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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Daily Drift

The Nineteenth of our trees of December ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 200 countries around the world daily.   
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Today is  - Underdog Day

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Today in History

1154   Henry II is crowned king of England.  
1562   The French Wars of Religion between the huguenots and the catholics begins with the Battle of Dreux.
1793   French troops recapture Toulon from the British.  
1862   Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest begins tearing up the railroads in Union generals Grant and Rosecrans rear, causing considerable delays in the movement of Union supplies.  
1900   The French Parliament votes amnesty for everyone involved in the Dreyfus Affair.
1909   American socialist women denounce suffrage as a movement of the middle class.  
1941   Japanese land on Hong Kong and clash with British troops.  
1941   Adolf Hitler assumes the position of commander in chief of the German army.  
1942   The British advance 40 miles into Burma in a drive to oust the Japanese from the colony.  
1944   During the Battle of the Bulge, American troops begin pulling back from the twin Belgian cities of Krinkelt and Rocherath in front of the advancing German Army.  
1945   Congress confirms Eleanor Roosevelt as U.S. delegate to the United Nations.  
1950   The North Atlantic Council names General Dwight D. Eisenhower as supreme commander of Western European defense forces.  
1959   Reputed to be the last civil war veteran, Walter Williams, dies at 117 in Houston.  
1974   Nelson Rockefeller is sworn in as vice president of the United states after a House of Representatives vote.  
1982   Four bombs explode at South Africa's only nuclear power station in Johannesburg.  
1984   British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang sign an agreement that committed Britain to return Hong Kong to China in 1997 in return for terms guaranteeing a 50-year extension of its capitalist system. Hong Kong was leased by China to Great Britain in 1898 for 99 years. 1998   President Bill Clinton is impeached. The House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Clinton, charging him with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Clinton was the second president in American history to be impeached.  
2001   The highest barometric pressure ever recorded (1085.6 hPa, 32.06 inHg) occurs at Tosontsengel, Khovsgol, Mongolia.  
2001   Rioting begins in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during the country's economic crisis.  
2012   Park Geun-hye elected President of South Korea, the nation's first female chief executive.

35 Features for Your Dream Home When You Strike it Rich

Home theater/swimming pool combo
You win a ridiculously high amount of dough in the lottery. You collect your winnings and decide to build the house of your dreams. What kind of amenities would you include? Are you a wine or spirits enthusiast enough to build a grand wine cellar? Are you a swimmer who would build indoor/outdoor pools? A hippophile who would build stables for horses? A bibliophile desirous of room for your large collection? The endless possibilities are enough to make one's head spin.
Here is a list of 35 items that would fit the bill. Even if some of them wouldn't necessarily be on your list, I think most of us can agree that it wouldn't exactly hurt to have them.
Glass door in kitchen floor leading to underground wine cellar
Office with space-saving bookshelves

Waterslide in bedroom closet leads to pool below

Al Franken Sends Uber Running By Questioning Their Privacy Policies

Uber responds to Seator Franken, but "it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining, and sharing customer data."…
Al Franken
“To Uber” is going to mean “to hide” soon, thanks to car service company Uber’s possum act in the midst of a self-made and perpetuated brand crisis.
Uber has been in hot water for many reasons, not the least of which has been disturbing suggestions and revelations about their lack of adherence to any coherent privacy policy after one of their executives told dinner companions (including a Buzzfeed editor — oops!) that Uber should use its access to personal information to dox journalists who don’t give the car service a stellar review.
This didn’t go over well, especially in the wake of Uber’s 6th grade level misogyny (pairing with a French escort service as drivers for a promotion) while selling its service to women as a safe ride home. In order to order to prove all was well, an Uber employee accessed a Buzzfeed journalist’s history without permission. Point made.
Thus they managed to raise even more alarms.
Uber finally got around to answering Senator Al Franken’s (D-MN) questions about its privacy policies in a letter (read it here) that while several paragraphs long, says basically nothing. They informed him that their privacy policy is on their app and website, but everyone knows that. What no one knows is when or if they enforce said privacy policies. Certainly their executive doesn’t seem to and the employees seem to operate under the belief that it’s fair game for them to access private information whenever they want.
Furthermore, the privacy and data collection policies cited on Uber’s website differ from their public claims and in fact do not support their public claims. This is part of what drew Franken’s attention to the car service’s public meltdown in the first place, given that Franken is the Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law.
Uber offered no real answers on ow they use their GPS based app which can track users’ locations or the “dog’s view” tool. Senator Franken was not pleased. He issued the following statement in response to Uber’s lack of response:
“I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right includes the ability to control who is getting your personal location information and who it’s being shared with,” said Senator Franken. “I recently pressed Uber to explain the scope, transparency, and enforceability of their privacy policies. While I’m pleased that they replied to my letter, I am concerned about the surprising lack of detail in their response. Quite frankly, they did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them. Most importantly, it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining, and sharing customer data. I will continue pressing for answers to these questions.”
So, the question is how does Uber define legitimate reasons for accessing, retaining and sharing personal information? That shouldn’t be too hard to answer if the company actually has a policy that they use.
People will just start to use alternative companies. It’s not that hard to make an app and develop a privacy policy that is strictly enforced. It certainly shouldn’t take weeks to sort out the details – had this already been done, the company wouldn’t be ducking and dodging now. But, just like any bad corporate actor, instead of owning up to their mistakes and trying to make it right immediately, we’re getting more avoidance and revisionism and moving of the goal posts.
Just call Green Tomato Cars if they have them where you are until Uber gets itself together. There is no excuse for not defining exactly what they are doing with people’s private information.

