Daily Archive: 09/28/2013

Sep 28 2013

Random Japan

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Akihabara-based magazine blasts past Kickstarter goal, aims to bring otaku culture to the world

Michelle Lynn Dinh

The word “otaku” in the Japanese language is a general term for anyone who is passionate about a hobby. But in English, “otaku” has become a term that refers to people who are obsessed with Japanese culture, particularly anime and manga. But the world of the otaku is sometimes misunderstood. That’s where JH Lab, a group of “otaku of the highest caliber” comes in, hoping to demystify the world of anime and manga fans and bring the culture of Akihabara to people everywhere.

To do this, JH Lab has created Akiba Anime Art (AAA), “a brand new pop-culture magazine from Akihabara, featuring cool OTAKUs, advanced technologies, kawaii-cosplays, Dojins and much more!” They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign to make their dream a reality and have quickly surpassed their initial goal, raising over US$42,000. Supporters of the project will receive special edition illustrations from featured Japanese artist, John Hathway, and have a chance to be drawn into his amazing Akihabara picture jockey cityscape. Let’s take a closer look at this rapidly growing magazine’s “ultra otaku power.”

Sep 28 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

Easing Into Fall, Taking Eggplant With You

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Even though it’s officially autumn, the summer crop of eggplant is still in full swing at farmers’ markets across the country. I’ve been buying them in all shapes and sizes – small, delicate Italian eggplants and paler Asian eggplants that I buy both at farmers’ markets and at my local Iranian market, as well as the familiar globe eggplants that are widely available in both farmers’ markets and supermarkets.

The darker the eggplant’s skin, the more it has to offer in terms of antioxidant-rich anthocyanins. The anthocyanin phytonutrient in eggplant skin is called nasunin, and scientists have been able to isolate it and identify its antioxidant activity, particularly in protecting lipids in brain cell membranes.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Eggplant and Tomato Pie

This robust summer pie, topped with a layer of tomato slices flecked with thyme, is a nice party piece.

Balkan Eggplant and Chile Purée

This is an eggplant-centric version of ajvar (pronounced “eye-var), the Balkan red pepper and eggplant relish.

Lasagna With Tomato Sauce and Roasted Eggplant

This is a great do-ahead dish.

Grilled Eggplant and Tomatoes With Chermoula

Chermoula, the pungent Moroccan herb sauce that is traditionally used as a marinade for fish, is also great with grilled vegetables.

Imam Bayildi

There are many recipes for the iconic Turkish eggplant dish, Imam Bayildi.

Sep 28 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

New York Times Editorial: Now, the Hard Part

President Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran showed leadership this week in committing themselves to resolving the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. On Friday, they capped days of promising gestures with a phone call – the first direct contact between top American and Iranian leaders in more than three decades.

In a series of speeches, media interviews, private meetings and even a news conference, Mr. Rouhani, a moderate who took office in August, and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, laid the groundwork for mending ties with American policy makers, policy analysts and businesspeople. But the phone call was the most audacious sign of a new day, and Mr. Rouhani immediately told the world about it on Twitter.

Jason Stverak: A media law that stifles the press

There is a sad irony in the proposed media shield bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month.

Lawmakers introduced the bill after the federal government violated press freedom by probing the phone records of Associated Press reporters without permission last year. According to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the proposed law “ensures that the tough investigative journalism that holds government accountable will be able to thrive.”

Yet an amendment attached to the bill does the very thing the legislation purports to stop: Rather than providing a “shield” so that the government cannot force those who do journalism to reveal confidential sources, it determines who is and is not legally a journalist, offering protection only for those who fit a too-narrow definition of the term.

Charles M. Blow: The Captain Ahabs of the House

How many more rounds of this must America take?  How many more times must the economic neck of the nation have a knife pressed against it by Republicans demanding a ransom?

It seems the answer is at least once more – or twice.

Washington is still wrangling over a way to avoid a government shutdown next week, while Republicans are already gearing up to refuse to raise the debt limit – something that no Congress under any other president has ever refused to do.

Ralph Nader: The UN Needs a Larger ‘War on Poverty’

The United Nations has recently been the source of much discussion and controversy. In a speech this week to the UN General Assembly, President Obama continued to make his case for a military strike against Syria. The president posed this question (which he could have asked himself) to the assemblage: “What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?”

I’ll pose another question. What is the role of ending extreme poverty on a global scale that threatens the stability of millions of innocent human lives and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct? What about access to food and water, education, and immunization to diseases?

