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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1327   King Edward II of England is deposed.  
1558   The French, under the Duke of Guise, finally take the port of Calais from the English.  
1785   Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American Dr. John Jeffries make the first crossing of the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon.  
1807   Responding to Napoleon Bonaparte's attempted blockade of the British Isles, the British blockade Continental Europe.
1865   Cheyenne and Sioux warriors attack Julesburg, Colo., in retaliation for the Sand Creek Massacre.
1901   New York stock exchange trading exceeds two million shares for the first time in history.  
1902   Imperial Court of China returns to Peking. The Empress Dowager resumes her reign.  
1918   The Germans move 75,000 troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  
1934   Six thousand pastors in Berlin defy the Nazis insisting that they will not be silenced.  
1944   The U.S. Air Force announces the production of the first jet-fighter, Bell P-59 Airacomet.  
1945   U.S. air ace Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. is killed in the Pacific.  
1952   French forces in Indochina launch Operation Violette in an effort to push Viet Minh forces away from the town of Ba Vi.  
1955   Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House.  
1975   Vietnamese troops take Phuoc Binh in new full-scale offensive.
1979   Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge are overthrown when Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.  
1980   US President Jimmy Carter signs legislation providing $1.5 billion in loans to salvage Chrysler Corporation.  
1985   Vietnam seizes the Khmer National Liberation Front headquarters near the Thai border.
1985   Japan launches its first interplanetary spacecraft, Sakigake, the first deep space probe launched by any nation other than the US or the USSR.  
1989   Prince Akihito sworn in as Emperor of Japan, following the death of his father, Hirohito.  
1990   Safety concerns over structural problems force the Leaning Tower of Pisa to be closed to the public.  1993   The Bosnian Army carries out a surprise attack on the village of Kravica in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War.  
1999   The impeachment trial of US President Bill Clinton opens in the US Senate.

In Spite of repugicans, 3.1 Million Americans Got an Increase In Their Wages Last Week

Chicago Raise the Min Wage Rally
An estimated 3.1 million Americans across the country started 2015 out with a real bang due to state and district increases in the minimum wage.
Almost half of U.S. states and the District of Columbia passed measures to raised the minimum wage on January 1, 2015. Bloomberg reported:
Twenty states from Hawaii to Connecticut will see increases in minimum hourly pay after voters approved ballot measures and legislatures enacted laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In nine of the states, the lowest pay will rise because of indexing to inflation.
With the 2015 increases, about 60 percent of U.S. workers will be covered by minimum-wage laws that are higher than the federal level, said David Cooper, senior economic analyst at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute.
“We’re going to reach a point where the federal minimum wage is only applying to a handful of states,” Cooper said. “At that point, the members of Congress in those states would be hard-pressed to think that they should leave their workers behind.”
Democratic House Leader Pelosi (D-CA) pointed out in a statement, “Last week, 3.1 million Americans across the country saw an increase in their wages… There are many more waiting to see bigger paychecks.  There are millions more pressuring their leaders to act.  That is why Democrats in Congress continue to remain determined to raise the minimum wage for all Americans.”
This is the very national agenda President Obama and Democrats have been pushing, with the President challenging Congress to follow his lead after he established a minimum wage for federal contractors of $10.10 an hour with the flourish of his executive pen.
But repugicans in Congress have been blocking attempts to raise the minimum wage. Faced with a Congress that was clearly not going to raise the minimum wage and repugicans announcing that a few dollars wasn’t going to help anyone, President Obama worked with state leaders around the country in order to help them raise the wage in regions so that they didn’t have to worry about losing business to neighboring states.
It was repugican Governor Scott Walker who happily condemned the greedy workers of America by announcing that $7.25 an hour is a “living wage”. Not one he has ever lived under, but that’s the repugican way when tamping down the common person from having a seat at the table. Yet, as pointed out  the other day:
According to research just last year, if the “federal minimum wage had kept pace with the earnings of the richest one-percent of income earners,” the hourly minimum wage would be $22.62 and that alone would “lift tens-of-millions of Americans out of poverty.”
The Democrats have been pushing to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, while repugicans have concern trolled the possible ramifications for corporations, because if ever there is a doubt, it’s best to let the working poor get the shaft rather than The Very Important Business Man. The repugican logic behind this is never explained, but emotions will be played. (See repugican Eric Cantor’s Op-Ed  in which he manages to use the birth of babies to justify charter schools for the few and permitting crude oil exports – seriously.)
The repugicans bury their obsequience to corporate America in faux concern for “jobs” (something they love to run on and promptly ignore), but there is no evidence that raising the minimum wage hurts the economy or kills jobs.
Happy New Year, workers of America. Some of you are getting a raise in spite of repugicans, while others suffer so that corporations don’t.

Keystone XL Backfires On repugicans As Democrats Move To Turn Pipeline Into A Real Jobs Bill

Senate Democrats are flipping the script on Mitch McConnell by introducing a series of amendments to the bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would turn the project into a real job creator.
According to Politico,
senate-democratsSenate Democrats are floating a handful of amendments to a repugican Keystone XL pipeline bill to prohibit exports of the Canadian oil and to push green energy as they prepare to take on the role of the minority party of the upper chamber.

— Ban the export of oil transported through the pipeline, language that Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has frequently floated in both chambers of Congress;
— Require U.S.-produced iron, steel and manufactured goods “to be used for the pipeline construction, connection, operation, and maintenance.” It’s another familiar measure that senators like Markey and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have offered.
— Require “that for every job created by the pipeline, an equal or greater amount of jobs is created through clean energy investments.” Schumer and Stabenow highlight legislation from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would cut the price of home solar units through rebates.
— Restore funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to levels authorized in the 2009 economic stimulus bill under the condition that seniors and veterans get first priority.

