Arquivo da tag: Marketing

How Bad Is It? (The New Inquiry)


Jasper Johns, Green Flag, 1956 (Graphite pencil, crayon and collage on paper)

Pretty bad. Here is a sample of factlets from surveys and studies conducted in the past twenty years. Seventy percent of Americans believe in the existence of angels. Fifty percent believe that the earth has been visited by UFOs; in another poll, 70 percent believed that the U.S. government is covering up the presence of space aliens on earth. Forty percent did not know whom the U.S. fought in World War II. Forty percent could not locate Japan on a world map. Fifteen percent could not locate the United States on a world map. Sixty percent of Americans have not read a book since leaving school. Only 6 percent now read even one book a year. According to a very familiar statistic that nonetheless cannot be repeated too often, the average American’s day includes six minutes playing sports, five minutes reading books, one minute making music, 30 seconds attending a play or concert, 25 seconds making or viewing art, and four hours watching television.

Among high-school seniors surveyed in the late 1990s, 50 percent had not heard of the Cold War. Sixty percent could not say how the United States came into existence. Fifty percent did not know in which century the Civil War occurred. Sixty percent could name each of the Three Stooges but not the three branches of the U.S. government. Sixty percent could not comprehend an editorial in a national or local newspaper.

Intellectual distinction isn’t everything, it’s true. But things are amiss in other areas as well: sociability and trust, for example. “During the last third of the twentieth century,” according to Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone, “all forms of social capital fell off precipitously.” Tens of thousands of community groups – church social and charitable groups, union halls, civic clubs, bridge clubs, and yes, bowling leagues — disappeared; by Putnam’s estimate, one-third of our social infrastructure vanished in these years. Frequency of having friends to dinner dropped by 45 percent; card parties declined 50 percent; Americans’ declared readiness to make new friends declined by 30 percent. Belief that most other people could be trusted dropped from 77 percent to 37 percent. Over a five-year period in the 1990s, reported incidents of aggressive driving rose by 50 percent — admittedly an odd, but probably not an insignificant, indicator of declining social capital.

Still, even if American education is spotty and the social fabric is fraying, the fact that the U.S. is the world’s richest nation must surely make a great difference to our quality of life? Alas, no. As every literate person knows, economic inequality in the United States is off the charts – at third-world levels. The results were recently summarized by James Speth in Orion magazine. Of the 20 advanced democracies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the U.S. has the highest poverty rate, for both adults and children; the lowest rate of social mobility; the lowest score on UN indexes of child welfare and gender inequality; the highest ratio of health care expenditure to GDP, combined with the lowest life expectancy and the highest rates of infant mortality, mental illness, obesity, inability to afford health care, and personal bankruptcy resulting from medical expenses; the highest homicide rate; and the highest incarceration rate. Nor are the baneful effects of America’s social and economic order confined within our borders; among OECD nations the U.S. also has the highest carbon dioxide emissions, the highest per capita water consumption, the next-to-largest ecological footprint, the next-to-lowest score on the Yale Environmental Performance Index, the highest (by a colossal margin) per capita rate of military spending and arms sales, and the next-to-lowest rate of per capita spending on international development and humanitarian assistance.

Contemplating these dreary statistics, one might well conclude that the United States is — to a distressing extent — a nation of violent, intolerant, ignorant, superstitious, passive, shallow, boorish, selfish, unhealthy, unhappy people, addicted to flickering screens, incurious about other societies and cultures, unwilling or unable to assert or even comprehend their nominal political sovereignty. Or, more simply, that America is a failure.

That is indeed what Morris Berman concludes in his three-volume survey of America’s decline: The Twilight of American Culture (2000), Dark Ages America (2006), andWhy America Failed (2011), from which much of the preceding information is taken. Berman is a cultural and intellectual historian, not a social scientist, so his portrait of American civilization, or barbarism, is anecdotal and atmospheric as well as statistical. He is eloquent about harder-to-quantify trends: the transformation of higher (even primary/secondary) education into marketing arenas for predatory corporations; the new form of educational merchandising known as “distance learning”; the colonization of civic and cultural spaces by corporate logos; the centrality of malls and shopping to our social life; the “systematic suppression of silence” and the fact that “there is barely an empty space in our culture not already carrying commercial messages.” Idiot deans, rancid rappers, endlessly chattering sports commentators, an avalanche of half-inch-deep self-help manuals; a plague of gadgets, a deluge of stimuli, an epidemic of rudeness, a desert of mutual indifference: the upshot is our daily immersion in a suffocating stream of kitsch, blather, stress, and sentimental banality. Berman colorfully and convincingly renders the relentless coarsening and dumbing down of everyday life in late (dare we hope?) American capitalism.

In Spenglerian fashion, Berman seeks the source of our civilization’s decline in its innermost principle, its animatingGeist. What he finds at the bottom of our culture’s soul is … hustling; or, to use its respectable academic sobriquet, possessive individualism. Expansion, accumulation, economic growth: this is the ground bass of American history, like the hum of a dynamo in the basement beneath the polite twitterings on the upper stories about “liberty” and “a light unto the nations.” Berman scarcely mentions Marx or historical materialism; instead he offers a nonspecialist and accessible but deeply informed and amply documented review of American history, period by period, war by war, arguing persuasively that whatever the ideological superstructure, the driving energy behind policy and popular aspiration has been a ceaseless, soulless acquisitiveness.

The colonial period, the seedbed of American democracy, certainly featured a good deal of God-talk and virtue-talk, but Mammon more than held its own. Berman sides emphatically with Louis Hartz, who famously argued in The Liberal Tradition in America that American society was essentially Lockean from the beginning: individualistic, ambitious, protocapitalist, with a weak and subordinate communitarian ethic. He finds plenty of support elsewhere as well; for example in Perry Miller, the foremost historian of Puritanism, according to whom the American mind has always “positively lusted for the chance to yield itself to the gratification of technology.” Even Tocqueville, who made many similar observations, “could not comprehend,” wrote Miller, “the passion with which [early Americans] flung themselves into the technological torrent, how they … cried to each other as they went headlong down the chute that here was their destiny, here was the tide that would sweep them toward the unending vistas of prosperity.” Even Emerson and Whitman went through a phase of infatuation with industrial progress, though Hawthorne and Thoreau apparently always looked on the juggernaut with clearer (or more jaundiced) eyes.

Berman also sides, for the most part, with Charles Beard, who drew attention to the economic conflicts underlying the American Revolution and the Civil War. Beard may have undervalued the genuine intellectual ferment that accompanied the Revolution, but he was not wrong in perceiving the motivating force of the pervasive commercial ethic of the age. Joyce Appleby, another eminent historian, poses this question to those who idealize America’s founding: “If the Revolution was fought in a frenzy over corruption, out of fear of tyranny, and with hopes for redemption through civic virtue, where and when are scholars to find the sources for the aggressive individualism, the optimistic materialism, and the pragmatic interest-group politics that became so salient so early in the life of the nation?”

By the mid-nineteenth century, the predominance of commercial interests in American politics was unmistakable. Berman’s lengthy discussion of the Civil War as the pivot of American history takes for granted the inadequacy of triumphalist views of the Civil War. It was not a “battle cry of freedom.” Slavery was central, but for economic rather than moral reasons. The North represented economic modernity and the ethos of material progress; the economy and ethos of the South, based on slavery, was premodern and static. The West — and with it the shape of America’s economic future — was up for grabs, and the North grabbed it away from an equally determined South. Except for the abolitionists, no whites, North or South, gave a damn about blacks. How the West (like the North and South before it) was grabbed, in an orgy of greed, violence, and deceit against the original inhabitants, is a familiar story.

Even more than in Beard, Berman finds his inspiration in William Appleman Williams. When McKinley’s secretary of state John Hay advocated “an open door through which America’s preponderant economic strength would enter and dominate all underdeveloped areas of the world” and his successor William Jennings Bryan (the celebrated populist and anti-imperialist!) told a gathering of businessmen in 1915 that “my Department is your department; the ambassadors, the ministers, the consuls are all yours; it is their business to look after your interests and to guard your rights,” they were enunciating the soul of American foreign policy, as was the much-lauded Wise Man George Kennan when he wrote in a post-World War II State Department policy planning document: “We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population … In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity … To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives … We should cease to talk about vague and … unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.”

As a former medievalist, Berman finds contemporary parallels to the fall of Rome compelling. By the end of the empire, he points out, economic inequality was drastic and increasing, the legitimacy and efficacy of the state was waning, popular culture was debased, civic virtue among elites was practically nonexistent, and imperial military commitments were hopelessly unsustainable. As these volumes abundantly illustrate, this is 21st century America in a nutshell. The capstone of Berman’s demonstration is a sequence of three long, brilliant chapters in Dark Ages America on the Cold War, the Pax Americana, CIA and military interventions in the Third World, and in particular U.S. policy in the Middle East, where racism and rapacity have combined to produce a stunning debacle. Our hysterical national response to 9/11 — our inability even to make an effort to comprehend the long-festering consequences of our imperial predations — portended, as clearly as anything could, the demise of American global supremacy.

What will become of us? After Rome’s fall, wolves wandered through the cities and Europe largely went to sleep for six centuries. That will not happen again; too many transitions — demographic, ecological, technological, cybernetic — have intervened. The planet’s metabolism has altered. The new Dark Ages will be socially, politically, and spiritually dark, but the economic Moloch — mass production and consumption, destructive growth, instrumental rationality — will not disappear. Few Americans want it to. We are hollow, Berman concludes. It is a devastatingly plausible conclusion.

An interval — long or short, only the gods can say — of oligarchic, intensely surveilled, bread-and-circuses authoritarianism, Blade Runner- or Fahrenheit 451-style, seems the most likely outlook for the 21st and 22nd centuries. Still, if most humans are shallow and conformist, some are not. There is reason to hope that the ever fragile but somehow perennial traditions and virtues of solidarity, curiosity, self-reliance, courtesy, voluntary simplicity, and an instinct for beauty will survive, even if underground for long periods. And cultural rebirths do occur, or at any rate have occurred.

Berman offers little comfort, but he does note a possible role for those who perceive the inevitability of our civilization’s decline. He calls it the “monastic option.” Our eclipse may, after all, not be permanent; and meanwhile individuals and small groups may preserve the best of our culture by living against the grain, within the interstices, by “creating ‘zones of intelligence’ in a private, local way, and then deliberately keeping them out of the public eye.” Even if one’s ideals ultimately perish, this may be the best way to live while they are dying.

