Category: Culture

I’m not a fan of most vampire movies –

- and there are no vampies in this music video. But, it’s a segment appearing near the end of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE by Jim Jarmusch. Worth seeing. This clip offered color from the neighborhood in Tangier where Adam and Eve returned to live in peace.

And I discovered Yasmine Hamdan:

Republicans will “give up” emergency rooms rather than accept Obamacare

A Baton Rouge, La., hospital is closing the only emergency room on the city’s impoverished north side, a real-world ripple effect of the ideological clash over President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The shutdown on April 1 serves as an early warning for hospitals in states like Louisiana, where Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal turned down federal money to expand the Medicaid program for the poor. Charity hospitals will lose billions of federal aid beginning late next year, a cut that was supposed to be offset as more residents were covered by Medicaid.

The combination is a looming “double whammy,” said Shawn Gremminger, a lobbyist for America’s Essential Hospitals in Washington, which represents those that care for the poor.

“It’s not survivable,” he said. “Hospitals are going to close…”

While Republican governors in states including Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey have expanded their Medicaid programs under Obamacare, Jindal, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, has remained steadfast in his opposition…

The governor is putting ideology ahead of the welfare of the state,” said state Rep. Alfred Williams, a Democrat from Baton Rouge. “He has an agenda and it’s to run for president of the United States. And if that causes the people of Louisiana to suffer, then I believe he’s OK with that…”

Nationally, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 has eased the strain of caring for the uninsured. The law allowed for making Medicaid available to those earning as much as 138 percent of the poverty level, or about $16,200 for an individual. The expense is fully paid by the federal government through 2016 before being phased down to 90 percent.

After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 said it was up to states to decide whether to expand the program, the decisions initially broke down along party lines as Republicans questioned whether the federal government would keep its pledge to pay for it.

Ten of 28 states that have since decided to do so were led by Republicans. A new wave of the party’s governors in states including Tennessee, Wyoming and Utah tried to follow this year, though they have been stymied by lawmakers.

There’s a warm spot in my heart for the Charity Hospitals of Louisiana. They helped me survive a couple of hard days after seven stalwarts of Confederate policing armed with guns and clubs decided I was attacking them with my head. Reminiscences aside, hatred and contempt for the healthcare needs of Americans in general, poor Americans in specific, has become a core issue for Republicans since the days of Reagan.

Reagan set out to shut down the US Public Health Service and to close every hospital in the United States servicing the needs of folks with ordinary incomes – and especially the indigent. The furore raised by masses of individuals of conscience included a number of Republicans of that era as well as the body of Democrats, Progressives, religious and non-religious people of good will. He was halted after gutting a significant number of programs serving needs unmet by profit-based healthcare.

The confrontation has only gotten worse as the Republican Party moved further to the Right, the Democrat Party joined the economic ideology mandating the Rule of Money, becoming less and less likely to participate in anything like leadership on issues of liberty. Which, BTW, includes healthcare.

You still can’t have peace without justice.

Pepsi and Coke battle for the lead among losers


Still cranking out profits from carbonated water and sugar

Americans bought less soda for the 10th straight year in 2014…An annual report by the industry tracker Beverage Digest found that overall soda volume slipped 0.9% last year, moderating from the decline of 3% the previous year.

And the poor performance of diet sodas in particular led to a shake-up in the top 10 US soda rankings; even though people bought less Pepsi, it managed to regain the No 2 spot from Diet Coke, which suffered an even steeper decline. Diet Coke had knocked Pepsi off the No 2 spot in 2010…

Interesting to investors and hedge funds. Meaningless compared to good news for the health of the nation.

John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, attributed the moderation in soda’s decline in 2014 to the continued growth of energy drinks. He also noted that Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group have improved marketing for their soda brands.

Soda volume has been declining in the US since 2004 amid concerns that sugary drinks fuel weight gain, and a proliferation of alternatives in the beverage aisle.

They’re still cranking out easier profits from stuffing people with sugar.

Despite the ongoing decline of soda volume, the broader US beverage industry performed better than in the previous year with growth of 1.7%, according to Beverage Digest. That increase was driven by an increase in bottled water sales.

