Later On

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

Archive for June 27th, 2019

Stargazer, seasoned

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I followed the instructions on the Crisbee site, though I used Larbee (lard + beeswax).

1. Preheat cast iron piece to be seasoned in a 200ºF oven for 30 minutes.

2. Lightly apply Crisbee to the cast iron using the Crisbee Puck. Use a lint free cloth to spread evenly over all iron.

3. Once you have it coated take a shop towel or paper towel and try to wipe off all of the Crisbee until the pan appears completely dry. *This is an important step to prevent any Crisbee from puddling and turning into a sticky mess.

4. Place cast iron upside down in oven.

5. Heat in oven at 400ºF for one hour.

6. Turn oven off and let the pan cool slowly.

7. Repeat steps 1-6 a total of 3 times and your cast iron is ready for use!

There’s a video at the link, but the text is clear.

So now it’s seasoned, and my traditional way of breaking it in is to cook a rib-eye steak. I’ll probably continue the tradition.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

Why There Is so Much Commercial Corruption in Nutrition

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Michael Greger MD blogs at NutritionFacts.org:

The prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes has skyrocketed, as has the number of articles published about diabetes in medical journals. “Why does our wealth of academic knowledge not translate more directly to improving the human condition?” Perhaps our over-attachment to the reductionistic mindset that proved so successful with acute deficiency diseases may actually represent an obstacle to success battling chronic disease.

These days, health seems to have been reduced to a highly commercialized commodity, in which we’re marketed all sorts of high-cost, high-tech tests and treatments of dubious value with substantial risks attached. “This is worrisome because most of the things that make us healthy and keep us healthy are cheap and largely available without professional help or commercial prodding.” This isn’t to say modern medicine can’t work miracles, but what about the big picture? That is, what about the 80 percent of death and disability caused by preventable diet-related diseases?

What about the field of nutrition? In my video Why Is Nutrition So Commercialized?, I discuss how it’s become about profits and products, and extracting nutrients from whole foods so they can be repackaged and marketed. But food is best eaten whole. Eat the broccoli and the blueberries, not some broccoberry supplement. But the reason there aren’t more studies on whole foods is fairly obvious: You can’t patent them. Why should a company spend a lot of money, time, and effort to convince you to buy broccoli when any other company can sell it to you? That’s why the field of nutrition can be more about marketing profitable products than educating people about the fundamentals of health and wellness. For example, the benefits of whole grains over refined grains is commonly attributed to the fiber, which enables the food industry to whip out fiber-fortified Froot Loops and make you feel all better.

Let’s consider this ingenious study: Burkitt and colleagues thought the extraordinarily low rates of killer chronic diseases in sub-Saharan Africa were due to all the whole, plant foods they were eating. This turned into the fiber hypothesis, the reductionistic thought that fiber must be the magic bullet active ingredient. What happens if we put it to the test? What if we compared two groups of older women, both getting around six grams of grain fiber a day, but one group mostly from whole grains and the other mostly from refined grains? Who do you think lived longer? If it was just the fiber, there shouldn’t be much difference because both groups ate about the same amount. In fact, the whole grain group lived longer and with a significantly lower mortality rate, which implies that it may be all the other wonderful things in whole plant foods “linked to fiber [that] may confer important health benefits above and beyond effects of the fiber itself.” That’s why fiber supplements wouldn’t be expected to offer the same benefit.

Indeed, food, not nutrients, is the fundamental unit in nutrition. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 5:44 pm

“Best healthcare system in the world”: The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor

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Wendi C. Thomas reports in ProPublica:

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — In July 2007, Carrie Barrett went to the emergency room at Methodist University Hospital, complaining of shortness of breath and tightness in her chest. Her leg was swollen, she’d later recall, and her toes were turning black.

Given her family history, high blood pressure and newly diagnosed congestive heart failure, doctors performed a heart catheterization, threading a long tube through her groin and into her heart.

Her share of the two-night stay: $12,109.

Barrett, who has never made more than $12 an hour, doesn’t remember getting any notices to pay from the hospital. But in 2010, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare sued her for the unpaid medical bills, plus attorney’s fees and court costs.

