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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, yeah, you're just sorry excuses for a circus ...!
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Today in History

49 BC   Julius Caesar leads his army across the Rubicon River, plunging Rome into civil war.  
1843   Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled Banner," dies in Baltimore.  
1861   Alabama secedes from the Union.  
1862   Lincoln accepts Simon Cameron's resignation as Secretary of War.  
1887   At Fort Smith, Arkansas, hangman George Maledon dispatches four victims in a multiple hanging.  
1904   British troops massacre 1,000 dervishes in Somaliland.  
1916   Russian General Yudenich launches a WWI winter offensive and advances west.  
1923   The French enter the town of Essen in the Ruhr valley, to extract Germany's resources as war payment.  
1934   The German police raid the homes of dissident clergy in Berlin.  
1940   Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., becomes the U.S. Army's first black general, his son would later become a general as well.  

1941   Adolf Hitler orders forces to be prepared to enter North Africa to assist the Italian effort, marking the establishment of the Afrika Korps.   
1942   Japan invades the Dutch East Indies at Borneo.  
1943   The Soviet Red Army encircles Stalingrad.  
1948   President Harry S. Truman proposes free, two-year community colleges for all who want an education.  
1949   Negotiations in China between the Nationalists and Communists open as Tientsin is virtually lost to the Communists.
1964   A collection of previously unexhibited paintings by Pablo Picasso are displayed for the first time in Toronto.  
1980   Honda announces it will build the first Japanese-owned passenger-car assembly plant in the United States–in Ohio.  
1994   The Irish Government announces an end to a 15-year ban on broadcasting by the IRA and its political branch, Sinn Fein.  
2003   Illinois Gov. George Ryan commutes the death sentences of 167 prisoners on the state's death row in the wake of allegations that Chicago police detective and commander Jon Burge tortured confessions from some 200 suspects over a 19 year period.

Obama Drops A Bomb On repugicans With Plan For Free 2 Years Of College For All

In a preview to the State of the Union, on Thursday President Obama unveiled plans to make 2 yrs of community college free for those willing to work hard. Details were announced Thursday evening and the full announcement came on Friday.
obama proposes free community collegePresident Obama said, “Put simply, what I’d like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for anybody who’s willing to work for it,” he said. “It’s something we can accomplish, and it;s something that will train our workforce so that we can compete with anyone in the world.”
This plan will require congressional approval, but judging from the initial reaction to the idea, the White House has hit another political home run. For the third time in less than two months, President Obama has caught repugicans completely off guard. The expectation is that congressional repugicans will immediately turn up their noses at the plan. Boehner and McConnell will roar that the country can’t afford the cost that will come with developing a better-educated workforce.
After creating nearly 11 million jobs over the past 57 months, which is the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record, President Obama isn’t about to sit still for the last two years of his Presidency. In fact, he is going to work to implement the ideas the American people re-elected him (in a landslide) to do. In spite of he repugicans.
The President said of his last two years, “My presidency is entering the fourth quarter. Interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.”
Community college free for two years? What a great way to even the playing field for those who are willing to work hard. There is nothing more fundamentally American than opportunity for hard work.
The latest idea by the president is another body blow to the new repugican mislead Congress, who believed that this week was going to be their victory lap. (The repugican victory lap has so far consisted of getting mired in a racism scandal and passing a bill that the president is certain to veto.) Once again, President Obama is two steps ahead of his opponents. The repugicans are left on the defensive and wondering what this president will hit them with next.
Update: The White House released a fact sheet on the President’s proposal Friday morning. You can read it here.

