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act April 23, 2008

Posted by KG in design, econ, environment, food, health, news, science, tech.
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“act” – from the nytimes magazine green issue:

WALK THE WALK: In many parts of the country, walking has become as quaint a pastime as spinning yarn or playing the bagpipes. Between 1977 and 1995, the number of daily walking trips taken by adults declined by 40 percent — while more than a quarter of all car trips are now shorter than a mile. Those under-a-mile journeys fall into the zone that new urbanists call “walkshed”: the area a person can reasonably cover on foot. People whose walksheds teem with shops and restaurants have more reason to walk than those whose don’t, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried to quantify a neighborhood’s pedestrian-friendliness. Last summer, a trio of Seattle software developers started walkscore.com, which calculates the number of potential destinations within walking distance of any given address and then produces a rating. If your neighborhood scores 90 or above, you can easily live there without a car; if it scores under 25, you’ll be driving to the backyard. More than a million addresses were searched in the site’s first month. Matt Lerner, one of the site’s developers, knew the concept had arrived when a condo in Seattle hung out a gigantic banner that said “Walk Score 100.” “People react really negatively to phrases like ‘density,’ ” he says, “but they react really positively to phrases like ‘walkability.’ ”Walk Score’s popularity may be a sign that walking is making a comeback, fueled by both rising gas prices and widening waistlines.

BEYOND WASTE: Zero waste, a state of eco-utopia far beyond ordinary sustainability, raises the notion of planetary stewardship to a sweeping level: instead of using, we should reuse; instead of dumping, we should compost. A number of municipalities, including Seattle and Boulder, Colo., have made zero waste a guiding ambition. The daunting challenge is that so many consumer products are neither recyclable nor compostable. Worse, they’re made with highly toxic chemicals. Reducing the impact of these products may depend less on finding better ways to dispose of them and more on discovering how to remake them — or on no longer making them at all. A number of green certifications exist for “healthier” consumer products, but for the past three years, a small firm in Virginia known as MBDC has been awarding a “Cradle to Cradle” certification, or “C2C,” to certain items that satisfy a rigorous philosophy espoused by its founders, the green architect William McDonough and the environmental chemist Michael Braungart. The duo have long held that, as McDonough recently put it, “waste is basically stupid.” Theirs is a business-friendly credo. Corporate growth isn’t in itself problematic; nor should sustainability mean getting by with less. Rather, the firm endorses rethinking the way products are designed and manufactured. To get a C2C seal of approval, a product needs to be made from components that are either “technical nutrients” (which can be recycled or repurposed) or biological nutrients (which can degrade naturally, like compost). “Instead of saying zero waste, we say let’s just eliminate the concept of waste,” says Jay Bolus, an environmental engineer who is in charge of the MBDC certification process. C2C has mainly been a business-to-business endeavor, and only a few of the 100 products that have won MBDC certification — Herman Miller chairs, United States Postal Service envelopes — are familiar to consumers. But C2C is expanding, and next year, according to Bolus, there should be 400 or 500 products with the logo. To McDonough, his certification is a point of entry into the world that he’s imagining. “It honors intention,” he says. “And I think that’s really important, given that we have to redesign nearly everything.”

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link roundup January 27, 2008

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, books, comedy, econ, food, health, international, interviews, media, news, politics, science, speeches, talks, television.
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1. what don’t we know about the pharmaceutical industry? a freakonomics quorom

2. video: stewart slams media for provoking campaign drama

3. malcolm gladwell @ TED in 2004, exhibiting his superior storytelling abilities and making the horizontal segmentation of pasta fascinating – 18 min 15 sec youtube video

4. booksthatmakeyoudumb

5. nabokov wanted his final, unfinished work destroyed. should his son get out the matches?

6. nicholas kristof in india (“china and india: the race is on” & “power of a mother’s love” – nytimes video)

new insights on poverty January 19, 2008

Posted by KG in animation, econ, environment, health, history, international, media, politics, science, talks, tech.
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professor hans rosling @ TED in 2006 (20:35):

2007 presentation available here

“Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the west. In fact, most of the third world is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.

What sets Rosling apart isn’t just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You’ve never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling’s hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.

Rosling’s presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster’s flair.

Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)”

obama@google November 17, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, econ, environment, health, immigration, international, interviews, iraq, iraq war, media, news, politics, race, religion, science, tech, terrorism.
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i was forced to suspend my critical, skeptical, and cynical nature for a moment, as i found myself fairly impressed…

(most of the best parts come during the q&a)

welcome to the age of genomics November 17, 2007

Posted by KG in berkeley, health, news, science, tech.
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couple of interesting articles from wired & nytimes

“23AndMe Will Decode Your DNA for $1,000. Welcome to the Age of Genomics”:

A lot of spit, as it turns out. It takes about 10 minutes of slavering to fill the 2.5-milliliter vial that comes in the fancy lime box provided by 23andMe. Wrap it up, call FedEx, and two to four weeks later you get an email inviting you to log in and review your results. There are three main sections to the Web site: Genome Labs, where users can navigate through the raw catalog of their 23 pairs of chromosomes; Gene Journals, where the company correlates your genome with current research on a dozen or so diseases and conditions, from type 2 diabetes to Crohn’s disease; and Ancestry, where customers can reach back through their DNA and discover their lineage, as well as explore their relationships with ethnic groups around the world. Family members can share profiles, trace the origin of particular traits, and compare one cousin’s genome to another in a fascinating display of DNA networking. Avey herself has had roughly 30 members of her extended family genotyped, spanning four generations. The effort has turned her clan into what is likely the most thoroughly documented gene pool in the world.

One afternoon I was working up my own 2.5 milliliters of spit at the company’s office when Jimmy Buffett dropped by to get an early peek at his results. A few month’s earlier, the singer had let 23andMe peruse his genotype and compare his genealogy to Warren Buffett’s. The two men had long wondered if they were somehow related (they aren’t, it turns out). Now Jimmy wanted to check out the whole experience. He sat down in front of a laptop in Wojcicki’s office, and she looked over his shoulder, guiding him through the site. First he clicked through his ancestral genome, noting that his maternal lineage showed a strong connection to the British Isles. “So the women came over with the Saxon invasion; pretty cool,” he said. Another click and he perused his similarity to other ethnic groups, spotting a strong link to the Basque region of Spain. “No wonder I like Basque food so much,” he noted.

Then he clicked over to see his disease risks — and was transfixed. “Wow. Right, that’s about right for my family,” he said as he ran through various conditions. After about 45 minutes of self-discovery, he leaned back in his chair to put it all together. “Boy, this can get pretty fascinating. And every time some research comes out, I can log on and see how it works for me. I get it,” Buffett said with a laugh. “You guys are mad scientists.”

“My Genome, Myself: Seeking Clues in DNA”:

I had refused to drink milk growing up. Now, it turns out my DNA is devoid of the mutation that eases the digestion of milk after infancy, which became common in Europeans after the domestication of cows.

But it could also make me question my presumptions about myself. Apparently I lack the predisposition for good verbal memory, although I had always prided myself on my ability to recall quotations. Should I be recording more of my interviews? No, I decided; I remember what people say. DNA is not definitive.

I don’t like brussels sprouts. Who knew it was genetic? But I have the snippet of DNA that gives me the ability to taste a compound that makes many vegetables taste bitter. I differ from people who are blind to bitter taste — who actually like brussels sprouts — by a single spelling change in our four-letter genetic alphabet: somewhere on human chromosome 7, I have a G where they have a C.

rolling stone’s 40th anniversary issue November 14, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, arts/culture, books, campaign finance, comedy, design, econ, environment, film, health, hip-hop, history, immigration, international, interviews, iraq, iraq war, media, misc, music, news, politics, race, religion, science, style, tech, television, terrorism.
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“This issue looks forward, not back, and it’s packed with interviews with the artists, leaders and thinkers who can best divine what our future holds. It arrives, appropriately, during the run-up to next year’s presidential election, which looms as a moment of truth for our nation. “People are nauseous about being perceived as the enemy,” Bono says of America’s standing in the world. “Whoever fixes that problem gets elected.” But it’s not just politics – as a society, we face choices that will likely determine the fate of our civilization, matters of war and peace, resource depletion and explosive population growth. And, of course, global warming: “It’s a mistake to think of the climate crisis as one in a list of issues that will define our future,” Al Gore tells us. “It is the issue.”

