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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Daily Drift

So, true ...!
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Today in History

392 Theodosius of Rome passes legislation prohibiting all pagan worship in the empire.
1226 Louis IX succeeds Louis VIII as king of France.
1576 The 17 provinces of the Netherlands form a federation to maintain peace.
1620 The King of Bohemia is defeated at the Battle of Prague.
1685 Fredrick William of Brandenburg issues the Edict of Potsdam, offering Huguenots refuge.
1793 The Louvre opens in Paris. But wasn't it already a Palace and it merely opens to the people?
1861 Charles Wilkes seizes Confederate commissioners John Slidell and James M. Mason from the British ship Trent.
1864 President Abraham Lincoln is re-elected in the first wartime election in the United States.
1887 Doc Holliday, who fought on the side of the Earp brothers during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral 6 years earlier, dies of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
1889 Montana becomes the 41st state of the Union.
1900 Theodore Dresier's first novel Sister Carrie is published by Doubleday, but is recalled from stores shortly due to public sentiment.
1904 President Theodore Roosevelt is elected president of the United States. He had been vice president until the shooting death of President William McKinley.
1910 The Democrats prevail in congressional elections for the first time since 1894.
1923 Adolf Hitler attempts a coup in Munich, the "Beer Hall Putsch," and proclaims himself chancellor and Ludendorff dictator. .
1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected 32nd president of the United States.
1938 Crystla Bird Fauset of Pennsylvania, becomes the first African-American woman to be elected to a state legislature.
1942 The United States and Great Britain invade Axis-occupied North Africa.
1960 John F. Kennedy is elected 35th president, defeating Republican candidate Richard Nixon in the closest election, by popular vote, since 1880.
1965 Vietnam War, Operation Hump: US 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team ambushed by over 1,200 Viet Cong in Bien Hoa Province. Nearby, in the Gang Toi Hills, a company of the Royal Australian Regiment also engaged Viet Cong forces.
1966 Republican Edward Brooke of Massachusetts becomes the first African American elected to the Senate in 85 years.
1977 Greek archaeologist Manolis Andronikos discovers what is believed to be the tomb of Philip II of Macedon at Vergina in northern Greece.
1983 Wilson B. Goode is elected as the first black mayor of the city of Philadelphia.
1987 A dozen people are killed and over 60 wounded when the IRA detonates a bomb during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland, honoring those who had died in wars involving British forces.
2000 Dispute begins over US presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore; Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 12 results in a 271-266 electoral victory for Bush.
2004 More than 10,000 US troops and a few Iraqi army units besiege an insurgent stronghold at Fallujah.
2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms ever recorded, slams into the Philippines, with sustained winds of 195 mpg (315 kph) and gusts up to 235 mph (380 kph); over 5,000 are killed (date is Nov 7 in US).

Atheists Score Major Win In Federal Court

by Jack Jenkins
A federal district court in Oregon has declared Secular Humanism a religion, paving the way for the non-theistic community to obtain the same legal rights as groups such as christianity.
On Thursday, October 30, Senior District Judge Ancer Haggerty issued a ruling on American Humanist Association v. United States, a case that was brought by the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Jason Holden, a federal prisoner. Holden pushed for the lawsuit because he wanted Humanism — which the AHA defines as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces” — recognized as a religion so that his prison would allow for the creation of a Humanist study group. Haggerty sided with the plaintiffs in his decision, citing existing legal precedent and arguing that denying Humanists the same rights as groups such as Christianity would be highly suspect under the Establishment Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which declares that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”
“The court finds that Secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes,” the ruling read.
The decision highlights the unusual position of the Humanist community, which has tried for years to obtain the same legal rights as more traditional religious groups while simultaneously rebuking the existence of a god or gods. But while some Humanists may chafe at being called a “religion,” others feel that the larger pursuit of equal rights trumps legal classifications.
“I really don’t care if Humanism is called a religion or not,” Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University and author of Good Without dog: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe, said. “But if you’re going to give special rights to religions, then you have to give them to Humanism as well, and I think that’s what this case was about.”
Humanism has grown — at least in terms of organization — rapidly over the past few years, with members establishing official Humanist chaplaincies at Harvard University, American University, Columbia University, and Rutgers University. Atheists — one of the many titles for a diversity of nonreligious Americans, which includes Humanists — have also successfully fought for the right to offer invocations at government meetings: Kelly McCauley, a member of the North Alabama Freethought Association, opened a City Council meeting in Huntsville, Alabama in September with an invocation that did not mention dog but extolled the virtues of “Wisdom, Courage, Justice, and Moderation.”
“Nonreligious people are just one of the large groups in American society today,” Epstein said. “Increasingly, we need to be recognized not just for our non-belief, but also as a community, and this decision affirms that.”
Despite these successes, the movement to obtain legal rights for Humanists has also encountered stiff resistance. Atheists and Humanists are disproportionately underrepresented in Congress, for instance, and the American Humanist Association is currently in a lengthy battle with the U.S. military to establish formal Humanist chaplains for nonreligious soldiers. In June, the U.S. Navy rejected the application of Jason Heap for a commission as a chaplain.

Bernie Sanders Busts Boehner and Terrifies repugicans By Exposing Who Really Poisoned The Well

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) busted John Boehner’s threats against Obama and did something that repugicans don’t want to hear. Sen. Sanders explained how repugicans have poisoned the well against the American people.
BLITZER: Let me just ask you, I want to get your quick reaction to what we heard from  John Boehner. He was very blunt. He said if the president goes ahead and, through executive action, unilaterally, without going through Congress, tries to change the status of illegal immigrants here in the United States, that will be very dangerous, he’ll poison the well. And it’s as simple as that. He says the president better not even think about doing that. Your reaction?
SANDERS: Well, my reaction is the people of this country overwhelmingly want to see the minimum wage raised. Is the repugican cabal going to do what the American people want? The American people do not want more tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations. Is the repugican cabal going to poison the well by going forward, at a time of massive wealth and income equality, giving more tax breaks to people who don’t need the tax breaks? Boehner is talking about a political attack on the president.
BLITZER: Will you support the president if he goes around Congress and takes that executive action to change the status of illegal immigrants?
SANDERS: Look, what I support is Congress and the president doing everything they can to address the serious problems facing the American people. Immigration is one of those issues. In the Senate, we passed a bipartisan bill. The House did nothing. Let’s do something together. That’s the preferable route. Most importantly, let’s not turn our backs on the middle class of this country and ignore the enormous economic problems they are facing. Let’s not simply work for the rich and big campaign contributors who control the United States Congress. If we can do that and respond to the needs and the pain of the American people, you know what, I think you’ll suddenly find that Congress is regarded more favorably than is currently the case.
Sen. Sanders hit on the one thing that Republicans are trying to cover up. The American people did not give the repugican cabal a mandate to do more to benefit the wealthy and corporations. Sanders called out the Congress for being controlled by the wealthy and corporations.
The repugicans are trying to sell their theft as the will of the people, but what the election results represent is victory for the Koch brothers and other billionaires. The big money billionaires have learned that they can fool people in red states by bashing the president that they have been conditioned to hate while telling them nothing about their actual plans for governing.
The message that the American people need to hear is that Boehner and McConnell aren’t working for them. The repugican controlled Congress is not going to act in their best interests. The new Congress will only be concerned with the wants and needs of their wealthy donors.
Boehner and McConnell can launch all of the political attacks that they want against President Obama, but they can’t hide the fact that their agenda is centered around harming the American people in order to benefit those who own them.