Obama Gets A Win Over The NRA As Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy To Be Surgeon General

President Obama got a big win over the NRA as his nominee to be Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, was confirmed by Senate, 51-43.
The NRA had stalled Murthy’s nomination for months because they claimed that he was an anti-gun activist, but as part of the deal to get the government funding bill passed, repugicans lifted their hold on the nomination, which passed 51-43.
Earlier this year, The Nation discussed the real reason why the NRA opposed Murthy’s nomination, “With public health professionals engaging more forcefully on the gun issue, the NRA has a pressing interest in muting their calls for stronger policy. Really, the campaign against Murthy is the continuation of a longstanding effort to make discussion of gun violence taboo. For years the NRA has worked to bury information about gun violence and its public health implications. The NRA has campaigned successfully to ban registries that collect data on guns used in crimes, and in 1996 the group fought for and won legislation that froze federal funding for research on gun violence. Although Obama lifted the restriction last year in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, there’s still very little money—federal and private—for gun research and not enough data, said David Hemenway, an expert on injury at the Harvard School of Public Health.”
The NRA doesn’t want a Surgeon General who will use his platform to talk about gun violence, much less encourage research into the causes and solutions to the problem.
After the Senate vote, President Obama said in a statement, “I applaud the Senate for confirming Vivek Murthy to be our country’s next Surgeon General. As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe. He’ll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong. Vivek will also help us build on the progress we’ve made combating Ebola, both in our country and at its source. Combined with the crucial support for fighting Ebola included in the bill to fund our government next year, Vivek’s confirmation makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home.”
The passage of the government funding bill was not a happy day for many Democrats, but one of the upsides of repugicans being so eager to get home for xmas is that they gave away the farm when it came to getting the Senate schedule cleared. President Obama has two dozen more posts filled because repugicans didn’t want to do any more work this year.
This president has not been afraid to challenge the NRA, and his persistence is one of the reasons why Harry Reid was able to seize the opportunity to get a confirmation vote on a nominee that the NRA never wanted to see confirmed. It takes time, patience, and persistence, but the NRA can be defeated.
The nation now has a Surgeon General who is willing to speak out, and this is going to be one xtmas defeat that will come back to haunt the NRA over the next two years.

Wingnuts Justify Their Racism By Claiming Black Criminals Are Racists

Even when the wingnuts try to explain racism, they end up being racist. They are all in agreement that there are black criminals and bad cops. Funny thing though …
Photo Courtesy of Conservative Tribune
As the racial revolution continues, the wingnut rag 'Conservative Tribune' posted their meme on anti-racism above on Facebook saying that not all cops are bad and not all blacks are criminal…cops can’t be criminal? But the photo shows a heart from two hands depicting a black person and a white person. They even have the hashtag #stoplabeling. Is this their way of saying stop labeling cops as bad and blacks as criminals? Apparently, their followers don’t agree:
Moses ***** I agree with the first and third statements. The 2nd is harder to accept because blacks make up the majority of the prison population and the 3 whitest states: Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire also have the lowest crime rates. This is not racist but facts that don’t lie.
Beverly ***** The blacks are not racist – the ni****s are racist – there are good and bad in every race and racists in every race – I use the “N” word to distinguish the difference in them – I have black friends and they are every bit as disgusted with this whole Ferguson thing as everyone…and the white trash joining them will find out the hard way what they are doing is wrong!
Phil ***** Not all cops are bad but being racists runs deep in white and black alike
Glenn ***** There are white criminals. There are bad cops(black and white) and there are certainly black racists! When “labeling” an individual make sure it fits and not just arbitrary!
Thomas ***** Here’s the issue for me. ( I’m a white guy) I have plenty of friends that are not white, btw. As a white dude I’m constantly being told that race is not an issue, judge the person by that individuals traits. How is it ok for a double standard here? All the looters are using a thug pos as an excuse to loot all the while chanting hate towards white people. My problem is not knowing when enough is enough and when do I ( as a white pos) start standing up for the real Americans and my own ” race”? Am I to abandon my friendships because of this ignorance? Is this the plan handed down from my president, my America? It’s frustrating, and makes me doubt myself. I have seen more racism towards whites than any other minority during my life. Always someone Threatening to hurt a cracker. I hope these animals get stopped before the decent blacks and whites forget that we are supposed to all be Americans. However, I will not continue to keep an open mind if my Americans continue to act like gutter trash scumbags .
Even when the wingnuts try to explain racism, they end up being racist. They are all in agreement that there are black criminals and bad cops. Funny thing, a cop who commits a crime, is indicted, found guilty and is serving time, well, they are a bad apple. I knew a few bad apples from the LAPD and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The mentality on the wingnuts though is confusing. The wingnuts are fully supportive of what the cops did in New York, Missouri, Illinois, California, Arizona and other states where white officers/deputies shot and killed an unarmed black person, yet the same people who are supportive of law enforcement, are against any tax increase that would pay law enforcement officers. They are also anti-union and are anti-law enforcement when they were ordered to remove Cliven Bundy’s cattle on public land. This is proof that wingnuts only love law enforcement when black and brown folks are killed by them.
Like our previous story: Wingnuts Have A Double Standard When It Comes To Use Of Police Force On Blacks, wingnuts scream of injustice when law enforcement kill their own. Waco Texas and Ruby Ridge Idaho were two of the same. Obviously, the federal government was over-reaching and the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information held a total of 14 days of hearings between September 6 and October 19, 1995, and subsequently issued a report calling for reforms in federal law enforcement to prevent a repeat of Ruby Ridge and to restore public confidence in federal law enforcement…yet nothing on the repeated abuse of law enforcement against black and Hispanic folks by law enforcement or even how a grand jury finds shooting or choking to death unarmed black men are justified.
'Conservative Tribune' just doesn’t get it and their mentality shows in their meme. Black criminals? The members’ justification of black and Hispanic criminals being a problem and the cops should do something is based upon the percentage of blacks and Hispanics in prison nationwide…which does not reflect the population of the U.S. According to the census, Population, 2013 estimate there are 316,128,839 people in the U.S. Whites make 77.7%, Blacks or African Americans make up 13.2% and Hispanics or Latinos make up 17.1% of the U.S. population, yet Blacks and Hispanics combined make up more than 90 percent of the imprisoned population, why? Because of different factors. Factors like money for attorney, basic knowledge of the law, holding someone 72 hours or released on their own recognizance and law enforcement. According to the Drug Policy Alliance:
Since the 1980s, federal penalties for crack were 100 times harsher than those for powder cocaine, with African Americans disproportionately sentenced to much lengthier terms. But, in 2010, DPA played a key role in reducing the crack/powder sentencing disparity from 100:1 to 18:1, and we are committed to passing legislation that would eliminate the disparity entirely.
Crack is cheaper than powder cocaine and many users tend to buy the cheaper-priced substance. Therefore, with punishment harsher for blacks and Hispanics, there is a larger population of blacks and Hispanics than whites in prison. So for Moses ***** to write his statement:
Moses ***** I agree with the first and third statements. The 2nd is harder to accept because blacks make up the majority of the prison population and the 3 whitest states: Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire also have the lowest crime rates. This is not racist but facts that don’t lie.
Is wrong…even when the truth is right in front of them. Yet even with all the facts, the wingnuts still won’t accept the fact that the war on drugs by the pretender saint Ronny Raygun directly affected people of color as seen on PBS called Guns, Drug and the CIA and Raygun himself apologizing that his men and women were involved in illegal covert operations: Part 1 and Part 2. This policy eventually led to what is happening today, and the wingnuts still see blacks and Hispanics as thugs or illegals.
Yet with the protests going on around the U.S. and even in the cold, there is a rainbow of ethnicity standing up to racists and maybe, this may be the beginning of a new civil rights movement.

