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Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

452 Attila the Hun invades Italy.
632 Mohammed, the founder of Islam and unifier of Arabia, dies.
793 The Vikings raid the Northumbrian coast of England.
1861 Tennessee votes to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.
1862 The Army of the Potomac defeats Confederate forces at Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia.
1863 Residents of Vicksburg flee into caves as General Ulysses S. Grant's army begins shelling the town.
1866 Prussia annexes the region of Holstein.
1904 U.S. Marines land in Tangiers, Morocco, to protect U.S. citizen.
1908 King Edward VII of England visits Czar Nicholas II of Russia in an effort to improve relations between the two countries.
1915 William Jennings Bryan quits as Secretary of State under President Wilson.
1953 The Supreme Court forbids segregated lunch counters in Washington, D.C.
1965 President Johnson authorizes commanders in Vietnam to commit U.S. ground forces to combat.
1966 Gemini astronaut Gene Cernan attempts to become the first man to orbit the Earth untethered to a space capsule, but is unable to when he exhausts himself fitting into his rocket pack.
1967 Israel airplanes attack the USS Liberty, a surveillance ship, in the Mediterranean, killing 34 Navy crewmen.
1968 James Earl Ray, the alleged assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., is captured at the London Airport.
1969 President Richard Nixon meets with President Thieu of South Vietnam to tell him 25,000 U.S. troops will pull out by August.
1995 U.S. Air Force pilot Captain Scott O'Grady is rescued by U.S. Marines in Bosnia.

Non Sequitur


How much do you need to earn to be happy?

Most people know in their heart of hearts that making gobs of money can't guarantee true happiness.
The American Dream PollThen again, most would acknowledge that you need to have at least a minimum income for a shot at well-being - if only so you don't have to scrounge for every meal.
In between gobs and a bare minimum, of course, is where most of us live.
And it turns out many Americans don't think they need a CEO paycheck to be happy, or even six figures.
When asked how much would do the trick, just over half of people surveyed in CNNMoney's American Dream poll said it would take less than $100,000.
Nearly a quarter of the people who took the poll, conducted by ORC International, said between $50,000 and $74,999 would work. That calls to mind the results of a Princeton study, which found that emotional well being rose with income, but not much beyond $75,000.
In other words, past a certain income level, your happiness comes from other factors.
Interestingly, some people really don't care about money: 10% of those polled said somewhere north of a buck but south of $30,000 would be their minimum requirement.
And 6% said money can't buy happiness, period.
On the high end of the scale, 23% said they'd need between between $100,000 and $199,999..

What about how much it takes to be "rich?" A six-figure paycheck was a more typical answer when the same adults were asked that question. But even here, their answers didn't approach the stratosphere.
By Andrew Bergmann/CNNMoneyThe most typical answers fell between $100,000 and $199,999. In fact, a full 60% thought incomes below $250,000 would be enough. And only 11% said they'd need to make $1 million or more to consider themselves rich.
The answers given tended to be higher from those who currently make more than $50,000 today.
Of course, making a high (or higher) income doesn't guarantee you'll be rich. It all depends on what you do with your paychecks.
If you're interested in amassing wealth, and wondering when you'll be a millionaire or whether you can retire early, saving and investing a large chunk of your income will certainly help.
Certified financial planner Mari Adam of Boca Raton, Fla., works with a couple - a welder and a nurse - whose joint income is less than $75,000. But, Adam said, "they're very happy with what they have. And the irony is they have more saved than some people who make two or three times more than they do."
Where you live will also play a role in your ability to make the most of what you earn, since cost of living and taxes can vary greatly. That's why a $100,000 paycheck in New York City won't go nearly as far as the same salary in Austin, Texas.
CNNMoney's American Dream Poll comes from telephone interviews with 1,003 adult Americans, conducted by ORC International from May 29 to June 1, 2014. Both landlines and cell phones were included in the sample.

