Monday, September 27, 2010

China could make moon landing in 2025

China could make moon landing in 2025
Country also plans space station within a decade and Mars and Venus probes to be launched in next five years
Tania Branigan in Beijing, Monday 20 September 2010

China could put an astronaut on the moon in 2025 and launch probes to explore Mars and Venus within five years, according to the boss of a Chinese space programme.

Ye Peijian said China could make its first manned moon landing in 15 years, send a probe to Mars by 2013 and to Venus by 2015.

"China has the full capacity to accomplish Mars exploration by 2013," he added.

The remarks, by the commander in chief of the country's Chang'e lunar exploration project, were reported by the English language Global Times today and underscore the ambition of China's plans.

It was understood that Ye was speaking in his capacity as an academic at an aerospace engineering forum at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, rather than unveiling official policy.

It is seven years since China became only the third country to put one of its citizens in space. Another astronaut, Zhai Zhigang, conducted its first spacewalk in 2008.

Yang Liwei, China's first spaceman, confirmed this weekend that the country planned to set up its first orbital space station by around 2020, according to the People's Daily website.

Visiting the space centre in Xi'an, Yang said China would launch its first unmanned space laboratory, Tiangong-1, next year. It is expected to dock with the Shenzhou-8 craft in a first step towards building a space station.

"[The space programme] has been developing very quickly, but of course still lags far behind when compared with the US and Russia because they have the most advanced technology," Professor Fu Song, vice-dean of Tsinghua University's School of Aerospace in Beijing, told the Guardian.

He said of the proposed moon landing: "It is obviously a very difficult task, but I think in terms of technology, China can do it – the US was technically able to do that almost half a century ago. So for China now it is more about whether the government will make the decision to do it, or whether it is really necessary for the country."

He added: "The national pride part [of the programme] has always been one important reason, but it is more than that as well. The scientific value of space exploration is [im]measurable … The moon is an unknown world to us and there are a lot of things waiting to be explored."

He said there could be energy resources still awaiting discovery, and that the moon could help in the study of the state of the Earth and universe before the dawn of humanity.

Barack Obama has been criticised for dropping a plan to return Americans to the moon by 2020. Instead, the US president has announced an initiative aiming to see crewed missions beyond the moon by 2025.

Although China and the US remain suspicious of each other's space plans, particularly since much of the technology could have military applications, they agreed last year to open a dialogue on space exploration.

But China is also looking elsewhere for support. In late 2008, the Asia-Pacific Space Co-operation Organisation launched in Beijing.

Additional research by Lin Yi

Magical Beans
Alton Parrish (Editor)
Monday, September 20, 2010
Magical Beans: New Nano-Sized Particles Could Provide Mega-Sized Data Storage

Berkeley Lab researchers have discovered an entire new class of phase-change materials that could be applied to PCM and optical data storage technologies. The new materials, alloys of a metal and semiconductor, are called "BEANs," for binary eutectic-alloy nanostructures.

The ability of phase-change materials to readily and swiftly transition between different phases has made them valuable as a low-power source of non-volatile or “flash” memory and data storage. Now an entire new class of phase-change materials has been discovered by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) Berkeley that could be applied to phase change random access memory (PCM) technologies and possibly optical data storage as well. The new phase-change materials – nanocrystal alloys of a metal and semiconductor – are called “BEANs,” for binary eutectic-alloy nanostructures.

“Phase changes in BEANs, switching them from crystalline to amorphous and back to crystalline states, can be induced in a matter of nanoseconds by electrical current, laser light or a combination of both,” says Daryl Chrzan, a physicist who holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. “Working with germanium tin nanoparticles embedded in silica as our initial BEANs, we were able to stabilize both the solid and amorphous phases and could tune the kinetics of switching between the two simply by altering the composition.”

Chrzan is the corresponding author on a paper reporting the results of this research which has been published in the journal NanoLetters titled “Embedded Binary Eutectic Alloy Nanostructures: A New Class of Phase Change Materials.”

Co-authoring the paper with Chrzan were Swanee Shin, Julian Guzman, Chun-Wei Yuan, Christopher Liao, Cosima Boswell-Koller, Peter Stone, Oscar Dubon, Andrew Minor, Masashi Watanabe, Jeffrey Beeman, Kin Yu, Joel Ager and Eugene Haller.

“What we have shown is that binary eutectic alloy nanostructures, such as quantum dots and nanowires, can serve as phase change materials,” Chrzan says. “The key to the behavior we observed is the embedding of nanostructures within a matrix of nanoscale volumes. The presence of this nanostructure/matrix interface makes possible a rapid cooling that stabilizes the amorphous phase, and also enables us to tune the phase-change material’s transformation kinetics.”

A eutectic alloy is a metallic material that melts at the lowest possible temperature for its mix of constituents. The germanium tin compound is a eutectic alloy that has been considered by the investigators as a prototypical phase-change material because it can exist at room temperature in either a stable crystalline state or a metastable amorphous state. Chrzan and his colleagues found that when germanium tin nanocrystals were embedded within amorphous silica the nanocrystals formed a bilobed nanostructure that was half crystalline metallic and half crystalline semiconductor.

“Rapid cooling following pulsed laser melting stabilizes a metastable, amorphous, compositionally mixed phase state at room temperature, while moderate heating followed by slower cooling returns the nanocrystals to their initial bilobed crystalline state,” Chrzan says.

“The silica acts as a small and very clean test tube that confines the nanostructures so that the properties of the BEAN/silica interface are able to dictate the unique phase-change properties.”

While they have not yet directly characterized the electronic transport properties of the bilobed and amorphous BEAN structures, from studies on related systems Chrzan and his colleagues expect that the transport as well as the optical properties of these two structures will be substantially different and that these difference will be tunable through composition alterations.

“In the amorphous alloyed state, we expect the BEAN to display normal, metallic conductivity,” Chrzan says. “In the bilobed state, the BEAN will include one or more Schottky barriers that can be made to function as a diode. For purposes of data storage, the metallic conduction could signify a zero and a Schottky barrier could signify a one.”

Chrzan and his colleagues are now investigating whether BEANs can sustain repeated phase-changes and whether the switching back and forth between the bilobed and amorphous structures can be incorporated into a wire geometry. They also want to model the flow of energy in the system and then use this modeling to tailor the light/current pulses for optimum phase-change properties.

The in-situ Transmission electron microscopy characterizations of the BEAN structures were carried out at Berkeley Lab’s National Center for Electron Microscopy, one of the world’s premier centers for electron microscopy and microcharacterization.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research and is managed by the University of California for the DOE Office of Science.

Contacts and sources: Lynn Yarris
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory news feature Nano Letters

Additional Information

For more information on the research of Daryl Chrzan, visit the Website at

For more information on the National Center for Electron Microscopy visit the Website at

Sealand skull photos released

Sealand skull photos released
Thursday, 9 September, 2010
Anton Spangenberg

An alien survivor from a prehistoric saucer crash? An unfortunate time traveler from the future? A tradesman from a parallel universe? A hitherto undiscovered species? Or a mere freak deformity of a human being? Nobody knows for sure, but no matter the explanation, the Sealand Skull has potential to change the view of the world we live in.

The July 2007 discovery of the skull in Olstykke on the Danish island Sealand did however not make headlines and remained largely ignored by science until 2010. The researchers who in 2008 examined the skull at the Veterinarian High School in Copenhagen merely concluded that “Although resembling a mammal, certain features make it impossible to fit the animal into Linnaean taxonomy”.

Dug up during the replacement of old sewer pipes, the finder at first believed that it was some horse bone, as the house formerly belonged to a horse butcher, and the garden is full of remains. It was not until refilling the trench that he noticed its humanoid shape. Later excavations at the site have not uncovered further remains with connection to the creature, only identifiable animal bones, stone axes and other Neolithic tools which are common to the area. The fact that the skull was found among Neolithic remains does however, not reveal its age. Carbon 14 dating at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen has shown that the creature lived between 1200 and 1280 AD. Furthermore, the skull was found above the old pipes, whose age suggests that it wasn’t buried until after 1900. Also the absence of other skeleton parts of the creature, together with the skull’s state of preservation, has led the scientists to suspect that it has not been buried for long, probably only a couple of decades.

