Later On

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

Archive for August 27th, 2011

Bisphenol A triggers gene changes in people

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Fortunately, the FDA says that it’s perfectly safe because the plastics industry that uses it so heavily says that more studies are needed. From Science News:

Plastics ingredient causes genetic response
A new study shows for the first time that bisphenol A — a building block of some plastics and food-packaging materials — can trigger hormone-responsive gene changes in people. An international research team collected blood and urine from 96 male recruits. As urinary markers of BPA exposure rose, the likelihood that estrogen-responsive genes were activated in the blood also increased, an international team of scientists report online August 10 in Environmental Health Perspectives. Concentrations eliciting the changes were representative of those found in the general population. The authors conclude that BPA is active in humans “and that associations with hormone signaling and related disorders are biologically plausible.” —Janet Raloff

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 9:54 pm

The US is headed down a bad path

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Glenn Greenwald discusses the fight the CIA is waging to defend its mistakes:

Ali Soufan is a long-time FBI agent and interrogator who was at the center of the U.S. government’s counter-terrorism activities from 1997 through 2005, and became an outspoken critic of the government’s torture program.  He has written a book exposing the abuses of the CIA’s interrogation program as well as pervasive ineptitude and corruption in the War on Terror.  He is, however, encountering a significant problem: the CIA is barring the publication of vast amounts of information in his book including, as Scott Shane details in The New York Times today, many facts that are not remotely secret and others that have been publicly available for years, including ones featured in the 9/11 Report and even in Soufan’s own public Congressional testimony.

Shane notes that the government’s censorship effort “amounts to a fight over who gets to write the history of the Sept. 11 attacks and their aftermath,” particularly given the imminent publication of a book by CIA agent Jose Rodriguez — who destroyed the videotapes of CIA interrogations in violation of multiple court orders and subpoenas only to be protected by the Obama DOJ — that touts the benefits of the CIA’s “tough” actions, propagandistically entitled: “Hard Measures: How Aggressive C.I.A. Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.”  Most striking about this event is the CIA’s defense of its censorship of information from Soufan’s book even though it has long been publicly reported and documented:

A spokeswoman for the C.I.A., Jennifer Youngblood, said . . . .”Just because something is in the public domain doesn’t mean it’s been officially released or declassified by the U.S. government.”

Just marvel at the Kafkaesque, authoritarian mentality that produces responses like that: someone can be censored, or even prosecuted and imprisoned, for discussing “classified” information that has long been documented in the public domain.  But as absurd as it is, this deceitful scheme — suppressing embarrassing information or evidence of illegality by claiming that even public information is “classified” — is standard government practice for punishing whistleblowers and other critics and shielding high-level lawbreakers.

The Obama DOJ has continuously claimed that victims of the U.S. rendition, torture and eavesdropping programs cannot have their claims litigated in court because what was done to them are “state secrets” — even when what was done to them has long been publicly known and even formally, publicly investigated and litigated in open court in other countries. Identically, the Obama DOJ just tried (and failed) to prosecute NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake for “espionage” for “leaking,” among other things, documents that do not even remotely contain properly classified information, leading to a formal complaint by a long-time NSA official demanding that the officials who improperly classified those documents themselves be punished.  In a Washington Post Op-Ed today,Drake himself explains: . . .

Continue reading.

This is an example of why it’s difficult to be optimistic.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 3:24 pm

Seeking balance in joy

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When you watch things like the video posted earlier today—the one where a young man apparently decided that life is not worth living in a country that lacks basic freedoms and the rule of law—one can get pretty glum about humanity and the way it acts as its own scourge. And yet, as Morihei Ueshiba remarked, the universe is ready, all creation is open, and all that remains is for humanity to become enlightened. So close, yet our failures are so dismal.

It is important, however, not to overlook the successes of humanity, and what human life could be like should people find it in themselves to cooperate. I want to thank Jack of Amsterdam who passed along a video that greatly improved my mood. Watch at least until the middle. Best watched fullscreen.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

GOP and its blind stupidity

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Alex Pareene writes in Salon:

Hurricane Irene is going to hit the United States’ east coast this weekend, as you have likely heard. It looks to be a pretty nasty storm, capable of causing billions of dollars of damage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has been carefully tracking Irene, forecasting its path up the coast and its intensity. Of course, America’s Republican-demanded White House-encouraged austerity budget includes cuts to the NOAA. Cuts that will delay — by years — the construction and launch of an extreme weather forecasting satellite. So let’s hope there aren’t any serious hurricanes in 2016, I guess?

Think Progress links to the words of NOAA administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco:

Speaking at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on a day when the weather forecast warned of possible tornadoes and golf-ball-size hail east of the city, Dr. Lubchenco said there would be a gap of at least a year and a half, and possibly much longer, during which NOAA has no operational satellite circling the planet on a north-south orbit.

The polar-orbiting satellite enables scientists to predict severe storms five to 10 days before they hit.

“Whether the gap is longer than that depends on whether we get the money”— $1 billion — “in the next budget,” warned Dr. Lubchenco, an environmental scientist. “I would argue that these satellites are critically important to saving lives and property and to enabling homeland security.”

This is an old story: Before or after a natural disaster, you can usually find a Republican who wanted to cut funding for departments and organizations that predicted and protected people from said disaster.

Remember when Louisiana governor and poor public speaker mocked the concept of funding for “volcano monitoring” and then a volcano promptlyerupted in Alaska? And remember how after Eric Cantor pushed for across-the-board budget cuts for the United States Geological Survey, his district was hit with an earthquake? And remember how the House Republican budget cut funding to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and then there was an earthquake and tsunami in Japan?

