Later On

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

Archive for July 11th, 2014

Why organic food is more healthful

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Sarah Gray writes in Salon:

Could there be a clear difference between organic and non-organic food? An international study, due out next week, in the journal British Journal of Nutrition, presents evidence that there is, indeed, a discernible difference.

Carlo Leifert from Newcastle University, led the team of researchers. Their conclusion states that organic food may have more antioxidant compounds present and lower levels of pesticides — four times lower than non-organic — and toxic metals like cadmium .

Leifert told the Guardian that the differences in antioxidant levels were “substantially higher.” They were apparently ranging between 19% and 69% higher in organic food. This study, according to the Guardian, is the first to show an actual difference between organic and non-organic food.

The debate of whether organic is healthier, is still far from over, as this is only one study. If anything it opens up new questions, and will lead to new exploration on the topic.

And of course not all are convinced, including Tom Sanders, a professor of nutrition at King’s College London. He said the study does show some difference but has some questions. “But the question is are they within natural variation? And are they nutritionally relevant?” he asked, “I am not convinced.” He also believes the article is misleading due to a reference to antioxidants as key nutrients.

The Independent also reports questions amongst the nutrition community, including Professor Richared Mithen of the Institute of Food Research. “The references to ‘antioxidants’ and ‘antioxidant activity’, and various ‘antioxidant’ assays would suggest a poor knowledge of the current understanding within the nutrition community of how fruit and vegetables may maintain and improve health,” Mithen explained.

The results, according to the Guardian are ” based on an analysis of 343 peer-reviewed studies from around the world – more than ever before – which examine differences between organic and conventional fruit, vegetables and cereals.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 9:17 pm

Why it is difficult to have the least shred of respect for the Senate and its rules

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This is a circus of pigs.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 5:30 pm

Posted in Congress, Election

CDC faces some serious problems in lab practices

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At least they are being open about it and taking emphatic steps to stop the damage. Here’s the story.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 1:24 pm

Obama’s Reckless German Spy Scandal

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Though it may not be Obama who is restless: Jacob Heilbrunn’s article in The National Interest makes the interesting observation that Obama and the Executive Branch may no longer be able to control the NSA and CIA, which now are operating according to their own agenda and keeping from the president much of what they are doing.

The question in Germany isn’t so much what the United States has been spying on. The real question is why it has felt compelled to gather what appears to amount to trivial information. “So much idiocy and stupidity can only make you cry,” said German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble. If so, there must be a lot of weeping going on in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government. Schauble, who has served at the highest levels of government for several decades, is a staunch Atlanticist. But it’s increasingly clear that the Obama administration is either oblivious to the dangers it’s running in antagonizing Berlin or it’s unable to control the intelligence agencies who are running amok–Merkel demanded the expulsion of the CIA station chief at the America embassy on Thursday, a move that she had to take to placate mounting outrage among the German public.

Either way, President Obama has a crisis on his hands. But it’s one he does not appear to be addressing. Instead, the administration and CIA director John Brennan are stonewalling both Congress and Germany.

The Wall Street Journal, for example, reports today:

A top German intelligence official told the German parliamentary committee that oversees intelligence services that a call from Mr. Brennan earlier this week shed little light on the current investigations, according to people present at his briefing. The official said Mr. Brennan offered little but platitudes about the value of the trans-Atlantic alliance and expressed frustration about the bad press, according to the account.

This won’t do. The National Security Agency apparently has at least 150 listening sites in Germany. U.S. intelligence services have also been trying to suborn German officials to turn over secret documents, including, apparently, the results of an investigation into NSA spying itself in Germany.

Ever since Edward Snowden decamped to Moscow, floods of documents that he’s released have indicated that Germany is a prime target of American espionage. The weekly Der Spiegel referred to the American embassy in Berlin as a “nest of spies.” The rooftop of the embassy seems to have been converted into a listening post. Yes, spying goes on all the time between nations. Germans spy as well. But it’s the sheer extent of American efforts that’s causing Germans to rub their eyes in disbelief. They have the feeling that they remain a nation under suspicion. The spying is prompting Germans, already wary of what they regard as American militarism, to reassess the value of ties to America. As I note in the Los Angeles Times today, they tend to see the U.S. as a rogue state that poses more of a threat to global security than either Russia or Iran.

The roots of this antipathy to the U.S. rest in . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Obama may not be in control of the intelligence agencies. When Obama spoke with Merkel over a week ago, he apparently had not been told by the CIA that the Germans had nabbed an American spy working for their Bundesnachrichtendienst, or federal intelligence service. Was anyone punished for this lapse? At a minimum, Obama should have called Brennan on the carpet. Depending on the extent of the CIA’s follies, Obama may have to consider firing Brennan. Once again the issue of Obama’s competence in running the federal government is at issue.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 1:16 pm

The Pope and the Pederasts

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Garry Wills is always worth reading, and he has an excellent article in the NY Review of Books:

Pope Francis has acted fast on his preferred issues—poverty and economic justice. Nothing in that to criticize. He has been slower—too slow, say some—to deal with the long-festering problem of sex abuse by priests. He has at last taken some of the steps people were calling for—see victims and apologize to them, authorize a panel to study the problem, promise reforms that will prevent a recurrence of these crimes. OK so far—but Pope Benedict had begun all that before him.

