Monday, February 29, 2016

Lady Gaga Keeps Soaring. An Oscar Wow

Lady Gaga performing "Til It Happens To You" at the Oscars
Sunday night. 
As most of you who read this blog know, I've been a Lady Gaga fan from the start.

She's certainly gone through a lot of personas. And I'm sure many people thought she was a strange performance artist flash in the pan when she first hit it big several years ago.  

But she's got the goods, as she's proven through such moments like her collaboration with Tony Bennett, here National Anthem performance at the Super Bowl, and last night, her song  "Til It Happens To You" At the Oscars.

The Oscar-nominated song is from The Hunting Ground, a movie which is an expose of the rape culture on college campuses.

Joined by several survivors of sexual assault, Lady Gaga's performance last night moved people to tears.

Like I said, Lady Gaga has got the goods and the staying power. She is going to have a long, interesting, wonderful career. Which I'm very happy about.

Here's the Oscar performance:

Trump And His Supporter Use Media, Hate It, And Are Trolled By It

Donald Trump wants to weaken First Amendment
protections for the media. It's a dangerous idea. 
Say what you want about Donald Trump, but his relationship with the media is......complicated.

I agree with the pundits who say he would have never gotten this far in his inprobable, successful and many say scary success in his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. President.

After all, he's gotten so, so much free media. People love a train wreck, a controversy, so he's been great for media outlets as people tune in to watch, read or hear the latest outrageous Trump remark.

I'm not sure the media is to blame for Trump's rise or not, but it's something to consider. And Trump should be grateful for all the free 'advertising' he's gotten because he's constantly on the news.

The media attention on him isn't always fawning of course. There's lots of journalists, pundits, comedians, social media wizards and the like who can't stand Trump, who point out all his hypocrisies, bad ideas, racist comments, xenophobia, greed, and ego.

Trump, needless to say, is not a fan of people who even question him. Just ask Megan Kelley, the Fox News anchor who had the gall to ask him vaguely pointed questions months ago in a Republican debate, and Trump still hasn't gotten over jabbing at Kelly on Twitter.

Which leads me to one of Trump's dangerous ideas. At least I think it's dangerous and so do a lot of other people.

He would weaken libel laws to make it much easier to sue media outlets, and win.

According to the Associated Press:

"The changes envisioned by the celebrity businessman turned Republica front-runner would mean that 'when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,' he said at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas.

Trump added that, should he win the election, news organizations that have criticized him will 'have problems.' He specifically cited the New York Times and The Washington Post."

First of all, if a journalist knowingly broadcasts something that is false and said with malice and can harm a person's reputation, that person can sue for libel and likely win.

You can't sue and win if what is reported is true, or is opinion, you're covered. In other words, you'd open yourself up to a legitimate lawsuit if you accuse Trump of being a child molester, because he is most certainly not. He has not definitely not committed any kind of crime like that.

However, if you broadcast an opinion that his idea to build a wall on the Mexican border is stupid, you're covered. The First Amendment guarantees you can criticize a public figure's positions on any topic he or she discusses.

The Associated Press goes on:

"First Amendment advocates condemned Trump's suggestions.

'His statement shows why we need libel protections,' said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Washington-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. 'Trump gets offended, he gets upset and he wants to sue to retaliate. That's not a good reason to sue someone.'"

Since freedom of speech is in the Constitution and the Supreme Court hs repeatedly endorsed the legal standard, Trump would not be able to change the law through Congress or via executive order. You'd have to amend the Constitution.

The press freedoms we have protect the nation basically from tin pot dictators. If the public learns about politicians and other public figures via an unfettered press, they can vet these candidates, learn about any red flags, and assess for themselves whether they want to vote for a particular person or not.

Also, if the press can freely report on unethical and illegal activity by any public official, that bad behavior can be stopped.

If the First Amendment protections weren't there, politicians and others could get away with anything.

I'm not saying Trump is suggesting loosening the libel laws so he can do bad things. He's not. He just doesn't like getting his ego bruised. But still, his idea is dangerous.

Of course, under the First Amendment, the media can use satire, jokes and other methods to highlight a public figure's foibles.

This was on full display this weekend, when Trump approving re-tweeted a quote that, as it turned out, was said by 20th century Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

It turns out the web site Gawker had created a Twitter bot that posts quotes from Mussolini, but attributes them to Trump. They wanted to see if Trump would re-tweet or otherwise embrace them.

Sure enough, over the weekend, Trump approvingly re-tweeted the Mussolini quote, "It's better to live on day as a lion that 100 years as a sheep."

Trump later defended using the quote on Meet The Press, essentially saying Mussolini was what he was but the quote is good.

Trump's supporters are subject to jokes, too. A video hosted by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, has him sending wwomen posing as "Fox News Girls" to political events to ask Republican voters about Trump and others.

The questions the "Fox News Girls' ask are cringe worthy to say the least. They make up outrageous, made-up policy positions they say liberals voiced and ask Trump supporters to comment on them.

People will believe anything, apparently, as the video shows.

Here's the laugh out loud video:

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Checking In On Flint: The Scandal Keeps Getting Worse

The revelations about how the administration of
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder managed Flint's water,
leading to mass lead poisoning among the city's residents,
just keeps getting worse and worse.  
I feel like I should check in once in awhile to see how the scandal involving Flint, Michigan's water contamination is going.

The water isn't getting much better in terms of lead poisoning and other contaminants.

Speaking of contaminants, the drip, drip, drip of scandal news is getting worse and worse in terms of how the people running the show handled this whole thing.

I'm repeating reporting from publiciations like Flint Journal, MLive, Detroit News,  The Guardian and other outlets, as I believe their reporting on this tragic scandal ought to be repeated as often as possible. The bit of any optimist in me hopes this drumbeat of reporting and sharing information might help to prevent something like this from happening again, and/or hold people accountable.

Way back in April, 2014, so called financial "emergency managers," in a cost cutting move, switched Flint from a more expensive water source from Detroit to a less expensive source in the Flint River.

The Flint River is full of pollutants. City residents almost immediately began complaining about water quality, but, given that budget austerity is MUCH more important than people's health, or so the emergency managers, under the Gov. Rick Snyder seemed to think.

As we now know, the Flint River water was incredibly corrosive, and wore down pipes, which leached lead into the drinking water. Thousands of people were likely poisoned and many kids will now live the life long cognitive health effects of lead poisoning.

