What’s an architect to do – with a nuclear reactor?


Design for Nuclear Power Generation complex, Chongqing, China

Like it or not, nuclear days are almost certainly here again, thanks to a combination of climate change, dwindling oil and gas reserves, and dawdling renewable energy policies. Last month, France’s EDF Group staged a £12.5bn takeover of British Energy, which operates the UK’s eight nuclear power plants. With the government’s blessing, EDF has pledged to build at least four more, most likely including one at Sizewell and another at Hinkley Point, Somerset.

The political lines on these issues are clearly drawn, but nuclear power stations pose some tricky questions in design terms. For one thing, they must be sited in remote coastal locations, like Sizewell – not just to ensure minimal vaporisation of the population in the event of an accident, but also because stations need access to sea water, the primary coolant in modern designs. As such, most of Britain’s nuclear power stations are smack-bang next to nature reserves or national parks, the last places you’d want to find them. It’s hard to think of any other type of building that is allowed to occupy such sites, let alone without stringent aesthetic guidelines.

Today’s architects face a dilemma. Should they play a role in making these facilities look more palatable, or decline to get involved on ethical grounds? Even for pro-nuclear architects, these are not the kind of projects that look good in the portfolio, especially when you’re pitching to build, say, a nice green low-energy school. But to avoid the issue could be self-defeating – effectively arguing that they should look ugly, because to make them look nice would be a tacit admission of approval. If we do have to have new nuclear power stations in the landscape, shouldn’t we try to make them acceptable aesthetically, even if they’re not politically?

My impulsive reaction is – what sort of ninny has deep problems discussing this?

The politics are the easy bit. How do you choose your clients? Presuming they’re looking for you in the first place. After that, the engineering constraints, setting and use govern what is possible.

Everything else is petty-bourgeois psychologizing at best, neurotic navel-gazing.

The article is readable, considered within context, an exercise that doesn’t exist outside the EU.

Beijing reintroduces a portion of the Olympics car regulations

Traffic restrictions have been re-introduced in China’s capital Beijing, in an attempt to bring back the clear skies seen during the Olympics.

Each car must spend one day a week off the road, in a scheme based on registration numbers.

The new rules are expected to take some 800,000 cars off the road every day, according to the Beijing Municipal Committee of Communications. “It’s expected to reduce Beijing’s average road traffic flow by 6.5%,” a committee official told the state news agency Xinhua.

During periods of exceptionally heavy pollution, the restrictions will be increased so that half of Beijing’s 3.4 million cars will be taken off the roads.

They’ve seen what success the most drastic measures produced. Now, being politicians, the process will begin all over again – rather than investigating methods and means of furthering the original success.

Doesn’t the mayor of every big city in the world aspire to be president?

Louisiana GOP to punish Republicans endorsing Democrats


Mary Landrieu, Women of the Storm – and blue tarp umbrellas

With more than two dozen prominent Republicans publicly backing incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu over her GOP opponent, state Treasurer John Kennedy, the state Republican Party is considering ways to discipline Republican officials who endorse Democrats, the head of the state party said Saturday.

When high-profile elected Republicans endorse Democrats, it “sends the message that we are not united,” state GOP Chairman Roger Villere said. “It confuses the Republican message. . . . We are not looking to punish people, but we don’t want this to develop into a trend.”

Speaking with reporters after the quarterly meeting of the party’s governing body, Villere said several party leaders want to adopt a formal mechanism to censure GOP officials who break with the party’s candidates. He said passing a resolution “without teeth” simply to sanction a Republican who backs a Democrat, as party leaders have in the past, “doesn’t make sense.”

He would not elaborate about possible sanctions.

Horsewhipping or lynching comes to mind – in the sovereign state of Louisiana.

U.S. professor wins Nobel Prize for economics

Paul Krugman, the Princeton University scholar and New York Times columnist, won the Nobel economic prize Monday for his analysis of how economies of scale can affect trade patterns and the location of economic activity.

The 55-year-old American economist was the lone winner of the 10 million kronor ($1.4 million) award and the latest in a string of American researchers to be honored. It was only the second time since 2000 that a single laureate won the prize, which is typically shared by two or three researchers…

Besides his work as an economist at Princeton University in New Jersey, where he has been since 2000, Krugman also writes about politics and inequality in the U.S. and other topics for The New York Times. He has also written for Foreign Affairs, the Harvard Business Review and Scientific American.

He has come out forcefully against John McCain during the economic meltdown, saying the Republican candidate is “more frightening now than he was a few weeks ago” and earlier that the GOP has become “the party of stupid.”

I wonder if he means “stupid” as an individual like McCain or Bush? Or does he mean an agglomeration, say, of the eedjit vote?

Air Bag Fraud – Life and Death scam


Crumpled paper filling the air bag space

A Weekend Edition investigation shows that some unscrupulous auto repair shops have victimized consumers by failing to replace air bags that had deployed in a crash. The investigation also reveals instances in which used-car dealers sold cars without working air bags.

In some cases, air bag compartments have been stuffed with beer cans, paper or packing peanuts. Sometimes the original, faulty air bag is just pushed back in. And sometimes the air bag isn’t replaced at all, leaving the compartment empty…

No one collects data on the number of air bag fraud cases — not even the insurance industry.

