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Archive for June 4th, 2011

Norway to build northernmost green energy building in the world

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Hydro’s energy-neutral test center in Ulm, Germany

A planned building in Norway will be at the most northern location so far to generate more energy than it uses, demonstrating that “green” buildings can work anywhere…

A group including Norwegian aluminum maker Norsk Hydro and Swedish construction group Skanska said it would construct the six-to-seven-story building in Trondheim, with offices and shops covering up to 9,000 sq meters.

The building will use solar panels and sunscreens on an aluminum facade, which will have a new energy-saving ventilation system. It will also draw on geo-thermal energy and use other technologies such as heat pumps.

Over the year, it will generate more power than it consumes.

“This will be the world’s most northerly ‘energy-positive’ building,” Hydro Chief Executive Svein Richard Brandtzaeg told Reuters in a telephone interview of the project, due for completion in 2013.

If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere,” he said, adding that there were global business opportunities for Hydro in clean energy for buildings that usually emit greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels for heat, light and air-conditioning.

Trondheim, about 300 km south of the Arctic Circle, is on the same latitude as southern Greenland, Alaska and Siberia…

He said that Hydro had helped build an office block for Vodafone Group in Milan for 3,000 people, in which the facade cost 16 percent more than a conventional building but helped halve energy consumption.

“It cost 16 percent more, but the payback time is less than two years,” due to energy savings, he said.

Most folks who hope to ignore efficiencies in alternative energy source try just as hard to block out the fact that these are energy sources which are becoming more efficient and less expensive over time. This is particularly true of solar-generation models which continue to diminish in cost as engineering and scientific advancement accumulate.

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm

NASA climate forecasting is adding salt

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Global differences between evaporation and precipitation

Salt is essential to human life. Most people don’t know, however, that salt — in a form nearly the same as the simple table variety — is just as essential to Earth’s ocean, serving as a critical driver of key ocean processes. While ancient Greek soothsayers believed they could foretell the future by reading the patterns in sprinkled salt, today’s scientists have learned that they can indeed harness this invaluable mineral to foresee the future — of Earth’s climate.

The oracles of modern climate science are the computer models used to forecast climate change. These models, which rely on a myriad of data from many sources, are effective in predicting many climate variables, such as global temperatures. Yet data for some pieces of the climate puzzle have been scarce, including the concentration of dissolved sea salt at the surface of the world’s ocean, commonly called ocean surface salinity, subjecting the models to varying margins of error. This salinity is a key indicator of how Earth’s freshwater moves between the ocean, land and atmosphere.

Enter Aquarius, a new NASA salinity-measurement instrument slated for launch in June 2011 aboard the SAC-D spacecraft built by Argentina’s CONAE. Aquarius’ high-tech, salt-seeking sensors will make comprehensive measurements of ocean surface salinity with the precision needed to help researchers better determine how Earth’s ocean interacts with the atmosphere to influence climate. It’s a mission that promises to be, to quote the old saying, “worth its salt…”

Density-driven ocean circulation, according to Gary Lagerloef, is controlled as much by salinity as by ocean temperature. Sea salt makes up only 3.5 percent of the world’s ocean, but its relatively small presence reaps huge consequences.

Salinity influences the very motion of the ocean and the temperature of seawater, because the concentration of sea salt in the ocean’s surface mixed layer — the portion of the ocean that is actively exchanging water and heat with Earth’s atmosphere — is a critical driver of these ocean processes. It’s the missing variable in understanding the link between the water cycle and ocean circulation. Specifically, it’s an essential metric to modeling precipitation and evaporation…

Until now, researchers had taken ocean salinity measurements from aboard ships, buoys and aircraft – but they’d done so using a wide range of methods across assorted sampling areas and over inconsistent times from one season to another. Because of the sparse and intermittent nature of these salinity observations, researchers have not been able to fine-tune models to obtain a true global picture of how ocean surface salinity is influencing the ocean. Aquarius promises to resolve these deficiencies, seeing changes in ocean surface salinity consistently across space and time and mapping the entire ice-free ocean every seven days for at least three years.

RTFA. The advance work has been accomplished, sensors and data collection have been tuned. Now the task of collecting data will begin with the launch of Aquarius, this month.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Beauty salons the focus of robberies – hair theft!

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A spate of hair extension thefts across the US has put the spotlight on the lucrative market for human hair. It may sound an unlikely source of income – but salons across the country are on alert after a series of raids in which hair worth tens of thousands of dollars has been stolen.

In the latest theft, thieves rammed a car through the front door of a beauty supply shop in Atlanta, Georgia, and escaped with an estimated $10,000 in hair extensions.

In Houston, one raid at My Trendy Place hair salon earned the perpetrators $120,000 of Indian “virgin hair” – unprocessed and untreated.

Owner Lisa Amosu said the burglar, filmed on closed circuit television, knew exactly what he wanted and didn’t even bother to raid the cash till, heading straight for the storeroom housing hundreds of extension bundles and wigs.

“They cleared me out,” she says. “It’s so unfortunate, because the hairpieces were made especially for cancer survivors and for ladies who could not usually afford them.

Hair extensions are a huge part of my business. I have customers who come from Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth and Louisiana, because they get high quality…”

Surveillance cameras have shown burglars breaking through walls and windows, slithering along floors to avoid alarms and then grabbing expensive hair extensions from the shelves and stockrooms…

Singers like Beyonce, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera have popularised a look that has been fashionable in the African American community for decades…

Salons in the Western world buy the hair from companies that import it from countries like India.

