IT’S PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO DEFINE GMO’S...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Shutterstock WTF is a GMO? By Nathanael Johnson   GRIST Debates rage over what to do about genetically modified organisms, but we rarely stop to ask a more basic question: DoGMOs really exist? It’s an important question, because no one in this debate can tell you precisely what aGMO is. I’ve come to the conclusion that “GMO” is a cultural construct. It’s a metaphor we use to talk about a set of ideas. It doesn’t map neatly onto any clear category in the physical world.GMOs, like other cultural constructs — think of gender, or race — do have a basis in reality, of course: We can roughly define “male” or “Asian,” but when we try to regulate these divisions, all kinds of problems crop up. And definitions of “GMOs” are much messier — “nerd” might be a roughly...

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THE PLANET MIGHT BE TELLING US THERE’S A BIG CHANGE COMING...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] The planet might be telling us that there’s a big change coming By Kate Yoder  GRIST It’s been over two years since Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book came out and more than two weeks since Kim Kardashian’s latest child came out — which means that a lot of us are fresh out of interesting topics to bring up at the holiday party. Well, I’ve got just the conversation starter for you: “critical slowing down.” No — wait! It’s the idea that complex systems — like ecological food webs, the Earth’s climate, or the human brain — display characteristic warning signals when disaster is nearing, taking longer and longer to recover from small disturbances as they approach a major transition. Natalie Wolchover from The Atlantic writes: Just as when the Earth periodically plunges into an ice age, or when grasslands turn to desert, fisheries...

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IT’S BEEN A STRANGE YEAR FOR STARTUPS, TECHNOLOGY AND THE CLEAN ENERGY BUSINESS...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Shutterstock By Heather Smith   GRIST This year, I made it my goal as a reporter to stake out that space in a hypothetical Venn diagram where the environment, the economy, and technology intersect. I did this because I’d noticed something: When we talk about the environment, we rarely talk money (unless it’s the Borgesian academic weirdness of resource economics), and when we talk money, we definitely don’t talk about the environment. Meanwhile, most reporting on new technology often fails to consider any possible environmental consequences, and most reporting on technological developments that could benefit the environment fails to consider the economy that this (often very new, very hypothetical) technology will have to operate in. And so, I had a terrific time nerding out over questions like: What does the Paris climate accord mean for research and development into renewable tech? If oil...

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HERE’S WHAT A YEAR OF GREEN ADVICE BOILS DOWN TO...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Grist / Shutterstock Auld Lang Sign-off By Ask Umbra Dearest Readers, The champagne is chilling. The ball is hoisted and in position for a midnight drop. The shiny hats and noisemakers are lined up, ready to party. But before we get too busy ringing in 2016, I always like to look back on the year that was. In my role as mistress of the Ask Umbra inbox, I get a unique peek into the concerns, fears, and everyday hassles that fill your lives, dear readers. And in looking back over your letters, I can begin to see some themes emerge. Here’s what consumed you most in 2015 — from major water woes in California to just where we should be peeing. 2015: When drought questions showed no sign of drying up If one...

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‘Groundbreaking’ Exposé Shows Pentagon Thwarting Obama’s Bid to Transfer Guantánamo Prisoners...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate]   A former official compared negotiating prisoner releases with the military brass to “punching a pillow.” By Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez / Democracy Now! A US soldier at the abandoned “Camp X-Ray” detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 9, 2014 In the nearly seven years since President Obama ordered Guantánamo’s closure, Republicans have blocked him at every turn. Now a new report sheds light on another obstacle in Obama’s way: his own Pentagon. According to Reuters, military brass have imposed bureaucratic hurdles to keep prisoners locked up and prevent foreign governments from taking them in. Scores of prisoners cleared for release have remained imprisoned for years as a result. We are joined by two guests: Charles Levinson, the Reuters reporter who broke this story, and...

