08/15/2015 archive

Random Japan

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Freaky interior of Japanese hospital appears to be made from the stuff of nightmares

Jamie Koide

They say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but that seems to be more of a guideline than a prescription for any and all maladies, and eventually we all find ourselves in the waiting room of a clinic or a hospital for a check-up or to get our head stapled back together.

Medical staff are well aware that clinics and hospitals aren’t exactly the kinds of places that make patients feel at home, so many medical facilities have tried improving their drab décor and entertainment options to help patrons feel more comfortable about their visit.

One clinic in Japan, however, appears to have gone a little overboard in the interior design department, and is making many of its patients feel like they’ve walked straight into a psychedelic nightmare instead.


In still another sign of how the TPP is unraveling we have the story of Chile from Truthout.

Where the Trans-Pacific Partnership Could Lose

By Julia Paley, Truthout

Friday, 14 August 2015 00:00

In Chile, where the administration of President Michelle Bachelet has moved forward with the TPP negotiation process, opposition is strong in the legislature. Even Bachelet’s minister of foreign affairs has indicated that Chile won’t sign the agreement if the TPP doesn’t meet certain criteria.

The Chilean controversy over the TPP highlights some of the biggest problems with the agreement – for working people in Chile, the United States, and around the world – and it makes plain the false promises the Obama administration used to push Democrats to support fast track.

Under ordinary circumstances, signing on to a free trade agreement would be a no brainer for Chile. It has agreements with more countries than any other nation, and additional ones are on the way. In fact, Chile already has trade agreements with all the other countries involved in the TPP.

As critics in many countries agree, the TPP is expected to harm health by extending the duration of patents for medicines and medical procedures, making them unaffordable for millions of people and increasing the cost of implementing public health measures. The TPP is predicted to limit culture and education by increasing the time before movies, music, and books enter the public domain – thereby keeping the price too high for low-income people as well as schools and libraries. And the TPP could curtail Internet freedoms by impeding innovation and criminalizing popular forms of sharing. All of these, which could impact people in the United States as well, hit other countries especially hard.

What’s particularly thorny for Chile is that standards for these issues were already hammered out in bilateral agreements with the United States and other countries. The concern is that joining the TPP will be tantamount to renegotiating the terms of trade – and coming out with less favorable results than before.

The fact that Chile already has free trade agreements with all the other countries in the pact means it has no particularly strong incentive to sign on. Unlike countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam, whose access to investment and export markets are likely to increase substantially under the TPP, the agreement won’t bring major trade benefits to Chile. Meanwhile, the costs to the country – in terms of its own ability to create laws in the future and extensions of intellectual property protections – could be high.

As the negotiation process nears a close, congressional representatives in Chile have renewed their opposition.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Muñoz made declarations about how far the Bachelet government was – and was not – willing to go. In response to deputies’ concerns, he declared that in the area of intellectual property, patents, and services, Chile would not accept any terms worse than those already negotiated in its existing free trade agreements. Specifically, in relation to patent protection for pharmaceuticals, he said that Chile would insist on the five years allowed for in existing treaties and not agree to the 12 years proposed for the TPP. “If there isn’t an agreement that’s acceptable, we won’t sign it,” he declared. Moreover, with regard to the US certification process, he affirmed, “we will not accept any interference in our sovereignty, and if that were the case, the agreement would not go into effect.”

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”.

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Richard (RJ) Eskow: 80 Years Later, Republicans Are Still Fighting Social Security

Some things never change. “The lash of the dictator will be felt,” a Republican House member said in 1935 when Social Security was first proposed. “Social Security is the delinquent child of the left,” a Fox News commentator said this week, “that grew up to be an evil dictator.”

“Dictator”? A program created by popularly elected politicians, and which enjoys widespread support among voters?

Polls have consistently shown that Americans are extremely pleased with Social Security, which provides benefits at costs far below those in the private sector. But Republicans are still working to erode the public’s trust in it, just as they did when GOP presidential candidate Alf Landon called it “a fraud on the workingman” in 1936 and said “the saving it forces on our workers is a cruel hoax.”

To campaign against Social Security is to court political suicide. (It certainly didn’t help Alf Landon; he was trounced.) It therefore becomes imperative to convince voters instead that the program is unreliable. That’s the Republican strategy.

Yves Smith: How to Make Private Equity Honest

The people who manage some of the country’s largest public pension funds — money that ensures the retirements of teachers, police officers, firefighters and other state employees — say they want government regulators to help them avoid getting ripped off when they invest in private equity firms.

Instead, regulators should push them to do a better job of monitoring the investments on their own.

In a letter last month to Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, 11 state treasurers, plus the New York state and New York City comptrollers, asked for “better disclosure” of expenses at private equity firms, which typically generate returns by buying companies, restructuring them and selling them at higher prices. The officials’ complaint: The firms have been levying all sorts of suspicious fees without their knowledge, effectively siphoning money away from future retirees.

Simon Malloy: GOP’s torture caucus gets bigger: Jeb Bush and Ben Carson join the fray

Jeb signals openness to another of his brother’s failed policies: torturing detainees. And he’s not alone!

Half a year ago, while speaking at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Jeb Bush made a show of distancing himself from the Bush family foreign policy legacy. “I am my own man,” he said, “and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.” It was transparent nonsense at the time he said it – Jeb was a fervent Iraq war supporter and his foreign policy team is built from the same neoconservative chuckleheads who shepherded George W. Bush into the Iraq catastrophe. But the Bush Doctrine still retains its well-earned political toxicity, and Jeb had to say something to at least give the impression that he wouldn’t be a replica of his brother on the world stage.

