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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1517 The famous Flemish composer Heinrich Issac dies.
1799 Napoleon Bonaparte captures Jaffa, Palestine.
1804 Congress orders the removal of Indians east of the Mississippi River to Louisiana.
1804 The territory of New Orleans is organized in the Louisiana Purchase.
1827 German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven dies in Vienna. He had been deaf for the later part of his life, but said on his death bed "I shall hear in heaven."
1832 Famed western artist George Catlin begins his voyage up the Missouri River aboard the American Fur Company steamship Yellowstone.
1885 Eastman Film Co. manufactures the first commercial motion picture film.
1913 The Balkan allies take Adrianople.
1918 On the Western Front, the Germans take the French towns Noyon, Roye and Lihons.
1938 Herman Goering warns all Jews to leave Austria.
1942 The Germans begin sending Jews to Auschwitz in Poland.
1950 Senator Joe McCarthy names Owen Lattimore, an ex-State Department adviser, as a Soviet spy.
1951 The United States Air Force flag design is approved.
1953 Eisenhower offers increased aid to the French fighting in Indochina.
1953 Dr. Jonas Salk announces a new vaccine against polio.
1954 The United States sets off an H-bomb blast in the Marshall Islands, the second in four weeks.
1961 John F. Kennedy meets with British Premier Macmillan in Washington to discuss increased Communist involvement in Laos.
1969 The Soviet weather Satellite Meteor 1 is launched.
1969 Writer John Kennedy Toole commits suicide at the age of 32. His mother helps get his first and only novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, published. It goes on to win the 1981 Pulitzer Prize.
1979 The Camp David treaty is signed between Israel and Egypt.
1982 Ground is broken in Washington D.C. for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
1989 The first free elections take place in the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin is elected.
1992 An Indianapolis court finds heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson guilty of rape.

Six-Year-Old’s Film On Climate Change Gets White House Screening

(Image courtesy of cbsnews.com)The scope of his ambition even prompted President Obama to single him out.

Bullies Harass 11-Year-Old Girl And Threaten To Rape Her- School Does Nothing

Featured image: cc 2009/Stars Alive via Wikimedia Commons.
On Thursday, Mistie Fetzer got the kind of secretive, after-hours phone call no mother wants to hear. Her daughter’s school will be sorry.

How The Supreme Court Could Repeal The 20th Century

Here’s a short history of the Supreme Court:
Dred Scott was a sweeping pro-slavery ruling, rooted in the notion that people of African descent are “so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Though America ratified three constitutional amendments to wipe away slavery, white supremacy, and the racist vision of society behind Dred Scott, the Supreme Court spent the next 30 years neutering these amendments. Then they spent the next 40 years rewriting one of them into a license for employers to exploit their workers. Along the way, the justices held that a woman could be cut up against her will and sterilized. And they endorsed laws making criticism of the nation’s wartime policies a crime.
I lay out much of this history in my new book, Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted, where I also discuss the warning signs that modern-day justices are beginning to repeat the sins of their predecessors. Yet, despite these warning signs, it is easy to dismiss the Supreme Court’s past as, well, the past. The United States has done many terrible things in its history, from slavery to the Trail of Tears to Jim Crow. That doesn’t mean that we are likely to relegalize the sale of human beings any time soon.

What’s important to understand about the Supreme Court, however, is that it has almost always acted as a malign force in American history — and the brief period from the mid-1950s through the mid-1970s that liberals now look back upon with nostalgia was both an anomaly and the culmination of several historic accidents. Two other factors also create a significant risk that the Court’s future could look a great deal like the dark moments of its past. The first is that the Republican Party has largely rejected the cries for judicial restraint that dominated its rhetoric during the Nixon, Reagan, and both Bush administrations. And this shift towards conservative judicial activism is being cheered on by powerful elements within the legal profession.
The second factor is that the Court’s membership could change rapidly in just a few years. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently celebrated her 82nd birthday, only a few days after Justice Antonin Scalia celebrated his 79th. Justice Anthony Kennedy is 78 years-old, while Justice Stephen Breyer is 76. The next president, in other words, could replace nearly half of the Court’s members in a single presidential term — potentially filling the Court with justices eager to relive the Court’s excesses from nearly a century ago.
The Good Scalia
It’s not hard to remember a time when conservatives feared a Supreme Court run amok at least as much as liberals. President Ronald Reagan promised to appoint judges who embrace “judicial restraint.” President George W. Bush warned that judges who “give in to temptation and make law instead of interpreting” engage in “judicial lawlessness” that is a “threat to our democracy.” Chief Justice John Roberts told senators during his confirmation hearing that he would “prefer to be known as a modest judge.”
One of the most articulate spokespersons for this fear of a too-powerful judiciary used to be Justice Scalia. A judge’s power, Scalia warned in a 1998 book, can consist “of playing king — devising, out of the brilliance of one’s own mind, those laws that ought to govern mankind.” The power of judges to reason their way to a desired result, Scalia archly explained, “would be an unqualified good, were it not for a trend in government that has developed in recent centuries, called democracy.”

