XIAM007

Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Police: Circus dyed dogs to pass off as pandas - and charging to have pictures taken with them -

Police: Circus dyed dogs to pass off as pandas - and charging to have pictures taken with them - 



Police in northern Italy announced they seized two chow-chow dogs from a circus that had dyed the canines' hair in an attempt to pass them off as pandas.
Environmental police said they visited the circus Friday in Brescia and discovered officials were charging children to have their pictures taken with two "pandas" that were actually chow-chow dogs with a black-and-white dye job.

Investigators said the dogs, a male and a female, appeared to be in good health, but had unusually watery eyes that likely resulted from being exposed to constant camera flashes.

Police said the owner of the circus told customers who were suspicious of the "pandas" that the animals were half-panda, half-dog hybrids.

The circus owner, whose name was not released, is facing charges of animal abuse and defrauding customers. Charges could also stem from false information on the animals' passports, as police said the dogs are six months younger than claimed in documents.

Read more: - 
http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2014/12/23/Police-Circus-dyed-dogs-to-pass-off-as-pandas/7081419343667/

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The War on Drugs Just Got Even More Vile: Police to Begin Inspecting Your Poop, Seriously - Sewage epidemiology -

The War on Drugs Just Got Even More Vile: Police to Begin Inspecting Your Poop, Seriously - Sewage epidemiology - 



As the wasteful, immoral war on drugs continues in police states around the world, authorities are always looking for ways to track the use of “illicit” drugs. It’s the intelligence aspect of their war, and some of the methods literally reek. Introducing “sewage epidemiology,” coming soon to a community near you.

Sewage epidemiology is a rapidly expanding field that can provide information on illicit drug usage in communities, based on the measured concentrations in samples from wastewater treatment plants.
According to the American Chemical Society’s report:

The war on drugs could get a boost with a new method that analyzes sewage to track levels of illicit drug use in local communities in real time. The new study, a first-of-its-kind in the U.S., was published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology and could help law enforcement identify new drug hot spots and monitor whether anti-drug measures are working.
The thought of authorities slogging through the sludge may be comical, but it represents another example of big brother using our money to monitor our behavior. Drug consumption is a non-violent act upon oneself. The drug trade is made violent in a black market under government prohibition.

What is the rationale behind attempts at drug eradication and criminalization? It provides a means for government to assert power; it enriches the prison industry and the jackboot industry and politicians. Take these away and there is no logic to the war on drugs.

Supply is consistently available to meet demand, despite massive amounts of money and effort directed at eradicating supply and criminalizing demand.

Instead of learning from this history, however, the state continues its meaningless pursuit by turning to things such as sewage epidemiology. While some European countries put this technology to good use by monitoring sewage for environmental toxins, in the U.S. it will be used to repress its citizens.

Most information on drug use is gathered by the state through surveys, crime statistics, and drug seizures. Analyzing our bodily waste will “help law enforcement identify new drug hot spots.”

After all, they have to find reasons to use all that fancy new military gear.

Read more -
http://thefreethoughtproject.com/war-drugs-police-inspecting-poop/

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dog Shoots Man -

Dog Shoots Man - 



Stop trying to teach your old dog new tricks, and teach yourself some gun safety!

A Wyoming man is recovering in the hospital after his dog accidentally shot him. In a phone interview on Thursday, Johnson County Sheriff Steve Kozisek confirmed that Richard L. Fipps, 46, was hospitalized Monday after his dog stepped on a loaded rifle in the bed of his pickup truck and accidentally fired it. The rifle's safety was off, Kozisek said.

According to Big Horn Mountain Radio, Fipps was removing snow chains from his truck when he was shot in the left arm.

"The rifle was loaded and in the bed of the truck [with some other gear], and the dog hopped up there and either stepped on it or caused something to move and set it off," Kozisek told the Huffington Post.

Fipps transported to Sheridan Memorial Hospital via ambulance. His condition was not released, but his injuries were not life threatening, according to Big Horn Mountain Radio.

Kozisek said that the accident could have easily been prevented, had the gun not been loaded.

"Carrying a loaded rifle in a truck is never a good idea, safety on or safety off," Kozisek said.

The sheriff, who has worked in law enforcement for 42 years, said he'd never seen a case where a dog shot a man. 

Read more - 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/18/dog-shoots-man-wyoming_n_6348650.html

Wristband notices when you fall asleep, records your TV show... -

Wristband notices when you fall asleep, records your TV show... - 

The KipstR wristband tracks when you fall asleep and sets your TV to record the rest of the show.

Wearable technology is great, but so much of it is obsessed with getting you fit. Apps can track your heartbeat, encourage you to hit the gym, and remind you just how many calories were in that last donut. But what about a product designed for more relaxed individuals?

Wouldn't it be helpful, say, if a wristband could tell if you doze off while watching the TV, then automatically record the rest of the show?

SEE ALSO: The rise of the 'quantified self'

As it happens, two young tech prodigies have created exactly that. KipstR was developed by teenagers Ryan Oliver, 15, and Jonathan Kingsley, 14, students at Manchester Creative Studio, in conjunction with TV and broadband provider Virgin Media.

The pair have come up with a 3D-printed wristband that uses a pulse oximeter, a clinical device for diagnosing sleep disorders, to sense when the user has drifted off. The KipstR band then mimics the user's TiVo remote to pause and record the TV show that was playing.

Read more - 
http://mashable.com/2014/12/18/wristband-records-tv/

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

When advertising your business on your Truck goes Bad - Texas plumber's truck ends up in Syrian war - mounted with guns -

When advertising your business on your Truck goes Bad - Texas plumber's truck ends up in Syrian war - mounted with guns - 



A Texas plumber has been receiving threats after a photo emerged of Islamic extremists in Syria firing a high-powered gun from the bed of his old pickup, which still bears his company's logo on the door.

An extremist group, Ansar al-Deen Front, posted the photo of its fighters aboard the Ford F-250 sometime on Monday. That prompted a flood of calls to Mark Oberholtzer, who owns Mark-1 Plumbing in Texas City, and has nothing to do with Syria's bloody civil war.

"How it ended up in Syria, I'll never know," Oberholtzer told The Galveston Daily News.

The photograph spread online and Oberholtzer told the paper that he traded in the truck three years ago to an area auto dealership. AutoNation, the Houston dealership, told KHOU.com that the truck was auctioned and was likely traded from owner to owner over the course of three years.

Oberholtzer was surprised the auto dealership sold the truck with the company’s name still on the door.

"They [AutoNation] were supposed to have done it [covered the decals] and it looks like they didn't do it," he said.

AutoNation did not immediately return a phone call from Fox News.

Oberholtzer owned the mom-and-pop plumbing company for 32 years and said his business has received a thousand calls and faxes about the photo.

"A few of the people are really ugly," he told the paper. "I just want it to go away, to tell you the truth."

