Sunday Reading – 09/13/15

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

SEC Not So Loud And Proud After Week 2 – First impressions can be as deceiving in college football as it was with Josef Stalin.

Both FDR and Truman were initially charmed by the Soviet dictator, only to be stabbed in the back by him later. Kinda like how AP voters must have felt right about now.

A week ago, a record 10 SEC teams were ranked in the AP top 25, as the voters were smitten by the conference’s 10-1 opening week record, including four victories over Power 5 opponents. SEC coaches wasted little time to crow, with LSU’s Les Miles proclaiming that all top 25 teams should be from the SEC and Arkansas’ Bret Bielema lambasting defending national champion Ohio State’s weak schedule.

A disastrous Saturday later, all’s quiet south of the Mason-Dixon line. Consider:
•No. 6 Auburn barely escaped 40-point underdog Jacksonville State, an FCS team that blew the game by going ultra-conservative late to allow the Tigers to survive in overtime, 27-20.
•Two-time defending SEC East champion Missouri held on for a 27-20 win over Arkansas State, which was pasted by USC last week, 55-6.
•Florida needed an empty-hand fumble near the red zone by East Carolina quarterback Blake Kemp to fend off the Pirates at the Swamp, 31-24.

And those are the teams that won. No. 23 Tennessee blew a 17-0 lead at home to lose to Oklahoma in OT (see below). But the one that took the cake was Bielema’s own 18th-ranked Hogs, who lost in Little Rock to a team from Ohio — not the Buckeyes, but the Rockets of Toledo, 16-12.

This is not to say that the SEC doesn’t have any elite teams, but the overall strength of the conference has been grossly overstated. But even now, seven SEC teams remain in the latest AP poll, including Auburn at No. 18 (and No. 15 in the Coaches poll), which can only mean that the voters are either not paying attention or clinically insane — especially considering that Auburn’s opening-game victim Louisville is now 0-2 after a loss to Houston. Read More > at The Post Game

Fallout from SB 350 Change – After the governor and legislative leaders announced pulling the 50-percent petroleum cut mandate from SB 350, the controversial climate change bill, fallout whirled about the capitol from finger pointing to relative silence from a main supporter to a defiant stand from the state’s chief executive.

As argued here previously, the economic consequences of passing the measure in tact would certainly affect lower income and middle class Californians. It was an argument that moved some Democrats who stood up for their constituents against pressure brought by legislative leaders and even movie stars.

Still, Senator Kevin de León yesterday was dismissing the argument that electricity costs would increase when a Univision reporter asked him on camera about costs. De León’s answer was to suggest the information was a mistake put out by oil companies. However, a study issued by the Manhattan Institute reports that California’s green energy policies have driven up energy costs.

…This Admiral Farragut declaration (“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”) hints at bypassing the people’s representatives and making changes through executive regulatory action, this time through the authority of the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

CARB’s authority to implement the provisions of SB 350 with no legislative oversight was a major sticking point in discussions about the legislation. The governor declared he would not diminish CARB’s power. From his statement, it appears he intends to use it. Read More > in Fox and Hounds

This Face Changes the Human Story. But How? – A trove of bones hidden deep within a South African cave represents a new species of human ancestor, scientists announced Thursday in the journal eLife. Homo naledi, as they call it, appears very primitive in some respects—it had a tiny brain, for instance, and apelike shoulders for climbing. But in other ways it looks remarkably like modern humans. When did it live? Where does it fit in the human family tree? And how did its bones get into the deepest hidden chamber of the cave—could such a primitive creature have been disposing of its dead intentionally?

This is the story of one of the greatest fossil discoveries of the past half century, and of what it might mean for our understanding of human evolution.

Two years ago, a pair of recreational cavers entered a cave called Rising Star, some 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg. Rising Star has been a popular draw for cavers since the 1960s, and its filigree of channels and caverns is well mapped. Steven Tucker and Rick Hunter were hoping to find some less trodden passage.

…In paleoanthropology, specimens are traditionally held close to the vest until they can be carefully analyzed and the results published, with full access to them granted only to the discoverer’s closest collaborators. By this protocol, answering the central mystery of the Rising Star find—What is it?—could take years, even decades. Berger wanted the work done and published by the end of the year. In his view everyone in the field should have access to important new information as quickly as possible. And maybe he liked the idea of announcing his find, which might be a new candidate for earliest Homo, in 2014— exactly 50 years after Louis Leakey published his discovery of the reigning first member of our genus, Homo habilis. Read More > in National Geographic

El Niño odds rise again, tracking to be a blockbuster – Hopes of a wet winter grew Thursday as federal forecasters again upped the odds of a historic El Niño.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center, in its monthly report, said the equatorial Pacific Ocean remained abnormally warm while weakened trade winds allowed waters to continue heating — with both at levels observed before monster storms smacked California during the wet El Niño winters of 1997-98 and 1982-83.

