Headlines (5/17/2007)

Big area of Antarctica melted in 2005. It was thought that melting in Antarctica was limited to the peninsula. Now scientists think it could be a lot worse.

For ’08 Resumes, Don’t Ask Them to Fill in Blanks Candidates on both sides are dodging questions about questionable episodes in their past. Can the American people get an attention span long enough to demand answers.

Senators Renew Call for Gonzales' Ouster. Two more Republicans have crossed over to asking him to step down.

Book Excerpt: The Assault on Reason. This is Al Gore's latest book and hopefully his platform to a Presidential bid.

Headlines (5/16/2007)

Crackdown on Indian Outsourcing Firms. H1-B visas are supposed to allow foreign nationals to come to the U.S. to work. So why are a few Indian outsourcing firms ending up with 30% of them?

“Is your PC virus-free? Get it infected here!”. Would you believe anyone would click a Google ad inviting them to have their computer infected with a virus. Believe it.

Toyota cutting hybrid costs, claims every car produced will be hybrid by 2020. As has been speculated many times, Toyota confirms that economy of scale can also apply to alternative vehicles.

Gonzales: Deputy Was Pointman on Firings.

Artic Ice Melting Faster Than Predicted

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that by 2050, the arctic ocean would be free of ice during the summer. It now appears that the arctic is on course to be ice free much sooner according to a study released Tuesday.

Disappearing Bees Threaten Food Supply (UPDATED)

For a couple hundred years, there have been reports of bee keepers finding hives completely empty of bees: Not just no live bees, but no dead bees either. Recently, the rate of this phenomenon occurring has markedly increased.

The impact of these disappearances, if trends continue, could threaten our food supply as bees play an important role in agriculture. Farmers hire bee keepers to pollinate their crops. A scarcity of bees will drive up the price of pollination.

Many worry that what's shaping up to be a honeybee catastrophe will disrupt the food supply. While staple crops like wheat and corn are pollinated by wind, some 90 cultivated flowering crops – from almonds and apples to cranberries and watermelons – rely heavily on honeybees trucked in for pollinization. Honeybees pollinate every third bite of food ingested by Americans, says a Cornell study. Bees help generate some $14 billion in produce.

The rise in disappearances is so rapid that scientists are having a difficult time pinning down a cause. In the past year, in 24 states, keepers have reported loses between 50 and 90 percent.

Toward 100 Miles Per Gallon

Can you make, and sell, a car that goes one hundred miles on a gallon of gas? That's a question we should expect to hear soon from the X-Prize Foundation (the people responsible for the civilian space race.)

They are expected to announce a $25 million prize for creating a car that can go 100 MPG and, here's the kicker, selling a to-be-determined number of units.

One of the most promising recent developments that stands a real chance of competing for this prize is the concept of a Hydraulic Hybrid. We've heard of "hybrid" cars before and many people have fears regarding the safety and expense of batteries, but these hybrids don't use batteries.

Battery hybrids have electric motors that run off batteries that are charged by braking, a supplemental internal combustion (IC) engine (i.e., gas engine), and sometimes an overnight charge (i.e, a "pluggable" hybrid.)

Hydraulic Hybrids have a hydraulic motor (basically a system of pumps that use pressurized fluid for power). An IC engine powers the pumps to maintain vehicle speed, but most of the power used in acceleration comes for stored hydraulic energy captured during breaking.

110th Congress First Hundred Hours Summary

When the 110th Congress begins its session today, incoming speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has an agenda for the first 100 hours of the session. Over the next two weeks, a broad range of issues of importance to the majority of Americans will be acted upon. Below is a summary, with links to more in-depth analysis from earlier apathy.net articles.

  • Draining The Swamp - a catch phrase for an agenda to improve congressional ethics. Highlights include: a ban on privately funded travel, loss of floor access to past members who are now lobbyists, 24 hours waiting period on all bills and 3 days for bills containing earmarks or limited tax benefits.
  • Minimum Wage Increase - Congress will seek to raise the minimum wage to $7.25. Analysis shows that this should increase the GDP and help save social security.
  • The 9/11 Commission - Pelosi claims that Congress will implement "all the recommendations" of the 9/11 commission. The truth here is that most things have been implemented except the calls for more direct oversight by Congress. It's no surprise Pelosi wants to implement that.
  • Medicaid Prescription Drug Program - as it stands now, the federal government is prohibited from negotiating with drug companies to get lower prices for drugs available through this program. Congress will seek to lift that restriction. Whether or not such negotiations will secure lower prices than the current system is a matter of much debate.
  • Student Loan Rates - Congress will seek to cut student loan rates in half (from 6.8% to 3.4% for Stafford loans.) The impact of such a change can be far reaching as college education can be a factor in unemployment, entitlement use and likelihood to vote.
  • Big Oil - Congress will seek to reverse one of the biggest blunders of the Clinton Administration by compelling Oil companies to pay mandated royalties on off-shore drilling revenue. The law allowing the drilling required the government to secure royalty agreements for the leases, but Clinton Administration ineptly left that requirement out of the leases. The blunder, if not fixed, will cost tax payers over 10 billion in revenue over the next 5 years.
  • Social Security - The administration's bluster about the insolvency of the Social Security trust fund is a boondoggle to justify their desire to see the money put into the stock market to jack the value of wealthy portfolios. Congress is promising to head off any efforts toward privatization on part of the administration.

