Later On

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

Archive for February 2023

How South Koreans got so much taller

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2023 at 3:25 pm

Washington Post editorial board is entirely White and has no Washington residents

leave a comment »

This thread is informative — click date to see thread.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2023 at 2:36 pm

Multi-modal streets can serve more people than car-oriented streets

leave a comment »

Two streets, one with 3 lanes of traffic, two lanes of parking, and two sidewalks and one with wide sidewalks, two bike lanes, some parking, one car lane, and one bus lane. The former has a capacity of 12,300 people per hour, the latter 30,100 people per hour.

If we stop designing our cities with the primary goal of serving cars, the result is more livable cities with more efficient streets. For more information, see National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO)

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2023 at 2:24 pm

Crash the Global Economy? It’s Harder than It Sounds.

leave a comment »

Dave Troy writes in the Washington Spectator:

Many of us are familiar with the phenomenon of “dorm room philosophy” and its derivative field, “dorm room economics.” Often, it is rooted in the clunky prose of Ayn Rand and the simple, common-sense decrees of Austrian economics, along with the limited life experience common to all young people — particularly young men. Rand’s “objectivism” and its consorts help to simplify a complex world through pat assurances: communism is very bad, and bankers are usually up to no good.

So alluring is this worldview, it is tempting for some to use it as the foundation for their social reality. Organizations ranging from the Mont Pelerin Society to the Cato Institute to Elizabeth Clare Prophet’s Church Universal and Triumphant are each built on the work of Hayek, Friedman, Rothbard, and Mises.

Embedded within these social milieus is the idea of an inevitable reckoning with the cabal of shadowy globalist bankers that has spoiled humanity’s chances for peaceful, gold-backed commerce. So it is not surprising that accelerating this reckoning is at the heart of the global right’s plan for world domination.

Recently, I revisited warfare expert James Scaminaci’s excellent research from 2013 outlining what he calls the “North-Paul Strategy” advanced by Ron “End the Fed” Paul and his strategist Gary North. The plan predicts massive inflation that will accelerate the collapse of the Federal Reserve and the dollar, thus enabling the libertarian-right to seize control of and “fix” the monetary system.

Per Scaminaci, North wrote that “God’s judgment, which is pro-revolution, will produce a cataclysmic collapse of the American political-economic system,” and that the “unbiblical financial system will not be reformed without a near-revolutionary crisis (the judgment of God).”

But the idea of sparking a collapse to seize control goes back further. Lyndon LaRouche was pushing the same set of ideas in 1997. Dubbed “The New Bretton Woods,” LaRouche sought to usher in a new, third iteration of the Bretton Woods banking system established in 1944 and then altered (to some, defiled) in 1971 with Nixon’s total abandonment of the gold standard. This Bretton Woods 3.0 would restore the idea of asset-backed currencies and subjugate the “banksters” once and for all — with the latent anti-Semitism being barely concealed.

LaRouche’s ideas might have been only a footnote, but for the alliances he cultivated with Sergey Glazyev, a Russian economist and politician who is now architecting Putin’s plans for a BRICS-bloc asset-backed common currency. LaRouche and Glazyev were close, and Glazyev co-founded the Rodina (Motherland) party with Aleksandr Dugin. Glazyev also serves on the board of Dugin’s Katechon think-tank, and is himself advocating for Bretton Woods 3.0.

Just yesterday, I visited the “Rage Against the War Machine” rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by the Libertarian Party, the People’s Party, and the Schiller Institute (run by LaRouche’s widow, Helga Zepp), it was thick with leafleteers pushing LaRouche messaging and featured speeches by two dozen or so Putin-friendly speakers, including presidential candidates Jill Stein, Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard, and Ron Paul.

One speaker led the crowd in a chant, “all wars are bankers’ wars,” bringing things full circle: the assertion being that it is only because we have departed from pure, good, and undefiled Austrian economics and the gold standard can (usually Jewish) bankers print the money required to fuel endless war. It seems no one at this anti-war rally had arrived at the most obvious solution: tell Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops and go home.

Paul, the final live speaker of the day, predictably took the podium to chants of “End the Fed” with a phalanx of Russian flags behind him in the afternoon light. (Ironically, the Eccles Federal Reserve building, barely a block away, is undergoing renovations.)

The North-Paul strategy seems to be alive and well. The most obvious strategy to achieve it would be to crash the global economy by failing to raise the debt ceiling. Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly and explicitly stated his intent to pursue this, and the Washington Post recently reported that the strategy has been developed by former Trump budget director Russell Vought. But two things stand in his way.

