Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2730 on: Jan 29th, 2011, 3:36pm »
Ok, this one here is quite silly. And I wonder if they maybe were responsible for all the dead birds falling from the sky when they feel the need to take such drastic measures. Poor folks.
Better in than out: African country set to make breaking wind a crime
By Colin Fernandez Last updated at 10:36 AM on 28th January 2011
Breaking wind is set to be made a crime in an African country.
The government of Malawi plan to punish persistent offenders 'who foul the air' in a bid to 'mould responsible and disciplined citizens.'
But locals fear that pinning responsibility on the crime will be difficult - and may lead to miscarriages of justice as 'criminals' attempt to blame others for their offence.
One Malawian told the website Africanews.com: 'My goodness. What happens in a public place where a group is gathered. Do they lock up half a minibus?
'And how about at meetings where it is difficult to pinpoint 'culprits'?
'Children will openly deny having passed bad air and point at an elder. Culturally, this is very embarrassing,' she said.
Another said: 'We have serious issues affecting Malawians today. I do not know how fouling the air should take priority over regulating Chinese investments which do not employ locals, serious graft amongst legislators, especially those in the ruling party, and many more.'
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2736 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 08:44am »
Light bulb factory closes; End of era for U.S. means more jobs overseas
By Peter Whoriskey Wednesday, September 8, 2010; 9:48 PM
WINCHESTER, VA. - The last major GE factory making ordinary incandescent light bulbs in the United States is closing this month, marking a small, sad exit for a product and company that can trace their roots to Thomas Alva Edison's innovations in the 1870s.
The remaining 200 workers at the plant here will lose their jobs.
"Now what're we going to do?" said Toby Savolainen, 49, who like many others worked for decades at the factory, making bulbs now deemed wasteful.
During the recession, political and business leaders have held out the promise that American advances, particularly in green technology, might stem the decades-long decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. But as the lighting industry shows, even when the government pushes companies toward environmental innovations and Americans come up with them, the manufacture of the next generation technology can still end up overseas.
What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014. The law will force millions of American households to switch to more efficient bulbs.
The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense. But the move also had unintended consequences.
Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China.
Consisting of glass tubes twisted into a spiral, they require more hand labor, which is cheaper there. So though they were first developed by American engineers in the 1970s, none of the major brands make CFLs in the United States.
"Everybody's jumping on the green bandwagon," said Pat Doyle, 54, who has worked at the plant for 26 years. But "we've been sold out. First sold out by the government. Then sold out by GE. "
Doyle was speaking after a shift last month surrounded by several co-workers around a picnic table near the punch clock. Many of the workers have been at the plant for decades, and most appeared to be in their 40s and 50s. Several worried aloud about finding another job.
"When you're 50 years old, no one wants you," Savolainen said. It was meant half in jest, but some of the men nod grimly.
If there is a green bandwagon, as Doyle says, much of the Obama administration is on board. As a means of creating U.S. jobs, the administration has been promoting the nation's "green economy" - solar power, electric cars, wind turbines - with the idea that U.S. innovations in those fields may translate into U.S. factories. President Obama said last month that he expects the government's commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012, one step in a larger journey planned to restore U.S. manufacturing.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2737 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 08:47am »
New York Times
January 29, 2011 Obama Presses for Change but Not a New Face at the Top By DAVID E. SANGER and HELENE COOPER
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s decision to stop short, at least for now, of calling for Hosni Mubarak’s resignation was driven by the administration’s concern that it could lose all leverage over the Egyptian president, and because it feared creating a power vacuum inside the country, according to administration officials involved in the debate.
In recounting Saturday’s deliberations, they said Mr. Obama was acutely conscious of avoiding any perception that the United States was once again quietly engineering the ouster of a major Middle East leader.
But after the president and his advisers met early Saturday afternoon in the Situation Room, Mr. Obama, through a description of the session issued by the National Security Council, once again urged Mr. Mubarak to refrain from violence against the protesters and to support “concrete steps” that advanced political reform within Egypt. He did not define what those steps should be or whether the White House believed they could take place while Mr. Mubarak was in office.
According to senior administration officials at the meeting, Mr. Obama warned that any overt effort by the United States to insert itself into easing Mr. Mubarak out, or easing a successor in, could backfire. “He said several times that the outcome has to be decided by the Egyptian people, and the U.S. cannot be in a position of dictating events,” said a senior administration official, who like others, would not speak for attribution because of the delicacy of the discussions.
