03/16/2013 archive

Random Japan

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According to financial disclosure statements, deputy prime minister Taro Aso is the proud owner of houses in Shibuya and Karuizawa; 360,398 shares of stock in 16 companies; and eight golf club memberships.

The government’s Council for Ainu Policy Promotion says it hopes to conduct Japan’s first-ever census of indigenous peoples.

Officials at the newly launched Nuclear Regulation Authority say they’ll digitize and publish online 900,000 pages of documents pertaining to the Fukushima disaster.

The NPA announced a plan to force “malicious cyclists”-i.e., those who have been busted for more than one traffic violation-to attend lectures on safe cycling.

A Cabinet Office survey has found that a plurality of Japanese “oppose revising the Civil Code to allow married couples to use separate surnames.”

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.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Cutting Down on the Meat, but Not the Taste

Mushroom Burgers photo 11recipehealth-articleLarge_zps27b76110.jpg

There are many ways to cut down your meat intake and increase your vegetable consumption without becoming a vegetarian. Culinary traditions around the world are filled with dishes in which meat is used sparingly, for flavor and substance, but is not at the center of the plate. Think stir-fries, and some of your favorite pastas that have a little bit of pancetta but are really all about the tomatoes.

Some of America’s biggest food service companies are committed to increasing vegetable consumption, but they don’t want to lose their meat-loving customers, so they are figuring out ways to create dishes with less meat that are still appealing. You may face this challenge in your own family; you want everybody to cut down on meat consumption, but they love their burgers.

Chef Scott Samuel’s Roasted Mushroom Base and Mushroom Burgers

This is the mushroom base that Scott Samuel, a chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, uses in conjunction with beef in his burgers. I have cut the amount of olive oil that Scott uses from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup.

Mushroom and Turkey Burgers

Let’s face it: turkey burgers can be boring. I spiced these up with a Middle Eastern spice blend, called baharat, that is great to have on hand.

Mushroom and Beef Meatballs

The mushroom base renders a flavor that is more vegetal than meaty. The recipe is easy to double and the meatballs freeze well.

Mushroom, Bulgur, Spinach and Turkey Fritters With Yogurt Sauce

These are smaller than burgers and are served without buns, with a pungent garlic sauce.

Rainbow Beef

In this version of a stir-fry classic I am using less beef than a typical recipe would call for and adding in some shiitake mushrooms and extra peppers.

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

Lincoln P. Brower and Homero Aridjis: The Winter of the Monarch

IN the village of Contepec, in Michoacán, a few hours northwest of Mexico City, every winter day, rivers of orange and black butterflies would stream through the streets in search of water, swooping down from the Oyamel fir forest on Altamirano Hill. One of us, Homero, grew up with the monarch butterflies. The other, Lincoln, saw them for the first time in 1977, also in Michoacán, on a mountain called Sierra Chincua, where the branches of hundreds of fir trees were covered with butterflies that exploded into glorious flight when warmed by the sun.

Today the winter monarch colonies, which are found west of Mexico City, in an area of about 60 miles by 60 miles, are a pitiful remnant of their former splendor. The aggregate area covered by the colonies dwindled from an average of 22 acres between 1994 and 2003 to 12 acres between 2003 and 2012. This year’s area, which was reported on Wednesday, hit a record low of 2.9 acres.

Josh Barro: Why Social Security Is the Best Retirement Saving Vehicle

Last week I wrote that Social Security is the healthiest component of the U.S.’s retirement saving system and should therefore be expanded. This isn’t a popular position; liberals tend to prefer defined-benefit pensions from employers and conservatives defined-contribution accounts, such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts. But the reason Social Security works so well is that it lacks a fundamental problem that undermines the effectiveness of these other retirement vehicles. [..]

.. 401(k) and traditional pensions are both just efforts to finance retirement on the cheap by taking on excessive risk. The problem created by risk manifests itself in different ways with the different vehicles. [..]

Social Security is also based on a bet about future economic performance, but it’s a much more reasonable bet. Forget the trust fund — Social Security is based on a bet that the payroll tax base and annual benefit payouts grow at approximately the same pace.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: As Senators Roast JPMorgan Chase, Are The Winds Shifting for Diamond Jamie?