First, reality is not conforming to the simple edicts of Austrian economics. In the North-Paul-LaRouche-Glazyev playbook embraced by McCarthy and Vought, there should be blood in the streets right now. Inflation should be spiraling out of control (it’s not), financial markets should be collapsing (they’re not), Ukraine should be losing (it is not), and Europe should be frozen into submission (it is not). Many complex systems have adapted and the world (particularly the West) is more resilient than
they imagined.

The second is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2023 at 11:33 am

Nancy Boy and the Mixed Midget, with a Baby Smooth shave

leave a comment »

A small brush with a knot of badger and board and tiny handle next to a travel-size white tub of shaving cream, on top of which stands a black DE razor with a ribbed handle. Next is a small glass bottle of green aftershave with a large black cap. The bottle is labeled "Irisch Moos."

Omega’s Mixed Midget (aka Mighty Midget) is a very good brush whose knot is a combination of badger and boar. The handle is small but the knot is a good size — its loft is greater than the length of the handle.

My little tub of Nancy Boy Signature Shave Cream is drawing near the end, but it still was easy to load the brush fully. I do love this shave cream, and I may feel impelled to replace the tub when it’s gone.

RazoRock’s Baby Smooth razor lived up to its name and gave me a very nice shave — not quite BBS, but close. This razor is a pleasure to use: extremely comfortable and for me extremely efficient. (Some have found that for them it’s not quite so efficient.)

A splash of Irisch Moos with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel and the shave is done. And we have snow on the ground.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Balmoral Blend: “a strong, traditional, rich blend of bright Ceylon and malty Assam teas.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 February 2023 at 8:13 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Erythritol now found to be a bad idea

with 2 comments

Erythritol, an artificial sweetener, has been thought to be safe, but a new study has found that it seems to be unhealthy for one’s cardiovascular system.  Sandee LaMotte reports for CNN:

A sugar replacement called erythritol – used to add bulk or sweeten stevia, monkfruit and keto reduced-sugar products – has been linked to blood clotting, stroke, heart attack and death, according to a new study.

“The degree of risk was not modest,” said lead study author Dr. Stanley Hazen, director of the Center for Cardiovascular Diagnostics and Prevention at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute.

People with existing risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, were twice as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke if they had the highest levels of erythritol in their blood, according to the study, published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.

“If your blood level of erythritol was in the top 25% compared to the bottom 25%, there was about a two-fold higher risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s on par with the strongest of cardiac risk factors, like diabetes,” Hazen said.

Additional lab and animal research presented in the paper revealed that erythritol appeared to be causing blood platelets to clot more readily. Clots can break off and travel to the heart, triggering a heart attack, or to the brain, triggering a stroke.

“This certainly sounds an alarm,” said Dr. Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health, a hospital in Denver, who was not involved in the research.

“There appears to be a clotting risk from using erythritol,” Freeman said. “Obviously, more research is needed, but in an abundance of caution, it might make sense to limit erythritol in your diet for now.”

In response to the study, the Calorie Control Council, an industry association, told CNN that “the results of this study are contrary to decades of scientific research showing reduced-calorie sweeteners like erythritol are safe, as evidenced by global regulatory permissions for their use in foods and beverages,” said Robert Rankin, the council’s executive director, in an email.

The results “should not be extrapolated to the general population, as the participants in the intervention were already at increased risk for cardiovascular events,” Rankin said.

The European Association of Polyol Producers declined to comment, saying it had not reviewed the study.

What is erythritol?

Like sorbitol and xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol, a carb found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It has about 70% of the sweetness of sugar and is considered zero-calorie, according to experts. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 9:13 pm

So glad I switched to 1Password: Another LastPass breach

leave a comment »

Dan Goodin reports in Ars Technica:

Already smarting from a breach that put partially encrypted login data into a threat actor’s hands, LastPass on Monday said that the same attacker hacked an employee’s home computer and obtained a decrypted vault available to only a handful of company developers.

Although an initial intrusion into LastPass ended on August 12, officials with the leading password manager said the threat actor “was actively engaged in a new series of reconnaissance, enumeration, and exfiltration activity” from August 12 to August 26. In the process, the unknown threat actor was able to steal valid credentials from a senior DevOps engineer and access the contents of a LastPass data vault. Among other things, the vault gave access to a shared cloud-storage environment that contained the encryption keys for customer vault backups stored in Amazon S3 buckets.

Another bombshell drops

“This was accomplished by targeting the DevOps engineer’s home computer and exploiting a vulnerable third-party media software package, which enabled remote code execution capability and allowed the threat actor to implant keylogger malware,” LastPass officials wrote. “The threat actor was able to capture the employee’s master password as it was entered, after the employee authenticated with MFA, and gain access to the DevOps engineer’s LastPass corporate vault.”

