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Archive for November 2012

Hurricane Sandy exposes flaws in sewer systems

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Replacing water pumps destroyed at the Bay Park sewage treatment plant

The water flowing out of the Bay Park sewage plant here in Nassau County is a greenish-gray soup of partially treated human waste, a sign of an environmental and public health disaster that officials say will be one of the most enduring and expensive effects of Hurricane Sandy.

In the month since the storm, hundreds of millions of gallons of raw and partly raw sewage from Bay Park and other crippled treatment plants have flowed into waterways in New York and New Jersey, exposing flaws in the region’s wastewater infrastructure that could take several years and billions of dollars to fix. In New York State alone, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has estimated that about $1.1 billion will be needed to repair treatment plants. But officials acknowledge that they will have to do far more.

Motors and electrical equipment must be raised above newly established flood levels, and circuitry must be made waterproof. Dams and levees may have to be built at some treatment plants to keep the rising waters at bay, experts say.

Failure to do so, according to experts, could leave large swaths of the population vulnerable to public health and environmental hazards in future storms.

Poisonally, I think the bill should be hand-delivered to the Koch Bros., the Republican Party and the rest of the know-nothing dimwits still praying for the heavens to open and suck away our specie’s industrial pollution and the resulting climate change.

“You’re looking at significant expenditures of money to make the plants more secure,” said John Cameron, an engineer who specializes in wastewater-treatment facilities and is the chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council. “There is no Band-Aid for this,” he added. “This is the new normal.”

When the plants are fully functioning, they treat incoming sewage to remove solid waste and toxic substances and kill bacteria before it is discharged into the ocean or a bay. When the plants are shut down, the raw sewage goes into waterways in the same condition as when it comes in. At least six sewage plants in the New York region shut down completely during the storm, and many more were crippled by storm surges that swamped motors and caused short circuits in electrical equipment.

In New Jersey, workers at the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission plant, the fifth largest in the country, had to evacuate as floodwaters surged in and wastewater gushed out.

The Middlesex County Utility Authority plant in Sayreville, N.J., let about 75 million gallons of raw sewage a day flow into Raritan Bay for nearly a week before power was restored, said Larry Ragonese, a spokesman for the State Environmental Protection Department.

RTFA and weep, folks. Paragraph after paragraph of excuses, rationales, every bureaucrat repeating the mantra of anti-science stupidity: “It never happened before; so, we did nothing to prevent it.”

Idiots.

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Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2012 at 8:00 pm

Sinkhole eats state highway in Ohio

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In Ohio a massive sinkhole has eaten away part of a state highway and now threatens nearby houses as well. It’s estimated to be the size of four football fields.

The state highway has been badly damaged and will have to be closed for months.

The sinkhole began as a pond on land where the Newton Asphalt Company had been dredging for sand. The dredging may have eroded enough of the land near the pond to cause a collapse.

Think so?

It had happened so quickly that Newton employees had to run to the road to warn traffic the road had fallen in.

Experts think it could be well into 2013 before permanent repairs can be made.

If we’re lucky, the state of Ohio will award the repair bid to the Newton Asphalt Company – and they will provide more entertainment.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Harvard Doctor turns hedge fund profiteer, then, convict – after sentence for insider trading

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From the age of six, Joseph F. “Chip” Skowron III aspired to be a doctor. At Yale, he earned both a medical degree and a doctorate in molecular and cellular biology, then qualified for Harvard’s elite, five-year residency program. Three years in, Skowron quit medicine for Wall Street. He and two partners started a group of health-care investment funds under the auspices of FrontPoint Partners LLC, a hot new property in the exploding world of hedge funds.

Skowron was soon making millions of dollars a year. He built a gabled, 10,000-square-foot home on three acres in the nation’s hedge-fund capital, Greenwich, Connecticut. He assembled a small fleet of pricey cars, including a 2006 Aston Martin Vanquish and a 2009 Alfa Romeo Spider 8C. He also spent vacation time engaged in Third World humanitarian causes…

Today, Skowron…is serving a five-year term for insider trading at the federal prison at Minersville, Pennsylvania. At FrontPoint, Skowron lied to his bosses and law enforcement authorities, cost more than 35 people their jobs and stooped to slipping envelopes of cash to an accomplice. FrontPoint is gone. Morgan Stanley, which once owned FrontPoint, is seeking more than $65 million from Skowron, whose net worth a year ago was $22 million. Until he’s a free man, his wife of 16 years will have to care for their four children and Rocky, their golden retriever, on her own…

Health care has become America’s sweet spot for insider traders like Skowron. Among researchers, physicians, government officials and corporate executives, the lure of easy money in health-care insider trading has become epidemic. Since 2008, about 400 people were sued by regulators or charged with insider trading; of those, at least 94 passed or received tips involving pharmaceutical, biotechnology or other health-care stocks.

