Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ronald Who?

Some sort of an actor?

The Russians Are Hacking

In Russia, mail reads you:
White House officials said that no classified networks had been compromised, and that the hackers had collected no classified information. Many senior officials have two computers in their offices, one operating on a highly secure classified network and another connected to the outside world for unclassified communications.

But officials have conceded that the unclassified system routinely contains much information that is considered highly sensitive: schedules, email exchanges with ambassadors and diplomats, discussions of pending personnel moves and legislation, and, inevitably, some debate about policy.
Somebody needs to update their security settings...

Ancient Trigger Warnings

Lessons about intellectual tyranny from a dead white guy:
Why would a call for more women in engineering provoke a hideous outcry? Because, Plato might say, although the longing to close the wage gap is strong, it is not as strong as the longing to protect and privilege the meaning of experience. It is an attack on the primacy of meaning for people like Sommers to propose that sociology (which today is almost synonymous with the study of how to politicize meaning) must be sacrificed to increase monetary equality. By giving up the study of sociology in favor of playing the patriarchal game by its own rules, the logic runs, women risk achieving marginal higher wages at the cost of dismantling the apparatus of social justice.
True equality always comes with a price, social justice warriors...

Red Ink

Written in blood, literally:
“Obviously when you do something like this it becomes a statement, and the reader will take away from it whatever they want to take away from it,” Colacion told the Daily Star. “But what we want to do is just kind of celebrate this rich culture, which impacts all of us every day, especially in the arts.”

Lebanon became home to large numbers of Armenians fleeing the Turks during World War I. While many emigrated during the Lebanese civil war, several Beirut neighborhoods remain centers of Armenian culture.

So just how do you publish in blood? The magazine approached five notable Lebanese-Armenian artists, from musicians to designers.
Did they talk to Sam and Dean?

Teacher's Bad Day

Class, dismissed:
After what he calls a semester of disrespect, backstabbing, lying, and cheating, Horwitz had all he could take.

"Yesterday I reached the breaking point," he said.

He sent a lengthy email to his Strategic Management class explaining that they would all be failing the course. He said the students proved to be incompetent and lack the maturity level to enter the workforce.

"It became apparent that they couldn't do some of the most simple and basic things they should have been able to do," said Horwitz.
All products of the lower education system...

For Shame

No shame, no fear:
“There’s no body shaming going on. Genuinely, 100 per cent this was driven by talking to our female customers and asking them what they want.

“As for the vandalising of our posters, a lot of what we have seen has been PhotoShopped, so they’re not even real defacements. I’d be alarmed if people are actually clamber across train tracks to deface posters and put their lives at risk.

“My position is: we won’t stand for that and TFL [Transport for London] are working with us on this. We are compiling admissions of vandalism against us and we will look into them. I don’t see us having any problem with us reporting individuals for vandalising our property. The law on this is clear.”

And in a comment that will surely pour vinegar into the protester’s wounds, Staveley claims the protest has actually helped his company’s brand profile and increased sales.

“I couldn’t have dreamt or hoped of having our advert reproduced more times across the news networks and social media as it has been done,” says Richard. “This protest has been absolutely phenomenal for us and entirely counter-productive for them.
These things usually are...

Common Enemy

The Clinton Foundation needs an independent audit, says...Common Cause?
“As Mrs. Clinton herself observed earlier this week, voluntary disclosure is not enough,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport. “A report in Thursday’s New York Times indicates that the Clinton Foundation violated an agreement to identify all of its donors. The foundation’s omissions create significant gaps in the information that voters need to make informed decisions at the polls.”
....

And to further guard against potential conflicts of interest, the foundation should stop accepting donations from foreign governments and ​foreign corporations, he said.
When an issue puts them on the same side as Ted Cruz, you know something's rotten in Clintonia...

Jenner Comes Out

Bruce Jenner's other secret:
When Sawyer asked if Jenner cheered when Obama became the first president to even say the word “transgender” in a State of the Union address, the 65-year-old replied that he “would certainly give him credit for that.”

“But not to get political,” Jenner continued, “I’ve never been a big fan, I’m kind of more on the conservative side.”

“Are your a Republican?” Sawyer asked in response, to which Jenner replied, “Yeah! Is that a bad thing? I believe in the constitution.”

“Do you think that would be an unsettling thing for some people in the conservative wing of the party?” Sawyer asked.

“I’ve thought about that,” says Jenner, adding that neither political party has a monopoly on understanding.
Neither do so-called liberals...

Covered In Red

I knew it was good for something:
There’s no more money coming from Washington after the state exhausts the $1.1 billion it received from the federal government to get the Obamacare exchange up and running. And state law prohibits Sacramento from spending any money to keep the exchange afloat.

That presents an existential crisis for Covered California, which is facing a nearly $80 budget deficit for its 2015-16 fiscal year. Although the exchange is setting aside $200 million to cover its near-term deficit, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee acknowledged in December that there are questions about the “long-term sustainability of the organization.”

Mr. Lee’s disquieting assessment actually jibed with a 2013 report by the state auditor, which stated that, until the state’s health insurance exchange actually started enrolling Californians in health plans, its “future solvency” was ”uncertain.” Thus, Covered California was listed as a “high-risk” issue for the state.
Maybe that's why the state's Democrats said no thanks...

Liar Gate Part II

They're not done with Brian Williams yet:
An NBC News internal investigation into Brian Williams has examined a half-dozen instances in which he is thought to have fabricated, misrepresented or embellished his accounts, two people with inside knowledge of the investigation said.

The investigation includes at least one episode that was previously unreported, these people said, involving statements by Mr. Williams about events from Tahrir Square in Cairo during the Arab Spring.
....

The two people with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said the episodes under review included details of the incident in Iraq in 2003; statements Mr. Williams made about a missile attack while he was traveling in another helicopter over northern Israel in 2006; and the circumstances under which he received a fragment of a helicopter that crashed during the mission to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.
He got bin Laden himself. At least, that's what he believes...

Friday, April 24, 2015

Men Of Steel

A Superman movie starring Nicholas Cage?
The project, known as Superman Lives, was loosely based on the “Death of Superman” story arc from the comics. It would have starred Nicholas Cage as the man of steel, and followed a script first authored by Kevin Smith.

Now, director Jon Schnepp takes viewers on a journey behind the scenes of the film that might have been in The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? Schnepp interviews Tim Burton, Kevin Smith, and several others involved in the development of this odd comic book film which never came to fruition.
Well, at least Cage got to be Ghost Rider...

Neck Of The Gods

How to cure a hangover, ancient style:
The alcohol victim would have strung together leaves from a shrub called Alexandrian chamaedaphne (Ruscus racemosus L.), possibly wearing the strand around the neck, the text revealed.

Though people in the ancient world believed Alexandrian chamaedaphne could ease a headache, whether the cure really worked, let alone on a drunken headache, is unknown.
But at least you'd have your own laurels...

Switch

So here's the latest TV "experiment":
In today’s announcement, FYI instead focused on the fact that someone at some point decided seven years marks the point in many marriages at which couples become “restless and dissatisfied” and might wonder why they’d signed up with this guy instead of the doctor their mothers wanted them to marry. In the series, four couples “at a crossroads in their relationship” — FYI did not say if they’ve all been married seven years — get the chance to shack up with a stranger for two weeks in an “experimental marriage.”

They will eat, live and, yes, “sleep” with these total strangers, the network said.

As with WE tv’s recently pulled-due-to-lousy-ratings reality series Sex Box, relationship experts will help guide the Seven Year Switch couples through the process, FYI said. At the end of what the network explains is a monthlong experiment, each of the married couples will reunite and decide whether to divorce or renew their vows.
Which is probably about as long as this project will last...

Who Killed Ronald?

How not to save the Big Mac:
A burger chain serves up the sandwich version of meat & potatoes — the very antithesis of “progressive” anything. A fast-food burger is supposed to be simple, hearty, wholesome, perhaps-not-entirely-healthy fare designed for families on a budget and on the go.

It’s not wraps. It’s not tofu. It’s not sprouts. It’s a burger and fries, ably prepared from decent ingredients at a price that encourages people to indulge.
....

