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INTERESTING STUFF – 3 March 2018

MACARONI AND CHEESE RECIPE FROM 1784

I often think “mac and cheese,” as it appears to be called nowadays, has been fetishized beyond on all reason. Nevertheless, it is a great winter or comfort food that I like a lot.

So it was fun, this week, to run across this video of a macaroni and cheese recipe from 1784. Take a look:

This also turned up recently – count them - 38 macaroni and cheese recipes.

THE BEAST FROM THE EAST BLOWS INTO BRITAIN

As I write this on Friday, the east coast of the United States is being pummeled by a massive and destructive nor-easter. In Britain this past week, they called a similar storm with freezing Arctic winds, “The Beast From the East.”

The New York Times put together a video of it from around the country.

REMEMBER THAT TERRIBLE TAX OVERHAUL TRUMP SIGNED?

According to CEO Warren Buffet, Trump's recent tax cut for the rich, has given Buffet's company, Berkshire Hathaway, a $29 billion dollar windfall without his having lifted a finger:

”Berkshire’s $29 billion bonus stems from unrealized gains on equity investments getting taxed at a rate of 21 percent instead of the previous 35 percent rate,” reports the Daily Beast.

“The gain helped push Berkshire’s net earnings in 2017 up to $44.94 billion, nearly double the $24.07 billion recorded a year earlier. Buffet said while the gain is 'real,' it 'did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire.'”

LONDON'S SLIM HOUSE

It seems like every big city has a skinny house. The one in New York City, on the street where I lived, was 9.5 feet wide.

This one, in London, measures only 7.5 feet wide. According to the You Tube page:

”The narrow building features 3 floors, 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and was renovated by architects alma-nac, who added features to the house to maximise every inch of the limited space.”

Here is a video tour:

JOHN OLIVER ON HIS HBO SHOW, LAST WEEK TONIGHT

You may think Oliver's topic last Sunday, Italy's political difficulties, are irrelevant to the U.S. and a lot of other countries, but you would be wrong. Oliver at his best and funniest.

THE MOST FAMOUS ACTOR YOU'VE NEVER SEEN

This guy has been in more than 150 movies, but you would probably not recognize him if you saw him in the street.

”Doug Jones has been every creature, monster and villain known to Hollywood having portrayed the Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water, the Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four and the Thin Clown in Batman Returns, for example.

Here's an interview with him with a whole bunch of clips of the monsters he has played.

LIFE WITHOUT PAPER

Nothing ever dies on the internet and I suspect I posted this five years ago when it was new. But I had such a good laugh at it again that I didn't even check to see if I'm repeating myself. Enjoy.

A WALK THROUGH A FLOODED NATURE PRESERVE

When it rains a lot, the Rio da Prata river runs of slower form, causing its damming, thus increasing the water level of the Olho D'Água river, explains the YouTube page.

”Despite the flood, on the day the video was recorded the waters of the Olho D'Agua river remained crystal clear due to their conserved riparian forest and being inside a Private Reserve of the Natural Patrimony - PRNP, a type of Conservation Unit.

“This was a rare episode, and by the end of the day the river had returned to its normal level.”

ELEPHANTS RESCUE A BABY WHO FELL INTO A POOL

If the number of internet videos are an indication, baby elephants have a habit of falling into and getting stuck in waterholes. Then the grownups step in to save them. It is always heartwarming and fun to watch.

This one is from TGB reader Joan McMullen.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Trump's Budget and Medicare

(This is wonkier that usual in some places but I think it's important to know and I've tried to keep confusion to a minimum.)

Remember when, during the presidential campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly promised that he would never allow cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid? He said so at nearly every rally.

If you are still harboring a belief in any of Trump's promises, you must be part of his entrenched base, and in the case of his Medicare promise, he broke it “bigly” in his FY2019 budget proposal released on 12 February. You can read the entire budget here.

There are many good reasons not to like this budget but today's post is devoted primarily to Medicare, a program which, with my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer last year, is no longer theoretical.