Forgive us if we begin our discussion of the Senate Subcommittee for Investigation’s JPMorgan Chase hearing with a small victory lap, but as they say down South, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.” We’ve been saying for years that JPMorgan Chase is fundamentally a criminal enterprise, that “Obama’s favorite banker” Jamie Dimon is a fraud, and that “America’s best bank” is a nest of venality and criminality. Although we value civility as much as the next guy, we’ve been forced to suggest that this bank is the “Scandal of Our Time,” a leading contender for “Worst Corporate Outlaw of the Year.”

We were also forced, civility or no, to suggest that JPM’s relationship with Syracuse University is corrupting our young people, and that the most generous interpretation of Dimon’s own tenure is that he is so profoundly incompetent as an executive that “Jamie Didn’t Know.” We also noted that Jamie did know that the London Whale scheme had cost his bank billions, even as he told investors on a phone call that it was just a “tempest in a teapot.”

Kevin Gosztola: Obama’s I’m-No-Dick-Cheney Standard for Government Secrecy

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, upset about not being provided with memos containing the legal justification for targeted killing operations, such as drone strikes, was apparently told by President Barack Obama not to worry because he is not Vice President Dick Cheney. [..]

This is the “Trust Us” defense for secrecy. It is in line with what Attorney General Eric Holder said to Republican Representative Ted Cruz when he was asked about whether it would be legal to target American citizens on United States soil. Holder said it would be inappropriate. But, the trustworthiness of an administration should never justify keeping official interpretations of the law secret.

Jared Berstein: Why Does Rep. Paul Ryan Get So Much Attention?

So, I’m doing a radio interview last night, and moderately impressed with myself for being able to speak coherently about four different budgets: Ryan’s, Senate’s, POTUS (not out yet, but we can guess at the mix), and the CPC. Then I got asked a question which threw me a bit: why is Paul Ryan and his budget taken so seriously?

It wasn’t a snarky question. It’s just that I’d been discussing the absolute non-reality of his proposal — how the numbers don’t begin to add up, the unrealistic budget cuts, the plethora of magic asterisks in the absence of actual proposals (the most egregious of which is: I’ll cuts taxes by $6-7 trillion over the next decade and offset the revenue losses with… um… sorry, gotta run). And the interviewer was like, “OK… but if you’re right, why is his budget front page news such that he’s driving the debate?”

David Macaray: From the Folks Who Brought You NAFTA

Although there hasn’t been much mainstream news coverage, the U.S. is currently in negotiations with nine APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) countries on what could become the biggest, most ambitious, most comprehensive FTA (free trade agreement) in history.  The proposed agreement is called TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).  Basically, if approved in its present form, it would resemble NAFTA on steroids.  And we all know how well.

NAFTA turned out.

The nine countries involved in TPP negotiations are: the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile, New Zealand and Australia.  Trade analysts have noted that should TPP be approved in its present, open-ended form, it would allow additional countries to sign onto it whenever they liked (without having to negotiate) which would mean, in effect, that TPP could be the last trade agreement the U.S. ever signed.  In other words, it’s a critically important agreement.

Saint Patrick’s Day Parade

Unlike many New York celebrations St. Patrick’s day remains true to its roots-

  • Find a Bar
  • Get puking drunk
  • Punch somebody

Fortunately queers get posted to the front like Bulls at Pamplona so that men in kilts going commando while wailing on sheep bladders generally avoid the riot.

Politicians walk alone so you can spit on them if you like, provided you have trained for range.

You should wear hip boots.


TheMomCat (who will be leading the commentary) suggests I include an Irish fighting song.

Shell Shocked

Well, maybe not them but I certainly am.  The U.S. Government is finally showing signs of regulating Arctic drilling.  In a blistering report Secretary of the Interior Salazar has forced Shell to resubmit plans for Arctic Ocean oil exploration before they’re allowed to start again, further putting into question the profits to a company that has had to cancel the 2013 season already due to catastrophic equipment failure.

When last I wrote 2 of their 4 main pieces of equipment were on a slow boat to South Korea and one had been crushed like a bug.

