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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Daily Drift

Future Past Perfect Tense

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Today in History

1517 The famous Flemish composer Heinrich Issac dies.
1799 Napoleon Bonaparte captures Jaffa, Palestine.
1804 Congress orders the removal of Indians east of the Mississippi River to Louisiana.
1804 The territory of New Orleans is organized in the Louisiana Purchase.
1827 German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven dies in Vienna. He had been deaf for the later part of his life, but said on his death bed "I shall hear in heaven."
1832 Famed western artist George Catlin begins his voyage up the Missouri River aboard the American Fur Company steamship Yellowstone.
1885 Eastman Film Co. manufactures the first commercial motion picture film.
1913 The Balkan allies take Adrianople.
1918 On the Western Front, the Germans take the French towns Noyon, Roye and Lihons.
1938 Herman Goering warns all Jews to leave Austria.
1942 The Germans begin sending Jews to Auschwitz in Poland.
1950 Senator Joe McCarthy names Owen Lattimore, an ex-State Department adviser, as a Soviet spy.
1951 The United States Air Force flag design is approved.
1953 Eisenhower offers increased aid to the French fighting in Indochina.
1953 Dr. Jonas Salk announces a new vaccine against polio.
1954 The United States sets off an H-bomb blast in the Marshall Islands, the second in four weeks.
1961 John F. Kennedy meets with British Premier Macmillan in Washington to discuss increased Communist involvement in Laos.
1969 The Soviet weather Satellite Meteor 1 is launched.
1969 Writer John Kennedy Toole commits suicide at the age of 32. His mother helps get his first and only novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, published. It goes on to win the 1981 Pulitzer Prize.
1979 The Camp David treaty is signed between Israel and Egypt.
1982 Ground is broken in Washington D.C. for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
1989 The first free elections take place in the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin is elected.
1992 An Indianapolis court finds heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson guilty of rape.

Non Sequitur


50 Books You’ll Never Read The Same Way Again

1. Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita on notecards while traveling on butterfly-collecting trips in the U.S. 2. Vladimir’s wife Vera prevented him from burning the unfinished drafts of Lolita.
3. 50 Shades of Grey is Britain’s best-selling book of all time.
4. Where’s Waldo was originally banned in America for including an illustration of a topless woman.
5. Dan Brown was a pop singer and songwriter before writing The Da Vinci Code.
6. Margaret and H.A. Rey built bicycles from spare parts to escape from a Nazi invasion in Paris while carrying the manuscript for Curious George.
7. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick was originally published without the epilogue because of a printer failure.
8. Of Mice and Men was originally titled Something that Happened.
9. Steinbeck’s puppy also ate the original manuscript to his classic novel.
10. Alexandre Dumas hired a ghostwriter to help write The Three Musketeers.
11. Franz Kafka asked his friend to burn all of his work. The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika were published against Kafka’s will.
12. Peter Pan allegedly killed the Lost Boys when they got too old.
13. The royalties from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf go directly to the Bavarian government.
14. The Harry Potter books are the most banned books in America.
15. Alice in Wonderland was originally banned in China for having talking animals.
16. Aladdin was originally Chinese in The Arabian Nights.
17. Lisa from Saved by the Bell (Lark Voorhies) wrote a book filled with grammatical errors.
18. Teeny Ted from Turnip Town is the world’s smallest book.
19. Noah Webster spent 25 years writing his first dictionary.
20. Catch-22 was originally titled Catch-18.
21. The Great Gatsby was almost titled Gold-Hatted Gatsby and Under the Red, White and Blue.
22. Around the World in 80 Days was likely inspired by the life of George Francis Train but he remains uncredited.
23. Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed in film and television more than any human character in literature.
24. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is the first book written with a typewriter.
25. This Side of Paradise includes the earliest recorded use of these words: wicked, cool, daiquiri, and T-shirt.
26. Gulliver’s Travels described the size and orbit speed of the moons circling Mars 100 years before astronomers.
27. J.R.R. Tolkien typed the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy with two fingers.
28. The Harvard University library has four law books bound in human skin.
29. Charlotte’s Web was originally banned in Kansas.
30. Winnie-the-Pooh was also banned in the U.S., Turkey, and the U.K.
31. The Bay Psalm Book is the first book written in America, and it’s the most expensive book in the world.
32. Annie Allen is the first book written by an African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize.
33. Dorothy Straight was named the youngest author ever when she wrote How the World Began at the age of 4.
34. Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in six weeks.
35. Pride and Prejudice was originally titled First Impressions.
36. Robinson Crusoe is considered the first English novel.
37. This The Prophet Mohamed is the world’s largest book.
38. Snooki is a New York Times best-selling author.
39. Jessica Alba is also on the list.
40. And so is the rapper Common.
41. Justin Bieber is also on the best-sellers list.
42. Nathanael West’s 1939 novel The Day of the Locust features a character named Homer Simpson.
43. Superman was originally a bald megalomaniac.
44. William Shakespeare is the first person to record the words: amazement, bedroom, advertising, blanket, bump, gloomy, puking, gossip, drugged, champion, accused, addiction.
45. The Joker was supposed to be killed off in the No. 1 issue of Batman.
46. Venom was supposed to be a woman.
47. Barbara Cartland finished a novel every two weeks.
48. The Tale of Genji was the first novel ever written, circa 1007.
49. Gabriel García Márquez won’t allow One Hundred Years of Solitude to become a film.
50. The first handwritten Bible (since the invention of the printing press) cost $8 million and took 12 years to complete.

