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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chance of Flares (a chicken little space weather forecast)


Chance of Flares (a chicken little space weather forecast)

There are eight sunspot groups on the Earthside of the sun. Fully half of them pose a threat for strong solar flares. An eruption today could come from any of the circled regions:

 

AR2175 is the most potent of the quartet. It has a 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field that harbors energy for X-class solar flares. The other three have "beta-gamma" magnetic fields that pose a threat for lesser albeit still powerful M-flares.

The sunspot of greatest interest is AR2177 because it is turning toward Earth. Karzaman Ahmad of the Langkawi National Observatory in Maylaysia captured the sunspot group, seething with low-level activity, in this dramatic starscape on Sept. 30th:

 

Any eruptions from AR2177 in the days ahead will almost surely be geoeffective.

Mindful of the multiple flare threats, NOAA forecasters say an eruption is likely. They estimate a 75% chance of M-flares and a 20% chance of X-flares on Sept. 30th.


Here's a wiki link on solar flares:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_flare

From SpaceWeather.com



 

Head Off a Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong


Head Off a Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong

Tear gas and pepper spray hint at worse to come. The White House must issue a clear warning to Beijing.

From the Wall Street Journal

Yang Jianli, president of Initiative for China, Teng Biao, a human-rights lawyer, and Hu Jia, winner of the Sakharov Prize, are former political prisoners of China. They write:

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators turned out in Hong Kong on Monday, defying a government crackdown over the weekend that saw riot police using tear gas, pepper spray and batons against protesters. As demonstrations grow against Beijing's violation of its promise to allow universal suffrage, there is a danger that the infamous 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square could be repeated in Hong Kong.

The crisis began in June, when Beijing released a white paper that reneged on the "One Country Two Systems" principle laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the Basic Law, Hong Kong's constitution. China had pledged that Hong Kong could rule itself on all matters apart from defense and foreign affairs, and voters could freely choose their own leader.

Instead, the white paper claimed that Beijing has complete jurisdiction over Hong Kong, with the only autonomy being what the central government decides to grant. All aspects of local government are subject to oversight by Beijing, and even judges must meet its standard of patriotism.

Not surprisingly, this angered many in Hong Kong. Some 800,000 people participated in an unofficial referendum on the system for nominating candidates for chief executive; 90% voted for the citizens, rather than a committee, selecting nominees. More than half a million people then protested to underline this demand.

Nevertheless, China's National People's Congress, a figurehead of the Central Committee of the China's Communist Party, released restrictive rules to select Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017. A nominating committee will be composed mostly of those approved by Beijing. Candidates for chief executive must then obtain approval from the majority of the committee and only two to three candidates will be chosen to run.

Requiring voters to select leaders from two to three candidates selected by a committee controlled by Beijing is not meaningful "universal suffrage." Hong Kong people's hopes for real democracy were again shattered.

Beijing's edict made larger protests inevitable. Occupy Central With Love and Peace and other pro-democracy groups held nonviolent sit-ins that blocked traffic in Hong Kong's financial district. The right to such peaceful assembly and freedom of press are enshrined in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, as well as in the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international treaty that applies to Hong Kong.

Yet in early July, Hong Kong police detained more than 500 participants and organizers for their role in peaceful protests that called on Beijing to deliver genuine democracy. Hong Kong's House News, a popular independent newspaper known for its support of Occupy Central, closed after its owner released a letter saying he was "fearful" because of political pressure from China. And last month, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption raided media owner Jimmy Lai's home in connection with his donations to pro-democracy legislators. The pro-democracy legislator Lee Cheuk-Yan's home was raided on the same day.

Chinese officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs have threatened repeatedly that Hong Kong-based units of China's People's Liberation Army will use force to suppress peaceful demonstrations. This tragic outcome is becoming more likely.

The United States and the international community share the responsibility to prevent another murderous attack on pro-democracy demonstrators. While the Tiananmen Square massacre surprised the world, this time the world is on notice. The Obama administration should press the Chinese government to honor its promise of democratic elections in Hong Kong. The White House also must more forcefully condemn the violence against demonstrators—the administration's response so far has been inadequate.

