Later On

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

Archive for March 24th, 2007

Palestinian mystery

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I’m enjoying the mystery The Collaborator of Bethlehem, and happened across this interesting set of maps:

Update: I’ve removed the maps (which can still be seen at their original home—see comment below), and I’ve searched for a more accurate map. The problem is that the maps I’ve found have been either been clearly presented by one side or the other (i.e., possibly propaganda maps) or are not helpful in showing the Palestinian and Israeli territory today.

Post a comment if you have a link to a better map.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Books, Mideast Conflict

Which is more dangerous: aspirin or marijuana?

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You guessed already, didn’t you? Here’s the answer:

When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, cannabis was America’s number one painkiller. Until marijuana prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic that the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. Since the herb is extremely potent and essentially non-toxic, the AMA considered it a potential wonder drug.

Instead, the invention of aspirin gave birth to the modern pharmaceutical industry and Americans switched away from cannabis in the name of “progress.” But was it really progress? There can be no doubt that aspirin has a long history as the drug of choice for the self-treatment of migraines, arthritis, and other chronic pain. It is cheap and effective. But is it as safe as cannabis?

History:

  • Marijuana has been used for over 5,000 years.
  • No one has ever overdosed on marijuana.
  • Aspirin has been used for 108 years.
  • Approximately 500 people die every year by taking aspirin

The Law:

  • Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, meaning the US government believes it is extremely dangerous, highly addictive, and of no medical value.
  • Aspirin is available for pennies and can be purchased by children at any drug, grocery, or convenience store. Often they are just handed out free by people with no medical education.

Marijuana side effects and dangers:

  • The dangers of marijuana include possible respiratory problems caused by the deposition of burnt plant material on the lungs. This danger can be eliminated with alternate forms of consumption such as eating or vaporizing the medicine.
  • For two to four hours, marijuana causes short-term memory loss, a slight reduction in reaction time, and a reduction in cognitive ability. (It makes you stupid for a little while.) These conditions DO NOT persist after the herb wears off.
  • Hunger
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Laughter
  • Introspection
  • Creative Impulse
  • Euphoria
  • Tiredness
  • Forgetfulness

Aspirin side effects and dangers:

  • When taken with alcohol, aspirin can cause stomach bleeding.
  • Reye Syndrome in children: fat begins to develop around the liver and other organs of the child, eventually putting severe pressure on the brain. Death is common within a few days.
  • People with hemophilia can die.
  • People with hyperthyroidism suffer elevated T4 levels.
  • Stomach problems include dyspepsia, heartburn, upset stomach, stomach ulcers with gross bleeding, and internal bleeding leading to anemia.
  • Dizziness, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, vertigo, vision disturbances, and headaches.
  • Heavy sweating
  • Irreversible liver damage
  • Inflamation and gradual destruction of the kidneys
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lethargy
  • Hyperthermia
  • Dyspepsia: a gnawing or burning stomach pain accompanied by bloating, heartburn, nausea, vomiting and burping.
  • Tachypnea: Abnormally fast breathing
  • Respiratory Alkalosis: a condition where the amount of carbon dioxide found in the blood drops to a level below normal range brought on by abnormally fast breathing.
  • Cerebral Edema: Water accumulates on the brain. Symptoms include headaches, decreased level of consciousness, loss of eyesight, hallucinations, psychotic behavior, memory loss and coma. If left untreated, it can lead to death.
  • Hallucinations, confusion, and seizure.
  • Prolonged bleeding after operations or post-trauma for up to 10 days after last aspirin.
  • Aspirin can interact with some other drugs, such as diabetes medication. Aspirin changes the way the body handles these drugs and can lead to a drug overdose and death.

If you think that cannabis is actually safer than aspirin, you are not alone. In October 2000, Dr. Leslie Iversen of the Oxford University Department of Pharmacology said the same thing.

In her book, The Science of Marijuana, Dr. Iversen presents the scientific evidence that cannabis is, by-and-large, a safe drug. Dr. Iversen found cannabis had “an impressive record” when compared to tobacco, alcohol, or even aspirin.

“Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug,” he said. “Even such apparently innocuous medicines as aspirin and related steroidal anti-inflammatory compunds are not safe.”

