McDonald's

Richard Cordray, President Obama's choice to head the new consumer financial protection bureau, came to Capitol Hill for his confirmation hearings on Tuesday. And, by all accounts, even Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee were impressed. Via ABC News:  He appeared to be liked personally by [Ranking Minority member Richard] Shelby and Bob Corker of Tennessee, the other Republican at the committee confirmation hearing.

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Per Alex Massie, a story of determination and triumph: A retired prison guard in the US has eaten his 25,000th Big Mac. It has been 39 years to the day since Don Gorske ate his first nine. At a ceremony in his honour at a McDonald's in his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, he said he would continue to eat Big Macs "until I die". Mr Gorske, 57, appeared in the 2004 documentary film Super Size Me, which looks at the impact of a daily diet of McDonald's food.

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Below is my latest column for Kaiser Health News. It's the first in what I hope will be a series of clip'n'save posts that you can keep at hand--in this case, for quick reference every time you hear a conservative critic attacking health care reform. Sometimes those critics will be wrong. Sometimes they will be right.

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During the forced famine in the Ukraine under Stalin, you had mass starvation, and one of the things people to survive did was sell some kind of gelatinous stew that actually consisted of human flesh. (The purpose of selling the stuff was so that everybody could tell each other they were eating something non-human based.) Now, suppose the government changed policies and ended the famine. Would you complain that they're putting the flesh-sellers out of business and taking away a major source of nutrition? That's basically what's happening in health care.

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Here's a headline sure to give the White House and its allies grief today: "McDonald's May Drop Health Plan." It's for an article by Janet Adamy in the Wall Street Journal.

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Can't imagine anything going wrong with this plan: Beijing is to install 100 deodorant guns at a stinking landfill site on the edge of the city in a bid to dampen complaints about the capital's rubbish crisis. ... Beijing's waste problem—and China's—is expanding as fast as its economy, at about 8% each year. With millions more people now able to afford Starbucks, McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken and other elements of a western, throwaway lifestyle, the landfill sites and illegal tips that ring the capital are close to overflowing. Granted, deodorant guns aren't the only option out there.

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Sarah Palin, M.I.A.

Since I am back from having a tooth pulled, a second column on dentistry seems in order. My last column noted a terrific story by NPR reporter Sarah Varney about how hundreds of thousands of poor and disabled Californians have lost dental coverage through California Medicaid. Tens of thousands of these men and women have intellectual disabilities. Dentistry is a sore spot in our family. Finding a dentist willing and able to treat an intellectually disabled man for the pittance paid by Medicaid hasn't been easy. We've gotten some very shoddy care before finding the good dentist we now use.

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The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis (Basic Books, 505 pp., $27.95) I. In 1775, Percivall Pott, a surgeon at St. Bartholemew's Hospital in London who gave his name to several diseases and conditions, published Chirurgical Observations. Although he had treated such distinguished personages as Samuel Johnson and Thomas Gainsborough, his treatise focused on the lowliest of the low. In so doing, he became the first to hypothesize what is now a widespread notion: that cancer can be caused by environmental exposure.

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The Devil's Advocate

The sleazy lobbyist who might save the world.

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Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think By Brian Wansink (Bantam, 276 pp., $25) The idea of "the survival of the fittest" is one of the most powerful organizing principles in all of science. That simple idea, stated by Herbert Spencer on the basis of Charles Darwin's work and later endorsed by Darwin himself, captures the theory of evolution, the process of natural selection, and a host of associated notions. And yet the phrase can produce confusion.

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