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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, just calling you what you are ...!
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Today in History

1775   George Washington orders recruiting officers to accept free blacks into the army.  
1852   The richest year of the gold rush ends with $81.3 million in gold produced.
1862   Union General William Rosecrans' army repels two Confederate attacks at the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stone's River).  
1910   John B. Moisant and Arch Hoxsey, two of America's foremost aviators, die in separate plane crashes.  
1911   Helene Dutrieu wins the Femina aviation cup in Etampes. She sets a distance record for women at 158 miles.  
1915   The Germans torpedo the British liner Persia without any warning killing 335 passengers.  
1923   The Sahara is crossed by an automobile for the first time.  
1930   Brewery heir Adolphus Busch is kidnapped.  
1941   General MacArthur reports that U.S. lines in Manila have been pushed back by the Japanese.
1942   After five months of battle, Emperor Hirohito allows the Japanese commanders at Guadalcanal to retreat.
1944   Hungary declares war on Germany.  
1965   California becomes the largest state in population.  
1977  Cambodia breaks relations with Vietnam.

15 Damaging Myths About Life We Should All Stop Believing

Elyse Gorman Headshotby Elyse Gorman 
1. There is a single definition of success.
And it involves an established career, large house, acceptable body shape, marriage and annual holidays.
Everyone has their own path to walk in this life, and what brings true meaning and deep fulfillment differs for all of us.
Let go of your need to fit to the status quo. Live, work, date, play, create, travel, eat, drink, move, laugh and sing in ways that feel right with your soul. That is true success.
2. Life is meant to be hard work.
Life is meant to be easy, beautiful and overflowing with moments of joy and bliss.
The more you listen to your soul and build a life that's true to you, the more your actions will feel completely natural and effortless.
If life is a constant struggle, you're running on empty and you dread Mondays, it's time to take an honest look at your life -- in a loving way.
3. Life happens to us.
Where you are now is a result of the choices you made in the past. Where you will be in the future is a result of the choices you are making right now.
You are an active participant in the creation of your life. So embrace your power as a creator, and start choosing thoughts, words and actions that make a positive impact and will come back to you in a million magnificent, beautiful, jaw-dropping ways.
4. There is such a thing as normal, and we should measure ourselves against it.
There is no such thing as a normal human, but there is such a thing as a "normal" you -- where you're completely yourself, you love yourself deeply and you think and act in ways that feel aligned with your soul.
Let your internal compass be your only point of reference.
5. There is an "us" and a "them."
We draw a line around our social and family circles, keeping out everyone who doesn't fit neatly within our definition of normal, interesting or worthwhile.
While everyone has vastly different aptitudes, passions and quirks, everyone also has the same light within them. The light within you is the same light within me, within the stranger on the bus, and within anyone you consider your enemy.
6. We have to compete for limited resources.
Life is meant to be abundant and limitless. We create scarcity by believing in it, instead of focusing our efforts on creating, giving and contributing our gift to help humankind reach its highest potential.
Relax and feel it deep within your heart that you will always be provided for.
7. Happiness comes from external things.
We pin our happiness on external things like our appearance, bank balance, job title, travel plans, possessions and the opinions of others -- and then suffer as a result.
True, sustainable happiness comes from within -- by cultivating a mindset based on gratitude, mindfulness and acceptance.
8. Holding grudges is a natural part of life.
When we feel that someone has "wronged" us, we cling to the memory and carry it around with us for weeks or sometimes years. What we fail to realize is that we are holding ourselves hostage, not just the perceived wrong-doer.
The Buddha once said, "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
Make forgiveness your new motto and see how much freer and lighter your soul feels.
9. There is something wrong with us.
We are plagued by feelings of in-adequateness and worthlessness, postponing self-acceptance and self-love until a day in the future when we're thinner, wealthier, more confident and more popular.
You are perfect and complete exactly as you are. Even when you are striving to improve and grow, you are complete. As the Buddhist saying goes, "We are all perfect as we are, and we could all use a little work."
10. It matters what other people think of us.
We give away so much of our energy, power and inner peace by worrying about what others think of us.
The truth is we can't ever know for certain what other people are thinking about us. So when your ego starts to fill you with doubt and fear, remember it's a fictional story.
11. We see things how they really are.
How we experience the world is heavily influenced by our beliefs and past experiences.
Our subconscious mind chooses pieces of information to serve to our conscious mind based on what we've programmed it to look for. Identify your dominant beliefs and replace the ones that aren't serving you.
12. Meditation is something people do on a cushion at sunrise.
You can meditate and be mindful all throughout the day as you go about your life.
Pause and feel the weight of your body in your seat, the feeling of the fabric against your skin, and the slight sensation of the air on your face.
Take a few deep breaths and let your whole being relax. Scan your body up and down for sensations, simply observing, without making any judgments.
13. When we give something, we lose something.
Giving and receiving are one in truth. When you give to someone with no strings attached -- whether it be a physical gift, a compliment or your time -- you are nourished as well as the receiver.
Not only do you experience sensations of satisfaction and joy, but your karma will bring more blessings and gifts back into your life.
14. We have to logically figure everything out.
We've been taught to trust our minds but not our intuition or inner voice of guidance.
When you're grappling with a problem or lacking clarity, learn to lean into your soul and trust the wisdom it provides to you -- often in the form of a gut feeling, serendipitous sign or a spontaneous "aha!" moment.
15. We need to be more realistic.
Many people think that daily happiness and joy is an unrealistic goal, and we should be more realistic.
Happiness is THE ultimate goal of our lives, and it is both worthwhile and attainable.
Understand your purpose is to blossom into the highest, happiest version of you and let go of any guilt you feel for making your happiness a priority.

