Later On

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

Archive for March 4th, 2023

The Deep Archeology of Fox News

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Josh Marshall writes at TPM (with a very interesting clip of a young Tucker Carlson):

The evidence emerging from the Dominion lawsuit against Fox News has the quality of liberal fever dreams. What’s the worst you can possibly imagine about Fox? What’s the most cartoonish caricature, the worst it could possibly be? Well, in these emails and texts you basically have that. Only it’s real. It’s not anyone believing the worst and giving no benefit of the doubt. This is what Fox is.

In a moment like this it’s worth stepping way, way back, not just to the beginning of Fox News in 1996 but to the beginning of the broader countermovement it was a part of and even a relatively late entry to.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s there was something historians and critics of the time called the post-war liberal consensus. It was not liberal in ways we’d recognize today. Indeed, it wasn’t liberal in many ways actual liberals of the time recognized. But it did represent an important level of elite consensus about state intervention in the economy and openness to a more restrained version of the American state created by the reformist periods of the first half of the 20th century.

Though what was then sometimes called “the race question” was “complicated” and not something that could be resolved overnight, there was also in elite opinion a general assumption that the South’s system of legalized apartheid was a source of embarrassment and something from the past that the country had to outgrow, even if not any time soon. (Just as is the case today, what is actually more properly called cosmopolitanism was sometimes misportrayed as liberalism: a general belief in pluralism, values tied to cities and urban life.)

I mention all this because . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Business, GOP, Media, Politics

Long-neglected chronic conditions finally come into the spotlight

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New Scientist:

POST-VIRAL syndromes received little medical attention for decades, until the covid-19 pandemic triggered tens of millions of cases of long covid, leading to massive research efforts.

This week, we report on the growing evidence that long-term conditions like myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are caused, wholly or in part, by viral infections (see “We’re starting to understand how viruses trigger chronic conditions”). Researchers have drawn links between ME/CFS and some herpes viruses, which infect us at a young age and stay in the body for the rest of our lives. There is also evidence that viruses play a role in fibromyalgia, a little-understood form of chronic pain.

Any improvement in our knowledge of these conditions is good news for those affected, of whom there are millions around the world.

How did such life-altering conditions come to be so neglected? It may be significant that they are more common in women than men, especially middle-aged women. One can’t help but suspect that there was some sexism, however inadvertent, in doctors’ tendencies to dismiss symptoms as psychosomatic. Even today, people with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, which are also far more common in women, often wait months or years for a diagnosis.

One reason long covid garnered so much attention was that many of the first to get it were medical workers. It seems doctors who might have dismissed strangers with hard-to-explain symptoms were less likely to ignore their colleagues. There is a lesson here about the importance of trusting a patient – one many doctors, happily, are taking to heart.

The media must also take its share of the blame. When ME/CFS was defined in the 1980s, it was casually dismissed by many journalists as “yuppie flu” or hypochondria. This wasn’t just cruel, it was ill-informed: as early as 1994, New Scientist reported research indicating that viruses were the key to ME/CFS. Nearly three decades on, the message is finally getting through.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 6:25 pm

Electric Vehicles Are Shattering the Barrier to Adoption that Could Matter Most

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Christopher Mims reports in the Wall Street Journal:

For car buyers, a new reality is setting in: You don’t necessarily have to pay more to go electric. The automobile industry may never be the same.

There are some qualifiers, but the bottom line is a potentially momentous change.

With recent price declines,  the cost to to buy and operate some electric vehicles over several years is now roughly on par with their gasoline-powered counterparts. The considerable government subsidies available to EV buyers—including a federal credit of up to $7,500 for qualified buyers and vehicles—play a part in this. But in some cases, EVs and their conventional equivalents are at cost parity even without those.

It’s true that many electric vehicles still have a higher list price than their gas equivalents. But that gap is closing. We are now at the point that the considerable savings on fuel and maintenance costs that an EV offers can make up that difference, for some vehicles, over the first 2 to 5 years of their lives. Those savings also translate to an equal or lower monthly cost to own many EVs, when you add up the loan payment and fuel costs.

