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Archive for October 2012

3rd Generation electric car batteries promise 300-mile range and 70% less cost

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I want one of these

Would you be interested in an electric car that travels 300 miles on a single charge but its battery costs about 70 percent less than today’s packs? It’s something to look forward to in the next few years, says lithium-ion battery research company CalBattery.

CalBattery has designed a new li-ion battery with a silicon-graphene anode promising a major improvement in battery energy density. The design is based on what the company calls its “GEN3″ silicon-graphene composite anode material for li-ion batteries, the technology breakthrough for which was developed at Argonne National Labs. The company entered the li-ion battery cells into the Department of Energy’s 2012 Start UP America’s Next Top Energy Innovator challenge, and is a finalist in the competition.

Independent test results show that CalBattery’s cells have an energy density of 525 watt-hours per kilogram, and anode capacity of 1,250 mili-amp-hours per gram. Compare this to the typical commercial battery out there right now in the 100-180 watt-hours per kg range, and anode capacity in the 325 mili-amp-hours per gram range.

…”This equates to more than a 300 percent improvement in lithium-ion battery capacity, and an estimated 70 percent reduction in lifetime cost for batteries used in consumer electronics, EVs, and grid-scale energy storage,” CalBattery CEO Phil Roberts told Torque News.

Increased efforts to get EV tech into the marketplace have Nissan offering dramatically cut-price leases on their Leaf – and, now, some California Focus Electric dealers matching the rate. For as long as the cost of money is zilch, leases start to make as much sense as purchase.

The Ford EV’s aren’t yet available in my neck of the prairie; but, if they start to show up in the next year – at California lease rates – I’m beginning to think it worthwhile. Especially with consideration of rolling the deal over into a new purchase with Gen 3 batteries in a subsequent 3 or 4 years.

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Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Tree on New Haven Green felled by storm unearths skeleton

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Talk about an eerie Halloween story. Hurricane turned Superstorm Sandy toppled a majestic old oak on the Upper Green and intertwined in the dirt and roots was a human skeleton.

Police were called, as was the state medical examiner.

But there was no horror story to be told.

The very old bones likely are centuries old dating back to when the Green was used as a cemetery during colonial times until the Grove Street cemetery was chartered in 1797. There remain an estimated 5,000 people buried under the Green.

The tree toppled sometime during the evening on Monday during high winds from the hurricane. On Tuesday, a passerby noticed something unusual. It looked like human bones. She contacted police…

This will, of course, freak out the superstitious among us. The New Haven Green – aside from being the best location in town for a demonstration – hosts a number of public concerts over the summer season. I can just hear the titters from those who are going to pass on spreading a picnic and blanket there, next year, now that they know there are beaucoup human remains buried below.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm

The business of New York is business — New York Stock Exchange reopens in wake of superstorm

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Financial markets reopened Wednesday morning after the longest weather-related closure in over 100 years.

Lower Manhattan, including Wall Street, is still without power, but the New York Stock Exchange is up and running on a generator and CBS News business and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis reported that NYSE personnel tested all of their electronic systems on Tuesday.

Approximately 50 personnel from the NYSE stayed at the exchange overnight and carpools and hotel stays were arranged to ensure that traders could arrive at the exchange by the opening bell on Wednesday. NYSE’s chief operating officer told Jarvis that they have done everything can to make sure that trading would at 9:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg rang the opening bell.

The headline says it all. Regardless of our politics, the economy ain’t especially moving anywhere without means of buying, selling and trading. The NYSE is open for business and that’s a good thing.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Here’s a predictable achievement of the Republican anti-Obama campaign – American prejudice against Blacks increased

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Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not…

Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell…

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison…

Experts on race said they were not surprised by the findings

Neither am I.

Obama has tread cautiously on the subject of race, but many African-Americans have talked openly about perceived antagonism toward them since Obama took office. As evidence, they point to events involving police brutality or cite bumper stickers, cartoons and protest posters that mock the president as a lion or a monkey, or lynch him in effigy…

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

As predictable a result of bigotry and hate as has been the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, xenophobia engendered by Republican politics since 9/11.

Put the blame for corruption on victims. Just as the range of ethnicities and religions among the fallen at 9/11 extended well beyond white bread-America, the range of victims of the Bush Era oversight failure – our Great Recession – falls disproportionately on the least equipped economic segment of our population. Non-whites, Hispanic folks, Black people get it in the neck the most from disappeared jobs and opportunity.

Keep on rocking in the Free World!

Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2012 at 8:00 am

What Tom Friedman means by Pro-Life – and why

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Hard-line conservatives have gone to new extremes lately in opposing abortion. Last week, Richard Mourdock, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate candidate in Indiana, declared during a debate that he was against abortion even in the event of rape because after much thought he “came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.” That came on the heels of the Tea Party-backed Republican Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois saying after a recent debate that he opposed abortion even in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, because “with modern technology and science, you can’t find one instance” in which a woman would not survive without an abortion. “Health of the mother has become a tool for abortions anytime, for any reason,” Walsh said. That came in the wake of the Senate hopeful in Missouri, Representative Todd Akin, remarking that pregnancy as a result of “legitimate rape” is rare because “the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.”