Michelangelo Signorile: Why Barilla Pasta CEO Is So Clueless About Gays

A lot of people are scratching their heads, wondering how the CEO of Barilla Group could be so profoundly stupid as to slam gays by saying they should go eat someone else’s pasta. “For us, the ‘sacral family’ remains one of the company’s core values,” Guido Barilla, CEO of the Parma, Italy-based company, said in an interview. “Our family is a traditional family. If gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta; if they don’t like that, they will eat someone else’s pasta.” Barilla also said that he wouldn’t depict a gay family in an ad, responding to a question about a female Italian politician’s criticisms of the stereotyping of women in ads in Italy, saying of his advertising, “the women are crucial in this.”

What many people don’t understand is that in Italy what Barilla said is, sadly, too often perfectly acceptable. He was speaking on an Italian radio program. He was likely oblivious to how it would play globally, and probably not very conscious of how the rights and conditions of LGBT people, and the role of women, have changed dramatically in the rest of the industrialized West. His pasta may be the No. 1 pasta in the world, but it appears he leads the insular life that many Italian straight men lead — yes, including educated, wealthy men — keeping women in their place and dismissing gays.

Les Leopold: Is the President Selling Out Higher Education to Wall Street?

The Obama Administration is transporting Wall Street logic into higher education by proposing to measure the value of a college by the earnings of its graduates. This conceptual coup may be the best news for Wall Street since the abolition of Glass-Steagall.

We need not repeat all that has been written about how this money-making metric misses the point of college — about how students should be studying to become good citizens and leaders, to find and know themselves, to discover which pursuits in life best suit them, to develop an inquiring mind and so on. But such musings, however admirable, miss the main point: Using future earnings as a measuring stick transforms the entire notion of higher education into yet another financial instrument. No doubt some Wall Street hustlers are already dreaming up how to create derivatives they can sell to insure students and their families against less than expected earning outcomes from the college investment. Wow, an entire new casino in the making, right up there with the ethanol market.

Sep 28 2013

On This Day In History September 28

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.

September 28 is the 271st day of the year (272nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 94 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1928, the antibiotic Penicillin was discovered. It’s discovery is attributed to Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928. He showed that, if Penicillium notatum  was grown in the appropriate substrate, it would exude a substance with antibiotic properties, which he dubbed penicillin. This serendipitous  observation began the modern era of antibiotic discovery. The development of penicillin for use as a medicine is attributed to the Australian Nobel laureate Howard Walter Florey together with the German Nobel laureate Ernst Chain and the English biochemist Norman Heatley.

However, several others reported the bacteriostatic effects of Penicillium earlier than Fleming. The use of bread with a blue mould (presumably penicillium) as a means of treating suppurating wounds was a staple of folk medicine in Europe since the Middle Ages. The first published reference appears in the publication of the Royal Society in 1875, by John Tyndall. Ernest Duchesne documented it in an 1897 paper, which was not accepted by the Institut Pasteur because of his youth. In March 2000, doctors at the San Juan de Dios Hospital in San José, Costa Rica published the manuscripts of the Costa Rican scientist and medical doctor Clodomiro (Clorito) Picado Twight (1887-1944). They reported Picado’s observations on the inhibitory actions of fungi of the genus Penicillium between 1915 and 1927. Picado reported his discovery to the Paris Academy of Sciences, yet did not patent it, even though his investigations started years before Fleming’s. Joseph Lister was experimenting with penicillum in 1871 for his Aseptic surgery. He found that it weakened the microbes but then he dismissed the fungi.

Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928. It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he had mistakenly left open, which was contaminated by blue-green mould, which had formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded that the mould was releasing a substance that was repressing the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered that it was a Penicillium mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum. Charles Thom, an American specialist working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was the acknowledged expert, and Fleming referred the matter to him. Fleming coined the term “penicillin” to describe the filtrate of a broth culture of the Penicillium mould. Even in these early stages, penicillin was found to be most effective against Gram-positive bacteria, and ineffective against Gram-negative organisms and fungi. He expressed initial optimism that penicillin would be a useful disinfectant, being highly potent with minimal toxicity compared to antiseptics of the day, and noted its laboratory value in the isolation of “Bacillus influenzae” (now Haemophilus influenzae). After further experiments, Fleming was convinced that penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931. He restarted clinical trials in 1934, and continued to try to get someone to purify it until 1940.

Sep 28 2013

US Demands India Block Production Of Low-Cost Generic Drugs

One of the biggest drivers of health care costs to the patient is medication. Pharmaceutical companies who hold the patents often make minor changes in the drug to gain a new patent and applying for a new patent on essentially the same drug. This is called “evergreening.” A paper in PLOS examined the economic impact of this practice:

The researchers identified prescriptions of eight follow-on drugs issued by hospital and community pharmacists in Geneva between 2000 and 2008. To analyze the impact of evergreening strategies on healthcare spending, they calculated the market share score (an indicator of market competitiveness) for all prescriptions of the originally patented (brand) drug, the follow-on drug, and generic versions of the drug. The researchers then used hospital and community databases to analyze the costs of replacing brand and/or follow-on drugs with a corresponding generic drug (when available) under three scenarios (1) replacing all brand drug prescriptions, (2) replacing all follow-on drug prescriptions, and (3) replacing both follow-on and brand prescriptions. [..]

