Later On

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

Archive for July 22nd, 2008

Inhofe in full flower

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From ThinkProgress. UPDATE: And don’t miss this post.

It was no surprise that during today’s Senate hearing on the Bush administration’s manipulation of global warming science, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) — a notorious global warming denier — defended the White House. Yet in his opening statement, Inhofe took that defense to the extreme, praising the “Unitary Executive Concept” and claiming it “enhances democratic accountability.” He declared that, since Bush has the right to tell his “subordinates” at the EPA to do whatever he wishes, Bush’s “censorship” of the EPA is “a nonissue”:

INHOFE: It can be argued that the “unitary Executive concept” promotes more effective rulemaking by bringing a broader perspective to bear on important regulatory decisions. It also enhances democratic accountability for regulatory decision-making by pinning responsibility on the President to answer to the public for the regulatory actions taken by his Administration. Therefore, I consider this debate over censorship within the Administration to be a nonissue.

Bush’s “unitary concept” — an effective stranglehold over the EPA — has empowered his administration to trample science in the name of promoting his own partisan, anti-environment agenda:

– At the behest of Dick Cheney, the White House eviscerated testimony on global warming by a CDC official, stripping all reference to the health problems associated with a boiling climate.

– By simply refusing to open an e-mail from the EPA on climate change, the White House effectively forced the EPA to reverse its position that global warming emissions constituted pollution that must be regulated under the Clean Air Act.

Bush personally intervened to weaken EPA regulations on ozone levels, directly overruling the unanimous consensus of the EPA scientific advisory committee.

The White House directly pushed EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson to deny a state waiver to regulate auto emissions, in direct contradiction of the advice of EPA’s career staffers.

Though it may be a “nonissue” to Inhofe, it’s clear that under Bush, the EPA has morphed into the “Environmental Politicization Agency.”

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 4:29 pm

What brought down the Soviet Union?

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From Ken Deffeyes’s Beyond Oil:

Who gets credit for causing the collapse of the Soviet Union?

a. Ronald Reagan, for promoting Star Wars
b. the pope, for being Polish
c. Mikhail Gorbachev, for allowing dissension
d. the KGB, for abusing people
e. Saudi Aramco, for lowering oil prices

Stephen Kotin points out that the Soviet Union, up to 1985, was exporting two million barrels of oil per day. The hard currency from oil allowed the Soviets to import items that were internally in short supply, from electronics to soap. At that time, Soviet oil production was larger than Saudi production by a factor of three, but Saudi Aramco had much lower production costs. Saudi Aramco resorted to a familiar tactic: a price war. They flooded the world with oil and drove the world price of crude oil below the Soviet cost of production and transportation. The severe shortages of everything that developed within the Soviet bloc are illustrated by this story:

A Polish businessman is going on a trip to Moscow and his wife asks him to bring back notes about the shortages in Russia. He goes into a butcher shop, and there are only a few little scraps of salt pork, so he writes in his notebook: NO MEAT. He then goes into a greengrocer and writes NO VEGETABLES. A shoe store: NO SHOES. After several more shops, a man stops him on the street and asks, “Are you spying for the CIA?” The businessman explains that his wife asked him to take notes. “Don’t you know that ten years ago you would have been shot for doing this?” He writes: NO BULLETS.

After six years without hard currency, the Soviet Union collapsed. Control of the world’s dominant energy source  carries enormous power.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Government

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Good for Reid

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Senator Coburn is a well-known PITA. Oklahoma is represented by two Neanderthal Senators: Coburn and Inhofe. It’s an accurate reflection of the overall state views, I fear. (I’m from Oklahoma.) ThinkProgress:

Today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is introducing the The Advance America’s Priorities Act, which is “a package of about 40 bills that have in many cases been single-handedly stalled by one of the Senate’s more conservative members,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). But Coburn and other conservatives are not happy about Reid’s efforts to pass the bundle of popular, bipartisan legislation. Coburn took to the Senate floor last night to “protest” the upcoming bill “for more than an hour.” Bitter about Reid’s tactics, some conservatives have taken to referring to the bill as the “Reid vengeance bill.”

