Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tracking the Bailout: The Government's Commitments

From the NY Times: Tracking the Bailout: The Government's Commitments

As the financial crisis has spread, the goverment'c commitments have grown and it has assumed different roles, acting as an insurer, an investor or a banker. So far, the government has spent almost $1.4 trillion, although it has guaranteed almost 8 trillion in investments, deposits and loans. That figure does not include $755 billion in currency swaps with central banks in other countries, nor does it include some lending programs for financial institutions whose cost is not quantified.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Gas Rationing in US

It was on November 26, 1942 that President Roosevelt announced that the United States would begin a national gas rationing campaign on December 1st. All Americans had to display a sticker in their car window saying what category of gas ration they had. Everyone started out at “A,” which got people about four gallons a week. Local rationing boards were set up to assign a “B” or “C” ration to people who needed more gas if they could prove it was necessary for their work.

The campaign made propaganda posters that asked, “Is This Trip Necessary?” or said, “When you ride ALONE you ride with Hitler! Join a Car-Sharing Club TODAY!” Along with the gas rations, the national speed limit was set at 35 mph.

The gas rationing wasn’t a result of a gas shortage. The United States was self-sufficient in oil and was actually a major exporter of petroleum. But the Japanese had taken over the rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies that produced 90 percent of America’s raw rubber, and there was no synthetic rubber. The government was afraid that if everyone kept driving, they would wear out tires that couldn’t be replaced. The factories and the entire war effort would come to a halt. So the United States' first national gas rationing campaign was a roundabout way to conserve rubber.

The gas ration continued until August of 1945.

To read more on WWII rationing in the US Click Here.

From The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Story Corps National Day of Listening is the Day after Thanksgiving

StoryCorps is declaring November 28, 2008 the first annual National Day of Listening.

Join StoryCorps in the National Day of Listening

This holiday season, ask the people around you about their lives — it could be your grandmother, a teacher, or someone from the neighborhood. By listening to their stories, you will be telling them that they matter and they won’t ever be forgotten. It may be the most meaningful time you spend this year.

Everyone has a story, and every life counts. Help your family, friends, and community members get involved in the National Day of Listening and use the following resources to spread the word that listening is an act of love.

Do-It-Yourself Guides have everything you need to record your conversation, including simple step-by-step instructions, advice on choosing equipment, and a list of favorite StoryCorps questions.

To get started, download [the] free Do-It-Yourself Guide.

Email Story Corps about your experience.

Email a friend about the National Day of Listening.

To listen to NPR's Renee Montagne do a Story Corps interview click on her photo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Living in America

Living in America
by Anne Stevenson

'Living in America,'
the intelligent people at Harvard say,
'is the price you pay for living in New England.'

Californians think
living in America is a reward
for managing not to live anywhere else.

The rest of the country?
Could it be sagging between two poles,
tastelessly decorated, dangerously overweight?

No. Look closely.
Under cover of light and noise
both shores are hurrying towards each other.

San Francisco
is already half way to Omaha.
Boston is nervously losing its way in Detroit.

Desperately the inhabitants
hope to be saved in the middle.
Pray to the mountains and deserts to keep them apart.

"Living in America" by Anne Stevenson, from Anne Stevenson: Selected Poems. © American Poets Project, 2008.

Thoughts on Democracy

In his 1941 State of the Union Address, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed four freedoms that should serve as a foundation not only for the U.S. but for the world: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Two years later, in 1943, the weekly Saturday Evening Post magazine published, in four consecutive issues during February and March, the four famous posters created by Norman Rockwell that visualized — in his unmatched depiction of everyday American life — Roosevelt's Four Freedoms. Now, 65 years after they were first published, The Wolfsonian museum in Miami Beach has asked 60 designers from around the world to design a poster or series of posters based on Rockwell's Four Freedoms. The exhibition, Thoughts on Democracy, [opened 7/5/08].

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms

In the best spirit of transparency (and democracy!) the team at The Wolfsonian has been updating a wonderful blog that showcases all the submitted posters and shares the process of mounting the exhibition. Not all 60 contributions are good, or not all 60 contributions I get, but here are some of my favorite posters (click on each image to go the appropriate entry on the blog):

ToD posters, Chip Kidd

Chip Kidd
While most designers submitted a single poster that captured the essence of Rockwell's four posters, Kidd did a blow-by-blow of each poster and created this series that deals with what happens when those four freedoms are eschewed to the wrong extremes: "Thus Freedom from Want leads to rampant obesity; Freedom of Worship leads to using God to hate; Freedom of Speech leads to destruction of property; and Freedom from Fear leads to the proliferation and deadly use of guns." [To read the rest of this article Click Here.].

