Later On

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

Archive for September 2014

At least NFL prospects now know their odds: 76 of 79 deceased NFL players’ brains had evidence of degenerative disease

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From The Verge:

New data from the United States’ largest repository of human brain samples has shown that an overwhelming majority of NFL players who submitted their brains for analysis after their death suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The Department of Veterans Affairs’ brain repository, based in Massachusetts, found that 76 of 79 former pro players had evidence of the condition, which can be caused by repeated head trauma.

The findings came as part of a wider study in which the department examined the brains of 128 deceased football players who had played the game at professional, semi-professional, college, or high school level. It found that even in the brains of those that had played at lower standards, the rate of CTE was high — of the 128 players, 101 tested positive for the disease. The brain condition is caused when blows to the head cause the production of tau, a protein that manifests as dense tangles around the brain’s normal cells and blood vessels. The degenerative condition can cause depression and fits of rage among its sufferers, and confusion, memory loss, and dementia later in life. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 8:23 pm

The President’s protection is fraying badly

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Part of the shield that surrounds and protects the President is the common conviction that the shield is very tough and almost impossible to penetrate. But then we read:

A security contractor with a gun and three prior convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

And a guy just ran into the White House through a front door. And it’s been established that one can fire multiple shots at the White House with a rifle and not be detected.

At some point, a crazy or a fanatic is going to think he can get through the shield because it clearly has enormous holes.

UPDATE: Do you get the feeling that President Obama gets less respect (Gov. Jan Brewer shaking her finger in his face) and less protection than other presidents? I wonder why that might be.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 2:34 pm

If the NFL takes on the power, it also gets the responsibility

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

The actual dangers of Peak Oil, explained—and they’re here

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Kevin Drum has a brief post that does a good job.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Truly bizarre story (and person), but well told

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Somewhat lengthy but fascinating. It seems obvious to me that this guy has a fairly serious personality disorder (or combination of them).

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Books, Business

Interesting example of how reality trumps mere belief

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In the financial world. Very clear description, and the apologia that Krugman links to shows to what lengths people will go to somehow sustain at least a semblance of their earlier beliefs, even after reality has flatly contradicted the beliefs.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Business, Science

Okay shave: Blade should have been changed

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It’s sort of interesting to see what a difference a slightly dull blade makes. I used a Gillette Rubie that should have been changed after the previous shave. I had to work on the rough patches and even then the blade just no longer had a sufficient edge. The razor now has a new SuperMax Platinum for my next shave.

I used the Wet Shaving Products Prince brush and (once again) Strop Shoppe’s SE Black Tie with tallow. Instant great (and lasting) lather, three passes with my Apollo Mikron, and a splash of Fine’s Clear Vetiver. And my new computer is due tomorrow, so photos will resume on Thursday.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2014 at 8:45 am

Posted in Shaving

Dinner tonight will be lamb

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I am making Lamb Shanks Beatrice, and my! haven’t lamb shanks become dear? $8/shank at my supermarket, but they are good shanks—sold individually these days (at those prices) rather than in pairs.

Four slices of bacon really provides very little in the way of bacon fat, so I added 1 Tbsp from my stash. I used 1 lb of fresh Roma tomatoes (no BPA, which you find in canned tomatoes), and I happened to have fresh rosemary, so I used 3 sprigs of that (in a bouquet garni bag) rather than dried. I used about 8-10 cloves of garlic, not the measly 3 of the recipe.

Lemon juice: 1/4 cup was how it turned out. Probably 3 anchovy fillets. No Worcestershire sauce—I’ve not made it myself for a while, and I can’t use the commercial stuff (HFCS). So I substituted Red Boat Fish Sauce: same thing, an anchovy sauce.

No red pepper (The Wife cannot tolerate it these days), In the original recipe, as I recall, the mushrooms were quartered and added in the last 45 minutes. Nowadays I chop the mushrooms smaller (which The Wife prefers: she’s one who prefers that food in general not look like itself), and I add them at the beginning to relieve the strain on memory. (George Burns used with comic effect the serious advice that, with a heart condition, he should wear his coat rather than carry it—my method is the memory equivalent.)

