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Yes, we can

first_imgKevin DavieEvents which capture the imagination on a global scale as an affirmation of humanity are few and far between. Until a week ago my list of such events which have occurred during my lifetime was short, very short.One was the sequence after Nelson Mandela came out of jail and the new South Africa was born. The other was the fall of the Berlin Wall. If I had the chance to re-live just one of these events it would be the Mandela miracle, but then, of course, I am hopelessly biased.But the end of communism and the reunification of Germany has now been eclipsed by what is arguably an event of even greater significance, the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.On election night one voter interviewed after the result was known said that it showed that the message was that if you got an education and pulled your pants up, any job was yours for the taking.The fall of the Berlin Wall is undoubtedly a watershed event in world history but on balance, I would argue that the election of a black man to run the world’s most powerful country has the edge as a world-changing event.So much was riding on the outcome of the election that Obama supporters across the globe hardly dared breathe in the last few days as they waited tentatively for the outcome. It mattered not that the polls showed Obama was ahead by as many as 11 percentage points.Fears that the election would somehow be stolen were palpable and no supporter dared even think of victory until it was announced on a giant board by CNN.Not that the Obama camp was not confident of victory and the McCain camp not anticipating defeat. This is seen in the after-party arrangements: Obama had handed out 70 000 tickets, McCain just 2 500.Obama, by his own admission, would not be what he is without South Africa. He switched to politics from law because of apartheid.And now his message of change is resonating in South Africa. Politicians are studying his political organisation and, in particular, his use of social media to connect with volunteers and voters.The use of digital media in politics is not new in South Africa, but safe to say that voters here can expect an onslaught of messages in the coming months as the Obama wannabes fight for digital space. This is not only great for democracy but also for Telkom, Vodacom and MTN shareholders who stand to benefit from the high-priced services they offer.The Democratic Alliance’s Helen Zille was last week looking for early mover advantage, but then, all fingers and thumbs, she sent the same message three times. I have this image of Zille with her cellphone: she is not sure whether the first message went so she sent it again, and then again just for good measure.South African politicians across the spectrum are keen to associate themselves with Obama. They want to embrace his message of change, his organisational prowess, his keen grasp of policy issues and, if they possibly could, his oratory.These talents have given Obama the top job. What talents he will need to get the United States out of the once-in-a-century fix in which it finds itself, is entirely another matter.Satirical internet magazine The Onion headlined a story on Obama’s victory “Black man given nation’s worst job”. The consensus is that not since FD Roosevelt in the 1930s has an American president faced such a tough challenge.A toxic cocktail of lax financial market regulation, cheap Greenspan money, government attempts to encourage house ownership, runaway Wall Street greed and stratospheric oil prices have conspired to batter the economy.If the cocktail had only hammered the United States the news would not be that bad, but the toxicity was exported to many countries abroad and stratospheric oil prices of recent times have also been felt universally.The United States swims in every kind of debt. It now has a whole new type of debt caused by the bailout. The way this works is that you first make sure you have a humungous problem: then you take it to Washington where you get a monster cheque written.Who will honour the cheque? The optimistic school says economic growth will bring taxes and foreign investors who will buy government bonds. Later the government can sell its stakes in the bailed-out companies and all’s well that ends well.The pessimistic scenario says that investors (think China) will no longer buy bonds but prefer to invest in their own (regulated) country. China has already announced a US$560-billion (R5.7-trillion) stimulus for its own economy.Unconfirmed reports say that the United States nationalised the troublesome twins, Fannie and Freddie, after China warned that it would no longer buy US treasuries if they were allowed to fail.The bailout can be seen in these terms – a desperate attempt to ensure that foreign investors continue to buy American.The pessimists are warning that any day now the ratings agencies could downgrade US treasuries from AAA status. This would require many investors to seek safer havens for their funds.Downgrading the United States could spark the run of runs and end the era of the dollar as the de facto international currency standard.And if this all was not enough, throw in the challenges of climate change, and you have a seriously overloaded in-tray at the oval office.I am betting that Obama will rise to the challenge and be recognised not only as the first black president, but one of the greatest of any time.In South Africa we are already in his debt. He has helped put two key political reforms on the front burner.One is a return to constituency representation to replace the tyranny of proportional politics.The other is the idea that the president should not be voted in by a couple of thousand people at happened at Polokwane. Every voter should have his or her say.As a journalist Kevin Davie is a Nieman Fellow and editor of numerous South Africa business magazines and newspapers. As an Internet entrepreneur he co-founded South Africa’s first online stockbroker and WOZA, the first news portal which was independent of a traditional publisher.He divides his time between the Mail & Guardian, where he  runs the business section and pursues the twin interests of economics and environmentalism, and projects in construction (particularly green building) and a better way to search the Internet. He also makes time to paddle and ride his mountain bike.last_img read more