So if safety is your concern, cannabis is clearly a much better choice than aspirin. If you eat it or vaporize it, it just might be the safest painkiller the world has ever known.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Drug laws

Top 101 Windows freeware and shareware programs

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Via Lifehacker, here are 101 Windows freeware and shareware programs:

How can a person limit juicy downloads to 101 freeware and shareware choices? Tough calls, but the tools below are ones that every nerd needs, or at least should ponder. Many freeware choices are open source, and the shareware all offer trial offers.

Topics Covered in this Article

Audio | Browsers | Compression | Desktop Enhancements | Download/Upload Clients | E-Mail Tools | FAX and Telephony | Graphics & Photo | Internet (Surfing) | iPod Tools | MySQL Database Tools | Networking | Office Productivity | Personal Finance | Programmers | Security | System Utilities | Tweaks | Web Authors/Owners

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Software

Emails on trying to come up with a reason

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This is really worth reading: Kevin Drum has reproduced incriminating emails that show the process of making up reasons to try to justify the Purge.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 9:31 am

Josh on a roll

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Here:

As Atrios might say, I think this might be that ‘Bye Alberto’ moment. From the AP

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales approved plans to fire several U.S. attorneys in a November meeting, according to documents released Friday that contradict earlier claims that he was not closely involved in the dismissals.

Also worth noting, these new and very damning emails are from the ‘gap‘.

Late Update: And of course, just an oversight. From the NYT

Department officials said there had not been an intentional effort to delay the release of the new material. Instead, they said, the e-mail messages were overlooked in past searches of office files and computers. Many, they said, were copies of e-mail that had already been disclosed. The latest batch of documents shows just how completely the department misjudged what the reaction would be to the dismissals.

And here:

Now we know with crystal clear proof what we really already knew a week ago: that Alberto Gonzales was lying about his role in the US Attorney Purge. So add that to the list of all the other things he’s lied about.

But don’t get distracted by the lying or even the cover-up.

Right-wing shills want to chalk the blundering administration response to US Attorney Purge scandal to incompetence. But just as we can infer the force of gravity from the descent of the falling apple, the panicked succession of lies and dodges out of the administration implies not incompetence but guilty knowledge of underlying bad acts.

This isn’t about the AG’s lies. It’s not about the attempted cover-up. It’s not about executive privilege and investigative process mumbojumbo.

This is about using US Attorneys to damage Democrats and protect Republicans, using the Department of Justice as a partisan cudgel in the war for national political dominance. All the secrecy and lies, the blundering and covering-up stems from this one central fact.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 8:42 am

How it unraveled

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Josh Marshall:

A prescient email from the dump, flagged by the Times

“I think most of them will resign quietly,” said Ms. Scolinos, the department’s chief spokeswoman, in a Nov. 17 e-mail message, a few weeks before the dismissals. “It’s only six U.S. attorneys (there are 94) and they don’t get anything out of making it public they were asked to leave in terms of future job prospects. I don’t see it as being a national story — especially if it phases in over a few months.”

What’s worth noting is that most of them did keep quiet. At first. Then questions started being asked. And that led the Justice Department to publicly justify the firings by putting out word that the USAs had been canned for poor performance. But that proved to be a pregnant error. Because while the fired US Attorneys were willing to go quietly they weren’t willing to stay quiet while their reputations were sullied.

The turning point came when New Mexico US Attorney David Iglesias sent an email to a friend in which he labelled his dismissal a “political fragging“. To this point there was plenty of reason for suspicion and an increasing body of circumstantial evidence. But as yet there was no hard evidence of a the kind of wrongdoing some of us suspected, no party to the incidents in question willing to come forward and put facts on the table. Iglesias’ phrase was cryptic or perhaps ambiguous. But it strongly suggested the story he told the next day — that two members of Congress had pressured him to pursue an election-turning indictment and that he believed his refusal to do so had led to his ouster.

Of course, from that point, everything began to unravel.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 8:38 am

Good point on hiring US Attorneys

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David Kurtz points out something you might have missed. Clearly, one has to examine closely anything said by this Administration:

In McClatchy’s piece late yesterday on the whole “voter fraud” mumbo-jumbo that has been animating the Bush Justice Department, this section caught my eye:

Bradley Schlozman, who became the civil rights division’s deputy chief in 2003, agreed in 2005 to reverse the career staff’s recommendations to challenge a Georgia law that would have required voters to pay $20 for photo IDs and in some cases travel as far as 30 miles to obtain the ID card.A federal judge threw out the Georgia law, calling it an unconstitutional, Jim Crow-era poll tax.

