Later On

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

Archive for June 12th, 2017

“Cream,” a weird but oddly familiar animation by David Firth

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 9:45 pm

Trump made a familiar accusation in calling Comey a “liar”

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Dana Milbank in his column in the Washington Post helpfully lists others whom Trump has called a liar:

Ted Cruz

Marco Rubio

Ben Carson

John Kasich

Jeb Bush

George W. Bush

The Bush dynasty

Fellow GOP presidential candidates

All candidates

John McCain

Barack Obama

The Obama administration

Hillary Clinton

Tim Kaine

Nancy Pelosi

Bernie Sanders


The Senate

George Will

GOP strategist Rick Tyler

The Club for Growth

The media



Fake-news media


The New York Times

The New York Post

The New York Daily News

Chris Cuomo

Megyn Kelly

Dana Perino

John King

Wall Street Journal editorialist Mary Kissel

Women who accused him of sexual misconduct



Baseball’s Alex Rodriguez

Star Jones

An Ebola patient

Edward Snowden

Anyone who didn’t tune in to GOP debates to watch Trump

Milbank continues:

Accusing others of lying is a bit rich coming from the man who has done more than any other to turn public discourse into a parallel universe of alternative facts. If we were psychoanalyzing Trump, we might say he is projecting. Of course, if we were psychoanalyzing Trump, we might throw the entire DSM at him, starting with antisocial personality disorder and working our way through narcissistic personality disorder and then paranoid personality disorder.

But Trump’s tendency to accuse others of the flaws he possesses seems to be more than a reflex. It appears to be a strategy — a verbal jujitsu in which he uses his opponents’ strengths against them.

Trump was the old guy in the Republican debates and more than once seemed to fade partway through — but he managed to brand Jeb Bush “low energy.” He did the same to Clinton, portraying her as weak and tired; now he’s keeping an exceedingly light schedule as president and passing a good chunk of the time at his private retreats. Trump told the most extravagant untruths during the campaign, had the most glaring conflicts of interest and knew the least about governing. But he branded Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted,” Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and Rubio as a “lightweight” and “Little Marco.”

Trump did not invent this strategy. I first encountered it on the playground of the Old Mill Road elementary school on Long Island in the 1970s: “I’m rubber, you’re glue — whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Other kids used an endlessly entertaining variant: “I know you are but what am I?”

During the campaign, when the topic turned to Trump’s leadership of the “birther” movement questioning Obama’s U.S. birth, Trump declared that “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.”

When Clinton pointed to racist “alt-right” movement, Trump responded by saying, “Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future.” When Clinton alleged that Trump was “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency, Trump responded by saying it was Clinton who “does not have the temperament to be president.”

On and on it went. Attention to Trump’s thin and vague set of policy proposals led him to say it was Clinton who “never talks about policy.” After a dark GOP convention full of apocalyptic warnings, Trump claimed that Clinton “is the only one fear-mongering.” Clinton’s charge that Trump is volatile and easily baited, likewise, led him to call her “trigger happy.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 8:31 pm

The Federal Government’s Treatment of Veterans Is Shameful: Veterans Affairs Official Downplays Agent Orange Risks, Questions Critics

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Charles Ornstein reports in ProPublica:

A key federal official who helps adjudicate claims by veterans who say they were exposed to Agent Orange has downplayed the risks of the chemical herbicide and questioned the findings of scientists, journalists and even a federal administrative tribunal that conflict with his views.

Jim Sampsel, a lead analyst within the Department of Veterans Affairs’ compensation service, told a VA advisory committee in March that he believes much of the renewed attention to Agent Orange — used during the Vietnam War to kill brush and deny cover to enemy troops — is the result of media “hype” and “hysteria,” according to a transcript of the meeting released to ProPublica.

“When it comes to Agent Orange, the facts don’t always matter,” said Sampsel, himself a Vietnam veteran who also handles Gulf War-related illness questions. “So we have to deal with the law as written.”

