07/02/2011 archive

Random Japan



A Guinness World Record was set in Toyama when 1,566 people got together to play a game of tag.

JAXA’s unmanned probe Hayabusa, which spent five years collecting samples from a space rock named Itokawa, has been certified by Guinness “as the first spacecraft to have brought back materials from an asteroid.”

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from Tohoku University and NEC Corp announced that they have developed the world’s first “large-scale integrated circuit that requires no standby power.”

Last year was the first time since 2001 that the number of suicides in Japan fell below 32,000, according to the National Police Agency.

People in their 70s killed themselves at a lower rate in 2010 compared to a year ago, but folks in their 20s and 30s committed suicide more frequently.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso joined Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing to kick off the inaugural Japanese Film and TV Week, which aims to “promote cultural exchanges between young people from the two countries.”

According to London-based human resources firm ECA, Tokyo is the most expensive city in the world for expats, followed by Oslo, Nagoya, Stavanger (Norway), Yokohama, Zurich, Luanda (Angola), Kobe and Bern.

The Japanese, apparently, have not been drowning their sorrows in booze following the March 11 quake: beer shipments in May were the lowest on record.

The Japan Sumo Association agreed to “provisionally pay a salary” to a wrestler named Sokokurai, who was implicated in the recent bout-fixing scandal. The thing we really like about this story is that the Chinese wrestler’s original name is Enhetubuxin.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Health and Fitness 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.

Pâtés, Minus the Geese


A great way to work more beans into your diet, this week’s pâtés work as spreads on whole-grain bread or crackers. They slice up nicely, too, so you can serve them alongside a salad or vegetable dish. Unmold them from the tureens, if you wish, and reshape them on plates or in bowls with garnishes.

White Bean Pâté

This vegetarian pate has been a Martha Rose Shulman signature dish for decades.

Black Bean Pâté

This tastes like a very light version of refried beans.

Red Bean and Pepper Pâté

Spiced with paprika and cayenne and added red peppers for a Cajun twist.

Lentil Pâté With Cumin and Turmeric

Lentils and curry flavors go together beautifully.

Edamame Pâté

The addition of Marmite or Savorex, yeast extracts with an intense taste, give this vegetarian pâté a meaty flavor.

Obama’s Economic Fallacies

Nobel Prize winning Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has nailed Barack Obama’s economic polices and his penchant for feeding the right wing economic fallacies, as “the false government-family equivalence, the myth of expansionary austerity, and the confidence fairy” and, as Dr. Krugman points out, Obama did it in two sentences:

Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.

Dr. Krugman has already debunked both the myths of government-family equivalence and expansionary austerity. Yet the President still thinks that by caving to the right wing Hoover economic policies the economy will get better. This appears to be a signal that he is about to cave to Republicans once again on spending cuts and no new revenue sources that has led will further slow the economy and may spiral the US into a second recession or worse.  

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”.

Dean Baker Deficit Talk Distracts, Employment Works

How to Make Short Work of Unemployment

Washington always does a superb job of focusing intently on problems that are of little importance. The current, end-of-the-world debt/deficit negotiations is a great case in point. President Obama and the Republican congressional leadership are heatedly negotiating a deal on the deficit that has almost nothing to do with the country’s real economic problem: mass unemployment.

The whole effort is a ridiculous charade that is intended to fix a problem that does not exist. There is no story of runaway spending or deficits, as everyone who has ever looked at the budget numbers knows. The deficit exploded, beginning in 2008, because the economy collapsed: end of story. Anyone who says otherwise either has never looked at the budget or is not being honest.

Charles Davis: Obama Loses His ‘Constitutional Law Professor Hat’

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama was a Distinguished Constitutional Scholar. As a president waging an illegal war, he’s just some guy who, gosh, isn’t really in a position to talk about that complex document he took an oath to uphold and defend.

At a press conference this week, NBC correspondent Chuck Todd — presumably under strict orders not to ask about Newsweek’sPrincess Di cover — questioned the erstwhile legal scholar about whether he felt the War Powers Resolution, which forbids the president from deploying troops without congressional consent except in cases of imminent danger to national security, and even then for only 60 days, passed constitutional muster.

