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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Daily Drift

Boom, Boom, Boom  ...

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Today in History

1327 King Edward II of England is deposed.
1558 The French, under the Duke of Guise, finally take the port of Calais from the English.
1785 Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American Dr. John Jeffries make the first crossing of the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon.
1807 Responding to Napoleon Bonaparte's attempted blockade of the British Isles, the British blockade Continental Europe.
1865 Cheyenne and Sioux warriors attack Julesburg, Colo., in retaliation for the Sand Creek Massacre.
1901 New York stock exchange trading exceeds two million shares for the first time in history.
1902 Imperial Court of China returns to Peking. The Empress Dowager resumes her reign.
1918 The Germans move 75,000 troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.
1934 Six thousand pastors in Berlin defy the Nazis insisting that they will not be silenced.
1944 The U.S. Air Force announces the production of the first jet-fighter, Bell P-59 Airacomet.
1945 U.S. air ace Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. is killed in the Pacific.
1952 French forces in Indochina launch Operation Violette in an effort to push Viet Minh forces away from the town of Ba Vi.
1955 Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House.
1975 Vietnamese troops take Phuoc Binh in new full-scale offensive.
1979 Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge are overthrown when Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
1980 US President Jimmy Carter signs legislation providing $1.5 billion in loans to salvage Chrysler Corporation.
1985 Vietnam seizes the Khmer National Liberation Front headquarters near the Thai border.
1985 Japan launches its first interplanetary spacecraft, Sakigake, the first deep space probe launched by any nation other than the US or the USSR.
1989 Prince Akihito sworn in as Emperor of Japan, following the death of his father, Hirohito.
1990 Safety concerns over structural problems force the Leaning Tower of Pisa to be closed to the public.
1993 The Bosnian Army carries out a surprise attack on the village of Kravica in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War.
1999 The impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton opens in the US Senate.

Non Sequitur


Want a Long Life?

Get Naked! 

And 6 More Surprising Longevity Tips 

In his new book, A Short Guide to a Long Life, David B. Agus, M.D., whose patients have included Neil Young, Steve Jobs, and Sumner Redstone, offers bite-sized, straightforward advice on living longer and better. See seven of his tips below.
1. Get naked
We throw our clothes on and off daily, during which time we’re partially or wholly naked for a few seconds or minutes, and we spend quality time in the shower in our birthday suit. But when was the last time you took a good look at yourself butt naked in front of a mirror—front and back? You’d be surprised by how illuminating this exercise can be. You can spot trouble on the horizon in the form of body oddities that you didn’t have before and signs of skin cancer.
The skin acts as an indicator of the state of the entire body, and external skin discolorations, blemishes, lesions, rashes, blotches, or other unsightly marks can be signs of underlying internal disease. Once in a while, take a visual inventory of every square inch of yourself, including your hair, nails, and the inside of your mouth.
You can also get an honest sense of how well you are aging based on your physical appearance alone. Is your overall skin tone and set of wrinkles reflective of someone your age? Do you look older than your chronological age? And you can use this moment to gather measurements that can help you track the progress you’re making by changing your habits. Measure your waist and see it get smaller. Start a skin-care routine that nourishes the health of your skin (and keeps you examining your skin regularly).
Or maybe just tell yourself that you’re beautiful and doing okay. Say an affirmation as you stand there naked and accept who you are. We all know that having a strong sense of self and being comfortable in our own skin will go a long way to keeping us healthy and psychologically strong.

