Later On

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

Archive for March 4th, 2019

Here’s How to Fund Medicare For All

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 8:30 pm

Saudi Arabia is torturing a U.S. citizen. When will Trump act?

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The editorial board of the Washington Posts writes:

BEFORE HE was murdered inside a Saudi Consulate in October, our colleague Jamal Khashoggi questioned why Saudi Arabia had detained a prominent doctor, Walid Fitaihi, a dual Saudi-U.S. citizen seized in a November 2017 roundup of businessmen. The detainees, in what was described as an anti-corruption drive, were held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. “What happened to us?” Khashoggi, himself a Saudi, asked on Twitter. “How can a person like @Walidfitaihi get arrested, and for what reason?” He added, “With no interceding channels to pursue & no Attorney General to answer questions & verify charges, of course everyone is struck with awe and helplessness.”
Today, Khashoggi is no longer able to ask such impertinent questions. He was assassinated in Istanbul by a hit squad that intelligence reports say was dispatched by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. But Khashoggi’s question remains relevant. Mr. Fitaihi, founder of a medical center in Jeddah, is still a captive. It is not known precisely why, and he has never been charged, although the New York Times quoted a friend saying he was being pressured to give evidence against a relative.
He has been tortured during his captivity. He was reportedly grabbed from his room at the Ritz, slapped, blindfolded, stripped to his underwear, bound to a chair, shocked with electricity and whipped so severely that he could not sleep on his back for days. The Times said his lawyer has written to the State Department that the doctor “is in fear for his life, that he cannot take his situation any longer, and that he desires all possible help.” The Associated Press quoted the lawyer as saying Mr. Fitaihi is now in a prison hospital after suffering “an emotional breakdown.” Mr. Fitaihi earned his medical degree from George Washington University and holds a master’s degree in public health from Harvard University.
On another front in Mohammed bin Salman’s drive to crush critical voices, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announcedcharges Friday against a group of female activists who campaigned to give women the right to drive — a right that Mohammed bin Salman conferred after they sought it. The activists have been jailed for nearly a year, during which Amnesty International says they have been tortured and sexually abused. They did nothing wrong and should be released unconditionally and immediately.
In the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked about the crown prince’s role in the Khashoggi murder, declared that the United States would “hold everyone that we determine is responsible for this accountable in an appropriate way, a way that reflects the best of the United States of America.”
A doctor with U.S. citizenship was tortured and held without charge. Women who . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 7:43 pm

Canaries : air in coal mine :: independent local daily newspapers : strength of democracy

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It’s not looking good in that regard. And it’s not “an informed citizenry will take action!” It’s much more mundane than that. It’s that when you can actually make money by publishing a local daily newspaper with local political reporting and scandals and the like, that means that there is a demand for that information, and that is what preserves democracy: people who are intensely interested in knowing just what their government is up to. And prepared to vote in the light of that knowledge. Contra the Washington Post, it’s not darkness that kills democracy, it’s lack of interest.

If the public stops paying attention, things go bad fast, as we’ve seen.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 7:37 pm

Another example of cooking together veggies you like, to make a dish you like

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I used my No. 8 Field cast-iron skillet, but the No. 10 would have been better. Still it worked well. Heat skillet over medium for 5-8 minutes, then add:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 mediium yellow onion, chopped
8-10 garlic cloves, minced and allowed to rest 15 minues
2 beets, diced
salt and pepper

Add the oil and then immediately the vegetables. Cook, stirring often, for, like, 20-30 minutes. I was thinking that sautéing the beets would be like sautéing carrots, but beets seem to take a little longer.

Add:

1 medium-to-large zucchini, cut into largish dice

You want pieces thick enough that they won’t just be mush when done.

Cook the lot, stirring from time to time, until zucchini are done, about another 15 minutes.

Really tasty, as it turns out. And just 4 WW points for the whole amount. Plus I brought out my Dahlstrong chef’s knife for the cutting. 🙂

Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 7:26 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Results of memetic evolution: Variety in music

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Samples of various species. Click species name to hear a sample—and you can also get a playlist.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Evolution, Memes, Music

8 Must-Read Revelations From The New Yorker’s Exposé on Fox News and Trump

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Adam Raymond writes in New York:

The cozy relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News is not news to anyone who’s paid attention to politics for the past several years. But the depth of the love affair will be.

In a her New Yorker article, “The Making of the Fox News White House,” Jane Mayer lays out new evidence of just how close Fox News and the White House have grown over the past two years. As one expert put it, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.” Also, Mayer appears to have uncovered a little something that may one day come up in impeachment hearings.

