All posts by Paul

Belo Monte dam construction halted by Brazilian court

‘A Great Victory’: Controversial Brazilian Dam Construction Halted

Brazilian Federal court finds Belo Monte hydro-electric dam licenses invalid, indigenous peoples were not consulted

A victory came to activists in Brazil on Tuesday when a federal judge halted construction on the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon, saying that the indigenous peoples had not been consulted.

The impacts of the dam, which would have been the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world, had long been slammed by indigenous groups and environmental activists who said that it would have displaced thousands and wreaked havoc upon the ecosystem while contributing to greenhouse gases.

When the Brazilian Congress gave approval for the dam in 2005, there were no consultations with the indigenous peoples about the environmental impacts, a fact that Judge Souza Prudente found in violation of the Brazilian Constitution.

“A study on the environmental impact of the project was required before, not after, work on the dam started. The legislation is flawed,” Judge Souza Prudente told O Globo newspaper.

“The Brazilian Congress must take into account the decisions taken by the indigenous communities. Legislators can only give the go-ahead if the indigenous communities agree with the project,” he said.

Souza Prudente remarked at a press conference that “only in a dictatorial regime does a government approve a project before holding consultations.”

Indigenous groups lauded the court ruling. “It’s a historic decision for the country and for the native communities,” said Antonia Melo, coordinator of the Xingu Vivo indigenous movement.

“It’s a great victory which shows that Belo Monte is not a done deal. We are very happy and satisfied.”

Zachary Hurwitz of International Rivers writes that “the decision supports the arguments that the affected tribes have been making over the lifetime of Belo Monte: tribes will face downstream livelihood impacts as a result of a reduction in the flow of the Xingu River on the 100-km stretch known as the Volta Grande or ‘Big Bend,’ and were never properly consulted, much less gave their consent.”

Hurwitz adds that the economic rationale dam proponents pushed is fundamentally flawed. “Economic rationale for the dam is based on a projected economic growth of 5% or more a year, but over the past few quarters, GDP has been lucky to grow at even a measly rate. As far as Belo Monte’s importance to Brazil’s economic race, this is really a case of the horse following the wagon.”

“And, as illustrated by this historic court decision, the wagon has been trampling on indigenous people and their rights, along the way,” writes Hurwitz.
SOURCE – via White Wolf.

A crystal pyramid in the Bermuda Triangle?

Is it real?

Suddenly this thing pops up all over the internet. A crystal pyramid, that reportedly has appeared or been discovered on a deep sea investigation about 2000 metres under the surface of the ocean in the area of the Bermuda Triangle. The person who discovered it is named “oceanographer Dr. Verlag Meyer”. I did a search online for this person, and found nothing, except the reference to this alleged crystal pyramid. Not very surprising, since ‘verlag’ is not exactly a name, but the German word for ‘publisher’ (German Wikipedia, scroll down and see where the English link points to if you are curious. Hint:

Meyer Verlag, by the way, is an existing publishing company in Germany (the town of Aachen to be exact). Perhaps they are grateful for the free advertising, I have not asked them. Perhaps they are not even aware of it, as they are publishers for sports of all kinds.

Still, even if this pyramid does not exist (or does not have more profound scientific proof)… Think of it. A large structure somewhere hidden under water or sand, that can trigger all kinds of strange phenomena as those reported from the Bermuda Triangle. Because, despite all the info about the pyramid, that is what this all boils down to: something that causes all these things. I am not making statements of truth or lie, but the idea itself is really intriguing.

If you want to learn more about the pyramid (mostly from believers), visit one or more of the following websites:

Carl Sagan – You Are Here (Pale Blue Dot)

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

Where to Find the Best Tea in Seattle

(This post originally appeared on Lipsweater and is reproduced with permission.)

If you got a chance to read my last post, you’d realize I’m a bit of a tea geek.

Part of being a tea geek is trying all the tea purveyors and experiences that you can find around town. An epic Seattle coffee geek post from Jonathon Colman inspired me to come up with my tea short list, so let’s get drinkin’!

(Disclaimer: I’m more of an “eastern” tea fan and that’s what you’ll see in this list. Still trying to warm up to western tea; give me more time!)

New Century Tea Gallery

New Century Tea Gallery

“A float down the Yangtze River in the Emerald City.”

Location: 416 Maynard Avenue South, Seattle

Personal brew time: You’ll spend at least 1 hour here. And arrive with an empty bladder.

This is a true Chinese tea experience where the owner will offer you to sit down for a personal tasting. She’ll continue to pour you tea until you turn your cup upside down or you pee your pants. (I’ve had a few close calls. Good thing the bathroom is two seconds away.) The tasting is free, but you’ll probably want to buy some loose-leaf tea afterwards as a courtesy. (Not hard to do because the tea there is delicious!) Pro tip: ask about their Pu-er (pronounced “poo AIR”… seriously, and it tastes nothing like, um… at least, I don’t imagine it does).

Teahouse Kuan Yin

Teahouse Kuan Yin

“A coffeehouse for tea lovers.”

Location: 1911 N 45th St, Seattle

Personal brew time: 2 hours or 8, there’s enough tea and open wifi to keep you cranking through your work.

Psst. Secret: this is my favorite work-day escape. It’s just like a coffeehouse–but all tea and more varietals than you can possibly taste. Order fresh-brewed loose leaf tea in a pot, sit, boot up your laptop, and enjoy for hours. BONUS! Delicious, wholesome soups, quiche, rice, and vegetarian dishes on hand to feed you at every meal.

Panama Hotel teahouse manju

Panama Hotel Teahouse

“A teahouse with a preserved history.”

