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Today in History: January 13, 1863
It’s almost too perfect. A man named Thomas Crapper invents the world’s first indoor one-piece flushing toilet on this day in history, and the world rejoices. The problem is, it’s not true, particularly that “first” part. Crapper was instrumental in drawing the public’s attention to the product in his London store, which was the world’s first sink, toilet and bath showroom; but his role was more as a salesman, not inventor in this case. An article in “Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine” said Crapper “should best be remembered as a merchant of plumbing products, a terrific salesman and advertising genius.”
It probably didn’t hurt that Mr. Crapper was the official plumber of a few prominent members of the royal family. For instance, he handled all the plumbing and fixtures at Sandringham house, one of the Royal residences, and received Royal warrants from Edward VII and George V. ...
President Obama went before Congress one last time, to offer a plea for civic unity—and some sharp jabs at Republican presidential candidates.
President Obama and his aides promised that this year’s State of the Union address would be different, and he delivered on that promise. It was a somewhat unusual speech: Surprisingly devoted to rebutting Republican candidates for president, unusually loose and humorous, and elsewhere strikingly cerebral, passing up the tear-jerking climaxes of past addresses for a wonky and cerebral—though no less heartfelt—plea for civics and a better politics.
The goal of the speech, aides said in previews, would be for Obama to begin to frame his own legacy for the historians. He would eschew the standard litany of policy ideas in favor of a broader look at the future. That’s what he did.
Early on, the president articulated the progressive view of the world. “America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights,” he said. “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears.” But he added, “Such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together.” That’s a clear-eyed view of history for a leader who has often fallen into the trap of portraying history as an inexorable march toward human perfection. ...
• Part of speech was seen as attack on tenor and content of Republican primary
• Marco Rubio: ‘This president has been the single most divisive figure’
• Ted Cruz: ‘This was less a State of the Union than it was a state of denial’
As Barack Obama sought to ease the fears of an anxious nation in his final State of the Union address, the Republicans seeking to replace him in the White House said it was the president who had sown divisions among the American public.
Presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, senators of Florida and Texas, respectively, reacted swiftly to Obama’s address by criticizing both his tone and focus.
During an interview with Fox News, Rubio said Obama had “bitterly divided this country, and done so for his own gain”.
“This president has been the single most divisive figure this country has had over the last decade,” Rubio said.
In his own appearance on Fox, Cruz said the president was “out of touch” and more concerned with “political correctness” than with national security.
“This was less a State of the Union than it was a state of denial,” said Cruz, who chose to skip the address in favor of the campaign trail. ...
So the dumbass skips the speech, then bitches about what he probably didn't even listen to.......
The future promises crazy adventures throughout the cosmos, and it should be considered our good luck that we’re alive at the right time to witness the birth of a spacefaring race. In true sci-fi fashion, the upcoming space technologies responsible for our ascension to the stars range from wacky to downright suicidal.
10. Startram The Magnetic Space Train
For the measly cost of $20 billion, the proposed launch system Startram is expected to send 300,000-ton payloads into orbit at an ultracompetitive rate of about $40 per kilogram ($20/lb). That’s 99 percent less than the current cost of $11,000 per kilogram ($5,000/lb) of using solar power satellites.
To do this, Startram will not use rockets, propellants, or ionic drives. Instead, it will use electromagnetic repulsion. The concept is an old one in science fiction and an awesome one in practice, with real-life levitating trains currently ferrying passengers at nearly 600 kilometers per hour (370 mph). ...
America has pared back its foreign entanglements, and its economy has regained its balance—but large chunks of the public have not.
To put President Obama’s last State of the Union speech in context, I reread his first. Placing them side-by-side illustrates not just the way Obama’s agenda has changed during his terms in office, but the way America’s entire political debate has changed.
