Later On

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

Archive for July 12th, 2007

Bad imported food: problem bigger than China

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Here’s the story. Note the caring and cooperative attitude so typical of the Bush Administration: compassionate conservatism in action.

Black pepper with salmonella from India. Crabmeat from Mexico that is too filthy to eat. Candy from Denmark that is mislabeled.

At a time when Chinese imports are under fire for being contaminated or defective, federal records suggest that China is not the only country that has problems with its exports.

In fact, federal inspectors have stopped more food shipments from India and Mexico in the last year than they have from China, an analysis of data maintained by the Food and Drug Administration shows.

China has had much-publicized problems with contaminated seafood — including a temporary ban late last month on imports of five species of farm-raised seafood from China — but federal inspectors refused produce from the Dominican Republic and candy from Denmark more often.

For instance, produce from the Dominican Republic was stopped 817 times last year, usually for containing traces of illegal pesticides. Candy from Denmark was impounded 520 times.

By comparison, Chinese seafood was stopped at the border 391 times during the last year.

“The reality is, this is not a single-country issue at all,” said Carl R. Nielsen, who resigned from the Food and Drug Administration in 2005, after 28 years. His last job was director of the division of import operations and policy in the agency’s Office of Regulatory Affairs. “What we are experiencing is massive globalization,” he said.

The F.D.A. database does not necessarily capture a full and accurate picture of product quality from other countries. For one thing, only one year of data is available on the agency’s Web site, and F.D.A. officials declined to provide more data without a formal Freedom of Information request, a process that can take months, if not years.

In addition, the F.D.A. inspects only about 1 percent of the imports that fall under its jurisdiction. So the agency may miss many of the products that are contaminated or defective. The F.D.A. database also fails to disclose the quantity of products that are refused, so it is impossible to know whether just a box of cucumbers was refused or a shipload.

In cases of recurrent problems, the F.D.A. may issue an import alert, which leads to additional scrutiny at the border. Last month, for instance, the F.D.A. issued not only the import alert for the Chinese fish, but also import alerts for Mexican cantaloupes and basmati rice from India, among others.

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 5:35 pm

US: 1.97 mbps broadband; Sweden: 40 Gigabit/sec

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While in Sweden an elderly woman has a 40 Gigabit/sec connection: 20,305 times faster (see earlier post on US Internet speeds).

A 75 year old woman from Karlstad in central Sweden has been thrust into the IT history books – with the world’s fastest internet connection.

Sigbritt Löthberg’s home has been supplied with a blistering 40 Gigabits per second connection, many thousands of times faster than the average residential link and the first time ever that a home user has experienced such a high speed.
But Sigbritt, who had never had a computer until now, is no ordinary 75 year old. She is the mother of Swedish internet legend Peter Löthberg who, along with Karlstad Stadsnät, the local council’s network arm, has arranged the connection.

“This is more than just a demonstration,” said network boss Hafsteinn Jonsson.

“As a network owner we’re trying to persuade internet operators to invest in faster connections. And Peter Löthberg wanted to show how you can build a low price, high capacity line over long distances,” he told The Local.

Sigbritt will now be able to enjoy 1,500 high definition HDTV channels simultaneously. Or, if there is nothing worth watching there, she will be able to download a full high definition DVD in just two seconds.

The secret behind Sigbritt’s ultra-fast connection is a new modulation technique which allows data to be transferred directly between two routers up to 2,000 kilometres apart, with no intermediary transponders.

According to Karlstad Stadsnät the distance is, in theory, unlimited – there is no data loss as long as the fibre is in place.

“I want to show that there are other methods than the old fashioned ways such as copper wires and radio, which lack the possibilities that fibre has,” said Peter Löthberg, who now works at Cisco.

Cisco contributed to the project but the point, said Hafsteinn Jonsson, is that fibre technology makes such high speed connections technically and commercially viable.

“The most difficult part of the whole project was installing Windows on Sigbritt’s PC,” said Jonsson.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Technology

Bad cops, on tape

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Pretty sickening and lots of lying.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Government

Tucker Carlson, stinking hypocrite

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Glenn Greenwald dissects Tucker Carlson’s hypocrisy for all to see. Worth reading.

I note, BTW, that Salon.com doesn’t work well with Firefox, due no doubt to bad Web implementations on their part. I always have to use the Firefox extension IE Tab when I read Salon. If you don’t have that and you (sensibly) use Firefox, you’ll want to get it for retarded implementations like Salon’s.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 4:12 pm

Posted in GOP, Software

Wonderful example of “Christian” tolerance

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The protesters believe that “freedom of religion” means “Christians only.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Religion

NM Medical Marijuana Program goes into effect

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An email from the Drug Policy Alliance:

Following a seven-year fight to pass legislation, New Mexico’s landmark medical cannabis law went into effect July 1.

