eastern Europe.
1965 Ferdinand E. Marcos is sworn in as the Philippine Republic's sixth president.
1972 After two weeks of heavy bombing raids on North Vietnam, President Nixon halts the air offensive and agrees to resume peace negotiations with Hanoi representative Le Duc Tho.
1976 Governor Carey of New York pardons seven inmates, closing the book on the Attica uprising.
2006 Saddam Hussein, former Iraq dictator, is executed by hanging for crimes committed against his own people during his rule.

Non Sequitur


The Most Ridiculous repugican Attempt to Paint President Obama as a Racist You Will Ever See

by Allen Clifton
I’ve been thinking about doing a satire piece about repugicans accusing President Obama of being a racist.  But after reading the comments that came from freshman Florida Congressman Ted Yoho, no amount of creative satire could be nearly as ridiculous as what he actually said.
Essentially, he said that the 10% “tanning tax” included in “Obamacare” is a racist attack based on the color of someone’s skin.
I swear to you, that’s what he said.

Here are his actual comments during a town hall meeting in Florida:
“I had a little fun with Boehner and told him about the sun tanning tax.  He goes, ‘I didn’t know it was in there,’ and I said, ‘Yes, it’s a ten percent tax.’ He goes, ‘Well, that’s not that big of a deal.’ I said, ‘It’s a racist tax.’ He goes, ‘You know what? It is.’”
His explanation:
“I had an Indian doctor in our office the other day, very dark skin, with two non-dark skin people, and I asked this to him, I said, ‘Have you ever been to a tanning booth?’ and he goes, ‘No, no need.’ So therefore it’s a racist tax and I thought I might need to get to a sun tanning booth so I can come out and say I’ve been disenfranchised because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.”
So, President Obama is attacking people for the “color of their skin” because of a 10% tax on tanning booths he included in “Obamacare.”
I can’t even properly respond to this level of stupidity, because the language I would use wouldn’t be appropriate.
All I can say is—wow.
But shockingly, this isn’t the first time President Obama has been called a racist for including a 10% tanning tax in the Affordable Care Act.  Just last year former Congressman Allen West echoed the same sentiment, telling a group of people the tax was racist because “he isn’t tanning.”
Allen West is, of course, African American.
Or maybe the fact that tanning booths have been linked to skin cancer might be the reason why there’s a 10% tax attached to a law about health care.  Just a wild hunch.
The ironic part is, I’ve known Italians, Hispanics, African Americans and others with darker than average skin who’ve used tanning booths.  So isn’t it really racist to imply, as Yoho and West have done with their comments, that it’s only Caucasians who would use them?
But there’s no real point to try utilizing logic, rational thoughts or even sanity when trying to understand the ignorantly insane.
Congressman Yoho’s comments are simply those of a buffoon—pure and simple.  There’s no reasoning behind them.  There’s no logic and they defy rational thought.  They define ignorance, and repugicans should be ashamed people like Yoho represent their party.
Sadly, I highly doubt many of them are ashamed.  It’s just par for the course with this group of nincompoops and the people who vote for them.

Michele Bachmann Heads Further Off the Deep End, Claims Obama Has Brought About “End Times”

by Thomas Barr 
Yes, Michele Bachmann is still a United States Congressperson and yes, she is still on the House Committee on Intelligence. Let that sink in before reading the rest of this story (which is not satire, by the way).
…. sigh ….
Speaking on Jan Markell’s “Understanding the Times” apocalyptic-themed radio program on Saturday, Bachmann showed us once again that yes, she is absolutely capable of wading further into the waters of utter insanity. If you can stomach reading it (oh, and there’s audio too), Bachmann said:
“President Obama waived a ban on arming terrorists in order to allow weapons to go to the Syrian opposition… Your listeners, US taxpayers, are now paying to give arms to terrorists including Al Qaeda. This happened and as of today the United States is willingly, knowingly, intentionally sending arms to terrorists. Now what this says to me, as I’m a believer in jesus christ, as I look at the End Times scripture, this says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in god’s end times history…  The prophets longed to look into the future to see these days of his coming! Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice! Maranatha come lord jesus, his day is at hand!”
And for good measure, she added:
“And so when we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; that these days would be as the days of Noah. We are seeing that in our time. Yes it gives us fear in some respects because we want the retirement that our parents enjoyed. Well they will, if they know jesus christ.”
You hear that, folks? praise the lord, jesus is coming! President Obama armed Syrian rebels, so therefore… jesus!

