Daily Archive: 04/28/2012

Apr 28 2012

Random Japan



       A bout of cold weather resulted in cherry blossoms appearing five days later than usual in the Tokyo area and three days later than last year.

   The Asahi Shimbun admitted that it failed to declare some ¥250 million in income over a five-year period, resulting in tax authorities requesting ¥86 million in back taxes.

   A class-action lawsuit filed against TEPCO by 14 residents of Iitate, Fukushima, in Tokyo District Court asked for ¥265 million compensation for “mental suffering caused by radiation exposure fears and life in temporary housing.”

   Chilean President Sebastian Pinera will donate a new Moai statue-similar to the large stone faces found on Easter Island-to a school in Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture after theirs was damaged by the tsunami last year.

   A day after Japan’s first executions in 20 months, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said, “the number of heinous crimes has not decreased, so I find it difficult to abolish the death penalty immediately.”

   Noda also pointed out that 85.6 percent of people polled by the Cabinet Office in 2009 said the death penalty is unavoidable, “depending on circumstances.”

   It has been revealed that the Japanese PM’s office “was not linked to the government’s nuclear disaster teleconference system when the nuclear crisis in Fukushima broke out” last year.

Apr 28 2012

Drones: Killing Me By Remote

The “secret drone” program is the biggest absurdity in town. Every one knows the CIA is using drones and has requested an expansion of their use, the Bush and Obama administrations have admitted to using drones, Obama has even joked about it. We know that Obama has assassinated American citizens with it, without due process, but it’s a secret Really? How stupid does the Obama administration think we are?

From Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Ten days ago, I wrote about a request made by CIA Director David Petraeus to expand the drone war in Yemen in accordance with the following, as expressed by the first paragraph of The Washington Post article reporting it [..]

At the time, I wrote that “it’s unclear whether Obama will approve Petraeus’ request for the use of ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen,” though that was true only in the most technical sense. It was virtually impossible to imagine that a request from David Petraeus, of all people, to Barack Obama, of all people, for authority to target even more people in Yemen for death, now without even knowing who they are, would be anything but quickly and eagerly approved. And that is exactly what has now happened, as the Post’s Greg Miller reports today:

   The United States has begun launching drone strikes against suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen under new authority approved by President Obama that allows the CIA and the military to fire even when the identity of those who could be killed is not known, U.S. officials said. . . .

   The decision to give the CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) greater leeway is almost certain to escalate a drone campaign that has accelerated significantly this year, with at least nine strikes in under four months. The number is about equal to the sum of airstrikes all last year. . . .

   Congressional officials have expressed concern that using signature strikes would raise the likelihood of killing militants who are not involved in plots against the United States, angering Yemeni tribes and potentially creating a new crop of al-Qaeda recruits. . .

   Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University, has questioned . . . the wisdom of the expanded drone operations. . . . “I would argue that U.S. missile strike[s] are actually one of the major – not the only, but a major – factor in AQAP’s growing strength.”

Drones knowns and drone unknowns

The Up with Chris panelists discuss counter-terrorism  as the examine the increase of the US military’s use in a tactic that kills targets, civilians included, by remote

Search and destroy by remote

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, a group representing the victims of drone strikes, joins from the Drone Summit in Washington, DC, an event set to investigate the expanding US drone program. The Up panelists key in on what this “expansion” means as the military continues to utilize drone strikes.

Michael Hastings, featured writer for Rolling Stone and a guest panelist on Up with Chris, wrote this chilling analysis of the history and current use of drones and “how killing by remote control has changed the way we fight“:

The use of drones is rapidly transforming the way we go to war. On the battlefield, a squad leader can receive real-time data from a drone that enables him to view the landscape for miles in every direction, dramatically expanding the capabilities of what would normally have been a small and isolated unit. “It’s democratized information on the battlefield,” says Daniel Goure, a national security expert who served in the Defense Department during both Bush administrations. “It’s like a reconnaissance version of Twitter.” Drones have also radically altered the CIA, turning a civilian intelligence-gathering agency into a full-fledged paramilitary operation – one that routinely racks up nearly as many scalps as any branch of the military.

But the implications of drones go far beyond a single combat unit or civilian agency. On a broader scale, the remote-control nature of unmanned missions enables politicians to wage war while claiming we’re not at war – as the United States is currently doing in Pakistan. What’s more, the Pentagon and the CIA can now launch military strikes or order assassinations without putting a single boot on the ground – and without worrying about a public backlash over U.S. soldiers coming home in body bags. The immediacy and secrecy of drones make it easier than ever for leaders to unleash America’s military might – and harder than ever to evaluate the consequences of such clandestine attacks.