According to the state law, the Department of Health must issue rules and regulations by October 1 advising the state-licensed production and distribution of medical marijuana for registered patients. The production and distribution of medical cannabis overseen by the Department would ensure a safe and secure supply of medicine for patients, particularly for those individuals who do not know where or how to access cannabis.

“New Mexico did the right thing by guaranteeing the protection of patients under state law,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of DPA New Mexico. “As we’ve seen in other states that allow medical marijuana, the federal government very rarely arrests or prosecutes qualified and registered patients.”

New Mexico is the twelfth state to endorse the use of medical cannabis and only the fourth state legislature to enact such a measure. Gov. Bill Richardson, who signed the bill in April, is the first presidential candidate to have supported medical marijuana by signing it into law.

The hallmark of New Mexico’s medical marijuana law is its strict controls and safeguards to prevent abuse. It will be one of the most tightly regulated programs in the country.

Qualified patients whose doctors believe they would benefit from the medicinal use of cannabis will finally be protected as the New Mexico Department of Health issues the first patient identification cards this month. Applications for identification cards for both patients and their primary caregivers are available at the Department of Health’s website. The law protects qualified patients suffering from certain debilitating medical conditions, including HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, epilepsy, spinal cord injury with intractable spasticity, or admittance into hospice care, to use medical cannabis for relief of their symptoms.

For questions regarding qualification for the program or the application process, please contact Melissa Milam with the Department of Health at (505) 827-2321.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Medical

One reason the DOJ is in such a shambles

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No one who works there—or who did work there in this Administration—can remember anything. Something in the building or the food served seems to have destroyed their ability to remember, and the Department is run by people who seem to suffer from early-onset Alzheimer’s. Are these people medically capable of work?

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 2:32 pm

Country of Origin Labels

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MSNBC reports:

U.S. consumers overwhelmingly support stricter food labeling laws, with 92 percent of Americans wanting to know which country produced the food they are buying, a consumer magazine said on Tuesday.

Consumer Reports said recent food scares, including worries about peanut butter and lettuce, have made Americans more interested in knowing not only how their food was produced but where it was made.

“I was definitely shocked at how high these numbers were,” said the study’s coauthor Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports magazine.

“It’s much like a nutrition label or an ingredient label in that it needs to be part of the general information coming in about imported foods,” she added.

The poll was conducted with 1,004 telephone interviews between June 7 and June 10.

Last month, USDA said it would reopen public comment to its so-called “country-of-origin” labeling measure until August 20.

Congress enacted the meat-labeling requirement as part of a 2002 law but has twice delayed the start date, now set for September 30, 2008.

Get that? Country of Origin Labels are required by law, but it’s not being done. Here’s more from the NY Times on 2 July:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 1:19 pm

And hilzoy on “the liberal media”

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Well-stated:

Matt is right: this AP article is just bizarre. Here’s its main point:

“U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned.
The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to rebuild despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it. (…)Counterterrorism analysts produced the document, titled “Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West.” The document pays special heed to the terror group’s safe haven in Pakistan and makes a range of observations about the threat posed to the United States and its allies, officials said.

Al-Qaida is “considerably operationally stronger than a year ago” and has “regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001,” the official said, paraphrasing the report’s conclusions. “They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States.””

Frankly, I’d be happiest if the AP didn’t bother saying who, in their opinion, is likely to benefit politically from this state of affairs, and spent their time giving more details on the actual news. However, if they have to look into their secret crystal balls and tell us who profits from the rebuilding of al Qaeda, why say this?

“The findings could bolster the president’s hand at a moment when support on Capitol Hill for the war is eroding and the administration is struggling to defend its decision for a military buildup in Iraq. A progress report that the White House is releasing to Congress this week is expected to indicate scant progress on the political and military benchmarks set for Iraq.”

Offhand, the idea that this administration has completely failed to cripple the organization that actually attacked us, in large part because of a combination of ineptitude (cough, Tora Bora, cough cough) and the clever decision to divert attention and resources from the fight against al Qaeda to the unrelated fight against Saddam Hussein, might strike an impartial observer as, well, a problem for Bush, not a source of strength. And the idea that it should strengthen his arguments for sticking with his unrelated war, which he has prosecuted every bit as ineptly as the fight against al Qaeda, might seem just a bit peculiar. What is this strengthened argument supposed to be? “I have completely screwed up, so you need to keep on supporting me”? “I have failed at everything I’ve tried so far, and with your help I can fail some more”? “Keep our armed forces tied down in Iraq so that al Qaeda can fully reconstitute itself”? “Total incompetence deserves your support”? Honestly, what?

