Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, rule that water ain’t part of the environment

libertyoila

The House passed legislation Tuesday that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing a proposed rule to define its jurisdiction over bodies of water…

The rule, proposed in March, sought to clarify which bodies of water, such as wetlands and streams, are subject to agencies’ authority under the act. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has said the rule does not significantly expand the agency’s existing authority.

Republicans said the rule would go too far and subject trivial bodies of water to federal regulation.

What passes for conservatism nowadays believes that wife-beating, lynchings, collateral murder in wherever is this year’s war – are all “trivial”.

Democrats largely dismissed the concerns as hyperbole…”We have departed from reality,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee.

DeFazio said that halting implementation of the proposed rule would prevent the EPA from simply clarifying which bodies of water are subject to federal regulation.

“Where do we end up if this cockamamie thing passes the House and becomes law, which it won’t?” DeFazio said. “Well, where we end up is back in the earlier era of the 2003 and 2008 guidance.”

The dimbulbs in the House of Representatives want the Army Corp of Engineers to help the develop new regulations on water. Their history along the Mississippi River leading up to the Hurricane Katrina disaster will stand them in good stead.

Who knows, maybe Congress can rehire the clown show inside the old Department of the Interior under George W, Bush that used to party with the Oil Patch Boys. Working for a living probably still doesn’t agree with them.

Thanks, Mike

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TV CSI’s – and a few thugs – lose their plot because of new DNA test

A Boston-area man long suspected of two 2004 rapes was formally charged after a new DNA test linked him to the crimes and excluded his twin brother.

Dwayne McNair, 33, of Dedham pleaded not guilty Monday. His bail was set at $500,000.

McNair had been charged earlier and spent almost two years in jail. A judge ordered him released, and prosecutors dropped the charges while the new test, which can distinguish between identical twins, was conducted.

Prosecutors in Suffolk County said the test, used for the first time in Massachusetts, found there was only a 1 in 2 billion chance the DNA in the samples being tested could have come from McNair’s brother, Dwight. McNair was indicted on eight counts of rape and two of armed robbery.

Another man, Anwar Thomas, 32, pleaded guilty in the case in 2011. But the prosecution of McNair was stymied by the possibility the DNA could have been his brother’s.

Silly me. I wrote the headline up top because CSI Cop Shows will lose part of a favorite plot-line. Now, they have acquired a new twist to the same old plot.

And, yes, “same old plot” isn’t especially appropriate since police-level DNA analysis has only been around 1986.

Map that guided Lawrence of Arabia to victory – up for auction

The only map sketched by Lawrence of Arabia is expected to fetch up to £100,000 when it goes under the hammer in London next month.

The map, on faded yellow paper, shows northern Arabia and was sketched by the famous adventurer and military commander some time between 1918 and 1922 as he described his battle alongside Arab troops.

It records a ‘pivotal moment’ in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire that led to the capture of the Red Sea port town Aqaba in 1917.

Experts believe it is the only map depicting the journey Lawrence took across the hostile Saudi Arabian desert in 1917, which eventually led to the capture of a major port.

It shows the route he and a group of Arab armies followed after leaving the port of al Wejh, and then reaching the Hejaz railway…

The drawing was done for a well-known cartographer and explorer called Douglas Carruthers who Lawrence befriended towards the end of the war.

Lawrence knew that his travels towards Aqaba were of interest to cartographers and carefully created the map for his friend by carefully plotting the route on a single sheet of paper, signing it and writing the words ‘This is the only drawn copy so please do not lose it prematurely’.

David Lean’s movie got so much right. The focus of the end of his film “Lawrence of Arabia” took the time to record the powers of European colonialism gathered to divide the spoils of war, oil-bearing lands, providing decades of profits and death. Profits for the Oil Kings. Death for nationalists who fought for freedom from Oil kings and Arab kings.

