Archive for March 25th, 2008
Remember the nuclear weapons that were shipped across the country (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not, but certainly without proper procedures and controls. And now this:
The U.S. Air Force mistakenly shipped fuses that are used in nuclear weapons to Taiwan in 2006, believing the crates contained helicopter batteries, officials at the Pentagon announced this morning.
The error — undetected by the United States until last week, despite repeated inquiries by Taiwan — raises questions about how carefully the Pentagon safeguards its weapons systems. It also exposes the United States to criticism from China, a staunch opponent of a militarized Taiwan.
Pentagon officials said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has launched a full investigation. The devices — which, when attached to a missile, help launch the detonating process — have been returned to the United States, and President Bush has been briefed.
“There are multiple players; there are multiple parties involved,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense policy. “We’ll do a thorough investigation, and those who are found responsible will be held accountable.”
Among other things, officials will try to determine why no one noticed that the four boxes of components were missing, even though Pentagon policy requires inventory reconciliation every three months. The probe will also focus on whether any other material has been wrongly shipped or cannot be located. An initial evaluation suggests the devices were not tampered with while they were in Taiwan, officials said.
Henry, who called the error “disconcerting,” said the government of Taiwan acted “very responsibly,” quickly notifying the United States that the four boxes it received in fall 2006 did not appear to contain what had been ordered. However, both he and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne added, more than a year passed before the United States realized what had been shipped and moved to get the fuses back.
“It wasn’t until this week that we became aware that they had something akin to a nose-cone assembly,” Ryan said. “There were early communications, but we thought we were hearing one thing, and in reality they were saying something different.”
More at the link.
The latest report of the Social Security Trustees is out. I think the key message is what has happened to the estimate of actuarial balance — the difference between projected outlays and projected revenues over the next 75 years. This is the thing that’s supposed to get steadily worse as time goes by, as the 75-year window contains ever fewer years in which the baby boomers are in the work force, paying payroll taxes, and ever more years when the boomers are out of the work force and collecting benefits.In fact, however, the actuarial balance has been improving rather than worsening. It’s now better than it’s been since 1993. What this tells us is that projections made in the mid-to-late 1990s were, in the light of subsequent revisions, way too pessimistic.
Moral: Social Security’s financial problem is relatively minor. It doesn’t deserve the emphasis it receives from most pundits.
Speaking of asparagus…Most often, asparagus makes its springtime appearance in The Delicious household simply steamed with a little bit of salt and occasionally, in an omelet or frittata.
However, I will never go back to simple steaming of asparagus, nor to hiding them inside a mask of eggs after having them wrapped in slices of prosciutto and roasted. I realize, of course, that this is not a wildly innovative technique, but it is the first time I’ve done it and tasted it.
Now different recipes call for slightly different methods — blanching the asparagus first, tossing them with olive oil, etc. — but there is no need. Just trim the woody ends, wrap 3-4 stems in prosciutto, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. There’s no need for oil since the prosciutto’s fat will render onto the baking tray, and the salty meat is enough with the asparagus.
NY Times Editorial:
How can one feel sorry for James Cayne? The potential losses of the chairman and former chief executive of Bear Stearns must rank up there with the biggest in modern history. The value of his stake in Bear Stearns collapsed from about $1 billion a year ago to as little as $14 million at the price JPMorgan Chase offered for the teetering bank on Sunday.
Still, Mr. Cayne was paid some $40 million in cash between 2004 and 2006, the last year on record, as well as stocks and options. In the past few years, he has sold shares worth millions more. There should be financial accountability for the man who led Bear Stearns as it gorged on dubious subprime securities to boost its profits and share price, helping to set up one of the biggest financial collapses since the savings-and-loan crisis in the 1980s. Some might argue that he should have lost it all.
But that’s not how it works. The ongoing bailout of the financial system by the Federal Reserve underscores the extent to which financial barons socialize the costs of private bets gone bad. Not a week goes by that the Fed doesn’t inaugurate a new way to provide liquidity — meaning money — to the financial system. Bear Stearns isn’t enormous. It doesn’t take deposits from the public. Yet the Fed believed that letting it implode could unleash a domino effect among other banks, and the Fed provided a $30 billion guarantee for JPMorgan to snap it up.
