Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Why buy? ‘Transumers’ try to rent everything

Cassandra Smith, 29, holds four designer handbags that she rents as purchases from her pre-rental days stack up on the floor.
From bike sharing to Vera Wang outfits more looking for temporary deals
MIAMI - Cassandra Smith spends $800 a month renting designer handbags and leases a luxury condo in downtown Miami. Environmentalist Zoee Turrill helped create a bike-sharing program at the University of Denver.

Though they might seem to come from different ends of the consumption spectrum, they have something in common: They're not buying things.

The rise of rental or borrowing services catering from everyone from fashionistas to environmentalists has even spawned a marketing buzzword: the "transumer."

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It's a lifestyle that's "less about treasure and more about pleasure," according Reinier Evers of Trendwatching, an Amsterdam-based market-research firm that coined the term.

It almost seems anti-American to rent, rather than buy; a look at the popular reality TV show "Clean House" is a testament to Americans' love of accumulating stuff. But Evers says that in this global recession, people are warming to the idea of renting, and not buying, certain goods — because of cost, ease or space considerations.

"On the one hand, you have consumers who want to collect as many experiences and part-time possessions as possible," Evers said. "And then there are transumers who value non-ownership for environmental reasons: to only use something when you really need it, which involves everything from renting to passing something on to the next person."

From rented Chanel sunglasses to the auto-sharing service Zipcars to fractional ownership of a jet to movies from Netflix, the pickings are good for transumers.

"It's kind of a sister-cousin concept to materialism, which is attachment to possessions. Transumerism, coming from the term transient, it's more 'I don't want to be attached to the possession' more 'I'm attached to the experiences,'" said Alexandra Aguirre Rodriguez, assistant marketing professor at Florida International University.

In recent years, many more companies are renting things at all levels: Wear Today, Gone Tomorrow rents designer clothes (A $495 Vera Wang rents for $49 a week, plus a $10 cleaning charge), Rentobile leases the latest in cell phones and irent2u rents almost anything (think ladders and power tools) in a Craigslist-like setting.

Even the nonprofit DogsAspen in Colorado is unintentionally getting in on the transumer act; the "Rent A Pet" program allows resort visitors who have been forced to leave pets at home "the opportunity to fill the void by spending a day outside the shelter with one of the animals."

There's even a Web site devoted to high-end transumerism. UK-based FractionalLife.com is a portal for those seeking to share Ferraris, art, holiday homes and even racehorses.

"Luxury is perhaps not what you own, but what you do," says Piers Brown, founder of Fractional Life.

Brown says during this downturn, people are reluctant to shoulder the costs of buying and maintaining expensive things — which may be why property and jets are among the most popular items on his Web site.

FIU's Rodriguez says she expects the trend to continue once the economy recovers.

"I don't think this is a trend that will go away, simply because it is about collecting the experiences and the stories," she said.

There's also the "eco-transumer," like Turrill.

The 22-year-old worked with another student to raise $50,000 to start their "bike library." Come fall, some 600 bikes will be placed at 40 kiosks around the city so people can rent the two-wheelers by the hour or day.

"Why does an individual have to hold the responsibility for all the maintenance when a community could hold that responsibility?" she said.

Rentals also reduce the amount of natural resources spent on producing an item, says Eric Ginsberg of Bookswim, a New Jersey-based book rental company.

"There's a tremendous amount of natural resources used to make books, DVDs, you name it," he said. "Sharing an item also saves driving to and from the store. Our books come in the mail. Our books are essentially taking mass transit to get to our customers."

Bookswim would not give out sales figures or the number of their subscribers, but Ginsberg said that in the past year and a half, the company's membership has risen 500 percent.

In Miami, Smith, 29, is more concerned about fashion. Her latest rentals from Avelle (formerly Bag, Borrow or Steal) include a cherry red patent leather clutch by Louis Vuitton.

The medical device saleswoman has several drawers filled with purses she bought in her pre-rental days. Now, she's not sure what to do with them.

"Once I've used a purse for a while, I'm done with it," she says. "I've moved onto another trend."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Something strange is happening in the forests of Africa.


On the savannas of Senegal, chimpanzees have started hunting bush babies with spears.

By Mary Roach
Photograph by Frans Lanting
National Geographic Magazine

Daybreak is sudden and swift, as though an unseen hand had simply reached out and raised a dimmer switch. Cued by the dawn, thirty-four chimpanzees awaken. They are still in the nests they built the previous night, in trees at the edge of an open plateau.

A wild chimpanzee does not get out of bed quietly. Chimps wake up hollering. There are technical names for what I'm hearing—pant-hoots, pant-barks, screams, hoos—but to a newcomer's ear, it's just a crazy, exuberant, escalating racket. You can't listen without grinning.

These are not chimps you've seen in these pages before. They're savanna-woodland chimps, found in eastern Senegal and across the border in western Mali. Unlike their better-known rain forest kin, savanna-woodland chimps spend most of their day on the ground. There is no canopy here. The trees are low and grow sparsely. It's an environment very much like the open, scratchy terrain where early humans evolved. For this reason, chimpanzee communities like the Fongoli group—named for a stream that runs through its range—are uniquely valuable to scientists who study the origins of our species.

By 8 a.m. my chintzy key-chain thermometer says it's 90 degrees. Our shirts are marked by the same white salt lines that appear on people's boots in winter. Here it's salt from sweat. The plateau we're crossing is a terrain of nothing, of red rocks and skin cancer, with no trees to break the fall of equatorial sun. In our backpacks we each carry three liters of water. It was cool when we set out. By noon it will be hot enough to steep tea.

