Welcome to ...

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

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, yeah, we're talking about you ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 200 countries around the world daily.   
Man, they're really sick in the head ... !
Today is  -  Clean Off Your Desk Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

Some of our readers today have been in:
The Americas
Buenos Aires and Villa Maria, Argentina
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil
Montreal and Quebec, Canada
Santiago, Chile
Agua de Dios, Bogota and Manizales, Colombia
Merida, Mexico
Boaco, Nicaragua
Luquillo, Puerto Rico
Caracas, Venezuela
Sofia, Bulgaria
brno, Karlin, Horni Pocernice and Prague, Czech Republic
London, England
Roubaix, Rouen and Velizy-Villacoublay, France
Berlin, Eschborn and Munchen, Germany
Piraeus, Greece
Nyiregyhaza, Hungary
Brescia, Milan, Naples, Pisa and Ravena, Italy
Wroclaw, Poland
Yekaterinburg, Russia
Belgrade, Serbia
Madrid and Pinar de Charmartin, Spain
Kista, Sweden
Kloten/Holberg and Zurich, Switzerland
Kiev, Ukraine
Bangalore, Patna, Sherghati and Shillong, India
Bandar Bushehr and Tehran, Iran
Tokyo, Japan
Seongnam, Korea
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Riyadh, Saudi, Arabia
Bangkok, Thailand
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Hanoi, Vietnam
The Pacific
Adelaide, Canbarra and Sydney, Australia
Sampaloc, Philippines

Today in History

1872   Russian Grand Duke Alexis goes on a gala buffalo hunting expedition with Gen. Phil Sheridan and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
1879   The British-Zulu War begins. British troops — under Lieutenant General Frederic Augustus — invade Zululand from the southern African republic of Natal.  
1908   A wireless message is sent long-distance for the first time from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  
1913   Kiel and Wilhelmshaven become submarine bases in Germany.  
1915   The U.S. Congress establishes Rocky Mountain National Park.
1926   U.S. coal talks break down, leaving both sides bitter as the strike drags on into its fifth month.
1927   U.S. Secretary of State Kellogg claims that Mexican rebel Plutarco Calles is aiding communist plot in Nicaragua.  
1932   Oliver Wendell Holmes retires from the Supreme Court at age 90.
1938   Austria recognizes the Franco government in Spain.  
1940   Soviet bombers raid cities in Finland.  
1943   Soviet forces raise the siege of Leningrad.  
1952   The Viet Minh cut the supply lines to the French forces in Hoa Binh, Vietnam.
1962   The United States resumes aid to the Laotian regime.  
1973   Yassar Arafat is re-elected as head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
1982   Peking protests the sale of U.S. planes to Taiwan.  
1991   The U.S. Congress gives the green light to military action against Iraq in the Persian Gulf Crisis.  
1998   Nineteen European nations agree to prohibit human cloning.  
2010   An earthquake in Haiti kills an estimated 316,000 people.

Most Americans are one paycheck away from the street

by Quentin Fottrell
Americans are feeling better about their job security and the economy, but most are theoretically only one paycheck away from the street.
MoneyApproximately 62% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair, according to a new survey of 1,000 adults by personal finance website Bankrate.com. Faced with an emergency, they say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (26%), borrowing from family and/or friends (16%) or using credit cards (12%).
“Emergency savings are not just critical for weathering an emergency, they’re also important for successful homeownership and retirement saving,” says Signe-Mary McKernan, senior fellow and economist at the Urban Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on social and economic policy.
The findings are strikingly similar to a U.S. Federal Reserve survey of more than 4,000 adults released last year. “Savings are depleted for many households after the recession,” it found. Among those who had savings prior to 2008, 57% said they’d used up some or all of their savings in the Great Recession and its aftermath. What’s more, only 39% of respondents reported having a “rainy day” fund adequate to cover three months of expenses and only 48% of respondents said that they would completely cover a hypothetical emergency expense costing $400 without selling something or borrowing money.
Why aren’t people saving? “A lot of people are in debt,” says Andrew Meadows, a San Francisco-based producer of “Broken Eggs,” a documentary about retirement. “Probably the most common types of debt are student loans and costs related to medical issues.” He spent seven weeks traveling around the U.S. and interviewed over 100 people about why they haven’t saved enough money. “People are still feeling the heat from the Great Recession.” Some 44% of senior citizens have enough savings to cover unexpected expenses versus 33% of millennials, Bankrate.com found.
On the upside, the Bankrate survey found that 82% of Americans keep a household budget, up from 60% in 2012. Even in the age of the smartphone, most people keep a budget the old-fashioned way, either with a pen and paper (36%) or in their heads (18%). Just 26% of those surveyed say they use a computer program or smartphone app. “A solid majority of Americans say they have a household budget, which is a good thing. But too few have the ability to cover expenses outside their budget without going into debt or turning to family and friends for help,” said Claes Bell, a banking analyst at Bankrate.com.
But while the jobs market is improving and the Affordable Care Act has given an estimated 15 million people access to medical care, the Great Recession does appear to have taken its toll on Americans’ finances; in fact, they’re 40% poorer today than they were in 2007. The net worth of American families — that is, the difference between the values of their assets, including homes and investments, and liabilities — fell to $81,400 in 2013, down slightly from $82,300 in 2010, but a long way off the $135,700 in 2007, according to a report released last month by the nonprofit think tank Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

New York Police slowdown shows results, but what's the message?