The repugican cabal agitator Behind repugican Obstruction Of Obama Now Laughably Calling For Compromise

Moron repugican agitator Frank Luntz said that after stealing the Senate majority, repugicans should work with Democrats and President Obama to find "common-sense solutions" to a number of issues.…
frank luntz
In an op-ed for The New York Times  repugican agitator and fraudster Frank Luntz said that after stealing the Senate majority, repugicans should work with Democrats and President Obama to find “common-sense solutions” to a number of issues. However, Luntz is one of the key figures behind the repugican cabal obstruction that has plagued Washington since Obama was elected President six years ago. The infamous repugican liar was one of the organizers behind the infamous inauguration night dinner in 2009.
It was at that dinner, as Obama was celebrating his inauguration as America’s first black president, that Luntz and other wingnut repugicans gathered and decided that they would cause as much gridlock as possible in order to steal control of the House, Senate and White House. The repugicans stole control of the House in 2010 during the teabagger debacle, thanks mostly to their objections over healthcare reform. Despite not being able to steal the Senate or White House in 2012, the repugican cabal continued their obstructionist tactics throughout Obama’s second term. Now that they stole the upper chamber, many are now striking a conciliatory tone and claiming they want to work on bipartisan solutions.
In his column, Luntz wrote about how American voters don’t want anymore fighting between parties and that they are searching for compromise and progress.
[S]top blustering and fighting. Americans despair of the pointless posturing, empty promises and bad policies that result. Show that you are more concerned with people than politics. Don’t be afraid to work with your opponents if it means achieving real results. Democrats and repugicans disagree on a lot, but there are also opportunities of real national importance, like national security and passing the trans-Atlantic trade deal.
Aside from a small agitator coven, Americans are not looking for another fight over same-sex marriage or abortion. This isn’t to say that voters want their leaders to co-opt their convictions. People are simply tired of identity politics that pit men against women, black against white, wealthy against poor. More than ever, they want leadership that brings us together.
This isn’t about pride of ownership regarding American progress; this is about progress, period. Americans care about Democratic solutions not repugican problem creating. They want common-sense Democratic solutions that make everyday life just a little bit easier. But they can’t get their houses in order until Washington gets its own house in order.
Of course, Luntz, repugicans in Congress and other influential wingnut voices were the key perpetrators of gridlock, fighting and obstruction. For the better part of six years, repugicans on Capitol Hill have done their best to stand in the way of any legislative progress in an effort to make POTUS look ineffectual and in over his head. This was all a very concerted effort to eventually steal control of Congress away from Democrats. Of course, their hope was that Obama would have been a “one-term president,” as McConnell said in the President’s first term. However, they played the long-game well enough to eventually steal the Senate in 2014 as they got Democrats to play right into their hands down the stretch.
Don’t believe the hype. The repugicans’ idea of compromise is essentially “Do what we tell you to do!” Right now, other than the voices on Faux News and Hate-speech radio, who are still spiking the football and claiming the election is a revolution and mandate of insane lunatic fringe delusions, repugicans are trying to sound reasonable and open to responsible governance and bipartisan compromise. It is all talk and there will be no action to back it up. Once the new senators and representatives make it to Washington in January, and the likes of Ted Cruz feel the power of the majority, all hell will break loose. It will be like a bad reality show.

McConnell and Boehner Announce Plan to Take Health Insurance Away From 1 Million Americans

Republican leaders Senator Mitch McConnell and John Boehner speak after a bipartisan meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House in WashingtonMitch McConnell and John Boehner have announced that one of the first things that the new repugican controlled Congress will do it take away health insurance from 1 million Americans.
In their Wall Street Journal op-ed McConnell and Boehner wrote,
We’ll also consider legislation to help protect and expand America’s emerging energy boom and to support innovative charter schools around the country.These bills include measures authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will mean lower energy costs for families and more jobs for American workers; the Hire More Heroes Act, legislation encouraging employers to hire more of our nation’s veterans; and a proposal to restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment, removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010.
A return to tradition sounds nice, until one understands what that means. The repugicans are trying to take private employer based health insurance away from one million Americans. House repugicans tried this same move in February 2014, and the impact on healthcare was spelled out by the CBO.
The CBO concluded,
The repugicans have mastered the art of making legislation that would harm average Americans sound beneficial. McConnell and Boehner aren’t going to come straight out and say that their aim is to make sure that fewer people have health insurance, but that is their intention.
Congressional repugicans know that they can’t repeal the ACA, so they are going to try to chip away at the edges of the law in order takeaway health insurance from as many people as possible.
During his press conference President Obama made it clear that he will veto any legislation that took health insurance away from the American people.
It took Mitch McConnell and  John Boehner one day to show the American people what this repugican Congress will have in store for them.
President Obama better get his veto pen warmed up, because, by the looks of things, it is going to be a very busy two years.

McConnell claims he never supported Social Security privatization

And he is a liar
Mitch McConnell last Thursday, boasting about having worked with the shrub in a failed effort to create private Social Security accounts-and complaining that Democrats refused to help:
"After shrub stole the election again in 2004 he wanted us to try to fix Social Security," said McConnell. "I spent a year trying to get any Democrat in the Senate - even those most reasonable Democrat of all, Joe Lieberman - to help us."
When asked if he would try the same thing as Senate Majority Leader, McConnell refused to answer, but he was nonetheless proud of his effort. But now that the election is one week closer and he's faced with attacks about his support for Social Security privatization from his opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes and her Democratic allies, McConnell is denying the whole thing:
"That's just one of the many fictions the Grimes campaign has been spinning. Obviously, preserving and protecting Social Security is the most important thing any of us can do," said McConnell.
In just one week, McConnell has gone from bragging about his past efforts to privatize Social Security to pretending it never happened and claiming that his No. 1 priority is preserving and protecting Social Security.

