Later On

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

Archive for July 18th, 2014

Roundup-ready GMO corn causes serious health damage

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Perhaps GMO foods are not so benign after all—particularly if the genetic modification was to allow the food crop to survive being sprayed and coated with highly toxic herbicides, such as Roundup. Oliver Tickell reports in The Ecologist:

A scientific study that identified serious health impacts on rats fed on ‘Roundup ready’ GMO maize has been republished following its controversial retraction under strong commercial pressure. Now regulators must respond and review GMO and agro-chemical licenses, and licensing procedures.

A highly controversial paper by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues has been republished after a stringent peer review process.

The chronic toxicity study examines the health impacts on rats of eating a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto’s NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.

The original study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012, found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU.

However it was retracted by the editor-in-chief of the Journal in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists.

Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.

Criticisms addressed in the new version

Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication.

The raw data underlying the study’s findings are also published – unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.

The republished study is accompanied by . . .

Continue reading.

Monsanto will fight this to the bitter end. Monsanto really doesn’t care whether the foods are damaging to the body; Monsanto is striving purely to make sure profits grow.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 9:12 pm

Almost 90 Percent of All US Wiretaps Listen for Suspected Drug Deals

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So if we legalize drugs, we’ll immediately cut way back on surveillance of citizens. And studies have shown that making the drugs illegal, though extremely costly (DEA, corruption, prisons, deaths, wiretaps, etc.), has no real effect on consumption. We’re spending billions we can ill afford on a fool’s errand.

Brian Anderson reports on the wiretaps in Motherboard:

Earlier this year, a joint US-Mexico wiretap investigation netted the world’s top drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, after American agents in Arizona intercepted a mobile phone owned by the son of one of Chapo’s closest confidantes. It was a huge catch—Chapo, the elusive head of the globe-spanning Sinaloa cartel, had been on the run for 13 years.

But that was merely one eavesdrop in the bucket of narcotics-based wiretaps carried out in the US in 2013, during which the bulk of the surveillance that ultimately led to Chapo’s arrest actually went down. According to a new Administrative Office of US Courts report, wiretaps not only hit an all-time high in 2013, the most recent year for which we have data on law enforcement wiretaps. The overwhelming majority, nearly 90 percent, listened for suspected narcotics dealings.

The report breaks down the various shades and hotspots of authorized wiretap surveillance on electronic, oral, and wire communicatons in the US. All told, federal and state judges greenlit 3,576 wiretaps last year, according to the report. That’s only a five percent bump over 2012, to be sure. Compare that to a decade ago, however, when domestic law enforcement carried out about half as many wiretaps as today, and it’s clear that agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration are taking more and more after the Central Intelligence and National Security Agencies when it comes to spying.

wiretaps

But the real kicker is in what crimes, exactly, all these wiretaps were out for. Of all the criminal offenses investigated using wiretaps, as seen in the above chart, illegal drug offenses were far and away most prevalent. “Narcotics” constituted a whopping 3,115 of the 3,576 total wiretaps, followed by “other major offenses” (including smuggling and money laundering), homicide, and kidnapping, which was the subject of one wiretap.

No, I am not kidding. “Kidnapping” got a single wiretap last year. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 7:18 pm

An interview with Greenwald on NBC shutting down reporter who witnessed the killing of the four Palestinian children on the beach

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Here is some background, which I blogged yesterday:

Glenn Greenwald’s report in The Intercept on NBC’s actions

Democracy Now!‘s interview with the reporter, Tyler Hicks, after he was pulled from Gaza by NBC

And Democracy Now! has a video interview (with transcript at the link) with Glenn Greenwald about this incident. Their blurb:

NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull veteran news correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza just after he personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach. Mohyeldin was kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He is a longtime reporter in the region. In his coverage, he reports on the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Back in 2008 and 2009, when he worked for Al Jazeera, Mohyeldin and his colleague Sherine Tadros were the only foreign journalists on the ground in Gaza as Israel killed 1,400 people in what it called “Operation Cast Lead.” We speak to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who has revealed that the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation came from NBC executive David Verdi. Greenwald also comments on the broader picture of the coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the U.S. media.

