To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Moscow, Squat and Ride for Free


By Lukas I. Alpert, November 11, 2013

A man squats in front of a vending machine that sells subway tickets for squats instead of money during the machine’s presentation at the Vystavochaya metro station in Moscow.

MOSCOW—With just three months to go before the Winter Games begin in Sochi, Russia is pulling out all the stops to whip up the Olympic spirit.

Moscow city officials are now offering free rides on the subway to any passenger who does 30 squats before crossing the ticket barrier to enter the metro in an effort to promote physical fitness and sports, according to Russian state media reports.

Each squat will be counted by a special machine marked with the Olympic logo that will be placed next to electronic ticket vending machines.

“We wanted to show that the Olympic Games is not just an international competition that people watch on TV, but that it is also about getting everyone involved in a sporting lifestyle,” Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, was quoted by state-run news wire RIA-Novosti as saying.

The idea is that as one ride on the metro costs 30 rubles, (92 cents), so each squat will be worth one ruble.

The free rides will be on offer for a month. The Olympic Games are set to kick off on February 7, 2014.

Transurban Bets On Australian Toll Road


By Ross Kelly, November 10, 2013

Traffic moves along the Warringah Freeway during rush hour in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, Aug. 16, 2010.
Bloomberg News
Transurban GroupTCL.AU +0.36% has put itself in poll position to take control of Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel after agreeing to buy debt attached to the failed asset from Royal Bank of Scotland PLC.RBS.LN +5.36% for 475 million Australian dollars (US$446 million).

Investors have collectively lost billions of dollars on the toll roads and tunnels in recent years because of too much debt and overestimates on traffic volume. Now, sharply lower prices for those assets and more-realistic traffic assessments are adding up to opportunities for others. The asset, which cost A$680 million to build, has been on sale since it defaulted on its debt repayments in September.

Scott Charlton, Transurban’s chief executive, said acquiring the debt will allow Transurban to consider restructuring options for the 2.1 kilometer stretch of road that connects the eastern and western flanks of inner-city Sydney. A sale process managed by the tunnel’s receivers, KordaMentha, is due for completion early next year and Transurban intends to participate, Mr. Charlton said.

Some investors are finding that Australian toll roads and tunnels offer low-risk, high-yield opportunities. In August, the Clem Jones Tunnel, a key artery in Brisbane, was acquired by Australian investment manager QIC Ltd. for US$579 million after its leaseholder failed to meet debt obligations. The asset attracted four bidders, including consortium members from Europe.

Transurban is already Australia’s biggest toll road operator and the Cross City Tunnel would fit nicely with other Sydney assets in its portfolio, according to Moody's Investors ServiceMCO +0.52%. The credit rating agency said the acquisition of the tunnel’s debt, although credit negative, wouldn’t affect its rating on Transurban.

The company will benefit from Cross City Tunnel’s right to escalate tolls by at least 3% a year until 2017, as well as operating synergies between the tunnel and the Eastern Distributor—which connects the city’s north, south and east—because of their physical links, said Arnon Musiker, a Moody’s Vice President.

“We also recognize Transurban’s sound track record in executing Australian toll road acquisitions, particularly the Lane Cove Tunnel, which it also acquired in a receivership,” and which benefited from its links to another toll road nearby, Mr. Musiker said.

Beijingers don masks to defend themselves against dirty air — and to make a fashion statement


By Matthew Bell, November 11, 2013


Two office workers who wear masks a lot said they're thinking about moving out of Beijing because of the air pollution.

In China's big cities these days, the air pollution can get so bad you hardly see things right in front of you — like buildings, cars, and pedestrians.

 But there is something you are increasingly likely to see on city streets: people wearing respiratory masks.

Huang Wei is one of them. She works in Beijing for the environmental group Greenpeace. I caught up with her as she was about to bike home from the office one afternoon.

She checked the air quality on her smart phone. The pollution level was extremely high.
"It's not good for exercising,” she said.

So Huang strapped on a white face mask with a little plastic valve on the front. Technically speaking, it is a respirator – the sort of thing you might pick up at your local hardware store and wear at home when doing some sanding or painting.