Part of Sampsel’s job entails reviewing evidence to determine whether a veteran or group of veterans came in contact with Agent Orange outside of Vietnam. By law, veterans are presumed to have been exposed to Agent Orange if they served or stepped foot in Vietnam; they have to prove exposure if they served at sea or in another country during the war. They also must have a disease that the VA ties to exposure to the herbicide.

“From my point of view, I will do anything to help veterans, any legitimate veteran, and I’ve done it plenty of times,” he told the Advisory Committee on Disability Compensation, a group that advises the VA. “Unfortunately when it comes to this Agent Orange, we have to have a lot of denials.”

Sampsel also offered a window, for the first time, into ongoing internal deliberations at the VA about adding new diseases to the list of those connected to Agent Orange exposure. He suggested that despite increasing evidence tying the herbicide to hypertension, or high blood pressure, the VA is not going to extend benefits to veterans with that condition.

Reached by phone, Sampsel said, “You’re going to try to frame me, too,” before referring a reporter to the VA’s media relations office. ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot examined the effects of Agent Orange on veterans and their offspring in a series of articles in 2015 and 2016, raising questions about the VA’s handling of the matter.

The VA provided two written statements in response to questions for this article. Initially, a spokesman said that Sampsel was speaking as an individual at the meeting, and not for the VA.

“The objective of a federal advisory committee is to have open and public discussion of the issues for which it is chartered from the experts who understand and bring their own unique perspectives,” the statement said. “The March 2017 meetings were no exception and Mr. Sampsel’s comments did not fully or accurately reflect VA’s position concerning these issues.”

The VA said no decisions have been made about which new diseases to add to its list of those linked to Agent Orange exposure.

Asked whether it continued to support Sampsel, the VA said in a subsequent statement that he “is highly dedicated and respected within and outside of VA for the work he has done to establish many of the present policies that provide veterans, their families and survivors the benefits they are entitled to under the law.” The department also questioned the quotes a reporter asked about from the advisory committee meeting. “Taking quotes out of context without fully understanding the law, science, reasons or intent behind those words is a disservice to the advisory committee and the veteran community at large as well as Mr. Sampsel.” (Read the full transcript.)

Veteran advocates said they were furious to learn a VA official charged with objectively weighing evidence related to Agent Orange had shared controversial personal views. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 6:24 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Wanted: More Data, the Dirtier the Better

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Esther Landhuis reports in Quanta:

To distill a clear message from growing piles of unruly genomics data, researchers often turn to meta-analysis — a tried-and-true statistical procedure for combining data from multiple studies. But the studies that a meta-analysis might mine for answers can diverge endlessly. Some enroll only men, others only children. Some are done in one country, others across a region like Europe. Some focus on milder forms of a disease, others on more advanced cases. Even if statistical methods can compensate for these kinds of variations, studies rarely use the same protocols and instruments to collect the data, or the same software to analyze it. Researchers performing meta-analyses go to untold lengths trying to clean up the hodgepodge of data to control for these confounding factors.

Purvesh Khatri, a computational immunologist at Stanford University, thinks they’re going about it all wrong. His approach to genomic discovery calls for scouring public repositories for data collected at different hospitals on different populations with different methods — the messier the data, the better. “We start with dirty data,” he says. “If a signal sticks around despite the heterogeneity of the samples, you can bet you’ve actually found something.”

This strategy seems too easy, but in Khatri’s hands, it works. Analyzing troves of public data, Khatri and colleagues have uncovered signature genes that could allow clinicians to detect life-threatening infections that cause sepsis, classify infections as bacterial or viral, and tell if someone has a specific disease such as tuberculosis, dengue or malaria. Last year Khatri and two other scientists launched a company to develop a device for measuring these gene signatures at a patient’s bedside. In short, they’re deciphering the host immune response and turning key genes into diagnostics.

Over the past year Khatri discussed his ideas with Quanta Magazine over the phone, by email and from his whiteboard-lined Stanford office. An edited and condensed version of the conversations follows.

