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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1533 Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn.
1787 Small farmers in Springfield, Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays, revolt against tax laws. Federal troops break up the protesters of what becomes known as Shay's Rebellion.
1846 The dreaded Corn Laws, which taxed imported oats, wheat and barley, are repealed by the British Parliament.
1904 Two-hundred coal miners are trapped in their Pennsylvania mine after an explosion.
1915 Alexander Graham Bell in New York and Thomas Watson in San Francisco make a record telephone transmission.
1918 Austria and Germany reject U.S. peace proposals.
1919 The League of Nations plan is adopted by the Allies.
1929 Members of the New York Stock Exchange ask for an additional 275 seats.
1930 New York police rout a Communist rally at the Town Hall.
1943 The last German airfield in Stalingrad is captured by the Red Army.
1949 Axis Sally, who broadcasted Nazi propaganda to U.S. troops in Europe, stands trial in the United States for war crimes.
1951 The U.S. Eighth Army in Korea launches Operation Thunderbolt, a counter attack to push the Chinese Army north of the Han River.
1955 Columbia University scientists develop an atomic clock that is accurate to within one second in 300 years.
1956 Khrushchev says that he believes that Eisenhower is sincere in his efforts to abolish war.
1959 American Airlines begins its first coast-to-coast flight service on a Boeing 707.
1972 Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress, announces candidacy for president.
1972 Nixon airs the eight-point peace plan for Vietnam, asking for POW release in return for withdrawal.
1984 President Reagan endorses the development of the first U.S. permanently-manned space station.

Non Sequitur


Photos from the set of A Clockwork Orange

Here's a roundup of candid on-set photos from 1971's Stanley Kubrick movie A Clockwork Orange.

Did you know ...

That the corporate tax rate should be doubled - not eliminated

1 down, 49 to go - Koch bros. leave New Mexico

That  red states collect more federal aid than blue states

That shotgun weddings are on the decline

Governor Ultrasound Gets Ultra Indicted As Bob McDonnell Is Hit With 14 Counts

On Tuesday afternoon, Bob McDonnell and his wife were indicted on federal corruption charges stemming from gifts they had accepted while McDonnell was in office. The former repugican Governor of Virginia, McDonnell just recently left office after serving his single term (Virginia only allows one term for a Governor.) The scandal had been plaguing McDonnell for months to the point that he was a detriment to Ken Cuccinelli’s campaign, his hand-picked successor.
Among the 14 counts that McDonnell and his wife are charged with are three counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, two counts of lying to a federal credit union and multiple counts of obtaining property under color of official right. The indictment states that McDonnell and his wife received at least $140,000 worth of gifts, which included a Rolex, expensive designer clothes and golf clubs, among other things.
Obviously, McDonnell denied any wrongdoing whatsoever. After the indictment came down, the former Governor had this to say:
“I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship.”
McDonnell has insisted that the gifts and ‘loans’ that he received from Johnnie Williams, the CEO of a pharmaceutical company, were only received as a friend, and that Williams received nothing in return for his generosity to the McDonnells. McDonnell has stated that he has repaid Mr. Williams all the money that Williams ‘lent’ to him, as well as gave him back the gifts.
Even if McDonnell can somehow avoid jail time or a guilty verdict, his political career is pretty much toast. At one time, he was looked at as a rising star in the repugican cabal, as he was being groomed for a potential run at the Presidency. He easily won election in 2009 as Governor of Virginia when he defeated Creigh Deeds by 18 points. This was after serving as the Attorney General of Virginia.
However, things started getting sour for McDonnell even before the corruption allegations as, in 2012, he advocated for a measure that would require women who were seeking an abortion to submit to a trans-vaginal ultrasound. Many critics saw this as a way for wingnuts to shame women if they chose to have an abortion. The bill was changed prior to passage to require an abdominal ultrasound be done prior to an abortion being performed. Regardless, it was still seen as both intrusive and unnecessary and McDonnell started to see his approval ratings plummet.
By the middle of 2013, McDonnell and his family were plagued by allegations of improper spending at the Governor’s mansion. McDonnell paid the state back thousands of dollars to try to put it away, but by that time, the bigger scandal was starting to brew, as the word was out that McDonnell was using his position to straight up accept gifts and money in return for government favors.
Bye bye, Bob. It was nice knowing you. (Not really.)

