Archive for March 6th, 2010
For me, the kitchen sink becomes intimating only with pots or pans: dishes, silverware, spatulas, etc., no problem. And even one pot or pan is no problem: I can clean it up in 30 seconds. But two start to be a problem, and three makes the sink start to become a landfill of dirty dishes.
So. My new secret: If I have a dirty pot or pan, I must wash that before taking out another one. Since washing a single pot or pan is no problem, I’ll do it—and indeed I often do, when the pot I want is the one that’s dirty. But making that a regular thing will not be hard, I think, and thus the sink will never become intimidating.
I roasted the lamb chops using the small sauté pan. Now I want to sauté some chopped spring onion, asparagus, and broccoli in the large sauté pan, so I first will wash and dry the small one. Voilà!
I just had lamb chops (salt, pepper, roast at 300ºF for 30 minutes), and I of course used kosher salt, which sticks so much better.
That made me think about the name. Since all salt is kosher (well, perhaps not bacon salt—but salt as salt is kosher) in the sense of not being treyf, but not all salt is good for koshering meat (processing meat to make it kosher); only "kosher" salt is right for koshering. So "kosher" salt (for koshering) became kosher salt (with no quotation marks), and thus the idea that some salt is kosher and other salt is treyf.
An absolutely fascinating article by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker, showing quite a bit about how politics works in Chicago. Mayor Daley turns out to be surprisingly progressive in his policies.
The link goes only to an abstract. To read the full article on-line, you have to be a subscriber. And I do in fact recommend that you subscribe: every issue has at least one, and more generally three or four, fascinating articles. I admit that I never read the short story, but I definitely get my money’s worth from this one.
So: go ahead and subscribe. And then you can read the whole Daley article.
RealClimate offers some reassurance regarding the Arctic methane deposits. Read the whole post. Here’s the conclusion:
Anyway, so far it is at most a very small feedback. The Siberian Margin might rival the whole rest of the world ocean as a methane source, but the ocean source overall is much smaller than the land source. Most of the methane in the atmosphere comes from wetlands, natural and artificial associated with rice agriculture. The ocean is small potatoes, and there is enough uncertainty in the methane budget to accommodate adjustments in the sources without too much overturning of apple carts.
Could this be the first modest sprout of what will grow into a huge carbon feedback in the future? It is possible, but two things should be kept in mind. One is that there’s no reason to fixate on methane in particular. Methane is a transient gas in the atmosphere, while CO2 essentially accumulates in the atmosphere / ocean carbon cycle, so in the end the climate forcing from the accumulating CO2 that methane oxidizes into may be as important as the transient concentration of methane itself. The other thing to remember is that there’s no reason to fixate on methane hydrates in particular, as opposed to the carbon stored in peats in Arctic permafrosts for example. Peats take time to degrade but hydrate also takes time to melt, limited by heat transport. They don’t generally explode instantaneously.
For methane to be a game-changer in the future of Earth’s climate, it would have to degas to the atmosphere catastrophically, on a time scale that is faster than the decadal lifetime of methane in the air. So far no one has seen or proposed a mechanism to make that happen.
Pelourinho is the historical and cultural drawcard for tourists visiting Salvador da Bahia in Brazil. A lively epicentre of music, dance and restaurants, the area merits its prized holiday destination status. Tourists who visit the Mercado Modelo in Pelourinho might venture beneath this popular market into the slave chambers below and become aware of the tragic history of slavery that haunts the region. What many tourists might not know, however, is that the Pelourinho district underwent massive restoration efforts under the government during the 1970s and the 1990s. The area had become home to the poor and they were offered no more than a month’s wages or nothing at all to vacate and relocate. Studies show that of the 1300 families living in Pelourinho in 1992, only about 200 were able to remain in the neighbourhood (Collins, 2004:212). Those who have seen the changes can tell you how much the tourist development of Pelourinho affected the lives of the people that lived there. But even without a mastery of Portuguese, you don’t have to wander far off the pretty streets of Pelourinho to see a community in disarray. In my own travels, I encountered pregnant women high on drugs, old drunken men wielding screwdrivers as weapons and seven year olds with pocket-knives and guns. You only have to look at the long queue of tourists that line up daily at the tourist-police bureau to understand the amount of crime that plagues the region. Tourists are not being robbed by poor people that hate them, the tourists are being robbed by people who are indifferent to them.