A fun meal with the kids is decent, fast, inexpensive dining on American food. There’s nothing “progressive” about it. And any attempt to force that square peg into the round hole of our hungry mouths is doomed to failure.
That hasn't stopped them from trying...

Me And My Drone

Let your drone walk your kid to school:
A Tennessee father who followed his eight-year-old daughter to school with a drone has now decided to ground it in the wake of the attention his flight has garnered. According to WVLT, a Knoxville, Tennessee television station, Chris Early decided to launch a drone to monitor his child’s walk to school after she requested that she be allowed to walk on her own
Also useful against bullies...

The Retired Dead

No more money for dead people:
Officials say the Social Security Administration holds the official federal database listing deceased individuals, but that other agencies are not updated frequently and that most inspector generals with other government agencies lack access to the list, which leads to a number of federal agencies issuing erroneous payments to dead people.

The Act would give all appropriate federal agencies the right to access a complete and current list of deceased individuals.

“Social Security’s death records are in disarray. They show millions of people over 112 years of age as alive when they’re actually dead. They mistakenly mark tens of thousands of living people each year as dead when they are alive,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). “By cleaning up Social Securitys Death Master File and sharing it with other federal agencies, we can protect taxpayers and ensure their money isn’t being wasted fraudulently on the deceased.”
It would also help if their votes weren't used for the living...

Big Magma Valley

There's something lurking underneath Yellowstone:
The reservoir was found by University of Utah seismologists who completed what’s considered the first, most detailed picture of the “continuous volcanic plumbing system under Yellowstone,” postdoctoral researcher Hsin-Hua Huang said in a statement.

“That includes the upper crustal magma chamber we have seen previously plus a lower crustal magma reservoir that has never been imaged before and that connects the upper chamber to the Yellowstone hotspot plume below,” he said.

This upper crust chamber, which was previously known, could fill the Grand Canyon 2.5 times.

The scientists emphasized that their research doesn’t mean the volcano carries an increased danger nor is it closer to erupting. They simply used more advanced techniques to get a better picture of the system as a whole.

“The magma chamber and reservoir are not getting any bigger than they have been, it’s just that we can see them better now using new techniques,” study co-author Jamie Farrell said.
Why does that not make me feel any better?

Wiggle Room

Science versus supposition:
'By comparing our model against theirs, we found that climate models largely get the 'big picture' right but seem to underestimate the magnitude of natural decade-to-decade climate wiggles,' Brown said.

'Our model shows these wiggles can be big enough that they could have accounted for a reasonable portion of the accelerated warming we experienced from 1975 to 2000, as well as the reduced rate in warming that occurred from 2002 to 2013.'

'Statistically, it's pretty unlikely that an 11-year hiatus in warming, like the one we saw at the start of this century, would occur if the underlying human-caused warming was progressing at a rate as fast as the most severe IPCC projections,' Brown said.

'Hiatus periods of 11 years or longer are more likely to occur under a middle-of-the-road scenario.'
But the middle doesn't scare people as much...

Church Time

How to rebrand your business:
It might have been years before school officials and parents learned what was going on inside The Social Club — its website says it is “a private club for the enjoyment of both men and women … to engage in any sexual activity” — if someone had not sent anonymous letters to the school president and the local councilwoman. Both say the person who tipped them off claimed to be a concerned club member, although they don’t know that for sure.

Parents and religious leaders were called on to pack the Metro Nashville Council chambers to support a zoning change to prevent the club from opening. That’s when the club, which had spent $750,000 on the building and begun renovations, suddenly transformed into a church…

Roberts said church members will “meet and have fellowship” in the new building, but no sex will take place there. “If people have something else in mind, they will go somewhere else.”
Well, that is what motels are for...

Honesty...Honestly?

The NY Times says Hillary needs to come clean:
The increasing scrutiny of the foundation has raised several points that need to be addressed by Mrs. Clinton and the former president. These relate most importantly to the flow of multimillions in donations from foreigners and others to the foundation, how Mrs. Clinton dealt with potential conflicts as secretary of state and how she intends to guard against such conflicts should she win the White House.

The only plausible answer is full and complete disclosure of all sources of money going to the foundation. And the foundation needs to reinstate the ban on donations from foreign governments for the rest of her campaign — the same prohibition that was in place when she was in the Obama administration.
Good luck with that...

American Made

Arnold Schwarzenegger, American:
“Everything that I have accomplished in my career is because of America,” he said. “Every single thing: my bodybuilding career, my movie career, the political career, my family, everything, the millions and millions of dollars that I have made in my life and everything. All those opportunities are because of America.”

“So, I’m not going to complain about the only job that I can’t do,” Schwarzenegger added. “I think much more about the great things that I could do. Only in America, you could have a career like that.”
Appreciation is its own reward...

Play The Game

You will be indoctrinated:
The game, titled “Agent of Change” and designed by feminist activists, does not allow students to complete the game until they have given enough “correct” answers as per the designers’ stated philosophical influences, such as “norms challenging,” “feminist theory,” and “social norms theory.” According to the Agent of Change website, the program helps users “see the connections between these power-based violations, how these problems affect their lives, and what they can do to challenge the cultural norms that help sexual violence flourish.”
....

When asked if Agent of Change dealt with the ethics of binge drinking, the morality of casual sex, or the propriety of being alone while intoxicated with a potential sexual assaulter, Mosely responded: “No.” In her words, Agent of Change doesn’t get into any of that because “[Mosely doesn’t] believe that is the problem.”
Now shut up and play...

Head Games

Who's up for a new head?
NYU Bioethicist Arthur Caplan says Dr. Canavero’s plans are unethical, because the surgical technique for spinal surgery isn’t perfected, the chance of immunosupressive rejection is high, and the brain may not be able to “integrate” with a body with which it isn’t familiar. According to Caplan, “[T]he most likely result is insanity or severe mental disability.”

Dr. Canavero seems to be a legitimate neurosurgeon with the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, but his obsession with becoming the first successful surgeon to perform a head transplant is a bit Frankenstein-y. He does seems more legitimate, however, than some prior high profile oddballs, such as Dr. Richard Seed, who made a big splash in the late 1990s when he proclaimed he wanted to perform the first human cloning.

But then again, recent media reports suggested that Dr. Canavero’s talk of head transplants was all an odd publicity stunt for a video game called Metal Gear Solid. But just today, it’s being reported that Dr. Canavero has filed a sworn affidavit with Italian police, denying that he has anything to do with the game maker, and that it’s using his likeness without his permission.
I blame Skull Face...

Fly Away

The workers have spoken:
The North Charleston plant, which opened in the right-to-work state four years ago and builds fuselages for 747s and 787s, employs about 7,500 workers. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers had been trying to build support for a vote this week on unionizing 3,175 production and maintenance workers, but called off the vote days before it was to happen.

“After speaking with Boeing workers who we were previously unable to reach, we’ve determined now is not the right time for an election,” union organizer Mike Evans said in a statement. “An atmosphere of threats, harassment and unprecedented political interference has intimidated workers to the point we don’t believe a free and fair election is possible.”
Intimidating workers is what the union was supposed to do...

Mercury Falling

When female athletes attack:
Police report that Griner, 24, became engaged in an argument with Johnson, also a WNBA player, at their home in Goodyear, Arizona, about 20 miles from Phoenix. The argument became physical, police reported.

Both players were arrested but released from the Maricopa County 4th Avenue Jail in Phoenix early Thursday morning.

Police were called to the home at 133rd Drive where Johnson’s sister, Judy, told police that she didn’t know what to do about the pair’s fighting.
Charge admission?

The Jaws Of Victory

Who really won the last elections?
Since January, according to the U.S. Senate vote count website, there have been 10 nominations confirmed. Each one has seen unanimous support from Democrats who voted, but varying levels of Republican support.

Seven nominations—George C. Hanks, Jr., to be a U.S. district Judge for the Southern District of Texas, Alfred H. Bennett to be a U.S. district Judge for the Southern District of Texas, William P. Doyle to be a Federal Maritime Commissioner, Carlos A. Monje, Jr., to be Assistant Transportation Secretary, Christopher A. Hart to be National Transportation Safety Board chairman, Daniel Henry Marti to be Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and Michael P. Botticelli to be Director of National Drug Control Policy—passed the Senate unanimously. That means all senators who voted on the nominations voted in favor, with no GOP opposition.
There are winners and losers, and sometimes, the roles are reversed...

