Friday, January 30, 2015

NYC conflates protesters with terrorists

"The NYPD will launch a unit of 350 cops to handle both counterterrorism and protests — riding vehicles equipped with machine guns and riot gear — under a re-engineering plan to be rolled out over the coming months."

Oh dear god, people. Protesting is a Constitutionally protected act. Terrorism is violence designed to terrorize a community.  Get these people a dictionary!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

How safe is our electric grid? Pakistan sends a warning

"ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Towns and cities across Pakistan plunged into darkness early Sunday when what officials said was an attack by militants on a transmission line short-circuited the national electricity grid, presenting a new indictment of the government’s faltering efforts to solve the country’s chronic power crisis.
Emergency efforts to end the blackout, widely described as Pakistan’s worst ever, resulted in a partial restoration of power in the capital, Islamabad, and the most populous city, Karachi, by Sunday evening. Even so, 80 percent of the country remained without power, including the provincial capitals of Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta, an official said."

So how safe is our electricity grid?

"The specter of a large-scale, destructive attack on the U.S. power grid is at the center of much strategic thinking about cybersecurity. For years, Americans have been warned by a bevy of would-be Cassandras in Congress, the administration and the press that hackers are poised to shut it down.
But in fact, the half-dozen security experts interviewed for this article agreed it’s virtually impossible for an online-only attack to cause a widespread or prolonged outage of the North American power grid. Even laying the groundwork for such a cyber operation could qualify as an act of war against the U.S. — a line that few nation-state-backed hacker crews would wish to cross."

Monday, January 19, 2015

micro home communities a good way to help the homeless?

"Heben, the young urban planner and tiny-home evangelist who lives nearby, showed me around, explaining that Opportunity — which grew out of an Occupy camp, with the support of Eugene’s mayor — was built with $100,000 in donated funds plus roughly another $100,000 worth of donated material. Cottages cost a max of $2,000 apiece to build. Residents chip in $30 a month for the shared utilities.
Life at Opportunity does not feel as tidy as at Quixote. With no proper indoor kitchen, residents cook on grills or with a variety of toaster ovens in an outdoor area. The cottages are not heated, and on really cold nights, everyone sleeps in the yurt.
'There’s lots of sickness and colds,' said Tom, who looked a bit like an older Matthew McConaughey with his blue eyes and long blond hair under a Hard Rock Cafe cap. A former Ohio trucker who lost work during the recession, he now collects cans around town so he can make up to $20 a day in refunds. He likes to buy steak with his food stamps."

This is a great article about several communities of micro-houses.  Very thought-inducing.

oil pipeline spill in Montana hard to clean up because of ice

"A Bridger Pipeline spokesman said the break happened Saturday morning about 9 miles upstream from Glendive. The company, which transports Bakken crude, is confident that no more than 1,200 barrels — or 50,000 gallons — of oil spilled during the hour-long breach.
This spill is similar in size to another pipeline in the Yellowstone River that gained national attention. ExxonMobil’s Silvertip pipeline burst on July 1, 2011, below the Yellowstone riverbed near Laurel, Montana, during a flood. More than 1,500 barrels of oil, or 63,000 gallons, quickly spread downstream, affecting wildlife, parks, landowners, ag producers, and others. Hundreds of workers cleaned up the oily mess for months at a cost of $135 million, $1.6 million in state fines for Exxon, and a lawsuit against the oil company by landowners affected by the spill.
In the latest spill, an oil sheen was spotted some 60 miles downstream. Ice on the river has hampered early clean-up effort.
Some Glendive residents have reported being able to taste or smell the oil in their drinking water."

So long as we use oil we'll have spills. But this emphasizes the need for great care, and critics of Keystone XL pipeline are trying to make sure happens. If oil spills, as it inevitably will, it should not be over an aquifer that is irreplaceable should it become contaminated.

Kings and serfs will be all that's left after the rich finish us off

"If trends continue, Oxfam predicts that the most-affluent will possess more wealth than the remaining 99 percent by 2016, The New York Times reported.
Drill down the numbers even more and you'll learn that the 80 wealthiest people in the world possess $1.9 trillion, which is almost the same amount shared by some 3.5 billion people at the bottom half of the world's income scale.
Thirty-five of the lucky 80 were Americans with a combined wealth of $941 billion. Germany and Russia shared second place, with seven uber-rich individuals apiece.
Not surprisingly, the richest were titans in the finance, health care, insurance, retail, tech and extractives (oil, gas) industries, and they paid fortunes to lobbyists to maintain or increase their riches. Seventy of the world's wealthiest were men. And 11 members of the elite 80 simply inherited their wealth."

This is going back to the Middle Ages, where all the wealth was kept in the castle for the king and his close friends and family. Everyone else worked for the king under poverty income.  Is that what we want?  Not me.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

US the richest country on earth, eh

"For the first time, more than half of U.S. public school students live in low-income households, according to a new analysis from the Southern Education Foundation.
Overall, 51 percent of U.S. schoolchildren came from low-income households in 2013, according to the foundation, which analyzed data from National Center for Education Statistics on students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Eligibility for free or subsidized lunch for students from low-income households serves as a proxy for gauging poverty, says the foundation, which advocates education equity for students in the South.
The report shows the percentage of schoolchildren from poor households has grown steadily for nearly a quarter-century, from 32 percent in 1989. "By 2006, the national rate was 42 percent and, after the Great Recession, the rate climbed in 2011 to 48 percent," says the report."

Our income distribution is going back to the time where someone in a castle hoarded all the wealth, while everyone else was a servant or vassal.  I don't like it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

indoor farming is much more efficient

"The statistics for this incredibly successful indoor farming endeavor in Japan are staggering: 25,000 square feet producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day (100 times more per square foot than traditional methods) with 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than outdoor fields. But the freshest news from the farm: a new facility using the same technologies has been announced and is now under construction in Hong Kong, with Mongolia, Russia and mainland China on the agenda for subsequent near-future builds."

This is quite amazing and should work for many crops. Of course, things like corn, which grows up to 8 feet tall, would be a bit prohibitive.  But still this is great.