Energy-Efficient Buildings Increase Indoor CO2 Pollution and Impair Decision-Making

(p. C4) Carbon dioxide at levels normally found indoors is usually considered benign, especially compared with carbon monoxide. But a study finds that even modestly elevated CO2 can impair decision-making.
. . .
Given the emphasis on energy-efficient buildings, which are often more airtight, the study suggests that carbon dioxide might be an indoor pollutant to worry about–especially in conference rooms, where important decisions are hashed out.

For the full story, see:
Daniel Akst. “WEEK IN IDEAS; Week in Ideas: Daniel Akst; POLLUTANTS; Blame It on the Air.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., October 27, 2012): C4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 26, 2012.)

The study summarized is:
Satish, Usha, Mark J. Mendell, Krishnamurthy Shekhar, Toshifumi Hotchi, Douglas Sullivan, Siegfried Streufert, and William J. Fisk. “Is Co2 an Indoor Pollutant? Direct Effects of Low-to-Moderate Co2 Concentrations on Human Decision-Making Performance.” Environmental Health Perspectives (Sept. 20, 2012): 1-35.
(Note: it is not clear to me if Environmental Health Perspectives is an online journal or an online working paper series. Whatever it is, it is affiliated with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.)

Chinese Communists Starved 45 Million in Mao’s Famine

TheGreatFamineInChinaBK2013-03-09.jpg

Source of book image: http://reviews.libraryjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/xun.jpg

(p. C5) It is difficult to look dispassionately at some 45 million dead. It was not war that produced this shocking number, nor natural disaster. It was a man. It was politics and one man’s vanity. The cause was famine and violence across rural China, a result of Mao Zedong’s unchecked drive to turn his country rapidly into a communist utopia and a leading industrial nation.
. . .
(p. C6) . . . important pieces of evidence are being covered up . . . : Some originals transcribed in Zhou Xun’s chastening documentary history, “The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962” ( . . . ) have since been reclassified by the Beijing authorities and vanished once more into closed files.
In 2010, Frank Dikötter produced “Mao’s Great Famine,” an authoritative account of the catastrophe, written with a bravura seldom seen in Western writing on modern China. Impassioned and outraged, Mr. Dikötter detailed the destruction, the suffering and the cruelty or hubris of China’s leaders. Sorting through forgotten and hidden documents with great intellectual honesty, Mr. Dikötter ended his journey pointing his finger directly at Mao, who notoriously said, as he called for higher grain deliveries from the countryside at the height of the famine: “It is better to let half the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”
. . .
As a teenager in 1959, Mr. Yang watched his father die of starvation. Years later, while working in a senior editorial post at Xinhua, China’s state-controlled news agency, he began his own search for the truth behind the famine. The author spent 20 years tracking down survivors across China and using his authority as a respected Communist cadre to access provincial archives. It was, in part, expiation for his shame in not questioning his father’s death.
. . .
There is no memorial anywhere in China to the victims of the famine, no public monument, no remembrance day. Graves are not marked and mass burial grounds have disappeared into the landscape. The famine’s very existence has been denied. The Communist Party will only admit to “food shortages” and “some difficulties” during the Great Leap Forward. They claim that these setbacks were a result of natural disasters.
Mr. Yang set about writing his book as a tombstone for his father and for every victim who had died from starvation. He was also erecting a tombstone for the system that brought about the Great Famine. First published in Hong Kong in 2008, Mr. Yang’s work is banned in China. The reason is clear: The book challenges the very foundation of the Communist Party’s authority.

For the full review, see:
MICHAEL FATHERS. “BOOKSHELF; A Most Secret Tragedy; The Great Leap Forward aimed to make China an industrial giant–instead it killed 45 million.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., October 27, 2012): C5.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date October 26, 2012.)

Books under review:
Yang, Jisheng. Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012.
Zhou, Xun, ed. The Great Famine in China, 1958-1962: A Documentary History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

The Dikötter book mentioned, is:
Dikötter, Frank. Mao’s Great Famine. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010.

Greater Efforts to Save Premature Babies Inflates U.S. Infant-Mortality

(p. A13) The federally chartered Institute of Medicine issued a comprehensive report last month on the state of American health. Saying that “Other high-income countries outrank the United States on most measures of health,” the report concluded that the U.S. “is among the wealthiest nations in the world, but it is far from the healthiest.”
. . .
As the report’s authors point out, the U.S. has the highest infant-mortality rate among high-income countries.
. . .
Doctors in the U.S. are much more aggressive than foreign counterparts about trying to save premature babies. Thousands of babies that would have been declared stillborn in other countries and never given a chance at life are saved in the U.S. As a result, the percentage of preterm births in America is exceptionally high–65% higher than in Britain, and about double the rates in Finland and Greece.
Unfortunately, some of the premature babies that American hospitals try to save don’t make it. Their deaths inflate the overall infant mortality rate.

For the full commentary, see:
SALLY C. PIPES. “OPINION; Those Misleading World Health Rankings; The numbers are distorted because, for instance, U.S. doctors try so hard to save premature babies.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., February 5, 2013): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date February 4, 2013.)