We don’t claim to have the answers to these challenges, but we do know where to look for leadership and inspiration. The values of tolerance, inclusiveness, common sense and personal liberty (not to mention fun) that took shape in the 1960s have animated this magazine ever since.”

chock full of wit and wisdom from some of the world’s most interesting minds…

you can find the entire issue digitally right here, but the interface rolling stone set up is really horrible, so i’ve made the text from some of the interviews into pdfs:

BILL CLINTON

BILL GATES

AL GORE

SAM HARRIS

PAUL KRUGMAN

BILL MAHER

JON STEWART

CORNEL WEST

KANYE WEST

here’s some quotes that i’ve culled:

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adbusters #74 nov/dec 07 November 5, 2007

Posted by KG in arts/culture, econ, environment, food, health, international, iraq, media, news, photography, politics, terrorism.
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some scans from latest issue of adbusters

chris hedges examines the u.s.-israel alliance:

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what a family eats in a week in the u.k compared to ecuador:

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the real threat to americans:

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media coverage of 2008 presidential election October 30, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, health, media, news, politics.
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study by the project for excellence in journalism and the joan shorenstein center on the press, politics, and public policy via paul krugman’s blog:

In all, 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects of the campaign. That is nearly four times the number of stories about the personal backgrounds of the candidates (17%) or the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals (15%). And just 1% of stories examined the candidates’ records or past public performance, the study found.

The press’ focus on fundraising, tactics and polling is even more evident if one looks at how stories were framed rather than the topic of the story. Just 12% of stories examined were presented in a way that explained how citizens might be affected by the election, while nearly nine-out-of-ten stories (86%) focused on matters that largely impacted only the parties and the candidates.

this should be pretty self-evident to anyone who reads or watches the msm’s coverage of elections. there’s this pretense of a public dialogue about the issues, but it’s not even reasonable to expect the average voter to understand anything, much less anything substantive, about social security or healthcare or global warming even if they pay attention to the news. can anyone tell me even the most basic of differences between clinton, obama, and edwards’ healthcare proposals? this is supposedly the number one domestic issue in this election but i never hear any kind of pundit discussion along the lines of – “well hillary’s health care plan wants to ____ while obama’s plan would ____, which stands in contrast to edwards plan which would _____.” what i hear is “hillary unveiled her healthcare proposal today. the republican frontrunners attacked her plan as more ‘socialized medicine,'” which is then followed by discussion about guliani’s attack of hillary’s plan as opposed to the plan itself.

ezra klein interviews paul krugman October 26, 2007

Posted by KG in books, econ, health, news, politics.
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paul krugman with greg palast 

american prospect:

EK: And I’ve also gotten the sense that liberals, to some degree, don’t believe they should have to make that argument, which is to say that they tend to make the argument against Republican economic policies on grounds of fairness rather than efficiency. Our approach is touted as being better for the poorest man, rather than better for the common man.

PK: And it’s taken a long time for people on the moderate left to appreciate just how bad things have gotten. They’ve taken a long to appreciate. I mean, even now, even now you’ll find people who claim to be moderate to liberal democrats saying “well, you know, inequality isn’t really that bad.” And ten years ago there was much more denialism.

EK: And you were writing about inequality in The American Prospect ten years ago.

PK: That’s 15 years ago now! It was one of my better pieces.

EK: And one thing you sort of suggest in the book is that universal health care isn’t merely good policy but has the potential to act as the wedge on rolling a lot of this back, on changing how people think of government, what they think of what their responsibility to each other is — that it has a cultural component.

PK: Yeah, I mean this is one of the few things on which William Kristol and I are in complete agreement. Bill Kristol had this famous memo during the defeat of the Clinton health care plan saying, we as Republicans must ensure that there is no plan because if there is a plan, if Clinton gets something, it will legitimize, re-legitimize the welfare state, and he’s right. Universal health care is important and worth doing in its own right, but it also clearly would be a demonstration that you can do good things, that government can make society safer and more equitable, which is why conservatives are so hysterical over even S-CHIP. If we can get heath care, and I think we have slightly better than even odds that we can, it does change the whole set of norms.

edwards on clinton’s health care proposal September 17, 2007

Posted by KG in 2008 Elections, econ, health, news, politics.
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cnn:

Edwards, speaking Monday to the Laborers’ International Union of North America in Chicago, Illinois, echoed Obama.

“I’m glad that, today, the architect of the 1993 plan has another care proposal — and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I’m flattered,” said Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina. “The lesson Senator Clinton seems to have learned from her experience with health care is, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.’ I learned a very different lesson from decades of fighting powerful interests — you can never join ’em, you just have to beat ’em.”

Edwards’ proposal would cut off health care for the president, Congress and all political appointees in mid 2009, if a universal health care plan for all Americans has not been passed by then.