Why did Francis hesitate to continue what was already being done? Is it because all these things are beside the point? Very likely, they are. Without addressing structural issues in the Vatican, meaningful action to restore trust in the priesthood and church authority cannot get far. There are four such interlocking problems:

1. Celibacy. Yes, celibacy does not directly and of itself lead to sexual predation. There are many unmarried men and women who are not predators. But Catholic celibacy is not simply an unmarried state. It is a mandatory and exclusive requirement for holding all significant offices in the Church. This sets up a sexual caste system that limits vision, empathy, and honesty. It enables church rulers to be blithely at odds with the vast majority of their own people. According to a 2011 Guttmacher Institute study, 98 percent of American Catholic women of child-bearing age have had sex—and, of that 98 percent, 99 percent have used or will use some form of contraception. Yet celibate priests tell us they know what sex is really about (by their expertise in “natural law”), and in their view it absolutely precludes birth control. There is an induced infantilism in such cloistered minds, an ignorance that poses as innocence. This prevents honesty at so many levels that any trust on sexual matters begins in a crippled state, handicapping all treatment of sexual predation in the Church.

2. Homophobia. Pope Francis is often hailed for asking, “Who am I to judge” gay men. The New Yorker headlined its comment on this question (by the estimable Alexander Stille), “Francis Redefines the Papacy.” Hardly. He was speaking within a specific context, after being asked about gay priests in the Vatican (the so-called “gay lobby”). He said, “We must make the distinction between the fact of a person being gay and the fact of a lobby, because lobbies are not good. They are bad. If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge that person?” But accepting the Lord in the modern priesthood means following the rule of recent popes that homosexuality is morally “disordered” and may not be acted on. He was saying that gay priests who do not have gay sex should not be judged.

This is no great advance on the old “hate the sin, love the sinner” line that homophobes regularly use. There are many gay priests, some who remain celibate, some who don’t. The fact that they have to hide their “disorder” does not mean they are not being judged. If they felt they were not being judged, they would not be hiding. Now, when Catholics are agreeing with their fellow Americans that being gay is not a disgrace, and marrying is a gay right, the Vatican cannot even get into the conversation, much less lead it in a useful way.

3. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 11:50 am

Posted in Religion

Why is the government so inept at investigation?

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The eruption of the VA scandals showed clearly that the government does a poor job of investigating its programs. And now Medicare has been found to simply accept large-scale fraud, seemingly making no effort whatsoever to detect and punish fraud—until newspapers write stories about it. Charles Ornstein has an infuriating article in ProPublica:

The fraud scheme began to unravel last fall, with the discovery of a misdirected stack of bogus prescriptions — and a suspicious spike in Medicare drug spending tied to a doctor in Key Biscayne, Fla.

Now it’s led to two guilty pleas, as well as an ongoing criminal case against a pharmacy owner.

Last year, ProPublica chronicled how lax oversight had led to rampant waste and fraud in Medicare’s prescription drug program, known as Part D. As part of that series, we wrote about Dr. Carmen Ortiz-Butcher, a kidney specialist whose Part D prescriptions soared from $282,000 in 2010 to $4 million the following year. The value of her prescriptions rose to nearly $5 million in 2012, the most recent year available.

But no one in Medicare bothered to ask her about the seemingly huge change in her practice, Ortiz-Butcher’s attorney said. She stumbled across a sign of trouble last September, after asking a staffer to mail a fanny pack to her brother. But instead of receiving the pack, he received a package of prescriptions purportedly signed by the doctor, lawyer Robert Mayer said last year. Ortiz-Butcher immediately alerted authorities.

Since then, investigators have uncovered a web of interrelated scams that, together, cost the federal government up to $7 million, documents show.

In February, the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida charged Maria De Armas Suero, who had been a secretary at Ortiz-Butcher’s Island Clinic from March 2011 to September 2013, with 11 counts of conspiracy, fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Suero subsequently agreed to plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy and identity theft. In a recounting of her wrongdoing, called a factual proffer, she acknowledged using Ortiz-Butcher’s paper prescriptions to “create fraudulent scripts for numerous Medicare beneficiaries…The prescriptions falsely represented that the Medicare beneficiary was seen by [Ortiz-Butcher] and that the listed prescriptions were medically necessary.”

