February 22, 2016

The Morning After The Night Before


On This Day In History: February 22, 1974

On this day in history, 1974, Samuel Joseph Byck attempted to assassinate President Richard Nixon. Byck’s plan was to take control of an airliner and then force the pilots to fly the plane into the White House, thereby presumably killing the President who was there at the time. Not all went as planned, of course, though he did manage to get as far as taking control of a Delta Airlines’ plane. However, he never managed to get it off the ground.

Byck, a high school dropout and ex-army soldier, had been down on his luck for some time when he decided to try to “take back the government” for the people, by assassinating the president. His wife had left him two years before, taking their kids as well. He also was having trouble keeping a job and recently had been rejected by the U.S. Small Business Administration for a loan to start his own business, something he was extremely bitter about.

As such, Byck decided a revolution was needed to fix the rampant corruption he perceived, with politicians being more concerned about keeping special interests happy, rather than helping actual American citizens. He also believed the government was conspiring with those special interest to keep people who were poor, down-and-out. …

John Oliver Tackles Abortion On Last Week Tonight (With the Help of Some Sloths)

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

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver wanted to talk about the polarizing issue of breast implants — sort of. “Some are against them, others believe they are fine in rare cases and some think you should be able to get them whenever the f— you want. Oh did I say breast implants? I meant abortion,” he said.

A new Gallup poll revealed that 19% of Americans think abortion should be completely illegal, while 36% think it should be allowed in some cases and 29% think it should be allowed on demand. Despite the fact that abortion is legal in the United States, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, there has been an increase in state regulation of abortion clinics, resulting in a decrease in clinics in some states. North Dakota, South Dakota, Mississippi and Utah now only have one clinic per state. “Yes, Mississippi now has four times as many esses as it has abortion clinics,” said Oliver. …

The new south: how Republican Texas is changing its deep red hue

The south will have its say in the 2016 election primaries on Super Tuesday, but the six southern states going to the polls will not speak with one voice

The sign in the window boasted “the best goat meat in town”, but Grace Ndam’s eyes narrowed when asked about her restaurant.

“May I see some identification?” she asked. “Can you prove you are from the Guardian?”

She cast an eye out the window. On her block there were other food places: Japanese, Puerto Rican, Chinese, Congolese. Across the street there were Thai and Mexican. “I need to know you are not from one of my competitors,” Ndam said.

The third most diverse zip code in the United States is on Treasure Island, in San Francisco Bay. The second is in New York City’s Queens. But the most diverse – the neighborhood with the most even balance of ethnicities and cultures – is here in Irving, Texas, a Dallas suburb. Which means that, however improbable, the African Village restaurant hasn’t cornered the market on Cameroonian goat. There’s competition. …

10 Political Candidates No One Thought Would Win

“Unelectable”—that word is meant as a death knell for any political candidate. It shows that they’re out of touch with the common man, too extreme, or simply too weird to win high office. You frequently hear it bandied around today in reference to people like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. In short, it means they’re politically doomed.

Or are they? Despite what pollsters and pundits would have you believe, “unelectable” is an extremely nebulous concept. Trawl through the history books, and you’ll find plenty of presidents and prime ministers who won elections that everyone thought they were destined to lose.

10. Margaret Thatcher Was Considered A Toxic Extremist

By most measures, Margaret Thatcher was one of Britain’s most successful prime ministers (and also one of the most divisive). She won three elections in a row, ruling from 1979 to 1990. She transformed Britain’s post–World War II center-left consensus into a center-right one. None of this should have happened. When she was made leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Thatcher was considered so toxic that her ascension was compared to a right-wing Trotskyite coup.

At the time, British politics were firmly center-left. Even the Conservatives supported welfare programs and staggeringly high tax rates, and the idea of privatizing national industries was considered ridiculous. Thatcher was one of the few politicians to openly support what we’d now call neo-liberal economic policies. In the mid-1970s, that made her a far-right extremist.

As a result, no one thought she would ever win an election. Her own party frantically tried to depose her and replace her with someone more electable. As late as fall 1978, around six months before the election, it was assumed that a Labour Party victory was inevitable. …

Watch the Simpsons Mock the Presidential Campaign

A new online video of the Simpsons takes on the presidential race and captures just how tired Americans are of the political horserace and infighting. Marge Simpson, ever the sensitive one, wakes up from a nightmare in which candidates are yelling at each other with actual lines from debates (“he doesn’t speak Spanish,” someone can be heard saying). “I can’t take it anymore!” she yells. “Basic manners are gone from politics. What is it with these ding-dongs?” When Lisa, Bart, and Maggie come into their room, Homer explains what’s going on: “It’s like when you have a bad dream except this is real and will probably ruin your life.”

