Later On

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

Archive for November 29th, 2021

They Knew Industrial Pollution Was Ruining the Neighborhood’s Air. If Only Regulators Had Listened.

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Lisa Song, with additional reporting by Ava Kofman, has an interesting if enraging article in ProPublica. It’s enormously frustrating when the government simply refuses to do its job (as the FDA simply ignored the Congressional directive to certify OTC hearing aids until President Biden directly ordered them to get to work). It’s often unclear whether the problem is negligence, incompetence, conflict of interest, or being under resourced — or a combination. The article begins:

The white ranch house in Pascagoula, Mississippi, was supposed to be Barbara Weckesser’s retirement plan. In 2010, it was getting harder for the real estate agent and her husband to climb the stairs of their home on Dauphin Island, Alabama. She imagined a quiet existence of gardening and puttering around her porch. The Cherokee Forest subdivision seemed like just the place to do it. Rabbits wandered the lawns among the dozens of modest homes built in the 1960s and ’70s; families stayed put for decades. The ranch was a fixer-upper, so the couple tackled it together, installing drywall and hanging up new doors and cabinets.

Then came the dust. Weckesser, who was 64 at the time, first saw it after she left a window open one fall day in 2011 and black soot settled onto her new kitchen countertops. “I said, ‘Holy hell, what in the world is this?’” She later found a grayish film on her black car. She knew it wasn’t pollen because it felt gritty, like sand. Her first guess was that it was coming from VT Halter Marine, a shipbuilder located 800 feet away that was undergoing repairs to fix damage from Hurricane Katrina. The site later became the scene of constant painting, sandblasting and welding, as workers rushed to fulfill contracts with the Navy and Coast Guard.

Months passed and the dust kept falling in Pascagoula — more than she had ever witnessed growing up near Kentucky’s coal fields. Weckesser got headaches from chemical odors and wondered if it was safe to eat the tomatoes she’d planted. Fed up, she found a number for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency charged with ensuring clean air. It had issued operating permits to the shipbuilder and a dozen other major industrial facilities nearby, including a huge Chevron oil refinery and a chemical plant. She wanted the regulators to find out where the noxious fumes were coming from.

When she called MDEQ in March 2012 about a “welding gas” smell that left a metallic taste in her mouth, it took four days for an inspector to drive by the shipyard. The inspector noted strong odors and a billowing yellowish-white cloud near Mississippi Phosphates, a local fertilizer manufacturer. The company told MDEQ that the cloud was probably steam. That was the extent of the investigation and Weckesser’s first glimpse of a larger, frustrating reality.

Neither industrial polluters nor the regulators who govern them know exactly how much hazardous air pollution is billowing out of smokestacks at any given time, nor the degree to which that pollution is finding its way into surrounding neighborhoods. The law doesn’t require them to.

Back in 1990, when the Clean Air Act mandated how the Environmental Protection Agency would regulate industrial air pollution, monitoring methods were crude, expensive and limited. So the EPA allowed facilities to estimate their emissions of hazardous air pollutants, also called air toxics, like hexavalent chromium and ethylene oxide that can cause cancer, respiratory illnesses, heart problems and other ailments. The agency entrusted states to enforce these rules through air permits, which set limits on the amount of chemicals each facility could emit. Despite dramatic advances in technology, a lot of these permits still rely on self-reported estimates that are often outdatedincomplete or inaccurate. Only rarely do regulators check to see if what is reported matches reality.

“We built this whole regulatory system based on a lack of good data,” said Adam Babich, a Tulane professor who specializes in environmental law. It “gets harder and harder to argue with a straight face that it’s unreasonable to require extensive monitoring.”

The EPA and state agencies could install air monitors in communities to gauge how much toxic pollution reaches neighborhoods. But there’s no federal requirement to do that. ProPublica, in an unprecedented analysis of modeled EPA emissions data, identified more than 1,000 hot spots of toxic air pollution nationwide. Yet the EPA spends only $5 million per year to run 26 monitoring stations across the country; it offered another $5 million last year for state and local air monitoring grants and will use $25 million from President Joe Biden’s coronavirus stimulus package to help communities monitor for air pollutants of interest, including air toxics.

