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

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Non Sequitur


The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1391 Castilian sailors in Barcelona, Spain set fire to a Jewish ghetto, killing 100 people and setting off four days of violence against Jews.
1763 Colonel Henry Bouquet decisively defeats the Indians at the Battle of Bushy Run in Pennsylvania during Pontiac's rebellion.
1762 Russia, Prussia and Austria sign a treaty agreeing on the partition of Poland.
1815 A peace treaty with Tripoli–which follows treaties with Algeria and Tunis–brings an end to the Barbary Wars.
1858 The first transatlantic cable is completed.
1861 Congress adopts the nation's first income tax to finance the Civil War.
1864 The Union Navy captures Mobile Bay in Alabama.
1892 Harriet Tubman receives a pension from Congress for her work as a nurse, spy and scout during the Civil War.
1914 The British Expeditionary Force mobilizes for World War I.
1914 The first electric traffic signal lights are installed in Cleveland, Ohio.
1915 The Austro-German Army takes Warsaw, in present-day Poland, on the Eastern Front.
1916 The British navy defeats the Ottomans at the naval battle off Port Said, Egypt.
1921 Mustapha Kemal is appointed virtual ruler of the Ottoman Empire.
1941 The German army completes taking 410,000 Russian prisoners in Uman and Smolensk pockets in the Soviet Union.
1951 The United Nations Command suspends armistice talks with the North Koreans when armed troops are spotted in neutral areas.
1962 Actress Marilyn Monroe dies under mysterious circumstances.
1964 President Lyndon Johnson begins bombing North Vietnam in retaliation for Gulf of Tonkin incident and asks Congress to go to war against North Vietnam.
1974 President Richard Nixon admits he ordered a cover-up for political as well as national security reasons.
1981 President Ronald Reagan fires 11,500 striking air traffic controllers.
1992 Four police officers indicted on civil rights charges in the beating of Rodney King.
1995 Croatian forces capture the city of Knin, a Serb stronghold, during Operation Storm.
1997 Mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ramzi Yousef, goes on trial.
2012 A gunman in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, opens fire in a Sikh temple, killing six before committing suicide.

Greatest Terrorism Threat In America Not Al Qaeda, It’s Wingnut Sovereign Citizens

Radical wingnut groups who refuse to recognize the authority of the federal government, like those who flocked to Bundy Ranch and now parade around the U.S.-Mexico border, represent the clearest threat to their communities, even more so than Islamic terrorists or white supremacist groups.
That’s the takeaway from a new landmark study by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START). The group surveyed hundreds of law enforcement officials and over 170 agencies across the United States in an effort to understand how the people tasked with stopping terrorism view the threats on the ground.
What the team discovered was that the notion of Islamic extremists plotting to blow buildings was far less likely than homegrown so-called “Sovereign Citizens” who stockpile weapons and hold a seething resentment towards the federal government. Consequently, 86 percent of those interviewed agreed that this movement posed a “serious terrorist threat,” the highest of any group inquired about.
Compare that to just 8 years earlier in a similar questionnaire found that nearly every agency was still thinking about Islamic extremism.
What’s changed in the time between 2007 and now? The most obvious thing is the nation got its first African American president with the election of Barack Obama. Fueled by racism, wingnut fear mongering and the threats of “socialism,” the sovereign citizen movement has seen its membership explode in the last few years. It’s no coincident that two of the biggest sovereign citizen groups The Three Percenters and The Oath keepers were both founded around the time Obama was first elected.
As the Anti-Defamation League explains:
Formed in March 2009 and led by Stewart Rhodes, a Nevada lawyer, the Oath Keepers encourage members of the military and law enforcement to pledge not to follow certain hypothetical “orders” from the federal government. These “orders,” including one “to put American citizens in detention camps,” and another “to disarm the American people,” echo longstanding conspiracy theories embraced by anti-government extremists, who claim that the U.S. government is creating a police state. The Oath Keepers try to appeal to military and law enforcement personnel by reminding them that they swore an oath to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and suggesting that now is the time to live up to that oath by resisting an allegedly tyrannical government.
The Three Percenters, formed in late 2008, are a loosely organized movement centered around an obscure, and not particularly accurate, Revolutionary War “statistic” that claimed that only 3% of the American population during the Revolutionary War participated as combatants in the war.  The group asserts that they are a modern counterpart to that mythical 3% of American Revolutionary-era patriots and also represent the three percent of the population of American gun owners “who will not disarm.”
The idea that Obama (who many view as a black, islamic foreigner) is coming to take their guns and their rights resonates with a certain type of paranoid person. Situations like Cliven Bundy’s cattle ranch standoff only reinforce their sense that it’s them against the government. It’s no surprise then that law enforcement officers are extremely worried about what kind of violent, drastic plans these people are cooking up to fight their perceived oppression.
This isn’t just an intellectual exercise, either. In June, a husband and wife killed three people in a shooting rampage based in part around the idea that they were kicking off an anti-government “revolution.”
Forbes gives a chilling account of their final moments:
On June 8, 2014, Jerad Dwain Miller, 31, and his wife Amanda Woodruff Miller, 22, entered a Las Vegas pizzeria and without any provocation or warning, shot and killed two police officers sitting in a booth eating lunch.  The pair dragged the officers to the floor, took their weapons and ammunition, and draped a yellow flag over one of the bodies.  They placed a swastika-stamped manifesto on top of the flag, and pinned a note on the other officer’s body that read, “This is the start of the revolution.”
The couple continued their spree in a nearby Wal-Mart.  Jerad wore military-style clothing and body armor and he yelled to the Wal-Mart shoppers, “Tell the police the revolution has begun.”  To emphasize his announcement, he fired a round into the ceiling, while Amanda shot and killed a brave bystander who tried to stop them.  They engaged the police in a shootout for roughly fifteen minutes while hiding in a shopping aisle in the back of the store.  Amanda aimed her weapon at her husband, but he had already been hit by a bullet from a police rifle, so she turned the gun on herself and pulled the trigger while the police watched the couple through a security camera.
Just weeks before, the two had been seen at Bundy’s ranch parading around the premises with weapons daring police officers to try to take them.
It’s examples like that which may explain why sovereign citizens are one of the few potential terror groups that didn’t see a decline in their perceived threat. As their numbers swell and their anger rises, the odds of a major act of terror occurring would seem to rise.

