Transcanada Corp. resubmits application for Keystone pipeline

A Canadian company has reapplied for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline that would connect the tar sands oil development in northern Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast…

TransCanada Corp. wants a permit for a section of the pipeline that would run from the Canadian border to connect to an existing pipeline in Steele City, Nebraska, according to a State Department statement.

The issue has become a political football in the United States, with Republicans accusing the Obama administration of delaying the project in an election year to placate the environmental lobby.

Top Republicans, including presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, say the issue shows that Obama’s energy policies are harming economic growth…

Which should make it clear who is bought-and-paid for by Big Oil. Right now, the United States is producing more oil than any time in the last 12 years. Right back before the Bush/Cheney farce.

Earlier this year, the State Department, which has authority over permits for international pipelines, rejected TransCanada’s first application because it lacked an alternate route to avoid a vital aquifer in Nebraska.

Last month, TransCanada proposed an alternate route through Nebraska, and state officials say it will take six to nine months to fully review it…This is a state governed by Republicans. Old-fashioned enough to care about water quality.

The American Petroleum Institute, which advocates for the oil industry, called Friday for the government to approve the new permit application without further review…Their say-so should be sufficient, right? Just like trusting them for oil spill security.

Opponents, including environmentalists, say that the pipeline might leak and that it would lock the United States into a particularly dirty form of crude oil that might ultimately end up being exported anyway…Half-right. We have millions of miles of domestic pipelines and leaking is truly rare.

Yes, my understanding is that the petroleum products from this oil are destined for export. So what? That still means jobs and profits made in the USA. I have no beef with increasing our export income. It will provide one more opportunity for Romney and the Republicans to lie about our balance of trade.

How to see the supermoon — and meteors, too

If the full moon looks a bit bigger and brighter in Saturday night’s sky, you’re not seeing things: It’s just the “supermoon” — the biggest moon of 2012. And there’s a meteor shower from Halley’s Comet that’s peaking as well, adding to the sky show.

The full moon of May will hit its peak overnight Saturday night and early Sunday, just one minute after the moon makes its closest approach to Earth. The timing means the moon, weather permitting, could appear up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than a full moon at its farthest distance — an event scientists have nicknamed the “supermoon.”

The moon will be at its fullest at 11:35 p.m. ET just after hitting perigee, the point in its orbit that brings the moon closest to Earth…

A good time to watch is during moonrise or moonset. At these times, the moon can appear much larger than when it is higher in the sky. The view is actually an optical illusion…

The extra big full moon of May can mean higher tides on Earth, an effect called “perigean tides,” but there is no chance of the supermoon posing a threat to Earth…

If you’re paranoid, you may worry about the moon’s gravity affecting your brain. Stay away from people like that, tonight.

The supermoon is not the only celestial sight gracing the evening skies this weekend. On Saturday night, the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower is due to hit its peak, promising up to 60 meteors per hour for skywatchers with optimum viewing conditions (clear weather and away from city lights).

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is one of two “shooting star” displays created by dust left over by the famed Halley’s comet as it makes its 76-year trip around the sun…

While the supermoon is expected to outshine the fainter Eta Aquarid meteors, NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke predicts that some bright fireballs may be visible. Cooke and his observing team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have already recorded several bright fireballs from the Eta Aquarids and are looking forward to seeing more using the agency’s network of all-sky meteor cameras.

Enjoy an evening outdoors. Bring a blanket – at least to lie upon.

Chelsea 2 – 1 Liverpool in FA Cup


Interim manager Roberto di Matteo tossed in airborne celebration by Chelsea players
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Chelsea’s FA Cup final talisman Didier Drogba was the match-winner once more as they overcame Liverpool to lift the trophy at Wembley.

Drogba’s goal early in the second half – his fourth in this Wembley showpiece – proved decisive as the remarkable turnaround in Chelsea’s fortunes under interim manager Roberto di Matteo was rewarded with silverware.

The BBC article tells the tale pretty well. The heart of it has been the resurgence of the Chelsea side under the leadership of Roberto di Matteo – assistant manager made interim manager by club owner Roman Abramovitz after he fired Andre Villas-Boas.

Football fans all wonder whether Roberto will get the fulltime job for next season after the stellar job he’s done bringing the team back to winning form. They still face the Champions’ League Final with Bayern Munich later in the month. But, even if they win that cup as well – will the billionaire club owner consider Roberto di Matteo’s talents sufficient, say, versus some other coach with an established reputation as a “big” coach?

I hope so.

14-year-old calls for an end to retouched photos in SEVENTEEN

In Julia Bluhm’s ballet class, girls arrived and often declared that they were having a fat day. Or that their skin was pimply or blemished. Or that they looked disgusting. When she hears complaints in her middle school, where she is in the eighth grade, Julia said, she has one answer: “Are you crazy?”

Then, she said, she came up with another answer, thumbing through one of her favorite magazines, Seventeen.

“I look at the pictures and they just don’t look like girls I see walking down the street and stuff,” said Julia, who turned 14 last month.

A blogger for the last year with Spark, a project that fights the sexualization of girls, Julia had given the subject some thought, and talked it over with the other bloggers. Then she started an online petition drive through Change.org asking Seventeen to “commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month…”

No kidding. As of Thursday evening, the petition had been signed by 46,000 people. Julia and her mother, Mary Beiter, came to New York this week from their home in Waterville, Me., for a demonstration organized by Change.org and Spark outside the offices of Seventeen in Midtown. There, Julia and five other girls posed for a mock photo shoot, with no retouching. A crew from ABC’s “Nightline” followed her for the day. And the editor in chief of Seventeen, Ann Shoket, invited Julia and her mother to visit the office.

