Sunday Reads: Relax, Take it easy…

Good Morning!

Since it is a lovely Sunday Morning, let’s just have a couple newsy links and make the rest of the post…lazy and easy.

Des Moines Register Poll: Newt Gingrich Leads in Iowa  …Ugh, how can this man even get a headline like that?

In yet another shakeup of one of the most erratic Republican presidential primaries in decades, a new Des Moines Register poll shows Newt Gingrich is the top choice of likely Iowa caucus-goers, while Mitt Romney has slipped into a contest for second place with Ron Paul.

I guess his comment about poor kids, from poor neighborhoods, who only know how to work, if it is illegal…hit its mark.

National Journal is also reporting Cain’s Endorsement Might Go to Fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich.

As my colleagues report, the remaining members of the GOP presidential field are already racing for the endorsement of now ex-candidate Herman Cain, who stated during his farewell address he plans to support one of his former rivals. The early front-runner? It has to be fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich, the ex-speaker of the House who has been overtly friendly to Cain and attracts a similar type of supporter.
In early November, Gingrich and Cain participated in an amicable two-person debate together, an unusual event for two men who are ostensibly rivals. Cain even made a point of praising his opponent.
[…]
Both men are from Georgia, and the former House Republican leader can relate to a candidate whose personal life thwarted his political career. Unlike fellow presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who urged Cain to exit the race, Gingrich sympathized with his plight, calling it “very painful.”
“I am proud to know Herman Cain and consider him a friend,” Gingrich said in his statement released after Cain’s announcement. “I know from having worked with him for more than a decade he will continue to be a powerful voice in the conservative movement for years to come.”

Both men are also womanizers…so who would you expect to get the Cain endorsement? It will be announced soon,I  wonder if the bus “Further” will make another appearance? Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing that tea party fruitcake make the grand introduction.

Reuters had this article posted yesterday, you may have missed it: Exclusive: MF Global mixed funds, transferred abroad

Regulators investigating the collapse of MF Global have determined that the firm combined money between securities and futures accounts owned by customers, and transferred funds outside the country to at least one entity, a source said on Friday.

“The further we get into (the investigation) the more complex it is … but we’re making progress,” the source said, adding that the commingling and transferring of money is making it harder for regulators to determine what money belongs where.

MF Global took futures segregated money and put it into the account for customer securities, essentially mixing futures and securities that were both owned by customers, said an official familiar with the matter.

Until now, it was believed that only customer futures accounts were affected.

Oh, but you know it is always worse than first expected…

The source also told Reuters that MF Global had been using customer funds for “several days if not weeks” rather than just a few days before the firm collapsed.

Regulators had previously thought the firm was using customer funds on the Thursday and Friday before it filed for bankruptcy on October 31.

CME Group, the Chicago exchange where MF Global traded, said it had reviewed the company’s books a week before the bankruptcy and found no issues with the customer money.

If MF Global started improperly dipping into its customers’ accounts long before the firm’s collapse, the allegation would raise questions of why the regulators and auditors failed to spot such behavior.

That is an easy question to answer, they lied!  Well, okay that is my own answer…but what about the possibility of a cover up? It’s all good, Koch Brothers got their moola out before the shit hit the fan.

Last week, Mother Jones wrote about a recent study that found the herbicide Atrazine causes hormonal problems in women. Study: Common Herbicide Causes Menstrual Trouble

Yet again, scientists have looked at populations routinely exposed to the widely used herbicide atrazine and found trouble.

The latest: In a study published by Envionmental Research (summarized here), researchers found evidence that atrazine could be causing menstrual irregularities and low estrogen levels in women, even when it appears in drinking water at levels far below the EPA’s limit of 3 parts per billion.

The study showed that women in ag-intensive areas of Illinois, where atrazine has been shown to leach into drinking water from farm fields, were significantly more likely to experience menstrual irregularities and low estrogen levels than women in ag-intensive areas of Vermont, where atrazine use is much lower.

The Vermont/Illinois paper comes on the heels of an analysis of the Agricultural Health Study—an ongoing look at people who regularly apply pesticides and their spouses—that found similar trends among women exposed to atrazine, as well as a 2009 study finding that atrazine levels in drinking water tracked with low-weight birth incidences in Indiana.

This is some scary stuff. I plan to do a series on atrazine, like I did on hexavalent chromium, otherwise known as chrome 6…so look for it in the next week or so.

