01/04/2014 archive

Random Japan

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Otoshidama: How kids in Japan get rich once a year

   Philip Kendall

With Christmas being just a regular day and the exchanging of gifts something of a rarity, we often feel that kids in Japan are missing out somewhat. Of course, not every Westerner is fortunate enough to know the joy of waking up on December 25 and finding presents-brought by a benevolent bearded man, no less-under the Christmas tree or at the foot of their bed, but those who are would most likely agree that it’s a pretty spectacular feeling for a kid to have.

But while the rest of the world is coming to realise that the toys they asked for aren’t quite as cool as they’d expected and dreading going back to school or work, kids in Japan are making out like bandits and getting not presents but cold, hard cash on New Year’s Day in the form of otoshidama.

2014 Thowball Wild Card- Chiefs @ Colts

Well, its that time of year again and I’ll start off with a familiar observation, unless one of your favorites is in the chase it’s not so much about which team you like as it is about which team you hate more.

In this game my choice is obvious.  I really, really hate the way Irsay blackmailed Baltimore before moving to Indianapolis, which, while I’m sure it’s a great city and all is simply a blot of population in the middle of what in Michigan (where admittedly we have no love lost for Hoosiers) is called ‘cow country’ that in no way compares with the Baltimore – Washington market.  It was a deeply cynical and manipulative ploy I hope stains the Bolts franchise for the rest of it’s history.

Which is not to say I like the Chiefs which is a franchise storied only for their consistent record of futility, but at least they’re not carpetbaggers.  As the Dallas Texans they were one of the original AFL franchises and relocated to Kansas City in 1963 in the face of overwhelming competition from the much to be despised ‘Boys.  They’ve only ever been owned by the Hunt family of oil baron fame and despite being one of the objectively weakest teams in the league are valued at $1 Billion.

I’ll note for hahas that some incredibly optimistic Chiefs fan has already named them the 2013 Champions which demonstrates ‘wikiality’ for you Colbert aficionados.  In fact the Champions last year were the Baltimore Ravens and the Chief’s last playoff appearance was in 2011 when they lost in the Wild Card round to them.

Another opening observation I’d like to make is that starting out in the Wild Card round isn’t the enormous handicap that it is in Major League Baseball.  In Baseball in all the other rounds it’s not one and out, but in Throwball that’s the way it always is.

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

Comfort Foods for a Cold Winter Day (and Night)

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Veering from the usual tradition of recipes that are from the health pages of the New York Times and due to the frigid temperatures, I decided to pull some comfort food recipes from my personal files that will serve to warm the body and soul even if you aren’t braving the elements. The recipes are also large enough for leftovers for week night meals. Served with a salad and your favorite beverage, they make a great warming meal. Bon appétit

Many of us had ham for New Year’s Day and are wondering what to do with that ham bone and the left over ham. So if you can’t face another ham sandwich here are a few recipes for soups and a casserole.

United States Senate Bean Soup

One soup recipe that uses a ham bone has been served in the US Senate for over 100 years. The current version does not include potatoes but I like tradition in this case. I also would add a cheese clothe sachet of bay leaf, parsley, peppercorn and thyme for flavor. I also use chicken broth in place of the water. You can play with your own seasoning to taste.

Split Pea Soup with Pumpernickel Croutons

There are numerous versions of this recipe, this one uses ham hocks but the left over ham bone can be substituted.

Baked Rigatoni with Ham and Mushrooms

My daughter says to increase the sauce by half for a creamier dish.

Les Halles is long gone but the traditional French Onion Soup that was served there lives on but it’s hard to find a proper soupe á l’oignon. My favorite recipe is from Bernard Clayton, Jr.’s The Complete Book of Soups and Stews with some variations. It is from a restaurant near the Halles Metro station. M. Calyton’s version uses a hearty homemade beef stock which is time consuming to make. I found that either Swanson’s or College Inn Beef Broth produces a good result, just reduce the salt. The low sodium broth didn’t produce the hearty broth that’s needed to compliment the flavor of the caramelized onions and the cheese.

Soupe à l’oignon des Halles

French onion soup in France is served as the traditional French farmer’s breakfast or the end of the day repast for the late night café and theater crowd. It was made famous in the great open market of Les Halles in Paris where hungry truckers converged from all over France with their fresh produce.

