Saturday, May 31, 2014

Island Man

Tired of your old country? Start your own:
“We need startup countries,” says Friedman, 37, an elfin man with frenetic black hair. “Today’s governments work so poorly that the feeling we could do better is pretty broad. An entrepreneur would say, ‘Here is an industry that’s doing a horrible job, so let’s disrupt it with new technology.’ Seasteading is that technology.”

Self-styled seasteaders envision an archipelago of floating city-states.

“We want to show what a society run by Silicon Valley would look like,” said seasteading evangelist Balaji Srinivasan, a general partner at venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, in a lecture last October in the Bay Area. Even longtime students of the Golden State’s freewheeling culture are dumbstruck at such grandiose plans.

“Those guys are crazy,” says Richard Walker, a professor emeritus of geography at the University of California at Berkeley who follows The Seasteading Institute. He says the seasteaders look a lot like the revolutionaries who took on Czar Nicholas II. “The communist ideal was that spontaneous uprisings would create a new world for workers,” Walker says. “To me, this looks like a right-wing version of that.”
Given how the left-wing version worked out, the "right-wing" one might not seem like such a bad idea...

Bad Week In Review

The Obama administration's not so good, terrible week:
President Obama’s foreign policy reboot failed, the economy is in the tank, the VA scandal is a growing cancer on the presidency, criticisms of the administration’s forthcoming gratuitous plan to raise everyone’s power bill via regulations that will essentially shut down coal-fired power plants have already emerged, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned this morning and just a short while ago solid but beleaguered White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he is throwing in the towel. How could things get any worse for Obama and the Democrats?
In terms of impact on the 2014 elections, Obama certainly seems to be doing his part for the Republicans. And as the old axiom goes, never interfere when the opposition is in the process of destroying themselves.
Some people like watching self-made train wrecks...

The Long Road Home

In Afghanistan, the lone POW of that war is coming home:
The soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was handed over to American Special Operations forces inside Afghanistan about 10:30 a.m. Saturday by a group of 18 Taliban, officials said.

American officials said that Sergeant Bergdahl was in good condition and able to walk.

The five Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo were being transferred into the custody of officials from Qatar, who will accompany them back to that Persian Gulf state, where they will be subject to security restrictions, including a one-year travel ban.

Talks on the exchange resumed in earnest about a week ago with Qatari officials who were acting as intermediaries for the Taliban.

President Obama personally telephoned the soldier’s parents on Saturday, shortly after Sergeant Bergdahl was transferred to the American military; the Bergdahl family was in Washington after a visit here for Memorial Day, officials said.

“Sergeant Bergdahl’s recovery is a reminder of America’s unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield,” President Obama said in a statement.

The sergeant’s parents, Bob and Jani Bergdahl, said in a statement: “We were so joyful and relieved when President Obama called us today to give us the news that Bowe is finally coming home! We cannot wait to wrap our arms around our only son.”
Welcome home, Sergeant...

Sudan Blinks

The woman who had been sentenced to death in Sudan is being released:
Meriam Ibrahim, who gave birth to a daughter in custody, will be freed in a few days, the official told the BBC.

Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman.

Khartoum has been facing international condemnation over the death sentence.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, British Prime Minister David Cameron described the ruling as "barbaric" and out of step with today's world.

The UK Foreign Office this week said that it would push for Ms Ibrahim to be released on humanitarian grounds.
"Humanitarian" being the operative word here, as it's apparently an unfamiliar concept in Sudan...

Friday, May 30, 2014

Mighty Meat

How to eat steak in Texas:

El Loco

Another old, racist white guy-who happens to be a Democrat:

The Blame Date Has Expired

President Obama, on whom he believes is responsible for the VA scandal:
"This predates my presidency. When I was in the Senate, I was on the Veterans Affairs Committee. I heard first-hand veterans who were not getting the kinds of services and benefits that they had earned," the President said to the White House Press Corps this afternoon. The assertion that the VA scandal was an ongoing cultural problem within the institution followed declaration that he would "always take responsibility for whatever happens," particularly with regard to Veterans Affairs.
He'll accept responsibility, except when when he can claim it's not his fault...

Green Apartheid

In California, some homeowners are more equal than others:
Policies designed to stifle the ability to develop land are based on flawed premises. These policies prevail because they are backed by environmentalists, and, most importantly, because they have played into the agenda of crony capitalists, Wall Street financiers, and public sector unions. But while the elites have benefit, ordinary working families have been condemned to pay extreme prices in mortgages, property taxes, or rents, to live in confined, unhealthy, ultra high-density neighborhoods. It is reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, but instead of racial superiority as the supposed moral justification, environmentalism is the religion of the day. The result is identical.
Unfortunately, many Californians are willing to accept this as being for the greater good...

Edit, Edit, Edit

What are the most edited Wikipedia articles?
George W. Bush has been by far the most contested article among Wikipedia editors: Through November 2013, the page had been revised 45,273 times. That’s three revisions for every word in the article.

Not surprisingly, Bush isn’t the only political figure to attract factual controversy. The Wikipedia entry on Barack Obama has been revised 23,514 times — just slightly ahead of Adolf Hitler (23,499 revisions). Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln and Bill Clinton all make it into the top 100 (Sarah Palin falls just short, in 104th place).

Articles on religion, including Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muhammed, or about specific countries, such as the United States and Israel, attract plenty of revisions. More surprising, however, is that World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) features in more revised articles than any other single body — seven — and is responsible for the second-most-revised article: list of WWE personnel.
Apparently there's a lot of disagreement over who is in the WWE these days...

House Rules

The House votes to let states decide when it comes to medical marijuana:
Perhaps validating what public opinion have been showing for some time, the House voted in Friday’s wee hours to prohibit the federal government from interfering with medical marijuana laws passed by 32 states and the District of Columbia.

Yes — that’s the Republican-led House that did the voting. And it include 49 actual Republicans among the 218 yes votes. Lead among them: California Rep. Rohrabacher, who once upon a time worked for Ronald Reagan, the president who made the “War on Drugs” a national priority.
Priorities change...

The Loneliness Of The Ignored

Is it better to have been bullied than left alone?
Researchers found that while most consider ostracism less harmful than bullying, feeling excluded is significantly more likely to lead job dissatisfaction, quitting and health problems.

‘We've been taught that ignoring someone is socially preferable - if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all,’ said University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business Professor Sandra Robinson, who co-authored the study.

‘But ostracism actually leads people to feel more helpless, like they're not worthy of any attention at all.’
Unless you don't want such attention, that is...

Food Of The Elders

Keeping kosher cooking alive:
Artisanal gefilte fish. Slow-fermented bagels. Organic chopped liver. Sustainable schmaltz.

These aren’t punch lines to a fresh crop of Jewish jokes. They are real foods that recently arrived on New York City’s food scene. And they are proof of a sudden and strong movement among young cooks, mostly Jewish-Americans, to embrace and redeem the foods of their forebears. That’s why, at this moment in 21st-century New York, the cutting edge of cuisine is the beet-heavy, cabbage-friendly, herring-loving diet of 19th-century Jews in Eastern Europe.

“It turns out that our ancestors knew what they were doing,” said Jeffrey Yoskowitz, an owner of Gefilteria, a company that makes unorthodox versions of gefilte fish and is branching out into slow-brined pickles and strudel. “The recipes and techniques are almost gone, and we have to capture the knowledge before it’s lost.”
A hundred years from now, will people be doing the same thing with pizza, tacos and cheeseburgers?

Targeting the Targeters

John Doe fights back:
The targets of a politically charged John Doe investigation are now targeting the state’s Government Accountability Board, alleging in a lawsuit the agency that oversees election and campaign finance law has created a “Frankenstein monster” out of its enforcement authority.

The GAB has “exceeded its statutory authority and evaded its statutory obligations by pursuing and funding a far-reaching criminal investigation into virtually every conservative-leaning group in Wisconsin,” according to the lawsuit, filed Friday morning in Waukesha County Circuit Court by conservative activist Eric O’Keefe and his Wisconsin Club for Growth, and on “behalf of others similarly situated.”

