Posts tagged “news”

We maaaaaaa-aade it! Fox News goes after cookstove research.

“First, they came for your lightbulbs… Now the EPA, using taxpayer money to target kitchen stoves… Soon they’re coming… not just here, in third world countries. Why? Because climate change.”

The Elvis Impersonator, the Karate Instructor, a Fridge Full of Severed Heads, and the Plot 2 Kill the President

Remember that crazy story about the dude in Mississippi who mailed ricin to Obama and then tried to frame some other dude in Mississippi for the crime? Well, as Wells Tower discovered when he traveled to Tupelo and started poking around, the story is a thousand times crazier than you thought.

This is the most insane thing I’ve read in a while. Highly recommended.

Past EPA Administrators: The US "must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally."

Writing in an NYT Editorial, four previous EPA administrators make a strong case for climate action now.

Climate change puts all our progress and our successes at risk. If we could articulate one framework for successful governance, perhaps it should be this: When confronted by a problem, deal with it. Look at the facts, cut through the extraneous, devise a workable solution and get it done.

We can have both a strong economy and a livable climate. All parties know that we need both. The rest of the discussion is either detail, which we can resolve, or purposeful delay, which we should not tolerate.

Mr. Obama’s plan is just a start. More will be required. But we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering pollutants that threaten our planet. The only uncertainty about our warming world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that there is no time to waste.

The writers are former administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency: William D. Ruckelshaus, from its founding in 1970 to 1973, and again from 1983 to 1985; Lee M. Thomas, from 1985 to 1989; William K. Reilly, from 1989 to 1993; and Christine Todd Whitman, from 2001 to 2003.

NYTimes: "A single word tucked into a presidential speech...

Justin Gillis, writing in the NYT about Obama's choice to use the word divest:

He knows that if he is to get serious climate policies on the books before his term ends in 2017, he needs a mass political movement pushing for stronger action. No broad movement has materialized in the United States; 350.org and its student activists are the closest thing so far, which may be why Mr. Obama gazes fondly in their direction.

�I�m going to need all of you to educate your classmates, your colleagues, your parents, your friends,� he said plaintively at Georgetown. �What we need in this fight are citizens who will stand up, and speak up, and compel us to do what this moment demands.�

Let's hope the movement towards divestment grows.

The Ranbaxy Boondoggle

Cover-ups. A corporate culture not only lacking ethics but endorsing and encouraging amoral behavior. Unfettered greed. And excellent reporting by Katherine Eban at Fortune on Ranbaxy’s atrocious behavior. I remember not long ago reading about how much of a boon Ranbaxy could be for PEPFAR and for getting good medicines to those most in need.

Shameful behavior and a slow and unacceptable response from the US FDA. Kudos to the employees and auditors who brought the abuses to light.

The two men strolled into the hall to order tea from white-uniformed waiters. As they returned, Kumar said, “We are in big trouble,” and motioned for Thakur to be quiet. Back in his office, Kumar handed him a letter from the World Health Organization. It summarized the results of an inspection that WHO had done at Vimta Laboratories, an Indian company that Ranbaxy hired to administer clinical tests of its AIDS medicine. The inspection had focused on antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that Ranbaxy was selling to the South African government to save the lives of its AIDS-ravaged population.

As Thakur read, his jaw dropped. The WHO had uncovered what seemed to the two men to be astonishing fraud. The Vimta tests appeared to be fabricated. Test results from separate patients, which normally would have differed from one another, were identical, as if xeroxed.

Thakur listened intently. Kumar had not even gotten to the really bad news. On the plane back to India, his traveling companion, another Ranbaxy executive, confided that the problem was not limited to Vimta or to those ARV drugs.

“What do you mean?” asked Thakur, barely able to grasp what Kumar was saying.

The problem, said Kumar, went deeper. He directed Thakur to put aside his other responsibilities and go through the company’s portfolio — ultimately, every drug, every market, every production line — and uncover the truth about Ranbaxy’s testing practices and where the company’s liabilities lay.

NYT Public Editor's Journal: For Times Environmental Reporting, Intentions May Be Good but the Signs Are Not

Margaret Sullivan, the fifth public editor appointed by The New York Times, on the recent closings of the Environment Desk and the Times’ Green Blog:

Here’s my take: I’m not convinced that The Times’s environmental coverage will be as strong without the team and the blog. Something real has been lost on a topic of huge and growing importance.

Especially given The Times’s declared interest in attracting international readers and younger readers, I hope that Times editors — very soon — will look for new ways to show readers that environmental news hasn’t been abandoned, but in fact is of utmost importance. So far, in 2013, they are not sending that message.

Understatement of 2013, thus far.

NYT, WaPo cut back environment coverage, since we're not worried about that anymore

Grist.org:

On Friday afternoon, The New York Times discontinued the Green blog, the paper’s one-stop shop for environment-related news. Then on Monday, the Washington Post announced it was pulling its star climate reporter, Juliet Eilperin, off of the beat and putting her on an “online strike force” covering the White House.

All of this can only mean one of two things: 1) The environment is fine, or 2) imminent global catastrophe is not as interesting as photo essays of matching, over-upholstered apartments in Manhattan.

Bill Murray in GQ and at the Pebble Beach Celebrity Golf Tournament

Bill Murray’s been in the news a bit the last few weeks. First, he was featured in GQ’s January 2013 issue (excerpted below). More recently, he participated in the Pebble Beach Nation Pro-Am celebrity golf tournament, in which he was rocking some outstanding facial hair, making angels in bunker sand, and getting patted on the arse by Kenny G.

