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New July 2013

New York Wants to Subpoena 15,000 Users After Airbnb Refused to Settle

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Airbnb might lose the fight of its life —or at least the trust of its customers —the very same week that it officially closed a deal for $450 million in venture capital. The New York Post reports that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will go forward with a subpoena “to identify users who are illegally renting out apartments.”Read more…

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Everton 2-0 Manchester United

Goals from Leighton Baines and Kevin Mirallas keep Everton’s hopes of a top-four finish alive as they beat Manchester United.

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Game of Thrones Recap: People Who Need People

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What makes a good king? As they stand over the body of dearly departed Joffrey, Tywin leads Tommen, the heretofore little-seen but newly crucial second son, in a catechism. Is it holiness, the little boy asks? Justice? Strength? None of the above, Grandpa Lannister claims, turning to the royal history … More »

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Pope celebrates Easter Sunday Mass

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Pope Francis celebrates Easter in front of thousands in St Peter’s Square, praying for peace in Syria and Ukraine and “an end to all war”.

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Ask Umbra: How do I know if my local swimming hole is safe?

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Send your question to Umbra! Q. Summer is coming, so I wonder if the river near my house (the famous Kamogawa) is safe for my kids to splash in. There is a garbage incinerator upstream, though not directly on the river, and the operators *swear* it does not leak. Is there a water testing kit? What kinds of things would I want to test for? And what kinds of safety limits would I want to look for? It does not have to be drinking-water quality, just safe enough to stick their little feet and hands in. GabiKyoto, Japan A. Dearest Gabi, You’ve just officially made it Water Week here at Ask Umbra. On Monday, we waded into what kind of substances we can safely put in the water; today, let’s address whether or not we can put ourselves in as well. I hope you’ll forgive me for answering your question broadly. I don’t know how clean the Kamogawa is, nor will my expense account cover phone calls to Japan to check. But I can share some information I hope will be useful to you and anyone else longing for a warm-weather dip in a local waterway. When water-quality monitors talk about a lake or river being safe for swimming (or splashing), they’re almost always talking about bacteria – whether or not there is any, and in what numbers. Specifically, we’re concerned about the infamous E. coli: Not because it’s dangerous in and of itself (most strains aren’t), but because it’s a good indicator that other, nastier bugs are invisibly doing the backstroke in there. Why? E. coli is commonly found in human and animal poop – so if it’s in the water, then sewage probably is, too. This doesn’t necessarily mean the local sewage treatment plant is overflowing into the river (though it might). High E. coli counts also often come from stormwater runoff, which washes pet waste and bird poop, plus oil, fertilizer, trash, and pesticides into streams and lakes. No matter the source, we should be concerned about the presence of bacteria because it can make us sick, and kids are especially at risk. And you don’t have to drink the water to come down with a case of Kamogawa’s revenge: Open cuts can admit nasty bacteria, and just getting the bugs on your skin can eventually transport them into your mouth. Many agencies here in the States sample the water regularly, particularly at popular swimming spots, and publish the results. These can usually be found through a town or county environment department; a little Googling should point you in the right direction. Failing that, there are some consumer water-testing kits on the market; the Vermont Health Department sells one, for example, and some labs offer kits online. Becky Hammer, a water attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, tests for E. coli as a volunteer for a water-quality project near her Virginia home, and recommends checking to see if your local authorities have a similar program. Any lab should be able to tell you what the safe limits for bacteria are and whether or not your river exceeds them. Industrial and chemical pollution of the sort you might get from a negligent factory upstream is another matter, Gabi. As far as I can tell, detecting this kind of contamination is beyond your typical citizen-scientist. A funky smell, sludgy water, an oil slick, or lots of dead fish can tip you off that something is amiss, but Hammer recommends checking with those local water-quality officials for a more definitive answer. If you’ve done your due diligence and decide it’s OK for the kids to wade and splash a bit, following these don’ts won’t hurt, either. Don’t let the kiddos put their heads underwater. Don’t go in after heavy rains, as that’s when stormwater runoff makes high bacterial counts most likely. Don’t swim or wade near or downstream of storm drains. Don’t let the kids get in if they have open wounds or scrapes. Don’t forget to wash their little hands and feet when you’re done. Happy researching, Gabi, and I do hope you turn up good news about your lovely river. I hear it gets hot in Kyoto come summertime. Horseplayfully, UmbraFiled under: Living

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This giant vacuum will suck the pollution out of rivers