Rogue Robodoc

What could go wrong?
The robot itself runs on a single PC running software based on open standards, such as Linux and the Robot Operating System. It communicates with the control console using a standard communications protocol for remote surgery known as the Interoperable Telesurgery Protocol.

This communication takes place over public networks that are potentially accessible to anyone. And because the robot is designed to work in extreme conditions, this communications link can be a low-quality connection to the internet, perhaps even over wireless.

And therein lies the risk. “Due to the open and uncontrollable nature of communication networks, it becomes easy for malicious entities to jam, disrupt, or take over the communication between a robot and a surgeon,” say Bonaci and co.
The next time a machine operates on you, you may want to get a programmer's second opinion...

The War Dividend

What do we do about our endless wars:
Obama pledged in his 2013 inaugural address that “a decade of war is now ending,” but the numbers suggest otherwise. The U.S. takes regular lethal action in at least five countries. U.S. troops are deployed in three conflict zones. And America is directly involved in a pair of Arab civil wars.

Some administration officials fear that things will get worse before they get better, particularly in Ukraine and Iraq. But they are divided on how best to proceed, people familiar with the Obama team’s internal debates say — with top officials like Secretary of State John Kerry urging measures like arming Ukrainian government forces with Javelin anti-tank missiles, which can ostensibly be called defensive.

The goal, as one administration official put it, would be that “dead Russians will come back across the border and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will feel a greater price for his escalation.”

But the roster of violence is sobering, and the president’s more cautious advisers fret about how much more military risk America should take on as global conflicts multiply.
How many wars can be fought on the head of a pin?

Big Fear On Campus

The climate of fear:
The only “culture” afflicting students today is one of excessive gullibility, and it is creating a multitude of real victims. In service to a persecution complex, these and other colleges have sacrificed their bottom lines. By coddling their overprotected student bodies, these colleges did their charges no favors. But now that they must confront suboptimal financial realities, perhaps these schools will begin to address this problem of their own making.

It is well past time for America’s colleges to stand up to the real aggressors in their midst. Since it is now clear that their current course is a suicidal one, maybe institutions of higher learning will decide that it is in their best interests to create a “safe space” for the unjustly maligned.
Unfortunately, they want to feel safe in their own spaces from those who disagree with them...

Bomb Night

He set her up the bomb:
Ahmad said he felt pressure to go all out in asking his would-be date to the big dance.

“In ‘promposals,’ you’re supposed to go big,” he said. “It’s kind of a trending thing now, too, where everyone just asks in a really creative way.”

So during lunchtime, Ahmad strapped a paintball vest to his waist and filled the open pockets with red paper tubes attached to red wires, a prop made to look like explosives. And he stood up on the stage in the cafeteria holding a sign that read: “I kno it’s A little Late, But I’m kinda…THE BOMB! Rilea, Will U Be My Date To Prom?”

“I’m Middle Eastern, and I thought the bomb was kind of funny and clever,” he said. “I wasn’t wearing the vest for more than, like, 20 seconds. I asked her, took a picture, took it off, and then the school got upset.”
I wonder why...

Bare Banzai

Nudity for nationalism?
Right winger Teruki Goto is pictured on his campaign poster in his birthday suit, wielding a samurai-style sword in front of two Rising Sun flags and the imperial chrysanthemum crest.

A strategically-placed stroke of one of the kanji ideographs that make up his name covers his modesty.

Elections in Japan tend to be very staid affairs: candidates' campaigns generally consist of them wearing a sash bearing their name as they stand outside train stations greeting commuters -- most of whom do their best not to make eye contact.

Each candidate is allowed to print a limited number of flyers while their posters -- usually formulaic headshots with a vacuous slogan along the lines of "Making things better" -- must be corralled on huge election noticeboards, alongside everyone elses.

Add in Japan's tendency to avoid controversy, even in matters of running the local council, and Goto's campaign for a seat on the assembly of Chiyoda ward in Tokyo certainly catches the eye.
Small sword, big ambitions?

The Long Goodbye

What Eric Holder leaves behind:
The list goes into Holder’s efforts to protect America from terrorism, thwart drug smuggling, stop violent crimes and cybersecurity threats, and help prisoners re-enter society.

The list doesn’t list some of the more controversial aspects of Holder’s tenure, such as his department’s decision to seize phone records from reporters, or the botched gun-running operation known as Fast and Furious that some say contributed to the shooting death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

It also doesn’t note that in 2012, Holder was held in contempt of Congress for the department’s failure to provide information about Fast and Furious to Congress.

The Justice Department also produced a nine-minute video to send Holder off, one filled with praise from Democrats such as former President Bill Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and several Democratic senators.
He might as well have stayed on the job to hear all the accolades...

The Dearly Digital

using VR to bring back the dead?
Questions like how someone's character would be captured (they'd likely have to go through the process in full when alive), or how limited their interactions would be till remain. We'll have to wait and see what Paranormal Games has in store, but it's an intriguing, if very scary, prospect: would you want to live forever in a simulation? Or perhaps we already are.
I sometimes wonder if the people I see are figments of somebody's imagination myself...

Happy Lands

What are the happiest countries?
The top 10 on the list is dominated by nations from Scandinavia - which are unsurprisingly also among the wealthiest on the planet too.

Equally unsurprising are the countries lower at the bottom of the list - almost all of which are in the midst by bloody civil war, political unrest or crushing poverty.

One surprising anomaly, however, is Palestine, which came just below the midway point in the study at number 108, despite being ravaged by conflict.
Maybe they're only happy when they're fighting?

Their Fair Share

Hypocrites, reveal thy-selves:
MSNBC, the liberal network that advocates at every turn for a progressive revenue system, is home to four tax delinquents who have all lectured their audience about tax fairness over the years.

Rev. Al Sharpton, PoliticsNation host and civil rights activist, has more than $4.5 million in state and federal tax liens against him and his for-profit businesses, according to the New York Times. The IRS filed a $70,000 tax lien against MSNBC weekend host Melissa Harris-Perry and her husband earlier this month.

The Cycle co-host Touré and former The Reid Report host Joy Reid, still a contributor, are also in debt to the government. National Review reviewed public records and reported Touré owes more than $59,000, while Reid owes nearly $5,000. Representatives said their debts are in the process of being resolved.
Taxes for thee, not for me...

You Can't See Me

What's it like to be invisible?
Once the illusion of the invisible body was created, the researchers tried two different experiments. The first one measured the sweating of skin and increased heart rate in response to a knife threatening the empty space representing the body, said Arvid Guterstam, a former doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience who is now at the University of Washington.

“We were measuring that the illusion actually works,” Guterstam said. “The brain should react with automatic stress response when sharp object is approaching. We showed you have an increased stress response and similar to illusion of having mannequin body.”

In the second experiment, the researchers created an invisible body in front of a crowd of strangers in the room. In both instances, the body exhibited a stress reaction.
You are a ghost...

From Russia With Cash

It certainly pays to have friends:
New York Times reporter Jo Becker, who spent months investigating the deal before publishing a story Thursday, said Guistra and Clinton were both "whisked to the [palace] of President Nazarbayev in Kazakhstan, and it's a fascinating story, because everybody walked away from the table that night with something."

Clinton, Becker said, "basically endorsed" the "progress" Kazakhstan had made on its democracy, though Nazarbayev was elected "with 90 percent-plus of the vote ... in an election that was widely criticized as being rigged."

Schweizer said Clinton even held a press conference with the president and praised his human rights record.

In the end, Giustra got what he wanted.

"The bottom line is after they leave, a couple of days later, Frank Giustra gets his uranium concessions, which end up being enormously lucrative to him and to a small group of Canadian mining investors," Schweizer said.

Becker said his company went from "a worthless shell company overnight -- became this ...huge uranium mining deal."

And then soon after that, Becker said, "Bill Clinton got a huge donation, $31 million from Frank Guistra to his charitable foundation, followed by a pledge to donate $100 million more."
In Russia, donation buys you...