From GQ:

… He talks about the original reason for the trip, where he went first: to see the recently completed FDR Four Freedoms memorial, located on the tip of the island (where, he mentions, an unfilmed scene in Ghostbusters was meant to be set). He had seen a documentary about the project on PBS and, having recently channeled the president, decided to take his sons and their friends for a look.

“It was designed by Louis Kahn, and it’s got some moves,” he says, flipping through photos on his phone and shaking his head, impressed. “This is what they call The Room,” he says, passing the phone. “There’s six-by-six-by-twelve-foot granite blocks with a tiny bit of space between them that’s polished on the inside, so the light actually kicks through the whole thing. The Room is pretty boss.”

The only problem was that the memorial was in the final stages of construction and not yet open, so they crept around the edges, looking for a way in. A perfect setup for a little of that Murray magic.

“I waved to the people driving in and out in their itty-bitty cars, and eventually I saw one of the guys walking back, saying, ‘They said you were out here.’ ” Murray seems suddenly sheepish, as if hearing how it sounds: just another celebrity getting through doors on the strength of his face—not with wit and charm and guile, not with sand.

“It wasn’t like they were like, ‘Hey, you’re the guy from What About Bob?’ or anything. One guy didn’t speak very much English, and they obviously weren’t really movie buffs…,” he says, rubbing those legs gingerly. A mere guard, he’ll have you know, is still no match for the power of the Murricane. He’d have made it through the gate.

“I had that,” he says with perfect confidence. “If I had a little more time, I could have gotten it done.”

Cookstoves & the shadow of the past

There’s been a lot of “controversy” in the development sphere over the value of cookstove projects, stemming largely from one large trial in one country using one (arguably not) improved stove. The abstract nicely sums up their point:

We find no evidence of improvements in lung functioning or health and there is no change in fuel consumption (and presumably greenhouse gas emissions). The difference between the laboratory and this study’s field findings appears to result from households’ revealed low valuation of the stoves. Households failed to use the stoves regularly or appropriately, did not make the necessary investments to maintain them properly, and use ultimately declined further over time. More broadly, this study underscores the need to test environmental and health technologies in real-world settings where behavior may temper impacts, and to test them over a long enough horizon to understand how this behavioral effect evolves over time.

Cheers to JPAL for bringing in researchers from diverse backgrounds to think about and work on household air pollution and cookstoves. The field moves forward when alternative perspectives force us to think in new ways.

The rub, though, is that many of us in the field are acutely aware of the explicit requirement that any intervention be fully vetted with the community before being deployed. This isn’t the first time the development world has been interested in cookstoves; past large-scale interventions have had mixed success in part due to precisely what’s outlined in the article. Fully vetting devices in the community to make sure they are culturally appropriate, usable, clean, and efficient is a known requirement.

There’s always a chance an intervention will still fail, but due diligence dictates prolonged and complete community engagement. Because a product is available on the local market and has claims of “proven” laboratory performance means little. The laboratory provides a first step to grade stoves — but the field is where final decisions should be made. And the value of an ‘improved’ label is heavily diluted - we’re barraged by dozens of these products regularly. We derive value from meaningful, beneficial, and unobtrusive interaction with and use of appliances. Devices that fail to provide those traits fail to be used. This is definitely true here and seemingly true everywhere.

Two fundamental conclusions from the recent brouhaha stand out. First, the astonishing hype surrounding this article fits within the larger patterns we see in the news machine. A single article, statement, or editorial snowballs and catalyzes a lot of discussion (in the popular media for a news cycle, and in academia for an eternity). Not a bad thing in and of itself, but problematic when the media ignores the history of available knowledge and treats the news as something profoundly new and unequivocally true. Second, the coverage helps focus and hone the message of those working in the field — never a bad thing. It reminds us of past learnings and helps light a path forward.

In a blog post from June 18 on National Geographic, Radha Muthiah (the Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves) and the authors of the above article write,

This research, and the work of others, suggests that the first goal must be to develop cookstoves that people would actually want to acquire, use, and maintain—in addition to ones that meet clear guidelines and standards for cleanliness, efficiency, and safety. To ensure that scarce development resources are spent wisely, all promising cookstove designs must be tested in real world settings to assess their long-run benefits on health and greenhouse gas emission prior to large scale adoption of clean cookstoves. Moreover, additional research should continue in order to provide greater insight into what types of social marketing can improve the general acceptance of the stoves.

No argument there.

From ABC News Blogs: Cows beer

They’re smart. They’re organized. And they’re coming for your beer.

Police in Boxford, Mass., arrived at the scene of a backyard party on Sunday night to find six cows helping themselves to a table full of beer.

The cans of beer were left behind by the 12 or 13 young adult females who had been enjoying their Sunday night when the cows crashed their party in Boxford, a Boston suburb with a population of nearly 8,000, according to police.

“I could hear them [the partygoers] screaming in the backyard and I hoped they weren’t getting trampled,” Lt. James Riter told WickedLocal Boxford, which first reported the story.

“I saw one cow drinking the beer on its way down as it spilled off the table,” he told the site. “Some of the cows were also picking through the empties in the recycling bin. They just went in and helped themselves.”

Lt. Riter was first put on the cows’ trail around 9 p.m. when the department received a call that six cows were loose in the rural town’s Main Street area. Riter and his partner, officer Joseph Borodawka, drove behind the cows in their cruiser. But that sent the cows off the main road and into the surprised partygoers’ path.

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