Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

May 1, 2017

How to rekindle the forgotten art of Play

What play can teach us about our children and ourselves.

What is play? Is it something that we learn, is it taught? What role does urban design have on our propensity for playing? This article holds some clues and helps us get back in touch with play. Through play, we also come back to ourselves.

via Play Hints At Who We Are — Laura Grace Weldon

January 27, 2016

Lead in Ohio Villages’ Water Went Uncurbed for Months, State Says – The New York Times

Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that even after some corrective action had been taken, tests showed that water from many faucets and drinking fountains in public schools in Sebring still showed measurable levels of lead.

Source: Lead in Ohio Villages’ Water Went Uncurbed for Months, State Says – The New York Times

April 9, 2014

More on the High Cost of Infrastructure | Planetizen

Economists really need to become an integral part of the comprehensive planning process. America’s infrastructure is crumbling. And there are fewer dollars to replace it all, all the while cities continue to expand their borders, annex lands, build ring roads and highways, widen roads, ad infinitum. The salary of an economist will be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of implementing pie-in-the-sky comprehensive plans. Business owners, property owners, community stakeholders will need to shore up their resources and contribute to the maintenance and funding of new roads and bridges as their home cities grow.

Shore Parkway bikeway / greenway crumbles into Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY

Shore Parkway bikeway / greenway crumbles into Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY

A recent editorial in Atlantic Cities laments the regulations and policies that have, according to the author, driven up the costs of infrastructure investments in the United States.

Scott Beyer launches his investigation into the high costs of infrastructure with an acknowledgement of the difficult partisanship that has crippled infrastructure development in recent decades. Beyer’s insight into the gridlock: the political discord comes down to a question of how to operate the infrastructure once it’s been delivered.

The crux of Beyer’s examination is a list of policies, imposed by the federal government and, according to Beyer, strengthened by the Obama Administration. The list includes Davis-Bacon Laws, environmental reviews, and project labor agreements. After detailing the items on the list, Beyer poses the question of whether the secondary policy goals of employment and unionization should come at the expense of building or maintaining infrastructure. 

via More on the High Cost of Infrastructure | Planetizen: The Urban Planning, Design, and Development Network.

April 7, 2014

A jewel of the city: Aziza Chaouni on restoring the Fez River

TED Blog

Blog_FF_AzizaChaouniThe Fez River winds through the city’s medina — Fez’s historic medieval center and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Heavily contaminated, almost an open sewer, it was covered over with concrete to contain the smell; it was all but forgotten in recent decades. For much of the past 20 years, architect and engineer Aziza Chaouni has been battling to restore it. Working with the city’s water department since 2007, she’s now restoring and reconnecting the riverbanks with the rest of the city, while creating open, green public spaces, allowing the medina to breathe again. At TED2014, we asked her to tell the story of this extraordinary task.

How did you begin the task of uncovering the Fez River?

The whole story actually started as my thesis at Harvard. My thesis advisor told me to do something “that you feel passionate about and that could make a difference.” For years, I’d seen the river in my hometown being desecrated, polluted…

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April 7, 2014

An Inside Out portrait that delivers a message to drone operators

TED Blog

jr_kpk_fullThis portrait of a girl tells a story larger than the massive piece of vinyl it is printed on. Unfurled in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region of Pakistan, “#NotABugSplat” was created by a collection of artists and activists, using TED Prize winner JR’s Inside Out campaign, to send a message to drone operators, who reportedly call their kills “bug splats” because they appear small and grainy on screen. The idea is to “create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators,” explains the project website.

Below, an image JR posted about this Inside Out project via Instagram:

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April 5, 2014

Monsanto-backed bill to bar state GMO labeling laws

April 5, 2014

Rep. Mike Pompeo will introduce legislation backed by powerful trade groups to prevent states from passing laws requiring the labeling of genetically-modified foods, according to reports. The bill is linked to biotech giant Monsanto and Koch Industries.

Pompeo will offer the bill in the US House before Congress leaves for Easter recess later this month, The Hill newspaper reported, citing industry sources. Politico also reported on the impending proposal. Pompeo’s office would not comment on the congressman’s intentions for a labeling restriction.

The bill includes a “prohibition against mandatory labeling,” according to The Hill, echoing powerful interest groups that have already declared war against such “right to know” labeling laws around the nation.

It was revealed in recent months that powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups like Monsanto were joining forces – under the name ‘Coalition for Safe Affordable Food‘ – to push a federal voluntary labeling standard for food made with genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in an effort to stem the tide of state legislation seeking to mandate labeling.

