Archive for March, 2011

Now, this is a big deal – California cementing its commitment to green energy

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

 

– From the L.A. Times story: “A mandate that California utilities increase their use of renewable energy sailed through the state Assembly on Tuesday and is headed for the governor’s desk. Environmental groups say the legislation is the most ambitious of its kind in the country. It would require the state’s electricity companies to provide 33% of power from renewable resources by the year 2020. State law now sets a 20% goal. Supporters made their case by invoking the nuclear plant problems in Japan and conflict in the oil-rich Middle East, as well as the struggling California economy: Environmentalists have said the mandate could create 100,000 jobs. The bill aims to lessen dependence on coal and natural gas in favor of wind, solar and geothermal energy. It would also protect ratepayers from large new costs, and “provides flexibility to utilities,” argued Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro (D-Arcata).”

Very heartening news. Too bad it didn’t come a generation earlier.

– More on California and energy.

* It looks like California’s under-reported and provocative bid to run a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade will go forward after all once officials conduct further studies about alternative plans. Color us skeptical about market-based approaches after covering the Anne Sholtz case involving the AQMD, EPA, DOJ, and, yes, even the CIA, and hearing about Europe’s rampant cap-and-trade scandals. We’ll see.

* From the L.A. Times: “California’s effort to curb global warming, which was put on hold by a court decision, will be able to proceed on schedule once officials conduct a new environmental review, according to attorneys analyzing the case. A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled that the California Air Resources Board failed to properly evaluate alternatives to the so-called cap-and-trade program, which would allow industries to purchase pollution allowances rather than cut their own carbon emissions. The court said that measures such as a carbon tax or direct regulation of greenhouse gases were not given enough consideration. Air board officials said Tuesday that they would meet with environmentalists who filed the lawsuit in an effort to narrow the scope of the court injunction, which is expected to be issued in about a week …”

* Wave energy and the future: a truly untapped source to meet our insatiable needs or a quick path to disrupt the marine ecosystem we need to live? Read it here. :”The waves off San Onofre have for generations beckoned surfers and sport fishermen to a wild stretch of coastline in the shadow of domed nuclear reactors. Now, an Orange County entrepreneur wants to tap the power of that legendary surf in a novel but highly controversial plan to build one of the nation’s first hydrokinetic wave farms …”

– For those convinced it’s no big deal to shave provisions of the Clean Air Act to shore up the wobbly recovery, take a read through these EPA-generated public health statistics from the Environment News Service. “Last year, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than 160,000 cases of premature death, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates released Tuesday … By 2020, the benefits of reducing fine particle and ground level ozone pollution under the amendments will reach approximately $2 trillion while saving 230,000 people from early death in that year alone, the report concludes.”

In the year 2010, the reductions in fine particle and ozone pollution from the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments prevented more than:

  • 160,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 130,000 heart attacks
  • 13 million lost work days
  • 1.7 million asthma attacks

For more about the landlmark Clean Air Act, click here.

– Will the prolonged and alarming Japanese nuclear-plant crisis mean fresh opportunities for more exotic alternative energy ideas? Geothermal: get ready for your close up. LA Times Greenspace Link. Here’s my L.A. Times’ story on this general subject. And here’s my New York Times online Op-Ed that underscores how few Californians in supposedly America’s greenest state have largely eschewed solar power and our governmental hypocrisy.

– More about those Robert F. Kennedy photographs that my older brother took not long before RFK was assassinated in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel nearly 43 years ago. L.A. Times Daily Mirror blog (note to self: type slower when commenting) and L.A. Observed, which produced a hysterical headline.

* For the record, my brother a couple of years ago emailed me these photographs and told me I could do with them what I pleased, as long as nobody stole the images. They sat idly on my hard-drive until I did a little file organizing recently and decided to post them. Both of us had completely forgotten about them, and so the idea we were seeking our 15 minutes — or 15 seconds in the blogosphere — of fame out of such a gruesome tragedy makes me want to laugh for about 15 hours. These were just a couple of poignant and significant photos taken by a then-21-year-old USC undergrad who stumbled upon one of his heroes. In broken record cadence, I believe the timing of the images pales next to the fact that Paul could get so close to a presidential candidate whose brother was assassinated in Dallas less than five years earlier!

The RFK photo mystery lives on

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Democratic Presidential Candidate Robert K. Kennedy in downtown L.A. shortly before he was killed. This picture is owned and copywritten by Paul Jacobs, and any use of it without express written permission is forbidden.

