MonthMarch 2009

U.S. support for Detroit would buy 50 million Tata Nanos

G.M. and Chrysler are asking the politburo in Washington for more rubles (nytimes). Between the 25 percent tariff on imported light trucks (SUVs) and direct cash infusions, it seems likely that the U.S. taxpayer is being bled to the tune of $100 billion over a 2-3 year period. What does the taxpayer get in return for this money? The right to continue to purchase GM and Chrysler vehicles for $20,000-60,000 each.

What else might we do with $100 billion in this industry? Assuming that we could get a wholesale price of $2000 per car, that’s enough to buy 50 million four-passenger 54 mpg Tata Nanos. The fuel savings from driving Nanos to the 7-11 instead of monster SUVs would save taxpayers $100 billion every year (i.e., the initial investment in the Nanos would be paid back with one year of fuel savings). Current predictions are that the U.S. car/light truck market may shrink to 10 million vehicles per year. Thus with a $100 billion federal expenditure we could give everyone who had intended to buy a car or SUV a free Nano for the next five years. Fifty million American households that had expected to go into debt and make monthly car payments would now have $400 extra every month to buy other things ($240 billion per year). The total amount free for investment in the U.S. economy would be $340 billion per year.

Full Story: Philip Greenspun

(via Robot Wisdom)

The Lost Inventions of Buckminster Fuller (Part 2 of 3)

dymaxion car patent

The Morgan Motor Company had been producing three-wheeled vehicles in the USA since 1909. The Burney, produced by Streamline Cars, used aviation design principles as early as 1927. The Chrysler Airflow was a streamline, drag-reducing car of 1934, as was the Tatra T77 of 1935.

The earliest newspaper and magazine articles on the subject tend to favor W. Starling Burgess as the main force behind the Car. The Dymaxion Car is first mentioned in print in the New York Times on 1 June 1933. It is described as the creation of W. S. Burgess. The last sentence of the article reads: “Buckminster Fuller, New York architect and engineer, is associated with Mr. Burgess in the project.” By 22 July the New York Times comes to describe Fuller as the inventor of the Dymaxion Car and Burgess as the designer. The Modern Mechanix of October 1933 lists Burgess and Fuller as the designers of the Car. On 22 October the New York Times described the vehicle as the “streamlined, three-wheeled Gulf-Dymaxion Car, designed by W. Starling Burgess and Buckminster Fuller.” At the time, Gulf Oil had purchased advertising space on the side of the Car. Dymaxion World describes Burgess as “an assistant” in the project.

Full Story: Synchronofile

Israeli soldiers admit to deliberate killing of Gaza civilians

The Israeli army has been forced to open an investigation into the conduct of its troops in Gaza after damning testimony from its own front line soldiers revealed the killing of civilians and rules of engagement so lax that one combatant said that they amounted on occasion to “cold-blooded murder”.

The revelations, compiled by the head of an Israel military academy who declared that he was “shocked” at the findings, come as international rights groups are calling for independent inquiries into the conduct of both sides in the three-week Israeli offensive against Palestinian Islamists.

The soldiers’ testimonies include accounts of an unarmed old woman being shot at a distance of 100 yards, a woman and her two children being killed after Israeli soldiers ordered them from their house into the line of fire of a sniper and soldiers clearing houses by shooting anyone they encountered on sight.

“That’s the beauty of Gaza. You see a man walking, he doesn’t have to have a weapon, and you can shoot him,” one soldier told Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin pre-military academy, who asked him why a company commander ordered an elderly woman to be shot.

Full Story: the Times

New Jersey considers banning Brazilian waxing

New Jersey is drawing the line when it comes to bikini waxing.

The state Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling is moving toward a ban on genital waxing altogether after two women reported being injured in their quest for a smooth bikini line.

Both women were hospitalized for infections following so-called “Brazilian” bikini waxes; one of the women has filed a lawsuit, according to Jeff Lamm, a spokesman for New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the cosmetology board.

Technically, genital waxing has never been allowed — only the face, neck, abdomen, legs and arms are permitted — but because bare-it-all “Brazilians” weren’t specifically banned, state regulators haven’t enforced the law.

Full Story: AP

(via The Agitator)

Where is my fuckin’ bailout?

where is my fucking bailout?

Forget flying cars. I just want my student loan bailout.

Picture by Politics for Misfits

(via Grinding)

Police raid home of Wikileaks.de domain owner over censorship lists

Shortly after 9pm on Tuesday the 24th of March 2009, seven police officers in Dresden and four in Jena searched the homes of Theodor Reppe, who holds the domain registration for “wikileaks.de”, the German name for wikileaks.org. According to police documentation, the reason for the search was “distribution of pornographic material” and “discovery of evidence”. Police claim the raid was initiated due to Mr. Reppe’s position as the Wikileaks.de domain owner.

