Tagged: France

Gizmag’s Top 10 sustainable houses

You can click over to the article to wander through all ten. I’d like to feature a few I really like.

The ZEB Pilot House

International architecture firm Snøhetta has partnered with Norway’s Research Center on Zero Emission Buildings (ZEB) and to design and build a remarkable experimental house that helps move the development of very efficient buildings forward. The ZEB Pilot House is claimed to generate almost three times the amount of electricity it requires, with the significant surplus available to help run an electric car, for example…

A lot of sustainable technology was used on the build. The roof sports a 150 sq m (1,614 sq ft) photovoltaic array, and a 16 sq m (172 sq ft) solar thermal panel array, in addition to a rainwater collection system that provides water for toilet and garden use. In order to ensure all available rays are caught, the roof also slopes 19 degrees toward the southeast.

A Snøhetta representative told Gizmag that the photovoltaic array is expected to produce 19,200 kWh annually, while the home’s total electricity needs are calculated at just 7,272 kWh per year.


Pop-Up House

Whatever kind of home you live in, the chances are it took longer to build than the Pop-Up House, by French architecture firm Multipod, which was erected by a team of builders in just four days with no more tools than a screwdriver. The firm likens the construction process to building with Lego.

The Pop-Up House is a prototype prefabricated home that Multipod aims to bring to market for around €30,000 (roughly US$41,000). Thanks to its excellent insulation and near-airtight thermal envelope, no heating is required for the home in its location in Southern France, and it meets the very exacting Passivhaus energy standard.


The S House

Vietnam’s Vo Trong Nghia Architects has been tinkering away at the issue of providing practical, sustainable, and most importantly, cheap, homes. The result is the S House, a US$4,000 dwelling part-built using local, easily-obtained materials, including Palm leaf thatching and bamboo.

The interior of the S House is very basic and measures just 30 sq m (322 sq ft), with one large interior space. The building is prefabricated and can be disassembled into multiple small pieces for easy transport by local builders. Vo Trong Nghia Architects is still working on the design of the S House but the eventual plan is to mass market it.

I could wander off into the tech of these three. I shan’t. Wander through the series and reflect on your own choices – and why.

The last two, the S House and the Pop-Up are my favorites of these three because of size. I firmly believe smaller is usually better. My wife and I [and a dog, of course] first lived together in a 2-bedroom guesthouse that encompassed 650 sq.ft. – and we didn’t use one of those bedrooms. We lived day-to-day in about 450 sq.ft. and that still was more than we needed.

We live in more space, now, and once again have a room we don’t use at all. The guesthouse is back to being a guesthouse. A functional design when you live within a destination. It’s convenient to have two bathrooms; but, still, the main room could be smaller and that would simply encourage sitting closer to the TV set watching a football match or a movie. :)

Maersk loses 517 containers from freighter – not 70

Svendborg Maersk 01
Click to enlarge

A French environmental group says it will sue a Danish shipping company for failing to fully report the loss of hundreds of containers during a violent storm.

The complaint by Robin des Bois accuses the company, Maersk, and the crew of the Svenborg Maersk of “unacceptable light-mindedness”…

The 20-foot and 40-foot shipping containers fell off the ship this month off the coast of France during a storm with 30-foot waves and 60-knot winds…

The containers were found missing when the ship docked in the Spanish port of Malaga for repairs.

Maersk initially reported 70 containers were lost. On Wednesday, it upgraded the total to 517.

The environmental group called the lost containers “a permanent danger for fishermen, coastal communities and the environment.” It said Maersk was guilty of pollution and “abandoning waste.”

The company said 85 percent of the containers were empty. The rest contained dry goods; none carried hazardous materials.

I hope authorities require online publication of a detailed listing for each container, contents, safety requirements and proof of insurance. All certainly exist inside the bowels of the Maersk computers.

First of all, this will aid local coppers when they have to deal with containers washing ashore. No matter where. Second, this would press Maersk essentially to prove they’re not continuing to lie about what happened.

France, Mexico, latest allies of the USA who learn the NSA is spying on everything in their lives


Felipe – I read your email about switching to Viagra

The US ambassador was scheduled to attend an emergency meeting over spying on Monday morning at France’s foreign ministry in Paris, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The meeting was prompted by an article published by the French daily Le Monde alleging that the US National Security Agency had listened in on millions of French phone calls…

There was no immediate response from Washington regarding the article or the French government’s outrage over the claims.