The local government has not stopped removing people from their homes in their bid to increase tourism. There are still attempts to forcefully move people out of the coast-dwelling shanty-towns in order to erect 5-star resorts and luxury wharfs. One of the communities that I worked with in the Alto da Sereia were actively involved in public actions to resist these attempts. There are people who care, but I have to admit that Brazil was the first place where I learnt that indifference really is the opposite of love. So many people have grown up learning to be indifferent to their situation as a psychological survival strategy against solastalgia. This culturally entrained indifference is the source of a lot of crime in Brazil. In my own country, Australia, I am starting to see the cultural entrainment of ‘indifference‘ taking place in another sphere of human concern that affects our homes and where we live.
As one suspected, the psychological damage from being tortured is in large part due to the feeling of helplessness in the victim. An interesting article by Dan Jones in New Scientist:
ABU GHRAIB and Guantanamo Bay: two names that have become synonymous in many people’s minds with torture and abuse of human rights by American interrogators. When Barack Obama entered the White House in January 2009, he set out to erase the stain such practices have left on America’s image. The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group established later that year has as one of its stated aims to interrogate without brute force and to employ "scientifically proven" techniques – though without saying what these might be.
It seems like a noble goal, but on closer inspection it raises a host of questions. Can science validate interrogation techniques – and if so, how? What is the effect on the human mind of coercive interrogation that stops short of physical torture? And, crucially, are there any interrogation techniques that can be shown to be both effective and humane?
In the past, the US military used a set of 19 approved interrogation methods laid down in the Army Field Manual 2-22.3, which explicitly prohibits threats or coercion. Following the attacks on New York and Washington on 11 September 2001, the George W. Bush administration decided that this should change. So, after legal consultations, new ways to apply pressure on people under interrogation were drawn up. For several years they remained secret, but more recently we have acquired a pretty good idea of the techniques interrogators used at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the US base at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere.
Take, for example, the treatment log of Mohamed al-Kahtani, made public in March 2006. This revealed that for weeks on end he faced a daily routine of just 4 hours of interrupted sleep, prolonged stress positions, blaring music, extremes of temperature, and various humiliations – including being treated like a dog, and a mock birthday party at which he was shown puppet shows of himself engaging in sexual acts with Osama bin Laden.
The technique known as waterboarding, in which the subject experiences the sensation that they are drowning, was also common. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has claimed responsibility for planning the 9/11 attacks, was subjected to waterboarding more than 180 times in March 2003 alone.
Do any or all of these amount to torture? The 1984 UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is somewhat vague. It differentiates between torture – "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person" – and "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" (CIDT). This distinction may reflect the notion that inserting needles under someone’s fingernails or pulling out their teeth is in some way worse than, say, blindfolding and hooding, forced nudity, isolation, humiliation, forced stress positions, or deprivation of sleep or light.
Yet the UN convention is clear: both torture and CIDT are illegal. And maybe the distinction is unimportant anyway, as there appears to be little to choose between them in terms of the long-term ill-effects they cause to their victims.
Torture by another name?
For the past decade, Metin Basoglu, director of the Istanbul Centre for Behaviour Research and Therapy in Turkey, has been a key figure in investigating the psychological damage inflicted by physical torture and CIDT. From studies of hundreds of survivors of coercive interrogation by a variety of regimes around the world, Basoglu has arrived at a clear-cut answer. "The most common psychiatric condition after torture and harsh interrogation techniques is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), followed by depression and other anxiety disorders," he says (see "A tortured mind").
As part of his studies, Basoglu has compared the effects of physical torture and CIDT…