San Francisco's big push for low-flow toilets has turned into a multimillion-dollar plumbing stink.
Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months.
The city has already spent $100 million over the past five years to upgrade its sewer system and sewage plants, in part to combat the odor problem.
Now officials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite - better known as bleach - to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city's treated water before it's dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.
That translates into 8.5 million pounds of bleach either being poured down city drains or into the drinking water supply every year.
A Don't Bleach Our Bay alert has just gone out from eco-blogger Adam Lowry who argues the city would be much better off using a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide - or better yet, a solution that would naturally break down the bacteria.
In the current Wisconsin situation, the protesters are being allowed to do many, many things that ordinarily no one does. It's hard to imagine how the state could operate in the future if other groups were given equal treatment and permitted to stay overnight for days on end, to post thousands of signs all over the historic marble walls and pillars, to prop and post signs on the monuments, to bang drums and use a bullhorn in the rotunda to give speeches and lead chants all day long for days on end. Tell me then, what will happen when the next protester comes along and the next and the next? Hasn't the state opened the Capitol as a free speech forum in which viewpoint discrimination will be forbidden under the First Amendment?
In a surprise twist to a long-running saga, the Air Force said on Thursday that it would award a $35 billion contract for aerial fueling tankers to Boeing rather than to a European company that buildsAirbus planes.
William J. Lynn III, the deputy defense secretary, said Boeing was “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years.
After weighing all the factors, the Pentagon determined that Boeing’s bid was more than 1 percent below that of its rival, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, Mr. Lynn said. If the bids had been within 1 percent, the Air Force would have considered 92 additional requirements for the plane as a tiebreaker, and some of those were widely thought to favor the larger EADS plane.
The Air Force said the first phase of the contract would be worth $3.5 billion, and it would cover the construction of the first 18 tankers by 2017. Boeing would build 179 tankers in all for about $35 billion.
Boeing, its supporters in Congress and independent analysts were all surprised by the outcome, because in recent days, the Chicago-based company seemed to have given up hope of winning.
Lawmakers from Washington State, where Boeing assembles a substantial portion of its planes, had complained that the Pentagon had given EADS extra time to bid and had put in place several evaluation rules that seemed to favor the European company, which had submitted its bid through a North American subsidiary.
And the choice could still face opposition from lawmakers on the Gulf Coast, who were counting on EADS’s promise to build an assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., that would have created thousands of jobs.
“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, said. “Only Chicago politics could tip the scales in favor of Boeing’s inferior plane. EADS clearly offers the more capable aircraft. If this decision stands, our warfighters will not get the superior equipment they deserve.”
Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, called the decision “a major victory for the American workers, the American aerospace industry and America’s military.”
Was there anymore of an absurd spectacle (in 2008) - in a year of absurd spectacles - than that of an anti-war Green like Patty Murray rushing to demand that Boeing be given the Air Force's tanker contract, even after Boeing executives had gone to jail for corrupt practices in trying to procure said contract?
By halting production on the eighth season of "Two and a Half Men," CBS Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. are turning away from a proven hit with both viewers and advertisers
Outbursts from star Charlie Sheen led the media companies to cut off production of TV's most-watched comedy, potentially ending a program that helped lead a revival in TV sitcoms.
New episodes of "Men" on CBS average 14.7 million viewers. Reruns on CBS rake in nearly three quarters of the audience, and it is also popular in nightly syndication on local TV stations.
It's now unclear whether new episodes will ever be made, however, according to people familiar with the matter.
CBS' and Warner Bros.' decision Thursday came less than six hours after Mr. Sheen went on an erratic rant in a radio interview against topics as varied as Alcoholics Anonymous, Thomas Jefferson, and "Men" co-creator Chuck Lorre.
CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves learned of the radio rant while at a party the company was hosting for investors in midtown Manhattan, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Moonves spoke by telephone with Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group, the person said. Together, the two men decided to pull the plug.
"Based on the totality of Charlie Sheen's statements, conduct and condition, CBS and Warner Bros. Television have decided to discontinue production of 'Two and a Half Men' for the remainder of the season," the companies said.