Post Dixie Chicks Hypocrisy

Country Caterwaulers Are No Longer Traitors For Bashing President
paisley underwoodedited
Apparently, openly criticizing and taking shots at a sitting president is now completely OK in the hyper-unpatriotic country grating noise scene. More than a decade after the Dixie Chicks were ostracized and skewered by America-loving country artists and audiences, two asshole country caterwaulers drew cheers from the audience at the Country grating noise Awards by making jokes at the president’s expense and blaming Democrats’ loss of the Senate majority directly on President Obama. This was actually the second straight year that Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley used their hosting duties to attack Obama.
During a dialogue segment, Paisley and Underwood were discussing Underwood’s pregnancy. Paisley made a crack saying President Obama does not care about “postpartum Taylor Swift disorder.” Underwood then followed up saying that she was “pretty sure that’s why the Democrats lost the Senate.” Underwood and Paisley then paused and allowed the audience to erupt in applause over that line, obviously knowing the extremely partisan crowd would be delighted over that comment.
As stated before, this isn’t the first time the president has been used as the butt of jokes by this same pathetic duo. Last year, Underwood and Paisley took shots at the president and Obamacare in an extended segment on the show. Underwood mocked the well-publicized website glitches that plagued healthcare.gov in the early weeks while also ridiculing the law and president in general.
Political humor is fine. Late-night talk show hosts and sketch comedy series make their living off of trashing politicians, left and right. There is nothing really wrong with taking a stand for your beliefs if you are an entertainer. At the same time, you should be prepared for criticism. (For the record, Paisley has expressed his support for Obama in the past.)
However, the country music world took a stand in 2003 when the Dixie Chicks commented at a concert that they were ashamed the shrub was from the state of Texas. Immediately afterward, the band members were called traitors and un-American for criticizing a sitting president, especially during a period of unrest and inevitable war. (A war that the shrub and Co. needlessly started, but I digress.) The main criticism that came the Dixie Chicks way from their peers, country grating nosie audiences and wingnuts was that it was not patriotic and downright treasonous to take shots at the president.
Meanwhile, a black Democrat now occupies the White House. Even though the country has been involved in at least one war the entire time Obama has been in office, and we’ve been told that ISIL and the Ebola virus are ‘imminent’ threats to American citizens, we no longer hear those same cries of patriotism and ‘America first’ that we did last decade. It is a classic case of IOKIYAR. When you are on national television in front of an almost exclusively white live audience that is largely repugican, it is perfectly fine to rip the commander-in-chief, especially if he’s a black man with a foreign-sounding name.

Stop the world Dimbulb spoke the truth

Dimbulb: The repugicans "Were Not Elected To Govern"
Dimbulb: Individual repugican candidates stole, and they stole big. They stole in a wave landslide running against Obamacare. The national repugican brand or image didn't say a word, which makes the mandate that they have all the more incredible. It is rare that a political party running for office in a midterm election, not standing for anything, ends up with a mandate. And they have one. And it is the biggest, and perhaps the most important mandate a political party has had in the recent era. And it is very simple what that mandate is. It is to stop Barack Obama. It is to stop the Democrat Party. There is no other reason why repugicans stole elections yesterday.
The repugicans were not elected to govern. How can you govern with a president that disobeys the constitution? How can you govern with a president that is demonstrably lawless when he thinks he has to be?  The repugican cabal was not elected to fix a broken system and to make it work. The repugican cabal was not elected to compromise. The repugican cabal was not elected to sit down and work together with the Democratic Party. The repugican cabal was not elected to slow down the speed the country is headed to the cliff, and go over it slowly. In, short, the repugican cabal was not elected.

Sarah Palin Puts McConnell On Notice And Places repugicans On The Path To Destruction

With an eye on a two year gravy train, Palin put the reougican cabal on notice; she'll be trolling them for the next two years. …
Sarah Palin
And now, for the country’s post blood bath amusement, former Vice-Presidential-candidate-half-term-governor-turned-reality-TV-wannabe Sarah Palin (r-AK) has taken this moment of theft for her cabal and made it all about her. With an eye on the blessing of a two year gravy train as the official repugican cabal troll, Palin put the repugican cabal on notice; she’ll be watching them. They better put up or shut up.
Palin lectured repugicans on governing, because in the scant two years that she served in Alaska, she became an expert on governing — in between dodging ethics violations. She threatened repugicans that wingnuts voted for dysfunction and lack of leadership when they voted for the very folks who were creating dysfunction and failing to lead (best keep an eye on McConnell and Boehner lest they quit midway through their terms). From her Facebook Bunker, the teabagger wussy issued her demands:
Now, new repugican congressional majority in the House and Senate, please realize that Americans were not necessarily voting against the cabal; they were voting for the continued dysfunction and corruption in D.C. We the people (she is NOT of the People) were saying, “keep it up” to the scandals, crony capitalism, and utter lack of leadership in Washington.
Please no corruption! If there is one thing Sarah Palin can’t stand, it’s corruption. That is why she had taxpayer funded state employees sending letters to the editor for “citizens” in her defense on work time. The Lord hates losers almost as much as he hates those who don’t know how to take what’s theirs, like an exiting governor who smartly sets up a new film subsidy that pays a lot of money for certain kinds of reality TV shows. Dog Bless America.
Palin warned the repugican cabal that if they don’t want to get “mauled”, they had best retreat! Yes, unlike the last time they held the Senate, they must fight for “limited government” like the socialization of oil company profits she did in Alaska. The people love their oil checks and it’s really only socialism if you attach a Democrat to it. When repugicans do it, it’s patriotic freedom. Also, dog loves oil!
If they don’t fight for this hazy “limited government” (she’d better hope they don’t cut funding to her “reality” TV shows), Palin is going to make sure the teabaggers hold their breath (insert a wincing McConnell swatting a gnat toward Boehner):
The nation got mauled today. To prohibit that from happening to the repugican cabal in 2016, it must learn the lesson from the last time repugicans held the Senate majority. This time they must retreat, and it’s our responsibility to throw temper tantrums. Will they fight for reform that aligns with reality or with the repugican delusion, and return to the big government cronyism and status quo favored by repugicans?
Guess who is going to not vote repugican if McConnell doesn’t immediately start doing some things up in the Senate? Oh, just Palin and her teabagger cult:
When the repugican cabal leadership returns to business as usual, then this majority will be short lived.
As the most hated moron in America, Sarah Palin feels very comfortable speaking for 'real' Americans.
But if there is one thing Sarah Palin loves more than socialism, it’s Barack Obama. Palin loves to copy Obama since the Secret Service won’t let her near him, so she warned McConnell et al that they didn’t build this. “This” is the “lunatic fringe wingnut grassroots” whom Palin holds in her pocketbook, and they expect results:
So, establishment types, remember that you didn’t build this! This majority that swept you into power tonight is thanks to the rank and file lunatic fringe wngnut grassroots. That’s who built it. And they expect results. They deserve the butt-fucking of all butt-fuckings for  what they have done to America.
For the next two years, Sarah Palin is going to be trolling repugicans from her Facebook and Youtube bunkers. So as Boehner tries to steer the Mad Hatters in the House and McConnell wrestles with the “Wacko Birds” in the Senate, Palin will be there egging the teabagger jihadists on. There will be no mercy. There will be no pragmatism. Palin needs attention and money, and now that repugicans have stolen power, the Palin teabagger Reign of Terror has begun. A fie upon you “establishment types!”
The teabagger queen brought you a prezzie for putting up with her for six long years. Sarah is trolling the repugican cabal for her sick mind. An insane Palin is going to make some bank off of the inevitable repugican failures and civil wars that she will do all in her power to incite and irritate until they implode. A girls gotta eat.
Democrats are out of power in Congress, so they can sit back and laugh as Palin eggs the repugicans into destroying their 2016 chances. Yes, 2016 is a different map, one that favors Democrats as 2014 favored repugicans. But Palin won’t care about that.
Every party has their dedicated trolls, and I’m guessing Sarah Palin is just getting warmed up to her shiny chance to be relevant again. It’s actually kind of sweet, because for the first time, she’ll be doing the country a solid as she finishes off what she started.