Palms Up

Somebody's crystal ball was cracked:
During a hearing before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, a witness testified that a VA manager in Philadelphia allegedly compelled subordinates at a party to pay his wife $30 each to have their fortunes read, according to the Washington Times.

The hearing Wednesday reportedly addressed widespread allegations within the department's offices across the country -- from accusations of mental abuse of employees to falsifying records.

Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and committee chairman, asked Kristen Ruell, a quality review specialist who works at the Philadelphia VA office, about reports a manager had his subordinates pay his fortune-telling wife for her services, the newspaper reported. The accusations stemmed from a dinner party with VA employees last June.
The wife should have seen this coming...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Safety Zone Dance

The safety culture versus freedom of speech:
Faced with a speaker who thinks outside the box, campus groups lit up in protest. Students taped their mouths shut. Others heckled and jeered Sommers as a “rape apologist.” Still others advertised alternate “safe spaces” for students “traumatized” by a speech.

“The students were so carried away with the idea that I was a threat to their safety,” Sommers told the website Campus Reform, that Oberlin officials “arranged for security guards to escort me to and from the lecture to protect me from the safe spacers.” This sounds sane, if it’s Opposite Day.

Oberlin and Georgetown are not alone. Campus panic over “unsafe” speakers — and the subsequent tendency of universities to chicken out and disinvite guests like Charles Murray, Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali — has grown to the extent that an official “Disinvitation Dinner” was launched in New York last week with keynote speaker George Will.
Dare to disagree, and the students will be forced to flee to their safe rooms...

We Heart Subsides

Keep the subsidies going, say...Republicans?
The legislation, offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), one of the most politically vulnerable Senate incumbents in 2016, would maintain the federal HealthCare.gov tax credits at stake in King v. Burwell through the end of August 2017.

The bill was unveiled this week with 29 other cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his four top deputies, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Roy Blunt (R-MO). Another cosponsor is Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the chairman of the conference's electoral arm.

Such a move would seek to protect the GOP from political peril in the 2016 elections when Democrats would try to blame the party for stripping subsidies — and maybe insurance coverage — from millions of Americans in three dozen states. A defeat for the Obama administration in a King ruling would likely create havoc across insurance markets and pose a huge problem for Republicans, many of whom have been pushing the Supreme Court to nix the subsidies.

"This bill is a first step toward reversing the damage that Obamacare has inflicted on the American health care system," Johnson said.
But until then, we have to try and save our phony-baloney jobs...

Lynch Pin

Well, here she is:
Ms. Lynch, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, was confirmed 56 to 43, with 10 Republicans voting for her.

Her confirmation took longer than that for all but two other nominees for the office: Edwin Meese III, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan, and A. Mitchell Palmer, who was picked by President Woodrow Wilson, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Republicans have found themselves in a quandary for months. They longed to replace Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and they agreed that Ms. Lynch was qualified for the job. But they opposed her because Ms. Lynch defended President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
So who voted for her?
The Senate voted 56-43 in favor of Lynch, approving her with help of Sens. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Thad Cochran (Miss.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Their non-work is done...

Drone War

President Obama, on an accidental drone strike:
“As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,” including the one that inadvertently took the lives of the two captives, a grim-faced Mr. Obama said in a statement to reporters in the White House briefing room.

“I profoundly regret what happened,” he added. “On behalf of the U.S. government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Mr. Obama’s remarks came shortly after the White House released an extraordinary statement revealing that intelligence officials had confirmed that Warren Weinstein, an American held by Al Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held since 2012, died during a drone strike . The White House did not explain why it has taken three months to disclose the episode, although it typically takes some weeks after a strike to confirm the identities of casualties.

Two other Americans who belonged to Al Qaeda, Ahmed Farouq and Adam Gadahn, were also killed in American operations in the same region, the statement said. Neither had been specifically targeted and their presence at the sites of the operations was not known at the time, officials said.
Some more on Gadahn here. So at least they did get him.

Maker Believe

Remembering the start of the Maker Movement:
By the end of the weekend, the thoroughly inspired and spent organizers realized they were clearly onto something, something potentially big and significant. As founding Editor-in-Chief Mark Frauenfelder recalls: “None of us, the staff or the attendees, had any idea what to expect. The Faire turned out to be one of those things that was way better than any of us could have imagined. It was the Woodstock moment for our tribe, a lovefest and kickoff event for a new way of life for hundreds of thousands of us.”
Happy Maker Day!

Sisters

Shades of The Dark Half:
Teratomas are embryonal tumors -- the most common brain tumors in infants less than 36 months old -- that are typically benign, but are defined as being composed either of tissues that are foreign to the area, or tissues that derive from all three of the germ layers. Germ layers contribute to the formation of all organs and tissues during embryonic development, according to The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. These masses can sometimes contain hair, teeth, bone neurons or even eyes.

"This is my second one, and I've probably taken out 7,000 or 8,000 brain tumors,” Shahinian told NBC 4.

Karanam referred to the tumor as her “evil twin sister who’s been torturing me for the past 26 years,” NBC 4 reported.
Having someone inside your head is literally not fun...

Equal Opportunity Cash Critic

The author of Clinton Cash has a new target:
“What we’re doing is a drill-down investigation of Jeb’s finances similar to what we did with the Clintons in terms of looking at financial dealings, cronyism, who he’s been involved with,” Schweizer told me on Thursday. “We’ve found some interesting things.”
....

Schweizer says he and a team of researchers have been pouring over Bush’s financial life for about four months. Among other things, they’re scrutinizing various Florida land deals, an airport deal while Bush was governor that involved state funds, and Chinese investors in Bush’s private equity funds (something I wrote about for Bloomberg last year).
Sorry, liberals-both sides are equally corrupt...

Singing On The Brain

How an MRI scanner passes the time:
“The technique excels at high spatial and temporal resolution of speech — it’s both very detailed and very fast,” the institute’s technical director Brad Sutton said in a statement. “Often you can have only one these in [magnetic resonance] imaging. We have designed a specialized acquisition method that gathers the necessary data for both space and time in two parts and then combines them to achieve high-quality, high-spatial resolution and high-speed imaging.”

The technology, he said, allows researchers to use MRI in a way they couldn’t have a couple of years ago.

Johnson’s research seeks to better understand how the “neuromuscular system and larynx change and atrophy as we age,” he said. Then, he wonders if any sort of vocal training or other techniques could reverse the aging effects.

“In order to do this, I need to look at how the muscles of the larynx move in real time,” he said, explaining how the MRI video comes in handy.
Singing keeps you young:

Healthy As A Lie

Caught in a lie:
Mother-of-one Gibson, 23, has now admitted she fabricated the cancer, when quizzed by the Australian Women's Weekly.

"No. None of it is true," she confessed in an interview published Thursday entitled "My lifelong struggle with the truth".

"I just think (speaking out) was the responsible thing to do. Above anything else, I want people to say 'okay, she's human'."

Gibson added that after years of lies, confronting the truth was "very scary, to be honest".

Reports said she had received hate mail and even death threats since being exposed. She said the backlash had been "beyond horrible".

Gibson did not go into detail about her motivations for lying, other than that she had a troubled childhood.
Honesty is the healthiest policy...

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blogging In The Years: 1995

Clifford Stoll is not a fan of this Internet thing:
The Usenet, a worldwide bulletin board, allows anyone to post messages across the nation. Your word gets out, leapfrogging editors and publishers. Every voice can be heard cheaply and instantly. The result? Every voice is heard. The cacophany more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harrasment, and anonymous threats. When most everyone shouts, few listen. How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it's an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.
When you put it that way, it does sound like crazy talk...

The Kermit Connection

The Muppets grow up:
In what’s being billed as a first for The Muppets, the personal lives of the characters will be explored. ABC’s official new logline reads: “The Muppets return to prime time with a contemporary, documentary-style show that—for the first time ever—will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, break-ups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires; a more adult Muppet show, for kids of all ages.”
I wondered when Animal's drug use would be dealt with...