The first thing that stands out is how the decline of economic terror has created space for other terrors. In 2009, Obama pleaded with Americans not to trigger a run on the banks: “You should also know,” he insisted, “that the money you’ve deposited in banks across the country is safe.” He talked about Americans being economically ruined: “The job you thought you’d retire from but now have lost; the business you built your dreams upon that’s now hanging by a thread; the college acceptance letter your child had to put back in the envelope.”
By comparison, America’s current economic conditions are placid. In 2009, unemployment was the preeminent issue in American politics. Today, it’s one among many. In his 2009 State of the Union, Obama mentioned the word “deficit” 17 times. This year, he mentioned it once. Even the Republicans running to succeed him don’t bring it up that much. ...
In his final State of the Union speech, the president went down swinging against the likes of Donald Trump – but he maintained his cautious reputation
“The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose,” wrote James Baldwin. “You do not need 10 such men, only one will do.”
Barack Obama had nothing to lose on Tuesday. It was his final State of the Union address, the last major set piece of presidential theatre for which he would command centre stage. No more presidential elections, midterms or protracted battles with the Republican Congress. The rest of the United States is already looking over his shoulder to watch his successors slug it out.
For the first time in that role, Obama could speak over the heads of his immediate audience – Congress and the American people – to address a nation, but also his legacy.
There were brief moments when he sounded like Obama the community organiser from Chicago’s south side, speaking up there behind the dais in Washington one last time. He framed his message in terms of the powerless and the powerful, flipping the script on who, exactly, bears responsibility for hard times:
"Food stamp recipients did not cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did. Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts."
But, characteristically, Obama was not dangerous. ...
With video goodnesses.......
We feel like we know the general history of Christianity: Christ was born, he spouted some stuff about free love and messed with the man (the Ro-man), then bada-boom-bada-bing his followers rule the world. But there are several chapters too awkward, terrifying or just plain embarrassing for your average Sunday school teacher to handle. Come, let's dive neck deep into the truly weird antics of early Christians.
#5. Women Played A Huge Part In Church History (And Were Entirely Written Out)
Before Christians could freely practice their faith, the whole thing was more secretive than a My Little Pony forum. Perhaps that is why the movement largely coalesced around women instead of wild-eyed prophets screaming their faith to the skies 24/7. Phoebe was the trusted messenger of Apostle Paul, and partly responsible for helping establish a standardized dogma. Women like Paula, Marcella, and Fabiola were the driving force behind social services projects that organized religion would eventually become known for -- you know, little things such as monasteries and convents and hospitals for the underprivileged.
"We also had dope ass bake sales."
As the new year begins, new polling shows a reversal in the Democratic primary. What, if anything, stopped the frontrunner’s momentum?
A funny thing happened between mid-December and now. When everyone went into holiday slumber, Hillary Clinton was sailing high; Bernie Sanders, after shocking most observers with his impressive popularity, seemed to have plateaued around 30 percent. Now, as the homestretch before the Iowa caucuses (February 1) and New Hampshire primary (February 9) draw closer, the race is getting tighter.
As I wrote yesterday, Sanders has begun making an argument that he is the more electable candidate in the race, a surprising turn. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed him closing the gap in Iowa to three points and leading in New Hampshire. Two new polls on Tuesday bring more welcome news for the Sanders campaign. Monmouth University finds him opening up a whopping 14 point lead in New Hampshire. A Quinnipiac poll shows Sanders up five points among likely caucusgoers in Iowa, his first lead in months. And a CBS/New York Times poll shows her national lead dropping from 20 to 7. ...
The sitting president didn’t name the Republican front-runner in his State of the Union, but Donald Trump and his politics were front and center on Tuesday
The one person who can stand up to Donald Trump isn’t Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton – or even Ted Cruz. It’s President Barack Obama.
In his final State of the Union on Tuesday, Obama didn’t settle for running down a list of accomplishments or even outlining what policies he’d like to see enacted in the coming year. Instead he set his sights on the future of America, by focusing in part on who might be elected in November.
But rather than coming out as a surrogate for Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat, Obama defined himself more abstractly as against fear. It’s a clever move, implicating both Donald Trump and to a lesser extent Ted Cruz, who’ve in recent weeks capitalized on the politics of fear – both Americans’ economic anxieties and xenophobia – to drive their campaign messages home.
