07/06/2013 archive

Random Japan

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Officials at the justice ministry are proposing a simplified immigration system for foreigners who are “deemed unlikely to be a terrorist or criminal.”

A survey by a Tokyo-based cram-school operator found that 55 percent of college students would like to study abroad but feel that it’s “too late… to deal with a globalizing world.”

A newspaper poll suggests that 41 percent of Japanese people approve of making it easier for politicians to change the Constitution.

Authorities at the justice ministry have proposed serving prison meals to elderly people who are living alone.

What We Now Know

On this week’s segment of “What We Now Know,” Up host Steve Kornacki discusses what they have learned with guests  Ann Lewis, former Senior Advisor to Hillary Clinton; Perry Bacon, Jr., MSNBC contributor, political editor, TheGrio.com; L. Joy Williams, political strategist & founder, LJW Community Strategies; and Evan McMorris-Santoro, White House reporter, BuzzFeed.com.

Terry Branstad’s Driver Gets Free Pass From Iowa State Trooper When Speeding On The Highway

by Ryan J. Foley, Huffington Post

A trooper pursued an SUV that was speeding at 90 mph with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad inside, but declined to pull the driver over after realizing he was transporting the state’s top elected official, audio recordings released Tuesday indicate.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety said it has launched a review of its handling of the April incident in which dispatchers, according to the recordings released to The Associated Press, laughed after learning the vehicle in question was the governor’s.

Days later, the department placed the investigator who initiated the pursuit, Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund, on administrative leave. Hedlund’s attorney said Tuesday the personnel action was retaliation for the agent complaining to superiors that the trooper driving the governor was improperly given a pass after putting public safety at risk. A Branstad spokesman denied that allegation.

Have You Dated Anthony Weiner? Joe Lhota Wants to Hear From You

by Anna Merlan, The Village Voice

Have we heard enough, directly or indirectly, about Anthony Weiner’s penis? Yes? Enough to last many lifetimes, please stop? Too bad. Because now, as Weiner leads in the polls, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota wants to hear from ladies who have seen and interacted with it, i.e. Weiner’s exes. This important campaign update comes to us via the New York Post, which naturally refers to Weiner upon second reference as “the penis tweeter.” In case we forgot.  [..]

The implication here, obviously, is that women vote male candidates into office based on who’d make the best boyfriend. (That’s obviously how charm-machine and possessor of overwhelming good looks Rudy Giuliani made it into office twice.) Weiner campaign spokeswoman Barbara Morgan didn’t respond to the open call for exes, telling the Post, “Anthony is too busy talking about the future of the middle class and those struggling to make it to respond to Mr. Lhota’s mud throwing.”

I would surmise that this is all Joe and Steve have got to counter Anthony’s rise in the polls for the NYC Mayoral Democratic Nomination.

Andrew Cuomo Channels His Inner John Hancock

by Jacob Fischler, BuzzFeed Staff

Seriously, this is all you’ve learned this week, Steve?

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness NewsWelcome 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

Forget Tofu Hot Dogs: Pizza on the Grill

Pizza on the Grill photo recipehealthwell-tmagArticle_zpsdebbfbd6.jpg

Pizzas made on the grill are really more like topped flatbreads. They get plenty of direct heat, so the surfaces brown nicely, but not enough ambient heat, even with the lid closed, for a crumb to develop on the rim of the pizza. Stretch out or roll the dough very thin, with no raised edge, so that the pizzas won’t have a doughy texture. It’s much easier to work with smaller pies, so I divide into three portions dough that I usually divide in half, and I roll them to approximately 10-inch disks. Then I freeze the disks between pieces of lightly dusted parchment so I don’t have to worry about the dough sticking or tearing when I’m ready to put it on the grill. I take it from the freezer shortly before I’m ready to grill it, and the cold rounds are easy to manipulate. If you want to reduce the calories in these pizzas you could roll them really thin and get four slightly smaller pies out of one batch of dough. Then freezing is really necessary for easy handling.

It’s important that you don’t weigh down your pizzas with ingredients, especially marinara sauce, or they’ll be difficult to get on and off the grill and they’ll be soggy. A thin layer of marinara – 1/4 cup – will be plenty for a 10-inch disk. As for vegetables, because the pizzas get so little time on the grill, they will taste best if you grill them a bit beforehand, on their own, in a grill pan. Then they get the nice charred flavor we love. I’ve given you recipes this week for tomato, eggplant, onion and fennel pizzas. Other vegetables that work well are peppers, summer squash, artichoke hearts, even potatoes.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Pizza Marinara on the Grill

A basic pizza recipe you can use to create whatever flavor combinations you like.