His son told KHOU.com that the family his hard working and has no ties to terror.

"We have nothing to do with terror at all," Jeff Oberholtzer said.

Read more - 
http://www.galvestondailynews.com/free/article_5f269ed2-8557-11e4-8588-37eb16686b02.html?mode=image&photo=0

Here's What's Wrong With Corporate America, And The U.S. Economy -

Here's What's Wrong With Corporate America, And The U.S. Economy - 














Will we ever tire of navigating the multiple layers of intermediaries between the customer and the provider, while corporate profits soar to unprecedented heights?

If we had to summarize what's wrong with Corporate America and the entire U.S. economy, we can start with all the intermediaries between the provider and the customer. There are a number of examples we're all familiar with.

One is healthcare, where a veritable phalanx of intermediaries filters the interactions between doctors and patients so heavily that the traditional practice of medicine has been nullified.

By traditional I mean the arrangement that was conventional a few short decades ago: you went to the doctor of your choice (typically, the same doctor your family used), he/she treated you, and you paid the doctor's bill in cash. Only hospitalization was covered by the minimal (and minimally limiting) healthcare insurance plans of the time.

The second example is home appliances purchased at a Big Box retailer. Here's the list of interactions between Corporate America and the customer:

1. Customer enters Big Box Store and is sold a high-margin appliance, unless customer insists on the sale item. Either way, the appliance was assembled in China for a few hundred bucks and shipped to the U.S. for a few more bucks. The difference between the low cost and the price the customer pays is gross profit for Corporate America.

2. Customer and salesperson both know the reliability of the appliance, regardless of brand or price, is low, so an extended warranty is an easy sale. The manufacturer's warranty is typically one year, and the extended warranty tacks on a couple years to the minimal manufacturer's warranty.

(Recall that not too long ago in America, any major appliance was expected to last a few decades, not a few years.)

3. Customer shells out $1,000 for the appliance and another $300 for the extended warranty, and a few more bucks for delivery.

4. Corporate America to customer: we're done with you, bucko. The delivery is subcontracted to another company, the extended warranty is handled by another company, and should the appliance fail during the manufacturer's warranty, the customer has to contact the manufacturer directly.

The only interaction retail Corporate America has with the customer is the initial sale. Everything after that is handled by other companies. So Corporate America has no interest in customer satisfaction or happiness after the sales experience.

5. Calls made to Corporate America--the Big Box retailer or the manufacturer--will be directed to somebody else. The job of taking care of the customer has been shunted to intermediaries that the customer cannot contact directly.

Compare this with the traditional arrangement between the retailer and the customer: whatever the problem, the retailer took care of the customer. If the appliance broke down, the retailer's repair crew would go out and fix it. The retailer was accountable to the customer all the way down the line; if there was a warranty covering the repair, the retailer handled that bureaucratic layer as part of their service.

6. The appliance fails two days after the manufacturer's warranty expires, i.e. one year after purchase. (True story.)

7. Customer calls Corporate America retailer. Response: we're done with you, bucko. Call the manufacturer or the extended warranty company.

8. Customer calls Corporate America manufacturer (or the U.S. office of a global appliance manufacturer). Response: Since your appliance is off warranty, the service call will be (insert outrageous fee): $99.99 (that's our special price for good customers, pal.) Parts will also be marked up triple from what you could buy them for on the Internet, and our labor charges are so high that the repair, even if it is modest in scope, will cost a third to a half of the original price of the appliance.

If the repair is serious, the cost might exceed the original purchase price a year earlier.

Stripped of phony solicitude, the manufacturer's response: we're done with you, bucko. You bought our appliance, but we're under no obligation to make you happy beyond the 365-day warranty period--and well, to be honest, we don't really care if you're happy with our service under warranty, either. Our repair people will get to you when they get to you, and there are plenty of loopholes in the warranty.

Here's the view from Corporate America: we can get these appliances assembled in
Robotic Factory #2 (yes, the appliance was stamped with this phrase) in China for an absurdly low cost for an order of thousands of units, and if 10% of those fail within a year due to defective parts, that's just the cost of doing business.

We can grind the customer down with lousy service to the point that many will give up and not even pursue repair or replacement under warranty.

Since Americans have been trained to buy the lowest price, a.k.a. The Tyranny of Price, or the currently fad (over-hyped, overpriced) model, we don't care if they're happy or not. They'll buy the lowest cost appliance or the over-hyped brand next time anyway.

9. Customer calls the extended warranty provider. The extended warranty provider is in a distant state and contracts with a local firm to handle the repair. The customer cannot contact the repair outfit or person directly; everything must be handled through the extended warranty provider.

10. Two weeks later, the repairperson shows up, takes apart the appliance and presents the customer with a bill for $900 which must be paid before he can order parts. But I'm under the extended warranty, the customer says, and the repairperson shrugs. "That's not what the paperwork says." (True story.)

11. Customer calls back extended warranty provider and gets the paperwork straightened out. Boxes of parts start arriving shortly thereafter.

12. A different repairperson comes back in two more weeks, takes a look at the disassembled appliance and the parts that had arrived, and declares the repair will cost more than a new replacement appliance, so the customer should contact the extended warranty provider for a voucher to buy a new appliance.

13. The repairperson leaves the disassembled appliance and the parts. The customer has to call the extended warranty provider again to demand the broken appliance and the new parts be hauled off. Three weeks later, somebody shows up to haul off the useless appliance and the new parts.

14. Customer reads that corporate profits for the Big Box retailer and manufacturer just hit record highs, and has a seizure. Corporate America doesn't make money making the customer happy, beyond the few moments needed to collect $1,300 from him/her. That's how you reap record profits: make the sale and you're done with the customer.

Nobody is tasked with making the customer happy--that's some other intermediary's job. The customer is denied contact with the actual person who ends up with the job of making the customer happy--all communications must go through multiple corporate intermediaries, guaranteeing frustration and wasted time and money.

Will we ever tire of navigating the multiple layers of intermediaries between the customer and the provider, while corporate profits soar to unprecedented heights? The two dynamics are intimately linked: once we book the sale, we're done with customers. 