The repugicans And Faux News Win PolitiFact’s Lie Of The Year Award For 2014

ebola as a weaponThe repugicans and Faux News have won PolitiFact’s lie of the year award for spreading inaccurate information and hysteria about Ebola.
PolitiFact explained why they chose the wingnut’s Ebola hysteria as the lie of the year.
PolitiFact and PunditFact rated 16 separate claims about Ebola as Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire on our Truth-O-Meter in 2014. Ten of those claims came in October, as Duncan’s case came to the fore and as voters went to the polls to select a new Congress.

Faux News hack George Will claimed Ebola could be spread into the general population through a sneeze or a cough, saying the conventional wisdom that Ebola spreads only through direct contact with bodily fluids was wrong.

“The problem is the original assumption, said with great certitude if not certainty, was that you need to have direct contact, meaning with bodily fluids from someone, because it’s not airborne,” Will said. “There are doctors who are saying that in a sneeze or some cough, some of the airborne particles can be infectious.” False.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, r-Ky., described Ebola as “incredibly contagious,” “very transmissible” and “easy to catch.” Mostly False.
Members of Congress even came up with their own scenarios, with some suggesting that Ebola could be a security threat to the United States carried in by illegal immigrants or terrorists. But such ideas contradicted basic facts about the disease.

In early October, Faux News posted a list of the top nine scariest pandemic movies. At the top was the 1995 film Outbreak, in which a virus mutates, becomes airborne and forces the Army to consider dropping a nuclear weapon on a sleepy California town.
PolitiFact also called out the cable news networks for endlessly hyping the hysteria, but make no mistake about it; the hysteria was being fueled by false information being delivered by repugicans on a daily basis. President Obama spent the better part of a month debunking Ebola misinformation that repugicans kept putting out there.
The repugicans lied about Ebola because they were using panic and fear to create mistrust of the government in order to steal an election. Once repugicans stole control of the Senate, Ebola stopped being a pressing issue. Ebola was such a non-issue that House repugicans took the country to the brink of another government shutdown that would have delayed more funding for combating Ebola last week.
The cable news networks tried to use Ebola to increase ratings. The repugicans used Ebola to steal an election. Lost in all of the needless hysteria was the fact that the American people never had anything to fear about Ebola.
The Ebola panic demonstrated that fear based politics didn’t die with the shrub junta. Fear remains the repugican weapon of choice, and the corporate media are happy to go along for the ride if it means increased ratings and profits.
The lie of the year award has returned to its rightful wingnut place in 2014.

Cheney - An American Joke

"Perhaps the only saving grace of this sociopath formerly in high office is that he understands that his legacy could well be as a war criminal unlike any in American history before him. That's my only explanation for why he has to be out there day after day, year after year, attacking his predecessor, lambasting America's return to civilization, and insisting that hanging people from shackles, freezing them to near-death, near-drowning them so that their abdomens are distended with water, anally raping them, breaking their limbs, keeping them awake so long they hallucinated … is not somehow torture. Ask yourself: have you ever met someone who believes that? Outside the professional criminal classes, that it."
~  Andrew Sullivan on Dick Cheney

Rationalizing 'Patriotism'

Urban definition: American Exceptionalism
… Americans' exceptional capacity to rationalize anything on the grounds that Americans are so darn extra special the rules don't apply to them.

Coal Policy


How To Decorate A Christmas Tree

The no-stress way to decorate your Christmas tree.

25 Years Of Must-Have Toys

Remember the hectic mall visits leading up to the holidays to snatch the last Tickle Me Elmo? Or what about when Furby fever seemed to take over every tween's wish list? Whether you were giving or receiving these toys, chances are some made it to your home wrapped in a big bow.
Harken back to toys of holiday past with Personal Creations who created this infographic - a nostalgic, illustrated guide to the must-have toys of the past 25 years.

