Later On

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

Archive for January 7th, 2012

Isn’t it time you made some bread?

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Here’s how, with photos, from The Niece: “Crusty No-Knead Bread… in 5 Minutes a Day!

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

FDA’s token gesture

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Good column by Mark Bittman in the NY Times:

My column last week described how the Food and Drug Administration is declining to regulate the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. Afterwithdrawing its own 34-year-old request/promise to restrict the routine use of penicillin and tetracyclines in farm animal feed, the F.D.A. made it crystal clear that, despite the increasingly common threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in supermarket meat, it would leave the regulating up to industry itself.

Yesterday, however, the following headline appeared in this paper: Citing Drug Resistance, U.S. Restricts More Antibiotics for Livestock. Did the F.D.A. make a new year’s resolution to get off the couch when it comes to curbing antibiotics in agriculture? Not really. In fact, this is a pathetic, token, and infuriating effort.

What the F.D.A. did was to announce a ban on “extra-label uses” of the cephalosporin family of antibiotics on livestock. These medicines are commonly prescribed to treat pneumonia and skin infections in humans. Indeed, cephalosporins are especially useful for kids, and it would be a real drag if they were rendered ineffective from overuse in farm animals.

But they’re not the class of antibiotics relied upon by the meat industry to fatten its animals and its profits. . .

Continue reading. Once again we see private companies taking over government agencies and twisting their mission to protect the industry, not the consumer or the public.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 6:17 pm

Olive oil

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The Wife and I went to a local olive oil/wine store and checked out what they had in the way of organic, California, grower-bottled extra-virgin olive oil. Only two of their oils meet the criteria, so it was pretty easy to choose. We both got the Tres Osos, and I had a teaspoon of it on my last bowl of swordfish stew. Extremely tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 6:05 pm

Posted in Food

Does your cat crave mushrooms?

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Cats are obligate carnivores, but they have a taste for certain other foods. Jef Akst in The Scientist writes:

Several years ago, mycologist Ellen Jacobson was preparing a meal in her Colorado kitchen when her cat Cashew appeared, whining and brushing against her legs. She attempted to interpret her feline companion’s cries and guessed that he was begging for a taste of the porcini mushroom she was chopping. A sucker for a good meow, Jacobson obliged, tossing Cashew a few pieces, which he gobbled up, immediately meowing for more.

Jacobson soon discovered that Cashew’s gourmet tastes weren’t limited to boletes, but also included other expensive fungi, such as oyster mushrooms and morels. Her other cat, Lewis, also seemed to have a taste for mushrooms, as did many of the cats belonging to her friends and relatives. But what was it about these mushrooms that made cats crave them so? she wondered.

The answer, it turns out, is all in the taste buds, and specifically in the taste receptor proteins that lie within taste buds. Sensations of sweet and umami (the taste of the amino acid glutamate) are driven by three receptors in the mouth—T1R1, T1R2, and T1R3. Sweet tastes are triggered by the binding of food molecules to T1R2 and T1R3, while umami tastes result from activation via T1R1 and T1R3 receptors. Both sensations are pleasurable to most mammals, including humans, and drive the consumption of carbohydrates and amino acids—necessary components of healthy diets.

But cats are different, says behavioral biologist Gary Beauchamp of Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Thirty-five years ago, he recognized that the domestic cats he studied had no interest whatsoever in sweets. Curious to see if that was “an anomaly of domestication,” he and his colleagues headed over to the Philadelphia Zoo, where they conducted simple taste tests with a variety of wild felines, including lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Beauchamp’s team replicated the same preference result they’d noticed in domestic cats: “there was no particular response to carbohydrate sugars or any other sweetener,” he recalls.

It wasn’t for another 30 years, however, that the molecular basis for those feline taste preferences came to light. In 2005, a few years after the T1R family of taste receptors had been identified, Beauchamp and his colleagues decided to take a closer look at the receptors in cats. What they found confirmed a suspicion Beauchamp had held ever since those studies on wild felines back in the 1970s: cats didn’t have a specific aversion to sweet flavors; they just couldn’t taste them at all. Sequencing the genes that coded for the T1R receptors, the researchers identified a 247-base-pair deletion in the feline T1R2 gene, which rendered the gene nonfunctional (PLoS Genet, 1(e3):0027-35, 2005). “I was delighted,” notes Beauchamp, who is now exploring the molecular makeup of such receptors in other carnivore species. “It was nice to see that there was a very dramatic explanation for our inability to find any response to sweeteners.”

And the results make sense given cats’ meat-rich diets, says University of Colorado School of Medicine otolaryngologist Sue Kinnamon, who studies taste transduction and the cellular basis of taste (see “Matters of Taste,” The Scientist, November/December 2011). “Because they are hunters, and they don’t actually see many sweet things in their diet, there’s just no selective pressure to maintain the sweet gene,” she says. “It’s just become a pseudogene.”

These taste preferences also explain Cashew’s love of mushrooms, adds cellular and developmental biologist Tom Finger, also of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and coauthor with Kinnamon of “Matters of Taste.” Mushrooms, he explains, have relatively high glutamate levels, which activate the cat’s intact umami receptors. “[Cats] are not designed to like mushrooms; they’re designed to like protein [and amino acid] sources.”

But just because Cashew likes mushrooms doesn’t mean they’re good for him, warns Deb Zoran, a veterinary internist at Texas A&M University. Unlike omnivores, such as dogs or people, which can synthesize the fatty acids and amino acids their bodies need from other foods, such as plants, cats cannot, she explains. “Their bodies didn’t create those enzymes in order to convert those protein sources into the amino acids they need. They have to have them in their diet.”