Evidence Is Building to Support Hoboken Mayor’s Christie Sandy Aid Allegations

chris christie They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and this picture is one that repugican Governor Chris Christie (N.J.) probably wishes had not been unearthed today. The Newark Star-Ledger newspaper was first in line to republish the photo (courtesy of Daytop NJ) of a September 26, 2013 meeting between the Governor, his wife, and Leslie Smith.
Smith is the executive vice president of the Rockefeller Group. The same Leslie Smith who has donated to Christie’s campaign and the same Rockefeller Group that is at the center of the allegations made by Mayor Dawn Zimmer, of Hoboken New Jersey.
But associations don’t translate to guilt. We leave that to the “pallin’ around with terrorists” types. The goal here should be the facts. To that end, Christopher Baxter of the Star Ledger reports, “The Rockefeller Group at the time was represented by Wolff & Samson, the law firm of David Samson, a former state attorney general and close Christie ally who also serves as chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.”
Samson, a huge behind the scenes power broker, is a Christie appointee, in fact. Smith has donated to two of Christie’s campaigns and to his 2010 inaugural committee. Smith also leads the Rockefeller Group’s developments in New Jersey.
Why does this matter? Because last weekend, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer made stunning allegations on MSNBC that the Christie administration had threatened to make her town’s Sandy Aid contingent upon allowing the Rockefeller Group to develop a specific area that the residents had been objecting to.
Zimmer met with U.S. Attorney’s office last Sunday, at their request, just a day after her allegations. She provided them with documents to back up her claims, including her diary.
I noted at the time that if indeed Hoboken, one of the areas that got hit the hardest, had not gotten that aid, the Christie administration would have some explaining to do. It turns out that the not only did they not get the aid they should have, but Brian Murphy, a TPM reporter from New Jersey, explained that tremendous pressure was brought to down upon Hoboken to move forward with the Rockefeller Group’s development. He opined, “And the Hoboken story clearly demonstrates the Christie administration took steps to aid the material interest of a client of the chairman of that agency.”
Murphy did the math, “Hoboken received only 1% of the aid they had requested for Hurricane Sandy relief and planning funds even though it was one of the hardest-hit communities in the state during the storm. At one point, 80% of the 50,000 person city was flooded…. 50,000 people. 80% flooded. $6 a head.”
Those are horrific numbers. 1% of the aid requested for a city that was 80% flooded?
Murphy’s insight into the politics of the area, specifically the long charge the Rockefeller Group has been waging against the wishes of some of the town’s citizens, merits a close read. He also revealed that there may be more than a diary to back up Zimmer’s claims, as she says that another Christie appointee made the offer that Sandy Aid money would flow if she would move forward with the Rockefeller project while miked, with audio technicians able to hear. She recorded their conversation in her diary:
In a diary entry made the next day, May 17, Zimmer wrote that Constable (Richard Constable, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who worked in Chris Christie’s office when Christie was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, and who was subsequently named commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs) said, “I hear you are against the Rockefeller project.” The mayor said she was not. “Oh really?” Constable asked in reply. “Everyone in the State House believes you are against it – the buzz is that you are against it.”
According to Zimmer, he added: “If you move that forward, the money would start flowing to you.”
If you’re counting, that’s two people from the Christie administration who dangled the Sandy Aid as a reward for going along with the Rockerfeller development plans, according to the Hoboken Mayor.
So with all of that history, you can imagine that the Christie administration doesn’t want Chris Christie associated in any way with the Rockefeller Group. This picture is not in and of itself damning, but it’s a bad visual for the embattled Governor, especially because it’s not just a picture. There’s history there. And Hoboken didn’t get its money. And the Mayor of Hoboken used to be a big Christie fan, so this isn’t easily dismissed as a political agenda.
The pieces of the puzzle are in the early stages of coming together, and it doesn’t look good for Chris Christie. The repugicans want to paint this as a case of she said/he said, but the she in this case has a growing amount of evidence of wrongdoing by the Christie administration on her side.
The thing that might save Chris Christie is his willingness to throw everyone who worked for him under the bus. This character trait isn’t nearly as attractive to voters as it is to conservatives, however.
It’s hard to run for President as the guy who sold out all of his underlings, because eventually someone will ask him if he really knew nothing, what kind of leader is he?