How dumb is that? Continued growth in designer water sales confounds any measure of intelligence.

Dumb crook of the day


Photo courtesy of Pennsylvania State Police

State police in Pennsylvania say a trespassing suspect used his own credit card to jimmy open a garage door, then left it behind when the homeowner suddenly appeared and startled him.

The important clue helped police arrest 41-year-old Brent Henry, of East Butler, on Saturday in Clay Township.

Police tell the Butler Eagle that Henry used the card to pick the lock at a friend’s mobile home.

Police say the homeowner heard a noise and caught Henry, who ran away but left the credit card behind.

Police say Henry told them he planned to take some gasoline for another friend’s car…

Henry faces a preliminary hearing on criminal trespass and other charges…

Well, he probably wasn’t picking a lock; but, forcing a spring lock. A credit card is about the right size and strength for that. You can learn that from old TV shows.

I didn’t think anyone did that anymore. A good way to screw up a credit card.

Paleoindians in the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

El Fin del Mundo
El Fin del MundoHenry Wallace

Paleoindian research encompasses a number of broad questions of far-reaching significance. Who were the first peoples to reach the Americas? When did they arrive? What was the relationship between the makers of Clovis spear points and the extinction of megafauna, such as the horse, mammoth, dire wolf, and other animals? Although these issues have long been debated, no consensus has been achieved. Big questions can persist because of in- sufficient evidence or because re- searchers have not adequately or fully interpreted the available infor- mation. A few researchers have pro- posed dramatically new ideas— such as the possibility of a comet col- liding with the earth (page 18)— and others, like Joe Cramer, have decided that these questions will be resolved only by supporting many more researchers who will generate new data. Both approaches are ex- amined in this issue of Archaeology Southwest…

“The end of the last Ice Age in North America was a time of enormous change: mile-thick glaciers were retreating rapidly, the sea level was rising, and large mammals, such as mammoths, ground sloths, camels and dire wolves would soon disappear.” Although a convergence of climate change and Paleo-Indian hunters may be a cause of the great extinction, “researchers still do not know exactly what happened.”

My own vulgate opinion is not much better informed than the average American science buff – excepting the portion of that opinion formed during the comparatively brief time I lived in the Navajo Nation plus day-to-day experience working construction trades in northern New Mexico, sometimes within one or another Rio Grande or Northern Pueblo.

I agree with that school of thought that presumes Paleoindian hunters to be the primary cause of the great extinction of large mammals from North America. Not unusual when and where human beings are part of the equation. Regardless – RTFA. It is a lovely, in-depth examination of many of the questions of the Paleoindian period in North American history.

Boston Yeti sells goodies to benefit MSPCA’s animals

The Boston Yeti is using its newfound notoriety to help some fellow furry friends.

The abominable snowman gained a huge following on social media during Boston’s epic winter by running around the city in costume and stopping to help dig out stranded drivers. Now the unidentified prankster is selling Yeti swag to raise money for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

All of the proceeds from the sales of stickers, buttons and bookmarks will benefit the MSPCA’s Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston.

The Yeti told The Associated Press in an email: “I can think of no better way to spin ones popularity than for the benefit of animals in need…”

The swag, illustrated with quirky line drawings of the Yeti by Rhode Island-based artist Jeff Smith, is being sold through an Etsy store appropriately dubbed Boston Yetsy.

MSPCA spokesman Rob Halpin says the animal welfare organization is grateful for the help.

“Blizzard after blizzard, the Yeti was a constant source of amusement and mystery for everybody just to get through the winter,” he said. “It’s wonderful that the Yeti would surface in the spring to aid his fellow four-legged friends who are in shelters.”

OK by me. That’s my kind of reality imitating myth.

GMO may be controversial; but, not to scientists

gmo apple
Click to enlarge

Later this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may approve the Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden, the first genetically modified apples to hit the market. Although it will probably be another two years before the non-browning fruits appears in stores, at least one producer is already scrambling to label its apples GMO-free.