Police did not want to give any further information to Mr. Reppe and no contact was made with Wikileaks before or after the search. It is therefore not totally clear why the search was made, however Wikileaks, in its role as a defender of press freedoms, has published censorship lists for Australia, Thailand, Denmark and other countries. Included on the lists are references to sites containing pornography and no other material has been released by Wikileaks relating to the subject. […]

The raid appears to be related to a recent German social hysteria around child pornography and the controversial battle for a national censorship system by the German family minister Ursula von der Leyen. It comes just a few weeks after a member of parliament, SPD minister Joerg Tauss had his office and private house searched by police. German bloggers discussing the subject were similarly raided.

Full Story: Wikileaks

(via Cryptogon)

Cold fusion experimentally confirmed

U.S. Navy researchers claimed to have experimentally confirmed cold fusion in a presentation at the American Chemical Society’s annual meeting.

“We have compelling evidence that fusion reactions are occurring” at room temperature, said Pamela Mosier-Boss, a scientist with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (San Diego). The results are “the first scientific report of highly energetic neutrons from low-energy nuclear reactions,” she added.

Cold fusion was first reported in 1989 by researchers Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons, then with the University of Utah, prompting a global effort to develop the technology. Normal fusion reactions, where hydrogen is fused into helium, occur at millions of degrees inside the Sun. If room temperature fusion reactions could be realized commercially, as Fleishchmann and Pons claimed to have achieved inside an electrolytic cell, it promised to produce abundant nuclear energy from deuterium–heavy hydrogen–extracted from seawater.

Other scientists were unable to duplicate the 1989 results, thereby discrediting the work.

The theoretical underpinnings of cold fusion have yet to be adequately explained. The hypothesis is that when electrolysis is performed on deuteron, molecules are fused into helium, releasing a high-energy neutron. While excess heat has been detected by researchers, no group had yet been able to detect the missing neutrons.

Now, the Naval researchers claim that the problem was instrumentation, which was not up to the task of detecting such small numbers of neutrons. To sense such small quantities, Mosier-Boss used a special plastic detector called CR-39. Using co-deposition with nickel and gold wire electrodes, which were inserted into a mixture of palladium chloride and deutrium, the detector was able to capture and track the high-energy neutrons.

Full Story: EE Times

(via Justin)

Oregon church can brew hallucinogenic tea for services, judge rules

You can take drugs legally only if you pretend to believe in the right imaginary creatures:

An Ashland church can import and brew a hallucinogenic tea for its religious services, according to a U.S. District Court ruling.

Judge Owen M. Panner issued a permanent injunction Thursday barring the federal government from penalizing or prohibiting the Church of the Holy Light of the Queen from sacramental use of “Daime” tea.

The church, which blends Christian and indigenous religious beliefs in Brazil, uses tea brewed from the ayahuasca plant in their services. The tea contains trace amounts of the chemical dimethyltryptamine or DMT.

According to the church’s lawsuit, the tea is the central ritual and sacrament of the religion where members believe “only by taking the tea can a church member have direct experience with Jesus Christ.”

Full Story: the Oregonian

(via Thiebes)

Romania weighs decriminalizing consensual incest

Romania – Surprising as it may seem, incest is not always a crime in Europe.

Three European Union countries – France, Spain and Portugal – do not prosecute consenting adults for incest, and Romania is considering following suit. […]

In Romania, decriminalizing incest among consenting adults is being considered as part of a wide range of reforms to the country’s criminal code. No date has been set yet for a parliament vote on the bill, and opposition to the proposal is fervent even among some legislators in the ruling coalition.

Currently all forms of incest in Romania are punishable by up to seven years in prison. But Romania’s Justice Ministry suggests the new legislation would move the country – which joined the European Union two years ago – closer legally to some other EU members.

“Not everything that is immoral has to be illegal,” said Justice Ministry legal expert Valerian Cioclei. “We cannot help these people by turning them into criminals and punishing them.”

Full Story: Canoe.ca

(via Thiebes)

Sacramento Tent City Reflects Economy’s Troubles

sacramento tent city

Job losses, home foreclosures and a deepening recession are sending scores of newly homeless people into a makeshift camp along the banks of the American River in Sacramento, Calif.

The tent city, spread over an area the size of several football fields, has local officials scrambling over how to handle the area’s homeless crisis.

More than a year ago, a handful of homeless people staked out the site on the northern edge of downtown Sacramento. Now there are more than 100 tents and anywhere between 300 to 400 people living without running water or sanitation. Their only protection from the elements is nylon tents and plastic tarps.

Full Story: NPR

(via Sloppy Unruh)

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