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Congress

Product placement everywhere

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I hate product placement. But it’s growing:

“Two cups of McDonald’s iced coffee (BUY!) sit on the Fox 5 TV news desk” during Las Vegas station KVVU’s morning news show, writes Abigail Goldman. It’s a “punch-you-in-the-face product placement” that will last six months. KVVU’s news director says the “nontraditional revenue source” won’t impact his station’s reporting. But an executive with the marketing firm that negotiated the deal, Omnicom‘s Karsh/Hagan, said “the coffee cups would most likely be whisked away if KVVU chooses to report a negative story about McDonald’s,” reports the New York Times. McDonald’s has similar product placement arrangements with “WFLD in Chicago, which is owned and operated by Fox; on KCPQ in Seattle, a Fox affiliate owned by the Tribune Company; and on Univision 41 in New York City.” Other stations owned by KVVU parent Meredith Corporation, “including WFSB, the CBS affiliate in Hartford, Conn., and WGCL, the CBS affiliate in Atlanta — are also accepting product placements on their morning shows.” The Writers Guild of America West recently urged the Federal Communications Commission to require “real-time disclosure” of product placements and to ban video news releases, calling VNRs “an attempt to trick the viewer to think that a paid advertisement is actually news.”

Source: Las Vegas Sun, July 21, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Universal allergy therapy

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Very good news for people with allergies. From the latest issue of New Scientist:

THE first “universal” allergy therapy is a step closer following successful trials in people allergic to house dust mites and cat dander.

The series of shots has the potential to treat a host of different allergies because it doesn’t rely on giving people tiny doses of the specific substance that they are allergic to, unlike most existing therapies. Instead, it works by distracting the overactive immune system, which is thought to be the cause of most allergic reactions. Patients receive a molecular “decoy” which makes their body behave as if it is under attack by a bacterium. Distracted, it stops reacting to otherwise harmless allergens.

“A molecular ‘decoy’ makes the body behave as if it is under attack by a bacterium and stop reacting to harmless allergens”

“It’s the first allergen-independent immunotherapy,” says Claudine Blaser of Cytos Biotechnology, the company developing the treatment in Zurich, Switzerland.

Two years ago, much smaller trials suggested that the decoy – called CYT003-QbG10 – might work (New Scientist, 28 September 2006, p 14). Now Cytos has carried out two larger trials with promising results.

On 10 July, the company announced that 80 volunteers with either house dust mite or cat dander allergy who received a six-shot course of CYT003-QbG10 had experienced a 61 per cent reduction in symptoms, twice that seen in volunteers who received a placebo.

More at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

The Memory Hole

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There’s an excellent post by Russ Kick at the Memory Hole of a number of good stories. Well worth the click. Just the first few items:

flashback: Key lawmakers – including Pelosi – were briefed on waterboarding, other torture techniques & the CIA’s secret prisons in 2002 [WashPost] Not only did they approve of these things, they encouraged them.

major investigative series: Deadly denial: Nuclear weapons workers who risked their safety in the Cold War now must fight for compensation [Rocky Mountain News] Includes primary documents

ACLU of Maryland Lawsuit Uncovers Maryland State Police Spying Against Peace and Anti-Death Penalty Groups [ACLU] Scroll down for the documents

>> related: COINTELPRO Returns: My First-Hand Experience With Government Spies [HuffPost/Alternet]

A CIA Lawyer’s Smoking Gun [ Village Voice]. Interrogators were told: ‘If a detainee dies, you’re doing it wrong.’

See the full list.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 12:05 pm

A front group for prescription drugs

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Industry front groups spread like fire ants:

“The Center for Medicine in the Public Interest, a recently created front group for pharmaceutical interests, has been churning out industry-funded propaganda that demonizes evidence-based medicine, universal health care, the government, and all critics of pharma while attempting to portray industry as a selfless provider of cures and education,” write Norman Kelley and Adriane Fugh-Berman. CMPI’s Peter J. Pitts has written opinion pieces for publications including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, which fail to mention that Pitts is a senior vice president at Manning, Selvage and Lee (MS&L), a leading PR firm for the pharmaceutical industry.

Source: Bioethics Forum, June 27, 2008

My own personal wish is that the FDA, in tests of a new prescription drug, would require comparative studies not only to placebos but to the other prescription drugs already on the market to see whether the new drug is any better or not.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 11:56 am

Posted in Business

Relationships and debt

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Very interesting post at Don’stuff. Well worth reading and describes well the value of a good partnership.

And in this connection, I should mention again that you can download Within Your Means for free. (17,588 downloads to date.)