'Smug' traffic warden gave Santa's sleigh a parking ticket

A 'smug' traffic warden slapped a ticket on a car delivering Santa’s sleigh. Father Christmas’s favorite mode of transport was about to go out collecting money for charity in Hinckley town center, Leicestershire. Volunteer Chris Uttley was left frustrated when his car, which was towing the Hinckley Round Table sleigh, was caught by a female warden last Saturday. Mr Uttley drove the sleigh and placed it outside of the Co-op before moving his car outside of the retractable bollards and parking it briefly on zig-zag lines near to the pedestrian crossing. He was waiting for other volunteers to meet him to take over the sleigh and hold the collection. He said: “I had moved outside of the bollards to avoid blocking the way or being locked in. There was nowhere else nearby to park and I didn’t want to just leave the sleigh - it could have been vandalized. I moved the car out of the way as much as I could. I walked back to the sleigh to take over a bag of collection tins that were in my car. My back was turned for no more than 30 seconds. As I turned and walked back towards my car I found a traffic warden issuing me a ticket. I explained the circumstances only to be told that there was nothing that could be done.
“This now falls to the charity to pick up the parking ticket out of much-needed funds given to us by the public. I thought it was very heartless - I was shocked. The vehicle was not unattended and there wasn’t any observation time given. Santa was absolutely shocked and said the warden should be put on the naughty list and get a lump of coal for Christmas.” The ticket was given in under a minute. It was issued at 9.03am and observed from 9.03am to 9.03am. The fine will cost the charity £35 if they pay it within 14 days or £70 after that.
Mr Uttley added: “I found the warden was very smug. It was as though she was waiting for me to move and she pounced on us. Obviously I would never have parked there normally but you’d have thought there would be some special discretion. We have spoken to the county council and I hope they will do something about this.” A Leicestershire County Council spokesman said: “We are reviewing the ticket and looking carefully at the reasons the driver has given for parking on the zig-zag lines next to a pedestrian crossing.” Last year the Hinckley Round Table collection raised more than £5,000 for charitable causes and the volunteers are hoping to raise even more this year.

The Fire Truck Will Get Where It Needs to Go Even If It Has to Push a Police Cruiser out of the Way

A building on Montreal caught fire last September. Firefighters were eager to get to it as soon as possible, for it was blazing vigorously.
This took place in Old Montreal--the oldest part of the city, which has very narrow streets. It was hard for the firefighters to maneuver their fire truck to the scene. The fact that police had chosen to park their cars in the way didn't help. But it didn't stop the fire truck, either. The driver pushed the police cruisers out of the way, sideswiped a BMW parked nearby, and kept going.
Now if only I could do this to people who waddle slowly in front of me down the middle of hallways . . . .

Lifeboat used to rescue teenage girls stuck in thick mud

Two teenage girls who became trapped in thick mud were rescued from an incoming tide on Saturday afternoon. The girls, aged 13 and 15, were trapped at the base of the cliffs at Warden Bay, Isle of Sheppey, Kent, after trying to take a short-cut.
Firefighters called to the scene were unable to reach them and with the tide coming in and light failing they called the lifeboat from Whitstable to take them in from the sea to pull the girls out. They were eventually released and taken to an ambulance where they were assessed to be "frightened but unharmed".
Kent Fire and Rescue Service watch manager Andrew Bridger-Smart said: "We used a mud rescue path to reach the girls and released them using a special mud lance. We were then able to bring them to safety across the mud rescue path and the RNLI boat took them to shore where they were treated for mild hypothermia by the ambulance team.

"The public need to understand just how dangerous mud can be, and how unpredictable it is. What may seem a firm and safe area can be just feet away from dangerous mud. Though it may look firm enough to walk on, it is incredibly sticky and can cause a vacuum under foot. That means the more you try to pull your way out, the more the vacuum holds you - which is what happened to the girls."

Tourists' trip to campsite toilet ended with them and their van tumbling into river

A couple of Welsh tourists in New Zealand will be walking to the loo in future after an attempt to drive to a campground convenience in Puketi Forest went disastrously wrong. The visitors from Wales had been staying at the Department of Conservation's Forest Pools campground, when they decided to drive to the toilets at about 8am on Thursday, possibly because of heavy rain.
The toilets are about 300m up a narrow road from the main camping area. Okaihau Fire Chief Andrew Graham said it appeared the van went too close to the edge of a slip and tumbled six meters into the Waipapa River. The woman was unhurt but her male companion suffered multiple cuts and bruises. He was kept overnight at Bay of Islands Hospital for observation. Both managed to get out of the van before emergency services arrived.
Mr Graham said the brigade gave the couple a place to shelter from the rain until the ambulance arrived. The two had recently arrived in New Zealand and had just bought the van. DoC Bay of Islands area manager Rolien Elliot said driving to the toilets was discouraged because the road was narrow. However, each time bollards were placed across the road and warning signs erected, they were promptly removed by vandals. Ms Elliot said Forest Pools was a lovely spot.
"We like the public to use it. It's just a shame a few people continue to vandalise the toilets and remove the bollards, putting other people at risk." DoC was planning to build new toilets closer to the camping area so people would not feel compelled to drive. Due to proximity to the river, the new facilities would be dry vault toilets that could be pumped out rather than the current long drops. Forest Pools is a popular summer camping spot thanks to a series of swimming holes in the Waipapa River.

Caffeine - With and Without

yuban-coffeeDo caffeine’s effects differ with or without sugar?

Consuming caffeinated or sugary drinks can affect the body’s metabolism, causing changes in heart and respiratory rate and weight gain. The results of a new study exploring whether individuals respond […]

Can The Umbrella Be Improved?

They get lost. They poke people in the eye. They misbehave on windy days. Umbrellas have been around for more than 3,000 years, but young designers are trying to reinvent them.

10 Ways to Offend People in Other Countries

Practice has paid off and you're now good at offending people in your own country. But what about other nations and cultures? What may work in your own culture may not successfully offend people in others. Thankfully, When on Earth has a list of 10 ways you can offend people around the world.
For example, in Australia and New Zealand, it's considered snobbish to sit in the back seat of a taxi. Most natives, When on Earth informs us, sit in the front seat with the cabbie. So: into the back seat you go.

