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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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Daily Drift

Something that is absolute anathema to wingnuts - they hate education, learning, facts and thinking ..!
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Today in History

1303 The War of Vespers in Sicily ends with an agreement between Charles of Valois, who invaded the country, and Frederick, the ruler of Sicily.
1756 The British at Fort William Henry, New York, surrender to Louis Montcalm of France.
1802 Captain Merriwether Lewis leaves Pittsburgh to meet up with Captain William Clark and begin their trek to the Pacific Ocean.
1864 At the Democratic convention in Chicago, General George B. McClellan is nominated for president.
1919 The Communist Labor Party is founded in Chicago, with the motto, "Workers of the world unite!"
1928 Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera opens in Berlin.
1940 Joseph Avenol steps down as Secretary-General of the League of Nations.
1942 The British army under General Bernard Law Montgomery defeats Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in the Battle of Alam Halfa in Egypt.
1944 The British Eighth Army penetrates the German Gothic Line in Italy.
1949 Six of the 16 surviving Union veterans of the Civil War attend the last-ever encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, held in Indianapolis, Indiana.
1951 The 1st Marine Division begins its attack on Bloody Ridge in Korea. The four-day battle results in 2,700 Marine casualties.
1961 A concrete wall replaces the barbed wire fence that separates East and West Germany, it will be called the Berlin wall.
1965 US Congress creates Department of Housing & Urban Development.
1968 The Dasht-e Bayaz 7.3 earthquake in NE Iran completely destroys five villages and severely damages six others.
1970 Lonnie McLucas convicted of torturing and murdering fellow Black Panther Party member Alex Rackley in the first of the New Haven Black Panther Trials.
1980 Polish government forced to sign Gdansk Agreement allowing creation of the trade union Solidarity.
1985 Police capture Richard Ramirez, dubbed the "Night Stalker" for a string of gruesome murders that stretched from Mission Viejo to San Francisco, Cal.
1986 A Russian cargo ship collides with cruise ship Admiral Nakhimov, killing 398.
1987 Longest mine strike in South Africa's history ends, after 11 people were killed, 500 injured and 400 arrested.
1990 East and West Germany sign the Treaty of Unification (Einigungsvertrag) to join their legal and political systems.
1990 Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. become first father and son to play on same team simultaneously in professional baseball (Seattle Mariners).
1994 Last Russian troops leave Estonia and Latvia.
1994 The Irish Republican Army (IRA) announces a "complete cessation of military operations," opening the way to a political settlement in Ireland for the first time in a quarter of a century.
1997 Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in a Paris car crash along with her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul while fleeing paparazzi.
1997 New York Yankees retire Don Mattingly's #23 (first baseman, coach, manager).
2006 Edvard Munch's famed painting The Scream recovered by Norwegian police. The artwork had been stolen on Aug. 22, 2004.

Non Sequitur


Professor to Students: Don't Email Me!

Pictured above is a screenshot from a course syllabus produced by Dr. Spring-Serenity Duvall, a professor of media and gender studies at Salem College in North Carolina. During the Spring semster of 2014, she prohibited students from emailing her unless they were requesting an appointment to speak with her face-to-face.
Dr. Duvall is no Luddite. She's simply tired of students asking her questions that she already answered in class or in the syllabus, or addressing her in an overly familiar manner. She explains what she changed:
In a fit of self-preservation, I decided: no more. This is where I make my stand! In my senior-level gender and media course, I instituted a no-email policy and (here’s the hard part) stuck to it religiously. I explained to my students that there were a few very solid reasons for this policy:
1. They needed to read and know the syllabus and pay attention in class, rather than use email as a crutch to ask superficial questions. Taking these small yet seemingly impossible steps would make them more aware and engaged in the class.
2. Reading assignment instructions carefully and asking questions about the assignments in class or in office hours would force them to begin working on papers early, thus eliminating last-minute emails about instructions.
3. More of our conversations would take place in person – whether in my office or in class – rather than via email, thus allowing us to get to know each other better and fostering a more collegial atmosphere.
Did it work? Yes!
I am happy to report it was an unqualified success. It’s difficult to convey just how wonderful it was for students to stop by office hours more often, to ask questions about assignments in the class periods leading up to due dates, and to have students rise to the expectation that they know the syllabus. Their papers were better, they were more prepared for class time than I’ve ever experienced.
It is also difficult to tally the time I saved by not answering hundreds of brief, inconsequential emails throughout the semester. I can say that the difference in my inbox traffic was noticeable and welcome.

In an interview, Dr. Duvall explains that, like many professors, she suffers from "syllabus creep." That's "where the syllabus just gets longer and longer and you try to account for everything." The longer a syllabus gets, the less likely a student is to read the whole thing.
And course syllabi are getting a lot longer. Slate's Rebecca Shuman offers an explanation of why syllabi are now often 20 or more pages long:
First, the helicopter generation—raised on both suffocating parental pressure and the teach-to-the-test mandates of No Child Left Behind—started coming to college. Everyone needed A’s, and everyone needed to know exactly what needed to be done to get one. When that wasn’t abundantly clear, that made schools vulnerable to lawsuits.
Second, syllabi went from print to online, thus freeing the entire professoriate to capitulate to the aforementioned demands for everything from grading rubrics to the day-by-day breakdown of late assignment policies, without worrying about sacrificing trees or intimidating the class with a first-day handout they could barely lift, much less peruse in a mere 75 minutes.
Third, the skyrocketing percentage of hired-gun adjuncts—as opposed to tenure-track faculty, who have both a modicum of security and a minuscule say in university governance—meant that a substantial number of instructors were taking on courses a matter of weeks (sometimes days) before they began. Thus, they relied heavily on extensive syllabi already in existence.

