Dec 18, 2010

How many Santa performers does it take to make a phone call?

Santa performers line up at a phone booth in Leicester Square last year in London to promote a movie entitled 'Santa School: The Film.'

American Redneck Society: advocate for rural Americans

The photo below has been used to promote the American Redneck Society. Their website said it was formed to advocate for rural Americans.

The founders see the funny side of jokes about rednecks made famous by comics like Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy.

If you use duct tape for everything from mending the oilcloth on the kitchen table to the broken tail light on a '37 Ford pickup maybe you should join.

If you think duct tape should be spelled "duck tape" you may need to join. Well, actually there is a brand of duct tape called "Duck Tape."


Your phone apps are watching you

From a report in the Wall Street Journal:

Few devices know more personal details about people than the smartphones in their pockets: phone numbers, current location, often the owner's real name—even a unique ID number that can never be changed or turned off.

These phones don't keep secrets. They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly.

Many smartphone apps collect and broadcast data about your habits.

Many of the app providers don't have privacy policies and there isn't much you can do about it.

It's nearly impossible to prevent cellphone apps, as well as games and other software, from transmitting information about you and your phone.

Turning off the phone's location services can restrict tracking by location. But it can limit some phone features like maps.

Apps sharing the most information included TextPlus 4, a popular iPhone app for text messaging.

It sent the phone's unique ID number to eight ad companies and the phone's zip code, along with the user's age and gender, to two of them.

More here.

You can do a ballet stretch anywhere

Doing a ballet stretch in the library

Determined to get a drink!

Mission impossible

Children wearing Santa masks receive gifts

Children in India wear Santa masks as they receive gifts at a holiday celebration.

Dec 17, 2010

Secret tests show TSA screeners miss guns and bombs

As TSA workers conduct naked body scans and intimate pat-downs, secret tests show they routinely miss handguns and bombs which pass through airports undetected.

This reality was hammered home in a particularly revealing manner last fall when an Iranian-American businessman passed through security at a Houston airport and boarded an international flight.

The inconvenient truth in the story is not that the man, Farid Seif, had an Arabic name or a swarthy appearance but that he was carrying a loaded snub nose Glock pistol in a bag with his computer.

The owner of the loaded Glock pistol said, "It's just impossible to miss it, you know. I mean, this is not a small gun. How can you miss it?"

More of the story here.

Royal snub: Barack and Michelle not invited to William and Kate wedding

No wedding invitation for the Obama's from Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Royal sources have revealed that President Obama and his wife Michelle are not going to be invited to the Royal wedding.

Officials in Britain said the wedding is not classed as a state occasion. Besides, as Glenn Reynolds pointed out in his Instapundit blog, the Royal Family already has an iPod loaded with Obama's speeches, so there was no point inviting him just for the gift.


List of politicians who had the Best and Worst 2010

2010 was a year of notable highs and lows for some of America's politicians.

National Journal asked a group of 213 Political Insiders from both parties to choose who they think has risen the highest -- and fallen the hardest -- this year.

As a hint, the report begins, Hello, Mr. Speaker! Adios, Madam Speaker!

The National Journal list of biggest Winners:

John Boehner
Sarah Palin
Harry Reid
Haley Barbour
Mario Rubio

The National Journal list of biggest Losers:

Nancy Pelosi
Barack Obama
Charlie Christ
Charlie Rangel
Michael Steele


When Niagara Falls ran dry

Newly discovered photos show Niagara Falls dry.

In June 1969, U.S. engineers diverted the flow of the Niagara River away from the American side of the falls for several months to remove the large amount of loose rock from the base of the waterfall.

The first photo shows a dry Niagara Falls. The second photo shows as it normally appears.

They abandoned the project a few months later because the expense was too great.


2010 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to imprisoned Chinese dissident

The Nobel Peace Prize for Chinese imprisoned dissident Liu Xiaobo was placed on an empty chair during the presentation ceremony.

Mexican drone crashes near home in El Paso

From a report in the El Paso Times:

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating Tuesday's crash of a Mexican drone in El Paso's Lower Valley.

"We are collecting data about the crash. We don't have the aircraft because it was returned to its owner," said Keith Holloway, spokesman for the NTSB, which investigates aircraft crashes in the United States and in other countries that requests its help.