And the message here is what, exactly?
For a second straight week, New York City police officers sharply cut back on their actions in the street, arresting less than half as many people and writing more than 90 percent fewer summonses than in the same period a year ago.
The slowdown built on a drastic drop in activity that began shortly after the murder of two uniformed patrol officers in Brooklyn on Dec. 20, and continued across all 77 precincts in the city.
So many questions here. You can arrest only half as many people and still not sacrifice public safety? You can curtail other enforcement actions by 90 percent to no detrimental effect, save to the city's coffers? This sounds like excellent news.
But the precise message being delivered is ... what? Is this merely an extended period of unofficial pouting by New York City Police officers, or is there a specific something being requested? The closest we've come to an explanation of demands comes not from New York but from the Baltimore police union, which used the December murder of two New York officers to demand law enforcement receive the "unequivocal support" of national leaders.
Once again, we need to be reminded that the men and women of law enforcement are absolutely the only entity standing between a civilized society and one of anarchy and chaos. In that position, we should be supported in our efforts, with continuous diligence, by a strong political leadership. Unfortunately, recently, that has not been the case. Politicians and community leaders from President Obama, to Attorney General Holder, New York Mayor de Blasio, and Al Sharpton have, as the result of their lack of proper guidance, created the atmosphere of unnecessary hostility and peril that police officers now find added to the ordinary danger of their profession. Sadly, the bloodshed will most likely continue until those in positions of power realize that the unequivocal support of law enforcement is required to preserve our nation.
"Unequivocal" being the most intriguing word there. The shootings of these two New York officers are being used as explicit counter to the repeated police killings of unarmed black men and children in America, the premise being that so long as police officers can be or are killed, all other officers should have "unequivocal support" in being able to summarily execute whichever Americans any individual one of them wants to, whether they be children holding toy guns, men in Walmart holding pellet guns, or asthmatic men selling loose cigarettes. This is a premise that can only be entertained by children or morons, none of whom ought to be police officers in the first place. It is a demand that the debate over police brutality, or corruption, or shootings simply not happen.
If members of the police departments demanding "unambiguous" fealty for the actions of every officer and every department want to explain how this required cult-like devotion to police authority squares with a national law enforcement framework that is not by definition a police state, they ought to pipe up with that. Until then we are all very sorry, but Americans are still free to criticize overaggressive police actions which repeatedly and systemically end up killing black men and boys for no discernible reason-even your mayors and your attorney general and your president may pipe up with thoughts on that, from time to time-so put on your goddamn big-boy uniforms and deal with it.

Salman Rushdie on Paris attack: Religion a 'medieval form of unreason' that deserves 'fearless disrespect'

Author Salman Rushdie - who had a fatwa placed on his head after publishing The Satanic Verses in 1988 - made a statement today about the attack on the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo that left 12 people dead.
On Twitter, he wrote:
"[r]eligion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms."
"This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today," he continued.
"I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity."
"'Respect for religion'" has become a code phrase meaning "'fear of religion,'" Rushdie concluded. "Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect."

Attention repugicans: Let Me Prove to You That the United States is Not a theocracy

by Allen Clifton
There’s a line I’ve often used when describing how I feel the typical mind of a repugican works. It’s my belief that reality for many of these wingnuts isn’t determined by what’s real, but instead by what they want to be real. And I feel that one of the easiest ways to prove this theory is by looking at their continued, and constant, push to try to force the United States into a theocracy.
In fact, wingnuts tend to believe that the United States is indeed a “christian nation.”
They believe this based on factual evidence that supports the complete opposite of what it is that they want to be real.
Many will point to our Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “one nation under dog” as “proof” that this nation is founded upon christian principles. The reality is, our pledge wasn’t written until the late-1800′s and its original text did not include the words “one nation under dog.” They weren’t added until 1954.
Then some will point to our Declaration of Independence and the phrase “endowed by their creator”  or “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s dog entitle them” as proof that our Founding Fathers intended for this nation to be based on christianity. Well, at least when they use this to support their theocratic beliefs, they’re using something from the right time period. Unfortunately, they’re also proving that they’re not aware that the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution are two completely different things. The Declaration of Independence is a declaration of war. It has nothing to do with what rights are given to each and every American citizen.
The third piece of evidence the theocracy pushers often use to support their belief that this is a “christian nation” is our nation’s motto of “In dog We Trust.” Which I will admit is quite the compelling piece of evidence – until you do a simple Google search. That’s when you’re realize that “In dog We Trust” didn’t first appear on our currency until 1864 and didn’t become our nation’s motto until 1956.
And let’s not forget our Constitution itself. A document that has absolutely zero mentions of “the creator,” “dog,” “christianity,” “jesus christ,” the bible,” or anything at all to do with religion outside of our First Amendment which establishes a very clear-cut precedent that our laws cannot be based on religion.
It’s like I’ve said before, the fact that any and all references to a singular religion such as christianity were excluded from our Constitution wasn’t by accident, but by design.
After all, how could these men have been such devout, christian followers yet not include a single reference to their religion anywhere in the Constitution if they really wanted this to be a “christian nation”?
You mean to tell me if repugicans could rewrite our Constitution right now that they would leave out any and all mention of christianity in that Constitution? That they would instead assume that people would “just know” that they meant for the nation to be based on christianity.
That doesn’t even make sense.
Most modern day wingnuts want the ten commandments placed at every government building, prayers before every daily legislative session starts and marriage to be defined by the bible. There’s no way in hell that people who believe in such things would have written a document as detailed as our original Constitution and leave out any mention of their religion if they wanted a nation based upon it.
So it goes back to what I said about the absence of any religious language. These words weren’t omitted by accident, but by deliberate design by our Founding Fathers.
And when it comes to the right for each American to have “free exercise of religion,” we do have that right. As Americans, we can follow whatever religion we’d like. As Americans, we can be christian, muslim, buddhist, mormon or whatever. And we can also practice that religion as much (or as little) as we’d like. But what we cannot do, and what our Constitution is supposed to prohibit, is for laws to be passed that force one person’s religion onto someone else.
Which is exactly what repugicans are constantly trying to do. The moment even one American is forced to abide by a single law based upon religious principles that they do not follow, that is a clear and blatant violation of their First Amendment rights.
So, in the argument over whether or not this nation was founded to be a “christian nation,” people like myself have our Constitution and its lack of any reference to christianity on our side, and repugicans have – well – nothing. Because our rights are set by the words written in our Constitution, not the conjecture of those who wished they lived in a theocracy, but don’t.

