March 28, 2014 archive

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is 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.

Inspired by Irish Soda Bread

Inspired by Irish Soda Bread photo recipehealthpromo-tmagArticle_zpsd3d714da.jpg

I put a little bit of white flour in my loaves, but you could use all whole-wheat flour if you prefer. With whole wheat, your bread will have more fiber, zinc, B vitamins and iron, and its glycemic index will be considerably lower than that of bread made with white flour. Irish-style wholemeal flour, available from King Arthur Flour and from importers, has a coarse crumb that is typical of Irish soda bread. I achieved the same crumb using my Community Grains whole-wheat flour and adding oatmeal to the mix. I used buttermilk as the liquid, but you can also use yogurt or a mix of yogurt and milk. You do need the acid from the fermented milk to react with the baking soda.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Scones With Raisins and Oatmeal

These are diminutive, light scones like the ones that originated in Britain and Ireland.

Moist Brown Soda Bread Loaf With Oats

This soda bread is baked at a lower temperature so that it doesn’t develop a hard crust.

Whole-Wheat Soda Bread With Raisins (Spotted Dog)

A mix of raisins sweetens this brown soda bread.

Brown Soda Bread Loaf With Caraway Seeds and Rye

A regional version of soda bread that is dark-brown, grainy and moist.

Savory Whole-Wheat Buttermilk Scones With Rosemary and Thyme

A whole-grain scone that pairs well with cheese.

Policing Gender

Sunnie Kahle, 8, prefers to have short hair and dress comfortably (t-shirts, jeans and sneakers).  Officials at the school she has attended, Timberlake Christian School near Lynchburg, VA, decided that wasn’t appropriate for one of their students.  So they wrote to Sunnie’s grandparents, who are also her guardians, to inform them that Sunnie would have to dress more femininely if she wanted to attend that school.

Despite what you may see in any headlines, Sunnie is not transgender.  She is perfectly satisfied with being a girl.

The school officials, however, expressed their concern about her appearance and cited their policy against condoning sexual immorality, practicing a homosexual lifestyle, or having an alternative gender identity.

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NSA ally Mike Rogers to leave House intelligence committee for talk radio

Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Friday 28 March 2014 10.25 EDT

Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan, the powerful chairman of the House intelligence committee and a former FBI agent, announced on Friday morning that he is leaving Congress at the end of his term to start a conservative talk radio show.

The surprise move comes four days after Rogers introduced a bill that would significantly constrain the NSA’s bulk collection of US phone data, a policy Rogers said he came to reluctantly after recognizing the lack of public and congressional confidence in the most domestically controversial of surveillance programs exposed by Snowden through the Guardian.

Rogers’s bill, however, provides fewer judicial obstacles to the government’s continued acquisition and search of phone and email data than does a competing proposal from members of the Senate and House judiciary committees and a new offering to end bulk data collection from the Obama administration.

Supporters of the latter proposals believe their efforts have been made tougher after the House parliamentarian, allegedly at the behest of the House speaker, John Boehner, gave the intelligence committee primary jurisdiction of Rogers’ bill on Thursday. Some House aides suspect the move is a prelude to a quick floor vote on the measure. But that was before Rogers announced his retirement, adding an unexpected element to the legislative competition.

When asked if the intelligence committee even knew how many more NSA disclosures were yet to come, Rogers’ chief Democratic ally on the committee, Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, quipped: “The Guardian will take care of that.”

Rogers thanked supporters in a statement announcing his retirement.

“As I close this chapter please know that I am not finished with the effort to bring back American exceptionalism,” Rogers said.



I had the distinct pleasure of being around for all of poblano’s career on Daily Kos.  I must admit he wasn’t my favorite author, not because I had any particular beef with him, but because I just wasn’t interested in his subject matter.

You see I find electoral horse race diaries dull beyond description and am much more interested in policy and good governance than the politics of personality.

Still, he’s an interesting case study.  When he came he was a sports statistician and a proponent of the then novel Sabermetrics system of analysis.  His particular contention was that the same techniques could be applied to political polling and give you a quite accurate prediction of the outcome of any given contest.

