Archive for January, 2009

The Great Lemon Shortage

Have you, gentle reader, while walking the aisles of your local supermarket, remarked on the steep price increases in lemons(almost double) and the near-impossibility of procuring lemon juice from concentrate in its distinctive green plastic containers? Well, we did. In fact, so astounded were we by the absence of one of our staples, that we went to another food establishment and were met with the same shelve inadequacy. Conspiracy you say? Far from it! Due to a series of weather-related catastrophes, lemon production has been curtailed severely. Starting with a devastating January 2007 freeze in California to an equally deleterious temperature dip in Argentina, and combined with severe droughts in Spain, all these events have added up to a global shortage of lemons. The latest figures show a worldwide drop from 4,640,000 metric tons in 2006/2007 to 3,675,000 metric tons in 2007/2008. And the forecasts, while slightly hopeful, are only so if certain criteria are met. So if you see lemons and lemon juice, pick ‘em up.  And remember that this is not the only global shortage we have seen; look at what happened to lentils and rice. Additional information may be found here:  Citrus: World Markets and Trade. Reduced Lemon Output Brings Down Total Citrus Production(July 2008); Lemon Shortage Not Over Yet(November 2007); Argentina Citrus Semi-Annual Report(May 2008); Global Shortage Means It’s A Sour Summer Ahead for Lemon Lovers(June 2008); Fruit and Tree Nuts Situation and Outlook Yearbook 2008(October 2008); Sunkist 2007 Annual Report; and Weekly Market Update Report(January 15 2009)

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Global Economy in Crisis

Such is the title of this Council on Foreign Relations site. Included here are interviews, “must reads,” and “essential documents.” This is a worthwhile site, aggregating many of the most important writings/reports on this topic.

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2009 Report Card on America’s Infrastructure

Published annually by the American Society of Civil Engineers, this report critically examines 15 sectors of American infrastructure from aviation through wastewater. Unfortunately the cumulative card is a D, with a very troubling rating of D- for the water sector. The Society calculates that it would cost $2.2 trillion to remediate these poor showings for all the sectors. You can also view the 2007 report card for New Jersey; we rate a C-. This CRS report should also be perused – The Role of Public Works Infrastructure in Economic Stimulus.

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Holocaust Survivors’ Recorded Interviews

These interviews were conducted in recent years as part of a larger initiative – The Living Memory of the Jewish Community, which is itself subsumed under the National Life Stories Project in England. Over 440 hours of recordings can be listened to. Most interviews have extensive abstracts as well as a full transcript. Visit the British Library’s Voices of the Holocaust section where audio and printed versions of “survivor testimonies” are arranged by topic.

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Transcript of Obama’s Interview on Al Arabiya TV

President Obama’s interview on this Dubai-based network is the start of his promise to begin the healing process in the Middle East. To further his goals, the President designated George Mitchell, author of the  2001 Mitchell Report on Mideast violence, as his Special Envoy to the Middle East.

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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

As was mentioned in a previous post, then President-elect Obama presented his ideas for this act in a speech. Since then much has happened;  the House is considering this bill (H.R. 1), while their counterparts in the Senate have placed a version(S.1) on their calendar for consideration. The Congressional Budget Office has released a cost estimate for this act as it was introduced into the House as of January 26. The Senate Finance Committee has released what is known as the Chairman’s Mark(areas for discussion). The White House has made public its own analysis, detailing specific benchmarks and goals to be realized. CRS has issued two relevant reports as well: Economic Stimulus: Issues and Policies, and States and Proposed Economic Recovery Plans. And here is a concise Backgrounder from the Council on Foreign Relations.

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Who’s Who in Washington

With the most sweeping staff changes in eight years, there are so many new faces in Washington that it is almost impossible to keep tabs on all of them. The Washington Post has just launched whorunsgov.com, a site carrying profiles of many of these new players. From Hill staffers to former Clinton administration politicos who now inhabit President Obama’s inner circle, this site gives you an insight into who these people are and why they matter. A great place to find information and source documentation. In concert with SourceWatch, another great site for unearthing information of those in power, whorunsgov.com allows all of us to keep abreast of the doings of the movers and shakers whether they are  elected, appointed, or otherwise part of the fabric that holds DC together.

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Super Bowl XLIII

For those who need some Super Bowl sites to visit, try these: you can get recaps of all the previous games here; trivia games can also be enjoyed; the Census Bureau has its own feature for you to peruse; and visit the official NFL site. Read this 1878 New York Times article about a football match between Fordham and Columbia.

