Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2020

I’m starting to think the US is not going to make it

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Remember, the House of Representatives passed a Covid relief bill in May, thanks to Democrats. Mitch McConnell did not allow the Senate to take up the bill. Now there is nothing but some ineffective and poorly written executive orders that will do nothing. The Republican party is destroying the US (with the help of Russia).

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today was another one for the history books.

This morning, in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Trump came out and said it: he wants to starve the United States Postal Service to destroy mail-in voting. Claiming that mail-in voting favors Democrats, he said: “Now they need that money in order to make the post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots… Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”

The president’s acknowledgement that he is deliberately sabotaging an institution established in the Constitution to steal the election provoked outrage. He is tampering with an election by attacking mail-in voting even as he and Melania Trump have requested mail-in ballots for themselves. And the USPS does not simply handle ballots, it also handles many aspects of our lives: packages, medicines, and so on—things vital to our economy and way of life. “When the president goes after the Postal Service, he’s going after an all-American, highly approved-by-the-public institution,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said.

The attack on the USPS dovetails with the push of the Trump administration to privatize the USPS, a push launched shortly after Trump took office. This week we learned that Trump’s new Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy, retains at least $30 million in holdings of the company XPO Logistics, a private competitor to the USPS, and that on the same day in June that he got rid of a large number of shares of Amazon, he bought stock options at a lower price. Amazon would be hard hit by the disintegration of the USPS. “The idea that you can be a postmaster general and hold tens of millions in stocks in a postal service contractor is pretty shocking,” said former director of the Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub.

But the bottom line is that, until the Senate decides to do something about it, the House is powerless to fund the USPS to help it survive the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic. In the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act the House passed in May, there was a $25 billion support for the USPS. But the Senate declined to take up the HEROES Act. When the Republicans could not agree on a new measure at the end of July, the Democrats began to negotiate directly with the White House, which proposed a more limited, $1 trillion bill. Democrats suggested a compromise at $2 trillion, but the White House has refused to budge. With this stalemate, Congress has gone on vacation for the rest of the month, while negotiators continue to try to reach a deal.

Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) noted that DeJoy’s new regulations are slowing the mail dramatically. He tweeted: “Here is the truth and I need you to spread it: the voters need to take control. Voters need to [vote by October 22] if using USPS.”

Other Democrats pushed back on Trump in their own way. In his interview, Trump said of New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat: “AOC was a poor student. I won’t say where she went to school, it doesn’t matter. This is not even a smart person, other than she’s got a good line of stuff. I mean she goes out and she yaps.” Ocasio-Cortez retorted: “Let’s make a deal, Mr. President. You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student. Loser has to fund the Post Office.”

The admission he is sabotaging the post office was not the only piece of news in Trump’s morning interview. He made it clear that he is eager to have Attorney General William Barr counter the story that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in Trump’s behalf. Trump wants Barr to reach a different conclusion based on a new Department of Justice investigation. When it became clear that the DOJ’s own inspector general would conclude that the FBI probe of certain of Trump’s campaign advisors was begun legitimately and without partisan bias—as he later did– Barr launched his own, separate investigation, placing U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham in charge of it.

This morning, Trump indicated he has great hopes that the Durham investigation will establish that former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper spied on his campaign and lied to Congress about it. “Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy,” Trump said, depending on whether or not he produced a report that, according to Trump, is not tainted with political correctness. “We’ll see what happens…. It goes all to Obama, and it goes right to Biden.”

The president’s campaign has also . . .

Continue reading. There is much more.

It should be noted that the GOP is attacking Kamala Harris without knowing much about her. Tucker Carlson was attacking and he doesn’t even know how to pronounce her name, a clear sign of his ignorance regarding her.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2020 at 8:37 pm

Trump Admits He’s Starving the Postal Service to Sabotage Voting by Mail

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Ed Kilgore writes in New York:

If you have any doubt that Donald Trump is at least playing with the idea of tampering with the November 3 election by disenfranchising many voters using mail ballots, or perhaps by slowing down the count so he can claim an early victory based on early returns, check this out (via the Washington Post):

Trump said Thursday he does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the cash-strapped agency.

