31 Oct 2014

5 Ways Life in America Would Be Better If Everyone Voted

With Election Day approaching on November 4th, Americans are faced with a perennial question: to vote or not to vote? In the last midterm election, in 2010, only 47 percent of the eligible population voted. Voting patterns typically break down along clear demographic lines: Non-voters tend to be low-income, young and people of color, while those who vote tend to older, whiter and richer than the population at large. Over the last three elections, voter turnout has been consistently 30 points higher among the highest income bracket (those earning more than $150,000 a year) than those in the lowest (those earning less than $10,000). Recent research on the top one percent of the wealth distribution – millionaires – suggests that members of this group turn out to vote at the staggering rate of 99 percent.
For a long time, political scientists believed that this voting gap was immaterial, and that voters were effectively a "carbon copy" of the non-voting population. They argued that this meant that non-voters were still adequately represented in elections. For a long time, this was likely true – but since the late 1980s the class bias in the voting electorate has increased dramatically. At the same, public opinions on economic redistribution, government and regulation have polarized, with the rich rejecting the New Deal consensus in favor of laissez-faire lunacy. This means that our current election system is not representing what Americans really think. Here are five ways that our country would be different if everyone voted:
  1. 1 Higher Minimum Wages
In a recent study, Auburn University's William Franko compared minimum wages in states with high and low class bias in the electorate. He found that states with a lower disparity between low-income and high-income turnout had policies more favorable to the poor. States with low turnout inequality have a minimum wage policy that is around 20 cents higher than those with high voting inequality. This shouldn't be surprising: A recent Demos report shows that while 78 percent of the general public support a higher minimum wage, only 43 percent of the wealthy do. The recent $15 minimum wage in Seattle was only possible after a drive to get more low-income and immigrant voters registered.
  1. 2 Lower Income Inequality
In another recent study examining all 50 states over more than three decades, Franko, Nathan J. Kelly and Christopher Witko find that "where the poor exercise their voice more in the voting booth relative to higher income groups, inequality is lower." They find that states with low turnout bias are more likely to have left-leaning governments that favor liberal economics policies. This finding is particularly important since recent research suggests that income distributions are increasingly decided at the state level.
  1. 3 Better Healthcare
Franko's research also suggests that states with lower turnout bias are more likely to adopt expansive healthcare programs for low-income children, and they tend to have more simple application processes. This shouldn't be entirely surprising. In their study of voters and non-voters, Jan Leighley and Jonathan Nagler find that 51.5 percent of non-voters think that the government should provide health insurance, compared to only 44.3 percent of voters. A 2012 Pew Studyfound that non-voters were far more likely to support the Affordable Care Act (with 49 percent of likely voters supporting repeal, compared to only 31 percent of non-voters). The study also found that non-voters were far more likely to support Obama (47 percent of likely voters versus 59 percent of non-voters) and oppose Romney (47 percent to 24 percent). It's no wonder Republicans have based their electoral strategy around disenfranchising voters.
  1. 4 Stronger Laws Against Predatory Lending
Predatory lending policies were an important part of the 2008 financial crisis, and their effect lingers on today: Some 10 million homeowners still owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. Predatory lending was particularly harmful for communities of color, which were often singled out for bad mortgages. Research shows that states with lower turnout inequality are more likely to adopt strict anti-predatory lending policies. This, again is unsurprising: Recent research suggests that the rich are especially distasteful towards lending regulation, with the wealthiest of the wealthy the most strongly opposed to regulation.


Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/5-ways-life-in-america-would-be-better-if-everyone-voted-20141029

Israel foreign minister says sweden should understand that the middle east is more complicated that ikea furniture

 The Swedish government on Thursday officially recognized a state ofPalestine, as the new prime minister, Stefan Lofven, ignored Israeli protests and followed through on a pledge he made at his inauguration this month.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry posted a message on Twitter on Thursday announcing the move and saying the Swedish government “expressed hopes for peaceful coexistence between #Israeland #Palestine.”

Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said that Sweden hoped its “excellent cooperation” with Israelwould continue and that the decision would be met in Jerusalem “in a constructive way,” The Associated Press reported.

The Palestinian leadership welcomed the move, which came amid growing criticism and frustration in Europe and the United States of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.  

Israel fears that the move by Sweden could lead other influential European countries to follow suit, a trend Israeli officials say would pre-empt the results of future negotiations over a Palestinian state with agreed borders.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Israel said in a statement Thursday that the decision by the Swedish government to recognize a Palestinian state was unfortunate and would strengthen radical elements and Palestinian recalcitrance.

“The Swedish government must understand that relations in the Middle East are more complex than one of Ikea’s flat-pack pieces of furniture, and would do well to act with greater sensitivity and responsibility,” he said.

Israel said it was recalling its ambassador to Sweden to Jerusalem for consultation, according to Paul Hirschson, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy spokesman. “It’s an expression of a certain level of upset from our side,” he said.

In his inaugural address Oct. 3, Mr. Lofven told Parliament that a two-state solution was the only way to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “Sweden will therefore recognize the state of Palestine,” he said.

Malta and Cyprus are the only other West European countries to have recognized a Palestinian state. Britain’s Parliament passed a nonbinding resolution this month to give diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state, although the government of Prime Minister David Cameron opposes recognition.