Presidential Preservation

How Obama’s Latest Executive Action Enraged House repugicans

This past week, President Obama designated his 10th national monument for preservation. Unsurprisingly, House repugicans had an issue with this.…
obama conservation 
If President Barack Obama is for it, the repugican cabal is against it, and it doesn’t matter what it is.
In another obvious example of blind repugican hatred for our president, House repugicans this week proposed House Resolution 1459, which would limit the amount of times a sitting president could establish new national parks and monuments. The resolution seeks to amend the Antiquities Act of 1906, which was established by then president Teddy Roosevelt, who is seen as the face of the American conservation movement of the early 1900s. The resolution is a direct response to President Obama from repugican  Rob Bishop, who believes that the president overstepped his executive authority last week when he expanded the California Coast National Monument to protect more than 1,600 acres off the Mendocino Coast. Bishop released a press release in support of the bill which read:

“The President’s use of the Antiquities Act to expand the Coastal California National Monument is disappointing to say the least. It is also purely political and undermines sincere efforts to reach consensus on questions of conservation. The House passed legislation to incorporate these public lands into the national monument with bipartisan support- both at the committee level and on the House floor. The fact that this bill hasn’t yet been considered in the Senate is not an oversight, it was intentional. The legislation was held up in the Senate so the President could usurp the congressional process. In other words, the House was punked by the President. There is no immediate urgency to make this a national monument. Had the Senate done its job, the bill would have been considered and passed under regular order. There was broad support for the measure. The President seems to view the legislative process as relevant only when it is politically convenient. Unfortunately, that is not how our founding fathers intended for the federal government to operate. I am troubled by the way President Obama and Harry Reid misuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. This only hurts our country as we move forward tackling some of the biggest issues facing the American people.”
Leave it to modern-day repugicans to spit on the legacy of Teddy Roosevelt in order to spite Barack Obama.
Designating national monuments is nothing new to sitting presidents. In his State of the Union address, President Obama stated, “I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.” The 112th Congress was the first one since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public lands as, all of a sudden, preserving our wilderness became a political issue. In fact, it wasn’t until early March of this year that Congress decided to protect Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes, marking the first time in Barack Obama’s presidency that Congress actually decided to do its job and protect our national treasures.
President Obama was not about to sit around and wait a few more years for Congress to do its job. So he acted by bypassing Congress exactly as he said he would do.
The Mendocino Coast became the 10th national park or monument designated by President Obama. Compare that with 19 national parks and monuments designated by President Bill Clinton and 5 national parks and monuments designated by the shrub. Not only is it not an abuse of power that Bishop claims it to be, but, in fact, it is something that the American people highly support. In November of 2013, the Center for American Progress found that by a margin of greater than 3-1, the American people believe that a president should be creating new national parks and monuments. Compare that with a February 2014 survey from Colorado College that found that 69% of western voters would be more likely to support a political candidate who wanted to enhance national park protections.
So if it follows in the tradition of a great repugican president such as Teddy Roosevelt, is not an abuse of power, is supported by the American people, and is a winning campaign issue why are Congressional repugicans against it?
Simple: They are against it because Barack Obama is for it.
The vote is scheduled for next week, exactly one year after President Obama designated five national monuments including one of Harriet Tubman and one for Charles Young of the famous Buffalo Soldiers, a regiment of African American soldiers who fought during the Civil War. It’s as if Congressional repugicans aren’t even trying to hide their overt racism anymore. This vote, much like the 50+ votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, is done purely for show. House repugicans know the resolution will more than likely get defeated in the Senate and they undoubtedly know that President Obama would veto it, should it somehow get that far. And yet, they have again chosen to take something so common as designating national parks and monuments, turned it into a divisive issue, and used it to attack our president all while wasting tax payer dollars.
History does not look kindly (to say the least) upon the repugican cabal of this era. The cabal offers nothing in the way of substantive policy ideas. The “Party of No” might seem like a good short-term political strategy, but it is going to ultimately cause the demise of the repugican cabal. Just look at what they are against: Affordable health care, reasonable background checks for weapons, unemployment insurance, services for veterans, national park conservation, equal pay for women, equal treatment for LGBTs in the workplace, immigration reform, voting rights, and the list goes on and on. By repeatedly submitting these asinine resolutions on the floor of the House of Representatives such as House Resolution 1459, repugicans are literally documenting their own demise simply to try and score cheap political points against our sitting President. The American people continue to see what repugicans are against and have yet to hear what they are actually for. As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”
For repugicans running in an election year, that is an especially risky strategy.

