Archive for June, 2010

Two-year walk to end Saturday

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

In 2006, Luke Robinson’s dog Malcolm died of bone cancer. In 2008, he sold his truck, leashed up his other two dogs, and started walking from Austin to Boston. His nonprofit, 2 Million Dogs, raises money towards comparative oncology research.

You can read Luke’s story here.

$20 billion to fund escrow account for oil spill claims

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Under a deal reached between BP and the White House today, BP will pay $5 billion annually for the next four years into an escrow account to cover damage claims related to the oil spill; $3 billion will be paid this summer and $2 billion in the fall, followed by $1.25 billion each quarter until the full amount is reached. Additionally, they must set aside an equivalent amount in US assets as collateral until the account is fully funded. BP also agreed to donate $100 million to support unemployed oil industry employees during the six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling. Although Congress has not yet overturned the $75 million cap on damages, BP has already paid $81 million in claims, and the new escrow account does not come with a liability waiver; the final cost of damages from the oil spill could reach as $40 billion.

BP also agreed to suspend approximately $7.5 billion in dividend payments over the next three quarters. By giving them several years to deposit the $20 billion, President Obama avoids chasing off investors in BP and potentially bankrupting the company; by agreeing, BP is able to improve their image and avoid a prolonged fight with the US government. The $100 million fund should take pressure off of newly unemployed oil workers.  Meanwhile, the $20 billion fund will be managed by Kenneth Feinberg, who oversaw the 9/11 victim’s compensation fund, and it is expected that it will be more efficient at handling individual claims than the current process handled by BP.

School leaders set good example

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Cindy Stevenson. Mary Chesley. Chris King. John Barry. Chris Gdowski.

What do these people have in common?  They’re all superintendents of Colorado school districts whose contracts stipulate they’re due raises and bonuses this year, who (citing the tough economy and school budget woes) have refused to take them.

Granted, these people are doing pretty well to begin with – the lowest salary between the five of the, is $187k – but they’re giving up a significant amount of money, so here’s a shout-out to them for setting a good example. Maybe area CEOs will follow their leads and donate this year’s bonuses to charity?

Millennium Technology Prize awarded for cheap solar panels

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

The Millennium Technology Prize is awarded in recognition of innovations that result in a significant improvement in people’s quality of life or sustainable development; it is awarded every other year, with the winner receiving approximately $1 million. Past awards went to the inventors of the World Wide Web, blue and white LEDs, and innovative biomaterials for controlled drug release. It differs from the Nobel in being for technology rather than science.

This year’s prize has been awarded to  Michael Grätzel of Switzerland for his invention of third generation dye-sensitized solar cells, which are flexible and low-cost. Smaller prizes ($180,000) were awarded for cheap plastic electronics (also used in solar cells) and the ARM microprocessor, used in 90 percent of mobile phones.

The good thing about solar power is that it’s a renewable energy source that can be generated where it’s used. The drawback is that it’s expensive. The reason Grätzel’s work is significant is that it lowers the cost of solar; his cells can be built into glass windows cheaply, removing the need to install expensive solar panels on the roof of the building you want to power.

Afghanistan’s new export: minerals?

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

A recent study by US geologists has found that Afghanistan has a much larger quantity of valuable minerals than previously believed: approximately a trillion dollars’ worth. That figure is all the more staggering compared to Afghanistan’s GDP of about $12 billion. The minerals include lithium, iron, gold, niobium, mercury, and cobalt; Afghanistan is seeking bids to extract the minerals, starting with iron and copper mines.  The deposits are so big and varied that US officials believe Afghanistan could eventually become one of the most important mining centers in the world.

Extracting the minerals may be challenging, as much of it is in territory that the Taliban controls and the country, which has never had large-scale mining, does not have the infrastructure in place to extract, refine, and ship its natural resources.

Recover from Polio: $30

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

In the United States, polio is a disease from the days of yore, long since eradicated. But in Africa and South Asia, while vaccination programs lead by the WHO have lead to a decline in new outbreaks, many people are still suffering from its effects.

30-year-old physiotherapist Sanjay Kumar has developed a low-cost treatment for helping paralyzed survivors regain their mobility; the process takes one to two months and costs about $30-$35 per patient.  Patients are given plaster casts, which are cut and replaced weekly, using wooden wedges to straighten the muscles.

An infrequently-updated blog about the work is available here.

Where to donate to oil spill charities

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

So it’s not exactly good news, but if you want to donate to organizations working in the Gulf of Mexico, check out this article by Lifehacker; they offer tips on how to help, as well as linking to BBB-veted agencies that can use your donations.

Disasters unfortunately tend to bring out scammers; stick with well-known charities to avoid being taken in.

Stop the bleeding! New drug arrives

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Transexamic acid, or TXA, is a drug commonly used in wealthy countries to stop bleeding during elective surgeries; it costs about $9 per dose.  A recent study involving more than 20,000 trauma patients found that by administering the drug to people within 8 hours of the injury, the patients had a 15 percent lower chance of dying from a hemorrhage and a 10 percent lower chance of dying from any other cause.

The World Health Organization is being urged to include TXA on its List of Essential Medicines, which would likely result in the drug seeing more use in poor countries; however, it is expected to see more use in developed countries as well.  The drug works by interfering with the breakdown of clots, which reduces bleeding.

Clear up the roads: make the kids walk!

Monday, June 14th, 2010

I can remember walking home from school when I was a kid. These days, most kids get a ride; less than 15% of American children regularly walk or bike to school. The Safe Routes to School initiative is hoping to change this, working to make it safer and easier for students to get themselves to school and get a little exercise along the way.

Among other things, this involves working out safe routes to school,  where crosswalks, school crossing signs, sidewalks, and other elements help protest pedestrians from traffic. Some schools are setting up walking school buses, where volunteers walk a designated route with groups of children. This both encourages students to walk to school and makes it safer for them to do so.

No word yet on how they feel about roller skates..

Preteen raises thousands for birds

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Olivia Boulder spends a lot of time drawing.  The 11-year-old aspiring ornithologist has so far raised approximately $80,000 sending her drawings to people who donate to help birds affected by the BP oil spill.  Olivia has committed to create up to 500 pieces of art for the cause (150 have been sent out thus far), after which contributors will get limited edition prints.

You can see Olivia’s facebook page, or to receive your original art, go to the Audubon Society to donate and email your proof of donation to

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