Location: 605 S Main St., Seattle

Personal brew time: Less than 2 hours. It’s a neat hideaway, but the premium-priced tea and food will keep you from making it your office away from the office.

A historic hotel-turned-B&B with an awesome tea opportunity. The quality is excellent. They even offer manju, a work of art as a Japanese sweet. (Note: this place tends to be a little pricier, but it’s worth it.) Tip: the iced sencha paired with the green tea cookie make a tasty diversion for green tea lovers.

Seattle Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Ceremony

“The shortest route to Japan from Seattle.”

Location: 1075 Lake Washington Boulevard East, Seattle

Personal brew time: 1 hour for the ceremony, but plan on 2 hours to include a leisurely walk through the beautiful Japanese garden.

If you’re looking for the most authentic and historic tea experience you can get your hands on in Seattle, this is it! Arrive early for a true Japanese tea ceremony experience: walk through the gardens to relax your mind. Purchase your $5 tickets ahead of time and reserve a place to actually participate in a ceremony. (After paying $6 for entry to the garden, you’ll pay $11 in total.) In addition to a sweet and a bowl of matcha tea, you also get to sit in a traditional tea house imported from Japan! (Be sure you buy a ticket for the chado presentation.)

Zen Dog Tea Gallery

Zen Dog Tea Gallery

“A personal tea presentation from an urban zen master.”

Location: 2015 Northwest 85th Street, Seattle

Personal brew time: 30 minutes is enough time for a taste of one or two teas and browsing the collection of Asian art.

It’s literally in a home converted to an artist studio and Asian curio shop in the middle of a neighborhood. You can’t miss the location–the exterior has Chinese accents and red lanterns dancing in the trees. Larry, the shop owner, is an architect-turned-zen master. Way cool guy. Very welcoming and definitely knows how to sell his tea. (His tea sources are very trustworthy, too!)

Floating Leaves Tea

Floating Leaves Tea

“The local favorite.”

Location: 1704 Northwest Market Street, Seattle

Personal brew time: You’ll have to tell me. ;)

I’ve never been here but it’s been on my list of places to try. I consistently hear from my tea friends that it’s one of the best places to go, so try it out and tell me what you think!


Cafe Cesura

Cafe Cesura

“My Eastside home base.”

Location: 1015 108th Avenue Northeast, Bellevue

Personal brew time: Stay for a few minutes or for hours. I usually hang out here at least 3 hours when I stop by to work.

Cafe Cesura is unique from the above in that it’s 1) outside of Seattle and 2) it has an equal focus on coffee. I love this place because it’s more convenient for me being an Eastsider and, although they also sell coffee, they just get tea rightin ways most coffeehouses don’t. Take one look at Cafe Cesura’s Facebook page – regular postings, interacting with fans, copious free tea tasting events – and you know Shawn (the owner) is passionate about appreciating tea.

Whew! There’s a great starting place. Have you tried other tea places around the greater Seattle area? Did I miss any? Let me know–or better yet, invite me out for a cup with you.

The need for speed.

How did the world turn into such a race track? And before you think I speak riddles: I mean motorways, freeways, Autobahn. Fill in the name depending on where you are.

If you have a car, how fast do you drive? And why do you drive it at that speed? Do you stick to the speed limit because faster is an offence? Do you go over the speed limit because it is a thrill? Or because you will be on time if you do? Or do you drive a lot slower?

I drive slowly. My speed on the motorway usually averages that of trucks. 80 to 85km/hour, about 55 or so mph. Is that slow? Sure, why not? People told me that there’s no fun in driving that slowly. It takes so long to get somewhere, all others are overtaking you, yadda yadda yadda.

Yesterday I did an experiment. I drove 120km/hour, about 78mph. Guess what? All but 2 cars overtook me. Right, that takes care of the argument that others overtake me, they do so anyway because they like to race like madmen, and of course madwomen. Well, with regular petrol only costing €1.82 per litre (think around $8.50 a gallon), what’s against that, right? It’s a cheap enough drive then.

My car is an eco-car. A Toyota Auris Full Hybrid. When I drive it the way I do now, I get almost 25km to the litre, about 60 miles per gallon. Works for me. The time I spend is my own, no one else’s, so that works for me too. And I get to see a lot more because I don’t race around like a fool, pushing to be in the rat race, going faster to do more, to be there in time, to do what the big lugs of the global economy expect everyone to do.

The world is going faster and faster, as if there is no tomorrow (there probably isn’t anyway, but that’s a different subject). Time flies, everyone complains about it, and money seems to fly along with it. (Well, pushing the accelerator will make that happen through the tiny vortex you create in your car’s fuel reserve.)

I’ll continue to take things easy. Time to hurry comes when there is a reason to, not because the rest of the world prescribes it. I’ll drive at my slow speed, see the trees and the cows, and the occasional sparrow-hawk or buzzard that sometimes sit on perches and signs along the road.

Would You Trust an 80-Year-Old Nuclear Reactor?

“The worst nuclear near-disaster that you’ve never heard of came to light in 2002, when inspectors at Ohio’s Davis-Besse nuclear power station discovered that a slow leak had been corroding a spot on the reactor vessel’s lid for years (PDF). When they found the cavity, only 1 cm of metal was left to protect the nuclear core. That kind of slow and steady degradation is a major concern as the US’s 104 reactors get older and grayer,says nuclear researcher Leonard Bond. U.S. reactors were originally licensed for 40 years of operation, but the majority have already received extensions to keep them going until the age of 60. Industry researchers like Bond are now determining whether it would be safe and economically feasible to keep them active until the age of 80. Bond describes the monitoring techniques that could be used to watch over aging reactors, and argues that despite the risks, the U.S. needs these aging atomic behemoths.”

Read more via Slashdot.