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

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1626   Huguenot rebels and the French sign the Peace of La Rochelle.
1778   France recognizes the United States and signs a treaty of aid in Paris.  
1788   Massachusetts becomes the sixth state to ratify the Constitution.  
1862   The Battle of Fort Henry, Tenn., begins the Mississippi Valley campaign.  
1891   The Dalton Gang commits its first crime, a train robbery in Alila, Calif.  
1899   The Spanish-American War ends.  
1900   President McKinley appoints W.H. Taft commissioner to report on the Philippines.  
1904   Japan's foreign minister severs all ties with Russia, citing delaying tactics in negotiations over Manchuria.  
1916   Germany admits full liability for Lusitania incident and recognizes the United State's right to claim indemnity.  
1922   The Washington Disarmament Conference comes to an end with signature of final treaty forbidding fortification of the Aleutian Islands for 14 years.  
1926   Mussolini warns Germany to stop agitation in Tyrol.
1929   Germany accepts Kellogg-Briand pact.  
1933   Adolf Hitler's Third Reich begins press censorship.
1936   Adolf Hitler opens the Fourth Winter Olympics.  
1941   The RAF clears the way as British take Benghazi, trapping thousands of Italians.  
1944   Kwajalein Island in the Central Pacific falls to U.S. Army troops.  
1945   MacArthur reports the fall of Manila, and the liberation of 5,000 prisoners.
1963   The United States reports that all Soviet offensive arms are out of Cuba.  
1964   Cuba blocks the water supply to Guantanamo Naval Base in rebuke of the United State's seizure of four Cuban fishing boats.  
1964   Paris and London agree to build a rail tunnel under the English Channel.  
1965   Seven U.S. GIs are killed in a Viet Cong raid on a base in Pleiku.  
1968   Charles de Gaulle opens the 19th Winter Olympics in France.  
1975   President Gerald Ford asks Congress for $497 million in aid to Cambodia.  
1977   Queen Elizabeth marks her Silver Jubilee.
1982  Civil rights workers begin a march from Carrolton to Montgomery, Alabama.

Artist Spent One Year In The Woods Creating Surreal Sculptures From Organic Materials

forest-land-art-nature-spencer-byles-1In an extraordinary act of devotion to his art, sculptural artist Spencer Byles spent a year creating beautiful sculptures out of natural and found materials throughout the unmanaged forests of La Colle Sur Loup (where he lived with his family), Villeneuve Loubet and Mougins. He worked together with elements of his natural surroundings to create artwork that blends seamlessly with the environment.
Byles’ project is intentionally secretive – the only way you’ll see these work short of his photos is by going into the woods and finding them yourself. I imagine that coming upon such a fantastic structure unexpectedly in the woods is sure to be quite a magical surprise.
One of the most beautiful things about his work is its temporary nature. The pieces were not intended to last, and each sculpture will eventually be reclaimed by the natural environment that helped Byles shape it. This full circle gives the organic pieces a powerful poetic and philosophical touch.

Obama And Democrats Score A Giant Win For The American People On Net Neutrality

obama franken net neutrality
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made it official. He is going to propose the strongest rules ever to protect net neutrality. This is a big political victory for President Obama and his party but is even more gigantic for every American, who uses the Internet.
Writing in Wired, Chairman Wheeler announced:
Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of “commercial reasonableness” under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers.
That is why I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections.
Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.
In plain English, this means that internet is going to remain open and equal for all.
HBO’s John Oliver brought the issue to mainstream attention with a segment from his show that went viral:
The issue turned when President Obama issued a video and a statement in support of net neutrality that called for the FCC to regulate ISPs like a utility. The president said, “So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.
Politico reported that President Obama’s support for net neutrality was a major force behind Wheeler’s change of heart.
Senator Al Franken (D-MN) called Wheeler’s announcement a big victory, “This is a big victory. It’s is a win for consumers, for small businesses trying to compete with the big guys, and for innovation. It’s welcome news for all of us who have fought to keep the Internet free and open, and I’m so glad that the millions of Americans who spoke out in support of strong net neutrality rules have been heard.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said, “This is a victory for consumers and entrepreneurs. The proposal would ensure that the Internet remains a space for the open exchange of ideas and information, free of discrimination and corporate control.”
The FCC is an independent agency, but it is clear that the 4 million comments in support of net neutrality that flooded the agency, and strong words of the president made the difference. The repugican argument that allowing a handful corporations to control the Internet defied common sense. The repugican distortions of the definition of net neutrality were so extreme that Senator Al Franken said that he didn’t think that repugicans like Ted Cruz understood what net neutrality was. Cruz responded by releasing a video on net neutrality that proved the Minnesota Democrat right.
Chairman Wheeler’s proposal is a defeat for the telecom giants who tried to engage in a hostile takeover of the Internet. Their loss is a testament to what can happen when millions of Americans get engaged and involved, and political leaders listen to the will of the people.

