First national study finds trees saving lives, reducing respiratory problems: Air pollution modeling reveals broad-scale impacts of pollution removal by trees

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Courtesy of NRS:

In the first broad-scale estimate of air pollution removal by trees nationwide, U.S. Forest Service scientists and collaborators calculated that trees are saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory symptoms.

While trees’ pollution removal equated to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, the impacts of that improvement are substantial. Researchers valued the human health effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion every year in a study published recently in the journal Environmental Pollution.

The study by Dave Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Satoshi Hirabayashi and Allison Bodine of the Davey Institute is unique in that it directly links the removal of air pollution with improved human health effects and associated health values. The scientists found that pollution removal is substantially higher in rural areas than urban areas, however the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than rural areas.

“With more than 80 percent of Americans living in urban area, this research underscores how truly essential urban forests are to people across the nation,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “Information and tools developed by Forest Service research are contributing to communities valuing and managing the 138 million acres of trees and forests that grace the nation’s cities, towns and communities.” Continue reading

Destroy The 40-Hour Workweek

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Courtesy of Frugling.org:

Our American economy needs you to work nothing less than 40 hours per week. The message is simple: earn more, collect belongings, and don’t stop until you retire/die. Unless you meet this expectation, be prepared to be called lazy and unproductive — stuck in the unfortunate world of lower and middle incomes. And if you’re not doing something that makes more money than your neighbor, you ought to think about changing careers.

McMansions, vehicles, and stores grow. In turn, our consumption escalates. We need more to fill our bigger homes; otherwise, they feel empty. Meanwhile, our wallets are stripped and we maintain this cycle of work and near poverty — just getting by. Despite going through a horrific “great recession” over the last few years, companies have continued to report record revenue and profits. The business world is clearly benefiting from our workweek and continued spend.

This current system is predicated on infinite growth. If you’re not continually benefiting from pay raises and getting promoted, you’re not doing it right. Since the Industrial Revolution, we haven’t stopped to seriously question what we’ve created and amassed. Like worker zombies, it’s hard not to see the countless hours we put into companies — all so that we reach financial independence. Continue reading

Frankie Boyle letter about BBC in full

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Courtesy of The Telegraph:

Obviously, it feels strange to be on the moral high ground but I feel a response is required to the BBC Trust’s cowardly rebuke of my jokes about Palestine.

As always, I heard nothing from the BBC but read in a newspaper that editorial procedures would be tightened further to stop jokes with anything at all to say getting past the censors.

In case you missed it, the jokes in question are:

“I’ve been studying Israeli Army Martial Arts. I now know 16 ways to kick a Palestinian woman in the back.

“People think that the Middle East is very complex but I have an analogy that sums it up quite well. If you imagine that Palestine is a big cake, well… that cake is being punched to pieces by a very angry Jew.”

I think the problem here is that the show’s producers will have thought that Israel, an aggressive, terrorist state with a nuclear arsenal was an appropriate target for satire.

The Trust’s ruling is essentially a note from their line managers.

It says that if you imagine that a state busily going about the destruction of an entire people is fair game, you are mistaken. Israel is out of bounds.

The BBC refused to broadcast a humanitarian appeal in 2009 to help residents of Gaza rebuild their homes.

It’s tragic for such a great institution but it is now cravenly afraid of giving offence and vulnerable to any kind of well drilled lobbying.

I told the jokes on a Radio 4 show called “Political Animal”. That title seems to promise provocative comedy with a point of view.

In practice the BBC wish to deliver the flavour of political comedy with none of the content.

The most recent offering I saw was BBC2’s “The Bubble”.

It looked exactly like a show where funny people sat around and did jokes about the news.

Except the thrust of the format was that nobody had read the papers. Continue reading

Student loan system is almost financially unworkable, say MPs

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Courtesy of Rowena Mason @ The Guardian:

The entire student loan system is nearing a point where it is financially unworkable, the group of MPs in charge of scrutinising university policy has found.

In a scathing report, the Commons business committee called for an urgent review of the system, amid predictions the government is heading towards a multibillion-pound black hole in the funding of universities.

There are growing fears among academics about the student loan system, despite unpopular changes in 2011 that involved tripling tuition fees for students. In its inquiry, the committee found that plans to lift a cap on student numbers, funded by selling the student loan book, may make the funding gap worse.

The report will be published just days after the Guardian reported that Vince Cable, the business secretary, had stalled on the sell-off of the student loan book because of fears it would not raise the amount of money predicted. Cable has decided that it will not take place before the general election, although another government could revive the plan after that point. Sources insisted this would not stop Osborne’s plan to lift the cap on student numbers, saying this would be funded from elsewhere.

In their report, the MPs questioned whether the sale of the loan book would lead to a good return for the taxpayer, since the government’s own analysis has now found it would raise only £2bn rather than the £12bn originally expected by the government with “an unusual and potentially costly deal made to protect the private investor”. Continue reading

Offshore wind farms create ‘reef effect’ perfect for marine wildlife – especially seals

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It would be interesting to see a worldwide study on the effects of wind farms providing reef like conditions for marine animals. Courtesy of The Independent:

Wind farms and wildlife do not always go together: the giant turbines have been accused of luring species to their death, and the noise they generate can drive away certain marine mammals.

But wind farms have an unexpected benefit if you happen to be a harbour seal hunting for food in British waters, according to a new study. They are a magnet for hungry seals eager to take advantage of the fact that fish and crustaceans tend to cluster on the structures – which become artificial reefs for marine life over time.

Offshore wind farms can be fertile feeding grounds for seals who choose to seek them out – concludes the study, by an international team of researchers from Britain, Holland and the US, published yesterday in Current Biology Journal.

This is because the presence of a hard structure beneath the waves attracts barnacles and other crustaceans, and, in turn, fish. Dr Deborah Russell, a research fellow at the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St Andrews, explained how the “reef effect” attracts seals. “Things like barnacles and mussels will settle on hard structures and then that in turn will attract other marine species and it builds up over time.”

Dr Russell, the lead researcher on the study, told The Independent: “The seals will be eating fish that are attracted to the artificial reef; we are not actually sure what species they are eating but I think it might be species like cod and whiting.” Continue reading

UK definition of terrorism ‘could catch political journalists and bloggers’

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David Anderson said UK anti-terror laws were meant to give police powers to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups. Photograph: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Courtesy of Alan Travis @ The Guardian:

The current British definition of terrorism is so broadly drawn that it could even catch political journalists and bloggers who publish material that the authorities consider dangerous to public safety, said the official counter-terrorism watchdog.

David Anderson QC, the official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, said Britain had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, which gave police and prosecutors the powers they needed to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups.

“But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they need to be confined to their proper purpose, and recent years have seen a degree of ‘creep’ in parliament that could be reversed without diminishing their impact”

In his annual report to be published on Tuesday, Anderson is expected to give three examples of how the terror laws were too widely drawn.

They included “actions aimed at influencing governments”, hate crime and what he called the “penumbra of terrorism”.

On the first, Anderson said Britain’s laws treated politically motivated publication of material thought to endanger life or to create a serious risk to the health or safety of the public as a terrorist act if it was done for the purpose of influencing the government.

He said in other European and Commonwealth countries the bar was set much higher and there must also be an “intention to coerce or intimidate”.

The watchdog said: “This means political journalists and bloggers are subject to the full range of anti-terrorism powers if they threaten to publish, prepare to publish something that the authorities think may be dangerous to life, public health or public safety.” Continue reading