In recent developments-

Shell barred from returning to drill for oil in Arctic without overhaul

Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian

Thursday 14 March 2013 20.13 EDT

Shell “screwed up” drilling for oil in Arctic waters and will not be allowed back without a comprehensive overhaul of its plans, the Obama administration said on Thursday.

A government review found the oil company was not prepared for the extreme conditions in the Arctic, which resulted in a series of blunders and accidents culminating in the New Year’s Eve grounding of its drill rig.

Shell announced a “pause” in Arctic drilling last month. But Ken Salazar, the interior secretary, told a reporters’ conference call that the company will not be allowed to return without producing a much more detailed plan, one tailored specifically to the harsh Arctic conditions.

“Shell will not be able to move forward into the Arctic to do any kind of exploration unless they have this integrated management plan put in place,” said Salazar, in one of his last acts before standing down as interior secretary. “It’s that plain and simple.”

The findings of the review could mean further costs and delays for Shell, which has spent years and $4.5bn securing permits to drill in Arctic waters.

Salazar on Arctic drilling: ‘Shell screwed up in 2012’

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times

March 14, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

“Shell screwed up in 2012, and we’re not going to let them screw up whenever they [resume] … unless they have these systems in place,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said after a new report found that Shell’s contractors were repeatedly ill-prepared to meet the demands of operating in the harsh Arctic environment.

“Before Shell is allowed to move forward, they’re going to have to show to the Department of Interior that they have met the standards that have been required,” Salazar said.

Although Shell has spent nearly $5 billion preparing to drill in the oil and gas-rich Chukchi and Beaufort seas – the most promising oil reserves in the U.S., outside the Gulf of Mexico – the company was unable to fully drill a single well during its initial season.

Salazar said the company would be required to submit a comprehensive plan describing each phase of its operations, from preparations through demobilization. The department will also require a full, third-party management system audit to ensure the company’s systems are “appropriately tailored for Arctic conditions.”

Report says Shell unprepared for Arctic drilling


Posted on March 14, 2013

Environmental groups were quick to criticize the 30-page report, calling it insufficient despite recognizing Shell’s failings as unacceptable. The groups also knocked the Interior Department for failing to take responsibility for letting a company that was not ready for the challenges it met proceed in the first place.

“By and large, the review told us two things we already knew: Companies are woefully unprepared for the remote and unforgiving Alaskan waters, and our government improperly awarded Shell approvals to operate there,” Susan Murray, Oceana’s Pacific deputy vice president, said in a statement. “The Arctic Ocean is unique and important. Americans deserve better care and stewardship than oil companies or the government have provided.”

Shell spent $2.1 billion on petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea in 2008 and estimates that it has spent $5 billion on Arctic drilling. The company contends that it can drill safely. Its two drill ships completed top-hole drilling on two wells last year, but the company was bedeviled by problems.

The company’s spill response plan required that a response barge arrive on site before drill bits dug into petroleum-bearing zones. That never happened. A containment dome, a key piece of equipment, was damaged in testing off the Washington coast.

Seasonal ice in the Chukchi Sea delayed Shell vessels from moving north. When Chukchi drilling began in September, a major ice floe forced Shell’s drill ship off a prospect less than 24 hours later.

When the drilling season ended, the Coast Guard announced that it had found 16 safety violations on the Noble Discoverer, which drilled in the Chukchi, when it docked in Seward, Alaska. The Coast Guard has turned over its investigation of the vessel to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The problems crested in late December when the drill vessel Kulluk, a circular barge with a diameter as long as nearly three basketball courts, broke away from its towing vessel on its way to a shipyard in Washington state.

It ran aground off a remote Alaska Island near Kodiak Island and requires repairs.

Interior Dept. Warns Shell on Arctic Drilling

By JOHN M. BRODER, The New York Times

Published: March 14, 2013

The Interior Department conducted an urgent review of Shell’s operations after a disastrous 2012 drilling season notable for ship groundings, environmental and safety violations, the failure of a spill-containment system, weather delays and other mishaps.