“Now, they need that money in order to make the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said in an interview on Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. He added: “If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting, because they’re not equipped.”

Here’s the video:

At issue, as Trump made clear in his Wednesday press briefing, are two items congressional Democrats have proposed in the coronavirus stimulus negotiations: $25 billion in emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service, which has been struggling to meet its traditional obligations, and another $3.6 billion in assistance to state and local election officials who have been struggling to staff polling places and process mail ballots. The latter money could be used to facilitate voting by mail, but there is no mandate for that; Trump-obedient Republicans could spend it all on Election Day voting if they wish. Senate Republicans included neither item in their HEALS proposal for much lower levels of stimulus assistance.

By singling out these two items as provisions he will block, Trump is making it clear he’s willing to degrade postal services for the entire country if it helps him in his war with perfectly legal voting by mail (to be clear, states, not Trump, get to decide which voting methods are deemed legitimate, and under what terms).

Slow mail service could serve the president’s purposes in two ways. First, many states (including battleground states Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — really all of them other than North Carolina) require that mail ballots be received by Election Day to be counted. Many could be thrown out due to no fault of the voter, particularly if slow mail service screws up the timetable for processing mail-ballot applications and sending out ballots well before Election Day.

Second, even if mail ballots aren’t actually invalidated, the later they are received, the longer it will take to count them. This could create a scenario that Trump himself has hinted at whereby he claims victory based on an early lead from Election Day in-person votes and attacks later-arriving mail ballots as “fraudulent.”

Pointing to Trump’s many signals that he intends to challenge the legitimacy of mail ballots despite COVID-19-related fears of voting in person, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent notes that USPS is already slowing down service:

It’s telling that after President Trump was widely rebuked for suggesting a delay of the election, he wasn’t remotely chastened. Instead, he floated another scenario that could help him accomplish the same goal of avoiding a free and fair election:

He suggested that only the votes that can be tallied on Election Day should count.

This may seem like Trumpian bluster. But it’s much more alarming in light of an important new exposé in The Post that reports on big backlogs in mail delivery due to “cost-cutting” by the new head of the U.S. Postal Service — who, by spectacular coincidence, just happens to be a top Trump fundraiser.

This is ballot-tampering in plain sight, folks, infinitely more significant than the extremely rare occasions of fraud in voting by mail. The ultimate position was betrayed by Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow: In a CNBC interview, he described voting rights as part of a “really liberal left wish list” that the administration and its party would fight. . .

Continue reading.

Note that many people get prescriptions by mail. President Trump’s deliberate destruction of US Postal Service is astonishing, but of course Congressional Republicans will support him in this, as they do in everything.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2020 at 3:26 pm

How our gut bacteria can use eggs to accelerate cancer

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Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2020 at 3:20 pm

More on the paleolithic (soapless) shower

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Amy Fleming reports in the Guardian:

When James Hamblin tells people he has not used soap in the shower for five years, they tend not to hold back in expressing their disgust. “It’s one of the few remaining things for which we feel fine telling someone that they’re gross,” he says. “It’s amazing to me, honestly.”

Yet despite people’s “clearly moralising judgments”, Hamblin is no hygiene slouch. Even pre-pandemic, he made a point of washing his hands with soap. He is, after all, a doctor who lectures at the Yale School of Public Health and a medical writer and podcaster for the US magazine the Atlantic. At 37, he looks so youthful that he still gets compared to the fictional child doctor Doogie Howser.

But eschewing soap on your pits and bits does raise awkward technical questions, more on which after some context. Hamblin’s minimalist showering habits evolved gradually, after he relocated from California to a studio apartment in Brooklyn, New York, to pursue a writing career. He needed to save time, money and space. Simultaneously, he says: “I started learning about emerging microbiome science and decided to try going all-out for a bit.”