Out on the street in Beijing, it didn’t take me long to find more people wearing them.

A woman who identified herself as Lina said she picked up the habit of wearing a mask “because the smog here is so heavy and the environment is not very good."

But she said she doesn’t like having to take this precaution, because the masks can get kind of grungy and smelly.

“It smells like bad eggs,” she said.

 Respirators are designed to keep pollution, smelly or otherwise, from getting into the lungs. Of biggest concern are tiny particles — most Beijingers are very familiar by now with the scientific name for them, PM 2.5, which refers to particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers. When it comes to human health, PM 2.5 is nasty stuff that can cause breathing problems and damage the heart and other organs.

Some manufacturers claim that their masks will remove more than 90 percent of those tiny particles. But for the masks to work right, they have to fit nice and snug — with no gaps on the sides — and people don't always wear them properly. Some people also wear the wrong kinds of masks, such as simple surgical masks, that do not filter out the fine particles.

Even if the right mask is worn correctly, however, “it’s not [full] protection,” said Tong Zhu. He's a professor of environmental science and engineering at Peking University.

“I would say that [a mask] is useful for a certain level” of pollution, Tong said. On really bad air days, when particulate levels are extremely high, he said it is probably worth putting on a mask – especially for children, the elderly, and people with health problems.

But when I asked him if he ever wore a mask, Tong's answer surprised me.

“No,” he said. “I never use that.” Tong said he finds respirators too inconvenient and uncomfortable to make a habit out of putting one on.

Besides, questions remain about whether all the masks are really as effective as advertised. Professor Tong is currently conducting a study to find out.

But for some Beijingers, effectiveness clearly isn't their sole concern.

Out and about during recent days, I've seen people wearing respirators in funky colors and fabrics. One even looked like a teddy bear’s face.

On the subway, I met a young woman sporting a mask in an attractive herringbone pattern. She told me that the first reason she bought it was for protection. The second: as a fashion statement.

For video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkUjULL644

This is what the sky can look like on bad air days in Beijing. The thing is, clear sunny weather also doesn't always mean the air is not still dangerous.
Huang Wei is an air quality expert with Greenpeace in Beijing. She ends up wearing a mask on her bike rides to and from work pretty often these days.

CARB examines change that could help out-of-state truckers


By Charlie Morasch, November 11, 2013

The California Air Resources Board is considering a move that would help out-of-state truck drivers be able to make limited trips through California even if their trucks don’t meet the state’s most expensive emissions regulation.

In its original form, CARB’s On-Road Truck and Bus Regulation was predicted to cost the trucking industry billions of dollars in truck replacement or retrofit work. The rule requires most trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating greater than 14,000 pounds to be upgraded either with diesel particulate filters or by upgrading to cleaner and newer engines between 2012 and 2023. 

At CARB’s Oct. 24-25 board meeting, CARB staff outlined a plan to allow its 1,000-mile annual exemption from the Truck and Bus Rule to be expanded to 5,000 miles.

Violet Martin, air pollution specialist with CARB’s Mobile Source Control Division, estimated that 15,000 trucks still need an emissions upgrade by the end of 2013.

“Staff believes this will provide targeted relief to fleets that most need assistance without appreciably changing the overall benefits of the regulation or the ability of non-attainment regions to meet federal air quality standards,” Martin said.

CARB also could examine furthering its financial incentive programs aimed at helping small business trucking operations. Martin said staff plans to present the 5,000 mile exemption plan by CARB’s April 2014 board meeting.

The proposal to boost the mileage was presented before a passionate discussion about the Truck and Bus Rule.

CARB’s records show 43 individuals lined up to address the board about the On-Road Rule. Several speakers, including Redding Mayor Rick Bosetti, warned about the danger of hurting trucking and other industries that rely on diesel trucks. Others that spoke questioned CARB’s figure of 15,000 for trucks still needing to be upgraded, with many suggesting that number is closer to 500,000.

