Later On

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

Archive for May 19th, 2013

Parmesan-free pea and arugla pesto

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The Eldest sent me this intriguing recipe a few days ago:

Dairy-free pea and arugula pesto

  • 1/3 cup sweet onion
  • 1/2 cup slivered or blanched almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup frozen peas, briefly blanched
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cloves of garlic, briefly blanched with peas
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup good olive oil (or less)
  • zest from half an organic lemon
  • a few grinds of black pepper, to taste

Combine in a food processor or blender and process until nearly smooth.  Good as a bruschetta topping or use as you would use pesto.

I just made it. I did the blanching by putting peas and garlic in a saucepan, bringing water to boil in electric kettle, and pouring it over them. I let them sit briefly—like 20 seconds—then dumped them into sieve and thence into the blender. The blender worked fine, but a food processor would be easier.

When I first tasted it, I found it somewhat bitter, but I let it sit in the fridge for a while, and just had some on top of cottage cheese: very tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Corruption of government

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David Williams reports in the LA Times:

Over the last decade, former Navy Secretary Richard J. Danzig, a prominent lawyer, presidential advisor and biowarfare consultant to the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, has urged the government to counter what he called a major threat to national security.

Terrorists, he warned, could easily engineer a devastating killer germ: a form of anthrax resistant to common antibiotics.

U.S. intelligence agencies have never established that any nation or terrorist group has made such a weapon, and biodefense scientists say doing so would be very difficult. Nevertheless, Danzig has energetically promoted the threat — and prodded the government to stockpile a new type of drug to defend against it.

Danzig did this while serving as a director of a biotech startup that won $334 million in federal contracts to supply just such a drug, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.

By his own account, Danzig encouraged Human Genome Sciences Inc. to develop the compound, and from 2001 through 2012 he collected more than $1 million in director’s fees and other compensation from the company, records show.

The drug, raxibacumab, or raxi, was the first product the company was able to sell, and the U.S. government remains the only customer, at a cost to date of about $5,100 per dose.

A number of senior federal officials whom Danzig advised on the threat of bioterrorism and what to do about it said they were unaware of his role at Human Genome.

Dr. Philip K. Russell, a biodefense official in the George W. Bush administration who attended invitation-only seminars on bioterrorism led by Danzig, said he did not know about Danzig’s tie to the biotech company until The Times asked him about it.

“Holy smoke—that was a horrible conflict of interest,” said Russell, a physician and retired Army major general who helped lead the government’s efforts to prepare for biological attacks.

Federal law bars U.S. officials, including consultants, from giving advice on matters in which they or a company on whose board they serve have “a financial interest.”

Danzig said in an interview that he believed his position at Human Genome posed no conflict.

He said he had tried to improve policymakers’ understanding of biodefense issues, including the threat of antibiotic-resistant anthrax, but never lobbied the government to purchase raxi.

“My view was I’m not going to get involved in selling that,” Danzig said. “But at the same time now, should I not say what I think is right in the government circles with regard to this? And my answer was, ‘If I have occasion to comment on this, it ought to be in general, as a policy matter, not as a particular procurement.’

“I feel that I’ve acted very properly with regard to this,” he said.

The government’s purchases of raxi, which began in 2006 under the Bush administration, buoyed the Rockville, Md., company while it struggled to bring a conventional drug to market. The Obama administration has made additional purchases, more than doubling the government’s supply.

Human Genome was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in August for $3.6 billion.

Because raxi loses its potency after three years in storage, the government’s supply will expire as of 2015, according to federal documents and people familiar with the matter. Administration officials must decide whether to replenish the expiring inventory of raxi and a similar product made by a Canadian company.

Danzig began warning about antibiotic-resistant anthrax after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the mailings of anthrax-laced letters that fall.The powdered anthrax in the letters killed five people but was not resistant to common antibiotics. Asked what gave rise to his concern about resistant strains, Danzig cited conversations with “people whose technical skills exceed mine.” One of them, Dr. Robert P. Kadlec, a bioterrorism advisor in the Bush White House, said he and others were concerned that terrorists could develop such a weapon.

Danzig has sounded the alarm in published papers and in private briefings and seminars for biodefense and intelligence officials.

In a 2003 report funded by the Pentagon, “Catastrophic Bioterrorism — What Is To Be Done?” he wrote that it would be “quite easy” for terrorists to produce antibiotic-resistant anthrax. He has expanded on that theme over the years, including in a 2009 paper for the Pentagon.

In the 2003 report, published while raxi was in development at Human Genome, Danzig said a drug to combat resistant strains of anthrax should be produced “as soon as possible” and that stockpiling such a treatment, “even if expensive and in limited supply,” would deter an attack.

John Vitko Jr., a top Homeland Security official during the Bush and Obama administrations, said he turned frequently to Danzig for advice on biodefense matters — and read and “paid attention to” his “Catastrophic Bioterrorism” report.

The two have served for the last seven years on a government panel that provides confidential assessments of the nation’s biodefense needs to the Homeland Security secretary, the National Security Council staff and other senior officials.

Vitko said he knew nothing of Danzig’s involvement with Human Genome until a Times reporter asked him about it.

“I’m surprised I didn’t,” Vitko said. “I’m not aware of it.”

