Later On

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

Archive for March 11th, 2020

Glossika looks very interesting for language learners

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Check it out.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 8:08 pm

Posted in Education, Spanish

No, Holding Your Breath is Not a ‘Simple Self-Check’ for Coronavirus

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Misinformation is flying around. Check Snopes. From that link:

One frequently copied and pasted bit of text that has gone viral on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp suggests a simple self-check for coronavirus infection, usually attributed to “Taiwan Experts,” “Stanford University,” or “Stanford Hospital Board,” among others:

The new Coronavirus may not show signs of infection for many days. How can you know if you are infected? By the time you have fever and/or cough and go to the hospital, the lung is usually 50% fibrosis. Taiwan experts provide a simple self-check that we can do every morning: Take a deep breath and hold it for more than 10 seconds. If you do this successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stiffness or tightness, there is no fibrosis in the lungs; it basically indicates no infection. In critical times, please self-check every morning in an environment with clean air.

The viral text is often combined with other frequently recurring coronavirus claims including a paragraph attributed to “serious excellent advice by Japanese doctors” about keeping your throat moist, and a set of recommendations that begins with a claim about differentiating between a cold and COVID-19. Snopes addressed the “serious excellent advice” here, and addressed the list of tips that begin with a purported way to diagnose a cold versus COVID-19 here. This article deals only with the “self-check” claim attributed to Taiwan experts, which is flawed for several reasons.

The “simple self-check” hinges on two central and unsupported assertions: First, that early COVID-19 infections include as a symptom a condition known as pulmonary fibrosis; and second, that the ability to hold your breath for 10 seconds is an accurate indicator of fibrosis. Neither is the case.

There’s more information at the link. Check it out.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Tagged with ,

Why the International Criminal Court will investigate possible U.S. war crimes — even if the Trump administration says it can’t

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Kelebogile Zvobgo writes in the Washington Post:

Judges in the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court on Thursday authorized Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to open an investigation into alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan. This is a big milestone in international criminal justice — for the first time in history, U.S. leaders, armed forces and intelligence personnel may face a trial in an international court for crimes perpetrated in the context of the nation’s wars abroad.

In April, the Pre-Trial Chamber rejected Bensouda’s first request for an investigation. On Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Appeals Chamber’s overturning of the decision, calling the ICC “an unaccountable political institution masquerading as a legal body.”

What are the alleged abuses? How does the ICC have jurisdiction over the United States? What will ordinary U.S. citizens make of an ICC investigation? My research explains how U.S. citizens are more supportive of the ICC than the Trump administration’s rhetoric suggests.<

The ICC prosecutor examined evidence of U.S. torture and abuse

In 2006, the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) opened a preliminary examination into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Afghan conflict since 2003 — the year Afghanistan became a member of the ICC.

The OTP examined allegations of abuses by both anti-government and pro-government forces, including the Taliban, the Afghan National Security Forces, the United States, armed forces and the CIA. The OTP says the information it gathered indicates, among other allegations, that U.S. interrogation techniques used in Afghanistan — involving “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape” — amount to war crimes.

Some ICC judges are worried about going after the U.S.

The United States is not a member of the ICC. However, the treaty that created the court, the Rome Statute, allows it to investigate citizens of nonmember states if the alleged crimes occurred on the territory of a member state. Once Afghanistan ratified the Rome Statute and joined the ICC in 2003, U.S. military and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan came under the court’s jurisdiction.

[The International Criminal Court was established 20 years ago. Here’s how.]

In November 2017 — after more than a decade of gathering evidence — the prosecutor requested authorization to open a full investigation, arguing there was “a reasonable basis to believe” U.S. military and intelligence personnel committed war crimes.

A year and a half later, in April 2019, the Pre-Trial Chamber unanimously rejected the request. The judges agreed the request was in the ICC’s jurisdiction and admissible before the ICC. However, they claimed the investigation would probably not be successful and, therefore, it would not serve the interests of justice to proceed.