One remarkable detail about this development: It wasn’t Tesla that got us here, though the company has played a big part, by spurring the rest of the industry to roll out new models. Nearly all of the vehicles at cost parity with their gas equivalents are non-Teslas. At the company’s investor day Wednesday, Chief Executive Elon Musk said Tesla is working on slashing the cost of production, but he stopped short of announcing the next-generation affordable EV that many had hoped for.

There are other reasons EVs are becoming more attractive, including improvements in charging technology and the availability of public chargers. But the main reason for the disappearing cost gap is the declining price of battery packs—the single most expensive component in EVs, and the primary reason they typically cost more than conventional vehicles.

We can thank two things for the falling cost of those batteries. One is economies of scale. Domestic and international producers have gotten substantially better at churning out batteries, for what market research firm Adamas Intelligence projects will be nearly 20 million vehicles in 2023.

The other factor, just as important, is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 4:07 pm

How a tax break meant to curb climate change could make it worse

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As I mentioned in the previous post, the fact that burning fossil fuels is destroying the climate and likely will destroy us if it continues, the imperative of capitalism — to increase profits no matter what — means that fossil fuels will continue to be burned — and worse, as Evan Halper reports in the Washington Post:

The promise of a powerful new fuel that can be used to run such things as steel mills or heavy construction equipment without any greenhouse gas emissions was a major selling point in the climate package President Biden signed over the summer.

But now, as tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are poised to start flowing toward “green hydrogen” technology, environmentalists, scientists and some clean-tech firms fear the subsidies could boost a fuel with a very different profile.

They are fighting an intense lobbying effort by some of the world’s biggest energy firms to make those lucrative tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act available even to companies that are using fossil fuels to produce the hydrogen, releasing what some scholars warn could be an enormous amount of greenhouse gas in the process.

The dispute underscores the considerable challenges involved with implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, which included hundreds of billions of dollars to speed the transition toward a greener economy. Several of the provisions are geared toward accelerating production of next-generation clean technologies. But deep disagreements exist over how quickly some of them can be brought into the mainstream and how aggressively the federal government should demand quick climate benefits.

Tensions are also emerging around subsidies for capturing and storing carbon, as well as those for next-generation nuclear power plants and development of sustainable aviation fuels.

The corporate resistance to requiring all green hydrogen be made with clean energy has alarmed major environmental groups and several developers of the new fuelThey warn the less restrictive rules sought by industry groups representing companies such as BP, NextEra and ExxonMobil from the IRS threaten to undermine the integrity of the fledgling green hydrogen industry and the new climate law.

“We are talking about a massive subsidy, where more than $100 billion could be spent,” said Rachel Fakhry, who leads hydrogen work at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We could wind up with government spending it on something that actually increases emissions. Imagine the consequences of tons of added emissions heavily subsidized by a climate bill. That is an awful story.”

An Australian mining magnate wants to save the planet with green hydrogen

The worries, shared by the Clean Air Task Force, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists, are grounded in a study from a team of scientists at Princeton University. It concludes the looser accounting guidelines influential industry players are seeking would enable them to make the energy-intensive fuel without adding enough new clean power to local electricity grids to produce it. The result, the scientists found, is that it would be backfilled by large amounts of dirtier energy.

At the core of the dispute is the question of whether the lucrative hydrogen subsidies should be conditioned on the fuel being produced entirely with renewable power, confirmed by hourly tracking of the electrons flowing from the grid to the projects. The companies arguing for less strict requirements say flexibility in how production is powered is essential to nourishing the fragile industry, which needs to get up and running quickly to produce the most climate benefits.

The tax credit, said Rebecca J. Kujawa, president and CEO of NextEra Energy Resources, “has the ability to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 3:52 pm

‘Very precarious’: Europe faces growing water crisis as winter drought worsens

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Of course, since there is still money to be made from fossil fuels, corporations and the wealthy are determined to make it. In their view, one can never have too much money, and a lack of water will not affect them, or so they believe.

Jon Henley in Paris, Sam Jones in Madrid, Angela Giuffrida in Rome, and Philip Oltermann in Berlin report in the Guardian:

The scenes are rare enough in mid-summer; in early March, they are unprecedented. Lac de Montbel in south-west France is more than 80% empty, the boats of the local sailing club stranded on its desiccated brown banks.

