June 23, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 PM


Smarter lighting would save US$110b, summit told (June 24, 2012)

 Efficient lighting would save US$110 billion (RM330 billion) a year worldwide, according to a UN-led study published at the Rio+20 summit on Thursday.

Yearly savings in phasing out incandescent bulbs and making other simple changes would amount to around five percent of global electricity consumption, it said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Ankara vows response after Syria downs Turkish jet (France 24, 6/23/12)
Syria on Saturday confirmed it had shot down a Turkish fighter jet that had entered their territory, as Turkey said it would take "necessary steps" once it had established all the facts.

A Syrian military spokesman told the country's official news agency SANA that they had opened fire on an "unidentified target" that had entered its airspace, bringing it down in Syrian waters.

They had subsequently established that it had been a Turkish fighter and the two countries' navies were now cooperating in an operation to find the two missing pilots, the agency reported.

This latest crisis will likely further test relations between the two neighbors, already strained over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's outspoken condemnation of Syria's bloody crackdown on anti-government protests.

Never a good idea to give a natural enemy--especially a US ally--a pretext to attack you.
Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


Indian Americans ahead of all other ethnic minorities in US (Yashwant Raj, 6/19/12, Hindustan Times)

Indian Americans are the third largest Asian American group at 3.18 million, behind Chinese and Filipino origin Americans at 4.01 million and 3.41 million respectively.

The first Indians came to the US between 1904 and 1911 as farmhands. They were then described as caucasians, and could become citizens and marry US-born whites. But that changed.  Immigration from India was prohibited in 1917, and a 1923 Supreme Court decision called them non-whites. The gates were thrown up in 1965 with new laws.

Indians started landing in waves, mostly through student and temporary-work visas, accounting for more than half of H1B recipients in 2011 (there have been cuts since). Their successes make the community the most prosperous and educated.

Median annual personal earnings for Indian-American full-time, was $65,000, higher than for all Asian Americans ($48,000) as well as for all US adults ($40,000). Among households, the median annual income for Indian Americans  was $88,000, much higher than for all Asians ($66,000) and all US households ($49,800). And, that's probably because they are better educated. "Among Indian Americans aged 25 and older, seven-in-ten (70%) have obtained at least a bachelor's degree."

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Zimmerman Prosecutors Struggle to Outmaneuver Florida Law (US Politics Today, 6/23/12)

Florida's Stand Your Ground law allows residents to use deadly force to defend themselves or their property, and when doing so, protects them from prosecution. This law may derail the prosecution of defendant George Zimmerman in the much-publicized case of a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin.

State prosecutors see the case as open-and-shut, arguing that Martin was simply a kid buying a soda at a convenience store. When Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious individual, police told him to stand down until they arrived; he did not. [...]

Florida's Stand Your Ground law is clear: an individual has no duty to retreat from a public confrontation in which he or she reasonably perceives a danger. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


America, Start Your Natural-Gas Engines: Replacing gasoline in our cars could be an energy game changer. Here's what we need to do to get from here to there. (TOM FOWLER, 6/18/12, WSJ)

Beyond the chemical, mechanical and economic challenges of getting natural gas into the vehicle fleet, there are psychological barriers. The average person doesn't think about natural gas when thinking of alternative vehicles, says Mike Omotoso, senior manager for LMC Automotive U.S., a research firm. "They might think of diesels, but they mainly think of gas-electric hybrids or plug-in electrics. They just aren't aware of natural gas."

Much of how the public will react is unknown. Will there be safety fears? Will people be willing to use the same fuel that heats their houses to run their cars? There's no wide-scale effort to answer those questions.

The arguments that will win over buyers aren't clear either. Honda used the cleaner-emissions pitch when its Civic GX came on the U.S. market in 1998, says Brad Johnson, corporate fleet director with Pacific Honda in San Diego. Now, he says, buyers seem more interested in saving at the pump and using a fuel produced in the U.S. Honda is also promoting the fact that CNG vehicles can drive in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes on California freeways.

Even though consumers are slow to adopt natural-gas passenger vehicles, at least a few gas retailers are optimistic that if they build it, drivers will come.

Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, of Oklahoma City, plans to open 10 retail outlets with CNG pumps this summer, thanks to a partnership with Chesapeake Energy.

And Kwik Trip Inc., an operator of gas stations and convenience stores, opened its first CNG station aimed at passenger-car drivers in La Crosse, Wis., this spring, with plans for several more.