— Prohibit a state from permitting a foreign corporation to invoke eminent domain. This addresses a key part of a case that will soon be decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court on the legality of the state’s approval of a route for the pipeline there.
The requirement that U.S. made products be used permanently on the pipeline would mean that the project would have some long-term benefit for American workers. The ban on the export of the oil would mean that the project really would impact North American supplies. Currently, the oil is destined to be sold overseas with the U.S. assuming all the risk while getting none of the rewards. A requirement that an equal amount of clean energy jobs be created in exchange for authorization of the construction of the pipeline will certainly bring about howls of rage from Big Oil and their congressional allies.
Senate Democrats and Independents are trying to turn Keystone XL into a project that would provide some long-term benefits to the American people. The repugican bill that would authorize the construction of the pipeline is a thinly disguised gift to Big Oil. Keystone XL won’t create jobs, and studies have shown that the pipeline may cause gasoline prices to increase in the Midwest.
Senate Democrats are putting repugicans in the position of having to choose between heating assistance for senior citizens and veterans, supporting American made products, or giving a gift to Big Oil.
The repugicans will most likely vote down all of the Democratic amendments, but Democrats have fired the first shot in what will be a two years long operation to expose the real repugican agenda.

The repugican cabal is About to Have a Very Bad Year

by Allen Clifton
One undeniable fact about the repugican cabal is that they’re damn good at pushing propaganda. If there’s an agenda they want pushed, you can bet that it’s going to be pushed by about 95 percent of the repubgicans in Washington and just about every aspect of the wingnut media.
That being said, the biggest weakness for repugicans is almost always Americans actually finding out what they really stand for. It’s why in 2016 repugicans have said they want fewer pretender primary debates – because they know the more their candidates get the nation’s attention on a national stage, the worse it is for their cabal.
It’s the same thing we’re about to see in Congress. For six years, President Obama has been in the White House and the most power repugicans have had is control over the House. And for most of those years they’ve tried to blame the president and Democrats for all the gridlock we’ve seen in Congress. And, sadly, millions of Americans actually believed them.
But now they’ve been given full control of Congress. Prepare for the production of Congress to skyrocket!
Well, not so fast. You see, Democrats can now do what repugicans did to them in the Senate. That is, use the filibuster as much as possible to block almost any bill they might want to pass. And how will repugicans respond to this? Will they call Democrats out for using the same tactics they’ve been using for six years?
Not only that, but now repugicans will have to pass legislation about which they’ve mostly been silent.
During this past year’s elections repugicans didn’t run on their policies, they simply ran against Obama’s policies. It was an easy route to take because it’s always easy to run negative ads against something, and typically these type of ads distract enough Americans from asking the question, “Well, I know what you’re against, but what the hell are you running on?”
And during an election, repugicans could avoid those types of questions because they used anti-Obama diversion to distract people from really thinking about who they were voting for.
But now that they’ve won, they actually have to try to do something. And guess what? Almost nothing they support is popular with the American people.
What are they going to do, try to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage? Oh, I know! They can try to pass an immigration bill that alienates practically every Latino vote in the United States. And I’m sure they’re going to pass plenty of big tax breaks for the rich while opposing any increase to our federal minimum wage.
Then there’s always the endless votes I’m sure we’ll see to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Though, I can’t help but wonder, what would the millions of winguts who would instantly lose their newly acquired health insurance think if Obama actually repealed his signature health care law? (Which he wont.)
Let’s not forget the possible impeachment proceedings against the president over his immigration executive orders. After all, impeaching the president worked out so well for repugicans when Clinton was in office.
And this is the problem repugicans are about to face. While they ran successful campaigns opposing President Obama, the one thing they didn’t do was run on what their party stands for. And now that they’ve gotten exactly what they wanted (control of both the House and the Senate), they can’t hide from the American people any longer.
This is why repugicans, and more specifically wingnuts, never win “the war.” Sure, they’ll win a few battles, but ultimately they always lose. They run on propaganda and negativity because they know the typical American voter has a very short memory when it comes to politics, but almost every time they’re given power their idiocy is put on full display and the American people are reminded of just how outdated and regressive their ideologies are.
Oh, and we can’t forget the congressional repugicans who are more concerned about running for pretender right now (Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz) who are certainly going to be a thorn in the side of pretty much anything repugicans might want to do that won’t benefit their pretender ambitions.
So, when it comes to this year and what repugicans can do, they essentially have two choices:
  • Do nothing and try to blame it all on President Obama and Democrats, which isn’t going to work because they’re now the face of Congress. - or -
  • Actually try to pass the nonsense they support and let the American people see exactly what it is that they stand for.
And no matter which option they ultimately choose, neither are going to turn out well for the repugican cabal.

