AIA’s 2014 top 10 green buildings in the US

The American Institute of Architects has revealed its 2014 selection of top ten green buildings in the US. As was the case with last year’s list, the judges came up with an interesting list of buildings that includes some lesser-publicized green-building projects, such as a homeless shelter, a treehouse, and even a Net-Zero energy courthouse.

Gizmag briefly covers each of the selections.

As a key part of Portland, Oregon’s decade-long effort to combat homelessness, the Bud Clark Commons building provides a safe place for vulnerable people to transition from sleeping on the streets to living in a stable home. The building features a walk-in day center, support services, 90 temporary shelter beds, and 130 furnished studio apartments which serve as permanent housing.

Green technology in the LEED Platinum project include greywater recycling, solar hot water, heat recovery ventilation, and natural daylight.

Nine more to go. All worthwhile, all interesting.

Slowly, without the kind of support green building gets in, say, Germany, without the kind of support our federal and state governments provide for fossil-fuel-burning powerplants or companies building instruments of mass murder, weapons of mass destruction – we are making progress in the United States.

Ask your Congress-critter sometime which of these categories gets what priority in their agenda.

Microsoft trying to patch security flaw encompassing Internet Explorer 6 through Internet Explorer 11 — WTF? — UPDATED


Microsoft is rushing to fix a bug in its widely used Internet Explorer web browser after a computer security firm disclosed the flaw over the weekend, saying hackers have already exploited it in attacks on some U.S. companies.

PCs running Windows XP will not receive any updates fixing that bug when they are released, however, because Microsoft stopped supporting the 13-year-old operating system earlier this month. Security firms estimate that between 15 and 25 percent of the world’s PCs still run Windows XP.

Microsoft disclosed on Saturday its plans to fix the bug in an advisory to its customers posted on its security website, which it said is present in Internet Explorer versions 6 to 11. Those versions dominate desktop browsing, accounting for 55 percent of the PC browser market…

Cybersecurity software maker FireEye Inc said that a sophisticated group of hackers have been exploiting the bug in a campaign dubbed “Operation Clandestine Fox…”

“It’s a campaign of targeted attacks seemingly against U.S.-based firms, currently tied to defense and financial sectors,” FireEye spokesman Vitor De Souza said via email…

He declined to elaborate, though he said one way to protect against them would be to switch to another browser.

Microsoft said in the advisory that the vulnerability could allow a hacker to take complete control of an affected system, then do things such as viewing changing, or deleting data, installing malicious programs, or creating accounts that would give hackers full user rights.

Gee, is that all? Is there anything left to steal or compromise?

When Apple introduced the Mini, I took that as the occasion to experiment for the first time with Apple’s operating system OS X. After 22 years in the IBM and Microsoft environments.

Never looked back.

UPDATE: Homeland Insecurity now advises all Americans to stop using Internet Explorer till a Microsoft fix!

Former Prime Minister says get US forces out of Oz and close down Pine Gap spy center

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser has made a radical call for Australia to break its alliance with the United States and become a “strategically independent” country.

In his new book Dangerous Allies, released today, Fraser warns that the ANZUS treaty – as now interpreted – might be the biggest threat to Australia’s security, rather than its major protector.

Strategic independence would mean ending the US presence in northern Australia, part of the American “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific region, and closing the Pine Gap facility, which he says nowadays could be used almost in real time to target weapons systems…

Fraser was a strong advocate of the alliance when he was prime minister between 1975 and 1983, but argues that the end of the Cold War has transformed the international situation and also that American values have changed with the growth of its view of “American exceptionalism”.

Fraser’s bottom line is that if conflicts break out Australia should be in a situation where it has a totally open choice about whether it goes to war.

He believes the alliance took Australia into costly wars, including Vietnam (when the US did not share some vital information with Australia), and especially Iraq, where the result “is, and was always going to be, disastrous”…

Fraser admits the US would take “the strongest possible exception” to moves such as closing Pine Gap within five years.

“Every pressure would be exercised on an Australian government so that the United States would maintain strategic control. We would need to resist such pressures and make it clear that, in our view, the risks of a strategic alliance with the United States, of being forced into a war that was not in our interest, were so great that we had to cut the ties.”

Another old ally tires of being subservient to the imperial interests and demands of the United States.

Fraser suggests the possible need to spend more on defense as a result of splitting from Uncle Sugar My answer to my mates in Oz is the same I offer to neighbors here in the southern Rockies. Or – rather – a question:

When was the last time “defense” forces had to fight off an invasion? Or do you simply like to give money away to subsidize a welfare program for arms traders?