Of repugican Denialism and the Ugly Truth About Income Inequality

"The widening divide in incomes between the poor and rich poses the most likely threat to the global economy over the next decade" according to the World Economic…
We just witnessed the birthday of Martin Luther King and we saw further evidence of the continued repugican inability to deal with the reality of his message and what that message means in the face of continued inequality. Gallup is reporting that “Two out of three Americans are dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are currently distributed in the U.S. This includes three-fourths of Democrats and 54% of repugicans.”
Thanks to the Occupy Movement, we’re all familiar by now with the concept of the 99 percent and the 1 percent. And the diagram below, which appeared in The Atlantic, quite clearly explains the source of this dissatisfaction:
cbpp income inequality 2011
This is a big deal. Bloomberg reported on January 16 that, “The widening divide in incomes between the poor and rich poses the most likely threat to the global economy over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum,” which is a bunch of rich people at a posh resort talking about poor people.
But how can people be unhappy with something Faux News insists does not exist?
Media Matters explains that,
Faux News talking heads have repeatedly attempted to downplay income inequality, claiming that it doesn’t exist, that it is unfixable, or that it’s a distraction from other issues. Nevertheless, the network still blamed the widening income gap on President Obama and what one Faux shill called “Obamanomics.”
Media Matters provides a helpful sampling of Faux News’ “fair and balanced” reporting on the subject:
Faux talking heads have repeatedly dismissed concerns over growing income inequality in the United States. Faux shill Doug McKelway once claimed it was merely “class resentment,” that exists because “some people are better, smarter, harder-working, or luckier than others.” Swill O’Really called it “bull.” When the network has acknowledged income inequality, its contributors have claimed that there is “no way” growing inequality is “going to be stopped,” that attempting to reverse it will result in “chronic unemployment,” and that the Obama administration’s focus on closing the income gap is merely a “distraction.”
Resentment. Distraction. So does it exist, or doesn’t it?
Wingnut talking head David Brooks, as Wonkette explained last week, “has decided to take on the topic of income inequality, and has concluded that 1) income inequality is not actually a problem, and 2) if it were, we shouldn’t solve it by giving poor people more money, and also 3) the growing income of the 1% has nothing to do with the shrinking incomes of the rest of us.”
If giving poor people more money doesn’t help (as bizarre an argument as has ever been advanced – Robert Reich, writing at HuffPo, calls it “utter ignorance”), neither does this sort of verbal diarrhea. In fact, studies show that giving poor people money does help.
President Barack Obama clearly feels such a thing as income inequality exists. As Media Matters goes on to explain,
In December 2013, President Obama declared that reversing the widening gap in income inequality — the distribution of economic gains to a small percentage of the population, which, in this case, favors the very wealthy — is “the defining challenge of our time,” and began unveiling a legislative agenda aimed at addressing that trend.
So the defining challenge of our time doesn’t exist, Faux News insists, but if it does, it’s Obama’s fault.
But as Paul Krugman explained in The New York Times in September of 2012,
And now, having prevented Mr. Obama from implementing any of his policies, those same repugicans are pointing to disappointing job numbers and declaring that the president’s policies have failed.
Think of it as a two-part strategy. First, obstruct any and all efforts to strengthen the economy, then exploit the economy’s weakness for political gain. If this strategy sounds cynical, that’s because it is.
[T]he reality [is] that for most of Mr. Obama’s time in office U.S. fiscal policy has been defined not by the president’s plans but by repugican stonewalling.
On Monday, Faux News tried to sweep away the controversy by appealing to the status quo and employing some highly questionable logic in explaining to us What Obama doesn’t get about income inequality:
Disparities between rich and poor are as ancient as civilization, but in modern democracies, this condition is exacerbated by globalization and technologies that drive it.
Wngnuts seem to have a difficult time with the concept that the vast majority of the nation’s wealth in concentrated in the hands of the very few. And it’s not just the United States. As The LA Times reported Monday, “The 85 richest people on Earth now have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the global population, the Oxfam report says.
The bottom half of the population — about 3.5 billion people — account for about $1.7 trillion, or about 0.7% of the world’s wealth, according to the Oxfam report, titled “Working for the Few.”
That’s the same amount of wealth attributed to the world’s 85 richest people.
But if the United States is not alone, it is a major mover in this trend in income redistribution. Reports The LA Times:
Oxfam said the United States has led a worldwide growth in wealth concentration.
The percentage of income held by the richest 1% in the U.S. has grown nearly 150% from 1980 through 2012. That small elite has received 95% of wealth created since 2009, after the financial crisis, while the bottom 90% of Americans have become poorer, Oxfam said.
The New York Times reported in October 2012 that, “Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression.”
This is not class warfare, however, this redistributing of wealth so that the few rich have it all and everyone else has nothing. And this IS a redistribution of wealth, as the Oxfam report makes clear:
The share of wealth owned by the richest 1% since 1980 expanded in all but two of the 26 nations tracked by researchers in the World Top Incomes Database.
Yet repugicans are determined that we understand that taking wealth away from everyone else and concentrating it in the hands of a few is not class warfare. But any attempt to change how this wealth is distributed, such as giving some of that wealth back to the 99% IS class warfare.
Even while crying class warfare, repugicans like to insist, as does Faux News, that there is no problem and that people are happy with what they have.
This is nothing new, unfortunately. Wingnuts, married to the preservation of the status quo, seem to think that everybody else likes the status quo too. “Capitalist evangelist” Wayne Allen Root opined on Faux News last week that Americans have historically not had any problems with income inequality and that despite this inequality, America became an economic powerhouse. Why mess with the status quo?
These are, unsurprisingly, the same attitudes expressed by wingnuts like Edmund Burke about the French Revolution, where income inequality led to the beheading of the king of France. Burke made the same mistake wingnuts make today, that most are content to have less.
For Burke, a wingut, people were not really unhappy but for a few radicals whom he called “insects of the hour”:
Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, repose beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field, that of course they are many in number; or that, after all, they are other than the little shrivelled, meagre, hopping, though loud and troublesome insects of the hour.
The starving, abused poor of 21st century America, no less than the starving, abused peasants of 18th century France, are, to wingnut deluded minds, nothing more than “the loud and troublesome insects of the hour.” Revolution and change are, no surprise, the enemy of what wingnuts think of as “liberty.”
Wingnuts, guardians of the status quo, hate change, of course. For example, Faux News said on Monday that, “High talk about social justice, widening economic opportunities, and income redistribution makes liberal politicians media darlings and wins elections, but such demagoguery does little to fill the belly of the poor.”
Needless to say, the “free enterprise marketplace” that has created this income inequality in the first place, isn’t going to put food in anyone’s belly. Writing at Forbes on Monday, Ralph Benko believes that repugicans have the advantage in the income inequality debate but somehow fails to mention that repugicans have failed to give us even one piece of job creation legislation. And don’t be fooled by some recent repugican rhetoric in favor of minimum wage hikes. In fact, repugican legislation seems determined to take food out of those bellies. If the repugican has an anti-poverty agenda, it seems to be to make poor people go away by just dying already.
If the repugican cabal has an agenda at all, it is focused on opposition to Obama; at this point, if they can’t beat him politically, they seem to be willing – in the time honored fashion of lynching the black man – to kill him instead. It is hard to see how that will help the economy, or create jobs, or feed the poor.
But as the Gallup poll clearly shows, Americans are not happy to have less. They are not happy that a few people have it all while they have nothing. This is not natural and it is not only dangerous for people, it is dangerous for the body politic and for the health of the nation, and by extension, the world. Everyone is better off – including the rich – when everybody gets a piece of the pie. Let’s face it: the 1 percent can’t run the country by themselves if the 99 percent are dead through starvation and disease.
Pope Francis spoke out yesterday via address read by Cardinal Peter Turkson at the World Economic Forum against “an economy of exclusion and inequality.” See, even the Pope says so. Not the anti-capitalist message repugicans want to hear. Worse yet for the status quo set, “An unfettered devotion to market economics” is, said the Pope, a “new tyranny.”
Everyone seems to notice there is a problem except repugicans, who steadfastly close their eyes to radical things like facts.
Clearly, wingnuts have not put a lot of thought into this subject. As Robert Reich said in speaking of David Brooks, “wingnut thinker” is an oxymoron and the facts prove him right. If people don’t get paid enough to live (they call it a “living wage” for a reason) people will not only be able to buy enough food to eat but they won’t be able to buy all that crap Walmart sells, and then where will rich folks like the Waltons be? They need customers, and their customer base is not the 1 percent. Let’s face it: San Francisco 49ers head coach John Harbaugh can’t buy enough pleated khaki pants to keep Walmart afloat on his own.
America, and the world, need a return to a time when income inequality was low; we do not need to skip over that period to the Gilded Age, a time when it was high, as we have done. The American people are not grasshoppers or annoying insects calling for attention. They are people with real problems, problems exacerbated by the widening gap between the rich and the poor. It is time for the rich to wake up and realize they are driving America – and the world – into a non-sustainable future. There may be guillotines in their future, but as the poor and starving know, there are worse things than guillotines.

