Auros (auros) wrote,

two randoms, plus a political roundup

Some of you may know that I'm a bit of a foodie. I love not only cooking and eating, but also the history of cuisine (how particular ingredients arrived and got adopted by a culture, how cultivation and preparation techniques changed), and I am even somewhat concerned with health issues (though I am lucky enough to have a body that is fairly cooperative in that regard). In any case, my father, whose research into aging has, from time to time, brushed up against issues of how diet affects health (heart disease is, after all, the number one cause of death for citizens in Western society, and it clearly has some aging-related components), has talked to me about the issue of the various kinds of fats out there, and I know an increasing number of people who seem to be buying into the high-protein-and-fat / low-carb thing. (Which, carried to extremes, is probably still a bad idea, but I don't really want to get into an argument about it right now. If you're going to do the Atkins thing, please at least go to a pharmacy and buy yourself some ketone test strips and use them regularly for a month or so, so you'll know if you start damaging your liver and kidneys.) The only diet book my dad has ever recommended is The Omega Diet, which was written by one of the researchers responsible for making the field aware that fat was more variable than had been thought, and provides a readily accessible overview of the research, as well as a full regimen for serious dieters and some fairly yummy recipes, mostly based on Mediterranean cuisine.

Anyways, Slate's explainer column today covered some of the basics about trans and saturated fats. Worth reading, especially if you have any kind of cholestorol issues. (Which I do; it's the one place my body is emphatically not cooperative. *sigh*)

Also today in Slate, Chatterbox gives a nice history of Bush lies. It's fascinating. Sort of like a train wreck.

Today's batch of political stuff brought to you by Working Assets. They have long distance service, and local toll calling as well now. Competitive rates -- including to Croatia, incidentally, as I discovered recently -- excellent customer service, and political activism. Plus they give you ice cream.

If you happen to decide you're interested, drop me an email, and I'll give you my phone number, and paypal you half my referrer's fee, if you like. :-)

To: California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley
Subject: Feedback on Touch Screen Task Force

I believe I may've mentioned before, but this is a fairly disturbing issue at both the state and federal level. The so-called "Help America Vote Act" actually requires all the states to "scrub" their voter rolls in the same manner as Florida did (a technique that results in people in poor neighborhoods with common names getting wrongly disqualified from voting); it also provides lots of funds for "upgrading" to touch-screen voting machines that don't create any kind of independently checkable paper trail, and have modems inside that could allow hacking of their software. There's reason to believe that tampering with such machines has already occurred; Senator Chuck Hagel, who owns 40% of the company that makes the touch-screen machines used in Nebraska (talk about a conflict of interest!), apparently swept several large mostly-black precincts in Omaha where exit polls showed him losing in the election last year. Martin Luther King III is leading a group that's pushing to have the law amended to require that touch-screen machines print out a receipt showing who the voter voted for, which he/she would then sign off on, and which would be held in storage in case a hand count was called for (e.g. when exit polling disagreed by a significant percentage from the results, or any time there's a recount). Their proposed changes would also eliminate modems from the machines.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on the report submitted by the Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force.

I am writing to urge you to protect the integrity of my vote and impose a requirement for a voter verifiable audit trail for all voting equipment immediately rather than waiting until 2007.

The problem with waiting is that thousands of touch-screen machines will be purchased between now and 2007. As many as 50% of all Californians will be using paperless touch-screen computer equipment to cast their votes by that time if currently planned purchases occur.

Touch-screen voting machines that have no paper trails or system for voters to verify that their votes are being recorded correctly endanger the integrity of our elections and the very core of our democracy.


To: House Rep
Subject: Restore International Family Planning Funds

I am writing to urge you to support funding the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) by supporting the Crowley amendment in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that reinstates U.S. funding for UNFPA.

While the congressionally-approved funds were withheld last year due to concerns about population programs in China, both U.S. and British fact-finding missions in China have found no evidence of a link between U.N. family planning funds and abortion or forced sterilization in China, and UNFPA funds are not used to promote or fund abortions as a method of family planning. UNFPA funds are used for pre- and post-natal care, voluntary contraceptive services, health services and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

The $34 million in denied funding accounted for 12.5% of the UNFPA budget. While the decision was made based on conjecture about one country, it's devastating to many countries that count on UNFPA programs. It's estimated that the loss of this funding will lead to two million unintended pregnancies, nearly 800,000 abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths and 77,000 infant and child deaths each year.

Please support the Crowley amendment when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act comes up for a vote, and please let me know how you intend to proceed on this issue.


To: House Rep
Subject: Vote YES on amendment package to the Interior appropriations bill

I urge you to vote "Yes" for the amendment package to the Interior appropriations bill that would protect our national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, other public lands and wildlife. These treasured natural resources are under threat from daily rollbacks that would waive environmental laws, allow development of wild public lands, weaken protection for sensitive wildlife, and more. Amendments to uphold current protections are crucial in order to preserve our land and wildlife for generations to come.

Again, I urge you to protect America's lands and uphold our environmental laws, and vote "Yes" on amendments to save America's environment.


To: Senators and House Rep
Subject: Save Head Start

I am writing to you to express my opposition to any proposed changes to Head Start that would dismantle the program. I do not support turning over Head Start to the states at a time of record budget revenue shortfalls that are leading to deep cuts in state government support for early childhood education and development programs.

I will not be fooled by word games. I do not believe that you can "improve" Head Start by breaking it up and diverting its funding to the states for use in untested and unproven programs that may not survive deficit-driven state budget cuts over the next few years. I intend to stay informed about this issue and hold accountable every elected official who casts his or her lot with those threatening the services provided by the Head Start program.

I do not support serving fewer children than Head Start does now or providing less comprehensive services to those children who are served. Either outcome is unacceptable since the at-risk children who rely upon Head Start require special assistance in order to be "ready to learn" when they start kindergarten and elementary school. I do not support spending funds on state administrative costs that should go to serving our children in the classroom. I also oppose reducing teacher education requirements and other key standards and providing no role for Head Start parents and volunteers.

What do I support? Rather than dismantling Head Start, we should make sure that this program survives and is properly funded to serve all eligible children, including the two out of five 3- and 4-year-old children who could be in the program today but are not. Congress should build on the success of Head Start, not dismantle it. Head Start deserves to get the funds needed to serve all eligible children and to offer competitive salaries that attract teachers with top qualifications into the classrooms where they are so urgently needed.


To: Senator Arlen Specter
Subject: Vote NO on Pryor

Dear Senator Specter,

I have great respect for those members of the Republican party who, like yourself and Senator John McCain, still embrace the ideals of liberty and rugged individualism that are its core values. I write today to ask you to support those ideals against those within your party who would undermine them.

I believe in the value of an independent and diverse judiciary. This Thursday, you will need to vote either yes or no on the nomination of William Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Mr. Pryor is a right-wing ideologue whose extremist views have no place on our nation's top courts. His actions as Attorney General of Alabama clearly demonstrate a temperament that is unsuitable to interpreting our nation's laws. You are in a unique and powerful position in which your vote alone could defeat Pryor's nomination. Mr. Pryor's public pronouncements are in direct conflict with values that you have expressed in a lifetime of public service. I urge you to carefully examine his statements and track record and vote against him when he comes up for a vote in the Judiciary Committee later on this week.


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