While repugicans Try To Send Women Back to The Kitchen, Obama Fights For Equal Pay

President Obama took and even tougher stand for equal pay, while, at the same time, repugicans are doing their best to send women back to the kitchen.
During his weekly address, the president said:
Today, women make up about half of our workforce, and more than half of our college graduates. More women are now their families’ main breadwinner than ever before.
But in a lot of ways, our economy hasn’t caught up to this new reality yet. On average, a woman still earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man does. And too many women face outdated workplace policies that hold them back – which in turn holds back our families and our entire economy.

A woman deserves to earn equal pay for equal work, and paid leave that lets you take a day off to care for a sick child or parent. Congress needs to act on these priorities.
And when women hold most lower-wage jobs in America, Congress needs to raise the minimum wage. Because no woman who works full-time should ever have to raise her children in poverty.
Now, the good news is that in the year since I first called on Congress to raise the minimum wage, six states have passed laws to raise theirs. More states, counties, and cities are working to raise their minimum wages as we speak. Small businesses like St. Louis-based Pi Pizzeria, are raising their wages too – not out of charity, but because it’s good for business. And by the way, Pi makes a really good pizza. And in this year of action, I signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least ten dollars and ten cents an hour.
But if we’re truly going to reward the hard work of every American, Congress needs to join the rest of the country and pass a bill that would lift the federal minimum wage to ten dollars and ten cents an hour. This wouldn’t just raise wages for minimum wage workers – its effects would lift wages for nearly 28 million Americans across this country. It will give businesses more customers with more money to spend, and grow the economy for everybody. So call up your Member of Congress and let them know it’s time for “ten-ten.” It’s time to give America a raise.
A true opportunity agenda is one that works for working women. Because when women succeed, America succeeds. We do better when everyone participates, and when everyone who works hard has the chance to get ahead. That’s what opportunity means – and it’s why I’ll keep fighting to restore it.

While the president is fighting for equal pay, this week alone we have seen a fundraiser for Mitch McConnell say that wives have an obligation to have sex with their husbands, and Texas repugican candidate for governor Greg Abbott's vow to veto the state’s equal pay bill, while he is paying women in his office even less than the 77 cents on the dollar national average. Speaker of the House John Boehner refuses to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to the House floor for a vote, and repugicans at every level of government are making denying women equal pay a staple of their agenda.
President Obama pointed out at an event in Florida that soon women will make up the majority of the nation’s highly educated workforce. The repugicans have responded to this march of progress by trying to force women back into the kitchen. By charting this course, repugicans are making the choice easy for women. Only one political party is fighting for women to earn equal pay for equal work. The repugican stance is that the country was better off when women were at home cooking dinner and raising the babies. That’s not going to fly in the 21st Century.
What the repugican cabal refuses to comprehend is that the 1950s were better for the old white men who are the repugican cabal’s base, but it was an awful time for everyone else. The repugicans are trying to go all Stone Age and drag women by the hair back to the cave, while President Obama and the Democrats understand that women deserve to be equal partners in the opportunity culture of our economy.
Women deserve better, and they will hopefully flex their political muscles by voting against the Leave It To Beaver repugicans this November.

Another debunked Obamacare horror story: repugican attack ad cites phony job loss numbers

This ad will sound awfully familiar to you, if you've been following the saga of debunked Obamacare ads. This isn't from the Koch brothers, for once, at least not directly. It's from the repugican governors asshats. The RGA says this about the ad: "Gregg Hughes, a South Carolina small business owner whose company ObamaCare has cost jobs.".
Hughes doesn't actually say in the ad how Obamacare has cost jobs for his company. He says that he received notice of a rate increase in insurance premiums. And we all know that no insurance company ever raised rates before Obamacare became law, right?
But the egregiously false claim that the rga makes is the one showing in that screen shot in the video above: "34,000 jobs could be lost" because of the law. If this is sounding vaguely familiar to you, it's because we've debunked that claim already, previously over Medicaid expansion. But it's the same lie.
    At least, that's according to a study that the South Carolina Hospital Association conducted. It concluded that expansion "would generate approximately $11.2 billion between 2014 and 2020," and "South Carolina's total annual economic impact of the increase in federal funding due to the Medicaid expansion will be approximately $1.5 billion in labor income, $3.3 billion in state economic activity while generating nearly 44,000 new jobs in the state by 2020." The net gain for the state until 2020, the study says: "a surplus of approximately $9 million."
For those keeping score, that's one unsubstantiated claim about the impact of Obamacare on one small business and an already debunked claim about the impact of the law for the whole state of South Carolina.

