Later On

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

Archive for February 5th, 2018

Some items from Radley Balko’s Trump Watch

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

  • President Trump accuses another political opponent of committing crimes. He of course has a long history of this, going back to the campaign. It’s easy to get used to this sort of thing. But we shouldn’t lose sight of what’s at stake. The chief law enforcement official in the country repeatedly accusing his critics and opponents of criminality is a dangerous thing. And it will be all the more dangerous if he begins doing it to his potential 2020 opponents.
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest a Kansas chemistry teacher who was about to take his daughter to school. He came here 30 years ago and overstayed his visa. He has no criminal record. He has three children. The Trump administration is preparing to deport him to Bangladesh.
  • The administration has also deported a Detroit father of two who was brought to the United States at age 10 and has also been here for almost 30 years. He and his wife have spent more than $100,000 trying to obtain legal citizenship for him. According to his supporters, he has no criminal record and has paid taxes every year.
  • In fact, arresting undocumented parents as they drop their children off at school seems to be an increasingly common tactic.
  • Other recent deportations or arrests and pending deportations: A green card veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was brought here at age 8 (he had a felony drug conviction); a single mom with three children who are U.S. citizens (her only crime was to lie about her status on a driver’s license application — her husband was deported for the same offense); two Salvadoran brothers who were detained when one went to notify immigration officials that he was just given a scholarship to play college soccer; a host of pro-immigration activists; and a Palestinian father of four who was brought here at age 17 and owned a successful small business in Youngstown, Ohio;
  • Meanwhile, Trump’s pick to head up ICE said that politicians in sanctuary cities should be arrested and charged with crimes.
  • Why fears about “chain migration” are mostly a myth.
  • The Treasury Department may soon lift Obama administration-era protections for banks that do business with marijuana businesses in states where the drug is legal.
  • We noted this story previously, but it’s worth archiving in Trump Watch: ICE will soon have access to a license-plate database with billions of photos showing the time and location of various vehicles. It’s a good reminder that it will be impossible to enforce the Trump administration’s ideal immigration policy without severe restrictions on the civil liberties of everyone, not just immigrants.
  • A California woman died while waiting on the State Department to approve a visa for her sister to come to the United States from Vietnam for a stem-cell transplant.
  • The Justice Department will oppose leniency for a Nashville man who served more than 20 years in prison for a drug crime and was released in 2016 under new sentencing guidelines. He had a spotless record in prison. But the federal government appealed, arguing that his criminal history as a juvenile precluded his release. Despite a federal judge’s opinion that he is completely rehabilitated, he now faces another 15 years in prison. (To be fair, the appeal of his release was initiated during the Obama administration. But the current administration could still recommend leniency.)
  • The Justice Department has effectively shut down an office that facilitated legal aid for the poor.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 6:28 pm

The attack on Dallas police, recounted in detail

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Jamie Thompson recounts in riveting detail the story of the deliberate assassination of five Dallas police offices (and attempts to kill more) on July 7, 2016. This is well worth reading: well written, with helpful graphics, it takes you into the scene.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Donald Trump takes a strong stand on consequences of a 1000-point drop in the Dow

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Update: I belatedly checked the twitter is fake. Trump did not tweet such a thing. So this time it is indeed “fake news.”

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 3:22 pm

Intel’s smart glasses look normal

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Very interesting article by Dieter Bonn in Verge, particularly for those of us who wear glasses anyway:

The most important parts of Intel’s new Vaunt smart glasses are the pieces that were left out.

There is no camera to creep people out, no button to push, no gesture area to swipe, no glowing LCD screen, no weird arm floating in front of the lens, no speaker, and no microphone (for now).

From the outside, the Vaunt glasses look just like eyeglasses. When you’re wearing them, you see a stream of information on what looks like a screen — but it’s actually being projected onto your retina.

The prototypes I wore in December also felt virtually indistinguishable from regular glasses. They come in several styles, work with prescriptions, and can be worn comfortably all day. Apart from a tiny red glimmer that’s occasionally visible on the right lens, people around you might not even know you’re wearing smart glasses.

Like Google Glass did five years ago, Vaunt will launch an “early access program” for developers later this year. But Intel’s goals are different than Google’s. Instead of trying to convince us we could change our lives for a head-worn display, Intel is trying to change the head-worn display to fit our lives.

Google Glass, and the Glassholes who came with it, gave head-worn displays a bad reputation. HoloLens is aiming for a full, high-end AR experience that literally puts a Windows PC on your head. Magic Leap puts an entire computer on your hip, plus its headset is a set of goggles that look like they belong in a Vin Diesel movie.

We live in a world where our watches have LTE and our phones can turn our faces into bouncing cartoon characters in real time. You’d expect a successful pair of smart glasses to provide similar wonders. Every gadget these days has more, more, more.

With Vaunt, Intel is betting on less.

Take the stickers and part numbers off the Vaunt prototypes I tried this past December, and they would just look like slightly chunky, plastic-framed glasses. With a little more polish, I could see myself wearing them all the time, even if they didn’t have a display. Though I only saw two versions in Intel’s New Devices Group (NDG) San Francisco offices, Intel envisions having many different styles available when the product formally launches.

