Later On

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

Archive for October 25th, 2010

200 free movies on-line

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And really good movies, too. Here’s the list, with links.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 11:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Movies & TV

Lessons learned by BP from Gulf spill: Zero

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Marian Wang of ProPublica writes this story with the heading "BP to Shutter the Safety Watchdog, Despite Rise in Employee Concern":

BP plans to close the independent watchdog office it established after a deadly refinery blast in Texas City that killed 15 workers, according to The Guardian. Despite a growing number of safety concerns reported to the ombudsman’s office by BP employees and contractors, the company told the U.K. newspaper that it would not extend the office’s tenure past June of next year.
Here’s the Guardian, on the uptick in the reporting of employee concerns since the office was established in 2006:

According to the internal figures, the number of concerns received by the ombudsman’s office increased almost fourfold between its inception and last year. Last year alone, the figure was up by two-thirds on 2008. Of the 252 known concerns received in total since 2006, 148 relate to BP’s Alaska operations. These include 50 specific safety-related concerns at the North Slope operations.

We’ve reported on some of those operations on the North Slope, including workers who were concerned about faked inspection reports and a persistent pattern of problems. As we noted, a 2004 inquiry into BP’s operation in Alaska had also found that workers operated in a “climate of perceived intimidation and threatened retaliation.”

The decision to shutter the ombudsman’s office comes on the heels of its oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and just weeks after the company announced a new safety division headed by Mark Bly, the chief investigator whose team — with help from BP’s lawyers— produced the company’s account of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

A BP spokesman told the Guardian that the ombudsman’s role was never meant to be permanent. The company currently has a program called OpenTalk that encourages employees to report concerns and allows them to stay anonymous if requested.

Here’s what BP’s 2009 annual report [PDF] said about both the OpenTalk program and the U.S. ombudsman’s office:

Our employee concerns programme, OpenTalk, enables employees to seek guidance on the code of conduct as well as to report suspected breaches of compliance or other concerns. The number of cases raised through OpenTalk in 2009 was 874, compared with 925 in 2008.

In the US, former US district court judge Stanley Sporkin acts as an ombudsperson. Employees and contractors can contact him confidentially to report any suspected breach of compliance, ethics or the code of conduct, including safety concerns.

"It has always been our intent to internalise the employee concerns process [into the OpenTalk programme], but only at the point in time when we felt the internal processes were sufficiently robust,” the BP spokesman told the Guardian. “Until that time the intent has been to keep the ombudsman employee concerns avenue in place."

In June, a CNN report about the independent safety office quoted a source within the office who said, “I’m surprised we’re still here.” According to that report, Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, said that the head of BP America, Lamar McKay, told him of plans to shut down the ombudsman’s office. Stupak told CNN he made known to McKay his concerns about doing so.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 11:30 am

Posted in Business

More on using silkworms and goats to produce spider silk

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Rebecca Boyle has a very interesting article on the breakthrough that may allow commercial quantities of spider silk for special fabrics and ropes. Worth reading. From the article:

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 11:22 am

How to sear and sauté mushrooms

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Excellent article that fully explains how to sauté mushrooms and why this method works and other methods fail.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 11:12 am

Smear the messenger

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I guess politicians tend to think alike, whether they are liberal or conservative: First, try to hide all problems, declaring them state secrets if possible. Second, if word of the problem gets out, viciously attack those who pointed out the problem, while totally ignoring the problem itself. Attacks start with smearing, but then hitting them with court trials can bankrupt them, so go for that.

We see this little drama over and over again, and currently it’s being played out with Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder. Wikileaks is really working, and naturally our government wants to shut it down: he’s exposing things the US has done, for God’s sake! We can’t have people knowing that!

And, of course, our wonderful corporate-owned media is only too happy to cooperate, so rather than skepticism and hard questions, the press swings into action by publishing the smears.

I noticed in the NY Times that suddenly Assange is crazy or off his meds or a real rapscallion or whatever, while more or less ignoring the facts he’s bringing out that our government has kept from us.