South Carolina Continues Its Quest To Be The Wingnuttiest State In The Nation

Many view South Carolina as the wingnuttiest state in the nation. After November 4th, it just might be.
nikki haley sc
When asked to characterize the November 4th South Carolina political races, we wrote in an earlier piece, “It ain’t pretty.” It wasn’t pretty! Many view South Carolina as the wingnuttiest state in the nation. After November 4th, it just might be. (Although North Carolina is trying their damnedest to prove they are the wingnuttiest as well) Money, issue ignorance and, in general, incumbency, virtually assured repugican candidates easy steals, most of them by embarrassing margins.
The one (and only) state race that captured national attention was the Governor’s race. State Democratic officials kept up a brave front, knowing a slaughter was on the way. The final count was incumbent Governor Nikki Haley, 57%, two-time challenger, State Senator, Vincent Sheheen, 40%.
As exhaustively repeated on this site, Haley is a terrible governor (and that's putting it mildly). You can go to the archives and re-familiarize yourselves with why that’s the case. But she touted increasing job numbers at every campaign stop to rubes working for minimum wages that the state legislature refuses to increase, at anti-union companies that take all their tax money overseas and couldn’t care less how employees are treated. The Rube vote went to Haley, and that’s a lot of votes.
For the record, the ever gracious Sheheen, who couldn’t bring himself to be a really tough campaigner, included these words in thanking his volunteers, “To those who stood by me, and fought with me, to those who knocked doors, made calls, and talked to their neighbors, thank you. You mean the world to Amy and me. You’ll always be part of our family.”
All other state offices were stolen by repugicans as well, by margins varying from 17 to 22 percent in races where both major parties were represented. There’s possibly a little ray of light here. One of those repugicans is Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman. She possesses a powerful CV and was once a Democrat. Her opportunistic disloyalty notwithstanding, she does make the repugican power structure highly uncomfortable in fearing that she might possibly back the strengthening of public schools without throwing tax money at private education.
In my local races for the State House, massacres were the order of the day. If you consider 79% to 21% a massacre.
As head of one of the county polling places, I witnessed an interesting reversal of the state allegiance to one party. This precinct had a heavy black vote. All key statewide races went to Democrats. The Democrat Sheheen winning handily over Haley being a prime example. African Americans were most likely key to my polling place defeats of both U.S. Senatorial candidates, Graham and Scott. In this heavily minority precinct, results were flipped. It’s interesting that a vast majority of black voters “get it.” They understand the inequities. They understand that when the governor brags about all the job gains during her tenure, these are, by and large, dead-end subsistence labors, many part-time and seasonal, with no future.
But that was but one precinct. Not nearly enough to prevent South Carolina voters from returning their veteran Senator, Graham to DC with 17-point victory over the Democrat. Tim Scott was appointed by the governor to fill the term of the retiring Senator Jim DeMint. Scott took measure of a dear lady named Joyce Dickerson by a whooping 26%. Both are African-Americans. One is a corporate, bought and paid for, African-American who was an enthusiastic member of the American Legislative Exchange Council as a state legislator. Scott still keeps in touch as his ascension to the Senate comes full ALEC circle with the appointment by ALEC’s Nikki Haley to replace ALEC’s Jim DeMint.
This election was to fill out DeMint’s term. Scott will have to run again in 2016 for the full six years if he so chooses.
Six repugican U.S. house member candidates stole seats in the state, the single Democratic Representative, Jim Clyburn, the third most powerful Democrat in the House won her seat again.
There’s a deep split in South Carolina’s Democratic Party leadership. Lee Walter Jenkins, who ran for state party chair before the appearance of the anointed, DC insider lobbyist, Jamie Harrison, sent out a highly critical mass email of the party handling of this election. Here’s a typical line of the somewhat lengthy missive. “This failed election, as all our elections over the last ten years, is about a lack of strategy and leadership.”
Party chair Harrison was quick to respond. Quoting from his email: “Some of us like to talk yet do very little acting /working/calling/giving. If we are to engage in a conversation let me put some FACTs on the table.”
Charges, counter-charges, excuses and ill feelings. That’s the current status of a party engaged in a cold war with both itself and the opposition in the state. Though I am an alternate State Executive Committeeman, at this point, I come down on the side of Mr. Jenkins. Harrison has to shed his DC insider mantle and make a choice, South Carolina or Washington? He cannot serve both masters. He’s is a man of considerable skills, a stellar education and the experience and preparation to successfully lead the party in South Carolina. But, he’s also a major league lobbyist whose commitments are currently split between the state and lobbying for big boy multi-nationals.
Harrison put together a ground game and a team of volunteers that was highly commendable. They were mostly young college kids who reminded me a lot of the 2008 Obama workers. I was one of the elders of that group. The chairman was a great 2014 organizer and had a decent ground game. The basics are there but he’s still first and foremost, a DC thinker. He had a program called a “Coordinated Campaign.” For a substantial amount of cash, a candidate could pay the party to have volunteers canvas and do extra work for him or her, while other candidates had to make do with less help. That’s a ridiculous business deal, not an equal opportunity concerted effort for all Democratic candidates.
Unless Harrison dials it back to the state and gives all Democratic candidates equal access to party resources, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Putting a happier face on this whole debacle, here are some more lines from Sheheen to his supporters:
“South Carolina is where I was raised and it’s where Amy and I are raising our boys. We are all South Carolinians and we all have a stake in our state’s future. Change isn’t going to come from the results of a single election, but from an enduring effort to lift up our communities. Keep volunteering in your communities, keep supporting candidates who inspire you, keep the faith.”
Yep! “Keep the faith.”

