Archive for March 16th, 2017
Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:
At a news conference Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget chief, defended proposed cuts to the Meals on Wheels program, which provides food aid to needy senior citizens, by saying the program is one of many that is “just not showing any results.”
Meals on Wheels is a nonprofit group that receives funding from the federal government, state and local governments and private donors. “We serve more than 2.4 million seniors from 60 to 100+ years old each year,” the organization writes. “They are primarily older than 60 and because of physical limitations or financial reasons, have difficulty shopping for or preparing meals for themselves.”
If that doesn’t clear the bar for “results,” as Mulvaney put it, there’s also been a fair amount of peer-reviewed research on the efficacy of the program.
A 2013 review of studies, for instance, found that home-delivered meal programs for seniors “significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.”
Not only that, the programs offer good bang-for-your-buck: “These programs are also aligned with the federal cost-containment policy to rebalance long-term care away from nursing homes to home- and community-based services by helping older adults maintain independence and remain in their homes and communities as their health and functioning decline.”
In other words, the programs help seniors stay at home and out of costly nursing facilities. If you’re interested in keeping a lid on health-care costs, the importance of this finding can’t be overstated.
“The average cost of a one-month nursing home stay is equivalent to providing home-delivered meals five days a week for approximately seven years,” one of the studies in the analysis found. How’s that for “results”?
Also on the cost-containment front, a 2013 study by researchers at Brown University found that in most states, increasing Meals on Wheels enrollment would result in a net savings from decreased Medicaid costs for nursing home care.
More recently, those same researchers conducted a random controlled trial of Meals on Wheels efficacy. The study, which was funded by AARP, enrolled hundreds of seniors on food waiting lists across the United States. Some received daily meal deliveries, others got weekly bulk frozen food deliveries, and some simply remained on waiting lists.
“What we found is that there were statistically significant differences in health benefits among the three groups,” lead researcher Kali Thomas said, “with the highest gains recognized among participants living alone who had face-to-face contact via daily deliveries.”
Those receiving daily meals also experienced fewer falls and hospitalizations, the study found. . .
The Trump Administration is doing real damage. And now, thanks to Rex Tillerson, North Korea is talking about war. “Tillerson says diplomacy with North Korea has ‘failed’; Pyongyang warns of war“
It was not a fine levied directly for omitting an Oxford comma—you are not legally required to use an Oxford comma, though omitting it can cause ambiguity. (The Oxford comma is the comma that appears just before “and” or “or” in a series of three or more items: “Apples, oranges, and cherries” has the Oxford comma, “Apples, oranges and cherries” does not. My rule is: Always Use the Oxford Comma. The reason is two-fold: first, to avoid ambiguity (“I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”); second, to be consistent (i.e., don’t use it just when you absolutely must have it, use it as a rule).
Daniel Victor reports in the NY Times:
A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.
What ensued in The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million.
In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years’ worth of overtime pay that they had been denied. Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions.
A quick punctuation lesson before we proceed: In a list of three or more items — like “beans, potatoes and rice” — some people would put a comma after potatoes, and some would leave it out. A lot of people feel very, very strongly about it.
The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford comma — also known as the serial comma — in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
Does the law intend to exempt the distribution of the three categories that follow, or does it mean to exempt packing for the shipping or distribution of them?
Delivery drivers distribute perishable foods, but they don’t pack the boxes themselves. Whether the drivers were subject to a law that had denied them thousands of dollars a year depended entirely on how the sentence was read.
If there were a comma after “shipment,” it might have been clear that the law exempted the distribution of perishable foods. But the appeals court on Monday sided with the drivers, saying the absence of a comma produced enough uncertainty to rule in their favor. It reversed a lower court decision.
In other words: Oxford comma defenders won this round.
“That comma would have sunk our ship,” David G. Webbert, a lawyer who represented the drivers, said in an interview on Wednesday.
The language in the law followed guidelines in the Maine Legislative Drafting Manual, which specifically instructs lawmakers to not use the Oxford comma. Don’t write “trailers, semitrailers, and pole trailers,” it says — instead, write “trailers, semitrailers and pole trailers.”
The manual does clarify that caution should be taken if an item in the series is modified. Commas, it notes, “are the most misused and misunderstood punctuation marks in legal drafting and, perhaps, the English language.”
Most American news organizations tend to leave the Oxford comma out while allowing for exceptions to avoid confusion, like in the sentence: “I’d like to thank my parents, Mother Teresa and the pope.”
Reporters, editors and producers at The New York Times usually omit the comma, but Phil Corbett, who oversees language issues for the newsroom, wrote in a 2015 blog post that exceptions are sometimes made:
“We do use the additional comma in cases where a sentence would be awkward or confusing without it: Choices for breakfast included oatmeal, muffins, and bacon and eggs.”
The Associated Press, considered the authority for most American newsrooms, also generally comes out against the Oxford comma.
But the comma is common in book and academic publishing. The Chicago Manual of Style uses it, as does Oxford University Press style. “The last comma can serve to resolve ambiguity,” it says. . .
Eufros by Jabonman in Spain is a very good shaving soap. I ended up with two different vetiver-fragranced shaving soaps from him, and Tierra Humeda is the milder. The soap itself is excellent, and the Plisson synthetic worked up a very fine lather quite easily. The fragrance, though earthy, is not aggressive.
The German 37 slant, a three-piece take on the Merkur 37C, shaves as well as the 37C—which is pretty damn good—and also allows you to swap handles if you want, which I did not. You can also buy the head by itself from ItalianBarber.com ($12); the complete razor is $20.
Three passes, perfect result, and a splash of Guerlain’s Vetiver—a very tame vetiver—and I am now underway.