Prisoners of 'Ingenious' 1962 Alcatraz Escape Could Have Survived

Escaped Prisoners from Alcatraz Island If they had timed their escape just right, three prisoners who slipped out of Alcatraz more than 50 years ago on a raft made from raincoats would have had a chance of survival, new research shows.
Scientists who were studying the San Francisco Bay's strong tides reconstructed the possible routes of the audacious 1962 escape. The men might have been able to find shelter on an outcrop near the Golden Gate Bridge — that is, if they weren't swept out to sea first, according to the study.
From 1934 to 1963, during its time as a maximum high-security federal prison, Alcatraz hosted some of the 20th century's most notorious criminals, including gangsters Al Capone, Mickey Cohen and Whitey Bulger. The facility is perhaps most famous for its forbidding location, isolated on a rocky island in the middle of San Francisco Bay.
In the three decades that Alcatraz was in operation, there were only 14 escape attempts involving 36 men, according to the FBI. Nearly all of the escapees were caught or died. But on the night of June 11, 1962, three inmates left Alcatraz in one of the most mysterious prison breaks in American history.
John Anglin, his brother Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris tucked dummy heads into their bed sheets and snuck into an unused utility corridor through holes they had crudely drilled through their cells. Then, from the prison roof, they shimmied down the bakery smoke stack and climbed over the fence. From the northeast shore of the island, they floated away from the prison on a small raft made from more than 50 stolen raincoats that were inflated with a musical instrument that was converted into a pump. Even the FBI still calls the plan "ingenious" on its website.
After a 17-year investigation, federal authorities concluded that the men most likely drowned during the escape, and the FBI maintains it has no credible evidence that the men are alive in the United States or overseas. But that official word has hardly stopped alternate theories from cropping up. The TV show "MythBusters" has tackled the escape, concluding that it's possible the three men could have paddled to safety.
A group of Dutch hydraulic experts recently decided to take a crack at the prison break while they were modeling San Francisco Bay to study flood risk and the impact of sea-level rise. The scientists simulated dozens of possible routes the inmates could have taken on the night of their escape.
"We didn't know exactly when the inmates launched their boats, or their precise starting point, and so we decided to release 50 'boats' every 30 minutes between 20:00 and 04:00 (11 p.m. and 4 a.m.) from a range of possible escape spots at Alcatraz to see where they would end up," Fedor Baart, a hydraulic engineer at the Netherlands-based research institute Deltares, said in a statement. "We added a paddling effect to the 'boats,' as we assumed the prisoners would paddle as they got closer to land."
If the three men left Alcatraz any earlier than 11:30 p.m., they would have been swept out to sea by strong currents, Baart and his colleagues found. But if the prisoners set off on their raft between 11:30 and midnight, it's likely that they could have landed just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, at Horseshoe Bay. The models also show that any debris after the landing might have drifted toward Angel Island, north of Alcatraz, which is where the FBI found a paddle and some personal items linked to the men.
"Of course, this doesn't prove this was what really happened, but the latest and best hydraulic modeling information indicates that it was certainly possible," another study author, Rolf Hut, of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, said in a statement.
The findings were presented (Dec. 16) at the 47th annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

H.H. Holmes: The Monster and His Castle

H.H. Holmes
“Come with me, if you will, to a tiny, quiet, New England village, nestling among the picturesquely rugged hills of New Hampshire.”
-H.H. Holmes, “Holmes’ Own Story," 1895
So begins, in his own words, the story of H.H. Holmes, America’s first known – and perhaps most prolific – serial killer. Born Herman Webster Mudgett in 1861 and raised by his parents against the bucolic backdrop of Gilmanton, New Hampshire, he had a privileged upbringing. A youth of high intelligence, Herman excelled in school. He exhibited a hallmark of many serial killers in their youths, the torture and killing of animals. Despite this, young Herman managed to stay out of trouble, though he was bullied by peers. During one such experience, his schoolmates dragged him inside the office of the town's doctor, knowing he was afraid of it. There he faced the doctor’s model skeleton. Though terrified at first, he later claimed the incident imbued in him a desire to learn about human anatomy.  
Learn about anatomy he did. Mudgett enrolled at the medical school of the University of Michigan. It was there that he discovered a passion for dissecting cadavers. For Mudgett, medical school was an education in how to profit from acquiring and selling cadavers and skeletons. He learned that human skeletons were a commodity for which people paid handsomely. Additionally, he gleaned a trick of his lifelong career as a con artist: insurance fraud. Mudgett purchased claims on fictitious people and subsequently disfigured cadavers, using them to cash in on the policy of the “accident victims.” Not even a year after he began studying medicine, the school expelled Mudgett for stealing cadavers. He was readmitted that same year. Such was the life of this charismatic hustler: rarely was he unable to smooth talk people so that things went his way.
At age 23, Herman Mudgett graduated from medical school. After approximately a year of drifting, he decided to move to Chicago. He also took on the name that would be recorded in the annals of criminal history: Henry Howard (H.H) Holmes.
Holmes arrived in Chicago in May of 1886. He settled in Englewood, then a commercially robust suburb on the city’s south side. There he began work as a pharmacist in a drugstore owned by the Holton family. Pharmacy owner Edward Holton died several months later, reportedly of cancer. Holmes convinced Holton’s widow to sell him the store. After an initial down payment, Holmes stalled any further payments to the widow, who eventually filed suit against him. Shortly afterward, she mysteriously disappeared, most likely dying by Holmes' hand.
World's Columbian Exposition (Chicago World's Fair), 1893
At that time, circumstances in late 1880s Chicago and the nefarious schemes and blood lust of Holmes joined to create a perfect storm for serial murder. Chicago was in a period of growth and renewal. The city was rebuilding after the great fire of 1871, which burnt most of its business district to ashes and left 100,000 residents homeless. Business and real estate development were welcomed. People seeking jobs flocked to the city. Soon, the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, would bring 26 million visitors to the city.
Holmes snapped up a parcel of land on the street opposite the pharmacy, which he soon closed. He then drew up secret blueprints for a building that would later make him infamous worldwide. Homes kept the plans of the three-story structure under wraps by hiring men to construct sections of it and then firing them before they could understand how their work fit into the bigger picture. Holmes had good reason to conceal the design of the house, as it would have aroused suspicions about its designer. As it was, Englewood residents looked proudly upon the massive building being constructed, considering it a monument to the success of their community. They dubbed the structure “the castle.”