I've said before Snyder's handling of the whole thing is criminal and he should be jailed, much less the governor of Michigan.

And as with most scandals, new revelations over how bad this thing was managed keep coming out.

There was a growing, very loud chorus from Flint residents by October, 2014 about the water.

Michael Gadola, Snyder's legal counsel wrote in now-leaked emails that the Flint water situation had gotten "downright scary" and said the city "should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control," according to The Guardian

Well, it was too far out of control, but I get what Gadola was saying. He knew, correctly, that if Snyder stayed the course, this would get even uglier. Much uglier. We know now he was right.

However, other advisors to Snyder decided it would be too expensive to assume the monthly $1 million cost to return to Detroit water.

Yeah, that's pricey, but what about the effect on Flinters' health. And if you don't care about people, it's gotten a lot more expensive than $1 million a month, now, huh, Ricky?

The Guardian's reporting goes on:

Snyder's chief of staff at the time, Dennis Muchmore, told the Detroit News last week, "The assessment was you couldn't do it because it was a cost that should have been borne by the system."

On February 5, 2015, a reporter asked the Snyder administration about returning Flint's water to Detroit. State Treasury Spokesman Terry Stanton said, again, it would be too expensive to do so.

Later that day, according to the recently discovered emails and documents, Muchmore wrote that switching Flint back to Detroit would "probably be a good use of money as opposed to people refusing to use city water."

He went on: "After all, if (General Motors) refuses to use the water in their plant and our agencies are warning people not to drink it....we looks pretty stupid hiding behind some financial statements."

That memo referred to a previously disclosed GM's decision not to use Flint water in its plant because it was corroding the brand new cars it was trying to manufacture. And it referred to a state office building in Flint in which workers were given bottled water to avoid Flint water, a piece of the scandal also previously disclosed.

Snyder finally put Flint back on Detroit's water in October, 2015 when the public pressure finally became too much to bear.

This new information above, reported in The Guardian and Flint Journal, were part of a batch of 2,500 emails released last week under Freedom of Information Act requests.

Why didn't we read these sooner, when other batches of Flint water-related emails were released?

Because the administration, naturally dragged its feet on releasing them. I can give Snyder a quick PR 101 lesson here: If there's a mess up: Release all the information you have right away. No matter how hard you try to hide information, it's going to come out sooner or later.

The PR damage, if thats the only thing you care about, will be much less if you're upfront, early.

Getting back to the Flint water issue here,  Snyder's administration has repeated said, over and over again, it was Flint officials' decision, not his or his aides or his emergency managers, who decided to take Flint off Detroit water in the first place and start taking water from the dangerous Flint River.

The Flint Journal reported this weekend, that despite Snyder's claims to the contrary, emails show that wasn't the case.

Says the Journal: "Newly released emails show an aide to Gov. Rick Snyder disputed that notion just days before a damning op-ed by former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

'It is important to note that council did not take a vote to use Flint river (sic)',  Harvey Hollins, Snyder's director of urban initiatives wrote in an October 7, 2015 email to Dan Wyant, former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

Days later, Earley penned an op-ed claiming Flint officials approved the switch to the Flint River as the city's drinking water source."

The Flint City Council DID agree to stop using Detroit water, but they also never voted to start taking water out of the Flint River.

This doesn't make clear precisely who decided to make the switch, but it doesn't exactly absolve Ricky, does it?

I'm sure there will be a continued slow parade of new revelations about Flint, his emergency managers and the government of Michigan.

Meanwhile, Flint is still struggling with undrinkable water, an unknown number of kids from Flint, no doubt many, will have to contend with the lifelong effects of lead poisoning, and gawd knows new horrors we will learn about what happened to all those unsuspecting citizens of Flint.

I keep saying Snyder should face criminal charges. Investigations are still underway. But it's looking worse and worse for him. Though frankly, I care much less about him than I do about the fine residents of Flint, Michigan.

Basket Makers Of The World: Here's A Once In A Lifetime Deal!

You now have a chance to buy a seven-story
building that looks just like a picnic basket!  
If you're into basket weaving, but also harbor dreams of corporate glory, I have found your big chance.

Or if you just want to work in a weird building, this works for you, too!

The Longaberger company, which makes baskets, has a rather famous corporate headquarters in Newark Ohio.

The building is seven stories tall, covers about 180,000 square feet and indeed looks exactly like a giant picnic basket.

However, things aren't going as well for Longaberger, which is a national maker and distributor of baskets and other home products like pottery, wrought iron and fabric accessories, says the Columbia dispatch.

The company owes about $374,000 in back taxes on the building, says the Columbia Dispatch. To save money, Longaberger is moving all its employees to its manufacturing plant in Frazeysburg, Ohio.

The county where the building is has the power to foreclose on it and offer it at a sheriff's sale. The minimum bid on the building were that to happen would be just under $600,000, the Columbia Dispatch reports. 

I'm not exactly sure if there's a huge national demand for buildings shaped like giant picnic baskets, but what the hell, give it a whirl if you want.

Picnic basket buildings to me evoke images of ant-infested picnics, but apparently this building is pretty much free of annoying insects, so that's a plus.

Maybe you could move in and open a business selling picnic food.

The possibilities are endless!






"Feel The Bern" For Bernie Sanders Is ANOTHER Innovative Ad

Image of a "Feel the Bern" ad on YouTube supporting
Bernie Sanders. While this ad did not come from
Sanders' official campaign, it's still pretty innovative.
I don't know what will become of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign, whether he ultimately will be successful or not.

One thing I'm really hoping for, though, is whoever is making his campaign ads continue to produce advertising pitches forever and ever, whether they're for Bernie or not.

Some of these great ad people come from inside the Sanders campaign, some are freelancers doing it independently of the candidate.  

Supporters of the Sanders campaign a couple days ago released another campaign ad on YouTube called "Feel The Bern."

This new ad officially does NOT come from the Sanders campaign. Instead, it appears it was put together by some of his supporters. It also doesn't appear to be designed for television audiences, but for those glued to YouTube and social media.

While not as good as the powerful "Come To America" ad for Sanders earlier this year, which DID originate from the Sanders campaign, this new one is, again, completely different from all the political campaign ads we're used to.

You know the ones you've seen a million times. The candidate faces the camera to tell us how great he or she is, or much more frequently, how disgustingly awful their opponents are.