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way trying to demean christians, christianity as a whole, the bible, jesus or anything about any religious belief. But come on… There’s a thin line between devout christianity and believing in jesus, and twisting that into something that borders mental illness and completely contorts christianity to suit your own insidious agenda. If anybody is demeaning christianity, it’s Michele Bachmann.
Just look at this woman’s own words. They don’t even make sense! 
“This says to me that the leaf is on the fig tree and we are to understand the signs of the times, which is your ministry, we are to understand where we are in god’s end times history…  The prophets longed to look into the future to see these days of his coming! Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice! Maranatha come lord jesus, his day is at hand!”
“And so when we see up is down and right is called wrong, when this is happening, we were told this; that these days would be as the days of Noah.”
Is she saying that because she exists, that is proof that we’re in the “end times?” Because her and her fellow tea party repugicans are the only ones in government who have proven time and time again that they think “up is down and right is called wrong.” Feeding the poor and healing the sick? Wrong! Proven science and history? Wrong! 
Seriously, Rep. Bachmann has always been a little off her rocker, but it seems like ever since she made the announcement that she won’t be seeking re-election, she’s used that as an excuse to trade the rocker in for an apocalyptic broom and pointed hat. Gone are the rather amusing days of talking into the wrong camera and looking crazy on magazine covers; she’s now conducting crazed press conferences in Egypt and hitting the airwaves on Armageddon radio to apparently sing the praises of President Obama for summoning the return of jesus.
Aside from the utter absurdity and borderline insanity of her comments, let’s not lose sight of how terribly misguided she is on her understanding of the “Last Days.” Bachmann, like millions of others in our country today, would do herself well to reassess whether she truly knows prophecy and when “jesus will return.” As my colleague Arik Bjorn has pointed out in a fantastic piece which I’d highly encourage checking out:
Suddenly christianity’s coded comfort codex is turned into an Agatha Christie whodunit.  And each passing generation, further removed from the text’s original intent and increasingly anxious that Jesus has not yet returned as long ago promised, interprets Revelation more and more as a Hollywood disaster film.  As one of my theology professors once put it:  “In the past millennium, not one generation has gone by without christians insisting that the Book of Revelation points to christ’s imminent return, and that all of the text’s cryptic references can easily be mapped to the current political world.  And every single generation has been spectacularly wrong.
I don’t have a problem with people believing what they want to believe, as long as they aren’t doing harm to others in the process. We have the First Amendment for a reason, and even the craziest get to utilize their rights. But there’s a difference between nutjobs like those associated with the Westboro baptist cult utilizing their First Amendment rights (as disgusting as they might be), and a whacko like Michele Bachmann utilizing hers. She is a sitting member of Congress, with direct influence over matters of intelligence in our country. She helps to oversee the CIA, FBI, NSA, DOJ and several other extremely important (and sensitive) departments. And here she is, expressing her belief that President Barack Obama has brought us to the Last Days.
Congresswoman, do us all a favor and just resign from your position in Congress. It’s obvious you’re more interested in expressing your opinions on Armageddon rather than doing any sort of actual governing — you’d do the whole country (which you claim to love) a good deed by stepping down immediately.
I’d highly encourage everybody reading this to stop by Rep. Bachmann’s Facebook page and let her know your thoughts, as well.

Low-wage, hourly workers struggle with inadequate hours, schedule uncertainty

The Arbitration Trap

You can't generally just opt out of this forced arbitration. The provisions are baked in to the products we use every day. Our cell phones, cable and Internet. Credit cards, payday loans, car loans, mortgages. Car rental contracts. You can hardly talk or move or buy anything without signing away your rights.
It's bad enough that thousands of people every day are signing away a core constitutional right without realizing it. But the problem with mandatory arbitration isn't just that you can't get a trial. It's that the arbitration people are stuck with is so unfair.
Arbitration is not just a friendly, low-hassle, let's-talk-it-over alternative to a mean, scary court proceeding. Time after time, arbitration has been found to favor corporations over complainants. One report from 2007 found that consumers in California arbitration cases won just 4 percent of their cases. The companies typically choose the arbitrator and the location. Consumer advocates argue that arbitrators reach decisions that please the corporation, rather than decisions based on facts, in hopes of getting repeat business.