Perhaps to conceal the secret behind its existence someone stored it for ages and later deliberately buried it. It is interesting to note that residents in Olstykke and nearby villages have from former times told about a local member of l’Ordre Lux Pégasos (the Order of Pegasus’ Light), whom accordingly on behalf of the order protected various items – among them a mysterious cranium and several devices made of extraordinary light, albeit unbreakable metal or ceramics. The skull is said to have originated from the Balkans, but it has also been stored in Paris, France, and in Munich, Germany, before arriving in Denmark.

If the story holds true, it is possible that further research may lead to the whereabouts of alien artefacts. It is plausible that l’Ordre Lux Pégasos still keeps objects as well as insights into their origin and purpose. Little is known about the order however, except that it was established around 1350 and throughout its existence has counted influential poets and authors among its members. Among the prominent initiated were Giovanni Boccaccio, William Shakespeare, Réne Descartes, Thomas Jefferson, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Ambrose Bierce, Karin Boye, H.G. Wells, Julio Cortázar, Joseph Heller, Octavia Butler, Aleksandr Solsjenitsyn and Ahmed al-Baghdadi. One can wonder why the task of preserving alien artefacts and knowledge fell upon an order solely consisting of writers, but the very name of the order does hint at one or more guests from the Pegasus constellation, who for some time lived among us and brought us vast knowledges and inspiration. The secrecy of the order however suggests that humanity is not yet ready to share the Pegasian knowledge.

The Sealand Skull is about one and a half times larger than a male Homo sapiens cranium. Especially the eye sockets contribute to its size. Its smooth surface reveals that the creature was adapted to cold climate, and its relative eye size that it was either a night creature, lived underground or on a planet orbiting a remote or dim star, probably an orange or red dwarf. It is noted that the star 51 Pegasi in the Pegasus constellation was the first Sun-like star known to have a planet. Planets orbiting the Pegasus star HR 8799 were the first to be directly imaged, and spectroscopic analysis of HD 209458 b, another planet in the constellation, has provided the first evidence of atmospheric water vapor beyond our solar system.

Consumer Activists Want Modified Salmon to Be Labeled
September 22, 2010
Consumer Activists Want Modified Salmon to Be Labeled
The animals grow twice as fast due to genetic engineering; FDA decision on approval isn't expected for months
Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Opponents of genetically modified salmon, as well as consumer activists and environmentalists, told a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel Tuesday that it would be irresponsible not to require labels on the fish if it is approved for humans to eat.

The American public has the right to know what it is consuming, the speakers said.

The advisory panel heard from opponents and supporters of the fish -- including the developer of the fish, Massachusetts-based AquaBounty Technologies -- as it held two days of hearings that concluded Tuesday to review the science of the fish that grows twice as fast as conventional salmon, and to hear public comment on whether the fish should be labeled. Current federal guidelines would not require the fish to be labeled if the FDA determines the animal has the same material makeup as conventional salmon, the Associated Press reported.

AquaBounty says that genetically modified salmon has the same flavor, texture, color and odor as conventional fish.

The FDA has yet to decide if the fish can be sold to consumers or whether it should be labeled, and it could be months before the agency does so, the AP said.

If the FDA approves the fish, it would mark the first time a genetically modified animal has been approved for America's dinner plates and restaurant menus. Currently, genetically modified soybeans and corn are being sold for people to eat.

AquaBounty believes that, if approved, the fish could help reduce pollution, disease and other problems associated with saltwater fish farms, as well as provide an alternative source of seafood to help reduce the impact of overfishing.

But opponents of approval, including many consumer advocates, worry that the fish would pose a threat to both the health of consumers and the environment.

On Sept. 3, a scientific panel of experts that advises the FDA paved the way for the approval of the genetically modified salmon, calling it "as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon."

The FDA's Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee went on to say that the fish contained the same amount of nutrients and had "no biologically relevant differences" from ordinary farmed Atlantic salmon.

That's what worries consumer advocates, who say approving the salmon is opening the door to all sorts of genetically engineered animals, such as pigs and other mammals.

The FDA is regulating genetically engineered animals as it would a new veterinary drug, which means that much of the research and information about the product is being kept confidential, said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch in Washington, D.C.

"We don't know if it's safe for humans to eat and the only research that has been done was done by the company," according to Hauter. "The FDA is an under-resourced agency that has had so much trouble with the regulatory system for foods -- we've had tainted eggs, poisonous peanuts and other contaminations -- and is now taking on something in a very non-transparent way."

Recently, Food & Water Watch was joined by 30 other animal welfare, consumer, environmental and fisheries groups, including the Sierra Club, which issued a statement citing concerns that the fish could escape and pose an environmental threat. Previously, another group of consumer advocates and others warned that "transgenic fish" could introduce new or unknown allergens into the food supply.

AquaBounty creates its salmon by taking a growth gene from the Chinook salmon and a gene "promoter" from the ocean pout, another type of fish, said John Buchanan, AquaBounty's director of research and development. The pout gene promoter simply turns on the Chinook salmon growth gene, and is not actually "expressed" [active] in the modified fish. The resulting salmon grow to market weight about twice as fast as ordinary Atlantic salmon, though they don't get larger overall.

While it typically takes about three years for salmon to grow to market weight, AquaBounty's salmon get there in about 18 months, Buchanan said.

To safeguard the environment, Buchanan said the eggs will be treated so that all fish that grow from them will be sterile females. That means they will not be able to reproduce, nor will they come into contact with males to reproduce with, said Buchanan, whose firm would sell the treated eggs.

While farm-raised salmon are typically grown in ocean-based tanks, the genetically modified fish would be grown in land-based tanks, also minimizing the chances of escape, he said.

"We have done a tremendous amount of work geared toward regulatory approval to show that the fish is healthy and safe," Buchanan said.

Genetically modified animals have been produced since the 1970s, according to background information in the FDA's briefing materials, but none has been approved for human consumption.

AquaBounty said bringing the salmon to market would take at least 18 months after approval. Farmers who want to grow the fish would also need FDA approval of their facilities.

SOURCES: Wenonah Hauter, executive director, Food & Water Watch, Washington. D.C.; John Buchanan, Ph.D., director, research and development, AquaBounty Technologies, San Diego; Associated Press

GM salmon Frankenfish

Cartoon by Mike Adams,

Stoner Cooking Supersized Special!!!

"Stoner Cooking" has become a surprise popular piece in The Konformist. As we've suddenly been hit with more suggestions than expected, here's a supersized special edition...

In honor of the release of Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3, here's a cool recipe from Todd Wilbur of

Benihana Dipping Sauces

The origin of the name of this chain of Japanese steakhouses dates back to 1935. that's when founder Rocky Aokis father, Yunosuke Aoki, opened a small coffee shop in Japan and named it "Benihana" after a wild red flower that grew near the front door of his shop. Next time you're at Benihana, look carefully and you'll notice that bright red flower has been incorporated into the restaurants logo.

With most of the cooking performed before your eyes on an open hibachi grill, Benihana maintains a much smaller kitchen than most restaurants, allowing practically the entire restaurant to become productive, money-generateing dining space. The limited space behind the scenes is for storage, office and dressing rooms, and a small preparation area for noncooked items like these sauces. These sauces will go well with a variety of Asian dishes and can be frozen in sealed containers for weeks at a time. You can find Todd's clone recipe for the Benihana Hibachi Chicken and Steak in his book entitled Top Secret Restaurant Recipes.

Mustard Sauce (for chicken and beef)

¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons Oriental mustard (found in the international/Asian food section of your supermarket)
2 teaspoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Ginger Sauce (for vegetables and seafood)
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
½ ounce gingerroot (a nickel-size slice), peeled and chopped
Juice of ½ lemon (2 tablespoons)
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon white vinegar

Mustard Sauce
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Chill before serving.

