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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Daily Drift

Damn Straight! ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 195 countries around the world daily.
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Today in History

660 BC Traditional founding of Japan by Emperor Jimmu Tenno.
1531 Henry VIII is recognized as the supreme head of the Church of England.
1805 Sixteen-year-old Sacajawea, the Shoshoni guide for Lewis & Clark, gives birth to a son, with Meriwether Lewis serving as midwife.
1809 Robert Fulton patents the steamboat.
1815 News of the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812, finally reaches the United States.
1858 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, a French miller's daughter, claims to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
1903 Congress passes the Expedition Act, giving antitrust cases priority in the courts.
1904 President Theodore Roosevelt proclaims strict neutrality for the United States in the Russo-Japanese War.
1910 Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Eleanor Alexander announce their wedding date–June 20, 1910.
1926 The Mexican government nationalizes all church property.
1936 The Reich arrests 150 Catholic youth leaders in Berlin.
1939 The Negrin government returns to Madrid, Spain.
1942 The German battleships Gneisenau, Scharnhorst and Prinz Eugen begin their famed channel dash from the French port of Brest. Their journey takes them through the English Channel on their way back to Germany.
1945 The meeting of the President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Marshal Joseph Stalin in Yalta, adjourns.
1951 U.N. forces push north across the 38th parallel for the second time in the Korean war.
1953 Walt Disney's film Peter Pan premieres.
1954 A 75,000-watt light bulb is lit at the Rockefeller Center in New York, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Thomas Edison's first light bulb.
1955 Nationalist Chinese complete the evacuation of the Tachen Islands.
1959 Iran turns down Soviet aid in favor of a U.S. proposal for aid.
1962 Poet and novelist Sylvia Plath commits suicide in London at age 30.
1964 Cambodian Prince Sihanouk blames the United States for a South Vietnamese air raid on a village in his country.
1965 President Lyndon Johnson orders air strikes against targets in North Vietnam, in retaliation for guerrilla attacks on the American military in South Vietnam.
1966 Vice President Hubert Humphrey begins a tour of Vietnam.
1974 Communist-led rebels shower artillery fire into a crowded area of Phnom Pehn, killing 139 and injuring 46 others.
1975 Mrs. Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman to lead the British Conservative Party.
1990 South African political leader Nelson Mandela is released from prison in Paarl, South Africa, after serving more than 27 years of a life sentence.

Non Sequitur


Celtic Mythology

DELT the Wet was one of the nine cupbearers of the Túatha Dé Danann. During the run-up to the Second Battle of Mag Tuired on Samhain, he aided his brethren in concealing the twelve chief lochs and twelve chief rivers of Ireland from the Fomor giants and prevented them from finding water in them. 

The lochs were Lough Derg, Lough Luimnig, Lough Corrib, Lough Ree, Lough Mask, Strangford Lough, Belfast Lough, Lough Neagh, Lough Foyle, Lough Gara, Loughrea and Marlóch and the rivers were the Bush, the Boyne, the Bann, the Blackwater, the Lee, the Shannon, the Moy, the Sligo, the Erne, the Finn, the Liffey and the Suir.

Did you know ...

That the globalization of the police state calls for globalization of dissent and protest

About a new way to reign in the fat cats

That, no, the 1% don't work harder

How do you say "peeping Tom" in Russian?

by Adam Peck  
Journalists, spectators, and athletes in town for the Sochi Olympics (which start today) have been reacting to their unfinished hotel rooms, dirty water, and unfamiliar lavatory setups with a mix of amusement and frustration on social media. Less genial are the Russian officials tasked with running the games, who have begun accusing their detractors of deliberately sabotaging the Olympic village in an effort to embarrass Russia. And they can prove it too, thanks to the surveillance cameras installed in visitors' showers.
At least that seemed to be the admission from Dmitry Kozak, a deputy Prime Minister who is responsible for overseeing the Sochi Olympics. He spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the endless stream of criticism, and was eager to offer his evidence that much of it is fabricated.
"We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day," he told the paper. Before the Journal could inquire as to how Russian officials were able to see inside the showers of hotel guests, an aide stepped in and pulled the reporter away from Kozak.

