Archive

October 28th, 2015

Quantifying the risk that bacon will kill you

    You have of course heard the sad news about bacon. As the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer put it Monday in a news release:

    "The experts concluded that each 50 gram portion of processed meat eaten daily increases the risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent."

    How much is 50 grams of processed meat? In bacon terms it's about two slices. Just to be clear, it isn't that eating two pieces of bacon will increase your colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent. It's that eating two pieces of bacon every day for the rest of your life will.

    But here's the important question that isn't directly addressed in the pages and pages of information released Monday by the IARC or in any of the subsequent news coverage that I read: What's the risk of colorectal cancer to begin with?

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Telling Mideast Negotiators, ‘Have a Nice Life’

    In the New York Times review of the American Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross’ important new history of Israeli-U.S. relations, “Doomed to Succeed,” a telling moment on the eve of the 1991 Madrid peace conference caught my attention. The Palestinian delegation had raised some last-minute reservations with the secretary of state, James A. Baker III. Baker was livid and told the Palestinians before walking out on them: “With you people, the souk never closes, but it is closed with me. Have a nice life.”

    I was struck because that kind of straight talk has been all too absent from U.S. Middle East diplomacy lately. Israelis and Palestinians — way too long at war — are trapped in political hothouses of their own making, incapable of surprising each other with anything positive, and desperately in need of a friendly third-party dose of common sense.

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Are police turning camera shy?

    Some police say the stress of always being seen in a negative light in the post-Ferguson era is taking its toll. I am tempted as the father of a young African-American male to say, join the club.

    Since I have great respect for police and for my son, my advice to both is basically the same: Try to be less suspicious.

    Speaking to the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Chicago, FBI Director James Comey doubled down Monday on his controversial remarks last week about a "Ferguson effect" or a "YouTube effect."

    Those labels describe the possibility that a rise in violent crime in some cities over the past year may be the result of less aggressive policing in the wake of high-profile and sometimes video-recorded killings of black men by police.

    "Ferguson effect" refers to the national eruption of controversy that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., followed by the deaths of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others at the hands of officers.

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Dr. Carson, please read Holocaust history

    It would be a good idea for Ben Carson to spend some time in this city.

    Some recommendations for the Carson tour:

    -- The 1936 Olympic stadium, where Adolf Hitler presided over games in which the Aryanized German team won 33 gold medals, as exuberant German crowds thrust arms upward in the Nazi salute.

    -- Track 17, where, starting on Oct. 18, 1941, thousands of Jews were deported from the Grunewald train station to ghettos and concentration camps, and 186 steel plaques line the platform edge, documenting the Nazis' relentless efficiency: "6.7.1942/100 Juden/Berlin-Theresienstadt." "12.10.1944/31 Juden/Berlin-Auschwitz."

    -- Wannsee House, the lakeside villa where, on Jan. 20, 1942, Hitler's lieutenants diligently planned the implementation of the final solution, poring over Adolf Eichmann's meticulous typewritten list of Jews to be exterminated -- 160,800 from the Netherlands, 742,800 from Hungary, and so on.

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Iraq war remains politically fateful, 12 years on

    A dozen years after the invasion of Iraq, it continues to cast a shadow over the 2016 presidential campaigns in both major parties. Republican and Democratic candidates alike who took opposing positions on it in 2003 can anticipate partisan demands that they hash over again the controversial adventure whose ramifications remain at the core of American foreign policy.

    In the GOP, establishment candidate Jeb Bush, whose brother as president launched the war based on the mistaken contention that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, has a quandary. Is it wise to use his family members and name to rescue a campaign stalled in the polls?

    Earlier this week, amid announced staff cutbacks, his campaign recruited the two former President Bushes for a two-day strategy and fund-raising meeting in Houston to assess how to snap out of the doldrums. The hope is that George W. Bush's war of choice in Iraq will somehow recede in memory.

