Later On

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

Archive for April 17th, 2008

Obama plays roundball

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 8:26 pm

Interesting take on Hillary Clinton

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From some years back. Well worth clicking and reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

EPA and the chemical industry

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A story by Suemehda Sood worth pondering. The Bush Administration is way too palsy with industries that require regulation. The lesson we learn, over and over, is never to trust any business or industry: they must be watched, and any statements that they make that have economic benefits for them require independent verification, for such statements are often lies.

A congressional investigation is trying to determine whether ties between the chemical industry and the Environmental Protection Agency put children’ health at risk. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is examining whether chemical companies influence EPA panels that review chemicals for safety. The committee’s concern is that panels may be stacked with industry scientists who downplay the real risks of toxic substances.

The House committee is focusing on the American Chemistry Council, the main lobbying group for the chemical industry. This is a landmark investigation, says the Environmental Working Group, a non-partisan policy organization, because Congress doesn’t usually put trade groups under the microscope.

But influence from industry could have significant consequences for children’s health. Some chemicals under review have added risks for children and infants and, according to lawmakers and environmental advocates, industry scientists deny the need to regulate use of those chemicals. Recent EPA actions to weaken safety standards for children have left the relationship between industry and the government agency open to scrutiny.

The Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation is looking at several panels to find out whether industry bias played a role in weakening standards — especially dangerous to children, who are more vulnerable to toxic exposure. In the wake of this investigation, the EPA has convened yet another panel with scientists who have industry ties — a panel that is considering easing safeguards that protect children from carcinogens.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 3:49 pm

Pelosi and the Colombia trade agreement

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Thanks to Bob Slaughter for pointing out this disturbing development, as reported by David Sirota at Open Left.

A lot of people gave me flack for simply pointing out that Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership were saying they delayed the lobbyist-written Colombia Free Trade Agreement not to stop it, but to pass it. I was merely relaying Pelosi’s own words, and now Reuters finally reports what I have been saying for the better part of two weeks. Under the headline “Pelosi offers some hope for U.S.-Colombia trade deal,” the newswire reports on Pelosi’s latest admission that her stalling tactic is aimed at passing the deal and rewarding Colombia’s murderous right-wing government:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered some hope on Wednesday for congressional passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia, but said it would fail if the White House tries to jam the deal down Congress’ throat.”Perhaps we can get some of the trade agreements through. We did get the Peru trade agreement recently in a bipartisan way,” Pelosi said in a speech to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, whose members were in Washington to push Congress to approve the Colombia free trade pact and two others with Panama and South Korea.

“I’ve told the White House we stand ready to discuss with them how we can proceed in bringing this legislation to the floor. I said ‘you want to do it the way you want to do it, it will lose. You just want to jam it down the throat of Congress, it will lose’,” Pelosi said.

Again, Pelosi has been saying this from the beginning. But national reporters don’t want to report that, and even many progressive leaders in Washington are trying to pretend that the delay was an entirely positive and benevolent move.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

Obama on the debate

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Democrats, Election

Global warming will bring many surprises

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For instance, this study reported in Science News:

Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide could weaken soybean defenses—and be the best news Japanese beetles have had in a long time.

Two new papers suggest that the higher CO2 concentrations predicted for 2050 will mean extra trouble for farmers fighting insect pests, says Evan H. DeLucia of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC). The research was inspired by experiments at the SoyFACE facility on the UIUC campus, where researchers are boosting CO2 concentrations in soybean plots to mimic future atmospheres.

Researchers noticed that the plots with CO2 pumped up to 550 parts per million (ppm) were particularly popular with Japanese beetles, which briskly chew soybean leaves into tatters. DeLucia and his colleagues tested beetle diets in the lab. Eating leaves from soybean plants grown in the 550 ppm CO2 prolonged the beetles’ life spans by up to 25 percent. Female beetles living off those leaves laid twice as many eggs as moms eating regular soybean leaves, the team reports in the April Environmental Entomology.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 3:18 pm

The military doesn’t support the troops

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Look at this:

Forced to leave the combat zone after his two brothers died in the Iraq war, Army Spc. Jason Hubbard faced another battle once he returned home: The military cut off his family’s health care, stopped his G.I. educational subsidies and wanted him to repay his sign-up bonus.

It wasn’t until Hubbard petitioned his local congressman that he was able to restore some of his benefits.

Now that congressman, Rep. Devin Nunes, is leading an effort to pass a bill that would ensure basic benefits to all soldiers who are discharged under an Army policy governing sole surviving siblings and children of soldiers killed in combat. The rule is a holdover from World War II meant to protect the rights of service people who have lost a family member to war.

“I felt as if in some ways I was being punished for leaving even though it was under these difficult circumstances,” Hubbard told The Associated Press. “The situation that happened to me is not a one-time thing. It’s going to happen to other people, and to have a law in place is going to ease their tragedy in some way.”

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 3:14 pm

Big Pharma: anything for a buck, anything

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Stephanie Saul in the International Herald Tribune:

The drug maker Merck drafted dozens of research studies for a best-selling drug, then lined up prestigious doctors to put their names on the reports before publication, according to an article to be published Wednesday in a leading medical journal.