Less Work, More Play

The country that already makes most of us jealous is now looking to shrink the working week to six-hour days.

CIA outwits impersonators by embracing Twitter, Facebook

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/Larry Downing
Apparently the good folks at the Central Intelligence Agency have decided that YOLO. On Friday, the CIA announced it was launching Twitter and Facebook accounts.
And the public seems eager to associate with the nation’s best-known intelligence-gathering entity — the CIA Twitter account had nearly 150,000 followers less than three hours after launching.
The agency’s first tweet:
CIA         @CIA Follow
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.
So, why did the CIA decide it needed a presence on Twitter and Facebook? Well, apparently the impetus was an individual or organization that was attempting to impersonate the agency on social media.
“Earlier this year we filed an impersonation complaint with Twitter,” Dean Boyd, of the agency’s office of public affairs, told Yahoo News. “Someone appeared to be using this handle to violate both CIA and Twitter rules by spreading false information.”
And now that the CIA owns the @CIA handle, Boyd says the agency plans to be active in social media.
“We’ll be able to more directly engage the public and provide information,” he said. “It’s important to share insights, historical artifacts and even unclassified information with the public.”
Boyd said the agency plans to primarily use the accounts to share speeches from CIA Director John Brennan and press releases.
But perhaps of most interest to people online is that Boyd said the agency will also share some of its wealth of declassified data from around the world, seeing the social media outlets as an “educational tool” for the public.
“We want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission,” Brennan said in a statement.
“There will be an incredible amount of artifacts made available that most people wouldn’t otherwise be able to access,” Boyd added.
When asked if the agency expects to be spammed by people, even those with the best of intentions, who want to offer their own information to the CIA, Boyd paused for several seconds before responding. “It’s a valuable tool to provide information to the public and to hear what the public is thinking,” he said.

Wild mushrooms entice smugglers to fire-ravaged California forest

San Francisco Mycological Society President Curt Haney displays some dried morel mushrooms at his home in San Francisco
San Francisco Mycological Society President Curt Haney displays some dried morel mushrooms at his home …
by Mary Papenfuss
Smugglers in northern California’s fire-ravaged Stanislaus National Forest are sneaking out pricey contraband - not marijuana this time, but a favorite delicacy of foodies: the luscious morel mushroom.  
Despite a record “flush,” or bloom, of the tasty, wild fungi, mushroom hunters are banned from the forest because officials believe that scorched, unstable tree trunks, eroded soil and logging operations after last August’s massive Rim Fire have made the area too dangerous.
That means as much as $40 million in a bumper crop of morels — ironically sparked by the same fire that is blocking hunters — is rotting in the woods west of Yosemite Park.
“It’s a shame to let those morels go to waste,” said Curt Haney, president of the San Francisco Mycological Association, who doesn’t believe conditions are any more dangerous than in other, less productive, burn areas where gatherers have access.
As firefighters in Stanislaus battled last summer's 400-square-mile Rim Fire, the third largest in California history, mushroom hunters were “salivating” in anticipation of the morels in the fire’s wake, said Haney.
Soil nutrients from burned and rotting trees are a perfect medium for morels, says U.S. forester Marty Gmelin.
Attempts to cultivate morels are rarely successful, making them a world-class delicacy. The season in northern California is expected to finish around the end of June.
While mushroom hunters may be willing to sign safety waivers for access, the Stanislaus National Forest spokeswoman Rebecca Garcia says it “doesn’t absolve the U.S. Forest Service of liability. We can’t allow the public in risky areas.”
Todd Spanier, founder of King of Mushrooms, the largest commercial distributor of wild mushrooms in the San Francisco Bay Area, believes banning the hunt may have cost the local economy as much as $160 million in lost revenue from gatherers traveling from other states and countries, and in morel sales at food stores and restaurants.
Retail prices for fresh morels range from $25 to $40 per pound, Spanier said.
“It’s a tremendous lost opportunity,” he explained. “We might not see this in the Sierras for another 10 years.”
Visitors can drive in the forest for hours without escaping the ravages of the fire - stands of stripped, blackened trunks rising from barren moonscapes of scorched earth. Other trees are half green, half withered brown.
The Forest Service is currently clearing trees around roads and popular areas. Highway 120 through Stanislaus is open, but the public has access only to specific campgrounds, picnic areas and kayak launch spots.
“They have to stay there; they can’t take a hike; it’s too dangerous,” said Gmelin. Mushroom hunting is not allowed.
Yet, despite the ban, and threat of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail, smugglers are hauling out hundreds of pounds of morels, and enforcement personnel are confiscating contraband daily, said Garcia.
Groveland mushroom hunter Ryan Evans said he knows gatherers who have “pulled out so many morels that they’re sick of picking them, and everyone is serving morels at home. I’ve never seen anything like this.”
To avoid suspicion, Evans said the trick is to hike, not drive, to mushroom areas.
Mushroom hunters are easily spotted in local bars, he noted, because they are dressed head-to-toe in camouflage.
Spanier is currently buying up to a half ton of morels each week, and he suspects half of that is being illegally picked in Stanislaus. Still, he adds, “it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what’s available” in the forest.

