April 14, 2016

“Hey, that’s MY spot!”


This Day In History: April 14, 1975

As it became clear that the communists were going to overtake South Vietnam in the closing days of the Vietnam War, fear began to spread about what was in store for those left behind. It was rumored that Vietnamese children fathered by American servicemen would be dealt with especially harshly by the NVA. Thus, President Ford initiated “Operation Baby Lift”, which transported more than 3,000 children out of South Vietnam bound for adoption in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. Many South Vietnamese mothers jumped at the chance to save their mixed-race children by helping them escape their war-torn country.

Not everyone thought it was such an altruistic, well-meaning idea though. Some saw it as a last desperate attempt to garner sympathy for a highly unpopular war. Some Americans posed the question whether the fear of communism justified snatching children from their country. …

April 14, 1981: Columbia space shuttle returns to Earth after first flight

“And we have liftoff, liftoff of America’s first space shuttle!”

That’s what Hugh Harris, NASA’s launch commentator, told the world when Columbia launched from the Kennedy Space Center on April 12th, 1981. “The shuttle has cleared the tower.”

Columbia was the first re-usable spacecraft for humankind and marked the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program, forever changing space travel.

Two days after the flight launched, with Commander John Young and pilot Bob Crippen on board, it safely touched down at Edwards Air Force base in California. After 36 orbits around the Earth, mission STS-1 was a success. …

The Real Story Behind HBO’s ‘Confirmation’ From The NPR Reporter Who Broke The Story

HBO’s new movie Confirmation chronicles the intense confirmation battle for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after Anita Hill, a former employee, claimed he sexually harassed her.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg broke the story to the world in 1991, and she joins the NPR Politics podcast team to reflect on what happened, how it happened and why it still matters.

“I’d been hearing all summer long that there were women who said they were harassed by Clarence Thomas when he was at the EEOC and when he was at the Education Department,” Totenberg said. “But I could never really prove it. And then I heard about this woman, Anita Hill.” …

10 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries From Australia

Mentioning Australia and mysteries in the same sentence may conjure up thoughts of Taman Shud, the “dingo ate my baby” case, and the disappearance of Harold Holt. However there are many more mysteries in Australia that simply refuse to be solved.

10. Luna Park Ghost Train Fire

In June 1979, a happy family was waiting for a ferry to transport them to Luna Park, a popular amusement park located in Sydney. Jenny and John Godson had looked forward to this moment for a long time, wanting to spoil their two young sons with a fun day out. After having visited the Taronga Zoo, they finally made their way to Luna Park where they had a whale of a time going on all the different rides the park has to offer. At the end of the night, the family had to make a final decision before leaving for home. Which ride would they spend their final four tickets on?

The boys decided on the Ghost Train and headed off to the ride with their father while Jenny went off on a short detour for an ice cream. When she returned a few minutes later, she walked into a nightmare. Instead of seeing her husband and two boys having a fun Ghost Train ride, she saw smoke billowing from the train as it hurtled down the track and park employees trying desperately to get people off it each time it emerged from a tunnel. …

‘I have a conscience’: the Wall Streeters fighting for Bernie Sanders in New York

The financial industry looms large in the coming primary – and some bankers say they’ll push for the Vermont senator even if his policies could hurt their careers

A few months ago, Democratic party leaders attended a meeting in New York with some of the titans of Wall Street, among them heads of brand-name hedge funds and top private equity firms. The gathering was billed not as the usual high-dollar fundraiser but as a bridge-building exercise in which powerful financiers could vent their opinions privately to Democratic bosses.

Two US senators who formed part of the Democratic delegation kicked off the meeting by inviting the financiers to air their concerns about party policy. One of the big name Wall Street figures stood up, proclaimed grandly that he was speaking on behalf of every financial person in the room, and then slammed into the Democratic lawmakers for having had the audacity even to consider disbanding a low-tax arrangement popular with hedge fund managers known as “carried interest”.

“That was startling to me,” said one of the other financiers present in the room that day. “Here was a gathering of Wall Street’s greatest minds and what were we discussing? Not how to generate more jobs or create an economy that works for everyone, but how to protect our vested interests and tax advantages.” …

What Happened to the National Enquirer’s Ted Cruz Story?

Checking in on the tabloid’s first big move of the election season.

After a National Enquirer story late last month quasi-alleged that Ted Cruz has serially cheated on his wife, rival candidate Donald Trump emerged as a fan of the paper, directing our attention to scoops of yore. “They were right about O.J. Simpson, John Edwards, and many others,” noted Trump in a campaign statement. Implication: The Enquirer might be right this time, too.