Homer then calls on Marge to “visualize another America, one where Democrats, Republicans, and Donald Trump all get along.” The candidates then proceed to break out in song. But it doesn’t last long. “I was perfect, the rest of you morons were flat,” Trump says. All the candidates start rumbling and Jeb Bush even kicks Trump in the nuts. “Hillary, if I get elected will you tell me what to do?” Bernie Sanders says as Clinton chokes him with her necklace. …

Is Sanders Writing Off South Carolina?

Thousands of adoring fans came to see Bernie Sanders on Sunday, but his challenge with black voters—and in the state overall—remains daunting.

There’s no chance to lick your wounds in a presidential campaign. It doesn’t matter how disappointing your results were on Saturday, you’ve got to be out there again on Sunday, stumping for votes. The question is how you pull it off.

On Sunday in Upstate South Carolina, Bernie Sanders was, as usual, in fighting fettle. The Vermont senator arrived in the state Saturday night after a loss in the Nevada caucuses, where he finished more than five percentage points behind Hillary Clinton, despite hopes a last-minute surge might overtake her. Though many analysts are now predicting Clinton is past the worst threat Sanders posed to her, he admitted to no discouragement.

“We have taken on the political establishment, we have taken on the media establishment, and we are gaining momentum every day,” Sanders said. Alluding to Donald Trump’s massive victory in the Palmetto State, he said, “If you look at national polls, and you want a candidate who’s going to defeat Donald trump, you’re looking at him. And there is nothing that would give me greater pleasure than beating Donald Trump.” …

10 Unbelievable Stories About Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin is one of the most well-known leaders of our time. He is also one of the most worrisome. In recent years, Putin has invaded neighboring countries, stifled journalists and free speech in his country, and seemingly solidified complete control of the region.

As his influence has grown, intriguing stories have come out about him. Besides his public career, Putin has lived a life more unusual than anyone could wish to have.

10. Putin’s Chronic Tardiness

In 2013, Pope Francis made his first visit to Russia. There, he was supposed to meet Vladimir Putin, but something strange happened. For 50 minutes, Pope Francis simply waited.

Finally, Putin arrived after making the Pope wait for almost one hour. This isn’t an isolated incident for Putin. According to journalists, Putin regularly runs hours late for press meetings and other public appearances.

Putin doesn’t seem to care about anyone he meets, no matter how important they are. In 2012, Putin kept Secretary of State John Kerry waiting for three hours. In 2003, he was late for a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II. …

Jeb Bush Was Not a Joke

His decency, compassion, and rigor were his downfall. What a shame.

Jeb Bush’s extremely bad week began last Monday evening in the Charleston Convention Center. Facing anemic poll numbers and dwindling campaign cash, he needed something big. And so—before a couple thousand South Carolinians, a bank of news cameras, and a flock of reporters who flapped in like vultures placidly eyeing a wounded animal—he deployed his final line of defense: his big brother.

There was good ol’ Dubya, moseying out to raucous applause. The Decider is edging up on 70 now, exhibiting far less hair and notably slurrier diction. But durned if he didn’t unholster that squinty-eyed, chest-forward ’tude that the folks still love. There were shouts of “We miss you!” as he spoke.

George praised his little bro’s “humility” and “quiet conviction.” He reminded us that “the strongest person usually isn’t the loudest in the room.” As introductions go, it was nigh apologetic—like Eeyore was about to step to the lectern. …

WTF: Arizona lawyer says Scalia can vote ‘from the grave’ to keep Supreme Court conservative

Anti-government attorney Kory Langhofer argued over the weekend that the Supreme Court could continue to decide cases 5-4 in favor of conservatives after the death of Antonin Scalia because the deceased justice could effectively cast votes from the grave.

“There’s no Ouija board required to figure out how Justice Scalia would vote on these things, he’s already voted,” Langhofer told KPNX during a panel discussion on Sunday. “We’re at the second-to-last step in how these cases unfold when Justice Scalia died.”

“We know exactly what he thought,” Langhofer continued. “And it’s not unprincipled to say we should give affect to that.” …


Noah R. asks: What causes people to be claustrophobic?