The Incomprehensibly Stupid Things Said by repugicans in 2014

Shubhranshu Choudhary says "Journalism has to become everyone's business," but Faux News says journalism is nobody's business, including, especially, their own…
When you see a headline like, Dimbulb Rants Against Idea Of A Black James Bond, it’s only because Dimbulb has run out of other things to rant about. There is literally nothing repugicans did not attack in 2014, and to recount such a list would take up too much space to post here.
In fact, one could make a list of such lists, which are popping up everywhere. The sad thing is that these are not your good old fashioned lists of political disagreements of the sort the country used to see. No, these are paranoid-ridden, conspiracy-laden, jaw-droppingly, catastrophically stupid, lunatic fringe outbursts.
And in case you’re worried, Faux News even managed to get another one in before New Year’s Eve: Anna Kooiman out-Hasselbecked Elisabeth Hasselbeck when she suggested Sunday on (yes) Faux and Friends, that the metric system was to blame for the loss of yet another Indonesian airliner. If you’re drinking something now, put it down.
According to Kooiman, we should be looking at the “different way other countries train their pilots.”
You know, because, Pssssst, they’re not like us.
“Even when we think about temperature, it’s Fahrenheit or Celsius. It’s kilometers or miles. You know, everything about their training could be similar, but different.”
Just listening to it, I think a part of my brain died. Maybe my soul.
I think we can safely pin the Air Asia loss on the fact that, as Deutsche Welle tells us, the airline does not meet international aviation safety standards.
There are literally millions and millions of flights to and from countries that use the metric system, because pretty much the entire world uses the metric system except for the United States, Liberia, and Burma (though some elements of the old Imperial System are still used in the United Kingdom, Canada, and elsewhere the British Empire once reigned).
The point is, of course, if the metric system was to blame, planes would be falling out of the sky far more often than crossing it.
I could give up here, because I’d like to say there is nothing more stupid than what I just detailed here, that it would be impossible to top that, but we all know that would not be true.
I think this Elisabeth Hasselbeck tweet speaks for itself:
Because yes, NFL scandals have everything to do with Benghazi.
But even that was not the epitome of repugican stupid in 2014. There is the idea that President Obama was somehow responsible for Ebola. That the Ebola outbreak was deliberate. Despite these assertions, we find ourselves inexplicably alive today. And here Obama had all those handy FEMA coffins standing by…
Media Matters for America calls this “the year on the fringe” but I think this might be overly generous. Ebola fever infected the entire wingnut fringe of the political spectrum: There was Michael Savage and Alex Jones, true, and the ubiquitous Wing Nut Daily columnist, but there was also Alan Keyes, who regularly runs for public office (and now that one-man-kook-fest Gordon Klingenschmitt has shown it can be done, could actually succeed at long last), and Keith Ablow at Faux News, which is as mainstream as it gets. Laura Ingraham also got into the act
All that stopped right after the midterm elections, showing how serious about it they were. But the fact remains they still said it. And there is that whole personal responsibility thing repugicans like to harp on. Of course, that doesn’t apply to them, only others, just like religious freedom, that other thing they like to harp on, applies only to them, and not to others.
If you want an ecology-themed list, Media Matters also has that, The 6 Most Ridiculous Attacks on Clean Energy In 2014, which mostly involved simply making stuff up. You know, like Benghazi and Ebola (above). My own favorite is Lush Dimbulb’s claim that “Mass transit is total control. It is the way the government can totally control the movement of the population.”
Imagine how upset brain-dead Lush must have been over the domestication of the horse. Heck, I’m not certain at this point if repugicans entirely trust the invention of fire.
Not only have repugicans told some whopping big lies this past year in the furtherance of their agenda against humanity, but they have been, well, just plain mean. And another list at Media Matters that might interest you is their Worst 2014 Smears From Wingnut Websites. Number One on the list is a typical example of thoughtless mud-slinging:
Daily Caller Columnist Blamed Gay Service Members For Rise In Military Rape. A Daily Caller columnist claimed that the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which allowed LGBT soldiers to serve openly, was responsible for an “uptick in same-sex rape” in the military. [Media Matters, 8/28/14]
Because THAT makes sense.
If we’re thinking about the third big issue of the year after Benghazi (a best-seller since 2012) and Ebola, Obamacare, Media Matters takes a look at how none of those dire predictions about Obamacare came true (oops).
Wingnut Media’s Catastrophic ACA Predictions Still Haven’t Materialized. You know, like all he horrible events that would ensue if we abolished Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. I know this is a shock, because none of us ended up dying from Ebola either:
You can see how similar these are to the Ebola frenzy. It’s like Faux News just has some sort of plug-n-play system where they have headlines with handy blanks and they just fill those in depending on the subject. They’re tried and true after all, and they’re going with what clearly works. Can’t fault them for that, as far as business models go, though you can certainly call them on their complete lack of journalistic integrity and moral compass.
In that, this year just past has been no different than any other year since 2009: endless lies and each worse than the last. Worse, they are lies seemingly only an imbecile could believe. And believe them they do. Which says far more about Faux News and its audience than the people about whom those lies are told.
While Indian journalist Shubhranshu Choudhary is saying “Journalism has to become everyone’s business,” Faux News is embracing the delusion that journalism is nobody’s business, including, especially, their own.