And so it continues…

Thanks, Mike

Dumb crook(s) of the Day

Pope Kia Soul

Authorities in France said two men who were supposed to be giving a Vatican vehicle a tune-up instead used the car to smuggle pot and cocaine from Spain.

Investigators said Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia, 91, turned the vehicle over to two Italian men, ages 30 and 41, to give it a tune-up last week, but the men instead used the official car, which bears diplomatic license plates, to drive to Spain and pick up 8.8 pounds of cocaine and nearly half a pound of marijuana.

The men were busted by French customs officers Sunday in Chambery as they headed for the border with Switzerland and Italy. The diplomatic plates did not stop officers from conducting a routine search of the vehicle and discovering the drugs.

Authorities said the men claimed they were Vatican chauffeurs and had no knowledge of the cargo.

Police said neither man holds a Vatican passport — and the Catholic Church is not implicated in the case.

Here I was – hoping the Pope was going to come out in favor of decriminalizing weed!

UBS urges investors to join the renewables revolution


Click to enlargeVillage of Eitting near Munich, Germany

Big power stations in Europe could be redundant within 10-20 years as electric cars, cheaper batteries and new solar technologies transform the way electricity is generated, stored and distributed, say analysts at the world’s largest private bank.

In a briefing paper sent to clients and investors this week, the Zurich-based UBS bank argues that large-scale, centralised power stations will soon become extinct because they are too big and inflexible, and are “not relevant” for future electricity generation. Instead, the authors expect it to be cheaper and more efficient for households and businesses to generate their own energy to power their cars and to store any surplus energy in their own buildings even without subsidies.

In language more closely associated with green NGOs, the bank with assets of more than $1.5tn says it expects a paradigm shift away from large-scale conventional power plants. “Power is no longer something that is exclusively produced by huge, centralised units owned by large utilities. By 2025, everybody will be able to produce and store power. And it will be green and cost competitive, ie, not more expensive or even cheaper than buying power from utilities,” say the authors, who urge their financial clients to “join the revolution.”

“Solar is at the edge of being a competitive power generation technology. The biggest drawback has been its intermittency. This is where batteries and electric vehicles (EVs) come into play. Battery costs have declined rapidly, and we expect a further decline of more than 50% by 2020. By then, a mass [produced] electric vehicle will have almost the same price as a combustion engine car. But it will save up to $2600 a year on fuel cost, hence, it will begin to pay off almost immediately without any meaningful upfront ‘investment’. This is why we expect a rapidly growing penetration with EVs, in particular in countries with high fossil fuel prices.”

The expected 50% reduction in the cost of batteries by 2020 will not just spur electric car sales, but could also lead to exponential growth in demand for stationary batteries to store excess power in buildings, says UBS. “Battery storage should become financially attractive for family homes when combined with a solar system and an electric vehicle. As a consequence, we expect transformational changes in the utility and auto sectors,” it says. “By 2020 investing in a home solar system with a 20-year life span, plus some small-scale home battery technology and an electric car, will pay for itself in six to eight years for the average consumer in Germany, Italy, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe…”

By 2025, falling battery and solar costs will make electric vehicles cheaper than conventional cars in most European markets. “As a conservative 2025 scenario, we think about 10% of new car registrations in Europe will be EVs. Households and businesses who invest in a combined electric car, solar array and battery storage should be able to pay the investment back within six to eight years,” UBS says. “In other words, based on a 20-year technical life of a solar system, a German buyer should receive 12 years of electricity for free.”

But the bank does not expect power companies or the grid to disappear: UBS says they have a future if they develop smart grids which manage electricity demand more efficiently and provide decentralised back-up power generation.

But, hey, your SUV is running OK. Cousin Ernie’s Chevy pickup truck does everything it should do. If our public utilities need to be modernized – well, that’s what we have state legislatures and regulatory commissions to take care of. Right?

Leading Americans in the direction of renewable, cheaper, cleaner sources of electricity is probably as unnecessary as eventually converting the Affordable Care Act to a single payer system. This all may save money and improve our quality of life; but, isn’t it all a little too foreign for Americans to adopt?