The 2019 decision sparked controversy in the human rights community. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued statements criticizing the court’s judges for capitulating to the Trump administration’s threats and, in the process, abandoning the victims of the alleged crimes.

The ICC will move ahead, despite the political risks

Bensouda swiftly appealed the decision. Her office coordinated a multifaceted response, drawing on submissions from victims’ legal representatives and amicus curiae briefs from human rights organizations.

[The U.S. revoked the visa for the ICC prosecutor. That bodes poorly for international criminal justice.]

On Thursday, the Appeals Chamber unanimously reversed the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision, saying it had gone beyond its power by rejecting the prosecutor’s request. The Rome Statute requires only that the Pre-Trial Chamber determine whether “there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation” and whether “the case appears to fall within the jurisdiction of the Court.”

Since these facts were not in dispute, there was no basis to reject the prosecutor’s request. Last week’s decision authorizes . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 4:14 pm

In praise of the onion

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Every meal I cook includes onions (storage onions (red or yellow — I avoid white), scallions, spring onions, leeks, or shallots) and generally also garlic (another allium). Thom Eagle writes at Literary Hub:

. . .

You need to cook peppers long enough for their walls to collapse and for their juices to leak out, which, the first few times you do it, takes at least ten minutes longer than you think it is going to; very often this is because the recipe you are following has lied to you. Most recipes are rather coy about the actual time it takes to cook vegetables. Anyway, you’ll know when your peppers are properly cooked, assuming you are cooking peppers, because when the juices begin to flow out they do so very suddenly; your pan will turn a solid rusty red, and the peppers themselves will deflate by about two-thirds.

This, I suppose, may be a reason why cooks are reluctant to either fully cook their peppers themselves or to instruct other people to do so; for one thing, it takes twice as long, and for another, you need twice as many ingredients. No-one wants their recipe to be the most extravagant—unless that is exactly their aim, I guess, in which case peppers probably won’t be involved—and time is all too often of the essence in modern recipe-writing. Of course we need convenience, efficiency, a meal on the table in half an hour, but all that at the expense of flavor is counterproductive. What use, after all, is a quick meal that no-one enjoys?

Nowhere is this pernicious doctrine of speed more evident than in the case of the onion. This singularly useful allium is one of the many vegetables, along with various spices, animals, cooking techniques and so on, which the Romans spread around the outposts of their Empire during that entity’s checkered history. Now, of course, it is ubiquitous, from the Straits of Gibraltar all around the wide Mediterranean Sea, up through Northern and Eastern Europe, into Russia and beyond.

Everything starts with an onion, sliced, diced, grated, brunoised, burnt, crushed, roasted or raw, but most often cooked quite gently in a little oil, pig or beef  or sheep fat, whole or clarified butter, perhaps in the company of a few other select vegetables, which seem to change across Europe and beyond in a sort of stepwise puzzle, each country sharing two of three or four vegetables with its neighbor, one of which is always the onion. . .

Read the whole thing.

FWIW, the Holy Trinity of Cajun cooking is onion, celery, and green bell pepper. The French mirepoix comprises onion, carrot, and celery. The Italian Holy Trinity comprises tomato, garlic, and basil. Also:

Other cultural examples of holy trinities include Indian (the “wet” trinity: garlic, onion, and ginger), Mexican (corn, beans, and chilies), Thai (galangal, kaffir lime, and lemon grass) and Szechuan (green garlic, ginger, and chili peppers).

That’s from this article.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 3:30 pm

Trump Has Ordered Coronavirus Meetings To Be Classified

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Aram Roston and Marisa Taylor report for Reuters:

The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials.

The officials said that dozens of classified discussions about such topics as the scope of infections, quarantines and travel restrictions have been held since mid-January in a high-security meeting room at the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), a key player in the fight against the coronavirus.

Staffers without security clearances, including government experts, were excluded from the interagency meetings, which included video conference calls, the sources said.

“We had some very critical people who did not have security clearances who could not go,” one official said. “These should not be classified meetings. It was unnecessary.”

