France first nation to ban plastic dishware

❝ It’s a logical move for a country known to revel in the finer things. France this week became the first country to pass an all-out ban on plastic cutlery, plates, and cups.

The new law is set to take effect in 2020 and will be part of France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth Act, which has already set a ban on disposable plastic bags throughout the country. The law will only allow disposable tableware made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that are compostable at home. The restrictions on plastic products follow the global climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015, a meeting of nations looking to curb the effects of climate change.

❝ Plastic production requires the use of fossil fuels, which evidence has shown to have played a role in climate change. Once produced, plastic products are not biodegradable and can wind up languishing in garbage dumps and polluting the ocean and waterways, which often have adverse effects on wildlife.

Human use of plastic has become so commonplace that scientists have estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. In fact, mankind has created so much plastic that some say it will likely show up in future fossil fuels.

❝ French president François Hollande said the new law against disposable plastic tableware would make his country “an exemplary nation in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, diversifying its energy model and increasing the deployment of renewable energy sources.”

Its detractors say blah, blah, blah.

Overdue. Yes, there always has to be a first. Surely took a long time to get here, though.

Any bets on how long before the US climbs on board?

Hillary Clinton won a presidential nomination — These newspapers ran front-page photos of her husband

Fusion’s Kelsey McKinney noticed something important about today’s newspapers that heralded the historic moment of a woman winning a presidential nomination. A lot of them used a picture not of Hillary — but her husband.

Of course it’s true that Hillary Clinton only addressed the DNC briefly through a video Tuesday night. And, having worked in a number of newsrooms, my guess is the editors at these papers wanted to grab a newsy photo from something that happened at the Democratic National Convention last night. That newsy photo ended up, in a lot of cases, to be of Bill Clinton…

Nonetheless, Clinton did something remarkable last night — she became the first woman to win a major political party’s presidential nomination. Certainly that should be enough of an accomplishment to get her face on the front page of more of the country’s daily newspapers. Apparently, it isn’t.

The telling conclusion for me — that not only didn’t these newspapers notice their brains were about a century out-of-date; but, that millions of Americans, mostly male, didn’t notice it, either.

And, then, there likely are thousands of Republicans who wonder what the fuss is all about?

Here’s the first solar-powered plane to cross the Atlantic

Click to enlarge

Taking a selfie en route

After a flight time of 71 hours and 8 minutes, Solar Impulse 2, piloted by Bertrand Piccard, became the first solar powered airplane to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean. The plane took off from New York and landed in Seville, Spain.

The flight across the Atlantic was much shorter than last year’s epic 117 hour trip that pilot André Borschberg made last year across the Pacific in Solar Impulse 2. Borschberg and Piccard have been alternating piloting duties throughout the course of the round-the-world journey, which started last year in Abu Dhabi.

The mission of the flight is to prove that zero-emission technologies like solar power are a viable alternative to current fossil fuels…

The plane likely has about two more legs to go before their journey is over–from Spain to Northern Africa, and then, at long last, back to Abu Dhabi.

Bravo! Like all early adventures in new technology it’s a small start and a long fulfilling journey.

San Francisco code now requires solar panels on new buildings less than 10 stories high

Click to enlargeSunPower

❝ Never mind that San Francisco is known for waves of fog rolling in from the bay. This week, it became the first major city in the United States to mandate solar panels on new buildings with fewer than 10 floors.

The Better Roofs Ordinance, unanimously approved by the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, builds off of existing California law that requires 15 percent of new rooftops to be “solar ready.” Now, those solar-ready roofs will have to include functioning solar panels.

…A definite boost to clean power…given the city’s goal of running 100 percent on renewables by 2025…

❝ The ordinance could have an immediate impact on more than 200 building projects currently in the works. This will “avoid over 26,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year” according to the Department of the Environment, reports the San Francisco Examiner, enough to power roughly 2,500 homes annually.

It does help to be in a state with national leadership in almost every aspect of improving the environment. Certainly, part of that is a reflection of government working to cure problems of their own creation. Like way too many cars and too little public transit. A special part of California’s history.

Kudos to San Francisco.

Milestone: California condors reach key survival measure

A captive breeding program that at one time included every living California condor has passed a key milestone in helping North America’s largest bird return to the wild.

For the first time in decades, more condors hatched and fledged in the wild last year than adult wild condors died, said officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service…

Fourteen young condors took flight compared with 12 that died. Officials say it’s a small difference but a big step since the last 22 wild condors were captured in the 1980s to start the breeding program that releases offspring into the wild.

“That’s an indication that the program is succeeding,” said Eric Davis, the Wildlife Service’s coordinator for the California condor program. “We hope that wild birds start producing wild chicks, and that is what is happening more and more…”

The captive breeding program continues with the Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey near Boise being the top egg producer, with six eggs laid this spring and nine more expected…

Davis said about 20 to 40 condors, typically less than 2 years old, are released into the wild each year. They can live for about 60 years.

Majestic birds. I’ve seen one in the wild. Once.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Ehud Olmert is the first Israeli Prime Minister sentenced to prison

Olmert enters prison
Click to enlargeOlmert on the leftMoti Milrod

Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert started serving a 19-month prison sentence for bribery and obstruction of justice on Monday, becoming the first Israeli premier to be imprisoned and capping a years-long legal saga that forced him to resign in 2009…

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could say this about George W Bush? Trouble is – even the anti-government Tea Party-types won’t join the campaign. Ideology still overrules any sense of fighting for justice.

