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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1397   John of Gaunt marries Katherine Rouet.  
1846   President James Polk dispatches General Zachary Taylor and 4,000 troops to the Texas Border as war with Mexico looms.  
1862   Lincoln names Edwin M. Stanton Secretary of War.  
1900   To combat Czech nationalism, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary decrees German the official language of the Imperial Army.  
1919   California votes to ratify the prohibition amendment.  
1923   Hitler denounces the Weimar Republic as 5,000 storm troopers demonstrate in Germany.
1927   A woman takes a seat on the NY Stock Exchange breaking the all-male tradition.  
1931   The bridge connecting New York and New Jersey is named the George Washington Memorial Bridge.  
1937   The United States bars Americans from serving in the Civil War in Spain.  
1943   General Leclerc's Free French forces merge with the British under Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery in Libya.  
1944   Plants are destroyed and 64 U.S. aircraft are lost in an air attack in Germany.
1945   The Red Army opens an offensive in South Poland, crashing 25 miles through the German lines.  
1947   British troops replace striking truck drivers.  
1955   Chase National and the Bank of Manhattan agree to merge resulting in the second largest U.S. bank.  1965   Two U.S. planes are shot down in Laos while on a combat mission.  
1968   U.S. reports shifting most air targets from North Vietnam to Laos.  
1976   Argentina ousts a British envoy in dispute over the Falkland Islands.  
1980   The United States offers Pakistan a two-year aid plan to counter the Soviet threat in Afghanistan.  
1982   Air Florida Flight 90 Boeing 737 jet crashes into Washington, D.C.'s 14th Street Bridge shortly after takeoff, then plunges into the Potomac River; 78 people, including 4 motorists, are killed.  
1990   In Virginia, Douglas Wilder, the first African American elected governor of a US state, takes office.

Celtic Lore: the tales that might have inspired Star Wars and Harry Potter

Tales of monsters, Gods, spells and love affairs: Celtic Lore reflected the social thinking and traditions of pre-Roman Celts of Britain, Ireland and Europe. Spread by traveling poets and storytellers who plied their trade from village to village, the myths came into being partly to explain natural phenomena, and to try to address basic human concerns about life and death
© Ivy Close Images / AlamyIn her new book, Miranda Aldhouse-Green, an expert in archaeology and shamanism, uses the Lore to paint a complete picture of the Celtic world, and reveals how traditional Celtic characters and symbols can even be found in contemporary popular culture series such as Star Wars and Harry Potter.
Here, writing for History Extra, Aldhouse-Green recalls five of the most fascinating Celtic myths…
In the Middle Ages, christian monasteries in Ireland and Wales were the engines of literacy and education. Many monks took it upon themselves to record pagan myths and legends dating to pre-christian times, leaving us a rich legacy of gods, goddesses, supernatural heroes, enchanted animals and magical objects. But their christian chroniclers seasoned these stories with a heavy sprinkling of early christian ethics, so Lore warfare tended to end in disaster; amoral and over-powerful women inevitably came to grief, and good usually triumphed over evil in the end.
It is generally accepted that these tales were first written down between the 8th and 12th centuries AD. The two most important groups of Celtic Lore are found in the Welsh Mabinogion and the Irish Táin Bó Cuailnge (more popularly known as the Cattle Raid of Cooley).
Pagan Celtic tales were originally transmitted orally, by storytellers who acted both as traveling entertainers and as peddlers of news. But the origins of the tales were probably very ancient indeed.
Like most Lore traditions, they came into being partly to explain natural phenomena, including disasters such as floods, famines and plagues, and to try to address basic human concerns such as ‘who are we? Why are we here? Who came before us? What happens to us when we die?’ But Celtic tales tap into another hugely rich vein of tradition: the pantheon of gods and goddesses worshiped by the pre-Roman Celts of Britain, Ireland and Europe, between about 500 BC and the Roman period.
Thus, for instance, we find the Celtic horse-goddess, Epona, who was venerated over huge areas of Roman Europe, transformed into the iconic figure of Rhiannon, the horse-heroine of Welsh mythology. Celtic tales are full of monsters, heroes, gods, shape-changers, spells, wars and love affairs. Apart from their interest as ancient pagan myths, they are richly entertaining stories. Here is the first of  five of the most fascinating…
Cú Chulainn: the Hound of Culann
Cú Chulainn was an Irish hero, son of a mortal and a god. He was a mighty warrior, champion of the Ulstermen in their war with the people of Connaught, who were led by their formidable queen Medbh (Maeve).
While he was still an infant, the Druid Cathbad prophesied that he would lead a short but glorious life. When he was five years old, Cú Chulainn routed the Ulster king Conchobar’s 50-strong youth brigade. While still a young boy, he demanded arms from the king, and shattered 15 sets of weapons before accepting those belonging to Conchobar himself. The young hero got his name, the ‘Hound of Culann’, when he accidentally killed the guard-dog of Culann the blacksmith. Ashamed of his deed, he pledged to redeem himself by acting in the dog’s place.
He grew up very fast, and quickly became Ulster’s war-leader. Like many ancient mythical heroes, he regularly communed with spirits, and he had a particular affinity with the Morrigan, a war-goddess who frequently appeared to him in the guise of a crow. A particular feature of Cú Chulainn was his habit of going into ‘warp-spasm’, or a berserk state, when roused. When like this, he was literally out of his mind, and his body did strange and monstrous things: one eye bulged out while the other sank into his cheek and his body rotated in his skin, while the ‘hero-light’ shone fiercely around his head.
Betrayed by his enemies, he met his death on the battlefield but when mortally wounded, he had himself bound to a stake so that he would die standing upright, facing his foes. In the end, the Morrigan betrayed him, perching on his shoulder to show his enemies that he was dead.