Criminal repugican Refuses Mandatory Background Check Before Taking Office

Republican Refuses Mandatory Background Check Before Taking Office
While they are sometimes embarrassing, there aren’t likely many politicians out there who would decry the thought of a background check before taking office. After all, shrub’s DUI arrest didn’t prevent him from stealing office. This is exactly why some people are scratching their heads over a newly elected school board member in Georgia, Stan Jester, refusing to take a background check.
Stan Jester Refuses Background Check
The chairman of the DeKalb School Board, Dr. Melvin Johnson, has stated that everyone working for the school district, including those who are just volunteering, must undergo a background check and fingerprinting. He says he was actually surprised by the fact that Jester refused this process.
Jester would defend himself by saying the following:
“It is a conflict of interest to be investigated by the agency I was elected to oversee. It should be done by a third party.”
Well, that sort of makes a little sense. In a warped kind of way. What exactly, though, does Jester think the difference of these two background checks will be? Does he think the school board will make something up in his background that he won’t be able to disprove?
Jester would go on to say:
“I do not object to a thorough background check or being fingerprinted. In fact, last week, I sent the chair a copy of my background check completed by the Dunwoody Police Department. Additionally, I have already made arrangements to have my fingerprints taken by the DeKalb County Police Department to address anyone’s concerns.”
Well, that seems all right then. While it may be a little childish to refuse a background check by the school board, everything should be okay since he had police perform his background check, right?
The Tale of Two Background Checks
We all know what a police background check reveals: a criminal record. Shouldn’t that be the end of the story for Jester? Of course not. Anyone who has ever undergone an employment background check knows that it’s more than just criminal records that are checked for.
Credit records, for instance, are viewed as imperative for those in positions of trust, and are a common part of employer background checks. These checks also often include education record checks. After all, how else can you prove a person is telling the truth about their educational background?
Employer background checks also often uncover non-criminal court records and past employer information. Even character references and professional licenses are often checked.
Now, this isn’t to say that DeKalb School Board’s background check includes all of these. The simple fact, though, is that employer and criminal background checks are starkly different. As someone who will be involved in the education of our children, shouldn’t we know a bit more than “he’s never been arrested”?
Neither was Manson, until he was.
The repugican connection
Now, Jester has made sure that he’s listed as not affiliated with any party on the ticket. This would be a smooth move for a repugican in a county that’s predominantly African American, such as DeKalb, but it probably wouldn’t matter either way since Jester ran unopposed.
Of course, it wouldn’t be fair to say that Jester was a repugican just because of his incredibly shady decision not to undergo the school board’s background check. Maybe then, we can look at the fact that his wife, Nancy Jester, sought the repugican nomination for the Georgia State Superintendent of Schools.
There are undoubtedly marriages between repugicans and Democrats out there, but Nancy also bragged about receiving the endorsement of Debbie Dooley, a teabagger co-founder and member of the Board of 'teabagger patriots'. Now, if you’re a Democrat or a logic-oriented repugican, please tell me whether there’s any amount of love in your heart that could have you stomach someone with links to the teabaggers.
Let’s keep going, though; Stan also has his own “fact checker” site. After all, why should he trust all those other legitimate ones out there to tell the truth? He often posts these stories on his Facebook page as support for his ideas, but in addition, you get an awful wingnut vibe from reading his posts.
On one of his posts, for instance, he lists off the reasons why having immigrant children enrolled in public schools is bad. In another, he tells John Evans, the president of the DeKalb County branch of the NAACP, that instead of fighting discrimination against African Americans, he’s fueling “the fires of racial tensions.”
He even goes on to quote Martin Luther King Jr. to justify his statement to Evans. As we all know, it’s a common tactic of repugicans to claim Martin Luther King Jr. as their own. Seems even after over 150 years, wingnuts still believe they can own a black man against his will.
Jester even openly speaks out against taxes while speaking of how badly the schools in his county are doing. Because he probably has other ideas, besides increased funding, to get the schools back on track.
So while Jester may say he’s unaffiliated on paper, he’s apparently nothing more than a repugican, potentially teabagger in nature, who managed to get elected thanks to a lack of opposition and now thinks that a background check proving his worth is asking too much.