According to Le Monde’s online article published today, the NSA gathered 70.3 million French phone records between December 10, 2012 and January 8 of this year. The article cited documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and was co-written by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who originally broke the NSA story…

The Mexican Foreign Ministry also demanded answers from Washington after the publication of a separate article alleging NSA-snooping on Mexico on Sunday. The latest revelations stemmed from an article published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel which said the US surveillance program had been spying on Mexico for years…

The Spiegel article said the NSA had hacked into the email of President Felipe Calderon in 2010, citing documents obtained from Edward Snowden.

The revelations of US espionage have angered allied countries. Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington in protest of alleged surveillance on Brazilian citizens and companies.

Last week, Deutsche Telekom announced a plan to shield domestic Internet traffic from foreign spying. The telecommunications giant aims to strengthen data privacy in Germany by preventing it from leaving its borders and opting instead to channel it through domestic servers only.

Typically, the excuse used by conservative apologists or just plain lazy-ass sophists about the NSA/United States wholesale gobbling up of everything digital about your life is “everyone has always done this, nothing new, move along”. Which is hogwash. Quantitative levels of snooping change qualitatively when you go from slipping a spy into a foreign embassy to photograph the new submarine plans – versus vacuuming up every iota of metadata for every citizen of your nation, 24/7.

You might feel more secure deluding yourself with political ennui. That just makes you part of the problem. Individuals of conscience react to the crimes of their own nation as thoroughly as those of “nasty furriners”. The questions come down to principle – and responsibility.

French nuclear plant profits to help fund alt-energy goals


Hollande and Ayrault

France will use some of the proceeds from its nuclear power plants, alongside a new carbon tax, to help fund an overhaul of the country’s energy policy, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Saturday.

He did not specify the size of the contribution from nuclear power or how it would be applied…

In addition to the flagship carbon tax, to be levied on fossil fuels from next year and which should raise 4 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 2016, Ayrault said the government would raise funds from nuclear plants…

“For the remainder of our plants’ lifetime and while ensuring the highest possible security of course, our nuclear fleet will be made to contribute,” he said, referring to funding of so-called energy transition goals…

State-owned electricity group EDF operates France’s 19 nuclear plants, which house 58 reactors…

France is currently the world’s most nuclear-reliant country in its electricity supply.

Hollande reiterated on Friday an election promise to cut France’s dependency on nuclear power from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025…

Hey – every little bit helps.

As I’ve previously noted, after more than a half-century supporting the building of nuclear power plants I’ve done the math and switched to support for solar and wind power. The cost of building and maintaining nuclear power never diminishes, continues to increase. The opposite is the case at least in the near and medium term for many alternative systems.

Whistleblower has names of tax cheats with Swiss bank accounts

Hervé Falciani is a professed whistle-blower — the Edward Snowden of banking — who has been hunted by Swiss investigators, jailed by Spaniards and claims to have been kidnapped by Israeli Mossad agents eager for a glimpse of the client data he stole while working for a major financial institution in Geneva.

“I am weak and alone,” Mr. Falciani said, as three round-the-clock bodyguards provided by the French government looked on with hard stares. The protection was needed, he insisted, because he faces constant risk as the sole key to decipher the encrypted data — five CD-ROMs containing a list of nearly 130,000 account holders that may be the biggest leak ever in the secretive world of Swiss banking…

In 2012, Mr. Falciani passed his information to American authorities. They, in turn, used the data to pursue an investigation into whether HSBC flouted controls on money laundering, eventually forcing a $1.92 billion settlement with the bank in December…

Since being released from jail this year after a Spanish judge denied a Swiss extradition request, Mr. Falciani, who is married and has a young daughter, has resurfaced in France. Authorities here have offered protection in exchange for Mr. Falciani giving testimony to local prosecutors who are investigating whether HSBC helped French clients dodge taxes.

As the investigations play out, Mr. Falciani said he was holding down a day job, working for a European Union project as a computer researcher to develop algorithms to detect abnormal behavior. But he worries about his long-term safety, wondering whether he will live another year. He notes that his house has been broken into and that his wife was recently fired from a job at a shoe store because of his notoriety

“This business represents thousands of billions of euros,” he said. “From my side, I’m frightened.”