”When we look at what types of new devices are out there, [we are] really excited about head-worn [products],” says Itai Vonshak, head of products for NDG. “Head-worn products are hard because people assign a lot of attributes to putting something on their head. It means something about their personality.” That’s Vonshak’s politic way of saying other smart glasses look terrible, so his goal was  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 3:02 pm

Fiber Is Good for You. Now Scientists May Know Why.

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Carl Zimmer reports in the NY Times:

A diet of fiber-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, reduces the risk of developing diabetesheart disease and arthritis. Indeed, the evidence for fiber’s benefits extends beyond any particular ailment: Eating more fiber seems to lower people’s mortality rate, whatever the cause.

That’s why experts are always saying how good dietary fiber is for us. But while the benefits are clear, it’s not so clear why fiber is so great. “It’s an easy question to ask and a hard one to really answer,” said Fredrik Bäckhed, a biologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

He and other scientists are running experiments that are yielding some important new clues about fiber’s role in human health. Their research indicates that fiber doesn’t deliver many of its benefits directly to our bodies.

Instead, the fiber we eat feeds billions of bacteria in our guts. Keeping them happy means our intestines and immune systems remain in good working order.

In order to digest food, we need to bathe it in enzymes that break down its molecules. Those molecular fragments then pass through the gut wall and are absorbed in our intestines.

But our bodies make a limited range of enzymes, so that we cannot break down many of the tough compounds in plants. The term “dietary fiber” refers to those indigestible molecules.

But they are indigestible only to us. The gut is coated with a layer of mucus, atop which sits a carpet of hundreds of species of bacteria, part of the human microbiome. Some of these microbes carry the enzymes needed to break down various kinds of dietary fiber.

The ability of these bacteria to survive on fiber we can’t digest ourselves has led many experts to wonder if the microbes are somehow involved in the benefits of the fruits-and-vegetables diet. Two detailed studies published recently in the journal Cell Host and Microbe provide compelling evidence that the answer is yes.

In one experiment, Andrew T. Gewirtz of Georgia State University and his colleagues put mice on a low-fiber, high-fat diet. By examining fragments of bacterial DNA in the animals’ feces, the scientists were able to estimate the size of the gut bacterial population in each mouse.

On a low-fiber diet, they found, the population crashed, shrinking tenfold.

Dr. Bäckhed and his colleagues carried out a similar experiment, surveying the microbiome in mice as they were switched from fiber-rich food to a low-fiber diet. “It’s basically what you’d get at McDonald’s,” said Dr. Bäckhed said. “A lot of lard, a lot of sugar, and twenty percent protein.”

The scientists focused on the diversity of species that make up the mouse’s gut microbiome. Shifting the animals to a low-fiber diet had a dramatic effect, they found: Many common species became rare, and rare species became common.

Along with changes to the microbiome, both teams also observed rapid changes to the mice themselves. Their intestines got smaller, and its mucus layer thinner. As a result, bacteria wound up much closer to the intestinal wall, and that encroachment triggered an immune reaction.

After a few days on the low-fiber diet, mouse intestines developed chronic inflammation. After a few weeks, Dr. Gewirtz’s team observed that the mice began to change in other ways, putting on fat, for example, and developing higher blood sugar levels.

Dr. Bäckhed and his colleagues also fed another group of rodents the high-fat menu, along with a modest dose of a type of fiber called inulin. The mucus layer in their guts was healthier than in mice that didn’t get fiber, the scientists found, and intestinal bacteria were kept at a safer distance from their intestinal wall.

Dr. Gewirtz and his colleagues gave inulin to their mice as well, but at a much higher dose. The improvements were even more dramatic: Despite a high-fat diet, the mice had healthy populations of bacteria in their guts, their intestines were closer to normal, and they put on less weight.

Dr. Bäckhed and his colleagues ran one more interesting experiment: They spiked water given to mice on a high-fat diet with a species of fiber-feeding bacteria. The addition changed the mice for the better: Even on a high-fat diet, they produced more mucus in their guts, creating a healthy barrier to keep bacteria from the intestinal walls.

One way that fiber benefits health is by giving us, indirectly, another source of food, Dr. Gewirtz said. Once bacteria are done harvesting the energy in dietary fiber, they cast off the fragments as waste. That waste — in the form of short-chain fatty acids — is absorbed by intestinal cells, which use it as fuel.

But the gut’s microbes do more than just make energy. They also send messages.

Intestinal cells rely on chemical signals from the bacteria to work properly, Dr. Gewirtz said. The cells respond to the signals by multiplying and making a healthy supply of mucus. They also release bacteria-killing molecules.

By generating these responses, gut bacteria help maintain a peaceful coexistence with the immune system. They rest atop the gut’s mucus layer at a safe distance from the intestinal wall. Any bacteria that wind up too close get wiped out by antimicrobial poisons.