Holiday Shopping Links

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Musée des Beaux-Arts

Musée des Beaux-Arts

by W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away

Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snowboarding in the Pearl

Portland-Vancouver, OR-WA
November 15, 2008 -

Portland, OR - Not enough snow on the mountain to get out to shred? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered and are bringing snowboarding action to the city – literally right to our backyard. The 2nd Annual Backyard Bang rolls up fierce competition, local riders, live music, up-close snowboarding action, and creative expression and education into a perfectly packed snowball that will land in the Pearl district on Saturday, November 22, 2008, from noon to 4 pm.

The Art Institute of Portland, known for fresh design and uninhibited creativity, collides with Salomon Snowboards and Bonfire clothing to bring downtown Portland live snowboarding action and tricks, as well as the scene and style that makes a trip to Hood worthwhile. We’re bringing the creativity of the mountain to the streets of the Pearl in this professional rail jam competition.

The snowboarding rail jam will consist of a preliminary qualifying round where local kids compete for a chance to go head-to-head with the invited pros in the finals. Riders at the 1st Annual Backyard Bang included Jed Anderson, Lucas Magoon, Chad Otterstrom, Leanne Pelosi, Nick Dirks, Ryan Thomspon, Jarad Hadi, Jamie Anderson, Colin Langlois, and Desiree Melancoln among others.

Vitamin D

The Vitamin D Dilemma: What’s the Safest Way to Get It?

By Nissa Simon - November 14, 2008 - AARP Bulletin Today

Here’s a solar paradox: Excessive exposure to sunlight is known to cause skin cancer. But in following the much-advised mantra to wear sunscreen when outdoors, many Americans may face a greater risk of other types of cancer—as well as conditions from diabetes to depression, heart disease to hip fractures and multiple sclerosis to muscle pain.

That’s because sunlight is the body’s main supply of protective vitamin D, an essential nutrient that may be best known for keeping bones and teeth strong. But its benefits hardly end there.

“The body uses vitamin D in virtually every tissue,” says Robert P. Heaney, M.D., an expert on calcium and vitamin D at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. “When we talk about adequate vitamin D, we’re talking about total body health.”

Unfortunately, at least half of older men and women have low levels of vitamin D, which is present in very few foods. In August, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine reported in Archives of Internal Medicine that after adjusting for smoking, body weight and other known risk factors in 13,000 people, they found those with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D were 26 percent more likely to die during a six-year study than those with higher amounts. That study followed previous research by Austrian scientists on more than 3,200 men and women, with an average age of 62, who were scheduled for coronary angioplasty. Seven years after that procedure, those with low D levels were more likely to die—of heart disease as well as other causes.

How does vitamin D—or more specifically, a lack of it—affect age-related conditions?

• Cancer: Without enough vitamin D, cells can multiply too quickly and promote malignant tumors. A deficiency has been linked to increased risk of cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus and lymphatic system and may explain why studies have suggested that people living in southern climates, where sunshine is more plentiful, are less likely than their northern neighbors to die from those cancers. In fact, one study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in June notes that men and women diagnosed with colon cancer who had the highest blood levels of vitamin D were one-third less likely to die from the disease than those with the lowest levels.

• Diabetes: Vitamin D deficiency interferes with insulin secretion and may be linked to a higher risk of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The most recent evidence: A study by Finnish researchers published in Epidemiology in September indicates that men with the highest D levels were 72 percent less likely to have developed type 2 diabetes two decades later than those with the lowest levels.

• Heart disease: This nutrient also helps reduce inflammation, which may explain why it helps keep hearts healthy. In a review published in Circulation of more than 1,700 offspring of the original participants in the Framingham Heart Study, now middle-age and older, researchers found that those with the lowest levels were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke in the next five years as those with higher vitamin D levels. More recent research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in June, compared vitamin D levels in more than 450 men who had heart attacks with 900 men with no history of heart disease. Again, low levels were associated with higher risk.

• Depression: In a study of 1,300 folks age 65 and older, reported in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists from the Netherlands reported that those who were D-deficient face a greater risk of depression. Reason: Without enough D, tiny parathyroid glands located behind the thyroid become overactive, producing excessive amounts of a specific hormone. Overactive parathyroid glands are frequently accompanied by symptoms of depression that disappear after treatment, reports the American Medical Association. Meanwhile, the so-called seasonal affective disorder that causes wintertime blues has long been thought to be caused by a lack of sunshine.

• Parkinson’s: In the latest of several studies suggesting a link with this condition, Emory University researchers report that more than half of Parkinson’s patients they evaluated were vitamin D-deficient—compared with only one in three “healthy” elderly people. In addition, Parkinson’s patients were more than twice as likely to have the very lowest blood levels of D as those without this condition. This new finding, reported in the October issue of Archives of Neurology, follows a 2007 report by another research team suggesting that vitamin D deficiency might even cause this ailment.