O’Keefe takes particular aim at the GAB and its involvement in the John Doe probe, a nearly three-year investigation into 29 conservative issue advocacy organizations.

The court-administered dragnet, launched in late summer 2012 by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, is nothing more than a partisan witch hunt, O’Keefe asserts in a civil rights lawsuit filed earlier this year in federal court against John Doe prosecutors.
Comeuppance is its own reward...

Cleaning House

Shinseki is out:
In a statement Friday morning after the meeting, Mr. Obama said that Mr. Shinseki had offered his resignation from the post he has held since the beginning of the president’s administration. “With regret, I accepted,” Mr. Obama said.

“He has worked hard to investigate and identify the problem,” the president said, adding that Mr. Shinseki told him that “the V.A. needs new leadership to address it. He does not want to be a distraction.”

Mr. Shinseki, 71, had said for weeks that he wanted to stay in his job to confront accusations that officials at the department’s hospitals had manipulated waiting lists to cover up long delays in scheduling appointments for thousands of veterans.

In a speech Friday morning to a veterans group, he apologized and described his agency as having “a systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity.” He vowed to fix what he called a “breach of integrity” and said he had already initiated the firing of top managers at the V.A. medical center in Phoenix, where allegations of mismanagement first surfaced.
Unfortunately, the problem doesn't seem to end there...

Health And Taxes

Out: sin taxes. In: virtue taxes?
As part of a vote on the fiscal year 2015 budget, the Council approved several recommendations from the Tax Revision Commission, including some that will cut taxes for many D.C. residents.

Also approved was the so-called “yoga tax” — a 5.75 percent sales tax on “water consumption for home, storage of household goods/mini storage, carpet and upholstery cleaning, health clubs and tanning studios, car washes, and bowling alleys and billiard parlors.” That tax, which first was considered in 2010, was part of the commission recommendations published months ago. But its adoption in a budget that appeared 18 hours before the first Council vote seems to have blindsided many, a claim Council Chair Phil Mendelson addressed thusly: “The burden is on the public to pay attention to what we’re doing.”
They might, now...

Jay Is Out

Jay Carney calls it quits:
"I will continue to rely on him as a friend and an adviser after he leaves to spend as much of his summer as he can with his kids before he decides what's next for him," he added. "Whatever it is, I know he's going to be outstanding at it."

Carney, who has served as press secretary for over three years, called holding the job "an honor and a joy for me."

Obama announced that communications deputy Josh Earnest will take over the job as the president's press secretary.

"Today the flak jacket is officially passed to a new generation," he said of Earnest.
It can be so hard to say goodbye:

View image on Twitter

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Land Of A Thousand Reforms

Minnesota does what Washington can't or won't do:
Under a new law, the Pollution Control Agency and Department of Natural Resources must attempt to issue environmental permits to businesses within 90 days. The administration estimates 11,000 of the 15,000 permit requests it receives each year will meet that goal, and more complex permits will be issued within 150 days.

Dayton issued an executive order in March directing state agencies to communicate with citizens and businesses in easy-to-understand language. Thousands of state employees have received plain-language training.

As a result, "you'll see better customer service," Sertich said.

For instance, a new DNR website makes it easier for anglers to view fishing regulations and campers to book state park campsites.

A $447 million tax cut bill that Dayton signed in March not only provided income tax relief but also simplified filing returns by making state tax law conform to changes in the federal tax code. Those revisions "made tax forms easier to understand and less time-consuming to prepare" for more than 1 million Minnesota taxpayers, the governor said.

Another new law cuts in half the amount of time businesses must retain employment records.

Legislators launched an initiative that got rid of more than 30 advisory boards, councils and task forces that had outlived their usefulness.

Dayton thanked the "hundreds of state employees and thousands of Minnesota citizens" who submitted unsession ideas.

Most of the new laws were passed with strong bipartisan support, Sertich said, "We all agree government should work better."
This is how it's supposed to be done...

Ivy League Loner

Mayor Bloomberg has a broken clock moment:
"It is just a modern form of McCarthyism," Bloomberg said of university "censorship" of conservatives. "Think about the irony: In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left wing ideas. Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species"

"And that is probably nowhere more true than it is here in the Ivy League," declared Bloomberg.

Bloomberg cited campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty members during the 2012 presidential race in order to press his point. Bloomberg, an independent, endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election. However, in his speech, he said he found it troubling that so many university employees were on the Democratic side of the race.

"In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama," he said. "There was more disagreement among the old Soviet politburo than there is among Ivy League donors."

Bloomberg went on to suggest this data shows universities might not be offering students a diverse array of perspectives.

"Neither party has a monopoly of truth or God on its side. When 96% of Ivy League donors prefer one candidate to another, you really have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer," Bloomberg continued, occasionally being interrupted by moderate applause. "A university cannot be great if its faculty is political homogeneous."
I guess he's not that liberal, now that he's no longer in office...

Got Fog?

A grad student finds a way to turn clouds into water:
Thomas uses an intricate system of polyurethane mesh nets to capture moisture from the air in New Jersey. He and two of his fellow Princeton students started a company called “Phogwater.” He says fog water is so abundant it may one day help solve water shortages in some of the driest areas on the planet.

“We are really hoping this can do good,” he says.

In addition, he says, it's also some of the cleanest drinking water around.

“It doesn't come from any ground water source. It comes directly from the clouds, so there's no contamination at all and there are no particulates. It’s completely clean as soon as it comes off the nets.”
Wait until the EPA tries to regulate clouds...

The Bone Conductor

Hearing through your bones
Bone conduction has rapidly become a critical asset for treatment of hearing loss. While a new generation of cochlear implants has had spectacular success in recent years, they rely on air conduction and the patient possessing a functional pathway from outer to inner ear. For patients with severely damaged pathways, such implants offer no solution.
Baha (bone anchored hearing aids) units work by passing sound from a microphone to a magnet or implant beneath a patient's skin, which is converted into vibrations in the skull and eventually arrives at the inner ear. This process extends the miracle of restored hearing to victims of such conditions as microtia or atresia, where the ear or canal is closed or deformed.
"It's the natural spectrum of sound compared with traditional hearing", says Brian Walshe, spokesperson of hearing treatment company Cochlear. "Even with amplification it's the same, there's no distortion."
So, if your skeleton feels like dancing, don't be alarmed...

The Last Journalist

Jorge Ramos is not a fan of today's reporters:
“You turn on the TV, and you see very bland interviews. Journalists in the United States are very cozy with power, very close to those in power. They laugh with them. They go to the [White House] correspondents’ dinner with them. They have lunch together. They marry each other. They’re way too close to each other. I think as journalists we have to keep our distance from power.”
“I’m not seeing tough questions asked on American television,” he added later. “I’m not seeing those correspondents that would question those in power. It’s like a club. We are not asking the tough questions.”
When you become part of the elite, it's very hard to give that up...

Le Fail

It seems that 75% tax plan that French socialists were so enthusiastic about hasn't worked out so well:
The French government faces a 14bn-euro black hole in its public finances after overestimating tax income for the last financial year.

French President Francois Hollande has raised income tax, VAT and corporation tax since he was elected two years ago.

The Court of Auditors said receipts from all three taxes amounted to an extra 16bn euros in 2013.

That was a little more than half the government’s forecast of 30bn euros of extra tax income.

The Court of Auditors, which oversees the government’s accounts, said the Elysee Palace’s forecasts of tax revenue in 2013 were so wildly inaccurate that they cast doubt on its forecasts for this year.

It added the forecasts were overly optimistic and based on inaccurate projections.
Fantasies usually are...

The Power Of The Web Press

An argument that journalism is in a new golden age online:
Most handwringing about the state of journalism is done by journalists. They are worried about losing their jobs, so it’s not surprising that they tend to be fretful. But turn the issue upside down for a second, and think about the state of journalism from journalism’s audience. The real purpose of journalism, after all, is not to provide me a job, but to inform and entertain the public. And by that standard, it is clear we are living in a golden age. There has never been a better time to be a reader and watcher and listener of news. Never have you had so many choices, and so many that are excellent.