Remember stay warm, if you have to go out: dress in layers, keeping hands and head covered, a scarf to cover you mouth and nose. Try to limit your time outdoors and be aware of the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia

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: Not Getting Their Money’s Worth

At first glance, two recent crises to hit the White House – the revelations about unlawful surveillance and the botched health care rollout – have nothing in common. But each is a reminder of the increasing extent to which government work has been contracted out to private-sector companies. Currently, Washington spends about $500 billion a year on private-sector contracts, more than twice the amount in 2000.

It is hard to argue that Americans are getting their money’s worth. [..]

It is legitimate to use contractors when the government does not possess the expertise, especially on specific projects, or for services that are tangential to core government functions. But the current practice of contracting out vast swaths of government work indefinitely – with little or no attempt to develop the needed technical and managerial expertise within the government or to enforce labor standards – has created a bloated federal-contractor sector in which the public good is often subservient to profit.

Eugene Robinson: The ACA: Here to Stay

Now that the fight over Obamacare is history, perhaps everyone can finally focus on making the program work the way it was designed. Or, preferably, better.

The fight is history, you realize. Done. Finito. Yesterday’s news. [..]

The real problem with the ACA, and let’s be honest, is that it doesn’t go far enough. The decision to work within the existing framework of private, for-profit insurance companies meant building a tremendously complicated new system that still doesn’t quite get the job done: Even if all the states were fully participating, only about 30 million of the 48 million uninsured would be covered.

But Obamacare does establish the principle that health care is a right, not a privilege-and that this is true not just for children, the elderly and the poor but for all Americans.

Charles Pierce: Two Dopes

In my days of doing the blog, I have pondered, often, the teleological conundrum of whether an omnipotent god could make a stick big enough to shove up his own ass. When this speculation becomes too difficult, I make myself a lesser case — is it possible for anyone to have a bigger stick up their ass than the one currently residing in the nether quarters of David Brooks? Today, at least, I have the answer to the latter question.

Yes, it is.

Come on down, Ruth Marcus, famous NSA apologist, weeper for misunderstood torturers, recent Glenn Greenwald heavy-bag workout, and scourge of teenage potty-mouths everywhere, and a woman who makes the late Erma Bombeck read like Rosa Luxembourg and who makes David Brooks sound like Richard Brautigan.

The two of them wrote essentially the same column today. The legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado is a bad thing because of every failed argument for the stupid “war” on drugs you ever heard. As you might expect, Brooks is far more full of himself than Marcus is — There is more of David Brooks in David Brooks than there is anywhere else in the world. This is a good thing. — and Marcus is far more folksy in her account of her misspent youth.

Dave Johnson: A Moral and Economic Imperative to Extend Unemployment Benefits

Federal unemployment assistance for 1.3 million people who have been unemployed longer than 26 weeks expired last Saturday, after Republicans blocked efforts to extend them. 3.6 million more people will lose these benefits over this year. Restoring these benefits is a moral, economic and political imperative. [..]

So there is a political imperative to push for this because hope and change drives votes. Democrats have to offer hope and change or people won’t see a reason to bother to vote. And “the base” needs to see their elected officials fighting for those things that they feel are important, or they won’t do the things that drive campaigns like giving money, volunteering, going door to door, and otherwise fighting to elect Democrats.

Democrats need to draw clear contrasts for democracy to function and voters to know who to hold accountable.

Joan Walsh: The right’s Benghazi insanity reaches new depths

No amount of facts can convince the right of reality. Here’s how politics, racism and sexism guide their lunacy

Hands down the biggest news story of the 2013 holiday season was the New York Times opus on the 2012 Benghazi attack. The Dec. 28 story debunked every single right-wing conspiracy peddled by Fox News (and also promulgated briefly by CBS News’ “60 Minutes”): the attack was, in fact, heavily motivated by an anti-Islam movie, as the Obama administration claimed; its militia ringleaders were independent of al-Qaida, and there was nothing the administration or Hillary Clinton’s State Department could do to protect the four men who died at the underdefended Benghazi compound. [..]

The truth is, the Times piece was not without criticism of the administration’s efforts in Benghazi. It found that the attack’s leaders had benefited from American weaponry and support while fighting Moammar Gadhafi, and suggests that while the strike on the compound “does not appear to have been meticulously planned, neither was it spontaneous or without warning signs.”

The Benghazi tragedy, David Kirkpatrick wrote, “shows the risks of expecting American aid in a time of desperation to buy durable loyalty, and the difficulty of discerning friends from allies of convenience in a culture shaped by decades of anti-Western sentiment.”