Why this matters.

Since posting my big brother’s heretofore-unseen photographs of Robert F. Kennedy in the “hours” before he was tragically assassinated in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel last week, I’ve learned some facets about the half-life of history.

1. Even mildly dipping one’s toe into the Kennedy world can bring a cold splash of notoriety and controversy that proves we never quite got over losing two of our best and brightest, to coin a phrase from their era.

2. Presenting photographs of incredibly public people can evoke and re-ignite enormously intense emotions and private opinions about events that took place a generation ago, when the Internet was somebody’s fantasy and the Kremlin was our Al Queda. Memory is a prism.

3. Comprehension that the world has a pretty absymal learning curve when it comes to safeguarding leaders from mad-men who aim to derail the world. You’d have thought after the events of Dallas we would’ve learned that. But we didn’t. By the early 1980s, then-President Reagan had taken an assassin’s bullet and nearly died. The Pope was shot. John Lennon was killed in cold blood outside the Dakota. And so forth and so on.

A former RFK adviser, ex-union leader Paul Schrade, contacted me and Kevin Roderick at LA Observed last week, disputing my brother’s contention that the photographs were taken the afternoon preceding Kennedy’s murder. Schrade, who was one of numerous people shot and injured by Sirhan Sirhan, noted that Kennedy spent most of the day of the California primary (June 4, 1968) relaxing at the Malibu home of a Hollywood producer (one of the people behind the “Manchurian Candidate,” if you can believe it) before heading off to Los Angeles for his speech. It’d been a grueling campaign and John Kennedy’s little brother needed to catch his breath as the odds-on favorite to take on Republican Richard Nixon in the November general election. Schrade attached this clip to corroborate his point. It’s worth viewing.

Here’s a description from a book about the assassination that jibes with Schrade’s account.

“Kennedy spent the day swimming, sitting in the sun, talking to friends, playing with his children, and sleeping.  He became so relaxed that he considered not attending his own election night party, suggesting that he and his family and friends watch the primary results on television.  He wanted to invite the media to join them at (director John) Frankenheimer’s home.  Because the television networks refused to haul their equipment out to Malibu, Kennedy reluctantly decided to go into Los Angeles to await the election returns. At 7:15 PM, Senator Kennedy, accompanied by Frankenheimer and other members of the campaign staff, left Malibu and sped downtown in Frankenheimer’s Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III to the Ambassador Hotel for the election night party. At the hotel, Kennedy and several key staffers had reserved suites on the fifth floor. With the election still in doubt and Kennedy running behind, he went to his suite and remained there, hoping for the tide to turn.”

Again, Schrade was vehement that RFK was not at the Bilmore the day of his speech at the Ambassador. “This has been confirmed by the Frankenheimers and campaign manager Fred Dutton,” Schrade emailed. “There was no election rally at the Biltmore or any other location. The car in the photo is not Frankenheimer’s car.”

I’ve asked Mr. Schrade if he could elaborate and so far he hasn’t responded back. He did not volunteer before when and where he thought the candid shots were taken, and others have come up blank as well about the details. Nobody knows whose car RFK was in or the identities of those with them. Speculation it might’ve been a young John Kerry or future Colorado Gov. Timothy Wirth, who evidently both worked on the Kennedy campaign, have been generally debunked by surviving confidantes and former journalists. (I was 6 at the time.)

But I have questions and lots of them in the battle of the memories of the two Pauls.

My brother, a USC undergrad then, is sure he took those photographs of RFK just outside the Biltmore Hotel, probably looking north on Grand Avenue, VERY shortly before Sirhan Sirhan’s  reprehensible bullets flew. Paul had just wrapped up work at his part-time job at the L.A. County Dept. of Probation when he ran smack into the car-bound presidential candidate as he fist-pumped supporters, dealt with some media and conversed with aides (or in one shot, appear to fix something on a staffer’s jacket.) I re-intereviewed him after Schrade contacted me, and my brother was certain that if the photograph wasn’t snapped on the afternoon of June 4, it was the day before (and thus about 31 hours before the killing) and no later than that. Paul said in his heart that he still believes he clicked the shutter button on June 4 because he remembered being so emotionally obliterated the next morning learning about RFK’s death so close to when he captured him through his lens. It hadn’t been days, that’s for sure, no matter what the chatter today claims.

For those who believe my brother, over the passage and vicous haze of time, conflated June 1968 with April 1968, when RFK gave a well-known speech at the Bitlmore (here’s a Q&A with him following that speech.) Paul, a RFK supporter and a photo-bug, was 100 percent positive he took his picture in June!

