Office Rumors

Office Rumors Blog – “Better reading this than the insides of your eyelids!”

*Ring* *Ring*

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It’s 1978 calling, telling us nuclear power plants are safer to live near than those of the coal-fired variety.

This, per a Gristmill article:

Former ORNL researchers J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, and R. E. Blanco made this point in their article “Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants” [PDF] in the December 8, 1978, issue of Science magazine. They concluded that Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants that meet government regulations.

[…]

The fact that coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment has several implications. It suggests that coal combustion is more hazardous to health than nuclear power and that it adds to the background radiation burden even more than does nuclear power. It also suggests that if radiation emissions from coal plants were regulated, their capital and operating costs would increase, making coal-fired power less economically competitive.

Hmmmm. Don’t we look silly for wasting our time on coal? Sure, we’ve got a ton of it, but we can surely find some other use for that black stuff (hard, not liquid variety) than our open-pit strip mining.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "Coal mine Lake" by Nitin Kirloskar (via Flickr).


Sure makes for cool pictures, though.

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Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Fickle Politics Aside

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One very interesting development paralleling the events unfolding in China has been the outcry from both sides of the aisle in the United States. It’s great to see that, although we have differences on many things, we are quite united in our thoughts on human rights.

'1984'" by surfstyle.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "George Orwell: '1984'" by surfstyle.

One great example of this is the outcry from Marty Kaplan, writing at the Huffington Post. He calls these the “Orwell Olympics.” First, quick update to the status quo:

Now that every dissident within a hundred miles of Beijing has been intimidated, jailed or internally exiled; now that the Chinese communist party has shut down formerly legal means of citizen redress, like petitioning the government; now that free assembly has been banned, unsightly small businesses have been bulldozed, hotel computers have been bugged, and the foreign press has been bamboozled […].

Now, policies appear to be changing.

[…] the president is finally saying in public, in Thailand, what he says he has been saying in private: “America stands in firm opposition to China’s detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists. We speak out for a free press, freedom of assembly and labor rights — not to antagonize China’s leaders, but because trusting its people with greater freedom is the only way for China to develop its full potential.”

It’s about time, cowboy.

[…]

Our president never let the bully of Baghdad crimp his freedom-agenda rhetoric. Why did it take him so long to send some public pro-democracy love to the Big Brothers of Beijing?

I agree with Kaplan. Prior to his ending line, he speculates that our ties to China as a trade partner have made it difficult for Bush, but now with its visibility, it is more difficult to maintain “quiet diplomacy.”

Too bad that following the Olympics this will not focus us, as a country, anew towards maintaining (and increasing) liberty in our homeland. We have it really good, but there’s always room to improve systems and continue to be on the cutting edge

Written by walonline

August 6, 2008 at 9:18 pm

Coffee: Good for You!

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The New York Times has a very comprehensive look at coffee and the old question of whether its really good for you. I read through the article and struggled to find something negative about it, other than the “gut-rot” (stomach ache) that is sometimes associated with it.

Used under a Creative Commons License. "colorful coffee composition" by once and future (via Flickr).

Used under a Creative Commons License. "colorful coffee composition" by once and future (via Flickr).

That said, I’m a huge coffee drinker–black and unadulterated–so below are the good highlights.

Coffee doesn’t:

  • dehydrate you
  • contribute to heart disease
  • contribute to the development of hypertension (high blood pressure), but colas do
  • contribute to cancer development
  • cause bone loss (and with some cream/milk, it helps prevent it)

Coffee does:

  • improve athletic performance
  • improve memory and the completion of complex tasks (like driving to/from work in the wee hours)
  • lowers the risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • lowers the risk of the onset of Type 2 Diabetes

In otherwords, weighing a stomach ache along side these positives, you should suck down that coffee–no matter how bitter.

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Life

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Favorite Road Trip Snacks

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Car Lust has an interesting post on favorite road trip snacks. Here’s a good point:

[…] processed snacks make you fat, wreak havoc on your blood sugar, have wasteful packaging, poke gaping holes in the ozone layer, and introduce trans-fats to endangered species. They are also fantastic on road trips.

That’s precisely why they invented products like “Munchies.” Personally, I enjoy Chex Mix bold from time-to-time, but my all time favorites are sunflower seeds (ranch flavor) and a Dr. Pepper fountain drink (the bigger, the better).

For meal-sized eats, I prefer Taco Bell, despite it being difficult to eat. The true challenge isn’t in eating it, but in not staining clothing or car interior. True, this sort of multitasking isn’t recommended, and certainly isn’t safe driving, but when you have to eat, you do.

What are your favorite snacks for calming cravings as the miles fly by?