There is something immensely refreshing, even cathartic, about Berman’s refusal to hold out any hope of avoiding our civilization’s demise. And our reaction goes some way toward proving his point: We are so sick of hucksters, of authors trying — like everyone else on all sides at all times in this pervasively hustling culture — to sell us something, that it is a relief to encounter someone who isn’t, who has no designs on our money or votes or hopes, who simply has looked into the depths, into our catastrophic future, and is compelled to describe it, as Cassandra was. No doubt his efforts will meet with equal success.

Sobrevivência com créditos de carbono (Terramérica)

28/5/2012 – 09h57

por Fabíola Ortiz*

c17 300x240 TERRAMÉRICA   Sobrevivência com créditos de carbono

O cacique Almir Suruí (E) em sua aldeia. Foto: Divulgação Povo Paiter-Suruí.

Os paiter-suruí,  do Estado brasileiro de Rondônia, na Amazônia, preveem arrecadar pelo menos US$ 40 milhões nos próximos 30 anos com o serviço ambiental de restaurar e fazer uso sustentável da selva.

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 28 de maio de 2012 (Terramérica).- O povo nativo paiter-suruí, no coração da Amazônia brasileira, não tinha contato com o mundo ocidental até 45 anos atrás. Hoje, aposta nos complexos mercados de carbono para garantir sua sobrevivência. Habitantes do território Sete de Setembro, quase 250 mil hectares localizados entre os Estados de Rondônia e Mato Grosso, perto da fronteira com a Bolívia, os paiter-suruí viveram uma história vertiginosa nas últimas décadas.

Apenas três anos depois de seu primeiro contato com o “homem branco”, em 1969, quase chegaram à extinção: a população de cinco mil pessoas caiu para apenas 300 devido à mortandade causada pelas doenças trazidas pelos invasores. Hoje são cerca de 1.350 e estão determinados a perdurar. Suruí é o nome que os antropólogos lhes deram. Porém, entre si, eles se chamam paiter, “o povo verdadeiro, nós mesmos” na língua tupi-mondé que falam.

O negócio que pretendem é parte do Projeto de Carbono da Floresta Suruí, aprovado em abril, que prevê mecanismos para neutralizar as emissões de dióxido de carbono, como evitar o desmatamento, mantendo esse elemento na massa florestal, e absorvendo-o da atmosfera, mediante o reflorestamento. Estas ações estão previstas no regime de Redução de Emissões provocadas pelo Desmatamento e pela Degradação das Florestas (REDD+), impulsionado pela Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) como instrumento para mitigar a mudança climática.

A compra e venda de direitos de emissão de carbono, ou certificados de carbono, está prevista nos sistemas de controle da mudança climática para que empresas ou países grandes emissores de gases-estufa paguem a outros que possuem mecanismos para reduzi-las. Após décadas resistindo ao embate dos madeireiros, caçadores e colonos, desde 2005 os paiter-suruí plantaram 14 mil exemplares de 17 espécies, entre elas cacau e café, árvores de madeira nobre como mogno, cerejeira e ipê, e frutíferas como açaí, pupunha e babaçu.

“Queremos beneficiar nosso povo e nos desenvolvermos de acordo com nossa necessidade da região, valorizando produtos florestais. Uma política econômica verde é justamente um planejamento de uso sustentável”, disse ao Terramérica o líder deste povo, Almir Suruí, que também integra a Coordenação das Organizações Indígenas da Amazônia Brasileira. O cacique Almir, de 38 anos, sempre está com seu corpo pintado e usa colares de sementes nativas feitos pelas mulheres de seu povo. E também veste roupa ocidental quando tem compromissos fora de sua aldeia, mas que não escondem totalmente a pintura corporal.

Antes de ficar conhecido no Brasil, obteve reconhecimento internacional por denunciar na Organização dos Estados Americanos (OEA) a exploração ilegal de madeira nas terras de seu povo e por defender os direitos e a integridade dos grupos em isolamento voluntário, além de lutar contra a construção de represas hidrelétricas nos rios de Rondônia. Para conseguir seus objetivos de sustentabilidade, os paiter-suruí trabalham associados com várias organizações não governamentais e instituições estatais, como o governamental Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade (Funbio), que facilita a criação de mecanismos financeiros e ferramentas que garantam renda para os paiter-suruí.

O projeto Carbono Suruí tem duração de três décadas para a conservação de uma área com mais de 12 mil hectares, segundo Angelo dos Santos, um dos coordenadores da Funbio. “Todos os anos os paiter-suruí asseguram um volume de carbono não emitido que será oferecido ao mercado”, explicou Angelo ao Terramérica. “Nos próximos 30 anos, a quantidade que o povo paiter-suruí acumulará pelo desmatamento evitado será de oito milhões de toneladas de dióxido de carbono. E assim se pagará aos indígenas por não desmatarem”, acrescentou. As estimativas indicam que podem arrecadar US$ 40 milhões pela cotação atual do mercado, que está em US$ 5 para cada tonelada de carbono.

Segundo Angelo, há várias formas de comercializar os certificados de carbono. Uma delas é que sejam comprados por empresas interessadas em neutralizar ou compensar suas próprias emissões desse gás-estufa. “Isto é uma grande inovação”, ressaltou. Os recursos obtidos pela venda de certificados serão destinados ao Fundo de Gestão Paiter-Suruí, oficializado no começo de maio para incentivar um plano de desenvolvimento e tornar viáveis formas de gerar renda sem destruir a selva.

Já são produzidas mais de quatro mil toneladas por ano de café orgânico e cerca de dez mil toneladas de castanha amazônica, contou o cacique. As duas produções já contam com planos de negócios. Enquanto isso, “o Fundo Paiter-Suruí vai arrecadar recursos próprios com doações de bancos multilaterais e empresas, e pela venda de certificados de carbono”, detalhou Angelo. A meta é captar US$ 6 milhões nos próximos três anos. E em seis anos o Fundo será completamente administrado pelos paiter-suruí, que já estão se capacitando para isso.

É, sob todos os aspectos, um caso excepcional. Trata-se do primeiro mecanismo financeiro criado para um povo indígena que quer garantir sua sobrevivência e a de sua cultura. Estas iniciativas valeram ao cacique Almir o 53º lugar entre as cem pessoas mais criativas para negócios em 2011, um ranking preparado pela revista norte-americana Fast Company. Não por acaso, Almir foi convidado este mês para falar sobre inovação para dirigentes empresariais e pesquisadores, em um encontro organizado pela revista britânica The Economist.

* A autora é correspondente da IPS.

Wearing Two Different Hats: Moral Decisions May Depend On the Situation (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2012) — An individual’s sense of right or wrong may change depending on their activities at the time — and they may not be aware of their own shifting moral integrity — according to a new study looking at why people make ethical or unethical decisions.

Focusing on dual-occupation professionals, the researchers found that engineers had one perspective on ethical issues, yet when those same individuals were in management roles, their moral compass shifted. Likewise, medic/soldiers in the U.S. Army had different views of civilian casualties depending on whether they most recently had been acting as soldiers or medics.

In the study, to be published in a future issue of The Academy of Management Journal, lead author Keith Leavitt of Oregon State University found that workers who tend to have dual roles in their jobs would change their moral judgments based on what they thought was expected of them at the moment.

“When people switch hats, they often switch moral compasses,” Leavitt said. “People like to think they are inherently moral creatures — you either have character or you don’t. But our studies show that the same person may make a completely different decision based on what hat they may be wearing at the time, often without even realizing it.”

Leavitt, an assistant professor of management in the College of Business at OSU, is an expert on non-conscious decision making and business ethics. He studies how people make decisions and moral judgments, often based on non-conscious cues.

He said recent high-profile business scandals, from the collapse of Enron to the Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff, have called into question the ethics of professionals. Leavitt said professional organizations, employers and academic institutions may want to train and prepare their members for practical moral tensions they may face when asked to serve in multiple roles.

“What we consider to be moral sometimes depends on what constituency we are answering to at that moment,” Leavitt said. “For a physician, a human life is priceless. But if that same physician is a managed-care administrator, some degree of moral flexibility becomes necessary to meet their obligations to stockholders.”

Leavitt said subtle cues — such as signage and motivation materials around the office — should be considered, along with more direct training that helps employees who juggle multiple roles that could conflict with one another.

“Organizations and businesses need to recognize that even very subtle images and icons can give employees non-conscious clues as to what the firm values,” he said. “Whether they know it or not, people are often taking in messages about what their role is and what is expected of them, and this may conflict with what they know to be the moral or correct decision.”

The researchers conducted three different studies with employees who had dual roles. In one case, 128 U.S. Army medics were asked to complete a series of problem-solving tests, which included subliminal cues that hinted they might be acting as either a medic or a soldier. No participant said the cues had any bearing on their behavior — but apparently they did. A much larger percentage of those in the medic category than in the soldier category were unwilling to put a price on human life.

In another test, a group of engineer-managers were asked to write about a time they either behaved as a typical manager, engineer, or both. Then they were asked whether U.S. firms should engage in “gifting” to gain a foothold in a new market. Despite the fact such a practice would violate federal laws, more than 50 percent of those who fell into the “manager” category said such a practice might be acceptable, compared to 13 percent of those in the engineer category.

“We find that people tend to make decisions that may conflict with their morals when they are overwhelmed, or when they are just doing routine tasks without thinking of the consequences,” Leavitt said. “We tend to play out a script as if our role has already been written. So the bottom line is, slow down and think about the consequences when making an ethical decision.”

New climate emails leaked ahead of talks (CBS)

November 22, 2011 2:15 PM

The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. (AP)  

LONDON – The British university whose leaked emails caused a global climate science controversy in 2009 says it has discovered a potentially much larger data breach.

University of East Anglia spokesman Simon Dunford said that while academics didn’t have the chance yet to examine the roughly 5,000 emails apparently dumped into the public domain Tuesday, a small sample examined by the university “appears to be genuine.”

The university said in a statement that the emails did not appear to be the result of a new hack or leak. Instead, the statement said that the emails appeared to have been stolen two years ago and held back until now “to cause maximum disruption” to the imminent U.N. climate talks next week in Durban, South Africa.

If that is confirmed, the timing and nature of the leak would follow the pattern set by the so-called “Climategate” emails, which caught prominent scientists stonewalling critics and discussing ways to keep opponents’ research out of peer-reviewed journals.