Democrats Stand Tall and Block 2nd repugican cabal Attempt To Overturn Obama Immigration Actions

For the second day in a row, Senate Democrats have blocked the advancement of a bill that would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The repugicans failed again to advance a House-passed bill that funds Homeland Security for the rest of the year while overturning President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. All Senate Democrats and repugican Dean Heller (r-NV) voted against advancing the bill to a final vote.
Before the vote, a frustrated Mitch McConnell whined about obstruction and tried tell sell Democrats as opposing Homeland Security funding, “Perhaps today’s Democrat Party is so devoted to the right of politicians to engage in action that would, as President Obama once seemed to imply, ‘violate the law,’ that it cannot tolerate dissent. But this is no reason to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. This is no reason to prevent the Senate from even debating whether, not to fund this department. So the Democrats’ Homeland Security filibuster needs to end now. And Democrat Senators who say they’re serious about keeping our nation safe — and addressing what President Obama acknowledged as ‘unwise and unfair’ overreach — need to prove it.”
Senate Democrats are going to continue to filibuster the bill because it overturns President Obama’s executive action on immigration. McConnell’s nervousness about being blamed if Homeland Security shuts down is starting to show. There is a simple way for McConnell to avoid a shutdown of Homeland Security. All that the Majority Leader has to do is pass a clean funding bill. The house repugicans picked a fight that they can’t win with Democrats on the president’s immigration executive actions.
Senate Democrats aren’t going to vote for anything, but a clean Homeland Security funding bill.
As Sen. Patty Murray put it, “This funding bill for Homeland Security should not be held hostage for immigration. We’re being straight up.”
Hypocrite Mitch McConnell obstructed the Senate for six years, but now that he is in power, he expects Democrats to play by a different set of rules. That’s not going to happen. It is poetic justice that McConnell is getting a taste of his own medicine, and the repugican majority’s dreamed of juggernaut has completely derailed.

Scheme To Humiliate Obama Backfires As Democrats May Skip Netanyahu Congress Speech

The scheme cooked up by Speaker of the House John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to humiliate President Obama and pressure him on Iran is backfiring, as dozens of congressional Democrats are threatening to not attend Netanyahu’s address to Congress.
Obama-NetanyahuDozens of House Democrats are privately threatening to skip the March 3 address, according to lawmakers and aides, in what’s become the lowest point of a relationship between the Israeli prime minister and President Barack Obama that’s never been good.
The president and his aides won’t tell Democrats to skip the speech. But they aren’t telling Democrats to go, either. “We defer to Democratic members if they’d like to attend or not,” a White House aide said Tuesday.
Though some may abandon the threat, as of Tuesday, many Democrats on the Hill — including several Jewish members — said they’re likely to leave the prime minister looking at some empty seats.
The repugicans and the Israeli Prime Minister assumed that the president would be weakened after the midterm election. They thought that they could divide Democrats and humiliate Obama into abandoning talks with Iran over their nuclear program. Boehner and Netanyahu thought that they could bully this president and congressional Democrats, but they were wrong.
Instead of bullying the president and dividing Democrats, Netanyahu may end up addressing a lot of empty seats. The speech may look less like a bipartisan address to Congress, and more like what it really will be a pep rally for hardline conservative foreign policy. Boehner and Netanyahu both grossly misread the political landscape. The repugican Israeli ambassador to the US bought the great delusion that repugicans were going to have their way with the president after they took control of Congress.
The reality has been characterized by President Obama setting the political agenda with congressional repugicans consistently on the defensive.
Boehner tried to force Democrats to choose between Obama and Netanyahu. For Democratic members of Congress, it was an easy decision. Democrats are standing with their president, as Netanyahu’s may be addressing a lot of empty seats when he speaks to Congress next month.

Boehner’s Latest Attempt to Hoodwink America Fails Like the Rest

Boehner twisted history to claim that "the American people can't afford a repeat of the same old top-down policies of the past"…

boehner-overreachLet’s take a look at the latest repugican attempt to mislead the American people through obfuscation and sleight of hand. We can call this the anatomy of a failure.
There is an old adage that there are two sides to a story, and it is understood that, usually, there is some truth to both of them. Where our 114th Congress is concerned, the truth is all on one side.
Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi tweeted about John Boehner’s goals for the day:
Of course, this isn’t what Boehner was pushing publicly. He is still pretending he is all about creating jobs for the middle class! And combating the president’s “overreach on immigration.” Overreach. As in issuing a perfect legal executive order. In other words, doing his job.
You know, because Congress – particularly the House – can’t or won’t do theirs.
Boehner’s weekly press conference told the lie:
Boehner said, “This week, the House will take up three more jobs bills to help our economy. At the same time, the president provided the American people a good laugh yesterday – he sent up his budget. More taxes, more spending, bigger government here in Washington – the same old policies that have failed for the last six years. It’s not what the American people want.”
How about that vote to repeal Obamacare? You mean you are not going to tell the American people that you are on futile attempt?
And what, precisely, are those “same old (failed) policies”? The economy has recovered, the deficit has been cut by two-thirds, and unemployment is dropping. Obama’s popularity is surging. Where are the failures of which Boehner speaks?
obamacare-repealThe Republicans did manage to pass a bill (H.R. 596) that would take healthcare away from 19 million Americans when they voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 239-186. It is hard to see that as an accomplishment, however, unless you are a fascist.
The repugican cabal did not create any jobs yesterday. Nary a one. Nor did they accomplish any other positive action that would benefit either the middle class specifically or America in general. Their action and inaction is instead a relentless march backward to some actual failed policies, those of Obama’s predecessor in the White House, the guy who tanked the economy in 2008. A repugican.
What would put Americans back to work – infrastructure funding for example – is, to Boehner, something to laugh at. He’d prefer the 35 jobs created by the Keystone XL pipeline because that sort of legislation puts money in his pocket to pay for his fancy retirement home in Florida. Maybe he plans a big dyke around it to keep out the rising sea levels.
Though no longer viewable online, these were Boehner’s February 2 remarks on Obama’s budget:
Today President Obama laid out a plan for more taxes, more spending, and more of the Washington gridlock that has failed middle-class families. It may be Groundhog Day, but the American people can’t afford a repeat of the same old top-down policies of the past.