Did you know ...

That Russia closes 4 MacDonalds for sanitary reasons
That white students will no longer be the majority in the coming school year
That the NRA and gun-makers are driving the militarization of the police
That Missouri cops are sued for $40 million over Ferguson
That Illinois schools ban discussions about Michael Brown's death
This idiot relishes being a white supremacist
Study: airline ticket prices need to rise for climate policies to work
That most spider bites aren't spider bites
That the NRA pissed off the wrong nerd
About the cult of greed vs. the rest of us
That ditching the U.S. to avoid taxes doesn't always pay off
That an 'ex-gay' organization literally creates an escape plan to get away from homosexuality
And happy 94th birthday to women's right to vote
That the wine country losses from the Napa quake are in the billions
That 6 studies prove everything the repugican cabal says is wrong
Here's your union-made shopping list for labor day cook outs
That Burger King may move to Canada to avoid U.S. taxes
About the curious grammar of police shootings
But guess what happened when police started wearing cameras in Rialto,California
About: contagion, not the movie:  scientists think the current Ebola epidemic started when a child came into contact with a fruit bat
That Laverne Cox is not the first openly-transgendered person to be nominated for an Emmy

Can You Hear Me Now? repugican Poll Finds Women Are Not Impressed with repugicans

Karl Rove and other repugicans needed to commission a poll to tell them that women see repugicans as "intolerant," "lacking in compassion," and "stuck in the past."…

File this in the Captain Obvious category, aka, the unskewed poll area.

Naturally, because this is a real thing, repugicans will continue to deny it. But for the rest of you who enjoy laughing at the clown car as it guns for the cliff, a Karl Rove coven and another major repugican coven needed to commission a poll to find out that women say repugicans are “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past.”
The internal Crossroads GPS and American Action Network report was obtained by Politico. “‘repugicans and Women Voters: Huge Challenges, Real Opportunities” — was the product of eight focus groups across the country and a poll of 800 registered female voters this summer.”
Yes, real opportunities, like the opportunity repugicans have had and spit on since Mitt Romney bombed with binders full of women in 2012. The good news is that they do well with married women who have no college education (this may explain their constant efforts to destroy Democratic efforts to make college more affordable).
Not to fear, they have solutions! Solution one: Neutralize Democratic attacks.
First, they suggest the repugican cabal “neutralize the Democrats’” attack that repugicans don’t support fairness for women. They suggest repugican lawmakers criticize Democrats for “growing government programs that encourage dependency rather than opportunities to get ahead.” That message tested better than explaining that the repugican cabal supports a number of policies that could help fairness for women.
This “dependency” argument is the same argument repubgcans have made to justify not helping impoverished minorities, and they followed that up with grand stories about how super slavery was for black people. This might have tested well for them, but as a woman, I see right through that “opportunity”. This is no different than their attempt to explain to women that they should not care about equal pay.
Second, the covens suggest repugicans “deal honestly with any disagreement on abortion, then move to other issues.”
Oh, yes, because the “abortion” issue can just be moved on from. Even though repugicans do not support the one thing that actually reduces abortions– birth control. Instead, repugicans use their alleged moral issues with abortion — abortions they are often actually assisting if not creating by killing funding for Planned Parenthood and trying to make sure birth control isn’t covered — as a way to control women’s destinies.
This is the problem with the repugican cabal. They condescendingly think that they can “move on” from any issue on which women disagree with them, and that they are in charge of framing the issues and women will fall into line. For example, according to an interview she did with Politico, political strategist Katie Packer Gage is tasked with assisting the repugican cabal with women voters, and she thinks they need to go on offense. Apparently the policy War on Women isn’t offensive enough. This is where they lecture women about “freedom” in the work place (aka, no legal pay equity). They keep explaining louder that women don’t need legal protection from the folks who donate to the repugican cabal, because dependency is bad. Women love to be explained to.
It also found that repugicans “fail to speak to women in the different circumstances in which they live” — as breadwinners, for example. “This lack of understanding and acknowledgment closes many minds to repugican policy solutions,” the report says. The groups urge repugicans to embrace policies that “are not easily framed as driven by a desire to aid employers or ‘the rich.’”.
The ladies won’t see through that. Why, just recently Governor Corbett (r-PA) was explaining that he would appeal to women voters by changing Pennsylvania’s state liquor licensing laws because this would help ladies who are buying dinner. Never mind the unnecessary ultrasounds he tried to push on women. Freedom!
Can you hear me now? No. No, they cannot. The men of the repugican cabal figure the way out of this mess is to pivot, and attack the Democrats over their “shackles”; aka, legal protections for pay parity. The ladies will be fooled into not wanting or needing pay equity protections.
The repugicans have had many opportunities to reassess their cabal policies, but instead — just like an addict refusing to admit they have a problem — they keep doubling down on changing their messaging, while keeping their policies. Inevitably, some repugican political hack comes along to enable them by announcing that they are just not being aggressive enough, not attacking Democrats enough, not going on offense.
This is the sad cycle of fail of a party that refuses to change when it is being told it must in order to survive. repugicans would rather believe anything other than that pay equity for women might be the right thing. They will do anything to avoid taking a look at their stance on pay equity for women. Why are they so against pay fairness for women that they will gamble their entire future with women voters on it?