Indeed, as a younger man, Scalia built a judicial philosophy around the belief that judicial discretion must be constrained. In a 1989 lecture entitled “Originalism: The Lesser Evil,” Scalia argued that “the main danger in judicial interpretation of the Constitution — or, for that matter, in judicial interpretation of any law — is that the judges will mistake their own predilections for the law.” To combat this danger, Scalia embraced originalism — the theory that a legal text’s true meaning must be determined by examining how it would have been understood at the time of its enactment — because he believed that originalism “establishes a historical criterion that is conceptually quite separate from the preferences of the judge himself.” The strongest case for Scalia’s avowed approach to the law has always been that it will enable judges to base their decisions on neutral principles separate from their own desires.The Bad Scalia
In practice, however, Scalia’s proved quite incapable of living up to his own ideal of judicial decision-making untainted by personal preferences. In his 2005 opinion in Gonzales v. Raich, for example, Scalia offered an expansive interpretation of congressional power — an interpretation that was clearly expansive enough to permit the Affordable Care Act. Yet Scalia was one of four justices who voted to repeal this act in its entirety just seven years later. Similarly, Scalia co-authored a 2012 book which explains that “no interpretive fault is more common than the failure to follow the whole-text canon, which calls on the judicial interpreter to consider the entire text” when interpreting a statute. Yet, at oral arguments in another case seeking to gut the Affordable Care Act, Scalia appeared determined to repeat this “interpretative fault” himself.
Scalia is, in many ways, a microcosm for the conservative movement as a whole, which has grown increasingly comfortable with aggressive judicial activism as the Supreme Court has moved to the right.
I argue in Injustices that the ethic of judicial restraint that dominated conservative judicial thinking in the late Twentieth Century was an anomaly. In the middle part of that century, the Supreme Court consistently moved the law in a more liberal direction for the first and only time in the Court’s history. Decisions like Roe v. Wade gave the American right a taste of what it is like to fear the judiciary, and they found that experience so painful that they spent decades devising reasons to constrain judicial power.

Now, however, Roe is more than 40 years old and the Supreme Court has grown more and more conservative with each passing decade. Conservatives and Republicans no longer have much to fear from the judiciary. Indeed, outside the area of gay rights, the worst conservatives can expect from the Roberts Court is a decision which maintains the status quo instead of moving the law to the right. This means that conservatives and Republicans no longer have much motivation to seek out ways to prevent judges from reading their own preferences into the law.“I’m A Judicial Activist”
Indeed, asking judges to second-guess decisions made by the elected branches of government may now be the GOP’s first line of defense against laws and executive actions they disapprove of — especially when those actions have President Obama’s name on them. More than two dozen Republican officials signed onto NFIB v. Sebelius, the first Supreme Court case seeking to repeal Obamacare. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) described King v. Burwell, a more recent suit seeking to gut Obamacare, as an “opportunity presented to us by the Supreme Court” to get “a major do-over of the whole thing” on health reform. When President Obama announced a new immigration policy that most Republicans disapprove of, they quickly found a Republican judge with a history of opinions calling for harsher treatment of immigrants who was willing to block the new policy. Just about the only thing President Obama’s managed to accomplish without being sued for it is pardoning a Thanksgiving turkey.
Among the GOP’s likely presidential candidates, no one has more wholeheartedly embraced this shift towards legislation-by-judiciary than Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). “I’m a judicial activist,” Paul proudly announced at at event sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation last January, before launching into a defense of the Supreme Court’s 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York.
Lochner, which struck down a New York law prohibiting bakeries from overworking their bakers, has historically been held up by liberals and conservatives alike as symbolic of an entire era of judicial overreach. Indeed, the period in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century when the Court barred minimum wages laws, stripped workers of their right to organize and condemned countless young Americans to spend their childhoods working in coal mines, cotton mills and other factories is commonly referred to as the “Lochner Era.”

