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  1. Monsanto's Roundup, a toxic weedkiller that contaminates soil and water, causes devastating health problems in humans who are exposed to it. Now it's illegal for private persons to buy it in the Netherlands.

    This is a huge victory. Monsanto fought this law every step of the way, but the Dutch parliament did what was right. No matter how hard Monsanto tries to subvert the law to its will, Monsanto can be defeated. We're calling on other governments throughout Europe to follow the Dutch example and ban the sale of Roundup, the poison that Monsanto sells.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-10-20)
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  2. I switched from using a BlackBerry to an Android phone a few years ago it really irked me that the only way to keep my contacts info on the phone was to also let Google sync them into their cloud. This may not be true universally (I think some samsung phones will let you store contacts to the SD card) but it was true for phone I was using then and is true on the Nexus 4 I'm using now. It took a lot of painful digging through Android source and googling, but I successfully ended up writing a bunch of code to get around this.

    I've been meaning to put up the code and post this for a while, but kept procrastinating because the code wasn't generic/pretty enough to publish. It still isn't but it's better to post it anyway in case somebody finds it useful, so that's what I'm doing.

    In a nutshell, what I wrote is an Android app that includes (a) an account authenticator, (b) a contacts sync adapter and (c) a calendar sync adapter. On a stock Android phone this will allow you to create an "account" on the device and add contacts/calendar entries to it.

    Note that I wrote this to interface with the way I already have my data stored, so the account creation process actually tries to validate the entered credentials against a webhost, and the the contacts sync adapter is actually a working one-way sync adapter that will download contact info from a remote server in vcard format and update the local database. The calendar sync adapter, though, is just a dummy. You're encouraged to rip out the parts that you don't want and use the rest as you see fit. It's mostly meant to be a working example of how this can be accomplished.

    The net effect is that you can store contacts and calendar entries on the device so they don't get synced to Google, but you can still use the built-in contacts and calendar apps to manipulate them. This benefits from much better integration with the rest of the OS than if you were to use a third-party contacts or calendar app.
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  3. If one looks at the reasons people go hungry in the world today, poverty is the primary reason. But when one thinks about this goal of feeding the world, invariably the issue of poverty gets dropped out of that equation — because it’s such a hard problem. Whereas increasing yields is something your favorite tea company will be able to do for you, right here, right now.

    “It’s interesting to think about: Why is it so hard to imagine ending poverty? It’s an idea that at various points, even in U.S. political history, was a very real goal.

    When I got down to the recommendations at the end of the report there was absolutely nothing about increasing yields. Instead, the policy prescriptions were exclusively political: Make nutrition a political priority, educate and empower girls, strengthen social safety nets, crack down on corruption, require food companies to provide nutritional information …

    I’m not laying out all the goals here, but you get the point. IFPRI is not restricting the focus to agriculture. In fact, agriculture gets only passing mention in these recommendations.

    CGIAR, he said, used to be focused on yields, but in 2010, for the first time, it stopped to lay out a strategy. It now has four strategic objectives: reducing poverty, combating hunger, improving nutrition and health, and achieving environmental sustainability.
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  4. Si tratta di un Airbus 330, che ha operato un volo commerciale da Helsinki a New York alimentato da un biocarburante realizzato grazie alla raccolta e al riciclo di olio alimentare proveniente dai ristoranti.

    L’utilizzo del combustibile ha permesso, secondo quanto riporta la compagnia aerea, una riduzione delle emissioni dal 50 all’80 per cento. “Poiché il traffico aereo contribuisce per il 2% alle emissioni totali di gas serra, è molto importante effettuare questo test con l’uso di biocarburante”, ha dichiarato il ministro finlandese per lo sviluppo internazionale Pekka Haavisto. “Se il prezzo del petrolio aumenta e i biocarburanti diventano più economici, speriamo, un giorno, di poter sostituire almeno alcuni dei combustibili fossili con quelli derivati da energie rinnovabili e dai rifiuti. Sono orgoglioso che Finnair stia assumendo la leadership in questo processo”.

