Later On

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

Archive for August 28th, 2021

Why people working with the public should be vaccinated

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Two news reports today:

1. A report in the Washington Post: “A Calif. elementary school teacher took off her mask for a read-aloud. Within days, half her class was positive for delta.

From the report:

The Marin County, Calif., elementary school had been conscientious about following covid-19 protocols. Masks were required indoors, desks were spaced six feet apart, and the students kept socially distant. But the delta variant found an opening anyway.

On May 19, one teacher, who was not vaccinated against the coronavirus, began feeling fatigued and had some nasal congestion. She dismissed it as allergies and powered through. While she was usually masked, she made an exception for story time so she could read to the class.

By the time she learned she was positive for the coronavirus two days later, half her class of 24 had been infected — nearly all of them in the two rows closest to her desk — and the outbreak had spread to other classes, siblings and parents, including some who were fully vaccinated.

“The mask was off only momentarily, not an entire day or hours. We want to make the point that this is not the teacher’s fault — everyone lets their guard down — but the thing is delta takes advantage of slippage from any kind of protective measures,” Tracy Lam-Hine, an epidemiologist for the county, said in an interview.

The case study, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and highlighted by CDC director Rochelle Walensky during a briefing on Friday, highlights the potential danger for children under the age of 12 — the only group in the United States ineligible for coronavirus vaccines as a hyper-infectious variant tears across the country. . .

There’s more.

2. A report in The Hill: “Unvaccinated employee sparked COVID-19 outbreak at Oregon assisted living facility.”

From the report:

An unvaccinated worker at an assisted living facility in Oregon prompted a COVID-19 outbreak that infected 64 people and killed five, the Register-Guard reported.

The outbreak at Gateway Living, which has 105 employees and 101 residents, began July 5 with an unvaccinated employee who reported to work while infectious, according to the Register-Guard. By July 30, there were deaths from the outbreak, most of which were recorded on Aug. 3, Aug. 12, Aug. 19 and Aug. 25, the local newspaper reported.

Staff at the assisted living facility is 63 percent fully vaccinated, and residents are 82 percent fully vaccinated, according to the newspaper.

Gateway Living has seen about 60 percent of breakthrough cases during the current surge, the Register-Guard noted. Seven people who were infected by the outbreak were hospitalized.

Lane County, where Gateway Living is located, was hit with a major surge in cases in August. In the past two weeks, the county has record 2,920 cases of COVID-19, according to the Register-Guard. . .

There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 6:00 pm

A run of 26 in three-cushion billiards

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A run of 26 in three-cushion billiards is unusually good. From Wikipedia:

The high run at three-cushion billiards for many years was 25, set over two games (fourteen and out and starting with eleven in the next game) by the American Willie Hoppe in 1918 during an exhibition in San Francisco.[1] In 1968 Raymond Ceulemans improved the record to 26 in a match in the Simonis Cup tournament. In 1993 Junichi Komori set the record to 28 in a Dutch league match, a feat repeated by Ceulemans in 1998 in the same league.[10] In 2012 Roland Forthomme tied the record in Zundert.[11] In the 2013 European Championships in Brandenburg, Germany, Frederic Caudron became the fourth member of the “28” club.[12] Ceulemans reputedly had a high run of 32 in a non-tournament, non-exhibition match.[10] The highest run so far in a World Cup match is 24, set by Jérémy Bury on 7 September 2013 in GuriSouth Korea (see result sheet on the right).[13]

When allowing for interruptions by opponents starting new games, the current record high run is 34 by the Dutchman Dick Jaspers: in his 2008 European Championship Final match against the Swede Torbjörn Blomdahl, played in three games of 15 points each, he ended Game One by going 13 and out, ran 15 and out in the only inning of Game Two (started by Blomdahl), and ran six in his first inning of Game Three.[14][15]

This player’s cue ball is the yellow ball. (The spots are to make the english visible.) One point and the right to play another shot are given when a player makes the cue ball strike both the other balls provided that the cue ball strikes the cushions at least three times before it strikes the second object ball.

