Later On

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

Archive for May 19th, 2020

EPA staff warned that mileage rollbacks had flaws. Trump officials ignored them.

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Wilful ignorance is impenetrable. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report in the Washington Post:

In its rush to roll back the most significant climate policy enacted by Barack Obama — mileage standards designed to reduce pollution from cars — the Trump administration ignored warnings that its new rule has serious flaws, according to documents shared with The Washington Post.

The behind-the-scenes-skirmish in late March between career employees and Trump appointees at the Environmental Protection Agency highlights the extent to which Trump officials are racing to reverse environmental policies by the end of the president’s first term.

Even as the coronavirus outbreak has hampered many government operations, the administration is pressing ahead with the rollback of a bedrock environmental law governing federal permits and working to open more public lands to oil and gas drilling. In recent weeks, the EPA has relaxed emissions reporting requirements for industrial polluters, and it is poised to defy a court order requiring that it limit a chemical found in drinking water that has been linked to neurological damage in babies. The agency soon plans to finalize a change to the Clean Water Act that would restrict the ability of states, tribes and the public to block federal approval for pipelines and some other energy-related projects.

The documents — obtained by Sen. Thomas R. Carper (Del.), the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee — include an exchange between two agencies that has not been entered into the public record as required under the Clean Air Act.

Details about objections from EPA staff could create legal problems for the administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles rule, which requires U.S. cars, pickup trucks and SUVs to improve average fuel efficiency by 1.5 percent each year between model years 2021 and 2026. It replaces Obama-era standards that would have improved the auto fleet’s average mileage by 5 percent a year over the same period.

“In the rush to finalize this rule — and in the middle of a pandemic, no less — they broke just about every rule in the book,” said Carper, who on Monday asked the EPA inspector general to investigate. “The result is a policy that fails to protect public health, fails to save money, fails to result in safer vehicles and will, ultimately and undoubtedly, fail in court.”

In his letter, Carper argued that EPA violated federal rules by failing to enter all relevant documents into the public record, changing the rule after it was signed and not meeting its obligation to write its part of the mileage rule.

Jeff Lagda, a spokesman for the EPA inspector general, said in an email that he and his staff are reviewing Carper’s letter.

Officials from EPA and the Transportation Department did not immediately offer a comment.

For months, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler have insisted that their staffs collaborated closely to weaken national greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks that were finalized just days before Obama left office.

Speaking at a joint appearance at EPA headquarters in September, Chao declared, “Our team of experts have been jointly working together, conducting a long, thoughtful and detailed review of these rules.” . . .

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Republican dishonesty and bad faith are obvious and appalling.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2020 at 3:04 pm

Synchronicity

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Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2020 at 2:21 pm

Posted in Video

Bean discoveries

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Although I have ben cooking beans covered in the oven, I’ve switched to stovetop, and have learned two things:

  1. 1. Don’t cover the pot. Just turn it on to a low simmer and let it cook.
  2. 2. Use just a pinch of baking soda. I just cooked about a pound of beans. I soaked them overnight in salt water (enough water to cover to a depth of about 1″, 2 teaspoons of salt), then drained them, covered with water to a depth of about 1″ and used about 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

Using 1/4 teaspoon instead of 2 teaspoons means the beans don’t get so very soft but hold their shape better. I’ll experiment with 1/2 teaspoon, but obviously I am cutting back substantially on the salt.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2020 at 2:11 pm

The bright side of supermarkets not having meat on the shelves

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Dr. Michael Greger blogs:

When famed surgeon Michael DeBakey was asked why his studies published back in the 1930s linking smoking and lung cancer were ignored, he had to remind people about what it was like back then. We were a smoking society. Smoking was in the movies, on airplanes. Medical meetings were held in “a heavy haze of smoke.” Smoking was, in a word, normal. Even the congressional debates over cigarettes and lung cancer took place in literal smoke-filled rooms. (This makes me wonder what’s being served at the breakfast buffets of the Dietary Guidelines Committee meetings these days.)

I’ve previously talked about a famous statistician by the name of Ronald Fisher, who railed against what he called “propaganda…to convince the public that cigarette smoking is dangerous.” “Although Fisher made invaluable contributions to the field of statistics, his analysis of the causal association between lung cancer and smoking was flawed by an unwillingness to examine the entire body of data available…” His smokescreen may have been because he was a paid consultant to the tobacco industry, but also because he was himself a smoker. “Part of his resistance to seeing the association may have been rooted in his own fondness for smoking,” which makes me wonder about some of the foods nutrition researchers may be fond of to this day.