The 'wealthy poor' replace the middle class

by Rick Newman
Source: Thinkstock
One phenomenon of the modern economy is affluence that doesn’t feel like it. You work, earn and spend quite a lot, yet it seems you’re getting nowhere. Some new economic analysis helps quantify just how many people might be characterized as the “wealthy poor”— and it’s a surprisingly large chunk of the overall population. A new paper by economists Greg Kaplan and Justin Weidner of Princeton University, and Giovanni Violante of New York University, finds that about 70 million Americans may live in families they describe as “wealthy hand-to-mouth” households. These are families that own assets such as homes, cars, retirement plans and even boats, yet still spend virtually every dollar of their regular income because it’s necessary to pay all the bills they’ve racked up.
Many breadwinners may feel they have no choice but to live from paycheck to paycheck, especially if they have kids headed to college and other bills that come with the duties of raising a family. Plus, monthly expenses such as mortgage payments and tuition are a form of investing, since it’s reasonable to expect some return from owning real estate or financing education (though not as much, perhaps, as we once thought).
The vulnerable 'rich'
Yet spending every dollar of regular income — even if it’s a high income — can leave affluent families as vulnerable to an economic shock as those who have no wealth at all. The problem comes when a major portion of net worth is tied up in illiquid assets such as homes, cars and other such items that can’t be translated easily into cash when necessary.
Many families learned this unhappy lesson during the 2007–2009 recession, when layoffs slammed white- and blue-collar workers alike, home values plunged and banks shuttered their lending windows. The foreclosure crisis that followed drew attention to many low-income buyers who never should have been approved for mortgages and lost homes they couldn’t possibly afford. But many high-income families suffered, too, because they had little cash cushion when the economic shock hit. From 2011 to 2013, for instance, more than 65,000 homes valued at above $500,000 went through foreclosure, according to RealtyTrac.
The latest research found that about one-third of U.S. households qualify as “hand-to-mouth” arrangements, defined as consumers who spend all their available resources in every pay period, with nothing left over. Of those, only about one-third are poor households, with no assets at all. The other two-thirds spend all their income but also have a sizable amount of illiquid wealth, with median net worth of about $50,000 for a 40-year-old who fits the profile, and $100,000 for a 60-year-old. That may not qualify as "wealthy," exactly, but it does reflect valuable assets that can't be readily used to pay bills. And some hand-to-mouth consumers have a net worth well above the median.
Those figures date to 2010 but were generally consistent for 20 years prior to that. If the same proportions hold today, that would add up to about 105 million people (including kids and seniors) who live in a hand-to-mouth household, with about 37 million being poor, with no assets, and the other 70 million having considerable assets. The other 213 million Americans live with more of a cash cushion, whether they own hard assets or not.
The issue is important because it affects stimulus programs that, no matter how controversial, have become standard policy at the onset of a recession. Most governments in the developed world, and even in up-and-coming nations such as China, try to put more money in consumers’ pockets once it’s clear the economy is contracting. The trick is giving it to people most likely to spend it, because that’s what stimulates the economy. If people get a stimulus windfall and put it in the bank, that doesn’t stimulate anything, at least not until they withdraw the money and use it to purchase something.
Giving to the "needy wealthy"
The assumption up until now has been that targeting stimulus money at the poor generates the most bang for the buck, since they’re most inclined to spend all of it and save none of it. The new findings, however, show that targeting money at wealthy hand-to-mouth households could help the broader economy just as much — maybe even more, since wealthier households are committed to higher spending levels they have to sustain. This doesn’t account for the political problem of trying to target taxpayer funds at people with relatively high living standards who might be straining to pay off a BMW or a new in-ground pool.
The findings also highlight the extent to which Americans over-commit themselves to homes, cars and other middle-class entitlements. Americans aren’t alone in their consumptivitis — other nations such as Canada, Germany and the U.K. have similar portions of wealthy hand-to-mouth households. Still, living paycheck to paycheck can become an instant hardship if that paycheck shrinks or disappears altogether — and that fancy home suddenly seems more like a noose than a palace.

If Hobby Lobby Wins, It Will Be Even Worse For Birth Control Access Than You Think