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The 5 Craziest Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories of 2015...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Culture The indefatigable right-wing loony factory pumped out some doozies this year. By Janet Allon, Jonah Allon / AlterNet Conspiracy theories used to be relegated to the fringes of American political discourse. Not so much anymore, now that one of the major political parties is itself pretty fringe. When the notion that the government itself is out to get the people and needs to be dismantled and shut down is the position of one of your party’s frontrunners, you’re pretty far gone. That’s why the year’s top conspiracy theories, as kooky as they are, will seem familiar. The idea that the government was planning a military takeover of Texas—the dreaded Jade Helm plot—was fostered on Fox News and taken seriously by Governor Greg Abbott. Many of the GOP presidential frontrunners continue to perpetuate...

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THEY’RE ALREADY TRYING TO STEAL 2016: INSIDE THE GOP VOTING RIGHTS SCHEME INTENDED TO DERAIL DEMOCRACY...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Donald Trump, Antonin Scalia, Ted Cruz (Credit: AP/Reuters/Richard Drew/Haraz N. Ghanbari/Chris Keane) Republicans want districts more rural and more white, and are eager to suppress minority voting rights before 2016 Heather Digby Parton  SALON.COM Ever since African-American men were granted the right to vote with the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, programs were enacted to make it impossible for them to exercise the franchise. And needless to say, the passage of the 19th Amendment 50 years later, which opened the franchise to women, only resulted in even more programs to deny African-Americans their ability to vote in many states. All of this was quite legal under the states’ rights doctrine until the 1960s, when President Johnson and Congress finally passed the Voting Rights Act, which put the federal government in charge...

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FOR THE WEALTHIEST, A TAX SYSTEM THAT SAVES THEM BILLIONS...

Dec 31, 2015 Posted by

[Translate]   The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income. By NOAM SCHEIBER and PATRICIA COHENDEC. 29, 2015 Daniel S. Loeb, shown with his wife, Margaret, runs the $17 billion Third Point hedge fund. Mr. Loeb, who has owned a home in East Hampton, has contributed to Jeb Bush’s super PAC and given $1 million to the American Unity Super PAC, which supports gay rights. Credit Left: Patrick McMullan Company; Right: Doug Kuntz WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes. They have invested large sums in art — and millions more in political candidates. Moreover, each has exploited an...

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Why Religious Literacy in Schools Matters...

Dec 30, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Education For both parents and educators, it’s a critical time to reach out to our teachers and school leaders. By Anisha Ismail Patel / Huffington Post  VIA ALTERNET January 4, 2016 group of african american college students studying together Photo Credit: michaeljung As 2015 rolls to a close, families around the nation are taking the time to count their blessings. Many parents and children have taken pen to paper to write notes of gratitude to their schools and teachers. My own family is so grateful for being part of an incredible public school system in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Our children are flourishing under the guidance of their dedicated school staff and the positive environment that is consistently maintained in the buildings. As an educator, I know how much thought is given to every...

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NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF: THE REAL AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM – SELLING WEAPONS TO THE WORLD...

Dec 30, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Nothing to be proud of: The real American exceptionalism is selling the most weapons in the world — by far By selling weapons at alarming levels, the U.S. is further fueling the extremism it purports to be fighting Ben Norton   SALON.COM   (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque) American exceptionalism — the notion that the U.S. is somehow an exceptional country, with no parallels in the world — is largely a myth. There is, however, one way in which it is absolutely true: The U.S. sells more weapons than any other country. The U.S. has just 5 percent of the global population, but sells more than half of its weapons. And this number is increasing. A new congressional study found that foreign arms sales by the U.S. increased by almost $10 billion in 2014 — up...

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THE USE OF BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS IN CALL CENTERS...