The repugicans Plan Another Trickle Down Assault In 2015

Some repugicans are beginning to express little hope that the President will go along with the scam raising taxes on the poor …
Ryan Trickle DownAs repugicans prepare to take control of Congress in a couple of weeks, after eliminating women’s reproductive rights, blocking the President’s executive action on immigration enforcement, and thwarting normalized relations with Cuba, they plan to revert back to shrub-era trickle down tax policy. In fact, very high atop the repugican cabal’s agenda is reforming what they call “the highly unpopular federal tax code” to better serve the rich and corporations and express their thirty year love affair and devotion to “trickle-down” economics. However, some repugicans are beginning to express little hope that the President will go along with the scam and may eschew raising taxes on the poor, for now, and instead set their sights on slashing corporate taxes.
According to one of  the shrub’s economic 'advisors' and former head of the alleged non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, “I don’t think repugicans can get the individual side of the tax code done next year.” It is noteworthy that Paul Ryan intends on reinstituting an exclusively repugican CBO to approve the repugican trickle-down tax scheme as an economic boon to fool Americans into thinking that after thirty years, trickle down will work…this time. A repugican-friendly CBO will determine that the President’s objections to repugican plans to increase taxes on, and draw more revenue from middle and lower-class incomes to pay for tax cuts for the rich and corporations is errant and is a winning economic scheme for the storied “job creators.”
The repugican’s favored scheme is cutting taxes for the rich and simplifying the tax code for everyone else by expanding the tax base; translation – raise taxes on lower income Americans including those living in poverty and elderly Americans living off their meager Social Security retirement income. The repugicans have also floated eliminating popular deductions for middle-class taxpayers thus raising their tax liability to fund corporate and rich Americans’ tax cuts. However, with the President’s intent on protecting the middle and lower class income earners, repugicans will likely put all their focus on corporate tax cuts.
The repugicans complain that America has highest official corporate tax rate in the world at 35%, but U.S. corporations actually only pay an effective (real) federal tax rate of 12.6% as of 2010 according to Government Accountability Office. Even when foreign, state and local taxes were taken into account, the companies paid only 16.9% of their worldwide income in taxes in 2010. But that is too high for repugicans. Cutting the official corporate rate will bring the effective rate closer to 1-2 percent, but even that rate is far too high for repugicans and their corporate donors according to their stated intents.
The repugicans want to cut corporate taxes drastically while still maintaining corporate tax credits, exemptions, and offshore tax havens to bring the effective corporate tax burden on American companies to zero or less. Already, 26 of the largest and most profitable U.S. corporations pay zero in corporate taxes and receive tax refunds due to less than zero tax liabilities borne of outlandish tax breaks, exemptions, and credits; including credits and incentives for moving jobs out of the country. However, some corporations still pay taxes on profits that repugicans cannot tolerate and they certainly will not be satisfied until all corporations’ effective tax rate is zero and they receive refunds from taxes collected from the middle class.
President Obama is not averse to reducing the corporate tax rate, and he has proposed reducing the rate to 28 percent. But unlike shrub-repugicans, President Obama intends on paying for the rate reduction by eliminating unfair exemptions, loopholes, and adding some new taxes. The President’s proposal enraged Republicans for eliminating exemptions and loopholes, but were particularly incensed that Obama pushed to use any new revenue from closing loopholes to repair the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. the repugicans plan to use any new revenue to fund more tax breaks and loopholes for corporations and the wealthy. According to one repugican agitator, repugicans are not about to go along with using any revenue for infrastructure repair when they can further cut taxes for the rich and said, “That’s just a big, big difference” in ideology founded on where repugicans believe all the nation’s wealth belongs.
