Sunday, June 17, 2018

Media Merger Means More Racism in U.S.

Last week's merger of Time Warner with AT&T holds implications far more concerning than what's been covered in the media thus far... and it will only get worse. On Wednesday -- one day after massive media merger #1 got the government go-ahead, Comcast laid down a bid for 21st Century Fox, owner of Fox News Network, mainstream TV's most notably slanted vehicle for right-wing rhetoric and propaganda. As painful as it's been to watch the coalescence of racism and far-right politics thanks mainly to the Trump Administration's nationalistic immigration policies, just imagine how things will be when Fox TV is in bed with the biggest broadband company in the U.S.? While its TV customer base has stayed fairly flat, Comcast morphed from a cable company to an internet company a few years ago, and that part of its biz has flourished. If this merger is approved -- and many assume it will be -- we can count on seeing the ugly face of Fox News dominating both internet and TV for all those on Comcast, and the hopefully more moderate but still fairly bland face of Time Warner dominating those on AT&T. Biased and unbalanced news could become so pervasive, people would actually switch to be on the network that most aligns with their values, with increasingly less chance they'll see something that might challenge their opinions. A free and balanced press can effectively limit the damage from nationalist trends, and can give face and voice to those oppressed by racism every day. And that's exactly why these mergers are getting approved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

No Plastic, People

Today, California became the first state in the nation to ban single-use plastic bags. Watch for other coastline states to follow, starting in the West. Why? California alone spends $25 million a year to collect and landfill the 14 billion plastic bags we use. A paltry 5% is recycled; it’s not energy-efficient and it encourages more plastic use. Plastic bags make up 2% of the overall waste in California, but they are the predominate form of marine debris. The ultimate destination for much of the plastic waste here is… (wait for it…) the North Pacific Central Gyre, where researchers say more than 300,000 plastic particles are found per square mile.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Parched West in Crusty Crisis

The millennium year 2000 didn’t wreak havoc over Earth as expected, but in the 14 years since, western states including California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are the driest they’ve been all century.

The extreme drought plaguing western America has become so severe it is causing the Earth’s crust to rise, leading to an half inch rise in some places, most dramatically beneath California’s mountains, where snow packs atop are already melting.

The weight of ground water keeps the Earth’s crust where it is, but about 63 trillion gallons of water have been lost since last year, according to GPS measurements by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Evaporation and use by people have played a big part, exacerbated by lack of rain. The amount lost would be enough to cover the entire United States west of the Rocky Mountains with a layer of water four inches deep.

There has been an average rise of one-sixth of an inch across the western region.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

To Catch A Comet

This week, after 10 years aflight, the unmanned spacecraft Rosetta caught up with its target: the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. A European Space Agency product, the Rosetta is the first spacecraft ever to rendezvous with a comet. In November it will attempt to "harpoon" 67P and land on its surface.

Why such interest in a frozen ball of dirt? Comets are thought to be primitive building blocks of the solar system as well as leftovers from our solar system's formation. They trap gases in their icy, dusty interiors, then slam into planets with such impact that new molecules are generated. The heat of the collision transforms the molecules into amino acids, essentially seeding planets with protein precursors, water and potentially life itself. In fact, the simplest amino acid, glycine, was recently discovered in samples from a different comet -- 81P/Wild-2 -- collected by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mind the Gap

I've been in no rush to view this popular video regarding Wealth Inequality in America. But now that I have, I'm recommending to all. The gap is far bigger than we thought. You really have to see for yourself. It's worth six minutes of your time. Don't be afraid to care.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Justice for the Forgotten

It was three years ago when 11,303 untested rape kits were found covered with dust in a Detroit police evidence storage room. Fast forward to September 2012... a whopping 153 kits have been tested. 21 potential serial rapists have been identified, some matching the DNA in other similar pending cases. Keep in mind that those women who've found the fortitude to report their horrible misfortune to police have had their bodies treated as crime scenes, only to watch gigantic collective yawns in law enforcement circles, as their swabs and stats get filed away and forgotten. Not to mention that the perpetrators are still out there, abusing more women, changing women's lives, forever. Sadly, the problem is not in Detroit alone. 20,000 untested kits are estimated to be waiting in police storage facilities in Texas. Colorado and Arizona have massive backlogs too. Evolution means having compassion for your fellow humans. Can't we do better than this?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Beg, Buy or Borrow?

