Your street – and your roof – may be polluting the air as much as your car

Extreme rising temperatures are known to increase the risk of environmental hazards like drought and wildfires. But new research published last week in Science Advances adds another danger to the list: extreme heat sends harmful emissions into the air courtesy of hot asphalt…The study, published by a team of Yale researchers, reveals that asphalt is likely an overlooked but major source of hazardous pollutants being released into the air.

“A main finding is that asphalt-related products emit substantial and diverse mixtures of organic compounds into the air, with a strong dependence on temperature and other environmental conditions,” says Peeyush Khare, a Yale chemical and environmental engineer and the lead author of the study…

On a typical summer day in Los Angeles, asphalt can reach to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At this threshold, the asphalt will release a steady and significant stream of emissions. Under these conditions, scientists predict hot asphalt could become a long-lasting source of pollution…

Researchers estimated that in California’s South Coast Air Basin, the total amount of aerosols formed from hot asphalt emissions is comparable to those released by gas and diesel motor vehicles…

And in some environments, the pollution from asphalt can be higher than internal combustion engines powering our transport.

The RV Park at the real end of the road


Joe and Kay Peterson, founders of Rainbow’s End

When his vision failed, Ed Spake, 71, was headed south on Route 105 in East Texas, driving a van that pulled a 19-foot recreational vehicle that he and his wife, Rae, had lived in for five years.

“I can’t see out of my right eye,” Mr. Spake told his wife. And with that, his driving days were over. The following year he was declared legally blind, a victim of age-related macular degeneration…

For the Spakes, the usual options for seniors who need care — assisted living, nursing homes, moving in with children — were unattractive or too expensive. So they made an unusual choice.

In Livingston, Tex., a 140-acre R.V. park called Rainbow’s End serves as the national headquarters of the Escapees Club, the largest association of R.V. enthusiasts. Next door sits a smaller park with 33 lots: Escapees Care, the country’s only assisted living facility for seniors in R.V.’s. It is, in many respects, the end of the road…

…The Spakes moved to Escapees Care in order to get the health care they need while remaining in their R.V., surrounded by kindred spirits. “I think of us as an extended family,” said Mrs. Spake, a loud, animated woman with a gravelly voice. The Spakes’ R.V. is now stationary and hosts a wood-stained deck.

For $824 a month per peson, or $1,236 a couple, residents at Escapees Care have access to the Care Center, where registered nurses are on call 40 hours a week. They take regular blood pressure readings, clean and dress wounds, help residents with their medications and schedule doctors’ appointments. The monthly payment also covers laundry, transportation and three meals a day in the Care Center’s dining room…

As the years passed, Kay Peterson, a former nurse, watched physical ailments drive her peers into undesirable living situations. In 1997, with $170,000 in donations from Escapees Club members, she opened the Care Center. Now, residents’ dues cover about 56 percent of operating costs, while the rest is paid for with Escapees’ donations…

The Spakes still talk about taking more trips while Mrs. Spake is still healthy enough to drive. “You miss the sights and sounds of new places,” said Mrs. Spake, sounding a bit wistful. “There’s a lot of places yet to go — if we get there.”

I’m too teary-eyed to comment much about this piece. I have dear friends and family, grayheads who live the RV life. It’s easy enough to picture folks making this decision – or having to.

I worked to get the very first hospice established in the United States almost 40 years ago. Hopefully, we can get to where it’s just one more decision to make at the end of a long life.

A secret journey to take Serbian nuclear fuel to safety

A shipment of nuclear fuel has arrived in Russia after a top-secret international operation to remove it from Serbia, where it was feared terrorists could seize it to make a nuclear or dirty bomb.

In the dead of night, armed men in balaclavas surround a long convoy of trucks in the woods just outside Belgrade. Radios crackle as they prepare for a long journey.

Their mission is to escort a dangerous cargo, the kind terrorists would dearly like to get their hands on.

Inside blue, bomb-proof, fire-proof containers on the trucks are 2.5 tons of radioactive material, including 13kg of highly enriched uranium that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

This is the largest shipment of its type ever made, and will clear Serbia of all its civilian highly enriched uranium…

RTFA. A dark, convoluted tale of an equally dark, circuitous journey.

The sort of political and industrial work remaining to be accomplished by treaty obligations that our bubbas on Congress farted around with for months – until they had sufficient time before TV cameras to justify their face time on that cardboard political stage.

Meanwhile, enough grunt work remains for decades to clean-up the crap produced to satisfy Cold Warriors and corporate profiteers.

Test-driving the Tata Nano – the world’s cheapest car


Click on the photo for the road test video
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Taking the world’s cheapest car out for its first public test drive by a journalist makes for a surprisingly smooth ride. Thrifty transport is not meant to be this comfortable. Tata’s Nano purrs from zero to 40mph in eight seconds and its gearbox changes with ease. The brakes are solid, bringing the car to halt smartly.

True, its 623cc engine whines a little like a blender when pushed to its top speed of 65mph and the body leans like the Tower of Pisa when cornering at speed. But the wheels will give out before you can tip the car over, the Guardian was assured by Tata engineers.

Built for functional frugality, the Nano is a striking if not a beautiful car. Flashing through the dusty streets outside the Tata plant in Pune, southern India, the Nano’s distinctive look turns heads. Many people, especially those who are riding motorbikes, break into smiles and thrust thumbs into the air when its jellybean shape appears.

Continue reading

Lost in translation!

Swansea council contacted its in-house translation service when designing the bilingual sign. The seeds of confusion were sown when officials received an automated email response in Welsh from an absent translator, saying: “I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated.”

Unaware of its real meaning, officials had it printed on the sign. The council took down the sign after Welsh speakers spotted the mistake.

We have a similar problem in northern New Mexico with all the road signs being produced at the State Penitentiary. The prevailing illiteracy makes for some fascinating reading while trying to find your way around the region.

Screw the bridge [finally] – but build the Road to Nowhere


Home of the Road to Nowhere

The “Bridge to Nowhere” may have been shelved. But the “Road to Nowhere” is alive and well.

Gov. Sarah Palin let the “Road to Nowhere” go ahead because the contract had been signed.

The proposed $400 million span that would have connected the coastal city of Ketchikan to its airport on Gravina Island died after it became a symbol of congressional excess.

But the three-mile access road that was built on the island is ready for residents to take a drive to nowhere. It was paid for by some of the $223 million in federal funding that sparked ridicule among opponents of congressional “pork-barrel” spending.

Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein calls the road, which was paid for by federal tax dollars, a waste of money that could have been used to fix his city’s roads and sidewalks.

Gov. Palin could have stopped construction of this road,” said Weinstein, who wore his “Nowhere, Alaska” T-shirt to an interview with CNN.

Palin is as much of a hypocrite as most of our politicians. Being a Republican – this week – she just specializes in lies about family values, cutting taxes and not wasting money.

Of course, she’s in favor of wasting money on imperial war, killing foreigners getting in the way of Imperial Amerika and only saving money for the wealthiest corporations.