Read more - 
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-17/heres-whats-wrong-corporate-america-and-us-economy

The man behind the deadly siege of a cafe in Sydney this week had a gun license AND wasn't on a security watch list -

The man behind the deadly siege of a cafe in Sydney this week had a gun license AND wasn't on a security watch list - 

Say WHAAAAAT?!?! - Say WHAAAAAT?!?!  Say What Stewie

The man behind the deadly siege of a cafe in Sydney this week had a gun license and wasn't on a security watch list, Australia's Prime Minister says. And he wants to know why.
Tony Abbott said Wednesday that the system fell short.
"There's no doubt about that, and this is why we've got to constantly learn the lessons of everything that happens," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "We've got to be constantly asking ourselves: Is this the best we can do?
"And frankly, we've got to always be better at this because if we aren't good at this, our people suffer. And the tragedy of this atrocity is that two delightful Australians, two very decent people, are dead. Others are injured. Others are traumatized because of a madman who was roaming our streets," the Prime Minister said.
His office announced that authorities will carry out an urgent review into the hostage taking and "what lessons can be learned from the events leading up to and surrounding the siege."
At a news conference later Wednesday, Abbott told Australians, "I will not rest until I am confident that you are as safe as any government can possibly make you."
A report on the conclusions of the review is due by the end of January.
 Photos: Sydney cafe siege Photos: Sydney cafe siege
 Australian Ambassador reacts to the Sydney siege Sydney victim 'shielded pregnant friend' Cameraman describes Sydney siege
Authorities have identified the gunman as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian-born refugee who was granted political asylum in Australia.
He seized control of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in the heart of Sydney's central business district and held it for some 16 hours.
The siege ended when police stormed the cafe early Tuesday. The gunman was killed, but so were two hostages -- Katrina Dawson, a 38-year-old barrister and mother of three, and Tori Johnson, the manager of the cafe.

Read more - 
http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/16/world/asia/australia-sydney-hostage-situation/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

Now it is the Beavers - Beavers blamed for Global Warming... -

Now it is the Beavers - Beavers blamed for Global Warming... - 

"What! You telling me?"

Beavers are contributing to climate change, adding an estimated 800 million kg of methane to the atmosphere every year, scientists have found.

Over the last century, there has been a worldwide conservation effort to save beavers from extinction. The fur trade between the 16th and 19th century almost led to the annihilation of beavers across the globe.

After trapping was limited and the creatures were reintroduced to their natural ranges, their numbers grew significantly, with scientists now estimating their population to have reached over 10 million worldwide.

However, the consequence of this has led to beavers building more ponds, creating conditions for climate changing methane gas to be generated in the shallow standing water. Beavers build dams in rivers to create standing ponds, with dams normally reaching no higher than 1.5m.

In their work published in the Springer journal AMBIO, experts note that carbon builds up in oxygen-poor pond bottoms like those created by beavers, and methane is generated. The gas cannot be dissolved and is released into the atmosphere.

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada have found this methane release from beaver ponds is now 200 times higher than it was a century ago.

Read more - 
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/climate-change-beavers-boost-emissions-800-million-kg-methane-every-year-1479809

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Here's why you might want to stop drinking out of cans -

Here's why you might want to stop drinking out of cans - 

The chemical Bisphenol A- known as BPA - found in the lining of fizzy drink cans could cause high blood pressure and put heart patients at risk, experts warn

Might want to make your next six-pack glass bottles. Cans and plastic bottles are lined with a controversial chemical called BPA, and while the CDC still says the chemical's health effects are unclear, research on chronic exposure has linked it to high blood pressure and heart rate issues.

To test the effects of drinking from cans, researchers in South Korea provided 60 adults over the age of 60 with soy milk either in a can or a glass bottle.

Urine tests showed that those who drank from cans saw BPA levels up to 1,600% higher than those who drank from bottles, according to a post at Eureka Alert.

What's more, both BPA and blood pressure rose significantly in can-drinkers within a matter of hours, the New York Times reports, noting that this is one of the first studies to illustrate the potential risks of a just one BPA exposure.

An isolated experience of high blood pressure may not be that dangerous, but people should think twice before drinking regularly from cans or plastic bottles, an expert tells the Times.

"A 5 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure by drinking two canned beverages may cause clinically significant problems, particularly in patients with heart disease or hypertension," says a researcher, noting that he hopes manufactures will come up with "healthy alternatives" to BPA-lined cans.

Read more - 
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/12/15/here-why-might-want-to-stop-drinking-out-cans/

Monday, 15 December 2014

Professor : 'Elf on the Shelf' conditions kids to accept surveillance state... -

Professor : 'Elf on the Shelf' conditions kids to accept surveillance state... - 



Could there be something more sinister behind the little elf sitting on the shelf who returns to the North Pole each night?

Yes, says Laura Pinto, a digital technology professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

She recently published a paper titled “Who’s the Boss” on the doll, saying the idea of it reporting back to Santa each night on the child’s behavior “sets up children for dangerous, uncritical acceptance of power structures,” according to insideHalton.com.

From her paper:

When children enter the play world of The Elf on the Shelf, they accept a series of practices and rules associated with the larger story. This, of course, is not unique to The Elf on the Shelf. Many children’s games, including board games and video games, require children to participate while following a prescribed set of rules. The difference, however, is that in other games, the child role-plays a character, or the child imagines herself within a play-world of the game, but the role play does not enter the child’s real world as part of the game. As well, in most games, the time of play is delineated (while the game goes on), and the play to which the rules apply typically does not overlap with the child’s real world.

“You’re teaching (kids) a bigger lesson, which is that it’s OK for other people to spy on you and you’re not entitled to privacy,” she tells the Toronto Star.

She calls the elf “an external form of non-familial surveillance,” and says it’s potentially conditioning children to accept the state acting that way, too.

“If you grow up thinking it’s cool for the elves to watch me and report back to Santa, well, then it’s cool for the NSA to watch me and report back to the government,” according to Pinto.

Others concur with Pinto’s theory.

“It’s a little creepy, this idea that this elf is watching you all the time,” Emma Waverman, a blogger with Today’s Parent, tells the paper. She also doesn’t like that the story uses a threat – “nice” and “naughty” lists – to produce good behavior.

“It makes the motivation to behave something that’s external,” she says. “If I’m not around or if the elf is not around, do they act crazy?”

“Children potentially cater to The Elf on the Shelf as the ‘other,’ rather than engaging in and honing understandings of social relationships with peers, parents, teachers and ‘real life’ others,” Pinto writes.

“It’s worth noting that Pinto doesn’t object to the Elf on the Shelf’s Jewish counterpart, the Mensch on a Bench, which she characterized as ‘benign.’ Unlike the elf, the mensch doesn’t report to anyone at night but stays put, watching over the Hanukkah menorah,” the paper reports.

 According to the paper, 6 million “Elf on the Shelf” dolls and books have been sold in the last 8 years.

Read more - 
http://eagnews.org/prof-elf-on-the-shelf-conditions-kids-to-accept-surveillance-state/

Friday, 12 December 2014

Corporate America's Diversity Problem On Display At DealBook Conference - lack of women and people of color -

Corporate America's Diversity Problem On Display At DealBook Conference -  lack of women and people of color -  

BEWKES

It’s no secret that the leadership of corporate America, and Wall Street in particular, has a serious diversity problem. The lack of women and people of color in senior positions at the country’s largest businesses was on clear display at the New York Times DealBook conference on Thursday.

The theme of the conference, hosted by the paper’s finance and deal reporting site, was “Taking Stock of the Future: Rebuilding the Economy, Growth and Trust.”

