August 22, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 PM


Tallahassee : All The Smoke That Lingers Is Tarnished Gold (Sean Moeller, Nov 28, 2011, Daytrotter)

Whether they know it or not, the four-piece, fronted by former New England Patriots lineman Brian Barthelmes, makes us think about the way certain things smell when they burn. Most of this is entirely unintentional. They meant for little of it and yet, when Barthelmes sings about things smelling like cedar trees and smoke on the brilliantly minimal song of sadness and loss, "Jealous Hands," we can't help but be thrust into this sensory overload and this imagery of those blue and gray ribbons of exhaust coming off of more than just logs and candle wicks. We imagine the smoke that begins to billow slowly from the surface of bliss, when it's winding down, when everyone involved with it starts to sense that these are the end times and there's almost nothing that could stop the smoke from coming. This might be the smell of cedar that Barthelmes was singing of, a smell that can't really be hated, for it brings to mind a smell that we find delight in. It's not like a tire fire or the smoke that comes off an overheated car engine. It's a smell that we covet, that we inhale into our bodies, relishing the way that it sticks in our nose for days, like a pleasant stain. Smoke typically comes after the burn has stopped. It comes at the end of a flame and there's but a finite period of time for the smoke to behave before it fades from view. Even with it out of sight, it stays around to remind us that all of what came before did happen.

Much of what Tallahassee - which is completed by guitarist Scott Thompson, bassist Shawn Carney and drummer Matt Raskopf - wants to convey to us is that of the limitations of time. They're specific about it frequently, reminding us that "time ain't no friend" to any of us. We're real dopes if we think it is. It's our friend when we've already got all the friends we could ever want and aren't looking for any more friends like that. It betrays us and leaves us beaten. When it's finished with us, it leaves behind that smoke that we will always smell living in the fibers of our clothing, as if the smoke was all that we were wearing. People leave us and we leave other people. We leave a trail of smoke that very leisurely weakens and finally dissipates forever. Sometimes it's too soon and others it's never soon enough.

Tallahassee: 'Jealous Hands' (Only a Game, October 15, 2011, NPR)
Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


Healthcare's Question of the Decade (Dan Munro, 8/20/12, Forbes)

From two studies conducted over 7-10 years (one here and one in Europe) there was NO benefit at all to PSA Screening and about 20% of men got either a false alarm and biopsy or were diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer unnecessarily. Up until 2009, about 30 million men received a PSA Test each year - at a cost of about $3 billion annually (just for the test). The effects of the surgeries are often horrendous - including incontinence, erectile dysfunction and impotence.

Earlier this year, Dr. Otis Brawley published his book How We Do Harm: A Doctor Breaks Ranks About Being Sick In America. As a part of the release Dr. Brawley recounted the story of a woman named Helen who was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. As was fairly common in the early 1990′s - surgery was followed by high doses of chemotherapy - and a bone marrow transplant.  Quoting Dr. Brawley:

"The therapy Helen received was expensive and commonly given to women with breast cancer in the early 1990s. During this time, numerous women sued insurance companies who did not want to pay for the therapy and nearly a dozen states passed laws saying insurance companies had to pay for it."

"There was one really good reason why the health insurers did not want to pay for high dose chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant for breast cancer:  No study had ever been done to prove it beneficial."

"Even without evidence, some patients and their doctors had faith that it worked. The procedure was common because some doctors taught that the transplant was beneficial to patients. Truth be told, it was very beneficial to the doctors and hospitals offering it."

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 AM


TMQ's batty AFC season preview (Gregg Easterbrook, 8/21/12, ESPN Playbook)

For decades the establishment media have said that rising greenhouse emissions are a super-mega-ultra emergency. If last week's numbers had shown a carbon emissions rise, the likely response would have been Page 1 stories crying doomsday. Instead when the problem diminished, silence.

Needless to say, one factor is that bad new sells while good news is buried. Another factor is that the U.S. carbon dioxide decline is occurring without central control, owing to market forces -- more natural gas, a clean fuel, is being used to generate electricity, while individuals and businesses are deciding of their own free choice to buy higher-efficiency vehicles that use less oil, and to improve the energy efficiency of buildings. Had the new numbers been the result of some complicated, expensive Washington regulatory scheme -- in 2009, Obama proposed mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases, but his proposal failed in Congress -- surely mainstream news outlets, and the president, would have claimed success. Because what happened was a free-market result, OMG, don't say anything!