Nancy Pelosi Calls Out Boehner For Holding Homeland Security Funding Hostage

Boehner Throws A Fit Over President Obama’s Threat To Veto repugican Bills

Boehner threw a tantrum during his press conference because President Obama refused to give repugicans any advantage before he issued his veto threats.
Boehner signaled his unhappiness early in his remarks, “These measures would also provide President Obama a chance to begin the final years of his presidency by taking some steps to build a stronger economy, Unfortunately, the president’s been taking steps towards more confrontation rather than bipartisan cooperation on jobs. Earlier in the week, literally as we were taking our oaths of office, for this new Congress the White House threatened to veto two of these bipartisan bills. Given the chance to start with a burst of bipartisan productivity, the president turned his back on the American people’s priorities.”
Later, the moron was asked if the Democrats where really obstructing because he already knew where the president stood on Keystone XL and Obamacare. Boehner responded with a tantrum, “Well, the president, you know, at a minimum, he could have waited a few hours, or even a few days. We were taking our oaths of office when they were issuing veto threats. C’mon.”
Boehner was tantruming because reality is starting to set in. Boehner and McConnell believed that President Obama and the Democrats were going to roll over and let them do whatever they wanted. It was ironic of Boehner to complain that Obama issued his veto threats quickly when it was repugicans who met on inauguration night in 2009 to discuss how they could gridlock the Congress and obstruct President Obama.
The truth is that everyone knew where the president and Democrats stood on these issues. Boehner’s shock that Obama would quickly issue veto threats is nothing more than a ploy in an attempt to blame Democrats for the kind of obstructionist tactics that repugicans have been using for years. President Obama use of his veto power is not a form of obstruction.
Boehner’s tantrum is the biggest sign yet that the repugican fantasy of controlling Congress has already been slapped in the face by the realities of real world politics.