Some people were offended by his results since their perceptions were rose tinted by wishful thinking and at times discussion in poblano’s diaries became quite heated.  When he came out as Nate Silver and got picked up (along with his blog FiveThirtyEight which I feel was established partly as a reaction to his reception at dK) by The New York Times I’m sure he was not sorry to shake the dust off and go.

During the 2012 election cycle kos followed Nate’s predictions quite closely and with good reason as he has a remarkable record of success-

The accuracy of his November 2008 presidential election predictions-he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 states-won Silver further attention and commendation. The only state he missed was Indiana, which went for Barack Obama by one percentage point. He correctly predicted the winner of all 35 U.S. Senate races that year.

In the 2012 United States presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, he correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia. That same year, Silver’s predictions of U.S. Senate races were correct in 31 of 33 states; he predicted Republican victory in North Dakota and Montana, where Democrats won.

Of course kos got results nearly as good by simple poll averaging, no complicated weighting required.

In July of last year Nate picked up his site and moved to ESPN where, while he still talks about politics, he is much more sports focused.

It seems we have a celebrity feud brewing between poblano and Herr Doktor Professor.

The real problem with Nate Silver’s attack on Paul Krugman


3/27/14 11:48 AM EDT

Nate Silver took a not-so-veiled shot at his former New York Times colleague Paul Krugman on Wednesday, suggesting – through some tongue-in-cheek empirical analysis – that the columnist had taken a more critical attitude to Silver following his move to ESPN.

“Mr. Krugman’s views of FiveThirtyEight have changed since it re-launched March 17 under the auspices of ESPN,” Silver wrote. “To be sure, the difference in Mr. Krugman’s views could reflect a decline in quality for FiveThirtyEight. The web site has brought on almost two dozen new employees and contributors. And it has expanded its coverage beyond politics into sports, economics and other areas.”

The problems with Silver’s attack are manifold: One, it’s petty. Two, it’s snarky. Three, it’s self-centered. Four, it eschews objectivity in favor of personal gripes. Five, it uses data to infer, rather than deduce: Silver suggests Krugman has become a critic because Silver is no longer at the Times. He might pause to wonder if the shift in tone is due, at least in part, to the fact that Silver spent a year hyping up a site that has yet to live up to expectations, and that, in the meantime, he badmouthed columnists like Krugman as “worthless.”

Silver doesn’t care about being first or breaking news – fine, he doesn’t need to. But he needs to at least be relevant. So far, Silver’s site has achieved relevancy just twice – once with his March Madness picks, which were largely useless, the second time with his Senate predictions, which reportedly scared the bejeezus out of Democrats. But aside from these “events,” there is little reason to check in with FiveThirtyEight on a daily basis, unless you’re an adoring fan.

Now the truth is I haven’t been to FiveThirtyEight so I have no idea whether any of this is so or not.  I remember poblano as a pretty mild and even-tempered guy unless you started messing with his data.

As nearly as I can figure Herr Doktor Professor’s (who I do read every day) main criticism is that the Fox/Hedgehog analogy is inapt because poblano’s entire history and fame rests on the fact he’s a Hedgehog who endlessly repeats his one big truth which is that the data is what it is, something that’s completely in line with my interactions with him (not that there were many).

To disclose my personal bias, I recently wrote this-

I have my disagreements with…

Herr Doktor Professor and normally when I do I focus on other economists who understand the problem more clearly or are more forceful in their expression.  In today’s piece I don’t disagree with this-

The case for stimulus was that we were suffering from a huge shortfall in overall spending, and that the hit to the economy from the financial crisis and the bursting of the housing bubble was so severe that the Federal Reserve, which normally fights recessions by cutting short-term interest rates, couldn’t overcome this slump on its own. The idea, then, was to provide a temporary boost both by having the government directly spend more and by using tax cuts and public aid to boost family incomes, inducing more private spending.

Opponents of stimulus argued vociferously that deficit spending would send interest rates skyrocketing, “crowding out” private spending. Proponents responded, however, that crowding out – a real issue when the economy is near full employment – wouldn’t happen in a deeply depressed economy, awash in excess capacity and excess savings. And stimulus supporters were right: far from soaring, interest rates fell to historic lows.