Despite focusing on the future, the cast on stage looked a lot like the distant past.

Just three of the 20 people appearing on stage were women: Securities and Exchange Commission Chairwoman Mary Jo White, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, and Jessica Alba, the actress and co-founder of eco-friendly family products company The Honest Company. During her interview with DealBook founder Andrew Ross Sorkin, Alba was joined by Honest Company co-founder Brian Lee. Alba was the only executive who shared the stage with a colleague the entire day.

Only four of the 20 participants in the conference were people of color: Alba, who is Hispanic; American Express CEO Ken Chenault, who is African American; Lee, who is Korean American; and Jawbone co-founder and CEO Hosain Rahman, who is Pakistani American.

In a statement emailed to The Huffington Post, New York Times spokeswoman Stephanie Yera wrote: “Our DealBook conference is inclusive of innovators in business, finance, investment, retail, sports, media and tech, among other industries. We aimed to provide our audience with a diverse group of leaders, which included the first female C.E.O. of a major automaker, the first woman to be U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and our current chair of the S.E.C., and an entrepreneur who has found success as both an actress and a founder of a billion-dollar company."

The conference did manage to improve on corporate America’s standards of inclusion. Reuters reports that women account for 4 percent of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, and a 2012 McKinsey study found that women make up only 14 percent of executive committees on corporate boards in the Fortune 500. The Center for American Progress found that a similarly tiny fraction of Fortune 500 CEOs, 4.2 percent, was made up of people of color.

McKinsey came to the numerically incontrovertible conclusion that in corporate America, “the top circles of leadership remain male bastions.” It is also incontrovertible that executive America remains a white male bastion. Unfortunately, the stage at the DealBook conference was like a refrigeration unit at a weisswurst factory: full of white sausage.

Read more - 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/12/corporate-diversity-lack_n_6315664.html

Pope Francis says dogs can go to heaven - "Paradise is open to all of God's creatures." -

Pope Francis says dogs can go to heaven - "Paradise is open to all of God's creatures." - 

dog pet canine pope francis heaven angel paradise soul catholic animal

Pope Francis continues to show he's anything but traditional. During a recent public appearance, Francis comforted a boy whose dog had died, noting, "One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God's creatures."

Theologians say Francis — who took his papal name from the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi — was only speaking conversationally.

But the remark is being seen by some as a reversal of conservative Catholic theology that states because they are soulless, animals can't go to heaven,The New York Times reports.

In 1990, Pope John Paul II said animals have souls, but his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, gave a 2008 sermon that seemed to say the opposite.

Francis' comment has now sparked a new debate on the subject, and the Humane Society says it has been flooded with e-mails. If Francis does, in fact, believe animals have souls, "then we ought to seriously consider how we treat them," a rep says. "We have to admit that these are sentient beings, and they mean something to God."

PETA is also running with Francis' remark, suggesting Catholics should move toward a vegan lifestyle.

Animal souls aside, a recent Pew survey finds Francis has a 60% approval rating worldwide and 78% approval in the US, the Washington Post reports.

China may be growing fond of the pontiff, too, considering he allegedly refused a meeting with the Dalai Lama because, as the Dalai Lama reportedly said, "It might create inconveniences," the Times reports.

Read more - 
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2014/12/12/pope-francis-dogs-can-go-to-heaven/20296955/

Rats like Sexy Underwear too! Rodents prefer females clad in BRAS compared to their naked counterparts, study reveals -

Rats like Sexy Underwear too! Rodents prefer females clad in BRAS compared to their naked counterparts, study reveals - 

delia taylor rats

When it comes to sex, it seems that rats - like men - get turned on by sexy lingerie.
In a bizarre study, 12 virgin male rats were given the chance to have sex with female rats wearing special rodent 'bras.'
When the rats were allowed to mate for a second time, the creatures chose to have sex with female rats wearing lingerie, rather than those who were naked.

The study, by Concordia University in Montreal, suggests that, like men, male rats can learn to associate sex with clothing.
Male rats learn that 'each time my partner wears lingerie [a jacket], I'm going to have sex,' co-author Gonzalo R. Quintana Zunino told Tanya Lewis at Live Science.

Professor Zunino explained that when a male rat attempts to have sex, it approaches the female from behind, which causes the female to do a 'wiggling dance'.
The study found that if the female rat was wearing the lingerie, the male rat would feel it with his whiskers.

In a second test, virgin males were exposed to both sexually receptive females wearing the jackets and non-sexually receptive females not wearing jackets.
These males were then exposed to two sexually-aroused female rats, one in a 'bra' and one naked, at the same time. 
More of the males ejaculated sooner when mating with the female rats wearing the sexy lingerie.
After they conducted the study, the researchers injected a dye into the rats' brains to show the inner workings.
They found that the males trained to find bra-wearing females attractive showed more neural activity in the pleasure centre of the brain.
The same research team had previously carried out a study with the use of scents, and found they could train rats to prefer to mate with females wearing perfume.
'We have the same brain structure and neurochemistry as our rats,' Dr Jim Pfaus, a professor in the psychology department at the university, told Ed Mazza at the Huffington Post.
'We can see this in studies of brain activation in humans and rats, even though our patterns of copulation appear utterly different.'
The study was presented last month at the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting in Washington.


Read more - 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2871303/Rats-like-sexy-underwear-Rodents-prefer-females-clad-BRAS-compared-naked-counterparts-study-reveals.html

Presenting The $303 Trillion In Derivatives That US Taxpayers Are Now On The Hook For -

Presenting The $303 Trillion In Derivatives That US Taxpayers Are Now On The Hook For - 

wwwwwttttff

Courtesy of the Cronybus(sic) last minute passage, government was provided a quid-pro-quo $1.1 trillion spending allowance with Wall Street's blessing in exchange for assuring banks that taxpayers would be on the hook for yet another bailout, as a result of the swaps push-out provision, after incorporating explicit Citigroup language that allows financial institutions to trade certain financial derivatives from subsidiaries that are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, explicitly putting taxpayers on the hook for losses caused by these contracts. Recall:

Five years after the Wall Street coup of 2008, it appears the U.S. House of Representatives is as bought and paid for as ever. We heard about the Citigroup crafted legislation currently being pushed through Congress back in May when Mother Jones reported on it. Fortunately, they included the following image in their article:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.32.12 PM
 Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.32.12 PM

Unsurprisingly, the main backer of the bill is notorious Wall Street lackey Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a former Goldman Sachs employee who has discovered lobbyist payoffs can be just as lucrative as a career in financial services. 
We say explicitly, of course, because taxpayers have always been on the hook implicitly for the next Wall Street meltdown.

Why?

Exhibit A: US banks are the proud owners of $303 trillion in derivatives (and spare us the whole "but.. but... net exposure" cluelessness - read here why that is absolutely irrelevant when even one counterpaty fails):




Exhibit B: Here are the four banks that are in complete control of the US "republic."