• Bone health: Vitamin D is essential to the absorption of calcium to maintain bone density and possibly slow bone loss. In one recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine in August, when researchers compared the vitamin D levels of 400 postmenopausal women who suffered hip fractures with levels of 400 others who didn’t, the risk for fracture rose steadily as vitamin D concentrations fell. In addition to helping keep bones strong, D may also boost balance and muscle strength, thus preventing falls, the primary cause of hip fractures.

It doesn’t end there. A lack of vitamin D is believed to play a role in MS, muscle pain and possibly even some forms of kidney disease. And as you age, you need higher amounts: To prevent a deficiency, the recommended daily allowance is 400 international units (IUs) for men and women between ages 50 and 70; after age 71, it jumps to 600 IUs.

So how can you ensure you’re getting enough, while still reducing your risk for skin cancer?

• Get limited sun exposure of 15 to 20 minutes on unprotected skin, at least twice a week. “That amount won’t increase your risk of developing skin cancer,” says Marianne Berwick, head of the Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention Program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

• Measure your blood. “Men and women concerned about their overall health should have their blood levels of vitamin D monitored to make sure they have enough,” says Erin Michos, M.D., a researcher in a Johns Hopkins study on longevity and vitamin D. This test, called a 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, can be performed during routine screenings for cholesterol and blood sugar, and is covered by Medicare if your doctor prescribes it. If you’re not in Medicare, ask your health plan if it covers the cost.

• Mind your meals. Even though few foods contain vitamin D, the best sources include heart-healthy fish such as salmon and mackerel, eggs, cod liver oil, and fortified milk and other dairy foods. But when choosing dairy, make it low-fat: When researchers looked at the diets of nearly 30,000 women age 45 and older, they found that low-fat dairy products high in vitamin D and calcium lowered the risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease, but higher-fat versions did not.

• Consider supplements. Many multivitamins contain 400 IUs of vitamin D. But some experts, including Michael Holick, M.D., director of the Bone Healthcare Clinic and the Vitamin D, Skin and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston Medical Center, suggest taking an additional daily D-specific supplement of 400 IUs.

Nissa Simon, who lives in New Haven, Conn., writes about nutrition and medical issues.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Oregon Christmas Trees Shipped Far And Wide For The Holidays

Oregon Christmas Trees Shipped Far And Wide For The Holidays


Mollala, OR November 21, 2008 5:56 a.m.

Thanksgiving is still nearly a week away but some Oregon tree farmers have been preparing for Christmas for some time.

More Christmas trees are grown in Oregon than in any other state in the country. Oregon growers will harvest about eight million Christmas trees this year.

Most of those trees will go to California where they can sell for $80 to $100 a tree in places like San Diego.

Pete Springer visited a Christmas tree farm in Mollala.

Click on Image to listen to Audio.

Audio: Dogs barking/panting in the field

Gayla Hansen: “Knock it off!”

Pete Springer: “So will they do that all day?”

Gayla Hansen: “You know, they’ll get pretty tired here in a little bit.”

For Buddy and Jake--two very happy Jack Russell Terriers-- harvest time is all about fun.

For the tree harvesting crew though, it’s a living.

Gayla Hansen oversees a crew cutting down trees on her 40-acre farm outside Mollala.

Gayla Hansen: “Yeah, these will get put into slings, which they’re doing up here and then a helicopter will come and fly them out of the field for bailing and loading.”

Hansen and her husband started growing Christmas trees in the early 90’s. This year, they’ll harvest about three thousand trees.

It’s a year round job-- it's not just planting trees and waiting for them to grow.

Gayla Hansen: “Every year you have to go through and kind of trim them up—we side shear them and the top sometimes it has pretty amazing growth, and obviously you have to do something with that long leader at the top of the tree to hold growth back and make the tree fill in a little bit.”

There’s also weed and pest control to deal with, and the occasional deer or elk that decides to eat the tops off trees.

But it’s harvest time when everything comes together and crews put in the most hours. Cut trees are hauled by helicopter to a landing. That's where they get a good shaking by a device mounted on the back of a tractor.

Gayla Hansen: “It shakes out any loose needles, yellow jackets, spiders—you know, anything that had been living in the tree out in the field.”

The next step is to wrap the tree limbs up with a mechanical baler before loading them onto a truck.

Gayla Hansen: “When we get done loading it, we’ll take it down to the ice plant in Molalla and make sure they stay fresh and cold and hydrated.”

These trees are headed for Mexico, where about 13-percent of Oregon Christmas trees will be shipped this year. But most Oregon trees end up in California. They’re shipped in refrigerated trucks to keep them fresh.

Bryan Ostlund is with the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association.

He says during the peak of tree harvesting, there will be more than 10,000 people working in Oregon to get the trees to market.

