Later On

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

Archive for February 15th, 2007

Are you pregnant? Eat more fish

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My guess it’s the omega-3s. I hope you’re taking fish-oil capsules from a good source (scroll down at link).

A large study has found that children of women who ate little fish during pregnancy had lower IQs and more behavioral and social problems than youngsters whose mothers ate plenty of seafood, a finding that challenges the U.S. government’s standard advice to limit seafood while pregnant.

The study finds “no evidence to lend support to the warning of the U.S. advisory that pregnant women should limit their seafood consumption,” concluded the team led by Joseph R. Hibbeln, a researcher at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, writing in the Lancet.

The study found that children born to women who ate about three servings of fish per week or less — near the maximum advised by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency — had lower verbal IQs, more problems with fine motor skills, and higher rates of behavioral and social difficulties, compared to youngsters whose mothers consumed more seafood during pregnancy.

The advice to limit seafood consumption is based on concerns that children might absorb too much methyl mercury, which builds up in fish and can cause neurological problems.

“Higher maternal fish consumption results in children showing better neurological function than children whose mothers ate low amounts of or no fish during pregnancy,” Gary Myers, a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in an editorial accompanying the study. “These results highlight the importance of including fish in the maternal diet during pregnancy and lend support to the popular opinion that fish is brain food.”

The findings are also expected to help determine whether the benefits of eating seafood for some segments of the population outweigh the risks of ingesting methyl mercury and other contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). “I think that the U.S. warnings are not meant to discourage fish consumption,” said Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. He urged increased consumption of seafood during pregnancy, but excluded fish that have particularly high mercury levels: shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:38 pm

Bush Administration does NOT support the troops

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In life or in death:

Her daughter was killed by a bomb in Iraq. Eight months later, Susan Jaenke is both grief-stricken and strapped — behind on her mortgage, backed up on her bills and shut out of the $100,000 government death benefit that her daughter thought she had left her.

The problem is that Jaenke is not a wife, not a husband, but instead grandmother to the 9-year-old her daughter left behind. “Grandparents,” she said, “are forgotten in this.”

For the Jaenkes and others like them, the toll of war can be especially complex: They face not only the anguish of losing a son or daughter but also the emotional, legal and financial difficulties of putting the pieces back together for a grandchild.

They confront this without the $100,000 “death gratuity” that military spouses ordinarily get — a payment intended to ease the financial strain as families await government survivors’ benefits.

“It really does get complicated for them,” said Joyce Raezer of the National Military Family Association. The load of responsibilities placed on that generation — both during deployment and if a service member is injured or killed — “is a huge issue.”

The case of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jaime S. Jaenke, a Navy construction-battalion medic killed last June in Anbar province, is particularly striking because she was a single parent who clearly meant to assign her mother the benefit. Jaenke, 29, filled in her mother’s name on a form and carefully spelled out her wishes in a letter.

But by law, the $100,000 benefit goes first to a spouse or a child. So 9-year-old Kayla Jaenke collects the $100,000 — plus $400,000 in life insurance — after she turns 18, leaving Susan Jaenke to ask, “What about the next nine years?”

In some other families, the $100,000 death benefit has gone to neither the children nor the grandparents who are raising them.

In California, Barbie and Matt Heavrin are caring for a 2-year-old grandson without the death gratuity or life insurance. Their daughter, Pfc. Hannah McKinney, assigned her $400,000 in life insurance to the man she wed just before deployment, her father said; by law, her husband also received the gratuity.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:34 pm

Health insurance a racket?

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Krugman says, “Could be.”

Is the health insurance business a racket? Yes, literally — or so say two New York hospitals, which have filed a racketeering lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group and several of its affiliates.

I don’t know how the case will turn out. But whatever happens in court, the lawsuit illustrates perfectly the dysfunctional nature of our health insurance system, a system in which resources that could have been used to pay for medical care are instead wasted in a zero-sum struggle over who ends up with the bill.

The two hospitals accuse UnitedHealth of operating a “rogue business plan” designed to avoid paying clients’ medical bills. For example, the suit alleges that patients were falsely told that Flushing Hospital was “not a network provider” so UnitedHealth did not pay the full network rate. UnitedHealth has already settled charges of misleading clients about providers’ status brought by New York’s attorney general: the company paid restitution to plan members, while attributing the problem to computer errors.

The legal outcome will presumably turn on whether there was deception as well as denial — on whether it can be proved that UnitedHealth deliberately misled plan members. But it’s a fact that insurers spend a lot of money looking for ways to reject insurance claims. And health care providers, in turn, spend billions on “denial management,” employing specialist firms — including Ingenix, a subsidiary of, yes, UnitedHealth — to fight the insurers.

