Sunday, October 31, 2010

On Batteries

Batteries are an integral part of any automotive, RV, marine or home power electrical system. Since most people are fairly familiar with automotive batteries, we will concentrate on deep-cycle power storage batteries used in home power, RV and marine applications, with brief comparisons between deep-cycle and automotive batteries.

Battery Capacity

Battery capacity is a primary concern in home power systems. The storage battery bank must have enough storage capacity to meet your power needs between charging cycles. Making sure the battery storage capacity is about double the power that would be used in a normal use day is a good minimum.
Home power (deep cycle) batteries are generally measured in "amp-hour" capacity. One amp-hour is equal to one amp of current drawn for one hour of time. Amp-hour capacity is generally given as the "20 hour rate" of the battery. Therefore, the number given as the amp-hour capacity for a deep cycle battery will be the number of amp-hours the battery can deliver over a 20 hour period at a constant draw. A 105 amp-hour battery can deliver 5.25 amps constantly over a 20 hour period before it's voltage drops below 10.5 volts, at which point the battery is discharged.
Amp-hour requirements for your home power system can be calculated with help from the System Sizing section of our System Design information pages.

Types of Batteries

Lead Acid Automotive Batteries
Automotive batteries are designed to deliver a relatively high amount of current in a short period of time, but should never be heavily discharged. An automotive battery plate is very porous (like a slice of swiss cheese), to maximize surface area and enable the sudden high current output. Because home power systems require repeated deep discharges of stored power, automotive batteries are largely useless for these applications.

Lead Acid Deep Cycle Batteries
Deep cycle batteries are designed to have a large amount of their stored current discharged between charging sessions, with very heavy non-porous battery plates to withstand repeated major discharging and charging cycles (deep cycles). They are generally useless for delivering the sudden surges of power needed from automotive batteries.
RV/Marine Batteries are usually 12 volt, and available in a variety of capacities up to 100 amp-hours. They can be found in "sealed" or standard servicable types, and are commonly used in small home power or portable power applications. RV/Marine batteries are generally small, compact and easy to handle and install. They are relatively inexpensive, and the sealed type batteries are non-spillable and safer for indoor applications.
However these batteries are not designed for very heavy cycling (as is found in a home power system), so their life-spans are often shorter than other types of deep cycle batteries. Sealed batteries are also very sensitive to overcharging, which may further shorten their useful lifespan. Also, in order to obtain more than 100 amp-hours of storage capacity, multiple batteries must be attached in parallel, which is less efficient than using a single, higher capacity battery.
Golf Cart Batteries have capacities in the 220-300 amp-hour range, and are generally 6 volt. They are well suited to small to medium home power systems. They are designed for deep discharge cycles, so they will tend to have longer lifespans and better performance in a residential alternative energy system. They are still relatively light weight, but are generally cheaper per amp-hour than RV type batteries. They are also less sensitive to mild overcharging.
However since most home power systems are 12 volt, two 6 volt batteries must be connected in series, which is a bit more complicated than connecting a single battery. Since golf cart batteries are unsealed, they need to be stored in a well ventilated area and will require periodic water replacement. Their amp-hour capacity is also too limited to be of use in a large power system.
Industrial/Stationary Batteries are normally manufactured as individual 2 volt units, which are then combined to create the necessary voltage for the power system. (Six for 12 volt systems, twelve for 24 volt systems) They're available in a wide variety of capacities, up to 3000 amp-hours. A very high amp hour capacity can be obtained with a single six cell set, so charging characteristics are very stable. Industrial batteries will have the longest average lifespan under deep cycling home power conditions.
However due to their extremely high amp-hour capacities, industrial battery sets will have a significantly higher initial cost. These batteries can also weigh up to 350 lbs. per two volt cell, so they will need to be stored in a well supported area, contained in a rigid external box, and will likely require special transporting assistance.
Nickel Alloy Batteries
Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) and Nickel Iron batteries, rather than consisting of lead plates submerged in a sulfuric acid solution, feature nickel alloy plates in an alkaline solution. They are also well suited for home power use, but are much less common and much more expensive than lead acid types.
A nickel alloy battery can have up to 50 years of useful life, compared to 20 years with a well-maintained lead acid battery. They can also sit for extended periods of time partially or fully discharged without suffering damage, unlike lead acid types. They are lower maintenance, and can be completely discharged repeatedly without suffering damage. A lead acid battery should never be completely discharged, meaning they need to be more closely monitored. Nickel alloy batteries operate better at lower temperatures, and can discharge more of their total amp-hour capacity as useful current.
Despite all these advantages, the higher initial cost of the batteries is prohibitive. Also, nickel alloy batteries are harder to dispose of when they finally become unchargeable. Their unique charging voltage range can also create compatibility problems with battery management and charging equipment.

How Batteries are Used in Home Power

A storage battery bank is what enables a home power system to deliver a constant level of power to the electrical system. Without storage batteries, the entire electrical system would be limited by the immediate output of the alternative energy generators. At night, a solar-run house would have no electrical power available to turn on interior lights. A wind-powered system would be subject to constant power fluctuations as the wind speed increased, dropped or disappeared entirely.
By running the output of renewable power generators through charge controllers and into a battery bank, power can be available 24 hours a day, regardless of weather. Solar panels or wind generators can deliver power to the battery bank regardless of current power usage, so excess power can be stored during low use times (generally the middle of the day and middle of the night) and be available during high use times (usually morning and evening).
Batteries supply DC power, so if power is needed for an AC power system or a mixed AC/DC system, the battery power will need to be run through an inverter to change 12VDC or 24VDC power into 120VAC household current.

