03/01/2014 archive

Random Japan

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 From protozoa to tapeworms: Visiting the Meguro Parasitological Museum

    Preston Phro

We’ve told you before that Japan is practically overflowing with museums. Everything from ukiyo-e to prisons to Edo period buildings have been preserved for the benefit of public knowledge, and we’d say that almost every museum has something unique or fun to offer. But here’s a museum that is literally one-of-a-kind: The Meguro Parasitological Museum!

They claim to be the only museum in the world dedicated solely to parasites-and we’ve got to say that we believe them! We recently headed down to Meguro to check out their collection and learn a little bit about the critters that might living inside of you right now.

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

The Pasta Is Gluten-Free

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Gluten-Free Fettucine With Brussels Sprouts, Lemon and Ricotta

Creamy ricotta and Brussels sprouts add color and texture to this dish.

Quinoa Spaghetti With Cauliflower, Almonds, Tomatoes and Chickpeas

Cauliflower is often matched with pasta in Italy; this version is all about texture.

Gluten-Free Spaghetti With Baby Broccoli, Mushrooms and Walnuts

The walnuts add texture and flavor to this pasta dish.

Gluten-Free Penne With Peas, Ricotta and Tarragon

A simple dish that is sweet with tarragon and a breeze to make.

Gluten-Free Spaghetti With Shrimp, Kale and Tomatoes

A robust winter pasta with a spicy kick.

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

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Has the Left Surrendered?

Has the American left ceased to exist as a viable political force by surrendering its power to a corporatized Democratic Party? That’s the argument put forward by political scientist Adolph Reed Jr., first in an essay for Harper‘s magazine and then in a televised follow-up interview with Bill Moyers.

Reed’s essay, “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals,” has a blunt message which might be summarized as follows: The fault, dear liberals, lies not in our political stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings. It’s not necessarily a new thought, but it packs a punch, especially as Reed has organized and expressed it. [..]

Reed’s analysis, while stated harshly at times, is very much on point. There’s very little “left” left in American politics. But his outlook seems overly pessimistic, and it runs the risk of discouraging the very people who might someday help rebuild an American left. They’re more likely to come together around a concrete agenda built on leftist principles such as job creation, fair wages, and a stronger social safety net. It’s possible to be positive without being Pollyanna-ish.

Ralph Nader: Wanted: Modestly Enlightened Very Rich People (MERPs) for 2016

During election season, how often do you hear the phrase “vote for the least worst choice”? This philosophy has become the unfortunate mindset of too many American voters on their way to the polls. Just hold your nose and cast your vote and don’t disturb the status quo.

What has this trend gotten us? The Democrat and Republican two-party duopoly has led us down a road to a severely diminished and ineffective democracy. Look at the effects of the two-party grip on our elections — the common funding of mainstream candidates by the same privileged commercial interests, the exclusion of independent or third-party candidates through ballot access hurdles and litigious harassment, and exclusion from the big-audience debates. The use of gerrymandering by Republicans and Democrats has created one-party dominated districts and eliminated political competition in many states. Not voting at all out of sheer disgust is seen as a legitimate voting choice by many. There is, unfortunately, no binding “None of the Above” option on the ballot to allow for a no-confidence vote if the choice of candidates is unsatisfactory to voters.

Robert Reich; The Real Job Killers

House Speaker John Boehner says raising the minimum wage is “bad policy” because it will cause job losses.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase would be a job killer. Republicans and the Chamber also say unions are job killers, workplace safety regulations are job killers, environmental regulations are job killers, and the Affordable Care Act is a job killer. The California Chamber of Commerce even publishes an annual list of “job killers,” including almost any measures that lift wages or protect workers and the environment.

Most of this is bunk. [..]

For one thing, a higher minimum wage doesn’t necessarily increase business costs. It draws more job applicants into the labor market, giving employers more choice of whom to hire. As a result, employers often get more reliable workers who remain longer — thereby saving employers at least as much money as they spend on higher wages.

Josh Levy and Hannah Sassaman: Remember When We Toppled SOPA/PIPA in Just 24 Hours? How the People Can Still Win on Net Neutrality

When it comes to limiting digital rights, big companies are in cahoots with governments like never before. But the belief that everyone deserves safe, affordable, and private access to the Internet is taking off.

2014 is already shaping up as a defining year for digital rights. A federal court just killed Net Neutrality. The U.S. government is spying on millions of individuals as well as organizations, companies, and governments, provoking an outcry from both newer organizers and communities that have long labored under government and corporate surveillance. Congress is poised to rubber-stamp a trade agreement that could threaten Internet freedom worldwide. And we’re still mourning the loss of the inspirational Aaron Swartz, who fought for free and universal access to information.

The idea that the Internet is a space where all voices have the same right to be heard is common sense to millions. The principle that we should be free to access information online-and in private-without the interference of companies or governments resonates across the political spectrum.

David Sirota: How the Rich Became Dependent on Government Welfare

Remember when President Obama was lambasted for saying “you didn’t build that”? Turns out he was right, at least when it comes to lots of stuff built by the world’s wealthiest corporations. That’s the takeaway from this week’s new study of 25,000 major taxpayer subsidy deals over the last two decades.

Entitled “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,” the report from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.

Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full “three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations”-not to the small businesses and startups that politicians so often pretend to care about.

Jeff Biggers: Should Sierra Club Endorse Coal Rush/Fracking Gov. Quinn-Or Call Out Environmental Disaster?

Is it enough for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and state treasurer candidate Mike Frerichs to hustle today to purge their campaigns of tainted coal industry contributions from a growing mine safety regulator scandal, or should citizens groups and environmentalists hold the Democratic candidates accountable for their full-throttle push behind the state’s unprecedented coal mining rush and spiraling fracking debacle?