Going back to the article by Tom Philpott:

Meanwhile, as I reported three weeks ago, an independent scientific panel convened by the EPA found “strong” evidence linking atrazine to thyroid cancer and “suggestive” evidence linking it to ovarian cancer, also based on studies of human populations exposed to the poison through drinking water. The panel declared that the EPA had been seriously underestimating the cancer risk posed by atrazine in drinking water.

Now, assessing the danger of a toxic chemical like atrazine, the second-most-used pesticide on US farm fields, is tricky. You can’t ethically feed a suspected poison to people and see what happens.

You can use animals to gauge its effects, but it isn’t perfectly clear how the results apply to humans. And you can find human populations known to be exposed to it and see if any health concerns turn up—a practice known as epidemiology, and exemplified by the studies I cite above. But here, too, results are uncertain, because real-world situations contain infinite variables that can’t be controlled for.

But the absence of definitive proof that exposure to atrazine causes health trouble does not exonerate the lucrative agrichemical, as its maker, Syngenta, would have us believe. Until company execs volunteer to start quaffing the stuff and feeding it to their kids, animal studies and epidemiology are all we have. And for atrazine, both point to danger. (A recent University of California-Berkeley study found that low-level exposure to the chemical emasculates male frogs).

Philpott notes that according to a spokesperson at the EPA, atrazine won’t be banned any time soon, 2013 is the earliest the EPA could ban this very harmful chemical.

Did anyone see this article in the New York Times? After American Outcry, Israel Ends Ad Campaign Aimed at Expatriates h/t my mom…

For many American Jews, the Israeli government-sponsored ads, intended to cajole Israelis living in the United States to come home, smacked of arrogance, ignorance and cultural disrespect of America. Jewish groups in the United States expressed outrage, saying they were causing a rift with American Jews who support Israel. On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aborted the campaign.

The ads — short videos and billboard posters — were intended to touch the sensibilities of Israeli expatriates and tap into their national identity, according to the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, which oversaw the campaign.

But critics said the ads implied that moving to America led to assimilation and an erosion of Jewish consciousness. The Jewish Federations of North America called them insulting. Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the videos “heavy-handed, and even demeaning.”

…a blog was posted this week by Jeffrey Goldberg, a writer for The Atlantic.

“The idea, communicated in these ads, that America is no place for a proper Jew, and that a Jew who is concerned about the Jewish future should live in Israel, is archaic, and also chutzpadik, if you don’t mind me resorting to the vernacular,” Mr. Goldberg said.

The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption apologized, they know that a lot of financial support comes from American Jews…

Mr. Foxman called the campaign “a reflection of the ignorance that exists in Israel of Jewish life in America, its vitality, its creativity.” Still, he said, Israel’s decision to stop the ads showed “that they’re listening and it does matter how we feel.”

Alright, now for the easy…relaxing part of the morning round-up, after the jump.

First, a couple of links to some cool photo galleries…

Blue and silver are a popular color combination this year.

The first image is a beautiful cow among some standing stones…that are at least 1,400 years old. Check it out! Some of the photos of lakes and waterfalls are breathtaking…

Here is an update on former conjoined twins from the Dominican Republic. I wrote about them back when they first had their surgery…you may remember the image of their mother’s face when she saw them separated for the first time…it was a look of total emotional relief and joy. Formerly conjoined twins leave Children’s Hospital 

It is easier than it used to be to coax a smile from 20-month-old Teresa Tapia, who used to be the quieter, more reserved twin, going wherever she was led by Maria, the sister she was born connected to at the chest and abdomen.

“Mari,” Teresa called loudly for her aunt, Maria Estela Reynaldo Valdez. Then “Mommy,” she said, calling to Lisandra Sanatis. Maria, meanwhile, sat quietly in a stroller nearby.

“Maria was always singing and talking. Now Teresa is making all the noise,” said Jennifer Curtis of World Pediatric Project, the Richmond-based medical philanthropy that arranged for the girls, who are from the Dominican Republic, to come to the United States for medical care.

Were it not for the scars on the girls’ bellies, it would be hard to know from just looking at them that less than a month ago they were conjoined twins, with vital organs, including the liver, intricately connected.

On Friday, 24 days after undergoing complex, 20-plus-hour surgery at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU to separate them and reconstruct organs so they can live independently, they were discharged from the hospital to begin the next phase of their recovery.