Ostlund says the Christmas tree industry actually benefits from the soft economy.

Bryan Ostlund “Christmas trees, when the economy is down, generally sell very well because people are staying home, they’re not traveling as much, kind of an importance of family and friends in holiday celebrations.”

Despite popular belief, the idea of Christmas trees did not come from Pagan rituals. In fact, the first Christmas trees are believed to have originated in 17th century Germany.

It took two centuries for the idea to catch on in the U.S.

The first White House Christmas tree was put up in the 1850’s, but the nation’s first Christmas tree farm wasn’t started until 1901 -- in New Jersey.

Now close to 30 million Christmas tress are sold each year in the U.S.

Bryan Ostlund with Tree Association says Oregon even sells trees to Canada.

Bryan Ostlund “I think it’s part of that process that we go through in the holiday season, getting ready for Christmas. And there’s kind of almost a ritual for how things happen and it’s different with each family but Christmas trees have played a very central role in all of that and that’s just something that survived time.”

Back on Gayla Hansen’s tree farm, it’s no surprise she agrees with that statement.

Gayla Hansen: “It’s a family activity I think is precious, it’s priceless.”

In fact, Hansen usually has three Christmas trees in her house for the holidays.

Gayla Hansen “I’ve been known to keep up my Christmas tree sometimes even until the first of February. I just hate to get rid of it!”

© 2008 OPB

The Lighter Side of the Supreme Court

The Lighter Side of the Supreme Court

Her husband bakes, Scalia sings: Ginsburg describes the lighter side of the Supreme Court

By Jennifer Greenstein Altmann

Posted October 23, 2008; 08:30 p.m.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg provided a rare inside look at the human side of the venerable institution in an appearance Thursday at Princeton University, giving the audience a peek at the personal interactions of the justices and how they maintain friendships despite disagreeing on issues.

Ginsburg, who has been a justice since 1993, also spoke about the tension at the court while it considered Bush v. Gore, the decision that settled the 2000 presidential election, and offered her view that the court may have overstepped in its ruling on Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision regarding abortion.

Her talk was titled "On the Lighter Side of the U.S. Supreme Court: Customs and Habits That Promote Collegiality Among the Justices." After her speech, held at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, she participated in a conversation with Princeton Provost Christopher Eisgruber.

Gatherings of the justices "begin with handshakes," Ginsburg said. "Thirty-six of them, to be exact. Before each day that court begins and before each conference discussion, as we enter the robing room or the conference room, we shake hands, each justice with every other. It's a way of saying, 'Even though you circulated that nasty dissent yesterday, we're in this together and we better get along with each other.'"

The justices have lunch together every day when they are hearing arguments or meeting to discuss cases, "not because it's an obligation but by choice. Usually there are seven or eight of us, and not infrequently all nine." Invited guests have included National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor often stops in as well when she's in town.

Birthdays are celebrated with a pre-lunch toast and singing, which is led by Justice Antonin Scalia "because between us he is the only one who can carry a tune," Ginsburg said. The cake is often baked by her husband, Martin Ginsburg, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and a master chef. Conversation sometimes turns to the performance of the lawyers who have appeared before them, or to the latest exhibit at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

"As you no doubt have noticed, we have sharp differences on certain issues …," she said. "But through it all, despite our sometimes strong differences, we remain good friends and people who respect each other and genuinely enjoy each others' company."

Ginsburg is the second woman to serve on the court. Prior to her appointment, she was a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for 13 years. In 1971, she was instrumental in launching the Women's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. Ginsburg has been a professor of law at Rutgers University School of Law and Columbia Law School.

In her discussion with [Princeton Professor Christopher] Eisgruber, who has written several books on the Constitution and the Supreme Court, Ginsburg talked about the Bush v. Gore decision, on which she dissented. "It's never been cited by the court (since 2000)," she said, "and I don’t think it ever will be." She agreed with Eisgruber when he mentioned that he had told his students he thought the court would not take up the case. "I would have made the same prediction: The court won't touch this with a 10-foot pole," she said.

Recalling those high-pressured days, Ginsburg remarked, "You can imagine how tense things were. ... Everyone was exhausted." One night at 9 p.m. she got a call from Scalia. "He said, 'Ruth, what are you doing still at the court? Go home and take a bath.' I treasure the relationship we have, though we disagree on many issues."

As she examined a small booklet with the text of the Constitution, she described her "favorite provision:" the end of section one of the 14th Amendment. She read aloud from it. "... (N)or shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

On Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973, Ginsburg reiterated her previous criticism of the ruling. A strong supporter of abortion rights, Ginsburg nevertheless said the court "bit off more than it could chew." A more incremental decision "would have been an opportunity for a dialogue with the state legislators" and a chance for states to take the lead on the issue.