The Unkillable Soldier

In 1899, a young Belgian student named Adrian Carton de Wiart lied about his age and his nationality in order to serve with the British Army in South Africa. He really wanted to be a soldier. And over the next half-century, he worked hard to remain a soldier.
Carton de Wiart served in the Boer War, World War One and World War Two. In the process he was shot in the face, losing his left eye, and was also shot through the skull, hip, leg, ankle and ear.
In WW1 he was severely wounded on eight occasions and mentioned in despatches six times.
Having previously lost an eye and a hand in battle, Carton de Wiart, as commanding officer, was seen by his men pulling the pins of grenades out with his teeth and hurling them with his one good arm during the Battle of the Somme, winning the Victoria Cross.
But that was just the beginning. Carton de Wiart’s plane was shot down in World War II and he spent two years in an Italian POW camp, from which he escaped once, even though he was in his sixties by then. Read the amazing story of the soldier who returned to battle again and again at BBC Magazine.

'Antiques Roadshow' Tells Woman Her Baseball Cards Are Worth $1 Million

Don’t throw out that old card collection! It might be worth a fortune.
In 1871, this woman’s great-great-grandmother owned a boarding house in Boston. She hosted the Cincinnati Red Stockings. That team produced some of the first photographic baseball cards and gave her a set. She passed them on within her family.
Now the current owner would like to know what they’re worth. Appraiser Leila Dunbar of Antiques Roadshow drops some fantastic news: the entire collection is worth at least $1 million.
The lady’s reaction at the 2:14 mark is priceless!

Andrew Jackson home pushes 7th president's rock star image

by Travis Loller
In this Jan. 7, 2015 photo, items belonging to President Andrew Jackson are displayed in the new “Andrew Jackson, Born for a Storm” exhibit in Hermitage, Tenn. The exhibit  coincides with the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, in which Jackson won a brilliant victory against the British in the War of 1812. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Andrew Jackson: President. Hero. Rockstar.
So reads a billboard welcoming arrivals at the Nashville International Airport, attempting to lure them from the honky-tonks of downtown Broadway to Jackson's historic home called The Hermitage a few miles to the east.
In this Jan. 7, 2015 photo, a carriage used by President …A new exhibit there encourages visitors to remember that the man with the lofty forehead and towering hair portrayed on the $20 bill had the star power of an Elvis Presley or Kanye West back in his day. It's part of a broader makeover effort to move Jackson's image from a half-remembered "Old Hickory" caricature to a man whose vision changed the presidency and the nation and whose legacy can still be felt today.
"Andrew Jackson, Born for a Storm" is the first major content change to The Hermitage's exhibition space in 25 years. Perhaps surprisingly, the new exhibit is also the first at the historic home to focus on Jackson and his legacy.
It comes at a time when The Hermitage hopes to take advantage of a renewed interest in Jackson, helped along by the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography "American Lion" and Broadway rock musical "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson."
Jackson, America's seventh president, is often remembered for his infamous campaign of Indian removal. He pushed through the 1830 Indian Removal Act, under which multiple tribes were forced away from their land.
The "rock star" comparison might seem like a stretch, but take this example: Jackson's raucous first inauguration was overrun by drunken well-wishers who tore up the White House furniture. Jackson himself had to escape from a window and his supporters were only persuaded to leave when they moved the alcohol-laced punch onto the lawn.
In this Jan. 7, 2015 photo, The Hermitage, the home …"Jackson was the next great war hero after George Washington. People really felt like he had saved the country," said Tony Guzzi, Hermitage vice president of preservation who helped craft the new exhibit. "They put his image on everything from plates to pitchers to coins to you-name-it."
The wild scene at the White House reflected Jackson's populist campaign for office in which he vowed to take back the government from Washington elites.
"The people really thought it was their government, and their White House," Guzzi explained.
Jackson's presidency saw the closure of the national bank and an unprecedented use of the veto that many members of Congress criticized as exceeding his authority. His time in office was also known for the Petticoat Affair, a social catastrophe that began when members of his household and cabinet refused to socialize with the scandal-plagued wife of War Secretary John Eaton. The situation escalated and led to the dissolution of nearly Jackson's entire cabinet.
But Jackson, an outsider who grew up on the frontier, would never have become president if not for the Battle of New Orleans, in which he won a brilliant victory against the British at the close of the War of 1812.
"The legacy of the battle is that Americans felt Jackson had saved them from the British. That launched the U.S. into an era of national pride," Guzzi said. "The big, important thing is it really changed the way Americans felt about their country. They were more confident about the permanency of the U.S., which was only a few decades old."
In this Jan. 7, 2015 photo, mannequins wear clothing …Jackson was honored with ceremonial swords, medallions and gold presentation boxes, some of which are on display at the exhibit that opens Thursday to coincide with the battle's 200th anniversary.
The Hermitage has appointed some nationally prominent figures to its new board of directors, including "American Lion" author Jon Meacham. And the name of the board itself has changed from the quaint Ladies Hermitage Association to the solid-sounding Andrew Jackson Foundation.
The association of ladies first took over the care and maintenance of The Hermitage more than 125 years ago, when Jackson's grandson still lived there, and they have meticulously preserved original furnishings, wallpaper, clothing — even a carriage. But luring tourists into the suburbs to see the collection has been a challenge in recent years.
In the 1980s, The Hermitage was the third most-visited presidential home behind Washington's Mount Vernon and Jefferson's Monticello, said Hermitage President and CEO Howard Kittell. But visitation has fallen from a high of about 330,000 to only about 185,000 this past fiscal year.
The new exhibit is an effort to "capitalize on what makes us distinct," he said. "It was Jackson."

