Later On

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

Archive for February 15th, 2011

Fighting a cold: News from 35 years ago!

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I think that sucking on zinc lozenges to reduce the severity and duration of colds, if started immediately at the first sign of symptoms, was well known 35 years ago, when people told me to do that. And it was not at all difficult to find zinc lozenges, either. So how is this (reported in the NY Times) news?

Scientists still haven’t discovered a cure for the common cold, but researchers now say zinc may be the next best thing.

A sweeping new review of the medical research on zinc shows that sniffing, sneezing, coughing and stuffy-headed cold sufferers finally have a better option than just tissue and chicken soup. When taken within 24 hours of the first runny nose or sore throat, zinc lozenges, tablets or syrups can cut colds short by an average of a day or more and sharply reduce the severity of symptoms, according to the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a respected medical clearinghouse.

In some of the cited studies, the benefits of zinc were significant. A March 2008 report in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, for example, found that zinc lozenges cut the duration of colds to four days from seven days, and reduced coughing to two days from five. . .

Continue reading. The article suggests that these are the most reliable zinc lozenges to use.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

I want to buy from the East London Steak Co.

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Here’s why.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

More details emerge in plot to smear Wikileaks defenders for Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America

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The plot is rapidly thickening. Greenwald summarizes the newest findings, including this recent update (but you really should read Greenwald’s entire column and all the updates, of which there are currently four):

UPDATE II:  Writing in Wired, Nate Anderson of Ars Technica has a truly superb account of what happened here, with a focus on the responsibility and knowledge of the executives at the implicated firms.  The whole article should be read, but here’s a sample:

By October 2010, Barr was under considerable stress. His CEO job was under threat, and the e-mails show that the specter of divorce loomed over his personal life.

On Oct. 19, a note arrived. HBGary Federal might be able to provide part of “a complete intelligence solution to a law firm that approached us.” That law firm was DC-based powerhouse Hunton & Williams, which boasted 1,000 attorneys and terrific contacts. . . .

The three firms [HBGary, Berico and Palantir] needed a name for their joint operation. One early suggestion: a “Corporate Threat Analysis Cell.” Eventually, a sexier name was chosen: Team Themis.. . .

Team Themis decided to ask for $2 million per month, for six months, for the first phase of the project, putting $500,000 to $700,000 per month in HBGary Federal’s pocket.

But the three companies disagreed about how to split the pie. In the end, Palantir agreed to take less money, but that decision had to go “way up the chain (as you can imagine),” wrote the Palantir contact for Team Themis. “The short of it is that we got approval from Dr. Karp and the Board to go ahead with the modified 40/30/30 breakdown proposed. These were not fun conversations, but we are committed to this team and we can optimize the cost structure in the long term (let’s demonstrate success and then take over this market 🙂 ).”

The leaders at the very top of Palantir were aware of the Team Themis work, though the details of what was being proposed by Barr may well have escaped their notice. Palantir wasn’t kidding around with this contract; if selected by H&W and the Chamber, Palantir planned to staff the project with an experienced intelligence operative, a man who “ran the foreign fighter campaign on the Syrian border in 2005 to stop the flow of suicide bombers into Baghdad and helped to ensure a successful Iraqi election. As a commander, [he] ran the entire intelligence cycle: identified high-level terrorists, planned missions to kill or capture them, led the missions personally, then exploited the intelligence and evidence gathered on target to defeat broader enemy networks” . . . .

But before H&W made a decision on Chamber of Commerce plan, it had another urgent request for Team Themis: a major U.S. bank had come to H&W seeking help against WikiLeaks (the bank has been widely assumed to be Bank of America, which has long been rumored to be a future WikiLeaks target.)

“We want to sell this team as part of what we are talking about,” said the team’s H&W contact. “I need a favor. I need five to six slides on Wikileaks — who they are, how they operate and how this group may help this bank. . . .”

After the Anonymous attacks and the release of Barr’s e-mails, his partners furiously distanced themselves from Barr’s work. Palantir CEO Dr. Alex Karp wrote, “We do not provide — nor do we have any plans to develop — offensive cyber capabilities . . . .” Berico said (PDF) that it “does not condone or support any effort that proactively targets American firms, organizations or individuals. We find such actions reprehensible and are deeply committed to partnering with the best companies in our industry that share our core values. Therefore, we have discontinued all ties with HBGary Federal.”

But both of the Team Themis leads at these companies knew exactly what was being proposed (such knowledge may not have run to the top). They saw Barr’s e-mails, and they used his work. His ideas on attacking WikiLeaks made it almost verbatim into a Palantir slide about “proactive tactics.”