Paul has been as explicit as he can possibly be that he wants to bring back this era, and there should be little doubt that he would appoint justices who share the same values if given the chance. Meanwhile, though the GOP’s other candidates have not spoken as openly about a desire to restore the kind of judicial activism that defined the Lochner Era, they are likely to seek counsel on judicial nominations from a segment of the bar that shared values very similar to Paul’s.The Incubator
The conservative Federalist Society is arguably the most powerful legal organization in the country. The keynote at its annual black tie dinner rotates among Justices Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Senators and other members of Congress typically fill up much of the audience at this annual event. Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo shaped much of the second President Bush’s judicial nominations strategy, and many of Bush’s most high-profile appointments to the bench were themselves members of the Society.
More than just a group that convenes conservative attorneys, the Federalist Society is an incubator for lawsuits such as NFIB and King, and its meetings offer a window into the concerns that animate the kinds of lawyers who would be candidates for a judicial appointment in a Republican administration.
Once upon a time, when calls for judicial restraint were ascendant on the right, the Federalist Society was also an incubator for this more restrained vision. In 2006, for example, federal-judge-turned-cabinet-secretary Michael Chertoff claimed that “in large part because of the work that the Society and others have done, the claim for judicial modesty is sufficiently well-established that everybody understands, even the critics of that claim, that they have to take it seriously and they have to address it.” President Bush made his comparison between judicial activism and “judicial lawlessness” at a Federalist Society conference one year later.
Last fall’s convening of the Federalist Society’s annual lawyer’s convention, by contrast, featured one panel questioning the wisdom of anti-discrimination laws — panelist Gail Heriot, a professor at University of San Diego School of Law, claimed that America needs to “take a hard look at some of the ways in which” anti-discrimination laws “have backfired, doing no good or more harm than good” — and another panel questioning the wisdom of the minimum wage.
These concerns are likely to influence — and may even drive the decision-making of — the next Republican who has the opportunity to name federal judges. Should that president wish to return to an era where the minimum wage and bans on private discrimination were considered unconstitutional, they will already have at least one powerful ally in this fight. Justice Clarence Thomas has, in multiple opinions, embraced a narrow reading of the federal government’s constitutional powers which would forbid child labor laws, minimum wage laws, and the ban on whites-only lunch counters.
On the day that the next president takes office, Justice Breyer will be 78 years-old — and he will only be the fourth oldest member of the Court if no other justice departs before that date. Should these four justices be replaced with judges who think like Justice Thomas, that will mean that the Court will have enough votes to repeal much of the twentieth century.