I'm not complaining. I'm making a point. Life on the savanna—even so-called mosaic savanna, tempered by patches of lusher gallery forest along the streambeds—is exceptionally harsh. If you are a primate used to greener terrain, you must adjust your behavior to survive. Our earliest hominin (meaning bipedal ape) ancestors evolved more than five million years ago during the Miocene, an epoch of extreme drying that saw the creation of vast tracts of grassland. Tropical primates on the perimeter of their range no longer had plentiful fruits and year-round streams and lakes. They were forced to adapt, to range farther in their search for food and water, to take advantage of other resources. In short, to get creative.

In 2007 Jill Pruetz, an anthropologist at Iowa State University, reported that a Fongoli female chimp named Tumbo was seen two years earlier, less than a mile from where we are right now, sharpening a branch with her teeth and wielding it like a spear. She used it to stab at a bush baby—a pocket-size, tree-dwelling nocturnal primate that springs from branch to branch like a grasshopper. Until that report, the regular making of tools for hunting and killing mammals had been considered uniquely human behavior. Over a span of 17 days at the start of the 2006 rainy season, Pruetz saw the chimps hunt bush babies 13 times. There were 18 sightings in 2007. It would appear the chimps are getting creative.

There are individuals who are uncomfortable with Pruetz's tales of spear-wielding chimps, and not all of them are bush babies. Harvard professor of biological anthropology Richard Wrangham, who has studied chimpanzee aggression in Uganda's Kibale National Park, has been skeptical. Wrangham is widely known for his "demonic male" theory, which holds that the savage murders carried out by male chimps while policing their turf are suggestive of a violent nature at the core of man. Primatologist Craig Stanford, author of The Hunting Apes, also downplays the importance of Pruetz's findings. "This behavior is fascinating, but the observations are so preliminary that it merits only a short note in a journal."


For further info, here is a PBS Nova presentation on the growing cultural intelligence of the greater apes.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

White House Watched

by Dan Froomkin
Today's column is my last for The Washington Post. And the first thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you to all you readers, e-mailers, commenters, questioners, Facebook friends and Twitterers for spending your time with me and engaging with me over the years. And thank you for the recent outpouring of support. It was extraordinarily uplifting, and I'm deeply grateful. If I ever had any doubt, your words have further inspired me to continue doing accountability journalism. My plan is to take a few weeks off before embarking upon my next endeavor -- but when I do, I hope you'll join me.

It's hard to summarize the past five and a half years. But I'll try.

I started my column in January 2004, and one dominant theme quickly emerged: That George W. Bush was truly the proverbial emperor with no clothes. In the days and weeks after the 9/11 terror attacks, the nation, including the media, vested him with abilities he didn't have and credibility he didn't deserve. As it happens, it was on the day of my very first column that we also got the first insider look at the Bush White House, via Ron Suskind's book, The Price of Loyalty. In it, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill described a disengaged president "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people", encircled by "a Praetorian guard,” intently looking for a way to overthrow Saddam Hussein long before 9/11. The ensuing five years and 1,088 columns really just fleshed out that portrait, describing a president who was oblivious, embubbled and untrustworthy.

When I look back on the Bush years, I think of the lies. There were so many. Lies about the war and lies to cover up the lies about the war. Lies about torture and surveillance. Lies about Valerie Plame. Vice President Dick Cheney's lies, criminally prosecutable but for his chief of staff Scooter Libby's lies. I also think about the extraordinary and fundamentally cancerous expansion of executive power that led to violations of our laws and our principles.

And while this wasn't as readily apparent until President Obama took office, it's now very clear that the Bush years were all about kicking the can down the road – either ignoring problems or, even worse, creating them and not solving them. This was true of a huge range of issues including the economy, energy, health care, global warming – and of course Iraq and Afghanistan.

How did the media cover it all? Not well. Reading pretty much everything that was written about Bush on a daily basis, as I did, one could certainly see the major themes emerging. But by and large, mainstream-media journalism missed the real Bush story for way too long. The handful of people who did exceptional investigative reporting during this era really deserve our gratitude: People such as Ron Suskind, Seymour Hersh, Jane Mayer, Murray Waas, Michael Massing, Mark Danner, Barton Gellman and Jo Becker, James Risen and Eric Lichtblau (better late than never), Dana Priest, Walter Pincus, Charlie Savage and Philippe Sands; there was also some fine investigative blogging over at Talking Points Memo and by Marcy Wheeler. Notably not on this list: The likes of Bob Woodward and Tim Russert. Hopefully, the next time the nation faces a grave national security crisis, we will listen to the people who were right, not the people who were wrong, and heed those who reported the truth, not those who served as stenographers to liars.

It's also worth keeping in mind that there is so very much about the Bush era that we still don't know.

Now, a little over five months after Bush left office, Barack Obama's presidency is shaping up to be in large part about coming to terms with the Bush era, and fixing all the things that were broken. In most cases, Obama is approaching this task enthusiastically – although in some cases, he is doing so only under great pressure, and in a few cases, not at all . I think part of Obama's abiding popularity with the public stems from what a contrast he is from his predecessor -- and in particular his willingness to take on problems. But he certainly has a lot of balls in the air at one time. And I predict that his growing penchant for secrecy – especially but not only when it comes to the Bush legacy of torture and lawbreaking – will end up serving him poorly, unless he renounces it soon.

