Later On

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

Archive for April 16th, 2009

The US could stand to follow Europe’s lead in some things

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For example, Marion Nestle in Food Politics:

The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) has just rejected a proposal from Merck to allow it to use a health claim stating that omega-3 supplements promote  eye and brain health in infants.  Merck wants moms to take omega-3 supplements during pregnancy and give such supplements to their infants.  EFSA reviewed nearly 90 studies on this topic and concluded that the study results were not “informative.”    In other words, they showed no benefit.  Imagine.  The EFSA demands scientific substantiation of health claims.  I wish we could do that.

Here’s another example from the pomegranate folks.  They do brilliant advertising, but this time the British are complaining that these marketers went too far when they posted billboards stating that pomegranate (”antioxidant powerhouse”) juice will help you cheat death.  The British advertising standards agency balked.  Here too, pesky science gets in the way.  Studies not only fail to support a benefit of antioxidants but sometimes show harm.

Our Congress, however, forces FDA to permit health claims, no matter how absurd.  Try the FDA-allowed “qualified” health claim for omega-3’s: “supportive …

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 6:01 pm

Garlic prep in the movie Goodfellas

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The background music is Bobby Darin singing Somewhere Beyond the Sea, a very big song for me in my Sophomore year of college.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Video

Another video to make us feel better

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Embedding was turned off for this video. Sorry about that. I don’t quite understand why they do that, but there it is.

BTW, you can sign up with Amazon to get her new CD when it’s released.

UPDATE:  Good story in the LA Times.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 5:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Music, Video

More Maru

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Watching Maru makes me not so cranky.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Video

Addressing educational inequality

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Nicholas Kristof has an interesting column today:

Poor people have I.Q.’s significantly lower than those of rich people, and the awkward conventional wisdom has been that this is in large part a function of genetics.

After all, a series of studies seemed to indicate that I.Q. is largely inherited. Identical twins raised apart, for example, have I.Q.’s that are remarkably similar. They are even closer on average than those of fraternal twins who grow up together.

If intelligence were deeply encoded in our genes, that would lead to the depressing conclusion that neither schooling nor antipoverty programs can accomplish much. Yet while this view of I.Q. as overwhelmingly inherited has been widely held, the evidence is growing that it is, at a practical level, profoundly wrong. Richard Nisbett, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, has just demolished this view in a superb new book, “Intelligence and How to Get It,” which also offers terrific advice for addressing poverty and inequality in America.

Professor Nisbett provides suggestions for transforming your own urchins into geniuses — praise effort more than achievement, teach delayed gratification, limit reprimands and use praise to stimulate curiosity — but focuses on how to raise America’s collective I.Q. That’s important, because while I.Q. doesn’t measure pure intellect — we’re not certain exactly what it does measure — differences do matter, and a higher I.Q. correlates to greater success in life.

Intelligence does seem to be highly inherited in middle-class households, and that’s the reason for the findings of the twins studies: very few impoverished kids were included in those studies. But Eric Turkheimer of the University of Virginia has conducted further research demonstrating that in poor and chaotic households, I.Q. is minimally the result of genetics — because everybody is held back.

“Bad environments suppress children’s I.Q.’s,” Professor Turkheimer said.

One gauge of that is that when poor children are adopted into upper-middle-class households, their I.Q.’s rise by 12 to 18 points, depending on the study. For example, …

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 2:43 pm

Good news on gay marriage in New York

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Spencer Ackerman agrees: Gen. Hayden makes no sense

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Spencer Ackerman:

The Obama administration is apparently going to release the 2005-era Office of Legal Counsel memoranda about what torture techniques the CIA could employ. Keep hitting refresh here. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell had former CIA Director Mike Hayden on to make the case against disclosure of the memos, and for the life of me, I can’t see how this argument isn’t indicative of a certain outdated mode of thinking. Hayden:

The president, when he issued his executive order tying all American agencies to the Army field manual, also launched a six-month study to determine whether or not the field manual, the Army field manual and the 19 techniques contained therein, are sufficient in all cases facing the Republic. We’re in the midst of that study. To make these techniques public — and Andrea, I must admit, I’ve not seen the redacted version, so I don’t know the final decision — but to the degree to which we make these techniques public, to tell our enemies the outer limits of American interrogation techniques, it moots the study that the president directed, because it effectively takes these techniques off the table.

Well, yes, exactly. The only way this would be problematic is if you believe the Obama administration issued the executive order banning torture as a public cover while it secretly let the CIA return to Bush administration-era practices. Even then, it’s not totally problematic, because we know from numerous public disclosures in the press that the CIA has, for instance, waterboarded people. In that nefarious circumstance, at least Hayden’s point would have some merit, because the administration could always withhold official recognition about what techniques the CIA employed in interrogations. It would be a lie. But still.

But in fact, officials all down the line — from President Obama to Attorney General Holder to CIA Director Panetta — have expressly forsworn torture. They embraced the Army field manual, which is not legally problematic from a Geneva Conventions-compliance perspective, precisely for that reason.  There are important vagaries, because the field manual can’t envision every conceivable case, and that’s what the review is going to address. And since I see that the president has put out a statement in the time it’s taken me to write this post, I’ll just quote Obama:

First, the interrogation techniques described in these memos have already been widely reported. Second, the previous Administration publicly acknowledged portions of the program – and some of the practices – associated with these memos. Third, I have already ended the techniques described in the memos through an Executive Order. Therefore, withholding these memos would only serve to deny facts that have been in the public domain for some time. This could contribute to an inaccurate accounting of the past, and fuel erroneous and inflammatory assumptions about actions taken by the United States.

Radical concept.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 April 2009 at 1:39 pm

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