These angelic little lambs no longer required to be silent

Children in the German capital Berlin are to be exempt from strict laws on noise pollution.

An amendment to the city’s law now makes it “fundamentally and socially tolerable” for members of the younger generation to make a racket.

Berlin has become the first of Germany’s 16 federal states to adopt such legislation.

But all Berliners – children included – must continue to respect the official quiet time at night and all day Sunday.

Until now, only church bells, emergency sirens, snow ploughs and tractors have fallen outside the stringent rules on excessive noise in Germany.

Now Berlin’s local government, the senate, has passed a law giving children the right to be noisy, the first law of its kind in Germany.

Axel Strohbusch, from Berlin’s Department of Noise Protection, said it was “the first time we have it written in law that we have to consider the rights of children to shout and make noise while they are growing up and this must be considered by all the neighbours”.

It’s inconceivable to me that someone would legislate quietness for children. It’s a great reason not to live next to an elementary school; but – turning nature on its head never accomplishes very much good.

Devo is rejoining the herd at last

Dedicated to the moral overseers of every Tea Party bund rally

Devo believes the future has finally caught up with its visionary music and “de-evolution” message.

Thirty-five years after the group’s first album — and two decades since its last — Devo is back with new music and a look to replace their iconic energy dome hats.

Devo will have a world stage for the debut when it performs Monday night, February 22, at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia…

Devo’s comeback is fueled by what it says is the fulfillment of its prophecy of “de-evolution” — the idea that humans are regressing into a destructive herd mentality.

“When you think about 1980, if somebody would have showed you in a crystal ball 2010, you would have thought it was a bad joke,”

Casale said. “De-evolution happened and now everybody agrees. They don’t think we’re crazy. They know that it was true…”

Casale said Devo, for decades considered a band of the future, is “living in the present now.”

“We’re not trying to freak people out,” he said. “We’re here to be like the house band on the Titanic, to entertain everybody while we all go down together.”


Coppers arrest BBC man who said he committed mercy killing

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

British police said Wednesday they have arrested a BBC television presenter on suspicion of murder after he told viewers he carried out a so-called mercy killing on a former lover.

Ray Gosling, 70, a freelance broadcaster, admitted on a BBC show aired in central England that he had smothered the unnamed partner in hospital where he was being treated for AIDS. Assisting in another person’s death is illegal in England.

Police in Nottinghamshire, 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of London, confirmed they had made an arrest after the apparent confession on the BBC’s “Inside Out” show…

He told viewers: “Maybe this is the time to share a secret that I have kept for quite a long time. I killed someone once.

“He was a young chap, he’d been my lover and he got AIDS.

“In a hospital one hot afternoon, the doctor said ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ and he was in terrible, terrible pain.

“I picked up the pillow and smothered him until he was dead. The doctor came back and I said ‘He’s gone’. Nothing more was ever said…”

“And if it happens to a lover or friend of yours, a husband, a wife, and I hope it doesn’t, but when it does sometimes you have to do brave things and you have to say – to use Nottingham language – bugger the law.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The coppers are just doing their job. That’s a lower-level responsibility than the prosecutors who may – or may not – respect anguish or love.

FCC wants 100 million homes at 100Mbps by 2020

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

By 2020, the National Broadband Plan calls for 100 million homes to have 100Mbps Internet access, and the US should have the world’s largest “ultra-high-speed broadband testbeds.” In addition, Internet adoption rates should hit at least 90 percent—way up from the current 65 percent.

Broadband will also become a universal service like the telephone system of old—and FCC Chairman Julius Genachoswki promised that even baseline service would be faster than the 1-2Mbps currently pushed by other countries.

Genachowski provided a preview of the soon-to-be-unveiled National Broadband Plan to a meeting of state regulators gathered in DC. After months in which we’ve heard only about modest targets and worthy but mediocre goals for the NBP, Genachowski made clear that the final plan would push for “ambitious but achievable” results…

But the marquee piece of the plan will be the call for 100 million US households to use 100Mbps broadband connections by 2020. When it comes to availability, this is not actually an ambitious goal. Verizon’s FiOS already passes 12.2 million homes and could easily scale past 100Mbps today if the company wanted to do so (the company said today that it can “currently” deliver “up to 400Mbps to all customers” if it so desired). Cable already offers high-speed Internet to 120 million US homes, and inexpensive DOCSIS 3.0 upgrades have already brought 50Mbps and 100Mbps speeds to millions.

The real issue here is not availability, but uptake. Of the 12.2 million homes passed by FiOS, for instance, only 3.43 million have subscribed to the service. And, while cable already reaches millions with blazing speeds, most people are still taking much slower speed tiers. If the FCC wants to get people to use high-speed services, it needs to encourage more price competition so that we can get the sort of speed/price equation already seen in places like Hong Kong…

For Genachowski, broadband isn’t transformative in the way that interstates were transformative. No, this is bigger—think electricity—and building broadband pipes is “our generation’s great infrastructure challenge.”

