Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 29th, 2007

The Seven Deadly Sins Pairwise

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What results when the sins are done pairwise.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 9:34 pm

Posted in Daily life

The US being transformed into the Soviet Union

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Remember the Political Commissars in the Soviet military–the guy on a sub, for example, who was the political officer: no military duties, just looking over everyone’s should to spot any deviations from the Party line.

Bush must find that model attractive, being able to control absolutely such agencies as the EPA, the FDA, the OSHA, and so on—agencies with professional responsibilities to protect the public, thus agencies that Big Business detests.

Bush is setting up the Political Commissar function in the US government now:

President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy.

In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities.

This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

The White House said the executive order was not meant to rein in any one agency. But business executives and consumer advocates said the administration was particularly concerned about rules and guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, “This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable.”

Business groups welcomed the executive order, saying it had the potential to reduce what they saw as the burden of federal regulations. This burden is of great concern to many groups, including small businesses, that have given strong political and financial backing to Mr. Bush.

Consumer, labor and environmental groups denounced the executive order, saying it gave too much control to the White House and would hinder agencies’ efforts to protect the public.

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 8:16 pm

Report from the Libby Trial

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 7:56 pm

Cafferty on the Purge

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Just to remind you: the provision in the Patriot Act that allows Gonzales to make these appointments without Senate confirmation was slipped into the Act by Arlen Spector, who now refuses to talk about it.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 6:13 pm

What do people without health insurance do?

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This weekend I got refills for my prescriptions. When I went to pick them up, I was stunned to learn that it would be $803. Man, I can’t afford that much per month. Then I realized that I forgot to give them my new health-insurance card (new health insurance as of 1 January). So I gave them the new card and went back today to pick up the prescriptions: $145.

I imagine people without health insurance simply are financially unable to treat chronic disease. Most other countries, less prosperous than the US used to be before Bush, run efficient national health insurance programs with the result that their citizens are freed from financial worries over health-care (and live longer, enjoyed lower rates of infant mortality, and so on).

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Congress, Government, Health

Golf club hits lighter

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Daily life

How Israel treats its Arab citizens

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I thought the US was bad in how it treated its African-American citizens, but look at this article:

One evening in Jerusalem last February, after working late in the prime minister’s office, I went outside and hailed a taxi. When I got in, I noticed that the driver, an Arab, was gripping the wheel tightly and his movements seemed labored. As we pulled into traffic, he slumped back in his seat, sighing.

“Hard day?” I asked clumsily in Hebrew, with a thick American accent.

He began to answer, but then — apparently registering my poor excuse for the language — asked, “Are you Jewish?”

“No,” I lied, curious about what he had been about to say.

He was an Arab citizen of Israel from the town of Lod, in the country’s center. He was not Jewish — but of the two of us he was the one who spoke Hebrew fluently, his Arabic inflections only barely discernible. A few minutes earlier, he told me, he had picked up a group of religious American Jewish tourists. When they had realized that he was an Arab, they had promptly reopened the door and gotten out. Israeli Jews often did the same thing, he said. It happened frequently, but still always upset him.

We were driving through the area of Jerusalem where the government buildings are located, and he gestured at them as we passed. “I pay my taxes,” he said. “I’m a citizen of the country — even if it is the Jewish state.”

I didn’t tell him that I worked in one of those buildings.

“You know,” he added, “we have a saying: ‘My country is at war with my people.'”

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:50 pm

For want of a protein, obesity

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Interesting:

A single protein in brain cells may act as a linchpin in the body’s weight-regulating system, playing a key role in the flurry of signals that govern fat storage, sugar use, energy balance and weight, University of Michigan Medical School researchers report.

And although it’s far too early to say how this protein could be useful in new strategies to fight the world’s epidemic of obesity, the finding gives scientists an important system to target in future research and the development of anti-obesity medications.

In the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, U-M researcher Liangyou Rui, Ph.D. and his team report their findings on a protein called SH2B1, and specifically on its activity in brain cells.

Using a variety of genetic, diet and hormone techniques, they were able to show that the action of SH2B1 regulates body weight, the action of the metabolic signaling molecules leptin and insulin, and the use of energy from food. It even moderated the impact of a high-fat diet on body weight.

The experiments were performed in mice, including two types of mice that the team altered genetically so that they only expressed a unique form of the SH2B1 protein in their brain cells. The protein occurs elsewhere in the body, but the researchers were able to zero in on its activity in the hypothalamus: the area of the brain that coordinates signals from the brain and body relating to food, hunger, and the balance of energy and nutrients in the body.