Ginger Sauce
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend on low speed for 30 seconds or until the ginger root and garlic have been pureed. Chill before serving.


Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3: The Secret Formulas for Duplicating Your Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home
Todd Wilbur
List Price: $16.00
Price: $10.80 & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25. Details
You Save: $5.20 (33%)

A brand new restaurant recipe treasury from the wizard of culinary carbon copies.

For more than twenty years, Todd Wilbur has been translating his obsession with recreating restaurant favorites at home into a blockbuster bestselling cookbook series. Using everyday ingredients, each of Wilbur's recipes provides step-by-step instructions that even the novice cook can follow-and the delicious results cost just a fraction of what the restaurants charge.

With over 100 sensational new recipes, Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 unlocks the secrets to:

•Outback Steakhouse Outback Rack

•Chili's Quesadilla Explosion Salad

•Olive Garden Breadsticks

•TGI Friday's Fried Mac & Cheese

•Chili's Firecracker Tilapia

•On the Border Mexican Mojito

•Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake

And much, much more...

Todd Wilbur lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.

448 pages
Publisher: Plume; Original edition (September 28, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0452296455
ISBN-13: 978-0452296459


Jack's Birthday Cake
In honor of Jack Daniels' 160th birthday this September, here's a birthday cake in his honor...


2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
½ cup Jack Daniel's® Tennessee Whiskey
1 cup chopped pecans
1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
Hot Buttered Whiskey Glaze (recipe follows)

Heat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in the brown sugar, eggs, flour mixture, and Jack Daniel's®, stirring well after each addition. Pour batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle evenly with pecans and chocolate chips. Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until center of the cake is firm and edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack and drizzle with glaze. Makes 16 servings.

Note: Cake may be baked in a greased 10-inch tube pan. Increase the baking time to 1 hour. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with the glaze.


Ultimate Lobster Cake with Cucumber Ginger Salad
Recipe courtesy of

Tips from the Chef:
• A two-pound lobster yields approximately 8 oz of lobster meat.
• When buying a live lobster, make sure it is alive and moving. I prefer a cold-water
conditioned lobster from Maine or Canada. The taste and texture of the lobster is far
superior to one that has been kept and fed in tanks.
• When cooking a lobster, place the lobster into a large pot of boiling water and cover.
• Cook the lobster for approximately 8 minutes, then remove from the pot. Let cool and
then remove the lobster from the shell by cutting with large scissors.

Ultimate Lobster Cake

2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs jalapeno (skin and seeds removed, minced)
½ cup red bell pepper (skin and seeds removed, minced)
½ cup onions (minced)
sea salt to taste
fresh white ground pepper to taste
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs Tabasco sauce
2 Tbs lime juice
5 Tbs mayo
2 Tbs dijon mustard
1 Tbs chives
½ Tbs flat leaf parsley (chopped fine)
2 tsp cilantro (chopped fine)
pinch cayenne pepper
8 oz lobster meat (boiled and cut into small knuckle-sized chunks)
½ cup soft breadcrumbs
¼ cup panko bread crumbs (plus 1 cup for breading)
4 Tbs olive oil
3 lemon thyme sprigs
1 Tbs sweet butter (no salt)


• Place 2 Tbs oil into a sauté pan; heat lightly. Add the jalapeno and bell pepper with the
onions; cook on low flame. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sweat the vegetables
(no color on them) until translucent approximately 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Cool the vegetables.
• In a mixing bowl, stir the egg yolks/Tabasco/lime juice mix well. Then add mayo,
mustard, chives, parsley, cilantro and cayenne pepper. Whisk well.
• Add the lobster and vegetables. Stir and add the soft breadcrumbs, and ¼ cup Panko
crumbs. Mix well. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
• Spread out Panko bread crumbs on top of the counter. Place 4 ring molds 3”x1 ½“ on
top of the crumbs. Next divide the mixture into molds evenly. Next, add 1½ tsp Panko
on top of the lobster. Press and pack the lobster into the rings with the back of a spoon,
then remove the cakes from the molds using a spoon to slowly press them out of the
molds. (Be careful not to break up the patty shape.)
• Add the 4 Tbs olive oil to a sauté pan, heat until semi hot. Carefully add the lobster
cakes to the pan and cook slowly about 3 ½ minutes, then turn them over and add
thyme springs and butter, place into a preheated 375 degree oven and cook for
approximately 3 ½ minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pan.

Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings

Cucumber Ginger Salad

1 cup sliced cucumber (peeled, cut lengthwise, seeds removed)
1/3 cup pickled ginger (coarsely chopped)
3 Tbs pickle juice (juice that the ginger was in)
3 Tbs rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs dill (chopped, without stems)
fresh ground white pepper to taste

• Place the cucumbers into a bowl.
• Add the ginger, pickled juice, rice vinegar, mix well
• Add the dill and season with fresh ground pepper.

Yield: 4 servings


Vegetable Cheese Lasagna
Serves: 8
Prep Time: 25 min.
Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 min.

6 tablespoon(s) Lea & Perrins® Worcestershire Sauce
1 jar (26 oz) Classico Triple Mushroom Sauce
1/2 cup(s) fresh baby spinach, blanched & drained
1/2 cup(s) carrots, grated
2 eggs, divided
2 cup(s) Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated, divided
2 cup(s) mozzarella cheese, shredded or grated, divided
1/2 teaspoon(s) ground nutmeg
2 pound(s) ricotta cheese or small curd cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon(s) dried thyme or basil
9 lasagna noodles, uncooked (1/2 lb)

Cooking Instructions:

1. Preheat oven 350°. In a medium bowl, combine Worcestershire Sauce, Mushroom Sauce and 1/2 cup water. Stir until well blended.

2. Vegetable layer: In a second medium bowl, mix together spinach, carrots, 1 egg slightly beaten, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella and nutmeg.

3. Cheese layer: In a third medium bowl, mix together ricotta, 1 egg slightly beaten, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup mozzarella and thyme.

4. To assemble: Spread 1 1/4 cup sauce evenly on the bottom of 13”x9”x2” baking dish, which has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place 3 noodles lengthwise in pan, leaving a little space between since they will expand in baking. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over noodles. Spoon 1 1/4 cup sauce to cover evenly. Place 3 noodles on and top evenly with cheese mixture. Place 3 noodles on top of cheese mixture. Cover evenly with remaining sauce and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes.

5. Carefully remove foil and top evenly with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Continue to bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until sauce bubbles and cheese is lightly golden brown.

Substitute with 1 tbsp fresh thyme or basil in place of dried. Use low fat ricotta and mozzarella for a slightly lighter dish.


5-Layer Mexican Dip

prep time 10 min
total time 3 hr 10 min
makes 4 cups or 32 servings, 2 Tbsp.

1 can (15-1/2 oz.) refried black beans
1 Tbsp. Chili powder
1/2 tsp. Ground cumin
1 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Cheddar Cheese
3 Green onions, sliced
1/3 cup sliced black olives
1 Tomato, chopped

Make It

MIX beans, chili powder and cumin; spread onto bottom of 9-inch pie plate.

TOP with layers of remaining ingredients.

REFRIGERATE several hours or until chilled. Serve with tortilla chips.



Chicken Chipotle with Cream

3 cups of chicken stock, from Caldo Knorr or you can use your favorite recipe or store bought. If you use Caldo Knorr, follow the directions on the package to prepare the stock.
2 large onions, halved and thickly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 small can of Chipolte chiles in Adobo sauce (6-8 whole Chipolte chiles are in a small can) Use only 2-3 Chipotle chiles, chopped
1 whole garlic clove, finely chopped
6 El Pollo Loco chicken breast (skin removed, de-boned and shredded)
2-3 cups heavy cream
½ cup Crema Mexicana (like Cacique)


1. In a medium saucepan, combine the chicken stock, onions, bay leaf, Chipotle chile w/ a teaspoon of the Adobo sauce and garlic. Cook over a high flame, stirring occasionally until it boils. Reduce flame and allow to simmer until the sauce is reduced by half, about an hour.