So who was in the car? What time of day was it? Where was RFK going? Why were the media around him? Why hasn’t this cleared up? Are there secrets still out there? What is to say that after leaving Malibu, but before going to the Ambassador, RFK swung by the Biltmore? Was he there the day before? It’s not that long a distance from the Biltmore downtown to the Ambassador on Mid-Wilshire.

History changed dramatically after the events at the Ambassador far beyond the political ramifications of Nixon taking the White House. The Secret Service began providing protection to presidential candidates after this murder of a second Kennedy. Mind-boggling, preposterous and dangerous as it was not to give them security before, no one questioned it later. To read up about this after-the-fact policy, click for this NPR story. Excerpt:

“… Kennedy had several bodyguards with him, including football star Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier, as he addressed a crowd gathered to support his bid for the White House. But there were no Secret Service agents present because before 1968, their services weren’t afforded to presidential candidates … ’We only had 547 agents at that time,” (Special Agent Edwin) Donovan says. “We already had the president and the vice president and their families to protect, so that made it even a smaller number of agents to draw from.’”

So who is right here, Paul Jacobs or Paul Schrade? I’m putting my faith with my brother, but neither of us are being doctrinaire on whether it was June 3 or June 4 when the pictures were taken. Paul Jacobs just thinks it was June 4, closer to the killing, that he captured the face of the man that might’ve helped us build an America without horrid ties to Laos, Cambodia, Watergate plumbers and perpetual partisanship.

If anybody has thoughts or can answer my questions or might be able to interpret the photos better than amateur me, please contact me at chip@chipjacobs.com

Robert Kennedy in L.A. hours before his assassination at the Ambassador Hotel: never seen-before photograph No. 2 captured by my big brother when he stumbled on RFK’s motorcade downtown during that fateful summer of 1968 as a USC undergrad

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

For the story behind this photograph and the earlier one we posted here yesterday, click on this link. To watch clips of Kennedy’s Ambassador speech and the pandemonium that erupted after his shooting, click here for L.A. Observed post ‘s post.

This picture is owned and copy-written by Paul G. Jacobs and any use of it in any way without express written permission is prohibited!

Way off the enviro trail: Robert Kennedy on the campaign hustings in downtown L.A. in a heretofore unpublished photograph taken hours before he was murdered.

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

You never know in this life when you’re about to become a witness to tragic history before it occurs.

Such was the circumstance for my older brother, Paul Jacobs, who found himself face to face with American political royalty– a man who might’ve spared us from the last phase of Vietnam and the enduring cynicism of Watergate — had he not been in the kitchen of the old Ambassador Hotel roughly seven hours later on June 5, 1968 by Palestinian immigrant Sirhan Sirhan.

Senator Robert Kennedy (D-New York) was running for president of the United States and in L.A. on a campaign stop at the time. We all know how that election turned out after RFK was killed. Nixon trounced Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey 301 electoral votes to 191.

My big brother was a twenty-one-year-old USC undergrad and Robert Kennedy supporter when this picture of the fist-pumping senator and former U.S. Attorney General was taken on election day. I was six, less concerned with White House occupants and sixties culture wars than playing “Army” with my plastic soldiers whose heads my dog liked to gnaw.

Paul was working part-time then as a statistician for the Los Angeles County Probation Dept. A photo bug, he had his trusty Nikkormat 35 mm SLR with him when he went outside just west of the Biltmore Hotel around 5 P.M. and saw Robert Kennedy’s motorcade idling after Kennedy emerged from the Bilmore. Paul got close enough, maybe 15 feet away, for this poignant picture, which in a sense is disturbing considering the way his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, was shot in Dallas and the events awaiting RFK less than half a day away on Wilshire Boulevard.

At any rate, the world — which has thousands of thousands, if not millions of Kennedy photographs circulating — has never seen this candid picture nor its companion one that will run soon. Just by chance, Paul had a front row seat to history before yet another assassination, another flash of a bullet, destroyed what might’ve been.

In studying every detail of this magnificent and depressing picture, which may have been taken on sloping Grand Avenue, I still marvel at Robert Kennedy’s determined expression that seemed to say to believers, “I got your back.” I can only wonder what the man who appears to be a Secret Service agent in front of the car is hollering.

<strong>This picture is owned and copy-written by Paul G. Jacobs and any use of it in any way without express written permission is prohibited! </strong>

It’s now only seeing the light of day 42 years later.