It’s the kind of insinuation that only a wordsmith could get away with, and so deft was his attack on the GOP’s frontrunners on Tuesday that he never even had to name them to invoke them. ...
Action movies are known for their over-the-top destruction, high-tech gadgetry, amazing vehicles, and some really expensive set pieces. Of course, these movies are all fictional, and they sometimes utilize fictional technology. But if they did happen in real life, what would the financial costs be? This question has driven some people to examine a few famous action films, and they’ve even calculated the estimated costs of different aspects of the films.
It is also important to note that some of the entries may contain mild spoilers.
10. Saving Matt Damon
What is it with Matt Damon and needing to be rescued? It seems in a lot of his movies that he’s either stranded or needs to escape a catastrophe. The fact that he needs to be saved so much inspired one Quora user to look up how much money would have been spent on rescuing Matt Damon’s many characters.
In Courage Under Fire, he needed a Gulf War I helicopter rescue ($300,000), and in Saving Private Ryan, he required a World War II search party ($100,000). Damon needed a Middle East private security return flight in Syriana ($500,000), a US army transport from Baghdad in The Green Zone ($500,000), and there’s also the space station security deployment and damages in Elysium ($100 million). And let’s not forget his three biggest expenses to date. There was the Mars mission in The Martian ($200 billion), the Earth evacuation spaceship in Titan AE ($200 billion), and that interstellar spacecraft in Interstellar ($500 billion). ...
Knowing it doesn’t matter whether one plays one’s age, one’s birthday or one’s lucky number, but sweating it anyway. Counting winnings that will never be won, deciding whether to pay off the mortgage, donate to charity or become a space tourist. Relishing five quiet minutes with a spouse, a child, a stranger — or five minutes alone — picking numbers as the sun sets over the corner store.
Such are the subtle joys of playing Powerball: a supposedly stupid game for stupid people who like a few moments of stupid fun. It’s ridiculous to equate a lottery drawing with a historic moment of national unity: V-E Day or the day that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon or … well, have there been many days of national unity since then that didn’t involve enduring or remembering a tragedy? When the alternative to a silly game is divisive election-year politics or gut-wrenching headlines about the Islamic State, we might be advised to spend $2 in the name of shared experience, even if spending that $2 demonstrates we are fools. ...
Well, this is it: the first North American lottery over $1 billion. With an advertised jackpot of $1.5 billion, and only five other Powerball lotteries1 north of a half-billion, we are far, far from home when it comes to reliably forecasting the turnout to this lottery. But the point remains: In all the trajectories of the model we’re playing around with, there’s a ballpark 95 percent chance someone wins this.
Here’s where we stand: based on the old forecast — the one we used for Friday’s estimate — we’d estimate about 1.008 billion tickets will be sold for Wednesday’s jackpot. Based on that number — which is totally unprecedented and based on far too much extrapolation, keep in mind — we’d estimate a 97 percent chance of at least one winner on Wednesday’s drawing.
It’s worth noting here that it’s very hard to develop a sanity test for this number. On one hand, sure, I could totally see the number of tickets sold for this lottery to be nearly double Saturday’s sales, especially given the wall-to-wall press coverage. On the other hand, a billion tickets (more than three times the population of the United States) is a ludicrous number! In the end, this lottery will be exciting not for what we’re able to guesstimate now, but rather the new data it’ll give us for next time. ...
This Day In History: January 13, 1962
“Nothing in moderation – We all loved him.” – Ernie Kovacs epitaph
On Jan 13, 1962, the immensely popular, cigar-puffing comedian Ernie Kovacs was killed in a car accident when he crashed into a telephone pole on his way home from a baby shower held for Mr. and Mrs. Milton Berle. Kovacs lost control of his Chevrolet Corvair at 2 a.m. in Los Angeles during a light rainstorm. He was 42 years old.
