Later On

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

Archive for August 8th, 2019

Trump brags about crowd size during hospital visit in El Paso

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Just when you think he can go no lower. It starts at the 1-minute mark.

Jeremy Diamond, Betsy Klein, and Jake Tapper, CNN, report:

During a visit to the El Paso hospital treating victims of Saturday’s mass shooting, President Donald Trump praised medical staff for their response to the shooting and said “they’re talking about you all over the world.”

And then, he pivoted to talking about himself, talking up the crowd size that attended a rally he held in El Paso several months earlier and mocking the relatively small size of the crowd that joined presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman, to protest the rally, according to cell phone video posted online.

“I was here three months ago,” Trump is seen telling a group of what appear to be first responders and other officials at University Medical Center in the video.

“That place was packed. … That was some crowd. And we had twice the number outside. And then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot, they said his crowd was wonderful,” he said.

The interaction came on a day where Trump visited two cities grieving from recent mass shootings and spent time airing personal grievances about the coverage he received during the visits and leveling attacks at his critics, including several Democratic presidential candidates.

The overwhelming majority of patients at two El Paso hospitals the White House had reached out to in preparation for Trump’s Wednesday visit said that they did not want to spend any time with the President, an individual who had been briefed on the matter tells CNN.

The source confirmed the Washington Post report that not one of the eight patients still being treated at University Medical Center wanted to meet with the President, so administrators brought back two patients who had already been discharged who expressed a willingness to meet with him.

Almost all of the patients at the second hospital, Del Sol Medical Center, declined to meet with Trump, the source tells CNN. The White House did not ultimately set up a visit to Del Sol.

A spokesman for Del Sol Medical Center told CNN, “We don’t want to speak on our patients’ behalf when families were grieving and patients were actively being cared for. We aren’t going to provide any additional information.”

“The President and First Lady met with victims of the tragedy while at the hospital,” said press secretary Stephanie Grisham when asked for comment. “I’d also point you to the video the White House posted this evening, which shows the President and First Lady being received very warmly by not just victims and their families, but by the many members of medical staff who lined the hallways to meet them. It was a moving visit for all involved.”

Trump traveled to El Paso in mid-February of this year for his first political rally of 2019 where he made his case for a border wall before a friendly crowd of supporters at the County Coliseum following the 35-day government shutdown. O’Rourke held a counterprotest in a nearby park. Trump has still not paid more than $500,000 in police and public safety fees his campaign owes to the city of El Paso from that rally. . .

Continue reading. There’s another video at the link.

Brian Stelter comments in his newsletter:

Trump might have put on a positive face in public, but he was unhappy with his trip to El Paso and Dayton, Kaitlan Collins reported on Thursday. Specifically, and predictably, Trump fumed over the media coverage while aboard Air Force One on the way back to DC.

Trump loves the limelight, and he apparently wanted to be in it as he traveled to visit with the the victims and first responders of the recent mass shootings. A source told Collins that Trump lashed out at staff for keeping the cameras away from him during the hospital visits in both cities. According to Collins’ source, Trump complained he wasn’t receiving enough credit.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 9:43 pm

Revealed: how Monsanto’s ‘intelligence center’ targeted journalists and activists

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Sam Levin reports in the Guardian:

Monsanto operated a “fusion center” to monitor and discredit journalists and activists, and targeted a reporter who wrote a critical book on the company, documents reveal. The agrochemical corporation also investigated the singer Neil Young and wrote an internal memo on his social media activity and music.

The records reviewed by the Guardian show Monsanto adopted a multi-pronged strategy to target Carey Gillam, a Reuters journalist who investigated the company’s weedkiller and its links to cancer. Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, also monitored a not-for-profit food research organization through its “intelligence fusion center”, a term that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use for operations focused on surveillance and terrorism.