Asked about the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices, Ginsburg said she was disturbed by their partisanship. "The practical truth ... is the hearings nowadays are more a show for the members of the (Senate) Judiciary Committee than they are testing for the nominee. They come with a brilliant question, but they have no follow-up questions."

Ginsburg recalled how much less rancorous her own nomination process was. Before putting forth her name, she said, President Clinton, a Democrat, "called Sen. (Orrin) Hatch and said, 'Orrin, I am thinking about nominating Ginsburg,'" she said. As a result, Hatch, a Republican, was "almost my cheerleader at my hearing."

Looking back on 15 years on the court, Ginsburg described the experience as "ever challenging, enormously time-consuming and enormously satisfying." She later added, "I have gotten tremendous satisfaction helping make things a little better for a person or a community."

Students who attended the event said that hearing from Ginsburg gave them a view of the court they had not found in textbooks.

"It really humanized the court," said sophomore Abby Bowman. "It paints a much more complete picture."

"I got a feel for the institution as a group of people, rather than just scholars," said sophomore Vishal Chanani.

"What stood out was the importance of precedent -- the ramifications of what you do now for the future," said senior Mike Wang.

The event was sponsored by the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the University Public Lectures Series. Ginsburg's appearance was this year's John Marshall Harlan '20 Lecture in Constitutional Adjudication, which celebrates the legacy of Harlan, one of nine Supreme Court justices to graduate from Princeton. The event also was supported by the Walter E. Edge Lecture Fund, which brings American and international public leaders to speak on campus.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

President-elect Obama Will Give Weekly Radio/Video Address

To check out Neil Peirce's take on this Click Here.

From the Office of the President-elect: Click Here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oppenheimer the Opera: A review of Doctor Atomic

Oppenheimer the Opera: A review of Doctor Atomic

by Michael Shermer

There are certain characters in science who stand out for their larger-than-science characteristics: Galileo and his conflicts with Papal authorities; Albert Einstein and his political dabblings and pacifist overtures; Richard Feynman and his safecracking, storytelling antics; Stephen Hawking and his ethereal brain trapped in a frozen body. Biographies, documentaries, films, and even plays have attempted to capture the essence of these giants (see QED, for example, the play starring Alan Alda as Feynman). But to my knowledge, none have had an opera produced in their likeness.

Enter Doctor Atomic, a look at the meaning behind the making of the atomic bomb from the perspective of its paterfamilias J. Robert Oppenheimer and his disparate struggles: with nature to reveal her secrets, with his conscious to ease his guilt. He also struggles with General Leslie R. Groves, the titular military head of the Manhattan Project, and with fellow physicist and future father of the H-Bomb, Edward Teller.

Doctor Atomic, which finishes a run at the Metropolitan Opera in New York Thursday (November 13) and will have another staging at the English National Opera in London, is produced by John Adams (Nixon in China) and stars Gerald Finley as Oppenheimer, Richard Paul Fink as Edward Teller, Eric Owens as General Groves, and Sasha Cooke as Oppenheimer’s long-suffering wife Kitty. The setting is Los Alamos, New Mexico, where “the gadget” was built and tested for the first time, with Act 1 about a month before completion and Act 2 the night before and the countdown to the first test at Trinity.

Gerald Finley

If you’ve not experienced an opera in modern English, it takes some getting used to. Mundane conversations take on significance when set in a foreign language, but lose that here. The gravitas of this opera, however, is in the haunting music, the dramatic sets, and especially in the subject matter itself, for seemingly commonplace dialogue is rapidly elevated when the topic is whether uranium or plutonium will kill the most people. The libretto, in fact, was pieced together from numerous historical sources, including Edward Teller’s Memoirs, historian Ferenc Szasz’s The Day the Sun Rose Twice, Robert Norris’s Racing for the Bomb, and others. When Doctor Atomic lets us in on conversations that the Los Alamos scientists had about the possibility that the test shot might set the atmosphere on fire, and gambled on the TNT equivalency of the bomb, we are listening in on history itself.

The opera is long (3.5 hours with intermission), with several interludes not critical to the making, morality, or meaning of the bomb (for example, Groves’s ruminations on diets and his weight). The magnificence of the music, dialogue, sets, costumes, and lighting more than makes up for the length. You feel transported in time, and the opera ends with the audience in the White Sands desert at ground zero—Trinity—played up for its theological meaning. That was the name Oppenheimer gave it, based on Donne’s Holy Sonnet XIV: “Batter my heart, three person’d God; for you / As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend; / That I might rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’ and bend / Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.”