Since then, there never once was a question of whether any procedure, surgery, treatment or care would be covered. Everything was. Or, to be clear, they were covered by Medicare along with my supplemental policy which takes up the slack of the 20 percent Medicare does not cover.

So well does this combined insurance work that already, eight months in, I have personally paid much more for medications under Medicare Part D than for medical care.

Now, as I get into the Trump budget Medicare particulars, keep in mind that the budget hasn't a chance of passing Congress. However, it is important for two reasons:

  • Essentially, it is a “values statement” from the president – what his priorities are for the people of the United States.

  • As we have seen on past issues and this week on gun control, the president's values are fungible. What he promotes one day can be withdrawn or condemned the next leaving no way to know what he will support.

So let's take the proposed budget as a starting place to keep in mind when later this year Trump and Congress try to craft a real 2019 budget and we will need to petition our individual representatives to do the right thing.

Trump's budget makes significant cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, $266 million from Medicare (mostly by reducing payments to physicians and skilled nursing facilities) and $1.1 trillion from Medicaid, both over 10 years. Among the changes are these:

Freezes most funding for the Older Americans Act (OAA) which supports home and community-based services that help keep elders in their homes and as independent as possible. This involves nutrition programs, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder abuse prevention and caregivers support.

It also cuts funding for falls prevention, elder rights support, and chronic disease self-management.

Abolishes certain federal block grants that states use to fund social service programs they believe are beneficial for elders including Meals on Wheels.

Restructures the Medicare drug benefit [Part D] to reduce costs for some beneficiaries but raise them for others. This is complicated and not worth the effort of the details right now.

It is enough to say that the sickest patients would pay nothing after they reach the “catastrophic” threshold ($8,418 this year) while less ill beneficiaries would pay more than they do now before they reach the catastrophic level at which they pay five percent of drug costs.

No one knows how these changes would affect Part D premiums so let's be grateful this is unlikely to pass Congress.

Kills the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) which prepares low-income, unemployed, older workers for re-entry into the workforce partly through jobs with local governments and non-profits.

In addition, the Trump budget proposal would gut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as food stamps - by $17.2 billion which is equal to about 22 percent of the program's 2016 cost.

As the Washington Post noted, this would ”...bring a fundamental change to a program that for the past 40 years has allowed recipients to use SNAP benefits at grocery stores as if they were cash. SNAP provides an average of $125 per month to 42.2 million Americans.”

In place of about half the SNAP benefit, the Department of Agriculture would buy and deliver a package of food called “America's Harvest Box” which would include “shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans, and canned meat, fruits and vegetables.”

White House Budget Director and rich white guy, Mick Mulvaney, has compared this new program to Blue Apron. (Yeah, right.)

All these cuts and reductions come on the heels of the massive tax cut bill passed not long ago that primarily benefits rich people. CEO Warren Buffet announced this week that his investment firm, Berkshire Hathaway, gained a windfall of $29 billion dollars from doing absolutely nothing – just from the tax bill changes.

To people in Buffet's economic range, the cuts enumerated here today are too miniscule to even take note of. But to recipients, they can be life savers.

Nancy Altman is president of Social Security Works and America's leading expert on Social Security along with other government social programs. She wrote this in response to Trump’s FY19 budget proposal:

“Despite Donald Trump’s numerous promises during his presidential campaign to not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, he proposes to cut all three in his just-released budget. And not just by a little. He proposes cuts of over $1.8 trillion to the three programs.

“On top of that, he proposes to slash Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance, and other programs on which seniors rely. It is noteworthy that Republicans just passed, for almost the same price tag, a huge tax giveaway to their donors.

“So that’s the Republican plan: save money by gutting programs for the elderly and transfer the savings to the billionaire class.”

As I said above, the presidential budget proposal has a long history of irrelevance and will not get through Congress. But pieces of it might and it is worth knowing this stuff to understand how many ways the federal government is willing to leave elders out in the cold – literally in some cases.