All three of the articles at the link are worth reading and raise serious questions about Israel’s actual goal in this conflict.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

The class problem in feminism

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Another very interesting article in Pacific Standard (and again, right now in Firefox you have to scroll past several screens of links), this one by Nicole Woo:

The Nation recently sparked a robust discussion with its incisive online conversation, “Does Feminism Have a Class Problem?” The panelists addressed the “Lean In” phenomenon, articulating how and why Sheryl Sandberg’s focus on self-improvement—rather than structural barriers and collective action to overcome them—angered quite a few feminists on the left.

While women of different economic backgrounds face many different realities, they also share similar work-life balance struggles. In that vein, the discussants argue that expanding family-friendly workplace policies—which would improve the lives of working women up and down the economic ladder—could help bridge the feminist class divide.

A growing body of research indicates that there are few other interventions that improve the economic prospects and work-life balance of women workers as much as unions do. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which I co-authored with my colleagues Janelle Jones and John Schmitt, shows just how much of a boost unions give to working women’s pay, benefits, and workplace flexibility.

For example, all else being equal, women in unions earn an average of 13 percent—that’s about $2.50 per hour—more than their non-union counterparts. In other words, unionization can raise a woman’s pay as much as a full year of college does. Unions also help move us closer to equal pay: A study by the National Women’s Law Center determined that the gender pay gap for union workers is only half of what it is for those not in unions.

Unionized careers tend to come with better health and retirement benefits, too. CEPR finds that women in unions are 36 percent more likely to have health insurance through their jobs—and a whopping 53 percent more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Unions also support working women at those crucial times when they need time off to care for themselves or their families. Union workplaces are 16 percent more likely to allow medical leave and 21 percent more likely to offer paid sick leave. Companies with unionized employees are also 22 percent more likely to allow parental leave, 12 percent more likely to offer pregnancy leave, and 19 percent more likely to let their workers take time off to care for sick family members.

Women make up almost half of the union workforce and are on track to be in the majority by 2025. As women are overrepresented in the low-wage jobs that are being created in this precarious economy—they are 56.4 percent of low-wage workers and over half of fast food workers—unions are leading and supporting many of the campaigns to improve their situations. In an important sense, the union movement already is a women’s movement.

Education and skills can get women only so far. It’s a conundrum that women have surpassed men when it comes to formal schooling, yet women have made little progress catching up on pay. Many women who do everything right—getting more education and skills—still find themselves with low wages and no benefits. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 11:02 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Unions

Comics as a subject of academic study

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Very interesting article by Kim O’Connor in Pacific Standard, though at the link you must scroll down a lot, past a lot of other Pacific Standard links. (This happens on Chrome, not on Firefox, and I’ve called—they just made a lot of updates, so they will probably fix this fast.) Once you finally get to the article, it begins:

Comics scholar Hillary Chute has a curious origin story. Once an unassuming graduate student in New Jersey, her life changed forever when Art Spiegelman saw an obscure Web piece she had written and invited her to a party. Soon thereafter he asked her to collaborate on MetaMaus, the companion book to his Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel. It turned out to be the first of many unconventional working relationships Chute has enjoyed with practicing cartoonists like Alison Bechdel.

Since 2005, the year she met Spiegelman, Chute has interviewed cartoonists for outlets like the Village Voice and the Believer in parallel with her academic work. Her new book, Outside the Box (University of Chicago Press, 2014), collects 11 of those conversations. She also just co-edited a special comics-centric issue of Critical Inquiry (“academe’s most prestigious theory journal,” per the New York Times). It is probably the only academic publication to date that features cover art by R. Crumb.

Of course, comics haven’t always been the objects of “serious” criticism. Not so long ago, Maus was one of the few graphic texts considered respectable enough to teach in higher-ed classrooms. Over the last 10 years, the field of comics studies has been expanding very, very rapidly, with English departments embracing everything from mass-produced superhero fare to the groundbreaking comics journalism of Joe Sacco. At the same time, cartooning as a practice has become more institutionalized. Underground heroes like Ivan Brunetti have day jobs as art department faculty members, and there is at least one dedicated degree-granting facility, The Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont.