Obama is nowhere in Bush's league when it comes to issues of credibility, but his every action nevertheless needs to be carefully scrutinized by the media, and he must be held accountable. We should be holding him to the highest standards – and there are plenty of places where we should be pushing back. Just for starters, there are a lot of hugely important but unanswered questions about his Afghanistan policy, his financial rescue plans, and his turnaround on transparency.

So now I'm off. I wish The Washington Post well. I'm proud to have been associated with it for 12 years (I was a producer and editor at the Web site before starting the column.) I remain a big believer in the “traditional media,” especially when it sticks to traditional journalistic values. The Post was, is and will always be a great newspaper, and I have confidence that it will rise to the challenges ahead.

I'll be announcing my next move soon on whitehousewatch.com and also to anyone who e-mails me at froomkin@gmail.com. Please stay in touch.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In 1953, the United States CIA overthrew the democratically elected President of Iran

Not to say current events are related or not, but I just feel every conversation about the election in Iran should at least touch upon this fact. Sadly, I've not heard it mentioned once in any media coverage I've tuned into.

Please watch this clip from the esteemable Bill Moyers.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Dan Froomkin Fired from the Washington Post



Posted at 10:16 am, June 19th, 2009

Dan Froomkin, deputy editor for Nieman Watchdog, has just been fired from his main job as writer of the online White House Watch column for the Washington Post. Dan will do just fine. He is talented, immensely productive, has sharp insight, good ideas and is a total self-starter.

The unanswered question is, why was he fired? He loved his work and developed a very large following.

The Post hasn’t given any good reason. As editor of Nieman Watchdog I’ve worked closely with Froomkin for 5-1/2 years, and I certainly can’t think of one. The paper’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote in his blog Thursday that editors wouldn’t comment and referred him to a PR person. She issued a statement that one of Alexander’s blog readers said was baffling, Stalin-like and Orwellian. It was all of those:

“Editors and our research teams are constantly reviewing our online content to ensure we bring readers the most value when they are on our Web site while balancing the need to make the most of our resources. Regrettably, this means that sometimes features must be eliminated, and this time it was the blog that Dan Froomkin freelanced to The Post’s Web site.”

Late Thursday the Post’s editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, issued a statement that Alexander added to his post, saying, “With the end of the Bush administration, interest in the blog also diminished. His political orientation was not a factor in our decision.”

Froomkin is well-known online and his firing drew a quick, shocked reaction. By Friday morning more than 225 readers had appended comments to Alexander’s blog, the great majority of them infuriated with the firing.

Froomkin’s column is slated to run until late June or early July. He mentioned his firing in this morning’s piece, saying, “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the readers who have e-mailed, blogged, commented, tweeted and left notes on my Facebook page. Your kind words and support mean the world to me.”

A Google search shows numerous articles on the firing.

The headline on Glenn Greenwald’s blog in Salon was, “The Post fires its best columnist. Why?”

“What makes this firing so bizarre and worthy of inquiry,” Greenwald wrote, “is that Froomkin was easily one of the most linked-to and cited Post columnists. At a time when newspapers are relying more and more on online traffic, the Post just fired the person who, in 2007, wrote 3 out of the top 10 most-trafficked columns.”

>>>>>>>>>
I just wanted to add this quote from Dan, posted by Andrew Sullivan, under the title: Why Dan Froomkin Was Fired:


"Mainstream-media political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant, but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what journalists were put on this green earth to do…
Calling bullshit, of course, used to be central to journalism as well as to comedy. And we happen to be in a period in our history in which the substance in question is running particularly deep. Calling bullshit has never been more vital to our democracy. It also resonates with readers and viewers a lot more than passionless stenography I’m not sure why calling bullshit has gone out of vogue in so many newsrooms — why, in fact, it’s so often consciously avoided. There are lots of possible reasons.

There’s the increased corporate stultification of our industry, to the point where rocking the boat is seen as threatening rather than invigorating. There’s the intense pressure to maintain access fo insider sources, even as those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive. There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political spectrum.
If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if not to the comedians then to the bloggers. I still believe that no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling than a well-informed beat reporter - whatever their beat. We just need to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship — or whatever it is — out of the way," - Dan Froomkin, presciently describing why he was fired.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pagans, partygoers greet solstice at Stonehenge


STONEHENGE, England - Thousands of neo-Druids, New Age followers and the merely curious flocked to Stonehenge on Sunday, beating drums, chanting and dancing in celebration of the longest day of the year.

The ancient stone circle at the prehistoric monument in southern England is the site of an annual night-long party — or religious ceremony, depending on perspective — marking the northern hemisphere's summer solstice.

"There has been a great atmosphere and where else would you want to be on midsummer's day?" said Peter Carson of English Heritage, who is in charge of the monument.

Camera flashes bounced off the stones through the night until patchy rays of sunlight peaked through the clouds at 4:58 a.m. BST. A weak cheer went up as dawn broke and an estimated 35,000 people, some of them wrapped in blankets, greeted the sunrise.

About 30 people arrested
Police arrested about 30 people on charges including drug offenses, assault and drunk and disorderly conduct, but said the event was largely peaceful.

"They come for a complete range of reasons," said archaeologist Dave Batchelor of English Heritage, the site's caretaker. "Some belong to the Druidic religion and think of it as a temple, others think of it as a place of their ancestors, or for tranquility and others come to see it as a way to celebrate the changing of the seasons."

Stonehenge, which sits on Salisbury Plain about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of London, is one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions, visited by more than 750,000 people a year. It was built in three phases between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C.

