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Archive for January, 2010

links for 2010-01-31

  • The World Bank has conducted 7 studies on Arab countries. The country with the most severe ratio of environmental is Egypt with 4.8% of GDP totaling a staggering amount of 4.280 billion US $. Both Morocco and Algeria are next with a ratio of 3.7% and 3.6% loss to GDP based on environmental degradation. Mashreq countries come next with Syria (3.5%), Lebanon (3.4%) and Jordan (205 million US $ for 3.1% of GDP). The country with the best environmental performance was Tunisia, losing only 2.1% of its GDP to environmental degradation.
  • The way rules are enforced seems to matter, too. The Canadian system is based on principles, rather than rules. It is about the spirit, rather than the letter, of the law. For Dickson, that means “we want to be told everything that is going on. We don’t want to have a list of boxes that we tick because that’s not very effective.” She is particularly disdainful of a legalistic approach. “Having lawyers looking at this line or that clause and debating with you about whether something is do-able or not is not the right conversation to have. The right conversation is the principle. You have to know what risks you are undertaking.
  • Heed the words of Our Lord Jobs. Flocketh!

    – "On January 27th the centre played host to one of the heroes of the computing industry: Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple, who launched the company’s latest creation, the iPad. Mr Jobs also has a reputation for showcasing the unconventional. He did not disappoint.

    The iPad, which looks like an oversized Apple iPhone and boasts a colour screen measuring almost ten inches (25cm), promises to change the landscape of the computing world. It is just half an inch thick and weighs 1.5lb (680 grams). “It’s so much more intimate than a laptop, and so much more capable than a smartphone,” Mr Jobs said of the device, which will be available in late March.

    The new iPad has important limitations, which critics were quick to point out. It does not have a camera or a phone and users cannot run multiple applications on it at the same time."

  • At a moment when the country is as polarized as ever, Mr. Obama traveled to a House Republican retreat on Friday to try to break through the partisan logjam that has helped stall his legislative agenda. What ensued was a lively, robust debate between a president and the opposition party that rarely happens in the scripted world of American politics.

    For an hour and 22 minutes, with the cameras rolling, they thrust and parried, confronting each other’s policies and politics while challenging each other to meet in the middle. Intense and vigorous, sometimes even pointed, the discussion nonetheless proved remarkably civil and substantive for a relentlessly bitter era, an airing of issues that both sides often say they need more of.

    But if it was at times a wonky clash of ideas, it also seemed to be a virtual marriage-therapy session — with the most pointed exchanges shown again on the evening news — as each side vented grievances pent up after a year of partisan gridlock.

  • " – Overruling two important precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, a bitterly divided Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.
    The 5-to-4 decision was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle — that the government has no business regulating political speech. The dissenters said that allowing corporate money to flood the political marketplace would corrupt democracy.\
    The ruling represented a sharp doctrinal shift, and it will have major political and practical consequences. Specialists in campaign finance law said they expected the decision to reshape the way elections were conducted. Though the decision does not directly address them, its logic also applies to the labor unions that are often at political odds with big business.
    "
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links for 2010-01-30

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links for 2010-01-28

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links for 2010-01-27

  • When most viruses invade a cell, they start to make RNA in order to replicate.

    When the healthy host cell senses the replicating RNA, the host cell starts to activate anti-viral defenses that halt replication and eventually help clear the viral infections.

    What Amarasinghe and his group have discovered is that Ebola virus encoded VP35 protein actually masks the replicating viral ribonucleic acid (RNA), so the cell doesn't recognize that there is an invading virus.

    One of the reasons Ebola, in particular the strain isolated from Zaire, is so deadly is that the host cells don't have any immune response when the virus enters the cell, said Amarasinghe.

  • 16S rRNA is a molecule that is only found in bacteria and its make up is unique to each species or strain. "By working out the sequences of 16S rRNA molecules in the rats' intestines and matching these to known bacterial profiles of 16S rRNA, we could determine which microorganisms were abundant in each group of rats," explained Licht.

    So what was the verdict? "In our study we found that rats eating a diet high in pectin, a component of dietary fiber in apples, had increased amounts of certain bacteria that may improve intestinal health," said co-researcher Andrea Wilcks. "It seems that when apples are eaten regularly and over a prolonged period of time, these bacteria help produce short-chain fatty acids that provide ideal pH conditions for ensuring a beneficial balance of microorganisms. They also produce a chemical called butyrate, which is an important fuel for the cells of the intestinal wall."

  • "Social critic and AUC economics professor, Galal Amin, has just been awarded the Distinguished Cultural Prize of Sultan Al Owais, which is presented annually by the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation of the United Arab Emirates. Amin was chosen from nearly 400 nominees in the humanitarian and futuristic studies category."
    (tags: auc economics)

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links for 2010-01-26

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links for 2010-01-23

  • Book Review/Summary: "David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf are notable climate scientists. They are also excellent communicators of the science to the general reader, as is apparent in their new book The Climate Crisis: An Introductory Guide to Climate Change. The authors seek to provide an accessible and readable account of the “treasure trove” of the IPCC reports.

    They distinguish their work sharply from the Summaries for Policy Makers officially provided by the IPCC, which are negotiated between government representatives and exclude much of what scientists think and write in the full report.

    But while they draw heavily on the latest IPCC report and feature many of its informative graphs and tables, they also refer to new findings since the 2006 cut-off date for the report, and draw attention to weaknesses they sometimes see in the report."

  • He said there are more than a million CCTV cameras in London and the Government has spent £500 million on the crime-fighting equipment.

    But he admitted just 1,000 crimes were solved in 2008 using CCTV images as officers fail to make the most of potentially vital evidence.

    Writing in an internal report, Mr Neville said people are filmed many times every day and have high expectations when they become victims of crime.

    But he suggested the reality is often disappointing as in some cases officers fail to bring criminals to justice even after they are caught on camera and identified.

  • "- As awareness of environmental concerns has grown, therapists say they are seeing a rise in bickering between couples and family members over the extent to which they should change their lives to save the planet.
    – [..T]herapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged. [Those] not devoted to the environmental cause can become irritated by life choices they view as ostentatiously self-denying or politically correct.

    Those with a heightened focus on environmental issues, on the other hand, can find it hard to refrain from commenting on things that they view as harmful to Earth

    – Linda Buzzell, a family and marriage therapist [..] co-editor of “Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind,” cautions that the repercussions of environmental differences can be especially severe for couples.

    “The danger arises when one partner undergoes an environmental ‘waking up’ process way before the other, leaving a new values gap between them,” "

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links for 2010-01-22

  • "- China has said its economy expanded by 8.7% in 2009, exceeding even the government's own initial expectations. [..]
    China is now on course to overtake Japan and become the world's second-biggest economy

    – Jim O'Neill, chief economist at Goldman Sachs, said that China had come up with "a very smart policy stimulus" and that some aspects of the financial crisis may not have been a bad thing.
    "[In] November 2008, they came up with a quick, aggressive fiscal and monetary response which has worked. [..]They have replaced exports with domestic demand, both consumption and investment… China has become more important as America less, which is what the world needs."

    – Mr Ma played down speculation that China's economy had now overtaken Japan's. "According to the UN standard – that is $1 a day – there are still 150 million poor people in China. That is China's reality," he said. "So [..] we still have to recognise that China is still a developing country." "

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