The Government Grapevine

Can the government take your raisins?
At issue today in Horne v. United States Department of Agriculture is a federal regulatory scheme which dates back to the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937, a New Deal law designed to raise agricultural prices by tightly controlling the amount of agricultural products that went to market. For raisin “handlers” such as family farmers Marvin and Laura Horne of California, what this means in practice is that each year they are required to turn over a certain percentage of their crop to the federal government, or else pay the government the dollar equivalent of that crop, plus certain fines. The federal government then enjoys exclusive control over those raisins, and may opt to sell them for export, or put them to other use, such as in school lunch programs. To put that in perspective, in 2002-2003, the Hornes and other farmers were told to hand over 30 percent of their raisin crop, which amounted to 89,000 tons. In return, the federal government paid nothing.
California isn't the only land of fruits and nuts...

What Mother Earth Gave Us

Be sure to thank your mother:
Over almost a one-hundred year period from 1949 to 2040, fossil fuels have provided, and will continue to provide, the vast majority of our energy by far according to Obama’s Department of Energy. Last year, fossil fuels provided more than 83% of America’s energy consumption, which was nearly unchanged from the 85% fossil fuel share twenty years ago in the early 1990s.

Even more than a quarter of a century from now in 2040, the Department of Energy forecasts that fossil fuels will still be the dominant energy source, providing more than 81% of our energy needs.
Thanks, Mom!

X Files Of The North

It's aliens, eh?
Paul Hellyer, who was a Canadian minister from 1963 to 1967, is now urging world powers to release what he believes to be hidden data on UFOs.

'Much of the media won't touch [the documents]', he said during a keynote speech at the Disclosure Canada Tour at the University of Calgary.

You just have to keep working away and hope that someday you get a critical mass,' he said, according to a report by CTV.

'[The public] will say, in one way or another, "Mr President or Mr Prime Minister we want the truth and we want it now because it affects our lives."'

Hellyer, 91, first went public with his belief in aliens on Earth in 2005, becoming the first high ranking politician to do so.
It's certainly cold enough to keep aliens on ice up there...

The Crying Game

The tears of Japan:
“Rui-katsu isn’t like crying alone in my room. I don’t feel depressed after crying here,” a 23-year-old woman explained to The Asahi Shimbun. Today, sessions are held all across Tokyo, and similar events have sprung up in Nagoya and Osaka; people throughout the country have also taken to sharing online lists of songs and video clips sure to get the tears flowing. As for Terai, he has gone on to write a series of books about crying, most recently Ikemeso Danshi, which features photos of attractive men sobbing.

Rui-katsu seems to be popular not because Japanese people are big criers, but precisely because they aren’t. Data from the International Study on Adult Crying suggest that, of the 37 nationalities polled, the Japanese are among the least likely to cry. (Americans, by contrast, are among the most likely.) “Hiding one’s anger and sadness is considered a virtue in Japanese culture,” a Japanese psychiatrist told the newspaper Chunichi Shimbun in 2013.
Let it all out?

Don't Call Us

The IRS is not taking your calls:
The IRS’ overloaded phone system hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season as the agency cut millions of dollars from taxpayer services.
For those who weren’t disconnected, only 40 percent actually got through to a person. Many of those people had to wait on hold for more than 30 minutes.
....

At a hearing Wednesday, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen blamed budget cuts. The agency’s budget has been cut by $1.2 billion since 2010.
Koskinen said the agency is required by law to implement the health law, leaving him with few places to cut.
But plenty of places to waste...

Ride Along

At GM, car drives you:
It's a totally autonomous electric car that GM says "offers a glimpse at mobility of the future." That glimpse includes "crystal laser headlights and taillights, dragonfly dual swing doors, magnetic hubless wheel electric motors, and a wireless auto-charge system."

Not only that; the front seats can swivel 180 degrees to face the rear passengers when the car is driving itself, which it can do very well thanks to a roof-mounted radar system that maps your environment as it goes.

It even uses iris recognition as a starting mechanism.
Look upon me, lowly human, and tremble!

Planet Of The Lawsuits

Take your stinking paws off me, you dirty lawyer:
Hercules and Leo have now made history as being the first animals ever to be covered by a writ of habeas corpus, which to date has only been granted to human beings. The writ will allow the court to decide their fate.

The court had originally thrown out the lawsuit. But thanks to the appeal process and the diligence of the animal rights’ group, the court granted the writ and has ordered a representative of the university to appear in court next month to argue why the chimpanzees should not be released and moved to a sanctuary in Florida.
It's a madhouse...

Life Edit

Welcome to a Brave New World:
Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month2, 3 about the ethical implications of such work.

In the paper, researchers led by Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, tried to head off such concerns by using 'non-viable' embryos, which cannot result in a live birth, that were obtained from local fertility clinics. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. The researchers say that their results reveal serious obstacles to using the method in medical applications.

"I believe this is the first report of CRISPR/Cas9 applied to human pre-implantation embryos and as such the study is a landmark, as well as a cautionary tale," says George Daley, a stem-cell biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "Their study should be a stern warning to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes."
Is the cure worse than the disease?

Lecture Now, Pay Later

See MSNBC hosts in full hypocrisy mode:

Nanny Won't See You Now

It begins:
When senior managers at 67 Clinical Commissioning Groups – local health trusts – were asked, 39 per cent said they were planning to ‘limit access’ to routine treatment for financial reasons.

Procedures affected include varicose vein treatment, hip and knee replacement, and breast reduction surgery.

Others said smokers might be denied some treatments, most commonly IVF.

Senior doctors criticised the plans and accused health managers of denying patients vital treatment simply because they were considered to be ‘undeserving’.

Dr David Paynton, of the Royal College of GPs, said: ‘Decisions about whether our patients are eligible for surgery or treatment need to be made on a case-by-case basis and by answering the question of whether surgery will benefit a patient’s long-term physical and mental health.

‘It should not be the role of CCGs to impose blanket bans on our patients’ access to surgery, nor to decide who is and who is not deserving of potentially life-saving treatments based on their lifestyle choices.
Welcome to the ration state...

Big Wheels

Big vehicles are back:
With gas prices now at about $2.27 per gallon, Edmunds.com says it would take more than twice as long to save enough on gas to make up the price difference between a Camry LE and a Camry Hybrid.

Electric cars are also facing increased competition from more fuel-efficient vehicles. Aside from market forces, federal fuel efficiency standards have been forcing automakers to increase the miles per gallon of engines.

Electric cars also suffer from issues with battery life. Each hybrid or electric car battery can cost thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars, which only helps tip the economic scale in favor of traditional vehicles.
The free market always wins...

Back To The Cave

Jeb Bush goes primitive:
For Paleo practitioners, lean meat and fruits and vegetables are in and processed foods, dairy products and sugary delights are out.
For Bush, the results have been noticeable. Late last year he was something of a pudgy doughboy with a full face and soft jawline. Today the 6-foot, 4-inch-tall Bush sports a more chiseled look. His campaign-in-waiting would not say how much he had lost, but he looks to have shed 20 or 30 pounds.
His son George P. Bush, the newly elected Texas land commissioner, talked Jeb and Jeb Bush Jr. into trying it, a source close to Bush said.
Bush, who associates say has been dining on grilled chicken and salad while snacking on nuts and also exercising, is hardly the first politician to aim for a leaner look ahead of an expected campaign.
Or the first to be accused of being a caveman...

His Favorite Thing

Jeb gives praise:
Appearing on Michael Medved’s radio program, Bush responded to a question from the host, saying he thinks the administration’s support for the National Security Agency ranks highest on his list.

“I would say the best part of the Obama administration would be his continuance of the protections of the homeland using the big metadata programs,” he said.

“The NSA being enhanced,” Bush continued. “Advancing this, even though he never defends it, even though he never openly admits it, there has been a continuation of a very important service which is the first obligation of our national government — to keep us safe.”

If Bush decides to run for president, he is likely to be challenged by opponents over his position.
From which side?

Family Affair

Ben Affleck apologizes:
“I felt embarrassed,” Affleck wrote on Facebook. “The very thought left a bad taste in my mouth.”

The Oscar-winner, addressing the issue for the first time, confirmed reports that he asked executive producer Henry “Skip” Gates Jr. to withhold his ancestors’ slave history after the genealogical series made the discovery. Gates is also a professor at Harvard.