Greenhouse gases are an all-too-real concern. The evidence of artificially triggered climate change is strong: The best independent, non-United Nations assessment of rising temperatures is here. And while U.S. carbon emissions may be moderating, global emissions continue to rise as the developing world becomes more prosperous.

But last week's news shows that if low-carbon, clean energy is cost-effective, buyers will switch to it of their own accords. OMG, don't say anything!

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM


Why Ryan might be right about Medicare (Robert J. Samuelson, August 19, 2012, Washington Post)

Overlooked in the furor surrounding Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal -- a plan, it should be recalled, that wouldn't start until 2023 and even then would affect only new beneficiaries -- is a just-published study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggesting that, well, Ryan might be right. The study finds that a voucher-type system might noticeably reduce costs compared to "traditional" fee-for-service Medicare. Three Harvard economists did the study, including one prominent supporter of President Obama's health-care overhaul.

The study compared the costs of traditional Medicare with Medicare Advantage, a voucher-like program that now enrolls about 25 percent of beneficiaries. Medicare Advantage has cost less for identical coverage. From 2006 to 2009, the gap averaged 11 percent between traditional Medicare and voucher plans that, under the proposal by Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), would serve as a price "benchmark." [...]

Medicare Advantage reinforces another bit of real-word evidence for market-like policies. This is the Medicare drug benefit (Part D), launched in 2006 with a voucher approach. In 2012, beneficiaries could choose from at least two-dozen plans. Part D's costs have been about 30 percent below early estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, though vouchers are not the only reason (more generic drugs is another). In 2013, average monthly premiums -- the part paid by recipients -- are projected to stay at $30 for a third straight year.

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 AM


Don't Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis (ROBIN WRIGHT, August 19, 2012, NY Times)

A common denominator among disparate Salafi groups is inspiration and support from Wahhabis, a puritanical strain of Sunni Islam from Saudi Arabia. Not all Saudis are Wahhabis. Not all Salafis are Wahhabis, either. But Wahhabis are basically all Salafis. And many Arabs, particularly outside the sparsely populated Gulf, suspect that Wahhabis are trying to seize the future by aiding and abetting the region's newly politicized Salafis -- as they did 30 years ago by funding the South Asian madrassas that produced Afghanistan's Taliban.

Salafis go much further in restricting political and personal life than the larger and more modern Islamist parties that have won electoral pluralities in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco since October. For most Arabs, the rallying cry is justice, both economic and political. For Salafis, it is also about a virtue that is inflexible and enforceable.

"You have two choices: heaven or hellfire," Sheikh Muhammad el-Kurdi instructed me after his election to Egypt's parliament as a member of Al Nour, a Salafi party. It favors gender segregation in schools and offices, he told me, so that men can concentrate. "It's O.K. for you to be in the room," he explained. "You are our guest, and we know why you're here. But you are one woman and we are three men -- and we all want to marry you." Marriage may have been a euphemism.

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 AM


The Legend of Jean Arthur (DAVID MERMELSTEIN, 8/20/12, WSJ)

With a voice lying somewhere between squeaky and sexy and an appealing gamine figure, Jean Arthur made a distinct impression on American moviegoers in the 1930s and '40s--when she starred opposite Gary Cooper, James Stewart and Cary Grant in films directed by Frank Capra, Howard Hawks and George Stevens. Yet today Arthur lacks the renown many of her contemporaries still command. Shy, anxious and publicity-averse in private life, she left acting relatively early, forsaking the professional longevity enjoyed by peers like Katharine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck. When she died in 1991, at age 90, she hadn't made a picture in nearly 40 years. And that final performance-- as a stoic pioneer wife to Van Heflin's homesteader in Stevens's "Shane" (1953)--was atypical.

Screwball comedy was Arthur's métier. When it came to clever banter, lighthearted exasperation and improbable romance, she was nonpareil.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 AM


Aerospace Materials Used to Build 'Endless' Pipeline (ScienceDaily, Aug. 17, 2012) 

Mo Ehsani, Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering at the University of Arizona, has designed a new, lightweight underground pipe he says could transform the pipeline construction industry.

Instead of conventional concrete or steel, Ehsani's new pipe consists of a central layer of lightweight plastic honeycomb, similar to that used in the aerospace industry, sandwiched between layers of resin-saturated carbon fiber fabric.

In combination, these materials are as strong, or stronger, than conventional steel and concrete pipes, which are time-consuming and expensive to manufacture and transport.