Dec 30, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Dealing with customer service reps isn’t always a fun time, especially when they’re unable to fix your problem right away. If you’ve ever been on the phone with a call center representative, you likely noticed that your name was mentioned several times, and you may have even received an apology or an empathetic tone from the rep. but it’s also likely that you didn’t buy any of it because you knew that they were just reading a script. As a result of customer service often falling short when it comes to helping customers stay satisfied, many call centers are now using behavioral economics to become more effective. Avoiding Negative Words When it comes to interacting with customers in a call center environment, word choice plays a huge role in how satisfied the customers...

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THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER IS ABOUT TO HAVE A RECORD FLOOD OUT OF SEASON...

Dec 30, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Tech & Science By Zoë Schlanger On 12/29/15 at 6:21 PM Volunteers stack sandbags on the banks of the River Des Peres on December 29, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis area and surrounding region are bracing for record flood crests of the Mississippi, Missouri and Meramec Rivers after days of record rainfall. Michael B. Thomas/Getty Tech & Science The Mississippi River is flooding in a big way right now, at the wrong time of year, and is forecasted to match or break 22-year-old crest records over the next few days. Meteorologists are calling it “insane.” Over the next three to four days, the Mississippi is predicted to reach a crest height of 49.7 feet at Chester, Illinois, one of several locations where the National Weather Service records data about the river. As...

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CLIMATE CHANGE 2015: THE LATEST SCIENCE...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate]   By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis West coast of Greenland. The fastest glacier in the world, Jakobshaven Isbrae, moving at 150 feet per day, dumps ice from the Greenland Ice Sheet into Disko Bay. (Photo: Bruce Melton) Climate science is way out in front of climate policy. Commitments at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris pale in comparison to those from the Kyoto Protocol with its beginnings in the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The cheap and unambiguous solution of removing CO2 directly from the sky has been discredited by the perceived debate. Previously assumed stable ice sheets are disintegrating. It is warmer than any time in the last 120,000 years. The Gulf Stream appears to be shutting down. Nearly 100 submarine glacial valleys beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet tunnel...

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THIS NEWS FROM FRANCE WILL HELP YOU UNDERSTAND JUST WHAT A REAL DEAL AMERICANS GET WITH HEALTHCARE...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] By james321  DAILY KOS   French health care is almost as beautiful as this picture. Sometimes — ok, most of the time — we need to look outside our borders to understand just how rough working Americans have it when we talk social welfare. Well, I hope you are sitting down. Enter some good news for French people about “paying” for the doctor. French lawmakers on Thursday gave a final nod to a wide-ranging health care reform bill that will scrap upfront payments for doctors’ visits, despite months of protest from opposition parties and physicians dreading what some have called a “Soviet-style” system. What does this mean? Well, basically, at present French people pay €23 when they visit a primary care doctor and then get the majority of the payment refunded by the state, and...

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SHOCKING STORM TO BLAST U.K. AND NORTH POLE...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] North Atlantic storm to lash the UK, push temperatures at the North Pole 50 degrees above normal   By Pakalolo  DAILY KOS The same weather system that spawned devastating storms across a large swath of the country over the weekend is expected to “explode” into a monstrous storm over Iceland by Wednesday. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang notes that although big storms are common in the winter,  this particular storm will bring a surge of heat with it pushing temperatures at the North Pole up to 50 degrees above normal. The storm will contribute more misery to recently flooded areas in the United Kingdom as well. By Wednesday morning, when the storm reaches Iceland and nears maximum strength, its minimum pressure is forecast to be near 923 mb, which would rank among the great storms of the North Atlantic. (Note: there is some...

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Paul Krugman: The Nasty Truth That Trump Distracts Us From...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] And you thought W. was bad. By Janet Allon / AlterNet   Photo Credit: via YouTube/Moyers & Co. Donald sucked up all the air in the room in 2015, Paul Krugman notes in Monday’s column, but however much the GOP establishment laments him, their frontrunner has helped them out in one important way:  “I has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago.” Krugman recounts how, unbelievably, instead of the party engaging in some serious reexamination after the “debacle of George W. Bush’s presidency,” what we’ve seen is “a doubling down, a determination to take whatever didn’t work from 2001 to 2008 and do it again, in a more extreme form.” There is the...