The aircraft is a mini orbiter unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Aeronautics Defense System.

More here.

Report: George W. Bush must be smiling

Former President George W. Bush must be smiling.

When President Obama and the Republican leadership reached a deal on extending all of the Bush tax cuts, including a generous exemption for estate taxes, the current president ratified a key policy from the former administration.

While Obama ran as the candidate who would fight to overturn Bush's record, a huge number of his policies remain in place.

This says a lot about President Bush.

One of the key measures that we have to evaluate the success of a president is not simply how many of his proposals pass through Congress but also how many of his policies outlast his time in office.

Will ObamaCare, the hallmark of Barack Obama's administration, survive after Obama's time in office?


Dec 16, 2010

Reid caves in: pulls his trillion dollar spending bill

Democrat Senate leader Harry Reid (pictured) gave up on the nearly $1.3 trillion bill after several Republicans who had been thinking of voting for the bill pulled back their support.

The 1,924-page monstrous spending bill that was laced with home-state pet projects known as earmarks [pork] may not be dead as democrats may again take up the bill.

GOP leader Mitch McConnell threw his weight against the bill in recent days, saying it was in his words "unbelievable" that Democrats would try to muscle through in just a few days legislation that usually takes months to debate.

Reid said he would work with McConnell to produce a short-term funding bill to keep the government running into early next year.


Larry King takes his suspenders into retirement

For 25 years, night after night, Larry King Live has been a pillar of American culture, as comforting and dependable as Mickey Mouse and Hershey. But even cultural pillars can grow structurally unsound; in the case of King some would say that happened years ago.

King had announced this summer he would leave, ushered out by a struggling network.

Once the dominant voice in cable television news, King has faded in a sea of sharp talkers.

British talk-show host and "America's Got Talent" judge Piers Morgan takes over the 9 p.m. Eastern time slot in January.

Link here and here.

TSA pats down Santa's bag

LAX TSA choir to go with intimate pat downs: why not champagne as well?

Travelers passing through Los Angeles International Airport are finding that security officers have more than a scan or pat-down for them this holiday season.

TSA is offering musical entertainment, too. Yup, it's the LAX TSA choir for your listening pleasure as you receive your intimate pat-down. How romantic! Why not a little champagne as well?

Other airports are getting into this as well. Shown above are leggy dancers at Austin Bergstrom Airport.

Entertainment along with a good pad-down. What more could a traveler want?


Sen. McConnell offers alternative to humongous omnibus bill

Democrats want to ram through a 2,000 page, Trillion dollar omnibus bill before Christmas.

The urgency to pass this bill is because Democrats have included the provision that will keep the government running rather than run out of funding at the end of December.

Instead of passing a continuing resolution that would continue the government into next year the Democrats have included it in their 2,000 page monstrosity that is so full of pork and special interest spending it will cost the government a half a billion dollars a page!

Senator Mitch McConnell has offered a simple one page continuing resolution that would continue the government through February 18th, allowing the new Congress deal with any major spending bills rather than allow lawmakers who have been voted out of office to have one last fling at the pork feeding trough.


Skunk stinks up 800 Christmas gifts

An Oklahoma volunteer group said a skunk got into its storage facility and sprayed nearly 800 presents collected for children in low-income families.

Volunteers have been attempting to salvage as many of the smelly gifts as possible before the planned delivery run on Friday.

They are trying to salvage some of the gifts by spraying with Febreeze.


Don't cry! Mommy wants a good picture of you with Santa

Santas at a Christmas market in Berlin

New snitch app for the iPhone

There is a new app for the iPhone called the Patriot App.

The name Patriot App is a misnomer. The app has little if anything to do with patriotism.

It wants iPhone users to be snitches turning smartphone users into a huge snitch network for "Big Brother."

Some think this app will make us safer.

Others say men like Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler would have wanted this technology in their lifetimes so that neighbor could spy on neighbor for the government.

Link here and here.

Report: congress approval lowest in Gallup history

Americans' assessment of Congress has hit a new low, with 13% saying they approve of the way Congress is handling its job.

The 83% disapproval rating is also the worst Gallup has measured in more than 30 years of tracking congressional job performance.