As I discuss in my video Don’t Wait Until Your Doctor Kicks the Habit, it always strikes me as ironic when vegetarian researchers are forthright and list their diet as a potential conflict of interest, whereas not once in the 70,000 articles on meat in the medical literature have I ever seen a researcher disclose her or his nonvegetarian habits––because it’s normal. Just like smoking was normal.

How could something that’s so normal be bad for you? And, it’s not as if we fall over dead after smoking one cigarette. Cancer takes decades to develop. “Since at that time most physicians smoked and could not observe any immediate deleterious effects, they were skeptical of the hypothesis and reluctant to accept even the possibility of such a relation”—despite the mountain of evidence.

It may have taken 25 years for the Surgeon General’s report to come out and longer still for mainstream medicine to get on board, but now, at least, there are no longer ads encouraging people to “Inhale to your heart’s content!” Instead, today, there are ads from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fighting back.

For food ads, we don’t have to go all the way back to old ads touting “Meat…for Health Defense” or “Nourishing Bacon,” or featuring doctors prescribing meat or soda, or moms relieved that “Trix are habit-forming, thank heavens!” You know things are bad when the sanest dietary advice comes from cigarette ads, as in Lucky Strike’s advertisements proclaiming “More Vegetables––Less Meat” and “Substitute Oatmeal for White Flour.” (You can see these vintage ads from 2:34 in my video).

In modern times, you can see hot dogs and sirloin tips certified by the American Heart Association, right on their packaging. And, of all foods, which was the first to get the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “Kids Eat Right” logo on its label? Was it an apple? Broccoli, perhaps? Nope, it was a Kraft prepared cheese product.

Now, just as there were those in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s at the vanguard trying to save lives, today, there are those transforming ads about what you can do with pork butt into ads about what the pork can do to your butt: “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer—Processed meats increase colorectal cancer risk” reads an for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s “Meat Is the New Tobacco” campaign, which you can see at 3:56 in my video. As Dr. Barnard, PCRM president, tried to convey in an editorial published in the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics, “Plant-based diets are the nutritional equivalent of quitting smoking.”

How many more people have to die before the Centers for Disease Control encourages people not to wait for open-heart surgery to start eating healthfully?

Just as we don’t have to wait until our doctor stops smoking to give up cigarettes ourselves, we don’t have to wait until our doctor takes a nutrition class or cleans up his or her diet before choosing to eat healthier. No longer do doctors hold a professional monopoly on health information. There’s been a democratization of knowledge. So, until the system changes, we have to take personal responsibility for our health and for our family’s health. We can’t wait until society catches up with the science again, because it’s a matter of life and death.

Dr. Kim Allan Williams, Sr., became president of the American College of Cardiology a few years back. He was asked why he follows his own advice to eat a plant-based diet. “I don’t mind dying,” Dr. Williams replied. “I just don’t want it to be my fault.”


I find this to be such a powerful concept that I have come at it from different angles. For other takes, check out . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2020 at 10:04 am

The reason Trump fired the State Department Inspector General

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Because the Inspector General was starting to uncover things Trump wanted to hide. This may also be the reason behind “Obamagate” (a president (Trump) who says that a president cannot break the law accuses a president (Obama) of breaking some law or another, though never stating what law) and Trump’s claim (probably false) to be taking a medication he for some reason wants to promote: distractions, and the media fall for it and ignore the story of substance.

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

So I was right to be suspicious. The story broke today that Steven Linick, the State Department Inspector General Trump has announced he is removing, was not simply looking into whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan had used staff members for personal errands.

Linick was finishing up an investigation of Pompeo’s decision last year to approve billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia against the wishes of a bipartisan majority in Congress. State Department officials were recently briefed on the inspector general’s conclusions.

The 2018 Saudi arms deal was important at the time, but has been so eclipsed by other events we could likely all use a refresher. Here’s my best shot at pulling the story together. A warning: I expect that I don’t have all the pieces perfectly in place (I can’t tell yet how many authorizations for sharing nuclear technology were secretly permitted, for example) because there are so many moving pieces. I apologize in advance for errors, and promise I’ll get this material more fine tuned as the story warrants.

