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

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Daily Drift

Just another day in the Park ...!
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Today in History

1523 Gustav Vasa becomes king of Sweden.
1641 Spain loses Portugal.
1674 Sivaji crowns himself King of India.
1813 The United States invasion of Canada is halted at Stony Creek, Ontario.
1862 The city of Memphis surrenders to the Union navy after an intense naval engagement on the Mississippi River.
1865 Confederate raider Wiliam Quantrill dies from a wound received while escaping a Union patrol near Taylorsville, Kentucky.
1918 U.S. Marines enter combat at the Battle of Belleau Wood.
1924 The German Reichstag accepts the Dawes Plan, an American plan to help Germany pay off its war debts.
1930 Frozen foods are sold commercially for the first time.
1934 President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Securities Exchange Act, establishing the Securities and Exchange Commission.
1941 The U.S. government authorizes the seizure of foreign ships in U.S. ports.
1944 D-Day: Operation Overlord lands 400,000 Allied American, British, and Canadian troops on the beaches of Normandy in German-occupied France.
1961 Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, one of the founders of modern psychiatry, dies.
1966 African American James Meridith is shot and wounded while on a solo march in Mississippi to promote voter registration among blacks.
1982 Israel invades southern Lebanon.
1985 The body of Nazi war criminal Dr. Josef Mengele is located and exhumed near Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Waitress Donates Kidney to Customer

)Mariana Villarreal is a waitress at a Hooters in Roswell, Georgia. She recently lost her grandmother to kidney failure. So when she heard that Don Thomas, a regular customer, had lost his kidneys to cancer, she offered one of hers:
"I said, 'Well I have two kidneys, do you want one of mine?'" said Mariana Villarreal, a waitress at Hooters.
"My reply was, 'I will accept it,'" Don said. [...]
"I wasn't able to do anything for my grandma," Mariana said, "If [Don] can live two more years, happy as he's ever been, that's fine with me. That's not up to me. I did my part, now it's God's turn to keep him alive."
The surgery took place on Friday. Doctors report that it was completely successful. You can read more at NBC 11 (warning: auto-start video).

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure

American politicians and businessmen give lip service to "infrastructure" improvement, but always defer the funding to their successors.  That's why things like this happen.
A timber rail bridge burned and collapsed early Wednesday in Koochiching County, tipping two rail cars onto the banks of the Rat Root River and temporarily blocking a Canadian National rail artery that connects the Pacific Coast with Chicago... The route has made Ranier, Minn., just east of International Falls, one of the busiest rail crossings on the U.S.-Canada border.
The bridge across the Rainy River from Fort Frances, Ontario, to Ranier was built in 1907 and had long been a quiet crossing. But now it carries more than 20 trains a day that are up to two miles long, said Dennis Wagner, mayor of Ranier...
“What happens when this other bridge that’s 120 years old collapses? Oh! Imagine that. And then it fills the whole Rainy River full of oil and gas,” he said. “Rail safety and bridge safety has been an issue of major concern around here.”
As Chevy Chase used to say when he anchored the news on Saturday Night Live, "let me repeat that for the hard of hearing" - WE ARE TRANSPORTING DANGEROUS MATERIALS OVER HUNDRED-YEAR-OLD WOODEN BRIDGES.

The Libor scam - updated

First the definition:
The Libor scandal is a series of fraudulent actions connected to the Libor (London Interbank Offered Rate) and also the resulting investigation and reaction. The Libor is an average interest rate calculated through submissions of interest rates by major banks in London. The scandal arose when it was discovered that banks were falsely inflating or deflating their rates so as to profit from trades, or to give the impression that they were more creditworthy than they were.
Now some excerpts from an article at Bloomberg:
Details are only now revealing just how far-reaching the scam was...
For years, traders at Deutsche Bank AG, UBS AG, Barclays, RBS and other banks colluded with colleagues responsible for setting the benchmark and their counterparts at other firms to rig the price of money, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg and interviews with two dozen current and former traders, lawyers and regulators. UBS traders went as far as offering bribes to brokers to persuade others to make favorable submissions on their behalf, regulatory filings show...

“We will never know the amounts of money involved, but it has to be the biggest financial fraud of all time,” says Adrian Blundell-Wignall, a special adviser to the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris. “Libor is the basis for calculating practically every derivative known to man.”..

Some former regulators say they were surprised to learn about the scale of the cheating. “Through all of my experience, what I never contemplated was that there were bankers who would purposely misrepresent facts to banking authorities,” [facepalm] says Alan Greenspan, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. “You were honorbound to report accurately, and it never entered my mind that, aside from a fringe element, it would be otherwise. I was wrong.”

