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The Mountain Man Who Makes Chefs’ Wild Dreams Come True

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Eric Wallace writes is Gastro Obscura:

Winding along near-switchback curves to the 3,500-foot summit of Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountain, professional forager Jay Marion pulls his Dodge Caravan into the parking lot of the George Washington and Thomas Jefferson National Forests’ Confederate Breastworks Interpretive Center.

“Best two things about my job, solitude and scenery,” confides Marion, 62. He sweeps his palm over a panorama ablaze with the vibrant autumnal reds, oranges, and yellows of maples, oaks, and hickories. “Even on the worst of days, when you don’t find nothing at all, you see the mountains and smell the air. Most folks have to burn vacation-time to get that. But not me. This is my office.”

Below, the long, broad valley is partitioned into rectangular pastureland dotted by sheep and cattle. In the distance, the town of Monterey lays stretched before the 4,500-foot backdrop of the Alleghanies, which mark the pass into West Virginia and the mountaintop home of Marion’s late grandparents. Jay Marion is a big man I’d guess to be around six feet tall and every bit of 250 pounds. Stroking his gray, chest-length beard, his expression resembles a religious devotee.

Meanwhile, Cole, Marion’s 16-year-old grandson, scrambles down the road. Beyond the guardrail, Marion claims, hangs a monstrous grapevine probably brimming with grapes. Sighing, he shakes his head and follows.

Down the steep, grassy hill, Cole is straddling a big walnut tree. Twenty feet off the ground, he’s busy picking grapes. “There’s some good ones up here for sure,” he calls down in thick southern drawl. “And no bees either!”

Just as Cole drops the first plastic grocery bagful to Marion, a trio of onlookers appear. Marion waves them toward us, and they clamber down and introduce themselves—a 60-something psychoanalyst accompanied by two younger colleagues from the Netherlands. Flashing a big, teddy-bear smile, Marion hands out business cards. “We’re gathering wild edibles,” he says. Met with interest, he launches into a quick, educational seminar.

“These are native. They’re incredibly sweet and a little sour,” he explains, distributing grapes. “However, there’re some poisonous lookalikes, so you have to be careful.”

The men try the grapes and nod in pleasant surprise. Crushing a dark-purple fruit between his fingers, Marion presents its tiny round seed. While the inedible Canadian moonseed is similar in shape and color, its seeds looks like a crescent moon.

“What will you do with all these, make wine?” inquires the shrink.

No, no. Marion will sell them to two-time James Beard Foundation Best Chef in America semi-finalist Ian Boden. At his restaurant, The Shack, which is among the most prominent in the Shenandoah Valley, Boden will make wild-grape preserves as a locally sourced accompaniment for made-from-scratch biscuits.

The men are impressed. Indeed, by day’s end, we’ll wander through fields, creek-bottoms, and forested paths, gathering foods for a veritable hit parade of top restaurants, breweries, and wineries.

“The reason Jay’s so in demand,” Boden explains to me later, “is that, over the past few decades, in embracing the local foods movement, the culinary community has basically championed this thing his family’s been doing for generations, which is eating locally and seasonally.”

Further boosting Marion’s stock-value is this: Most foragers are either fly-by-night hipster types who are just learning the requisite skills, or blue-collar mountain men who never step foot in a fine-dining establishment.

What Marion offers, then, is a bridge between worlds.

“When Jay shows up at the backdoor with a bagful of fresh morels, as a chef, it’s like you kind of start hearing bells,” says chef Will Richey, who dabbles in foraging and whose Charlottesville restaurant, The Alley Light, was named a top-25 restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. “What makes Jay so amazing is his reliability. He can consistently find world-class ingredients just by going for a walk in the woods.” . . .

Continue reading.

Lots more at the link, including nice photos.

And if you’ve not read Euell Gibbons’s Stalking the Wild Asparagus, I heartily recommend it. Gibbons was a famous forager who grew up learning to forage to put food on the table. More on Euell Gibbons in this post.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 November 2017 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Thousands of Blacks Are Denied Voting Rights Because They’re Poor

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I didn’t know this. Kevin Drum writes:

I did not know this:

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are being denied the right to vote because they are poor. In nine states, Republican legislators have enacted laws that disenfranchise anyone with outstanding legal fees or court fines. For example, in Alabama more than 100,000 people who owe money — roughly 3 percent of the state’s voting-age population — have been struck from voting rolls. adds a bit more detail:

In Alabama and eight other states from Nevada to Tennessee, anyone who has lost the franchise cannot regain it until they pay off any outstanding court fines, legal fees and victim restitution. In Alabama, that requirement has fostered an underclass of thousands of people who are unable to vote because they do not have enough money.

