Saturday, December 31, 2011

NYTimes: Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals

Even as more Americans buy foods labeled organic, the products are moving away from a traditional emphasis on local growing and limited environmental strain.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Afghanistan shot at homecoming party in California

Check out this article:

Soldier back from Afghanistan shot at homecoming party in California

------Sent from The Daily News

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Why do we keep crooks in office, year after year?

From The New York Times:

EDITORIAL: Illegal, Just Not on Capitol Hill

House Republican leaders sidetracked a sensible and overdue bill to ban members of Congress from using inside information in stock trades.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

NYTimes: Utah: Thousands of Birds Die After Crash Landings

From The New York Times:

NATIONAL BRIEFING | ROCKIES: Utah: Thousands of Birds Die After Crash Landings

Thousands of migratory birds were killed or injured this week after apparently mistaking a Wal-Mart parking lot, football fields and other snow-covered areas of southern Utah for bodies of water and plummeting to the ground.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Best "Pepper Spraying Cop" image yet

The meme of UC Davis Police Lt. John Pike placed in all kinds of settings has created some good humor out of a horrifying incident. So far, this picture got me laughing the most:

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

NYTimes: Senegal Curbs a Bloody Rite, African-Style

From The New York Times:

Senegal Curbs a Bloody Rite, African-Style

Over the past 15 years, the drive to end genital cutting has gained such momentum in Senegal that the majority of villages where it was commonplace have now committed to stop it.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11: Time to decide what America stands for

Watching David Frost's interview with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Al Jazeera last night provided stark evidence of where the USA went wrong in our reaction to the terror attacks that took so many innocent lives 10 years ago today. Cameron defended the attacks on the Taliban in Afghanistan for harboring Al Quaeda. But he staunchly opposed any actions that violated Britain's principles. Britain did not approve of and objects to any form of torture in the "war on terrorism." At the same time, former US Vice President Dick Cheney is actively defending the use of "waterboarding" torture while parading around peddling his memoir. By yielding on our fundamental principles, the USA loses what had been our most persuasive source of power.

In the 10 years since that awful day, the USA has tumbled from its post as the moral leader of the free world. Maybe it's time to figure out how we can earn that crown once again.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Keeping Food and Water Safe During Emergencies">What Consumers Need to Know About Food and Water Safety During Hurricanes, Power Outages, and Floods

Emergencies can happen.  When they do, the best strategy is to already have a plan in place.  

As Hurricane Irene batters the Bahamas and makes its way up the Eastern seaboard, do you know the proper food and water safety precautions if a hurricane, or any other natural event, causes a power outage?

Get quick tips on">basic preparations for emergencies, what to do both">during and after a power outage, how to">keep water safe and to">keep food safe if flooding occurs

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ALLERGY ALERT: Undeclared Shrimp And Fish In Vegetable Gyoza Dumplings

Why those of us with certain food allergies need to be super careful:

Begin forwarded message:

From: "" <>
Date: August 25, 2011 1:30:30 PM EDT
Subject: ALLERGY ALERT: Undeclared Shrimp And Fish In Vegetable Gyoza Dumplings
Reply-To: "" <>">Ajinotmo Frozen Foods Issues Allergy Alert On Undeclared Shrimp And Fish In Vegetable Gyoza Dumplings
08/24/2011 08:29 PM EDT

Ajinomoto Frozen Foods of Portland, OR is recalling 8.47 oz. trays of Ajinomoto Brand Vegetable Gyoza Dumplings, lot code 231751, that contain undeclared shrimp and fish (Pollock). See the">product's label.

The recalled product was distributed between 6/30/2011 and 8/4/2011 through retail stores and restaurants nationwide.

People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to shellfish and fish run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this Vegetable Gyoza Dumpling product.">Bookmark and Share

Manage your subscriptions:

Twitter icon">Follow us on Twitter

This email was sent to using GovDelivery, on behalf of: · 200 Independence Avenue SW · Washington DC 20201 · 1-877-696-6775" target="_blank">Powered by GovDelivery

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, July 22, 2011

Charlottesville police stand ready in case #WBC11 attendees get out of line.