Pot-Growing Lights Are Interfering with Local Radio Waves in Colorado

Alyssa Bereznak Alyssa Bereznak
Pot-Growing Lights Are Interfering with Local Radio Waves in Colorado
We all know that a good ol’ cellphone jammer can shut down mobile service for miles. But did you know that the lamps used to grow marijuana indoors can interfere with radio waves?
As The Coloradoan reports, Boulder resident Tom Thompson recently discovered this peculiar reality when he set out to track down what was interrupting his ham radio — which he uses to communicate with friends across the country.
Thompson, a retired electrical engineer, crafted a portable antenna and began roaming the streets to see what made its signal cut out. Eventually he discovered the offenders: the growing collection of high-powered lamps that residents are using to grow the now-legal pot indoors. 
It appears that this is not a novel problem. Though Colorado legalized recreational use of the drug only five months ago, medical marijuana is legal in 22 other states (plus the District of Columbia). As weed laws loosened, amateur botanists took to growing pot indoors, to avoid thieves, insects, and inclement weather.
And growing pot indoors requires high-powered lighting. How high powered? High Times recommends using 1,000-watt high-pressure sodium lamps along with 400-watt metal-halide lamps. Of course, that’s for mass scale production, and would be pretty overkill for a casual home grower, as many experienced commenters have noted below. In small households, you’d usually find just one lamp under 1,000-watts. Some even use incredibly energy efficient LED lights that avoid intense energy drain.
Many of these particular types of lights employ electrical ballast to limit the amount of current they use. Ballast circuits can cause electrical noise: They radiate radio energy. With so many of these lamps in the area, ham radio operators are essentially trying to work amid a human-made thunderstorm.
Add up the wattage of every weed-growing household in America and, well, local radio stations don’t really stand much of a chance. The problem has become so severe that the American Radio Relay League, representing America’s 720,000 licensed ham operators, filed a federal complaint. ARRL spokesman Sean Kutzko told The Coloradoan that the problem states are — surprise! — Colorado and California.
The Federal Communications Commission seems to be less concerned about the interference of grow lights than it is about cellphone jammers. A representative told The Coloradoan that it’s aware of the problems but didn’t say the government organization was going to do anything about it.
In the meantime, Thompson found a very Boulder-esque way to solve his problem: He bought every perpetrator he could track down a $20 cable shield to block the interference.