Two of the world's powerful autocracies, both rooted in the idea and practice of communist dictatorship, are bent on encroaching upon freedom and democracy on two different fronts: Ukraine and Hong Kong. Many strategic experts note that Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggressive posture toward Ukraine was strengthened by America's failure to act more decisively in Syria. And the U.S. failure to challenge Mr. Putin's seizure of Crimea helped embolden him to invade southeast Ukraine.

China has the potential to become an even more relentless, aggressive dictatorship than Russia. From their support for rogue regimes in Iran, North Korea and Syria to their military buildups and aggressive use of cyberwarfare and technology theft, Moscow and Beijing are playing for keeps and their corrosive impact should worry the free world.

Only a strong, unambiguous warning from the U.S. will cause either of those countries to carefully consider the costs of new violent acts of repression. Hong Kong and Ukraine are calling for the rebirth of American global leadership for freedom and democracy.

 

Camille Paglia: The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil


Camille Paglia: The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil

Paglia is the author of Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars. This article is from Time Magazine

The disappearance of University of Virginia sophomore Hannah Graham two weeks ago is the latest in a long series of girls-gone-missing cases that often end tragically. A 32-year-old, 270-pound former football player who fled to Texas has been returned to Virginia and charged with “abduction with intent to defile.” At this date, Hannah’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

Colleges should stick to academics and stop their infantilizing supervision of students’ dating lives, an authoritarian intrusion that borders on violation of civil liberties. Real crimes should be reported to the police, not to haphazard and ill-trained campus grievance committees.

Too many young middleclass women, raised far from the urban streets, seem to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes. But the world remains a wilderness. The price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.

Current educational codes, tracking liberal-Left, are perpetuating illusions about sex and gender. The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

The horrors and atrocities of history have been edited out of primary and secondary education except where they can be blamed on racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade. But the real problem resides in human nature, which religion as well as great art sees as eternally torn by a war between the forces of darkness and light.

Liberalism lacks a profound sense of evil — but so does conservatism these days, when evil is facilely projected onto a foreign host of rising political forces united only in their rejection of Western values. Nothing is more simplistic than the now rote use by politicians and pundits of the cartoonish label “bad guys” for jihadists, as if American foreign policy is a slapdash script for a cowboy movie.

The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will. The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.

But extreme sex crimes like rape-murder emanate from a primitive level that even practical psychology no longer has a language for. Psychopathology, as in Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s grisly Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), was a central field in early psychoanalysis. But today’s therapy has morphed into happy talk, attitude adjustments, and pharmaceutical shortcuts.

There is a ritualistic symbolism at work in sex crime that most women do not grasp and therefore cannot arm themselves against. It is well-established that the visual faculties play a bigger role in male sexuality, which accounts for the greater male interest in pornography. The sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures, is motivated by an atavistic hunting reflex. He is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey.

Sex crime springs from fantasy, hallucination, delusion, and obsession. A random young woman becomes the scapegoat for a regressive rage against female sexual power: “You made me do this.” Academic clich├ęs about the “commodification” of women under capitalism make little sense here: It is women’s superior biological status as magical life-creator that is profaned and annihilated by the barbarism of sex crime.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

Paglia is the author of Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars.


Posters Comment:  Even Marines are taught the value of the "buddy system".

 

Penicillin: the first miracle drug


Penicillin: the first miracle drug

Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress


Read Slowly to Benefit Your Brain and Cut Stress

 At Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Reading With a Book or E-Book Helps

By Jeanne Whalen in the Wall Street Journal

 
Once a week, members of a Wellington, New Zealand, book club arrive at a cafe, grab a drink and shut off their cellphones. Then they sink into cozy chairs and read in silence for an hour.

The point of the club isn't to talk about literature, but to get away from pinging electronic devices and read, uninterrupted. The group calls itself the Slow Reading Club, and it is at the forefront of a movement populated by frazzled book lovers who miss old-school reading.

Slow reading advocates seek a return to the focused reading habits of years gone by, before Google, smartphones and social media started fracturing our time and attention spans. Many of its advocates say they embraced the concept after realizing they couldn't make it through a book anymore.