6 Historical Figures Who May or May Not Have Existed

by Evan Andrews
It’s not always easy to discern which famous figures of the past were real and which were merely the stuff of legend. Many historical accounts are incomplete or clouded by myth, and those that do exist are often contradictory or even downright fictional. But while some of history’s most towering figures might be made up, other seemingly larger-than-life personalities might also be based on actual people. From Britain’s most beloved outlaw to the founder of Sparta, find out more about six historical figures whose existence remains up for debate.
1. King Arthur
King ArthurThe protector of Camelot is one of history’s most well known monarchs, but many scholars believe his story to be a legend on par with the Sword in the Stone. The brave King Arthur is traditionally described as having repelled a Saxon attack on Britain in the 5th or 6th century. But while he supposedly won a series of 12 battles against the invaders, the great king is not named in the only surviving history of the conflict. In fact, a full depiction of Arthur did not surface until the 9th century, and an account of Lady Guinevere and the famous Knights of the Round Table only appeared with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th century text “History of the Kings of Britain.”
Even if the modern depiction of Arthur as a knight in shining armor is a myth built up by books like Sir Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur,” some historians still believe these tales were based on a real person. Among other candidates, they argue the Arthur legend may have been inspired by the exploits of the warrior king Ambrosius Aurelianus, the monarch Riothamus or perhaps even a Roman general named Lucius Artorius Castus.
2. Pythagoras
PythagorasWe all learned about the Pythagorean Theorem in math class, but a similarly elegant proof is not available for the existence of its namesake. According to some accounts, the Greek thinker Pythagoras lived during the 5th and 6th century B.C. He is remembered as a philosopher and mathematician, but in ancient times he was better known as the spiritual father of a cult obsessed by numerology, the transmigration of the human soul and—quite bizarrely—the evils of eating beans.
While Pythagoras’ hatred of legumes is well documented, there are no significant contemporary accounts of his life. All references to the great thinker—and perhaps also his famed ideas and formulas—came from his followers, who called themselves Pythagoreans. What stories we do have of Pythagoras are deeply intertwined with myth and the supernatural. One tale describes him as possessing a golden thigh; another declares he was the son of the god Apollo. For some, these lies and contradictions hint that Pythagoras was simply an exaggerated or even fictional leader concocted by the members of a religious sect. Even if Pythagoras did exist, he probably wasn’t the first to discover his famous theorem—evidence shows the Egyptians may have divined the formula much earlier.
3. John Henry
John HenryAccording to a popular American folktale, a burly former slave and steel-driver named John Henry once took on a steam drill in a race to construct a railroad tunnel. Pushing his body to the limit, Henry narrowly won the battle between man and machine, only to then collapse and die with his sledgehammer still in hand. This tale of grit and endurance was later immortalized in the folk song “The Ballad of John Henry” in the late 1800s.
The John Henry story is widely believed to have some basis in fact, and a few candidates have even emerged for the identity of its larger than life hero. John William Henry was a steel driver who died during the construction of the C&O Railway in Virginia, but there is no proof that he ever raced a machine. What’s more, records show that he stood only a little more than 5 feet tall—a far cry from the giant described in the legend. Yet another possibility is John Henry Dabney, a former slave who worked on the C&W railroad in Alabama. Witnesses reportedly claimed that Dabney went head-to-head with a steam drill in September 1887, though there is little hard evidence to back up their account.
4. Homer
HomerScholars have long speculated about the factual basis for the epic poet Homer’s “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” but the argument also extends to the bard himself. According to some theories, the greatest of all the Greek writers may not have existed, and even if he did, he is almost certainly not the sole author of his two famous works.
For so influential a figure, there are no contemporary accounts of Homer’s life, which supposedly took place during the 7th or 8th century B.C. He is often described as a blind man who was born on the island of Chios, but even these details are up for debate. This lack of biographical information has led some to theorize that “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” were actually written by a collection of different poets, or perhaps culled from popular stories passed down orally over generations. If this is true, Homer may have been responsible for first assembling the stories into coherent narratives, but he might also have been a composite figure invented as a way of giving the myths a single author.
5. Robin Hood
Robin HoodRobin Hood looms large in medieval folklore, but are tales of a bandit who stole from the rich and gave to the poor actually based in fact? Sherwood Forest’s most famous outlaw first appeared in poems and ballads in the 14th and 15th centuries, and historical evidence shows that some criminals were known as “Rabunhod” or “Robehod” even earlier. Most of these literary accounts describe Robin as a commoner who led a gang of bandits in defiance of the hated sheriff of Nottingham. However, some subsequent versions reframe him as an aristocrat-turned-outlaw, along with adding many of the story’s most popular supporting characters, like Maid Marian and Friar Tuck.
Researchers have tried to pin down the identity of a real life Robin Hood for centuries, but no clear candidate has emerged. The most popular account describes him as a follower of King Richard the Lionheart, but others label him as everything from the Earl of Huntingdon to a member of the Knights Templar. Still, an increasing number of historians now hold that stories of Robin Hood and his merry men were simply medieval myths that arose as popular fables about resistance to oppression.
6. Lycurgus
LycgergusLycurgus is remembered as the man who shaped the Greek city-state of Sparta into one of the most feared military powers of the ancient world. Sometime between the 7th and 9th century B.C., this famed lawgiver is said to have instituted a series of hard-nosed reforms addressing everything from marriage and sex to wealth and child rearing. Perhaps the most famous of these concerned the creation of the agoge, a rigorous, multi-year training program designed to fashion Spartan boys into fearless warriors.
While there is no doubt that the Lycurgan reforms were enacted, historians are still unsure if the man himself actually existed. The Spartans did not record their history in writing, so most of what is known about their most prominent leader comes from later, often wildly contradictory sources. Lycurgus’ biography is also filled with several mythical occurrences—one account claims he ended his life by self-enforced starvation—leading some to speculate that he was merely a god-like figure invented by the Spartans as a way to attribute their culture to the work of a single creator.