While the current El Niño brings no guarantee of rain, history shows that the stronger the weather pattern, the greater the chance of precipitation in California, particularly in the southern part of the state. And this one is robust.

“It could be one of the strongest we’ve seen,” said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

Thursday’s report cited a 95 percent chance that the brewing El Niño will persist through winter, up from 90 percent last month. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

BART tackles crowded train problem – BART is coming to the rescue of worn-down riders who stand packed like sardines in stuffed commuter trains, but those headed the other way will find themselves waiting a little longer as they watch the relief cars whiz by without stopping.

Riders will see the difference on Monday and might want to check schedules ahead of time: Train times will be different.

The transit agency said Thursday that it is putting a record number of cars into service during rush hours and making other improvements during non-peak hours.

BART highlighted the changes in a news release:

  • Rush hour trains added to Pittsburg/Bay Point to SFO line
  • Richmond to Millbrae line direct weekday service extended to 9 p.m.
  • Train cars added during rush hours to all other transbay routes
  • More flexibility — “show up and go” — for the tram from the Coliseum Station to the Oakland Airport.

All rush-hour trains on the Pittsburg/Bay Point route to San Francisco International Airport will be 10-cars long. The agency will keep the longer trains running an extra 15 minutes because, as is true for several other stations, more riders are leaving later in the morning. Read More > in the Contra Costa Times

US regulators accept ‘chip in a pill’ application – High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.

Smart medicines that tell doctors when their patients have taken them moved a step closer to reality after a company developing the first “digital pill” had its drug application accepted by US regulators.

The hope is that the pill, produced by Proteus Digital Health, will help ensure patients stick to their prescriptions and so reduce wasteful spending on drugs that are not taken properly.

It could be especially useful in mental illnesses and memory disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s where compliance is particularly poor.

…High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, do not cut & paste the article. See our Ts&Cs and Copyright Policy for more detail. Email to buy additional rights.

The “smart pill” contains a tiny ingestible sensor that detects when the drug has reached the stomach. It communicates with a wearable patch plastered to the patient’s skin which then transmits the information to a mobile device.

The technology could help patients manage their own treatment and allow carers and medics to monitor them. It could also help cash-strapped health systems ensure that very expensive drugs are not being wasted.

An estimated half of patients in developed countries do not take medicines as prescribed, according to Proteus. In the US alone, this has been estimated to cost the health system up to $300bn in unnecessary costs. Read More > in The Financial Times

From now on, every game, people will think the Patriots are cheating – On Thursday night, it was the headsets.

It didn’t matter that the Patriots beat the Steelers by a touchdown at home, with Tom Brady — a guy who’s in the discussion for best quarterback ever — playing probably the greatest season opener of his career. It didn’t matter that on multiple plays the Steelers appeared to forget to cover Rob Gronkowski, the number-one tight end in football, who scored three touchdowns.

It was the headsets.


On Thursday night, for periods of much of the first half, the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate over their headsets because of interference from the Patriots’ radio broadcast. After the game, the NFL explained that they provide the headsets to both teams, and the issue was one that affected both teams due to the rainy conditions and the set-up at Gillette Stadium.

It didn’t matter. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, miffed, said that his coaches’ radios never work against the Patriots. “That’s always the case. Yes. I said what I said,” Tomlin said. Read More > in USA Today

Some Jobs Headed For Extinction – The 5 jobs look set for the biggest drops “Fallers” who cut down trees are headed for a 43% drop in employment by 2022. The 8,000 people who are still left running movie theater projectors (“motion picture projectionist”) are, unsurprisingly, in a quickly shrinking occupation. Of course movies are going digital and automated. Here are some more jobs that will be replaced by robots.

Some jobs are shrinking because the technology already exists and capital investments are gradually sweeping thru and replacing old equipment with new equipment that does not need humans. But some other occupations are kinda like in a waiting room. The tech to replace them is under development but not yet ready for mass deployment. As examples I think of fast food restaurant cooks and counter help (the Eatsa automat shows the future), commercial drivers (e.g. long haul truck, taxi, bus), and the people who harvest fruits and vegetables. My guess is automated cooking robots start taking over restaurant cooking jobs before autonomous trucks take over long haul trucking jobs. But both will be in the same state as movie projectionists by 2025: the human phase-out will be under way. By 2040? Almost all gone. Human-staffed restaurants for the upper class will survive as a niche market, though perhaps with only a single chef controlling machines and humans as wait staff.