The hacked DevOps engineer was one of only four LastPass employees with access to the corporate vault. Once in possession of the decrypted vault, the threat actor exported the entries, including the “decryption keys needed to access the AWS S3 LastPass production backups, other cloud-based storage resources, and some related critical database backups.”

Monday’s update comes two months after LastPass issued a previous bombshell update that for the first time said that, contrary to previous assertions, the attackers had obtained customer vault data containing both encrypted and plaintext data. LastPass said then that the threat actor had also obtained a cloud storage access key and dual storage container decryption keys, allowing for the copying customer vault backup data from the encrypted storage container.

The backup data contained both unencrypted data, such as website URLs, as well as website usernames and passwords, secure notes, and form-filled data, which had an additional layer of encryption using 256-bit AES. The new details explain how the threat actor obtained the S3 encryption keys.

Monday’s update said that  . . .

Continue reading.

Do not use LastPass.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 7:29 pm

Help young people limit screen time — and feel better about how they look

leave a comment »

Allison Aubrey’s article for NPR is very much related to the previous post:

U.S. teens spend more than eight hours a day on screens, and there’s growing concern over how social media may affect their mental health.

Now, a new study, published Thursday by the American Psychological Association, validates what some parents have experienced when their teenagers cut back: They seem to feel better about themselves. I’ve seen this in my own kids when they return from summer camp, where phones are not allowed. They seem more at ease and less moody.

Social media can feel like a comparison trap, says study author Helen Thai, a doctoral student in psychology at McGill University. Her research found that limiting screen time to about one hour a day helped anxious teens and young adults feel better about their body image and their appearance.

Her research arose from her own personal experiences.

“What I noticed when I was engaging in social media was that I couldn’t help but compare myself,” Thai says. Scrolling through posts from celebrities and influencers, as well as peers and people in her own social network, led to feelings of inferiority.

“They looked prettier, healthier, more fit,” Thai says. She was well aware that social media posts often feature polished, airbrushed or filtered images that can alter appearances in an unrealistic way, but it still affected her negatively.

So, Thai and a team of researchers decided to test whether slashing time on social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat would improve body image. They recruited a few hundred volunteers, aged 17-25, all of whom had experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression — which could make them vulnerable to the effects of social media.

Half of the participants were asked to reduce their social media to 60 minutes a day for three weeks, Thai says. The other half continued to use social media with no restrictions, which averaged about three hours per day.

The researchers gave the participants surveys at the beginning and end of the study, that included statements such as “I’m pretty happy about the way I look,” and “I am satisfied with my weight.” Among the group that cut social media use, the overall score on appearance improved from 2.95 to 3.15 on a 5-point scale. This may seem like a small change, but any shift in such a short period of time is striking, the authors say.

“This randomized controlled trial showed . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 11:23 am

How Technology Hijacks Your Mind — from a Magician and Google Design Ethicist

leave a comment »

Tristan Harris has an interesting article on Medium:

Hijack #1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices

  • “what’s not on the menu?”
  • “why am I being given these options and not others?”
  • “do I know the menu provider’s goals?”
  • “is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?” (e.g. an overwhelmingly array of toothpastes)
  • “Who’s free tonight to hang out?” becomes a menu of most recent people who texted us (who we could ping).
  • “What’s happening in the world?” becomes a menu of news feed stories.
  • “Who’s single to go on a date?” becomes a menu of faces to swipe on Tinder (instead of local events with friends, or urban adventures nearby).
  • “I have to respond to this email.” becomes a menu of keys to type a response (instead of empowering ways to communicate with a person).

Hijack #2: Put a Slot Machine In a Billion Pockets

Continue reading. There’s much more, plus illustrations of examples, which I omitted.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 10:25 am

Great shave but forgot one thing

leave a comment »

A large boar shaving brush with a long loft and chromed plastic handle, the Omega Pro 48, sties next to a tub of shaving cream with a maroon top — La Supérieure shaving cream, Dulci Tobacco — and finally a small bottle with a white pump top and a dark blue label:  Aion Skincare Nourishing Balm. In front is a stainless-steel slant razor lying on its side.
DE razor lying on its size. Handle is black rubber, otherwise chrome.

What I forgot is that I was going to use this Edwin Jagger razor for the entire week. I remember halfway through today’s shave. I have now set out the razor for next week, so the experiment will be delayed for one week.

The Omega Pro 48 came out because I like comparing it to the Antica Barbieria boar brush. I still think the Omega is better on the two criteria of feel (on the face) and performance. I sent an email to Omega yesterday to suggest that they produce a brush with the Pro 48 knot and a handle of solid resin, like the handle of the Omega 21762. In the email, I included a link to my review of the Omega and Antica Barbieria brushes. 