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 11:53 am

Posted in Daily life

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The nuclear renascence

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The nuclear power industry is renascent, right? No, but their PR is doing well.

Asked why people like Patrick Moore and Stewart Brand, who made their name as environmentalists are now nuclear power advocates, the highly regarded energy efficiency analyst Amory Lovins was blunt: “I think they haven’t done their homework. And I keep asking for their analysis and not getting it, because I don’t think they have one.” Nuclear power, he argues, is no solution to global warming. “If you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about twenty to forty times slower” than energy efficiency, renewables and micropower, he said. Lovins is also dismissive of claims that a “nuclear renaissance” is sweeping the world. “It’s a very carefully fabricated illusion. And the reason it isn’t happening is there are no buyers. That is, Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies,” he told Amy Goodman.

Source: Democracy Now, July 16, 2008

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 11:49 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

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Hillary Clinton writes on Bush and women’s rights

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Bush is weak on women’s rights—a fact that somehow fails to amaze. Clinton writes:

The Bush Administration is up to its old tricks again, quietly putting ideology before science and women’s health. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is poised to put in place new barriers to accessing common forms of contraception like birth control pills, emergency contraception and IUDs by labeling them “abortion.” These proposed regulations set to be released next week will allow healthcare providers to refuse to provide contraception to women who need it. We can’t let them get away with this underhanded move to undermine women’s health and that’s why I am sounding the alarm.

These rules pose a serious threat to providers and uninsured and low-income Americans seeking care. They could prevent providers of federally-funded family planning services, like Medicaid and Title X, from guaranteeing their patients access to the full range of comprehensive family planning services. They’ll also build significant barriers to counseling, education, contraception and preventive health services for those who need it most: low-income and uninsured women and men.

The regulations could even invalidate state laws that currently ensure access to contraception for many Americans. In fact, they describe New York and California’s laws requiring prescription drug insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives as part of “the problem.” These rules would even interfere with New York State law that ensures survivors of sexual assault and rape receive emergency contraception in hospital emergency rooms.

We’ve seen this kind of ideologically driven move from the Bush Administration before. Senator Patty Murray and I went toe to toe with the Bush Administration to demand a decision on Plan B by the FDA. We won that fight and we need to win this one too.

When I learned about these proposed rules, I immediately joined with Senator Murray to call on the Bush Administration to stop these dangerous plans. I am joining with New York family planning and healthcare advocates to spread the word. Now is the time to raise our voices. I will continue to press HHS and I hope you will join me. I have posted information on how to get involved at www.hillpac.com.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 10:55 am

Landing strip as you enter/leave house or apt.

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Cute idea, but I bet you could readily make or repurpose something for a lot less than $45 (plus shipping).

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 10:52 am

Posted in Daily life

Homelessness

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I’ve been looking for comparative rates of homelessness among developed nations, but so far have found no statistics, tables, or charts. I’ll keep looking. In the meantime, this announcement:

SAMHSA Launches New Homelessness Resource Center Web Site

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has launched a new Homelessness Resource Center Web site.    The Web site is designed to support individuals working to improve the lives of people affected by homelessness who have mental health conditions, substance use disorders, and histories of trauma.

“The new Homelessness Resource Center Web site provides a platform for creating an interactive community of providers, consumers, policymakers, researchers, and public agencies at federal, state, and local levels working to prevent and end homelessness,” said Terry Cline, Ph.D., SAMHSA administrator.

This social networking site is designed to help users network with other providers of homelessness services, such as by sharing knowledge and experiences.  Other features include accessing resources from the library, downloading resources and practical tools, rating and commenting on content, posting helpful information, and learning about upcoming events.

Topics, such as how to reach out to the homeless, the transition from homelessness, health care, self care, and housing, are included to promote recovery-oriented and consumer-centered homeless services.

For more information, visit:  http://www.homeless.samhsa.gov

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 10:49 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

When Wal-Mart is better than the FDA, something’s wrong

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This is amazing. Suemedha Sood reports in the Washington Independent:

Fortune Magazine has an opinion piece up blasting advocacy groups, retailers and politicians for working to get a chemical found in baby bottles and infant formula cans, called Bisphenol A (BPA), off the shelves. In the piece, Marc Gunther accuses retailers like Wal-Mart, CVS and Toys R’ Us of playing FDA by refusing to sell products containing the chemical. But retailers say their reasoning is that consumers do not want to buy them.