The Woman Emperor

In a civilization ruled by men for thousands of years, only one woman ever made it to the top in imperial China -Empress Wu.
China hasn’t had a monarchy since the Communist Revolution of 1949. But of more than 4,000 years before that, it ruled by 308 different emperors spanning 14 dynastic periods. Of those 308, only one was a woman.
It happened during the T’ang dynasty, which ruled China from AD 618-907, an era commonly considered the height of Chinese art, literature, philosophy, trade, and technology. The capital city, Chang’an (modern day Xi’an), was the largest and most culturally advanced city in the world, with a population of more than a million. This was also a rare era of freedom for women in China; women had long been treated as inferior, but now enjoyed such freedoms as the right to be educated, to divorce, to own land, and to take part -to a degree- in politics. But no one could have expected a woman to take as large a role as the girl known as Wu Zhao.
Wu Zhao was born in 624 into a noble and wealthy family, and was educated from an early age in music, art, literature, and philosophy. That education would help her immensely. When she was 13 years old, her family’s connections allowed her the great privilege of becoming a Cairen, one of nine “fifth-tier” concubines of the Emperor Tai-tsung. Her education, her musical talent, her beauty, and her wit made her stand out from the other girls, and she soon became one of the emperor’s favorites. He gave her the title Meinang, or “Charming Lady,” and assigned her to work in the imperial study. There she would add to her knowledge the workings of government- knowledge that she would put to great use in the coming years.
In 649, when Wu Zhao was 25, Emperor Tai-tsung died -not a good thing for a concubine: in keeping with tradition, all the concubines were sent to a Buddhist convent, where they were to spend the rest of their lives. But Tai-tsung’s son, Kao-tsung, became emperor and soon began visiting Wu at the convent. Many historians believe that Wu Zhao had been having an affair with the prince for a number of years, possibly because she knew he could get her out of the convent when his father died. True or not, two years later the new emperor broke tradition and had Wu Zhao returned to the palace, where she became Wu Zhaoyi, Zhaoyi signifying the highest rank of the second-tier concubines. There were now only two women above her in what became her quest for the throne: Kao-tsung’s wife, Empress Wang, and his first consort, Xiaoshu.
Within a few years, Wu Zhaoyi had two sons by the emperor -two possible heirs to the emperor’s throne if she got rid of the two women in her way. And she soon did. Neatorama has more


X-Ray Lamp Shade

This clever lamp shade design makes good use of old x-ray radiographs. The craftsmanship looks precise. It would be ideal for macabre settings, such as a preschool classroom or a wedding chapel.