Applying for a job? – You may have to take a meaningless test

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is probably the most widely used personality test in the world…An estimated 2 million people take it annually, at the behest of corporate HR departments, colleges, and even government agencies. The company that makes and markets the test makes somewhere around $20 million each year.

The only problem? The test is completely meaningless.

“There’s just no evidence behind it,” says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who’s written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. “The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.”

The test claims that, based on 93 questions, it can group all the people of the world into 16 different discrete “types” — and in doing so, serve as “a powerful framework for building better relationships, driving positive change, harnessing innovation, and achieving excellence.” Most of the faithful think of it primarily as a tool for telling you your proper career choice.

But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality “types” were just rough tendencies he’d observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.

Yet you’ve probably heard people telling you that they’re an ENFJ (extraverted intuitive feeling judging), an INTP (introverted intuitive thinking perceiving), or another one of the 16 types drawn from his work, and you may have even been given this test in a professional setting.

RTFA. It goes through the stereotypes, explains why these labels are meaningless — and why no one in the 21st century should rely on the test for anything.

I had fun with the test before I moved to the Southwest. Interested in a job with a dynamic high tech startup, I applied to see what they might offer – and ran into this test. The HR dude was in love with its self-fulfilling prophecies. After all, if you tell people how to define their lives and lifestyle long enough and thoroughly enough – and they follow your so-called wisdom – then, results become appropriate. Even if they’re nothing more than imitation.

I drove him nuts answering segments of the test with two completely contradictory personality styles. He was dying to hire me; but, was equally afraid I might turn out to be an axe murderer.

Children prescribed antibiotics twice as often as needed

Pediatricians prescribe antibiotics about twice as often as they’re actually needed for children with ear and throat infections, a new study indicates.

More than 11 million antibiotic prescriptions written each year for children and teens may be unnecessary, according to researchers from University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital. This excess antibiotic use not only fails to eradicate children’s viral illnesses, researchers said, but supports the dangerous evolution of bacteria toward antibiotic resistance…

Antibiotics, drugs that kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing, are effective only for bacterial infections, not viruses. But because doctors have few ways of distinguishing between viral or bacterial infections, antibiotics are often a default treatment.

Based on the prevalence of bacteria in ear and throat infections and the introduction of a pneumococcal vaccine that prevents many bacterial infections, the researchers estimated that about 27 percent of U.S. children with infections of the ear, sinus area, throat or upper respiratory tract had illnesses caused by bacteria.

But antibiotics were prescribed for nearly 57 percent of doctors’ visits for these infections, the study found.

Thousands die unnecessarily every year from illness caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There are no legitimate reasons for over-prescription. Only marketing and social pressures which should have nothing to do with the practice of medicine.

Thanks, Mike

Fossil fuel electricity under real threat from solar and wind power

windfarmsea
Click to enlargeStiftung OFFSHORE-WINDENERGIE

Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.

Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.

Professional naysayers, bought-and-paid-for skeptics, conservative ideologues rooted to political failures like Ayn Rand see the fruit of their labors rejected by economic reality – as usual. Solid facts, real advances are beginning to progress as predicted – or better. That won’t shut them up. The money tap remains wide open. But, ordinary folks, working class, middle class, however you slice and dice your class analysis, are starting to reap the benefits of the new means of renewable energy production.

No one is more tradition-bound than public utilities. They function like constipated manure machines. They’ve been producing cowshit for research and analysis for so many generations they are incapable of changing their business model to match a dynamic economic landscape.

Meanwhile, globalized competition encouraged by the group of nations acting responsibly to counter climate change are affecting the cash flow and profits of corporations sitting around like children in a temper tantrum – demanding the people who recognized the need for change now spend tax dollars to bail them out of their self-generated disaster.

They should be replaced by common sense, scientific, economic solutions. Send them away. Build them a leaky rest home next to one of the Koch Brothers coal heaps.