by Tara Culp-Ressler   
Next week, the Supreme Court will take up the issue of contraceptive coverage, hearing arguments in a closely-watched lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. Two for-profit companies - the craft chain Hobby Lobby and the furniture-making company Conestoga Wood Specialties - are fighting for their right to withhold insurance coverage for certain types of contraceptive methods based on their religious beliefs. But there's actually much more at stake than prescription drug coverage.
The two plaintiffs in these cases object not just to covering specific types of birth control, but also to providing counseling about that birth control. In Hobby Lobby's lawsuit, for instance, the company states that it does not want to follow the Obamacare provision that forces employers to "provide health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, as well as related education and counseling."
The media coverage surrounding the upcoming challenges has mainly focused on the first part of that argument, as reproductive rights advocates point out that women need access to affordable contraceptive methods regardless of their boss' personal beliefs about birth control. However, the second part threatens to have incredibly far-reaching ramifications for women and doctors in this country, too. Essentially, if Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are successful, they'll win the right to refuse to extend coverage for doctor's visits that include discussion about certain forms of contraception, like IUDs or the morning after pill.
"It's frankly a rather radical idea - the idea that someone can say that if your visit to your doctor is going to receive payment from your insurance company, then your doctor can't talk to you about certain subjects," Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, explained in an interview with ThinkProgress. "Counseling and education about contraception has been a basic part of a medical visit forever, even before the methods themselves were covered. Before we had prescription drug coverage, we certainly had coverage for the visit to your doctor, and there were never any limitations about what you could talk to your doctor about."
"It's an incredible devaluing of the insurance that you as an employee work for," Sonfield, who recently published a policy review of the central arguments in the upcoming Supreme Court challenges, pointed out. "This is telling you that you can't use your compensation - your own benefits that you have earned - in a way that your boss objects to. And that is a frightening road for us to be going down, as a society."
And birth control isn't the only type of medical care that some Americans object to on religious grounds. There are some groups who are opposed to modern health services like vaccinations, blood transfusions, or mental health care. If these upcoming legal challenges are successful, that could open the door for employers to restrict their workers' coverage for doctors' visits that include discussion of those topics, too. It's a slippery slope.

Creationists demand equal airtime on Neil deGrasse Tyson’s ‘Cosmos’ to provide ‘balance’

From the "Idiots proving how stupid they really are" Department:
by Travis Gettys
Neil deGrasse Tyson via Flickr user John Roling 
Creationists held a pity party for themselves because “Cosmos” isn’t being fair and balanced to their beliefs.
“Creationists aren’t even on the radar screen for them, they wouldn’t even consider us plausible at all,” said Danny Falkner, of Answers In Genesis, which has previously complained about the show.
Falkner appeared Thursday on “The Janet Mefford Show” to complain the Fox television series and its host, Neil deGrasse Tyson, had marginalized those with dissenting views on accepted scientific truths, reported Right Wing Watch.
“I don’t recall seeing any interviews with people – that may yet come – but it’s based upon the narration from the host and then various types of little video clips of various things, cartoons and things like that,” Falkner said.
Mefferd said the show should at least offer viewers a false compromise.
“Boy, but when you have so many scientists who simply do not accept Darwinian evolution, it seems to me that that might be something to throw in there, you know, the old, ‘some scientists say this, others disagree and think this,’ but that’s not even allowed,” she said.
Tyson recently said science reporting should not be balanced with nonscientific claims, so that seems unlikely he would offer that sort of fallacious argument on his own show.
“You don’t talk about the spherical Earth with NASA, and then say let’s give equal time to the flat Earthers,” Tyson told CNN. “Plus, science is not there for you to cherry pick.”
Falkner complained that Tyson showed life arose from simple organic compounds without mentioning that some believe that’s not possible.
“I was struck in the first episode where he talked about science and how, you know, all ideas are discussed, you know, everything is up for discussion – it’s all on the table – and I thought to myself, ‘No, consideration of special creation is definitely not open for discussion, it would seem,’” Falkner said.

A Short History of the Satanic Panic

In the 1980s, a serious moral panic gripped the United States -or at least a substantial number of people in it. It seems like conspiracy paranoia now, but at the time, many were convinced that satanic cults were kidnapping, ritually torturing, and sexually abusing children on a large-scale. Parents were already primed to believe the worse, after hearing about drug abuse and seeing their children participating in a culture they didn’t understand. Along with heavy metal music, the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons was part of that culture. So when college D&D player James Dallas Egbert III disappeared, it was easy to blame the game instead of his depression, drug use, and conflicted sexuality.

[Private detective] Dear, along with the Egbert family, wanted to keep Dallas’s drug problems and sexuality out of the news, but Dear recognized the high profile case as a fantastic opportunity for self-promotion. Never shy of an opportunity to talk to the press, Dear promoted his D&D theory, and the media ate it up. So did their audiences. The D&D theory became gospel and rapidly assumed a place in urban legend. Sadly, Egbert remained suicidal, and in 1980 he died as the result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Others got into the act, and before you know it, bookstores and TV talk shows were full of “experts” and ex-cult members telling tales of satanic ritual abuse and the vast network of occultists behind it. Another phenomenon, “repressed memory,” came into use, to explain why adults suddenly remembered incredible tales of abuse from their childhood. The ball kept rolling downhill until everyone who worked or lived around children was a suspect. It culminated in the sensational McMartin Preschool Trial, the longest and most expensive trial in American history. Matt Staggs has written a condensed history of the moral panic of the 1980s, with profiles of some of the key players who saw the satanic ritual scare as a chance to grab headlines and make some money.

