Later On

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

Archive for August 20th, 2010

Padron peppers

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I just ate my first batch of padron peppers, of which I learned from this post. I used this recipe.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 12:39 pm

Taking High-Speed Trains into the Future

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Bruce Selcraig writes in Miller-McCune:

On March 11, 2004, at the height of the morning rush hour in Madrid’s stately Atocha train station, 10 improvised explosive devices, like those used in Iraq and Afghanistan, ripped apart four commuter trains, killing 191 people and injuring some 1,800 in the worst act of terrorism in Europe since the explosion of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland in 1988.

Today, the Atocha station feels about as removed from that horror as one could imagine. Much of the spacious, high-ceilinged waiting area has been transformed into a walkable, indoor forest, with giant ferns, palms and lily pads; famed Catalan cellist Pablo Casals wafts through the sound system. My teenage son and I are waiting for the AVE high-speed train to Barcelona, the most recently opened high-speed rail line in a much-praised system that Spain inaugurated in 1992. The experience is more like visiting a museum than grabbing a train. There are no hour-long lines. Our shoes remain sensibly on our feet.

As we stride single file onto the eel-like, German-made Siemens S-103 train, which seats 402 and will take us to Barcelona in 2 hours and 38 minutes, it’s hard not to be impressed. On board the AVE (for Alta Velocidad Española, but also, coincidentally, bird in Spanish) the colors are generic corporate blues and grays, with Wi-Fi, croissants and a flat-screen TV beckoning. Within minutes we’re hurtling through the high plains and olive groves of Don Quixote land. A small digital sign in the business car flashes our top speed: 300 kilometers or 186 mph.

Unlike in America, no freight trains or conventional passenger trains compete for these tracks, which are fenced-off and raised on concrete ties. With few stops, the electrified AVE trains on Spain’s four major routes maintain a 99 percent on-time record, according to RENFE, the state-owned company that operates the trains. RENFE puts its euros where its mouth is by offering passengers on the Madrid-Seville route a total cash refund if the AVE is more than five minutes late. With seats as cheap as $60 roundtrip, the Madrid-Barcelona trains have proven so successful that RENFE says it now has lured away nearly 50 percent of the Iberia Airlines traffic on that popular 375-mile route.

Spain’s success story with high-speed rail goes well beyond merely transporting people.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 11:28 am

Gut bacteria reflect dietary differences

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Gwyneth Dickey reports in Science News:

A termite a day may keep the doctor away. African children who eat a high-fiber diet (and the occasional wood-digesting insect) have gut bacteria that help them digest plant fibers and protect them from diarrhea and inflammatory disease, a new study finds. The research may lead to new probiotics that improve the digestive health of Westerners, who were found to have a less diverse assemblage of intestinal microbes.

“This discovery is very important because it bears on how we should feed our children to make them healthy,” says study coauthor Duccio Cavalieri, a microbiologist at the University of Florence in Italy. “We should move our habits toward a diet more heavy in fiber, with the same amount of calories.”

Animals have bacteria in their guts to help digest their food, train their immune systems and protect them from harmful bacteria. Different types of food encourage different abundances and diversity of bacteria to grow in the gut.

Some scientists have hypothesized that improved sanitation in Western developed countries has decreased people’s microbe exposure and has led to autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and allergies.

So Cavalieri and a team of scientists compared the gut microbes of children from Burkina Faso and Italy. Children in rural Burkina Faso eat foods similar to those that people ate 10,000 years ago when farming was first developed. Their diet is high in fiber, cereals, nonanimal protein and plants. European children, on the other hand, eat foods typical of a Western diet, high in animal protein, sugar and fat, and low in fiber

In the new study, researchers used DNA sequencing to identify bacteria in the guts of 30 healthy, normally growing children ages 1 to 6 from these two populations.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 11:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

Belief in free will and job success

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Interesting post at Mind Hacks:

If you want to predict how well someone might perform in a new job, you might want to enquire about their views on whether we are free to choose our own actions.