Greenwald has two excellent columns, and you should read both:

The Nixonian henchmen of today: at the NYT

NYT v. the world: WikiLeaks coverage

The second column begins:

To supplement my post yesterday about The New York Times‘ government-subservient coverage of the WikiLeaked documents regarding the war that newspaper played such a vital role in enabling, consider — beyond the NYT‘s sleazy, sideshow-smears against Julian Assange — the vast disparity between how newspapers around the world and The New York Times reported on a key revelation from these documents:  namely, that the U.S. systematically and pursuant to official policy ignored widespread detainee abuse and torture by Iraqi police and military (up to and including murders).  In fact, American conduct goes beyond mere indifference into active complicity, as The Guardian today reports that "fresh evidence that US soldiers handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad has emerged in army logs published by WikiLeaks."

Media outlets around the world prominently highlighted this revelation, but not The New York Times: . . .

And his first two updates to that column:

UPDATE:  Note, too, how the NYT in its article on brutal detainee abuse steadfastly avoids using the word "torture" to describe what was done, consistent with its U.S.-Government-serving formal policy of refusing to use that word where U.S. policy is involved.  By stark contrast, virtually every other media account uses that term to describe the heinous abuse of detainees chronicled by this leak, the only term that accurately applies:  see The Guardian ("American military documents that detail torture, summary executions and war crimes"); BBC (US "ignored Iraq torture"); Politico ("a devastating portrait of apparent U.S. indifference to a pattern of murder and torture by the Iraqi army").  Boing Boing appropriately mocks the NYT‘s increasingly humiliating no-"torture" policy by creating a euphemism-generator.

UPDATE IIThe Daily Beast has an extraordinary article today by Ellen Knickmeyer, who was The Washington Post‘s Baghdad Chief during much of the war.  The headline of the article is "WikiLeaks Exposes Rumsfeld’s Lies," and she writes:  "Thanks to Wikileaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public, to American troops, and to the world, as the Iraq mission exploded."  She documents how WikiLeaked documents prove that Rumsfeld and other top military and political officials outright lied about the state of Iraq in 2006.

This is the type of language which the NYT and Washington Post would never, ever use; it’s undoubtedly true that Knickmeyer could not have written this if she were still at the Post.  Our leading establishment news outlets use far more deference and respect and muted language when talking about High Government Officials.  They’ll unleash a slew of insults about Julian Assange’s mental health and alleged personality faults — and viciously malign anyone who lacks power in their world — but they would never dare use language like this when talking about a political or military official who wields power.  Knickmeyer had to leave the Post in order to speak the truth this way.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 11:09 am

US is shocked—SHOCKED!!—that Iran would involve itself in Afghanistan

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The US would never—NEVER—involve itself in Afghan affairs, of course. Well, except for when we want. Does the US fully understand that Iran and Afghanistan share a border and have interests in common? Here’s an article on this completely unsurprising story.

I worry that we are governed by naïve dolts.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 10:58 am

Palmolive shave stick & three razors

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Greg K. reminded me of the excellence of the Palmolive shave stick, which he says uses a tallow-based soap, a surprise to me: I assumed from the name (palm+olive) that only vegetable oils are used. In any event, I got a wonderful lather, using my Omega Lucretia Borgia with synthetic bristles of the “artificial badger” type.

The first pass, using my newly rhodium-plated Hoffritz slant bar, was quite smooth. Then I thought of BruceOnShaving’s idea of using a different razor for each pass, the better to match razor and task: the three-razor method. My initial reaction was “too much bother,” but then this morning, after my first pass, I realized I was looking at an entire counter of shave-ready razors: blade in place, just pick up, rinse, and shave (and the rinse is only to warm up the head of the razor).

So, in fact, it was no bother whatsoever: I picked up a Gillette President (only the gold-plated version—the Diplomat?) for the second pass, XTG. And for the final pass, an English Gillette Rocket. Extremely nice, and I get the point: some razors are indeed better at some jobs than others, and this way I get to use more of my razors more frequently. Good idea.

Written by Leisureguy

25 October 2010 at 10:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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