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs

Reading in the current age of the Internet has led to some subtle modifications in how we read. I suspect we are consuming so many words, or at least way more than normal and as a result we have become “skimmers” and letting our brain to fill in the gaps. I was reminded of our changing behavior by a marketing email from Le Labo Fragrances. Thought you folks might get a kick out of it!

Om Malik

Thanks, Om

World’s 1st bullet train celebrates 50th Anniversary

Click to enlargeThe original Series 0

Zipping cross-country in a super-high-speed train has become commonplace in many countries these days, but it was unheard of when Japan launched its bullet train between Tokyo and Osaka 50 years ago Wednesday.

The Shinkansen, as it’s called in Japan, gave a boost to train travel in Europe and Asia at a time when the rise of the automobile and the airplane threated to eclipse it. It also was a symbol of pride for Japan, less than two decades after the end of World War II, and a precursor of the economic “miracle” to come.

The Oct. 1, 1964, inauguration ceremony was re-enacted at Tokyo Station on Wednesday at 6 a.m., complete with ribbon cutting. The first bullet train, with its almost cute bulbous round nose, traveled from Tokyo to Osaka in four hours, shaving two and a half hours off the 513-kilometer (319-mile) journey. The latest model, with a space-age-like elongated nose, takes just two hours and 25 minutes…

The Shinkansen renewed interest in high-speed rail elsewhere, notably in Europe. France and Spain are among the leaders in Europe, and Turkey last year became the ninth country to operate a train at an average speed of 200 kph, according to Railway Gazette. South Korea and Taiwan also operate high-speed systems in Asia…The fastest train in the U.S., Amtrak’s Acela Express, averages 169 kph (105 mph) on a short stretch between Baltimore and Wilmington, Delaware…


Here’s a look at the rest of the modern world. Which really doesn’t include the United States.

First person to cycle to the South Pole!

Shortly before Christmas, we heard about 35 year-old British adventurer Maria Leijerstam’s planned attempt to ride to the South Pole on a recumbent fat-tired tricycle. On December 27th at 1am GMT, she achieved that goal, becoming the first person to ever successfully cycle from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the Pole.

Leijerstam used a modified version of the commercially-available Sprint trike, made by recumbent tricycle manufacturer Inspired Cycle Engineering (ICE). She chose to go with a recumbent trike because it would allow her to maintain stability in the often very-high winds. This allowed her to concentrate simply on moving forward, instead of having to waste time and effort keeping her balance.

The strategy paid off, as she not only made it, but also beat two other cyclists who had set out for the Pole on two-wheelers, days before her Dec. 17th start date. Her victory wasn’t just due to the fact that she could move faster, but also because the stability of her trike allowed her to take a different route that was shorter but technically more challenging.

That “shorter” route was nonetheless approximately 644 km long, stretching from the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, up over Leverett Glacier, and onward to the South Pole.

Bravo! Difficult enough to develop, plan and build the whole process of a challenge like this. That took two years of training in Siberia, Norway and Iceland.

Having the courage, stamina and complete physical skill to win a first like this one – is worth worldwide recognition.

Cat domestication traces back to Chinese farmers 5,300 years ago

Click to enlargePallas’ cat of Central Asia

“At least three different lines of scientific inquiry allow us to tell a story about cat domestication that is reminiscent of the old ‘house that Jack built’ nursery rhyme,” said study co-author Fiona Marshall, PhD…

“Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored.”…The study provides the first direct evidence for the processes of cat domestication.

“Results of this study show that the village of Quanhucun was a source of food for the cats 5,300 years ago, and the relationship between humans and cats was commensal, or advantageous for the cats,” Marshall said. “Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, our evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits…”

While it often has been argued that cats were attracted to rodents and other food in early farming villages and domesticated themselves, there has been little evidence for this theory.

The evidence for this study is derived from research in China led by Yaowu Hu and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hu and his team analyzed eight bones from at least two cats excavated from the site.

Using radiocarbon dating and isotopic analyses of carbon and nitrogen traces in the bones of cats, dogs, deer and other wildlife unearthed near Quanhucan, the research team demonstrated how a breed of once-wild cats carved a niche for themselves in a society that thrived on the widespread cultivation of the grain millet.

…Carbon and nitrogen isotopes show that cats were preying on animals that lived on farmed millet, probably rodents. At the same time, an ancient rodent burrow into a storage pit and the rodent-proof design of grain storage pots indicate that farmers had problems with rodents in the grain stores.

Other clues gleaned from the Quanhucun food web suggest the relationship between cats and humans had begun to grow closer. One of the cats was aged, showing that it survived well in the village. Another ate fewer animals and more millet than expected, suggesting that it scavenged human food or was fed.

Recent DNA studies suggest that most of the estimated 600 million domestic cats now living around the globe are descendants most directly of the Near Eastern Wildcat, one of the five Felis sylvestris lybica wildcat subspecies still found around the Old World…

“We do not yet know whether these cats came to China from the Near East, whether they interbred with Chinese wild-cat species, or even whether cats from China played a previously unsuspected role in domestication,” Marshall said.

Wow. Would I ever love to see a docudrama in classic Chinese-film style about this.