We're taking on hell of a healthy Link Dump

If the legendary romance of hopping railroad trains appeals to you (or to your child), browse the photo gallery at the top of this Reddit thread.An article in Detroit News emphasizes that computers in cars can be wirelessly hacked.  "Markey cited studies showing hackers can get into the controls of some popular vehicles, 'causing them to suddenly accelerate, turn, kill the brakes, activate the horn, control the headlights, and modify the speedometer and gas gauge readings...'"  Jalopnik provides an example of a 14-year-old doing so using equipment he bought for $15 at Radio Shack.
"...16-year-old Maxwell Marion Morton of Jeannette, Pa., fatally shot 16-year-old Ryan Mangan in the face before taking a photo with Mangan’s body and uploading it to Snapchat..."
An op-ed piece at Jezebel asserts that "Adults should not be drinking milk."  
Nissan has demonstrated a glow-in-the-dark body paint for cars.   Video at the link.
An elephant with an elastic ribbon illustrates Samuel Butler's adage that "All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it."
Technology is significantly changing the experience of consuming marijuana.  "While refining marijuana requires skill, caution, and an elaborate setup, concentrates will likely prevail. They’re simply a more economic THC-delivery system."
The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore really REALLY loves thundersnow.
Diane Rehm, host of a nationally-broadcast NPR program, adds her remarkable voice to the right-to-die debate after her husband, unable to get medical assistance to die, starved himself to death.  “I feel the way that John had to die was just totally inexcusable,” Rehm said in a long interview in her office. “It was not right.”
The image at right is a graphic portrayal of an analysis of 1.3 trillion hands of Texas hold-em poker.  Details at the link, where the process is interactive.
Divers are retrieving a historic typeface from the bottom of the Thames, where it was dumped a century ago.
A carnivorous plant has been identified in 40-million-year-old amber.  It had not developed digestive enzymes, relying instead on a symbiotic relationship with an insect.
A hoard of thousands of gold coins in in different denominations has been found in the Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.
Video of a man sliding down a mountain on his butt while being chased by his snowmobile.
From the Boston Globe, a gallery of 35 photos of the record snowfall in New England.
Oliver Sacks has written an article about his discovery that his ocular melanoma is metastatic and therefore terminal:
"I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective. There is no time for anything inessential. I must focus on myself, my work and my friends. I shall no longer look at “NewsHour” every night. I shall no longer pay any attention to politics or arguments about global warming.  This is not indifference but detachment — I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future."
Rebuttal of the claim that climate-change data was falsified.
While in jail, a man punches himself in the face to get black eyes in attempt to claim that he was beaten by police; his self attack is captured on video.
A lucid explanation of the Roswell incident.
An article about a planned upgrade of the Panama Canal.  And a reminder that when you sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the canal, you are traveling east, not west (a good pub-quiz question).
A "lost Sherlock Holmes story" has been found.  It's not all that great, but enthusiasts will want to read it (fulltext at the link).
A man looking at watches in a Goodwill store in Arizona paid $6 for one that he was able to sell for $35,000.
Full sunlight provides about 10,000 lux of illumination.  Human eyes can see in light as dim as 1 lux.  Cats = 0.125 lux.  Tarsiers = .001 lux (and shame on people who photograph them with flash illumination).  A BBC article lists three creatures with even more sensitive eyes (able to see at illumination levels of .000063 lux).
Some people object to their neighbors putting up Little Free Libraries.  "Americans with Little Free Libraries are acting in that venerable tradition. Those exploiting overly broad laws to urge that they be torn down are a national disgrace."
Here's a good website:  Old and Interesting.  Go look for yourself.
I find John Oliver's sense of humor to be sometimes annoying, but one can't deny the power of some of his arguments, especially this discussion of how American judges are elected.
The graph depicts penis size based on 15,000 measurements of men around the world.  It's an awkward depiction; I think if the data were regraphed, it would be more understandable as a bell-shaped curve.  And when the article states that "In reality, only 2.28% of the male population have an abnormally small penis... and the same percentage an unusually large one," that's because "normality" is defined in that way - to include 95% of the population.  More discussion here.
Deep injection of wastewater causes earthquakes.
A useful webpage from the University of Minnesota discusses how to prevent and how to treat a frozen septic system.
In an embarrassing attempt to get better positioning for postseason play, two high-school girls basketball teams tried to lose a game, missing free throws on purpose, failed to cross the half-court line in time, even pointed out to the officials that they were violating the 3-second rule in the lane.  Both schools were banned from the playoffs.
Here is the full-text lyrics of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.  I didn't know there was a 100th verse: "No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer. 
Hakim Emmanuel, an amateur bowler in Brockton, Massachusetts, rolled a perfect 900 series.  Video of his final frame at the link.
How conservative was Ronald Reagan?  Compared to 10 of today's Republican presidential hopefuls - not very.  He would only be in 5th place.
Some parents try to treat their children's autism by "giving the children enemas, using a dangerous industrial solution used for bleaching wood pulp... Miracle Mineral Solution is the brainchild of Jim Humble, who quit the Church of Scientology to form the Genesis II Church of Health & Healing in order to promote his “miracle” cure..."
"Strawpedoing" is how students guzzle beer without creating a vacuum in the bottle.  It looks  like the straw is coming out his nose, but it's just bent at his lips,
A record drought is drying up the water reservoir for São Paulo.
"Kalaripayattu is considered to be the oldest fighting system, and the urumi — a flexible whip-like sword — is its most difficult weapon to master. An urumi wielder requires great agility and knowledge of the weapon simply to avoid self-injury." (video at the link)
A freshman basketball player for Florida State scored 30 points in the final 4:38 of a game.  "Rathan-Mayes scored 26 consecutive Florida State points without missing a shot."  His team still lost.
A police officer does not always have to show you his identification.   Exceptions include if it would jeopardize an investigation, hinder a police function, or if safety is involved.