These were not slips of the tongue. These are the authentic voices of an ever-more-assertive far-right Republican base that is intent on using uncompromising positions on abortion to not only unseat more centrist Republicans — Mourdock defeated the moderate Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana in the primary — but to overturn the mainstream consensus in America on this issue. That consensus says that those who choose to oppose abortion in their own lives for reasons of faith or philosophy should be respected, but those women who want to make a different personal choice over what happens with their own bodies should be respected, and have the legal protection to do so, as well.

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Written by Ed Campbell

October 31, 2012 at 4:00 am

Gardens by the Bay wins 2012 World Architecture Festival prize

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Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, has won the overall World Building of the Year Award at the prestigious World Architecture Festival Awards 2012…

Located in Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay is a key project in delivering the Singapore 
government’s vision of transforming Singapore into a “City in a Garden.” At a total of 250 acres, the Gardens by the Bay project comprises three distinct waterfront gardens – Bay South, Bay East and Bay Central. The commission to design the 134 acre Bay South garden was won in 2006 by a team led by Grant Associates and including Wilkinson Eyre Architects, Atelier One, Atelier Ten, Land Design and Davis Langdon and Seah.

Stunning.

CEO sends letter to Chrysler employees denying Romney’s lies

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Jeep plant in Belvidere, Illinois

Chrysler Group LLC Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne reiterated that Jeep sport-utility vehicle production will stay in the U.S. after presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested output may move to China.

“Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” Marchionne wrote today in a letter to Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler’s employees. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

Romney told a crowd a crowd in Defiance, Ohio, on Oct. 25 that he saw an unidentified story that said Jeep was “thinking of moving all production to China.” The Republican nominee has since aired an ad in Ohio highlighting Chrysler’s desire to make Jeeps in China without mentioning investments and added jobs at U.S. Jeep plants. President Barack Obama is scheduled to air a response ad in the closely contested state today.

Bloomberg News reported Oct. 22 that Chrysler’s majority owner Fiat SpA (F) planned to resume Jeep output in China and may eventually make all of the brand’s models there. The report stated that potential production in China would be in addition to output at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio.

Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps in China, the world’s largest auto market, since before Turin, Italy-based Fiat took control of the U.S. automaker in 2009 after a U.S.-backed bankruptcy. Production in China would allow Fiat and Chrysler to sell Jeeps that avoid Chinese government tariffs on imported vehicles…

Since its bankruptcy in 2009, Chrysler has announced about $4.2 billion in investments for Jeep models and plants that produce them in Detroit; Belvidere, Illinois; and Toledo, Ohio. The three investments will add about 5,700 jobs combined by next year, Marchionne wrote today in his message to employees.

Republicans have often lied about economics, racism, bigotry of every stripe – when their tactics embrace the worst of hypocrisy. Never can I recall the CEO of a corporation having to distribute a letter to employees about the lies of a presidential candidate.

If you vote for Romney, you’re really going to get what you deserve – untruth in advertising.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Long overdue question – Were suspects framed in 1977 killing?

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Two black men wrongly convicted in the 1977 murder of a white Iowa police officer hope to prove something they couldn’t during trials that sent them to prison for 25 years: that detectives framed them to solve a high-profile case.

During a civil trial that starts Wednesday in Des Moines, Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee will argue that Council Bluffs police officers coerced witnesses into fabricating testimony against them in the killing of John Schweer.

Schweer was found dead while working as the night watchman at a car dealership. Harrington and McGhee, then teenagers from neighboring Omaha, Neb., say detectives used threats against a group of young black car theft suspects to trump up evidence targeting them because of their race and pressure to solve the retired captain’s killing.

Despite little physical evidence, Harrington and McGhee were convicted at 1978 trials and sentenced to long prison terms. They were freed in 2003, after the Iowa Supreme Court found that prosecutors committed misconduct in concealing reports about another man seen near the crime scene with a shotgun. The key witnesses had also recanted their testimony, saying they were pressured into implicating the men.

After winning their freedom, they filed lawsuits against prosecutors and officers they blamed for forcing them to spend their adult lives in the Fort Madison prison. Their case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 over the issue of whether suspects have the constitutional right not to be framed by prosecutors. Before justices ruled, Pottawatamie County agreed to pay $12 million to settle claims against two former prosecutors while not admitting wrongdoing.

The settlement did not resolve claims against Council Bluffs and former detectives Dan Larsen and Lyle Brown…

Larsen and Brown thought…they could pin the murder on…some ‘ghetto dwellers‘,” plaintiffs’ lawyers wrote, using a term detective Larsen once used to refer to Omaha residents. “Either way, Larsen and Brown would be putting blacks in front of a white Council Bluffs jury for the killing of a white Council Bluffs cop. That would mean case closed and they would be heroes.”