So why does everyone – or, to be more accurate, everyone except those who have seriously studied the issue – believe that the stimulus was a failure? Because the U.S. economy continued to perform poorly – not disastrously, but poorly – after the stimulus went into effect.

But that’s all water under the bridge. The important point is that U.S. fiscal policy went completely in the wrong direction after 2010. With the stimulus perceived as a failure, job creation almost disappeared from inside-the-Beltway discourse, replaced with obsessive concern over budget deficits. Government spending, which had been temporarily boosted both by the Recovery Act and by safety-net programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits, began falling, with public investment hit worst. And this anti-stimulus has destroyed millions of jobs.

In other words, the overall narrative of the stimulus is tragic. A policy initiative that was good but not good enough ended up being seen as a failure, and set the stage for an immensely destructive wrong turn.

Indeed D.C. is still in the thrall of freshwater monitarists who have been constantly and consistently wrong for 40 years to the exclusion of all competing points of view and the only solutions considered by either party have such low multiples as to be almost entirely ineffective.

Fiscal policies work to increase demand and economic activity.  Monetary policies don’t work except to contain inflation.  Period.

Moreover Herr Doktor Professor argues that these conditions apply only at low interest rates (zero lower bound) and that money can be created only through the Federal Reserve action (demonstrably false, a Department store can create money), but this is not a discussion of MMT.

The Shrill One has consistently argued, against steadfast and vociferous criticism, for fiscal not monitary policy action and for actions with higher economic multipliers.  I don’t have his back, but I think he deserves a little credit for that.

We can educate him about modern banking and the money supply later.

In the mean time we could do (and have done) worse with our policy decisions than to bury Mason Jars of currency in abandoned coal mines and let companies bid for the rights to do that and pay people to do that and other companies bid for the rights to dig them up and pay people to do that too.

Or as Atrios suggests we could just give everyone some free money which has less impact on the environment.

The point is that “stimulative” action should be stimulative and not just encourage the coupon cutting class to sit on their stash and persue asset bubble after asset bubble.

The problem is inequality.

Now I strongly suspect Herr Doktor Professor and I have very serious disagreements “about modern banking and the money supply”, but he was quite polite to me when he signed my copy of his book and I told him I had studied Samuelson.  I leave it for you to decide if his attitude toward poblano has changed.

* Math Is Hard November 4, 2012, 3:08 pm

* Trivial Stakes November 6, 2012, 5:29 pm

* The Real Real America November 7, 2012, 2:08 am

* Power-Mad Conservatives November 7, 2012, 7:08 pm

* Deficit Hawks Down – Please November 8, 2012, 9:00 pm

* Unqualified November 10, 2012, 4:19 pm

* The 2012 Election, Reenacted November 21, 2012, 5:28 pm

* The Stiffs and the Players November 27, 2012, 7:23 am

* Notes on Epistemic Closure November 30, 2012, 7:30 pm

* The Non-Surge in Government Spending January 22, 2013, 5:00 pm

* Nate Silver, Superstar August 5, 2013, 6:40 am

* Sergeant Friday Was Not A Fox March 18, 2014, 7:55 am

* Further Thoughts on Hedgehogs and Foxes March 18, 2014, 4:15 pm

* Tarnished Silver March 23, 2014, 10:48 am

* Data as Slogan, Data as Substance March 26, 2014, 1:00 pm

I’m actually far more concerned that poblano’s science guy is a climate change denialist.

On This Day In History March 28

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

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.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

A prescription for convalescent hippies

Late Night Karaoke

College Football Team Wins Right to Unionize

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Collegiate athletes have won the right to unionize:

A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled Wednesday that a group of Northwestern football players were employees of the university and have the right to form a union and bargain collectively.

For decades, the major college sports have functioned on the bedrock principle of the student-athlete, with players receiving scholarships to pay for their education in exchange for their hours of practicing and competing for their university. But Peter Ohr, the regional N.L.R.B. director, tore down that familiar construct in a 24-page decision.