2. Strengthen your core and maintain good posture
You can tell a lot about someone just by looking at the way he carries himself. Is he hunched over like an old person? Does he slouch with his head down as if he is depressed? Or is he walking fully erect, chest up, as if he is ready to take on the world with a smile on his face? With the right posture, anyone can appear younger, thinner, and more confident. But these effects aren’t just for vanity’s sake. Maintaining correct posture may be one of the best-kept secrets for achieving a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life.
We know that poor posture can lead to a wide assortment of neck and back problems. It is often caused by a weak core, which is one of the primary risk factors for back problems—at every age. Poor posture can also cause headaches, TMJ, arthritis, poor circulation, muscle aches, difficulty breathing, indigestion, constipation, joint stiffness, fatigue, neurological problems, and poor physical function in general.
But the risks don’t end there. It’s well documented that people with what’s called hyperkyphosis—a posture that’s hunched over, with the head and shoulders rolled forward—are 2 times more likely to die from pulmonary problems and 2.4 times more likely to die from atherosclerosis (a disorder characterized by a narrowing and hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup) than those with normal posture. What’s more, these individuals are 1.44 times more likely to die of any cause than those with healthy posture. Even people with a mild degree of hyperkyphosis are likely to die sooner.
Bear in mind that posture also plays into our emotional state. Because posture is often linked to our facial expressions, it can subconsciously drive our emotions: when we stand tall and erect, we exude confidence. This in turn helps us to feel good about ourselves and have an optimistic outlook. All roads to perfect posture start with a sturdy core. You don’t need a chiseled six-pack, but engage in exercises that work this area.
3. Mobilize your medical data
Do you have copies of all your medical records, and are they accessible online somewhere? Why not? What if you land in the emergency room and cannot talk but have a potentially fatal allergy to penicillin—the very drug a doctor is about to inject into you?
We use our phones and computers today for just about everything, with one exception: storing our medical records and keeping our health information updated. Aim to have all your records stored in your “mobile cloud” so they are always accessible to you. Give a trusted family member (spouse, parent, sibling, adult child) or friend your passwords so they can access those same files when and if it becomes necessary. Everyone needs a partner in health care. Pick someone. Give that person full access to all of the places where you keep your medical data.
If you don’t have your medical records nicely organized in digital files, request copies of your files from your doctors. Spend a weekend afternoon creating digital copies of them using a scanner. You can also keep them on a USB key chain that you take everywhere. This task may sound daunting, but it’s just a few hours of work from which you can benefit for the rest of your life. It is unusual that patients of mine have a medical emergency between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. when the office is open and we can access their records. Problems always seem to happen in the middle of the night, on a weekend, or when someone is traveling! We each have different health profiles, but that distinctiveness can present a challenge to doctors who don’t know anything about us, yet have been given the job of treating us. Having your entire medical record on file to hand over just might save your life.
4. Have a glass of wine with dinner
Habits that transcend culture and religion and date back thousands of years probably have some benefit to them regardless of what the science says. But now we know that moderate alcohol intake, especially from red wine, can reduce one’s risk for heart disease. This benefit does have a caveat, however: drinking can potentially increase one’s risk for breast cancer, and drinking too much is far worse for your heart than being a teetotaler. How do you find the sweet spot? Aim for no more than one drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man. And if you abstain during the workweek, you don’t have permission to binge drink over the weekend.
5. Cohabitate
While at first blush it may seem unlikely that a connection has been found between cohabitation and longevity, consider the following: when you live with someone else, you have a reason to pay more attention to your health and hygiene. You’ve got another person to hold you accountable for your actions and lifestyle habits. You’re less likely to engage in risky behaviors. And you’re more likely to have a built-in system for coping with stress, because another warm human body is present in your daily life.
If you come home mad, frustrated, and on the verge of a breakdown, you’ve at least got a sounding board. Which might explain why happy cohabitating couples repeatedly score better on blood pressure tests than their single counterparts. Whether or not this rule should entail marriage is up to you. And whether it should include children is another thing to consider.
6. Smile
Hint: Smiling will boost your mood no matter what. The act itself will trigger the release of pain-killing, brain-happy endorphins and serotonin. Besides, it’s easier to smile; it takes seventeen muscles to smile and forty-three to frown.
Maybe laugh a little, too.
7. Never skip breakfast
This old adage will never die. After fasting all night long, your body needs a metabolic jump-start to begin the day. We know that people who eat breakfast are just plain healthier in general and rarely have issues with weight (and if they do, the weight sloughs off once they start eating breakfast!). Skipping those morning calories to lose weight is one of the worst habits a person can develop. Front-loading your eating in the early part of the day will prevent you from overconsuming later, help you burn more calories, and allow you to get a wallop of nutrients when you need them.
Moreover, eating breakfast will give your brain a much-needed boost, fueling your productivity and creativity for the entire day. If you wait too long to eat after rising, stress hormones will start pumping and sabotage your body’s healthy metabolism. Too high a concentration of stress hormones like cortisol will encourage your body to retain fat, among other undesirable things.

Lives of meaning, happiness not the same thing

Lives of meaning, happiness not the same thing

While lives of meaningfulness and happiness overlap, they are distinctly different, according to Stanford research. In a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business, along with colleagues, found answers […]

Harry Reid Drops A Bomb On repugicans By Threatening to Eliminate All Filibusters

