Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ocean Happens


Hard to see these ocean front houses through the mist, but if you look closer you will see windows boarded up and the foundations sliding down the hill. While this may have been a case of building too close to the edge in the first place, expect to see more of this happening as the storms pack a bigger punch as the oceans continue to rise...

On that front, Joe Nocera indulges in a bit of mild hippie-punching for the NYT, taking issue with the weekend protests and the effort to stop Keystone:

“Can environmental groups expect to win a series of fights for decades to come, when the economic forces are aligned very strongly against them in each round?” The answer is obvious: no. The emphasis should be on demand, not supply. If the U.S. stopped consuming so much of the world’s oil, the economic need for the tar sands would evaporate.

First of all, there is no reason we can't do both. Bringing awareness to the issue - and that's what protests do, because after all here's Joe Nocera writing about them - is the first step. Check out all the coverage this got over the weekend, putting the issue on the radar. It worked. Now the education can begin.

But first, news I found interesting:

2nd term sets the President free: Obama using new political freedom to tackle domestic agenda
More than he ever did in his first term, Obama is describing the country as he believes it should be, not the one it has been for much of the past decade. It is an inspirational technique of the community organizer and of the upstart national candidate he once was. But Obama has always been good with words and moments. It’s the hard partisan work inside Washington that has so often vexed him.

Sound the warning: Obama: Sequester cuts will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs
President Obama sought to sound the alarm on sequester cuts once again and blame Congress for failing to avert them as the clock ticks down on their implementation. Starting next Friday, he said, the cuts will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and excoriate the economy. They were never designed to happen, he said. "This was all designed to say 'We can't do these bad cuts, we need to do something smarter,'" Obama said at a White House event.

DOA: Report: Simpson, Bowles to offer new $2.4 trillion deficit plan
"According to the report, the new plan would aim to cut the deficit by $2.4 trillion over 10 years. It would reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending by $600 billion, close $600 billion in tax loopholes, and lower caps on discretionary spending through Social Security reform, among other things." (House Republicans have already said "no".)

Socialism wins: It’s official: The feds will run most Obamacare exchanges
Some of the most closely watched states, including Florida and New Jersey, decided to leave the entire task to the federal government. All told, the federal government will run 26 of the state health exchanges. It also will partner with seven states, where state and federal officials take joint responsibility for the marketplace. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia will take on the task themselves... For those curious, the two states with Democratic governors defaulting into the federal exchange are Missouri and Montana. There are four states with Republican governors who are running health exchanges: Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico and Utah (although Utah has recently retreated from this position.)

New Yorker: Obama's Brain
We absolutely can’t afford not to invest big in neuroscience. If Obama’s upcoming request is denied by Congress, many of the world’s leading neuroscientists will be tempted to leave the U.S. for better funding in Europe (as one eminent neuroscientist did recently, after twenty years at Caltech); whether it meets its grand goal or not, the European project will certainly lead to a significant number of smaller scientific advances. If the U.S. doesn’t follow suit, we will lose our lead in neuroscience, and will likely be left playing catch-up in some of the biggest game-changing industries on the horizon, like human-level artificial intelligence and direct brain-computer interfaces (even though both fields originated in the United States).

Heads up: Pennsylvania vulnerable for Republicans?
Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Schwartz continues to give signs that she's close to launching a bid against GOP Gov. Tom Corbett. 'She's making all the phone calls, taking all the meetings you would do to run for governor, but I don't think she's made her final decision,' Montgomery County Democratic Chairman Marcel Groen told the Philadelphia Inquirer. State Treasurer Rob McCord is also looking at mounting a bid. Corbett, whose low approval ratings have continued to drop, is one of the GOP's most vulnerable governors heading into next year - a poll conducted for the DGA last month gave Schwartz an 8-point lead over Corbett.

Red state tax increases: Kasich wants radical change to Ohio's tax system, while he cuts tax enforcement at the same time
"Kasich’s plan would combine broadening of the sales tax with a lowering of state income- and sales-tax rates for a net cut of $1.4 billion over three years. Extending the sales tax to services would also bring in an extra $1.8 billion a year. Tax experts have cautiously praised Kasich’s tax changes but question whether the plan might have unintended consequences...Though the broad expansion will require the department’s 300-plus auditors to educate the new vendors and ensure compliance, Gudmundson said the department has cut 200 employees in the past two years and proposes a 4 percent decrease for 2014 in the proposed budget.

More enviro: Direct link between out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and levels of air pollution and ozone
The researchers found that a daily average increase in particulate matter of 6 micrograms per day over two days raised the risk of OHCA by 4.6 percent, with particular impact on those with pre-existing (and not necessarily cardiac-related) health conditions. Increases in ozone level were similar, but on a shorter timescale: Each increase of 20 parts per billion over one to three hours also increased OHCA risk, with a peak of 4.4 percent. Peak-time risks from both pollutants rose as high as 4.6 percent. Relative risks were higher for men, African-Americans and people over 65.

Back to the oceans: Arctic sea ice volume now one-fifth its 1979 level
In a University of Washington news release, co-author Axel Schweiger said, "people had argued that 75 to 80 percent ice volume loss was too aggressive. What this new paper shows is that our ice loss estimates may have been too conservative, and that the recent decline is possibly more rapid."