Random Photos

Thinking Cap

Caffeine-fueled cram sessions are routine occurrences on any college campus. […]

12 Chinese Travel Tips for Visiting America

Continuing the series of tips gleaned from guides for people traveling to America, mental_floss has posted travel tips from Chinese travel guides. It’s fun to look at ourselves through the eyes of other cultures, because we are not as “normal” as we wish to believe.
Since differences in social class are not taken seriously in the US, Americans have no hereditary family title. Instead, the Americans sometimes have occupational title. This title is different from the family title, because it is on its own, "earned" rather than handed down by the ancestors. Their career titles are most commonly that of a judge, senior government officials, military officers, doctors, professors and religious leaders.
Well, just because social classes aren’t taken as seriously as in other countries doesn’t mean they aren’t there. But more importantly, don’t throw a party wearing pajamas.
Guests cannot come early, it is rude. You may be late 5-10 minutes. If you are the host, you cannot wear pajamas at night to receive guests. You are not free to fondle furnishings or decorations and you cannot inquire about prices.
Read more in the full post. There are also tips for travelers from France, Russia, and Japan.

The Most Ridiculous Lawsuits

Looking for a laugh or two?
Well then check out this infographic about the most ridiculous lawsuits.

Man charged with felony for speaking for longer than three minutes at township board meeting

A man in Saginaw County, Michigan is facing a felony charge after being arrested at a township board meeting on March 4, for going over his allotted speaking time. Mark A. Adams, 59, has been charged with a felony resisting and obstructing police and a disturbing the peace misdemeanor.
Adams was pulled from the podium by several officers and arrested after exceeding the public comment time limit of three minutes, addressing several issues he has with his local government. Township supervisor Augie Tausend asked Adams to summarize his comments after four minutes and to sit down several times.

Tausend says it’s not the first time they’ve had issues with Adams, saying they’ve asked him to sit down at meetings before, but this time was different. Adams says the arrest was pre-planned. Tausend denies that, saying two new officers were at the meeting being sworn in and the others were there to watch.

Though public comment guidelines are clearly laid out and posted on the building where the meeting was held, Adams says his rights were violated. “Freedom of speech doesn’t have a time limitation, there’s no time limitation when you talk about our constitutional freedoms,” he said.

Drunk woman drove to McDonald's after staff refused to serve her unless she was in a car

A woman drove drunk to a McDonald’s restaurant after staff refused to serve her because she wasn’t in a car. Wendy Simpson had walked to the branch in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, after a night out drinking. But when staff wouldn’t serve her unless she used the 24 hour drive-through, she took the ‘foolish decision’ to come back in her car.
Simpson, of Almondbury, admitted that she drove while almost three times the legal drink-drive limit. Kirklees magistrates were told that police stopped the 25-year-old’s Vauxhall Corsa on March 8. At just after 3.30am the officers spotted her driving erratically. They signaled at her to stop after she swerved and hit the curb. After initially stopping, Simpson drove off again before stopping at a red light.
Alex Bozman, prosecuting, said: “When police spoke with her they detected alcohol on her breath and she was acting in a manner which suggested that alcohol has been consumed.” Breath tests revealed that she had 100 micrograms of alcohol in 100 milliliters of breath, just under three times the legal limit of 35 micrograms. Arfaq Nabi, mitigating, said that earlier that evening Simpson had gone to a works party. She took a taxi there and back to the home of her boyfriend’s parents.
While she was waiting for him to return she decided to go and get something to eat, Mrs Nabi explained. He said: “She walked to McDonald’s but staff refused to serve her. This was because the counter was closed and she couldn’t use the 24 hour drive-through unless she was in a vehicle. Foolishly she goes home, gets into her vehicle and drives to McDonald’s. “On her way back she was stopped by police.” Magistrates heard that Simpson, a service manager for a large company, had not been in court before the incident. They banned her from driving for 24 months. Simpson was also sentenced to a one year community order.



Dust devil and brush fire combined to form 'Firenado'

A 150 acre, prescribed burn near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, in the Denver Metropolitan Area in Commerce City, Colorado, grew out of control when a massive dust devil swept fire and tumble weeds in the firefighters direction. The prescribed burn happened at around noon on Friday, March 14.

Video captures the moment the dust devil began and shows hundreds of tumble weeds catching fire before several firefighters run for safety. From a safe distance, the filming resumes. The unexpected dust devil ended up burning an extra acre of land but no property was damaged and no one was injured.

Thomas Rogers, a firefighter with South Metro Fire & Rescue, is the man behind the camera. In the seven years he has spent fighting flames he has never seen anything quite like this. “It was definitely interesting to see. I’m a fire buff as well as a weather buff and here I had a weather event and a fire event coming together and it was just really amazing to watch,” Rogers said. “There’s nothing you can do except get out of the way and wait for it to calm down.”

What began completely in their control ended up serving as a reminder that fires can be incredible unpredictable. “Fire can change at any time,” explains Rogers, “even on a prescribed burn, where we’re in very controlled conditions, the unexpected can happen.” Rogers wants to remind others about how dangerous even controlled burns can be, saying these things can happen any time of the year, not just fire season. “Any time there’s heating, unstable atmosphere, high winds, the fire dangers can be very high with winds probably being the biggest component.”

