Later On

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

Archive for January 2013

“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

Timely 18th-century legal issues

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I’ve been watching the TV series Garrow’s Law, with stories based upon actual trials in which William Garrow (later Sir William Garrow) acted as barrister for the defense. It was Garrow who coined the phrase (and perhaps the concept) of “innocent until proven guilty” and who instituted many aspects of defense pleading that we now take for granted—until we can’t take them for granted.

The 4th (and final) episode of the first season seemed particularly timely. It was about whether the government could arrest and imprison a person with no charges filed and keep him locked up indefinitely. The principle established was that it could not be done, that citizens have a right to lead their lives and speak their minds and to meet as they want. The US, of course, has now abandoned that principle and its citizens can be arrested and imprisoned indefinitely merely on suspicion, with no charges filed. England was able to settle the issue because the person eventually went to trial (charge: high treason, similar in some respects to terrorism), whereas in the United States trials are generally denied on the grounds of “state secrets”, which sometimes includes the charges/evidence upon which the person was imprisoned.

Of course, the US is also happy to keep imprisoned some whom it admits have done nothing wrong, but, hey! they’re in prison, so we’ll just keep them there. I refer, of course, to those prisoners in Guantánamo whom the US now admits were not terrorists but totally innocent people. But still they are kept in prison.

I don’t like that. Watch that 4th episode some time. There are very good arguments against this sort of practice.

BTW, you notice that Obama has completely abandoned his promise that he would close Guantánamo? Probably good to keep it so people can clearly see what the US has become. (Charlie Savage has a good story about the ugly side of that.)

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 8:51 pm

Timothy Geitner protected his pals

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Yet more evidence of Obama’s protective attitude toward the finance industry. I imagine he’s expecting an enormous payoff once he’s out of office. Timothy Geithner has been a disaster nearly as bad as Eric Holder. Danielle Douglas reports for the Washington Post:

The Treasury Department ignored its own guidelines on executive pay at firms that received taxpayer bailouts and last year approved compensation packages of more than $3 million for the senior ranks at General Motors, Ally Financial and American International Group, according to a watchdog report released Monday.

The report from the special inspector general for the Troubled Assets Relief Program said the government’s pay czar signed off on $6.2 million in raises for 18 employees at the three companies. The chief executive of a division of AIG received a $1 million raise, while an executive at GM’s troubled European unit was given a $100,000 raise. In one instance, an employee of Ally’s Residential Capital was awarded a $200,000 pay increase weeks before the subsidiary filed for bankruptcy.

“We expect Treasury to look out for taxpayers who funded the bailout of these companies by holding the line on excessive pay,” said Christy Romero, special inspector general for TARP. “Treasury cannot look out for taxpayers’ interests if it continues to rely to a great extent on the pay proposed by companies that have historically pushed back on pay limits.”

The inspector general’s report accuses Patricia Geoghegan, Treasury’s acting special master for compensation, of sidestepping protocol that kept pay packages at the midpoint of comparable firms. Geoghegan, however, said the audit is riddled with inaccuracies and mischaracterizes the data provided to the inspector general.

She said her office has “limited excessive compensation while at the same time keeping compensation at levels that enable the recipients to remain competitive and repay TARP assistance.”

Compensation at bailed-out firms became a lightning rod during the financial crisis. A public outcry erupted in 2009, when AIG paid $168 million in retention bonuses to employees at Financial Products, the unit whose complex deals had crippled the insurance giant. The nation’s biggest banks, including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase, also came under fire for doling out six-figure salaries and bonuses from taxpayer funds.

Treasury’s compensation chief at the time, Kenneth Feinberg, scolded companies for what he called “ill-advised” payouts to executives, and vowed to curb lavish pay. Nonetheless, Treasury allowed seven firms to bypass pay restrictions from 2009 to 2011, according to a report issued by the special inspector general in January 2012.

Monday’s report evaluates Treasury’s actions since then, with stinging allegations of lax oversight and supervision. Romero said Geoghegan deferred to the pay proposals provided by the companies, approving raises above pay limits and failing to link compensation to performance.

“Treasury made no meaningful reform to its processes,” the special inspector said in the latest report. “Lacking criteria and an effective decision-making process, Treasury risks continuing to award executives of bailed-out companies excessive cash compensation without good cause.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 5:07 pm

For iPhone fans

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Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Life is good: Sushi lunch edition

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The Wife and I went out for a sushi lunch at, always a delight. I have my favorites, of course, but attempt to try new things. A wonderful meal, a beautiful day, and some new shaving soaps. Who could ask for anything more?