The Media Calls Out repugican Grinches and Scrooges For Screwing Over the Unemployed

The repugicans end the year with a bang, being called Grinch and Scrooge by US News and the Daily Beast for allowing long term UI benefits to end …
In case you missed it, this past year was the year of the repugican rebrand. Yes, they were to move away from the cabal of You People disdain, carefully avoiding legitimate rape and lemon pregnancies, while stepping around their contempt for arguably more than 47% of the country. All of this rebranding was to be in service of a tent that did not collapse upon them when the old Faux watching white men died.
Instead, repugicans end the year with a bang, being called Grinch and Scrooge by US News and the Daily Beast (neither of which are liberal outlets), as well as becoming a constant target in political cartoons for their now infamous miserliness when it comes to the people, and their utter spinelessness when it comes to corporations and rich white men.
So it is at the end of 2013 that 1.3 million Americans stand to lose their emergency unemployment benefits and repugican hero Rand Paul announced that he doesn’t understand what a lack of jobs means. The Kentucky Senator justified the repugican cabal position of refusing to extend unemployment benefits to the long term unemployed with this bit of idiotic confusion, “When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you’re causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy.”

The Senator apparently hasn’t stopped reading novels intended for juvenile boys because nothing in his statement reflects an awareness of reality here on Earth. On Earth, where gravity is a thing and global climate change exists, America is short on jobs. We have been since 2007. This is why President Obama has been pushing his jobs bill since he took office. But repugicans don’t believe in passing a jobs bill or in extending long term unemployment benefits, because once again they appear to believe in the Magic Fairy of Luck who creates jobs for those with good intentions and starves the children of the rest.
Some in the media are not impressed. On Xmas Eve, US News ran, “The repugican cabal Embraces Its Inner Grinch: repugican opposition to extending unemployment benefits is cold-hearted and wrong-headed By Robert Schlesinger.”
Mr. Schlesinger wrote:
Occasionally, in politics, parties drop the pretense, stop fighting it and just embrace their caricatures. So the repugican cabal, which every December transmogrifies in its critics’ eyes into the living embodiment of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, has embraced the role.
How else can one explain the fact that, thanks to the repugican cabal refusing to allow an extension, Congress is just days away from letting supplemental unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million Americans? And that’s just for starters. According to the White House Council on Economic Advisers, an additional 3.6 million people will lose their benefits by the end of 2014. These families should not, in other words, splurge on a Xmas feast of Who-pudding and rare Who-roast beast.
Jamelle Bouie at The Daily Beast was on the same page only he saw Scrooge instead of the Grinch with “the repugican cabal Decides to Play Scrooge as Millions Lose Benefits: repugicans are all that stands between security and crisis for the millions of Americans who are set to lose emergency unemployment benefits”:
Even after you get a job, the harm from long-term unemployment can last for years. Indeed, the idea that this is something people enjoy—that anyone wants to stay idle—is ludicrous. “If you look at the long-term unemployed, a good chunk of them have children. A good chunk are married. A good chunk are college-educated or have had some college and in their prime earning years,” writes Michael Strain of the wingnut American Enterprise Institute, “It strikes me as implausible that this person is engaged in a half-hearted job search.” People want to work, the problem is that—with three seekers for every position—there aren’t enough jobs to go around.
Mr. Bouie felt compelled to explain math to the Scrooges in the repugican cabal, as in: There are 3X number of people but only X number of jobs. Forget math! The Republicans believe in the Magic Fairy over math and science. The Magic Fairy creates jobs for the worthy. The Magic Fairy makes sure everything is fair and no one who is worthy is ever unlucky.
This is the mentality of actual Senators running this country — they still believe that lucky is indicative of character, which implies justice is inherent in their good fortune and therefore other people’s bad fortune is their fault. This is a very small-minded, immature set of beliefs caused by an over-inflated sense of self combined with smug privilege that seeks to place causality where there is none.
Sure, hard work is often behind success, but as an example, hard work is not evident among the very privileged repugicans in the House of Representatives, and yet they still have great jobs with healthcare. Therefore, there is something else at play besides hard work.
And all of the grown ups can see this truism and have had to accept tough facts of life like unintended pregnancy caused by rape and desperately needing a job and still not getting one. You see, contrary to the beliefs of little boys like Senator Paul, we don’t always get what we want or need. And that is the very frightening reality that most of America has to deal with at some point, while the children of the repugican cabal play Scrooge out of willful blindness and epic selfishness.

