We all know James Bond had a hankering for martinis. But it looks like the international spy threw back far more Vespers, his martini of choice, than was good for him.
Dr. Indra Neil Guha, a liver specialist, and his colleagues at Nottingham University Hospital in England spent a year poring over Ian Fleming's James Bond books and tabulating how many drinks the suave spy drank a day.
On average, Bond consumed about 45 drinks a week, or six to seven a day, the authors wrote Thursday in the annual Christmas edition of BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. That's way more than the amount considered risky for men by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
It wasn't just chronic drinking that roughed up Bond's liver. He also went on some mean benders. In Casino Royale, Bond knocked back nearly 20 drinks before going on a high-speed car chase, getting in a wreck and then spending two weeks in the hospital. "We hope that this was a salutary lesson," the doctors wrote dryly.
"This man clearly consumed what are considered to be harmful amounts of alcohol," says psychiatrist Peter Martin, who directs the Vanderbilt Addiction Center. "There are data that show that drinking like this, about 100 grams of alcohol a day, is highly likely to be associated with liver cirrhosis and also cognitive deficits." It would also be likely to increase risks for depression and sexual dysfunction, conditions that would not be very Bondian.
But Martin says, Bond's habit might not have been quite as bad it first seemed. For starters, the recommended maximum number of drinks is calculated for the average man, weighing about 154 pounds. "Bond was 6 feet 2 inches, or maybe 3 inches, tall, and probably weighed close to 200 pounds. So that would mitigate the numbers."
Martin, an admitted Bond fan, adds, "You have to remember, this was the '50s. People drank more and smoked more." And Bond was hardly alone. "Think about how much a person like Winston Churchill drank," Martin says. "He drank a lot! But yet he ran the effort of the western nations in the world war. So this is not unprecedented."
Duke neuropsychologist Scott Swartzwelder doesn't buy the Bond myth. He thinks all those Vesper martinis over the years would have hurt Bond's career. Even just steadying his Walther PPK would have become difficult, Swartzwelder says.
"Bond isn't going to be downing three or four martinis, and then winning a fight with five guys," Swartzwelder tells Shots. "He might be starting the fights, but he's not winning them."
The old saw that every drink kills lots of brain cells isn't true, Swartzwelder says. "But chronic drinking does damage neurons and brain circuits over time," he says. "And there are parts of the brain that you don't want to damage if you're an international spy."
First off, chronic alcohol abuse can injure the cerebellum, the brain region involved with coordination, Swartzwelder says. "It allows you to string together a series of athletic movements."
"If Bond is pickling his cerebellum on a regular basis, he's not going to be able to learn fight sequences, jump through windows and shoot at the same time or even learn those dance sequences with his girlfriend," he says.
The second brain region damaged by years of heavy drinking is the hippocampus, Swartzwelder says. Shaped like a little sea horse, the hippocampus is dedicated to forming new memories.
"It is very sensitive to the effects of alcohol," he says. "Bond wouldn't be able to remember all those names, card numbers at poker games or even all his girlfriends' phones numbers if his hippocampus wasn't working correctly. "
"Believe me," Swartzwelder says. "Bond wouldn't have been doing the things that we he was doing in those movies if he drank as much as the study found."
And Swartzwelder thinks the authors of the BMJ study did a pretty good job of accurately calculating the spy's drinking habit.
"The authors astutely counted the martinis as three alcohol units," or 1.5 drinks, Swartzwelder says. "Most college students — even many people — don't know what one drink is. So they underestimate their alcohol intake. A wineglass filled up more than a third of the way, that's more than one drink."
Plus, he says, people have to be careful with beer these days because many of them have almost as much alcohol per volume as wine.
"I went out for a beer with a young friend of mine, who's all into all these fancy beers, and I was drunk after drinking just one," Swartzwelder says. "Then I realized, the beer had more than 8 percent alcohol in it. It was like I was drinking a pint of wine."