The documents, mostly from 2015 to 2017, were disclosed as part of an ongoing court battle on the health hazards of the company’s Roundup weedkiller. They show:

  • Monsanto planned a series of “actions” to attack a book authored byGillam prior to its release, including writing “talking points” for “third parties” to criticize the book and directing “industry and farmer customers” on how to post negative reviews.
  • Monsanto paid Google to promote search results for “Monsanto Glyphosate Carey Gillam” that criticized her work. Monsanto PR staff also internally discussed placing sustained pressure on Reuters, saying they “continue to push back on [Gillam’s] editors very strongly every chance we get”, and that they were hoping “she gets reassigned”.
  • Monsanto “fusion center” officials wrote a lengthy report about singer Neil Young’s anti-Monsanto advocacy, monitoring his impact on social media, and at one point considering “legal action”. The fusion center also monitored US Right to Know (USRTK), a not-for-profit, producing weekly reports on the organization’s online activity.
  • Monsanto officials were repeatedly worried about the release of documents on their financial relationships with scientists that could support the allegations they were “covering up unflattering research”.

The internal communications add fuel to the ongoing claims in court that Monsanto has “bullied” critics and scientists and worked to conceal the dangers of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide. In the last year, two US juries have ruled that Monsanto was liable for plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cancer, and ordered the corporation to pay significant sums to cancer patients. Bayer has continued to assert that glyphosate is safe.

“I’ve always known that Monsanto didn’t like my work … and worked to pressure editors and silence me,” Gillam, who is also a Guardian contributorand now USRTK’s research director, said in an interview. “But I never imagined a multi-billion dollar company would actually spend so much time and energy and personnel on me. It’s astonishing.”

Gillam, author of the 2017 book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, said the records were “just one more example of how the company works behind the scenes to try to manipulate what the public knows about its products and practices”.

Monsanto had a “Carey Gillam Book” spreadsheet, with more than 20 actions dedicated to opposing her book before its publication, including working to “Engage Pro-Science Third Parties” in criticisms, and partnering with “SEO experts” (search engine optimization), to spread its attacks. The company’s marketing strategy involved labeling Gillam and other critics as “anti-glyphosate activists and pro-organic capitalist organizations”.

Gillam, who worked at the international news agency Reuters for 17 years, told the Guardian that a flurry of negative reviews appeared on Amazon just after the official publication of Whitewash, many seeming to repeat nearly identical talking points.

“This is my first book. It’s just been released. It’s got glowing reviews from professional book reviewers,” she said. But on Amazon, “They were saying horrible things about me … It was very upsetting but I knew it was fake and it was engineered by the industry. But I don’t know that other people knew that.”

Bayer spokesman, Christopher Loder, declined to comment on specific documents or the fusion center, but said in a statement to the Guardian that the records show “that Monsanto’s activities were intended to ensure there was a fair, accurate and science-based dialogue about the company and its products in response to significant misinformation, including steps to respond to the publication of a book written by an individual who is a frequent critic of pesticides and GMOs”.

He said the documents were “cherry-picked by plaintiffs’ lawyers and their surrogates” and did not contradict existing science supporting the continued use of glyphosate, adding, “We take the safety of our products and our reputation very seriously and work to ensure that everyone … has accurate and balanced information.”

(A Reuters spokesperson said the agency “has covered Monsanto independently, fairly and robustly”, adding, “We stand by our reporting.”)

‘They saw us as a threat’

The internal records don’t offer significant detail on the activities or scope of the fusion center, but show that the “intelligence” operations were involved in monitoring Gillam and others. An official with the title “Monsanto Corporate Engagement, Fusion Center” provided detailed analyses on tweets related to Gillam’s work in 2016.

The fusion center also produced detailed graphs on the Twitter activity of Neil Young, who released an album in 2015 called the Monsanto Years. The center “evaluated the lyrics on his album to develop a list of 20+ potential topics he may target” and created a plan to “proactively produce content and response preparedness”, a Monsanto official wrote in 2015, adding it was “closely monitoring discussions” about a concert featuring Young, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.

“We have reached out to the legal team and are keeping them informed of Neil’s activities in case any legal action is appropriate,” the email said.

A LinkedIn page for someone who said he was a manager of “global intelligence and investigations” for Monsanto said he established an “internal Intelligence Fusion Center” and managed a “team responsible for the collection and analysis of criminal, activist / extremist, geo-political and terrorist activities affecting company operations across 160 countries”. He said he created Monsanto’s “insider threats program”, leading analysts who collaborated “in real time on physical, cyber and reputational risk”.