Pizza on the Grill With Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella and Arugula

No precooked sauce is needed for these pies.

Grilled Pizza With Grilled Eggplant and Cherry Tomatoes

The grilled eggplant slices are equally good on their own, or use them instead of crusts for “eggplant pizzas.”

Grilled Pizza With Grilled Red Onions and Feta

Cooking the onions on the grill before assembling the pizza give them a nice charred flavor.

Grilled Pizza With Grilled Fennel and Parmesan

Imported black olives are optional, but they add a briny punch that complements the sweet fennel.

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

Robert Borosage: Jobs Report: ‘New Normal’ Is Neither New, Normal nor Acceptable

This month’s lackluster jobs report – 195,000 net jobs created in the month of June with the unemployment rate unchanged at 7.6 percent – leaves Americans adrift. [..]

The new normal is neither new nor normal nor acceptable. The Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows once more that government policy is a hindrance, not a help, to the recovery. In previous recessions, government spending and hiring helped fuel the comeback. In this one, perverse austerity policies are pulling the economy down, not helping it up. And now Congress is gearing up for another mindless fight focused on reducing deficits rather than putting people to work.

Ezra Klein: Chief Justice Roberts Is Awesome Power Behind FISA Court

Chief justice of the U.S. is a pretty big job. You lead the Supreme Court conferences where cases are discussed and voted on. You preside over oral arguments. When in the majority, you decide who writes the opinion. You get a cool robe that you can decorate with gold stripes.

Oh, and one more thing: You have exclusive, unaccountable, lifetime power to shape the surveillance state. [..]

No other part of U.S. law works this way. The chief justice can’t choose the judges who rule on health law, or preside over labor cases, or decide software patents. But when it comes to surveillance, the composition of the bench is entirely in his hands and so, as a result, is the extent to which the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can spy on citizens.

John Pilger: Forcing Down Evo Morales’s Plane was an Act of Air Piracy

Denying the Bolivian president air space was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world

Imagine the aircraft of the president of France being forced down in Latin America on “suspicion” that it was carrying a political refugee to safety – and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.

Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the “international community”, as the governments of the west call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.

The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane – denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to “inspect” his aircraft for the “fugitive” Edward Snowden – was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.

Joan Walsh: Red-state women will transform America

Forget what cynical pundits say. Democrats need to win states like Texas and Kentucky, and fed-up women are the key

Public Policy Polling is out with a new survey showing that Texas Gov. Rick Perry has actually increased his lead over state Sen. Wendy Davis in the wake of her nationally heralded filibuster against SB 5, the draconian antiabortion legislation Perry’s trying to pass in a second special section. It should be noted that Davis isn’t even a candidate for governor at this point, so this is a theoretical matchup absent any kind of campaign.

Still, the poll numbers are likely to bolster the already strong cynicism of Texas political observers about the chance that Davis could beat Perry if she fulfilled the dream of many liberal women nationwide and ran against him next year. Similarly, most journalists dismiss the chance that Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lunderman Grimes can knock off Sen. Mitch McConnell. But the rise of these red-state women is good news for Democrats, even if pundits say they can’t beat right-wing veterans (and national villains among liberals) like McConnell and Perry next year (and I’m not conceding that here). In most red states, the best hope for Democrats is a rising coalition of Latinos, black people, Asians, young voters and white women. Davis and Grimes could accelerate the future.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: The Forgotten Americans

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. That’s the day we celebrate the vision and courage shown by our nation’s founders. July 4th is the day they published a document which said it was “self-evident” that everyone has “certain unalienable rights,” including the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

How quickly we forget.

There are solutions to our unemployment problems, which have created nothing less than a lingering depression for wide swaths of our population. All we need is willpower… and remembering.

Ellen Brown: Think Your Money Is Safe in an Insured Bank Account? Think Again

When Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters on March 13, 2013, that the Cyprus deposit confiscation scheme would be the template for future European bank bailouts, the statement caused so much furor that he had to retract it. But the “bail in” of depositor funds is now being made official EU policy. On June 26, 2013, The New York Times reported that EU ministers have agreed on a plan that shifts the responsibility for bank losses from governments to bank investors, creditors and uninsured depositors.