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants repugicans to stop the foot dragging and obstruction. If they refuse to behave responsibly, Reid warned that he is open to eliminating all filibusters.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this: I mean listening to you this morning if the Republicans continue to throw up the kind of opposition you’ve been receiving, you say you’ve been receiving, do you have plans to extend this ban on filibusters? Right now you’ve– you’ve worked out this rule which they vehemently oppose that– so they– it’s very difficult for him to filibuster nominations. Would you be willing to just go to a Senate where just majority rules and that’s it?
SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, Bob, I think it’s something that we have to understand.
BOB SCHIEFFER: So you’re thinking about that?
SENATOR HARRY REID: But that– that’s– that’s– that’s this. We cannot have a country that’s paralyzed because of a group of people, the group of people who are like Tea Party-driven Republicans in Congress, not Republicans. I’m not here to bad mouth the Republicans around the country. I get a lot of support from Republicans in Nevada, and always have had. But they are mainstream Republicans. They’re not driven by this craziness that we have in American today. So the answer is this: We– we– we should pass raising the minimum wage. We should extend unemployment benefits. We should get rid of these tax loopholes and create jobs so the middle class can– can start growing, not shrinking.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But would you do away with filibusters entirely?
SENATOR HARRY REID: Well, I’m– we’re– we’re not there yet. I think that we– we–
BOB SCHIEFFER: I mean are you even thinking about that?
SENATOR HARRY REID: No, I’m not thinking about it today. But I– I think–
BOB SCHIEFFER: You’re saying you’re holding that out. Is– that is a possibility?
SENATOR HARRY REID: I– I– I think everyone should understand that the country cannot continue on the road that it’s on. It cannot have– you cannot have when you have vacancies in the judiciary as we’ve had, DC Circuit, some say it’s more important than the Supreme Court. But it’s, at least, the second most important. They said we’re not going to fill these spots because we don’t want to. You can’t. That’s not the way we legislate.
Majority Leader Reid has been fighting the battle to get the Senate moving again in an incremental fashion. He gave repugicans numerous opportunities to cooperate before he unleashed the nuclear option. Reid’s answer to the question of whether or not he was considering eliminating all filibusters was telling. The Nevada Democrat didn’t say no. He said that he is not considering it today.
This answer left the door open for Sen. Reid to consider it later if repugicans continue to obstruct and grind the Senate to a halt. For those who were wondering how Reid would respond to Mitch McConnell’s plan to get revenge for the nuclear option by slowing the Senate to a crawl, you now have your answer.
McConnell’s moronic revenge plan could end up costing repugicans the ability to filibuster legislation. Harry Reid delivered his first warning to Senate repugicans. His message was that they need to quit obstructing and playing games, or Democrats would take away their obstructionist toys. In the same interview, Reid also pointed out that the filibuster is not in the Constitution. He added that the filibuster is privilege, not a right.
Harry Reid may not be thinking about eliminating all filibusters today, but if Mitch McConnell continues his senseless campaign of obstruction, the Senate Majority Leader will make the repugican cabal pay.

Rand Paul Screws Over repugicans By Flip Flopping on Unemployment Benefits Extension

rand paul
Rand Paul was leading the charge against extending unemployment benefits until on ABC’s This Week he screwed over his party, and flip flopped on the issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys are going to begin right away this week with that fight over extending benefits to the unemployed. President Obama in his weekly address yesterday said it’s cruel to deny those benefits. He wants a vote right now. And the House Speaker John Boehner says he’s open to it if the benefits are paid for.
Now I know you have been opposed to the extension in the past, but if Speaker Boehner’s conditions are met, can you support the extension?
PAUL: Well, I think what’s really cruel is to have an economy that doesn’t have jobs in it. So we have to talk about what policy creates jobs. With regard to unemployment insurance, I’ve always said that I’m not opposed to unemployment insurance, I am opposed to having it without paying for it.
I think it’s wrong to borrow money from China or simply to print up money for it. But I’m not against having unemployment insurance.
I do think, though, that the longer you have it, that it provides some disincentive to work, and that there are many studies that indicate this. So, what I’ve been saying all along, we have to figure out how to create jobs and keep people from becoming long-term unemployed. That’s why I promoted the economic freedom zones which would dramatically lower taxes in areas where there’s long-term unemployment.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But are you saying now that if this extension is paid for, you can support it?
PAUL: Well, what I have always said is that it needs to be paid for, but we also need to do something for long-term unemployed people, and that is, we need to create something new that creates jobs. So, what I would like to do, when we get back, is one, if we extend it, we pay for it. But, two, we add something to it that would create jobs. And so what I have been promoting are economic freedom zones, which any area that has unemployment one-and-a-half times the national average, we would dramatically lower taxes to try to spur and stimulate the economy there and create jobs.
That’s not what Paul said on Faux News Sunday on December 8, “I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they’re paid for, but if you extend it past that you do a disservice to these workers.” Paul has changed his position to the typical repugican cry that he is in favor of extending unemployment benefits as long as they are “paid for.” The phrase paid for in repugican speak usually means cuts to other parts of the social safety net, but it would be interesting if Democrats responded to Paul by offering cuts to the military or corporate welfare.
Rand Paul is flipping flopping like a fish out of water, because he wants to be president in the worst way. He is talking out of both sides of his mouth and hoping no one notices. Paul knows that extending unemployment benefits is popular with the entire country, so he is going to abandon his conservative principles with an eye towards a potential 2016 general election campaign.
Paul’s shift is also a sign that Senate repugicans are going to cave on extending unemployment benefits, but as usual the real battle will be in the House where wingnut ideologues are likely to demand severe spending cuts in exchange for extending unemployment benefits.
The lesson here is that when repugicans stand with Rand they better be prepared to move, because Paul doesn’t stay in the same spot for very long.

