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Switching The Energy Economy Of San Antonio

NPR - July 8, 2011

San Antonio's mayor says he wants to make the city a hub for alternative and renewable energy businesses. Ira Flatow and guests discuss how a city can change its energy habits. Plus, smart meters let utilities know how much energy a house is using minute by minute. Who should own the data? Can consumers use the info to save money?

IRA FLATOW, host: This is SCIENCE FRIDAY, I'm Ira Flatow. We're in San Antonio this week, broadcasting live from the Witte Museum here, and one thought keeps popping into my mind: I hope the air conditioning keeps working.


FLATOW: Because here in Texas, it's July, and it's really hot outside. The mercury is hovering around 100, as it does almost every day in the summer. A blackout like the one we had in the Northeast a few years ago or the one they had in Texas earlier this year could really be deadly this time of the year.

Managing the electricity grid and keeping those air conditioners humming can be a challenge for electricity providers, and are sure to get even more complicated when renewable energy is added to the mix, something San Antonio is planning to do.

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World Bank Is Opening Its Treasure Chest of Data

World Bank - Washington D.C.

 . . . "the most valuable currency of the World Bank isn’t its money — it is its information" . . .

 . . . "The bank, he says, is essentially widening the circle of people it can brainstorm with." . . .

 . . . "Having created models for open-sourcing and crowd-sourcing, the bank is now moving toward mash-ups. A new Mapping for Results program offers interactive maps pinpointing locations of almost 3,000 bank projects in more than 16,000 places worldwide. Links open up pages with information about each project, and users can add overlays that show, say, where infant mortality is highest to see whether the bank’s work in those areas matches the need.

The program is sensitive because it involves releasing data provided by client governments and others, but the hope is that it will prompt these parties to link their own data on economic and social development to the site or otherwise make it available." . . .

World Bank Is Opening Its Treasure Chest of Data - Stephanie Strom - July 3, 2011

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Video - Crisis Mapping Helps with Disaster Relief

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Crisis Mapping Helps with Disaster Relief

Voice of America - June 30, 2011

After devastating natural disasters, mobile phone networks, satellites and other computer software are often used to help to pinpoint where help is needed the most.  They are crucial for the creation of crisis maps.

The power of the mobile phone and other social media became clear in the aftermath of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.  Just hours after disaster struck, Japanese volunteers used social media information  to create a crisis map.  The map indicated hazardous areas and emergency services.  Hundreds of people each day posted updates to the map on the Internet, including information from radio stations.

Crisis maps also helped with relief efforts in Haiti. Thousands of text messages provided information to international aid organizations about shelter, food supplies and sanitation.  A mapping team helped pinpoint search and rescue requests for people trapped in the rubble.

Sheldon Himelfarb is the director of peacebuilding at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington. "The word went out that if you texted a certain short code number with your call for help, it would be captured, mapped and it would enable responders to help… We saw very quickly how the emergency responders of all sorts, from the Red Cross to the military to the NGOs started to rely on this map," Himelfarb said.

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State of the Climate: You're Getting Warmer

Time - July 1, 2011

Year by year, the evidence that the planet is getting warmer—and that humans are the main driver—keeps adding up. Today the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released its State of the Climate in 2010 report, and researchers found that 2010 was tried with 2005 as the warmest year on record. (Download a PDF of the highlights here.) Not only that, the NCDC crunched past data and found that temperatures in the U.S. between 1981 and 2010 were on average half a degree warmer Farenheit than they were from 1971 to 2000.

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The Greek Mental-Health Crisis: As Economy Implodes, Depression and Suicide Rates Soar - June 27, 2011

by Alain Salles / Le Monde / Worldcrunch

While the rest of Europe may be tormented by the thought of having to cough up ever more money to bail out Athens, the once carefree Greeks are getting more depressed by the day. Psychiatrists say that the economic crisis has triggered a 25% to 30% increase in the number of patients seeking their help.

"There is an increase in the number of patients suffering from minor psychiatric conditions: anxiety, panic attacks and depression," says Dimitris Ploumidis, head of a mental-health center in eastern Athens. "In September 2010, people had to wait two weeks for a consultation, now it's more like two and a half months."

Before the crisis started, Greece was proud to be at the bottom of the list in Europe for the number of suicides, with a rate of 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants. But that might be changing. Experts believe that in 2009 the rate of Greek suicides increased by 18% increase compared with 2007, with that figure expected to have climbed even higher in 2010.

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EPA Fracking Study To Focus On 5 States, But Not Wyoming

The Huffington Post - June 26, 2011

by ProPublica's Abrahm Lustgarten

The Environmental Protection Agency will focus its national study of hydraulic fracturing on seven areas in five states, but will exclude the two Wyoming gas fields where agency researchers have already collected some of the most in-depth data on drilling's environmental impacts.

The study – which was announced last March, without specifics on research sites – will investigate alleged water contamination from drilling in five areas in Texas, Colorado, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. It also will encompass cradle-to-grave research projects in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, where the agency will track drilling's effects on water quality from before the drill bit hits the ground to after hydraulic fracturing has been performed.

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Why a Hyper-Personalized Web is Bad for You (Q&A)

submitted by Joyce Fedeczko

CNET News - May 17, 2011

We all like having things tailored to our specific needs and interests. But Eli Pariser thinks we should beware of the substantial risks inherent in the increasing personalization of the Internet.

Better known (so far) as the executive director of the progressive political action committee, Eli Pariser is making noise these days as the author of "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You." His new book, which was released yesterday, argues that the latest tools being implemented by the likes of Google and Facebook for making our Internet experiences as individual as possible are taking us down some very unsavory paths.

First, of course, Pariser explains the dynamic we all face online today: that no two people's Web searches, even on the same topics, return the same results. That's because search engines and other sites are basing what they send back on our previous searches, the sites we visit, ads we click on, preferences we indicate, and much more. Not to mention the fact that we are more and more shielded from viewpoints counter to our own.

Week's Quote by Michael Chertoff: On the Importance of Open Source Data


"When you're dealing with a large social phenomenon, there is a huge 
amount of open-source data out there. If you can marry that together 
with sophisticated analytic tools and subject matter expertise, you can 
see a lot about trends and things that are developing that you're not 
going to get in an intelligence report."

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Al Gore's Critique Sparks Debate Over Obama's Record on Climate Change


The following video looks at the key perspectives regarding the issue of whether the Obama Administration has engaged policies that effectively address the threat of climate change.

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