Those hostile to mainstream climate science claimed the exchanges proved that the threat of global warming was being hyped, and their publication helped destabilize the failed U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, which followed several weeks later.

Although several reviews have since vindicated the researchers’ science, some of their practices – in particular efforts to hide data from critics – have come under strong criticism.

The content of the new batch of emails couldn’t be immediately verified – The Associated Press has not yet been able to secure a copy – but climate skeptic websites carried what they said were excerpts.

Although their context couldn’t be determined, the excerpts appeared to show climate scientists talking in conspiratorial tones about ways to promote their agenda and freeze out those they disagree with. There are several mentions of “the cause” and discussions of ways to shield emails from freedom of information requests.

Penn State University Prof. Michael Mann – a prominent player in the earlier controversy whose name also appears in the latest leak – described the latest leak as “a truly pathetic episode,” blaming agents of the fossil fuel industry for “smear, innuendo, criminal hacking of websites, and leaking out-of-context snippets of personal emails.”

He said the real story in the emails was “an attempt to dig out 2-year-old turkey from Thanksgiving ’09. That’s how desperate climate change deniers have become.”

Bob Ward, with the London School of Economics’ Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, said in an email that he wasn’t surprised by the leak.

“The selective presentation of old email messages is clearly designed to mislead the public and politicians about the strength of the evidence for man-made climate change,” he said. “But the fact remains that there is very strong evidence that most the indisputable warming of the Earth over the past half century is due to the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities.”

The source of the latest leaked emails was unclear. The perpetrator of the original hack has yet to be unmasked, although British police have said their investigation is still active.

Climate researchers cleared of malpractice
An End to Climategate? Penn State Clears Michael Mann
Why climate change skeptics remain skeptical

From Shore to Forest, Projecting Effects of Climate Change (N.Y. Times)


While the long-term outlook for grape-growers in the Finger Lakes region is favorable, it is less than optimal for skiers and other winter sports enthusiasts in the Adirondacks. Fir and spruce trees are expected to die out in the Catskills, and New York City’s backup drinking water supply may well be contaminated as a result of seawater making its way farther up the Hudson River.

These possibilities — modeled deep into this century — are detailed in a new assessment of the impact that climate change will have in New York State. The 600-page report, published on Wednesday, was commissioned by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, a public-benefit corporation, and is a result of three years of work by scientists at state academic institutions, including Columbia and Cornell Universities and the City University of New York.

Its authors say it is the most detailed study that looks at how changes brought about by a warming Earth — from rising temperatures to more precipitation and global sea level rise — will affect the economy, the ecology and even the social fabric of the state.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, a senior research scientist at Columbia’s Earth Institute, said the report was much broader in scope than earlier efforts by New York City that tried to evaluate how best to prepare for climate change.

“New York City’s report focuses on how climate change will affect critical structures” like bridges and sewage systems, she said. “This report also looks at public health, agriculture, transportation and economics.”

The authors drew on results from global climate models and then created projections for variables like rainfall and temperatures for seven regions across the state. Then they tried to assess how those alterations would play out in specific terms. They also developed adaptation recommendations for different economic sectors.

If carbon emissions continue to increase at their current pace, for example, temperatures are expected to rise across the state by 3 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2020s and by as much as 9 degrees by the 2080s. That would have profound effects on agriculture across the state, the report found. For example, none of the varieties of apples currently grown in New York orchards would be viable. Dairy farms would be less productive as cows faced heat stress. And the state’s forests would be transformed; spruce-fir forests and alpine tundra would disappear as invasive species like kudzu, an aggressive weed, gained more ground.

If the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melt, as the report says could happen, the sea level could rise by as much as 55 inches, which means that beach communities would frequently be inundated by flooding.

“In 2020, nearly 96,000 people in the Long Beach area alone may be at risk from sea-level rise,” the report said, referring to just one oceanfront community on the South Shore of Long Island. “By 2080, that number may rise to more than 114,500 people. The value of property at risk in the Long Beach area under this scenario ranges from about $6.4 billion in 2020 to about $7.2 billion in 2080.”

The report found that the effects of climate change would fall disproportionately on the poor and the disabled.

In coastal areas in New York City and along rivers in upstate New York, it said, there is a high amount of low-income housing that would be in the path of flooding.

Art DeGaetano, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell, said that its findings need not be interpreted as totally devastating.

“It would be all bad if you wanted a static New York, with the same species of bird and the same crops,” he said, “but there will be opportunities as well. We expect, for example, that New York State will remain water-rich and we may be able to capitalize when other parts of the country are having severe drought.”

The next step, the authors said, is for them to meet with state agencies and try to work with them to carry out some of the report’s recommendations of ways to cope with climate change

One would be to get the state to routinely incorporate projections of increased sea levels and heavy downpours when building big infrastructure projects. They also suggested protecting and nursing natural barriers to sea-level rise, like coastal wetlands, and changing building codes in certain area for things like roof strength and foundation depth in areas that would be hit hardest by storms.

“If there is one thing we learned from Hurricane Irene,” Dr. Rosenzweig said referring to the tropical storm that pummeled the state this past summer, “we have a lot more we could be doing to prepare.”

US will not air climate change episode of Frozen Planet (New Statesman)

Posted by Samira Shackle – 17 November 2011 13:38

BBC defends decision to give world TV channels the option of dropping the final episode of David Attenborough’s series.

The final episode of David Attenborough's Frozen Planet will not be aired in the US.The final episode of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet will not be aired in the US. Photograph: Getty Images

An episode of David Attenborough’s Frozen Planet series that looks at climate change will not be aired in the US, where many are sceptical about global warming.

Seven episodes of the multi-million-pound nature documentary series will be aired in Britain. However, the series has been sold to 30 world TV networks as a package of only six episodes. These networks then have the option of buying the seventh “companion” episode — which explores the effect man is having on the natural world — as well as behind the scenes footage.

The six-episode series has been sold to 30 broadcasters, ten of which have declined to use the climate change episode, “On Thin Ice”, including the US.

In America, the series is being aired by the Discovery channel, which insists that the final episode has been dropped because of a “scheduling issue”.

Regardless of their reasoning, environmental campaigners have criticised the BBC’s decision to market the episode separately as “unhelpful”. And it has caused controversy across the board. The Telegraph‘s headline (“BBC drops Frozen Planet’s climate change episode to sell show better abroad”) sums up how the news has been received.

However, the BBC have defended the decision, claiming that it is more to do with a difference in style in this episode than its content. Caroline Torrance, BBC Worldwide’s Director of Programme Investment, wrote in a blog that the first six episodes “have a clear story arc charting a year in our polar regions”, adding:

Although it is filmed by the same team and to the same production standard, this programme is necessarily different in style.

Having a presenter in vision requires many broadcasters to have the programme dubbed, ultimately giving some audiences a very different experience.

Audiences are currently enjoying incredible footage of the natural world; it would be a shame for them to leave without a sense of the danger it faces.

Corporations spending billions to exert ‘undue influence’ to prevent global climate action: report (


Oilsands file photo
 Oilsands file photo. Photograph by: Bruce Edwards, The Journal, File, Edmonton Journal

A handful of multinational corporations are “exerting undue influence” on the political process in Canada, the U.S. and other key nations to delay international action on climate change, alleges a new report released Tuesday by Greenpeace International.

The report documents a series of alleged lobbying and marketing efforts led by major corporations and industry associations, representing oil and gas companies as well as other major sources of pollution in Canada, the U.S., Europe and South Africa, which is hosting an international climate-change summit that begins next Monday.

South of Canada’s borders, industry stakeholders are investing about $3.5 billion per year to lobby the U.S. government on a variety of issues, as well as financing American politicians who “deny” scientific evidence linking human activity to dangerous changes in the atmosphere that contribute to global warming, estimates the report, titled: Who’s holding us back? How carbon intensive industry is preventing effective climate legislation.

“Carbon-intensive corporations and their networks of trade associations are blocking policies that aim to transition our societies into green, sustainable, low risk economies,” said the report, authored by Greenpeace staff from around the world, based on national lobbying registries and other public records from government and industry.

“These polluting corporations often exert their influence behind the scenes, employing a variety of techniques, including using trade associations and think-tanks as front groups; confusing the public through climate denial or advertising campaigns; making corporate political donations; as well as making use of the ‘revolving door’ between public servants and carbon-intensive corporations.”

The report raises questions about activities of energy industry companies including Shell, Koch Industries and Eskom, as well as BASF — a chemical products company, BHP Billiton — a mining company, and ArcelorMittal, a steel company created from a merger that followed the takeover of Canadian-based Dofasco by Europe-based Arcelor.

Most nations at the upcoming international summit in Durban, South Africa, have publicly said they hope to extend targets to reduce pollution under the Kyoto Protocol, the world’s only legally-binding treaty on global warming. But Canada, along with Japan and Russia, has openly indicated that it plans to walk away from the agreement which set targets for developed nations between 2008 and 2012 as a first step toward stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere.

“Canada goes to Durban with a number of countries sharing the same objectives and that is to put Kyoto behind us and to encourage all nations and all major emitting countries to embrace a new agreement to reduce greenhouse gas in a material way,” Environment Minister Peter Kent said Tuesday in the House of Commons in response to questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie.

Representatives of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, one of the lobby groups singled out in the report, have explained it supports balanced climate and energy policies that allow for growth of all energy sources to meet rising demands in the decades to come. But meantime, the association says its member companies are already adapting to new policies and pollution taxes from jurisdictions such as Alberta and British Columbia, while investing in new technologies to prepare for stronger standards in the future.

Natural deposits in Western Canada, also known as the oilsands, are believed to contain one of the largest reserves of oil in the world, but they require large amounts of energy, land and water to extract the fuel from the ground, with an annual global warming footprint that has almost tripled since 1990. The annual greenhouse gas emissions from this sector are now greater than those of all cars on Canadian roads and almost as much as the pollution from all light-duty trucks or sport utility vehicles driven in Canada.

The Canadian lobby group has opposed policies in jurisdictions such as the U.S. and the European Union that would discourage consumption of fuel derived from the oilsands or other sources that have a heavier footprint than conventional sources of oil.

The report highlights say the federal and Alberta governments have also been partners in a taxpayer-funded “advocacy strategy” led by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department to fight international climate-change policies and “promote the interests of oil companies.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government and its Liberal predecessors have repeatedly pledged to regulate pollution from the industry without following through on their commitments. Kent also promised to introduce a plan to tackle emissions from the oilsands sector this year, but later retreated on the commitment.

