Archive for August 21st, 2007
The Anonymous Liberal has a good point, I think:
As disgusted as I am to learn that the Bush administration has unilaterally imposed rules intended to limit the number of American children who have access to affordable health care, I can only imagine how this must look to someone raised in another country. The fact that millions of American kids lack access to health care must seem downright medieval to the rest of the industrialized world. I mean, we’re talking about children here.
I imagine that the average person in Germany or France or Japan would react to this news much the same way we would react to a report that the German, French, or Japanese governments had repealed laws against child sweatshop labor or child pornography. We’d be aghast. And rightly so. But when the President takes steps intended to cut off health care access for children, we simply chalk it up to a policy dispute.
Well I’m sick of it. There is no excuse for a country as wealthy as ours allowing innocent children to go without access to basic health care. And if policymakers take steps that result in a net increase in the number of children without access to care, they have a moral duty to find a way to fix that problem immediately. As far as I’m concerned, the Bush administration is morally responsible for what happens to the children who lose access to health care as a result of these new rules. If any of them die or suffer permanent harm from a condition that could have been prevented with routine care (and it’s bound to happen), the Bush administration bears the blame.
From McClatchy. Remember, the compassion in “compassionate conservatism” is reserved for the problems faced by Big Business and the wealthy.
Both have fought efforts to better police imported toys from China.
Now both are under increased scrutiny following last week’s massive toy recall by Mattel Inc., the world’s largest toymaker. The recalls of Chinese-made toys follow several other lead-paint-related scares since June that have affected products featuring Sesame Street characters, Thomas the Train and Dora the Explorer.
Lead paint is toxic when ingested by children and can cause brain damage or death. It’s been mostly banned in the United States since the late 1970s, but is permitted in the coating of toys, providing it amounts to less than six hundred parts per million.
The Bush administration has hindered regulation on two fronts, consumer advocates say. It stalled efforts to press for greater inspections of imported children’s products, and it altered the focus of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), moving it from aggressive protection of consumers to a more manufacturer-friendly approach.
“The overall philosophy is regulations are bad and they are too large a cost for industry, and the market will take care of it,” said Rick Melberth, director of regulatory policy at OMBWatch, a government watchdog group formed in 1983. “That’s been the philosophy of the Bush administration.”
Today, more than 80 percent of all U.S. toys are now made in China and few of them get inspected.
“We’ve been complaining about this issue, warning it is going to happen, and it is disappointing that it has happened,” said Tom Neltner, a co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s national toxics committee.
The Bush administration has promulgated new standards that make it much more difficult for states to extend health insurance coverage to children in middle-income families. “Continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program,” the administration is thwarting states’ attempts to expand SCHIP beyond the poverty level.
The compassion seems to be reserved for big business and the wealthy. They have problems, too…
At least from my view, Glenn Greenwald has it exactly right.
Good article here. It begins:
At around six-foot-eight and clad in combat fatigues, Kevin Kiley, the army surgeon general, cut an imposing figure. It was August 2006, and Kiley was in New Orleans to address the governing council of the American Psychological Association (APA) on the subject of psychology in the war on terror. For over a year, the organization had been under fire from human-rights groups and many of its own members, because psychologists had been tied to coercive interrogations and abuse at Guantanamo Bay and other places. Now, many APA members wanted the organization to draw up a firm policy—one that mandated adherence to international standards barring abuse—to prevent psychologists from participating in such practices again.
It was Kiley’s job to convince them not to bail out on interrogations. It’s an open question how much psychologists have contributed to the art of interrogation in the war on terror, but the APA provides a seal of legitimacy that the government values. If it joined the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Psychiatric Association by barring their members from joining the Guantanamo interrogations, it would further stigmatize the military’s practices. So, armed with PowerPoint slides, Kiley argued for keeping psychologists on the offensive against “sworn enemies” of the country. “Psychology is an important weapons system,” he explained. For the APA to draw up an explicit definition of abuse would be counterproductive. After all, “is four hours of sleep deprivation? How loud does a scream have to be? How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”
Kiley had the blessing of the organization’s leadership. Despite the controversial nature of the topic in question, APA leaders had originally invited no other speakers to counterbalance Kiley with an opposing view. When this fact was reported by Salon, the group hastily issued a last-minute invitation to Steven Reisner, a New York psychoanalyst who had circulated an online petition protesting APA’s involvement in interrogations. Reisner was visiting his parents in Florida when the call from APA came, and he arrived in New Orleans in an ill-fitting off-the-rack suit and without a formal speech.
