Empire State Building to Get Green Makeover, Saving $4.4M Per Year

It’s not every day you find $4.4 million lying around at the Empire State Building. But that’s how much former President Bill Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said they expect the Empire State Building Co. to find in annual energy savings after the skyscraper undergoes a green retrofit, slashing energy needs by an estimated 38 percent. Scheduled for completion by the end of next year, the $20 million upgrade rests in the hands of Milwaukee, Wisc.-based Johnson Controls.

If a $20 million investment can deliver savings of this magnitude, why has it taken so long to start plugging the energy drains in the 78-year-old building? Clearly this will do a lot more on the climate and environment front than turning on green-colored lights does.

Part of it has to do with technology. Working with the Clinton Climate Initiative, Jones Lang LaSalle and the Rocky Mountain Institute, Johnson Controls used some new modeling and measurement tools in what the group envisions as a road map for future commercial building retrofits, the Milwaukee Business Journal reports. The team considered more than 60 upgrades for the skyscraper, and ultimately chose eight projects (detailed here on the Johnson Controls site), including window upgrades, daylighting and web-based energy management systems for each of the 302 office tenants.

So many opportunities haven’t been considered over recent decades simply because of reactionary politics on the Right – and opportunism on the Left. This could have been accomplished long ago.

Yahoo and Microsoft once again talking partnershipzzzzz…


The on-again, off-again talks between Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp. about an online advertising deal are reportedly back on.

The discussions restarted a few weeks ago, and included a meeting between new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, the technology blog AllThingsD said.

The two companies have intermittently talked about partnering in search engine advertising since last year after Microsoft’s unsolicited $47.5 billion takeover bid for the Sunnyvale Web portal fell apart. Microsoft executives have championed a partnership as a way to better compete with search industry leader Google Inc. while underscoring that they are no longer interested in an acquisition…

Representatives from Yahoo and Microsoft declined to comment.

You’d have to wake them to get a comment. You’d have to wake me to get me to listen.

Obama dog’s name is Bo

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

The Obamas’ watch dog may not be very big but the media dog watch has been huge, with the latest news being the U.S. first family’s best friend is named Bo…

The Washington Post rang the bell first with word that the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, named their new pet Bo.

The girls reportedly picked the name because they have cousins with a cat by that name and a grandfather whose nickname was Diddley, making for a reference to blues guitarist Bo Diddley.

The black-and-white 6-month-old Portuguese water dog will start watering the White House lawn Tuesday.

The Obamas had talked about rescuing a dog from an animal shelter. But as it turned out, Bo came as a gift from Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass..

Good dog.

American Captain Richard Phillips freed!

Captain Richard Phillips, (R), alongside Cmdr. Frank Castellano, CO of USS Bainbridge
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Hero Capt. Richard Phillips was freed today in a dramatic ending to a four-day high seas standoff that riveted the world.

Three of the four ragtag pirates who held the world’s most powerful Navy at bay on the Indian Ocean were killed, and the fourth was taken into custody.

Phillips was said to be in good condition.

On Saturday negotiations had broken down when the Somali pirates reportedly insisted they would only free Phillips in exchange for their own freedom – a deal nixed by US officials.

Phillips, 53, captain of the 17,000-ton relief cargo vessel Maersk Alabama, offered himself as a hostage to save his 19-man crew Wednesday when armed pirates took his ship.

He and the pirates had been drifting in an out-of-gas lifeboat, surrounded by massive US warships who could do little but keep pirate reinforcements from reaching the lifeboat.

The audacious pirates even opened fire Saturday on a small Navy vessel sent from the destroyer USS Bainbridge.


Brits training noses for ‘stench squads’

You need the right genes

The move forms part of a Government drive to get tough on odour pollution, following a rise in the number of complaints about offensive smells.

The increase has been blamed on changes in the way household waste is disposed of, with a rise in the number of industrial composting sites and recycling centres.

Odour advisers will be selected for their sense of smell. One will be sent to each of the Agency’s eight regions in England and Wales, where they will coordinate existing front-line pollution control officers to tackle unpleasant smells.

Under the scheme, pollution control officers are being sent on courses where their noses are “calibrated” by experts, a process which involves testing their responses to a range of odours. Officers deemed to have a very keen sense of smell will be rejected, as will those whose sense of smell is too dull.

Only those with an average sensitivity to smell are being accepted to carry out odour work in “stench squads”.

RTFA. Who knows. You, too, may qualify for a new and exciting career.

Justice Ginsburg’s dialectic about foreign and domestic law

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

In wide-ranging remarks, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended the use of foreign law by American judges, suggested that torture should not be used even when it might yield important information and reflected on her role as the Supreme Court’s only female justice. The occasion was a symposium at the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University honoring her 15 years on the court.