Driving to MobileIron Job Interview in $100,000 Car, Tells CEO Tinker You Are Not Hungry Enough

TinkerRobertMobileIronCEO2013-03-09.jpg “Above, Robert Tinker, the chief executive of MobileIron, at its offices in Mountain View, Calif.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B2) “There are disruptions everywhere,” said Robert Tinker, the chief executive of MobileIron, which makes software for companies to manage smartphones and tablets. “Mobile disrupts personal computers, a market worth billions. Cloud disrupts computer servers and data storage, billions of dollars more. Social may be one of those rare things that is totally new.”

Relative to the size of the markets that mobile devices, cloud computing and social media are toppling, he says, the valuations are reasonable.
But most of these chief executives are also veterans of the Internet bubble of the late ’90s, and confess to worries that maybe things are not so different this time. Mr. Tinker, 43, drives a 1995 Ford Explorer that has logged 265,000 miles.
“If somebody comes to a job interview here in a $100,000 car, I know he’s not hungry,” he said. “The reality is, I’ve taken $94 million in investors’ money, and we haven’t gone public yet. I feel that responsibility every day.”

For the full story, see:
QUENTIN HARDY. “A Billion-Dollar Club, and Not So Exclusive.” The New York Times (Weds., February 5, 2013): B1 & B2.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date February 4, 2013.)

Jobs’ Protest Against Mortality: Omit the On-Off Switches on Apple Devices

(p. 571) . . . [Jobs] admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife. “I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”
He fell silent for a very long time. “But on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch,” he said. “Click! And you’re gone.”
Then he paused again and smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”

Source:
Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: ellipsis and bracketed “Jobs” added; italics in original.)

New York Resisted Roosevelt’s Enforcing “Stupid” Vice Laws

IslandOfViceBK2013-03-09.jpg

Source of book image: http://media.npr.org/assets/bakertaylor/covers/i/island-of-vice/9780385519724_custom-e38a25fc66f104a049d4d24aa39dbe92d42fbd57-s6-c10.jpg

(p. C9) . . . as Richard Zacks’s excellent “Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean Up Sin-Loving New York” ably shows, while we might like to believe that the stretch from 1970 to 1995 represents the city’s nadir, it was just about business as usual in New York over the centuries.

From its time as a Dutch colonial outpost, the city has always been pretty bad. You’d almost think New Yorkers prefer it that way. Of course, we don’t like fraud, robbery, assault, arson, rape or murder any more than anyone else does. But the deliberate injury of one’s fellow citizen isn’t the only way to break the law. There are also those crimes that fall under the broad category of “vice”: things such as gambling, prostitution, indecent exposure and selling alcohol at a convenient time. Historically, the average New Yorker has not greeted these acts with the same immediate urge to suppress that many of his or her fellow Americans have had. You don’t get a nickname like “The City That Never Sleeps” without having a certain amount of things worth staying up for.
. . .
In the end, Mr. Zacks’s exhaustively researched yet lively story is a classic battle between an irresistible force, Roosevelt’s ego, and an immovable object, the people of New York’s unwillingness to follow laws they thought were stupid. In this case, the object won, and handily. Mr. Zacks’s account of the way the city’s saloonkeepers instantly turned their establishments into hotels to take advantage of a loophole in the law is particularly amusing. Eventually, the police department, not unsympathetic to the Sunday tippler, began finding ways to wriggle out from under the commissioner’s thumb, and beer-friendly Tammany Hall, with the people solidly behind it, began peeling away his allies.

For the full review, see:
DAVID WONDRICH. “BOOKSHELF; Teddy’s Rough Ride.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 17, 2012): C9.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date November 30, 2012.)

Book under review:
Zacks, Richard. Island of Vice: Theodore Roosevelt’s Doomed Quest to Clean up Sin-Loving New York. New York: Doubleday, 2012.

Scientist Sees Benefits in Plan to Increase Global Warming

(p. D2) Plants are . . . part of one theoretical plan for turning Mars into a suitable environment for human beings, a process called terraforming.
. . .
Chris McKay, a Mars expert at the NASA Ames Research Center, theorizes that engineers would first have to encourage the kind of global warming they want to avoid on Earth. This could be done by releasing greenhouse gases, like chlorofluorocarbons or perfluorocarbons, into the atmosphere. The goal would be to increase the surface temperature of Mars by a total of about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
. . .
With the rise in temperature, heat-trapping carbon dioxide would eventually be released from the planet’s south polar ice cap, producing a further average temperature rise of even greater magnitude, perhaps as much as 70 degrees Celsius, or 126 degrees Fahrenheit.
These high temperatures would melt ice to produce the water needed for living things.

For the full story, see:
C. CLAIBORNE RAY. “Q & A; At Home on Mars.” The New York Times (Tues., December 11, 2012): D2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 10, 2012.)

McKay wrote up some of his ideas in:
McKay, Christopher P. “Bringing Life to Mars.” Scientific American Presents: The Future of Space Exploration (1999): 52-57.