Wingnuts Call For The Lynching of President Obama

A racist wingnut Facebook group "America the next generation" created a photo-shopped image of President Barack Obama with a hangman's noose around his neck.…
There are iconic representations, whether in paintings and photographs, that embody an event or era that are easily identified by people even remotely familiar with history. For Americans, the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware symbolizes the revolutionary war, and photographs of burning Navy vessels in Pearl Harbor represent America’s entrance into World War II, and images of burning crosses remind Americans of Ku Klux Klan racism. Another iconic image representing the racial animus prevalent in the southern United States is African American men and women hanging from trees as a result of lynching that portrays a dark period in America’s history. Recently a racist wingnut Facebook group,  ”America the next generation,” created a photo-shopped image of President Barack Obama with a hangman’s noose around his neck that represents the group’s racist hatred of the President.
The group put up the image of the President’s head pasted on former Iraqi President Sadam Hussein’s body just prior to his execution with the words, “the making of a national holiday,” that surely made the Ku Klux Klan proud. The group’s stock and trade is demeaning liberals and particularly President Obama and the image garnered high praise and support such as “it should be the fate of all Traitor to the United States” and that they hoped the lynching took place before New Year’s day. Some of the racists concluded that lynching the President would make him into a martyr and suggested that life in prison was a better sentence than lynching. Some people who saw the image spoke out against it only to face outrage and vitriolic rants including one member who warned that the group could “add a rope for them next to his” because they found the image offensive and condemned the idea of lynching the President.
The image was eventually taken down, but not because it represented KKK racism and hate, but because the group “respects our regular followers that requested us to remove the post with the noose around Obamas head; we will take the high road!” Allegedly, Facebook refused to remove the image because “it does not violate community standards” that portrays them as either mortified of offending racists using their platform, or in agreement that an African American serving as President deserves to be lynched. It is likely a combination of both because Facebook is notorious for banning users for posting pictures with a woman’s breast exposed, or including racially insensitive quotes in news’ articles. What was missing from the racist image is why the group wants to lynch the President they claimed would become a national holiday, but it is safe to conclude it is related to other wingnuts who claim they are victims of “Obama tyranny;” a clever cover for “the President is not white.”
The overriding theme of all the wingnut and repugican calls for revolution, rebellion, or assassinating this President is “tyranny,” but that cannot possibly be true when repugicans, wingnut christians, and groups associated with ALEC and the Koch brothers rule like tyrants since they lost the 2008 general election. If conservatives are so opposed to tyranny that they are ready to rebel and call for public lynchings, they should target their own champions in Congress, state legislatures, and conservative groups for tyrannical assaults on large segments of the population. However, the simple fact that they give repugican tyranny a pass is just further proof their opposition to President Obama is pure racial animus and nothing else.
True tyranny is the U.S. House of Representatives convening  an all-male panel of clergy to force women, married or not, to give birth or forego having sex because they oppose contraceptive use. Tyranny is repugicans in state legislatures banning women from using their private health insurance policies for medicine prescribed by their physicians, or allowing private businesses to force their employees to adhere to the company owners’ religious dogmata . In southern states, repugican tyrants are suppressing their citizens’ right to vote and yet there are no calls for armed insurrection or public lynching for enacting voter-suppression legislation. In several states, repugican tyrants are openly violating the Constitution’s 1st and 14th Amendments to satisfy wingnut christians replacing the Constitution with the bible as the law of the land, but no so-called patriot groups are calling for public hangings or “a new revolution” because “christians” are shredding the Constitution. Wingnuts are also not threatening the Koch brothers, ALEC, and the State Policy Network with lynching despite the tyranny of seizing employees’ pensions to give the rich greater tax cuts.
The mountain of evidence that wingnuts, religio-lunatics, and repugicans are guilty of tyranny with no protestation, threats of rebellion, calls for assassination, or public lynching from groups decrying Obama tyranny leads one to conclude that in wingnut speak tyranny means not white. In fact, every call to arms to overthrow the government, arrest and convict President Obama, or assassinate him are racially motivated and not due to any policies. That the “America the next generation” group used lynching as their solution to an African American President informs they represent “America the last generation” typified by the Ku Klux Klan and overt racism. The group’s Facebook post was a calculated and very deliberate clarion call to the KKK that they have an active racist support group outside of the South.
The frequency of threats of violence against this President due to his race informs that America is still an overtly racist nation, and for Facebook to allow an image of the President with a noose around his neck to remain on its site is proof racism is beyond being an acceptable form of political opposition; it is popular and the new normal. Despite the increasing number of racially-motivated threats against this President’s life, the wingnut media and their repugican masters have been complicit in not reporting purely racist threats or condemning them because they reap the benefits of an angry white voting bloc rejecting anything the President advocates purely because he is Black.
There are still Americans who claim that racism is not a real problem in America and nothing like it was before the Civil Rights movement, but they are deluded. The level of hate toward President Obama transcends opposition to his political agenda and is more blatantly racially motivated as evidenced in the 2012 Republican primary and presidential election; particularly from the repugican cabal standard bearer Willard Romney. The racist group calling for a national holiday marking the lynching of the President and being allowed to keep it and the group on Facebook was more than a shout out to the KKK, it is a sign that racially motivated calls to kill this President are normal, generally accepted, and a sign that the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists are part and parcel of mainstream America.