This does not speak well for a Congress controlled by Democrats and is further proof that this is not your father's Democrat Party.


Blaming Bush for everything…

Dec 15, 2010

Christmas shopping in Seattle

They may not be 'sleepless in Seattle' as in the movie but they certainly are intent on Christmas shopping in this north westernmost major American city.

Kids write to Santa for basic needs instead of toys this year

Workers who handle letters addressed to Santa at the North Pole say more letters ask for basics such as coats, socks and shoes instead of Barbie dolls, video games and computers.

Santa Claus and his elves are seeing more heartbreaking letters this year as children cite their parents' economic troubles in their wish lists.


AlQaeda planning Christmas attacks in US and Europe

From an Associated Press report at the link below:

Iraqi authorities have obtained confessions from captured insurgents who claim al Qaeda is planning suicide attacks in the United States and Europe during the Christmas season, two senior officials said Wednesday.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister called the claims "a critical threat."

There was no way to verify the insurgents' claims. But Western counterterrorism officials generally are on high alert during the holiday season, especially since last year's failed attack by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day.

More here.

Many of the hacked Gawker passwords were childishly simple

Readers of the recently hacked Gawker websites must be dumb, lazy or naïve.

The Wall Street Journal has posted the most commonly used passwords by Gawker users.

The top 15 passwords were:

1. 123456
2. password
3. 12345678
4. lifehack
5. qwerty
6. 123abc
7. 111111
8. monkey
9. consumer
10. 12345
11. 0
12. letmein
13. trustno 1
14. dragon
15. 1234567

Although most of the passwords were childishly simple, the user of number 11, the single digit "0" deserves the booby prize.

Number 13 "trustno 1" was Special Agent Mulder's password on "The X-Files."

The report at the link below lists the top 50 passwords. None of the 50 could be classed as secure passwords.


Most popular Vans and SUV's by Autobytel

Most popular vans:

1. Honda Odyssey
2. Toyota Sienna
3. Chrysler Town and Country
4. Ford E-350 Super Duty
5. Dodge Grand Caravan
6. Volkswagen Routan
7. Kia Sedona
8. Nissan Quest
9. Chevrolet Express 1500
10. Chevrolet Express 3500

Most popular SUV's:

1. Honda CR-V
2. Honda Pilot
3. Toyota Highlander
4. Toyota RAV4
5. Chevrolet Equinox
6. Ford Edge
7. Jeep Grand Cherokee
8. Toyota Venza
9. Kia Sorento
10. Toyota 4Runner

Most popular cars and pickups by Autobytel

Most popular passenger cars:

1. Honda Accord
2. Toyota Camry
3. Nissan Altima
4. Hyundai Sonata
5. Nissan Maxima
6. Subaru Outback
7. Buick LaCrosse
8. Dodge Charger
9. Ford Fusion
10. Toyota Camry Hybrid

Most popular pickups:

1. Ford F-150
2. Toyota Tacoma
3. Dodge Ram 1500
4. Chevrolet Silverado 1500
5. Nissan Frontier
6. Toyota Tundra
7. Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
8. Ford F-250
9. Dodge Ram 2500
10. GMC Sierra 1500

Afghan haberdasher

Clothes for sale on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan

Barack Obama occupies his own out box

Dec 14, 2010

One last binge - Democrats unveil Trillion Dollar spending bill

Senate Democrats have filed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill.

The 1,924-page bill includes funding to implement the sweeping healthcare reform bill Congress passed earlier this year as well as additional funds for Internal Revenue Service agents, according to a senior GOP aide familiar with the legislation.

Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee quickly denounced the package by saying:

"The attempt by Democrat leadership to rush through a nearly 2,000-page spending bill in the final days of the lame-duck session ignores the clear will expressed by the voters this past election," Thune said in a statement.

"This bill is loaded up with pork projects and should not get a vote. Congress should listen to the American people and stop this reckless spending.”

Thune has called for a short-term funding measure - free of pork - to keep the government operating beyond Dec. 18, when the current continuing resolution expires.

How many Senators have read the 2,000 page bill? Do they really know what it contains or will it be like the ObamaCare bill that few if any read.


Egg-ceptional living quarters

Dai Haifei, 24, from China's Hunan province, looks out from his egg-shaped mobile home where he has been living for the last two months.