The repugican Lies Rejected

73% Say Congress Has Done Nothing To Help the American People 
A new CNN poll found that the American people aren’t buying what repugicans are selling as 73% of those polled said the repugican cabal has done nothing to address the nation’s problems.
Every demographic group in the poll agreed that this Congress is the worst that they have ever seen in their entire lives. Women, men, African-Americans, repugicans, Democrats, Independents, rich, poor, old young all agree that this Congress is the worst.
The bad news for repugicans is that they aren’t fooling anyone with their rhetoric about doing the work of the American people. 73% of respondents said that this Congress has done nothing to address the nation’s problems. The negativity cuts in every direction. 52% believe Democratic policies would take the country in the wrong direction. 54% believe repugican policies would take the country in the wrong direction, and the same 54% believe President Obama’s policies would take the country in the wrong direction.
It may not look like it, but there is a possible advantage available for the president and the Democrats. While John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and congressional repugicans are trying to convince the American people that doing nothing is a productive political agenda, Democrats are hard at work on a platform for 2014 that is centered on job creation, tax fairness, and raising the minimum wage.
As the healthcare rollout continues to smoothly progress, President Obama’s poll numbers will rebound. The president is still being hurt by the barrage of bad media coverage that surrounded the ACA website rollout, but he also has a growing economy working in his favor. If the economic message takes center stage in 2014, Democrats will be in a great position come Election Day next year.
What this poll reveals is that the American people aren’t stupid. People are paying attention, and they understand obstruction for political gain when they see it. The repugicans have been successful in creating the kind of toxic political climate that holds down turnout in a midterm election year, but they have damaged themselves so badly that the repugican brand may be virtually unelectable in 2016. The repugican cabal’s short sighted strategy looks to be dooming them to a best possible outcome of controlling the House and nothing else for years to come.
The more likely scenario is that Democrats run on their jobs, fairness, and anti-income inequality agenda and end up being the only party discussing the issues that voters care about. The repugicans should be very worried about these poll numbers. They may think that they are getting what they want, but in reality repugicans are sowing the seeds for Democratic victories for years to come.

UPS and FedEx Ruin Xmas and Prove repugicans Wrong About Killing the Post Office

People across the country got a look at what package delivery will look like if the Postal Service is privatized after both UPS and FedEx ruined Xmas by being unable to delivery holiday packages on time.
UPS admitted that some children would not receive their Xmas gifts on time because their system could not keep up with demand, “We understand the importance of your holiday shipments. However, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network.” A spokesperson for Fed Ex said, “We’re sorry that there could be delays and we’re contacting affected customers who have shipments available for pickup.” Fed Ex’s solution was to make customers who paid for Xmas delivery go to their local Fed Ex store and pick up their packages on Xmas Day. If you didn’t have a local Fed Ex store, you were out of luck.
Things were so bad at Fed Ex that local depots were overwhelmed with packages to the point where they didn’t attempt to make deliveries. The AP confirmed that the delivery issues impacted Alabama, California, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Some people will blame the customer for waiting until the last minute to place their order, but the problems at UPS and Fed Ex illustrate why the repugican plan to kill the USPS would be a total disaster. As private companies, UPS and Fed Ex have no incentive to make sure that they have the amount of capacity needed to handle a last minute holiday flood of orders. Their main incentive is to maximize profit, not serve the public.
Both companies are blaming the weather for their inability to deliver as promised, but the United States Postal Service was able to deliver in time for Xmas, so the weather excuse appears to be a bit flimsy. If repugicans got their way, and the Postal Service was privatized, the horror stories from UPS and Fed Ex would become the norm for every American 365 days a year.
UPS and FedEx are good businesses, but they can’t replace the U.S. Postal Service. In fiscal year 2013, the USPS turned a $660 million profit delivering the mail. The red ink that Postal Service is drowning in is caused by the ridiculous requirement that they must prefund retiree healthcare benefits.
The fiasco at UPS and FedEx has proven repugicans wrong. The private sector can’t do it better. America needs the United States Postal Service.

Grad student proves NSA can link metadata to your identity with 'marginal effort'

Grad student proves NSA can link metadata to your identity with 'marginal effort'

A Stanford graduate student has shown just how easily names can be matched with phone records, contradicting some of the legal justification offered by federal authorities for the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone data.