“They saw us as a threat,” Gary Ruskin, the USRTK co-founder, said in an interview. “They were conducting some kind of intelligence about us, and more than that, we don’t know.”

Government fusion centers have increasingly raised privacy concernssurrounding the way law enforcement agencies collect data, surveil citizens and share information. Private companies might have intelligence centers that monitor legitimate criminal threats, such as cyberattacks, but “it becomes troubling when you see corporations leveraging their money to investigate people who are engaging in their first amendment rights”, said Dave Maass, the senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

David Levine, a University of California Hastings law professor, said he had not heard of any other private corporations running “fusion centers”, but said it did not surprise him that Monsanto was engaged in this kind of intensive digital monitoring.

The records showed Monsanto was also concerned about Ruskin’s Freedom of Information Act (Foia) requests targeting the company, writing documents on its relationships with researchers had the “potential to be extremely damaging” and could “impact the entire industry”.

In 2016, one Monsanto official expressed frustration of criticisms that the company paid academics to write favorable reports on their products: “The issue was NOT that we wanted to pay the experts but an acknowledgment that experts would need to be compensated for the time they invest in drafting responses for external engagement. No one works for free!” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 9:21 pm

The Harvard Professor Scam Gets Even Weirder

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This report in New York by Kera Bolonik makes me realize I lead a rather quiet life, which I appreciate now even more. She writes:

Two weeks ago, New York readers were introduced to Bruce Hay, the Harvard Law School professor who had a brief affair with a young woman named Maria-Pia Shuman and suddenly found himself drawn into a combative relationship with her and her wife, a trans graduate student named Mischa Haider, that would unravel his life, leaving him indefinitely suspended from his tenured teaching job, temporarily homeless, and with mounting legal bills that eventually exceeded $300,000. Since the publication of “The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge” on July 22, six other men have come forward with accounts of Shuman’s attempting to pick them up, including one who says that, as with Hay, she told him she was pregnant with his child.

In one incident, a man named Aaron Holman was moving into a new apartment on Merrill Street, near Harvard Square, on a sweltering afternoon in September 2012, when, he believes, Shuman approached him and his friend *Matt. He and Matt recall seeing a woman who resembles Mischa Haider sitting in the driver’s seat of a black car across the street. Holman says Shuman came up to him and Matt and said, “You guys are so sweaty, I like seeing you like this — let’s go upstairs.” Matt tells me, “It was really over the top.” Holman says he and Matt were dumbfounded and tried to brush her off but that she continued to talk with them until she gave up, finally returning to the black car — where she sat in the backseat and the two women watched them until Holman called out to his neighbor, a Boston cop (“Straight out of central casting,” says Matt), who was just getting home. “But the second he turned around to check them out,” says Matt, “the women took off.”

Two months later, in December 2012, Steve* met Shuman in a Starbucks in Harvard Square. She approached him, as she had Hay, and as she had two other men she’d picked up in Boston and Cambridge, John Doe and Richard Roe from our original story — stopping them on the street and saying, in a hushed tone, “Excuse me, you’re very attractive.” Steve says he gave Shuman his number after a brief chat and made a lunch plan, via text, a week later. But just before they were to meet, he says, she called to say there had been a change of plans. She told him a relative was making a surprise visit — Steve can’t recall whether it was a parent or a grandparent, but he remembers Shuman explaining that the relative was not aware that she’d had a child with a trans person. In an email to me, he explains that Shuman wanted him to come over and pretend to be the child’s father “for the benefit of the visiting relative.” Steve declined and says he never saw her in person again, but the conversation didn’t end there. He provided some text exchanges he’d had with Shuman: “I understand u didn’t want to do this, but I feel it’s unfair of u to act as if I asked some outrageous thing,” she texted. “Well honestly it did seem a bit outrageous to me. I know it must be a difficult situation for you bit it didn’t seem my place to get involved,” responded Steve. Shuman suggested, “Then you politely decline, and express some understanding and sympathy. A simple polite comment would be, ‘I’m sorry but I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I understand it’s a tough situation and I hope you find a way to handle it.’” After three months of silence, Steve received a text from Shuman, dated March 2, 2013, that read, “Are you down to fuck”; when he didn’t respond, she followed up two days later: “Lets hang out this week?” He ignored that text, too — he says he found the whole encounter odd. When he read the story in New York, he wrote in an email, “Within the opening paragraphs, I was already about 90 percent certain that I had met Maria-Pia several years ago. I typed the name into my phone. Right there, under the name ‘Maria S,’ were all the old texts.” (The number corresponds with one Shuman has used to correspond with Hay.)

