Keystone XL is Done, COP 21 Set to Start

You probably already heard the good news about the end of Keystone XL with Obama killing the proposal. This is a good symbolic step in ending the exploitation of the tar sands in Alberta, plus this comes just a few weeks before COP21.

COP21 is the upcoming United Nations climate change conference which is set to run from Nov. 30 to Dec.11. In the light of Keystone being killed it gives people hope that Obama will actually do something about climate change.

On the Canadian side of the border Prime Minster Trudeau (who loves pipelines, sigh) has cast Catherine McKenna as Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. A new title acknowledging that climate change is real and has to be dealt with – a step forward from the idiotic climate approach from the Conservatives previously in power.

Keystone XL being nixed may be just the thing North America needs to show up at COP21. With the pipeline project over, other countries may actually start respecting North America on environmental matters.

TransCanada first applied for Keystone permits in September 2008 — shortly before Obama was elected. As envisioned, Keystone would snake from Canada’s oilsands through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, then connect with existing pipelines to carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to specialized refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast.

Democrats and environmental groups latched onto Keystone as emblematic of the type of dirty fossil fuels that must be phased out. Opponents chained themselves to construction equipment and the White House fence in protest, arguing that building the pipeline would be antithetical to Obama’s call for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

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Light Rail Bringing Massive Change to American Cities

Let’s face it: driving sucks.

Car traffic is bad for everyone and a lot of American cities have caught on to this. As a result, more light rail is being built throughout the USA, recently Pheonix residents voted to back more light rail with a tax hike.

What’s pushing this? It turns out that the awfulness of the commute, more cities adopting good public transit policy, and increased urbanization.

The future of light rail looks bright!

“Light rail” is a broad term that means a passenger rail system with tram-style cars—as opposed to “heavy rail” subways, as in New York and Washington, D.C.—that runs on its own right of way, usually at street level. Light rail cars typically run at 30 to 40 miles per hour at top speed, much less than a heavy rail subway.

In many cities, the building of light rail lines represents only one aspect of broader efforts to solve the public transportation puzzle. Cities are increasingly connecting light rail lines with major nodes of activity and other transportation modes such as expanded express bus services or bike lanes. Phoenix’s light rail connects downtown with Arizona State University in Tempe and Sky Harbor Airport. Charlotte has a light rail system and is now adding a streetcar. Atlanta and Miami have traditional heavy rail transit systems but are investing in other technologies such as streetcars and bus rapid transit. Las Vegas has a monorail along the Strip but is talking about a rail line to the airport.

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Redistribute Neighbourhoods Instead of Wealth

People hate taxes despite the fact that basically every person who studies economics knows they are needed and a great way to spur economic success. Despite the fact taxes are needed and good at helping poorer people in society, taxes are hated.

As a result, some researchers in the USA have looked into alternative ways to help poor people escape poverty. One solution is to change the way we help neighbourhoods rather than looking at taxes.

More Americans live in high-poverty areas than ever in history, defined usually as places where more than 30% to 40% of residents are below the poverty line. The number of people who live these neighborhoods of “concentrated poverty” has doubled since 2000, especially in smaller cities. There are huge racial disparities in these neighborhoods, too. One in 4 African Americans and 1 in 6 Hispanics live in an area of concentrated poverty, compared with 1 in 14 whites. While explicitly racist policies such as “redlining” have subsided, their legacy remains in how neighborhoods are racially and economically segregated today.


Montgomery County, Maryland—less than an hour’s drive from Baltimore—is a unique case that shows it doesn’t have to be this way. It is among the wealthiest counties in the nation, and its school system is among the best. It also serves its low-income families relatively well. Like some other cities, it requires some real estate developers to rent a portion of their homes at affordable, below market rates. More uniquely, the county itself also reserves the right to buy some of these homes to create public housing for the poor. The result? Poor families, earning an average of $22,500 a year, living right alongside the affluent.

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Finally Americans Are Eating Less

The obesity problem in the USA may start to shrink. After years of constantly increasing they caloric intake Americans seem to be getting the message that eating too much can be bad for you. This is the first year that caloric intake has decreased and hopefully it’s a trend of things to come.

As calorie consumption has declined, obesity rates appear to have stopped rising for adults and school-aged children and have come down for the youngest children, suggesting the calorie reductions are making a difference.

The reversal appears to stem from people’s growing realization that they were harming their health by eating and drinking too much. The awareness began to build in the late 1990s, thanks to a burst of scientific research about the costs of obesity, and to public health campaigns in recent years.

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White House Planning to Close Guantanamo Bay’s Infamous Torture Centre

Guantanamo Bay on the beautiful island of Cuba sounds like a great place if you don’t know anything about it.

We do know what happens there and it’s immoral and likely illegal (probably even worthy of investigation by the International Criminal Court which the USA hasn’t ratified). The USA has been operating a prison there which is internationally known for shackling prisoners to floors, hunger strikes, and of course torture. As a result of the inhumane practices at Guantanamo Bay America’s “war on terror” has been mocked because it raises the question about who is causing the terror.

President Obama has tried to close the prison before because of it’s morally repugnant treatment of humans but other American politicians think the prison is needed. After years of trying Obama may achieve one of the promises he was elected on in 2008.

President Barack Obama, who leaves office in less than 18 months, has battled for years with lawmakers over his pledge to close Guantanamo by bringing to trial some detainees and holding others in the U.S. as prisoners of war, while arranging to send the least dangerous ones home or to third countries.

In recent months, the administration has sent several detainees from Guantanamo to countries including Oman and Qatar, and the U.S. is seeking additional options for transfering more prisoners, Earnest said at the White House.

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