Man on the Spot #32: The Olympics, flood damage, natural gas and Nigerian politics

Posted by on February 23, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Image: Wikipedia Commons

How Norway Scores So Much Olympic Gold
By ELLEN EMMERENTZE JERVELL, Wall Street Journal Feb 8, 2014
Still, most experts say the biggest reason behind Norway’s success is the culture that propelled it atop the medal table from the outset. Norway’s cities are relatively close to the wilderness, and children are encouraged to play outdoors even on the coldest days. Norway remains a largely agrarian society that places a large premium on being outside. A Norwegian concept called friluftsliv—enjoying outdoor life—has been studied in books and represents whole areas of study at universities.

Millions Trapped in Health-Law Coverage Gap
Earning Too Little for Health-Law Subsidies but Ineligible for Benefits Under Existing Medicaid Programs
By Christopher Weaver, Wall Street Journal 2/10/14
The 2010 health law was meant to cover people in Mr. Maiden’s income bracket by expanding Medicaid to workers earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line. People earning as much as four times the poverty line can receive federal subsidies. The federal poverty level is $11,670 for a single person this year; more for families.

Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus
A sense of pessimism pervades on the island. Streets are lined with empty storefronts in San Juan and in smaller cities like Mayagüez; small businesses, hit hard by high electricity, water and tax bills and hurt by drops in sales, have closed and stayed closed. Schools sit shuttered either because of disrepair or because of a dwindling number of students. In this typically convivial capital, communities have erected gates and bars to help thwart carjackers and home invaders. Illegal drugs, including high-level narcotics trafficking, are one of the few growth industries.

The Flood Next Time
JAN. 13, 2014, New York Times
People considering whether to buy or rebuild at the storm-damaged Jersey Shore, for instance, could be looking at nearly a foot of sea-level rise by the time they would pay off a 30-year mortgage, according to the Rutgers projections. That would make coastal flooding and further property damage considerably more likely than in the past.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Help That Bighorns Don’t Need
JAN. 13, 2014, New York Times
Re “A Symbol of the Range Returns Home” (Jan. 7): Half of the financing for Nevada’s wildlife agency comes from federal taxes on equipment like rifles and ammunition. Another third comes from the sale of hunting licenses. This glaring conflict of interest is rampant across the United States. The article states we should be concerned about this reliance on hunters, because it is completely unsustainable long-term. But if interest in hunting wildlife like bighorns dwindles and more people choose a plant-based lifestyle, offsetting the threat caused by ranching, then there would be hope for the bighorns. –Nicole Rivard

Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments
By DIANE CARDWELL New York Times Jan. 30, 2014
The divestiture campaign is modeled on earlier efforts aimed at ending apartheid in South Africa and ceasing to support tobacco companies. Many groups are involved, but the movement has largely been escalated by a grass-roots organization,, whose name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which some scientists say is the maximum safe level, a threshold already exceeded.

Industry in North Dakota to Cut Flared Natural Gas
The gas being flared as a byproduct of a rush of oil drilling releases roughly six million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, roughly equivalent to three medium-sized coal plants. Because of a lack of gas-gathering lines connecting oil wells to processing plants, nearly 30 percent of the gas flowing out of the wells has been burned as waste in recent months.

Wielding Whip and a Hard New Law, Nigeria Tries to ‘Sanitize’ Itself of Gays
By ADAM NOSSITER, FEB. 8, 2014 New York Times
Complaining of the difficulty in distinguishing gay people from others, Mr. Tata said: “They don’t do it in the open. You get one or two, you see how they speak, you see how they dress, then you might have reasonable grounds to suspect.” Mr. Tata, speaking in the whitewashed two-story Shariah Commission headquarters here, said that happily, “we get information from sources interested in seeing the society cleansed.”

As China’s Economy Slows, the Pain Hits Home
Another profound change in Chinese society is also having an impact. Hundreds of millions of Chinese are eating more meat and drinking more milk. The extra animal feed, as well as chicken, beef and dairy products, for that shift is coming increasingly from farms as distant as Uruguay and Argentina. Chinese farms have grown uncompetitive because they tend to be small and inefficient and have a reputation for contaminated food.

Confronting Old Problem May Require a New Deal
Eduardo Porter  JAN. 28, 2014  New York Times
Perhaps the best argument for government investment to increase jobs and raise demand is that the alternatives seem much worse. Our current path — set by the Federal Reserve’s huge stimulus to encourage lending — seems dangerously similar to the wanton credit expansion that led to the crisis of a few years ago. Trusting it any further appears foolhardy.

Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers
Ron Nixon, New York Times National Feb 5, 2014
The nearly 1,000-page bill, which President Obama is to sign at Michigan State University on Friday, among other things expanded crop insurance for farmers by $7 billion over a decade and created new subsidies for rice and peanut growers that would kick in when prices drop. But anti-hunger advocates said the bill would harm 850,000 American households, about 1.7 million people spread across 15 states, which would lose an average of $90 per month in benefits because of the cuts in the food stamp program. Other winners in the farm bill included the catfish industry, which benefited from a provision that moved catfish inspections out of the Food and Drug Administration and into a new $20 million office at the Agriculture Department.

Image: Wikipedia Commons

Image: Wikipedia Commons

How Being Heavy or Lean Shapes Our View of Exercise
Overweight women’s brains respond differently to images of exercise than do the brains of leaner women, a sophisticated new neurological study finds, suggesting that our attitudes toward physical activity may be more influenced by our body size than has previously been understood.

New Antitheft Push in California for Mobile Devices
By Zusha Elinson, Feb. 7, 2014 7:11 p.m. ET Wall Street Journal
“We’re trying to remove the market value of a stolen mobile communication device,” said San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who has long pushed for a so-called kill switch in such devices. “Here in our city, people have been stabbed, many people have been punched and severely hurt during robberies.” …166 million mobile phones sold in 2013. At the same time, 1.6 million Americans had their smartphones stolen in 2012, according to an estimate from Consumer Reports.

432px-Ross_Mirkarimi_2008Mirkarimi wants to sign up inmates for health coverage
Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle
Affordable health care is coming to the San Francisco jail system – and Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi thinks it will save taxpayers millions of dollars and potentially reduce the number of people behind bars in years to come. The federal Affordable Care Act may be controversial elsewhere, but city officials have embraced it wholeheartedly, and the sheriff’s move will probably open up free or low-cost medical care to most of the 31,000 people booked into the city’s jails each year once they are released.

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