“The reason that Canada has actually made it in here (the report), is because the Harper government has acted with and on behalf of tarsands companies to undermine international action on climate change,” said Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Keith Stewart. “When we look at this globally, if we’re serious about avoiding climate catastrophe, we can’t afford to let the Harper government and the tarsands industry grow the markets of dirty oil at the expense of cleaner alternatives.”

The report highlighted a pattern of industry lobby groups and chambers of commerce running advertising campaigns against any proposals to tackle climate change by warning people in the general public that their respective countries were acting alone and would kill jobs by adopting measures to reduce pollution. It also noted that some companies, which claim to defend action on climate change, are actively supporting industry associations that are seeking to undermine progress on the issue.

The Greenpeace report also coincides with the mysterious release on Tuesday of emails from a British-based climate research unit that was at the heart of controversy prior to a 2009 climate change summit when the stolen correspondence was used by climate skeptics to allege an international conspiracy by scientists to mislead the planet about the consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

A series of independent inquiries have dismissed the conspiracy theories and cleared the scientists involved of any wrongdoing, but those responsible for stealing the emails were never caught.


© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Lo que dicen las fotos de Lula con cáncer (BBC Mundo)

Gerardo Lissardy

BBC Mundo, Rio de Janeiro
Viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2011

Lula siendo afeitado por su esposa Leticia

Para ningún político debe ser fácil mostrar públicamente una lucha personal contra el cáncer, pero el modo en que lo ha hecho el ex presidente brasileño Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva tiene significados concretos, según sus allegados y expertos.

La noticia del cáncer de laringe que afecta a Lula fue conocida por los brasileños el 29 de octubre, apenas unas horas después que el propio ex presidente fuera diagnosticado con la enfermedad.

Desde entonces, el equipo de comunicación del instituto que encabeza Lula ha enviado regularmente a la prensa mensajes con información del tratamiento de quimioterapia que recibe y hasta de momentos íntimos que vive.

Por ejemplo, hubo fotos de Lula con médicos cuando inició el tratamiento en un hospital de Sao Paulo, fotos en una cama del nosocomio tomado de la mano de su sucesora, la presidenta Dilma Rousseff, y hasta fotos de su esposa Marisa Letícia cortándole a cero su cabello y su barba.

Todas estas imágenes han sido ofrecidas a los medios, libres de reproducción, por el Instituto Lula.

Algunas, en especial las del momento en que perdía su distintiva barba, recorrieron el mundo y se publicaron en las portadas de varios diarios locales y latinoamericanos.

Hay expertos que creen que todo esto responde a una estrategia definida, con valoraciones políticas.

José Chrispiniano, asesor de prensa del Instituto Lula, acepta que el modo de comunicar sobre la enfermedad del ex presidente tiene ciertos objetivos, pero descarta que se trate de vender algo en particular.

“No es de ninguna forma marketing”, dijo en diálogo con BBC Mundo.

“Cuestión muy simbólica”

Lula sin barbaLa oficina del expresidente ha presentado decenas de fotos que documentan la enfermedad de Lula.

Chrispiniano explicó que fue el propio Lula quien tomó la decisión de informar abiertamente sobre su cáncer y tratamiento, desde el momento en que conoció el diagnóstico.

“Aunque no tenga ningún cargo público ahora, es una persona de interés público, entonces el objetivo es divulgar claramente: es una enfermedad tratable y un tratamiento con perspectivas bastante positivas de cura”, señaló.

Además, dijo, se ha buscado evitar una dramatización de la enfermedad (de hecho, en muchas de las fotos divulgadas Lula aparece sonriente) o evitar que parezca “que se están escondiendo cosas”.

La difusión de las fotos de Lula siendo afeitado y mostrando su nuevo aspecto con bigote también fue iniciativa del ex presidente, relató Chrispiniano.

“Era una cuestión muy simbólica de su imagen y quisimos mostrar que pasó ese momento tranquilo, porque (para) muchas personas que tienen esta enfermedad es un momento de mucho estigma”, dijo.

Dos días después del corte de pelo de Lula, su instituto divulgó el viernes 18 fotos del ex presidente recibiendo la visita del director técnico de la selección brasileña de fútbol, Mano Menezes.

“Fuerza, eterno ‘presidente Lula’. Contamos contigo para 2014”, escribió Menezes en la casaca número 10 del combinado nacional que le obsequió a Lula, y que también aparecía en las fotos.

Se trataba de una referencia al Mundial de fútbol que Brasil va a organizar ese año, precisó el comunicado.

“Una estrategia”

Lula con el equipo del hospital de Sao Paolo que lo atiendePara muchos el padecimiento de Lula con el cáncer podría aumentar su ya alta popularidad.

Rousiley Maia, una investigadora de la Universidad Federal de Minas Gerais experta en comunicación y política, cree que la decisión de informar de esta forma sobre el cáncer de Lula “fue deliberadamente una estrategia”.

“En vez de poner sombras (o) tratar con medias palabras (la enfermedad), la estrategia es apelar por el lado humano, ordinario y mortal de la figura”, dijo Maia a BBC Mundo.

Sin embargo, sostuvo que esa decisión es coherente con la “construcción de imagen pública de Lula por varios años”, de un hombre de pueblo que se convirtió en un líder nacional reconocido mundialmente.

“Más allá de la empatía, es una forma de sustentar el carisma y respeto que construyó durante estos años”, opinó. “Este momento de enfermedad personal es una forma de volver a la escena pública de forma central”.

Renzo Taddei, un antropólogo profesor de comunicación, ciudadanía y política en la Universidad Federal de Río de Janeiro (UFRJ), dijo que el manejo público del cáncer de Lula muestra probables aspiraciones políticas a futuro.

“El cáncer es un tema ya clásico de superación y heroísmo en Brasil”, indicó a BBC Mundo.

“Era todo lo que faltaba a Lula: vencer el cáncer. Si lo hace, ya no hay nada más que no pueda hacer (aunque no haya hecho la reforma agraria que Brasil aguarda hace tanto ni las reformas fiscales y políticas)”, agregó.

Cáncer y elecciones

Presidenta Rousseff vista a Lula tras su operaciónLa presidenta Dilma Rousseff también es sobreviviente de un cáncer

Hasta que le fue diagnosticado el cáncer, muchos brasileños se preguntaban si Lula buscaría regresar a la presidencia en las elecciones de 2014, pero él decía que corresponde a Rousseff buscar la reelección.

Cuando Rousseff fue tratada con éxito de un cáncer linfático en 2009, algunos miembros del gobierno de Lula llegaron a especular con que podía salir fortalecida para buscar la presidencia al año siguiente.

Sin embargo, Lula descartó públicamente que ambas cosas pudieran vincularse.

“No puedo imaginar cómo es que alguien sale fortalecido porque tuvo un cáncer”, declaró entonces. “Sólo deseo la recuperación de Dilma”.

Rousseff se recuperó y fue electa presidenta al año siguiente, con el respaldo de Lula.

Drillers using counterinsurgency experts (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Marcellus industry taking a page from the military to deal with media, resident opposition
Sunday, November 13, 2011
By Don Hopey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Marcellus Shale gas drilling spokesmen at an industry conference in Houston said their companies are employing former military counterinsurgency officers and recommended using military-style psychological operations strategies, or psyops, to deal with media inquiries and citizen opposition to drilling in Pennsylvania communities.

Matt Pitzarella, a Range Resources spokesman speaking to other oil and gas industry spokespeople at the conference last week, said the company hires former military psyops specialists who use those skills in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Pitzarella’s statements and related comments made by a spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum were recorded by a member of an environmental group who provided them to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“We have several former psyops folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments,” Mr. Pitzarella said during the last half of a 23-minute presentation in a conference session. The session was titled “Designing a Media Relations Strategy to Overcome Concerns Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing.”

“Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that,” he continued. “But very much having that understanding of psyops in the Army and the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”

Matt Carmichael, manager of external affairs for Anadarko Petroleum, which has nearly 300,000 acres of Marcellus Shale gas holdings under lease in Central Pennsylvania, gave a speech urging industry media spokesmen to read a military counterinsurgency manual for tips in dealing with opponents to shale gas development.

“Download the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency,” Mr. Carmichael said in a session titled “Understanding How Unconventional Oil & Gas Operators are Developing a Comprehensive Media Relations Strategy to Engage Stakeholders and Educate the Public.”

“There’s a lot of good lessons in there,” he said, “and coming from a military background, I found the insight extremely remarkable.”

The remarks of both Mr. Pitzarella and Mr. Carmichael were recorded at the conference by Sharon Wilson, an activist and member of the Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project, a national environmental nonprofit focused on the impacts of mineral and energy development.

She said the term “insurgent” shows what the industry thinks about the communities where it is drilling.

“What’s clear to me is that they are having to use some very extreme measures in our neighborhoods. And it seems like they view it as an occupation,” Ms. Wilson said.

Psychological operations is a term used in the military and intelligence agencies and involves use of selective communications and sometimes misinformation and deception to manipulate public perception. According to a U.S. Army careers website, psyops specialists “assess the information needs of a target population and develop and deliver the right message at the right time and place to create the intended result.”

Environmental groups and residents of communities where Marcellus drilling has been controversial and sometimes contentious were quick to seize on the comments. They said they reflected the industry’s battlefield mentality and disinformation strategy when dealing with communities and individuals.

“This is the level of disdain, deception and belligerence that we are dealing with,” said Arthur Clark, an Oil & Gas Committee co-chair and member of the executive committee of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club.

“On tape and in print, for once, an industry literally at war with local residents, even labeling them ‘insurgents.’ I don’t recall seeing anyone toting an AK-47 at any of the public meetings or rallies regarding frack gas development.”

“It sounds like the gas companies are utilizing military ‘psyops’ in gas patch communities,” said Bill Walker, a spokesman for Earthworks.

Mr. Carmichael did not return calls requesting comment, but John Christiansen, director of external communications for Anadarko, issued a statement, addressing Mr. Carmichael’s use of the term insurgency.

“The reference was not reflective of our core values. Our community efforts are based upon open communication, active engagement and transparency, which are all essential in building fact-based knowledge and earning public trust.”

