06/08/2013 archive

Random Japan

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The Consumer Affairs Agency upbraided Coca-Cola Japan for using the word tokuhou (“news flash”) in ads for a new fiber drink. The agency said consumers might confuse the term with tokuho, a word used to describe healthy food.

The MPD received 14,104 entries in a contest to name a new type of bank scam where fraudsters pretend to be the victim’s son over the phone. The official name is now “Kaasan, tasukete sagi,” or “Mom, help me scam.”

The newest hire at the justice ministry’s clerical department is… a juvenile delinquent on probation. Officials hope to foster understanding about criminal rehabilitation.

The MPD has asked NTT Docomo to be more careful with cellphone-rental companies, some of which are apparently fronts for crime groups.

The Belmont Stakes

Are we through yet?

I’m sorry about my apparent lack of enthusiasm, but as I’ve mentioned it’s the busiest time of the year.  This third race of the Triple Crown is the longest even though it doesn’t get the hype or coverage the other two do and usually serves as a reminder that we aren’t going to have a Triple Crown winner, not that it’s important.

For one thing Thoroughbred race horses are as ridiculously inbred as any Hillbilly, Hapsburg, or Versailles Villager (yes, I’m talking about you Luke Russert).  For another it’s just stupid to judge them on the basis of 3 races when they are a mere 3 years old.

But we’ve indulged in Bullfighting and Bear Baiting for thousands of years and cock and dog fights are still popular with a certain sadistic mindset.  Horse racing, as cruel as it is, isn’t necessarily harmful to the ponies or those that watch them.  It is a spectacular display of wasted resources by our oligarch upper class.

The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races even though it is held in Queens.  Indications of that are they can’t settle on a song or a drink.  The song has ranged from Sidewalks of New York, a charming Tin Pan Alley tune better known as East Side, West Side, to the Theme from New York, New York (as performed by Frank Sinatra and appropriated as the Yankees anthem and not the original Liza Minelli rendition), to 2010’s Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (I can’t believe that will last for long).

Likewise the drink has changed from the absolutely un-potable White Carnation to the refined trashcan punch that is the Belmont Breeze.

I suggest instead the classic Cosmopolitan.


  • Ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces lemon vodka
  • 1 fluid ounce Cointreau
  • fluid ounce cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Long thin piece orange zest


Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, and cranberry and lime juices. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill. Strain the cosmopolitan into a chilled martini glass. Twist the orange zest over the drink and serve.

Note: The drink can also be stirred in a pitcher.

This year is the 145th running and once again there is no Triple Crown at stake so the coverage is thin indeed even though there are several compelling storylines in the 14 horse field.

  • It might be an off track, though Stars Hollow is not so very far away and you’ve been able to see shadows since 10 am so conditions should be improving.
  • Orb and Oxbow face off again in the rubber game of the match.  Orb has a breeding advantage in that he has a past Belmont winner in his bloodline.  Will this give him the stamina he needs in the longest Triple Crown race?
  • We have a filly in the mix, Unlimited Budget.  Admittedly she starts from outside, but she has shown good form so if you want to root for the underdog (or horse) you now have a choice.

Racing Ambassadors is trying to make this a more ‘Turn Left’ type experience for the proles with the $10 tickets who arrive on the Subway.  I’m not altogether sure this is a good idea.

I’m not sure this is a good idea.

I have taught you well.

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

Soups With Spinach, Five Ways

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There’s so much beautiful spinach in the farmers’ markets now, and though it will soon give way to summer heat, it’s nice to know you can buy it every week and make something different with it each time. If you’re already into hot weather, you’ll appreciate this week’s cold yogurt soup with spinach and grains, which I’ve been polishing off for lunch every day this week. But even the hot soups will work on a warm day.

Andalusian Chickpea and Spinach Soup

This is a filling and comforting soup that is still suitable for a late spring/early summer meal.

Noodle Bowl With Mushrooms, Spinach and Salmon

A meal in a bowl that highlights fresh spinach.

Yogurt or Buttermilk Soup With Spinach and Grains

A refreshing soup that is great to keep on hand as summer arrives.

