Later On

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

Archive for July 14th, 2010

Nice few meals

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I made the Scallops-and-Plum Ceviche today. Very tasty. At the link: a video of how to make it, along with a link to the actual recipe.

A perennial amazement to me: how very different fresh and dried tarragon taste.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 2:39 pm

The food beat: Some news that is not encouraging

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Barry Estabrook:

Big Ag’s Big Pal in the Oval Office

Even as a journalist following food and politics, I have trouble keeping up with the revolving door between the Obama administration and the corner offices of huge agrichemical and GMO seed producers like Monsanto and DuPont. The latest announcement to catch me by surprise is that Romona Romero, a DuPont corporate lawyer, has just been nominated by the president to the post of General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

So it was great to receive this handy roster from the Organic Consumers Association last week. The list could grow, but here’s the current lineup of Team Big Ag:

      ● Tom Vilsack, the pro-biotech former governor of Iowa, now head of the USDA

      ●Michael Taylor, the former Monsanto Vice President, now the FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods

      ●Roger Beachy, the former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture

      ●Islam Siddiqui, the former Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded pesticide-promoting lobbying group, CropLife, now the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative

      ●Rajiv Shah, the former Gates Foundation agricultural-development director served as Obama’s USDA Under Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist, now head of USAID

      ●Ramona Romero, the corporate counsel to Dupont, nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      Do you know any more folks who should be included on the roster? Please add them in the “Comments” section. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel left out.

The World’s Bread Basket in Danger of Rusting Away

Wheat rust is a fatal disease that attacks a grain that provides a fifth of the calories humans eat. Fortunately, it was eradicated 50 years ago. Or so agronomists thought. It turns out that wheat rust was alive and well and had been hiding out in a remote part of Uganda, from which it resurfaced in 1999, more destructive than ever because modern wheat varieties had no resistance to the fungus.

Spores of the disease are spread easily on the wind. From Uganda it moved to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia. Then in 2006 it hopped over the Red Sea, spreading to Yemen and, a year later, Iran. Now The Economist reports that “the polio of agriculture” is poised to move into Pakistan, one of the world’s top wheat producers, where 100 million people depend on the crop.

Fungicides can control rust, but they are expensive. New resistant seed varieties are expensive and don’t produce as well as traditional wheat. So far, the best defense appears to have been luck. Rust thrives in humid conditions, and key areas have been experiencing dry weather. If those conditions change, a disaster could result.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:53 am

The Right’s deficit sham

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Steve Benen:

We talked last week about a trend that’s hard to overlook: every time Democrats push legislation that lowers the deficit, Republican lawmakers and their conservative allies oppose it. Given that the right likes to pretend that deficit reduction is a top priority, it seems like there’s a disconnect here.

This morning, Matt Yglesias goes further, trying to make it painfully obvious that, nonsensical rhetoric notwithstanding, conservatives really don’t care about deficit reduction. Here’s the easy-to-understand, five-point indictment:

1) There have been two presidents who were members of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, and they both presided over massive increases in both present and projected deficits.

2) The major deficit reduction packages of the modern era, in 1990 and 1993, were both uniformly opposed by the conservative movement.

3) When the deficit was temporarily eliminated in the late-1990s, the mainstream conservative view was that this showed that the deficit was too low and needed to be increased via large tax cuts.

4) Senator Mitch McConnell says it’s a uniform view in his caucus that tax cuts needn’t be offset by other changes in spending.

5) The deficit reduction commission is having trouble because they think conservative politicians won’t vote for any form of tax increase.

I’m trying to imagine what the conservative response might be to this — and I’ll look forward to seeing what they come up with — but when looking for any evidence at all that the right is serious about deficit reduction, literally nothing comes to mind.

I’d add, by the way, that conservatives really only pretend to care when they’re not in power. Before becoming president, Reagan said deficit reduction would a top priority. In office, that commitment was quickly cast aside. Before the 2000 race, Bush said a balanced budget was critically important to him. He then became the single most fiscally irresponsible president in American history.

Now that the right is out of power again, they look back with surprise. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)recently conceded when Republicans controlled the levers of power, "it was standard practice not to pay for things." But if voters give them another chance, this time will be different. Sure. Of course it will — right after Republicans get those hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts for the rich secure for another decade.

The key here isn’t just to point out GOP hypocrisy and record of abject failure, it’s to remind the political world to stop buying into the nonsense. The conventional wisdom still, even now, accepts the notion that conservatives care about deficit reduction. They don’t. They care about tax cuts, regardless of the fiscal consequences.

Fool me once, shame on you*. Fool me on a nearly daily basis over the course of several decades….