The repugican cabal Begins Assault on Elderly, Poor, Disabled, Math, and Reason

The 114th Congress was sworn in on Tuesday, opening the flood gates to legislation that will potentially damage the economy, hurt the middle class and the poor, and leave the retired Americans in the worst financial shape they've been in for years. After six years as a sleeper cell, the repugican cabal is gunning for the American people -- the one thing they hate more than facts.
In last week's piece, "The 2015 repugican cabal Clown Car: Bigger, Meaner, and More Dangerous Than Ever," I ended my post with:
"It's a new year though and the clown car about to be sworn in next week is bigger than ever with a majority in both the Senate and the House. A car full of gun loving, poor hating, veteran screwing, climate change denying, Wall Street deregulating, health care repealing, and wealthy old white man loving clowns."
I speculated that the repugican cabal's plans for the coming year would include further repeals of Dodd-Frank, cutting and privatizing social security, cutting pensions, defunding Obamacare, eliminating food stamps, and more gifts and giveaways to the super-rich and corporations. I also joked about potential exhumations of Benghazi, IRS, and impeachment hearings.
That post got a lot of comments from wingnutters. Most of them insulting me and the article, with not one comment refuting the content of the article. Some even found the time to track down my personal email and write to me. One woman, apparently a 'christian', wrote, "First off, I really hope someone comes and shoots or rapes you in your defenseless home and you live (sic), so you can learn a valuable life lesson."
I also wrote that, "As of Tuesday, they'll have the numbers to do what they want and by this time next year we could be having a completely different conversation in a completely different country."
As it happens, the repugican cabal has wasted no time pushing forward a very dangerous and cruel agenda. It turns out that when it comes to destroying things that are good for people and society, they're highly motivated.
On Tuesday, the same day the new Congress was sworn in, it was announced that the Select Committee on Benghazi will continue into 2015, after House repugicans pushed through language to reauthorize the panel -- without budget restrictions or time limits. That's right, they are reopening the Benghazi hearings that dragged on at considerable cost to the taxpayers and turned up absolutely nothing in the final declassified report.
The five Democrats on the 12-member panel issued the following statement, saying that since the re-authorization language was included in the "must-pass" bill setting up the rules for the new Congress, it prevented any debate on whether the panel would continue:
We are disappointed that the Speaker incorporated the re-authorization of the Select Committee on Benghazi into the must-pass rules package, which sets no limit on the Committee's budget or time frame," the five Democrats said in the statement.  "After eight months and more than a million taxpayer dollars spent, it remains unclear what new questions the Select Committee seeks to answer. Since our members were denied the ability to meaningfully debate or amend the resolution, we now look to the Committee to quickly adopt rules that ensure that our Democratic members are able to participate fully in the investigation.
Then on Wednesday, the repugican cabal now apparently in full steamroller momentum, started hammering away at Social Security and paving the path to privatization. The repugican cabal has wanted to privatize Social Security for a while now, meaning that the entire amount (now $1.7 trillion) would be handed over to Wall Street to "invest." We've seen how well 401(k)s and pensions have done under that model.
As Nancy Altman, founding co-director of Social Security Works, and Eric Kingson, a professor of Social Work at Syracuse University, write:
The repugican opponents of Social Security have not wasted even a single day in their plan to dismantle Social Security brick by brick. What should be a dry, mundane exercise -- the adoption of new rules by the newly convening House of Representatives -- has turned into a stealth attack on America's working families.
The House repugicans, as one of their first orders of business, approved a rule preventing the reallocation of Social Security funds to men, women, and children who receive disability insurance, unless they are offset by benefit cuts or tax increases. Since repugicans will never agree to an increase in taxes, particularly on the wealthy, this sets the stage for the repugicans to cut the benefits to 11 million people in the next two years. All under the ruse that Social Security is going bankrupt, which it's not.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, reallocating taxes between retirement and disability trust funds has always been noncontroversial -- it's been done 11 times since 1968 and it's a normal part of administering Social Security funds. This reallocation would keep both the retirement and disability fund solvent until 2033. The repugican cabal has been trying to gut Social Security for years, calling it a hand out and now they're blocking something as simple as transferring money from a savings account to a checking account. As the LA Times reports:
Social Security advocates are almost universally aghast at the change. "It is hard to believe that there is any purpose to this unprecedented change to House rules," wrote Max Richtman, president of the committee, in an open letter Tuesday, "other than to cut benefits for Americans who have worked hard all their lives, paid into Social Security and rely on their Social Security benefits, including Disability Insurance, in order to survive." The rule change reflects the burgeoning demonization of disability recipients, a trend we've reported on in the past. It's been fomented by wingnut repugicans and abetted by sloppy reporting by institutions such as NPR and "60 Minutes."
Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed her outrage on Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday, saying that the move on the part of House repugicans was inventing a Social Security crisis:
It's ridiculous - but not surprising - that on the very first day of the new Congress, repugicans are manufacturing a Social Security crisis to threaten benefits for millions of disabled Americans - including 233,260 in Massachusetts alone. We can't turn our backs on the promises we've made to our families, friends, and neighbors who need our help the most. House repugicans should stop playing political games to put America's most vulnerable at risk.
Furthering the speculation and theory that repugicans are manufacturing a problem and setting up for a long game to gut or privatize Social Security, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), said, "...detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function."
As for the assault on Dodd-Frank, the repugican cabal not wanting to look like they're slacking off with all this new found power, took an axe to the Volcker rule. The Volcker Rule was adopted after the 2008 Wall Street meltdown and it bans banks from gambling with taxpayer money. The repugican cabal is proposing legislation that would grant banks another two years to unload their toxic holdings in the form of Collateralized Loan Obligations -- complex contracts similar to the mortgage-backed securities that caused the meltdown in 2008.
Bank watchdog groups are cringing at the legislation:
"It's all about the bonus pool," said Dennis Kelleher, president and CEO of Better Markets, a financial reform nonprofit. "The attack on the Volcker Rule has been nonstop, because proprietary trading is about big-time bets that result in big-time bonuses. Wall Street has been fighting it from day one, and they're not going to stop."
"It's absurd," said Marcus Stanley, policy director at Americans for Financial Reform. "It's getting on five years after the passage of the Volcker Rule, and the banks have still not actually been required to stop doing anything that they want to be doing. And anytime we get close to the point where they could, somebody comes in with an extension."
Next on the agenda? Health care. After trying 50 times to repeal Obamacare, the repugican cabal has decided to take a more tempered approach. Much like they did with Glass-Steagall during the ramp-up to the financial crisis. After picking it apart piece by piece until it looked like Swiss cheese, the legislation was so useless, repeal was easy. The repugican cabal is making a concerted effort to make it difficult for Americans to receive coverage. This time, by reintroducing the 40-hour work week stipulation. The bill (H.R.30) would go after the mandate that requires a company with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance to 95 percent of its full-time employees. The law defines employees who work 30 hours or more as full time. The repugican cabal wants to change that definition to 40 hours per week, making it easier for employers to avoid offering health care.
As pointed out in Mother Jones, "I call this the 'send people home a half hour early on Friday and deny them health insurance' bill," says Tim Jost, a health care law scholar at the Washington and Lee University School of Law who has consulted with the Obama administration on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The 30-hour threshold was intended to discourage companies from cutting workers' hours. Nearly half of Americans work 40 hours a week or more--meaning that, under current law, employers would have to cut those workers' hours by more than 25 percent to avoid buying them health insurance. But if the threshold were 40 hours, as the GOP envisions, many employers would only have to cut workweeks a tiny bit to avoid buying health insurance for their employees. "Raising the threshold to 40 hours would place more than five times as many workers at risk of having their hours reduced," Paul van de Water, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in 2013.
This move could deprive 1.5 million people currently receiving health insurance as a result of the mandate. To add insult to injury, the change in the law would also add another $53 billion to the deficit the repugicans are always screeching about. According to Mitch McConnell, the 30-hour threshold should be ditched, regardless of costs to the deficit. In McConnell's view, adding billions to the deficit is a small price to pay in acceptable collateral damage if it means denying health care to millions.
In just a couple of days, the repugican cabal, rather than work in the best interest of the American people, has laid the groundwork to dismantle nearly everything that has been accomplished and go after the things that people in this country rely on and benefit from.
In addition to trying to change the way the way the Congressional Budget Office calculates costs through "dynamic scoring," one of the more laughable claims and subsequent responses, came from Mitch McConnell who apparently received queues from Grover Norquist suggesting that wingnuts take credit for the improving the economy.
HuffPost reported:
Norquist, known for demanding fealty to his pledge never to raise taxes, has yet to move many repugicans on this specific debate. Few in the party have been willing to talk up good economic news, even if only to credit it to wingnut-leaning legislation. The preference has instead been to bemoan the president for ignoring longterm deficits and debt, and for pushing "job-killing" regulations.
McConnell, like a scene out of A Christmas Story, rose to the occasion as if he were on the playground being triple dog dared to stick his tongue to a frozen metal flag pole. On Wednesday, the second day of the new repugican cabal majority in Congress, McConnell made this delusional statement:
After so many years of sluggish growth, we're finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama administration's long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new repugican congress. So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda.
In possibly the best response one could muster to such a claim, DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee wrote:
Hahahahahahahahahahaha. That Mitch McConnell is one funny guy. He likes to remind people all the time that he's not a scientist. Now we know he's not a mathematician or an economist either. The fact is, under President Obama we've had 57 straight months of private sector job growth leading to nearly 11 million jobs added. All repugicans have given us is a government shutdown that cost the economy $24 billion. I get why he wants to take credit for the economic recovery. But maybe he should first do something to help contribute to it.
It's unfortunate, based on the first two days of the new Congress, that the responses to upcoming repugican cabal policies won't be so humorous. This first week back from vacation paints a pretty grim picture of coming attractions and the American people are the ones who will suffer.
Read more at nowitcounts.com