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Daily life

Robert Samuelson: Ignorant, Stupid, or Malevolent? (or all three?)

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Dean Baker patiently dissects yet another Robert Samuelson Washington Post column:

It’s always entertaining to read Robert Samuelson’s columns on Monday mornings. They are so deliciously orthogonal to reality. Today’s column, asking whether America is in decline, is another gem.

He starts with a set of “good news” items from a paper issued by Goldman Sachs:

“For starters, the U.S. economy is still the world’s largest by a long shot. Gross domestic product (GDP) is almost $16 trillion, “nearly double the second largest (China), 2.5 times the third largest (Japan).” Per capita GDP is about $50,000; although 10 other countries have higher figures, most of the countries are small — say, Luxembourg.”

That sounds good, except that having double the GDP of China depends on looking at exchange rate measures of GDP. This figure is inflated by the over-valued dollar and under-valued yuan. Using the purchasing power parity measure of GDP, the gap is much smaller, with the IMF projecting it will go the other way by 2017. According tosome estimates China’s GDP is already larger than ours, so it’s probably best to keep this celebration short.

It is true that the U.S. has a higher per capita income than Germany, France, and most other wealthy countries. But by far the main reason for this gap is that we work about 25 percent more on average than workers in Western Europe who all get 4-6 weeks a year vacation, paid parental leave, and paid sick days. This is far more an issue of a different trade-off between work and leisure than a question of people in the United States being richer.

Next we get the good news about our massive energy resources:

“In turn, the oil and gas boom bolsters employment. A study by IHS , a consulting firm, estimates that it has already created 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs. By 2020, there should be 1.3 million more, reckons IHS.”

Ignoring the issue of pollution from drilling out this windfall, it is important to put these jobs numbers in perspective. These are gross jobs, not net jobs. In other words, the vast majority of the 3 million jobs that IHS is promising us in oil and gas by 2020 are not additional jobs to those that would otherwise exist in the absence of these resources. These are jobs that displace jobs in education, medical research, health care, and other sectors. Samuelson may be excited that more people will be employed digging gas wells in 2020 and fewer educating the young, but the economic and social benefits of this reallocation of workers are not obvious.

Then we have the fact that we will be younger than other countries:

“American workers will remain younger and more energetic than their rapidly aging rivals. By 2050, workers’ median age in China and Japan will be about 50, a decade higher than in America.”

Yeah, you probably jumped ahead on this one. A main reason that we will be younger is that we have shorter life expectancies. The good news just keeps coming.

Then we have the U.S. as the prime destination for highly educated emigrants: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 11:32 am

Posted in Washington Post

Financial Markets Agree With President Obama and Disagree with Paul Ryan

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Dean Baker notes the difficulty Paul Ryan has in dealing with facts:

It probably would have been useful to remind readers that Representative Paul Ryan’s claim that country is facing a fiscal crisis is sharply at odds with the views of market participants in a NYT article reporting on his latest interview. The article quotes Ryan:

“I don’t think that the president thinks that we actually have a fiscal crisis, … He’s been reportedly saying to our leaders that we don’t have a spending problem, we have a health care problem. That just leads me to conclude that he actually thinks we just need more government-run health care.”

Of course the fact that investors are willing to lend the U.S. government trillions of dollars for long periods of time for interest rates of less than 2.0 percent indicates that the markets do not believe the United States has a fiscal crisis. Also, it is a fact that if the United States had per person health care costs that were at all comparable to those in other wealthy countries that it would be looking at long-term budget surpluses, not deficits.

It would have been worth reminding readers that Mr. Ryan has no evidence to support his assertions that the United States somehow has a fiscal crisis or that fixing our health care system would not address its projected long-term deficit problem. Readers might be mistakenly led to believe that Ryan’s position has a basis in reality.

Some interesting comments at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 11:29 am

The Making of a Bully

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Interesting article in The Scientist by Bhavana Weidmann:

Like neonates, adolescent rats are also vulnerable to childhood trauma, becoming aggressive and pathologically violent later in life, according to a study published earlier this month (January 15) inTranslational Psychiatry.

The team of researchers at the Brain Mind Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, observed adult rats that had undergone traumatic experiences as adolescents, and found evidence of altered brain activity and epigenetic changes in the pre-frontal cortex that may explain the animals’ aggressive behavior. Because the findings match those from previous studies in humans, the study offers a robust rat model to further investigate the underlying neuro-biological causes and potential treatment avenues for increased aggression resulting from childhood trauma.

