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Snowflake-shaped photovoltaic cells bring the holiday cheer

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments
Sandia National Laboratories have unveiled their newest photovoltaic cells — glitter-sized particles made of crystalline silicon. The cells are made using common microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems techniques, and the results are pretty spectacular to behold. More interestingly, however, is the fact that they use 100 times less material in generating the same amount of energy as a regular solar cell.

Because of their size and shape, the cells are well-suited to unusual applications, and researchers envision mass-production of the cells for use on building-integrated tents or clothing, so campers (or military personnel) could recharge their cell phones on the go. Researchers also think that these particles will be inexpensive to produce, but there’s no word on when they’ll be ready for consumer application. We’ll keep you posted — but hit the source link for more a more detailed description.

Snowflake-shaped photovoltaic cells bring the holiday cheer originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 24 Dec 2009 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Categories: Electronics, Technology Tags: , ,

Snowflake-shaped photovoltaic cells bring the holiday cheer

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments
Sandia National Laboratories have unveiled their newest photovoltaic cells — glitter-sized particles made of crystalline silicon. The cells are made using common microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems techniques, and the results are pretty spectacular to behold. More interestingly, however, is the fact that they use 100 times less material in generating the same amount of energy as a regular solar cell.

Because of their size and shape, the cells are well-suited to unusual applications, and researchers envision mass-production of the cells for use on building-integrated tents or clothing, so campers (or military personnel) could recharge their cell phones on the go. Researchers also think that these particles will be inexpensive to produce, but there’s no word on when they’ll be ready for consumer application. We’ll keep you posted — but hit the source link for more a more detailed description.

Snowflake-shaped photovoltaic cells bring the holiday cheer originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 24 Dec 2009 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink Inhabitat  |  sourceSandia National Laboratories  | Email this | Comments

Categories: Electronics, Technology Tags: , ,

Making the Bill Better

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

While it’s been an easy, and misleading, shorthand to say that the “left of the left” wants to kill the bill, there’s actually been more of a focus on making the bill better. To that end, Roger Hickey from Campaign for America’s Future, has some good suggestions:

As co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future and one of the founders of Health Care for America Now, my job is to keep pushing – so that the conference between the Senate and the House produces a better bill,

   * one that makes health insurance more affordable,

   * requires corporations to cover their workers,

   * and gives Americans alternatives to buying private health insurance.

And it is my duty to warn the Congress and the White House about the flaws in the bill that could cause millions of Americans to rebel against their health reform in the 2010 elections, the way seniors rebelled against the costly Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988 and got it repealed the very next year, damaging Ways and Means Committee Chair Dan Rostenkowski and endangering many Democrats.

So I am trying to get today’s Democrats to understand that

   * if they force Americans to purchase health insurance, it better be affordable, and

   * taxing middle-class health insurance policies is a formula for political disaster. For more information on this battle, go to www.nomiddleclasshealthtax.com.

To that end, HCAN is pushing this grassroots effort: Let’s Finish Reform Right, pushing these two goals:

  1. Make GOOD health care affordable

Low and middle income families must be able to afford health insurance, and employers must be asked to provide good health coverage for their employees so health care is affordable at work. Health care should not be paid for with a tax on health benefits.

  1. Hold insurance companies accountable

If the insurance companies win, we lose. Insurance companies must be held accountable with strong regulations and consumer protections, and we must be given the choice of a national public health insurance option available on day one across the United States.

Those are key suggestions for improving this bill and pushing it much closer to what could really be called reform.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , ,

Is Afghanistan Just a New War of Attrition?

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel and 1969 West Point graduate who served in Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf, is now a professor of international relations at Boston University. A sharp critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, where his son, a first lieutenant, was killed by an improvised explosive device two and a half years ago, his most recent book is The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.