The American tradition of government functioning exclusively on behalf of corporate wealth is now challenged by a flea’s worth of backbone. If the Telecom/Cable barons are a brown bear, Genachowski is a flea on the hide of a very small dog barking at that bear.

Though I reject kneejerk agreement with the dilettantes of “the big blogs” – automatic cynicism is pretty easy. Verizon, Comcast, Time-Warner and their ilk will call in all their markers among tame Congress-critters to oppose any meaningful legislation enabling mandatory line-sharing.

OTOH, not since the days of Fair Use [remember that?] have we had a White House and an FCC Chairman willing to broach topics reeking of so much economic democracy.

In case you missed it, Doomsday was yesterday!

Reporting from Washington – The crisis began when college basketball fans downloaded a free March Madness application to their smart phones. The app hid spyware that stole passwords, intercepted e-mails and created havoc.

Soon 60 million cellphones were dead. The Internet crashed, finance and commerce collapsed, and most of the nation’s electric grid went dark. White House aides discussed putting the Army in American cities.

That, spiced up with bombs and hurricanes, formed the doomsday scenario when 10 former White House advisors and other top officials joined forces Tuesday in a rare public cyber war game designed to highlight the potential vulnerability of the nation’s digital infrastructure to crippling attack.

The results were hardly reassuring

The public rarely gets a peek at government war games. If Tuesday’s no-cliche-left-behind version at times resembled a sci-fi thriller, no one doubts that the peril to telecommunications and other crucial computer-run systems is real and growing…

Michael Chertoff, who played the national security advisor in the exercise, had some relevant experience to draw on. He headed the Homeland Security Department when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

“We need to know how to deal with this,” Chertoff declared at the start of the session. “The biggest danger,” he added, “is if we’re ineffective…”

John McLaughlin, who was deputy director of the CIA during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, suggested maximizing use of intelligence assets — and perhaps nationalizing electric power companies…

In the end, no grand plan emerged, but the group did agree to advise the president to federalize the National Guard, even if governors objected, and deploy the troops — perhaps backed by the U.S. military — to guard power lines and prevent unrest.

RTFA. None of it will surprise regular geeks in attendance at Eideard. And 21st Century USA.

“Food miles” are an environmental myth

This is not what New Mexico grapevines look like in February

Buying locally as measured in “food miles” – the distance between where food is grown and where it is sold – is a poor indicator of a product’s impact on the environment and is thus not a valid way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is the conclusion of an Economic Note published by the Montreal Economic Institute and prepared by Pierre Desrochers, associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto Mississauga, in collaboration with Hiroko Shimizu, a private consultant.

“There are perfectly legitimate reasons for consumers to make the personal choice of buying locally grown food if, for example, they find products from local farms to be superior in quality or freshness,” Prof. Desrochers stated. “On the other hand, the supposed environmental benefits of buying locally just aren’t there.”

Rather than looking only at the distance between the place of production and the grocery store, it is preferable to ensure that food is produced as efficiently as possible in the most appropriate places, even when they are far away. The researchers point to an American study showing that production is responsible for 83% of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, whereas transportation accounts for only 11% of total emissions…

A full assessment of food’s environmental impact must also take account of transportation to its final destination in the consumer’s home. The many trips by car to bring home small volumes of food, as done by each family, have a relatively significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Cars are less efficient than the huge ships or airplanes that move food from where it is grown to where it will be sold. Shipping enormous quantities of food requires far less energy per apple or lamb chop, even if the distance is much greater.

The report, Will Buying Food Locally Save the Planet?, is over here in a .pdf.

Having spent a truly boring portion of my life sorting out logistics and traffic management, none of this is a surprise. I only hope some of those who approach ecology as a religion – learn better.

Obama dabbles his tippy-toe in nuclear investment

Obama’s announcement at IBEW Local 26 headquarters in Maryland
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

President Barack Obama announced $8.3 billion in loan guarantees Tuesday to build the first U.S. nuclear power plant in nearly three decades, a move designed to help advance climate legislation in Congress…

The government backing will go to help Southern Co build two reactors at a plant in the state of Georgia. The reactors, which some experts estimate will cost $8.8 billion, could be in service in 2016 and 2017.

Even though we’ve not broken ground on a … new nuclear power plant in 30 years, nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions,” Obama said after touring a union education center in Lanham, Maryland…

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the department plans to offer loan guarantees to at least half a dozen projects but declined to lay out a timeframe for further announcements…

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is spearheading legislation that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency having the power to regulate greenhouse gases — an option Obama is preserving if Congress does not act.

Other entities — including Texas, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Iron and Steel Institute — are initiating legal challenges to stop the EPA from acting unilaterally on greenhouse emissions…

Most 19th Century minds tend to think alike.

The administration said the project would generate 3,500 construction jobs and 800 permanent positions once the reactors go into operation.

Them furriners who never used nuclear power plants just for a corporate welfare program have been outbuilding the United States about 50 to 1.

OTOH, Americans whose entire range of knowledge on the topic stretches from 3-Mile Island in 1979 to Chernobyl in 1986 – whatever someone said on the TV news – will sit and quiver in their LaZBoys while the debate progresses.