The people at Seventeen were, it should be said, feeling slightly aggrieved that they had been singled out for picture-doctoring practices that are common in virtually all glossy fashion magazines, and, for that matter, on the Facebook accounts of millions of people who retouch photographs before posting them. At some magazines, the practices are far more extreme than at Seventeen, which, Ms. Shoket says, does not alter the body shapes of the girls in its pages, contrary to a charge in the petition…

On Thursday, as Julia and her mom headed toward the airport, she said she appreciated that the magazine was doing things to include girls with many body types. She also gave an unvarnished description of what she sees in its pages.

“I look at the girls, and a lot of them, like, they don’t have freckles, or moles, anywhere on their bodies,” she said. “You can’t, like, see the pores in their face, they’re perfectly smooth. Their skin is shiny. They don’t have any tan lines or cuts and bruises or anything like that.”

These ordinary features of human flesh, she said, can be disguised with makeup and lights. “At the same time, they can’t cover up everything,” Julia said. That leaves only digital retouching…

Both sides said they had agreed to keep in touch, but no promises were made about publishing an unretouched photo spread. “I gave her my e-mail,” Julia said.

It is, after all, a glamour magazine – I guess. The only comment I can make with some authority is that – if this cover is a typical example – it sucks for design.

I guess if I were in an editorial position at Seventeen I’d pop for Harris Polls to do an instant survey to see how a broad spectrum of their readership feels. Do they prefer a segment of the magazine dedicated to the unvarnished truth or would they prefer the idealized vision that apparently is the goal of the genre – and this magazine.

While I especially agree with the campaigns against artificially shaped bodies and body parts – I’m not certain the concept of some kind of featured ideal is harmful. I’ve been looking at photos of Ferraris for 60 years and still haven’t stolen one at gun point. Yet.

Sarkozy apparently running his campaign – in parallel to Romney?


Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

France repealed a sexual harassment law on Friday on the grounds that the definition of the crime was too vague, sparking renewed debate of an issue put into the spotlight by the arrest of one-time presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn last year.

Some women’s groups said the decision, by France’s highest constitutional body, would leave victims without legal protection until a new law is penned…

Strauss-Kahn had already been rapped over a sexual relationship with a subordinate in 2008, who said she felt pressured to sleep with him, and French writer Tristane Banon filed a complaint after the New York case alleging he tried to assault her in 2003.

Junior civil service minister Georges Tron was forced to resign in June after two women who had worked for him filed sexual harassment complaints. One said the debate sparked by the Strauss-Kahn scandal had prompted her to break her silence.

Friday’s repeal of the law should eventually lead to clearer guidelines for judges. But the fact the measure goes into effect immediately means that all ongoing sexual harassment cases not yet ruled on in court will be thrown out.

It could be months – if not longer – before new legislation is adopted given that a new National Assembly, which would write the new law, will only be elected in June, following Sunday’s presidential election runoff…

A collective of more than a dozen feminist groups said victims had been “abandoned by the justice system…The message of impunity aimed at harassers is revolting…”

And a spokesman for man tipped to be France’s next president wrote in a statement that: “Francois Hollande, if elected, will commit to a new law on sexual harassment being written up and registered as quickly as possible in the parliamentary agenda.”

Seriously. Sarkozy claims he hasn’t much influence with the Constitutional Council – but, it was the conservative government which pushed to have the existing law evaluated. Just like here – he’s managed to antagonize half the electorate in one conservative blunder.

Teenage girls using better birth control – waiting longer before sex

Teenage girls in the United States are waiting longer to begin having sex — and using more dependable forms of birth control once they do become sexually active, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported…

New survey findings could shed light on why the birth rate among girls ages 15 to 19 in the U.S. has declined to record lows in recent years. In 2010, the teen birth rate was 34.3 births per thousand, with fewer babies born to teenage mothers than in any year since 1946, the CDC reported this April…

From 2006 to 2010, the CDC researchers reported in their article, 57% of females 15 to 19 had never had sex, up from 49% in 1995. When broken down among white, black and Latino girls, the proportion who remained virgins did not differ significantly among racial and ethnic groups. There were differences in experience when the data were sliced by age group. Among teens 15 to 17, 73% had not had sex; among older teenage girls, only 36% had not.

The girls who reported during the 2006-2010 survey cycle that they had had sex in the interview month were 26% more likely to have used a “highly effective” method of birth control such as an IUD or the pill than sexually active teenagers in 1995 had been, the researchers wrote. They were less likely to use “moderately effective” methods such as a condom alone…

…White teens were more likely to use highly effective birth control than black and Latino teens. Black and Latino teens were more likely than whites to use no birth control at all.

Despite the good news, the teen birth rate in the U.S. remains one of the highest among industrialized countries, the CDC has reported.

The good news still sounds to me like a product of sex education. I don’t see much of a trend change in communities where core culture is dominated by one or another religion which opposes education or choice.

Of course, what every community now faces is the backwards direction chosen by the Republican Party – as willing to oppose sex education, access to birth control as abortion and the freedom of reproductive choice for women in general.