07/30/2011 archive

Random Japan



Tohoku University Hospital will begin testing a drug that may delay the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Researchers from three Japanese universities published a paper in the British journal Nature that “revealed the three-dimensional structure of the central part of human chromosomes.” The finding could help scientists better understand Down’s syndrome and cancer.

It was announced that a 4,300-year-old pottery shard unearthed in Aomori in 1993 may contain the “oldest depiction of a shaman on an artifact uncovered in Japan.”

The University of Tokyo asked the education ministry if it would be OK to begin the academic year in the fall, just like schools overseas.

Leading Japanese e-tailer Rakuten announced that it will open an online shop for electronic books early next month. Panasonic will provide the tablet device for the service.

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.

Summer’s Treasure: Tomatoes


Sicilian Stuffed Tomatoes

These stuffed tomatoes can be made more flavorful with additional anchovies.

Sweet and Sour Eggplant, Tomatoes and Chickpeas:

Pomegranate molasses makes this Lebanese dish both sweet and sour.

Tomato, Spelt and Herb Salad

This is a light summer chopped salad with chewy and crunchy textures. Give it time to marinate for the best flavor.

Slow-Roasted Cherry Tomatoes With Basil Oil

Once roasted, cherry tomatoes become even sweeter. Serve these as an appetizer or side dish.

Tomato Straciatella

Tomatoes make an unusual appearance in this Italian-style egg drop soup.

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”.

Robert Kuttner: Where is Our Crisis President?

Obama should have steered us away from disaster. Instead he drove us straight to it.

Like most American spectators watching this slow-motion train wreck of a budget disaster, I have assumed that at the last minute the damsel would be pulled off the track of the oncoming train. Somehow, the Republicans would appreciate the stakes, a compromise (albeit on sickeningly Republican terms) would be reached, and the nation would be spared the catastrophe of default-a gratuitous deepening of an already dire economic mess.

Now I am not so sure. In the last 48 hours, the Republicans have dug in even more, and Democrats are drawing the line at the Reid plan (which is already far too Republican).

For those who think that a default won’t happen because it is in nobody’s interest, think back on World War I. It was in nobody’s interest. Yet it destroyed Europe’s common civilization and ushered in nearly a century of economic instability and war. World War I occurred because both sides dug in and assumed the other would have to blink first. But that was a miscalculation. Instead of a last-minute deal, we got four years of trench warfare, economic ruin, and millions of wasted lives. Oops.

New York Times Editorial: It’s Up to the Senate

Mr. Reid is negotiating with Republicans on their demands for an enforcement mechanism to make sure the deficit cuts take place in the later years of the deal. Both parties envision a bipartisan panel that could recommend cuts; if those are not adopted, some kind of automatic cuts would go into effect. This automatic knife can be dangerous, arbitrarily cutting without regard to economic circumstances. Democrats should insist that taxes and revenues are not ruled out as a way to lower the deficit.

The House planned a deliberately obstructionist vote on Saturday against the Reid bill, but some Senate Republicans are signaling they are willing to agree to this more reasonable framework. If enough of them can join the Democrats and ignore the bleats of the Tea Party, it may still be possible to avert calamity.

Jane Hamsher: Is Standard and Poor’s Manipulating US Debt Rating to Escape Liability for the Mortgage Crisis?

It’s becoming more and more obvious that Standard and Poor’s has a political agenda riding on the notion that the US is at risk of default on its debt based on some arbitrary limit to the debt-to-GDP ratio. There is no sound basis for that limit, or for S&P’s insistence on at least a $4 trillion down payment on debt reduction, any more than there is for the crackpot notion that a non-crazy US can be forced to default on its debt.

Whatever S&P’s agenda, it has nothing to do with avoiding default risks or putting the US on sound fiscal footing. It appears to be intertwined with their attempts to absolve themselves from responsibility for their role in the 2008 financial crisis, and they are willing to manipulate not only the 2012 election but the world economy to escape the SEC’s attempts to regulate them.

It’s time the media and Congress started asking Standard and Poors what their political agenda is and whom it serves.

Thomas Geoghegan: Use Article I to Address Debt Ceiling

But is the debt ceiling law really unconstitutional? My old law professor says no. He also says no one has “standing” – an inside baseball term for the special injury a litigant must plead in order to sue. Other law professors opine that the courts will do nothing, because it is a political question.