Bacevich is no DFH, or even moderate progressive, but rather a small “c” conservative. He critiques today’s American foreign policy through the prism of empire. That overly militarized, interventionist policy is bipartisan, he says, not merely the fruit of a single administration but one whose seeds were planted by Woodrow Wilson and cultivated by Democrats and Republicans alike throughout most of the 20th Century with no end in sight as we enter the second decade of the 21st.

Tuesday in the New York Daily News, he wrote:

On the march to Baghdad, back when America’s war on terror was young, a rising star in the United States military lobbed this enigmatic bon mot to an accommodating reporter: “Tell me how this ends.” Thus did then-Maj. Gen. David Petraeus in 2003 neatly frame the issue that still today haunts the U.S.-led effort to defeat violent anti-Western jihadism.

To know how something ends implies knowing where it’s going. Yet eight years after it began, the war on terror is headed back to where it started. The prequel is the sequel, Afghanistan replacing Iraq as the once and now once again central front.

So are we making progress? Even as President Obama escalates the war in Afghanistan, that question hangs in the air, ignored by all. Rather than explaining how the struggle will end, the President merely affirms that it must continue, his eye fixed on pacifying a country of which his own secretary of state recently remarked “We have no long-term stake there.” …

The revival of counterinsurgency doctrine, celebrated as evidence of enlightened military practice, commits America to a postmodern version of attrition. Rather than wearing the enemy down, we’ll build contested countries up, while expending hundreds of billions of dollars (borrowed from abroad) and hundreds of soldiers’ lives (sent from home).

How does this end? The verdict is already written: The Long War ends not in victory but in exhaustion and insolvency, when the United States runs out of troops and out of money.

Advocates of the administration’s escalation policy in Afghanistan often ask in a tone of gotcha: What is your alternative? Bacevich is not shy about offering one.

It consists not of increasing a strong state presence backed by a big army and police force – which, as even President Hamid Karzai has pointed out, Afghanistan can’t make payroll for until sometime after 2024. Rather Bacevich recommends reducing the clout of the power-brokers in Kabul and putting more decisions at the provincial and local level. He calls for a new policy that focuses not on demonizing Karzai but rather giving him incentives to cut his ties with the corrupt and murderous warlords that the Cheney-Bush administration helped bring to power. The United States should concentrate on nudging Karzai to make a partnership not with the warlords but with the Afghan people.

Such a policy, Bacevich explains, would persistently seek a dialogue with the parliament, civil society organizations, and the armed opposition. “A lasting peace will require reconciliation among Afghanistan’s warring factions: the government; former jihadi leaders; and the many insurgent groups, particularly the Taliban.”

While the current administration and its predecessor have each declared that no military solution exists in Afghanistan, that is not how they have behaved. In March, for instance, President Obama spoke of a civilian surge to accompany what turned out to be the deployment of 34,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan. That civilian surge has yet to fully deploy. Another civilian surge is supposed to take place as 30,000 troops arrive.  

But the reality of the situation is amply displayed in spending. Policy follows budget. The 2010 military budget for Afghanistan is $65 billion. Added to that will be $30 billion, the administration has said. So far, however, the cost of deploying a single soldier to Afghanistan has clocked in at $1.1 million. So the cost of those 30,000 extra troops would actually be $33 billion a year. But even before the President gave his speech on Afghanistan earlier this month, the Pentagon was making noises about needing as much as an extra $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, at the very least, one can expect the cost of the war there to run $100 billion over the next year.

And civilian spending? Development assistance for Afghanistan in 2010 is set at $2.611 billion. The military to civilian ratio: 38:1. How does that imbalance embrace the concept that there is no military solution in Afghanistan?

Bacevich writes in the Boston Review:

In the wake of 9/11, a with-us-or-against-us mentality once again swept Washington. “Terrorism” assumed the place of communism as the great evil that the United States was called upon to extirpate. This effort triggered a revival of interventionism, pursued heedless of cost and regardless of consequences, whether practical or moral.