For some types of jobs the only thing left to speculate about is when their phase-out begins. When do the first autonomous taxis hit the road? When do the first autonomous long haul trucks hit the road? Which comes first? When will a tractor sweep around a cauliflower field and pick all the cauliflower with no human involvement? Or when will Wal-Mart or Target (or perhaps a Japanese chain) deploy the first automated shelf-stocking robot? Or how about when will the first robot empty all the trash cans at desks in an office?

What jobs do you see around your workplace or your town that you do not think will last 20 years?

We have finally arrived at the era when robots extensively take over work which historically has been done by humans. The robots have done this out of sight in factories. In the next phase they will take over work in all areas of the economy. The next 20 years promises to be interesting. Read More > at FuturePundit

Less than half of students meet new reading, math standards – Less than half of all California students passed new math and English tests aligned with the Common Core standards and considered indicators of college and career readiness, according to results released Wednesday.

Forty-four percent of students in third through eighth and 11th grades met or exceeded the new language-arts assessment, while 34 percent passed the math test. Though state education officials cautioned against drawing comparisons with previous standardized tests, the results reflect long-standing achievement gaps between low-income and affluent students.

“They indicate we have a long way to go,” Michael Kirst, president of the state Board of Education, said of the scores. “We knew that, and our motto has been `patience, persistence and humility.'”

The assessments, called Smarter Balanced, test understanding of the new Common Core standards, benchmarks for what students should master by the end of each grade in reading and math. Though the standards have been met with resistance in much of the nation, they have been widely accepted in California.

Just 1 percent of California students did not take the exam, while in New York, by comparison, about 20 percent of third- through eighth-graders refused to take the test. Opponents have criticized the standards as a federal intrusion into local education systems, though they were developed by a consortium of state and education leaders.

The assessments are also fundamentally different in how they evaluate student knowledge. The state’s previous Standardized Testing and Reporting program was a paper-and-pencil multiple choice test. The Smarter Balanced exam is designed to be taken by tablet or computer and is adaptive. Students must show how they reached their answers, and if they answer correctly, they get a more difficult question. Read More > in the Associated Press

Inside San Francisco’s Newest Rentals, Bunkbeds For $1,800 A Month – Can’t afford an apartment in San Francisco? So-called “co-creative housing” is offering a bunkbed and lots of company.

But is it legal? KPIX 5 wasn’t invited in. The only way to check it out was undercover.

Heidi’s moving into her new digs. KPIX 5 asked her to go into a building in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District undercover to get an unbiased taste of a new kind of rental: It’s a bunkbed that she’s sharing with a stranger in a house with 30 other people.

The Victorian on South Van Ness Avenue doesn’t have a marquee, or any kind of sign. But it’s a hostel, advertised on Airbnb.

Heidi had to answer a questionnaire and do a Skype interview. She finally made the cut and paid $1,800 to be part of a community called Vinyasa Homes Project for a month. Read More > at KPIX

Why Jarryd Hayne will make it in the NFL — and other rugby league players won’t – Alot of Rugby League players are about to make a very big mistake: Believing they can follow in Jarryd Hayne’s footsteps to the NFL. The shift hasn’t happened yet, and no players have committed — but it’s coming. Assumptions about whether they can make the jump will be fueled by financial gains, possible glory and above all else, hubris. Hayne left the NRL in Australia for the right reasons. We’re about to see a lot of players leave for the wrong ones.

To understand the impact of Hayne’s switch we first need to understand the perception of the NFL in rugby-playing nations. Being an NFL fan in Australia means hearing barbs thrown at the sport in one of three well-worn camps: The players are fat, they’re not tough enough to play without pads and they get dozens of 30 second rests during the game. The nuance is lost on the average Rugby League-loving fan, and so too it will be lost on a lot of players trying to make the switch.

…Outside of punters or kickers there are really only two positions where we’ll ever see a Rugby League player make an impact: PR/KR and Running Back. That’s it. We’ll never see a prop become a linebacker, or a winger play wide receiver. Body types are too different, and the speed of the NFL would blind players with Jarryd Hayne’s size. The former Parramatta Eels’ fullback was an anomaly. A player who never looked like he belonged in the NRL. A man who made things look too easy. Hayne’s size wasn’t unheard of in league, but that frame being able to produce his speed was. There were times he looked like he was playing a different sport than everyone else on the field — it turns out he was.

