Later On

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

Archive for January 13th, 2008

The other Steve reflects on founding Apple Computer

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A 53-minute video, from a talk given at Stanford

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Business, Technology, Video

State politics in Missouri

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TPMmuckraker:

One might say that Scott Eckersley did job his too well.

As deputy counsel to Governor Matt Blunt (R) of Missouri, Eckersley gave the governor and his staff impeccable legal advice. According to the lawsuit Eckersley filed against Blunt and other administration members, he told them they were violating Blunt’s own written instructions, document retention policy and Missouri’s Sunshine Law by deleting all their emails.

Since the governor and his pals were deleting emails to preclude the scandal that would likely hit them if they became public, Eckersley’s advice was unwelcome, and since he was in charge of complying with the state’s freedom of information law, he became inconvenient, to say the least. Ed Martin, Blunt’s chief of staff, fired Scott Eckersley on September 28.

Things went downhill from there, according to Eckersley’s suit. Shortly afterwards, aware of the threat posed by a resentful employee who felt he had been wrongfully dismissed, Blunt and his aides took the offensive by sending to newspapers packets insinuating that (among other things) Eckersley was interested in kinky sex and drugs. Eckersley asserted that the governor’s staff had gone into his personal email account and sent unopened spam to bolster their defamatory claims.

In late October, Eckersley announced that he’d been fired in retaliation for objecting to the illegal activities of the governor and his aides. Blunt (son of House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO)) denied the charge and told reporters that Eckersley was fired because he was habitually late and did private work on government time. Eckersley countered that he had been repeatedly praised for his work.

Kindling this mucky firestorm is the gubernatorial election this fall. Republican Gov. Blunt expects to face Democratic Jay Nixon, the attorney general of Missouri.

That rivalry underlies Eckersley’s whole case.

Rich Chrismer, the governor’s chief spokesman, sent emails last summer ordering the Department of Public Safety and the Highway Patrol to publicly criticize AG Nixon’s handling of the investigation of a dam collapse. Noticing discrepancies in the resulting statements, a newspaper reporter requested and obtained the incriminating emails and published the story.

Panicking in fear of the damaging fallout, Henry Herschel, Blunt’s general counsel, called a meeting of the governor’s staff in August and, together with Martin, ordered them to destroy all emails. According to Eckersley, they discussed texting with their Blackberrys so as not to leave any evidence that might be used against them in the future.

When faced with a new Sunshine Law request in September, therefore, Martin instructed Eckersley to inform the reporter that there were no emails. Eckersley balked and lost his job as a result.

Now Eckersley has filed suit against Blunt, Martin, Herschel and Chrismer, alleging defamation of character and accusing the five of destroying evidence and other illegal practices. Martin was fired in November, presumably because of his mishandling of the email affairs, and Herschel took another government job at the same time.

And Blunt and Nixon will probably face off next November. Stay tuned.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 6:18 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Movies report

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Watched two quite good movies on DVD. First was The Bourne Ultimatum, the final (I assume) episode of the Bourne series with Matt Damon as the eponymous pseudonymous hero. Good production values and hinging on what is obviously an increasing distrust of the motives and methods of the CIA—and probably a bum rap. When the CIA does things (such as overthrow a democratically elected government, as in Chile for example), it surely does those at the behest of the President and his Administration. I don’t think Reagan escapes culpability—and certainly does not escape responsibility—for the actions taken by his subordinates, however much they worked to provide deniability and however many bales of documents they shredded. The President can delegate authority, but not responsibility, though of course this President accepts no responsibility at all.

The other movie I think I never before saw: Anatomy of a Murder (1959), an Otto Preminger film with a stellar cast—and a great score by Duke Ellington who has a cameo appearance as Pie Eye, a jazz pianist and band leader. The cast includes James Stewart, Lee Remick, Eve Arden, George C. Scott, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell, and Joseph N. Welch as the judge. Definitely worth seeing, though (alas) the DVD was “formatted to fit your screen”—that is, they trimmed off the edges of the picture, always a bad idea.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

White tea: most healthful beverage?

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I thought I had blogged this note from Science News, but I can’t find it. It dates from 4/15/2000. (Note that you should drink your tea with lemon juice. And brew it correctly.)

