07/12/2014 archive

Random Japan

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Life-size Totoro FOUND! Live out your Ghibli fantasies in Tochigi Prefecture

    KK Miller

While the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka is a truly whimsical place, transporting you into the magical world of animator Hayao Miyazaki and friends, an adult may feel that their immersion is incomplete. In particular, the children-only play area that features a “life-size” cat bus practically begs you to step over the velvet rope and throw the makurokurosuke in the air like a kid on a sugar high, but to do so would likely result in your ejection from the building.

But fear not! There is one other place in Japan where even grown-ups can wander happily through the imaginary world of My Neighbor Totoro: The Teddy bear Museum in Tochigi Prefecture.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s 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

These Fruits Were Made for Grilling

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On the Fourth of July, before the meat and fish hit the grill, I decided to throw on some fruit. I’ve always loved the way roasting summer stone fruit like peaches and apricots deepens their flavors, and I thought a sizzle on the grill might do the same. It did. Just a few minutes on each side – enough to create griddle marks on a peach or an apricot and soften it, but not so long that the fruit collapses, brought out the juices and warmed the fruit through. When I removed the peaches and apricots from the grill I tossed them with a little honey and lemon zest. [..]

I couldn’t get grilled fruit out of my head, and worked on other recipes after I grilled the peaches and apricots – not just desserts, but salads with grilled fruit (some wonderful combinations) and a starter of grilled figs.

Arugula Salad With Grilled Apricots and Pistachios

Grilling the apricots makes them contrast beautifully with the pungent arugula in this salad.

Grilled Figs With Pomegranate Molasses

Serve these figs warm as an appetizer with goat cheese, or as a dessert with ricotta or yogurt.

Crêpes With Grilled Peaches and Apricots

Crêpes are great to have on hand for desserts, and easy to make with a nonstick or seasoned crêpe pan.

Grilled Watermelon and Feta Salad

A winning combination: sweet, juicy watermelon paired with salty cheese and pungent onions.

Grilled Vanilla-Ginger Pineapple

A sweet and pungent mix of vanilla and ginger syrup adds new dimension to a grilled pineapple.

2014 World Cup Third Place Match: Brazil – Netherlands

This afternoon Brazil will try to salvage its World Cup with a win in the Third Place Match against Netherlands (Holland).

Semifinal Losers Will Vie for Third Place, Like It or Not

World Cup 2014: Brazil and Netherlands to Play for Third Place, a Game No One Wants

Brazil lost its World Cup semifinal match to Germany by a devastating 7-1 score. The Netherlands lost its game against Argentina in a penalty shootout after 120 minutes of tense scoreless play.

After each match, the losing players wandered off the field, glassy eyed, crushed that their World Cup dreams had ended so close to the final.

The last thing any of them wanted to think about for a long time was soccer.

But their World Cup is not over. Instead, the losing semifinalists have had to haul their tired bodies and their dashed hopes to Brasília, where they will compete one more time on Saturday, for third place.

The third-place game is an oddity that many coaches, players and fans wish would fade into history. Netherlands Coach Louis van Gaal minced no words about the game.

“I think that this match should never be played,” he said. “The worst thing is that there is a chance you are going to lose twice in a row. And in a tournament in which you have played so marvelously well, you go home as a loser.”

C’est la vie, M. van Gaal. The man needs to stop whining about who went first and why.

Van Gaal remains convinced, though, that the World Cup was set up to favour Brazil. “I will stick to the facts,” he said. “The facts are that Brazil started first. And Brazil again has played first again and we played a day later.

“These are the facts. I am not going to beat around the bush. Then you know what the implications are if that is the case. The question is why? I think Scolari should think about that if he wants to do that and is allowed to do that.”

Van Gaal’s annoyance has clearly been heightened by the fact that Brazil have had another day to prepare for the third-place play-off. “We have one day less than Brazil,” Van Gaal added. “We have to get into shape in two and a half days, which physically is hard.”