* L.A Observed post on this photograph.

The smog-nuclear connection: thicker than you might think

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

As the world waits eagerly for Japan’s quake-ravaged, tsunami-swamped nuclear-power plant to come back under control, it’s worthwhile to take a step back in time to an age when Cold War apprehensions about radioactive fallout intertwined with everyday aggravations about Southern California’s air pollution epidemic.

We detail and highlight some of the many facets about the intersection of cell-mutating isotopes and lung-scarring aerosols in our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles.

Among other interesting morsels from the chronicle:

* In the paranoid 1950s, the Eisenhower Administration buffaloed officials at the forerunner of today’s South Coast Air Quality Management District, Los Angeles County’s Air Pollution Control District (APCD), to perform airborne monitoring not just of tailpipe emissions but of radioactive particles drifting from above-ground nuclear weapon tests in the Nevada desert. Ike’s White House was so serious about this new role for West Coast smog police that APCD staffers were required to undergo mandatory training at the U.S. Navy’s “Radiological Defense School” in San Fransisco. Few enjoyed it.

* The sampling ignited a provocative question: how more dangerous would the air be in the event of an ICBM attack on Los Angeles during a particularly smoggy day? Some Navy scientists hypothesized that our hydrocarbon-drenched air might, counterintuitively, be a blessing in atomic war, suggesting that the smog-component ozone might block up to 86 percent of the radiat heat that would otherwise blast the area.

* APCD suits were dragged again into America’s fledgling nuclear debate when Los Angeles City Hall, eying power demand spikes as the city population bulged, proposed construction of a 500,000-kilowatt nuclear power plant near Los Angeles County’s northern boundary. Asked for an analysis of possible dangers, air quality officials said the site was too dangerous. A substantial release of radioactive materials, they concluded, would, as we paraphrase in Smogtown, “burp a stagnant atomic thunderhead lashing Saugus, Newhall and surrounding population centers as far as forty-five miles away from ground zero. No matter the elaborate safety precautions against a runaway reactor or coolant leak, it was just too much of a chance.” Los Angeles, in the end, opted to search for other power sources.

There’s much more in the book about how the Cold War/national security culture and the dawning of ”peaceful” nuclear power coexisted, separated and then reconnected with ever-changing smog in our understanding of aerborne toxics.

An expert (and smog sufferer) vents at Republicans efforts to weaken the Clean Air Act that helped our mountains reappear and our lungs to recover

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

This foreful and provocative blog post comes from Char Miller, Director and W.M. Keck Professor of Environmental Analysis at Pomona College, and editor of the just-published “Cities and Nature in the American West.” He comments every Wednesday at 2 p.m. on environmental issues.

“The postcard on my desk is almost 40 years old. Angelenos of a certain age will recognize it–a wide-angled, aerial shot of the downtown core of Los Angeles and its then, much-more modest skyline. Framed by the intersection of the Santa Monica and Harbor freeways, the whole scene is muffled in a brown smear of smog. Barely visible in the deep background, just poking above the thick toxic stew, is a snow-capped Mt. Baldy, the tallest of the San Gabriels. Reads the arch caption: “Greetings from Los Angeles.”

I first spotted the card in the fall of 1972 when I came to Southern California to attend Pitzer College, and immediately sent a steady stream of them to family and friends back east. They got its black humor, which I reinforced when I confessed (and perhaps bragged) that my dorm room was within five miles of Mt. Baldy, yet I almost never saw its bold face.

Now I see it every day, often with stunning clarity, as if the entire range was etched out of a blue true dream of sky. How strange, then, that Republicans in Congress are maneuvering to gut the Clean Air Act, stop the EPA from regulating Greenhouse gases, and, in a special affront to Los Angeles, roll back the federal agency’s ability to monitor tailpipe emissions. It’s enough to make you gasp for air.

Their regressive political agenda, designed to savage public health, ought to infuriate any who lived–and suffered–through the dark-sky years that hung over SoCal like a pall. It took decades of fierce struggle on the local, state, and national levels to build the political capital and legislative clout needed to write the binding regulations, a battle that began in the late 1940s and which is richly chronicled in Chip Jacobs’ and William J. Kelly’s Smogtown (2008).