And here are some nice shots, explained:

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games

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More Trouble with Big Chicken

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In Washington Monthly Claire Kelloway writes about the continued move in the poultry industry toward a monopoly. Her article begins:

Last week, leading voices in The New Yorker and The New York Times made the case for vigorous antitrust enforcement of Big Agriculture, an issue the Monthly has covered  for  years. (Nine years ago, for instance, Lina Khan, now the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, wrote an account in the Monthly about the Obama Administration’s admirable, but ultimately failed, efforts to stand up to big meatpackers on behalf of independent farmers.) The Times, specifically, made the case for breaking up Big Chicken, as leading chicken corporations face numerous allegations and federal charges of fixing prices for consumers, farmers, and workers.

The Times column, though, failed to mention that antitrust enforcers currently face an opportunity to challenge consolidation in the criminal poultry business, and the clock is ticking. On August 9th, private protein and grain trading giant Cargill and agricultural-investment firm Continental Grain announced that they had reached a deal to jointly take over Sanderson Farms, the third-largest chicken processor in the U.S., for $4.5 billion.

If approved, this deal would merge Continental Grain’s Wayne Farms with Sanderson Farms to create a new private poultry corporation, increasing the market share of the top three chicken processors from 46% to 51%, according to data from WATT PoultryUSA, a business magazine for the chicken industry. It would also further vertically integrate Cargill’s global meat processing, animal feed, and grain trading empires. Both forms of consolidation would enhance Big Ag’s power over farmers, workers, and consumers across the food chain. Federal enforcers have 30 days from the corporations’ notice of the merger to issue what is called a second request which allows them to seek additional information to scrutinize and challenge the deal. The big question is, will the Biden administration walk its antitrust talk?

Decades of mergers and vertical integration have consolidated poultry production so that just a handful of firms source chicken from contracted farmers. Private and federal antitrust suits recently accused major poultry corporations of conspiring to rig bids, cut back production, and increase chicken prices. Pilgrim’s Pride pleaded guilty to price-fixing last fall following an investigation by the Justice Department, and federal enforcers have indicted other major corporations and poultry executives. Sanderson Farms was subpoenaed in the federal probe. Both Sanderson and Wayne Farms face numerous private price-fixing charges, including allegations of conspiring with other poultry corporations to hold down prices paid to farmers and workers’ wages. Cargill is also charged in this wage-fixing suit, as well as private beef and turkey price-fixing allegations.

As the third-largest chicken corporation, Sanderson Farms processes more than 13 million chickens a week between its 13 poultry plantsemploying 17,000 people, and supplying large chains including Walmart and distributors such as Sysco. Sanderson trails industry leaders Tyson Foods and Pilgrim’s Pride, but a merger with Continental Grain’s Wayne Farms would increase its market share to approximately 15%, just shy of Pilgrim’s 16%.

Cargill and Continental Grain will pay a 30% premium on Sanderson Farms’ shares to jointly acquire the company and take it off the stock exchange, subject to shareholder and antitrust approval. Credit Suisse stock analysts claimed the deal would not take enough national market share to raise antitrust scrutiny. But given ongoing price-fixing investigations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) urged the Justice Department to investigate this acquisition because it poses risks of increased costs or decreased choices for consumers.

Consolidation in the national market can lead to even higher levels of regional consolidation that hurt farmers, workers, and rural communities. For instance, half of all chicken farmers report having just one or two corporations to work with. Sanderson and Wayne both primarily operate in the Southeast, but it is unclear how much they compete for farmers or workers. Sanderson’s plants are largely concentrated in Texas, Mississippi, Southern Georgia, and North Carolina, while Wayne operates primarily in Alabama and Northern Georgia.

Nonetheless, farmers worry about what a change in Sanderson’s leadership will mean for them. “Growers are very, very afraid they are going to see a pay cut,” said Reid Phifer, a former poultry grower from North Carolina and the administrator of a poultry forum representing some 4,200 growers. “They don’t know who will be giving the orders. … Everyone is afraid of the unknown.”