Does Trump have a point? The Enquirer indeed found photos of O.J. sporting Bruno Magli shoes he claimed he’d never worn (which bolstered bloody footprint evidence introduced at the Juice’s civil trial). And the paper’s been spot-on in uncovering the scandals of some previous presidential candidates. Ask Gary Hart (photographed with paramour Donna Rice aboard his lap), Jesse Jackson (busted for fathering a love child), or, most famously, Edwards (caught lying after he knocked up not-wife Rielle Hunter). Given these past reportorial triumphs, should we be inclined to trust the supermarket tabloid’s highest-profile move of this election season? Was the Enquirer’s wafer-thin piece alleging that “political operatives” are “digging into at least five affairs Ted Cruz supposedly had” just the first stab at a bigger story to come? …

10 Audacious Forgery Scandals That Shook The Art World

Art forgery is one the largest criminal industries in the world and costs collectors billions of dollars every year. It remains popular because the rewards are so much greater than the risks—most fakes are not discovered. Some forgers are so outlandish, though, that they become famous in their own right.

10. The Works Of Elmyr de Hory

During his lifetime, Elmyr de Hory was so famous as an art forger that his villa in Ibiza was a frequent stopover for the jet set, the same people who were duped into buying his fakes. De Hory was the subject of F for Fake, an Orson Welles film, and today, his forged paintings can sell for a great deal of money. Many museums still display his works because the curators believe that they were created by great masters.

De Hory constantly moved from one city to another. Much of his early life is unknown, so all we have are the anecdotes that were told by de Hory. He was born in Hungary and claimed that his entire family was killed by the Nazis.

In 1947, he made his way to New York City and found a way to pay for art lessons. His own paintings never sold well, but his detailed copies of other artists’ paintings sold quickly. De Hory always used period canvases to ensure the air of authenticity.

De Hory and his associates escaped detection until 1967 when a huge scandal about fake art seemed to point to him. But the question remained: Why did it take so long for anyone to notice? …

US corporations have $1.4tn hidden in tax havens, claims Oxfam report

Charity analysis of the 50 biggest US businesses claims Apple have $181bn held offshore, while General Electric has $119bn and Microsoft $108bn

US corporate giants such as Apple, Walmart and General Electric have stashed $1.4tn (£980bn) in tax havens, despite receiving trillions of dollars in taxpayer support, according to a report by anti-poverty charity Oxfam.

The sum, larger than the economic output of Russia, South Korea and Spain, is held in an “opaque and secretive network” of 1,608 subsidiaries based offshore, said Oxfam.

The charity’s analysis of the financial affairs of the 50 biggest US corporations comes amid intense scrutiny of tax havens following the leak of the Panama Papers.

And the charity said its report, entitled Broken at the Top was a further illustration of “massive systematic abuse” of the global tax system. …

How to Fix the U.S. Supreme Court Impasse

Some progressives say Obama could appoint Merrick Garland without Senate approval. Only voters can change the situation.

Americans, like all humans, are trapped in history; thus we can’t know now whether the American republic is on its deathbed or simply spiking one of its periodic fevers. The patient has recovered from near-fatal illness before; but it has to be said that lately—with the rise of a potential dictator in the form of Donald Trump and the effective collapse of a functioning national legislature—its breathing has developed an ominous rattle.

In such moments, the first rule for would-be physicians is well known: Primum non nocere—“First, do no harm.” But in recent weeks, a handful of progressives have ignored that principle. A perfectly dreadful idea has been circulating: President Obama should, after waiting a few more weeks for the Senate to act on his Supreme Court nomination, simply proclaim Judge Merrick Garland “confirmed” and send him over the One First St. NE to take Antonin Scalia’s vacant seat.

A worse idea could hardly be imagined. But the fact that serious people are discussing it demonstrates how effectively conservative legislators have undermined the very idea of civil dialogue. The congressional majorities have begun to act as if the United States doesn’t have an elected president. They will not debate an authorization for use of force against ISIS; they will not permit Obama’s budget director to testify about the budget; they will not hold hearings on his Supreme Court nomination. The message has been that the administration is not legitimate and no real legislating will be done on any subject. …


This Day In History: April 14, 966

The Christianization of Poland was a shrewd political choice by Mieszko I, the first ruler of Poland, to ally his country with the Czechs who had also embraced Christianity, rather than the Germans who still practiced Paganism. Uniting the Polish people under a common faith was also a way to strengthen the country and their allegiance to Mieszko I. Dobrowa of Bohemia (a Czech kingdom), Mieszko’s wife and a devout Christian herself, was thought to be instrumental in the promotion of Christianity in Poland. This mass baptism is considered the birth of the modern Polish state.

