Later On

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

Archive for November 2017

My best pepper-mill solution

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I use quite a bit of freshly ground pepper. (We favor Penzey’s European Blend, though sometimes I’ll buy black Tellicherry peppercorns.) I use a lot (2 tablespoons) in the breakfast bites recipe since pepper is a nutritional catalyst that helps one utilize turmeric (a powerful anti-inflammatory).

I really liked the Oxo Good Grips Lewis pepper mill when I first got it: the crank handle is a lot easier to operate than a slick knob or twist top when your hands are wet or oily, and the bottom of the pepper mill has a snap-on/off cap that can collect pepper if you want to measure.

However, after a few months’ use, the shaft that propelled the grinder simply fell out, broken loose from its mount. Oxo did send a free replacement, but after a few months’ use, that one too failed in the same way. Plus it wasn’t all that easy to load.

I finally found a solution, much easier to load, much more robust, and can collect more ground pepper: it’s the Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder. The crank handle is easily lifted off and hangs on the grinder to minimize the storage room required, but is securely held in place when mounted for use. The long crank handle minimizes effort, and the receptacle can easily be unscrewed from the grinder to pour out the ground pepper (or, if you’re using it for the stated purpose, coffee).

The indicators show how many coffee-measuring spoons you have ground (1 cup or 2 cup). One coffee-measuring spoon = 2 tablespoons, so you can easily estimate by eye how much pepper you’ve ground.

It has about the same footprint as any good pepper mill, and I find it works much better. I don’t think this one will be breaking.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The case for normalizing impeachment

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Ezra Klein writes at Vox:

In recent months, I have grown obsessed with a seemingly simple question: Does the American political system have a remedy if we elect the wrong person to be president? There are clear answers if we elect a criminal, or if the president falls into a coma. But what if we just make a hiring mistake, as companies do all the time? What if we elect someone who proves himself or herself unfit for office — impulsive, conspiratorial, undisciplined, destructive, cruel?

My fixation on this question began with President Donald Trump’s tweets to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. This was the president of the United States, the man who controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, launching deranged, unvetted provocations at the most singularly irrational regime in the world: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 3:44 pm

Bombs in your backyard

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Lena Groeger, Ryann Grochowski Jones, and Abrahm Lustgarten report in ProPublica:

The military spends more than a billion dollars a year to clean up sites its operations have contaminated with toxic waste and explosives. These sites exist in every state in the country. Some are located near schools, residential neighborhoods, rivers and lakes. A full map of these sites has never been made public – until now. Enter your address to see the hazardous sites near you, or select a state.

Continue reading for the interactive graphic.

Note the related story “Open Burns, Ill Winds,” which begins:

RADFORD, VIRGINIA — Shortly after dawn most weekdays, a warning siren rips across the flat, swift water of the New River running alongside the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. Red lights warning away boaters and fishermen flash from the plant, the nation’s largest supplier of propellant for artillery and the source of explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas.

Along the southern Virginia riverbank, piles of discarded contents from bullets, chemical makings from bombs, and raw explosives — all used or left over from the manufacture and testing of weapons ingredients at Radford — are doused with fuel and lit on fire, igniting infernos that can be seen more than a half a mile away. The burning waste is rich in lead, mercury, chromium and compounds like nitroglycerin and perchlorate, all known health hazards. The residue from the burning piles rises in a spindle of hazardous smoke, twists into the wind and, depending on the weather, sweeps toward the tens of thousands of residents in the surrounding towns.

Nearby, Belview Elementary School has been ranked by researchers as facing some of the most dangerous air-quality hazards in the country. The rate of thyroid diseases in three of the surrounding counties is among the highest in the state, provoking town residents to worry that emissions from the Radford plant could be to blame. Government authorities have never studied whether Radford’s air pollution could be making people sick, but some of their hypothetical models estimate that the local population faces health risks exponentially greater than people in the rest of the region.

More than three decades ago, Congress banned American industries and localities from disposing of hazardous waste in these sorts of “open burns,” concluding that such uncontrolled processes created potentially unacceptable health and environmental hazards. Companies that had openly burned waste for generations were required to install incinerators with smokestacks and filters and to adhere to strict limits on what was released into the air. Lawmakers granted the Pentagon and its contractors a temporary reprieve from those rules to give engineers time to address the unique aspects of destroying explosive military waste.

That exemption has remained in place ever since, even as other Western countries have figured out how to destroy aging armaments without toxic emissions. While American officials are mired in a bitter debate about how much pollution from open burns is safe, those countries have pioneered new approaches. Germany, for example, destroyed hundreds of millions of pounds of aging weapons from the Cold War without relying on open burns to do it.

In the United States, outdoor burning and detonation is still the military’s leading method for dealing with munitions and the associated hazardous waste. It has remained so despite a U.S. Senate resolution a quarter of a century ago that ordered the Department of Defense to halt the practice “as soon as possible.” It has continued in the face of a growing consensus among Pentagon officials and scientists that similar burn pits at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan sickened soldiers.