A delightful study just published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that belief in free will predicted job performance better than conscientiousness, belief in influence over life events and a commitment to a ‘Protestant work ethic’ where diligent labour is seen as a benefit in itself.

Here’s the summary from the study’s abstract:

Do philosophic views affect job performance? The authors found that possessing a belief in free will predicted better career attitudes and actual job performance. The effect of free will beliefs on job performance indicators were over and above well-established predictors such as conscientiousness, locus of control, and Protestant work ethic. In Study 1, stronger belief in free will corresponded to more positive attitudes about expected career success. In Study 2, job performance was evaluated objectively and independently by a supervisor. Results indicated that employees who espoused free will beliefs were given better work performance evaluations than those who disbelieve in free will, presumably because belief in free will facilitates exerting control over one’s actions.

I thought pretty much everyone believed in free will. Is there a large group that disbelieves free will? (I suppose we couldn’t blame them for that belief, but still…)

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 10:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

National Black Police Association Endorses Marijuana Legalization

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A press release:

A national organization of African American law enforcement officers has announced its endorsement of Proposition 19, California’s initiative to legalize marijuana.

The National Black Police Association (NBPA), which was founded in 1972 and is currently holding its 38th national conference in Sacramento, is urging a yes vote on legalization this November 2.

"When I was a cop in Baltimore, and even before that when I was growing up there, I saw with my own eyes the devastating impact these misguided marijuana laws have on our communities and neighborhoods. But it’s not just in Baltimore, or in Los Angeles; prohibition takes a toll on people of color across the country," said Neill Franklin, a 33-year veteran police officer and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international group of pro-legalization cops, judges, prosecutors and corrections officials who have been organizing to support Prop. 19. "This November, with the National Black Police Association’s help, Californians finally have an opportunity to do something about it by approving the initiative to control and tax marijuana."

On Thursday, Franklin spoke alongside California NAACP president Alice Huffman at the NBPA conference on a panel about criminal justice issues like marijuana legalization.

Many cops and civil rights leaders are now speaking out against marijuana prohibition because it is not only ineffective at reducing marijuana use and results in the arrest and incarceration of people of color at a highly disproportionate rate, but also because making marijuana illegal has created a lucrative black market controlled by violent gangs and cartels. LEAP has organized a group of more than 30 California police officers, judges, prosecutors and other criminal justice professionals who support Prop. 19.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence.

According to NBPA, there are 80,000 black law enforcement officials in the U.S.

For more information, visit http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com or http://www.BlackPolice.org

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 10:23 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Military pushing evangelical Christianity beyond all reason (and law)

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This is surprising and disgusting. Chris Rodda:

[editor – Talk To Action contributor Chris Rodda is Head Researcher for the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that combats illegal and unconstitutional religious coercion in the United States military. Rodda is also author of Liars For Jesus: The Religious Right’s Alternate Version of American History. MRFF was founded by Michael L. "Mikey" Weinstein, an Air Force Academy Honor Graduate who served in the first Reagan Administration. MRFF’s work was the subject of a May 2009 Harper’s Magazine story by journalist Jeff Sharlet, Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military. For more reading on this subject, see Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We’re On a Crusade and this list of other additional Talk To Action stories concerning MRFF research.]

For the past several years, two U.S. Army posts in Virginia, Fort Eustis and Fort Lee, have been putting on a series of what are called Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts. As I’ve written in a number of other posts, "spiritual fitness" is just the military’s new term for promoting religion, particularly evangelical Christianity. And this concert series is no different.

On May 13, 2010, about eighty soldiers, stationed at Fort Eustis while attending a training course, were punished for opting out of attending one of these Christian concerts. The headliner at this concert was a Christian rock band called BarlowGirl, a band that describes itself as taking "an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God."

