February 18, 2013

Reason.tv: 3 reasons to build the Keystone XL pipeline

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Environment, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:30

Few energy projects have inspired the level of vitriol surrounding the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would run 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada through the United States to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil sands of Alberta are estimated to hold 170 million 170 billon barrels of petroleum, the largest reservoir of black gold outside of Saudi Arabia.

Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, President Barack Obama has the final say over whether to give the project a green light.

QotD: The Sportsman’s Guide to DOOM

Filed under: Economics, Government, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:17

His Majesty the King can generate all kinds of euphemisms about how and why we’re running up our nation’s debt: “investing in the future”, “borrowing from ourselves”, “betting on the American worker”. What we’re really doing is stealing from our children and generations yet unborn. It might be different if we were actually building a better world for them to live in, but we’re not: we’re squandering the money like a drunken sailor on a three-day liberty. We’ve pissed all our own money away, and now we’re pissing theirs away too, and on trifles. Vacations, new cars, fancy dinners, retirement living that we didn’t save enough money for. It’s child abuse of the rankest and worst sort. We’re selling our own children and grand-children into debtor’s prison. They’re going to hate us for it, and they have a right to.

We’re spending our children’s money without giving them any say or vote in the process. We are promising their future labor, their future wealth, their future lives, to back up our own foolish debts. We are making their future lives meaner and smaller and more constrained because we could not govern ourselves properly. It makes me angry. It makes me furious. It makes me want to apologize to everyone under the age of twenty or so for what we are doing to them. We would do well to think about this: the young people will not simply obligingly labor forever as beasts of burden, content to pay the debts run up by their foolish elders. Sooner or later they’ll grow wise, and tell the greybeards to go pound sand. There’ll be a reckoning, and the geezers aren’t going to like it one bit.

Monty, “The Sportsman’s Guide to DOOM”, Ace of Spades HQ, 2013-02-18

Did you know … that Wikipedia has an obsession over Gibraltar?

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:00

I’d noticed one or two of these “Did you know…” entries on the Wikipedia site, but I didn’t realize just how much of a fixation the online encyclopedia has for “The Rock”:

Last October Wikipedia‘s supreme leader Jimmy Wales called for a “strong moratorium” on the online project’s strange obsession with promoting Gibraltar — even suggesting a five-year ban on Gibraltar-loving Did You Know… posts on Wikipedia‘s front page.

“I think it is clear that there should be a strong moratorium on any Gibraltar-related DYKs on the front page of Wikipedia. I would recommend a total ban on them for five years, but that might be too extreme. I support that we get wider community attention on the issue,” he wrote in October last year.

The moratorium was opposed by Wiki editors but they did agree on certain guidelines. Every Gibraltar DYK has to be reviewed by two reviewers to check for conflict-of-interest issues or promotionalism, and no more than one Gibraltarpedia hook is allowed in one a day. Also, Bamkin (user name Victuallers) is not allowed to create or nominate Gibraltar-related articles to DYK.

Jimmy Wales speaks, and Wikipedia leaps into action. In December, they restricted themselves to a mere nine Gibraltar DYK entries. January saw 12 Gibraltarpedia links. As of today, there have been six Gibraltar-related posts in February.

Opening the food testing can of worms: “We don’t test for hedgehog either”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Health, India, Science — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

Tim Worstall on some of the issues with demands that all British beef for human consumption be tested for horsemeat:

Now let’s turn to that meat problem. We’re going to test something to make sure that it is indeed what it says. Most of the time, usually, we’d go looking for beef DNA and on finding it say, yup, that’s beef.

But now we’re talking about trace amounts of other species. Some of this horse contamination is someone deliberately substituting, yes. But a lot of it, those trace amounts, is someone not cleaning the pipes between species being processed. Or the knives even. Which leads us to something of a problem.

How many species do we test for? Some minced beef… or pink slime perhaps. Do we test for beef and horse? For beef, horse, mutton, pork, chicken, duck, goose? What about rat and mouse? For I’ll guarantee you that however much people try there will often be the odd molecule of either one of those in there. Sparrow? That’s more of a problem with grain processing but still.

For example, one lovely story about vegetarianism. Those (umm, OK, some) who have moved from the sub-continent to the UK. They carry on eating the (possibly Hindu caste based) vegetarian diet they are used to. And they start falling prey to all sorts of dietary deficiencies. Anaemia, there have even been reports of kwashikor (a protein deficiency). The grains and the pulses of the sub-continent have rather more insect and other residue in them than our more modern processing and storage systems provide.

People don’t test for hedgehog DNA in meat supplies, no. But how many species should they test for?

Chelyabinsk meteor provides impetus for enhanced detection network

Filed under: Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:11

Along with all the jokes about the meteor that streaked over Siberia last week, there has been some useful re-orientation of thought about the demonstrated need for better detection tools:

For decades, scientists have been on the lookout for killer objects from outer space that could devastate the planet. But warnings that they lacked the tools to detect the most serious threats were largely ignored, even as skeptics mocked the worriers as Chicken Littles.

No more. The meteor that rattled Siberia on Friday, injuring hundreds of people and traumatizing thousands, has suddenly brought new life to efforts to deploy adequate detection tools, in particular a space telescope that would scan the solar system for dangers.

A group of young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who helped build thriving companies like eBay, Google and Facebook has already put millions of dollars into the effort and saw Friday’s shock wave as a turning point in raising hundreds of millions more.

“Wouldn’t it be silly if we got wiped out because we weren’t looking?” said Edward Lu, a former NASA astronaut and Google executive who leads the detection effort. “This is a wake-up call from space. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s out there.”

Astronomers know of no asteroids or comets that pose a major threat to the planet. But NASA estimates that fewer than 10 percent of the big dangers have been discovered.

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