Later On

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

Archive for January 29th, 2013

Making sure nonbelievers follow the rules of your own religion

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And yet I wonder whether those involved are willing to follow the rules of religions in which they don’t believe. Katie McDonough reports in Salon:

Last year, a pair of researchers at North Dakota State University won a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families to start a sexual health program aimed at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in at-risk teens.

But as Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones reports, the school had contracted Planned Parenthood to provide the services, and antiabortion activists in the state started complaining about NDSU doing business with the nationwide women’s health — and in states other than North Dakota, abortion services — provider.

“When I see something that says this is Planned Parenthood — they’re not even a part of the state of North Dakota. They don’t serve anyone in North Dakota, and they shouldn’t be a part of North Dakota. They’re not a part of how we do business in this state,” said Rep. Bette Grande on a local radio show denouncing Planned Parenthood and NDSU. “It is an overt abortion industry that we don’t want to be a part of,” she added.

The uproar over the partnership soon reached NDSU officials, who quickly soured on the contract.

According to Sheppard:

On Jan. 15, NDSU President Dean Bresciani said on a conservative talk radio showthat the school had decided to block the funds, citing a “legal hang-up” that prevents the school from working with Planned Parenthood.

As the local newspaper Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports, NDSU now says that it is “freezing” the grant while it figures out if it violates a 1979 state law that bars state dollars, or federal dollars coming through the state, from being used “as family planning funds by any person or public or private agency which performs, refers, or encourages abortion.”North Dakota Catholic Conference praised NDSU for making “the right decision,” and it got glowing reviews in the anti-abortion outlet Life Site News.

Professors and local reproductive and sexual health advocates balked at what they considered a purely political interference with research — and health service delivery.

According to a statement from Thomas Stone Carlson, president of the Faculty Senate:

We are aware that you have received significant pressure from legislators (Betty Grande and Jim Kasper in particular) who have political agendas that oppose the work of Planned Parenthood. The announcement of your decision to freeze this funding on a conservative talk show and the quick response of several conservative groups thanking legislators for this important victory against Planned Parenthood, makes it difficult to see your decision as anything other than bowing to political pressure.

Critics of NDSU’s decision to return the grant say it is the North Dakota teens who were the target of the program — youth who are homeless, in foster care, or in the juvenile justice system — who stand to lose the most in the botched partnership. As Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, told Mother Jones, the funding would have served as a “lifeline for kids that don’t have other options.” Adding, “To turn away the grant on an ideological basis really just defies logic, particularly in North Dakota, where there is so little available to at-risk youth.”

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 4:34 pm

“Best healthcare in the world” — not

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New Scientist reports:

WEALTHY it may be, but healthy it is not. The US population experiences poorer health at all stages of life than the populations of 16 other rich countries.

Despite leading the world in pioneering anti-smoking laws, cancer screening and controlling high blood pressure, the US trails its richer “peer” countries in almost all other measures of health and longevity, says a US National Research Council report published last week.

At 75 years, men in the US have the lowest life expectancy in the group, while women have a life expectancy of 81 years – higher only than Denmark.

In nine categories of ill health ranging from infant mortality rates to the prevalence of sexually transmitted disease, US citizens consistently came at or near the bottom of the table.

“I was stunned by how pervasive the disadvantages were across so many factors,” says Steve Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, who chaired the report panel.

Woolf and his colleagues say that the problem is less to do with faults in the US health system, and more to do with behaviours that put US citizens at greater risk. “They consume the most calories per person, have higher rates of drug abuse, are less likely to use seat belts, and are more likely to use firearms in acts of violence,” says Woolf.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Healthcare

Business, concerned for your health their profits, work to outlaw generics

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Businesses will do anything—anything at all—to grow profits. Andrew Pollack reports in the NY Times on the latest initiative:

n statehouses around the country, some of the nation’s biggest biotechnology companies are lobbying intensively to limit generic competition to their blockbuster drugs, potentially cutting into the billions of dollars in savings on drug costs contemplated in the federal health care overhaul law.

The complex drugs, made in living cells instead of chemical factories, account for roughly one-quarter of the nation’s $320 billion in spending on drugs, according to IMS Health. And that percentage is growing. They include some of the world’s best-selling drugs, like the rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis drugs Humira and Enbrel and the cancer treatments Herceptin, Avastin and Rituxan. The drugs now cost patients — or their insurers — tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

Two companies, Amgen and Genentech, are proposing bills that would restrict the ability of pharmacists to substitute generic versions of biological drugs for brand name products.

Bills have been introduced in at least eight states since the new legislative sessions began this month. Others are pending.

The Virginia House of Delegates already passed one such bill last week, by a 91-to-6 vote.

The companies and other proponents say such measures are needed to protect patient safety because the generic versions of biological drugs are not identical to the originals. For that reason, they are usually called biosimilars rather than generics.

Generic drug companies and insurers are taking their own steps to oppose or amend the state bills, which they characterize as pre-emptive moves to deter the use of biosimilars, even before any get to market.