It’s not all perfect. There are problems with this model. The one that bothers me most is ideological sorting. Political news no longer comes to us primarily from nonpartisan sources. Instead, media organizations on the left and right filter it for their consumers. We now read in enclaves. Show me your Google history and I’ll tell you who you voted for. One of the disappointing and scary things I have learned as an editor, is that one of the best ways to attract readers is to pander to one side or the other. As a journalist, this worries me. As a citizen, it terrifies me. This is the one change brought about by digital journalism that seems genuinely dangerous, and genuinely hard to undo.
So why do it, then?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Gone Guru?

He's just resting:
The late – or living – guru, who was in his seventies, established his sect in 1983 to promote "self-awakening to global peace" and to create a world "wherein every individual becomes an embodiment of truth, fraternity and justice through the eternal science of self-realisation".
Today the group has thousands of followers around the world and owns dozens of large properties throughout India, the United States, South America, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, including its British headquarters in Hayes, Middlesex.
While he is thought to have died from a heart attack, his devotees believe he has simply drifted into a deeper form of the meditation he promotes as a pathway to self-realisation.
A statement on the group's website reads: "His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj ji has been in deep meditative state (Samadhi) since 29th January 2014."
I suppose they could just ask him. Or is this an ex-guru?

The Sweet Smell Science

Why does bacon smell so good?

Blogging In The Years: 1984

The cellular phone may be in your future, but do you really want to drive while using one?


Old Man Cynic

Can being too cynical drive you crazy?
The latest study involved 1,449 people with an average age of 71. Participants underwent tests for dementia and were asked to fill out questionnaires about their level of cynicism.
Participants were asked to rate how much they agree with statements like "I think most people would lie to get ahead," "It is safer to trust nobody" and "Most people will use somewhat unfair reasons to gain profit or an advantage rather than lose it."
Researchers then grouped participants based on low, moderate and high levels of cynical distrust.
After accounting for other factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, the findings revealed that high levels of cynical distrust triples the risk of dementia.
If that's the case, then the government is contributing to it significantly...

Poet's Rest

RIP, Maya Angelou:
Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, she was unforgettable whether encountered through sight, sound or the printed word. She was an actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s and broke through as an author in 1970 with "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading and made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success. "Caged Bird" was the start of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades and captured a life of hopeless obscurity and triumphant, kaleidoscopic fame.

The world was watching in 1993 when she read her cautiously hopeful "On the Pulse of the Morning" at President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made publishing history by making a poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For President George W. Bush, she read another poem, "Amazing Peace," at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House. Presidents honored her in return with a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor. In 2013, she received an honorary National Book Award.
Here she is, at the aforementioned inaugural of Bill Clinton:

Black Gold Age

America is rapidly becoming a top oil producer once again:
U.S. tight oil production averaged 3.22 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) in the fourth quarter of 2013, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates. This level was enough to push overall crude oil production in the United States to an average of 7.84 MMbbl/d, more than 10% of total world production, up from 9% in the fourth quarter of 2012.
There's a reason this is happening:
There are more than 20,000 small and mid-size companies participating in the energy boom, with an average of 15 employees. These firms account for almost all of our energy boom. Oil and gas output on private land is up over 50%, while on federal lands, it is down. Natural gas production fell 30% on federal lands while over the same period it was up over 30% on private land. Thirty-six percent of our oil production was on federal lands in 2010. This has declined to 23%. Since 2009, oil production on private lands is up over 60%. The permit process has been lengthened by more than a third.
This is a good thing, whether the government land holders want to admit it or not...

Go For Soda

Diet soda drinkers can lose more weight than water drinkers:
Peoople taking part in a weight loss program did better over 12 weeks if they drank diet soda than if they drank only water, researchers reported Tuesday.

Among the 303 dieters, the people who drank only water lost 8.4 pounds; those who drank diet soda lost 12.1 pounds, and they reported “significantly greater reduction in subjective feelings of hunger,” the researchers said in the journal Obesity.

In an accompanying editorial, Steven Anton of the University of Florida at Gainesville Medical School noted that research has been mixed on the use of diet soda and body weight. The current study, he wrote, had the strength of including men and women from two parts of the country, as well as various ethnic groups.

But he said that 12 weeks is a short time, “really just a preliminary look at the outcome.”

Mike Jacobson, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, echoed that.

"This brief, 12-week study adds to the evidence that artificially sweetened beverages do not increase appetite and weight gain, though the researchers should not have published a paper until the whole year-long study was completed,” Jacobson said.
Somehow, I think the results might have been the same...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Free Money

Well, it is their money:
Little is known about the mystery benefactor, other than that they are a rich property mogul who feels bad about the discrepancy between rich and poor in San Francisco, where the wealth gap is the largest in the United States.

In an interview with the Bold Italic website, Hidden Cash said: “I’ve made millions of dollars the last few years, more than I ever imagined, and yet many friends of mine, and people who work for me, cannot afford to buy a modest home in the Bay Area.

“This has caused me quite a bit of reflection. I am determined to give away some of the money I make, and, in addition to charity, to do it in fun, creative ways like this.”
it's ironic that he/she is doing this in one of the most liberal cities in the country...

He Don't Got Game

50 Cent shows why he's not a baseball player:

Station To Station

Paging Scooter Libby:
The White House has launched an investigation into who is responsible for mistakenly outing the top U.S. spy in Afghanistan over the weekend.

Chief of Staff Denis McDonough has asked the White House counsel Neil Eggleston to look into what happened and report back to him with recommendations on “how the administration can improve processes and make sure something like this does not happen again,” according to White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

The White House mistakenly outed the CIA’s top official in Afghanistan after President Obama slipped into Afghanistan over the weekend on a surprise trip to visit U.S. troops in the region.

A White House press aide passed along to the media the name of the CIA’s station chief in Kabul on a list of senior officials attending a military briefing for Obama during the trip. The aide reportedly received the list from the military.
I'm sure they'll stay right on top of this...

The Age Of Know-Nothings

We have all become poseurs:
It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them. Instead of watching “Mad Men” or the Super Bowl or the Oscars or a presidential debate, you can simply scroll through someone else’s live-tweeting of it, or read the recaps the next day. Our cultural canon is becoming determined by whatever gets the most clicks.

In his 1987 book “Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know,” E. D. Hirsch Jr. listed 5,000 essential concepts and names — 1066, Babbitt, Pickwickian — that educated people should be familiar with. (Or at least that’s what I believe he wrote, not having actually read the book.) Mr. Hirsch’s book, along with its contemporary “The Closing of the American Mind” by Allan Bloom, made the point that cultural literacy — Mr. Bloom’s canon — was the bedrock of our agreed-upon values.

What we all feel now is the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate. So that we can survive an elevator pitch, a business meeting, a visit to the office kitchenette, a cocktail party, so that we can post, tweet, chat, comment, text as if we have seen, read, watched, listened. What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed this content firsthand but simply knowing that it exists — and having a position on it, being able to engage in the chatter about it. We come perilously close to performing a pastiche of knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness.
We say all, know little...

Too Poor To Be Sick

Does this mean that Obamacare supporters hate poor people?
Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.

The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common.
Troubling, but unfortunately not unexpected...

