Posted: August 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Science and Technology, Society | Tags: | No Comments »

Nuclear plant built on geological fault line in California

Nuclear power is being touted as the new green energy. However, its primary by-product, plutonium, is lethal enough for a spoonful to wipe out a city. In 1987, plutonium was first found to be leaking from a nuclear waste pit in Idaho and percolating through rock layers to a vast underground reservoir. While plutonium remains lethal for 250 thousand years from its creation, the National Engineering laboratory successfully contained it for 36 years. A 1988 New York Times article reported occurrences of the same problem in 12 other states.


1. *To drain or seep through a porous material or filter.
2. Informal To become lively or active.
3. Informal To spread slowly or gradually.


leach, filter, permeate


The Lost Continent (pg. 124)   |    New York Times |   Photo by: emdot


Posted: August 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Society | Tags: | No Comments »

Walmart has a system for bilking local merchants out of sales. It deems it efficient to open two stores very close together if they can dominate all local competition. The initial prices can be so low that they lose money. Once a monopoly has been established, they can jack up prices and abandon the less profitable of the two stores. The patrons of the less-profitable store will then have no choice but to  make the longer trip to the higher-priced store. By the year 2000, Walmart had already abandoned 25 million square feet of retail floor space with this strategy.

Bilk (rhymes with milk)

1. *To defraud, cheat, or swindle: made millions bilking wealthy clients on art sales.
2. To evade payment of: bilk one’s debts.
2. To thwart or frustrate: “Fate . . . may be to a certain extent bilked” (Thomas Carlyle).
3. To elude.


Appeared in 1600s from seemingly obscure origins. First used as a term in the card game, cribbage.


fleece, dupe, defraud


Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation… |   Photo Credit


Posted: August 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Society | Tags: | 2 Comments »

Qataris are renowned for their impetuous driving habits. The U.S. State Department brushes aside crime, violence, and political upheaval in its Crime and Safety Report to focus on reckless driving, reading:

“Driving in Qatar is likened to participating in an extreme sport; drivers often maneuver erratically and at high speed, demonstrate little road discipline or courtesy, fail to turn on their headlights during hours of darkness or inclement weather, and do not use seat belts – all resulting in a high vehicular accident rate (in excess of 70,000 annually). In fact, traffic fatalities are Qatar’s leading cause of death”.

Impetuous (pronounced im-PECH-oo-us)

1. *Characterized by sudden and forceful energy or emotion; impulsive and passionate.
2. Having or marked by violent force: impetuous, heaving waves.


From Latin impetus, meaning “attack, assault, onset, impulse”.


rash, vehement, unrestrained


Overseas Security Advisory Council |   Photo by: jonycunha


Posted: August 5th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Society | Tags: | No Comments »

Smoke over Sumatra, Indonesia from forest fires

Indonesia routinely has some of the world’s largest conflagrations. A series of colossal fires in 1997-1998 burned down an estimated 25,000 square miles of forest, releasing up to 2.6 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. Slash and burn techniques used by farmers make such conflagrations typical; its annual carbon emissions from fires average at least 5 times as much as those from all industrial processes, making the country, next to the United States and China, the third largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Conflagration (pronounced “kon-flə-GRAY-shən”)

A large destructive fire.


From Latin flagrare, meaning “to burn”, plus prefix com, meaning “with, together”. Flagrare is also the base of “flagrant” (meaning “conspicuously bad or offensive”).




Wikipedia, Reuters


Posted: July 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Society | Tags: | 5 Comments »

One Tunnel from the Great Escape in Poland

One of history’s most notable clandestine acts is the “Great Escape” from the Nazi prison camp, Stalug Luft III.  Six hundred airmen imprisoned within the camp collaborated to build three massive tunnels, each carving an escape route 30 feet underground. They discreetly started the tunnels in a bathroom drain, underneath a stove, and in a dark corner of a hallway. They grew them to the point where they had installed air pumps, electrical lighting, and rail cars, which were needed to remove an estimated 200 tons of soil. Despite suspicions that something major was going on, the Nazis never caught the prisoners constructing the tunnels.

Clandestine (klan-DES-tin)

Kept or done in secret, often in order to conceal an illicit or improper purpose.


From Latin adverb form of celare, meaning “to hide”, and possibly intestinus, meaning “internal”. Celare is also the root of cell, ceiling, conceal, and occult.


undercover, cloak-and-dagger, surreptitious


Wikipedia: Stalug Luft III