Well, the president replied, “I’m not a Supreme Court justice, so I’m not — I’m not going to put my constitutional law professor hat on here.” And so he didn’t, declaring it irrelevant — “I don’t even have to get to the constitutional question” — as he was already abiding by the law in question, rejecting the claim his actions “in any way violate the War Powers Resolution.”

John Nichols: Medicare’s Still Delivering After 45 Years; The Only Serious Threat to Its Future is Paul Ryan

Forty-five years ago this week, the first Medicare checks were delivered, and the United States made a great leap forward.

Before Medicare was implemented – as a social-welfare program designed not just to deliver care but to poverty — one in five Americans lived below the poverty line.

After the program was implemented, and after related “War on Poverty” initiatives were developed, that number was cut almost in half. Poverty among seniors dropped by two thirds.

Why? Before Medicare, millions of elderly Americans could not afford to buy health care. They did not have access even to basic care. When they needed treatment for the inevitable ailments that are associated with aging, they and their families spent down what meager savings that retained and a stumble into poverty soon followed.

Allison Kilkenney: Budget Nightmares: Government Shutdowns, Slashed Tax Credits

Protesters flooded Minnesota’s Capitol grounds yesterday on the eve of a government shutdown in response to tense budget negotiations. The governor and Republicans must close a $5 billion gap for the next two-year budget cycle, but legislators are torn over how to accomplish that goal.

Though government officials and Governor Mark Dayton have kept the details of the negotiations largely secret, Minnesotans were quite vocal in their demands. Activists stated that they’re open to compromise, but don’t think the burden of the state’s budget woes should be dumped exclusively upon the shoulders of the poor.

Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap : Movement to Abolish Corporate Personhood Gaining Traction

In the year and a half since the Citizens United decision, Americans from all walks of life have become concerned about corporate dominance of our government and our society as a whole. In Citizens United v. FEC, the U.S. Supreme Court (in an act of outrageous “judicial activism) gutted existing campaign finance laws by ruling that corporations, wealthy individuals, and other entities can spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns.

Throughout the country people have responded by organizing against “corporate personhood,” a court-created precedent that illegitimately gives corporations rights that were intended for human beings.

The movement is flowering not in the halls of Congress, but at the local level, where all real social movements start. Every day Americans experience the devastation caused by unaccountable corporations. Thanks to the hard work of local organizers, Boulder, CO could become the next community to officially join this growing effort. Councilmember Macon Cowles is proposing to place a measure on the November ballot, giving Boulder voters the opportunity to support an amendment to the U. S. Constitution abolishing corporate personhood and declaring that money is not speech.

Michelle Chen: Pesticides and Farm Labor Yield a Bitter Harvest

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of card check legislation underscores the priorities of the powerful

Shortly after the group of Mexican “guestworkers” arrived at a Tennessee tomato farm, they realized that their job was killing them, literally. In addition to being crowded into filthy trailers with no source of clean water, they and their living quarters were regularly showered with poison. Despite requirements for protective equipment, they had to go into the fields while exposed to pesticides. Risking abuse and retaliation for challenging their boss, some tried to use cellphones to record the spraying. In the end, they got their evidence, but then got fired.

The workers’ struggle, which led to a lawsuit filed earlier this year, illustrates all the paradoxes of America’s natural bounty. No form of labor is more ingrained in humanity than farm work, but the people who grow our food are being eaten alive every day by the toxins of modern industrial farming. Though consumers are more anxious than ever these days about the effects of pesticides on the food we eat, they seldom consider the health hazards facing the workers who feed our consumption. Yet the further you get up the production chain, the greater the danger.

Maura Stephens: Gov. Cuomo: Do Not Lift Fracking Moratorium

Urgent Open Letter to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo: Do Not Lift Fracking Moratorium

Dear Governor Cuomo,

We just got word that you’re about to lift the fracking moratorium in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds. I’m almost apoplectic from shock, anger, grief, and terror.

A former farmer and trained environmentalist, researcher, and independent journalist, I have spent much of the last three years learning and writing about fracking. I am a cofounder of the Coalition to Protect New York, among other actively engaged organizations working to ban fracking in our state and elsewhere.