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:23 am

Where are the FTC nutrition standards for food marketing?

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Marion Nestle:

I keep hearing rumors that food industry opposition is what is holding up release of the FTC’s position paper on nutrition standards for marketing foods to kids.

I titled my previous post on this report “Standards for marketing foods to kids: tentative, proposed, weak,” because I thought they left far too much wiggle room for companies to market products that I would not exactly call health foods.

Now, Melanie Warner points out that even so, the proposed standards will exclude a great many highly profitable food products.  Hence: food company opposition.

Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood quotes an executive of the food industry’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative: “There are very few products, period, that meet these standards, whether they’re primarily consumed by adults or children.”

The food industry has consistently opposed giving the FTC more authority over marketing of foods and supplements.  Here is another reason why this agency needs it.

Do any of my current readers believe that we can simply trust the food companies to do the right thing? or that if the food companies do wrong, the unfettered free market will fix any problems automatically?

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:18 am

Two excellent posts on the GOP today

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Both are by Steve Benen, and both are well worth reading.

The Political Consequences of Economic Know-Nothingism

When an Entire Political Party Moves to Bizarro World

The second one shows clearly that the GOP today is not worth listening to. They have stopped making sense.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:15 am

Shell Video on "How to Drill a Well" Now Posted

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Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:13 am

Posted in Business, Technology, Video

A predictable suicide at Camp Lejeune

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The military is shirking its responsibilities to the troops. Mark Benjamin in Salon:

Marine Sgt. Tom Bagosy stepped out of his black GMC Sierra pickup and onto the gray, speckled pavement of McHugh Boulevard, a busy thoroughfare in the heart of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He held a pistol in his right hand.

The military police car that had pulled him over idled on the shoulder a safe distance behind him. The midday traffic stopped. Bagosy stood for a moment on the warm pavement under a cloudless May sky. Then he raised the pistol, pointed it to the right side of his throat just below his jaw, and pulled the trigger.

The bullet sliced through his jugular vein, traveled through his skull and exited near the top left side of his head. He crumpled down in the road. Even if the bullet had failed to rip through his brain, shooting through the jugular was solid insurance. He would have bled out in minutes anyway.

Bagosy, 25, who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, had become another statistic in the war-fatigued military and its steadily escalating suicide rate. Last year, 52 Marines committed suicide. The suicide rate among Marines has doubled since 2005, and the Corps has the highest suicide rate in the military. The circumstances of Bagosy’s death, however, provide a particularly poignant case study in what many critics say is the military’s inadequate response to that suicide crisis.

Bagosy’s story shows how the military’s ineptitude in the face of crisis affected a single family — in this case, a Marine in the last hours of his life, and his two young children and his wife, who waited in vain that day for him to come back to his home just outside Camp Lejeune.

These circumstances are particularly troubling because Bagosy died a year after a former Camp Lejeune psychiatrist risked his reputation and career to warn Navy officials that unless Camp Lejeune dramatically improved mental health services — and in particular, develop precise, rigorous protocols for handling Marines who might kill themselves or others — there would be deadly consequences.

That psychiatrist, Dr. Kernan Manion, repeatedly warned Camp Lejeune and Navy officials in writing starting in the spring of 2009 about the risk of more Marine suicides, murder and "immediate concerns of physical safety" if Camp Lejeune did not improve. Frustrated by what he saw as a lack of action by officials at Camp Lejeune, Manion took his concerns to a series of military inspectors general in late August. He was fired four days later. The Defense Department inspector general is investigating that case.

The lessons from Bagosy’s suicide are especially provocative because minutes before his death, Bagosy was inside the Camp Lejeune Deployment Health Center, the place where doctors are supposed to help Marines like Bagosy. Healthcare workers there knew he had problems. They knew he had already been diagnosed with both a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the signature injuries of the current wars. He’d been seeing a doctor there and a therapist. He’d talked with his therapist about thoughts of suicide. Officials at the clinic the day he died also knew Bagosy was acutely suicidal that very morning and that he was armed, because his wife, Katie, had called to warn them about all of it. They had decided he needed to be hospitalized.

Yet he managed to get away from the clinic, and minutes later Bagosy would lay covered by a bloody sheet on one of Camp Lejeune’s main thoroughfares.

Bagosy first started seeing doctors at Camp Lejeune in the summer of 2007 after a tour in Iraq…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:09 am

How Congress set us up for the oil spill

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David Abraham writes an op-ed in the NY Times:

CONGRESS has proven adept at placing blame for the gulf oil spill — depending on whom you listen to on Capitol Hill, BP bears the bulk of the responsibility, or the Interior Department and its increasingly inadequate regulations, or both.