An ugly experiment in North Carolina

by Steve Benen
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in Roanoke, Va. on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013.
When congressional repugicans blocked an extension of federal unemployment benefits, they did so based on a specific economic theory: the benefits hurt those struggling more than they help. The idea is, jobless Americans, if desperate enough, will re-enter the workforce. Cutting off benefits, repugicans said, will give people the “incentive” they need.
The theory has always been as dubious as it is ruthless, but in one important way, we already know the repugican cabal’s argument is wrong. An experiment of sorts has been underway in North Carolina, where repugicans slashed the state’s unemployment program, reducing benefits and limiting the eligibility period to just 20 weeks.
Annie Lowrey takes a look at the preliminary evidence of how that’s working out for the state.
The state’s unemployment rate has plummeted to 7.4 percent from 8.8 percent, the sharpest drop in the country. In part, that is because more jobless workers are connecting with work. But an even greater number of workers have simply given up on finding a job. […]
[S]tatistics don’t tell the full story. North Carolina still has nearly 350,000 listed as officially unemployed, and many more, including those living in depressed rural areas, have given up even looking for a job. For them, the safety net is gone, and largely out of sight, countless families have slipped deeper into poverty.
Also keep in mind, many of those who’ve re-entered the workforce out of desperation have done so by abandoning their profession and taking a job that pays far less.
It’s why the drop in the unemployment rate, at best, presents an incomplete picture.
Paul Krugman recently had a good piece on this.
The unemployment rate did fall – but this was due to a large drop in the labor force, as the number of people looking for work fell. Why? Well, a likely explanation is that some of the unemployed continued to search for work, and were therefore counted in the labor force, despite low prospects of finding a job in a depressed economy, because such search is a requirement for those collecting benefits. Take away the benefits, and they drop out. Now, labor force participation has fallen nationally as well as in North Carolina, and the state’s labor force began dropping before the benefit cuts, so that the case for claiming that reduced benefits actually reduced job search isn’t ironclad.
Still, it’s worth emphasizing just how extraordinary the changes have been. North Carolina’s labor force drop has been much larger than the national change. And it has also been unprecedented in historical terms. There’s been nothing like the recent North Carolina decline – taking place at a time of modest recovery, not recession – in the state’s previous history.
Krugman added that there’s “no sign at all that North Carolina’s harshness has done anything except make the lives of the unemployed even more miserable.”
By all appearances, this is the model congressional repugicans are eager to impose on the nation.