Haifei has parked his unique home near his office in Beijing.

The house cost about $1,000 to build, and is made of bamboo strips and mattress, topped by a layer of water-proof material.

It has bags stuffed with processed wood chips and grass seeds that could grow grass when spring comes, covering the house like a quilt.

No mention if Mr. Haifei has plans to eradicate the bugs and worms that will be attracted to the grass.

Darth Vader slogging through the snow

A street performer dressed as Darth Vader from the film 'Star Wars' slogs in the snow in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany.

Christmas car at the Children's Museum in San Jose

A car decorated with Christmas lights arrives at the illumination of the Children's Museum in San Jose

Device for detecting explosives at Reagan National Airport

Device for detecting explosives at Reagan National Airport
A TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agent wipes an explosives-detecting device over the hands of a female traveler as she undergoes security screening at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington DC.

Report: Bush v. Gore 10 years later

Election night November 7, 2000 will be remembered by many as the night the ballot counting didn't end for several weeks with subsequent recounts of recounts in the state of Florida.

In an article at the link below George Will analyses the 2000 Presidential election in a report titled, Bush v. Gore, 10 years later.

The George Will report discusses the effort by election officials in heavily Democrat voting districts to guess voters' intentions when a chad was hanging or dimpled rather than punched all the way through.

Al Gore got certain Democratic-dominated canvassing boards to turn their recounts into unfettered speculations and hunches about the intentions of voters who submitted inscrutable ballots.

Before this, Palm Beach County had forbidden counting dimpled chads.

On Nov. 7, Gore finished second in Florida's Election Day vote count. A few days later, after the state's mandatory (in close elections) machine recount, he again finished second.

Florida law required counties to certify their results in seven days, by Nov. 14.

Three heavily Democrat counties were not finished trying to decipher voters' intentions.

So Gore's lawyers persuaded the easily persuadable state Supreme Court - with a majority of Democratic appointees - to rewrite the law. It turned the seven-day period into 19 days.

Democrats also tried to disallow a large number of votes from overseas military personnel that either arrived late or supposedly were not marked properly. Members of the armed services vote heavily Republican.

More at the link below including the Florida Supreme court's effort to revise state election law and how the U.S. Supreme Court was duty-bound not to defer to a state court that was patently misinterpreting - disregarding, actually - state law pertaining to a matter assigned by the U.S. Constitution to state legislatures.


Dec 13, 2010

Blizzard silences Salvation Army bells in North Dakota and Minnesota

From a report at the link below:

For the first time, the Salvation Army has canceled bell ringing in North Dakota and Minnesota due to the blizzard and sub-zero temperatures.

Every year, for five weeks, the Salvation Army recruits volunteers across the country to ring bells and raise money for community service organizations in more than 9,000 communities.


Support for ObamaCare at new low

What was intended to be the hallmark of Barack Obama's presidency is steadily but surely falling out of favor with Americans.

Coinciding with a federal judge’s ruling invalidating a key element of the health care reform law, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds support for the landmark legislation at a new low.

More here

Judge in VA strikes down ObamaCare law

A federal judge in Virginia has declared the Obama administration's health care reform law unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson is the first judge to rule against the law, which has been upheld by two others in Virginia and Michigan.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed the lawsuit challenging the law's requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty starting in 2014.

The ObamaCare law not only mandates a fine for not buying insurance, it can also send Americans to jail for not buying the prescribed insurance in 2014.

The Virginia action may be just the beginning.


Shoppers beware: more stores are charging restocking fees on returns

A report at the link below has a warning for Christmas gift shoppers: more stores are charging restocking fees on returns.

No one wants to be slapped with a restocking fee, but they're becoming more common.

Retailers incur quite a cost for opened electronics returns, so they pass those costs on to the consumer.

Restocking fees at Best Buy range from 10% to 15% of the cost of certain products: Camera, camcorders, laptops, phones.

It adds up. For example, if you bought a computer for $1,000, opened it, and returned it, you or the person you bought it for will pay a restocking fee of $100 to $150.