Oh, and to answer the post title question:  радиолокатор

Here are the taxes Team USA medalists can expect on their prize money

Eric Freeman
Sochi medals
The Olympics are often spoken of as the purest athletic competition in the world, an event based on participants' honor, love of country and sheer respect for their chosen sports. In practice, though, every Olympic Games, including the one currently taking place in Sochi, is driven by a whole lot of money. Hosts spend a lot of money to make them work, official sponsors pay large sums for advertisements and associations with athletes, and many others find a way turn the results into profit-making ventures, too. It's all pretty unavoidable — anything this popular is going to involve people trying to make a buck.
While prizes are not an athlete's primary motivation for performing well, many national Olympic committees pledge money to anyone who brings home a medal. The United States is no exception — gold medalists earn $25,000, silver medalists get $15,000, and bronze medalists nab $10,000. Not bad, of course, but far off Azerbaijan's high of nearly $510,000 for a gold. (Then again, they've never had a Winter Olympics medalist of any kind, so it means a little more.)
On the other hand, Americans should expect to hand over a portion of their medal prizes to Uncle Sam. As noted by the group Americans for Tax Reform, headed by anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, the United States taxes earned income abroad, which means that all medalists will be taxed for their prizes. According to ATR, those in the top tax bracket (39.6 percent) — like, say, Shaun White or any Team USA hockey player — will pay $9,900 on a gold medal — while those in the bottom tax bracket (10 percent) will pay $2,500 for a gold. Many developed nations do not tax Olympians for their medal prizes. On the other hand, others such as Great Britain don't give their medalists cash prizes at all.
On Tuesday, Rep. Blake Farenthold (r-Texas) introduced the Tax Exemptions for American Medalists (TEAM) Act, which, as you can probably guess from the name, would waive these taxes for Olympic medalists. Similar proposals were supported by both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney during the 2012 election.
Despite this argument playing out as an Olympic issue, it appears to have much more to do with long-held political debates over the role of taxes in government. Arguments from ATR, Rep. Farenthold, and Senator Marco Rubio in favor of waiving this tax cover the same ground as familiar conservative arguments about taxes punishing success and limiting the most talented Americans. While liberals haven't been quoted much on this issue, it's easy to imagine an argument that taxing Olympians is plenty ethical considering that they were helped by the infrastructure of the nation and the United States Olympic Committee. Yet these rules only affect a few dozen medalists per year, to the point where politicians must have ulterior motives in focusing on this issue.
It's a proxy war for a much more controversial political argument. Feel free to use this issue to score political points, but don't expect to hear any medalists gripe about their tax rate in interviews with NBC correspondents. The cash prize matters, but it's not the reason these athletes traveled to Sochi.

Democrats Demand To Know How Much The repugican IRS Witch Hunts Are Costing Taxpayers

Democrats Sandy Levin and Elijah Cummings demanded to know how much Issa's IRS 'investigations' are costing the taxpayers. They suggest the total is "well into the millions …
cummings and issa
In the wake of repugicans continuing to make accusations (sometimes going so far as to embarrass themselves by publicly fantasizing about criminal allegations) against the Obama administration in spite of the evidence to the contrary, Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) demanded to know how much this is costing. They suggest the total is “well into the millions of dollars.” The Democrats asked IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to detail how much taxpayer money and resources the IRS has spent to accommodate the six Congressional investigations in a letter dated February 7. It reads in part:
Dear Mr. Koskinen:
Congratulations on your recent confirmation as Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. Your bi-partisan Senate confirmation marks a new beginning for the agency. We are glad that the IRS has implemented all of the recommendations proposed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s May 14, 2013 audit report.

We very much look forward to working with you and appreciate your commitment to cooperate with Congress. We are concerned, however, that Congressional Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars and continuously using the IRS “investigations” for political purposes for the November election. We are writing today to request an accounting of taxpayer dollars and federal employee time spent to date on these investigations. This is occurring during a time when there is a need for adequate resources to better serve taxpayers during the filing season.
In your letter to our Committees dated January 28, 2014, you cited a number of figures about the work that the IRS has performed at the direction of Congress related to the six investigations into the May 14, 2013 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report on the processing of tax-exempt applications. Specifically, more than 150 people at the IRS, including Chief Counsel attorneys, litigation support staff and IRS personnel, have worked for more than 70,000 hours combined to produce over 500,000 pages of documents. The IRS has responded to more than 50 Congressional letters and hundreds of informal Congressional requests, facilitated more than 60 transcribed interviews by Congressional staff of current and former IRS employees, and IRS personnel have answered questions related to the subjects of these investigations at 14 Congressional hearings.
A conservative accounting suggests the total of taxpayer dollars spent by the IRS to accommodate the investigation would be well into the millions of dollars. The IRS has been very detailed in providing us with statistics related to the investigations, and I hope that this additional information also can be obtained.
The Democrats are correct to conclude that these hearings are about the upcoming election. They are providing free soundbites for every repugican who rails at the empty hopes of a scandal. Meanwhile, Issa’s committee deliberately withheld evidence that would have proven their entire IRS witch hunt to be the politically driven farce it is.
The Democrats are growing weary of the clownshow, and at the very least, they’re going to get an accounting of just what the drunken frat boys of the repugican cabal are charging the taxpayers for this year’s shiny object distraction.
We could ask why repugicans are such cowards that they will not run on the issues or their policies, but we know the answer to that question. You wouldn’t like their policies, because they benefit the top 2%. So, another witch hunt it will be.