Kovacs was an innovative and groundbreaking comedian who influenced offbeat funny men such as Johnny Carson, Steve Martin and Conan O’Brien. A TV comedy pioneer, he had a series of television shows during the 1950s, where he played a host of zany and surreal characters. ...
Donald Trump is actually right about something: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.
The Constitution provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are “such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,” while aliens are “such as are born out of it.” The key to this division is the assumption of allegiance to one’s country of birth. The Americans who drafted the Constitution adopted this principle for the United States. James Madison, known as the “father of the Constitution,” stated, “It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. . . . [And] place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”
Cruz is, of course, a U.S. citizen. As he was born in Canada, he is not natural-born. His mother, however, is an American, and Congress has provided by statute for the naturalization of children born abroad to citizens. Because of the senator’s parentage, he did not have to follow the lengthy naturalization process that aliens without American parents must undergo. Instead, Cruz was naturalized at birth. This provision has not always been available. For example, there were several decades in the 19th century when children of Americans born abroad were not given automatic naturalization. ...
Carly Fiorina’s week is, thus far, not so hot: she’s polling between 1 and 3 percent, and both she and Rand Paul learned yesterday they’re being booted down to the kid’s table “undercard” debate. We’ll miss Carly whenever she departs, but happily, we’ll always have this very fun interview in Glamour to remember her by, in which she manages to say only a handful of things that are baldly not true.
Fiorina has had a bit of an issue with exaggeration and/or misrepresentation this campaign season: pretending like she’d seen a nonexistent abortionist de-braining a baby in a Planned Parenthood sting video, for one, and lightly rewriting the history of her time at Hewlett-Packard. On Tuesday, God love her, she wedged a couple more misstatements into an interview with conservative columnist S.E. Cupp, part of the magazine’s expanded online politics coverage: ...
When I'm not on Facebook complaining about the internet, I can usually be found on the internet complaining about Facebook. If I wasn't so hopelessly addicted to the ego trip it gives me, you'd better believe I'd deactivate my page, by god. But since I've already reserved myself to being shackled to this fucking website until long after I'm dead, I really feel like I should be allowed to enjoy my time spent booking some face.
One major irritation, which has managed to snuggle itself into my newsfeed between the pictures of people's food and incorrect statistics about immigrants, is pictures of Minions from Despicable Me. I'm not the first to complain about these things and I won't be the last but Christ in a casket, what the fuck is happening to the internet?
If you made this, DM me on Twitter and I'll mail you a wasp's nest filled with fabulous prizes!
What makes a private company’s algorithm label some people and addresses more threatening than others during 911 calls?
When Tamir Rice was killed by police officers in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2014, some observers assigned a portion of the blame to a 911 dispatcher. She relayed a citizen’s concern that a black male was sitting on a park swing, pulling a gun from his waist band, and pointing it at people. But she failed to convey the caller’s observation that the male was “probably a juvenile” and that the gun was “probably fake.” Perhaps that information would have changed the behavior of the cop who shot to kill even as he stepped from his squad car. As it turned out, the gun was indeed a harmless toy, and Rice, the black male holding it, was just 12 years old.
Every year, incidents like that one underscore how crucial it is for 911 dispatchers to piece together and pass along relevant information to first responders. Cops, firefighters, and EMTs react in ways shaped by whatever they’re told.
Of course, even the best dispatchers can only piece together so much context in a matter of seconds. Often all they have to go on is a single, frantic 911 caller of unknown reliability. And that’s where the technology company Intrado sees a market opportunity. ...
Virginia Del. Mark Cole
A bill filed by a Virginia lawmaker this week would require schools to be certain that children are using the restroom corresponding to their “correct anatomical sex.”
The legislation, which would prohibit transgender students from using the bathroom matching their gender, is being sponsored by Republican Del. Mark Cole.
House Bill 663 defines “anatomical sex” as “the physical condition of being male or female, which is determined by a person’s anatomy.”