President Barack Obama said in June that the surveillance captured only which telephone numbers were connected to others. "There are no names … in that database," Obama said.

Just last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said cell phone customers had no reasonable expectation to privacy because the data collected by the NSA because it did not contain their names.

But researcher Jonathan Mayer and co-author Patrick Mutchler reported that they'd gathered thousands of phone numbers from volunteers and checked various public online directories to link some of the 5,000 numbers chosen at random from their database to individuals.

With "marginal effort," they matched more than 27 percent of the numbers using just Yelp, Google Places and Facebook.

They then randomly sampled 100 numbers from the database and ran Google searches for each.

"In under an hour, we were able to associate an individual or a business with 60 of the 100 numbers," Mayer wrote. "When we added in our three initial sources, we were up to 73.

Random Photos

FCC Considers Scrapping the Hated Sports TV Blackout Rule

The FCC voted  to advance a proposal that would eliminate sports' hated television blackout rules. If finalized, the proposal would allow cable and satellite television channels to show local games, even if they're "blacked out" on local broadcast stations because of low attendance.
The 40-year-old rules were originally intended to protect sports leagues from lost ticket revenue, then the main source of income for professional teams. That was also before things like cable television, regional sports networks, and DirecTV even existed.
The FCC will consider whether those rules are outdated thanks to changes in the marketplace, and whether it now makes sense to lift the restrictions. Key to the FCC's decision will be the question of public interest. Originally, as the commission explains in a notice of its consideration of the change, the rules were intended to preserve maximum availability of access to games to the public, by discouraging sports leagues from refusing to sell rights to stations outside of their local markets. The blackout rules, the proposal posits, may no longer effectively ensure that availability. The FCC will seek comment from consumers, sports leagues, and broadcasters on the proposed changes.  
In general, sports leagues, including the NFL, are against the proposed changes, as are local broadcasters. As The Los Angeles Times explained in November, any rule change from the FCC wouldn't invalidate existing contracts between leagues and local broadcasters. Most of those contracts include a blackout clause. The change, basically, would be the ability of cable and satellite channels to show a game in markets under a blackout, but that doesn't mean the leagues can't enforce them through sheer will. The NFL blacked out 15 games last year thanks to undersold stadiums, and sixteen in 2011, but just two games have been blacked out this current season. 
Unsurprisingly, satellite and cable channels would really, really, like to see the rules go away. The Sports Fans Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group that accepts funding from cable and satellite companies like Time Warner, has also spoken out in favor of eliminating the rule. In order to to that, the rule change needs to pass one more FCC vote, following the public comment period.  

Court found drugs courier's explanation that she thought 'grass' was for lawn unlikely

A woman caught smuggling seven kilograms of cannabis into Sweden via the Öresund train has claimed that she thought it was "grass" for the garden.
The woman was stopped on the train plying the route from Copenhagen to Malmö by customs officials. She was carrying a bag which contained the contraband.
The cannabis weighed in at 7.4 kilos and the woman admitted straight away that she was carrying "grass". But she claimed she had no idea that the find concerned a narcotic.

The woman claimed that she had no idea that the word "grass" is an established term used to refer to cannabis, explaining that her only knowledge of drugs came from seeing some white powder in a movie. Malmö District Court found this explanation unlikely and jailed her for two years and three months.

Woman agrees to return home after husband promises to construct a toilet

A 27-year-old Dalit woman has agreed to return to her husband’s home at a village in the Dewas district of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, after he promised before a court that he would get a proper toilet constructed.

Savita, who married to Devkaran Malviya (30) of Mundlaana village about seven years ago, left her husband three years ago. She went to live with her parents as she felt ashamed at being forced to answer the nature’s call in the open.
She filed a case in a local court seeking monthly maintenance from her husband. During the course of the trial, it came to light that she had a dispute with her husband over the absence of a proper toilet facility in his house.

She told the magistrate court that she would not go to her husband’s home unless a proper toilet was built there. Devkaran assured the court that he would ensure a proper toilet was installed at his home before January 10, which is the next date of hearing.

Man arrested for shooting neighbor's rooster with bow and arrow for flirting with his pet hen

It was a “love affair” that went terribly wrong. A rooster escaped death by a whisker after a man in India shot it with an arrow while it was fraternizing with his hen. The man in Dekakund village in Madhya Pradesh's Alirazpur district tried to kill the rooster when it was seen in the company of his pet hen. On Monday morning, Jagliya Bhil's pet rooster accidentally slipped into neighbor Gyan Singh Bhil's property. A little later, Gyan Singh's pet hen wandered around to join the rooster's company.