In recent years, voters in states such as California and Washington have narrowly defeated ballot initiatives proposing mandatory GMO labeling, though not without dragging members of the new Coalition into expensive campaigns to defeat the measures. Many other states are now considering their own proposals to label GMO food.

to read more:

April 5, 2014

Study found “the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age”

April 1, 2014

Alex Cukan

Many countries recommend citizens “strive for five” servings of fruit and vegetables a day, but a study found people should be eating seven servings of produce a day — if not more.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, found fresh vegetables had the strongest protective effect, with each daily portion reducing overall risk of death by 16 percent — salad contributed to a 13 percent risk reduction per portion, and each portion of fresh fruit was associated with a smaller but still significant 4 percent reduction.

Lead author Dr. Oyinlola Oyebode, of the University College London’s Department of Epidemiology & Public Health and colleagues, used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population from 2001 to 2013. The study found the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age.

The study also found eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent, compared to eating less than one portion.

Eating seven or more portions reduced the specific risks of death by cancer by 25 percent, and reduced the risk of death from heart disease by 31 percent.

“We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” Oyebode said in a statement. “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age.”

However, the study found no evidence of a significant benefit from fruit juice, and canned and frozen fruit appeared to increase risk of death by 17 percent per portion.

“Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice,” Oyebode said. “The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits. Another possibility is that there are confounding factors that we could not control for, such as poor access to fresh groceries among people who have pre-existing health conditions, hectic lifestyles or who live in deprived areas.”

April 5, 2014

Chicago has experienced its coldest four months ever on record

April 2, 2014

Anthony Watts

An over a century-old record falls.

The average temperature for December 2013 to March 2014 period in  Chicago was only 22.0°F, 10 degrees below freezing, beating the old record set in the winter of 1903-04. It even beat the harsh winters of 1977/78 which were some of the worst ever.

While stories rage in the media about how global warming is a threat to mankind and nobody will be left untouched by it, the National Weather Service in Chicago issued this statement today…

Here is the statement:

937 AM CDT TUE APR 1 2014 /1037 AM EDT TUE APR 1 2014/





1. 22.0 2013-14
2. 22.3 1903-04
3. 22.5 1977-78
22.5 1892-93
5. 22.7 1978-79

to read more:

April 5, 2014

A quarter of Europe’s bumblebees face extinction: study

April 3, 2014


Almost a quarter of Europe’s bumblebees are at risk of extinction… threatening pollination of crops worth billions of dollars, a study showed on Wednesday.

Sixteen of 68 bumblebee species in Europe are at risk, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. It is preparing a global study of the bees, whose honeybee cousins are in steep decline because of disease.

“Of the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species,” said the IUCN, which groups governments, scientists and conservation groups.

“Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute more than 22 billion euros ($30.35 billion) to European agriculture a year,” it said in a statement.

to read more:

April 5, 2014

The worship of Satan in Mexico: How the cult of “Santa Muerte” has infested Mexico’s drug cartels with gruesome consequences

April 3, 2014

Josh Whittington


ON November 1 each year thousands of people descend on the rough and gritty neighbourhood of Tepito in Mexico City. Some walk on their knees for blocks, tightly but carefully clutching small skeletal figures, as they slowly near a shrine depicting a life-size image of their female deity. Others proudly carry babies to be presented. Some arrive with only prayers.

The goddess they approach is a skeleton, dressed as a bride and wearing hundreds of pieces of glittering gold jewellery that have already been offered up by her devoted followers.

A carnival atmosphere pervades the throng around her. Food is served, bands play and candles are lit. Flowers, fruits, sweets and money are readied as gifts. Colour abounds. Senses are in overload.

But there is no incense lit. In a clue to the dark nature of their idol, the faithful blow marijuana smoke for her to inhale instead.

For while this may look like and carry many of the trappings of a traditional religious gathering, it is something no church official would take part in. This is the cult of Santa Muerte’s most important ceremony of the year and images of death are everywhere.


SANTA Muerte translates into English as “Saint Death” or “Holy Death” — and it most certainly becomes her…

While the burgeoning cult surrounding her cannot be considered a fully-fledged religion it does boast many of the fixtures — self-proclaimed priests, temples and shrines, and many ritualised elements. Devotees pray at homemade altars and often offer up candles, fruit and even tequila in the hope she will grant their wishes…

Once an underground movement — most prayers and rites were traditionally performed privately in people’s home — it is well and truly out in the open now…

Many of those who kneel at the bones of Santa Muerte still view themselves as staunch Catholics — the dominant religion in Mexico. They simply feel they get something from the Skinny Lady they cannot get elsewhere.