RTFA for the cautionary tale of humanitarian physician – turned scumbag profiteer, insider trader on Wall Street.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Give a holiday present for someone to use and better their life?

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OxFam Unwrapped
Click to get to website

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2012 at 8:00 am

Leicester scientists print out the human genome in 130 volumes

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An exhibition on genomics – the study of genetic material which is driving major medical research innovations – has opened at Leicester’s New Walk Museum.

Inside DNA: A Genomic Revolution offers people the chance to learn more about genome research and have a say in the future policy of the science…

The University of Leicester’s Department of Genetics has printed out an entire human genome – amounting to 130 volumes of some 300 pages – which is going on display at the museum.

The work has been done by the Genetics Education Networking for Innovation and Excellence (Genie), based at the university.

Genie spokesman Dr Cas Kramer said: “Genie’s outreach programme has enabled us to develop workshops to further enhance the Inside DNA exhibit and we are very much looking forward to working with the museum over the next six months.”

Clare Matterson, from the Wellcome Trust, which funds the exhibition, said: “Over a decade since the first human genome was published, scientists are starting to get to grips with what the information in our DNA means for health and disease.

“Inside DNA is more relevant than ever, giving people a chance to explore issues raised by this research.”

Bravo!

Written by Ed Campbell

November 30, 2012 at 2:00 am

General Assembly vote at UN upgrades Palestinian status

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The United Nations has voted overwhelmingly to recognise a Palestinian state.

The vote, which was taken at a meeting of the body in New York on Thursday, represents a long-sought victory for the Palestinians but a diplomatic defeat for the US, with 138 countries voting in favour of the upgrade.

Nine countries voted against it and 41 others abstained…

The new status is an indirect recognition of the Palestinians’ claims on statehood in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. It allows them to join a number of UN agencies, as well as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Immediately after the results were announced, US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice reiterated the US opposition – blah, blah, blah…

The US and Israel voted against recognition, joined by Canada, the Czech Republic, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and Panama…

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon renewed his call for the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

“Today’s vote underscores the urgency of the resumption of meaningful negotiations,” Ban said.

“My position has been consistent all along. I believe that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to their own independent state. I believe that Israel has the right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. There is no substitute for negotiations to that end…”

There were celebrations in cities across the West Bank, as well as in Gaza, where the Hamas government offered tepid support for the bid and allowed backers to express their solidarity with the move.

In Bethlehem, fireworks were shot into the night sky, and churches rang their bells at midnight to mark the occasion.

Israel has functioned as a client for the United States in every region of the world. The rationales offered by the US, today, aren’t any different from excuses rolled out for every land grab, every act of imperial arrogance over decades.

The reaction from most of the world puts the lie to our government’s poppycock self-portrayal as the heart of democracy and liberation. The United States played a role in the UN General Assembly perfectly comparable to that of Republicans in our Congress. And just as deserving of contempt.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 29, 2012 at 8:00 pm

From the Cold War 1.0 – United States planned to nuke the moon

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You could easily skip by it in an archive search: a project titled “A Study of Lunar Research Flights.” Its nickname is even more low-brow: “Project A-119.”

But the reality was much more explosive. It was a top-secret plan, developed by the U.S. Air Force, to look at the possibility of detonating a nuclear device on the moon.

It was hatched in 1958 – a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a nuclear arms race that would last decades and drive the two superpowers to the verge of nuclear war. The Soviets had also just launched Sputnik 1, the world’s first satellite. The U.S. was falling behind in the space race, and needed a big splash.

“People were worried very much by (first human in space Soviet cosmonaut Yuri) Gagarin and Sputnik and the very great accomplishments of the Soviet Union in those days, and in comparison, the United States was feared to be looking puny. So this was a concept to sort of reassure people that the United States could maintain a mutually-assured deterrence, and therefore avoid any huge conflagration on the Earth,” said physicist Leonard Reiffel, who led the project…

The military considerations were frightening. The report said a nuclear detonation on the moon could yield information “…concerning the capability of nuclear weapons for space warfare.” Reiffel said that in military circles at the time, there was “discussion of the moon as military high ground.”