At least we now know with certainty that to a clear majority in Congress - one consisting of republicans and democrats - the future viability of Wall Street is far more important than the well-being of their constituents. Which also, implicitly, was made clear when Hank Paulson was waving a three-page "blank check" term sheet, and when Congress voted through the biggest bailout of banks in US history back in 2008.

The only question is when the next multi-trillion (or perhaps quadrillion now that all global central banks are all in?) bailout takes place.

Read more- 
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-12/presenting-303-trillion-derivatives-us-taxpayers-are-now-hook

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Poor semen quality in young men may predict future health issues, study says -

Poor semen quality in young men may predict future health issues, study says - 

Men with abnormal sperm are much more likely to die young than those with normal semen, research shows

Young men with fertility issues may face other health problems later in life, research published Wednesday in the journal Fertility and Sterility suggests.

Vascular, heart and skin disease, as well as hypertension, are among the ailments linked to poor semen quality in the Stanford University study, which analyzed nearly 9,400 men, ages 30 to 50, who visited a fertility clinic.

“This could be a great opportunity for young men to get a window into their future health,” study author Barry Behr, professor of OBGYN at Stanford University, and lab director of Stanford Medicine Fertility and Reproductive Health, told FoxNews.com. “Sperm cells move and are large, and we can quantify them. If this pans out to be true— which we believe it will— your sperm condition is a great surrogate marker for your overall health.”

Previous research suggests that obesity, smoking and cancer can impact fertility. In this study, scientists wanted to explore whether other conditions were linked with trends in sperm production.

Among the study participants, with a median age of 38, 44 percent attended the fertility clinic between 1994 and 2011 for a health problem unrelated to fertility.

After studying these men’s medical records, researchers observed that hypertensive disease, peripheral vascular, cerebrovascular disease and nonischemic heart disease displayed higher rates of semen abnormalities. For example, 56 percent of men without hypertensive disease had normal semen quality, but only 45 percent of men with hypertension had normal semen quality.

Poor semen quality was also linked to higher rates of skin disease— the association that Behr found most surprising. Despite the significance of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, those findings made sense, he said, because poor blood flow has been shown to influence sperm production.

“We’ve all seen this along the side of the road: When you see a line of trees, and maybe the tree at the end of the irrigation system isn’t nourished or fed with water as much as the rest will show lower viability. If you have increased pressure due to hypertension or vascular constriction, or issues with getting appropriate blood supply to the testicles, it’s analogous to not allowing the tree or the cells to get their full supply of nutrients to flourish.”

The study authors noted that although a link between semen quality and other health issues exists, knowing definitively whether semen quality is influencing the conditions— or whether the medications or conditions themselves are impairing sperm production— is unclear.

“Infertile men have lower testosterone levels than fertile men,” study author Michael Eisenberg, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Stanford University, told FoxNews.com. “Testosterone is important— it’s a biomarker for health. Maybe these men are on a different trajectory because of this impaired testicular function.”

Eisenberg noted that 10 to 15 percent of the DNA in a man’s body is devoted to reproduction, and most of these genes also have diverse functions in other bodily systems.

In their paper, researchers write that future studies may examine how treatments for hypertension and heart disease can be changed to improve male fertility. Analyzing whether treatments for cardiovascular disease themselves may impair semen production may also be beneficial. Cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can impact sperm production, Eisenberg noted.

However, the researchers’ findings still suggest that men who experience fertility issues may see their future health benefit by making dietary or fitness changes.

“I think that for a man who feels or seems otherwise healthy and has aberrant semen parameters,” Behr said, “it may provide additional motivation for the individual to drill more into their health assessment to make sure they don’t harbor a condition later in life that they may be able to change their lifestyle for.”

Read more -
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/12/11/poor-semen-quality-in-young-men-may-predict-future-health-issues-study-says/?intcmp=latestnews

'Driving While Black' smartphone app alerts users of Racist Cops... -

'Driving While Black' smartphone app alerts users of Racist Cops... - 



Though the developers of the soon-to-be released "Driving While Black" smartphone application want motorists to download their product, there is a time when they definitely don't want users searching for it.
"Do not reach for your phone when you are talking to police," stressed Melvin Oden-Orr, one of two Portland lawyers creating the app.
Avoiding moves that could make police think you're reaching for a gun is just one tip included in the app that educates drivers about how to safely deal with police during traffic stops.
Despite its attention-grabbing name, Oden-Orr said the app due for release in late December will provide common sense advice to motorists of all races and outline what civil rights you have during a stop. With the phone hopefully in a hands-free device, the app allows drivers to send an alert to friends and family that they have been pulled over. There's also a recording function to document the interaction with an officer.
The app is coming to market as protesters around the country keep attention on instances of deadly encounters with police in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. Similar apps also are aimed at helping people navigate interactions with police.
Three Georgia teenagers created "Five-O," an app released this summer that lets people rate their interactions with law enforcement. And last month, American Civil Liberties Union affiliates in four states unveiled "Mobile Justice," an app that allows users to take video of police encounters and upload the video to the ACLU. It's modeled on "Stop and Frisk Watch," an app released for New Yorkers in 2012.
"It's obviously in the forefront of everybody's mind; the police know they are being recorded and people in public know they can record," said Sarah Rossi, director of advocacy and policy for the ACLU Missouri affiliate. "I think the benefit of this app (Mobile Justice) specifically is it goes straight to the ACLU and we can review it for any due-process violations."
The apps also include a "Know Your Rights" section that informs people about their rights when contacted by police.
Portland attorney Mariann Hyland got the idea for "Driving While Black" after learning of an app for drivers suspected of drunken driving. She approached Oden-Orr in April, and the two have been working on the app since summer with software developer James Pritchett.
The term "driving while black," perhaps unfamiliar to some, is common among African-Americans. A Justice Department report released last year, based on a survey of those stopped by police in 2011, suggests blacks are more likely than whites to be pulled over and have their cars searched. Moreover, African-Americans are much more likely to believe a traffic stop is not legitimate.
The issue has been on Hyland's radar since motorist Rodney King was beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991. Another key event hit closer to home. In 2003, a 21-year-old black woman was fatally shot by Portland police after she jumped from the backseat to the driver's seat during a traffic stop and tried to drive away.
Oden-Orr hosted a forum after the death, and Hyland attended. Afterward, Hyland promised she would do something to educate black youth on handling traffic stops. For years, she didn't keep that promise, and it bothered her.
The app is her attempt at rectifying the situation. Hyland and Oden-Orr say the key to surviving a traffic stop is to remain calm, keep your hands on the wheel, be respectful and make no false moves.
It doesn't sound difficult, but such encounters can be dangerous for police — putting them on heightened alert — and a driver might find it difficult to relax when convinced the stop is based on skin color.
"They describe a pattern of getting pulled over by the police, and they find it to be very frustrating and sometimes that frustration can lead to anger," Hyland said. "You have to always be mindful to check the anger."
The app will include a directory of lawyers for drivers who believe they were wrongfully stopped or searched. The app itself won't provide legal advice, such as telling users how to beat a traffic ticket.
"It's about being safe during a traffic stop so that everyone goes home alive," Oden-Orr said.