“Many of the pilgrims who gather around shrines to the saint of death still see themselves as devout Catholics. Some self-appointed ‘priests’, claiming to be leaders of a cult that has no hierarchies or structure, have even tried to insist that their temples are part of the official church,” Prof Chesnut says…

Jose Roberto Jaimes, one of those who came to Tepito to thank Santa Muerte, told the BBC: “I also believe in God, in the Virgin, and all the saints, but I am more devout to [Saint] Death. She is the one that helps me the most.”


IN a country racked by a deadly and protracted drugs war, the adoration of Santa Muerte has taken sinister and gruesome forms.

Father Ernesto Caro simply cannot forget the drug gang hitman who came to be exorcised at his Monterrey church. The cartel member confessed to cutting up the bodies of his victims into pieces and burning others alive. He also told how he enjoyed hearing their screams as he did so. The man, believing himself to be possessed by demons, explained he was devoted to the service of Santa Muerte.

And he is not the only disciple among the murderous and brutal gangs and cartels of Mexico.

“Santa Muerte is being used by all our drug dealers and those linked to these brutal murders. We’ve found that most of them, if not all, follow Santa Muerte,” Father Caro told the BBC.

For men and women dealing daily with death and the threat of death, the attraction of an amoral deity is not surprisingly potent.

“For most of the cartels’ foot soldiers and their gang associates, brutal deaths prove almost certain,” Robert J. Bunker, author and visiting professor at the Strategic Studies Institute in the US, writes in an article published on the FBI website. “Such a form of imminent mortality facing adherents makes the worship of Santa Muerte spiritually dark. The death of someone’s enemies, protection from harm (or, at least, hope for a quick and glorious death), cultivation of a dangerous reputation, and ability to enjoy the benefits of fabulous riches, including the company of beautiful women become paramount.”

The implications of such “dark” worship are terrifyingly clear.

“With the stakes so high, the sacrifices and offerings to Santa Muerte have become primeval and barbaric.


FOR Father Francisco Bautista, from Mexico City, there is no doubt the link between the drug cartels and Santa Muerte has mushroomed in the last decade — with increasingly horrifying consequences.

“From approximately eight years ago we have seen Santa Muerte having a big presence with drug cartel members, from the bosses all the way down. Why? Because these people say that Jesus or the Virgin Mary can’t provide what they ask for, which is to be protected from soldiers, police and their enemies,” he told the BBC.

“In exchange they offer human sacrifices. And this has increased the violence in Mexico.”

The evidence of this disturbing correlation is both illustrative and shocking. For example:

* A powerful criminal figure in Tepito is said to have killed virgins and babies once a year and offered them as sacrifices to gain magical protection;

* Gang members have taken rival cartel members to Santa Muerte shrines and executed them as offerings;

* Police discovered a skeleton dressed as a bride at a Santa Muerte altar in a house used to hold kidnap victims; and

* Authorities found 50 victims of a mass murder in the northern state of Sinaloa, all with tattoos and jewellery depicting Santa Muerte.

Just a small, if nonetheless sickening, taste of the violence linked to the Bony Lady — there are far worse examples so appalling as to defy belief.


WHILE the battle between drug gangs, government forces and, more recently, vigilante groups rages on, the rise of Santa Muerte has imbued the clash with a frightening spiritual aspect.

It appears a conflict of religion is being waged side-by-side with a conflict of law.

On one side are the gangs who worship the Saint of Death and on the other, the authorities defending the nation’s more established and traditional religious views.

The result: shrines to the Grim Reapress have become legitimate targets for the military as it attempts to quell the influence of the drug cartels.

“Members of the Catholic Church and the army see the growth of this cult as a dangerous development,” Bunker writes.

Indeed, Prof Chesnut says his interest in the saint of death was first piqued after he saw the Mexican government bulldoze more than 40 Santa Muerte shrines on the US/Mexican border.

“I thought it was just amazingly intriguing that this folk saint had become spiritual enemy number one of the Mexican government in its war against the drug cartels,” he told NBC.

A high priest linked to the cult was even arrested on kidnapping charges in 2010.


A bizarre by-product of this theological clash is an explosion in the number of exorcisms being conducted in Mexico.

Journalist Vladimir Hernandez recently reported on the nation’s exorcists facing an unprecedented demand for their services, ridding people of demons every day of the week.

“There is an infestation of demons in Mexico because we have opened our doors to death,” Father Bautista bluntly told the BBC reporter.

The fantastical appears to have become an everyday problem.”

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