Open Air Library – Magdeburg Germany

21 04 2010

KARO Architekten just recently won the 2010 European Prize for public space with it’s open air library project in Magdeburg, Germany. The space was established in 2005 as an open air library located in the abandoned district centre. The community began the project in that year by constructing a 1:1 scale model of the possible library out of old beer crates and filling it with donated books. Google Maps still shows the site as a vacant patch of grass with a worn path through the centre.

The area of Magdeburg where the project is located is characterized by old industrial warehouses and factories, now bereft of any industry, and vacancy of up to 80%. The city centre of this area is full of closed shops and empty storefronts. From this, the urban experiment that is now the open air library was created.

With a little bit of financial assistance from the federal government, the official library opened in June of this year along with an accopmpanying cafe all run by the local residents. Toted as a pilot project for revitalizing East Germany’s derelict post-industrial cities, the new community centre is now complete and open for use. No registration is required to take out books. you simply take one and bring back within a reasonable amount of time, or bring back another old book.

This project has not only succeeded in adding a patch of green space to the industrial city, it has also established a very community oriented institution based on the trust of one’s neighbours. Sounds good to me. Looks good too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.archdaily.com/39417/open-air-library-karo-architekten/ 





About Ann Coulter and the University of Ottawa

25 03 2010

The media is blowing this up right now and everyone is leaving out bit of information as per usual.

Let’s get some things straight:

Ann Coulter, Right-wing American Pundint, was invited by the Conservative students group at the University of Ottawa to speak publicly.

The Provost of the university sent Ann an email warning her about free speech laws in Canada, which differ from those in the U.S.

On the day of the speech, large crowds filled the lobby outside of the small room in which Ann was supposed to speak. The police said that they would not be able to ensure her safety because of the size of the crowds. The decision was left to Ann and her body guards whether or not to follow through with the talk.

The University of Ottawa did not cancel Ann’s speech.

Ann’s body guard cancelled the speech.

Was it right to shout down Ann and prevent her speech from happening? Not really, though, protesters have the same rights to yell what they want as Ann has to say what she wants.

Ann Coulter seems to me to be a highly paid actor. She says things that she knows will seriously upset people because it gets her attention and therefore, it gets her money. This aside though, she should still be allowed to speak. By disallowing this, protesters at the University of Ottawa have given themselves a bad name. We saw the same things happen to a number of protesters in Copenhagen in December. Lets not paint them all with the same brush though. Ann Coulter does not represent the majority of the right. Loud and rambuncious protestors do not represent the majority of the left.

Thanks to the Ottawa Citizen for writing an in depth article explaining this issue. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Organizers+university+cancelled+Coulter/2721580/story.html

No thanks to the Toronto Star for skimming and skewing. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/785037–coulter-s-right-to-free-speech-defended





Your “Diet” Food is Making You Fat

17 02 2010

This article from the Huffington Post today puts very cleary the risks associated with the average North American diet of processed foods. The article isn’t brief, but I found that I felt a need to read the entire thing. We are made to believe that foods with sugar are bad for us and will make us fat. What we are never told, is that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), the sweetener used in almost every processed food to replace natural sugar, is even worse for us. Not only does it have a increased negative impact on our weight, but it comes with a host of other issues from lack of nutrients and energy in our bodies to the monopolization of the agriculture industry and hazardous Genetically Modified Foods.  Coincidently, along with the Post article, I also came across an article from the CBC about the high percentage of Canadians with high blood pressure, another symptom of HFCS.

From the Huffington Post:

Study after study are taking their place in a growing lineup of scientific research demonstrating that consuming high-fructose corn syrup is the fastest way to trash your health. It is now known without a doubt that sugar in your food, in all it’s myriad of forms, is taking a devastating toll.

And fructose in any form — including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and crystalline fructose — is the worst of the worst!

Fructose is a major contributor to:

• Insulin resistance and obesity
• Elevated blood pressure
• Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
• Depletion of vitamins and minerals
• Cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer, arthritis and even gout

A Calorie is Not a Calorie
Glucose is the form of energy you were designed to run on. Every cell in your body, every bacterium — and in fact, every living thing on the Earth–uses glucose for energy.

If you received your fructose only from vegetables and fruits (where it originates) as most people did a century ago, you’d consume about 15 grams per day — a far cry from the 73 grams per day the typical adolescent gets from sweetened drinks. In vegetables and fruits, it’s mixed in with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate any negative metabolic effects.
It isn’t that fructose itself is bad — it is the MASSIVE DOSES you’re exposed to that make it dangerous.

There are two reasons fructose is so damaging:

1. Your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way than glucose. The entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver.

2. People are consuming fructose in enormous quantities, which has made the negative effects much more profound.

Today, 55 percent of sweeteners used in food and beverage manufacturing are made from corn, and the number one source of calories in America is soda, in the form of HFCS.