If a neighborhood is among the minority of hot spots to actually get a monitor installed, and if that monitor reveals that residents are, indeed, breathing in troubling levels of air toxics, the law doesn’t require regulators to investigate to see whether nearby polluters are violating air permits.

“There’s often no environmental cop on the beat,” said Judith Enck, a former . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 5:15 pm

Pro Home Cooks on Rice Bowls — and how to make them better

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Michael G. has a good video (below) on rice bowls, including good tips for the novice cook. However, I strongly recommend using brown rice, not white — that is, use intact whole-grain race. Removing a grain’s bran (to produce white rice or pearled barley or the like) also removes a substantial amount of the nutritional value. Refined or highly processed foods lack the nutrition of whole foods. Whole grains include the bran. See what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say about whole grains.

He says he uses white rice because brown rice takes a long time to cook.  ???  Why not cook the (brown) rice ahead of time — like the day before? Cook a large batch, put it in a storage container, refrigerate it, and then take servings from the container as you need them

This has two benefits:

  1. Refrigerating the cooked intact whole grain will make the starch resistant and not so quickly digested, with the result that you don’t get hungry so quickly and it also nourishes your gut microbiome.
  2. When you go to make the dish, the rice is already cooked — it takes no cooking time at all (not even so much as cooking white rice) because you already cooked it. Just take the amount you need and put it in with the foods you’re cooking, or sauté it with a little oil (and perhaps onion or garlic or shallots) to heat it up, or just eat it cold.

And in fact, why use rice at all? Try cooking hulled barley (that’s intact whole-grain barley, with the bran still in place), or whole rye, or Kamut®, or spelt, or intact whole-grain rye — those also take a long time to cook, so cook a batch the day before. These grains are much more nutritious than rice — even brown rice. (White rice is not worth discussing.) Just use these cooked grains as you would use rice.

That said, the video does have some good tips. But he’s wrong in his approach to rice.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 2:56 pm

Dinner thoughts with Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage

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Dinner — after I cook it and serve it with hulled barley and lentils

The Eldest told me that Beyond Meat’s Beyond Sausage is quite tasty. I’ve been wanting to vary my greens (thus yesterday’s combo of tung ho, bitter melon, fresh bamboo shoot, red onion, jalapeño, and Japanese condiments (shoyu sauce, mirin, and brown-rice vinegar). That turned out very tasty, but I thought a spicy sausage would spruce up greens a lot.

I want the taste and the mouthfeel, but not the other things that go with regular sausage: salt, saturated fat, IGF-1, risk of E. coli contamination (do a search on “sausage recalls” or “ground meat recalls”), preservatives, and outright animal cruelty. So getting the taste and mouthfeel from healthful ingredients? Sounds to me like a big win. And the ingredients of Beyond Sausage look pretty good:

Water, pea protein*, refined coconut oil, sunflower oil, natural flavor, contains 2% or less of: rice protein, faba bean protein, potato starch, salt, vegetable juice (for color), apple fiber, methylcellulose, citrus extract (to protect quality), calcium alginate casing.

*Peas are legumes. People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy. Contains no peanuts or tree nuts.

Too bad about the nuts, but I can stir in some walnuts if I want. The only odd ingredient is methylcellulose. It helps with mouthfeel and is not digested — and very little of that is used: it’s way down on the list of the items that together constitute 2% “or less” of the product. 

A couple of the sausage links, cut into sections and sautéed with the onion, jalapeño, garlic, and ginger before I add the chopped collards and a little Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar (and perhaps a dash of Red Boat fish sauce), will make this a tasty winter version of Greens. I’ll have it with the hulled barley that I have on hand and the rest of the lentils. (I got some dried soybeans to cook; I might make tempeh with those, or just have them as cooked beans.)

The price I paid for the sausage is (in US$) $2.15 per sausage. For an occasional treat, that seems fine.

Update: Remembered the fresh turmeric root — 2 good-sized roots — and of course black pepper. And I decided also to dice a couple of Roma tomatoes and include those for their liquid (and lycopene). It’s cooking now: after sautéing all but the collard leaves (minced stems were included with the initial sauté) and tomatoes, I added chopped collard leaves, finely chopped tomato, Red Boat fish sauce, and vinegar, set burner to 200ºF for 30 minutes, covered the pan, and now am relaxing.