Anderson has written the definitive account thus far about the facts showing the involvement of each of these companies, and I encourage everyone to read his whole article.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Excellent GOPM using fresh-caught sardines

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Sardines are back in Monterey Bay, but the canneries are not going to open: tourism struck. Still, the local stores now have fresh sardines available, and I bought 3 large ones that, after I cut off the heads and gutted and filleted them weighed a total of 9 oz (3 oz each). They’re easy to fillet once you’ve decapitated and gutted them: you just run your finger first along one side of the spine and then along the other, and you can lift the spine out. The layers:

onion
1/2 c rice
2 Tbsp chicken stock
sardine fillets
juice of a lime
chopped veggies from Whole Foods
1 Meyer lemon cut into chunks

Whisk together and then pour over the top:

2 Tbsp vinaigrette
2 Tbsp sherry
1 Tbsp homemade Worcestershire
several generous dashes Chipotle Tabasco

The chopped veggies I got in a package, already chopped. They seemed to be onion, mushrooms, and asparagus.

Quite nice. Half for dinner last night, the other half for dinner tonight. The sardines did fine in this dish, and I have a sockeye salmon fillet for the next one-pot meal.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, GOPM, Recipes

Rainy-day shave

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It’s overcast and rain predicted, so I used the Sweet Gale soap, and I must apologize to Megs: I found the Grosvenor Badger/Boar bristle combination and used that (after soaking it while I showered). I got a better shave from the second use of the Rapira blade, just as Zach predicted.

The photo I took is not showing up in some programs, but does show up in others. I think I have a virus on this computer.

UPDATE: Files had been corrupted, so I had to run CHKDSK, followed by a virus scan. Everything seems to be working, and I did find the missing photo:

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 9:36 am

Posted in Shaving

US journalism today

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One major contributing factor to the situation in which the country finds itself is the almost total abandonment by journalism of their investigative and reporting mission. Partly this is due to the takeover of major news outlets by large corporations, whose focus is always on increasing profits—and stirring up trouble with the government is not the pathway to greater profits, when those corporations make more money from doing business with the government (and getting government approval for things they want to do) than they ever could from exposing governmental wrong-doing and missteps (i.e., deliberate wrong-doing on the one hand, incompetence on the other). So instead of news those corporations deliver news-like entertainment.

Pointing out specific instances of the problem can seem quite negative, but OTOH simply bemoaning the trend without specific instances is simply hot air. Specific examples are required to ground discussions in reality.

With that introduction, take a look at this column:

In late 2008, former federal prosecutor Neil Barofsky was appointed to oversee the Treasury Department’s administration of the $700 billion Wall Street/TARP bailout, and in that position, he has easily been one of the most impressive and courageous political officials in Washington.  A life-long Democrat who donated money to the Obama campaign, he vigilantly fought for his independence as TARP watchdog and has been relentless in his criticism of Treasury officials and especially Tim GeithnerThe Washington Post reports today that Barofsky is resigning from his position, and the otherwise routine article by reporter Bradley Dennis contains this passage:

[Barofsky] quickly emerged as an aggressive overseer, viewed as a much-needed cop monitoring for waste and fraud within TARP by some lawmakers and watchdog groups, and, by Treasury officials and financial-industry representatives, as a self-promoter whose overreaching investigations scared some needy banks away from participating in the federal aid program. . . .

In his sometimes scathing reports to Congress, Barofsky showed little reluctance in criticizing administration officials on everything from how their lack of transparency was fueling “anger, cynicism and distrust” to how their foreclosure prevention efforts had fallen well below expectations.  Barofsky was particularly hard on the government’s bailout of insurance giant American International Group, saying that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — which was led at the time by now-Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner — “refused to use its considerable leverage” and instead paid AIG’s trading partners in full on the firm’s debts.

Such criticisms did not sit well with Treasury officials, many of whom believed Barofsky’s conclusions were overstated and aimed primarily at drawing media attention.

“We’re fine with critics,” said one Treasury official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak more candidly. “[But] he’s been consistently wrong about a lot of big things.”

Just ponder the utter cowardice and lack of professionalism needed to produce this passage.  First, some aide to Timothy Geithner wanted to publicly slam Barofsky on his way out the door, but lacked the courage to attach his name to the criticism.  So he told this Post reporter that he’d be willing to provide a derogatory quote about Barofsky, but only if he could hide behind anonymity when doing so.  Barofsky has stood behind his public criticisms by putting his name on his reports and appearing unmasked in interviews, but this Geithner lackey is too afraid to do that.  So he demands that the Treasury Department be allowed to malign him while hiding behind the Post‘s protective shield.

Then, the Post reporter, so desperate to include criticism of Barofsky for the sake of “balance” and in order to curry favor with the administration, agrees to channel the insults about Barofsky while concealing the identity of this Treasury critic — for absolutely no good journalistic reason.  Remember, this isn’t some powerless whistle-blower granted anonymity to expose wrongdoing by someone in power.  It’s the opposite:  Barofsky is on his way out, and this official is still at Treasury, undoubtedly doing the Secretary’s bidding.  Worse, the criticism is completely uninformative; it’s just an unspecific insult claiming that Barofsky has “been consistently wrong about a lot of big things” without identifying a single alleged error.  So anonymity is granted to allow a powerful government official to publicly malign someone in the most unaccountable manner possible. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 8:53 am

More on the anti-Wikileaks plot

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Astonishing how overtly companies discuss breaking the law and plans for unethical behavior.  Ed Brayton notes:

The whole situation is appalling but hardly surprising. And as Greenwald notes, much of it is illegal. But don’t expect anyone to be charged with those crimes any time soon. It was the DOJ that recommended HB Gary to Bank of America. And their actions fit the DOJ’s agenda to destroy WikiLeaks. The DOJ will conveniently look the other way.

