Author Archive | Aaron Dames

World’s Top Firms Cause $2.2 Trillion of Environmental Damage

From the Guardian:

Report for the UN into the activities of the world’s 3,000 biggest companies estimates one-third of profits would be lost if firms were forced to pay for use, loss and damage of environment.


The cost of pollution and other damage to the natural environment caused by the world’s biggest companies would wipe out more than one-third of their profits if they were held financially accountable, a major unpublished study for the United Nations has found.

The report comes amid growing concern that no one is made to pay for most of the use, loss and damage of the environment, which is reaching crisis proportions in the form of pollution and the rapid loss of freshwater, fisheries and fertile soils.

Later this year, another huge UN study – dubbed the “Stern for nature” after the influential report on the economics of climate change by Sir Nicholas Stern – will attempt to put a price on such global environmental damage, and suggest ways to prevent it.

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The Curious Case of the Evolving Apostrophe

Possessive apostrophesTechnology Review’s physics arXiv blog:

Last year, grammatical tragedy struck in the heart of England when Birmingham City Council decreed that apostrophes were to be forever banished from public addresses. To the horror of purists and pedants alike, place names such as St Paul’s Square were banned and unceremoniously replaced with an apostrophe-free version: St Pauls Square.

The council’s reasoning was that nobody understands apostrophes and their misuse was so common in public signs that they were a hindrance to effective navigation. Anecdotes abounded of ambulance drivers puzzling over how to enter St James’s Street into a GPS navigation system while victims of heart attacks, strokes and hit ‘n’ run drivers passed from this world into the (presumably apostrophe-free) next.

Why the confusion? Part of the reason is that apostrophes are not particularly common in the English language: In French they occur at a rate of more than once per sentence on average.

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U.S. Airport Security Plan Calls For 500 Body Scanners In 2011

total_recall_skeleton“No wonder you’re having nightmares. You’re always watching the news.” – Lori in Total Recall

By Thomas Frank at USA Today:

Body scanners that look under airline passengers’ clothing for hidden weapons could be in nearly half the nation’s airport checkpoints by late 2011, according to an Obama administration plan announced Monday.

The $215 million proposal to acquire 500 scanners next year, combined with the 450 to be bought this year, marks the largest addition of airport-security equipment since immediately after the 9/11 attacks. There are only 40 body scanners in a total of 19 airports now.

“It’s a move in the right direction,” aviation-security consultant Douglas Laird said. “We need to scan all passengers.”

The push for more scanners accelerated after the failed Christmas Day attempt to bomb an airliner near Detroit. Suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab boarded Flight 253 in Amsterdam after walking through a metal detector with powder explosives hidden in his underwear, authorities say.

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Iraq To Sue U.S., Britain Over Depleted Uranium Bombs

The 105mm M900 APFSDS-T (Depleted Uranium Armor Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot - Tracer)

Via the Tehran Times:

Iraq’s Ministry for Human Rights will file a lawsuit against Britain and the U.S. over their use of depleted uranium bombs in Iraq, an Iraqi minister says.

Iraq’s Minister of Human Rights, Wijdan Mikhail Salim, told Assabah newspaper that the lawsuit will be launched based on reports from the Iraqi ministries of science and the environment.

According to the reports, during the first year of the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq, both countries had repeatedly used bombs containing depleted uranium.

According to Iraqi military experts, the U.S. and Britain bombed the country with nearly 2,000 tons of depleted uranium bombs during the early years of the Iraq war.

Atomic radiation has increased the number of babies born with defects in the southern provinces of Iraq.

Iraqi doctors say they’ have been struggling to cope with the rise in the number of cancer cases — especially in cities subjected to heavy U.S.

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U.S. Raises Stakes on Iran: Deploys Ships and Missiles

missileChris McGreal at Global Research:
Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran. The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait — and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations. American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.
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Gone But Not Forgotten: Future Implications of Human Killed-Off Species

GVmammothsSPLVia the Economist:

Between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago roughly half of the earth’s larger mammals (species that were sheep-sized or bigger) went extinct. The distribution of these extinctions in time and space suggests strongly that humans were responsible.

Large mammals in Africa, which had evolved alongside humans for millions of years, were for the most part spared. The species which died out elsewhere — 178 of them, possibly more — tended to do so at around the time that they first encountered modern humans coming forth out of Africa with pointy sticks, good throwing arms and large appetites.

Ecologists have shown that wiping out big animals is surprisingly easy, since big animals reproduce slowly, which means that a small increase in the rate at which predators pick them off can have a large effect on the population, especially if the predators prefer hunting juveniles. Hence the now widely accepted argument that humans come with original ecological sin built in.

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‘Sex Puppeteers’ Force Sex Changes and Virgin Births in Bugs Via Genes

Christine Dell'Amore writes in National Geographic News:wolbachia infected wasp egg
Fast-spreading parasite species force sex changes on their victims, induce virgin births, and turn animals into "gross monsters" — among other horrors. Now a new study has decoded how the bacteria may be able to wreak their havoc: by shutting down immune systems. The parasites, of the Wolbachia bacteria genus, cause a gene in wasps to stifle the insect's protein-based "alarms" against the bacterial invaders, say researchers who mapped the genomes of three species of Nasonia wasp for the first time. As a result, the wasps' antibacterial defenses are never deployed, allowing Wolbachia to begin their dirty work.
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Banksy “Speaks” At ‘Exit Through The Gift Shop’ Sundance Premiere

Kevin Kelly writes in Cinematical:
The infamous street artist Banksy premiered Exit Through The Gift Shop at Sundance last night, which was part of Sundance's "Secret Spotlight" series. In short, we enjoyed it, but there's a lot to say about it this movie, so check back later for our review. The title itself refers to Disneyland and Disney World's engineered design of having guests exit attractions right through the gift shop, so as to better serve all of their merchandising needs. Banksy, whose real identity is an extremely well-kept secret, may or may not have been at the screening last night (how would we even know?), but he did send a letter which Sundance Director of Programming John Cooper read aloud to the audience. Read on for the full text of the mysterious letter, keep your eyes peeled for our reviews ... and for more mysterious street art to appear.
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