I’m using the oven method and it is (finally) simmering well. It does take a long time before the meat falls from the bones, but it’s worth it. A wonderful dinner in cold, windy, rainy weather, which (alas) we do not have. But it is the end of September.

Originally this was served over buttered egg noodles, or orzo, or rice, or the like, with a good crusty bread and a green salad and robust red wine. We’ll skip the carbs, but have the salad and wine (a Ravenswood Zinfandel).

The original recipe is from The Copper Kettle Cookbook, the Copper Kettle being a Colorado restaurant. This is a stand-by recipe, repeated year after year.

UPDATE: I did the 300ºF oven, and I would say definitely 4.5 hours at least. When it’s done, you can just grab the bones with tongs and pull the bones right out, the meat falling off into the stew.

UPDATE 2: I should mention that I have frequently made the recipe using only two lamb shanks, but keeping all other ingredients at the same quantity. That works well.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 4:39 pm

I believe this falls under the heading of “dumb insolence”

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Hong Kong: What if everyone in Tiananmen Square had been carrying a smartphone?

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Interesting post on The Verge. It begins:

What if everyone in Tiananmen Square had been carrying a smartphone? Among civil society groups, it’s a common question, and one with far-reaching implications. Would technology make the people’s movement stronger or easier to control? Does interconnection strengthen a crowd or distract it?

This weekend in Hong Kong, we’re finding out. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Politics, Technology

Why we don’t trust law enforcement: They constantly lie

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See the previous post—and do click that link and read that story: whether you’re conservative or liberal, it’s bound to make your blood boil—and then read this post on the Secret Service simply lying about what happened. The Secret Service cannot even tell whether the White House has been fired upon, so perhaps the inability to speak the truth is just another instance of their disengagement from reality.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 2:51 pm

Police criminality protected by judgee rep

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Radley Balko’s column “The Watch” in the Washington Post is worth subscribing to. (It has its own RSS feed.) A story today shows the degree to which police are not accountable regardless of their actions or the evidence. What’s going on? Some sort of weird “professional courtesy”?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

Bacteriophage Boom

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Jyoti Madhusoodanan has an interesting article at The Scientist:

 

The search for alternatives to antibiotics has led many scientists to a treatment practice that’s been on the fringes of modern medicine for nearly a century. Bacteriophages—viruses that infect and kill bacteria—were first used in 1919 to treat a wide range of infections.

Phage therapy fell out of favor with the advent of antibiotics; the practice has only persisted in some European countries as an experimental treatment. However, earlier this year, phage therapy was highlighted as one of seven approaches to “achieving a coordinated and nimble approach to addressing antibacterial resistance threats” in a 2014 status report from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Classically, the treatment uses a bacteriophage, or cocktail of several phages, to specifically lyse target pathogenic bacteria. Researchers and biotech companies continue to refine this method, but in the absence of clear regulatory and manufacturing practices—and potential profits—phage therapy has yet to become mainstream for “the same reason many big companies have gotten out of making new antibiotics,” said microbiologist Jason Gill of Texas A&M University. “The development costs are the same as for any other drug, but the profits are not as high as you might make from a new kind of [cholesterol] drug.”

Still, other scientists have honed in on the bactericidal enzymes or tactics used by phages to identify potential small-molecule antibacterial drugs. And beyond human medicine, phage therapies have been successfully commercialized for use in farms and on food products. Their success—or failure—in these other applications hint at the road ahead for clinical phage therapy.

“All [phages] do is interact with and parasitize the bacteria, so we can learn from them exactly how they do this, and identify a number of different Achilles’ heels of the bacteria,” said microbiologist Raymond Schuch of Rockefeller University in New York City.

First on farms

Renewed interest in phage therapy is due in part to the growing problems posed by antibiotic overuse in the clinic, which has escalated microbial resistance. But even when antibiotics are overprescribed, most people only receive doses in response to illness.