Dirty Picture Money

Why the Feds go after the adult film industry:
Though the Justice Department can't prosecute people for making porn, because the First Amendment prohibits that, and too many people would think of them as blue-nosed morality police, which is politically undesirable, it can use its power to put them out of business extra-legally, by pressuring banks to cut off their accounts. Prosecutors and regulators have a lot of discretion, and the threat to use (or abuse) that discretion in ways that make banks uncomfortable provides a lot of leverage. Sure, banks make money off of the accounts of porn performers (and other targeted businesses), but not enough to make up for the hassle of being targeted for harassment by the feds.
They need something to do, apparently. besides, maybe one of them will become president and put a stop to this...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Jungle Love

The most unusual family reunion ever?
David’s mother, Yarima, is a member of the Yanomami tribe of Venezuela. She was born and raised in the jungle, in a remote village that rarely, if ever, encounters any outsiders, let alone Westerners. Her age is unknown, because the Yanomami count only up to 2; anything more than that is called “many.” They have no electricity, no plumbing, no paved roads, no written language, no markets or currency, no medicine.
They also have no word for “love.”
David’s father, Kenneth, was an anthropology student at the University of Pennsylvania who, under the tutelage of the prominent scholar Napoleon Chagnon, made his first trek to the Amazon in 1975. “I was older than the rest of the team, and a little more arrogant,” he says. Exasperated, Chagnon rid himself of Kenneth, sending him to the most remote part of the jungle.
There, he stumbled upon Yarima’s tribe. He was enthralled and fascinated, and made so many return trips that the Yanomami came to regard Kenneth as one of their own. “The head man of the village said, ‘You know, have a wife — you’ve been here for so long.’”
it's not the most traditional of marriages-but then, what is?

The Golden Century

Are you better off now than you were a hundred years ago?
In How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?, Lomborg and a group of economists conclude that, with a few exceptions, the world is richer, freer, healthier, and smarter than it’s ever been. These gains have coincided with the near-universal rejection of statism and the flourishing of capitalist principles. At a time when political figures such as New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and religious leaders such as Pope Francis frequently remind us about the evils of unfettered capitalism, this is a worthwhile message.
Yes, it is, and it's a shame that some people who are better off don't want to admit why.

Nice Guys Finish First

An interesting theory says that maybe nice guys do finish first, after all:
You might guess that givers—while lovely people—lack the sharp elbows required to get ahead in corporate America. And, to some extent, you’re right. Grant acknowledges that studies reveal many givers tend to linger at the bottom of the food chain, with low promotion and productivity rates. They fail to excel because they’re too busy helping other people do just that.

But though they’re overrepresented at the bottom, Grant’s most interesting finding is that givers also climb to the top. You’ll find givers massed at the two ends of the spectrum, with takers and matchers in the middle.

Why is this? Grant suggests that takers may temporarily succeed, but once found out they pay a hefty price. Most people are in fact eager to punish folks they perceive as takers: Studies show that we’ll choose to sacrifice our own gains if it means seeing justice meted out to someone we deem piggy.
In a dog-eat-dog world, maybe it's the cats who come out on top...

Ah, Girl

The BBC bans the "G" word:
The corporation was accused of censorship after cutting the ‘G-word’ from a documentary on the Commonwealth Games.

During the programme, presenter Mark Beaumont, 31, was flung to the ground by a young judo champion, and joked: ‘I am not sure I can live that down – being beaten by a 19-year-old-girl.’

His remarks were aired in full when the documentary, called The Queen’s Baton Relay, was first broadcast on the BBC News Channel in April.

But fearing viewers might take offence, the corporation decided to edit out the word ‘girl’ when it was repeated last week.

Critics, however, attacked the move. Tory MP Philip Davies, who sits on the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said: ‘They are finding offence where none is taken or intended.

‘We are going to end up in a situation where nobody is going to dare say anything lest some politically correct zealot deems it offensive.’
So will "Boy" be considered offensive as well?

Patent Friendship

The dangers of legal cronyism:
CAFC was created in the early 1980s under the belief that a more “specialized” court could better handle the more complicated technical issues related to patents. But what really happened is that it basically built a club of patent-friendly judges, who spent nearly all of their time with patent lawyers, and thus took an increasingly patent-friendly view of the world. That one of the key original judges on CAFC was also a long-time well known patent lawyer who almost single-handedly wrote the 1952 Patent Act, seemed to set the tone that has remained throughout the court’s existence.
Who watches the patent protectors?


Are you ready to be put to sleep?
Surgeons at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh will cool down the patients so their blood cells need less oxygen to survive.

While the body is in this state, the team will work to fix the 'structural problems' caused by a blade or a bullet.

The trial will take place later this month and the surgeons are already on call at the hospital, primed for when a suitable patient arrives.

Because the patients will be unable to give consent to the procedure, researchers have been running a publicity campaign to allow potential patients to opt out.

Locals have been able to order bracelets to indicate that they don’t consent.

The procedure - which has been likened to what happened to Han Solo in the Star Wars movie Empire Strikes Back - will see all of the patients’ blood being replaced with cold saline solution, meaning their bodies will quickly cool to 10C and almost all cellular activity will stop.

‘We are suspending life, but we don't like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction,’ Samuel Tisherman, a surgeon at the hospital, told New Scientist.
They'll be very well preserved:

Missing Inaction

CNN wonders where President Obama is regarding the VA scandal:

Ambulance Chasers R Us

In case you were wondering whatever happened to John Edwards:
Edwards' new firm, Edwards Kirby, based in Raleigh with an office in Washington, is pursuing customers with all the zeal of a late-night, local-cable informercial. Its website -- call 1 (866) 409-2250 -- is dominated by the words: "…AND JUSTICE FOR ALL" and outlines the firm's expertise in personal injury litigation.

"Whether your loss occurred on an operating table, a factory floor, at the workplace or on the highway, our wrongful death lawyers will explore every avenue of recovery," the Edwards Kirby site says. "We have a history of securing record-setting verdicts and settlements in cases involving personal injury, including: Trucking and Auto Accidents; Wrongful Death and Catastrophic Injury; Drowning Accidents; Burn Injuries; Construction and Premise Liability; [and] Defective or Unsafe Products."

Edwards has scored some of his biggest wins in medical malpractice suits; indeed, he was once so successful that he was accused of driving entire fields of medical specialists out of North Carolina and sending insurance rates through the roof. The new Edwards Kirby firm is looking for the same type of business. "Whether your case involves birth injuries caused in the delivery room, botched surgery or a missed diagnosis, the medical malpractice lawyers at Edwards Kirby can advise and represent you," the website says.

Some readers might think Edwards has been disbarred. He hasn't. He was indicted in June 2011 on six felony counts, accused of using campaign funds to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter, a woman he hired to make a video for his 2008 presidential run. One reason Edwards did not plead guilty to a reduced charge -- he had the chance -- was that it might have involved disbarment. "Friends said he was loath to lose his law license," the New York Times reported in 2011. "He has expressed interest in practicing public-service law."
Lawyers and politicians are often interchangeable. And so are their ethics...

Remote Control

Will technology replace drugs?
Conceptually, bioelectronics is straightforward: Get the nervous system to tell the body to heal itself. But of course it’s not that simple. “What we’re trying to do here is completely novel,” says Pedro Irazoqui, a professor of biomedical engineering at Purdue University, where he’s investigating bioelectronic therapies for epilepsy. Jay Pasricha, a professor of medicine and neurosciences at Johns Hopkins University who studies how nerve signals affect obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal-motility disorders, among other digestive diseases, says, “What we’re doing today is like the precursor to the Model T.”

The biggest challenge is interpreting the conversation between the body’s organs and its nervous system, according to Kris Famm, who runs the newly formed Bioelectronics R. & D. Unit at GlaxoSmithKline, the world’s seventh-largest pharmaceutical company. “No one has really tried to speak the electrical language of the body,” he says. Another obstacle is building small implants, some of them as tiny as a cubic millimeter, robust enough to run powerful microprocessors. Should scientists succeed and bioelectronics become widely adopted, millions of people could one day be walking around with networked computers hooked up to their nervous systems. And that prospect highlights yet another concern the nascent industry will have to confront: the possibility of malignant hacking. As Anand Raghunathan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Purdue, puts it, bioelectronics “gives me a remote control to someone’s body.”
If you can't get your body to work properly, get someone who can...

No Vroom

What's it like to ride an electric motorcycle?
"It has its limitations. It only goes so far" on a charge, says Ron Paci, a retired carpenter in Arlington, Va., who has owned an electric Zero Motorcycle for a year. Still, he's a huge fan. "it doesn't pollute. It doesn't make any noise so if you want to drive quietly along a country road, it's a new experience."