Signal Trees

These were plentiful where I was raised, you couldn't walk more than a mile or so without seeing one. Many thought that this tradition started during the Trail of Tears to mark where a Cherokee had died, but this tradition is much older than that. True, during the Trail of Tears, when someone died the Cherokee would bend a young tree (most often the oak because of it's flexibility without breaking) to mark where someone died because they were often forced to keep moving without giving the person a good burial. These signal trees were used long before then though as well. Cherokee scouts would use them to mark their path, to remind them where they found water, certain plants, or even a good hunting ground. Often one Cherokee could recognize another Cherokee's signal tree by the shape of the tree. How do you make a signal tree? The young oak saplings bend easily, you simply place a heavy rock on it, tie a string to it and stake it to the ground, lay a log upon it, or tie another sapling down across it and the tree will continue to grow but will have this kind of shape. When in the woods, especially when you are in a region that the Cherokee lived.... if you see a tree like this then recognize it for more than just being an oddly shaped tree. It is either a burial ground or a place of good hunting or collecting of plants....either way, acknowledge that you are walking in ancient footsteps when walking near that tree. Please whatever you do, don't carve your initials on it or cut it down....that would be such an act of disrespect. But an old tradition in the mountains where I am from, you can take a branch from another tree and tie it loosely around a signal tree and if that knot stays tied it means that you and the one you love are meant to
be. But, if the knot comes loose, it means that the love was not meant to be. Cherokee tied lover knots in signal trees often because these trees are very spiritual.

Loblolly pine's immense genome conquered

The massive genome sequence of the loblolly pine—the most commercially important tree species in the United States and the source of most American paper products—has been completed by a nationwide research team, led by a UC Davis scientist.
The loblolly pine -- whose genome is the largest ever sequenced -- is the most commercially important tree species in the United States and the source of most American paper products
The genome sequence will help scientists breed improved varieties of the loblolly pine, which also is being developed as a feedstock for biofuel. The newly sequenced genome also provides a better understanding of the evolution and diversity of plants.
"It's a huge genome. But the challenge isn't just collecting all the sequence data. The problem is assembling that sequence into order," said David Neale, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California, Davis, who led the loblolly pine genome project and is an author on the Genetics and Genome Biology articles.
To tackle the enormous size of the loblolly pine's genome, which until recently has been an obstacle to sequencing efforts, the research team used a new method that can speed up genome assembly by compressing the raw sequence data 100-fold.
Modern genome sequencing methods make it relatively easy to read the individual "letters" in DNA, but only in short fragments. In the case of the loblolly, 16 billion separate fragments had to be fit back together—a computational puzzle called genome assembly.
"We were able to assemble the human genome, but that was close to the limit of our ability; seven times bigger was just too much," said Steven Salzberg, professor of medicine and biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University, one of the directors of the loblolly genome assembly team and an author on the papers.
The key to the solution was using a new method, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland, which pre-processes the sequence data, eliminates redundancies and yields 100 times less sequence data. This approach, tested for the first time in this study, allowed the team to assemble a much more complete genome sequence than the draft assemblies of two other conifer species reported last year.
"The size of the pieces of consecutive sequence that we assembled are orders of magnitude larger than what's been previously published," said Neale, noting that the loblolly now provides a high-quality "reference" genome that considerably speeds along future conifer genome projects.
The loblolly genome research was conducted in an open-access manner, benefiting the research community even before the genome sequencing effort was completed and published. Data have been freely available throughout the project, with three public releases starting in June 2012.
The new sequencing confirmed that 82 percent of the loblolly genome is made up of invasive DNA elements and other DNA fragments that copied themselves around the genome. The genome sequencing also revealed the location of genes that may be involved in fighting off pathogens, which will help scientists understand more about disease resistance in pines.
For example, researchers from the Forest Service Southern Institute for Forest Genetics identified an important candidate gene for resistance to fusiform rust, the most damaging disease of southern pines. A molecular understanding of genetic resistance is a valuable tool for forest managers as they select trees that will develop into healthy stands.
"The fusiform rust mapping that our scientists did as part of this project provides significant information for land managers, since more than 500 million loblolly pine seedlings with these resistance genes are planted every year," said Dana Nelson, the institute's project leader. "The group selected loblolly pine for sequencing because of the relatively long history of genetic research from the institute and others on the loblolly's complex traits such as disease resistance," she said.
Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which funded the research, noted that the loblolly pine plays an important role in American forestry.
"Now that we've unlocked its genetic secrets, loblolly pine will take on even greater importance as we look for new sources of biomass to drive our nation's bio-economy, and ways to increase carbon sequestration and mitigate climate change," Ramaswamy said.
The loblolly genome project was led by a UC Davis team, and the assembly stages were led by Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland. Other collaborating institutions include Indiana University, Bloomington; Texas A&M University; Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute; and Washington State University.

