Later On

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

Archive for June 2nd, 2008

Big corporations control the Bush Administration

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And Congress, too, for that matter. Here’s a particularly clear example:

The National African American Tobacco Prevention Network (NAATPN) has withdrawn its support from a bill allowing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. The legislation would ban spice, fruit and candy flavorings from cigarettes, but quietly exempted menthol flavoring from regulation. Legislators included the exemption to gain support for the bill from Philip Morris, the country’s largest cigarette maker. Menthol cigarettes are disproportionately popular among African American smokers; 70 to 75 percent of this group smoke menthols compared to about 30 percent of the general smoking population. African Americans suffer a disproportionately high share of smoking-related cancers. NAATPN executive director William S. Robinson said that instead of a reasonable explanation for why menthol was excluded from the bill, he received “weak and flimsy” excuses from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the health group that worked behind the scenes with Philip Morris to create the legislation.

Source: New York Times, May 30, 2008

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 12:33 pm

TPMtv: Release the Hounds!

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The Bushies show a coordinated and regimented response to Scott McClellan’s book—commenting about Scott, not about his allegations. (They never go near whether what he said is true or not. Lots of non-denial denials.) From TPMtv. As you watch it, it becomes clear how very scripted their responses are.

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2 June 2008 at 12:29 pm

Important malaria advance

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Malaria is a difficult disease to fight, but this finding looks good:

Researchers have demonstrated the possibility of preventing the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for more than a million malaria deaths a year, from becoming sexually mature. The discovery could have implications for controlling the spread of drug resistance, which is a major public health problem and which hinders the control of malaria.

The life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is complex, and it is not yet known what triggers the production of parasite gametes or sex cells. These sexual forms of the parasite do not contribute to malaria symptoms, but are essential for transmission of malaria between humans via the bite of a mosquito.

A team based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, working with a colleague from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, identified a parasite enzyme that is instrumental in triggering the emergence of mature gametes within the mosquito. Their findings are published today in the journal PLoS Biology.

Dr. David A Baker, a Reader in Parasite Molecular Biology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and senior author of the study, comments: ‘The enzyme we have discovered, a protein kinasea, is essential for the development of malaria parasite gametes. Working with genetically modified parasites, in combination with inhibitors of this enzyme, we have demonstrated that it is feasible to block the sexual stage of the life cycle of the malaria parasite.

He adds: ‘This has exciting implications in terms of improving how we go about tackling malaria. If a drug can be developed that targets this stage of the life cycle, and combined with a curative drug, it would be an important new approach for controlling malaria transmission and the spread of drug resistance’.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 12:07 pm

New forensic technology

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Extremely interesting:

Forensic scientists at the University of Leicester, working with Northamptonshire Police, have announced a major breakthrough in crime detection which could lead to hundreds of cold cases being reopened. The University’s Forensic Research Centre has been working with Northamptonshire Police’s scientific support unit to develop new ways of taking fingerprints from a crime scene.

Researchers in the University Department of Chemistry and the Police’s scientific support unit have developed the method that enables scientists to ‘visualise fingerprints’ even after the print itself has been removed. They conducted a study into the way fingerprints can corrode metal surfaces. The technique can enhance – after firing– a fingerprint that has been deposited on a small calibre metal cartridge case before it is fired.

Dr John Bond, Honorary Fellow at the University of Leicester and Scientific Support Manager at Northamptonshire Police said: “For the first time we can get prints from people who handled a cartridge before it was fired.”

“Wiping it down, washing it in hot soapy water makes no difference – and the heat of the shot helps the process we use.

“The procedure works by applying an electric charge to a metal – say a gun or bullet – which has been coated in a fine conducting powder, similar to that used in photocopiers.

“Even if the fingerprint has been washed off, it leaves a slight corrosion on the metal and this attracts the powder when the charge is applied, so showing up a residual fingerprint.

“The technique works on everything from bullet casings to machine guns. Even if heat vaporises normal clues, police will be able to prove who handled a particular gun.”

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Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

Gaze aversion as a positive sign

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Interesting:

People use eye contact in a variety of ways every minute of every day but how often do you find yourself staring into space with concentrating on an issue or problem? Psychologists now know that people who are carrying out a complex task tend to look away from anyone else who is nearby. They refer to it as ‘gaze aversion’. Now they are finding out how to use changes in a child’s gaze aversion to understand their educational progress. A group led by Dr Gwyneth Doherty-Sneddon at the University of Stirling, and funded by Economic and Social Research Council, has looked at gaze aversion in both children and adults.

They found that children aged 4-6 are more likely to avert their gaze when they are carrying out a task that they find difficult, or new to them. They also avert their gaze less if they are being tested by someone they know.

When observing 5-8 year-olds, the researchers found that gaze aversion is related to the complexity of the task being undertaken, rather than to other stimuli. The results were consistent for a variety of settings and for a range of tasks, such as balancing a beam with asymmetrical loads.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Daily life

Manual Food Processor

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Good for small kitchens—and burns no electicity. Also: can be used on picnics or when camping, and kids will love chopping ingredients with this. More info here. Available here. Official name: Chef’N Veggichop.