MIT Science Professor Threatens to Undo Everything religio-wingnuts Hold Dear

by Paul Rosenberg
The christian wingnus's obsessive hatred of Darwin is a wonder to behold, but it could someday be rivaled by the hatred of someone you’ve probably never even heard of. Darwin earned their hatred because he explained the evolution of life in a way that doesn’t require the hand of dog. Darwin didn’t exclude dog, of course, though many creationists seem incapable of grasping this point. But he didn’t require dog, either, and that was enough to drive some people mad.
Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for dog to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.
The notion of an evolutionary process broader than life itself is not entirely new. Indeed, there’s evidence, recounted by Eric Havelock in “The Liberal Temper in Greek Politics,” that it was held by the pre-Socratic natural philosophers, who also first gave us the concept of the atom, among many other things. But unlike them or other earlier precursors, England has a specific, unifying, testable evolutionary mechanism in mind.
Quanta fleshed things out a bit more like this:
From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.
It doesn’t mean we should expect life everywhere in the universe — lack of a decent atmosphere or being too far from the sun still makes most of our solar system inhospitable for life with or without England’s perspective. But it does mean that “under certain conditions” where life is possible — as it is here on Earth, obviously — it is also quite probable, if not, ultimately, inevitable. Indeed, life on Earth could well have developed multiple times independently of each other, or all at once, or both. The first truly living organism could have had hundreds, perhaps thousands of siblings, all born not from a single physical parent, but from a physical system, literally pregnant with the possibility of producing life. And similar multiple births of life could have happened repeatedly at different points in time.
That also means that Earth-like planets circling other suns would have a much higher likelihood of carrying life as well. We’re fortunate to have substantial oceans as well as an atmosphere — the heat baths referred to above — but England’s theory suggests we could get life with just one of them — and even with much smaller versions, given enough time. Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1600, was perhaps the first to take Copernicanism to its logical extension, speculating that stars were other suns, circled by other worlds, populated by beings like ourselves. His extreme minority view in his own time now looks better than ever, thanks to England.
If England’s theory works out, it will obviously be an epochal scientific advance. But on a lighter note, it will also be a fitting rebuke to pseudo-scientific creationists, who have long mistakenly claimed that thermodynamics disproves evolution (here, for example), the exact opposite of what England’s work is designed to show — that thermodynamics drives evolution, starting even before life itself first appears, with a physics-based logic that applies equally to living and non-living matter.
Most important in this regard is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that in any closed process, there is an increase in the total entropy (roughly speaking, a measure of disorder). The increase in disorder is the opposite of increasing order due to evolution, the creationists reason, ergo — a contradiction! Overlooking the crucial word “closed,” of course. There are various equivalent ways of stating the law, one of which is that energy cannot pass from a cooler to a warmer body without extra work being done. Legendary science and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov put it like this: “You can’t win. You can’t break even. You can’t get out of the game.” Although creationists have long mistakenly believed that evolution is a violation of the Second Law, actual scientists have not. For example, physicist Stephen G. Brush, writing for The American Physical Society in 2000, in “Creationism Versus Physical Science,” noted: “As Ludwig Boltzmann noted more than a century ago, thermodynamics correctly interpreted does not just allow Darwinian evolution, it favors it.”
A simple explanation of this comes from a document in the thermodynamics FAQ subsection of TalkOrigins Archive (the  first and foremost online repository of reliable information on the creation/evolution controversy), which in part explains:
Creationists thus misinterpret the 2nd law to say that things invariably progress from order to disorder.
However, they neglect the fact that life is not a closed system. The sun provides more than enough energy to drive things. If a mature tomato plant can have more usable energy than the seed it grew from, why should anyone expect that the next generation of tomatoes can’t have more usable energy still?
That passage goes right to the heart of the matter. Evolution is no more a violation of the Second Law than life itself is. A more extensive, lighthearted, non-technical treatment of the creationist’s misunderstanding and what’s really going on can be found here.
The driving flow of energy — whether from the sun or some other source — can give rise to what are known as dissipative structures, which are self-organized by the process of dissipating the energy that flows through them. Russian-born Belgian physical chemist Ilya Prigogine won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work developing the concept. All living things are dissipative structures, as are many non-living things as well — cyclones, hurricanes and tornados, for example. Without explicitly using the term “dissipative structures,” the passage above went on to invoke them thus:
Snowflakes, sand dunes, tornadoes, stalactites, graded river beds, and lightning are just a few examples of order coming from disorder in nature; none require an intelligent program to achieve that order. In any nontrivial system with lots of energy flowing through it, you are almost certain to find order arising somewhere in the system. If order from disorder is supposed to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, why is it ubiquitous in nature?
In a very real sense, Prigogine’s work laid the foundations for what England is doing today, which is why it might be overstated to credit England with originating this theory, as several commentators at Quanta pointed out, noting other progenitors as well (herehere andhere, among others). But already England appears to have assembled a collection of analytical tools, along with a sophisticated multidisciplinary theoretical approach, which promises to do much more than simply propound a theory, but to generate a whole new research agenda giving detailed meaning to that theoretical conjecture. And that research agenda is already starting to produce results. (See his research group home page for more.) It’s the development of this sort of detailed body of specific mutually interrelated results that will distinguish England’s articulation of his theory from other earlier formulations that have not yet been translated into successful theory-testing research agendas.
Above all, as described on the home page mentioned above, England is involved in knitting together the understanding of life and various stages of life-like processes combining the perspectives of biology and physics:
Living things are good at collecting information about their surroundings, and at putting that information to use through the ways they interact with their environment so as to survive and replicate themselves. Thus, talking about biology inevitably leads to talking about decision, purpose, and function.
At the same time, living things are also made of atoms that, in and of themselves, have no particular function. Rather, molecules and the atoms from which they are built exhibit well-defined physical properties having to do with how they bounce off of, stick to, and combine with each other across space and over time.
Making sense of life at the molecular level is all about building a bridge between these two different ways of looking at the world.
If that sounds intriguing, you might enjoy this hour-long presentation of his work (with splashes of local Swedish color) — especially (but not only) if you’re a science nerd.
Whether or not England’s theory proves out in the end, he’s already doing quite a lot to build that bridge between worldviews and inspire others to make similar efforts. Science is not just about making new discoveries, but about seeing the world in new ways — which then makes new discoveries almost inevitable. And England has already succeeded in that.  As the Quanta article explained:
England’s theoretical results are generally considered valid. It is his interpretation — that his formula represents the driving force behind a class of phenomena in nature that includes life — that remains unproven. But already, there are ideas about how to test that interpretation in the lab.
“He’s trying something radically different,” said Mara Prentiss, a professor of physics at Harvard who is contemplating such an experiment after learning about England’s work. “As an organizing lens, I think he has a fabulous idea. Right or wrong, it’s going to be very much worth the investigation.”
Creationists often cast themselves as humble servants of dog, and paint scientists as arrogant, know-it-all rebels against him. But, unsurprisingly, they’ve got it all backwards, once again. England’s work reminds us that it’s scientists’ willingness to admit our own ignorance and confront it head on — rather than papering over it — that unlocks the great storehouse of wonders we live in and gives us our most challenging, satisfying quests.