Human Rights Watch/ACLU: U.S. surveillance harming journalism, law, democracy

The practice of journalism and of law in the United States is being dramatically, negatively harmed by large-scale surveillance by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. That's the finding of a new report from Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, who conclude "[s]urveillance is undermining media freedom and the right to counsel, and ultimately obstructing the American people's ability to hold their government to account."Researchers conducted exhaustive interviews with senior government officials, attorneys, and journalists to complete the 102-page report, "With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale US Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy."
    "People are increasingly scared to talk about anything," observed one Pulitzer Prize winner, including unclassified matters that are of legitimate public concern. […]
    This situation has a direct effect on the public's ability to obtain important information about government activities, and on the ability of the media to serve as a check on government, Human Rights Watch and the ACLU found.
    Journalists expressed concern that, rather than being treated as essential checks on government and partners in ensuring a healthy democratic debate, they may be viewed as suspect for doing their jobs. One prominent journalist summed up what many seemed to be feeling: "I don't want the government to force me to act like a spy. I'm not a spy; I'm a journalist." […]

9 secrets your debt collector doesn’t want you to know

by Allison Martin
Owing on balances you can’t afford is bad enough, so the last thing you need is a debt collector hounding you about it. And don’t think for one minute that they’ll cut you any slack. These folks are in it to win it, and they want to make as much money as they can.
Unfortunately, many take unfair and illegal advantage of debtors because many debtors lack basic knowledge about their rights. To avoid falling for collectors’ traps, you must understand the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Federal Trade Commission explains some of your rights here.
Here are nine little-understood facts your debt collector doesn’t want you to know:
1. You are not obligated to communicate with collection agencies
Tired of receiving the phone calls and letters from pushy collection representatives urging you to pay or else? You can stop those companies dead in their tracks with a cease-and-desist letter.
But understand that they may pursue legal action if you do so. And the agency has the right to notify you via mail of the termination of collection efforts or their intention to turn to the court system for assistance, if applicable.
When a debt collector initially calls, don’t ignore it, and don’t ignore any summons to appear in court about the debt. In that first call or in a follow-up letter, the collector must provide details about the money you supposedly owe.
After that, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says:
If you dispute a debt (or part of a debt) in writing within 30 days of when you receive the required information from the debt collector, the debt collector cannot call or contact you until after your dispute has been investigated and the debt collector has provided the verification of the debt in writing to you.
You can also request that the creditor give you the name and address of the original creditor. If you make that request in writing within 30 days, the debt collector has to stop all debt collection activities until the debt collector provides you that information.
If the debt collector reaches out to you before the investigation is complete or starts to harass you about the outstanding balance, they may be in violation of the FDCPA. You can file a complaint with the attorney general’s office in your state, the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Or you may be able to get free legal help.
2. You don’t have to disclose personal information
There is no law mandating the disclosure of identifying information, such as your Social Security number and your date of birth, to debt collectors. They may insist that it’s required to verify the debt, but it’s not.
3. Paying off an account in collections won’t wipe it from your credit reports
That account in collections will remain on your credit reports for seven years, FICO says, even if you pay it in full.