Another 2016 Hopeful Bites the Dust as Scott Walker Under Investigation

Fresh on the heels of the last John Doe investigation into Scott Walker's administration, which resulted in convictions for three former Walker aides, comes the revelation of another probe…
scott walker 
Follow the arrows to land at the fake IRS scandal perpetrated by the repugican cabal in an effort to pre-emptively protect their dark money, courtesy of tax exempt “social welfare” nonprofits.
Fresh on the heels of the last John Doe investigation into Scott Walker’s administration, which resulted in convictions for three former Walker aides — an appointee and a major campaign donor, comes the revelation of yet another probe surrounding the Wisconsin repugican governor. This one centers around an anonymous campaign that is most likely Walker’s recall campaign “Friends of Scott Walker”.
According to newly-unsealed court documents, it appears that Scott Walker’s recall campaign is the focus of the “illegal campaign coordination between (name redacted), a campaign committee, and certain special interest groups.”
Daniel Bice at the Journal Sentinel revealed why it’s looking like it’s Walker’s recall campaign under investigation:
From the outset, the probe focused on possible “illegal campaign coordination between (name redacted), a campaign committee, and certain special interest groups,” according to a filing signed by the five district attorneys in the case.
The campaign committee under the microscope?
Almost certainly it’s the Friends of Scott Walker, the governor’s campaign committee.
“Good guess,” said one source familiar with the probe. “That’s it.”
Several others, however, were reluctant to identify the governor’s campaign, noting the secrecy order remains in place. A John Doe probe is similar to a grand jury in that it allows prosecutors to collect evidence and gather testimony in secret.
In an earlier Journal Sentinel article by Patrick Marley, Jason Stein and Daniel Bice, it was pointed out that Walker’s campaign also paid $86,000 to defense lawyers at a legal firm one would hire if they were being probed.
Of the five suspects, we have tax exempt 501©4 “social welfare” nonprofit the Wisconsin Club for Growth, which outed itself as one of the groups under investigation.
Source Watch details, “Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG) is a state arm of the national Club for Growth, and one of the top political spenders in Wisconsin. WCFG spent $9.1 million during the Wisconsin recall elections, and has reportedly received a subpoena in a John Doe probe into possible campaign finance violations during those races.”
Naturally the Kochs are involved because wherever you see Governor Walker, a Koch brother is not far behind:
WCFG’s Board of Directors includes Eric O’Keefe, a wingnut political agitator with deep ties to the Koch brothers, and who helped form groups including the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity and American Majority. WCFG is led by RJ Johnson, a close Walker ally and advisor.
Brendan Fischer PR Watch detailed the other groups:
The special interest groups under investigation include Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is led by a top Walker advisor and friend, R.J. Johnson, and which spent at least $9.1 million on “issue ads” supporting Walker and legislative repugicans during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Another group is Citizens for a Strong America, which was entirely funded by Wisconsin Club for Growth in 2011 and 2012 and acted as a conduit for funding other groups that spent on election issue ads; CSA’s president is John Connors, who previously worked for David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and is part of the leadership at the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity (publishers of Watchdog.org and Wisconsin Reporter). Other groups reportedly receiving subpoenas include AFP, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the repugican governors association.
If you’re wondering why so many probes surround Governor Scott Walker, it’s not just political opponents getting revenge. Fischer pointed out, “The new court documents undermine those portrayals. The documents show that while the probe started in Milwaukee, it quickly spread to four other counties and is now led by repugican and Democratic prosecutors. ”
And remember, Scott Walker is the guy who left college after being busted for illegally campaigning in an election. Then his Milwaukee county administration was investigated which led to crossover to campaigning and his current administration… And now, it appears his recall campaign is being probed.
Scott Walker is being talked about as high on the repugican cabal 2016 presidential list. He was ranked as number one in some lists, as previous repugican front runner Chris Christie faces his own investigations over corruption. From the looks of it, Walker has the ethical values to be a perfect repugican president, which means he would face rather huge obstacles to getting elected as President.
Beyond Scott Walker’s slobbering submission to the Koch brothers, what is going on here is an example of why the repugicans made a big deal out of a fake IRS scandal. They ginned up that scandal to tire the public of the subject, because the truth is that they are abusing the Citizens United ruling. Scott Walker’s campaign’s intimate ties with Club for Growth are the perfect example of how they are doing this.

Forty Koch Brothers Donors Exposed After Document Left At Hotel Is Leaked

The confidential spreadsheet contains a who's who of lunatic fringe wingnut, mega-rich donors.
Koch brothersA new document providing rare insight into the political machine of the Koch Brothers has surfaced revealing the names of up to 40 donors, as well as senior Koch officials, Washington Post reported.
The list, published by Mother Jones, was mistakenly left behind at a donor conference and includes various corporate executives, real-estate and hedge fund billionaires and repugican cabal financiers.
The list also includes Papa John pizza chain founder and hard-core repugican whack-job John Schnatter, Kenneth Griffin, the chief executive of Citadel, Silicon Valley real estate investor Carl Berg (worth $1.1 billion) and owner of Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym.
What’s more, it appears Charles Koch was scheduled to hold private meetings with at least nine of the contributors including private equity investor John Childs and TRT Holding co-founder Robert Rowling who is worth around $4.9 billion.
Those in attendance also contributed to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove, with Rowling directing $3.5 million to the cause.
Officials from Freedom Partners, a tax-exempt business league funding AFP was also scheduled at the meetings.
The Koch Brothers have fought hard to protect the identity of its financial backers and shield its money-making schemes by operating through tax-exempt groups and LLCs.