It took just as long to create and fund the federal Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and the local South Coast Air Quality Management District (1976). Neither organization had an easy birth: President Nixon created the EPA with reluctance and under considerable pressure; and Governor Ronald Reagan twice vetoed the creation of SCAQMD, which only came into being with a stroke of Governor Jerry Brown’s pen. We have blue skies–when we have them–only because of the robust regulatory regime that emerged out of this fraught politics of smog.

We need to remember this history as well because nothing else accounts for the steady uptick in Southern California’s air quality. After all, what my vintage postcard, in its didactic back text, asserts were the central contributing factors to the region’s then-poisonous air, remains true: “Millions of people driving millions of cars plus temperature inversion provide Los Angeles with a near perfect environment for the production and containment of photochemical smog.” One result of this disturbing mix of technology and meteorology, it warns, is that the “LA Basin inversion acts as a giant lid over the smog, inhabitants and visitors.”

(more…)

Japan’s nuclear crisis: get educated, not hysterical.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

* L.A. Times: Within days, nuclear radiation released from Japan’s damaged Fukushima reactors could reach California, but experts say the amount that makes its way across the ocean should pose no danger.

* Are the nuke plant workers on a suicide mission to cool the reactors before they all melt down? Chilling reading from the New York Times. ” … They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air. They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies …”

* America’s most vulnerable nuclear-energy plants are in places NOT named California. From MSNBC: ”What are the odds that a nuclear emergency like the one at Fukushima Dai-ichi could happen in the central or eastern United States? They’d have to be astronomical, right? As a pro-nuclear commenter on msnbc.com put it this weekend, “There’s a power plant just like these in Omaha. If it gets hit by a tsunami….” It turns out that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has calculated the odds of an earthquake causing catastrophic failure to a nuclear plant here. Each year, at the typical nuclear reactor in the U.S., there’s a 1 in 74,176 chance that the core could be damaged by an earthquake, exposing the public to radiation. No tsunami required. That’s 10 times more likely than you winning $10,000 by buying a ticket in the Powerball multistate lottery, where the chance is 1 in 723,145 …”

* Youtube clip on the after-effects of Chernobyl. So far, the situation in Japan is nowhere near as severe. Still, we must never forget what faulty design, human error and totalitarian rule conspired to ignite: the world’s worst atomic-energy disater. Caution: graphic images in this video.

The case of the curious engineer and the inexplicably functioning lungs of smog-bessoted mice

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Note to readers: one of the unexpected treats of running a blog derived from a book about a whopper of a subject is learning how the work provokes in-depth curiosity and contemplation among experts who know the subject far better than the authors do. Sometimes as a book-writer you can only broach and present an issue and have to move on without a complete examination of it, lest you drown in cascading details. But the scientific minded don’t think that way, thank goodness. They never rest until they get their answer.

Ross Caballero is one of those people who read Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles and sunk his teeth into an important medical study deserving fuller attention than the book or newspapers at the time afforded it. Tapping his intellectual curiosity, he sought out to learn the results of a well-publicized study examining how lab animals reacted to L.A. air pollution – a topic that first provoked his interest decades earlier driving on the Hollywood Freeway — and discovered a counterintuitive, head-scratching conclusion just like the old researchers once did. The health consequences of air pollution fluctuate widely from organism to organism. Don’t underestimate the effects of genetics and biological defenses. And never assume anything.

So, it’s with pride and excitement that we present our first guest blogger, who not only made his patient pursuit informative. He made it entertaining and compelling. You can contact Ross at rosscaballero@cs.com

I recently read the book, Smogtown, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The book discusses animal exposure studies done in the 1960s, which were conducted to assess adverse health effects of exposure to smog, and provides a footnote citing a Los Angeles Times article describing the then-underway tests.

That piqued my interest and set me off on a journey to learn more about the testing.  What I discovered is very interesting, and I want to share it with you.

But first, who am I, and why would I have any interest in this subject?  My name is Ross Caballero.  I am a retired engineer having worked in a variety of engineering fields: aerospace, civil, environmental, and chemical.  I spent the last approximate 20 years of my 40 year career working on issues dealing with air pollution, and I grew up in the Los Angeles area when smog was really, really bad.  One of the test sites mentioned in your book where animal exposure studies were conducted was in buildings located in the median of the Hollywood Freeway near Vermont Ave.  I drove by that facility many times in the 1960s and knew that some kind of animal studies were underway but never knew the details.  I was always intrigued as to “What’s going on in there?”  And yet I can never remember any newspaper article about what the test results were.  After reading your book, I decided to answer my question.