Senate Democrats have their own ideas for tax reform including Ron Wyden (D-OR) who proposed lowering the corporate tax rate to 24% and paying for it by raising taxes on capital gains and dividends as well as multinational corporations. Cutting corporate taxes by 11% is not enough for repugicans and the idea of raising taxes on anyone except the poor and middle class is a non-starter. Some repugicans openly proposed eliminating taxes on some corporations altogether.
Trickle down devotees Paul Ryan and Orin Hatch want to put an end to taxation on foreign corporate earnings in conjunction with cutting domestic corporate taxes to a rate close to zero. They claim that cutting taxes for corporations with their headquarters in America in conjunction with eliminating taxes on foreign corporate earnings will encourage American corporations to relocate their headquarters back to America where, in either scenario, they can enjoy little or no taxation. It is noteworthy that repugicans have no provision to encourage corporations to move manufacturing jobs back to America, just their corporate headquarters and only if they are given tax-free status.
The repugicans are eager to make the corporate tax code more attractive to businesses to, as Senator Orin Hatch says, “assist more worldwide American companies establish or retain their corporate headquarters in the United States, increase tax-free exports to global markets, and retain tax-free profits in the United States.” The benefit to Americans in jobs, income equality, and increased revenue to repair, rebuild, and sustain America is zero. But by now many Americans comprehend that doing anything for the majority of Americans or the nation was never part of the repugicans’ tax reform scheme.
Apparently repugicans did not learn their lesson in December when the President threatened to veto an over $440 billion “bipartisan” giveaway to corporations. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew echoed President Obama’s sentiments in calling the tax deal “the wrong approach.” Lew said, “An extender package that makes permanent expiring business provisions without addressing tax credits for working families is the wrong approach, at the expense of middle class families,” and joined the President in calling for a deal with “broadly shared” benefits. Still, repugicans have deluded themselves that with a repugican-controlled Congress, the President will embrace trickle-down economics and increase the already monumental income disparity hurting the economy and the majority of Americans.
Whatever Americans think of Barack Obama, he is not the shrub or ronny raygun if for no other reason than he understands that after a failed thirty year trickle down experiment; it does not work for anyone but the extremely wealthy. One would think that by now repugicans would get a clue that this President’s tendency is to support any agenda that works for all Americans; not just the rich and corporations.

Tennessee Woman In Body Armor Shoots Up Suburban Neighborhood

julie shields
A middle-aged Tennessee woman is under arrest after she drove around a suburban Chattanooga neighborhood, inexplicably shooting at people and vehicles. Julia Shields, 45, has been arrested and faces multiple felony charges, after she terrorized her neighborhood on Friday. Shields faces three counts of attempted murder and seven counts of aggravated assault. She also faces charges for reckless endangerment, evading arrest, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
The woman fired shots randomly at vehicles and continued to aim her gun at vehicles even while she was being chased by police. She also pointed her firearm at police officers, but she was eventually arrested and taken alive.
Shields resides in the Hixson neighborhood in the North part of Chattanooga. The shootings took place in the same area. Hixson is a predominately white, upper middle-class neighborhood, where the household median income is well above the state average.
So far, neither the police nor the media have identified a motive for why the woman went on a shooting spree. Nor has any information been released regarding whether or not she has a prior criminal record. Until more information is known about the alleged shooter, it will be difficult to determine what motivated her to drive around turning her neighborhood into a free fire zone.
The suspect's behavior clearly menaced the community and the police officers who pursued her. Were an African-American male to act in this manner, he would no doubt be labeled a thug by teabagger bloggers and wingnut shrieking heads. Under identical circumstances, it is also likely that a young black male would have been shot rather than apprehended unharmed by police officers.
Shields is being held in the Hamilton County Jail. Bond has not been set yet. Shields is scheduled to appear before Judge Gary Starnes on January 5th.