Work Ethic Challenged repugicans Now Claim the ACA Threatens America’s Work Ethic

GOP work ethic  
Now that their Obamacare kills jobs lie was discredited by the CBO’s report and again in testimony to Congress, repugicans in the House of Representatives are seeking another way to call “you people” lazy freeloaders.
According to Talking Points Memo, now Paul Ryan is upset because the ACA gives people working in low income jobs some of that freedom repugicans say they believe in.
He said he was “troubled” by the report because it suggested that Obamacare was encouraging Americans “not to get on the ladder of life, to begin working, getting the dignity of work, getting more opportunities, rising the income, joining the middle class.”
People can reduce the amount of labor they supply for minimal wages and spend that time raising their families, furthering their education so that they seek better paying jobs.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, some people will have the freedom to become entrepreneurs, or what repugicans call “job creators.”
National Review‘s Charles Cooke comes right out and claims that the ACA is an attack on the work ethic.  It’s a rather puzzling claim that freeing people to start a business, spend more time at home raising their children or improving their skills becomes an attack on the work ethic.  But then, repugican world is a very strange place.
In repugican world,  people having options is a bad thing.  What good is freedom if it means just anybody can have choices? 
No one questions the value of a good work ethic nor does anyone question the dignity that comes with working for a living.  The problem comes with working several part-time, low income jobs that still isn’t enough to provide a family with the bare essentials.
While repugicans claim that a policy which makes it possible for low wage workers to have choices AKA freedom threatens the work ethic, that’s not their real concern.  “Job creators” benefit from a high unemployment rate because when there are a lot more people seeking work than there are available jobs, employers are in a position to keep everyone’s wages low.
If more people have the flexibility to reduce their work hours, for whatever reason, it means that “job creators” will have to increase wages to make those jobs attractive. Ironically, if people earn enough to provide for their families, it means fewer people would need to rely on SNAP and other programs to provide for their family.
Lower unemployment, lower demand for food stamps and other programs currently needed to reduce poverty are good things in the sane world. In repugican world, it means their only real constituents will be forced out of the culture of depending on taxpayers to subsidize wages. It means workers will have the dignity that comes with knowing that the income that comes from their labor is enough to provide for their families.  Worst of all, repugicans will lose their ability to claim that unemployment is a life style choice.
It’s also ironic that repugicans in the House of Representatives say they are concerned that restoring freedom and options to low income workers somehow threatens the American work ethic. It’s true that with the restoration of that freedom some people will drop that second or third job in favor of raising their children, improving their skills so that they can seek better jobs or have the freedom to be, in repugican parlance, “job creators”.
It’s also true that they will continue to work, just shorter hours – unlike the House repugicans who reduced their own work hours, without a reduced income, and brag about doing nothing.

ALEC Spearheads Effort To Steal From Employees to Give to Corporations

There is a concerted effort to raid public sector employee pensions to give corporations and the wealthy tax breaks …
A contract is generally a written agreement, often concerning business, tenancy, or employment that is intended to be enforceable by law and because it is an agreement it is safe to conclude that two sides negotiated the contract’s conditions which are why they are enforceable by law. Around the nation public sector employees are seeing their defined retirement benefits from protected pension funds being slashed because repugicans claim deficits are unsustainable and that states and the federal government are broke. And yet the deficits are not enough to stop corporate tax subsidies that exceed the cost of funding retirement benefits.
In a new analysis from taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First, 10 states claimed they were drowning in budget deficits to justify Draconian retiree benefit cuts, but in those 10 states “the total annual cost of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes exceeds the total current annual pension costs.” The practice is part of a tactic an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sister organization funded by the Kochs, the State Policy Network (SPN), is ramping up to eliminate public sector pensions on a nationwide scale. The idea that pension and retirement funds are fair game for the wealthy is a Koch brother and Wall Street philosophy that repugicans in states are willingly implementing with impunity because they utter the term “deficit.”
For example, in Louisiana repugicans claimed the state’s annual pension contributions of $348 million is unaffordable and used the alleged shortfall to call for cuts to public employees’ negotiated retirement incomes. However, while claiming they are broke the same repugicans support giving subsidies, loopholes, and tax breaks to corporations at five times the cost of the state’s obligation to  retirees every year. In Illinois, Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, just signed legislation to cut state workers’ pensions even though the state spends $500 million more each year on corporate subsidies than it cost to fund its pension system. in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to propose similar cuts to municipal employees’ retirement benefits and cited a budget shortfall to close schools, but supports $300 million in spending on corporate subsidies, including a massive gift to a private university to construct a new basketball arena.
One of America’s most notorious crusaders to kill  public pensions, corrupt New Jersey governor Chris Christie (r), refused to make the actuarially necessary pension fund contributions and claimed New Jersey had no money to meet its obligations to public-sector workers, and to slash state workers’ pensions. Then, as if by magic, he handed out a record $1.5 billion in special tax breaks to large corporations and insisted there was still plenty of money left for new income tax cuts to benefit the rich; all while claiming the state was too broke to fund its pension system. Americans paying attention to the recent farm bill witnessed a related event when House repugicans demanded $8.7 billion in cuts to food stamps due to “deficit concerns” and promptly increased subsidies for corporate agribusiness that the conservative American Enterprise Institute reported increases annual farm subsidies by $15 billion.
The idea of cutting retiree benefits to pay for corporate subsidies and tax cuts are not a new phenomenon. In 2010 Rhode Island repugican governor Donald Carcieri urged the state to give former baseball player Curt Schilling $75 million to relocate his video game company from Massachusetts to Rhode Island. The state failed to monitor what the taxpayer subsidy was being used for and when Schilling’s firm promptly lost the money, taxpayers were on the hook for $112 million in principal and interest payments. At the same time the state had enough money to give taxpayer dollars to Schilling, and $356 million in corporate subsidies annually, the state treasurer demanded cuts to public worker pensions as well as “raising the minimum retirement age, suspending annual cost-of-living increases and replacing the contracted defined-benefit pension with a hybrid 401(k)-style plan” according to the Providence Journal. It is no surprise that the Economic Policy Institute documented that the pension fund shortfall was “due not to overly generous benefits, but to the failure of state and local government employers to pay their required share of pensions’ cost” because it used money owed to pension funds to pay for $356 million a year in corporate subsidies.
Politicians cannot have it both ways; if a state is broke they are broke. If that is the case they cannot afford to hand out corporate subsidies or tax cuts for the rich, especially if there is no money to pay negotiated and guaranteed retirement benefits. If a state is so flush with money they can afford to give out corporate subsidies and tax cuts for the rich because they failed to meet their obligation to pay their share into employee pension funds and then cut benefits, retirees have every right under the law to haul them into court for breach of contract like any other business and the court is obliged to force the state to fulfill its obligation. Of course, there is a reasonable solution that is anathema to primarily repugicans and that is raising revenue by increasing taxes and eliminating loopholes for corporations and the wealthy who have taken enough taxpayer money over the past ten years.
There is a concerted effort to raid public sector employee pensions to give corporations and the wealthy tax breaks that was the purview of repugicans but is gaining support among some state-level Democrats. In part it is because of a well-planned repugican campaign to portray public employees as overpaid and spoiled welfare recipients even though states negotiated pension contracts and defined benefits. Groups like ALEC, the Kochs, Wall Street, and the State Policy Network have specifically targeted public sector pensions for raiding because they have nearly exhausted all other programs’ resources and the idea of pension funds, like the Social Security Trust, sitting there with money that belongs to the workers is too tempting to pass up.
Every worker, whether they are public sector employees paying into a pension fund, or private sector employees paying into Social Security did so in good faith and it is their money; not the Koch brothers, Wall Street, corporations, or the wealthy’s. Whether it is a state’s malfeasance in not fulfilling its obligation to pay into pension funds according to their agreement with employees, or outright theft to enrich corporations and the rich, cutting or eliminating retirement benefits is a breach of contract and public employees deserve justice; and their own pensions paid in full according to the negotiated agreement with the states. It is despicable that some Democrats are joining the likes of repugicans, the Kochs, and their Wall Street cohort to rob public sector employees’ retirement savings, but that is the price many Americans are paying since repugicans made the term “deficit” the overriding reason to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the rest of the population. Tragically, it is not going to end until 98% of the population is in poverty that appears to be gaining support among politicians jockeying for billions of dollars in corporate campaign contributions.