Of Course! Lush Dimbulb Blames The Shrub’s Great Recession On President Obama


During last Thursday’s broadcast of The Lush Dimbulb Farce, wingnut blowhard Lush Dimbulb made the unbelievable claim that the Great Recession, which took place from December 2007 to June 2009, was President Obama’s fault. Of course, as any sane American would know, Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in November 2008 and took office on January 20th, 2009. Therefore, it would be hard to blame Obama for an event that began more than a year before he took office. However, that is exactly what El Lushbo did on Thursday.
Dimbulb began the segment by playing a clip from Faux Business’ Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo. The hack and a guest of the show discussed a recent poll from Rutgers University. The poll showed that 71% of Americans feel that the recession has permanently affected the American economy. This is a change from November 2009, when the recession had just recently ended. At that time, 49% felt that the recession would have a long-lasting impact on the economy. It appears that over the past nearly five years, the American public has come to realize that the damage done throughout the 2000′s will be around for years and years.
The way Lush sees this, however, is that Democrats have spent years spreading propaganda blaming the economic and financial disasters of the 2000′s on the shrub, all in an effort to distance the current POTUS from any culpability. In Lush’s delusional mind, the recession that began in 2007 is all on Obama and Democrats and liberals are behind a grand conspiracy to smear the shrub and anoint Obama.
The following excerpt is from the show’s website (emphasis mine):
LUSH: Right. Well, as usual, my friends, I am required to read the stitches between the fastball here. Why did I choose this sound bite? What is it about this sound bite that’s so urgent that I wanted you to hear it? Well, right here it is. “Most people, Sandra, believe the recession has permanently damaged this economy.” Who do most people blame for the recession? That would be the shrub.
Why do most people blame the shrub? Because the Democrats had literally no opposition for four or five years, maybe more, as they set this premise up. So even after six years of the Obama presidency with specific Obama policies, which have done great harm and damage to this economy, we have a poll here that says most people think Obama couldn’t fix it ’cause it’s permanent. That’s how bad the shrub’s economy was.
Now, on this poll where the recession’s been a permanent drag, the Rutgers poll, you don’t even find Obama’s name. Obama is not mentioned in the poll questions. He’s not mentioned in the results, even though it was his recession. But, no, this is the shrub's economy, and it was so bad, it’s now permanent. That’s what many people think. Not even Obama could save us, folks, it’s so bad what the shrub did.
Here are the facts. The recession officially ended in June 2009 due to the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. This was passed by Obama weeks into his presidency in order to reverse the negative trends occurring in the economy. Jobs were being lost, people were being foreclosed on and the economy was shrinking. Something needed to be done and the President got something together ASAP. And the thing is, it worked. While it wasn’t nearly as progressive as many on the left would have liked, the fact is millions of jobs were either saved or created, and we started seeing economic growth again.
The repugicans have tried to act like the stimulus was a bust and didn’t work. However, they are dead wrong. In February of this year, The New York Times decided to revisit the stimulus and see how effective it was in helping the nation’s economic recovery. They found that it did quite a bit.
The stimulus could have done more good had it been bigger and more carefully constructed. But put simply, it prevented a second recession that could have turned into a depression. It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years. (There are the jobs, Mr. Boehner.) It raised the nation’s economic output by 2 to 3 percent from 2009 to 2011. It prevented a significant increase in poverty — without it, 5.3 million additional people would have become poor in 2010.
In that same piece, they also pointed out that, due to repugican messaging in the months and years after the stimulus was passed painting it as a failure, further plans by the President and Democrats to create jobs and boost the economy were killed.
And yet repugicans were successful in discrediting the very idea that federal spending can boost the economy and raise employment. They made the argument that the stimulus was a failure not just to ensure that Mr. Obama would get no credit for the recovery that did occur, but to justify their obstruction of all further attempts at stimulus.
So the American Jobs Act was killed, and so was the infrastructure bank and any number of other spending proposals that might have helped the country. The president’s plan to spend another $56 billion on job training, education and energy efficiency, to be unveiled in his budget next month, will almost certainly suffer a similar fate.
This may be the singular tragedy of the Obama administration. Five years later, it is clear to all fair-minded economists that the stimulus did work, and that it did enormous good for the economy and for tens of millions of people. But because it fell short of its goals, and was roundly ridiculed by repugicans and inadequately defended by Democrats, who should have trumpeted its success, the president’s stimulus plan is now widely considered a stumble.
Obviously, Lush is just doing the House repugicans bidding right now and trying to reframe the failures of the shrub junta as somehow being Obama’s fault. Since the economic recovery has been somewhat slower than Americans would like and wages are stagnant due to repugican intransigence, the thing to do now is tell the public that the Great Recession that brought financial ruin to millions of Americans was actually Obama’s fault. It doesn’t matter that he wasn’t President at the time. If you are going to lie, might as well lie big.