Sanders ads, like the candidate himself, are not politics as usual. The ads are completely unconvention.

In this latest one, which you can see at the bottom of this post, this ad -whoever made it -   capitalizes on the social media meme and hashtag "Feel The Bern."  The phrase refers to Sanders' influence and success on the campaign trail and in politics, and especially the fresh exposure everyone's gotten to his ideas.

The new ad consists of a full length song called "Feel The Bern," which is a fairly edgy tune, with the lyrics superimposed on the screen for you to read.

The ad is particularly useful for people not yet totally familiar with Sanders' opinions. The ad serves as an engaging short digest summarizing what he believes in and why his campaign says you should vote for him.

You get a lot of images of flames and heat in the ad -- remember, we're feeling the Bern! - along with images highlighting the campaign issues Sanders has been harping on.

Duriing the song''s frequent choruses, which consist of singers just repeating "Feel the Bern," you see a series of direct quotes from Sanders that focus on his main campaign issues.

There's moments of humor thrown in, too. Like a cartoon characater Sanders who opens the ad, and a brief moment midway through in which Donald Trump appears to be attacked by a bald eagle.

Maybe this ad doesn't hit your emotional buttons like "Come To America" did, but still, kudos to the people behind this latest  for daring to do something entirely different than the usual campaign drivel.

Here's the ad:


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Win/Win: Kids Read To Shelter Dogs; And They Help Both Dogs and Themselves.

A kid reads a story to a dog in a Missouri shelter.
The dog becomes less anxious as a result.  
The Humane Society of Missouri has hit upon a great idea to make shelter dogs more adoptable, while at the same time helping kids:

They just sit children down in front of the shelter dogs and have the kids read books to the pups.

According to the animal advocacy site TheDodo, the Missouri idea is called the Shelter Buddies Reading Program. The kids' storytime readies the dogs for foreer homes, while the kids learn empathy for pets, and sharpen their reading skills.

The kids draw the interest of shy and nervous shelter dogs, helping them feel comfortable around people and make them more appealing for families who might want to adopt them.

Kids read to dogs in a Missouri animal shelter to help
calm them down and make them more adoptable.  
The storytimes also calm down hyper dogs as they settle down to listen to the kids stories.
The children are also trained to give the dogs treats when the pups calm down or show interest in the story times, as a way to reinforce the good behavior.

The kids, ages six to 15 are also trained to read a dog's body language to tell whether they are anxious  or stressed out. They can then calmly read to settle the dogs down.

As program director Jo Klepaki told TheDodo:

A kid and a shelter dog enjoy reading time together.  
"Its encouraging children to develop empathy with animals. It's a peaceful, quiet exercise. They're seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive effect they an have....It encourages the to look at things from an animal's perspective. That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives."

I have a feeling this idea will spread to a lot of Humane Societies and animal shelters across the nation.

And we will be a better place because of it.

Here's a video of kids reading to the dogs back around Christmastime. It's a very sweet video:

Watch:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Giant Hornets Nest Terrorizes Texas Family.

Marcus Smith, in Alto, Texas much braver than I am,
dares to put his hand near a hornets nest much bigger
than he is inside an abandoned trailer.  
Generally, I don't like to use toxic chemicals, even on bugs that bite and sting.

I make an exception, though, for hornets and wasps, which, in the summer, keep forming little nests on my deck and in my shed. They take control, so I regularly spray new nests with Raid.  

OK, so I'm not environmentally correct.  Don't get me wrong.

Hornets are actually good insects if they're far enough away from my house. Hornets and wasps eat insects that damage gardens, and they help with pollination.

If they're a good couple hundred feet away, I leave them alone. Only if they're far enough away.

Which leads us to a recent story out of Texas. It's a situation that would require a LOT of Raid. Maybe the entire Raid factory.

There's an old trailer in the back yard of an Alto, Texas house. Nobody has set food in the thing for years. In fact nobody has touched the thing, really, in 10 years or so.

But now, the homeowners and their friends want to give the property a bit of a makeover. Family friend Marcus Smith entered the abandoned trailer and what he found would have scared the bejeesus out of me.

He seemed pretty calm in his interview on television station KYTX, which is better than I could have done.

Inside the trailer in the back yard, he found a hornet's nest that seems almost as big as a Smart Car, in my assessment. Smith stands six feet, one inches tall, and the hornet's nest is up to his chest. It has completely consumed a couch that had been abandoned in the trailer as well.

Smith even voluntarily went back into the trailer with a KYTX reporter to show her his find.

Yikes!

Of course now, the homeowners have to figure out how to get rid of this monstrosity. They're going to consult with a pest control business.

Meanwhile, if you're anywhere near Alto, Texas, you might want to stay out of this neighborhood.








  

Weird Alabama Lawyer Sues Supreme Court Over Gay Marriage; He Sufffers 'Mental Anguish'

Alabama attorney Austin Burdick says he's so
"traumatized" by gay marriage that hes suing
the five Supreme Court justices who favor it.  
I must confess I sometimes get upset by the way the United States Supreme Court rules.

For instance, I didn't like the Citizen United decision, which really opened up the doors more and more for money in politics.

Yes, it angered me, but, like most rational people, I got over it. I'll just keep voting for politicians who don't like Citizens United and who are trying to find ways to enact laws that get around it.

Other decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court I really like. Last year came the Obergfell decision, which granted the right of gay people across the United States to marry.

As a married gay man in Vermont married to an awesome guy, I LOVED that decision.

But I get it that some people don't, and will be voting for politicians who will try to find ways to make gay marriage illegal again. I don't agree with these voters, but hell, vote away. It's your right.

There are a few grandstanders though who apparently are so traumatized by the gay marriage decision that they are suing the U.S Supreme Court over the decision.

Well, at least one guy is, according to AL.com, an Alabama news organization.

Austin Burdick an Alabama attorney, says he's so traumatized that he's suing the five justices who voted in favor of gay marriage for $6 million.

That's a lot of trauma! It must really hurt to see gay people marry and be happy.

For one thing, Burdock said the decision violates the 5th Amendment, which preserves the right of people to not self incrimidate. I'm not sure why the 5th Amendment is involved in this case, since nobody is accusing Burdock of a crime.

Stupidity, maybe but not a crime. Stupidiy IS legal, after all.

According to AL.com, Burdick is also invoking the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Burdick, in his lawsuit says:

"The 14th Amendment, which states that 'no state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive a person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,'  has been rewritten by the five members of the court.