This is, in fact, the underlying leitmotif of Doctor Atomic, and explains my trifling disappointment at the anticlimatic ending to an opera about what is arguably the most climatic event of the 20th century. I was fully expecting the dramatic countdown to the explosion—conveyed by numerous ticking clocks—to end in a flash of light to fill the Met, with Oppenheimer uttering his famous reflection from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Instead, a glow on the horizon signals test success, and as the chorus goes silent from their wordless vibratory exclamations and the cast stares straight ahead at us, we were treated to a Japanese woman’s voice calling for a drink of water. We were suddenly transported to Hiroshima and the audience was the bomb.

Still, Doctor Atomic is a work of stunning depth and unqualified emotion that should be appreciated by sell-out audiences for years to come, for its themes echo the Faustian bargain we continue to make by advancing 21st century science when 1st century political regimes rule parts of the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Down at the heels

Cobbler's Business Steps Up During Thrifty Times

by Adam Allington

To listen to the story Click Here and then on Listen Now.

Morning Edition, November 18, 2008 ·

As Americans trim their budgets, some businesses are ready for thrifty activity. In St. Louis, a shoe repair shop has seen business skyrocket as the economy prompts more customers to have shoes fixed instead of buying new ones. Jeff Lipson of Cobblestone Shoe Repair is a third-generation cobbler, and he's seeing a new type of customer.

Monday, November 17, 2008

High Culture Down Under

Economic fire codes

A new rationale for regulatory oversight

An extract from Written Testimony of Andrew W. Lo Prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform November 13, 2008 Hearing on Hedge Funds

Left to their own devices, market forces generally yield economically efficient outcomes under normal market conditions, and regulatory intervention is not only unnecessary but often counterproductive. However, under atypical market conditions—prolonged periods of prosperity, or episodes of great uncertainty—market forces cannot be trusted to yield the most desirable outcomes, which motivates the need for regulation.

A simple example of this dynamic is the existence of fire codes enacted by federal, state, and local governments requiring all public buildings to have a minimum number of exits, well-lit exit signs, a maximum occupancy, and certain types of sprinklers, smoke detectors, and fire alarms. Why are fire codes necessary? In particular, given the costs associated with compliance, why not let markets determine the appropriate level of fire protection demanded by the public? Those seeking safer buildings should be willing to pay more to occupy them, and those willing to take the risk need not pay for what they deem to be unnecessary fire protection. A perfectly satisfactory outcome of this free-market approach should be a world with two types of buildings, one with fire protection and another without, leaving the public free to choose between the two according to their risk preferences.

But this is not the outcome that society has chosen. Instead, we require all new buildings to have extensive fire protection, and the simplest explanation for this state of affairs is the recognition— after years of experience and many lost lives—that we systematically under-estimate the likelihood of a fire.5 In fact, assuming that improbable events are impossible is a universal human trait (see, for example, Plous, 1993, and Slovic, 2000), hence the typical builder will not voluntarily spend significant sums to prepare for an event that most individuals will not value because they judge the likelihood of such an event to be nil. Of course, experience has shown that fires do occur, and when they do, it is too late to add fire protection. What free-market economists interpret as interference with Adam Smith’s invisible hand may, instead, be a mechanism for protecting ourselves from our own behavioral blind spots. Just as Odysseus asked his shipmates to tie him to the mast and plug his ears with wax as they sailed past the three Sirens of Circe’s islands, we use regulation as a tool to protect ourselves from our most selfdestructive tendencies.

Sunday, November 16, 2008



Sometimes when day after day we have cloudless blue skies,
warm temperatures, colorful trees and brilliant sun, when
it seems like all this will go on forever,

when I harvest vegetables from the garden all day,
then drink tea and doze in the late afternoon sun,
and in the evening one night make pickled beets
and green tomato chutney, the next red tomato chutney,
and the day after that pick the fruits of my arbor
and make grape jam,

when we walk in the woods every evening over fallen leaves,
through yellow light, when nights are cool, and days warm,

when I am so happy I am afraid I might explode or disappear
or somehow be taken away from all this,

at those times when I feel so happy, so good, so alive, so in love
with the world, with my own sensuous, beautiful life, suddenly

I think about all the suffering and pain in the world, the agony
and dying. I think about all those people being tortured, right now,
in my name. But I still feel happy and good, alive and in love with
the world and with my lucky, guilty, sensuous, beautiful life because,

I know in the next minute or tomorrow all this may be
taken from me, and therefore I've got to say, right now,
what I feel and know and see, I've got to say, right now,
how beautiful and sweet this world can be.

From The Writer's Almanac

Saturday, November 15, 2008

E-patient Heal Thyself

Do you have a medical condition and want to find out what's causing it? Do you know what condition you have and want to know more about it or find other patients with the same condition. You can find that and more in these links: Click here.

In the industrial age, the means of production and ability to create value were centralized in massive facilities. If you didn't own the factory, you didn't have freedom and power.

Click to enlarge.

In the information age, those with access to information have access to power and can create value.