The sources said the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on security issues, ordered the classification.”This came directly from the White House,” one official said.

The White House insistence on secrecy at the nation’s premier public health organization, which has not been previously disclosed, has put a lid on certain information – and potentially delayed the response to the crisis. COVID19, the disease caused by the virus, has killed about 30 people in the United States and infected more than 1,000 people [that we know of, and we are not testing very many – LG]. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s frightening. The gaslighting and loss of contact with reality are striking.

This approach is insane. I presume it’s being taken so that Trump can continue his pretense that everything is hunky-dory.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 1:09 pm

One way refined and processed foods undermine your health: Sucralose

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Laura Reiley reports in the Washington Post:

study published in the journal Cell Metabolism by a group of Yale researchers found that the consumption of the common artificial sweetener sucralose (which is found in Splenda, Zerocal, Sukrana, SucraPlus and other brands) in combination with carbohydrates can swiftly turn a healthy person into one with high blood sugar.

From whole grain English muffins to reduced-sugar ketchup, sucralose is found in thousands of baked goods, condiments, syrups and other consumer packaged goods — almost all of them containing carbs.

The finding, which researchers noted has yet to be replicated in other studies, raises new questions about the use of artificial sweeteners and their effects on weight gain and overall health.

In the Yale study, researchers took 60 healthy-weight individuals and separated them into three groups: A group that consumed a regular-size beverage containing the equivalent of two packets of sucralose sweetener, a second group that consumed a beverage sweetened with table sugar at the equivalent sweetness, and a third control group that had a beverage with the artificial sweetener as well as a carbohydrate called maltodextrin.

The molecules of maltodextrin don’t bind to taste receptors in the mouth and are impossible to detect. While the sensation of the third group’s beverage was identical to the sucralose-only group, only this group exhibited significant adverse health effects.

It doesn’t matter if it’s sugary or diet: New study links all soda to an early death

The artificial sweetener by itself seemed to be fine, the researchers discovered, but that changed when combined with a carbohydrate. Seven beverages over two weeks and the previously healthy people in this group became glucose intolerant, a metabolic condition that results in elevated blood glucose levels and puts people at an increased risk for diabetes.

The finding follows a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine last year that found that consumption of two or more glasses of artificially sweetened soft drinks a day increased deaths from circulatory diseases. And a 2008 study by scientists at Purdue University showed that artificial sweeteners alone could result in higher blood pressure, weight gain, and increased risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease in rats. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

And watch this brief video:

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 1:00 pm

The US criminal-justice system: Flawed and dangerous to citizens

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Pamela Colloff and Katie Zavadski report in ProPublica:

Imagine being arrested for a crime you did not commit.

You are taken to jail, where you wait to stand trial.

You eventually get your day in court, but before you can present your case, prosecutors call a witness who has a damning story to tell.

It’s a fellow inmate from the jail who claims he heard you confess to committing the crime.

Each man featured here was wrongly convicted, in part, on the word of a jailhouse informant. Each served years, even decades in prison. And in each case, the information the snitch gave eventually proved false.

Nine of the men pictured here were condemned to what amounted to a life sentence. One man was sentenced to death.

Their cases afford a rare opportunity not only to see the human cost of jailhouse informant testimony that is false or concocted, but to see how widespread prosecutors’ reliance on these witnesses is. These exonerees hail from all across the country: from California to Kentucky, Illinois to Pennsylvania. They come from big cities and small towns. They are black, white and Latino. Their cases span four decades — dating back as far as 1982, and ending in an exoneration as recently as last year.

Despite these cases, and a spate of other wrongful convictions that have come to light in recent years, jailhouse informant testimony remains an entrenched part of criminal prosecutions around the country and one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

“Jailhouse informants comprise the most deceitful and deceptive group of witnesses known to frequent the courts,” concluded a high-profile 2001 judicial inquiry into the wrongful conviction of a Canadian man named Thomas Sophonow. “Usually their presence as witnesses signals the end of any hope of providing a fair trial.”