In 2004 the New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection initiated a lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for $8.9 billion in damages for the contamination and loss of use of more than 1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, meadows and waters.  The suit has been quietly settled by the state for around $250 million. Also "If the settlement is completed, it is possible that some or even none of the money would go toward environmental costs in the Exxon case: An appropriations law in New Jersey allows money beyond the first $50 million collected in such cases in the current fiscal year to go toward balancing the state budget."
LARP is "live action role playing."
The United States may have an oversupply of people with PhDs.  "...only one in five PhDs in science, engineering and health end up with faculty teaching or research positions within five years of completing their degrees." One reason: postdocs are cheap labor for research labs.
A discussion thread asks truck drivers "what town or city do you refuse to stop in?"
If you are ordering airline tickets online for international travel, read this link about how to secure lower fares.
Video of 80-year-old Natalie Trayling giving a remarkable 30-minute impromptu performance on a library piano of a piece of music she made up on the spot.
A photo gallery of regrettable tattoos.
"St. Pauli pinkelt zurück."  Video explains how the application of superhydophobic materials to walls causes streams of urine to rebound onto the malefactor.
How women have used cannabis in years past to ease childbirth, to treat swollen breasts, for migraine, and for menstrual pain (Queen Victoria in the latter category).
The United States' policy of birthright citizenship encourages "maternity tourism" by Chinese women.
Use this site to "play with gravity."  Each click generates a center of gravity that affects the moving points.  Gravity sites close together will coalesce.  If all the moving points coalesce in the gravity site, it "explodes."
The top image is a modern reworking of a classic Normal Rockwell painting.
A "chugger" is a portmanteau term for a "charity mugger."
NASA now reports that not only did Mars once have water, but that there was probably a vast ocean covering a fifth of the planet.
Prenatal genetic testing of a fetus sometimes reveals information that the mother has cancer: "...scientists from Sequenom said they have seen more than 40 cases in which the test revealed an abnormal genetic profile suggestive of cancer in the mother. At least 26 of these women were subsequently confirmed to have cancer... If she has cancer, then tumor cells may leak their DNA — lousy with chromosomal defects — into the bloodstream..."
An easy way to make a heart-shaped cake (see pic at right)
Photos of a snow-covered bald eagle brooding her eggs.
Planthopper nymphs are totally bizarre-looking.  (Very brief video at the link)
Nestlé will only have to pay the Canadian government less than $600 per year for the use of 265,000,000 liters of groundwater.
The bird collection of Oslo's Natural History Museum is now available online.
The term "worry wart" became popular as the result of being used in a comic strip.  "... it didn’t mean what it does now — somebody who constantly worries about everything and anything. Instead it took its sense from the cartoon — a child who annoys everyone through being a pest or nuisance."
"Vog" is a combination of fog, smog, and volcanic gas.
Lindsey Graham has never sent an email.
Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials "have been ordered not to use the term “climate change” or “global warming” in any official communications, emails, or reports, according to former DEP employees, consultants, volunteers and records obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting."
For a brief introduction to The Illuminati, The Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Skull & Bones Society, and Bohemian Grove, see The Paranoid's Guide to Secret Societies.
A series of seven maps illustrates how Ukraine evolved into its present geographic arrangement.
Anyone who has had the privilege of eating at Betty's Pies on Minnesota's North Shore (just north of Two Harbors) will want to read this tribute to Betty Lessard, who recently passed away. 
Video of a mantidfly.
A wheelchair-bound 5-year-old girl scores a goal in ice hockey with the assistance of a Chicago Blackhawk.
A set of photos of the New York apartment Lauren Bacall lived in for over 50 years.
"Dairy farmers routinely feed their cows a finger-sized magnet, which settles in the digestive tract to help keep the cows healthy... To check if a cow already has a magnet, farmers use a compass."
The Export-Import Bank explained.
"Palcohol" is powdered alcohol.  Proponents say there is no risk of people snorting it, that it's no easier to sneak into events than liquid alcohol, and that it's difficult to spike people's drinks with it.
Video of a 95-year-old man setting the world record for the 200m sprint for his age group.
"Hunting competitions" are quite popular.  "Some $76,000 in prize money was at stake—more than $31,000 went to the team that bagged a 32 pound bobcat. Other jackpot winners were a four-man team that killed 63 foxes, a team that killed 8 bobcats, and another that killed 32 coyotes."
The famous "Patterson film" of a walking "bigfoot" has been image-stabilized, and it's obvious to anyone viewing it that this is a man wearing a costume.
An article at Lapham's Quarterly explains how establishments that buy your old gold and silver routinely rip off the customers.
Progressives who have mostly given up hope of getting Elizabeth Warren to run for president against Hillary Clinton are now pondering the possibility of Warren as a vice-president.  "Warren would bring a populist appeal to the ticket that Clinton does not possess."
Based on over 200,000 Jeopardy! questions used in the program, the most common Jeopardy! response is "What is China?" In Double Jeopardy, it is "What is Australia?" The most common category in Final Jeopardy! is "Word Origins."
"The White House is removing a federal regulation that subjects its Office of Administration to the Freedom of Information Act, making official a policy under Presidents Bush and Obama to reject requests for records to that office."
Members of a University of Michigan fraternity partying at a ski resort caused an estimated $400,000 of damage.  "There was damage to 45 rooms, and students destroyed ceiling tiles and exit signs, broke furniture and doors and urinated on carpeting."
A 26-minute video nicely explains the unique environmental features of the "driftless zone" in the Upper Midwest.
Was the plane crash that killed UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold an assassination?  Was it engineered by agents in the United States and Europe?  The UN is reopening an investigation.
Why is insulin so expensive in the United States.  "Greene decided to call some local pharmacies, to ask about low-cost options. He was told no such options existed.  Only then did I realize there is no such thing as generic insulin in the United States in the year 2015," he says.
Browse all 600 pages of the JC Penney 1982 Christmas catalogue.
demantoid garnets
While garnets have been known since ancient times, the demantoid variety was not discovered until 1868 in Russia's western central Ural Mountains.   From the time of the demantoids find until about 1919, they were popular in Russia as the famous Peter Carl Fabergé made jewelry with them.
Man, that felt good and now our trousers fit better!