Odds of storm tides overflowing NYC seawall up 20-fold

After Hurricane Irene passed by

The newly recognized storm-tide increase means that New York is at risk of more frequent and extensive flooding than was expected due to sea-level rise alone, said Stefan Talke, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Portland State University in Portland, Ore. He is lead author of the new study accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters…The research also confirms that the New York harbor storm tide produced by Hurricane Sandy was the largest since at least 1821.

Tide gauge data analyzed in the study show that a major, “10-year” storm hitting New York City today causes bigger storm tides and potentially more damage than the identical storm would have in the mid-1800s. Specifically, Talke explained, there’s a 10 percent chance today that, in any given year, a storm tide in New York harbor will reach a maximum height of nearly two meters…the so-called “10-year storm.” In the mid-19th century, however, that maximum height was about 1.7 meters…or nearly a foot lower than it is today, according to tide gauge data going back to 1844, he noted.

“What we are finding is that the 10-year storm tide of your great-, great-grandparents is not the same as the 10-year storm tide of today,” Talke said…

The storm tide is the amount that water levels rise during a storm. It includes both the storm surge — the abnormal rise in water generated by the storm above the sea level — and the predicted astronomical tide. The rise in storm tide outlined in the recent study is in addition to the .44 meter…rise in local sea level that has occurred since the mid-19th century in New York harbor.

Combining the newly calculated rise in storm tide with the rise in sea level that has taken place since the mid-1800s, the researchers found that today, waters can be expected to overtop the lower Manhattan seawall — 1.75 meters high — once every four to five years. In the 19th century, when both sea levels and storm tides were lower, water was expected to overtop the Manhattan seawall only once every 100 to 400 years, according to the paper.

New York just needs to do what politicians in Virginia have done. Make it illegal to use words describing increases in the ocean’s elevation and the likelihood of seawalls being overtopped. Then your problem goes away, right?

It’s the new Republican solution to climate change.

Thanks, Mike

Volcano, ash and lightning

Volcano, Stefnisson
Click to enlargeSigurður Stefnisson

Ash and Lightning above an Icelandic Volcano

Why did a picturesque 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland create so much ash? Although the large ash plume was not unparalleled in its abundance, its location was particularly noticeable because it drifted across such well-populated areas.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano in southern Iceland began erupting on 2010 March 20, with a second eruption starting under the center of a small glacier on 2010 April 14. Neither eruption was unusually powerful. The second eruption, however, melted a large amount of glacial ice which then cooled and fragmented lava into gritty glass particles that were carried up with the rising volcanic plume. Pictured above during the second eruption, lightning bolts illuminate ash pouring out of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

More ICD-10 follies: Animal-drawn vehicle collides with train

The switch to the ICD-10 billing system may have been pushed back at least a year by Congress, but MedPage Today still thinks it’s worthwhile to spotlight some of those thousands of new codes that might just be getting a bit too granular.

Today’s code:

V80.62XA: Occupant of animal-drawn vehicle injured in collision with railway train or railway vehicle, initial encounter (Hat tip to reader Debra Fischer for this one.)

There must be a special room for demented bureaucrats selected to produce some of these new – and soon-to-be required – medical codes used by Medicare, Medicaid.

Here are a few more:

V95.42XA: Forced landing of spacecraft injuring occupant, initial encounter

Fear of Easter Bunny
F40.218: Fear of the Easter Bunny

V96.1: Hang-glider accident injuring occupant

W21.11XA: Struck by baseball bat, initial encounter…

V96.03XA: Balloon collision injuring occupant, initial encounter

This last category not so unusual in New Mexico.

A penny of progress in Florida tomato fields makes a world of difference to field workers

By enlisting the might of major restaurant chains and retailers — including Walmart, which signed on this year — the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has pressured growers that produce 90 percent of Florida’s tomatoes to increase wages for their 30,000 workers and follow strict standards that mandate rest breaks and forbid sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

The incentive for growers to comply with what’s called the Fair Food Program is economically stark: The big companies have pledged to buy only from growers who follow the new standards, paying them an extra penny a pound, which goes to the pickers. The companies have also pledged to drop any suppliers that violate the standards.

So far, the agreements between retailers and growers are limited to Florida’s tomato fields, which in itself is no small feat considering that the state produces 90 percent of the country’s winter tomatoes.