On farms, however, small amounts of antibiotics are routinely used to promote animal growth or prevent disease outbreaks; the practice has been linked to long-term changes to animals’ commensal microbiomes, increased transfer of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from animals to farmworkers, and potential risks to human health. Recent governmental initiatives to curb antibiotic use have largely overlooked their use on farms. But a small number of phage-based alternatives are now available from Maryland-based biotech Intralytix, which manufactures sprays that target Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli O157:H7 in foods and food-processing facilities.

“To get phages approved for food safety uses wasn’t actually very difficult,” said Gill, who is not involved with the company. “Maybe the regulatory issues [with clinical use] won’t be as big a hurdle as we think but it’s not something we know much about right now.”

Scientific clarity—understanding why and how to design phage treatments—is a higher priority, according to Gill. In a 2006 Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy study, he and his colleagues attempted to use phages to treat bovine mastitis caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a growing concern in the dairy industry. However, only 16 percent of cows treated were cured. High phage concentrations in milk up to 36 hours after treatment also suggested that the virus was being inactivated or destroyed within the gland. “Not every bacterial infection is going to be equally successfully treated with phage therapy,” said Gill.

The work highlights one of its many quirks: viruses that look like efficient killers in experiments can . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 11:47 am

Feds Instructed Police To Lie About Using Stingray Mobile Phone Snooping

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One reason that we do not trust the police, the FBI, and Federal government is that they are not trustworthy. Here’s a report of how the FBI asked the police to lie to the public:

We’ve been covering the increasingly widespread use of Stingray or similar mobile phone tower spoofing equipment by law enforcement. The stories have been getting increasingly bizarre lately, starting with the news that police were claiming that non-disclosure agreements prevented them from getting a warrant to use the technology. And then, there was the recent news that the federal government was regularly stepping in to claim ownership of documents related to the technology (even when it’s used by local police) in order to block them from being obtained under Freedom of Information laws. Just this morning, we wrote about some new evidence that police are claiming they need these devices to stop “weapons of mass destruction,” though they then just use them to spy on people suspected of everyday crimes instead.

Late last night, the ACLU came out with perhaps the most explosive information so far: a set of internal police emails showing that the US Marshals have been instructing police to lie to courts about the use of such devices. Specifically, rather than revealing the use of the tool, they’re told to just tell the court they got the information from a “confidential source.” While affidavits may initially note the use of such a device, the police are told to submit a new affidavit after the factwithout mentioning the Stingray, and seal the old one, so that it never becomes public. The key parts of the email are highlighted below:

Fed liesThis is highly questionable. Just to repeat: this is the federal government loaning out equipment to spoof mobile phone towers to spy on people and then instructing (practically demanding) that the police hide or suppress this information by claiming that it came from a “confidential source” and by sealing any affidavits that accidentally mention the use of the equipment. As the ACLU notes this practice “deprives defendants of their right to challenge unconstitutional surveillance .” It also seems like a fairly straightforward due process violation. This even goes beyond “parallel construction” in which illegal surveillance is concealed by “recreating” it in other ways. In this case, you have illegally obtained evidence… and then police are just told to lie to the court about it.

This is stunningly bad.

As some legal experts are quick to note,

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 11:02 am

Comparison shave: Stealth and Merkur white bakelite slant

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The two razors are VERY similar. The Stealth’s cap is a bit more pronounced, but that is the only difference I noticed in the head. (Handles are obviously different, but of course handles can be swapped.)

I made a superb lather instantly with Martin de Candre shaving soap and a Mühle silvertip badger brush: no messing around, no fading lather, just thick lathery goodness in about 5 seconds.

I shaved the right half of my face with the Stealth (holding a Personna Lab Blue blade) and left with the white bakelite slant (holding a Kai blade). I really could not detect any significant differences in terms of the feel of the shave, though I know that some have said the two are distinctly different. Not for me.