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Life

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Laughable

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The situation in China with regards to pollution is laughable. They promised to clean up, and it hasn’t worked out. Wired Magazine’s Science blog reports it isn’t working, even after their “specialized” anti-smog measures. In another post, they look at independent particulate readings from the BBC’s Beijing bureau. Here’s the explanation bit:

On most days, Beijing’s air clearly remains poor, rarely dropping below 50 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic meter of air. The World Health Organization considers any concentration of particulate higher than 50 to be unhealthy. While the BBC sensor has a large margin of error (20 percent), on most days the readings have been far above the threshold. The pollution levels have been clearly reflected in daily photographs taken from the same location by the news agency’s reporters.

The Chinese government has been working on an ambitious plan to improve the air quality in Beijing for the games including traffic bans, factory shutdowns, cloud seeding, and construction slowdowns.

But the city’s air quality has not varied in response to the city’s anti-smog efforts, according to the BBC’s readings. Pollution levels are changing, however, but only in response with meteorological conditions, i.e. rain. That’s exactly what University of Rhode Island professor Kenneth Rahn predicted would happen in a Wired.com story last month.

The Chinese are adament that they are being successful. And that haze and clouds should not be confused with particulate in the air.

“Clouds and haze are not pollution. This kind of weather is a natural phenomenon. It has nothing to do with pollution,” Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the Beijing municipal bureau of environmental protection, told Xinhua last week, the official government news outlet.

But, it looks like China is manipulating numbers.

The problem, however, is that there is compelling evidence that the Chinese government is cooking the pollution accounting books. As laid out by Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant, in an op-ed earlier this year in the Wall Street Journal, he describes three number manipulations:

  1. Seven sensors were used from 1998-2005, but after that, as international scrutiny was increasing, the government dropped two sensor stations from polluted areas of the city and added three in less polluted areas. These changes had a very significant impact in showing air quality increases.
  2. The government subbed nitrogen oxides out and nitrogen dioxide in to its air pollution index calculations. Of the various substances that the sensors measure, nitrogen oxides were the most likely to exceed air pollution standards.
  3. The Chinese government considers an air pollution index rating of under 100 to be a “blue sky day.” In 2006, 49 days were reported to have an air pollution index between 96 and 105. 47 of those days were — what “luck”! — reported under 100, a near statistical impossibility. 2007 data shows “a similar bias.”

The end result of the system is that the Chinese government gave August 4, seen above, an air pollution index rating in its “Good” category.

The Government doesn’t even really believe their measures have been successful. Pollution is proving difficult to clean up. It also shows how worried the officials are with the very real possibility of being humiliated on a world stage after all the promises they’ve made.

[…] the Chinese government doesn’t seem to believe that its efforts are working. There is word in China Daily, a government mouthpiece, that officials are considering an even more drastic plan that could take 90 percent of the city’s cars off the road, if the pollution readings don’t cooperate.

At least the Americans remain skeptical of the air quality. This morning, the Drudge Report led with a picture of US cyclists wearing black face masks as they arrived in Beijing.

Wired’s blog really has its bases covered with links to other independent environmental monitoring blogs, such as BeijingAirBlog.com.

Even more laughable has been the Chinese and IOC dealings regarding internet use. Initially, it was promised that China would be open to the full internet during the games. A week ago, the Chinese were going to sensor everything. Now, it appears that only the media village will have access to certain sites. Still, David Wallenchinski writes that you may be able to access Amnesty International and the Drudge Report, but you can’t access the Huffington Post!

You may have followed the ongoing controversy about the Chinese government blocking foreign journalists’ access to certain Internet sites during the Beijing Olympics. Most of the attention has centered on the censoring of the sites of Amnesty International, BBC News and the Falun Gong religious group. Under pressure, the Chinese Communist Party has lifted the bans on Amnesty and BBC News, but one site has continued to be totally blocked: Huffingtonpost.com.

In Beijing, we can get Drudge; we can get Common Dreams; we can get Raw Story and Truthout. But Huffington Post: censored completely.

You really can’t make this stuff up. Its sure to only get better… meaning funnier.

Written by walonline

August 5, 2008 at 1:07 pm

More Crooks

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Jake Tapper at ABC News’ Political Punch looks at a number of potentially crooked Republicans who have been associated with Sen. Steven’s gravy train.

Names included in his post are Senators Collins (R-Maine), Dole (R-NC), Smith (R-Ore), Sununu (R-NH), and Minnesota’s own Norm Coleman.

A lot of these donations are party of normal practice in politics, but this doesn’t make them right by any means. ALSO: just because we’re knocking Republican Senators here, let’s just remember that this happens to all politicians. The question is whether its easily visible or cloaked with smoke and mirrors. There is a reason why politics is the “second oldest profession.” (The first being prostitution.)

Depending on your level of cynicism, you might find very little difference between the two.

Written by walonline

August 1, 2008 at 8:07 am

Friday Photos

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Follow the link to Boston.com’s Big Picture. On the other end are a neat collection of pictures that document the spectical that is the recently past 2008 Tour de France.

Neat stuff.

Written by walonline

August 1, 2008 at 12:54 am