The House has approved a bipartisan budget deal to cut around $23 billion from the federal deficit over 10 years while removing the threat of a possible government shutdown until 2015. A shutdown deadline had loomed for Jan. 15.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 also sets spending levels for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, which its backers say will add more stability to both the U.S. economy and the government's operations.
Update at 6:35 p.m. ET: The Vote Tally
The measure was approved 332-94, with more than 160 Democrats joining the Republican majority to vote in favor. More than 60 Republicans voted against the bill.
Our original post continues:
Passage of the bill had been expected after an early vote to establish debate passed by a tally of 226-195. All Republicans supported that move except Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.
The deal was announced earlier this week, after being pounded out by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. It passed despite opposition from House Republicans in the Tea Party faction.
The deal has been described as having "something for everyone to dislike," giving neither Republicans nor Democrats a substantial policy victory. It is expected to win endorsement in the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama, perhaps as early as next week.
Here are some key criticisms of the bill:
- Democrats say the compromise doesn't restore money to domestic programs and will not extend long-term unemployment insurance that is scheduled to end after Dec. 28.
- Republicans say the deal eases the threat of sequester, removing a key bargaining chip. It also doesn't include enough spending cuts or reform social programs, they say.
Retired military personnel are also speaking out against the deal, which includes a 1 percent cut to cost-of-living raises for military retirees "who aren't disabled and not yet 62 years old," as CNN Money reports.
"When compounded, the 1 percent cut could result in much more than a 20 percent cut in retiree pension over the course of 20 years," the site says.
The deal also includes modest reforms.
"For example, all states would be required to use a Treasury program to crack down on fraud and over-payments in jobless benefits," David Rogers writes at Politico. "And the agreement puts a first-time $487,000 cap on what the government will compensate contractors for the top salaries of their executives."
As the Republican-controlled House prepared to vote on the compromise this week, conservative groups such as the Club for Growth, Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity all weighed in against it.
The Club for Growth issued a statement today urging a "No" vote on the deal, calling it the "same old same old." The statement ended with a reminder that the group compiles a congressional scorecard, which it widely distributes.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed to have no patience for those groups as they lobbied against the measure this week.
"They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals," he said on Capitol Hill Wednesday. "This is ridiculous."
He stepped up that attack Thursday.
"I think they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to be, and frankly, I just think that they've lost all credibility," Boehner said, according to The Hill.
At a press briefing today, Boehner was "unhinged," The Hill's Molly Hooper says. The event included the speaker re-enacting a moment from the recent government shutdown.
"If you recall, the day before the government reopened, one of these groups stood up and said, 'Well, we never really thought it would work,' " Boehner said.
"Are you kidding me?!" he yelled, bending over and pulling a face that expressed his displeasure and sent camera shutters clicking.
Hooper adds, "Boehner had a good time, it seemed like, attacking these groups that have been attacking him for the past three years."
As we reported earlier today, Ryan told NPR's Audie Cornish that the budget deal allows Congress to "get some semblance of bipartisanship, get this government working at just a minimum, basic functioning level."
Responding to the argument that the compromise discards Republicans' bargaining leverage by easing parts of the sequester, Ryan said, "I disagree with that, because 92 percent of the sequester remains intact."
He also noted that many Republicans are concerned about a possible round of cuts that would target the military, as part of the next phase of the sequestration.
Ryan said, "the fact of the matter is, you don't get everything you want in a divided government."
This week, the Los Angeles group La Santa Cecilia joins World Cafe in concert for WXPN's first installment of Latin Roots Live. This set with the popular Mexican-American band was recorded at World Cafe Live Upstairs in Philadelphia.
The group, named for the patron saint of musicians, got its start by playing on the streets of L.A., then released its self-titled debut EP in 2009. With the charismatic La Marisoul as lead vocalist, La Santa Cecilia gained support by playing gigs throughout North America and Mexico.