House repugicans Pass Bill That Would Take Away Health Insurance From 1 Million Workers

paul ryan
House repugicans passed a bill would take away health insurance from at least 1 million workers by a vote of 252-172.
The deceptively named Save American Workers Act would do the exact opposite. According to the CBO, the repugican backed change in the ACA would cause 1 million workers to lose their private health insurance. Half of the workers impacted would not be able to get new health care coverage so that they would have no health insurance. During the debate on this bill, repugicans trotted out some familiar Obamacare lies.
Twelve blue-dogs joined repugicans in voting for the bill. No repugicans voted against the bill, and three members voted present.
Paul Ryan claimed that ACA was devised by central planning and had a secret agenda to destroy the economy. House repugicans ignored the fact that the economy is growing at its fastest pace in more than a decade in order to claim that the work week as defined in the ACA is killing jobs. The repugicans tried to cover for the fact that all of their predictions concerning the economic impact of the ACA were wrong by suggesting that unless this bill was passed all, the economy was going to crash and burn under the weight of the ACA.
Throughout the debate on the House floor, Democrats tried to inject reality by pointing out to repugicans that they are trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no crushing weight of Obamacare that is harming employees. The real goal behind this bill is not to solve a problem, but to create a new one. The repugicans aren’t trying to save American workers. Their mission is to weaken the successful health care law by any means necessary.
President Obama has already threatened to veto the bill, as repugicans may have changed the bill’s name, but their goal wasting time trying to destroy Obamacare remains the same.

