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New July 2013

Silicon Valley Recap: What’s My Company Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare wasn’t thinking about Richard’s company when he wrote those lines, but the Bard put more thought into naming conventions than Silicon Valley’s budding young CEO did. Not only did Richard fail to … More »

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Ukraine probes deaths in tense east

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Ukraine says it will launch an investigation into a fatal shooting in the east of the country which has raised tension with Russia further.

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Chris Christie is still trying to force a pipeline through the New Jersey Pinelands

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In January, on the heels of the embarrassing revelation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) staffers created a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge to punish an obscure political rival, Christie and his allies were handed a defeat. The New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected a proposed 22-mile natural-gas pipeline that would go through a national reserve of forests and wetlands. Though Christie went so far as to bully a commissioner who was skeptical of the pipeline into recusing himself from the decision, that wasn’t enough to secure approval. But now the pipeline is back. The state’s leading power brokers want the commission to reconsider and are pressuring commissioners to change their votes, working both behind the scenes and through public statements and symbolic votes in county and town legislative bodies. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported, “A growing number of elected officials from Gov. Christie to lawmakers including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) have joined county freeholders and township officials in support of the project. They are considering ways of returning the issue to the Pinelands Commission, possibly as a ‘compelling public need’ for energy security and scores of jobs.” The promise of merely “scores” of jobs in a state with 8.9 million residents is a clue that job creation is not the real issue. One of Christie’s top cronies is involved in the proposal. The law firm of David Samson, whom Christie appointed as chair of the Port Authority, represents Rockland Capital, owners of the power plant that the Pinelands pipeline would supply with natural gas. As Wayne Barrett noted in the New York Daily News, “Christie … was so eager to help Rockland that his [Department of Environmental Protection] and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) decided to support the pipeline, paid for by rate increases, despite that the fact that … it would run underground through 15 miles of the million-acre Pinelands, the country’s first natural preserve and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.” (Samson resigned from the Port Authority last month after the Bridgegate debacle and media reports that he is under federal investigation for lobbying for companies with business before the Port Authority.) The B.L. England power plant, which would be served by the pipeline, currently burns coal. Christie’s Democratic predecessors had forced it to sign agreements to reduce its pollution or switch to natural gas. The Christie administration gave it a reprieve until 2015. Switching from coal to gas could be beneficial to the climate — when burned, gas emits roughly half the CO2 that coal does (though that’s not so impressive compared to wind or solar). But in practice, natural gas drilling operations and pipelines often leak methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, which can neutralize any climate benefit. And beyond climate change, the pipeline would pose obvious threats to the local environment. Environmental critics say the proposal has such strong backing because the beneficiaries, such as Samson, are politically connected. “It’s not the jobs, it’s the power,” says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Tittel also speculates that Christie, seeking support from anti-environment conservatives in the Republican presidential primary, is trying to bolster his pro–fossil fuel bona fides. “The governor had been pro-wind until he went national,” says Tittel. “This [project] is in the middle of an area that was set aside for big wind farms. Cheap gas power will kill offshore wind.” The Christie administration did not respond to a request for comment. Environmentalists and neighbors would like to see the B.L. England plant shut down. Ironically, climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, makes its shoreline location especially precarious. “The power plant is in an area that floods with storm surges,” notes Tittel. And the plant is a blight on the shore. “It’s a big ugly smokestack in a scenic area, Ocean City, which is a tourist hub,” Tittel says. If you decommissioned the plant, Tittel argues, you could create more jobs with development of condos, hotels, and restaurants in the area. (Although any development in a future flood plain could be risky, power plants are especially vulnerable to a storm surge, as all of Lower Manhattan learned when it lost power for days after a transformer station on the East River got hit during Superstorm Sandy.) Unfortunately, New Jersey politicians are notorious for making these types of decisions on the basis of cronyism rather than empiricism. Christie’s latest heavy-handed tactic was to veto 5 percent raises for the Pinelands Commission staffers.Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics

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Rich countries: Sure, climate change will screw poor countries, but what about us?