Faux News: Pope's acknowledgment of climate change reveals 'population control' agenda

In recent weeks, Pope Francis has made statements regarding climate change, urging catholics worldwide to take measures to protect and preserve the environment. It's said that the pontiff is planning to issue a major edict in 2015 regarding the environment and to hold an enclave of world religious leaders ahead of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, slated for November in Paris.
According to Media Matters, Faux News has chosen to portray the Pope's attention to climate change as a radical decision to side against his own cult and align himself with "environmental extremists who favor widespread population control and wealth redistribution."
On Dec. 30, Faux News hack Doug McKelway claimed that Francis will be "aligning himself with some cult enemies" by taking up the climate change gauntlet.
The wingnut 'news' network also welcomed paid shill for the pro-business, anti-environmentalist group Climate Depot Marc Morano, who blithely lied that there's been "no global warming" for "almost two decades."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) reported earlier this week that 2014 was actually the warmest year on record around the world. All of Morano's spurious claims have been debunked by science and yet he insisted that the ice caps are growing, that the planet isn't warming and that climate change is a hoax that a naïve, radical Pope is signing on to after the science has been settled the other way.

Here’s How Differently The Media Covers An Assault Before And After Learning It Was Done By A Cop

by Jameson Parker 
Just before the holidays, on December 23, a man in a windbreaker and sneakers got into a verbal altercation with an on-duty, uniformed female transit employee that escalated into a physical assault. According to police, the man put the 28-year-old woman into a bear hug and slammed her to the ground where he began choking her. Thankfully, another employee rushed to her aid and the assailant fled.
The next day, the police released images of the attacker and asked the public for help identifying him. The New York Daily News ran the story in their typically sensationalist way. They described the man as a “brute” and a “thug” and described the incident in lurid detail and begged for readers to help ID the coward who attacked the woman and “ran away smiling.”
The problem? The man turned out to be an off-duty NYPD police officer and the New York Daily Newslike almost every other media outlet in the country — liberal or conservative — has a completely different set of rules for covering police officers committed of crime. By the next day, the story had been cleaned up.
Shrill, an eagle-eyed writer for Wonkette, noticed the blatant change in tone from one day to the next after the paper learned that this attacker was no random guy, but actually a police officer. The change in title and opening paragraph say it all:
Shrill aptly sums up the differences:
“Notice anything? Gone is the evocative “thug” in the headline and the “hulking brute” of the lede, and the sensationalism of the label of an “unprovoked” attack, replaced by plainspoken and bare nouns. Gone, too, is the directness of the active voice, replaced by a circumspect passive voice, accompanied by the (necessary) lawyerly “allegedly.” The callousness of him smiling has been dropped, too, demoted to the second paragraph. This is no surprise — it’s just an example of the subtle way in which our media defers to and genuflects before law enforcement, shaping and coloring the narrative in their favor.”
To say that the media insulates officers from criticism is not an an exaggeration. What’s more, the way the media absolves officers of wrongdoing gets more troubling than that. And infinitely subtler.
Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has often noted, for example, how the phraseology of stories about police leans in the favor of the officers. Rather than give the cops agency, the media typically describes their actions in the passive voice: “There was an officer-involved shooting” rather than the more specific, “an officer shot a person.” Likewise, an officer “discharged his weapon,” which is a pretty generous way of writing “fired his gun at someone.”
When a New York officer accidentally shot an unarmed black man in a darkened stairwell, the New York Times had this to say about the incident (emphasis added):
At the same time, a man and his girlfriend, frustrated by a long wait for an elevator, entered the seventh-floor stairwell, 14 steps below. In the darkness, a shot rang out from the officer’s gun, and the 28-year-old man below was struck in the chest and, soon after, fell dead.
“A shot rang out from the officer’s gun.” Who is the actor there? The gun? So much for the old NRA adage “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Apparently officers’ guns do.
The pro-cop lean isn’t always obvious, and to the credit of the New York Times, the article does get around to mentioning that the officer killed a kid essentially due to incompetence and stupidity, but the framing still exists and it has very real implications.
As our nation reflects on how several high-profile cases of “officer-involved killings” not only didn’t lead to charges, but weren’t even fully investigated, it’s worth remembering that the same people who read the newspaper day-after-day also sit on a grand jury. The bias, subtle as it is, permeates our culture and leads even the most “objective” person to want to give officers the benefit of the doubt.
How that manifests itself is complex and not fully studied. What we do know is that cops are almost never held accountable for wrongdoing and even when they are caught on tape doing a despicable crime, they aren’t usually called “thugs” or “brutes” — even if that’s what they are. Not after the reporter notices their badge, at least.