Charlottesville, VA PD mobile command center set up outside hotel where 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference is underway.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Glad to see diverse people celebrating rights for all


New York's Pride celebration isn't just about rights for gays, lesbians, etc. For me, it's a celebration of the freedom that too many of us take for granted. Here's to New York and the politicians who brought us to this day of celebration.

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Friday, June 24, 2011

NY's new marriage law is a victory for common sense

Had a fun night exploring food and fun in Harlem with a visiting friend tonight and was oblivious to the great news from Albany. But this is big news. It is worthy not only of celebration but also recognition that this was the political process really working for a change. Poll after poll has indicated that a majority of people see no reason for government to decide who can be married. When two men or two women choose to marry, they are not infringing on anyone else's rights. That's why there is no reason for government to be involved. If a church or mosque or temple don't want to honor such marriages, that is their free choice.

Maybe now our politicians can take a similar, sensible approach to more serious issues like the economy, health care, education, the environment, etc. Meantime, congratulations to the men and women who have fought for today's victory.

And congratulations to the many couples who can celebrate their love just like everyone else.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011 | Upper Big Branch Mine disaster result of corporate culture "...where deviation became the norm," report states> By: Murrey Jacobson The first official investigative report on the disaster at Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia last year, which killed 29 miners, found that the explosion could have been prevented and was the result of a corporate culture at the mine "in which wrongdoing became acceptable, where deviation...
shared by @NewsHour at 5:00 pm on May 19

View full story at

via, available in the App Store

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Worth Reading-NYTimes: A National Security Strategy That Doesn’t Focus on Threats

From The New York Times:

ABOUT NEW YORK: A National Security Strategy That Doesn’t Focus on Threats

A paper written by two military strategists calls on the United States to engage the world through its educational system, social policies, international development and diplomacy.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Limbaugh was mocking, not praising, President Obama on Bin Laden raid

At the end of his show, Limbaugh laughs about media that reported his words as if they were said sincerely. Why do people pay attention to him?

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Meet the CEO Who Rebuilt a Crumbling Oakland, Calif. Hospital

By Russ Mitchell, Kaiser Health News

A doctor is beaten and strangled to death by a patient, the body left on the floor for half an hour before a janitor happens across it. A mental patient hangs herself with her own clothes tied to the top of a toilet stall. HIV-infected blood is tossed out with the regular trash. Wright L. Lassiter III was thinking, Why should I take this job? There was more: Nurses who followed doctors' orders only when they felt like it. Millions of dollars in losses year after year. A culture that favored blame over accountability. A sad parade of feckless executives -- 10 CEOs in 11 years. It was 2005 and Lassiter was next in line.

Lanky, charismatic, and a rising star in the health-care industry, Lassiter could have become just one more executive casualty when he took the job as CEO of the Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, California, and its flagship, Highland Hospital. Instead, he did what seemed impossible: He turned a shockingly mismanaged urban safety-net hospital system in one of America's most violent cities into a model for other public hospitals. He trimmed costs without any significant cutback in services -- in fact, services have been greatly expanded. A new $668 million hospital building is under construction. Six years on, the center has turned a positive margin every year but the last, when a new auditor required it to set aside more money for pension costs; so far, it is on target to break even this year.

No one is pretending that ACMC is immune from the severe financial problems facing public hospitals. Atlanta's Grady Health System is facing a $30 million shortfall. Miami's Jackson Health System is in even worse straits: It lost $93 million in fiscal 2010 and is on track to lose another $78 million this year; cash on hand is down to 19.6 days. Over the past 20 years, the number of public hospitals has declined by more than 25%, to 1,072. With federal budget cuts looming, states going broke, and local governments preparing for the worst of it to roll downhill and bury them, public institutions are going to have to learn to manage better. Forty-seven-year-old Lassiter and his team's accomplishment in Oakland shows it is possible for even the most dysfunctional public hospitals to shake themselves awake, serving the public and respecting taxpayers' dollars at the same time. Says Thomas Rundall, a health-policy and management professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley: "It's a model for how a publicly owned hospital with a challenging payer mix can be profitable."