Faux News and Wingnut Media Attack Journalists For Reporting the Truth About Benghazi

Real journalists' assessment of criticism of the reporter on the ground proves that Faux News' hosts do not understand what real journalists do because they are not journalists;…
Journalism, regardless the system of delivery, was once a method of inquiry that played the role of a public service to disseminate and analyze news and information based on principles of truth, accuracy, and facts. America’s corporate-owned media has become an extension of the repugican cabal tasked with propagandizing wingnut shouting points and perpetuating lies to keep the public misinformed and ignorant conservatives in a state of rage. It was little surprise then, that when the New York Times played the traditional journalistic role with an in-depth investigative report on the September 11, 2012 attack in Benghazi that claimed four American lives it was attacked mercilessly by repugicans desperate to keep their phony Benghazi scandal alive.
The Times report revealed that an anti-Islam video created by American christians played a major role in inciting anti-American rage that precipitated the attack, and disabused wingnuts of their assertion that al-Qaeda planned and carried out the attack. The repugicans could hardly admit their year-and-a-half fabrication was a blatant lie, so they attempted to shift attention away from the truth and characterize the Times story as something it was not; a pro-Hillary Clinton and revisionist opinion piece. Over the past few days wingnut media tasked with propagating the phony Benghazi scandal took to print and the airwaves to assail the reporter responsible for the Times piece in a concerted effort to perpetuate repugicans’ lies that al-Qaeda planned and carried out the Benghazi attack.
On Thursday, Faux & Friends hosts assailed the Times and reporter David Kirkpatrick for reaching conclusions that contradicted repugicans’ version of the attack and implied that paper had blood on its hands for not summoning military reinforcements and concealing the identity and location of the attackers. Fox’s Steve Doocey said, “Clearly, what they’re saying is somebody that works for The New York Times knows the identity of the people who murdered our Americans. Have you seen that headline in The New York Times? No. You haven’t seen it. But all we know is, no Al Qaeda involved and that video had something to do with it. But, you know what, it has been widely pooh-poohed since they came out with it.” It has only been pooh-poohed by repugicans because it verifies Susan E. Rice’s initial report on the attack, and condemned by wingnuts who were not on the ground and as they are well aware, slimy Darrell Issa knows the video played a major role in inciting protestors to violence.
What wingnut media is claiming to discredit the Times story is that it is a “clean-up job” to “whitewash” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s role in the attack, and that it is an admission of culpability by the reporter on the ground for failing to alert authorities and call in reinforcements. To put an end to the assertion the Times reporter had an obligation to summon reinforcements and help authorities apprehend the attackers, it is reasonable to check in with real journalists who explained to Faux’s pretend journalists what a field reporter’s job entails.
According to Josh Meyer, a former L.A. Times national security reporter in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia, “When you’re in the middle of a riot or an attack like that, first of all, it is not a reporter’s job to call the authorities and he would have to assume the authorities know about it. It seems so bizarre.” The Executive Director of the Overseas Press Club, Sonya Fry, refuted Faux’s claim that a journalists job is to call in reinforcements and emergency personnel. She said a reporter’s job is “to be an eyewitness and report on what they see. It is not their job to call in the ambulances. Their job is to report. It is a sad state of affairs that people don’t understand what journalists do these days.” A veteran McClatchy reporter, Matt Schoefield, who covered conflicts in Iraq and Israel wondered who Faux News’ “journalists” expected the reporter to call for help. He said, “Call who? As a reporter on the scene, I don’t think you have a direct line to Obama. If you are covering Libya, you cannot call anyone to order an attack … I don’t see any sense of outrage in the fact that The New York Times had a reporter there and they did not order an attack. It’s not like the Times has its own air force.” Real journalists’ assessment of criticism of the reporter on the ground proves that Faux News’ hosts do not understand what real journalists do because they are not journalists; they are hacks paid to parrot repugican talking points and disseminate misinformation casting aspersion on President Obama and anyone associated with his administration; including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The conservative “journalists” have somehow, incredibly, made the NY Times report about Hillary Clinton and it defies reason why; except that she was Secretary of State while Barack Obama is President. In an editorial for the National Review, the headline read,  ”Times Has Done Its Best To Protect Clinton From Criticism,” and described the reporting as “strange but unsurprising” saying the Times “has done its best to insulate Hillary Clinton from criticism over the attack.” The Daily Caller wrote that “Wingnuts See Clinton Connection In NY Times” and claimed the reporting was “revisionist” and accused “the New York Times of publishing its article denying that al-Qaida had a role in the lethal terrorist attack for ‘political reasons’ — specifically to give a helping hand to 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.” On her wingnut hate speech show, Laura Ingraham claimed the Times story was a “whitewash for Hillary Clinton. What can it be other than an agenda?”
What it was is journalism borne of inquiry to disseminate and analyze information based on principles of truth, accuracy, and factual knowledge that is anathema to wingnuts seeking to misinform the public and incite opposition to the African American man sitting in the Oval Office. As far as the Times report having anything whatsoever to do with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it is important to remember that she was not on the ground the night of the attack in Benghazi, was not involved in making the anti-muslim video that incited protestors to violence, was not in communication with the NY Times reporter on the ground, and, by the way, was not even mentioned in the Times substantial and lengthy report.
The repugicans and their propaganda machine at Faux News and extensive media network have spent the past year-and-a-half parroting a blatantly false narrative that the Obama Administration and everyone connected to it are involved in a scandalous cover-up to conceal al Qaeda’s planned attack on Benghazi. However, despite nearly eighteen months of hearings and investigations, repugicans have come up with nothing and it informs why they are in a frenzy to defame the Times reporter going so far as claiming he and the paper have “blood on their hands” for not calling in the cavalry to save the outpost from protestors so angry that American christians produced a video “denigrating Islam and its prophet” that they killed four Americans.
Wingnut media, likely at the direction of high-level repugicans, were quick to discount The New York Times and reporter David Kirkpatrick not only because it thoroughly debunked repugican claims over the past year-and-a-half, but because it verifies what Susan E. Rice said shortly after the attack. Although there has been no shortage of wingnuts and repugicans assailing the Times report, they have offered nothing whatsoever to contest the report’s findings. Instead, they blame the reporter on the ground for not calling in reinforcements, accused him of willfully concealing the identities and whereabouts of the attackers, “whitewashed” Hillary Clinton’s culpability in the attack, and deleted information proving al Qaeda carefully planned and carried out the deadly assault. And, in true Faux News and wingnut media fashion, they did not offer one shred of proof to back up their assertions other than “what can it be other than an agenda,” “it’s a clean-up job to whitewash” Hillary Clinton’s responsibility for the attack, and that the Times “has blood on its hands.” It has been three days of no evidence and typical wingnut propaganda that most Americans expect from people with no comprehension of what truth or journalism is except that when they see it they know they have to condemn it.

