Wednesday, October 6, 2010

South Korea facing kimchi crisis.

Thanks Jen! From the LA Times:
Freakish fall weather has resulted in a national kimchi crisis, causing South Korean consumers to clutch at their purses, hearts and stomachs as they seek to deal with a shortage of the oblong-shaped cabbage used to make the ubiquitous spicy dish.

With heavy September rains ruining much of the Napa, or Chinese, cabbage crop, prices have jumped fourfold to more than $10 a head.

In response, the federal government last week announced a temporary reduction in tariffs on Chinese-imported cabbage and radishes in a plan to rush an additional 100 tons of the staples into stores this month.

And on Monday, the Seoul city government began a kimchi bailout program, in which it is absorbing 30% of the cost of about 300,000 heads of cabbage it has purchased from rural farmers so it can be sold for less to consumers.

Depriving Koreans of their kimchi, many say, is like forcing Italians to forgo pasta or taking all the tea from China. The dish of fermented cabbage, radish and chile paste has such iconic status here that there is a museum dedicated to kimchi in Seoul, and portions of it were blasted into space with the country's first astronaut in 2008.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Sad: Study finds foreclosure crisis was highly racialized.

D'oh: US sues American Express for anti-competitive policies.

D'oh: Looking to head off FCC probe, Verizon to refund $90 million to subscribers.

Health: Sleep loss limits fat loss.

Travel: Liquids might soon be allowed back on planes.

Music: 10 bands from the 90s that aren't reuniting (thankfully).

Sad: 1 in 8 parents can't afford pediatrician care, even if insured.

Ancient Colorado river flowed backwards.

From EurekAlert:
Geologists have found evidence that some 55 million years ago a river as big as the modern Colorado flowed through Arizona into Utah in the opposite direction from the present-day river. Writing in the October issue of the journal Geology, they have named this ancient northeastward-flowing river the California River, after its inferred source in the Mojave region of southern California.

Lead author Steven Davis, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution, and his colleagues* discovered the ancient river system by comparing sedimentary deposits in Utah and southwest Arizona. By analyzing the uranium and lead isotopes in sand grains made of the mineral zircon, the researchers were able to determine that the sand at both localities came from the same source -- igneous bedrock in the Mojave region of southern California.

The river deposits in Utah, called the Colton Formation by geologists, formed a delta where the river emptied into a large lake. They are more than 400 miles (700 kilometers) to the northeast of their source in California. "The river was on a very similar scale to the modern Colorado-Green River system," says Davis, "but it flowed in the opposite direction." The modern Colorado River's headwaters are in the Rocky Mountains, flowing southeast to the river's mouth in the Gulf of California.

The deposits of the Colton Formation are approximately 55 million years old. Recently, other researchers have speculated that rivers older than the Colorado River may have carved an ancestral or "proto" Grand Canyon around this time, long before Colorado began eroding the present canyon less than 20 million years ago. But Davis sees no evidence of this. "The Grand Canyon would have been on the river's route as it flowed from the Mojave to Utah, he says. "It stands to reason that if there was major erosion of a canyon going on we would see lots of zircon grains from that area, but we don't."

The mighty California River likely met its end as the Rocky Mountains rose and the northern Colorado Plateau tilted, reversing the slope of the land surface and the direction of the river's flow to create the present Colorado-Green River system. Davis and his colleagues have not determined precisely when the change occurred, however. "The river could have persisted for as long as 20 million years before the topography shifted enough to reverse its flow," he says.

Census of Marine Life reveals extent of ocean mystery.

From New Scientist:
The first global picture of life in the oceans is released today, with the completion of the decade-long Census of Marine Life.

But despite its 2700 scientists spending over 9000 days at sea, the Census has only scratched the surface of the ocean's biodiversity. In all, some 250,000 marine plant and animal species have now been formally described, out of the 1 million thought to exist. "There are three to four unknown species for every known," says Paul Snelgrove of Memorial University of Newfoundland in St John's, Canada.

The Census has so far added 1200 new species to the tally, though that is likely to rise as over 5000 more organisms that were collected have yet to be studied or named. The new species include several that were thought to have disappeared, such as the "Jurassic shrimp", which was believed to have died out 50 million years ago.