Zero, the largest U.S. manufacturer of e-motorcycles, has boosted production from fewer than 100 units in 2010 to more than 2,000 this year, says Scott Harden, the company's vice president of marketing. Compared to gas-powered counterparts, he says Zeros are cheaper to operate — about a penny per mile — and don't make noise, fumes or vibrations.

"It's almost a magic-carpet-like ride," Harden says, noting Zeros can go 171 miles per charge in the city.
This is not your father's hog...

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Euro Quake

Populism, European style:
Marine Le Pen's far right National Front scored a stunning first victory in European Parliament elections in France on Sunday as critics of the European Union registered a continent-wide protest vote against austerity and mass unemployment.

Without waiting for the final result, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls went on television to call the breakthrough by the anti-immigration, anti-euro party in one of the EU's founding nations "an earthquake" for France and Europe.

Anti-establishment far right and hard left parties, their scores magnified by another low turnout, gained ground in many countries although in Germany, the EU's biggest member state with the largest number of seats, the pro-European center ground held firm, according to exit polls.
There does seem to be a lot of discontent in the Old World...

Changes Within

How the Supreme Court reverses itself under the radar:
Supreme Court opinions are often produced under intense time pressure because of the court’s self-imposed deadline, which generally calls for the announcement of decisions in all cases argued during the term before the justices leave for their summer break. In this term, 29 of the 70 cases argued since October remain to be decided in the next five weeks or so.

The court does warn readers that early versions of its decisions, available at the courthouse and on the court’s website, are works in progress. A small-print notice says that “this opinion is subject to formal revision before publication,” and it asks readers to notify the court of “any typographical or other formal errors.”

But aside from announcing the abstract proposition that revisions are possible, the court almost never notes when a change has been made, much less specifies what it was. And many changes do not seem merely typographical or formal.
But what if they're not?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Smiling Faces

When did smiling become socially acceptable?
Smiling... has a large number of discrete cultural and historical significances, few of them in line with our modern perceptions of it being a physical signal of warmth, enjoyment, or indeed of happiness. By the 17th century in Europe it was a well-established fact that the only people who smiled broadly, in life and in art, were the poor, the lewd, the drunk, the innocent, and the entertainment.
Smile, and the world smiles with you...

By No Numbers

It sounds like they're embarrassed about something:
The Obama administration has quietly decided to halt its monthly updates on Obamacare enrollment, which were a major pipeline of information about the impact of the health law heading into the 2014 campaign season. ‘HHS issued monthly enrollment reports during the first marketplace open enrollment period in order to provide the best understanding of enrollment activities as it was taking place,’ an HHS spokeswoman emailed. ‘Now that this time period has ended, we will look at future opportunities to share information about the marketplace that is reliable and accurate over time as further analysis can be done but we do not anticipate monthly reports.’ The agency offered no information about the timing or level of detail in any future updates.
They'll know, so you won't have to...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Balloon Man

Because the world has always wondered what Morgan Freeman would sound like on helium:

Dancing Machine

Where does the world's best Michael Jackson impersonator dance? Anywhere he wants to:
“It started in 2001, at a very young age, when Michael reunited with his brothers. Someone in my house was flipping through the channels, (and) the way he moves really caught my eye,” quotes [Brett] Nichols as saying.

“Over the years, through YouTube, I spent months just watching it again and again … I studied each part (and) taught myself.”
See his moves below:

High School Horror Story

A school in Connecticut is being accused of running a coven for girls:
The parents, identified only as John and Jane Doe, say their older daughters — now ages 22 and 19 — started acting differently while attending the school, becoming "secretive," "reclusive," and "distant"; having "fantasies of suicidal ideation and martyrdom"; speaking in a strange language; and gathering at Wellesley College in Massachusetts with other girls to perform religious "whirling dervish" dances through the night.

The Does attest that three Spanish teachers and a guidance counselor at the high school indoctrinated their daughters into a cult that "celebrates death," Courthouse News reports.

They say their second daughter began to change, as her older sister had, when she had the same Spanish teacher, and that all three teachers and the counselor encouraged her to join her sister at Wellesley so they could all get together there.

The teachers also tried to indoctrinate the Does' now-16-year-old daughter into their "coven," the lawsuit states, but she was able to "break free," NBC Connecticut reports, and that's when her parents realized what was going on.
PTA meetings must be interesting...

Coal Kings

It seems some politicians have discovered that opposing coal can be bad for their political health:
Forty-five senators are pressing the Environmental Protection Agency to delay new rules on limiting carbon emissions from power plants. …

The senators are pressuring the EPA to set a 120-day comment period rather than the standard 60-day comment period. That would double the normal allotted for industry, consumers, businesses, and states to give their two cents on the rule.

Fifteen Democrats signed the letter, including the four seen as most vulnerable in the midterm elections: Sens. Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Warner (Va), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Begich (Alaska). …

“Affordable, reliable, and redundant sources of electricity are essential to the economic well-being of our states and the quality of life of our constituents,” the letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy said.

“While we all agree that clean air is vitally important, EPA has an obligation to understand the impacts that regulations have on all segments of society,” it said.
EPA resistance seems to be more popular when your constituents are upset...

Green For Blues

Let's see if Harry Reid complains about this:
NextGen Climate Action said it plans to spend at least $50 million contributed by founder Tom Steyer, a retired hedge fund manager and longtime Democratic donor, and another $50 million the group is seeking to raise from likeminded donors. The money will be used to back Democrats and attack Republicans running for Senate in New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan, and for governor in Pennsylvania, Florida and Maine.

"Our goal is very clear: to impact the politics as it relates to climate in a time period that will result in policies that allow our country and the world to avoid the perils of climate change," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic strategist advising the super PAC. "In a sense, it's a race against time."

With Democrats on the defensive this year in races across the country, Steyer is pursuing a two-pronged goal: helping Democrats keep the Senate and capture governor's mansions, and elevating climate change as a make-or-break issue for voters. That effort comes despite the fact that Democrats are fighting most of their toughest races this year in conservative, oil-dependent states where even Democrats are seeking to fashion themselves as friendly to energy industry.

The playbook, Lehane and other NextGen officials said Wednesday, is to adopt strategies that have been effective in other cultural fights over tobacco, recycling and women's suffrage: persuade voters that climate change is a matter of right versus wrong, then use the issue to drive a "wedge" between voters and Republicans who align themselves with what environmentalists argue is the wrong side of history.
Wedge politics for me, not for thee...

Who Silences The Silencers?

The IRS takes a step back:
The IRS has agreed to overhaul a controversial proposal that Republican lawmakers warned would revive the agency's "harassment and intimidation" of conservative groups, after receiving a record number of comments on the proposed regulation.

The new rules have been in the works ever since the IRS came under fire for its targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups. In the wake of that scandal, the agency said it wanted to clarify for everybody how tax-exempt groups can engage in political activity -- by reining in the political work those groups do.

But Republicans, as well as some on the left, worried the new rules would only exacerbate the kind of targeting that stonewalled Tea Party groups in the first place.

For months, they've urged the IRS to scrap the proposal entirely, saying it would stifle free speech.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, among those senators, called Thursday's decision a "long overdue step in the right direction."

"The IRS is right to abandon its previously proposed rules governing 501c4 organizations that threatened free speech and the rights of all American citizens to participate in the democratic process," he said in a statement.
Now, if only they would do it all the way...

The Women's Club

Professional feminists versus real working women:
While the running in heels-types are busy networking, planning power lunches, and discussing which spa is best for when being alpha becomes too much, we are commuting to work, changing diapers, and wondering if we will ever retire. What, if anything, would an elementary school teacher from Tampa, or heck, this freelance writer in Brooklyn gain from attending one of these conferences? And what of the many women who don't identify themselves as feminists in the first place? How are these conferences reaching them by presenting the women's movement as a highly exclusive club?

The fact is, there is something inherently unwise, and kind of 1-percent, about relying on such a small group of women to make the big changes that benefit us all.
They do seem to be acting very much like the men they complain about...