On Friday, April 17, 2015, a third-year Harvard Law School student named Jordan, who asked that we not use his last name, was walking down Massachusetts Avenue near the law school’s Wasserstein Hall late in the afternoon. (Shuman’s apartment was across the street from HLS.) Jordan says he was bound for the T to Boston to meet up with friends and see comedian Hannibal Buress perform when Shuman’s delivery of the “attractive” line caught him off guard. He said, “Thank you, I have a girlfriend” — which was true — and continued walking, only to find that she was following him, wanting to continue the conversation. She said, “I’m attached, too. Here’s my number if you change your mind.” She said she was only going to be in town for a few weeks, if he wanted to get together — no strings attached. Jordan brushed her off with another polite thank-you and continued on, even as she asked if he had somewhere to be. He says he was surprised by her persistence and told her, “Yes, I do,” and headed for the train. When he got to Boston, he immediately called a friend about the encounter. The friend confirmed their conversation to me via email, recalling it because it was so strange and, in part, because she was French and the friend and Jordan have a passion for Richard Linklater’s films about an American man’s longtime love affair with a Frenchwoman.

David*, who asked that we use a pseudonym because of his job, said he encountered Shuman in the spring of 2015 on Boylston Street in Boston following a night with friends at a bar called Whiskey’s. At around 2 a.m., as he was returning to his South End apartment with his roommate and another friend, Shuman approached him and, in an encounter that echoes John Doe’s, spoke to David in hushed tones to tell him how attractive he was, that she was visiting from Paris for a few days and would love to see him before she left. They exchanged numbers and started texting that night. “I don’t remember exactly what we said in the texts, but I think we were making plans to meet up the next night,” says David, who says he lost the texts when he got a new phone. “She told me she was staying at a hotel. My friends and I were talking about how shocking and weird the whole encounter was. There was none of the standard-protocol flirtation leading up to an exchange of numbers; it was short and direct.” As David and his friends were talking about the encounter, another friend, Carl*, arrived, and upon hearing the story, he “looked stunned. Because the exact same thing had happened to him” that same week,” says David. “He thought that we were playing a prank on him.”

Carl says that one evening around six, as he was returning from his office, a woman approached him on the corner of Charles and Revere Streets in Beacon Hill and delivered the same pickup line. “This was the same backstory that David heard,” says Carl, “which helped us confirm it was the same woman.” And then, David says, “we took a deep breath, and I read her phone number out loud. The four of us in the room all went CRAZY when the numbers matched. It was the same girl.” Another of David and Carl’s friends decided to call her right then, pretending to be David, and spoke with Shuman, initially flirtatiously, and then changed tactics, interrogating her, asking her where she was staying, where she was from, what she wanted from them: “Finally, he fully called her out: ‘We know you’re lying, you approached my friend on Charles Street a few days ago — was your plan to rob us?’ She started to yell, and we hung up.” David says that moments later, he received a Facebook request from Shuman (David shared a screenshot of the Facebook request) — which rattled him because he’d never told her his first or last name. Then his phone rang, and he heard a different, deeper voice on the other end, which he now suspects might have been Haider. “[The person] knew my full name and where I worked. And she was ANGRY. Screamed at me for being a misogynistic pig and threatened to call my workplace. I put the phone on speaker so my friends could hear, and they got involved as well, yelling back that they were con artists. Shuman was in the background on the other end, yelling as well. They were mostly going on about how me and my friends were pieces-of-shit men. I threatened to contact the police if they kept harassing me in any way and hung up,” recalls David. Carl adds that the women left between 20 to 30 missed calls on both his and David’s phones that night — until Carl blocked her number. David says, “I ignored them, and they eventually gave up.”

