Daily Archive: 12/07/2013

Dec 07 2013

Random Japan

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We wish you an age-appropriate Christmas and a happy Pokémon tree!

 Rona Moon

This amazing tree was recently spotted on Japanese site Pokésoku, with the question: “I thought I’d buy my nephew a Pokemon for Christmas, but can a six-year-old child handle it?”

What do you think? Is six too young for your first Pokémon? I know my nephew was mad keen on Pokémon at eight years of age, and he didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects. I think that even a six-year-old would be into catching ’em all. Although in some rare cases children may blame their gambling problem on early experiences with game cards and decide to sue, to the best of my knowledge claims like these have been unsuccessful.

Dec 07 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

Cooking Light With Seafood

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Many of you, still full from Thanksgiving, may be anticipating holiday parties to come and wondering how to balance things out with some of the meals in between. With this in mind, I decided to work on light fish and seafood dinners for this week’s Recipes for Health. They should provide you with a respite from rich food during this shortened window between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Martha Rose Shulman

Alaskan Cod in Sweet and Sour Pepper Sauce

A sauce that can double as a vegetable side dish.

Cod Fillets With Blender Cilantro and Yogurt Sauce

A cool sauce over hot fish makes for a delicious meal.

Oven-Steamed Cod or Mahi Mahi in Green Tomatillo Salsa

Tomatillo sauce works with a wide range of fish.

Cod Ceviche

A light, satisfying meal that can be served over a bed of spinach.

Steamed Clams in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Clams are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, low in calories, and very high in iron.

Dec 07 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 Board: Work and Rewards

The employment report for November shows why fast-food workers across the nation are striking for higher pay and why workers are pushing for a higher minimum wage at the federal, state and local levels. [..]

Unfortunately, job creation remains concentrated in low-income work, including in retail, restaurants and bars. It is little surprise that fast-food workers have been organizing and agitating for better pay. Their employers are adding jobs and earning profits, but pay is stuck around $9 an hour. A recent study found that more than half of fast-food workers rely on public assistance. A wage increase – the strikers are asking for $15 an hour – would clearly help them, and everyone else, because the public aid they require costs taxpayers an estimated $7 billion a year.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: What’s the Best Way to Remember Nelson Mandela?

After democracy came, they tore down the prison where freedom fighters were held and used the bricks to build the nation’s first Constitutional Court.

Visitors to South Africa are often struck by the depth and breadth of that country’s affection for Nelson Mandela. I still have the newspaper I bought at a supermarket checkout counter there on the day of Mandela’s planned release from the hospital. The headline uses Mandela’s clan name and reads, “Madiba expected to return home today.”

20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to imagine kind words about an ANC leader, much less the use of an African clan name, in a supermarket tabloid. Times change.

But Nelson Mandela wasn’t a “personality” politician. He was the leader of a movement and a model for the world. We’ll be learning from his example long after the eulogies have ended.

Eugene Robinson: Raise the Minimum Wage

Now that President Obama has outlined the crisis in economic mobility, he should begin by pressing his demand that Congress raise the minimum wage-and not by a little, but a lot.

Obama’s speech Wednesday about the need to redress growing inequality was sweeping and comprehensive-perhaps to a fault. In outlining solutions, he talked about the minimum wage. But he also mentioned immigration reform, rewriting the corporate tax code, eliminating the “sequester” budget cuts, holding down tuition costs for higher education, providing universal preschool, retraining the long-term unemployed, creating “Promise Zones” in poor communities … the list goes on.

All are worthy goals, but what chance is there of getting such an ambitious agenda through Congress? The Republican majority in the House disagrees with Obama philosophically and opposes him reflexively; if he’s for it, they’re against it.  

Jared Bernstein: No, a Decent Jobs Report Does Not Mean We No Longer Need an Extension of Unemployment Insurance!

Okay, there were too many negatives in that title. Let me say it more positively: We positively must extend UI benefits, lest 1.3 million UI recipients lose needed UI benefits in a job market that is improving, but still slack.

Here’s the argument: The Senate and the House are working on a budget deal, and key Democrats, including the White House, are arguing that the deal should include another extension of UI benefits. Opponents say, “been there, done that.” We’ve already extended benefits a bunch of times and now that the job market’s getting stronger, we don’t need to do so again.