From San Francisco, at the spring national meeting of the American Chemical Society

For years, researchers have been extolling green tea as a natural source of compounds that appear to fight cancer by protecting DNA. Now, scientists have identified a relatively rare tea that may offer DNA even more protection. The surprise: Some share of this brew’s anticancer activity may result from its caffeine content, about twice that of green tea.

Known for its pale hue and delicate flavor, white tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, as green and other true teas. What distinguishes white tea is the buds that it contains and the way that it’s processed—steamed, rather than fermented or roasted. Many of the plant’s potent cancer fighters, its polyphenol antioxidants, “become oxidized or destroyed as green tea is further processed into oolong and black teas,” explains Roderick H. Dashwood of Oregon State University in Corvallis. White tea undergoes even less processing than green, so he suspects that it might “be more beneficial” to health.

In one test, his team incubated bacteria in cultures containing white or green tea and then compared each brew’s ability to protect the bacterial DNA from damage by a heterocyclic amine known as IQ. This carcinogen can form in fried or broiled meats. “White tea was a much more powerful antimutagen than green tea,” reports Oregon’s Gilberto Santana-Rios, a coauthor of the study. Although its potency varied somewhat between tests, white tea was always more protective than green tea, sometimes by a factor of more than five.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 11:04 am

More on US torture practices

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Thanks to Ray for sending the link:

Late in 2005, a computer programmer from Tampa reported for duty at the old prison in Abu Ghraib. All around him were signs of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. Improvised gallows. Drowning pools. Floors stained with blood that would not wash away.

By then the Americans had seized the compound. By then it was common knowledge that they, like Saddam, had tortured inmates inside those walls. By then the abuse was supposed to have ceased.

The programmer was Sgt. Michael Keller of the Florida Army National Guard. He found inmates playing soccer, watching Hollywood films on DVD and making yogurt from sun-curdled milk.

But, he says in his new book, he also found prison officials giving punishments that amounted to torture.

“The detainee is then laid flat on a medical litter, and another litter is placed on top of them producing a sandwich effect,” he wrote in Torture Central: E-mails from Abu Ghraib. “The two litters are then tightened together with ratchet straps, creating a vice. The detainee remains crushed between the litters for one hour, with the guard checking every 15 minutes to ensure that the detainee still has a pulse.”

* * *

Keller joined the National Guard at 23, inspired by the events of Sept. 11. He went to Iraq — leaving behind a wife, a baby daughter and the business he co-founded — with a self-assigned mission to keep inmates safe.

“I will be a one-man oversight committee,” he wrote to family and friends on Nov. 22, 2005, in the first of a long series of e-mails that would become the basis for his book.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 10:48 am

Cool (literally) coffee/tea mug

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You can hold it like a glass because the fins keep the outside edges cool while the drink is hot:

Cup

More info here, and buy here.

Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 9:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

A triple-hybrid car: looks good

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This is interesting. (Photos and video at the link.)

A hybrid that drives the first miles of each trip on batteries charged from the electricity grid — and burns no gasoline at all until the batteries have been drawn down — is a widely sought antidote to $3 gasoline. But no automaker has yet shown a battery pack for such a vehicle, known as a plug-in hybrid, that would be durable enough for mass production.

Now one company, AFS Trinity Power of Bellevue, Wash., says there is no need to wait for advanced batteries to be invented — that a successful plug-in hybrid can be assembled from components that are already available. The company, which specializes in energy storage devices, is displaying a running prototype at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which opens Sunday for press previews and runs through Jan. 27.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 8:58 am

Healthcare in Germany

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What it’s like:

With the exception of about 2 million permanent civil servants, and the self-employed, Germans who earn below Euro 3,862 gross salary per month in 2004 must join one of the 300 statutory sickness funds. Those above the mandatory insurance threshold may opt out of the state system and buy private insurance instead but many opt to remain in the state system – 10 per cent of the population are voluntarily insured.

German sickness funds are required to be financially self-sufficient and premiums are set as a percentage of income. This percentage varies from fund to fund, with an average of 14 per cent, to fall to 13 per cent under Schroeder reforms. The premiums are deducted from pay packets with employer and employee paying half each.

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Written by Leisureguy

13 January 2008 at 8:50 am

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