Food and beverage manufacturers began switching their sweeteners from sucrose (table sugar) to corn syrup in the 1970s when they discovered that HFCS was not only far cheaper to make, it’s about 20 percent sweeter than table sugar.

HFCS is either 42 percent or 55 percent fructose, and sucrose is 50 percent fructose, so it’s really a wash in terms of sweetness.

Still, this switch drastically altered the average American diet.

By USDA estimates, about one-quarter of the calories consumed by the average American is in the form of added sugars, and most of that is HFCS. The average Westerner consumes a staggering 142 pounds a year of sugar! And the very products most people rely on to lose weight — the low-fat diet foods — are often the ones highest in fructose.

Making matters worse, all of the fiber has been removed from these processed foods, so there is essentially no nutritive value at all.

Fructose Metabolism Basics
Without getting into the very complex biochemistry of carbohydrate metabolism, it is important to understand some differences about how your body handles glucose versus fructose. I will be publishing a major article about this in the next couple of months, which will get much more into the details, but for our purpose here, I will just summarize the main points.

Dr. Robert Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, has been a pioneer in decoding sugar metabolism. His work has highlighted some major differences in how different sugars are broken down and used:

• After eating fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent.

• Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is “burned up” immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat.

• The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes.

• Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.

• When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Consuming fructose is essentially consuming fat!

• The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.

• Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

If anyone tries to tell you “sugar is sugar,” they are way behind the times. As you can see, there are major differences in how your body processes each one.

The bottom line is: fructose leads to increased belly fat, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome — not to mention the long list of chronic diseases that directly result.

Panic in the Corn Fields
As the truth comes out about HFCS, the Corn Refiners Association is scrambling to convince you that their product is equal to table sugar, that it is “natural” and safe.

Of course, many things are “natural” — cocaine is natural, but you wouldn’t want to use 142 pounds of it each year.

The food and beverage industry doesn’t want you to realize how truly pervasive HFCS is in your diet — not just from soft drinks and juices, but also in salad dressings and condiments and virtually every processed food. The introduction of HFCS into the Western diet in 1975 has been a multi-billion dollar boon for the corn industry.

The FDA classifies fructose as GRAS: Generally Regarded As Safe. Which pretty much means nothing and is based on nothing.

There is plenty of data showing that fructose is not safe — but the effects on the nation’s health have not been immediate. That is why we are just now realizing the effects of the last three decades of nutritional misinformation.

As if the negative metabolic effects are not enough, there are other issues with fructose that disprove its safety:

More than one study has detected unsafe mercury levels in HFCS.

• Crystalline fructose (a super-potent form of fructose the food and beverage industry is now using) may contain arsenic, lead, chloride and heavy metals.

Nearly all corn syrup is made from genetically modified corn, which comes with its own set of risks.

The FDA isn’t going to touch sugar, so it’s up to you to be proactive about your own dietary choices.

What’s a Sugarholic to Do?
Ideally, I recommend that you avoid as much sugar as possible. This is especially important if you are overweight or have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

I also realize we don’t live in a perfect world, and following rigid dietary guidelines is not always practical or even possible.

If you want to use a sweetener occasionally, this is what I recommend:

1. Use the herb stevia.

2. Use organic cane sugar in moderation.

3. Use organic raw honey in moderation.

4. Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than fructose.

5. Avoid agave syrup since it is a highly processed sap that is almost all fructose. Your blood sugar will spike just as it would if you were consuming regular sugar or HFCS. Agave’s meteoric rise in popularity is due to a great marketing campaign, but any health benefits present in the original agave plant are processed out.

6. Avoid so-called energy drinks and sports drinks because they are loaded with sugar, sodium and chemical additives. Rehydrating with pure, fresh water is a better choice.

If you or your child is involved in athletics, I recommend you read my article Energy Rules for some great tips on how to optimize your child’s energy levels and physical performance through good nutrition.

 Here is the link to the CBC article: http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2010/02/17/blood-pressure-canadians.html?ref=rss

And The Huffington Post original article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/sugar-may-be-bad-but-this_b_463655.html 

So, to conclude, next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a few apples and some veggies. It is much better if you make grocery shopping a more regualr habit going once or twice a week to get fresh food rather than once every two or three weeks stocking up on processed freezer foods. If you have the opportunity to go to a tru farmer’s market where you can actually speak to the people who grow the food, do it. It sure won’t cost you any more than the grocery store, and you can learn a whole lot about your food as well as the people who get it to you. Lastly, watch the documentaries “Food Inc.” and “Monsanto”. That should be enough to change your eating habits.





China Snubs Obama Town Hall

16 11 2009

From: The Globe and Mail, 2009

In a very typical and anticipated move, China has decided not to allow millions of Chinese citizens to hear the President of the United States speak when he visited the country today.