In a story that hews most closely to that of Doe’s and Hay’s, Anthony*, a Harvard graduate student, was approached by Shuman in early May 2015 on Massachusetts Avenue near the law-school campus. She stuck to her script and invited him for coffee.  . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 2:44 pm

Posted in Daily life

Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Exposed Online Despite Official Denials

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The US government seems to be in a death spiral. Kim Zetter reports in Vice:

The top voting machine company in the country insists that its election systems are never connected to the internet. But researchers found 35 of the systems have been connected to the internet for months and possibly years, including in some swing states.

That’s the blurb. The report begins:

For years, U.S. election officials and voting machine vendors have insisted that critical election systems are never connected to the internet and therefore can’t be hacked.

But a group of election security experts have found what they believe to be nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including some in critical swing states. These include systems in nine Wisconsin counties, in four Michigan counties, and in seven Florida counties—all states that are perennial battlegrounds in presidential elections.

Some of the systems have been online for a year and possibly longer. Some of them disappeared from the internet after the researchers notified an information-sharing group for election officials last year. But at least 19 of the systems, including one in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, were still connected to the internet this week, the researchers told Motherboard.

The researchers and Motherboard have been able to verify that at least some of the systems in Wisconsin, Rhode Island, and Florida are in fact election systems. The rest are still unconfirmed, but the fact that some of them appeared to quickly drop offline after the researchers reported them suggests their findings are on the mark.

“We … discovered that at least some jurisdictions were not aware that their systems were online,” said Kevin Skoglund, an independent security consultant who conducted the research with nine others, all of them long-time security professionals and academics with expertise in election security. Skoglund is also part of an advisory group, not associated with the research, that is working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology to develop new cybersecurity standards for voting machines. “In some cases, [the vendor was] in charge [of installing the systems] and there was no oversight. Election officials were publicly saying that their systems were never connected to the internet because they didn’t know differently.”

The systems the researchers found are made by Election Systems & Software, the top voting machine company in the country. They are used to receive encrypted vote totals transmitted via modem from ES&S voting machines on election night, in order to get rapid results that media use to call races, even though the results aren’t final.

Generally, votes are stored on memory cards inside the voting machines at polling places. After an election, poll workers remove these and drive them to county election offices. But some counties want to get their results faster, so they use wireless modems, either embedded in the voting machines or externally connected to them, to transmit the votes electronically. The system that receives these votes, called an SFTP server, is connected to the internet behind a Cisco firewall.

For security reasons, the SFTP server and firewall are only supposed to be connected to the internet for a couple of minutes before an election to test the transmission, and then for long enough after an election to transmit the votes. But the researchers found some of the systems connected to the internet for months at a time, and year-round for others, making them vulnerable to hackers.

Hacking the firewall and SFTP server would allow an attacker to potentially intercept the results as they’re transmitted and send fake results to the FTP server, depending on how securely the ES&S system authenticates the data. Although the election results that are transmitted via modem are unofficial—official votes are taken directly from the voting machine memory cards when they arrive at county offices—a significant discrepancy between the unofficial tallies and the official ones would create mistrust in the election results and confusion about which ones were accurate.

But Motherboard has learned that connected to the firewalls are even more critical backend systems—the election-reporting module that tabulates the unofficial votes as well as the official ones, and the election-management system that is used in some counties to program voting machines before elections. The researchers said that gaining access through the firewall to these systems could potentially allow a hacker to alter official election results or subvert the election-management system to distribute malware to voting machines through the USB flash drives that pass between this system and the voting machines.


Online, the researchers can only see the firewalls configured in front of these systems and cannot see anything behind them—a federal law makes it illegal for them to probe beyond the firewall. But ES&S documents posted online in various counties show that these critical backend systems are connected to the firewall, and ES&S also confirmed to Motherboard that this is the correct architecture in counties that want to transmit results electronically.

ES&S has long insisted that election-management systems are air-gapped—that is, not connected to the internet or connected to any other system that is connected to the internet—and the company insists to Motherboard that the diagram it provided isn’t showing them connected to the internet.