"The Castle" of H.H. Holmes
The ground floor of Holmes' twisted masterpiece was divided into ordinary retail spaces, including a jewelry store, pharmacy, blacksmith shop, barber and restaurant. The third floor consisted of apartments, offices and Holmes’ living quarters. It was the second floor and basement of the structure that belied his monstrous plans. The second floor was a labyrinthine puzzle of windowless rooms, stairs and doors that led nowhere, false partitions, trap doors and secret passageways. There was a greased chute that led directly to the basement. Some rooms were soundproof and had peepholes enabling Holmes to monitor their interiors. Pipes were built in that were connected to a gas line, the flow of which Holmes could control from his master suite. He asphyxiated victims with the gas. Holmes spent many a deranged hour in the basement. It was equipped with a crematorium, vats of acid, a dissection table, surgical implements and pits of quicklime capable of disintegrating a human body within hours. There was also a torture device that stretched live human bodies apart from both ends until death.
A man named Benjamin Pitezel arrived in Chicago to answer an ad Holmes placed in search of carpenters. Pitezel was a petty criminal and alcoholic who, to his credit, was devoted to his wife Carrie and five children enough to be constantly drifting in search of employment to support them. Holmes took a liking to Pitezel, eventually using him as an assistant in his fraudulent activities and cons.
Once construction on Holmes’ house of horrors was complete, he was able to become the efficient killing machine of his fantasies. Holmes killed countless victims, mostly women. Many were in his employ at the commercial spaces of the castle. Some were his mistresses. One such unlucky woman, Julia Conner, came to live and work in the castle with her husband and eight-year-old daughter Pearl. Julia began an affair with Holmes, and when her husband demanded that it stop, she refused and her husband left town. Holmes eventually killed Julia and Pearl when Julia became pregnant by him and demanded marriage. As Holmes often did with his kills, he cleaned Julia’s skeleton and sold it to a local medical school for $200.
To best take advantage of Chicago’s influx of tourists during the world’s fair, Holmes advertised in the paper. In these ads, he called the castle, which was only a few miles away from the fairgrounds, the “World’s Fair Hotel.” Holmes not only ensnared soon-to-be victims by newspaper ad, but he also attended the fair in the company of the Pitezel children. There, the impeccably dressed doctor would turn on the charm, luring wealthy women to his castle with the promise of a good night’s rest. These female fairgoers were perfect choices as prey. Usually from out of town and unnoticed in the huge fair crowds, they were impossible to trace once they vanished into the castle's dark recesses. Holmes kept killing, kept perpetrating frauds, kept selling skeletons and above all, he kept getting away with it.   
Once the fair ended in the fall of 1893, business was no longer booming, and Chicago's bright financial picture dimmed. Additionally, a problem was developing for Holmes in the form of Benjamin Pitezel, whose alcoholism grew worse. Holmes was acutely aware that Pitezel knew far too much about his illegal activities. Deciding that Pitezel was no longer a benefit, he planned to kill him and devised a way to make money at the same time. Holmes told Pitezel and his wife that he needed their help to pull off an insurance fraud. The plan was for Pitezel to take out a large policy on his life, listing his wife as the beneficiary. Holmes would then produce a cadaver and claim that it was Pitezel’s body, and they would split the insurance payoff. Pitezel took out a policy with Fidelity Mutual Life Association in Philadelphia, and Holmes persuaded Pitezel to travel to Philadelphia with him to establish a presence there.
In November of 1893, Holmes and Pitezel set off on a trip by train. For months they traveled the country, swindling whoever would fall for their scams. But when they arrived in St. Louis in July of 1894, their luck ran out. For the first time ever, Holmes was arrested for attempting to defraud a St. Louis pharmacy owner. He was put in a jail cell with a notorious train robber named Marion Hedgepeth. Perhaps in an attempt to brag to Hedgepeth about his criminal acumen, Holmes told him of the insurance scam he planned to commit in Philadelphia. Holmes promised Hedgepeth $500 if he’d recommend a crooked attorney he could use to facilitate the fraud. Hedgepeth gave Holmes the name of an attorney, whom Holmes contacted once he was out of jail. 
Several weeks later, Holmes and Pitezel arrived in Philadelphia. They rented a storefront and Pitezel used it to pose as a patent dealer. But instead of following through with the plan, Holmes killed his partner with chloroform and burned his face, setting up the scene to look like a chemical laboratory explosion. Some time later, an inventor walked in to the office to talk patents with Pitezel and discovered his body. 
Because the body had to be identified by a family member for the insurance company to pay out, Holmes showed up on the scene with fifteen-year-old Alice Pitezel and they identified the body. The attorney that Hedgepeth recommended to Holmes in jail was also used in the transaction. The insurance company paid the money to Carrie Pitezel. Holmes met with her and was able to talk her out of most of the money and two more of her children, under the guise of later meeting up with their father. Holmes took off with Alice, Nellie, and Howard Pitezel, traveling for weeks.
Yet Holmes made the critical error of not sending Hedgepeth the $500 he had promised him in jail. As payback, Hedgepeth sent a letter to the insurance company, detailing Holmes’ scam. The insurance company hired the famously thorough Pinkerton Detective agency to track Holmes. On November 16, 1894, Holmes was caught in Boston and arrested, just before fleeing the country by ship. At first he was only charged with insurance fraud; later, he was charged with the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. Holmes was transferred to a prison in Philadelphia to stand trial. A bereft Carrie Pitezel was charged with conspiracy. Holmes told one lie after another when authorities demanded to know where her three children were. Eventually, investigator Frank Geyer, after a lengthy international search, was able to determine that Holmes had killed all three Pitezel children. The bodies of Nellie and Alice were found buried in the cellar of a home in Toronto, and Howard’s charred bone fragments were found in a stove in Indianapolis. After the fates of the murdered children were discovered and the authorities searched the castle, the level of Holmes' depravity was revealed.