Ladies and gentlemen: your so-called liberal media.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 12:52 pm

This irks me

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From Obsidian Wings, by hilzoy:

I seem to recall, back when the Republicans were in control of the Senate, that whenever Senate Democrats would threaten to filibuster any legislation, pundits all over Washington DC would suddenly look very grave and warn that Democrats were going to pay a fearsome political price. “Oh, horrors!”, they wailed. “Democrats will be called obstructionists! They will become the Party of No! And since that’s a charge that has “resonance“, Democrats will undoubtedly pay a price for their obstructionist ways!”

Yet oddly enough, now that Republicans are in office, and using the filibuster with wild abandon, there don’t seem to be the same cries of alarm. Instead, the voters wonder what exactly has happened to all those things the Democrats said they would do. They did manage to enact rules changes in their own houses, of course. They got the minimum wage raised by attaching it to an appropriations bill. But a lot of their legislation has been stymied by Republican obstruction. Remember the Congressional Ethics Reform package, for instance? It passed both houses of Congress by substantial majorities: 96-2 in the Senate, and 396-22 in the House. And yet, strange to say, the Republicans are refusing to let it go to conference, where both houses agree on a uniform final version of the bill to enact. As the Birmingham News notes,

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 12:50 pm

Posted in Congress, GOP

Fighting Al-Qaida in Iraq

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Kevin Drum once more:

Non-insane conservative James Joyner has read the White House’s latest assessment of the war in Iraq and is distinctly unimpressed:

So, essentially, despite [Al-Qaida in Iraq] comprising something like five percent of the insurgency, we have diverted most of our resources to combating it. And we’re failing. Not only is AQI stronger but, as another report being released today suggests, al Qaeda in general is enjoying a resurgence.

Meanwhile, the [Iraqi Security Forces] continues to be an undependable, lackluster fighting force four years into the game. That, despite their training having been headed up by the counterinsurgency guru who’s now in charge of the whole shebang.

To be fair….

Click the link if you, too, want to be fair. I’m not in the mood.

Actually, I think things are considerably worse than James suggests. Despite what the White House says, we’re fighting AQI not because they’re “high profile” or because they’re actually a genuine branch of al-Qaeda, we’re fighting them because we don’t have any choice. Who else are we going to fight? The Badr Organization? The Mahdi Army? The Sunni insurgents? The Iraqi Security Forces themselves? Hell, we’re allied with the Sunni tribes these days. We’re training the Iraqi Security Forces, making them into an ever more efficient sectarian killing machine. We’re supporting a government that supports the Badr Organization and we’ve apparently got back channel negotiations taking place with Muqtada al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army too. This leaves us with distinctly limited options.

We’re not fighting AQI because they’re the real problem in Iraq. We’re like the drunk looking for his car keys under the street lamp. And we’re doing about as well.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 11:33 am

Sad but succinct

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Kevin Drum:

Shorter (and yet also expanded) Matt Yglesias: Both the American public and the Iraqi public want us to leave Iraq. However, both the American government and the Iraqi government want us to stay. So we’re staying.

This is called “democracy promotion.”

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 11:31 am

Funding the enemy

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ThinkProgress:

In an astonishing heist, guards at a Baghdad bank “made off with more than a quarter-billion dollars on Wednesday.”

The robbery, of $282 million from the Dar Es Salaam bank, a private financial institution, raised more questions than it answered, and officials were tight-lipped about the crime. The local police said two guards engineered the robbery, but an official at the Interior Ministry said three guards were involved. Both confirmed that the stolen money was in American dollars, not Iraqi dinars.

It was unclear why the bank had that much money on hand in dollars, or how the robbers managed to move such a large amount without being detected. Several officials speculated that the robbers had connections to the militias, because it would be difficult for them to move without being searched through many checkpoints in Baghdad.