Suero acknowledged that she was paid $100 for each prescription she generated. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 11:45 am

NSA continues its pattern of simply lying to the public, joined by the White House

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Apparently the US government now accepts lying as a standard procedure: there seems to be no feeling that being truthful with the public—the governed—is important, and telling flat-out lies is completely accepted as NSA procedure, with no sanctions applied (even, as in the case of James Clapper, lying while under oath). Unfortunately, the result is whole distrust of the government: people tend not to trust those who lie to them, particularly if the lying is habitual.

Glenn Greenwald reports at The Intercept:

On July 20, 2013, agents of the U.K. government entered The Guardian newsroom in London and compelled them to physically destroy the computers they were using to report on the Edward Snowden archive. The Guardian reported this a month later after my partner, David Miranda, was detained at Heathrow Airport for 11 hours under a British terrorism law and had all of his electronic equipment seized. At the time, the Obama administration—while admitting that it was told in advance of the Heathrow detention—pretended that it knew nothing about the forced laptop destruction and would never approve of such attacks on press freedom. From the August 20, 2013, press briefing by then-deputy White House press secretary Josh Earnest:

Q: A last one on the NSA—The Guardian newspaper, following on everything that was discussed yesterday—The Guardian is saying that British authorities destroyed several hard drives, because they wanted to keep secrets that Edward Snowden had leaked from actually getting out. They were stored in The Guardian‘s—they had some hard drives there at their offices. British authorities went in there and destroyed these hard drives. Did the American government get a heads up about that the way you did about the person being detained?

MR. EARNEST: I’ve seen the published reports of those accusations, but I don’t have any information for you on that.

Q: And does the U.S. government think it’s appropriate for a government, especially one of our allies, to go in and destroy hard drives? Is that something this administration would do?

MR. EARNEST: The only thing I know about this are the public reports about this, so it’s hard for me to evaluate the propriety of what they did based on incomplete knowledge of what happened.

Q: But this administration would not do that, would not go into an American media company and destroy hard drives, even if it meant trying to protect national security, you don’t think?

MR. EARNEST: It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate.

But emails just obtained by Associated Press pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) prove that senior Obama national security officials— including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and then-NSA chief Keith Alexander—not only knew in advance that U.K. officials intended to force The Guardian to destroy their computers, but overtly celebrated it.

One email, dated July 19 (the day prior to the destruction) bears the subject line “Guardian data being destroyed” and is from NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett to Alexander. He writes: “Good news, at least on this front.” The next day, almost immediately after the computers were destroyed, Alexander emailed Ledgett: ”Can you confirm this actually occurred?” Hours later, under the same subject line, Clapper emailed Alexander, saying: “Thanks Keith … appreciate the conversation today”.

It’s hardly surprising that the Obama Administration was fully informed in advance: It’s virtually inconceivable that notoriously subservient London officials would ever take any meaningful action without the advance knowledge and permission of their Washington overseers. There are, however, several notable points from these new disclosures:

Continue reading. Greenwald points out more instances of outright lies made to the public by NSA and the Obama Administration.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 11:24 am

Mulling over book changes

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I’m doing the section of shaving brushes, and I do see the validity of a criticism some have made: it’s too much like showing off my own personal collection, which is not so interesting to others as it is to me (cf. vacation photos—and a wonderful example my mother once told me about: the Roy Rogers museum, which at the time (he was still alive) seem to consist in part of things he had but no longer used, such as all his old wrist watches. So I’m looking skeptically at all the brush photos and lists.

My thought is to cut it back to the facts of interest about the particular brush type (synthetic, horse, boar, or badger) and list some recommended brands and perhaps even a few brushes of particular interest—though with horsehair brushes, I don’t identify any specific model.

Because I’m not rushing toward a deadline, I have the time to reflect on the text as I go. And this section seems to require some serious pruning.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 10:59 am

Posted in Shaving

New blade solves problem, perhaps—and a terrific boar brush

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SOTD 11 July 2014

A very good shave overall, with no nicks but one small cut, which did not occur while actually shaving. It happened when I placed the head of the razor on my face, above and to the right of my upper lip, and I set the razor down at such an angle that the (new) blade simply cut me slightly. The blade did not move, just pressed down lightly, but at a bad angle. I felt it, too. Thank heavens for My Nik Is Sealed, which stopped it immediately.

But in the shave itself, no nicks of any type, not even on the XTG pass around my mouth, which is where I usually get them. I am now thinking that Lab Blues go bad as they age, and become rebellious. I am going to start replacing the blade after the second shave. Let’s see if that works.

The Vie-Long boar brush shown, once sold by BullgooseShaving.com as the Bombito, is really a terrific brush. Relatively fine boar bristles, to the extent that for a long time I thought it must be a horsehair brush. It worked up an instant good lather from my Klar Seifen soap. (Sorry about lid orientation…)

Three passes with no nicks, but one small cut prior to a pass. My Nik Is Sealed took care of it, and a good splash of Hâttric finished a fine shave. Result: BBS face.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2014 at 7:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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