A splash of Fine’s Clean Vetiver, and day after tomorrow I get my new computer…

Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2014 at 10:40 am

Posted in Shaving

“Best medical system in the world”: ER physicians are now independent contractors and do not accept insurance

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The US developed a medical system that uses the free market to resolve problems, rather than socialistic single-payer system (as in, say, France). The US approach has some serious problems if you need to go to the ER. But probably the invisible hand of the market will fix that. /sarcasm

UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a good post on this.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2014 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Business, Healthcare

How Israel Silences Dissent

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Israel seems to be in the process of becoming a highly authoritarian state that depends heavily on force. Mairav Zonszein writes in the NY Times:

On July 12, four days after the latest war in Gaza began, hundreds of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv to protest the killing of civilians on both sides and call for an end to the siege of Gaza and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. They chanted, “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies.”

Hamas had warned that it would fire a barrage of rockets at centralIsrael after 9 p.m., and it did.

But the injuries suffered in Tel Aviv that night stemmed not from rocket fire but from a premeditated assault by a group of extremist Israeli Jews. Chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Death to leftists,” they attacked protesters with clubs. Although several demonstrators were beaten and required medical attention, the police made no arrests.

The same thing happened at another antiwar protest in Haifa a week later; this time, the victims included the city’s deputy mayor, Suhail Assad, and his son. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made no statement condemning the violence, even though he had previously stated his primary concern was the safety of Israeli citizens.

The vilification of the few Israelis who don’t subscribe to right-wing doctrine is not new. Similar acts of incitement occurred before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. But now they have multiplied, escalated and spread.

On July 10, the veteran Israeli actress Gila Almagor did not show up to perform at Tel Aviv’s Habima Theater; she had received threats that she would be murdered on stage. In an interview in the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot a few days earlier, she had expressed feeling ashamed after a 16-year old Palestinian, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, was kidnapped and burned alive by Jewish extremists.

In an interview during the Gaza war, the popular comedian Orna Banai said she felt terrible that Palestinian women and children were being killed — she was subsequently fired from her position as spokeswoman for an Israeli cruise ship operator. And Haaretz hired bodyguards for its columnist Gideon Levy after he wrote an article criticizing Israeli Air Force pilots.

The aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians is the latest manifestation of an us-versus-them mentality that has been simmering for decades. It is based on the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace. The Israeli peace camp — which remains obsessively focused on stopping settlement expansion and pursuing the ever-elusive two-state solution while ignoring Israel’s failure to separate religion and state and guarantee equal rights for Arab citizens — has been incapable of challenging this mentality.

Israeli society has been unable and unwilling to overcome an exclusivist ethno-religious nationalism that privileges Jewish citizens and is represented politically by the religious settler movement and the increasingly conservative secular right. Israel’s liberal, progressive forces remain weak in the face of a robust economy that profits from occupation while international inaction reinforces the status quo. In their attempt to juggle being both Jewish and democratic, most Israelis are choosing the former at the expense of the latter.

Israel has never, for example, genuinely addressed the fact that non-Jewish Arabs who generally identify as Palestinian account for about 20 percent of the population (this excludes the approximately three million Palestinians living under Israel’s control in East Jerusalem and the West Bank). Israel has also never clearly defined its borders, preferring to keep them vague and porous. Nor has it defined what it means to be “Israeli,” as distinct from being “Jewish,” leaving a vacuum that has been filled by nationalist and religious ideologues.

This has allowed the us-versus-them mentality to bleed into Israeli Jewish society. “Us” no longer refers to any Jewish citizen, and “them” to any Palestinian. Now, “us” means all those who defend the status quo of occupation and settlement expansion, including many Christian evangelicals and Republicans in America. And “them” means anyone who tries to challenge that status quo, whether a rabbi, a dissenting Israeli soldier or the president of the United States.