Mitch McConnell’s Office Tells Unemployed Veteran, ‘I have no control over your life.’

Mcconnell When an unemployed veteran asked Mitch McConnell’s spokesperson what she is supposed to do to now that McConnell has blocked extending unemployment benefits, the senator’s spokesman replied,’I have no control over your life.’
MSNBC’s Steve Benen (of the Maddow Blog) wrote that an unemployed veteran named Wessita McKinley spoke to McConnell’s spokesperson Don Stewart while delivering 60,000 petitions calling for the extension of unemployment benefits. Here was there exchange,
“I’ve served my country, honorable discharge. I’ve done my time. I’ve done everything right,” she said. “College, school, no crime, no record. Pay my taxes. Make sure my daughter went to school.”

“Did the American dream. Got her in college,” McKinley added. “And I’m sitting here struggling. I’m now ready to take a street sweeper job if they would offer it to me. So I’m asking you the million dollar question. What am I supposed to do right now to keep a roof over my head, food in my stomach, clothes on my back, car insurance paid?
Stewart, the McConnell spokesman, countered by saying Majority Leader Harry Reid has not agreed to Republican amendments and waited too long to hold votes on the issue in the first place. But McKinley wasn’t satisfied with that answer as she continued to lament about her situation.
“I can only tell you what we can do here in the Senate,” Stewart said. “I have no control over your life.”

This is the spokesman for the same Mitch McConnell who recently laughed at the unemployed while promising to vote against extending unemployment benefits during a recent radio interview. Nothing sums up the you’re on your own attitude of the repugican cabal and Mitch McConnell that looking a veteran in the eye and telling her that it is her own fault that she doesn’t have a job.
The repugicans don’t care if an unemployed veteran is homeless and starving. The repugicans like Mitch McConnell really do believe that their years of championing the deregulation of large banks and Wall Street had absolutely nothing to do with the economic collapse that left people like Wessita McKinley and millions of others out of work and unable to find a new job.
The truth is that Mitch McConnell does control the fate of millions of Americans who have seen their unemployment benefits expire. McConnell and his Senate repugicans could agree today to extend unemployment benefits if they wanted to. The ugly reality of the situation is that they view harming millions of Americans, including thousands of veterans, as good politics.
Spokeswoman for the Alison Grimes campaign Charly Norton responded to the compassion-less repugican senate leader’s office, “First Mitch McConnell laughs in the faces of over 18,000 unemployed Kentuckians, then his top spokesman ridicules a woman struggling to make ends meet – all because he refuses to extend unemployment insurance benefits. Either McConnell doesn’t understand that being the ‘Guardian of Gridlock’ hurts real people or he simply doesn’t care. No wonder more and more Kentuckians believe that he should get out of the way and let Alison Lundergan Grimes fight for the hardworking, middle-class families of the Commonwealth. Unlike Mitch McConnell, Alison will be a champion for the people of Kentucky in the United States Senate.”
Mitch McConnell and his office don’t care about the people that they are supposed to be serving. McConnell has become a stain on our political process who must be voted out of office this November. For millions of unemployed Americans, it’s time to ditch Mitch.

Mitch McConnell Embarrasses Himself and Insults Kentucky Voters With First Ad of 2014

