Later On

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

Archive for March 9th, 2008

Parrotfish poop

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Fascinating:

Check out the Wikipedia page for parrotfish. It will tell you that the parrotfish gets its name from its “parrot-like” beak. It will also tell you that the parrotfish changes its gender during its lifetime. It will not, however, tell you about the wonderful world of parrotfish poop. Wikipedia isn’t exactly known for being the world’s best resource on, well, anything, but poop is the most interesting thing the parrotfish has going for it. A more thorough Googling will tell you that a large portion of the world’s sand is, in fact, parrotfish poop. Seriously. That castle you just made? Poop. Those buckets of sand you just poured over your friend? Poop. That thing you just swallowed underwater that’s making you gag a little? Sand? No, poop.

Diana came to drop-in tutoring the other day with a fun fact that her teacher had shared. This was then relayed to everyone else over lunch. We were told that parrotfish grind up pieces of coral skeleton, poop it out, and this becomes sand. And not just a little bit of sand. The majority of the sand in the Caribbean is poop. “That is so totally not true,” we said. “Everyone would know if sand was poop. That is just too much poop.” Well, we were wrong. Sand is most definitely poop. Reefnews.com lists the “cool facts” about the parrotfish as it being a “colorful, common fish” and having a “powerful beak for algae.” Wrong. Those are not cool facts. A parrotfish can produce up to one ton of poop/sand a year. That is a cool fact. I have spent the past week asking everyone I know if they are aware that they are walking through poop every time they go to the beach. No one knew. Well, the secret’s out. Sand is poop. Tell everyone.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Daily life

Exercising self-control consumes energy

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Literally: when you are exercising self-control, you are burning up your blood glucose. If you eat an orange, you can raise the level of self-control you have at hand. Read this for more.

Note that the article explains why dieting is so difficult: dieters are attempting to exercise self-control (at the table) at exactly the time when their blood sugar’s at a minimum. So a dieter would be well advised to drink a nice glass of sugar-sweetened lemonade (or drink a glass of orange juice or the like) a quarter of an hour before sitting down to eat.

This finding has obvious applications in child-rearing and explains why kids often have a melt-down just before dinner.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Excellent point by Senator Kerry

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Via Balloon Juice, from Face the Nation, when Kerry was asked about the Florida and Michigan primaries:

SCHIEFFER: What do you think ought to happen?Sen. KERRY: I think the rules ought to be followed. I think that obviously Barack Obama believes very strongly that delegates from those states ought to be represented at the convention. And Barack Obama believes in inclusivity, but he also believes in playing by the rules, not changing them after the fact. He played by the rules in Michigan. He even went to the lengths of taking his name off the ballot, as did every other candidate except for Hillary Clinton. And now…

SCHIEFFER: And he—and none of the other candidates campaigned in Florida.

Sen. KERRY: Correct. And they didn’t campaign. But—well, there was a campaig under the radar screen in Florida and everybody knows that. A lot of money was spent in Florida, and Senator Clinton went there the night of the primary and claimed a victory.

SCHIEFFER: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Sen. KERRY: So, in a sense here, what you see is sort of two different attitudes about how American politics ought to be played. Barack Obama will play by the rules and he will do whatever the party and the states decide to do. And so…

SCHIEFFER: So if they decide to do what Senator Nelson’s talking about, he’ll do that.

Sen. KERRY: He will play by the rules. He will play by the rules, but let me emphasize that Senator Clinton is trying to change the rules in Michigan. She’s saying, ‘I won’t accept a caucus,’ which is, frankly, up to the state, also the party, and they had a caucus there. That’s exactly what was there. So she’s busy gaming it, frankly, in the same way that, unfortunately, I think she’s gaming this commander as chief issue.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

How does your tap water taste?

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Interesting to read this article from ABC News immediately after finishing The Appeal:

A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky.

Water providers rarely disclose results of pharmaceutical screenings, unless pressed, the AP found. For example, the head of a group representing major California suppliers said the public “doesn’t know how to interpret the information” and might be unduly alarmed.

How do the drugs get into the water?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 2:09 pm

Those wonderful no-bid contracts

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The contractors are getting wealthy, the troops are getting sick. From the International Herald Tribune today:

Dozens of U.S. troops in Iraq fell sick at bases using “unmonitored and potentially unsafe” water supplied by the military and a contractor once owned by Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog says.

A report obtained by The Associated Press said soldiers experienced skin abscesses, cellulitis, skin infections, diarrhea and other illnesses after using discolored, smelly water for personal hygiene and laundry at five U.S. military sites in Iraq.

The Defense Department’s inspector general’s report, which could be released as early as Monday, found water quality problems between March 2004 and February 2006 at three sites run by contractor KBR Inc., and between January 2004 and December 2006 at two military-operated locations.

It was impossible to link the dirty water definitively to all the illnesses, according to the report. But it said KBR’s water quality “was not maintained in accordance with field water sanitary standards” and the military-run sites “were not performing all required quality control tests.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 12:49 pm

Pre-crime: the GOP fights it

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Eric Umansky has a 29 Feb 2008 article in Mother Jones on how current laws are way too broad. And remember, on such flimsy grounds as these your government now claims the right to imprison and torture anyone suspected—with no charges filed, with no due process, and indeed in secrecy. And with sufficient torture, “confessions” can be obtained.