“They are wonderful beasts, but they are very different [from other mammals],” Zoran adds. “A cat diet needs to be very high in meat-based protein.”

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Cats, Food, Science

Congress is part of—and loyal to—the 1%

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Eric Lichtblau in the Boston Globe:

When Representative Ed Pastor was first elected to Congress two decades ago, the Arizona Democrat was comfortably ensconced in the middle class. Pastor held $100,000 or so in savings in the mid-1990s and had a retirement pension, but like many Americans, he also owed the banks nearly as much in loans.

Today, Pastor, a miner’s son and a former high school teacher, is a member of a not-so-exclusive club: Capitol Hill millionaires. That group has grown in recent years to include nearly half of all members of Congress – 250 in all – and the wealth gap between lawmakers and their constituents appears to be growing quickly, even as Congress debates unemployment benefits, possible cuts in food stamps, and a “millionaire’s tax.’’

Pastor, who said the key to his financial good fortune was simply watching what he spends and paying off debts, does not consider himself rich. Indeed, within the gilded halls of Congress, where the median net worth is $913,000 and climbing, he is not. He is a rank-and-file millionaire. But compared with the country at large, where the median net worth is $100,000 and has dropped significantly since 2004, he and most of his fellow lawmakers are true aristocrats.

Largely insulated from the economic downturn since 2008, members of Congress – many of them among the “1 percenters’’ decried by Occupy Wall Street protesters – have gotten much richer even as most of the country has become much poorer in the past six years, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Congress has never been a place for paupers. From plantation owners in the pre-Civil War era to industrialists in the early 1900s to ex-Wall Street financiers and Internet executives today, it has long been populated with the rich.

But rarely has the divide appeared so wide, or the public contrast so stark, between lawmakers and those they represent. . .

Continue reading. Of course, the lawmakers truly represent the businesses and lobbyists and individuals who are generous with campaign contributions and ensure the lawmakers’ wealth will continue to grow. They are definitely NOT representing voters and consumers from normal walks of life.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 4:12 pm

Interesting series on personal finance

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Trent Hamm has been started an interesting series over at The Simple Dollar. Here are two recent posts that I recommend you read, and then you can decide whether to stick around for the entire series:

Calculate How Much You Really Make (4/365)

Record Every Penny You Spend in a Month (5/365)

Both are excellent, and both owe a great deal (as Hamm will tell you) to the book Your Money Or Your Life, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

More conflating of business with government

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Businesses really are exceptionally active in running governments and managing our politics. Justin Elliott points out the partnership of Lockheed-Martin with the Bahrain dictatorship and the efforts the company is making to keep the dictator in power.

A top executive at Lockheed Martin recently worked with lobbyists for Bahrain to place an Op-Ed defending the nation’s embattled regime in the Washington Times — but the newspaper did not reveal the role of the regime’s lobbyists to its readers. Hence they did not know that the pro-Bahrain opinion column they were reading was published at the behest of … Bahrain, an oil-rich kingdom of 1.2 million people that has been rocked by popular protests since early 2011.

The episode is a glimpse into the usually hidden world of how Washington’s Op-Ed pages, which are prized real estate for those with interests before the U.S. government, are shaped. It also shows how Lockheed gave an assist to a major client — Bahrain has bought hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons from the company over the years – as it faces widespread criticism for human rights abuses against pro-democracy protesters.

As Ken Silverstein reported in Salon last month, the kingdom is stepping up its Washington lobbying efforts. Here’s the latest example, as far as I can piece together from lobbying disclosures filed by Bahrain’s “strategic communications” firm, D.C.-based Sanitas International.

On Nov. 30, the Washington Times published an Op-Ed under the headline “Bahrain, a vital U.S. ally: Backing protesters would betray a friend and harm American security.” It was written by Vice Adm. Charles Moore (retired). Moore was formerly commander of the Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet. From 1998 to 2002, Moore notes in his Op-Ed, he “had the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s leader, as well as many senior officials in his government.” Moore passed through the revolving door and is now regional president for Lockheed Martin for the Middle East and Africa.

Moore argues in the Op-Ed that while protesters in Bahrain have “legitimate grievances,”  the U.S. “needs Bahrain now more than ever to preserve regional peace and stability in what remains a dangerous and uncertain world.” He particularly focuses on using the large U.S. Navy presence in Bahrain as a counter to Iran, which Washington sees as a foe and which Bahrain claims is fomenting unrest among the country’s Shia majority.

The context for all of this is continuing protests in Bahrain against the Sunni ruling family. The regime has used “systematic” torture against its opponents over the past year, a human rights report found in November. And while the government has promised reform, violent suppression of protests hascontinued. The Obama administration has supported the regime through the crisis, though there has been some grumbling in Congress about a pending arms deal that would send more American weapons to Bahrain.

Bahrain, in response, has launched a major lobbying push to shore up its support in Washington. It hired former Howard-Dean-for-president campaign manager Joe Trippi and Sanitas International to “protect the Kingdom and their leadership from the constantly evolving media landscape and 3rd party attacks,” according to lobbying disclosures. Sanitas is paid $15,000 per month, plus expenses.

Which brings us back to that Washington Times Op-Ed by Lockheed Martin’s Moore. The column was placed in the Times by Sanitas, accordingto disclosure filings: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2012 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Media

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