Again, I'm not following him here. I'm not sure how gay marriage is depriving Burdick of property, because no gay couple I know wants his stuff. Nor do any gay couples that I know of want to suppress his liberties. Burdick can still go to church, hate gay people if he chooses, hate gay marriage if he feels that way, and just go about his life.

But, maybe I shoudn't be so harsh. Some people are traumatized by the strangest things. Maybe I should sue Mother Nature because the weather became too harsh for me to work outdoors yesterday so I didn't get the things done that I wanted to do.

Oh, the TRAUMA!!

I wish Burdick all the best with his strange lawsuit, and I hope he's not too traumatized when he loses.

Landlord Trying To Evict 97 Year Old Woman Because Money

Marie Hatch, 97, who has lived in the same San Francisco
Bay Area house for five decades faces possible eviction
because her landlord wants to sell the house and
make more than $1 million. Landlord claims he's
bound by estate rules. 
A 97 year old woman in the San Francisco Bay area is about to be kicked out of the house she's lived in for 66 years because the landlord wants to sell the house for a cool $1 million or so.

Marie Hatch's friend and landlord, Vivian Kruse, told her decades ago Hatch could live in the cottage until she died.  

Now Kruse is long dead, so is her daughter, and granddaughter, who reported all made a verbal agreement to let Hatch stay at the house until she died.

When the granddaughter died, the final woman in the chain, the verbal agreement to let Hatch stay ended, says her current landlord, David Kantz. He had been married to the granddaughter, Pamela Kantz, until their divorce. Then Pamela Kantz's boyfriend murdered her.

Now, the house where Hatch lives is worth $1.2 million at least, thanks to the skyrocketing rents and property values around the Bay Area that has made the region unaffordable except for the very rich, according to the article that brought this to our attention in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Hatch, who is retired from a bakery and also has cancer, is not rich. So out she goes. The landlord, David Kantz has to take advantage of the high property values after all. You can't let an old lady get in the way of that!

Though maybe Hatch won't go so fast, despite David Kantz's wishes.

Kantz says his hands are tied and has to sell the house and evict Hatch. He said a trust left behind by his wife expires in July, so he is duty-bound to sell the property on behalf of his two sons, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Says the Chronicle:

"'We have come to this unexpected confluence of events, and I am responsible to do the best I can for the beneficiaries,  - my sons,' said Kantz.......'I just kind of inherited this property and the assumptions that weren't really written down, and now I have to unwind it.'

He said that family lore does indeed contend that his wife's grandmother, Vivian Kruse, told Hatch she could stay for life, 'but there's no contract. There's nothing in my wife's will that directs me to do anything other than what is best for the beneficiaries.'"

"I feel bad for the elderly lady, I feel bad for my sons, I feel bad for me" Kantz said.

Yeah, but you'd think he could find a way to benefit without kicking Hatch onto the street. The whole things still smells like a cruel money grab to me.

After news of this situation broke, people did step in to help, as they always do.

According to an update article in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Some people offered to pay Hatch's rent at a higher rate, some volunteered legal help, and a few even said they would buy the house from her landlord so she could stay  - a remedy the landlord's attorney said he is exploriing. 

Friends of Hatch started a GoFundMe account and by Monday evening it had raised more than $13,000."

The Chronicle also reported a high powered attorney, Joe Cotchett, stepped in to advocate for Hatch and says the verbal contract that kept her in the home is legally binding. The plan to kick her out is unlawful eviction, he said.

So it's beginning to look like the solution to the more outrageous excesses against people - bad press against the perpetrator - is working in this case, too, and Hatch will probably end up staying where she is.

However, renters in general are kinda screwed in the San Francisco Bay area, and elsewhere. True, most landlords are not ogres, and it's mostly not the fault of landlords that rents have gone sky high. There's lots of economics at play.

But a few landlords are awful, and even for the vast majority whose landlords are nice people, they still can't afford housing.

Only 12 of 482 municipalities in California have rent control, the Chronicle says.

Another big part of the problem is supply and demand. A lot of people want or need to live in the Bay Area, and in other hot spots in the nation. But there's not a lot of places to build more housing, and people understandably want to keep some open spaces and not fill every last grassy or forested patch with apartment buildings.

San Francisco and other municipalities are toying with increasing allowable housing density so that more apartments are built.

But this will take time. And so we might see the spectacle of other elderly people kicked out to the street, or threatened with it, because certain landlords prefer people who can pay outlandish rents.





Thursday, February 25, 2016

Klutzy People Break Many Things

The latest time wasting video is people
who clumsily break things, just like me
I'm one of those people who are a bull in a china shop.

If I get close to it, I break it. No matter how careful I am.  I never mean to break anything, I just do.

So I appreciated the video at the bottom of this post that proves lots of people very stupidly break things.

They range from just a bit of broken glass to chaos on the highway due to some idiot breaking a major overhead sign.

All but one or two of the people in the video below didn't mean to cause problems. The exception is the horrible woman about 3:20 minutes in who is getting back at her ex-boyfriend. Trust me, the guy narrating the clip could do better.

My favorite character in the video is a hostile bird who Does Not Like the plastic cup pyramid somebody built.

In the category of shoddy products, watch the bike disintegrate at about 4:34 minutes in.

Here's your time wasting video. Hope you enjoy it, and relate to it as much as I do. OOPS, damn, just dropped and broke the beer bottle I was holding.

Anyway, here it is:

Possible Record Loudest Burp In Australia

Neville Sharp of Humpty Doo, Australia belching his
way to a possible world record loudest belch. A 
Whether you admit it or not, we all want to make our mark on the world. We all want to do something that everybody will remember for eons into the future.

Neville Sharp of Humpty Doo, Australia did just that. At least we think.

No, its not because he lives in a town called Humpty Doo, which really is a great accomplishment.

Sharp's claim to fame is that he just might have released the loudest belch on record by a human.

According to the blog Nothing To Do With Arbroath, Sharp belched into a decibel reader at Charles Darwin University's sound room and it registered at 110.6 decibels.

If verified by the Guinness Book of World Records, Sharp's belch would beat the record of 109.9 decibels.

Purdue University says 110 decibels is as loud as hearing a car horn from about 3.2 feet away and is the about at the average human pain threshhold.

Sharp accomplished the belch by drinking a combination of water and Coca-Cola first.

