Cat arrested while sneaking cellphone and saw into Brazil prison

A cat carrying a saw and a mobile phone was “detained” as it entered a prison gate in northeast Brazil, Brazilian media reported on Saturday.

Prison guards were surprised when they saw a white cat crossing the main gate of the prison, its body wrapped with tape. A closer look showed the feline also carried drills, an earphone, a memory card, batteries and a phone charger.

All 263 detainees in the prison of Arapiraca, a city of 215,000 people in the state of Alagoas, are considered suspect in the plot, which is being investigated by local police…

The cat was taken to an animal disease center to receive medical care.

Phew! Was he a cat burglar in his spare time?

Gaby Giffords meets with families of Newtown victims

Roses with the faces of the murdered Sandy Hook students and adults

She came to speak from the heart — and from bitter experience.

Former Arizona congressman Gabrielle Giffords, who barely survived being shot in the face by a madman, arrived Friday in Newtown, Conn., hoping to console the heartbroken families of the first-graders and teachers who were slaughtered in the Sandy Hook school massacre.

Limping slightly and leaning on astronaut husband Mark Kelly for support, Giffords smiled as she entered town hall and embraced Schools Superintendent Janet Robinson.

“We’re so glad you came,” Robinson said. “Thank you…”

Then Giffords was ushered inside for a private meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D—Conn.) and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

“I am sorry, but there is no public aspect of this meeting,” town official Patricia Llodra said. After that sitdown, Giffords was expected to go meet the families, most likely at a private home.

Giffords brought with her a perspective that only a select few share — that of a person who came face-to-face with the kind of madness that left 20 innocent children and six school staffers dead on a cruel December morning.

Giffords’ congressional career was cut short and she was left an invalid almost two years ago when a deranged man armed with a legally-purchased Glock 9-mm. semiautomatic shot her just above the left eyebrow in a massacre that killed six people and wounded another 13…

Giffords’ visit came a day after some 400 surviving Sandy Hook students trooped back to class for the first time since the mass shooting — only in a new building, and in a different town…

When will we address this problem as a nation?” Kelly tweeted in the aftermath. “The time is now.”

The time is long overdue. I’ve been a gun owner for decades. I still own target handguns plus a bit more I acquired after threats from nutball fundamentalists who consider it their God’s duty to assassinate environmental activists and other agents of the anti-Christ. Or so they say.

So what? I still don’t mind going through testing, certification, registration for any firearms I own – no more than I would decry testing and licensing for any level of driving motor vehicles.

The silliness that leads people to blather about regulation and oversight being anti-Constitutional is as insane as any of the ideological crap that seems to fester in some people’s brains like a paranoid cancer. Government is assigned responsibilities along with rights. If you disagree, there are legal and political processes that aid dissent. Otherwise, start caring more for your fellow human beings than your fear of what hides beneath the bed at night.

Barack Obama is a Liberal Republican

Barry Ritholtz to my mind is a reasonable liberal Republican – or moderate Republican. Though he voted for Romney – I imagine he thought that the corporate world where he earns his living would have benefitted best. This is from his blog, The Big Picture:

I have been having fun mocking friends and family on both sides of the political aisle. GOP colleagues who keep telling me BHO is a Socialist, while Dems think he is the next JFK.

I enjoy disabusing them of their political biases by explaining to them Barack Obama’s actual politics…

• He extended Bush TARP;

• Like W, he refused to prosecute banks;

• He made 98% of the Bush cuts permanent;

• When Unions were under attack by various GOP governors, he mostly stayed silent.

• Oh, and he forced GM into prepackaged bankruptcy;

• His healthcare plan was a national version of RomneyCare, created by a conservative GOP ThinkTank;

• He continues to engage in a long distance war that he promised to end

• He was willing to throw Social Security under the bus at a moment’s notice

• His stimulus plan consisted mostly of temporary tax cuts and unemployment benefit extensions, not true Keynesian stimulus (infrastructure, defense, etc.)

• He keeps trying desperately to cut a deal with GOP members

I am not saying any of these things are good or bad — its merely an observation.

But its hard to avoid recognizing that all of these major policies are much more GOP-like than Democrat-like things.

The discussion that followed in the comments at his blog often makes sense, often doesn’t. Commenters divide along the lines of people answering the question as posed by Ritholtz – and rarely speak to the point that the Republican Party today is subservient to the Tea Party nutballs. Consequently, the Republicans he offers as Obama-like, Nixon and George W, couldn’t be nominated for Congress much less the presidency – today.

