Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’

BBC News – Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’:

The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents.

This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011.

But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.

They are worried about the enormous quantities of water, used to cool the reactor cores, which are now being stored on site.

Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water. But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tonnes of water are being added.

“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues.

“What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.

[How many times do we need to go down this road? And guess where that sea water is headed?]

The danger that all reporters now face

David Miranda, schedule 7 and the danger that all reporters now face | Alan Rusbridger | Comment is free | The Guardian:

During one of these meetings I asked directly whether the government would move to close down the Guardian’s reporting through a legal route – by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working. The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government’s intention. Prior restraint, near impossible in the US, was now explicitly and imminently on the table in the UK. But my experience over WikiLeaks – the thumb drive and the first amendment – had already prepared me for this moment. I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments. Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lived in Brazil?

The man was unmoved. And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.

Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age. We will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.

The state that is building such a formidable apparatus of surveillance will do its best to prevent journalists from reporting on it. Most journalists can see that. But I wonder how many have truly understood the absolute threat to journalism implicit in the idea of total surveillance, when or if it comes – and, increasingly, it looks like “when”.

[We have no idea what we’ve done. We’ll find out. After the fact.]

How Athletes Get Great

Interview with David Epstein: How Athletes Get Great:

How did Gladwell misconstrue it?
Aside from not having copied the numbers from the actual paper correctly for his book? He says that there is a perfect correspondence between practice and the level of expertise a person attains. And you can’t tell that from the paper. The 10,000 hours is an average of differences. You could have two people in any endeavor and one person took 0 hours and another took 20,000 hours, which is something like what happened with two high jumpers I discuss in the book. One guy put in 20,000 and one put in 0, so there’s your average of 10,000 hours, but that tells you nothing about an individual.

Now, Gladwell doesn’t say there’s no such thing as genetic talent. I think other writers are stricter than him. [Matthew Syed’s] Bounce is a book that minimizes talent. Gladwell does say elite performers are more talented. One of the things that Ericsson criticizes Gladwell about is to say that 10,000 hours is some kind of rule. The paper just says that these performers by the age of 20, these performers have accumulated 10,000 hours but there’s no where that says it’s a magical number where that’s when they become elite or anything like that. These people, by the time they go into their professional careers, have way more than that. That’s just where they were when they’re 20 as an average, not even to mention their individual differences.

[It’s a meaningless quantifier. Opportunity looks a lot like hard work. Not every journey needs an ending. Some devotions are categorical imperatives.]

Rebuilding

ē Rebuilding the world technology destroyed:

The Washington Post was headed for bankruptcy, and was finally sold for a pittance. Its buyer began his career on Wall Street, only to move into a burgeoning new industry, where he truly made his wealth. The newspaper he bought has a noble history, but will certainly earn losses for years to come.

I’m talking not about Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post yesterday, but rather Eugene Meyer, who bought the Post in 1933. Meyer left a lucrative career on Wall Street in 1920 to seize the burgeoning opportunity in industrial chemicals and founded Allied Chemical (today’s Honeywell).1 After making millions, Meyer spent the rest of his life both in public service and building the Post, spending millions of his own money in the process.

Meyer was in many ways following the established playbook for industrial magnates. Families like the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Carnegies, who made their fortunes in railroads, oil, and steel, respectively, plowed money into universities, museums, and a host of other cultural touchstones.

It’s this tradition that makes Bezos’s purchase feel momentous, a crossing of the Rubicon of sorts. The tech industry is now producing its own magnates, who are following the Rockefeller playbook. See Mark Zuckerberg giving $100 million to the Newark school district, or Chris Hughes buying the New Republic. Neither though, feels as momentous as Jeff Bezos, the preeminent tech magnate, buying the Washington Post, the nation’s third most important newspaper.

[snip -ed]

Influence lives at intersections. Yet, as an industry, it at times feels the boundaries we have built around who makes an effective product manager, or programmer, or designer, are stronger than ever, even as the need to cross those boundaries is ever more pressing. It’s not that Thiel was wrong about what types of degrees push progress forward; rather, it’s the blind optimism that technology is an inherent good that is so dangerous.

Technology is destroying the world as it was; do we have the vision and outlook to rebuild it into something better? Do we value what matters?

