Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 4th, 2009

Credit-card problems for Americans traveling in advanced countries

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One faces a variety of problems living in a technological backwater like the US, and healthcare is only one. Now the advanced countries (those that have true broadband networks, unlike the US) are moving to a better form of credit and ATM card, while the US lags behind. Michelle Higgins in the NY Times:

BETTER pack some cash on your next trip abroad. Americans are finding that their credit and bank cards aren’t as convenient as they once were while traveling overseas.

The problem: American cards lack a special chip, now commonly used in many foreign countries, causing the cards to be rejected by some merchants and kiosks.

That’s what Nancy Elkind, a lawyer from Denver, discovered in Paris when she wanted to use the popular Vélib’ bicycle rental system on a weeklong vacation with her husband last spring. They tried to swipe various cards at the rental kiosk, which doesn’t take cash, and all the cards were rejected.

Then, thinking the problem might be with the kiosk and not their cards, they tried other Vélib’ locations around the city. But each time, their cards were not accepted.

“We gave up, and kept walking around Paris, commenting occasionally on how much fun it would be to do some exploring by bike,” Ms. Elkind said.

The couple’s cards, which rely on magnetic-stripe technology for transactions, lacked an embedded microprocessor chip, which stores and processes data and is now commonly used in Europe. Such chip-based cards — commonly referred to as chip-and-PIN cards because users punch in a personal identification number instead of signing for the purchase — offer an extra layer of protection against the theft of cardholder data and counterfeiting, and they are designed to replace magnetic stripe technology and signature payments.

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Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Explore the world after it’s 4º C warmer

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Tools here to see what the world will be like in about 50 years. Not good. For example:

In a 4 °C world, climate change, deforestation and fires spreading from degraded land into pristine forest will conspire to destroy over 83 per cent of the Amazon rainforest by 2100, according to climatologist Wolfgang Cramer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. His climate models show global warming alone converting 30 per cent of the Amazon into degraded shrub land and mixed woodland by 2100. Even this grim estimate is based on the hopeful assumption that extra CO2 in the atmosphere will "fertilise" the forest, buffering it from drought. But we can’t be sure this will happen, says Cramer. "If we’ve overestimated the magnitude of CO2 fertilisation, we risk losing the entire Amazon."

There’s more (and worse) at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 12:42 pm

Groundwater use in India

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They’re using about 54 cubic kilometers of water a year—enough so that the runoff contributes 5% of the sea-level rise. How much longer can they use water at this rate? Probably only a few more years. Read the complete note.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 11:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Education and poverty

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Fascinating post (with charts) by Matthew Yglesias, comparing educational achievement (and poverty rates) among nations, including the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 11:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Dealing with dysfunctional presidents

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Good post by Paul Rosenberg at OpenLeft:

In a very pithy comment last weekend, in my diary, "Why Obama Lies About Race", Sadie Baker wrote:

Obama’s central dilemma is that he ran, if not as an outright progressive, at least by making enough progressive noises now and then to win the support of progressives. He would not be in office without them.

But his intent is to govern as an anti-progressive. For reasons I cannot fathom, his team has decided to try to use the frame of "fragility" to thread this needle.

To wit: he can’t end the wars because the Republicans will call him names if he does. He had to cut a backroom deal with Big Pharma on healthcare reform because otherwise they would run mean commercials. He had to give Wall Street a blank check, with no strings attached, because otherwise they might hurt him.

You see the problem? When your stated agenda conflicts with your real agenda, you need to come up with a plausible reason for why you keep things that are the opposite of what you said you wanted. That’s understandable, you want to keep the rubes on the reservation.

But why weakness? Why do they think it’s a good idea to tell everyone the reason he doesn’t do what needs to be done is because he’s weak? That’s a huge mistake that is going to catch up with them.

In response, I wrote, "That’s no comment.  It’s a front-page diary!"  And so it is.

I went on to say: "I’ve had the same thought rattling around my head for some time now, but you’ve crystallized it perfectly."

Now that’s it’s been crystallized for me, the next thought is clear: weakness is used argue that (1) progressives should not attack him, because that will only weaken him further, but (2) instead they must rally to support him (regardless of whether they actually support what he’s doing).  And while this has worked for Obama, Inc. in the short run, time is running out.  This is the model logic of a dysfunctional family, rather than Lakoff’s "Nurturant Parent" model. And Sadie’s 100% correct—it’s going to catch up with them.  

"Big time!" As America’s #2 war criminal would say.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 11:41 am

Farmer’s market visit

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I had to go to Whole Foods to get a can of pumpkin for Megs, and I discovered a farmer’s market in the parking lot that is there from 8 until noon. They will stop at the end of October, but I picked up several foods new to me, always a delight:

Fresh jujube, very tasty little guys with a single seed in the center.

Fresh sweet=potato leaves (eaten as greens in a stir fry, for example)

Chinese scallions: more bulbous than regular scallions, with the green part finer (closer to chives than regular scallion leaves)

And, though not new: very good-looking fresh bitter melon and Chinese beans (the long kind).

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 11:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Latest figures on global military spending

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In recent years, US military spending exceeded the total military spending of all other countries in the world combined. We’re down a little from that, but the total US military spending is far greater than the military spending any other country: the country in second place, China, spent about $85 billion in 2008, whereas the US spent, more than 17 times as much.

The Economist has a nifty chart that compares military spending per capita, and in that the US is topped by one nation: Israel. Take a look:

Global military expenditure rose by 4% in 2008 to a record $1.46 trillion, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Israel spends most on defence relative to its population, shelling out over $2,300 a person, over $300 more than America. Small and rich countries, and notably Gulf states, feature prominently by this measure. Saudi Arabia ranks ninth in absolute spending, but sixth by population. China has increased spending by 10% to $85 billion to become the world’s second largest spender. But it is still dwarfed by America, whose outlay of $607 billion is higher than that of the next 14 biggest spenders combined.


Click to enlarge.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 October 2009 at 9:23 am

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