“Local school boards shall develop and implement policies that require every school restroom, locker room, or shower room that is designated for use by a specific gender to solely be used by individuals whose anatomical sex matches such gender designation,” the measure states. ...
Prostitution, war, and espionage are three of humanity’s oldest pursuits. They also have long, shared histories. Armies made of hot-blooded young men have always attracted ladies of the night. At the same time, feminine wiles have often been used to obtain intelligence from the enemy, and horrifying tales of forced prostitution (or sexual slavery) have persisted throughout history, especially regarding World War II. These have provided the following intriguing and depressing tales . . .
10. A Civil War General Popularized The Term ‘Hookers’
Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker was a Union general known for his aggressiveness and popularity among the troops. This led him to be appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac in 1863 before he crumbled under pressure (and, to be fair, was knocked unconscious by a cannonball) at the Battle of Chancellorsville, giving Robert E. Lee one of his greatest victories. His first major role in the Civil War was organizing the defense of Washington, DC, following the Union defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas). In this capacity, he rounded up all of the city’s prostitutes into a single red-light district which was placed off-limits and thereafter known as “Hooker’s Division.” ...
Try again Volkswagen.
California isn't happy with Volkswagen recall proposal for its emissions-cheating diesel vehicles. Today the state rejected the automakers plan saying it "contained gaps and lacked sufficient detail," lacked "enough information for technical evaluation" and does "not adequately address the overall impacts on vehicle performance, emissions and safety." So it's back to the drawing board for the company.
CARB (California Air Resources Board) chair Mary D. Nichols didn't mince words in today's release, "Volkswagen made a decision to cheat on emissions tests and then tried to cover it up. They continued and compounded the lie and when they were caught they tried to deny it. The result is thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide that have harmed the health of Californians." Nichols continued, "they need to make it right. Today's action is a step in the direction of assuring that will happen." ...
Only the newest Internet Explorer version is now supported.
Microsoft's new support policy for Internet Explorer, announced all the way back in 2014, kicks in today. From now on, Microsoft will only support the newest version of Internet Explorer on each supported version of Windows.
Windows Vista, for example, shipped with Internet Explorer and had downloadable updates to Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9. Today, Microsoft patched Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9 on Windows Vista. But next month, with the new policy, only Internet Explorer 9 will receive updates. Versions 7 and 8 have dropped out of support. On Windows 7 and 8.1 the only supported version will be Internet Explorer 11.
At the same time, Microsoft is also dropping support for Windows 8. To continue to receive security updates, Windows 8 users will have to install the free Windows 8.1 update (or, of course, the Windows 10 upgrade). That's because Microsoft is treating the 8.1 update as if it were a Service Pack. Microsoft's policy when a Service Pack is released is to support the old version and the new version in parallel for at least 24 months and then force the use of the new version. ...
Most of us have a pretty terrible understanding of history. Our knowledge is spotty, with large gaps all over the place, and the parts of history we do end up knowing a lot about usually depend on the particular teachers, parents, books, articles, and movies we happen to come across in our lives. Without a foundational, tree-trunk understanding of all parts of history, we often forget the things we do learn, leaving even our favorite parts of history a bit hazy in our heads. Raise your hand if you’d like to go on stage and debate a history buff on the nuances of a historical time period of your choosing. That’s what I thought.
The reason history is so hard is that it’s so soft. To truly, fully understand a time period, an event, a movement, or an important historical figure, you’d have to be there, and many times over. You’d have to be in the homes of the public living at the time to hear what they’re saying; you’d have to be a fly on the wall in dozens of secret, closed-door meetings and conversations; you’d need to be inside the minds of the key players to know their innermost thoughts and motivations. Even then, you’d be lacking context. To really have the complete truth, you’d need background—the cultural nuances and national psyches of the time, the way each of the key players was raised during childhood and the subtle social dynamics between those players, the impact of what was going on in other parts of the world, and an equally-thorough understanding of the many past centuries that all of these things grew out of. ...
CES was all about making everything smarter and getting devices to talk to each other. But few people were talking about the potential for hacking.