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The Macintosh is 25 Years Old

On January 24, 1984 , Apple unveiled its much-awaited personal computer – the Mac. Fronted by an advertisting campaign featuring one the best commercials ever made – “1984” directed by Ridley Scott, the Mac challenged other computer makers with its user-friendly features. See Wired Magazine’s 25 Years of Mac as well as the similarly titled 25 Years of the Mac. Other sites of interest: Making the Macintosh: Technology and Culture in Silicon Valley; PBS’ Triumph of the Nerds; A History of the Personal Computer; Apple’s 1984: The Introduction of the Macintosh in the Cultural History of Personal Computers; and the New York Times on Apple.

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What Are Executive Orders?

“An incoming President, who is eager to act quickly on his policy agenda, seeking to modify or overturn certain of his predecessor’s actions, or distinguish himself from his predecessor, particularly when they are from different parties, would find executive orders an effective way to accomplish these objectives.” ( Executive Orders and Proclamations. CRS, 1999, p.11) Sound familiar? Much press has been given to President Obama’s issuance of several major executive orders, which are all available for perusal.  Just what is an executive order? “An executive order (EO) is a directive issued to executive-level agencies, department heads or other employees from the President….Thirty days after it is offically published in the Federal Register, an EO becomes law.”(About.com. US Government Info). As can be seen, the President can single-handedly make law, bypassing Congress entirely. Obviously, such power can prove contentious among the three branches of government. And remember that these orders can have far-reaching impact. Just look at President Franklin Roosevelt’s EO 9066 - “Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas” – which led directly to the establishment of internment camps for Japanese-Americans. This is a power which needs to be exercised with caution, intelligence, and judgment. The following articles and opinion pieces will allow you access to thoughts from many different angles and also provide you with a good deal of history about this relatively unknown (at least to outsiders) Presidential perogative: The Use and Abuse of Executive Orders and Other Presidental DirectivesExecutive Orders and Presidential Power(a widely cited article); The Last One Hundred Days(has a solid bibliography); A Majority of One: Presidential Leadership Through Executive Orders(how the use of executive orders aided the civil rights movement); Executive Orders and National Emergencies: How Presidents Have Come to “Run the Country” by Usurping Legislative Power;  and this 2008 CRS report – Presidential Transitions: Issues Involving Outgoing and Incoming Administrations(the use of executive orders on both sides of the transition). A searchable data base of more than 3000 executive orders dating back to 1826 is available here.

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New FEMA Revealed in Transition Document

In light of the less than stellar performances during Katrina and subsequent disasters and to fully apprise the incoming administration of FEMA’s responsibilities and abilities, this briefing binder was prepared. It gives an outsider a good comprehensive look inside the workings of this large, at times, amorphous agency.

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Black History Month

Established in 1926 by Dr Carter G Woodson as Negro History Week and held during the second week of February to commemorate the births of Abraham Lincoln(the 12th) and Frederick Douglass(who claimed the 14th as his birthday), it has since evolved into a month-long celebration of the contributions of  African Americans to American history, life, and culture. In addition to the wide variety of resources held in the Guarini Library, we offer these sites for further research and enlightenment: Gale’s Black History Month offers biographies, book summaries, school actvities, and a timeline;  the Encyclopaedia Britannica presents its comprehensive Guide to Black History which also includes source documents and multimedia presentations(listen to John Coltrane!); the infoplease entry on Black History Month cannot be ignored because there is simply too much great information contained here; the Spartacus site, as always, features a plethora of pertinent data; and do not forget biography.com’s contribution on Black History. The Census Bureau has two relevant features: Black(African-American) History Month 2009 , and Facts on the Black or African American Population, a really great statistical source. Additional sources to consult include: the Library of Congress has several sites of interest, among them The African-American Mosaic, the African American Odyssey, the African American Pamphlet Collection, W.E.B. DuBois: Online Resources, and Frederick Douglass: Online Resources; PBS has African American World and Eyes on the Prize; the Gilder Lehrman Center has a good collection of online documents; works by Frederick Douglass are here and here; the edited collection of the  Booker T. Washington Papers are here and you can also read some of his booksbooks by W E B Du Bois are also available; dozens of books on the African American experience can be accessed at this site;  and on a more local level, please read Afro-Americans in New Jersey.

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Text of President Obama’s Inaugural Address

The full text can be read here. Compare his speech with previous addresses back to Washington. Also, check out “I Do Solemnly Swear…” from the Library of Congress which presents momentoes and memorabilia( sheet music, photos, manuscripts, etc) of past inaugurations. You can search by subject,  you can browse through the items, or you can look through the inaugurations in chronological order.

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Where to Watch the Inauguration Live Online

A listing of what sites will be having live feeds of the inauguration can be found here. Hulu has a series of video clips of past inaugural speeches dating back to William Mckinley.

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Jet Crashlands in Hudson River

As many of you know, an Airways AirBus had to make an emergency landing onto the Hudson River which is very close to here. The putative cause was the intake of geese into the engines. For those who are interested, birds are not the only animals involved in aircraft incidents, how about coyotes, deer or reptiles? Read all about this in Wildlife Strikes to Civil Aircraft in the United States 1990-2007.