Wholly Kaw’s La Supériure Dulci Tobacco shaving cream is quite good: excellent lather and fine fragrance. The name is a bit of a hodge-podge: La Supériure (French) Dulci (Italian) Tobacco (English — the Italian word is “tabacco,” the French is “tabac”). It was easy to load the brush — the shaving cream has firmed up a bit, and I did enjoy the lathering.

This stainless steel slant is from early in iKon’s line, and it is a superior slant, wonderfully comfortable if you maintain a good angle and fearsomely efficient. It is still available but now with the head having a B1 coating. Three passes over a two-day stubble left not a single trace of roughness.

A tiny squirt of Aion Nourishing Balm worked well as an aftershave and left my skin feeling soft and supple.

I had coffee this morning because now that I have figured out how best to brew my coffee: grind 30g of beans very fine in my Cuisnart Spice & Herb Grinder and use boiling water in my Clever Coffee dripper. Stir at 2 minutes and put dripper on my Temperfect mug at 3 min 30 seconds.

Doing that, I find that I like the Sulawesi (yesterday’s coffee) more than the Malinal Nayarita (which I’m drinking now).

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 9:56 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

A suburb in Arizona lost its source of water. Residents warn: We’re only the beginning

leave a comment »

Although the Great Climate Migration is beginning, we haven’t seen anything yet. Alexander Panetta reports for CBC News:

A man in Arizona sees a glimpse of a potentially frightening future. A future where the planet is hotter, the soil is drier, and our most precious resource is evaporating.

His job is delivering water. And his job is getting harder.

John Hornewer is now having to drive hours farther each day to fill his truck, which, in turn, fills the subterranean tanks at homes in an area outside Phoenix.

His normal supplier cut him off; more precisely, on Jan. 1, the city of Scottsdale, Ariz., cut off transfers to the exurban community he serves in a desire to conserve water for its own residents.

He found new suppliers, farther away. Then another supplier cut him off.

And now he’s had to go farther, spending more time in his truck, making fewer deliveries, and having to double the price he charges hundreds of his customers in Rio Verde Foothills, an unincorporated community that has lost its water supplier.

“It’s brutal,” Hornewer said in an interview. “The water haulers simply cannot keep up.”

Hornewer refers to Rio Verde Foothills as a warning sign, as the Colorado River shrinks and climate change is forecast to make things worse: “We’re the first domino to fall.”

ngenious and borderline-desperate water-saving tactics are being deployed.

People are now showering at nearby gyms. Some eat on paper plates. They collect rainwater in outdoor buckets and use them to flush toilets.

They flush toilets less often and promote their water-saving ways with not-entirely-tongue-in-cheek slogans like: Don’t blush, share a flush.

“One neighbour started peeing outside,” said one resident, Linda Vincent. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet.”

This county, Maricopa, is a fast-growing area in a fast-growing state.

A visitor can see why so many people want to live here: It’s a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 4:13 am

First They Got Long Covid. Then, It Made Them Homeless

leave a comment »

Governments are failing at their job. Elizabeth Yuko reports in Rolling Stone:

COLD WEATHER IS brutal for Wendi Taylor. After living with long Covid for two years, she knows that when the temperature drops, the pain and discomfort increases. This is especially true because of the severe arthritis in her hands, which only developed following her initial Covid-19 infection.

Taylor, who lives in Houston and is among the estimated millions of Americans living with long Covid, says that doing dishes during cold weather is probably the hardest part about living in the makeshift cabin she built from tarps and an 8×8 metal pop-up awning frame she found in the garbage.

“I heat water on the stove, but when it’s below freezing, it cools down quickly, and contact with the water causes extreme pain in my hands,” says Taylor. “It feels like being burned and smashed with a sledgehammer at the same time, and takes a long time for the pain to stop.  Even just going outside can cause my hands to turn red and swell and have pain like that. It has made me curl up on my bed and cry more than once.”

At the foot of her twin mattress, atop a small table, sits a small green camping stove she uses both to cook and heat her 64-square-foot living space. A row of plastic storage cabinets is situated at the head of her bed. “Arranging it this way leaves room in the center to sit in a folding chair, or stand up to change clothes, or set groceries down when I come in from the store,” Taylor explains.

After riding out last year’s historic ice storm — which left at least 246 Texas residents dead — in a previous camp, when Taylor found out about the major winter storm at the beginning of this month, she went in prepared. She reinforced the tarps that function as the walls of her cabin, and ensured that the poles of its frame were firmly anchored into the ground.