Mystery surrounding the monument has long prompted speculation about its original function and gives it even more of an allure, Batchelor said.

Some theories hold that the stone circle was a grave site because 350 burial mounds surround the structure.

In May, archaeologists found evidence indicating that pilgrims perceived the stones to have healing powers. And some assert that the structure was part of an ancient astronomical calendar.

Still other experts believe the stones were aligned by a sophisticated sun-worshipping culture that possessed the ingenuity to move the several-ton stones, some of which came from 150 miles (240 kilometers) away in the Preseli Mountains in Wales.

No records on monument
But because it was built so long ago, there is no record of why the monument was erected, said Batchelor.

"All of that sort of stuff we don't have, so when it comes to ascribing a modern-day reason depends on the viewpoint ... that's the fascination," Batchelor said.

Libby Davy, 40, an Australian living in Brighton, in southern England, was attending the solstice for the first time with friends and her 8-year-old daughter. She wore sparkling dust on her face and wrapped a monkey doll around her neck as she took part in the festive mood.

"It's kind of a pilgrimage," she said. "As a sculptor, I can't help being interested in the stones — they're historic, spiritual — people went to a huge effort to put them here not anywhere else. Why here? And why this configuration? It's fascinating."

The solstice is one of the few times during the year that visitors can get close enough to touch the rocks. With record numbers attending the free festival because it falls on a weekend, extra police officers were on patrol.

Frank Somers, 43, an antique salesman, said he and other Druids came to Stonehenge to honor their ancestors.

"It's the most magical place on the planet," he said. "Inside when you touch the stones you feel a warmth like you're touching a tree not a stone. There's a genuine love, you feel called to it."

Carnival atmosphere
Police closed the site in 1984 after repeated clashes with revelers. English Heritage began allowing full access to the site again in 2000 and the celebrations have been largely peaceful.

English Heritage said revelers would only be allowed to bring in four cans of beer or a bottle of wine each, and advised that "illegal drugs are still illegal at Stonehenge as they are anywhere else."

But with problems at a minimum, the crowd reverted to a carnival atmosphere. Some revelers used hula hoops to stay awake until the sunrise; other simply clapped and danced among the stones.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Ocean, but Chicago Moves to Legalize Surfing

The Windy City is one of America's sports meccas: home to the Bears and the Bulls, the Sox and the Cubs, and, Chicagoans are only recently willing to admit, the Blackhawks. But can it become Surf City, U.S.A.?

This week, Chicago Park District's governing board empowered the city superintendent to lift a decades-old ban on the use of flotation devices like boogie boards on the city's waterways. (The ordinance was established to prevent accidental drownings; government officials were chiefly concerned about liability and the prospect that novice swimmers, imitating highly skilled surfers, might leap into Lake Michigan, especially in harsh winter conditions.) The move will effectively legalize surfing in the heart of the Midwest and make Chicago an unlikely beachfront in the war to extend surfing's influence across the country.

At first, the idea of surfers riding waves within view of Chicago's iconic skyline may seem bizarre. But this city has long had robust beaches. This spring, Chicago opened its newest beach, on the South Side, and a former resident of the South Side — the city's favorite adopted son, Hawaiian-born President Barack Obama — is a surfer, although it's hard to imagine him ever taking to the shores of Lake Michigan. The city's beaches have more than a century's worth of history. In the 1890s, a group of prominent Chicagoans, including doctors and businessmen, lobbied for the creation of public beaches along Lake Michigan, in part so working-class residents would have access to clean bathing water. In 1913 the beaches became the site of controversy when women's rights activists used them to protest the legally mandated but voluminous "swimming costumes" — one woman stripped down to her bloomers to swim because it was impossible, she said, to swim in the required skirt. A judge ruled that her attire was not indecent.

Surfing, for its part, is not an alien sport to Chicagoans. At Ryan Gerard's Third Coast Surf Shop in New Buffalo, Mich., many of his growing base of customers make the 90-minute drive from Chicago to purchase their gear. "There's no reason we shouldn't be allowed to surf," Gerard says. "We see ourselves as an asset to local communities." But given the risk of being ticketed and fined $500, Chicago surfers have typically gone elsewhere in the Great Lakes, the world's largest body of fresh water. Still, aficionados continued to sneak into the water, and after one ticket too many, a group of surfers last December sent Chicago's Park District a proposal asking that surfing be allowed at four of the city's beaches during the traditional beach season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, as well as year-round at a fifth beach.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Did You Know? "We are living in exponential times"

To Your Left, a Better Way of Life?


VICKI SETZER and her cats inhabit a small ranch home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Visalia, Calif. Connie Baechler leases a split-level house in Smyrna, Ga., with her fiancé. Perfectly typical nesting arrangements, and yet something profound seemed to be missing.

So on a Saturday morning in the East Bay area of California, they and about 17 others boarded a rumbling white tour bus to try to find a mode of living better suited to the times.

The tour was one of several this season in different parts of the country designed to give participants an up-close look at various co-housing communities, and to address an increasingly common feeling that one pays too much for one’s home, sees friends too little there and generally lives a more isolated life than is desirable. These are not new complaints, but the recession has sharpened them, as it has thrown all large expenditures under deeper scrutiny.

Remedial questions are permitted on these tours, like, “What is co-housing?”

The Cohousing Association of the United States has been answering that question quite frequently as more people sign up for its tours: The communities consist of individual houses whose residents share some common space, a few communal dinners a week and a commitment to green living.