Record Number Of Americans Identify Themselves As Liberals

A growing number of Americans call themselves liberals. Going forward, Democrats need to embrace liberal ideas.…
In the 1988 presidential campaign, the shrub's daddy, was able to cruise to victory over Massachusetts Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis, largely by labeling Dukakis as a liberal. The “L” word had become a dirty word. From Nixon through Ronald Reagan, any national candidate who wore the liberal label was all but assured a humiliating defeat. The “L” word was such an obvious political kiss of death, that the Democrats found their way out of the political wilderness, by running a pair of White Southern centrists (Clinton and Gore) in 1992. The Southern ticket was a way to insulate the party from being tarred as too liberal, yet again.
According to Gallup, which has been tracking self-identified political ideology since 1992, liberalism was appealing to less than one-fifth of Americans during the 1990s. The liberal label reached rock bottom in 1995, with just 16 percent of Americans polled, choosing to describe themselves as liberal.
Friday’s 2015 Gallup survey, however, finds that liberalism is resurgent. A record 24 percent of Americans now describe themselves as liberal.
The 2014 election seems paradoxical. Liberalism is on the rise, yet repugicans had a banner year at the ballot box. The collapse of the political moderate, combined with low voter turnout on the left, enabled the repugican cabal to steal House and Senate seats. However, if the Democrats run on a strong, progressive populist message in 2016, they can expect to win the allegiance of the growing legions of liberal voters.
Self-identified liberals now constitute 44 percent of Democratic voters. That number is way up from the 29 percent who called themselves liberals in 2000. A Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, who tries to run too close to the center, risks alienating nearly half the party.
Liberalism has increased in popularity, while the Democratic Party’s popularity has declined. This should be a wake up call to Democratic candidates that complacency and status quo politics are a recipe for continued failure. If the Democrats want to win in 2016, the American people are telling them how. Move forward and turn left with bold ideas. Stand up for America’s working class. Stand and deliver on liberal principles. Gallup’s latest survey says Americans are becoming increasingly liberal. The Democratic Party had better be ready to position itself where liberals have reason to turn out and vote for them.

Obama’s Plan For Free Community College Rocks The Red State Soil Beneath repugican Feet

Obama 2 years free community college tennessee
President Obama announcement of his plan to make community college free has knocked repugicans back on their heels as the president continues to dominate the political landscape.
The president announced what he called one of his most important State Of The Union proposals which he referred to as helping every American afford a higher education. The president said that in this country we expect everybody to get a fair shot, and in exchange you work hard. The president stressed that our education system is the backbone of a system that allows people to get a fair shot and get ahead.
Obama said that investment in education is a hallmark of America. According to the White House the president’s proposal is based on students maintaining good grades in exchange for having their tuition eliminated for two years, “Enhancing Student Responsibility and Cutting the Cost of College for All Americans: Students who attend at least half-time, maintain a 2.5 GPA while in college, and make steady progress toward completing their program will have their tuition eliminated. These students will be able to earn half of the academic credit they need for a four-year degree or earn a certificate or two-year degree to prepare them for a good job.”
The president said the he wanted to bring the cost of community college down to zero. He said, “I want to make it free. Community colleges should be free to those willing to work for it.” The president said that free tuition would have be earned, because, “There are no free rides in America….This is not a blank check. This is not a free lunch.” Obama wants two years of community college to become as free and universal as high school is today.
President Obama has painted repugicans into a corner. By stressing all-American values like hard work, and economic opportunity for all the president has created a situation where repugican opposition to his proposal makes them look like they are opposing the values that the U.S. was built upon.
Politically, this is another big win for the president. The political conversation isn’t about what the new repugican controlled Congress is doing. The conversation is centered around the president’s bold ideas for education. The reaction to Obama’s proposal from a John Boehner spokesman was telling, “With no details or information on the cost, this seems more like a talking point than a plan.”
The repugicans have nothing. They are going to attack the plan based on cost. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are going to look the American people in the eye and tell them that some Americans deserve a shot at the American dream while others do not.
At a time when the Democratic president is supposed to be reeling, President Obama went to red state Tennessee and proposed a plan that will have immense appeal and popularity in both red and blue states. The president invaded repugican turf and unleashed a policy earthquake that was based on an idea that came from a wingnut state.
President Obama is making repugicans march to his agenda as John Boehner and Mitch McConnell can’t compete with the power contained in a forward thinking presidency.

