Later On

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

Archive for February 23rd, 2008

Better (for businesses) if you don’t know

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Disgusting:

The Center for Public Integrity has obtained a copy of the suppressed study and posted it on the internet.“For more than seven months, the nation’s top public health agency has blocked the publication of an exhaustive federal study of environmental hazards in the eight Great Lakes states, reportedly because it contains such potentially ‘alarming information’ as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates,” reports Sheila Kaplan. The 400-page study, undertaken by a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in cooperation with the government of Canada, “warns that more than nine million people who live in the more than two dozen ‘areas of concern’ — including such major metropolitan areas as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee — may face elevated health risks from being exposed to dioxin, PCBs, pesticides, lead, mercury, or six other hazardous pollutants.” Canadian biologist Michael Gilbertson, who was involved in reviewing the study, said it has been suppressed because it suggests that vulnerable populations have been harmed by industrial pollutants. “It’s not good because it’s inconvenient,” Gilbertson said. “The whole problem with all this kind of work is wrapped up in that word ‘injury.’ If you have injury, that implies liability. Liability, of course, implies damages, legal processes, and costs of remedial action. The governments, frankly, in both countries are so heavily aligned with, particularly, the chemical industry, that the word amongst the bureaucracies is that they really do not want any evidence of effect or injury to be allowed out there.”

Source: Center for Public Integrity

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 3:05 pm

Coal trying to sell itself as green

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Fascinating video report.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 12:51 pm

Our fearful media—except HBO

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ThinkProgress:

Taxi to the Dark Side, a documentary about an innocent Afghan taxi driver tortured to death by U.S. officials at Bagram Air Base, has received wide critical acclaim since its debut in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. The New York Times’s A.O. Scott said, “If recent American history is ever going to be discussed with the necessary clarity and ethical rigor, this film will be essential.”

Earlier this month, ThinkProgress reported that the Discovery Channel broke its contract to broadcast Taxi prior to the 2008 elections. With plans to take the company public, executives were afraid the “film’s controversial content might damage Discovery’s public offering.”

In a press release on Thursday, HBO announced that it has bought the rights to Taxi and will show the film in September 2008. TP reader Tim received a similar response from “Viewer Relations” at Discovery Communications, who said that they may also show the film on cable in 2009:

In its first, pay tv window, HBO will debut the film in September, 2008. We are proud that Taxi to the Dark Side will make its basic cable debut in 2009 on Investigation Discovery, the network dedicated to providing in-depth programs that challenge viewers’ perceptions on important issues shaping our culture and defining our world.

ThinkProgress spoke with an HBO spokeswoman who explained why the network picked up Taxi: “It’s a great film and HBO always goes after high quality docs.”

A source told ThinkProgress that Discovery agreed to the deal with HBO after intense public criticism — including from the netroots. Discovery executives were also reportedly anxious that if Gibney received the Oscar for best documentary feature, he would make a speech denouncing the network.

How convenient for Discovery that it is now willing to show the film on its own channel in 2009…after President Bush is out of office.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 12:43 pm

McCain and the lobbyists

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Business, Election, GOP

Bush leaves US open to terrorist attack

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According to his own statements. Glenn Greenwald:

The White House yesterday escalated its most brazen, Orwellian campaign of the last eight years — shrilly accusing House Democrats of jeopardizing the nation’s security by allowing the Protect America Act to expire even though it’s the President and House Republicans who blocked any extensions of that law. As the Associated Press pointed out at the bottom of its story:

McConnell acknowledged last week that the White House’s refusal to extend the wiretapping law was meant to pressure Congress to pass the Senate bill.

Ponder what it says about our press corps that the White House knows it can (a) block all attempts to extend the PAA and then (b) spend the next several weeks blaming Democrats for helping the Terrorists by allowing the PAA to expire. I know I’ve made that point before, but this one is so brazen, so transparent and audacious, that it just hasn’t yet ceased to amaze.In any event, the two honorable, apolitical, completely trustworthy Bush cabinet members — DNI Mike McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey — yesterday released a letter addressed to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes which is basically a written adaptation of the scary 24 video produced this week by the House Republicans, breathlessly claiming that the nation “is now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats” because of the PAA’s expiration.

The letter contains the now-standard fear-mongering claims that telecoms will stop cooperating (and even have stopped cooperating already) with government surveillance in the absence of the PAA (an absence caused single-handedly by the President) — i.e., “we have lost intelligence information this past week,” etc. But there was one passage in the letter which seems significant and worth highlighting.