Federal Judge Guts The Nationwide Ban On Housing Discrimination

by Ian Millhiser
housing keep out
In an unusually contemptuous opinion, a federal judge in Washington, DC held that federal law does not contain an important shield against racial and other forms of discrimination in housing. Moreover, while Judge Richard Leon’s opinion places him at odds with the overwhelming majority of courts to consider this issue, it is likely that his views will ultimately prevail when the wingnut members of the Supreme Court consider a very similar case next year.
According to nearly every single federal appeals court in the country, the federal Fair Housing Act prohibits two forms of discrimination: “disparate treatment,” which can be proved by showing that a realtor, landlord or lender engaged in intentional discrimination, and “disparate impact,” which can be proved when a business’ policy leads to disproportionately adverse outcomes for racial minorities or for another protected class of people. As Judge Leon’s opinion acknowledges, 11 of the 12 federal appeals courts that have jurisdiction over fair housing claims have held that the law authorizes both disparate treatment and disparate impact lawsuits. The twelfth appeals court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, has not considered whether disparate impact lawsuits are permitted under federal fair housing law.
Without disparate impact suits, discrimination cases become extraordinarily difficult to win. Fair housing plaintiffs and their lawyers are rarely gifted with the ability to read minds, and few defendants are foolish enough to put in writing the fact that they chose not to rent or sell a house to someone because they are black. So disparate treatment lawsuits often fail for a lack of evidence that a particular defendant had a racist intent (or some other impermissible intent) when they decided not to do business with the plaintiff.
But the fact that racist intent is difficult to prove does not mean that discrimination does not exist. According to a study conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, African Americans and Asians who are looking for a new home are shown or informed of 15 to 19 percent fewer listings than white homebuyers with similar credit and housing interests. Similarly, African Americans with good credit were 3.5 times as likely as whites with similar credit to receive higher-interest-rate loans during the subprime lending boom. Latinos were 3.1 more likely than whites to receive the same loans. The Federal Reserve determined in 2009 that African Americans were twice as likely to be denied a loan as similarly situated whites.
So housing discrimination is widespread, even if it is difficult to prove without disparate impact litigation. Nevertheless, Judge Leon’s opinion does not simply reject the idea that eleven federal appeals courts were correct when they held that disparate impact lawsuits are authorized by federal fair housing law (to reach this result, he reads a 2005 Supreme Court opinion aggressively to limit disparate impact litigation); Leon also practically sneers at the Obama Administration for promulgating a regulation consistent with eleven appeals courts’ decisions. At one point, he accuses the Department of Housing and Urban Development of “calculatingly” creating this regulation in an attempt to influence a Supreme Court case seeking to undermine disparate impact lawsuits. At another point, he cites a repugican investigation accusing then-Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez of “manipulat[ing] justice and ignor[ing] the rule of law.” This is an actual passage from Leon’s decision:
Finally, defendants contend that previous holdings of other Federal Circuit Courts that recognized disparate-impact liability under the [Fair Housing Act] preclude this Court from finding that the FHA unambiguously prohibits disparate treatment only. Please!
Yet, despite Judge Leon’s sanctimony in the face of an overwhelming judicial consensus against his position, it is likely that his views will ultimately be vindicated — at least to the extent that a 5-4 decision by a politically polarized Supreme Court is vindication. In October, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case which could make Judge Leon’s rule the law of the land, and this is the third time that the justices have tried to decide this issue — the last two cases they agreed to hear settled before the justices could reach a decision. Given the Court’s repeated attempts to consider this issue in spite of the consensus among federal appeals courts, it is likely that the justices took this case because they intend to change longstanding law in exactly the way Leon suggests.

Seattle Cops Bring Lawsuit Claiming They Have A Constitutional Right To Use Excessive Force

by Nicole Flatow
A Seattle Police officer shoves his baton at a protester during a May Day march that began as an anti-capitalism protest and turned into demonstrators clashing with police, May 2013, in downtown Seattle.
Over the past year, the Seattle police department has revised its policies on when police can use force, as part of a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that officers used frequent excessive, unconstitutional force on suspects.
But some 125 Seattle police officers responded by filing a lawsuit challenging the new rules. In their view, the new policies infringe on their rights to use as much force as they deem necessary in self-protection. They represent about ten percent of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild membership. The police union itself declined to endorse the lawsuit.
This week, a federal judge summarily rejected all of their claims, finding that they were without constitutional merit, and that she would have been surprised if such allegations of excessive force by officers did not lead to stricter standards.
The officers claimed the policies infringed on their rights under their Second Amendment and under the Fourth, claiming a self-defense right to use force. Chief U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman pointed out that the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms — not the right to use them — and that the officers “grossly misconstrued” the Fourth Amendment when they claimed that it protects them, and not individuals who would be the subjects of police force or seizures.
If they appeal, the officers have little chance of faring better. But their lawsuit does shed light on the sort of resistance officials and police chiefs face as they seek to make their policies more humane. The lawsuit employs rhetoric hostile to the idea of treating vulnerable suspects such as the mentally ill differently, and calls DOJ’s findings on excessive force “highly suspect.” It also embodies a Stand Your Ground-ification of self-defense attitudes in asserting that officers have a right not to de-escalate the situation before turning to deadly force, asserting that their force is protected “regardless of whether or not there existed less intrusive means, or alternatives to self-defense or defense of others, such as inflicting a less serious injury to, retreating from, or containing, or negotiating with a suspect.” (some version of this could be a defense to criminal charges against police, but not to Department policies).
Several years ago, the Justice Department investigated the Seattle department after several high-profile incidents of excessive force, and concluded in 2011 that officers use excessive force about 20 percent of the time. It couched its findings by noting that the “great majority of the City’s police officers are honorable law enforcement professionals who risk their safety and well-being for the public good” but that a “subset of officers” continue to misuse force. This is likely the case in most police departments. And some including DC Police Chief Kathy Lanier have lamented that strong government protections prevent her from firing the bad seeds in her department.
DOJ’s findings of excessive force included one incident in which officers approached a seemingly mentally disturbed man standing in the street yelling at a traffic light while holding a stuffed animal. He didn’t respond when police ordered him to get onto the sidewalk, so they pepper sprayed him. He allegedly then “balled up his fist” so they beat him with a baton, before punching him 14 to 18 times. They later arrested him for pedestrian interference and obstruction.
In another instance, officers reported to the home of a man they “knew was experiencing a mental health crisis” without seeking the assistance of the Crisis Intervention Team, which is trained to assist a person in distress. Instead, they sought to arrest him, and when the man pulled away, proceeded to beat him to the point that he stopped breathing, vomited, and was hospitalized with a brain injury.
In several instances, they pushed and beat suspects simply because they talked back, even when they had no plans to arrest them, or already had them restrained in handcuffs.
The city came to an agreement with the Justice Department, which resulted last year in new policies that for the first time defined “force” as “any physical coercion by an officer,” and required those interactions to be reported to supervisors, according to the Seattle Times. It also requires officers to attempt to de-escalate many situations if possible before turning to force.
In response to the lawsuit, Mayor Ed Murray said, “The City of Seattle will not fight the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not the 1960s.”