That included talk of having nuclear launch sites on the moon, he said. The thinking, according to Reiffel, was that if the Soviets hit the United States with nuclear weapons first and wiped out the U.S. ability to strike back, the U.S. could launch warheads from the moon.

“These are horrendous concepts,” Reiffel said, “and they are hopefully going to remain in the realm of science fiction for the rest of eternity…”

Or the platform of the Arizona Republican Party

By 1959, Project A-119 was drawing more concern than excitement…

Project planners also weren’t sure of the reliability of the weapons, and feared the public backlash in the U.S. would be significant,” Reiffel said…

Contacted by CNN, the Air Force would not comment on Project A-119.

Has there ever been a branch of anyone’s military willing to admit how truly stupid and useless some of their projects may be?

Written by Ed Campbell

November 29, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Dutch scrap archaic blasphemy law

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Dutch authorities have decided to approve a motion abandoning a law under which it is a crime to insult God.

A majority of parties in parliament said the blasphemy law was no longer relevant in the 21st Century…

The legislation, introduced in the 1930s, has not been invoked in the last half century. However, it still remains illegal under Dutch law to be disrespectful to police officers or to insult Queen Beatrix, the country’s monarch…

The BBC’s Anna Holligan, in The Hague, says that there was much debate about the issue after a Dutch court ruled that the far-right anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders should be allowed to criticise Islam, even if his outspoken opinions offended many Muslims.

In 2008, a coalition government decided against repealing the blasphemy law in order to maintain support from a conservative Christian political party.

But, sooner or later, even the opportunism of professional politicians will be overcome by freedom-loving voters. Eventually, people realize that most “coalitions” are arranged to share power – not principles.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Ladies – Support gay marriage! – Or gay women will marry your boyfriends

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Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Written by Ed Campbell

November 29, 2012 at 10:00 am

The future of the internet is intelligent machines, an Industrial Internet

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As we know it today, the internet has been largely about connecting people to information, people to people, and people to business. Monetization strategies range as widely as the options available, and for all the success, there are more failures. While many of the advancements have been extraordinary – even unthinkable a short time ago – too often we’re still left asking, “to what end?”

The internet can give consumers nearly anything with just a click, but global economies remain challenged. The internet has become the biggest library in the world, but education is just now beginning to take advantage and change. The internet can provide businesses with unprecedented data, but true insight remains contentious and change is slow.

The real opportunity for change is still ahead of us, surpassing the magnitude of the development and adoption of the consumer internet. It is what we call the “Industrial Internet,” an open, global network that connects people, data and machines. The Industrial Internet is aimed at advancing the critical industries that power, move and treat the world.

There are now many millions of machines across the world, ranging from simple electric motors to highly advanced MRI machines. There are tens of thousands of fleets of sophisticated machinery, ranging from power plants that produce electricity to aircraft that move people and cargo around the world. There are thousands of complex networks ranging from power grids to railroad systems, which tie machines and fleets together.

This vast physical world of machines, facilities, fleets and networks can more deeply merge with the connectivity, big data and analytics of the digital world. This is what the Industrial Internet Revolution is all about.

The Industrial Internet leverages the power of the cloud to connect machines embedded with sensors and sophisticated software to other machines (and to us) so we can extract data, make sense of it and find meaning where it did not exist before. Machines – from jet engines to gas turbines to CT scanners – will have the analytical intelligence to self-diagnose and self-correct. They will be able to deliver the right information to the right people, all in real time. When machines can sense conditions and communicate, they become instruments of understanding. They create knowledge from which we can act quickly, saving money and producing better outcomes…

In the near future, I expect nothing short of an open, global fabric of highly intelligent machines that connect, communicate and cooperate with us. This Industrial Internet is not about a world run by robots, it is about combining the world’s best technologies to solve our biggest challenges. It’s about economically and environmentally sustainable energy, curing the incurable diseases, and preparing our infrastructure and cities for the next 100 years.

RTFA. What’s above is the first half. Rather than edit the whole content down to a size manageable for a blog post, I really urge you to read the complete article. And I thank Om Malik for inviting Jeff Immelt to write the first of a series of guest articles at GigaOm.

Written by Ed Campbell

November 29, 2012 at 8:00 am

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