Just another regressive tax

by Alan Pyke
While almost all working Americans will pay into Social Security through their paychecks throughout the year, the 900 wealthiest people in the country won’t. That’s because the highest-earning 0.0001 percent of the U.S. — many of them corporate CEOs — made $117,000 in the first two days of the year, which is the maximum annual income that is subject to Social Security taxes under federal law.
It’s tough to say for certain who will be a part of this group in 2014, since the most recent available data on Americans’ earnings is from 2012. In that year, 894 individuals nationwide made enough to qualify for membership in this club, according to the Los Angeles Times. Economist Teresa Ghilarducci came up with the calculation, and points out that Forbes data on top earners enables analysts and the public to see some of the members of this group. There were nearly 70 corporate CEOs who made enough to qualify in 2012, including the top officers at companies like Philip Morris, NewsCorp, Starbucks, ComCast, and Pfizer.
They get to live the year free from Social Security taxes because the law says that only the first $117,000 earned in a year can be taxed to fund the retirement program that kept more than 15 million people out of poverty in 2011. Democrats have pushed to raise the cap in recent years from $106,800 in 2009 to the current level. Eliminating the cap entirely could make the program solvent for the next 75 years without cutting a dime from anyone’s benefits — and doing so wouldn’t touch the earnings of 94.2 percent of all American workers.

Congress: Are you spying on us? NSA: We don't spy on you except to the extent that we spy on everydamnbody

When Senator Bernie Sanders asked the NSA whether it was spying on Congress, he was very clear: "gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business."
When the NSA answered, it was a lot less clear: "Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons."
So, we'll take that as a yes, then?
The statement read: “NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of US persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons. NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June.
“We are reviewing Senator Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.”

Random Photos

The biggest threat to world peace is America

The biggest threat to world peace is America
In a world opinion poll the U.S. is regarded as the biggest threat to world peace. The poll was conducted by Win/Gallup International. The survey was first started in 1977.
The poll sampled around 1,000 people in each of 65 different countries and a total of 66,805 respondents. In aggregate terms 24 percent of those polled thought that the United States was the greatest threat to world peace today. The runner-up was Pakistan but only eight percent thought it the greatest threat. China came third at 6 percent. North Korea, Israel and Iran all came in at 5 percent.

Canadian libraricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives

Back in 2012, when Canada's Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned. Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian wingnuts' war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.
An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age.  
Update: a copy of these logs survives overseas.
The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned.
Hutchings saw the library closures fitting a larger pattern of "fear and insecurity" within the Harper government, "about how to deal with science and knowledge."
That pattern includes the gutting of the Fisheries Act, the muzzling of scientists, the abandonment of climate change research and the dismantling of countless research programs, including the world famous Experimental Lakes Area. All these examples indicate that the Harper government strongly regards environmental science as a threat to unfettered resource exploitation.
"There is a group of people who don't know how to deal with science and evidence. They see it as a problem and the best way to deal with it is to cut it off at the knees and make it ineffective," explained Hutchings.
"The other worrying thing is that no one seems to care a great deal about it. There is minimal political cost for doing these things just as there is no political cost to making bad decisions about ocean management."
Many scientists, including Hutchings and world famous water ecologist David Schindler, compared the government's concerted attacks on environmental science to the rise of fascism and the total alignment of state and corporate interests in 1930s Europe.
"You look at the rise of certain political parties in the 1930s," noted Hutchings, "and have to ask how could that happen and how did they adopt such extreme ideologies so quickly, and how could that happen in a democracy today?"