Grand Juror Sues St. Louis County Prosecutor Over Darren Wilson Case

Grand Jury does not indict Darren Wilson
A grand juror in the Darren Wilson case is suing St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch. The grand juror, whose name has not been disclosed, is filing suit so that he or she can speak publicly about the case. The 58 point suit alleges that McCulloch presented the legal case in a muddled and untimely manner, and that he put a great deal of focus on Michael Brown rather than Darren Wilson. The implications seems to be that the juror felt the prosecutor was in effect, putting Michael Brown on trial rather than the man who shot and killed him.
If successful, the suit would permit the juror to comment on the case without being subjected to criminal prosecution for speaking out. Missouri state law makes it a class A misdemeanor to disclose evidence given in grand jury trials. The suit alleges that in the circumstances of this case, the interests in securing the First Amendment should outweigh any interest served by maintaining grand jury secrecy.
Bob McCulloch’s handling of the case was deplorable in many different ways. He knowingly used perjured testimony from Sandra McElroy as an eyewitness even though he publicly acknowledged that she “clearly wasn’t present” at the scene of the confrontation between Wilson and Brown.
The suit suggests that, even in the eyes of one of the grand jurors, McCulloch practiced deception to try to keep Darren Wilson from being indicted for the shooting death of Michael Brown. The lawsuit alleges that McCulloch prejudicially mismanaged the entire grand jury process to seek the outcome he desired.
Whether or not the lawsuit succeeds, McCulloch’s actions as prosecutor in this case are indefensible. Since McCulloch deliberately put a liar on the stand to further his personal agenda in the case, it seems only fitting that the courts should permit one of the jurors to exercise his or her right to publicly speak the truth.

Open-carry cop-watchers say they are "pissed off patriots"

In Arlington TX, a group of Ron Paul style libertarians have become self-appointed cop-watchers. Armed with guns and video cameras, and sometimes wearing police hats with pig ears, they scan police radios to learn where police activity is taking place and drive to the locations to record the police. They also record traffic stops, heckle cops, and "bait cops into on-camera arguments about the Second Amendment and state laws."
Image: ShutterstockBrandy Zadrozny of the Daily Beast reports on the movement in her story, Texas Gun Slingers Police the Police—With a Black Panthers Tactic.

Cop-watching — the practice of observing and documenting police interactions to try to reduce brutality and civil-rights violations—was started by the Black Panther Party in Oakland in the 1960s. Panthers carrying shotguns or wearing pistols on their hips would hit the streets with law books and watch the police to demand accountability. The open carrying of guns was perfectly legal then, though laws were soon enacted to restrict the practice, due in large part to the Panthers’ enthusiastic exercising of their rights.
Today, cop-watching is back, mostly in response to killings of unarmed citizens by police and controversial policies like New York City’s stop-and-frisk. Many cop-watch organizations like to tout the Black Panthers’ origin story, but due to laws or common sense, no longer arm themselves. “Today, our cameras are our weapons,” New York City’s People’s Justice says on its site.
Not so much in Texas.

The Invention of Capitalism ...

How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
by Yasha Levine 
“…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.”
—Arthur Young; 1771
Our popular economic wisdom says that capitalism equals freedom and free societies, right? Well, if you ever suspected that the logic is full of shit, then I’d recommend checking a book called The Invention of Capitalism, written by an economic historian named Michael Perelmen, who’s been exiled to Chico State, a redneck college in rural California, for his lack of freemarket friendliness. And Perelman has been putting his time in exile to damn good use, digging deep into the works and correspondence of Adam Smith and his contemporaries to write a history of the creation of capitalism that goes beyond superficial The Wealth of Nations fairy tale and straight to the source, allowing you to read the early capitalists, economists, philosophers, clergymen and statesmen in their own words. And it ain’t pretty.
INVENTION OF CAPITALISM - COVEROne thing that the historical record makes obviously clear is that Adam Smith and his laissez-faire buddies were a bunch of closet-case statists, who needed brutal government policies to whip the English peasantry into a good capitalistic workforce willing to accept wage slavery.
Francis Hutcheson, from whom Adam Smith learned all about the virtue of natural liberty, wrote: ”it is the one great design of civil laws to strengthen by political sanctions the several laws of nature. … The populace needs to be taught, and engaged by laws, into the best methods of managing their own affairs and exercising mechanic art.”
Yep, despite what you might have learned, the transition to a capitalistic society did not happen naturally or smoothly. See, English peasants didn’t want to give up their rural communal lifestyle, leave their land and go work for below-subsistence wages in shitty, dangerous factories being set up by a new, rich class of landowning capitalists. And for good reason, too. Using Adam Smith’s own estimates of factory wages being paid at the time in Scotland, a factory-peasant would have to toil for more than three days to buy a pair of commercially produced shoes. Or they could make their own traditional brogues using their own leather in a matter of hours, and spend the rest of the time getting wasted on ale. It’s really not much of a choice, is it?
But in order for capitalism to work, capitalists needed a pool of cheap, surplus labor. So what to do? Call in the National Guard!
Faced with a peasantry that didn’t feel like playing the role of slave, philosophers, economists, politicians, moralists and leading business figures began advocating for government action. Over time, they enacted a series of laws and measures designed to push peasants out of the old and into the new by destroying their traditional means of self-support.
img--398“The brutal acts associated with the process of stripping the majority of the people of the means of producing for themselves might seem far removed from the laissez-faire reputation of classical political economy,” writes Perelman. “In reality, the dispossession of the majority of small-scale producers and the construction of laissez-faire are closely connected, so much so that Marx, or at least his translators, labeled this expropriation of the masses as ‘‘primitive accumulation.’’
Perelman outlines the many different policies through which peasants were forced off the land—from the enactment of so-called Game Laws that prohibited peasants from hunting, to the destruction of the peasant productivity by fencing the commons into smaller lots—but by far the most interesting parts of the book are where you get to read Adam Smith’s proto-capitalist colleagues complaining and whining about how peasants are too independent and comfortable to be properly exploited, and trying to figure out how to force them to accept a life of wage slavery.
This pamphlet from the time captures the general attitude towards successful, self-sufficient peasant farmers:

