Previous Dimes can be found here.
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We Americans live in a nation where the medical-care system is second to none in the world, unless you count maybe 25 or 30 little scuzzball countries like Scotland that we could vaporize in seconds if we felt like it.Previous quotes can be found here.
... The wildlife, the terrain and the remoteness all suggested to me that this corner of The Philippines may be the latest frontier in the world of eco-tourism.
... My adventure began when I flew southwest from Manila to Palawan, the "last frontier" of the Philippines. If any place in the Philippines could become a famous eco-tourism destination, it is Palawan: While the island is 270 miles long by only 25 miles wide, its damp and tangled interior is literally a blank spot on current topographical maps.
This, then, is held the duty of the man of wealth: first, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds which he is called upon to administer ... to produce the most beneficial results for the community.Previous quotes can be found here.
In many other countries, dumpster divers like Mr. Brylla would be written off as eccentrics. In Germany, he's just a normal 36-year-old graphic printer brought up to look down on wasting money on new things when sturdy old stand-bys are there for the taking.
"Consumption is nothing good," says Mr. Brylla. "It brings evil into the world."
Germans like Mr. Brylla are the retail trade's worst nightmare. They make enough money to buy the latest wares but choose to live in a free-of-charge economy. People who don't want stuff put it on the sidewalk. People who like it take it home.
"It's the culture here in Germany," says Dora Fecske, a Frankfurt businesswoman. "Why trash something if it's still good?" She recently found a large wooden dining table in the street and carried it several blocks to her home with help from friends.
... The trend is stubborn, with deep roots in history. Germans save their money partly because war and economic disasters during the last century make them think the future will bring more rainy days.
Today, even though the German economy is growing solidly and unemployment is falling, consumer spending is in the doldrums.
In recent weeks, news that hogs are being specially raised to feed the athletes at the next year's Beijing Olympics has spurred an outcry on the Internet. The pigs are reportedly being fed an organic diet and getting daily exercise, treatment that has China's bloggers variously mocking, lamenting and raging online.
"I would rather be a pig for the Olympics than a human in a coal mine!" wrote a blogger who calls himself Shiniankanchai, referring to the reported deaths of thousands of workers in China's mines so far this year.
Shiniankanchai's sentiments soon spread to other blogs and to Tianya, the biggest Chinese-language Web forum. They reflect a growing frustration among ordinary Chinese with tainted food, dangerous or inhumane work environments and corrupt officials -- a frustration that is being expressed with increasing frequency.
It's "just ridiculous!" said Jane Xun, a 24-year-old employee of a Shenzhen logistics company, in an interview after she posted her own online objections to the pig-rearing program for the Olympics. "It actually shows how serious the food-safety problem is. What am I going to eat?"
... But a program to raise pigs specifically to feed the Olympic athletes, both the Chinese and those from other countries, is seen by many citizens as a sign of mad excess and pandering to foreigners.
Pigs are such an important commodity in China that the nation has a strategic pork reserve, a little like the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve, to stabilize prices. China's pork reserve releases frozen meat and live hogs in a supply emergency. A recent jump in the price of pork after an outbreak of blue-ear disease among pigs played a part in pushing up China's inflation rate to 6.5% in August -- a serious concern for a government worried about an overheating economy, asset bubbles and a disgruntled rural populace.
Coming in the wake of reports of tainted Chinese food and toys, news of the Olympic-pig project are adding fat to the fire for some citizens. The special pigs "show how serious our food safety issue is," Shiniankanchai commented in an Internet posting. "While the government is devoted to solving the athletes' pork-eating problem, common people are asking: How about the food safety problem for people living in this country?"
The Olympics pork supplier, Qianxihe Food Group, or Lucky Crane, as the company brands itself in English, held a press conference in Beijing in August to announce the project. According to reports in the Chinese press, which widely covered the press conference, the company said its aim is to provide athletes with the purest of meat, free of any substances that could cause them to fail doping tests.
Today's Census Bureau report on the number of new homes sold in August provides our first clear data for the impact on the housing market of the financial turmoil that began August 9. It is not a pretty sight.Digg It! , Bookmark to del.icio.us , My Yahoo! , ATOM Feed
In a typical year, most new home sales occur between March and August. In each of those months we usually might expect 35% more homes to be sold than at the seasonal low in December. This August, home sales were actually less than in December, the first time that's happened in the 44 years these numbers are available.