6 Myths About the Battle of New Orleans

by Christopher Klein
battle of new orleansOutside New Orleans on January 8, 1815, a badly outnumbered, motley collection of regular soldiers, back-country riflemen and lawless pirates led by Major General Andrew Jackson scored a lopsided victory against the mighty British army. The surprising triumph not only boosted American pride and transformed Jackson into a national hero, it also quickly became shrouded in mythology. On the bicentennial of the Battle of New Orleans, learn the truth behind six common misconceptions about one of the most famous showdowns of the War of 1812.
MYTH #1: The Battle of New Orleans was fought after the formal end of the War of 1812.
Contrary to popular belief, Great Britain and the United States were still officially in a state of war when they clashed in New Orleans. While British and American diplomats negotiating in Ghent, Belgium, agreed to a peace accord on Christmas Eve in 1814, the treaty stipulated that “orders shall be sent to the armies, squadrons, officers, subjects and citizens of the two powers to cease from all hostilities” only “after the ratifications of this treaty by both parties.” Great Britain ratified the Treaty of Ghent within days of its signing, but the document did not arrive in Washington, D.C., after its slow trans-Atlantic ship journey until February 14, 1815, more than a week after news of Jackson’s victory reached the capital. The U.S. Senate unanimously ratified the treaty on February 16, 1815, and President James Madison, displaced from the White House after its burning by the British, signed the agreement in his temporary home, the Octagon House. The exchange of ratified copies between the two countries then brought the War of 1812 to its official conclusion, more than a month after the Battle of New Orleans.
Andrew Jackson defends New Orleans (Video) – The no-nonsense commander cleverly defeated an overwhelming British force.
Painting of the battle by a member of the Louisiana militia
MYTH #2: The Battle of New Orleans was the final military engagement of the War of 1812.
While Jackson’s stunning victory was the last major battle of the War of 1812, it wasn’t the final time that British and American forces traded shots. Driven from New Orleans, the British fleet sailed east along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and launched an amphibious assault on Fort Bowyer, which guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay. American forces inside the fort had repulsed a smaller British attack in September 1814 but could not withstand the larger onslaught that began on February 8, 1815. The fort’s commander surrendered three days later. Thirteen Redcoats died in the battle along with one American. British plans to seize the port city of Mobile were abandoned when news of the peace treaty finally arrived.
MYTH #3: The Battle of New Orleans was a one-day conflict.
The fight for New Orleans was actually a drawn-out affair that lasted more than a month. British ships first clashed with American gunboats on Lake Borgne near New Orleans on December 14, 1814. Three days before Christmas, British troops landed on the east side of the Mississippi River, and the following evening Jackson halted the Redcoats by ambushing them in their camp. The two sides dueled several times before British General Edward Pakenham ordered an all-out assault on Jackson’s heavily fortified position along the Rodriguez Canal on January 8, 1815. Even after suffering a calamitous defeat, the British continued to bombard Fort St. Philip near the mouth of the Mississippi River for more than a week and did not withdraw from the vicinity of New Orleans until January 18.
MYTH #4: The Battle of New Orleans was only fought on land.
Jackson’s exploits overshadowed the key roles played by the navies in the Battle of New Orleans. The fight in southern Louisiana was ultimately for control of the Mississippi River, the economic lifeline to the North American interior, and it was the Royal Navy under British Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane that managed the campaign against New Orleans. The British victory on Lake Borgne allowed the Redcoats to stage an amphibious landing that threw New Orleans into a panic and prompted Jackson to impose martial law in the city. British attempts to sail up the Mississippi River, however, were ultimately repulsed by American forces at Fort St. Philip.
MYTH #5: Kentucky riflemen were responsible for the American victory.
Jean LafitteDays before the main battle on January 8, upwards of 2,000 untrained Kentucky militiamen arrived in New Orleans, ready to defend the city. Most of the poorly equipped riflemen, however, lacked an important accessory—a rifle. Fighting with makeshift weapons, the Kentucky volunteers had little impact on the fight and even infuriated Jackson by taking flight in the midst of battle. “The Kentucky reinforcements, in whom so much reliance had been placed, ingloriously fled,” the general wrote the day after the battle, “thus yielding to the enemy that most formidable position.” Although cannon and artillery fire from the army regulars ultimately inflicted the most damage on the British forces, a popular 1821 song penned by Samuel Woodworth, “The Hunters of Kentucky,” rewrote history by exaggerating the role of the back-country marksmen. Even though the tune lionized the fighting men Jackson once cursed, its popularity among his political supporters on the frontier persuaded “Old Hickory” to adopt it as his campaign song on his way to winning the White House in 1828.
MYTH #6: Pirate Jean Lafitte was a battlefield hero.
The French-born pirate and privateer Jean Lafitte plied the waters of Barataria Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in the early 1800s and remains a legendary figure in New Orleans. Courted by the British, Lafitte instead offered his services and weapons to Jackson in return for pardons for some of his men arrested by the United States. The Baratarian pirates composed only a small percentage of the American forces on January 8, but their experience manning cannons on privateering ships proved valuable along the artillery batteries. Lafitte was hailed as a hero in the war’s aftermath, but there is no evidence that he was anywhere near the front lines fighting alongside his men during the main battle.