The possession of a cow or two, with a hog, and a few geese, naturally exalts the peasant. . . . In sauntering after his cattle, he acquires a habit of indolence. Quarter, half, and occasionally whole days, are imperceptibly lost. Day labour becomes disgusting; the aversion in- creases by indulgence. And at length the sale of a half-fed calf, or hog, furnishes the means of adding intemperance to idleness.
While another pamphleteer wrote:

Nor can I conceive a greater curse upon a body of people, than to be thrown upon a spot of land, where the productions for subsistence and food were, in great measure, spontaneous, and the climate required or admitted little care for raiment or covering.
John Bellers, a Quaker “philanthropist” and economic thinker saw independent peasants as a hindrance to his plan of forcing poor people into prison-factories, where they would live, work and produce a profit of 45% for aristocratic owners:

“Our Forests and great Commons (make the Poor that are upon them too much like the Indians) being a hindrance to Industry, and are Nurseries of Idleness and Insolence.”
Daniel Defoe, the novelist and trader, noted that in the Scottish Highlands “people were extremely well furnished with provisions. … venison exceedingly plentiful, and at all seasons, young or old, which they kill with their guns whenever they find it.’’
To Thomas Pennant, a botanist, this self-sufficiency was ruining a perfectly good peasant population:

“The manners of the native Highlanders may be expressed in these words: indolent to a high degree, unless roused to war, or any animating amusement.”
If having a full belly and productive land was the problem, then the solution to whipping these lazy bums into shape was obvious: kick ‘em off the land and let em starve.
Arthur Young, a popular writer and economic thinker respected by John Stuart Mill, wrote in 1771: “everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” Sir William Temple, a politician and Jonathan Swift’s boss, agreed, and suggested that food be taxed as much as possible to prevent the working class from a life of “sloth and debauchery.”
Temple also advocated putting four-year-old kids to work in the factories, writing ‘‘for by these means, we hope that the rising generation will be so habituated to constant employment that it would at length prove agreeable and entertaining to them.’’ Some thought that four was already too old. According to Perelmen, “John Locke, often seen as a philosopher of liberty, called for the commencement of work at the ripe age of three.” Child labor also excited Defoe, who was joyed at the prospect that “children after four or five years of age…could every one earn their own bread.’’ But that’s getting off topic…
Happy Faces of Productivity…
Even David Hume, that great humanist, hailed poverty and hunger as positive experiences for the lower classes, and even blamed the “poverty” of France on its good weather and fertile soil:

“‘Tis always observed, in years of scarcity, if it be not extreme, that the poor labour more, and really live better.”
Reverend Joseph Townsend believed that restricting food was the way to go:

“[Direct] legal constraint [to labor] . . . is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise, . . . whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but as the most natural motive to industry, it calls forth the most powerful exertions. . . . Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjugation to the most brutish, the most obstinate, and the most perverse.”
Patrick Colquhoun, a merchant who set up England’s first private “preventative police“ force to prevent dock workers from supplementing their meager wages with stolen goods, provided what may be the most lucid explanation of how hunger and poverty correlate to productivity and wealth creation:

Poverty is that state and condition in society where the individual has no surplus labour in store, or, in other words, no property or means of subsistence but what is derived from the constant exercise of industry in the various occupations of life. Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society, without which nations and communities could not exist in a state of civilization. It is the lot of man. It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labour; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.
Colquhoun’s summary is so on the money, it has to be repeated. Because what was true for English peasants is still just as true for us:

“Poverty is therefore a most necessary and indispensable ingredient in society…It is the source of wealth, since without poverty, there could be no labour; there could be no riches, no refinement, no comfort, and no benefit to those who may be possessed of wealth.”

The Truth Be Told


Judge accepted pair of shoes in lieu of cash for man's bail

A Massachusetts man told a Framingham District Court judge on Friday that he had no money to post bail, but he had something else he could give – shoes. Jason Duval, 39, told Judge Douglas Stoddart he would provide the new Nike sneakers he got for Christmas, valued at around $85, in exchange for his release. “Okay, we’ll take them,” Stoddart said.
Framingham Police had arrested Duval at his apartment on Thursday on a Natick District Court warrant that originally charged him with two counts of possession of a Class B substance, possession of a Class C substance and driving to endanger. Those charges, stemming from 2012, were to be dismissed upon payment of court fees. The court issued the warrant for Duval’s arrest because he had not paid $450 in court costs.
Duval said he was going through a divorce and had no money. Stoddart told Duval he didn’t trust him to release him without bail because the judge said he didn't believe Duval would pay any money. He offered to send Duval to jail for a few days and then do away with the court costs, but Duval said he didn't want that to happen. “I’ll give you a chance to be creative,” said Stoddart.
“If you can come up with a creative idea to convince me that you’ll come back, I’ll work with you.” After a brief break, Duval offered up his new shoes. Stoddart took those as bail and told Duval he would get the sneakers back after he paid $100 in $25 weekly installments, beginning on Jan. 13. The judge said he would also return the shoes if Duval did 10 hours of community service in that time frame.

