McCain’s challenger from the land of Radio Nutballs

J. D. Hayworth is a large man, and to compensate for his indulgences, he hits the elliptical trainer every morning at 4, zipping along to an incongruous soundtrack of Elvis Costello, Frank Sinatra and old advertising jingles.

Until recently, he would then repair to a local radio station, where he would spend the better part of the day denouncing, in no particular order, illegal immigrants, all things Barack Obama, those who are insufficiently patriotic and, his favorite mark, one John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona.

Now, Mr. Hayworth, a former Republican congressman, is preparing to expand his political appetite for Mr. McCain by formally announcing next week what everyone in this state has known for months: his challenge to the senator in the Republican primary in August.

Mr. Hayworth hopes that by standing at the intersection of opportunity and timing, he can lure enough Tea Party sympathizers fresh off their convention in Nashville, seducible independent voters (Arizona has an open primary) and conservative Republican grass-roots activists, who have long been disenchanted with Mr. McCain…

Still bruised by his presidential run and struggling to find his footing in the fractured Republican Party, Mr. McCain remains a formidable force in his home state, through the sheer power of his name and fat campaign coffers. Most political analysts suggest that Mr. Hayworth begins as the underdog, and Mr. McCain’s supporters say they are confident.

“Senator McCain takes every race seriously,” said Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the senator’s re-election campaign, “and is confident that the voters of Arizona will again return him to office as they have done in the past, and he is working hard to earn their continued support.”

Yet Mr. McCain now finds himself jammed, moving starkly — and often awkwardly — to the right, apparently in an effort to gain favor among the same voters whom Mr. Hayworth, a consistent voice for the far right, could pull toward him like taffy come summer.

Same old, same old. American opportunist politicians, including populist demagogues like Hayworth, satisfy every electoral fear by moving to the right. I imagine that here and there around the world there are lying, scheming politicians who move to the Left a fraction to help ensure election.

In the United States. There is only one way to move to satisfy every bit of spaghetti backbone. Move to the Right. Quote the bible more often. You’re bound to get more of the eedjit vote.

Common industrial cleaner = risk of Parkinson’s Disease

Marine Camp Lejeune – Feds said TCE in drinking water wasn’t dangerous for 3 decades
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Workers exposed to tricholorethylene (TCE), a chemical once widely used to clean metal such as auto parts, may be at a significantly higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, according to a study just released.

“This is the first time a population-based study has confirmed case reports that exposure to TCE may increase a person’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease,” said study author Samuel Goldman, MD… “TCE was once a popular industrial solvent used in dry cleaning and to clean grease off metal parts, but due to other health concerns the chemical is no longer widely used.”

For the study, researchers obtained job histories from 99 pairs of twins in which only one of the twins had Parkinson’s disease. All of the twins were men and identified from the World War II-Veterans Twins Cohort study. Scientists used twins in the study because they are genetically identical or very similar and provide an ideal population for evaluating environmental risk factors.

The study found workers who were exposed to TCE were five and a half times more likely to have Parkinson’s disease than people not exposed to the chemical. Those who were exposed to TCE had job histories including work as dry cleaners, machinists, mechanics or electricians.

Thanks a lot, folks. One more thing for me worry about – in hindsight.

To say that TCE was popular is an understatement. I think the first three jobs I had just out of school – all in local industry back East – all used TCE for one thing or another. Certainly for cleaning metal parts before welding or assembly.

Of course, back then, we used cyanide powder for case hardening steel. I wonder how long some of my buddies from the heat-treating department at GE lived?

Quick Spin: A good sign of electric things to come

Not only did Ford reveal the all-electric version of the Transit Connect Electric at the Chicago Auto Show this week, but they also pulled the electric vehicle (EV) into the snowy Chicago streets and allowed us to take it for a quick spin. After our five minutes behind the wheel, we can say that, if your company needs a sensible delivery vehicle that doesn’t have to travel all that far each day, then this should be your electric van of choice. Well, depending on how much these vans will cost, a number we won’t get until later this spring.

The most noticeable thing about the Transit Connect Electric is that this is a fully realized EV. Based on a very popular model – the standard gasoline and diesel Transit Connects have sold around 655,000 units since going on sale in Europe in 2003 and the van won the North American Truck of the Year after its introduction here in 2009 – the Transit Connect Electric feels like a utility car, electric or otherwise, should feel. Ford and its partner on the project, Azure Dynamics, have created a winner.

From what we can tell, the Transit Connect Electric will operate like any other Transit Connect, except that running costs should be far lower than versions that burn CNG or gasoline (or, in Europe, diesel fuel)…

The logistics of building the Transit Connect Electrics look like this. The bodies will be built in Turkey and shipped as rolling chassis to southeast Michigan. There, in a city and plant to be announced later, they will be upfitted with the Force Drive powertrain by Azure…Azure is buying the vehicles from Ford and doing the EV powertrain work themselves, so it will fall to Azure to actually sell the vans…

One of our local electronic geniuses has the first of the turbo-gasoline models in town. He’s averaging ab’t 26mpg. On a typical day, he travels too far for the EV version of this critter.

He loves everything about it. It replaced a truck that averaged 14 mpg. What he might consider – that you will see when you RTFA – is the CNG/LPG version designed for taxis. Since our local public transit buses are powered by natural gas, we already have CNG filling stations in town.

Wi-Fi transforms school bus into rolling study hall

Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates).

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.

Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

It’s made a big difference,” said J. J. Johnson, the bus’s driver. “Boys aren’t hitting each other, girls are busy, and there’s not so much jumping around.”