When she was on location in Chicago shooting Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 thriller, North by Northwest, her co-star, Cary Grant, took her to see a show. “A buzz went up in the audience the moment he was recognized. It was like a wave of adulation rolling round the theater. I found it overwhelming and a little scary. I was thrown by it. And I asked him, ‘How do you handle this, because I know I couldn’t?’ It was almost as if he were talking about someone else when he said, ‘They’ll tell their friends tomorrow that they saw Cary Grant. It makes them happy!’”
Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly took the first significant action on their plan to strip collective bargaining rights from most public workers, abruptly passing the measure early Friday morning before sleep-deprived Democrats realized what was happening.
The vote ended three straight days of punishing debate in the Assembly. But the political standoff over the bill — and the monumental protests at the state Capitol against it — appear far from over.
Democratic Sen. Jon Erpenbach said Friday that the Assembly's passage of the bill did not change Senate Democrats' intent to stay away.
With the Senate immobilized, Assembly Republicans decided to act and convened the chamber Tuesday morning.
Democrats launched a filibuster, throwing out dozens of amendments and delivering rambling speeches. Each time Republicans tried to speed up the proceedings, Democrats rose from their seats and wailed that the GOP was stifling them.
Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds.
Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time.
Republicans immediately marched out of the chamber in single file. The Democrats rushed at them, pumping their fists and shouting "Shame!" and "Cowards!"
Protesters demanding Moammar Gadhafi's ouster came under a hail of bullets Friday when pro-regime militiamen opened fire to stop the first significant anti-government marches in days in the Libyan capital. The Libyan leader, speaking from the ramparts of a historic Tripoli fort, told supporters to prepare to defend the nation....
The U.N. Security Council met to consider possible sanctions against Gadhafi's regime, including trade sanctions and an arms embargo. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged it take "concrete action" to protect civilians in Libya, saying "the violence must stop" and those responsible for "so brutally shedding blood" must be punished.
But Gadhafi vowed to fight on. In the evening, he appeared before a crowd over more than 1,000 supporters massed in Green Square and called on them to fight back against protesters and "defend the nation."
"Retaliate against them, retaliate against them," Gadhafi said, speaking by microphone from the ramparts of the Red Castle, a Crusader fort overlooking the square. Wearing a fur cap, he shook his fist in the air, telling the crowd, "Dance, sing and prepare. Prepare to defend Libya, to defend the oil, dignity and independence."
He warned, "At the suitable time we will open the arms depot so all Libyans and tribes become armed, so that Libya becomes red with fire." The crowd waved pictures of the leader and green flags as he said, "I am in the middle of the people in the Green Square. ... This is the people that loves Moammar Gadhafi. If the people of Libya and the Arabs and Africans don't love Moammar Gadhafi then Moammar Gadhafi does not deserve to live."
Earlier his son, Seif al-Islam, was asked in an interview with CNNTurk about the options in the face of the unrest. "Plan A is to live and die in Libya, Plan B is to live and die in Libya, Plan C is to live and die in Libya," he replied.
Thirty-five years ago, three men in their 20s kidnapped a bus full of schoolchildren in the Central Valley town of Chowchilla (Madera County), stuffed them and their driver into a makeshift underground dungeon and demanded a $5 million ransom.
The 27 prisoners dug their way to freedom after 16 hours, the abductors were nabbed and given life terms in prison, and the victims all tried to get on with their lives....
The Schoenfelds lived in Atherton and Woods lived in Portola Valley. They told relatives they hijacked the school bus at gunpoint on a road in Chowchilla on July 15, 1976, to get money to pay off a $30,000 debt they'd racked up in buying a house.
After piling the driver and all the children into vans, they drove them 100 miles north to Livermore, where they left the prisoners buried in a moving van in a quarry.
That's when, failing to get through overloaded phone lines at the Chowchilla police station, they took a nap. When they woke up, they learned from the radio that their victims had dug themselves free. Richard Schoenfeld turned himself in eight days later, and the other two were captured less than a week later. The Schoenfelds' only brother, John Schoenfeld of Belmont, said his siblings would have jobs waiting if they got out. Richard Schoenfeld, now 57, could work at drafting, and James Schoenfeld, 59, could work in air conditioning, he said.