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NAHB: Green Program Participation Beats Expectations

first_imgMore than 200 homes and remodeling projects have been certified, and builder associations in 40 states have affiliated programsA press release posted this week by the National Association of Home Builders furthered the notion that, during the downturn, green construction and remodeling has been building steam among consumers and industry professionals.Titled “Green Building Growing at a Surprising Rate,” the NAHB release notes that more than 3,100 builders, remodelers, designers, and others in the homebuilding business have earned the Certified Green Professional educational designation, which requires successful completion of 24 hours of instruction as well as industry experience and commitment to continuing education.The level of participation, NAHB Chairman Joe Robson says, “exceeds even our most optimistic expectations.”That is a pretty quick ramp-up. The foundation of the NAHB National Green Building Program, the ICC-700-2008 National Green Building Standard, was approved in late January by the American National Standards Institute. The NGBS includes four threshold levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Emerald – that provide builders with a means to achieve basic, entry-level green building, or achieve the highest level of sustainable green building that incorporates energy savings of 60 percent or higher.The number of state and local homebuilder associations affiliated with the NAHB National Green Building Program hit 99 last week, so there are now 40 states with affiliated programs, including 17 programs that are statewide.What will matter most in all this, though, will be the in-the-ground results. So far, NAHB says, more than 200 single-family homes, remodeling projects and developments in 43 states have received National Green Building Certification, and at least 300 more are scheduled for inspections.For more information on green ratings and certifications, see Green Rating Systems in our Green Building Encyclopedialast_img read more

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Can You Heat a House with Air Ducts in a Concrete Floor?