2. To the reduced liquid mixture, add the chicken, cream, Crema andvremainder of the chipotle or to taste. You can adjust the spiciness by adding more of the chopped chipotles and adobo sauce.

The sauce will be creamy and pink in color. If desired, drizzle with a bit of crema on top and serve over white rice.


Boeuf Bourguignonne with Beef, Bacon, Red Wine, Onions, Mushrooms & Herbs

4 oz (100g) Streaky Bacon
1 tbsp of Olive Oil
2 lb Lean Stewing Steak - Cut the into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 Sliced Carrot
1 Sliced Onion
1 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Pepper
1 oz Plain Flour
1 pints (500ml) Red Wine
1/2 pint (250) Beef Stock
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
1 Garlic Clove Mashed
1/2 tsp Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
16 Small Button Onions or Shallots Peeled
2 oz Butter
2 tbsp of Olive Oil
12 oz Button Mushrooms
Parsley Sprigs


Pre-Heat the oven to 450F (230C, Mark 8).

Slice the Streaky Bacon into lengths 1/4 inch wide. In a large Casserole heat up the Olive Oil and cook the Bacon strips until lightly brown. Spoon them out (leaving as much oil remaing as possible) and set aside in a covered bowl.

Re-heat the remaining Oil and Bacon Fat until very hot - almost smoking. Add the cubes of Beef, in batches, and fry them until they are brown on all sides. Spoon these out and place in the bowl alongside the Bacon.

Now add the Sliced Carrot and Sliced Onion and fry briefly while constantly stiring. When done, pour or spoon out any excess fat.

Add the Beef and Bacon back into the Casserole. Add the Salt & Pepper and shake everything well. Sprinkle with Plain Flour and shake again. Place the Casserole uncovered into the oven on the middle shelf and baked for 4 miniues. Give everything a stir and return for another 4 minutes.

Now reduce the oven temperture to 325F (160C, Mark 3).

Stir in the Red Wine and enough Beef Stock to just cover the meat. Add the Tomato Puree, Garlic and Herbs. Bring to boil on the stove then cover and place back into the oven for 3 to 4 hours.

While this is cooking prepare the Shallots and Mushrooms.

Heat up 1 oz of the Butter & 1 tbsp of the Olive Oil in a small saucepan and when it starts to bubble add the Onions or Shallots. Gently fry them over a medium heat for arond 10 minutes until softened and brown - occasionally rolling them around so that they brown evenly. Set aside in bowl.

Do exactly the same with the Button Mushrooms and likewise set aside in bowl.

When the meat is ready and tender sieve the contents of the Casserole into a saucepan. Wash the Casserole, place on the stove top and place back the Beef, Bacon, Carrot and Onion. To this tuck in the cooked Onions or Shallots & Button Mushrooms.

Skim any excess fat from the remaing strained gravy in the bowl. There should be around 1 pint of liquid. Boil and reduce down to the level where the sauce will coat a spoon.

Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables. Check the seasoning.

Cover the Casserole and simmer for around 3 minutes, basting the meat with the juices several times. When ready decorate with the Parsley Sprigs and serve immediately from the Casserole.

Serve with Boiled New Potatoes.

Serves 2 as a Main Meal.

Based on the Beef Bourguignon recipe in:
Mastering The Art Of French Cooking Volume 1
by Simone Beck, Louisette Berthold & Julia Child (1961).


Thai Chicken Pizza

1 cup TJ’s Just Chicken
1 jar TJ’s Peanut Satay Sauce
1 package TJ’s Pizza Dough
½ cup TJ’s Carrots, shredded
2 tbsp TJ’s Unsalted Peanuts, chopped
4 TJ’s Green Onions, cut lengthwise
1 cup TJ’s Shredded Mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 425°. Combine chicken and a ½ jar of the satay sauce and place in fridge. While the
chicken chills, take out pizza dough and allow it to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. Begin to shape the dough
by lightly dusting a flat surface with flour, form the dough into a ball, and begin to push from the center
out (it’s perfectly honorable to use a rolling pin). When the dough is in a rough circular shape, spread the
remaining satay sauce on top of the dough. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the sauce and layer the marinated
chicken on top of that. Complete by sprinkling with the shredded carrots, green onions and peanuts. Place
carefully into the oven (if you have a pizza stone, all the better, otherwise a baking sheet will do just fine).

Bake for 10 – 15 min until the cheese bubbles and the crust turns golden brown. Enjoy!

Serves: 2-4
Cooking Time: 75-80 minutes


Cornmeal pancakes
Total time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 to 4

Note: Adapted from the 1943 "Joy of Cooking" by Irma Rombauer.

1 cup white or yellow cornmeal

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons melted butter

1 to 2 tablespoons honey, sugar or syrup

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/2 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Combine the cornmeal, salt, butter and honey in a large, heavy bowl. Pour the boiling water over top and whisk well to combine. Cover tightly and let stand at least 10 minutes.

2. Measure the milk into a measuring cup. Add the egg and beat well with a fork until smooth. Stir this into the cornmeal mixture.

3. Sift together the flour and baking powder and stir into the cornmeal mixture with a few swift strokes.

4. Heat the griddle until a few drops of water dance and skitter across the surface. Butter or grease the griddle lightly, then pour the batter in one-third-cup measures. Cook until bubbles stop appearing and the top surface appears slightly dry, about 3 minutes. Turn and cook just until the center feels set and no longer liquid, 1 to 3 more minutes. This makes about 8 pancakes.

5. Serve immediately with syrup or jam, or keep warm on a cookie sheet in a 200-degree oven.

Each of 4 servings: 280 calories; 7 grams protein; 44 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 9 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 71 mg. cholesterol; 8 grams sugar; 868 mg. sodium.


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Big health insurers to stop selling new child-only policies,0,799167.story
Big health insurers to stop selling new child-only policies
Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna Inc. and others say they will make the move as soon as Thursday when parts of the new healthcare law take effect. They cite potentially huge and unexpected costs for insuring children.
Duke Helfand, Los Angeles Times
September 21, 2010

Major health insurance companies in California and other states have decided to stop selling policies for children rather than comply with a new federal healthcare law that bars them from rejecting youngsters with preexisting medical conditions.

Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna Inc. and others will halt new child-only policies in California, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut and elsewhere as early as Thursday when provisions of the nation's new healthcare law take effect, including a requirement that insurers cover children under age 19 regardless of their health histories.

The action will apply only to new coverage sought for children and not to existing child-only plans, family policies or insurance provided to youngsters through their parents' employers. An estimated 80,000 California children currently without insurance — and as many as 500,000 nationwide — would be affected, according to experts.

Insurers said they were acting because the new federal requirement could create huge and unexpected costs for covering children. They said the rule might prompt parents to buy policies only after their kids became sick, producing a glut of ill youngsters to insure. As a result, they said, many companies would flee the marketplace, leaving behind a handful to shoulder a huge financial burden.

The insurers said they now sell relatively few child-only policies, and thus the changes will have a small effect on families.

"Unfortunately, this has created an un-level competitive environment," Anthem Blue Cross, California's largest for-profit insurer, said in a statement declaring its intention to "suspend the sale of child-only policies" on Thursday, six months after the healthcare overhaul was signed.

The change has angered lawmakers, regulators and healthcare advocates, who say it will force more families to enroll in already strained public insurance programs such as Medi-Cal for the poor in California.

The White House weighed in Tuesday, condemning Anthem corporate parent WellPoint Inc. and others that plan to stop selling child-only policies.

"It's obviously very unfortunate that insurance companies continue to make decisions on the backs of children and families that need their help," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said at a news briefing.

The Obama administration had told insurers they could solve the problem by issuing policies only during designated enrollment periods. Some White House officials, however, noted that families who can't find policies might be able to sign up for high-risk pools being set up around the country as part of the new healthcare law.

In California, the stakes may be particularly high for insurers who abandon child-only policies. A bill awaiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's signature would bar such companies from selling insurance in the lucrative individual market for five years. A Schwarzenegger spokeswoman said the governor had not yet taken a position on the measure.

Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D- Los Angeles), the bill's author, voiced frustration over the insurers' plans and singled out Anthem Blue Cross, whose corporate parent notified brokers nationwide Friday of its decision to exit the child-only business in 10 states, including Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, Nevada and Georgia as well as California.

"At a time when we are launching a national approach to ensure that all children have access to healthcare, Anthem's actions represent a step backwards," Feuer said. "By threatening to drop child-only policies in California, the company jeopardizes the health of families and children. I call on Anthem to reconsider its plan."

Other regional and national insurers also plan to stop selling insurance policies exclusively for children. Among the companies is UnitedHealth Group Inc., the nation's largest insurer by revenue. It did not say which states would be affected.

"We continue to believe that regulations can be structured that will enable child-only plans to be offered, and we are working toward that goal," spokesman Tyler Mason said.

Aetna said that effective Oct. 1 it would no longer offer policies in the 32 states where it conducts business, including California, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Cigna Corp. will halt the policies in 10 states, including California, Arizona, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas.

"We made a decision to stop offering child-only policies to ensure that we can remain competitive in the 10 markets where we sell individual and family plans," Cigna spokeswoman Gwyn Dilday said. "We'll continue to evaluate this policy and could reconsider changing this position as market dynamics change."

The explanations left healthcare advocates fuming. They accused insurers of trying to skirt the law's new requirement to cover children with health problems.

"Insurers need to decide if they are in the business of providing care or denying coverage," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer group. "In California, we hope our insurers come to an equitable compromise that allows access for all children and affordability for those with preexisting conditions."

In Colorado, regulators and insurance carriers are trying to work out such a compromise. The state's insurance commissioner met Friday with several insurers, including Anthem, Cigna and Aetna. The two sides did not reach an agreement, but officials remain hopeful they can broker a deal before Thursday.

"Obviously this deadline looms large," said Jo Donlin, director of external affairs for the Colorado Division of Insurance. "The commissioner wants families to have access to the insurance they need. Both sides of this want to find a solution."

Noam N. Levey in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

The Half-Empty Glass

The Half-Empty Glass: Connecticut Insurance Rates Soar to Pay For Health Care Bill Provisions
Jane Hamsher
Monday September 20, 2010

I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that Obama thought it was a good idea, in midst of 9.6% unemployment, and on the day after the census bureau announces that 1 in 7 Americans are living in poverty, to show up at the gated Connecticut mansion of a guy named Rich Richman and tell a privileged few at a private $30,000 a plate fundraiser that people who see their glass “half empty” are pessimists and that the health care bill represents “the most productive, progressive legislative session in at least a generation.”

The people in Connecticut who couldn’t afford $30,000 to attend an event that raised $1 million for the DNC might not see it that way:

Sept. 19 – Connecticut regulators in recent days approved increases of more than 20 percent on some health plans starting Oct. 1, including a series of rates requested by Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, by far the largest health insurer in the state...

The higher prices, however, are a glimpse of what may be in store later this year when insurers propose new rates for 2011.

The major difference between rising prices this year and years past is the cost of new benefits added to health plans starting Thursday as mandated by the sweeping reform approved by Congress in March.

Insurers say the cost of new benefits will increase prices more than 20 percent for certain plans.

When Obama was selling his health care plan to the public on June 22, 2010, he said that the changes mandated by the health care bill this year meant that people would be seeing benefits immediately:

[S]tarting in September, some of the worst abuses will be banned forever. No more discriminating against children with preexisting conditions. No more retroactively dropping somebody’s policy when they get sick if they made an unintentional mistake on an application. No more lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on coverage. Those days are over.

He also said “we’ve got to make sure that this new law is not being used as an excuse to simply drive up costs.”

But that’s exactly what’s happening in Connecticut.

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the largest insurer in Connecticut, has already requested and received increases on individual market plans to cover the cost of new benefits mandated by the health care bill that start this year:

•4.8% increase related to the mandate about pre-existing conditions for children
•up to 8.5% increases for mandated preventive care with no deductibles
Anthem has also said that removing annual spending caps would cause the cost of individual market plans to “rise by as much as 22.9 percent.”
Obama, the Urban Institute and others were relying on estimates made by the Department of Labor that were used to calculate the impact of the health care bill’s 2010 mandates:
•Removal of annual spending caps: “The Departments estimate that the transfer would be three-quarters of a percent or less for lifetime limits and one-tenth of a percent or less for annual limits, under a situation of pure community rating where all the costs get spread across the insured population.”
•Mandates for preventive care: “There will likely be negligible transfers due to this provision given no changes in coverage or cost-sharing.”
•Coverage for children with preexisting conditions: “Even in States with community rating, the cost and transfer effects will be relatively small, at most a few tenths of a percent over the next few years.”
But Connecticut isn’t the only place this is happening. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week, the health care bill is being used as an excuse by insurance companies to jack up rates all across the country.

It’s clear that the rate increases are far in excess of what these reform provisions actually cost. And there is nothing in the health care bill that stops them from doing so. In a free market, other insurance companies would be able to enter the market and provide a better product at a lower price. But health insurance companies are exempt from anti-trust regulation, and can legally operate as monopolies and engage in monopolistic practices. The health care bill did nothing to stop that.

That’s why the people Obama now mocks wanted a public option. If the government is going to assign its right to collect taxes to private companies (which is what they did when they passed the mandate), and allow the IRS to be used as an enforcement mechanism, people wanted to feel like there was an alternative. Faced with looming rate increases far in excess of anything they were told when the bill was being sold to them, in the wake of rising economic insecurity and high unemployment, people are justifiably anxious.

Single mother Susie Madrack explains why people like her found Obama’s comments upsetting:

[T]hose of us left living on a wing and prayer thanks to your “half full,” half-assed economic policies just don’t have a sense of humor about our continuing plight. I know it’s been a long time since your mom got food stamps, but you might want to give that empathy thing some thought.”

The usual suspects are cheering Obama’s comments, including the American Prospect, who call them “justified mockery.” But those who enjoy a ”subsidized existence vomiting up flabby consensus received opinions within the federal zone” generally aren’t the working class single moms who have to worry about things like rising health insurance premiums. So it’s no surprise they wouldn’t understand why someone might feel their glass is “half empty” these days.

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — Out of Reach

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — Out of Reach
By: Niland
Friday September 17, 2010

I don’t think the site has addressed this in a while, but the new Preexisting Condition Insurance Plan has been rolled out across the country now, and the more I look into it, the more I think this is emblematic of everything that was wrong with Obama’s health care reform bill. Remember, this is the temporary high risk pool to act as a holdover until the exchanges kick in in 2014. I had high hopes for this, as my Mother is a 61 year old widow who has low income but is too young for Medicare and who we (my brother and I) have been paying $1,000+/mo for Anthem Blue Cross individual market insurance for the last three years to keep her insured. I thought the new high risk plan was going to be standardized with a 4-1 age ratio and also “affordable” for people who cannot get affordable coverage in the individual market. I looked up the rates for California where she lives, and her premium will be $799/mo with no subsidy under the new plan . Meanwhile, the premium for a child under 15 is $142/mo…how is that 4-1? How is that even remotely affordable?

Instead of imposing a unified structure with standardized rates, the bill gave extreme leeway for each State to set up its own program using private contractors guided only by very loose language regarding premiums and coverage structure. This has resulted in some states charging $600/mo for 60+ and areas of California charging $800 or more.

I’m so dejected at this point. I had such high hopes for this program and I feel like I’ve been kicked in the stomach. I cheered this bill, telling my brother, “help is on the way,” and soon we will be able to get coverage at a more reasonable rate compared to the way Anthem was ripping us off. We just can’t afford to pay $800+ per month in health insurance when we are already completely financially supporting our Mother. You mean to tell me that all this bill is going to save us for the next 4 years is 200 bucks a month? That we still have to pay 800/mo not including cost sharing? My Mom doesn’t even have a super-serious preexisting condition – she doesn’t have cancer, hasn’t had any debilitating illnesses. She is a smoker who gets episodic panic attacks.