After 220 years, secrets of Paul Revere and Sam Adams time capsule revealed

A small greenish box, disinterred from underneath Boston's State House and containing 220-year-old relics from the United States' earliest years, held a crowd breathless on Tuesday night as a museum conservator delicately lifted its lid to see what lay inside.Revolutionary war heroes Sam Adams and Paul Revere - patriots in American textbooks and Boston lore - laid the capsule within the cornerstone of the State House in 1795 to commemorate the building, the city, and the imminent 20th anniversary of American independence. In December, workers fixing a water leak at the building discovered the box along with five embedded coins, a good luck custom.
Two of the three men who placed the box entered American mythology: Adams, the Massachusetts governor famous for helping instigate the Boston tea party and the break with Britain, and Revere, the artisan propagandist whose name has become synonymous with his night ride before the war. The third man was Williams Scollay, a war hero and deputy to Revere's grand master in the local Masonic lodge.

The Relic-Hunting Vandals Who Saved American History

Before we had postcards, refrigerator magnets, and keychains made specifically as souvenirs for tourists, people still wanted something to remember a particular place or event. Not everyone understood the concept of historic preservation; they just took items or pieces of items in what we would call vandalism now. Some of those souvenirs would be inscribed with identifying information, but often they only had a story, and sometimes not even that much. The National Museum of American History accepted such mementos, and last year presented them in an exhibition. Curator William L. Bird talked to Collectors Weekly about these historic souvenirs and the stories behind them. 
Collectors Weekly: Have Americans always collected souvenirs?
William L. Bird: Yes, I think that’s true. You can make a distinction between a souvenir and a relic, but the overarching concept is something that has an actual connection to a place.
In the Smithsonian collection circumscribed by the exhibition and book, these objects were initially relics, and then they became classified as souvenirs. It took me a while to realize the operative search words were “relic” and “relic hunter.” Increasingly, into the late 19th century, those words often appeared in the same paragraphs with “vandal” and “vandalism.” For example, during the Lincoln presidency, there was a woman so obsessed with the White House that during a tour, she cut pieces of fabric from the drapes—these big, heavy, ornate velveteen draperies. She was escorted from the grounds and told to not come back, but it’s hard to imagine anybody doing that casually today. 
In this interview, we also get a fascinating rundown of how the Smithsonian Institution’s mission has changed over time. The picture above is a fragment of the Washington Monument's 1848 cornerstone, broken during construction. Read the whole article on these souvenirs at Collectors Weekly.

How Apple Pie Became "As American As Apple Pie"

It's a common proverbial expression. To convey that some item, concept, or experience is a quintessential part of the American culture, you say that "x is as American as apple pie."
How did expression develop? How did apple pie come to represent the United States and its culture? Zachary Crockett explains in an article at Priceonomics. He traces the history of apple pie in English and American cookery. The earliest known recipe in the English language dates back to 1381. It was eaten in the American colonies by 1697.
But it took until 1902 before it came to define American culture. An English writer criticized Americans for eating so much apple pie. They should limit themselves to only two times a week. An unnamed New York Times editor responded:
“[Eating pie twice per week] is utterly insufficient, as anyone who knows the secret of our strength as a nation and the foundation of our industrial supremacy must admit. Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents the calendar of changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can be permanently vanquished.”
Emphasis added because both pie and America are awesome.

15 British Sweets Everyone Should Try

If your'e a fan of candy (or sweets, as the Brits say), you'll want to check out Anglophenia Episode 22, in which Siobhan Thompson discusses and shows examples of fifteen of the most popular British sweets. There's a decidedly different set of tastes between the cultures. For example, Britain seems to have slightly more of a taste for licorice than the United States. What's your favorite type of candy from a country other than that of your origin?

Kitchen Cabbage Plant

The headline at reddit said, “Here's what happens when you leave half a cabbage in the fridge too long.” I clicked, thinking it would be a gross pile of mold, and was surprised to see this pretty plant. The photographer H0B0Byter99 said the cabbage was in the crisper for several months, and had sprouted about three inches of new growth. Then he set it in a bowl of water out in the kitchen, and watched it grow. I've done this with carrots and celery. Now, if anyone can figure out what’s in the bottles in the background, you’re smarter than I am. 

The Netherlands' Crane Hotels

The Netherlands has at least two hotels built into decommissioned industrial cranes. If you want to get a scenic view of a shipyard from the window of a luxurious hotel room, then these are the places to go.
One is the Faralda NDSM Crane Hotel, which has three rotating suites, a TV studio, and the opportunity to go bungee jumping.

There’s even an outdoor jacuzzi, so guests can relax in warm, flowing water while gazing out over Amsterdam.
The other crane hotel is in the port city of Harlingen. The Harbourcrane has only one suite for two people, but that one suite has only the finest of furnishings. The owners spent 2 years refitting the old timber hauler into a romantic getaway.

Revisiting Restoration of Chateau de Gudanes ...

A Hole is Discovered in the Ground Beneath the Chateau
Karina and Craig Waters are two Australian expats with a French vision. They purchased the massive, 94-room Chateau de Gudanes, which dates back to the 1700s, with the intent of restoring it. The crumbling structure is located in Midi-Pyrénées, a region of southern France bordered by the Pyrénées mountains. In the glory days of Chateau de Gudanes, it was in the possession of Marquis Louis Gaspard de Sales, who used it to entertain nobility and high-profile guests such as likely reveler French philosopher Voltaire. The original architect was Ange-Jacque Gabriel, who famously designed the Petit Trianon at Versailles.
The chateau was abandoned during the 1990s by its last owner, a foreign investment company, which had plans to convert it into luxury apartments. When the company was unable to secure the necessary building permits, the dilapidated manor was left to further decompose.
The Waters, meanwhile, had almost given up on their search for a French home to renovate, when their 16-year-old son Ben found the Chateau de Gudanes in an online listing. When the couple saw the building in person, they fell in love.
As is evident from the photos, the Waters have a huge job ahead of them in returning the decaying mansion to its former splendor. The family has been working on the restoration for a little over a year now. Recently the crew working on the chateau discovered a hole in the ground when rotting floorboards were removed on the ground floor. In an attempt to understand the purpose of the cavity and where it led, workers dug to a point about 20 feet deep and stopped. The Waters decided to contract others more equipped to conduct such an excavation.