He ruled that Northwestern’s scholarship football players should be eligible to form a union based on a number of factors, including the time they devote to football (as many as 50 hours some weeks), the control exerted by coaches and their scholarships, which Mr. Ohr deemed a contract for compensation.

“It cannot be said that the employer’s scholarship players are ‘primarily students,’ ” the decision said.

The NCAA’s “Student-Athlete” Charade Is Officially Crumbling

By Jordan Weissmann, Slate

{..} I’d like to draw attention to the refreshingly obvious point that Peter Ohr, director of the NLRB’s Chicago office, makes on page 18 of his opinion. No matter what the NCAA wants you to think, Northwestern’s scholarship football players, he writes, “are not primarily students.” It’s that simple.

Why not? Because math:

 * Players spend 50 to 60 hours a week on football during a training camp before school starts.

 * They also dedicate 40 to 50 hours per week on football during the four-month season. “Not only is this more hours than many undisputed full-time employees work at their jobs, it is also many more hours than the players spend on their studies,” Ohr writes. They spend 20 hours per week in class and more doing homework, sure, but they also work on football outside of official practice time. Ohr’s equation also doesn’t seem to take into account the off season. But, he writes, it “cannot be said” that they “spend only a limited number of hours performing their athletic duties.”

This is not the crux of the case, but it is a direct retort to the mostly fictive concept of the big-time scholar-athlete. Ohr is saying that Northwestern’s players are athletes first, students second. Throughout the decision, he recounts the ways in which team members are expected to prioritize athletics over school-for instance, by avoiding classes that might conflict with practices, even if the courses are necessary for their major. The fact that the university tries to support them with tutors and study hall requirements only underscores “the extraordinary time demands placed on the players by their athletic duties,” he writes. [..]

This distinction matters legally, because Northwestern had argued that the NLRB should apply the test it used when it ruled in 2004 that graduate teaching assistants at Brown could not unionize. Part of the board’s reasoning, at the time, was that while TAs indeed do lots of work as instructors, they are primarily at school to learn, and teaching is one of their degree requirements. Ohr found that the Brown test wasn’t applicable, because nobody is required to play cornerback to earn a bachelor’s degree. But even if the test did apply, it still wouldn’t stop football players from unionizing, because of the sheer amount of time they spend on the field and at the gym rather than in their lecture halls.

The Northwestern University Football Union and the NCAA’s Death Spiral

By Dave Zirin, The Nation

Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered,” – Mark Cuban


This decision marks the first real crack in the NCAA cartel in any of our lifetimes. It is also far from over. Northwestern University is leading the appeals process for now. They want the NLRB decision squelched for two reasons, both based in fear. They are afraid that if the football players can unionize, then the graduate teachers, the custodial staff, the work-study students and the cafeteria workers will all say, “If they can be a recognized union, then why not us?” That simply cannot happen in today’s neoliberal university system. Northwestern may fear those below them, but they fear those above them even more. That would be the Big 10 conference and the NCAA. If their football players are allowed to collectively bargain, the NCAA could shut them out, turning off the spigots from which the almighty revenue streams of cable television money seem to endlessly flow. Yet whatever response Northwestern is conjuring, it pales in comparison to the scorched earth about to be fired from the NCAA’s legal guns. For Northwestern, this jeopardizes the power arrangements on their campus, but for the NCAA, this decision threatens their very existence.

The NCAA is now in a fight for its life. Their power emanates solely from its position as a cartel. That means they have the controlling authority to hold every school to the same byzantine ground rules or suffer the consequences. This controlling authority is currently being crippled under the weight of its own greed. This controlling authority has created an unsustainable system of free-market, freewheelin’ capitalism for coaches and indentured servitude for players. This controlling authority allows the NCAA to turn its so-called student-athlete players into walking billboards for the pleasure of their corporate sponsors. This controlling authority has taken maximum advantage of the fact that the two revenue producing sports, football and basketball, tend to be populated by impoverished people of color. They have created a system of $11 billion television contracts where coaches make 100 times what they made thirty years ago. They have kept their foot on the gas, making and remaking conferences, destroying traditional rivalries and all with a short-term eye on the bottom line. Through it all they never reassessed the position of the players themselves and now they are paying the price. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.