03/28/2015 archive

Random Japan

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Pikachu puts on a suit, hopes hiring managers will choose him as a business formal plushie

Casey Baseel

Despite his cherubic good looks and smooth, unlined face, Pikachu isn’t as young as he used to be. The first Pokémon video game was released in Japan in 1996, and considering that the franchise’s most famous pocket monster was ready to go into battle right away, theoretically he must have already been a few years old by that time.

What we’re saying is, Pikachu isn’t a kid anymore. It’s time he entered the workforce and became an economically self-sufficient member of society, which is just what he’s poised to do in his new, suit-wearing plushie form.

While Japan, like most western countries, celebrates the solar new year in January, spring is really considered to be the start of most people’s annual lifestyle cycles. It’s when the school year begins, and also when the vast majority of Japanese companies have their new employees start working.

2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament: Regional Finals Day 1

Yesterday’s Results-

Score Seed Team Record Score Seed Team Record Region
74 2 Gonzaga 34-5 62 11 UCLA 22-14 South
75 4 Louisville 26-8 65 8 NC State 22-14 East
63 1 Duke 31-4 57 5 Utah 26-9 South
58 3 Oklahoma 25-11 62 7 * Michigan State 26-11 East

Go Spartans!

Tonight’s Matchups-

Time Channel Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
6:09pm TBS 1 Kentucky 36-0 3 Notre Dame 32-5 Mid-West
8:49pm TBS 1 Wisconsin 33-3 2 Arizona 33-3 West

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

A Colorful Passover Seder

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Andrew Scrivani for The New York Time

The Passover meal is one of the most meaningful gatherings in Judaism, symbolizing the Jews’ flight from slavery in Egypt. As the cookbook author Joan Nathan writes, the annual event gives her “chills, knowing that I’m following what was written in the Bible more than 2,500 years ago.” [..]

But thousands of years of tradition doesn’t mean you can’t still find moments of creativity and color in your Passover meal. We have collected some of our favorite Martha Rose Shulman recipes to help you set a delicious and meaningful Passover table.

~ Tara Parker-Pope ~

Egg Lemon Soup with Matzos

No schmaltz is needed for this comforting Greek-style soup – the matzos are crumbled right into the broth.

Bitter Herbs Salad

Endive, romaine and chicory are present on many Sephardic ritual platters, but here these pungent greens form the basis for a salad with a garlicky dressing.

Braised Greek Artichoke Bottoms with Lemon and Olive Oil

These brightly flavored artichokes, served cold or at room temperature, can be made a day ahead of time.

Sweet Potato and Apple Kugel

I’ve looked at a number of sweet potato kugel recipes, and experimented with this one a few times until I was satisfied with it.

Broccoli, Quinoa and Purslane Salad

Slice the raw broccoli very thin for this delicious salad. If you can’t find purslane you can substitute mâche.

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: The FBI used to recommend encryption. Now they want to ban it

The FBI wants to make us all less safe. At least that’s the implication from FBI director Jim Comey’s push to ban unbreakable encryption and deliberately weaken everyone’s security. And it’s past time that the White House makes its position clear once and for all.

Comey was back before Congress this week – this time in front of the House Appropriations Committee – imploring Congressmen to pass a law that would force tech companies to create a backdoor in any phone or communications tool that uses encryption. [..]

The idea that all of a sudden the FBI is “going dark” and won’t be able to investigate criminals anymore thanks to a tiny improvement of cell phone security is patently absurd. Even if the phone itself is protected by a passphrase that encrypts the device, the FBI can still go to telecom companies to get all the phone metadata they want. They can also still track anyone they choose by getting a cell phone’s location information 24 hours a day, and of course they can still wiretap the calls themselves. Let’s not forget that with a four digit passcode – like iPhones come with by default – can easily broken into by the FBI without anyone’s help anyways. So a vast majority of this debate is already moot.

Beyond a few vague hypotheticals, Comey wouldn’t give any specific examples at the hearing about where this has tripped up the FBI before, but the last time the FBI did, what they said was immediately debunked as nonsense.

Eugene Robinson: The Mark of Terror

We don’t need to know the political or religious views of Germanwings copilot Andreas Gunter Lubitz to call his crashing of a crowded airliner into a mountainside an act of terrorism. And we don’t need any further evidence to recognize a cruel irony: Legitimate fear of potential terrorist attacks apparently made this tragedy possible. [..]

