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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Daily Drift

Truth hurts don't it ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 195 countries around the world daily.
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San Jose and Manila, Philippines
Auckland, New Zealand

Today in History

28 The Roman Emperor Nerva names Trajan, an army general, as his successor.
1547 Henry VIII of England dies and is succeeded by his nine-year-old son Edward VI.
1757 Ahmed Shah, the first King of Afghanistan, occupies Delhi and annexes the Punjab.
1792 Rebellious slaves in Santo Domingo launch an attack on the city of Cap.
1871 Surrounded by Prussian troops and suffering from famine, the French army in Paris surrenders. During the siege, balloons were used to keep contact with the outside world.
1915 The U.S. Coast Guard is founded to fight contraband trade and aid distressed vessels at sea.
1915 The German navy attacks the U.S. freighter William P. Frye, loaded with wheat for Britain.
1921 Albert Einstein startles Berlin by suggesting the possibility of measuring the universe.
1932 The Japanese attack Shanghai, China, and declare martial law.
1936 A fellow prison inmate slashes infamous kidnapper, Richard Loeb, to death.
1941 French General Charles DeGaulle's Free French forces sack south Libya oasis.
1945 Chiang Kai-shek renames the Ledo-Burma Road the Stilwell Road, in honor of General Joseph Stilwell.
1955 The U.S. Congress passes a bill allowing mobilization of troops if China should attack Taiwan.
1964 The Soviets down a U.S. jet over East Germany killing three.
1970 Israeli fighter jets attack the suburbs of Cairo.
1986 The space shuttle Challenger explodes just after liftoff.

Non Sequitur


CNN cribs Upworthy-style headline for child stabbing tweet

The new nadir in network news.

A 13-year-old filmmaker's documentary on NSA spying

Dave from the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "I escort a lot of TV crews in and out of the building at EFF. Few have been as efficient and polite as Ben Blum, a 13-year-old San Francisco independent YouTube producer who interviewed EFF's Parker Higgins for this short documentary. Pitched to us as an entry in a C-Span competition about what issues Congress should deal with in 2014, Data Obsession breaks down the controversy over domestic surveillance with help from AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein.

Leaked US independent surveillance watchdog report concludes NSA program is illegal and recommends shut-down

The forthcoming report of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the arm's-length body established by the Congress to investigate NSA spying, has leaked, with details appearing in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
From its pages, we learn that the board views the NSA's metadata collection program -- which was revealed by Edward Snowden -- as illegal, without "a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value…As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program."
The report goes farther than the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies (whose recommendations Obama ignored) and even farther than the policies announced by the President himself.
The Board also found that NSA metadata collection didn't stop any terrorist attacks, and would not have been useful in preventing the 9/11 attacks.
The report, according to the Times, also acknowledges for the first time that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "produced no judicial opinion detailing its legal rationale for the program until last August, even though it had been issuing orders to phone companies for the records and to the N.S.A. for how it could handle them since May 2006."
"The Board believes that the Section 215 program has contributed only minimal value in combating terrorism beyond what the government already achieves through these and other alternative means," the report said, according to the Post. "Cessation of the program would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated with bulk collection without unduly hampering the government’s efforts, while ensuring that any governmental requests for telephone calling records are tailored to the needs of specific investigations."
According to the Times, the report also agrees with outside analysis, concluding that "no instance in which the [metadata] program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack."
The Post also quoted from a section of the report that specifically rejected an argument frequently made by President Barack Obama and members of his administration, that the metadata program would have been useful had it available prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks, as it may have ensnared Khalid al-Mihdhar, a known terrorism suspect. Mihdhar was calling a Yemen-based safehouse, but what the NSA did not realize at the time, was that he was doing so from San Diego, California.