It is a feel good article for sure, give it a read…

There is a possible new island being made in Spain’s Canary Islands:  Canary Island volcano: A new island in the making?

La Restinga, El Hierro

An undersea volcano erupting just south of Spain’s Canary Islands may be the beginnings of a new island, or an extension to an existing one. For some, it’s a colourful spectacle – for others a major blow to their livelihood.

That is some picture, you can see the water bubbling up at the surface.

“It’s angry today. Look at it go!” says fisherman Elio Morales Rodriguez in the village of La Restinga, on the south coast of El Hierro island.

“That green patch on the water is a dead zone,” he says, looking out to sea. “It kills everything. No fishing, no dive schools, no tourists, just dead fish on the surface.”

For more than a month, the underwater volcano has been erupting three miles to the south of El Hierro, the smallest of the seven Canary Islands, about 50km (30 miles) south-west of its nearest neighbour, La Gomera, and 100km (60 miles) from the most populous of the islands – Tenerife.

From about 60m below the sea, the so-called “submarine” volcano is spewing gases and burning lava, some of which is breaking the surface of the water.

Satellite image
It is unknown when the island residents will be able to get back to normal, the eruption is causing some local economic problems.

Scientists say the eruption is part of the long-term volcanic evolution of the Canary Islands, which may result in a new island, or add new territory to the southern coast of El Hierro.

There is seismic activity to the north of the island too.

[…]

In the past four months, the network has detected more than 11,000 tremors across El Hierro island, one of which measured four-point-six on the Richter scale, and was strong enough to be felt on La Gomera and Tenerife. One resident of El Hierro said it was like an “energy jolt”, while another described the noise as “a deep roar”.

Many islanders have bags packed and they are ready to leave…in case an emergency evacuation is ordered.

Over in another part of the world, here is an article about Italy’s exclusive ailments. It’s a post written by Dany Mitzman living in Bologna, Italy.

Many Italians, it seems, are prone to a particularly wide range of winter illnesses, helped apparently by an in-depth knowledge of human anatomy.

More than a decade living in this country has led me to a shocking conclusion. Being Italian is bad for your health.

As winter draws in, those around me are suffering from a range of distinctly Italian ailments, that make our limited British colds and flus sound as bland as our food.

As I cycle around the medieval streets of my adoptive home town of Bologna, I smile to myself, marvelling at the fact that I am still wearing a light-weight jacket at this time of year.

The part I like about this post is the description of ailments that get lost in translation…but are actually very accurately described by Italians.

They have their woolly scarves and quilted coats out and are rubbing their necks, complaining of my favourite mystery Italian malady “la cervicale”.

“Soffro di cervicale (I suffer from cervicale),” they tell me, making it sound particularly serious.

Most people over the age of 30 seem to have the condition, but I am still at a loss as to what exactly it is and how to translate it.

I have looked it up in the dictionary and found “cervical” – an adjective referring to the cervical vertebrae, those little bones in the back of your neck – but as an ailment, there is simply no English translation. We do not have it!

The British also do not seem to have the sort of exceptional knowledge of their own anatomy which Italians have.

Yes, my mother is very explicit when it comes to pointing out what organ is out of whack when she is not feeling good. (Remember, we are from Italian decent.)

Soon after I moved here, I remember a friend telling me he was not feeling very well. “My liver hurts,” he said.

Yup, I’ve heard that before…

Italians can also tell you if the pain is in their stomach or intestine – and can even specify whether it is colic or colitis – but to us it is all just “tummy ache”.

The author has a theory about why Italians are so susceptible to illness…I should say, pinpointed illnesses.

After years of first-hand experience of the delicate Italian constitution, I have come up with a theory about why we British are so much sturdier. If you cannot name it, you cannot suffer from it. If you do not know where it is, it cannot hurt you.

That does sound about right…We don’t call my mom “Cliffina” after the Cheers character Cliff Clavin for nothing. Y’all remember Cliff Clavin, the postal worker, right?

Cliff was well known as a storehouse of useless trivia, often of dubious veracity and bearing little relation to the conversation going on at the bar.