The article, based on documents unearthed in lawsuits over the pain drug Vioxx, provides a rare, detailed look in the industry practice of ghostwriting medical research studies that are then published in academic journals.

The article cited one draft of a Vioxx research study that was still in want of a big-name researcher, identifying the lead writer only as “External author?”

Vioxx was a best-selling drug before Merck took it off the market in 2004 over evidence linking it to heart attacks. Last fall, the company agreed to a $4.85 billion settlement to resolve tens of thousands of lawsuits filed by former Vioxx patients or their families.

The lead author of Wednesday’s article, Dr. Joseph Ross of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said a close look at the Merck documents raised broad questions about the validity of much of the drug industry’s published research, because the ghostwriting practice appears to be widespread.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 1:38 pm

The story of elevators

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Fascinating article by Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker, along with the video of a guy trapped in an elevator. Article begins:

The longest smoke break of Nicholas White’s life began at around eleven o’clock on a Friday night in October, 1999. White, a thirty-four-year-old production manager at Business Week, working late on a special supplement, had just watched the Braves beat the Mets on a television in the office pantry. Now he wanted a cigarette. He told a colleague he’d be right back and, leaving behind his jacket, headed downstairs.

The magazine’s offices were on the forty-third floor of the McGraw-Hill Building, an unadorned tower added to Rockefeller Center in 1972. When White finished his cigarette, he returned to the lobby and, waved along by a janitor buffing the terrazzo floors, got into Car No. 30 and pressed the button marked 43. The car accelerated. It was an express elevator, with no stops below the thirty-ninth floor, and the building was deserted. But after a moment White felt a jolt. The lights went out and immediately flashed on again. And then the elevator stopped.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 10:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Movie to see

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Standard Operating Procedures

Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 9:41 am

Hospital-induced fatalities

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Matthew Blake reports in the Washington Independent:

Today the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigated the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.: infections from hospital errors. Last year alone, a startling 100,000 people died from hospital-associated infections and almost 2 million suffered non-fatal health problems.

Democratic and Republican Committee members and witnesses shared their astonishment at the volume of deaths. Henry A. Waxman, (D-Calif.), committee chairman, noted that thousands of deaths can be prevented by elementary procedures like hospital personnel washing their hands and using clippers instead of a razor to remove hair before surgery. “You seem to be of one mind,” Waxman said to the witnesses representing government and the medical profession. “Unlike other causes of death, this is one we know how to reduce.”

Less clear is how much government can do to reduce them. Cynthia Bascatta, Director of Health Care Issues at the Government Accountability Office, said one way to alleviate the problem is to improve information-sharing between the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies under the Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, four different agencies are compiling their own data on hospital associated infections. As Arthur Allen reported for The Independent, former CDC scientists believe the agency’s hospital infection program is increasingly dysfunctional.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 9:38 am

Anti-oxidants from supplements: not helpful

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Another study that indicates antioxidants should be obtained from smart food choices, not supplements. Thanks to TYD for pointing this one out. The BBC reports:

A review of 67 studies found “no convincing evidence” that antioxidant supplements cut the risk of dying. Scientists at Copenhagen University said vitamins A and E could interfere with the body’s natural defences.

Even more, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E seem to increase mortality,” according to the review by the respected Cochrane Collaboration.

The research involved selecting various studies from 817 on beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium which the team felt were the most likely to fairly reflect the impact of the supplements on reducing mortality.

It has been thought that these supplements may be able to prevent damage to the body’s tissues called “oxidative stress” by eliminating the molecules called “free radicals” which are said to cause it. This damage has been implicated in several major diseases including cancer and heart disease.

The trials involved 233,000 people who were either sick or were healthy and taking supplements for disease prevention.

After various factors were taken into account and a further 20 studies excluded, the researchers linked vitamin A supplements to a 16% increased risk of dying, beta-carotene to a 7% increased risk and vitamin E to a 4% increased risk.

Vitamin C did not appear to have any effect one way or the other, and the team said more work was needed into this supplement – as well as into selenium. In conclusion, “we found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention,” they said.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Wednesday steps: not counted

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I ultimately decided to bag the walk yesterday. I felt that a day off would not be a bad idea. Reading, a nap with Megs on my lap, a nice dinner… It was a good day to relax.

Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 9:25 am

Posted in Daily life

An excellent traditional shave

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I skipped the TOBS Herbal Preshave Gel, mainly because I was unable to tell what good it was doing. Just MR GLO and then a wonderful lather from Truefitt & Hill shaving soap, created with the G.B. Kent BK4. I picked up the Gillette Fatboy (setting 5), which carries a Treet Blue Special that I’ve used for 2 or 3 shaves. Wonderfully smooth shaving, the three passes leaving little for the oil pass to do. But I still did the oil pass, with Gessato shaving oil, just to reach that much closer to perfection. The aftershave, very nice, was Booster Oriental Spice. A great start to the day.

Written by Leisureguy

17 April 2008 at 9:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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