I know there are lots of horror stories worse than this, but this type of disappointment is going to keep happening as each new element of this bill is rolled out. When 2014 hits and the means-tested subsidized rates are still going to be unaffordable for anyone but the poorest of the poor, the bill’s popularity will continue to tank.

And they wonder why there is an enthusiasm gap!

Obama Aims Barbs at Liberals, But Catches Moderates in the Crossfire

Obama Aims Barbs at Liberals, But Catches Moderates in the Crossfire
By: Blue Texan
Sunday September 19, 2010

Although Jane, Glenn and Digby have already weighed in smartly on this little tantrum from the President, I think it’s worth revisiting.

"Democrats, just congenitally, tend to get — to see the glass as half empty. (Laughter.) If we get an historic health care bill passed — oh, well, the public option wasn’t there. [...] And gosh, we haven’t yet brought about world peace and — (laughter.) I thought that was going to happen quicker. (Laughter.)"

This is of course, terrible politics. Ridiculing your base when you’re at you’re most vulnerable — right before the midterms in your first term — is just criminally stupid.

But even leaving that aside, Obama’s chosen poor issues to flog liberals with. He’s unfortunately highlighted areas where the administration has lost the center.

The health care bill is unpopular. And it’s not unpopular because of the “professional left.” It’s unpopular because people really hate insurance companies and they’re now being forced to buy their shitty product, which they can’t afford. The public option, which was a workaround that problem, had broad, popular support – not just among glass-half-empty liberals. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened.

As for mocking the idea of “world peace” — again, this is an area where the White House has lost the middle. The President’s choice to double-down in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular. Unless you think 57% of the country are pacifist peaceniks, it’s absurd to blame “Democrats” for the fact that your central national security initiative is failing with the public.

Americans simply don’t like health care reform and they don’t like the war. By using these two to chastise liberals, the President is also wagging his finger at the majority of the country.

Nice going.

The Health Care Bill Nobody Wants to Talk About

The Health Care Bill Nobody Wants to Talk About
Jane Hamsher
Tuesday August 31, 2010

As Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics notes, it’s pretty obvious that the Democrats’ electoral woes are directly tied to the passage of the health care bill. But somehow horserace analysts like Jonathan Alter, Jim Vanderhei and Mike Allen don’t want to talk about that.

Well, we’ve been talking about it for months now.

Nate Silver describes Jay Cost as an “outstanding analyst.” Looking at the generic ballot average, Cost says:

Partisans on both sides tell themselves stories about why they’re up, why they’re down, and why the other side is where it is. These stories usually contain at least a grain of truth, but they also help encourage ideologues in the face of an impending rejection by the electorate. Democrats ignored the political problem of health care in the fall and winter – arguing that Martha Coakley and Creigh Deeds were bad candidates, that voters had been turned off by the health care bill because of the process, and that they would come around once the many benefits kicked in. Now, they’re pointing to the economy as the only significant reason why the party is in trouble.

It would be difficult for any strong partisan to admit that such an accomplishment was so deeply unpopular. Yet the polling is pretty unequivocal on the relationship between the Democrats’ fortunes and the health care bill. It was during the health care debate that the essential building block of the Democratic majority – Independent voters – began to crumble. It was evident in the generic ballot. It was evident in the President’s job approval numbers. It was evident in Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

Reconstructing the Democrats’ meme, we can fairly say that the economy is a huge problem for the party. Of this, there can be no doubt. We can also say that the stalled recovery denied the Democrats a chance to win back the voters they lost over health care. But the process and passage of health care reform were crucial elements in the story. That’s when the party started losing the voters it needs to retain control of the government.

VanderHei and John Harris recently wrote a piece criticizing “liberal bloggers” who were obsessively naval gazing about the Dave Weigel/Journolist incident, and didn’t care about the fact that Democrats could lose seats in the House this fall.

In fact, FDL did polling at the first of the year that indicated that the health care bill was extremely unpopular with independents, and warned that the Democrats were living in la-la land to ignore it.

January 14, 2010: FDL commissions SurveyUSA to do polling in swing districts to try and ascertain how the health care bill (particularly the individual mandate) will affect Democratic incumbents.

January 14, 2010: The first SurveyUSA poll finds that Vic Snyder is trailing GOP challenger Tim Griffin by 56% to 39%, and that the individual mandate is unpopular with 3 out of 4 voters. If Snyder votes for the health care bill with the individual mandate, he loses another 6 points to Griffin.

January 15, 2010: Our second SurveyUSA poll finds that Steve Driehaus trails Steve Chabot in a rematch of their 2008 race, 39%-56%. When asked if their opinion of Driehaus changes if he votes for the health care bill, 55% of Independents say that their opinion of him would go down.

January 20: SurveyUSA polls one of the suburban districts that will be key to the Democrats’ ability to hold the House in 2010, this time Tim Bishop in (NY-01). Bishop holds a 2 point lead over potential GOP challenger Randy Altschuler, who was already up on the air with ads. Unlike Snyder and Driehaus’s GOP-leaning districts, Bishop’s district has a +3 PVI Democratic advantage. Party affiliation in the district is 27% GOP, 33% Democratic and 39% Independent. When asked how they feel about a health care bill which forces them to buy insurance or pay a penalty, 66% of Independents say they are opposed and 48% say they are strongly opposed.

January 21, 2010: SurveyUSA finds that Baron Hill is trailing Republican Mike Sodrel by 8 points if they matched up once again. Again, 60% of Independents say that their opinion of Hill goes down if he votes for a health care bill forcing them to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

February 16, 2010: Rather than thank us for the head’s up that their caucus is going to be slaughtered if they vote for the health care bill, Mark Ambinder reports that “Already, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is blasting Democratic activist Jane Hamsher for using Survey USA to essentially poll-pressure Blue Dog Democrats into retirement.”

March 13: I talk with a Democratic operative, who tells me that by forcing Congress to vote for the health care bill, Democratic leadership and the White House are like the generals in Paths of Glory, “firing on their own men in the trenches.”

March 17: I wrote “There are currently 36 resolutions in states across the country to ban the mandate which forces people to buy private insurance, or face a penalty of up to 2% of their income that the IRS will collect — the very thing that Obama campaigned against. It will become a rallying cry for the right.”

July 21: A new SurveyUSA poll shows Tom Perriello trailing his GOP opponent by 23 points. Prior to voting for the health care bill, a PPP poll showed Perriello essentially tied with Hurt:

This confirms what FDL has been saying for months: forcing members of Congress like Tom Perriello to vote for the health care bill was truly a Paths of Glory move by House leadership and the administration. As our SurveyUSA polling indicated at the time, the health care bill was hugely unpopular in swing districts.

August 4, 2010: 71% of Missouri voters support Proposition C, which “would prohibit the government from requiring people to have health insurance or from penalizing them for not having it.” It’s a non-binding initiative, but a clear indication of where public sentiment is in a bellwether state.

The DCCC was very good at getting not-so-savvy poll analysts to try and discredit the SurveyUSA polling. (Those same pollsters, ironically, didn’t see anything weird in the Research 2000 polls they were quoting authoritatively at the time, which many now find suspect — though Jerome Armstrong spotted it). Somehow Democratic members of Congress engaged in magical thinking and believed Rahm’s BS about the popularity of the health care bill increasing if it passed.

Rather than focus on jobs creation in a country with climbing unemployment rates, Obama spent the better part of a year focused on passing a health care bill that looks like it will play no small part in the Democratic Party’s upcoming electoral woes.

Well, we warned you.