The national television station, the Central China Television Network, will not be broadcasting a ‘town hall’ type question and answer period with 500 chinese students in Shanghai. The event will be broadcast on local Shanghai television and on the website of the official Xinhua News station. These two sources will broadcast the event uncensored. But these two news stations aren’t exactly accessible to the country as a whole. The US State Department plans to run feeds of the talk on Twitter, which China says it will allow access to, though as it stands, internet censorship in China does not allow access to Twitter, Facebook, or even Google. 

Why the reluctance to allow citizens to hear President Obama speak? They allowed Clinton to speak uncensored – George W Bush too. Maybe it’s because of quotes that supported those who “faced down facism and communism”. Or his warnings that go something like, “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent know that you are on the wrong side of history”.

A bit more on this in: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/china-restricts-obamas-qa/article1364342/





Scientology Fraud in France – Officially

27 10 2009

 

Scientology has been around for a little over half a century now and has been a commercial operation ever since. Founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a prominent Science Fiction writer, best known for his work Battlefield Earth, The Church of Scientology has expanded tremendously and operates in many countries around the world. France has officially stated that the church is a sect, not a religion. It’s sole purpose is to make as much money as possible by manipulating vulnerable people. This past week, the Organization itself was charged with fraud in France. According to the BBC,

 

In the case leading up to Tuesday’s ruling, a woman said she was sold expensive life-improvement courses, vitamins and other products after taking a personality test.

A second woman alleges she was fired by her Scientologist boss after refusing to undergo testing and sign up to courses.

The Church denied that any mental manipulation took place.

Is this an attack on Religious Freedom? Or is it justified? How is Scientology really any different from Christianity, or Hinduism, or Mormonism? I’m not saying either way. these are just some questions that come to mind. 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8327569.stm





We Could All Use a Second Look

25 08 2009
From: CTV, 2009

From: CTV, 2009

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. “

– From the film Dead Poets Society




China and Pollution: What You Can Do

18 08 2009
From: Current, 2009

From: Current, 2009

I know this probably isn’t News to anyone, but China is pretty bad when it comes to pollution. Often the argument goes like this:

  • China’s recent history of water pollution, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions is higher than anywhere in the world.

But then there is the counter argument:

  • North Americans along with Western Europeans have far higher greenhouse gas emission rates per capita, in fact the emissions per person in china are about a quarter of those of his or her United States counterpart.

And my counter argument?:

  • If China’s pollution is so high when their per capita rate is so low, that means there are a few very large, very powerful corporations, power plants, etc in the East that are allowed to pollute without consequence, or so it seems to me. We can’t punish the already struggling and impoverished general population of that country.

My personal argument isn’t based in fact so much as it is in observation and inference. We often hear about industrial catastrophe’s in China such as the recent lead poisoning of nearly all children in one village. We see the polluted haze that consumes Beijing daily (the olympics sure didn’t help thier image). We know that the country is very rapidly running it’s water resources dry and on top of that, it is said that a major water pollution incident occurs every other day. In effect, most of these problems are partly induced by us westerners who demand Chinese goods day in and day out, from irons to computer chips. It is within our capacity to change the way China manufacturers it’s products. We have the ability to demand a clean manufacturing process and the fair treatment of employees by only purchasing goods that meet our requirements. Wal Mart, of all places, is sort of doing this. They are developing an environmental rating system for all products on their shelves, and if their manufacturers don’t comply, they’ve threatened to drop them. The catch here, is that the system will only apply to packaging, which Wal Mart says it will reduce by a whopping 5%. This doesn’t mean much in and of itself, but it may hopefully spawn a new movement towards consumer knowledge of what they are purchasing. A rating system that expalins the approximate greenhouse gas emissions created by that product, the amount of recyclable material within it, the exact toxins that go into the manufacturing process, the amount of water used. If the west were to make purchases based on this type of data and not solely price, then maybe we could see a great change in Chinese manufacturers?

For now, you can look desparately for North American made products (occassionaly you can still find some clothing, shoes, office products, etc.), and you can improve your knowledge of the manufacturing industry in China. Two relatively mainstream documentaries are worth watching: WalMart: The High Cost of Low Prices, and Manufactured Landscapes. You can also support Human Rights Watch or support any number of environmental organizations, many of which will be involved with China in some way.

We can’t blame the country of China for the environmental problems of the world. We in the west have certainly been polluting for a longer period of time. Consider our industrial revolution was over 100 years ago, China’s has happened within the past 20 years. However, they are not going to change all by themselves. A quote from Wang Yongli, a water engineer in Shijiazhuang says, “We have a water shortage, but we have to develop…And development is going to be put first…In Israel [where there are also extreme water shortages], people regard water as more important than life itself. In Shijianzhuang, it’s not that way. People are focused on the economy.” If we as consumers show that we want environmental and social justice through our purchases by buying locally as much as possible, maybe the Chinese will then see the need to meet western regulations on both the environment as well as human rights. This is as much our problem as it is theirs. Don’t blame China until you stop supporting their dirty industries with your wallet and demand change.