Not so. As I wrote this morning, “Policymakers must not conflate an improving labor market with a healed job market. Until job opportunities are more robust, the extension is needed, both for the sake of the long-term jobless and the macro-economy (since UI has a large multiplier).”

David Sirota: Eating Like There’s No Tomorrow

Right around now, many Americans are picking at the last few chunks of leftover turkey. This annual ritual is a reminder that stripped of its pilgrim mythology, Thanksgiving is an extended paroxysm of meat consumption. Oh, sure, we go out of our way to pretend it isn’t really about that to the point where the president of the United States makes a public spectacle out of pardoning a bird. Yet, this particular holiday is our culture’s grandest celebration of flesh eating-and therefore, it has become a microcosmic example of our willingness to risk self-destruction.

I can already hear your inner monologue-the one saying that such apocalyptic language is irresponsible hyperbole. But take a moment away from those leftovers to consider just two scientific realities.

Jow Conason: Why Republicans Can’t Address Rising Inequality

So far, the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s historic address on economic inequality has not veered from the predictable cliches of tea party rhetoric. It was appropriately summarized in a tweet from House Speaker John Boehner, complaining that the Democrat in the White House wants “more government rather than more freedom,” ignoring his challenge to Republicans to present solutions of their own.

But for Republicans to promote real remedies-the kind that would require more than 140 characters of text-they first would have to believe inequality is a real problem. And there is no evidence they do, despite fitful attempts by GOP leaders on Capitol Hill to display their “empathy” for the struggling, shrinking middle class.

Dec 07 2013

On This Day In History December 7

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.

December 7 is the 341st day of the year (342nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 24 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1787, (In) Dover, Delaware, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States.

Less than four months before, the Constitution was signed by 37 of the original 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia. The Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, and, by the terms of the document, the Constitution would become binding once nine of the former 13 colonies had ratified the document. Delaware led the process, and on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, making federal democracy the law of the land. Government under the U.S. Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.

Delaware  is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The state takes its name from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, an English nobleman and Virginia’s first colonial governor, after whom (what is now called) Cape Henlopen was originally named.

Delaware is located in the northeastern portion of the Delmarva Peninsula and is the second smallest state in area (after Rhode Island). Estimates in 2007 rank the population of Delaware as 45th in the nation, but 6th in population density, with more than 60% of the population in New Castle County. Delaware is divided into three counties. From north to south, these three counties are New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. While the southern two counties have historically been predominantly agricultural, New Castle County has been more industrialized.

The state ranks second in civilian scientists and engineers as a percentage of the workforce and number of patents issued to companies or individuals per 1,000 workers. The history of the state’s economic and industrial development is closely tied to the impact of the Du Pont family, founders and scions of E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, one of the world’s largest chemical companies.

Before its coastline was first explored by Europeans in the 16th century, Delaware was inhabited by several groups of Native Americans, including the Lenape in the north and Nanticoke in the south. It was initially colonized by Dutch traders at Zwaanendael, located near the present town of Lewes, in 1631. Delaware was one of the thirteen colonies participating in the American Revolution and on December 7, 1787, became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, thereby becoming known as The First State.

Delaware is the home state of Vice President Joseph Biden

Dec 07 2013

Why Health Care Costs Are So High

In a recent series of article by New York Times‘ reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal on the cost of health care in the US, they examined the cost of an ER visit and getting there by ambulance. The cost of three stitches for one young lady was $$2,229.11 and a 15 minute ambulance ride for another with head and facial injuries was  $1,772.42. Why does it cost so much? Part of the reason is privatization and lack of regulation.

Paying Till It Hurts: E.R. Visit

As Hospital Prices Soar, a Stitch Tops $500

In a medical system notorious for opaque finances and inflated bills, nothing is more convoluted than hospital pricing, economists say. Hospital charges represent about a third of the $2.7 trillion annual United States health care bill, the biggest single segment, according to government statistics, and are the largest driver of medical inflation, a new study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found. [..]

The main reason for high hospital costs in the United States, economists say, is fiscal, not medical: Hospitals are the most powerful players in a health care system that has little or no price regulation in the private market.

Rising costs of drugs, medical equipment and other services, and fees from layers of middlemen, play a significant role in escalating hospital bills, of course. But just as important is that mergers and consolidation have resulted in a couple of hospital chains – like Partners in Boston, or Banner in Phoenix – dominating many parts of the country, allowing them to command high prices from insurers and employers.