The administration’s restraint is also driven by the fact that, for the United States, dealing with an Egypt without Mr. Mubarak would be difficult at best, and downright scary at worst. For 30 years, his government has been a pillar of American foreign policy in a volatile region, not least because of Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. American officials fear that a new government — particularly one dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist groups — may not honor the treaty signed in 1979 by Mr. Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar el-Sadat.
Mr. Sadat was assassinated two years later, paving the way for Mr. Mubarak. “Clearly Mubarak’s time has run out,” said one of Mr. Obama’s advisers. “But whether that means he allows a real political process to develop, with many voices, or whether he steps out of the way — that’s something the Egyptians need to decide. We don’t get a vote.”
This is hardly the first time that Washington has faced the crisis of how to deal with an uprising against a hard-line, dictatorial or corrupt ally. Some officials have compared what is unfolding in Egypt with the uprisings more that three decades ago that led to the ouster of Iran’s shah, and the protests in the Philippines that brought down Ferdinand Marcos.
In Iran, Washington gambled on the emergence of a government that it could work with, and lost — a process that one member of the Obama cabinet, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, was deeply involved in as a young aide in the Carter administration. In the Philippines, the result was a messy democracy.
In the past, Mr. Mubarak has thrown the example of Iran in the face of American officials — perhaps as a warning not to press him too hard. In 2009, just before Mr. Mubarak came to Washington, the American ambassador to Cairo at the time, Margaret Scobey, noted in a cable to the State Department, “We have heard him lament the results of earlier U.S. efforts to encourage reform in the Islamic world.”
“Wherever he has seen these U.S. efforts, he can point to the chaos and loss of stability that ensued,” said the cable, one of a trove collected by WikiLeaks. “In addition to Iraq, he also reminds us that he warned against Palestinian elections in 2006 that brought Hamas (Iran) to his doorstep.”
Obama administration officials would like to see a moderate and secular government emerge from the ashes of the Egyptian crisis. But in large part because Mr. Mubarak stifled so much political debate and marginalized any opposition, there is no middle ground in Egypt’s politics, no credible secular party that grew up in opposition to Mr. Mubarak’s government. Instead, there is the army, which has long supported Mr. Mubarak’s government, and on the other end of the spectrum, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
That means that if free elections were held today, Egyptians would have to choose between two extremes, neither of which is attractive to the United States.
“We should not press for early elections,” Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser to President Bush, said in an interview. “We should give the Egyptian people time to develop non-Islamic parties. The point is to gain time so that civil societies can develop, so when they have an election, they can have real choices.”
Mr. Hadley said that given the choice, Egyptians might well settle on a hybrid government that might include the Muslim Brotherhood and a secular majority willing to continue to live by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Some officials have clearly begun to think about the many possibilities that could emerge should Mr. Mubarak depart from the presidential palace, including a government led by his newly installed vice president, Omar Suleiman, the country’s intelligence chief. American officials say that Mr. Suleiman has been described as more opposed to wide-ranging reforms than Mr. Mubarak. “Shifting the chairs for longtime supporters of Mubarak is not the kind of ‘concrete reform’ that the president is talking about,” one senior official said.
Another possibility, American officials say, would be a transitional government led by an outsider, perhaps Mohamed ElBaradei, the former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who flew back to Cairo several days ago.
Mr. ElBaradei, who has not lived in Egypt for years, has little connection to the protesters. A frequent critic of United States policy, he could form a caretaker government in preparation for an election. As one American official said, “He’s shown an independence from us that will squelch any argument that he’s doing our bidding.”
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2738 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 08:51am »
New York Times
January 29, 2011 Innovation Is Doing Little for Incomes By TYLER COWEN
MY grandmother, who was born in 1905, spoke often about the immense changes she had seen, including the widespread adoption of electricity, the automobile, flush toilets, antibiotics and convenient household appliances. Since my birth in 1962, it seems to me, there have not been comparable improvements.
Of course, the personal computer and its cousin, the smartphone, have brought about some big changes. And many goods and services are now more plentiful and of better quality. But compared with what my grandmother witnessed, the basic accouterments of life have remained broadly the same.
The income numbers for Americans reflect this slowdown in growth. From 1947 to 1973 — a period of just 26 years — inflation-adjusted median income in the United States more than doubled. But in the 31 years from 1973 to 2004, it rose only 22 percent. And, over the last decade, it actually declined.