"I wasn't reading fiction the way I used to," said Meg Williams, a 31-year-old marketing manager for an annual arts festival who started the club. "I was really sad I'd lost the thing I used to really, really enjoy."

Slow readers list numerous benefits to a regular reading habit, saying it improves their ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens their ability to think, listen and empathize. The movement echoes a resurgence in other old-fashioned, time-consuming pursuits that offset the ever-faster pace of life, such as cooking the "slow-food" way or knitting by hand.

The benefits of reading from an early age through late adulthood have been documented by researchers. A study of 300 elderly people published by the journal Neurology last year showed that regular engagement in mentally challenging activities, including reading, slowed rates of memory loss in participants' later years.

A study published last year in Science showed that reading literary fiction helps people understand others' mental states and beliefs, a crucial skill in building relationships. A piece of research published in Developmental Psychology in 1997 showed first-grade reading ability was closely linked to 11th grade academic achievements.

Yet reading habits have declined in recent years. In a survey this year, about 76% of Americans 18 and older said they read at least one book in the past year, down from 79% in 2011, according to the Pew Research Center.

Attempts to revive reading are cropping up in many places. Groups in Seattle, Brooklyn, Boston and Minneapolis have hosted so-called silent reading parties, with comfortable chairs, wine and classical music.

Diana La Counte of Orange County, Calif., set up what she called a virtual slow-reading group a few years ago, with members discussing the group's book selection online, mostly on Facebook. "When I realized I read Twitter more than a book, I knew it was time for action," she says.

Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.

One 2006 study of the eye movements of 232 people looking at Web pages found they read in an "F" pattern, scanning all the way across the top line of text but only halfway across the next few lines, eventually sliding their eyes down the left side of the page in a vertical movement toward the bottom.

None of this is good for our ability to comprehend deeply, scientists say. Reading text punctuated with links leads to weaker comprehension than reading plain text, several studies have shown. A 2007 study involving 100 people found that a multimedia presentation mixing words, sounds and moving pictures resulted in lower comprehension than reading plain text did.

Slow reading means a return to a continuous, linear pattern, in a quiet environment free of distractions. Advocates recommend setting aside at least 30 to 45 minutes in a comfortable chair far from cellphones and computers. Some suggest scheduling time like an exercise session. Many recommend taking occasional notes to deepen engagement with the text.

Some hard-core proponents say printed books are best, in part because they're more visible around the house and serve as a reminder to read. But most slow readers say e-readers and tablets are just fine, particularly if they're disconnected from the Internet.

Abeer Hoque, who has attended a few of the silent reading parties in Brooklyn, N.Y., said she plans to read a book on her phone next time, but turn it to airplane mode to stop new emails and social-media notifications from distracting her.

When Ms. Williams, who majored in literature in college, convened her first slow reading club in Wellington, she handed out tips for productive reading and notebooks for jotting down favorite words and passages. Each time they meet, the group gathers for a few minutes to slowly breathe in and out to clear their minds before cracking open their books, as in yoga.

Roughly 20 to 30 readers have shown up for Sunday evening sessions, Ms. Williams says. Most new members fill out a brief survey on their experience with many describing it as calm, peaceful and meditative, she says.

Corrections & Amplifications

An earlier version of this article neglected to give the first name of Meg Williams. (Sept. 15, 2014)

 

How the Poor Can Afford to Live in New York City


How the Poor Can Afford to Live in New York City 

By Megan McArdle in Bloomberg View

 Arnold Kling asks an interesting question: How can New York real estate be so expensive when the median income is so low?

Here are four reasons he suggests:

1. By some more accurate measure, the cost of living is not so much higher in NY.

2. Living in NY is an expensive taste that occurs among many people, even those of modest means.

3. NY has jobs for lower-income people that are not available in the other cities.

4. NY’s rent controls and other housing regulations have created a lot of inframarginal winners whose housing costs are well below those of the marginal resident. (Think of those who are able to buy their apartments when they turn co-op at ridiculously below-market prices.)