In an interview, Schlozman, who was named interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City in November 2005, said he merely affirmed a subordinate’s decision to overturn the career staff’s recommendations.

He called it “absolutely not true” that he drove out career lawyers. “What I tried to do was to depoliticize the hiring process,” Schlozman said. “We hired people across the political spectrum.”

I’m no expert on DOJ hiring policies, but how exactly did Schlozman know he was hiring people from across the political spectrum?

If he had said, “We hired people without regard to political affiliation,” that would have been close to an airtight denial of political interference in the hiring process. It might not have been true (and the evidence suggests it would not have been true), but it would have been a specific denial of the conduct alleged.

Instead, Schlozman says he made a concerted effort to “depoliticize the hiring process” by hiring “people from across the political spectrum.” That certainly seems to suggest that political affiliation was indeed taken into account.

Keep in mind here that we’re talking about the hiring of career prosecutors, not political appointees. We’re also talking about the Civil Rights Division, which conservatives have long viewed as a hotbed of liberal activism. So any alleged politicization that existed in the division before Bush arrived on the scene is code for too many perceived Democrats (again, DOJ would have no way of directly knowing the political affiliations of its career prosecutors) enforcing the nation’s civil rights laws too vigorously.

When a Bush political appointee says he’s trying to “depoliticize” something, it’s like Fox News claiming to be “fair and balanced.”

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 8:35 am

Tyranny, authoritarianism—you say “tomayto,” I say “tomahto”

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Maybe they’re not so bad when you get used to them:

It is the policy of The Washington Post not to publish anonymous pieces. In this case, an exception has been made because the author — who would have preferred to be named — is legally prohibited from disclosing his or her identity in connection with receipt of a national security letter. The Post confirmed the legitimacy of this submission by verifying it with the author’s attorney and by reviewing publicly available court documents.

The Justice Department’s inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue “national security letters.” It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision — demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval — to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me.

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand — a context that the FBI still won’t let me discuss publicly — I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power and that the letter sought information to which the FBI was not entitled.

Rather than turn over the information, I contacted lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, and in April 2004 I filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSL power. I never released the information the FBI sought, and last November the FBI decided that it no longer needs the information anyway. But the FBI still hasn’t abandoned the gag order that prevents me from disclosing my experience and concerns with the law or the national security letter that was served on my company. In fact, the government will return to court in the next few weeks to defend the gag orders that are imposed on recipients of these letters.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:53 am

The more you look at it, the worse it gets

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David Kurtz:

A key aspect of the U.S. attorney purge that often seems to get overlooked–by those who argue that the firings were business as usual and no different from the removal of USAs at the beginning of a president’s term–is the change to the Patriot Act that was quietly inserted by Sen. Arlen Specter at the behest of the Justice Department.

As close followers of the scandal know, the Patriot Act provision, in essence, transferred the power to appoint interim USAs from the federal district courts to the attorney general and allowed the attorney general to install interim USAs indefinitely, thereby bypassing the Senate confirmation process.

Only the naive or willfully blind would see the Patriot Act amendment as a distinct and separate action from the purge itself. Indeed, vesting such powers in the attorney general was a predicate to the purge, and was one of the very first indications, at least to everyone here at TPM, that the removal of the eight U.S. attorneys was not some random act or unrelated series of acts but a deliberately conceived and executed plan that required time to develop and numerous participants to implement. Otherwise, the Senate confirmation process would have made installing political hacks as USAs difficult and would have provided supporters of the ousted prosecutors with a ready-made platform to challenge the removals publicly.

So when William Moschella, who is now the principal deputy attorney general, recently told McClatchy “that he pursued the changes on his own, without the knowledge or coordination of his superiors at the Justice Department or anyone at the White House,” the purpose of his comments was to decouple the Patriot Act provision from the purge itself. Since Moschella was, at the time he pursued the Patriot Act changes, just a mid-level assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, we were supposed to believe that simply because B (the purge) followed A (the Patriot Act change), doesn’t mean A caused B or was in any way related to B.

But wait.

From the document dump last night, we learn, again from McClatchy, that Moschella sent an email to other Justice Department officials way back in November 2005 announcing support for the change to the law. Paul has more.

So contrary to earlier assertions, the attorney general was involved in the firings, and higher-ups in the Justice Department knew about the Patriot Act provision.

No surprise there, really. But keep this in mind. Everything the Justice Department has said that later turned out to be false was almost certainly known by the White House to be false, at the time the false statements were made, to the media, and most importantly, to Congress.