Any doubt that this was an evangelical Christian event was cleared up by the Army post’s newspaper, the Fort Eustis Wheel, which ran an article after the concert that began:

Following the Apostle Paul’s message to the Ephesians in the Bible, Christian rock music’s edgy, all-girl band BarlowGirl brought the armor of God to the warriors and families of Fort Eustis during another installment of the Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concert Series May 13 at Jacobs Theater.

The father of the three Barlow sisters who make up the band was also quoted in the article, saying, "We really believe that to be a Christian in today’s world, you have to be a warrior, and we feel very blessed and privileged that God has given us the tool to deliver His message and arm His army."

A few days later, some of the soldiers punished for choosing not to attend this concert contacted the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF). The following is from the account sent by one of those soldiers to MRFF, detailing what transpired that night.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 10:17 am

GOP opposition to START

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I am truly trying to post less on the GOP and politics, but I do think occasionally checking in to see whether they’re still stupid-crazy is worth doing. Steve Benen:

David Broder’s column yesterday covered familiar ground — the Washington Post columnist is still disappointed with both parties — but there was one point in particular that stood out. (thanks to N.B. for the tip)

The Post reported earlier this week that, as Senate Republicans delay consideration of a new strategic arms treaty with Russia, the previous framework has lapsed. As a result, "for the first time in 15 years, U.S. officials have lost their ability to inspect Russian long-range nuclear bases." Broder notes the political context.

The inspections were guaranteed by the old START agreement, which expired in December. The successor treaty was negotiated in April, but the Senate has not taken it up because several Republican senators have raised questions about its possible effect on plans to modernize the U.S. nuclear fleet.

Republican Richard Lugar, probably the Senate’s leading authority on nuclear disarmament, told reporter Mary Beth Sheridan that the delay "is very serious and impacts our national security."

But Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the deputy Republican leader and one of the main voices challenging the urgency of action, told Sheridan he had assumed the inspections were continuing. What a price to pay for ignorance.

Indeed, Republicans holding up the new nuclear treaty have largely ignored the lapsed nuclear checks. Kyl, who’s helped lead the way in obstructing progress, was asked about the inspection cutoff. "I thought we were just going to continue doing business as usual" as the replacement treaty was debated, he said.

It’s a reminder that GOP obstructionism is not only abusive of institutional and national interests, it’s also often based on Republican ignorance about issues of global importance.

While we’re on the subject, it’s also worth noting that Kyl and his cohorts are blocking the pending New START measure, despite their support for a similar measure when Bush was president.

"This treaty is a masterstroke…. It is shorn of the tortured bench marks, sub-limits, arcane definitions and monitoring provisions that weighed down past arms control treaties," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.). "It assumes a degree of trust between nations that are no longer on the precipice of war."

Those were words from Kyl’s floor speech on March 6, 2003, in support of ratification of the Moscow Treaty, signed nine months earlier by President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The resolution for ratification passed that day without opposition, 95 to 0 with five senators absent, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), today’s minority leader. Twenty-four Republicans who voted for that treaty seven years ago are in the Senate today, but not one, save possibly Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), has indicated he or she will vote for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), negotiated by President Obama’s team. New START has sub-limits, definitions and monitoring provisions.

In fact, Kyl and many of the 23 other senators are critical of elements of New START that they readily accepted or ignored in the agreement they embraced seven years ago.

By all appearances, the problem is that far too many Republicans aren’t just unaware of substantive details, they also govern through knee-jerk instincts — if Obama negotiated a strong nuclear arms treaty, it must be bad, even if it’s good, because Obama supports it.

Nuclear proliferation is simply too important for such petty, childish nonsense.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 10:11 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Outrage over plans to build a library next to Sarah Palin

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The Daily Mash:

Plans to build a state-of-the-art library next to Republican catastrophe Sarah Palin are causing outrage across mainstream America.

Campaigners have described the project as insensitive and a deliberate act of provocation by people with brains.

The issue is forming a dividing line in advance of November’s mid-term congressional elections with candidates being forced to declare whether they have ever been to a library or spoken to someone who has books in their home.