You frequently see studies and articles pushing some version of No. 1: that when you account for the “true cost,” adding in things such as transportation, it’s surprisingly cheap to live in the city. I find these studies broadly implausible, because they leave out little things like “the cost of having to have everything delivered,” “the cost of taking taxis when you’re in a hurry” and “the cost of having to have a pet taxi to take the dog anywhere.” They also fail to account for the upward pressure that high real estate prices put on the cost of everything else and the time cost of mass-transit commutes. And let’s not get started on incidentals such as educating your children. Having lived in multiple cities, including New York, I feel pretty comfortable discarding answer No. 1.

Answer Nos. 2 and 3 are obviously true but still don’t explain how the city can have a median household income of $50,000 and an average rental price of $3,000.

So what does explain it?

1.      New York City has a lot of subsidized or rent-controlled housing. Almost half the city’s total rental housing stock is rent-regulated; a further 8.5 percent are public housing units, and there are also programs like Mitchell-Lama, which since 1955 has provided affordable housing to moderate- and middle-income households. Ultimately, something under 45 percent of New York’s rental stock is trading in a free market; the rest is going at below-market rates to people who cling to those apartment like ancient barnacles. If you are lucky enough to have a good deal, you can live in the city for well below the average rent -- though you should not assume that all the tenants of rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments are low-income. I have known investment bankers enjoying below-market rates in rent-stabilized apartments.

2.      All that rent-controlled housing pushes up the cost of what little market-rate housing there is. Landlords don’t want to build anything except luxury apartments, lest politicians start eyeing their buildings as a potential goody to distribute to tenants at below-market rates. And rent-controlled tenants tend to stay in their apartments longer, rather than moving or downsizing, so most of the vacancies occur in the market-rate sector. As a result, bidding wars over the market-rate housing push the price above where it would be if all the housing was market-rate.

3.      New York City provides a lot of extra social services. For example, in 2013, 3.2 million New Yorkers were on Medicaid. That’s almost 40 percent of the population, and that number was expected to expand this year thanks to Obamacare. About 91,000 New York City residents receive Section 8 vouchers. Almost 2 million residents receive food stamps. It is often more feasible to be poor in New York than to have the sort of middling income that doesn’t qualify for public assistance or for a $3,000-a-month apartment.

4.      People have roommates. Educated professionals who would be buying their first condo in some other city are often still crammed into a group living situation well into their early 30s, unless they marry or get a parental subsidy. This is obviously only practical for so long, which is why I know a growing number of New Yorkers who have relocated to Washington, or another city, when it was time to buy a house or have kids.

5.      There’s a lot of outside money flowing into the city. It’s not just foreigners paying top dollar for absurd condos with car elevators, but also the more prosaic transfer of parental wealth to kids who have taken high-status, low-pay jobs in the Big Apple. Those kids nominally have low incomes, but with Mom and Dad paying half the rent and, maybe later, Junior’s boarding school fees, you see a lot of people living well above their earning power. This can fool less well-heeled transplants into thinking that they, too, must be able to afford a $150,000 lifestyle on their $40,000 salary, with tragicomic results.

In short, the answer to “how can all these people with low incomes afford to live in New York City” is rather prosaic: Someone else pays a significant portion of their bills. People who would easily be self-supporting in some less stylish place require substantial subsidies, either from the government or their relatives, or from landlords who have been forced to rent to them at below-market prices. Meanwhile, the price distortions introduced by the subsidies, combined with New York’s byzantine real estate development process, push up prices and force out ever more of the middle class, unless they’re lucky enough to have their hands on a rent-regulated apartment. There were a lot of those people when I was growing up, but eventually those people lose their grips on their real estate deals one way or another, so over time, they are becoming fewer in number.

If you want to know why New York’s income distribution is so weird, that’s why. And if you want to know why I live in Washington instead of the city where I was born, well, that’s one big reason.

To contact the writer of this article: Megan McArdle at mmcardle3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this article: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.net.

 

Strike Two



by Richard Fernandez in PJ Media and the Belmont Club blog

 

The president blamed US intelligence for misjudging the rise of ISIS in the Middle East. The Boston Globe writes, “President Barack Obama acknowledged that US intelligence agencies underestimated the threat from Islamic State militants and overestimated the ability and will of Iraq’s army to fight.”