Let that sink in.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:47 am

Trial run for the Attorney Purge

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It started with a test:

A U.S. grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of controversial lobbyist Jack Abramoff more than two years ago, but President Bush removed the supervising federal prosecutor and the inquiry ended soon after.

The previously undisclosed Guam inquiry is separate from a federal grand jury in Washington that is investigating allegations that Abramoff bilked Indian tribes out of millions of dollars.

In Guam, an American territory in the Pacific, investigators were looking into Abramoff’s secret arrangement with Superior Court officials to lobby against a court revision bill then pending in the U.S. Congress. The legislation, since approved, gave the Guam Supreme Court authority over the Superior Court.

In 2002, Abramoff was retained by the Superior Court in what was an unusual arrangement for a public agency. The Times reported in May that Abramoff was paid with a series of $9,000 checks funneled through a Laguna Beach lawyer to disguise the lobbyist’s role working for the Guam court. No separate contract was authorized for Abramoff’s work.

Guam court officials have not explained the contractual arrangement. At the time, Abramoff was a well-known lobbyist in the Pacific islands because of his work for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas garment manufacturers, accused of employing workers in sweatshop conditions.

Abramoff spokesman Andrew Blum said the lobbyist “has no recollection of his being investigated in Guam in 2002. If he had been aware of an investigation, he would have cooperated fully.” Blum declined to respond to detailed questions.

The transactions were the target of a grand jury subpoena issued Nov. 18, 2002, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The subpoena demanded that Anthony Sanchez, administrative director of the Guam Superior Court, release records involving the lobbying contract, including bills and payments.

A day later, the chief prosecutor, U.S. Atty. Frederick A. Black, who had launched the investigation, was demoted. A White House news release announced that Bush was replacing Black.

The timing caught some by surprise. Despite his officially temporary status, Black had held the acting U.S. attorney assignment for more than a decade.

The acting U.S. attorney was a controversial official in Guam. At the time he was removed, Black was directing a long-term investigation into allegations of public corruption in the administration of then-Gov. Carl Gutierrez. The inquiry produced numerous indictments, including some of the governor’s political associates and top aides.

Black also arranged for a security review in the aftermath of Sept. 11 that was seen as a potential threat to loose immigration rules favored by local business leaders. In fact, the study ordered by Black eventually cited substantial security risks in Guam and the Northern Marianas.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:25 am

What Bush is hiding

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Sidney Blumenthal:

Leave aside the unintentional irony of President Bush asserting executive privilege to shield his aides from testifying before the Congress in the summary firings of eight U.S. attorneys because the precedent would prevent him from receiving “good advice.” Leave aside also his denunciation of the Congress for the impertinence of requesting such testimony as “partisan” and “demanding show trials,” despite calls from Republicans for the dismissal of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Ignore as well Bush’s adamant defense of Gonzales.

The man Bush has nicknamed “Fredo,” the weak and betraying brother of the Corleone family, is, unlike Fredo, a blind loyalist, and will not be dispatched with a shot to the back of the head in a rowboat on the lake while reciting his Ave Maria. (Is Bush aware that Colin Powell refers to him as “Sonny,” after the hothead oldest son?) But saving “Fredo” doesn’t explain why Bush is willing to risk a constitutional crisis. Why is Bush going to the mattresses against the Congress? What doesn’t he want known?

In the U.S. attorneys scandal, Gonzales was an active though second-level perpetrator. While he gave orders, he also took orders. Just as his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, has resigned as a fall guy, so Gonzales would be yet another fall guy if he were to resign. He was assigned responsibility for the purge of U.S. attorneys but did not conceive it. The plot to transform the U.S. attorneys and ipso facto the federal criminal justice system into the Republican Holy Office of the Inquisition had its origin in Karl Rove’s fertile mind.

Just after Bush’s reelection and before his second inauguration, as his administration’s hubris was running at high tide, Rove dropped by the White House legal counsel’s office to check on the plan for the purge. An internal e-mail, dated Jan. 6, 2005, and circulated within that office, quoted Rove as asking “how we planned to proceed regarding the U.S. attorneys, whether we are going to allow all to stay, request resignations from all and accept only some of them, or selectively replace them, etc.” Three days later, Sampson, in an e-mail, “Re: Question from Karl Rove,” wrote: “As an operational matter we would like to replace 15-20 percent of the current U.S. attorneys — the underperforming ones …The vast majority of U.S. attorneys, 80-85 percent I would guess, are doing a great job, are loyal Bushies, etc., etc.”