Mr. Pitzarella explained his remarks by saying the industry employs large numbers of veterans, including an attorney with a psyops background who “spent time in the Middle East,” with temperaments “well suited” to handling the sometimes “emotional situations” at community meetings the company holds to explain its well drilling and fracking operations.

“To suggest that the two comments made at unrelated [conference sessions] are a strategy is dishonest,” Mr. Pitzarella said. “[Range has] been transparent and accountable, and that’s not something we would do if we were trying to mislead people.”

But despite repeated questions, Mr. Pitzarella would not name the Range attorney with a psyops background. The company does employ James Cannon, whose LinkIn page lists him as a “public affairs specialist” for Range and a member of the U.S. Army’s “303 Psyop Co.,” a reserve unit in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Cannon could not be reached for comment.

Dencil Backus of Mount Pleasant, a California University of Pennsylvania communications professor who teaches public relations, once had Mr. Pitzarella in his class. Mr. Backus said it’s “obvious we have all been targeted” with a communications strategy that employs misinformation and intimidation, and includes homespun radio and television ads touting “My drilling company? Range Resources”; community “informational” meetings that emphasize the positive and ignore potential problems caused by drilling and fracking; and recent lawsuits, threats of lawsuits and commercial boycotts.

“There’s just been a number of ways in which they’ve sought to intimidate us,” said Mr. Backus, who has been a coordinator of a citizens committee that advised Mount Pleasant on a proposed Marcellus ordinance. “It’s one of the most unethical things I have ever seen.”

Don Hopey: or 412-263-1983

The filmmaker: A push to broaden the reach of ‘ski porn’ (The Daily Climate)


Nov. 7, 2011

David Mossop and Sherpas Cinemas are transforming ski flicks, turning the usual plot-less, context-less jumble of skiing images into a message about environmental destruction, mass consumption and climate change.

Interview conducted and condensed by Rae Tyson

The Daily Climate

A critically acclaimed film combining action, free-style skiing and a climate impact message debuted this fall. Representing the leading edge of a new wave of ski films, All.I.Can juxtaposes “ski-porn” – plot-less montages of expert skiers flying down and off impossibly steep mountainsides – against images of environmental destruction and mass consumption. Reviewers say the movie, available on DVD and to be released on iTunes on Nov. 14, could change the genre permanently.

With enough creativity, ski films have the capacity to address almost any topic. – David Mossop

British Columbia cinematographers Eric Crossland and Dave Mossop filmed the movie in Chile, Canada, Morocco, Greenland and Alaska. ESPN’s Jamey Voss calls it “the best movie in skiing.” Dave Mossop has been doing ski films and photography for years. This is his first attempt at a film with a strong social message.

Your film company, Sherpas Cinema, has said “the time has come for a ski film that stands for something.” Explain the inspiration for All.I.Can.

The classic ski-porn formula works brilliantly and will always have its place. But skiing is about so much more than just porn. The mountains bring us every emotion in the book. With enough creativity, ski films have the capacity to address almost any topic.

All.I.Can. Official Teaser from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

Has this film altered your view about your ability to affect change? 

This project has really opened my eyes to what is possible, and now it almost feels like our duty to see how far that envelope can be pushed.

What convinced you to focus on climate change?

The root of All.I.Can is the relationship between mountain people and nature. Skiers are more reliant on weather and climate than almost any other subculture. A well-crafted film has the potential to act as a trigger: If mountain culture doesn’t stand up, who will?

You traveled around the world to shoot this film. Did you see evidence of the impact of climate change in any of the locations you visited?

A big part of the climate problem is that it is too slow for us humans to perceive. But, at almost every location we went, we would hear stories from the elders indicating a warming trend.

Such as?

The Inuit of Greenland talked about the more challenging hunting conditions due to ice breakup. Bud Stoll and Mary Woodward, two of the older skiers in our film, reminisced about the deep winters the Kootenays when they were youngsters. The Chilean gauchos and Moroccan porters recalled stories of colder snowier winters.

Unchecked, do you believe that climate change might impact skiing – and other winter sports?

I know as little about climate change as everyone else. But it isn’t hard to sense that the human race is running an unsustainable program.

The reviews so far have been impressive. ESPN, for example, called All.I.Can “a wake-up call in many ways.”

We are totally overwhelmed by the response. The world was ready for this kind of cinematic discussion and the idea is striking a chord with skiers and non-skiers alike.

Mossop-volcanoSome question the carbon neutrality of this project. You flew all over the globe and used fuel-guzzling helicopters. How would you respond to that?

We feel that the extra resources used in the film production are far overshadowed by the potential energy of All.I.Can. A truly beautiful film can inspire the whole world and influence countless human decisions in the future.

How did you offset the impact?

We worked with Native Energy to offset the project using carbon credits. They use the money to either counter our carbon emissions directly or invest in future innovations that build toward a sustainable future.

Any plans for future projects with an environmental theme?

I expect an environmental theme will become an undertone in all our future projects, but currently we have no locked plans.

Photos courtesy Sherpas Cinema.

Rae Tyson pioneered the environmental beat at USA Today in the 1980s and today restores and races vintage motorcycles in central Pennsylvania. Climate Query is a semi-weekly feature offered by, a nonprofit news service that covers climate change.

Arjun Appadurai: A Nation of Business Junkies (Anthropology News)

Guest Columnist
Arjun Appadurai

By Anthropology News on November 3, 2011

I first came to this country in 1967. I have been either a crypto-anthropologist or professional anthropologist for most of that time. Still, because I came here with an interest in India and took the path of least resistance in choosing to maintain India as my principal ethnographic referent, I have always been reluctant to offer opinions about life in these United States. I have begun to do so recently, but mainly in occasional blogs, twitter posts and the like. Now seems to be a good time to ponder whether I have anything to offer to public debate about the media in this country. Since I have been teaching for a few years in a distinguished department of media studies, I feel emboldened to offer my thoughts in this new AN Forum.

My examination of changes in the media over the last few decades is not based on a scientific study. I read the New York Times every day, the Wall Street Journal occasionally, and I subscribe to The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Review of Books, the Economist, and a variety of academic journals in anthropology and area studies. I get a smattering of other useful media pieces from friends on Facebook and other social media sites. I also use the Internet to keep up with as much as I can from the press in and about India. At various times in the past, I have subscribed to The Nation, Money Magazine, Foreign Policy, the Times Literary supplement and a few other periodicals.

I have long been interested in how culture and economy interact. Today, I want to make an observation about the single biggest change I have seen over my four decades in the United States, which is a growing and now hegemonic domination of the news and of a great deal of opinion, both in print and on television, by business news. Business news was a specialized affair in the late 1960’s, confined to a few magazines such as Money and Fortune, and to newspapers and TV reporters (not channels). Now, it is hard to find anything but business as the topic of news in all media. Consider television: if you spend even three hours surfing between CNN and BBC on any given day ( surfing for news about Libya or about soccer, for example) you will find yourself regularly assaulted by business news, not just from London, New York and Washington, but from Singapore, Hong Kong, Mumbai and many other places. Look at the serious talk shows and chances are that you will find a talking CEO, describing what’s good about his company, what’s bad about the government and how to read his company’s stock prices. Channels like MSNBC are a form of endless, mind-numbing Jerry Lewis telethon about the economy, with more than a hint of the desperation of the Depression era movie “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?”, as they bid the viewer to make insane bets and to mourn the fallen heroes of failed companies and fired CEO’s.

Turn to the newspapers and things get worse. Any reader of the New York Times will find it hard to get away from the business machine. Start with the lead section, and stories about Obama’s economic plans, mad Republican proposals about taxes, the Euro-crisis and the latest bank scandal will assault you. Some relief is provided by more corporate news: the exit of Steve Jobs, the Op-Ed piece about the responsibilities of the super-rich by Warren Buffet, Donald Trump advertising his new line of housewares to go along with his ugly homes and buildings. Turn to the sports section: it is littered with talk of franchises, salaries, trades, owner antics, stadium projects and more. I need hardly say anything about the section on “Business” itself, which has now virtually become redundant. And if you are still thirsty for more business news, check out the “Home”, “Lifestyle” and Real Estate sections for news on houses you can’t afford and mortgage financing gimmicks you have never heard off. Some measure of relief is to be in the occasional “Science Times” and in the NYT Book Review, which do have some pieces which are not primarily about profit, corporate politics or the recession.

The New York Times is not to blame for this. They are the newspaper of “record’ and that means that they reflect broader trends and cannot be blamed for their compliance with bigger trends. Go through the magazines when you take a flight to Detroit or Mumbai and there is again a feast of news geared to the “business traveler”. This is when I catch up on how to negotiate the best deal, why this is the time to buy gold and what software and hardware to use when I make my next presentation to General Electric. These examples could be multiplied in any number of bookstores, newspaper kiosks, airport lounges, park benches and dentist’s offices.

What does all this reflect? Well, we were always told that the business of America is business. But now we are gradually moving into a society in which the business of American life is also business. Who are we now? We have become (in our fantasies) entrepreneurs, start-up heroes, small investors, consumers, home-owners, day-traders, and a gallery of supporting business types, and no longer fathers, mothers, friends or neighbors. Our very citizenship is now defined by business, whether we are winners or losers. Everyone is an expert on pensions, stocks, retirement packages, vacation deals, credit- card scams and more. Meanwhile, as Paul Krugman has argued in a brilliant recent speech to some of his fellow economists, this discipline, especially macro-economics, has lost all its capacities to analyze, define or repair the huge mess we are in.

The gradual transformation of the imagined reader or viewer into a business junkie is a relatively new disease of advanced capitalism in the United States. The avalanche of business knowledge and information dropping on the American middle-classes ought to have helped us predict – or avoid – the recent economic meltdown, based on crazy credit devices, vulgar scams and lousy regulation. Instead it has made us business junkies, ready to be led like sheep to our own slaughter by Wall Street, the big banks and corrupt politicians. The growing hegemony of business news and knowledge in the popular media over the last few decades has produced a collective silence of the lambs. It is time for a bleat or two.

Dr. Arjun Appadurai is a prominent contemporary social-cultural anthropologist, having formerly served as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at The New School in NYC. He has held various professorial chairs and visiting appointments at some of top institutions in the United States and Europe. In addition, he has served on several scholarly and advisory bodies in the United States, Latin America, Europe and India. Dr. Appadurai is a prolific writer having authored numerous books and scholarly articles. The nature and significance of his contributions throughout his academic career have earned him the reputation as a leading figure in his field. He is the author of The Future as a Cultural Fact: Essays on the Global Condition (Verso: forthcoming 2012).