Workers also fear job losses in regions where Cargill, Wayne, or Sanderson facilities overlap. For instance, Cargill operates a cooked turkey products facility in Waco, Texas, employing nearly 650 people, and Sanderson operates a live chicken processing facility, also in Waco, employing 1,200. A spokesperson for Cargill told the Waco-Tribune Herald that the plants would “both likely remain open” given the current demand for poultry, but that’s hardly reassuring to workers who know that merged companies always look for savings through consolidation. Sanderson and Wayne also both operate chicken processing facilities in Laurel, Miss., Sanderson’s corporate headquarters. With the chief executive of Georgia-based Wayne Farms slated to run the combined business, the Laurel Leader Call reports some residents fear losing administrative jobs with Sanderson.

Sanderson Farms did not . . .

Continue reading.  There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 11:15 am

Afghanistan evacuation: How would Trump have done?

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David Fisk on Facebook quotes an email sent by Olivia Troye, a former White House national security staffer during the Trump admin., on behalf of the Republican Accountability Project

My heart breaks right now for the people of Afghanistan, and for our allies who are trapped in the country and surrounded by the Taliban. This was a disaster that never had to happen, and I hope they are evacuated quickly and safely.

I’m seeing Republicans claim that Trump would have handled the situation far better—and I know for a fact that’s just not true. Until 2020, I was a national security staffer for the Trump administration, until I quit after seeing just how incompetent and cruel he was. Afghanistan was no exception.

I sat in cabinet meetings about getting Americans and our Afghan allies out of the country. In them, Stephen Miller would peddle his racist hysteria. He and his enablers across the government undermined anyone who worked on solving the issues in getting special immigrant visas (SIVs) for our Afghan allies by undermining the system at Homeland Security and the State Department.

I tracked this issue personally in my role at the White House. I met with many refugee advocate organizations who pleaded for help in getting U.S. allies through the process.

But we got nowhere because Trump and Miller had watchdogs in place at the Justice Department, Homeland Security, State and other agencies that made an already cumbersome SIV process even more challenging.
The system wouldn’t budge, no matter how much we argued in National Security Council meetings. The Pentagon weighed in, saying we needed to get these allies through the process. Mattis and others sent memos trying to help. We all knew the urgency, but we were blocked at every turn.

Good people within the Trump Administration tried to counter Miller’s obstruction, but their fear of retaliation was palpable. Numerous closed door meetings were held, strategizing how to navigate this issue.
Trump had four years to develop a plan. We could have used that time to lay the groundwork to evacuate our Afghan allies. They were the lifelines for many of us who spent time in Afghanistan.

They’d been waiting a long time, all the while under the threat of death at the hands of the Taliban. The process slowed to a trickle for reviews and “other priorities.” Ultimately, they came to a halt.

I have one thing to say to Trump’s defenders who are making blanket statements and pushing false narratives about Afghanistan: please, just stop. Some of you were actively involved in making it harder to get our Afghan allies to safety. Your comments are uninformed and hurtful. And we see right through you.

I’m grateful for everyone now advocating the urgency of getting our allies out of Afghanistan ASAP and those who are doing everything they can to help. This is a matter of national security.

Most importantly, it’s the least we can do for these individuals. The world is watching.

Olivia Troye
Director, Republican Accountability Project

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 10:20 am

Talking About Hard Problems Without Demonizing Each Other

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The Logistics Curve describes how flow systems work. (Wikipedia)

Dave Troy has a good essay in Medium:

In studying cults and influence, I’ve learned about the concepts of “loaded language” and “thought-stopping clichés.” Terms like climate change, cancel culture, anti-vax, pro-life, liberal, and conservative are shortcuts: they signify a connection to a tribe and once they are invoked, we stop thinking with our reasoning brain and shift into our tribal brain. Hence the term “thought-stopping cliché” — we literally stop thinking once these loaded terms are used.

And they are used everywhere. It’s usually easier to write using these shorthand terms than to make an original argument. These terms, because they invoke tribalism, also tend to amplify the kind of emotional responses that drive clicks on the internet, or keep people glued to cable news.