One of Taylor’s biggest concerns this time was having the propane she needed to operate her stove. “Power outages matter little to me, but ‘they’ will buy all the propane if their electric heat goes off,” Taylor, 41, tells Rolling Stone, referring to housed individuals. “This is one of the biggest issues we face: Supplies we depend on daily become unavailable when they’re hoarded for emergencies.”

Fortunately, 2022’s storm ended up being far less severe than the one in 2021. Instead of having to go weeks without propane, stores near Taylor’s camp in Houston were restocked within days. “That made it far easier to stay warm,” she explains. “I could just hole up inside and avoid opening the door at all, for the most part.”

This isn’t what Taylor’s life was like prior to Covid-19. In fact, things were starting to look up during the first week of March 2020. She was working steadily as a day laborer in construction and landscaping in the Houston area, and was living in an extended-stay motel, saving up to get an apartment. “I was one paycheck away from being able to do so when I got sick,” Taylor says, noting that her first Covid-19 symptoms (a sore throat, fever, and hacking cough) began on March 7.

Although Taylor still felt run-down weeks later, she wasn’t initially alarmed by her lengthy convalescence: After all, it took her several months to recover after she contracted the H1N1 flu in 2009. “I figured this would be the same kind of thing,” she says. “Lots of comparisons were being made to that pandemic.” But nearly two years later, Taylor is still sick.

“One day I saw . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 4:07 am

Public transportation as a public good, like roads

leave a comment »

Seen on Mastodon:

The reason most public transportation is seen as “losing” money is precisely because it charges for trips. If you don’t charge fares, suddenly it can’t “lose” money. It just costs money, the same as the roads.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 3:57 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Nokia launches DIY repairable budget Android phone

leave a comment »

A Nokia repairable smartphone with repair tools.

Samuel Gibbs reports in the Guardian:

Nokia has announced one of the first budget Android smartphones designed to be repaired at home allowing users to swap out the battery in under five minutes in partnership with iFixit.

Launched before Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Saturday, the Nokia G22 has a removable back and internal design that allows components to be easily unscrewed and swapped out including the battery, screen and charging port.

Nokia phones manufacturer HMD Global will make “quick fix” repair guides and genuine parts available for five years via specialists iFixit, in addition to affordable professional repair options.

“People value long-lasting, quality devices and they shouldn’t have to compromise on price to get them. The new Nokia G22 is purposefully built with a repairable design so you can keep it even longer,” said Adam Ferguson, head of product marketing for HMD Global.

The G22 is partially made of recycled plastic and has a 6.53in screen, large-capacity battery, 50-megapixel camera and a fingerprint scanner. It runs Android 12 and will be supported for three years of monthly security updates and two major Android version upgrades.

HMD Global hopes to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 February 2023 at 3:40 am

The Case For Shunning

leave a comment »

A.R. Moxon writes in The Reframe:

So there’s this comic strip called Dilbert that a lot of people used to think was funny—certainly enough to sustain an enormously successful career in the funny pages for its creator, whose name is Scott Adams, and also a man who I discovered will block you on Twitter if you tell him that you expected better from the creator of Garfield.

I read Dilbert occasionally back in the day—that is in the 1990s. I thought it was pretty funny, I think. It’s hard to remember. The central message of Dilbert is that everybody is stupid except you, if I’m remembering correctly. It’s a popular message, which I presume helped make it a popular strip. There were books and plushies and even a TV show for a while. It broke through.

Anyway time passed as time does and before you knew it, it wasn’t the 1990s anymore. Eventually social media happened to us all, and everybody got online and broadcast their thoughts for all to hear, and we all got to find out that Dilbert creator Scott Adams is a massive bigot and a reactionary crank, which is something anybody who has been paying attention has known for at least a decade now.

Scott Adams the creator of Dilbert sure does seem to believe the central message of Dilbert. He’s very impressed by his own lack of stupidity, and also very impressed by what he perceives as the extreme stupidity of almost everyone else. He’s not impressed by too much else. He’s mostly skeptical.

He’s skeptical about the science, for one thing. What science?

Continue reading.

Later in the column;

It’s almost gotten to be boring, the degree to which people believe that what they refer to as “free speech” should not only allow them to say whatever they want (which it does), but should also prevent other people from understanding them to be the sort of person who says those things.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 8:29 pm

Why corporations break the law so readily

leave a comment »

From a post on Mastodon:

David Graeber got an economist to admit that he was not aware of single case where a company was fined more than the profit it made by breaking the law. He summarized this as the government saying: “Do all the crime you want, but if we catch you, you have to give us a cut.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 4:59 pm

This Native American Tribe Is Taking Back Its Water

leave a comment »

Jim Robbins reports in Smithsonian Magazine:

Cradling her 4-year-old son, Cowboy, Camille Cabello watches tumbleweeds blow across an emerald green field of newly sprouted alfalfa toward a small canal. Water spills over the canal’s side, glistening in the brilliant Arizona sun.