In a recent paper, Marc Meredith and Michael Morse calculate that in Alabama, the fees and fines levied on felons amount to an average of about $5,000 per person, and half of the money owed is in the form of legal fees. Here’s how those fees break down: . . .

Continue reading.

In Alabama, voting is a privilege, not a right. Voting is supposed to be a right.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2017 at 3:10 pm

Controversial sugar industry study on cancer uncovered

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Jacqueline Howard of CNN reports:

An old study is now shedding new light on the sugar industry’s controversial past, and its secrets are being revealed in a new paper.

The 1960s study, which suggests a link between a high-sugar diet and high blood cholesterol levels and cancer in rats, was sponsored by the sugar industry, according to the perspective paper published in the journal PLOS Biology on Tuesday.

Yet the study itself was never published and has been forgotten until now.

“All we know is that the plug got pulled and nothing got published,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and a co-author of the new paper.

“Whether the investigator didn’t bother to try or whether he tried and failed, we don’t know. Or whether there was some kind of clause in his agreement with the sugar people that precluded him from publishing, we don’t know,” he said.

This enigmatic study seems to provide evidence of the harmful health impacts of eating too much sugar. It also suggests that a group then called the Sugar Research Foundation might have manipulated scientific research in its favor, according to the new paper.

The authors of the new paper previously conducted a separate historical analysis of sugar industry-related documents and studies.

That analysis, published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggested that the Sugar Research Foundation sponsored a research program that successfully cast doubt about the health hazards of a high-sugar diet and rather promoted fat “as the dietary culprit” in health concerns such as heart disease.

“The kind of science manipulation that the tobacco industry engaged in is exactly the same kind of behavior that we’ve documented in these papers from the sugar industry,” said Glantz, who has also studied the tobacco industry.

How a forgotten study gets found

The foundation, now called the Sugar Association, spoke out against that analysis last year and has contested the new PLOS Biology paper, telling CNN that it’s “not actually a study, but a perspective: a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations that are known critics of the sugar industry.”

The association also noted that the study described in the new paper ended without publication partly due to being “significantly delayed” and “consequently over budget.”

“We don’t know what would have happened had this study come out differently and showed no effect of sugar,” Glantz said. “I would bet that it would have been published, and they would be thumping the drums about it.”

Cristin Kearns, an assistant professor at the UCSF School of Dentistry and lead author of the paper, said she learned about the long-lost study while collecting and analyzing letters between executives at the Sugar Research Foundation and various scientists from 1959 to 1971.

Then she noticed that the study was mentioned in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2017 at 1:37 pm

Everything wrong with the ‘SNL’ letter supporting Al Franken

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Molly Roberts makes some very good points in her column in the Washington Post:

Well, he didn’t do anything to me.

That, in so many words, is what three dozen women who worked on “Saturday Night Live” said in a letter supporting Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Tuesday.

“What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public,” the women wrote. And later, “We would like to acknowledge that not one of us ever experienced any inappropriate behavior; and mention our sincere appreciation that he treated each of us with the utmost respect and regard.”

Good, I guess? Franken has been accused of unwanted sexual contact by two women, including radio host Leeann Tweeden, but apparently he refrained from groping at least 36. Though this character testimony may at first seem relevant to any accounting of Franken’s misdeeds, look closer and it’s not the least bit helpful.

It’s unclear what the letter seeks to prove. (The writers, at least, acknowledge that Franken mistreated Tweeden.) The number of women a man didn’t assault does not matter if there are others he did. There are plenty of people the Zodiac Killer did not murder.

Refocusing attention on what Franken did right just distracts from what he did wrong. It also assumes a harasser abusing everyone he comes into contact with is the norm. That paints an inaccurate picture of workplace harassment, and it lowers the bar for behavior by suggesting that a bad man isn’t so bad after all if he’s only bad to some people.

“Sincere appreciation”? “Gratitude”? The letter-writers are thanking Franken for not groping them, instead of insisting that women should be able to take a grope-free atmosphere for granted.

The Franken letter isn’t the first time we’ve seen women speak up not to support women but to stand behind a man accused of harming women. Lena Dunham got hit hard over the weekend after she and a “Girls” co-writer mounted a similar defense of one of their colleagues accused of assault.