"The biggest reason is that it needs to be checked out," explains Best Buy manager Paul Fermin. "It has to be first checked out by a certified technician, either at the Geek Squad or at the manufacturer, sent back to us, certify that, yes, this is a sellable product and it's in good working condition. We have to then resell it as an open box item."

Best Buy is not alone. Many retailers charge restocking fees on opened electronics for different reasons. Target, Amazon, Sears, and Dell all may charge 15% to restock.

Apple charges 10% to restock. H.H. Gregg charges 20% or more to restock if you don't have your receipt or all the packing materials, or if it's later than 14 days since you bought it.

Retailers who don't charge a restocking fee, at least for now, are: Costco, Lowes, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and Staples.


Immigration rights group furious at Chipotle mass firings

The Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota fired workers that failed an I-9 audit.

Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) is a federal form intended to verify that employees are not illegal aliens.

Federal law requires that all U.S. employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens.

The Minnesota Immigration Rights Action Committeee (MIRAC), a local group that fights for the legalization of undocumented workers is causing an uproar wanting Chipotle to break federal laws by continuing to employ illegals.


NYT: Out of power soon, out of sorts now

From a New York Times report:

As House Democrats met privately to weigh the tax deal negotiated by the White House, an angry chant spontaneously rolled across the room.

“Just say no, just say no,” rebellious lawmakers cried. Vulgar words were aimed at President Obama. Incensed members spoiled for a fight.

With many of them ousted by voters, angry Democrats are fast becoming the "party of no."

The New York Times report continues:

The fury coursing through the meeting last Thursday in the basement of the Capitol was just the latest manifestation of the foul mood of House and Senate Democrats as they suffer through the final days of the 111th Congress, watching their power ebb while scores of them cast their last votes.

“People are just baffled that the administration couldn’t cut a better deal,” said Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and party leader who says the White House got taken in the tax talks.

Democrat Congressmen were unhappy in 1984 when Bill Clinton suddenly moved to the center after losing control of Congress but they didn't loose their tempers nor did they curse at him behind his back.


Dec 12, 2010

Report: Airlines charge big fees for small up-grades

A report at the link below shows how airlines can be creative in turning the ordinary into an upgrade.

Virgin American certainly deserves the credit for creative packaging in the seat fee game -- turning formerly humble, if more comfortable, exit row seats into something desirable and high class -- as if they were VIP tickets to a top concert of a sporting event.

Virgin America isn't the only airline playing the extra fee seat game, though certainly no other carrier has the audacity to charge a premium of $500 to sit in the exit row -- even if it does offer an extra six inches of legroom.

Most major airlines are now maneuvering to bring in more revenue by charging extra for some coach seats.

The report goes on to show how other airlines play the "bait and switch" game at flyers expense.


Cancún climate deal falls flat - Kyoto Protocol on life support

The Christian Science Monitor reports that any hope Greenpeace activists had for a climate deal in Cancún ended Saturday as the climate summit ended without a firm deal.

The climate change conference in Cancún appears to have sealed the fate of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding treaty to combat climate change, and left countries squabbling over the substance and form a new treaty for the future.

The placards displayed by activists show symbols of international currencies wanting world leaders to financially support what an increasing number of critics call questionable science.

The display above was at Democracy Square in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 29 in an effort to support the Cancún climate summit.


Oprah Winfrey and Paul McCartney honored

Recipients of the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors, Oprah Winfrey, and Paul McCartney.

They are shown during the National Anthem of the United States during the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors Gala at the Kennedy Center a week ago.

The face of the Cancún climate summit

A picture is worth a thousand words…

Hideki Minamikawa (shown above), a deputy Japanese environment minister, at a press conference at the climate summit in Cancún.

Minamikawa said 'it does not make sense' to extend the Kyoto protocol because Kyoto countries now account for only 27% of heat-trapping emissions.

This dilapidated cycle was seen at the base of a Mayan pyramid near Cancún. Though environmentally friendly, it probably was not a transportation favorite at the climate summit.

Not even a flood can stop a good game of dominos

People are playing dominos in a street after flooding and landslides killed at least 30 people and forced thousands from their homes in Higuerote, Venezuela.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Dozens of special shaped hot air balloons lift off during a mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico last October.

The annual fiesta has drawn hundreds of pilots and thousands of spectators from around the world.