The First Act Of The Koch congress Is A Vicious Attack On Social Security

On the evening before officially stealing Congress, the repugicans launched a Koch-Wall Street attack on Social Security as a first step in another repugican-created crisis …
It is too bad that Americans failed to heed to preponderance of warnings that if the Koch brothers and Wall Street were successful in buying control of Congress, that repugicans would immediately “go after the Federal government; all of it.” Mitch McConnell’s pledge to the Koch brothers was fulfilled even before Tuesday when repugicans officially accepted the Koch’s congressional majority gift. There has been volumes written already about repugicans remunerating the Kochs for the gift of a repugican congress, including subverting the Constitution by overstepping the Executive Branch’s authority to approve a permit for a foreign pipeline, and eliminating healthcare for millions of Americans. However, it was revealed on Wednesday that the evening before officially taking control of Congress, Republicans launched a Koch-Wall Street attack on Social Security as a first step in another Republican-created crisis; this time to hasten privatizing Social Security for the Kochs and Wall Street.
On Monday evening before the ‘official’ theft of Congress, the repugicans secretly included a provision in the House’s parliamentary rules for 2015 banning Congress from shifting Social Security Trust funds into Social Security’s disability insurance Trust. Also, the Kochs added a brand spanking new trickle-down rule from Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan that forces the once-bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to automatically analyze, score, and approve huge trickle-down tax cuts for the rich as deficit reducing job creators and a bonanza for federal revenue; like the shrub-era tax cuts for the rich proved not to be.
Democrats complained that both the ban on transferring funds between Social Security Trusts and the Congressional Budget Office attacks were added to the Koch’s “broader rules package by surprise” very late Monday night before the Koch Congress was officially sworn in on Tuesday. The surprise bill (H.R. 5) the very first action in the new Koch Congress, caught Democrats off guard and was subsequently approved on a strictly party-line vote. The wording in the new Koch rules say Congress is forbidden, and out of order, to shift funds between Social Security’s Trusts even though it was a typical procedure eleven times over the past 60 years before the Kochs owned Congress. What it means is that there will be a 20% benefit cut in Social Security disability accounts affecting about 11 million Americans the repugicans, Koch brothers, and Wall Street say do not deserve any welfare; that money belongs to the Kochs in tax cuts and Wall Street in administrative fees.
For over a year, the Social Security Administration’s actuaries called on legislators to do what Congress has done 11 times since the 1950s without complaint or controversy, but of course that was long before the Kochs, repugicans, and Wall Street began calling Social Security a Marxist welfare program for, what Willard Romney said was, America’s 47% moocher class. The Social Security administrators projected that if Congress did not do what it has eleven times as a matter of course for sixty years, Social Security’s disability Trust will run out of money even though the money is there; albeit in a different account in name only.  It is basically an accounting procedure that never drew criticism until the Kochs and Wall Street decided “they” cannot afford to allow Social Security to function as it was intended. Their belief is that the Trust’s $3 trillion-plus reserves belongs to private Wall Street bankers and not Americans who paid into Social Security throughout their working lives.
The repugican appointed to oversee Social Security, Sam Johnson (TX), championed the Koch’s ban on shifting funds within the Social Security Trust and said allowing Social Security to function as it has for over 80 years “does nothing to fix the program. Johnson said that the new Koch “rule seeks to encourage more much-needed reform” in Social Security instead of raising the limit on high-income earners instead of paying nothing into Social Security. In fact, Johnson and repugicans bemoan Social Security as a welfare sham that is plagued with fraud.
One of the real Democrats in the Senate, Sherrod Brown (D-OH), criticized the new Koch rule on Tuesday and reminded repugicans that shifting Social Security funds between Social Security Trust accounts was routine for sixty years and that, “Reallocation has never been controversial. But detractors working to privatize Social Security will do anything to manufacture a crisis out of a routine administrative function rather than solve the short-term problems facing the Social Security as we have in the past. It is obvious that repugicans want to set the stage to cut benefits for seniors and disabled Americans.”
An advocacy group for retirees and the elderly, Social Security Works,  that opposes benefit cuts and privatizing Social Security called the Koch-repugican strategy  “hostage taking.” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) concurred with Senator Brown and accused Koch-repugicans of “inventing a Social Security crisis that will threaten benefits for millions & put our most vulnerable at risk.” Unfortunately, that is the repugican intent and now that the Kochs delivered control of Congress into repugican hands, threatening millions of Americans and putting the most vulnerable at risk is exactly what is going to happen on a regular basis, and on a much grander scale than making up rules to expedite the Koch vision for America.
The repugicans have started the 114th Congress in a manner that makes their 2011 beginning appear to be an altruist’s dream scenario. That they began a crusade to attack and slash Social Security, and create a trickle-down friendly Congressional Budget Office the night before they were officially in charge and made it effective as their first order of business on Tuesday is a bad portent for Americans. However, Americans were duly warned when Mitch McConnell promised the assembled billionaires at the Koch’s strategy meeting in June (2014) that if the Kochs delivered repugicans control of Congress, they would make “going after the Federal government, all of it” their highest priority, and based on their first day’s actions, it is a promise repugicans are going to see through to fruition.