The repugican senators Are Freaking Out Because A Bill From Boehner’s House Will Shut Down The Government

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell
A handful of repugican senators are side-eying the plan house repugicans put forth last Friday in yet another effort to kill President Obama’s immigration executive actions. They are worried that the house repugicans’ defunding action will lead to a shutdown of government — including the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report by Politico.
“I think the defunding action leads us to a potential government shutdown scenario, which is a self-inflicted political wound for repugicans,” Mark Kirk (r-IL) told Politico.
More from Politico:
Moderate Senate Democrats and a handful of repugican senators are balking at a House plan that would block Obama’s new policy of deferring deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants, along with the administration’s earlier protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally at a young age. While those senators oppose the president’s unilateral moves on immigration, they are wary of linking the issue with a must-pass bill to fund domestic security programs, worried that a stalemate could shut down the Department of Homeland Security.
Last Friday, House repugicans took their revenge against the President by attacking Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform. The House is seeking to dismantle not just the recent executive order, but Obama’s other actions on immigration actions for undocumented workers, including his 2012 actions for DREAMers. Their actions would also impact which undocumented workers would be targeted for deportation.
Previously, repugicans were given the bad news that they couldn’t just defund the President’s actions, so they found a new way throw a tantrum; the bill includes an amendment that will keep any money, including fees, from being used to fund the President’s executive actions on immigration. Any of his actions on immigration. Any and all of ‘em, Charlie.
A pause while sane people realize what this could mean for future presidents.
This action is not going over well in the Senate, where most are not crazy enough to want their fingerprints on deporting undocumented workers who thought they were in the clear due to President Obama’s actions. The repugican Dean Heller told Politico, “I’m a little leery about it. I just want to make sure those individuals that are affected by that legislation are treated respectfully. I just want to be very, very careful that we do it in the right manner, and we don’t do it in a way that is offensive.”
If the Senate doesn’t take action on the House bill, the Department of Homeland Security will be unfunded as of February 27th. This is the exact scenario that repugican leadership promised the public would NOT happen when repugicans stole control of both chambers.
… But we are back at chaos and crisis, a repugican cabal corner that is becoming par for the course.
Drew Hammill, spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, wasn’t impressed, “Rather than building upon the President’s bold move to keep families together, House repugicans have decided to threaten a partial government shutdown and play politics with the security of our homeland by appeasing the anti-immigrant and extreme wingnut lunatic fringe of their cabal. As the risk of terrorism rises, this perilous repugican tactic sends the worst possible message at a very dangerous time.”
The repugicans are still acting like petulant children in the House and even with the Senate, they still can’t seem to put forth bills that can go somewhere. Now they can’t blame Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) anymore. But reality won’t stop them from trying.