The kicker to all this is an ethereal concept that can’t be quantified in seconds or bench press reps, it’s vision — and something Hayne has in spades. His style in league was free-form improved jazz as he danced around defenders and showed patience in waiting for a hole to open. He was a master of creating something out of nothing, and then used his speed to explode through gaps. I questioned whether this style could adapt to the rigid structure of the NFL where he would need to follow plays quickly, but Hayne was able to show enough of his playmaking flair during punt returns, while showing he had the vision to be a darn good runner out of the backfield. Read More > at SB*Nation

Big Question: Is Speed Reading Actually Possible? – Like a lot of people, I’m drowning in words. It’s no wonder then that speed reading—reading at an increased speed with no loss of comprehension—is an increasingly popular recourse for both the GTD crowd and anyone who worships at the altar of productivity. Who wouldn’t want to breeze through their reading list at 2,500+ words per minute and devour Johnny Five levels of input?

That’s more or less the promise that Evelyn Wood’s Reading Dynamics, Tim Ferriss’ PX Project, software called Spritz, and countless other speed-reading techniques make to overwhelmed readers. Some involve suppressing your inner speech while reading. Others teach you to “chunk,” or take in multiple lines of text in a single glance. Still others eliminate the need to move your eyes at all. Unfortunately, decades worth of psychological research and more recent insights into the visual processing system seem to confirm only one thing: Doing things quicker means doing them less accurately. Can you learn to read faster? Absolutely. But you won’t understand what you’ve read nearly as well … if at all.

Most educated people can read at approximately the same rate an auctioneer speaks (between 250 to 400 words per minute) with good comprehension. For comparison, the rate of a normal conversation between two people falls between 150 and 160 words per minute (also the recommended rate for podcasts and audiobooks). That makes normal reading an enormously complex process. “If you understand and appreciate that,” says Elizabeth Schotter, a cognitive psychologist at UC San Diego, “it becomes really obvious that no human being can read 1,000 or 2,000 words per minute and maintain the same levels of comprehension they do at 200 or 400 words per minute.”

In a forthcoming research paper, “So Much to Read, So Little Time: How Do We Read, and Can Speed Reading Help?” Schotter and her co-authors explain the mental and visual processes involved in reading—from the symbols the eye takes in, to the cognitive processing that goes on in the background. It’s an intricate dance between a number of visual and mental processes, one that’s highly dependent on language. Read More > in Wired

Infographic 194 drought maps reveal just how thirsty California has become – It doesn’t take much to understand why California is so worried about drought. Reservoirs are ever-dwindling. Rainfall is sporadic at best. It’s so bad, Governor Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions throughout the state.


The majority of California is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and the state’s condition isn’t expected to improve in the near future.

The Drought Monitor, which collects data from 50 different weather indicators, have shown an increasingly red California since 2011, the last time the drought map was clear.

Watch the 6-second snap-shot here. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

America’s girls have a violence problem – …Male violence is still the more serious phenomenon, but female violence is on the rise in a big way. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2010 found that one in four girls aged 12 to 17 have been involved in violent behavior. Yet we focus on boy violence, on the way they play rough-and-tumble with toy guns or on the so-called “rape culture” on campuses as if they’re the only ones involved in heinous crimes.

Another shocking story of the last year was that of the two girls in Waukesha, Wis., who attempted to stab their friend to death and left her for dead in the woods. Found by a cyclist as her organs were failing, the girl somehow survived. The initial story blamed “the Internet” — the perpetrators told police they’d committed the crime to please “Slender Man,” an Internet legend who apparently required a pre-teen girl as a sacrifice.

This story unraveled, however, as the girls acknowledged they knew Slender Man to be fake, yet tried to kill their friend anyway. All three girls were 12 years old at the time of the attack.

At the same time, the female prison population is soaring. The Netflix show “Orange Is the New Black” brought the female penitentiary to mainstream America.

…In a Washington Post column last November, Patricia O’Brien, an associate professor at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago, argued that perhaps the solution to a 646 percent increase in female incarceration rates in the past 30 years would be to stop putting women in prison at all, ever, for any reason. Read More > in the New York Post

Encinitas Hopes to Comply With State Housing Law by 2016 – Encinitas is breaking a state law that says all cities need to plan for how they’ll provide sufficient low-income housing.