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Dyson vacuums are legendary; they’re the main reason divorce is so ugly. So imagine what happens when you put that powerful technology to work cleaning rivers instead of rugs. Did you picture marine trash getting slurped up into the world’s biggest vacuum bag? Ding ding ding! James Dyson hasn’t actually CREATED his super-sucker yet, but he’s made a design for the M.V. Recyclone boat, a.k.a. the U.S.S. Sucky. Check it: James DysonThe barge would scoop plastic off of a river’s surface before the junk can make it to the ocean, explains Fast Co. Exist: The famed designer’s recycling barge, which uses the same cyclone technology as found in Dyson’s vacuum cleaners, has large nets that trap plastic floating on the river’s surface. A suction system then pulls in the waste, where it’s separated and then sent for processing. Plastic trash in the Pacific got 100 times worse in just the past four decades. When barnacles and fish snack on plastic, you can bet it’ll sneak upward into the food chain. By sucking a little more, Dyson just might help your fish and chips suck a bit less.Filed under: Living

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Here’s what fracking can do to your health

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If you know one thing about fracking, it might be that the wells have been linked to explosive tap water. Of course, a tendency toward combustion isn’t the biggest problem with gas-infused water; it’s what could happen to you when you drink it. Although the natural gas industry is notoriously tight-lipped about the ingredients of the chemical cocktails that get pumped down into wells, by now it’s widely known that the list often includes some pretty scary, dangerous stuff, including hydrochloric acid and ethylene glycol (a.k.a. antifreeze). It’s also no secret that well sites release hazardous gases like methane and benzene (a carcinogen) into the atmosphere. So just how dangerous are fracking and other natural gas extraction processes for your health (not counting, for the sake of argument, explosions and earthquakes)? Is it true, as an activist-art campaign by Yoko Ono recently posited, that “fracking kills”? The answer to that second question is probably not, especially in the short term and if you don’t work on or live across the street from a frack site (which, of course, some people in fact do). But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to start fracking away next to kindergartens and nursing homes: Gas extraction produces a range of potentially health-endangering pollutants at nearly every stage of the process, according to a new paper by the California nonprofit Physicians Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, released today in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institutes of Health. The study compiled existing, peer-reviewed literature on the health risks of shale gas drilling and found that leaks, poor wastewater management, and air emissions have released harmful chemicals into the air and water around fracking sites nationwide. “It’s clear that the closer you are, the more elevated your risk,” said lead author Seth Shonkoff, a visiting public health scholar at the University of California-Berkeley. “We can conclude that this process has not been shown to be safe.” Shonkoff cautioned that existing research has focused on cataloging risks, rather than linking specific instances of disease to particular drilling operations — primarily because the fracking boom is so new that long-term studies of, say, cancer rates, simply haven’t been done. But as the United States and the world double down on natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal (as this week’s U.N. climate change solutions report suggests), Shonkoff argues policymakers need to be aware of what a slew of fracked wells could mean for the health of those who live near them. Even given the risks involved in producing natural gas, it’s still a much healthier fuel source than coal; particulate pollution from coal plants killed an estimated 13,000 Americans in 2010, while a recent World Health Organization study named air pollution (to which coal burning is a chief contributor) the single deadliest environmental hazard on earth. Still, how exactly could gas drilling make you ill? Let us count the ways: Air pollution near wells: Near gas wells, studies have found both carcinogenic and other hazardous air pollutants in concentrations above EPA guidelines, with the pollution at its worst within a half-mile radius of the well. In one Colorado study, some of the airborne pollutants were endocrine disrupters, which screw with fetal and early childhood development. Several studies also found precursors to ground-level ozone, which can cause respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Silica sand, which is used to prop open underground cracks and which can cause pulmonary disease and lung cancer, was also found in the air around well sites; one study of 111 well samples found silica concentrations in excess of OSHA guidelines at 51.4 percent of them. Recycled frack water: About a third of the water/chemical/sand mixture that gets pumped into wells flows back up, bringing back not just the toxic fracking chemicals but other goodies from deep underground, including heavy metals like lead and arsenic. Some of this wastewater is treated and recycled for irrigation and agriculture or dumped back into lakes and rivers. Multiple studies found that because the menu of chemicals is so diverse, treatment is often incomplete and has the potential to pollute drinking water supplies with chemicals linked to everything from eye irritation to nervous system damage to cancer, as well as the potential to poison fish. Even if wastewater is contained, spills can be a problem: One Colorado study counted 77 fracking wastewater spills that impacted groundwater supplies, of which 90 percent were contaminated with unsafe levels of benzene. Broken wells: Drinking water supplies can also be contaminated when the cement casings around wells crack and leak, which studies estimate to happen in anywhere from 2 to 50 percent of all wells (including oil wells, offshore rigs, etc.). Methane getting into drinking water wells from leaky gas wells is the prime suspect in Pennsylvania’s flammable faucets; a study there last year found some methane in 82 percent of water wells sampled but concluded that concentrations were six times higher for water wells within one kilometer of a fracking well. A Texas study found elevated levels of arsenic at water wells within three kilometers of gas wells. (While the Texas study linked the contamination to gas extraction in general, it was unclear what specific part of the process was responsible). Many of these issues could be improved with engineering advancements, like gadgets that monitor for leaks and capture gas emissions, or hardier cement. Regulation can also play a role: Just yesterday, the EPA released a series of reports on methane emissions that could eventually inform restrictions on them as part of President Obama’s climate plan. This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.Filed under: Business & Technology, Climate & Energy

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Nesting storks may end 600-year wait

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A pair of white storks nesting on a chimney in Norfolk may be the first in the UK to breed from a traditional nest for nearly 600 years.