Random Celebrity Photos


a young Lucille Ball around 1930
A young Lucille Ball around 1930

Let the People Draw the Lines Act

A bill to fight gerrymandering

Let the People Draw the Lines Act, a bill introduced by Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), would appoint panels of independent experts to adjust electoral district boundaries in an attempt to remove the "safe seats" created through gerrymandering, by which electoral districts are tortuously redrawn to include as many voters likely to keep the incumbent in and to exclude everyone else. As Wonkblog explains, the bill is a long-shot, but it's also a shining example of the kind of legislation that fights corruption and creates a climate of real representative democracy. The fact that this bill is wildly unlikely to pass doesn't make it laughable: it makes Congress irredeemable.
Lowenthal's "Let the People Draw the Lines Act" would create independent panels consisting of five Democrats, five repugicans and four Independents. "These would be people who haven't run for office, who aren't paid by either party, and who haven't contributed to either party," Lowenthal says. "That group would follow set criteria for drawing maps, and would hold public hearings throughout the state. The commission would approve the maps, and would not require legislative or governor's approval. If there was a legal challenge it would immediately go to federal district court."

Senate Democrats Begin Their Push To Amend The Constitution To Kill Citizens United

Senate Democrats are moving ahead with their plan to bring a resolution to the floor that amend the Constitution and kill Citizens United.
The resolution (SJ 19) states in part:
“Section 1. To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, Congress shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on–

“(1) the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office;
“(2) the amount of funds that may be spent by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.

“Section 2. To advance the fundamental principle of political equality for all, and to protect the integrity of the legislative and electoral processes, each State shall have power to regulate the raising and spending of money and in-kind equivalents with respect to
State elections…
The resolution’s sponsor Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) is pushing for a vote on the Senate floor before November. The odds of this resolution getting required support of both 2/3 of the House and Senate are virtually nil, but the point isn’t to successfully amend the Constitution right now.
Democrats and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders are trying to call attention to the issue. Proposing a constitutional amendment is a way to get people to discuss the issue of Citizens United, and the right-wing billionaires who are attempting to purchase control of the government.
The repugicans are outraged by the amendment, and they are echoing Mitch McConnell’s cries that it represents the death of the First Amendment, but what they are really concerned about is their main pipeline of campaign funds being cut off.
Outside groups have already spent $100 million in 2014, and the majority of the spending has been done by wingnuts.The repugicans are terrified that the American people will someday ask where all of this money is coming from, and what the are people giving the millions expecting in return?
A more realistic option for getting rid of Citizens United remains a change on the Supreme Court. With two years left in President Obama’s term, a victory by Democrats in 2016 would mean that a Democratic president would likely shift the tilt in the court with future Supreme Court appointments.

Sen. Harry Reid: American politics is currently just a war between billionaires

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last Tuesday said that billionaires controlled American politics because of the lack of campaign finance laws.
"I'm here because of the flood of dark money into our nation's political system poises the greatest threat to our democracy that I have witnessed during my tenure in public service," he said during a Senate Judiciary hearing. "The decisions of the Supreme Court have left the American people with a status quo in which one side's billionaires are pitted against the other side's billionaires."

No End Game

The repugicans refuse to let Barack Obama have any political victories. However, by attacking a United States soldier repugicans have signed their own death warrant.…
Barack Obama, Jani Bergdah, Bob Bergdahl,

We are looking at an unprecedented time in our nation’s history.

With any nation that has a two-party system of government, it is inevitable that the party out of power will feel some kind of animosity toward the party in power. In fact, it is natural. As the party not in power, it is your goal to convince your nation that the party in power is somehow and some way being detrimental to the country through their policy decisions. These decisions could be related to a nation’s safety and security, a nation’s economy, a nation’s immigration system, and a nation’s social issues just to name a few. As a new round of national elections approaches, it is the goal of the party not in power to convince the population at large that they can do better than the current political party in power.

For the repugican cabal in the year 2014, they have taken this idea to levels not seen before at any time in American history.