[I think a lot of us do. Whether we’re the ones that will earn the kind of wealth that makes it easier to affect change of that quality is yet to be seen.]

Source: Feed: stratēchery by Ben Thompson

McDonalds’ suggested budget for employees shows just how impossible it is to get by on minimum wage

McDonalds’ suggested budget for employees shows just how impossible it is to get by on minimum wage | Death and Taxes:

You may think that most of these minimum wage earners are teenagers. Well, 87.9% of minimum wage earners are over the age of 20. 28% of those people are parents trying to raise a kid on this budget. That is not a good thing for our future and it is not a good thing for our economy. In order for the economy to thrive, people have to be able to buy things. All the money going to people at the top does not help us.
I don’t want to live in any kind of dog-eat-dog Ayn Rand erotic fantasy. Human beings are worth more than that. Anyone who works 40 hours a week (nevermind 74 hours) ought be able to take care of all the basic necessities in life. Corporations shouldn’t be able to pay their workers nothing, keep all of the profits to themselves, and expect taxpayers to make up the difference with social programs. It’s not fair to the workers, and it’s not fair to any of us.

[What a mess.]

Opportunity looks a lot like hard work

Ashton Kutcher:

That message, yelled with arms flailing? Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Don’t buy what the world is trying to sell you. Opportunity looks a lot like hard work. No job is beneath you on your path to success. Don’t surrender to life as it is. Rebuild it for yourself and others.

The fact is that kids don’t get told this stuff enough. Let alone by someone they think is cool via mainstream media. If we want more engineers, more innovation, this needs to be curriculum, not cable television.

[A thoughtful bit coming from him (in his guise as a “pop” star, and a great message to everyone. It’s never too late.]

The Surveillance Speech: A Low Point in Barack Obama’s Presidency

The Surveillance Speech: A Low Point in Barack Obama’s Presidency – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic:

On Friday, President Obama spoke to us about surveillance as though we were precocious children. He proceeded as if widespread objections to his policies can be dispatched like a parent answers an eight-year-old who has formally protested her bedtime. He is so proud that we’ve matured enough to take an interest in our civil liberties! Why, he used to think just like us when he was younger, and promises to consider our arguments. But some decisions just have to be made by the grownups. Do we know how much he loves us? Can we even imagine how awful he would feel if anything bad ever happened while it was still his job to ensure our safety? *

By observing Obama’s condescension, I don’t mean to suggest tone was the most objectionable part of the speech. The disinformation should bother the American people most. The weasel words. The impossible-to-believe protestations. The factually inaccurate assertions. 

They’re all there.

[Are any of us really shocked? This has been going on since he got into office. Was this the change you sought?]

Riding lessons for U.S. cities from one of Europe’s bike capitals

Riding lessons for U.S. cities from one of Europe’s bike capitals:

And in fact, when asked why they bike rather than drive, the great majority of Copenhageners respond that it’s simply the quickest, most convenient way to get around. Health and economic concerns are factors, too. Protecting the environment? Hardly a blip on their radar:

Bicycle chart

City of Copenhagen

(Copenhagen city officials have worked hard to make biking easy. For details on their methods, which one planner described as “the carrot, the whip, and the tambourine,” check out part 2 in this series.)

[Is there a greater force in the world than self interest?]

Source: Grist Magazine

No kidding: “Reproductive success” might mean not reproducing

No kidding: “Reproductive success” might mean not reproducing:

Just take a look at the mark that we are leaving upon the world. In many regions, major rivers are being reduced to a trickle by the time they reach the sea. Lakes are shrinking and water tables are falling at a precipitous rate. Tropical forests are being hacked down to satisfy our demand for hardwoods and palm oil. Ocean fisheries are collapsing as a result of overfishing. We are rapidly exhausting our limited inheritance of metal and minerals. Vital bio-habitats, including coral reefs and wetlands, are disappearing at a fearsome rate. Scientists warn that human activity is triggering the “sixth mass extinction” in the history of the world. Within the lifetimes of children being born today, humanity will likely preside over the virtual extinction in the wild of lions, tigers, elephants, and rhinos. And then there’s the question of what we humans are doing to alter the planet’s climate and the impact that will have on the future of all life, including human existence. That’s not my idea of reproductive success.

[There are times of difficulty ahead.]

Source: Grist Magazine