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Bids invited to operate schools at five sites

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Two vacant schools and three new sites are being offered for the development of non-profit international schools. Bids are being invited for use of the sites as part of government measures to boost the number of international school places in Hong Kong. The Education Bureau estimates that the exercise could provide more than 3,300 extra places. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Doubts cast on doctor’s ability to manage celebrity couple’s baby

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A paediatrician whose newborn charge, the son of a celebrity couple, died a day after birth in 2005 was incapable of handling the baby, the chairwoman of a medical disciplinary panel said. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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District councillors slam plan to rezone Stanley sites for luxury flats

<!– google_ad_section_start –> District councillors have criticised the government’s plan to rezone two green-belt sites in Stanley for luxury flats as selling public resources to the wealthy. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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‘Baby hatches’ are no substitute for a social welfare system

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A controversy is raging over the growing phenomenon of “baby hatches” on the mainland amid Guangzhou’s abrupt suspension of its new facility after being overwhelmed by abandoned babies. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Insider trading suspect Xiao Hui wants extradition case delayed

<!– google_ad_section_start –> A mainland businessman accused of 104 insider-trading offences in Australia yesterday urged a court to adjourn his extradition hearing to allow him to pursue a claim for asylum in Hong Kong. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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A ‘wake-up call’ on global warming

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The hail and rain on Sunday was a wake-up call for Hongkongers about the fast-changing climate that could disrupt lives and businesses within moments, a veteran meteorologist says. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Black rainstorm leaves Festival Walk soaked and reeling from losses

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Rain-soaked stores at a glitzy Kowloon Tong shopping centre have been left counting their losses after Sunday’s freak downpour, uncertain whether insurers will compensate them. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Justice chief eyes quick deal with Macau over transfer of fugitives

<!– google_ad_section_start –> The government will act “expeditiously” to make arrangements for the transfer of fugitives between Hong Kong and Macau, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Baoding ready for Beijing overflow

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Baoding, a city just outside Beijing, in Hebei province will create 34 districts to absorb branches of institutes and companies based in the overcrowded capital, authorities say. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Xi wins EU pledge to weigh free-trade deal

<!– google_ad_section_start –> President Xi Jinping won a promise from the European Union yesterday to consider a multibillion-dollar free-trade deal with his country, a long-held goal for Beijing which divides Europe. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Harassment of rights lawyers rising, say attorneys

<!– google_ad_section_start –> Human rights lawyers on the mainland fear they may be facing increased persecution and violence after four of their profession were detained – and at least one beaten – when they tried to help members of the banned spiritual movement Falun Gong last month. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Here are the fair-trade hipster shoes you’ve been waiting for

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OlibertéForget giving hipster shoes to people in Africa (cough, TOMS). How about giving them jobs? Oliberté is that shoe company — with the added perk of giving you a way to buy your chukka boots and flats with less guilt. OlibertéOliberté bills itself as a fair-trade, sustainable clothing brand based in sub-Saharan Africa, paying its workers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, more than double the minimum wage. The factory is the world’s first to be certified by Fair Trade USA. So in addition to fair pay, workers get benefits like 90-day maternity leave, reasonable work hours, no exposure to certain toxic chemicals, and decisionmaking via employee committee. Adds Treehugger: The shoes and bags are made from locally sourced leather, purchased from farmers who raise free-range cattle that typically live six to eight years. The company works with a tannery that is careful not to pollute and recycles its chrome … Although not all of the components are sourced from Ethiopia, the natural rubber used from the soles is also local. They work to make the factory zero-waste, recycling and reusing anything that’s left over from leather scraps to glue cans. And although the shoes aren’t cradle-to-cradle, you can mail ’em back to Oliberté when they’re worn out, and the company will find ways to recycle them. Other than the carbon emissions from shipping shoes halfway around the world — and yeah, that’s a big caveat — they sound pretty spiffy.Filed under: Business & Technology, Living

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America, Inc. at it’s Finest

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7 For All Mankind, a division of VF Contemporary Brands
Bren-Books.com, Modern first editions and collectible fiction<

bren-books.com, Modern first editions and collectible fiction

US iTunes, App Store, iBookstore, and Mac App Store
J&R Computer/Music World
Burberry
New July 2013