Ken Routon is the contributing editor of Media Notes. He is a visiting professor of cultural anthropology at the University of New Orleans and the author of Hidden Powers of the State in the Cuban Imagination (University Press of Florida, 2010).

Copyright: A Conceptual Battle in a Digital Age (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Nov. 3, 2011) — What is it about copyright that doesn’t work in the digital society? Why do millions of people think it’s OK to break the law when it comes to file sharing in particular? Sociology of law researcher Stefan Larsson from Lund University believes that legal metaphors and old-fashioned mindsets contribute to the confusion and widening gaps between legislation and the prevailing norms.

Our language is made up of metaphors, even in our legal texts. Stefan Larsson has studied what consequences this has when digital phenomena, such as file sharing and downloading, are limited by descriptions intended for an analogue world. “When legal arguments equate file sharing with theft of physical objects, it sometimes becomes problematic,” says Stefan Larsson, who doesn’t think it is possible to equate an illegal download with theft of a physical object, as has been done in the case against The Pirate Bay.

Using the compensation model employed in the case against The Pirate Bay, the total value of such a site could be calculated at over SEK 600 billion. This is almost as much as Sweden’s national budget, says Stefan Larsson. The prosecutor in the Pirate Bay case chose to pursue a smaller number of downloads and the sum of the fines therefore never reached these proportions.

In Stefan Larsson’s view, the word ‘copies’ is a hidden legal metaphor that causes problematic ideas in the digital society. For example, copyright does not take into account that a download does not result in the owner losing his or her own copy. Neither is it possible to equate number of downloads with lost income for the copyright holder, since it is likely that people download a lot more than they would purchase in a shop.

Other metaphors that are used for downloading are infringement, theft and piracy. “The problem is that these metaphors make us equate copyright with ownership of physical property,” says Stefan Larsson.

Moreover, there are underlying mindsets which guide the whole of copyright, according to Stefan Larsson. One such mindset is the idea that creation is a process undertaken by sole geniuses and not so much in a cultural context. In Stefan Larsson’s view, this has the unfortunate consequence of making stronger copyright protection with longer duration and a higher degree of legal enforcement appear reasonable. The problem is that it is based on a misconception of how a lot of things are created, says Stefan Larsson: “Borrowing and drawing inspiration from other artists is essential to a lot of creative activity. This is the case both online and offline.”

Stefan Larsson has also studied the consequences when public perception of the law, or social norms, is not in line with what the law says. One consequence is that the State needs to exercise more control and issue more severe penalties in order to ensure that the law is followed. The European trend in copyright law is heading in this direction. Among other things, it is being made easier to track what individuals do on the Internet. This means that the integrity of the many is being eroded to benefit the interests of a few, according to Stefan Larsson: “When all’s said and done, it is about what we want the Internet to be. The fight for this is taking place, at least partially, through metaphorical expressions for underlying conceptions, but also through practical action on the role of anonymity online.”

Stefan Larsson’s thesis is entitled Metaphors and Norms – Understanding Copyright Law in a Digital Society.

Secitece promove I Fórum “Ceará Faz Ciência” (Funcap)

POR ADMIN, EM 13/10/2011

Com a Assessoria de Comunicação da Secitece

O evento será realizado nos dias 17 e 18 de outubro, no auditório do Planetário do Centro Dragão do Mar de Arte e Cultura.

Nos dias 17 e 18 de outubro, a Secretaria da Ciência Tecnologia e Educação Superior (Secitece), realizará o “I Fórum Ceará Faz Ciência”, com o tema” Mudanças climáticas, desastres naturais e prevenção de riscos”. A iniciativa integra a programação estadual da Semana Nacional de Ciência e Tecnologia.

O secretário da Ciência e Tecnologia, René Barreira, fará a abertura do evento, dia 17, às 17h, no auditório do Planetário Rubens de Azevedo. Na ocasião, será prestada homenagem ao pesquisador cearense Expedito Parente, conhecido como o pai do biodiesel, que faleceu em setembro.

No dia 18, partir das 9h, as atividades serão retomadas com as seguintes palestras: “Onda gigante no litoral brasileiro. É possível?”, com o prof. Francisco Brandão, chefe do Laboratório de Sismologia da Coordenadoria Estadual de Defesa Civil, e “As quatro estações do ano no Ceará: perceba suas interferências na fisiologia e no meio ambiente”, ministrada por Dermeval Carneiro, prof. de Física e Astronomia, presidente da Sociedade Brasileira dos Amigos da Astronomia e diretor do Planetário Rubens de Azevedo – Dragão do Mar.

No período da tarde, a partir das 14h30, será a vez da palestra “Desastres Naturais: como prevenir e atuar em situações de risco”, com o Tenente Coronel Leandro Silva Nogueira, secretário Executivo da Coordenadoria Estadual de Defesa Civil. Para finalizar o Fórum, a engenheira agrônoma do Departamento de Recursos Hidricos e Meio Ambiente da Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (Funceme), Sonia Barreto Perdigão, ministrará palestra sobre “Mudanças Climáticas e Desertificação no Ceará”, às 16h30.

Os interessados em participar do I Fórum “Ceará Faz Ciência”, a ser realizado nos dias 17 e 18/10, no Dragão do Mar, em Fortaleza, devem fazer sua pré-inscrição. O formulário a ser preenchido está disponível no site da Secitece. A participação é gratuita.

I Fórum Ceará Faz Ciência
Data: 17 e 18 de outubro de 2011
Local: Auditório do Planetário Rubens de Azevedo
Informações: (85) 3101-6466
Inscrições gratuitas.

Will the information superhighway turn into a cul-de-sac because of automated filters? (The Wall Street Journal)

Your Results May Vary


Last year Eli Pariser, president of the board of the liberal-activist site, had a shocking realization. A heavy Facebook user, he had become friends—at least on Facebook—with an assortment of conservative thinkers and pundits. As a serious thinker, he wanted to have his opinions on current events challenged by those with opposing political ideologies.

But it struck Mr. Pariser one day that he hadn’t seen a single status update from any of the loyal opposition in a while. Had his sources of conservative thought stopped posting? Had they unfriended him? No, Facebook had quietly stopped inserting their updates into his news feed on the site. Had the social-networking giant figured out that he was a liberal?

It turned out that Facebook had changed the algorithm for its news feeds, in response to its users’ complaints that they were being overwhelmed by updates from “friends” whom they hardly knew. The 600-million-member social network now filters status updates so that, by default, users see only those from Facebook friends with whom they’ve recently interacted—say, by sending a message or commenting on a friend’s post.

For Mr. Pariser, the algorithm change meant that his news feed was filtered to let him know about only the mostly left-leaning people with whom he bantered, leaving out conservative voices that he simply monitored. Facebook’s algorithm has no political parameters, but for Mr. Pariser it effectively muffled the people he most disagreed with but wanted to hear.

This sifting-out of seemingly dead connections—which might strike many people as a wonderful service—spurred Mr. Pariser to undertake a months-long exploration of the growing trend of personalized content on websites. In “The Filter Bubble,” he recounts what he found. “I was struck by the degree to which personalization is already upon us. Not only on Facebook and Google, but on almost every major site on the Web.”

It’s no secret that Amazon, for example, customizes its pages to suggest products that are most likely to be of interest, based on shoppers’ past purchases. But most Google users don’t realize that, since 2009, their search results have been gradually personalized based on the user’s location, search history and other parameters. By tracking individual Web browsers with cookies, Google has been able to personalize results even for users who don’t create a personal Google account or are not logged into one. Mr. Pariser asked two friends to search for “BP” shortly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill last year. The two were shown strikingly different pages—one full of news about the disaster, the other mostly investor information about the energy company.

Personalization is meant to make Internet users happy: It shows them information that mathematical calculations indicate is more likely than generalized content to be of interest. Google’s personalized search results track dozens of variables to deliver the links that a user is predicted to be most likely to click on. As a result, Google users click on more of the results that they get. That’s good for Google, good for its advertisers, good for other websites and presumably good for the user.

But Mr. Pariser worries that there’s a dark downside to giving people their own custom version of the Internet. “Personalization isn’t just shaping what we buy,” he writes. “Thirty-six percent of Americans under thirty get their news through social networking sites.” As we become increasingly dependent on the Internet for our view of the world, and as the Internet becomes more and more fine-tuned to show us only what we like, the would-be information superhighway risks becoming a land of cul-de-sacs, with each of its users living in an individualized bubble created by automated filters—of which the user is barely aware.

To Mr. Pariser, these well-intended filters pose a serious threat to democracy by undermining political debate. If partisans on either side of the issues seem uninterested in the opposition’s thinking nowadays, wait until Google’s helpful sorters really step up their game.

Through interviews with influential Internet experts including Google News chief Krishna Bharat, Search Engine Land editor Danny Sullivan and Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd, Mr. Pariser exposes the problem with personalization: It’s hard enough for an army of researchers to create algorithms that can match each of us with things we like. It’s nearly impossible, by contrast, to craft a formula that will show us something we wouldn’t seek out but really ought to read—and will be glad we did. Beyond throwing random links onto a screen, it’s hard to model serendipity on a computer.

And there’s another problem with filters: People like them. The Internet long ago became overwhelming. Filters help make it manageable without our having to do the work of sorting through its content entirely by ourselves.

What to do? Mr. Pariser’s opening argument in “The Filter Bubble” is a powerful indictment of the current system. But his closing chapters fumble around in search of a solution—from individuals, from companies like Google or from government oversight. How do you tell the Internet to back it off a bit on the custom content?

For now, the best Mr. Pariser can hope for is to educate readers who don’t want to live in a solipsistic subset of the Internet, especially regarding political matters. Just knowing that Google and Facebook personalize what you see, and that you can turn it off if you want—on Facebook, click Most Recent instead of Top News atop your feed; for Google, get instructions by searching “deleting Web history”—is a good start. “The Filter Bubble” is well-timed: The threat is real but not yet pandemic. Major news sites are toying with personalization but haven’t rolled it out en masse. And in a test I conducted myself, I enlisted a handful of heavy Google users across America to search for “Bin Laden raid” soon after the event. The search results that came back were all nearly identical. To tell the truth, we were kind of disappointed.

Mr. Boutin writes about Internet technology and culture for MIT Technology Review, Wired and the New York Times.