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Headaches and Nosebleeds Reported as Months-Long Methane Leak Continues in Los Angeles (VIDEO)...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Environment Over 1,000 families have chosen to relocate and the school district recently authorized the two local schools to move out of the area. By Hilary Lewis / Earthworks  VIA ALTERNET Photo Credit: Lano Lan/Shutterstock Have you ever seen methane? What about benzene? Or the chemical the gas company adds to make your stovetop gas stink, mercaptan? I asked residents at a Save Porter Ranch meeting in northwest Los Angeles if they had seen the pollution they knew was in their community, pouring down from the SoCal Gas storage facility on the hill behind town. No one responded. For months now, methane pollution has been billowing from the breached facility into their community. Families have reported bad odors resulting in headaches and nosebleeds. Over 1,000 families have already chosen to relocate and the...

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Michael Moore on Why America ‘Needs a Little Time in the Timeout Room,’ and Whether Hillary Will Start a War...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] News & Politics Michael Moore talks Trump and terrorism, Sanders and socialism, Hillary and war. By Andrew O’Hehir / Salon   VIA ALTERNET Michael Moore. Photo Credit: Shutterstock Michael Moore has entered a period of reckoning, a period of thinking about his legacy. This can be deadly for artists or it can kick them into a higher gear; there’s no general rule about this. (If William Butler Yeats had died young the way Keats and Shelley did, he’d barely be remembered today.) I’m not going to pretend to review Moore’s new movie, “Where to Invade Next,” which is more like a manifesto or a plea than a conventional documentary. It has abundant flaws, some of which are simply questions of timing. Moore could not have known that his film heaping praise on European social democracy would...

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9 Spices That May Save Your Life...

Dec 29, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Personal Health Can cinnamon prevent diabetes? Just maybe. By Larry Schwartz / AlterNet   Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com If salt and pepper are all you are using to put some zip in your food, you are not only missing out on adding flavor to your meals, but maybe opportunities for a healthier, longer life. While spices may have begun as a way to enhance the taste of otherwise bland meats and vegetables (boiled mutton only went so far, we’re guessing), the ancients in China and the Far East used many of the spices medicinally for centuries. And it seems they were on to something. “There have been many recent studies validating the historic habit of using spices for health benefits,” Donna Tainter, author of Spices and Seasonings: A Food Technology Handbook, told the website SixWise.com. Modern science has indeed shown that many of...

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Germany’s Basic Income Experiment: What Would You Do If You Had $1,100 a Month With No Strings?...

Dec 28, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Awesome Stefan Bohrer  FUTURISM In Brief A new German experiment explores the possibilities of emancipatory basic income and what its implications are on productivity and creativity. No Strings Attached Here’s a question Germany seeks to answer—would the country be a better place if each citizen was given a check worth $1,100 by the government each month, with no strings attached? Would people still feel compelled to get up, go to work, and be productive with an unconditional basic income (which, by the way, is half the average monthly wage in Germany but twice the amount of those receiving welfare)? These are the questions that the privately funded German experiment involving 26 people, “Mein Grundeinkommen” (My Basic Income) wants to answer. The project is financed through crowdfunded donations that raise issues about Germany’s utopian ideals given the rise of poverty in Europe. Basic income...

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HIDE OUT IN THE HILLS IN THIS HIGH DESIGN GETAWAY...

Dec 28, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] David Friedlander  LIFE EDITED Architecture If DIY, salvaged material made, moss-covered Hobbit holes aren’t your thing, the VIPP Shelter might just be. VIPP is a Danish product design company best known for a pedal operated trash can (trust me, you’ve seen it). In their shelter they wanted to create a “plug-and-play getaway”–everything from the structure itself down to the linens has been designed by VIPP and is included in the purchase price. VIPP wants the owner to set up the, ahem, cabin and get relaxing ASAP without burden of choosing which door handle goes best with the moulding. The first thing you’ll probably notice about the prefab, 55 sq m (592 sq ft) shelter is glass. It’s everywhere. On the two main walls. On the ceiling. The idea being to give the owner maximum exposure...