In an embarrassing display of laziness, Mitch McConnell’s first campaign ad of 2014 is actually a lie filled recycled ad from 2008 that is an insult to Kentucky voters.
Here is the original ad:
Here is the 2014 version of the same ad:
The ad uses the same message, tells the same story, and even the same throat cancer surviving energy worker Robert Pierce. The ad isn’t even true. Instead of delivering for the workers who were exposed to dangerous chemicals in Paducah, McConnell didn’t take action for 14 years.
According to a HuffPost story, McConnell ignored the pleas of people who lived near the plant, and had been exposed to toxins, “In the late ’80s, wells near the plant were showing signs of possible contamination. Ronald Lamb helped run a mechanic shop on his family’s old farmland a few miles from the plant. He and his father and mother all drank from the same well and started getting sick. ‘We thought we were dying,’ Lamb told HuffPost. ‘I lost the hair on my arms. It looked like I had chemo.’ On Aug. 12, 1988, government officials contacted 10 households with an ominous directive: Stop drinking and bathing in the water from their wells. The Department of Energy began sealing off wells near the plant and re-routing the water supply for roughly 100 residences. Lamb says he repeatedly wrote letters to his local elected officials, including McConnell, but didn’t get much more than a form letter in response. ‘They felt your pain but felt like you were being taken care of,’ Lamb recalls… Ruby English, a West Paducah resident whose well was shut off, says her husband Ray had also written to McConnell without success. English had thyroid and colon cancer. Ray worked in the nearby wildlife refuge bordering the plant, she says, and he’d come home with stories about seeing the creek water turn purple and yellow. He’d drink from the well and wash in the creek. He died a few years ago, his immune system a wreck. ‘The damage is done. I feel sorry for the workers the most,’ English says. ‘They’re right in the middle of it. … It’s pathetic, it really is.’
By using a recycled ad as his first ad of 2014, Mitch McConnell is sending several unintended messages to Kentucky voters. The first message is that he and his campaign are lazy. There is nothing new in the 2014 version of this ad. This kind of behavior is the mark of a lazy and arrogant campaign who believe that they already have the election won. Reviving an old ad also reveals a candidate that has nothing new to say. McConnell is telling voters that he intends on doing nothing for the future. He has no future vision or direction. McConnell displays this same mentality as a Senate Minority Leader whose only purpose is to obstruct everything. McConnell is telegraphing that he can’t run on his record, so the campaign is going to be about distractions, recycled ads, and personal attacks on his opponent.
This ad was an embarrassment. The Beltway media (MSNBC’s Chuck Todd and The Washington Post among others) are playing along with McConnell and selling this ad as new. If McConnell had a conscience he would be ashamed of this ad. It is an embarrassing insult to the voters to recycle an ad that isn’t even true.
If Mitch McConnell isn’t even going to try, why should Kentucky voters bother voting for him? McConnell looks ready for retirement, and voters can help send him there this November.

Ukraine slides into full-blown dictatorship with brutal new law

Despite the valiant efforts of the motley opposition in Ukraine, the tame Ukrainian Parliament has passed a brutal law that slides the country into full-on dictatorship. Forbidden under the new law on penalty of high fines and imprisonment: driving cars in columns that are more than five vehicles long; setting up an unauthorized sound system; distribution of "extremist opinion"; "mass disruptions" (10-15 years imprisonment!); collecting information on police or judges; and more.
The new law also demolishes the trappings of democracy: you can be convicted in absentia based on unsubstantiated hearsay; MPs can be arrested during plenary sessions; the state can order arbitrary Internet censorship; and legal service of documents now consists of signatures or "any other data."

In Syria, immunizations are withheld as an act of war and polio is on the rise

Syria was once one of the countries where polio was no longer a problem. The government began mandatory, free immunizations in 1964 and declared victory in 1995. But now, polio is back, writes Annie Sparrow in the The New York Review of Books, and she builds a case that Bashar al-Assad is to blame. Imagine if, instead of causing a traffic jam, Chris Christie's aides had prevented towns that didn't support him from getting access to basic childhood immunizations. According to Sparrow's research, that's exactly what the Assad regime did. And now, children are paying the price.

This man-made outbreak is a consequence of the way that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has chosen to fight the war—a war crime of truly epidemic proportions. Even before the uprising, in areas considered politically unsympathetic like Deir Ezzor, the government stopped maintaining sanitation and safe-water services, and began withholding routine immunizations for preventable childhood diseases. Once the war began, the government started ruthless attacks on civilians in opposition-held areas, forcing millions to seek refuge in filthy, crowded, and cold conditions. Compounding the problem are Assad’s ongoing attacks on doctors and the health care system, his besieging of cities, his obstruction of humanitarian aid, and his channeling of vaccines and other relief to pro-regime territory.
Sofie (not her real name), the first Syrian child known to have come down with polio, came from Spighan, a small town on the Euphrates River in the Mayadin district of Deir Ezzor. An unimmunized three-year-old, her initially unremarkable symptoms of fever and a cold were followed by acute flaccid paralysis, the sudden loss of muscle function, as the polio virus destroyed Sofie’s nerve cells. Untreated, polio has left her crippled, stigmatized, and shunned. Since then dozens more children in Deir Ezzor have succumbed. In August, cases started cropping up in other parts of the country: first in Aleppo, then in an opposition-held suburb of Damascus, Idlib, al-Hasakeh, and finally Raqqa in December.
... This politicizing of public health meant that many children born in 2010 or later could not commence or complete the routine course of polio vaccination required for effective protection. Of the roughly 1.8 million children born since the conflict began, more than half may be completely unvaccinated. WHO estimates that the vaccination rate has dropped from 83 percent of two-year-olds before the war to 52 percent in 2012.3 The Syrian Ministry of Health states that the vaccination rate has dropped from 99 percent pre-war to 68 percent in 2012. More than three million children across Syria may now be vulnerable.