HIGHLAND SITS on a small hill above a low-income residential neighborhood in inner-city Oakland. Hidden by trees from the nearby freeways, it's barely visible to suburban commuters heading toward the Bay Bridge to jobs in San Francisco.

The site is an architectural hodgepodge: the cream-colored Spanish baroque towers of the oldest building, erected in 1927; a recently built clinical center wrapped in green glass; a huge gray block in the Brutalist style, slated for a teardown as the new hospital rises.

Walk inside, past the ever-present county-sheriff squad cars, and you may see some gangbangers and gunslingers, crackheads and crazy people, and the other stock characters who lend drama to every inner-city public hospital. Mostly, though, you'll just see sick poor people -- mainly blacks, Latinos, Asians -- the unemployed, and the working poor sitting under fluorescent lights, waiting for their turn to see a doctor or nurse.

"Ten years ago, if you said in 2011 I'd be working in a public-hospital system, I would have said, 'Not likely,' " Lassiter says. "A worthy cause, yes, but not my kind of thing." At 6-foot-5, he is scrunched against a little round conference table in his office at Highland; papers are strewn across his desk, reports and journals piled on the floor. It looks more like an academic's college office than the lair of a corporate CEO.

In 2002, he was climbing the executive ranks at a large private-hospital system in Dallas. Then the CEO of JPS Health Network in Fort Worth, which serves the poor and uninsured in Tarrant County, recruited him as VP of operations and charged him with making a system that never turns anybody away as good as any private one. A challenge that big, Lassiter decided, could be his kind of thing.

The son and grandson of ordained ministers, Lassiter had what he calls a "small-town Southern upbringing" in Tuskegee, Alabama. His father is an educator, his mother a nurse. Tuskegee in the 1970s remained starkly segregated, which Lassiter realized at age 12, when his family moved to Columbia, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C. "My first day driving around, I saw blacks and whites holding hands as couples," he recalls. "I asked my mom, very innocently, 'Is that okay, what they're doing?'"

His own life revolved around the Baptist religion, school, and sports. He credits one basketball coach, "a white guy in his sixties who chewed tobacco and spewed expletives," with teaching him the joys of hard labor. The coach drove the team out to help on his farm. "Today, a white coach taking a truck full of black kids to work on his farm would get fired," he says. "But I got a lot of discipline from that."

He remembers the two months he lived with his father at a YMCA in Schenectady, New York, as the most formative period of his youth. His father had just taken a job as president of the local community college, and the family had yet to move into their new house. A star basketball player, he was greeted at his new high school as what the newspapers called "the Jumping Jack from Wilde Lake," and, according to his father, a red carpet "lined with pretty girls on both sides" was rolled out. Living at the YMCA embarrassed the young Lassiter at first, but he now says it turned into "an unusual bonding experience" that kept him from getting a big head.

"I'm a professor of business ethics," says his father, Wright Jr., 77, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District. "I've always emphasized he needs to be a good 'servant leader,' someone who's not into work simply for the personal benefit, but for the greater good."
Although Lassiter takes his father's advice seriously, he says that the "servant" idea can be misapplied in a public-hospital setting. "The attitude at a public hospital often is 'We're doing God's work. We get to feel good about being a martyr. Don't worry about execution. Don't worry about service. We're doing God's work.'"

As soon as he made his move from Fort Worth to Oakland, Lassiter made clear that God's work wouldn't get done unless the place stopped losing money and shaped up fast.

ACMC WAS A POSTER child for public-hospital dysfunction. The doctor's murder and the patient's suicide pointed out serious operational lapses, but the core problem was financial: Year after year, according to the Alameda County Grand Jury, the place lost millions beyond what it took in from the government, charities, paying customers, and other sources. (California is one of a handful of states that make grand juries the watchdogs of county government.) The grand jury described management as "a shambles."

CEO after CEO failed to stanch the bleeding, even after Alameda County voters passed a half-cent sales-tax hike to stabilize the system's finances. In 2004, the hospital board brought in Cambio Health Solutions to rescue the institution. Cambio's plan to cut 300 jobs and slash patient services was a political nonstarter. A one-day strike was energized by a visit from Jesse Jackson. Highland already was overcrowded; nobody in the community wanted services reduced. After 18 months and a fee of $3.2 million, Cambio departed. When Lassiter signed on in 2005, the place was still losing $1 million a month.