6 numbers that tell you everything you need to know about America's warped priorities

If you're wondering why wages are stagnating and inequality is on the rise, look no further .
Americans constantly hear about the threat of "entitlements," which in the case of Social Security and Medicare are more properly defined as "earned benefits." The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. The following  annual numbers may help to put our country's expenses and benefits in perspective.
$220 Billion: Teacher Salaries
According to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over four million preschool, primary, secondary, and special education school teachers in the U.S., earning an average of $54,740.
$246 Billion: State and Local Pensions
Census data shows a total annual (2012) payout of about $246 billion. Only about $100 billion of this came from state and local governments, with the remainder funded by employee contributions and investment earnings. A recent  Pew study showed a little over $100 billion in annual state contributions to pensions, health care, and non-pension benefits.
$398 Billion: Safety Net
The 2013  safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing.
$863 Billion: Social Security
Social Security is the major source of income for most of the elderly, and it is an earned benefit. As of 2010, according to the  Urban Institute, the average two-earner couple making average wages throughout their lifetimes receive less in Social Security benefits than they paid in.
$2,200 Billion: Tax Avoidance
That's $2.2 trillion in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment. It is estimated that two-thirds of tax breaks accrue to the  top quintile of taxpayers.
$5,000 Billion: Investment Wealth
That's $5 trillion dollars a year, the annual amount  gained in U.S. wealth from the end of 2008 to the middle of 2013. Even though the whole country continued to grow in productivity, most of the new wealth went to the very richest people. According to  Oxfam, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.
Another View: Annual Per Capita Numbers
The following are averages, which are skewed in the case of tax breaks and investment income, as a result of the excessive takings of the .1% and the .01%. Details of the calculations can be found  here.
$8,600 for each of the  Safety Net recipients
$14,600 for each of the  Social Security recipients
$27,333 for each of the  Pension recipients
$54,740 for each of the  Teachers
$200,000 for each of the  Tax Break recipients among the richest 1%
$500,000 for each of the  Investment Income recipients among the richest 1%
The super-rich feel they deserve all the tax breaks and the accumulation of wealth from the productivity of others.
This is the true threat of entitlement

Another Wingnut Lie Debunked As Michael Brown Audio Recording Is Not A Hoax

mike brown ferguson

Last evening, a social media company confirmed that the audio recording that CNN released Monday purporting to be from the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson was recorded at the same exact time that the killing took place. Glide, a video texting service, released a statement saying that the sounds of gunshots on the recording was captured by a user in Ferguson at 12:02 PM on August 9th. In essence, the company has authenticated the recording as the shots fired by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
A Glide user living nearby (whose identity is being protected) was simply using the Glide app on their smartphone exactly as it was designed – to instantly communicate with a friend through our real-time video texting service. Simultaneously, they also captured audio in the background of the gunshots allegedly fired at Michael Brown.
Because Glide is the only messaging application using streaming video technology, each message is simultaneously recorded and transmitted, so the exact time can be verified to the second. In this case, the video in question was created at 12:02:14 PM CDT on Saturday, August 9th.
Over the past few days, wingnut media have lambasted CNN for releasing the audio. One of the main issues wingnuts have had with the recording is that CNN’s Don Lemon, when breaking the news, specifically pointed out that the network could not independently verify the recording. Of course, Lemon did have on the lawyer of the man who recorded the shots (the Ferguson resident remains unidentified) and stated that the FBI had already interviewed the lawyer and man. While covering themselves with a blanket disclaimer, CNN was still confident enough to run the recording with the knowledge that it wouldn’t come back to bite them as a hoax.
However, that wasn’t good enough for the wingnut media entertainment complex. They latched onto any spurious details they could find that might somehow prove that the recording was indeed fake. It started earlier this week when CNN had two former police officers on to discuss the authenticity of the recording. Even though both so-called experts specifically said they no idea one way or the other of the legitimacy of the recording, they both provided their personal opinions and thoughts regarding the tape. Basically, they thought it was likely a hoax and a way for someone to “punk” the network.
Below is video of the CNN segment:
Well, that was enough to start the wingnut screech-a-thon. All the usual suspects jumped on this huge ‘bombshell’ right away – The Daily Caller, Breitbart, Hot Air – declaring that experts debunked the recording as a hoax. Of course, nothing of the sort actually occurred. But that isn’t going to stop wingnut media outlets from trying to change the narrative. The king of wingnut blubbery, Lush Dimbulb, not only claimed that the audio was a hoax, but attacked the man who made the recording for allegedly using Glide for sexting.
LUSH: Wait a second, stop the tape, stop, stop, cue this back. So now (laughing) this is great, CNN. Here we’ve got a guy involved in a — what do you call it, sexting? Here’s a guy involved in a sex chat, and he happens now to be a CNN source, so of course the first thing we have to do is say, “Hey, hey, nothing strange here. A lot of red-blooded American men do this. Ain’t no big deal, audience. So don’t discredit our new source because you might think he is a reprobate. No, no, no, no, no. We even have some people at CNN that do this.” Well, he didn’t say that, but that’s how — (laughing) and they tape themselves doing it, too. It’s just so common, nothing to see here on that score. Don’t be negatively affected by the fact that the guy is doing whatever he’s doing to his computer. Okay, here it is again from the top.