Most well-off countries have experienced income growth slowdowns since the early 1970s, so it would seem that a single cause is transcending national borders: the reaching of a technological plateau. The numbers suggest that for almost 40 years, we’ve had near-universal dissemination of the major innovations stemming from the Industrial Revolution, many of which combined efficient machines with potent fossil fuels. Today, no huge improvement for the automobile or airplane is in sight, and the major struggle is to limit their pollution, not to vastly improve their capabilities.
Although America produces plenty of innovations, most are not geared toward significantly raising the average standard of living. It seems that we are coming up with ideas that benefit relatively small numbers of people, compared with the broad-based advances of earlier decades, when the modern world was put into place. If pre-1973 growth rates had continued, for example, median family income in the United States would now be more than $90,000, as opposed to its current range of around $50,000.
Will the Internet usher in a new economic growth explosion? Quite possibly, but it hasn’t delivered very good macroeconomic performance over the last decade. Many of the Internet’s gains are fun — games, chat rooms, Twitter streams — rather than vast sources of revenue, and when there have been measurable monetary gains, they often have been concentrated among a small number of company founders, as with, say, Facebook. As for users, the Internet has benefited the well-educated and the curious to a disproportionate degree, but apparently not enough to bolster median income.
Beyond the income slowdown, there is a further worry: an increasing share of the economy consists of education and health care. That trend is not necessarily bad, but in these two areas, results are often hard to measure. If health care costs rise 6 percent in a year, for example, that counts as higher G.D.P., but how much is our health actually improving? It’s an open question. America spends more on health care than other countries, but those expenditures don’t seem to produce uniformly superior results. And while there have certainly been gains in medical treatment, we may be overvaluing them. In education, we are spending more each year, but test scores have stagnated for decades, graduation rates are down and America’s worst schools are disasters.
There is an even broader problem. When it comes to measuring national income, we’re generally valuing expenditures at cost, rather than tracking productivity in terms of results. In other words, our statistics may be deceiving us — by accepting, say, our health care and educational expenditures at face value. This theme has been emphasized by the PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel in his public talks and by the economist Michael Mandel in his writings. And I’ve stressed it in a recent e-book, “The Great Stagnation.” Sooner or later, new technological revolutions will occur, perhaps in the biosciences, through genome sequencing, or in energy production, through viable solar power, for example. But these transformations won’t come overnight, and we’ll have to make do in the meantime. Instead of facing up to this scarcity, politicians promote tax cuts and income redistribution policies to benefit favored constituencies. Yet these are one-off adjustments and, over time, they cannot undo the slower rate of growth in average living standards.
It’s unclear whether Americans have the temperament to make a smooth transition to a more stagnant economy. After all, we’ve long thought of our country as the land of unlimited opportunity. In practice, this optimism has meant that we continue to increase government spending, whether or not we can afford it.
In the narrow sense, the solution to the stagnation of median income will not be a political one. And one of the hardest points to grasp about this quandary is that no one in particular is to blame. Scientific progress has never proceeded on an even, predictable basis, even though for part of the 20th century it seemed that it might.
Science should be encouraged with subsidies for basic research, as well as private charity, educational reform, a business culture geared toward commercializing inventions, and greater public appreciation for the scientific endeavor. A lighter legal and regulatory hand could ease the path of future innovations.
NONETHELESS, advancing discovery is not a goal to be reached by the mere application of will. Precisely because there is no obvious villain and no simple fix, and many complex factors behind success, science as a general topic doesn’t play a big role in American political discourse. When it comes to understanding our macroeconomic predicament, we often seem to be missing the point.
Until science has a greater impact again on average daily living standards, the political problem will be in learning to live within our means. Because neither major party seems to support a plausible path to fiscal balance, or to acknowledge how little control politicians actually have over future income growth, we unscientifically keep living in an age of denial.
Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2739 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 08:55am »
Climber found standing after 1,000ft plunge
Rescuers said a climber was lucky to be alive after he survived a 1,000ft (305m) plunge down a mountain. 9:06PM GMT 29 Jan 2011
A rescue helicopter crew found the man standing up, reading a map, when they flew to the scene to search for him.
The 35-year-old had just reached the summit of the 3,589ft (1,094m) Sgurr Choinnich Mor around five miles (8km) east of Ben Nevis, when he lost his footing and fell down the extremely steep and craggy eastern slope of the mountain at around 2pm on Saturday.