He quickly began building a new management team, including COO Bill Manns, who was hired from Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan, near Detroit. At Manns's suggestion, they immediately commenced a grassroots money hunt, which Lassiter now calls "the foundation of our success." The pair gathered the top 85 managers, formed them into a dozen teams, and gave them 16 weeks to find $21 million in cost cuts and new revenue. Lassiter says he told them: "It's up to you. We barely know where the restrooms are, so we're not going to solve this problem. You're going to solve it."

To encourage fresh thinking, Lassiter and Manns devised "odd-couple arrangements," putting together doctors, nurses, techs, and other managers. The teams drilled into vendor contracts and challenged their own habits. Take the kit used to test newborns' umbilical-cord blood, a $96.50 item. A simpler tool does the same job for 29¢. Is the more-expensive device better? How much better does it have to be to be worth the extra $96.21? ACMC had been choosing the premium option, at a cost of $322,000 a year. Now, the teams decided, ACMC could not afford it.

Looking for new revenue, they identified areas the system was especially good at -- like rehabilitation and diabetes care -- and came up with ways to treat more patients more efficiently. Lassiter also pushed the creation of an electronic network that links dozens of community clinics to the health center, significantly boosting referrals to its best services.

Only after the teams had found every dollar in savings and new revenue did Lassiter and Manns consider layoffs. As a result, instead of the service reductions and hundreds of job cuts the consultant Cambio had recommended, ACMC sliced only about 80 positions, found other work for many employees whose jobs had been eliminated, and began expanding services. Together the cuts and the revenue increases amounted to $23 million.

"That's what really got the buy-in" from the unions on layoffs, Manns says. "We looked at everything else first. What can you say to that?"

"WE KNOW you're from Texas," a union chief said to Lassiter at their first meeting. "Texas is not union friendly." This was early 2005. Lassiter had been offered the job, but he hadn't officially started. There was still time to back out.

"Let me tell you my view, and I think we could really work well together," Lassiter remembers responding. "At the end of the day, I'm more accountable to the employees than to the union. I've got to treat them well because there are a lot of places they can go work. If our focus is on the best care for patients -- knowing employees have to be treated well to get there -- we won't have a lot of fundamental disagreement." He recalls that "some of them looked at me like I'd just landed here in some spaceship. Like it was complete BS."

Lassiter had never had to deal with unions in Dallas or Fort Worth because workers there weren't organized. Manns, with his Michigan experience, was steeped in union issues. In Oakland, the two men inherited a history of hostility between management and labor, represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and collective-bargaining agreements so restrictive that nurses could not be transferred from a department with a decreased workload to one that was understaffed. That meant hiring temps at significant cost.

Jim Hubbell was an emergency-room nurse at Highland in the 1980s when AIDS was on the upswing. Like many who choose to work in an inner-city ER, he enjoyed what he calls "cowboy medicine." But "the place was completely dysfunctional," he says, largely because it seemed impossible to fire anyone. "I had to leave because of conditions -- blood-caked gurneys, soaked mattresses from a variety of bodily liquids. The housekeeping guys usually had a card game going."

"It was hard to do something as simple as mount a TV monitor on the wall of a waiting room," says UC Berkeley professor Rundall. "The question wasn't when it would get done; it was whether it would get done." When it finally became clear that the county might sell, decimate, or even close the system, he says, workers suddenly became more flexible. "It was a real fear of God."

As a result, management could make a case based on hard-core reality: We've raised wages to rough comparability with the private market. We've cut costs all we can and laid off as few as possible. We're not seeking high margins to please shareholders; we're seeking positive margins so we can remain in operation.

The unions gave some ground. For example, employees were filling up the multistory parking garage connected to the hospital in the morning, leaving no spaces for clinic patients, who would circle the neighborhood hunting for spots, then arrive late. The patients fumed about parking; the doctors fell behind on appointments; the patients fumed more. After Manns made a case for putting patients first, the union agreed to use an off-site lot with free shuttles.