The repugican cabal's First Step To Inflict Kansas Economic Woes On America

McConnell BrownbackThere is nothing as evil, mean-spirited, and pathetic as a mature adult who sees firsthand that something is inherently dangerous to other human beings and should be prevented at all costs, and yet wishes they could do the same thing.
Last year, Mitch McConnell, like all repugicans, witnessed the complete economic devastation Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and the repugican legislature wrought on the state budget, schools, government, and social programs and told Brownback that “this is exactly what we want to do here in Washington, but we can’t yet until we control Congress.”
Before even being sworn in to control Congress, repugicans took the first major step necessary to repeat, exactly, what Brownback did to Kansas’ economy. Something several high-ranking Kansas repugicans complained will “bankrupt the state in less than two years.” It is also something the proponents of Brownback’s devastation admitted openly was for the sole purpose of “chopping the government down to size” by starving it of revenue. Remember, Mitch McConnell pledged to the Koch brothers last June that if they bought repugicans control of Congress, the repugican cabal would “go after the federal government; all of it.” Anti-government champion Grover Norquist must be cheering wildly and trickle down god Laffer is celebrating that congressional repugicans are embracing his trickle down scam to decimate America based on his Kansas trickle down model.
Brownback brought Laffer to Kansas to prove to repugicans that by using what is known as “dynamic scoring,” the state could take a healthy budget surplus and add in a billion or so dollars for give the tax cuts for the rich and the state would be awash in revenue and a job creation boom. The results are that Kansas’ credit has been downgraded several times, the state is hemorrhaging revenue, and the state’s schools are broke. In two courts have ruled against Brownback’s education cuts he made to partially fund the tax cuts for the rich. The details of Brownback’s trickle down disaster have been reported many times for a rough idea of the economic ruin congressional repugicans are about to wreak on America by using Laffer’s failed “dynamic scoring” to justify trickle down tax cuts for the rich.
Dynamic scoring is a wingnut economists’ scam that predicts the magical impact of trickle down fiscal policy changes by forecasting the beneficial economic reactions to incentives for the wealthy created by slashing their taxes and domestic programs. Before this week, when the Congressional Budget Office published a piece of tax or spending cuts “score,” it offered an official price tag to make it perfectly clear what a tax cutting or spending proposal will cost, how much it will affect the deficit or cost the government, how much it will reduce revenue, and how it adversely affects unemployment. Any American with a memory could tell the CBO exactly what trickle down tax cuts do to increase the deficit, adversely affect the economy, or failed to create jobs for thirty years, but that entails acknowledging reality; something repugicans are ill-inclined to accept.
The repugicans, particularly math-challenged Paul Ryan, absolutely hated the way the CBO has calculated its scores on tax cuts for the rich using real data and real mathematics. Likely because, until this week, all non-partisan economists disagree with repugicans’ magic and lies that trickle down tax cuts for the rich create millions of jobs and increase government revenue. For the past three years the CBO used real mathematics to score Paul Ryan’s outrageous tax cuts in the Path To Prosperity budget as killing jobs and blowing up the deficit due to the loss in revenue inherent in shrub-like unfunded tax cuts. According to the CBO and real economists, Ryan’s math in projecting that slashing taxes for the so-called “job creators” was off-the rails errant, a guaranteed recipe for economic disaster, and an unsustainable deficit driver now and long into the future.
So repugicans being repugicans, they changed the Congressional Budget Office rules to fit their magical concept that slashing revenue streams with unfunded tax cuts for the rich will automatically produce more federal revenue and create millions of jobs. Something that has not happened in 30-plus years of trickle down “magic.”
The repugicans insist, and passed a new rule on the day they were sworn in directing the CBO to verify, that epic tax cuts for the wealthy will produce incredible trickle down economic growth, create millions of jobs, generate mountains of federal revenue, and will not cost anything; ten years of shrub tax cuts for the rich belie the “trickle down” magic. What makes the repugican directive that the CBO use faulty dynamic scoring to approve tax cuts for the rich more despicable is a provision banning the CBO from scoring anything proposed by Democrats; particularly any measure remotely related to “economic stimulus such as infrastructure improvements that really create jobs and increase revenue.”
America is finally done clawing its way out of the economic morass caused by “trickle down” tax cuts enacted by shrub-repugicans and is on the road to a healthy recovery; with an increase in taxes for the richest Americans. The country is enjoying a four-plus year monthly job growth, increased revenue is paying down the debt and deficit, and GDP growth is leading the entire world. In fact, a similar situation is under way in California where voters approved a small tax increase and the state is rapidly paying down a crushing repugican-created deficit, creating jobs, and investing in infrastructure, healthcare, and education. Contrast California or the nation’s economy with Kansas that embraced magical “trickle down” tax cuts due to Laffer’s ‘dynamic scoring’ scam and it is beyond comprehension that repugicans intend on following through with what Mitch McConnell promised economic failure Sam Brownback even as Kansas’ economy was dying; “we want to do exactly the same thing here in Washington.”
The only hope for America’s economic salvation is Barack Obama who may not be a noted economist, or a mathematical genius, but he has witnessed 30 years of trickle down failure including the devastation in Kansas and he has shown no reluctance to use his veto pen. If any American is too stupid to understand that trickle down economics is failed economics, they can simply look at what economic havoc Brownback and Laffer have wrought on Kansas. Then they can anticipate the Koch brothers’ vision for a nation too broke to fund education, retirement accounts, homeless shelters, healthcare, road repair, or maintain crucial infrastructure because that is, as McConnell said, “exactly what  repugicans will do in Washington;” go after the federal government, all of it.

2nd Amendment For Whites Only?

Wingnuts Freak Out Over New Black Panthers Carrying Guns
Well, this should surprise exactly no one. Not even a little. Ever since the NRA created the “grassroots” movement to shove “open carry” laws down America’s throat, white men have been parading their penis extensions to shopping malls and restaurants to bully and terrorize people. Oh wait, I meant “show their patriotism.” No, hold on, I actually did mean “bully and terrorize.”
Meanwhile, gun control advocates have been pointing out that the second black men started to do the same, wingnuts would go into full panic mode. And just as predicted, when the New Black Panther Party did just that, the wingnuts started to hyperventilate:
“Horrifying”? And what, exactly was horrifying about American citizens exercising their right to bear arms? The article never really says.
The Conservative Wingnut Tribune goes on to say that the group carrying guns is “alarming” while complaining that President Obama is trying to steal our guns while “these guys don’t even get the slightest bit of attention.” Again, why this is alarming or why they need attention is never actually explained.
Of course, the writer brings up the long, long debunked myth of voter intimidation in Philadelphia because why let a good lie go to waste when you’re whipping up racial fear? I’m surprised he didn’t work ACORN in there somehow.
But what are the NBPs doing that’s so scary? Other than being black, of course.
Talk to your average wingnut gun nut and they’ll tell you they need their guns to protect them from a tyrannical government and its jack-booted thugs in law enforcement. But wait a second! The New Black Panthers say exactly the same thing!
“We accept all oppressed people of color with weapons,” Darren X told Vice. “The complete agenda involves going into our communities and educating our people on federal, state and local gun laws. We want to stop fratricide, genocide — all the ‘cides.”
I’m trying to find where the philosophical difference lies between black militants and white militants. Curiously, the only thing I can think of is that the white militants are angry about imaginary oppression while the black ones are angry about very real oppression. Clearly, that means the black ones are “thugs” and the white ones are “patriots.”
But this is nothing new. Wingnuts love love LOVE the Second Amendment right up until the point where black people start exercising it. Hell, the NRA and even Saint Ronnie were so terrified of black men with guns that they crafted and passed laws in the 60’s that explicitly prohibited the kind of open carry that ammosexuals are currently using to terrorize their neighbors.
Personally, I don’t like the NBPP. I think they’re extremists and not helping the discourse. But in this instance, I’m dying of laughter. By taking a page from the wingnuts' playbook, they’ve unintentionally exposed the monumental hypocrisy and racism of wingnuts. Frankly, I hope the movement spreads. I want black people all over the country to start legally carrying assault rifles in public and run patrols to police the police. Watching the wingnut media twist itself into pretzels to condemn such a challenge to the status quo while maintaining the fiction that white people carrying guns is no big deal will be absolutely amazing.
Just as a side note, the article in the Tribune is new but the patrols started in August of 2014. The Tribune article never mentions this. It’s almost like the entire point was to trick easily manipulated people into being afraid of something that hasn’t caused an incident in over 5 months. But a wingnut publication would never stoop to such race baiting, would they?