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The new report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that we are already feeling the pain of global warming across the planet. Heat waves and drought are increasingly in rhythm in every major continent, including our own, while severe flooding is more frequently becoming the business in Africa. If you don’t want to read the IPCC’s 2,500-plus page report, here’s the shorter version: Climate fuckery is not futuristic; we have been fucking up the atmosphere; it is fucking us back. But, as I wrote recently, there are certain people — particularly those with large concentrations of melanin in their skin, and smaller concentrations of money in the bank — who are suffering more of that fuckery than their less-melanated, more-resourced counterparts. The IPCC’s latest makes note of this. Disturbingly, the report’s authors wanted to keep this critical information out of the much-shorter IPCC executive summary — the part that’s supposed to be the most accessible to the public and lawmakers. From New York Times reporter Justin Gillis: The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries. The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a days long editing session in Yokohama. The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private. The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases. Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption. Those bolds are all mine. And before I elaborate, I have to add that it’s equally disturbing to me that this information came two-thirds of the way into Gillis’s article. Talk about burying the lede — this erasure is the story, but it was relegated to the story’s third act, meaning many people probably won’t read it. Back to the bolds, starting with the last one: Rich countries argue that $100 billion a year to shield poor countries from climate impacts is an “unrealistic demand.” I do not believe that if the World Bank said that Europe and U.S. will be destroyed without $100 billion in aid each year, that this would have been deleted from the IPCC summary. Arguing that they cannot afford to deal with the poor in the way that the world’s lead economists say they need to means rich countries do not truly understand what they’re up against. It means that they believe they will somehow be immunized from the kinds of violent uprisings over food, land, energy, and water that result when the poor — mostly people of color — are left out of the picture. It means they do not get what is already happening in Syria, the Ukraine, Taiwan, Mexico, and the Sudan, where forced massive migration and civil wars have already started over limited resources, arguably the result of climate change’s impacts. When rich countries can edit the poor out of the most important document on the gravest danger facing Earth, it means that they are not serious about addressing climate change. It means that climate mitigation funds will help protect millionaire beachfront condo owners in South Beach, but have yet to address how it will protect what’s left of Geechee families in South Carolina. Perhaps it even means that rich countries think their money is better spent on technology and “innovation” to shield themselves from climate catastrophe. And those tricks very well might shield some people from flooding, but it doesn’t shield the “poorest” from the kind of reckless capitalism that traps them in a perpetual state of vulnerability. This is an insult to nations who even with meager resources have already started making the difficult investments that their wealthier counterparts don’t have the courage to make. “Bangladesh has invested $10 billion of its own money to adapt to extreme climatic events,” said Dr. Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development in a statement on the IPCC report. “Nepal is the first country to develop adaptation plans at the community level. It is time for the richer countries to pull their weight and do the right thing, by investing at home and abroad in actions that can reduce emissions and protect people and property from danger.” There is little today that says whiteness is supreme more than arguing that it is an “unrealistic demand” for nations with predominantly, if not exclusive, white leadership to pay what is necessary to protect the people of Africa, India, and South America from climate calamity they did not cause. The oppression, the bigotry, and the fuckery of that argument is that it allows rich countries to continue perpetuating unrealistic demands on the world’s “poorest” — those who “virtually have had nothing to do with” climate change. Chattel slavery was an unrealistic demand. Putting Latin American workers in the most dangerous farm and factory jobs, exposing them to pesticides, carcinogens, and other toxic elements so that Walmart can have “roll back” prices — these are unrealistic demands. Asking the poorest of communities to fend for themselves against unprecedented waves of heat, drought, and rising sea levels is an unrealistic demand. In my estimation, there are two things that will destroy us eventually if not resolved soon: white supremacy and climate change. These happen to both be things that the wealthy believe they can afford to ignore. It’s for this reason that the IPCC’s summary just may be their infamous last words.Filed under: Cities, Climate & Energy

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Government’s electric-cab plan fails to spark more suppliers’ interest

<!– google_ad_section_start –> At present, only four models of electric private cars are available in Hong Kong – the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Nissan Leaf, Renault Fluence ZE and BYD e6. The BYD cars are already being used as taxis, with 45 on the roads. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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The Purge: Anarchy Trailer: Just Stay Inside

In the world of The Purge, that one night a year when everyone is legally allowed to kill everyone else is as important as Independence Day. And it’s the sequel, so haven’t you people learned by now to stay inside? It’s just 24 hours! You can read a book or … More »

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Ebiri on Cesar Chavez: This Biopic of the Iconic Labor Leader Fails to Get Its Hands Dirty

Cesar Chavez makes for a fine history lesson, but as drama, it leaves something to be desired. Starring Michael Peña, this portrait of the iconic Mexican-American labor leader has noble intentions, and you could do worse than show this film to a group of kids curious about Chavez’s accomplishments. (An … More »

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Watch Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston Suck Blood in This Exclusive Only Lovers Left Alive Clip

Who wouldn’t want to share a tasty dessert with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston? Well, would it diminish your desire at all if the after-dinner treat in question were a blood popsicle? You see, Swinton and Hiddleston play vampires in Jim Jarmusch’s new movie Only Lovers Left Alive (in theaters … More »

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Is This a Tech Bubble or Not?

