Later On

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

Archive for October 26th, 2010

Interesting dental development

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I’m just back from my thrice-a-year cleaning and inspection. Everything’s fine—and in fact better than that. Apparently my fat loss (ca. 32 lb so far) has also improved my oral health: gum tissue that didn’t look so good when I was fatter is looking much better. I go in for the next visit in four months, and the hygienist said that if my gum tissue has continued to improve (presuming that I continue to shed fat), she’s going to have me come in only twice a year.

I had no idea that excess fat could affect oral health so significantly and obviously (to the trained eye).

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2010 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Medical

Trusting business: GlaxoSmithKline division

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Who was that guy who said that we can simply trust businesses because they generally do the right thing? Gardiner Harris and Duff Wilson report in the NY Times:

GlaxoSmithKline, the British drug giant, has agreed to pay $750 million to settle criminal and civil complaints that the company for years knowingly sold contaminated baby ointment and an ineffective antidepressant — the latest in growing number of whistle-blower lawsuits that drug makers have settled with multimillion dollar fines.

Altogether, GlaxoSmithKline sold 20 drugs with questionable safety that were made at a huge plant in Puerto Rico that for years was rife with contamination. Cheryl Eckard, the company’s quality manager, asserts in her whistle-blower suit that she warned Glaxo of the problems but the company fired her instead of addressing the issues. Among the drugs affected were Avandia, Bactroban, Coreg, Paxil and Tagamet. No patients are known to have been sickened by the quality problems although such cases would be difficult to trace.

Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and Carmen M. Ortiz, the United States attorney for Massachusetts, announced the settlement in a news conference Tuesday afternoon in Boston. The outcome provides the highest whistleblower award yet in a health care fraud case.

GlaxoSmithKline released a statement saying that it regretted operating the Puerto Rican plant in violation of good manufacturing practices. The company said the problem involved only one plant that was closed a year ago.

The settlement is part of a growing tsunami of lawsuits that assert that drug makers misled patients and defrauded federal and state governments that, through Medicare and Medicaid, pay for much of health care.

Using claims from industry insiders, federal prosecutors are not only demanding record fines but are hinting at worse. Suffering a research drought, drug makers have laid off thousands of employees. Some of those dispatched have turned to bite the hands that once fed them, filing whistle-blower lawsuits that can start criminal investigations.

Those who win get a cut of the eventual fine. Ms. Eckard will collect $96 million from the federal government, a whistle-blower record, and she will collect additional millions from states.

The suits, all filed under seal, have for years been increasing in size and scope but the collective threat to the industry has been largely unnoticed because the growing mountain is obscured by a wall of judicial secrecy. Each successful claim begets more suits, with more being filed almost every week.

The suits are filed under a federal law originally intended to stop Civil War hucksters from selling rancid meat to the Union Army by paying bounties to tipsters. The pharmaceutical industry has become the law’s most successful target because the government now buys far more pills than bullets, and because fraud in health care is common…

Continue reading. Strange. It’s almost as if you couldn’t trust businesses to do the right thing.

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2010 at 12:15 pm

Making changes: How long before the "change" is the new "normal"?

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I’m making changes in my diet and exercise, and I do notice that my diet—the foods I gravitate toward and eat regularly—has changed to a new normal, such that I look forward to my meals and generally have no problem avoiding excess eating and inappropriate foods. There are exceptions: Friday night I wanted a steak, so I bought one and I ate it with great relish. But I had a light lunch and only a salad with the steak. On Saturday, I discovered that Whole Foods was selling prepared pork belly, a dish I’ve dearly wanted to try. So I bought a piece—a piece that turned out to weight 1.4 lbs—and over the weekend consumed it. (Still, on Monday I had gained but 0.5 lb: if you mostly eat right, you can on occasion eat a bit more if you  immediately resume sensible eating—or so I’ve found).

Trent Hamm talks about the change process in an interesting post:

A long time ago, I wrote about the idea of a money free weekend – two days spent doing stuff that’s free or extremely close to it. At that time, the idea of a money-free weekend was a bit of a challenge for my family – we almost always spent money doing something each weekend.

Now, the opposite is true – most weekends are spent doing things that don’t cost anything at all. This past weekend, we carved pumpkins, roasted pumpkin seeds, went to a state park, worked on homemade Christmas presents, planned a birthday party, played some board games, fixed a child’s scooter, and went on a bicycle ride. Virtually none of that cost anything at all, but I found myself happily exhausted from all of the activity by Sunday evening.