Retired state appellate court Justice William Newsom, who took part in the 1980 ruling giving the three a chance at parole, said Wednesday that they have paid their debt.
"This is a gross injustice to leave them in prison," Newsom said. "Nobody was physically injured in the kidnapping, and that is a major factor."
Also speaking out for parole was retired Madera County sheriff's Detective Dale Fore, who led the kidnapping investigation. Lead prosecutor David Minier, now a retired Madera County judge, sent a letter in support.
"These were just dumb rich kids who tried to rip a city off, and they've paid hell of a price for what they did," Fore said.
$50,000 a year?! Wow, just imagine the savings! Let's empty the prisons! We can't afford "vengence!" (cut to Gov. Brown nodding enthusiastically).
"Vengeance is a luxury California can no longer afford," attorney Scott Handleman said, noting that it costs about $50,000 a year to keep a state prisoner behind bars.
That's straight talk from a decent man who did more in one terrifying afternoon that those three guys in prison have done in their entire lives.
Bus driver Ed Ray, 89 and ailing in health, feels just as adamantly that the kidnappers should stay in prison, said his wife.
"We're not for them getting out," Odessa Ray said at their Chowchilla home. "We're thinking those three knew better. They really jeopardized a lot of lives."
Republicans on a state Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday to require voters to show ID at the polls, in their latest effort to entice Democrats to end their boycott of Senate proceedings.
The committee made significant changes to the bill in a meeting that included a bizarre element. Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) participated in the meeting by phone, but Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the committee chairwoman, refused to let him vote because he and the 13 other Senate Democrats left the state Thursday.
Senators routinely participate in committee meetings by phone and are allowed to debate, offer amendments and vote on measures. But Lazich said she wasn't allowing Erpenbach to vote because he had an invalid reasons for being absent.
"I won't extend courtesies for unethical behavior," Lazich told Erpenbach.
"Do you want the headline to be, 'Republicans won't let Democrats vote,' even though we've allowed that many, many times?" Erpenbach said.
Erpenbach's name was not called as the clerk took the roll, but he repeatedly yelled, "No!" over the speakerphone. The committee's three Republicans voted for the bill.
The show's comic actor John Oliver was on the scene. Obviously, the idea was to play on the comparison between Egypt and Wisconsin, which has been pushed by the local protesters.
Truly nauseating. The linked piece in the Isthmus says it "ends happily" because the animal is eventually able to stand up again. Ithmus is a newspaper of sorts. Let's see if — instead of smiling on camera and calling it a happy ending — the reporter finds out where the TV crew got the camel, who thought it was acceptable to bring a camel out in the ice and snow, who decided to put a collapsible metal fence around the animal, what training the handlers had, why the owners of the camel entrusted its welfare to these people, and what ultimately happened to the animal?
Could beetles, dragonfly larvae and water bug caviar be the meat of the future? As the global population booms and demand strains the world's supply of meat, there's a growing need for alternate animal proteins. Insects are high in protein, B vitamins and minerals like iron and zinc, and they're low in fat. Insects are easier to raise than livestock, and they produce less waste. Insects are abundant. Of all the known animal species, 80% walk on six legs; over 1,000 edible species have been identified. And the taste? It's often described as "nutty."
The King's Speech" is a heartwarming, "Masterpiece Theatre"-type affair about King George VI, who conquered a serious speech impediment and, with the able assistance of a saucy Aussie therapist, taught himself to address his countrymen in public during their finest hour. This is a very nice story, and even though the film fudges the facts—Edward VIII and his Nazi-loving wife get off pretty easily—it definitely achieves what it sets out to accomplish. The performances are very good, the dialogue is crackling (except when the king stutters) and the lighting could not be better. Moreover, the way Helena Bonham Carter jauntily cocks her stylish chapeaux is enough to convince you that the Queen Mother herself has generously returned from the dead to do a nice little cameo.