Seeing his hen in the company of somebody else's rooster infuriated Gyan Singh so much that he decided to teach the rooster a lesson that he would never dare enter his property again. So, furious Gyan Singh went back into his house, brought out a homemade bow and arrow and aimed at the rooster. A shocked Jagliya took his arrow-hit rooster to the Jobat Police Station where he lodged a complaint against Gyan Singh and then his rooster was taken to a hospital.
"We lodged a case against Gyan Singh Bhil and rushed the rooster for further treatment," in-charge of Jobat Police Station Asha R. Verma said. In the veterinary clinic, the doctor had to wait for the rooster's condition to improve before he could pull the arrow out successfully. A health officer in the hospital explained that had they removed the arrow immediately, the rooster would have lost too much blood and lost its life.

"The tissue elasticity has a tendency to compress the wound track and the arrow in situ tends to exert an incomplete tamponade on the wound. The delayed removal leads to local inflammatory process and a fibrous reaction which causes loosening of the arrow after which the arrow can easily be extracted without expanding the wound," he explained. The rooster's condition had improved by the time the it was handed back to its owner.

Are concussions related to Alzheimer’s disease?

A new study suggests that a history of concussion involving at least a momentary loss of consciousness may be related to the buildup of Alzheimer’s-associated plaques in the brain. The research is published in the […]

Hospice stays get longer, and corporate profits rise

From the Washington Post:

Hospice patients are expected to die: The treatment focuses on providing comfort to the terminally ill, not finding a cure. To enroll a patient, two doctors certify a life expectancy of six months or less.

But over the past decade, the number of “hospice survivors” in the United States has risen dramatically, in part because hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren’t actually dying, a Washington Post investigation has found. Healthier patients are more profitable because they require fewer visits and stay enrolled longer.

The proportion of patients who were discharged alive from hospice care rose about 50 percent between 2002 and 2012, according to a Post analysis of more than 1 million hospice patients’ records over 11 years in California...

This vast growth took place as the hospice “movement,” once led by religious and community organizations, was evolving into a $17 billion industry dominated by for-profit companies...

Some of those patients simply outlived a legitimate prognosis of six months.
But much of the data suggests that the trend toward longer stays is a response to the financial incentive... multiple allegations have arisen from former hospice workers who say that the businesses took in people who weren’t in declining health.