The level of sheer vitriol spewed by the repugican cabal this past week in the wake of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl’s release from the Taliban has proven that once and for all this is a political cabal that has jumped the shark to levels never seen before in this country. The repugicans have now attacked their last bastion of support in order to attempt to smear President Barack Obama: The military. The institution that was once the pinnacle of repugican policy, one that would be supported no matter what. However, this past week has shown that even the military is fair game for the repugican cabal as long as it can be used to attack Barack Obama and to try and discredit him and his administration.

To attack a military POW and his family is the new low for the repugican cabal and it could very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Americans today are becoming more and more put off by the repugican cabal. They did not agree with their decision to shut down the government in October of 2013. They do not agree with the repugican cabal’s stance on gay marriage. They believe climate change is an issue worth addressing. They believe in a woman’s right to choose. They believe that income inequality is an issue that needs to be addressed. They believe in raising the minimum wage. They believe in common sense gun control legislation.

And they sure as hell believe in respecting the men and women who wear the uniform.

For repugicans, this latest and greatest smear campaign is one that will leave a lasting impression. In their whipped up frenzy to produce a scandal and/or paint the president as someone who lacks foreign policy skill, repugicans have failed to realize the lasting repercussions of smearing an American soldier. Despite the fact that there are concerns that Sergeant Bergdahl may have deserted his post, the fact remains he was an American soldier being held hostage by the Taliban. As proponents of the President have successfully argued, would you rather have an American soldier returned home to possibly face justice or would you rather have an American soldier being dealt justice by the Taliban?

For repugicans, that is a question they do not want to have to answer.

It also hasn’t helped repugicans that President Obama has been absolutely resolute in justifying his actions. For someone the wingnuts like to portray as weak and indecisive, President Obama was extremely forceful and persuasive in his defense of everything he and his administration did to procure the release of Sergeant Bergdahl. His powerful language and his unwavering commitment to returning an American soldier to be reunited with his family has been presidential and has shown those who opposed his decision to be weak and petty. As more and more repugicans flip-flop over their reasons for supporting then condemning the release of Sergeant Bergdahl, President Obama has continued to showcase himself as the only adult in the room by not playing politics with the life of an American soldier.

When all is said and done, we have to ask what do repugicans hope to accomplish with this smear campaign?

In the short run: Exactly that. A smear campaign to score cheap political points. However, just like the government shutdown, the repugican cabal has used its blind hatred of our President to fail to see the forest through the trees. When the dust settles, history will look back on this time period and will absolutely rip apart the repugican cabal for stooping so low as to attack an American soldier and his family. The hypocrisy from the wingnuts has been staggering and people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are being made to look like exactly what they are: Foolish, hypocritical, and unpatriotic. In an effort to jump aboard this smear campaign, the repugican cabal and their screeching heads in the media have gone past the point of no return and have attacked an American serviceman and his family. No matter what the outcome of this event is, there can be no denying the utter disrespect that the repugican cabal has shown to a man in uniform. It is this watershed moment where the repugican cabal’s utter hatred and disdain for our commander-in-chief finally reached a tipping point and led us to a conclusion we never thought possible six years ago:

The repugican cabal has decided it will no longer be the cabal that unanimously supports the American military.

Failed repugican cabal candidate changes name to ‘Cesar Chavez,’ switches parties to run in Hispanic district

fistler A repugican who twice tried — and twice failed — to be elected has changed his name from “Scott Fistler” to “Cesar Chavez,” his affiliation from the repugican cabal to Democrat, and just filed to run for Congress in a heavily Hispanic district.