Both management and union leaders are reluctant to talk much about the biggest human-resources problem ACMC faced: how to get rid of people who refused to work. A longtime physician at Highland, who prefers to remain anonymous, says the major impediment to improving management and quality on the hospital floor was nurses who wouldn't do their jobs: "I'd say, 'Nurse, draw this man's blood,' and she'd say, 'Why don't you do it yourself?' And I would. This kind of thing happened every day before [Lassiter] got here." Most nurses at ACMC are highly professional, this doctor says, and "even they wanted those nurses gone."

Manns says that he and Lassiter would not use the layoffs as a cover to get rid of bad performers; the layoffs were made for strategic reasons. The firings were a separate matter. Neither Lassiter nor Manns will be specific about the terminations, but a hospital spokesman says that "dozens" of nurses were fired, a change that "made all the difference in the world," says the veteran doctor.

Fran Jefferson, field director and 28-year veteran at SEIU, declines to say how many employees were let go. "There has certainly been a trend toward much harder and much more frequent disciplinary action, including termination -- not just the nurses but hospitalwide," she says. "In some cases, our members are not perfect and [the actions] are warranted. In other cases, we go to arbitration and have won several cases with back pay." She adds, though, that with "public hospitals closing all over the place," workers at ACMC in general are a lot better off now. "The revolving door of CEOs was terrifying," she adds. "One after another, we had people with no vision who wouldn't stay. Wright Lassiter has done an amazing job. He has a vision about where public hospitals need to go."

TERRIE SCOTT, a thin-framed 61-year-old woman wearing a baseball cap, sits in the waiting room at Highland's endoscopy clinic. She's there to support a friend who's in for a colonoscopy. A lifelong Oakland resident, Scott has depended on Highland for health care for years. She'd come and wait and wait. "Oh, this place has really improved," she says, raising her eyebrows and nodding with enthusiasm. "The wait is so much shorter. The time is cut in half now."

Dr. Taft Bhuket, the 40-year-old gastrointestinal specialist who is treating Terrie's friend, was lured to Highland two-and-a-half years ago from a partnership in a private practice. "People thought I was crazy," he says. The public-hospital mission appealed to him, as did the chance to help Lassiter improve and expand services at Highland.

Shorter waits don't only make for happier patients, Bhuket points out. They also boost hospital income. The more patients that safety-net institutions serve, the more money they receive from the government. When he came to Highland, the wait for a routine colonoscopy could be as long as a year. Some 1,750 procedures were performed each year. Now, the department does 3,000 annually, an increase of 70%, and has cut the backlog in half, to four to six months, while ousting expenditure by just 15% to 25%.

Doctors in the Emergency Medicine Department at Highland Hospital (Photo by Robyn Twomey)
Identifying the bottlenecks that made the improvement possible required Highland doctors, nurses, and technicians to do something they weren't used to: collaborate with one another. "Everyone was working on his own Gilligan's Island, doing his own thing," says Bhuket. "But people wanted that catalyst that Lassiter provided. The docs and nurses have been here for decades. The administration is bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together to get that synergy."

WITH MOUNTING pressure on Medicare and Medicaid spending, and with the stubborn recession pushing more patients into safety-net medicine, Lassiter and crew cannot breathe easy. "Cutting costs is going to be an ongoing struggle," says professor Rundall. "They'll have to take millions, perhaps tens of millions, out of the cost structure. That's going to be difficult to do."

The new federal health care law is another wild card. If the individual mandate requiring everyone to have insurance survives court challenge, many ACMC patients will be free to switch to private doctors and hospitals. So Lassiter must position his institution not just as a place that satisfies captive customers but also as one that attracts and retains customers who have a choice.

Ask Lassiter what his ultimate goal is, and he hesitates. He's afraid he'll come off as presumptuous, audacious. "I want to make this place as good or better than the private hospitals," he finally blurts out. Two hospital groups, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, now dominate the Oakland area. "I believe ACMC has to be a real third choice in this community, a place where an elected official or a corporate executive would come for care," Lassiter continues. "It's not just the quality of medical service; it's the helpfulness. Are people looking you in the eye and saying, 'What can we do for you?' -- anticipating your needs, instead of saying, 'Just go in the corner and wait. We have too many people to deal with today.'"