Using Batteries in Alaska

Optimal operating temperature for a lead acid battery is 68ºF. The rated amp-hours given for a battery are calculated at 68º. If battery temperature significantly exceeds or falls below this level, charging efficiency and amp-hour capacity will drop.
Obviously, storing deep cycle batteries outside or in an unheated enclosure during an Alaskan winter would not be a practical option. The batteries would be destroyed. If the battery bank is being stored in a stand-alone power shed, the building should have some form of heating installed. An attached, heated garage would also be an appropriate storage location.
Automotive batteries should be winterized if the vehicle will be parked outside during sub-zero weather for more than an hour at a time. Battery heating pads are widely available in northern climates, either as small pads designed to be placed underneath the battery, or as fitted blankets which slip over top of the battery.

Basic Lead Acid Battery Function

Lead acid batteries are by far the most common type of power storage battery in use today. A fully charged lead acid battery undergoes a chemical reaction when attached to an electrical load, which releases stored energy from the battery. All lead acid batteries consist of the following components:
A positive plate, composed of lead dioxide (PbO2)
A negative plate, composed of "sponge" lead (Pb)
An electrolyte solution of sulfuric acid (H2SO4) and distilled water (H2O)
When the battery discharges current, the sulfate (SO4) in the electrolyte combines with lead from the plates to form lead sulfate deposits (PbSO4). After repeated or extended discharge, the sulfate content of the electrolyte becomes increasingly "bound" in the lead sulfate deposits and can no longer be used to create electric current. The battery becomes discharged when too much of the electrolyte sulfate is depleted.
Over time, in a non-sealed battery, the water content of the electrolyte solution will drop due to evaporation during discharge. This leads to excessive acid concentration, which raises the resistance of the battery. Periodic checking and refilling of the fluid level in an unsealed battery is essential to its proper functioning.
When a discharged battery is recharged, the majority of the lead sulfate is broken down and the sulfate returns to the electrolyte where it is once again available to create electricity. However, over time a sulfate residue builds up on the battery plates and begins to crystallize. As more of the sulfate becomes locked in the crystallized residue, the battery capacity and ability to be recharged declines until the battery finally "dies."
With deep cycle batteries, the sulfate crystals simply "insulate" the battery plates from the remaining weakened electrolyte, preventing the chemical reactions needed to produce current. In automotive batteries, with their thin, porous plates, crystallization will actually cause the plates to break apart, permanently destroying the battery.

Battery Charging & Maintenance

In an alternative energy system, battery charging is usually accomplished through charge controllers attached to the various power generators. A good quality charge controller will use a three stage, pulse width modulated charging system. This allows the battery to receive the highest charging current during the bulk stage of charging, with a second lower absorption level to bring the charge to maximum voltage, and a third "float" charging current to maintain the battery charge. A good quality charge controller will maximize charging efficiency and minimize lead sulfate build up, increasing the battery's useable lifespan.

Lead acid batteries will lose their charge if they are left unused for an extended period of time. If an automotive or deep cycle battery goes unused for a month or longer, it should be outfitted with a charge maintainer or "trickle charger" (if the deep-cycle battery is not attached to a three-stage charge controller). Solar panels are available for this purpose, and will deliver a low level of current to the battery while exposed to sunlight. For batteries or vehicles stored indoors, plug-in charge maintainers are also available.
Sulfate crystallization in batteries can be slowed or reversed by the use of battery pulse conditioners. Lead sulfate can be more effectively removed, and negative battery plates better maintained if battery voltage periodically reaches 2.5 volts per cell. (15v for a 12v battery, 30v for a 24v, etc.) A pulse conditioner will deliver periodic brief pulses of higher current to the battery, causing the sulfate residue to be released back into the electrolyte and maximizing the lifespan and performance of the battery.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Poetics of Salt

Nice article.

I liked the way "salt" connotes several meanings in religion, politics and life.
Also the poor man's experience of life in the increasingly competitive world and the subjugation of the body as a means to oppress and conform is interesting.

I have one question and critique about the article and in general the critique of anti-capitalistic stance.

" The economist Jagdish Bhagwati in his book In Defense of Globalization makes a pretty elaborate methodically articulated defense of globalization. What particularly caught my interest is when he says, “The anti-capitalist sentiments are particularly virulent among the young who arrive at their social awakening on campuses in fields other than economics. English, comparative literature, and sociology are fertile breeding grounds.”

I have read the book the author mentions above. Bhagavati defends some baseless assertions of anti-capitalists and why they could be wrong in their understanding of economics. There are certain assertions that I agree with the anti-capitalists. For example the ever expanding vision of the present day capitalists and the visions of utopia based on eternal development will lead to destruction of the ecosystems and our very survival as a special. It is becoming obvious from scientific studies that the way we are doing business, the next 50 years can prove to be the most dangerous time for us as a species. But that does not put the principles of capitalism and the science of supply and demand in jeopardy. Economics is a set of knowledge of the world of give and take, just like science is the knowledge of the matter.
But there is in general a disagreement between economics as a field and literature, sociology etc.  I do not know if that is because of anathema of specialization or general lack of interest in other fields.
Communism puts power to some individuals and that has caused mass
murders of artists and all intellectuals in communist states and there are many examples of that in history. At least democracy gives air to breath no matter how polluted and space for thoughts to express no matter to some extent policed. The ideas of communism based on economics and welfare state sound well but the application and concentration of power
that it leads to has proved self destructive and dangerous to the intellectuals.