“I didn’t want any television show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves,” Affleck explained, adding that the revelation made him feel extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable.
You really can't choose your ancestors, but you have to be honest about them, too...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Cold

It's the coldest place in the Universe:
When the Cold Spot was first revealed by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), astronomers quickly realized that the feature, if real, would be the largest structure ever seen in the cosmos. But with just one space telescope providing the measurements, there was always the concern that something mundane — like instrumental error — could be to blame.

Then the European Planck telescope, that was also launched to measure slight temperature variations in the CMB (known as anisotropies), also saw the Cold Spot. Despite some theories that the feature may actually be an error caused by our statistical analysis methods, it was generally thought that the Cold Spot was real.

One of the most extreme (and, frankly, exciting) hypotheses possibly explaining the Cold Spot focused around the multiverse. Stemming from superstring theory, the multiverse posits that our universe is just one of many universes in a bubbly soup of universes (universi?). And that Cold Spot? Well, it could be one of those neighboring universes nuzzling up against our own.
Somebody left the window open...

The Brain

Well:
“I don’t have the slightest problem in acknowledging that my wife possesses a much higher degree of emotional intelligence than I do,” he said. “Likewise, she doesn’t feel embarrassed in asking me to maneuver the car out of our narrow garage. One is not better than the other, we just have different skills.”

“It would be wonderful to see more girls playing chess, and at a higher level, but rather than fretting about inequality, perhaps we should just gracefully accept it as a fact.”

The comments from the sometimes provocative player drew a swift response from the chess community.
Heh. I'll bet they did...

Pass The Password, Please

Would you eat your password?
Jonathan LeBlanc, PayPal’s global head of developer evangelism, claims that these devices could include brain implants, wafer-thin silicon chips that can be embedded into the skin, and ingestible devices with batteries that are powered by stomach acid.

These devices would allow “natural body identification,” by monitoring internal body functions like heartbeat, glucose levels and vein recognition, Mr LeBlanc told the Wall Street Journal.

Over time they would come to replace passwords and even more advanced methods of identification, like fingerprint scanning and location verification, which he says are not always reliable.
Got wafers?

In A New Land

Is this the world's newest country?
Vít Jedlička, a member of the Conservative Party of Free Citizens, recently appointed himself president of the Free Republic of Liberland, a “micronation,” located on the banks of the Danube River in a 2.7-square-mile patch of what he says is unclaimed territory. Jedlička says neither neighboring nation claimed the land when they established their borders following the breakup of Yugoslavia, and claims international law allows his claim.

“The objective of the founders of the new state is to build a country where honest people can prosper without being oppressed by governments making their lives unpleasant through the burden of unnecessary restrictions and taxes,” reads a statement that could be a precursor to Liberland's constitution.
Sounds good to me...

Trade Offs

Barack Obama, reluctant free trader:
“I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class,” Obama told the MSNBC host. “And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts, they are wrong.”

The president specifically singled out progressive icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who has vocally opposed the proposed trade agreement. “I love Elizabeth,” the president insisted. “We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this.”
There's a first time for everything...

Scribbling For Scratch

England is apparently a nation of impoverished writers:
“There is a high concentration of earnings in a handful of successful writers whereas most do not earn much at all.”…

Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, said: “While it’s always been a profession where the biggest authors earn disproportionately more, what’s concerning to see is that the inequality is getting wider.”

Britain remains a nation of aspiring authors, with a YouGov poll finding in February it was the most desired job in Britain. Of those asked, 60 per cent said they wanted to make a living from writing.
It's a steady job, but he wants to be a paperback writer...

Winter Shedding

The consequences of green corruption:
What would you do, if you needed to heat your house on a cold and snowy winter night – you flicked the switch on your electric heater – and nothing happened? What if, when power finally returned, you turned on the TV, and saw the minister in charge of the public power utility, explaining that a similar blackout might occur every night, between 4pm and 10pm, for the rest of the winter?

This is the situation faced by the millions of South Africans who rely entirely on electricity supplied by government utilities to heat their homes. Infrastructure Minister Lynne Browne has admitted in a press conference, that for the first time ever in winter, the state energy utility Eskom will be forced to implement load shedding – planned blackouts – to prevent a total collapse of the South African electricity system.
Unfortunately, our own government's plans aren't much better...

Sensitivity Triggers

Why controlling your trigger is nearly impossible:
First, you can’t learn much if you are unwilling to listen to ideas that challenge your self-righteous orthodoxy, nor can you even understand exactly what your orthodoxy means until you have had to think hard enough about it to defend it vigorously. All that “critical thinking” that college students were supposed to have learned before they arrived on campus and refined once they got there seems to involve nothing more than indoctrination in contempt for the politically incorrect ideas of the supposedly unenlightened. True, the humanities departments, where the race, class, and gender orthodoxy is central to the subject, are losing enrollment, but science, engineering, and business students also marinate in the all-pervasive atmosphere of such ideas, shaping their political and social assumptions, which become badges of enlightenment and superiority.

Second, the constant social pressure of having to monitor everything you say, lest some unguarded politically incorrect utterance loses you friends, dates, status, or even employment makes for (pardon the fifties’ expression) boring conformists, apparatchiks afraid to think for themselves—quite the opposite of the sturdily independent, resourceful, thoughtful, plainspoken, and creative character that used to be the American ideal.
Diversity, where is thy trigger?

The Sign

She was the woman who welcomed everyone to Vegas:
"It's the most recognizable icon in the world," said Danielle Kelly, executive director of The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, where the signs of Sin City's past are retired and on display.

The welcome sign's design, which doesn't have a copyright owner, has become a fixture on travel tchotchkes from Vegas and everywhere else, Kelly said. She has a T-shirt from San Francisco with that city's name swapped in for Las Vegas in front of the sign's recognizable shape, she said.

"The fact that everyone loves that sign and its design after all these years is a testament to Betty's talents," Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. "There is probably no bigger Las Vegas icon than that sign."
RIP to the unsung heroine of the Strip.

The Kids Are All Right

Stop panicking:
For a kid between the ages of 5 and 14 today, the chances of premature death by any means are roughly 1 in 10,000, or 0.01 percent.
....

So where does that leave us in the debate over "free-range" children? Kids are dying less. They're being killed less. They're getting hit by cars less. And they're going missing less frequently, too. The likelihood of any of these scenarios is both historically low and infinitesimally small.
So yes, the kids really are safer-if you give their parents half a chance to prove it...

Let's Not Talk

Hillary wants to know why everybody's picking on her:
"We're back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks and I'm ready for that. I know that that comes unfortunately with the territory" Clinton responded without answering the question. "The Republicans seem to be talking only about me. I don’t know what they’d talk about if I wasn’t in the race. But I am in the race and hopefully we’ll get on to the issues and I look forward to that."
If you can't stand the heat, etc...

So Long, Chief

The party's over:
Leonhart is a career drug agent who has led the agency since 2007 and is the second woman to hold the job.

She has faced mounting pressure from Congress, where some questioned her competence in the wake of a scathing government watchdog report detailing allegations that agents attended sex parties with prostitutes.

Leonhart was widely criticized for her response to the report and a group of lawmakers said in a statement that she was "woefully unable to change" the agency's culture.
The culture of intoxication...

The Votes Are Finally In

They did it for Loretta?
"I'm glad we can now say there is a bipartisan proposal that will allow us to complete action on this important legislation," Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday morning about a bill combating human trafficking that has become entangled in partisan bickering. "As soon as we finish the trafficking bill ... we'll move to the president's nominee for attorney general hopefully in the next day or so."
They could have done it sooner, but it seems the Democrats were preoccupied.

The Last Nazi

Guilty, and yet pleading innocence to the last:
Groening has never denied being in Auschwitz. Appearing in the BBC documentary “Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution” in 2005, he said that pervasive Holocaust denial had led to him to speak out.

“I see it as my task now, at my age, to face up to these things that I experienced, and to oppose the Holocaust deniers who claim that Auschwitz never happened,” he said. “I saw the crematoria, I saw the burning pits.”
....

But Groening denied his own culpability in the same interview. “Accomplice would almost be too much for me,” he told Der Spegel. “I would describe my role as a small cog in the gears. If you can describe that as guilt, then I am guilty, but not voluntarily. Legally speaking, I am innocent.”
Morally speaking, you're still a scumbag, old man...