On this morning, John O’Connell, a junior at Empire High School here, is pecking feverishly at his MacBook, touching up an essay on World War I for his American history class. Across the aisle, 16-year-old Jennifer Renner e-mails her friend Patrick to meet her at the bus park in half an hour. Kyle Letarte, a sophomore, peers at his screen, awaiting acknowledgment from a teacher that he has just turned in his biology homework, electronically.

“Got it, thanks,” comes the reply from Michael Frank, Kyle’s teacher.

Internet buses may soon be hauling children to school in many other districts, particularly those with long bus routes. The company marketing the router, Autonet Mobile, says it has sold them to schools or districts in Florida, Missouri and Washington, D.C.

RTFA. Delightful upgrade to what otherwise tends to be wasted time. And additional motivation for schoolkids to get computerized.

Ohio sued for dumping mentally ill inmates onto the street

Mentally ill prisoners in Ohio are more likely to get into trouble and end up back in prison after they are released because state officials turn them loose without the follow-up care they need.

A lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati, asked a judge to order the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Ohio Department of Mental Health to provide the care necessary to help keep mentally ill offenders from returning to prison.

Advocates for prisoners and the mentally ill said they are suing to help not only the released prisoners, but also the taxpayers who must pay tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep them locked up when they commit new crimes and are sent back to prison.

They say the cost of providing treatment to a mentally ill person in the community is about $7,400 a year, compared to the $25,000 a year it costs to incarcerate them.

But instead of treatment, the lawsuit claims, ex-convicts with mental problems get $65 to $75, a bus ticket and two weeks of medication upon their release. The suit said many of those former inmates soon move into homeless shelters or drug-infested neighborhoods, where their mental health quickly deteriorates.

Dumping prisoners with mental illness at homeless shelters creates a revolving door phenomenon,” said Bess Okum, staff attorney with the Cincinnati-based Ohio Justice and Policy Center, which filed the suit on behalf of nine current and former prisoners. “Many of these former prisoners commit new crimes because of their untreated mental illness.”

Like the great state of Ohio gives a damn about civil rights or how they waste taxpayers’ money.

When it comes to wasting taxpayer dollars on warehousing the criminally insane, you can count on most American politicians – in their pinheaded intellects – to choose the opportunism of being “tough on crime” because it guarantees more votes than sorting the mentally ill and saving money.

And our favorite ignorant electorate will march in lockstep down that always-safe middle of the road.

Incontrovertible impact of climate change on Earth’s oceans

The increasing acidity of the world’s oceans – and that acidity’s growing threat to marine species – are definitive proof that the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is causing climate change is also negatively affecting the marine environment, says world-renowned Antarctic marine biologist Jim McClintock, Ph.D., professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Biology.

“The oceans are a sink for the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere,” says McClintock, who has spent more than two decades researching the marine species off the coast of Antarctica. Carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans, and through a chemical process hydrogen ions are released to make seawater more acidic.

“Existing data points to consistently increasing oceanic acidity, and that is a direct result of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere; it is incontrovertible,” McClintock says. “The ramifications for many of the organisms that call the water home are profound…”

“There is no existing data that I am aware of that can be used to debate the trend of increasing ocean acidification,” he says.

McClintock and three co-authors collected and reviewed the most recent data on ocean acidification at high latitudes for an article in the December 2009 issue of Oceanography magazine, a special issue that focuses on ocean acidification worldwide. McClintock also recently published research that revealed barnacles grown under acidified seawater conditions produce weaker adult shells…

“So many fundamental biological processes can be influenced by ocean acidification, and the change in the oceans’ makeup in regions such as Antarctica are projected to occur over a time period measured in decades,” McClintock says.

“Evolution simply may be unable to keep up, because it typically takes marine organisms longer periods, hundreds or even thousands of years to naturally adapt,” he says. “But ocean acidification is simply happening too quickly for many species to survive unless we reverse the trend of increasing anthropogenically generated carbon dioxide that is in large part driving climate change.”

The pundits and professional skeptics infesting the body politic not only haven’t contradictory studies to offer – they don’t care to. Protecting the global fossil fuel industries, providing support for reactionary politics in general, building a political scarecrow that fondles the range of fools from flat-earthers to birthers, the agitprop of anti-science dare not suggest anyone actually study science or participate in peer review.

Fortunately, the overwhelming population of scientists, researchers, students continues the essential task of science – the search for knowledge. Motivation to resolve questions continues apace. The itch of curiosity still has to be scratched by experiment and study. Philistines, in fact, will generally be ignored.

Iceland may become global haven for freedom of speech

Iceland intends to become a bastion for global press freedom under a package of laws proposed by opposition MPs to defend freedom of speech, and protect sources and fight libel tourism.

With the help of Wikileaks, the online whistleblowing site, the MPs have launched the Icelandic Modern Media Intiative, with the goal of turning the country into a global haven for investigative journalism.

The proposal, which has widespread backing among Iceland’s 51 MPs, is scheduled to come before the Althingi, Iceland’s parliament, next Tuesday, in the first step towards turning the idea into law.

“It is a good project for political change,” said Róbert Marshall, a member of the ruling Social Democratic Alliance party. “We have been through a difficult period and this is an initiative that can unite the whole political scene…”

The new legislation has won support from Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt, the co-founders of the Wikileaks website…

Assange said that in his role as Wikileaks editor, he had been involved in fending off many legal attacks. “We’ve become good at it, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts what we do. Large newspapers are routinely censored by legal costs. It is time this stopped. It is time a country said, enough is enough, justice must be seen, history must be preserved, and we will give shelter from the storm.”

Kind of warms the cockles of your heart to see a nation willing to commit its political will to freedom of speech – in practice – instead of settling for lip service from politicians, pundits and demagogues.

Having the longest-running democratic parliament in the western hemisphere certainly helps. Ain’t any filibusters in the Althing.