Sheila Bair, who served as acting chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the 1990s and as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from 2006 to 2011, says the scope of the scandal points to the flaws of light-touch regulation on both sides of the Atlantic. “When a bank can benefit financially from doing the wrong thing, it generally will,” Bair says. “The extent of the Libor manipulation was eye-popping.”..

Manipulating Libor was a common practice in an unregulated market big enough to span the world though small enough for most participants to know one another personally, investigators found.
The source link at Bloomberg is long and detailed.   Via Reddit.

Reposted from 2013 to add this information about the outcome of the trial and the resulting "punishment."
HENRY: The five biggest banks, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, The Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS, have all pleaded guilty to multiple crimes involving foreign currencies, interest rates, and collusion... They set up a cartel to rig one of the largest financial markets in the world. The $5.3 trillion per day foreign exchange market. And some of them, most of them were also involved in rigging what's called the LIBOR interest rate market, as well...

PERIES: Now, explain further in terms of what this pleading guilty actually means, and what is expected in terms of the next steps in this case.

 HENRY: Well, they've agreed under this settlement to pay $5.89 billion in fines in disgorgement of profit. But they've also, the five institutions here, four of them have pleaded guilty. Which is a corporate plea submission. And that's really unusual. The problem is that in advance of this settlement, essentially the collateral consequences that would have applied to a guilty plea by a corporate institution such as losing the right to be a prime dealer for Federal Reserve securities, or losing other rights to represent the pension funds and the U.S. pension fund system, those rights were all shielded, protected. So essentially this is a plea that has been deprived of any collateral consequences. So we also see nobody going to jail here... if they describe this penalty as less than 3 percent of JP Morgan net income last year, it would come off as a more realistic appraisal of how light the penalty is...

HENRY: I think there's a mentality in the part of the Justice Department that they really can't hold senior bankers responsible. In the 1980s under the first Bush administration something like 880 bankers went to jail in the United States for the savings and loan crisis and the financial fraud that was committed there. Here we have banks that are engaged in much more damaging global activity, costing tens of billions of dollars to financial markets, and no one's going to jail. There may be jail for lower-level traders going forward. But none of the CEOs at these institutions have experienced any kind of penalties. In fact, their payment schedules are going up as the stock market increases. JP Morgan's stock price has appreciated 20 percent in the last year alone.

Jewellery store owner attacked gang of thieves with metal rod

When at least five masked men broke open the jewellery case and began grabbing gold chains, store owner Insuk "Sue" Shimochi said instinct and her feisty nature took over. She came out swinging. As security cameras recorded the heist at Immanuel Jewelry in the Lauderhill Mall in Florida, Shimochi grabbed a metal rod she kept behind the counter and began to strike out at the thieves. "Oh, I hit them many times," said Shimochi, 58. "I didn't know what I was thinking. I just got to protect my merchandise."
Surveillance footage shows the excitement started at about 4pm last Saturday with a man walking through the front door of the store and pulling out a hammer from under his shirt. As he attacked the glass, about four other men dashed in and began reaching into the display cases. Shimochi immediately grabbed the metal rod and landed her first blow to the head of a man in a white T-shirt. She then took aim at a second man wielding a blue recycling bin and shoving it in Shimochi's face in an effort to fend her off. In no more than 20 seconds the men, all wearing gloves, scurry out of the store with what Shimochi said was an estimated $200,000 worth of gold chains and charms.
Until she watched the video, Shimochi said could not recall exactly how she reacted. Her aggressive defence surprised even her, she said. "People think I'm a brave woman," she said. "My son's friends say I am a Jedi. But I was just trying to protect my merchandise." A native of South Korea, Shimochi said that although she has had a few classes in tae kwon do, she is not an accomplished martial artist. She and her husband have owned the jewellery store for 16 years. In that time she has lost chains to snatch-and-grab thieves about three times, Shimochi said. The metal rod was there so she could take a whack at chain snatchers, she said.

But she had never used it. "I never thought a group [would] come robbing me," she said. Lauderhill Police Maj. Rick Rocco said he was also surprised by Shimochi's response. "The natural reaction to fight back is very strong," said Rocco. "But the consequence could be that it escalates the situation from a property crime to something physical. It could have gone sideways if these guys had felt they were in danger," Rocco said. "We usually advocate, try not to put yourself in harm's way. I'm glad she's okay." The metal rod is now in possession of Lauderhill police, who are examining it for DNA, Shimochi said.

Judge ordered taxi fare jumper to walk 30 miles

Judge Michael Cicconetti from Lake County, Ohio, gave a teenager an unusual sentence for not paying a taxi driver. Victora Bascom spent Friday afternoon at the Lake County Fairgrounds completing the sentence.
Bascom had been sentenced to walk 30 miles after she and a friend stiffed a cab driver on a ride from Cleveland to Painesville, a journey of 30 miles. "Poor guy, they're mostly on contract so he's out 100 bucks," Cicconetti said.
While in court, Cicconetti allowed Bascom to choose her sentencing: 30 days in jail or walk 30 miles in 48 hours while wearing a GPS tracker. Bascom chose the 30 miles. "I've never been to jail and I don't want to go to jail," Bascom said. While the 19-year-old was completing her sentence, Judge Cicconetti stopped by the fairgrounds.