In May 2012, Chute assembled 17 of the world’s most famous cartoonists for a conference, “Comics: Philosophy and Practice,” at the University of Chicago, where she works as an English professor. At the time, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 10:44 am

Posted in Art, Books, Education

President Obama turns down joint, consumes more dangerous drug

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Boy, talk about teaching the wrong lesson! Alcohol is much more harmful than marijuana, and yet Obama (when in Colorado, where marijuana is legal) turned down a joint in favor of a beer.

Check out this article by German Lopez, which contains many interesting and useful graphs, such as:

drugdeaths

And this one:

deadly_traffic_accidents_while_under_the_influence

And watch this 4-minute video for a quick rundown of how Federal policy regarding marijuana, though extremely expensive, makes no sense whatsoever:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 9:06 am

How the West Chose War in Gaza

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In a NY Times column Nathan Thrall brings up an interesting point that is seldom discussed in American media: why did Hamas launch the (highly ineffective) rocket attacks on Israel.

AS Hamas fires rockets at Israeli cities and Israel follows up its extensive airstrikes with a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the most immediate cause of this latest war has been ignored: Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian “national consensus” government that was formed in early June.

That government was created largely because of Hamas’s desperation and isolation. The group’s alliance with Syria and Iran was in shambles. Its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt became a liability after a July 2013 coup replaced an ally, President Mohamed Morsi, with a bitter adversary, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Hamas’s coffers dried up as General Sisi closed the tunnels that had brought to Gaza the goods and tax revenues on which it depended.

Seeing a region swept by popular protests against leaders who couldn’t provide for their citizens’ basic needs, Hamas opted to give up official control of Gaza rather than risk being overthrown. Despite having won the last elections, in 2006, Hamas decided to transfer formal authority to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. That decision led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, on terms set almost entirely by the P.L.O. chairman and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza under the new one, and the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt that bar most Gazans’ passage to the outside world.

Yet, in many ways, the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests. It offered Hamas’s political adversaries a foothold in Gaza; it was formed without a single Hamas member; it retained the same Ramallah-based prime minister, deputy prime ministers, finance minister and foreign minister; and, most important, it pledged to comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel.

Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 8:58 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Hypercompetitive corporations cut costs by not training workers

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Because corporations focus totally on growing profits, they have an equally intense focus on cutting costs: every dollar cut from costs drops straight to the bottom line as pure profit. Thus corporations try to avoid clean-up costs (thus the Superfund sites: corporations put those costs on taxpayers), no longer care much about the communities around them, and have stripped training from their budgets, in effect demanding that training costs be borne by others—the taxpayers, most often, through community college training programs, but also their own employees, who must pay out of their own pockets for training. The corporation wants all the benefits, but none of the costs.

Lauren Weber writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Hu-Friedy, a manufacturer of dental instruments in Chicago, says its future hinges on four employees. So, it is paying them to leave their jobs for two years.

While their colleagues bend and grind cylinders of steel on the factory floor, the four workers since March have been mastering the fundamentals of metal composition and heat-treating, among other things. The hope, managers say, is that the two years of full-time training will help keep the 106-year-old dental-instruments maker competitive in a mature industry crowded with rivals.

What’s happening at Hu-Friedy Mfg. Co. LLC is a rare exception to decades of corporate disinvestment in skills development, and gets at the heart of the debate playing out in the hiring market over whose job it is to train workers.

Companies complain that they can’t find skilled hires, but they aren’t doing much to impart those skills, economists and workforce experts say. U.S. companies have been cutting money for training programs for decades, expecting schools and workers to pick up the slack. Economists say that reluctance to develop workers in-house has made it hard for workers to launch or sustain careers, resulting in a stalemate in the labor market: Companies won’t look at job candidates who lack a specific skill set, so openings go unfilled even as millions linger on the unemployment rolls.