Flooding Creates Humanitarian Crisis In Somalia

The worst flooding of the Juba River has displaced some 300,000 people in Somalia resulting in the contamination of wells in the process.

Much of the country had been suffering under a pro-longed draught. While the flooding may provide some relief to the draught stricken areas, it has, for the moment, precipitated a humanitarian crisis in a nation full of strife and on the brink of all out war.

This flooding may be only the beginning for East Africa:

Global Warming Denial To New Heights

A general manager for two Bangor, Maine TV affiliates has directed their news teams to cease reporting on Global Warming.

His reasoning:

  • They do local news
  • These stories are politics, not science
  • The Science is not conclusive

Antarctic Melting Has Definite Human Cause

Scientists studying the 2002 collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf believe they have conclusive proof that the cause is human in origin.

The 2002 event can now be pinned down to a specific change in climate, which is in turn linked to human-induced global warming, the authors say. Some argue that this is the first single event proved to have been caused by manmade climate change. "It's close to being evidence," says Ted Scambos, lead scientist of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

It is believed that westerly winds circulating the south pole have strengthened over the past 50 years. They believe this to be caused by an increase in CO2 emissions combined with the CFC created ozone hole.

EPA Demands More Efficient Computers

Starting in July of 2007, PC manufacturers will need to produce machines that are significantly more efficient to garner the EPA's coveted "Energy Star" rating:

On average, the revised requirements for the Energy Star program will require PCs to be 65 percent more power efficient than current models.

Warm Winter Expected Thanks To El Nino

Several sites are reporting on a Department of Energy report forcasting lower fuel costs this winter in North America as a result of a warmer than average pacific ocean (a.k.a. the El Nino effect)

U.S. Lax In Product Safety

While countries around the world move toward tighter restrictions on products that contain toxic chemicals, the U.S. Is falling behind to the point of accepting imports of products that cannot be sold in their country of origin. L.A. Times quote:

Destined for American kitchens, planks of birch and poplar plywood are stacked to the ceiling of a cavernous port warehouse. The wood, which arrived in California via a cargo ship, carries two labels: One proclaims "Made in China," while the other warns that it contains formaldehyde, a cancer-causing chemical.

Because formaldehyde wafts off the glues in this plywood, it is illegal to sell in many countries — even the one where it originated, China. But in the United States this wood is legal, and it is routinely crafted into cabinets and furniture.

Tax Break Insanity Favors Hummers Over Hybrids

An article int the Pasadena Star News details how congress allows purchasers of hybrid vehicles a tax credit of up to $1,860. However, that credit is tied to sales quotas and that is leaving Toyota buyers out in the cold as they (Toyota) have now started to exceed their quota.

Meanwhile, purchasers of Hummers and other SUVs get huge tax deductions, as detailed by Taxpayers for Common Sense. The Jobs and Growth Act of 2003 allows for full deductibility of nearly all SUVs.

What can congress be thinking? It is as if throwing CO2 into the air was a national priority instead of a national embarrassment.

$10,000 Electric Car Available

The Boston Globe has an article detailing the first delivery of an electric car made by Zero Air Polution to a buyer in Boston.

The car, called the Xebra, has one significant handicap: it has a top speed of 40 mph.

I think it's nice that people are trying to make these things work, but a car that can only go 40mph I think does more to discredit the electric car movement than support it.

Artic Meltdown Reaching Record Levels

The sea ice in the arctic circle seasonally grows and shrinks each year; however, a disturbing trend, caused by rising sea temperatures is that the summer ice is reaching record lows during the summer.

The summer ice has dropped from about eight million square kilometers in the early 80s to just under 6 million in 2005 with similar drops in the winter.

The maximum amount of sea ice in the Arctic winter has fallen by six percent over each of the last two winters, as compared to a loss of merely 1.5 percent per decade on average annually since the earliest satellite monitoring in 1979. This is happening as summer sea ice continues its retreat at an average of ten percent per decade.

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