The Obama administration has cited its intelligence weaknesses before.

At an August news conference, he said ‘‘there is no doubt’’ that the Islamic State group’s advance ‘‘has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates’’ suggested it would be.

US intelligence agencies, he said, did not have “a full appreciation of the degree to which the Iraqi security forces, when they’re far away from Baghdad, did not have the incentive or the capacity to hold ground against an aggressive adversary.”

But they are always somebody elses’ intelligence failures, never the president’s. The they-a culpa and headlines over US airstrikes in Syria overshadowed another possible failure of intelligence: Yemen.  The administration had touted Yemen as the template for how to fight a terrorism.  In late July Katherine Zimmerman in the Washington Post warned that the administration’s model wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

President Obama says the United States is looking to its Yemen policy as a model for what to do in Iraq and Syria. But what the president labels the “Yemen model” has not been as successful as the White House claims; indeed, it is in danger of collapse. Attempting to replicate it in much more challenging conditions in Iraq and Syria will almost certainly fail.

That warning proved prescient. Last week, Yemen’s capital was largely taken over by Shi’ite rebels. Saudi Arabia, widely viewed as the power behind the throne, decamped.  So did the most of the United States diplomatic mission. Those glaring facts did not diminish the administration’s faith in its own judgment.   Two days ago, Josh Earnest argued the fact that the US was evacuating the embassy didn’t mean the administration strategy wasn’t working.

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: In terms of decisive action by the president, how can you cite as a success Yemen when the country is falling apart?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Because, Ed, what we have seen is the effective deployment of counter-terrorism strategy that involves building up the capacity of local forces, on occasion backed by American military forces, to counter extremist threats that are emanating from that country.

HENRY: If it has been so successful why are we pulling our embassy personnel out of there?

EARNEST: Ed, what we have been focused on is mitigating the threat from extremists and denying them the kind of safe-haven that would allow them to plot –

HENRY: The embassy said we are pulling out. We have to get our people out of there.

EARNEST: Ed, what we have seen in Yemen is the effective deployment of a counter-terrorism strategy to put continual pressure on extremist groups that seek to do harm to the United States.

HENRY: If there is so much pressure why are we leaving?

EARNEST: What that has done is it has prevented those extremist groups from having to plot and plan and carry out, successfully, attacks against the U.S. homeland. That requires vigilance. If we take a day off, they could build up capacity in such a way that would be very dangerous to the U.S. or our interests around the globe.

It was working alright — for Iran. With its Hezbollah-like militia largely in control of Yemen’s capital; its influence over Baghdad and ground presence in both Syria and Iraq, and Saudi Arabia’s humiliation, Iran had clearly become a power for the president to reckon with.  It’s offered Obama a deal, or rather an ultimatum: if you don’t let us have our nukes, we won’t give you a hand.

Fox News writes “the Iranian government appears to be steadily leveraging the Islamic State crisis by dangling the possibility of cooperation against the terror group in exchange for a favorable deal on its nuclear program — despite the Obama administration’s insistence that the issues are not linked.”

MSNBC writes “Rouhani wants ISIS fight on Iran’s terms”. Let us have our nukes and we will get you out of a jam.

Last week, an anonymous Iranian official reportedly told Reuters that the country would be willing to cooperate with America’s anti-ISIS campaign on the condition that western powers soften their opposition to Iran’s nuclear program. Rouhani avoided saying directly whether he was willing to trade membership in the American coalition for concessions on the nuclear program, and instead emphasized his belief that his government has “adhered to our duties as a responsible government in fighting terrorism.”

The message is the same in each case.  We’ll put down the gun if you hand over the keys to the jail cell. Events are so dire Tom Friedman can only explain it by suggesting that Reagan had it easier than Obama. He laments in the New York Times:

These days there is a lot of “if-only-Obama-could-lead-like-Reagan” talk by conservatives. I’ll leave it to historians to figure out years from now who was the better president. But what I’d argue is this: In several critical areas, Reagan had a much easier world to lead in than Obama does now.