We do not trust the Department of Environmental Conservation to get things right on fracking. Even if it were a reliable and trustworthy agency, the DEC’s budget has been cut so drastically and its workforce decimated to the point that it’s virtually hamstrung.

On This Day In History July 2

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.

July 2 is the 183rd day of the year (184th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 182 days remaining until the end of the year.

It is the midpoint of a common year. This is because there are 182 days before and 182 days after (median of the year) in common years, and 183 before and 182 after in leap years. The exact time in the middle of the year is at noon, or 12:00. In the UK and other countries that use “Summer Time” the actual exact time of the mid point in a common year is at (1.00 pm) 13:00 this is when 182 days and 12 hours have elapsed and there are 182 days and 12 hours remaining. This is due to Summer Time having advanced the time by one hour. It falls on the same day of the week as New Year’s Day in common years.

On this day in 1964, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the historic Civil Rights Act in a nationally televised ceremony at the White House.

In the landmark 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. The 10 years that followed saw great strides for the African-American civil rights movement, as non-violent demonstrations won thousands of supporters to the cause. Memorable landmarks in the struggle included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955–sparked by the refusal of Alabama resident Rosa Parks to give up her seat on a city bus to a white woman–and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream” speech at a rally of hundreds of thousands in Washington, D.C., in 1963.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, enacted July 2, 1964) was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public (“public accommodations”). Powers given to enforce the act were initially weak, but were supplemented during later years. Congress asserted its authority to legislate under several different parts of the United States Constitution, principally its power to regulate interstate commerce under Article One (section 8), its duty to guarantee all citizens equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment and its duty to protect voting rights under the Fifteenth Amendment.

Six In The Morning

China’s Communists mull the party’s future

The 90th anniversary celebration has some bemoaning the changes time has wrought. Oh, for the days when a man could hang a portrait of Mao above his couch.

By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times  

Want to know what happens these days within a Chinese Communist Party cell?

Party members at the Jinxin Garden apartments get together once a month to discuss their volunteer projects, like raising money for earthquake victims and preventing neighborhood robberies. Or they plan excursions, such as a trip last week from their southern Beijing suburb to the Olympic stadium for a concert honoring the party’s 90th anniversary.

If it sounds as exotic as the Rotary Club, that’s precisely the problem. The 90-year milestone, celebrated Friday, prompts the question of how an ideology born out of the class struggles of 19th century Europe can remain relevant in the 21st century. By surviving to the age of 90, is the party a testament to endurance or is it merely old and in the way?

Saturday’s Headlines:

Syria defies Assad with largest protests so far

Palestinians trapped in a limbo between an unsustainable present and an uncertain future

End of an era as Germany’s compulsory military conscription finishes

Editor, journalist freed on bail in Zimbabwe

Greece puts halt to Gaza flotilla in a win for Israel

Le Tour 2011- Stage 1

Passage du Gois La Barre-de-Monts to Mont des Alouettes Les Herbiers (119 miles)

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

As I mentioned  during last year’s Tour, the departure of Lance Armstrong, the United States holder of a record 7 maillot jaune will separate the jingoist fanboy wannabes from true aficionados of professional bicycle racing at its highest level.

I have to admit that I’m probably closer to a fanboy and what I don’t know about the sport is an ocean in which my drop is hardly noticeable.  It is on my list of weird sports that are wildly popular in the rest of the world and virtually ignored in the States as are Football (as opposed to Throwball), Formula One Racing, America’s Cup, Rugby, Cricket, and Curling.

Ok, so maybe Curling is not so wildly popular but it looks like it would be a hoot to play.

Equally my hands are not clean on the jingoist front though I can at least plead historic interest in the career of Greg LeMond who wore the maillot jaune on an (at the time) record 5 occasions.  Unfortunately Greg has shown himself recently the pettiest kind of jealous record holder by lending his vastly diminished credibility to the witchhunting of Lance Armstrong.

I expect that personally Lance is the arrogant jock type that it’s painful to hang around with for more than 5 seconds at a time, what I know for a fact is this- he was the most aggressively drug tested athlete in his sport, perhaps in all sports.  He never, ever tested positive.

