Amtrak’s Plan To Give Free Rides To Writers
Amtrak has begun offering “writers’ residencies” to, well, writers – long roundtrip rides aboard Amtrak trains dedicated solely for the purpose of writing.
After New York City-based writer Jessica Gross took the first “test-run” residency, traveling from NYC to Chicago and back, Amtrak confirmed that it is indeed planning to turn the writers’ residencies into an established, long-term program, sending writers on trains throughout its network of routes.
SAY WHAT NOW?
The Obama administration expects to see a big surge in signups in March, the final month of the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment season.
Just one day after Gallup released a new survey finding that the U.S. uninsurance rate has hit a second consecutive five-year low, the Obama administration announced that more than 4.2 million Americans enrolled in private health plans through the Affordable Care Act’s state and federal marketplaces during the first five months of the health law’s open enrollment season.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released revised figures last month projecting that approximately six million Americans are expected to sign up for private Obamacare plans by March 31. The latest numbers released today indicate that the administration will at least come close to hitting that mark.
February’s enrollment figure is slightly lower than January’s high-mark of 1.1 million signups. But administration officials were quick to point out that number is expected to surge again next month, citing past experiences with enrollment periods for comparison.
“While the total number of new Marketplace plan selections was slightly lower in February when compared with the previous month of January (942,000 versus 1,146,000, respectively), the rate of Marketplace plan selections is expected to increase as the March 31, 2014 end of the initial open enrollment period approaches,” wrote the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in an brief distributed to reporters.
In an encouraging sign for the stability of Obamacare’s marketplaces, the White House reported that enrollment by younger Americans aged 18 to 34 remained stable between January and February at 27 percent of all signups — a three percentage point rise over the average for the first three months.
That number is also expected to spike in the final month as the White House, nonprofit organizations, and insurance companies throughout the country engage in an all-out push to sign up as many uninsured Americans as possible — particularly younger and healthier people. This push involves some creative efforts to reach young people. On Tuesday morning, comedy site Funny or Die released an episode of Zach Galifianakis’ web showBetween Two Ferns featuring an interview with President Barack Obama in which the president hawked his signature health law to the young and uninsured. Administration officials announced that Funny or Die’s website had become the number one source of referrals to Healthcare.gov by Tuesday afternoon and directed 19,000 people to the site.
Critics are likely to point out that the CBO and other independent organizations have projected that approximately 40 percent of ACA enrollees will have to be relatively young in order for the marketplaces to function effectively — but that’s not exactly the case. Insurance actuaries told the Commonwealth Fund last month that health status is a far more important metric for determining how expensive and stable Obamacare’s risk pools will be, and researchers from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) have pointed out that several built-in provisions of the health law will keep premium increases to a minimum — and possibly even prevent them entirely — in 2015.
Note that January’s enrollment report covered more days than the February report. The per-day enrollment actually increased in February.
Source: Sy Mukherjee for ThinkProgress
Introverts don’t get lonely if they don’t socialize with a lot of people, but we do get lonely if we don’t have intimate interactions on a regular basis.
“The dream of clean, low carbon, near-limitless electricity just edged a little closer to reality. Researchers in the US have finally succeeded in releasing more energy from a fusion reaction than the energy they had to supply to the fuel to get the reaction started. It’s a significant milestone on the road to self-sustaining fusion reactions in future power stations.”
Image and words via COSMOS Magazine and Science Alert/fb
Long-term warming likely to be significant despite recent slowdown
A new NASA study shows Earth’s climate likely will continue to warm during this century on track with previous estimates, despite the recent slowdown in the rate of global warming.
This research hinges on a new and more detailed calculation of the sensitivity of Earth’s climate to the factors that cause it to change, such as greenhouse gas emissions. Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, found Earth is likely to experience roughly 20 percent more warming than estimates that were largely based on surface temperature observations during the past 150 years.
Shindell’s paper on this research was published March 9 in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Global temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.22 Fahrenheit (0.12 Celsius) per decade since 1951. But since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09 F (0.05 C) per decade—even as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to rise at a rate similar to previous decades. Carbon dioxide is the most significant greenhouse gas generated by humans.
Some recent research, aimed at fine-tuning long-term warming projections by taking this slowdown into account, suggested Earth may be less sensitive to greenhouse gas increases than previously thought. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was issued in 2013 and was the consensus report on the state of climate change science, also reduced the lower range of Earth’s potential for global warming.
To put a number to climate change, researchers calculate what is called Earth’s “transient climate response.” This calculation determines how much global temperatures will change as atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to increase – at about 1 percent per year—until the total amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has doubled. The estimates for transient climate response range from near 2.52 F (1.4 C) offered by recent research, to the IPCC’s estimate of 1.8 F (1.0 C). Shindell’s study estimates a transient climate response of 3.06 F (1.7 C), and determined it is unlikely values will be below 2.34 F (1.3 C).
Shindell’s paper further focuses on improving our understanding of how airborne particles, called aerosols, drive climate change in the Northern Hemisphere. Aerosols are produced by both natural sources – such as volcanoes, wildfire and sea spray – and sources such as manufacturing activities, automobiles and energy production. Depending on their make-up, some aerosols cause warming, while others create a cooling effect. In order to understand the role played by carbon dioxide emissions in global warming, it is necessary to account for the effects of atmospheric aerosols.
While multiple studies have shown the Northern Hemisphere plays a stronger role than the Southern Hemisphere in transient climate change, this had not been included in calculations of the effect of atmospheric aerosols on climate sensitivity. Prior to Shindell’s work, such calculations had assumed aerosol impacts were uniform around the globe.
This difference means previous studies have underestimated the cooling effect of aerosols. When corrected, the range of likely warming based on surface temperature observations is in line with earlier estimates, despite the recent slowdown.
One reason for the disproportionate influence of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly as it pertains to the impact of aerosols, is that most man-made aerosols are released from the more industrialized regions north of the equator. Also, the vast majority of Earth’s landmasses are in the Northern Hemisphere. This furthers the effect of the Northern Hemisphere because land, snow and ice adjust to atmospheric changes more quickly than the oceans of the world.
"Working on the IPCC, there was a lot of discussion of climate sensitivity since it’s so important for our future," said Shindell, who was lead author of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report’s chapter on Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. "The conclusion was that the lower end of the expected warming range was smaller than we thought before. That was a big discussion. Yet, I kept thinking, we know the Northern Hemisphere has a disproportionate effect, and some pollutants are unevenly distributed. But we don’t take that into account. I wanted to quantify how much the location mattered."
Shindell’s climate sensitivity calculation suggests countries around the world need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the higher end of proposed emissions reduction ranges to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change. “I wish it weren’t so,” said Shindell, “but forewarned is forearmed.”