“I frankly don’t understand all the brouhaha lately from Congress and even from some of my colleagues about referring to foreign law,” Justice Ginsburg said in her comments.

The court’s more conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas — oppose the citation of foreign law in constitutional cases…

Justice Ginsburg said the controversy was based on the misunderstanding that citing a foreign precedent means the court considers itself bound by foreign law as opposed to merely being influenced by such power as its reasoning holds.

“Why shouldn’t we look to the wisdom of a judge from abroad with at least as much ease as we would read a law review article written by a professor?” she asked.

She added that the failure to engage foreign decisions had resulted in diminished influence for the United States Supreme Court.

The Canadian Supreme Court, she said, is “probably cited more widely abroad than the U.S. Supreme Court.” There is one reason for that, she said: “You will not be listened to if you don’t listen to others…”

Listening to the appropriately named “neocons” since the 1970’s has consistently set back the import of American constitutional law. Reactionaries have tried to direct the force of judicial review solely to the task of turning back the clock to a narrow electorate and as little democracy as possible.

RTFA. A number of interesting tidbits from a leading legal intellectual.

Long-term research verifies amalgam dental fillings are safe

Doctor Mackert

Dental amalgam has been proven safe and effective for years, yet unfounded controversy still surrounds it.

Dentists have used amalgam, an alloy of mercury with at least one other metal, in fillings for over 200 years. Amalgam fillings don’t contain enough mercury to cause potential health problems associated with larger doses, says Dr. Rod Mackert, professor of dental materials.

The dose makes the poison,” he says, quoting 16th century Swiss physician Paracelsus. A person would need between 265 and 310 amalgam fillings before even slight symptoms of mercury toxicity could be felt. A person with seven fillings, which is average, absorbs only about one microgram of mercury daily. About six micrograms are absorbed daily from food, water and air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency…

Urban legends abound, including erroneous reports linking vapors from amalgam fillings to kidney damage and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. The only documented health effects of amalgam fillings are rare allergic reactions, Dr. Mackert says, but the controversy led many people to have their fillings removed in the misguided hope of curing neurological diseases.

That controversy continues today. “It’s mystifying that people persist in saying there is cause for concern with amalgam fillings when there’s no evidence that they cause adverse health effects,” Dr. Mackert says.

I have a few amalgam fillings in my noggin that are over a half-century old. No side effects other than a strange compulsion to smack people who refuse to read science upside the head.

Is your vehicle dog-friendly? If not, try this one.

Dog-crazy Americans will soon be able to buy a pet-friendly car with a cushioned dog bed in the trunk, fitted with a built-in water bowl and fan and a ramp to help less agile dogs climb in.

With the help of a rescue dog named Sammy, Japanese car maker Honda Motor Co unveiled the pet friendly version of its Element utility vehicle at the New York Auto Show.

It features easy-wash seat covers, a fitted dog bed with restraints to keep Sammy safe in the event of a crash, and a paw logo on the side. Honda said the car would go on sale across the United States from the fall of this year.

This sort of reminds me of the time a few years ago when I went to the store to pick up a few things. When I came out, I suddenly realized that the buggy was full of things for the cat, but there was nothing for me.

China training graduates for one million tech outsourcing jobs


China has vowed to create one million jobs for college graduates in the service outsourcing industry in five years amid a grave employment situation, according to a document jointly issued by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Commerce.

According to the document, the country will cultivate a total of 1.2 million personnel for the service outsourcing industry in five years, and they are expected to take up the service work worth 30 billion U.S. dollars from around the world by 2013.

Such outsourcing services include software research and development (R&D), product technology R&D, information technology R&D and industrial design among others.

“Service outsourcing industry features low resource waste and slight environmental pollution while at the same time producing high-profit products with high technology. It’s of great significance to cultivate talents for the industry… and realize the goal of maintaining economic growth, stimulating domestic demand and adjusting market structures,” the ministries said in the document.

This is a tough question especially for the populist crowd in countries like the United States where tech jobs feel like they’re diminishing faster than any other skilled, educated sector. I know the Feds says we’re shorthanded. Companies like Microsoft have a constant droning whine in the press about the need for H1B visas to bring in extra-national help.

At the same time, I know geek professionals who are being told they must train their replacements – in countries like India and China – or they won’t receive any separation package when they’re shoved out the door.

I’d rather not have to come down on one side or the other, exclusively. I’ve fought too many years for national liberation in the 3rd World – and that includes liberation from ancient standards of education and intellectual jobs. And, yet – I’m never losing the class-consciousness of a kid from the East End of Bridgeport either.