Even if you have not yet read up on our microbiomes – the trillions of microbes that lead symbiotic lives with humans, colonising our skin and our guts – you may have spotted vague statements such as “microbiome-gentle” printed on bottles of shower gel. This because microbiologists – and brands – are learning more and more about the complex relationship we have with our germs. These include their starring roles in developing our immune systems, protecting us from pathogens (by creating antimicrobial substances and competing with them for space and resources) and lessening the likelihood of autoimmune conditions such as eczema. So, there is a growing awareness that scrubbing them off, along with the natural oils on which they feed, or dousing them with antibacterial products may not be the best idea after all.

Hamblin’s new regime got him thinking about modern notions of cleanliness, what is natural and how these two issues are, frankly, all over the shop. Stigmatism of body odour began as an advertising strategy that helped quadruple the sales of Lifebuoy soap in the 20s. A century later, we still live in fear of anyone detecting the slightest hint of BO on us. We are more perfumed, moisturised and exfoliated than ever.

Yet despite advances in skincare and modern medicine, conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, as well as other autoimmune diseases, have been rising steadily. Also, while we attempt to appear squeaky clean, research has revealed that many of us don’t wash our hands properly – or at all – when it matters most: before eating and after going to the toilet. (That said, awareness of the importance of handwashing has certainly risen as a result of Covid-19.)

“It’s all mixed up right now, right?” says Hamblin, who set out to explore these paradoxes in perceived cleanliness in his book Clean: The New Science of Skin and the Beauty of Doing Less. He says the key to the success of his experiments, which saw him all but give up deodorant, was his “slow-fade” approach. “As I gradually used less and less, I started to need less and less,” he writes. “My skin slowly became less oily, and I got fewer patches of eczema. I didn’t smell like pine trees or lavender, but I also didn’t smell like the oniony body odour that I used to get when my armpits, used to being plastered with deodorant, suddenly went a day without it.” As his girlfriend put it, he smelled “like a person”.

It is not that we were unaware of bodily odours before “BO” was coined, but Hamblin thinks our natural smells are far more nuanced and informative than we give them credit for. “We know from historical writings that certainly people smelled bad. We didn’t just accept all smells,” he says. “Now, if someone smells sweaty or of anything less than soap, perfume or cologne, we think of that as being unclean.”

Hamblin started to notice that he smelled less pleasant when stressed. He interviewed a researcher who could train dogs to sniff out cancer in humans, while lovers he spoke to told him they thought the way their partner smelled naturally was good. He writes: “The hundreds of subtle volatile chemical signals we emit may play roles in communicating with other people (and other species) in ways we’re just beginning to understand.”

Hamblin also highlights the bare-faced cheek behind the rise of the skincare industry, as soap progressed from a multipurpose, often homemade product to a seemingly infinite parade of near-identical concoctions advertised for different problems, genders and occasions, at wildly different prices. Once hooked on daily soapings that remove our natural oils, we needed moisturisers and hair conditioners to replace them. In the 50s, the industry further cashed in by highlighting the drying effects of soap and offering milder detergents. Today, Hamblin writes, we have come full circle; many people seek products that are “as close as possible to nothing at all”.

He writes about a fellow journalist – and soap dodger – Maya Dusenbery, who had been prescribed every acne treatment going. The only one that worked? Nothing at all.

She had tried astringents, to dry out the skin; oral and topical antibiotics; the pill; and isotretinoin, a drug that has been linked to side-effects such as suicidal thoughts and inflammatory bowel disease. Not only were these ineffective, but she also developed rheumatoid arthritis – an agonising autoimmune condition. When she started taking immune-suppressing medication for that, her hair started falling out.