... Until he was outed 10 years ago, New Jersey-born Chuck Feeney was the world's most profligate secret Samaritan. He remains, at 76, the most unusual. Eschewing all traces of luxe, the man who compiled what would today be worth $4 billion buys his suits off the rack, uses a plastic bag for a briefcase, sports drugstore spectacles, wears a $15 plastic watch, and flies coach. He owns no house and no car. He wonders aloud about the need for more than one pair of shoes. When he's in New York, he likes to dine on chicken pot pies at grubby midtown dives. "It has always been hard for me to rationalize a 32,000-square-foot house or someone driving me around in a six-door Cadillac," the publicity-phobic Feeney told Business Week in a rare interview in 2003. "The seats are the same in a cab. And you may live longer if you walk." As New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer once said, this is a man whose life is like Donald Trump's, only backwards.While the guy doesn't own a house, his foundation has modest apartments it rents for him in cities (including SF) Chuck likes to visit. Feeney has a great saying which I love to quote: "A man can only wear one pair of shoes at a time." I like the fact that after he set aside enough money to provide financial security for himself and his family, he decided to devote the rest of his life to helping others. His foundation has pledged to give away its assets over the next decade: which according to the estimates above translates to $3.5B. Feeney is a great role model for those who have enough disposable income to buy a much larger (or even a second) home. A simpler life devoted to service is ultimately more meaningful than a life spent in luxury. Owners of large homes should ask themselves, how many empty rooms does one really need? To borrow from Feeney: "A man can only be in one room at a time."
... Feeney's early days in business were an exercise in frugality. He held meetings in coffee shops and had an entertainment budget of zero. With his business partner, Robert Miller, he built Duty Free Shoppers into an international behemoth. That part was known throughout the 1970s and '80s. What wasn't known until 1997 was that 15 years before, Feeney had decided to systematically give it all away. He had grown tortured about the state of the world and his having so much. In 1982 he secretly transferred his share of Duty Free to an offshore Bermuda foundation he'd set up named Atlantic Philanthropies. It was one of the biggest and most unusual philanthropic feats in history.
Feeney was obsessed with concealing his identity and even keeping the endowment a secret from Miller, who revels in a life of ostentation and whose socialite daughters went on to marry a prince, a Getty, and a von Furstenberg. Any grant from Atlantic came with hyper-lawyered nondisclosure agreements and vows of secrecy. He agreed to this book only because the story was already leaking out, and he wanted to make sure the details were correct.
... As the father of the "giving while living" school of philanthropy, Feeney has had a great deal of impact in philanthropic circles. This carpe diem approach has influenced other super-philanthropists, including Bill Gates and Michael Dell, to donate their fortunes during their lifetimes as opposed to bequeathing riches posthumously. The philosophy goes against the grain of most American philanthropy, where charities limit annual giving to 5% of their endowments. In 2003, Feeney's Atlantic made a stunning announcement: It planned to spend itself out of business over the next 12 to 15 years, giving away $350 million annually to four causes: disadvantaged children, the care and treatment of the elderly, global health problems, and human rights.
Feeney's spend-it-now philanthropy has also influenced others to better prepare their children for lives of privilege minus the psychological hex wealth can sometimes be. In keeping with his ideas that life should not be an acquisition spree and that work and a sense of purpose ultimately bring a richer existence, Feeney long ago bestowed modest sums on each of his five children. He did the same for himself. The worth of his stake today? $1.5 million. Feeney isn't just influencing current philanthropic practice. He's also picking up where Andrew Carnegie left off: As the legendary steelman said: "The man who dies rich dies disgraced."
We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.Rather than focusing on the exceptional individuals who resist the temptation to abandon their low-paying but highly fulfilling careers, the author argues we should work towards the types of reforms where the exceptions truly become the norm. A society that allows its citizens to pursue their true vocations promotes meaningful freedom. Our system gives us the freedom to purchase and consume as we please, but few of our fellow citizens can afford to pursue the jobs they really prefer.
The late US Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis
Here's the recipe for a CDO: you package a bunch of low-rated debt like subprime mortgages and then break the package into pieces, called tranches. Then, you pay to play. Some of the pieces are the first in line to get hit by any defaults, so they offer relatively high yields; others are last to get hit, with correspondingly lower yields. The alchemy begins when rating agencies such as Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings wave their magic wand over these top tranches and declare them to be a golden AAA rated. Top shelf. If you want to own AAA debt, CDOs have been about the only place to go; hardly any corporation can muster the credit worthiness to garner an AAA rating anymore. Here's where the potion gets its poison potential. Some individual parts of CDOs are about as base as bonds can be — some are not even investment grade. The assumption has been that even if the toxic waste bonds really stink, the quality tranches can keep the CDO above water. And life goes on.Imagine needing a loan for a house, and in particular needing a home appraiser to come up with a value for the house you are wanting to buy. Chances are your Realtor already knows an appraiser who probably will come through and appraise the house accordingly. If the appraiser doesn't come up with the right number, well, let's just say the Realtor won't be working with that appraiser much in the future. Unfortunately, the credit rating agencies are the home appraisers of the bond market. Either they come through with the desired rating (AAA baby!), or you just shop that CDO around to another agency.