Saying that, he’s very right about a lot of Obama’s politics. Nothing speaks more to that point than his willingness to sell out Social Security. The best example of a so-called entitlement that not only pays for itself; but, currently produces a surplus that Washington politicians slaver over.

And the only sentence needed to revise SSA regulations to take the program into the 22nd Century is – Remove the cap!

The geekiest practical joke ever?

I was once asked to pick my ‘ultimate chemistry hero’ for a series on great scientists. It was a hard decision – there are a lot of great chemists out there – so in the end I ducked the question and turned it into a sort of joke. The perfect light entertainment to revisit just before Christmas, I thought.

I picked Melvin Calvin as my hero. But it was only because of an amusing story I was told by the legendary John Kilcoyne that I began to take serious notice of Calvin’s work. That said, Calvin is a man worthy of standing alongside some of the other giants of the chemical sciences…

Calvin set about conducting torturously complex experiments to assess the impact of everything from light, pH, carbon dioxide and oxygen on photosynthesis. All this needed an elaborate array of instruments and Calvin’s 1955 paper in the Journal of the American Chemical Society has a figure showing one such set up. It looks like exactly the sort of thing a stereotypical mad scientist would dream up and was undoubtedly exacting both to set up and use on a daily basis.

Here’s the diagram – can you spot anything unusual about it yet?


I wasn’t lucky enough to ever meet Calvin (he died in 1997), but according to Kilcoyne he was a serious man with little patience for jokes or pleasantries. This contrasted starkly with his graduate student, A. T. Wilson, who was, it would seem, a bit of a practical joker. Wilson reputedly made a wager with his departmental secretary that he could sneak in a picture of a man fishing into one of the diagrams in a forthcoming paper without his supervisor noticing. He won his bet and the fishing man is still in the diagram today. Calvin never found out.


Thanks, Ursarodinia

Think Congress left corporate subsidies out of the Fiscal Cliff bill?


Throughout the months of November and December, a steady stream of corporate CEOs flowed in and out of the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff. Many of them, such as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, would then publicly come out and talk about how modest increases of tax rates on the wealthy were reasonable in order to deal with the deficit problem. What wasn’t mentioned is what these leaders wanted, which is what’s known as “tax extenders”, or roughly $205 Billion of tax breaks for corporations. With such a banal name, and boring and difficult to read line items in the bill, few political operatives have bothered to pay attention to this part of the bill. But it is critical to understanding what is going on…

Most tax credits drop straight to the bottom line – it’s why companies like Enron considered its tax compliance section a “profit center”. A few hundred billion dollars of tax expenditures is a major carrot to offer. Surely, a modest hike in income taxes for people who make more than $400k in income and stupid enough not to take that money in capital gain would be worth trading off for the few hundred billion dollars in corporate pork. This is what the fiscal cliff is about – who gets the money. And by leaving out the corporate sector, nearly anyone who talks about this debate is leaving out a key negotiating partner…

Here are a couple of the goodies. There actually is a generalized tax credit or two worth keeping. Most of these plain-and-simple suck tax dollars that could do something otherwise useful.

1) Help out NASCAR – Sec 312 extends the “seven year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complex property”, which is to say it allows anyone who builds a racetrack and associated facilities to get tax breaks on it. This one was projected to cost $43 million over two years.

3) Disney’s Gotta Eat – Sec. 317 is “Extension of special expensing rules for certain film and television productions”. It’s a relatively straightforward subsidy to Hollywood studios, and according to the Joint Tax Committee, was projected to cost $150m for 2010 and 2011.

5) Subsidies for Goldman Sachs Headquarters – Sec. 328 extends “tax exempt financing for York Liberty Zone,” which was a program to provide post-9/11 recovery funds. Rather than going to small businesses affected, however, this was, according to Bloomberg, “little more than a subsidy for fancy Manhattan apartments and office towers for Goldman Sachs and Bank of America Corp.” Michael Bloomberg himself actually thought the program was excessive, so that’s saying something. According to David Cay Johnston’s The Fine Print, Goldman got $1.6 billion in tax free financing for its new massive headquarters through Liberty Bonds.

You get the idea. RTFA. Recognize for the umpteenth time the hacks in Congress can’t pass up a single opportunity to kiss butt for the folks picking up the tab for their political campaigns.