The only problem with Friedman’s comparison is that Obama himself explicitly argued that Iran was a much easier opponent than the superpower Soviet Union. He boasted to a joint session of congress earlier this year that you couldn’t lose against a jayvee team like Iran when America had just beaten the Lakers.

“If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.”

‘How can I lose? How can I lose?’

But that was before his intelligence agencies failed him and his winning strategy in Yemen let him down. Now his problem is the reverse.  It’s no longer ‘how can I lose?’ but ‘where can I win?’ Alexis Knudsen of the AEI-related Critical Threat’s analytical group writes that worse defeats are in the offing.

The break-up of Yemen would devastate U.S. counterterrorism strategy. The U.S. relies on Yemen’s military to combat al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an organization that has tried and will continue to try to attack the U.S. homeland. Most of the forces the U.S. trains and works with operate in the southern and eastern provinces of Yemen. These units will most likely be removed from fighting AQAP to keeping the Yemeni state together if Yemen moves toward repartition or even federation. Such a scenario would cripple the current U.S. strategaterproof leather, Nylon mesh liningy against AQAP, empowering a group that is one of the greatest threats to the American homeland.

Events in Yemen might devastate the US counterterrorism strategy, but it probably won’t change the conviction among the president’s supporters that he knows what’s best. They double-down on failure.  Libya’s a success. Egypt’s a success. Iraq is a success. Yemen is a success. Iran is a success. Syria’s a … Comparisons between this behavior and those of lemmings are unfair to the rodents. Recently scientists have discovered that lemmings don’t commit suicide. In footage showing this behavior, they were pushed.

Even more influential was the 1958 Disney film White Wilderness, which won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature, in which staged footage was shown with lemmings jumping into certain death after faked scenes of mass migration. A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, Cruel Camera, found the lemmings used for White Wilderness were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where they did not jump off the cliff, but were in fact launched off the cliff using a turntable.

In the public policy case, the launching turntable is the narrative. The media is to us as the launcher was to the lemmings in White Wilderness. On you go, over you go.

 

Budweiser trades Clydesdales for natural gas


Budweiser trades Clydesdales for natural gas

 

By William Tucker in Fuel Freedom

 

The famous Clydesdales that have hauled Budweiser’s barrels of beer since the 19th century are finally being replaced by up-to-date 21st century, compressed natural gas-driven vehicles.

Well, it isn’t quite that simple. There’s been a long, 80-year interval between the 19th and 21st century when Budweiser’s trucks ran on gasoline and diesel fuel. But for 66 trucks at Budweiser’s Houston brewery, the 53-foot trailers loaded with 50,000 pounds are now going to be hauled by trailers running on compressed natural gas.

Anheuser-Busch actually has plans to convert its entire fleet on natural gas according to James Sembrot, senior transportation director. He plans to reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions while doing something “greenish.” “It’s significant that A-B feels comfortable swapping for an entire fleet that runs on CNG,” said Christopher Helman in Forbes. According to Sembrot, “the intention of shifting to natgas…is to reduce carbon emissions and fuel costs, while doing something green(ish).”

“The Houston brewery is among the biggest of the 14 that A-B operates nationwide. The closest breweries to this one are in Fort Collins, Colo. and St. Louis. Each truck rolls virtually around the clock — putting in an average of 140,000 miles in a single year hauling beer to wholesalers. They move seventeen million barrels of beer each year.” That’s a lot of beer running on natural gas.

Actually, it’s not Anheuser Busch that is taking the initiative on Budweiser. The natural gas vehicles are being made available through Ryder, the nation’s largest trucking company since merging with Budget Truck Rental in 2002. Budget now has 2,800 businesses and 132,000 trucks around the country. Although only a small percentage run on natural gas, the company is dedicated to converting its fleet with all due dispatch, and the savings may prove to be extraordinary. According to Helman, “Sembrot tells me that the old trucks were getting 6.2 miles per gallon of diesel and running 140,000 miles per year. That equates to 1.45 million gallons of diesel to go 9.2 million miles. At about $3.80 per gallon, that’s roughly $5.5 million in total diesel costs per year. If they save about 30% per ‘gallon equivalent’ when buying CNG, that’s a savings of about $1.65 million per year.” That’s a lot of money saved for switching to natural gas.