In the months since making that declaration, though, Jeb has shown no indication that his foreign policy preferences are substantively different from those of George W. Bush – he’s still defending the Iraq war, he wants American combat troops to fight in Iraq, he’s pushing regime change in another Middle Eastern country (Syria), and he favors a hardline posture on Iran that eschews diplomacy in favor of isolation and tough talk.

And now we can add torture to the list of Bush-era policies that Jeb might bring back.

Eugene Robinson: Jeb Bush: The Republican to Vote For (If You Wish His Brother Were Still in Office)

Jeb Bush has firmly established himself as the Republican to vote for if you wish his brother were still president. Best of luck with that.

In what was billed as a major foreign policy speech Tuesday, Bush proposed inching back into Iraq, wading into the Syrian civil war and engaging in much the same kind of geopolitical engineering and nation-building that George W. Bush attempted. So much for the whole “I am my own man” routine.

He finally understands that to have any credibility, even amid a field of uber-hawks (minus Rand Paul), he has to say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. But judging from his actions, that’s not what he seems to believe. Why would someone who thinks the war was wrong include Paul Wolfowitz, one of its architects, among his top foreign policy advisers? Why would someone who sees the Middle East as an unholy mess reveal that he consults his brother, the chief mess-maker, on what to do next?

The Breakfast Club (More Opera)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgThe 3 Rules of Opera

  1. It must be long, boring, and in an incomprehesible foreign language (even if that language is English).
  2. The characters, especially the main ones, must be thoroughly unsympathetic and their activities horrid and callous.
  3. Everyone must die, hopefully in an ironic and gruesome way.

Ballet is the same, but with more men in tights and without the superfluous singing.

My life is hardship and misery thanks to this opera. Everything about it is wrong for me.  (It is) totally at odds with all that I dream about, demanding a type of music that is alien to me.

Now to be fair, Debussy was talking about another opera he attempted but never finished- Rodrigue et Chimène, a sort of El Cid knockoff.

He was probably unhappy with the upbeat Hollywood ending where, mortally wounded, El Cid dies wishing only for one more crack at the Muslims so they (the Spanish) impale him on a stick like a corn dog, strap him to his horse, point him (the horse, El Cid is dead) at the Moors and give him a kick in the ass (the horse again, they could hardly give El Cid a kick there, that’s where the stick was).

From beyond the grave, El Cid tastes victory again, saving us from those civilized not us.  God and the Holy Roman Catholic Church be praised!

The fact is that his father was a greedy bastard and wanted some of that hot Opera money.  Our Claude however was all artsy-fartsy and gave it up as a bad job, opting instead for Pelléas et Mélisande.

Prince finds mysterious forest girl (that would be Mélisande) and marries her.  He brings her home and she falls in love with his brother (that would be Pelléas).  After years (maybe it only seems like years, it is Opera) of restraint and denial they confess their love in range of the stalking paranoid Prince who kills his brother Pelléas in a fit of jealousy.  Mélisande dies shortly after, in childbirth, never saying if the girl is from the Prince or Pelléas.

And how would she know anyway even if she’d been dinking them both?

As you see it has all the essential elements and sex besides.  You might expect it to be an unmitigated success but it took several years (1895 – 1902) to even find a venue and while regularly performed the reviews were mixed and the box office not boffo.  After the Great War it faded from public conciousness almost entirely.

The other thing about it is that it’s a conscious rebuke to Wagnerian bombast-

It is customary, and in the main correct, to regard Pelléas et Mélisande as a monument to French operatic reaction to Wagner.”

Debussy strove to avoid excessive Wagnerian influence on Pelléas from the start. The love scene was the first music he composed but he scrapped his early drafts for being too conventional and because “worst of all, the ghost of old Klingsor, alias R.Wagner, kept appearing.”

(T)he way Debussy writes for the orchestra is completely different from Tristan, for example. In Grout’s words, “In most places the music is no more than an iridescent veil covering the text.” The emphasis is on quietness, subtlety and allowing the words of the libretto to be heard; there are only four fortissimos in the entire score. Debussy’s use of declamation is un-Wagnerian as he felt Wagnerian melody was unsuited to the French language. Instead, he stays close to the rhythms of natural speech, making Pelléas part of a tradition which goes back to the French Baroque tragédies en musique of Rameau and Lully as well as the experiments of the very founders of opera, Peri and Caccini.

Which is a big plus in my book.  Without further adieu-

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

On This Day In History August 15

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.

August 15 is the 227th day of the year (228th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 138 days remaining until the end of the year.

While there were many significant events that happened on August 15, the most delightful and happily remember is Woodstock. Not many of my Baby Boomer generation remember that today Emperor Hirohito announced the unconditional surrender of Japan or that East Germany began the building of the Berlin Wall or that Malcolm slain Macbeth, it was peace, love and Rock N’ Roll in the mud with a lack of sanitary facilities but lots of music from some of the best at the Woodstock Festivalduring the weekend of August 15 to 18, 1969. The site was a dairy farm in West Lake, NY near the town of Bethel in Sullivan County, some 43 miles southwest from the actual town of Woodstock in Ulster County. During that rainy weekend some 500,000 concert goers became a pivotal moment in the history of Rock and Roll.

Peace, Drugs and Rock N’Roll. Rock On.

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.

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Beyond Pesto: New Ideas for Basil

Basil contains flavonoids that are believed to have some antioxidant properties; it’s an excellent source of vitamin K, and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A.

Pots of Basil will also keep away flies although it is unclear why, possibly the fragrant oils. The oils have also shown to inhibit the growth of some pathogenic bacteria that has become resistant to antibiotics.


Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed With Pesto

Ellen’s Lemon Basil Salad Dressing

Spaghetti Squash Gratin With Basil

Risotto With Green Beans

Provençal Tomato and Basil Soup