Resident of Poland’s narrowest building moves in

View during construction

A building just 36 inches wide at its narrowest point was opened in Warsaw on Saturday as an artistic installation that will be a home from home for Israeli writer Edgar Keret.

Keret, who told news channel TVN24 he would live there when he visits Warsaw twice a year, said he conceived the project as a kind of memorial to his parents’ family who died in the World War Two Holocaust.

Wedged into the narrow gap between two existing central Warsaw blocks of flats on the edge of the former Warsaw Ghetto, the several-level structure was designed by Polish architect Jakub Szczesny and is never more than 60 inches wide.

It contains all necessary amenities such as a micro-kitchen, mini-bathroom, sleeping cubicle and tiny work area, all accessible via ladders,” Szczesny explained.

Um, OK. I know the neighborhood. He’ll fit right in.

Rich and poor divide up rural Iowa – guess who gets the land?


Bidding on farmland that went for more than $14,000 an acre

At an auction in northwestern Iowa, 314 acres of cropland fetched $4.5 million this July. The price reflects a booming worldwide demand for grain that has showered wealth on some farmers and tripled land values in Iowa in the past decade. The surge is creating local millionaires. It’s also fueling an income divide in rural areas that had long been the province of urban America…

“Iowa had had historically low levels of inequality, but now it is skyrocketing,” said David Peters, a sociologist at Iowa State University in Ames who specializes in income disparity. “Today you have far fewer farmers and a small number earning larger and larger incomes. It doesn’t spread through the economy like it used to.”

Booming worldwide demand for grain has showered wealth on farmers by tripling Iowa land values in the past decade and setting them up for record profits this year, even in the face of the nation’s worst drought in more than half a century…

Land that had long produced boxcars full of corn and soybeans is now yielding a new crop: locally grown millionaires. In doing so, it has brought to the nation’s rural areas the kind of income divide that had long been the province of urban America.

Less-populated areas dominate the ranks of U.S. counties where income inequality widened the most in recent years, according to U.S. Census Bureau data…These rural counties reflect divergent recoveries in the first two years since the last recession ended in 2009. During that time, the top 1 percent of Americans captured 93 percent of real income growth, compared with 65 percent during the recovery from the 2001 recession, according to an analysis by Emmanuel Saez…

The split has produced climbing levels of need in the nation’s breadbasket. Food-stamp demand in Iowa rose 6 percent in July from a year earlier, according to the latest government data. That’s twice the 2.9 percent nationwide increase…

Historically high land values have given farming in Iowa the appearance of a private basement poker game, where the pot keeps getting bigger while the players — the landowners –don’t change. Struyk has a seat at the table, along with his increasingly elderly peers. Fifty-five percent of the state’s farmland was owned by people 65 and older in 2007, almost double the percentage of 25 years earlier, according to survey data from Iowa State…

While Iowa’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, it understates the disparities in the state’s rural economy as young people shrink the labor pool when they move in search of better opportunities, Peters said. The census showed that two-thirds of Iowa’s 99 counties, including O’Brien, lost population in the last decade, with many people moving to metropolitan areas, or out of state.

RTFA for lots of detail and not a heckuva lot of solutions for Iowa’s farming country poor. A contrast to the world of most of America’s multi-millionaires for whom money is a commodity unto itself.

Safecast to offer public updates ranging from radiation to smog

Safecast’s new effort to share air-quality and other data had its origins in a network it created to monitor radiation after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster last year in Japan.

The small nonprofit Safecast is applying lessons learned from measuring radiation post-Fukushima to the pervasive and growing problem of urban air quality. Buoyed by a $400,000 prize from the Knight Foundation, the group is designing low-cost environmental sensors that measure air quality every minute and post the data publicly. The sensor system, which uses off-the-shelf components, will make its debut in Los Angeles.

“I have a lot of friends in Japan,” said Sean Bonner, a Safecast co-founder. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, he said, “they couldn’t get any information, cell networks were down, people just didn’t know what was going on.”

Working with a constellation of designers, engineers, entrepreneurs and hackers around the world, Mr. Bonner set out to collect the data sought by his friends and make it easily accessible, but the team quickly hit a wall: the data they wanted did not exist. “Before we realized it, we were building Geiger counters, figuring out how to take lots of measurements and make the devices mobile,” Mr. Bonner said.

So Safecast was born. Beyond Geiger counters, the group considered other opportunities for environmental monitoring and recognized that air quality reporting “suffered from a lot of the same problems as radiation,” Mr. Bonner said. The data is often licensed and unavailable for public distribution, and where it does exist, numbers tend to be imprecise spatial and temporal averages…

John Bracken, director of journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation, said that Safecast’s work was part of a growing embrace of mobile monitoring devices spun out of hacker and D.I.Y. culture. “A lot of groups are taking lessons from the software community and applying them to hardware,” he said. “It’s a really exciting time…”

In Japan, he noted, the participatory and transparent process through which volunteers used Geiger counters to take measurements – now exceeding four million data points – generated public trust in the data at a time when people were skeptical of official pronouncements…

Eventually, Mr. Bonner and his team hope the pilot project will help underpin an international and citizen-run network of air quality monitors.

Admirable. Not only the goals set by Safecast; but, the $400K gift from the Knight Foundation to seed the start-up process.

Radiation isn’t a pervasive danger in every land on this Earth; but, pollution is a generalized danger to life and prosperity everywhere. Equipping ordinary civilians to measure pollution, confront polluters – and governments – is a do-it-yourself political dream come true.

Billy Graham de-cultifies Mormons in his website


Make up your own caption

Shortly after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoyed cookies and soft drinks with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham on Thursday at the elder Graham’s mountaintop retreat, a reference to Mormonism as a cult was scrubbed from the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In a section of the website called Billy Graham’s My Answer there had been the question “What is a cult?”

One fundamentalist hustler cooperating with another.

I think this will become about half of what we get to see in coming years from this crowd. The other half will stick to telling those who haven’t become True Believers – in their own particular sect – that you will roast in Perdition.