The review, completed last week, concluded that Shell had failed in a wide range of basic operational tasks, like supervision of contractors that performed critical work, including towing one of the company’s two drilling rigs. That rig, the Kulluk, ran aground on Sitkalidak Island in Alaska on New Year’s Eve and is now headed to Asia for extensive repairs. No oil was spilled and there were no serious injuries.

The report was harshly critical of Shell management, which has acknowledged that it was unprepared for the problems it encountered operating in the unforgiving Arctic environment. The report did not single out individual managers.

The 32-page study also faulted government agencies, including the Interior Department and the Coast Guard, for failing to anticipate some of the problems Shell faced, including accidents involving both drilling rigs as they traveled to and from drill sites in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

“Government still has a lot to learn,” said Mr. Salazar, who will soon step down and is expected to be replaced by President Obama’s nominee, Sally Jewell, chief executive of Recreational Equipment Inc. in Seattle. “The Arctic is a very difficult environment to operate in. Shell is one of the most resource-capable companies in the world and it still encountered a whole host of problems trying to operate up there.”

“It doesn’t mean that exploration cannot continue,” Mr. Salazar said. “But I think the cardinal lesson is that moving forward on any Arctic exploration needs the comprehensive integration we attempted to bring to last summer and will attempt to do an even better job of in the future.”

On This Day In History March 16

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.

March 16 is the 75th day of the year (76th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 290 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1802, The United States Military Academy, the first military school in the United States, is founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science.

Colonial period, founding, and early years

The Continental Army first occupied West Point, New York, on 27 January 1778, making it the longest continually occupied post in the United States of America. Between 1778 and 1780, Polish engineer and military hero Tadeusz Kosciuszko oversaw the construction of the garrison defenses. The Great Hudson River Chain and high ground above the narrow “S” curve in the river enabled the Continental Army to prevent British Royal Navy ships from sailing upriver and dividing the Colonies. As commander of the fortifications at West Point, however, Benedict Arnold committed his infamous act of treason, attempting to sell the fort to the British. After Arnold betrayed the patriot cause, the Army changed the name of the fortifications at West Point, New York, to Fort Clinton. With the peace after the American Revolutionary War left various ordnance and military stores deposited at West Point.

“Cadets” underwent training in artillery and engineering studies at the garrison since 1794. Congress formally authorized the establishment and funding of the United States Military Academy on 16 March 1802,. The academy graduated Joseph Gardner Swift, its first official graduate, in October 1802; he later returned as Superintendent from 1812 to 1814. In its tumultuous early years, the academy featured few standards for admission or length of study. Cadets ranged in age from 10 years to 37 years and attended between 6 months to 6 years. The impending War of 1812 caused the United States Congress to authorize a more formal system of education at the academy and increased the size of the Corps of Cadets to 250.

In 1817, Colonel Sylvanus Thayer became the Superintendent and established the curriculum still in use to this day. Thayer instilled strict disciplinary standards, set a standard course of academic study, and emphasized honorable conduct. Known as the “Father of the Military Academy”, he is honored with a monument on campus for the profound impact he left upon the academy’s history. Founded to be a school of engineering, for the first half of the 19th century, USMA produced graduates who gained recognition for engineering the bulk of the nation’s initial railway lines, bridges, harbors and roads. The academy was the only engineering school in the country until the founding of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1824. It was so successful in its engineering curriculum that it significantly influenced every American engineering school founded prior to the Civil War.

The Mexican-American War brought the academy to prominence as graduates proved themselves in battle for the first time. Future Civil War commanders Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee first distinguished themselves in battle in Mexico. In all, 452 of 523 graduates who served in the war received battlefield promotions or awards for bravery. The school experienced a rapid modernization during the 1850s, often romanticized by the graduates who led both sides of the Civil War as the “end of the Old West Point era”. New barracks brought better heat and gas lighting, while new ordnance and tactics training incorporated new rifle and musket technology and accommodated transportation advances created by the steam engine. With the outbreak of the Civil War, West Point graduates filled the general officer ranks of the rapidly expanding Union and Confederate armies. Two hundred ninety-four graduates served as general officers for the Union, and one hundred fifty-one served as general officers for the Confederacy. Of all living graduates at the time of the war, 105 (10%) were killed, and another 151 (15%) were wounded. Nearly every general officer of note from either army during the Civil War was a graduate of West Point and a West Point graduate commanded the forces of one or both sides in every one of the 60 major battles of the war.