Since then, the nonprofit hospital system affiliated with the United Methodist Church has doggedly pursued her, adding interest to the debt seven times and garnishing money from her paycheck on 15 occasions.

Barrett, 63, now owes about $33,000, more than twice what she earned last year, according to her tax return.

“The only thing that kept me levelheaded was praying and asking God to help me,” she said.

She’s among thousands of patients the massive hospital has sued for unpaid medical bills. From 2014 through 2018, Methodist filed more than 8,300 lawsuits, according to an MLK50-ProPublica analysis of Shelby County General Sessions Court records. Older cases like Barrett’s, which dates back nearly a decade, remain on the court’s docket.

Other hospitals in Memphis and around the country also sue patients. According to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found more than 20,000 debt lawsuits filed by Virginia hospitals in 2017. More than 9,300 garnishment cases occurred that year, and nonprofit hospitals were more likely to garnish wages.

But Methodist’s aggressive collection practices stand out in a city where nearly 1 in 4 residents live below the poverty line.

Its handling of poor patients begins with a financial assistance policy that, unlike many of its peers around the country, all but ignores patients with any form of health insurance, no matter their out-of-pocket costs. If they are unable to afford their bills, patients then face what experts say is rare: A licensed collection agency owned by the hospital.

Lawsuits follow. Finally, after the hospital wins a judgment, it repeatedly tries to garnish patients’ wages, which it does in a far higher share of cases than other nonprofit hospitals in Memphis.

Its own employees are no exception. Since 2014, Methodist has sued dozens of its workers for unpaid medical bills, including a hospital housekeeper sued in 2017 for more than $23,000. That year, she told the court, she made $16,000. She’s in a court-ordered payment plan, but in the case of more than 70 other employees, Methodist has garnished the wages it pays them to recoup its medical charges.

Nonprofit hospitals are generally exempt from local, state and federal taxes. In return, the federal government expects them to provide a significant community benefit, including charity care and financial assistance.

Methodist does provide some charity care — and pegs its community benefits as more than $226 million annually — but experts faulted it for also wielding the court as a hammer.

“If Warren Buffett walks in and needs a heart valve procedure and then stiffs the hospital, then yes, you should sue Warren Buffett,” said John Colombo, a University of Illinois College of Law professor emeritus who has testified before Congress about the tax-exempt status of nonprofit hospitals. “I can’t think of a situation in which thousands of your patients would fit that.”

Several nonprofit hospitals don’t sue patients at all, such as Bon Secours Hospitals in Virginia, which stopped pursuing debt suits in 2007, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which includes more than 20 facilities.

Some of Methodist Hospital’s cousins — health systems affiliated with the United Methodist Church — also don’t sue patients. That’s the case with Methodist Health System, which operates four hospitals in the Dallas area. The collection policy of the seven-hospital Houston Methodist system states: “At no time will Houston Methodist impose extraordinary collection actions such as wage garnishments,” liens on homes, or credit bureau notification.

“We are a faith-based institution and we don’t believe taking extraordinary measures to seek bill payments is consistent with our mission and values,” a Houston Methodist spokesperson said by email.

Methodist Le Bonheur, which says it is the second largest private employer in Shelby County, boasts on its website that it’s committed to a “culture of compassion.” Last year, Fortune magazine ranked the hospital among the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Methodist declined repeated requests to interview its top executives. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and the hospital is despicable.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 5:29 pm

The US government can no longer do its job—it’s very badly broken. Example: SCOTUS.

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The preceding post on how the government is helpless to hold Boeing accountable for its sloppy work is just the tip of the iceberg. The overall incompetence of the Executive Branch goes far beyond that: cf. the treatment of migrant children, the inability to address the opioid crisis, the bumbling on tariffs, and the simple inability to fill Executive Branch offices with people who can do the job and are not corrupt.

Congress is noticeably unproductive and showing no competence in its duties, primarily due to Mitch McConnell and the Senate, having embraced the maxim “Do nothing.”

And now the Supreme Court says that it cannot make a decision if the question is difficult, even when the question is not difficult and when there is a readily available objective measure that shows the degree of partisan gerrymandering that would allow the Supreme Court to set a limit. (Of course, most of the gerrymandering is done by Republicans to ensure Republican domination, and the Republican majority of the court wants to protect that.)