In other words, he wants to provide a level of service people don't expect when they enter a public hospital, or most public institutions, for that matter. So far, he seems to be on his way.

This article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

A special privilege of working at a medical center...

Is hearing a grateful patient story while I sit nearby. So much great work by doctors, nurses & many others.

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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Empire State Building lights recognize Parkinson's research

Did you know that the color of empire state building Today is Orange / White for Parkinson's Awareness Month and the The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

sent from NYC Way iPhone app

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Lessons from Japan: Columbia Professor Reflects on How the U.S. Would Fare in Similar Catastrophe

The following is republished from the website of Columbia University Medical Center, for which I work.

Dr. Irwin Redlener on ABC's News 20/20 discussing disaster preparedness in the United States

Japan has long been a leader among nations in disaster planning and preparedness. But the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, demonstrated how a complex disaster can overwhelm even the best of planning.

Irwin Redlener, MD, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness and author of the recent book, Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do Now, is an authority on disaster planning.

Dr. Redlener, a faculty member at the Mailman Schoo of Public Health at Columbia University Medical Center, shared his thoughts on the unfolding catastrophe in Japan and the state of U.S. disaster preparedness.

What can we learn from the devastation in Japan?
This catastrophe is a very complex disaster – there was an earthquake, followed by a tsunami followed by hundreds of aftershocks followed by significant threats to the country’s nuclear power plants.  The management of this situation is extremely challenging. It’s extraordinarily difficult to get everything right when a disaster is unfolding – but with a complex disaster, the challenges can be literally overwhelming.

Japan has been recognized as having the most robust disaster planning of any nation on earth, particularly when it comes to earthquakes and tsunamis. But what we’ve seen is a good system that is far from perfect. There will be extraordinarily high fatalities. Part of it due to failure to get search and rescue equipment in as early as possible to the places most severely affected and partly due to the fact that a disaster of this magnitude and nature is impossible to manage. There simply isn’t enough warning time for people in some areas to escape an oncoming tsunami.

We’re beginning to see lots issues like children separated from their families and we’re already seeing problems with food and water getting to affected areas and so forth. There are many lessons for us observing here in the U.S., but the fact remains that the U.S. is far less prepared than Japan is for this kind of disaster.

Five years after Katrina, why isn’t the United States better prepared for a disaster of this magnitude?

There are many issues that have undermined our ability to get as prepared as we want to or need to be. Even after the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina we have not been able to muster sufficient resources and coordination to develop a cohesive and effective plan to respond to future disasters. Part of it has to do with the multiplicity of agencies that have responsibility for different aspects of disaster planning, part of it is too few resources and unfortunately, there are some major systemic barriers in government itself. For instance, while the federal government can issue guidelines and guidance for specific grants, it’s really up to states and local governments to do what they think is best in terms of disaster preparedness policies. This has resulted in a patchwork of random preparedness activities that, together, do not amount to a significantly robust national state of readiness.

What should be the government’s priorities? Is it first dealing with these systemic issues?

If I were designing a better system to oversee nationally significant megadisaster planning, I would empower a single individual or agency to develop a national plan that has explicit authority and sufficient resources.   Money that goes to states or local governments for public health preparedness should come with very explicit strings attached specifying what states and localities would be required to do towards the goal of getting the whole country prepared.

This would take into account that certain regions have different priorities (earthquakes versus floods), so state plans would have to be customized to some extent to meet local and regional needs. But at the end of the day we’re going to need much greater attention to ensuring that the basics are covered, for instance, that, as a nation we have sufficient training of public health officials in how to respond to disasters, and make sure that we have adequate surge capacity in hospitals to respond to pandemics and other large scale emergencies.

I also want to add that if you don’t plan thoroughly in advance for how to handle vulnerable populations – children, elderly – these individuals will suffer disproportionately - and will also consume significant resources to protect them during a major crisis.