"At that pace, it's going to take most of the 48 hours," the judge said with a chuckle. Bascom wasn't thrilled about the punishment. "I'm kind of upset about this sentence. I was thinking I was just going to have to go in and pay a fine. It's only $100, but I almost ended up getting jail time, so I guess I'm kinda lucky he gave me this option," Bascom said. While at the scene Judge Cicconetti also reduced the sentence to 20 miles.
You can see video of Judge Cicconetti sentencing Ms Bascom here.

Jail for man who held up betting shop armed with can of deodorant stuck to toilet roll holder

A man who held up a betting shop with a can of deodorant stuck to a toilet roll holder to make it look like a gun has been jailed. The makeshift ‘gun’, covered by a white cloth, was used by Jason Gibney when he struck at Ladbrokes in Birkdale, Merseyside.
The May 7 raid led to a nearby high school being put on lock-down as a precaution. Gibney was jailed on Friday for 40 months for robbery and handed a two-year sentence for possession of an imitation firearm to run at the same time.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that he held up the rudimentary ‘gun’ to staff in Ladbrokes at around 9am. He threatened them and made off with cash. Police said that while no-one was hurt in the robbery, staff were left “very shaken”.
Nearby Christ the King High School was locked down on police instruction as a precaution. Gibney, of Birkdale, was arrested on May 11 and charged the following day. He admitted the charges.

Swimming pools ban long breath-holding after deaths

New York City is putting up warning signs at all public swimming pools prohibiting prolonged breath holding due to a little known hazard called shallow-water blackout or hypoxic blackout. It is part of a movement to raise awareness of the peril that has killed accomplished swimmers and to stop it by banning lengthy breath holding in America's estimated 300,000 public pools. Shallow-water blackout occurs when a person tries to swim underwater for an extraordinarily long time, typically to build endurance.
Swimmers often start by taking multiple deep breaths to go a longer distance underwater, causing their blood levels of carbon dioxide to plunge. Once underwater, carbon dioxide levels fail to rise quickly enough to signal the brain to breathe, oxygen levels fall rapidly, and the swimmer faints underwater and drowns. "Because the swimmer has a low oxygen level at the time of the fainting, brain damage occurs within a couple of minutes, and death is very likely," a doctor warned in a recent public service announcement.
New York City and Santa Barbara, California are among the first US cities to outlaw long breath holding in public pools. The push to ban breath holding is largely driven by families who have lost loved ones and were stunned to learn about the deadly phenomenon still unknown to many lifeguards, swim coaches and even coroners. There are no nationwide statistics on fatalities from shallow-water blackout.
But in New York state alone, four people aged 17 to 22 and "known to be advanced to expert swimmers" died in breath holding incidents from 1988 to 2011, according to a New York City health department study. Critics say the bans won't work because it is virtually impossible for lifeguards in busy public pools to detect such subtle but potentially fatal behavior. But Santa Barbara lifeguards twice in the past year have stopped the behavior, said Rich Hanna, manager of Santa Barbara's Parks and Recreation Department.

Step on a beach in Waikiki after midnight and you'll receive a criminal citation

26812_honolulu_waikiki_beachNo more midnight strolls along the beach for anyone in the Waikiki, Honolulu vicinity. Do so, and you'll receive a criminal citation, and a mark on your criminal record as well. You'll also have to show up for court at a later time, which is especially tricky for tourists, who may already have a return flight home before their court date. If you're planning a summer beach trip,  check local laws regarding beach hours before hitting the surf!


Motorist cited for driving with car full of bees

A motorist was pulled over on Interstate 90 near Missoula, Montana, recently with thousands of bees in his car.
The Montana Highway Patrol received a call on May 22 from another motorist who stated the inside of the car had bees all over the windows and flying throughout.
The vehicle was driving all over the road. When troopers stopped the car, the driver told them that they were “Russian Honey Bees” and harmless. There were five hives and thousands of bees inside the car.
The state Apiarist was contacted and troopers learned that although a very unsafe way to transport bees, the driver needed no permits to transport the bees through the state. The driver was issued with a citation for careless driving.

Fisherman died after being speared by swordfish he'd just speared

A charter boat captain and fisherman at Honokohau Harbor died on Friday after he went into the water to spear a swordfish and got impaled, according to the Hawaii Department of Land & Natural Resources.
Police identified the man as 47-year-old Randy Llanes of Kailua-Kona. DLNR says Llanes spotted the broadbilled swordfish swimming in the harbor. He jumped into the water with a spear gun and speared the fish.
However, the swordfish also impaled Llanes in the upper chest. He was unresponsive when he was pulled from the harbor waters, according to the DLNR.