After a trial in which he acted as his own attorney, Holmes was sentenced to death for the murder of Benjamin Pitezel. Though he was prosecuted for only one death, estimates of his murder count range from 20 to 200. Holmes was executed by hanging on May 7, 1896. Yet the horrific tale of the monster and his castle never died; it remains in popular culture as the subject of books, documentaries and an upcoming feature film. 
"Yes I was born with the devil in me. I was born with the evil standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since."
–From "Confession of H.H.Holmes," printed in Philadelphia North American, April 11, 1896

Study shows all major religions developed as a result of affluence

 A South Korean diver clad in Santa Claus costume swims with sardines at the Coex Aquarium on December 6, 2014 in Seoul, South Korea.
All of the world’s major moralizing religions developed as the result of growing affluence and not the influence of morality, the race of the people, or the political complexity of life. The growth of islam, hinduism, christianity, buddhism, and judaism can all be tracked to the growth of affluence in the societies that practice these religions. The evaluation is the work of Nicolas Baumard of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and was published in the Dec. 11, 2104, edition of the journal Current Biology.
The research is not a critique of religion or a criticism of any religion. The researchers do point out that all major modern religions began to expand at the point in time when the people that were potential converts began to use 20,000 kilocalories per day of energy in their daily lives. The energy consumption would be derived in majority from food and the access to a better diet may have developed the intelligence that is needed to accept and support a moralizing religion.
Previous religions played a part in the development of modern religions. The earliest of man’s religions focused on negative consequences that resulted from an aggressively inhospitable environment that had to be appeased. The concepts of doctrines that emphasized that man existed for a purpose greater than his own welfare began to flourish in India and Europe between 500 B. C. E. and 300 B. C. E. The researchers also note that the most long lasting and prosperous ancient empires like the Egyptians, the Romans, the Aztecs, and the Incas had immoral gods according to the standards of today’s moralizing religions.
People became more involved with the concepts of morality and religion because they had freed themselves from fear, pain, and want by becoming affluent. One might note that the same behaviors can be seen today. The huge shopping spree that celebrates xmas is just one way that affluence has modified people’s concept of dog and religion.

The secret story of the Venus of Willendorf

Riverbanks of the Danube Willendorf where the Venus was found
Riverbanks of the Danube Willendorf where the Venus was found
Microscopic investigations on the world famous statuette from the Gravettian period (30,000 to 22,000 years ago) carried out at the Natural History Museum in Vienna revealed three incredible insights, and when taken together tell a secret story of this Palaeolithic figurine and her creators.
  • The limestone from which the 11cm high Venus had been carved, comes almost certainly from the region around the Moravian city of Brno 136km to the northeast of Willendorf.
  • The source of the flint blades discovered with the figure was North Moravia, a further 150km to the north.
  • The Venus had once been completely painted with red ochre, and given the ritualistic associations of this material meant that the figure was more than likely a cultic object.
Read more about this :here.

This Spectacular Home Is At Peace With The California Desert

The Desert House - located in Joshua Tree in Southern California's High Desert - is simply a stunning example of architecture as art. The home is at a comfortable equilibrium with its barren desert environment.
The structure - designed by architect Ken Kellogg - is dominated by soaring concrete ribs, but the overall effect is similar to the Native American adobe pueblos that were once scattered across the American southwest.

Shishmaref, Alaska

A Village Looking for a Home
There are 563 people in Shishmaref, Alaska, just 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle. The 3-mile long island the village sits on is eroding as increasing numbers of storms are collapsing the northern beach. Fourteen houses were moved in 1997, and others have collapsed with the shoreline since then. Elders remember using wide beaches for a playground; those beaches are no longer there.
The island has dealt with erosion issues since at least the 1950s. But now climate change is exacerbating the problem considerably. Average temperatures are increasing faster in Alaska than they are in the rest of the United States, warming 3.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the last 50 years. The higher temperatures are causing the subsurface layer of permanently frozen soil typically found in the Arctic to thaw in some areas. This weaker permafrost is more vulnerable to storms and tidal activity, fueling the loss of Shishmaref's shores.
Warmer temperatures have also shortened the amount of time the Chukchi Sea stays frozen each year, leaving the coastline exposed to fall and early winter storms. Now, during storms, the sand will "just melt with the water," said Luci Eningowuk, 65. From 2004 to 2008 Eningowuk served as chair of the Shishmaref Erosion and Relocation Coalition, the group charged with developing and executing a plan for moving the town. "The waves would come and take a whole lot of the land."
The residents voted in 2002 to relocate the village, but that hasn’t happened. It costs money to find a proper location, build infrastructure, and move the population. Government funding is hard to get -and hard to keep, especially since Shishmaref is far from the only community in danger along the Alaskan coastline. And after twelve years, the village needs repairs, but is it worth it when it will have to move sooner or later? Proponents of moving say it’s better to go now, in order to secure a location and keep the community intact. Otherwise, when the island is destroyed, the residents will become scattered refugees. Read about the island village of Shishmaref and its uncertain future at HuffPo.