Food as portrayed by Studio Ghibli



































Travertine Chimneys of Lake Abbe

Lake Abbe is a salt lake, the largest and last of a chain of six connected lakes on the Ethiopia-Djibouti border. The lake lies on a basin called the Afar Depression at a point where the Arabian, Nubian, and Somalian plates are pulling away from each other. The strain caused by the splitting Nubian and Somalian plates has created a strange landscape around Lake Abbe. As the two plates drift apart, the crust above them thins until it cracks. Magma pushes to the surface through the thin spots and warm underwater springs. As the boiling water bubble up to the surface, they deposit the dissolved calcium carbonates creating towering chimneys, the same way water trickling down the roof of limestone caves create stalactites and stalagmites. Some of these chimneys reach heights of 50 meters, and puffs of steam vent from the top. The otherworldly landscape inspired Charlton Heston to shoot his classic 1968 film, "Planet of the Apes", on the shores of Lake Abbe.











30 Oct 2014

Eleven countries studied, one inescapable conclusion – the drug laws don’t work. Eight month study shows legalisation policies do not result in wider use, and the US should be watched with interest

The Home Office comparison of international drug laws, published on Wednesday, represents the first official recognition since the 1971 Misuse ofDrugs Act that there is no direct link between being “tough on drugs” and tackling the problem.
The report, which has been signed off by both the Conservative home secretary, Theresa May, and the Liberal Democrat crime prevention minister, Norman Baker, is based on an in-depth study of drug laws in 11 countries ranging from the zero-tolerance of Japan to the legalisation of Uruguay.
The key finding of the report, written by Home Office civil servants, lies in a comparison of Portugal, where personal use is decriminalised, and the Czech Republic, where criminal penalties for possession were introduced as recently as 2010.
“We did not in our fact-finding observe any obvious relationship between the toughness of a country’s enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country,” it says. “The Czech Republic and Portugal have similar approaches to possession, where possession of small amounts of any drug does not lead to criminal proceedings, but while levels of drug use in Portugal appear to be relatively low, reported levels of cannabis use in the Czech Republic are among the highest in Europe.
“Indicators of levels of drug use in Sweden, which has one of the toughest approaches we saw, point to relatively low levels of use, but not markedly lower than countries with different approaches.”
Endless coalition wrangling over the contents of the report, which has taken more than eight months to be published, has ensured that it does not include any conclusions.
However, reading the evidence it provides, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Home Office civil servants who wrote it seem to have been impressed that a health-based rather than a criminal justice-based approach is where effective policies lie.
It also, rather remarkably, says that the experiments in legalisation now under way in the US states of Washington and Colorado, and in Uruguay, should be watched with interest. This is a world away from the “war on drugs” rhetoric that has formed the mainstay of the political debate on drugs in the past four decades.
The report, Drugs: International Comparators, documents in great detail the experience of Portugal, where personal use was decriminalised nearly 11 years ago and those arrested for drugs are given the choice of going before a health “dissuasion commission” or facing a criminal justice process.
“Trend data from Portugal shows how levels of drug use changed in the years following decriminalisation in 2001. Although levels of drug use rose between 2001 and 2007, use of drugs has since fallen to below 2001 levels. It is clear that there has not been a lasting and significant increase in drug use in Portugal since 2001,” the report says.

Overweight crash test dummies being developed in response to rising obesity levels in the United States

Car safety testing has come a long way since the days of dropping cadavers down unused elevator shafts in the 1930s.

That we enjoy greater peace of mind on the road -- with fatal accidents in the US at historic lows -- is largely due to the evolution of crash test dummies. Vehicle manufacturers must prove their safety with dummies before they can be legally sold in the US and Europe, and these unsung heroes have developed into extraordinarily sophisticated tools for collecting data and assessing risk. 
"The newest dummies can have over 130 channels of information," says Chris O' Connor, CEO of Humanetics, the world's leading producer of dummies. "So the amount of data is up four or five times what it could years ago."

Humanetics work with insurance and academic institutions to analyze the ever-increasing data. This allows them to establish and prioritize the most common injuries, but also the most common victims. 
"Obese people are 78% more likely to die in a crash," says O' Connor. "The reason is the way we get fat. We get fat in our middle range. And we get out of position in a typical seat."
To accommodate the increasing numbers of overweight drivers, Humanetics are developing an obese dummy. One prototype has already been produced that weighs 273 pounds with a body mass index of 35.

The analytics also reveal that risk of a serious injury increases by 20% in 50-year-old drivers, by 40% at 80, and steadily higher thereafter. Replicating age in a dummy is an ongoing challenge, but the company hope to have a prototype by 2015.

Humanetics are also rolling out their next generation THOR (Test device for Human Occupant Restraint) for median range occupants, with the most advanced sensitivity yet.
"The idea of these new dummies that they start to measure new types of load, (such as) shoulder loads, they interact with restraints better," says Dr. Joel Stitzel, director of the Center for Injury Biomechanics. "They have more measurement capabilities, so they can do a better job of predicting injury."

But Stitzel believes the time-honored crash test dummy could be challenged by a new concept. anatomy."

Sewell, An Abandoned Mining Town in The Andes

Located on the slopes of the Andes in the commune of MachalĂ­ in Chile, at an altitude of 2,000 metres, lies the abandoned mining town of Sewell built by the Braden Copper company in 1905 to house workers of the world’s largest underground copper mine, El Teniente. It was the first copper company town in Chile, the largest producer of this metal in the world, and an outstanding example of the global phenomenon where company towns were established in remote parts of the world to extract and process natural resources. Sewell Mining Town is particularly notable for its contribution to the global spread of large-scale mining technology.

The town was built on the slope of the Andes with no flat roads, just a giant central staircase rising from the railway station. Along its route formal squares of irregular shape with ornamental trees and plants constituted the main public spaces or squares of the town. The buildings lining the streets are made of timber, often painted in vivid green, yellow, red and blue.