What turned you on to biology?

I left India and came to the U.S. in the “fix the Y2K bug” rush with plans to get a master’s in computer science and become a software engineer. Months after arriving at Wayne State University in Detroit I realized that writing software for the rest of my life was going to be really boring. I joined a lab working on neural networks.

But then my adviser switched to bioinformatics and said he’d pay my tuition if I switched with him. I was a poor Indian grad student. I thought, “You’re going to pay my salary? I’ll do whatever you are doing.” That’s how I moved into biology.

You made a splash pretty quickly. How did that happen?

While my adviser was away on sabbatical in 2000-2001, I worked in the lab doing bioinformatics analyses with a postdoc in our collaborator’s lab, a gynecologist studying genes involved in male fertility. Microarrays for running assays on large numbers of genes at once were brand-new. From a recent experiment, he’d gotten a list of some 3,000 genes of interest, and he was trying to figure out what they were doing.

One day I saw him going from one website to another, copying and pasting text into Excel spreadsheets. I said to him, “You know, I can write software for you that will do all of that automatically. Just tell me what you are doing.” So I wrote a script for him — it took me three days — and with the results we wrote a Lancet paper.

We put the software on the web. There was huge interest. They presented it at some conference, and Pfizer wanted to buy it. I thought, wow, this is such low-hanging fruit. I can be a millionaire soon.

What does the software do?

It takes the set of genes you specify and searches annotation databases to tell you what biological processes and molecular pathways those genes are involved in. If you have a list of 100 genes, it could tell you that 15 are involved in immune response, another 15 are involved in angiogenesis and 50 play a role in glucose metabolism. Let’s say you’re studying Type 1 diabetes. You could look at these results and say, “I’m on the right path.”

This was 15 years ago, when I was getting my master’s degree. I developed more tools and expanded the work into a Ph.D. It’s now an open-access, web-based suite of tools called Onto-Tools. Last I checked a few years ago, it had 15,000 users from many countries, analyzing an average of 100 data sets a day.

Although the tools became very popular, they weren’t telling me how the results get used, how they help people. I wanted to see how research progresses from bioinformatics analyses to lab experiments and ultimately to something that could help patients.

How did you make that switch?

When I came to Stanford as a postdoc in 2008, one of my conditions was that somebody with a wet lab — someone running experiments on samples from mice or actual patients, not just analyzing data in silico — would pay half my salary, because I wanted their skin in the game. I wanted to make predictions using methods I’d develop in one lab, and then work with another lab to validate those predictions and tell me what’s clinically important. That’s how I ended up working with Atul Butte, a bioinformatician, and Minnie Sarwal, a renal transplant physician. [Editor’s note: Butte and Sarwal have both since moved from Stanford to the University of California, San Francisco.]

What shifted your attention to immunology?

Reading papers to learn the basic biology of organ transplant rejection, I had an “Aha!” moment. I realized that heart transplant surgeons, kidney transplant surgeons and lung transplant surgeons don’t really talk to each other!

No matter which organ I was reading about, I saw a common theme: The B cells and T cells of the graft recipient’s immune system were attacking the transplant. Yet diagnostic criteria for rejection were different — kidney people follow Banff criteria for renal graft rejection, heart-and-lung people follow ISHLT [International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation] criteria. If the biological mechanism is common, why are there different diagnostic criteria? That didn’t make sense to me as a computer scientist.

I was starting to form a hypothesis that there must be a common mechanism — some common trigger that tells the recipient’s immune cells that something is “not self.” While thinking about this, I came across a fantastic paper titled “The Immunologic Constant of Rejection.” The authors basically laid out my hypothesis. They proposed that while the triggers for organ rejection may differ, they share a common pathway. And they were saying someone should test this.

What did you do at that point?

I started asking my colleagues, “Why don’t we  . . .

Continue reading.