Newspaper apologizes for 'major error' in story

The News-Enterprise, based in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, has apologized and fired two members of staff for what it calls a major error after printing a story which erroneously quoted the Hardin County sheriff as saying that most police "have a desire to shoot minorities." In a story on the front page of the January 8 edition, the newspaper printed "Hardin County Sheriff John Ward said those who go into the law enforcement profession typically do it because they have a desire to shoot minorities."
In a press release issued on Thursday afternoon, Editor Ben Sheroan apologized and said no such statement had been made. Sheriff Ward said he began receiving calls at around 5:30 Thursday morning about the story, which was written by reporter Anna Taylor. In a phone interview, Ward said the reporter's original story correctly quoted him as saying officers get into law enforcement "because they have a desire to serve the community."
Ward believes the story was intentionally changed by someone before it was printed. He said the change might have been malicious or intended as a joke. Sheroan said the newspaper is investigating how the mistake made it into print and will take appropriate actions immediately. Staff at the newspaper originally thought a word had simply been dropped from the sentence, but now they believe it was a production error, the result of "a failure to follow established procedures," Sheroan said.
The online version of the story has now been removed entirely. At the top of the page, the paper writes the following retraction: "This story - as it appeared in print - contained a major error and misquoted Sheriff John Ward. The version here has been corrected. The newspaper apologizes to the sheriff and other law-enforcement officers offended by its typographical mistake. - Ben Sheroan, editor." "This statement is not in any way reflective of Sheriff Ward, the Hardin County Sheriff's Office or other law enforcement in our community," he said. The News-Enterprise later published an apology.
There are news videos here and here.

"Glasgow smile" and "sardonic smile" explained

First, the Glasgow smile:
A Glasgow smile (also known as a Chelsea smile, or a Glasgow, Chelsea, or Cheshire grin) is a wound caused by making small cuts on the corners of a victim's mouth, then beating or stabbing him or her until the muscles in the face contract, causing the cuts to extend up the cheeks to the victim's ears. This leaves a scar in the shape of a smile, hence the name. The act is usually performed with a utility knife or a piece of broken glass, leaving a scar which causes the victim to appear to be smiling broadly.. The practice is said to have originated in Glasgow, Scotland,[citation needed] but became popular with English street gangs (especially among the Chelsea Headhunters, a London-based hooligan firm, where it is known as a "Chelsea grin" or "Chelsea smile")...
The Glasgow smile has been inflicted on characters in multiple films and television programs, including Green Street, House of Tolerance, The Krays, Sons of Anarchy, Pan's Labyrinth, and 2008's The Dark Knight, in which Heath Ledger as The Joker both has the scar and carves it on numerous victims. 
Then, the more traditional "sardonic" one:
A sardonic action is one that is "disdainfully or skeptically humorous" or "derisively mocking." Also, when referring to laughter or a smile, it is "bitter, scornful, mocking." Hence, when referring to a person or a personal attribute, it is "[c]haracterized by or exhibiting bitterness, scorn or mockery."
The etymology of sardonicism as both a word and concept is uncertain, but it appears to stem from the name for the Mediterranean island of Sardinia. The Byzantine Greek Suda traces its earliest roots to the notion of grinning (Greek: sairō) in the face of danger, or curling one's lips back at evil...
Risus sardonicus is an apparent smile on the face of those who are convulsing because of tetanus, or strychnine poisoning... This facial expression has also been observed among patients with tetanus. Risus sardonicus causes a patient's eyebrows to rise, eyes to bulge, and mouth to retract dramatically, resulting in what has been described as an evil-looking grin...
In 2009 scientists at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Italy claimed to have identified hemlock water dropwort (Oenanthe crocata) as the plant responsible for producing the sardonic grin. This plant is the candidate for the "sardonic herb," which was a neurotoxic plant used for the ritual killing of elderly people in pre-Roman Sardinia. When these people were unable to support themselves, they were intoxicated with this herb and then dropped from a high rock or beaten to death...

Deviant burials in Poland

The woman in the photo above was buried with a sickle placed across her neck.
Apotropaic observances-traditional practices intended to prevent evil-were not uncommon in post-medieval Poland, and included specific treatment of the dead for those considered at risk for becoming vampires. Excavations at the Drawsko 1 cemetery (17th–18th c. AD) have revealed multiple examples (n=6) of such deviant burials amidst hundreds of normative interments... These data indicate that those targeted for apotropaic practices were not migrants to the region, but instead, represented local individuals whose social identity or manner of death marked them with suspicion in some other way.
The above from the abstract.  The rest of the report at the link includes an extended discussion of beliefs about vampires and the use of strontium isotopes in forensic archaeology.