Like the president’s previous budgets, this plan never balances – ever. It contains no solutions to address the drivers of our debt, and no plan to fix our entire tax code to help foster growth and create jobs. Worse yet, President Obama would impose new taxes and more spending without a responsible plan to honestly address the big challenges facing our country.

While the president budget’s is about the past, our budget will be about the future. We will address our government’s spending problem and protect our national security. Our budget will balance, and it will help promote job creation and higher wages, not more government bureaucracy.
A lot of hot air here, but little of substance. It is amusing that Obama’s bottom-up strategy for economic recovery is called “top-down” when the repugican cabal’s “trickle down” policies somehow are not. We can laugh about that while we are scrounging in garbage cans for food.
Boehner concluded yesterday before going into battle:
“Tonight, the Senate’s going to vote on our plan to fund the Department of Homeland Security and block the president’s unilateral actions on immigration. There’s a whole host of Democrats who issued press releases criticizing the president’s executive overreach – McCaskill, Donnelly, others. Was it all talk?
Of course, Boehner failed to undo Obama’s alleged overreach, with the Democrats blocking the measure on a 51-48 vote. Yet another in a long line of failures for Boehner. Immigrants are people too, and thanks to the Democrats, they will remain people.
“We won this fight in the House, now the fight must be won in the United States Senate. It’s time for Cruz, Sessions, senate repugicans and Senate Democrats to stand with the American people and to block the president’s actions.”
Say what? It’s not clear what, precisely, Boehner thinks he has won in the House, because nothing jumps to mind. The story, rather, is one of unremitting failure thanks to teabagger  extremism. Don’t judge the health of teabagger ideology by Sarah Palin’s popularity, folks.
And don’t you love it when a guy who can’t control his own caucus tells his Senate colleagues to do their jobs? Of course, Bernie Sanders has already destroyed the repugican job creator myth, and repugican governors are busily waging war on the middle class by robbing pensions and slashing wages.
You want failed policies? Detroit is an economic wasteland thanks to repugican economic policies and Kansas is following suit. And they want to do this to the rest of us.
Speaking of jobs…where are those jobs Boehner is always promising to create? I mean, besides the 35 jobs the Keystone XL pipeline would give us?
The repugian cabal, misled by John Boehner, is attempting to fool the American people into thinking they care. But they don’t. Talking about creating jobs does not create jobs. And Americans are tired of empty words from our Congress.
The fact that Obama’s approval rating is at a 20-month high ought to tell repugicans that maybe, just maybe, Obama is leading America in the direction it wants to go. It ought to be be a warning to Boehner and his fellow house repugicans that not only are they butting their heads against a wall, but they’re probably fooling far fewer people than they think.

Faux News Thinks Hollywood Is Waging A War On Men By Casting Women As Heroes

In the early running for single stupidest news segment of 2015, Faux & Friends brought on a wingnut agitator to make the case that Hollywood is emasculating the men in this country by placing too many female characters as the heroes in movies. Penny Young Nance, the CEO of a group known as the Concerned Women for America, appeared on the show Wednesday morning and spoke with host Steve Doocy about male roles in recent movies and how she feels they are too often cast as antagonists or idiots in an effort to make women feel superior. She specifically took aim at the Disney hit Frozen and its upcoming sequel.
Doocy started the segment off by introducing a couple of clips from Frozen, moaning that the film portrays men in a negative light and wondering if Hollywood is “empowering women by turning our men into fools and villains.” He then welcomed Nance to the show, making sure to note that she is a mother and offering thanks to her children for letting her appear on Faux when she should be getting them ready for school. Nance then proceeded to complain that Hollywood is sending a message that “men are stupid” and only good for “a paycheck.” Regarding Frozen, Nance had the following to say:
“The question for us as moms is when we bring our daughters to see Frozen, or whatever the movie is, we often have our little boys sitting there, and is this message helpful? We want them to know that they’re essential. We want to raise heroes. We want to raise real men that will stick in their families and be great dads and be great providers and great husbands.”
Doocy responded that filmmakers must think it is just easier to make fun of men than women and that they are just having a little fun with the movies they are making. At that point, Nance went off on a super-crazy tangent where she brought up the Aurora shooting and pointed out that a man saved his girlfriend’s life by throwing his body on her. According to her logic, Hollywood is “tearing down men” and trying to “villainize masculinity” in an effort to make women feel better about themselves.
Obviously, the Faux host agreed with everything she said, and added that “it would be nice for Hollywood to have more male figures in those kinds of movies.” To be honest, this is absolutely jaw-dropping. The reason this is so unbelievably stupid, and just plain offensive, is the basic fact that men dominate the major roles in films and have since the beginning of movies.
Last May, the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film determined that in the year 2013, only 15% of protagonists in that year’s 100 highest-grossing films were female. This represented a 4% increase from 2011 but a 1% decrease from 2002. On top of that, women only accounted for 30% of all speaking parts in those films, and the study revealed that there has not been any significant change in that level over the years.
Of course, for Faux News, wingnuts there are just too many movies out there with women in featured roles and men are just getting the short end of the stick. Only in the wingnut bubble will you see people complaining that there are too many female heroes in movies these days. Because, as we all know, 15% is just way too much.