LUSH: Oh, is that why it took over a week, the guy didn’t know who to call? CNN’s probably walking by the house every day. How many media people were there? This guy is close enough to hear the shots, right? He and his computer are close enough for his computer to pick up the shots, and he can’t find a media person. He doesn’t know who to call. He doesn’t know how to reach them. He apparently can’t look out the window that picked up all these shots and see an army of media people out there. He didn’t know what to do. So somehow the guy finds CNN.
Now, we love Don Lemon here. Don Lemon, I mean, this guy’s a gem. We love him here. I hope nothing ever happens to him.
Salon’s John Avignone had the perfect response to Lush’s criticism of the man for apparently using his computer to chat with a female in a provocative way.
It was an ironic line of criticism to be sure, coming from a man detained at Customs over a jumbo-size bottle of Viagra after returning from a jaunt to the Dominican Republic.
With Glide’s statement on Thursday, another wingnut narrative has been destroyed. Last week, CNN blew a hole in the false story spread by wingnut media that Darren Wilson suffered a blowout orbital fracture at the hands of Michael Brown prior to shooting him dead. The story had been making the rounds in the wingnut fantasy blogosphere for a couple of days before Faux News attempted to give it credibility by running a confirmed report on it. Eventually, CNN’s Don Leon confirmed that Wilson did not suffer an eye bone fracture, ripping apart the poorly constructed lie set forth by agenda-driven wingnuts.
Now, the same has happened with the audio recording. Wingnuts, who fully want to believe that the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black man at the hands of a white police officer was perfectly acceptable and called for, continue to put all of their eggs in non-existent baskets. What is mind-boggling is that the stories they toss out there are eventually found to be false. Obviously, we would all discover whether or not Wilson sustained a broken orbital. Same goes for this audio recording. Down the line, a full authentication would be made public.
The attempt to distract and create false narratives may work for 24-48 hour time periods, but in the end, it only serves to discredit the outlets doing it even more. The more one cries wolf, the less one trusts them as a reliable source of news and information.

You Don’t Have the Right to Remain Silent

The Supreme Court’s terrible—and dangerous—ruling this week on the Fifth Amendment.

Nick Yarris poses for a portrait session after the "After Innocence" interviews at the Starbucks Sundance Interview Headquarters during the 2005 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2005 in Park City, Utah.
On Monday, in a case called Salinas v. Texas that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, the Supreme Court held that you remain silent at your peril. The court said that this is true even before you’re arrested, when the police are just informally asking questions. The court’s move to cut off the right to remain silent is wrong and also dangerous—because it encourages the kind of high-pressure questioning that can elicit false confessions.
Here are the facts from Salinas: Two brothers were shot at home in Houston. There were no witnesses—only shotgun shell casings left at the scene. Genovevo Salinas had been at a party at that house the night before the shooting, and police invited him down to the station, where they talked for an hour. They did not arrest him or read him his Miranda warnings.  Salinas agreed to give the police his shotgun for testing. Then the cops asked whether the gun would match the shells from the scene of the murder. According to the police, Salinas stopped talking, shuffled his feet, bit his lip, and started to tighten up.
At trial, Salinas did not testify, but prosecutors described his reportedly uncomfortable reaction to the question about his shotgun. Salinas argued this violated his Fifth Amendment rights: He had remained silent, and the Supreme Court had previously made clear that prosecutors can’t bring up a defendant’s refusal to answer the state’s questions. This time around, however, Justice Samuel Alito blithely responded that Salinas was “free to leave” and did not assert his right to remain silent. He was silent. But somehow, without a lawyer, and without being told his rights, he should have affirmatively “invoked” his right to not answer questions. Two other justices signed on to Alito’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia joined the judgment, but for a different reason; they think Salinas had no rights at all to invoke before his arrest (they also object to Miranda itself). The upshot is another terrible Roberts Court ruling on confessions. In 2010 the court held that a suspect did not sufficiently invoke the right to remain silent when he stubbornly refused to talk, after receiving his Miranda warnings, during two hours of questioning. Now people have to somehow invoke the right to remain silent even when they’re not formal suspects and they haven’t been heard the Miranda warnings. As Orin Kerr points out on the Volokh Conspiracy, this just isn’t realistic.
The court’s ruling in Salinas is all the more troubling because during such informal, undocumented, and unregulated questioning, there are special dangers that police may, intentionally or not, coax false confessions from innocent suspects. I have spent years studying cases of people exonerated by DNA testing. A large group of those innocent people falsely confessed—and many supposedly admitted their guilt even before any formal interrogation.  Take the case of Nicholas Yarris, who was exonerated by DNA testing in 2003, after 20 years in prison. He had been convicted and sentenced to death in Pennsylvania for the murder of a woman found raped, beaten, and stabbed near her abandoned Chrysler Cordoba.
When informally questioned, police said, Yarris volunteered that he knew the victim had been raped, and that the victim’s Chrysler had a brown “landau” roof (a vinyl fake convertible look). That was a striking detail, especially since the police had kept it out of the press. No tape was made of the interrogation. The police didn’t even produce notes. And now that DNA has cleared Yarris, we know his confession was false, and that he must not have volunteered the fact about the car roof at all.
The Supreme Court’s decision in Salinas encourages the kind of loosey-goosey, and easily contaminated, police questioning that led to Yarris’ wrongful conviction. Salinas may very well have been guilty of the two murders. But in many cases, as in this one, there are no eyewitnesses and not much other evidence of guilt: That is why the police may desperately need a confession. And that makes it crucial for them to handle interrogations and confessions with the utmost care. The court appreciated none of the pressures police face, and how they can squeeze an innocent suspect. Alito and the other conservatives were not troubled that there was no video to confirm that Salinas was in fact uncomfortable as well as silent. If Salinas had answered the question by exclaiming that he was innocent, could police have reported that he sounded desperate and like a liar? The court’s new ruling puts the “defendant in an impossible predicament. He must either answer the question or remain silent,” Justice Stephen Breyer said in dissent (joined by the other three liberal-moderates). “If he answers the question, he may well reveal, for example, prejudicial facts, disreputable associates, or suspicious circumstances—even if he is innocent.” But if he doesn’t answer, at trial, police and prosecutors can now take advantage of his silence, or perhaps even of just pausing or fidgeting.
Questions first, rights later is the approach the court’s majority now endorses. And by giving the police more incentive to ask questions informally, the new ruling will also undermine the key reform that police have adopted to prevent false confessions: videotaping entire interrogations.  Why not try to trap a suspect before the camera starts rolling? In only a few cases like Yarris’ will there be DNA to test. The likely result of the court’s embrace of shoddy interrogation tactics: more wrongful convictions.