But in January, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a report that reviewed 1,446 fatal crashes and found that in 255 of those cases, the air bags had not been replaced after a previous accident. An agency spokesman said that although NHTSA didn’t look into why they were missing, officials believe that at least some of those cases involved air bag fraud.

Excellent article. Read the details – and get nervous. Our government doesn’t care and apparently even the insurance industry doesn’t care either.

One more item for you to check on when buying a used car or having a repair done.

In Santa Fe, mañana also means incompetent!

Since my wife had the day off, we figured – hey – let’s go to town, this morning and get early voting for the presidential election out of the way.

The county’s website said Mon-Fri, 8-5…friends called them and were told they’d be open for voting, today. So, we got into my pickup and drove in to town. You can see by the photos up top what we found after we parked the truck and walked to the County offices.

Idiots!

Text messages from elephant warn rangers of trouble

The text message from the elephant flashed across Richard Lesowapir’s screen: Kimani was heading for neighboring farms. The huge bull elephant had a long history of raiding villagers’ crops during the harvest, sometimes wiping out six months of income at a time. But this time a mobile phone card inserted in his collar sent rangers a text message.

Lesowapir, an armed guard and a driver arrived in a jeep bristling with spotlights to frighten Kimani back into the Ol Pejeta conservancy.

Kenya is the first country to try elephant texting as a way to protect both a growing human population and the wild animals that now have less room to roam. Elephants are ranked as “near threatened” in the Red List, an index of vulnerable species published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The race to save Kimani began two years ago. The Kenya Wildlife Service had already reluctantly shot five elephants from the conservancy who refused to stop crop-raiding, and Kimani was the last of the regular raiders. The Save the Elephants group wanted to see if he could break the habit.

So they placed a mobile phone SIM card in Kimani’s collar, then set up a virtual “geofence” using a global positioning system that mirrored the conservatory’s boundaries. Whenever Kimani approaches the virtual fence, his collar texts rangers.

They have intercepted Kimani 15 times since the project began. Once almost a nightly raider, he last went near a farmer’s field four months ago.

They even track the elephants on Google Earth. That’s trick.

McCain to appear on Letterman Show – after all

Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain is slated to make an appearance on David Letterman’s show Thursday, three weeks after he raised the ire of the generally mild-mannered host by canceling his scheduled appearance at the last minute, citing his decision to suspend his presidential campaign because of the financial crisis.

This doesn’t smell right,” Letterman said then, during a routine that only half appeared to be a joke. “This is not the way a tested hero behaves. Somebody’s putting something in his Metamucil.”

Letterman didn’t appear to buy the Arizona senator’s explanation for the cancellation, showing the audience a live feed of McCain preparing for an interview with CBS anchor Katie Couric.

What Letterman said at the time was – “Here’s what you do if you are running a campaign in the middle of an economic crisis and it’s about to crater.”

That was probably true and McCain’s tactical analysis flopped as badly as everything tried by the nutballs in charge of the RNC and his campaign.

Thing is, it’s probably just as true – now – about going hat in hand back to the Letterman Show.

Nouri al-Maliki tells Britain, “Time to go home”

British combat forces are no longer needed to maintain security in southern Iraq and should leave the country, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, has told The Times.

In an exclusive interview in Baghdad, Mr al-Maliki also criticised a secret deal made last year by Britain with the al-Mahdi Army, Iraq’s largest Shia militia. He said that Basra had been left at the mercy of militiamen who “cut the throats of women and children” after the British withdrawal from the city.

The Iraqi leader emphasised, however, that the “page had been turned” and he looked forward to a friendly, productive relationship with London. Of Britain’s presence in southern Iraq, Mr al-Maliki said: “We thank them for the role they have played, but I think that their stay is not necessary for maintaining security and control. There might be a need for their experience in training and some technological issues, but as a fighting force, I don’t think that is necessary.”

Britain wants to base its agreement on a similar deal being hammered out between Baghdad and Washington. But divisions on certain issues, in particular the immunity of US troops from Iraqi prosecution, have delayed the signing of that accord.

You have to consider whether Gordon Brown wants to weasel permission to leave from George W. – or wait till next January for the next president in case there’s a change in permission slips from the new headmaster?

Abu Dhabi opens a hub for a range of Western media

A spate of companies have announced that they were setting up shop in Abu Dhabi, an island city that is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The companies are CNN, the book publishers HarperCollins and Random House, the BBC, The Financial Times and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charity arm of the financial news giant Thomson Reuters.

Officials from these companies joined local officials in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to announce they would take space on a new 200,000-square-meter campus, called the Abu Dhabi Media Zone, that the government is building for foreign media companies.

The campus is intended to be an incubator that will mix Western media companies with billions in Middle Eastern oil money. It will offer training programs for journalists and filmmakers from the region but, more important, it will be a base for Western companies to do business in the region — and at the same time help the Abu Dhabi government reach its goal of becoming a cultural and media center of the Middle East.

At least a paragraph devoted to each firm in the article. Enough to get you started on our own research and analysis.

The nutballs who think media should be controlled by governments run like theocracies will quiver and quake, probably wet their knickers over the prospect of additional uncensored reporting coming from the Middle East and South Asia.

Of course, I’m still waiting for DirecTV to get off their rusty dusty and carry Aljazeera English.