Federal judge rules that a downloader's IP address is not proof of identity

In a surprisingly sane ruling Washington District Judge Robert Lasnik found that an IP address is not sufficient evidence of the identity of a copyright infringer. The case involved the B-movie Elf-Man, whose production company have gained notoriety through trollish attacks on people alleged to have downloaded the movie over bittorrent.
Ruling on a motion to dismiss filed on behalf of one of the defendants, Judge Lasnik notes that part (b) is not a valid claim.
“[The movie studio] has actually alleged no more than that the named defendants purchased Internet access and failed to ensure that others did not use that access to download copyrighted material,” Lasnik states.
In other words, the complaint itself states that the account holder may not be the person who downloaded the movie, which isn’t enough to pursue the case.
“Simply identifying the account holder associated with an IP address tells us very little about who actually downloaded ‘Elf-Man’ using that IP address,” Judge Lasnik writes.
“While it is possible that the subscriber is the one who participated in the BitTorrent swarm, it is also possible that a family member, guest, or freeloader engaged in the infringing conduct,” he adds.
As a result, the defendant’s motion to dismiss was granted because the movie studio failed to state a claim for direct copyright infringement, contributory infringement and indirect infringement. The copyright holder is allowed to file an updated complaint, but doubts that the movie studio will be able to make a valid claim.

January in California

Sunrise over San Francisco, from Muir Beach

Britain's Careful Celebration of WWI

by Christoph Scheuermann
Great War Centenary: Britain's Careful Celebration of WWI
The Great War has long played a significant role in Britain's historical memory. This year, the country is planning several events to celebrate the 100th anniversary and several new books have already hit the shelves. Jingoism, however, is to be avoided.  More

Giving France Respect Where It Is Due

Europe's Sole Military Force 
A Commentary by Gregor Peter Schmitz in Brussels Europe's Sole Military Force: Giving France Respect Where It Is Due
French troops are fighting in bloody conflicts around the world, most recently in the Central African Republic. Other EU members, including Germany, say they will now provide support for these deployments. It's high time.  More

Ukraine government sends text to protesters ...

Ukraine's dictatorship is reveling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.
The identification of protesters was almost certainly accomplished with a "Stingray," a fake cellphone tower pioneered by police in the USA, who routinely and secretly deploy them around cities and especially during protests. The Stingray tricks nearby phones into associating with it, giving police a census of who was where, with whom, and where they went. A federal judge found this to be legal, even without a warrant, because he believes you have no expectation of privacy when it comes to having your movements and associations tracked by the police in secret.
Which is to say that the thing that the Ukrainian police did to those protesters is something that US police forces do routinely to protesters, all the time. The only difference is that American cops don't brag about the fact that they are building dossiers on participants in peaceful, lawful protests by sending taunting and intimidating texts to protesters. Instead, they just build the databases in secret against the day that they're looking for a pretense to arrest someone.
The moral of the story is that when you build surveillance technology, you load a weapon that will be inherited by every government that is to come. Oakland PD's playful, murderous shenanigans -- aiming tear-gas cannisters at protesters' heads -- are on a continuum, and at the other end of it are governments like the Ukrainian state, where they've mobilized tanks against their citizens to crush a popular uprising, and further along, there's Syria, where they're operating modern death-camps.
The cause of freedom in the 21st century is inextricably linked to resistance of technological surveillance. It's in the development of technology that obeys its owners (for example, being able to root your phone in a way that is undetectable to apps and carriers); in the right to report bugs that expose people to surveillance by governments and creeps without being prosecuted.
It's in establishing the principle that technology should do what it is told by its owners, and that it shouldn't be designed to lie to its owners. This is why it's a Big Fucking Deal that the W3C has paved the way for DRM in every browser, which means that it will become impossible to use most of the Web unless you are running closed systems that enjoy special legal status that makes it illegal to report bugs in them, ensuring that everything that touches the Web will have code with long-lived, secret bugs in it that creeps and crooks and governments can use to pwn the devices' owners.
There are people who will sneeringly tell you that this is about whether "information wants to be free." This has nothing to do with the nonexistent desires of "information." This is about people wanting to be free, and the fact that freedom in an information society requires that a "freedom layer" be designed into the technology that handles information on our behalf.