“You have over a half a million trucks based outside the state of California that still are required to be in compliance,” Karen Pelle told the board. Pelle said she has replaced multiple diesel particulate filters that have had cracks.

Skip Davies, Mayor of Woodland, CA, estimated the rule would shutter 60 to 80 percent of small trucking businesses in his county.

“We still have technology issues with the filters,” Davies said. “They don’t all work. They plug up. Some have to be replaced.”

Several CARB board members indicated support for expanding the mileage requirement to 5,000 miles, and looking at other ways to help small-business truck owners.

Greg Furlong, an owner-operator, said he put 3 million miles on a 1981 Peterbilt before selling it in 2003 to buy a brand-new Peterbilt that year. The rule’s requirement that he add a filter has worried his family and may force him to leave his lifelong career, Furlong said.

“It’s been my life since I bought my first truck in ’68,” Furlong said. “Basically, I’m going to be out of business.”

Skip Thomson, member of the Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, said he watched CARB’s television commercial about the Truck and Bus rule and its “Just do it” slogan.

“Just doing it could cost anywhere between $20,000 for a new filter up to $140,000 for a new truck,” Thomson said. “So ‘Just doing it’ is a little problematic for some of my constituents. … This is an extreme burden on our small businesses.”

CARB’s board members reflected concern about the welfare of businesses, though more than one member mentioned the need to continue pursuing regulations that would better air quality and public health.

CARB Chairman Mary Nichols said she had a “particular bias in favor of the proposal to increase the size of the low-mileage exemption.”

“I’m also very interested in pursuing further this question of whether there are trucks who – either by the nature of their business or by where they’re located – should not have the same level of concern for us from a regulatory public health perspective,” Nichols said. “Having said all of that, I also can’t help remind us that at the end of the day, by its very nature, regulation advantages some more than others and disadvantages some other than others.”

Board Member Sandra Berg, who said she owned 17 trucks and supported staff’s recommendation to increase the mileage limit for the exemption, said she has followed the rule closely as it has developed since 2008.

“This is for real,” Berg said. “People are not coming here to talk about these issues in a way to be defiant, or flippant. ... I can’t express strongly enough the need that regulation should not drive small businesses out of business. We need small businesses here in California, and the regulation does tend to weigh heavily – almost four times the amount of cost on small businesses as it does on large businesses.”

For more information, go to the Truck and Bus Rule section on the CARB website here. CARB’s diesel hotline is available at 1-866-6DIESEL (866-634-3735) or by email at 8666diesel@arb.ca.gov.

Air Pollution Hinders Lung Development Of Teens


November 10, 2013



 (TeleManagement) Exposure to air pollution from vehicle emissions and fossil fuels can reduce children’s lung development, according to a Children’s Health Study.

The study suggests children who live in polluted communities are five times more likely to have clinically low lung function.

Commenting on the study, researchers said, “It shows that current levels of air pollution have adverse effects on lung development in children between the ages of 10 and 18.”

Researchers followed 1,759 children from age 10 to age 18 and performed lung function tests each year. The researchers also collected data on levels of air pollutants in the 12 Southern California communities where the children lived.

They found children living in the communities with the highest levels of pollution had significant reductions in their “forced expiratory volume,” or the volume of air they could exhale after taking a deep breath.

“The potential long-term effects of reduced lung function are alarming,” researchers said.
Researchers also said when lung function decreases, the risk of developing respiratory disease and experiencing a heart attack increases.

The researchers are not sure how pollution retards lung dev elopement, but they believe pollutants that irritate the lungs, causing may play a role.

Philippines blames climate change for monster typhoon


By John Upton, November 11, 2013

 boy at scene of devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan

It’s hard to comprehend the scale of the disaster in the Philippines, where a massive typhoon may have killed more than 10,000 people. But climate delegates who have gathered today in Warsaw, Poland, for a fresh round of U.N. climate talks will need to do just that.