“There’s nothing connected to the firewall that is exposed to the internet,” Gary Weber, vice president of software development and engineering for ES&S, told Motherboard. “Our [election-management system] is not pingable or addressable from the public internet.” This makes them invisible to bad actors or unauthorized users, he said.

But Skoglund said this “misrepresents the facts.” Anyone who finds the firewall online also finds the election-management system connected to it.

“It is not air-gapped. The EMS is connected to the internet but is behind a firewall,” Skoglund said. “The firewall configuration [that determines what can go in and out of the firewall]… is the only thing that segments the EMS from the internet.”

And misconfigured firewalls are one of the most common ways hackers penetrate supposedly protected systems. The recent massive hack of sensitive Capital One customer data is a prime example of a breach enabled by a poorly configured firewall.

“If they did everything correctly [with the ES&S systems] as they say they do, there is no danger,” Robert Graham, CEO of Errata Security, told Motherboard. “These are all secure technologies that if [configured] correctly work just fine. It’s just that we have no faith that they are done correctly. And the fact that [election officials are] saying they aren’t on the internet and yet they are on the internet shows us that we have every reason to distrust them.”

Even proper configurations won’t secure a firewall if the firewall software itself has security vulnerabilities that allow intruders to bypass all the authentication checks, whitelisting rules, and other security parameters set in the firewall’s configuration file.

“If this system hasn’t been patched and has a critical vulnerability… you may be able to subvert any kind of security scheme that you’ve put in place,” Skoglund told Motherboard. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

As you know, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader in the US Senate, has blocked all bills to improve election security and will not allow them to come to vote. As a result, the government is doing nothing. It comes down to one man who is duplicitous and dishonest and seems to have bad intentions.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 1:08 pm

The Life-Changing Magic of Eating Food

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Shan Wang, the Atlantic’s newsletter editor, sent out a newsletter with an interesting article, which I cannot find online. So here it is:

The murky world of food, nutrition, and health science can leave even the most conscientious eaters among us at a loss. Advice—whether rooted in fact, feeling, both, or neither—on what best to eat, how to eat it, and when to eat flows freely online. Every day, stories emerge, declaring this or that food or drink will do something or another to your life span (sometimes buried: The methodology was problematic, the finding was in … mice, or rats, and on and on).

As a lifelong snacker, cold-pizza-for-breakfast-er, and aspirational vegetarian, I’m always eager to know more about what I should eat, without the shame.

While there’s no single prescription for healthier living, here are some ideas to make sense of what you eat, and when.

“Breakfast food” is … a lie.

Eggs and toast. Bagels and biscuits. Oatmeal. Waffles. Pancakes. Orange juice. Coffee. Delicious, but neither “nutritionally [n]or philosophically cohesive,” Amanda Mull writes. Some of the (American) rules associated with meal timing, and the correct composition of those meals, need not be as rigid as they are:

Modern breakfast in the United States tells the story of more than a century of cultural upheaval. American breakfast begins in Europe, which provided the food norms imported by early colonizers. There, the day’s first meal had emerged from centuries of prohibition under the Catholic Church.

Eat your fruits and vegetables. Because:

You could take more dietary supplements with your food to fill in some nutrient gaps when your daily meals don’t suffice. You could take probiotics; maybe ingesting these microorganisms seem to help your gut biome. James Hamblin writes about some new research:

For all of human history, the gut microbiome has gone without ingesting bacterial pills. Fermented foods have been part of many cuisines around the world, but our ancestors didn’t live on kombucha. There had to be another source.

And, it turns out, there is: fresh produce.

In a study from July in Frontiers in Microbiology, researchers found that the average apple contains around 100 million bacteria. Most are inside, not on the skin. [And eat the core! I always have. – LG]

Mercury levels in fish seem not to have fallen.