Prison Times

What it's like to work on a prison newspaper:
Founded in 1940 and then revived as a serious journalistic enterprise six years ago, the monthly News, which bills itself as “The Pulse of San Quentin,” is the state’s only inmate-produced newspaper and one of the few in the world. The paper’s 15 staff members, all of them male felons, write from the unusual perspective of having served an estimated 297 ½ years collectively for burglary, murder, home invasion, conspiracy and, in one case, a Ponzi scheme.

In a notorious prison best known for its death row, the men are committed to what Juan Haines, the 56-year-old managing editor, who is serving 55 years to life for that 1996 bank robbery, calls “boots on the ground” journalism, accomplished without cellphones or direct Internet access. “It’s about being heard in a place that’s literally shut off from the world,” he said.

From their newsroom trailer next to the prison yard, where inmates work out amid spectacular views, the reporters and editors delve into issues at “the Q,” as San Quentin State Prison is sometimes called, as well as those far beyond its walls. They have covered a hunger strike, crowding in California’s women’s prisons and a federal court order concerning mental health care for California death row inmates.

But the paper specializes in stories that can be written only by journalists with a “uniquely visceral understanding of the criminal justice system,” said Arnulfo T. Garcia, the paper’s editor in chief, who is serving 65 years to life for a long list of crimes that includes burglary, robbery and skipping bail to flee to Mexico.
It's ironic that the most honest reporters might be the ones behind bars...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Land of Dead Horses

Once again, the millionaire's tax is back in vogue in Illinois:
The question would appear on the Nov. 4 statewide ballot, but would be advisory only and not have the force of law. Previously, Madigan pushed a fall referendum question that would have had the force of law and changed the state’s taxing system to charge the wealthy an 8 percent income tax on income of more than $1 million.

Opponents argued the additional tax would be unfair and place particular burden on small businesses and questioned the need to put the question before voters instead of asking lawmakers to take a stance on the issue.

Madigan acknowledged there wasn’t enough support among legislators to pass the idea outright and argued that if voters approve the idea it could sway the minds of lawmakers. He contended those making more than $1 million annually could shoulder the extra expense.

“Those that would be called upon to pay this surcharge have done pretty well in Illinois, they’ve done pretty well in America,” Madigan said. “We’re simply saying to them ‘you’ve done well in this country and we’d like to call upon you to do a little more for those that are involved in lower education,’ many of whom need a little help to get ahead in life.”
They've done pretty well after they leave Illinois because of stuff like this, too...

The Cult Of The Game

Has the NFL become its own religion?
“It’s really like a cult. I’m going to say it. The NFL is a cult, because you’ve been looking at this motto and this logo for your whole life and you believe in it and you’re like, ‘They wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. They never would.’ And, uh oh, maybe they would,” Crews told Sports Illustrated.

Crews, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1991 and also played for the San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, says there was “a lot of co-dependency going on” while he was playing.

“Football discipline is not real discipline,” Crews told Sports Illustrated Wednesday. “It’s one of those things where they tell you when to get up, they tell you when to eat, they tell you when to practice and they tell you when to go to sleep.”

Crews added: “When you give your life over to something like that and give your total trust into something like that, it will always disappoint you.”
Unless you go into it expecting to be disappointed...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Plague Science

The dangerous world of disease research:
The medical world seems perpetually torn between the desire to eliminate horrific diseases entirely and the need to preserve them for future study. Thanks to vaccination, smallpox was eradicated in 1980, but there are still two samples of it living in labs—one in the U.S. and one in Russia. Some scientists argue that those vials should be destroyed because there’s a chance they could be used in bioterrorism. There is no cure for smallpox, and it kills a third of its victims. The rest suffer permanent scarring from the thousands of “pox,” or fluid-filled cysts.

“The hazard is, could it ever by accident or by evil design leave those two containments and actually be introduced into the population again and spread?” William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville told ABC News.
Let's hope we don't have to find out...

Wither The Tea Party?

Ben Carson offers some advice in the aftermath of recent elections:
If a ship is about to suffer massive destruction by sailing over Niagara Falls, why devote energy to scraping the barnacles off the bottom? There will be plenty of time for that once the ship is saved. Worrying about the barnacles before reversing course detracts from critical action. Enough said.

This rationale will anger some who feel that their important issue, be it homosexual marriage, abortion, illegal immigration, or Second Amendment rights, should never be anywhere except front and center. I sympathize with those sentiments, but as a pragmatist, I realize that if conservatives continue to be fragmented over issues on which there will never be unanimous agreement, they will never get the chance to address these issues down the road. Principles are important — but so are wisdom and savvy when building consensus with people with different principles.
Stay on course, but fight smarter, not harder.

Blogging In The Years: 1924

Who's to blame for the crime?
This terrible crime was inherent in his organism, and it came from some ancestor... Is any blame attached because somebody took Nietzsche's philosophy seriously and fashioned his life upon it?... It is hardly fair to hang a 19-year-old boy for the philosophy that was taught him at the university.
That's what their attorney, Clarence Darrow, claims. A jury felt differently, however...

The Red Cafe

Another example of Communist failure:
In its heyday, the café hosted up-and-coming acts like Nirvana and Green Day. Staffers would feed the band, often with donated food, and the audience got the leftovers. The decidedly un-capitalist business model worked until crowds began to dwindle, extensive repairs were ordered by campus fire marshals and student groups got sick of subsidizing it.

The university’s student-run newspaper, The Guardian, characterized the venue as a “money pit consistently plagued with safety issues” in a recent editorial, urging its principals to start utilizing better fiscal management of nearly $1 million of student fees are used for renovations.

“Many students also don’t realize that the money being spent on the café’s renovation comes directly from student fees; in other words, we are collectively pouring almost one million dollars of our money into repairing a cooperative that the vast majority of us don’t even use.”
Most students probably don't notice due to all of their other debt (speaking of Communist failures...)

Hill Of Fair Beans

What happens when you let the free market decide?
After four years of fieldwork in the coffee, tea and flower sectors in Ethiopia and Uganda, where they gathered 1,700 survey responses and conducted more than 100 interviews, the SOAS researchers found people living in ordinary rural communities enjoyed a higher standard of living than seasonal and casual agricultural workers who received an apparently subsidised wage for producing Fair Trade exports. Women’s wages were especially low among producers selling into Fair Trade markets, according to the researchers.

Comparing areas where the same crops were produced by similar, though not Fair Trade-certified employers, they found that workers received higher wages and benefited from better conditions. This was not because the Fair Trade cooperatives were based in areas with higher or particular disadvantages. The rationale of Fair Trade is that producers of commodities subject to price volatility should be protected through payment of a minimum price to cover living and production costs, a price which adjusts whenever the market shifts above the minimum threshold. In addition to this, traders should pay workers a “social premium” of around 5-10% for development and technical assistance.

The SOAS research suggests that Fair Trade has failed to make a positive difference.
Real trade is more fair than "Fair" trade...

Freedom Of Food Choice

Well, that was quick:
Just a day after House Republicans introduced legislation to roll back some Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations on school meal programs, the USDA announced some flexibility would be granted to some schools for the coming school year when implementing the new policies:
"Schools raised legitimate concerns that acceptable whole-grain rich pasta products were not available. We worked to find a solution which will allow more time for industry to develop products that will work for schools," said [Agriculture Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin] Concannon.
The two-year flexibility for schools who have "experienced significant challenges in preparing and serving whole grain-rich pasta products" must be approved by the schools' state agency. Earlier, "flexibility" had been granted in some cases for portion sizes and for timetables for phasing in new requirements.
maybe the schools could ask for waivers? It's worked for others...

Riding Lessons

Finally-bike coaches:
After two years of falling and frustration, Max's mom hired Howard Roth, a Long Island based bike coach with his own method.

"Max's problem was there was a fear factor," Roth says. He developed his technique to help his twin boys learn to ride two-wheelers 10 years ago. That's when he published the ebook, "Riding Made Easy."

Roth says balance on the bike is the key, and training wheels can hurt a child more than falling down.

"Lower the seat, take off the pedals and work with them to find their balance," he says.

Private lessons start at $90. Roth has clients of all ages and also works with children with disabilities throughout the tri-state area. And he says he isn't the only bike coach out there.

"There's a moment when they ride when they are astounded at themselves, they are amazed at their abilities, and they can't believe they can do it," he says.
But shouldn't they be able to do that on their own?

The Deaniac Returns

Howard Dean on "tolerance":

Frakking Punked

Ed Begley and Mariel Hemingway get punked by James O'Keefe:

Who Walks, Who Rots?

There does seem to be a double standard here:
When Corzine escaped any punishment last year, there was surprisingly little coverage and certainly no outrage in the media — even in a political climate where members of the Democratic Party’s base were calling for the heads of banksters and Goldman Sachs and its alumni, in particular, were being compared to a politically-connected Vampire Squid.

Maybe in addition to having very close friends in the White House, the U.S. Senate, New Jersey and Wall Street, Corzine didn’t do anything worth prosecuting related to MF Global bankruptcy and the straight-up loss of more than a billion dollars. And maybe in addition to having enemies in the White House and other corridors of power, D’Souza’s $20,000 crime makes him Public Enemy #1. I don’t know.

But if there were selective enforcement of laws under this administration, that would be something worth caring just a bit about.
It would, if we didn't have selective journalism, as well...

The Government Manifesto

Say what?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Back To The Future, Elizabeth Warren Edition

For some reason, Elizabeth Warren lays the blame for today's economy on...Ronald Reagan?

Lost Honors

Welcome to Harrison Bergeron land:
Citing concerns about the “exclusive nature” of the annual honors night at Archie R. Cole Middle School, school officials have decided to scrap the tradition.

Instead, students who would normally be recognized at the annual spring tradition will be honored during team-based recognition ceremonies and graduation.

The notice was sent to parents over the weekend in an e-mail signed by School Principal Alexis Meyer and Assistant Principal Dan Seger.

“Members of the school community have long expressed concerns related to the exclusive nature of Honors Night,” the email stated.
God forbid some students should actually be better at what they do than others...

Campaign Trail

Dinesh D'Souza will have to do time:
D’Souza was to have started his trial this week in New York, but instead he pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of making illegal campaign contributions, which carries a maximum two-year sentence. He’s expected to be sentenced in about four months.

In exchange for D’Souza’s plea, prosecutors are expected to drop the more serious charge of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

D’Souza was indicted in January for asking some friends to donate money to the campaign of Wendy Long, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic incumbent Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in New York in 2012, and allegedly promising to reimburse them for their donations.

From the beginning, attorney Benjamin Brafman characterized his client’s alleged transgression as “an act of misguided friendship,” and he and others have said federal authorities were engaging in payback for D’Souza’s movie 2016: Obama’s America, a hit documentary that portrayed President Barack Obama in a negative light.

“It’s a remarkably selective prosecution, considering Obama raised millions of dollars under similar circumstances and donors merely faced civil fines while D’Souza is charged with felony violation of federal law,” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas told The Hollywood Reporter in February.
Coming soon to an Obama opponent near you?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dirty Water

Welcome to Rio:
Guanabara Bay, nestled between Sugarloaf Mountain and other granite peaks, offers the kind of a postcard image Rio’s authorities want to celebrate as hosts of the 2016 Summer Olympics. But it has become a focal point of complaints, turning Rio’s polluted waters into a symbol of frustrations with the troubled preparations for the Olympics.

“Welcome to the dump that is Rio,” Germany’s sailing team said in one typically blunt assessment of the site for the Olympic regatta.

Brazilians training here agree.

“It can get really disgusting, with dog carcasses in some places and the water turning brown from sewage contamination,” said Thomas Low-Beer, 24, a Brazilian Olympic hopeful who sails in the bay. He shuddered when recalling how his dinghy crashed into what he believed was a partly submerged sofa, capsizing him into the murky Guanabara.
One man's cesspool is another's Olympic venue...

Room To Menu

The First Lady's school lunch menu is getting more pushback:
While many schools have had success putting the rules in place, others have said they are too restrictive and costly. Schools pushing for changes say limits on sodium and requirements for whole grains have proven particularly difficult, while some school officials say kids are throwing fruits and vegetables they are required to take in the trash.

The House Appropriations Committee said in a release that the waiver language is in response to requests from schools.

The School Nutrition Association, which represents school nutrition directors and companies that sell food to schools, endorsed the provision Monday and said that schools need more room to make their own decisions. President Leah Schmidt said the group supports the waiver as a temporary solution until Congress considers renewal of a school foods law that expires in 2015.

"School meal programs need more flexibility to plan menus that increase student consumption of healthy choices while limiting waste," Schmidt.

The School Nutrition Association says that almost half of school meal programs reported declines in revenue in the 2012-13 school year and 90 percent said food costs were up.
Food for thought, indeed...

Bread And Butter

It's the economy, always:
Twenty percent of Americans name unemployment or jobs as the most important problem facing the country in May, up from 14% who mentioned these issues in April. Dysfunctional government (19%) and the economy in general (17%) also rank among the top problems.

These three issues — jobs, economy, and government — have been at the top of the “most important problem” list since the beginning of the year. Mentions of government and politicians rose sharply to 33% in October amid the partial government shutdown, but have dipped back down.

Mentions of the environment as the most important problem have ticked up to 3% in May from an average of 1% over the past six months. The increase may be related to recent news coverage highlighting the negative effects of global warming and climate change on the environment.
Theoretical green doesn't seem as important when people need real green...

Speaking Truth To Protest

At least one commencement speaker has had enough of student censorship:
In a surprising move, a commencement speaker at Haverford College on Sunday used the celebratory occasion to deliver a sharp rebuke to students who had mounted a campaign against another speaker who had been scheduled to appear but withdrew amid the controversy.

William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton and a nationally respected higher education leader, called the student protestors' approach both "immature" and "arrogant" and the subsequent withdrawal of Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California Berkeley, a "defeat" for the Quaker college and its ideals.

Bowen - who made clear he took no position on Birgeneau's handling of the Berkeley student demonstration - blasted the Haverford protestors' approach.

"I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau's handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of "demands," said Bowen, who led Princeton from 1972 to 1988 and last year received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama. "In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments."
Unfortunately, student protesters are only interested in hearing themselves, not others...

Sunday, May 18, 2014

King Of The Skeptics

Godzilla, the climate-change skeptic?
There’s a lot going on here, but think about it this way: Serizawa, the only man who seems to grasp the true nature of the issue facing humanity, believes that the ecosphere will heal itself, will restore its own balance. He denounces mankind’s belief that we are able to drastically impact the environment in such a way that would make it uninhabitable. In other words, the Earth is a massively complex system, one that we can’t really damage by pumping a little excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We can, however, make things radically worse for mankind by arrogantly believing in our own ability to ruin, then fix, the world. The nuclear bomb that threatens to wipe out San Fran represents mankind’s fumbling attempts to fix a problem it has no ability to impact—it is a rather explicit denunciation of the urge to “do something!” even though we have no idea what to do. We can make things much worse for ourselves, but we can’t really stop nature from running its course. And nature will be just fine regardless of what we sentient apes believe—or do.
Nature-like the king of the monsters himself-pretty much does what it damn well pleases...

Swiss Miss

Common sense prevails in Switzerland:
The massive rejection of the "Decent Salary" initiative was widely seen as a slap in the face to its union backers, who insist at least 22 Swiss francs ($25, 18 euros) an hour, or 4,000 francs ($4,515, 3,280 euros) a month, is needed to get by in Switzerland.

If it had passed, Switzerland would have gone from having no national minimum wage to boasting the world's highest, far above the $7.25 in the United States and 9.43 euros in France.

But the initiative flopped as voters heeded warnings from government and other opponents that it would deal a death blow to many businesses and would weaken Switzerland's healthy economy.

Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann hailed the result, insisting the country had dodged a bullet.
Meanwhile, activists elsewhere seem intent on continuing to shoot blanks...