However, when you negotiate with the collections agency to settle the debt, either by full or partial payment, you can ask that they have the debt removed from your credit reports. If they agree, make sure you have that in writing from them before you pay it off. (See: “Ask Stacy: Can You Help Me Clean Up my Credit History?“)
4. Your assets are not at risk, yet
During the collection process, the representatives are allowed to bug you, with limits, in an effort to collect on the delinquent account. But they cannot garnish your wages unless a judgment is issued in court.
That doesn’t apply to all debt. For instance, the federal government does not need a court order to garnish your wages for student loan debt.
The rule doesn’t apply when you fall behind on your mortgage or car loan. In some states, no court action is required to foreclose on a house. And the repo man doesn’t need a court order to take your car.
Take a look at Nolo’s article to get an idea of which of your assets may be at risk.
5. You may not have to fork over a big chunk of cash immediately
The debt collector wants the largest possible amount it can get from you to beef up its earnings. But you may be able to set up a payment plan that fits within your budget.
Just remember that the collector is not legally required to agree to a payment plan. But you can ask.
6. You may be able to negotiate the best deal at the end of the month
It turns out, you may be able to score the best deal with debt collectors toward the end of the month. Fred Williams, a former collection agent and author of “Fight Back Against Unfair Debt Collection Practices,” told Daily Finance:
I think most agencies go on a calendar month schedule. The end of the month is when collectors’ bonuses are determined. In addition to the increased threats made because they were under pressure to make their quotas, that’s also the time to get a deal because they’re under pressure to bring in the money quickly. They want a settlement, cash in short order. The end of the month is a time to close the deal.
7. You may be able to work with the original creditor
In some instances, the original creditor will be willing to work with you to collect the amount owed. However, if it has already sold the account to a third-party debt collector and charged it off in the books, you’re left with only one option. And that’s working with the debt collectors.
8. Your delinquent debts are nobody’s business
Unless you have spouse or co-signer, or an attorney working on your behalf, debt collectors must keep their lips sealed about your outstanding balances. And if they reach out to others in an effort to locate you, all contact with those people must cease once you are located.
Consumer lawyer Sukhman Dhami told Credit.com:
We call these “third-party disclosures,” a violation of Section 1692c(b) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and they are exceptionally common, particularly when the debt collector leaves a message on a public answering machine. These public answering machine violations are called “Foti” violations after the landmark case Foti v. NCO Financial Systems.
9. You may be off the hook
Debt collectors probably won’t tell you this, but once the statute of limitations on debt in your state has lapsed, you’re off the hook, although that likely won’t stop them from trying to collect the money. Atlanta bankruptcy lawyer Jonathan Ginsburg told Credit.com:
“In most states, the statute of limitations runs four to six years from the date you last made a payment. And that’s the catch. In some states, a voluntary payment on a stale debt can revive the debt and make it legally collectible. Stale (or zombie) debt is big business,” he adds.
Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson added this advice:
Keep in mind that after the statute of limitations expires, unless the debt has been charged off or discharged in bankruptcy, you still owe the money. In other words, the statute of limitations doesn’t wipe out the debt, it just reduces the legal remedies available to collect it.
So if you find yourself in this situation, the smart move is to call a consumer lawyer (you can find one at the National Association of Consumer Advocates’ website) and ask the attorney what to do.
Another word of advice when dealing with debt collectors: Never fess up until you have confirmed the validity of the debt and the authenticity of the collection agency.

