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Flying to Asia over the North Pole exposes you to a lot of radiation.

How hot is it?

So hot, even turning on a light makes it hotter.

Fund drive

I hope you all enjoyed this holiday weekend’s musical selections. Just a reminder that the fund drive continues.

Only a small handful of regular readers have donated so far. It’s greatly appreciated, but I wonder why I haven’t heard from the rest of you. I know times are hard, but think about how it looks from my end: I’m virtually unemployable because of my political writing (HR people do love to use Google to find malcontents like me!) and it looks like this might be it for the foreseeable future. So I really need your support.

If you can still afford the occasional McDonald’s meal or a latte at Starbucks, why not skip the extra fat and sugar and make a donation instead? Your arteries will thank you, and so will I!

P.S. You do NOT need a Paypal account to donate.

Bagram: Worse than Gitmo

Aren’t you glad we have a constitutional lawyer as president?

Under a U.S. military system straight out of Kafka’s “The Trial” and Heller’s “Catch-22″, some 1,700 detainees at the Bagram U.S. Air Base in Afghanistan are being held without charges or a trial, primarily on the basis of secret evidence that they never get to see or challenge.

A still-classified 2009 Marine Corps general’s report concluded that many, probably a majority, were wrongly held then. But it was virtually impossible then and now for innocent detainees to prove they are not allied with insurgents.

[...] As Human Rights First states, the ever-growing number of Bagram detainees – most  of whom are Afghans – have far fewer rights than their counterparts at the much more controversial Guantanamo Bay prison. Thanks to a 2008 Supreme Court decision, Guantanamo detainees “have the right to challenge their detention in a U.S. court and to representation by a lawyer,” something Bagram prisoners are denied, the report notes.

The system has resulted in detainees being incarcerated at Bagram for eight years or more, “based largely on evidence they have never seen and with no meaningful opportunity to defend themselves,” the report says. Additionally “a significant number” of the approximately 41 non-Afghan detainees “have been recommended for release by a Detainee Review Board but remain in detention at…[Bagram]..without explanation.”

In an interview with Nieman Watchdog, the HRF report’s author, Daphne Eviatar, put that figure of 1,700 detainees into context, noting that it is “almost triple the number of detainees who were at Bagram when President Obama came into office two years ago, and is 10 times greater than the number of prisoners currently being held at Guantanamo.” In addition, it is more than twice the total number of detainees – 779 – who were ever held at Guantanamo. More than 1,300 individuals were arrested and incarcerated in Bagram in 2010 alone, compared to some 500 in 2009. Eviatar is senior associate in Human Rights First’s law and security program. (Click here for a video on Bagram by Eviatar.)


Don’t go too far from home or you’ll miss your conservative Republican congress people lying their asses off in Medicare town halls!

Cell phones

At what point will people get it? I’ve said it before: Get a headset and use it. If you have a kid, it’s especially important that they not spend hours with a cell phone pressed to their growing brains:

LONDON — An international panel of experts says cellphones are possibly carcinogenic to humans after reviewing details from dozens of published studies on the matter.

The statement was issued in Lyon, France, Tuesday by the International Agency for Research on Cancer — the cancer agency of the World Health Organization. The assessment by the cancer panel now goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.

Last year, results of a large study found no clear link between cellphones and cancer.

But some advocacy groups contend the study raised serious concerns because it showed a hint of a possible link between very heavy phone use and a rare but often deadly form of brain tumor. However, the numbers in that subgroup weren’t sufficient to make the case.

Consumer Reports

The clinic doctor got very pissy with me when I told her I wouldn’t take a statin. I had my doubts as to their effectiveness/relevance, and I sure as hell knew I didn’t like the side effects. Looks like I was right!

Can we stop all those Lipitor commercials now?

The medical community was shaken last week by news that raising HDL (good) cholesterol with drugs did nothing to protect against heart attacks, strokes, and death. Since high HDL levels have been linked to better heart health, it seemed a given that raising HDL would help prevent heart attacks. But the new study found that t’aint necessarily so.

The study, from the National Institute of Health with backing from the drug makers Abbott and Merck, was halted after 32 months of a planned 6-year clinical trial. The study included 3,414 people with a history of cardiovascular disease who were all on a cholesterol-lowering statin to lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Roughly half were also put on high-dose niacin (Niaspan) to raise their HDL and lower their triglycerides. Niacin did improve those levels. But the researchers saw no reduction in the number of cardiovascular events and deaths compared with those on a statin alone, and so the trial suffered an early demise.

Cheery news

This is great!

WASHINGTON — It’s getting personal now. In a shift still evolving, federal enforcers are targeting individual executives in health care fraud cases that used to be aimed at impersonal corporations.

The new tactic is raising the anxiety level – and risks – for corporate honchos at drug companies, medical device manufacturers, nursing home chains and other major health care enterprises that deal with Medicare and Medicaid.

Previously, if a company got caught, its lawyers in many cases would be able to negotiate a financial settlement. The company would write the government a check for a number followed by lots of zeroes and promise not to break the rules again. Often the cost would just get passed on to customers.

Now, on top of fines paid by a company, senior executives can face criminal charges even if they weren’t involved in the scheme but could have stopped it had they known. Furthermore, they can also be banned from doing business with government health programs, a career-ending consequence.

The Chicago way?

Not sure what this is about, but it’s not good that the appointees don’t seem to know what they’re doing.

Reading as cartography

Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic:

Put bluntly, if you call yourself a reading man, but don’t read books by women, you are actually neither. Such a person implicitly dismisses whole swaths of literature, and then flees the challenge to see himself through other eyes.

This is not a favor to feminists. This is not about how to pick up chicks. This is about hunger, greed and acquisition. Do not read books by women to murder your inner sexist pig. Do it because Edith Wharton can fucking write. It’s that simple.

Yes, I do find it incredible that so many men don’t read female authors. Imagine if women (who are, after all, the majority of book buyers) said they didn’t read anything by men. It would be a huge marketing problem!

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