Later On

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

Archive for March 25th, 2007

Shaving soaps for the coming week

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I’ve decided that the coming week will be a week of shaving soaps from Classic Shaving:

Rose
Bay Rum
Lilac
Mocha
Violet
Almond

I wish I had ordered the coconut & lime, too. But these will do for the six days of shaving.

Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 6:39 pm

Posted in Shaving

Why conservatives deny global warming

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I’ve been wondering why conservatives can so stubbornly insist that global warming is not happening and, if it is, it’s not man-made. This column casts some light:

Last year, the National Journal asked a group of Republican senators and House members: “Do you think it’s been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Earth is warming because of man-made problems?” Of the respondents, 23% said yes, 77% said no. In the year since that poll, of course, global warming has seized a massive amount of public attention. The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a study, with input from 2,000 scientists worldwide, finding that the certainty on man-made global warming had risen to 90%.

So, the magazine asked the question again last month. The results? Only 13% of Republicans agreed that global warming has been proved. As the evidence for global warming gets stronger, Republicans are actually getting more skeptical. Al Gore’s recent congressional testimony on the subject, and the chilly reception he received from GOP members, suggest the discouraging conclusion that skepticism on global warming is hardening into party dogma. Like the notion that tax cuts are always good or that President Bush is a brave war leader, it’s something you almost have to believe if you’re an elected Republican.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 6:21 pm

US healthcare a national disgrace

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The US (according to the US government) ranks 28th in infant mortality among the nations of the world, and 46th in life expectancy—yet the US spends by far the most money on healthcare of any nation—currently 16% of GDP, heading for 20% of GDP by 2010. Why? Because the “system” we have is inefficient and more or less designed to enrich insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.

Here, BTW, are the countries with better life expectancy than the US (77.51 years), in order: Andorra (83.51 years), Macau, San Marino, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Australia, Guernsey, Iceland, Canada, Cayman Islands, Italy, Gibraltar, France, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Spain, Norway, Israel, Jersey, Faroe Islands, Aruba, Greece, Austria, Virgin Islands, Malta, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Montserrat, New Zealand, Germany, Belgium, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Guam, United Kingdom, Finland, Isle of Man, Jordan, Puerto Rico, European Union, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bermuda, and Saint Helena (77.93).

And here are the countries, in order from worst to best, with better infant mortality rates than the US (6.43 deaths per 1000 live births): Taiwan (6.29 deaths per 1000), Cuba, South Korea, Faroe Islands, Italy, Isle of Man, Aruba, New Zealand, San Marino, Greece, Monaco, Ireland, Jersey, European Union, United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Portugal, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Canada, Guernsey, Liechtenstein, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, Spain, Macau, Switzerland, France, Germany, Andorra, Czech Republic, Malta, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden, and Singapore (2.29/1000).

The FDA requires tests of new drugs to be sure they’re safe, but they don’t require tests to determine the relative efficacy of new drugs in comparison to established drugs for the same problem.

Here’s an interesting report (PDF file) prepared by the University of Maine, and here’s some information on health insurance costs. We really need to do something about this. The US is the only advanced nation that doesn’t provide universal health insurance.

Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

The Justice Department as political enforcer

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Very, very bad:

Not long after President Bush was first sworn in, White House political guru Karl Rove and his lieutenants met with officials of nearly every Cabinet agency to brief top officials on the latest polling data and issues that could influence voters and key constituencies.

But the departments of Justice, Defense and State were exempt. Given their missions — to administer federal laws, protect national security and conduct foreign policy — it was considered inappropriate to make such partisan presentations to them.

Nonetheless, suspicions that the White House’s partisan political priorities may have made their way into Justice Department decision-making have grown in recent weeks.

Not only have two of eight recently fired U.S. attorneys complained that in specific cases they felt pressure to make decisions that would advance Republican political interests, but last week several former career officials in the Justice Department said they had felt similar pressures on voting rights cases.

“The political decision-making process that led to the dismissal of eight United States attorneys was standard practice in the Civil Rights Division years before these revelations,” Joseph D. Rich, recently retired head of the division’s voting rights section, said in a sparsely attended House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing last week.

“This connection should not be minimized,” he said.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 10:50 am

Time for tabbouleh

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Do you find yourself looking at the produce and meat and thinking of what you can do with what looks good? Today I stopped by to pick up a few things and saw a really lovely bunch of mint leaves: fresh, vigorous, and appealing. So I naturally thought of tabbouleh and added it to the basket, along with some scallions and Italian parsley. (And what’s with all the extra packaging such things are getting these days: branded plastic bags holding both the scallions (called “green onions” on the bag) and the parsley. Less packaging, please.)

Forgot the cherry tomatoes, though. I’ll have to pick those up later.

UPDATE: Why the scallions? Because I use chopped scallion in lieu of the red onion.

Tabbouleh

Yield: Makes 4 servings.

  • 1/2 cup fine bulgur
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 bunch finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2/3 cup (about 1 bunch) finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, or to taste, finely minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the bulgur. Let stand 30 minutes, until the bulgur has absorbed all the liquid and is softened.

Place tomatoes in a colander over sink or large bowl and use fingers to break them down slightly to drain off some liquid and eliminate some seeds.

Add parsley, mint, onion and garlic to the bulgur and mix with a fork. Mix drained tomatoes into mixture. Drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil and mix well with a fork. Mix in salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 2 hours, or up to 24 hours, before serving.