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:40 pm

News to me: effects on fat same with diet and exercise

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I have long believed that if you start dieting and fail to exercise, you’ll lose muscle and not fat. Apparently not so:

When it comes to body composition and fat distribution, a calorie is a calorie, regardless of whether it’s controlled by diet alone or a combination of diet and exercise.

New research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism reveals that dieting alone is equally effective at reducing weigh and fat as a combination of diet and exercise–as long as the calories consumed and burned equal out. The research also indicates that the addition of exercise to a weight-loss regimen does not change body composition and abdominal fat distribution, debunking the idea that specific exercises can reduce fat in targeted areas (e.g., exercise to reduce fat around a person’s midsection).

“It’s all about the calories,” said Dr. Eric Ravussin of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and senior author of the study. “So long as the energy deficit is the same, body weight, fat weight, and abdominal fat will all decrease in the same way.” …

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:37 pm

Worldwide Parkinson’s cases will double in 25 years

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Parkinson’s disease is on the increase. When will the US get serious about stem-cell research?

The number of individuals with Parkinson’s disease in 15 of the world’s largest nations will double over the next generation, according to a study published in the January 30 issue of the journal Neurology. The study highlights the significant challenge facing countries with rapidly growing economies, particularly in Asia, many of which are ill prepared to meet this impending public health threat.

In recent years, a great deal of resources and energy have been focused on confronting infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. This is highlighted by high-profile private investments in these areas by organizations such as the Gates Foundation. However, while infectious diseases have attracted the greatest attention from international donors, it is non-communicable chronic diseases, such as Parkinson’s, that represent a far greater burden in terms of economic and social cost to developing nations.

University of Rochester neurologist Ray Dorsey, M.D., and a team of researchers examined the projected population growth in the five largest countries in Western Europe (France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy) and the 10 most populous nations worldwide (China, India, Indonesia, the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Japan, and Russia). They then projected the prevalence of the disease by age group in each country. Their research estimates that the number of individuals with Parkinson’s disease in these 15 countries will grow from 4.1 to 8.7 million by the year 2030. While the number of individuals with the disease will nearly double in the United States to 610,000, the greatest growth will occur in developing countries in Asia. By 2030, an estimated 5 million people in China will have the disease.

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:33 pm

Earliest Semitic text translated

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Intriguing:

The first public revelation of the earliest continuous Semitic text ever deciphered has taken place at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Spell from the Egyptian pyramid text states in a Semitic language, but written in hieroglyphics: “Mother snake, mother snake says mucus-mucus.” (Image courtesy of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The presentation was made by Prof. Richard Steiner, professor of Semitic languages and literature at Yeshiva University in New York, in a lecture entitled “Proto-Canaanite Spells in the Pyramid Texts: a First Look at the History of Hebrew in the Third Millennium B.C.E.” The lecture was sponsored by the Academy of the Hebrew Language in cooperation with the Hebrew University and the World Union of Jewish Studies.

Prof. Steiner, a past fellow of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University and a member of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, has deciphered a number of Semitic texts in various Egyptian scripts over the past 25 years. In his Hebrew University lecture, he provided the interpretation for Semitic passages in Egyptian texts that were discovered more than a century ago, inscribed on the subterranean walls of the pyramid of King Unas at Saqqara in Egypt. The pyramid dates from the 24th century B.C.E., but Egyptologists agree that the texts are older. The dates proposed for them range from the 25th to the 30th centuries B.C.E. No continuous Semitic texts from this period have ever been deciphered before.

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

I’ve always wanted to see the green flash

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In person, I mean. I often watch the setting sun here, but still have never seen it. Now here’s a movie showing it.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

The destruction of our military

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Via News Blog, from DailyKos (poll at the link):

I have written many times about the erosion of the United States Army’s capability to wage large scale war. Our equipment is in shambles (one major reason why it is taking so long to get a mere 21,000 soldiers deployed) and our end strength is a wreck. While everyone parses statements to support one side of this argument or the other, I tend to look at the actions. And the actions show a Country’s military in desperate need of help.

One of these actions is the back door draft of the Individual Ready Reserve. The purpose of this post is to educate people to the wide expanse of this program; basically taking untrained civilians who after years of being out of the military, are being forced back in and being “retrained” for new jobs.

I know about this. I was one. I have been writing at the Command T.O.C. about this for years and now it is time to come in the open.