So it’s an arms race between insurers, who deploy software and manpower trying to find claims they can reject, and doctors and hospitals, who deploy their own forces in an effort to outsmart or challenge the insurers. And the cost of this arms race ends up being borne by the public, in the form of higher health care prices and higher insurance premiums.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

More progress on medical marijuana

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Another email from the Marijuana Policy Project:

Yesterday, the Minnesota Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee — in an overwhelming, bipartisan voice vote — passed MPP’s medical marijuana bill. Providing testimony in favor of the bill were patients and doctors. Testifying against the bill was a representative of law enforcement and Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council. “Pro-family” Prichard was so offensive and over-the-top with his testimony that Sen. Paul Koering (R-Ft. Ripley) thanked him for his testimony and then declared that he had walked into the hearing planning to vote against the bill, but after hearing Prichard’s testimony, he intended to vote for it. The proposed legislation would protect seriously ill patients from arrest for using marijuana with their doctors’ approval. This is an excellent first step toward making Minnesota the 12th state to end the cruel policy of criminalizing the seriously ill. The bill is now headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And last month, the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee also passed MPP’s medical marijuana bill, which will add chronic medical conditions that cause severe pain, nausea, wasting, or seizures to the list of conditions for which patients may use medical marijuana. Additionally, this legislation will increase the number of plants and ounces of marijuana that patients are permitted to possess. Earlier today, the Senate Health and Welfare Committee held a hearing on the legislation and is expected to pass it within days.

Now that all but a few of the 50 state legislatures are in session, we’re pushing hard to pass positive legislation in more than a dozen states. To support our aggressive lobbying tactics, please make a financial donation today.

Here are some exciting developments in other states . . .

  • Illinois: The third-ranking Democrat in the Illinois Senate has reintroduced MPP’s medical marijuana bill, which had passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in a 6-5 vote last year before the legislature adjourned. We’re lobbying to push the bill all the way through the Senate and over to the House side this year.
  • Montana: In November, residents of Missoula County, Montana, voted to make adult marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority for local police. (The MPP grants program provided the funding for this measure.) We recently received word that the county attorney plans to treat the ordinance as binding and will therefore no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana cases in the county!
  • New Hampshire: Our medical marijuana bill has been introduced in the New Hampshire House and assigned to the Health Committee. In the coming months, we’ll be working with an MPP grantee in the state — LIVEFREE: New Hampshire Marijuana Policy Initiative — to build on the momentum from last session, when a similar bill failed on the House floor by a 116-185 vote.
  • New York: Members of the New York Legislature will soon reintroduce MPP’s medical marijuana legislation, which enjoyed support from the leadership of both the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate last session. To bolster our chances, we’re seeking the endorsement of several local groups to add to the already long list of supportive organizations, including the state medical society, the state nurses association, Hospice and Palliative Care Association of New York State, New York StateWide Senior Action Council, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and New York AIDS Coalition. The new governor, Eliot Spitzer (D), hasn’t yet decided whether he’s willing to sign our legislation.
  • South Carolina: In a surprise move, a medical marijuana bill introduced in the South Carolina Senate received a largely positive hearing before a subcommittee. During the hearing on the bill yesterday, prohibitionist Steve Steiner of Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers (DAMMAD) outraged at least one senator when — during Steiner’s testimony — he accused the Republican bill sponsor of being part of an MPP conspiracy. We love it when Steiner testifies against medical marijuana legislation, because he always helps our cause more than he hurts it.

We continue to push hard to protect marijuana users across the country from arrest. Would you please consider making a donation today to support our efforts?

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Bill to give FDA power to regulate tobacco

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Interesting development:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Thursday that would give the FDA new power to regulate tobacco. The bill has languished in Congress for several years. But backers say they’re confident that broad bipartisan support will succeed in putting it on President Bush’s desk for the first time.

A similar bill passed the Senate in 2004 only to fall to Republican opposition in the House. Congress has been wrangling over the FDA’s authority to limit cigarettes ever since the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 in 2000 that the agency has no inherent authority to regulate tobacco.

Now the bill has the backing of several key Republicans, including some from tobacco-producing states. “I think there’s going to be a strong bipartisan majority here,” says Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a conservative who is sponsoring the legislation with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass).

The bill would give the FDA new power to crack down on cigarette advertising aimed at children and would also strengthen warning labels on ads and cigarette packs. Regulators would have the authority to order harmful ingredients removed from cigarettes and would force manufacturers to clear health-related terms like “light” or “low-tar” with the agency before using them for marketing.