Of course, as to whether anything is “unconstitutional,” there is no Platonic answer up there in heaven. It’s unconstitutional if a court says it is.

Virtually the entire legal debate about the debt ceiling has been focused on the 14th Amendment, section 4. It’s easy to see why. The language is on point: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned (emphasis supplied).” That would seem to say: If Congress authorized it, Congress must pay for it.

But the far better case is that, under Article I of the Constitution, Congress has no power to welch on a debt. Article I, unlike the 14th Amendment, is a restraint on Congress. If the power is not in Article I – Congress does not have it.

William Greider: Obama’s Bad Bargain

The most distressing outcome of the deficit hysteria gripping Washington may be what Barack Obama has revealed about himself. It was disconcerting to watch the president slip-slide so easily into voicing the fallacious economic arguments of the right. It was shocking when he betrayed core principles of the Democratic Party, portraying himself as high-minded and brave because he defied his loyal constituents. Supporters may hope this rightward shift was only a matter of political tactics, but I think Obama has at last revealed his sincere convictions. If he wins a second term, he will be free to strike a truly rotten “grand bargain” with Republicans-“pragmatic” compromises that will destroy the crown jewels of democratic reform.

The president has done grievous damage to the most vulnerable by trying to fight the GOP on its ground-accepting the premise that deficits and debt should be a national priority. He made the choice more than a year ago to push aside the real problem-the vast loss and suffering generated by a failing economy.

Tarak Barkawi: Neoliberalism, Not Multiculturalism Is Biggest Threat to Western Values

The paranoid style in politics often imagines unlikely alliances that coalesce into an overwhelming threat that must be countered by all necessary means.

In Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington conjured an amalgamated East – an alliance between “Confucian” and “Islamic” powers – that would challenge the West for world dominance. Many jihadis fear the Crusader alliance between Jews and Christians. They forget that until recently, historically speaking, populations professing the latter were the chief persecutors of the former.

Now Anders Breivik has invoked the improbable axis of Marxism, multiculturalism and Islamism, together colonising Europe. As he sees multiculturalism as essentially a Jewish plot, Breivik has managed to wrap up the new and old fascist bogies in one conspiracy: communists, Jews and Muslims.

Lee Saunders: Undermining the Right to Vote

There is no right more precious in our nation than the right of citizens to cast a ballot on Election Day.  That is why generations of Americans have sacrificed and even died in efforts to expand the right to vote.  Yet across the country, powerful corporate interests and the right-wing politicians who do their bidding are working hard to make it more difficult for citizens to vote.  In more than two dozen states this year, bills have been introduced to restrict the right to vote; and in several states where Wall Street-backed Republicans control both houses of the legislature, governors have signed these fundamentally misguided measures into law.

As a result of these cynical attempts to turn back from the progress America has made in expanding voting rights, millions of voters are in for a surprise when they go to the polls.  They will find new requirements that have never before existed, requirements that have been put in place to keep particular voters – students, minorities and senior citizens – from having their voices heard in our democracy.

On This Day In History July 30

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 30 is the 211th day of the year (212th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 154 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

F1: Hungaroring Qualifying

I’ve kind of been noticing the odd connections between the Murdoch phone hacking scandal and Formula One.  This week’s coincidence is the BSkyB pay TV network in Britain that the Murdochs were looking to acquire before the scandal broke and which they still own 39% of has inked a deal for the 2012 broadcast rights, taking them away from the BBC and leaving only half the races available on “free” television.

The New York Times kind of miscounts the number of Formula One Grand Prix held in Hungary, forgetting the 75th Anniversary of the very first one in 1936 (you should really click that link, it’s a fascinating read).

Jenson Button is celebrating his 200th start in F1.  He thinks his biggest mistake was the 2nd contract he signed with Williams that he had to buy his way out of for $17 million in 2007 to move to Honda (later Brawn).  The English language press is celebrating a McLaren resurgence conveniently forgetting that one race does not make a season and that last week Button had his second consecutive DNF.