Enough was enough: Dusenbery stopped taking any medication for her skin. After an extremely oily few months, it settled. Now, the only things that touch her face are a microfibre cloth and water. Thanks to her adoption of a more holistic approach to her rheumatoid arthritis, in consultation with a specialist, this has gone into remission, too.

On the subject of antibiotics, Hamblin writes that they have commonly been prescribed for acne; he says they “seem to play a part in causing and exacerbating autoimmune disease” and that “antibiotic overuse is likely to be a bigger threat to biomes than hygiene”. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Moreover, James Hamblin himself wrote in the Atlantic in the July/August 2020 issue (and the article is doubtless an extract from his book Clean: The New Science of Skin):

In October, when the Canadian air starts drying out, the men flock to Sandy Skotnicki’s office. The men are itchy. Skotnicki studied microbiology before becoming an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Toronto. She has been practicing for 23 years, always with an eye to how the environment—including the microbial one on our skin—affects health. “I say to them, ‘How do you shower?’ ” she told me. “They take the squeegee thing and wash their whole body with some sort of men’s body wash. They’re showering twice a day because they’re working out. As soon as I get them to stop doing that and just wash their bits, they’re totally fine.”

Bits?

“Bits would be underarms, groin, feet,” she said. “So when you’re in the shower or the bath, do you need to wash here?” She pointed to her forearm. “No.” Even water alone, especially hot water, slowly strips away the oils in the outer layers of skin that help preserve moisture—and the drier and more porous someone’s skin, the more susceptible it is to irritants and allergens.

Skotnicki believes that this is one way overwashing prompts eczema to flare in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease. While eczema itself can be debilitating, it often does not travel alone. It seems to be part of a constellation of conditions caused by immune-system misfires. Infants with eczema have an increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis or asthma in childhood, part of a cascade of immune-system overreactions known as the “atopic march.”

Now couldn’t be a weirder time to question washing. I’ve spent the past three years reporting on how our notions of what it means to be “clean” have evolved over time—from basic hygiene practices to elaborate rituals that involve dozens of products targeted at each of us by gender and age and “skin type.” At the same time, the incidence of immune-related skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis has risen in the developed world, while acne is as pernicious as ever, despite the constant stream of expensive new medications and unguents sold to address it.

Though no one would ever wish it to happen this way, the pandemic could mark a chance to reexamine how much cleanliness is good for us, and what practices we’d be better off without. Let’s start with the obvious: Wash your hands, for 20 seconds, many times a day. It’s possibly the single most valuable thing you can do to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2020 at 11:56 am

Return to MR GLO, and another great Milksteak shave

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I’ve been using Pears Transparent Soap, a high-glycerin soap, after finishing off the previous puck of MR GLO (though in fact I use the same soap under the Ach Brito brand — both are made by Musgo Real). Pears is a nice enough soap, but I felt it was not so effective as a pre-shave soap as MR GLO/Ach Brito.

So I’ve retired Pears to be my handwashing soap when I come in from outside the apartment and I unwrapped a fresh puck of MR GLO this morning and used it this morning. I call it a “puck” rather than a “bar” because it’s a thick disk, not a thick rectangle. I wash my stubble with it at the sink following my shower, then rinse partially and apply lather.

The lather this monring was superb — Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak formula is a winner. I just got an email from someone who had purchased a tub on my recommendation, and after trying it, he had the same judgment as I: “Wow!”

The brush itself is worth noting: a Rooney Emilion with very soft (hooked) tips. It made lathering a pleasure and thus extended and thus stubble better prepared for the razor, which this morning is the Feather AS-D1. Three passes to total smoothness, finished with a splash of Geo. F. Trumper’s Spanish Leather aftershave.

I spent some time last night with Plotaroute.com and worked out a 3-mile loop (well, 3.053 miles) with this hill profile:

Once I’m in better shape, I have another loop, 4.01 miles, with this hill profile:

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2020 at 10:42 am

Posted in Shaving

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