Our economy is badly skewed

by Seth D. Michaels
If you're looking for the story of the American economy right now, you can find it in the wide space between Neiman-Marcus and the Dollar Store.
When you look at income and wealth, the collapse of the middle class is apparent, but it's even more striking when you look at the dollars people spend, not just the ones they earn.
A New York Times report by Nelson Schwartz shows that the very wealthiest are taking up an-ever larger share of the consumer market, and the business community is responding logically:
As politicians and pundits in Washington continue to spar over whether economic inequality is in fact deepening, in corporate America there really is no debate at all. The post-recession reality is that the customer base for businesses that appeal to the middle class is shrinking as the top tier pulls even further away.
The top 20 percent of earners are doing more than 60 percent of the consumer spending in this country, Schwartz reports, and since the recession, spending by the top 20 percent of households represents 90 percent of the increase in consumer spending since the recession.
A recent Morgan Stanley analysis shows that consumer spending grew in 2013 - but it was driven by high-end durable goods like boats, luggage and watches, and high-end services like air travel and investment advice.

Unemployment is real tragedy in our society

And Now, a Few Words From the Long-Term Unemployed

Almost four million Americans officially suffer from long-term unemployment. Unable to secure any meaningful legislation to help them, President… Read…
"More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don't have jobs-a total of 10.4 million." That portion of the male population has almost tripled in the past 40 years. What is life like for these unemployed men? Let's hear from a few of them.
We've pulled a few emails from our folder of unpublished "Unemployment Stories." These stories are individual, not definitive. They provide a glimpse into the experience of long-term unemployment during what should be the most lucrative period of a man's career.
No more tears.
I'm a 52 year old man and I just celebrated my 6th year of unemployment. 6 years. Can you believe that? I can't. It blows my mind. It would be laughable if it weren't so tragic.
    I moved out on my own right after I graduated from college the first time at the age of 22. And, except for an odd month here and there, continued to live on my own for the next 24 years. It was a good run. It's more than what some people get and I am thankful for it. So when I got canned from my last job at age 46, I wasn't terribly concerned or worried. I've been unemployed before. And I always found work again in a short time. And I live in a "right-to-work" state where the boss can fire you for no reason at all. While getting fired is never good, it doesn't carry quite the stigma in right-to-work states that it does in others. Lots of people have been fired here for totally frivolous reasons.
    I have 2 Bachelor of Science degrees; one in computer science and one in health care administration. Add to that years of talent, skills and experience in a multitude of different positions. I am the proverbial "Jack-of-all-trades". And don't forget the 24 years of uninterrupted work history. I can do any type of office work, although my goal is to work in a medical office. I was working in a medical office until I got canned. The doctor decided to replace me with my own intern for less money. How's that for a kick in the teeth? And they fired me over the phone. Gutless POS.