The Filter Bubble
By Eli Pariser
The Penguin Press, 294 pages, $25.95

Should Bad Predictions Be Punished? (


08/09/2011 | 8:33 pm

Government corn predictions are based on the work of people like Phil Friedrichs, gathering data in a corn field in Hiawatha, Kansas. (Photo: Stephen Koranda)

What do Wall Street forecasters and Romanian witches have in common? They usually get away, scot-free, with making bad predictions. Our world is awash in poor prediction — but for some reason, we can’t stop, even though accuracy rates often barely beat a coin toss.

But then there’s the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s crop forecasting. Predictions covering a big crop like corn (U.S. farmers have planted the second largest crop since WWII this year) usually fall within five percent of the actual yield. So how do they do it? Every year, the U.S.D.A. sends thousands of enumerators into cornfields across the country where they inspect the plants, the conditions, and even “animal loss.”

This week on Marketplace, Stephen J. Dubner and Kai Ryssdal talk about the supply and demand of predictions. You’ll hear from Joseph Prusacki, the head of U.S.D.A’s Statistics Division, who’s gearing up for his first major crop report of 2011 (the street is already “sweating” it); Phil Friedrichs, who collects cornfield data for the USDA; and our trusted economist and Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt.

We’ll also hear from journalist Vlad Mixich in Bucharest, who tells us why those Romanian witchesmight not be getting away with bad fortune telling for much longer.

An Algorithm that Can Predict Weather a Year in Advance (


09/27/2011 | 3:51 pm

In our latest podcast, “The Folly of Prediction,” we poke fun at the whole notion of forecasting. The basic gist is: whether it’s Romanian witches or Wall Street quant wizards, though we love to predict things — we’re generally terrible at it. (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or read the transcript here.)

But there is one emerging tool that’s greatly enhancing our ability to predict: algorithms. Toward the end of the podcast, Dubner talks to Tim Westergren, a co-founder of Pandora Radio, about how the company’s algorithm is able to predict what kind of music people want to hear, by breaking songs down to their basic components. We’ve written a lot about algorithms, and the potential they have to vastly change our life through customization, and perhaps satisfy our demand for predictions with some robust results.

One of the first things that comes to mind when people hear the word forecasting is the weather. Over the last few decades, we’ve gotten much better at predicting the weather. But what if through algorithms, we could extend our range of accuracy, and say, predict the weather up to a year in advance? That’d be pretty cool, right? And probably worth a bit of money too.

That’s essentially what the folks at a small company called Weather Trends International are doing. The private firm based in Bethlehem, PA, uses technology first developed in the early 1990s, to project temperature, precipitation and snowfall trends up to a year ahead, all around the world, with more than 80% accuracy. Translation: they gather up tons and tons of data, literally as much historical information on weather around the world as is out there, and then cram it into some 5.5 million lines of proprietary computer code (their algorithm) to spit out weather forecasts up to a year in advance. This is fairly different from what most meteorologists do by modeling the atmosphere. “Only about 15% of what we do is traditional forecast meteorology,” says CEO Bill Kirk, a former U.S. Air Force Captain with a degree from Rutgers in meteorology. Kirk began working on the WTI algorithm while in the Air Force.

Since launching in 2003, WTI has carved out a nice business for itself by marketing weather predictions to a range of clients, from commercial retailers and manufacturers (Wal-Mart, Target, Anheuser-Busch, Johnson & Johnson), to financial services firms and commodity traders– all of whom depend on the weather. Consumption of beer, for example, varies greatly with the temperature. “For every 1 degree hotter it is, Anheuser-Busch sells 1 percent more product,” says Kirk. And since beer is often made and bottled months in advance, the sooner they can know how hot it will be in May, the sooner they can plan accordingly. Unlike a lot of professional predictors, WTI’s business model has a built-in incentive structure: “Our clients are making multi-million dollar decisions based on our forecasts. If we’re not right, they’re not coming back.”

Though a trained meteorologist, Kirk says that over the last several years, he’s learned a lot about what really drives weather. He talks at length about the phenomenon known as Pacific decadal oscillation, which holds that the Pacific Ocean cycles through periods of warm and cold temperatures lasting about 30 years each. From 1976, to roughly 2006, the Pacific was in a warm phase, but is now cooling. Kirk believes that it’s this change that’s behind much of the bizarre weather we’ve seen over the last few years, from record snowfall and tornado activity, to droughts in the South, to floods in Australia. “The PDO cycles used to be a footnote in climate reports,” says Kirk. “Now we see them as playing a prominent role in determining weather patterns.”

Kirk is now trying to market his long-range forecasting to the private sector with a new website,Weathertrends360, as well as a new app. They both allow you to get a day-by-day forecast all the way through August 2012. Here’s his forecast for New York City over the next two months:

Just for kicks, I’ll check in from time to time to see how accurate the WTI forecasts end up being.

Dilma Rousseff – a favela with a presidential name (The Guardian)

Renaming of Brazilian shantytown puts spotlight on problems facing country’s 16 million citizens living in extreme poverty

Tom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro ;, Monday 27 June 2011 16.58 BST

Three-month old Karen da Silva – the youngest resident of Dilma Rousseff – with her mother, 23-year-old Maria da Paixao Sequeira da Silva. Photograph: Tom Phillips

They call her Dilma Rousseff’s daughter: a dribbling three-month-old girl, coated in puppy fat and smothered by cooing relatives.

But Karen da Silva is no relation of Brazil’s first-ever female president. She is the first child to be born into one of the country’s newest favelas – the Comunidade Dilma Rousseff, a roadside shantytown on the western outskirts of Rio de Janeiro that was recently re-baptised with the name of the most powerful woman in the country

“She’s Dilma’s baby,” said Vagner Gonzaga dos Santos, a 33-year-old brick-layer-cum-evangelical preacher and the brains behind the decision to change the name of this hitherto unknown favela.

Last month, just as Rousseff was about to complete six months in power, Santos says he received a heaven-sent message suggesting the renaming.

“God lit up my heart,” he said. “The idea was to pay homage to the president and also to get the attention of the government, of our leaders, so they look to us and help the families here. The poor are God’s children too.”

Until recently, the 30-odd shacks that flank the Rio-Sao Paulo highway were known simply as “kilometre 31”. But its transition to Dilma Rousseff has not been entirely smooth.

At first, locals plastered A4 posters on the area’s walls and front doors, announcing the new name. But the posters referred to the Comunidade “Roussef” – one “f” short of the president’s Bulgarian surname. In May a sign was erected welcoming visitors to their shantytown, but again spelling proved an issue. This time the name given was “Dilma Rusself.”

That mistake has now been corrected, after an intervention from the preacher’s wife, who took a pot of red nail varnish to the sign. Locals say the name-change is starting to pay off.

“It’s been good having the president’s names,” said Marlene Silva de Souza, a 57-year-old mother of five and one of the area’s oldest residents. “Now we can say our community’s name with pride. Before we didn’t have a name at all.”

Dozens of Brazilian newspapers have flocked to the community – poking fun at its misspelt sign but also drawing attention to the poor living conditions inside the favela.

“It has brought us a lot of attention … The repercussion has been marvellous. Today things are starting to take shape, things are improving,” said Santos, who hopes local authorities will now formally recognise the favela, bringing public services such as electricity and rubbish collection.

Still, problems abound. Raw sewage trickles out from the houses, through a patchwork of wooden shacks, banana and mango trees and an allotment where onions sprout amid piles of rubbish. Rats and cockroaches proliferate in the wasteland that encircles the area.

Ownership is also an issue. Dilma Rousseff is built on private land – “The owners are Spanish, I think,” says Santos – and on paper the community does not officially exist. Without a fixed abode Karen “Rousseff” da Silva – the favela’s firstborn child – has yet to be legally registered.

Last month the Brazilian government launched a drive to eradicate extreme poverty unveiling programmes that will target 16 million of Brazil’s poorest citizens.

“My government’s most determined fight will be to eradicate extreme poverty and create opportunities for all,” Rousseff said in her inaugural address in January. “I will not rest while there are Brazilians who have no food on their tables, while there are desperate families on the streets [and] while there are poor children abandoned to their own fate.”

Residents of Rousseff’s namesake, who scratch a living selling biscuits and drinks to passing truck drivers, hope such benefits will soon reach them.

A visit from the president herself may also be on the cards, after Santos launched an appeal in the Brazilian media.

“We dream of her coming one day,” said the preacher, perched on a wooden bench outside his redbrick church, the House of Prayers. “It might be impossible for man to achieve, but for God everything is possible.”

Naming a community

Tear-jerking soap operas, political icons, stars of stage and screen – when it comes to baptising a Brazilian favela, all are fair game. The north-eastern city of Recife is home to favelas called Ayrton Senna, Planet of the Apes and Dancing Days, the title of a popular 1970stelenovela,

In the 1980s residents of a shantytown in Belo Horizonte named their community Rock in Rio – a tribute to the Brazilian rock festival that has played host to acts such as Neil Young, David Bowie and Queen.

Rio de Janeiro is home to the Boogie Woogie favela, the Kinder Egg favela and one community called Disneylandia. Vila Kennedy – a slum in west Rio – was named after the American president John F Kennedy and features a three-metre tall replica of the Statue of Liberty. Nearby, locals christened another hilltop slum Jorge Turco or Turkish George. Jorge was reputedly a benevolent gangster who ruled the community decades ago.

Witchy Town’s Worry: Do Too Many Psychics Spoil the Brew? (N.Y. Times)

Lorelei Stathopoulos is concerned Salem will lose its “quaint reputation.” Photo: Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times.
By KATIE ZEZIMA. Published: May 26, 2011
SALEM, Mass. — Like any good psychic, Barbara Szafranski claims she foresaw the problems coming.
Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

Christian Day, who owns two shops, thinks competition is a good thing.

Gretchen Ertl for The New York Times

Debra Ann Freeman read a customer’s tarot cards in Salem, Mass.

Her prophecy came in 2007, as the City Council was easing its restrictions on the number of psychics allowed to practice in this seaside city, where self-proclaimed witches, angels, clairvoyants and healers still flock 319 years after the notorious Salem witch trials. Some hoped for added revenues from extra licenses and tourists. Others just wanted to bring underground psychics into the light.

Just as Ms. Szafranski predicted, the number of psychic licenses has drastically increased, to 75 today, up from a mere handful in 2007. And now Ms. Szafranski, some fellow psychics and city officials worry the city is on psychic overload.