Not far away, her husband, Cimarron, his head covered in a western hat, guards the stream with a pitchfork. As the tumbleweeds roll into the water, he fishes them out. “On a windy day like this we have to stay out here,” Camille says, a dust devil spiraling skyward in the distance behind her. “If we don’t get them out of there it will clog the canal and cause problems.”

This desert tableau is at once modern and ancient. Modern because the arrow-straight canal, lined with concrete and designed with turnouts that divert water to flood the field, is the last leg of a state-of-the-art irrigation system here on the Gila River Indian Community, an Indian reservation in southern Arizona. Ancient because Camille is a member of the Akimel O’odham, or River People, also called Pima. For centuries her ancestors practiced irrigated agriculture across this vast desert, digging hundreds of miles of canals that routed water from the Gila and Salt rivers onto planted fields of maize, beans and squash, the “three sisters” that fed a huge swath of prehistoric America.

The sprawling civilization of the canal-building Huhugam—the Pima name for their ancestors, meaning “our people who have come before”—reached its pinnacle in the 15th century. Exactly what happened to it after that, however, is a mystery. Some evidence points to a protracted drought; other data, from the study of geological layers, suggests a series of massive floods destroyed large sections of the canal network. Pima oral tradition holds that a class rebellion overthrew the society’s elite. Whatever the reason, Huhugam culture experienced a precipitous decline, and desert winds eventually covered over their canals with sand, dirt and weeds. Gone, too, were their monumental four-story buildings, ball courts and villages, buried by the very desert soil that once sustained them.

The historic Pima farmed on a smaller scale than their ancestors, but their crops still fed much of what is now southern Arizona. But beginning in the late 19th century, the tribe endured decades of hunger, discrimination and a scourge of homesteaders and profiteers who diverted tribal water to quench the needs of booming new settlements.

Now, after more than a century, water has returned to the reservation. The Pima have gone from water impoverishment to water wealth, and the reservation now has rights to more water than anywhere else in Arizona, despite the region’s worst drought in 1,200 years. This profound change in the Pima’s fortunes represents a long-sought triumph over an ongoing historical injustice.

The Gila River begins as snowmelt in the thickly forested Black Range of western New Mexico. Near the extraordinary Gila Cliff Dwellings, built by the Mogollon people nearly 1,000 years ago, three forks come together to form the river’s main stem, which flows west through 649 miles of cactus-studded mountain desert before emptying into the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona, just north of the Mexican border.

A flash-flood river, the Gila overflows its banks during wild spring runoffs and summer monsoons, then

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 4:44 pm

Dow said it was recycling our shoes. We found them at an Indonesian flea market

leave a comment »

Corporations constantly lie because the truth hurts them

Joe Brock, Yuddy Cahya Budiman, and Joseph Campbell report for Reuters:

At a rundown market on the Indonesian island of Batam, a small location tracker was beeping from the back of a crumbling second-hand shoe store. A Reuters reporter followed the high-pitched ping to a mound of old sneakers and began digging through the pile.

There they were: a pair of blue Nike running shoes with a tracking device hidden in one of the soles.

These familiar shoes had traveled by land, then sea and crossed an international border to end up in this heap. They weren’t supposed to be here.

Five months earlier, in July 2022, Reuters had given the shoes to a recycling program spearheaded by the Singapore government and U.S. petrochemicals giant Dow Inc. In media releases and a promotional video posted online, that effort promised to harvest the rubberized soles and midsoles of donated shoes, then grind down the material for use in building new playgrounds and running tracks in Singapore.

Dow, a major producer of chemicals used to make plastics and other synthetic materials, in the past has launched recycling efforts that have fallen short of their stated aims. Reuters wanted to follow a donated shoe from start to finish to see if it did, in fact, end up in new athletic surfaces in Singapore, or at least made it as far as a local recycling facility for shredding.

To that end, the news organization cut a shallow cavity into the interior sole of one of the blue Nikes, placed a Bluetooth tracker inside, then concealed the device by covering it with the insole. The tracker was synched to a smartphone app that showed where the shoe moved in real time.

Within weeks, the blue Nikes had left the prosperous city-state and were moving south by sea across the narrow Singapore Strait to Batam island, the app showed. Reuters decided to put trackers in an additional 10 pairs of donated shoes to see if wayward pair No. 1 had been a fluke.

It wasn’t.