Much more at the link, including a video.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 10:42 am

Posted in Science

An example of why it’s difficult to respect the GOP: Their attack on the Affordable Care Act

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Krugman has a good column in the NY Times:

I’m as riveted by Trump/Russia as everyone else. But meanwhile Trumpcare — which really has very little to do with Trump, except that he’ll sign it — appears to be marching on despite the terrible CBO score on the House version and the near-certainty that if the Senate passes anything it will be barely if at all better.

This tells you a lot about the values of the modern GOP, which will happily trade off health care for ~20 million people for tax cuts that deliver almost half their benefits to people with incomes over $1 million — fewer than 800,000 tax units.

But aside from the priorities, think about the process. The AHCA was deliberately rushed through before CBO could weigh in; the Senate GOP is working completely in secret, with no hearings, and anything it passes will surely also try to preempt the CBO.

You might think that this in part reflects conservative analyses that reach a different conclusion. But there aren’t any such analyses. Remember, OMB works for Trump; it has offered nothing. Even the Heritage Foundation, which used to be the go-to source for conservative creative accounting, hasn’t produced some implausible account of how the magic of markets will make it all work.

This is new. You might say that just as the GOP has decided to shrug off conventional concerns about ethics, it has also decided to shrug off conventional concerns about whether policies actually, you know, work.

To be sure, Republicans gave up evidence-based policymaking a long time ago. Back when Paul Ryan was pretending to be a serious policy wonk, he always started from the answer, then invented some assumptions and magic asterisks to justify that answer. Heritage has been a hack operation for many years.

But they used to at least pretend; people like Ryan weren’t actual policy experts, but they played them on TV, and gullible centrists were happy to help them maintain that pretense. Now they’re not even bothering to fake it.

And it’s hard to say with any assurance that they’ll pay a political price. . .

Continue reading.

And Kevin Drum observes at Mother Jones:

Sarah Kliff:

The possibility that Republicans will repeal Obamacare or drive it into collapse is an increasingly real one. That’s a reality where millions fewer have health insurance coverage and lower-income Americans struggle to afford coverage.

….Behind closed doors, Senate Republicans have worked out a path toward Obamacare repeal. The plans under discussion would end Medicaid expansion,causing millions of low-income Americans to lose health coverage. They may allow health insurance plans to charge higher premiums to people with preexisting conditions, too.

The Republican plan is coming together because moderate senators are beginning to drop some of their initial repeal objections. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), for example, now back a plan to end the Medicaid expansion.

Ah, the fabled moderate Republicans. They hated the old repeal plan, which phased out Medicaid expansion in three years. But they love the new plan, which phases out Medicaid expansion in seven years. It turns out that taking health coverage away from millions of people was never really their problem. They just didn’t want it to happen so quickly that anyone would blame them for it. They’re real profiles in courage.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 9:37 am

A Vie-Long brush, Cooper & French Old Goat, the iKon 102, and Pashana

leave a comment » was a shave forum that has in recent years become inactive. Some years back they offered a horsehair shaving brush, and I got one. It does a good job, but my favorite horsehair brush seems better: a slightly denser knot.

Cooper & French’s Old Goat shaving soap seems appropriate at the this stage of my life, and it makes a fine lather. I like the fragrance, perhaps because when I began shaving in high school I used Old Spice shaving soap, and Cooper & French note:

The scent is an homage to the original 1930’s Shulton Old Spice fragrance! A classic that remains a popular favorite among men who are searching for a timeless scent that embodies notes of citrus with a subdued hint of warm vanilla.

The ingredients:

Goat Milk, Water, Potassium Stearate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Sodium Stearate, Potassium Tallowate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sodium Tallowate, Glycerin, Fragrance, Sodium Lactate

The iKon 102 is an ideal razor for Monday’s two-stubble (and Tuesday’s one-day stubble, for that matter). Three easy passes left a perfectly smooth result with no problems.

A small splash of Pashana finished the job and the week already is off to a good start. I’m making Sam Sifton’s Picadillo for dinner. (The olives to use are the small salad olives, not the queen-sized Martini olives.)

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2017 at 8:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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