The Dumbing Down of America

As policymakers push schools to focus more and more on standardized testing, they don't seem to be asking one of the big questions about that push-anyway, what you'd think would be one of the big questions. Does teaching kids to do well at standardized tests teach them to do well at other things? Does it make them smarter (whatever "smarter" means)? Well, add a mark in the "not so much" column. Standardized tests:
... are designed to measure the knowledge and skills that students have acquired in school - what psychologists call "crystallized intelligence." However, schools whose students have the highest gains on test scores do not produce similar gains in "fluid intelligence" - the ability to analyze abstract problems and think logically - according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists working with education researchers at Harvard University and Brown University.
In a study of nearly 1,400 eighth-graders in the Boston public school system, the researchers found that some schools have successfully raised their students' scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). However, those schools had almost no effect on students' performance on tests of fluid intelligence skills, such as working memory capacity, speed of information processing, and ability to solve abstract problems.

Awesome Pictures

English mega-landlord evicts all welfare tenants, will no longer rent to them

Fergus Wilson, one of England's largest landlords, has announced that he will no longer rent to people receiving welfare benefits, and has served all of his benefits-receiving tenants with eviction notices. He says that the cuts to benefits in the UK have resulted in an unacceptably high level of rent arrears, so high in fact that rent guarantee insurers will no longer cover properties let to welfare tenants.
The problem of social housing tenants falling behind on rent will get much, much worse shortly, when the "universal credit" scheme is introduced -- a massive change in the way benefits are paid that has delayed by massive IT problems.
The hardest hit groups of tenants are elderly people and single mothers, as well as people who are too disabled to work.
"Tenants on benefits are competing with eastern Europeans who came to the UK in 2005 and have built up a good enough credit record to rent privately. We've found them to be a good category of tenant who don't default on the rent. With tenants on benefits the number of defaulters outnumbers the ones who pay on time," he said.
"Single mothers on benefits have been displaced to the bottom of the pile; sympathy for this group is disappearing. There aren't enough places for people to live."
Dan Wilson Craw, a spokesman for campaign group Priced Out, says he is dismayed to hear Wilson's announcement: "Evicting tenants because you're suddenly upset about new government policies is unbelievably heartless, and could lead to more people deciding not to claim benefit for fear of losing their home, and sinking further into poverty," he said, "This is just one symptom of a wider housing market that is simply not working in the consumer's interests. The instability and poor conditions that private tenants have to deal with would not be tolerated in any other market."

The Surprising Headache Culprit

Give up chomping and you could say goodbye to annoying tension headaches, too
Your pounding head may be from a minty mouth: Chewing too much gum may bring on tension headaches, reports a study from Meir Medical Center in Tel Aviv.
When researchers asked gum-chewing headache sufferers to give up their minty sticks for one month, 86 percent saw significant improvements in their throbbing noggins, many finding permanent relief. And when the improved participants went back to chewing gum, every single one saw an immediate relapse of their symptoms.
What’s so bad about the breath freshener? Gum may have two issues, explains Robert Cowan, M.D., F.A.A.N., director for Stanford University’s Headache Clinic. The aspartame found in many brands may trigger the pounding, and the act of chewing could also aggravate the joint that connects your jaw to the skull. Pressure here causes muscle tension and fatigue, leading to tension headaches, he explains.
While Dr. Cowan warns gum is probably not the trigger for everyone’s headaches, it's simple to test: all you have to do is kick the habit to see if it’s your culprit. Trade the pack for aspartame-free mints for a month, and see if your symptoms improve, suggests Dr. Cowan.

Chain Reaction of DUI Arrests

Police arrested a woman in Readington Township, New Jersey for drunk driving. They took her back to the police station. She called a friend to come pick her up.
When that friend arrived, police discovered that she was drunk, too. She had driven to the station, so they arrested and cited her.
Now the two ladies summoned a third friend to pick them up from jail. When he arrived at the station, police noticed that he, too, was drunk and had driven to the station. So they arrested and cited him.
Eventually, a sober friend drove to the police station and took all three drunks home.