Here are Mayer’s eight most eye-popping and ridiculous revelations:

Trump rates the loyalty of Fox News personalities, and Hannity isn’t at the top.

Trump has told confidants that he has ranked the loyalty of many reporters, on a scale of 1 to 10. Bret Baier, Fox News’ chief political anchor, is a 6; Hannity a solid 10. Steve Doocy, the co-host of “Fox & Friends,” is so adoring that Trump gives him a 12.

But Trump still loves Hannity.

Sean Hannity has told colleagues that he speaks to the president virtually every night, after his show ends, at 10 p.m. According to the Washington Post, White House advisers have taken to calling Hannity the Shadow Chief of Staff. A Republican political expert who has a paid contract with Fox News told me that Hannity has essentially become a “West Wing adviser,” attributing this development, in part, to the “utter breakdown of any normal decision-making in the White House.”

Trump seeks, and receives, advice from even the most D-list Fox News personalities.

Pete Hegseth and Lou Dobbs, hosts on Fox Business, have each been patched into Oval Office meetings, by speakerphone, to offer policy advice.

Rupert Murdoch make funs of Trump behind his back, but the president doesn’t care.

According to Michael Wolff’s 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” Murdoch derided Trump as “a fucking idiot” after a conversation about immigration. The aide says Trump knows that Murdoch has denigrated him behind his back, but “it doesn’t seem to matter” that much. Several sources confirmed to me that Murdoch regales friends with Trump’s latest inanities.

Prior to the first GOP primary debate in 2015, Roger Ailes may have tipped off Trump about Megyn Kelly’s question regarding his history of disparaging women.

A pair of Fox insiders and a source close to Trump believe that Ailes informed the Trump campaign about Kelly’s question. Two of those sources say that they know of the tipoff from a purported eyewitness. In addition, a former Trump campaign aide says that a Fox contact gave him advance notice of a different debate question, which asked the candidates whether they would support the Republican nominee, regardless of who won.

A FoxNews.com reporter had the Stormy Daniels story in the fall of 2016, but it never ran.

[Diana] Falzone’s story didn’t run — it kept being passed off from one editor to the next. After getting one noncommittal answer after another from her editors, Falzone at last heard from [Ken] LaCorte, who was then the head of FoxNews.com. Falzone told colleagues that LaCorte said to her, “Good reporting, kiddo. But Rupert wants Donald Trump to win. So just let it go.” LaCorte denies telling Falzone this, but one of Falzone’s colleagues confirms having heard her account at the time.

Trump allegedly ordered Gary Cohn to pressure the Justice Department into blocking AT&T from purchasing Time Warner.

Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs, evidently understood that it would be highly improper for a President to use the Justice Department to undermine two of the most powerful companies in the country as punishment for unfavorable news coverage, and as a reward for a competing news organization that boosted him. According to the source, as Cohn walked out of the meeting he told Kelly, “Don’t you fucking dare call the Justice Department. We are not going to do business that way.”

Former Fox host and current Donald Trump Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle farmed out her show prep to a viewer in Georgia, who threatened Mayer when she got in touch. . .

Continue reading.

But for the real deal, read the Mayer article in the New Yorker, which begins:

In January, during the longest government shutdown in America’s history, President Donald Trump rode in a motorcade through Hidalgo County, Texas, eventually stopping on a grassy bluff overlooking the Rio Grande. The White House wanted to dramatize what Trump was portraying as a national emergency: the need to build a wall along the Mexican border. The presence of armored vehicles, bales of confiscated marijuana, and federal agents in flak jackets underscored the message.

But the photo op dramatized something else about the Administration. After members of the press pool got out of vans and headed over to where the President was about to speak, they noticed that Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, was already on location. Unlike them, he hadn’t been confined by the Secret Service, and was mingling with Administration officials, at one point hugging Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security. The pool report noted that Hannity was seen “huddling” with the White House communications director, Bill Shine. After the photo op, Hannity had an exclusive on-air interview with Trump. Politico later reported that it was Hannity’s seventh interview with the President, and Fox’s forty-second. Since then, Trump has given Fox two more. He has granted only ten to the three other main television networks combined, and none to CNN, which he denounces as “fake news.”

Hannity was treated in Texas like a member of the Administration because he virtually is one. The same can be said of Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch. Fox has long been a bane of liberals, but in the past two years many people who watch the network closely, including some Fox alumni, say that it has evolved into something that hasn’t existed before in the United States. Nicole Hemmer, an assistant professor of Presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and the author of “Messengers of the Right,” a history of the conservative media’s impact on American politics, says of Fox, “It’s the closest we’ve come to having state TV.”