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October 27th

Why Trudeau matters more than Gowdy

    Which major event last week should have an important impact on the 2016 presidential election?

    No, it's not Hillary Clinton's 11 hours of testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. She walked away with a smile, and for good reason.

    Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., succeeded brilliantly in confirming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's burst of honesty: that the whole exercise always had bringing down Clinton's poll numbers as one of its central purposes. Only right-wingers already convinced of her perfidy thought otherwise. She emerged stronger than she started by staying calm, cool and confident in the face of repeated provocations.

    The consequential event occurred three days earlier. The Liberal Party landslide and the triumph of Justin Trudeau in Canada's election last Monday was a tonic for progressive economics and a cautionary tale for parties on the center-left lacking the courage of their convictions. Trudeau proved that voters understand the difference between profligacy and necessary public investment.

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The GOP's dysfunction all started with Sarah Palin

    When The Post's front page declares: "Republicans are on the verge of ceasing to function as a national party," it's time to ask: How did this come to pass?

    You can choose from a litany of insurrections, government shutdowns and other self-inflicted wounds. But this year's carnival-like GOP presidential primary makes one event, in retrospect, stand out as a crucial turning point on the road to upheaval: the 2008 embrace of then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be a heartbeat from the presidency.

    Palin's blatant lack of competence and preparedness needs no belaboring. What's critical is that substantive, serious Republican leaders either wouldn't or couldn't declare, before or after the election: "This is not what our party stands for. We can and must do better."

    By the campaign's end, GOP operatives were shielding Palin from even the simplest questions. (She had flunked "what newspapers do you read?"). Barack Obama cruised to victory.

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Paul Ryan and the party of 'family values'

    A chorus of spoilsports is calling Rep. Paul Ryan a hypocrite because he is demanding time to spend with his family -- after voting against paid family leave for other workers. I sympathize with the critics, but they are abusing the word "hypocrite." It is not hypocritical to deny help that you never promised to give in the first place.

    Ryan and his fellow Republicans, who have been urging him to run for speaker of the House, always have said they believe paid family leave is fine, if your employer wants to grant it to you. But don't expect the Grand Old Party to help you get it.

    In fact, judging by the way some of his more tradition-minded colleagues reacted to Ryan's request, you might never guess they belong to the party that so long has espoused "traditional family values."

    "Speaker's a big job," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican and member of the hardline Freedom Caucus. "And it's not a 9-to-5 job."

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Hillary Clinton Wins Again

    On the heels of a strong Democratic debate performance, last week Vice President Joe Biden — whose candidacy would surely have drawn support away from her — dismounted the fence and decided not to run for president himself. And then came the spectacular debacle of the Benghazi committee hearing.

    At one point during the hearing, Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican, said: “This is not a prosecution.” But it was an attempted persecution. It simply failed.

    It was a televised witch trial. But the tribunal had before it a woman who would not confess transgression and who defied the flame.

    Instead, she was poised, knowledgeable and unflappable. She turned the tables. The committee was on trial, and found wanting in motives, authorities and class.

    I keep being surprised by the astonishing degree to which Clinton’s opponents continue to underestimate her.

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Free Mitt Romney!

    Sometimes I find myself feeling sorry for Mitt Romney. No, seriously. In another time and place, he might have been respected as an effective technocrat — a smart guy valued (although probably not loved) for his ability to get things done. In fact, that’s kind of how it worked when he was governor of Massachusetts, a decade ago.

    But now it’s 2015 in America, and Romney’s party doesn’t want people who get things done. On the contrary, it actively hates government programs that improve American lives, especially if they help Those People. And this means that Romney can’t celebrate his signature achievement in public life, the Massachusetts health reform that served as a template for Obamacare.

    This has to hurt. Indeed, a few days ago Romney couldn’t help himself: He boasted to The Boston Globe that “Without Romneycare, we wouldn’t have had Obamacare” and that as a result “a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.” And it’s true!

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