Elvis Costello is one of the band's most vocal fans; the English singer-songwriter invited La Marisoul to sing on Wise Up Ghost, his recent collaboration with The Roots, and he appears on La Santa Cecilia's major-label debut, Treinta Días. The record was nominated for a 2013 Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album.
Listen to La Santa Cecilia's 2013 EP, Noche y Citas, on Spotify.
Latin Roots on World Cafe is made possible by a grant from The Wyncote Foundation.
- "Treinta Dias"
- "Losing Game"
- "La Negra"
- "Tainted Love"
- "Strawberry Fields"
John Boehner has had it with fielding complaints from the right.
The House Speaker's frustration with conservative groups opposing the budget deal boiled over Wednesday, when he delivered an unusually stinging critique, and again the next day.
"Frankly," he told reporters Thursday at a news conference, "I just think they've lost all credibility."
With Boehner, perhaps.
But at the grass roots level, a Wednesday event held by one of those groups suggested the speaker's view of the budget agreement will still get some pushback.
At a meeting sponsored by the Texas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, Rebecca Hobbs rolled her eyes and laughed as she contemplated the deal.
"I wish there were cuts involved in it," said Hobbs, a San Antonio Realtor. "Otherwise, I don't know how you manage."
She suggested that members of Congress just wanted to get a deal out of the way, so they could be home in time for Christmas. Later Thursday, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill, by a 332-94 vote. The Senate is expected to follow suit next week.
That skepticism permeated the AFP meeting held just outside San Antonio, beginning with the event's title: "All I Want for Christmas is Less Federal Spending."
To illustrate the problem of excess, Peggy Venable, AFP's state director, showed slides that asked multiple choice and true-or-false questions about federal programs.
It quickly became clear that the correct answer was always the largest dollar amount, whether Venable was talking about caviar marketing, subsidies for Brazilian cotton farmers, the NASA effort to develop recipes for serving pizza on Mars, or money spent flying around President Obama's dog Bo.
The latter case was illustrated with a cartoon of a dog sitting on a throne, draped in a robe and holding a scepter.
"I wonder if the new dog has his own jet," she asked.
Along with other conservative groups such as Club for Growth and Heritage Action, AFP opposes the congressional budget deal.
AFP is partially funded by Charles and David Koch, the oil billionaire brothers whose free spending on political issues has angered liberal groups. But it prides itself on being a member organization, so in response to the budget negotiations in Congress, it has been holding a series of town hall events around the country.
Like the other groups, Americans for Prosperity is dismayed that the new legislation would lift spending above the sequester levels set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
"Our message has been a real simple one," Venable said in an interview. "We want Congress to adhere to the BCA spending levels and anything above that is unacceptable."
At a news conference Wednesday, Boehner expressed his annoyance at hardline positions like that, insisting that the budget deal offered deficit reduction over the long haul.
"They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals," Boehner said. "This is ridiculous."
Cut Somewhere Else
Philip Krueger, a semi-retired engineer from Heliotes, Texas, said Venable was "preaching to the choir" when it came to outlining wasteful government spending.
Krueger attended AFP's event along with his wife Judith Newman, who is a pediatric opthamologist, and Robert Luedecke, also a physician. All agreed that Washington is spending more than the country can afford.
Nevertheless, their own table talk over plastic cups of water and wine illustrated the difficulty involved in cutting government spending.
The doctors were upset that Medicare reimbursement rates will be slashed by a quarter next month, unless Congress passes its annual "doc fix."
"They fix it every year but can't come up with a reasonable way of planning that," Luedecke said. "No business works that way."
His concern is not so much his own income, he said, but being able to find a doctor who still accepts Medicare patients when he reaches retirement age himself.
When asked whether concern about Medicare payment levels might contradict the desire to see government spending go down, Krueger suggested it would be better to cut food stamps.
"It's great to take care of everybody, but we don't have the money," he said. "Our kids and grandkids will be paying for it for 100 years."