That said, "The King's Speech" is basically a film about what positively smashing folks the royals are. It's a film that's infatuated by those awfully swell people up at Balmoral who wear kilts and shoot foxes. Americans used to turn up their noses at this sort of stuff. But that was before "Upstairs, Downstairs" and Merchant & Ivory intoxicated the entire republic with the rustle of crinoline and the shimmer of lace. "The King's Speech" is not, after all, a film about a Welsh coal miner who overcomes a speech impediment. It is not a film about an Aussie doughboy trapped on the beach at Gallipoli who overcomes a speech impediment. It is a film about spiffing chaps and the spiffing folks who help them to be even more spiffing.
Top Senate Democrats tried to scotch efforts by Majority Whip Richard Durbin to include Social Security in comprehensive deficit-reduction negotiations, illustrating the challenge facing the bipartisan talks.
The discussion occurred during a closed-door White House meeting this week among negotiators including Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, a key lieutenant.
President Barack Obama attended, although his contribution to the conversation couldn't be learned. Previously, the administration has offered general support for bipartisan debt-reduction talks.
The confrontation, as well as a flare-up on the right over taxes, illustrates the difficulty of reaching a deal on deficit-control legislation, and how fear of upsetting the party line on particular policies could trump the issue of controlling the debt.
As I show in Radical-in-Chief, Obama began his organizing career planning and participating in just this sort of intimidating protest (a fact largely hidden in Dreams from My Father). As Obama moved into politics, he switched to the good cop role and funneled foundation to his Alinskyite pals, while using their hardball protests to support his legislative agenda. Meanwhile Obama perfected his calm, post-partisan persona. It’s all a game developed by the president’s Alinskyite (and socialist) organizing mentors.
We are destined for still more polarization. Neither side can pull back, because the financial crunch is going to have to be resolved one way or another. We either scale back government and the of public employee unions, or we move toward a structurally higher tax burden and a permanently enlarged welfare state. The very nature of the American system is now at stake. The emerging populist movements on both the right and left recognize this, and so cannot turn back from further confrontation.
Conservatives may win this battle, but they need to understand that the possibility of failure is real. As I’ve argued, Obama’s long-term strategy of class-based polarization and realignment can succeed. That is why he’s been willing to take tremendous short-term political risks. From Obama’s point of view, Wisconsin means that the risks have been worth it. With an activated movement of the left now ready to oppose the Tea Party, the permanent transformation of the country Obama has been after from the start is in prospect.
A three-day-long stand-off at the state capitol between union supporters and those backing the Republican governor’s budget cuts just went to another level Thursday as Democratic senators apparently fled the area to prevent a vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, which would cut public employee union collective bargaining rights and require them to contribute to pensions and health care.
Fourteen Senate Democrats have left the state to prevent the vote, according to AP sources in Wisconsin, attempting to force further negotiation on the bill, which would pass the Republican-controlled Senate if brought up for a vote. ABC News reports that 13 of 14 of the Democrats may have fled the state in a bus headed to Iowa. The move would stall a vote on the budget-repair measure and protect missing Democrats from a provision in Wisconsin’s constitution that allows lawmakers to compel their return to the capitol.
Earlier today, law enforcement was sent to find missing Democratic lawmakers, according to a Madison, Wis. ABC affiliate. State Sen. leader Scott said only one Democrat is needed for quorum to vote on the controversial bill, which is expected to pass a Republican-majority Senate. The “Sergeant of Arms is going door to door to find Democratic senators.”
Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back To The Banquet Hall: California Moves To Ban Shark Fin Soup
If successful, the proposed ban announced Monday would follow a similar measure enacted in Hawaii last year. Oregon and Washington are also considering a similar move.
Shark fins are used to create a luxury Chinese soup that can sell for more than $80 a bowl.
Supporters of the ban say shark finning is a cruel practice in which fishermen slice the shark's fin off while the animal is still alive and then throw the shark back in the sea to die.
Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who introduced the legislation with colleague Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he was born in Macau and grew up eating the soup but stopped doing so when he learned about the practice of finning. More than 70 million sharks were killed last year, many for their fins, Fong said.
