November 28, 2005
From her article:
- ... The agency has started hosting Web logs with the latest information on topics including North Korean dictator Kim Il Jong's public visit to a military installation (his 38th this year) and the Burmese media's silence on a ministry reshuffling.
The blogs are posted on an unclassified government–wide Web site, part of a rechristened CIA office for monitoring, translating and analyzing publicly available information called the DNI [Director for National Intelligence] Open Source Center.
"Our definition of open source is anything that can be legally obtained," whether how–to–build–a–bomb manuals or inflammatory T–shirts.
Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's special bin Laden unit, said he had long believed that "90% of what you need to know comes from open–source intelligence."
One outside expert who works with government intelligence agencies... and others noted that they often receive complaints from government officials who say they find out faster about new statements and video coming from Iraq insurgents such as Zarqawi through private services.
While the center's Web site is unclassified and available across the government, at the moment it has just 6,500 users with active accounts.
"The reluctance to use it is astounding to me," Scheuer said. "Nobody wants to go back in response to an assignment and say, 'Oh, my Open Source Center found this on a server in Belgium."
Prospective junior spies, before you try to have a look at the CIA blogs, reread the above: you have to be a registered user with an active U.S. government account to gain access.
Here's a link to the DNI/CIA's November 8 press release announcing the creation of the Open Source Center.
Liana Toscanini is the owner of LT Home, a shop in Great Barrington, Massachusetts specializing in ready–made slipcovers.
Her customers "were always complaining to her that their skinny–armed sofas looked pitiful under the one–size–fits–most covers," wrote Jura Koncius in a November 10 Washington Post Home section story.
He noted that some desperate housewives even pad their old–fashioned slim–line versions with towels and duct tape.
Not a pleasant thought, that.
Toscanini, thus inspired, came up with Furniture Falsies (below) —
arm pillows made of muslin and polyester, designed to plump up old sofas and club chairs so that nobody else knows.
Said Toscanini in the Post article, "The majority of my customers are covering something that has been ruined, very often by pets."
At least, that's what they tell her.
Koncius noted that Ms. Toscanini is indeed related to legendary conductor Arturo Toscanini, who died in 1957: he was her grandfather.
Furniture Falsies cost $19.95 a pair here.
Robert L. Wolke on how to measure a teaspoon of salt
Robert L. Wolke, author of the "Food 101" column which appears every Wednesday in the Washington Post's Food section, never fails to instruct and entertain.
Here's his November 9 discussion of how one teaspoon of salt is not at all the same as another if one of them is coarse–grained, a la kosher salt.
At the end he throws in, more or less as an aside, his opinion on super–expensive sea salts that are all the rage with chefs like Thomas Keller and Charlie Trotter: all crunch and no cattle.
No, wait a minute, that's not right — all hat and no salt.
No, that's even more messed up.
Read the column; enough of me.
- Q. In a recent column, you mentioned that plain old table salt is the standard of measurement in baking recipes. However, several chefs and cookbook authors specify kosher salt or sea salt. Do I use the same amounts of these kinds?
A. No, I'm afraid they all measure out differently.
A few years ago, before the nation's chefs broke out in a rash of irrational exuberance about sea salts, a teaspoon of salt meant a teaspoon of the only salt in most people's kitchens: salt-shaker or table salt -- most often that familiar blue, cylindrical canister that Pours When It Rains.
It is still the standard of measurement. (And by the way, that little girl with the umbrella is now 91 years old.)
But kosher salt is deliberately manufactured in coarser grains, to work better in the koshering process.
Because its bigger crystals don't pack down as well into the measuring spoon, a teaspoon of kosher salt contains less actual salt than a teaspoon of table salt.
How much less?
Many writers quote a single conversion factor, without knowing that the two major brands of kosher salt have different crystal sizes and therefore measure differently.
For Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, use twice the stipulated amount.
For Morton's Kosher Salt, use about 1 1/2 times the amount stipulated in a recipe.
If a recipe specifies kosher salt without naming the brand, just turn your back to the stove and throw some over your shoulder.
After all, seasoning should be adjusted to your taste in the final stages of cooking, and the amount of salt specified in a recipe is often just a suggestion.
What about measuring sea salts?
Forget about it.
Using them in cooking is pure foolishness, because their sole distinction is the size and shape of their crystals, and these disappear the moment they dissolve in the food.
Sea salts are for sprinkling ad lib onto a finished dish to deliver crunch and bursts of flavor.
Rechargeable Battery–Powered Heated Seat Cushion
Sure, it's great being up there in Green Bay watching your beloved Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field but wouldn't it be even better if your butt weren't frozen solid?
This nifty cushion has a flat rechargeable battery sewn into the cushion — no batteries to buy or inserts to remove and microwave.
You plug it in overnight and in the morning you've got 5–7 hours of toasty sitting ahead, no matter what the weather.