Spinach and Tofu Wontons in Broth

The wontons can be made ahead and frozen.

Puréed Spinach Soup With Middle Eastern Spices

This soup was inspired by a Syrian recipe, a spice-laced pan-cooked spinach that is served with yogurt and walnuts on top.

Formula One 2013: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Qualifying

In the list of easily disposed of gossip, Williams will be switching from Renault to Mercedes engines next year.  Now normally I’d say this was pretty stupid since 2 of the top 3 teams are on Renault power, but you must always keep in mind that 2014 is the big engine swap from normally aspirated V-8s to Turbocharged V-6s so you can take most of what you think you know now and tear it up.

There was rain this morning for P3 and one of the Safety Cars damaged a wall which took half an hour out of the 60 minute session for repairs.  They expect rain for Qualifying which means they’ll be beating the heck out of their Inters and maybe Wets (3 sets of Inters and 2 of Wets for both Qualifying and Race).  The up side is they’ll be able to choose the dry rubber they go out on (more about this in a moment).

Let’s hear some more about Tires!

Well, the teams devoted the first half of their P2 Practice (P1 was also rainy) to testing Pirelli’s experimental “new” tires.

What has been happening is that the compound (rubber part) has been delaminating from the belt leading to huge chunks of rubber flying all over the track which is bad not just for you with your suddenly square wheels, but everyone behind you who has to dodge this junk.

Now what Pirelli has decided to do about this is go back to the Kevlar belts they were using last year (this year they switched to steel).  This appeared to work well in Practice (though it’s hard to tell for reasons I’ll get to) and the “new” tires are set to debut next race at Silverstone.

That is if they do.  They can only be deployed by unanimous consent of the Teams and so far Lotus-Renault is withholding theirs.  The only other solution mentioned is swabbing the steel belts with super glue before the rubber goes on which according to Pirelli is is likely to lead to a less than satisfactory result.

To say that Pirelli is pissed with Formula One at the moment is an astronomical understatement.  They still don’t have a contract for 2014 and though Michelin is bandied about as a replacement they probably don’t feel very kindly either after being roundly abused and then unceremoniously dumped in 2010.  Pirelli has officially announced they intend to do no further development on the tires in 2013.

The Controversy

Oh, you thought that was it?  No, no; Red Bull especially, but also others, have got their nose out of joint at the ‘secret’ testing done by Pirelli and Mercedes at Circuit de Catalunya after the race there. Ross Brawn accepts full responsibility for Mercedes participation, for its part Pirelli insists that the testing was allowed under its contract and that the tires in question were 2014 development tires which would confer no competitive advantage.

Tires on offer

This week they’ll be using the Mediums and Super Softs.  The Super Softs will be the tires of choice because they’re about a second a lap faster AND they last a whopping 22 laps, even under heavy fuel.  Pirelli predicts a 1 or 2 stop race for Teams not in trouble.  If Qualifying is done in the rain on Inters as predicted, every Team will have 3 sets of brand new ones for the race.  Teams may, though given the lap time differential of 1 second per lap it’s unlikely, start Mediums and commit to a 1 stop strategy.  The longevity of the tires at this particular track makes it difficult to determine if the Kevlar tires really solve the delamination problem or not.  Think that covers my loose ends.

Other stuff

There are some speed bumps off the racing line that will probably be removed before the race but maybe not.  The long front straight has the 2 DRS zones separated only by the midway chicane.  The turns are tight and slow and there are not many of them which reduces the wear on tires and brakes.  For a street course there are plenty of chances to pass so it could be exciting.

Thailand had been angling for a race in 2015 but Bangkok has passed an ordinance forbidding automobile racing within the city limits (not everyone loves you Bernie!).

The Live coverage will be on NBC tomorrow at 2 pm with repeats on NBC Sports at 8 pm and 12:30 am Tuesday.  Coverage of the 145th Belmont is at 5 pm, also on NBC.

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

New York Times Editorial Board; Congress Can Stop Privacy Abuse

Over the last three years, several measures were introduced in Congress that would have helped reduce or eliminate the abuses of communications surveillance revealed this week. Every one of them was voted down.