The movement has been gaining momentum here since it first arrived from Denmark two decades ago. But passengers on the bus tours describe the general climate of uncertainty as setting off more urgent waves of reappraisal: Is this how I want to raise my family? Spend my remaining years? Is there a better option — a more stable community?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sold! One parking spot, only $300,000

What may be the priciest parking space in Boston history

BOSTON - A real estate agent said a resident of Boston's upscale Back Bay section plunked down $300,000 to own what is believed to be the priciest parking space in the city's history.

Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage agent Debra Sordillo told The Boston Globe that several residents of a building on Commonwealth Ave. bid for the coveted space, driving up what had been the original asking price of $250,000.

Sordillo said prime parking spaces are very difficult to come by in the neighborhood near the Public Garden.

The winning bidder was not identified. The Globe reported that the seller of the parking the space is also trying to sell a two-bedroom suite in the building for $2.5 million.

Puss 'n booted: North Woods house cat shows black bear who's boss


It was a showdown in the North Woods, and the cat won.

Tom Weber captured the exchange with his camera Wednesday morning between a black bear and a cat - his cat.

He was leaving for work about 7 a.m., and as he left his rural Park Falls home, he saw an adult bear walking down the road.

Weber got into his car and followed it. Then, 150 feet ahead of him, he saw the bear and his 3-year-old cat, Hobo.

The exchange lasted less than five minutes, but Weber said the cat was clearly the aggressor.

"To me, it just seemed clear that he wasn't going to give the bear any ground," said Weber, 51, who drives a postal route.

Weber got Hobo as a kitten when his parents found it as a stray. It lives indoors but often ventures outside. Hobo isn't particularly aggressive but is not intimidated by the family dog, Weber said.

The cat weighs about 12 pounds and Weber estimated the bear weighed about 300 pounds.

"I've never heard of anything like this happening before," said Adrian Wydeven, a biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

Bears are known to kill fawns and even elk calves, Wydeven said. He knows of two dogs that have been injured by bears this spring.


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Fertilized by Growing Power, veggie tales become the latest story at businesses

Growing Power employees Karen Parker (passing tomatoes) and DeShawn Parker sell salad mix, spinach and tomatoes to Judy Ploszaj (right), a biomedical electronics technician at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, 945 N. 12th St.

Vegetable stands lush with asparagus and salad greens are sprouting in corporate parking lots. Kohl's Corp. is planting vegetable gardens to help the less fortunate. And City Hall next week will get its own version of the White House kitchen garden.

Nonprofit urban farm Growing Power is at the center of efforts by Milwaukee-area corporations to promote employee wellness through locally grown vegetables, and the move to transform high-profile green spaces in the city into vegetable gardens.

"Growing Power seems to be open to doing just about anything," said Mary Hayden, manager of employee services for Rockwell Automation, which will have a seasonal Growing Power vegetable stand on Thursdays in its corporate headquarters parking lot near S. 1st St. and W. Greenfield Ave.

Employees at Aurora Sinai Medical Center, 945 N. 12th St., can buy fresh vegetables during their Wednesday lunch hours from a farm stand in the physicians' parking lot, near the ambulance entrance. Growing Power, based at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive, is running that farm stand, too.

"It's the environment we're in that makes it easier or harder for us to do the things we should do for our health," said Janine Bamberger, manager of nutrition services and wellness programs for Aurora Sinai Medical Center.

Veggies next to hot dogs

The Growing Power stand at the hospital, set up from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, is side by side with the hospital's outdoor summer grill area, which sells foot-long hot dogs and Italian sausages with chips and soda for $5.

"If (hospital staff) go out there for lunch, maybe they'll be enticed by the fresh tomatoes and spinach, too," Bamberger said this week. As five hospital employees waited in the line for hot dogs and sausages, one employee admired the Growing Power sprouts and spinach, picked the day before at Growing Power's urban farm on the city's northwest side.

"I bought green onions here last week that were phenomenal, and also asparagus that was very fresh," said Judy Ploszaj, a biomedical electronics technician at Sinai, who dashed to the parking lot during her lunch hour Wednesday to buy salad greens, spinach and two red tomatoes.

"It's extremely good quality and very cheap," Ploszaj said of her veggie purchase. "It's awesome to have this close to work. I hope it catches on elsewhere in Milwaukee."

Rockwell Automation will welcome neighborhood residents who want to stop by its fresh produce stand from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays to buy asparagus, tomatoes, salad greens, farm-fresh eggs and whatever else Growing Power brings to the parking lot in the shadows of the Allen-Bradley clock tower, Hayden said.

"We're not advertising it, but there aren't any major supermarkets close by, and if our neighbors want to buy vegetables here, that's fine with us," Hayden said.

The Rockwell neighborhood, south of downtown, is a "food desert," said Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power. "They need more easy access to affordable vegetables around there."

Compost was being delivered this week to two raised garden beds between the Zeidler Municipal Building and City Hall. The beds, which used to hold flowers, have been made taller to hold richly composted soil to grow vegetables, including peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and salad mix.

Youths employed by the city will tend the gardens. Some employees are calling it the mayor's version of the White House vegetable garden, which first lady Michelle Obama is supervising.

Vegetables from the City Hall garden will be donated to food pantries, Growing Power said.

Kohl's gets in the act

In Menomonee Falls, Kohl's is teaming up with Growing Power to plant four vegetable gardens around the corporate office and its child care center.

Once harvested in mid-July, the bulk of those vegetables - green peppers, beans, cabbage, squash, salad greens, pumpkins and an expected 600 pounds of tomatoes - are to be donated to Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee, said Kristin Cunningham, a Kohl's spokeswoman.