As opposed to Alberto Contador, three time champion, twice consecutive.  On July 20th the day before the final rest day of the 2010 Tour they detected traces of blood doping in his urine and on the 21st he tested positive for clenbuterol which he blames on tainted meat.

For once I agree with Armando’s prediction (kiss of death, I know) that the likely outcome this year is another Contador victory, followed by an August hearing that strips him of his 2010 title.  Other outcomes are possible, it’s important to remember Contador only won by 39 seconds over Schleck (who lost his brother who was also his primary leadout guy to an accident in the second or third stage) and a mere 3:40 covered the top 4.

This year they’ve made some adjustments to the points.  They’ll start with a fairly long flat stage today, part of it over a bridge that is underwater at high tide.  This is intended to be a stately grand entrance, like Monster Trucks parading the Stadium before qualifying.  No racing is expected, that will happen tomorrow in the Team Time Trials.

On the other hand one of Lance’s keys to success was his Tiger Woods work ethic.  He always came to play so there could be some surprises.  Race organizers want it to be more exciting than a Prologue which are quite exciting indeed.

My Dad had the experience of visiting along the route of a race in the U.S. that featured Contador last year after Le Tour and the Peloton passed by twice.  He said it was a notable event, sucked the air right out of the street.

Coverage starts at 7 am on Vs.  Mostly nothing notable happens but there are constant repeats so I’ll try and keep track of events you might want to look for.  


The reason I never get tired of talking about the how part of meta is I’m hopeful that some student will learn enough for them to continue or contribute.

I must admit the Yahoo News format change on Tuesday has proven a bit of a stumper for me.  What seems to have happened is that they removed the likely categories (Top Stories, World, U.S. News, Politics, Business, Science, etc.) and dumped all their wire service stories into a big basket, in fact making it tough to distiguish which of the 3 main services- AFP, Reuters, or AP you were sampling.

Over the last 3 days I’ve been able to assemble a collection of Bookmarks that approximately cover the last 24 hours of output.  The problem is numbers.  There are too many of them.

At 25 a page there are over 1,375 headlines to look at and while I’m not sure what the current Soapblox limit is, dk could only handle 60 or so which means I need to adjust my filters somehow so I can get the cut to 4%.  It’s harder and more time consuming to write short.

Not to mention on your computer.  Ubuntu 10.4 is keeping windows open in numbers that bring my XP system on the same hardware to it’s knees, but it does slug down and I have to concentrate.

Right now I’m finding it takes 2 – 3 hours to cover a single service by starting at 24 hours ago, clicking each promising headline into it’s own window, checking for interest and length, and shrinking it to move on to the next.  Only at the end in the last 45 minutes or so am I assembling it with cut and paste and formatting, completely different from my previous practice of picking and choosing as I went along.  By starting at the end and moving forward in time I create a stack of stories that I unload into the text in roughly chronological order.

There are certainly some other interesting organizational things I can do that may ease accessibility for you, but I’m trying to disdain them because of their time wasting qualities.  I realize my News Digests are probably the most valuable thing I write, but I feel sometimes they distract me.

So below you will find some links you can turn into bookmarks for your private amusement and I shall struggle on trying to make this a manageable task.

Popular Culture (Music) 20110701: The Who. Live at Leeds

Live at Leeds was the first live recorded record album by The Who that was legitimate.  There were plenty of rather crudely recorded, pirated versions of many of their live performances, but back in 1970 those analogue ones, mostly recorded by audience members under cover, rapidly were degraded by the very process of analogue to analogue copying, making even third generation copies almost unintelligible.   That is too bad, because some of those performances were great.

After the huge success of Tommy, and the concomitant success of the associated tour, Kit Lambert and The Who decided to record an actual live record that would capture their sound.  Live at Leeds did it well, but was too short because of the limitations of vinyl records at the time.  Remember, and I have covered this topic before, only 45 minutes, give or take a few, were possible with the vinyl technology at the time.

Let us examine what is really a wonderful record.  Note that there is very little video available, so that just the music is usually given here.  By the way, the album charted at #3 in the UK and at #4 in the US.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann

If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

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