first_imgConcrete floors with high thermal mass are often at the heart of passive solar designs. The density of concrete helps it store thermal energy and helps to reduce uncomfortable swings in indoor temperatures.Slabs collect some heat from the sun through south-facing windows, often supplemented by radiant-floor heating systems that use a network of embedded plastic tubing to circulate hot water.Nothing unusual here. But in a recent Green Building Advisor Q&A, Jay asks about the possibility of inserting air ducts directly in concrete to keep it warm.“I’m interested if there is any added efficiency in passive solar applications where air is circulated through the slab,” Jay writes. “My impression is that this technique opens you up to a lot of potential moisture/mold scenarios. Does anyone know of any research that looks at the implications of this technique?”As usual, there’s no lack of opinion on the topic, although scientific studies that might answer Jay’s question definitively don’t seem to exist.Some builders use this approachAJ Builder points to the work of Bruce Brownell, who, he says, has “spent a lifetime designing, refining and building” this type of house. GREEN PRODUCT GUIDE HVAC Ducts and Casings Cost-Effective Passive Solar Design A Contrarian View of Passive Solar DesignAll About Radiant FloorsAll About Thermal Mass Think Spot: Passive House 2: Reader Questions and ResponsesSiting with the Sun: Passive Heating and DaylightingSolar HeatQ&A: Thermal Mass “I have been in two of them,” AJ adds, and they are very livable environments. The owners almost heat alone with very small heat sources, hot water tanks, woodstoves or just the sun at many times…I think ducted slabs are a great choice among many.”AJ includes a link to Adirondack Alternate Energy, presumably Brownell’s Edinburg, N.Y., company, which describes how the houses are heated. A small fan gathers heat at the peak of the house and distributes it through “a heavy (70-100 ton) mass storage system under the lowest floor, and back to the house interior perimeter.”Houses built this way will never freeze in winter, maintain a healthy indoor humidity level of between 45% and 50% in winter, and indoor temperatures that never fluctuate more than 6 degrees, the company claims. Moreover, indoor air is filtered three times per hour to eliminate most dust.The company says it’s built more than 300 such houses.Chris R says a Canadian builder by the name of Don Roscoe has built a number of similar passive solar homes in Nova Scotia in which 5-in. air ducts are incorporated in an 8-in. slab.So widely used or not, the technique is not unheard of.But where’s the science?Daniel Ernst was among the first to jump in with concerns about a lack of data that would support claims for how well these buildings perform, and in particular how much heat would be contributed by windows.“But do you know of any controlled studies that compare House A (with ducted slab) to House B (without ducted slab)? Where are the BTU measurements? The hygothermal models? The documentation?” Ernst asks.“But no matter what climate or window or house, you can’t create a system that uses passive solar gain to heat air, and then use that air to heat 70-100 tons of masonry to any meaningful extent,” he adds. “The physics and calculations don’t support the concept. There is no evidence that it works.”One of Brownell’s houses is described in more detail in a link Ernst supplies. But, he adds, maybe Brownell should be encouraged to monitor and post actual energy data to make his case?Two other points: the minute a design incorporates a blower, you’re no longer talking about a simple passive design, says Kevin Dickson. Plus, a slab as thick as Brownell suggests may crack where it changes in thickness around ducts.Do alternate views get a fair shake?Brownell’s designs have been steadily improved over the years, replies AJ, and besides, what’s wrong with considering alternate views?“Seems like every time I mention Bruce there are ‘attitudes’ here at GBA,” he adds. “What’s with that? Is this a little cliquish group of greenies or something? Bruce started down the road of green before I bet many, many here, and for sure before most of us in this country. He should be applauded for all his efforts over all these decades.”Hang on, says James Morgan.“It’s always been my assumption that the fundamental premise of green building is mindful and appropriate use of the materials and processes we employ for our shelter,” he says.“Whatever the norm may be in your area, suggesting there might be data to justify a triple-thickness slab is jumping down no one’s throat. Environmental benefit returned for environmental cost invested is not a difficult concept.”Morgan, who works in North Carolina, says he’s built many more than 350 energy efficient projects and says the value of high thermal mass is overrated.“I would be intrigued to know why so many architects, designers and builders in the green building movement do seem to worship at the altar of generic high thermal mass,” he says. “The theory seems to make sense only for a few very specific climates (hot dry days, cool dry nights, most days of the year). “Building science has moved onSorry, but this approach really is typical of early mistakes that many passive solar designers made in the 1970s, says Robert Riversong.“Some of the early experimentation, including air ducting in the floor and between double walls and roofs (the envelope house) or excessive or inadequate thermal mass, has been rendered obsolete by better design and a more comprehensive understanding of thermodynamics and building science,” Riversong writes.In addition, claims that the building envelope with walls of R-26 are far better than conventional houses is “absurd,” he says.Finally, a house built that tight requires heat- or energy-recovery ventilation. “Such a non-breathable house also likely violates hygro-thermal engineering principles that are essential to incorporate into a healthy and durable home, including a breathable envelope and hygric buffering,” Riversong writes.The discussion might go in different directions with the participation of Bruce Brownell himself. AJ writes he’s extended the invitation. PODCAST: Architects Discuss Passive Solar Design RELATED ARTICLES MULTIMEDIA last_img read more

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ICC anti-corruption unit seeks to monitor players’ messages

first_imgCricketers suspected of corruption could be forced to hand over their mobile phones under new plans to curb match-fixing, head of the game’s anti-corruption unit has said.The Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) can currently request information from players, including phone records, while cricketers also have to hand over their phones to officials before each day’s play. (CSA charges Alviro Petersen under its anti-corruption code)The ACU does not have access to players’ new medium of communications, including Whatsapp and Snapchat.”As the world changes and as people use different means of communicating with each other through social media – Whatsapp, Snapchat, all of these things – we have to keep ahead of these things,” Ronnie Flanagan, the head of the ACU, told reporters.”One extension (of ACU powers) we might seek is that, instead of just asking for a player’s billing records, might we actually, like tennis, seek the ability to take the devices and download them to see what communications had been made upon them.”For that, the ACU would need approval of the ICC board.Former South Africa test player Alviro Petersen was recently charged with contriving to fix domestic Twenty20 matches last year and was provisionally suspended from all cricket activities by Cricket South Africa.The case of Petersen, who played 36 Tests between 2010 and 2015, underlines the menace of match-fixing in cricket.”I think there is no ground for complacency whatsoever,” Flanagan said. “These corruptors have demonstrated ingenuity and demonstrated determination to keep trying to get at players and match officials who are bound by our code of conduct. advertisementlast_img read more