The most serious situation is in the UK, where the 3mths â€“ repo rate spread has widened by 50bps to 100bps in the current environment practically equivalent to two BoE 25bps rate hikes in terms of market squeeze. In 1998, the same spread remained in the 15/35bps area during the crisis (was negative after the CBs interventions).When in doubt, and especially when the professional investors seem lost, Cash Is King!
``I've never seen it like this before,'' said Jim Galluzzo, who began trading short-maturity Treasuries 20 years ago and now trades bills at RBS Greenwich Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut. ``Bills right now are trading like dot-coms.''Digg It! , Bookmark to del.icio.us , My Yahoo! , ATOM Feed
" ... the 34-year-old engineer has pioneered the city's first permitted micro–wind project, a six-foot-tall cylindrical turbine that currently sits on his roof and sends juice into the energy grid ... (it) generate(s) between 300 and 600 kilowatt hours of energy per year, or about 10 percent of a typical home's energy needs. ... A one-turbine system will cost around $5,000, though Pelman estimates that rebates will reduce the price by $1,500."
Human activities like electricity generation or transport cause substantial environmental and human health damages, which vary widely depending on how and where electricity was generated. The damages caused are for the most part not integrated into the pricing system. Borrowing a concept adopted from welfare economics, environmental policy calls these damage costs externalities or external costs. By societal welfare principles, policy should aim to ensure that prices reflect total costs of an activity, incorporating the cost of damages caused by employing taxes, subsidies, or other economic instruments. This internalisation of external costs is intended as a strategy to rebalance the social and environmental dimension with the purely economic one, accordingly leading to greater environmental sustainability.Thanks to the EU! Given the current level of influence of energy industry lobbyists in Washington, it is hard to imagine an equivalent Federal study being funded in the US. Nevertheless, US scientists have used the results of ExternE to estimate additional costs in the US.
... In recent years health damages, especially from chronic exposure to small particle air pollutants has been a focal concern about air pollution. Recent epidemiological research indicates major mortality impacts from long-term, low-level exposure to particulates — both particles emitted directly in combustion and sulfate and nitrate particles formed in the atmosphere from gaseous precursor emissions of SO2 and NOx. Lippman and Schlesinger (2000) survey the recent literature, concluding that the correlation of ambient particulate exposure levels commonly found in U.S. cities with increased human mortality and morbidity remains robust to all attempts to identify possible confounding variables.Williams takes the ExternE results, and adapts them to regions in the US. In the graph below, he compares different typed of coal generation plants to Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants:
... It is estimated that those in the US who have died from exposure to PM2.5 air pollution particles had their lives shortened, on average, by 14 years. ... the EPA projects that the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 will reduce the US death rate in 2010 by 23,000/y (EPA, 1999). But even with these laws in place, the premature death rate associated with residual small particle air pollution is significant. For example, Abt (2002) projects 6,000 premature deaths from emissions from 80 U.S. coal-fired power plants in the year 2007 (even accounting for new control technologies mandated by that year). These recent findings translate into much higher costs for air pollution damages than was the case for studies before chronic mortality impacts were taken into account.
Exergy is used as a common currency to assess and compare the reservoirs of theoretically extractable work we call energy resources. Resources consist of matter or energy with properties different from the predominant conditions in the environment. These differences can be classified as physical, chemical, or nuclear exergy. This paper identifies the primary exergy reservoirs that supply exergy to the biosphere and quantifies the intensive and extensive exergy of their derivative secondary reservoirs, or resources.Wes Hermann not only calculates the available Exergy from most energy sources, he also determines where particular energy resources are most plentiful. ("How much solar energy can one generate if one blanketed the earth's ENTIRE surface with the most efficient solar panels?") In essence, Wes Hermann sets out to calculate the terrestrial potential from all possible energy sources. He concludes that Solar, Wind, and Nuclear (in that order) are the most plentiful. In addition, Hermann locates the best places to harvest each possible energy source. In the sample graph below, we have the Tidal Power available (in watts per sq. meter) across the planet:
... Early coal mining was almost exclusively done in deep shafts that led to thick (5-10 feet) coal seams, which were blasted and picked out and loaded on rail cars to be drawn out of the mine by mules. Miners worked in dark, dusty conditions always at the risk of fatal roof falls and methane gas explosions. Beyond the risk of sudden death or serious injury, miners also faced the prospect of black-lung disease if they spent years in the profession.The current approaches involve either removing entire mountain tops or dislodging mile-long underground seams! Unless the mining companies are voluntarily estimating the cost of these forms of environmental degradation, the cost of electricity from coal as quoted in media reports, is not accurate. The list of environmental problems associated with coal mining is depressing. Here is one I ran across from the Union of Concerned Scientists:
Deep mining has indeed come a long way. Today, miners use a technique called long-wall mining, which involves a long (up to a mile) face of an underground coal seam which is dislodged by a saw that runs on tracks along the face. This method is much more efficient at removing thick coal seams than the old blast-and-pick method, and accounts for half to two-thirds of current Appalachian coal production. While some dangers are now less, current underground mining still results in fatal roof fall and explosion accidents.