Read more- 
http://www.breitbart.com/system/wire/ap_cc5dcefeda674767843dbaf4f8f97735

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Black Barbies Don't Always Cost The Same As White Barbies -

Black Barbies Don't Always Cost The Same As White Barbies - 

barbie 1

Why are black Barbies priced differently than white Barbies?

It's a tough question and one that some of America's biggest retailers are having to answer amid the biggest shopping time of the year.

For example, Tuesday afternoon Wal-Mart's website listed an African-American ice skater Barbie for $11.87 while the Caucasian version costs just $9.88.

The retailing giant said the pricing discrepancy was an unintended error.

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"They should always be the same price, across all ethnicities," a Wal-Mart spokesman said Tuesday evening. "This is just a pricing error. We corrected it immediately."

In fact, the retailer vowed to make up the price difference with a gift card for any customer who purchased the more expensive African-American doll. The spokesman said he didn't know how long the prices had been different or how many shoppers might have purchased them at the wrong prices.

barbie 2

This isn't the first time Wal-Mart's website has gotten it into hot water. Before Halloween, the company listed 'Fat Girl Costumes' section online as a section. It removed it after the category sparked outrage.

Meanwhile, over at privately held Toys R Us, the same African-American Barbie skating doll was on sale for $10.99—less than the $14.99 price of the white Barbie.

barbie 3

barbie 4

"It is our policy to price like dolls of all ethnicities the same. We will ensure the pricing is corrected," Kathleen Waugh, vice president, Corporate Communications at Toys R Us told CNBC in an e-mail.

Mattel, the maker of the Barbie dolls, did not respond to CNBC's requests for a comment.

Discount retailer Target already caught heat from its own case of Barbie pricing discrepancy. The retailer originally priced its African-American fashion design marker Barbie at $49.99—more than twice the sale price of the $23.49 white version, reported WCPO's website.

Target is now selling both Barbies for $20.99.

"It is never our intention to offend our guests with our product assortment," a Target spokesman said, in a statement. "Both dolls should have reflected the same pricing, however, due to a systems issue this change did not occur."

Read more -
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/10/black-barbies-cost-more_n_6302026.html

Treasury Department Prepping? - Emergency masks, solar blankets to be delivered to every major bank in the U.S. -

Treasury Department Prepping? - Emergency masks, solar blankets to be delivered to every major bank in the U.S. - 

Single Delight

The Department of Treasury is seeking to order survival kits for all of its employees who oversee the federal banking system, according to a new solicitation.

The emergency supplies would be for every employee at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which conducts on-site reviews of banks throughout the country. The survival kit includes everything from water purification tablets to solar blankets.

The government is willing to spend up to $200,000 on the kits, according to the solicitation released on Dec. 4.

The survival kits must come in a fanny-pack or backpack that can fit all of the items, including a 33-piece personal first aid kit with “decongestant tablets,” a variety of bandages, and medicines.

The kits must also include a “reusable solar blanket” 52 by 84 inches long, a 2,400-calorie food bar, “50 water purification tablets,” a “dust mask,” “one-size fits all poncho with hood,” a rechargeable lantern with built-in radio, and an “Air-Aid emergency mask” for protection against airborne viruses.

Survival kits will be delivered to every major bank in the United States including Bank of America, American Express Bank, BMO Financial Corp., Capitol One Financial Corporation, Citigroup, Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Company, and Wells Fargo.

Items will also be delivered to OCC offices across the country, from Champaign, Ill. to Billings, Mont. The agency also has offices in Sioux City, Iowa; Joplin, Mo.; and Fargo, N.D.

The mission of the OCC is to “ensure that national banks and federal savings associations operate in a safe and sound manner, provide fair access to financial services, treat customers fairly, and comply with applicable laws and regulations.”

The agency has roughly 3,814 employees, each of which would receive a survival kit. The staff includes “bank examiners” who provide “sustained supervision” of major banks in the United States.

“Examiners analyze loan and investment portfolios, funds management, capital, earnings, liquidity, sensitivity to market risk for all national banks and federal thrifts, and compliance with consumer banking laws for national banks and thrifts with less than $10 billion in assets,” the OCC website explains. “They review internal controls, internal and external audit, and compliance with law. They also evaluate management’s ability to identify and control risk.”

It is not clear why the Treasury Department is ordering the kits. Contracts for survival kits are usually made for the military, or law enforcement such as the FBI.

The OCC did not return request for comment before publication of this story.

Read more - 
http://freebeacon.com/issues/treasury-department-seeking-survival-kits-for-bank-employees/

Half of Americans Don't Want Their Sons Playing Football, Poll Shows -

Half of Americans Don't Want Their Sons Playing Football, Poll Shows - 

Pee Wee Football

Television ratings are up and merchandise sales are booming, but longer-term trends don’t look as rosy for football. According to a new Bloomberg Politics poll, 50 percent of Americans say they wouldn't want their son to play the sport and only 17 percent believe it’ll grow in popularity in the next 20 years.

These are grim numbers for a sport that’s seeing an onslaught of negative attention, including a parade of National Football League players accused of abusing their wives or children; a team name so offensive that some news organizations refuse to print it; and, perhaps most troubling to parents, the growing body of evidence that repeated blows to the head can cause long-lasting brain damage. The sport’s troubles have caught the attention of Congress, whose members hauled a league official to Washington for a Senate hearing earlier this month. Individual lawmakers have proposed ending the league’s tax-exempt status and putting its coveted anti-trust exception up for a five year review.

The finding suggest that, over the course of time, football could go the way of boxing, a marquee American sport in the early part of the 20th century that declined amid a similar set of dynamics: changing perceptions of its brutality and star athletes making headlines for violent crimes.

 
Bloomberg Graphics

The Bloomberg survey, conducted from Dec. 3-5 by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, shows that elites are particularly bearish on the sport’s future. Almost a third of those who make $100,000 or more a year say football will lose followers over the next two decades. More than a quarter of college-educated respondents agree. The same wealthy and college-educated folks are the most likely groups to want to keep their children off the gridiron. Sixty-two percent of college-educated respondents said they don’t want their children playing the sport and 62 percent of those making $100,000 or more a year agree.

“I just think it has become too dangerous,” said Vince Vlasuk, 38, a consultant in Strongsville, Ohio, who is pushing his young boys to play soccer instead. “I don’t think they have the equipment they need to protect themselves, particularly at the junior high and high school level.”

