Daily Archive: 04/26/2014

Apr 26 2014

Random Japan

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Toilet paper featuring Miffy the bunny promises to be far cuter before you use it than after

   Casey Baseel

Dutch children’s book author and artist Dick Bruna has created a number of characters, but his most popular of all is the good-natured rabbit named Miffy. Japan has embraced the character wholeheartedly, and at stores across the country you can find Miffy stuffed animals, stationary, and bento boxes.

And starting next month, you’ll be able to get your hands on Miffy toilet paper as well.

Like Sanrio’s Hello Kitty, Miffy has a blank expression, which easily allows the person looking at her to project whatever emotion they’re feeling onto the bunny. As a matter of fact, Bruna has grumbled that he feels Kitty-chan’s ripped off Miffy’s design, since the Dutch rabbit predates the Japanese cat by nearly 20 years.

Apr 26 2014

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

Quiche Meets Whole Wheat

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My quiches are delicious vehicles for vegetables. Right now this means fat spears of asparagus and sweet spring onions, green garlic and lush bunches of spinach. I also slipped in a few other vegetables that we can get year-round in the supermarket, like cabbage and red peppers. I used lots of scallions too, but they were fat ones from the farmers’ market, not the thin scallions from the supermarket, though they work too; you just need more of them.

These tarts have everything necessary for a satisfying main dish – protein from the dairy, delicious vegetables cooked in olive oil with fresh herbs, and a little bit of indulgence in the presence of an almost classic French pastry (though with a nutty whole-wheat twist).

Martha Rose Shulman

Whole-Wheat Pie Dough

This dough, made with half whole-wheat flour, has a nutty, rich flavor that works well for a savory tart.

Quiche With Red Peppers and Spinach

Spinach is plentiful and gorgeous this time of year, and slow cooking makes even the blandest red peppers sweet.

Cabbage and Spring Onion Quiche With Caraway

Seasonal onions and a winter stalwart, cabbage, make a deliciously sweet filling.

Scallion and Celery Quiche

An underappreciated vegetable, celery, is the star of this tart.

Roasted Asparagus and Scallion Quiche

Roasting asparagus makes it succulent even when it’s hidden inside a quiche.

Apr 26 2014

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

Trevor Timm: [DC thinks it can silence a new Snowden, but the anti-leak hypocrisy is backfiring

The Obama administration’s latest secrecy guidelines would make Deep Throat spin in his grave. Good thing the floodgates are about to open on drones

After Edward Snowden caught the US government with its pants down, you would think the keepers of this country’s secrets might stand up for a little more transparency, not bend over backwards trying to control the message.

Instead, this week we found out the Most Transparent Administration in American Historyâ„¢ has implemented a new anti-press policy that would make Richard Nixon blush. National intelligence director James Clapper, the man caught lying to Congress from an “unauthorized” leak by Snowden, issued a directive to the employees of all 17 intelligence agencies barring all employees from any “unauthorized” contact with the press. [..]

The truth-about-drones opinion has the potential to force the administration to come clean on a variety of policies, but don’t expect them to do any of that anytime soon. This week, the OLC released a list of 2013 unclassified legal opinions to the Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly in response to his own FOIA request. The subjects of all but one were blacked out:

Ruth Coniff: Scathing Report Finds School Privatization Hurt Poor Kids

Gordon Lafer, a political economist and University of Oregon professor who has advised Congress, state legislatures, and the New York City mayor’s office, landed at the airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this week bringing with him a briefing paper on school privatization and how it hurts poor kids.

Lafer’s report, “Do Poor Kids Deserve Lower-Quality Education Than Rich Kids? Evaluating School Privatization Proposals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” released today by the Economic Policy Institute, documents the effects of both for-profit and non-profit charter schools that are taking over struggling public schools in Milwaukee.

“I hope people connect the dots,” Lafer said by phone from the Milwaukee airport.