My question is how do you show resistance to the capitalists who have vast power? Unlike colonialists this capitalists are indirect holders of power of the state. They manipulate politics sitting at the back and the actors are the politicians and we the spectators.
Gandhi wanted to break the unjust salt law to show resistance to the British, but now how do you show resistance to mindless development and destruction of earth? Though there is some resistance from the department of sociology and literature, it has to be agreed for the practical matter that it is only is the world of ideas however noble they may be. It can be argued that ideas are powerful and can bring change, which I agree. But in the real world, change is happening very fast.

I feel that the theory of efficiency and demand and supply and the importance of markets has its place in society. There is no problem with the theory and sound principles of capitalism , the problem is in its application, just like science can be destructive, for example lead to nuclear war.
My point is that we need to understand this system and to counter the power structure we need to develop more methods of resistance to this madness of development and utopia.
This is the hype and utopia created by the media and the corporates as if there are infinite resources on earth. We are destroying earth, and our earth cannot sustain this ever growing population and extravagant lifestyle. This hype needs to be countered on a greater mass  level than in departments of sociology and literature.

Instead of attacking sound principle of economics we need to attack the greed of the corporates and the way they use media for their ends. How can we do it on a greater level and let people know that this business in usual will lead us and other animal species to extinction?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

50 Inspiring Blogs Fighting for Endangered Species

Inspiring Sites Fighting for Endangered Species

These sites and blogs fight for, educate about, and feature loads of information on endangered species.
    1. National Geographic Blogs : These expert world travelers cover every corner of the Earth, including many never before seen places and animals. Click on one of the many blogs on travels, the environment, and even choices just for kids. Be sure not to miss the amazing photography.
    2. TED : With a tagline of “ideas worth spreading,” this site has grown into one of the most visited in the world. They also feature various tags for speeches, including for animals. Featured talks include subjects such as the Congo, deep oceans, poachers, and much more.
    3. Defenders of Wildlife : The DOW strives to protect both animals and plants in their natural communities. Visit to check out their blog with the latest happenings. You can also get information, resources, and more.
    4. News from the Animal Welfare Institute : Since its founding in 1951, the AWI has sought to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by people. One of their greatest areas of emphasis is cruel animal factories, which raise and slaughter pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals. Located in Washington, D.C., their blog features the latest news releases.
    5. IFAW’s Animal Rescue Blog : This blog is hosted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Categories include everything from Africa to South America. Visit the main site with loads more.
    6. Animal Law Blog : This site features one practitioner’s observations and analysis of animal law news, litigation in the state of Illinois and around the country, criminal cases as time permits, as well as links to legislation and other animal law resources. Topics as broad as animal welfare to updates on Michael Vick are blogged on.
    7. The Current Mass Extinction : The website began in 1998 and has since collected tons of articles on endangered species. There are over 300 entries to choose from sources across the web. An article on mass extinction kicks off the site.

Inspiring Blogs Fighting for Endangered Species

The fight to protect and preserve endangered species is the subject of the below blogs.
    8. Extinction Countdown : John Platt is an expert blogger for Scientific American. In this blog, he shares news and research about endangered species from around the world. Updates on some of the best known, along with lesser known, animals and plants are shared regularly.
    9. Endangered Spaces Blog : This is a blog about the Earth and the steps that must be taken to become a force for positive change. Cyber Celt discusses many issues surrounding endangered species and spaces. The polar bear remains the favorite and there are many related entries.
    10. Forest Defender’s Blog : This blogger writes all about preserving the Humboldt Forest. Loads of pictures and entries are on the progress of the movement. There are also loads of related links.
    11. ESA Blawg : What laws are in place to protect endangered species? This law blog tells you all about them. They even link to many relevant court cases and laws.
    12. Stop Extinction Blog : The Endangered Species Coalition is a national network of hundreds of conservation, scientific, business, and community organizations working to protect our nation’s disappearing wildlife and last remaining wild places. Visit the blog to learn about the latest events, updates, and policy moves.
    13. Animal Ethics : Get “philosophical discussion of the moral status of nonhuman animals” in this blog. Keith Burgess-Jackson often comments on endangered species related headlines. Veganism, cruelty to animals, and much more are featured.
    14. Of Humans and Non-Human Animals : This blogger believes that giving animals a fair deal is good for humans too. He explains why in detail in the blog. Entries are sparse but worth a read.
    15. Dateline Earth : This blog is part of the popular Seattle PI site. With a special section for endangered species, it is one of the many topics they blog about. You can also get loads of other environmental headlines.