“Drones have really become the counterterrorism weapon of choice for the Obama administration,” says Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor who helped establish a new Pentagon office devoted to legal and humanitarian policy. “What I don’t think has happened enough is taking a big step back and asking, ‘Are we creating more terrorists than we’re killing? Are we fostering militarism and extremism in the very places we’re trying to attack it?’ A great deal about the drone strikes is still shrouded in secrecy. It’s very difficult to evaluate from the outside how serious of a threat the targeted people pose.”

Apr 28 2012

Health and Fitness News

Welcome 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.

Four Bowls of Pho


   I have made delicious classic beef pho using oxtail and short ribs to flavor the broth, but this time I just focused on the charred ginger and onion; the spice bag filled with star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and cloves; and an abundance of sweet vegetables to obtain a light but highly aromatic broth. I achieved the flavor I wanted, and now had this beautiful vegan broth, with the option of fish sauce for nonvegetarians to add.

   This would be my canvas for the week’s recipes. I used classic wide rice noodles in some of my soups, untraditional soba in others and quinoa in one. Protein came in the form of tofu, and I mixed and matched seasonal vegetables. The herbs – cilantro, Thai basil, mint – are classic, and the chilies and lime, also classic, bump up the flavor. I served smaller portions as a starter at a dinner party, but mostly enjoyed my pho as dinner every night for a week, and I was sad to see it go.

~ Martha Rose Shulman ~

Simple Vegetarian Pho Broth

To create this broth, use lots of sweet vegetables and the spices that infuse traditional beef pho broth.

Pho With Carrots, Turnips, Broccoli and Tofu

This vegetable combination is sweet and colorful, and soba noodles add heartiness.

Pho With Spinach and Tofu

Using soba rather than rice noodles and seasoning the tofu with soy sauce fuses Asian cuisines in this inviting soup.

Vegetarian Pho With Asparagus and Noodles

The asparagus is cooked separately and added just before serving, to preserve its signature flavor and a little crunch.

Pho With Broccoli and Quinoa

A high-protein grain replaces noodles in this fragrant soup.

Apr 28 2012

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”.

New York Times Editorial: Cars, Trains and Partisan Posturing

The transportation bill is vital, providing billions of dollars to states and communities to build and repair roads, ensure bridges are safe and improve mass transit for millions of commuters. It also sustains some 2.9 million jobs, many in the hard-pressed construction industry.

The Senate gets the importance of this legislation – and the danger of playing partisan games with it. The House does not.

The bipartisan Senate bill calls for investing $109 billion on critical projects over two years. This would keep spending at present levels by supplementing gas-tax revenues – the main source of financing for transportation programs – with money from other parts of the federal budget. In recent years, gas taxes have dwindled even as construction costs rose.

The House bill, by stark contrast, would extend current financing for three months, but makes no provision for sustaining programs over the long haul. The problems don’t end there.

Michael Weibot: Breaking the Eurozone’s Self-Defeating Cycle of Austerity

It has become a ritual: every six months, I debate the IMF at their annual meetings, the last two times represented by their deputy director for Europe. It takes place in the same room of that giant greenhouse-looking World Bank building on 19th Street in Washington, DC. And each time, the IMF’s defense of its policies in the eurozone does not get any stronger.

Maybe, it’s because most economists at the IMF don’t really believe in what they are doing. The fund is, after all, the subordinate partner of the so-called “troika” – with the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) – calling the shots. And most fund economists know their basic national income accounting: fiscal tightening is going to make these economies worse, as it has been doing. Those that have tightened their budgets the most – for example, Greece and Ireland – have shrunk the most, as would be predicted.

Amitabh Pal: Austerity is Killing Europe

The austerity fetish of those making economic decisions is killing Europe’s economy.

The last few days have provided further proof.

“Spain officially slipped back into recession for the second time in three years Monday, after following the German remedy of deep retrenchment in public outlays, joining Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic,” the New York Times reported this week.

And more bad news has followed.

“Britain slid back into recession in the first quarter of the year, according to official figures released Wednesday, undercutting the government’s argument that its austerity program was working,” says today’s Times.

But those in charge seem to be eternally clueless.

Michelle Chen: Depression Symptoms: What’s Behind Europe’s Spike in Suicides

The metaphor of suicide has been used to depict the downward spiral surrounding countries bludgeoned by the economic crisis-particularly U.S. and Eurozone communities plagued by epidemic joblessness and a rash of budget cuts. Now the term literally describes the psychological dimension of the crisis, according to studies on suicide rates.

Some symptoms of the social despair have been grimly spectacular. Greece was jolted one recent morning after aging pensioner Dimitris Christoulas put a pistol to his head in Athens’s main square. In 2010 Americans were shaken by the suicide-by-plane of Andrew Stack, whose anger at the political establishment propelled him into an Austin office complex. Poorer regions have flared with public self-immolations, particularly in the communities of the “Arab Spring” where many youth come to see life as a dead-end street. Underlying these more dramatic examples are statistical patterns that reflect society’s unraveling.