This isn't the first time we've seen a sickle employed on a deviant burial.  Weights like stones and bricks are more common.  .

A potential treatment for multiple sclerosis

Excerpts from the report at JAMA Neurology:
High-dose immunosuppressive therapy (HDIT) with autologous hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) may.. induce sustained remissions in early MS.
Results  Grafts were collected from 25 patients, and 24 of these individuals received HDIT/HCT. The median follow-up period was 186 weeks (interquartile range, 176-250) weeks). Overall event-free survival was 78.4% (90% CI, 60.1%-89.0%) at 3 years. Progression-free survival and clinical relapse-free survival were 90.9% (90% CI, 73.7%-97.1%) and 86.3% (90% CI, 68.1%-94.5%), respectively, at 3 years. Adverse events were consistent with expected toxic effects associated with HDIT/HCT, and no acute treatment-related neurologic adverse events were observed. Improvements were noted in neurologic disability, quality-of-life, and functional scores.
Conclusions and Relevance  At 3 years, HDIT/HCT without maintenance therapy was effective for inducing sustained remission of active RRMS and was associated with improvements in neurologic function. Treatment was associated with few serious early complications or unexpected adverse events.
In the present study, HDIT/HCT induced remission of MS disease activity for up to 3 years in most participants. It may therefore represent a potential therapeutic option for patients with MS in whom conventional immunotherapy fails, as well as for other severe immune-mediated diseases of the central nervous system. Most early toxic effects were hematologic and gastrointestinal and were expected and reversible. Longer follow-up is needed to determine the durability of the response... We have presented the 3-year interim analysis of the HALT-MS trial; the prespecified full duration of observation is 5 years, after which the final report on the study will be prepared

Woman Learns She's Pregnant, Gives Birth to 10-Pound Baby 1 Hour Later

Katherine Kropas, 23, is a caterer in Weymouth, Massachussets. She didn't feel well. Her ankles were swollen. Then, a few days later, she felt strong stomach pains. So Kropas called in sick and had her boyfriend drive her to the hospital. Doctors quickly discovered the source of the pain: Kropas was about to have a baby--and a big one! Neal Simpson writes for The Patriot Ledger:
On Wednesday morning, just 12 hours after her baby arrived unexpected into the world, a tired and dazed Kropas sat surrounded by family in South Shore Hospital’s maternity ward and contemplated the drastically new direction her life had taken. She appeared unfazed by it.
“It’ll be fun,” she said. “I’ll have lots of help.” [...]
Ben Hamar, the doctor at South Shore Hospital who delivered the Kropas baby, said there’s a range of things that can hide a women’s pregnancy from her, including body size and irregular menstruation. He said South Shore Hospital, which sees about 3,500 births a year, usually has a “couple” of cases each year where a mother learns of her pregnancy only weeks or days before the birth. 
The baby, who is a girl, is healthy. Her name is Ellen Olivia.

Movie Milestones

The first movie camera was patented in the late 1800s, and motion pictures have been dazzling us ever since. The first movie shown to a paying audience was 'Young Griffo vs. Battling Charles Barnett' in 1895. The first 3-D Movie was 'The Power of Love' from 1922. The first movie to show an actor on the toilet was 'Catch 22' in 1970.

Here are 14 firsts in filmmaking.

This Is a Triangular Elevator

Redditor felibb writes, "I took a ride in a triangular elevator today." That's fascinating! I've never seen one before. Wherever this elevator is, it's not the only one. Here's a video of another triangular elevator in an airport in Amsterdam.

Couple told to remove TARDIS from their driveway

A Florida couple have been served a violation letter by their homeowner's association, and now have 2 days to remove their TV-show inspired time machine, from their driveway in Parrish.
Leann Moder and her husband Davis, consider themselves sci-fi super-fans of the long running BBC show, "Doctor Who" so much so that they own their own TARDIS (or Time and Relative Dimension in Space). But the homeowner's association took notice, telling them they had 15 days to remove the spacecraft.
"It has been brought to the attention of the Association that you have a blue call box that needs to be removed," said the violation letter. "Just struck me as a funny, formal letter about a silly blue box," says Leann Moder. They were such big fans of the show that the blue box all started as part of the couple's marriage ceremony, 2 years ago.
The Moder's had a "Doctor Who" themed wedding, with the TARDIS as their altar, and this year they decided to use it again as part of their Halloween decorations. While the Moder's say they are happy to comply with their HOA, they still have big plans on the horizon for their currently empty TARDIS. "We're working on the bigger inside technologies," they say.

Woman had miraculous escape as truck crashed through office wall

CCTV footage caught the moment a woman makes a miraculous escape as an out-of-control truck smashes into her office.
The video shows the vehicle bursting through the walls of the real estate agent's office in the Brazilian city of Toledo, narrowly missing a female employee.
The woman rises from her desk as the impact occurs and the force of the vehicle pushes her across the room as the wall crumbles.