Most members of Congress, it turns out, had received the usual bland assurances from counterterrorism officials that the authority granted to the government under the Patriot Act and related laws were absolutely necessary to prevent an attack on the United States, and that domestic spying activities must remain top secret. Proposals to bring greater transparency to these activities, or to limit their scope, were vigorously opposed by the Obama administration. (The Justice Department argued in a court filing in April that there must be no public disclosure of the extent of domestic data collection.) [..]

Now that this practice has been disclosed, it’s time for Congress to take action. The first step has to be ending the secrecy that makes it impossible for lawmakers or other officials to discuss, even in general terms, what the government is doing.

Gail Collins: Intelligence for Dummies

Question for the day: Do you feel more secure or less secure, now that you know the government is keeping a gargantuan pile of information about everybody’s telephone calls in the name of national security? [..]

I wouldn’t rely on Congress to keep things under control. It’s really up to the president. As a candidate, Obama looked as if he would be great at riding herd on the N.S.A.’s excesses. But if he has ever seriously pushed back on the spy set, it’s been kept a secret. Meanwhile, the administration scarfs up reporters’ e-mails and phone records in its obsessive war against leaks. [..]

Do you remember how enthusiastic people were about having a president who once taught constitutional law? I guess we’ve learned a lesson.

Eugene Robinson: The End of the Right of Privacy?

Someday, a young girl will look up into her father’s eyes and ask, “Daddy, what was privacy?”

The father probably won’t recall. I fear we’ve already forgotten that there was a time when a U.S. citizen’s telephone calls were nobody else’s business. A time when people would have been shocked and angered to learn that the government is compiling a detailed log of ostensibly private calls made and received by millions of Americans.

David Sirota; Rethinking American Exceptionalism

“American exceptionalism” is perhaps the most misunderstood phrase in politics. If, like the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, we define “exceptionalism” as “the condition of being different from the norm”-then it’s certainly true that America is exceptional. But we rarely stop to ask: Should we always want to be exceptional?

The assumption in our culture is yes-but it’s not always so clear-cut when you consider the key ways we are exceptional in comparison to other industrialized countries.

Mohamed A. El-Erian: The Policy Absurdity of the Monthly Jobs Report

There is one thing worse than addressing a problem with imperfect solutions. It is not addressing the problem when better solutions are available. Yet this is what seems to happen every month in reaction to the highly-watched employment report.

This morning’s data confirmed the central message of prior monthly reports: the jobs picture is improving, but not fast enough given the damage created by the Great Recession — especially for those of us who worry about unemployment problems getting structurally embedded into the economic system and, thus, becoming even much harder to solve.

Paul Rieckhoff: Why Veterans Still Need to Hear From the President on the Backlog

Veterans appreciate hearing White House Press Secretary Jay Carney say, in response to a reporter’s question, that the president is ‘deadly serious’ about reducing the VA disability claims backlog — because this is deadly serious to the veterans community.

Yet, the hundreds of thousands of brave veterans waiting for claims deserve to hear directly from the president.

Although it is great to hear that the president is taking this issue seriously, the president needs to address many unanswered questions, [..]

On This Day In History June 8

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 image to enlarge

June 8 is the 159th day of the year (160th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 206 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1776, Canadian Governor Sir Guy Carleton defeats American Patriot forces under John Sullivan, who were already in retreat from Quebec toward Montreal.

After General Richard Montgomery’s early success in Montreal, he and Colonel Benedict Arnold attempted to take Quebec in the middle of the night between December 31, 1775 and January 1, 1776. Montgomery lost his life and Arnold was wounded in the action; half of their men were also lost to death, injury or capture and Quebec remained in British control. The colonists’ ill-conceived, pre-emptive attack on Canada ended in disaster. Instead of winning French Canadians to the Patriot cause, it led only to a huge loss of life among Patriot forces.

The Battle of Trois-Rivières (Three Rivers in English) was fought on June 8, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War. A British army under Quebec Governor Guy Carleton defeated an attempt by units from the Continental Army under the command of Brigadier General William Thompson to stop a British advance up the Saint Lawrence River valley. The battle occurred as a part of the American colonists’ invasion of Quebec, which had begun in September 1775 with the goal of “liberating” the province from British rule.