Throughout the summer, the gardens will serve as a teaching tool for kids at the child care center, Cunningham said. The kids will help Kohl's employees water, weed, harvest and tend the plants. Each garden bed is to be refreshed annually with compost from Growing Power.

Growing Power also has a major corporate initiative going to collect precooked food waste - such as lettuce leaves, coffee grounds and eggshells - to turn into compost, the nutrient-rich soil that Growing Power uses for growing food.

Last year, Growing Power converted into compost 6 million pounds of food waste - from brewing waste to spoiled vegetables. Allen said Growing Power plans to triple that amount this year.

Rockwell donates precooked food waste from its corporate kitchen, as does Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., Allen said. Other companies, including Kohl's and Aurora, are also planning to donate food waste to be turned into compost, he said.

So far, Growing Power doesn't gather cooked food scraps from corporate cafeterias. But the food that doesn't get eaten in corporate cafeterias also may be heading Growing Power's way soon.

Growing Power plans to convert that food waste into methane gas, a renewable energy source.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Teen diagnoses her own disease in science class

CNN.com:"For eight years, Jessica Terry suffered from stomach pain so horrible, it brought her to her knees. The pain, along with diarrhea, vomiting and fever, made her so sick, she lost weight and often had to miss school.
During a science class, Jessica Terry, 18, discovered a tell-tale granuloma in her own pathology slide.
Her doctors, no matter how hard they tried, couldn't figure out the cause of Jessica's abdominal distress.
Then one day in January, Terry, 18, figured it out on her own.
In her Advanced Placement high school science class, she was looking under the microscope at slides of her own intestinal tissue -- slides her pathologist had said were completely normal -- and spotted an area of inflamed tissue called a granuloma, a clear indication that she had Crohn's disease.
"It's weird I had to solve my own medical problem," Terry told CNN affiliate KOMO in Seattle, Washington. "There were just no answers anywhere. ... I was always sick."
Terry, who graduated from Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, Washington, this month, is now being treated for Crohn's, says her science teacher, MaryMargaret Welch.
"She was pretty excited about finding the granuloma," Welch said. "She said, 'Ms. Welch! Ms. Welch! Come over here. I think I've got something!' ""

Norm Coleman Owes Al Franken A Lot of Money


Late this afternoon a Minnesota court ordered Norm Coleman to pay Al Franken close to $95,000 to compensate Franken for some of the legal costs he's incurred during Coleman's seemingly endless legal battle to win the Senate seat.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

San Diego News Shoot-Out

As a newspaper monopoly crumbles, unorthodox upstarts storm the marketplace. Welcome to the future of journalism.
If you want a glimpse of what local news may soon look like in big cities with shrinking newspapers, head to San Diego. Here you'll find a Web news venture that gives writers a cut of the ad money created by their own stories; another whose nonprofit founders raise money from readers to buy laptops for their reporters; and a third venture which, in spite of the $10 million it nets each year, faces a very uncertain future.

All three are vying for the attention of 3 million San Diegans, an affluent-skewing population living in neatly landscaped suburbs and large beachfront properties. The area is rife with biotech startups and defense contractors. San Diego is California's second-largest city, yet it's a one-newspaper town whose newspaper is faltering. Ad revenue at the San Diego Union-Tribune has dropped 40% since 2006.

In March, Beverly Hills-based Platinum Equity, a buyout shop with no experience in publishing, announced it would acquire the paper. Analysts say Platinum is more interested in the 13 acres of prime real estate at the paper's headquarters in Mission Valley than its flagship product. "They bought the land and got the newspaper free," says one developer. Last month Platinum announced nearly 200 Union-Tribune staffers would be laid off. A newspaper that once employed 1,422 people will soon employ just 572. "The Union-Tribune is cratering. That opens a hole in the market and the opportunity for some unconventional business models," says Ken Doctor, media analyst at Outsell.

That is just what Neil “Baby" Senturia, a San Diego technology entrepreneur known for his trademark black baseball caps, has in mind. He launched the San Diego News Network (SDNN) in March using a "regional aggregation strategy"--akin to a blogging model for news. "Let the AP cover Obama and the Middle East. We'll deliver news generated by everyone from community weeklies to local TV stations. Everybody gets to play in our sandbox," Senturia says.

Those who bring their buckets and shovels get a big slice of the ad pie, if the money arrives. Payroll costs will be minimal, says Senturia, because SDNN reporters are paid an 80% cut of the ad revenue generated by the pages on which their stories appear (they also get a small stipend).

Senturia's SDNN is running a budget of about $1 million, which allows him to employ 16 full timers (some are former Union-Tribune staffers), aided by 23 freelancers and 12 bloggers. His site draws an average 125,000 monthly visitors, according to Quantcast. Not bad for a 3-month-old startup. Entertainment and sports-heavy stories drive a lot of readers in. So does coverage of American Idol finalist Adam Lambert, a San Diego native. Last month, Senturia scored a traffic coup (but a technology defeat) when a Washington Post ( WPO - news - people )-published magazine cited an SDNN story about Lambert. Some 10,000 unique visitors swarmed in over a 20 minute period, blowing out SDNN's servers.

My bet is the UT site, after it steals some of the tricks of its new competitors, will be the hands down winner, even if paper shrinks further. They have first mover advantage plus the brand name recognition.