Lafer’s research, commissioned by the Economic Policy Institute to evaluate the school-privatization push in Milwaukee, is a sweeping indictment of the growing private charter school industry — and other schemes backed by rightwing groups and big business — that siphon public funds out of public schools and enrich corporate investors at the expense of quality education for poor children.

Maira Sutton: TPP Is Right Where We Want It: Going Nowhere

President Obama is on a diplomatic tour of Asia this week and one of his top priorities is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement that includes restrictive copyright enforcement measures that pose a huge threat to users’ rights and a free and open Internet. In particular, he’s seeking to resolve some major policy disagreements with Japan and Malaysia-the two countries that have maintained resistance against some provisions in the TPP involving agriculture and other commodities. Despite some reports of movement on some of the most controversial topics during meetings between Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, it seems that the TPP is still effectively at a standstill. [..]

This pushback is great news, and it comes thanks in large part to users around the world contacting their lawmakers and asking them to question and oppose TPP’s secretive corporate-driven agenda. A new campaign this week called Stop the Secrecy collected users’ petition signatures and messages about the TPP from various public interest groups; the final tally came out to over 2.8 million actions that have been taken over the last two years. The campaigners are projecting their message to “stop the secrecy” on U.S. capitol buildings. The aim is to get lawmakers and trade delegates to realize that if the agreement progresses, thousands of these users will be ready to stop it again in its tracks.

David Sirota: Wall Street’s Secret Swindle

In the national debate over what to do about public pension shortfalls, here’s something you may not know: The texts of the agreements signed between those pension funds and financial firms are almost always secret. Yes, that’s right. Although they are public pensions that taxpayers contribute to and that public officials oversee, the exact terms of the financial deals being engineered in the public’s name and with public money are typically not available to you, the taxpayer.

To understand why that should be cause for concern, ponder some possibilities as they relate to pension deals with hedge funds, private equity partnerships and other so-called “alternative investments.” For example, it is possible that the secret terms of such agreements could allow other private individuals in the same investments to negotiate preferential terms for themselves, meaning public employees’ pension money enriches those private investors. It is also possible that the secret terms of the agreements create the heads-Wall-Street-wins, tails-pensions-lose effect-the one whereby retirees’ money is subjected to huge risks, yet financial firms’ profits are guaranteed regardless of returns.

Eugene Robinson: The Court Stacks the Deck

Affirmative action has opened doors for disadvantaged minorities and made this a fairer, more equal society. The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts apparently wants no more of that.

This week’s big ruling-upholding a Michigan state constitutional amendment that bans public universities from considering race in admissions-claims to leave affirmative action alive, if on life support. But the court’s opinion, ignoring precedent and denying reality, can only be read as an invitation for other states to follow suit.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s thundering dissent should be required reading. She sees what the court is doing and isn’t afraid to call out her colleagues on the disingenuous claim that the ruling in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action is limited in scope. It has implications that go beyond college admissions to other areas, such as voting rights, where majorities seek to trample minority rights.

Joe Conason: Now We Know: Economic Inequality Is a Malady-and Not a Cure

It has been a long, long time since Americans accepted the advice of a French intellectual about anything important, let alone the future of democracy and the economy. But the furor over Thomas Piketty’s stunning best-seller, “Capital in the 21st Century”-and especially the outraged reaction from the Republican right-suggests that this fresh import from la belle France has struck an exposed nerve.

What Piketty proves, with his massive data set and complex analytical tools, is something that many of us-including Pope Francis-have understood both intuitively and intellectually: namely, that human society, both here and globally, has long been grossly inequitable and is steadily becoming more so, to our moral detriment.

What Piketty strongly suggests is that the structures of capitalism not only regenerate worsening inequality, but now drive us toward a system of economic peonage and political autocracy.

Apr 26 2014

On This Day In History April 26

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.

April 26 is the 116th day of the year (117th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 249 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1986, the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident occurs at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union. Thirty-two people died and dozens more suffered radiation burns in the opening days of the crisis, but only after Swedish authorities reported the fallout did Soviet authorities reluctantly admit that an accident had occurred.