The Census was also able to identify those regions that are richest in diversity, which include the Gulf of Mexico and the Australian coastline. The Galapagos Islands, meanwhile, turned out to have less biodiversity than the chilly South Orkney Islands, in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.

However, plant and animal diversity looks insignificant compared to the sea's micro-organisms, which may number 1 billion. Their diversity is "spectacular", Snelgrove says.

The Census also assessed threats to marine life. "Fishing and exploitation is the single biggest problem," says Ron O'Dor, one of the Census's senior scientists based at The Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington DC. Despite its incompleteness, O'Dor says the Census will be essential for conservation efforts because it provides a baseline standard for diversity in the oceans.

Brazil votes illiterate clown into Congress.

Voters the world over complain about having clowns for politicians, but Brazilians embraced the idea on Sunday by sending a real one to Congress with more votes than any other candidate.

Francisco Everardo Oliveira Silva, better known by his clown name Tiririca, received more than 1.3 million votes in Sao Paulo state in Brazil's presidential and congressional elections.

That was more than double the votes of the second-placed candidate in Brazil's most populous state.

Tiririca caught the attention of disillusioned voters by asking for their support with the humorous slogan: "It can't get any worse" and a promise to do nothing more in Congress than report back to them on how politicians spend their time.

"What does a congressman do? The truth is I don't know, but vote for me and I'll tell you," the 45-year-old said in his campaign advertisements.

The clown, whose stage name means "grumpy," usually appears in public wearing a blond wig, a red hat and a garish outfit. He survived a last-minute attempt by public prosecutors to bar him from running because of evidence that he is illiterate.

His candidacy may not have been as spontaneous or innocent as it might appear.

Tiririca's well-financed campaign will help elect other politicians because under Brazil's election rules he can pass his substantial excess votes on to other candidates in his coalition, which includes the ruling Workers' Party.

NYC ordered to change every street sign.

From the NY Daily News:
The city will change the lettering on every single street sign - at an estimated cost of about $27.5 million - because the feds don't like the font.

Street names will change from all capital letters to a combination of upper and lower case on roads across the country thanks to the pricey federal regulation, officials said Wednesday.

By 2018, MADISON AVE. will become Madison Ave. and will be printed in a font called Clearview, the city Department of Transportation says.

The Federal Highway Administration says the switch will improve safety because drivers identify the words more quickly when they're displayed that way - and can sooner return their eyes to the road.

Still, several city residents were OUTRAGED.

"That's ridiculous," said James Sullivan, 34, a bike messenger from Queens. "They might as well just burn the damn money."

Construction worker Joseph Cain, 49, of Manhattan, reacted with sarcasm, saying, "I see my tax dollars are hard at work."

The city has about 250,000 signs, and it costs about $110 to replace one, the DOT says. Officials said the new signs will have improved reflectivity and clarity for nighttime drivers.

The changes are among many in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices that regularly changes to improve road safety, highway administration spokesman Doug Hecox said. The mixed upper- and lowercase rule was adopted in 2003, but municipalities were given until 2018 to comply completely, Hecox said.

"If it's such a pressing safety issue, why won't it be done until 2018? I may not even be driving by then," said Paul Kelly, 66, a retired Manhattan resident.

Millionaires collect unemployment benefits.

Thanks Jen! From the NY Observer:
A look through IRS tax data reveals that 2,840 households with annual income in excess of a million dollars collected unemployment benefits, taking in a total of $18.6 million in aid. That's about $6550 per millionaire household. Among the millionaires who went on the dole, 806 made $2 million or more a year, and 17 nitwits with incomes above $10 million collected unemployment.

On one hand, it sucks to lose your job no matter how much money you had been making, and everyone pays for unemployment benefits. Or, as one expert told Bloomberg:

"Getting an insurance payment doesn't depend on need but only on suffering an insured loss," said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow and expert on tax policy at the Urban Institute, another Washington policy research organization. "We don't say that your homeowners' policy shouldn't pay off if you're a millionaire."

On the other hand, what kind of bonehead who made more than $10 million — ever, in his or her life — can mentally justify collecting the $360 or so a week Uncle Sam hands out? What do they do with that money?