In northern Italy, tourists can walk to the small island of San Biagio, normally reached only by boat, from the shore of Lake Garda, where the water level is 70cm (27in) lower than average. The Alps have had 63% less snow than usual.

In Germany, shallow waters on the Rhine are already disrupting barge traffic, forcing boats heading up into central Europe to load at half capacity, and in Catalonia, now short of water for three years, Barcelona has stopped watering its parks.

After its driest summer in 500 years, much of Europe is in the grip of a winter drought driven by climate breakdown that is prompting growing concern among governments over the water security for homes, farmers and factories across the continent.

A study published in January by Graz University of Technology in Austria, whose scientists used satellite data to analyse groundwater reserves, concluded that Europe has been in drought since 2018 and its water situation was now “very precarious”.

Torsten Mayer-Gürr, one of the researchers, said: “I would never have imagined that water would be a problem here in Europe, especially in Germany or Austria. We are actually getting problems with the water supply here. We have to think about this.”

The World Weather Attribution service said last year northern hemisphere drought was at least 20 times more likely because of human-caused climate change, warning that such extreme periods would become increasingly common with global heating.

Andrea Toreti, a senior scientist at the European Drought Observatory, said: “What is unusual is the recurrence of these events, because we already experienced a severe to extreme drought a year ago, and another one in 2018.

“Clearly, in some parts of Europe, the lack of precipitation and the current deficit is such that it won’t be easy for water levels to recover before the start of the summer,” Toreti told Euronews. Experts have said the coming months will be crucial.

A map of current droughts in Europe from the EU’s Copernicus programme shows alerts for low rainfall or soil moisture in areas of northern and southern Spain, northern Italy and southern Germany, with almost all of France affected.

France recently recorded 32 days without significant rainfall, the longest period since records began in 1959, and the state forecaster Météo-France has said little or no precipitation of note is expected until at least the end of the month.

Simon Mitelberger, a climatologist, said about 75% less . . .

Continue reading.

This brief video — “What Happens If The World Warms Up By 5°C?” — may also be of interest:

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 2:27 pm

New Study Confirms Extremely Low Regret Rates for Gender-Affirming Surgery

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Giulia Castagnaro reports in Gender GP:

A new study has shown incredibly high levels of satisfaction with gender-affirming surgery. The study, published in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery’, the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, says that 99.7% of trans people who had undergone such surgery experienced a degree of satisfaction with the outcome, an incredible figure in the context of any healthcare outcomes.

Regret rates of gender-affirming surgery

The Transgender Health Program ‘Regret and Request for Reversal’ released a new study focusing on the regret rates of gender-affirming surgery. They found that 99.7% of trans individuals were satisfied with their surgery.

A workgroup including cis, trans and gender diverse professionals met for a duration of 14 months. Their study consisted of patients who underwent gender-affirming surgery during a five year period between 2016 and 2021.

In total the Transgender Health Program examined 1989 trans patients. Only 6 patients (0.3%) requested reversal surgery or transitioned back to their sex assigned at birth. The study also concluded that an environment that normalises authentic gender expression, affirming each individual’s surgical goals without any judgement, are foundational to mitigating against regret.

What the findings suggest about regret

This study validates the results of previous research on regret rates. For instance, a 2022 Lancet study done in the Netherlands found that 98% of trans youth who went through gender-affirming healthcare continue their treatment into adulthood.

The 0.3% regret rate of our newest study is much smaller compared to other, common yet serious surgeries. Interestingly, knee replacement surgery has a dissatisfactory rate of 6-30%. [emphasis added – LG] The rate is up to 100 times that of gender-affirming surgery. However, knee replacement surgery does not go through the same scrutiny as trans healthcare does.

The evidence is overwhelming in showing that fears around ‘transition regret’ are blown out of proportion. Conservatives cling onto this myth in order to justify their anti-trans bills banning gender-affirming healthcare. Instead we focus on the joy that gender-affirming healthcare brings, and the positivity of so many people being able to live freely as themselves, celebrating who they are.

Research demonstrates the benefits of gender-affirming healthcare

Another 2022 study also found that . . .

Continue reading.