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2 June 2008 at 11:44 am

Seasonal produce, by state and month

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Very useful shopping assistant, showing what’s in season for your state by month, via Slashfood. Eventually this will have to be adjusted, since global warming will change the timings and some states may lose some crops altogether due to drought.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 11:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Post-trauma talk therapy counter-productive?

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Very interesting finding:

Contrary to popular notions about what is normal or healthy, new research has found that it is okay not to express one’s thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma, such as a school shooting or terrorist attack.

In fact, people who choose not to express their feelings after such an event may be better off than those who do talk about their feelings, according to University at Buffalo psychologist Mark Seery, Ph.D., lead author of a study to appear in the June issue of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

The study investigated the mental and physical effects of collective traumas on people who are exposed to a tragedy but who do not experience a direct loss of a friend or family member. It focused on people’s responses to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the results may generalize to include responses to other collective traumas.

The findings have important implications for expectations of how people should respond in the face of a collective trauma affecting a whole community or even an entire nation, says Seery, an assistant professor of psychology..

Seery says the results should not be interpreted to mean that expressing one’s thoughts and feelings is harmful or that if someone wants to express their emotions they should not do so. “It’s important to remember that not everyone copes with events in the same way, and in the immediate aftermath of a collective trauma, it is perfectly healthy to not want to express one’s thoughts and feelings,” he says.

Seery points out that immediately after last year’s tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University there were many “talking head” psychiatrists in the media describing how important it is to get all the students expressing their feelings.

“This perfectly exemplifies the assumption in popular culture, and even in clinical practice, that people need to talk in order to overcome a collective trauma,” Seery says.

“Instead, we should be telling people there is likely nothing wrong if they do not want to express their thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma. In fact, they can cope quite successfully and, according to our results, are likely to be better off than someone who does want to express his or her feelings.”

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Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 11:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Mental Health, Science

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How we think of things

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Interesting:

“We believe we have identified a number of the basic building blocks that the brain uses to represent meaning,” said Mitchell. “Coupled with computational methods that capture the meaning of a word by how it is used in text files, these building blocks can be assembled to predict neural activation patterns for any concrete noun. And we have found that these predictions are quite accurate for words where fMRI data is available to test them.”

Just said the computational model provides insight into the nature of human thought. “We are fundamentally perceivers and actors,” he said. “So the brain represents the meaning of a concrete noun in areas of the brain associated with how people sense it or manipulate it. The meaning of an apple, for instance, is represented in brain areas responsible for tasting, for smelling, for chewing. An apple is what you do with it. Our work is a small but important step in breaking the brain’s code.”

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 11:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Cool idea for parking-permit stickers

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Instead of sticking them to your inside windshield, making it impossible to move them or transfer them to another car, use a Sticker Shield.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 11:23 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

BIG Surge required in Afghanistan

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Talk about biting off more than you can chew: George W. Bush has enormous teeth and a small mouth. Spencer Ackerman in today’s Washington Independent:

[400,000:] That’s how many NATO’s departing Afghanistan commander said are necessary. Wow.

In an interview to Spiegel, a German magazine, the outgoing ISAF Commander [Dan] McNeill confessed having inadequate trained force to effectively counter terrorism in Afghanistan.

NATO has only 47,000 soldiers instead of a required strength of 400,000 with a shortfall of 260,000 men.

NATO is practically running on reserve, as very few units can be used in combat situation.

While neighboring countries want peace in the region, manning a volatile country with only 47,000 NATO troops and practically no well trained Afghan Army, the mission to bring peace to the region seems an uphill task.

This is up high on the Never Going To Happen list. McNeill knows that. So the question becomes: what kind of frustrations has McNeill experienced that would cause him to say this publicly? Who, in other words, messed with Texas?

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 11:04 am

Great idea

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ALMs: Automated Library Machines.

The Contra Costa County Library unveiled automated book-lending machines, a first in the country. Similar to ATMs, users simply insert a library card, select the book they want and wait for the machine to spit out the novel of their choice. When they’re done reading the book, they return it at the same machine within three weeks just as they would at a traditional library.

It’s not only easy to use, but also easy to access. The first Library-a-Go-Go machine was unveiled at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART station Thursday morning.

“This is a fantastic idea,” said chairman and District V Supervisor Federal D. Glover. “It just makes so much sense to bring books right to the people, especially in the Bay Area, where we average the second-longest commute in the country.

”The idea is perfect for the far eastern area of Contra Costa County, such as Discovery Bay, Byron Knightsen and Bethel Island, where brick and mortar libraries are lacking. Readers would be able to take advantage of the service without ever having to drive to a building that would cost the county hundreds of thousands of dollars it doesn’t have.

Anyone with a CCC Library card will be able to check out and return books at the machines for free.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 10:36 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Prison ships now part of US gulag

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Now that countries have kicked out the US and its secret torture prisons, we apparently have moved the disappeared to prison ships. From Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor’s article in The Guardian:

The United States is operating “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

It is the use of ships to detain prisoners, however, that is raising fresh concern and demands for inquiries in Britain and the US.