Seven US children are shot dead every day on average ‘and we are as a country ignoring them’

For every U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan during 11 years of war, at least 13 children were shot and killed in America.More than 450 kids didn’t make it to kindergarten.
Another 2,700 or more were killed by a firearm before they could sit behind the wheel of a car.
Every day, on average, seven children were shot dead.
An investigation of child and youth deaths in America between 2002 and 2012 found that at least 28,000 children and teens 19-years-old and younger were killed with guns. Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 made up over two-thirds of all youth gun deaths in America.
The findings are compiled in the most complete database to date from records obtained from 49 state health departments and FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports.
“It’s an unacceptable number and it should be regardless of where you stand on gun-owning ideology,” said Colette Martin, a member of Parents Against Gun Violence. “The numbers are that high and we are as a country ignoring them.”
Most of those killed by firearms, 62 percent, were murdered and the majority of victims were black children and teens. Suicides resulted in 25 percent of the firearm deaths of young people: The majority of them were white. More than 1,100 children and teens were killed by a gun that accidentally discharged.

Pennsylvania Judge Sentenced For 28 Years For Selling Kids to the Prison System

Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr SentencedMark Ciavarella Jr, a 61-year old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. The kickbacks amounted to more than $1 million.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned some 4,000 convictions issued by him between 2003 and 2008, claiming he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old.
Ciavarella was convicted of 12 counts, including racketeering, money laundering, mail fraud and tax evasion. He was also ordered to repay $1.2 million in restitution.
His "kids for cash" program has revealed that corruption is indeed within the prison system, mostly driven by the growth in private prisons seeking profits by any means necessary.

The Truth Be Told


Not Cool: ALS Association files trademark for Ice Bucket Challenge, but didn't create campaign

The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised almost 100 million dollars for the ALS Association of America. The non-profit did not create the viral campaign, but that didn't stop it from filing for control of the use of that phrase with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Attorney Eric Pelton spotted the filing:
The ALS Association alleges that it owns rights to the phrase “Ice Bucket Challenge” in connection with charitable fundraising. Two trademark applications were filed by the association with the USPTO last Friday for ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE (Serial No. 86375292) and for ALS ICE BUCKET (Serial No. 86375305) CHALLENGE for use in connection with charitable fundraising services. The association claims that its first use of the phrases in commerce was August 4, 2014. I don’t think this claim by the ALS Association is appropriate for several reasons:
• Is ALS Association the true owner of the phrase? I don’t believe that the Association created it or was the first to use it. Not sure they can claim real ownership.
• Is the phrase “ICE BUCKET CHALLENGE” associated exclusively with fundraising for the ALS Association? I don’t think so.
• The phrase may already be generic. It is widely used, by many, in ways that don’t only related to the ALS Association.
• Is the phrase likely to be viewed by the public as indicating the source of the charitable fundraising services? Again, since many others have taken the challenge in the name of (and/or contributed to) other charities, I’m not sure that they will.
• If ALS Association successfully registers the phrase, it could seek to restrict use of it for other charitable causes. That would be the biggest shame in all of this.
This screengrab from the ALSA website shows a trademark symbol next to the phrase "Ice Bucket Challenge." ALSA has filed for protection over the phrase, though the nonprofit didn't create the campaign.
This screengrab from the ALSA website shows a trademark symbol next to the phrase "Ice Bucket Challenge." ALSA has filed for protection over the phrase, though the nonprofit didn't create the campaign.
This feels like what Komen did with "For the Cure" and breast cancer. I hope ALSA uses the funds they've received from the campaign in a more responsible way than Komen did with the many millions they raked in over pink ribbons. And I hope they'll change their approach on this issue. There are more crowd-friendly ways to reduce the harm of fraudsters who want to cash in on the ALS campaign's high profile.

It Only Takes One ...