“All of these things are put in there for a chilling effect on these biosimilars,” said Brynna M. Clark, director of state affairs for the Generic Pharmaceutical Association. The limits, she said, “don’t sound too onerous but undermine confidence in these drugs and are burdensome.”

Genentech, which is owned by Roche, makes Rituxan, Herceptin and Avastin, the best-selling cancer drugs in the world. Amgen makes Enbrel, the anemia drugs Epogen and Aranesp, and the drugs Neupogen and Neulasta for protecting chemotherapy patients from infections. All have billions of dollars in annual sales and, with the possible exception of Enbrel, are expected to lose patent protection in the next several years.

The trench fighting at the state level is the latest phase in a battle over the rules for adding competition to the biotechnology drug market as called for in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

A related battle on the federal level is whether biosimilars will have the same generic name as the brand name product. If they did not, pharmacists could not substitute the biosimilar for the original, even if states allowed it.

Biosimilars are unlikely to be available in the United States for at least two more years, though they have been on the market in Europe for several years. And the regulatory uncertainty appears to be diminishing enthusiasm among some companies for developing such drugs.

“We’re still dealing with chaos,” said Craig A. Wheeler, the chief executive of Momenta Pharmaceuticals, which is developing biosimilars. “This is a pathway that neither industry nor the F.D.A. knows how to use.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 1:19 pm

Best oven-“fried” Buffalo wings

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The research.

The recipe:

  • 4 pounds chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup Frank’s RedHot Sauce
  • Blue cheese dressing
  • Celery sticks
Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and set rack inside. Carefully dry chicken wings with paper towels. Place 1/3 of wings in large bowl, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt, and toss until thoroughly and evenly coated. Place on rack, leaving slight space between each wing. Repeat with remaining two batches of wings.
Place baking sheet with wings in refrigerator and allow to rest, uncovered, at least 8 hours, and up to 18 hours.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat oven to 450°F. Add chicken wings and cook for 20 minutes. Flip wings and continue to cook until crisp and golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes longer.
Meanwhile, combine butter and hot sauce in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking until combined. Transfer wings to large bowl, add sauce, toss to thoroughly coat, and serve immediately with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks, conspicuously shunning anyone who says that real buffalo wings must be fried.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Arming people

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Apparently the NRA believes that if more citizens (and children) carry guns, we’ll have less of this.

And that goes on and on, day after day, week after week. Only in the US, among developed nations. No one knows why. I wonder whether the widespread availability of firearms might have anything to do with it?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Guns

Environmental degradation and birth defects

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The high cost of pollution: a post by James Fallows with interesting insights from readers.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 12:20 pm

Zeppelin knot

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Very good thing to know. Via Cool Tools, this photo is from Wikipedia, which has step-by-step instructions.

Zeppelin knot

From the Cool Tools write-up:

It is stronger than a square knot, but it is unique in that it can always be untied easily, even after it has been loaded heavily. In other words, it will not “jam”. It is also easy to tie and easy to verify.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life

Israel admits Ethiopian Jewish immigrants were given birth control shots

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This story is absolutely astonishing. One immediately thinks of other such instances of government overreach and intrusion into the private lives of its people, but this I did not expect to see in Israel, of all places. Katie McDonough has the story in

Israel has admitted that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth control injections, according to a report in Haaretz. An Israeli investigative journalist also found that a majority of the women given these shots say they were administered without their knowledge or consent.

Health Ministry Director General Prof. Ron Gamzu acknowledged the practice — without directly conceding coercion was involved — in a letter to Israeli health maintenance organizations, instructing gynecologists in the HMOs “not to renew prescriptions for Depo-Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment.”

Depo-Provera is a hormonal form of birth control that is injected every three months.

Gamzu issued the letter in response to a complaint from Sharona Eliahu-Chai of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel. Representing several women’s rights and Ethiopian immigrant groups, Eliahu-Chai demanded an immediate end to the injections and that an investigation be launched into the practice.

In addition to Eliahu-Chai, Gal Gabbay, an investigative journalist who had interviewed 35 Ethiopian immigrants, found that while the women were still in transit camps in Ethiopia they were sometimes intimidated or threatened into taking the Depo-Provera shot, often being misled about why. “They told us they are inoculations,” said one of the women interviewed. “They told us people who frequently give birth suffer. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.”

Birth rates and demographics in Israel are often political, and Israel has historically focused on promoting Jewish birthrates to retain a Jewish majority, according to a recent New York Times report on fertility and in-vetro fertilization in the country.

But Ethiopian Jews remain a marginalized group, often living in highly segregated communities. Because of this, many women’s and immigrant rights advocates believe that the 50 percent decline over the past 10 years in the birthrate of Israel’s Ethiopian community is the result of the Israeli government’s attempt to limit and restrict Ethiopian women’s fertility through forcible birth control injections. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 10:49 am

Best reporting on GOP redistricting to steal elections

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Christie Thompson and Theodoric Meyer have a good round-up at ProPublica of articles on how the GOP is working to rig elections to ensure GOP wins, regardless of voter preference:

Republicans in the Virginia Senate made headlines Jan. 20 when they rammed through legislation that would concentrate the state’s Democratic voters into fewer districts.