Hemmer argues that Fox—which, as the most watched cable news network, generates about $2.7 billion a year for its parent company, 21st Century Fox—acts as a force multiplier for Trump, solidifying his hold over the Republican Party and intensifying his support. “Fox is not just taking the temperature of the base—it’s raising the temperature,” she says. “It’s a radicalization model.” For both Trump and Fox, “fear is a business strategy—it keeps people watching.” As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such shows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.” Trump, Hemmer says, has “almost become a programmer.”

Fox’s defenders view such criticism as unfounded and politically biased. Ken LaCorte, who was in senior management at Fox News for nearly twenty years, until 2016, and recently started his own news service, told me, “The people at Fox said the same thing about the press and Obama.” Fox’s public-relations department offers numerous examples of its reporters and talk-show hosts challenging the Administration. Chris Wallace, a tough-minded and ecumenical interviewer, recently grilled Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser, on the need for a border wall, given that virtually all drugs seized at the border are discovered at checkpoints. Trump is not the first President to have a favorite media organization; James Madison and Andrew Jackson were each boosted by partisan newspapers. But many people who have watched and worked with Fox over the years, including some leading conservatives, regard Fox’s deepening Trump orthodoxy with alarm. Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, “It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.” Joe Peyronnin, a professor of journalism at N.Y.U., was an early president of Fox News, in the mid-nineties. “I’ve never seen anything like it before,” he says of Fox. “It’s as if the President had his own press organization. It’s not healthy.”

Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House. Kristol says of Shine, “When I first met him, he was producing Hannity’s show at Fox, and the two were incredibly close.” Both come from white working-class families on Long Island, and they are godfathers to each other’s children, who refer to them as “Uncle Bill” and “Uncle Sean.” Another former colleague says, “They spend their vacations together.” A third recalls, “I was rarely in Shine’s office when Sean didn’t call. And I was in Shine’s office a lot. They talked all the time—many times a day.”

Shine led Fox News’ programming division for a dozen years, overseeing the morning and evening opinion shows, which collectively get the biggest ratings and define the network’s conservative brand. Straight news was not within his purview. In July, 2016, Roger Ailes, the co-founder and C.E.O. of Fox, was fired in the face of numerous allegations of chronic sexual harassment, and Shine became co-president. But within a year he, too, had been forced out, amid a second wave of sexual-harassment allegations, some of them against Fox’s biggest star at the time, Bill O’Reilly. Shine wasn’t personally accused of sexual harassment, but several lawsuits named him as complicit in a workplace culture of coverups, payoffs, and victim intimidation.

Shine, who has denied any wrongdoing, has kept a low profile at the White House, and rejects interview requests, including one from this magazine. But Kristol contends that Shine’s White House appointment is a scandal. “It’s been wildly under-covered,” he said. “It’s astounding that Shine—the guy who covered up Ailes’s horrible behavior—is the deputy chief of staff!” . . .

There’s much more. Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 4:34 pm

For Alzheimer’s Sufferers, Brain Inflammation Ignites a Neuron-Killing “Forest Fire”

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Karen Weintraub writes in Scientific American:

For decades researchers have focused their attacks against Alzheimer’s on two proteins, amyloid beta and tau. Their buildup in the brain often serves as a defining indicator of the disease. Get rid of the amyloid and tau, and patients should do better, the thinking goes.

But drug trial after drug trial has failed to improve patients’ memory, agitation and anxiety. One trial of a drug that removes amyloid even seemed to make some patients worse. The failures suggest researchers were missing something. A series of observations and recently published research findings have hinted at a somewhat different path for progression of Alzheimer’s, offering new ways to attack a disease that robs memories and devastates the lives of 5.7 million Americansand their families.

One clue hinting at the need to look further afield was a close inspection of the 1918 worldwide flu pandemic, which left survivors with a higher chance of later developing Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. A second inkling came from the discovery that the amyloid of Alzheimer’s and the alpha-synuclein protein that characterizes Parkinson’s are antimicrobials, which help the immune system fight off invaders. The third piece of evidence was the finding in recent years, as more genes involved in Alzheimer’s have been identified, that traces nearly all of them to the immune system. Finally, neuroscientists have paid attention to cells that had been seen as ancillary—“helper” or “nursemaid” cells. They have come to recognize these brain cells, called microglia and astrocytes, play a central role in brain function—and one intimately related to the immune system.

All of these hints are pointing toward the conclusion that both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be the results of neuroinflammation—in which the brain’s immune system has gotten out of whack. “The accumulating evidence that inflammation is a driver of this disease is enormous,” says Paul Morgan, a professor of immunology and a member of the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University in Wales. “It makes very good biological sense.”