Terrorism is often defined as violence committed for a political or religious purpose, and no one can say yet what the pilot had in mind. But no one does something like this without intending to make a statement. We may not yet know what it means – and I suppose it’s possible that we may never know. Murder of this kind, on this scale and in this chilling manner is terrorism.

It’s possible, I suppose, that Lubitz was profoundly delusional. But if this were the case, how could he have passed the airline’s annual medical exams? How could he have worked in such close quarters with fellow pilots, flight attendants and other personnel, day after day, without anyone noticing behavior that suggested a problem?

It looks as if Lubitz wasn’t just trying to end his life because he was depressed. He apparently decided to end 149 other lives as well because he wanted to tell us something. Tragically, this is precisely the kind of thing that terrorists do.

Roxane Gay: Indiana is not protecting religious freedom but outright zealotry

Religious freedom in the United States is protected by the Constitution. It’s strange to have to state the obvious, but the Indiana legislature and Governor Mike Pence seem to need a refresher on basic civics. On 26 March, Pence signed SB 101 into law, a bill which supposedly protects religious freedom, though in this instance, that freedom largely applies to business owners who want the right to refuse service to customers they disapprove of. As with the Supreme Court decision on Hobby Lobby, the state of Indiana is giving businesses the same rights as people. Mitt Romney would be so proud of what he hath wrought. [..]

Of course, Indiana is not alone in drafting such legislation. There are 19 other states with similar laws on the books. The ongoing fight for marriage equality and feminism are probably to blame. There are pesky people all across the country simply wanting the freedom to live their lives; they clearly must be stopped.

But let’s talk about what’s really going on here. Indiana is not protecting religious freedom. They are protecting a very specific brand of zealotry. They are protecting bigotry. Though they won’t admit it, SB 101 is a knee jerk response to marriage equality becoming law in Indiana in late 2014. In some ways, the passage of this law offers comfort. Small-minded people are more plainly revealing themselves for who and what they are.

Steven W. Thrasher: Uganda faced a backlash for its homophobic legislation. Will California?

After years of efforts by American evangelical missionaries in collusion with pandering local politicians, Uganda passed a law in 2014 which made homosexual acts punishable by life in prison (an improvement on its 2013 “kill the gays” legislation). But though Uganda’s high court later overturned the law on a technicality, America quickly cut aid to the nation and calls for a trade boycott in Britain were swift, before the law was considered again.

So will the State of California face the threat of similar federal sanctions for its own proposed “kill the gays” referendum?

In attempting to put the Sodomite Suppression Act (pdf) – which allows “any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification” to “be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method” – on the ballot in California, attorney Matt McLaughlin has made it clear that too many people in the United States are no better than those in Uganda who earned our country’s opprobrium.

Alison Rose Levy: Oregonians Are ‘Mad as Hell’ About Trade Deals That Threaten Their Food Supply

In the 1976 film “Network,” a news anchor, played by the late actor Peter Finch, urges his television audience to open their windows and shout the infamous phrase, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

According to people I’ve talked to on the ground in Oregon, that may be something close to what many residents there are feeling right now. But instead of shouting out the window, Oregonians are petitioning and phoning their senator, Ron Wyden, to ask him to oppose granting so-called fast track authority to President Obama. [..]

Fast track-expected to be introduced in the Senate when Congress returns on April 11-is legislation that would give Obama the ability to sign international trade agreements without public or congressional disclosure and without giving lawmakers the ability to debate or amend the agreements. If fast track passes, the passage of the two trade agreements is widely regarded as a done deal.

All of this troubles Oregonians concerned about food, health and the environment because Wyden is being heavily wooed by the finance committee chairman, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, to co-sponsor the fast track bill. According to Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch, the bill can be sold as bipartisan if Wyden supports it, a point that the president is likely to use as leverage to sway recalcitrant House Democrats.

One obstacle to this well-orchestrated attempt to bypass democracy is Wyden’s own constituency.

Thor Benson: Why Wikimedia Just Might Win Its Lawsuit Over NSA Surveillance

The National Security Agency and the Department of Justice are being sued by Wikimedia, the nonprofit organization that runs Wikipedia-the online encyclopedia whose articles can be written or edited by anyone.

Wikimedia claims that the U.S. government’s mass surveillance programs are threatening its ability to spread free, open and honest information and that the way the NSA collects data violates the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. The organization is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and is joined in the suit by eight other plaintiffs, including the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA and The Nation.