While some species of gut bacteria feed directly on dietary fiber, they probably support other species that feed on their waste. A number of species in this ecosystem — all of it built on fiber — may be talking to our guts.

Going on a low-fiber diet disturbs this peaceful relationship, the new studies suggest. The species that depend on dietary fiber starve, as do the other species that depend on them. Some species may switch to feeding on the host’s own mucus.

With less fuel, intestinal cells grow more slowly. And without a steady stream of chemical signals from bacteria, the cells slow their production of mucus and bacteria-killing poisons.

As a result, bacteria edge closer to the intestinal wall, and the immune system kicks into high gear.

“The gut is always precariously balanced between trying to contain these organisms and not to overreact,” said Eric C. Martens, a microbiologist at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the new studies. “It could be a tipping point between health and disease.” . . .

Continue reading.

See also “How probiotics and prebiotics team up in your gut.” After reading that, we are eating more onion and asparagus…

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 11:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

No Children Because of Climate Change? Some People Are Considering It

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I have to say that I believe that my grandchildren will face a challenging future. We haven’t yet seen the mass migrations of people that will happen as coastal cities are flooded more than they already are, and we have seen that refugees are not treated well. Maggie Astor reports in the NY Times:

Add this to the list of decisions affected by climate change: Should I have children?

It is not an easy time for people to feel hopeful, with the effects of globalwarming no longer theoretical, projections becoming more dire and governmental action lagging. And while few, if any, studies have examined how large a role climate change plays in people’s childbearing decisions, it loomed large in interviews with more than a dozen people ages 18 to 43.

A 32-year-old who always thought she would have children can no longer justify it to herself. A Mormon has bucked the expectations of her religion by resolving to adopt rather than give birth. An Ohio woman had her first child after an unplanned pregnancy — and then had a second because she did not want her daughter to face an environmental collapse alone.

Among them, there is a sense of being saddled with painful ethical questions that previous generations did not have to confront. Some worry about the quality of life children born today will have as shorelines floodwildfires rage and extreme weather becomes more common. Others are acutely aware that having a child is one of the costliest actions they can take environmentally.

The birthrate in the United States, which has been falling for a decade, reached a new low in 2016. Economic insecurity has been a major factor, but even as the economy recovers, the decline in births continues.

And the discussions about the role of climate change are only intensifying.

“When we first started this project, I didn’t know anybody who had had any conversations about this,” said Meghan Kallman, a co-founder of Conceivable Future, an organization that highlights how climate change is limiting reproductive choices.

That has changed, she said — either because more people are having doubts, or because it has become less taboo to talk about them.

Facing an uncertain future

If it weren’t for climate change, Allison Guy said, she would go off birth control tomorrow.

But scientists’ projections, if rapid action isn’t taken, are not “congruent with a stable society,” said Ms. Guy, 32, who works at a marine conservation nonprofit in Washington. “I don’t want to give birth to a kid wondering if it’s going to live in some kind of ‘Mad Max’ dystopia.”

Parents like Amanda PerryMiller, a Christian youth leader and mother of two in Independence, Ohio, share her fears.

“Animals are disappearing. The oceans are full of plastic. The human population is so numerous, the planet may not be able to support it indefinitely,” said Ms. PerryMiller, 29. “This doesn’t paint a very pretty picture for people bringing home a brand-new baby from the hospital.”

The people thinking about these issues fit no single profile. They are women and men, liberal and conservative. They come from many regions and religions. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 11:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, Go

Tricks to improve a soup recipe

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Carrie Havrenek offers some good tips on seven ways to improve a soup recipe. In particular, roasting the vegetables before adding to the soup is a definite winner, something I just recently learned and put to good effect in this recipe.

I occasionally use homemade stock, but I also make frequent use of Penzey’s soup bases, which are excellent.

I knew about using Parmesan rinds to amp up the umami (and note that Whole Foods sells Parmesan rinds: I now always have some in the refrigerator). Other umami-boosting tricks are to add 3-4 anchovy fillets when the sauté vegetables for the soup (and buy those that come in a jar rather than those in a tin), or a good dash of soy sauce or tamari or Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce (the latter two being made from anchovies). Mushrooms and tomatoes also bring umami flavor, as do sea vegetables.

If you want to thicken the soup, adding 1/4 cup chia seed will do the job and also add protein, fiber, omega-3 oils, iron, etc.—chia seed has many benefits. If you are restricting carbohydrates (and I still am), note that 1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) of chia seed has only 2g of net carbohydrates (total carbohydrates (13.1g) minutes dietary fiber (11.1g)).

My soups now often include chicken breast (0 WW points) as the meat choice. When I get chicken breasts, I immediately poach them (using the method in the second link above), so when I use them in soup or chili, I don’t include them until the end, just heating them up in the dish to avoid overcooking them.

As noted in the article, vinegar (or, really, any acid, such as lemon juice) will brighten the flavor. I generally use lemon juice or brown rice vinegar or sherry vinegar, but any will do. Two tablespoons in a pot of soup is plenty, but try one tablespoon and then taste.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 February 2018 at 10:35 am

Posted in Food, Recipes

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