It’s the only city in the county that has yet to complete a required plan that would allow for the construction of subsidized housing in the city, according to California’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The state requires all cities to make way for housing options affordable to low-income residents in their regularly updated growth plans.

Thanks to a proposition passed in 2013, all Encinitas land-use decisions must be approved by voters. Encinitas officials hope they can put together a housing plan that would satisfy state law and go before voters for approval in November 2016.

In the meantime, the city can’t apply for grant funding from the regional planning agency SANDAG, and more importantly, is on precarious legal grounds and vulnerable to lawsuits from developers and affordable housing advocates until its housing plan is approved.

Pleasanton, a Bay Area city of 77,000, settled just such a lawsuit in 2011 after spending $3.9 million fighting its inadequate housing plan, based in part on a previous decision to cap new units.

That lawsuit showed Encinitas that failing to comply with state law could even lead to the state taking over the city’s planning and permitting authority, said city planner Jeff Murphy.

In October, Encinitas was sued by the Building Industry Association, which alleged the city violated state law by passing a law that made it harder for developers to build more homes than allowed on a given property, if they agree to include some low-income units as part of the project. Read More > at Public CEO

Five Years After Deadly San Bruno Explosion: Are We Safer? – Sept. 9, 2010: a cool, breezy Thursday evening, not much different from most other weekday nights in San Bruno’s Crestmoor neighborhood. Residents were arriving home, making dinner, hanging out with their families. Then, at the corner of Glenview Drive and Earl Avenue, came a blast so powerful that one resident said it sucked all the air from her living room.

The fireball that soared into the sky at 6:11 p.m. instantly transformed the neighborhood into a scene of chaos, with people dashing from their homes, first to see what happened, then to try to escape with their lives.

In the 50 minutes before the explosion, technicians at the PG&E natural gas terminal in Milpitas and workers monitoring the company’s pipeline network were dealing with a crisis.

An electrical failure at the terminal, which helps regulate the network, had triggered an uncommanded increase in pressure to Line 132, a 30-inch pipeline carrying natural gas from Milpitas to the Peninsula and up to San Francisco. Alarms started to sound, warning of dangerously high pressure.

The electrical problem had also knocked out sensors used to monitor the network. As the pressure surge continued for 10, 20, 30, then 40 minutes, staff in Milpitas and in two monitoring centers struggled to understand just how high the pressure inside the pipeline really was and how to bring it under control.

…Five years after the disaster, the company is still in the midst of the laborious process of ensuring its pipeline network is safe. The company was ordered to perform complex pressure tests or verify the integrity of 1,800 miles of transmission pipeline. So far, it has completed testing on 673 miles of the massive pipes.

…On the utility side, PG&E’s gas-safety department has many new faces in 2015. A couple years ago the utility opened a $38 million control room facility in San Ramon. There, engineers monitor gas flow in real time and respond immediately to callers reporting the smell of gas.

Every control room employee must undergo extensive training in emergency-response protocols. In a simulation room, the slogan “Do the Right Thing!” is painted overhead in foot-high lettering.

PG&E has installed 208 automated valves that the utility can shut off remotely from the control room. And 14 automatic shutoff valves will kick in without human interference, for instance, if there’s a big earthquake. Now, it would take up to 20 minutes to shut off the gas, estimates Mel Christopher, director of gas operations. Read More > at KQED

Conservative dissent is brewing inside the Vatican – On a sunny morning earlier this year, a camera crew entered a well-appointed apartment just outside the 9th-century gates of Vatican City. Pristinely dressed in the black robes and scarlet sash of the princes of the Roman Catholic Church, Wisconsin-born Cardinal Raymond Burke sat in his elaborately upholstered armchair and appeared to issue a warning to Pope Francis.

A staunch conservative and Vatican bureaucrat, Burke had been demoted by the pope a few months earlier, but it did not take the fight out of him. Francis had been backing a more inclusive era, giving space to progressive voices on divorced Catholics as well as gays and lesbians. In front of the camera, Burke said he would “resist” liberal changes — and seemed to caution Francis about the limits of his authority. “One must be very attentive regarding the power of the pope,” Burke told the French news crew.

Papal power, Burke warned, “is not absolute.” He added, “The pope does not have the power to change teaching [or] doctrine.”