Today I also cooked a pound of soybeans, now in fridge, and a cup of hulled barley, also in fridge.

Here’s how it turned out:

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 1:49 pm

Keto v. whole-food plant-based for loss of body fat — and an onion note

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Onion note first: the antioxidant content of onions varies by layer. The outermost layer, just under the papery skin, has the highest concentration of antioxidants, and the antioxidant drops, layer by layer, and you move to the center, with the innermost layers have basically no antioxidant content. And onions follow the general rule for vegetables: the darker the vegetable, the higher the antioxidant content, so red onions are better than yellow, and yellow onions are better than white. (That’s the takeaway from this video.)

The following video compares the effect on the loss of body fat (not just loss of weight, which can be merely water loss) of a keto (low-carb high-fat) diet vs. what he calls a “vegan” diet but from the context seems to be rather a whole-food plant based diet. (The vegan diet is not limited to whole foods but can include refined foods and highly processed foods.)

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 11:47 am

Entertaining reunion and family dynamic

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Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 11:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Where we stand with Covid Omicron

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The Eldest works at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, so she has access to good up-to-date information. She writes:

Where we are now with Omicron: 

  • No deaths linked to Omicron have yet been reported.
  • Scientists don’t yet know if Omicron causes more severe disease. Understanding that will take several more weeks.
  • The level of protection against Omicron afforded by vaccination and previous infection are not yet understood.
  • Travel bans:
    • Japan and Israel have banned entry to all foreigners, while Morocco banned all incoming flights starting today, AP reports.
    • The moves follow the US and other countries’ decisions last week to halt flights from southern Africa.
Reality check: There are huge disparities in how much sequencing countries are doing: 1) the country that 1st reports may not be origin; 2) penalizing countries that report variants may have a chilling effect on surveillance for variants.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 9:15 am

The terrific Monday-morning shave — and a few things I noticed

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I really look forward to Monday mornings because the two-day stubble is a bit irksome and the shave is always a pleasure — today a particular pleasure because I particularly like Van Yulay’s Achilles. The lather is excellent and the ingredients are intriguing, and the fragrance (always a YMMV aspect) is one that I like a lot. The soap ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Coconut Fatty Acid, Palm Stearic, Castor, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycerin, Tobacco Tea, Aloe Vera, Coconut-Emu-Tallow-Meadow Foam-Borage-Argan Oils, Kentucky Bourbon, Sodium Lactate, Herbal Ground Tea, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Allantoin, Silica, Bentonite Clay, Glycerin Soap, Tobacco Absolute, Mica, and Fragrance.

BTW, the Van Yulay site is currently closed due to a move. It shall return.

The first thing I noticed this morning is that the Omega Pro 48 really is noticeably better than the Omega 20102 I used today. I used to recommend the 20102, but this morning it was evident that the Pro 48’s knot has better flex (due to slightly longer loft) and better coverage — the 20102 knot seems to be hollow, compared to the Pro 48’s.

Still, the 20102 is perfectly serviceable (though if I get another new brush at some point, I know which brush will depart the rack to make room), and the lather it made was first rate.

The second thing I noticed was how much I now like my iKon stainless slant (here with a DLC coating, though now sold with a B1 coating — more durable). I went through a period where the razor seemed to nick in every shave, and I finally realized that this razor simply requires a very light pressure and the correct blade angle — the latter most readily found by keeping the razor’s cap in contact with the skin.

Once you use light pressure and the right blade angle, this razor is a delight — highly efficient and totally comfortable. But it is not, I would say, a razor for a novice. Get accustomed to light pressure (just barely enough to keep the razor’s cap touching your face) and the best blade angle (the angle at which, if you moved the handle any farther from your face, the razor would stop cutting and just glide along on the cap), and then get one of these. They’re marvellous. 

After three easy passes, my face was truly BBS, and a good splash of Achilles aftershave finished the job. Now the day already seems very good indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

29 November 2021 at 9:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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