Fit Audience, Though Few
The AFP event in Texas featured a Christmas theme, complete with a Santa Claus ready to pose for pictures, whom the crowd generally seemed too old to be much interested in. About three dozen people showed up.
"I have a concern that there's very few people here," Ruby Casteel, another Realtor, said to Venable during a question and answer session.
Venable said more people had turned out in Amarillo on Monday and that she expected a bigger crowd Friday in Midland. She conceded it's tough to gather people on short notice in December, but praised those in attendance for demonstrating a real interest in the issues at hand.
She urged her San Antonio audience to call members of Congress in opposition to the budget package, and to tweet using the hashtag "noemptypromises." She said that AFP members and "activists" had logged 15,000 calls on Tuesday and Wednesday — 3,000 of which, she noted, came from Texas.
"We know a few people can make a difference," she said, "but more people can make a bigger difference."
- "Treinta Dias"
- "Losing Game"
- "La Negra"
- "Tainted Love"
- "Strawberry Fields"
Some moments feel like turning points. Speaker John Boehner's rhetorical takedown of his party's Tea Party faction seems like one such moment.
For two days running, Boehner, R-Ohio, has made clear that he's heard just about enough from conservative advocacy groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks.
On Wednesday, he called them "ridiculous." On Thursday, he said "they've lost all credibility."
Stoking Boehner's anger was their rapid-fire opposition to the modest budget deal reached by fellow Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, Congress' respective budget committee chairmen. The measure was passed by the House Thursday evening.
But he seemed even more ticked off by what he said, in so many words, was an unserious approach to governing demonstrated by those groups and their allies in Congress.
All of it resulted in the normally buttoned down Boehner delivering a GIF-ready performance as he showed his disgust for the attitude hard-liners took toward the government shutdown.
Recalling how an individual with one of the just-say-no conservative groups conceded just before the shutdown ended that they had never thought the approach would work to defund Obamacare anyway, Boehner exclaimed: "Are you kidding me?" He punctuated his words with so much head and torso movement you would've thought you were watching Lebron James executing a crossover.
We may be witnessing the new Boehner, the fed-up Boehner, the Boehner who's done with having his leadership and even his manhood questioned.
And it comes not a moment too soon, as far as the speaker's allies are concerned. "To me, it's like Christmas came earlier in December than it normally does," said Steve LaTourette, a former Ohio Republican congressman and Boehner friend who runs a Washington lobby shop.
"It's really just a byproduct of the fact that he's a very patient fellow and his fuse was a lot longer than a lot of other people's, including mine, that he's run out of patience," said LaTourette, who also heads the Republican Main Street Partnership, a group of establishment Republicans for whom compromise is not a dirty word but a necessity for a governing party.
LaTourette's reading of the situation is that Boehner, wanting to let his caucus express its will, allowed the hard-liners to steer the ship of state for a while even though he disagreed with their full-steam-ahead approach — an approach that led to a government shutdown. He hoped they would learn from the experience of crashing into an iceberg.
This week suggested they hadn't. But Boehner's not going to let them get their hands on the wheel again so long as he has a say in the matter.
By calling out his party's hard-liners and showing he's willing to brawl with them, Boehner may have actually enhanced his status and hold on power.
Members of Congress, like voters and people generally, tend to respond better to leaders who project strength. Some have perceived Boehner's past deferral to hard-liners as weakness. He is giving people a chance to reconsider that perception.
"The audience for what the speaker had to say isn't the 25 chuckleheads who are going to vote 'no,' no matter what happens," LaTourette said.
Instead, the audience is the roughly 100 of the 144 House Republicans who voted against the reopening of the government but are persuadable.
"Will this be a good enough sign to the 100 men and women who really want to be good conservatives but govern at the end of the day, that the speaker has their back and so they're going to have his?" LaTourette asks. "That's the script that has to be written yet."
And Boehner seems intent in writing that script in ALL CAPS.
- "Treinta Dias"
- "Losing Game"
- "La Negra"
- "Tainted Love"
- "Strawberry Fields"