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THE 5 BIGGEST WINS FOR AMERICA’S PUBLIC LANDS & WILDLIFE IN 2015...

Dec 28, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] by Jenny Rowland — Guest Contributor CLIMATE PROGRESS CREDIT: shutterstock   Despite dozens of failed attempts by one of the most anti-environmental Congresses in history to roll back conservation laws, the Obama administration and lawmakers were able to secure several victories for America’s public lands in 2015. Below are the top 5 biggest wins for conservation: The creation of six new national monuments In 2015, President Obama protected more land as national monuments than any year in his presidency -– more than 1 million acres. Using the Antiquities Act, the president this year designated six new national monuments: Basin and Range in Nevada, Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Waco Mammoth in Texas, Pullman in Chicago, Browns Canyon in Colorado, and Honouliuli in Hawaii. Many national monuments have over the years become some of...

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GREENBUILD GOES MAINSTREAM

Dec 27, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] It may be more challenging than anyone has supposed for Greenbuild to penetrate popular consciousness. Susan S. Szenasy  METROPOLIS MAGAZINE MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski interviews director James Cameron at this year’s Greenbuild conference. Courtesy Greenbuild International Conference & Expo In November, I boarded Amtrak to head to Washington, D.C. Our capital city, boasting more monuments than any other in the country, apparently inspires Greenbuild, the annual conference of the United States Greenbuilding Council (USGBC), to make some monumental announcements. Much has been accomplished in the organization’s 23 years of environmental advocacy. But it may be best known for its LEED-rating programs, which consider construction and planning at all scales, asking architects, builders, and developers to pay attention to, among other things, water, energy, and health—all that our home planet, and the living creatures that inhabit...

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SOUTH AFRICAN INSURANCE COMPANY BACKS TREE-PLANTING EFFORT TO REDUCE EFFECTS OF DROUGHT...

Dec 27, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Insurance companies are typically a fairly passive partner in disaster, showing up only when things have gone horribly wrong. The largest agricultural insurer in South Africa has broken the mold by backing a massive effort to slow the effects of drought, which threatens farmlands in the small country. Planting millions of trees has helped to reduce land degradation and ward off desertification, and the initiative could even lead to increased water supplies in communities that have lived under water restrictions for nearly a decade.  Rather than sit idly by and watch farmers lose untold acreage of croplands, Santam is working to actively reduce drought risk for its customers by funding Living Lands, an international nonprofit that has been active in South Africa since 2008. Working with government agencies, community organizations, and individual farmers,...

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THESE SOLAR PANELS CAN CAPTURE SUNLIGHT FROM ALMOST ANY ANGLE...

Dec 27, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] With a special glass coating, these solar panels can capture sunlight from almost any angle Environment With a special glass coating, these solar panels can capture sunlight from almost any angle by Cat DiStasio  INHABITAT When it comes to boosting efficiency in solar panels—that is, increasing the amount of the sun’s energy each photovoltaic cell can harness—researchers have tried a lot of tricks. Many solar power systems are equipped with tracking devices that enable the solar panels to follow the sun, changing their angle so they are always attracting a maximum amount of solar energy. Now, researchers have developed a special glass coating for solar cells that capture sunlight from almost any direction and increase efficiency by as much as 46 percent. As an added bonus, the coating also repels dust, meaning the...

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SELF-SUSTAINING, RESILIENT COASTAL COMMUNITY NEAR BOSTON...