Faux News Helps ISIL Terrorists By Publishing Video Of Hostage Being Burned Alive

Faux News has drawn criticism from a terrorism expert for giving ISIL what it wants by publishing the full video of the terrorists burning Jordanian hostage Muadh al-Kasasbeh alive.
Faux News executive editor John Moody defended giving ISIl a platform to spread terror and fear, “After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of FauxNews.com the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIL outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video. Online users can choose to view or not view this disturbing content.”
ISIL is sharing links to the Faux News video on Twitter.
Terrorism expert Rick Nelson explained why Faux News erred by giving ISIL an American platform, “They’re a terror organization. They seek to strike terror in the hearts and minds of people globally, and by perpetuating these videos and putting them out there into the internet, it certainly expands the audience and potential effects. These groups need a platform, and this gives them a platform.”
This may come as a surprise to Faux News, but it possible to report the news without helping the terrorists spread their propaganda. The decision to publish the video was a sensationalistic attempt to get attention on the part of Faux News. What Faux News did was aid and assist ISIL by publishing their video.
The goal of terrorism is not to kill. Terrorists want to spread fear. By giving ISIL a platform in the United States, Faux News has given ISIL a platform.
Faux News has committed a deplorable act by publishing the Muadh al-Kasasbeh video. The terrorists get exactly what they desire most when the media publishes their videos. Facebook and YouTube both refuse to allow the video to be published on their sites. Faux News has demonstrated that they are willing to assist terrorists and promote their agenda if it means more publicity for the wingnut pseudo-news network.

Idiot repugican says restaurants should be able to opt-out of mandatory handwashing

by Jen Hayden
Handwashing chart
Do you think restaurants should be able to opt out?
North Carolina's idiot Thom Tillis is not so sure we need laws requiring food service employees to wash their hands:
Tillis made the declaration at to the Bipartisan Policy Center, at the end of a question and answer with the audience. He was relaying a 2010 anecdote about his “bias when it comes to regulatory reform.” “I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said, “as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else.”
Restaurants can just opt-out and let the free market take care of business after word spreads of unsanitary conditions. Never mind that a lack of hand washing by food service employees accounts for the vast majority of food contamination:
The spread of germs from the hands of food workers to food is an important cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants. It accounts for 89% of outbreaks in which food was contaminated by food workers. Proper handwashing can reduce germs on workers’ hands and the spread of germs from hands to food and from food to other people.
Making sure business are free to operate under any conditions they'd like is apparently more important than public health and safety:
“That’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country,” he added. “We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.” Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet joked that he was “not sure” he would shake Sen. Tillis’ hand when the discussion was over, causing the lawmaker and members of the audience to laugh.
Indeed. So, so gross. And to be clear, he offered up this suggestion at the very beginning of his talk. Watch his comments here:
No word on where he stands on mandatory vaccinations, seat belts, or other basic public safety issues.