Much like Dave Wilson, the white anti-LGBT activist in Houston, Texas who used stock images of African-Americans in his campaign literature to deceive low-information voters about his race, Chavez is trying to convince voters in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District that he shares a common cultural and racial heritage with them.
His official campaign website is cluttered with images of excited people cheering for “Chavez” — the majority of which come from news reports about former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Wingnuts Freaks Out With DOJ Announcement to Crackdown on Domestic Terrorists

When Eric Holder announced  that the DOJ is bringing back its committee on Domestic Terrorism, wingnut hypocrisy on terrorism was on full display. Simply put, when white supremacists use violence and terrorize communities to further their political agenda, it’s free speech. Only foreign terrorism counts, except when there’s an opportunity to engage in a little home grown Islamophobia, racism or both.
So when you go after people who are merely good wingnuts who bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors you’re just going after people who disagree with you.  How dare the government go after good faux christian white supremacists?  That’s not going after domestic terrorists, it’s going after anyone who is white and opposes the Obama Administration.
Got it?
Pat Dollard claimed this is about mobilizing to wage war on white men. Alex Jones wasn’t about to miss out on the opportunity to dismiss the reality of domestic terrorism when it sounds so much scarier to say that Obama is going after his political enemies.
Glenn Beck took the opportunity to chime in with: “This regime is now justifiably terrified that attempts to overthrow them and re-establish our constitutional government and the rule of law may occur. A nazi/Stalin regime like rule is about to begin where people will be arrested and detained without evidence but on suspicion alone. Unlike Germany, there are no allies to come to our rescue to stop it.”
The SPLC’s report on the wingnut’s reaction can be read here.
Most of our attention was focused on the wingnut freak out over Bowe Bergdahl’s release because hey, it’s negotiating with “real” terrorists over a POW who studied ballet, his father has a beard and there are rumors that Bowe may have been a deserter.  That’s so much different from say, Cliven Bundy who was just exercising his right to be a deadbeat.  The government actually expects him to pay grazing fees? Don’t you know, in that case, the government was engaging in an act of terrorism. *facepalm*
In the sociopathic minds of the lunatic fringe, all is fair in the name of stopping certain forms of terrorism.  If it means profiling muslims or people who “look” muslim that is okay because it’s about keeping America and Americans safe. War crimes are justifiable as is a white male repugican President’s Unitary executive doctrine.
Their reaction is very different when the terrorists in question are government hating white supremacists. Back in 2009, repugican sociopaths stomped their feet to condemn a DHS report that identified white supremacists as the greatest domestic threat to national security.
Folding to repugican temper tantrums, then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano withdrew the report.  She also apologized to those who were offended by the fact that wingnut terrorists would find returning vets who possess combat skills and experience attractive and would try to recruit them.
The reality is the report was right.  The attack on the Sikh Temple in 2012 was by a Neo-Nazi who was recruited while he was in the army. Then there’s the case of the wingnut radicals from Georgia who organized a lunatic fringe militia unit while they were in the Army.  Eventually they murdered to hide their planned acts of terrorism.
The repugicans continued to stomp their feet until the DHS shutdown the Domestic terrorism unit.
As a result, domestic terrorists have had free reign with nods and winks from many of the same people who smell impeachment because Bergdahl begins with the same letter as Benghazi.
In saner times, there would have been consensus around Eric Holder’s announcement to re-establish the committee to investigate domestic terrorism.  Actually, the DHS’s domestic terrorism unit would never have been shut down.  But we’re living in times when “patriots” call a president’s refusal to leave a soldier behind an impeachable offense.  The reality is we can blame repugicans for defending and pandering to home grown terrorists but we can only blame ourselves if we back down when repugicans use the language of terror to shut down efforts to enforce the law against home grown terrorists.



Largest Artificial Reef Underway Off Yucatan

A huge artificial reef made up of 1,000 concrete structures is being built off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Midwest’s Giant Hailstones

Midwestern thunderstorms this week brought baseball-sized hail that tore holes in roofs and totaled cars.

Forest Fires in Secretive North Korea Visible From Space

A satellite observes widespread forest fires in North Korea, but it's just one problem related to deforestation in the totalitarian nation. 