None of the 11 pairs of footwear donated by Reuters were turned into exercise paths or kids’ parks in Singapore.

Instead, nearly all the tagged shoes ended up in the hands of Yok Impex Pte Ltd, a Singaporean second-hand goods exporter, according to the trackers and that exporter’s logistics manager. The manager said his firm had been hired by a waste management company involved in the recycling program to retrieve shoes from the donation bins for delivery to that company’s local warehouse.

But that’s not what happened to the shoes donated by Reuters. Ten pairs moved first from the donation bins to the exporter’s facility, then on to neighboring Indonesia, in some cases traveling hundreds of miles to different corners of the vast archipelago, the location trackers showed.

Using the smartphone app to trace the movement of each shoe, Reuters journalists later traveled by air, land and sea to recover three pairs – including the blue Nikes – from crowded bazaars in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, and in Batam, which lies 12 miles (19.3 kilometers) south of Singapore. Four pairs ended up in locations in Indonesia that were too remote for Reuters to track down in person. In three other cases the trackers stopped sending a signal after they reached Indonesia.

The 11th pair

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 3:27 pm

The truth about caffeine: How coffee really affects our bodies

leave a comment »

Joel Snape writes in the Guardian:

Coffee. Go juice. Liquid gold. The one with all the psychoactive properties. Once used by Sufi mystics as an aid to concentration during religious rituals, it’s now one of the most ubiquitous drinks on the planet: we get through about 2bn cups a day.

It’s also one of the most valued and pored-over drinks. One particularly sought-after blend, Black Ivory, which is produced by encouraging elephants to digest arabica berries, retails at more than £2,000 a kilogram, while coffee-making championships attract thousands of spectators.

But what does it actually do to you? You might have a vague idea that caffeine wakes you up, wrecks your sleep and can aid sporting performance, but do you know how much you can drink safely? Considering that a typical americano contains more than 100 biologically active ingredients other than caffeine, what do you know about the drug you are glugging two or three times a day? What is happening inside your body when you have a double espresso in the morning?

How quickly does it act?

The effects may start before you even take a sip. Just inhaling the scent of coffee can improve memory and stimulate alertness, according to a 2019 study of 80 18- to 22-year-olds. Another study, from 2018, found that subjects did better in tests of analytical reasoning after a whiff of the good stuff. That said, the researchers in the 2018 study suggested that the effect probably had a placebo element, with the expectation of improved performance proving at least partly responsible.

What about when you actually drink it? “There’s a chance that the use of any supplement will carry a placebo effect,” says Dr Mike T Nelson, a researcher and performance specialist who recently co-wrote the International Society of Sports Nutrition’s position on coffee. “Many researchers use randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trials to try to ferret that out. And if you look at some of the higher-dose caffeine studies and when they have been compared with a placebo, we still see a performance-enhancing effect of caffeine.”

This is why the effects really kick in some time after you start drinking. While a 2008 study found that the effects of a cup of coffee can occur just 10 minutes after ingestion, it said peak caffeine concentration in the blood occurred after 45 minutes.

How does coffee wake you up?

Caffeine acts as a . ..

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 3:23 pm

Fat, Sugar, Salt… You’ve Been Thinking About Food All Wrong

leave a comment »

Matt Reynolds writes in Wired about bad food vs. good food:

IN THE LATE 2000s, Carlos Monteiro noticed something strange about the food that Brazilian people were eating. The nutritionist had been poring over three decades’ worth of data from surveys that asked grocery shoppers to note down every item they bought. In more recent surveys, Monteiro noticed, Brazilians were buying way less oil, sugar, and salt than they had in the past. Despite this, people were piling on the pounds. Between 1975 and 2009 the proportion of Brazilian adults who were overweight or obese more than doubled.

This contradiction troubled Monteiro. If people were buying less fat and sugar, why were they getting bigger? The answer was right there in the data. Brazilians hadn’t really cut down on fat, salt, and sugar—they were just consuming these nutrients in an entirely new form. People were swapping traditional foods—rice, beans, and vegetables—for prepackaged bread, sweets, sausages, and other snacks. The share of biscuits and soft drinks in Brazilians’ shopping baskets had tripled and quintupled, respectively, since the first household survey in 1974. The change was noticeable everywhere. When Monteiro first qualified as a doctor in 1972, he’d worried that Brazilians weren’t getting enough to eat. By the late 2000s, his country was suffering with the exact opposite problem.