    Infatti lo sviluppo di carburanti alternativi è già attiva da anni, in particolare grazie alla collaborazione con la joint venture SkyNrg Nordic. Il carburante è in parte prodotto con olio da cucina riciclato, ottenuto dai ristoranti. L’obiettivo è infatti quello di realizzare biocarburanti non in competizione con la produzione alimentare.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2014-10-20)
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  5. mi dimetto da direttore di perché ritengo ingiusto e poco dignitoso continuare a lavorare senza essere pagato. Le difficoltà finanziarie di Promuovi Italia spa e le incertezze burocratiche del Mibact hanno infatti impedito i pagamenti verso la società Unicity spa che mi ha impiegato come direttore editoriale del portale e che non paga le mie spettanze da otto mesi”. Le “incertezze” cui l’ex direttore editoriale di fa riferimento hanno anche a che fare con la inaspettata decisione, assunta nelle scorse settimane dal Mibact attraverso il braccio operativo Promuovitalia, di rescindere anticipatamente il contratto con Unicity spa. Società, quest’ultima, che da giugno 2012 aveva in gestione il portale a seguito di regolare gara indetta nel 2010, e che da febbraio di quest’anno non si è più vista corrispondere le proprie spettanze da Promuovitalia stessa.

    Ora il portale, passato nelle mani di Enit, rischia un nuovo collasso
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  6. The move to renewables has been a success. It has happened at high speed since the late 1990s. The debate is no longer whether it will succeed, but rather what do we do with “too much” renewable power. But behind this positive story, the dark side is the huge expense.

    Early in 2013, the then-minister of environment Peter Altmaier mentioned the staggering amount of €1 trillion as the potential cost of the overall transition. This relied on a quick-and-dirty back-of-the-envelope calculation, which raises many questions and was never confirmed, but it does give a feel for the order of magnitude. The end-users – and thus the voters in Germany – are starting to feel the pain.

    Since the installation costs mean that renewables currently cost more per unit of power than conventional power, they are subsidised by a surcharge on the electricity price. In other words, electricity end-users directly pay for it. As you can see from the chart below, the surcharge for small end-users has soared since 2009 to cope with the rapid growth of installed capacity (the step-change that year reflected a sudden big rise in solar power, which is particularly expensive). The total subsidy is currently about €20bn/year, which amounts to €218/year per household on top of the normal electricity bill. Whether this is still affordable is a key question in the country right now.

    traditional firms like E.ON and RWE. They are suffering badly at the moment and are having to rethink their business models completely. In short, they face three challenges. The nuclear phase-out means they have to make very significant write-downs on their nuclear plants, at a loss to the shareholders. They are still fighting the government for compensation payments.

    Second, renewable power is suppressing electricity wholesale prices – essentially because they are cheaper to run per unit of power, which under the rules for calculating the wholesale price tends to bring them down across the board. This means that the revenues for conventional power plants are low and no longer cover the investment costs.

    Third, conventional power from gas and coal is being pushed out of the market. This means that a lot of conventional power plants are largely standing idle and not making any money. Since the future business model for such plants is looking bleak, the power companies are sitting on investments, which are not going to be profitable. Of course, RWE and E.ON are adjusting their long-term strategies.

    While this has been going on, the rising costs for residential end-users have become a political problem. In 2014 the government responded with a reform package, which slows down the energy transition in an attempt to control the costs. Basically the annual growth of new renewables has been capped to a pre-determined level.
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  7. Massimo Giuseppe Bossetti resta in carcere. Lo ha deciso il Tribunale del Riesame di Brescia, respingendo il ricorso dei legali del muratore di Mapello, fermato il 16 giugno con l’accusa di essere il killer di Yara Gambirasio, la 13enne di Brembate di Sopra uccisa il 26 novembre 2010. Secondo i giudici del capoluogo lombardo gli indizi contro il 44enne sono tali da giustificare l’isolamento nel carcere di Bergamo.