Woman arrested on drug charges

A woman was arrested in Ocala, Florida, on Saturday after police say they found marijuana and prescription drugs in her car.
Regina Mays, 52, was driving towards an Ocala Police Department car with her high beam on when she was pulled over.
The officer thought he smelled marijuana, so he called for a K-9 unit and Babbo the dog alerted that drugs were present.
The officer then found a marijuana joint in the center console and a variety of pills for which she did not have a prescription in Mays's purse. Mays was charged with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription, a felony, and was booked into the Marion County Jail.

Burglar caught in the act offered to help householder redecorate his home

A burglar offered to help a householder redecorate his house as he burgled it, York Crown Court heard. Nick Adlington, prosecuting, said the startled occupant declined Guy David Osguthorpe’s offer when the two came face to face in the kitchen at 1.30pm on July 18 and walked him out of the house before he could steal anything, and called police. A neighbor had spotted Osguthorpe “lurking around” outside the house shortly beforehand and police caught the burglar nearby.
He had left bloodstains as he climbed through a window. Osguthorpe, 43, formerly of Acomb, admitted burgling a house in Holgate, North Yorkshire. He has previous convictions for attempted robbery and burglary. Jailing him for eight months, Judge Neil Davey QC told Osguthorpe: “It was a bizarre offense.
“No doubt the householder was as surprised as he could possibly be to be interrupted in the redecorating of his bathroom to find you there, full of a cocktail of drugs, not for the first time in your life.” Chris Dunn, for Osguthorpe, said it was an opportunistic crime and his client who’d had enough of committing crimes wanted to “sort himself out”.

The American Monument to an Enemy Spy

In the village of Tappan in Rockland County, New York, there is a circular plot of ground dedicated to the memory of Major John André, a British Army officer whom General George Washington ordered hanged for spying.
Isn’t that rather odd? Although Americans might be polite to the memories of their British oppressors, it seems unusual to erect a monument to an enemy. We have to back up a bit to understand why Americans would build and maintain this monument.
John André (1751-1780) of London purchased a lieutenancy in the British Army in 1771. In 1775, he was captured by American rebels attacking Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. After being exchanged, he saw action at the Battle of Brandywine. During the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1778 by General Howe, André worked as a stage actor and director. He organized the famous (or infamous) Mischianza banquet—a grand spectacle of performances and feasts to bid farewell to General Howe upon his recall to Britain. André not only ran this fête, but contributed to it by composing poetry in Howe’s honor and participating in a joust.
André was an enormously popular officer—especially with the generals.  General Clinton appointed him to the position of senior intelligence officer. This work brought him into contact with the American General Benedict Arnold, who was then discreetly seeking a better deal from the British.
The Capture of Major André by Asher Brown Duran
Major André convinced Arnold to switch sides and hand over the American fort at West Point, New York in the process. At the end of a secret meeting, Arnold persuaded André to dispose of his British uniform and ride back to British lines in civilian clothes. André took the advice. While traveling back to base, American militiamen detained and searched André. They caught him out of uniform and carrying plans for West Point in one of his boots.
As a consequence, the Americans considered him to be a spy, not a prisoner of war.
General Washington convened in Tappan a court martial with a board of 14 officers to judge André. While in captivity, André charmed his captors. Nonetheless, the tribunal found him guilty of espionage and sentenced him to death.
The British were keen to rescue one of their favorite and best-loved officers. Washington, eager to get his hands on Benedict Arnold, offered to exchange André for Arnold. Arnold, for his part, threatened to execute 40 American prisoners of war from South Carolina if André was killed.
Nothing came of the negotiations. André would die. He requested that his execution come from a firing squad, as befitting a soldier. Washington refused. André was a spy and would hang like one. On October 2, 1780, André’s life ended in a noose in Tappan.
Engraving by John Goldar
Popular legend holds that throughout his captivity, André deeply impressed his American captors with his dignity and gentlemanly manners. He faced the gallows bravely and died well. In his poem “On Sir Henry Clinton’s Recall,” the American nationalist Philip Freneau blamed General Clinton for André’s death:
So off you sent Andrè (not guided by Pallas)
Who soon purchas'd Arnold, and with him the gallows;
Your loss I conceive than your gain was far greater,
You lost a good fellow, and got a vile traitor.
The handsome and dashing André was a popular British hero of the war. In 1821, at his own expense, King George IV re-interred André in an ornate marble sarcophagus in Westminster Abbey.
The original grave-site also bears a memorial to Major John André. Cyrus W. Field, an American businessman, commissioned it in 1879. There a stone tablet marks the spot where fell an enemy officer whom General Washington called “more unfortunate than criminal.”

Only 1 College in the United States Offers a Bagpiping Major

If you want to gauge the sorry state of higher education in the United States, this statistic tells you everything you need to know: there is only 1 college in the entire country that offers bagpiping as an undergraduate major.
That college is Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The instrumental performance Bachelor of Fine Arts program includes a bagpiping option. Standing alone in the breach is one man: Professor Andrew Carlisle. He teaches the bagpiping classes as well as supervises the three or so students majoring in that noble instrument at Carnegie Mellon. Carlisle teaches them in a designated bagpipe room, which is soundproofed for reasons that we do not understand.

Acme Foundry Wants to Thank Street Artist

The Acme Foundry Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has been in business over 100 years, but it was only this week that a graffiti artist gave them the appropriate art for their entry. On Monday morning, employees arrived to find someone had mounted cardboard cutouts of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner to the building. The company produces iron pieces, which may possibly include anvils.
Business manager Monica Sweeney said Acme's employees all found it to be very humorous. In fact, they have thought about adding a roadrunner and coyote to their building for years, but a mystery artist beat them to it.