The Beaches Where LEGO Washes Up

A ship called 'Tokio Express' was hit by a rogue wave on 13 February 1997 that caused her to lose cargo, including one cargo container loaded with 4,800,000 pieces of LEGO. Ever since, LEGO pieces including octopuses, dragons, flippers and flowers have been washing up on beaches.
Beachcomber Tracey Williams has been picking up LEGO along the Cornish coastline ever since and dozens of people have contacted Williams to say they, too, have found parts of the much-loved toy scattered on shores. Here's a map where LEGO washes up.

Shirakawa-gō And Gokayama

The historic villages of Shirakawa-gō and Gokayama are one of Japan's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site is located in the Shogawa river valley stretching across the border of Gifu and Toyama Prefectures in central Japan.

Ancient Amulet with Palindrome Inscription

An ancient, two-sided amulet uncovered in Cyprus contains a 59-letter inscription that reads the same backward as it does forward.

Unknown Pharaonic Queen Found

The previously unknown queen is believed to have been the wife of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago. 

Man discovers passage to Egypt's Great Pyramid — under his house

Sometimes, breaking the law has its perks.
Marco Di Lauro/Stringer/Getty ImagesAn Egyptian citizen, identified as "Nagy" by Arabic news site Ahram.org, was illegally digging in his backyard when he found a tunnel leading to the Pyramid of Khufu. The pyramid, nicknamed the Great Pyramid, is the oldest and largest of the three Giza Pyramids.
Nagy, a resident of the El Haraneya village, near the Giza Plateau, dug 33 feet beneath his house before he found the corridor, made from stone blocks. Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities sent archaeologists to the scene, and a committee confirmed the passage to be the pyramid's legendary causeway.
Archaeologists have searched for decades for the passage to the pyramid. The causeway is mentioned in the Histories by the Greek Herodotus, who claims to have visited it in the fifth century B.C.E. Herodotus wrote that the passage was enclosed and covered in reliefs, but before Nagy's excavation, only small remnants of the causeway had been found.
The Khufu pyramid complex is known to have connected to an undiscovered temple near the Nile River. Thanks to the new discovery, archaeologists believe the temple may be buried beneath the village of Nazlet el-Samman.

Woman had 2,500 needles stuck into her back in anti-bullfighting protest

Colombian animal rights campaigner Fanny Pachon was so angered by the local traditional bullfighting festivals that she had 2,500 needles stuck in her back to protest against cruelty against bulls.
She said it was an "almost act of desperation.” An acupuncture specialist named David Hernandez carefully and painstakingly placed the needles in her back.
The protest took place outside the mayor's office in Cartagena. Pachon said she was frustrated with the lack of official response to repeated pleas to stop the bullfights.

"We're taking these measures that are a bit desperate because they (the Cartagena's mayor's office) are treating us like this,” she said. “They have been treating us badly from the beginning. They haven't fulfilled the promises they've made.”

Twelve armed police officers rescued pig from slaughter by illegal meat racketeers

Twelve armed policemen in three vans and a group of animal activists and Good Samaritans scoured slums in Vikhroli, Mumbai, India, before rescuing a pig, abducted by illegal meat racketeers, barely hours before it seemed destined to meet its maker. Last Tuesday afternoon, animal lovers Priya Sharma and Paras Shah heard loud shrieks of the stray pig at Vikhroli (east) as it was being taken away on a motorcycle.
"All the four legs of the pig were tied, its mouth was covered. It was crying in such a pitiable manner we just could not ignore it, and started calling up animal activists for help," said Sharma. Soon after, with the help of activists Bimlesh Nawani, Neelkanth Shetgiri and Priya Grover of In Defense of Animals, a frantic local search started. "On asking around, we came to know that a group staying at Kannamwar Nagar has been catching stray pigs to sell the meat.

"Since it was New Year's time, they were catching more pigs for illegal slaughter. We called the 100 emergency number for police assistance, and they immediately responded in the night," said Shetgiri. "The police were very cooperative and said since the slums near Vidya Mandir High School are rather sensitive, they deployed the three police vans with 12 armed cops to rescue the pig. Finally, we managed to find the pig, which was still tied up, after midnight.
"The locals also said an illegal slaughter racket was on," said Grover of IDA. A police official said there was urgency in the pleas of the activists, so a team under senior inspector Dinesh Desai swung into action immediately. Three people were arrested. Sanjay Chavan was charged under Section 119 (animal cruelty) of the Maharashtra Police Act for running the illegal pig slaughter racket. Two associates were given bail, said local activist Salim Charania, who had helped in the rescue.

