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Immigrants find help in fat-food nation

Paige Parker, Portland Oregonian
The women mastering new recipes in this North Portland church kitchen say they can measure their time in America by the inches and pounds their families have gained.

In some ways, it’s a case of too much of a good thing. These women enjoy easy access to transportation, leaving little reason to walk off calories. They’ve found housing, but in neighborhoods lacking sidewalks or located miles from safe parks. And the United States offers plenty of affordable food, but it’s high in fat.

“In Mexico, my kids ate vegetables very easily,” says Adriana Miranda Romero. “Here, they do not want to eat vegetables.”
(18 January 2008)

Fury as fuel poverty soars close to a 10-year record

Tim Webb, The Observer,
One in six British households is living in fuel poverty, the highest for almost a decade, according to new figures that threaten the government’s target to eradicate the problem in England by the end of the decade.

Fuel poverty is defined as when a household spends more than a tenth of its income on utility bills. The consumer group Energywatch said yesterday there are now about 4.4 million of these in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone.

Charities and other groups, led by the Association for the Conservation of Energy, are preparing a legal challenge in the next few weeks to force the government to meet the 2010 target, to which it is committed by law.

The figures came at the end of a week in which the UK’s largest energy supplier, British Gas, said it was increasing bills by 15 per cent. This month EDF Energy and Npower raised prices by up to 27 per cent, and two-thirds of British households will have to pay higher tariffs. Other suppliers are likely to follow suit soon.
(20 January 2008)

Plan for radio-controlled thermostats nixed

Brandon Lowrey, Contra Costa Times
‘Big Brother’ fears, criticism lead energy panel to drop proposal

Amid widespread criticism and fear of “Big Brother” increasingly controlling Californians’ lives, a state panel has dropped a plan that would have let utility companies use radio signals to dictate the temperature in residents’ homes.

The California Energy Commission, in a bid to cut energy use during peak times or emergencies, had proposed forcing residents to install programmable thermostats that utilities could remotely control.

“What’s the next step?” quipped state Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, one of several politicians who shot down the proposal within days of its inception. “They’re going to put cameras in your house because they think they can cut down on domestic violence?”

If “they” had put microphones around the San Fernando Valley, they might have heard some acerbic words from residents who bristled at the thought of invasive technology and governmental policy.
(17 January 2008)
A rather bizarre proposal, sure to raise people’s paranoia. On the other hand, the alternative may be worse: load-shedding with brown-outs and black-outs. There are no good answers if we lack the social discipline to reduce electrical loads voluntarily. -BA

Some say bulbs threaten environment

Hether Keels, Herald-Mail
Release of toxic mercury in landfills could diminish any positive outcomes

Amid a torrent of customer backlash against a new energy conservation surcharge, some pollution experts are saying the charge wasn’t the only factor Allegheny Power officials didn’t think through before mailing out 440,000 energy-efficient light bulbs.

Without a convenient drop-off point or mail-in program for the used bulbs, many of them will end up in local landfills, where the release of the toxic mercury they contain could diminish the environmental gains associated with conserving energy, said Michael Bender, director of the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project, a public-interest organization that aims to reduce mercury pollution.

…Still, a better solution would be a light bulb that conserves energy without the use of mercury, but that technology is at least five years away, Bender said.
(12 Jan 2008)