UK Prime Minister's special adviser wants prison for people who watch TV programs the wrong way

The UK Conservative MP Mike Weatherley spoke at a second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill in Parliament and called for prison sentences for "persistent" downloaders. Mr Weatherley is a former entertainment industry executive and is Prime Minister Cameron's Intellectual Property advisor. He also defended the idea of disconnecting families from the Internet if their router is implicated in accused acts of copyright infringement.
In Weatherley's view, "piracy" is the same as "theft." He's saying that if you listen to a song the wrong way -- by torrenting it, rather than listening to it on Spotify -- you should go to jail. He's saying that if you watch a TV programme using Bittorrent instead of Iplayer, that the state should pay to imprison you and you should be deprived of your liberty; but if you watch that same program in the same window on the same screen in the same place, but you get it from Iplayer, you're in the clear.
Prison for watching TV the wrong way -- no wonder they're called the Nasty Party.
Weatherley, who we should not forget is the Prime Minister’s advisor on such matters, continued by revealing just how far he feels the government should go in dealing with the problem, starting with Internet disconnections and ending in a much darker place.
“Ultimately, we need to consider withdrawing internet rights from lawbreakers, along with imposing fines and, as a last resort, custodial sentences,” he told the debate.
Helen Goodman MP countered by stating that a line needs to be drawn between punishing the occasional downloader and those who run pirate sites.
“It is important that we distinguish between 14-year-olds in their bedrooms downloading two or three Justin Bieber tracks on to an iPod and people who make multi-billion pound businesses out of providing illegal material. It is not right to treat the two groups in the same way,” she said.
Clarifying his stance, Weatherley underlined that he did indeed mean prison should be an option not only for those running sites, but those who keep on downloading despite the warnings.

MPAA and ICE admit they yanked an innocent man out of a movie for wearing Google Glass

Representatives of the MPAA and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency confirmed that they worked together to yank a Google Glass wearer out of a movie theater, detain him in a small room against his will, confiscate and inspect his electronics (including his phone) and coerce an interview out of him with legal threats. They believed, incorrectly, that their victim had been recording the movie with his gadget. The Google Glass set he wore had been fitted with prescription lenses and he was watching the movie through them because they corrected his vision.
The MPAA's and ICE's statements are bland and anodyne (ICE says that the interview was "voluntary," though the man's account contradicts this). Neither of them explain how it is that a movie theater employee can call an MPAA hotline, and how the MPAA can then command ICE law-enforcement officials to drop everything and rush down to a multiplex to roust a potential camcorderer and treat him like a presumptive criminal.
The problem for the MPAA of camcordering is that they would like to stagger the release of their films -- first to the theatrical exhibition channel, then to airplanes and hotel rooms, then to pay-per-view and streaming services and DVD, etc. This makes them more profitable, but only if they can keep each channel discrete. Lots of businesses struggle with their profit-maximization strategies, but only the MPAA gets to command the forces of federal law-enforcement in the service of their business-model, putting the cost of that strategy onto the tax-payer.
Even so, it seemed incredible that ICE would take direction from the MPAA on something as small as a guy in a movie theater, rushing to the theater to help with the interrogation of someone there, but we underestimated the willingness of ICE to say "how high" when the MPAA says "jump." Yes, we should know better by now, but we thought we'd actually give the MPAA and DHS the benefit of the doubt here. Our mistake.
We find it difficult to believe that there aren't more important things for ICE to be doing than hassling a guy out attending a movie with his wife. Hollywood has gotten ICE into trouble in the past with its over-aggressive claims about websites. You'd think that ICE would have learned by now that the RIAA and MPAA are not exactly trustworthy when they insist someone is a "filthy pirate" who needs to be investigated. There is simply no reason for federal investigators to be involved at all, let alone called in to interrogate some guy wearing a new piece of technology that the MPAA has overreacted to.
MPAA & ICE Confirm They Interrogated A Guy For Wearing Google Glass During A Movie

Woman escaped assault by stabbing blowtorch-wielding attacker in the eye with screwdriver