At a glance, Monteiro’s findings seem obvious. If people eat too much unhealthy food, they put on more weight. But the nutritionist wasn’t satisfied with that explanation. He thought that something fundamental had shifted in our food system, and scientists needed a new way to talk about it. For more than a century, nutrition science has focused on nutrients: Eat less saturated fat, avoid excess sugar, get enough vitamin C, and so on. But Monteiro wanted a new way of categorizing food that emphasized how products were made, not just what was in them. It wasn’t just ingredients that made a food unhealthy, Monteiro thought. It was the whole system: how the food was processed, how quickly we ate it, and the way it was sold and marketed. “We are proposing a new theory to understand the relationship between diet and health,” Monteiro says.

Monteiro created a new food classification system—called NOVA—that breaks things down into four categories. Least worrisome are minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed meats. Then come processed culinary ingredients (oils, butter, and sugar), and after that processed foods (tinned vegetables, smoked meats, freshly baked bread, and simple cheeses)—substances to be used carefully as part of a healthy diet. And then there are ultra-processed foods.

There are a bunch of reasons why a product might fall into the ultra-processed category. It might be made using “industrial processes” like extrusion, interesterification, carbonation, hydrogenation, molding, or prefrying. It could contain additives designed to make it hyper-palatable, or preservatives that help it stay stable at room temperature. Or it might contain high levels of fat, sugar, and salt in combinations that aren’t usually found in whole foods. What all the foods share, Monteiro says, is that they are designed to displace freshly prepared dishes and keep you coming back for more, and more, and more. “Every day from breakfast to dinner you are consuming something that was engineered to be overconsumed,” says Monteiro.

The concept of ultra-processed food has caught on in a big way since it was first introduced in 2009: Brazil, France, Israel, Ecuador, and Peru have all made NOVA part of their dietary guidelines. Countless health and diet blogs extol the virtues of avoiding ultra-processed foods—shunning them is one thing that both followers of a carnivorous and a raw vegan diet can actually agree on. The label has been used to criticize plant-based meat companies, who in turn have embraced the label. Impossible calls its plant-based burger “unapologetically processed.” Others have pointed out that there’s no way we can feed billions of people without relying on processed food.

The concept of ultra-processed food has captured our imaginations. And yet we know so little about these foods and what they do to our bodies. Scientists can’t even agree on what counts as an ultra-processed food or why they should matter. Only one thing is for certain: These foods are a huge part of our lives.

Ultra-Processed People

Open up my kitchen cupboards and you’ll find instant ramen, potato chips, biscuits, canned soup, sweets, and cereal bars—a world of ultra-processed food, all of it ready to eat with either no preparation or just a minimum of effort. It’s not just me that is in thrall to convenient foods. Ultra-processed food makes up almost 57 percent of the average UK diet and more than 60 percent of the US diet.

And all of this consumption seems to be doing something to our health. Overconsumption of ultra-processed food has been linked to all kinds of health issues: colorectal and breast cancer, obesity, depression, and all-cause mortality. Figuring out how our diets influence our health is extremely difficult, and any armchair statistician will tell you that correlation does not equal causation, but it does seem clear that consuming too much ultra-processed food isn’t good for us.

One reason for this is that ultra-processed foods are often high in salt, sugar, and fat, which almost everyone agrees we should be cutting down on, says Stacey Lockyer, a senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. But if these foods are unhealthy simply because of their nutrients, then maybe we don’t need the ultra-processed category at all. Could it be that Monteiro’s NOVA categorization is just traditional nutrition science repackaged?

Kevin Hall started out as an ultra-processed skeptic. He’s a researcher at the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where he studies how diet influences body weight and metabolism. He first heard about the NOVA categorization at a conference in 2015 when a Brazilian researcher mentioned the system to him. Why are you still looking at nutrients when they’re not important anymore, the researcher asked him. “This struck me as a profoundly weird way to think about food,” says Hall. He had spent his entire career studying how nutrients affected the human body. That’s what food was, he thought, just different ways of packaging nutrients together.

Still, Hall was intrigued enough by the NOVA categorization that he put together the first randomized control trial comparing ultra-processed and unprocessed diets. In 2019 Hall asked 20 volunteers to stay at a clinical research hospital in Bethesda where they would be fed a diet of only ultra-processed or whole foods for two weeks, then switch to the other diet for the subsequent two weeks. Those on the ultra-processed diet were fed a selection of dishes including tater tots, turkey sausage, Spam, and an ungodly amount of diet lemonade. The whole-food diet was mostly made up of fruit, vegetables, and unprocessed meat. For both diets, Hall and his researchers provided double the recommended portions of food so participants could eat as much as they liked. The critical part, however, was that the two diets were nutritionally matched, so each contained roughly the same amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and so on.

The results of the study surprised Hall. On the ultra-processed diet, people ate . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 February 2023 at 12:22 pm

%d bloggers like this: