Daily Archive: 08/03/2013

Aug 03 2013

Random Japan

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NEWS FROM THE ANIMAL KINGDOM

A research team led by a professor at Keio University has found mice can tell the difference between paintings by Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian.

In response to wild deer causing damage to local plant species in the Oze marshlands, Fukushima officials say they’ll start “shooting the animals with high-pressure water guns.”

Japanese scientists have determined a class of insecticides aka neonicotinoids may be responsible for colony-collapse disorder, which is threatening the global honeybee population.

Police in western Tokyo arrested a man who ran a health clinic despite having no medical license. None of the man’s 8,000 “patients” reported any ill effects from the treatment.

Aug 03 2013

Summers: Economic Inequality a Problem, but not the Fed Chair’s Responsibility

Well, OK, I’m summarizing. I was startled to read at Agent Orange that Summers was a progressive thinker because Summers recognizes the massive increase in economic inequality that has taken place over the past three or four decades:

It would be, however, a serious mistake to suppose that our only problems are cyclical or amenable to macroeconomic solutions. Just as evolution from an agricultural to an industrial economy had far reaching implications for society, so too will the evolution from an industrial to a knowledge economy. Witness structural trends that predate the Great Recession and will be with us long after recovery is achieved: The most important of these is the strong shift in the market reward for a small minority of persons, relative to the rewards available to everyone else. In the United States, according to a recent CBO study, the incomes of the top 1 percent of the population have, after adjusting for inflation, risen by 275 percent from 1979 to 2007. At the same time, incomes for the middle class (in the study, the middle 60 percent of the income scale) grew by only 40 percent. Even this dismal figure overstates the fortunes of typical Americans; the number unable to find work or who have abandoned the job search has risen. In 1965, only 1 in 20 men between ages 25 and 54 was not working. By the end of this decade it will likely be 1 in 6-even if a full cyclical recovery is achieved.

 

There is no issue that will be more important to the politics of the industrialized world over the next generation than its response to a market system that distributes rewards increasingly inequitably and generates growing disaffection in the middle class. …

Aug 03 2013

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness NewsWelcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Grated Squash, Corn and Tomatillo Tacos photo 31recipehealth-tmagArticle_zps131744c9.jpg

Tomatillos, which are closer botanically to the gooseberry than to the tomato, have a wonderful acidic tang. They’re low in calories and a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper, as well as dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, niacin, potassium and manganese. To get the best out of them they should be simmered or grilled for about 10 minutes, until they’re soft and the color has gone from pale green to olive. You can use them for a quick, blended salsa and also for a cooked salsa, which has a rounder, seared flavor. I made both last week and used them with different taco fillings. The salsas keep well in the refrigerator and I’m enjoying the leftovers with just about everything I make, from scrambled eggs to grilled fish to plain corn tortillas that I crisp in the microwave.

Two Tomatillo Salsas

You could eat both of these green salsas with a spoon. The quick fresh salsa is the tangier of the two.

Potato ‘Salad’ and Tomatillo Tacos

The filling for these tacos can also stand alone as a potato salad, but it’s very nice and comforting inside a warm tortilla.

Grated Squash, Corn and Tomatillo Tacos

Tacos with a light filling make for a perfect summer meal.

Tacos With Salmon or Arctic Char, Greens and Tomatillo Salsa

This tangy fish filling tastes good hot or cold.

Tacos With Green Beans, Chiles and Tomatillo Salsa

This filling works in tacos or on its own as a delicious summer salad.

Aug 03 2013

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Ana Marie Cox: Why Have So Many Liberals Been Silent about NSA Spying?

Tea Party candidates on the right have been able to generate excitement among GOP base voters with their calls to end the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program. Senator Rand Paul appears to have staked his entire potential presidential campaign on a brash defense of personal privacy (except when it comes to abortion). Libertarian-leaning Republicans in the House have been unapologetic in their criticism of the program, their own energy magnified by near-unanimous support from conservative talk radio and bloggers.

Those advocates of civil liberties (some of them quite new to the cause) have a convenient explanation for why Democrats have been less vocal and slower to criticize the collection of metadata from everyday American citizens: slavish devotion to President Obama, whatever policies he might champion.

 

Ira Chernus: [Why Do We Have an Espionage Act? Why Do We Have an Espionage Act?]

Military justice is to justice as military music is to music. In a civilian court, anyone accused of a crime has the right to trial by a jury of their peers. In the military, a soldier accused of a very serious crime can be tried without any jury at all. In a civilian court, the judge explains the decision as soon as it’s handed down. In the military, the judge just announces the decision and passes sentence.

In Bradley Manning’s case, Judge Denise Lind did say “she would issue findings later that would explain her ruling on each of the charges.” We don’t know how long “later” may be. All we know now is that Judge Lind does not think Manning was aiding the enemy.

Which raises an interesting question: If you take classified documents, but you don’t do it to help some enemy, apparently you haven’t done any harm to the United States. So why is it a crime? Why does it count as “spying” at all? I always thought “spying” meant one side stealing secrets from the other side.

Marcy Wheeler: James Cole: “Of Course We’d Like Records of People Buying” Pressure Cookers

Now that the Suffolk cops have revealed they investigated Michele Catalano’s family because of a tip from her husband’s former employer about his Google searches and not FBI or NSA analysis of Google data themselves, a lot of people are suggesting it would be crazy to imagine that the Feds might have found Catalano via online searches.

Which is funny. Because just a day before this story broke, this exchange happened in the Senate between Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy and Deputy Attorney General James Cole. (after 1:45, though just before this exchange Leahy asks whether DOJ could use Section 215 to obtain URLs and bookmarks, among other records, which Cole didn’t deny)

   Leahy: But if our phone records are relevant, why wouldn’t our credit card records? Wouldn’t you like to know if somebody’s buying, um, what is the fertilizer used in bombs?

   Cole: I may not need to collect everybody’s credit card records in order to do that.

   [snip]

   If somebody’s buying things that could be used to make bombs of course we would like to know that but we may not need to do it in this fashion.

John Nichols: Bankrupting Democracy in Detroit

The citizens of one of our largest cities are being shut out of the decisions that will affect their future.

After decades of deindustrialization compounded by state and federal neglect, Detroit has been placed on a crash course that could see it in bankruptcy before year’s end. Yet instead of running away from this challenge, legislators, a former police chief and a former county prosecutor are all competing in an August 6 primary and a November 5 general election to choose a new mayor. The timing couldn’t be better for voters to weigh in on the city’s tough choices and set priorities-and to choose leaders to implement them. There is just one problem: the winner of the election will not have the authority to govern.

Michael German: Let’s Be Very Clear, Edward Snowden is a Whistleblower

My American Civil Liberties Union colleagues and I have been extremely busy since the Guardian and the Washington Post published leaked classified documents exposing the scope of the government’s secret interpretations of the Patriot Act and the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allow the FBI and NSA to spy on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans. We haven’t written much about the alleged leaker of this information, Edward Snowden, however, mainly because we took his advice to focus on what the NSA and FBI were doing, rather than on what he did or didn’t do. (See exceptions here and here).

But I did want to clear up a question that seems to keep coming up: whether Snowden is a whistleblower. It is actually not a hard question to answer. The Whistleblower Protection Act protects “any disclosure” that a covered employee reasonably believes evidences “any violation of any law, rule, or regulation,” or “gross mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, and abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

Amy Traub; Fast Food Shouldn’t Mean Low Wages

The idea is simple: people who get up and go to work every day in one of the world’s richest countries should not have to live in poverty.

That’s why, across the country and throughout the week, low-wage fast food and retail employees walked out on strike, calling for $15 an hour and respect for their right to organize a union.  Claudette Wilson and her co-workers walked out from a Burger King in Detroit, joined by other fast food workers. Andrew Little and his fellow employees went on strike from Victoria’s Secret and other stores and restaurants in Chicago. In St. Louis, members of the United Mine Workers joined employees of Jack in the Box and Hardee’s among other fast food franchises in solidarity. And Terrance Wise hit the picket lines in Kansas City on strike from his part-time jobs at Pizza Hut and Burger King. Workers were striking in Flint and Milwaukee as well. Here in New York, I and some Demos colleagues had a chance to join a rally in support of workers at the McDonalds in Union Square.

Aug 03 2013

On This Day In History August 3

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 3 is the 215th day of the year (216th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 150 days remaining until the end of the year.

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus accomplishes the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole. The world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus  dived at Point Barrow, Alaska, and traveled nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap to reach the top of the world. It then steamed on to Iceland, pioneering a new and shorter route from the Pacific to the Atlantic and Europe.

The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In 1952, the Nautilus’ keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.

USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world’s first operational nuclear-powered submarine. She was also the first vessel to complete a submerged transit across the North Pole.

Named for the submarine in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Nautilus was authorized in 1951 and launched in 1954. Because her nuclear propulsion allowed her to remain submerged for far longer than diesel-electric submarines, she broke many records in her first years of operation and was able to travel to locations previously beyond the limits of submarines. In operation, she revealed a number of limitations in her design and construction; this information was used to improve subsequent submarines.

The Nautilus was decommissioned in 1980 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982. She has been preserved as a museum of submarine history in New London, Connecticut, where she receives some 250,000 visitors a year.

Aug 03 2013

Jobs & Economy Still Not Good Enough

Don’t let the enthusiasm of the stock market or some financial reports that the job market and unemployment are improving or that the economy is growing faster. It’s not. None of today’s economics news is good. As a matter of facr, it’s rather depressing.

Better Than Expected Second Quarter Growth? Is the Post Kidding

by Dean Baker, Center for Economic Policy and Research

I somehow missed this Post article touting the 1.7 percent growth rate reported for the second quarter as better than expected. First it is incredible that the piece would leave readers with the impression that this strong growth, [..]

The economy’s rate of potential growth is generally estimated as being between 2.2-2.5 percent. This means that rather than making up some of the 6 percentage point gap between potential output and actual output, the gap increased in the second quarter. [..]

The GDP data released on Wednesday also included revisions to prior quarters’ data. The revision to the prior three quarters’ growth rate (Table 1A) were sharply downward lowering growth over this period by 1.3 percentage points or an average of 0.4 percent per quarter. With the revised data, growth over the last year has been just 1.4 percent. This is supposed to be a justification for withdrawing stimulus?

July Jobs Report Masks Real Problems In U.S. Labor Market

by Mark Gongloff, The Huffington Post

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has said the official U.S. unemployment rate could mask the real problems in the labor market. He got proof of that in July’s jobs report.

The unemployment rate dipped to 7.4 percent in July, the lowest rate since December 2008, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, down from 7.6 percent in June.

But payroll growth was anemic, wages dropped and more discouraged workers headed for the sidelines, continuing the slowest job-market recovery since World War II. [..]

Employers added just 162,000 jobs to non-farm payrolls in July, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, down from 188,000 in June, which was revised lower from an initial reading of 195,000. Together, revisions to May and June figures subtracted 26,000 jobs from payrolls, another sign of weakness. [..]

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell in part because 37,000 workers dropped out of the labor force, meaning they gave up looking for work. The labor-force participation rate, which measures the percentage of working-age Americans who are working or looking for work, fell to 63.4 percent in July, near a 35-year low.

The civilian employment-population ratio, which measures how many working-age Americans actually have jobs, was flat at 58.7 percent, near the lowest in 30 years and down from more than 63 percent before the recession. [..]

The majority of the jobs that have been created during the recovery have been low-paying jobs, worsening income inequality and keeping the economy sluggish.

The job market is a long way from recovery and with the slow rate of job creation there could be a deficit of 4.6 million jobs in May 2016. Not only that but the quality of the jobs that have been created are not conducive to economic stimulus:

More than half of the jobs added last month were either in retail trade or “food services and drinking places.” People employed in those sectors tend to have much shorter work weeks and much lower hourly wages than everyone else.

Even worse, a recent paper (pdf) by Canadian researchers suggests that many of the people taking these jobs are relatively over-educated. The authors argue that, since 2000, globalization and technological advancement have reduced the demand for “high-skilled” workers. Desperate for employment, these workers ended up pushing the “lower-skilled” out of the job market entirely. This may help explain why the share of people aged 25 to 54 counted as being in the labor force has plunged by 3.5 percentage points since 2000.

The quality of jobs being created is probably connected to the depressing performance of incomes and the decline in the work week. Hourly pay has grown by just 1.9 percent over the past 12 months — basically unchanged since the end of 2009. The data from the BEA tell a similar story. Real after-tax incomes fell in June. Americans still have less purchasing power than they did in November 2012. Our standard of living has barely improved over the past year.

None of this is good news. The other question is what will the Federal Reserve do? Chairmen Benjamin Bernanke has promised to keep its target interest rate near zero at least until unemployment is below 6.5 percent.

The Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said in June that the Fed wanted to end its current round of bond buying around the time the rate hits 7 percent, which he predicted would happen by the middle of next year. That prediction is looking conservative, suggesting the Fed could start tapering when its policy-making committee meets in September.

But Fed officials have cautioned that they want unemployment to fall because people are finding jobs, not because they’re leaving the labor force. And by broader measures, the job market remains weak. Growth is sluggish – just a 1.4 percent annualized pace in the first half of the year – and the share of American adults with jobs has actually fallen since the recession ended.

So the decision is unlikely to be clear-cut, particularly because Fed officials are divided about the benefits and the costs of the bond-buying campaign.

And the decision is not going to be made this week. Officials will see six more weeks of economic data, including one more jobs report.

I’m not all that well versed in economics but it seems fairly clear that there needs to be a huge influx of investment into the economy. Since it doesn’t appear to be coming from the private sector, which is more concerned about profits than quality job creation, then it need to start coming from the government. The likelihood of that happening any time soon is still rather grim.

Aug 03 2013

So long, Mom

Postal Service Confirms Photographing All U.S. Mail

By RON NIXON, The New York Times

Published: August 2, 2013

Last month, The New York Times reported on the practice, which is called the Mail Isolation and Tracking system. The program was created by the Postal Service after the anthrax attacks in late 2001 killed five people, including two postal workers.

The Times reported that the program was a more expansive version of a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, where at the request of law enforcement officials, postal workers record information from the outside of letters and parcels before they are delivered. (Opening the mail would require a warrant.)

The information is then sent to the law enforcement agency that asked for it. Tens of thousands of pieces of mail each year undergo this scrutiny, and a number of law enforcement agencies have used it, like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services. Law enforcement officials called the mail covers an important investigative tool.

Mail covers are not subject to judicial oversight. Law enforcement agencies simply fill out a form and submit it to the Postal Inspection Service, an arm of the post office that oversees the programs.

The digital mail tracking programs had raised concerns about their sweeping nature because the post office and law enforcement agencies are allowed to monitor all mail, not just the mail of those suspected of a crime.

You know, I remember being in the blast zone for megatonnage.  Perhaps that’s why terrorists causing a slip and fall in my bathtub doesn’t scare me so much.