Using these methods, the researchers found that over the study period, the number of patients receiving either a brand or follow-on drug increased from 56,686 patients in 2001 to 131,193 patients in 2008. The total cost for all studied drugs was €171.5 million, of which €103.2 million was for brand drugs, €41.1 million was for follow-on drugs, and €27.2 million was for generic drugs. Based on scenario 1 (all brand drugs being replaced by generics) and scenario 2 (all follow-on drugs being replaced by generics), over the study period, the healthcare system could have saved €15.9 million and €14.4 million in extra costs, respectively. The researchers also found some evidence that hospital prescribing patterns (through a restrictive drug formulary [RDF]) influenced prescribing in the community: over the study period, the influence of hospital prescription patterns on the community resulted in an extra cost of €503,600 (mainly attributable to two drugs, esomeprazole and escitalopram). However, this influence also resulted in some savings because of a generic drug listed in the hospital formulary: use of the generic version of the drug cetirizine resulted in savings of €7,700.

(emphasis mine).

In a post at his blog, law professor Jonathan Turley explains how President Barack Obama has yielded to the pressures of the pharmaceutical industry and pushed to block access the inexpensive generic drugs, demanding India, one of the world’s largest suppliers of generic drugs, block production of the low cost medications:

Millions of Americans struggle on a daily basis to afford medicine in the United States which is the highest in the world. Many seek affordable drugs by driving to Canada or seeking medicine (as well as medical care) in India. Yet, one of the first things that President Obama did in the new health care law was to cave to a demand by the powerful pharmaceutical lobby to drop provisions guaranteeing cheaper medicine. The lobby then got Congress to block two measures to guarantee affordable medicine. With billions at stake, Congress and the White House again yielded to the demands of this industry, which is sapping the life savings away of millions of families. Given this history, many are concerned about a meeting planned between Obama and the Prime Minister of India. Public interest groups object that Obama is threatening retaliation against India in the hopes of blocking one of the major alternatives for families in acquiring affordable medicine. Congress has also again responded to industry demands for pressure in India to change its laws and, as a result, raise the cost of medicine. Doctors Without Borders, a highly respected medical group, has denounced the effort of the Obama Administration as threatening basic health care for its own citizens and those around the world.

From Doctors Without Boarders press release:

On the eve of a meeting between US president Barack Obama and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh at the White House, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today warned that India faces retaliatory political pressure from the US government and pharmaceutical industry for its efforts to legally limit abusive patenting practices and to increase access to affordable generic medicines.

Pharmaceutical companies are aggressively lobbying congress and the Obama administration in a broad campaign to press India into changing its intellectual property laws. India is a critical producer of affordable medicines, and competition among generic drug manufacturers there has brought down the price of medicines for HIV, TB, and cancer by more than 90 percent. [..]

The pharmaceutical lobby, led by Pfizer, is currently engaged in a concerted effort to pressure India to change its intellectual property laws. In June, 170 members of US congress wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to send a “strong signal” to India’s high-level officials about its intellectual property policies, and numerous congressional hearings have been held in the past year designed in part to criticize India’s robust defense of public health. Several interest groups have been created to lobby the US government about India’s policies and in early September, US congressional trade leaders requested that the US International Trade Commission initiate an official investigation on India’s intellectual property laws. [..]

Earlier this year, Novartis lost a seven-year-battle to claim a patent on the salt form of the cancer drug imatinib, marketed as Gleevec. The Indian Supreme Court ruled that this new formulation did not meet the patentability requirement in Indian patent law, which limits the common pharmaceutical industry practice of “evergreening,” or extending drug patents on existing drugs in order to lengthen monopolies. [..]

These decisions by the Indian judiciary and government are compliant with all existing international law, including those rules outlined in the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) and the Doha Declaration on TRIPS and Public Health. Both defend access to existing medicines by allowing countries to use legal flexibilities such as patent oppositions and compulsory licenses to overcome intellectual property barriers. Nevertheless, some US pharmaceutical companies are crying foul, and wrongly accusing India’s patent system of not being consistent with TRIPS.

(all emphasis mine)

As Prof. Turley points out, India is forcing down the cost of drugs making life saving drugs available to millions. If Big Pharma is successful the impact will be life threatening to millions around the world.

Sep 28 2013

Friday Night at the Movies

Some people are too young to get the reference.