Tripping Cyborgs and Organ Farms: The Fictions of Cordwainer Smith

Tripping Cyborgs and Organ Farms: The Fictions of Cordwainer Smith
Richard Metzger

When someone whose opinion you respect—in this case Steve Silberman of Wired News—sends you a link and the note “I promise you, the weirdest story you’ll read today (mine)” you take it seriously in my line of work. In this article for his new Neurotribes blog, Tripping Cyborgs and Organ Farms: The Fictions of Cordwainer Smith, Steve tells the unusual tale of Paul Linebarger, psychological-warfare expert and spy for the U.S. government. Writing under the pen name Cordwainer Smith, Linebarger wrote some unusually prescient science fiction tales that depicted bizarre advances in science and predicting dystopian futures as disturbing as anything in Philip K. Dick’s oeuvre:

After Scanners, Linebarger’s most unnerving creation was “A Planet Named Shayol.” (Sh’eol or ??????? — “the pit” or “the abyss” — was the ancient Hebrew name for the land of the dead.) The story is one of the most haunting visions of an utter hell outside of Dante, with plot points anticipating current developments in tissue engineering and the infamous Vacanti earmouse that caused a flap at M.I.T. in 1996.

Published in 1961, it’s even druggier than Scanners, with a hipster nurse who gets her patients stoned on the fictional equivalent of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and a cow-faced organ farmer proffering a synthetic opiate called super-condamine. Linebarger writes about strung-out states of mind so convincingly, it’s clear that his experiences in the hospital as a kid left an indelible impression. One might even say that these experiences — along with his perpetual dislocation as the son of a spy — made the body itself, and all of culture, seem like an elaborate prosthesis imposed on the essential man. Ich bin ein Scanners, waiting for the next cranch.

Read more of Tripping Cyborgs and Organ Farms: The Fictions of Cordwainer Smith (NeuroTribes):

YouTube Song of the Week: Imagine a Jump

"You got your Van Halen in my John Lennon." "You got your John Lennon in my Van Halen."
"Why, it's delicious!"

Mighty Mike - Imagine a jump
(John Lennon vs. Van Halen)

A short and sweet mashup by Mighty Mike worthy of this magical times we live in...

instrumental : John Lennon - Imagine
acapella : Van Halen - Jump

You should check out for more seriously interesting stuff on youtube. Comments and feedback welcomed!

Remembering John Bonham

Remembering John Bonham
By Eric
Sep 22, 2010

It was 30 years ago Friday, on September 24, 1980, that the world of rock and roll lost perhaps its finest and most influential drummer of all time, John Bonham. Known for his rock-solid grooves, blinding speed, and innovative rhythms, Bonham’s death sent a shock wave through the music world and brought an end to one of the most successful rock bands of all time, Led Zeppelin. Today, we remember this giant of the drumming world who is still revered by just about anyone who ever picked up a pair of sticks.

Born on May 31, 1948, Bonham began drumming at the age of five, and was playing professionally by the time he was 14. His big break came in 1968, when at the age of 20, he was asked to join Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones in their new project called Led Zeppelin. Reluctant at first, (he was also being pursued by Joe Cocker) he eventually relented and joined, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Upon the passing of John Bonham, at the age of 32, the band issued the following statement:

“We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”

And with that, came the end of one of the biggest rock groups of all time. But while John Bonham may be gone, his memory still lives strong among fans and fellow drummers, who continue to consider him to be one of the best there ever was.

Blog of the Week: Pink Slip My Ass

I've been unemployed for 312 days and counting. I can no longer tolerate nine hours straight of monotonous networking and rejection. To keep my sanity my mind has become a vagabond, constantly wandering. My self-discipline is now lacking to the point where my wife has declared, "Freedom does not agree with you!" But who wants to hear that freedom doesn't agree with them, especially since people are always fighting - dying even - for it all over the world. I'm not surrendering. Pink slip, my ass. Getting terminated was a velvet invitation to the resurrection of my senses. I fight on. These are my days.

Michael Moore to Receive the John Steinbeck Award

The family of John Steinbeck, the Nobel Prize-winning author of "The Grapes of Wrath" and other American classics, and the Center for Steinbeck Studies, have announced that they are giving their prestigious John Steinbeck Award to Michael Moore. They're making their official announcement today and I thought you'd like to see the statement they've released to the press. Steinbeck's son, Thomas, will present the award to Mike next month at a ceremony at San Jose State University (the public is invited to attend). Thomas Steinbeck had this to say this morning: "Michael Moore is a courageous man and a great selection for the John Steinbeck Award. My father would have loved him; my father was the Michael Moore of his time."
-- Webmaster,

Joe Torre won't return as Dodgers manager; Don Mattingly to replace him
Sep 17, 2010
Joe Torre won't return as Dodgers manager; Don Mattingly to replace him
Bob Kimball

Joe Torre announced he will not return as Dodgers manager in 2011 and will be replaced by hitting coach Don Mattingly.

Torre made the announcement before Friday night's game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

"Baseball has been my life, and hopefully will continue to be my life in some capacity," Torre said during a news conference. "When I came out here, it was just to find out if managing can be fun again, and it's been fun. ... But you have to make some decisions by instinct, and my instinct tells me it's time to go."

Mattingly, who had a batting instructor with the New York Yankees under Torre, joined L.A. as hitting coach during the 2008 season, Torre's first with the Dodgers.

"It's baseball, and I've been around the game a long time," Mattingly said. "In my heart, I know I can do this. It's a belief in myself that I can do anything I put my mind to."

Torre came over to the Dodgers from the New York Yankees where he won four World Series and six American League pennants in 12 seasons.

Torre, 70, is in his 29th season as a big-league skipper. The former All-Star infielder and catcher made earlier dugout stops with the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. He has a career 2,318-1,990 regular-season record.

The L.A. Times reported that it's still possible Torre will stay with the Dodgers organization, according to one source who required anonymity because the team had not yet announced the move.

Mattingly is a nine-time Gold Glove first baseman and six-time All-Star who won the American League batting title in 1984 and was MVP in '85. He played his entire career with the Yankees before retiring after the 1995 season and is one of the most popular players in their storied history.

Great Quotes: Ed Wood

"One is always considered mad, when one discovers something that others cannot grasp."

Fast Food Snack of the Month: Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets


Get Your Spice On. Why settle for the typical chicken nuggets at other places? Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets are five pieces of crispy, all-white meat chicken with three different kinds of peppers and savory spices. But the real kick is they're only 99 cents. And only Wendy's has them.

Like the General Lee but Less Hazardous to Planet With 100-plus MPG

X-Prize Winning Car: Like the General Lee but Less Hazardous to Planet With 100-plus MPG
Kit Eaton
Thu Sep 16, 2010

Half of the $10 million prize fund for the fuel efficiency Automotive X-Prize is being handed to the team behind The Very Light Car--the vehicle has beaten the competition's target of 100 miles per gallon efficiency.

Team Edison2's creation, the Very Light Car is specially constructed and to save weight it has no doors (with heavy hinges and locking mechanisms) so you have to scoot through the windows like Bo and Luke Duke had to. But that's where the similarity to the gas-guzzling General Lee ends: The highly aerodynamic vehicle has wind-shrouds over its tires and weighs a mere 840 pounds on the road, both of which help it with its phenomenal fuel efficiency (for comparison the top-selling, well-known and supposedly eco-friendly 2010 Toyota Prius manages just 50 MPG--half the VLC's ability).

We're particularly taken with the look of the thing. It's by no means conventional, nor is it approaching the sort of design and engineering requirements a real, sale-worthy road-going car would need (although it's got heating, ventilation and passed some of the tests required for a car to go on sale in the U.S.). But it looks extraordinary--much more attractive than the odd electric Aptera, with which it shares some design cues. And this, more than anything, helps it promote the notion of alternative power and alternative design in cars which might help more eco-friendly cars race onto the market. That's also one of the goals of the automotive X-Prize itself. As X-Prize's Peter Diamandis puts it, the goal is to publicly demonstrate an alternative, eco-conscious cat that is "beautiful, affordable, fast, safe" and green.

America's Favorite Park: Bear Head Lake


We’re proud to announce that Bear Head Lake State Park is the winner of the $100,000 grant from Coca-Cola.

Thank you for voting. We were overwhelmed by your support for America's parks. We received over 5.7 million votes with more than 28% of the votes going to the winning park. You donated nearly 500,000 My Coke Rewards points and over $25,000 through direct donations to the National Park Foundation. In addition, Coca-Cola also donated $200,000 to the National Park Foundation and $100,000 to Bear Head Lake State Park. Overall, Coca-Cola donated more than $500,000 in grants to national, state and local parks across the country this summer for new equipment such as bikes and kayaks, and the restoration and construction of activity areas.