Dec 27, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Paul Lukez Architecture and team are designing a self-sustaining, resilient coastal community near Boston   by Cat DiStasio   INHABITAT The reality is clear: the global sea level is rising. Coastal cities are under threat of flooding during storms, and many areas are ill-equipped to sustain such an attack of nature. Increasingly, this is where technology and design converge, resulting in new approaches to city infrastructure and housing that is resilient enough to withstand or even benefit from the changing conditions. Paul Lukez Architects (PLA) brought together a multidisciplinary team to address this complex challenge in a Boston neighborhood which is surrounded by water on three sides, making it particularly vulnerable to the rising tides. Harnessing Energy from Rising Tides. In essence, the PLA-led team looked at the harsh reality of rising sea levels...

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WORLD’S LONGEST ICE BRIDGE IS COMING TO FINLAND...

Dec 27, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] by Lidija Grozdanic   INHABITAT Next Monday the first batch of around 150 students will leave for Finland to build the world’s longest bridge made of ice. The 65-meter-long paper fiber-reinforced bridge, inspired by a Leonardo da Vinci design, is expected to be completed by mid February. It will become part of a site in the Finnish town of Juuka, where a team from Eindhoven built the world’s largest ice dome in 2014.   An international team, led by the staff of the Built Environment department of Eindhoven University of Technology, will build the bridge using around 900 tons of ice over the course of approximately six weeks. The structure will be made with water. Two percent of the mixture will be comprised of paper fiber, which will make the frozen water three times...

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DISASTER-PROOF SCHOOL DESIGN

Dec 27, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] by Lucy Wang   INHABITAT New York-based SHoP Architects has unveiled plans to build 50 solar-powered, disaster-proof schools in the Nepalese regions hit hardest by the April 25 earthquake. The design firm teamed up with nonprofits Kids of Kathmandu and Asian Friendship Network for the project, which will not only replace lost schools but also offer improved infrastructure that can work off-grid and even, in some cases, provide electricity and clean water to neighboring villages. SHoP Architects designed the schools to be as flexible and adaptable as possible to varying terrains and needs. The structures are made from an easily assembled kit of parts comprising readily available local materials such as earth brick, which provides stabilizing thermal mass. The earthquake-resistant schools will be set atop concrete slab foundations and erected with steel truss roof...

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BOTTLED AIR FROM CANADA IS SELLING LIKE CRAZY IN CHINA...

Dec 26, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] Sadly, this isn’t a gag from “Silicon Valley.” Vitality Air is marketing itself to smog-filled Chinese cities AJ Dellinger, The Daily Dot   (Credit: Bob Richardson) This article originally appeared on The Daily Dot. If someone told you there is a Silicon Valley startup selling bottled air to China, you would probably think it’s a joke. And it is; the startup is actually in Alberta, Canada. Vitality Air produces and sells “hand-bottled” air from Banff and Lake Louise, two Canadian locales known for their Rocky Mountain surroundings and crystal clear bodies of water. ADVERTISING More from The Daily Dot: “Mall Santa helps with special moment for grieving family” The startup has been capturing that air in “massive cans” through a clean compression process, which according to Vitality Air, “lock[s] in the pure air...

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THE ‘UNFOLDING GLOBAL DISASTER’ HAPPENING RIGHT UNDER OUR FEET...

Dec 26, 2015 Posted by

[Translate] by Natasha Geiling CLIMATE PROGRESS CREDIT: Shutterstock   With all that’s going on in the world — from record-breaking warm spells to rapidly melting ice sheets — it’s easy to ignore something so seemingly mundane as dirt. But scientists at the University of Sheffield’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures suggest that we ignore dirt at our own peril. Nearly a third of the world’s arable land has been lost over the past four decades, according to a new report, released to coincide with the Paris climate talks earlier this month. Experts at the the University of Sheffield called this soil loss “an unfolding global disaster” that directly threatens the agricultural productivity of the planet. But soil erosion isn’t just a problem for food security — which is expected to become even more pressing...

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