Daily Archives: December 1, 2011

Phillips envisions poo-powered ‘green’ light bulbs

Poo-Powered Glowing Bacteria Light Up the House

discovery.com | Nov 28, 2011

by Nic Halverson

The bioluminescence of fireflies and “Red Tide” are arguably two of nature’s most beautiful phenomena, leaving us spellbound in a open field or on the shore with our mouths agape. But have you ever considered lighting your home with this kind of light?

Dutch electronics company Phillips has. In fact, they’ve created Bio-light, a greener lighting system that’s part of their Microbial Home (MH) system. It isn’t powered by electricity or sunlight, but by glowing bioluminescent bacteria that thrive on waste generated in the average home.

The bioluminescent bacteria is housed in hand-blown glass cells, clustered together to form a lamp that could easily be displayed in a modern art museum. Each cell is connected to the lamp’s reservoir base by thin silicon tubes that pipe methane gas from composted bathroom solids and vegetable scraps via a kitchen dodad that digests bio-waste.

As long as proper nutrients are supplied, the bio-light’s living bacteria can be powered indefinitely. Although the light isn’t bright enough to fully replace conventional lighting, it does make people conscious of household forms of wasted energy that could be tapped.

Clive van Heerden, Senior Director of Design-led Innovation at Philips Design, says drastic changes are required to reduce our environmental impact and designers must lead the way.

“Designers have an obligation to understand the urgency of the situation, and translate humanity’s needs into solutions,” he said, according to Phillips Design’s website. “Energy-saving light bulbs will only take us so far. We need to push ourselves to rethink domestic appliances entirely, to rethink how homes consume energy, and how entire communities can pool resources.”

Phillips envisions their bio-light technology being used on warning strips on curbs and steps, signs in theaters or clubs, and even night-time road markings.

More than 1 in 5 Americans are economically insecure

CNNMoney | Nov 28, 2011

By Tami Luhby

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — More than one in five Americans saw at least a quarter of their available household income vanish each year during the Great Recession, and they lacked a sufficient financial cushion, according to a report released Monday.

The situation has left them economically insecure, according to the report, which updates an Economic Security Index created by Jacob Hacker, a political science professor at Yale.

More than 20% of the nation faced this condition in each of the three years spanning 2008 to 2010, a sharp increase from 14.3% in 1986. Some 62 million Americans faced economic insecurity last year.

Many of the people who suffered in the economic downturn are in the middle class.

“The middle class is facing much more instability and health care [cost] risk than a generation ago,” Hacker said.

The Great Recession is also prompting deep losses among the insecure, with the median drop in income for this group hitting a record 46.4% in 2009.

Hacker, who launched the Economic Security Index with a team of researchers last year, looks at three measures to determine insecurity: major income loss, out-of-pocket medical expenses and the lack of savings. He considers available income to be money left over after paying health care costs and debts.

Based primarily on Census data, the index measures annual income changes.

Faces of poverty

The index is yet another indicator of the toll the Great Recession has taken Americans’ financial well-being. The economic downturn prompted the poverty rate to soar to 15.1% in 2010, the highest level since 1993. And the median household income fell to $49,445 last year, when adjusted for inflation, a level not seen since 1996.

Meanwhile, roughly 13.9 million Americans remained unemployed, 42% of whom had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.

While economic insecurity increased across the board, Hacker’s index found some groups suffered more than others during the downturn. Those living in the West and the South were more on the edge than those in the Northeast and North Central part of the country.

Young adults, age 18 to 34, proved to be the most insecure group during the recession, with a rate of nearly 25%. The next most vulnerable folks were those age 45 to 64, with a rate of just under 20%.

Nearly a quarter of African-Americans and Hispanics faced economic insecurity. By comparison, fewer than one in five whites were in the same boat.

The lack of an education also made a major difference, with 25.8% of Americans in households headed by someone who never graduated high school experiencing a major economic setback, compared to 15.8% of someone with post-college education.

Health care costs have contributed mightily to economic insecurity. The median household spent about 36% more for medical expenses than its counterpart in 1986.

Economic insecurity had been rising even prior to the Great Recession, Hacker found. Between 1986 and 1996, the average share of Americans facing insecurity was 16%. In the following decade, it rose to 17.6%.