After spending a lot of time looking through the Los Angeles Times historical archives I was able to locate an additional seven articles that described the animal exposure tests.  All of the articles discuss the studies as either as-proposed or now-underway.  No article discusses any results.  Some of the articles mention names of researchers involved in one way or another with the study, most of whom were faculty members or researchers associated with the USC School of Medicine.  Searching the Los Angeles Times archives for other articles containing those names came up empty.  Looking at the USC School of Medicine’s Norris Library on-line data bases, I was unable to find any reference to any of the subject faculty/researchers concerning this study.

I was flummoxed.  This was a really big study.  It involved testing thousand of animals.  It had to have cost a huge amount of money.  It got a lot of publicity as it was planned and as it was being initially implemented.  Then, nothing after May 1964.  This story disappeared off the radar.  Why?

(more…)

Your authors will be appearing on a terrific new radio series airing on KPFK titled, “Air Check: Petroleum and Pollution from a Community Perspective”

Monday, March 14th, 2011

It’s being produced by Hear in the City in conjuction with Newdesk.org’s Toxic Tour project.” Our segement airs today (March 14) at 2 P.M. PST. Sara Harris is the lead journalist here. You can listen live at this link for KPFK (90.7-FM)

Here’s the show’s teaser:

“This series brings people affected by some of the most persistent point-source air pollution in the city to the forefront of a conversation about air quality and environmental justice. From the oilfields of the solidly middle-class, Black, Baldwin Hills neighborhood, to the working-class Latino families who live along the 710 Freeway corridor, in LAUSD schools sited dangerously close to freeways and using outdated diesel buses, and with community groups working with industry to demand tougher air regulations at the Ports of Los Angeles, Air Check would actively engage disproportionately impacted communities instead of using their stories to pepper news copy or spark one-off outrage that quickly fades away. We’ve chosen these communities to report with because scant media attention is paid to the air pollution they deal with daily. Rarely, if ever, do we hear who is working to change the situation and how.”

We’re flattered and proud to assist in this series, and hope our book, Smogtown: the Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles, shed a little light where there was once just noxious, brown atmospheric chaff.

From China to Chinatown: selective retention roundup

Monday, March 7th, 2011

* China is supposedly changing its stripes, from the dark red of capitalistic communism to some yet to be determined shade of green. The world’s fastest growing economy is on an energy conservation kick. Hard to believe, but here’s the New York Times story (color us skeptical): “… Bejing’s emphasis on saving energy reflects concerns about national security and the effects of high fuel costs on inflation, China’s export competitiveness and the country’s pollution problems. Any energy policy moves by Beijing hold global implications, given that China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy and largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And even the new efficiency goals assume that China’s overall energy consumption will grow, to meet the needs of the nation’s 1.3 billion people and its rapidly expanding economy …”

* Not depressed enough? Read up on a little apocalyptic scriptline called “potential mass extinction” from the destruction of endangered species. USA Today story tidbit: “… The IUCN lists 18,351 species on its “Red List of Threatened Species,” considered the global standard for the conservation status of animal and plant species. All are at risk based on current and projected habitat loss or destruction due to human encroachment and climate change. Of those, 1,940 are listed as critically endangered, meaning the species’ numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations …”

* The Southern California Physician Magazine, which is associated with the venerable Los Angeles County Medical Association, has a long and worthwhile story about smog and health in its April edition. It begins with the lead anecdote from our book, and examines the grim air-pollution health realities, such as we know them. There’s also an extremely informative sidebar about the different sorts of emissions we face here in the basin. From the article: “… The most telling new study, however, is one released just this year from the RAND Corporation. Entitled “The Impact of Air Quality on Hospital Spending,” the study found that in failing to meet federal air quality standards over the years 2005-2007, California incurred an estimated 29,808 preventable hospital admissions and emergency room visits. Even more daunting in this era of escalating health care costs, the authors—John A. Romley, Andrew Hackbarth, and Dana P. Goldman—found that the additional hospital care cost health care purchasers and insurers $193.2 million. Medicare alone spent $103.6 million on air pollution-related hospital care during the course of the study (see “Air Pollution–Related Hospital Events and Charges”) …”

* Spot.us, a community funded news organization, will soon be starting a radio series about L.A. smog and its nexus with oil production and other factors in concert with newdesk.org. We’ll be blogging more about this terrific show — “Air Check” on the program “Hear in the City” — as the installments run. The lead journalist, Sara Harris, has been reading our book and recently interviewed us. Don’t call us the enviro James Ellroy for nothing! Please listen to the show on KPFK.