    Gli investigatori hanno setacciato migliaia di profili biologici delle valli bergamasche. Fino ad arrivare a quello di Giuseppe Guerinoni, autista di pullman deceduto nel 2009 e – secondo la Procura – padre biologico di Massimo Bossetti, avuto con Ester Azzuffi. Ma gli indizi contro il 44enne non finiscono qui, perché sull’uomo – che si è sempre proclamato innocente – gli investigatori hanno raccolto altri dettagli che proverebbero la sua colpevolezza. Come la polvere di calce rinvenuta nei polmoni della ragazza; i tabulati telefonici del giorno dell’omicidio che collocano Bossetti nella zona di Brembate; la frequentazione degli stessi luoghi di Yara; e un furgone bianco, immortalato dalle telecamere vicino alla palestra della 13enne quel 26 novembre, che secondo gli inquirenti appartiene a Massimo Bossetti.
    Tags: by M. Fioretti (2014-10-20)
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  8. Tre miliardi l’anno, tanto costerà la stabilizzazione in blocco di tutti gli insegnanti precari iscritti nelle Graduatorie a esaurimento (Gae): 140 mila docenti che il governo Renzi si è impegnato ad assumere nel 2015 insieme all’ultima tranche di vincitori e idonei del concorso Profumo del 2012 (7.500 persone, senza contare quanti fra i precari hanno superato anche quest’ultima prova). Ma chi sono questi prof che dovrebbero costituire l’ossatura di quella Buona Scuola che il governo ha promesso a milioni di famiglie italiane?
    Tags: by M. Fioretti (2014-10-20)
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  9. while divorce is without doubt a serious problem, if people do not even marry at all then the institutions of marriage and the family are in trouble.

    These figures are alarming. Evidence clearly shows the negative impact of being brought up in single parent homes.

    in Western Europe the rising levels of lone parenthood is not the result of divorce, but the result of a dramatic increase in the number of children brought up by unmarried parents.

    In Eastern Europe by contrast the main contributor to single parent households is still divorce.

    The cost to society of single parenthood is very high. According to the report in the UK the cost to the taxpayer of family breakdown is estimated at 46 billion pounds a year, more than the defence budget.

    A similar situation exists in the United States. A Sept. 24 report from the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends found that the number of American adults who have never been married is at an all time high.

    In 2012, one in five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. By comparison in 1960 only 9% in that age range had never been married.

    The Pew report noted that a number of factors have contributed to this change. In part it is due to people marrying at a later age, but the number of adults cohabiting and having children outside marriage has also increased substantially.

    While economic considerations are far from being the only factor in changes in patterns of marriage nevertheless national fiscal policies do have an influence.

    A report just published by Ireland’s Iona Institute, titled “Taxation and the Family: Restoring Balance and Fairness,” accuses the government of weakening support for the family by means of the tax and spending policies.

    In the last few decades the tax system has been changed to take less account of dependents, especially children, in the family home. This, the report said, is a form of individualization as each taxpayer is considered as an individual and it ignores the children and other dependents they may have.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2014-10-20)
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  10. Yesterday, that great invertebrate in the White House signed into the law the Telecom "Reform" Act of 1996, while Tipper Gore took digital photographs of the proceedings to be included in a book called "24 Hours in Cyberspace." I had also been asked to participate in the creation of this book by writing something appropriate to the moment. Given the atrocity that this legislation would seek to inflict on the Net, I decided it was as good a time as any to dump some tea in the virtual harbor. After all, the Telecom "Reform" Act, passed in the Senate with only 5 dissenting votes, makes it unlawful, and punishable by a $250,000 to say "shit" online. Or, for that matter, to say any of the other 7 dirty words prohibited in broadcast media. Or to discuss abortion openly. Or to talk about any bodily function in any but the most clinical terms. It attempts to place more restrictive constraints on the conversation in Cyberspace than presently exist in the Senate cafeteria, where I have dined and heard colorful indecencies spoken by United States senators on every occasion I did. This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the slightest idea who we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate could tell you what to read." Well, fuck them. Or, more to the point, let us now take our leave of them. They have declared war on Cyberspace. Let us show them how cunning, baffling, and powerful we can be in our own defense. I have written something (with characteristic grandiosity) that I hope will become one of many means to this end. If you find it useful, I hope you will pass it on as widely as possible. You can leave my name off it if you like, because I don't care about the credit. I really don't. But I do hope this cry will echo across Cyberspace, changing and growing and self-replicating, until it becomes a great shout equal to the idiocy they have just inflicted upon us.
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