The Philippines is a densely populated, low-lying archipelago state that sits in warm Pacific Ocean waters — and warm ocean waters tend to produce vicious tropical storms. The country’s geography puts its islands in the path of frequent typhoons (typhoon is the local word — Americans call such storms hurricanes and others refer to them as cyclones). The Philippines’ low and unequally distributed national wealth, meanwhile, leaves its populace highly vulnerable to them.

And in terrible news for Filipinos, climate models show that global warming is making typhoons even more powerful.

Meteorologists have blamed a rise in water temperatures of nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit and other weather conditions last week for stirring up Typhoon Haiyan, which grew to become one of the most damaging storms in world history. Here’s a high-level account of the devastation from Reuters:
“The situation is bad, the devastation has been significant. In some cases the devastation has been total,” Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told a news conference.

The United Nations said officials in Tacloban, which bore the brunt of the storm on Friday, had reported one mass grave of 300-500 bodies. More than 600,000 people were displaced by the storm across the country and some have no access to food, water, or medicine, the U.N. says. …

Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, is estimated to have destroyed about 70 to 80 percent of structures in its path.
Officials from the Philippines are blaming climate change for the ferocity of Typhoon Haiyan, and demanding that climate negotiators get serious in Warsaw.

Though climate scientists aren’t ready to attribute the blame quite so directly, there is mounting evidence that climate change is making storms like Haiyan worse. As we’ve explained, the oceans are absorbing much of the extra heat that’s being trapped on Earth by greenhouse gases, which is helping to stoke more powerful tropical storms. Ben Adler recently reported on the results of a study in Indonesia, just south of the Philippines, which found that local ocean waters were warming at a historically unprecedented rate.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness,” said Naderev “Yeb” Saño, lead negotiator for the Philippines at the climate talks. “The climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw. Typhoons such as Haiyan and its impacts represent a sobering reminder to the international community that we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.”

Saño told Responding to Climate Change how the storm had affected his family:
[Saño] spent much of Friday and Saturday wondering if his family had survived Typhoon Haiyan …

“The first message I got from my brother was short, to say he was alive,” he says. “The second was that he had been burying dead friends, relatives and strangers. He said with his own two hands he had piled up close to 40 dead people.”

Sano’s family hails from the part of the Philippines eastern seaboard where the typhoon made landfall, smashing into his father’s hometown.

“I really fear that a lot of my relatives may have suffered tremendously, if they survived at all,” he adds.
This is not the first time Saño has warned the world that it must take action to prevent super-storms from devastating his country and so many others. At the 2012 U.N. climate talks in Doha, Qatar, he broke down in tears during his address, linking climate change to Typhoon Bopha, which killed hundreds of people in his country late last year.

“[W]e have never had a typhoon like Bopha, which has wreaked havoc in a part of the country that has never seen a storm like this in half a century. And heartbreaking tragedies like this is not unique to the Philippines, because the whole world, especially developing countries struggling to address poverty and achieve social and human development, confront these same realities. …

I appeal to the whole world, I appeal to the leaders from all over the world, to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face. I appeal to ministers. The outcome of our work is not about what our political masters want. It is about what is demanded of us by 7 billion people.”
We told you on Friday that climate delegates representing poor and developing countries are begging wealthy countries for financial help — not just for help in reducing their carbon emissions, but also for help in dealing with crazy weather that’s already happening. They say they can’t afford to do it alone, and many of them feel that their countries shouldn’t have to, since the rich nations of the world have pumped so much of the excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Rich countries have pledged to provide $100 billion in annual climate assistance starting in 2020 via the Green Climate Fund, but they’ve contributed very little so far. “We have not seen any money from the rich countries to help us to adapt,” Saño said. And some delegations in Warsaw are seeking more funding still, to compensate developing countries for the damage caused by climate disasters.

If wealthy nations don’t come through with significant funding, hopes of meaningful global climate cooperation could be doomed. And if the world doesn’t cooperate on climate change, greenhouse gas emissions will keep spiraling up, pushing global average temperatures up more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit) compared with preindustrial times. That would not only mean worse typhoons for the developing world — it would mean worse hurricanes, droughts, fires, and floods in the U.S. and across the world.