In short, the thing that seemed like drastic, painful change in the past now seems like the norm.

I’ll give you another example from my life where this transition is ongoing. A few months ago, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2010 at 10:03 am

Posted in Daily life

How US media now is under corporate/government control

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Not explicit control, but the media today (particularly the TV and cable news programs and the NY Times and Washington Post) hew to the government line, never questioning authority on important issues. This is from a Greenwald column—the entire column is good, but read and think about just this extract:

Even Politico acknowledged and trumpeted this fact:

politico

By stark and deliberate contrast, here’s how The New York Times framed these revelations to its readers (h/t Remi Brulin):

nyt

Three cheers for the U.S.!  While a handful of American soldiers — a few bad apples — may have abused Iraqi detainees in hellholes like Abu Ghraib, those detainees "fared worse in Iraqi hands," so we weren’t as bad as the new Iraqi tyrants were.  That’s the way The New York Times chose to frame these revelations.  And while that article mentions in passing that "most [abuse cases] noted in the archive seemed to have been ignored, with the equivalent of an institutional shrug," the vast bulk of the article focuses on Iraqi rather than American wrongdoing and even includes substantial efforts to exculpate the American role ("American soldiers, however, often intervened"). 

The difference in how (a) the NYT "reported on" — i.e., whitewashed — these horrific, incriminating revelations about the U.S. and (b) the rest of the world media reported on it, could not be more vast.  Again, even Politico understood its significance, as this was the first line of its article:  "Newly released Iraq war documents paint a devastating portrait of apparent U.S. indifference to a pattern of murder and torture by the Iraqi army, raising new questions about the Obama administration’s plans to transfer the nation’s security operations to Iraqi units."  But the NYT in its headline chose to venerate the superiority of American detainee treatment, while barely mentioning one of the most critical revelations from this leak.

Similarly, newspapers around the world heavily covered the fact that the U.N. chief investigator for torture called on the Obama administration to formally investigate this complicity in Iraqi abuse, pointing out that "if leaked US files on the Iraq conflict point to clear violations of the UN convention against torture, Barack Obama’s administration has a clear obligation to investigate them," and that "under the conventions on human rights there is an obligation for states to criminalise every form of torture, whether directly or indirectly, and to investigate any allegations of abuse."   Today, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister called on the British Government to fulfill that obligation by formally investigating the role British troops might have played in "the allegations of killings, torture and abuse in Iraq."

But these calls for investigations — and the U.N.’s explanation of the legal obligation to do so — are virtually nonexistent in the American media.  The only mention in the NYT of the U.N.’s statement is buried deep down in a laundry list of short items on one of its blogs.  Along with most American media outlets, The Washington Post has no mention of this matter at all (while whitewashing American guilt, the NYT — in the form of Judy Miller’s former partner, Michael Gordon — prominently trumpeted from the start of its coverage the "interference" in Iraq by Iran in aiding "Iraqi militias," a drum Gordon has been dutifully beating for years). 

The notion that the Obama administration not only should — but must — investigate the role its military played in enabling this widespread, stomach-turning torture and abuse in Iraq is simply suppressed in American political discourse, most of all by the newspaper which played the leading role in enabling the attack on that country in the first place.  It’s not hard to see why.  The last thing American political and media elites in general want is a discussion of the legal obligations to investigate torture and bring the torturers to legal account, and the last thing which enablers of the Iraq War specifically want is a focus on how we not only allowed but participated in the very human rights abuses which we claimed (and still claim) our invasion would stop.

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.

UPDATE IIIMichael Calderone of Yahoo! News documents how the Sunday news shows barely bothered to discuss the substance of the WikiLeaks documents at all.  Even worse, on ABC News, Diane Sawyer demands to know whether WikiLeaks — but not the U.S. Government officials responsible for perpetrating and sanctioning torture in Iraq — will be arrested.   To paraphrase that exchange:

WikiLeaks documentsThere was mass torture, abuse, government deceit, reckless civilian deaths in Iraq.

Diane Sawyer:  Will WikiLeaks be arrested?

As I wrote yesterday:  "serving the Government’s interests, siding with government and military officials, and attacking government critics is what they do. That’s their role. That’s what makes them the ‘establishment media’."

I find it shocking that the media in the US report as though they are controlled by government censors. At least we now have access to reportage from around the world, but how many in the US take advantage of that?