A BBC investigation in 2008 discovered that some Indian women were having their head shaved voluntarily in a religious ritual…

What’s attractive, what is “beautiful” from society to society is so fleeting, caught up in the culture wars orchestrated by profiteers that it’s hard to take seriously except as either investment – or social commentary.

Beauty is part of love; but, that’s the love of a whole person – unless you are as vacant and shallow as the ideal consumer sought by corporations selling off rendered fat, scent and color as making you more desirable.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Octomom’s doctor loses his California medical license

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The California fertility doctor who implanted a dozen embryos in Nadya Suleman, resulting in the birth of eight babies, will lose his medical license on July 1, state officials said.

The California Medical Board ruled that Dr. Michael Kamrava committed “gross negligence” with “repeated negligent acts, for an excessive number of embryo transfers” into Suleman in 2008.

Suleman — known in the media as “Octomom” — was 33 when she gave birth to eight babies in January 2009. She was a single woman who already had six young children conceived through in-vitro fertilization administered by Kamrava…

The doctor “did not think he could refuse to transfer less embryos than those to which N.S. would agree because he believe at the time that the ultimate decision should be largely driven by the patient’s wishes,” the board wrote in the decision released Wednesday.

“While the evidence did not establish (Kamrava) as a maverick or deviant physician, oblivious to standards of care in IVF practices, it certainly demonstrated that he did not exercise sound judgment in the transfer of 12 embryos to patient N.S. (Suleman),” the board wrote…

Kamrava was also found guilty of gross negligence in two other cases, including his treatment of a woman on her late 40s who became pregnant with quadruplets after he implanted seven embryos. Her pregnancy was “rocked with complications,” according to the medical board.

Another case was a missed cancer diagnosis for a patient with an abnormal lab report.

It was revealed during Kamrava’s revocation hearing last October that Suleman still has 29 frozen embryos in storage available for her use should she want more children.

The complaint said the doctor should have referred Suleman to a mental health physician

I don’t care if he’s greedy or loony – a couple of qualities that could be applied equally to his notorious patient – he certainly set the perception of his craft back to the level of carnival charlatan.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 10:00 am

5 reasons why banks hate [and fear] Elizabeth Warren

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I’m sorry, Congressman, you’re small-minded, too!
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Elizabeth Warren, it’s not you they hate. It’s what you represent. You want to be an honest cop when so many before you in Washington have looked the other way and pretended that the banking industry could police itself.

I can’t think of a better reason why this presidential adviser shouldn’t be the new chief of an unfettered Consumer Financial Protection Bureau…

As the debate about Warren — and what she stands for — rages on, here’s a look at why the banks despise the idea of her as a strong regulator:

Weak consumer regulation was the norm, but banks love the status quo – Prior to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, which established the consumer bureau, there simply was no real consumer watchdog over banks…

Mortgage abuses were rampant – More than three years after the biggest financial meltdown since 1929, we’re still trying to unravel what the banks did to foul up the global financial system. Did the banks fudge mortgage documents simply to grease the way to securitizing loans? Did they trigger foreclosures even when homeowners were paying their bills? Did they push people into bad loans they knew they would default on? If any or all of these things were true, it certainly wasn’t because the banks were over-regulated…

Credit abuses are rampant – Take a look at your credit card disclosure statement. Do you have any idea how much you will owe if you’re late or lose your job and can’t pay? This is not a mystery to the banks, who have conceived elaborate formulas for charging you more money for credit…

Junk fees are abundant – You ever wonder what all those fees are that creep into your mortgage closing statement? They seem to come out of nowhere. A lot of them are negotiable or completely unnecessary…

Making simple math simple again – Do you know what a LIBOR index is and “lifetime maximum rates?” The banks don’t want you to know this because this is how much your monthly payment can climb based on a variable index. If the index goes up, so does your payment…

So nothing personal Elizabeth Warren.

It’s not the way you dress or the fact that you teach at Harvard and have been an advocate for banking customers. Or that you’re “so bloody disagreeable,” as one former Wall Street banker put it. It’s just that you’re so darned honest about banking abuses and are one of the best people in the country to enact change.

Bravo! RTFA. I probably disagree with John Wasik as often as I agree – about economics, investing, finance. That’s why it’s called the dismal science. This opinion piece is about honestly and competence. Something Congress knows little about – and cares even less.

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 6:00 am

Missouri coppers “kill” cement alligator

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Buy the mold and make lots of ‘em for your yard

Police in a suburb in the state of Missouri recently encountered one tough alligator — or so they thought.

Officers in Independence, a Kansas City suburb, responded to a call on a Saturday evening about a large alligator lurking on the embankment of a pond, police spokesman Tom Gentry said.

An officer called a state conservation agent, who advised him to shoot the alligator because there was little that conservation officials could do at that time, Gentry said.

As instructed an officer shot the alligator, not once but twice, but both times the bullets bounced off — because the alligator was made of cement…

Gentry acknowledged the incident is drawing a lot of attention.

“In hindsight, it’s humorous,” he said. “But we have to take every call seriously.”

You could chuck a rock at the “critter” if no one’s seen it move in a day or two – before you open fire.

Any idea where the ricochet went?

Written by Ed Campbell

June 4, 2011 at 2:00 am

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