Going forward, Hacker expects the figures to decrease unless the nation experiences another spike in unemployment, since that’s a primary driver of income loss. However, he estimates it will take six years for the typical person to return to their previous security level.

“Recovery from a downturn like this will be much slower for the individual and for the country as a whole,” he said.

The NYPD Tapes: NYPD’s Crime Stat Manipulation A Factor In Recent Corruption Scandals

villagevoice.com | Nov 29, 2011

By Graham Rayman

Criminologists Eli Silverman, of John Jay College, and John Eterno, of Molloy College, offer one of their periodic opinion pieces about the NYPD. This one is about the intersection between the recent police corruption scandals and what they call the “distorted use of and lack of transparency of Compstat.”

by Eli B. Silverman, Ph.D. and John A. Eterno, Ph.D.

Recent NYPD corruption, ticket fixing, and other scandals have cast doubt on the ability of the department to police itself. This has re-kindled numerous governmental, political, and media calls for external monitoring and oversight of the department’s anti-corruption efforts.

Independent oversight and monitoring is necessary but by no means sufficient. It will not, by itself, solve the problem since it ignores the core of the trouble – the distorted use of and lack of transparency of Compstat-the NYPD’s crime strategy performance management system and its manipulated crime statistics.

When the Mayor’s Commission to Combat Police Corruption was rebuffed in its efforts to investigate crime statistics in 2005, the Police Commissioner maintained that this was outside the Commission’s jurisdiction, the Mayor agreed and the panel chairman resigned shortly thereafter.

This defensive support of a warped version of Compstat has major consequences for the NYPD’s ability to reform itself. One upshot is a virtually exclusive focus on crime statistics regardless of how it is achieved as revealed in recordings made by Police Officer Adrian Schoolcraft and other police officers. When crime control becomes the be all and end all, then the ends justifies the means. This entails headquarters’ quotas for summonses, arrests and others enforcement activities. It also means almost 700,000 stop and frisks in predominantly minority neighborhoods in this year alone.

An ends justifies the means crime statistics outlook easily spills over into other areas. The manipulation of crime statistics can contribute to a culture of cynicism in the department. When supervisors are playing games with the crime data whether outright fraud or manipulation that falls into a gray area of legality, this can undermine any efforts to create a culture of integrity.

Is it any wonder that cops may view ticket fixing within the ethical framework of a “courtesy?” This view is consistent with our survey findings that commanders perceived lesser pressure for integrity of crime data once Compstat began.

This survey of retired NYPD Commanders, first reported in February 2010, revealed that since 1995, the first full year of Compstat’s operations, commanders felt pressure to downgrade felonies to misdemeanors. Others have also attested to manipulation of crime figures.

Additionally, and equally important, when crime micromanagement dominates the daily agenda, corruption control and other non crime control police responsibilities barely enter the NYPD’s radar screen. As political and police leadership only measure themselves by publicly reported crime statistics, any outside attempts to examine leadership operations are rebuffed.

As far as the NYPD is concerned, there is only one center stage; its name is Compstat and other activities are relegated to a side show requiring attention only when transgressions are revealed. Crime control is virtually exclusive; corruption control is a reclusive appendage.

As such, the NYPD is almost completely reactive in its fight against internal corruption allowing little, if any, true outside scrutiny. Yet, at the same time, it expects communities to acquiesce and be open to its patently proactive fight against crime as they forcibly stop, question, arrest, investigate, summons, poke and prod countless people under what may be questionable legal circumstances. Such double standards cannot stand.

What began in1994 as a valuable and innovative crime tracking and managerial accountability system, Compstat has morphed into a centralized top down numbers dominated system which places unrelenting pressure on commanders to produce favorable crime statistics, summonses, arrests, stop and frisks, and other activity. A recent Operations Order by the NYPD confirms these pressures which
reflect long-standing practices that we helped expose.

Therefore transparency and external oversight reforms must examine Compstat’s underbelly –the centrally controlled management system that demands favorable crime statistics and leaves little room for lower levels to practice responsible democratic policing NYPD leaders need to set an example and open the Compstat doors to independent outside scrutiny. Just as they expect citizens to subject themselves to their intense scrutiny, they too need to open up and allow complete outside examination.

Silverman and Eterno are the coauthors of The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation, forthcoming CRC Press, Taylor and Francis.