Martian Methane

What It Could Mean for Life
Curiosity Rover Finds Methane on Mars: What It Could Mean for Life
NASA's Curiosity rover has recently made a surprising find on Mars that could help scientists get one step closer to figuring out if the Red Planet has ever supported life.
The 1-ton Curiosity rover also discovered a fleeting spike in the levels of methane at its landing site, Gale Crater. Over the course of four measurements in two months on Mars, average methane levels increased 10 fold before quickly dissipating, but the cause of the fluctuation is still unknown.
Researchers are particularly interested in finding methane on alien worlds because living organisms produce an overwhelming amount of the gas on Earth. While finding significant amounts of methane on Mars isn't a sure-fire sign of past or present life — geological processes can also produce the gas — it's still a good starting point, according to many scientists.
"Right now, it's too much of a single-point measurement for us really to jump to any conclusions," Paul Mahaffy of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland one of the authors of the new methane study, told Space.com. "So all we can really do is lay out the possibilities. And we certainly should have an open mind. Maybe there are microbes on Mars cranking out methane, but we sure can't say that ?with any certainty. It's just speculation at this point."?
A new baseline
The new study, which was published online today (Dec. 16) in the journal Science, also reveals that Curiosity found methane levels in the Martian atmosphere to be, on average, about 0.7 parts per billion.
This level is lower than previous estimates and calculations, but still higher than earlier Curiosity readings of methane published last year. The rover's earlier measurements did not find any trace of methane in the Martian atmosphere; however, scientists found a way to concentrate the rover's samples of the atmosphere, allowing them to get the most recent data about the gas.
The lack of methane measured earlier by Curiosity was disappointing for many scientists because of its potentially damning implication for finding Martian life. But the new measurements could mean there's hope yet.
"The original Science [journal] paper was very negative about there being any credence to large fluctuations in methane," Jan-Peter Muller, an ExoMars and Curiosity team member that isn't directly involved with the new study, told Space.com. "The current paper shows that such conclusions should be taken with a great deal of skepticism until sufficient data has been collected."
Water and spikes in methane
Another study published in Science today also details another exciting Curiosity find on Mars. Using a sample of clay, scientists have measured the hydrogen in the Martian atmosphere about 3 billion to 3.7 billion years ago. The new finding could help pin down when the Red Planet lost its liquid surface water.
NASA officials also announced during a news conference at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union today that Curiosity has measured organic compounds in a rock the rover drilled into on the Martian surface. The molecules could have been delivered to Mars via meteorites, or they could be native to the Red Planet, officials added. 
"We will keep working on the puzzles these findings present," John Grotzinger, Curiosity project scientist of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a statement. "Can we learn more about the active chemistry causing such fluctuations in the amount of methane in the atmosphere? Can we choose rock targets where identifiable organics have been preserved?"
The momentary spike in the level of methane found in the Martian atmosphere is somewhat puzzling for the scientists who discovered it. Curiosity found that the background level of methane averages out to about 0.7 parts per billion, but the spike brought those levels up to an average of 7 parts per billion, in just 60 Mars days. This is particularly surprising because scientists expect methane on Mars to have a lifetime of about 300 years, much longer than it actually stuck around near Curiosity, according to Christopher Webster, the lead author of the new study.
Curiosity Rover Finds Methane on Mars: What It Could …
This diagram depicts potential means by which methane might incorporate into Mars' atmosphere
Curiosity scientists made their first, surprising measurement of the methane in November 2013, when the gas clocked in at 5.5 parts per billion, Webster said. After about two more weeks, the researchers repeated the measurement with Curiosity's SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument and found the levels were at 7 parts per billion. They found this same level the next time they measured. The fourth measurement, taken a couple weeks later, came in at 9 parts per billion, but six weeks later the methane levels were back to background levels, according to Webster.
It's possible that a trapped bit of gas set free somewhere near Curiosity caused the increase in methane, scientists speculate. This burp could have created a momentary rise in the methane level around the rover, an increase that dissipated relatively quickly.
"Because of the way it [the methane] behaves, we believe it's a smaller, closer source [rather] than it is a bigger, further away source," Webster told Space.com. "But as far as the source of that methane, we cannot rule out biological activity, whether it's today or in the past, and we cannot rule out geophysical activity."
Other methane measurements
Scientists have seen fluctuations in the level of methane in the Martian atmosphere before, using orbiters and Earth-based means of looking at the planet, said Malynda Chizek Frouard, a Mars methane researcher at New Mexico State University who is unaffiliated with the study. The new data from Curiosity could help create better models of the Martian atmosphere, Chizek Frouard added.
Researchers can now try to "create scenarios where a burst of methane would produce the same sort of variation that they saw in Gale Crater," Chizek Frouard told Space.com.
Webster and his team say it is possible to narrow down the source of the methane further, but Curiosity probably isn't up to the task. Scientists will need new tools at Mars that can probe the planet's thin atmosphere to see what type of methane is present.
Certain isotopes of the gas could indicate that life forms created the methane at some point in Mars' history, while other isotopes would potentially mean that geological forces are responsible for producing the gas.
"This is a big surprise to us," Webster said. "And here we are, writing the next chapter."

Disappearing Lemurs

why largest lemurs disappearedWhy largest lemurs disappeared

Ancient DNA extracted from the bones and teeth of giant lemurs that lived thousands of years ago in Madagascar may help explain why the giant lemurs went extinct. It also […]

Police raced to home with sirens blaring after teenager mistook mud crab for an intruder

A teenager in Brisbane, Australia, has been left red faced after mistaking a wandering mud crab for an early morning intruder. Queensland Police Service officers attended the address with lights flashing and sirens blaring at about 1:45am on Monday to calls of a break in.
The informant, a teenager, told police he woke to noises of someone in the kitchen, or what he believed to be someone in the kitchen. Senior Sergeant District Duty Officer Todd Sucic said the teen was certain it was no other member of his family. "He sought refuge in his bedroom and he requested to stay on the phone to police until they arrived because he was too scared to go out," Snr Sgt Sucic said.
"On arrival police were able to determine quickly that the offender responsible was actually a large mud crab that had escaped its box and was wandering around the kitchen. The person who called for help was slightly embarrassed and quickly secured the mud crab and all was good." Snr Sgt Sucic said it was a "pretty hard case to crack".
"I think they recommended he boil the offender as soon as possible so they don't get a repeat call for this type of incident," he added. Snr Sgt Sucic said all jokes aside, the teenager had done the right thing in calling police. "If people are concerned that they could be in trouble or need help always give us a call. Better safe than sorry ... that's what we're there for," he said. "It's not often you get a funny end to a serious call."

Dog that ate homework on the mend

A high school student from Magnolia in Texas had a good excuse for being late with her Advanced Placement homework. Her dog ate it, literally, and it could have killed him. "He ate pretty much all this," said his teenage owner Reagan Hardin, gesturing to the diorama of a farm from the Middle Ages she made for her AP World History class at Magnolia West HS.
She was showing off her second version of the project. Most of the first version wound up in Roscoe's belly last week and that meant Reagan got to say those famous schoolgirl words. "Miss Page, my dog ate my homework and she thought I was joking!" said Reagan.

It was no joke: Roscoe ended up as one sick puppy at North Houston Veterinary Specialists. "You might be able to see a beak right there and that's an eye. I think that's our chicken head right there," said Dr. Carl Southern, pointing to x-rays inside Roscoe's belly. There was even some chicken wire in there that could have punctured the pup's belly.

Dr. Southern used an endoscope to pull out the plastic menagerie, two by two. "Half of a horse body, a sheep, a chicken head," said Dr. Southern, listing what he pulled out. "I kept seeing a little pink horse body go by, but it ended up being a pig with a curly tail." Since Roscoe didn't have to go under the knife, he is recovering quickly.