The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukrainian SSR (now Ukraine). An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western Russia and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima I nuclear incident, which is considered far less serious and has caused no direct deaths). The battle to contain the contamination and avert a greater catastrophe ultimately involved over 500,000 workers and cost an estimated 18 billion rubles, crippling the Soviet economy.

The disaster began during a systems test on 26 April 1986 at reactor number four of the Chernobyl plant, which is near the town of Pripyat. There was a sudden power output surge, and when an emergency shutdown was attempted, a more extreme spike in power output occurred, which led to a reactor vessel rupture and a series of explosions. These events exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite. The resulting fire sent a plume of highly radioactive smoke fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plume drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe. From 1986 to 2000, 350,400 people were evacuated and resettled from the most severely contaminated areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. According to official post-Soviet data, about 60% of the fallout landed in Belarus.

The accident raised concerns about the safety of the Soviet nuclear power industry, as well as nuclear power in general, slowing its expansion for a number of years and forcing the Soviet government to become less secretive about its procedures.

(Click on image to enlarge) Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus have been burdened with the continuing and substantial decontamination and health care costs of the Chernobyl accident. Thirty one deaths are directly attributed to the accident, all among the reactor staff and emergency workers. A UNSCEAR report places the total confirmed deaths from radiation at 64 as of 2008. Estimates of the number of deaths potentially resulting from the accident vary enormously: the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest it could reach 4,000; a Greenpeace report puts this figure at 200,000 or more; a Russian publication, Chernobyl, concludes that 985,000 excess deaths occurred between 1986 and 2004 as a result of radioactive contamination.

Decommissioning

After the explosion at reactor four, the remaining three reactors at the power plant continued to operate. In 1991, reactor two suffered a major fire, and was subsequently decommissioned. In November 1996, reactor one was shut down, followed by reactor three on December 15, 2000, making good on a promise by Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma that the entire plant would be closed.

Even after the last reactor shutdown, people continue to work at the Chernobyl plant until reactor units 1, 2, and 3 are totally decommissioned, which is expected to take years. The first stage of decommissioning is the removal of the highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, which is placed in deep water cooling ponds. However, storage facilities for this are not suitable for long term containment, and those on site do not have the capacity for all the spent fuel from units 1, 2 and 3. A second facility is planned for construction that will use dry storage technology suitable for long term storage and have the required capacity.

Removal of uncontaminated equipment has begun at unit 1 and this work could be complete by 2020-2022.

The remains of reactor unit 4 will remain radioactive for some time. The isotope responsible for the majority of the external gamma radiation dose at the site is Caesium-137 which has a half-life of about 30 years. It is likely that with no further decontamination work the gamma ray dosage at the site will return to background levels in about three hundred years. However, as most of the alpha emitters are longer lived, the soil and many surfaces in and around the plant are likely to be contaminated with transuranic metals such as plutonium and americium, which have much longer half-lives. It is planned that the reactor buildings will be disassembled as soon as it is radiologically safe to do so.

Apr 26 2014

The Breakfast Club: Murdering the Classics

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Lindley Armstrong Jones was a musical prodigy, primarily in percussion though he could play other instruments as well.  His father was a Railroad executive and a chef who worked for the company taught him how to use ordinary objects to create complex and melodic compositions (you know of course that a piano is a percussion instrument).

He’s probably best known for this piece-

In the early days of television he took his already incredibly successful touring company into the studio and produced some memorable work with other giants of film and radio.

More below-

Apr 26 2014

The Breakfast Club: Murdering the Classics

The Breakfast Club: Murdering the Classics

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo BeerBreakfast_web_zps646fca37.png

This Day in History

Lindley Armstrong Jones was a musical prodigy, primarily in percussion though he could play other instruments as well.  His father was a Railroad executive and a chef who worked for the company taught him how to use ordinary objects to create complex and melodic compositions (you know of course that a piano is a percussion instrument).

He’s probabably best known for this piece-

In the eary days of television he took his already incredibly successful touring company into the studio and produced some memorable work with other giants of film and radio.

More below-