For more than 40 years, Coca-Cola has supported America’s national parks. Through our support of individual parks and the National Park Foundation, we’ve helped maintain and rebuild 260 miles of trails so families can be active together while enjoying the great outdoors. In the last 4 years we’ve donated over 4 million dollars to national parks for restoration and renovation. Thanks again for your support of America’s parks.

Was Katy Perry too sexy for Sesame Street?

September 23rd, 2010
Was Katy Perry too sexy for Sesame Street?

“Sesame Street” has said "yes" and then "no" to Katy Perry’s appearance on the iconic children’s TV show after parents reportedly complained the star's outfit revealed a bit too much of her cleavage.

The 25-year-old singer stopped by “Sesame Street” to make a kid-friendly music video of "Hot N Cold" with Elmo, which made rounds on the Web earlier this week. The song itself was cleaned up for kids, but it seems that to some parents, her clothing wasn't.

According to TMZ, Sesame Workshop received complaints like, "You can practically see her [expletive]," and "they're gonna have to rename it cleavage avenue."

In a statement, a rep for Sesame Workshop said that the show “has a long history of working with celebrities across all genres, including athletes, actors, musicians and artists. Sesame Street has always been written on two levels, for the child and adult.”

The show uses celebrities and parody segments “because we know that a child learns best when co-viewing with a parent or care-giver. We also value our viewer’s opinions and particularly those of parents,” the statement went on.

“In light of the feedback we’ve received on the Katy Perry music video which was released on YouTube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers,” the statement concluded.

In response, Perry’s rep has also released a statement: "Katy enjoyed working with Sesame Street, Kevin Clash and playing dress up with Elmo. You can view all the fun at"

BabeWatch: Rihanna & Katy Perry in Las Vegas

Mr. Showmanship’s Show Is Closing

Mr. Showmanship’s Show Is Closing
September 17, 2010

LAS VEGAS — Bill Holt was gawking. At the room filled with ornate antique pianos, among them a Baldwin grand glistening with a coat of rhinestones that was Liberace’s favorite. At a 1962 Phantom V Landau Rolls-Royce, covered in mirrors, that looked like a disco ball on wheels. At Liberace’s collection of candelabras, rings, capes and boots.

At, in short, the paraphernalia of a onetime star of the Strip who appears to have become a symbol of an era that is not only past, but forgotten, too.

The Liberace Museum, once a tourist attraction on a par with the Hoover Dam — 450,000 people came every year to the strip-mall museum with a red neon piano on the roof — is closing its doors next month. The collection is being put into storage.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years and this is the first time I’ve come,” said Mr. Holt, 71, a retired civil engineer, soft piano music tinkling above him. “I heard this place was closing, so I headed over.”

Tanya Combs, the museum director and one of 30 employees about to be out of a job, glanced dolefully at Mr. Holt. “That is the problem,” she said. “You should have come more often.”

Yet it is hard to blame Mr. Holt or any of the other hundreds of people who suddenly showed up over the past few days at the news of the Oct. 17 closing, filling a parking lot that had grown barren in recent years. “They used to come in droves,” said Jack Rappaport, the president of the Liberace Foundation and Museum.

There can be no disputing that Wladziu Valentino Liberace once helped define this town that loves its glitz. He was Mr. Showmanship, if he did say so himself, and people, or at least older people, remember catching a Liberace show at the Riviera Hotel (a picture of the Riviera marquee shows Liberace with top billing over a singer named Barbra Streisand).

With his costume changes, arch piano playing and desire to shock — yes, he played Radio City Music Hall in red, white and blue hot pants and knee-high boots, which you can see in all its garish glory if you hurry — Liberace was Lady Gaga before Stefani Germanotta was even born.

There are millions of Americans who watched him on television in the 1950s, who swooned at his campy outfits and jewelry and blinding-white smile. “I want to look at Liberace!” Alice yelled at Ralph Kramden in a “Honeymooners” episode in which she pleaded with her cheap husband to buy her a television set.

And Liberace’s fans followed with stunned sorrow when he died of AIDS in 1987, one more turning point in the nation’s perception of that disease and homosexuality.

Yet unlike Frank Sinatra’s or Elvis’s, Liberace’s legacy has steadily faded as his audience has aged. A taxi driver taking a visitor to the museum got lost.

His appeal failed to cross generational lines, despite the effort of museum officials to, as one put it, rebrand him.

“We really started pushing the idea of bling, and Liberace was the first person who was really doing bling,” said Jeffrey P. Koep, the chairman of the Liberace Foundation and dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. “He had the big rings. He had the look that you see the kids doing now that’s very popular.”

Attendance last year was down to 50,000 from 450,000 just 12 years ago, and even that number was inflated by two-for-one discounts, and free admission on Sunday for Las Vegas residents.

The museum’s founding endowment has shrunk from $10 million five years ago to $1 million, a result of money-losing investments and a decision to take out an expensive mortgage to finance a renovation of the building that in hindsight, Mr. Koep said, does not seem like a wise decision.

The museum anchored both ends of a strip mall Liberace bought to display the trappings of his life. But many of the stores that once rented space from the foundation, including a wedding chapel and a music school, are gone. The mall, typically for Las Vegas these days, is a collection of empty storefronts.

The Liberace Museum has also fallen victim to changing tastes of tourists. When it was opened by Liberace — two blocks away from one of the 39 places he called home, Ms. Combs said, but three miles from the heart of Las Vegas — the Strip was all about gambling. Today, the museum has to compete with a boulevard of top-name performers and exported shows from Broadway. The museum began running a shuttle to the Strip, but that did not do much good.

There are some rays of hope for those interested in preserving a Liberace legacy. The director Steven Soderbergh said he was intending to go ahead with a biopic on Liberace that had been in doubt, probably starting production this summer.

Mr. Koep said that part of the collection would be displayed in some form of traveling exhibition. And he said the founders would look to sell the property, a prospect he described as tough in this market, to raise money to buy another space, ideally closer to the Strip.

“We are not selling the collection,” Mr. Koep said. “Part of the reason we are closing down is so we can keep the collection.”

Still, there is sadness in the dusky exhibition rooms that will soon be closed to the public. “I can’t imagine his name ever stopping,” said Pauline Lachane, a onetime president of the Liberace Fan Club, and today the museum librarian. “He’s going to go on forever. He put the excitement in this town.”

Billy Vassiliadis, the head of the advertising agency that represents the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the loss of the museum “was a shame, especially for us older folks.” But, he said, Las Vegas, like Liberace, has always been about reinventing itself.

“We have to keep refreshing Las Vegas,” he said. “Thousands of people turn 21 every day. Who knows, maybe we’ll have a Lady Gaga museum in 10 years.”

A version of this article appeared in print on September 18, 2010, on page A9 of the New York edition.

Lady Gaga V. Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Gaga in Portland, Maine.

Kim Kardashian And Lady Gaga Aren't Happy With Their Blow Up Dolls

Kim Kardashian And Lady Gaga Aren't Happy With Their Blow Up Dolls
Brett Smiley

Act now, Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga-loving perverts, because time is running out to buy filthy, offensive, blow-up dolls modeled after these two lovely women. A Lady Gaga doll produced by a company called Pipedream Products is unavailable after Gaga threatened the company, and a Kim doll, which is totally filthy (look, even the box says so), may soon be gone too. The real-life Kim's lawyer has demanded Pipedream stop production because the doll violates her right to publicity, whatever that is.

Of course, the company says the similarities between real Kim and "Kinky Kim" are purely coincidental, which is, of course, a lie. The box's product description says, "Meet Kinky Kim, the busty bubble-butt bimbo who's had more dark meat in her than a bucket of fried chicken!" Not only is that clearly not a coincidence, it's not very nice.

But disgusting perverts need not worry too much about Kim's and Gaga's legal actions scaring the blow-up doll company. If you want to to rub up on fake versions of the ladies, there's always Madam Tussaud's.