The FDA moved in the late 1990s to establish regulatory limits on tobacco products and marketing. Advertising companies quickly sued to block the rules, and cigarette makers took their case to the Supreme Court.

The bill gives the agency the authority to regulate cigarette sales in an effort to prevent children from taking up the habit. More than half of all regular smokers are thought to start before they are 18 years old, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 6:39 pm

Either the government knew, or it didn’t know

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Very good point toward the end of this very good post:

Perhaps the most important moment in yesterday’s White House press conference came when CNN’s Ed Henry pressed the president to explain why he and officials in Iraq had contradictory messages on Iranian weapons being used against Americans in Iraq.

Henry asked Bush, “You saying today that you do not know if senior members of the Iranian government are, in fact, behind these explosives — that contradicts what U.S. officials said in Baghdad on Sunday. They said the highest levels of the Iranian government were behind this. It also — it seems to square with what General Pace has been saying, but contradicts with what your own press secretary said yesterday.”

Bush responded with subtle dodges and insisted “there’s no contradiction.” He was obviously wrong — on Sunday, administration officials were making a specific charge (the weapons are connect to the highest levels of the Iranian government), and on Wednesday, Bush was equally specific (we don’t know if the weapons are connected to the highest levels of the Iranian government).

Today, the White House threw military officials in Iraq under the bus.

While much of the information had previously been known, the highlight of the presentation — as reported by ABC World News — was that it was “the first time military officials…made the link to the highest level of Iran’s government.” But the briefing “offered no evidence” to substantiate that claim. After coming under intense scrutiny for an intelligence presentation that was approved by the highest levels of the administration, the White House has slowly backed off its claims of Iranian government involvement.

Today, CNN reported that the White House is now blaming the anonymous intelligence briefer who presented the information. According to CNN’s Ed Henry, the White House says the anonymous intelligence briefer went “a little too far” in stating the evidence.

Actually, this raises more questions than it answers.

First, if military briefers in Baghdad went “a little too far” on Sunday in talking to the media and providing information for the American public, why did it take until Thursday afternoon — and an embarrassing press conference exchange — to correct the record? (Answer: probably because they were happy to let the mistake linger, and wouldn’t have set the record straight at all were it not for the president’s public comments.)

Second, the Baghdad briefing had been delayed for weeks, specifically so officials could make sure every piece of information was perfectly accurate. With this in mind, how did they manage to screw up perhaps the most important accusation in the entire briefing?

And third, might this also be an explanation for why the Baghdad briefers insisted on remaining anonymous?

Post Script: Just as an aside, when pushed on exactly what he knew about the weapons’ origins, Bush said, “What we do know is that the Quds force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that. And we also know that the Quds force is a part of the Iranian government. That’s a known. What we don’t know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did. But here’s my point: Either they knew or didn’t know, and what matters is, is that they’re there. What’s worse, that the government knew or that the government didn’t know?”

Salon’s Tim Grieve had a poignant response: (thanks to S.G. for the tip)

How does this one sound, Mr. President? What we do know is that members of the U.S. military were responsible for acts of torture at Abu Ghraib. We know that. And we also know that the U.S. military is part of the U.S. government. That’s a known. What we don’t know is whether or not the head leaders of the U.S. government ordered the U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib to do what they did. But here’s our point: Either they knew or didn’t know, and what matters is, is that they did it. What’s worse, that the government knew or that the government didn’t know?

Good point.

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 3:20 pm

Misc. food annoyances and warnings

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I hate it when food processors raise prices by shrinking the package. Thus we have 15 oz cans of beans, 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes, and (I discovered today) 15 oz jars of Best Foods mayonnaise. Keep the damn package at 16 oz and add the few pennies to the price, for God’s sake.

But then I also noticed that Best Foods mayonnaise is made with soybean oil. Uh-oh. I never noticed that before. Soybean oil is, in my view, a no-no: too much omega-6. I go for the more neutral oils: canola and olive. 100g of soybean oil has 51g of omega-6 and only 7g of omega-3. What you want is at least a 1-1 ratio and, given today’s diet, more omega-3 than omega-6. Other bad sources: corn oil (50g of omega-6 per 100g), cottonseed oil, safflower oil (trace of omega-3, 30g of omega-6 per 100g).

While looking around, I came across this comment on flaxseed oil:

Flaxseed oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. On the other hand, fish oils are believed to contain much more DHA, so many people take fish oil instead of flax oil.

