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The Ghost of Tom Joad

Here’s some food for thought:


One of my favorite moments last year: The Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Hallelujah Chorus flash mob at the downtown Macy’s:

Food as the enemy

My relationship with food is becoming very complicated. There’s a very limited overlap between the gall bladder diet and the diverticulitis diet (you can’t eat any fiber during a flareup). Now, after a week eating canned soup, I read this:

Is it safe to eat canned foods?

That’s a question worth asking after a new study found a huge spike in urinary levels of the chemical bisphenol A – commonly known as BPA – in a group of volunteers who ate canned vegetable soup for several days. BPA, which has been linked to a variety of health disorders, is used in the lining of many food and beverage cans.

The results suggest BPA is being absorbed by the canned food and then ingested by consumers.

“We were very surprised by the numbers,” said the senior author of the study, Karin Michels of Harvard Medical School in Boston. “It makes you feel a little uneasy about cans.”

The experiment involved 75 participants. Half of them were asked to eat a 12-ounce bowl of canned vegetable soup at lunch for five consecutive days. After a two-day break, they consumed the same-sized serving of fresh vegetable soup for five lunches in a row. The other volunteers did the experiment in the reverse order – starting with five days of fresh soup, followed by five lunches of canned soup.

Urine samples were collected on several occasions, usually a few hours after the noon-time meal.

The analysis revealed that when participants ate the canned soup they experienced more than a 1,000 per cent increase in their urinary concentrations of BPA, compared to when they dined on fresh soup.

Oh, and Americans had twice as much BPA in their systems as Canadians.


As battered wife fighting back.

Hey, what a great idea

Let’s make the best government program we have into an inefficient cash cow for the insurance industry! Dean Baker:

The NYT claims that plans that could raise the cost of Medicare equivalent policies for seniors by $34 trillion are gaining increasing support in Congress. These plans involve replacing Medicare with a voucher. This leads to higher costs both because the administrative costs of private plans are far higher than Medicare and they are likely to be less effective in controlling costs.

The Congressional Budget Official projected that a Republican plan along these lines, that was approved by House earlier in this year, would raise the cost of Medicare equivalent polices by $34 trillion over the program’s 75-year planning horizon. While this plan would save the government money by reducing its payments for Medicare, it would mean that future generations of workers would pay far more for health care in their retirement. The cost of Medicare equivalent policies would far exceed the typical retiree’s income by 2050.

It would have been helpful if this article had pointed out that these proposals imply both a huge increase in health care costs to beneficiaries and an increase in costs to the country as whole. Virtually all research shows that these sorts of plans will make the country’s health care system considerably less efficient.

Morning after.


Maybe someone should do something.

‘Just you f*ckers wait’

Mona Eltahaway, who is an amazing Egyptian journalist, was arrested and assaulted in Egypt yesterday, and her reaction is pretty much what I suspect mine would be: “Wait until I get out of here and write about it.”

Black Friday pepper spray

I find this entire sale ritual so bewildering. “I’m a great parent because I camped out on a sidewalk all night to get you the newest toy at 40% off”? My sister and her daughter were out at 4 a.m. today – eww. When you could still be warm in bed, sleeping? I don’t get it. Am I just being an old crank, or is it crazy?

Authorities are searching for a woman accused of pepper-spraying other shoppers Thursday night at the Wal-Mart in Porter Ranch so that she could grab more discounted merchandise.

Twenty customers, including children, were hurt in the 10:10 p.m. incident, officials said. Shoppers complained of minor skin and eye irritation and sore throats.

“This was customer-versus-customer ‘shopping rage,'” said Los Angeles Police Lt. Abel Parga.

The woman used the spray in more than one area of the Wal-Mart “to gain preferred access to a variety of locations in the store,” said Los Angeles Fire Capt. James Carson.

“She was competitive shopping,” he said.

Black Friday’s sales began at the Wal-Mart at 10 p.m. and featured door-buster sales on toys, including $5 Bratz dolls, $10 Wii video games and $29 tricycles.


First time I slept all the way through the night since I got sick. I feel so refreshed!

My oldest son drove us to Brooklyn yesterday in my car. He hasn’t driven in eight years and he’d never used power brakes before – so I was jolted a lot, but it wasn’t too bad. And my youngest and his wife made a beautiful Thanksgiving table; I just wish I’d been able to eat more of it. Then we watched a movie (Steven Spielberg’s “Super 8″, which was such a pastiche of/homage to other movies, it seemed to have no center of its own).

Oh, and I brought a toy for the dog – a stuffed-plush tree trunk with three little squirrels inside. She had a ball ferreting out the squirrels all night.

How was your Thanksgiving?

P.S. Found out from my son, who’s seen him at art galleries, that Robert DeNiro is only about 5’7 or 8. Damn, he looks tall on the screen, doesn’t he?

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