"2"–thick top–grade polyurethane foam gives you extra cushioning; water-resistant, 1000–denier–Cordura nylon shell stands up to inclement weather and won't wear out."
AC charger included.
Measures 15" x 16" and weighs 3 lbs.
In red, green or navy.
No problema: $79.99 here.
BehindTheMedspeak: Could a 'Superpill' slash deaths from heart attack and stroke?
A cocktail of six existing drugs — three for blood pressure and one for cholesterol along with folic acid and aspirin — all combined into one pill to be taken daily would, according to some British doctors, benefit about one–third of those who took it.
The U.K. physicians believe such a pill should be given to everyone in the world over the age of 55.
They predict a potential 200,000 lives saved every year — in the U.K. alone.
Of those who would benefit from the drugs, "each of those individuals would gain about 12 years of extra life," said Nicholas Wald, an expert in preventative medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London.
In some cases, say the researchers, the increase in longevity might be as much as 20 years.
Note, though, that these estimates are statistical — not applicable to you as an individual.
For a group of which you're a member, yes, the benefits might well be seen — but you are a group of 1.
- 'Polypill' Could Slash Heart Attacks and Strokes
A wonder pill that could slash the rate of deaths from heart attack or stroke by over 80 per cent is being proposed by UK researchers.
The "Polypill" would contain a cocktail of six existing drugs and should be given to everybody over the age of 55, the researchers argue.
It could potentially save 200,000 lives every year in the UK alone, they say.
"There's probably no other preventative measure which would have greater impact on public health in the Western world," says Nicholas Wald, research leader and an expert in preventative medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, London.
"In people who start taking it at 55, about a third would expect to benefit," he says.
"Each of these individuals would gain about 12 years extra life - that is enormous."
In some cases the increase in longevity might be as much as 20 years, says the proposal.
"This is extremely important," says Richard Smith, editor of the British Medical Journal, which released three papers by Wald's group on Thursday.
"Heart attack and stroke kill half of the British population." Smith suggested that the BMJ issue in which the proposals appear might be the most important for 50 years.
The proposal is underpinned by a massive analysis of earlier trials of drugs that can lower different aspects of the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Over 750 trials involving 400,000 people were assessed.
However, the "Polypill" has yet to be tested in any clinical trials.
The pill would combine different drugs to try to lower the four key risk factors for heart disease: cholesterol, high blood pressure, high homocysteine blood levels and blood platelet function.
A statin would reduce high levels of the "bad" LDL cholesterol, slashing the risk of heart disease, while three blood pressure lowering drugs would reduce stroke risk, says Wald.
Folic acid in the pill would cut high homocysteine levels, which can encourage the build up of fatty plaques in arteries.
And finally aspirin would be added to regulate the function of blood platelets.
Overall, the wonder pill would cut the risk of heart disease by 88 per cent and stroke by 80 per cent, the scientists estimate.
The pill could also be produced cheaply, says Wald, as the patents on many of the components have expired or will do soon.
Eventually the drug could be given to everyone over 55, without requiring a medical examination, says Wald.
He believes that age is a more powerful predictor of cardiovascular disease than the risk factors usually considered.
"In Western society, the risk factors are high in us all, so everyone is at risk," he says.
"There is much to gain and little to lose by the widespread use of these drugs."
Rory Collins, a British Heart Foundation professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University told New Scientist he supports the Polypill concept, noting the idea has been mooted before.
"I think, in principle, it would produce substantial reductions in risk," says Collins, leader of the UK Heart Protection Study.
"The idea is a perfectly sensible one in that the effect of these treatments do appear to be largely independent of one another."
Wald and colleagues are planning a small trial examining combinations of blood pressure lowering drugs for use in the Polypill.
But he says clinical trials of the pill itself may be "tricky" as pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to be keen on funding the development costs of a pill containing off-patent drugs.
Handheld Weather Station
Kind of cool, actually, if you're hot about weather: this nifty handheld device also clips on your belt if you prefer to carry.
• 12 to 24 hour forecast
• Local temperature and humidity readings
• Easy–to–understand icons and barometric pressure trends
• Moon phase indicator
• Also doubles as a travel clock with crescendo alarm and snooze function
• Backlit HiGlo display
• Belt clip rotates to serve as a table stand
• 3.5"H x 2.25"W
Runs on 2 CR2032 watch batteries (included).
MorphWorld: Stainless Steel Odor Eater into Brancusi's 'Sleeping Muse'
Without any question this kitchen accessory (above) for removing smells from your hands will be the most beautiful tool in your pantry.
Tell you what: it's a lot cheaper than a Brancusi head (below).
The steel piece is $12 here.
High Voltage Messenger Bag
Made from military–style tough cotton canvas, with heavy–duty hardware and internal pockets and that striking shoulder strap.
I would predict that you have a 25% chance of not being allowed on your flight at a U.S. airport if you're sporting this as your carry–on.
Hey — don't say I didn't warn you.