Their unreliability is rooted in a curious fact of the criminal justice system: The state is allowed to offer extraordinary benefits to people behind bars if they offer testimony that is favorable to the state’s case. These rewards may include reduced sentences, the dismissal of charges and even cash payments. Or the rewards may be far more modest. In one case featured below, a jailhouse snitch said he received just $25 and a pack of cigarettes for offering false information.

Because benefits are often conferred after a case goes to trial, prosecutors can assure jurors that no promises have been made. As ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine reported in December, Florida prosecutors repeatedly used a prolific jailhouse informant to help secure convictions, and even death sentences. Prosecutors told jurors they had not promised him anything in return, then gave him break after break after he testified, allowing him to be released from jail and to do more harm.

Rarely is anyone held to account when a jailhouse informant’s testimony later proves to be false. In Orange County, California, where an ongoing jailhouse snitch scandal has implicated top prosecutors and law ​enforcement officials — and tainted at least 140 cases, according to a pending lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union — no one has yet been prosecuted or disciplined for misconduct.

I spoke to the exonerees below about the experience of having their lives destroyed by a system that incentivizes jailhouse informants to lie. Many of these wrongfully convicted men lay the blame not on the informants themselves, but on the prosecutors and detectives who continue to rely on snitch testimony to make their cases, sending potentially innocent men and women to prison. . .

Continue reading for the exonerees’ experience.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 12:54 pm

Ideal Glass Would Explain Why Glass Exists at All

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Natalie Wolchover writes in Quanta:

In 2008, Miguel Ramos read in the newspaper that 110-million-year-old amber bearing pristine Mesozoic insects had been discovered a few hours’ drive from Madrid, where he lived. A physicist who specializes in glass, Ramos had wanted for years to get his hands on ancient amber. He contacted the paleontologists working at the site, who invited him to visit.

“They provided me with the clear samples that are not good for them,” he said. “They have no interesting insects or whatever … but they are perfect for me.”

Ramos spent the next several years intermittently working on measurements of the ancient glass. He hoped that the fossilized tree resin, after aging for so long, might approach a hypothetical form of matter known as ideal glass.

For decades, physicists have dreamed of this perfect amorphous solid. They desire ideal glass not so much for its own sake (though it would have unique, useful properties) but because its existence would solve a deep mystery. It’s the mystery posed by every window and mirror, every piece of plastic and hard candy, and even the cytoplasm that fills every cell. All of these materials are technically glass, for glass is anything that’s solid and rigid but made of disordered molecules like those in a liquid. Glass is a liquid in suspended animation, a liquid whose molecules curiously cannot flow. Ideal glass, if it exists, would tell us why.

Inconveniently, ideal glass would take so long to form that it may not have done so in all of cosmic history. Physicists can only seek indirect evidence that, given unlimited time, it would. Ramos, an experimental physicist at the Autonomous University of Madrid, hoped that after 110 million years of aging, the Spanish amber might have started to show glimmers of perfection. If so, he would know what the molecules in ordinary glass are really doing when they appear to do nothing.

Ramos’s amber measurements are part of a surge of interest in ideal glass. In the past few years, new methods of making glass and simulating it on computers have led to unexpected progress. Major clues have emerged about the nature of ideal glass and its connection to ordinary glass. “These studies provide renewed support for the hypothesis of the existence of an ideal-glass state,” said Ludovic Berthier, a physicist at the University of Montpellier who was centrally involved in the recent computer simulations.

But the emerging picture of ideal glass only makes sense if we set aside one piece of evidence.

“Indeed,” Berthier said, “the amber work stands out as difficult to rationalize.”

The Paradox of Glass

When you cool a liquid, it will either crystallize or harden into glass. Which of the two happens depends on the substance and on the subtleties of the process that glassblowers have learned through trial and error over thousands of years. “Avoiding crystallization is a dark art,” said Paddy Royall, a glass physicist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

The two options differ greatly.

Crystallization is a dramatic switch from . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Science

How Much Has the Government Spent at Trump’s Properties? It Won’t Say.