Obviously, Ed Brayton doesn’t know the DOJ plans. Who knows? Maybe the DOJ is horrified by what HB Gary proposed and will take quick legal action against them. We can only wait and see. I suggest not holding one’s breath, though.

Justin Elliott of Salon provides some recent updates on the story:

Here’s an update on the unfolding story of the trio of technology firms that hatched a plan to attack WikiLeaks and their supporters in the press — including Salon’s Glenn Greenwald. The plan was apparently prepared at the behest of Hunton and Williams, a large law firm working for Bank of America, which is worried because it is reportedly the subject of a future WikiLeaks document release.

The plan (.pdf) was outlined in a slideshow prepared by the three security firms; it was obtained and released online by the group of pro-WikiLeaks hackers known as Anonymous. One of the three firms, Palantir Technologies, just announced that it has put an engineer who was involved in the project on leave “pending a thorough review of his actions.”

When this story broke last week, Palantir was quick to deny any involvement in the anti-WikiLeaks plan and to sever ties with one of the partner firms, HBGary, that had masterminded the plan. One of several provocative items in the plan said that Greenwald’s public support for WikiLeaks needed “to be disrupted.”

Here’s where a new wrinkle in the story comes into play. Anonymous has now published a new batch of thousands emails hacked from executives at HBGary. And the emails appear to contradict Palantir’s claim that it had nothing to do with developing the anti-WikiLeaks plan.

Here’s what Palantir, which also apologized personally to Greenwald, said in a statement sent to reporters over the weekend:

Palantir did not participate in the development of the recommendations that Palantir and others find offensive.

Palantir was NOT retained by any party to develop such recommendations and indeed it would be contrary to Palantir ethics, culture and policies to do so.

That’s a pretty airtight denial. But now let’s look at an email exchange between HBGary executive Aaron Barr and Matthew Steckman, an engineer at Palantir (who has now been put on leave). On the morning of Dec. 3, Barr wrote Steckman: . . .

Continue reading.

I know that I have readers who are not discomfited by this sort of thing, and indeed accept it as a normal course of action these days. My own feeling is that such things are not only wrong but extremely corrosive and, if not exposed and fought, contribute to a slide into the sort of society in which most of us would not like to live.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 8:43 am

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Gary Burton

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The Wife is a great Gary Burton fan:

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 8:12 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Interesting article on anti-inflammatory foods

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I regularly eat some foods I consider therapeutic: 1/2 tsp turmeric daily (anti-inflammatory), 1/2 tsp cinnamon daily (helps type 2 diabetics reduce insulin resistance), 1/2 c pomegranate juice (promoties arterial health), and at least a quart of (iced) white tea (anti-cancer properties). So this article at Fitday caught my eye:

Inflammation is the normal and natural response to body injury; however, unnecessary and chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on the body and promote illness.   Many times chronic inflammation goes unnoticed for years but eventually may lead to serious illness including heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, sleep and mood disorders, arthritis and Alzheimer’s.   Due to the increase in chronic disease, the anti-inflammatory diet has gained popularity and media attention.   In general, the anti-inflammatory diet is similar to the Mediterranean style of eating and is designed to reduce risk of age-related disease and improve overall health.

Dietary Factors Contributing to Inflammation
One of the largest players in the fight against chronic inflammation is excess body weight.  The inflammatory state is a vicious cycle starting with infection or illness that produces inflammation, then insulin resistance followed by weight gain and more inflammation.  When an individual starts to gain weight, it can become difficult to get the body out of this constant inflammatory pathway.  Typically drastic nutrition and exercise changes are needed.  The modern diet contributes to inflammation through a variety of body mechanisms that are not completely understood.  Eating too many fried foods, processed foods, omega-6 fats, saturated fat, refined sugar and trans fats have all been linked to increased pro-inflammatory chemicals and hormones that cause cell damage.

Foods to Eat
The anti-inflammatory diet promotes well-balanced eating, but for true success it must be a lifestyle change and not a temporary fix.  Due to the anti-inflammatory effects, omega-3 fatty acids such as fresh oily fish, walnuts, flaxseed and fortified eggs are the staples.  The primary source of fat is extra virgin olive oil.  Only lean meats and vegetable proteins (soybeans, tofu, and soy milk) are allowed.  With high levels of antioxidants, a colorful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables are strongly encouraged along with a variety of nuts, 100% whole grains, beans and legumes.  Herbs and spices such as garlic, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, red pepper, cayenne, basil, oregano, paprika and chili peppers play a key role in flavoring foods.  An emphasis is placed on organic produce if feasible.  As far as beverages, 2-4 servings of green, white and/or oolong tea are recommended and red wine is allowed in moderate amounts (1-2 glasses daily).

Foods to Avoid . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 February 2011 at 8:09 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

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