The week’s big off track news was the announcement of the tentative 2012 schedule.  Turkey gets dropped.  USA gets added and shifted to the next to last race to avoid the Texas summer heat.  The desert races in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain get shifted to the end of the calendar too while the season starts with Australia and Malaysia.  They’re trying to group the races by region to cut down on travel expenses and schedule them closer together with more consecutive off time including a 5 week summer break.

The Hungaroring is frequently described as Monaco without the houses.  It’s a slow twisty track where they’ll be using lots of down force and the softest tires they can get.  This is said to be good for McLaren which is having trouble with its Drag Reduction System.  Charging the Kinetic Energy Recovery System is putting a lot of drag on most teams during turning and is causing the rear ends to hop around.  It’s traditionally a very hot track too and there could be engine failures.  Webber took the front end off his Red Bull during practice and they’re still usining the mystery wires which were clearly visible.  Buemi is going to be penalized 5 grid positions for an incident last week at the Nurburgring.

This is the 11th race of 19 and the last before Spa at the end of August as the teams take their summer break.  As usual surprises below.

Congressional Game of Chicken: Countdown to Default (Up Date x 3)

The Boehner bill on raising the debt ceiling barely passed the House on a strict partisan line with a vote of 218 to 210. Not one Democrat voted for the bill, 22 Republicans voted against it and 5 Democrats were not present to vote. The bill was essential dead on arrival in the Senate where it was quickly table in a bipartisan vote of 59 to 41.

This is what’s next but it won’t happen until very late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. Why because Sen. Mitch McConnell says so. McConnell is refusing to even negotiate with Reid

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s proposed bill is no prize either but at least it moves the debt ceiling limit to past the 2012 election into 2013 and a new congressional session. (I think Reid is betting on taking back the House.) Reid also said that he is open to tweaking but it’s up to Republicans

At a late Friday press conference, Reid suggested that the door is still open to further tweak his proposal, including by adding failsafes to assure future entitlement and tax reforms — but it’s up to Republicans to offer up their votes.

“We have a closet full of triggers, people have suggested dozens of them but even though earlier this week, I was sitting talking to Jack Lew about triggers for an hour and a half and we can’t get Republicans to move on any trigger. We’re not going to have cuts on more programs without some revenue – that is a line we’ve drawn in the sand,” Reid said. “It’s up to the Republicans, right now we have a proposal…we are waiting for them to do something, anything, move toward us.”

How The Revised Reid Amendment Compares To The Revised Boehner Bill

h/t David Dayen @ FDL and Brian Buetler @ TPM

Up Date, 12:22 PM EDT: House Speaker John Boehner has said that the Reid bill is “dead in the water” and is refusing to meet or compromise with the Democrats. The Senate will vote for cloture on the bill at 1 AM Sunday morning. Boehner plans to hold a symbolic vote on the bill this afternoon to reject the plan preemptively.

Reid’s plan which cuts more without new revenue and creates the “super commission” only differs in the length of time for considering raising the debt ceiling again. The bi[artisan Senate plan extends the debt ceiling through 2012 while the tea party plan wants it rehashed in 5 months with guarantees that a “cut, cap and destroy” constitutional amendment is passed. Boehner is probably the worst house speaker since Newt Gingrich and even he knew how to get his ducks in a row and conpromise.

Up Date: 15:35 EDT The House has voted to reject the Reid bill before it even gets to a vote in the Senate. All of the Republicans votes nay along with a few Democrats. The voter was 173 – 246.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Reid are on their way to the White House to meet with the President to presumably to discuss options and the next move.

This is what you get for negotiating with terrorists.

The Reid bill will still come to a vote late tonight at 1 AM EDT.

Up Date 1430 EDT: The Reid bill failed to reach cloture this afternoon it is now back to the drawing board.

Popular Culture (Music) 20110729. Who’s Next

Those of you who read my pieces know that I often write about my favourite band, The Who.  (I used the UK spelling intentionally this time, rare for me these days).  This time we shall examine what many people say was their finest work.  I am not sure that I agree completely, but it was extremely good.

Who’s Next is actually a compilation of songs, most from Townshend, that became an album after the ill fated Lifehouse project, Townshend’s opus, never came to light.  He finally finished it, many years later, but the final product was far different than this record.  We shall discuss Who’s Next tonight, and will continue the discussion about Lifehouse next week, after I see your comments and questions.

First let us get to the facts.  Ready to go?

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