He should consider moving to a nation like the United States which respects and protects whistleblowers, preserves their liberty and responds to leaks by prosecuting criminals in high places.

Oh.

French parliament lifts historic ban on insulting president

A change in French law means it has now become legal to insult the French president.

Parliament agreed on Thursday to amend legislation dating back to 1881 in favour of freedom of speech.

Previously, anyone tempted to offend the head of state risked a fine.

In March, the European Court of Human Rights ruled France violated freedom of expression by fining a man for insulting former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The abuse, repeating words that Mr Sarkozy himself had used previously, was a crude version of “get lost!”

The European Court said the man’s conviction and his 30-euro (£26) fine had been “disproportionate”.

The president would now need to prove there had been slander or defamation towards him.

Why am I not surprised the last presidential creep to use this law was Sarkozy?

Turkey’s EU membership bid falters — Germany unrelenting

Turkey’s chances of a breaking a three-year stalemate and relaunching its bid to join the European Union look like being dashed because of the government’s ruthless response to three weeks of street protests amid worsening friction between Ankara and Berlin.

The foreign ministry in Berlin summoned the Turkish ambassador to Germany on Friday to explain the harsh language directed at the chancellor, Angela Merkel, by Egemen Bağis, the Turkish official in charge of negotiations with the EU.

Merkel had said earlier this week that she was “appalled at the very tough” response by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in ordering riot police to clear central Istanbul of thousands of protesters last weekend.

Bağis accused the chancellor of playing domestic politics, said that anyone using Turkey for political purposes would suffer “an inauspicious end” and warned of severe retaliation if the negotiations were called off.

Turkey opened negotiations to join the EU eight years ago, at the same time as Croatia. While Croatia joins next week as the 28th member, Turkey’s bid has been frozen for three years…Merkel and the German centre-right remain firmly opposed to Turkey joining. Her Christian Democrats’ draft manifesto for the general elections in September states: “We reject full membership for Turkey because it does not meet the conditions for EU entry…”

Negotiations were supposed to resume next week after a long hiatus because the French president, François Hollande, lifted the block imposed by his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, as a gesture of goodwill. Talks were to take place on regional development, an issue that could have influenced Ankara’s policy towards parts of the south-east populated mainly by Kurds who have long been campaigning for greater rights and more devolved government.

But Germany and the Netherlands are refusing a green light for next week’s resumption, triggering a European debate over the most sensible response to the turmoil in Turkey.

Discussions about how to respond to the turmoil in Turkey have nothing to do with either the causes of the turmoil or core reasons for the refusal of admittance. The turmoil results from a populist government trying to cure every modernist problem it sees with the hammer of suppression.

Rejection of Turkey’s membership in the greater economy the EU affords is a twofold reaction to a government in Turkey led by a liar and hypocrite. The years of Erdoğan’s populist government have been characterized by his wink and a nod to a goal of crushing modernism, secular freedoms central to Turkey’s constitution. He’s given the wink to his rural religious supporters and nodded assent to the constitution – while plotting its demise.

First same-sex couple married in France


Click to enlargeREUTERS/Philippe Laurenson

Vincent Autin (L) and Bruno Boileau (R) kiss on the terrace of the city hall after they were married in Montpellier, May 29, 2013. The two men are the first same-sex couple to marry in France under a reform which has stoked some of the ugliest protests in the country in decades. The law, backed by most French and feted by gay and lesbians as it came into force this month, makes France the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage despite heated street protests by conservatives, Catholics and extreme-right groups.

Bravo!

Best Baguette in Paris


The happy winner – Ridha Khadher posing in front of his bakery

Two hundred and three Parisian bakers entered the Best Baguette of Paris 2013 competition. Wrapped in white paper with identification numbers, the entries were tasted, sniffed, weighed, and measured to determine the winner.

Fifty two entries were disqualified for not meeting the strict guidelines of measuring 55-70 centimeters long or weighing 250-300 grams…

This year’s winner was baker Ridha Khadher. His prize: The privilege of baking bread for the French President, François Hollande.

A contest truly worth winning. Only four ingredients water, a touch of salt, yeast and flour + skill. A lot of skill.