In the Pentagon, they call this the Long War. With his decision to escalate the U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan, President Barack Obama—effectively abandoning his promise to “change the way Washington works”—has signaled his administration’s commitment to the Long War.

Yet, as with the Cold War, the Long War rests on a false premise. To divide the world into two camps today makes no more sense than it did in Dulles’s time. Rather than creating clarity, indulging in this sort of oversimplification sows confusion and encourages miscalculation. It allows Americans to avert their eyes from the gathering forces—largely beyond the control of the United States—that are actually reshaping the international order. Sending U.S. troops to fight in Afghanistan sustains the pretense that we ourselves, exercising the prerogatives of global leadership, are somehow shaping that order.

We’re told that the escalation in Afghanistan will start being reversed just 18 months from now, a date already slipping given that the full complement of additional troops won’t be deployed by next July, as originally declared, but rather by next November. It stretches credulity to believe they will start coming home nine months later. The idea that the Long War will be shortened bears no relationship to the reality of what the struggle in Afghanistan – and, increasingly, in neighboring Pakistan – is all about. Nor does it mesh with the reality of more than a century of U.S. foreign policy.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , ,

Abstinence-Only Sex Ed Still Lives. Thanks, Hatch, Lincoln, and Conrad

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

I don’t suppose Graham and DeMint are going to go after this part of the new HCR bill in their zeal to expose sweetheart Senate deals?

A number of studies have cast some serious doubt about the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education and as a result, congressional Democrats — who have bristled at the program for years — cut off all federal funding.

But then Hatch stepped in. During a committee health reform debate, he cited his own supportive studies and proposed an amendment restoring $50 million for the controversial program for the next five years. It passed with the help of two Democrats — Sens. Blanche Lincoln, from Arkansas, and Kent Conrad, from North Dakota — much to the chagrin of Senate liberals.

“I sure do not want the abstinence education to be short-changed,” Hatch said during the hearing.

The committee passed a second amendment supported by the Democratic chairman that created a separate $50 million program for comprehensive sex-ed, which combines information about abstinence, sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives.

As the Senate nears a final vote, both programs remain in the legislation.

By all means, give the guy who’s going to vote against the bill and then spend the next decade campaigning against it money for a program that has been been proven, in multiple studies, to be a disaster.

[T]hose youngsters who took the virginity pledge were not only just as likely to have intercourse, they ultimately were more likely to take part in sex in an unsafe manner. This has led experts to conclude that the lessons students take from their abstinence-only education programs is a negative and/or faulty view of contraception.

It’s hard to know which aspect of this story to be more frustrated by. The total waste of money that was supposed to have been intended to help people get medical care, that Hatch–who dropped out of “bipartisan” negotiations with Baucus early on in the process and who was never going to vote for the bill anyway–got the crappy provision into the bill, or that Blanche Lincoln and Kent Conrad enabled him. Take your pick.


Categories: Politics Tags: , ,

Sheer nonsense

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Right-wing activist Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake.com are teaming up to demand that Attorney General Eric Holder investigate White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for — drumroll please — corrupt practices involving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Oh, and they want Rahm to resign as well.

Unfortunately for Norquist and Hamsher, they sound a little bit more like Glenn Beck and Roger Ailes than Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their allegation — that Emmanuel and the White House are not only covering up past corrupt practices but are also creating an $800 billion slush fund with which they can carry out even more corruption — is reminiscent of the fanciful allegations that Bill Clinton killed Vince Foster and Ron Brown.

