November 2011
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Month November 2011

The Wipeout Gene

Bijal P. Trivedi:

Outside Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico—10 miles from Guatemala. To reach the cages, we follow the main highway out of town, driving past soy, cocoa, banana and lustrous dark-green mango plantations thriving in the rich volcanic soil. Past the tiny village of Rio Florido the road degenerates into an undulating dirt tract. We bump along on waves of baked mud until we reach a security checkpoint, guard at the ready. A sign posted on the barbed wire–enclosed compound pictures a mosquito flanked by a man and woman: Estos mosquitos genéticamente modificados requieren un manejo especial, it reads. We play by the rules.

Inside, cashew trees frame a cluster of gauzy mesh cages perched on a platform. The cages hold thousands of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—the local species, smaller and quieter than the typical buzzing specimens found in the U.S. At 7 a.m., the scene looks ethereal: rays of sunlight filter through layers of mesh creating a glowing, yellow hue. Inside the cages, however, genetically modified mosquitoes are waging a death match against the locals, an attempted genocide-by-mating that has the potential to wipe out dengue fever, one of the world’s most troublesome, aggressive diseases.

Throughout a swath of subtropical and tropical countries, four closely related dengue viruses infect about 100 million people annually, causing a spectrum of illness—from flu-like aches to internal hemorrhaging, shock and death. No vaccine or cure exists. As with other mosquito-borne diseases, the primary public health strategy is to prevent people from being bitten. To that end, authorities attempt to rid neighborhoods of standing water where the insects breed, spray with insecticides, and distribute bed nets and other low-tech mosquito blockers. They pursue containment, not conquest.

The euro zone Is this really the end? Unless Germany and the ECB move quickly, the single currency’s collapse is looming

The Economist:

EVEN as the euro zone hurtles towards a crash, most people are assuming that, in the end, European leaders will do whatever it takes to save the single currency. That is because the consequences of the euro’s destruction are so catastrophic that no sensible policymaker could stand by and let it happen.

A euro break-up would cause a global bust worse even than the one in 2008-09. The world’s most financially integrated region would be ripped apart by defaults, bank failures and the imposition of capital controls (see article). The euro zone could shatter into different pieces, or a large block in the north and a fragmented south. Amid the recriminations and broken treaties after the failure of the European Union’s biggest economic project, wild currency swings between those in the core and those in the periphery would almost certainly bring the single market to a shuddering halt. The survival of the EU itself would be in doubt.

Idea of civilians using drone aircraft may soon fly with FAA

WJ Hennigan:

Drone aircraft, best known for their role in hunting and destroying terrorist hide-outs in Afghanistan, may soon be coming to the skies near you.

Police agencies want drones for air support to spot runaway criminals. Utility companies believe they can help monitor oil, gas and water pipelines. Farmers think drones could aid in spraying their crops with pesticides.

“It’s going to happen,” said Dan Elwell, vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Assn. “Now it’s about figuring out how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace.”

Residence Immobility

Richard Florida:

A smaller share of Americans moved last year that at any time on record, as I noted in a previous post. Nearly six in ten Americans live in the state where they were born, according to the U.S. Census bureau. But there is considerable variation from state to state, as the map (above) by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute shows. More than three quarters of the people in Louisiana (78.9 percent), Michigan (76.6 percent) and Ohio (75.1 percent) were born there, as opposed to just 24.3 percent of Nevadans, 35.2 percent of Floridians, 37.2 percent of the residents of Washington, D.C., and 37.7 percent of Arizonans. A high level of home-grown residents is also indicative of a lack of inflow of new people.

Looking back on USMC thanksgivings, reminding us of things for which we should be grateful

“Fabius Maximus”:

Summary: a guest post by Beth Crumley, a Marine Corp retrospective about Thanksgivings past. This reminds of how much we have to be grateful before, and the price paid for our liberty and prosperity. Reposted with permission from the Marine Corps Association website.

I love this time of year. I love walking outside on a crisp, autumn morning and hearing the leaves crunch under my feet, and the smell of a wood fire in the air. It’s a reflective time…a time to take stock of what’s important in our lives. This weekend I was happily engaged in some pre-Thanksgiving tasks. I put a large pot of poultry stock on to cook, made pastry dough and even roasted off some pumpkins for pie. Later, while sitting at my desk, I looked at the calendar and realized that 68 years ago the battle for Tarawa raged. I started to think about those who have served, and those who serve today, and how difficult it must be to be separated from family and friends on the holidays we hold most dear.



The Marine Corps has long taken particular care to ensure that those who cannot be with their families still celebrate Thanksgiving. In times of war, that has proven challenging.



On 26 November 1942, Thanksgiving Day, Marines were battling the Japanese on Guadalcanal. The diary of one veteran noted, “Thanksgiving…air raid siren at 3:30 A.M….very little sleep.” A history of the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines noted:

Death of a currency as eurogeddon approaches

Jeremy Warner:

The defining moment was the fiasco over Wednesday’s bund auction, reinforced on Thursday by the spectacle of German sovereign bond yields rising above those of the UK.


If you are tempted to think this another vote of confidence by international investors in the UK, don’t. It’s actually got virtually nothing to do with us. Nor in truth does it have much to do with the idea that Germany will eventually get saddled with liability for periphery nation debts, thereby undermining its own creditworthiness.


No, what this is about is the markets starting to bet on what was previously a minority view – a complete collapse, or break-up, of the euro. Up until the past few days, it has remained just about possible to go along with the idea that ultimately Germany would bow to pressure and do whatever might be required to save the single currency.

A Curious Case of Optimism

Ed Wallace:

I first started reading biographies of men of great accomplishments in high school; the first was that of Eddie Rickenbacker. I haven’t stopped, either; the most recent was that of Steve Jobs. Sometime after I’d started my career in the automotive industry, I took to reading books about the men who had created that industry. One thing you learn quickly about these individuals is that most had suffered serious financial setbacks before they finally succeeded. In fact the setbacks they encountered would have stopped the average individual in his tracks; but those who finally succeeded to greatness seemed to brush off defeat even faster than they accepted their ultimate success.

The other fact one notices in reading great car guys’ biographies is that many of the greatest names in business history actually started in the absolute worst of economic times. Others, such as GM’s Alfred Sloan, made their reputations in periods of horrendous economic activity.

http://t.co/cFqmGffv

Jameel.

Best Photos of 2011

Reuters:

From the uprisings across the Arab world to the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, there was no lack of news in 2011. Reuters photographers covered the breaking news events as well as captured more intimate, personal stories. In this showcase, the photographers offer a behind the scenes account of the images that helped define the year.

Design by Rutan

Air & Space:

You can always tell a Burt Rutan airplane, just as you can always tell a Dr. Seuss drawing or a Beatles song. It’s not only the configurations — though canards, winglets, or twin booms sometimes give them away. It’s not just the materials, though composites have been key to Rutan’s achievements and helped make him the hero of the homebuilder. And it’s not just the futurism, though Rutan designs always look like they flew in from a decade off in the distance. There’s some other quality rolled up with those three that makes you know it’s a Rutan. We think of it as playfulness.

Consider SpaceShipOne, Rutan’s best-known creation, which made history in 2004 as the world’s first private spaceship. It looks the way it does for sound engineering reasons: Its famous tail feathers were deployed to slow and control its atmospheric reentry, its tubby fuselage has a diameter of five feet to accommodate an oxidizer tank of similar dimension and a comfortable cabin, and its pointy little nose is sprinkled with small round windows so that the pilot could see the horizon at all times during the flight up to 60 miles and back. But SpaceShipOne is also toy-like. Can anyone doubt kids would be delighted by a small model of it?