Questions abound in Illinois, where coal mining production and its toxic slurry fallout has skyrocketed by a mind-boggling 70 percent during the Quinn administration, as Gov. Quinn also touts a controversial and widely denounced fracking regulation law, opening the floodgates for oil and natural gas drilling in the state’s beloved Shawnee forest region.

Earlier this week, in fact, despite a public promise by Quinn’s deputy chief of staff that no fracking permits would be issued without strengthened fracking rules, Quinn apparently intervened to push through a second horizontal drilling permit for Denver-based Strata-X Energy.

On This Day In History March 1

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 1 is the 60th day of the year (61st in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 305 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy issues Executive Order #10924, establishing the Peace Corps as a new agency within the Department of State. The same day, he sent a message to Congress asking for permanent funding for the agency, which would send trained American men and women to foreign nations to assist in development efforts. The Peace Corps captured the imagination of the U.S. public, and during the week after its creation thousands of letters poured into Washington from young Americans hoping to volunteer.

The Peace Corps is an American volunteer program run by the United States Government, as well as a government agency of the same name. The mission of the Peace Corps includes three goals: providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand U.S. culture, and helping Americans understand the cultures of other countries. Generally, the work is related to social and economic development. Each program participant, (aka Peace Corps Volunteer), is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of 24 months after three months of training. Volunteers work with governments, schools, non-profit organizations, non-government organizations, and entrepreneurs in education, hunger, business, information technology, agriculture, and the environment. After 24 months of service, volunteers can request an extension of service.

Kennedy appointed his brother-in-law Sargent Shriver to be the program’s first director. Shriver fleshed out the organization with the help of Warren Wiggins and others. Shriver and his think tank outlined the organization’s goals and set the initial number of volunteers. The program began recruiting in July, 1962.

Until about 1967, applicants had to pass a placement test that tested “general aptitude” (knowledge of various skills needed for Peace Corps assignments) and language aptitude. After an address from Kennedy, who was introduced by Rev. Russell Fuller of Memorial Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, on August 28, 1961, the first group of volunteers left for Ghana and Tanzania. The program was formally authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961, and within two years over 7,300 volunteers were serving in 44 countries. This number increased to 15,000 in June 1966, the largest number in the organization’s history.

Sen. Joe Manchin (“D”-WV) calls for ban on Bitcoin.

Senator Joe Manchin wasnts to  ban the Internet currency Bitcoin in the US.

It’s a typical rightwing argument. Don’t like something? Ban it! Cuz, y’know, small government.

The unregulated DIY Internet currency Bitcoin has been a thorn in the side of governments and regulators since it was invented in 2009.  Manchin’s call to “BAN BITCOIN NOW!!!” comes from the latest uproar surrounding Bitcoin: the collapse of  the once-venerable Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox. Earlier this week, Tokyo-based Mt. Gox went offline, and hundreds of millions of dollars invested there by Bitcoin enthusiasts vanished. Though the concept of this shadowy cryptocurrency would require more than one diary to explain, the money invested in Mt. Gox was very real. The losses were very real, with some people losing tens of thousands or more.

One burned Bitcoin investor from the UK flew all the way to Tokyo to protest in front of Mt Gox’s office, and has become an Internet hero. In a video, he confronts a chubby t-shirt clad Mt. Gox employee who doesn’t look like a financial professional. That’s part of the problem. Mt. Gox was part of a first wave of early adopters of Bitcoin, of computer nerds and geeks who watched their new currency skyrocket from less than $10/BTC soon after its inception to over $1000/BTC earlier this year. Mt. Gox was originally a site that traded Magic: the Gathering trading cards that later got involved  with Bitcoin (Mt.Gox stood for Magic The Gathering Online eXchange). Mt. Gox did not have the necessary expertise, and got in way over their heads. The whereabouts of Mt.Gox’s CEO Mark Karpeles are unknown, as well as the whereabouts of 750,000 BTC (Over $400 million).

Still, Bitcoin enthusiasts are optimistic. Bitcoin crashed to less than $400/BTC after the Mt. Gox collapse, but has rebounded since to $550/BTC. So those who reinvested in Bitcoin during the crash are reaping the rewards, even as those burned by Mt. Gox are dealing with heavy losses. A new wave of much more serious Bitcoin exchanges are banding together and looking to experts from the financial world and are committed to keeping funds secure and handling them wisely.

So, Bitcoin isn’t going anywhere. It’s true that Bitcoin has been used for money laundering and drug trafficking. It’s true that Bitcoin is extremely volatile. However, If Sen. Manchin truly wanted to protect  “working Americans”, why not lump regulations on Bitcoin with a comprehensive package of Wall Street and Bank reforms? If it’s not OK for an enterprising group of nerds and hackers to play with their own brand of risky investment, why is it OK for rich suit-wearing banksters to play craps with our 401k’s on Wall Street?

Joe Manchin’s call to ban Bitcoin is just another center-right neoliberal fail. It’s part of the Neoliberal agenda to give Wall Street carte blanche to do as they please, but Main Street has to be carefully controlled and saved from themselves. Yeah, Bitcoin is risky. Those who invest in Bitcoin know what they’re getting into, and do so at their own risk. Manchin’s proposal is unnecessary and misguided, but not surprising. This is classic center-right Manchin.

There are political implications to this too. Bitcoin enthusiasts are most often young, smart, and computer savvy. Neoliberals like to think that their agenda “plays to the middle”, and wins elections. But, the Bitcoin world will remember this.

What’s that sound? It’s the sound of Bitcoins being deposited in Rand Paul’s presidential campaign coffers, and of the youth vote incrementally moving away from Democrats.