Leaked trove of 55,000 photos detail brutal torture and killing of 11,000 Syrian detainees

A Syrian defector who worked for the regime as a forensic photographer leaked over 55,000 photos detailing the deaths of at least 11,000 people, almost all young men, believed to have been political prisoners who were in custody of the Bashar al-Assad regime. The photos were validated by a trio of globally recognized human rights lawyers with experience at the International Criminal Court. One of the lawyers, Professor David Crane, did an interview (MP3) with CBC Radio's As It Happens in which he compared the photos of the bodies to the pictures that emerged from the Nazi's death camps; saying that they were emaciated to the point of death and showed evidence of brutal torture. The photos came to light on the eve of a fresh round of peace-talks between the Assad regime and the various rebel factions in Syria.
"The procedure was that when detainees were killed at their places of detention their bodies would be taken to a military hospital to which he would be sent with a doctor and a member of the judiciary, Caesar's function being to photograph the corpses … There could be as many as 50 bodies a day to photograph which require 15 to 30 minutes of work per corpse," the report says.
"The reason for photographing executed persons was twofold. First to permit a death certificate to be produced without families requiring to see the body, thereby avoiding the authorities having to give a truthful account of their deaths; second to confirm that orders to execute individuals had been carried out."
Families were told that the cause of death was either a "heart attack" or "breathing problems", it added. "The procedure for documentation was that when a detainee was killed each body was given a reference number which related to that branch of the security service responsible for his detention and death.
"When the corpse was taken to the military hospital it was given a further number so as to document, falsely, that death had occurred in the hospital. Once the bodies were photographed, they were taken for burial in a rural area."
Three experienced forensic science experts examined and authenticated samples of 55,000 digital images, comprising about 11,000 victims. "Overall there was evidence that a significant number of the deceased were emaciated and a significant minority had been bound and/or beaten with rod-like objects," the report says.

Afghan police are puncturing tires to deter vehicle thieves

In Kabul, car theft isn't a big problem, but it is a big concern. Security officials fear that militants could use stolen vehicles as car bombs. So the police have turned to a rather controversial tactic to deter thieves.
Nesar Ahmad Abdulrahimzai, police chief for Kabul's 10th district said: "The police puncture tires as precautionary measures. The police are poorly equipped and we simply have no other option to prevent car theft." So he has instructed his officers to puncture tires of cars parked on the street after dark.

Zoheb Stanikzai, a 19-year old student, says he has nowhere to park his car except on the street. "I've complained and given the police a letter saying I'm responsible for my car," he says. But to no avail. He's already spent more than $500 on new tires, and the police won't reimburse him.
Former prosecutor Hamidullah Ataee, who had four tyres punctured when he parked his car in front of his house, says the practice is illegal under Afghan law and the victims are legally parked when their cars are effectively vandalized. "They don't do their job, but instead they puncture the tires and misuse their authority," Ataee says. He complained to the police and asked for reimbursement, but was told it was his fault for parking on the street.

Police called to calm angry crowd as 99p store’s 50p discount caused bargain hunter bedlam

Police were called to a 99p store to calm angry shoppers chasing 50p bargains.
The store which had advertised a 50p sale on a window poster, had forgotten to state it was time limited causing word to spread around Wrexham in north Wales with hundreds turning up at the shop. There appeared to be some confusion among shoppers who said there wasn’t a time listed on the poster.

The response evidently caught the retailer by surprise and police were called to the scene to prevent any more customers from entering the store. Three more officers were inside allowing customers to exit the store.
One shopper described the situation as ‘bedlam’ and said fellow shoppers were ‘vultures’. Another blamed the store management saying: “The sign did not say anything about a time limit, and we were queuing to pay when we were told things had gone back to 99p. It is not on.”

Affectionate jewellery store thieves repeatedly told each other 'I love you, brother'

Three affectionate sledgehammer-wielding burglars were caught on camera smashing their way into a jewellery store in Broomfield, Colorado at around 4:45am on Sunday.

No injuries reported after train hit car

No injuries were reported when the Hermann Park Train next to Houston Zoo crashed into a car on Sunday afternoon.



Finally, an objective reason to hate Papyrus

Why are some websites easy to read and focus on, while other strain your brain and eyes? Turns out, there's a science to fonts and the way they make you feel is controlled by both biology and culture.

The Cure For Snoring Is ... Singing?

Choir director Alise Ojay's vocal exercises have been shown to work throat muscles that help silence the snorer within. Up until a few years ago, Alise Ojay had a persistent problem with her spouse. Many couples can relate. Her husband, Frank, was a chronic snorer.

But she invented a fix, and eventually persuaded Frank to try it out. As reluctant as he was, it was worth a shot, especially considering that a well-known scientist, after testing it, had already given it a thumbs up.

What Would Happen If Oxygen Were To Disappear for Five Seconds?

Ever wondered what would happen if oxygen were to disappear for 5 seconds? You wouldn't believe it but the results would be devastating. All pieces of untreated metal would instantly spot-weld to one another. Everyone's inner ear would explode. Every building made out of concrete would turn to dust. And very living cell would explode in a haze of hydrogen gas.