CEOs and Good Business

Succeeding at standardized tests means owning the books with the answers in them

Standardized tests aren't tests of basic knowledge. They're branded products produced by textbook companies, and getting the right answers depends on whether you studied from the right books.

Daily Comic Relief


Unintended consequences

Unintended consequences: More high school math, science linked to more dropouts

As U.S. high schools beef up math and science requirements […]



Small bag of sugar could get neighbors evicted

A woman responsible for what she calls a gesture of kindness is in a lot of trouble at the Houston, Texas, apartment complex where she lives. "I went and got some sugar and poured it in this bag," said Faye as she described how she describing giving sugar to a neighbor who asked to borrow some. "He took the sugar and went to his home," she said.
But the problem stems from what someone thought they observed that day. The person told the officials at the Mansions at Hastings Green that they had witnessed an exchange of illegal drugs. Faye found out a few days later when she received a letter accusing her and a male complaining of taking part in a drug transaction. "And I couldn't believe it," she said. "It was outrageous. I didn't understand it." Neither did Terry Brown, the neighbor who received the very same letter.
"I came home and I didn't have any soda or anything in my refrigerator," said Brown. "So I came over here to borrow some sugar so I could make me some tea." He insisted there was nothing but sugar in the bag. Brown and Faye have no plans to sign the letter even though it threatens to force them to move out if they don't. "That's fine," said Faye. "I'm not going to sign a lie. I'm not going to sign something I know is not truthful."

Officials with housing say removing someone requires a higher burden of proof, such as a police report or photographic evidence. No one at the apartment complex would talk due to privacy concerns. But the people at the center of this sugary dilemma have plenty to say. "It's really sad," said Brown. "It's sad you can't give people sugar or salt or baking soda because the color is white," added Faye. Both Faye and Brown say they have never used or sold drugs.

A 90-year-old lady angry with construction workers held SWAT team at bay with shotgun for hours

A 90-year-old great-grandmother armed with a 12 gauge shotgun held SWAT officers at bay in Channelview, Texas, for hours on Thursday. The officers were responding to a 911 call from construction workers next door who told them she threatened them with the gun. Deputies say Eleouise Adcock was angry the workers were excavating dirt, and loading it onto a barge behind her house.
Ms. Adcock has lived on the bank of the San Jacinto River for more than four decades, but in recent years a marine towing company has moved in on either side of her house. “They've bought properties there along the waterfront, and taken down three to four houses and made room for their equipment and stuff.” neighbour Sharlene Hathorn said. Another neighbor said Adcock is the last holdout, refusing to sell her property, and irritated by the company's repeated attempts to buy it. “She don't like whats going on over there. She don't want to sell out to these people here.”
Construction workers called 911 at around 10am saying Adcock was threatening them with the shotgun. “They told us she has pointed weapons at them before.” Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Gilliland said. “They didn’t tell anyone about it the first few times. This time they felt she was much more angry about them being here working and excavating the dirt.” When deputies arrived, she refused to put the gun down as she sat on her porch, holding her weapon in her lap. The standoff lasted for about four hours, before Adcock began to relax a little.

A sergeant engaged her in conversation while the SWAT team deployed around her house. “She talked for a little while, she came and went back into the home, came back outside and at that point she put the shotgun down,’ Gilliland said. SWAT officers rushed the porch, first grabbing the gun, and then her. Officers appeared to handle Adcock with great care, gently placing their hands on her back as they escorted her to waiting paramedics. “She was taken into custody as gently as we could,” Gilliland said. Because of her age, she was put on a stretcher and taken to the hospital as a precaution. Deputies say she will get a psychological evaluation. No charges are expected.

Burglars broke into 21 vegetable shops to steal only tomatoes, leaving cash behind

With the price of tomatoes soaring in India, they are now given bigger importance than gold or silver for burglars. At Sabzi Mandi, near Kotwali police station in Dausa, Rajasthan, burglars decamped with close to 75 kg of tomatoes from various vegetables shops.
As the vegetable vendors went to open their shops on Thursday morning at 6 am they were taken aback when they saw the iron kiosks had been broken into. Though stunned by the burglary, they were amused when they realized that the burglars had taken only tomatoes. As many as 21 shops had broken locks.
"As a matter of practice, the shopkeepers leave coins in their cash boxes but they were not touched. Roughly 75 kg of tomatoes were stolen. We have registered a complaint after the retailers complained and are investigating the matter," said an investigative officer of the Kotwali police station. The market is just a few meters away from Kotwali police station.
"We had unloaded the fresh vegetables including tomatoes and onions on Wednesday night and after locking the kiosks and shops, we left at one in the morning on Thursday. The burglars left all other vegetables other than tomatoes," said Radheyshyam, one of the victims of the burglary. Initially, when the shopkeepers approached the nearby Kotwali police station to complain about the matter, policemen also laughed at the development.