Robert Naiman: Make the 1 Percent Pay for the Iran War

Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez, and their Senate friends have introduced a bill to blow up President’s Obama’s diplomacy with Iran. If these senators blow up diplomacy, the only thing left on the menu in the restaurant will be war. So now is the perfect time to ask these senators who is going to pay for the war that Senator Schumer, Senator Menendez and their friends are trying to engineer.

Let us urge our economic populist friends in the Senate — people like Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown and Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders — to call the question by introducing a simple resolution: it is the sense of Congress that if the U.S. goes to war with Iran, the 1 percent should pay the financial cost of the war.

If we could establish the principle that the 1 percent should pay for the war, this would be a win-win for justice. We know well that the 1 percent aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. So, even if making the 1 percent pay the financial cost of wars had no deterrent effect, it would be a win for justice by increasing taxes on the 1 percent.

On This Day In History January 4

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.

January 4 is the fourth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 361 days remaining until the end of the year (362 in leap years).

On this day in 1987, Spanish guitar great Andres Segovia arrives in the United States for his final American tour. He died four months later in Madrid at the age of 94.

Segovia was hailed for bringing the Spanish guitar from relative obscurity to classical status. Born in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia–the original home of the guitar–Segovia studied the piano and cello as a child but soon became captivated with the guitar. Knowing of no advanced teachers of an instrument that was generally banished to the cafes, he taught himself and in 1909 gave his first public performance at the age of 15. To successfully render classical material, Segovia invented countless new techniques for the guitar, and by his first appearance in Paris in 1924, he was a virtuoso. His American debut came four years later in New York City.

The Health Care We Deserve

In a NYT‘s op-ed in New Year’s Day, Michael Moore called the ACA awful

I believe Obamacare’s rocky start – clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president’s telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could – is a result of one fatal flaw: The Affordable Care Act is a pro-insurance-industry plan implemented by a president who knew in his heart that a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model was the true way to go. When right-wing critics “expose” the fact that President Obama endorsed a single-payer system before 2004, they’re actually telling the truth.

What we now call Obamacare was conceived at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and birthed in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, then the governor. The president took Romneycare, a program designed to keep the private insurance industry intact, and just improved some of its provisions. In effect, the president was simply trying to put lipstick on the dog in the carrier on top of Mitt Romney’s car. And we knew it.

Emergency Room visits have increased for those with insurance rather than decrease. This is probably due to the problem of finding a physician who will accept the patient’s insurance plan. What was needed was a mandate that physicians and hospitals accept all insurance plans.

Access to Health Care May Increase ER Visits, Study Suggests

   Supporters of President Obama’s health care law had predicted that expanding insurance coverage for the poor would reduce costly emergency room visits as people sought care from primary care doctors. But a rigorous new study conducted in Oregon has flipped that assumption on its head, finding that the newly insured actually went to the emergency room more often.

   The study, published in the journal Science, compared thousands of low-income people in the Portland area who were randomly selected in a 2008 lottery to get Medicaid coverage with people who entered the lottery but remained uninsured. Those who gained coverage made 40 percent more visits to the emergency room than their uninsured counterparts. The pattern was so strong that it held true across most demographic groups, times of day, and types of visits, including for conditions that were treatable in primary care settings.

   The finding casts doubt on the hope that expanded insurance coverage will help rein in rising emergency room costs just as more than two million people are gaining coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

   Instead, the study suggests that the surge in the numbers of insured people may put even greater pressure on emergency rooms and increase costs. Nearly 30 million uninsured Americans could gain coverage under the law, about half of them through Medicaid. The first policies took effect on Wednesday.

This will only push up the costs of health care and increase the costs for consumers and tax payers.

This video explains in less than 8 minutes why healthcare in this country is so expensive and still sucks.

Published on Aug 20, 2013

In which John discusses the complicated reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, including that Americans spend more of their tax dollars on public health care than people in Canada, the UK, or Australia. Who’s at fault? Insurance companies? Drug companies? Malpractice lawyers? Hospitals? Or is it more complicated than a simple blame game? (Hint: It’s that one.)

For a much more thorough examination of health care expenses in America, I recommend this series at The Incidental Economist: http://theincidentaleconomist….

The Commonwealth Fund’s Study of Health Care Prices in the US: http://www.commonwealthfund.or…

Some of the stats in this video also come from this New York Times story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06…

This is the first part in what will be a periodic series on health care costs and reforms leading up to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in 2014.