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Win $1000 Of BodyScience Products

first_imgAll answers will be treated confidentially and will not be attributed to you as an individual. As an incentive, BodyScience is giving away $1000 worth of products to one lucky respondent.Please click on the following link to complete the survey – is it? Body Science Online Customer SurveyHow long does it take? 5-10 minutesWhat do I get? A chance to win $1000rrp worth of Body Science productsHow long do I have? The survey will close at 5pm, Friday 20 MayWhat are the conditions?·         One response per person·         Answers are provided truthfully·         All applicable questions must be answeredlast_img read more

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10 months agoMan City midfielder Sterling: Liverpool ideal for Salah

first_imgAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Man City midfielder Sterling: Liverpool ideal for Salahby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveManchester City midfielder Raheem Sterling isn’t surprised by the success of Mohamed Salah at Liverpool.Sterling says former club Liverpool is the ideal stage for the Egyptian.Speaking with 360 Sport, Sterling said: “I’m not surprised (by how well Salah’s done).“He’s gone to Liverpool and it’s clicked for him.”Every player has a moment when they are good, very good and then it clicks. He’s been exceptional.”But it’s about how you maintain it – and he’s maintained that perfectly and that’s a credit to him.” last_img read more

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Photo: The Cleveland Browns Had A Spelling Error Announcing Their 1st Round Pick For The 2nd Year In A Row

first_imgCleveland Browns have spelling error while announcing their 19th overall pick.Cleveland Browns’ Spelling ErrorFor the second year in a row, the Cleveland Browns had some difficulty announcing one of their first-round picks on Twitter. Last year, while announcing the selection of Johnny Manziel, Cleveland’s Twitter account misspelled “22nd.” It took them three tries to get it right. And tonight, while announcing the selection of Florida State offensive lineman Cameron Erving, the Browns spelled the player’s last name wrong. It’s “Erving,” not “Irving.”The Browns just misspelled the name of their own 1st round pick. Sigh….— Al Ciammaichella (@Gotribe31) May 1, 2015Thankfully, it didn’t take them too long to correct it. With the 19th pick in the 2015 #NFLDraft the #Browns select Florida State OL Cameron Erving. #BrownsDraft— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) May 1, 2015Do better, Cleveland.last_img read more

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ICBC reminds drivers to use caution in parking lots during the holiday

first_imgFORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – ICBC is reminding drivers to use caution when driving through parking lots during the holiday season.ICBC says some drivers mistakenly believe that driving in parking lots is ‘safer’ due to lower travel speeds, but drivers need to continue practicing their safe driving habits, even while travelling in parking lots.Parking lots present drivers with unique challenges such as increased congestion and heavy pedestrian activity. The holiday season could add a layer of distraction with people more apt to be preoccupied with their shopping list or finding a parking spot. While most parking lot crashes happen at low speeds and only result in vehicle damage, dealing with the aftermath of a collision is the quickest way to put a damper on the holiday spirit.According to ICBC, about 150,000 crashes happened in parking lots last year resulting in 5,400 injuries.ICBC receives hundreds of thousands of vehicle damage claims every year, with costs exceeding $1.5 billion.Drivers are encouraged to apply a bit of holiday cheer, be courteous and have a bit more patience during this time of year.Here are some safety tips:The rules of the road still apply, even on private property: Drivers should know that the law still applies, even in mall parking lots. Avoid cutting diagonally through a lot – travel only in the appropriate lanes. Don’t use your phone while driving, instead, program your navigation or holiday tunes before you start your car.Have your car facing out in your parking spot: This position is safest for drivers because it helps you avoid the risk of reversing into a lane with potential blind spots when leaving.Park further away, if you can: Instead of circling endlessly to get a spot that’s closest to the mall entrance, pick a place that’s further away. You’ll avoid a high-traffic area where you’re more likely to crash with another vehicle or hit a pedestrian.Slow down and be on alert: Drivers should drive slowly in parking lots to have enough time to react to an unexpected vehicle backing out of their parking spot or an unanticipated pedestrian, especially young children, which may be harder to see.Pay attention to the arrows and stop signs: Many parking lots are quite narrow, restricting specific lanes to a single direction. Pay attention to the signs and markings on the road to avoid getting into a crash.Don’t block traffic: Deciding to follow a shopper, then waiting for them to load their car, buckle up and leave, jams up traffic behind you and likely takes you much longer than if you had just found a spot further away. Sitting idle in a lane can leave you vulnerable to a collision, and you could be blocking other drivers who are trying to move.Let it go: No sense in having a showdown with another driver for a parking spot. Move along, and maybe that good karma will net you something nice this season.For more information and driving tips, you can visit ICBC.comlast_img read more