EPA Finding Signals The Death Knell For The KeystoneXL Pipeline

Prior to the 18th Century, it was customary in England to ring a bell to announce a death that was called ‘tolling the bell’ or a ‘death knell.’ Since the Koch brothers stole repugicans control of Congress, President Obama has symbolically been the death knell of most of the repugicans’ stated agenda by announcing their proposed legislation was dead by way of Presidential veto. Included in the dead-on-arrival legislation is the unconstitutional legislation approving the Koch brothers’ cherished KeystoneXL pipeline.
The President has intimated several legitimate reasons for vetoing the repugicans’ gift to the Kochs, but now there is a damning indictment on the project courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency. The repugicans and the Koch brothers make no secret that next to taxes, there is no part of the federal government they despise more than the EPA, so it is a major slap in their faces that it was the agency they hate above all others that delivered the death knell of their 8 billion-dollar dream project. Americans should expect a renewed Koch Congress assault on the EPA for doing the job a repugican president created the agency for; to protect the environment and Americans’ health and well-being.
Over the past few months, the President has been a little more vocal about the pipeline not creating jobs, not providing one gallon of gas for Americans, increasing fuel costs for Americans, and encroaching on Americans’ private property; all legitimate reasons to thwart the foreign pipeline’s construction. However, the President also stated categorically for four years his primary concern was how much constructing the pipeline will increase carbon emissions (greenhouse gases) that are the major drivers of  climate change.
In fact, the President often tells repugicans to wait until all the data is in on the environmental impact of the pipeline, particularly how it might exacerbate climate change. Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has officially said developing Canadian oil sands will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, significantly increase greenhouse gases, the President has the reason he was looking for to reject construction of the KeystoneXL pipeline; particularly in light of his herculean effort and agreement with China to curb carbon emissions.
It is noteworthy that real climate scientists have warned for over three years that developing Canada’s substantial oil sands is “game over for the Earth’s climate,” but as is their wont; repugicans dismiss climate scientists’ warnings as fear mongering, an attack on Americans’ way of life, environmental terrorism, and a liberal hoax to destroy the fossil fuel industry.
On Tuesday, the EPA delivered a letter to the State Department which is reviewing the impact of the Keystone project that said that “Until efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of oil sands are successful and widespread, developing the tar sands crude represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” The President has said often he will reject the foreign corporation’s (TransCanada) project if it would in any way lead to a significant increase in carbon pollution.
The President already told Republicans he would veto their effort to circumvent the State Department’s authority over the project and demanded they allow the Executive Branch to continue conducting a comprehensive review of the pipeline’s environmental impact.  Now that part of the review officially confirms the ‘significant increase in greenhouse gases,’ the project is exposed for what it really means; game over for the environment.
Environmentalists were already aware that developing Canada’s tar sands is an environmental hazard, but they were ecstatic that the EPA confirmed what climate scientists have known for a decade. One of the climate scientists leading the opposition to Keystone, Bill McKibben, said of the report that “The EPA, in polite, knife-sharp Washingtonese, has taken apart the State Department on Keystone and shown it to be a climate disaster.” A spokesperson for the Natural Resources Defense Council said the ” legitimate scientific assessment means the Keystone pipeline fails the standard President Obama said he’ll use to judge the $8 billion project.” The Canadian project director for the NRDC said in a statement that, “There should be no more doubt that President Obama must reject the proposed pipeline once and for all.”
Last year the State Department released an environmental impact statement prepared by a Koch brothers’ oil industry firm that said even though oil sands are incredibly more carbon intensive, constructing the Keystone pipeline “probably wouldn’t increase carbon emissions” because the toxic crude would be produced whether or not the project was approved. It is worth noting that since 2010, Republicans cut the State Department’s budget so drastically that they were “forced to outsource the environmental impact report” because they were severely understaffed.
According to the EPA’s 11-volume analysis, the tar sands oil carried by the Keystone pipeline will lead to the release of more than 27 million metric tons of carbon annually “compared to less carbon-heavy crude oil” and is the equivalent of 8 carbon intensive coal plants. The report also included a scenario “under which Keystone will play a larger role in spurring more tar sand development if oil prices fell below $75 a barrel making other shipping alternatives no longer viable.” The EPA said, “the low price scenario should be given additional weight in deciding the fate of the project in light of the substantial increase in greenhouse gas emissions.” The price for benchmark U.S. crude fell last week to $44.45 per barrel; the lowest since March 2009.
An oil industry lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute (API) slammed the EPA’s analysis as just worthless excuses to put off approving TransCanada’s construction permit to build Keystone. The group’s executive vice president was particularly critical of EPA reasoning and said its evaluation of the project’s environmental impact “is just another attempt to prolong the KeystoneXL review process.”
If building Keystone is so important to the American Petroleum Institute, and not an environmental threat, why are the lobbyists not exerting pressure on the Canadian government to allow the Canadian corporation to build the environmental disaster on Canadian soil? Because it is Canada’s oil and the Canadian government knows the pipeline is a major environmental hazard well-suited for America, but not Canada. Plus, the Canadian government has already contracted and sold Koch Industries purview and ownership of over 1.1 million acres of tar sands in Alberta; the largest single owners. It is likely why Canadian Prime Minister Brian Harper criticized President Obama’s veto threat and said, “we believe the project should be approved and built in America; not Canada.
The EPA’s comprehensive analysis gives President Obama exactly what he wanted to drive the final nail in the KeystoneXL coffin. The pipeline has no redeeming qualities, or benefits for the American people, regardless the persistent lies emanating from the likes of John Boehner and Koch-aligned repugicans in Congress. Besides the certain ruptures the already-completed portions of the pipeline are notorious for, the simple fact that it will drastically increase carbon emissions and exacerbate climate change scientists warn means ‘game over for Earth’s environment” is all the reason President Obama needs to kill the project once and for all as a leading voice in combatting climate change.

Memo to North Dakota Democrats

"North Dakota's oil industry is regulated by a three-member commission called the North Dakota Industrial Commission. The three members, all repugicans, are the Governor, the Agriculture Commissioner and the Attorney General. The oil industry owns the first two, but the Attorney General, not so much.  He is, though, a member of the team and generally acquiesces. The oil industry owns the Governor and the Agriculture Commissioner by virtue of having paid for their election campaigns.""Ironically, the campaigns were against the same man, a cowboy-rancher named Ryan Taylor, who was defeated for Governor by Jack Dalrymple in 2012 and for Agriculture Commissioner by Douglas Goehring in 2014. In both cases, the oil industry paid most of the Republicans' campaign bills-more than half a million worth in 2012, something less than that in 2014-even though Taylor was probably going to lose anyway. But the industry knew he was going to be a thorn in their side, and they wanted an insurance policy that guaranteed the two men who had kept the doors open to their greedy march across the prairie, unchecked by onerous regulations, were going to remain In office. So they opened their fat wallets and paid for a couple of campaigns. Now they own two of the three most important politicians in North Dakota." […]
"That's the record of the repugicans in North Dakota. When the industry owns the regulators, nobody gets regulated."
That, North Dakota Democrats, is THE ANSWER.
It doesn't matter what the question is. It's called using your talking points, staying on message.