In the week leading up to the mass Baptism, those receiving the sacrament prepared by attending catechism classes and fasting. During the actual ceremony groups segregated by sex were baptized by having holy water poured over their heads or by total immersion in water. The priests would then anoint the new Christians by making the sign of the cross on their foreheads with sacred oil. …


The murky history of moderation, and how it’s shaping the future of free speech

Julia Mora-Blanco remembers the day, in the summer of 2006, when the reality of her new job sunk in. A recent grad of California State University, Chico, Mora-Blanco had majored in art, minored in women’s studies, and spent much of her free time making sculptures from found objects and blown-glass. Struggling to make rent and working a post-production job at Current TV, she’d jumped at the chance to work at an internet startup called YouTube. Maybe, she figured, she could pull in enough money to pursue her lifelong dream: to become a hair stylist.

It was a warm, sunny morning, and she was sitting at her desk in the company’s office, located above a pizza shop in San Mateo, an idyllic and affluent suburb of San Francisco. Mora-Blanco was one of 60-odd twenty-somethings who’d come to work at the still-unprofitable website.

Mora-Blanco’s team — 10 people in total — was dubbed The SQUAD (Safety, Quality, and User Advocacy Department). They worked in teams of four to six, some doing day shifts and some night, reviewing videos around the clock. Their job? To protect YouTube’s fledgling brand by scrubbing the site of offensive or malicious content that had been flagged by users, or, as Mora-Blanco puts it, “to keep us from becoming a shock site.” The founders wanted YouTube to be something new, something better — “a place for everyone” — and not another eBaum’s World, which had already become a repository for explicit pornography and gratuitous violence. …

An Attack on Privacy From the Senators Charged With Protecting It

A newly proposed anti-encryption bill would put every American at greater risk from foreign governments, hackers, and President Trump.

A generation ago—after America’s spy agencies were exposed as perpetrators of massive civil-rights violations, abuses of power, and misdeeds abroad—oversight committees were created to protect liberal democracy from the national security state. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr now sit on one of those committees. And they are not just shirking their core duty, they are aggressively undermining it.

Rather than working to protect Americans from the prying eyes of government in this golden age for surveillance, when their every movement is tracked by the smart phones in their pockets, license plate readers on their roads, and supercomputers at NSA headquarters, they are pushing a new bill that would do more than any law in the country’s history to undermine privacy for virtually every American.

In effect, it would outlaw end-to-end cryptography. “The bill would make illegal the sort of user-controlled encryption that’s in every modern iPhone, in all billion devices that run Whatsapp’s messaging service, and dozens of other products,” Wired explains. There would be no easy way to email or text securely with your boyfriend or girlfriend, your best friend, your spouse, your boss, your doctor, or your psychiatrist. …

7 Ways To Know It’s Time To Break Up With Your Job

You tried the EWB thing (employee without benefits), but somebody always ends up wanting something more. So you’ve stopped freelancing and have settled down with a job where you can see a future for yourself. You’re done with the late nights, finding yourself in a new office at 9 a.m., and that awkward “onboarding” phase. Good for you.

But could your job actually be abusive? Sure, your job would never physically put you in harm’s way by trapping you in a coal mine or holding your hand near a lathe, but that doesn’t mean that your job isn’t abusing you in other ways. New studies show that over 100 percent of people may be in an emotionally abusive relationship with their job. How can you tell? Here are seven telltale signs.

#7. It Isolates You

One of the first things an emotional abuser will do is isolate you from your family and friends. At first, this may be done in a way that seems caring: lavish meals in a company cafeteria, department softball teams, paid training, even team-building exercises in exotic locales. Spending time with your job is healthy, but a job that coaxes you into spending time with it 24/7 is a red flag.

“You can still enjoy the weekend through the windows.”

Look out for isolating behavior that gets worse as your employment continues. Did your job start as just 9 to 5 and now you find yourself spending every waking hour together? Does your job limit your contact with loved ones even when you’re at the office? Some jobs may even physically block access to Facebook so you cannot reach out to those who care about you most. …

Half of all people could be carrying ‘gay genes’

Straight men and women carry genes associated with homosexuality and pass them to their children, finds study

Around half of all people, including straight men and women, could carry “gay genes”, meaning that they continue to be passed down the generations despite the tendency of homosexuals not to have children, new research suggests.

The sisters of gay men tend to have more children, helping explain the persistence of homosexuality in larger populations, while straight men may also carry genes predisposing them to being gay, the study found.

Research by Giorgi Chaladze, of Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, used a computational model to look at the influence of genes and heredity on homosexuality, and its presence throughout human history and in all cultures. …

For Same-Sex Married Couples In America, A Historic Tax Day

This year’s tax day marks a historic event for one group of Americans: April 18 will be the first time that every married same-sex couple in the country can file both their federal and state taxes together.

It’s something Colleen and Linda Squires have been waiting for for a long time.

They met in Boston in November 1986 and held a commitment ceremony in 1992. They waited until 2004 — 12 years — before Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.

“We totally picked the right state to be in,” Linda says. “You know, it’s not something I ever thought I would see in my lifetime.”