Inspiring Blogs for Learning About Endangered Species

Get educated about animal and plant life with the help of these blogs.
    16. Animal Oddities : David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Check out his blog to learn about the rarest of animals such as the pink hippo, odd owls, and many more.
    17. Zoologger : Part of New Scientist, get a virtual zoo of life science here. Recent entries are on rare fish, horrifying insects, and much more. Be sure not to miss the videos with more.
    18. Animal Rights Information and News Resource Blog : The Group for the Education of Animal Related Issues is a non-profit educational group dedicated to assisting on animal rights-related issues, the environment, and human health. It is also a huge reference source for animal rights information. You can check out the blog to learn the latest on their updates.
    19. Animal Blog : This British blog features many items on animals including the latest headlines. You can also find links, art, career information, and more. Recent entries are on a secret abattoir and animal rescue.
    20. Animals in the News : Wendee Holtcamp has covered news about conservation, wildlife, and adventure travel for nearly 15 years. In her blog, she focuses on the latest animal related headlines. Latest entries are on cougars and even a wood-eating catfish.
    21. Gulf Oil Spill : Another blog from Animal Planet, learn how the gulf oil spill is affecting wildlife. News and first-hand accounts from the devastation and recovery efforts in the Gulf are featured. Links of interest are often shared.
    22. San Diego Zoo Blogs : One of the leading zoos in the world, visit their blog to learn all about the animals protected in their zoo. Categories are on apes, bears, elephants, pandas, polar bears, and more. You can also get news on the latest happenings at the zoo.
    23. Between the Species : Learn all about animals and endangered species the way the experts do here. This is an online journal for the study of philosophy and animals. Latest entries are entitled “Moral Agency in Mammalia” and “Animals in the Kingdom of Ends.”
    24. Hounded, Cowed, & Badgered : Learn the law from an animal rights perspective here. The blogger often features legal cases of animal and environmental interest. The latest is on an unfair trial for an activist.
    25. The Endangered Species Handbook : This free tool is provided by the Animal Welfare Institute. Simply enter the book to get chapters on vanishing species, forest, aquatic ecosystems, and more. There are also teacher’s aids and video.

Inspiring Science Blogs Fighting for Endangered Species

These science blogs and sites also have an entry or two regarding endangered species and other wildlife related entries.
    26. WWF : Although the only blog offered is on climate, the World Wildlife Fund is a must visit for anyone interested in fighting for endangered species. They have a whole library full of information on current endangered animals. Visitors can also view species by geographic location, get the science behind it, and learn more about climate.
    27. Science Daily : Updated several times a day, this science site features loads of headlines every day. There are also headlines especially for plants and animals and can include topics such as agriculture, food, ecology, and more. You can also get loads of other science related headlines.
    28. Scientific American : This magazine has been a leading source of scientific headlines for years. Now with tons of features on the web, animal science is a popular topic of headlines. The latest entries offer slideshows of under the sea animals and even flying fish.
    29. Life : The popular site New Scientist has a section just for the life sciences. Posts include subjects suc as rare animals and interviews with experts. There are also loads of other science related items.
    30. Mother Nature Network : This website’s tagline is “improve your world.” With a specific section for wilderness news and resources, they share just how in many ways. Popular articles include best places to survive an apocalypse and the most bizarre lakes.
    31. Science Blogs : With a blog on just about every science, Science Blogs is a leading site. Life science blogs are on various topics from viruses to humans. You can also get the latest on endangered species with a look.
    32. Discover : Get living world science from this leading website. Current hot topics include animals attacking, dinosaurs, primates, and much more. There are also loads of other science features on the site.
    33. Life : The award winning series on the Discovery Channel also has its own special section. You can go behind the scenes and even fun and games for kids. There is also much more on the main site.
    34. Science News : Life science is featured in detail on this science site. Topics include biology, botany, zoology, and others. There is even a section offering science news for kids.

Inspiring Environmental Blogs Fighting for Endangered Species

The below blogs fight for the Earth, along with endangered species.
    35. Treehugger : A top choice for environmentalists, Treehugger also has a special section for travel and nature. A recent entry was on endangered South African penguins. You can also find tons of other Earth-related items in health, business, design, and more.
    36. Living on Earth : Hosted by Steve Curwood, this is a weekly radio show. It focuses on life on Earth and has plenty of items on how human activity affects animals and the environment. Simply visit to listen to the current shows or archived ones.
    37. Dot Earth : Andrew Revkin writes for “The New York Times” on the expanding human population and its impact on the planet. Efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits are discussed. The issue of endangered species is also discussed.
    38. Nature : Environmental Graffiti is a popular environmental blog. In the Nature section, they feature popular stories that take place in the animal, plant, and natural world. You can also narrow by animals, conservation, and more.
    39. World Changing : “Change your thinking” with a visit to this environmental blog. A special section on the planet teaches how to restore and explore the Earth. Related subjects include emerging technologies, food, sustainable design, and purchasing green.
    40. Max Gladwell : Social media, geolocation, and green living are the focus of his blog. Popular posts include global warming, GM, and ten ways geolocation is changing the world.
    41. Environmental Capital : The business side of the environment is focused on in this popular blog from “The Wall Street Journal.” It provides daily news and analysis of the shifting energy and environmental landscape. Although new entries have stopped, you can still read loads of entries that are still relevant today.