Meanwhile President Obama has caused unease within his own Democratic party by endorsing the library and claiming that not everyone who reads books is responsible for calling Mrs Palin a fuckwit nutjob nightmare of a human being.

But Bill McKay, a leading member of the right-wing Teapot movement, said: "Sarah Palin is a hallowed place for Americans who can’t read.

"How is she going to feel knowing that every day there are people going inside a building to find things out for themselves and have thoughts, right in the very shadow of her amazing nipples."

He added: "Our founding fathers intended for every building in this country to be a church containing one book, written by Jesus, that would be read out in a strange voice by an orange man in a shiny suit who would also tell you who you were allowed to kill.

"Building a library next to Mrs Palin is like Pearl Harbour. Or 9/11."

And Wayne Hayes, a pig masseur from Coontree, Virginia, said: "I is so angry right now.

"It’s like something is on fire right in the middle of my head. Like I’ve eaten a real hot chilli, but it’s gone up my nose tubes rather than down my ass tubes."

He added: "Would these library lovers allow me to set up a stall next to the Smithsonian Museum and start selling DVDs of bible cartoons as long as it was in accordance with local regulations?

"Oh they would? I see. So is that why they’re better than me?"

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 10:02 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Coroner Probing Marijuana Raid Killing of Unarmed Man

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Philip Smith:

On the night of June 11, 21-year-old Trevon Cole and his nine months pregnant fiancé, Sequoia Pearce, were sitting at home in their Las Vegas apartment, settling in for a quiet Friday evening in front of the TV. But Cole didn’t live to see the next day. Instead, he was the target of a drug raid and was shot and killed by a Las Vegas narcotics detective as he knelt on his bathroom floor, hands in the air. (Read our earlier coverage here.)

Since then, questions and outrage have mounted as the circumstances surrounding Cole’s death have emerged. A coroner’s inquest, which is done with all fatal shootings by Las Vegas police, is set for Friday. Given the history of such inquests — only one police killing out of 200 in the past 35 years was found unjustifiable — justice is unlikely to be done there.

The affidavit in support of the search warrant targeting Cole gave the impression that police thought they had a major drug dealer on their hands. Detective Brian Yant, the officer who wrote the warrant and who pulled the trigger on Cole, wrote that "almost all" drug dealers keep "sophisticated and elaborate" records and that police expected to find such records, as well as guns and drug paraphernalia. Cole had a "lengthy criminal history of narcotics sales, trafficking and possession charges," Yant wrote.

Police found no guns. They found no evidence of a "major drug dealer." They did find a small, unspecified amount of pot (Pearce contends they found no drugs and were angry they could not), a digital scale, a cell phone, and $702 in cash (of which $350 was found to have come from jewelry Pearce pawned days earlier to pay rent). Oh, and a spent .223 caliber rifle cartridge in the bathroom.

The search warrant affidavit also misidentified Cole, confusing him with another Trevon Cole from Houston, Texas. The other Trevon Cole had a different middle name, was seven years, older, is three inches shorter and a hundred pounds lighter. His "lengthy criminal history"? Three misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests. The only criminal record the now dead Trevon Cole had was for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as a teenager.

"Don’t they ever run the dates of birth down there?" asked an incredulous David Doddridge, a retired 21-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who now runs a private detective agency and is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

"The standard ID is name and date of birth," said Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore police officer who is now an assistant professor of law, police science, and criminal justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. "They had a different initial for the middle name. It should have been obvious that this was not the same guy."

Part of the problem is pressure to perform, said Moskos. "These guys are judged by how many warrants they can get," he said. "But it’s better to conduct one good warrant than five bad ones."