That meant that they could file their Massachusetts state taxes, but not their federal taxes, as a married couple. …

Is Vegetable Oil Really Better for Your Heart?

A new look at an old study raises some questions and reignites a debate about saturated fat.

Two people stand at a stove, some chopped onions, or maybe a pitcher of pancake batter, at each of their sides. One puts a pat of butter into his pan, letting it melt. The other glugs a bottle of vegetable oil into his. Other than that, they both cook identical meals. Who’s healthier?

Modern conventional wisdom would say the man who opts for vegetable oil is healthier than the pan-butterer. The American Heart Association suggests using oils like olive, sunflower, corn, or canola for healthier cooking.

Butter is high in saturated fat, see, and saturated fat raises your cholesterol. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. Such is the logical chain from butter to death.

Replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils (which contain linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated fat) is supposed to help lower cholesterol, thereby protecting hearts and lengthening lives. Some vegetable oils—sunflower and corn, for instance—have higher levels of linoleic acid, and some, like olive and canola, have lower (though still some). …

10 Carnivorous Mushrooms And Plants You Didn’t Know About

About 200 species of fungi are known to attack, kill, and digest tiny animals, including protozoans, rotifers, small arthropods like tardigrades (“water bears”), copepods and other crustaceans, and nematodes (worms). Over 600 species of plants also kill animal prey, primarily insects, spiders, other arthropods, and even small vertebrates, including occasional frogs, lizards, rats, and birds.

Why do they do this? These fungi and plants grow in habitats that offer little of the nutrients they need, especially nitrogen, a necessary element for making proteins. The fungi tend to parasitize or decompose the woody trunks of trees, which are very limited in nitrogen. The plants are usually found in acidic bogs, sphagnum moss, or other nitrogen-poor environments.

Most plants take up nitrogen through their roots, often with the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and most fungi absorb nutrients from the soil. But in their nutrient-poor habitats, these meat-eating fungi and plants have evolved various forms of lures and weapons, some of them rivaling the most vicious and brutal devices seen in any medieval torture chamber, to attract and kill their hapless victims.

10. Toilet Bowl Pitcher Plants

The 150 or so species of tropical pitcher plants from the genus Nepenthes are found in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Borneo, Sumatra, New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and the eastern margin of Madagascar. Some of them are quite large. Most of them trap and digest animals of various kinds, including small vertebrates.

Three species from the mountainous rain forests of Borneo can be aptly (if unofficially) called “toilet bowl pitchers”—Nepenthes lowii, N. rajah, and N. macrophylla. In addition to trapping and digesting small animals in smaller pitchers growing along the ground, these species also have modified aerial “toilet pitchers” growing high off the ground on vine-like stems. …

Oldest glass factory in Israel dates to 4th century AD

In a new archaeological find, the oldest evidence of glassmaking in Israel has turned up, pushing estimates of the area’s industrial prowess back to the fourth century AD.

An ancient glass factory has turned up at an archaeological dig in Israel, pushing back dates for the area’s industrial development in a land now increasingly known for the tech savvy of its people.

Archaeologists found kilns for glass-making that would have served the entire Roman Empire 1,600 years ago, demonstrating the area’s rich history in this ancient art, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. …

Lonely Planet launches guide to world’s most spectacular toilets

Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh, India – Lamas at this Tibetan Buddhist monastery get to be at one with everntying even during toilet breaks. Their “panoramic toilet” is one of more than 100 included in Lonely Planet’s “Toilets: A Spotter’s Guide”

It’s an unfortunate traveler that must choose a vacation destination on the quality of its toilets.

At least they now have a handy guide.

Backpacker bible Lonely Planet has published a handsome new book that collects photos of some of the world’s more interesting restrooms.

More than 100, ranging from pop-up pissoirs on the back streets of London to clifftop drops in Tanzania, are gathered in “Toilets: A Spotter’s Guide.” …


Medical science has advanced an astounding amount in the last 50 years or so and we can do things today that a half a century ago even in that era’s science fiction would have been considered science fiction. By the same token though, there were things done in the 1950s and 1960s that people today are still skeptical actually happened, like all those experiments that resulted in a bunch of two headed dogs.

Said experiments were conducted by one, Vladimir Demikhov, a Soviet scientist who is noted as being a pioneer in the field of organ transplantation. Dr. Demikhov was responsible for, amongst other things, pioneering the use of immuno-suppressants in organ transplants and designing the “first mechanical cardiac-assist device”, essentially the precursor to modern artificial hearts. With this latter device, Demikhov was able to take over the cardiac function of a dog for around five hours, an experiment notable for being “the first ever in which circulation was maintained in an animal whose heart had been excised”. Prior to Demikhov, this was a feat that many believed to be impossible. …

Video Goodnesses
(and not-so-goodnesses)

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.