A woman stabbed her attacker in the eye with a screwdriver after she was forced into a car and burned with a blowtorch on Detroit's west side on Wednesday morning, according to police.
The woman was walking on Plymouth near Appoline, when a man pointed a handgun at the back of her head and made her get into a small, beige, four-door car. "Once inside the vehicle, he struck her several times in the face," said Officer Adam Madera, Detroit Police Department spokesman.
"And then he began ripping her clothes off." The woman, whose age and hometown were not available, fought back. The suspect grabbed a blowtorch and began burning her legs, Madera said. The victim said she grabbed a screwdriver, stabbed her attacker in the eye and escaped from the car naked.
She ran to a home in Appoline, and someone dialed 911 shortly before 7am. The woman is being treated at a hospital for first- and second-degree burns to her legs.  Police are still looking for the suspect, described as a black man with a possible stab wound to the eye, about 23 years old, 6 foot 2, 180 pounds and armed with a blowtorch and handgun.

Lady charged with false impersonation following car crash

A woman from Rochester, New York has been charged with false impersonation and DWI following a car crash.
Monroe County Sheriff's Deputies say 27-year-old Arena Arnold was involved in the crash on Monday in Penfield.
Investigators say Arnold portrayed herself as a passenger but claim she was in fact the driver.
She was arraigned and is currently being held in the Monroe County Jail.



How to season a cast-iron pan - with Science

Sheryl Canter's post on the science of cast-iron pan seasoning is a fascinating and practical tale of flaxseed and kitchen chemistry. It's a long process -- you need to season the pan six or so times, each time taking a couple of hours -- but the science is sound and the proof is in the hard, nonstick coating your pan will have when you're done.
The basic idea is this: Smear a food-grade drying oil onto a cast iron pan, and then bake it above the oil’s smoke point. This will initiate the release of free radicals and polymerization. The more drying the oil, the harder the polymer. So start with the right oil.
Go to your local health food store or organic grocery and buy a bottle of flaxseed oil. It’s sold as an omega-3 supplement and it’s in the refrigeration section because it goes rancid so easily. Check the expiration date to make sure it’s not already rancid. Buy an organic flaxseed oil. You don’t want to burn toxic chemicals into your cookware to leach out forever more. It’s a fairly expensive oil. I paid $17 for a 17 ounce bottle of cold-pressed, unrefined, organic flaxseed oil. As it says on the bottle, shake it before you use it.
Strip your pan down to the iron using the techniques I describe in my popover post. Heat the pan in a 200°F oven to be sure it’s bone dry and to open the pores of the iron a little. Then put it on a paper towel, pour a little flaxseed oil on it (don’t forget to shake the bottle), and rub the oil all over the pan with your hands, making sure to get into every nook and cranny. Your hands and the pan will be nice and oily.
Now rub it all off. Yup – all. All. Rub it off with paper towels or a cotton cloth until it looks like there is nothing left on the surface. There actually is oil left on the surface, it’s just very thin. The pan should look dry, not glistening with oil. Put the pan upside down in a cold oven. Most instructions say to put aluminum foil under it to catch any drips, but if your oil coating is as thin as it should be, there won’t be any drips.
Turn the oven to a baking temperature of 500°F (or as high as your oven goes – mine only goes to 450°F) and let the pan preheat with the oven. When it reaches temperature, set the timer for an hour. After an hour, turn off the oven but do not open the oven door. Let it cool off with the pan inside for two hours, at which point it’s cool enough to handle.

Black ice is caused by tailpipe exhaust

I'd always assumed the moisture for black ice just came from the weather — it rains a little, then it freezes, and voila. But that's not the case. Black ice, in case this is a regional colloquialism that doesn't translate everywhere, is actually transparent ice. It's a thin layer of slippery stuff that forms on roads and is almost imperceptible to the eye. You look and see a normal road. You don't see the ice.
Technically, black ice can form from any source of moisture, but the big one turns out to be the droplets of water that condense out of vehicle tailpipe exhaust and dribble onto the roadway.

