02/09/2013 archive

Random Japan

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In an annual ritual meant to “foster spiritual strength,” 100 SDF troops in Hokkaido engaged in a tug of war with a tank.

Zookeepers in Fukuoka have discovered that feeding chimpanzees three leeks a day helps them ward off colds.

A 114-year-old Osaka resident took the title of world’s oldest woman after the previous record-holder, a 115-year-old who lived in Kawasaki, died last month.

Sentence of the Week: “A man suspected in a series of computer hacking cases has been linked by a security camera to a man who suspiciously approached a cat, which was later found to have a memory device attached to its collar, investigative sources said.” (via Mainichi Japan)

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”.

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Dean Baker: The US Should Grow the Deficit, Not Shrink It

The US economy is too fragile to reduce spending and raise taxes. Fiscal austerity is a recipe for worse pain.

There is an astounding level of confusion surrounding the current US deficit. There are three irrefutable facts about the deficits:

First, the United States has large deficits because the collapse of the housing bubble sank the economy

Second, if we had smaller deficits the main result would slower growth and higher unemployment.

Third, large projected long-term deficits are the result of a broken health care system, not reckless government “entitlement” programs.

Robert Sheer: America’s Global Torture Network

The title, “Globalizing Torture,” says it all. This meticulous accounting of the network of torture chambers that the United States has authorized in more than 54 nations is a damning indictment that should make all of us in this country cringe with shame. [..]

When it comes to torture in the post 9/11 era, the record of the United States is so appalling that one must question our claimed abhorrence of the barbarism of other nations. In fact, the essence of our rendition program has been to outsource torture to those countries most sadistic in their use of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” That is flattery of a most twisted sort.

New York Times Editorial: Improper Efforts to Limit Competitive Drugs

Two big biotechnology companies, Amgen and Genentech, are lobbying state legislatures to limit competition to their biological drugs that will lose patent protection in the next several years. Before taking any action, lawmakers should wait for guidance from the Food and Drug Administration, the agency that reviews all drugs and their generic versions for safety and effectiveness. [..]

American consumers, insurers and health care providers could potentially save billions of dollars a year by using cheaper versions of brand-name biologicals that now cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year per patient. States should not move to limit access to biosimilar drugs before the F.D.A. has issued final guidelines on how to ensure their safety. In their lobbying campaign, revealed by Andrew Pollack in The Times recently, the two companies have persuaded legislators to introduce bills that would restrict the ability of pharmacists to substitute cheaper biosimilars in filling prescriptions.

Matthew Rothschild: Brennan’s Obscene Testimony at Confirmation Hearing

John Brennan tried to elude his questioners at his confirmation hearing as CIA director.

On one question after another, he excreted octopus ink to dodge or obfuscate. [..]

While he denounced and renounced waterboarding, he refused to call it torture.

And he confirmed that “foreign partners” were holding most of the people the U.S. has under interrogation today, and that the CIA is involved in those interrogations, sometimes directly. “The CIA should be able to lend its full expertise,” he said.

That “full expertise” includes all sorts of techniques that are banned by the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Dave Johnson: Fix the Trade Deficit, Fix the Economy

Yet another report is out showing how the trade deficit is costing us millions of jobs and hurting our economy. This report has specific numbers: between 2.2 million and 4.7 million U.S. jobs, between 1 percent and 2.1 percent of the unemployment rate and a gross domestic product increase of between 1.4 percent and 3.1 percent.

These are real numbers that were carefully calculated. This is a real problem that is hurting people, hurting small and mid-sized companies, hurting communities, hurting our tax base and hurting our ability to make a living in the future. And there are real solutions available to fix the problem.

If you saw the movie Roger & Me, you saw what happened to Flint, Mich. when GM’s executives moved the jobs out of the country. That movie showed what a trade deficit does. Roger & Me came out in 1989 and was really only a small, local look at what was coming to much of the country. In the decades since then, the problem spread to entire regions. This is not some economic dislocation due to changes in the economy; this is regional and even national devastation that doesn’t have to happen and that no country should tolerate.

Mike Lux: TBTF, TBTJ: Too Big to Exist

I am really excited that the long overdue battle over immigration reform and a path to citizenship has finally begun in earnest. While I am heartsick at the reason, it is good news that common-sense gun safety laws are once again being discussed in this country almost two decades after we finally passed the Brady Bill. And the ongoing, never-ending budget fights remain urgently important in terms of stopping more damage to middle class and poor people in America. I know I will be engaging daily in the vitally important battles over all these issues, and I expect my progressive allies all over the country will be as well. [..]