Sharp (what an appropriate last name!) said setting the record for the loudest belch has always been a personal goal of his. He first learned to belch as a child when his sister taught him to gulp air, Nothing To Do With Arbroath reported. 

Sharp will need to formally apply to the Guinness Book Of World Records to claim the title. In what is a total scandal, Sharp is unlikely to make money from his feat because apparently and incredibly, there's not an intense world wide audience for loud belches.

If you want proof of Sharp's feat, here's a video of the moment:

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

U.S. Military Advisor Says Head Scarves Are "Passive Terrorism." The Internet Mocks

Look carefully at this scene from the opening
credits of the early 1970s sitcom "Mary Tyler
Moore Show" The woman in the lower left
is wearing a scarf on her head. She
must have been a terrorist  
So here's something that might give you a bit less confidence in U.S. military intelligence and preparedness.

A document is being distributed within the military that tells us that Muslim women who wear headscarves known as the hajib - the majority of them -- are practicing "passive terrorism."

That's right, the mere act of wearing a head covering is terrorism, at least according to some guy named Tawfik Hamad, who, according to The Intercept, is a self-described former Islamic extremist and fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.

According to The Intercept, Hamad believes, "the hajib contributes to the idea of passive terrorism' and represents an implicit refusal to 'speak against or actively resist terrorism.'"

Which would come as news to so many women who do wear the hajib and who live peaceful lives and speak out against terrorism.

The overall manual the military has does contain a lot of sensible information, at least the parts not written by Hamad.

It was first released to the military in 2011 but was re-released to the military as part of a renewed push to combat terrorism.

This time, though, the hajib causes terrorism idea has captured the imagination of social media, often hilariously. Hey,  stupid, simplisitic ideas need to be mocked, right?

Basically, every head covering is fodder for this meme.

Under the hashtag #PassiveTerrorism, people have been showing all kinds of examples of women amd others with their heads covered, and so therefore are terrorists.

This includes nuns, old women shielding themselves from rain, a pug in a head-covering robe and a cat with a pink scarf tied around its head, Mother Teresa, Queen Elizabeth, Amish women, Orthodox Jewish women, random guys and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousatzai.

You noticed I got into the act in this post. The photo up at the top is from the opening credits to the old 1970s "Mary Tyler Moore" show. Notice the old woman in the lower left in the background.

She's got a scarf on her head. My God! There were Islamic terrorists in Minneapolis in the early 1970s! Who knew?!?!?

It's cold and rainy outside my house in Vermont as I write this. A little while ago, a ran out to get the mail. I wore a hat because of the weather. A head covering!

I guess I'm a terrorist, too!



Playtime! Baby Elephant And Two Dogs Have Fun In The Sun

Navaan the young elephant recently met a cat
at the preserve in Thailand where he lives. He
was a bit dubious about the cat, but loves
playing with his dog friends.  
As I like to take the occasional break from carping and complaining about the world, I'll add a couple of moments of brightness to this blog.

At the bottom of this post, if you want a little cheer, watch the video of baby elephant Navaan and his doggy friends Rocky and Jeremy have a little fun in a Thailand animal park.

The animal park is run by Save Elephant Foundation, a non-profit that provides care and help to Thailand's captive elephant populations.

When Navaan isn't playing with the dogs, he's playing with old tires at the elephant preserve where he lives. They're easy for him to pick up and throw around. See? Anything can become a treasured plaything.

 Here's the video of Navaan playing with his doggie friends:

Bus Crashes Into Bridge, So First Priority Is PR Damage Control

Somebody covers up the logo on a bus that crashed
in Australia in a futile attempt to avoid bad
publicity The coverup just made the PR disaster worse. 
Driver error is the cause of a recent Australian bus crash that injured several passengers, at least three of them pretty seriously.

However, the bus company's reputation might be grieviously injured due to a variation of the "Streisand Effect" that took place in the immediate aftermath in the crash.

The Streisand Effect refers to efforts to suppress some information that backfires. Sometimes, if you try to suppress information you want to keep hidden, that information then becomes more widely distributed

The name comes from singer Barbra Streisand's 2003 effort to suppress an online photographic record of homes along the California coastline, which included hers. 

She sued to erase that online record, and the publicity resulting from that lawsuit made lots of people look up her house online. If she hadn't filed the suit, probably nobody would have given a damn about her stupid coastal California house.

In the case of the Australian bus crash, as rescuers arrived on the scene to rescue 15 injured passengers trapped under bus seats in the aftermath of the crash and local media arrived to record the event, somebody from the bus company, which is called Gold Bus Ballaret, arrived.

(Note, you can see security camera footage of the bus crash at the bottom of this post.)

That bus company representative from Gold Bus Ballaret was there not to help with the injured passengers or otherwise offer assistance, but to cover up the name of the bus company logo on the wrecked bus, so as not to provide fodder for bad publicity.

According to the Herald Sun of Melbourne: 

"'That's standard protocol whenever there is a vehicle involved in a accident,' said Gold Bus Ballarat director Matthew Baird. 'Notwithstanding the severity of the situation we're out to protect our brand and tom make sure that we don't tarnish our brand with a vehicle that is obviously in quite bad disrepair. It doesn't mean any disrespect.'

Yeah, well the spectacle of some guy trying to cover up the logo on a bus wrecked by what appears to be an incompetent or inattentive driver tarnishes your brand doesn't it?

Investigators did say driver error was to blame, and other motorists apparently tried to stop the bus, knowing it would never fit beneath the overpass, but it continued anyway.

Nobody beyond the local area in Australia probably would have ever known this bus wreck ever happened, but now the world does.

Streisand Effect, Mr. Baird. Look it up

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Strange Sound Spooks Oregon Town

Forest Grove, Oregon has been experiencing weird noises,
and nobody knows where they're coming from. 
To me, there's almost nothing worse than hearing a strange sound in the middle of the night, or anytime for that matter, and can't figure out from where it's coming.  

It gets even spookier when nobody else can figure it out, too.

Which makes me glad I don't live in Forest Grove, Oregon, which is suburb of Portland.

It's a sharp, high pitched noise that's been heard in the town off and on for weeks now. When it goes off is random, and lasts anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes.

Gas lines in the area are buried underground, and it's not likely to be that. Plus the gas company has been looking for leaks since the noise started.