Muslim Family Subjected To Shocking Racism On Delta Airlines Flight

On Monday February 2, 2015, Darlene Hiber and her four children boarded a Delta Airlines flight, headed from Florida back to her home state of Michigan. After a passenger began shouting racist insults at her, a Delta airlines flight attendant added fuel to the fire. According to Hiber’s statements, a female passenger began harassing her during flight, shouting ‘This is America!’ She says the woman then hurled threats and insults at her, because of her Muslim headscarf. Other passengers were visibly disturbed by the woman’s treatment of the family. According to the legal and policy director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), most of the passengers supported and offered comfort to the family, and one witness to the incident broke down in tears.
Instead of addressing the bigot who was openly harassing Hiber, a Delta Airlines flight attendant told the Arab-American woman to “get your kids and change seats.”
Hiber said following the incident:
“I felt that I couldn’t defend myself or kids because I was afraid of what more they’ll do … I was afraid to be called a terrorist.”
The flight attendant was caught on video threatening to have the family removed from the airline. She reportedly told Hiber’s husband:
“You are at my wit’s end. You better be quiet before I kick you off of this plane!”
All while taking no action whatsoever against the racist bigot who was subjecting the woman to the abuse.
Sit down, shut up and take it? That’s how Delta Airlines attendants treat passengers being subjected to this kind of treatment by another person?
The attendant can be heard shouting at the victim in the video:
“You want to get off the plane? … I’m fixing the problem … If you want, we will take you out.”
According to ADC National, who uploaded the video to YouTube on February 3:
The video footage shows the Delta agent yelling at a Muslim American, and her husband. Moments before this footage, another passenger verbally harassed the Muslim American woman. In response to the harassment the Delta agent scolded the victim and threatened to throw her and her family off the plane. The mother of four was forced to change seats, all in an effort to accommodate one individual who made bigoted remarks.
ADC has been in touch with Delta Airlines over the incident. The organization is asking that the airline better train and equip its staff to address issues of religious and racial discrimination. ADC President, Samer Khala said:
“We encourage Delta to take immediate steps to rectify this matter and ensure that their agents are better equipped to address instances of harassment.”
Brain Kruse, a spokesman for Delta, told the Detroit Free Press Tuesday that the company has been in touch with Hiber and is ‘reviewing the situation.’ Kruse went on to say that “Delta does not condone discrimination of any kind.”
Newsflash Delta – not condoning discrimination means not catering to it. It means not requiring victims of discrimination to accommodate racist behavior by giving up their seats. It also means not telling victims of racism to ‘sit down, shut up and take it or else.’

Noah’s Ark Theme Park Suing Kentucky For Not Letting Them Discriminate

Answers in Genesis, the religious cabal behind the construction of a Noah’s Ark theme park, is suing the state of Kentucky.  The cabal is miffed because state tourism officials denied the Ark Encounter theme park 18 million dollars worth of tax incentives. The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet rejected the request because Answers in Genesis discriminates against non-christians in hiring practices.
Kentucky Tourism Secretary Bob Stewart argued, in a December letter, that:
State tourism tax incentives cannot be used to fund religious indoctrination or otherwise be used to advance religion. The use of state incentives in this way violates the separation of church and state provisions of the Constitution and is therefore impermissible.
State officials contend that the group has morphed from a tourist attraction into a proselytizing arm for the Answers in Genesis ministry. Consequently, supplying state funds for the project are not appropriate. Answers in Genesis promotes a literal interpretation of the old testament. The fundamentalist cabal also contends that the earth is just 6000 years old.
Ironically, the Answers in Genesis cabal, is trying to argue that the state of Kentucky is violating the First Amendment and practicing anti-christian bigotry by not allowing the group to discriminate against non-christians.  Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham stated:
Ourcabal spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary. However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious cabal as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.
Ham’s position apparently is that if the state of Kentucky doesn’t provide 18 million dollars to help build the ark, they are engaging in persecution of christians. The 73 million dollar project appears to be floundering without the benefit of the anticipated 18 million dollars in state welfare, which is being withheld due to the cabal’s discriminatory practices.  Answers in Genesis is suing the state of Kentucky, but suing for the legal right to discriminate gives them a very weak case.