We The Solution

Why Ronald Reagan's maxim remains true today:
As with most issues, solving a problem requires understanding whether you are treating a symptom or a root cause. The federal government is only passably efficacious at the former – and even then, just in scattered instances – and wholly unequipped to deal with the latter. You may choose any of a number of societal ills to debate this point… a crumbling school system, real and perceived racial tension, violence outside your doors, declining productivity and employment or a national health crisis. Each of these have been trumpeted as a cause du jour by public officials and and office seeking hopefuls. Blue ribbon panels are established, experts are flown in from around the globe to testify before chambers empty of all but CSPAN camera operators, and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are flushed into panacea programs which rarely move the needle past the point where the public attention span has been exceeded.

But in the end, these things all lie beyond the control of the government. They are all very real problems, but none of them came about because we failed to pass this regulation or reached too far in enacting that one. These are societal ills which grow up from between our toes and choke us off like tall weeds bringing the harvest to ruin. In short, the government can not solve these woes because, through our function as the selectors of those who represent us, we are the government. And we are also the source of the problem.
We created it; only we have the power to fix it.

The Lizard King

Godzilla has some competition:
Weighing in at 77 tonnes, it was as heavy as 14 African elephants, and seven tonnes heavier than the previous record holder, Argentinosaurus.

Scientists believe it is a new species of titanosaur - an enormous herbivore dating from the Late Cretaceous period.

A local farm worker first stumbled on the remains in the desert near La Flecha, about 250km (135 miles) west of Trelew, Patagonia.

The fossils were then excavated by a team of palaeontologists from the Museum of Palaeontology Egidio Feruglio, led by Dr Jose Luis Carballido and Dr Diego Pol.

They unearthed the partial skeletons of seven individuals - about 150 bones in total - all in "remarkable condition".

A film crew from the BBC Natural History Unit was there to capture the moment the scientists realised exactly how big their discovery was.

By measuring the length and circumference of the largest femur (thigh bone), they calculated the animal weighed 77 tonnes.

"Given the size of these bones, which surpass any of the previously known giant animals, the new dinosaur is the largest animal known that walked on Earth," the researchers told BBC News.

"Its length, from its head to the tip of its tail, was 40m.

"Standing with its neck up, it was about 20m high - equal to a seven-storey building."
You can imagine what its mommy looked like...

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Radio Waves

The galaxy's mystery broadcasts:
The first FRB was spotted, or rather ‘heard’ by radio telescopes, back in 2007 - but it was so temporary and seemingly random that it took years for astronomers to even agree it wasn’t a glitch in one of the telescope's instruments.

The signal, which lasted just five milliseconds, was named the Lorimer burst after its discoverer, Duncan Lorimer.

The radio emission was so dispersed, experts suggested it must have come from a great distance away, possibly billions of light-years.

But early estimates said there should be 10,000 of these events a day – so the fact that another wasn’t discovered until 2012 was troubling.

This was when data from the Parkes Radio Telescope in Australia suggested it had heard another FRB, along with a handful of others, but the fact that only Parkes had detected the signals had some claiming these were merely instrument glitches.

A recent discovery, in April of this year, of an FRB using the giant radio dish in Puerto Rico confirmed to astronomers that these signals are indeed real – but they’re no closer to finding out an answer as to what they are.
Maybe ET really is trying to phone home?

Life After The Cartel

The hometown of Pablo Escobar gets a makeover:
Medellin is restyling itself as “South America’s Silicon Valley” – a tech hub, and a centre for innovation and science. The city has unveiled a series of incentives to bring start ups to a cluster of new hubs along the Medellin river, with a programme of tax incentives, logistical support and government pledges.
And it appears to be paying off. Hewlett-Packard have based their entire Latin America services centre there, while Kimberly-Clark and Pipeline Studios – a Canadian animation company – are among the big names to have moved in. In March, Medellin was named “Innovation City of the Year” by Citi, the Wall Street Journal and the Urban Land Institute – beating off competition from fellow finalists New York and Tel Aviv.
“Now we’re combating the cancer,” said Mr Gaviria, the mayor – whose own brother was murdered by criminal gangs. “We’re still fighting for the reputation of Medellin. Because today it’s not the most violent city in the world. It’s the most innovative.”
You can recover from rock bottom-Detroit, take note...

School Of Work

Yes, ther is a school where students actually learn how to work for a living:
At this college the tuition is nowhere near the $150,000 to $200,000 for a four-year degree that the elite top-tier universities are charging. At College of the Ozarks, tuition is free. That's right. The school's nearly 1,400 students don't pay a dime in tuition during their time there.

So what's the catch? All the college's students—without exception—pay for their education by working 15 hours a week on campus. The jobs are plentiful because this school—just a few miles from Branson, a popular tourist destination—operates its own mill, a power plant, fire station, four-star restaurant and lodge, museum and dairy farm.

Some students from low-income homes also spend 12 weeks of summer on campus working to cover their room and board. Part of the students' grade point average is determined by how they do on the job and those who shirk their work duties are tossed out. The jobs range from campus security to cooking and cleaning hotel rooms, tending the hundreds of cattle, building new dorms and buildings, to operating the power plant.
The work ethic does seem to be an increasingly lost art at other schools...

Class Disrupted

Nancy Pelosi has some advice for students:
“Being called a disruptor is a high compliment,” Pelosi said in prepared remarks Saturday. “You here at Berkeley are already disruptors in many ways.”

Pelosi’s speech came nearly 50 years after students led by Mario Savio occupied a Berkeley building and launched the “free speech movement,” which sought to lift university bans on political activities.

“Now, it’s all about you — what you can do with your freedom to speak out, with the tools of our time: Instagram and YouTube, Facebook and Twitter,” Pelosi said.
I thought that's what the Tea Party was already doing? Except that they want to make America less socialist, not more...

Brothers In Arms

The Benhams are back:
Earlier Friday, The Daily Caller reported that SunTrust Banks had pulled all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers’ bank-owned property business.

The move came just a week after HGTV announced it was canceling a planned home renovation show hosted by the Benhams because of their conservative views on abortion and gay marriage.

By Friday afternoon, SunTrust released a statement saying the decision had been reversed. The bank didn’t go into detail about why they originally cut ties with the Benham brothers, though SunTrust said the decision was made by a third party vendor. TheDC reported earlier Friday that the vendor had told a Benham Brothers franchisee that the bank itself made the decision.

“We clarified our policies with our vendor and they have reinstated the listings with Benham Real Estate,” SunTrust spokeswoman Beth McKenna said.
Funny how that works out...

The Cab Nazi

Meet the taxi Nazi:
“I don’t hate Jews. I’m critical of them, but I don’t hate them. That doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Semitic. That don’t make me a hater,” Diaz said. “Who says you have to be white to be a National Socialist? You don’t have to be white, it can by anybody.”
When Young asked Diaz whether he knew 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis, Diaz replied, “I have no comment on that right now.”
There is no indication that Diaz discussed National Socialism with his fares. He wore the symbol on his forearm where it mostly offended passersby.
It is not illegal to wear a swastika in public, but it is against TLC rules to wear one while driving a New York City cab.
I think there was a movie like this:

India's New Guard

India has a new Prime Minister:
In parliamentary elections that lasted five weeks and counted some 550 million ballots, Indians put their faith in a party promising economic opportunity and better governance over the traditional Indian formula of welfarism, patronage, corruption and hostility to foreign competition.

Mr. Modi will be the first Prime Minister to govern without a coalition in nearly 30 years, and he has a rare mandate to enact market-opening reforms that had stalled under the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Indian equities soared on the news, though there’s also a risk that he could attempt to implement a Chinese-style version of state capitalism on a country that lacks Chinese-style political controls.

Mr. Modi’s record offers reason for optimism. As governor for 13 years of Gujarat state, he was the archetypal energetic executive, forcing through approvals of new projects and welcoming foreign investment. Gujarat now accounts for 25% of India’s exports, and the poverty rate has plunged. As the son of a tea-seller, Mr. Modi also has a gut sense of the economic aspirations of ordinary Indians.
Hope and change, Indian style?

Unfair Play

Some politicians are more equal than others: In the case of Clinton’s email probe, Comey relates numerous issues with Lynch’s actions that ...