Perhaps this shouldn’t come as a shock. For most of Israel’s existence, the majority of Israelis have allowed the state, in the name of Jewish sovereignty and security, to violate Palestinians’ basic human rights — including access to water and the freedom of movement and assembly. The state has killed unarmed protesters and then failed to carry out investigations; it has allowed settlers and soldiers to act with impunity; and it has systematically discriminated against non-Jewish citizens. After so many years of repressing those who stand in the way, the transition to targeting “one of your own” isn’t so difficult. Now it is the few Jewish Israelis who speak the language of human rights who are branded as enemies. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2014 at 6:38 pm

Government self-interest corrupted a crime-fighting tool into an evil: Civil asset forfeiture

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Very interesting article in the Washington Post calling for an end to civil asset forfeiture—and the two who wrote the article headed the effort for the Feds.

John Yoder was director of the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture Office from 1983 to 1985. Brad Cates was the director of the office from 1985 to 1989. [They are the authors of the article. – LG]

Last week, The Post published a series of in-depth articles about the abuses spawned by the law enforcement practice known as civil asset forfeiture. As two people who were heavily involved in the creation of the asset forfeiture initiative at the Justice Department in the 1980s, we find it particularly painful to watch as the heavy hand of government goes amok. The program began with good intentions but now, having failed in both purpose and execution, it should be abolished.

Asset forfeiture was conceived as a way to cut into the profit motive that fueled rampant drug trafficking by cartels and other criminal enterprises, in order to fight the social evils of drug dealing and abuse. Over time, however, the tactic has turned into an evil itself, with the corruption it engendered among government and law enforcement coming to clearly outweigh any benefits.

The idea seemed so simple: Seize the ill-gotten gains of big-time drug dealers and remove the financial incentive for their criminality. After all, if a kingpin could earn $20 million and stash it away somewhere, even a decade in prison would have its rewards. Make that money disappear, and the calculus changes.

Then, in 1986, the concept was expanded to include not only cash earned illegally but also purchases or investments made with that money, creating a whole scheme of new crimes that could be prosecuted as “money laundering.” The property eligible for seizure was further expanded to include “instrumentalities” in the trafficking of drugs, such as cars or even jewelry. Eventually, more than 200 crimes beyond drugs came to be included in the forfeiture scheme.

This all may have been fine in theory, but in the real world it went badly astray. First, many states adopted their own forfeiture laws, creating programs with less monitoring than those at the federal level. Second, state law enforcement agencies and prosecutors started using the property — and finally even to provide basic funding for their departments.

Even at the outset, the use of seized property was an issue. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, for example, might see a suspected dealer in a car they wanted for undercover work and seize it. But if the car had an outstanding loan, the DEA could not keep it without paying the lien. This led to distorted enforcement decisions, with agents choosing whom to pursue based on irrelevant factors such as whether the target owed money on his car.

As time went on and states got into the forfeiture game, the uses became more personally rewarding for law enforcement. Maintaining an undercover identity was often no longer even part of the justification for seizures.

Law enforcement agents and prosecutors began using seized cash and property to fund their operations, supplanting general tax revenue, and this led to the most extreme abuses: law enforcement efforts based upon what cash and property they could seize to fund themselves, rather than on an even-handed effort to enforce the law.

Many Americans are familiar with old-time speed traps, which . . .

Continue reading.

Worth noting, from later in the article:

Civil forfeiture is fundamentally at odds with our judicial system and notions of fairness. It is unreformable.

That is from two men who ran the effort.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2014 at 11:52 am

Great shave and a good lather from Barrister & Mann Solstice

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I really like the fragrance of Barrister & Mann Solstice shaving soap, and today I got a good lather using the same method as yesterday (load damp brush with paste of soap, briskly brush palm, adding driblets of water), using an Omega 20102 brush. The lather was noticeably diminished by the third pass, more so than with other soaps, but I easily had enough for the pass. The razor was a Feather AS-D1 with a Feather blade, and the aftershaving was D.R. Harris Pink aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 September 2014 at 9:08 am

Posted in Shaving

Arizona… ‘Nuff said?

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Here’s the story.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 September 2014 at 3:29 pm

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