If you go by what everyone was saying at the massive CES tech showcase, we're speeding toward a future in which everything is connected and talking to every other thing, all to make your life a little better.
The annual gadget extravaganza was full of electronic marvels, from Samsung's super-fridge to Internet-savvy cars and even diaper-changing pads that measure poop. Those and a zillion other smart devices had the Las Vegas show floor and company suites abuzz last week with optimism about the so-called Internet of Things.
Here's what fewer folks were discussing: the nagging concerns about security that have cast a shadow over the shiny Internet of Things promise. It was just two months ago, for instance, that the hack of Chinese electronic-toy maker VTech exposed the personal information of 5 million customers. More broadly, there's the unsettling notion that smart homes can open the door to hackers. ...
There are only a handful of science-fiction movies that actually show what moving about inside a spaceship would really be like. In most flicks, they use a type of "artificial gravity" that is never fully explained. Now, a new paper accepted for publication in Physical Review D might turn that science-fiction idea into a reality.
Professor André Füzfa, from the Universite de Namur in Belgium, thinks we have the technology to create and manipulate weak artificial gravitational fields. The claim is bold but grounded. Füzfa has calculated that by using very strong magnets, it’s possible to create tiny distortions in the space-time.
Albeit small, the effect should be strong enough to be detectable with current instruments (but would only be relevant for particles). The dream of having artificial gravity on a spaceship is still in the distant future, but being able to produce gravitational fields would turn the study of gravity from a passive to an active science. ...
When you hear the word "ratcatcher" you probably picture a character from a Charles Dickens novel. Instead, you should be picturing people like Richard Reynolds, leader of the Ryders Alley Trencher-Fed Society (or R.A.T.S. for short), who hunts rodents in New York using terriers and dachshunds. We reached out to Reynolds to learn more about his artisanal approach to pest control, and he told us that ...
#6. Ratcatching Isn't Just For Exterminators
Nothing important ever goes away -- it just evolves -- and today the tradition of ratcatching lives on through professional exterminators and amateur rat-hunting groups that prefer to use well-trained canines instead of poison.
An adorable weapon for a more civilized age.
Americans, unsurprisingly, are not hitting the major dietary milestones of the recommended diet—and they haven’t been for quite some time. But the ways in which they’re doing that has changed quite a bit in the last few decades.
The USDA put together this look at the distance between the recommended percentages of a balanced diet and the percentages of foods actually consumed, in both 1970 and with the latest data from 2013.
Google is adding a new feature to Maps for Android that could make its navigation software even smarter. Called "Driving Mode," the new Maps mode will take into account your history and current location to try and determine your destination. The app will then suggest info about your route like travel times and traffic conditions, according to Android Police. It appears to be similar to the algorithmic suggestions offered up in Google Now cards, yet tailored for getting around by car and even when you already know how to get there. You'll be able to launch Driving Mode with an app icon shortcut or through Maps' in-app sidebar. ...
Over six decades ago, Denny’s restaurant was founded, not as a general diner, but as Danny’s Donuts on the promise that they would “serve the best cup of coffee, make the best donuts, give the best service, offer the best value and stay open 24 hours a day.”
Subsequently operating under its slogan, “America’s Diner is always open,” they have not disappointed. Offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner 24-7-365, Denny’s became a favorite eating joint for many individuals, especially on holidays. However, in 1988, Denny’s restaurants all across the country did something they’d never done before: They closed. That’s right, for the first time in their 35 years of operation, the chain of restaurants closed their doors and gave their 60,000+ employees a paid day off.
There was one problem. Owing to the fact that they had never closed before, of their 1,221 operating locations at the time, 700 of them didn’t have locks on the doors. And that’s not all. Many of the buildings that had locks had no keys. What’s the rule? If you haven’t used something in six months, a year, five years get rid of it? Apparently for some employees, the same rule applied for the restaurant keys. ...
Today's Video Goodnesses (and not-so-goodnesses)