It sounds a bit like bad brakes on something like a logging truck struggling to slow down going down a hill, but there's no steep hills nearby. Or it could be a train, but the only tracks in the area are ones that are rarely used and dead end in downtown Forest Grove.

A random, note. I played a clip of the noise from this link to television station KATU in Portland, Oregon, and it drove oe of my dogs nuts. Jackson started barking like crazy. All other sounds this morning have elicit little notice from Jackson.

A sound engineer said high pitched noises like this one don't travel as far as low rumbling ones, so the source of the noise has to be relatively close to the people hearing it.

Audio expert Tobin Cooley told KATU that he doesn't know what the sound is.

"'It sounds like some sort of pressurized gas or air through a fitting or valve or something,' Cooley said. 'It's not steady state and you can't predict when it's going to happen. Those are all interesting sound features.'"

Unlike what a few people are saying, I really doubt this is a UFO or secret government plot.

But everyone would love to know what's going on.

This news report gives you another example of what the sound is like:

Let's Literally Kill People With Surprise Ambulance Fees!

Warning: A trip to the hospital in an ambulance
might bankrupt you, because insurance and profits  
It's become the American Way: If you don't think you're making enough money, just sneak in a bunch of exorbitant fees that catch you by surprise.

The airline industry is a leader in that, with fees for every little service that used to be included in the air fare. Hotels do it.

Then, hospitals and doctors started doing it. Somebody who is not in the patient's insurance network  steps into the operating room or whatever just briefly. Then they would present a huge bill to the patient for the minimal amount of work they do.

Ambulance companies are doing it, too, in one of the worst stories I've heard about this type of practice

According to Consumerist, many people who get trips to the hospital in ambulances often get huge bills from these ambulance companies.

Apparently, you're suppose to know ahead of time which ambulance is covered by your insurance, and you are somehow supposed to know, when you're in the throes of a heart attack or something, which ambulance company to call, which employees need to be working on that ambulance and even the route that ambulance will take.

You call an ambulance in an emergency. By definition, during an emergency you can't spend hours researching who works at which ambulance service and which ambulance is covered by your insurance and which one isn't.

So you take your chances and call an ambulance. But maybe you won't.

This is the most Darwinian, evil of business practices. If you take it to its logical conclusion, people who don't have much money and are in an emergency will be afraid to call an ambulance and just die. People who have money will call the ambulance, and if they are presented with a big bill, they'll just groan, then pay it.

In nature, it's the survival of the fittest. In our current system, it's survival of the richest. If you're poor, whether it's your fault or not, you deserve to die. If you're rich, whether you've earned all that money or not, you deserve to live.

I get it. The cost of ambulances and paramedics and all that must be paid for by somebody. You'd think there would be some way to pool insurance plans across competitors or something that you pay only your deductible under your insurance plan no matter which ambulance takes you to the hospital.

That way, you pay your fair share through the deductable and your normal insurance premiums, and the ambulance companies get paid, like they need to.  But I guess it's more profitable to just find loopholes and force people to pay huge out of network fees.

I can't afford our current system, and neither can a lot of other people, but we're stuck. There's money to be made, profits to gather, and if a few people die and/or go bankrupt, oh well.

I guess if I ever need to go to a hospital, I'll need to take my chances and hope somebody gives me a ride, and gets me there in time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Virginia McLaurin, Age 106, Dances With Obamas At The White House

A vivacious Virginia McLaurin, age 106, visits
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle
Obama at the White House recently. 
OK, maybe I'm a day late and a dollar short with this video that's been making the rounds, but I can't resist sharing it anyway.

As many of you might have seen already, Virginia McLaurin, age 106, recently visited President and Mrs. Obama at the White House.

The three ended up having a little bit of a dance party, which looked totally fun.

The reason I'm sharing it is because at age 53, I am exactly half this woman's age, and I hope I can keep something close to her joie de vivre as I keep growing older.

I hope she makes us all want to keep going.

According to the Washington Post:

"With the leader of the free world in one hand, and Michelle Obama in the other, McLaurin danced with sheer and utter joy, shaking her hips like a 16-year-old and flashing a smile as bright as the camera flashes going off all around her.

'She's 106,?' the president asked incredulously.

"No, you are not," scoffed the first lady before adding: 'I want to be like you when I grow up.'"

Don't we all.

McLaurin, who is African-American, was at the White House to celebrate Black History Month.

Says the Washington Post:

"'I tell you, I am so happy,' she said, looking up at Obama before turning to the first lady. 'A black president, yah, and his black wife.'"

And then they danced some more.

In an age where anything touching anything political goes wildly negative, it is so nice to see such pure joy in Washington.

Here's the viral video:

Vermont Police Dog Enthusiastically Helps Trooper Clean The Cruiser

Vermont State Police K-9 Officer Max was
quite enthusiastic Sunday when it came
time to clean the police cruiser he shares
with partner Nicholas Arlington. 
Sunday was unusually warm in Vermont for February.

It was also a slow day. There was not much crime going on around the Green Mountain State.

So, Vermont State Trooper Nicholas Arlington at the Royalton, Vermont barracks decided to take advantage of the situation to clean the police cruiser he drives. 

Nothing wrong with having a nice clean spit and polish image, right?

Arlington enlisted his K-9 police partner Max to help with the cleaning chore, and as you can see in the video below, Max was very enthusiastic about helping,

Good to see a serious crime fighter like Max cut loose and have fun once in awhile, and good to see a serious crime fighter like Nicholas Arlington share it with the world.

I love how viral the video has gotten, getting views everywhere from Huffington Post to NBC's Today Show.  

The video is fun and frivolous. But as a Vermonter, I feel strangely safer knowing this kind of thing goes on.

Watch the fun:

Airlines And Congress Hate Us And Love Money. So We'll Keep Suffering

The way things are going, I think airliners will
look like this pretty soon.  
I'm a big guy. I stand six feet tall and weigh 200 pounds.

I suppose I could make the airlines a tad bit happier and me a lot healthier if I lost 30 pounds or so.

But meanwhile, thanks to the airlines and money hungry Congress creatures, I and millions of others will continue to be totally uncomfortable and cramped when we fly somewhere.

According to The Economist, people did try to work with the airlines and Congress for relief. Of course, that was totally naive.

An outfit called FlyersRights.org, a nonprofit that represents air travelers, sent a petition to Congress demanding new guidelines for a minimum distance between rows in planes, said the Economist.