The suit is specifically challenging the NSA’s use of “upstream surveillance,” which taps directly into the Internet’s backbone-the network of cables and routers that makes the Web possible-and intercepts all the traffic that goes across it.

2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: Regional Semifinals Day 2

Last Night’s Results-

Score Seed Team Record Score Seed Team Record Region
97 1 South Carolina 33-2 68 4 North Carolina 26-9 South
73 2 Baylor 33-3 44 3 Iowa 26-8 Mid-West
66 2 Florida St. 32-4 65 3 Arizona State 29-6 South
81 1 Notre Dame 34-2 60 4 Stanford 26-10 Mid-West

Not a single upset.

Today’s Matchups-

Time Channel Seed Team Record Seed Team Record Region
12:00pm ESPN 1 UConn 33-1 5 Texas 24-10 East
2:30pm ESPN 3 Louisville 27-8 7 Dayton 27-6 East
4:30pm ESPN 1 Maryland 31-2 4 Duke 23-10 West
7:00pm ESPN 2 Tennessee 29-5 11 Gonzaga 26-7 West

On This Day In History March 28

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 28 is the 87th day of the year (88th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 278 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1979, the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island overheats causing a partial meltdown. At 4 a.m. on March 28, 1979, the worst accident in the history of the U.S. nuclear power industry begins when a pressure valve in the Unit-2 reactor at Three Mile Island fails to close. Cooling water, contaminated with radiation, drained from the open valve into adjoining buildings, and the core began to dangerously overheat.

The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant was built in 1974 on a sandbar on Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River, just 10 miles downstream from the state capitol in Harrisburg. In 1978, a second state-of-the-art reactor began operating on Three Mile Island, which was lauded for generating affordable and reliable energy in a time of energy crises.

Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station

The power plant was owned and operated by General Public Utilities and Metropolitan Edison (Met Ed). It was the most significant accident in the history of the USA commercial nuclear power generating industry, resulting in the release of up to 481 PBq (13 million curies) of radioactive gases, and less than 740 GBq (20 curies) of the particularly dangerous iodine-131.

The accident began at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 1979, with failures in the non-nuclear secondary system, followed by a stuck-open pilot-operated relief valve (PORV) in the primary system, which allowed large amounts of nuclear reactor coolant to escape. The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss-of-coolant accident due to inadequate training and human factors, such as human-computer interaction design oversights relating to ambiguous control room indicators in the power plant’s user interface. In particular, a hidden indicator light led to an operator manually overriding the automatic emergency cooling system of the reactor because the operator mistakenly believed that there was too much coolant water present in the reactor and causing the steam pressure release. The scope and complexity of the accident became clear over the course of five days, as employees of Met Ed, Pennsylvania state officials, and members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) tried to understand the problem, communicate the situation to the press and local community, decide whether the accident required an emergency evacuation, and ultimately end the crisis. The NRC’s authorization of the release of 40,000 gallons of radioactive waste water directly in the Susquehanna River led to a loss of credibility with the press and community.

In the end, the reactor was brought under control, although full details of the accident were not discovered until much later, following extensive investigations by both a presidential commission and the NRC. The Kemeny Commission Report concluded that “there will either be no case of cancer or the number of cases will be so small that it will never be possible to detect them. The same conclusion applies to the other possible health effects”. Several epidemiological studies in the years since the accident have supported the conclusion that radiation releases from the accident had no perceptible effect on cancer incidence in residents near the plant, though these findings are contested by one team of researchers.

Public reaction to the event was probably influenced by The China Syndrome, a movie which had recently been released and which depicts an accident at a nuclear reactor. Communications from officials during the initial phases of the accident were felt to be confusing. The accident crystallized anti-nuclear safety concerns among activists and the general public, resulted in new regulations for the nuclear industry, and has been cited as a contributor to the decline of new reactor construction that was already underway in the 1970s.

The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident With Wider Consequences.

The Breakfast Club (Cold Frosty Morning)

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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Breakfast Tune: Dave Hum – Cold Frosty Morning

Today in History

An accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant; Former President Dwight Eisenhower dies; The Spanish Civil War ends; Maria von Trapp of ‘Sound of Music’ fame dies; Singer Reba McEntire born. (March 28)

Breakfast News & Blogs Below