Motel cash thief flushed evidence down toilet

A man from Sandy Lake Township in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, has been charged with entering a room at a motel where he worked last Saturday and stealing $110 from a tenant’s bags, state police say.
When confronted about the missing money, Jacob R. Auerbach, 25, firstly denied he had taken it and then allegedly flushed the cash down a toilet.
The victim said she returned to her room at the Super 8 motel in Springfield Township at about 3:30pm and saw Auerbach, who was wearing a Super 8 patch on his shirt, leave her room. The woman looked through her bags and discovered the money was missing.
She went to the front desk and demanded the money back. Auerbach was charged with burglary, theft, receiving stolen property, criminal trespass and tampering with evidence. He was arraigned and released after posting bond. A preliminary hearing has been set for March 26.

Appeal for return of stolen baby lettuces before they die

An appeal has been made after 50,000 baby lettuce plants were stolen in Rush, Co Dublin, Ireland.
The vegetables were being stored in a truck owned by specialist lettuce growers D McNamara & Sons. However, the vehicle was taken from the company’s yard in north Dublin at around 6.20am on Friday, 20 March.
A post on Facebook by the company said that unless the 50,000 lettuce plants are returned and planted properly they will die. The stolen truck is a white, curtain side Mitsubishi Canter with a registration 07 WW 4693.
It is understood that the produce was to planted into a greenhouse over the weekend, before being distributed to supermarkets in a couple of weeks’ time.

The Meaning of Life ...


Dog rescued swimmers from dangerous rip current

Two swimmers have Nico the dog to thank for their rescue after rip currents swept them out off the shore at a Venice County beach in California.

Thief caught after leaving his sausage dog with address at scene of the crime

For reasons which remain unclear, a thief in Gatineau, western Quebec, Canada, left his dog behind at a crime scene recently. On Friday March 13 the lone staffer at the Talbot denture clinic left for lunch just before 1 pm. When he returned, police say he found holes in the wall leading to the clinic.
Inside was a Daschund. The door hadn’t been forced, but later, witnesses told detectives they had heard barking coming from within the clinic. It didn’t take investigators long to piece together what had happened, a laptop was missing and so too was a $5 bill which had been left in some sort of donation box on the counter.
The only one who knew anything was the little dog, who wasn’t talking. But he did have identification around his collar. Officers checked the dog tag and found it included a home address. Officers went to the place and found a 31-year-old Gatineau man in possession of both the missing laptop and a $5 bill.
On Thursday he appeared in Gatineau court and was sentenced to six months in jail for breach of probation and breaking and entering. The dog, police say, was collected by animal control and taken to a shelter. Investigators have not said why the dog was taken along for the crime or left behind.

Man encounters unexpected goat and llama

Stephen Peterson was on his way home near Liverpool, New York, on Friday evening when he thought he saw a dog.
It was actually a goat. Then he saw a llama. He reacts as I suppose anyone would when seeing an unexpected llama.


The Strange-Looking Hungarian 'Sheep' Pig
Descended from the wild boar, Mangalitsa is a rare breed of domestic pig. Their fat bodies wrapped in tight curls will baffle everyone and trick you into thinking that they are actually sheep.
But, the truth is they are the tastiest and fattiest pigs in the world, having as much as 70% body fat. The Mangalitsas hail from the highlands of Austria and Hungary. Archduke Joseph Anton Johann crossbred the traditional Hungarian Szalontai and Bakonyi breeds with Serbian Sumadia pigs.

Can You Name All 15 Of These Big Cat And Wild Cat Species?

Most of us know a lion or a tiger when we see one but some of the other big cats can be a little more difficult to name. Throw in a number of wild cat species and it becomes more difficult to name them all. Can you name all 15 of these big cat and wild cat species?

If the answer you choose goes GREEN, then you got it right. If it goes RED then you got it wrong. You will also see how many others chose the different answers (in terms of a percentage).

Big CAT Scan

You may have been tempted to put your cat in a copy machine at one time or another, but this is taking that urge to a whole new level! The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Germany has a Toshiba Aquilon CX CT-scanner that can accommodate patients up to around 300 kilograms. That’s necessary when you want to scan an unconscious zoo animal like a lion or a bear. IZW has scanned around 80 different species so far, from the tiny naked mole-rat to a two-meter-long fish. You can see the scans of many of those animals at EZW’s website. See how big a leopard’s fangs really are inside its face. The elephant skull appears to revolve around teeth, instead of the trunk. And somehow, the chameleon looks the same inside as it does outside.

Mother And Baby Hummingbirds

Films and stills of a mother hummingbird and her baby from before he hatched until he fledged. Taken at Big Rock Garden Park, Bellingham, USA.

Animal Pictures