Things looked good at first. Steve Cohen, D-Tennessee, recently introduced an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill that would have mandated a certain amount of legroom for airline passengers, the Economist reported.

Cohen said the average distance between seat rows dropped from 35 inches before airlines were deregulated in the 1970s to 31 inches today. Average seat width has declined from 18 inches to 16.5 inches.

Cohen drafted his amendment, sensibly, on public safety grounds. He said the FAA requires planes to be evacuated within 90 seconds in an emergency, and no studies have been done on whether this can be accomplished now that planes are so cramped.

He and other backers also worried about the health effects of people being in such restricted environments for too long. This arrangement can cause dangerous blood clots.

But, the House Transportation Committee shot down the measure.

I wonder if campaign donations had anything to do with this vote.

According to the Intercept:

"The chairman of the committee, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa, urged his members to vote against the amendment, and every member of the party did, except Rep. Don Young R-Alaska. 

Air transport PACS (political action committees) are Shusters largest source of campaign funding, with backing from major airlines such as American, Alaskan, Continental, Delta, Haaiian, JetBlue and Southwest. Air transportation PACS have given $92,000 to Shuster this cycle."

I wonder, then, if the airlines will keep shrinking space in the planes, because they do have cover from Congress. No, I don't want to overregulate industry, but I don't want industry to overregulatethe public either.

But I guess they have free reign to do so. I guess the airlines will eventually start stacking us on flights like cordwood.














Sunday, February 21, 2016

Somebody Has Made A Bot That Messes With Telemarketers, Making Me Very Happy

A great new business called Jolly Rogger Telephone
messes with telemarketers to the delight of
this company's customers. 
I'm a very mean person, so when I get a call from a telemarketer and I have the time, I mess with them.

I'm on the national Do Not Call list, so most telemarketing calls I do get are illegal. But that doesn't stop some unscrupulous jerks from calling me to tell me I need a time share, a facelift, or once, an offer for a Russian girlfriend.

Since I don't want a time share, facelift or Russian girlfriend,  imagine my delight when I read in the Washington Post about a new business called Jolly Roger Telephone. 

Jolly Roger Telephone is a robotic answering serve that wastes telemarketers' time.

As the Washington Post reports:

"Roger Anderson started the Jolly Roger Telephone, which lets users start a three-way call with the service so they can listen gleefully as the bot rambles on. It's designed to provide entertainment and empowerment for everyone who has grown weary of the phone calls."

The Washington Post goes on:

"In a typical call, the robot keeps the telemarketer on the phone for a few minutes, but in some cases they go on for much longer. The robot does this by cleverly exploiting a flaw in the telemarketer playbook: staying on the line if the person is agreeable. So the system leans on 'yeah,' 'sure,' 'okay' and 'yes.' In one instance, the robot kept a cable company on the line for 22 minutes."

Anderson told the Post that he's been stunned by how much interest there is in his new business. But I'm not. I almost want to sign up right now.

Says the Washington Post: "He dreams of ultimately going even bigger and toppling the global network of call centers. In his perfect scenario, telemarketing would become inefficient, making the call center business model collapse."

Which wouldn't draw too many tears from this writer, who I repeat really, REALLY doesn't need a Russian girlfriend.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Apparently, Turkeys REALLY Hate Letter Carriers

Apparently, wild turkeys DO NOT like letter carriers,
as an incident this past week in New Jersey proved. 
In New Jersey this week, a letter carrier was held hostage in his U.S. Postal Service vehicle but was eventually rescued.

Police quickly responded and resolved the hostage drama, with no injuries to the letter carrier.

The suspects in the crime were not thugs out to steal mail, checks or the letter carrier's wallet. They were wild turkeys, CBS 2 New York reported. The letter carrier's dspatcher called the cops.

The police responded the the letter carrier's position: They blasted the police sirens, which scattered the turkeys. The letter carrier was still nervous afterward.

"He was concerned that once we left they were going to go back after him," police told CBS 2. "I don't know if he's had a run-in with these turkeys before."

I wouldn't be surprised if he did. YouTube is rife with videos of turkeys attacking letter carriers. I get turkeys don't like the mail geting through.

The New York Times reports that wild turkeys were re-introduced in New Jersey in the `1970s and now there's someting like 25,000 of them. Sometimes they do end up attacking people, which is a bit scary.  New Jersey passed a law banning people from feeding them, as they don't want the turkeys in residential neighborhoods.

All this makes me nervous. Sometimes, flocks of wild turkeys visit my yard in northwestern Vermont. So far, they've been quite peaceful, and take off if I approach them. They're certainly more scare of me than I am of them.

I guess I just better not wear clothes that look like those of a letter carrier and dammit, I sure won't hold envelopes in my hands outside if I see turkeys in my yard.




Friday, February 19, 2016

Cindi Lauper: Country Star

Cyndi Lauper's country music album
"Detour" is to be released May 6.  
Cyndi Lauper is now a country singer, I kid you not.

Lauper is known for her long musical career, highlighted by the 1980s classic "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and for writing the songs for the Broadway smash "Kinky Boots."

She's got a long list of hits under her belt. She's smart, funny, a great writer. You can't deny that.

But Lauper, also known for her thick Queens accent, doesn't come off as a country singer. Early indications from her new country album "Detour"  

The album is all country classics that we've all heard and loved before; Most notably, she does covers of two Patsy Cline songs, "Walkin' After Midnight" and "I Fall To Pieces."

In the press release announcing that the country album will drop in May, Lauper said, "I spent a lot of time in my room singing with Patsy. I had to sing a Patsy Cline song - or two - because her voice was like one of my girlfriends. That's how close I felt to her."

Lauper gets some help in "Detour" from some big country music stars, singing duets with the likes of   Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and Alison Krauss. That's the track I most want to hear: Lauper and Krauss singing Dolly Parton's "Hard Candy Christmas."

Judging from the following YouTube video, in which Lauper sings the country classic "Heartache By the Numbers," she really does work as a country singer. It's not the best version I've ever heard of the song, but I definitely like it.

You go Cyndi!

Here's "Heartache By The Numbers" by Cindi Lauper:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

New York Scammers Really Treat Tourists Roughly

Too bad Lady Liberty wasn't able to clonk these scammers
over the head with her torch.
You can easily get tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty from the National Parks Service.

That's presumably what William White and his wife Shellye of Arkansas thought when they were visiting New York City recently.