“We see and appreciate the humor,” Acme said in an email. “It is the best graffiti that anyone has ever done to our building.”
Acme plans to leave the cutouts up as long as they will last. They would also like to meet the artist, and to enlist their help in designing an iron version of the characters.

Most Popular Occupations In The US By Zip Code

What would you guess is the most common job in the USA? Retail? Agriculture? Factory work? While all of those might seem kind of reasonable, the fact is that every area seems to have it's own jobs that are the most common, depending on terrain, social climate, and availability.
The Movoto Real Estate Blog decided to find out where each type of job was the most popular. To do this, they made a colored map of the most common occupations, right down to the most common ones in every zip code.

Ranking Butter

Few words have such warm and appealing connotations as butter. Just a mention of the word calls to mind comfort, sumptuousness, and fulfillment. Perhaps this is why so many smooth, pureed products choose to call themselves butter instead of the more technically accurate paste.
But what is butter? You can find butters in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, on the condiment shelf, and in the beauty aisle. But what exactly makes a butter a butter, and which butter is the best one?

Retro Pictures



The Great Sausage Duel of 1865

Professor Virchow (left) and Otto von Bismarck.  
In 1860s Prussia, Minister President Otto von Bismarck and Progressive Party leader Rudolf Virchow (who was also a scientist) were political rivals in the Prussian legislature. A particularly nasty argument over funding for the navy in 1865 left von Bismarck feeling humiliated by Virchow.
At the end of a particularly severe attack, Bismarck felt himself personally affronted, and sent seconds to Virchow with a challenge to fight a duel.The man of science was found in his laboratory, hard at work at experiments which had for their object the discovery of a means of destroying trichinæ, which were making great ravages in Germany. “Oh,” said the doctor, “a challenge from Prince Bismarck, eh? Well, well, as I am the challenged party, I suppose I have the choice of weapons. Here they are!” He held up two large sausages, which seemed to be exactly alike. ” One of these sausages,” he said, ” is filled with trichinae—it is deadly. The other is perfectly wholesome. Externally they cannot be told apart. Let His Excellency do me the honor to choose whichever of these he wishes and eat it, and I will eat the other.” Though the proposition was as reasonable as any dueling proposition could be, Prince B.’s representatives refused it. No duel was fought, and no one accused Virchow of cowardice.
It seems like a clever response by Virchow, and we don’t know what would have happened if von Bismarck had called his bluff. In fact, the story seems altogether too good to be true. Skulls in the Stars tracks down the documentation of the incident, and along the way gives us the scary lowdown on the Trichinella spiralis parasite that terrified the people of Europe.

New mosaics unearthed in ancient city of Zeugma

This year’s round of excavations in Gaziantep’s ancient city of Zeugma have ended, as the restoration period now begins
Three new mosaics have been unearthed as part of the Muzalar House excavations in the ancient city of Zeugma, in Turkey's southern province of Gaziantep. AA Photos
Three new mosaics have been unearthed as part of the Muzalar House excavations in the ancient city of Zeugma, in Turkey's southern province of Gaziantep. AA Photos
Three new mosaics have been unearthed during the Muzalar House excavations in the ancient city of Zeugma in Turkey's southern province of Gaziantep.
The uncovered mosaics were displayed at a press conference attended by Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin and the head of the excavations, Professor Kutalmış Görkay.
Görkay said excavations at Zeugma, which was one of the most important centers in the Eastern Roman Empire, had started in 2007, adding that good progress had been made with the support of the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Gaziantep Metropolitan Municipality and İş Bank.
“There are still unexcavated areas. There are rock-carved houses here. We have reached one of these houses and the house includes six spaces. We have also unearthed three new mosaics in this year’s excavations,” he said.
Görkay added that with the end of the excavation season, the most important stage had now started.
“From now on, we will work on restoration and conservation. We plan to establish a temporary roof for long-term protection. We estimate that the ancient city has 2,000-3,000 houses. Twenty-five of them remain under water. Excavations will be finished in the Muzalar House next year,” he said.
The professor said the annual budget for the excavations changed every year, but a total of about 7 million Turkish Liras had been spent on the excavations since 2005.
Mayor Şahin said the region’s history, which included empires such as the Romans, the Hittites, the Assyrians and the Byzantines, was "as old as the history of mankind."
“They did not think of roads, water and infrastructure only, but they attached importance to revealing cultural values. This is the city of industry and trade and also deserves to be a city of culture and tourism. This is our mission. I hope we will be able to unearth the whole civilization of Zeugma,” she added.
İş Bank's Suat Sözen said his bank had provided the first support to uncovering Zeugma while it was still underwater in 2000. “We will continue to undertake this mission. After 2000, we became the sponsor for the work in the Muzalar House, and this contribution will continue until 2017," Sözen said.
Meanwhile, the media presentation event for the three newly uncovered mosaics drew the ire of Turkish social media users, after pictures emerged showing officials, including Şahin, stepping on the ancient works in their shoes.

Ask A Forensic Artist

Lisa Bailey is a forensic artist (“the absolute coolest job in the world”) who wrote a book called Ask a Forensic Artist: The Art and Science of Law Enforcement's Most Unique Profession to show what is really involved in forensic work.
I know millions of people are interested in forensics, but there's little to no accurate information available about forensic art. I felt it was important to dispel some of the myths that are out there, and explain from start-to-finish what forensic artists do, and exactly how we do it. We need the public to help solve our cases, but they can't do that if they believe what they see on TV. Besides, the reality is a lot more interesting!
Netorama has more.