From Minx’s missing link file: This is a very exciting link, and I am quite amazed something so scientific is being reported on Fox News: Japanese And Russian Scientists May Be Able To Clone Mammoth | Fox News

Japanese and Russian scientists might be able to clone a mammoth after confirming the presence of well-preserved bone marrow in a mammoth thighbone found in Siberian permafrost, Kyodo News reported.

The scientists from the Sakha Republic’s mammoth museum and Kinki University’s graduate school will begin research next year to regenerate the huge mammal, which became extinct about 10,000 years ago.

They will transplant nuclei from the bone marrow cells into elephant egg cells whose nuclei were removed through a type of cloning. The process can create an embryo that can be planted into an elephant womb for birth.

Scientist discovered a well-preserved thigh bone in Siberia which they feel will be able to produce the nuclei of genes needed for a successful cloning.

Oh, I have spun yak and buffalo fiber, horse and camel hair…it would be so cool to spin up some mammoth fiber! Not to mention just seeing one of these animals alive again.

Easy Like Sunday Morning Link of the Week:  My dad and I were just talking about how kids aren’t into cars they way they used to be. Then I saw this article over at BBC News – Why are US teenagers driving less?

American teenagers are taking to the road in fewer numbers than ever before. What’s behind this trend and does it mean the end of the car as adolescent status symbol and rite of passage?

If Ferris Bueller had a day off now, would he spend it on Facebook?

Recent research suggests many young Americans prefer to spend their money and time chatting to their friends online, as opposed to the more traditional pastime of cruising around in cars.

For the high school students in films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and American Graffiti, cars were the ultimate expression of individuality and personal freedom – just as they have been for generations of Americans.

“It was a rite of passage and something to look forward to. You were only one of the cool kids if you drove and had your own vehicle,” says Kristin Nevels, of the American Automobile Association.

It’s true, my dad had his first car when he was 14 years old…a 1954 2–door Bel Air Convertible…it was gold, and he still harps about it to this day. He resorted the thing all by himself, with parts he would steal from the neighborhood…

In a survey to be published later this year by Gartner, 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they would choose internet access over owning their own car. The figure is 15% among the baby boom generation, the people that grew up in the 1950s and 60s – seen as the golden age of American motoring.

According to one young adult who chose to put off getting his license and car when he came of age…

“There is a lot to be said for the video game killing the need for a car for a lot of kids.”

So if video killed the radio star, and video games killed the urge to drive in teenagers…what is next?

Have a great Sunday! I’ll be painting all day…so catch y’all later in the comments! What are you reading and blogging about today?


30 Comments on “Sunday Reads: Relax, Take it easy…”

  1. HT says:

    Interesting roundup Minx. I was immediately drawn to the link about the conjoined twins – we’ve come a long way, and I hope that we will continue to progress. My sons died shortly after birth, but they could never be separated according the the specialist. Some days I wonder whether I was told the truth.

    • quixote says:

      Yeah. The plot thickens. That is, officially, an act of war. But nobody really feels that shooting down $1,000,000+ worth of robot is in the same league as shooting down actual human soldiers. So which direction will the spin wars take?

      ZOMG, worst thing evah, we must shoot back. ??

      or

      Diplomatic incident. We’re talking about it. ??

  2. ralphb says:

    Postwar Marines: smaller, less focused on land war

    Good news to me. Let to Corps go back to being the quick reaction ‘Swiss army knife’ it should be and not just a second Army.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Rachel Carson had it right about pesticides back in the ’50s (Silent Spring), but authorities acted as if only DDT needed to be banned. I don’t see how any chemical pesticides can be non-toxic. It just makes no sense.

    Thanks for an interesting roundup, Minx.

    • quixote says:

      Well, consider Sluggo. Iron phospate pellets that disrupt the slug stomach but don’t affect vertebrates at all. Or juvenile growth hormones that prevent insects from reproducing, but have no effect on mammals. Or, much as I hate to say it, RoundUp, which disrupts plant hormones, not people hormones. (There are a ton of other issues with RoundUp, I’m just saying that plant hormones aren’t one of them.)

      So, yes, pesticides that are completely harmless to us but not to the target are entirely possible.

      Atrazine isn’t one of those. It’s in the class of endocrine disruptors. Everyone thinks “sex hormones” when they hear “hormones,” but hormones do practically everything. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism. You can’t get more general than that. Others regulate stress, insomnia, the list goes on forever.