Inspiring Specific Blogs Fighting for Endangered Species

These blogs focus on a particular endangered species.
    42. Bugging Out : Get an inside look at nature’s creepiest creatures by stopping here. Videos, blog entries, and more are all offered. Featured species include the ant, colonies, mosquitos, and more.
    43. Diary of a Koalawrangler : Samantha Carroll is one of 120 volunteers helping to care for sick and injured koalas at the Koala Hospital. Located in Port Macquarie, Australia, she is not a vet, scientist, or animal specialist — just someone who can’t imagine Australia without koalas in it. Visit to get pictures, videos, and much more on her favorite animal.
    44. The Elephant Sanctuary : Located in Tennessee, this sanctuary is the U.S.’s largest natural habitat developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants. With 2,700 acres available they hope to rescue 100 elephants. Visit to learn more about each.
    45. Rainforest Animals : Learn about all sorts of endangered species indigenous to the rain forest in this blog. Sections include poison dart frogs, pollution effects, and many others. You can also look up other specific animals and more.
    46. Equine Advocates : Their goal is to promote the humane and responsible treatment of horses. Choose from sections on rescue, sanctuary, and even education. They also feature more on the issues.
    47. Dancing Dolphin Journal : The Dancing Dolphin Institute is a nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to interspecies communication with a special focus on the cetaceans. Although it recently wrapped up its blog, you can still read about their work with dolphins. They also feature links to loads of related sites.
    48. Eye of the Dolphin : Visit here for another blog devoted to dolphins. Many news items are focused on the species, and the latest entry is on Blood Dolphins.
    49. The Gombe Chimpanzee Blog : Founded in 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute continues Dr. Goodall’s pioneering research of chimpanzee behavior. The current bloggers are Gombe Stream Research Center Director Anna Mosser and research scientist Emily Wroblewski. Although the blog hasn’t been updated in a while, past entries are still worth a look.
    50. ASPCA : The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals focuses more on ethical treatment to domestic animals. However, their blog covers many areas of animal news. You can also get tons of related items on the main site.
Whether looking to save animals and plants locally or across the globe, there are tons of resources to be found in the above 50 inspiring blogs fighting for endangered species. They can also be educational, fun, and even used as a tool to find a new furry friend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

one fifth of the world’s plants and animals are under threat of extinction

A fifth of the world’s mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes are in imminent danger of going extinct, says this year’s edition of the benchmark IUCN Red List. The percentages of threatened invertebrates and plants are similar.
Releasing the findings at the Oct. 18-29 UN biodiversity summit, being attended by 192 countries, here Wednesday, Simon Stuart, chair of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said their findings on vertebrates showed that “nature’s backbone is at risk”.
Around 3,000 scientists from around the world have worked to put this Red List together. They have found that 25 percent of all mammals, 13 percent birds, 41 percent amphibians, 22 percent reptiles and 15 percent fishes risk extinction, mostly due to loss of their habitats and some due to overhunting.
A recent study by the Kew Botanical Gardens had found that around six million species — 20 percent of all plants and invertebrates — face the extinction threat too.
But it’s not all bad news. IUCN has found 64 species that have improved their status in the Red List, moving from the critically endangered to the endangered category, for example. Stuart said all these were in areas that had been protected, “proving the importance of conservation”. Results show that the status of biodiversity would have declined by at least an additional 20 percent if conservation action had not been taken.
The successes include three species that were extinct in the wild and have since been re—introduced back to nature: the California condor and the black—footed ferret in the US, and Przewalski’s horse in Mongolia.
Conservation efforts have been particularly successful at combating invasive alien species on islands. The global population of Seychelles Magpie—robin, increased from fewer than 15 birds in 1965 to 180 in 2006 through control of introduced predators, like the brown rat. In Mauritius, six bird species have undergone recoveries in status, including the Mauritius kestrel, whose population has increased from just four birds in 1974 to nearly 1,000.
But very few amphibians — the most threatened vertebrates — have shown signs of recovery.
This year’s study used data for 25,000 species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, to investigate the status of the world’s vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes) and how this status has changed over time. The results show that, on average, 50 species of mammal, bird and amphibian move closer to extinction each year due to the impacts of agricultural expansion, logging, over—exploitation, and invasive alien species.
“The ‘backbone’ of biodiversity is being eroded,” said the doyen of ecologists, Edward O. Wilson,of Harvard University. “One small step up the Red List is one giant leap forward towards extinction. This is just a small window on the global losses currently taking place.”
Southeast Asia has experienced the most dramatic recent losses, largely driven by the planting of export crops like oil palm, commercial hardwood timber operations, agricultural conversion to rice paddies and unsustainable hunting.
Recently, a UN—sponsored study called The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) calculated the cost of losing nature at $2—5 trillion per year, predominantly in poorer parts of the world. A recent study found one—fifth of more than 5,000 freshwater species in Africa are threatened, putting the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on these vital resources at risk.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Investing in options with limited risk

One can allot around 10 percent of investment in options. For example, when purchasing stocks one can also purchase call options at the same time. This limits the risk and also increases the profits if the market moves in the expected direction.
For stocks for which one thinks that the rally is almost over, if there is considerable option volume open, then one can invest in options instead. One has to make sure to sell the options at a loss or profit well before the expiration date.
Options is a very good alternative investment in a limited time horizon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Universal Health Care for India