But gaining the heft and reach of Walmart — which sells 20 percent of the nation’s fresh tomatoes year-round — may prove far more influential. To the applause of farmworkers’ advocates, the retailer has agreed to extend the program’s standards and monitoring to its tomato suppliers in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia and elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. Walmart officials say they also hope to apply the standards to apple orchards in Michigan and Washington and strawberry fields in many states…

Since the program’s inception, its system of inspections and decisions issued by a former judge has resulted in suspensions for several growers, including one that failed to adopt a payroll system to ensure pickers were paid for all the time they worked.

Amassing all these company partnerships took time. The workers’ coalition organized a four-year boycott of Taco Bell to get its parent company, Yum Brands, to agree in 2005 to pay an extra penny a pound for tomatoes, helping increase workers’ wages. In 2007 the coalition sponsored a march to Burger King’s headquarters in Miami, pushing that company to join the effort. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle and Subway have also signed on.

Perhaps the coalition’s biggest success is luring Walmart, which joined the program in January without a fight. Walmart officials said they were looking for ethically sourced produce as well as a steady supply of tomatoes. The giant company’s decision coincides with its major inroads into organic foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.

RTFA. It’s about a victory, serious victory inside one of the greediest segments of American capitalism. A penny a pound may not seem like a lot to urban and urbane workers and professional; but, for a field hand it’s a world of difference. And the most reactionary elements of American agribusiness think it’s the end of the world.

Kudos to the organizers and field hands together who joined this fight and won. And special thanks to the restauranteurs and retailers who supported this struggle.

Our courts think we should be the cops of the world, too

Internet service providers must turn over customer emails and other digital content sought by U.S. government search warrants even when the information is stored overseas, a federal judge has ruled…

In what appears to be the first court decision addressing the issue, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Francis in New York said Internet service providers such as Microsoft or Google cannot refuse to turn over customer information and emails stored in other countries when issued a valid search warrant from U.S. law enforcement agencies.

If U.S. agencies were required to coordinate efforts with foreign governments to secure such information, Francis said, “the burden on the government would be substantial, and law enforcement efforts would be seriously impeded.”

The ruling underscores the debate over privacy and technology that has intensified since the disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about secret U.S. government efforts to collect huge amounts of consumer data around the world…

The decision addressed a search warrant served on Microsoft for one of its customers whose emails are stored on a server in Dublin, Ireland.

In a statement, Microsoft said it challenged the warrant because the U.S. government should not be able to search the content of email held overseas.

“A U.S. prosecutor cannot obtain a U.S. warrant to search someone’s home located in another country, just as another country’s prosecutor cannot obtain a court order in her home country to conduct a search in the United States,” the company said. “We think the same rules should apply in the online world, but the government disagrees…”

The search warrant in question was approved by Francis in December and sought information associated with an email account for a Microsoft customer, including the customer’s name, contents of all emails received and sent by the account, online session times and durations and any credit card number or bank account used for payment.

It is unclear which agency issued the warrant, and it and all related documents remain under seal.

Yes, transparency of our elected officials continues to match their honesty and integrity. Or lack thereof.

Elizabeth Warren and her peers Occupy Amazon

Elizabeth Warren
No, she’s not describing the size of Mitch McConnell’s brain

As of Thursday evening, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s new memoir, A Fighting Chance, is the number two best-selling book on Amazon, trailing only Thomas Piketty’s Capital In The Twenty-First Century. Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys, which exposes the world of high-frequency traders, is number five. Both Capital and A Fighting Chance are also among Barnes & Noble’s top five sellers…

While the three works come at the issue from different vantage points, they all arrive at essentially the same conclusion: the game is rigged against the middle class.

Warren’s book, released Tuesday, traces the Massachusetts Democrat’s journey from law professor to U.S. senator. The book details how the struggles Warren’s middle class parents faced motivated her to work toward remedying income inequality — most notably, in her role in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

This book is about how Washington is rigged to work for those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers and make sure that everything that they want gets done in Washington,” Warren told ABC News earlier this week. “The game is rigged to work for those who already have money and power. I wrote this book because the way I see it, working families, they’re not looking for a handout. They’re not looking for some special deal. They just want a level playing field. They just want a fighting chance.”

RTFA, read about all three books, read the books! Figure out how to explain all this to your friends, family and peers who don’t read.

Yes, I know the electoral system sucks, a lot of it is as close to rigged as High Frequency Trading is for the Big Boys. But, unless those of us who are pissed off and know why – get off our rusty dusties – it ain’t going to get any better here in the Free World.