When Attorney General Alberto Gonzales held a press conference in the summer of 2006 announcing the arrests of seven young men for plotting to bomb Chicago’s Sears Tower, he sounded defensive, his voice lingering a beat on each thing the men allegedly did. “Individuals here in America made plans to hurt Americans,” he claimed. “They did request materials; they did request equipment; they did request funding.” Gonzales admitted that the American and Haitian-born men posed “no immediate threat.” But, he warned, “homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like Al Qaeda. Our philosophy here is that we try to identify plots in the earliest stages possible, because we don’t know what we don’t know about a terrorism plot.” It’s dangerous, Gonzales added, to make a “case by case” evaluation that “well, ‘this is a really dangerous group’; ‘this is not a really dangerous group.'”

From the beginning, the allegations seemed bizarre. Allegedly led by Narseal Batiste, an underemployed construction worker, the plotters were an oddball group who dubbed themselves Seas of David. Preaching an eclectic mix of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, the seven men were known around their neighborhood of Liberty City, Miami, for practicing martial arts and wearing Stars of David. Mostly unemployed and with few resources, they seemed an unlikely bunch to blow up a landmark 1,200 miles away.

The more details that emerged about the case, the fishier it looked. The charges had come about because of a 23-year-old Yemeni clerk named Abbas al-Saidi, who’d been a police informant since he was 16. The FBI helped bail him out when he was in jail facing charges of assaulting his girlfriend. A year later, Saidi returned the favor, telling the feds he’d met a young man—Narseal Batiste—who boasted of wanting to create an Islamic state in America.

The FBI hired Saidi to cozy up to Batiste and his followers, and sent in another informant (also charged with domestic abuse), Elie Assad, to pose as an Al Qaeda financier named “Mohammed.” Nearly everything Gonzales said the plotters “did” happened at the urging of the two informants, who reportedly earned about $120,000 from the feds for their help. (Assad, originally from Lebanon, was also granted political asylum.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 12:46 pm

Lessons of the special election

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Glenn Greenwald makes a good point in his Salon column today:

A special election was held in Illinois yesterday for the Congressional seat occupied forever by retiring GOP former House Speaker Denny Hastert. The district is bright red, having re-elected Hastert in 2006 with 60% and having voted for Bush’s 2004 re-election by a 55-45% margin. Nonetheless, the Democrat, Bill Foster, defeated the very wealthy GOP candidate, Jim Oberweis, by a 53-47% margin.

A couple of weeks ago, Matt Stoller asked Foster what his position was on telecom amnesty and the raging FISA controversy, and this is what the triumphant Democratic candidate said:

The President and his allies in Congress are playing politics with national security, and that’s wrong. Nobody is above the law and telecom companies who engaged in illegal surveillance should be held accountable, not given retroactive immunity. I flatly oppose giving these companies an out for cooperating with Alberto Gonzalez on short-circuiting the FISA courts and the rule of law.

No waffling or apology. He “flatly opposes” telecom amnesty and clearly condemned the GOP attack campaign as blatant fear-mongering. Not only that, but he also just won a House seat in a red district in the midst of an intense nationwide Republican campaign — supported by the political and media establishment — to depict House Democrats as Helping the Terrorists because (like Foster) they oppose immunity and warrantless eavesdropping.The lesson here is unavoidably clear. There is not, and there never has been, any substantial constituency in America clamoring for telecom amnesty or warrantless eavesdropping powers. The only factions that want that are found in the White House, the General Counsel’s office of AT&T and Verizon, and the keyboards of woefully out-of-touch Beltway establishment spokesmen such as Fred Hiatt, David Ignatius and Joe Klein. If/when the Democratic Congress vests in the President vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and grants amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, it won’t be because doing so is politically necessary (and see Update below).

This isn’t to claim that Foster’s opposition to telecom amnesty was a decisive factor in his victory. His opposition to the Iraq War was the centerpiece of his campaign (so much for the establishment’s self-protective claim that the war they cheered on has lost its potency as an election issue). But what it does prove is that even in red districts, let alone in swing and Democratic districts, there is no political cost, and there may even be substantial political benefit, in standing against this deeply unpopular President, and for the rule of law and basic constitutional liberties. …

Just a few weeks ago, here is what losing GOP candidate Jim Oberweis said about FISA, telecom immunity and his victorious opponent (h/t Stoller, via email):

OBERWEIS TO FOSTER: PROTECT AMERICA, OR PROTECT TRIAL LAWYERS’ WALLETS?(BATAVIA, February 16) — GOP nominee Jim Oberweis today criticized the Democrat-led House of Representatives for failing to take up and pass the Protect America Act, a critical piece of legislation that allows our nation’s intelligence community to use the latest technology to surveil suspected terrorists, and challenged liberal Democrat Bill Foster to choose: would Foster have sided with Nancy Pelosi and the trial lawyers who provide the financial underpinnings of the Democratic Party, or with America’s intelligence community and the American citizens it protects on a daily basis?

“Yesterday, the liberal Democrats who now control the House of Representatives played politics with our national security — and today, America’s security is today at greater risk,” said Oberweis. . . . .

“So today I ask my opponent — if you had been a Member of Congress this week, and you had sat in that Democratic Caucus meeting on Wednesday, how would you have voted to instruct your leaders? Would you have sided with the trial lawyers, or with America’s intelligence community? Would you have voted to protect trial lawyers’ wallets, or to protect America? Would you have defended the extreme, or the mainstream?”

Foster swatted away those smears and answered those questions definitively. And he won in a red district. How irrational does someone have to be to continue to fear pitiful, discredited GOP attacks like this? They don’t even work in Denny Hastert’s district.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 March 2008 at 12:33 pm

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