Although much of the protesting has slowed, the corruption and political controversy of the game continued:

World Cup 2014: Executive Is Called Fugitive in Ticket-Selling Case

by Seth Kugel, The New York Times

A police investigation into an illegal ticket-selling scheme at the World Cup took a cinematic turn as one of the suspects slipped out of an employee entrance of the luxurious Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro just minutes before the police arrived to arrest him.

The suspect, Ray Whelan – an executive with Match Services, the company contracted by FIFA to sell match tickets and hospitality packages – can be seen on security footage casually following his lawyer, Fernando Fernandes, out an employee entrance of the hotel on Thursday afternoon. Police officers arrived minutes later with an arrest warrant. Whelan had been arrested earlier in the week and then released by a judge after a habeas corpus request. [..]

The police have been investigating an alleged Ticket Mafia, as the Brazilian press has called it, that supposedly acquired and sold World Cup match tickets and packages for well above list prices. The Rio de Janeiro police have recorded 50,000 phone calls, including around 900 calls between Whelan and Mohamadou Lamine Fofana, an Algerian who officials said was the mastermind of the operation, the police investigator Fabio Barucke told The Associated Press.

Investigators have accused 12 men of charges including ticket scalping, criminal conspiracy and, in three cases, bribing police officers in a sting operation. All but Whelan and José Massih, who assisted investigators during his initial arrest, are in police custody.

Brazilians Grumble and Take Stock After Crushing World Cup Loss

by Simon Romero, The New York Times

The hosting of the World Cup has been politicized from the moment FIFA, the scandal-tarred organization that oversees global soccer, awarded the tournament to Brazil in 2007. Back then, the economy was booming and the president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, viewed the Cup as an opportunity to celebrate Brazil’s achievements on the global stage.

Now the economy is sluggish, in its fourth consecutive year of slow growth. While the feat of lifting millions out of poverty over the past decade remains intact, Mr. Lula da Silva’s handpicked successor, Dilma Rousseff, has grappled with widespread protests over political corruption and spending on lavish stadiums.

Just last week, a survey suggested that Brazilians were softening in their views of the Cup, buoyed by a series of stunning matches and a lack of major problems in the hosting of the tournament itself. Antigovernment protests had dwindled substantially, even though discontent continued to smolder over the public financing of stadiums when other large-scale projects remained unfinished.

On the lighter side, if you liked the Lego movies and videos, The Guardian has an on going series of videos that highlight the best and worst moments of global sports, called “Brick by Brick.” The last several have focused on the 2014 World Cup starting with the first game between Brazil and Croatia to Suárez playing hero and villain, poster-boy Neymar’s injury and Brazil’s humiliating exit

The coverage for today’s game is on ESPN with pre-game hype starting at 3:30 PM EDT and kick off at 4 PM EDT.

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

Heidi Mooore: Wall Street and Washington want you to believe the stock market isn’t rigged. Guess what? It still is

Michael Lewis woke up Average Joe investors, but the fat cats are still trying to lull you into financial submission with their intellectual dishonesty

Most Americans don’t think much about the stock market, and that’s just fine with Wall Street. Because once you wake up to how screwed up the stock market really is, the financial industry knows you’re likely to get very nervous and take your money out.

Many are catching on: between 2007 and 2014, investors pulled $345bn from the stock market. E-Trades are down and worries are up, with 73% of Americans still not inclined to buy stocks, five years after the financial crisis. [..]

So last week, Washington featured a lot of handwringing, in two separate Congressional panels, about how to convince Average Joe investors that the stock market is their friend – even when it obviously isn’t. And it’s great that elected officials and Wall Street millionaires are talking about investor confidence. But they’re not talking about what really matters: investor protection. Guaranteeing that everyone gets a fair shake. Un-rigging the stock market.

Yet in Congress, the worry is all about appearances.

Trevor Timm: The Senate is giving more power to the NSA, in secret. Everyone should fight it

Politicians are still trying to hand over your data behind closed doors, under the guise of ‘cybersecurity’ reform. Have we learned nothing?