Ice Harvesting

This sled-mounted power saw cuts through thick ice on the lakes of Wisconsin. Lynn Miller of the town of Markesan uses it to harvest blocks of ice, which he keeps in an insulated icehouse. It’s a popular practice among the Amish communities in the area. If properly maintained, an icehouse can keep ice solid for 2 years. Barry Adams writes in the Wisconsin State Journal:
The 1,500 blocks cut Saturday will be used to keep food cold year-round and helps make ice cream in the summer. A few blocks in a deep freeze box, which sometimes are old, non-working chest freezers, can last four to five days. There is no central ice warehouse. Instead, each Amish family has its own icehouse that can hold 200 to 250 blocks of ice. Built with well-insulated walls more than a foot thick, ice has been known to keep for two or even three years in an icehouse.
Saturday’s event, just over an hour drive north from Madison, was one of more than a dozen ice harvests that have been or will be held this winter in this Amish enclave that speaks Pennsylvania Dutch and includes the communities of Kingston, Dalton and Manchester.
“It’s interesting to watch it,” said Edna Eicher, 64, whose son, Amos Eicher Jr., owns the 12-foot-deep pond. “No matter how warm the summer is, we have ice. We’ve thrown 2-year-old ice out.”
You can view a slideshow of photos demonstrating the process here.

The Story Behind the Photo That Inspired Walter Mitty’s Journey

In the new movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, our protagonist goes on a journey to find a missing photograph, which was taken (in the movie) by a photographer played by Sean Penn. In reality, the photo was taken by National Geographic photographer Marcus Bleasdale. Sonia Harmon talked to Bleasdale about his career and how a picture he took in Congo ended up as a major plot point in a movie.
Were you surprised when they contacted you?

Most of the process went through my agent so actually, I only found out when my photo editor at National Geographic contacted me to say she’d seen a preview of the film and she thought that they were using some images of mine. That was the only notification that I had, really. I didn’t know that my photo was going to be the one that entices Walter Mitty to do what he does, which is very cool.

Have you ever lost a negative?

I have not lost one, but I’ve had them confiscated in eastern Congo by the authorities. Four rolls of film. I still remember it and I have nightmares closing my eyes, thinking of the images that are on those rolls of film.
Bleasdale's life, like that of many NatGeo photographers, would make a pretty good movie in itself. Read the rest of the interview at NatGeo's Pop Omnivore

Ancient stone bridge revealed after Chinese lake dries up

A stone bridge dating back to the Ming dynasty has been discovered after water levels plunged at China's largest freshwater lake, a Beijing newspaper reported Friday. Ancient stone bridge revealed after Chinese lake dries up
This picture taken on November 2, 2013 shows people walking beside an ancient stone bridge on the dried up lakebed of Poyang lake in Jiujiang east China's Jiangxi province 
The remains of the 2,930-metre-long bridge, made entirely of granite and dating back nearly 400 years, appeared at Poyang lake in the central province of Jiangxi, the Beijing News reported. The lake, which has been as large as 4,500 square kilometers in the past, has been drying up in recent years due to a combination of low rainfall and the impact of the Three Gorges Dam, experts say. State broadcaster China Central Television reported in November that drought had shrunk the lake to less than 1,500 square kilometers, threatening the plankton, fish and other organisms that inhabit it and the livelihoods of the nearly 70 percent of local residents who make a living by fishing. By lowering the level of the Yangtze river, the vast Three Gorges dam project has also caused an increased outflow of water from both Poyang and Dongting, another lake in neighboring Hunan province, experts told the Beijing News last year, decreasing the water levels of both bodies. In 2012, Chinese authorities air-dropped shrimps, millet and maize over Poyang lake to feed hundreds of thousands of birds at risk of hunger due to the drought.

Daily Comic Relief


Supervolcanoes Burst Like Bubbles

Volcanic mega-eruptions are caused by buoyant magma which rises like bubbles in soda, new research suggests.

Moroccan mountains float on molten rock

The Atlas Mountains defy the standard model for mountain structure in which high topography must have deep roots for support, according to a new study from USC scientists. In a new model, the researchers show […]

High-magnification sand photos

Here's a collection of gorgeous high-magnification photos of grains of sand, taken by Dr Gary Greenberg, whose site is full of astounding macrophotography shots (check out the moon dust and discover why Katie Levinson calls it "microscopic razors that cling like packing peanuts"). If these pics excite you, check out Grain of Sand: Nature's Secret Wonder, Greenberg's very highly rated 2008 art book showcasing his work (with an introduction by Stacy Keach) (!). He's also got a book of macrofocus flower photos that looks promising.

The Skeleton of a Giant Sea Snake Washes Ashore in France

That's the impression created by this sculpture by Huang Yong Ping, an artist in France. This isn't his first colossal serpentine work. We've previously seen his tower formed as a skeleton of a snake. Serpent d’OcĂ©an, as this work is entitled, creates a similar effect of mystery.
It's a 425-foot long sculpture on permanent display in the estuary of the Loire River as it enters the Bay of Biscay. It represents like a major figure in Chinese mythology that, like the artist himself, journeyed to Europe.
You can see more photos of the sculpture here.

10 Species Discovered in 2013

We already talked about 10 poor animals that went extinct over the last year, but while we gave up hope of ever seeing a few species, we also discoveredd some new ones as well. Mental Floss has a great list of ten such creatures and a few plants we only recently recognized scientifically, including the adorably tiny paedophryne amauensis, which as you can see from the picture above, is about a quarter of the size of a dime -no wonder we never noticed it before!

Animal Pictures