It will develop blueprint to achieve ‘health for all' by 2020
Recognising the importance of defining a comprehensive strategy for universal health coverage, the Planning Commission has set up a high level expert group to develop a blueprint and investment plan for meeting the human resource requirements to achieve ‘health for all' by 2020.
The 15-member high level group on universal health coverage, chaired by K. Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India, is mandated to rework the physical and financial norms needed to ensure quality, universal reach and access to healthcare services, particularly in underserved areas and to indicate the role of private and public service providers.
“The expert group, constituted with the approval of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, will also explore the role of a health insurance system that offers universal access to health services with high subsidy for the poor and a scope for building up additional levels of protection on a payment basis,” Syeda Hamid, a member of the Planning Commission, told The Hindu.
The expert group will suggest critical management reforms in order to improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the health delivery system, among other things.
The other members of the expert group are: Abhay Bhang (Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health), A.K. Shiva Kumar (member, National Advisory Council), Amarjeet Sinha (senior IAS officer), Anu Garg (Principal Secretary-cum-Commissioner (Health and Family Welfare department, Orissa), Gita Sen (Centre for Public Policy, IIM Bangalore), G.N. Rao (Chair of Eye Health, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad), Jashodhara Dasgupta (SAHYOG, Lucknow), Leila Caleb Varkey (Public Health researcher), Govinda Rao (Director, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy), Mirai Chatterjee (Director, Social Security, SEWA), Nachiket Mor (Sughavazhu Healthcare), Vinod Paul (AIIMS), Yogesh Jain (Jan Swasthya Sahyog, Bilaspur), a representative of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and N.K. Sethi (Advisor (Health), Planning Commission).
This can be the best thing to happen to India, if done properly. Indian people who have been exploited for so long need a strong health incentive from government. We to stand in the international arena need to be a country who takes care of its citizens. We do not want to be ashamed of poverty, sickness and shabby streets. 
Universal health care provided by the government with a small market for private sector is good for the citizens. It is better not to encourage the private sector to take a big chunk of this sector. Facilities that are beyond the common man can be left to the private sector otherwise the same story that happened in the United states will repeat itself in India. For profit business is not the best for health sector. Government is a better agent since it is not looking for profits all the time or to show its profits as quarterly reports. 
Almost 90 years back, Americans got this universal health care and social security benefits from the government. According to the projections, this will happen in India in 2020. Our country needs it desperately. Its already too late. Along with health insurance and benefits, the government should  take care of unemployment and social security for retirement to finish off the deal. 
Go India! this is the best thing that can happen to India in the next decade. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

America’s Holy Writ

Tea Party evangelists claim the Constitution as their sacred text. Why that’s wrong.

Since winning the Republican senate primary in Delaware last month, Christine O’Donnell has not had trouble getting noticed. When the Tea Party icon admitted to “dabbl[ing] into witchcraft” as a youngster, the press went wild. When she revealed that she was “not a witch” after all, the response was rabid. O’Donnell has fudged her academic credentials, defaulted on her mortgage, sued a former employer, and campaigned against masturbation, and her efforts have been rewarded with round-the-clock coverage. Yet few observers seem to have given her views on the United States Constitution the same level of consideration. Which is too bad, because O’Donnell’s Tea Party take on our founding text is as unusual as her stance on autoeroticism. Except that it could actually have consequences.

Last month, the candidate spoke to 2,000 right-wing activists at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. She wore a black suit and pearls, and swept on stage to the sound of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Most of the speech was unremarkable: a laundry list of conservative platitudes. But near the end she veered into stranger—and more revealing—territory. O’Donnell once told voters that her “No. 1” qualification for the Senate is an eight-day course she took at a conservative think tank in 2002. Now she was revisiting its subject: the Constitution.

The Founders’ masterpiece, O’Donnell said, isn’t just a legal document; it’s a “covenant” based on “divine principles.” For decades, she continued, the agents of “anti-Americanism” who dominate “the D.C. cocktail crowd” have disrespected the hallowed document. But now, finally, in the “darker days” of the Obama administration, “the Constitution is making a comeback.” Like the “chosen people of Israel,” who “cycle[d] through periods of blessing and suffering,” the Tea Party has rediscovered America’s version of “the Hebrew Scriptures” and led the country into “a season of constitutional repentance.” Going forward, O’Donnell declared, Republicans must champion the “American values” enshrined in our sacred text. “There are more of us than there are of them,” she concluded.