"Each squad is trying to serve the most warrants, get the most dope, so you have a tendency to exaggerate and embellish, and sometimes even fabricate on the warrants," said Doddridge. "They invent handguns inside the house so they can get a dynamic entry warrant, and then they go in, kicking down doors, rushing in with guns drawn, forcing everybody down on the floor. It’s very scary, everyone is going in with guns drawn, they’re sometimes shouting over each other, it’s a very tense and dynamic situation and just a tremendous opportunity for somebody to get shot," he said.

"It’s really crazy, a waste of time and money, but they have to justify their existence," said Doddridge. If they’re not serving warrants, they’ll get sent back to patrol. You have to produce."

According to the search warrant,

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Jazz on the Tube

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I want to call your attention to Jazz on the Tube, which I discovered thanks to this post by James Fallows. Both links are worth the click, and here’s the sample video:

Sign up with Jazz on the Tube for a lot more.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:46 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Selective outrage

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A community center two NYC blocks from Ground Zero is intolerable for some (almost all of whom don’t live there—just being nosy parkers [update: here’s a list – LG]), but a prayer room right in the Pentagon? That’s okay. Petula Dvorak writes in the Washington Post:

Let me take you back to 2002, a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, with the horror and disbelief of that terrible day still very fresh in our minds.

Now, would you believe that in November of that year, right next to the spot where 184 people lost their lives in the Pentagon, the military opened a sanctuary where Islam could be celebrated?

This is truly on sacred ground, mind you. Not two blocks away, wedged between the Gap and Sephora in Pentagon City mall, out of sight of the original crash site.

This prayer room is a mere 30 steps from the place where terrorists crashed the nose cone of American Airlines Flight 77 through the wall and killed Pentagon secretaries and military officers, soccer moms and Little League dads in a screaming “I-have-control-of-this-plane-and-I’m-going-to-die-in-the-name-of-Allah” instant.

In this Pentagon chapel, Muslims can unroll their prayer mats once a day and give praise to Allah. On Fridays, they bring in an imam to conduct a service.

Cue the outrage:

“How dare they?”/”This is an insult to patriotic Americans everywhere, and especially to the families of those who died that day and the good men and women who are risking their lives for their country in the fight against terrorism!”/”Let’s stop this now!”

Oh wait, there was no outrage. No hyperventilating by cable news anchors. No outpouring of hateful rhetoric on blogs and Web sites.

“Nope, never heard a word about it,” folks in the Pentagon chaplain’s office told me Thursday after we visited the crash site memorial and the chapel next to it. “No one has had a problem with it.”

It is a humble space, spartan except for a U.S. flag and a stained-glass window that depicts a Pentagon and a screaming eagle. The only sign that it’s not a lecture hall or meeting room is the piano in one corner and the stack of camouflage-covered New Testament books of psalms and proverbs on a shelf.

Since it began use eight years ago, Korans have been opened and closed hundreds of times, Islamic prayers have been whispered by the thousands.

The families, friends and colleagues of those who died or were injured in the 2001 terrorist attack have never complained to the Pentagon about the inclusion of Muslim services, officials said…

Continue reading. The column refers to the Park51 project as a “mosque,” which it is not.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:22 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Religion

How kids really learn

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Interesting post by Kevin Drum. From it:

… So do standardized tests provide meaningful data? Millions of barrels of ink have been spilled on this question, but here’s an interesting take on the question from a study done a few years ago. Paul Camp, a physics professor at Spelman College, in the course of investigating how students learn Newtonian concepts, came across an interesting result: they don’t learn in a straight line. They learn things, then they get confused, and then they learn them again for good. Learning, in other words, follows a U-shaped pattern, and not just for university level physics:

U-shaped developmental patterns appear to be a general feature of human cognition….Competencies, once learned, do not disappear but they are unusually fragile while understanding reorganizes into a more mature form, and this fragility is reflected by variability in performance…. In short, achieving a new state of organization requires passage through a state of apparent disorganization.

….The existence of U-shaped development [] has important implications for student evaluation. It directly implies that single point assessments are unfair and inaccurate.