The crossing of the Saint Lawrence by the American troops was observed by Quebec militia, who alerted British troops at Trois-Rivières. A local farmer led the Americans into a swamp, enabling the British to land additional forces in the village, and to establish positions behind the American army. After a brief exchange between an established British line and American troops emerging from the swamp, the Americans broke into a somewhat disorganized retreat. As some avenues of retreat were cut off, the British took a sizable number of prisoners, including General Thompson and much of his staff.

This was the last major battle fought on Quebec soil. Following the defeat, the remainder of the American forces, under the command of John Sullivan, retreated, first to Fort Saint-Jean, and then to Fort Ticonderoga.

American Freedom Is On The Line

It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.

~Benjamin Franklin~

The Guardian revealed that the National Security Agency seized millions of Verizon customers’ phone records through a secret court order. Then Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill exposed the top secret NSA PRISM program that program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and other US tech companies.

In 2001, Sen. Russ Feingold was the only vote in the Senate against the Patriot Act and warned us about this sort of data collection.

One provision that troubles me a great deal is a provision that permits the government under FISA to compel the production of records from any business regarding any person, if that information is sought in connection with an investigation of terrorism or espionage.

Now we’re not talking here about travel records pertaining to a terrorist suspect, which we all can see can be highly relevant to an investigation of a terrorist plot. FISA already gives the FBI the power to get airline, train, hotel, car rental and other records of a suspect.

But under this bill, the government can compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone — perhaps someone who worked with, or lived next door to, or went to school with, or sat on an airplane with, or has been seen in the company of, or whose phone number was called by — the target of the investigation.

And under this new provisions all business records can be compelled, including those containing sensitive personal information like medical records from hospitals or doctors, or educational records, or records of what books someone has taken out of the library. This is an enormous expansion of authority, under a law that provides only minimal judicial supervision.

In a statement to the press, he said that he found the NSA report “deeply troubling”:

In 2001, I first voted against the PATRIOT Act because much of it was simply an FBI wish list that included provisions allowing our government to go on fishing expeditions that collect information on virtually anyone.

Today’s report indicates that the government could be using FISA in an indiscriminate way that does not balance our legitimate concerns of national security with the necessity to preserve our fundamental civil rights. This is deeply troubling.  I hope today’s news will renew a serious conversation about how to protect the country while ensuring that the rights of law-abiding Americans are not violated.

After the passage the amended FISA in 2008, Sen. Feingold appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, discussing the vote that retroactively legalized warrantless wiretapping by the Bush administration.

This is the law that President Obama used to legally collect all the phone records and access the servers of nine US tech companies. It is well past time that it needs to be “fixed.”

American freedom is on the line:

A few months before he was first elected president in 2008, Barack Obama made a calculation that dismayed many of his ardent supporters but which he judged essential to maintain his drive to the White House. By backing President Bush’s bill granting the US government wide new surveillance powers – including legal immunity for telecoms companies which had co-operated with the Bush administration’s post-9/11 programme of wiretapping without warrants – Mr Obama stepped back from an issue that had initially helped to define his candidacy but was now judged to threaten his national security credentials. It was a big call. Even so, it seems unlikely that either supporters or critics, or even Mr Obama himself, ever believed that five years later a re-elected President Obama would oversee an administration that stands accused of routinely snooping into the phone records of millions of Americans.

Yet that is the situation at the heart of the Guardian’s exclusive story this week that America’s immense National Security Agency is doing just this on Mr Obama’s watch. [..]

Few Americans believe that they live in a police state; indeed many would be outraged at the suggestion. Yet the everyday fact that the police have the right to monitor the communications of all its citizens – in secret – is a classic hallmark of a state that fears freedom as well as championing it. Ironically, the Guardian’s revelations were published 69 years to the day since US and British soldiers launched the D-day invasion of Europe. The young Americans who fought their way up the Normandy beaches rightly believed they were helping free the world from a tyranny. They did not think that they were making it safe for their own rulers to take such sweeping powers as these over their descendants.

So much for electing a constitution scholar as president.