The looming apple campaign is just the latest salvo in the ongoing war over genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—one that’s grown increasingly contentious. Over the past decade, the controversy surrounding GMOs has sparked worldwide riots and the vandalism of crops in Oregon, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Philippines. In May, the governor of Vermont signed a law that will likely make it the first U.S. state to require labels for genetically engineered ingredients; more than 50 nations already mandate them. Vermont State Senator David Zuckerman told Democracy Now!, “As consumers, we are guinea pigs, because we really don’t understand the ramifications.”

And the apples have been OK’d. The article is several months old – and worth revisiting.

But the truth is, GMOs have been studied intensively, and they look a lot more prosaic than the hype contends. To make Arctic apples, biologists took genes from Granny Smith and Golden Delicious varieties, modified them to suppress the enzyme that causes browning, and reinserted them in the leaf tissue. It’s a lot more accurate than traditional methods, which involve breeders hand-pollinating blossoms in hopes of producing fruit with the desired trait…

So what, exactly, do consumers have to fear? To find out, Popular Science chose 10 of the most common claims about GMOs and interviewed nearly a dozen scientists. Their collective answer: not much at all.

No need to review all 10 points here. RTFA. POPSCI ain’t exactly a hotbed of politics. Just folks who work for a magazine that’s been writing about science for over 140 years.

In the U.S., farmers have been planting increasing amounts GMO crops since the seeds became commercially available in 1996. Corn, cotton, and soy—which together occupy about 40 percent of U.S. cropland—are the three crops with the highest GMO fraction by area, each more than 90 percent in 2013.

One of our late contributors discovered a bakery in his home state of Georgia – like a lot of really great bakeries – was using a genetically-designed sourdough culture. Chatting with the owners who happened to be friends of his is how he learned about it. And they swore him to a secret he took to the grave – because they know damned well that folks who love the wonderful flavor of their sourdough bread would crap their non-GMO cotton drawers if they knew. And they’d probably be out of business at least in their fashionable Atlanta suburb even though a side-by-side blind test with any other great sourdough would be impossible to tell apart. Except for the consistent results they get from their baking.

Nope. I’ll stick with science, I know enough about peer-reviewed testing to be 99.999% confident – even if “common wisdom” says all studies are funded and owned by Monsanto. Differentiate between the creeps using scientific studies to bad ends – and the science itself. Learn how many rules you have to abide just to get your article published – which is why the most recent bought-and-paid-for creep who violated those standards had to lie.

And if you’re truly concerned – read the science, not opinions from other folks who aren’t reading the science either. Draw your own conclusions. Personally, I find well-written science fun to read. And I love learning about science – whether it be astrophysics or asafoetida. I also realize there are only so many hours in the day; so we rely on folks our experience says are usually right. That can be a problem when those folks try to find facts to back up their beliefs instead of the other way round.

When I became involved in climate science discussions at the millenium, I spent two years reading and studying before I became convinced one way or the other. The delight was discovering regular online publication of a broad range of research from the Max Planck Institute in Germany – in several languages including English. A great find. I hope you can be as fortunate.

Chewing on dietary politics

Two of Cornell’s leading nutrition experts appeared in Washington, D.C., March 18 to discuss an extensive proposed rewrite of the federal government’s official Dietary Guidelines for Americans

They appeared in the nation’s capital as part of Inside Cornell, a series of public policy roundtables. The pair spoke before an audience consisting largely of journalists who closely follow these issues. National Public Radio correspondent Allison Aubrey moderated the panel.

Tom Brenna said the most fundamental change proposed for the new dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, “is a focus on overall healthy eating patterns, rather than individual foods…”

Brenna also lauded what he called an emerging emphasis on “nutrition above the neck,” a reference to the role diet plays in neurocognitive health. His Cornell lab, for example, conducts extensive research on nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, which are proving to be effective in treating depression.

David Just focuses on how consumers make their decisions about what foods to purchase and eat.

He said the government’s new nutritional guidance “will probably generate no response at all at the consumer level, at least initially. The primary effect will come from the millions of meals directly influenced by the government, including public school lunches, hospital food and military meals.”

Over time, however, as the new advice takes hold, it will start to be felt as “consumers make their shopping lists or decide which groceries to display prominently in their kitchens, as opposed to buried in cabinets.”