The repugican congress Launches With Back-Door Attack On Social Security Benefits

by Alan Pyke
The repugicans are starting the new Congress by attacking Social Security funding through a subtle, obscure policy measure buried in the gigantic bill that establishes parliamentary rules for the new session.
The rules measure, passed late Tuesday after other day-one business like formal swearing-in ceremonies for members were completed, escalates the threat of a significant cut to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) within the next two years. The measure bans a common accounting technique that the people who manage Social Security funding have used many times in the past to prevent benefit cuts. The two funds that comprise the Social Security system have essentially borrowed from one another as necessary over the years to ensure that benefits can be paid in full each year. SSDI, which is the primary program for providing federal benefits to people unable to work due to disability, is projected to hit a shortfall in late 2016. Reallocating revenue from the much larger Social Security retirement benefits fund to SSDI would cover the shortfall, and trust fund managers have performed such reallocations 11 times since the late 1950s.
But the repugican rules package prohibits Congress from authorizing such a transfer. That will force a showdown over how to finance disability benefits sometime in the next two years, with the threat of a nearly 20 percent cut to SSDI payments looming over the debate. The measure was overshadowed in the news by a separate rules package measure that threatens to rig the legislative process in favor of trickle-down tax policy, until the beginning of this week when critics began to decry the change.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities called the rule an "attempt to pit retirement and disability beneficiaries against each other" that misrepresents how the two funds operate, and pointed out that the only reason SSDI is in funding trouble next year is that it got short-changed by the past two reallocations of funding between disability and retirement benefits. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) accused the repugican cabal of "inventing a Social Security crisis that will threaten benefits for millions & put our most vulnerable at risk." Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called it "a dangerous new rule" that will "set the stage to cut benefits for seniors and disabled Americans," and pointed out that reallocating funds between the accounts is so uncontroversial that  Ronny Raygun oversaw four of the 11 times it has been done in the past.
Tom Reed (r-NY), who is taking credit for engineering the rules change, has received significant campaign financing from at least one well-heeled conservative supporter of cutting Social Security. Reed has gotten over $134,000 in contributions from people tied to vulture capitalist Paul Singer's firm Elliott Management, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Singer is most famous for his battle to force the nation of Argentina to prioritize debt payments to Elliott Management over public expenditures for its 41 million citizens. But the repugican donor is also a sharp critic of American government spending and has called for cutting benefits in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
Reed told the Associated Press that his rules proposal is intended to force a reckoning over social insurance spending. "We need real reform," he said, and "this makes that real reform that much more likely." Leaving aside the question of what Reed means by "real reform," and the fact that the proposed reallocation would have extended disability funding by 17 years while reducing retirement funding by just one year, the move is raising serious procedural concerns among retiree advocates.

The repugican congress Introduces A National Abortion Ban On Its Very First Day Back

by Tara Culp-Ressler
The repugicans in Congress are wasting no time following through on the anti-abortion agenda the repugican cabal laid out after stealing seats in the 2014 midterm elections.
On Tuesday, the very first day of the 114th Congress, two lawmakers introduced a measure to ban abortions after 20 weeks, in direct violation of the protections afforded under Roe v. Wade. Trent Franks (r-AZ) and Marsha Blackburn (r-TN) reintroduced the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, the same legislation that successfully passed the House last year.
Lindsey Graham (r-SC) - who introduced a companion 20-week abortion ban in the Senate last year that was stalled by Democratic leadership - has already indicated that he plans to re-introduce his own measure in the next few weeks, too. Now that the Senate is repugican cabal-mislead, repugicans are anticipating that they'll have enough support to pass the ban in both chambers this year, helping the anti-choice community gain momentum for this particular tactic to limit reproductive rights.
"In a repugican senate, under my mismanagement, we would have the kind of real debate on the issues that the American people want," Mitch McConnell (r-KY) told the audience at the national Right to Life anti-choice cabal in the fall. "For six years, the president has been isolated from this growing movement. He will be forced to listen to the cause that's brought us all here this morning."
These type of abortion bans are often called "fetal pain" measures because they're based on the notion that fetuses are sentient after 20 weeks of pregnancy, assuming that an abortion procedure after that point would be painful for them. In a statement released on Tuesday, Franks referred to 20-week fetuses as "innocent and defenseless children who can not only feel pain, but who can survive outside of the womb in most cases, and who are torturously killed without even basic anesthesia."
In fact, doctors agree that fetuses cannot survive outside the womb until about 24 to 28 weeks of pregnancy, which is considered to be the legal point of viability. At less than 21 weeks, no delivered baby has ever survived. Plus, scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that fetuses cannot feel pain until after they are viable; indeed, even the researchers who are trying to learn more about fetal pain don't want their findings to be used to justify abortion bans.

