March 26, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 2:54 PM

SWEET SORROW:

We'll never see another Bert Sugar: Iconic writer always had a cigar in mouth, a fedora on head and a joke on his lips (Wallace Matthews, 3/26/12, ESPNNewYork.com)

He was a brilliant guy, with a law degree from the University of Michigan, and as he loved to remind everyone, that was the last bar he ever passed. Instead of making a living as a lawyer, he chose to become a professional character, an expert on things most people either no longer think are important or, even worse, never knew about to begin with.

And he may well have been the last of a breed, that typically New York wiseguy who possessed one priceless and seemingly vanishing skill: The ability to tell a story at a bar. There was a time when this was an essential talent for anyone drawing a paycheck as a journalist, because at heart, we're all supposed to be storytellers.

But what the new breed lacks, despite having its noses buried in an array of electronic devices and a full slate of "platforms" upon which to express the most trivial thoughts, is the ability to communicate on a one-to-one, eye-to-eye, interpersonal level.

These days, there's a plethora of "social media" and a dearth of real socializing.

And socializing was what Bert Sugar -- no one but his publishers used his middle name, "Randolph" -- was all about.

He was most closely identified with boxing, a subject he wrote nearly 100 books about, but he had a voracious interest in a variety of subjects, from baseball to vaudeville acts to thoroughbred racing to the comparative merits of Groucho Marx vis-a-vis W.C. Fields.

He could sing all the words to "Lydia the Tattooed Lady," trace the lineage of every heavyweight champion back to John L. Sullivan, and explain how Houdini did his famous Water Torture Escape.

Clearly, this was not his world anymore.

But when it was, the world was a better place when Bert Sugar was around.


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Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM

ALONG THE AXIS OF GOOD:

South Korea trade deal 'may bring £500m to UK economy' (BBC, 3/25/12)

A trade deal has been agreed between the UK and South Korea, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

The UK has approved a Free Trade Agreement between the EU and South Korea, which could bring £500m a year into the British economy, he said.

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Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM

REDEFINING SOVEREIGNTY:

Saving Sovereignty: Book review of Taming Globalization: International Law, the U.S. Constitution, and the New World Order, by John Yoo and Julian Ku (John Fonte, 4/2/12, National Review)

The core argument of the book runs something like the following. Globalization is a powerful force that is transforming American society. Increased globalization brings many benefits, as well as potential problems, to the U.S. While greater international cooperation will be needed, some aspects of what is called global governance present serious challenges to the American political and legal system. The American polity is built on the principle of popular sovereignty; thus, ultimately, authority and sovereignty reside in the people, not the government. In this sense, American sovereignty differs from traditional Westphalian sovereignty. The people are the principal, and the federal government and state governments are the agents of the people. Popular sovereignty is exercised through the Constitution and particularly through separation of powers and federalism. These devices provide checks and balances on the federal government and limit the authority of both the federal government and state governments. New trends in international law directly challenge American popular sovereignty. The key issue is how to accommodate globalization within the American constitutional system. The task at hand is to ensure that the global rules that we choose to follow are incorporated into American law through our constitutional democratic process. Finally, it is possible to accommodate globalization to popular sovereignty. 

To accomplish this goal of obtaining the benefits of globalization while preserving American popular sovereignty, Yoo and Ku propose three "doctrinal devices": 1) a presumption that treaties are non-self-executing, 2) presidential discretion in interpreting customary international law, and 3) a reasonable degree of state autonomy in areas of law reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment. These doctrines would ensure that the political (i.e., elected and democratic) branches of government -- and not simply federal judges -- incorporate or not incorporate (as they see fit) international law into domestic American law. 

If most treaties were not self-executing, they would require congressional legislation and presidential signature (in addition to the approval of two-thirds of the Senate) in order to become part of American law. Thus, the House of Representatives, the most "democratic" branch of the federal government, would be involved in incorporating treaty law into American domestic law. This additional democratic step would, as Yoo and Ku point out, strengthen the legitimacy of those international laws that we decide should be part of American law.  [...]

To ensure the participation of the more democratic branches of the federal government, Yoo and Ku propose that the policy interpretation of customary international law be primarily in the hands of the executive, which has the constitutional authority (and expertise) in foreign policy. Meanwhile, the incorporation of customary law into American domestic law should follow the normal constitutional process -- as legislation approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. 

Yoo and Ku point out that the Tenth Amendment does not disappear when the U.S. signs a treaty or adopts new customary international law. They cite the Supreme Court's Medellin decision (2008). In this case, the court gave Texas the green light to execute a convicted murderer who was a Mexican national, despite complaints by the International Court of Justice (backed by the American Bar Association) that the U.S. had violated its commitments under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to notify the Mexican consulate. The Court declared the Vienna Convention non-self-executing and, in the absence of federal legislation, state law prevailed. The Court also rejected an appeal by the Bush administration to prevent Texas from carrying out the sentence. Taming Globalization notes that, in ratifying international human-rights treaties, Congress almost always includes "federalist" reservations that insist upon a measure of state autonomy in those areas constitutionally reserved for the states. 