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Ilya Marritz reports in ProPublica:

This month, The Washington Post detailed lots of previously undisclosed government spending at the president’s properties. For example, the Secret Service has paid $650 per night to stay at Mar-a-Lago, despite Eric Trump’s statement that his father’s company would provide rooms “for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping.”

The Post’s figures — adding up to $471,000 — are far from complete because government agencies have resisted disclosing their spending at Trump properties.

“He’s paying our money to himself,” the Post’s David Fahrenthold said in our latest episode of “Trump, Inc.” “There must be so much more we haven’t seen.”

While the president has visited his properties on nearly a third of his days since he took office, the Secret Service has not listed its spending on Trump properties in a public database of federal spending. And some of what has been disclosed has been misleading. The Post discovered that the nearly dozen payments listed as “Trump National Golf Club” were actually made to Mar-a-Lago, which is not a golf club.

The White House did not respond to the Post’s questions about the payments. The Secret Service said it always “balances operational security with judicious allocation of resources.” It did not explain why it hadn’t disclosed the spending in the government’s public database. And the Trump Organization said it’s not currently charging the Secret Service $650 per room per night. [Do you believe anything the Trump Organization claims? – LG]

There are still plenty of questions. For one: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 11:39 am

Use to send yourself your pandemic predictions

leave a comment » allows you to write an email to be delivered to you at a date you specify. The World Health Organization has officially stated that we are now experiencing a pandemic of coronavirus.

President Trump is on top of it. He stated, “I’ve been briefed on every contingency you could possibly imagine. Many contingencies. A lot of positive. Different numbers, all different numbers, very large numbers, and some small numbers too.” You may find that reassuring. I find it the opposite.

So here’s my suggestion: go to FutureMe and write yourself a letter, to be delivered to you on (say) 1 July 2020, setting out your expectations and predictions. For example, you may believe (as President Trump seems to) that it’s no big deal, just like the flu but with a lower mortality rate. Or you may think it will be much worse (as you will recall, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was Pestilence).

Describe in detail your thoughts on what will happen and also your own preparations and fallback plans.

It will be interesting reading in a few months.


Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 10:17 am

OneBlade Second Day, with Antica Barbieria Colla

with 2 comments

The Wet Shaving Products brushes arre quite good, and the lather this one made from my tub of Antica Barbieria Colla was excellent.

OneBlade did a good job, though I did indeed notice a very slight degradation of performance. Still, a very good result, with just a little extra care. Tomorrow will be interesting.

The ABC aftershave milk was once pure white, but as you can see, it has oxidized and is becoming the color of butter. The fragrance is still good and the feel on the face is fine. So far as I can tell, the only effect is the change in color.

Altogether a very good mid-week shave.

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 9:10 am

Posted in Shaving

Take steps NOW to slow spread of coronavirus

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This post will remain at the top for a week. Newer posts begin immediately after this post. – LG

I suggest that waiting for leadership from the Federal government is not realistic. (President Trump stated, “I’ve been briefed on every contingency you could possibly imagine. Many contingencies. A lot of positive. Different numbers, all different numbers, very large numbers, and some small numbers too.” Perhaps you find that reassuring. I do not.)

Read this chart-heavy article in Medium, which begins:

With everything that’s happening about the Coronavirus, it might be very hard to make a decision of what to do today. Should you wait for more information? Do something today? What?

Here’s what I’m going to cover in this article, with lots of charts, data and models with plenty of sources:

• How many cases of coronavirus will there be in your area?
• What will happen when these cases materialize?
• What should you do?
• When?

When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:

The coronavirus is coming to you.
It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.

As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this.

You might have fears today: What if I overreact? Will people laugh at me? Will they be angry at me? Will I look stupid? Won’t it be better to wait for others to take steps first? Will I hurt the economy too much?

But in 2–4 weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore: They will thank you for making the right decision.

Continue reading. There is a great deal more, including many charts that show the reality of what he reports.

And read also “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” by James Hamblin in the Atlantic. That article begins:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

11 March 2020 at 8:02 am

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