Insured deposits (those under €100,000, or about $130,000) will allegedly be “fully protected.” But protected by whom? The national insurance funds designed to protect them are inadequate to cover another system-wide banking crisis, and the court of the European Free Trade Association ruled in the case of Iceland that the insurance funds were not intended to cover that sort of systemic collapse.

Shifting the burden of a major bank collapse from the blameless taxpayer to the blameless depositor is another case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, while the real perpetrators carry on with their risky, speculative banking schemes.

A House of Cards

Your tax dollars at work.

Problem-plagued missile defense system fails in $214-million test

By W.J. Hennigan. Los Angeles Times

July 5, 2013, 5:28 p.m.

The failure of the $214-million test Friday involved a ground-based defense system, designed by Boeing Co., to defend the U.S. from long-range ballistic missile attacks.

The Missile Defense Agency now has a testing record of eight hits out of 16 intercept attempts with the “hit-to-kill” warheads. The last successful intercept occurred in December 2008.

It’s a significant blow for the ground-based system of 30 interceptors in Alaska and California, which the Government Accountability Office estimated would cost taxpayers $40 billion from 1996 to 2017.

Despite the poor track record, the Pentagon plans to add 14 missile interceptors in Alaska to counter North Korea, which has issued threats since it tested an underground nuclear device and launched a small satellite. The Pentagon expects cost of the expansion to be $1 billion

F-35 fighter jet struggles to take off

By W.J. Hennigan and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times

June 12, 2013

After a decade of administrative problems, cost overruns and technical glitches, the F-35 is still not ready for action. The program has consistently come under political attack even though the military considers it crucial to the nation’s defense needs.

Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, called this approach “acquisition malpractice” last year and said that predictions were too optimistic.

“Now we’re paying the price for being wrong,” Kendall said.

There are 61 F-35s already delivered, 81 completely built and others still being assembled at Lockheed’s facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Pentagon estimated that retrofit costs for the first 90 aircraft will amount to $1.2 billion.

Two decades ago, officials wanted 648 F-22 fighter jets for $149 million per plane. Eventually, the military ended up with only 188 at a price tag of $412 million each. Before that, the Pentagon wanted 132 new B-2 stealth bombers at about $500 million per plane. It ultimately bought 21 at $2.1 billion each.

F-22 program produces few planes, soaring costs

By Ralph Vartabedian and W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

June 16, 2013

When the U.S. sought to assure Asian allies that it would defend them against potential aggression by North Korea this spring, the Pentagon deployed its top-of-the-line jet fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

But only two of the jets were sent screaming through the skies south of Seoul.

That token show of American force was a stark reminder that the U.S. may have few F-22s to spare. Alarmed by soaring costs, the Defense Department shut down production last year after spending $67.3 billion on just 188 planes – leaving the Air Force to rely mainly on its fleet of 30-year-old conventional fighters.

“People around the world aren’t dumb,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). “They see what we have. They recognize that our forces have been severely depleted.”

Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-22 is the most lethal fighter jet in the world. But it has also become a symbol of a broken procurement process that’s failing to deliver advanced weapons systems on time, on budget and in sufficient quantities.

The F-22 was originally intended to replace all of the Air Force’s F-15 combat jets that date back to the early 1970s. But today those F-15s still represent the bulk of a so-called air superiority fleet – the jets that are supposed to outgun enemy aircraft and gain control of the sky.

The early cancellation led directly to a new advanced warplane, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Lockheed also produces. Today, that nearly $400-billion system is headed in the same direction as the F-22, falling behind schedule, encountering serious software problems and suffering sharp cost growth.

On the day after Lockheed won, Rice declined to say that it was the better product and cited Lockheed’s superior management plan for the program.

In a recent interview, Rice conceded that the F-22 was not necessarily the better plane, saying, “There were some reasons to think that the YF-23 might be a better plane for the Air Force.”

The early termination of the F-22 has left the nation with a weaker deterrence to potential enemies, said John Pike, executive director of GlobalSecurity.org. China is building two stealth fighters, one of them able to operate off aircraft carriers, and seems able to build more than 188 aircraft, he said. “You’d have to be worried.”

Feel safer?  Still confident we can nuke Iran into oblivion?

This is what your elites have produced.  A house of cards.

On This Day In History July 6

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 6 is the 187th day of the year (188th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 178 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1917, Arabian troops led by T. E. Lawrence (“Lawrence of Arabia”) and Auda ibu Tayi capture Aqaba from the Ottoman Empire during the Arab Revolt.