And looming over these economic problems is quite literally the elephant in the room: these gargantuan Too Big To Fail, and apparently Too Big To Jail, Wall Street financial conglomerates. Because of their massive economic and political power, the financial sector swallows up more than 40 percent of the economy in this country, and because they can make more money doing speculative high-speed trading than by investing in manufacturing or infrastructure or making loans to small businesses, those sectors get starved for capital. Because of Wall Street’s obsession with short term profit, workers are not invested in and wages keep getting driven down. Because these banks’ accountants have figured out that their short-term stock prices will stay higher if they continue to show inflated housing assets on their books, they have been unwilling to work with homeowners to write down underwater debt. Because of tax policies such as low capital gains and the carried interest loophole that favor the financial sector, the federal budget is starved for resources, and because Wall Street wants to be able to speculate with senior citizens’ money, the pressure keeps building to cut or privatize Social Security, as well as state and local government workers’ pensions.

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.

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Quick One-Dish Meals, Some Cooking Required

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

This week, in response to readers’ requests on the Recipes for Health Facebook page, I focused on quick one-dish dinners. You may have a different opinion than I do about what constitutes a quick meal. There are quick meals that involve little or no cooking – paninis and sandwiches, uncomplicated omelets, scrambled eggs, and meals that combine prepared items with foods that you cook — but I chose to focus on dishes that are made from scratch. I bought a cabbage and a generous bunch of kale at the farmers’ market, some sliced mushrooms and bagged baby spinach at Trader Joe’s, and used them in conjunction with items I had on hand in the pantry and refrigerator.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Mushroom and Spinach Frittata

A hearty frittata that is good for any meal of the day.

Soft Black Bean Tacos With Salsa and Cabbage

Canned black beans and lots of cabbage combine in a quick, utterly satisfying one-dish taco dinner.

Couscous With Tomatoes, Kale and Chickpeas

A comforting topping that is both a stew and a sauce.

Quick Tomato, White Bean and Kale Soup

A hearty minestrone that can be made in under an hour, start to finish.

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Tofu and Red Pepper

The chopping is the most time-consuming part of this recipe, but you can still be eating within 35 minutes.

On This Day In History February 9

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.

February 9 is the 40th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 325 days remaining until the end of the year (326 in leap years).

On this day in 1950, Joseph Raymond McCarthy, a relatively obscure Republican senator from Wisconsin, accuses State Department of being infiltrated by communists. McCarthy announces during a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, that he has in his hand a list of 205 communists who have infiltrated the U.S. State Department. The unsubstantiated declaration, which was little more than a publicity stunt, suddenly thrust Senator McCarthy into the national spotlight.

Asked to reveal the names on the list, the reckless and opportunistic senator named officials he determined guilty by association, such as Owen Lattimore, an expert on Chinese culture and affairs who had advised the State Department. McCarthy described Lattimore as the “top Russian spy” in America.

These and other equally shocking accusations prompted the Senate to form a special committee, headed by Senator Millard Tydings of Maryland, to investigate the matter. The committee found little to substantiate McCarthy’s charges, but McCarthy nevertheless touched a nerve in the American public, and during the next two years he made increasingly sensational charges, even attacking President Harry S. Truman’s respected former secretary of state, George C. Marshall.

Wheeling speech

McCarthy experienced a meteoric rise in national profile on February 9, 1950, when he gave a Lincoln Day speech to the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. His words in the speech are a matter of some debate, as no audio recording was saved. However, it is generally agreed that he produced a piece of paper that he claimed contained a list of known Communists working for the State Department. McCarthy is usually quoted to have said: “The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205-a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

There is some dispute about whether or not McCarthy actually gave the number of people on the list as being “205” or “57”. In a later telegram to President Truman, and when entering the speech into the Congressional Record, he used the number 57. The origin of the number 205 can be traced: In later debates on the Senate floor, McCarthy referred to a 1946 letter that then-Secretary of State James Byrnes sent to Congressman Adolph J. Sabath. In that letter, Byrnes said State Department security investigations had resulted in “recommendation against permanent employment” for 284 persons, and that 79 of these had been removed from their jobs; this left 205 still on the State Department’s payroll. In fact, by the time of McCarthy’s speech only about 65 of the employees mentioned in the Byrnes letter were still with the State Department, and all of these had undergone further security checks.

At the time of McCarthy’s speech, communism was a growing concern in the United States. This concern was exacerbated by the actions of the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, the fall of China to the communists, the Soviets’ development of the atomic bomb the year before, and by the contemporary controversy surrounding Alger Hiss and the confession of Soviet spy Klaus Fuchs. With this background and due to the sensational nature of McCarthy’s charge against the State Department, the Wheeling speech soon attracted a flood of press interest in McCarthy.