Later On

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

Archive for May 29th, 2007

Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter”

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‘Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” Dick Cheney told Paul O’Neill during a Cabinet meeting. “We won the (2002) midterms. This is our due.”

And now, via Alert Reader, we see that Dick and George have done a heckuva job. Remember, when they came in, the US had a surplus. But now:

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The loss reflects a continued deterioration in the finances of Social Security and government retirement programs for civil servants and military personnel. The loss — equal to $11,434 per household — is more than Americans paid in income taxes in 2006.

“We’re on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations,” says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more accurate federal accounting.

Modern accounting requires that corporations, state governments and local governments count expenses immediately when a transaction occurs, even if the payment will be made later.

The federal government does not follow the rule, so promises for Social Security and Medicare don’t show up when the government reports its financial condition.

Bottom line: Taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3% increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 2:42 pm

Funny George Tenet didn’t mention this

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From ThinkProgress:

In the book The Italian Letter, authors Peter Eiser and Knut Royce reveal that Alan Foley, the head of the CIA’s Weapons Intelligence Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Center, cherry-picked evidence to make the case for war in Iraq:

One day in December 2002, Foley called his senior production managers to his office. He had a clear message for the men and women who controlled the output of the center’s analysts: “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.” The directive was not quite an order to cook the books, but it was a strong suggestion that cherry-picking and slanting not only would be tolerated, but might even be rewarded.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 12:11 pm

Flywheels bouncing back

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From Science News:

Departing trains at a rail station could someday get their initial oomph for free, each time saving the equivalent of several days’ worth of electricity usage by an average U.S. household. The trains would rely on a concept already used in today’s hybrid gas-electric cars: reuse of energy stored while braking to a stop. But while hybrid cars stockpile energy in massive arrays of batteries, the heart of the hybrid train might be a deceptively low-tech device—a flywheel.


High-speed, lightweight flywheels, as illustrated here could replace batteries in hybrid vehicles and make the electrical grid more stable.
Beacon Power Corp.

A flywheel stores the energy that was used to make it spin, and it retains that energy as long as the wheel is free to turn. Slow down the flywheel, and you can draw some of that energy back out.

Potters have taken advantage of flywheels for thousands of years. Since ancient times, they’ve shaped their bowls and cups on a wheel that they’ve turned by pushing on a pedal. The wheel’s stored energy, or rotational inertia, keeps it turning at a roughly constant speed, despite the unevenness of the pedaling.

Engineers at the University of Texas at Austin are now experimenting with an improved flywheel that can store enough energy to get a standing passenger train up to cruise speed. Although such a wheel in a locomotive may weigh 5,000 pounds and its rim may move at the speed of sound, it would work on the same principle as the pedal-driven pottery wheel.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 12:06 pm

Oolong acts against fat

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From Science News:

Without skimping on portions, rats eating diets including oolong tea gain less weight than those dining teafree, a new study finds. The tea apparently impairs the body’s ability to absorb fat.

The finding supports a weight-control strategy—oolong consumption—advocated by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, note Lauren E. Budd and her colleagues at the University of California, Davis.

The researchers worked with a strain of adult female rats that spontaneously become obese on a normal diet. For 10 weeks, the team let the animals eat all they wanted but laced the chow of some with a dried extract of brewed tea. Although all the animals ate about the same amount, Budd says, those getting 2 and 4 percent of their food as tea extract by weight gained only about 40 and 20 grams, respectively, over the period. Rats consuming unsupplemented chow packed on roughly 120 grams each.

The 2 percent dose corresponds to the amount of solids in about six cups of strongly brewed tea per day, Budd says.

Blood concentrations of triglycerides—fats—were about 80 percent lower in the tea-treated rats than in those eating unsupplemented chow, Budd reported on May 1 in Washington, D.C., at the Experimental Biology ’07 meeting. Tea-treated animals also accumulated just 12 to 20 percent body fat, versus about 35 percent in animals eating unsupplemented chow.

Saponins, waxy substances from the tea leaves, alter how the body processed some fat, which then moved through the gut without being absorbed, says Budd’s colleague Judith S. Stern.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 12:01 pm

Children and Vitamin D

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I keep finding more things about Vitamin D. Now it seems that Vitamin D deficiencies could be behind childhood asthma. From Science News:

Asthma incidence has been rising among people of all ages, but especially children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, its prevalence among youngsters rose from 3.6 percent in 1980 to 6.2 percent in 1996. It’s the third leading cause of hospitalization in U.S. children, and treatment costs for the potentially lethal disease now run some $3.2 billion a year. There are currently no preventive measures or cure. But two new studies suggest ensuring that children get plenty of the sunshine vitamin might limit its toll.