The human body needs a diet enriched with many ingredients from the periodic table that sound less like food than like machine parts or spare change. We must have iron to capture oxygen, copper and chromium to absorb energy, cobalt to sheathe our nerves and zinc to help finger our genes. Other creatures demand the occasional sprinkling of tin, nickel, platinum, tungsten and even strontium.
But when it comes to lead, the 82nd item on Mendeleev’s menu of the elements, the universal minimum daily requirement is zero. As far as we know, neither we nor any known life form needs the slightest amount of lead to survive. And for humans, especially infants and young children, consumption of even moderate amounts of the metal can have serious consequences.
Developing brains seem to be extremely sensitive to the effects of the metal, which is why many scientists who study lead were distraught by the latest news of lead paint’s being used on children’s toys.
“I’m not normally a rabble rouser, but I’m disturbed by the potential enormity of this problem,” said Jeremy R. Knowles, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Harvard. “We’re talking about millions of toys, and the possibility of an entire generation of children being exposed to gratuitous constraints on their neurological development.”
The New Yorker has an article on Asperger’s syndrome written by a guy who has it (and it overwhelmingly is a guy thing). Since learning about Asperger’s syndrome, I’ve often thought I have a touch of it. You may have noticed the occasional obsessiveness about this or that, and certainly many who have known me can vouch for my obliviousness to social cues. At any rate, I suspect that the incidence of Asperger’s is particularly high among geeks. So take a look. Article begins:
My second-grade teacher never liked me much, and one assignment I turned in annoyed her so extravagantly that the red pencil with which she scrawled “See me!” broke through the lined paper. Our class had been asked to write about a recent field trip, and, as was so often the case in those days, I had noticed the wrong things:
Well, we went to Boston, Massachusetts through the town of Warrenville, Connecticut on Route 44A. It was very pretty and there was a church that reminded me of pictures of Russia from our book that is published by Time-Life. We arrived in Boston at 9:17. At 11 we went on a big tour of Boston on Gray Line 43, made by the Superior Bus Company like School Bus Six, which goes down Hunting Lodge Road where Maria lives and then on to Separatist Road and then to South Eagleville before it comes to our school. We saw lots of good things like the Boston Massacre site. The tour ended at 1:05. Before I knew it we were going home. We went through Warrenville again but it was too dark to see much. A few days later it was Easter. We got a cuckoo clock.
It is an unconventional but hardly unobservant report. In truth, I didn’t care one bit about Boston on that spring day in 1963. Instead, I wanted to learn about Warrenville, a village a few miles northeast of the town of Mansfield, Connecticut, where we were then living. I had memorized the map of Mansfield, and knew all the school-bus routes by heart—a litany I would sing out to anybody I could corner. But Warrenville was in the town of Ashford, for which I had no guide, and I remember the blissful sense of resolution I felt when I certified that Route 44A crossed Route 89 in the town center, for I had long hypothesized that they might meet there. Of such joys and pains was my childhood composed.
TYD arrived with an 18-month (mid-2007 through 2008) Moleskine Weekly pocket planner notebook. It looks extremely useful, and I do like the Moleskine format. They have a range, both pocket and large, though no more of the 18-month versions shown on their own site—but you might find them elsewhere. (Yes: here, for example.)
The 2008 Moleskine Pocket Planners would make good Christmas gifts, eh?
In a comment to this post, Willie Johnson notes:
I have tried several – but finally decided on Mind Manager 6 Pro – mainly because of the virtually seamless interface with Microsoft Office. It is the first programme that I start up on my laptop and is the basis for planning my day, controlling projects and switching between other programmes and files. I reckon it saves me about 30 minutes a day compared to a system without a mindmapping facility.
The other one which I like is Nova Mind – but I couldn’t justify having two programmes doing much the same thing.