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2010 at 9:48 am

More on the Wikileaks documents

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From the Center for American Progress in an email:

On Friday, the international organization WikiLeaks released The Iraq War Logs, a "huge trove of secret field reports" — 391,832 documents in all — from the U.S. military in Iraq. The archive is the second such cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to news organizations. The first, released in July, was a trove of 77,000 reports covering six years of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. National Security Network’s Heather Hurlburt described the reports as "add[ing] a numbing amount of new, awful detail to what we already knew about the Iraq war." The documents suggest that violence was reduced from 2007 "not only because the American military committed to more troops and a new strategy, but because Iraqis themselves, exhausted by years of bloody war, were ready for it." According to the New York Times, the deaths of Iraqi civilians also "appear to be greater than the numbers made public by the United States during the Bush administration."

ABUSE OF IRAQIS BY IRAQIS: While the newly released documents "offer few glimpses of what was happening inside American detention facilities, they do contain indelible details of abuse carried out by Iraq’s army and police." The Guardian reports that the documents reveal that "U.S. authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished." Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg "said the allegations of killings, torture and abuse were ‘extremely serious’ and ‘needed to be looked at.’" Joel Wing noted that "Iraq’s political parties were quick to put [the Iraqi police] to work in their internal struggle to form a new Iraqi government," with Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement saying "that the documents gave proof that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should not stay in office."

IRAN IN IRAQ: The reports "underscore the seriousness with which Iran’s role [in Iraq] has been seen by the American military." According to the documents, Iran’s military "intervened aggressively in support of Shiite combatants, offering weapons, training and sanctuary and in a few instances directly engaging American troops." Robert Farley, an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Kentucky, wrote that it is "utterly unsurprising" that Iran intervened in Iraq. "Attempting to manage the political situation in a neighboring country, while simultaneously weakening a potential enemy, is something that countries do." Iran’s involvement in Iraq has not primarily been military, but rather political and economic. As Center for American Progress analysts Brian Katulis and Matthew Duss wrote in April 2008, depictions of Iran’s role in Iraq as purely military "ignore an inconvenient truth: The leaders in Iraq’s current government are closely aligned with Tehran and represent some of Iran’s closest allies in Iraq." Iran has been similarly politically involved in neighboring Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai "said Monday that his government receives as much as $1 million at least once or twice a year from Iran," just as he said Washington doles out "bags of money" to his office.

COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES:
While the documents reveal that coalition forces found traces of past Iraqi weapons programs, Wired Magazine reported that, the "war logs don’t reveal evidence of some massive WMD program by the Saddam Hussein regime," as the Bush administration had claimed existed, but that "remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained." There are no earth-shattering revelations in the new cache, but they do deepen our understanding of the war’s disastrous consequences, both for the U.S. and for the region, particularly in regard to the wide-scale inter-community violence and sectarian cleansing that gripped the country in 2006-7. The violence led to the displacement of over 4.5 million Iraqis, both within and without the country, the vast majority of whom have been unable to return home, remaining displaced either inside Iraq or in neighboring countries. A February 2010 Center for American Progress report, The Iraq War Ledger, examined the costs and benefits of the Iraq intervention, and concluded "there is simply no conceivable calculus by which Operation Iraqi Freedom can be judged to have been a successful or worthwhile policy. The war was intended to show the extent of America’s power. It succeeded only in showing its limits."

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2010 at 9:39 am

A two-razor shave

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I like BruceOnShaving’s multi-razor approach. For one thing, it allows me to use more of my razors more frequently. For another, it reminds me of (for example) the collection of hammers my step-father had: tack hammers, finish hammers, framing hammers, and so on: an appropriate hammer for each job.

This morning I picked the gold-laced quartz Elite Razor (a Merkur Classic head) for the rough cut (first pass with the grain) and the Feather premium stainless for the fine cut (XTG and ATG). Shown in the photo is the new packaging for Feather blades, though Feather assures us that the blade itself is unchanged.

I obtained a truly superb lather from Kell’s Original Energy shave stick—I love that fragrance, and the lather’s nothing to sneeze at either. The fragrance:

A stimulating blend of Citrus, including Grapefruit, Lemon and Lime, with hints of fresh Cucumber and Jasmine, and a touch of Pineapple, Blackberry and Champagne. Energy is an exciting mix that’s perfect for spring and summer.

Mine is the hemp/aloe blend. Great stuff.

And the shave went quite well: quick rough cut, then the finishing passes. A splash of Acqua di Parma and I’m good to go.

Written by Leisureguy

26 October 2010 at 9:34 am

Posted in Shaving

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