A Royal Navy Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet in Prestwick, Ayrshire, was already airborne for training and flew to the scene, arriving at 2.35pm.
The man was part of a group of 24 climbers, who pointed out the direction of their companion's fall to the helicopter team when they flew by.
Lieutenant Tim Barker, the crew's observer, said: ''We began to hover-taxi down the slope and spotted a man at the bottom, standing up.
''We honestly thought it couldn't have been him, as he was on his feet, reading a map. Above him was a series of three high craggy outcrops.
''It seemed impossible. So we retraced our path back up the mountain and, sure enough, there were bits of his kit in a vertical line all the way up where he had obviously lost them during the fall.
''It was quite incredible. He must have literally glanced off the outcrops as he fell, almost flying.''
A paramedic was winched down to check the man, who appeared to be unscathed beyond some superficial cuts and bruises and a minor chest injury,
He was said to be ''shaking from extreme emotional shock and the sheer relief at still being alive''.
The man was found at 2,600ft (792.5m), making his fall almost 1,000ft (305m) from the summit.
He was winched on board the helicopter and then transferred to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.
Lt Barker said: ''He is lucky to be alive.
''It's hard to believe that someone could have fallen that distance on that terrain and been able to stand up at the end of it, let alone chat to us in the helicopter on the way to the hospital.
''Really an amazing result - I have to say, when we got the call and realised the details of where he'd fallen, we did expect to arrive on scene to find the worst-case scenario.''
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2740 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 09:05am »
Egyptians guard against looting as Day 6 dawns
Officials say thousands of Islamist inmates have escaped, but activists say the government may be trying to create panic. As unrest continues, the U.S. Embassy tells Americans to consider leaving promptly.
An Egyptian with a knife mans a makeshift checkpoint in a Cairo neighborhood. (Yannis Behrakis, Reuters / January 30, 2011)
By Borzou Daragahi Los Angeles Times Staff Writer 6:41 AM PST, January 30, 2011
Egyptian authorities scrambled fighter jets low over a crowd of thousands of protesters in the capital city of Cairo Sunday afternoon as a sixth day of mass protests got underway and the military announced full control over major cities, Arab television showed.
There were also reports of protests against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's second city of Alexandria.
Residents stood guard against potential looting in their neighborhoods. Al Arabiya television reported that shops have been targeted in a rash of looting incidents and that the army had arrested an unspecified number of outlaws in the act of stealing.
Arabiya also reported in urgent screen captions that thousands of Islamists held in prisons had escaped from the Wadi Natroun prison north of Cairo.
The Associated Press cited unnamed security officials as saying prisoners had escaped from four prisons. But many Egyptian activists wonder whether the regime is creating a security panic in order to send protesters scurrying back to their homes, according to comments posted to the Internet.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Sunday urged Americans in Egypt to consider leaving the country for security reasons, news agencies reported.
Reporters in Cairo quoted by Arab television channels said there was an increased presence of military vehicles in the streets. The noisy crush of motor vehicles with beeping horns and pedestrians hurrying to work was all but absent.
Soldiers stood guard on streets, preventing drivers from accessing key roads. The army has pleaded with Egyptians to abide by a 6 p.m. curfew that has so far been brazenly flaunted.
For nearly a week, Egypt has been rocked by its worst civil unrest in recent history. Inspired by the popular uprising that toppled the 23-year regime of Tunisian strongman Zine el-Abidine ben Ali, ordinary Egyptians have taken to the streets to oppose Mubarak, who has ruled the country for 30 years. Led by a new generation of youth, they have defied Mubarak's extensive security apparatus, including police, which have largely fled their posts and left the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to the army.
Cell phone and Internet traffic continued to be spotty, the result of the regime's attempt to prevent protesters from organizing via text messages and social networking websites such as Facebook.
Mubarak's regime has also taken heavy-handed measures against international media. Al Jazeera on Sunday condemned the closure of its Cairo bureau by Egyptian authorities. The Doha-based channel, which has energized activists with its nonstop coverage of widespread protests against authoritarian regimes throughout the Arab wrold, vowed to continue their work.
"Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists," the network said in a statement. "In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard."
The Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings are motivating people around the Arab world to voice solidarity. Protesters gathered Friday in front of the Egyptian embassies in Amman, Jordan and Beirut.
"We would like to see all authoritarian regimes change their policies or risk the wrath of their people," Hamza Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, was quoted as saying.