The Stunning Fields Of Pink Moss Flowers At The Base Of Mount Fuji

The Fuji Shibazakura Festival is the world's premier destination for seeing intricate fields of pink moss flowers blooming together in the way that only 12-year old girls can dream. The festival takes place near the scenic Fuji Five Lakes area, which sees more than 9 million visitors pass through annually.
And if the sight of over 800,000 pink flowers entering their period of greatest beauty, freshness, and vigor doesn't captivate you, the fields also offer an exquisite view of Mount Fuji on clear days.

Daily Comic Relief


Exotic Animals Drawn from Descriptions

Centuries ago, before photography or mass transit, travelers would come back to Europe from Africa or Asia with tales of strange animals. Artists depicted these animals, but rarely were the travelers and the artists the same person. Medieval artists, many who could barely render a cat or chicken realistically, tried their best to draw these exotic species only from what they heard. The results weren’t accurate, but who knew that at the time? The picture of an elephant above is from the 13th century, and looks more like Snufflupagus than any real elephant. See a collection of such images, including a crocodile with long chicken legs and a panther with colorful stripes, at io9. 

A Last Goodbye

The Ambulance Wish Foundation is a Dutch organization that helps bedridden terminal patients take trips they would not otherwise be able to make. Patients ask to visit their grandchildren, see museums, old homes or workplaces, or places with good memories attached to them. The organization is getting worldwide attention for this photograph of a patient’s visit to the zoo.
The man, Mario (patient last name withheld), is a 54-year-old volunteer who worked with the Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands for years. He has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor and had one wish: To say goodbye to the animals he had cared for.
The animals, especially this giraffe, were glad to see Mario, too. You can see more photographs and read more stories from the Ambulance Wish Foundation at their Facebook page.

This 4-Year-Old's Best Friend Is A Bulldog

4-year-old Harper doesn't know that she's an only child, because in her mind she's got a sister named Lola- who just happens to be a bulldog.
The two are inseparable-playing dress up together, having tea parties and even hanging out on the bed reading a book, hanging out like sisters and friends rather than pet and owner.
Their amazing, and ridiculously adorable, relationship is documented by their mother, photographer Rebecca Leimbach, who has been sharing photos of the cutest siblings ever via her Facebook page.
Rebecca says it all started as an accident:
Harper came out of her playroom one day and said 'Ta-da!' I turned around and Lola was wearing a tutu, necklaces and a crown, and she didn't seem to mind. I died laughing and grabbed my camera to take a picture... the rest is history.

Dogs Are More Likely to Yawn after Hearing the Yawn of a Familiar Human Than of an Unfamiliar Human

We know that yawning is contagious for dogs--even across species. If you yawn, a dog near you has a greater likelihood to do the same. Karine Silva's research made that determination. But her work discovered something else as well: dogs are more likely to respond to the yawn of a familiar human than a stranger. Several other primate species do, too. Which leads some researchers to speculate that yawning is a social activity that denotes empathy. Jason G. Goldman writes for Scientific American:
Indeed, humans with developmental and personality disorders that feature social deficits also show less susceptibility to the yawn contagion. In addition, contagious yawning is elicited more strongly by familiar individuals than by strangers. That’s true not just for humans, but for chimpanzees, bonobos, and gelada baboons. While contagious yawning hasn’t been studied in rats, mice, elephants, and birds, there is a link in those animals between familiarity and empathy-related behaviors as well.
Two other researchers, M.W. Campbell and F.B.M. de Waal, recently published their research on contagious yawning among chimpanzees and gelada baboons. They found that increased familiarity led to increased contagious yawning. And if you can increase empathy, you could work toward building a healthier society:
A principle in psychology called the “mere exposure effect” holds that exposure itself is enough to facilitate increased liking for a previously unfamiliar individual. Could that also facilitate empathy? It’s an important question to ask, because despite the fact that human culture is immeasurably more complex than chimpanzee society, the stakes are high. If nothing else, this research points out that “flexible social engagement was probably already present in the most recent common ancestor with chimpanzees,” Campbell and de Waal say.
They conclude on a hopeful note. “This flexibility opens a door to examining how we can modify who chimpanzees will form an empathy-based connection with and how strongly. Understanding this flexibility in social engagement may help explain the proximate mechanisms that allow for switching between cooperation and competition within chimpanzee and human societies.”

MRSA on the farm

From farm animals to family pets, the deadly bacteria may […]

Jeffrey the camel loves drinking beer

Jeffrey the camel is originally from Russia and is thought to be the UK's only pet camel, he was brought over to the UK from Holland seven years ago.

His owner Simon Grant from Easingwold, North Yorkshire, explained how he came up with the idea of feeding the camel beer.

"I was talking to a camel expert and he said they just love beer, so I thought well why not try it. He loves it, he can't get enough of it he drinks more than me!"

Jeffrey is an 11-foot Bactrian camel who species originates from the steppes of Central Asia, he can survive temperatures of around -25 degrees Celsius and live for up to 60 years.

Animal Pictures