We spend too much time and money sending people to jail

One map captures the sad state of America’s prison-industrial complex
There are more jails and prisons in the U.S. than there are colleges.
America’s prison system, truly the “school of hard knocks,” incarcerates its citizens at a much higher rate than any other country in the world. There are 707 adults imprisoned per every 100,000 Americans, according to the Washington Post, a level stratospherically higher than any other developed nation.
This jarring map shows which states have more college students and which have more prisoners. And the regional divide is obvious.
Blue states apparently prefer colleges. Red ones like prisons.

10 Weird Museums From Around The World

During their 4 years of being in different places around the world for their Travel Blog, Juergen from Germany and Mike from the USA have seen some bizarre museums. From gross to fun.
Here are 10 weird museums from around the world.

6 Volcanoes That Could End The World As We Know It

From dangerous lava flows to potentially catastrophic mega-tsunamis, the effects of volcanic eruptions can be awesome, mesmerizing and frankly terrifying. What's more, it's perfectly conceivable that these eruptions could be powerful enough to end the world as we know it.
Whether they wipe cities from the map or bring nations' economies to their knees, when the world's deadliest volcanoes blow their tops, there's little anybody can do about it. All six of these volcanoes have one feature in common: the devastating potential to change the face of the Earth forever.

Strange Iron Heart

A machine on Earth capable of recreating the conditions inside the sun's heart is helping scientists study how iron behaves at mind-boggling temperatures. The results of the experiment, so far, have defied expectations and just might help settle a long-standing solar puzzle.

Life on Mars

There are compelling structures in a slab of sedimentary Mars rock, but their discovery alone won't prove there was ancient life on Mars.

2 New Exoplanets

Eight new exoplanets have been discovered, two of which are nearly Earth-sized orbiting within their stars' habitable zones.

No Alien Signals

After pointing the Allen Telescope Array at a newly-found exoplanet discovered by NASA's Kepler space telescope, SETI reports there is no transmitting alien civilization. But the search continues...

A 1,000 Alien Worlds

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered its 1,000th alien planet, further cementing the prolific exoplanet-hunting mission's status as a space-science legend.

How Flying Fish Took Flight?

Fossils May Tell Us
by Charles Q. Choi
An extinct flying fish may shed light on how gliding evolved in such animals, researchers say.
How Flying Fish Took Flight? Fossils May Tell Us
Modern flying fish are famous for leaping from the water to glide in the air using long, winglike fins, presumably to escape  aquatic predators. Much remains unknown about how modern flying fish developed their gliding abilities, since there is little in the way of missing-link fossils to illuminate how these fish evolved flight.
However, modern flying fish, known as exocoetids, were not the only fish to evolve gliding. Extinct flying fish known as thoracopterids evolved bodies remarkably similar to exocoetids more than 200 million years ago, during the Triassic period.
Now, a newfound thoracopterid species is casting light on how these extinct flying fish developed the ability to glide, and could yield insights into how modern flying fish evolved flight as well.
The new fish is named Wushaichthys exquisitus, which means "exquisite fish from Wusha" in Greek and Latin. (Wusha is the town in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou where the fossils were found.)
The scientists discovered six well-preserved specimens of Wushaichthys in 2010. The fossils are 235 million to 242 million years old, back when the area they dwelled in was part of the hot uppermost waters of the ancient Palaeotethys Ocean. During this period, Wushaichthys lived alongside shrimp, fish, mollusks and marine reptiles such as dolphin-shaped ichthyosaurs.
How Flying Fish Took Flight? Fossils May Tell Us
The extinct fish was relatively small, measuring up to about 2 inches (5.2 centimeters) long. The researchers suggest it may have eaten plankton, and been prey for marine reptiles and larger carnivorous fishes.
"When the fish fossils were collected in the fieldwork, we had no idea what kind of fish this was," said lead study author Guang-Hui Xu, a vertebrate paleontologist at China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. "After painstaking specimen preparation in the lab by myself, taking about three months, I recognized that it was, unexpectedly, related to the ancestor of the thoracopterid flying fishes."
Wushaichthys is the oldest and most primitive thoracopterid discovered yet. The roof of its skull was broad, as is seen in later thoracopterids, which probably evolved to help it live and feed in the ocean's uppermost waters.
This newfound fish was probably not a glider. It lacked the bottom-heavy tail fin seen in all known subsequent thoracopterids that helped them generate the power needed to launch them out of the water. Wushaichthys also lacked the winglike fins seen in later thoracopterids that would have helped them glide. Moreover, Wushaichthys was fully covered in scales, unlike more advanced thoracopterids that lost their body scales, which presumably helped improve their gliding efficiency and maneuverability.
"Resembling modern flying fish, thoracopterid flying fishes most probably used gliding as an escape strategy from predators," Xu told Live Science.
These new findings yield major insights on the evolution of flight in thoracopterids. Based on Wushaichthys and other thoracopterid fossils, Xu and his colleagues suggest the development of gliding in these fish was a gradual, four-step process. First, they evolved skulls that helped them live in surface waters. Next, they evolved tails that helped launch them from the water. Then, they evolved winglike fins that helped them glide. Finally, they lost body scales to make them more aerodynamic.
Xu suggests these findings could help explain the evolution of flight in modern flying fishes as well, due to similarities in body shape between the extinct thoracopterids and living exocoetids.
"Overwater gliding adaptations were gradual in nature," Xu said.
However, these findings show at least one major difference between thoracopterids and exocoetids. Although modern flying fish are all egg-layers, male Wushaichthys possessed hooklets on the anal fin resembling those seen on modern viviparous, or live-bearing, fish, which suggests thoracopterids gave birth to live offspring just like humans and whales do.
"These hooklets played an important role in sperm transfer to females," Xu said. "A study of the living viviparous guppy showed that up to threefold more sperm were transferred when males had hooklets compared with those with hooklets removed."
Xu and his colleagues Li-Jun Zhao and Chen-Chen Shen detailed their findings online (Jan. 7) in the journal Biology Letters.