“This work represents a critical advancement in our understanding of how our environment influences our behaviors and shapes our brains,” Fiona Hollis, a neuroscientist at the Brain Mind Institute, who did not participate in the study, wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist. “By demonstrating a link between early-life trauma and adult pathological aggression, we can better understand, and perhaps even reverse, the mechanisms underlying the cycle of violence, that is too often observed in society.”

Previous studies in rats, have clearly demonstrated the negative effects of stress, incurred soon after birth. Young pups, when separated from their mother, for example, develop into more aggressive adults. But whether stress incurred through adolescence had similar effects was unclear.

To investigate this question, the Brain Mind Institute’s Carmen Sandi and colleagues exposed 28- to 42-day-old adolescent rats to a fox odor or placed them in a vulnerable position on an elevated platform under bright light for a few minutes every day for 7 days. Rats exposed to such fearful stimuli grew up to become “bullies,” displaying pathological violence against any new rat introduced to their cage. Control rats that were not exposed to fearful stimuli as adolescents, one the other hand, were significantly less aggressive toward intruders, as adults.

Rats stressed in adolescence also presented anxiety and depression-like behaviors as adults; exhibited increased activity in the amygdala, the part of brain associated with fear responses; and showed lowered activity in the orbito-frontal cortex, a part of the pre-frontal cortex. These specific brain activity patterns have been linked to aggression and violence in humans. Additionally, the stress-exposed adolescent rats, as adults, displayed hormonal irregularities, namely high testosterone and low corticosterone levels—another pattern associated with increased aggression and violence in humans.

The effects of early-life adversity percolated right down to the level of the rats’ DNA. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 11:25 am

Posted in Mental Health, Science

Perfect BBS—and an intriguing fragrance

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SOTD 28 Jan 2013

What a shave! Totally perfect BBS throughout, with not a trace of irritation. But to begin at the beginning.

I’ve decided that Monday will be boar day—I tend to overlook my boar brushes, though they are in general good, so I decided that I would use a boar brush at least once a week. Today’s is the Omega shown, and though I got an excellent lather, by the third pass I had to refresh it. The problem for me with boar is a lack of capacity, though to some degree that can be blamed on the newness of the brush: it has not had time to break in. And of course a larger brush (e.g., the Omega Pro 48—model 10048) helps. Still, it’s not a serious problem: a quick swirl or two on the soap, and I had lather to finish.

The soap has an interesting fragrance: honey, a familiar fragrance that’s novel in the context. Quite nice, fact. And the lather was quite good—just the brush’s lack of capacity, I believe. I’ll try another Haslinger tomorrow with a badger brush and we’ll see how it goes.

The bakelite slant, with a new Astra Keramik Platinum blade, performed superbly. The previous blade really had overstayed its welcome, I now realize. The shave was easy, smooth, and comfortable throughout. The head design on this razor really is marvelous. I was practically BBS after two passes, but the ATG pass supplied the final polish. Having a two-day stubble doubtless helped, in some mysterious fashion.

A good splash from my sample bottle of Bulgarian Rose with Lemon aftershave from Saint Charles Shave, and I feel ready for the entire week.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 January 2013 at 9:58 am

Posted in Shaving

GOP changes words, not actions; modifies rhetoric, not policy

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Paul Krugman in the NY Times:

Republicans have a problem. For years they could shout down any attempt to point out the extent to which their policies favored the elite over the poor and the middle class; all they had to do was yell “Class warfare!” and Democrats scurried away. In the 2012 election, however, that didn’t work: the picture of the G.O.P. as the party of sneering plutocrats stuck, even as Democrats became more openly populist than they have been in decades.

As a result, prominent Republicans have begun acknowledging that their party needs to improve its image. But here’s the thing: Their proposals for a makeover all involve changing the sales pitch rather than the product. When it comes to substance, the G.O.P. is more committed than ever to policies that take from most Americans and give to a wealthy handful.

Consider, as a case in point, how a widely reported recent speech by Bobby Jindal the governor of Louisiana, compares with his actual policies.

Mr. Jindal posed the problem in a way that would, I believe, have been unthinkable for a leading Republican even a year ago. “We must not,” he declared, “be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.” After a campaign in which Mitt Romney denounced any attempt to talk about class divisions as an “attack on success,” this represents a major rhetorical shift.

But Mr. Jindal didn’t offer any suggestions about how Republicans might demonstrate that they aren’t just about letting the rich keep their toys, other than claiming even more loudly that their policies are good for everyone.