Formula One 2013: Albert Park Qualifying


So it’s that time of year again where we jet from time zone to time zone joining the Billionaires in their boxes for an orgy of excess as we spiral our way to Global Apocalypse in no small part due to the belching monoxide fumes of our chariots in these last, decadent days of empire.

Nothing has changed.

Coverage is on a new network, the NBC affliated NBC Sports. Will Buxton, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett will ALL be back (yay I guess).  They’ll be offering 100 hours of coverage and while I’m not sure it will persist and be consistent, here is the example weekend schedule from Albert Park-


  • midnight Practice 1 (this is new)
  • 1:30 am Practice 2


  • 2 am Qualifying (you’re soaking in it)
  • 1:30 pm Qualifying (repeat)
  • 10:30 pm Practice 2 (repeat)


  • midnight Qualifying (repeat)
  • 1:30 am Pre-Race
  • 2 am Albert Park
  • 4 am F1 Extra
  • 1 pm Albert Park (repeat)
  • 3:30 pm F1 Extra (repeat)
  • 10:30 pm Qualifying (repeat)


  • midnight Albert Park (repeat)
  • 2:30 am F1 Extra (repeat)


  • midnight Albert Park (repeat)
  • 2:30 am F1 Extra (repeat)

If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read below the fold.

There will be only 19 races, Turkey, Austria, Europe, Dubai, Portugal, France, London, and New Jersey have been dropped, at least temporarily.  Argentina is preparing a bid.

There will only 11 teams, HRT has been dropped and sold to a parts liquidator.  Qualifying has been changed in response from 7, 7, and 10 to 6, 6, and 10.

Pirelli has totally changed the design of their tires (no, they’re not square but more than reformulating the compounds).  On offer at Albert Park will be Softs and Super Softs.

Drag Reduction Systems may only be used during Practice and Qualifying where they are during the race.  This is more significant than you think because during Practice they could be used to gather data about the mechanical grip of the chassis and during Qualifying to effect your position.

There is now a “modesty plate” to cover the platypus nose step that everyone considered so ugly (as if the great honking front wing wasn’t ugly enough on its own).  There are new ‘testing’ procedures for the front wing (yeah, right).  Mercedes ‘double diffuser’ (which spoils the down force on the front wing when DRS is deployed) has been ruled illegal while McLaren’s hasn’t… yet.

Speaking of Mercedes and McLaren, the big news in driver changes is Lew Hamilton.  Good luck with that.  He is replaced by Sergio Perez.  Sauber replaced both drivers with Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez.  Hulkenberg is replaced at Force India by Adrian Sutil.

Kamui Kobayashi is dropped because he couldn’t raise enough money to bribe his way into a seat (What?  You didn’t know that about Formula One?).  Williams is replacing Bruno Senna with Valtteri Bottas.

Caterham dropped both Heikki Kovalainen  (we hatessss him) and Vitaly Petrov (bribe not big enough) and replaced them with Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.  Marussia dumped Timo Glock (bribe not big enough) and lost Pic and is  replacing them with Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi.

HRT withdrawing leaves Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan on the beach.


Please remember I am uniformly wrong.

There is no reason to believe that Red Bull will not dominate again.  Ferarri is confident that now they’ve fixed their sucky wind tunnel they’ll be competitive instead of of relying on Alonso miracle driving.

McLaren will not suddenly be better because Hamilton is gone, nor Mercedes because he is there.  They will be duking it out with Lotus (Renault) for third.  Sauber and Force India will stuggle for respectability as will Williams to avoid losing it entirely.  Caterham and Marussia will eat clag.

The podium will be Vettel, Webber, and Alonso in no particular order.  Perhaps Button or Hamilton might sneak in, but I doubt it.


It will take me a while to get up to Speed on using the online tools for commentary, I hope you’ll forgive me.

Most information from Wikipedia.

Friday Night at the Movies

Terry Gilliam’s directorial debut.