As we’ve reported, the National Institutes of Health and the House Energy and Commerce Committee have been investigating the chemical’s safety. A recent draft report from NIH suggests it might harm babies and young children.

Nonetheless, Gunther argues that the chemical must be safe because the FDA says it is.

“Bisphenol-A has been widely used since the 1950s,” he argues. Yeah, well, so has lead. But let’s let him finish:

The Food and Drug Administration, as well as Japanese and European regulators, have no problems with it. Canada is about to ban it from baby bottles, but officials term the move purely precautionary.

To be sure, other scientists worry because animal studies have linked small doses of BPA to cancer and other health problems. But scientific debate isn’t driving the baby bottle war; a hard-hitting push by activist groups, politicians and trial lawyers is.

Okay, wait a second. The non-partisan Environmental Working Group — composed of expert scientists and analysts — is at the forefront of the activist groups Gunther mentions.  In addition, some of the loudest voices on this matter are independent scientists.

More importantly, Gunther seems to argue that Americans have no reason to question federal actions (or inaction) on public health. And that agencies don’t need to be held accountable. We should just assume that, hey, they’re probably doing an OK job! But then, he says this:

…[T]he FDA typically uses industry research because it doesn’t have the money to conduct independent studies of the thousands of chemicals on the market. It then reviews what industry produces.

Yet another reason that consumers are right to scrutinize the FDA. The agency judges the safety of Bisphenol A (and other chemicals) by examining reports conducted by the people who manufacture and sell Bisphenol A. Naturally, that presents a conflict of interest.

Finally, when Gunther asked Wal-Mart why it’s no longer going to sell products with BPA, spokeswoman Linda Blakley said, “We sell products our customers want to buy. Our customers are telling us they want this option.” Businesses like Wal-Mart are certainly not making a moral choice by banning BPA products — they’re doing what they do best: focusing on the bottom line. But in this case, their bottom line revolves around consumer concerns. And shouldn’t consumers have the right to demand the safest products they can get?

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 10:39 am

Two interesting programs

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Download Squad reviews a couple of interesting programs:

StudyProf Flashcards—Review at the link. It’s $50, so note also the free flashcard programs.

A Windows enhancement program—Review at the link, and it’s free, with a donation requested if you turn out to like it. I’m going to give it a go.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 10:16 am

Two tasty-sounding recipes

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Simply Recipes today has a couple of recipes that I must try. The first is Shrimp Ceviche:

Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

And the other is Ginger Chicken With Almonds.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Is a rational life satisfying?

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Interesting book and book review. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 9:04 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

Web-based project management system

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I’ve blogged about Projjex, and now Download Squad reviews another Web-based project management system.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 8:57 am

How the brain and immune system communicate

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The spleen is quite important after all.

In a major step in understanding how the nervous system and the immune system interact, scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have identified a new anatomical path through which the brain and the spleen communicate. The spleen, once thought to be an unnecessary bit of tissue, is now regarded as an organ where important information from the nervous reaches the immune system. Understanding this process could ultimately lead to treatments that target the spleen to send the right message when fighting human disease. Mauricio Rosas-Ballina, MD, working with colleagues in the laboratory of Kevin J. Tracey, MD, figured out that macrophages in the spleen were making tumor necrosis factor, a powerful inflammation-producing molecule. When they stimulated the vagus nerve, a long nerve that goes from the base of the brain into thoracic and abdominal organs, tumor necrosis factor (TNF) production in the spleen decreased. This study complements previous research performed in Dr. Tracey’s laboratory, which showed that stimulation of the vagus nerve increases survival in laboratory models of sepsis.

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 8:48 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Moving buildings

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 8:45 am

Posted in Daily life

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Ancient microbes beneath the ocean floor

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Interesting:

Tiny microbes beneath the sea floor, distinct from life on the Earth’s surface, may account for one-tenth of the Earth’s living biomass, according to an interdisciplinary team of researchers, but many of these minute creatures are living on a geologic timescale. “Our first study, back in 2006, made some estimates that the cells could double every 100 to 2,000 years,” says Jennifer F. Biddle, PhD. recipient in biochemistry and former postdoctoral fellow in geosciences, Penn State. “Now we have the first comprehensive look at the genetic makeup of these microbes.” Biddle is now a postdoctoral associate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2008 at 8:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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