By now, O’Donnell’s rhetoric should sound familiar. In part that’s because her fellow Tea Party patriots—Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, the guy at the rally in the tricorn hat—also refer to the Constitution as if it were a holy instruction manual that was lost, but now, thanks to them, is found. And yet the reverberations go further back than Beck. The last time America elected a new Democratic president, in 1992, the Republican Party’s then-dominant insurgent group used identical language to describe the altogether different document that defined their cause and divided them from the heretics in charge: the Bible. The echoes of the religious right in O’Donnell’s speech—the Christian framework, the resurrection narrative, the “us vs. them” motif, the fixation on “values”—aren’t coincidental.
From a legal perspective, there’s a case to be made that O’Donnell’s argument is in-accurate. The Constitution is a relentlessly secular document that never once mentions God or Jesus. And nothing in recent jurisprudence suggests that the past few decades of governing have been any less constitutional than the decades that preceded them. But the Tea Party’s language isn’t legal, and neither is its logic. It’s moral: right vs. wrong. What O’Donnell & Co. are really talking about is culture war.
When Barack Obama took office, experts rushed to declare an end to the old battles over race, religion, and reproductive rights—whether because of Obama’s alleged healing powers, or the Great Recession, or both. But these analyses ignored an important reality: at heart, the culture wars were really never about anything as specific as abortion or gay marriage. Instead, as James Davison Hunter wrote in Culture Wars, the book that popularized the term, the conflicts of the 1990s represented something bigger: “a struggle over…who we have been...who we are now, and...who we, as a nation, will aspire” to be. Such conflicts, Hunter explained, pit “orthodox” Americans, who like the way things were, against their more “progressive” peers, who are comfortable with the way things are becoming.
For the forces of orthodoxy, the election of a black, urban, liberal Democrat with a Muslim name wasn’t a panacea at all; it was a provocation. So when the recession hit, and new economic anxieties displaced the lingering social concerns of the Clinton era, political fundamentalists sought refuge in a more relevant scripture—one that could still be made to accommodate the simpler, surer past they longed for but happened to dwell on taxes and government instead of sinning and being saved.
The Constitution was waiting. Today, Tea Party activists gather to recite the entire document to each other. They demand that a wayward America return to its Constitutional roots. They even travel to Colonial Williamsburg and ask the actor playing George Washington how to topple a tyrannical government. In short, they take their Constitution worship very, very seriously. The question now is whether the rest of us should as well.
Contemporary Constitution worshipers claim that they’ve distilled their entire political platform—lower taxes, less regulation, minimal federal government—directly from the original text of the founding document. Any overlap with mainstream conservatism is incidental, they say; they’re simply following the Framers’ precise instructions. If this were true, it would be quite the political coup: oppose us, the Tea Party could claim, and you’re opposing James Madison. But the reality is that Tea Partiers engage with the Constitution in such a selective manner, and for such nakedly political purposes, that they’re clearly relying on it more as an instrument of self-affirmation and cultural division than a source of policy inspiration.
In legal circles, constitutional fundamentalism is nothing new. For decades, scholars and judges have debated how the founding document should factor into contemporary legal proceedings. Some experts believe in a so-called living Constitution—a set of principles that, while admirable and enduring, must be interpreted in light of present-day social developments in order to be properly upheld. Others adhere to originalism, which is the idea that the ratifiers’ original meaning is fixed, knowable, and clearly articulated in the text of the Constitution itself.
While conservatives generally prefer the second approach, many disagree over how it should be implemented—including the Supreme Court’s most committed originalists, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Thomas sympathizes with a radical version of originalism known as the Constitution in Exile. In his view, the Supreme Court of the 1930s unwisely discarded the 19th-century’s strict judicial limits on Federal power, and the only way to resurrect the “original” Constitution—and regain our unalienable rights—is by rolling back the welfare state, repealing regulations, and perhaps even putting an end to progressive taxation. In contrast, Scalia is willing to respect precedent—even though it sometimes departs from his understanding of the Constitution’s original meaning. His caution reflects a simple reality: that upending post-1937 case law and reversing settled principles would prove extremely disruptive, both in the courts and society at large. As Cass Sunstein, a centrist legal scholar at the University of Chicago who now serves in the Obama administration, has explained, “many decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and possibly the National Labor Relations Board would be [ruled] unconstitutional” if Thomas got his way. Social Security could be eliminated. Same goes for the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve. Individual states might be allowed to establish official religions. Even minimum-wage and maximum-hour laws would be jeopardized.
Tea Partiers tend to sound more like Thomas than Scalia. Every weekday on Fox News, Glenn Beck—“the most highly regarded individual among Tea Party supporters,” according to a recent poll—takes to his schoolroom chalkboard to rail against progressives like Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. “They knew they had to separate us from our history,” he says, “to be able to separate us from our Constitution and God.” In Beck’s view, progressives forsook the faithful Christian Founders and forced the country to adopt a slew of unconstitutional measures that triggered our long decline into Obama-era totalitarianism: the Federal Reserve System, Social Security, the graduated federal income tax. True patriots, according to Beck, favor a pre-progressive vision of the United States. When Nevada Senate nominee Sharron Angle says we need to “phase out” Social Security and Medicare; when Alaska Senate nominee Joe Miller asserts that unemployment benefits are “unconstitutional”; when West Virginia Senate nominee John Raese declares that the minimum wage should “absolutely” be abolished; when Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul questions the legality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; when Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann claims that Obama’s new health-insurance law violates the Constitution; and when various Tea Party candidates say they want to repeal the amendments that triggered the federal income tax and the direct election of senators—this is the vision they’re promoting. At times, the Tea Party can seem like a popularized, politicized offshoot of the Constitution in Exile movement.