Think the E.R. Is Expensive? Look at How Much It Costs to Get There

Thirty years ago ambulance rides were generally provided free of charge, underwritten by taxpayers as a municipal service or provided by volunteers. Today, like the rest of the health care system in the United States, most ambulance services operate as businesses and contribute to America’s escalating medical bills. Often, they are a high-cost prequel to expensive emergency room visits.

Although ambulances are often requested by a bystander or summoned by 911 dispatchers, they are almost always billed to the patient involved. And the charges, as well as insurance coverage, range widely, from zero to tens of thousands of dollars. [..]

Part of the inconsistency in pricing stems from the fact that ambulance services are variously run by fire departments, hospitals, private companies and volunteer groups. Some services are included in insurance networks, others not. [..]

In a recent study, the federal Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General noted that the Medicare ambulance services were “vulnerable to abuse and fraud,” in part because there were lax standards on when an ambulance was needed and how the trip should be billed. The number of transports paid for by Medicare increased 69 percent between 2002 and 2011, while the number of Medicare patients increased only 7 percent during that period. In the last year, two ambulance companies have pleaded guilty or settled claims for overbilling Medicare. [..]

If an emergency call comes to 911, dispatchers decide which ambulance to send, depending on proximity. Most ambulance companies bill according to the level of skill of the team on board, rather than the medical needs of the patients they collect. A team capable of administering Advanced Cardiac Life Support costs more than one with only basic first aid training.

Distance rarely counts for much, although a small mileage charge is added to the fee. Some companies even charge hundreds of dollars extra if a friend or relative rides along with an injured patients.

Dec 07 2013

Striking for Raising the Minimum Wage

“We Can’t Survive on $7.25”: Fast-Food Workers Kick Off National Day of Action for Higher Pay



Full transcript can be read here

Fast-food workers are walking off the job in about 100 cities today in what organizers call their largest action to date. Today’s strikes and protests continue a campaign that began last year to call for a living wage of $15 an hour and the right to form a union without retaliation. Early this morning, Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman and Hany Massoud headed to Times Square in New York City where a group of McDonald’s workers were joined by a crowd of hundreds of supporters to kick off their strike. We hear voices from the protest and speak to Camille Rivera of United NY, part of the newly formed New Day New York Coalition, which has organized this week of action to fight income inequality and build economic fairness.

US fast-food workers strike over low wages in nationwide protests

By Adam Gabatt, The Guardian

Thousands due to strike across 100 cities through the day in a signal of the growing clamour for action on income equality

Thousands of fast food and retail workers went on strike across the US on Thursday in a signal of the growing clamour for action on income equality.

In Chicago, hundreds of protesters gathered outside a McDonalds at 6.15am. As a large “Christmas Grinch” ambled about in freezing temperatures, demonstrators chanted for the minimum wage to be increased to $15 per hour.

It was the first of nine strikes in Chicago, with employees at McDonalds, Wendy’s, Walgreens, Macy’s and Sears also due to walk off shift. Low wage workers were due to strike across 100 cities through the day, including Boston, Detroit, New York City, Oakland, Los Angeles and St Louis.

“Poverty Wages in the Land of Plenty”

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

The holiday season is upon us. Sadly, the big retailers are Scrooges when it comes to paying their staffs. Undergirding the sale prices is an army of workers earning the minimum wage or a fraction above it, living check to check on their meager pay and benefits. The dark secret that the retail giants like Wal-Mart don’t want you to know is that many of these workers subsist below the poverty line, and rely on programs like food stamps and Medicaid just to get by.  This holiday season, though, low-wage workers from Wal-Mart to fast-food restaurants are standing up and fighting back.

“Wal-Mart was put in an uncomfortable spotlight on what should be the happiest day of the year for the retailer,” Josh Eidelson told me, reporting on the coordinated Black Friday protests. “These were the largest protests we’ve seen against Wal-Mart … you had 1,500 stores involved; you had over a hundred people arrested.” Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer, with 2.2 million employees, 1.3 million of whom are in the U.S. It reported close to $120 billion in gross profit for 2012. Just six members of the Walton family, whose patriarch, Sam Walton, founded the retail giant, have amassed an estimated combined fortune of between $115 billion-$144 billion. These six individuals have more wealth than the combined financial assets of the poorest 40 percent of the U.S. population.