People, pregnant women especially, have long been warned to limit consumption of certain types of seafood—mercury from industrial pollution ends up in the atmosphere, in the oceans, and then in fish such as tuna. But even as mercury concentrations in the Northern Hemisphere fell by 30 percent between 1995 and 2010, “in some cases, tomorrow’s seafood will contain more mercury, not less,” Ed Yong reports. The culprits seem to be overfishing and climate change. [I no longer eat any seafood, and that is starting to seem wise. – LG]

Eat food, not too much, mostly … chickpeas

Chickpeas have been a staple of cooking in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and the Mediterranean for millennia. It has high protein and fiber content. It tends to trigger fewer allergic reactions. It’s vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore friendly. Americans are finally catching on.

Or mostly … beans

If every single person in America stopped eating beef and instead ate beans, the environmental impact could be profound. From one study a couple of years ago:

[Researchers] found that if everyone were willing and able to do that—hypothetically—the U.S. could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals, pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009.

That is, even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed—and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese—this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the target.

Yes we can…ned beans?

Finally: Have a food you just can’t stand?

Your dislikes, though they may be influenced by your early life, can still change. Gentle exposure might just do the trick.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 10:16 am

Food wars on the horizon: Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply, United Nations Warns

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Years ago I was blogging about how crop failures due to climate change would lead to famine and food wars (see, for example, this post from 2010, or look through these posts). This on-going disaster will be exacerbated by mass migrations caused by the rise in sea levels. Nothing, of course, is really being done to address the problem. It’s a great human weakness to go to extreme lengths to avoid making changes.

I answer a lot of questions on Quora about losing weight and changing one’s diet (always including a reference to my own diet advice, which I updated again just this morning—and BTW, my fasting blood glucose this morning was 5.5 mmol/dL (99 mg/dL), which is “normal”). I’ve noticed a pattern in these questions that illustrates how strongly people resist change.

  1. Questions about some food that can be added to one’s current diet that will result in weight loss, typically some combination of garlic, ginger, hot water, lemon juice, guava leaves, green tea, and so on. The idea is to make no change in one’s diet but just add the magic food and that will solve the problem.

  2. Questions about what diet, however drastic, that will result in losing lots of weight very quickly (like 10 pounds in a week or 20 pounds in a month), the idea being that the person can tolerate an awful diet for a short time to get of their excess weight, and then they can get back to their regular diet. Change is tolerated but only for a brief period, and then they return to no change.

  3. Questions about how to retain all the foods they are accustomed to if they do change their diet. I’m talking about foods like the Impossible Burger, or vegan “cheese,” or vegan “sausage” or “bacon,” or vegan “butter.” The idea is that they are willing to make a change so long as they don’t have to change anything.

Unfortunately, the desire to change nothing has not worked when the world itself is changing. The climate is now going to continue changing for 60 years regardless of what we do now. That change is already baked into the atmosphere (which shortly will be baking us), and that change is going to destroy much of what humans have achieved.

Christopher Flavelle reports in the NY Times:

The world’s land and water resources are being exploited at “unprecedented rates,” a new United Nations report warns, which combined with climate change is putting dire pressure on the ability of humanity to feed itself.

The report, prepared by more than 100 experts from 52 countries and released in summary form in Geneva on Thursday, found that the window to address the threat is closing rapidly. A half-billion people already live in places turning into desert, and soil is being lost between 10 and 100 times faster than it is forming, according to the report.

Climate change will make those threats even worse, as floods, drought, storms and other types of extreme weather threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply. Already, more than 10 percent of the world’s population remains undernourished, and some authors of the report warned in interviews that food shortages could lead to an increase in cross-border migration.

A particular danger is that food crises could develop on several continents at once, said Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the lead authors of the report. “The potential risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing,” she said. “All of these things are happening at the same time.”

The report also offered a measure of hope, laying out pathways to addressing the looming food crisis, though they would require a major re-evaluation of land use and agriculture worldwide as well as consumer behavior. Proposals include increasing the productivity of land, wasting less food and persuading more people to shift their diets away from cattle and other types of meat.

“One of the important findings of our work is that there are a lot of actions that we can take now. They’re available to us,” Dr.Rosenzweig said. “But what some of these solutions do require is attention, financial support, enabling environments.”