According to research carried out by Reprieve, the US may have used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed.

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Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 10:18 am

Posted in Bush Administration, GOP, Government

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Make your own solar oven

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Those cookouts will be cheaper and more interesting if you use a solar oven, eh? Here’s useful info for you.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 10:13 am

For the Civil War buffs

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Free access through 30 June to The American Civil War Online. Full information (including login information) available here, along with a description of their invaluable databases. If your NaNoMo novel is set during the Civil War, get cracking—you have a month to do a lot of free research.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 10:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Writing

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Social bookmarking in WordPress

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WordPress.com (the free blogging service, which I use) does not allow use of scripts in posting—a reasonable precaution. If you download the software from WordPress.org and install it on your own server, you can modify it as you like, and scripts are totally up to you.

So I’ve not been using social bookmarks (Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, etc.), under the impression that they required a script and thus were not allowed. However, a reader (thanks, Nikki!) pointed out, after looking at the WordPress FAQs, that there was indeed a way to install the social bookmarks. Thanks to her suggestion, I checked the FAQs myself and found this wonderful (free) tool: GetSocial.

I downloaded it, installed it, and now I can put social bookmarks in any post—though I’ve reserved it for posts that have been or are likely to be popular. Extremely nice, and if you use WordPress.com, take a look at it.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 9:36 am

Posted in Daily life

Bush in action

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Some have made much of the fact that, when offered a chance to go to War, Bush did everything in his (and his father’s) power to escape combat duty—and didn’t even complete his Texas Air National Guard sinecure. That may be—well, it is, in fact—but he’s nevertheless a bloodthirsty warrior if others are doing the fighting. From Michael Abramowitz’s article this morning in the Washington Post:

{From] the new autobiography of retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the onetime commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, who is scathing in his assessment that the Bush administration “led America into a strategic blunder of historic proportions.”

Among the anecdotes in Wiser in Battle: A Soldier’s Story is an arresting portrait of Bush after four contractors were killed in Fallujah in 2004, triggering a fierce U.S. response that was reportedly egged on by the president.

During a videoconference with his national security team and generals, Sanchez writes, Bush launched into what he described as a “confused” pep talk:

“Kick ass!” he quotes the president as saying. “If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can’t send that message. It’s an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal.”

“There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!”

A White House spokesman had no comment.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 9:21 am

What does Clinton want?

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Via James Fallow’s own post answering the question, this New York article by John Heilemann offers a detailed answer. It begins:

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few months about whether the 2008 presidential campaign just might turn out to be 1988 all over again. The comparison has been driven by the fact that Republicans plainly intend to try to cast Barack Obama as a black Mike Dukakis — as too liberal, too inexperienced, too weak, and, crucially, insufficiently patriotic to occupy the White House. But a different analogy occurred to me the other day, one perhaps less comprehensively apt but so delightfully ironic that it would be a crime not to point it out. As anyone politically sentient in 1988 will vividly recall, the endgame of the Democratic primaries that year revolved around a challenger seen by his fans as a historic figure and his foes as a potential party-wrecker, and what concessions he might insist upon in order to fade quietly into the background. The inescapable question of the hour was, “What does Jesse Jackson want?”

Hillary Clinton, of course, is no Jesse Jackson (but neither, pace Bill Clinton’s comments on the eve of the South Carolina primary, is Obama). But the question posed by her behavior in the home stretch of this year’s nominating contest is precisely the same: “What does Hillary want?”

Whenever this query is put to me — which only takes place, oh, on the order of 100 times a day — my response is simple: She wants to be president. Duh. And if it ain’t gonna happen this year, then her central objective is to make it as likely as possible in 2012. As I’ve written many times, Hillary believes with every fiber of her being that Obama is going to lose this year. (And so does her husband.) So her aim is to put herself in the best position possible to stand up on November 5 and say, if perhaps a tad more subtly than this, “I told you so.”

From these core facts — and based on everything my reporting these past few months tells me, facts is what they are — flow plausible answers to a raft of more granular questions about Clinton’s motives and what she plans to do in the days ahead. For the purposes of brevity, let’s stick to the top five. …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 8:55 am

Posted in Democrats, Election

Recycling is third in priority

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Steve of Kafeneio makes an excellent point: recycling was last in the list of environmentally helpful steps: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Read the post at the link for an interesting insight into why recycling has become number 1 in priority.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 8:13 am

Terrific Firefox add-on: Pronounce 1.1

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What a great little Firefox add-on! Often I come across words whose pronunciation I am uncertain of—now I can just highlight, right-click, and have them pronounced via the Merriam-Webster dictionary and the computer’s speakers. I tested it on two words commonly mispronounced, “basil” and “shallots” and “status”, and it did indeed provide the correct pronunciation—or, as I guess we say today, the “preferred” pronunciation. Give it a go.

Written by Leisureguy

2 June 2008 at 8:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

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