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is where they put people awaiting their 8 year obligation to finish. For officers, you remain in the IRR indefinately unless you proactively resign your commission, regardless of any obligation you may have due to school, West Point etc. Once people leave the military and go into the IRR, they conduct no training or any sort of military operational work and are kind of a “just in case” force sitting around. The talk always had been, “They won’t call the IRR back unless it is World War III”.

In Desert Storm up to 20,000 were called back for very limited duty and almost all of it was special skills to backfill active duty soldiers going to war. For example, an active Army doctor from Ft. Campbell deployed to the war zone, an IRR doctor was put in his place in Ft. Campbell to continue taking care of families etc.

However, George Bush and his cronies changed all that when in the summer of 2004, they recalled about 5,400 IRR soldiers to not backfill active army but to actually deploy to the war zone for a period of 1 year and to train for 1/2 a year for a total recall time of 545 days. This was ridiculous. Many recalled had been out of the Army for over 10 years and a lot were over 40 years old. Many had financial obligations and family obligations which had been built but the Army did not care. They had 30 days to report. An article in the USA Today about how the IRR Recall put Lives in Disarray explains how poorly this recall was carried out. This blog reports on a 43 year old mother who had been out for over 20 years being recalled.

This operation started an uproar in the media and it was discussed on many talk shows. It is when I started the Command T.O.C. blog which has become the meeting place for IRR soldiers. This has become such a big part of how the Army is manning itself that Ft. Benning actually has a location and web site for IRR and Retired Recall Center (BTW, Recall means involuntary).

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 1:00 pm

A cynical press agrees to be manipulated by the White House

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I blogged earlier about a suspicion that the press and the White House came to a tacit agreement regarding the treatment of stories released late on Friday: the press agreed (tacitly) that they would not cover those stories, so the White House could dump bad news at that time.

It apparently is worse than I thought. Dan Froomkin points to an LA Times column by Tim Rutten. The whole column is worthwhile, but note especially the conclusion:

The lesson to take away from this week’s unintended seminar in contemporary journalism is that the vice president and his staff, acting on behalf of the Bush administration, believe that truth is a malleable adjunct to their ambitions and that they have a well-founded confidence that some members of the Washington press corps will cynically accommodate that belief for the sake of their careers.

It’s a sick little arrangement in which the parties clearly have one thing in common: a profound indifference to both the common good and to their obligation to act in its service.

Here’s the column:

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 12:37 pm

Jon Stewart on Dick Cheney

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Dan Froomkin links to this clip (top one on the page).

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 12:00 pm

A free Mac download to provide some Windows capability

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The Mac is still working to come up to speed regarding functions built into Windows. (They did add a Delete key a while back, for example.) Now there’s a free download that gives Mac users something similar to the Windows Alt-Tab that moves among open windows. They’ll get there…

Here’s info on the download.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 11:36 am

Posted in Software

Mr. Straight Talk discovers the U-turn

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 11:28 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Government

Interesting: career planning is a big waste of time

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You can’t imagine how relieved I feel by this article. It turns out that career planning is not only a waste of time, but often counter-productive. The reason: we don’t know in advance what will make us happy a few years from now. Here’s a simple experiment included in the article:

The idea of making mistakes about what we might want in the future has been termed ‘miswanting’ by Gilbert and Wilson (2000). They point to a range of studies finding we are poor at predicting what will make us happy in the future. My favourite is a simple experiment in which two groups of participants get free sandwiches if they participate in the experiment — a doozie for any undergraduate.

One group has to choose which sandwiches they want for an entire week in advance. The other group gets to choose which they want each day. A fascinating thing happens. People who choose their favourite sandwich each day at lunchtime also often choose the same sandwich. This group turns out to be reasonably happy with its choice.

Amazingly, though, people choosing in advance assume that what they’ll want for lunch next week is a variety. And so they choose a turkey sandwich Monday, tuna on Tuesday, egg on Wednesday and so on. It turn out that when next week rolls around they generally don’t like the variety they thought they would. In fact they are significantly less happy with their choices than the group who chose their sandwiches on the day.

Read the whole article.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 11:12 am

Memorizable.org

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Another study aid site, similar to Quizlet, which I mentioned yesterday. Memorizable.org will be very useful for students and for teachers.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 11:04 am

Beef Stroganoff

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This Beef Stroganoff recipe looks terrific—and authentic. I’ve seen recipes that use, for example, tomatoes. :shudder:

The nutmeg is a good idea, but I think I might also add a teaspoon of a good dry mustard.

Check it out, make it, and report back.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2007 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Recipes

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