World's hottest pepper is grown in South Carolina

In this Dec. 12, 2013 photo, Ed Currie holds three Carolina Reaper peppers, in Fort Mill, S.C. Last month, The Guinness Book of World Records decided Currie’s peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)Ed Currie holds one of his world-record Carolina Reaper peppers by the stem, which looks like the tail of a scorpion. On the other end is the bumpy, oily, fire-engine red fruit with a punch of heat nearly as potent as most pepper sprays used by police. It's hot enough to leave even the most seasoned spicy food aficionado crimson-faced, flushed with sweat, trying not to lose his lunch.
Last month, The Guinness Book of World Records decided Currie's peppers were the hottest on Earth, ending a more than four-year drive to prove no one grows a more scorching chili. The heat of Currie's peppers was certified by students at Winthrop University who test food as part of their undergraduate classes.
But whether Currie's peppers are truly the world's hottest is a question that one scientist said can never be known. The heat of a pepper depends not just on the plant's genetics, but also where it is grown, said Paul Bosland, director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University. And the heat of a pepper is more about being macho than seasoning.
"You have to think of chili heat like salt. A little bit improves the flavor, but a lot ruins it," Bosland said.
Some ask Currie if the record should be given to the single hottest pepper tested instead of the mean taken over a whole batch. After all, Usain Bolt isn't considered the world's fastest man because of his average time over several races.
But Currie shakes off those questions.
"What's the sense in calling something a record if it can't be replicated? People want to be able to say they ate the world's hottest pepper," Currie said.
The record is for the hottest batch of Currie's peppers that was tested, code name HP22B for "Higher Power, Pot No. 22, Plant B." Currie said he has peppers from other pots and other plants that have comparable heat.
The science of hot peppers centers around chemical compounds called capsaicinoids. The higher concentration the hotter the pepper, said Cliff Calloway, the Winthrop University professor whose students tested Currie's peppers.
The heat of a pepper is measured in Scoville Heat Units. Zero is bland, and a regular jalapeno pepper registers around 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Currie's world record batch of Carolina Reapers comes in at 1,569,300 Scoville Heat Units, with an individual pepper measured at 2.2 million. Pepper spray weighs in at about 2 million Scoville Units.
Pharmacist Wilbur Scoville devised the scale 100 years ago, taking a solution of sugar and water to dilute an extract made from the pepper. A scientist would then taste the solution and dilute it again and against until the heat was no longer detected. So the rating depended on a scientist's tongue, a technique that Calloway is glad is no longer necessary.
"I haven't tried Ed's peppers. I am afraid to," Calloway said. "I bite into a jalapeno — that's too hot for me."
Now, scientists separate the capsaicinoids from the rest of the peppers and use liquid chromatography to detect the exact amount of the compounds. A formula then converts the readings into Scoville's old scale.
The world record is nice, but it's just part of Currie's grand plan. He's been interested in peppers all his life, the hotter the better. Ever since he got the taste of a sweet hot pepper from the Caribbean a decade ago, he has been determined to breed the hottest pepper he can. He is also determined to build his company, PuckerButt Pepper Company, into something that will let the 50-year-old entrepreneur retire before his young kids grow up.
The peppers started as a hobby, grown in his Rock Hill backyard. The business now spreads across a number of backyards and a couple dozen acres in Chester County. As his business grew, Currie kept his job at a bank because he promised his wife, whom he wooed a decade ago by making her a fresh batch of salsa, he wouldn't leave the lucrative position until they were out of debt. She released him from that vow in February.
Currie has about a dozen employees. Even with the publicity of the world record, he still gets nervous about making payroll. He said the attention has helped him move closer to the goal of making PuckerButt self-sustaining.
Currie's peppers aren't just about heat. He aims for sweetness, too. He makes sauces and mustards with names like "Voodoo Prince Death Mamba," ''Edible Lava" and "I Dare You Stupit" with a goal to enhance the flavor of food.
And the hot pepper market is expanding. In less than five years, the amount of hot peppers eaten by Americans has increased 8 percent, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics.
Currie's world record has created quite a stir in the world of chiliheads, said Ted Barrus, a blogger from Astoria, Ore., who has developed a following among hot pepper fans by videotaping himself eating the hottest peppers in the world and posting the videos on YouTube under the name Ted The Fire Breathing Idiot.
Barrus said Currie's world record is just the latest event in a series of pepper growers to top one another with hotter and hotter peppers.
"That's the biggest bragging rights there are. It is very, very competitive," he said.
The reason people love super-hot peppers isn't much different than any other thrill seekers. Barrus talks lovingly about trying the Carolina Reaper, even though the peppers usually send him into spasms of hiccups and vomiting.
"You only live once. This is safer than jumping out of an airplane," he said.
Barrus said Currie's news has other growers sending him peppers that seem hotter than the Carolina Reaper on his tongue, although they will await scientific testing.
That's fine with Currie. He knew the record would be challenged quickly and has sent off what he thinks are even hotter batches to the students at Winthrop University to test.
"Nobody is going to grow hotter peppers than Ed Currie," he said.



12 Maps Of America From Before We Knew What It Looked Like

The island of California. A huge triangle of land called Florida. A great ocean that cut down from the Arctic into the Midwest. As the New World came into focus beginning in the 17th century, explorers and cartographers struggled to measure a massive expanse of land that would take centuries to accurately map.

Take a look at these 12 maps, which include the first to use the name 'America' and the first map printed in the new world.

The world's tallest palm trees

These are wax palms (palma de cera), photographed in Colombia's Cocora Valley by Alex Treadway for National Geographic.
Under ideal growing conditions the wax palm can grow to a height of 50 meters (160 ft)—or rarely, even as high as 60 meters (200 ft)—making it the tallest palm and by extension the tallest monocot in the world...

The palm is recognized as the national tree of Colombia, and since the implementation of Law 61 of 1985 it is legally a protected species in that country. Ceroxylon quindiuense has an extremely slow growth and can live up to one hundred years...