  Little did I know that some nasty new truths were about to rear their ugly heads. At some point, I passed from being "unemployed" to being "unemployed for too long". And it doesn't take long to pass that threshold. It only takes a couple of weeks. Recruiters have told me that if your employment gap is longer than 3 or 4 weeks, you are now unemployable. Your resume goes right into the trash no matter what it says.
    Soon after that, I lost everything. I lost my apartment, my furniture, my savings, my bank accounts, my credit cards and my once pristine credit rating. All gone, never to return. Thankfully for me, my parents are still alive and they love my enough to allow me to move in with them. Otherwise, I'd be living on the streets. Do you know how vile it is to be 52 years old and living with your parents?!! And it's no day at the beach for them to have me here either.
    I wrote and re-wrote my resumes more times than I can remember. I applied to every job that I was qualified for, every job that I was over-qualified for, most jobs that I was barely qualified for and some jobs that I wasn't qualified for at all. I applied to every hospital, doctor's office, lab, clinic, nursing home, assisted living facility and hospice within 100 miles. 4 of them thanked me for applying. The rest ignored me completely. It's like I don't even exist. Like I said before, I can do any type of office work. And every business needs someone to answer the phones. And I put together resumes for every industry and sent them out. And never got a single reply. Here's where the second ugly truth came up. You can't be a guy and get a job in fields that are dominated by women. Most doctors may be men but most support people are women. And all administrative assistant/secretarial/clerical jobs are filled by women. You would think women would be understanding about sexism. But I found that women definitely do NOT want a man to intrude into their work environment. And don't try looking for a job in your late 40s and early 50s. Again, unemployable.
    The pain and anguish and despair at times was unbearable. Everything that I worked my entire life to achieve is gone. And it's not coming back. I haven't cried in about a year because there are no more tears. I can't even do the things that I used to take for granted. Like getting hungry and deciding to stop at MickeyD's for a burger. People do that all of the time, every day. I did, at least when I felt like it. Now I can't. I don't have any money. I can't get a date. Even if I could meet a single girl, I can't ask her out. I don't have any money. I don't have an apartment to bring her back to. I have nothing. Actually, that's not true. I have 2 parents who love me and a roof over my head and food to eat. I have my tv and my computer. And I am thankful for all of them.
    I had a blood test this morning. There's nothing wrong. It's something my mom wants me to do each year as part of a regular check-up. I pray that the results come back with cancer or leukemia or something that will cause my demise. How sick is that? But I pray for the sweet release of death every night. My life ended 6 years ago. Now, I just exist. And I don't want to anymore.

Seattle cop fired for harassing photographer

King County deputy Patrick "KC" Saulet has been fired for ordering Dominic Holden, a reporter for the Seattle newspaper "The Stranger," to stop taking pictures of an arrest from a public street; for lying to Holden about which part of the public scene was and was not public property; and for lying to his boss later about the incident. Saulet's boss, King County sheriff John Urquhart, explained that he'd fired his officer because "You have a constitutional right to photograph the police," and "[threatening to arrest a citizen for legally taking photos of cops] is a constitutional violation."
The fired deputy had a long history of civil rights abuses, and the police force had spent a lot of money and time on retraining and counselling for him.
It's extremely refreshing to see senior police officials taking the law seriously when it comes to the officers they command, and to understand the corrosive effect on trust between the public and the police created by impunity for abuses such as these.
Suffice it to say, in my judgement, the evidence shows that (i) you abused your authority in your dealings with Mr. Holden on July 30, and (ii) thereafter, rather than be accountable, you attempted to recast events in a light more favorable to you. Stated broadly, for example, you claim you interacted with Mr. Holden in a civil, professional manner that was nothing more than 'social contact'; you did little more than tell him for his benefit that he couldn't ride on Metro property because doing so is a $66 infraction; [you claim that two other deputies] Shook and Mikulcik told him the same thing; and you once calmly pointed him in a direction you were suggesting he leave. But the evidence is that you approached Mr. Holden because you took exception with him lawfully exercising his right to take photographs of you and your colleagues while lawfully standing on public property; you were agitated and confrontational; you essentially 'squared off' with him; you expressly and/or implicitly threatened to arrest him if he did not leave immediately in the specific direction you pointed, not once but five times (misidentifying public property as private property in the process); and Shook and Mikulcik deny the statement you attribute to them. 

Man claimed his wife who's actually his girlfriend was abducted by intruders using holograms

A 53-year-old Florida man told Martin County Sheriff's investigators that people were in his home and had abducted his 51-year-old wife. He spoke of holograms and signals. It was about 7pm on Jan. 24, and the man was "extremely agitated" as he stood in front of his rental trailer in western Martin County, according to a recently released report.

A deputy went in the trailer and noticed alcohol bottles, trash and other things scattered about. The deputy asked where the man's wife was and he said "they abducted her." "(The man) stated that they used holograms to project signals on the walls to get him to do what they wanted and to communicate with each other." A deputy found nothing in the trailer. Meanwhile, the man contacted his wife.
A sheriff's sergeant said he refers to the woman as his wife but she's actually his girlfriend. The man's aunt told deputies the wife/girlfriend was drunk, saying no one was chasing her. She said the wife/girlfriend "was seeing people and animals at her trailer that were not there." The man and his wife/girlfriend said "intruders used holograms to trick them into thinking that they were in the house and then chased them to the aunt's trailer several lots down."