Click to Enlarge

Images from The New Life of E-Patient Dave

UPS/FedEx Delivery Failure Virus

New Computer Virus circulating called UPS/FedEx Delivery Failure

Click here: UPS/FedEx Delivery Failure

More More More

Obama and Remedying Hyper-Individualism

Sunday, November 16, 2008

© 2008
Washington Post Writers Group

By Neal Peirce

Is there a chance that election of Barack Obama, combined with financial meltdown, will start turning us away from the hyper-individualism of recent years?

What’s hyper-individualism? Like pornography, you can recognize it when you see it. Lifestyle choices such as picking a gas-guzzling SUV to reach a suburban McMansion so big you rarely visit all the rooms. Headphones and solo video games in place of group activities. Disdaining civic life or responsibilities. Chronically shopping ’til you drop. Needlessly running up credit card balances. And economically, consistently wanting more, more, more.

It’s true, technology has set us up for this. Our encapsulated private lives–automobiles, television, air conditioning, the Internet, or shopping for cheap foreign goods in vast, impersonal big box stores–they’re all the antithesis of life around an historic town square or Grange hall.

But after John Kennedy’s plea to do more for our country, what other politician–until Obama–urged “a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice?” Remember President Bush after 9/11? He announced a global war on terror and simultaneously advised us: “Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life.”

Now in the face of our mortgage excesses, our incredibly shortsighted investment and credit rating houses, our near doubling of the national debt in eight years, we face a grim awakening.

Today’s crisis will sorely test Obama, his governing team and Congress, indeed the American people. Yet if we have a chance, the decision of Nov. 4 may prove critical. The racial factor–the first black president in a nation that once tolerated slavery–turned election night into a powerful national catharsis.

But beyond race, Obama’s belief in a common good, a shared American enterprise, comes at the moment we most need to climb out of our hyper-individualism.

An e-mail from my friend Bert Wakeley, who spent 20 years in public service including stints for five governors (two Democrats and three Republicans), says it well:

“Obama- a child of America and Africa. A person committed to public service. I believe he is smart, savvy, calm, spiritual, tough, brave and inspiring. And he is not afraid of tough public policy discussions. He is not afraid of other smart people. He seems to understand politics from the ‘better angels’ side.”

Which makes me wonder–can Obama also help restore our faith in our government, our institutions, our neighbors?

A first issue has to be giving all Americans a fair chance to succeed. Rich households (the richest 1 percent now receiving their biggest income share since 1928) are leaving both middle and lower income groups in the dust. The purchasing power of the top 10 percent households is highest among the 30 OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nations. But incomes of the poorest 10 percent of Americans are 20 percent lower than the OECD average.

High inequality means children have less chance to do better than their parents. The American Dream is deeply threatened–personally, collectively. So President Obama will be challenged: if banks, insurers, even auto firms can be rescued, how about poor and jobless American families?

And while families are critical, how about physical infrastructure–repairing roads and bridges, fixing dilapidated schools and building new “green” ones, expanding public transit and building world-standard rapid rail systems? Like FDR’s New Deal, such projects put people to work and make for a stronger nation to come.

Notably, voters Nov. 4 passed the vast majority of ballot measures for transportation, conservation and water quality improvements, according to a survey by Phyllis Myers of State Resource Strategies. Among the approvals: $9.95 billion for high-speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles, a project supporters claim will create a half million jobs.

But it’s also true that the economic downturn is ravaging state and local budgets–800 jobs in Philadelphia, 4,000 in New York City, for example. Each state and local cutback deepens the recession. Shouldn’t Washington help out?

And there’s the lurking, mega-issue of our time: climate change. Carbon levels in the atmosphere are rising even more rapidly than the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change’s already alarming projections of 2007. Per capita, we Americans are world leaders in throwing tons of waste into the fragile ecosystem of earth. The only conceivable cures include rapid energy savings, radically reduced driving, regional and home-grown foods, more compact communities. Climate dictates we get “back together again,” purposefully recovering from the Bush administration’s shameful dereliction.

So is there any alternative to purposeful change, relinquishing our profligate lifestyles, abandoning our hyper-individualism, learning to pull together as we’ve not done since World War II? Economist Paul Romer famously declared: “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” My bet is that Obama will agree–and move accordingly.

Neal Peirce’s e-mail is

The End of Wall Street

To read the story click here.

Photoillustration by: Ji Lee

Adult down

CPR. A lifesaving action.

When an adult has a sudden cardiac arrest, his or her survival depends greatly on immediately getting CPR from someone nearby. Unfortunately, less than 1/3 of those people who experience a cardiac arrest at home, work or in a public location get that help. Most bystanders are worried that they might do something wrong or make things worse. That’s why the AHA has simplified things.

Two steps to save a life.

