Later On

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

Archive for March 29th, 2019

Comics offer radical opportunity to blend scholarship and art

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An interesting article in Aeon by Trevor R Getz, professor of history and director of the Initiative for Public Humanities at San Francisco State University and author of Cosmopolitan Africa, 1700-1875 (2012).

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Books, Education

Portugal’s Path to Breaking Drug Addiction

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Rob Waters has a very interesting article in Craftsmanship magazine. It begins:

For the past 50 years, Italy, Portugal and the United States have taken radically different approaches to drug enforcement and to the epidemics of drug use and addiction that have afflicted each country. One, the U.S., has emphasized punishment. It leads the world in incarcerating people—and at burying them after drug overdoses. Another, Portugal, has decriminalized drugs and created a model for effective drug treatment. Italy, meanwhile, has veered wildly between these two poles, never settling on a clear approach.

This is the story of how Portugal has dealt with its drug problems and largely succeeded, while the U.S. and Italy, despite pockets of success—like the San Patrignano rehabilitation community in northern Italy described in another article in this issue—have mostly failed.

For all three countries, the modern epidemic of hardcore drugs began with a dramatic rise in the use of heroin. In the U.S., heroin use surged during the Vietnam War, as American soldiers experimented with Southeast Asian heroin and many became addicted. When they came home, drug syndicates saw a market and filled it, putting large quantities of heroin onto the streets of U.S. cities.

Heroin came to Italy in the mid-1970s and its use grew rapidly, striking all social classes. By the late 1980s, Milan alone had an estimated 100,000 heroin users, according to a 1989 article in the New York Times, which noted that in 1988,  809 Italians died of overdoses.

At its peak in the late 1990s, Portugal had one of the highest rates of heroin addiction and fatal overdoses in the world. About one percent of Portugese people were using heroin and one person a day was dying of an overdose—in a country of just 10 million. Then Portugal changed course and took a radical step, eliminating criminal penalties for drug use and possession and making a commitment to provide treatment to all who want it. Today, Portugal has arguably the world’s most enlightened set of drug policies.

As in the U.S., Portugal’s heroin experience began with war. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Portugal deployed hundreds of thousands of soldiers to suppress uprisings in the country’s African colonies. Like the Americans’ experience in Vietnam, these soldiers were exposed to marijuana and other drugs. Then, in 1974, a military coup struck Portugal, followed by a peaceful popular uprising (the “Carnation Revolution”). Almost overnight, decades of rule by a right-wing dictatorship were brought to an end.

A young doctor named João Goulão was then working in the Algarve area of southern Portugal. He had a front-row seat to what happened next.

“Suddenly almost a million soldiers and settlers came back to the mainland, bringing literally tons of cannabis, and there was an explosion of experimentation,” Goulão, who now runs the country’s drug agency, told me in a recent interview. Portugal at the time was going through an extraordinary upheaval, creating a new government and new laws. Young people and returning soldiers savored their new freedom by experimenting with drugs as marijuana, heroin, cocaine and LSD flooded in. “We were completely naïve about drugs,” says Goulão, “and completely unprepared to deal with it.”

FROM BAD TO WORSE

In a flash, Portugal went from having one of the lowest rates of drug use among European countries to having perhaps the highest. The biggest problem was heroin.

“Heroin spread very fast and among all social groups,” says Goulão. “It was not something that happened only among marginalized people and minorities, or in ghettoes. Suddenly everybody knew someone who had problems with drugs.”

As heroin use grew, so did overdoses. Doctors and public health professionals throughout the country began setting up treatment programs. After his daughter died of an overdose, the Minister of Justice set up treatment centers in three large cities. Private programs popped up as well, but Goulão says most were of poor quality and many ripped off the patients and families who came to them for help.

These efforts amounted to Band-Aids, not a concerted national policy. The number of providers and treatment programs kept growing but heroin use grew even faster. The sharing of needles also spread AIDS, adding to the death toll. With drug possession and sales seen as crimes, the prison population soared. And since drugs circulated widely within prisons, it had little effect on the underlying problem.

“People could spend two or three years in jail and come back worse than when they went there,” says Goulão. “The situation was getting worse every day.”

STEP ONE: DECRIMINALIZATION

In 1998, Portugal Prime Minister António Guterres, (now secretary-general of the United Nations) convened a group of nine experts—judges, psychologists and health professionals including Goulão—to develop a national strategy for addressing the crisis. The group visited other European countries, interviewed professionals and researched different approaches. In the end, they concluded they could do relatively little to address the supply of drugs—but could do a lot to address the demand.

The committee developed a set of concrete proposals focused largely on “prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and the reintegration of people,” Goulão says. “All of it was based in the idea that we were dealing with a health and social condition rather than a criminal one.”

The committee’s most radical proposal was to eliminate criminal penalties for the use and possession of drugs. Government leaders accepted the proposal but it also required the approval of Parliament. So Goulão and his colleagues took their case to the public and spent the next year presenting their plan in dozens of forums and discussions.

Their proposal was opposed by right-wing parties and Goulão remembers their arguments: “Portugal will become a paradise for drug addicts and drug users from all over the world. We will have planes coming to Lisbon every day with people to use drugs. Our children will start using drugs at early ages.”

But support from the public and, surprisingly, from the Catholic Church carried the day—in 2001, Parliament passed the sweeping changes. “Using drugs in Portugal was no longer a crime,” Goulão says.

STEP TWO: MULTIPLE OPTIONS FOR TREATMENT

Today, some 40 programs in Portugal provide detoxification and long-term treatment, with 1600 beds in residential treatment programs known as “therapeutic communities,” Goulão says. Most are run by nonprofit agencies, under contract with the government. They employ a variety of treatment approaches, but all must provide  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 4:58 pm

A very nice linner: Chicken hearts with bitter melon, and a BC gewürztraminer

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Odd that we have “brunch” for a meal that combines breakfast and lunch, but no “linner” for lunch and dinner. Perhaps it should be “lunner.”

I used the Field Company No. 12, which I put into the oven and turned it on to 350ºF.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 very long Chinese leek, sliced
1/2 very large red bell pepper, chopped (a very dark red: lovely pepper)
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped small
1/2 large bitter melon, chopped (see photo)
good pinch of salt and several grindings of black pepper
280g (about 10 oz) chicken hearts

Once the oven came to temperature and the skillet was hot, I put it on a hot burner and added olive oil, vegetables, salt, and pepper. I cooked that for a minute or two, then added the chicken hearts.

I cooked, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. It was extremely tasty, and I believe good for me. No asparagus, you will note. I’m trying to pace that.

I did pick up three different kinds of Chinese greens, and one is new to me: a Chinese spinach. I’ll have that tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 4:22 pm

The Day the Dinosaurs Died

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Douglas Preston has an amazing article in the New Yorker about a paleontological dig that lays out the first hour after the Earth was struck by a large asteroid 66 million years ago, which ended the reign of the dinosaurs and just about ended life on Earth. It’s a long article, and it’s well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Science

Mueller was looking ahead: What’s still to come

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Troy Chittum has an interesting post on Facebook:

According to a new report from the New York Times Mueller has farmed out federal indictments to:

1) the SDNY, in Manhattan
2) the EDNY, in Brooklyn
3) the EDVA in Virginia
4) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles
5) the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington DC
6) the DOJ National Security Division
7) the DOJ Criminal Division.

So what is the take away from all this?

Those who are familiar with Mueller’s investigation understand that “no more indictments from Mueller” doesn’t mean “no more indictments.”

It means every single one of Mueller’s existing indictments resides in a “presidential pardon proof” prosecutorial district.

Recall how Mueller handed off the Cohen case to the U.S. Attorneys’ office for the SDNY, who sent Cohen to prison.

As his own investigation ends, it becomes clear Mueller plans to handle all indictments/prosecutions resulting from his investigation through these seven federal prosecutorial entities.

So now we know Mueller has equipped seven different federal prosecutorial bodies to carry out investigations and indictments, and “most” of those investigations focused specifically on Donald Trump, his family, and his people.

In other words, the people on Team Trump who are celebrating right now are merely suffering from a lack of understanding about how prosecutions work.

He may last until 2020, but rest assured, Trump and his criminal family are toast.

Mueller is a RICO expert. He took down the mob and others infinitely smarter than Trump and his idiot sons. He has a 100% conviction rate. This is just the beginning.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 11:21 am

Saudi Arabia a nuclear power? Trump administration authorized nuclear energy companies to share technological information with Saudi Arabia

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Steven Mufson reports for the Washington Post:

The Trump administration has kept secret seven authorizations it has issued since November 2017 allowing U.S. nuclear energy companies to share sensitive technological information with Saudi Arabia, even though the kingdom has not yet agreed to anti-proliferation terms required to construct a pair of U.S.-designed civilian nuclear power plants.

The Energy Department and State Department have not only kept the authorizations from the public but also refused to share information about them with congressional committees that have jurisdiction over nuclear proliferation and safety.

The authorizations, issued to at least six companies, cover “Part 810” information, named for a regulatory clause that allows U.S. companies to divulge some design information to compete for contracts with foreign buyers. The regulations for Part 810 technology-sharing provide a list of “generally authorized destinations.” Saudi Arabia is not on the list.

Saudi Arabia has said it wants to build two nuclear power plants, and companies from Russia, China, South Korea, France and the United States have expressed interest in obtaining the contracts.

If a U.S. consortium is to build a reactor in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom would have to commit to what is known as a “123 agreement.” Without that, Congress could vote to block. The kingdom so far has refused to give up its right to enrich uranium or reprocess spent fuel, both of which can be used to build nuclear weapons.

In a “60 Minutes” interview last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”

In a December email obtained by The Washington Post, an Energy Department official conceded that “general practice is to place signed authorizations in the Department’s [Freedom of Information Act] Public Reading Room.” However, in justifying the handling of Part 810 information, the Energy Department has cited the companies’ requests to protect proprietary information.

The Daily Beast first wrote about the 810 authorizations.

“These U.S. companies that are going to be doing this work want to keep that proprietary information from being out in the public domain,” Energy Secretary Rick Perry testified Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I totally understand that.”

Members of Congress are upset about the administration’s stance and are trying to learn whether the United States has been sharing information with Saudi Arabia even after the October killing in Istanbul of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen and U.S. resident.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) questioned Perry about whether any Part 810 licenses for Saudi Arabia were issued after the killing of Khashoggi. Perry said he did not know. “I’ll get back to you,” he said.

erry said that since 2017, there had been 65 applications from companies seeking to share information under Part 810 of the legislation authorizing the licenses. So far, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 10:08 am

Betsy DeVos is a horrible human being

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Just a few selections from today’s “Daily 202”:

Trump’s sudden reversal, after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spent three days publicly defending the cut, highlighted 10 deeper truths about his presidency:

1. The president vs. the presidency: It actually seems plausible that Trump didn’t know he had signed off on a budget request that cut the Special Olympics until he saw cable news coverage yesterday of people criticizing him for doing so. If he was telling the truth on the South Lawn, it reflects the extent to which he has outsourced most policymaking to conservative ideologues like acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

2. The buck stops with … who exactly? DeVos released a statement last night insisting that she was against the Special Olympics cuts all along, and her staff blamed the Office of Management and Budget for including the proposal. “This is funding I have fought for behind the scenes over the last several years,” she said. “I am pleased and grateful the president and I see eye to eye on this issue, and that he’s decided to fund our Special Olympics grant.”

Even by Washington standards, this took chutzpah. During testimony earlier in the day before a Senate appropriations panel, DeVos defended the cuts as necessary and argued that private donors like her – she married into the billionaire Amway fortune – would step up to fill the gap. Then she took umbrage at Democratic criticism. “I hope all of this debate encourages lots of private contributions to Special Olympics,” she told Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “So let’s not use disabled children in a twisted way for your political narrative. That is just disgusting, and it’s shameful.”

3. Trump is constantly looking to get credit for cleaning up messes of his own making: The president declared that he had decided to save the Special Olympics as he left the White House to fly to Michigan for a rally to support his reelection campaign. Then, in Grand Rapids last night, Trump announced that he’s going to make sure the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is fully funded. Trump’s budget earlier this month proposed slashing that program, which funds the cleanup of the Great Lakes, by 90 percent – from $300 million to $30 million.

“We have some breaking news! You ready? Can you handle it? I don’t think you can handle it,” he said, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I support the Great Lakes. Always have! They are beautiful. They are big, very deep, record deepness, right? And I am going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which you have been trying to get for over 30 years. So we will get it done.”

During his first year in office, Trump called for eliminating the program entirely. Last year and this year, he asked Congress to cut it by 90 percent. But Republicans and Democrats on the Hill teamed up to fully fund it over White House objections.

This is part of a pattern. Remember when Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and then attacked Democrats for not protecting the “dreamers” from deportations that he put them at risk for? . . .

5. Audacity, always audacity: The president has stocked his political team with operatives who share his zeal for counterpunching. It’s this mentality that prompted the Trump reelection campaign’s deputy communications director, Matt Wolking, to accuse Democrats of hypocrisy yesterday for wanting to fund the Special Olympics while simultaneously supporting abortion rights.

“I’m sure Democrats who see abortion as the cure for Down syndrome and other disabilities are sincerely concerned about kids having the chance to be in the Special Olympics,” Wolking tweeted. “The Special Olympics proves people with disabilities can live meaningful, fulfilling lives. It’s a powerful monument to the value of all lives — the same lives Democrats are fine with seeing snuffed out.”

These comments offended many Democrats who identify as pro-choice and who have children or relatives with Down syndrome. Moreover, they came just hours before Trump changed course.

6. No one can really speak for Trump – but Trump: He routinely contradicts or otherwise undercuts his top aides. Trump has often said that his own spokespeople cannot speak for him, which makes it harder for people like Wolking to spin reporters. DeVos is far from the first Cabinet secretary to get thrown under the bus. That makes it hard for presidential emissaries, even Vice President Pence, to negotiate credibly on his behalf when they’re on Capitol Hill or in foreign capitals. When Rex Tillerson was secretary of state, recall how Trump publicly chastised his own diplomat’s efforts to engage with North Korea. He called it a waste of time – a few months before doing so himself.

7. It’s still not clear that Trump understands how the appropriations process works: “I just authorized a funding,” the president told reporters of the Special Olympics. But Trump does not get to appropriate funds. The Constitution makes clear that this is Congress’s most important function. This has come up recently with the president’s declaration of a national emergency to try building a border wall that a majority of the House has explicitly rejected.

8. Budget proposals are statements of principles and values. By definition, they’re aspirational. And this was just the tip of the iceberg. The Special Olympics line item is only $17.6 million. The Trump budget released this month asked Congress to cut Education Department spending by more than $8.5 billion from this year, or about 12 percent.

Among the initiatives that Trump said should go on the chopping block: the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program, which underwrites school safety efforts, including mental-health services. He also wants to take the ax to after-school activities for children who live in impoverished communities, which are designed to keep at-risk teens off the streets and out of trouble. And he wants a $7.5 million cut to the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a $13 million cut for Gallaudet University in the District and a $5 million cut for the American Printing House for the Blind, a federal program that produces books for blind students.

During a House subcommittee hearing to review the Trump budget on Tuesday, Republican Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.) said that, while some of the proposed reductions make sense, others are “somewhat shortsighted.”

9. “One of the reasons the special education cuts drew fire this week was because DeVos had found money to support her own pet projects,” Valerie Strauss explains. “She proposed creating a controversial new federal tax-credit program, which, capped at $5 billion, would allow the use of public money for private and religious schooling. She also proposed adding $60 million to the Charter Schools Program, which funds the creation and expansion of charter schools. Some critics said they were angered that DeVos found money to support the expansion of alternatives to traditional public school districts, which enroll most U.S. schoolchildren, while cutting special education.” . . .

— Overshadowed by the Special Olympics donnybrook: During her Senate appearance yesterday, DeVos also acknowledged that she has not begun implementing an Obama-era regulation designed to ensure children of color are not disproportionately punished or sent to special-education classrooms – despite a judge’s rebuke and a court order to do so. “Three weeks ago, a federal court ruled that the Trump administration must implement the rule immediately,” Laura Meckler reports. “DeVos (said) the Education Department was still ‘reviewing the court’s decision and discussing our options.’ Published in the final days of the Obama administration, the rules were supposed to have taken effect in 2018. DeVos moved last summer to delay them for two years. … Under the regulation, states face tighter rules about how they tabulate data about the demographics and treatment of children in special education to ensure there are not racial disparities.”

— On today’s opinion page, Helaine Olen makes an extended case that DeVos is “the worst member of Trump’s Cabinet.” Not because of the Special Olympics, Olen says, but because of her friendliness toward predatory lenders. The Education Department stalled Obama-era rules intended to make it easier for people who racked up tens of thousands of dollars in student loans attending for-profit colleges that lured them in with phony come-ons and job placement statistics to receive relief, and backed down only when a court stepped in last year, Olen explains: “Now DeVos’s department is moving slower than a tortoise. According to reporting by CNN, the Department of Education did not review any requests for loan dismissal under ‘borrower defense’ provisions between June and September of last year, and is refusing to answer questions about how many it has signed off on since. …

“DeVos is also supporting eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which permits borrowers who can show they worked for a nonprofit or the government — think teachers and librarians and firemen — for 10 years while making regular and on-time student loan payments to see the remainder of their balance forgiven. … There is something particularly distasteful about DeVos, whose wealth is inherited, essentially kicking sand in the faces of people who are trying to get ahead by doing what society tells them to do — get an education.”

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 10:05 am

Rep. Adam Schiff’s statement

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I was very impressed with the statement Adam Schiff made in the video at the beginning of this article, and I suggested that my readers watch the video. Here’s what Schiff said:

My colleagues might think it’s OK that the Russians offered dirt on the Democratic candidate for president as part of what’s described as the Russian government’s effort to help the Trump campaign. You might think that’s OK.

My colleagues might think it’s OK that when that was offered to the son of the president, who had a pivotal role in the campaign, that the president’s son did not call the FBI; he did not adamantly refuse that foreign help – no, instead that son said that he would ‘love’ the help with the Russians.

You might think it’s OK that he took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, someone with great experience running campaigns, also took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that the president’s son-in-law also took that meeting. You might think it’s OK that they concealed it from the public. You might think it’s OK that their only disappointment after that meeting was that the dirt they received on Hillary Clinton wasn’t better. You might think that’s OK.

You might think it’s OK that when it was discovered, a year later, that they then lied about that meeting and said that it was about adoptions. You might think that it’s OK that it was reported that the president helped dictate that lie. You might think that’s OK. I don’t.

You might think it’s OK that the campaign chairman of a presidential campaign would offer information about that campaign to a Russian oligarch in exchange for money or debt forgiveness. You might think that’s OK, I don’t.

You might think it’s OK that that campaign chairman offered polling data to someone linked to Russian intelligence. I don’t think that’s OK.

You might think it’s OK that the president himself called on Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, if they were listening. You might think it’s OK that later that day, in fact, the Russians attempted to hack a server affiliated with that campaign. I don’t think that’s OK.

You might think it’s OK that the president’s son-in-law sought to establish a secret back channel of communication with the Russians through a Russian diplomatic facility. I don’t think that’s OK.

You might think it’s OK that an associate of the president made direct contact with the GRU through Guccifer 2.0 and WikiLeaks, that is considered a hostile intelligence agency. You might think it’s OK that a senior campaign official was instructed to reach that associate and find out what that hostile intelligence agency had to say in terms of dirt on his opponent.

You might think it’s OK that the national security adviser designate secretly conferred with the Russian ambassador about undermining U.S. sanctions, and you might think it’s OK that he lied about it to the FBI.

You might say that’s all OK, that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I don’t think it’s OK. I think it’s immoral, I think it’s unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt – and evidence of collusion.”

Now I have always said that the question of whether this amounts to proof of conspiracy was another matter. Whether the special counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt the proof of that crime would be up to the special counsel, and I would accept his decision, and I do. He’s a good and honorable man, and he is a good prosecutor.

But I do not think that conduct, criminal or not, is OK. And the day we do think that’s OK is the day we will look back and say that is the day that America lost its way.”

And I will tell you one more thing that is apropos of the hearing today: I don’t think it’s OK that during a presidential campaign Mr. Trump sought the Kremlin’s help to consummate a real estate deal in Moscow that would make him a fortune – according to the special counsel, hundreds of millions of dollars. I don’t think it’s OK to conceal it from the public. I don’t think it’s OK that he advocated a new and more favorable policy towards the Russians even as he was seeking the Russians’ help, the Kremlin’s help to make money. I don’t think it’s OK that his attorney lied to our committee. There is a different word for that than collusion, and it’s called ‘compromise.’

And that is the subject of our hearing today.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 9:58 am

Waterlyptus and TOBS No. 74—with Rooney and Ed Jagger

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What a great shave! I haven’t used my Rooney Super Silvertip (each brushmaker has its own terminology regarding badger), Style 3, Size 1 for quite a while, and I do like it. And Catie’s Bubbles Waterlyptus—watermelon + eucalyptus + peppermint—is a wonderful morning fragrance—and the lather’s damn good, too.

My favorite Edwin Jagger did its usual sterling job, and a splash of TOBS No. 74 aftershave finished the shave with a classic fragrance and good feel.

I’m ready for the day. Those who follow my walking adventures will be pleased to know that I’ve blown past my 6000-steps-per-day goal and the last three days have gone over 8000 steps/day (with a good cadence: 108 steps/minute). Nordic walking poles make an enormous difference: once I’m out the door and start walking, they keep me moving and make the walk enjoyable.

Written by Leisureguy

29 March 2019 at 7:43 am

Posted in Nordic walking, Shaving

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