AT RISK. Owing to the ultraviolet-light-filtering pigment in their skin, black children make less of the sunshine vitamin in skin than light-skinned individuals. It’s therefore especially important that their diets contain plenty of vitamin D.

The idea that vitamin D might be helpful came to Carlos A. Camargo Jr., of the Harvard Medical School during a colleague’s lecture. While looking at a U.S. map that displayed the geographical distributions of vitamin D deficiency and a cancer it’s been linked to, he recalls, “I realized it also looked like a map of asthma.”

His group had already been at work on a study probing for possible dietary links to asthma—such as low consumption of fish or antioxidants—among 1,194 Boston-area youngsters. But during the lecture, he says, the proverbial light bulb switched on.

He thought: Which segment of the population makes the least vitamin D? Answer: people in northern states such as Massachusetts, where, for much of the year, sunlight isn’t strong enough to trigger the vitamin’s production by skin. Who consumes the least vitamin D? Blacks, the same ethnic group that makes the least vitamin D, because their heavily pigmented skin screens out much of the ultraviolet light needed to trigger vitamin D production. Blacks also experience the highest rates of asthma.

Immediately following the lecture, Camargo decided to investigate vitamin D intake among the children his group had been studying. “And boom! There it was,” he told Science News Online. Children with frequent bouts of wheeze—an early indicator of asthma—were far more likely to have had mothers whose vitamin D intake during pregnancy fell well below average.

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Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 11:59 am

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Spanish couples donate unneeded embryos

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Almost half of Spanish couples recently asked to donate their excess embryos to stem cell research did so.

The response of 97 couples who had undergone in vitro fertilization treatment at two Spanish clinics contrasts sharply to the situation in the United States, where a 2003 review found that just 3 percent of surplus embryos were going to stem cell research.

In the Spanish study, 49 percent of couples agreed to donate their embryos to that type of research, 44 percent decided to keep their embryos on ice indefinitely, 7 percent gave their embryos to other infertile couples, and less than 1 percent decided to discard their embryos, according to a report published online and in the July Cell Stem Cell.

In-depth briefings from an embryologist and a lawyer prompted the high donation rate, say Pablo Menendez and his colleagues at the Spanish Stem Cell Bank in Granada and Madrid.

Couples learned about specific research projects for which the embryos would be used and received counseling on relevant legal issues. The authors say that the briefings were unbiased but that 2 hours of “personal attention could be a persuasive factor” in convincing couples to donate.

Also, the couples had undergone in vitro fertilization at least 3 years prior to the interviews, and a third of the women had successfully given birth, “circumstances that make the decision to donate surplus embryos for research more appealing,” say the authors.

An in vitro fertilization attempt typically produces a half dozen or more excess embryos. In the United States, some 400,000 such embryos remain in deep freeze. In Spain, some 100,000 excess embryos exist.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 11:56 am

Posted in Health, Science

Even lying by omission is bad

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Because you get caught: ThinkProgress:

Conrad Black is currently on trial in Chicago for fraud and racketeering. Prosecutors allege he and three co-defendants stole $60 million from his former company, Hollinger Inc. Former Bush speechwriter David Frum has publicly defended Black against the charges. But Harper’s Ken Silverstein reports that between September and December 2000, Frum received $16,667 a month from Hollinger, an arrangement he has failed to disclose. Frum said he feels no need to reveal the payments when defending Black because disclosures “can easily become silly and pedantic.”

“It’s better,” he probably explained, “simply to be dishonest.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 10:22 am

One of the big problems with lying

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Is that the facts don’t support what you say. ThinkProgress:

GSA administrator Lurita Doan claims she can’t remember the details of the partisan Rove PowerPoint session that was given to her employees because she was busy using her Blackberry. The Office of Special Counsel (which found that her partisan activity violated federal law) looked into the claim:

The special counsel sought to corroborate the BlackBerry distractions, yet when investigators reviewed Doan’s personal and government e-mail messages during the post-lunch meeting, there was no evidence that Doan would have been particularly distracted.