Video of Coke cans being devoured by lava

"X being devoured by lava" is the new "Will it blend?" (Until the authorities put an end to it.)

Medical Serial Killers

The bones reveal signs they were once used in medical schools -- as freshly murdered bodies.
Take a look at how two serial killers tapped into Edinburgh's most nefarious trade.

Fantasy maps are awesome

The New Yorker's Casey N. Cep on the "allure of the map", a form of storytelling in its own right.
Writers love maps: collecting them, creating them, and describing them. Literary cartography includes not only the literal maps that authors commission or make themselves but also the geographies they describe. The visual display of quantitative information in the digital age has made charts and maps more popular than ever, though every graphic, like every story, has a point of view.
Did you know that Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea was inspired by its own map? A favorite example of mine is Titan (from the UK's Fighting Fantasy series), which would be among the more forgettable fantasy worlds were it not for the wonderfully evocative maps that came with the literature. Above, Port Blacksand, the City of Thieves.

Ruins Near Pyramids Reveal Leopard Teeth, Calf Bones

From the ruins of an ancient mansion emerge clues about the fancy lifestyles of Egyptian high society.

Discovering the 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams'

Imagine a cave filled with the oldest known human-painted images, dating back over 32,000 years. Trace recaps the highlights of Director Werner Herzog's trip into the ancient Chauvet Cave in "Cave of Forgotten Dreams."

Daily Comic Relief


Science News

Texting makes you walk differently, a new study shows. So does reading from a phone, but to a lesser extent.
Your parents have probably told you 1,000 times: "If you crack your knuckles, you'll get arthritis." Trace pops this common myth and tells you what happens when you crack or pop your knuckles, and how you can actually develop arthritis.
Over the past decade, researchers have been testing gene therapy on blind dogs in attempt to restore vision. Six patients in Oxford had this same treatment done, and they're reportedly cured! Trace shines some light on the subject.
The mutation for milk-drinking evolved in different parts of the world over the last 10,000 years as a result of strong natural selection, but why was it so advantageous?

Global Warming Goes On

A report from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies shows 2013 was another ranking hot year for the planet -- with no slowdown in sight.

Do Plants Feel Earth's Magnetic Field?

Plants have the same protein that allows birds to navigate using Earth's magnetic field. But does that mean plants feel the magnetic field too?

Pet python rescued after being stranded in coconut tree for five days

A pet python stranded in a coconut tree in Australia's Northern Territory for five days has been rescued and returned to its family. Shona Lauder had kept Monty the carpet python at her father-in-law's Woodroffe home since moving to Darwin from Sydney. But somehow the near-3m creature escaped on Saturday and found his way to higher ground.
"He was in an enclosure with a heavy lid but he must have managed to squeeze out and go for a bit of a roam,"  Mrs Lauder said. "The coconut tree's roots are next door, but the tree leans into my father-in-law's yard." They called for assistance early, but wild weather around the region had not helped the situation.

"The Palmerston fire brigade came but because he was too high and it was wet, they pulled out," Ms Lauder said. Evo Access came to the family's rescue - a team of three sent out to recover the family pet. The company usually works on oil rig and road access jobs, but Rob Evans said their techniques could apply to anything - including snake retrievals.
"I climbed up the tree and found it all wrapped around the crown," he said. "I tried to grab it and it went over the other side. We ended up just chopping the branch he was on and the others caught him." Mr Evans said the job was definitely not part of an average day, but an interesting change from the norm. On getting Monty back, Mrs Lauder was relieved the ordeal was over: "We've found a place so now he's coming home with us."

Animal News

A canine cancer originated in a prehistoric inbred dog, which led to the spread of the disease all around the globe.
An extremely elusive creature called a bay cat has been photographed in stunning detail in its native Borneo in Southeast Asia.
The tiny creatures set up a chilly home in the ice and stick their tentacles out to feed.
Is an animal more likely to fight or make love? A new study identifies the fighters, the lovers and those who are in between.
A quarter of the world's sharks and rays are at risk of extinction, according to a new assessment.

Animal Pictures


Musk Ox