I believe that this money is not going to be spent in support of the US in Iraq. And I believe that the money is undoubtedly from the truckloads of cash that the US shipped to Iraq and is probably part of the billions that that Paul Bremer couldn’t account for.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 11:28 am

Sophie

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Sophie on chair

Sophie, waiting patiently for Windows to make its little “goodbye” song when the computer is  shut down. This signals the end of the workday, when at last Sophie can get the attention she so much enjoys. As soon as the song plays, Sophie runs in from wherever she is, mrking madly, and squirms about for a thorough petting. (“Mrking” is the name we give the sequence of small, short, vari-toned meows she makes, very much as if she were talking. Sometimes she makes these to herself, as she plays with something interesting (e.g., a crumpled piece of paper, a cable tie, or the like), and sometimes she directs them to The Wife, as if she’s telling her something important.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 8:56 am

Posted in Cats, Sophie

My email to Starbucks

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Help out with this by sending a similar email.

Dear Starbucks,

As I’m sure you realize, many of your customers hit Starbucks on the way to work, and for various reasons (hangover, menses, illness) some are not at their best. It would be extremely helpful if you offered Advil among the other products you sell—just one size, a small bottle. Do a trial run, and I think you’ll be surprised by (a) how many you sell and (b) how grateful your customers are.

Thanks for listening.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 8:50 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life

Universal health care: the state route doesn’t work

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Good post by Kevin Drum, commenting on an article by Ezra Klein on the state initiatives (in California and Massachusetts) to provide universal healthcare within the state. Surprisingly (at least to me) this turns out to be a bad idea. The short case:

For starters, they’re almost inevitably cut back during recessions when costs grow (because more people are out of work) and state finances are strapped (because tax receipts are lower) — and the cutbacks usually provoke a death spiral that’s irreversible. State plans also attract the chronically ill in disproportionate numbers, a version of adverse selection that prompts death spirals every bit as effectively as recessions. Finally, most states don’t have the clout to make the necessary regulations work. Insurers can simply pick up their ball and go elsewhere — and they do.

But read the whole post. It’s pretty clear that it’s going to be national healthcare or bust. (The article sounds good, too—the post links to it.)

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 8:41 am

Posted in Government, Health, Medical

Food notes

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I got some boneless pork ribs—country style ribs—and used Penzey’s Bicentennial Rub, my favorite. Roasted at 300º for 2.5 hours. Very tasty. Several left over, so I think I’ll cut them into small chunks and eat them in a salad.

I also soaked a pound of blackeyed peas overnight for Texas caviar, which has many versions. The one I use:

Texas caviar, a black-eyed pea salad. I cook the black-eyed peas from scratch, drain, and then add olive oil, lime juice, chopped scallions, chopped jalapeños (seed them if you want), chopped cilantro, salt, dash Tabasco, dash Worcestershire. Sometimes I skip the cilantro, sometimes I also add chopped red bell pepper.

That’s from a letter I wrote in May of last year. Thanks to X1, I did an instant search for “Texas caviar” and found a copy of the recipe immediately. I love X1. Thank you, Mr. Fallows. And it’s free. (The best things in life are free. X1 is free. Therefore… nothing. Barbara, Celarent, Darii, Ferio… it all comes back to me from Sophomore Year language tutorial. Non-St. Johnnies, see here for what you missed.)

In the same letter, I found that I was going to use Jump Up and Kiss Me hot sauce instead of Tabasco. But alas, I’m out. But that is a good hot sauce—not especially hot, either.

And, finally, I bought some very nice looking oxtails and will put those in the oven tonight for cooking overnight at 200º (same as crockpot “Low”). The usual: lemon juice, canned diced tomatoes, red wine, onions, parsley, garlic, horseradish, Worcestershire, perhaps some thyme and basil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes.

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 7:41 am

Superlavender

with 5 comments

This morning I tried something I had read about in the forums: a new approach to superlather (NSFW: video with sound). I rubbed the QED Lavender shave stick against the grain of my wet beard, then took the wet Simpsons Persian Jar 2 Super and squirted a little bit of Em’s Place Lavender shaving cream on it. Building the lather on my beard, I got a very thick, slick, and luxurious lavender lather—both QED and Em’s Place use only lavender essential oil as the fragrance, so it was Intense.

Let me say in passing that I really like Em’s shaving creams: you squirt them from the container, but they make a terrific lather. And they are lathering shaving creams—i.e., they require a brush. You really ought to give one a try.

I used my Edwin Jagger Lined Chatsworth razor with a new Feather blade. The lather was so thick that I felt more stubble after the first and second pass than I normally do, but the final ATG pass cleaned it all up. Very nice protective lather, and a wonderfully smooth shave—a terrific debut for the Chatsworth, which has a very nice feel in the hand.

Alum block for pleasure, not for bleeding, and then Royal Copenhagen aftershave. (Everyone knows that the “a” in “Copenhagen” is long, right?)

Written by Leisureguy

12 July 2007 at 7:20 am

Posted in Shaving

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