Man caused hospital fire by smoking crack with patient who was attached to oxygen

A 54-year-old Florida man was arrested on Xmas Eve after allegedly taking crack cocaine into the Intensive Care Unit at North Okaloosa Medical Center to share with a patient there. A fire broke out at 3:43pm when the patient, who was on oxygen, tried to smoke the cocaine from a homemade smoking device, according to the Crestview Police Department.
The only property damage was to the bed linen, hospital gown and oxygen mask. “The potential was there for a lot of damage,” said Crestview Police Lt. Donald Fountain. “It could have been a lot worse.” He noted that the other patients and the staff could have been injured had the fire not been extinguished so quickly. Crestview Fire Department responded to the fire.
The patient was transported to a burn unit as a result of burns he received. Lee Vern Cook, who authorities say admitted to taking the cocaine into the hospital, also admitted to taking a loaded firearm with him. He allegedly led officers to where he’d hidden it in a bathroom after the fire.
He received minor injuries to his hands, but he was evaluated and taken to jail. Cook is charged with possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony, arson, five counts of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. There is a possibility of additional charges. The fire is being investigated by Crestview Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Suspected car burglar was actually a Good Samaritan checking that vehicles were locked

A 20-year-old man who was detained by civilians under the belief that he was a car burglar turned out to be something of a Good Samaritan, police said. Alexander Louis, of Norwalk, Connecticut, was spotted going into cars at Coating's Auto Body at 12:42pm on Friday, police said.
Believing that he was stealing items from the vehicles, Coating's employees chased him down and caught up with him nearby. The Coating's employees detained Louis until police arrived. Witnesses gave statements about what they perceived to be thwarted burglary attempts, and security footage of the incident was handed over to police.
Police took Louis into custody but did not find any stolen items on him. Louis was about to be charged with burglary when he told police what he was really doing at the auto yard. Louis told officers he was simply making sure all the vehicles were locked and when he found an unlocked door, he locked it.
Police reviewed the security footage and saw that Louis did not enter any of the cars or rifle through any of the belongings in the car. The footage showed that once he opened the door of an unlocked car, he would lock it and move to the next car. However, there are "no trespassing" signs clearly posted throughout Coating's Auto Body, and Louis was charged with criminal trespass. Louis' initial $20,000 bond was lowered to a promise to appear in court.

Anti-homeless cages installed around benches removed following outcry

The local council in the French city of Angouleme has backtracked on a decision to cage public benches to stop homeless people using them. The cages were put up on Xmas Eve sparking outrage that the move could be so lacking in Yuletide spirit
While many shopkeepers had welcomed the cages, saying homeless people brought down the number of customers, locals had responded in solidarity. Two teenagers climbed inside the cages and refused to move out.
One said: “we were quite outraged , like everybody, I think. And so we said to ourselves: we absolutely have to do something” The cages have been temporarily removed but the mayor of the right leaning UMP council, Xavier Bonnefont, said no final decision had yet been made.

“We will continue to reflect on this in January with the shopkeepers and the residents of Champs de Mars square, in order to find a satisfactory solution,” he declared. The mayor defended the cages saying they hadn’t been aimed just at homeless people but at alcoholics and drug dealers who used the area. He also said the cages would eventually have been filled with local rocks to form a kind of landscape art installation

School payroll error meant money was taken from staff bank accounts instead of being paid in

Instead of receiving their pay checks via direct deposit on the day after Christmas, Public School workers in Plymouth, Massachusetts, awoke on Friday to find that the amount they were to be paid had instead been withdrawn from their bank accounts. Not only were their bi-weekly pay checks missing, but two additional weeks of pay had also been withdrawn from their accounts.
About 1,300 staff, from cafeteria workers to top administrators, were affected. Superintendent Dr. Gary E. Maestas sent an email to employees saying the issue was caused by human error. The error has left some employees thousands of dollars in the red. “I can’t believe this was even possible,” one veteran teacher said. “How can they take money out of your account without your permission?”
Town Manager Melissa Arrighi said the town had already determined it was a case of human error. The town was working hard to reverse the reversal, she added, but it will take time. “We have hundreds of banks associated with these accounts, and right now we are calling each, informing them of the situation and asking that they return the funds,” Arrighi said. Maestas says some banks, including Bank of America, Citizens Bank and Santander, won't make corrections until Monday, the next business day.

According to Arrighi, 704 debit deductions had been reversed by Saturday, while 591 deductions remained. “There’s no way around this; the fault lies with us. So, I want the affected employees to know that we are going to stand by them,” Arrighi said. “There’s no saying now what the final financial effect will be, but as far as penalties, overdraft fees and the like, the town will stand by these workers. We are also correcting the internal error so that this cannot happen again.”