Pregnant women are often told to take fish oil capsules but must be careful to get the best quality, instead of cheap, generic stuff. The cheap fish oil may come from fish with contamination and may not be free of pollutants. Women should be careful about the types of fish and fish oil they consume when they are pregnant, nursing, or even when experiencing pregnancy symptoms.

Flaxseed oil does have omega-3 in it and is preferred by some people; however, some doctors say flaxseed oil should not be taken by pregnant women.

The reason is that flax seed, like soy or even more so, seems to have an effect on estrogen and hormones and might interfere with your body during pregnancy. Ask your doctor.

One study on this was: Brooks JD, Ward WE, Lewis JE, et al. Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy. Am J Clin Nutr 2004;Feb, 79(2):318-325.

Also, flaxseed oil does not have as high an amount of DHA as fish oil, so fish oil is just better anyway at giving you the DHA you want.

Meanwhile, fish oil has been found in some studies to greatly support pregnancy and healthy baby development, and may even help prevent miscarriage. …

One such study was: Rossi E, Costa M., Fish oil derivatives as a prophylaxis of recurrent miscarriage associated with antiphospholipid antibodies (APL): a pilot study. Lupus 1993;2:319-23.

Conclusion: Pregnant women should avoid flaxseed oil and should take the most pure fish oil pills on the market. Our most highly recommended and trusted brand, that we found after evaluating dozens of different kinds, is Xtend-Life. Nothing else even comes close to its quality. And it is higher in beneficial nutrients so you get more for your money too.

I take wild-salmon oil, either Natural Factors or Vital Choice.

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health

Doing business the GOP way

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:sigh: So many times, the same story:

When Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes heard that the United States was going to go to war with Iraq, he was ecstatic, say several former colleagues.

“He and some of his top executives were really gung-ho about the war,” said a former employee of his now-defunct firm ADCS Inc. “Brent said this would create new opportunities for the company. He was really excited about doing business in the Middle East.”

Wilkes eventually got his wish of doing business in the war zone. But his contract – to supply $1.7 million worth of bottled water and other goods to CIA operatives in Iraq – is now the focus of a federal indictment.

Wilkes pleaded not guilty yesterday to improperly using his friendship with former high-ranking CIA official Kyle “Dusty” Foggo to land the Iraq contract. At the same time, Wilkes pleaded not guilty to bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham to gain other contracts from the Defense Department.

Foggo also pleaded not guilty yesterday.

Government watchdogs say the case is emblematic of the way contracts have been awarded during the Iraq war.

“Many contracts have gone to companies who had the best contacts instead of the best bid,” said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman at Common Cause. “Performance and cost has often been irrelevant. What matters is who you know.”

Since its founding in 1995, ADCS obtained more than $100 million in federal contracts with the help of congressional allies who received campaign contributions from Wilkes. Cunningham, who sat on the House Intelligence Committee and the House Appropriations Committee, was one of his chief benefactors.

When the Iraq war began in 2003, Wilkes redoubled his efforts to woo politicians and officials in the Pentagon and CIA.

“He was trying to build a business in the Middle East and needed support from some politicians,” said a former employee, who asked not to be named for fear of being drawn into the court case. “It was one of the things (the top executives of ADCS) were really excited about.”

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:38 am

Palestinian detective in new series

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I really liked the Russian/Soviet detective introduced in Gorky Park, by Martin Cruz Smith. And now we have a Palestinian detective:

Omar Yussef lay on the stone-cold floor of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity staring up at the steel blade of a hunting knife.

On a quest to rescue a former student accused of collaborating with Israel, in the revered spot where Christians believe that Jesus was born, the elderly Palestinian schoolteacher’s life looked as if it were about to come to a gruesome end.

Detectives have been hailed as heroes in novels throughout the ages – from Agatha Christie’s spinster sleuth, Miss Marple, to Robert Langdon, the Harvard-University-professor-turned-reluctant-detective in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” – and former Time magazine Jerusalem Bureau Chief Matt Benyon Rees has created an equally unlikely example: Yussef, the stubborn do-gooder in the literary world’s first Palestinian detective series.

Yussef starting coming to life four years ago when Rees was standing in a cabbage patch near Bethlehem talking to the family of a Palestinian militant whom Israeli soldiers had killed with the aid of a local collaborator.

Even as Rees soaked up the tale, he knew that the details would command no more than a few sentences in his magazine. After nearly a decade of covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rees began to see the limits of journalism and sought out other ways to tell the story.

Enter Omar Yussef, an irascible teacher at a local United Nations school for refugee children. Ignoring warnings from the police chief, militants and even his wife not to venture into the murky, cold-blooded Palestinian underworld, Yussef sets off to clear his former student’s name.