Unlike the efforts to push the envelope on health reform, advancing this conspiracy theory is not the kind of thing that helps the progressive movement. Consider:

  1. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are key elements in the right-wing narrative about the recession. Their script goes something like this: ACORN, Fannie, and Freddie worked with the Democratic Congress to pressure banks to lend to “risky” borrowers, using the Community Reinvestment Act as their leverage. This storyline is totally false, but wingers love it because it not only absolves the financial and real estate industries of responsibility for the financial crisis, but it puts the blame squarely on the backs of blacks and Latinos. Absent evidence, lending credibility to the this right-wing shibboleth is a great disservice.
  1. There are precious few reasons for progressives to partner with someone like Grover Norquist. As Hamsher herself wrote, when Grover Norquist called Barack Obama “John Kerry with a tan” he was engaged in the kind of race-baiting that has been the hallmark of Republican politics since the civil rights era. Moreover, even if these allegations were credible, why partner with someone who has his own ties to corruption, specifically the Jack Abramoff scandal.
  1. Finally, and arguably most importantly, this smells an awful lot like a Ken Starr-style witch hunt all over again — except even more divorced from reality. The key point here is that an investigation of the sort Hamsher and Norquist want would be a massive burden on a White House that is already struggling with enormous problems with no end in sight. Does anybody think that tying the administration up in knots with a politically-motivated investigation will help get a public option enacted or pass immigration reform? Will it help strengthen the economy or move us towards alternate energy?

Bottom-line: there’s no question that the White House has work to do when it comes to achieving progressive goals, and there’s no doubt that holding their feet to the fire is a good thing, but this kind of stuff won’t help us achieve any progressive goals. It’s understandable that Fox or the GOP would want to push it, but pushing it from the left is sheer nonsense.

Update (8:02AM): Join the discussion in dengre’s recommended diary Grover Norquist is our ally? Are you f@%&ing kidding me!


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , , ,

Senate Makes History Sans Republicans

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

When Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to pass Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, few suspected it would take four more decades to again pass health reform to cover more Americans that would reach the White House for signing. Medicare and Medicaid didn’t instantly improve health care, but it did strengthen the safety net that protects folks when extraordinary things happen.

Yet despite that historic achievement, and the magnitude of the accomplishment, the very real flaws in the bill have been far more in focus than the benefits or the history. Democrats appropriately wanted more. Republicans wanted to lie about what was in the bill, and denigrate what they could not stop. Between the two, the media and the blogs had plenty to talk about.

Still, at least for a day, it’s worth focusing on some of the achievements. On the Arena today, I wrote:

In the end, Republicans have to decide how far they want to believe their own myths about what they’ve been saying about Democrats. For example, lies about death panels and socialism won’t get anything done (elitists always have trouble with faux populism), but there’s always room for reining in government spending as soon as the recession passes.

And in the end, we are going to pass health reform, 30 million people will have an easier time getting insured, the industry will be regulated better (pre-existing conditions and recission), and passing health reform will – thanks to Republicans – be a strictly Democratic achievement that no other President since LBJ was able to pull off.

That’s, of course, not the only view of this. Interestingly, though, on our Abbreviated Pundit Roundup yesterday, we highlighted the Republican rumblings that don’t always get covered (despite the facade, there are misgivings in the GOP about how this has played out.)

From the predictable (David Broder lamenting the lack of bipartisanship) to the unusual (left blogs and conservatives making common cause), some of thge commentary that has most impressed me comes from Jonathan Chait, writing about the historic nature of this bill, and where the discussion has taken us.

The sum total effect of this legislation is fairly simple. It would redirect a large chunk of the money sloshing around the health care system away from ineffective treatments and toward providing care for the uninsured. On top of that, it would prod the system, in dozens of ways large and small, to adopt cutting edge methods. It is not the kind of plan liberals would create if they could design it from scratch. Rather, it is a centrist compromise of the best variety, combining the ideas of the now nearly-extinct moderate wing of the Republican Party with the smartest bipartisan technocratic reforms.

What, then, is not to like? Conservatives have attacked reform with a potent combination of populist attacks against cost controls, aimed particularly at terrified elderly voters, along with more intellectually-respectable attacks protesting the lack of cost control, aimed at winning elite opinion. The first set of attacks whips up fears of Medicare cuts, death panels, or any provision that might cause anybody to lose his employer-sponsored health-insurance. Anything Democrats do to protect themselves against those attacks opens them up to the opposite charge of failing to sufficiently cut the health care budget, and vice versa.