A spate of football related high school deaths made headlines over the past few weeks including young players dying after game day injuries in New York and Alabama. Across the country games have been canceled and seasons curtailed due to a surfeit of injuries and a declining number of young players.

The poll also showed a generational divide, with 56 percent of those under age 35 saying they'd want their son to play. That's the highest of any demographic group and almost twice the percentage, 29 percent, of those 65 and older. Democrats were slightly more likely to oppose their children participating in the game than Republicans, 52 percent to 47. Even though the National Football League has courted women as viewers, 58 percent of female respondents say they don’t want their boys playing football compared with 41 percent of men.

Another bright spot for the sport among the under-35 set: They are almost twice as likely as older respondents to believe the sport will grow in popularity over the next twenty years. And there’s still the 43 percent of respondents who say they want their kids to play the game, including Tim Sacre, 58, of Tooele, Utah. The retired miner is raising two grandchildren. “It’s a popular sport,” he said. “It’s fun for them.” Safety, he said, is a “concern," but his young charges participate in another hair-raising activity. “One races motorcycles too, so football is nothing,” he said.

The poll of 1,001 U.S. adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. 

Read more - 

1,600-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill works out to nearly $700 million per page in spending -

1,600-page, $1.1 trillion spending bill works out to nearly $700 million per page in spending - 



This item has been updated and revised.

The $1.01 trillion spending bill unveiled late Tuesday will keep most of the federal government funded through next September -- and it's packed with hundreds of policy instructions, known on Capitol Hill as "riders," that will upset or excite Democrats, Republicans and various special interest groups.

So, what's in the bill? We've sifted through the legislation, consulted supporting documents from Democratic and Republican aides, and called out some of the more notable and controversial elements below. (If you want to review detailed reports on all 12 parts of the spending bill, click here.)

Please note: This is a fluid report that will be updated to add more detail or correct errors. What notable changes did we miss? What notable changes did you spot? Contact us or share details in the comments section below:

ABORTION:
The bill once again bans using federal funding to perform most abortions; blocks the use of local and federal funding for abortions in the District of Columbia; and blocks the use of federal dollars for abortions for federal prisoners. Republicans say that there's also new language directing the secretary of health and human services to ensure that consumers shopping for health-care coverage on the federal exchange can tell whether a plan covers abortion services.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT:
The law is still funded, but there's no new money for it. There's also no new ACA-related funding for the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the two agencies most responsible for implementing the law. The bill also would cut the budget of the Independent Payment Advisory Board -- what Republicans have called "the death panel" -- by $10 million.

AFGHANISTAN:
Congress withholds funding for the Afghan government "until certain conditions are met," including implementing the bilateral security agreement reached with the United States.

AMTRAK:
The nation's rail passenger service earns $1.39 billion, the same amount it currently receives. The rail service carries passengers through 46 states and hit an all-time high of 31.6 million passengers during the last fiscal year, according to Democratic aides.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE:
The bill would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Bottom line: A donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms -- a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit. Read more on this here.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL:
The agency would get more than $6.9 billion, an increase of about $42.7 million. The nation's leading disease-fighters also get $30 million to help fight Ebola (see below).

CLEAN WATER ACT:
In a win for Republicans, the spending bill blocks the Environmental Protection Agency from applying the law to certain farm ponds and irrigation ditches -- a move that GOP aides said would benefit farmers.

DODD-FRANK:
Democrats agreed to make some of the biggest changes yet to the 2010 financial regulatory reforms. In a deal sought by Republicans, the bill would reverse Dodd-Frank requirements that banks "push out" some of derivatives trading into separate entities not backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporations. Ever since being enacted, banks have been pushing to reverse the change. Now, the rules would go back to the way they used to be. But in exchange, Democrats say they secured more money for the enforcement budgets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

EBOLA:
Roughly $5.4 billion is provided across several agencies to combat the spread of the disease in the United States and around the world. The amount is less than the $6 billion Obama requested.

EGYPT:
The beleaguered country gets $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic aid -- but the money is subject to "democracy and human rights conditions," while the secretary of state can make exceptions for counterterrorism and border security operations.

EMBASSIES:
There's $5.4 billion for security at U.S. embassies worldwide, $46 million more than Obama requested. The total includes new money to implement recommendations from the Benghazi Accountability Review Board. The bill also once again bans any embassy construction money to be spent on the lavish new U.S. embassy in London.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY:
The agency gets $8.1 billion, down $60 million from the last fiscal year. The agency's budget has been slashed by $2.2 billion, or 21 percent, since fiscal 2010, according to GOP aides. The cuts mean that EPA will have to reduce its staffing to the lowest levels since 1989.

ERIC CANTOR:
Well, kind of. The former House majority leader stunned the political world by losing in a GOP primary last summer. But Congress agreed to provide $12.6 million for his signature legislative achievement -- the Gabriella Miller Kids First Act, which authorizes new federally-funded pediatric research. The bill was paid for by slashing federal funding for political conventions.

FEDERAL WORKER PAY (AND CONFERENCES):
The bill allows a 1 percent pay raise ordered by Obama to take affect in January. And the legacy of embarrassing spending scandals at federal agencies persist as Congress once again banned or put limits on certain conferences, official travel and some employee awards.

FOOD SAFETY (AND THE FDA)
There's $2.589 billion for the Food and Drug Administration, a $37 million increase from last year. There's $27 million in new funding for the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Food Safety and Inspection Service would receive $1.016 billion, a $5 million increase.

GUANTANAMO BAY:
Once again the Obama administration is banned from transferring terrorism detainees to the United States from the U.S. military facility in Cuba. There's also a ban on building or buying any facility in the U.S. to house detainees. But the bill allows for the ongoing transfer of detainees to other countries.

HEROIN:
In a modest attempt to address a growing crisis with the illicit drug, lawmakers are adding $7 million for a new anti-heroin task force run out of the Justice Department's COPS Office. The money will be used as part of a competitive grant program for drug enforcement, including investigations and operations to stop the distribution or sale of the drug, according to Democrats.

IMMIGRATION:
The bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most immigration policy, until February. But negotiators gave new money for immigration programs at other federal agencies. There's $948 million for the Department of Health and Human Service's unaccompanied children program -- an $80 million increase. The program provides health and education services to the young migrants. The department also gets $14 million to help school districts absorbing new immigrant students. And the State Department would get $260 million to assist Central American countries from where of the immigrant children are coming.

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE:
One of the GOP's favorite targets will see its budget slashed by $345.6 million. The nation’s tax agency also would be banned from targeting organizations seeking tax-exempt status based on their ideological beliefs.

ISRAEL:
There's $3.1 billion in total aid for the country, including $175 million for successful "Iron Dome" missile defense system. Defense aid totals $619.8 million.

JOE BIDEN:
The legislation once again enacts a pay freeze for the vice president "and senior political appointees."