There’s no question that each of these deserves blame. But there’s also no question that the responsibility for developing safe offshore operations extends much further, to Congress itself.

For more than a decade, legislators have allowed themselves to be lulled by industry assurances that drilling in deep water posed little danger. One could say that Congress, just like the companies it has attacked, was obsessed with oil.

Before the spill, Congress had not debated regulatory safety on wells in the gulf since the 1990s, and when it did, lawmakers focused on how to drill for more oil — which, after all, meant more jobs and more federal revenue for pet projects.

In a 1995 attempt to encourage more exploration, Congress agreed to reduce the cut of the proceeds the government could collect on oil and gas drilling in deep waters. Ten years later, despite higher oil prices and declarations from President George W. Bush that more incentives were not needed, a Republican-led Congress reduced royalties yet again.

And in a sign of how money had influenced and distorted the debate, throughout the last decade the Louisiana Congressional delegation, for a time including the state’s current governor, Bobby Jindal, backed expanded offshore drilling so that Congress could use proceeds to pay for coastal damage caused by oil-and-gas operations. In 2006 the delegation supported legislation giving a share of federal royalties to states that allowed drilling in federal waters off their coasts, essentially using national revenue to encourage more exploration.

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Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 9:06 am

Medical malpractice

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MDs often are eager to push tort reform as a way of ending medical malpractice lawsuits. A much better—and more constructive—approach would be to work to end medical malpractice, but that, of course, requires effort on the part of the MDs, who are not much interested. A recent study published in JAMA:

Physicians’ Perceptions, Preparedness for Reporting, and Experiences Related to Impaired and Incompetent Colleagues

Catherine M. DesRoches, DrPH; Sowmya R. Rao, PhD; John A. Fromson, MD; Robert J. Birnbaum, MD, PhD; Lisa Iezzoni, MD, MSc; Christine Vogeli, PhD; Eric G. Campbell, PhD

JAMA. 2010;304(2):187-193. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.921

Context  Peer monitoring and reporting are the primary mechanisms for identifying physicians who are impaired or otherwise incompetent to practice, but data suggest that the rate of such reporting is lower than it should be.

Objective  To understand physicians’ beliefs, preparedness, and actual experiences related to colleagues who are impaired or incompetent to practice medicine.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Nationally representative survey of 2938 eligible physicians practicing in the United States in 2009 in anesthesiology, cardiology, family practice, general surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, and psychiatry. Overall, 1891 physicians (64.4%) responded.

Main Outcome Measures  Beliefs about and preparedness for reporting and experiences with colleagues who practice medicine while impaired or who are incompetent in their medical practice.

Results  Sixty-four percent (n = 1120) of surveyed physicians agreed with the professional commitment to report physicians who are significantly impaired or otherwise incompetent to practice. Nonetheless, only 69% (n = 1208) of physicians reported being prepared to effectively deal with impaired colleagues in their medical practice, and 64% (n = 1126) reported being so prepared to deal with incompetent colleagues. Seventeen percent (n = 309) of physicians had direct personal knowledge of a physician colleague who was incompetent to practice medicine in their hospital, group, or practice. Of those with this knowledge, 67% (n = 204) reported this colleague to the relevant authority. Underrepresented minorities and graduates of non-US medical schools were less likely than their counterparts to report, and physicians working in hospitals or medical schools were most likely to report. The most frequently cited reason for taking no action was the belief that someone else was taking care of the problem (19% [n = 58]), followed by the belief that nothing would happen as a result of the report (15% [n = 46]) and fear of retribution (12% [n = 36]).

Conclusion  Overall, physicians support the professional commitment to report all instances of impaired or incompetent colleagues in their medical practice to a relevant authority; however, when faced with these situations, many do not report.

Author Affiliations: Mongan Institute for Health Policy (Drs DesRoches, Rao, Iezzoni, Vogeli, and Campbell); Biostatistics Center (Dr Rao); and Department of Psychiatry (Drs Fromson and Birnbaum), Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Medicine is a business, and businesses require regulation and third-party monitoring—because businesses are notoriously poor at self-regulation, as we see.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 8:38 am

Shaving in the news

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Two brief articles on shaving yesterday, one in the LA Times (which included a link to Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving) and one in the Wall Street Journal. Traditional shaving is definitely making a comeback.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 7:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Soap again

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I needed a break from all the shaving cream. Calani seems to be an okay soap that produces an okay lather, but nothing to write home about. The soap’s fragrance was mild but pleasant, and the Feather razor (and blade) did an excellent job. A splash of Booster Oriental Spice, and I’m ready to prepare for the ladies.

Written by Leisureguy

14 July 2010 at 7:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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