In fact, my favorite quote comes from Georges Benjamin (Exec. Dir. American Public Health Association):

At three o’clock in the morning when your kid gets sick, you want the help; you need the help. When political rhetoric hits the cold reality of sickness, quality, affordable health care wins every time.

The fact is that Americans need the safety net. I cannot begrudge any steps toward making that possible, even if this as yet doesn’t go nearly far enough. But until we have something that does, we need to move the deadlines up, strengthen the affordability, and make this bill better before the President signs it.

And for Republicans, they need to guard against reading their own talking points and thinking that’s a substitute for real life. Chait, again:

The opponents of reform have succeeded both when they have made the debate too narrow—a skeptical and often paranoid focus on small features of reform ripped out of all context—and when they have made the debate too vague—with broad-brush denunciations of corporatism and socialism.

which was also ably summed up by Steve Benen:

Progressive activists and progressive wonks are at each other’s throats this week, but they want largely the same goals. Their differences are sincere and significant, but the intensity of their dispute is matched by the potency of their arguments.

And then turn your attention to the other side of the divide, and notice the quality of the arguments conservatives and Republicans have offered — and continue to offer — in this debate. Death panels. Socialism. Hitler. Government takeover. Socialized medicine. Incomprehensible charts. Incessant whining about the number of pages in a proposal.  

Once can’t help but think that relying on Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann as the go-to health care analysts for the GOP isn’t going to turn out well (for them.)

Next steps are the difficult reconciliation process, but don’t bet against this bill passing. There’s too much history, and too much Republican effort to scuttle the bill to make that palatable for Democrats. And for the 30 million people that don’t have insurance now, they can’t wait for the perfect bill. Think of them this holiday season as you celebrate with you and yours.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , ,

James Cameron in Major A-Hole Dispute

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

James Cameron — the guy who directed “Avatar” — directed a few choice words at an autograph seeking fan last night — calling the guy a “f**king a**hole” during an argument over a signature. It all went down at LAX — when James walked past a man …

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Nicolas Cage Targeted Again in Fraud Lawsuit

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Filed under:

The stand-in-line-to-sue-Nicolas-Cage saga has just deepened — Nic’s being sued again for allegedly stiffing someone over a loan.According to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ, Red Curb Investments loaned Cage $3.5 million for a real estate deal back in …

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Rory Freedman: Things I Learned In 2009

December 24th, 2009 admin No comments

Here are top 25 things I learned in 2009:

1. I can go six weeks without eating sugar.

2. I never want to do that ever again.

3. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say can be scary sometimes.

4. Speaking the truth gets a little easier each time you do it.

5. Traveling is magical, inspiring, and life-changing.

6. Traveling is challenging, confronting, and miserable.

7. It is nearly impossible for me to sleep with someone and not develop intense feelings for him.

8. Unless I’m traveling and leaving the country the following day. Then it’s just plain fun.

9. I can pee perfectly into a cup, while driving (cruise control on a highway), and not spill a drop.

10. Unless I pee so much that the cup gets filled–and I don’t realize it–and the cup runneth over.

11. I could blame the pee-smell in my car on my dogs.

12. I prefer to just tell the truth and laugh about it.

13. Giving my heart to someone who hasn’t earned it is foolish and painful.

14. Being open and vulnerable and jumping in with both feet is laudable. (However, it too may be foolish and painful.)

15. There are few things more terrifying than karaoke.

16. There are few things more liberating than karaoke.

17. A woman’s chemistry can make her crazy.

18. A man’s chemistry can make her fuckin’ batshit.

19. Instincts should never be ignored.

20. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where your instincts start and your baggage stops.

21. Regret is a waste of time.

22. I struggle with time management.

23. I’m afraid love may not exist the way I want it to.

24. I couldn’t give up on love if I tried.

25. I will likely learn all of this all over again in 2010.

More on Relationships


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