Meanwhile, back in Louisiana Mr. Jindal is pushing a plan to eliminate the state’s income tax, which falls most heavily on the affluent, and make up for the lost revenue by raising sales taxes, which fall much more heavily on the poor and the middle class. The result would be big gains for the top 1 percent, substantial losses for the bottom 60 percent. Similar plans are being pushed by a number of other Republican governors as well.

Like the new acknowledgment that the perception of being the party of the rich is a problem, this represents a departure for the G.O.P. — but in the opposite direction. In the past, Republicans would justify tax cuts for the rich either by claiming that they would pay for themselves or by claiming that they could make up for lost revenue by cutting wasteful spending. But what we’re seeing now is open, explicit reverse Robin Hoodism: taking from ordinary families and giving to the rich. That is, even as Republicans look for a way to sound more sympathetic and less extreme, their actual policies are taking another sharp right turn.

Why is this happening? In particular, why is it happening now, just after an election in which the G.O.P. paid a price for its anti-populist stand? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 January 2013 at 9:34 pm

Posted in GOP, Government

Arming the children

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Just like cigarette companies, gun manufacturers are targeting the young. Mike McIntire reports in the NY Times:

Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports, the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.

The industry’s strategies include giving firearms, ammunition and cash to youth groups; weakening state restrictions on hunting by young children; marketing an affordable military-style rifle for “junior shooters” and sponsoring semiautomatic-handgun competitions for youths; and developing a target-shooting video game that promotes brand-name weapons, with links to the Web sites of their makers.

The pages of Junior Shooters, an industry-supported magazine that seeks to get children involved in the recreational use of firearms, once featured a smiling 15-year-old girl clutching a semiautomatic rifle. At the end of an accompanying article that extolled target shooting with a Bushmaster AR-15 — an advertisement elsewhere in the magazine directed readers to a coupon for buying one — the author encouraged youngsters to share the article with a parent.

“Who knows?” it said. “Maybe you’ll find a Bushmaster AR-15 under your tree some frosty Christmas morning!”

The industry’s youth-marketing effort is backed by extensive social research and is carried out by an array of nonprofit groups financed by the gun industry, an examination by The New York Times found. The campaign picked up steam about five years ago with the completion of a major study that urged a stronger emphasis on the “recruitment and retention” of new hunters and target shooters.

The overall objective was summed up in another study, commissioned last year by the shooting sports industry, that suggested encouraging children experienced in firearms to recruit other young people. The report, which focused on children ages 8 to 17, said these “peer ambassadors” should help introduce wary youngsters to guns slowly, perhaps through paintball, archery or some other less intimidating activity.

“The point should be to get newcomers started shooting something, with the natural next step being a move toward actual firearms,” said the report, which was prepared for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Hunting Heritage Trust.

Firearms manufacturers and their two primary surrogates, the National Rifle Association of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have long been associated with high-profile battles to fend off efforts at gun control and to widen access to firearms. The public debate over the mass shootings in Newtown, Conn., and elsewhere has focused largely on the availability of guns, along with mental illness and the influence of violent video games.

Little attention has been paid, though, to the industry’s youth-marketing initiatives. They stir passionate views, with proponents arguing that introducing children to guns can provide a safe and healthy pastime, and critics countering that it fosters a corrosive gun culture and is potentially dangerous.

The N.R.A. has for decades given grants for youth shooting programs, mostly to Boy Scout councils and 4-H groups, which traditionally involved single-shot rimfire rifles, BB guns and archery. Its $21 million in total grants in 2010 was nearly double what it gave out five years earlier.

Newer initiatives by other organizations go further, seeking to introduce children to high-powered rifles and handguns while invoking the same rationale of those older, more traditional programs: that firearms can teach “life skills” like responsibility, ethics and citizenship. And the gun industry points to injury statistics that it says show a greater likelihood of getting hurt cheerleading or playing softball than using firearms for fun and sport.

Still, some experts in child psychiatry say that encouraging youthful exposure to guns, even in a structured setting with an emphasis on safety, is asking for trouble. Dr. Jess P. Shatkin, the director of undergraduate studies in child and adolescent mental health at New York University, said that young people are naturally impulsive and that their brains “are engineered to take risks,” making them ill suited for handling guns.

“There are lots of ways to teach responsibility to a kid,” Dr. Shatkin said. “You don’t need a gun to do it.” . . .

Continue reading. This seems like a very bad idea to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 January 2013 at 11:30 am

Posted in Business, Guns

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