When Micki Krimmel purchased a $200 travel pack for her trip to Thailand a few years back, she realized she would probably only use it once. She took inventory of all the things she owned and realized the same was true for most of it - she spent a bunch of money to own something she only needed occasionally. She wasn't alone. People across the country are over-laden with stuff they've purchased but rarely use.

So she put together a team and launched NeighborGoods – an organization created to extract the latent value hidden in all our “stuff.” Last year, they launched nationally. NeighborGoods is like Craigslist for borrowing. Members can safely borrow a lawnmower, lend a bicycle, or earn some extra money by renting out their DVD collection. NeighborGoods provides all the tools to share safely and confidently including user ratings, privacy controls, and automated calendars and reminders to ensure the safe return of loaned items. "When we share our stuff, we get so much more for our money, we reduce waste, and we strengthen our local communities," said Krimmel. See for yourself, and be sure to share this link:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ride This Dark Universe

We all get that the earth revolves on its axis. It rotates around the sun. The stars appear to move, though the earth is moving faster. Some understand that the sun also moves. Some comprehend multiple moving galaxies. But when most people think of universe, they visualize a container in which everything moves. A cosmic milkshake, but one which has already been poured. What they don't see is the milkshake - glass and all - sliding across the counter. Alexander Kashlinsky, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, studied more than 1,000 galaxy clusters to see how radiation from the Big Bang has scattered throughout the universe. What he found is shocking. The entire universe is moving... at a speed of one million miles per hour. This cause of this phenomenon, affectionately termed "the dark flow" has not yet been determined. Does another universe lurk nearby, or are we racing toward a seam in the fabric of space and time? This Earth Day, learn a little more about this container we ride in. But hold on tight. It's moving fast.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Garbage Patch Twins?

Sail the Gulf Stream from Bermuda to the Azores and what do you think you'll find? Miles and iles of plastic pieces suspended near the water's surface stuck in wads of seaweed and ocean debris. You've stumbled onto The Great Pacific Garbage Patch's eastern twin: The North Atlantic Subtropical Convergence Zone. Otherwise known as the Great ATLANTIC Garbage Patch.

Though the dimensions have not yet been determined, the area is known to be vast, centered in the Sargasso Sea, which is bounded by ocean currents. The highest concentrations of plastics are found between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude. Due to the stormier nature of the Eastern Seaboard and Atlantic, the garbage there is thought to be more diverse. Charles Moore, the ocean researcher credited with discovering the Pacific Patch, agrees that with the higher population on the East Coast and more rivers flowing south, comparable amounts of plastic can be expected. "Humanity's plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than our carbon footprint," he said.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Earth Day Every Day

Throwing away those little plastic bottle caps is so much better than throwing away the whole bottle; there's an almost-gratifying feeling tossing the tiny lid in the garbage knowing the rest will be properly recycled. But thanks to the efforts of Anna Chan (aka The Lemon Lady), NONE of that bottle need be landfill-bound.

Her new campaign, "Earth Day Every Day. Recycle Plastic Caps and Lids," gives new momentum to the push for recycling plastic bottle caps. SF Bay Area residents are particularly fortunate to have several drop-off spots available at nearby Whole Foods and Aveda locations. Aveda accepts any rigid plastic bottle caps that must be removed for recycling as well as other caps with a threaded neck: caps on shampoo, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter. Whole Foods accepts bottle caps and other plastic #5 containers such as yogurt cups, hummus tubs and Brita water filters. They work with the organization Preserve who turns the recycled plastic into toothbrushes and razors.

See the Lemon Lady's site for more on recycling caps in Central and East Contra Costa Counties, or for a link to search recyclers near you.