10 Amazing Places To Visit In China That Aren't The Great Wall Or The Terracotta Army

If you are visiting China as a tourist then the likelihood is that at some point during your stay you will find yourself at the Great Wall. Yet in this vast country there are hundreds of other places that could crown a visit for one reason or another.
They may be less well known than the Great Wall or indeed the Terracotta Army but they linger in the minds and hearts of all who visit them. Here are just ten of those amazing places you could visit while in China.

Guess Who's Been Waiting In The Lobby For A Hundred Million Years?

Sometimes the quiet ones surprise us. Take moss - those fuzzy green pads you see on the sides of old trees, or hanging onto rocks. Who notices moss? It's just there, doing whatever it does - so slowly, so terribly slowly, that nobody bothers to think about it.
Moss creeps up tree bark, sits quietly on crevasses in rocks. Moss is an old, old life form, one of the earliest plants to attach to land around 450 million years ago. It's very patient, very modest - but when you look closely, you discover it has super powers.

Asteroid Attacks

Asteroid attacks significantly altered ancient Earth

New research shows that more than four billion years ago, […]

Man accused of assaulting girlfriend and her pet raccoon

A man from Uintah County, Utah, has been charged in connection with an incident where investigators say he threw his girlfriend and her pet raccoon against a wall. David Augilar Tapia, 41, was charged on Friday with assault, a third-degree felony, and animal cruelty, a class B misdemeanor.
A woman called police on July 14 to report that her boyfriend had assaulted her inside the home they shared in Ballard. The woman told officers she and Tapia had been living together for about two months. They began arguing after Tapia called her by his ex-wife's name, she said.
The argument escalated, and Tapia grabbed the woman by the arms and threw her against the wall, according to charging documents. "(The woman's) pet raccoon hissed at David, so David grabbed the raccoon by the collar and threw (the animal) into the back room, hitting the wall," the charges state.
The woman was able to leave the residence and get a ride to the emergency room from her ex-husband. She told officers she had suffered at least two broken ribs, according to the charges, which do not include any information about whether the raccoon was injured. Tapia was arrested on July 21 and booked into the Uintah County Jail. His first court appearance is set for Aug. 11.

Panda diagnosed as suffering from stress due to square dancing grannies

A panda living at China's Hongshan Zoo has been diagnosed as suffering from stress after the area outside his cage was taken over by a group of square dancing grannies. Elderly ladies wanting to keep fit and taking up square dancing in any public space have become a mass phenomena in China, with many conflicts between the dancers and local residents who complain that sometimes the practice sessions go on into the early hours of the morning.
For their part the pensioners say during the day it is always too busy, and always too hot as well. They prefer instead to dance in the evening and sleep during the day. But that schedule has not gone down well with the panda at the zoo in the city of Nanjing in eastern China's Jiangsu Province. The giant panda's keeper Guang Tien, 43, said: "As soon as the music starts and the women begin dancing, Chaoyang begins pacing back and forth and is clearly nervous and distressed.
"Just like people, there are some animals that can handle noise, and other animals that get stressed out and anxious. Pandas are one of the animals that really can't handle noise, and after trying to work out why he seems so anxious and of his food lately, we discovered that the cause was the dancers." Zoo director Shen Zhijun said that they had called in experts from the Sichuan-based Ya'an Giant Panda Reserve Center, who discovered that the panda's heartbeat and breathing increased noticeably when Chaoyang heard the women arrived.
He said: "The women also sing very loudly and very badly. Even I can hear them from a long distance away when I am inside with the windows closed. I've tried to persuade them to lower their voices but they refused." Shen said that not just the pandas but also other animals, noticeably the hornbills and giraffes, are also suffering ever since the singing and dancing square dancers have taken up position. He added: "Visitors are complaining, because when the dancers start up the animals go back inside their cages and refused to come out."

Animal Pictures