Talking About Hard Problems

For example, current discussions around “-isms” are nearly impossible to have because they devolve into food fights rooted in labels like “leftist” and “fascist.” (Never mind that people have few clear ideas about what those things might mean, it’s really just a shorthand for them.)

Dropping into a new, perhaps unfamiliar conceptual framework is a useful way to disarm readers and to get them to think differently. For example, I’ve been thinking a lot about our current challenges and how to use the language of physics, networks, and influence to formulate new ways to frame problems. I’ll offer one example here.

Reframing the “-ism” Problem — without Ideology

First, we can acknowledge the existence of flow systems. To sustain life, there must be flows that allow people to eat. Local flow systems, such as a home garden or a small farm, can help feed a few people. Bigger flow systems can achieve economies of scale and feed more people. Connective flow systems that enable trade of these products for money allow for distribution of these products.

We can also acknowledge the existence of influence. Every flow system, large or small, seeks easier access to resources and to improve efficiency where possible. To the extent humans can be influenced to achieve these goals, flow systems will seek ways to enlist their help. Sometimes, people are brought in to solve some specific problem; other times influence is used to impose or limit regulations that give a certain flow system an advantage. Larger flow systems can allocate more resources towards influence than small ones.

Note that flow systems exist apart from ideology. People need to eat, regardless of their ideological tribe.

The existence of influence as an unavoidable byproduct of flow systems suggests that we cannot rely on ideology alone to constrain them. However, if we recognize that influence is a factor, we can potentially counter it in other ways. State power can usually be brought to bear, as can preferences of people who are choosing which flow systems to engage with.

The most effective way to counter the influence of a flow system is to render the system obsolete. Whale oil lamps went away with the introduction of petrofuels. Cars replaced horses. Child labor went away [in some locales – LG] because of changing social norms that shaped state power. Transistors and integrated circuits swiftly replaced vacuum tubes. Flatscreen displays replaced cathode ray tubes. These are all flow systems that were unable to sustain themselves either through influence or through continued social preferences.

Today we know that carbon fuel flow systems have negative effects and have capacity to purchase massive influence. If we want to replace these systems, we need to find solutions that work better, and also recognize that existing systems are slowing that effort by purchasing influence.
I don’t know how to characterize this framework ideologically—and that’s the point. It doesn’t bear much resemblance to Adam Smith’s weird voodoo (note: no talk of ‘prices’ or ‘invisible hands’) nor does it touch on Marx’s fetishes about workers and revolution. Yet we managed to talk about the physical systems that govern life on earth, some of their negative effects, and how we might consider countering them — all without calling each other names.

The most useful lens I’ve found for thinking about this set of problems is the logistics functionwhich turns up everywhere in nature and physics. As it turns out, this is the curve that defines how flow systems work. (They start out slow, tend towards a near-linear ‘middle’ period, then steady out unless more resource flow becomes available.) And in general, we might all be better off meditating on that set of problems.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with reading Smith and Marx and anyone else, if only to know what they were actually thinking. But an over-reliance on the explanatory value of these rickety frameworks, especially when they short-circuit original thinking and cause us to collapse into tribal conflict, is counter-productive.

It’s high time we move beyond . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 10:16 am

The Statistics Behind “Breakthrough” Infection

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Joe Schwarcz points out what’s missing from the report of the superspreader event in Rhode Island. He writes at MicGill University Office of Science and Society:

Recently we have seen a rash of headlines along the lines of “75% of infected people were fully vaccinated” atop stories describing a “super-spreader” event in Massachusetts. While that statistic is correct, it needs to be put into context. First, let’s note that the outbreak, in which 360 out of 469 cases (75%) were among vaccinated individuals, was linked with densely packed indoor and outdoor events on the July 4th weekend with few people wearing masks. Next, let’s examine that scary 75% number.