The family found a number of artifacts in the hole, and formed theories as to its purpose. See the pictures of what was found and learn more about the discovery at this post on the official blog of the chateau. Those interested in the Waters' progress can also obtain updates and see additional photographs on the fascinating Facebook page of Chateau de Gudanes.

A Small Town Inside A Building

Whittier, Alaska
In 1956, the US Army built this building as a barracks. The Army is gone now, but the town that grew up around the small base still lives there. Almost all of the residents of Whittier, Alaska live in it, which they call Begich Towers. Inside, you can find a school, a church, shops, a police station, and a laundromat.
Winters are brutal. Whittier usually gets about 250 inches of snow. Winds can reach speeds of 60 MPH. So people often stay indoors for most of the winter. Erin Sheehy and Reed Young of California Sunday Magazine visited this fascinating little community and photographed how the people of it have adapted to the harsh environment.

LEGO Lost At Sea

Four-year-old River holding a LEGO octopus that she and her father Robin found at Castle Beach, Cornwall, England.In 1997, a huge rogue wave hit the container ship Tokio Express, knocking 62 containers overboard just 20 miles off Britain's southwest coast. One of those containers contained 4,756,940 pieces of LEGO (ironically, many of those pieces are for toy kits with nautical theme, including LEGO Pirates, 418,000 swimming flippers, 97,500 scuba tanks, 26,600 life preservers, 13,000 spear guns, and 4,200 octopuses.)
Shortly after, some of those pieces of LEGO toys started washing up on the beaches of Cornwall - and today, eighteen years later, they still kept on coming.
Discovering these LEGO pieces have become a hobby for British writer and beachcomber Tracey Williams, and she has created the Lego Lost At Sea Facebook page to chronicle the all the wonderful things that people have found:

"Whoop whoop, I found a Xmas Dragon!" writes Suki Honey, who sent in this picture an hour or so ago of a Lego dragon she has just discovered on the south coast of Cornwall. Suki is an experienced dragon whisperer having lured a fair few out of their nests in recent years and now has six living with her. She has also given a few away.
View more over at Lego Lost At Sea.

Giant ice balls wash ashore on Lake Michigan

Giant formations look like floating rocks, but are known as ice balls, or ice boulders; bizarre phenomenon occurs only in cold, blustery conditions
Photographer Ken Scott referred to the bizarre floating objects he discovered washing against the shore of Lake Michigan recently as “winter wonders,” and that they may be.
But in weather terminology, they’re merely called ice balls, which sometimes grow to become ice boulders, which resemble giant floating rocks.
Scott posted the accompanying footage on New Year’s Day, stating, “What a great way to send out 2014.”
Since then, more ice boulders have washed ashore in the area, near Traverse City.
The phenomenon is somewhat rare in that it occurs only in certain chilly conditions. The ice balls form when broken chunks of ice tumble in waves created by strong winds. The tumbling forms the ice into balls.
But the phenomenon is not unprecedented and, according to the Weather Channel, a similar scene played out last year in Northern Michigan, at Good Harbor Bay.
This year, on New Year’s Day, temperatures at Traverse City were between 24 and 30 degrees and the wind was brisk. The water temperature was about 40 degrees.
Apparently, that’s the perfect recipe of ice boulders.

Iced Intrigue

The beauty of these frozen wonderlands is as gripping as it is accessible. When we look out over a watery landscape, it's beautiful but essentially intangible. One may hold it for a split second before it slips through their fingers. Temperatures below freezing not only lend the water shape and color variation, but it becomes an allure of substance that a person can hold, or that can hold a person suspended above it.
These exquisite landscapes shots are part of a user submitted post of icy scenery; see all of the photos in the collection here. 

Colliding black holes could warp space-time itself

If the two black holes meet, the theory says, they could release as much energy as 100 million supernova explosions as they shatter their galaxy.
by Michael Franco

NASA has observed galaxies merging before, as in the case of the "Antennae Galaxies," one of the closest examples of such an event. But they've never seen the conclusion of the process -- the collision of two supermassive black holes. 
With all the galaxies out there in the universe (up to 200 billion, according to Space.com), two of them bump into each other sometimes. This means that the supermassive black holes at their hearts collide, releasing violent cosmic fireworks. While astronomers have previously observed the merging of galaxies, they've never before witnessed this end-stage process of galaxy commingling. But, if the theory from a team of researchers is correct, we might now be seeing the start of just such a process.
The researchers have theorized that an unusual light signal they're seeing from quasar PG 1302-102 -- essentially a black hole emitting light from the superheated particles swirling around its gravitational drain -- is being caused by the cosmic dance between two black holes in the system, each located less than the length of our solar system apart. The theory was published this week in the journal Nature.While other cosmic phenomena could explain the light signature, the scientists became confident that their theory is the most likely after analyzing the quasar's light spectrum.