The disclosure of the e-mails establishing Rove’s centrality suggests not only the political chain of command but also the hierarchy of coverup. Bush protects Gonzales in order to protect those who gave Gonzales his marching orders — Rove and Bush himself.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:23 am

Bill Mahrer on George Bush

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Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:16 am

New soap, good shave

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I used the Proraso soap, which I’ve not used. It has the same cooling effect as the Proraso shaving cream, but with a slower onset and more subtle. Very nice lather. The Futur again, and Pindaud Clubman after the alum bar. Fine shave to kick off the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 7:03 am

Posted in Shaving

More GOP lies, Alberto Gonazales this time

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He lied about the firings. This is why it’s important that these guys testify under oath, in public, with a transcript:

Last week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said he was not involved in any discussions about the impending dismissals of U.S. attorneys.

On Friday night, however, the Justice Department revealed Gonzales’ participation in a Nov. 27 meeting where such plans were discussed.

The firings of eight prosecutors has since led to a political firestorm and calls for his ouster.

At that meeting, the attorney general and at least five top Justice Department officials discussed a five-step plan for carrying out the firings of the prosecutors, Gonzales’ aides said late Friday.

There, Gonzales signed off on the plan, which was drafted by his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson. Sampson resigned last week.

Another Justice aide closely involved in the dismissals, White House liaison Monica Goodling, has also taken a leave of absence, two officials said.

The five-step plan approved by Gonzales involved notifying Republican home-state senators of the impending dismissals, preparing for potential political upheaval, naming replacements and submitting them to the Senate for confirmation.

Six of the eight prosecutors who were ultimately ordered to resign are named in the plan.

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Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 6:58 am

Watch of wood, watch of bone

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Sounds like the beginning of an incantation, doesn’t it? But in fact it refers to these pocket watches handmade of wood in one case, bone in the other. They keep time, too. Here’s the bone one:

Watch of bone

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 6:20 am

Posted in Techie toys

Get your own Rocket Belt now

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Looks pretty cool. But scary. Still, I bet the Grandsons will want one.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 6:15 am

Posted in Techie toys

Obesity/diabetes contributor?

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Some of the problem may be due to a common chemical:

A family of chemicals implicated in testosterone declines may also be contributing to recent spikes in obesity and diabetes, according to a new study.

Phthalates show up in a wide range of manufactured items, from cosmetics to vinyl flooring to medical devices and drug coatings. With people’s extensive exposure to phthalates, the chemicals’ breakdown products, or metabolites, appear in the urine of more than 75 percent of the U.S. population.

Previous research had shown that phthalates decrease testosterone concentrations and harm reproductive development in male animals. Effects have also been found in people. Exposure to phthalates in the womb has been linked to genital changes in male infants, while a study in adult men found an association between the chemicals and sperm abnormalities.

In men, low testosterone can lead to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance—conditions that are precursors of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, notes Richard W. Stahlhut, a research physician at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) School of Medicine and Dentistry. “If phthalates are affecting sperm counts and testosterone levels, then you would expect these guys would get abdominal obesity and insulin resistance,” he says.

Stahlhut and his colleagues examined data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which collects physical-exam and survey data on a large, representative sample of the U.S. population. The researchers considered measurements of phthalate metabolites in urine and waist circumference for 1,451 adult men. For 651 of these men, the researchers also had the data available to calculate insulin resistance.

In the statistical analysis, the team controlled for other factors, such as age, race, total fat and calorie intake, and activity level, that can influence obesity and insulin resistance.

The researchers found that the men with abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, or both were more likely than the other men to have high concentrations of phthalate metabolites in their urine. The team reports its results online and in an upcoming Environmental Health Perspectives.

“It’s another piece of evidence that phthalates are a place we need to look when we try to get to … potential chemical causes of obesity and insulin resistance,” Stahlhut says.

However, he cautions that longer studies are necessary to confirm the findings. “What you’d like to do is measure some adults that seem to be heavy phthalate consumers and those that aren’t, follow them over time, and see what develops,” he says.

Thomas G. Travison, a biostatistician and epidemiologist at the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Mass., agrees on the value of longer studies. Nevertheless, the work by Stahlhut’s team “underlines the potential importance of these [chemical] effects that aren’t often measured,” he says.

Written by Leisureguy

24 March 2007 at 6:10 am

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