Compared to the cold shoulder given to struggling homeowners, the cash and attention lavished by the government on the nation’s financial titans provides telling insight into the priorities of the Bush administration. It’s not simply a matter of fairness, though. The Fed is probably right to be doing all it can think of to avoid worse damage than the economy is already suffering. But if the objective is to encourage prudent banking and keep Wall Street’s wizards from periodically driving financial markets over the cliff, it is imperative to devise a remuneration system for bankers that puts more of their skin in the game.
Financiers, of course, dispute that they are being insufficiently penalized. “I received no bonus for 2007, no severance pay, no golden parachute,” E. Stanley O’Neal, the former chief executive of Merrill Lynch, told a House committee recently. That doesn’t seem like much of a blow to Mr. O’Neal, who was removed earlier this year following gargantuan subprime-related losses.
A proposal before the Massachusetts state Senate to ban drug company gifts to doctors is generating controversy. “To imply that doctors who have invested years and tens of thousands of dollars in their profession can be bought with a dinner or a package of Post-its is beneath contempt,” wrote the husband of one doctor. Dr. Daniel J. Carlat, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine, wrote that the proposed ban “may be one of the most important pieces of healthcare legislation in years.” Carlat cited former drug sales representative Sharam Ahari, who explained that “It’s my job to figure out what a physician’s price is. For some it’s dinner at the finest restaurants, for others it’s enough convincing data to let them prescribe confidently and for others it’s my attention and friendship.”
Source: Boston Globe, March 19, 2008
I found the post below, from Mark Bittman, of interest—mainly because I’m a non-peeler, big time: I do not peel carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, radishes, tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers, broccoli, apples, pears, grapes, squash (winter or summer), ginger, … (I do peel bananas, oranges, horseradish, celery root, onions, and foods of that ilk.)
Sometimes peeling vegetables is therapeutic, especially when I use my little ceramic peeler. Mostly, however, it’s a pain. Which is probably why I find myself doing less of it as time goes by.
Sometimes it’s just plain unnecessary. If you start to cut an onion, the peel falls off more or less on its own; same with garlic. And you wouldn’t want to eat the skin of a celery root or a beet.
But a lot of peeling is just habit. We were brought up peeling potatoes and carrots so we peel potatoes and carrots.
There’s some remaining logic in this: when fruits and vegetables are grown with heavy doses of pesticides, that’s not stuff you want to have hanging around on your food, and maybe it’s safer to peel the outside than wash it. But with more produce being grown organically, maybe it’s less of an issue. And you can’t be thinking about this all the time anyway or you’ll go nuts.
A few vegetables I no longer peel unless I’m being fussy: carrots, sunchokes (never), eggplant (never. Never. Ten times better unpeeled anyway for most uses), asparagus (depends on the thickness), and often potatoes. Besides the obvious simplicity that not peeling brings to my life, there are also health benefits. Stuff called phenolic compounds are supposedly found in the skin of many vegetables, including eggplants and potatoes. And these compounds are thought to give olive oil its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Who knows?
On the other hand, I find myself increasingly peeling broccoli, which I find improves it greatly.
But for most vegetables, most days, a good scrub and I’m happy.
This, from the Wednesday Chef, sounds great:
Serves 8-10 as an hors d’oeuvre
Note: Gemma, my friend and upstairs neighbor, is the source of this recipe. She’s a nutritionist and thinks the tapenade might be worth attempting without the butter, if anyone is into that kind of experimentation.
8 oil-packed anchovies, drained
1 can (6 ounces) chunk light tuna
7 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces unsalted butter, cubed
Juice of 1 lemon
12 pitted black olives, halved
1 tablespoon snipped chives, plus more for garnish
Black pepper to taste
1. Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Spoon into a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap.
2. Chill the tapenade in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Serve, garnished with snipped chives.