The exact process remains unclear. In some cases the spark that starts the disease process might be some kind of insult—perhaps a passing virus, gut microbe or long-dormant infection. Or maybe in some people, simply getting older—adding some pounds or suffering too much stress could trigger inflammation that starts a cascade of harmful events.

This theory also would explain one of the biggest mysteries about Alzheimer’s: why some people can have brains clogged with amyloid plaques and tau tangles and still think and behave perfectly normally. “What made those people resilient was lack of neuroinflammation,” says Rudolph Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and one of the leaders behind this new view of Alzheimer’s. Their immune systems kept functioning normally, so although the spark was lit, the forest fire never took off, he says. In Tanzi’s fire analogy, the infection or insult sparks the amyloid match, triggering a brush fire. As amyloid and tau accumulate, they start interfering with the brain’s activities and killing neurons, leading to a raging inflammatory state that impairs memory and other cognitive capacities. The implication, he says, is that it is not enough to just treat the amyloid plaques, as most previous drug trials have done. “If you try to just treat plaques in those people, it’s like trying to put out forest fire by blowing out a match.”

LIGHTING THE FIRE

One study published earlier this year found gum disease might be the match that triggers this neuroinflammatory conflagration—but Tanzi is not yet convinced. The study was too small to be conclusive, he says. Plus, he has tried to find a link himself and found nothing. Other research has suggested the herpes virus could start this downward spiral, and he is currently investigating whether air pollution might as well. He used to think amyloid took years to develop, but he co-authored a companion paper to the herpes one last year, showing amyloid plaques can literally appear overnight.

It is not clear whether the microbes—say for herpes or gum disease—enter the brain or whether inflammation elsewhere in the body triggers the pathology, says Jessica Teeling, a professor of experimental neuroimmunology at the University of Southampton in England. If microbes can have an impact without entering the brain or spinal cord—staying in what’s called the peripheral nervous system—it may be possible to treat Alzheimer’s without having to cross the blood–brain barrier, Teeling says.

Genetics clearly play a role in Alzheimer’s, too. Rare cases of Alzheimer’s occurring at a relatively young age result from inheriting a single dominant gene. Another variant of a gene that transports fats in brain cells, APOE4, increases risk for more typical, later-onset disease. Over the last five years or so large studies of tens of thousands of people have looked across the human genome for other genetic risk factors. About 30 genes have jumped out, according to Alison Goate, a professor of neurogenetics and director of the Loeb Center for Alzheimer’s Disease at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Goate, who has been involved in some of those studies, says those genes are all involved in how the body responds to tissue debris—clearing out the gunk left behind after infections, cell death and similar insults. So, perhaps people with high genetic risk cannot cope as well with the debris that builds up in the brain after an infection or other insult, leading to a quicker spiral into Alzheimer’s. “Whatever the trigger is, the tissue-level response to that trigger is genetically regulated and seems to be at the heart of genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” she says. When microglia—immune cells in the brain—are activated in response to tissue damage, these genes and APOE get activated. “How microglia respond to this tissue damage—that is at the heart of the genetic regulation of risk for Alzheimer’s,” she says.

But APOE4 and other genes are part of the genome for life, so why do Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s mainly strike older people? says Joel Dudley, a professor of genetics and genomics, also at Mount Sinai. He thinks the answer is likely to be inflammation, not from a single cause for everyone but from different immune triggers in different individuals.

Newer technologies that allow researchers to examine a person’s aggregate immune activity should help provide some of those answers, he says. Cardiff’s Morgan is developing a panel of inflammatory markers found in the blood to predict the onset of Alzheimer’s before much damage is done in the brain, a possible diagnostic that could point to the need for anti-inflammatory therapy.

A similar inflammatory process is probably also at play in Parkinson’s disease, says Ole Isacson, a professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. Isacson points to another early clue about the role of inflammation in Parkinson’s: people who regularly took anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen developed the disease one to two years later than average. Whereas other researchers focused exclusively on genetics, Isacson found the evidence suggested the environment had a substantial impact on who got Parkinson’s.

In 2008–09, Isacson worked with a postdoctoral student on an experiment trying to figure out which comes first in the disease process: inflammation or the death of dopamine-producing neurons, which make the brain chemical involved in transmitting signals among nerve cells. The student first triggered inflammation in the brains of some rodents with molecules from gram-negative bacteria and then damaged the neurons that produce dopamine. In another group of rodents, he damaged the neurons first and then introduced inflammation. When inflammation came first, the cells died en masse, just as they do in Parkinson’s disease. Blocking inflammation prevented their demise, they reported in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Other neurodegenerative diseases also have immune connections. In multiple sclerosis, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 March 2019 at 12:57 pm

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