13,800 Year Old Ancient Site Found Underwater in Canada

haida-find-20140923A new study by a team of archaeologists has found a site dating back 13,800 years, now underwater in the Juan Perez Sound off British Columbia in Canada.
The team, led by archaeologist Quentin Mackie of the University of Victoria, found the site earlier this Fall while studying the subject near the Haida Gwaii Archipelago. They found a fishing weir, which is a stone channel structure that was probably used to catch salmon, as reported by the CBC.
The archaeologists used an unmanned, robotic vehicle to examine under the waters around the islands. The weir they found is under 400 feet of water. The researchers say the area under water was dry land at sea level about 14,000 years ago, from the islands to what is now the British Columbia mainland. The area has been underwater since after the last Ice Age ended and a warming period began about 11,000 years ago. The archaeologists saw other formations on the sea floor that they also think may have been camps from around the same time. The area is said to be once inhabited by the Haida people.
The Haida have an old flood tale on Frederick Island that tells of how the peoples became dispersed in the “New World”.
A Haida story from the book American Indian Myths and Legends by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz tells of a great flood that force people to move. An excerpt from the book:
“… the old people told them to stop laughing at the stranger. At that moment the tide was at low ebb, and the woman sat down at the water’s edge. The tide began to rise, and the water touched her feet. She moved up a little and again sat down. The water rose again, and again she moved back. Now she sat down at the edge of the village. But the tide kept rising; never before had it come so high. The villagers grew frightened and awe-struck. Having no canoes, they did not know how to escape, so they took big logs, tied them together into a raft, and placed their children on it. They packed the raft with dried salmon, halibut and baskets of spring water for drinking.”
The story goes on to say that as the woman kept sitting on higher and higher ground, the water just kept climbing. Waters covered their island and hundreds of survivors were adrift without anchors.
Therefore, stories like this may be actually be told history.

The waters and lands where the Haida people lived were apparently rich with fish and game and they had a social structure more like advanced agricultural societies. They had private property, ranked social classes and a rich history of culture and art.
The oldest artifact ever found previously in Canada came from near the same weir site in Gwaii Hanaas National Park Preserve from 12,700 years ago, so this latest finding constitutes the oldest ever evidence of human habitation in Canada.

A Big Hole in the Sun

Coronal Hole Spotted On The Sun Is Hundreds Of Times Bigger Than The Earth
by David Freeman

sun hole
Talk about big!
A dark hole hundreds of times bigger than the Earth has been spotted on the surface of the sun. A photo of the enormous "coronal hole" (below) was snapped by a camera aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory on Jan. 1, 2015.

Photo of the vast coronal hole taken by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly device aboard NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft.
The irregularly shaped hole spans about 400,000 kilometers (250,000 miles) at its widest point, said Dr. C. Alex Young, associate director for science for the heliophysics division at the space agency's Goddard facility in Greenbelt, Maryland. Its total surface area is about 410 times that of the Earth, he said (see below for size comparison).

sun hole sizeThis Jan. 3, 2015 photo combines three wavelengths of light and includes images of the Earth and Jupiter to give a sense of the size of the coronal hole.
Coronal holes were first seen in photos taken by NASA astronauts in the 1970s. They aren't holes in the usual sense. Rather, they're colder, cooler regions where the sun's magnetic field reaches out into space. The holes can remain visible for five years or longer, according to NASA.
This isn't the only spectacular photo of the sun issued by NASA in recent weeks. Last December, the agency released this eye-popping X-ray portrait of the sun.

Zoo owner accidentally fed his thumb to crocodile during feeding demonstration

A zoo owner has lost his thumb after being bitten by a saltwater crocodile during a feeding demonstration near Childers in southern Queensland, Australia. Paramedics were called to the Snakes Downunder Reptile Park and Zoo at about 1pm on Sunday, a spokeswoman from the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said. Ian Jenkins, 58, had been conducting a feeding show with the crocodile, Macca, for the visitors at the reptile park.

Martian Wheel Damage

The Mars Curiosity rover has been exploring the surface of the red planet for two and half years now, and it shows. The rover’s wheels are displaying severe damage, developing holes and tears due to the rough Martian rocks. NASA officials didn’t seem to be concerned at first, but now they are. Emily Lakdawalla of The Planetary Society wanted to find out exactly what’s happening to the wheels and how it will affect Curiosity’s mission, so she talked to Project Manager Jim Erickson to get the lowdown. Why weren’t the wheels designed for such rough terrain?
There were several factors that drove them to design the wheels to be as lightweight as possible. The large size of the wheels means that very slight design changes add a substantial amount of mass. Increasing wheel thickness by one millimeter would add 10 kilograms to the rover's total mass. But total system mass wasn't the only constraint. Erickson explained that a major constraint arose from a tricky moment in the landing sequence, at the moment that the wheels deployed, while the rover was suspended from the bridle underneath the descent stage. The wheels' sudden drop imparted substantial forces on the mobility system, and keeping wheel mass as light as possible reduced those forces to manageable ones. There were other factors that made it important to keep wheel mass low.

So the wheels needed to be as light as possible while still being able to do their job, but as to their job: "We misunderstood what Mars was," Erickson said. "Strongly cemented ventifacts are not something that we saw on Mars before."
Lakdawalla has a thorough (but easy to understand) writeup on Curiosity’s wheels, including an explanation of what “strongly cemented ventifacts” are, how the wheels and the rover’s suspension system work, and what lessons this incident has for the next rover mission, scheduled for 2020.


Every kid knows that caterpillars turn into butterflies. But how exactly does a fat grub sprout wings, legs and feelers - and why go to all that trouble?

An Albino in Florida

A state wildlife volunteer is able to capture video footage of the little-seen marine mammal. 

A 200-Year-Old Whale

Whales that live for two centuries are providing researchers with clues on how to extend the average human lifespan. 

Mystery Bat-Killer Disease

For the first time, scientists have developed a detailed explanation of how white-nose syndrome is killing millions of bats in North America.