The property owner said the last time the sheriff's office was called they were smoking drugs, the man was in the road with a gun and the wife/girlfriend was "digging for gold" while sitting in the road. The property owner said she planned to serve eviction notices "in the very near future." A deputy searched the home again and told the man and his wife/girlfriend to stay inside. Because no criminal activity was reported, no charges were filed.

Ladies involved in exchange of shovel arrested

An argument in Union City, Pennsylvania turned into a police matter when two women introduced a shovel.
Police say a 27-year-old Union City woman and a 28-year-old Corry woman were arguing at a residence in Union Township on Tuesday afternoon when the Union City woman threw a shovel at the other woman, hitting her on the hand.
The Corry woman then threw the shovel back, hitting the Union City woman in the head.
Both women were cited for harassment.

16th annual stag imitation contest held in Germany

The 16th annual stag imitation competition has taken place in Dortmund, Germany.
Using ox horns, giant snail shells and plastic pipes, each of Germany's top deer imitators had to try their hand at a "young stag", "stag among females" and "victorious stag after single combat".
Judges then rated the contestants on their abilities.

The eventual winner was Immo Ortlepp who goes on to compete in the European Championships later this month in Salzburg, Austria.



The story of an environmental scientist in the crosshairs of an herbicide manufacturer

The New Yorker has a fascinating story about a scientist who has spent his career studying the link between the herbicide atrazine and hormonal changes in humans and animals. Tyrone Hayes was one of the first scientists to find evidence of feminization in frogs linked to atrazine and the findings kicked off two decades of conflict between himself and Syngenta, the herbicide's manufacturer. At various points, Hayes felt like he was being watched and that there was attack campaign directed solely at him — both his professional life and his personal one. Turns out, he was right.

Good News! Shivering Is a Form of Exercise

Enjoying the brutal winter weather? It may count as your daily workout. According to the results of a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, being cold accelerates the metabolization of fat.
This is because of the way that brown fat reacts to cold temperatures. Brown fat is adipose tissue that can burn and create heat. When a person exercises, s/he produces the hormone irisin, which converts white fat to brown fat.
Until a few years ago, scientists thought that humans have brown fat only in infancy. As they age, they lose their brown fat and shiver as a substitute means of staying warm. Now we know that adults retain brown fat.
The researchers for this study had test subjects either exercise vigorously, exercise leisurely or lie on a bed in a cold room. They found that the people who exercised vigorously and those that lay shivering in bed produced high levels of irisin. Thus they both metabolized brown fat.

Can Humans Hibernate?

Hibernation is a suppressed metabolic state that falls under the umbrella-term of torpor or dormancy. Some animals exist in this state for the greater part of the year.
But can humans hibernate? Involuntarily? Yes. On purpose? Maybe.

Astronomical News

Mars rover Curiosity has successfully driven over the 1 meter-high dune that stood in its way on the road to scientific discovery. 
Measurements by NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft helped reveal the outer planets of the solar system and then the doorsteps to interstellar space. Now, their data has been used to create a piece of classical music.
Want to feel insignificant? Look at this photograph.
Researchers are trying to create the coldest spot in the universe. Anthony breaks down how creating a really cold place could potentially teach us more about the governing laws of the universe.
Japanese space station astronaut Koichi Wakata photographs a beautiful scene of the moon hanging above the Earth from orbit.
After carrying out a vast survey using data from multiple observatories, astronomers think they've found the 'missing link' for the earliest compact galaxies.

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity Sees 'Evening Star' Earth

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky.
Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity's Mast Camera to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014).

Daily Comic Relief


What does the fox REALLY say?

Thanks to a couple of Norwegian musicians, a lot of people have become obsessed with one question: What does the fox say? It turns out that foxes “say” lots of different things depending on the situation, and if you think the song is weird, just wait ’til you hear the real thing.