Training In High Heels

Um, what?
"They were threatened with negative counselling statements and OERs if they didn’t participate. It was pretty much" do this or we’ll kill your career before it even starts.'"
"Someone head to IG with this? Pretty sure this was a forced activity."

"Worthless ROTC commanders need to get booted for this incompetence.

As a combat vet this sickens me and is a setback for women in the military."
It's the PC Brigade...

Life And Punishment

How to send a pro-life message:
Republicans were more likely than not to vote for repealing the death penalty. This bucks historical patterns, but I think there are good reasons to assume this may be a trend. The Republican Party nationally is becoming more pro-life. Many pro-lifers, including me, see the death penalty as antithetical to a culture of life.
If you're going to talk the talk, you've got to walk the walk...

Poop For All

Out: "discriminatory" bathrooms. In: toilets for everyone:
“Put yourself in the shoes of a trans*/gender non-conforming student and take the pledge to use only all gender bathrooms,” a post from the organization’s Facebook page read.

Students reportedly created a staged toilet in the middle of campus, which students signed and decorated with several banners, one of which read “We’ve got shit to deal with,” according to images acquired by Campus Reform.

The group’s Facebook page is also circulating a petition that states that the publicly-funded university “has identified only five bathrooms that are reasonably accessible, leaving non-cisgender students with a paltry amount of options when it comes to using the bathroom.” It calls “on the university to establish more accessible all gender bathrooms, in addition to adding ‘Gender Diversity’ signs to existing gendered bathrooms.”
Because plumbing is prejudiced, or something...

Fat Lip

Girls, don't try this at home:
The 17-year-old “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” cast member is known for her plump lips, which co-star Scott Disick claimed took her 40 minutes to draw on. Jenner denied rumors of plastic surgery and said lip liner was the secret.

Now, teens are trying to enhance their lips, sparking the trending Twitter topic #kyliejennerchallenge. One method to get a “natural” pout is by putting your lips into a small glass and sucking as hard as you can, USA Today reported. This causes the lips to briefly swell, as they would with a cosmetic injection.

However, the downside is that this method can cause serious pain, bruising and scarring around the mouth, as evidenced by images popping up on social media.
One more reason why the Kardashians are essentially useless...

Man Versus Machine

This is a dead computer:
Lucas Hinch was cited for discharging a firearm within city limits after officers responded to a "shots fired" call early on Monday evening, the Colorado Springs Police Department said in a statement.
"Investigation revealed a resident was fed up with fighting his computer for the last several months," said the statement, entitled "Man Kills His Computer."
"He took the computer into the back alley and fired eight shots into the computer with a handgun, effectively disabling it," it added.
The Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper cited police as saying Hinch was good-natured about the citation, and that he told officers he had not realized he was breaking the law.
Even PCs have rights...

The Burning Hall

The roof is literally on fire:
A woman passer-by told reporters: “There’s lots of acrid smoke which is so bad that lots of passers-by are covering their mouths. The smoke seemed to be coming from the back of the building. You can see the smoke from at least half a mile away. It’s thick black smoke, it’s got to be quite a substantial fire.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said the Town Hall is currently undergoing renovations, and that consequently only a few staff and building contractors were inside at the time. They added that everyone was evacuated immediately with no casualties.

“The source of the fire is believed to be an electrical fault with a solar panel on the roof,” they said, adding “An investigation is underway. Brighton & Hove City Council will check all solar panels on all council buildings following this incident.”
You can't have a green omelette without burning a few buildings...

Iron Ladies

Madonna runs afoul of the PC music police:
The Queen of Pop found herself under a wave of criticism after she shared a picture of the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher from her Instagram account, captioned with the Iron Lady’s famous quote from 1989: "If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing."

Madonna tagged the photo with her own comment, “Thank you Margaret Thatcher,” followed with the hashtags #unapologetic, #rebelheart and a love heart.

It’s unclear why Madonna pitched her support for Thatcher, one of the one of the most divisive leaders in modern British history. Remember, this is a politician who, in the days after her passing in 2013, was the target of a social-media campaign to have "Ding! Dong! The Witch Is Dead” go to No. 1 on the U.K. singles chart (the 1939 recording narrowly missed the top spot).
Having your own opinion can be bad for your fan base...

Life On Mount Rushmore

Some would say it's still another planet:

Meat Mama

God bless America:
Facing off against several other teams, Schuyler’s challenge was to eat three meals consisting of a 72-ounce steak, a baked potato, a shrimp cocktail, a dinner salad, and a dinner roll. With each meal totaling just under 5 pounds, Schuyler ate about 14 3/4 pounds of food in 20 minutes.

The challenge is one of those promotional offers seen at many restaurants. In this case the customer has 60 minutes to finish the giant meal. If eaten in the prescribed time it is free, otherwise the meal costs $72.

“Schuyler finished her first steak dinner in 4 minutes and 18 seconds, which beats the restaurant’s record of 4 minutes and 58 seconds, which she set last May,” The Dallas Morning News reported.
With room left over for the mashed potatoes and gravy...

Spies For Dunking

Meet Dunk:
“To keep as much material out of local landfills as possible, NSA has operated recycling programs for decades,” the cartoon character says in the video.

Dunk goes on to urge kids to take a “waste audit” of their homes and schools to help make them more green.

“After all, you’re the future generation of this planet, so we need to keep it green for you and for all future generations,” Dunk tells the kids.
"And remember, kids-we're watching you..."

The Smallest Journey

The first steps sometimes really are the hardest:
J“I moved the pallet out of the way with my foot and I was going to turn around to my friend say ‘is that far enough?’. I took a step over – never in my life did I think there was a hole underneath, I thought it had just fallen over. The next thing I remember is the pain. It was awful.

“I fell and smashed my face on the pallet, and I was in the hole with blood all over me and I couldn’t move”.

Faal says the event, which left her with a suspected broken leg and two black eyes was so traumatic, she may never leave her house again. She was left lying in the open air for an hour waiting for a paramedic to arrive after her fall.
Did anyone happen to see a suspicious cartoon character put the hole there?

Charity On The Cheap

Along with possibly being unconstitutional, the Clinton Foundation are a bunch of cheapskates:
Between 2009 and 2012, the Clinton Foundation raised over $500 million dollars according to a review of IRS documents by The Federalist (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). A measly 15 percent of that, or $75 million, went towards programmatic grants. More than $25 million went to fund travel expenses. Nearly $110 million went toward employee salaries and benefits. And a whopping $290 million during that period — nearly 60 percent of all money raised — was classified merely as “other expenses.”
Maintaining the facade does cost money...

By The Books

What happens when you try to mandate fairness:
The way things used to work in Israel was that the two main booksellers – Steimetzky and Tzomet Sfarim – would offer massive discounts on books, often selling new titles at two for the price of one or even four books for 100 Israeli shekels, or about $25.

But under the new law’s dictates, any new book that’s been on the shelf 18 months or less may not be discounted. During the same time period, Israeli authors are guaranteed to earn a minimum of 8 percent of the price of the first 6,000 books sold and 10 percent of all subsequent books sold, the Jerusalem Post explained last year.

The left-wing Israel newspaper Haaretz, which usually writes in favor of “social justice” issues, conceded that the law “has had the opposite effect its backer promised it would bring.”

Publishers told Haaretz that the law “has upset the entire literary food chain” with sales of new book titles down between 40 and 60 percent and down 20 percent for books overall.
The market will reward on its own. Intervention is not necessary...

Study Or Die

When is homework too much?
In 2012, the Guardian reported on Department of Education research showing that two to three hours per day produced greater effects on achieving the highest results. In 2014, research at Stanford University found that too much homework can have a negative impact on children.

Homework can help to establish a routine and to develop independent learning skills that will be useful for professional life. Conversely, it could be argued that working at home in the evenings is the beginning of an unhealthy work-life balance and that there are academic drawbacks in studying instead of sleeping.
I'm sure many teenagers would agree...

Crumbling Foundation

The White House doesn't want to hear about the Clinton Foundation's troubles:
“I know there’s been a lot of accusations made about this, but not a lot of evidence,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at the daily briefing. “The president continues to be extraordinarily proud of the work that Secretary Clinton did as the Secretary of State. But for the details of some of those accusations, I’d refer you to Secretary Clinton’s campaign.”