In the letter from Chairman Reyes to which McConnell and Mukasey are responding, Reyes pointed out that under the still-existing FISA law, the Government is free to commence surveillance without a warrant where there is no time to obtain one. In response, McConnell and Mukasey wrote:

McConnell

[You imply that the emergency authorization process under FISA is an adequate substitute for the legislative authorities that have elapsed. This assertion reflects a basic misunderstanding about FISA’s emergency authorization provisions. Specifically, you assert that the National Security Agency (NSA) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) “may begin surveillance immediately” in an emergency situation. FISA requires far more, and it would be illegal to proceed as you suggest].

Wow, what a blockbuster revelation. Apparently, as it turns out, in the United States it’s “illegal” for the Government to eavesdrop on Americans without first complying with the requirements of FISA. Who would have known? It’s a good thing we don’t have a Government that would ever do that, or a Congress that would ever tolerate such “illegal” behavior. And it’s so moving to hear the Bush administration earnestly explain that they are so hamstrung by FISA’s requirements that we are all deeply vulnerable to the Terrorists, but they have no choice but to comply with its burdensome provisions — because to do otherwise would be “illegal.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 12:36 pm

Woohoo: more than 15,000 copies downloaded

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That’s the number of copies of Within Your Means, the FREE Excel workbook that helps you construct a realistic budget based on your own take-home pay, that people have downloaded. Actual current count is 15,148.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Software

Message art

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With a lot of impact.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 11:57 am

Portable honey for tea-drinkers

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Very clever:

Honeydrop

he Honibe Honey Drop works like a sugar cube for those who’d rather sweeten their tea with honey. John Rowe, creator of the drops, says he was inspired to create a “non-messy” honey after an unfortunate camping trip involving a broken jar of honey, a backpack, and a sticky mess. Because the single-serving drops won’t stick like liquid honey, they might be particularly useful for tea drinkers on the go. According to Rowe, unlike other dried honey products on the market, his drops are made of 100% natural honey and contain no binding agents or additives such as sugar or corn syrup. $11.99 for a box of 20 (plain or flavored with lemon) at Honibe.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 11:40 am

Posted in Caffeine, Daily life, Food

Seven Steps to Revolution

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Very interesting post by Sara Robinson:

“Those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable.” — John F. Kennedy

There’s one thing for sure: 2008 isn’t anything like politics as usual.

The corporate media (with their unerring eye for the obvious point) is fixated on the narrative that, for the first time ever, Americans will likely end this year with either a woman or a black man headed for the White House. Bloggers are telling stories from the front lines of primaries and caucuses that look like something from the early 60s — people lining up before dawn to vote in Manoa, Hawaii yesterday; a thousand black college students in Prairie View, Texas marching 10 miles to cast their early votes in the face of a county that tried to disenfranchise them. In recent months, we’ve also been gobstopped by the sheer passion of the insurgent campaigns of both Barack Obama and Ron Paul, both of whom brought millions of new voters into the conversation — and with them, a sharp critique of the status quo and a new energy that’s agitating toward deep structural change.

There’s something implacable, earnest, and righteously angry in the air. And it raises all kinds of questions for burned-out Boomers and jaded Gen Xers who’ve been ground down to the stump by the mostly losing battles of the past 30 years. Can it be — at long last — that Americans have, simply, had enough? Are we, finally, stepping out to take back our government — and with it, control of our own future? Is this simply a shifting political season — the kind we get every 20 to 30 years — or is there something deeper going on here? Do we dare to raise our hopes that this time, we’re going to finally win a few? Just how ready is this country for big, serious, forward-looking change?

Recently, I came across a pocket of sociological research that suggested a tantalizing answer to these questions — and also that America may be far more ready for far more change than anyone really believes is possible at this moment. In fact, according to some sociologists, we’ve already lined up all the preconditions that have historically set the stage for full-fledged violent revolution.

It turns out that the energy of this moment is not about Hillary or Ron or Barack. It’s about who we are, and where we are, and what happens to people’s minds when they’re left hanging just a little too far past the moment when they’re ready for transformative change.

Way back in 1962, Caltech sociologist James C. Davies published an article in the American Sociological Review that summarized the conditions that determine how and when modern political revolutions occur. Intriguingly, Davies cited another scholar, Crane Brinton, who laid out seven “tentative uniformities” that he argued were the common precursors that set the stage for the Puritan, American, French, and Russian revolutions. As I read Davies’ argument, it struck me that the same seven stars Brinton named are now precisely lined up at midheaven over America in 2008. Taken together, it’s a convergence that creates the perfect social, economic, and political conditions for the biggest revolution since the shot heard ’round the world.