Consider a theoretical scenario in which 100% of a population is vaccinated. Since vaccines are not perfect, there will be some “breakthrough” infections, and in such a case, 100% of infections will be among vaccinated people! That does not mean vaccines do not work. To determine vaccine efficacy in this case, we would need to know the total number of vaccinated and unvaccinated people who gathered that weekend. If this were known, then the percent of infections in the two populations could be calculated and the efficacy of the vaccine determined. In other words, it is important to know the denominator in such a calculation!

If out of the 469 cases, 360 (75%) were vaccinated, to find the percent of infections among vaccinated people we would have to make the calculation 360/a X 100 where “a” is the total number of vaccinated people. Similarly, for the unvaccinated, it would be 109/b, X 100 where “b” is the total of unvaccinated individuals. But we do not know “a” or “b,” so the relative effectiveness cannot be calculated. However, given what we know about rates of vaccination in the state, which is roughly 65%, and in Provincetown, the epicentre, a reported 85%, it is a good bet that “a” is much larger than “b,” meaning that the percent of infection among vaccinated people is much less than among the unvaccinated. Such data is available from other studies and formed the basis for the approval of the various vaccines.

What all this means is that given the high vaccination rate, the chilling 75% number is not surprising and is basically meaningless. The really important number is 1.07, which is the percent of infected people (5 out of 469) who ended up in the hospital! One of these was unvaccinated, and two had prior health conditions. This means that the vaccines keep people out of the hospital! We can cope with flu-like symptoms, we just do not want to end up in the ICU!

To further buttress the point that vaccines work, CDC reports about 35,000 symptomatic cases a week out of 162 million vaccinated Americans, which is 0.02%. Also, more than 90% of patients hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated. Furthermore, vaccination is associated with a 40-50% reduction in COVID cases among an infected person’s household contacts.

The delta variant is now responsible for most infections, and it is nasty, spreading much more easily than the original virus. Studies show that vaccinated individuals carry as much of this variant in their nose as the unvaccinated, suggesting that they can spread the virus. They can indeed, but are still less likely to do so than the unvaccinated since they are less likely to be infected in the first place. Another boost for vaccines comes from just-released Israeli data demonstrating that a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine among the over 60 offers greater protection than after two vaccines by a factor of four!

What should we then take away from the Massachusetts event? That this is not the time for unnecessary gatherings or travel. And neither is it time to toss away the masks, no matter how unpleasant they are to wear. And of course, for the yet unvaccinated, it is time to get the jab. Unvaccinated people are incubators for variants.

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 9:53 am

America’s watershed moment

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Heather Cox Richardson:

America is in a watershed moment. Since the 1980s, the country has focused on individualism: the idea that the expansion of the federal government after the Depression in the 1930s created a form of collectivism that we must destroy by cutting taxes and slashing regulation to leave individuals free to do as they wish.

Domestically, that ideology meant dismantling government regulation, social safety networks, and public infrastructure projects. Internationally, it meant a form of “cowboy diplomacy” in which the U.S. usually acted on its own to rebuild nations in our image.

Now, President Joe Biden appears to be trying to bring back a focus on the common good.

For all that Republicans today insist that individualism is the heart of Americanism, in fact the history of federal protection of the common good began in the 1860s with their own ancestors, led by Abraham Lincoln, who wrote: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves—in their separate, and individual capacities.”

The contrast between these two ideologies has been stark this week.

On the one hand are those who insist that the government cannot limit an individual’s rights by mandating either masks or vaccines, even in the face of the deadly Delta variant of the coronavirus that is, once again, taking more than 1000 American lives a day.

In New York, where Mayor Bill de Blasio has required teachers to be vaccinated, the city’s largest police union has said it will sue if a vaccine is mandated for its members.

In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday issued an executive order prohibiting any government office or any private entity receiving government funds from requiring vaccines.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has also forbidden mask mandates, but today Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper ruled that DeSantis’s order is unconstitutional. Cooper pointed out that in 1914 and 1939, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that individual rights take a back seat to public safety: individuals can drink alcohol, for example, but not drive drunk. DeSantis was scathing of the opinion and has vowed to appeal. Meanwhile, NBC News reported this week that information about the coronavirus in Florida, as well as Georgia, is no longer easily available on government websites.