How to Survive a Disaster

In some disasters, a lot of people die for reasons that are later determined to be beyond their control. Yet in many disasters (sinking ships, burning buildings, weather events, etc) rescuers are surprised at how many people died because they failed to do anything to save themselves. An example is the 1994 sinking of the ferry MS Estonia, in which 852 of the 989 people aboard died, most of them because they did not leave the ship.
What happened? One person who knows the answer is John Leach, a military survival instructor who researches behaviour in extreme environments at the University of Portsmouth. He has studied the actions of survivors and victims from dozens of disasters around the world over several decades (and as it happens he was present at one of them, the fire at King’s Cross underground station on 18 November 1987 which killed 31 people). He has found that in life-threatening situations, around 75% of people are so bewildered by the situation that they are unable to think clearly or plot their escape. They become mentally paralysed. Just 15% of people on average manage to remain calm and rational enough to make decisions that could save their lives. (The remaining 10% are plain dangerous: they freak out and hinder the survival chances of everyone else.)
Of course, there is more involved, like the human tendency to downplay the actual danger in a novel situation. An article at the BBC shows us the latest research in disaster survival, based on both real events and models, and some tips on how you can survive if the occasion ever arises.

Dash Cam Video Captures Deadly Plane Crash

A TransAsia Airways ATR-72 turboprop plane has crashed into a river in Taiwan, tragically killing at least 19 people. This dashcam video shows the plane clipping a bridge after rapidly descending soon after it took off from Taipei airport.
The plane, which was less than a year old, had 58 passengers aboard, most of whom were Chinese tourists. The accident marks TransAsia's second crash with fatalities in under a year. The crash of TransAsia flight 222 last July killed 48 people.
Read more on this story at The Wall Street Journal.  

This Fire Truck Has 2 Front Ends for a Practical Reason

: It’s not a novelty vehicle. Two-front fire trucks are actually useful. The German truck maker MAN originally built them for firefighting crews that provide service in long tunnels, such as the 7.2-mile tunnel beneath Mont Blanc. In the tight confines of a tunnel, a truck might not be able to turn around. So the crew drives toward the fire, manning the end facing that direction.
That feature is also useful in some congested Chinese cities. Rocket News 24 reports that Nanjing City now owns one, which is pictured.

Wild Plant Knowledge

quave_albanianIn the Balkans, resilience is rooted in knowledge of wild plants

Traditional communities living in isolated, rural areas with little money or infrastructure tend to have one thing in common: Resilience rooted in intricate knowledge of their natural environment, especially plants. […]

A 4,500-Year-Old Wrist Guard Unearthed in Scotland

The discovery of a Bronze Age burial cist at a construction site in the Scottish Highland has led to a second grave that contained pottery and an archer’s wrist guard. “The shards have a distinctive decoration which may have been made on the clay before firing in a stabbing movement with something like a feather quill,” Mary Peteranna of AOC Archaeology Group told The Inverness Courier. The pieces make up about two-thirds of a beaker pot. Organic material at its base may yield information about its contents. “The wrist guard is also particularly exciting. It has holes so that it could be tied to the wrist with a leather strap, and may have been ornamental or functional,” she added. The artifacts may eventually be displayed in the health center that will be built on the site. For more, see "England's Remarkable Bronze Age Cremation Burial."

Non Sequitur


Seven Lesser Known Architectural Wonders

This is Chand Baori, a 13-story deep step well located in India in a village called Abaneri, approximately 60 miles from Jaipur. The well was named for King Chanda, who controlled the area in the late eighth and early ninth centuries.
Also part fort — designed with openings in the walls for muskets and with four corner watchtowers — the well has 3,500 steps descending to the cool water below. Chand Baori is one of the deepest and largest structures of its kind.
See a video on Chand Baori below, and learn about six other lesser-known architectural wonders of the world at BBC Travel. 

Align with the Solstice Sun

Although the alignments likely had symbolic meanings, the solstice sun could also have served a practical purpose, helping architects build the Taj Mahal and its gardens precisely.

Central American Fires and U.S. Tornadoes

A 2011 tornado outbreak in the southeastern US is linked to distant fires, new research suggests.

Deep Waves

MIT-Deep-Ocean-Waves-01_0Acoustic-gravity waves in the deep

New study examines role as ocean transport, early warning of tsunamis. Acoustic-gravity waves — a special type of sound wave that can cut through the deep ocean at the speed […]

Geological Speed Demon

image118553-horizNorth American Plate Shattered Speed Records — a Billion Years Ago

North America traveled in fast company back in its youth. A new study led by Michigan Technological University geophysicist Aleksey Smirnov reveals that 1.1 billion years ago, the North American […]

Hip Fossil Challenges Ape Family Tree

A six-inch-long hipbone of a 12.5 to 8.5 million-year-old ape called Sivapithecus is challenging the belief that the upright body posture exhibited by today’s great apes evolved only once. The upright body posture, also known as the orthograde body plan, features broad torsos and mobile forelimbs. Michèle Morgan, museum curator of osteology and paleoanthropology at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, and her colleagues say that this hip bone suggests that the upright body plan may have evolved multiple times. “We always thought if we found this body part, that it would show some of the features we find in the living great apes. To find something like this was surprising,” she said. Sivapithecus is thought to have had a relatively narrow, monkey-like chest, and facial features resembling those of modern orangutans. The Sivapithecus hipbone, however, differs from that of all living apes. “We initially believed that Sivapithecus, with a narrow torso, was on the orangutan line, but if that is the case, then the great ape body shape would have had to evolve at least twice. There are a lot of questions that this fossil raises, and we don’t have good answers for them yet. What we do know is that the evolution of the orthograde body plan in apes is not a simple story.” More fossils are needed to get a better picture of Sivapithecus. To read about a similar discovery, see "Ardipithecus: Ape or Ancestor?"