Utility companies go to war against solar

Utility companies across America are fighting solar, imposing high fees on homeowners who install their own solar panels to feed back into the grid. This one was predictable from a long, long way out -- energy companies being that special horror-burrito made from a core of hot, chewy greed wrapped in a fluffy blanket of regulatory protection, fixed in their belief that they have the right to profit from all power used, whether or not their supply it. Bruce Sterling once proposed that Americans should be encouraged to drive much larger trucks, big enough to house monster fuel-cells that are kept supplied with hydrogen by decentralized windmill and solar installations -- when they are receiving more power than is immediately needed, they use the surplus to electrolyze water and store the hydrogen in any handy nearby monster-trucks' cells. When the wind isn't blowing or the sun isn't shining, you just plug your house into your enormous American-Dream-mobile -- no need for a two-way grid.
This solution wasn't just great because it aligned the core American value of driving really large cars with environmental protection, but also because it was less vulnerable to sabotage from hydrocarbon-addicted energy companies.
HECO, despite criticism from Hawaii’s solar industry, denies the moratorium is anything more than an honest effort to address the technical challenges of integrating the solar flooding onto its grid.
The slowdown comes in a state where 9 percent of the utility’s residential customers on Oahu are already generating most of their power from the sun and where connections have doubled yearly since 2008.
In California, where solar already powers the equivalent of 626,000 homes, utilities continue to aggressively push for grid fees that would add about $120 a year to rooftop users’ bills and, solar advocates say, slow down solar adoptions.
Similar skirmishes have broken out in as many as a dozen of the 43 states that have adopted net-metering policies as part of their push to promote renewable energy. In Colorado, Xcel Energy Inc. has proposed cutting the payments it makes for excess power generated by customers by about half, because it says higher payouts result in an unfair subsidy to solar users.

Italian Cheeses Melt Icy Roads in Wisconsin

Cheese brine, a byproduct of the huge Wisc. cheesemaking industry, turns out to be cheaper and better than rock salt for icy roads.

2013's Wild, Unforgettable Weather

Typhoons and tornadoes took a terrible toll in 2013, despite a dearth of tropical storms and twisters in many parts of the world.

Daily Comic Relief


Pristiophorus lanae

New Species of Sawshark Discovered
by Natali Anderson
Scientists from the United States have described a new sawshark species from off the Philippine Islands.
Pristiophorus lanae. Image credit: David Ebert.
Pristiophorus lanae.
Sawsharks (family Pristiophoridae) are a small group of bottom sharks, easily distinguished by their saw-like snouts and a pair of long barbels. They have two dorsal fins, no anal fin, a short mouth and small teeth in both jaws.
Because of their snout, sawsharks can sometimes be confused with sawfishes. However, the sawshark’s gills are on the side of its head, while the sawfish’s gills are underneath. Also, the sawfish does not have a pair of barbels.
These sharks are found in waters from the western North Atlantic in the vicinity of the Bahamas to the southeastern Atlantic, in the western Indian Ocean from South Africa to southern Mozambique, and in he western Pacific off Japan, the Koreas, China, the Philippines and Australia.
Sawsharks first appeared in the fossil record during the late Cretaceous of Lebanon, about 90 million years ago, and were more widespread, in the eastern Pacific and eastern North Atlantic.
Currently, the sawshark family Pristiophoridae includes two genera – Pliotrema and Pristiophorus.
The newly discovered species, named Pristiophorus lanae, is the second member of the genus Pristiophorus described from the western North Pacific.
“The species name, lanae, is after shark enthusiast Lana Ebert on the occasion of her graduation from the University of San Francisco. The proposed common name is the Lana’s Sawshark,” co-authors Dr David Ebert from the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California Academy of Sciences and the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, and Dr Hana Wilms from the University of California wrote in a paper published in the journal Zootaxa (paper in .pdf).
Pristiophorus lanae is a slender-bodied five-gilled sawshark, measuring up to 80-85 cm in lenght. It is known from seven specimens (six females and a single male), caught off Zamboanguita, Apo Island between Negros and Siquijor, and off southern Luzon in Balayan Bay and Ragay Gulf, the Philippine Islands.

The 10 Weirdest Animal Stories of 2013

From cold-loving cockroaches to bat-eating spiders, 2013 was a strange year for the animal kingdom.

Why Do Animals Have Soft White Underbellies?

The phrase 'soft white underbelly' describes the anatomy of a broad spectrum of animals ranging from sharks to amphibians to birds and even some mammals. Why is the most notorious biological vulnerability on Earth so ubiquitous?

Animal Pictures


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