On the other hand, as predicted, the full approval of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration has prompted a flood of vaccine mandates.

The investigation into the events of January 6, when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, also showcases the tension between individualism and community.

Yesterday, after months in which Republicans, including former president Donald Trump, called for the release of the identity of the officer who shot Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, Capitol Police officer Lieutenant Michael Byrd, the 28-year veteran of the force who shot Babbitt, gave an interview to Lester Holt of NBC News.

Right-wing activists have called Babbitt a martyr murdered by the government, but Byrd explained that he was responsible for protecting 60 to 80 members of the House and their staffers. As rioters smashed the glass doors leading into the House chamber, Byrd repeatedly called for them to get back. When Ashli Babbitt climbed through the broken door, he shot her in the shoulder. She later died from her injuries. Byrd said he was doing his job to protect our government. “I know that day I saved countless lives,” Byrd told Holt. “I know members of Congress, as well as my fellow officers and staff, were in jeopardy and in serious danger. And that’s my job.”

The conflict between individualism and society also became clear today as the House select committee looking into the attack asked social media giants to turn over “all reviews, studies, reports, data, analyses, and communications” they had gathered about disinformation distributed by both foreign and domestic actors, as well as information about “domestic violent extremists” who participated in the attack.

Representative Jim Banks (R-IN) immediately responded that “Congress has no general power to inquire into private affairs and to compel disclosure….” He urged telecommunications companies and Facebook not to hand over any materials, calling their effort an “authoritarian undertaking.” Banks told Fox News Channel personality Tucker Carlson that Republicans should punish every lawmaker investigating the January 6 insurrection if they retake control of Congress in 2022.

Biden’s new turn is especially obvious tonight in international affairs. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, a country we entered almost 20 years ago with a clear mission that became muddied almost immediately, has sparked Republican criticism for what many describe as a U.S. defeat.

Since he took office, Biden has insisted on shifting American foreign policy away from U.S. troops alone on the ground toward multilateral pressure using finances and technology.

After yesterday’s bombing in Kabul took the lives of 160 Afghans and 13 American military personnel, Biden warned ISIS-K: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

Tonight, a new warning from . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s worth reading.

Her comments on how the Right has embraced malignant individualism and rejected working as a community for the common good, are IMO accurate. It’s narcissism run amok.

Tertius and Edwin Jagger, with Pinaud Clubman on the side

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The brush is Bruce, from Italian Barber, and it loved Tertius, giving lots of lovely lather. Tertius is another ultra-premium soap, this one from Ariana & Evans — great lather, fine fragrance:

Quite possibly the finest, most sophisticated leather forward scent created. The primary notes are Leather, Tobacco & Oud, supported by a hint of Rose & Patchouli. 

Their ingredients:

Kaizen Ingredients: Stearic Acid, Beef Tallow, Aqua, Goats Milk, Potassium Hydroxide,  Kokum Butter, Shea Butter, Castor Oil, Cocoa Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Manteca, Aloe Juice, Avocado Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, Apricot Kernal Seed Oil, Lanolin, Agave, Slippery Elm, Sodium Lactate, Xanthan Gum, Silk Amino Acid, Tussah Silk, Marshmallow Root

My Edwin Jagger did its usual excellent job, leaving my face smooth and undamaged for a splash of Pinaud Clubman (with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel added).

I don’t have the Tertius aftershave — or as A&E call it, Tertius Aftershave Splash & Skin Food. With that, the Hydrating Gel might not be needed. The ingredients:

Splash Ingredients: Aloe Vera Juice, Vegetable Glycerin,  SD 40B Alcohol, Rose Hydrosol, Calendula Extract, Red Clover Extract, Chamomile, Plantain Leaves, White Willow Bark, Vitamin E, Caprylic Triglycerides (combination of plant sugars and fatty acids derived from palm and coconut oils for silkier feel and as a natural preservative).

Great start to the weekend, and the morning is sunny. 

Written by Leisureguy

28 August 2021 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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