But it’s not just Budweiser and Ryder and a few forward-looking companies that are pushing ahead with natural gas vehicles. Indeed, the whole state of Texas seems to have gotten the bug. The Lone Star State now has 106 CNG filling stations, the most in the country. Forty are them are open to the public while the others are fleet vehicles where vehicles from Anheuser Busch and Ryder can fill up. Actually, far ahead of these innovators are FedEx and UPS, which have not converted their fleets for many years. And hovering in the background is T. Boone Pickens and his “hydrogen highway,” which is installing huge natural gas depots at key truck stops along the Interstate Highways. Much of this is aimed at Texas and the first complete link has joined San Diego to Austin in a seamless string of stations that will allow tractor-trailers to make the whole trip on natural gas.

All this has done wonders for Texas tax collections. At the start of the year, the Texas Controller’ Office was anticipating revenues less than $ million from excise taxes. Yet by July 31, 2014, collections were 220 times anticipated and the Texas Controller’s office had collected $2,178,199. “These collections are more than double the estimated amount,” said David Porter, Texas Railroad Commissioner. “At 15 cents per gallon equivalent, $2 of motor fuels tax equals sales of 14,521,326 gallon equivalents of natural gas.”

Texas may be famous for fracking and producing more oil than Iraq, but they do not hesitate to look for new uses for gas and oil as well.

Walking is the superfood of fitness, experts say


Walking is the superfood of fitness, experts say


 

Poster’s comment: As a Marine, about any kind of exercise is good for us.

Choosing an Over-the-Counter Heartburn Remedy


Choosing an Over-the-Counter Heartburn Remedy

From Health.com

Do you have heartburn that just won't quit? You may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acid routinely backs up in the esophagus. The most obvious and painful symptom of GERD is killer heartburn.

Because you can grab over-the-counter heartburn remedies quickly at a drugstore without a doctor's visit or a prescription, these are often the first line of defense against GERD.

But a glance down the pharmacy aisle shows a vast array of choices, including Tums, Rolaids, Zantac, and Pepcid, to name just a few. (The latter two are also available in high-dose prescription versions.) Which product is the right one to help you quash the burning pain in your chest?

Although it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the options, a better understanding of your heartburn triggers can help you sort through the clutter and choose the right GERD remedy, says Robynne Chutkan, MD, the founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Md.

There are three main categories of over-the-counter heartburn treatment, says Dr. Chutkan, who is also an assistant professor of gastroenterology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Antacids
The best-known class of drugs for curbing heartburn are the antacids—think Tums, Rolaids, and Mylanta. Antacids, which contain the salt form of minerals such as magnesium and/or compounds such as calcium carbonate, curb heartburn by neutralizing acids in the stomach. Some antacids are also a supplemental source of calcium. "These products tend to offer instant relief," Dr. Chutkan says. "If you had corned beef and fries or if you overdid it at dinner and are having symptoms of heartburn, antacids are appropriate. Antacids make more sense for discretionary use and rare episodes of heartburn."

Antacids are very fast-acting, and relieve reflux symptoms (especially heartburn) right away, says Mitchell Cappell, MD, PhD, the chief of gastroenterology at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "They are relatively cheap and have been around for 50 years or more, as opposed to other drugs which are newer and more expensive," he says.

Standard antacids such as Mylanta or Maalox also are relatively safe, Dr. Cappell says, although some people who use them may experience diarrhea and constipation. "There are not many side effects and you can take them long term," he says. "But you have to take a lot of antacids because they are not as powerful as other heartburn remedies."

So how long is it safe to take an antacid? Dr. Cappell says he doesn't worry so much about toxicity in patients taking antacids long term but is "concerned about patients munching them all the time because they may be suffering from more severe reflux and need a more potent therapy."

Jonathan Schreiber, MD, a gastroenterologist at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore sums it up like this: "If your heartburn is brief and related to something you ate, an antacid is fine. It will work quickly and there is little downside, but the negative is that an hour later it's gone from your system. If you have a recurring problem, an antacid is not the answer."