Researchers discover rare new species of deep-diving whale

Researchers have identified a new species of mysterious beaked whale based on the study of seven animals stranded on remote tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans over the past 50 years.
Male specimen of Mesoplodon hotaula that washed up on Desroches Island in the Seychelles in 2009, shown with men from the island. It was found by Wayne Thompson (far right in picture) and Lisa Thompson of the Island Conservation Society of the Seychelles
Beaked whales, a widespread but little-known family of toothed whales distantly related to sperm whales, are found in deep ocean waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf throughout the world's oceans. "They are rarely seen at sea due to their elusive habits, long dive capacity and apparent low abundance for some species. Understandably, most people have never heard of them," says international team leader, Dr Merel Dalebout, a visiting research fellow at UNSW.
The study of the new species, Mesoplodon hotaula, is published in the journal Marine Mammal Science.
The first specimen was a female found on a Sri Lankan beach more than 50 years ago. On 26 January 1963, a 4.5 meter-long, blue-grey beaked whale washed up at Ratmalana near Colombo.
The then director of the National Museums of Ceylon, P.E.P (Paulus) Deraniyagala, described it as a new species, and named it Mesoplodon hotaula, after the local Singhala words for 'pointed beak'.
However, two years later, other researchers reclassified this specimen as an existing species, Mesoplodon ginkgodens, named for the tusk-like teeth of the adult males that are shaped like the leaves of a ginkgo tree. "Now it turns out that Deraniyagala was right regarding the uniqueness of the whale he identified.
While it is closely related to the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, it is definitely not the same species," says Dr Dalebout.
The researchers used a combination of DNA analysis and physical characteristics to identify the new species from seven specimens found stranded in Sri Lanka, the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati), Palmyra Atoll in the Northern Line Islands near Hawai'i, the Maldives, and the Seychelles. The new specimens are held by various institutions and groups, including the US Smithsonian National Museum in Washington DC, the Island Conservation Society in the Seychelles, and the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
The genetic analyses were conducted as part of an international collaboration with the US NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center and Oregon State University. The researchers were able to get good quality DNA from tissue samples from only one specimen. For the others, they drilled the bones of the whales in order to analyze short fragments of 'ancient DNA' relying on techniques commonly used with old sub-fossil material from extinct species.
The researchers also studied all other known beaked whale species to confirm the distinctiveness of Deraniyagala's whale, including six specimens of the closely related, gingko-toothed beaked whale. "A number of species in this group are known from only a handful of animals, and we are still finding new ones, so the situation with Deraniyagala's whale is not that unusual," Dr Dalebout says. "For example, the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale, first described in 1963, is only known from about 30 strandings and has never been seen alive at sea with any certainty. It's always incredible to me to realize how little we really do know about life in the oceans.
There's so much out there to discover. " Over the last 10 years or so, two other new beaked whales have come to light; both through research in which Dr Dalebout was involved.
In 2002, Mesoplodon perrini or Perrin's beaked whale, was described from the eastern North Pacific, and in 2003, Mesoplodon traversii, the spade-toothed whale, was described from the Southern Ocean. Both species are known from only about five animals each.
With the re-discovery of Mesoplodon hotaula, there are now 22 recognized species of beaked whales.

New large population of chimpanzees discovered

With great ape populations in fast decline, it is crucial to obtain a global picture of their distribution and abundance, in order to channel and direct conservation activities to where they are most needed. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the University of Amsterdam in The Netherlands conducted hundreds of kilometers of chimpanzee surveys at multiple sites in the Central Uele region of northern Democratic Republic of the Congo and discovered a large, continuous population of Eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii).
In a remote region in the north of the Congo scientists discovered an unknown population of Eastern chimpanzees. Like all natural ape populations poaching is a major threat
The population in the remote Bili-Gangu forest was surveyed in 2005 with line transects and again in 2012, and appears to have remained stable. The total area surveyed, which encompasses about 50,000 square kilometers, is home to several thousands of chimpanzees and, according to the researchers, should be considered a priority site for conservation of the eastern subspecies.
Over the past two decades the African great apes have experienced a steep population decline, up to 90 percent in some regions. This has been a result of expanding agriculture in many African countries, as well as logging and the uncontrolled extraction of natural resources. Furthermore, chimpanzees often fall victim to poachers and are killed by human diseases.
"In order to monitor chimpanzee population trends and to decide where to best allocate conservation resources, it is crucial that we develop the means to accurately map the species' distribution and make precise estimates of abundance", says Hjalmar Kuehl of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
In order to determine the chimpanzee population size in an area the researchers traverse it at regular intervals along parallel line transects. From the existing number of chimpanzee sleeping nests they can then estimate the total number of chimpanzees in this area.
From 2004 to 2012, a research team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Amsterdam conducted chimpanzee surveys in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a region where chimpanzee populations have never previously been systematically assessed. They covered a total of 1,800 kilometers of reconnaissance walks to the north and 500 kilometers to the south of the Uele River as well as 160 kilometers of line transects in the Bili-Gangu Forest, and discovered a population of chimpanzees numbering in the thousands.
Evidence of behavioral continuity shows that the north and south groups may be connected culturally as well. "Our results suggest that a large and widespread population of chimpanzees inhabits the forests and savannas of northern DRC", says Thurston C. Hicks. "This population has remained unnoticed to researchers until now and may represent the largest viable population of this subspecies, but it currently lacks any protection." When they re-walked parts of these transects again in 2012, the researchers found that the number of chimpanzee sleeping nests had not declined since 2005.
While this chimpanzee population has remained stable over the last decade, the researchers have recently found signs that it is falling under increasing threat from the bush meat trade. "Increasing numbers of bush meat carcasses and chimpanzee orphans were found in Bili and nearby areas", says Christophe Boesch, director of the Department of Primatology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "Without proper protection these chimpanzees may succumb to the same factors that are eliminating populations of the species elsewhere".
According to the researchers additional field survey projects will need to be conducted so that future conservation activities can be directed to areas where they are most needed – before it is too late. It is recommended that wildlife guards be installed permanently in the region to avoid an escalation of poaching. "Bili-Gangu's diverse mosaic of closed forest, wooded savannas and open grasslands, with its populations of chimpanzees, elephants, leopard and other large mammals, rare or extirpated elsewhere, represents one of Congo's most important opportunities for the establishment of a new conservation initiative within the Bili-Uere complex", says John Hart of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation.
The results of the chimpanzee survey of the northern DRC have been published by the journal of Biological Conservation.

10 Perfectly Camouflaged Animals

A lot of animal species in the world have developed camouflage that helps them find food and avoid being attacked by a predator. Camouflage varies from species to species, but an animal's environment is often the most important factor in how it appears.

Animal Pictures