If you have a friend who refuses to ride the elevator to his 15th floor office every day, he may be a fitness freak, but chances are, he is claustrophobic. Similarly, when someone’s action seems illogical as shown by their persistent, determined avoidance of enclosed spaces or restrictive clothing, the likely explanation is that the person is claustrophobic. So what is claustrophobia and what causes it?

Claustrophobia is defined by the Mount Sinai Hospital as:

An anxiety disorder characterized by irrational fear of enclosed or small spaces. People with claustrophobia often describe it as feeling trapped without an exit or way out.

There’s a battle going on to find out what you’re watching on Netflix

Netflix claims to have some of the most-watched shows outside of network TV. And while water-cooler talk about House of Cards and Orange is the New Black would suggest that people are actually watching, no one really knows how many actual viewers any Netflix program attracts—except Netflix, and it’s not sharing.

Now, audience-measurement firm ComScore is trying to uncover what viewers are actually watching on the streaming service and others like it. The company recently acquired TV-ratings firm Rentrak and is building a platform that would allow it offer ratings for over-the-top video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime for the first time. The technology, called Total Home Panel, gathers show-level information about viewing on digital devices including TVs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and over-the-top devices, augmenting the data ComScore already collects from over 40 million digital set-top boxes, the company said. …

Canadians Left With Questions After Being Barred From ‘Jeopardy!’

A decision to bar Canadian citizens from being future contestants on TV’s Jeopardy quiz show is causing a range of reactions in Canada, particularly among those who note that show host Alex Trebek has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Canada.

Media outlets in Canada recently noted that their country is singled out in Jeopardy‘s eligibility guidelines:

“At this time we are precluded from accepting registration information from Canadian residents. We are currently evaluating this matter.”

That led the Toronto Star to note, “Trebek may be one of the only Canadians on Jeopardy! next season.”

The situation is being attributed to differences in online privacy laws – but some Canadians aren’t buying it. …

5 Things I Learned Going To Military Prison

You don’t want to get caught smuggling drugs by a mall cop, let alone the military. The military has its own special way of punishing lawbreakers, and while we don’t know much about military justice, we assume it’s not one hour to think in the time-out corner. We talked to Wayne Giles, who told us about how his army drug smuggling adventure went wrong.

#5. The Army Can Be Mostly Boring, And That Means Drug Use

Wayne was sent to a sleepy outpost, where drugs were the best entertainment option available after he exhausted the special features on his unit’s Delta Farce DVD. He’s less Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now and more Luke Wilson at the start of Idiocracy. Wayne was stationed in Vicenza, Italy, which is known for its gorgeous architecture and … no, that’s basically it. His job mostly involved sitting around and waiting for people to break military hardware. This led to a lot of downtime, and drugs quickly began to look like an alluring escape from the tedium of serving his country via tech support.

You don’t need to be sober to ask, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

Wayne had previously done nothing but pot, but his colleagues introduced him to LSD and ecstasy. And so began a period of pretending he was stationed at Ibiza, “Partying with people who would take 10 to 12 hits of X along with 10 to 12 hits of acid and candy flip all night.”

Hillary’s Challenge With Trust

Clinton continues to struggle to convince many Democratic voters of her authenticity—or at least, that she’s on their side.

Two recent interviews—one before her Nevada triumph and one after—showed Hillary Clinton standing at a crossroad. One path goes to South Carolina and a string of Democratic contests that favor her coalition of older voters, African Americans, college graduates, and union households.

The other goes to her greatest vulnerability—not only in the race against Bernie Sanders, but also during the general-election campaign and in the Oval Office, should she get that far: the issue of trust.

The first interview was with a CBS News anchor on Thursday:

Scott Pelley: You talk about leveling with the American people. Have you always told the truth?

Hillary Clinton: I’ve always tried to. Always. Always.

Pelley: Some people are going call that wiggle room that you just gave yourself.

Clinton: Well, no, I’ve always tried—

Pelley: I mean, Jimmy Carter said, “I will never lie to you.”

Clinton: Well, but, you know, you’re asking me to say, “Have I ever?” I don’t believe I ever have. I don’t believe I ever have. I don’t believe I ever will. I’m going do the best I can to level with the American people.