Senturia says he'll average 300,000 monthly visitors to the site in a year. "We secretly think that if we hang around long enough we'll be the paper of record in San Diego," he says. With the larger Union-Tribune's Web site in his sights, "We will relentlessly peck away at them," he promises.

Senturia's for-profit news venture is also battling a nonprofit rival: the Voice of San Diego. The Voice was launched in 2005 by a group of investors led by philanthropist Buzz Woolley (father of Forbes Los Angeles bureau chief Scott Woolley) and Neil Morgan, a former San Diego Union-Tribune columnist and editor who had been fired by the paper a year earlier. Its pitches to donors resemble those made by public television during pledgeweek. A $10,000 contribution gains you membership in the "Editor's Circle." That sum might cover the Voice's costs of web hosting and e-mail blasts for a year. Donate $1,000 and buy a journalist a new laptop and software.

The Voice, underwritten by 850 individuals and nonprofit benefactors like the Knight Foundation, focuses on in-depth, investigative coverage of local government, education and housing. Its content is "breathtaking in its wonkishness"cracked the Los Angeles Times last month. Those wonks recently won a national journalism award for an investigation that caused the ouster and criminal investigation of a local redevelopment offical, whom the Voice revealed was giving herself unauthorized bonuses.

With a $1 million budget, the Voice's 12-member staff work out of a 1,400-square-foot office on the site of a former U.S. Navy base. Chief executive Scott Lewis says the Voice's public policy coverage has no connection to profits or page counts. "We only write about things we know we can report on uniquely and authoritatively." The Voice averages 78,000 unique visitors a month--and not by covering Adam Lambert, either. "We have no interest in reporting on American Idol, no matter where the contestants are from," huffs Lewis.

The new cutbacks haven't yet affected the Union-Tribune's Web content or traffic; it averages 1.3 million unique visitors a month. The site netted an estimated $10 million on $18 million in sales last year. Analysts question whether its fate is tied to its mothership. Here's a better question: Is there really room for 3 online news ventures in San Diego? Doctor says yes. "Think of the thousands of stories not being written because of the Union-Tribune's cutbacks."

Whatever the cards hold for the Union-Tribune, its new owners are playing tough. In a draconian countermove, the paper last month required all employees to sign an "intellectual property" agreement--unusual in the newspaper business. After leaving the Union-Tribune, former employees are banned from encouraging others to follow them to a new workplace.

The Voice broke the story, explaining: "The agreement appears to put a crimp in any employee's plans to create or join a rival company--such as an online news site--and bring recent colleagues on board, even those without jobs." That's one way to beat the competition.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Search for downed plane highlights ocean trash problem

CNN.com: "(CNN) -- The massive amount of garbage in the ocean likely complicates the search for the remains of an Air France flight that went missing Monday near Brazil, oceanographers who spoke with CNN said.
Trash clutters the world's oceans, as shown here in a file photo near Hong Kong.
Earlier this week, investigators said they had located pieces of the plane in the southern Atlantic Ocean, which might have given them clues to the origin of Air France Flight 447's crash.
But on Thursday, Brazilian officials said what they had found was nothing more than run-of-the-mill ocean trash.
This highlights a little-seen environmental problem: Scientists say the world's oceans are increasingly filled with junk -- everything from large items like refrigerators and abandoned yachts to small stuff like plastic bottles.
Much of the ocean trash is plastic, which means it won't go away for hundreds of years, if ever. And the problem has gotten so bad that soupy "garbage patches" have developed in several locations, called gyres, where ocean currents swirl.
One of them is estimated to be the size of Texas.
There are about five or six major trash-collecting gyres in the world's oceans, with the most famous located in the Pacific Ocean about midway between North America and Asia, experts said. Trash collects at these locations, where ocean currents swirl, and forms a gunk of small plastic pieces. See a map of Pacific Ocean debris »
There is not a major "trash island" near the site of the Air France plane crash in the south Atlantic, oceanographers said, but splitting currents do create a smaller area for trash to congregate.
"That area [of the crash site] has got lots of debris that's just out there, coming from Europe heading over the Americas," said Curtis Ebbesmeyer, a oceanographer and author of a book called "Flatsometrics and the Floating World." "And it's notoriously difficult to spot debris from the air."
The south Atlantic near Brazil is driven by two currents, one that pushes debris to the north, along the coast of Florida, and one that would push it to the south, perhaps all the way to the tip of South America, he said. So the plane's wreckage could span that massive area, he said.
Most debris from the crash of Air France Flight 447 would head toward Brazil and arrive within a couple of months; but wherever the remnants land, the plane debris would be difficult to distinguish from the mountains of trash that wash up on beaches every day, Ebbesmeyer said.
"The trouble is that there is so much debris on eastern Florida that's from South America. Anywhere, it's very unlikely that anyone will recover [the plane debris]," he said. "It's very likely that debris that would provide closure for loved ones would go in the Dumpster because [beachgoers] don't know what it is.""

How did 100,000,000 women disappear?