“It’s like little ants running all over the place, trying to get a buck,” grumbled Ms. Szafranski, 75, who quit her job as an accountant in 1991 to open Angelica of the Angels, a store that sells angel figurines and crystals and provides psychic readings. She says she has lost business since the licensing change.

“Many of them are not trained,” she said of her rivals. “They don’t understand that when you do a reading you hold a person’s life in your hands.”

Christian Day, a warlock who calls himself the “Kathy Griffin of witchcraft,” thinks the competition is good for Salem.

“I want Salem to be the Las Vegas of psychics,” said Mr. Day, who used to work in advertising and helped draft the 2007 regulations. Since they went into effect, he has opened two stores, Hex and Omen.

But not everyone is sure that quantity can ensure quality. Lorelei Stathopoulos, formerly an exotic dancer known as Toppsey Curvey, has been doing psychic readings at her store, Crow Haven Corner, for 15 years. She thinks psychics should have years of experience to practice here.

“I want Salem to keep its wonderful quaint reputation,” said Ms. Stathopoulos, who was wearing a black tank top that read “Sexy witch.” “And with that you have to have wonderful people working.”

Under the 2007 regulations, psychics must have lived in the city for at least a year to obtain an individual license, and businesses must be open for at least a year to hire five psychics. License applicants are also subject to criminal background checks.

Ms. Stathopoulos says a garden-variety reader makes 40 percent of a $35 reading that lasts 15 minutes. She charges $90 and up for a half-hour of her services, and keeps all of that.

Now, talk has started about new regulations that would include a cap on the number of psychic businesses, but the grumbling has in no way reached the level of viciousness that occurred in 2007, when someone left the mutilated body of a raccoon outside Ms. Szafranski’s shop and Mr. Day and Ms. Stathopoulos got into a fight.

Ms. Szafranski says she plans to send the council an official complaint in June.

This time, she has no prediction how it will turn out.

Could Carbon Labeling Combat Climate Change? (Scientific American)

Experts argue that carbon labeling might promote energy efficiency and other efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
By Joey Peters and ClimateWire | May 9, 2011

Some experts argue that revealing the carbon content of appliances and other items might help combat climate change. Image: Federal Trade Commission.

While large-scale efforts to curb greenhouse gases aren’t likely to happen in the near future, advocates are thinking of smaller ways to reduce emissions in the meantime.

Recently, Vanderbilt University professor Michael Vandenbergh and two others proposed the idea of voluntarily labeling carbon footprints on products in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“We know from other areas of labeling that labels do have some effect on behavior,” said Vandenbergh, an environmental law professor and director of the Climate Change Research Network. “They don’t drive all behavior but are certainly effective.”

He’s quick to point out that private measures like this can’t solve climate change alone but says they still help. Vandenbergh estimates it could take years before any type of international cap-and-trade system fully develops. Any emissions between now and whenever, or if ever, that happens will likely stick around for a long time. “The emissions we don’t reduce now will be in the atmosphere for a long time. This is a measure that would help fill the gap,” Vanderbergh said.

The paper, written with Thomas Dietz at Michigan State University and Paul Stern at the National Research Council, doesn’t precisely identify a label. It does, however, cite one by the London-based Carbon Trust, which certifies items in the United Kingdom like potato chips and hand dryers by adding up their amount of greenhouse gas emissions in kilograms.

But what’s lacking is an internationally recognized certification encompassing a broad range of products.

Developing a label
Vandenbergh envisions a nonprofit or non-governmental organization developing a label of this type, similar to what the Marine Stewardship Council does for fish. MSC has certifications for fish caught wild and fisheries that are sustainable. Although not mandatory, the labels have caught on in grocery stores. Walmart Canada recently pledged to sell only MSC-certified fish by 2013.

Another example he points to is the dolphin-safe label on tuna, explaining that it was very hard to sell without the label once controversies over tuna fisheries harming and sometimes killing dolphins became known. Other labels, like nutrition ones, for example, have had mixed results. Green labels also sometimes leave out things. Recent carbon footprint calculations of Brazilian beef left out the amount of deforestation caused by raising the cattle, according to a study in Environmental Science and Technology.

Vandenberg admits labeling isn’t perfect. “It’s likely there are weaknesses in this system,” he said. “The question is whether it’s viable as an alternative. And if government can’t act and we are getting some sustainability as result of that step, then it’s important.”

Apart from the Carbon Trust label, organizations like Toronto-based CarbonCounted and Bethesda, Md.-based have also developed carbon certifications.

In Madison, Wis., one organization is attempting to develop a smartphone application that scans food products to reveal their carbon footprints. The technology is there for it. The information is not.

Not enough information to work with
To develop the app, SnowShoeFood CEO Claus Moberg worked with three University of Wisconsin graduate students to find all the carbon footprint information they could on two brands of locally made ice cream.

“It’s taken us four months and a lot of legwork to assemble our best bet of a carbon footprint for the two types of ice cream,” Moberg said. And he still doesn’t think what they ended up with is enough to be acceptable in an academic evaluation of a food item’s carbon footprint. “It’s almost impossible to do this as an outsider,” he added.

If food companies made all carbon footprint data of their items available, the SnowShoe app would be able to rank them from smallest carbon footprints to largest. But until they come forward, it can’t.

Food manufacturers need to be shown that releasing such information would bring more benefits than costs, Moberg said. He’s optimistic that such a thing will happen, pointing to carbon labeling trends in Europe as a positive sign.

In the meantime, SnowShoe is promoting its “True Local” application, which can scan items to tell if they originated in Wisconsin or not. For now, it works at Fresh Madison Market, but he’s in talks with other groceries around the area.

The “True Local” app is a small start, but it may lead the way for this kind of labeling. With it, manufacturers will be able to tell which items are scanned and which are bought. Such consumer actions are hard to correlate with a simple label on a can.

But Vandenberg contends that buying locally is not enough, and the type of labels he envisions would have a wide range of factors considered. In the case of local vs. imported food, it’s important to look into the energy used to raise or grow it on top of the energy used to import it, he said. Another example he brings up is buying fresh vegetables in season versus buying vegetables raised in a hothouse.

Vandenburg adds that some items might be better for labeling than others. He’s currently developing a shortlist of promising products. Food, cars and household supplies come to mind as potential candidates, Vandenberg said, but he hasn’t listed any just yet.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500

Petrobras vira nome de dinossauro na Argentina (FSP, JC)

JC e-mail 4199, de 14 de Fevereiro de 2011

Titanossauro recém-descoberto no país se chamará “Petrobrasaurus”. Animais “patrocinados” estão ficando comuns, e mesmo pessoas podem pagar para colocar seu nome em espécies

Sinal dos tempos: hoje em dia até dinossauro tem “naming rights” – o termo que se usa quando uma empresa coloca o seu nome em um estádio de futebol ou em uma sala de cinema, por exemplo.

O caso de merchandising paleontológico mais recente é o de um titanossauro argentino herbívoro e quadrúpede com 85 milhões de anos de idade, 22 metros e até 35 toneladas que ganhou o nome da Petrobras, descoberto por pesquisadores de lá.

Casos parecidos aconteceram recentemente com outras empresas do ramo da Petrobras. O dino Futalognkosaurus dukei, de 2007, por exemplo, tem esse nome por causa da Duke Energy. O Panamericansaurus, de 2010, refere-se à Pan American Energy.

A homenagem dos hermanos não é, claro, só um gesto de camaradagem latino-americana: a Petrobras, que hoje tem vários poços pelo país, dá suporte logístico (como alojamento e alimentação) a paleontólogos do país que tentam encontrar fósseis perto das perfurações.

Segundo Leonardo Filippi, paleontólogo do Museo Municipal Argentino Urquiza e autor do artigo científico, não é bem, então, que a Petrobras tenha “comprado” o nome do bicho. Nas palavras dele, é um “reconhecimento da colaboração constante” da empresa brasileira.

Involuntariamente, os argentinos acabaram revivendo a crítica de que a Petrobras, supostamente gigante e lenta, seria um dinossauro. Ao menos não deram ao bicho o famigerado apelido de “Petrossauro”, mas sim o nome de Petrobrasaurus puestohernandezi – o segundo nome por causa de Puesto Hernández, na Patagônia, local onde o animal foi achado.

“De um tempo para cá, dar a empresas e instituições que financiam pesquisas os animais recém-descobertos tem se tornado muito comum. Nos EUA, é prática. A National Geographic, por exemplo, é bastante lembrada”, diz Mario Cozzuol, paleontólogo da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais.

Espécies grandes e chamativas como dinossauros, claro, são consideradas mais valiosas. Quem não é uma gigante do setor petrolífero, porém, pode se contentar em nomear espécies de menor destaque – e há um vasto mercado de nomenclatura científica se consolidando.

Uma ONG europeia chamada Biopat se especializou em intermediar a venda de nomes de espécies recém-descobertas. Qualquer um pode colocar o nome que quiser em um bicho ou planta, basta pagar. É caro: eternizar o seu nome em um beija-flor, por exemplo, chega a custar mais de R$ 20 mil.

O problema é que empresas e pessoas só querem mesmo nomear espécies carismáticas como beija-flores ou orquídeas – mesmo que o pessoal da Biopat faça um bom desconto, ninguém se interessa por uma coitada de uma baratinha, digamos.

O fato de ninguém querer dar nome para insetos é tão sério que a empresa achou estranho quando um cliente alemão quis pagar para isso. Entrou em contato com ele e descobriu que o nome que ele queria colocar no bicho era… bom, era o da sua sogra.

O caso da sogra-inseto chegou a ser assunto nas páginas da normalmente sisuda revista acadêmica Science em março de 2005, em um texto que desejava justamente chamar a atenção para a grave desigualdade que a preferência por bichos e plantas fofas estava criando.

Tinha-se receio que os milhares de dólares estimulando a descoberta de espécies bonitas acabassem minando a busca por espécies na ala desprezada que natureza -vamos lá, não é porque os bichos são feios que não tem o seu valor científico.

No Brasil, esse capitalismo todo ainda não chegou à nomeação de espécies.

Homenagens são mais comuns. Foi assim que o jornalista José Hamilton Ribeiro, por votação na internet, passou a nomear um antúrio-mirim, planta ornamental de nome científico Aceae anthurium hamiltoni, encontrada em uma reserva da Vale no Espírito Santo. (Folha de São Paulo)