Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't drink the water

Flint, Michigan has a slight problem with its water, which is taken from the local river. Sometimes it's blue, sometimes yellow. It has abnormally high levels of e. coli, trihamlomethanes, lead, and copper. The EPA recommends keeping lead content below 15 parts per billion. the average lead content in the river was 2,000 parts per billion. A dead body and an abandoned car have been found in the river. 

Flint is not alone. Residents in Toledo were told not to drink tap water because tests showed abnormally high levels of microcystins, perhaps related to algae blooms in Lake Erie. Residents in Pennsylvania boil a lot of their water. Chicago residents are seeing more lead in their water. Nationally, the American Society for Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the country a “D” in the drinking-water category.

A view of old age for the young

Kinda cute

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Helping the banks

For the past 100 years or so the Federal Reserve has mandated that its member banks subscribe to “stock” in an amount equal to 6 percent of their capital and surplus. The banks have to pay half that amount upon becoming a member; the other half is subject to being called upon. The Fed pays these 'stockholders' a 6% dividend every year. If the bank joined the Fed prior to March 28, 1942, the dividends are tax-free.

Now Congress has proposed that the dividend be lowered to 1.5% for banks with $1 billion or more in assets. The lowering of the dividend would be used to fix the highways.

I'm really surprised Congress would propose such a sensible plan.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Earth II

Creating barriers

Many large cities have a problem with men urinating in public areas, particularly in areas with bars or homeless people. San Francisco thinks it has found a solution, one used with success in Germany. Walls are painted with a urine-repellent paint called Ultra-Ever Dry. The paint creates a barrier of air in front of the surface that will "completely repel almost any liquid," according to its maker. 

Those with a need to urinate on a wall are warned by signs written in English, Chinese and Spanish, that say: "Hold it! ... seek relief in an appropriate place".

Monday, July 27, 2015

Outlaw Ocean

The NY Times has been running a series called "Sea Slaves" as a way to document what it calls the 'Outlaw Ocean'. It is quite disturbing. Here is one clip from it.

How many military bases do we have overseas?

Would you believe more than 700? Our former enemies in WWII have almost 300, 174 in Germany and 113 in Japan. Another country where we went to war, South Korea, has 83. The remaining 300+ are in 70 countries from Aruba to Kenya to Thailand. Is there a need for so many? 

They are costly. We pay on average $10,000 to $40,000 more for each service member stationed abroad, compared with those at home. This works out to about $85 billion a year and does not count Iraq and Afghanistan, which would bring the number to $156 billion. 

They are not needed. Studies by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Bush administration and by the RAND Corporation show that advances in moving forces by air and sea have largely erased the advantage of forward stationing of troops; the military can generally deploy troops just as quickly from domestic bases as it can from bases abroad. 

They can generate hatred of us by the native population. Vide the bombings in Germany in the 1980s or the 2000 attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in Yemen. Research shows that United States bases and troops in the Middle East correlate with Al Qaeda recruitment.

They heighten military tension. Having bases near China or Russia does not convince them of how peaceful we are.

We're closing domestic bases. Shouldn't we be close foreign bases as well?

Minimum sentence for drugs?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Threatened or endangered

The Endangered Species Act is, as its name states, an attempt to protect endangered species. Currently, African elephants are considered as “threatened.” The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) wants the act amended so that elephants would be considered “endangered.” 

Such a change would make the protection stronger. If African elephants are considered endangered, it would prevent the animals’ parts from being sold in, imported to or exported from the United States. And we are the second biggest market for ivory. It would also prevent our government from sanctioning or paying for actions that hurt the animals; it can also provide funds for research and public education.

CBD's rationale for changing the categorization of African elephants comes from the recent discovery that African elephants are really two distinct genetic species: “forest” elephants and “savanna” elephants. "Forest elephants are much smaller, weighing half what savanna elephants weigh, and evolved in Central and West Africa’s rain forests; they have rounder ears than their cousins and straighter tusks. Savanna elephants, whose ears are more triangular and whose tusks are thick and curved, roam throughout the open, bushy terrain of other parts of the vast continent, from East Africa down to the south, where they’re most abundant. The two species are about as distinct from each other, in genetic terms, as lions are from tigers."

Considering the elephants as a single threatened species means that we have a species of about half a million individuals remaining, we’re likely looking at a maximum of 100,000 (and possibly as few as 50,000) forest elephants surviving in the world and an estimated 400,000 savanna elephants. So, each species is endangered.

The Mean and the Median are not the same

Charts based on the Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances

Courtesy of The Big Picture

What would Hippocrates say?


Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Ogallala Aquifer is drying up

So what, you might say. But you might not know some facts about the aquifer:

  • It is one of the largest underground sources of fresh water in the world.
  • It is Western Kansas’ only significant water source.
  • It is the source of much of the water west of the 100th Meridian and east of the Rockies.
  • It supplies water for 20 percent of the corn, wheat, sorghum and cattle produced in the U.S.

Here's the thing. The rainfall is so low that the recharge rate for the Ogallala in Kansas is less than 10 percent. So for every 10 inches pumped out every year, less than one inch is replaced, even in the best conditions. Scientists think that 70% of the Ogallala Aquifer’s water will be gone in less than 50 years if nothing is done.