RTFA, follow the story. Justice delayed for 35 years is justice denied.

And why, pray tell, do you have to go to the Supreme Court for a ruling on whether suspects have a constitutional right not to be framed? Absolutely contemptible.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Sorting the real Hurricane Sandy photos from the fakes

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With Hurricane Sandy approaching the New York metro area, the nation’s eyes are turning to its largest city. Photos of storms and flooding are popping up all over Twitter, and while many are real, some of them — especially the really eye-popping ones — are fake.

This post, which will be updated over the next couple of days, is an effort to sort the real from the unreal. It’s a photograph verification service, you might say, or a pictorial investigation bureau. If you see a picture that looks fishy, send it to me at alexis.madrigal[at]gmail.com. If you like this sort of thing, you should also visit istwitterwrong.tumblr.com, which is just cataloging the fakes…


Click for closer

Everything about the lit-up Jane’s Carousel pictures from Dumbo scream fake. One, the carousel is gorgeous. Two, it’s lit up like a beacon amidst the dark of the flood waters. Why are the lights on? Three, it seems difficult to get this photograph from that area. Shouldn’t the photographer have evacuated?

Well, yes, it turns out. Anna Dorfman, a book designer who lives in Dumbo, took this photo shortly before evacuating. She’s confirmed that she took it. Another Instagram user and Dumbo resident, Ana Adjelic, also posted a photo of the carousel from a different angle. And we also got independent confirmation from a journalist Jeff Howe that another friend who lives in the area had sent him similar photographs. These may be the most improbable and striking images of the night, and they are real. There will be moments of serendipity and islands of beauty amidst any storm.

RTFA for more real vs. fake photos from this monster storm. The article continues to be updated.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2012 at 10:00 am

Global coffee – India’s first Starbucks have waiting lines

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Photograph: Punit Paranjpe/AFP/Getty Images

During the past 10 days, sweaty queues of up to 50 people have formed outside an old colonial building in downtown Mumbai, while a security guard operates a one-in-one-out policy. These hopefuls are not trying to get into an edgy new nightclub or shake hands with a visiting politician. They are waiting for up to an hour to go to Starbucks. “There’s excitement among everyone,” said Akhil Somani, a 27-year-old financial adviser, as he stood in line last weekend. “We have our own coffee brands but this one has had a lot of hype.”

Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee-shop chain, opened its first branch in India on 19 October. Two more branches – including one in Mumbai’s famous Taj Mahal Palace hotel, which has likewise seen dozens of people queuing for a frappuccino – opened last week. With more than 17,600 branches in 61 countries, it is perhaps surprising that the Seattle-based company has only just arrived in India. It entered China in 1999 and has around 600 outlets there.

India is the home of chai, sugary and milky tea ladled into tumblers at street stalls for around five rupees. However, as Indians’ disposable incomes rise, cafes are cropping up in large cities. The country’s cafe sector is worth $230 million, up from $40 million five years ago, according to a report by Technopak, an Indian consultancy. Cafe Coffee Day, a no-frills homegrown chain, dominates the market. The UK’s Costa Coffee and the US’s The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf also have a small presence.

The appearance of Starbucks, whose Mumbai branches offer paneer wraps as well as blueberry muffins, also reflects India’s increasingly international malls and high streets. More western chains are expected to open branches here in the near future, after constraints on foreign investment were loosened this autumn.

India’s coalition government, led by the Congress party, in September relaxed rules on local sourcing for foreign “single-brand retailers” – shops that sell items belonging to one brand. Last November, it scrapped rules stating that such retailers needed to partner with a local company. Following these reforms, Ikea this month applied to open around 25 outlets. Starbucks has entered India through an $80m joint venture with Tata, one of the country’s biggest conglomerates, having worked on this deal before the rules changed…

Opposition parties and independent shopkeepers have held protests in response to the retail reforms. Yet many customers hope foreign brands will result in more choice and better quality, as local businesses will have to fight to retain clients. “More competition is good for the customer,” said Somani as he finally managed to enter Starbucks, only to join another queue for the counter.

Politicians who think they’re doing a nation’s economy a favor by keeping out foreign investment are fools. They may garner a few more votes among superpatriots or business ignoranuses. They restrain expansion from investors bringing something as simple as a new outlook to the economy.

And then there are those who would like to introduce even more barriers to foreign investment. They would enjoy nothing more than dragging our own tawdry economy into a trade war, protect a few personal investments – well, investments made “personal” by lobbyists – in the name of national security. Yup. Our unemployed feel lots more secure when foreign investors are prevented from putting a few bucks into a business in the GOUSA.

Written by Ed Campbell

October 30, 2012 at 8:00 am

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