Friday, April 8, 2011

REBEL NEWS: Burlington at the Brink

“One thing always to remember in politics is that it takes a long time to overcome inertia, and that, when it has been overcome, it takes an equally long time to stop momentum.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

With election of the first black president the political inertia that set in during the Bush years was clearly overcome. But the momentum of that election has also created the deepest, possibly most dangerous polarization the country has seen in decades. Just a thought…

Burlington: Time for a Change (again)

A tax increase was recently rejected, but another vote, as well as service cuts, may be on the way. So says Mayor Bob Kiss. Burlington Telecom threatens the city’s economic standing and local residents are unhappy about the mayor’s proposed partnership with military contractor Lockheed Martin. Is the city’s progressive era over? At a neighborhood meeting on April 7, a spokesman from the city’s Community and Economic Development Office called the relationship between Lockheed and weapons “unfortunate” but claimed that Burlington is just “entering into a conversation” and nothing is certain at this point. The City Council is meanwhile looking into community standards for such public-private agreements.

Sounds like a start. But Burlington is heading toward a political reckoning next March. To preserve its reputation, stability and unique character it looks as if the city’s current progressive leadership will have to be replaced, hopefully with a forward-looking new team and a new vision of sustainability and democracy.

NATIONAL SCENE

The CIA’s Excellent Libyan Adventure

Evidence is mounting that the Libyan rebels fighting the regime of Muammar Gaddafi are under the direction of US intelligence agencies. Despite repeated claims by Obama officials that the rebels are a largely unknown quantity, it has become clear that key military leaders of the anti-Gaddafi campaign are well known to the US government and have longstanding ties with the CIA.

For two weeks in March there was a ban in the US media on reporting the name of Khalifa Haftar, the long-time CIA collaborator who was appointed chief rebel commander March 17 – on the eve of the US-NATO bombing campaign against Libya. Haftar founded the Libyan National Army on June 21, 1988 with backing from the Central Intelligence Agency. For the last 20 years, he has been living quietly in Virginia before returning to Benghazi to lead the fight against Gaddafi.

So, did the US get into this to back a revolution or take control of it?

Water Woes

The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant said this week that it has found radioactive iodine at 7.5 million times the legal limit in a seawater sample taken near the facility. In response Government officials imposed a new health limit for radioactivity in fish. On Thursday, a pair of 7 plus earthquakes struck off Japan's devastated northeast coast within a minute of each other. Another Tsunami threatened and people were told to move away from the coast.

Research indicates that a 3-foot rise in global sea level by the end of this century is very possible. Studies show that changes in ocean circulation driven by warming waters could raise sea levels another foot or more along New England shores.

Right now, 65 acres of prime Massachusetts coastal real estate is swallowed by the sea every year. While more land will be eaten away, storm surges ¬and abnormal rises of water during severe weather ¬ layered on top of higher seas could push much further inland, especially in flat coastal areas of New England, and oceanside homes will be even more vulnerable. Some scientists say that climate change may also bring fiercer and more frequent storms.

Sweet and Healthy

Here’s a little good news. Pure maple syrup is good for you. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island have identified 54 compounds in maple syrup, double the amount previously reported, many with antioxidant activity and potential health benefits. In studies, they acted as anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory agents. Initial studies also suggest that maple compounds may inhibit enzymes relevant in Type 2 diabetes management.

Disease Clusters

At least 42 disease clusters have occurred in 13 US states since 1976, according to a report by environmentalists. "Communities all around the country struggle with unexplained epidemics of cancers, birth defects and neurological diseases," said one of the report’s co-authors, Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. The authors plan to identify disease clusters in all 50 states but focused their initial work on 13: Texas, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas.

FEEDBACK

Commenting on my novel Spirits of Desire, a reader wrote recently: “Some people ‘see’ the other realities created by those who we consider to be previous lives, but actually there is no time, just now, and we construct time as an explanation of the linear perspective. If more people could visit simultaneous points in reality, we could be in more than one place at a time; our minds limit that to help keep our sanity. As our construct has ‘evolved’ we have limited more and more of our perspectives so much that now we only comprehend everything as linear, and not coincidental. From our first birth moment we are taught to think in time, and that incorrect teaching moment distorts everything in our lives.” Thanks but you’re blowing my mind.

WANT THAT JOB? ANSWER THIS…

It’s rough out there, at least five candidates for every opening. And some of the people who do the hiring are using unusual tactics to narrow the field. The intrepid researchers at the career site Glassdoor.com have gone through thousands of questions mentioned by job seekers. Apparently, interviewers are often more interested in how people respond – their thought process and whether they remain calm – than a so-called "correct" response. So, here are some the oddest interview questions of the past year.

Let’s begin with one from Facebook: "Given the numbers 1 to 1,000, what is the minimum number of guesses needed to find a specific number, if you are given the hint 'higher' or 'lower' for each guess you make?"

It’s easy actually. The answer is that The MINIMUM number of guesses needed would be 1. You could always guess correctly the first time. The maximum would be a different question entirely.

How about this, from Capital One: "Using a scale of 1 to 10, rate yourself on how weird you are." As weird as the next person, about average, enough to get by? Whoa, what’s 1, least or most weird?

PricewaterhouseCoopers, the insurance company, asked one of its candidates: "How many balloons would fit in this room?" If it's the right size, just one. Another way to go: that would depend on if they were inflated, not to mention the size and capacity of the balloons.

The geniuses at Goldman Sachs asked a prospective master of the universe this brain zapper: "If you were shrunk to the size of a pencil and put in a blender, how would you get out?"

Epic Systems tested the logic skills of its candidates with this: "You have a bouquet of flowers. All but two are roses, all but two are daisies, and all but two are tulips. How many flowers do you have?" One person answered: If you assume there is an answer, could be 3. But it’s hard to know from the available data.

Here are a few more:

AFLAC: "What is the philosophy of martial arts?"

Boston Consulting: "Explain to me what has happened in this country during the last 10 years."

AT&T: "If you could be any superhero, which one would you be?"

IBM: "How do you weigh an elephant without using a scale?" Possible answer: Ask 1000 random people to estimate how much the elephant weighs. The average of their guesses will be close to the true weight. It’s called the wisdom of crowds.

Amazon tested some applicants with this one: "If you had 5,623 participants in a tournament, how many games would need to be played to determine the winner?" Possible answer: One. All other games only determine who will play in the final game.

Ebay, another online mega-company, went with this: "You have five bottles of pills. One bottle has 9 gram pills, the others have 10 gram pills. You have a scale that can be used only once. How can you find out which bottle contains the 9 gram pills?" How about opening the bottles

Microsoft: "How would you market ping pong balls if ping pong itself became obsolete? List many ways, then pick one and go into detail."

Google: "How many smartphones are there in New York City?"

Apple: "You have three boxes. One contains only apples, one contains only oranges, and one contains both apples and oranges. The boxes have been incorrectly labeled so that no label accurately identifies the contents of any of the boxes. Opening just one box, and without looking inside, you take out one piece of fruit. By looking at the fruit, how can you immediately label all of the boxes correctly?" Answer: label them all fruit.

Many of these questions need more data for a real answer, but the point of some is to see how well you're paying attention. Many simply illustrate if you can think outside the box. In most cases, the idea is to gauge the reaction to the questions. If you lose your cool, how will you handle the unexpected on the job? If you walk out of an interview because of such questions it probably reveals something about you to the interviewer. The person who stays automatically has a better chance at the job. So, the correct answer is to stay cool.\

That’s it for this week. Next week: a look at the labor movement.
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