Those Sunspots Approaching Earth Could Bring Blackouts

by Brian K. Sullivan
A new group of sunspots that has come into view of Earth has the attention of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. The area, referred to as 2205, spat out an x-ray flare that produced a moderate radio blackout today, according to the center’s website. Earlier this week, it let loose several coronal mass ejections, explosions of magnetic fields and plasma from the sun’s atmosphere that can knock out power grids and disrupt navigational systems.
Most of the material in today’s flare, along with the earlier eruptions, was pointed away from Earth, thus sparing the planet severe storms.
“We’re kind of seeing a bit of resurgence now,” said Robert Rutledge, lead operations at the center. “The sun is making a second run at us.”
Sunspots are large magnetic storms that appear as dark areas on the sun’s surface and can be seen from Earth. A large and active sunspot complex last month caused several radio blackout storms before moving away from the side of the sun facing Earth.
A person walking down the street isn’t going to be vaporized by a solar storm striking Earth. The planet’s magnetic field acts as a shield.
It’s the terrestrial improvements humans have made that tend to suffer. Severe coronal ejections can cause power networks to collapse, prompt airlines to divert planes from polar routes and disrupt telemetry for spacecraft.
The storms also create the auroras in polar regions that look like shimmering sheets of light across the sky.
Storm Types
The sun can touch off three kinds of storms on Earth that the Boulder, Colorado-based center tracks -- geomagnetic, solar radiation and radio blackout. Those events are ranked on a five-step scale with 1 being the least harmful and 5 a good reason to stock up on candles.
The coronal mass ejections thrown out by the current sunspot complex were pointed away from Earth and not a problem. As it rotates around the sun and points toward the planet, that could change, the center said on its website yesterday.
A minor radio blackout happened earlier this week, while in September, a tandem of coronal ejections from a single sunspot complex touched off a series of moderate geomagnetic storms. In March of 1989 entire the Canadian province of Quebec suffered a blackout caused by a solar storm, according to NASA’s website.
The sunspots that are now becoming visible will take about two weeks to traverse the side of the sun pointed at the Earth, Rutledge said. In about a week, the system will be in perfect position to do the most damage, he said.
Carrington Event
The concern that lingers with many researchers has its roots in a storm recorded in 1859 by British astronomer Richard Carrington.
Known since then as the Carrington Event, the storm electrified telegraph lines, shocking operators, and created an aurora seen in Cuba and Hawaii, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration website.
A comparable storm that erupted in 2012 missed the Earth, sparing power grids and orbiting satellites.
Until researchers see a complex on the surface of the sun they can’t know what it might do, Rutledge said. “Two weeks ago we had the biggest region we had in 25 years and it didn’t do anything.”

Diamond Mine Dinosaurs

African diamond mine reveals dinosaur and large mammal tracks

Unexpectedly one of the largest diamond mines in Africa, Catoca […]

Finding Spinosaurus

A Dinosaur Bigger Than T. Rex
by Tanya Lewis
Finding Spinosaurus: A Dinosaur Bigger Than T. Rex
A century ago, scientists unearthed fossils of a gigantic carnivorous dinosaur bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex in the Sahara desert, but until recently, paleontologists thought the fearsome beast was lost to history.
Known as Spinosaurus, the colossal predator sported a massive finlike sail on its back and a 3-foot-long (0.9 meters) jaw full of jagged teeth. Bigger than both T. rex and Gigantosaurus, it lived in the swamps and rivers of North Africa during the Cretaceous Period, about 112 million to 97 million years ago.
The only known specimens of Spinosaurus were destroyed during World War II, but a young paleontologist named Nizar Ibrahim has made it his life's work to track down traces of the massive beast. A new NOVA/National Geographic special follows Ibrahim on his journey to the dinosaur's final resting place.
Bigger than T. rex
A German aristocrat named Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach made several expeditions to the Egyptian Sahara between 1910 and 1914, and discovered dozens of new dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles and fish. Among Stromer's finds were two partial skeletons of a giant predatory dinosaur, which he named Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.
Stromer's skeletons were displayed in the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology in Munich. During World War II, Stromer wanted to move the collection to a safer location, but he was an outspoken critic of the Nazi Party, and the museum director refused to move the skeletons. In 1944, Allied bombings destroyed the museum and with it, the only known fossils of Spinosaurus. Only a few old photographs and drawings remain, and Stromer himself has been largely forgotten.
But Ibrahim, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago, and his colleagues launched an investigation to find more fossils of the elusive Spinosaurus.
Finding Spinosaurus: A Dinosaur Bigger Than T. RexDinosaurs have fascinated Ibrahim since he was five or six years old, he told Live Science. "I didn’t really see dinosaurs as big scary monsters or supernatural dragons, but as really interesting animals," he said. He learned about Spinosaurus from drawings in a children's book, but the illustrations were just guesses, since nobody knew exactly what the animal looked like.
Ibrahim wrote his own research proposal and obtained funding to travel to the border between Morocco and Algeria. There, he collected thousands of fossils, including the bone fragments and teeth of crocodiles, dinosaurs and flying reptiles. The ecosystem was totally dominated by predators, all living in the same place at the same time, Ibrahim said. "It was the most dangerous place in the history of our planet."
On a visit to Erfoud, Morocco, in 2008, Ibrahim came across a box of purplish stones with yellow streaks of sediment, containing what appeared to be a dinosaur hand bone and a flat blade bone with a creamy white interior. He bought the bones, even though he thought they were probably scientifically worthless.
The following year, Ibrahim visited the Natural History Museum in Milan, where some researchers showed him the partial skeleton of a giant dinosaur that they had obtained from a fossil dealer. Ibrahim immediately recognized it was a fossil of Spinosaurus. What's more, the bones were embedded in a purplish stone with yellow streaks, just like the one he had bought in Morocco. Ibrahim suspected the bones were from the same specimen, if only he could find where the rest was buried. But to do that, he would have to find the man who sold him the fossils.
"It was probably the craziest idea in the history of paleontology," Ibrahim said. He didn't know the man's name or address, all he knew was that the man had a beard. "It's not like finding a needle in a haystack, it's more like finding a needle in the desert," he said.
One day, Ibrahim was sitting in a cafe in Erfoud, ready to give up his hunt for the mystery fossil dealer. Just then, a bearded man walked by, and Ibrahim instantly recognized him as the man he had been looking for. The man took him to the original site where he had found the Spinosaurus bones, and there, the paleontologist dug up pieces of bone and teeth that matched those in the skeleton.
Ibrahim took the bones back to the University of Chicago, where he and his colleagues scanned them using a CT scanner, in order to create a digital reconstruction of Spinosaurus' skeleton.
But another mystery remained: Spinosaurus was a deadly predator, and it was found in an area with many other fearsome predators. How could the giant dinosaur coexist with so many competitors?
The answer seems to be that Spinosaurus lived in water for much of its life. It had long, slender jaws well suited for catching fish, short hind limbs that resemble those of the ancestors of whales, as well as flat claws and paddlelike feet. Spinosaurus' bones are also extremely dense, similar to other animals that spend a lot of time in water, Ibrahim said.
The purpose of the dinosaur's huge sail fin is still a mystery, but it may have functioned as a display structure to fend off would-be competitors.
"It's really exciting to find this incredible dinosaur," Ibrahim said. "But what's also interesting is the bigger picture." If you're trying to understand how the history of life on Earth has unfolded over deep time, "the Sahara is probably the best place to experience that," he said.
A life-size skeleton model of Spinosaurus is on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., until April 12, 2015.