One of the great strengths of this book is that the authors dig into the weeds of prominent Supreme Court cases to deftly rebut transnationalist claims. For example, in the famous (at least among international lawyers) Paquete Habana case of 1900, the court declared that "international law is part of our law" -- a phrase repeated ad nauseam by transnational progressives. But the authors make it clear that even Paquete Habana affirmed that the ultimate interpretation of international law resided primarily with Congress and the president, not the federal courts. 



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Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM

FORGET THE ROCKET, TAKE OUT THE LAUNCH SITES:

S. Korea to shoot down N. Korea rocket if it strays (AFP, March 26, 2012)
 
South Korea is preparing to shoot down a North Korean rocket if it strays into the South's territory during a launch planned for next month, the defence ministry said Monday.

The South Korean and US military are closely monitoring activity at the Tongchang-ri base, a ministry spokesman said, a day after Seoul confirmed the main body of a rocket had been moved to the site in the North's northwest.

Never waste a provocation. Far more so than an attack on Iran, taking out North Korea's nuclear  and rocket sites would establish the principal of deterrence.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 AM

I DON'T CARE IF IT'S GOOD FOR ME, IT'S EASY!

The Case for Sleep Medicine (GAYLE GREENE, 3/25/12, NY Times)

ACCORDING to a new study in the journal BMJ that has received wide media coverage, people who regularly took sleeping pills were nearly five times more likely to die over a two and a half year period than those who didn't take them.

Oh no, I groaned, reading the headlines, not another scare story about sleeping pills. As a lifelong insomniac who has extensively researched the topic, I find such stories alarming -- but not because of the information they present. Rather, I'm afraid that they will cause doctors to stop prescribing these medications to people who need them. [...]

The study in BMJ alludes to "the meager benefits" of sleep medications and the greater success of behavioral methods of dealing with insomnia, which include things like going to bed and getting up at set times and using the bed only for sleep. But such strategies are not as effective as is sometimes claimed: studies that demonstrate their efficacy tend to look at small numbers of carefully screened, self-selected and highly motivated subjects. Face it, if behavioral modification were that simple, there wouldn't be so many of us taking medications.

In other words, she doesn't need them, she just lacks the will to simple changes to her behavior instead.


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Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM

THOUGH THE QUALITY OF THE MOVIE VARIES:

Popcorn has more antioxidants than fruits, veges (Cosmos Online, 3/26/12)

Joe Vinson from the University of Scranton in the U.S., a pioneer in analysing healthful components in chocolate, nuts and other common foods, explained that antioxidant substances called polyphenols are more concentrated in popcorn, which averages only about 4% water, while polyphenols are diluted in the 90% water that makes up many fruits and vegetables.

"Popcorn may be the perfect snack food. It's the only snack that is 100% unprocessed whole grain. All other grains are processed and diluted with other ingredients, and although cereals are called 'whole grain', this simply means that over 51% of the weight of the product is whole grain," said Vinson.

"One serving of popcorn will provide more than 70% of the daily intake of whole grain. The average person only gets about half a serving of whole grains a day, and popcorn could fill that gap in a very pleasant way."

In another surprising finding, the researchers discovered that the hulls of the popcorn - the part that everyone hates for its tendency to get caught in the teeth - actually has the highest concentration of polyphenols and fibre. "Those hulls deserve more respect," said Vinson. "They are nutritional gold nuggets."

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 AM

ALONG THE AXIS OF GOOD:

India Rallies to Forge Stronger Ties with South Korea (ESTHER TANQUINTIC-MISA, March 26, 2012, IB Times)

Eager to cement an apparent budding friendship between India and South Korea, the two countries on Sunday announced plans to increase their annual bilateral trade to $40 billion by 2015.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 AM

JUST DRIVE, THEY SAID:

Holy &%$! inventions: These innovative creations, available now as prototypes, are rough drafts for technology that could be transformative when it's perfected. (CNN Money, 3/26/12)

What if your car could charge on the go? That wild idea is already being lab-tested.

Engineers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have developed technology for embedding in a highway electric coils that transfer powerto similar coils that could be built under cars. Passing over a single coil at 60 miles per hour won't amount to much, but a long stretch of them could give a car battery significant juice.

The technology doesn't come cheap: The bill could top $10 million per mile. The project envisions starting with specially marked "charging lanes" on small stretches of road. But the engineers suspect that price will come down significantly, especially if the coils become widespread enough to create competition in the market. That could make charging your car easier than going to the gas station -- you'd never have to stop.