Five other present or former biodefense officials who conferred with Danzig said they, too, had been unaware of his position with the company. Danzig, they said, made no mention of it in their presence during group discussions he led or in smaller meetings. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Comparing performance, Democrats vs. GOP

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From my friend in North Carolina:


Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 11:20 am

Posted in Business, Politics

The New Yorker launches DeadDrop for whistleblowers

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Obama’s unprecedented persecution of whistleblowers is having its effect: stifling some, sending others to prison, and stimulating technical solutions. Natasha Lennard reports in Salon:

This week has been a disquieting one for journalists concerned about protecting their sources. The revelation that the Justice Department had been spying on AP reporters’ phone records, although it came as no surprise to those attuned to this government’s attitude to First Amendment protections, reinforced the importance of enabling the unsurveilled free-flow of information.

It was the right moment then, for the New Yorker to launch Strongbox, an open-source drop box for leaked documents, co-created by late technologist and open-data activist Aaron Swartz with Wired editor Kevin Poulsen.

“With the risks now so high – not just from the U.S. government but also the Chinese government that is hacking newsrooms in the West – it’s crucial that news outlets find a secure route for sources to come to them,” said Poulsen on Thursday.

The code, designed by Swartz and Poulsen, is called DeadDrop; Stongbox is the name of the New Yorker’s program that uses it. The magazine announced that this means “people can send documents and messages to the magazine, and we, in turn, can offer them a reasonable amount of anonymity.” Appropriate to the open-data activism to which Swartz dedicated many of his considerable talents, the DeadDrop code is open for any person or institution to use and develop.

DeadDrop lets users upload documents anonymously through the Tor network (which essentially scrambles IP addresses). With Stongbox, the leaked information is uploaded onto servers that will be kept separate from the New Yorker’s main system. Leakers are then given a unique code name that allows New Yorker journalists to contact them through messages left on Strongbox. Like any system, it is not perfectly unbreakable, but it has already received high praise in reviews.

The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington commented on the importance of DeadDrop in the context of the government’s persecution of whistle-blowers and ever-expanding spy dragnet: . . .

Continue reading.

See also this article. Here’s the DeadDrop site. And this graphic outlines the process:


Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 7:38 am

Duke Ellington’s “Symphony in Black” with 19-year-old Billie Holiday

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Mike Springer at OpenCulture:

In September of 1935 Paramount Pictures released a nine-minute movie remarkable in several ways. Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life is one of the earliest cinematic explorations of African-American culture for a mass audience. It features Duke Ellington and his orchestra performing his first extended composition. And perhaps most notably, it stars Billie Holiday in her first filmed performance.

The one-reel movie, directed by Fred Waller, tells the story of Ellington’s “A Rhapsody of Negro Life,” using pictures to convey the images running through the musician’s mind as he composed and performed the piece. Ellington’s “Rhapsody” has four parts: “The Laborers,” “A Triangle,” “A Hymn of Sorrow” and “Harlem Rhythm.” Holiday appears as a jilted and abused lover in “A Triangle.”

Holiday’s only previous screen appearance was as an uncredited extra in a nightclub scene in the 1933 Paul Robeson film, The Emper0r Jones. Symphony in Black was produced over a ten-month period. Holiday was only 19 when her scenes were shot. She sings Ellington’s “Saddest Tale,” a song carefully selected by the composer to fit the young singer’s style. “Saddest tale on land or sea,” begin the lyrics, “Was when my man walked out on me.” In the book Billie Holiday: A Biography, author Meg Greene calls the performance “mesmerizing”:

Symphony in Black marked an important milestone in the development of Billie Holiday, the woman and the singer. Ellington’s deft handling enabled Billie to distinguish herself from other torch singers. She did not wear her emotions on her sleeve; instead, she revealed herself gradually as the song unfolded. Hers was a carefully crafted and sophisticated performance, especially for a woman only 19 years old. This carefully woven tapestry of life and music was the origin of the persona that audiences came to identify with Billie. Other singers such as Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland may have more successfully established and cultivated an image, but Billie Holiday did it first.

Related content:

Billie Holiday Sings ‘Strange Fruit’

Billie Holiday–The Life and Artistry of Lady Day: The Complete Film

Duke Ellington Plays for Joan Miró in the South of France, 1966: Bassist John Lamb Looks Back on the Day

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 7:33 am

Posted in Jazz, Movies & TV, Music, Video

Anyone with money can be a master sniper

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More information in this NPR story. The video-game model for weaponry (cf. drones) is disturbing.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 7:09 am

Posted in Guns, Technology

The Baltimore Lead Study

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Bill Moyers talks about a study that reminds one forcibly of the Tuskegee syphilis study, which also restricted the study to African-American subjects. It was, I believe, never explicitly stated why White subjects were excluded from the studies.

In the 1990s, a prominent research facility associated with Johns Hopkins University conducted an experiment that knowingly exposed children — mostly African American, some as young as a year old — to varying levels of potentially dangerous lead, as part of a study comparing different degrees of lead paint abatement. The researchers, at Hopkins’ Kennedy Krieger Institute, recruited poor families to move into homes that had only been partially abated using three different methods of lead paint removal at three different levels of cost.

The research was “conducted in the best interest of all of the children enrolled,” Dr. Gary W. Goldstein, president and chief executive of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in response to a class-action lawsuitfiled by the families in 2011. “Over all, the blood lead levels of most children residing in the study homes stayed constant or went down.”

But in some cases, children placed in homes that received the two cheaper forms of abatement were exposed to levels of lead known to cause permanent neurological problems.

Here, public health historians Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner tell the story. You can read about it in more detail in this chapter of their book, Lead Wars.

Watch Bill’s entire interview with Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2013 at 7:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

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