Over the years critics have lodged dozens of objections to originalism—the disagreements among the Founders; the preservation of slavery in the final product; the inclusion of an amendment process—and they apply to the Tea Party’s interpretation of the Constitution, too. But at least originalism is a rational, consistent philosophy. The real problem with the Tea Party’s brand of Constitution worship isn’t that it’s too dogmatic. It’s that it isn’t dogmatic enough. In recent months, Tea Party candidates have behaved in ways that belie their public commitment to combating progressivism. They’ve backed measures that blatantly contradict their originalist mission. And they’ve frequently misunderstood or misrepresented the Constitution itself. In May, for example, Paul told a Russian television station that America “should stop” automatically granting citizenship to the native-born children of illegal immigrants. Turns out his suggestion would be unconstitutional, at least according to the 14th Amendment (1868) and a pair of subsequent Supreme Court decisions. A few weeks later, Paul said he’d like to prevent federal contractors from lobbying Congress—a likely violation of their First Amendment right to redress. In July, Alaska’s Miller told ABC News that unemployment benefits are not “constitutionally authorized.” Reports later revealed that his wife claimed unemployment in 2002.
The list goes on. Most Tea Partiers claim that the 10th Amendment, which says “the powers not delegated” to the federal government are “reserved to the states,” is proof that the Framers would’ve balked at today’s bureaucracy. What they don’t mention is that James Madison refused a motion to add the word “expressly” before “delegated” because “there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication.” In last week’s Delaware Senate debate, O’Donnell was asked to name a recent Supreme Court case she disagreed with. “Oh, gosh,” she stammered, unable to cite a single piece of evidence to support her Constitution in Exile talking points. “I know that there are a lot, but, uh, I’ll put it up on my Web site, I promise you.” Angle has said that “government isn’t what our Founding Fathers put into the Constitution”—even though establishing a federal government with the “Power To lay and collect Taxes” to “provide for the common Defence and general Welfare” is one of the main reasons the Founders created a Constitution to replace the weak, decentralized Articles of Confederation. In 2008 Palin told Katie Couric that the Constitution does, in fact, guarantee “an inherent right to privacy,” à la Roe v. Wade, but added that “individual states…can handle an issue like that.” Unfortunately, Palin’s hypothesis would only be viable in a world without the Fourteenth Amendment, which gave Washington sole responsibility for safeguarding all constitutional rights. Then there are the proposed amendments. In the current Congress, conservatives like Michele Bachmann have suggested more than 40 additions to the Constitution: a flag-desecration amendment; a balanced-budget amendment; a “parental rights” amendment; a supermajority-to-raise-taxes amendment; anti-abortion amendment; an anti-gay-marriage amendment; and so on. None of these revisions has anything to do with the document’s original meaning.
The truth is that for all their talk of purity, politicians like Palin, Angle, and Miller don’t seem to be particularly concerned with matching their actual positions to the Constitution they profess to worship. For them, the sacred text serves a higher purpose—and in the end, that purpose isn’t hard to pinpoint.
Since the earliest days of the republic, Americans have, like the Tea Partiers, spoken of the Constitution in religious terms. In 1792, Madison wrote that “common reverence…should guarantee, with a holy zeal, these political scriptures from every attempt to add to or diminish from them.” George Washington’s Farewell Address included a plea that the Constitution “be sacredly maintained.” In his Lyceum speech of 1838, Abraham Lincoln cited the document as the source of “the political religion of the nation” and demanded that its laws be “religiously observed.” In 1968, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black called the Constitution his “legal bible,” and a few years later, during Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings, Texas Rep. Barbara Jordan testified that her “faith in the Constitution is whole.” But the similarity between these figures and the Tea Partiers ends at the level of language. For leaders like Lincoln and Jordan, the Constitution is a symbol “that suppl[ies] an overarching sense of unity even in a society otherwise riddled with conflict,” as sociologist Robin Williams once wrote. It is an integrative force—the cornerstone of our civil religion.
The Tea Partiers belong to a different tradition—a tradition of divisive fundamentalism. Like other fundamentalists, they seek refuge from the complexity and confusion of modern life in the comforting embrace of an authoritarian scripture and the imagined past it supposedly represents. Like other fundamentalists, they see in their good book only what they want to see: confirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Like other fundamentalists, they don’t sweat the details, and they ignore all ambiguities. And like other fundamentalists, they make enemies or evildoers of those who disagree with their doctrine. In the 1930s, the American Liberty League opposed FDR’s New Deal by flogging its version of the Constitution with what historian Frederick Rudolph once described as “a worshipful intensity.” In the 1960s, the John Birch Society imagined a vast communist conspiracy in similar terms. In 1992 conservative activists formed what came to be known as the Constitution Party—Sharron Angle was once a member—in order to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations and to limit the federal government to its Constitutional boundaries.” Today, Angle asserts that “separation of church and state is an unconstitutional doctrine,” and Palin claims that “the Constitution…essentially acknowledg[es] that our unalienable rights…come from God.” The point is always the same: to suggest that the Constitution, like the Bible, decrees what’s right and wrong (rather than what’s legal and illegal), and to insist that only they and their ilk can access its truths. We are moral, you are not; we represent America, you do not. Theirs is the rallying cry of culture war.
The Tea Partiers are right to revere the Constitution. It’s a remarkable, even miraculous document. But there are many Constitutions: the Constitution of 1789, of 1864, of 1925, of 1936, of 1970, of today. Where O’Donnell & Co. go wrong is in insisting that their imagined, idealized document is the country’s one true Constitution, and that dissenters are somehow un-American. By putting the Constitution front and center, the Tea Party has reignited a long-simmering argument over who we are and who we want to be. That’s great. But to truly honor the Founders’ spirit, they have to make room for actual debate. As usual, Thomas Jefferson put it best. In a letter to a friend in 1816, he mocked “men [who] look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched”; “who ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment.” “Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs,” he concluded. “Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before.” Amen.