Japan's Cotton-Spinning Bar

It's been a long, stressful day at work. To decompress, visit the Tokyo Cotton Village, a bar and restaurant in Tokyo. There, you can have a drink and spin cotton threads. Kunihiko Miura of The Japan News describes the experience:
“Getting absorbed in [spinning threads] lets me forget bad things that happened at work. This is a precious time for me to change my mood,” said Yoshiko Jimura, a 32-year-old company employee who visits the bar at least twice a week.
It's the brainchild of Takuya Tomizawa, who used to work in advertising. He and his friends spun cotton for fun. They realized that there was a business opportunity at hand. So they established the Tokyo Cotton Village, where patrons can grow, harvest, and spin cotton themselves while enjoying drinks and food.

Top 10 Real-Life Inspirations For Famous Animated Characters

Mickey Mouse and Walt Disney. Is there a person alive today that doesn't know who they are? But did you know that the inspiration for Mickey came from Walt Disney's own pet mouse? Walt decided to give him a pair of pants and gloves before setting the mouse off to build his billion-dollar empire.
Now, Mickey Mouse isn't on this list, but can you guess who inspired cartoon legends such as Tintin, Betty Boop and Snow White?

Unexplained Mysteries of 2014 and Into 2015

As we head into 2015, look back at some of the strangest mysteries of this past year and some of the mysteries that remain. 

Whodunit: The Chinese Lie detector

When the emperor rose on that April morning, he immediately noticed the silence. "There's no cricket. Where's my cricket?" he demanded. The servants of the bed chamber checked all the usual places, but the cricket was gone—and so was its jeweled cricket box.
The entire royal court was thrown into turmoil until the chirping pet was finally found, housed in a lowly bamboo box and hidden in the corner of a public garden. The emperor was both relieved and outraged. "How dare someone steal from me!" He ordered the captain of the palace guard to find the still-missing box and the culprit.
Finding the box was easy. Lu Ping, a near-sighted gem dealer, bought it from a palace servant and only realized later what he had purchased. With the most abject apologies, he returned it to the emperor. 'I don't know if I can recognize the man who sold it to me," he said with a squint. "I'll do my  best."
From the gem dealer's description, the captain narrowed down the suspects to three. But the dealer couldn't make a positive identification, and none of the three would confess. "Hang them all," the emperor commanded.
That was when the court wizard intervened. "I can discover the guilty servant," he boasted. "Bring the three and come to the public garden."
The wizard led the way to the spot where the cricket had been found. He ordered each suspect to cut a stalk of bamboo. Then the wizard planted the stalks in the hard earth, making sure that each one stuck up the same height from the ground. "By dawn tomorrow," he announced in solemn tones, "the stalk of the guilty man will grow by the length of a finger joint."
By dawn the next morning, the wizard had kept his word. He had discovered the identity of the guilty servant.
How did the wizard do it?
At dawn the next day, the emperor's court returned to the public garden and were amazed to find that not one but two of the bamboo stalks were higher. "Were there two thieves?" the captain wondered out loud."No, just one" the wizard replied. "Arrest the man with the short stalk. He was the only one with a reason to fear my magic. Thinking that his own stalk would grow, he sneaked back here in the middle of the night and cut it a finger joint shorter."