"It's attractive to customers because it's a domestic product, there's a steady supply, and the price is right," says John McHugh, Kwik Trip's communications manager. "If we can offer the consumer a value, we know people will jump on the bandwagon."

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Mitt Romney's Playbook on Immigration, Everything: Pivot to the Economy (Chris Good, 6/22/12, ABC News)

Just when you think identity politics is back, Mitt Romney does his best to squash it.

Now that the Obama administration says it will no longer deport young illegal immigrants, pundits have wondered whether Romney's criticism of the move - and the ambiguity over whether or not he would actually reverse the policy, if elected - will hurt him among Latino voters. The former governor and his campaign have an answer: the economy. [...]

Romney's maneuver is basic: Criticized for policies unpopular with a particular demographic group, he has pointed to unemployment rates in that group, diverting attention back to the campaign's top issue and suggesting that, regardless of immigration policy, Obama's presidency has harmed Latinos.

If this move sounds familiar, it should. Romney and his campaign employed the same strategy this spring, when Republicans faced criticism for policies that affect another group - women.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Glen Hansard is doing just swell (Maryam Siddiqi, Jun 19, 2012, National Post)
Glen Hansard knows how to tell a story, which is fantastic if you're a journalist because he'll answer questions without having to be asked, and the conversation will flow naturally to unlikely subjects.

But it might be a challenge if you're a publicist, particularly one who's trying to manage a strict interview schedule, because no matter how emphatically you're tapping your finger on your watch, journalists (this one, anyway) won't want to interrupt Hansard, 42, remembering how, as a nervous 20-year-old, he celebrated Van Morrison's 50th birthday with him, singing and playing guitar together. "We didn't talk. At all. We just sang," he says. "The guitar had four strings on it when we finished."

Film review: Falling out of love with The Swell Season
Just days before Hansard was in Toronto for interviews this past May, he played a small show in New York and shared a song with another famous Irish singer during his birthday week -- Bono. "You kind of forget that here's a guy from the biggest rock band in the world, and he doesn't do this, ever. He doesn't jam," Hansard says. "So it was nice to see him do that."

And a week or so before that, Hansard played the New Orleans Jazz Festival and was asked to sing with Mavis Staples. "I met her before she went on and she invited me to sing in tribute to Levon [Helm], but my god, man. I stood at the side of the stage, and honestly it was the best show I've ever seen. She's just all light," he says, awe still in his voice.

"I feel like, how blessed a life have I managed to live that I bump into Mavis, have this brief conversation about Levon and the next thing I know I'm singing with her. That's the kind of magic that I definitely signed up for in this life," he explains. "It says a lot for, if you're there, it can happen. If you're available to the muse or to the magic, it will come and land on your shoulder."

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


The Problem Is Relative (H. Gilbert Welch, 06/21/2012, Huffington Post)

A few years ago a study of a cholesterol-lowering statin drug was hailed for big reductions in heart attacks in people with so-called healthy cholesterol levels. The drug led to about a 50 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack. That sounds like a breakthrough.

But the absolute risks -- the real numbers -- are sure to look a little different. Why? Because in people with healthy cholesterol levels, heart attacks are rare. To get that context, get the two additional numbers: the risk of heart attack in people taking and not taking the drug.

For people taking the drug, the chance of having a heart attack over five years was less than 1 percent. To be sure, that is about 50 percent lower than the analogous risk for those not taking the drug -- less than 2 percent -- but it sounds a lot less like a breakthrough.

These absolute risks suggest that 100 apparently healthy people have to take the medication for five years for one to avoid a heart attack. And it's not even clear from the research -- or the federal registry of clinical trials -- what kind of heart attack: the kind that patients experience (the bad kind) or the kind that is diagnosed by detecting less than a billionth of gram of a protein in the blood (the not-so-important kind). Add in all the hassle factors of being on another drug (filling scripts, blood tests, insurance forms) and the legitimate concerns about side effects, the use of relative change might now strike you as more than a little misleading.

Whatever the finding -- harm or benefit -- relative change exaggerates it.

Upon learning this, one of my students likened relative change to funhouse mirrors. If you are thin, there is a mirror that can make you look too thin; if you are heavy, there is mirror that can make you look too heavy.

In the case of relative change, it all happens in the same mirror. It provides a potent combo to promote medical care: exaggerated perceptions of risk and exaggerated perceptions of benefit. Can you imagine a more powerful marketing strategy?