Single animal to human transmission event responsible for 2014 Ebola outbreak

Scientists used advanced genomic sequencing technology to identify a single […]

What Those Strange Things You See Floating In Your Eye?

Have you ever noticed a strange little worm-like speck drifting aimlessly about in your field of vision? These annoying little squiggly lines, or “cobwebs,” are called floaters and are experienced by around 70% of people. So what are they?
Floaters are actually shadows cast by objects suspended in the clear, gel-like substance that makes up the majority of the eye’s interior. This substance is called vitreous and helps to maintain the eye’s round shape. After passing through the lens, focused light has to pass through the vitreous in order to reach the retina at the back of the eye. It’s mostly composed of water but also contains proteins and various other substances.
Floaters are normally merely proteins of the vitreous gel that have clumped together. These stringy clusters of proteins block light and therefore cast a shadow on the retina. These floaters usually appear as transparent circles or tadpoles and stay permanently in your eye.
Sometimes, small hemorrhages in the eye can cause floaters as red blood cells enter the vitreous. This can occur if the gel pulls on blood vessels located in the retina. These floaters might take on a smoky appearance and disappear as the blood is absorbed.
Lastly, floaters can be caused by shrinkage of the vitreous gel that occurs naturally as we age. As the vitreous pulls away from the retina, bits of debris can enter the gel and become floaters. These usually look like cobwebs.
Floaters are particularly pronounced if you gaze at something particularly bright, such as a piece of white paper or a blue sky. You’ll notice that they move as your eyes move and appear to zoom across your eye as you try to look at them directly.
Floaters are usually just an annoyance that people get used to, but sometimes they can hamper vision and therefore require surgery. This procedure involves removing the vitreous and replacing it with a saline liquid. 

How to Swim

Public Domain Review has scans from "Illustrations from Everard Digby’s De Arte Natandi (The Art of Swimming) published in 1587, considered the first English treatise on the practice." Here's the complete set.



The Overgrown, Disused Railway That Still Runs Around Paris

Paris has a lot of history embedded in its sprawling urban grid, which has seen thousands of years of structural change. But even though space is at a premium, there are still spots that have evaded development and slowly drifted into obscurity.
Like the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture (or Little Belt Railway), a 20 mile stretch of disused tracks along the Parisian perimeter. The railway was constructed in 1852; at that time, the major stations were owned by different companies, and this was a way to streamline connections through a path that tunneled, bridged, and cut a deep-walled passage within the crowded streets.

Another 'Vampire' Burial in Bulgaria

Plovdiv archaeology vampire 1 Bulgaria’s collection of “vampire skeletons” – burials in which measures were taken to prevent the deceased from rising as undead – can now be updated to include remains found in the country’s second largest city, Plovdiv.
Following the media excitement generated by the find in the seaside resort of Sozopol in June 2012, similar skeletons have since been found in Veliko Turnovo, Perperikon – already famous for a trove of legitimate discoveries – and the town of Vratsa in north-western Bulgaria earlier this summer.
Plovdiv archaeology vampire 1a
Given Plovdiv’s rich history, with the first signs of human habitation going back to about 4000 BCE and the modern city inhabited continuously since 340 BCE (known as Philippopolis for most of that time), it would have been more surprising if it had been unable to stake a “vampire burial” claim of its own.
The skeleton is one of 80 found in a necropolis in the old town part of Plovdiv, tentatively dated from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The remains, facing westwards, had a brick fragment placed in the mouth of the deceased, with a clay roofing tile put over the head during the burial. The practice of placing brick fragments into the mouths of the deceased – especially those believed most likely to rise as undead, such as plague victims – was spread in 15th-16th century Italy, according to archaeologist Elena Bozhinova, quoted by local news website podtepeto.com.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe archaeologists found the remains of at least 50 burials at the site over the past week alone, as well as tombstones, although none of them appear to have any surviving inscriptions. Archaeologists found iron horseshoes in several of the coffins, but it is unclear why they were placed there, since no such burial practices had been observed before.
About 280 coins were also found between the various remains, with the largest individual find being 30 silver coins in one of the oldest burials excavated so far. Archaeologists said that below the current level they were investigating, there was an older layer dating back to the 12th-13th centuries.
Plovdiv archaeology vampire 3
The dig team found also items from a much earlier period including coins and pottery shards believed to be from the Ancient Roman period, raising hopes that the team may find even older remains at the site, Bozhinova was quoted as saying.
The dig site has become an attraction for local residents, some of whom have volunteered to help the archaeologists with their work, podtepeto.com reported.

10 Of History's Deadliest Construction Projects

The Panama Canal opened 100 years ago this month, one of the greatest engineering achievements in history. It was also one of the greatest sacrifices of human life in the name of construction, but tragically, it was far from the most deadly project in modern history.
Here's a sampling of projects - not a complete list - finished since 1900 using numbers reported by McGraw Hill's Engineering News Report, along with the explanations for how record-keepers decided upon those numbers.