Which is why they blew off a couple of people - scammers - who were trying to illegally sell them tickets to Lady Liberty as the couple stood near the Staten Island Ferry terminal, says the New York Post. 

New York "entrepreneurs" apparently don't take kindly to being rebuffed, so one of the scammers smacked William White, knocking him out and giving him a fractured skull.

It looks like he will recover, eventually, but the scammers, perhaps not so much. The two were arrested by the NYPD shortly after the attack.

Robert Anderson, 25, of Brookly, who punched White, is charged with felony assault. His accomplice, Teresa Thorson, is charged with assault.

According to the Post, Thorson yelled while being led into a police precinct house, "The tourist attacked me!"

Well, if you consider declining an overpriced offer from a scammer, I guess he did.

The Whites said despite the attack on them, they'd consider returning to New York for another vacation. I might add that they would do that after perhaps after taking self defense lessons.




Scary Hawaii Helicopter Crash Today

Scary helicopter crash in Hawaii today. 
Somebody in Hawaii captured dramatic video of a helicopter crashing in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii today.

Thankfully, all five people aboard were brought to shore and survived. This just happened, so the passengers were still being assessed for injuries at last report.

Hawaii News Now reports that military personel who witnessed the crash rescued the victims.

All were being treated at area hospitals and one was in critical condition. Hawaii News Now said the craft was a tourist helicopter.

Here's the scary video:

More Proof That Gardens Can Ease A Troubled Mind

The Koroki homestead in Japan, in full bloom. 
A saw a nice (and very pink floral!) story on boredpanda.com, via rocketnews24 the other day about how a nice husband and Japan treated his wife for her sudden blindness.

The wife had diabetes, and that diseased caused her to become depressed and withdrawn. Mrs. Kuroki stayed in the house all the time and didn't want to do anything.

Mr. Kuroki worried and wondered how to help his wife feel better about himself.

His wife lost her sight, but didn't lose her sense of smell, he reasoned, so he spent two years planting fragrant pink flowers around the dairy farm and house where the couple lived.

It worked! Mrs Kuroki came out of her shell and outside, where she could smell all the flowers.

The flowers also became a local tourist attraction, so all that activity helped raise her spirits, too.

I guess what the Kurokis did is why so many of us plant flowers around our houses. I don't think I have the energy to plant several acres  of flowers, but I'll sure as hell keep adding more as soon as spring weather comes.

Here's a quick video of the couple in their pink garden:

Wood As An Ingredient In Cheese, And Other Wrong Things In Our Store Bought Food

Does the grated parmesan cheese you buy at the
supermarket have wood pulp in it? Probably.
This is another example of how the food
industry lies to us. 
If I eat prepackaged shredded parmesan cheese, will I get termites?

An odd question, yes, but maybe not so odd given the revelations this week that some grated cheeses have an unannounced ingredient: Wood.

Well,  it's cellulose, but most of that comes from ground up wood.

In 2012, it turns out the federal Food and Drug Administration raided a Pennsylvania cheese factory and found that Castle Cheese Inc. was doctoring its so-called 100 percent real parmesan cheese with substitutes like fillers and wood pulp, says Bloomberg News.

Castle's president, Michelle Myurter pleaded guilty recently to criminal charges. She could face up to a year in  jail and a $100,000 fine, Bloomberg says. 

It also looks like other producers of grated parmesan cheese fill it in with what is basically groud up wood.

This wood, or cellulose as regulators call it, is considered a safe additive and can comprise up to four percent of that can of parmesan you pick up at the local Piggly Wiggly or whatever.

Bloomberg had various paremsan cheese from grocery stores tested.  The results weren't great. Essential Everyday has what it calls 100% Grated Parmesan Cheese, but a sample from a Jewel-Osco store in Wisconsin showed it was actually 8.8 percent cellulose

I guess Essential Everyday thinks that wood chips are the exact same thing as cheese.

Other grated parmesan cheese came back with anything from 0.3 to 7.8 percent wood chips.

The worst part about all this is we can't trust food manufacturers to tell us what's really in the food they sell us. That's because marketing is more important than truth. And safety.

True, most of the lies they tell us are about ingredients that probably wouldn't harm most of us. But there are people allergic to certain things. Nobody would ever be able to trace things back because who knows exactly what you ate and when?

There's a lot of examples of inaccurate food claims:

Olive Oil:

Last year, we learned that extra virgin olive oil might be anything but. According to CNBC and numerous other media outlets, Italy's anti fraud investigators were probing whether seven well known olive oil brands were selling lesser quality olive oil as "extra virgin."

Again, the extra virgin olive oil that really isn't won't hurt you, but you're paying extra from a high quality product that is not high quality at all.

Extra virgin olive oil comes from the first press of olives, which is the best. Subsequent presses aren't as good, and are sold as either virgin olive oil or just olive oil.

Maple Syrup

Here where I live in Vermont, maple syrup is an important industry. Just last week, members of the Vermont Sugar Makers Association and other maple industry groups took the food industry to task for saying there's maple in their products when there is not, according to the Associated Press.

Again, the artificial ingredients and corn syrup that masquerades as maple syrup in such products as oatmeal and energy bars won't hurt you much, but they lead you to believe that you're getting wholesome maple syrup when you're really not.

Says the AP:

"Roger Brown, chairman of the Maple Industry Committee of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, said maple syrup - derived from heating sap from maple trees - is a premium product and sweetener and for that reason a number of companies imply that a product contains maple without the ingredient being present. 

He said the association has asked the FDA to investigate so that consumers get what they're looking for, and maple producers get compensated for their hard work."

Pet Food:

Even pet food is subject to ingredients that aren't there.

According to Poisonedpets.com, Blue Buffalo was forced to admit last year that it had chicken by-products in its pet food, like internal organs, renderings etc. That was contrary to what Blue Buffalo packaging and advertisements said.

This came to light only after pet food rival Purina, which grew suspicious, sued Blue Buffalo.

Assume They're All Lying.

I guess the bottom line here is many, if not most food manufacturers are lying to us about what is in the food they sell us.

The only way around it is to grow all of our own food, which of course is a huge challenge for most people.

The FDA says they focus more on food safety rather than ingredients, which makes sense. The FDA is too short staffed and underfunded to go after people who lie about what ingredients they put in our food.

Industry wins over our well-being again, I'm afraid.