March 14, 2011


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Monday, January 24, 2011

Is Snooth Taking data from CellarTracker

Paul Mabray of Vintank published a second blog post this afternoon questioning the origin of some of’s data. Mabray says there have been rumors of data being used from CellarTracker without permission to power Snooth and that from an analysis, “it looks like Snooth is scraping data, reorganizing it as their own, and using it to grow their business.”

Snooth was started in 2007 and is a site where users can “compare prices and shop from over 10,000 wine merchants worldwide as well as review the wine and their buying experience to help others in the future.” The company bills itself as “the world's largest and most comprehensive online wine destination, featuring millions of reviews and hundreds of thousands of wines.”

I sent an email to Snooth founder Philip James after the first post and he replied that he'd be writing a response. 

I spoke with Eric LeVine, the founder of Cellartracker. "If that’s the case, I’ll probably have to follow up legally,” he said. “At the end of the day, the data on my site is my site’s data and my user’s data.”

“There are plenty of people in the industry that I partner with,” LeVine said. “I don’t have any agreement with the Snooth.”

Cellartracker is a cellar management system started in April 2004 and has about 130,000 users that, according to founder LeVine, have collectively generated just over 1.7 million wine reviews. 

Cellartracker’s database includes about a million wines, reflecting what people have tasted or have in their collections. Registered users catalog their collections and post tasting notes. They’ve consumed more than 22.3 million bottles of about one million different wines.

Roughly 2,000 wine reviews, or tasting notes, are generated via Cellartracker every day, and Cellartracker has content partnerships, including channels with bloggers and professional wine critics involving another 300,000 professional reviews that are integrated into the cellar management system but shown only to subscribers of the various publications.

For more on this, also see the responses to the first post. 

Please spread the word about what looks as if it is egregious misappropriation of's tasting notes and other data by If it's true, Snooth should be shunned by all.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Offensive, or just crafy? - Palin's use of 'blood libel' in statement on Tucson shooting - Fact Checker

Quoting your self-righteous, indignant material...if what you said actually happened, I would agree. But read the story again: the author is quoting Ronald Reagan, NOT Sarah Palin. The author is pointing out that Reagan was talking about social contexts, and Palin was talking about individual acts of violence. I can't find your straw-man accusations in the actual article. Wow, it's so easy to make the opponent look bad, when you don't bother to quote what they said.

I mean it's just insane to say that blacks and other minorities commit crimes in disproportionate numbers and then claim that you speak without regard to race or social-status. These comments come straight out of fear of minorities. If you aren't willing to accept any responsibility for the actions of criminals, and you think that minorities are disproportionately-criminal than how can you claim to be blind to race? It's inherent in your comment! You're a walking talking racist who then wants to deny any responsibility for minority crime.

That is the very problem with crime, it's a self-perpetuating cycle. Sure some criminals don't choose their victims based on their race and social status but surely some do if not most. And it is their very socioeconomic status combined with the prejudice of other ethnic groups towards that socioeconomic status that *keeps* them in that socioeconomic status and that makes them such a risk to those groups.

This is utter nonsense...and she's saying it like it makes perfect sense. What does she want us to believe, that whites are afraid of minorities, are prejudiced towards minorities, shun minorities, simply because they are **Minorities**, and not because to whites minorities represent a high risk of criminal activity? LOL!

I don't see how she can talk her way out of this. Prejudice exists in this country, there's no doubt about it. It is either an irrational fear of minorities simply because they are different or a rational fear simply because of the risk they represent. But the end result is the same: minorities do not get the same chance to succeed in this country that whites get, therefore they are under more economic pressure, and therefore more of them turn to crime, more often. It's a self-perpetuating cycle...were this not the case, whites would not have a rational leg to stand on for being prejudiced at all.

It's not going to be hard for the average white person to take a hard look at what she is saying and see the inherent contradiction. Now it is right there on the table for all to see. If you want to blame the individual and not society then you have to admit that the individuals are characterized by race and socioeconomic status. If you feel prejudiced at all towards them as a result then what more is there to say? There is absolutely no defense here.

Honestly she should have shut up while she was only so far behind. Now she's clearly a blatant racist as well as delusional.