"When you look at the emission lines in a spectrum from an object, what you're really seeing is information about speed -- whether something is moving toward you or away from you and how fast. It's the Doppler effect," Eilat Glikman, study co-author and assistant professor of physics at Middlebury College in Vermont said in a statement.
"With quasars, you typically have one emission line, and that line is a symmetric curve. But with this quasar, it was necessary to add a second emission line with a slightly different speed than the first one in order to fit the data. That suggests something else, such as a second black hole, is perturbing this system."
If the theory is correct, study co-author S. George Djorgovski of the California Institute of Technology told The New York Times that when the two black holes collide, they could release the energy equivalent to 100 million supernova explosions, which would rip apart the galaxy in which they're floating. The collision would also release gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of space-time predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, Djorgovski told the Times.
Unfortunately, astronomers hoping to witness such an event are out of luck, as the predicted union won't take place for about another million years -- a long time in human standards, but not cosmic ones. Of course, the universe itself already knows whether the theory is correct because the light we're seeing from this system, located in the Virgo constellation, comes from 3.5 billion light years away -- meaning everything we're witnessing already took place billions of years ago. But until we come up with our own way to warp the space-time continuum, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

THIS is How You Grow a Backbone

In this neat video clip above, Daniele Soroldoni of MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London, United Kingdom, showed us a gorgeous glimpse into segmentation - that's fancy biology speak for the division of the body (in this particular case, a vertebrate's body) into a series of repetitive segments like ribs and back bones.
Vertebrae segmentation is difficult to see because it happens during embryo development. But thanks to the transparent zebrafish embryo, Dr. Soroldoni managed to capture this pattern formation by using green and red fluorescent proteins. The details, as you can imagine, is quite complicated (Interested? Read on) - but suffice it to say that we all can appreciate the beauty of the process as captured in this wide-field microscopy.

This Woman Uses Raw Meat to Fish for Piranhas

Humanity’s position at the top of the food chain in Brazil is tenuous. When fishing for piranhas, you don’t use a net or a rod and reel. Just stand precipitously over the water and use your hand to dip raw meat into the water. When the piranhas swarm over the bait, shake them into a bucket.

Monkey Business

Capuchins Learn to Spend Money
How a Yale research team made history by teaching capuchins to spend money ... and discovered that they're just as smart—and stupid—as your financial advisor.
It’s a little bigger than a quarter and about twice as thick, but because it’s made of aluminum, it weighs roughly the same. It’s flat and smooth, except for what seem to be a few tiny bite marks around the perimeter. To you, it might look like a washer without a hole. To Felix, an alpha male capuchin monkey, and his friends at Yale University, it’s money.
“When one of the monkeys grabs a token, he’s going to hold onto it as though he really values it,” explains Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale. “And the other monkeys might try to take it away from him. Just like they would with a piece of food. Just as you might want to do when you see a person flaunting cash.”
During the past seven years, Santos and Yale economist Keith Chen have conducted a series of cutting-edge experiments in which Felix and seven other monkeys trade these discs for food much like we toss a $20 bill to a cashier at Taco Bell. And in doing so, these monkeys became the first nonhumans to use, well, money.
“It sounds like the setup to a bad joke,” says Chen. “A monkey walks into a room and finds a pile of coins, and he’s got to decide how much he wants to spend on apples, how much on oranges, and how much on pineapples.”
But the remarkable thing about the research isn’t that these monkeys have learned to trade objects for food—after all, a schnauzer can be taught to hand over your slippers in exchange for a Milk-Bone. The amazing part, Chen and Santos discovered, is how closely the economic behavior of these capuchins mimics that of human beings in all its glorious irrationality. Viewed in the context of the daisy chain of near-disastrous human failings that brought the world to the verge of fiscal collapse over the past few years, monkeynomics is eye-opening stuff.
So how much of our wild, dangerous economic behavior is hard-wired, and how much of it is learned? And most important, how much of it can be changed? Watching Felix and friends make financial decisions—some extremely smart, others profoundly dumb—provides groundbreaking insight into the roots of our own dysfunctional relationship with money. And why it all may have started 35 million years ago.
What kind of monkey would Santos be? “A bonobo,” she says with a laugh. “They’re kind of a hippie monkey.” With an infectious smile and curls that cascade down her back, the 35-year-old Santos exudes the cool prof vibe of someone who—all things being equal—would really rather be in a dorm, holding court about the meaning of life. “I’m fascinated by human beings, and monkeys are like humans in their purest form,” she says. She’s quick to offer a funny story about how she decided to pursue primate research after seeing a picture of the lush Caribbean island where the fieldwork was being done. But the truth is that her interest began with the idea that monkeys are like human beings without the cultural baggage.
As a Harvard undergraduate, Santos worked with behavioral scientist Marc Hauser and then signed on to do her dissertation based on research in his lab. Her work centered on basic questions of monkey cognition: How high can monkeys count? (To four.) Do they have a good sense of the practical physics of falling objects? (Not especially.)
This body of work earned her a tenure-track position at Yale, where in 2003 she was charged with setting up the school’s Comparative Cognition Lab. Santos chose capuchin monkeys for practical reasons. They’re smaller and easier to care for than chimps, but they’re almost as smart, resourceful, and social. She got 10 capuchins from noted researcher Frans de Waal at Emory University and planned to continue with the monkey cognition research that she had started at Harvard.

Then one day, one of the caretakers who cleaned the capuchin enclosures in the new lab told Santos that her monkeys were “geniuses.” Felix and friends, he explained with amazement, would hand him their discarded orange peels, trying to trade them for food. Maybe the monkeys were trying to make a point.