One of the most underrated benefits of Edward Snowden’s leaks was how they forced the US Congress to shelve the dangerous, privacy-destroying legislation- then known as Cispa – that so many politicians had been so eager to pass under the guise of “cybersecurity”. Now a version of the bill is back, and apparently its authors want to keep you in the dark about it for as long as possible.

Now it’s called the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (Cisa), and it is a nightmare for civil liberties. Indeed, it’s unclear how this kind of law would even improve cybersecurity. The bill was marked up and modified by the Senate intelligence committee in complete secrecy this week, and only afterward was the public allowed to see many of the provisions passed under its name. [..]

The best thing the government could probably do for cybersecurity is get its own house in order, starting with upgrading its terribly old computer systems that, in some agencies, are running a version of Windows that’s so old, Microsoft doesn’t even update it for the public anymore. Many agency websites don’t use basic HTTPS encryption, others, like the FBI, don’t use other basic forms of encryption to protect their emails. Why does the NSA continue to stockpile software vulnerabilities that could be disclosed to companies like Microsoft to make all of us safe?

Richard (RJ) Eskow: Citigroup’s $7 Billion Fraud Deal: The Clique’s Still Clicking in DC

Pop quiz: Which bank is widely considered too big to fail, needed (and got) a $45 billion government loan during the financial crisis, recently failed a stress test performed by the Federal Reserve — and has enjoyed a revolving-door relationship with both the Clinton and Obama administrations?

If you answered Citigroup, congratulations.

Citigroup is back in the headlines as the result of a new settlement with the Justice Department over its mortgage fraud, reportedly for the sum of $7 billion. This deal is being trumpeted as a major win for the American people. It’s not. The money’s not enough (and some of it probably won’t be paid out), the wrong people are paying, and there will be no prosecutions for criminal behavior.

From a moral perspective, the lack of prosecutions is probably the most troubling aspect of this deal, and it keeps happening. Somehow the Justice Department is able to reach one billion-dollar settlement after another to resolve charges of massive criminality without indicting a single criminal.

Anthony Lowenstein: The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control

At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US, says whistleblower William Binney – that’s a ‘totalitarian mentality’

William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.

On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations. [..]

The NSA will soon be able to collect 966 exabytes a year, the total of internet traffic annually. Former Google head Eric Schmidt once argued that the entire amount of knowledge from the beginning of humankind until 2003 amount to only five exabytes.

Binney, who featured in a 2012 short film by Oscar-nominated US film-maker Laura Poitras, described a future where surveillance is ubiquitous and government intrusion unlimited.

“The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control”, Binney said, “but I’m a little optimistic with some recent Supreme Court decisions, such as law enforcement mostly now needing a warrant before searching a smartphone.”

Michelle Chen: Obama’s new plan for detained migrant children militarizes immigration policy

Mass deportation will never address the underlying human rights crisis unfolding south of the US-Mexico border

President Obama vowed to do more for the nation’s children: boosting funding for early education, expanding subsidized childcare programs for working families – and now, asking for billions of dollars to kick tens of thousands of children out of the country. That last bit is reserved for a special group of kids, of course: the ones who came up to the border seeking to escape violence and economic devastation in their hometowns, to find family members, to seek shelter and for a chance at a decent life. And amid their pleas for recognition as refugees, the president is working with lawmakers to make them disappear. [..]

But instead, on Tuesday the White House requested $3.7bn in additional funding to launch a border “surge” to facilitate the legal process for the child migrants – with the ultimate aim of expediting deportations. And Obama has even suggested making these children easier to deport by altering existing laws that provide special protections and legal reprieve for children crossing the border from Central America. This, many politicians argue, will send a message that the United States is a “nation of laws“, in order to somehow deter other families from sending their children here in desperation. And yet in threatening wholesale deportation and eviscerating due process for five-year-olds, this supposed nation of laws opts to “secure the border” in the most brutish way possible: through the collective punishment of children and families.