Rare goblin shark caught in Australian trawl net

‘Living fossil’ species dates back 125 million years and is typically found in depths of 3,000 to 4,000 feet; this juvenile was taken at 2,000 feet
goblin sharkA rare goblin shark, this one a juvenile, was caught in a trawl net off Australia. A scary and creepy-looking goblin shark, a rare deep-water shark sometimes referred to as a living fossil, reared its ugly head in a fishing trawl net in deep waters off Australia last week.
Lochlainn Kelly, 22, fishing with his father Mike, was “more excited than frightened” when the goblin shark was discovered in their net along with a load of crayfish, The Sydney Morning Herald and Merimbula News reported.
goblin sharkJust as a rare goblin shark caught in a net in the Gulf of Mexico created a buzz in the scientific community, this one produced quite a bit of interest at The Wharf Aquarium in Merimbula where it was being examined.
A local fisherman named “old Errol” said he’d never seen one in all his decades fishing in local waters.

The goblin shark typically inhabits waters 3,000 to 4,000 feet deep. The goblin shark is the world’s rarest shark, and a contender for the world’s ugliest sea creature. It is the lone surviving member of the Mitsukurinidae family, which dates back 125 million years.
Alan Scrymgeour of the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre described the deep-water shark to the Morning Herald as belonging to an “evolutionary dead end,” as it stopped evolving about 70 million years ago during the dinosaur era.
goblin sharkThe goblin shark has a unique elongated, paddle-like snout that features hundreds of small sensors that can detect small electrical fields produced by the crustaceans and cephalopods they feed on.

The goblin shark grows to more than 12 feet long. Adult goblin sharks grow to over 12 feet long and live in waters 3,000 to 4,000 feet deep. This one was caught in 2,000 feet of water. It was a juvenile between 2 to 3 years old, measuring just under 4 feet long.
“They are a very deep-water shark that has been rarely recorded from Australian waters,” Michael McMaster, curator at the Wharf Aquarium in Merimbula, told GrindTV in an email. “[It] does not mean that they are rare in the waters in which they live, it is just that very little fishing is done at the depth in which they live. Because so few have been studied very little is known about them.”

goblin sharkThe elongated, paddle-like nose of a goblin shark features hundreds of small sensors used to hunt for food. The Kellys were trawling southeast of Gabo Island south of Eden in New South Wales when they made the unusual catch.
“We just winched up the wire and brought the net on and the shark was in the net,” Kelly said. “I wasn’t [freaked out], if anything I was pretty excited. I’ve seen photos of them before, but I’ve never seen one before.”
Soon, others will be able to see one, too. The fish is to be sent to the Australian Museum in Sydney for its collection.

Extremely Rare Fox Seen in Yosemite - First Time in 100 Years

It's too early to say if the Sierra Nevada red fox is rebounding, experts say.
Picture of a Sierra Nevada Red Fox seen in Yosemite, California
One of the rarest animals in North America, the Sierra Nevada red fox, has been caught on camera in California's Yosemite National Park for the first time in nearly a century.
Motion-sensitive cameras stationed in the northern part of the park captured two images—possibly of the same animal—one in December and one in January.
The little-seen fox was sighted north of the park in 2010, but no one's seen it inside the park's boundaries since 1916. To say researchers are excited would be an understatement.
"Knowing that the animal is in the park is huge for us," said park wildlife biologist Sarah Stock. "Up until this point we had observations, but none of them were substantiated."
Why It Matters
The Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator) is incredibly rare, with as few as 50 individuals thought to exist in North America. Prized for their vibrant coats, red fox populations were devastated by hunting and trapping during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The fox, which historically ranged throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains, is now limited to two small populations in California: one around Lassen Volcanic National Park and another around Sonora Pass.
"Now we know [that population] extends down to northern Yosemite," said Stock.
She added that other human threats, such as livestock grazing, snowmobiling, and logging, could affect the fox's survival.
"Trapping was banned in 1974, so we actually have a pretty long history of impacting this animal," she said.
The Big Picture
It's too soon to say whether the Sierra's population is rebounding or expanding its range, as researchers are just now getting to know the elusive Sierra Nevada red.
"At this point we're still gathering the most basic information, still just establishing baselines," Stock said.
The find is meaningful because a Sierra Nevada red fox population within Yosemite's borders would enjoy the special protections of a national park, where harmful activities such as logging and livestock raising are off-limits.
The fox, which is protected by the state of California, is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
What's Next
Stock says the next step is to continue detecting foxes using cameras and so-called "hair snares"—bristle brushes that collect hair samples when a fox walks by.
Scientists test the DNA in these samples, which helps them learn more about the foxes and their origins—as well as craft a strategy to help the animal bounce back.
"The more information we can get about this animal, the more that we can learn, and the more we can try to protect it."

Facial Recognition

A species of tropical wasp can memorize the faces of its colony mates and will attack bees it does not recognize.

Animal Pictures