The summary was released Thursday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group of scientists convened by the United Nations that pulls together a wide range of existing research to help governments understand climate change and make policy decisions. The I.P.C.C. is writing a series of climate reports, including one last year on the disastrous consequences if the planet’s temperature rises just 1.5 degrees Celsius above its preindustrial levels, as well as an upcoming report on the state of the world’s oceans.

Some authors also suggested that food shortages are likely to affect poorer parts of the world far more than richer ones. That could increase a flow of immigration that is already redefining politics in North America, Europe and other parts of the world.

“People’s lives will be affected by a massive pressure for migration,” said Pete Smith, a professor of plant and soil science at the University of Aberdeen and one of the report’s lead authors. “People don’t stay and die where they are. People migrate.”

Between 2010 and 2015 the number of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras showing up at the United States’ border with Mexico increased fivefold, coinciding with a dry period that left many with not enough food and was so unusual that scientists suggested it bears the signal of climate change.

Barring action on a sweeping scale, the report said, climate change will accelerate the danger of severe food shortages. As a warming atmosphere intensifies the world’s droughts, flooding, heat waves, wildfires and other weather patterns, it is speeding up the rate of soil loss and land degradation, the report concludes.

Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — a greenhouse gas put there mainly by the burning of fossil fuels — will also reduce food’s nutritional quality, even as rising temperatures cut crop yields and harm livestock.

Those changes threaten to exceed the ability of the agriculture industry to adapt.

In some cases, the report says, a changing climate is boosting food production because, for example, warmer temperatures will mean greater yields of some crops at higher latitudes. But on the whole, the report finds that climate change is already hurting the availability of food because of decreased yields and lost land from erosion, desertification and rising seas, among other things.

Overall if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, so will food costs, according to the report, affecting people around the world.

“You’re sort of reaching a breaking point with land itself and its ability to grow food and sustain us,” said Aditi Sen, a senior policy adviser on climate change at Oxfam America, an antipoverty advocacy organization.

In addition, the researchers said, even as climate change makes agriculture more difficult, agriculture itself is also exacerbating climate change.

The report said that activities such as draining wetlands — as has happened in Indonesia and Malaysia to create palm oil plantations, for example — is particularly damaging. When drained, peatlands, which store between 530 and 694 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally, release that carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas, trapping the sun’s heat and warming the planet. Every 2.5 acres of peatlands release the carbon dioxide equivalent of burning 6,000 gallons of gasoline.

And the emissions of carbon dioxide continues long after the peatlands are drained. Of the five gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions that are released each year from deforestation and other land-use changes, “One gigaton comes from the ongoing degradation of peatlands that are already drained,” said Tim Searchinger, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank, who is familiar with the report. (By comparison, the fossil fuel industry emitted about 37 gigatons of carbon dioxide last year, according to the institute.)

Similarly, cattle are significant producers of methane, another powerful greenhouse gas, and an increase in global demand for beef and other meats has fueled their numbers and increased deforestation in critical forest systems like the Amazon.

Since 1961 methane emissions from ruminant livestock, which include cows as well as sheep, buffalo and goats, have significantly increased, according to the report. And each year, the amount of forested land that is cleared — much of that propelled by demand for pasture land for cattle — releases the emissions equivalent of driving 600 million cars. . .

Continue reading.

Meanwhile, the Republican party is doing everything in their power, which is considerable, to prevent completely or at least delay as much as possible doing anything at all to address climate change. Some Republican states have gone so far as forbidding any state agency even to mention climate change. “Conservative” = “change nothing.”

It will soon be over, I fear. My lifespan seems to be optimally timed.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 8:47 am

Summer Storm and the Lupo

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Summer Storm seems an appropriate and timely shaving soap. The brush, as well as the soap and aftershave, comes from Chiseled Face’s Groomatorium web site, though the brush is no longer available.

I love the petrichor fragrance of Summer Storm and it also makes a very nice lather. The RazoRock Lupo is a dandy little razor that does a really first rate job. It’s quite comfortable and has a distinct blade feel, but it makes no nicks while it strips away the stubble.

A splash of Summer Storm on my perfectly smooth face finished the job. A good start to what promises to be a fine day.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2019 at 8:18 am

Posted in Shaving

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