Surface mining, or strip mining, has become more and more popular in recent decades, especially in removing thinner seams of coal (as little as a foot thick). The most recent innovation in strip mining is known as mountaintop removal. It peels back a mountain, layer by layer, by alternately blasting the thick layers of rock away from the coal seams and then scraping the coal seam out and hauling it away in huge dump trucks. Much of the “overburden” rock (the non-coal layers) is pushed off into adjacent valleys. As much as 500- to 1,000-vertical feet of a mountain may be removed in the process and valleys are filled in to depths of as much as 500 feet by the rubble.
MININGThe main problem with both mountain top removal and long-wall mining is that landscapes are permanently altered as a result of coal mining:
Altered landscapes. Surface mining in Appalachia often removes entire mountaintops and dumps the wastes into valleys and streams; between 1985 and 2001, more than seven percent of the region's forests were cut down and more than 1,200 miles of its streams buried or polluted. In addition, waste materials from underground mining are placed in large piles above ground, which can also scar the landscape and alter stream flow.
Water contamination. Acids and toxic metals can contaminate surface and groundwater, harming aquatic life and rendering water supplies undrinkable.
Safety hazards. Underground mining accidents result in many deaths and injuries, and coal dust inhalation causes chronic health problems. Black lung disease still kills about 1,000 former coal miners in the United States each year.
Water contamination. Impurities such as acids and heavy metals removed from coal and stored in slurry reservoirs canleach into surface and groundwater.
Safety hazards. Slurry reservoir dams can fail, flooding local waterways and putting both wildlife and downstream communities at risk.
... The coal in the Appalachian Mountains is hard to extract because it is buried under layers of shale and sandstone hundreds of feet thick. A few decades ago, strip miners would cut along the edge of a ridge side, then auger into a coal seam. But today, with bigger machines and little moral or regulatory constraint, coal operators simply blast away the entire mountaintop -- its forests, capstones, and topsoil -- so they can scrape out thin seams of low-sulfur coal. Nearly everything else is dumped into the valleys below, often burying pristine headwater streams. The resulting "valley fills" create the largest man-made earthen structures in the country -- huge treeless funnels that let mud and rainwater wash unimpeded through low-lying communities all across central Appalachia. The town of McRoberts, Kentucky, recently endured three "100-year floods" in 10 days. The water filled homes and carried away carports. When TECO Energy of Tampa, Florida, had leveled every peak around the community, it took the coal, took the profits, and left the people of McRoberts with crumbling homes, terrible roads, and a constant fear of being washed away in one’s sleep.One may be able to clean up coal-powered plants, but can one mine for coal without destroying the environment? Coal isn't as cheap as it appears, if anything the true cost of mining it probably makes it one of the most expensive energy sources. Using the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profits), coal costs a heck of a lot more than renewable energy sources.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in addition to the more than 700 miles of streams buried by valley fills, thousands more miles have been contaminated with sediment, heavy metals, and acid mine drainage, a toxic orange syrup that kills everything in its path. And these are headwaters, so their contamination affects all life downstream. In Letcher County, Kentucky, children suffer extremely high rates of diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and shortness of breath, all of which can be tied to dissolved minerals in nearby streams. Presumably the Clean Water Act was established to prevent such degradation. But early in the Bush administration, coal lobbyist Steven Griles was named a deputy secretary at the Department of Interior. Officials changed one word of the act -- replacing "waste" with "fill" -- so that toxic mining debris could be dumped into rivers as benign fill material.
There will soon be enough flattened mountaintops in Appalachia -- 1.4 million acres -- to set down the state of Delaware on former summits. Try driving across the 10,000-acre wasteland that surrounds Larry Gibson’s home on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia. Hundreds of people, like the photographer J. Henry Fair, make that trip every year to see, in Gibson’s words, "what hell looks like." Kayford Mountain, more than any place I know, illustrates the power and the willingness of some human beings to convert the natural world into money and "cheap energy" as quickly as possible. If that means the total destruction of an entire region, its people, and its culture, so be it.
And yet the majority of Americans have never heard of mountaintop removal.
The UK’s current recycling of those materials saves between 10-15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year compared to applying the current mix of landfill and incineration with energy recovery to the same materials. This is equivalent to about 10% of the annual CO2 emissions from the transport sector, and equates to taking 3.5 million cars off UK roads. ... The message for policy makers and practitioners is unequivocal. Recycling is good for the environment, saves energy, reduces raw material extraction and combats climate change.The article also includes interesting factoids, along with several graphs and metrics.