Burke’s words belied a growing sense of alarm among strict conservatives, exposing what is fast emerging as a culture war over Francis’s papacy and the powerful hierarchy that governs the Roman Catholic Church. Read More > in The Washington Post

A Los Angeles Plan to Reshape the Streetscape Sets Off Fears of Gridlock – This city of fast cars and endless freeways is preparing to do what not long ago would have been unthinkable: sacrificing car lanes to make way for bikes and buses.

The City Council has approved a far-reaching transportation plan that would reshape the streetscape over the next 20 years, adding hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes, bus-only lanes and pedestrian safety features as part of an effort to nudge drivers out from behind the wheel.

Not surprisingly, in the unofficial traffic congestion capital of the country, the plan has set off fears of apocalyptic gridlock.

“What they’re trying to do is make congestion so bad, you’ll have to get out of your car,” said James O’Sullivan, a founder of Fix the City, a group that is planning a lawsuit to stop the plan. “But what are you going to do, take two hours on a bus? They haven’t given us other options.”

…The plan to remove car lanes offers a test of just how far public transit and pedestrian culture have come in Los Angeles: Forty years ago, when state officials turned one lane of a freeway into a car-pool lane, commuters revolted until a lawsuit undid the change.

Now, there are 87 miles of subway and light rail across the county, with five projects underway that will add 32 more miles. And ride-share services like Uber have helped make getting around without a car far more plausible.

…But the car still reigns: Nearly 80 percent of Los Angeles commuters get to work by car, with most of the rest on buses and only 1 percent on bikes.

Bruce Feldman, who has lived in Southern California for more than six decades, worried that under the transportation plan, residents could end up fenced into their own neighborhoods by traffic. The number of intersections where traffic crawls most slowly, according to city estimates, will double by 2035 under the plan. Read More > in The New York Times

How Long Can You Survive on Beer Alone? –  An Iowa man completed his Lent-long beer fast on Sunday, marking the occasion with a bacon smoothie. During the 46-day feat, J. Wilson consumed only beer and water, emulating a centuries-old tradition once practiced by the Paulaner monks of Munich, Germany. How long could a man survive on beer and water?

Not more than a few months, probably. That’s when the worst effects of scurvy and protein deficiency would kick in. (Liver disease is a serious risk of chronic alcohol use, but it takes longer to arrive.) If you kept to a strict beer diet—and swore off plain water altogether—you’d likely die of dehydration in a matter of days or weeks, depending on the strength and volume of beer consumed. There’s plenty of water in beer, of course, but the alcohol’s diuretic effect makes it a net negative in terms of hydration under most conditions.

Scurvy would be an ironic cause of death for a beer-dieter, since the drink was long considered a prophylactic against the disease. For much of the 1700s, doctors administered beer, wort, and malt to prevent the lethargy, wounds, gum disease, fever, and eventual death caused by scurvy. Legendary British explorer Captain James Cook touted the anti-scorbutic effects of beer; his sailors’ rations typically included a gallon per day. (The low-alcohol, made-from-concentrate brew would be unrecognizable today.) Beer’s failure to quell major outbreaks of scurvy, like those at the siege of Gibraltar in 1780 and aboard the HMS Jupiter in 1781, helped disprove the theory. In 1795, the British admiralty adopted lemon juice as the official cure.

One serving of beer contains between zero and 30 milligrams of vitamin C, depending on the recipe. But the alcohol also makes drinkers urinate vitamin C faster than usual, which is one reason doctors are supposed to monitor chronic alcoholics for scurvy. In the 1920s, British researchers tested the effects of a beer-based diet on two Rhesus macaque monkeys. Each animal received up to 200 milliliters of India pale ale each day, along with some other foods lacking in vitamin C. “Well-defined symptoms” of scurvy appeared after 37 days for one and after 57 days for the other. Read More > in Slate

Military selects rarely used charge for Bergdahl case – Military prosecutors have reached into a section of military law seldom used since World War II in the politically fraught case against Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier held prisoner for years by the Taliban after leaving his post in Afghanistan.

Observers wondered for months if Bergdahl would be charged with desertion after the deal brokered by the U.S. to bring him home. He was — but he was also charged with misbehavior before the enemy, a much rarer offense that carries a stiffer potential penalty in this case.

“I’ve never seen it charged,” Walter Huffman, a retired major general who served as the Army’s top lawyer, said of the misbehavior charge. “It’s not something you find in common everyday practice in the military.”

Bergdahl could face a life sentence if convicted of the charge, which accuses him of endangering fellow soldiers when he “left without authority; and wrongfully caused search and recovery operations.” Read More > at Yahoo! News


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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