Archive for October, 2011

Flooding in Thailand and Its Implications

As floodwaters inundate Bangkok, with more than a third of the country underwater, and with basic water/sanitation facilities rapidly deteriorating, it would do us well to re-read this important document, Climate Risks and Adaptation in Asian Coastal Megacities: A Synthesis Report. A joint report from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and Japan International Cooperation Agency, it examines the climate-related risks and remediation projects which cities along the coast or at sea level need to undertake; three megacities are included in the analysis: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. Another coastal megacity, Shanghai, is already sinking, and islands in the South Pacific and the Indian Ocean have already vanished. And these problems are not limited to foreign lands; please read the New York State Sea Level Rise Task Force: Report to the Legislature. (FYI, online maps of the flooding from various sources are available.)

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European Debt Crisis

The New York Times has put together a very informative package of materials concerning this latest economic crisis. The European Debt Crisis includes a recent timeline embedded with links, an interactive overview, a debt map of European countries, as well as a debt tracker;  free access to recent articles from this paper is available also. In addition, these sites also provide good overviews: BBC, CNBC, Der Spiegel, Financial Times (requires free registration), Brookings Institution, and the Council on Foreign Relations. The Euro Summit Statement has been released along with the Main Results document.

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Open Access to Royal Society Publications

The Royal Society has announced that it has made its entire article archives open to the public. This allows researchers to review the Philosophical Transactions, the world’s first peer-reviewed journal, back to 1665. In addition, the Society’s Proceedings,  as well as its other titles, are now freely available. You can read articles by Fred Hoyle, Joseph Banks, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Paul Dirac, Crick and Watson to name a few. Over 60,000 articles are available providing an historical glimpse into the development of science in the Western world. The search screen is found here. Enjoy!

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Highest Income Households Increase Their Wealth

A report issued from the Congressional Budget Office, Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007, shows that the top 1% of households in income saw their income increase 275% between 1979 and 2007; for the rest of us, it was all downhill.(Summary) An examination of how employer-sponsored health insurance contributed to income growth for the midddle percentile households is especially enlightening as New Jersey state workers now start to pay for part of their premiums.(Appendix C) The report states that “Employer-sponsored health insurance provides the biggest proportional boost to income in the middle of the distribution, with a smaller boost at both extremes of the distribution.”(44)

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Biographies of European Officials

With all the media coverage focusing on the debt crisis in Europe, we thought everyone could use some help in identifying all the players. Whoiswho is the official directory of the European Union; it provides searching by name, EU institution, or hierarchical listing. The information is fairly sparse, but it does identify everyone in the various EU entities and provides their title, telephone and fax numbers as well as their email and Internet site. Additional  information can be garnered from the biographies of the European Commissioners of the EU, and the members of the European Parliament. A non-EU site, the Council of Europe, provides personal data on its officials at its leaders page and its member states page.

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The Study of Reading

Most of us take reading for granted. This complicated process of assimilating ideas and concepts through, until recently, printed media has been a commonplace occurrence for awhile now. However, what we take for granted was not always so; the ruling classes at one time acted as gatekeepers to the written word. But the lower classes did ultimately gain access to the printed word, and The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (A very substantial portion of this work is available online through Google Books) details how this paradigmatic shift in the control and dissemintation of knowledge took place. Harvard University has put together an informative presentation entitled Reading: Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History with a foreword from Robert Darnton. It includes dozens of historical textbooks, readers, commonplace books, and other material that highlights the development of reading. In all, 800 books and 400 manuscript sources are included.

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We Eat Too Much Salt

In light of Campbell’s announcing that it was putting more salt in some of its products that are marketed as healthier for you (LA Times and ABCNews), it should come as no surprise that the CDC has issued a report – Usual Sodium Intakes Compared with Current Dietary Guidelines—United States, 2005-2008 – that shows that practically everyone in this country eats too much salt. The very first words of this document say it all: “High sodium intake can increase blood pressure and the risk for heart disease and stroke.” And this is certainly not a problem limited only to the United Staes; the World Health Organization has identified high sodium around the globe as a major health problem. Its document – Strategies to Monitor and Evaluate Sodium Consumption and Sources of Sodium in the Diet – simply states that “High blood pressure is responsible for 13% of deaths globally….The total dietary salt consumed is an important determinant of blood pressure levels….”(5) More information on salt consumption in your diet can be found here. On a personal note, we are always amazed at the amount of salt that television chefs dump into their recipes. We have not added salt to any homecooked dish in years, and as far as we know, no one has keeled over from salt deprivation.

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