He added that the event was a sign of Arab solidarity. "Arab reform has started in Tunisia and we expect to see it everywhere."
Protests against authoritarian Arab regimes have also broken out in Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. In Lebanon on Sunday morning, several hundred protesters marched in Beirut to demand the country's fragmented political elite quit squabbling and address economic concerns.
"Tunisia and Egypt had only one dictator," said Maytham Kassir, 20, a student at the Lebanese University. "We have or 15 or 16."
Special correspondent Meris Lutz contributed to this report.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2741 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 09:11am »
Flying cars finally lift off. It's easy to fly, it takes normal petrol and it actually exists.
by Tom Lamont The Observer, Sunday 30 January 2011
The Transition Roadable Aircraft, created by American company Terrafugia, has fold-out wings and is able to convent between driving and flying in around 20 seconds.
Those of us waiting patiently for the era of flying cars have been stung before. Usually by some delusional old tinkerer appearing on Tomorrow's World or Blue Peter, tantalisingly showing off some hovering hatchback or Cortina-with-wings and promising it'll be an everyday form of transport – soon. It never happens. As the characters in Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comic strip complained way back in 1989: "A new decade is coming up. Big deal! Where are the flying cars?"
Finally, in 2011, some action. Later this year an American company called Terrafugia will go into "low volume production" on its Transition Roadable Aircraft – a genuine, non-delusional, you-can-actually-buy-it-and-it-actually-flies flying car. It looks a bit like the Ghostbusters' vehicle with fold-out wings, and will cost something between £125,000 and £160,000. Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich hopes to sell 200 a year.
"A lot of people said they never thought it would fly," Dietrich has said. "But we have a vehicle right here, right now that drives and flies, and converts between the two in 20 seconds."
Terrafugia (Latin for "escape from land") was founded by Dietrich and a team of pilots and aeronautics engineers. Partly funded by the US Department of Defence, they've been quietly beavering away on the car in Woburn, Massachussetts since 2006, and are almost ready to start selling.
Owners of a new Transition will need 20 hours of flying time on record before being allowed to unfurl the car's mechanical wings and take off, but it's easy to pilot once they do – or so says Colonel Phil Meeter, the first man to fly the Transition in tests over upstate New York in 2009. On landing he enthused: "My daughter could do this! Anyone can do it!" The retail machine will have a flight range of just less than 500 miles (enough to get from London to, say, Zurich) and will travel at speeds of up to 115mph.
This being an American firm, targeting American customers, Terrafugia's flying car is not without its luxuries. It has touch-screen controls in the cockpit, and the "cargo area holds golf clubs". With the wings in tucked-up mode the Transition can be filled up in any normal petrol station, and parked in any normal garage. It also has built-in parachutes. But let's not dwell on that.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #2742 on: Jan 30th, 2011, 09:32am »
Mystery of 200 Dead Cows in Wisconsin Solved
Jan 29, 2011 – 4:02 PM Hugh Collins Contributor
Authorities investigating the deaths of 200 cows in Wisconsin have come up with an unlikely culprit: the sweet potato.
The cows were found dead in a Stockton pasture two weeks ago. Locals were left scratching their heads about what caused the mass die-off.
Investigators from the University of Wisconsin have determined that the animals were killed by a poison found in spoiled sweet potatoes that were part of the cattle's feed. "It is likely that a mycotoxin from moldy sweet potato was a major factor in the disease and deaths of these steers," said Peter Vanderloo, associate director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
There's been a spate of mass animal deaths in recent weeks, from fish in Maryland and Arkansas to birds in Louisiana and South Dakota.
The farmer who owned the cows had thought they might have fallen victim to disease such as infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, according to The Wisconsin Rapids Tribune. Vanderloo and his team ruled that out.
"None of the major respiratory pathogens of cattle were identified in the samples provided to the lab," said Vanderloo.
He also explained that the toxic sweet potatoes were not in the human food supply chain, so there was no threat to people. While the recent mass deaths of animals have spawned some exotic conspiracy theories, scientists have come up with more mundane solutions for some of the mysteries.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged last week that it was behind the deaths of thousands of starlings in South Dakota. The USDA said it put out poisoned bait after a farmer complained the birds were defecating in his animal feed.
The thousands of red-winged blackbirds that dropped out of the sky in Arkansas on Dec. 31 apparently died of blunt force trauma. Investigators say loud noises prompted the birds to take a rare night flight, and that they likely slammed into objects such as trees and houses.