A recently published Lancet study showed spikes in suicide across Europe during the recession. While many factors could contribute to this pattern, researchers found a significant correlation between unemployment and suicide trends.

Robert C. Koehler: States of Fear in a World of Injustice

This was the headline: “Zimmerman, Martin’s parents to face off in court.”

The words, of course, merely summed up a moment in the news cycle last week. We, the news-consuming public, were primed – by CBS, but it could have been any mainstream outlet – for a tidbit of potential drama the next day in the hottest murder trial around right now. But in the process, we were also silently reminded, yet again, that everything is spectacle. At the level at which we call ourselves a nation, nothing is serious, not even matters of life and death

There’s something so painful about all this – painful beyond the horror of the crime itself, or the national murder rate. The 24-7 media trivialize the stakes and gleefully report the “courtroom drama” as a sporting event; but even more distressingly, the legal bureaucracy swings into motion without the least awareness of any value beyond its own procedures. It all happens with a certainty of purpose that generates the illusion that things are under control and social order prevails.

But none of this has anything to do with what social order actually requires when harm has occurred, which is . . . healing.

Scientists Cry Fowl Over the FDA’s Regulatory Failure

Overuse of antibiotics in factory farming kills thousands every year, yet the industry is force-feeding chickens pharmaceuticals

In 2005, the antibiotic fluoroquinolone was banned by the FDA for use in poultry production. The reason for the ban was an alarming increase in antibiotic-resistant campylobacter bacteria in the meat of chickens and turkeys – “superbugs”, which can lead to a lethal form of meningitis that our current antibiotics are no longer effective against.

Antibiotic-resistant infections kill tens of thousands of people every year, more than die of AIDS, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. This problem is on the rise because antibiotics are recklessly overused, especially in the commercial livestock industry, where 80% of all antibiotics manufactured in the US end up.

Fluoroquinolone used to be fed to chickens primarily to stimulate their growth. But why did the banned substance show up recently in eight of 12 samples of “feather meal”, the ground-down plumage leftover from commercial poultry production?

Apr 28 2012

On This Day In History April 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.

April 28 is the 118th day of the year (119th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 247 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day, two events occurred involving the South Pacific. Separated by 158 years, one was a mutiny, the other a grand adventure.

Apr 28, 1789: Mutiny on the HMS Bounty Mutiny on the Bounty: The mutiny  was led by Fletcher Christian against the commanding officer, William Bligh. The sailors were attracted to the idyllic life on the Pacific island, and repelled by the alleged cruelty of their captain. Captain Bligh and 18 sailors were set a drift in the South Pacific, near the island of Tonga. Christian along with some of the mutineers and native Tahitians eventually settled on Pitcairn Island an uninhabited volcanic island about 1000 miles south of Tahiti. The mutineers who remained behind on Tahiti were eventually arrested and returned to England where three were hanged. The British never found Christian and the others. Captain Bligh and the 18 others eventually arrived in Timor.

Years later on 1808. am American whaling vessel discovered the colony of women and children led by the sole surviving mutineer, John Adams. The Bounty had been stripped and burned. Christian and the other 8 mutineers were dead. Adams was eventually granted amnesty and remained the patriarch of Pitcairn Island until his death in 1829.

1947 Thor Heyerdahl and five crew mates set out from Peru on the Kon-Tiki to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. His crew of six fellow Norwegians set sail from Peru on a raft constructed from balsa logs and other materials that were indigenous to the region at the time of the Spanish Conquistadors. After 101 days crossing over 400 miles they crashed into a reef at Raroia  in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947. Heyerdahl’s book, “The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas”, became a best seller, the documentary won an Academy Award in 1951. The original raft is on display in the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo. Heyerdahl died April 18, 2002 in Italy.

Apr 28 2012

Popular Culture (Misic) 20120427: The Moody Blues

I am very fond of The Moody Blues, although regular readers know that I am at heart a fan of The Who.  This short (probably two or three installments) was suggested to me by my dear friend Steve.  He and go back to the eighth grade, and we still speak almost every day, sometimes more than once per day.

To digress, I am very impressed with modern high speed communication.  We live almost 900 miles apart from each other, yet can communicate by telephone for essentially no cost since we both have unlimited cellular minutes.  When we were in the eighth grade, a landline station to station call cost around 25 cents per minute, end we lived only around 15 miles apart at the time.  How things have changed!

In any event, The Moody Blues were one of the older bands from the UK, having formed on 19640504, with the lineup appearing after the fold.  Mark I was not horribly successful, but Mark II were spectacular.