The driver and the 16 employees in the office sustained only minor injuries. The vehicle reportedly crashed into the building after colliding with another vehicle nearby.

Minivan dragged for 16 miles after rear-ending then becoming wedged under semi-truck

A minivan was dragged for 16 miles on a northern Michigan highway after it rear-ended a semi-truck and became stuck, according to the Roscommon County Sheriff’s Office. Visibility was low just before 2am on Wednesday when the minivan hit the rear of a semi-truck trailer in the northbound lanes of I-75 south of Roscommon, which is about 70 miles north of Mount Pleasant. The driver of the minivan, Matt Menz, said he never saw the trailer turn on flashing lights to warn of slow speeds before the crash.
The truck driver couldn’t see the minivan, carrying a family of four, tucked under the rear right end of the trailer, so he kept driving. Menz said he initially tried to free the minivan when the semi was going slowly, but as road conditions improved and it sped up, he didn’t want to become dislodged because he was afraid the minivan would roll. He told his wife to call 911. “We ran into the back of a semi-truck and he’s not stopping and our car is embedded underneath of it,”
Pamela Menz told a Roscommon County 911 dispatcher. The minivan’s horn was broken when it hit the semi, she said, so they couldn’t use it to alert the truck driver they were caught. They initially weren’t able to tell dispatchers where they were on the highway because the snow made it too difficult to see. “We can’t see. Everything frozen up because our heater’s gone,” Pamela Menz said. Matt Menz said he tried to stay focused on talking to the dispatcher. “If you allow yourself to panic, you’re kind of just useless,” he said. “There was time for that after we got stopped.”

Eventually, they were able to see that the semi was signalling that he was going to get off at the first Roscommon exit. “We’re gonna go where he goes,” Matt Menz told the dispatcher. “We have no choice.” The semi-truck driver, still unaware the minivan was dragging behind the trailer, kept driving north into Crawford County. “I just want to get off the back of this thing,” Pamela Menz told a dispatcher. In all, the minivan was towed along for 16 miles and 25 harrowing minutes. Sheriff’s deputies were finally able to locate and stop the vehicles south of Grayling. While no one was seriously injured in the crash, the minivan’s occupants were taken to a local hospital to get checked out.

Indian civil servant finally sacked after failing to turn up to work for 24 years

The Indian government has sacked a civil servant who went on leave in 1990 and never came back to work. Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said a case of "willful absence" had been proved against electrical engineer AK Verma.
Mr Verma had been under investigation since 1992, but had refused to co-operate, the minister said. Correspondents say absenteeism is a pervasive problem in government-run offices in India.
Mr Naidu said in a statement that Mr Verma joined the Central Public Works Department in 1980. He had risen to the rank of executive engineer by 1990, when he went on leave. An inquiry was set up in 1992, but formal proceedings to dismiss him were not begun until 2007.
It took a further seven years for the department to reach a decision and dismiss him. It is not clear whether he was paid during his time off. India’s civil servants have long been notorious for arriving late, taking long lunches or spending parts of their day on the golf course.

Turkish official suspended after being carried by farmers to avoid getting his shoes dirty in snow

A municipal inspector has been suspended after photos emerged of him being carried by farmers to avoid getting his shoes dirty in the snow
Nedim Zurnaci, head of the rural services department in the eastern Manisa province, was on a visit to assess the damage done by heavy snowfall in the area.
But Mr Zurnaci's footwear was not up to the task, and two more appropriately clad local men were pictured carrying him over the snow-covered ground to keep his feet dry.
Photos of the incident were published widely in the Turkish media, and it wasn't long before local authorities became involved. Mayor Cengiz Ergun said the behaviour "did not comply with the municipality's attitude of service, citizen relations and values", and announced Mr Zurnaci had been suspended while an investigation was carried out,

Teenager charged over drive-by potato attacks

A teenager from Clydebank, Scotland, has been charged in connection with three assaults after a spate of drive-by potato attacks. The 18-year-old was charged following the incidents when potatoes were allegedly thrown from a car at pedestrians in the Clydebank area. In all the incidents, which occurred on December 29, people were injured. One 13-year-old girl sustained serious bruising to her face after a potato was thrown at her. A second woman said she thought she had been shot after a raw baking potato was thrown at her from a passing car at 1.10am.
The 32-year-old NHS worker, who did not want named, was smacked in the head by a potato, followed by a tub of Asda coleslaw, causing her to keel over in the middle of the street outside the Twisted Thistle pub on Dumbarton Road. “I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous,” the victim said. “In my line of work you hear a lot of crazy stories but this tops them.
“I was so shocked - it was terrible. I actually thought I had been shot by a BB gun.” Inspector Natalie Doherty, of Clydebank Community Investigation Unit, said officers were pursuing a positive line of inquiry in relation to a second man. She said: “Whilst initially the males involved may have deemed this a boyhood prank, the consequences were clearly not considered and as a result two females including a 13-year-old child have been left injured.”

Men stole identities in order to buy cars and breast implants

Houston police and US Postal Inspectors worked together on a case involving numerous luxury cars being purchased with stolen identities. Police said the case began with a tip about a single car purchase that seemed "irregular." Police said five men used other people's identities to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in car purchases.