There’s evidence that this U-shaped pattern is common (this paper, for example, compares 7-year-olds and 9-year-olds on certain kinds of math problems and finds that 7-year-olds do better). So is this what happened with my four-year-old friend? Did she learn simple arithmetic, then get confused about it during kindergarten, and then learn it for good in first grade? Maybe. Maybe I didn’t imagine the whole episode after all.

If this is true, it obviously has disturbing implications for the use of standardized tests in primary schools to evaluate teacher performance. If students routinely go through U-shaped learning curves, it means that a terrific third grade teacher might produce mediocre test scores if her kids tend to be in the trough of the U at year-end, while the fourth grade teacher who gets the kids the following year reaps the benefits…

Full disclosure: I worked in the standardized testing industry for much of my career.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Worldwide slowdown in plant carbon uptake

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Many have feared that global warming will accelerate as we trip various positive feedback mechanisms—for example, the warming climate is thawing peat bogs in Siberia and Alaska, and from those bogs methane is bubbling out—methane being a greenhouse gas with 25 times the impact of CO2. And in some places the bubbling is sufficiently vigorous that the water no longer freezes in winter.

Another example: as the Arctic Ocean loses its ice cover in the summer, the water absorbs more heat (which otherwise the ice would have reflected), so the ocean gets warmer, thus further decreasing the ice cover.

Now here’s another: drought is affecting plant life to the extent that it cannot remove CO2 from the atmosphere as readily as it once did. Sid Perkins reports at Science News:

Deep and extended droughts are responsible for a recent slowdown in the amount of carbon dioxide that land plants pulled from the atmosphere as they grew, a new study suggests.

Satellite data suggest that between 1982 and 1999, the world’s net primary production — the amount of carbon pulled from the air as CO2 and stored in living plants each year — rose about 6 percent, says Maosheng Zhao, an ecologist at the University of Montana in Missoula. A rise in carbon storage matches what many scientists expected in a warming world with higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2, he notes. But new analyses by Zhao and Montana colleague Steven Running, reported in the Aug. 20 Science, indicate that the amount of carbon pulled from the atmosphere by the growth of terrestrial vegetation dropped about 1 percent during the first decade of this century.

Changes in carbon storage during the decade varied by region, analyses of satellite images reveal. In general, warmer temperatures boosted growth in high-latitude regions and at higher elevations. But in the Amazon, which accounted for about two-thirds of the change in carbon storage, increased warmth boosted evaporation and induced water stress, thereby trimming carbon storage. In 2005, an intense drought in the Amazon caused many trees to die, says Zhao.

And while the loss of trees due to wildfires, diseases, insects and human activity may have contributed to the overall decline in carbon storage, the primary cause of the decline in natural carbon sequestration outside the Amazon is probably the substantial drought that many regions suffered, the researchers speculate.

Rates of carbon storage continued to increase in the Northern Hemisphere during the 2000s, but a strong drying trend in the Southern Hemisphere more than canceled those gains. Australia, for instance, suffered droughts in 2002, 2005, and from 2007 through 2009. Overall, the researchers estimate the world’s land plants stored about 550 million metric tons less carbon during the 2000s than they did during the previous decade.

Previous studies have hinted that drought is a major contributor to declines in plant productivity, says Inez Fung, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. But, she adds, “what’s really cool about this paper is the global time series of satellite observations” — a set of data that can’t be reproduced by simply extrapolating from occasional studies of widely scattered plots of forest.

The new study also indicates that the CO2 fertilization effect on vegetation, thought by a few scientists to be a possible solution to the ever-increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, isn’t automatic, Fung says. “Water is a major, major thing,” she notes…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:13 am

Texas Now Prosecuting TWO Medical Marijuana Patients

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The transition from illegal to legal is going to catch a lot of people, I fear. Philip Smith:

Asthmatic medical marijuana patient Chris Diaz sits in jail in Brownwood, Texas, facing up to life in prison for a half ounce of marijuana and three grams of hash. Quadraplegic medical marijuana patient Chris Cain may be joining Diaz behind bars in Beaumont, Texas, after he goes to trial next week. When it comes to medical marijuana, Texas isn’t California (or even Rhode Island), and don’t you forget it, boy!