NASA warned plan to send humans to Mars may fail

by Jean-Louis Santini

The US space agency NASA has been warned that its mission to send humans to Mars will fail unless its revamps its methods and draws up a clear, well-planned strategy to conquer the red planetThe US space agency NASA has been warned that its mission to send humans to Mars will fail unless its revamps its methods and draws up a clear, well-planned strategy to conquer the red planet.
The National Research Council said in a Congressional-mandated report that Washington should use "stepping stones" to achieve its goal of a manned flight to Mars.
This could involve exploring an asteroid, building a moon outpost or building more international cooperation with countries like China.
"To continue on the present course... is to invite failure, disillusionment and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best," said the NRC's 286-page report.
NASA welcomed the report's findings, saying it was consistent with the agency's Mars plan approved by Congress and President Barack Obama's administration.
It promised to "thoroughly review the report and all of its recommendations" but insisted that it was worthwhile to set a goal of walking on Mars to set the bar high for other, parallel projects.
"The horizon goal for human space exploration is Mars. All long-range space programs, by all potential partners, for human space exploration converge on this goal," it said in a statement.
"A sustainable program of human deep space exploration must have an ultimate, 'horizon' goal that provides a long-term focus that is less likely to be disrupted by major technological failures and accidents along the way and the vagaries of the political process and economic scene."
To date the world's space agencies have only managed to send unmanned robotic rovers to Mars, the latest being NASA's $2.5 billion Curiosity rover, which touched down in August 2012.
The US space agency's older Opportunity rover has been in operation for more than 10 years.
But advancing human exploration into the outer reaches of space will require decades of work, hundreds of billions of dollars of funding and "significant risk to human life," according to the NRC report.
- US-China space cooperation? -
That, the report said, makes it impossible for the United States to go to Mars within the current US space budget.
Instead, it called for increased cooperation with other nations, including with space rival China, as well as funding from the private sector and other sources.
Current federal law bars NASA from participating in bilateral programs with China, which the National Research Council warned "reduces substantially the potential international capability that might be pooled to reach Mars."
"Given the rapid development of China's capabilities in space, it is in the best interests of the United States to be open to future international partnerships."
The report's authors said that returning to the moon would foster better international cooperation given the interest about the destination in other countries, and such a mission would help develop technology to land and eventually live on Mars.
The Obama administration is opposed to another moon landing, saying such a mission would be too costly. It wants instead to focus on capturing an asteroid and placing it into the Moon's orbit for future exploration.
The NRC highlighted three potential pathways to Mars, two of which include a return to the moon. The third is along the lines of the Obama administration's asteroid mission.
"It's probably the frankest assessment that there is no public demand for space exploration, that we really don't have a goal clearly stated and that the program that is being carried out won't get us anywhere," said expert John Logsdon.
However, the former director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute said: "I don't think the report will change anything."

Big 'Beast' Asteroid Flies by Earth Today

What Would Happen if It Hit Us?
Big 'Beast' Asteroid Flies by Earth Sunday: What Would Happen if It Hit Us?
The orbit of near-Earth asteroid 2014 HQ124, first discovered on April 23, 2014, is shown in this NASA … Humanity should be thankful "The Beast" doesn't have Earth in its crosshairs.
Today (June 8), the near-Earth asteroid 2014 HQ124 — which some observers have nicknamed "The Beast" — will give the planet a relatively close shave, coming within 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) at its closest approach, or about 3.25 times the distance from Earth to the moon.
There is no chance of an impact on this pass, researchers stress. But at 1,100 feet (335 meters) wide, 2014 HQ124 could do some serious damage if it slammed into us. [Potentially Dangerous Asteroids (Images)]
"This one would definitely be catastrophic if it hit the Earth," asteroid impact expert Mark Boslough, of Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, said Thursday (June 5) during a webcast produced by the online Slooh community observatory that previewed 2014 HQ124's upcoming flyby.
"If it hit a city, it would definitely wipe out an entire metropolitan area," Boslough added.
Asteroid 2014 HQ124 is currently traveling about 31,000 mph (50,000 km/h) relative to Earth, Boslough said. But if the asteroid were on a collision course, our planet's gravity would boost its speed up to about 40,000 mph (64,000 km/h) at the time of impact.
If 2014 HQ124 is one solid piece of rock — its composition isn't known for certain — the strike would unleash an explosion with a yield of about 2,000 megatons, Boslough added. For comparison, the atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II packed about 15 kilotons. (One megaton is equivalent to 1,000 kilotons.)
"You'd end up with a crater about 3 miles across," Boslough added. "An event like that would break windows over 100 kilometers away."
Asteroid 2014 HQ124 was discovered on April 23, just six weeks ago — not nearly enough time to deflect the asteroid if it were on a collision course with Earth. But that doesn't mean the asteroid would kill millions of people if it struck New York City or Tokyo.
"Once it's within radar distance, the precision is remarkably good on its position and speed," Boslough said. "So the folks at JPL [NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory] would be able to predict its impact point to within the nearest kilometer and its time to within the nearest second."