Toronto Star: Two researchers crunching population statistics have confirmed an unsettling reality. Siwan Anderson and Debraj Ray noticed the ratio of women to men in developing regions and in some cultures is suspiciously below the norm
Jun 06, 2009 04:30 AM
NICOLE BAUTE
STAFF REPORTER
In India, China and sub-Saharan Africa, millions upon millions of women are missing. They are not lost, but dead: victims of violence, discrimination and neglect.
A University of British Columbia economist is amongst those trying to find them – not the women themselves, who are long gone, but their numbers and ages, which paint a sad and startling picture of gender discrimination in the developing world.
The term "missing women" was coined in 1990, when Indian economist Amartya Sen calculated a shocking figure. In parts of Asia and Africa, he wrote in The New York Review of Books, 100 million women who should be alive are not, because of unequal access to medical care, food and social services. These are excess deaths: women "missing" above and beyond natural mortality rates, compared to their male counterparts.
Women who are dead because their lives were undervalued.
Around the world boys outnumber girls at birth, but in countries where women and men receive equal care, women have proved hardier and more resistant to disease, and thus live longer. In most of Asia and North Africa, however, Sen found that women die with startlingly higher frequency.
His research began a flutter of activity in academic circles and by 2005, the United Nations produced a much higher estimate for how many women could be "missing": 200 million.
From her office at the University of British Columbia, economics professor Siwan Anderson has been crunching numbers to try and understand why so many women are dying. "If you're interested in gender discrimination, it's really one of the starkest measures of discrimination, because it's women who should be alive, but aren't," she says."

Vatican visits CERN's Big Bang machine

Life immitates 'Angels & Demons' at world's biggest nuclear physics lab

GENEVA - A senior Vatican delegation visited the world's biggest nuclear physics laboratory, proclaiming that true faith has no problems with science.

The Roman Catholic Church was represented by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican City's governor, as it toured the CERN facility and its 17-mile (27-kilometer) proton accelerator this week. It welcomed any breakthroughs physicists could provide on understanding the basis of the universe, and said they would also advance religion.

"The Church never fears the truth of science, because we are convinced that all truth comes from God," Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican City's governor, said Thursday in Geneva. "Science will help our faith to purify itself. And faith at the same time will be able to broaden the horizons of man, who cannot just enclose himself in the horizons of science."

Lajolo spoke a day after visiting the laboratory beneath the Swiss-French border and receiving a crash course in particle physics from Edward Witten, the Princeton University professor at the forefront of attempts to unify Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity with quantum mechanics.

CERN's atom smasher, the world's largest, is seen as vital in this quest. Physicists hope soon to use the $10 billion machine to smash protons from hydrogen atoms crash into each other at high energy, record what particles are produced and gain a better idea of the makeup of the universe and everything in it.

Damages in the initial startup last September have set the project back a year and it is expected to be turned on again this autumn. Researchers hope the collisions will show on a tiny scale what happened one-trillionth of a second after the so-called Big Bang, which many scientists theorize was the massive explosion that formed the universe. The theory holds that the universe was rapidly cooling at that stage and matter was changing quickly.

Lajolo said scientific truths could "correct some of our opinions" about scripture and faith. He said nothing in science could contradict the Holy Scriptures — only interpretations — because both were rooted in God.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Another Good One Gone



As I was riding home tonight, the radio was playing Koko's "Wang Dang Doodle," and I was pleasantly surprised to hear the blues on my indie station. As I drove along, I dazed out thinking how much I liked her voice, the way it gets real loud and gritty when she hits the chorus. I realized she had to be one of my favorite female singers, behind Mavis Staples. When the song ended, the DJ said, "the late great Koko Taylor," and I was like, "huh? late? she's not dead yet!" so confused. And then he went on to say she passed away this afternoon.

How I wish I was in a Chicago club tonight, as the imitators are memorializing this great original blues singer. Rest in peace Koko!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Police: Mom guilts kids into armed robbery

PHOENIX - A 51-year-old woman used guilt about her family's difficult finances to get her young sons and their friends to help her pay bills by committing at least 20 armed robberies in the Phoenix area, authorities said.

Cynthia Roberson, her two sons, ages 12 and 14, and five others face charges of armed robbery and aggravated assault, investigators said Monday.

"All of us should be disgusted by this," Phoenix police Sgt. Phil Roberts said. "This is absolutely not how to raise your children."

Roberson, who recently became unemployed, guilted her sons, their friends and three men into committing robberies to pay for rent and a car loan, police said.

In all of the 20 cases, Roberson drove the getaway car and once coached a 14-year-old during a robbery because he was having trouble stealing a cell phone from a victim, police said. One victim reported that Roberson was holding a sawed-off shotgun during a robbery.

All the robbery victims were physically assaulted, police said. One 13-year-old was beaten and forced to empty his pockets — which contained only an orange lollipop.

Roberson's 12-year-old was in the custody of Child Protective Services but still faces charges; her 14-year-old was being held in a juvenile jail. Two others, a 14- and 16-year-old, also were being held in a juvenile jail.

Three men arrested were identified as: Jorge Elias, 18, Tony Vaughn, 20, and Jason Moore, 20. They were being held in a Maricopa County jail.

Police do not know how much money the group made, but said the figure couldn't be very high, considering they usually made away with a cell phone or a bit of cash.

Most of the robbery victims were between 13 and 20 years old, though some were older. They were robbed in parks and along neighborhood streets on weekends.

A request with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to interview Roberson and the other adult suspects was not immediately returned Monday evening; it was unclear whether they had lawyers.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Goodbye, GM ...by Michael Moore


I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM's birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company's body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with -- dare I say it -- joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know -- who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let's be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we've allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is "reorganized" by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made "Roger & Me," I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated.

We are now in a different kind of war -- a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don't put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce -- and most of those who have been laid off -- employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades -- and we don't even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven't used it, is criminal. Let's hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we're going to have automobiles, let's have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories -- that simply isn't true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that's a start. Please, please, please don't save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don't throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front -- and the back -- seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it's over. It's a new day and a new century. The President -- and the UAW -- must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.