LIBYA:
The troubled country cannot receive any U.S. aid until the secretary of state confirms the country is cooperating with ongoing investigations into the September 2012 attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

JORDAN:
The Arab kingdom would receive $1 billion in economic and military aid, in addition to U.S. humanitarian aid for millions of Syrian refugees.

LIGHT BULBS:
The bill once again prohibits new standards that would ban the use of cheaper, less energy efficient incandescent bulbs. The proposal was first introduced and set in motion by the Bush administration, but the Obama White House allowed the change to continue, despite sustained consumer demand for older bulbs.

MARIJUANA:
The District of Columbia will be prohibited from legalizing marijuana for the much of the coming year. The development -- upending a voter-approved initiative -- shocked elected D.C. leaders, advocates for marijuana legalization and civil liberties groups. The bill also would block the Justice Department from interfering with state-level medical marijuana measures and prohibits the Drug Enforcement Agency from interfering with industrial hemp production.

METRORAIL:
The D.C. region's subway and bus system would earn $150 million in federal dollars for continued improvements. That's part of $10.9 billion set to be doled out for transit programs nationwide, including the construction of new rail and rapid bus projects in California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina and Texas. But Republicans stress that the bill has no new federal funding for high-speed rail projects, especially the ambitious Los Angeles-to-San Francisco routes envisioned by California Democrats.

MILITARY PAY AND PERKS:
Military service members will receive a 1 percent pay increase next year. But there's a pay freeze for generals and flag officers. The bill also ends a five percent discount on tobacco and tobacco-related products sold at military exchanges.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY:
The agreement includes $24 million to complete the federal government's contribution to the new museum being built on the Mall. The rest of the money will be raised through private donations.

NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH:
The nation's premier medical research agency would receive $30.3 billion, a $150 million overall increase. Democrats noted that the new funding helps especially for ongoing Alzheimer's and brain research programs.

OFFICIAL PORTRAITS:
You're a government official and want an official portrait? You'll have to pay for it (or raise the funds). The bill bans taxpayer funding for official portraits of any Executive Branch employees, lawmakers and heads of legislative agencies.

OVERSEAS MILITARY OPERATIONS:
There's $1.3 billion for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund; $5 billion for military operations to combat the Islamic State, including $1.6 billion to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces; $500 million for a Pentagon-led program to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition fighters; $810 million for ongoing military operations in Europe, including requirements that at least $175 million is spent in support of Ukraine and other Baltic nations.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY:
The bill stops assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it becomes a member of the United Nations or UN agencies without an agreement  with Israel. It also prohibits funds for Hamas.

PENSIONS:
For the first time, the benefits of current retirees could be severely cut, part of an effort to save some of the nation’s most distressed pension plans. The change would alter 40 years of federal law and could affect millions of workers, many of them part of a shrinking corps of middle-income employees in businesses such as trucking, construction and supermarkets. Read more on this here.

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
You like your mail on Saturdays? You'll keep your mail on Saturdays. The bill requires the mail service to continue six-day deliveries, despite a years-long attempt to cut back on service to save money.

POTATOES:
White potatoes, to be exact. The Women, Infants and Children program that provides food aid to low-income families would receive $6.6 billion, a $93 million cut from the last fiscal year. But the program will be required to ensure that "all varieties of fresh vegetables, including white potatoes, are eligible for purchase" through the program, said Republicans. The change is a big victory for the potato lobby, which has long fought to be part of the food assistance program.

RACE TO THE TOP:
The bill cuts funding for Obama's education initiative, according to GOP aides.

RAILROADS:
Among other things, there's $3 million to expand inspections along the roughly 14,000 miles of track used by trains hauling oil tankers.

SAGE-GROUSE:
In a victory for the GOP, the bill would ban the Fish and Wildlife Service from adding the rare bird found in several Western states to the Endangered Species List. Republicans argue that adding the bird to the list "would have severe economic consequences on Western states and the nation’s efforts to become energy independent." But there's also $15 million for the Bureau of Land Management to conserve sage-grouse habitats.

SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM:
The school lunch nutritional changes sought by First Lady Michelle Obama take a hit. The bill allows more flexibility to school districts to implement new whole grain nutrition standards "if the school can demonstrate a hardship" when buying whole grain products, according to Republicans. The bill also relaxes new sodium standards until they are "supported by additional scientific studies."

SEXUAL ASSAULT IN THE MILITARY:
There's $257 million for the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs, including $25 million more to expand the Sexual Assault Victims’ Counsel program. But Democrats, led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), are expected to make a final push to expand the program this week.

TRUCKING:
In a victory for the trucking industry, the bill blocks new Transportation Department regulations requiring truckers to get two nights of sleep before starting a new work week. The regulation slashed a typical trucker's work week to 70 hours, down from 82 hours.

UNITED NATIONS:
The perennial ban on providing money for the ongoing renovation of U.N. Headquarters in New York remains intact.

U.S. CAPITOL (AND RELATED AGENCIES):
There's $21 million to continue restoring the cast-iron Capitol Dome. And $348 million for the U.S. Capitol Police (a force with 1,775 officers). Lawmakers also plan to save $10,000 by allowing the congressional Office of Compliance to email congressional staffers about their employment rights. Old rules required the office to send such notices by snail mail. Finally, for the first time the agency formerly known as the Government Printing Office is now officially known as the Government Publishing Office.

VETERANS:
After a year of embarrassing scandals at the sprawling Department of Veterans Affairs, lawmakers are making good on promises to provide more money and oversight. There's a total of $159.1 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending. Of that, $209 million was added to address new costs related to the bipartisan veterans' reform bill passed last summer. The legislation calls for adding medical staff and expanding dozens of facilities. In order to specifically addressing the "wait list" scandal, the VA's inspector general is getting a $5 million budget increase to continue investigating lapses in patient care.

WHISTLEBLOWERS:
The bill includes language ensuring that government contractors are not barred allegations of waste, fraud or abuse if they sign a confidentiality agreement. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would receive a $500,000 increase for its enforcement of existing whistleblower laws.

WHITE HOUSE BUDGET:
There's $222 million for executive mansion operations, a $10 million increase. The money pays for the National Security and Homeland Security councils, the Council of Economic Advisers, the vice president's office and the executive residence. The bill doesn't provide any new funding "to address security weaknesses at the White House complex," according to Democrats. But the U.S. Secret Service would be allowed to use some of its funding "to prepare and train for the next presidential election campaign," Democrats said.

WOLVES:
Well, only if you're attacked. There's $1 million in the bill "to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves."

YUCCA MOUNTAIN:
There's no new money for the site, but current money for it must be spent pursuant to a recent court decision. Republicans say that the bill continues to leave open the possibility that the site could be used someday to store nuclear waste -- but that won't happen as long as Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is around.

Read more - 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/12/09/whats-in-the-spending-bill-we-skim-it-so-you-dont-have-to/