Mae Keane, The Last 'Radium Girl,' Dies At 107

by Rebecca Hersher
Employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as Radium Girls, later died of radium poisoning. The last radium girl died this year at 107. 
Employees of the U.S. Radium Corporation paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. Dozens of women, known as Radium Girls, later died of radium poisoning. The last radium girl died this year at 107.In the early 1920s, the hot new gadget was a wristwatch with a glow-in-the-dark dial.
"Made possible by the magic of radium!" bragged one advertisement.
And it did seem magical. Radium was the latest miracle substance — an element that glowed and fizzed, which salesmen promised could extend your life, pump up your sex drive and make women more beautiful. Doctors used it to treat everything from colds to cancer.
In the 1920s, a young working-class woman could land a job working with the miracle substance. Radium wristwatches were manufactured right here in America, and the U.S. Radium Corporation was hiring dial people to paint the tiny numbers onto watch faces for about 5 cents a watch.
They became known as the radium girls.
In order to get the numbers small enough, new hires were taught to do something called "lip pointing." After painting each number, they were to put the tip of the paintbrush between their lips to sharpen it.
Twelve numbers per watch, upwards of 200 watches per day — and with every digit, the girls swallowed a little bit of radium.
"Of course, no one thought it was dangerous in these first couple of years," explains Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook.
In 1924, a woman named Mae Keane was hired at a factory in Waterbury Connecticut. Her first day, she remembers she didn't like the taste of the radium paint. It was gritty.
"I wouldn't put the brush in my mouth," she remembered many years later.
After just a few days at the factory, the boss asked her if she'd like to quit, since she clearly didn't like the work. She gratefully agreed.
"I often wish I had met him after to thank him," Keane said, "because I would have been like the rest of them."
Other women weren't so lucky. By the mid-1920s, dial painters were falling ill by the dozens, afflicted with horrific diseases. The radium they had swallowed was eating their bones from the inside.
"There was one women who the dentist went to pull a tooth and he pulled her entire jaw out when he did it," says Blum. "Their legs broke underneath them. Their spines collapsed."
Dozens of women died. At a factory in New Jersey, the women sued the U.S. Radium Corporation for poisoning and won. Many of them ended up using the money to pay for their own funerals.
In all, by 1927, more than 50 women had died as a direct result of radium paint poisoning.
But Mae Keane was among the hundreds who survived. Over the years, she had some health problems — bad teeth, migraines, two bouts with cancer.
There's no way to know if her time in the factory contributed.
"I was left with different things, but I lived through them. You just don't know what to blame," she said.
Mae Keane died this year. At 107 years old, she was the last of the radium girls.
Deborah Blum says the radium girls had a profound impact on workplace regulations. By the time World War II came around, the federal government had set basic safety limits for handling radiation.
And, she says, there are still lessons to be learned about how we protect people who work with new, untested substances.
"We really don't want our factory workers to be the guinea pigs for discovery. 'Oops' is never good occupational health policy."

Human Bone Density Drop Tied to Lifestyle Shift

The relatively lightly built skeletons of modern humans may have been the result of a shift away from a nomadic lifestyle to a more settled one.

Microbes and Lifespan

The bacteria that lives in our bodies may have evolved to take down the elderly so that the young could thrive.

Poisoned with Parasites

Discover magazine’s Body Horrors blog relates a disturbing story about a group of housemates in which one was doing research with some nasty parasites. It was a case of “the rare coincidence of a parasitologist with a homicidal grudge.”
In 1970, four housemates living in Quebec were in a spat over the rent. Specifically, one housemate, a post-graduate in the department of parasitology at MacDonald College, was significantly late on his share of the monthly dues. Tensions ran high, and the quarrels continued. In what sounds like a particularly acrimonious argument, the delinquent housemate made a seemingly outlandish threat: he would poison them with the same organisms that he experimented upon in his laboratory, with the pig parasite Ascaris suum. His threat was quickly dismissed and the roommate was summarily evicted.

It was only a week later when the four housemates ended up in a hospital after an elaborate dinner – yes, you’ve already figured it all out, haven’t you? – prepared by the delinquent room mate that the threat of poisoning by parasite was revisited.
The story may be disturbing to sensitive readers. You’ll find out how the Ascaris suum parasite works and what it can do to its host, what happened to the victims, and the legal outcome of the case.

Celtic Parasite Eggs

Parasite eggs from the Celtic period found in SwitzerlandParasite eggs from the Celtic period found in Switzerland

As part of an international project, researchers at the Integrative Prehistory and Archaeological Science center (IPAS) at the University of Basel examined samples from the “Basel-Gasfabrik” Celtic settlement, at the […]

Chinese Civilization's Mysterious Disappearance

An earthquake nearly 3,000 years ago may be the culprit in the disappearance of one of China's ancient civilizations, new research suggests.

'Blue Hole' Demise

Sediments drawn from the Blue Hole and other sites in Belize suggest that the Mayan civilization may have collapsed twice due to drought.

Massive ancient underground city discovered in Turkey's Nevşehir

by Erdinç Çelikkan
An underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is located under the Nevşehir fortress and the surrounding area, may be the biggest archeological finding of 2014, which is soon to end. AA Photo
An underground city newly discovered in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is located under the Nevşehir fortress and the surrounding area, may be the biggest archeological finding of 2014, which is soon to end. AA Photo
With 2014 soon coming to an end, potentially the year’s biggest archeological discovery of an underground city has come from Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Nevşehir, which is known world-wide for its Fairy Chimneys rock formation.
The city was discovered by means of Turkey’s Housing Development Administration’s (TOKİ) urban transformation project. Some 1,500 buildings were destructed located in and around the Nevşehir fortress, and the underground city was discovered when the earthmoving to construct new buildings had started.
TOKİ Head Mehmet Ergün Turan said the area where the discovery was made was announced as an archeological area to be preserved.
“It is not a known underground city. Tunnel passages of seven kilometers are being discussed. We stopped the construction we were planning to do on these areas when an underground city was discovered,” said Turan.
The city is thought to date back 5,000 years and is located around the Nevşehir fortress. Escape galleries and hidden churches were discovered inside the underground city.
Stating that they were going to move the urban transformation project to the outskirts of the city, Turan said they had paid 90 million Turkish Liras for the project already, but did not see this as a loss, as this discovery may be the world’s largest underground city.
Hasan Ünver, mayor of Nevşehir, said other underground cities in Nevşehir’s various districts do not even amount to the “kitchen” of this new underground city.
“The underground city [was found] in the 45 hectares of the total 75 hectare area that is within the [urban] transformation project. We started working in 2012 with the project. We have taken 44 historical objects under preservation. The underground city was discovered when we began the destruction in line with the protocol. The first galleries were spotted in 2013. We applied to the [Cultural and Natural Heritage] Preservation Board and the area was officially registered,” said Ünver.
The newly discovered underground city will be the biggest among the other underground cities in Nevşehir that have been discovered so far.