Dihydrogen monoxide

From the Dihydrogen Monoxide FAQ:

What is Dihydrogen Monoxide?

Dihydrogen Monoxide (DHMO) is a colorless and odorless chemical compound, also referred to by some as Dihydrogen Oxide, Hydrogen Hydroxide, Hydronium Hydroxide, or simply Hydric acid. Its basis is the highly reactive hydroxyl radical, a species shown to mutate DNA, denature proteins, disrupt cell membranes, and chemically alter critical neurotransmitters. The atomic components of DHMO are found in a number of caustic, explosive and poisonous compounds such as Sulfuric Acid, Nitroglycerine and Ethyl Alcohol...

What are some of the dangers associated with DHMO?

Each year, Dihydrogen Monoxide is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:
  • Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
  • Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
  • Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
  • DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
  • Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
  • Contributes to soil erosion.
  • Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.

Science and Health News

This year's dominant flu strain is harsh, but the silver lining is that flu season may peak soon.
So, you can't get that song out of your head? You probably have an earworm. Why is this happening? Well, science isn't very clear on this yet. Laci discusses what we do know about earworms, and offers some advice on how to get rid of them.
For years, we've known that humans can't multitask. We can serial task by switching our attention back and forth, but it makes us less efficient. Trace breaks down a new study shows there is actually one way that the brain can multitask.
The end of stitches is near! Scientists have been experimenting with different adhesives, and one of the most promising is from sandcastle worms, which excrete an adhesive substance that could hold things together in, say, a human heart!

Daily Comic Relief


While you were sleeping, a new supernova appeared in the sky

The bright ball at the right hand end of the Cigar Galaxy is, probably, what it looks like when an old, cold, dense husk of a star (aka a "white dwarf") explodes 12 million light years away. It may not look as impressive as you'd imagine, but astrophysicists were extremely excited when this likely supernova appeared in the sky last night. The big question now: Is it the result of one white dwarf going boom, or two white dwarfs crashing into each other?

Mountain rescue team rescued stranded dog spotted on cliffs in Snowdonia

A stranded a dog sparked a major mountain search after it was spotted on cliffs in Snowdonia, north Wales. Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue team, police and RAF rescue helicopters took part in a search for a possible fallen walker on Y Garn after the black and white Jack Russell was seen near Cwm Cywion gorge.
The North Wales Police helicopter flew over the area after passing walkers raised the alarm on Sunday after seeing the dog on the crags at the back of Cwm Cywion, north-west of the mountain summit. Chris Lloyd of the Ogwen Valley team said: “The helicopter could not find a fallen walker, so the team went to retrieve the dog. A search later on by 22 Squadron from RAF Valley, who were in the area, also proved negative.

“Team members took some time to be able to locate the dog, having walked in from the bottom of the cwm and of course the dog had been spotted from the ridge above. With failing light, steep broken ground and poor ground conditions, it was decided that the rescue be left until Monday morning. They had managed to get within about 25m of the dog but access was extremely poor.”
Mr Lloyd said another team of four returned the site. “Once again they had to cope with poor steep ground but eventually were able to climb up and rescue the little bitch,” he said. “She was tucked into Brian Robbins’s jacket and he abseiled down.” The dog, which was unhurt, was taken to a local vet practice to be checked out. It would appear that the dog had been on the hill for several days after running away from its owner who was tending his sheep.

The 10 Strangest Musical Instruments

The cat piano, the ice trumpet, the road that plays Rossini.
Here are the world's weirdest tools for making music.

Police rescued man and his dog from snow fort

Police officers saved a northern Minnesota man and his dog trapped when a snow fort collapsed on them on Sunday. Hermantown police Sgt. William Marsolek said the incident happened at about 5:20pm. The man was inside his snow fort when it collapsed, also trapping his dog inside. The man’s son, aged about 10 years old, called 911.
Josh Toms, 33, said he was trapped for about 15 after the fort roof collapsed on him while he was inside with his dog, Leo. “There was a little breathing room, but I couldn't move anything," Toms said. Toms thought the moments he spent stuck in the snowbank may be his last. “It was so heavy that it was painful right on my hips. I could really feel the pressure there," Toms said

Toms, a paramedic and volunteer firefighter, started to hyperventilate. But he remembered quickly that it'd only eat up his air supply faster. "I kind of calmed myself down. I quit moving and I just focused on my breathing," he said. Outside the fort was Toms’ son, Ian. "It was like, really, really scary because I didn't know what was happening," Ian said.
Ian then remembered what Toms had told him an hour before: "You first call 911 and then you come back and you start shoveling. But I was like, 'don't worry this never happens.'" But this time it did. Ian said "I was like ‘oh, he's just going to stand up,’ but he didn't stand up. So I ran inside to call 911." Just 15 minutes later, Toms said police pulled him from the snowbank. He was dizzy and felt faint, but he was okay. "I think we're going to have a sign that says no forts anymore," Toms said.

There's a news video here.

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