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“Are we in a bubble?” is the evergreen topic of tech punditry – the equivalent of the political commentariat’s nonstop speculation about whether Hillary Clinton will run in 2016. Tech writers theorize about bubbles for lots of reasons: because they’re bored, because it gets clicks, because they’re annoyed by Silicon … More »

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Why is New York’s Citi Bike losing tons of money?

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New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down. It’s only been 10 months since the Citi Bike program started, and already the “most visible bikesharing program in the world” is in trouble. Not just the can’t-get-out-of-first-gear kind of trouble – we’re talking losing-millions-of-dollars-very-rapidly kind of trouble. On top of all that, their general manager just quit. With over 6 million trips taken and more than 400,000 memberships and passes sold, everything seemed like it was going so well. What happened? Trouble started with software glitches in the Citi Bike map and $10 million in flood damage from Hurricane Sandy. Alta Bicycle Share, the Portland-based company that operates Citi Bike program, hasn’t been so great at maintaining and repairing vandalized docking stations and damaged bikes. Redistribution of bicycles to high-demand areas during rush hour has also been a sore spot. Morning commuters complain about being “dock-blocked” while trying to find available bikes through the Citi Bike app. Frustrated riders tweeted complaints about certain docking stations being empty for days on end and lamented Citi Bike gridlock. Want to get a Citi Bike in the Bronx? Fuggetaboutit. And like other bikesharing programs across the country, Citi Bike isn’t attracting low-income or minority riders. So far, Citi Bike’s finances depend on day-pass purchases meant to appeal to tourists, which have dropped significantly over the past few months. Unusually harsh weather played a part: Turns out when the city gets buried under one of the snowiest winters in 10 years, not many people want to take a joy ride to Coney Island. Bike stat wonks and data engineers made a lot of fancy graphs and charts to prove it. So will Citi Bike find itself gone in a New York minute? Even though 91 percent of New Yorkers polled by Transportation Alternatives think Citi Bike should expand through federal dollars, the program (unlike other bikesharing programs in the U.S.) was actually designed to operate without public money. So while Mayor de Blasio has no plans to bail them out, he might agree to let the company raise fees for annual memberships. The WSJ also points out that cozying up to other potential sponsors for revenue has proven difficult, what with the large Citi Bank logo emblazoned on every blue bike in town. New Yorkers aren’t alone in their bikeshare troubles: Some programs in other cities aren’t doing so hot, either. But if Citi Bikes can fix itself and come out stronger, it’ll go a long way toward proving that if a bikeshare can make it here, it can make it anywhere.Filed under: Cities, Living

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Egypt’s military chief Sisi to run for president, vows to tackle militancy

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, the general who ousted Egypt’s first freely elected leader, declared his candidacy on Wednesday for a presidential election he is expected to easily win. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Roughly .02 Percent of Published Researchers Reject Global Warming

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In 2013, there were 10,885 published, peer-reviewed articles that researched anthropogenic, or man-made, climate change. Only two argued that the phenomenon wasn’t real, according to the geochemist who compiled them.Read more…

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Tough: passing a kidney stone.

Tough: passing a kidney stone. Tougher: passing a kidney stone while on the campaign trail to be a governor. Toughest: passing a kidney stone during a 90-minute gubernatorial debate forum.Read more…

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Ron Paulies Are Batshit Conspiracy Theorists, Chapter 794

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Ron Paul and his think tank don’t want the U.S. to get embroiled in an overseas war with Russia over its recent annexation of Crimea. That’s reasonable. Ron Paul and his think tank suggest that Russia didn’t even invade Crimea, really. That’s self-blindered hysterical conspiracy theorizin’ bull semen.Read more…

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

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Bren-Books.com, Modern first editions and collectible fiction<

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Burberry
New July 2013