The government hasn’t tracked spending on corporate training since the mid-1990s, but one rough measure, the percentage of staffers at U.S. manufacturers dedicated to training and development, has fallen by about half from 2006 to 2013, according to research group Bersin by Deloitte.

Employers’ expectations for new hires have shifted since the recessions of the early 1980s, when companies laid off masses of workers and slashed training programs. Where bosses once hired for potential, viewing workers as lumps of clay to be molded to the company’s needs, they now want hires to arrive with all or most of the skills needed for the job—another symptom of how the employer-employee relationship has become reduced to a transaction, said Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

If employers “want only people who can step in immediately because they are currently doing the job, [they] narrow the pool to almost no one,” said Mr. Cappelli. He added that today’s novices are more likely to briefly shadow an experienced worker or log a few hours of on-the-job training than participate in a weekslong learning program. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 8:49 am

Interesting pattern of how the military handles unpleasant facts

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From an article by Dan Lamothe in the Washington Post on how facts are skewed when airliners are shot down:

On July 3, 1988, a helicopter from the USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser, came under fire from Iranian gunboats while over the Persian Gulf. Seeing an aircraft speeding their way, the ship’s crew opened fire with two surface-to-air missiles — and brought down a commercial jet, Iran Air Flight 655, carrying 290 people. Navy officials said the Vincennes crew thought it was an Iranian fighter jet, and a threat to their safety.

As outlined in The Washington Post the next day, the Pentagon at first denied Iranian accusations that the Navy had shot down an airliner. Within hours, however, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., said the United States had confirmed the incident.

Even then, Crowe moved quickly to to back the skipper of the ship, Capt. William C. Rogers III. He said the Airbus had flown four miles west of the usual commercial airline route, that the pilot ignored repeated radio warnings from the Vincennes to change course, and that its altitude was decreasing as it got closer. U.S. officials also said repeatedly the ship was in international waters, which would put the Iranians in the wrong for opening fire on the ship in the first place.

Few of those details turned out to be true. The Vincennes and helicopter were actually in Iranian waters and airspace, subsequent investigations found. ABC News, among others, later reported that the plane actually was flying where it should have been and had already turned away from the Vincennes when it was shot down. U.S. officials also said the helicopter that came under fire was checking on a vessel that had issued a distress call, but later investigations show the ship did not exist.

And of course the US Navy still has not acknowledged that a missile brought down TWA 800 over Long Island Sound in 1996, apparently fired during a training exercise. (US Navy ships fled the scene immediately after the airliner was shot down rather remaining to offer help and assistance.)

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 8:34 am

Posted in Military

One grandson welcomes his brother

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I thought you would enjoy this photo. The young man in the chair, one of my grandsons, is holding for the first time one of his twin baby brothers.

Grandson holding his brother

As you can see, he’s excited.

He also eats well. Here’s a typical lunch that he takes to his daycare center:

Grandson lunch

Contents:

Tofu wit wheat germ
Kale & turnip greens Korean style
Hard boiled egg
Sliced strawberries
Whole grain & white rice balls with seaweed & sesame seeds
Cheese stick
Graham crackers
Gold fish
Chex mix

A growing boy. Think how much he will be eating in high school.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 8:19 am

Posted in Daily life

Not shaving: no fun

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It’s odd that I miss shaving so much: I wore a beard for about 30 years, and yet now that I enjoy shaving, going several days without having a shave is no fun. It’s not merely lacking a smooth face, it’s that I miss the activity: the ritual of selecting brush, shaving soap, razor, and aftershave; the prep, where I take my time and enjoy the fragrance and feel of lathering; then paying attention to each pass of the razor; and finally splashing on the aftershave. I enjoy all that, and to go without removes a pleasurable morning interlude.

But it’s all for science, and Monday I’ll be shaving with the Stealth to see whether it can handle a 5-day stubble efficiently. (Some have doubts.) For one pass I might also use a 37C on part of my face to test its efficiency, as well.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2014 at 8:11 am

Posted in Shaving

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