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Happy 200th Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

Poe was born on January 19, 1809. During his brief life he: attended West Point for a semester; created the genre of detective fiction, foreshadowing Sherlock Holmes; helped creat the horror genre; contributed to the development of science fiction; was one of America’s first shory story writers; was one of America’s first literary critics, emphasizing style; and popularized cryptography. His peripatetic life has allowed many cities from Richmond to Boston to claim his as their own. The most comprehensive site to find his writings is at the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore; it contains a wealth of additional information on Poe as well. The Free Library of Philadelphia(one of the cities which claims Poe as its own) provides listings of Poe-related materials and web sites. The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, where he spent the last years of his life, has its own site with a picture of the dwelling. PoeStories.com contains story summaries, quotes, a timeline, and a wordlist, among other features; this is a site well worth visiting. The New York Times has a section devoted to Poe containing news articles and links to outside sources. An extensive Poe Webliography is current through 2007. A Poe entry from the distinguished Cambridge History of English and American Literature, though outdated, does provide salient information. Poe as a character in others’ writings is highlighted here.

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Biographies of Scientists

This posting was triggered by the recent announcement that the papers and most of the writings of Charles Darwin are now available online. This site contains not only his personal writings but most, if not all, of his published work along with a treasure trove of information about him. Where else can we find accurate online information on scientists? Every academic library worthy of the name has the basic print sources which include the Dictionary of Scientific Biography and its supplement – the New Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Most good libraries also have at least one  biography database; for instance, Guarini has Biography Collection Complete and Biography Reference Bank for its students and faculty. Are there other electronic resources which can be used by everyone? The answer is yes! Biographical Memoirs are brief biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences. Published since 1877, there are over 900 memoirs extant, with the vast majority available electroncially. Among those profiled are Gabriel Almond, Thomas Edison, and Glenn Seaborg. The National Library of Medicine hosts Profiles in Science which highlights leaders in 20th century biomedical research. Here you will find biographical information along with representational papers(article, documents, notes, etc) of such luminaries as Barbara McClintock and Paul Berg. Eric Weisstein’s World of Scientific Biography contains over 1,000 entries of varying lengths which can be searched via gender/minority/historical periods/branch of science/prize winners. The Galileo Project features 631 detailed biographies of the scientific community during the 16th and 17th centuries. Biographies can be searched by discipline/patronage/birthplace/religion/means of support. Infoplease presents Notable Scientists arranged by discipline; the biographies are culled from the 6th edition of the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Contemporary scientists are profiled at the Hall of Science site where biographies, interviews(both audio and video versions), and photo galleries are available. The Faces of Science: African Americans in the Sciences provides biographical information(including patents held) as well as delineating women scientists and those who were awarded the first science PhDs. Mathematicians can be found at the MacTutor History of Mathematics site where one can search by chronological period or gender; included are interactive birthplace maps. Biographies of Women Mathematicians is replete with information with additional fillips such as a listing of the women PhDs prior to 1930 and comprehensive list of other sites to visit for both math and science biographies. Invent Now Hall of Fame includes standard biographical information along with the impact of each invention; here you can also search alphabetically by the invention name. Along the same lines, you can profit from visiting the Inventor of the Week and its archive page where you can search by inventor or field. The History of Biology site has some biographies of interest; physicists and astronomers are at this PBS site; the Center for the History of Physics has many online interviews available; and Biographies of Famous Chemists should not be overlooked. And lastly, the Nobel Prize page is a most valuable place to find biographies, interviews, and documentaries on the current and past award winners in the different subject fields.

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More People Get News from Internet Than Newspapers

According to this new Pew Research Center report, more people now get their national and international news from Internet sources rather than from print newspapers. For people 18-29, the number is even higher; 59% get their information from the Internet. However, television still leads overall as the major news source – 70% of the overall population relies on TV, and even “young people”(defined as 18-29) cite TV as a main news source with a 59% ranking. Please read The Future of Newspapers and peruse this 1941 article on The Vanishing Newspaper. Also, try out Top 10 Reasons for Reading a News Site vs Top 10 Reasons for Reading a Newspaper.

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Governor Corzine’s 2009 “State of the State” Address

Text and video are right here.

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2008 Tax Forms

“What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.” -Mark Twain, from Mark Twain: Collected Tales, Sketches, Speeches & Essays, 1891-1910. (Library of America, 1992) p.947. As unpalatable as it is, it is time to think about that annual tradition of emptying your pockets. To at least provide some solace, here are relevant sites to download 2008 tax forms along with instructions: New Jersey; New York State(which includes NYC personal income tax); other New York City forms;  and Pennsylvania. Columbia University provides a good tax resources page. A listing of tax forms for other areas of the country is also available.

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