Chris Diaz is learning that the hard way. He was supposedly pulled over for an expired license tag (his defenders say the tag was not expired) while en route from Amarillo to Austin, and according to the DPS trooper’s report, would not produce a drivers’ license or proof of insurance. He was then arrested for failure to identify, and during a subsequent search, police found a small amount of hashish on his person. A search of the vehicle then turned up additional hash and marijuana in a pill bottle from a California medical marijuana provider. Now, Diaz is facing up to life in prison after being indicted by a Brown County grand jury. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a first-degree felony in the Lone Star State.

Under Texas law, possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, while possession of hashish is either a state jail felony punishable by up to two years for less than a gram, or a second-class felony punishable by up to 20 years if less than four grams, although probation is also possible.

But because police allegedly read a text message on Diaz’s seized cell phone advising a friend that he had some great hash and asking if he wanted any, he was instead indicted on the trafficking charge, punishable by up to life in prison. He remains behind bars — without his medicine — on a $40,000 cash bond.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Beehive in a bell jar

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bees_u76

A guy put a bell jar over a hole in a beehive and took photos as the bees made use of the jar. Above is the final product, but what’s really interesting is the construction process. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

Going to the park

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Excellent column by Jonah Lehrer:

In the late 1990s, Frances Kuo, director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois, began interviewing female residents in the Robert Taylor Homes, a massive housing project on the South Side of Chicago. Kuo and her colleagues compared women randomly assigned to various apartments. Some had a view of nothing but concrete sprawl, the blacktop of parking lots and basketball courts. Others looked out on grassy courtyards filled with trees and flowerbeds. Kuo then measured the two groups on a variety of tasks, from basic tests of attention to surveys that looked at how the women were handling major life challenges. She found that living in an apartment with a view of greenery led to significant improvements in every category.

What happened? Kuo argues that simply looking at a tree “refreshes the ability to concentrate,” allowing the residents to better deal with their problems. Instead of getting flustered and angry, they could stare out the window and relax. In other words, there is something inherently “restorative” about natural setting – places without people are good for the mind.

To better understand how nature works its psychological magic, let’s look at an important 2008 study led by Marc Berman, at the University of Michigan. (I’ve written about this study before.) Berman and colleagues outfitted undergraduates at the University of Michigan with GPS receivers.  Some of the students took a stroll in an arboretum, while others walked around the busy streets of downtown Ann Arbor.

The subjects were then run through a battery of psychological tests. People who had walked through nature were . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 8:57 am

12 minutes and still stuck

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For some reason I’m having a hard time breaking 230 lbs (going down), so I think tomorrow, after 4 days of 12-minute Nordic Track sessions, I’ll go to 15 minutes. That offers the advantage of a 3-minute warm-up plus 12 minutes of exercise after being warmed up. My goal is that Monday morning I weight 229.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 8:52 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness

Ben Hur No. 15 Day Two

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I wanted to use the Ben Hur blades again because it’s not unknown for a blade to seem sharper on the second shave than the first—my guess is that such blades have a coating (e.g., Teflon) that covers the cutting edge and gets abraded off in the course of the first shave. Sputnik blades, for example, exhibited this characteristic, as did other brands that I cannot now recall. I should also explicitly note that my own impressions of the blade does not offer much guidance on how you will experience the blade: see this post.

At any rate, the blade today seemed fine, and I got a very smooth result from a three-pass shave. The Tres Claveles horsehair brush did well enough, but it’s no badger, that’s for sure. The Dovo soap normally produces a rich lather, and with this brush I had to do a bit of work.

Still: a fine shave resulted, and a splash of Paul Sebastian sets me up for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

20 August 2010 at 8:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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