How A Demolished Wall Led To The Rediscovery Of An Underground City

People expect to find mold, busted pipes, and a rat or two when they tear down a wall in their home during renovation, but in 1963 a man discovered a strange room behind his wall that, with a little bit of digging, led to an ancient underground city.
The man from the Nevsehir Provence of Turkey discovered a tunnel behind the demolished wall, which he followed underground to discover his home stood atop the ancient Derinyuku underground city- an amazing network of tunnels, ventilation shafts and rooms that stretches 18 stories below ground.
The underground city is estimated to date back to between 15th and 12th century BCE, and is believed to have been used by the Hittites as a hiding place during raids, although it's virtually impossible to discern the city's origin since it's carved from naturally-formed rock.
Derinkuyu is one of the six underground cities of Cappadocia that have been excavated so far, and archaeologists believe there may be hundreds more underground cities in the region waiting to be uncovered and explored.

Daily Comic Relief


Canadian Hazmat team say skunk probably to blame for unpleasant smell at apartment building

The Ottawa Fire Services Hazmat team says a skunk is most likely responsible for a foul odor that caused a number of residents to feel nauseous at an apartment building on Wednesday.Eleven people were assessed by paramedics following the mid-morning call. First responders to the scene detected “a very strong odor of skunk” outside the three-story commercial-residential structure. Hazmat readings were negative both at the apartment building and at the building next door.
“Seems it was the skunk odor that was the culprit,” a fire service spokesperson said. Paramedics spokesperson JP Trottier says the people the assessed at the scene were reporting mild respiratory irritation, nausea, and headaches because of the odor.
"If you've been doused with one, you will certainly find out that it's meant to ward you away and it certainly does that," he said. "It can be irritating a little bit." He says no one needed to be treated in hospital, and everyone was fine after getting some fresh air. Ottawa Fire says the skunk has since left the building.

Young man catches fish from sewer system outside his home

A teenager from Katy, near Houston in Texas has taken to using the sewer grate in front of his home to catch fish.
It's 16-year-old Kyle Naegeli's hobby. And the Katy High School junior is quite good at it. He claims to have caught hundreds of fish using this method.

Naegeli has been a drain angler for four years now, using a hook and fishing line, with hot dogs (“the cheap ones” he says) and shad fish acting as bait.

“Sometimes it takes a few hours to catch something,” he says, maintaining that sewer fishing takes patience. Naegeli doesn't eat the sewer fish, owing to its questionable origins. The fish swim into the sewer line from a nearby pond.
There's a news video here. Kyle TheFishWhisperer's YouTube channel.

Woman's stuck flip-flop led to her car being hit by camel-towing pick-up

While driving on Highway V in Caledonia, Wisconsin, on Wednesday afternoon Kelly Ellison, 28, caught her flip-flop on something and was unable to stop at a stop sign, according to the Caledonia Police Department in Racine County.
That's when she was struck by a pick-up truck towing a camel named Eli. The truck-and-trailer was from Jo-Don Farms, a zoo in Franksville that features camel rides and hundreds of other exotic and familiar animals.
The rig went into the ditch on the south side of the road. The driver, Nathan Gaines, 35, suffered a possible broken leg and was complaining of back pain, according to police.
Ellison and a 3-year-old boy in her car were not injured. Neither was the camel, police said. Ellison was cited for failing to yield the right of way at a stop sign, and causing injury.
There's a news video here.

Antler Farms

We told you about the rise of deer as livestock, that are now bred on farms for venison. That’s somewhat equivalent to raising cattle for beef, but it’s not the most lucrative use of specifically-bred deer. Another kind of deer farm breeds deer for their antlers: the bigger, the better.
Hunters give antlers a score by measuring features like the length and spread of the main beams and the number and length of the smaller tines that grow out of them. Out in the wild, a really big buck might score 200 inches, if he’s got a “typical” rack, with the main beams curving out from his forehead and an orderly line of tines pointing towards the sky. On a “non-typical” rack, the main beam might split and split again, and the irregular tines will wind chaotically outward. The largest of these, on wild deer, come in over 300 inches.

The antlers that are being produced on deer farms grow much, much larger. In the past five years, farmers have produced non-typical antlers with scores of more than 500 — even more than 600 — inches. It’s not unusual to find deer with 400-inch racks, while racks in the 200-inch range, which on a wild deer would be amazing, are becoming standard for deer raised on farms. Much as the poultry industry has super-sized chicken breasts to meet humans’ culinary preferences, the deer industry has succeeded in enlarging antlers to meet their aesthetic ones.
So what good are big antlers? Hunters are willing to pay a premium for the opportunity to hunt a deer with a spectacular rack they can show off as a trophy. Hunting preserves buy big-antlered deer to attract big-money hunters. And the practice will continue as long as people are impressed with antlers hanging on someone’s wall. However, the most avid opponents of breeding deer for antlers are other hunters. Read more about antler farms at Modern Farmer.

Motherless Mountain Lion Cub Found in Washington State

This male mountain lion cub was found dehydrated and malnourished by a resident of Spokane, Washington. At the time, he was just three weeks old. Washington state fish and wildlife authorities conducted a fruitless search for the cub's parents. When no trace of his mother could be found, the cub was taken to Mount Spokane Veterinary Hospital, whose staff looked for accredited facilities to house the cub after he regained his health. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Madonna Luers said,
"You just don’t rehabilitate an apex predator that’s become fixed on people, and release it back into the wild. The odds that it would eventually have contact with people or pets are too high.”
Zoo America has become the cub's new home and will help give him the nutrients and attention necessary to grow up healthy and adjusted. The as-yet-unnamed cub is said do be thriving.

Read more and see additional pictures here.