Yes, well, as Matt Yglesias points out, when you want to cut funding for everything the government does, sometimes there will be major news events that involve something the government should be doing something about, and people will say, hey, shouldn’t the government be doing something about this?

Cutting money for disaster preparedness programs is a really good method of eventually wasting much more money, in the future, than you saved in the present, but that’s sort of been the entire Republican spending philosophy for years now, actually.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 10:44 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

America and ideas from the Left

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Very interesting interview of Michael Kazin, a Georgetown history prof and author of a new book:

What has the left really accomplished over the past two centuries? FDR’s New Deal remains one of the great American success stories. In the ’60s, leftist politics created a massive countercultural movement — and sexual and feminist revolutions. The civil rights movement transformed both American society and the American soul. But, if you compare the accomplishments of the American left to those of other parts of the world, like Western Europe, its record is remarkably dismal, with a surprising lack of real political and social impact.

At least, that’s the main takeaway from “American Dreamers,” a new book by Michael Kazin, professor of history at Georgetown University, which covers nearly 200 years of struggle for civil rights, sexual equality and radical rebellion. His book explores the way the national conversation has been changed by union organizers, gay rights activists and feminists. He also writes about how their techniques have now been adopted by the Tea Party movement. From Michael Moore to “Wall-E,” he argues that, although the left has been successful at transforming American culture, when it comes to practical change, it’s been woefully unsuccessful.

Salon spoke to Kazin over the phone about the difference between Europe and America, the rise of the professional left — and why the Lorax is a progressive icon.

In the book, you argue that the left has been very successful at changing American culture — but not at making real economic or political change. Why? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 10:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Social pressure used for good

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Social pressure is very powerful—one reason I enjoy being a recluse. Here’s an interesting report in the NY Times by Stephanie Clifford about how how social norms are changing how school lunches are packed:

Many retailers and schools are advocating waste-free options for back-to-school shoppers this year, especially when it comes to lunch. School lists call for Tupperware instead of Ziplocs, neoprene lunch bags instead of brown paper ones, and aluminum water bottles, not the throwaway plastic versions.

Sales of environmentally friendly back-to-school products are up just about everywhere. At the Container Store, the increase is 30 percent over last year for some items, said Mona Williams, the company’s vice president of buying. “We have seen a huge resurgence,” she said.

The trend makes the schools happy (much less garbage). It makes the stores happy (higher back-to-school spending). It even makes the students happy (green feels good).

Who’s not happy? The parents (what to do when the Tupperware runs out?).

“Ziplocs are the biggest misstep,” said Julie Corbett, a mother in Oakland, Calif., whose two girls attend a school with an eco-friendly lunch policy. In school years past, she said, many a morning came unhinged when the girls were sent to school with disposable sandwich bags.

“That’s when the kids have meltdowns, because they don’t want to be shamed at school,” Ms. Corbett said. “It’s a big deal.”

Schools have been adopting environmentally friendly policies for ecological and budget reasons, and retailers have been rushing to fill the newfound demand with store-front promotions and aggressive marketing. Staples has rows of eco-friendly lunch containers, like an Extreme flap lunchbox case with a compartment for plastic food boxes, and a Yak Pak lunch tote that looks like a purse.

Many of the schools are pushing waste-free lunches, where everything must be either compostable or reusable, in an effort to reduce garbage and the cost of hauling it away. Others are requiring that students bring reusable gear because even though the upfront cost is higher, it tends to be cheaper over the course of the year. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 10:37 am

When you live in a country that lacks freedom and human rights

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This is pretty grim. The guy has now disappeared.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 10:33 am

Posted in Government, Law

The distilled-water shave

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On Wicked_Edge a guy from Adelaide in Australia (hardest water in Australia) asked about how one used distilled (or “purified”) water for a shave. I wrote this to add to the book:

Using distilled water

If you’re using heated distilled water, you can pour the heated water (around 116ºF/47ºC) into a 1-quart/liter thermos, though this is probably overkill: a 1-quart/liter bowl of water will stay comfortably warm for a shave. If you use a boar brush, also pour a cupful in which to soak the brush while you shower.

You then use water from the thermos:

•    to wash your face with pre-shave soap and roughly rinse (no need for a thorough rinse: residual MR GLO contributes lubricity to the lather);
•    to moisten a hot towel if you use that;
•    to make the lather;
•    to rinse your face after each pass (three rinses for a typical three-pass shave);
•    to rinse lather off the razor (pour a little into a basin or bowl for this).

I am able to do this with about a pint (0.5 liter). It helps that only the final rinse needs to be thorough. Depending on how hard your tap water is, you can try using a distilled/tap water mix to stretch the distilled water.

I wrote a draft, then tried it for this morning’s shave, which is how I found that a pint is probably plenty and that a thermos is probably overkill. It worked quite well and is a good workaround for those whose tap water is hard.

As to the shave: the combination boar bristle/horsehair shaving brush makes a nice segue into next week, which will feature horsehair brushes, and I got a good lather from the Klar Seifen shave soap, though not quite Creamy Lather. I seem to have had my best luck at Creamy Lather with horsehair brushes, so I’m looking forward to next week and will give this soap another go then.

The Pils really is a nice razor. Three passes with its Swedish Gillette blade, one small nick on the upper lip (thank you, My Nik Is Sealed), and a good splash of Klar Seifen aftershave to send me on my way.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 August 2011 at 9:09 am

Posted in Shaving

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