Federal records identify nearly 200 sites that have been or are still being used to open-burn hazardous explosives across the country. Some blow up aging stockpile bombs in open fields. Others burn bullets, weapons parts and — in the case of Radford — raw explosives in bonfire-like piles. The facilities operate under special government permits that are supposed to keep the process safe, limiting the release of toxins to levels well below what the government thinks can make people sick. Yet officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which governs the process under federal law, acknowledge that the permits provide scant protection.

Consider Radford’s permit, which expired nearly two years ago. Even before then, government records show, the plant repeatedly violated the terms of its open burn allowance and its other environmental permits. In a typical year, the plant can spew many thousands of pounds of heavy metals and carcinogens — legally — into the atmosphere. But Radford has, at times, sent even more pollution into the air than it is allowed. It has failed to report some of its pollution to federal agencies, as required. And it has misled the public about the chemicals it burns. Yet every day the plant is allowed to ignite as much as 8,000 pounds of hazardous debris.

“It smells like plastic burning, but it’s so much more intense,” said Darlene Nester, describing the acrid odor from the burns when it reaches her at home, about a mile and a half away. Her granddaughter is in second grade at Belview. “You think about all the kids.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 2:51 pm

Writer Jenny Lumet: Russell Simmons Sexually Violated Me

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Jenny Lumet writes of the time Russell Simmons raped her. Tough reading, and seems a highly credible account. I bet Simmons now wishes he were a politician, since politicians get away with it.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 1:50 pm

Wow. Feds: Indicted gun task force officer planted drugs, duped Baltimore Det. Suiter into finding them

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And Jeff Sessions decided that the BPD could police itself: decide for itself the outcomes. Justin Fentin reports in the Baltimore Sun:

New charges have been filed against an indicted member of the Baltimore Police gun task force, alleging that in 2010 he set up Det. Sean Suiter by planting drugs on a suspect after a high-speed chase and crash.

In a new indictment unsealed Thursday afternoon, prosecutors wrote that then-Detective Wayne Jenkins told a third officer that he was going to send “Officer #1” to search the car because he was “clueless” that Jenkins had planted drugs.

“Jenkins knew the heroin [in the car] had been planted,” prosecutors wrote.

Though Suiter is not named in the new documents, Jenkins wrote in charging documents filed in 2010 that Suiter found heroin in the car. The suspect, Umar Burley, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison as a result of the charges.

Records show Burley’s case was reactivated in August, and he was released from custody. Prosecutors on Thursday filed a motion to vacate his conviction and the conviction of another man who was with him.

Jenkins’ attorney Steve Levin declined to comment on the new accusations.

The Sun first reported on the new activity in the Burley case last week.

Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference that Suiter was “set up” by Jenkins to find the drugs, and was not involved “in any way, shape, or form.”

“That’s a damn shame,” Davis said.

Suiter, a decorated 18-year veteran, was killed in an alley on Nov. 15, and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said federal authorities disclosed to him that Suiter was killed one day before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the gun task force. Davis said he was told Suiter was not a target of the grand jury, and there was no evidence to suggest Suiter was set up or that his killing was related to his scheduled testimony.

But questions around two cases continue to swirl. Earlier Thursday, Council President Bernard “Jack” Young and Councilman Brandon Scott called on the Suiter case to be turned over to the FBI.

“An independently conducted investigation would be the quickest way to provide the public and those who loved Det. Suiter with the answers they rightly deserve,” Young and Scott wrote in a letter to Davis.

They also said it would allow members of the Baltimore homicide unit, which is investigating the case, “the chance to properly mourn their fallen comrade.”

Suiter’s death remains unsolved, despite a $215,000 reward. For now, it is the only line-of-duty killing in the agency’s history that is unsolved, with suspects apprehended on the scene or quickly identified through tips in previous cases. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 1:17 pm

Some anonymous North Carolina lawmakers just made it harder to be poor

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Many GOP initiatives can be predicted by assuming the GOP hates the poor. Radley Balko provides a timely example in the Washington Post:

This story from the Marshall Project is just infuriating. North Carolina, like many states, has added layers of fees and fines for roadway infractions — and then for not being able to pay those fees and fines — that for low-income people can make even something as banal as a seat-belt violation grow into a crushing debt.

As post-Ferguson reports have drawn national attention to the debilitating nature of these fines and fees, some North Carolina judges have begun waiving them for people who can demonstrate that they’re too poor to pay them. Enter the state legislature, which Republicans control with a veto-proof majority.

A new North Carolina law takes effect Friday that is designed to hamstring the ability of judges to waive fines and fees for poor people.

Critics say the law will mean jail time for more poor people who can’t pay court costs that start at $179 for a seat belt violation and can easily surpass $1,000.