Posted by: tokenwhitemale | January 12, 2011 1:30 PM

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Yet another reason to shun commercially processed meats

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003_2011_labels.pdf (62 KB)
The recall announced in the news release from the Department of Agriculture below may be a low health risk, but it shows how easily someone with impure intentions can introduce products of questionable quality into the U.S. food chain. In this case, a company that makes bulk supplies of frozen pre-formed hamburger patties was found to have repackaged meat that had been returned. The problem was discovered after institutions that had received some of the bad meat complained about off-odors and discoloration. More details below or at

Personally, I'm going to stick to buying meat directly from farmers or from a local butcher I can trust. In the San Francisco area, my favorite is Woodland's Market in Kentfield, whose owner has been in the meat business most of his life. John can tell you everything you might want to know about any of the meats in his store. In San Francisco, Dave the Butcher at the Marina Market, Avedano's, and Prather Ranch are good picks. Also, Marin Sun Farms meats are sold at farmers markets in SF and Marin. In New York, I have been buying meat from an Amish farmer who sells at the Thursday Greenmarket in Morningside Heights (115th and Broadway) and from Fresh Direct. I would welcome other suggestions.

Also worth noting that even if the burgers from One Great Burger were fresh, I would not want to eat them. These quarter-pound patties have 27% fat. Although some of the flavor of a burger comes from the fat, ground meat with 15% fat or less tastes just fine - and is considerably healthier.

News Releases
New Jersey Firm Recalls Ground Beef Products Due to Possible Adulteration
Recall Release CLASS II RECALL

Congressional and Public Affairs
(202) 720-9113
Adrian Gianforti

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2011 - One Great Burger, an Elizabeth, N.J., establishment, is recalling approximately 226,400 pounds of ground beef products that may have become spoiled, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. 

The problem was discovered by FSIS during an investigation into customer complaints of discoloration and off-odors in the products. The review uncovered evidence to show that the establishment repackaged and recoded returned products and sent them out for further distribution to institutional customers. Therefore, FSIS must consider the products to be adulterated and has acted to remove the products from commerce. FSIS is continuing to investigate the product subject to recall in commerce. FSIS has received no reports of illnesses associated with consumption of these products. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a physician. 

The following products are subject to recall: [View Labels(PDF Only)] 

  • 20 lbs. boxes of "ONEGREAT HAMBURGERS" with "ITEM #02044" labeled on the front as well as "KEEP FROZEN."

Each box bears establishment number "EST. 34575" within the USDA mark of inspection. The products were produced between Jan. 2010 and May 2010 and contain "PACKED ON" dates ranging from July 2010 to Nov. 2010. The products were distributed to institutions in California and Oregon. 

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. 

Media with questions about the recall should contact the company's public relations representative, Frank Tobin, at (323) 661-3720. Consumers with questions about the recall should contact the company's Director of Technical Services, John Haug, at (973) 477-9039. 

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Ask Karen
Food Safety Questions? Ask Karen! 
FSIS' automated response system can provide food safety information 24/7

Follow FSIS on Twitter

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

NYTimes editorial clearly explains why GOP must take the lead in cooling down political hate talk

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From the Jan. 9, 2011 Opinion page of The New York Times.

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Sarah Palin had - and still has - Rep. Giffords in her gun-sights

I do not question Sarah Palin's sincerity when she says that she and her husband pray for the victims of Saturday's horrible shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson. However, I think she needs to look in the mirror and think hard about whether her tone and language either directly or indirectly gives extremists the idea that violence is somehow ok. The map showing 20 Congressional districts in a rifle's crosshairs that Palin used leading up to the 2010 election remains on her Facebook page. Just as I believed when the ad was first published, this is appalling. There are so many ways to indicate political targets. Why use a gunsight as the marker if you are encouraging peaceful discourse and democracy in action?

Here's Palin's Facebook page as of about 12:05 AM Sunday - the crosshairs, including the ones on Rep. Giffords' district, are below the first long post. Read the comments for some very disturbing exchanges. We have a lot of work to do to make this a more perfect union. How about starting now?


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