Llanes was taken to the Kona Community Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:30am. Big Island police and DLNR enforcement are investigating the incident. DLNR staff went out to get the swordfish and found it dead.

Man chasing dogs away shot himself in stomach

Police in New South Wales, Australia, are investigating after a man suffered a suspected accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound at a property in Badgers Creek, Sydney, on Friday night.
At about 9.50pm, emergency services were called to a property, following reports that a man had suffered a gunshot wound.
Initial investigations suggest the man, believed to be aged in his 30s, suffered an accidentally self-inflicted gunshot wound to the stomach while chasing dogs off his property.
He was treated at the scene by Ambulance Paramedics before being taken to Liverpool Hospital. His injury is not considered life-threatening. A crime scene was established and investigations into the incident are continuing.

Animal Control Officers responding to report of tiger found stuffed toy

Joe Dainelis had about an hour left of work before his day ended on Thursday when the call came in. A tiger was resting in a driveway on the Southwest Side of Grand Rapids, Michigan, a concerned neighbor reported. Dainelis has seen his share of strange circumstances and illegal exotic animals working with Kent County Animal Control.
Dainelis arrived to find just what the neighbour had described - the same shape, colors and form of a tiger, resting in the driveway of a vacant home. In photos he took from a safe distance back, it seemed real, albeit quite young. "I thought, 'No way, it can't be,'" Dainelis said. Dainelis laughs at the situation after a co-worker on the scene discovered the creature was a realistic, life-sized toy. He knows he will face some ribbing around the office over the next few days.
"This darn stuffed animal, its head is facing away," he said. On Thursday night, he went back to his vehicle to get a ring pole and a door he had removed from a cage to use as a shield. He knew if he was about to wrangle a tiger, the call would be one he'd remember for quite some time. He notified dispatch that police officers would be needed on scene to help manage the situation.
Animal Control Officer Rachel Jensen walked around the back to see if there was a fence or anything containing the area. When Jensen emerged, she wore a broad smile. There was no denying it, with an up-close view, the creature was fake. The two made light of the discovery and did the only thing they could think to do: "impound" the stuffed creature until they find a good home with a child.

The Strange Life Cycle Of The Ladybug

The ladybug has something of a strange life cycle and one that surprises many people. From egg to fully grown ladybug, join us on a journey of a lifetime - literally!

Backyard Cubs

You’d be tempted to pet the kittens by the pool, but look carefully, because mama is always watching. It’s true that bobcats are relatively small wildcats, and would normally avoid humans rather than engaging in violence, but a mother guarding her cubs will do anything to protect them. Redditor NotSure2505 posted this photo taken yesterday at a fenced-in yard in Scottsdale, Arizona. Don’t see the mother? You can enlarge the photo at imgur. He also posted some earlier photos of a bobcat on his fence and a coyote at his child’s school.

Deer relaxing in pool rescued and returned to its more natural habitat

An adult deer was recently spotted in a swimming pool at a villa on the outskirts of Pistoia in Tuscany, Italy.

Animal experts and firefighters were alerted in order to achieve a successful rescue in a delicate operation.

After first being shot with a tranquilizer dart, in order to prevent the animal hurting itself or its rescuers, the deer was lifted out of the pool.

After about half an hour, the deer was awakened and set free in nearby woods.

Cat gave birth to kittens in bird's nest

Four kittens who were born in a bird’s nest have been found by a man in Co Louth, Ireland. The nest, made of twigs and leaves, is precariously balanced among ivy branches some 8ft above the ground. The discovery was made by animal lover Henry McGauley, who with his wife Fiona, runs Ardee Pet Supplies.
Fiona says Henry, who has lots of bird feeders in their back garden, heard “squawking and went to have a look and instead of finding little birds, he found four kittens”. Three are ginger and white and one is a tabby. Their mum is a white stray cat Fiona has fed and wormed and who is now calling more regularly as she is feeding her own brood.
“The nest is some distance off the ground and one of the kittens fell out of it a short time ago. I was able to get it easily and put it back but we will have to put them somewhere safer,” said Fiona. “I am sure they are only a few days old because the mother cat was definitely still pregnant last week. “I couldn’t believe it when Henry rang me to say ‘guess what I found in the trees’. It was a bit of a shock but a nice one,” she said.
The couple think the nest may have belonged to a pair of wood pigeons who left it a few days ago and now it has furry, not feathered, squatters. Fiona said she will be moving the happy family onto terra firma as the kittens do not have the required wings to ensure a safe landing if they fall. Henry chuckled as he said: “I always thought the cat was a bit bird-brained but I never expected her to move into a nest.”

Animal Pictures