There would thus probably be plenty of time to organize an effective evacuation campaign if 2014 HQ124 were headed straight for us. But that isn't always always the case, as some (smaller) space rocks slam into the planet without ever being detected.
In February 2013, for example, a 65-foot-wide (20 m) asteroid detonated without warning in the sky above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, shattering thousands of windows and injuring more than 1,200 people. And there are many more objects out there like the Chelyabinsk asteroid — small space rocks cruising unnamed through the dark depths of space.
Scientists estimates that they've found about 95 percent of the potential "civilization-enders" out there — mountain-size asteroids at least 0.6 miles (1 km) across. But there are probably more than 1 million near-Earth asteroids at least 100 feet (30 m) wide, and less than 1 percent of them have been discovered.

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The first three-dimensionally preserved eggs of ancient winged reptiles that lived more than 100 million years ago have been unearthed in China.
Five intact eggs were found, along with dozens or more adult fossils, of a new type of pterosaur, a group of prehistoric winged reptiles that dominated the skies during the time of dinosaurs. These creatures included some of the largest flying animals that ever existed.
"We found a lot of pterosaur bones which belong to different individuals in the sites, with five eggs," said study researcher Xiaolin Wang, a paleontologist at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropologyat the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
The fossil record of pterosaurs is lacking, and before now, only four individual flattened pterosaur eggs had been discovered by scientists.
The researchers found the fossils of the new genus and species, Hamipterus tianshanensis, in an area first excavated in 2005 in the Turpan-Hami Basin, located south of the Tian Shan Mountains in Xinjiang, in northwestern China. Thousands of bones may be hidden in the area where the eggs and skulls of adult male and female pterosaurs were found, the researchers said.
The newly uncovered pterosaurs likely perished in a storm about 120 million years ago, during the Early Cretaceous period, Wang said.
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Wang and his team found that the eggs were soft and pliable, with a thin, hard outer shell and a thick, soft inner membrane, similar to the eggs of some snakes. The pterosaurs probably buried their eggs in the sandy shore of an ancient lake to prevent them from getting dried out, the researchers said. 
The researchers also uncovered many adult pterosaur fossils nearby. They examined 40 male and female adult specimens, and found differences in the size, shape and robustness of the animals' head crests.
Like modern bats and birds, pterosaurs were flying vertebrates, but their wings were different. Birds have fused palms and asymmetric feathers, whereas bats and pterosaurs have membranes supported by fingers, Wang told Live Science. Bat wings are also attached to four fingers, while pterosaur wings are only attached to the fourth finger, he said.
The newly found cluster of fossils suggests these pterosaurs lived together in large social groups, the researchers said. The creatures likely belonged to gregarious colonies, because the fossils had not been transported far from where they originated, Wang said.
Finding the eggs near so many adult pterosaurs could indicate that a nest site may be nearby. The vulnerability of the pterosaur eggs may also explain why so few have survived in the fossil record, the researchers said.
Wang and his colleagues reported their findings in the journal Current Biology.

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