When an adult suddenly collapses, trained or untrained bystanders – that means a person near the victim – should:

1) Call 911

2) Push hard and fast in the center of the chest.

Studies of real emergencies that have occurred in homes, at work or in public locations, show that these two steps, called Hands-Only CPR, can be as effective as conventional CPR. Providing Hands-Only CPR to an adult who has collapsed from a sudden cardiac arrest can more than double that person’s chance of survival.

Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.

It’s not normal to see an adult suddenly collapse, but if you do, call 911 and push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Don’t be afraid. Your actions can only help.

Take a minute and look around this site. You will find more information about Hands-Only CPR on the resources and FAQs pages, including a video demonstration. You’ll also find information about the science behind this recommendation, fun videos to watch and much more. Invite your friends to this site, too! Increasing the number of people who know about Hands-Only CPR will increase the chance that someone can and will help when an adult suddenly collapses and more lives will be saved.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A super request

Portland Opera is seeking supernumeraries or "extras" for their upcoming production of The Turn of the Screw. It's an unusual production in that they need 40 supers all over the age of 60! This is an exciting chance to perform in an opera without actually having to sing.

The production requires 20 men and 29 women who are servants in the house. They are all supposed to be or look at least 60 years old. (Don't worry - makeup can help with this) The production in being directed by Nic Muni and looks very interesting. The supers are onstage for a large portion of the show, watching the action and moving some props.

This is a large time commitment, generally around 30 hours of rehearsal BEFORE the move from the Hampton Opera Center to the Keller Auditorium for rehearsals and performances.

Staging Rehearsals at the Hampton Opera Center
Rehearsals begin January 12, 2009.
Rehearsals take place M-Th and Saturday from 7p-10p, and Sunday from 1p-5p. A detailed rehearsal schedule will be available in early Dec., with exact dates and times outlined.

Onstage rehearsals at the Keller Auditorium
Friday, Jan. 20 7p-11p
Sat. Jan. 31 7p-11p
Sunday, Feb. 1 7p-11p
Monday, Feb. 2 7p-10:30p
Wed., Feb. 4 7p-10:30p

Friday, Feb. 6 7:30p
Sunday, Feb. 8 2p
Thursday, Feb. 12 7:30p
Sat., Feb. 14 7:30p

Please email with questions.

If you are interested please out an online application:

More on the G-20

More on the G-20

Eight Isn't Enough: G-20 Countries To Meet In D.C.

by Michele Kelemen

Morning Edition, November 12, 2008

To listen Click Here and then click on Listen Now.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to make big powers realize that their diplomatic clubs shouldn't be so exclusive. So instead of gathering leaders from the Group of Eight to talk about the financial crisis, the Group of 20 is converging on Washington, D.C, this week.

Formed in 1999 as a response to the financial crises of that decade, the G-20 is a forum for emerging economies and the world's richest nations to talk about global economic stability. Usually, G-20 finance ministers and central bankers gather. The Nov. 15 meeting will be the first head of state G-20 summit.

The G-20 is comprised of 20 of the world's largest economies: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

The Bush administration has been playing down expectations for the summit. But Eswar Prasad of the Brookings Institution says the forum needs to address calls to reform the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to "give the large emerging market economies the seat at the table they deserve and the level of influence they deserve."

When it comes to reforming the international financial institutions, the Americans and Europeans always seem to get "cold feet," says Raghuram G. Rajan, a former chief economist at the IMF. He says there is "a certain amount of plausible deniability in this meeting" because this is a transition time in Washington. The Bush administration can just listen and not have to make decisions.

Rajan, who is a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says that "if enough of the other countries make their voices heard at this meeting and say we are not willing to go along with incremental change, it does put a lot of pressure on the Obama administration to respond, because this is a crisis that was made in America."

President-elect Barack Obama's administration also will have to think about what sort of diplomatic grouping would be most appropriate to deal not only with this financial crisis, but also other global challenges — from climate change to nonproliferation.

Most experts believe that China and India have to be invited to dinner — not just dessert — at G-8 summits. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter, says the G-8 should expand to a G-14 or G-16.

"I think participation should be determined by some generalized definition of international influence, which means, yes, economy, money, but also military power and willingness to act on the global scene as a sort of responsible shareholder," Brzezinski says.

Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser for President George H.W. Bush, says, "There is no magic number." If you make the group too large, he says, it becomes unwieldy, and if it remains small, you leave out important players.

Related Story.
G-20 To Work On Reviving Economic Downturn

Morning Edition, November 12, 2008 · Leaders of the world's 20 largest industrial nations and emerging economies meet this week in Washington, D.C., to discuss the global economic downturn. Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT and a former IMF chief economist, tells Ari Shapiro that the meeting could be a springboard for a more fundamental restructuring of the international financial system.