The Virginia bill is the latest effort by both parties to turn redistricting to their advantage around the country. We’ve rounded up some of the best reporting on how the parties have tried to influence both congressional and state electoral maps — and, in most cases, gotten away with it — for political gain.

Republicans Seeking Electoral College Changes, The Washington Post, January 2013
Only two states — Maine and Nebraska — currently apportion their electoral votes by congressional district. But Republicans in Virginia, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania have recently proposed switching their states to a similar system. Each of those states “went for Obama in the past two elections but are controlled by Republicans at the state level.”

Va. Republicans’ Redistricting Draws Criticism, The Washington Post, January 2013 
While Virginia state senator Henry Marsh was in Washington celebrating Obama’s inauguration, state senate Republicans were redrawing district lines to favor GOP candidates. Republican senators took the opportunity of Marsh’s absence to pass a bill, 20 to 19, that made “technical adjustments” to district boundaries. State Democrats are decrying Republicans’ political maneuver, accusing them of trying to “pack and crack” the influence of the state’s black voters.

How Maps Helped GOP Keep the House, The New York Times, December 2012
Democratic House candidates across the country won more than a million more votesthan Republicans ones, but the Republicans kept control of the chamber. How did they manage it? Republicans seized the upper hand in redistricting: “thanks to the gains they made in 2010 state-level elections, Republicans controlled the redistricting process in states with 40 percent of the seats in the House, Democrats controlled it in states with 10 percent of the seats, and the rest of the seats were drawn by courts, states with divided governments or commissions.”

So Few Swing Districts, So Little Compromise, Five Thirty Eight, December 2012
Why is it so difficult for members of the U.S. House to find compromise? Because most members come from “hyperpartisan” districts where they face no real threat of defeat. Nate Silver breaks down the decline of swing districts due in large part to redistricting (as well as less split-ticket voting).

How Dark Money Helped GOP Hold the House, ProPublica, December 2012
Republicans launched an effort in 2010 designed to help the party win statehouses — which control the redistricting process in most states — in the elections that fall. We detailed how dark money helped fund the GOP’s statehouse victory in North Carolina and subsequently helped pay for redistricting consultants, who worked out of the Republican party headquarters in Raleigh.

The League of Dangerous Mapmakers, The Atlantic, October 2012 
Who are the cartographers behind the U.S.’s constantly shifting district maps? Journalist Robert Draper follows Republican National Committee redistricting consultant Tom Hofeller as he travels the country, advising legislators how to best designate districts to their advantage. Draper charts the history of redistricting, to show how what “was intended by the Framers solely to keep democracy’s electoral scales balanced…has become the most insidious practice in American politics.”

Redistricting, a Process Cloaked in Secrecy, Center for Public Integrity, November 2012 
Though the Supreme Court has dictated how often states redraw district lines, how they do it is mostly up to them. The State Integrity Investigation rated each state on the transparency and potential for public input of their redistricting process. Roughly half didn’t make the grade:  “while 18 states received A’s; 24 received a D or an F.”

How Democrats Fooled California’s Redistricting Commission, ProPublica, December 2011 
In an attempt to insulate redistricting from party politics, California created a citizens’ commission in 2010 to determine state districts. But Democratic strategists still found new ways to influence the process: from secretly enlisting local organizations to creating a sham community group to push for a map that favored Democratic candidates.

Welcome to America’s Most Gerrymandered District, The New Republic, November 2012
Democrats have been especially aggressive about redistricting in Maryland, where they dominate the state legislature. Maryland Democrats approved a new congressional map so tortured that a federal judge called the state’s Third Congressional District “reminiscent of a broken winged pterodactyl, lying prostrate across the center of the state.” The redrawn maps helped Democrats capture seven of Maryland’s eight House seats, despite winning only 62 percentof the total votes cast in all the state’s House races.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 10:34 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Interesting column on why immigration reform will not pass

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Lindsay Graham. Plus some additional reasons.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 10:31 am

Posted in Congress, GOP

Very fine shave with seaweed soap

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SOTD 29 Jan 2013

Yet another enjoyable shave. I used my Whipped Dog silvertip with the ceramic handle, a very nice little brush, and the Haslinger Seaweed soap did indeed produce enough lather with that brush for three passes—but the final pass was not nearly so luxuriant as the first. I think that yesterday’s shave did show that my new boar brush doesn’t have so much capacity as a badger brush, but it also showed that Haslinger, while a reasonably good shaving soap, is not in the same league as the artisanal soaps I’ve been using. They’re okay (so far), but not yet that exciting. However, I have some more to test.

My Edwin Jagger Chatsworth has the new head, and with a Swedish Gillette blade it did a very nice job. Not quite so good a shave as yesterday’s, but that shave was remarkably good. I’m quite happy with today’s shave, in any event.

A good splash of Woods—and has this in stock again, so try a sample—and I’m ready to cook: new batch of grub, new GOPM.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 January 2013 at 10:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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