Dunham’s defense was worse; she claimed the accusation against her friend was “one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” But she based that claim on “having worked closely with him for more than a decade.” Dunham, in other words, thought her friend was a good guy, just as Franken’s defenders from “SNL” see him as “a devoted and dedicated family man” and “an honorable public servant.”

The problem is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2017 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude Users by Race

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Full disclosure: I have a Facebook problem of my own. Someone has been sending messages in my name (as if they came from me) to some whom I’ve friended. I have posted about this problem and have received some replies to the effect, “Aha. Now I understand those strange messages.” The interesting thing I discovered is that there is no way to report this problem to Facebook, and I feel sure that is because Facebook doesn’t care: their total focus is on harvesting data from their users and selling it on.

For example, see “We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself,” by Sandy Parakilas, in the NY Times, which begins:

I led Facebook’s efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia’s election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn’t allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won’t.

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

For a few years, Facebook’s developer platform hosted a thriving ecosystem of popular social games. Remember the age of Farmville and Candy Crush? The premise was simple: Users agreed to give game developers access to their data in exchange for free use of addictive games.

Unfortunately for the users of these games, there were no protections around the data they were passed through Facebook to outside developers. Once data went to the developer of a game, there was not much Facebook could do about misuse except to call the developer in question and threaten to cut off the developer’s access. As the I.P.O. approached, and the media reported on allegations of misuse of data, I, as manager of the team responsible for protecting users on the developer platform from abuse of their data, was given the task of solving the problem.

In one instance, a developer appeared to be using Facebook data to automatically generate profiles of children, without their consent. When I called the company responsible for the app, it claimed that Facebook’s policies on data use were not being violated, but we had no way to confirm whether that was true. Once data passed from the platform to a developer, Facebook had no view of the data or control over it. In other cases, developers asked for permission to get user data that their apps obviously didn’t need — such as a social game asking for all of your photos and messages. People rarely read permissions request forms carefully, so they often authorize access to sensitive information without realizing it.

At a company that was deeply concerned about protecting its users, this situation would have been met with a robust effort to cut off developers who were making questionable use of data. But when I was at Facebook, the typical reaction I recall looked like this: try to put any negative press coverage to bed as quickly as possible, with no sincere efforts to put safeguards in place or to identify and stop abusive developers. When I proposed a deeper audit of developers’ use of Facebook’s data, one executive asked me, “Do you really want to see what you’ll find?”

The message was clear: The company just wanted negative stories to stop. It didn’t really care how the data was used. . .

Continue reading.

Now Julia Angwin, Ariana Tobin and Madeleine Varner report in ProPublica:

In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment or credit.

But our tests showed a significant lapse in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.

Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americansmothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair rampsJewsexpats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.

All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.

Every single ad was approved within minutes.

The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters “interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.” It was approved after 22 minutes.

Under its own policies, Facebook should have flagged these ads, and prevented the posting of some of them. Its failure to do so revives questions about whether the company is in compliance with federal fair housing rules, as well as about its ability and commitment to police discriminatory advertising on the world’s largest social network.

Housing, employment and credit are the three areas in which federal law prohibits discriminatory ads. However, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — the agency responsible for enforcing fair housing laws — told us that it has closed an inquiry into Facebook’s advertising policies, reducing pressure on the company to address the issue. In a 2015 newspaper column, Ben Carson, now HUD secretary, criticized “government-engineered attempts to legislate racial equality” in housing.

Facebook’s failure to police discriminatory rental ads flies in the face of its promises in February that it would no longer approve ads for housing, employment or credit that targeted racial categories. For advertising aimed at audiences not selected by race, Facebook said it would require housing, employment and credit advertisers to “self-certify” that their ads were compliant with anti-discrimination laws.

Based on Facebook’s announcement, the ads purchased by ProPublica that were aimed at racial categories should have been rejected. The others should have prompted a screen to pop up asking for self-certification. We never encountered a self-certification screen, and none of our ads were rejected by Facebook.

“This was a failure in our enforcement and we’re disappointed that we fell short of our commitments,” Ami Vora, vice president of product management at Facebook, said in an emailed statement. “The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.” . . .

Continue reading.

I simply do not believe for a second Facebook’s protestations. What is needed is independent oversight and regulation with severe (criminal) penalties for violations. Self-policing never works, which is why organizations always propose it.


Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2017 at 11:39 am

To Save Net Neutrality, We Must Build Our Own Internet

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This is an excellent idea, though big telecoms will quickly use their power to push state legislatures to make this illegal, in the same way they have blocked municipalities. Jason Koebler writes in Motherboard:

The Federal Communications Commission will announce a full repeal of net neutrality protections Wednesday, according to the New York Times and several other media outlets. It is possible that a committee of telecom industry plutocrats who have from the outset made it their mission to rollback regulations on the industry will bow to public pressure before Wednesday, but let’s not count on it.

It is time to take action, and that doesn’t mean signing an online petition, upvoting a Reddit post, or calling your member of Congress.

Net neutrality as a principle of the federal government will soon be dead, but the protections are wildly popular among the American people and are integral to the internet as we know it. Rather than putting such a core tenet of the internet in the hands of politicians, whose whims and interests change with their donors, net neutrality must be protected by a populist revolution in the ownership of internet infrastructure and networks.

In short, we must end our reliance on big telecom monopolies and build decentralized, affordable, locally owned internet infrastructure. The great news is this is currently possible in most parts of the United States.

There has never been a better time to start your own internet service provider, leverage the publicly available fiber backbone, or build political support for new, local-government owned networks. For the last several months, Motherboard has been chronicling the myriad ways communities passed over by big telecom have built their own internet networks or have partnered with small ISPs who have committed to protecting net neutrality to bring affordable high speed internet to towns and cities across the country.

A future in which ISPs are owned by local governments, small businesses, nonprofit community groups, and the people they serve are the path forward and the only realistic way of ending big telecom’s stranglehold on America.

In Detroit, the Equitable Internet Initiative is building community-owned wireless internet infrastructure in towns that big telecom won’t touch. Hundreds of towns have built their own internet service providers. Rural communities are putting wireless internet antennas on top of mountains, grain silos, and tall trees. The fastest internet connections in the United States are provided by local governments, not big telecom. In Southern California, Tribal Digital Village is using unused television spectrum to deliver internet. All over the country, big telecom is being rejected and subverted, and you do not need to have a pile of money, an army of lawyers, or a degree in network engineering to take action.

Motherboard has and will continue to celebrate and amplify these projects, but that is not enough. Starting immediately, we will: . . .

Continue reading.

By all means click the link and get to work. There’s also a video at the link.

See also “Watch Our Documentary on Detroit’s Grassroots Internet Network” by Becky Ferreira.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2017 at 11:02 am

Saying Goodbye to Richard Cordray at CFPB Is Hard to Do

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Last Wednesday, Richard Cordray, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), announced he would be stepping down from his post at the end of this month. Cordray is the former Attorney General of Ohio and there are rumors he may make a run for Governor there.

The CFPB, a Federal agency, was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010. The legislation resulted from the greatest fraudulent wealth transfer from the middle class to the 1 percent since the Wall Street frauds of the late 1920s. Both periods ended in an epic financial crash that left the U.S. economy on life support. Since the financial crash of 2008, the U.S. economy has grown at an anemic 2 percent or less per year despite massive fiscal stimulus and unprecedented bond purchases (quantitative easing) by the Federal Reserve.

Despite the desperate need for the CFPB, Republicans fought against its creation and then refused to confirm Cordray for his post as Director for two years. Cordray was finally sworn in on July 17, 2013 after having served in the post for 18 months under a recess appointment by President Obama. Republicans have continued to battle Cordray and attempt to derail his work in protecting vulnerable consumers from credit card, student loan and mortgage frauds.

Big banks on Wall Street are particularly hostile to the fact that the CFPB allows consumers who have been victimized by financial firms, even where small amounts of money are involved, to file a complaint and receive a timely response. Wall Street also hates the fact that these complaints go into a permanent database, which can be mined by class-action attorneys and prosecutors looking for patterns of fraud. That database is likely to be one of the first things to go under a Trump appointee.

Wall Street On Parade has covered Cordray’s herculean efforts on behalf of those without a voice in America and the insidious efforts of Congressional Republicans and Wall Street lobbyists to derail his work at every turn. Today we look back on what the CFPB has accomplished for defrauded Americans and the assaults made against it.

In July of this year, the CFPB issued its final rule to allow consumers who have been defrauded in financial transactions involving credit cards and bank accounts to have access to file a group action (known legally as a “class action”) using the nation’s courts. Wall Street banks have been running a private justice system for decades, known as mandatory arbitration, which bans both customers and employees from taking claims to court. The U.S. Senate reversed the rulemaking in September with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote to break the 50-50 tied vote. (See also: House Republicans Rig Hearing to Block Consumers from Going to Court.)

In August, the CFPB issued a critically important report on the nefarious . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 November 2017 at 10:52 am

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