Rees, 39, sees “The Collaborator of Bethlehem,” published this month in the United States by Soho Press, as the first of a series that might bring Palestinian society to life in a way that newspaper stories and magazine articles can’t.

“In many respects, with the news here, we’ve gone beyond the state where it has an emotional impact,” Rees said. “When I first came here, people in New York would hear about a suicide bombing that killed 18 or 20 people and it did have an emotional impact. Now I don’t think it does. And the fact that Palestinians are dying in fairly large numbers, often at their own hands, has even less impact than some act of terrorism between the two sides.”

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:29 am

Good line from Dana Milbank

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On the presser Bush called:

President Bush must have heard that National Public Radio was reviving the 1950s program “This I Believe,” because his news conference yesterday sounded like an audition.

On Iran: “I believe Iran is an unbelievably vital nation.”

On his Iraq plan: “I believe that success in Baghdad will have success in helping us secure the homeland.”

On his Middle East policy: “I believe it’s going to yield the peace that we all want.”

On the North Korea agreement: “I believe it’s an important step in the right direction.”

On tensions with Russia: “I firmly believe NATO is a stabilizing influence for the good.”

On immigration: “I strongly believe that we need to enforce our borders.”

Bush has always supported a faith-based initiative, but his recitation of beliefs in the East Room yesterday — he listed no fewer than 18 principles he holds to be true — sounded less like a question-and-answer session than a reading of the Nicene Creed. The only thing the president did not believe in was answering the questions he was asked.

When ABC News’s Martha Raddatz asked whether he shares the intelligence community’s view that Iraq is in a civil war, the Great Believer grew suddenly agnostic. “We’ve got people on the ground who don’t believe it’s a civil war,” he dodged.

“Do you believe it’s a civil war, sir?” Raddatz pressed.

“It’s hard for me, you know, living in this beautiful White House, to give you a firsthand assessment,” he punted.

The Post’s Peter Baker asked about three members of Bush’s administration who leaked the identity of a CIA officer; Bush had promised to fire anybody who did.

“I’m not going to talk about it –,” Bush said before the question was finished. “I’m not going to talk about any of it.”

“They’re not under investigation, though,” Baker pointed out.

“Peter,” Bush said, reproachfully. “I’m not going to talk about any of it.”

Baker asked whether Bush might offer pardons in the case. Bush arched his eyebrows and said, as if handling a recalcitrant child: “Not going to talk about it, Peter.”

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:23 am

US doesn’t rank well for kids

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UNICEF finds the US not such a good place to be a kid:

Ranking

The United States and Britain ranked as the worst places to be a child, according to a UNICEF study of more than 20 developed nations released Wednesday. The Netherlands was the best, it says, followed by Sweden and Denmark.

UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Center in Italy ranked the countries in six categories: material well-being, health, education, relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people’s own sense of happiness.

The finding that children in the richest countries are not necessarily the best-off surprised many, said the director of the study, Marta Santos Pais. The Czech Republic, for example, ranked above countries with a higher per capita income, such as Austria, France, the United States and Britain, in part because of a more equitable distribution of wealth and higher relative investment in education and public health.

Some of the wealthier countries’ lower rankings were a result of less spending on social programs and “dog-eat-dog” competition in jobs that led to adults spending less time with their children and heightened alienation among peers, one of the report’s authors, Jonathan Bradshaw, said at a televised news conference in London.

“The findings that we got today are a consequence of long-term underinvestment in children,” said Bradshaw, who is also professor of social policy at York University in England.

The highest ranking for the United States was in education, where it placed 12th among the 21 countries. But the U.S. and Britain landed in the lowest third in five of the six categories.

The U.S. was at the bottom of the list in health and safety, mostly because of high rates of child mortality and accidental deaths. It was next to last in family and peer relationships and risk-taking behavior. The U.S. has the highest proportion of children living in single-family homes, which the study defined as an indicator for increased risk of poverty and poor health, though it “may seem unfair and insensitive,” it says. The U.S., which ranked 17th in the percentage of children who live in relative poverty, was also close to last when it comes to children eating and talking frequently with their families.

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Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 8:13 am

Posted in Daily life

Continuing the shaving stick + adjustable theme

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This morning the QED Pine & Cedarwood stick, very outdoorsy, with the lather worked up using an Omega silvertip brush I haven’t used for a while. Very pleasant—and much larger than the brushes I’m now accustomed to. I used for the first time a long, slim, black-handle Gillette adjustable, with a new Swedish Gillette blade. It felt a little head-heavy, but delivered a fine shave. Then alum bar and Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel.

Written by Leisureguy

15 February 2007 at 7:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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