And even more interestingly: in every case, we got here as a direct result of either intended or unintended consequences of the conservatives’ war against liberal government, and their attempt to take over our democracy and replace it with a one-party plutocracy. It turns out that, historically, liberal nations make very poor grounds for revolution — but deeply conservative ones very reliably create the conditions that eventually make violent overthrow necessary. And our own Republicans, it turns out, have done a hell of a job.

Here are the seven criteria, along with the reasons why we’re fulfilling each of them now, and how conservative policies conspired to put us on the road to possible revolution.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Health insurer punished for unwarranted cancelation

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Good news:

A woman who had her medical coverage canceled as she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer has been awarded more than $9 million in a case against one of California’s largest health insurers.

Patsy Bates, 52, a hairdresser from Lakewood, had been left with more than $129,000 in unpaid medical bills when Health Net Inc. canceled her policy in 2004.

On Friday, arbitration judge Sam Cianchetti ordered Health Net to repay that amount while providing $8.4 million in punitive damages and $750,000 for emotional distress.

“It’s hard to imagine a situation more trying than the one Bates has had to endure,” Cianchetti wrote in the decision. “The rug was pulled out from underneath, and that occurred at a time when she is diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the leading causes of death for women.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 10:26 am

Zero Pollution Motors: runs on air

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On compressed air, that is. Read more. Available next year.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 10:23 am

Now here’s a treehouse for a kid

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A little girl in this case: step-by-step instructions (with lots of photos) for completing, providing you have an 8-foot-diameter redwood stump to serve as the base. This is just around the bay from us, probably in the environs of Boulder Creek (north of Santa Cruz).

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 10:21 am

Posted in Daily life

Sophie Germain and Fermat’s Last Theorem

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Fascinating—and an even better photo at the link.

Sophie Germain

Around 1630, Pierre de Fermat scribbled his famous note in the margin of a book stating what is now known as “Fermat’s Last Theorem.” “I have discovered a truly remarkable proof which this margin is too small to contain,” he added. His proof has never been found and was almost certainly wrong, but Fermat’s conjecture bedeviled mathematicians for centuries to come.

Mathematicians soon realized that the problem was far harder than it first appeared. Number theorists labored endlessly to nibble off small parts of it, but in the early 1800s, one mathematician finally developed a bold strategy that had the potential to solve the whole problem at once. But the entire approach was very nearly lost to history, because until recently, all the notes and manuscripts were moldering unread in a French library.

The mathematician who developed the approach was respected by luminaries like Carl Friedrich Gauss, Adrien-Marie Legendre, and Joseph-Louis Lagrange, but was marginal in the mathematical community, with no formal training or university position. That’s because the mathematician was a woman—indeed, the first woman to do significant research in mathematics.

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 10:13 am

Posted in Science

Tagged with

Gypsy guitar swing

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As suggested by Jack in the Netherlands, today we feature Fapy Lafertin and Stochelo Rosenberg, two current practitioners of Gypsy jazz, aka Jazz manouche, which traces its lineage back to Django Reinhardt. The Son has CDs of Fapy and also of the Rosenberg Trio, so he’s familiar with this branch of jazz.

First is Fapy Lafertin and Tchavolo Schmitt jamming with Note Manouche:

And Fapy Lafertin and Tim Lkuphuis playing a fine old Hoagy Carmichael tune:

The Rosenberg Trio is well known, and here’s a fine example. And here’s Stochelo Rosenberg at home in his trailer:

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 10:00 am

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Goodbye, Lake Mead…

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It won’t convince the global warming skeptics—nothing will—but it looks as though Lake Mead will soon be gone:

If climate changes as expected, and future water use goes unchecked, there’s a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead—one of the southwestern United States’ key reservoirs—will become functionally dry in the next couple of decades, a new study suggests.

Besides providing water for millions, flow from Lake Mead—the reservoir formed as the Colorado River collects behind Hoover Dam—generates prodigious amounts of hydroelectric power. Over the past century, on average, about 18.5 cubic kilometers of water flowed into Lake Mead each year, says Tim P. Barnett, a climatologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif. Of that amount, about 2.1 km3 evaporate into the dry desert air or soak into the ground beneath the lake each year. What’s left in the lake is more than spoken for: The amount of water drawn from Lake Mead this year to meet demand in cities as far-flung as Los Angeles and San Diego will exceed 16.6 km3.