Rare cross-dressing butterfly found

When a butterfly emerged from its chrysalis and unfurled its wings, an entymology-exhibit volunteer thought someone was playing a joke on him.
There are 3.5 million specimens in Drexel University's Academy of Natural Sciences entymology collection, and a few months ago, a volunteer spotted a butterfly there that is truly one in a million.The butterfly, known as Lexias pardalis, had half its body covered in markings typical of the male of its species and half covered in female markings. "I thought: 'Somebody's fooling with me. It's just too perfect,'" said Chris Johnson, the volunteer who made the discovery while working on the Academy's Butterflies! exhibit. "Then I got goose bumps."
"It slowly opened up, and the wings were so dramatically different, it was immediately apparent what it was," he added, according to a statement about the discovery released Tuesday by Drexel.
What Johnson had stumbled upon as he was cleaning out the exhibit's pupa chamber -- the place where butterflies burst forth from their chrysalises -- was a Lexias pardalis with a rare condition known as bilateral gynandromorphy.
"Gynandromorphism is most frequently noticed in bird and butterfly species where the two sexes have very different coloration," said Jason Weintraub, the Academy's entomology-collection manager. "It can result from non-disjunction of sex chromosomes, an error that sometimes occurs during the division of chromosomes at a very early stage of development."
The rare butterfly came to the Academy from a sustainable butterfly farm on Malaysia's Penang island. Its right side exhibits the coloration typically displayed by females -- brown with yellow and white spots. Its left side shows the male markings -- iridescent black and greenish blue wings.
The butterfly, which has the short lifespan common to all of its kind, has been preserved and pinned and will be on display for visitors at the Academy from January 17 through February 16.

Ant Heads for Dinner

The Dohrniphora flies quickly guillotine their prey with a long, sawlike proboscis, always targeting injured ants to avoid becoming dinner themselves.

Simian Voyeurs

Monkeys never paid much attention to mirrors, until they finally figured out how to use them.

Saving Themselves

As one researcher explains, sea ice is like a moving sidewalk and polar bears travel with it.

Orangutan Communicates Like People

An orangutan has spontaneously produced human-like calls that mean, Come here and give that food to me!

Don't Mess With A Drwarf

Footage is the first-ever to document dwarfism in an Asian elephant.

Dog Migration

Dogs might only have a 10,000-year history in the Americas, suggests a new study that also concludes many early American dogs were wolf-like and highly valued.

Bats Eavesdrop

A bat can hear that another bat has detected an insect from 100 meters away.

Non-Stick Geckos

Why some geckos lose their ability to stick to surfacesWhy some geckos lose their ability to stick to surfaces

A study led by biologists at the University of California, Riverside has found that evolution can downgrade or entirely remove adaptations a species has previously acquired, such as limb loss […]

Snake Venom

snake-bite-3Mapping snake venom variety reveals unexpected evolutionary pattern

Venom from an eastern diamondback rattlesnake in the Everglades is distinct from the cocktail of toxins delivered by the same species in the Florida panhandle area, some 500 miles away. […]

Animal Pictures