Man arrested for driving while intoxicated

A man from Niagara Falls, New York, was charged with DWI after a traffic stop in the Town of Niagara on Sunday.
Brian M. McGuire, 26, of Niagara Falls, was stopped by a New York State Police trooper for failure to keep right.
He appeared intoxicated and failed field sobriety tests. McGuire was charged and taken to the Niagara barracks where he refused a breath test.
McGuire was charged with DWI and refusal to take a breath test. His next court date is January 26.

Man wearing 'I have drugs' T-shirt arrested for possession of drugs

An unemployed 50-year-old Pennsylvania native living in Spring Hill, Balmer, Florida, entered a Kmart on Monday night wearing a black T-shirt that asked in large white letters: “Who needs drugs?” Beneath that, the shirt said in smaller white lettering: “No, seriously, I have drugs.”
According to a Pasco County Sheriff’s Office report, Balmer was waiting in a checkout line at the store when a deputy entered. When Balmer saw the deputy, he attempted to hand a plastic bag containing marijuana and methamphetamine to the person standing behind him, a sheriff’s report said.
When the person declined to receive the bag, Balmer walked to another cash register and placed it on the ground, the sheriff’s office said. Store workers told investigators where Balmer left the bag, and Balmer, who was released from the Land O’ Lakes Jail on Sunday after posting bail on a contempt of court charge, was arrested after paying for his items, the report said.
Balmer, who has been arrested in Pasco several times since 2006, was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of marijuana. In 2002, he was sentenced to over a year of state prison time on charges of burglary and trafficking in stolen property, state corrections records show. Balmer was back in the Land O’ Lakes Jail on Tuesday with bail set at $2,150.

The Area in Blue Is Colder Than the Planet Mars

Curiosity is a NASA-operated robotic rover on the surface of Mars. It includes the Rover Environmental Monitoring System (REMS), which measures weather conditions on Mars, including temperature, wind speed, and humidity. If you want up-to-date weather reports from Mars, you can follow the REMS Twitter feed. It informs us that Curiosity has warmer weather than many parts of the United States and Canada.

Woman perturbed at being confronted by boa constrictor after plunging office toilet

A woman who took a plunger to a toilet at her office on Tuesday got the scare of her life Tuesday when a 5-foot boa constrictor came slithering out. "I thought my eyes were deceiving me," said Stephanie Lacsa, co-founder of Vertical PR + Marketing in San Diego.
"But as soon as I saw the flicker of its tongue, I definitely knew that it was, in fact, a large snake heading straight towards me." Like many people, Lacsa hates snakes.

"I ran out of the bathroom screaming louder than I'd like to admit and taped the door shut," she said. Animal control officers eventually captured the Colombian rainbow boa and took it to their shelter for an examination.

"The snake scared the living daylights out of us,' said Holly Wells, who also works at the company. It was later discovered that the snake, which was underweight and in the process of shedding when discovered, belongs to another tenant in the building.

This Jellyfish Looks Like a Fried Egg

This is a Phacellophora camtschatica, a creature commonly known as the fried egg jellyfish. It commonly has a 3 foot wide bell and stinging tentacles that often reach 20 feet long. It feeds on zooplankton and sea turtles feed on it, presumably at breakfast time.
You can watch a video of a fried egg jellyfish here.

Rhinos made a bid for freedom from safari park after security guard fell asleep

A young female rhinoceros named Rihanna led two pals on an escape bid from a safari park last Thursday after spotting a security guard had fallen asleep. The rhinos escaped from the front entrance of the Ramat Gan Safari Park in the city of Ramat Gan in the Tel Aviv district of western Israel after the security guard nodded off and failed to notice until too late what was happening.
Although another employee of the park gave chase, it was too late to stop the white rhinos from hitting the road. An inquiry is now ongoing to find out why the gate to their enclosure and the gate to the facility itself had been left open. Police who got a call to say that three rhinos were on the loose said that they initially doubted it, but when they realized it was true they had stopped the animals' further escape with a roadblock.
They then worked with zoo staff to stop the rhinos traveling too far, and too drive them back to the safari park. A police spokesman said: "We located the rhinos in the car park not far from the safari park itself." All three white rhinos including Rihanna as well as the other two females named Keren Peles and Karnivala were returned to the park after their brief adventure without further incident.

Zoo spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz said: "Overall, the rhinos were outside about 10 minutes, in which they were in the parking lot adjacent to the entrance and did not enter the national park." The security guard that was supposed to stop the rhinos has reportedly been relieved of his duties.

Tiger rescued after getting stuck in a fence

Forest officials have used a tranquilizer gun to free a tiger that became stuck in a fence near the village of Borda in the western Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, India.
The tiger, stuck for five hours overnight, growled as it tried several times to escape before being shot close-range with the gun. A forest official, Chand Hande, said the tiger - later driven away sedated in a truck - would be set free in the forest.
"When we got to know that a tiger was stuck in the fencing of a field in the Borda village, our team rushed to the spot and managed to tranquilize him after a long time," he said.

"We will set him free in the forest in the evening," Hande said. Tigers have long been bordering on extinction as they face the dangers of poaching, killings and habitat loss despite government conservation efforts.

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