Diane Ravitch: The Excellent But False Messaging of the Common Core Standards

Have you ever wondered about the amazingly effective campaign to sell the Common Core standards to the media, the business community, and the public? How did it happen that advocates for the standards used the same language, the same talking points, the same claims, no matter where they were located?

The talking points sounded poll-tested because they were. The language was the same because it came from the same source. The campaign to have “rigorous,” “high standards” that would make ALL students “college and career-ready” and “globally competitive” was well planned and coordinated. There was no evidence for these claims but repeated often enough in editorials and news stories and in ads by major corporations, they took on the ring of truth. Even the new stories that reported on controversies between advocates and opponents of the Common Core used the rhetoric of the advocates to describe the standards.

This was no accident.

Lyndsey Layton of the Washington Post reported that the Hunt Institute in North Carolina received more than $5 million from the Gates Foundation to organize support for the brand-new, unknown, untested Common Core standards. Organizing support meant creating the message as well as mobilizing messengers, many of whom were also funded by the Gates Foundation.

The Breakfast Club (Animals)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgAlmost everyone is familiar with today’s featured piece as it’s very popular and frequently performed, especially at Young People’s Concerts which were one of my favorites on CBS back in the day.  Hard to imagine a network doing something like that now.

But I was always weird, listened to WQXR before I picked up News Radio 88 (with traffic and weather together on the eights at 8, 18, 28, 38, 48, and 58 minutes past the hour).

The themes are used in many movies and commercials and it’s very, very short (for those with limited attention spans).

To Camille Saint-Saëns it was an elaborate musical joke, intended for private performances with his friends.  He’d just finished a Smell the Glove like tour of Germany and was pretty fed up with the music scene as you can tell by the titles of some of the sections (Wild Asses, Personages with Long Ears, Pianists, Fossils, c’mon)

Today’s clip is an abridged version, which I don’t normally do, a full version is below along with some other ‘long haired’ music.

“The Turtle”, “The Mule”, “The Cuckoo” and “The Swan” are omitted, a brief version of “The Pianists” is heard in the end credits, and the verse for “The Mule” is tacked onto the verse for “The Jackass.”

Also below- Obligatories and News.

On This Day In History July 12

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 12 is the 193rd day of the year (194th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 172 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1862, the Medal of Honor is created.

President Abraham Lincoln signs into law a measure calling for the awarding of a U.S. Army Medal of Honor, in the name of Congress, “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection.” The previous December, Lincoln had approved a provision creating a U.S. Navy Medal of Valor, which was the basis of the Army Medal of Honor created by Congress in July 1862. The first U.S. Army soldiers to receive what would become the nation’s highest military honor were six members of a Union raiding party who in 1862 penetrated deep into Confederate territory to destroy bridges and railroad tracks between Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia.


The first formal system for rewarding acts of individual gallantry by American soldiers was established by George Washington on August 7, 1782, when he created the Badge of Military Merit, designed to recognize “any singularly meritorious action.” This decoration is America’s first combat award and the second oldest American military decoration of any type, after the Fidelity Medallion.

Although the Badge of Military Merit fell into disuse after the American Revolutionary War, the concept of a military award for individual gallantry by members of the U.S. armed forces had been established. In 1847, after the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, a Certificate of Merit was established for soldiers who distinguished themselves in action. The certificate was later granted medal status as the Certificate of Merit Medal.

Early in the Civil War, a medal for individual valor was proposed by Iowa Senator James W. Grimes to Winfield Scott, the Commanding General of the United States Army. Scott did not approve the proposal, but the medal did come into use in the Navy. Senate Bill 82, containing a provision for a “Medal of Honor”, was signed into law (12Stat329) by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861. The medal was “to be bestowed upon such petty officers, seamen, landsmen, and Marines as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities during the present war.” Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles directed the Philadelphia Mint to design the new decoration. Shortly afterward, a resolution of similar wording was introduced on behalf of the Army and was signed into law on July 12, 1862. This measure provided for awarding a Medal of Honor, as the Navy version also came to be called: “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities, during the present insurrection.”