I wonder what the regret rate is for back surgery. I bet it’s greater than 1%.

Update:  I did find this:

Self-reported decisional regret was present in about 1 in 7 surgical patients. Factors associated with regret were both patient- and procedure related.

“1 in 7” = 14% (which is 47 times the regret rate for gender-affirming surgery).

For back surgery, the regret rate is 21%, 70 times the regret rate for gender-affirming surgery. Maybe we should stop people from getting back surgery (and knee surgery, etc.) if we are going to use regret rate as the criterion.

UPDATE: An interesting report in Medscape that learned more about de-transitioning.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Before Slashing Social Security, Cut 401(k)s

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Matthew Bruenig, founder of People’s Policy Project, writes in Politico:

Every few years, lawmakers and commentators begin publicly fretting about the future of Social Security. In these discussions, we typically hear that Social Security will soon run out of money and that the only realistic way to save the program is by steeply cutting old-age benefit levels. Self-described “deficit hawks” have seized on the upcoming need to raise the debt ceiling as the latest impetus to target Social Security.

There are a lot of strange aspects about this debate, but perhaps the oddest is that those who participate in it act as if Social Security is the only part of the U.S. old-age benefit system. The other parts of the system — including defined-benefit (DB) pensions, defined-contribution (DC) plans like 401(k)s, and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) — are rarely mentioned and completely spared from proposals to cut benefits.

Perhaps, you might suppose, these programs are ignored because they exist in the private sector — but they are actually heavily subsidized by the government. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax advantages for DBs, DCs and IRAs will cost the federal government $371 billion this year. There is no similar tally for state tax breaks, but including those would likely bring the total bill close to half a trillion dollars.

Given these tremendous expenses, it is initially hard to understand why people who seem so worried about the costs of old-age benefits choose to focus solely on Social Security. But it becomes easier to understand once you realize who benefits the most from the various parts of the old-age system.

DBs, DCs and IRAs are overwhelmingly skewed toward the rich, while Social Security is more heavily relied upon by low-wage workers. Low-wage workers are less likely to work for an employer that offers a pension and have far less surplus income to put toward a 401(k) plan or an IRA. Even when low-wage workers do participate in these programs, they receive less tax benefits for doing so because low-wage workers have lower tax rates than high-wage workers.

Whether it’s based on self-interest or political expediency, those calling to cut Social Security are asking more from the most vulnerable Americans, while letting the well-off off the hook.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the richest fifth of Americans receive 58.1 percent of all the government subsidies provided to DBs, DCs and IRAs while the poorest fifth receive just 1.3 percent. Even the middle fifth receives only 10.5 percent of the subsidies, about half of what they would receive if the money were distributed evenly. This year, the poorest fifth of the population will receive around $5 billion of the $371 billion of federal tax breaks allocated to these programs. The middle fifth will receive around $39 billion, while the richest fifth will receive a whopping $215 billion.

Social Security provides benefits to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 12:05 pm

A honey of a shave

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A silvertip badger shaving brush with a wasp-waist faux ivory handle stands next to a tub of Mystic Water Sardinian Honey shaving soap that has a white label and thre lwavy blue lines representing waves. Next is a rectangular transparent glass bottle of aftershave whose label shows a purple space helmt on a yellow background. Through the helmet's visor we see it half-filled with a brown liquid in which a bee is swmming. The helmet is labeled Planet Java Hive.

Mystic Water Sardinian Honey is a good shaving soap, though the honey fragrance is light. The lather was excellent, and the knot of my G.B. Kent BK4 Wet Shaving Products Monarch (see comment), a very gentle knot, felt almost firm from its load of lather. [It felt firm because the Monarch has a much firmer knot than the Kent BK4.]

Fine’s Marvel razor head, here on a bronze UFO handle, is a good head, and it easily produced a BBS result in four passes. A splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Planet Java Hive aftershave/cologne, augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel, finished the job and launched the weekend.

The caffeine this morning is coffee — Planet Java Hive was on my mind. I used 30g of Fantastico’s Mexico Manial Nayartia and a pint of water. I use my spice & herb grinder and grind the beans finely. Very tasty for an overcast day.

Written by Leisureguy

4 March 2023 at 11:13 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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