America is failing, and this report in the Washington Post by Robert Barnes provides a pointed example of a branch of the government paralyzed by partisanship and incompetence—and specifically by its Republican members.

The Supreme Court’s conservatives decided Thursday that federal courts do not have a role to play in deciding whether partisan gerrymandering goes too far.

The 5 to 4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and joined by the court’s other conservatives.

“We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.,” Roberts wrote. “Federal judges have no license to reallocate political power between the two major political parties, with no plausible grant of authority in the Constitution, and no legal standards to limit and direct their decisions.”

Justice Elena Kagan dissented for the court’s liberals. “For the first time ever, this court refuses to remedy a constitutional violation because it thinks the task beyond judicial capabilities,” she wrote.

Kagan underscored her disagreement by reading a lengthy excerpt of her dissent from the bench.

While the Supreme Court regularly scrutinizes electoral districts for racial gerrymandering, the justices have never found a state’s redistricting map so infected with politics that it violates the Constitution. Such a decision would have marked a dramatic change for how the nation’s political maps are drawn.

The court passed up the chance last term to settle the issue of whether courts have a role in policing partisan gerrymandering, sending back on technical rulings challenges to a Republican-drawn plan in Wisconsin and the challenged Maryland map.

There’s been less reticence outside the Supreme Court. With recent decisions in Ohio and Michigan, federal courts in five states have struck down maps as partisan gerrymanders. And last fall, voters in Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, Missouri and Utah either took redistricting away from politicians or limited their power.

Last June, the justices said the Maryland case was not ready for them and sent it back. In November, a unanimous three-judge panel found that Democrats had unconstitutionally targeted Republican voters in the 6th Congressional District. The legislature had redrawn the district, which previously stretched across the top of the state, to dip down and take in Democratic strongholds in the Washington suburbs.

After the 2011 redistricting, a Democrat won the seat previously held by a Republican. There was an open election in the district in November, when Democrat David Trone defeated Republican Amie Hoeber by a wide margin.

“The massive and unnecessary reshuffling of the Sixth District, involving one-half of its population and dictated by party affiliation and voting history, had no other cause than the intended actions of the controlling Democratic officials to burden Republican voters by converting the district” into a Democratic one wrote Judge Paul V. Niemeyer of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Rather than redraw the map, as the federal judges had ordered, Democratic Attorney General Brian E. Frosh decided to appeal to the Supreme Court. That put him at odds with the state’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who also won reelection in November and has pushed three times for a constitutional amendment that would have an independent commission redraw boundaries.

The Supreme Court had also sent back the North Carolina case last term, telling a panel of three federal judges to decide whether challengers in that state had the legal standing to bring the challenge. The judges said they did, and also found that the legislature’s efforts violated constitutional protections of equal protection and free speech.

The North Carolina legislature “drew a plan designed to subordinate the interests of non-Republican voters not because they believe doing so advances any democratic, constitutional, or public interest, but because, as the chief legislative mapdrawer openly acknowledged, the General Assembly’s Republican majority ‘think[s] electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,’ ” wrote Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

“But that is not a choice the Constitution allows legislative mapdrawers to make.”

Wynn was referring to comments from a legislative leader after a previous map was struck down as an example of racial gerrymandering that made clear politics was at the heart of the new map.

“I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats,” said Rep. David Lewis, a Republican member of the North Carolina General Assembly, addressing fellow legislators when they passed the plan in 2016. “So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 10:00 am

“Made in America”: Long before the Max disasters, Boeing had a history of failing to fix safety problems

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“Made in America” has some strong negative overtones, dating back at least to Big Auto and Detroit, when the quality of cars was terrible. And the tradition continues. I really like my American-made cast-iron skillets, but they are not complicated (for example, they have no moving parts). For complicated things, like automobiles and airplanes, the US does not do so well.

Michael Laris reports in the Washington Post:

Years before two Boeing 737 Max jets crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia, U.S. regulators found a pattern of recurring safety problems with the manufacturing giant.

During a trip to Japan in 2015, an auditor with the Federal Aviation Administration discovered a Boeing subcontractor was falsifying certifications on cargo doors for hundreds of 777s and had been doing so for years, according to interviews and government documents.

Back in the United States, Boeing mechanics were leaving tools inside plane wings, precariously close to the cables that control their movements. Workers also were improperly installing wires in 787s, which could increase the risk of shorts or fires, FAA officials found.

Repeatedly, safety lapses were identified, and Boeing would agree to fix them, then fail to do so, the FAA said. The agency launched or was considering more than a dozen legal enforcement cases against the company for failing to comply with safety regulations, a review of FAA records shows, with fines that could have totaled tens of millions of dollars.

So FAA officials tried a new approach. Rather than pursue each violation separately, agency officials bundled them together and negotiated a broader deal.

“The thinking was, get everything wrapped into one case since we’re trying to address a bunch of broader systemic issues anyway,” said an FAA official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

As Boeing faces intense scrutiny over back-to-back crashes of its 737 Max jet, documents and interviews show that the company had safety problems known to federal regulators for years.

In 2015, the FAA decided to try to get Boeing to meet, then go beyond, federal safety requirements by addressing broader corporate culture and governance issues, including what agency officials considered a lack of transparency.

The week before Christmas of that year, Boeing and the FAA signed a five-year settlement agreement that was unprecedented in scope. The company paid a modest $12 million penalty, but it agreed to make significant changes in its internal safety systems and practices for “ensuring compliance” with regulations.

In the days after the agreement was signed, top U.S. officials cast it as a powerful reminder that every company, no matter its size, must comply with minimum safety standards.

Boeing’s profits after signing the deal topped $20 billion by the end of September 2018, making the company’s $12 million penalty easy to gloss over despite occasional press reports of the firm’s shortcomings.

Then a Lion Air 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea on Oct. 29. It was the first of two tragedies that led many to question the soundness of the Boeing aircraft and the company’s approach to safety.

And it injected the largely overlooked government settlement with a new urgency — as a means of tracking company failures identified by the FAA, illuminating Boeing’s relationship with its regulators, and potentially forcing new safety improvements as investigators probe what was behind the two Max crashes.

Among its commitments under the deal, Boeing agreed to greatly expand its use of an internal tool meant to help determine the root causes of its safety problems and make sure they get fixed and stay that way.

In response to FAA findings that Boeing was often late or incomplete with its required safety submissions, the company also agreed in 2015 to take various remedial steps and be more responsive.

But over the first 3½ years of the agreement, Boeing failed to meet some of its obligations, according to two people who requested anonymity to discuss details of the settlement.

Boeing says . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 8:42 am

My dinner salad

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I had trouble thinking of whole-food plant-based meals, as I’ve commented, and still the dishes I make are novel to me. This salad I had for dinner I rather liked, so I thought I’d share it as an example. I used a largish wide bowl and just added the ingredients to the bowl: it’s a recipe for one person, one meal, no cooking or heating required since the foods that required cooking were already cooking and in the fridge in their Glasslock storage containers.

1/4 small head red cabbage, shredded, about 1.5 cups
1/2 cup black beans
1/3 cup kamut cooked in vegetable stock
1/2 cup chopped cooked collards (simmered with chopped shallots and chopped garlic cloves)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar—I used Enzo Apple Balsamic Vinegar

I stirred it a bit with a salad fork as I ate—basically, just trying to get some of each layer in each bite. It was tasty and filling and very nice for a summer supper. And it was very easy to make, since the only preparation needed was to shred the 1/4 head of red cabbage. Cronometer gives it 243 calories (and 14g protein) and just that one dish looks good in what it delivers.

That’s just the salad. For the day, obviously, I did better:

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 8:14 am

Italian-oriented shave

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The brush is from Whipped Dog, but the soap and aftershave are Italian, and the razor is the Game Changer .68-P from Italian Barber.

The shave stick is Valobra, and Valobra also makes some nice shaving soap. When I last purchased, the soap was sold as a soft bar, so you mashed it into a suitable tub. The regular soap has the bitter almond fragrance that Italians seem to favor.

This stick does not have an almond fragrance, I can’t identify its pleasant smell, but it makes a fine lather. And the Game Changer is a remarkably good razor: three passes to a totally smooth result.

A splash of Floïd, with its touch of menthol and warm fragrance, fiinished the job on a fine note.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 June 2019 at 8:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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