Link from a shaver on the shaving forum: a tea-kettle that heats water to a specified temperature—e.g., less than boiling for green teas and oolongs.
Green tea lovers no longer have to struggle to achieve the optimal steeping temperature, while darker tea drinkers can still expect impeccably boiling water. With an innovative temperature control system, this versatile device can heat to your preference. At last, an all-inclusive kettle for heating water for the perfect pot of tea. This durable stainless steel kettle is a must-have for tea lovers of all kinds.
When we got back from the airport, The Younger Daughter (TYD for the next few days) wanted to meet Molly, so we stopped first by The Wife’s apartment. Molly ran out and immediately made the rounds, networking like a fiend: she jumped up into each lap, peered in our faces, snuggled a bit, and jumped down to go to the next person.
And today, I’m told, Molly is atop the hutch, having climbed up the kitty tree as if she knew exactly what it was for.
A single genetic mutation might explain why West Nile virus has, within a decade, switched from causing relatively mild infections in humans to outbreaks of deadly encephalitis.
The virus, which can pass to humans via mosquitoes that feed on infected birds, didn’t pose a serious threat until the mid-1990s, when outbreaks of deadly infection sprang up in Israel, Romania, Russia and eventually North America. Aaron Brault and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, discovered that these new strains have in common a mutation in the gene for helicase – a protein involved in viral replication. The mutation arose independently in each strain, suggesting that it gives the virus a selective advantage.
To confirm their suspicion, the researchers injected American crows with a weak strain of virus engineered to have the helicase mutation. This boosted the death rate from 25 per cent to nearly 100 per cent. The virus also replicated faster, increasing the amount of circulating viral particles by a factor of at least 10,000 (Nature Genetics, DOI: 10.1038/ng2097).
“Mosquitoes feeding on these birds would take in more than 1 million viral particles in a meal,” says Brault. This would greatly enhance the efficiency of infection.
Mosquito-killing machines become more important if you live in a mosquito-ridden area. The OakStumps Farm Mosquito trap seems to be effective. I blogged about it here.
A mixed report from New Scientist:
Some climate tipping points may already have been passed, and others may be closer than we thought, it emerged this week. Runaway loss of Arctic sea ice may now be inevitable. Even more worrying, and very likely, is the collapse of the giant Greenland ice sheet. So said Tim Lenton of the University of East Anglia, UK, speaking on Monday at a meeting on complexity in nature, organised by the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge.
Lenton warned the meeting that global warming might trigger tipping points that could cause runaway warming or catastrophic sea-level rise. The risks are far greater than suggested in the current IPCC report, he says.
Yet climate modellers are in a quandary. As models get better and forecasts more alarming, their confidence in the detail of their predictions is evaporating.
The IPCC says the Greenland ice sheet will take at least 1000 years to melt. But Lenton’s group – whose members include John Schellnhuber, the chief scientist on climate change at the recent G8 meeting in Germany – says the sheet could break up within 300 years, raising sea levels by 7 metres. This would flood hundreds of millions of people or more out of their homes. “We are close to being committed to a collapse of the Greenland ice sheet,” Lenton says. “But we don’t think we have passed the tipping point yet.” The calculations show the Greenland collapse could be triggered by temperatures 1 °C warmer than today’s, of which 0.7 °C is already “in the pipeline”, held up by time lags in the system.
From another sample kindly sent by another shaver, I used Cerrus shaving cream. No link, because I couldn’t find it with Google and I’m in a hurry to go out to breakfast with The Younger Daughter so we’ll be back for the delivery (from San Jose) of your checked suitcase.
This time I smeared a good amount on my beard, and then lathered it with the Simpsons Emperor 2 Super brush. That worked well, and got a very nice lather with a tantalizing light fragrance. Couldn’t tell what it was. (I’m going to use the Bulgarian Rose again, using this technique.)
Then I picked up a Gillette NEW and started the shave—what a smooth-cutting blade! I really enjoyed the shave, and no nicks at all. I checked the blade after the shave: Astra Keramik Platinum.
Pashana aftershave, and we’re off to The Breakfast Club.