“The documentation establishes that Ms. Doan received nine e-mail messages to her private e-mail account on Jan. 26, 2007, with the latest one received at 1:08 p.m.,” the report states. The meeting took place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. “The documentation Ms. Doan provided concerning her private e-mail account did not establish that she sent, read, composed, deleted or moved any messages during the January meeting.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 10:18 am

Good shave

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I shaved with the razor pictured above: the Gillette Aristocrat, gold-plated. Note the “coat-hanger” profile at the end of the base plate, which raises the razor’s edge above the comb. This razor gives a much milder shave than the Gillette NEW, and in fact I feel like today’s shave was not close enough. I did use a Feather blade, too.

It certainly wasn’t due to the lather: I decided to use shaving sticks for the entire week, and today I used a stick I made by melting a puck of Honeybee Spa’s Coconut shaving soap and pouring it into a stick container. Truly great lather, worked up with an Omega Super Silvertip. The Omega brushes I have all have such a wonderful soft touch, but are not floppy. A truly fine brush.

Finished with Geo. F. Trumper West Indian Extract of Limes aftershave, which seemed a good match with the coconut. Already looking forward to tomorrow’s shave.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 7:22 am

Posted in Shaving

Digital warfare

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A glimpse of the future:

When Estonian authorities began removing a bronze statue of a World War II-era Soviet soldier from a park in this bustling Baltic seaport last month, they expected violent street protests by Estonians of Russian descent.

They also knew from experience that “if there are fights on the street, there are going to be fights on the Internet,” said Hillar Aarelaid, the director of Estonia’s Computer Emergency Response Team. After all, for people here the Internet is almost as vital as running water; it is used routinely to vote, file their taxes, and, with their cellphones, to shop or pay for parking.

What followed was what some here describe as the first war in cyberspace, a monthlong campaign that has forced Estonian authorities to defend their pint-size Baltic nation from a data flood that they say was set off by orders from Russia or ethnic Russian sources in retaliation for the removal of the statue.

The Estonians assert that an Internet address involved in the attacks belonged to an official who works in the administration of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin.

The Russian government has denied any involvement in the attacks, which came close to shutting down the country’s digital infrastructure, clogging the Web sites of the president, the prime minister, Parliament and other government agencies, staggering Estonia’s biggest bank and overwhelming the sites of several daily newspapers.

“It turned out to be a national security situation,” Estonia’s defense minister, Jaak Aaviksoo, said in an interview. “It can effectively be compared to when your ports are shut to the sea.”

Computer security experts from NATO, the European Union, the United States and Israel have since converged on Tallinn to offer help and to learn what they can about cyberwar in the digital age.

“This may well turn out to be a watershed in terms of widespread awareness of the vulnerability of modern society,” said Linton Wells II, the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration at the Pentagon. “It has gotten the attention of a lot of people.”

Full story at the link. Well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 6:13 am

Posted in Government, Technology

Serious penalty for corruption

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We in the US have seen plenty of corruption, including corruption at the FDA. But the US has not been up to matching the corruption with serious penalties. Look at China:

The former head of China’s top food and drug safety agency was sentenced to death today after pleading guilty to corruption and accepting bribes, according to the state-controlled news media.

Zheng Xiaoyu, who served as director of China’s Food & Drug Administration from its founding in 1998 until mid 2005, was detained in February as part of a government investigation into the agency that is supposed to be the nation’s food and drug watchdog.

Two other top agency officials were also detained in February.

The unusually harsh sentence for the former director comes at a time of heightened concerns about the quality and safety of China’s food and drug system after a series of scandals involving tainted food and phony drugs.

China is also under mounting pressure to overhaul its food export controls after two Chinese companies were accused this year of shipping contaminated pet food ingredients to the United States, triggering one of the largest pet food recalls in United States history.

The nation’s regulators are also coming under scrutiny after diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical sometimes used in antifreeze, ended up in cough syrup and toothpaste in Latin America.

In Panama, more than 100 people died last year after consuming cough medicine laced with diethylene glycol that was shipped from China mislabeled as a harmless syrup.

The incidents pose a huge threat to China’s growing food and drug exports and have already led to international calls for new testing and screening methods for Chinese-made goods.

The problems are more serious in China because tens of thousands of people are sickened or killed every year because of rampant counterfeiting and phony food and drugs.

…As for Mr. Zheng, the former head of the food and drug agency, the government said that while serving the agency he took bribes worth about $800,000 in exchange for approving drug production licenses.

Duke Cunningham should be grateful that he lives in the US.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2007 at 6:08 am

Posted in Business, Government, Health

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