As there were only two medals that could be issued until the World War I including the Purple Heart, the Medal of Honor was sometimes awarded for deeds that would not later merit that distinction. In 1917, when other medals were created for bravery, a recall was requested for 910 Medals of Honor that had been previously issued, but no longer considered that noteworthy. Thereafter, and until the present day, the Medal was awarded for deeds that were considered exceptional.

Le Tour 2014: Stage 8, Tomblaine / Gérardmer La Mauselaine

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

Flaming chunks of twisted metal!  You could hardly ask for better weather or roads than you got in Stage 7 and still you had massive, race altering crashes.  So much for your theories about cobbles, or rain, or ‘selfies’.

‘Selfies’! even my activist brother who admits he can’t watch 15 minutes of Le Tour without falling into a coma of boredom repeated that laughable excuse.  Folks, spectators have been crowding the road and even dashing into the middle of the course to take pictures since the invention of the camera, which is to say basically forever.  I wonder what the tough guys of the first Tour would have to say about these whiny ass pretty boys when they rode cobbles almost every day and had to deal with flash powder explosions?

Stef Clement, Belkin captain, withdrew after a crash at km 40 (dead flat and dry), but then again he wasn’t expected to even start.  Mathias Frank withdrew early in the stage and Danny van Poppel at km 120 leaving Simon Yates, who scored the Climbing point for Côte de Maron, the youngest rider left at 22 years old.  Shortly after Tejay van Garderen who fancied himself a contender in the General Classification at (2:11) was involved in a crash and ended up losing 1:03 on the day and taking out his team mate Darwin Atapuma.  

In the last km there was another crash when Andrew Talansky went down during the final sprint and it looked like Peter Sagan would get his first stage win only to be aced out by Matteo Trentin in a photo finish.

On the stage it was Trentin and Sagan followed by 25 other riders who scored the same time as the leaders.  In the General Classification it is still Vincenzo Nibali followed by Jakob Fugslsang (:02), Peter Sagan (:44), Michal Kwiatkowski (:50).  Three more riders are under 2 minutes back, Tony Gallopin, Riche Porte, and Andrew Talansky and only 10 more under 3 minutes including Alberto Contador (2:37).  In Points competition the leader is Peter Sagan (259), Brian Coquard (146), Marcel Kittel (137), Alexander Kristoff (117), Mark Renshaw (85), and André Greipel (91); the next rider is 31 points behind.  In the Climber contest another static day, Cyril Lmoine (6), Blel Kadri (5), Jens Voigt and Nicolas Edet tied at 4.  Among the Teams it’s Astana, Belkin (4:18), Sky (6:31), BMC (7:08), and Trek (8:25).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes behind.  In Youth competition nothing changed, Peter Sagan, Michal Kwiatkowski (:06), Roman Bardet (1:27), Tom Dumoulin (1:41), and Thibaut Pinot (2:40).  Everyone else is over 11 minutes out.

Today’s stage is almost exactly 100 miles.  It starts out fairly flat though constantly ascending and the Sprint Checkpoint is at exactly 100 km.  After that the day goes up hill for the pure sprinters as we finish with 2 Category 2 climbs, Col de la Croix des Moinats and Col de Grosse Pierre, and in a Category 3 climb to the line in Gérardmer La Mauselaine.  This is the start of 6 more days in the Vosges which while not as tall as the Alps or Pyrenees are pretty steep and narrow.  We shall see in the standings start to change.

Coverage will be on NBC proper, not Vs. (or NBC Sports as it is now known) at 8 am ET.  Your usual schedule of constant repeats will be interupted by IndyCar racing and Outdoor shows though they will do the customary noon and 8 pm.

Party at SHG- You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me

Hey there Party People! Tonight at the Party we’ll be featuring tunes from across the pond. So, you don’t have to say you love me, but let’s give it up for those British invaders~

You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me