Per serving: 25 calories, 4g total fat (less than 1g saturated fat), 21g carbohydrate, 4g protein, 6g dietary fiber, 3mg sodium.

Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 10:44 am

Posted in Recipes & Cooking

Eisenhower warned us

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about the military-industrial complex and the dangers it posed:

Four of the seven top U.S. Coast Guard officers who retired since 1998 took positions with private firms involved in the Coast Guard’s troubled $24 billion fleet replacement program, an effort that government investigators have criticized for putting contractors’ interests ahead of taxpayers’.

They weren’t the only officials to oversee one of the federal government’s most complex experiments at privatization, known as Deepwater, who had past or subsequent business ties to the contract consortium led by industry giants Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

The secretary of transportation, Norman Y. Mineta, whose department included the Coast Guard when the contract was awarded in 2002, was a former Lockheed executive. Two deputy secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security, which the Coast Guard became part of in 2003, were former Lockheed executives, and a third later served on its board.

Washington’s revolving-door laws have long allowed officials from industry giants such as Lockheed, the nation’s largest defense contractor, to spend parts of their careers working for U.S. security agencies that make huge purchases from those companies, though there are limits.

But Deepwater dramatizes a new concern, current and former U.S. officials said: how dwindling competition in the private sector, mushrooming federal defense spending and the government’s diminished contract management skills raise the stakes for potential conflicts of interest.

Deepwater also illustrates how federal ethics rules carve out loopholes for senior policymakers to oversee decisions that may benefit former or prospective employers. These include outsourcing strategies under which taxpayers bear most of the risks for failure, analysts said.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 10:34 am

Connecticut adults can’t handle the truth

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Apparently:

Student productions at Wilton High School range from splashy musicals like last year’s “West Side Story,” performed in the state-of-the-art, $10 million auditorium, to weightier works like Arthur Miller’s “Crucible,” on stage last fall in the school’s smaller theater.

For the spring semester, students in the advanced theater class took on a bigger challenge: creating an original play about the war in Iraq. They compiled reflections of soldiers and others involved, including a heartbreaking letter from a 2005 Wilton High graduate killed in Iraq last September at age 19, and quickly found their largely sheltered lives somewhat transformed.

“In Wilton, most kids only care about Britney Spears shaving her head or Tyra Banks gaining weight,” said Devon Fontaine, 16, a cast member. “What we wanted was to show kids what was going on overseas.”

But even as 15 student actors were polishing the script and perfecting their accents for a planned April performance, the school principal last week canceled the play, titled “Voices in Conflict,” citing questions of political balance and context.

The principal, Timothy H. Canty, who has tangled with students before over free speech, said in an interview he was worried the play might hurt Wilton families “who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,” and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide “a legitimate instructional experience for our students.”

“It would be easy to look at this case on first glance and decide this is a question of censorship or academic freedom,” said Mr. Canty, who attended Wilton High himself in the 1970s and has been its principal for three years. “In some minds, I can see how they would react this way. But quite frankly, it’s a false argument.”

At least 10 students involved in the production, however, said that the principal had told them the material was too inflammatory, and that only someone who had actually served in the war could understand the experience. They said that Gabby Alessi-Friedlander, a Wilton junior whose brother is serving in Iraq, had complained about the play, and that the principal barred the class from performing it even after they changed the script to respond to concerns about balance.

“He told us the student body is unprepared to hear about the war from students, and we aren’t prepared to answer questions from the audience and it wasn’t our place to tell them what soldiers were thinking,” said Sarah Anderson, a 17-year-old senior who planned to play the role of a military policewoman.

Bonnie Dickinson, who has been teaching theater at the school for 13 years, said, “If I had just done ‘Grease,’ this would not be happening.”

Frustration over the inelegant finale has quickly spread across campus and through Wilton, and has led to protest online through Facebook and other Web sites.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 6:33 am

Posted in Education, Iraq War

Medical Cannabis in California

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California seems to be well organized for medical marijuana.

Here’s an excellent state-by-state report (PDF file) of medical marijuana laws and regulations.

The report contains both a summary and an in-depth review of current medical marijuana laws; an overview of the history of medical marijuana policy; and MPP’s model medical marijuana legislation, which is based on the most effective sections of current medical marijuana laws. It also features frequently asked questions about medical marijuana and the need to protect patients from arrest, as well as a list of dozens of medical, professional, and civic organizations that support medical marijuana.

Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 6:28 am

Posted in Drug laws, Medical

Another reason the US wants national health insurance

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Because health insurance companies cheat:

Blue Cross of California “routinely” violated state law when it canceled individual health insurance coverage after policyholders got pregnant or sick, making no attempt to determine whether they did anything to merit such “harsh” treatment, according to a state investigation of practices that appear to be industrywide.

State regulators plan similar investigations of other health plans in California, and the findings against Blue Cross ratchet up the risk of liability for other insurers, many of whom face lawsuits from consumers who claim they were illegally dumped and subjected to substantial hardships.

As a result of its unprecedented investigation, the Department of Managed Health Care on Thursday said that it had fined Blue Cross $1 million — an amount immediately criticized by canceled policyholders and consumer advocates as too small to matter to an insurer whose parent company, WellPoint Inc., earned $3.1 billion in profit last year on revenue of $57 billion.

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Written by Leisureguy

25 March 2007 at 6:19 am

Posted in Business, Health, Medical

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