“I’m not going to be in a position here where every time somebody raises a spurious claim, that I’m going to be the one sit down here and say that it’s not true,” Earnest explained to ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

Earnest noted that the administration and the Clinton Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding before Clinton took the helm of the State Department in 2009, saying it went “above and beyond the ethical guidelines that the federal government previously had in place.”
Of course, that's not exactly saying much...

Thugs Of Madison

How the John Doe cases threatened free speech:
When Vladimir Putin sends government thugs to raid opposition offices, the world clucks its tongue. But, after all, Putin’s a corrupt dictator, so what do you expect?

But in Wisconsin, Democratic prosecutors were raiding political opponents’ homes and, in a worse-than-Putin twist, they were making sure the world didn’t even find out, by requiring their targets to keep quiet.
Welcome to "progressive" America...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Vienna Calling

You have the right to the Vienna Convention?
Only in Queens, a borough that is home to nearly 1.1 million immigrants, the city’s international airport and perhaps New York’s most international hospital, would a 1963 treaty written to protect foreign nationals figure in the most mundane of court proceedings.

Officially, the Vienna Convention notice assures citizens of other countries who are arrested that they may contact their consulates for assistance. Unofficially, its mention seems to go unremarked upon by just about all of the 70,000 or so defendants who pass through the arraignment court in Kew Gardens each year.

Indeed, for just about all of these defendants, “Vienna Convention” is hardly the phrase they are waiting to hear.

“After 20 hours, you just want to get out,” said Anthony Watt, who was being arraigned on charges that included driving with a suspended license. “That’s all you’re trying to hear: released on your own recognizance.”
Can you take your case to the United Nations at least?

Fast Lane

Hillary sure seems to be in a hurry:
...a lunchtime visit to a main-street bakery and two more appointments later in the day were off-the-books and under the public's radar.

If police radar had been engaged, however, it would have clocked Hillary's signature black conversion van - 'Scooby', for the uninitiated – hitting 92 mph in a driving rainstorm on Interstate 89, where the top speed limit is 65.

No one in the motorcade displayed flashing lights or blasted a siren.

After Clinton emerged from Whitney Brothers, a children's furniture manufacturer, her black Chevy conversion van raced an hour north to the town of Claremont, hitting 73 in a 55 mph zone.

Two hours later Scooby was on the move to Concord, bookended by a Secret Service detail that parted the puddles and kept the motorcade nose-to-tail – with the caboose car slamming on the brakes time and again.
It's the Democrat school of driving...

Free Your Mind

Who needs pills?
Richard Byng, a professor at Britain's Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, said that, while current standard treatment for chronic depression is to keep taking anti-depressants, many people don't want to take them for long periods and others want to avoid side-effects.

In this study, 424 adults with recurrent major depression who were on maintenance anti-depressant drugs were randomly assigned either to come off their anti-depressants slowly and receive MBCT or to stay on their medication.

While 212 patients continued taking their anti-depressants, the other 212 attended eight group mindfulness therapy sessions and were given daily home practice as well as an option to have four follow-up sessions over a 12-month period.

Study results published in The Lancet medical journal showed that after two years, relapse rates were similar in both groups -- at 44 percent in the therapy group versus 47 percent in the anti-depressant drug group.

"Whilst this study doesn't show that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works any better than maintenance anti-depressant medication in reducing the rate of relapse ... these results suggest a new choice for the millions of people with recurrent depression on repeat prescriptions," said Willem Kuyken of Oxford University, who worked with Byng on the research.
This is your brain on therapy...

Flow Of Tiers

A legal setback for California's water ration plans:
The Orange County city used a rate structure that charged customers who used small amounts of water a lower rate than customers who used larger amounts.

But the 4th District Court of Appeal struck down San Juan Capistrano's fee plan, saying it violated voter-approved Proposition 218, which prohibits government agencies from charging more for a service than it costs to provide it.

The stakes are high because at least two-thirds of California water providers, including many in the Bay Area, use some form of the tiered rate system.

Gov. Jerry Brown immediately lashed out at the decision, saying it puts "a straitjacket on local government at a time when maximum flexibility is needed. My policy is and will continue to be: Employ every method possible to ensure water is conserved across California."
Legal or otherwise?

Poor Law

Getting a law degree isn't what it used to be:
Poor enrollment is hurting the bottom line at some schools. Washington and Lee’s School of Law said it plans to cut 12 positions in the fall, while Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School delivered pink slips to more than half of its faculty and staff members last summer.

Going to law school used to feel like a no-brainer for college graduates seeking financial security. But that calculus has changed, with many firms that suffered during the recession still struggling to fully recover. Last month, Wiley Rein, one of the Washington area’s biggest law firms, cut 48 attorneys and staff members, an estimated 9 percent of its overall workforce.

“It’s still really difficult for first-years. I’m seeing people with good credentials from good law schools struggling to get jobs,” said Darin Morgan, a partner at Major, Lindsey & Africa, a legal recruitment firm.
It's enough to make you want to make an honest living...

Tree Topper

I think that I shall never see:
Taylor told police that he was walking on Beechwood Drive when three men with shotguns abducted him and forced him into a van. He said they stole $2,500 from him and tied him to the tree, where they left him for several days.

Akron detectives noted that Taylor had no visible injuries despite being out in cold and raining weather for several days. He also showed no signs of dehydration.

Investigators subpoenaed his medical records from the hospital stay and found they were inconsistent with Taylor's story about being abducted and strapped to a tree for several days. A motive remains unclear.
Man versus tree?

Uber Crimestoppers

An Uber driver stops the bad guy:
The driver had a concealed-carry permit and acted in the defense of himself and others, Assistant State’s Attorney Barry Quinn said in court Sunday.

A group of people had been walking in front of the driver around 11:50 p.m. in the 2900 block of North Milwaukee Avenue when Everardo Custodio, 22, began firing into the crowd, Quinn said.

The driver pulled out a handgun and fired six shots at Custodio, hitting him several times, according to court records. Responding officers found Custodio lying on the ground, bleeding, Quinn said. No other injuries were reported.
Custudio was stupido, no?

Brothers In Arms

Oh, the horror:
On Monday, at a fund-raising event in Manhattan for the New York State Republican Party, David Koch told donors that he and his brother, who oversee one of the biggest private political organizations in the country, believed that Mr. Walker was the Republican Party’s best hope for recapturing the White House.

“We will support whoever the candidate is,” said Mr. Koch, according to two people who attended the event. “But it should be Scott Walker.”

The remark — made before dozens of top New York donors who had gathered to hear Mr. Walker speak at the Union League Club — could effectively end one of the most closely watched contests in the “invisible primary,” a period where candidates crisscross the country seeking not the support of voters but the blessing of their party’s biggest donors and fund-raisers.
Hillary's already doing that with her overseas friends, so...

Appetite Expression

Does looking at food kill your appetite for it?
...research has shown that when it comes to appetite, food porn may be a substitute for food itself. One 2011 study found that looking at pictures of food may turn people off from the real thing—but only if the food in the image has a similar flavor to whatever real item is about to be consumed. When volunteers viewed photos of salty snacks and then ate salted peanuts, they tended to enjoy the nuts less than people who had viewed photos of desserts.

And in 2013 study in mice published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, when researchers flooded the reward centers of the rodents’ brains with insulin, a hormone that triggers feelings of fullness, the mice lost interest in returning to places where they had previously been given food—suggesting, the authors said, that the brain’s reward centers may not respond as much to “food cues”—a feeding area for mice, a photo for humans—when the brain knows that the stomach is full.
Give me more cheese anyway...

The Price Isn't Right

The price of lack of competition:
Health-care conglomeration aligns with the Affordable Care Act, which created incentives for physicians and hospitals to work together in “accountable care organizations.” But an important and often forgotten prerequisite for this model is hospital competition.
....

Today’s frenzy of hospital mergers and physician practice acquisitions is giving hospital systems even greater leverage to inflate opaque “charge-master” medical bills that even hospitals are sometimes unable to itemize sensibly. With no mechanism to allow free-market forces to keep prices in check, this translates into higher health-insurance deductibles and copays for insured Americans, and in the case of Medicare and Medicaid, higher taxes.
The law of intended consequences...