The only appropriate answer is, “No, I’ve never lied to the American people and I never will.” Clinton could have explained that withholding the full truth is something all presidents do—indeed, must do. On national security, internal deliberations, details of their private lives, and other matters, presidents simply cannot be fully transparent. …

The Spider that Crawls the Dark Web Looking for Stolen Data

A startup alerts organizations when their sensitive information pops up for sale online.

When police officers respond to a theft or a mugging, they’ll usually ask for the serial numbers of any valuable electronics that were taken. Those identifiers can help police know if a stolen item turns up at a local pawn shop, in a second-hand store, or on eBay. In many states, resellers have to check the serial numbers of certain items against a registry of stolen goods when the items come in.

But it’s a lot harder to track a stolen database of personal information, which can contain everything from names and addresses to financial details and fingerprints.

Hackers routinely make off with massive hauls of sensitive data by breaking into databases held by government agencies, retailers, hospitals, banks, and just about every other kind of organization. But most intrusions are discovered by a third party rather than the organization that actually lost the data, according to a 2014 report from Verizon. Some network tools detect intrusions, and scrutinizing detailed logs can reveal unauthorized access, but often, an organization won’t realize what happened until after a security researcher or a journalist catches wind of the intrusion. If your TV is stolen, it’s hard not to notice its conspicuous absence in the living room; if hackers nab data from a server, however, it’s not nearly as obvious. …

10 Scandalous Queens Who Shaped History

It is said that well-behaved women seldom make history. Throughout the ages, there have been queens, rulers, and empresses who defied traditional roles and behaviors to wield power, influence, and authority that forever changed the course of history.

10. Queen Ranavalona I ~ Madagascar

Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar wasn’t known by the abominable moniker “mad monarch” for nothing. Suspected of poisoning her husband to succeed him, she initiated a brutal campaign against those who refused to abandon Christianity during her harrowing 33-year reign. Those who didn’t acquiesce were tossed over cliffs, dismembered, or scalded viciously.

Determined to keep Madagascar free from European colonialism, she summoned foreigners to join the Malagasy, after which she had them killed in a grisly fashion.

However, in the wake of Ranavalona’s death, her weak-willed successors could do little but watch as Christian missionaries returned with renewed vigor. Three decades later, the last monarch was unceremoniously exiled, and Madagascar became a French colony. …

The man who made ‘the worst video game in history’

The video game of Steven Spielberg’s ET is considered to be one of the worst of all time and has even been blamed for triggering the collapse of Atari. Howard Scott Warshaw, the gifted programmer who made it, explains how it was rushed out in a matter of weeks – and how he feels about those events in California now.

Spielberg was unimpressed.

“Couldn’t you do something more like Pac-Man?” he asked.

It was July 1982 and Atari, then one of the world’s most successful tech companies, had just paid a reported $21m for the video game rights to Spielberg’s new blockbuster, ET the Extra-Terrestrial.

Howard Scott Warshaw was the programmer tasked with designing the game. …

Volkswagen Sold More Currywurst Than Cars in 2015

If anything can outsell a German car, then it must be the country’s favorite dish: currywurst. But who knew that Volkswagen also markets its own brand of the sausage and spicy ketchup snack?

The latest figures show that the automaker sold more than 7.2 million sausages in 2015, compared to worldwide sales of 5.82 million cars last year.

Volkswagen sales growth turned negative for the first time in at least four-and-a-half years in April and declined even further after the firm admitted in September it had rigged U.S. diesel emissions tests. Up to 11 million vehicles worldwide could have illegal software installed, according to the company.

But sausage sales suffered no such slump, with an additional 1 million wursts sold compared to the previous year, according to media reports. …


From our “Dustbin of History” files, here’s the harrowing tale of a little-known milestone in aviation history.


It was January 7, 1785, and two men were preparing for the first ever balloon crossing of the English Channel. The one who financed the adventure was John Jeffries, a well-to-do American doctor. The one with the aviation skills was Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard, one of the innovators of ballooning—which at that point had only been around for two years. A crowd gathered near the Dover cliffs to watch them lift off for France. At 1:00 p.m., Blanchard and Jeffries embarked on their 21-mile journey. But there was one problem: They were too heavy.

They were carrying 30 pounds of ballast weights (used to keep the balloon steady), plus steering gear, personal items, a bag of mail to be delivered in France, and scientific equipment. And then there were the four “wings.” Made out of silk and extending from the carriage, they served no real purpose except to make the balloon look like a bird. …

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