      It’s crazy to muck around with that, and it’s not just pesticides that do. Lots of plastic breakdown products that get into the environment also act as endocrine disruptors. But they tell us to diet and exercise to deal with the consequences because that’s easier than reforming all of industry.

    • bostonboomer says:

      OK, it’s good to know that some of them are OK–although new, more subtle discoveries tend to follow such pronouncements, in my experience. But still good to know. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

      • quixote says:

        Actually, I think I buried the lede. My point was really that things precisely targeted to a biological peculiarity specific to the pest tends to be truly harmless.

        Anything else? It ought to be guilty till proven innocent, instead of the other way around, as it is now!

  4. ralphb says:

    John Danforth: The GOP Presidential Field Is ‘Embarrassing’

    Every sane Republican must now be a RINO 🙂

  5. ralphb says:

    With The Donald’s GOP debate, it seems to me the Republican primary race hasn’t been a real run for the presidency but a reality TV show instead. The only popular candidates seem to be the fake ones like Palin, Cain, Gingrich, Trump etc.

  6. ralphb says:

    Health Insurers Now Have To Take Their Medicine

    I want this to be correct in the worst way.

    • quixote says:

      That’s a bit of an Opologist writing that article. It’s true that the cap on profit margins is a good thing, and it’s also true (which she doesn’t mention) that the Act was smart enough to realize the insurers would just raise their rates to make up for it. It actually prevents them from raising their rates at will.

      But.

      That latter proviso starts whenever. I don’t remember. 2014? Maybe even 2012? So in the meantime, Big Insurance has been trying 37% (annually!) premium hikes, at least here in CA. I seem to remember seeing a number as high as 53% go by. My eyes glazed over about a year ago.

      And I don’t believe for a minute that all that money chasing all those hungry Congresscritters won’t result in plenty of boring, non-headline-making, beggaring changes before it’s ever a real issue for Big I.

      • dakinikat says:

        I hope it’s true too. The problem is that most businesses aren’t happy with profit. They all want loan shark level returns on everything.

      • northwestrain says:

        That blog author is a nut case — just the type of behavior I would expect from a cult member.

        I’ll wait for a reliable source.

        Obots and the religious fundamentalists are what I call religiously insane — or plain old cult members. This particular 0bot has been on the attack — perhaps the 0bowma campaign is again paying bloggers to blog for christ — I mean 0bowma.

      • ralphb says:

        You might try reading the original article in Bloomberg. That author isn’t an Obot.

      • ralphb says:

        The provision goes into effect in 2012 and the insurers do not like the implementation. That is what is hopeful.

      • RSM says:

        If that article is accurate, it’s far more likely that the Supremes will strike the ACA down next summer. I think it was pretty ambiguous which way they would go up to this point. Would the Roberts Five indulge their pro-corporatist side or their pro-state’s-rights side? But if this thing isn’t going to be the insurance-company boondoggle a lot of us feared, the conservative majority has no reason to support it. Bye bye Obamacare.

    • ralphb says:

      Sorry, the original article was at the notorious Obot haven, Forbes.

  7. Branjor says:

    Will they get the elephant’s permission before implanting a mammoth embryo in her womb?

    • HT says:

      If she’s female, no permission necessary. We live in an era that views females as fetus carriers, and I suspect that extends to elephants and any other female animal. Forced breeding – yup, that’s the ticket.

    • foxyladi14 says:

      they will bail em out watch. 🙄

    • quixote says:

      Or they could try cutting all the junk mail … ? Nah. Too crazy.

    • jawbone says:

      Let’s see: Cuts to the Post Office and its Constitutionally mandated service to all Americans. Well, that benefits the 99%, mostly the lower economic classes among the 99%.

      If the One Percent or its massisvely wealthy Tippy Top needed the services of the Post Office, there would be absolutely no questions about funding it to be the best it could be. But, if it mostly works for, well the serfs, meh. Who needs it?

  8. northwestrain says:

    I don’t see any need evacuate islands over that undersea volcano. Seems like the UK has sent some “experts” who merely enjoy making life difficult for islands. I’m speaking for experience — I lived on an island with a live volcano and politics over road science every time.

    It will be interesting to see if science and politics again fight a duel in this volcano episode.

  9. Susan says:

    John Danforth can look in the mirror to see who’s responsible for the lunatics in the current GOP presidential race. He brought us Clarence Thomas. That, alone, made it clear that the Republican Party has no standards.