The law is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. It runs counter to reform efforts in other states that are attempting to reduce the number of people jailed because they are unable to pay fines or fees or make bail.

The measure seems crafted by the Republican-controlled General Assembly to maneuver around a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Bearden v. Georgia, in which the court held that people cannot be jailed simply because they are too poor to pay fines and fees. Judges can waive costs if the failure to pay is not willful.

North Carolina’s new law would not explicitly prohibit waivers for the poor, but would throw up a serious impediment, requiring judges to give 15 days notice to all affected agencies before issuing a waiver.

In North Carolina, that would be a lot of notices. An offender in the state is subject to a vast array of fees, from $5 for being arrested to $200 for failing to appear. The state charges a fee of $7.50 to underwrite the police and sheriff retirement funds and a fee of up to $40 a day for taking up space in jail. Perhaps inevitably, there is a $50 fee for failing to pay a fee.

In all, 52 fees are routed to four state agencies and 611 counties and municipalities.

The law would saddle counties across the state with thousands of dollars in administrative and postage fees to process and mail the notices.

The argument in favor of the law, as near as I can tell, is that many public services in the state (including the courts) rely on these fines and fees for significant portions of their operational budgets. But the problem there is not that waiving these fees will starve the courts and some of these agencies of revenue; it’s that the state has a system in which so many basic government functions are reliant on fines and fees extracted from people accused of breaking the law. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the impartiality of the state’s municipal courts when their operating budgets grow fatter with every conviction and thinner with every acquittal.

The other problem with the argument that frequent waivers will starve operating budgets is that these waivers are being granted to people who can’t afford the fines and fees. That’s the whole point. Perhaps some judges are more generous with the waivers than others. And perhaps this law will persuade a few of them to grant fewer waivers. Even so, this is a pool of people who at least facially made the case that they couldn’t afford the fines they had been assessed. Making it more difficult to grant them waivers might, at best, result in a select few paying fines who otherwise wouldn’t — the few who managed to convince a judge that they were too poor when, in reality, they had enough money to pay the fine. It seems rather doubtful that this will bring in significantly more revenue.

Here’s what likely will happen: Under the new law, judges who frequently grant waivers are now looking at thousands of dollars in additional costs. If they stop granting waivers, those costs go away. The people who were too poor to pay before are probably still too poor to pay. It’s just that now their debts will continue to mount, they’ll eventually face the loss of their driver’s license and perhaps eventually wind up in jail. (Also, please spare me the line about “if you’re too poor to pay the fine, just follow the law.” As I’ve explained here before, our roads and traffic laws are designed to encourage law-breaking and to generate revenue.)

But all of that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst of it is that the politicians who crafted this cruel legislation undoubtedly knew it was cruel, because they were too cowardly to put their names on it. Again from the Marshall Project: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 11:13 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

A marijuana risk: Obscure Vomiting Illness Linked To Long-Term Pot Use

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Pauline Bartolone reports in California Healthline:

For 17 years, Chalfonte LeNee Queen suffered periodic episodes of violent retching and abdominal pain that would knock her off her feet for days, sometimes leaving her writhing on the floor in pain.

“I’ve screamed out for death,” said Queen, 48, who lives in San Diego. “I’ve cried out for my mom who’s been dead for 20 years, mentally not realizing she can’t come to me.”

Queen lost a modeling job after being mistaken for an alcoholic. She racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and her nausea interrupted her sex life. Toward the end of her illness, Queen, who stands 5-foot-9, weighed in at a frail 109 pounds.

Throughout the nearly two decades of pain, vomiting and mental fog, she visited the hospital about three times a year, but doctors never got to the bottom of what was ailing her. By 2016, she thought she was dying, that she “must have some sort of cancer or something they can’t detect,” Queen said.

But she didn’t have cancer. She had an obscure syndrome called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition only recently acknowledged by the medical community. It affects a small population — namely, a subset of marijuana users who smoke multiple times a day for months, years or even decades.

There’s no hard data on the prevalence of the illness. But in California and Colorado, which have loosened marijuana laws in recent years, emergency physicians say they’re seeing it more often. One study in Colorado suggests there may be a link.

Dr. Aimee Moulin, an emergency room physician at UC-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, said she has seen a rise in the number of cases since California voters legalized recreational marijuana last November. She expects to see another increase after commercial sales are permitted starting in January.

Doctors say it’s difficult to treat the condition. There is no cure other than to quit using marijuana, and many patients are skeptical that cannabis is making them sick, so they keep using it and their vomiting episodes continue.

Doctors can do little to relieve the symptoms, since traditional anti-nausea medications often don’t work and there are no pills to prevent the onset of an episode. Patients may need intravenous hydration and hospital stays until the symptoms subside.

“That’s really frustrating as an emergency physician,” said Moulin. “I really like to make people feel better.”

Diagnosing the syndrome can also be frustrating — and expensive. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 10:11 am

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