Archaeologists Have Unearthed a 6,000-Year-Old Mega-Temple Built by a Matriarchal Society

Tom McKay's avatar image by Tom McKay 
Archaeologists in Ukraine have unearthed a 6,000-year-old temple site near the ancient settlement of Nebelivka, roughly 160 miles south of Kiev, by digging up a 60-by-21-meter site believed to be one of the oldest "mega-structures" in human history. 
Sci-News reports that the ancient site belonged to the Trypillian culture, which lasted from approximately 5,400-2,700 B.C. and extended from the Carpathian piedmont to the Black Sea. The culture was complex, boasting early advancements in metallurgy, pottery and textiles. 
According to researcher Mikhail Videyko, the temple was likely two stories tall, the largest of its kind on the site, and may have been the "center of a complex plan" as the "central temple of the whole village community." Each single-habitation Trypillian settlement appears to have been burnt to the ground after about 60 to 80 years of continuous occupation for reasons unknown to current researchers, including the temple site.
Here are a few shots of the complex, along with some representations of what it once looked like:

Humanlike figures found at the site.
Clay tokens and various pendants, including gold and bone-based artifacts.
"The temple was a two-story building made of wood and clay surrounded by a galleried courtyard, five rooms were on the first floor and raised family altars made of clay were on the ground floor," Videyko wrote. "Its construction required labor commensurate with the construction of several dozen ordinary houses. Its plan and some features of this structure find analogies in temples from the 5th to 4th millennia B.C. known from excavations in Anatolia and Mesopotamia."
While the main structure appears to have mostly consisted of various clay, the researchers found additional signs of wooden support structures.
The discovery has also drawn attention because some experts theorize Trypillian society was matriarchal, in part due to the large number of female figurines found at dig sites. Sci-News explains that the culture involved "women heading the household, doing agricultural work and manufacturing pottery, textiles and clothing. Hunting, keeping domestic animals and making tools were the responsibilities of the men."
However, there isn't a great deal of hard evidence suggesting which gender held predominant roles in Trypillian culture. In the meantime, marvel at the fact that cultural artifacts six millennia old are still intact enough to be pored over by scholars today.

Faucaria Tigrina

In The Greenhouse, No One Can Hear You Scream
They say that life imitates art but perhaps in this case it is the other way around. This is Faucaria tigrina or the Tiger's Jaw - a succulent plant found in South Africa.

Yet caught at the right angle the plant does not resemble so much the jaw of a tiger as that of an altogether alien creature, featured in a number of movies starring Sigourney Weaver et al.

Soaking 'Atmospheric Rivers'

But by 2100, the southern part of the state will get more severe storms, hiking the risk of flooding. 

Venus' Oceans

Venus may have once possessed strange oceans of carbon dioxide fluid that helped shape the planet's surface. 

Alien Ice 'Spiders'

The Martian surface is covered with a diverse array of landscapes and features, but this is one of the weirdest.

The Weirdest New Species of 2014

This year certainly held its own when it came to the describing of deeply odd animals. From a cavefish with its anus directly behind its head, to a marsupial whose males mate furiously until they die of stress, 2014 had something for everyone.

A Half Male, Half Female Cardinal

This photo is not the product of some Redditor's use of Photoshop to create a funny hybrid. This is an extremely rare find in nature: a half male, half female northern cardinal. Referred to by scientists as a gynandromorph, these dual gender specimens are known to be found in insect, crustacean and bird populations.
The bird shown above was discovered in Rock Island, Illinois by ornithologists Brian D. Peer and Robert W. Motz. They observed the bird for a period of 40 days, during which they studied its interaction with other birds and its responses to various bird calls. The bird did not appear to have a mate, nor did it sing. The recorded observations of Peer and Motz were published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Read more about this gynandromorph at i09 and Science. 

Animal Pictures

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Daily Drift

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