It starts with the fact that in 2018, Congress took a stand against the Trump administration’s willingness to look the other way after the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and writer for the Washington Post. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi disappeared in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where he was going to retrieve documents so he could remarry. Evidence gradually leaked out that Khashoggi had been murdered, and our intelligence agencies concluded that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman (often called MBS), had authorized the killing.

But Trump refused to acknowledge that connection, and sidestepped the law requiring him to report to Congress about the murder. This raised questions about the administration’s relationship to the Saudis, especially in two areas: first, the apparent friendship between Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and MBS; and second, the efforts of administration officials, originally led by General Michael Flynn during the transition, to work around established channels to export nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. This deal would be worth a lot of money if they could pull it off.

(Multiple whistleblowers warned the House about this, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform published a report on it in February 2019. The administration granted authorizations to two U.S. companies to share the technology for nuclear power plants shortly after Khashoggi’s murder. Members of the administration continued to meet with nuclear power developers for the Middle East, a plan that appears to have been part of Kushner’s Middle East peace plan, prompting bipartisan groups of lawmakers to try to block the deals out of concern that Saudi Arabia would develop a nuclear weapon. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secretly approved six authorizations by March 2019, but as near as I can tell, Pompeo refused to release the names of the companies who got those authorizations.)

Meanwhile, the Saudis were embroiled in a war in Yemen, which was causing a humanitarian crisis. Congress opposed supporting the Saudis in that war. In April 2019, it passed a resolution to withdraw support for the Saudis in that conflict, but Trump vetoed it and Republicans in the Senate refused to override his veto.

There is a law, the Arms Export Control Act, which requires that the president give Congress 30 days notice before selling arms over a certain value to another country, so lawmakers can weigh in on the sales. But the law also permits the president to bypass Congress if he declares that “an emergency exists that requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States.”

In May 2019, Trump abruptly extended a longstanding emergency declaration with regard to Iran, which enabled Pompeo to approve the sales of 8.1 billion dollars worth of arms to three Arab nations, but primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, despite congressional disapproval. Congress members and career Foreign Service officers opposed the sales, which included sensitive national security technology. But Pompeo pushed hard for them. “These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

Lawmakers of both parties were furious, and both houses voted to block the sales, but Trump vetoed their measures. At this point, In June 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked Linick to launch an investigation into the way that State Department officials, including Pompeo, had handled the arms sales. They saw no credible justification for an emergency that required sidestepping congressional approval, and noted that many of the weapons would not be ready for shipping for a year or more, negating the idea they were for an emergency. Their letter strongly hinted that the decision threw work to defense industries with inappropriate ties to the administration.

Pompeo refused to be interviewed by the inspector general’s office, and asked Trump to fire Linick. Trump claimed he had “never even heard of” Linick, but “many of these people were Obama appointments. So I just got rid of him.”

This story strikes me as big. The arms sales themselves are a big deal, but I wonder if there is a connection between the sales and the attempt to share nuclear technology with the Saudis. Lots and lots of money at stake there. And Flynn– who is also in the news these days as the Justice Department seeks to drop his case– was deep into the project, too.

Too many moving pieces to have at all a clear view yet. We’ll see.

Or not. This afternoon, Trump announced he is currently taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. The White House physician released a letter that did not confirm the president’s statement. Indeed, it . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2020 at 9:17 am

Reprising yesterday’s shave, or close to it

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I liked yesterday’s shave enough to go for the same effect: another Phoenix Artisan brush, another CK-6 shaving soap, and another good slant.

The Solar Flare’s feel differs somewhat from that of the Green Ray that I used yesterday. The SF is a bit more resilient — a shade toward stiffer — than the GR. Were push come to shove, I would choose the Green Ray, but both are excellent.

Once again I got a superb lather, and I do like the coffee and honey fragrance of this soap — perhaps a novelty fragrance, but a very nice fragrance all the same. And the lather was again thick and cream.

The iKon 102 has less blade feel than the Merkur vintage bakelite slant but still does an excellent job: three passes removed all trace of stubble.

A splash of Planet Java Hive aftershave, and a new day begins. No big tasks today.

Written by Leisureguy

19 May 2020 at 9:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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