Lawrence, sent by General Archibald Murray, commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, to act as a military advisor to Emir Faisal I, convinced the latter to attack Aqaba. Aqaba was a Turkish-garrisoned port in Jordan, which would threaten British forces operating in Palestine; the Turks had also used it as a base during their 1915 attack on the Suez Canal. It was also suggested by Faisal that the port be taken as a means for the British to supply his Arab forces as they moved further north. Though he did not take part in the attack itself (his cousin Sherif Nasir rode along as the leader of his forces), Faisal lent forty of his men to Lawrence. Lawrence also met with Auda ibu Tayi, leader of the northern Howeitat tribe of Bedouin, who agreed to lend himself and a large number of his men to the expedition. Lawrence informed his British colleagues of the planned expedition, but they apparently did not take him seriously, expecting it to fail.

Aqaba was not in and of itself a major military obstacle; a small village at the time, it was not actually garrisoned by the Turks, though the Turks did keep a small, 400-man garrison at the mouth of the Wadi Itm to protect from landward attack via the Sinai Peninsula. The British Royal Navy occasionally shelled Aqaba, and in late 1916 had briefly landed a party of Marines ashore there, though a lack of harbor or landing beaches made an amphibious assault impractical. The main obstacle to a successful landward attack on the town was the large Nefud Desert, believed by many to be impassable.


The expedition started moving towards Aqaba in May. Despite the heat of the desert, the seasoned Bedouins encountered few obstacles aside from occasional harassment from small bands of Arabs paid off by the Turks; they lost more men to attacks by snakes and scorpions than to enemy action. During the expedition, Auda and Lawrence’s forces also did severe damage to the Hejaz Railway.

Auda and his men reached the Wadi Sirhan region, occupied by the Rualla tribe. Auda paid 6,000 pounds in gold to their leader to allow his men to use Wadi Sirhan as a base.

Abu el Lissal and Aqaba

The actual battle for Aqaba occurred for the most part at a Turkish blockhouse at Abu el Lissal, about halfway between Aqaba and the town of Ma’an. A group of separate Arab rebels, acting in conjunction with the expedition, had seized the blockhouse a few days before, but a Turkish infantry battalion arrived on the scene and recaptured it. The Turks then attacked a small, nearby encampment of Arabs and killed several of them.

After hearing of this, Auda personally led an attack on the Turkish troops there, attacking at mid-day on July 6. The charge was a wild success. Turkish resistance was slight; the Arabs brutally massacred hundreds of Turks as revenge before their leaders could restrain them. In all, three hundred Turks were killed and another 150 taken prisoner, in exchange for the loss of two Arabs killed and a handful of wounded. Lawrence was nearly killed in the action; he accidentally shot the camel he was riding in the head with his pistol, but was fortunately thrown out of harm’s way when he fell. Auda was grazed numerous times, with his favorite pair of field glasses being destroyed, but was otherwise unharmed.

Meanwhile, a small group of British naval vessels appeared offshore of Aqaba itself and began shelling it. At this point, Lawrence, Auda, and Nasir had rallied their troops; their total force had been quadrupled to 2,000 men by a local Bedouin who, with the defeat of the Turks at Lissal, now openly joined Lawrence’s expedition. This force maneuvered themselves past the outer works of Aqaba’s defensive lines, approached the gates of Aqaba, and its garrison surrendered without further struggle.

Bill Moyers: The Face of Hunger in America

The Faces of America’s Hungry

The full transcript can be read here

The story of American families facing food insecurity is as frustrating as it is heartbreaking, because the truth is as avoidable as it is tragic. Here in the richest country on earth, 50 million of us – one in six Americans – go hungry. More than a third of them are children. And yet Congress can’t pass a Farm Bill because our representatives continue to fight over how many billions to slash from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The debate is filled with tired clichés about freeloaders undeserving of government help, living large at the expense of honest, hardworking taxpayers. But a new documentary, A Place at the Table, paints a truer picture of America’s poor.

“The cost of food insecurity, obesity and malnutrition is way larger than it is to feed kids nutritious food,” Kristi Jacobson, one of the film’s directors and producers, tells Bill. She and Mariana Chilton, director of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities, explain to Bill how hunger hits hard at people from every walk of life. [..]

Later, Greg Kaufmann – poverty correspondent for The Nation – talks about how the poor have been stereotyped and demonized in an effort to justify huge cuts in food stamps and other crucial programs for low-income Americans.