Just also stressed the positive role the food industry can play by adjusting how it markets and advertises its products. Touting the good taste and benefits of healthier foods on packaging, he noted, is far more effective than any government warning about the risks of a poor diet.

They also discussed the never-publicized lobbying over dietary guideline recommendations. The meat industry – of course – wants to water down recommendations that Americans eat less red meat, less processed meat. The last thing they want is linking an animal-based diet to environmental problems like greenhouse gas emissions and water pollution.

Sugar giants don’t want nutrition labels to include added sugar. There’s a surprise!

Once Congress gets quickly past the parts about science, no doubt they will return to rules and regulations directly proportional to the influence of lobbyist/industry dollar$.

BTW, that 2nd link up top is a fine article on the details of new recommendations.

Five years later, Arizona immigrants still defy SB 1070

After three months of working at Lam’s Seafood Market for $7.65 an hour as a cashier, Noemi Romero had finally saved the $465 it would take to apply for President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, an initiative launched to shield from deportation young immigrants brought to the United States as children.

That was before the hard-line immigration policies of Maricopa County — made infamous in 2010 for its hostile attitude toward undocumented immigrants — torpedoed her dream of legalizing her status.

Romero, brought to the state by her parents when she was 3, did not even realize she was undocumented until she was 16, when her friends began getting driver’s licenses. Her parents told her she couldn’t. “You’re not from here,” they explained.

After graduating from high school, she found herself in limbo. She couldn’t afford to attend college in Arizona, one of a handful of states that explicitly bar undocumented students from receiving financial aid and paying in-state tuition rates. And without a Social Security number, she couldn’t work. She spent her days helping her mother babysit…

On Jan. 17, 2013, Romero was working the cash register at Lam’s Seafood Market, planning to take off from work the next week so she could meet with an immigration lawyer. She saw a man in a black collared shirt and dress pants walk in and present a badge to the manager.

Moments later, Romero and 21 others were rounded up, herded to the front of the store, searched, interrogated about their papers and handcuffed — swept up in one of Maricopa County’s trademark workplace raids, engineered by Sheriff Joe Arpaio to catch undocumented immigrants using fraudulent identities to work in the United States…

The prospects for undocumented immigrants in Maricopa County remain fragile, as Romero’s situation illustrates. But the crackdown in Arizona has not quite worked as intended. Even as the undocumented population in Arizona plummeted by 40 percent from 2009 to 2012, according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center, the efforts to drive out the immigrant community have prompted a backlash, inspiring a new attitude of defiance, according to immigrants interviewed this month in Phoenix…

Romero, now 23, is part of a class action lawsuit, led by civil rights group Puente Arizona, against the sheriff’s office, that has won an injunction to halt the workplace raids. If she and her fellow plaintiffs win their case, it’s possible that their criminal records will be expunged.

“There have been a lot of positive things that have occurred in Arizona that have pushed back against the passage of the bill,” said James Garcia, a Hispanic-American playwright and communications consultant in Phoenix.

He noted the recall of state Sen. Russell Pearce, the architect of the legislation, and the way in which the business and arts communities have worked to repair Arizona’s tarnished reputation.

RTFA for many individual stories of a dream deferred. Deferred by bigotry, the usual story in this land of liberty.

Business and arts communities working to repair Arizona’s tarnished reputation have decades to go. There are many reasons for Arizona being called the Mississippi of the west. Good will to all ain’t part of it.

Japanese burger-freaks have a chance to smell like a Whopper

For hamburger aficionados who want the smell even when they can’t get a bite, Burger King is putting the scent into a limited-edition fragrance.

Burger King said…that the Whopper grilled beef burger-scented cologne will be sold only on April 1, and only in Japan.

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not an April Fools’ Day joke, though the company chose the date deliberately.

The limited “Flame Grilled” fragrance can be purchased at 5,000 yen (about $40), including the burger. There will be only 1,000 of them.

Burger King is hoping the scent will seduce new fans for their burgers. I know it certainly would have the opposite effect on me. And I love hamburgers.