"It's like removing the tusks from elephants and paws from tigers," he said. "The sharks are at the top of the food chain and they maintain the balance in the ecosystem. If sharks fall like a house of cards, the rest of the ocean will fall."
The Egyptian military, complying with most of the principal demands of the opposition, said Sunday that it had dissolved the country’s parliament, suspended its constitution and called for elections in six months, according to a statement by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces read on state television. It also said it would honor all of Egypt’s international agreements, including the peace treaty with Israel.
The military did not address a third major opposition demand to lift emergency rule. In previous statements, the council had promised to take that step once the security situation improved.
The announcement, the first indication of the direction the military intends to take the country, was welcomed by opposition leaders, who distrusted both houses of parliament after elections in the fall that were widely considered rigged. One of them, Ayman Nour, said that the military’s actions should be enough to satisfy the protesters, some of whom nevertheless refused to leave Tahrir Square and resisted soldiers’ attempts to evict them.
The Voice of Progressive Foreign Policy has already come out and declared that America could learn a lot from Egypt. We're going to be hearing a lot about this
The truth is that the United States has been behind the curve not only in Tunisia and Egypt for the last few weeks, but in the entire Middle East for decades. We supported corrupt autocrats as long as they kept oil flowing and weren’t too aggressive toward Israel. Even in the last month, we sometimes seemed as out of touch with the region’s youth as a Ben Ali or a Mubarak. Recognizing that crafting foreign policy is 1,000 times harder than it looks, let me suggest four lessons to draw from our mistakes:
1.) Stop treating Islamic fundamentalism as a bogyman and allowing it to drive American foreign policy. American paranoia about Islamism has done as much damage as Muslim fundamentalism itself.
Back in the day ca. 1950 - 1989 we used to hear this line about the communists, probably from Kristof himself.
2.) We need better intelligence, the kind that is derived not from intercepting a president’s phone calls to his mistress but from hanging out with the powerless.
Agreed we need better intelligence. Our Ivy League educated president and his national security team have managed to be wrong in every possible way throughout the uprising, mostly out of vanity; they want to be seen as somehow controlling events in an alien society thousands of miles from their DC-Area desks.
3.) New technologies have lubricated the mechanisms of revolt. Facebook and Twitter make it easier for dissidents to network.
Facebook, Twitter, and Google, oh my! If you search the Times archives from 1979, are we going to read how word processors and fax machines were "crucial" to overthrowing the Shah?
4.) Let’s live our values. We pursued a Middle East realpolitik that failed us. Condi Rice had it right when she said in Egypt in 2005: “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region, here in the Middle East, and we achieved neither.”
After a long wishy-washy stage, President Obama got it pitch-perfect on Friday when he spoke after the fall of Mr. Mubarak. He forthrightly backed people power, while making clear that the future is for Egyptians to decide. Let’s hope that reflects a new start not only for Egypt but also for American policy toward the Arab world. Inshallah.
This is going to be set in stone, isn't it? No matter how awful the Egypt situation becomes - and given history and circumstance, the potential is there for permanent military rule or a Islamist theocracy - there are going to be Smart Power types burbling about "Democracy" and how Americans are just too dumb to understand the Middle East. 20 years from now, we may yet see a wizened John Kerry engaging in shuttle diplomacy, visiting his "old friend" General Hoedihoe or Imam Raufamauf in Cairo to resolve the latest flare-up over the Israeli settlements in the Sinai Desert (which the Little Satan took back in the 18-hour War of 2019). Whether the Egyptian people will be as happy to see Kerry as their oppressors will be remains to be seen.
Look I'm all for the Egyptians setting up a constitutional republic and all that. But, this great desire among the Obami to declare the Egyptian uprising to be "solved" is freakishly wrong footed. Egypt remains in flux, dangerously so. To simply kick back and say, "Ah, democracy and people power prevailed" is a recipe for waking up one morning to find a Hamas-style theocracy taking the reins in Cairo. For Americans, vigilence and humility (about those unknown unknows at work even now) should be, but aren't, the watchword.