Unpaid Coast Guard employees told to work as part-time "mystery shoppers"

"Become a mystery shopper. Retailers are desperate to check how their in-store customer service is and will employ you to shop and rate their service."

This is just one of many suggestions in a tip sheet distributed to the 8,500 Coast Guard civilian workers who are not getting paid thanks to Trump's little shutdown game.

Other part-time tips in the pamphlet:

  • Have a garage sale -- clean out your attic, basement and closets at the same time.
  • Sell unwanted, larger ticket items through the newspaper or online.
  • Offer to watch children, Walk pets or house-sit.
  • Turn your hobby into income.
  • Have untapped teaching skills and expertise? Tutor students, give music or sports lessons.

When the Washington Post asked the Coast Guard about the tip sheet, the Coast Guard removed it from its website.

From the Washington Post:

The situation shows the increasing strain that the service is under as the partial government shutdown continues. About 41,000 active-duty Coast Guardsmen are working without pay. Their next check is due Jan. 15.

Overall, about 420,000 government employees are working under the promise they will be paid retroactively, with nearly another 350,000 on furlough at home.

Image: Makistock/Shutterstock

The human body is "full of evolutionary leftovers that no longer serve a purpose"

People have a little pink band in the inside corner of their eye. "This is the plica semilunaris," says Dorsa Amir, an evolutionary anthropologist. "It used to be a third eyelid that would blink horizontally." Amir posted a fascinating Twitter thread of other " evolutionary leftovers that no longer serve a purpose" in the human body.

Image: By Exordium - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Douglas Bader became Britain's top flying ace in World War II despite losing his legs

Douglas Bader was beginning a promising career as a British fighter pilot when he lost both legs in a crash. But that didn't stop him -- he learned to use artificial legs and went on to become a top flying ace in World War II. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll review Bader's inspiring story and the personal philosophy underlay it.

We'll also revisit the year 536 and puzzle over the fate of a suitcase.

Show notes

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A cow escaped from a rodeo 6 months ago and no one can catch her

Last summer a 3-year-old cow named Betsy (not the one in the photo; that's a stock image I used because our content management system doesn't allow us to post something without an image) somehow escaped from a rodeo in Alaska and went to a 4,000-acre park on the outskirts of Anchorage. She's been spotted many times in the park by hikers and bicyclists, but so far no one has been able to capture her.

“I’m just totally exhausted from looking day in and day out,” Frank Koloski, Betsy’s owner, told The Washington Post on Tuesday night. “She’s a go-getter, that’s for sure.”


Koloski has a plan in place: If he can just figure out where Betsy is hiding, he’ll bring several other cows to that location. Betsy will immediately rush toward the other cattle, he predicts, and a number of his rodeo acquaintances have already volunteered to help him rope her. Until he knows exactly where she’s located, though, he’s not eager to let the other cows loose in the dense, dark woods.

In the meantime, Betsy appears to be doing just fine. Alaska cattle are tough and accustomed to the area’s harsh winters, Koloski said. Since the park is within city limits, he doesn’t think there’s too much of a risk of her running into a bear or a wolf. There are still plenty of natural sources of water that haven’t frozen over, and he’s left out hay bales and mineral salt blocks nearby. During the summer, Betsy would have found plenty of fresh grass on the slopes of the ski area to feast on, he said. And even once the snow started falling, there were still patches of green grass to be found under the overhang of the trees.

“It’s a cow’s dream,” he said.

Image: A young Hereford steer (bullock) grazing in a snow covered grass field. By Delmas Lehman/Shutterstock

Trump calls 50,000 federal employees back to work, won't pay them

About 800,000 federal workers aren't getting paid because Trump doesn't want to lose the game of chicken he foolishly chose to play. Now he is forcing 50,000 to come back to work, but they won't get paid.

From Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Tuesday said it has called back tens of thousands of federal workers to fulfill key government tasks, including disbursing tax refunds, overseeing flight safety and inspecting the nation’s food and drug supply, as it seeks to blunt the impact of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history. The nearly 50,000 furloughed federal employees are being brought back to work without pay — part of a group of about 800,000 federal workers who are not receiving paychecks during the shutdown, which is affecting dozens of federal agencies large and small. A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a bid by unions representing air traffic controllers and other federal workers to force the government to pay them if they are required to work.

Image: By Photo taken by Hullie, Public Domain, Link

Russian News of the Times: Trump's Loyalty to Russia Under Investigation

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Most Americans want a 70% tax rate on earnings over $10,000,000

During a 60 Minutes interview Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez casually mentioned that she thought that America's super-rich should pay a marginal tax-rate of 70% on annual earnings over $10,000,000 (which is a better deal than they got under Reagan); since then, the proposal has roiled the political classes and billionaire-backed news outlets, who coincidentally oppose taxing billionaires. (more…)

Watch this marvelous animation that summarizes humanity in five minutes

Director Fabio Friedli animated 3,000 images to tell the story of humanity "from a seed to war, from meat to love, from indifference to apocalypse."

“It is such an excessive amount of things, shown in such a short time, you are never able to perceive everything,” Friedli told Vimeo. “I like to believe it’s one’s subconscious that chooses what you see, hear and feel, depending on what is occupying your head and heart at the moment. No one has the same first ‘In A Nutshell’ experience.”

Is organic food a scam?

Here's another explainer video from Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell. This time, they're looking at organic food. First, they define organic food as not being GMOs and not treated with artificial fertilizers or pesticides. Then, they answer the question as to whether organic food is healthier. They do have more antioxidants, but it's not clear how much and how good antioxidants are for us. As to the nutritional value of organic vs. traditional food, the evidence is mixed -- they seem to be about the same. Kurzgesagt's conclusion: "from the science available so far it doesn't look like organic food has significant health benefits." Also, organic pesticides are no less dangerous than synthetics, though organic produce usually has less pesticide residue than traditional produce. But the amount of pesticide left on traditional produce after you wash it is probably harmless. Finally, buying organic food isn't necessarily better for the environment (but eating locally is).

A deep dive into the technical feasibility of Bloomberg's controversial "Chinese backdoored servers" story

Last October, Bloomberg published what seemed to be the tech story of the year: a claim that Supermicro, the leading supplier of servers to clients from the Pentagon and Congress to Amazon, Apple and NASA, had been targeted by Chinese spies who'd inserted devastating, virtually undetectable hardware backdoors into their motherboards by subverting a small subcontractor in China. (more…)

Decorative unicorn skull

Some unicorns chase; some are chased down. These splendid and totally real unicorn skulls [Amazon] are sourced from troll and ogre fairtrade collectives, are 8.5" long and 10.75" tall, and individually skinned and boiled for an odor- and insect-free presentation.

The horn of the unicorn skull is screwed onto the skull for safe shipping and handling.
Brace yourself with this fossil skull phantom of a unicorn stallion. Display him at your desks, shelves or what have you and he will be a star at any hosting events! This unicorn skull will be a great conversation starter as well as an excellent ice breaker for you and your guests. Some of them will think unicorn did exist!

Don't know what they think they're trying to say with that last line there but it's thirty bucks a head.

The Twist Plus World Charging Station adapts to fit outlets in 150 countries

It's a rude awakening for that rookie vacationer abroad when they try to plug in their gear for the night. Veteran jet-setters know that outlet shapes can vary wildly from country to country, which necessitates that most boring must-have for any world-traveler: A sackful of clunky power adapters. Awkward problem, elegant solution: The Twist Plus World Charging Station.

Essentially a skeleton key of international plugs, the Twist Plus rotates easily to change between one of four configurations most common to wall outlets in the US, UK, Australia, and Europe. In all, you're covered in more than 150 countries. And most travelers won't' need more than one: Just use one of the four USB ports to charge phones, tablets, laptops - even a MacBook. It's light, portable and comes with built-in fuse protection for that added bit of security.

Originally priced at $45, the Twist Plus World Charging Station is now on sale at $31.99 - a 28% discount.


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