Although they do suppress acid and will make you feel better faster, antacids do not heal the lining of the esophagus. The acid churned out by the stomach can erode the lining of the esophagus over time, which can cause Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition that can lead to esophageal cancer.

 

Histamine 2 blockers
Another class of heartburn drug that you can buy over the counter is a histamine 2 (H2) blocker. These remedies reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces by blocking histamine, an organic compound that tells your stomach to churn out acid. There are prescription and nonprescription H2 blockers; the choices you can find over the counter include Tagamet-HB, Pepcid-AC, Axid AR, and Zantac 75.

"These drugs have been around since the 1970s and appear to be relatively safe," Dr. Cappell says. They can be used for up to two weeks for short-term relief of heartburn. Side effects may include headache, dizziness, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and vomiting.

"They are stronger than antacids and their effects are more long lasting," says Dr. Schreiber. "They are also preventive in that they block acid production in the first place."

What does that mean for your heartburn? If you take an H2 blocker, it works for eight to 12 hours. "Some people take these medications twice daily and they can be helpful for mild reflux or heartburn," he says. They help heal the esophageal lining, but not as well as another more potent class of heartburn helpers called proton pump inhibitors (PPI).

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
Available in the United States since 1989, PPIs block an acid-producing enzyme in the lining of the stomach. These drugs also help heal the lining of the esophagus, and do so more effectively than H2 blockers. Prilosec OTC is the only PPI available over the counter; the rest of the drugs in this class require a prescription.

Unlike antacids, PPIs take time to work, Dr. Chutkan says. Some people may not feel better until 24 hours or more after taking them, and that's a lot to ask of someone who feels like their chest is on fire. Side effects may include diarrhea or stomach pain. "PPIs as a group are very effective and safe, but they don't work very quickly," Dr. Schreiber says. "Someone who has heartburn now is probably better off with an H2 blocker or even using an antacid."

Just how effective are PPIs? The best objective measure of the effectiveness of a heartburn remedy is its ability to reverse erosive esophagitis, a condition in which the lining of the esophagus is visibly irritated or injured. Doctors can measure this using an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light attached), which is passed into the mouth and down the esophagus. Studies have shown that roughly 85% of people with erosive esophagitis are healed when they take a PPI, according to Dr. Schreiber. Far fewer people are healed of this condition with H2 blockers.

 

When to see a doctor
Treating heartburn involves more than just popping a pill or munching on a fistful of antacids. These medications work in tandem with lifestyle changes such as cutting out caffeine; consuming smaller, more frequent meals; quitting smoking; and avoiding alcohol, a known heartburn trigger. Other tips that may help extinguish heartburn include not eating after 7 p.m. and propping your head up while you sleep. "You can't expect a pill to work if you are drinking eight cups of coffee and smoking two packs a day," Dr. Chutkan says.

Caffeine relaxes the lower esophageal sphincter, a circular muscle that creates a valve between the esophagus and the stomach. Think of the muscle as a door. "When the door is shut, no acid comes back up. But when the door opens, the acid backs up from stomach to food pipe," Dr. Cappell says. "Caffeine, smoking, and alcohol all tend to make reflux more severe, and they may act by opening this door."

"If you have classic acid reflux or heartburn such as a pain in chest with frequent burping or nausea, it's OK to try over-the-counter remedies—especially if it occurs after a large, fatty meal or late at night," Dr. Chutkan says. Steer clear of the over-the-counter aisle and head straight to your doctor if you have any of these red flags: pain or difficulty swallowing, vomiting, unexplained weight loss, or persistent abdominal pain, she says.

Also call your doctor if your symptoms change in character: If you used to have heartburn, but now food feels like it is stuck in your chest, for example.

"If you have very occasional reflux symptoms—and who doesn't?—it may be reasonable to take over-the-counter medication. But if you are getting it regularly, if it's severe, or if the medication that you took before stops working, definitely see a doctor, and preferably a gastroenterologist," Dr. Cappell says. "The symptoms may be due to another condition, to severe reflux that requires more powerful medicines, or to complications of reflux that require further medical evaluation and treatment."