And the situation will likely get worse, Barnett and colleague David W. Pierce speculate in an upcoming Water Resources Research. By 2030, the researchers note, annual demand for Lake Mead’s water is projected to rise to 17.4 km3. Also, some climate studies suggest that the Colorado’s flow will drop between 10 and 30 percent in the next 30 to 50 years. Using these data, as well as weather simulations that impose random but reasonable annual variations in river flow volume, Barnett and Pierce used a computer model to estimate the remaining useful life of the Lake Mead reservoir.

Thanks in part to the worst drought in the Southwest in the past 500 years (SN: 6/26/04, p. 406), Lake Mead is now at about 50 percent capacity. If current allocations of water persist, there’s a 50 percent chance that by 2023 Lake Mead won’t provide water without pumping, and a 10 percent chance that it won’t by 2013. Moreover, there’s a 50 percent chance that Hoover Dam won’t be able to generate power by 2017, the researchers estimate.

“We were stunned at the magnitude of the problem and how fast it was coming at us,” says Barnett.

Results of the new study are “fairly provocative, an eye-opener,” says Connie Woodhouse, a climatologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Using estimates of river flow based on an average of the past century may be optimistic, she adds, because tree ring–based reconstructions of the region’s climate suggest that the 20th century was one of the wettest in the past 500 years. “The more we learn about the Colorado River and its hydrology, the more worried we need to be,” says Peter H. Gleick, a hydrologist at the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif.

References at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 9:46 am

How the US accepted torture

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The Bush Administration seems to have conditioned at least the GOP to the idea that torture is perfectly acceptable as a way to treat suspects. Dahlia Lithwick explains how they did it:

A few years ago I wrote about the connection between the torture photos taken at Abu Ghraib and the congressional debate over detainee treatment rules. I argued that the leaked photos, along with memos from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel that redefined torture in appalling new ways, were not in fact a public relations blow to the Bush administration, but a sort of foot in the door for looser torture standards—a way to begin desensitizing the American people to the kinds of abuse that had been going on in secret. Two years after the images surfaced, Congress enacted a law essentially permitting the acts depicted. And just as those images paved the way to our broader torture policy, the CIA torture tapes now stand to do the same thing for water-boarding in particular.

An investigation is currently underway to determine who authorized the destruction of those CIA interrogation tapes. But as Attorney General Michael Mukasey announced this month, there will be no investigation into the water-boarding depicted in the tapes, because it’s not illegal, or it wasn’t at the time of the interrogations. Our views on water-boarding seem to be on the same trajectory as our views on sexual humiliation and stress positions—it looked sort of awful at first, but after a few months it seemed more like a fraternity prank. That’s the road we’re headed down with water-boarding. We’ve gone from banning it to trivializing it to justifying it. We are becoming inured to torture at approximately the same rate that it’s becoming legal. How convenient.

Last week, a team of faculty and students from Seton Hall Law School—the folks who’ve worked tirelessly for years to document the government’s best evidence (PDF) against the Guantanamo prisoners—released a new report suggesting that the government has recorded all of the interrogations at Guantanamo. Using documents prepared by the government and obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, the team established that all of the 24,000 interrogations conducted at the camp since 2002 were taped. This jibes with reports from the detainees themselves, who came forward to dispute CIA Director Michael Hayden’s claim last winter that the videotaping had been halted in 2002.

It also makes perfect sense. If the government was making tapes to protect interrogators in the event of future legal action, there was no reason to stop. Hayden’s claim last December that officials “determined that its documentary reporting was full and exacting, removing any need for tapes” defies logic. No matter how good reporting is, video would have been better. That’s why the Army Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collection states a preference for videotaping interrogations: “[V]ideo recording is possibly the most accurate method of recording a questioning session since it records not only the voices but also can be examined for details of body language and source and collector interaction.”

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 9:23 am

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

Tagged with

Lemon & Schick

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The Art of Shaving Lemon shaving soap is not bad, and the Sabini ebony-handled brush worked up a good lather. Then I picked up my adjustable Schick Injector, which I’ve not used for a while. It uses a single-edged blade, inserted from a cartridge that holds 7 (back in the day, the cartridge held 20).

I’ve been using Ted Pella PTFE-coated (i.e., Teflon-coated) injector blades, but those are made for laboratory usage. Still, they fit, and they run 20¢ apiece instead of the 70-75¢ apiece that the Schick blades cost (depending on how big a pack you buy).

But someone told me that the Schick blades were significantly better than the Ted Pella blades if your purpose is shaving, so this morning I tried a Schick blade. He was right: much better shave, much smoother. YMMV, of course, but for me (and him), the Schick blades are better.

Three passes, then the Oil Pass using my own mix. Finished with Floïd Blue aftershave. Quite pleasant.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2008 at 9:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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