Arcade Fire ‘The Wilderness Downtown’

Arcade Fire has release an interactive short film to accompany their song We Used To Wait, from their latest album The Suburbs.

Called The Wilderness Downtown, the film was shot by director Chris Milk (who has also made videos for Kanye West and U2) and features an unlikely collaborator: Google.

The company teamed up with the band and the director on the interactive element, which makes use of the companies Google Map and Street View databases, allowing the viewer to customize the video by entering the address of the house they grew up in.

The concept taps into the kind of waltzing nostalgia that runs through the band’s latest album, and is a creative and technical (HTML5, JavaScript) feat.

Go try it. A word of warning though: it is built to run on Google Chrome and it will be an exercise in patience to try it on another browser.

via Arcade Fire take you home again with ‘The Wilderness Downtown’

Naguib Sawiris speaks …

.. Bell, Telus and Rogers: “A joke.” As for whether he would invest in them: “Too big. Too slow.”

… New wireless players Mobilicity and Public Mobile: “They will die.”

… Wind Mobile: “We have never failed anywhere, so we won’t fail here.”

… Wind Mobile’s growth: “When we become stronger, we will hit back. And we will make pain. And they [Rogers, Bell and Telus] will suffer.”

… Lawyers: “Legal advice can screw a company.”

… Iraq: “They kidnapped our people, two or three times.”

… Whether Canada is a stable market for him: “I wish I could say that. It should have been.”

… Being rich: “I’ve turned down a lot of deals in my life, with a lot of good profits, because I didn’t like the party on the other side. And when people say this is not really professional, I tell them, ‘It’s the luxury of being rich.’ ”

… The CRTC: “It’s like when you play football and you beat the guy under the belt because the judge is not looking. But in your case, he’s looking and approving.”

… Operating in Canada: “There has been too many constraints. We have not been able to launch this operation in the way we usually launch our operations.”

… Building a wireless network in Canada: “Every time you put up a [cell] site, you need to ask everybody from the grandmother to the children in the street to the next door neighbour to his cousins.”

via Naguib Sawiris on … – The Globe and Mail.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Public Pensions and Our Fiscal Future

arnold finally sounds like he is taking the problem seriously …

It’s as if Sacramento legislators don’t want a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of the employees, by the employees, and for the employees.

For years I’ve asked state legislators to stop adding to retirement debt. They have refused. Now the Democratic leadership of the assembly proposes to raise the tax and debt burdens on private employees in order to cover rising public-employee compensation.

But what will they do next year when those compensation costs grow 15% more? And the year after that when they’ve risen again? And 10 years from now, when retirement costs have reached nearly $30 billion per year? That’s where government-employee retirement costs are headed even with the pension reforms I’m demanding. Imagine where they’re headed without reform.

My view is different. We must not raise taxes or borrow money to cover up fundamental problems.

via Arnold Schwarzenegger: Public Pensions and Our Fiscal Future – WSJ.com.

Canada “oblivious to the changed world”

While Canada has deservedly had a good ride in recent years particularly through the global recession, due to strong Federal Government finances and a strong balance sheet, all is not quite as rosy as meets the eye. Chart 16 shows that, while the U.S. savings rate has gone from 2% to 6.5% since 2007, the Canadian savings rate, after a brief rally, has collapsed to about 2 1/2%. Canadian households have continued to add to their debt, oblivious to the changed world environment. House prices rose to new highs during the recovery, while U.S. house prices are down over 30% from their peak. Moreover, while federal debt levels and trends are good by world standards, provincial debts are disastrous. There is even some talk of Ontario going the way of California. Its per capita public debt is ten times that of California whose bonds are rated slightly less risky than Croatia’s.

via The Boeckh Investment Letter.

A renewable carbon economy?

A renewable carbon economy? Surely that’s a pipe dream? Perhaps not, now that solar power facilities are cropping up in deserts across California, Spain and North Africa. The idea is to use the sun to power chemical plants able to split carbon dioxide. Combine the resulting carbon monoxide with hydrogen and you have the beginnings of a solar fuel that could one day replace oil.

via The next best thing to oil – tech – 12 August 2010 – New Scientist.

China’s Coming Property Bust

There were, a few months ago, 64.5 million urban flats that showed no electricity usage for six consecutive months. That’s one in four city apartments, enough housing for some 200 million people. The value of vacant apartments held by speculators is about 15% of gross domestic product. Beijing’s bank stress tests assume a 60% fall in property prices. In fact, official statistics show that property price increases slowed in July.

And there is more bad news for the residential market. Property developers, who are already building 20 million flats, have company. Local governments are constructing another 20-30 million, and other government agencies and companies are also building housing for employees.

In any other country, developers would be slamming on the brakes. In China, they are hitting the accelerator.

via China’s Coming Property Bust – Forbes.com.

Vitamin D found to influence over 200 genes, highlighting links to disease

The extent to which vitamin D deficiency may increase susceptibility to a wide range of diseases is dramatically highlighted in research published today. Scientists have mapped the points at which vitamin D interacts with our DNA A– and identified over two hundred genes that it directly influences. The results are published today in the journal Genome Research.

It is estimated that one billion people worldwide do not have sufficient vitamin D. This deficiency is thought to be largely due to insufficient exposure to the sun and in some cases to poor diet. As well as being a well-known risk factor for rickets, there is a growing body of evidence that vitamin D deficiency also increases an individual’s susceptibility to autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes, as well as certain cancers and even dementia.

Now, in a study whose funders include the Medical Research Council (MRC), the MS Society, the Wellcome Trust and the MS Society of Canada, researchers at the University of Oxford have shown the extent to which vitamin D interacts with our DNA. They used new DNA sequencing technology to create a map of vitamin D receptor binding across the genome. The vitamin D receptor is a protein activated by vitamin D, which attaches itself to DNA and thus influences what proteins are made from our genetic code.

The researchers found 2,776 binding sites for the vitamin D receptor along the length of the genome. These were unusually concentrated near a number of genes associated with susceptibility to autoimmune conditions such as MS, Crohn’s disease, systemic lupus erythematosus (or ‘lupus’) and rheumatoid arthritis, and to cancers such as chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and colorectal cancer.

They also showed that vitamin D had a significant effect on the activity of 229 genes including IRF8, previously associated with MS, and PTPN2, associated with Crohn’s disease and type 1 diabetes.

“Our study shows quite dramatically the wide-ranging influence that vitamin D exerts over our health,” says Dr Andreas Heger from the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford, one of the lead authors of the study.

The first author of the paper, Dr Sreeram Ramagopalan from the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, adds: “There is now evidence supporting a role for vitamin D in susceptibility to a host of diseases. Vitamin D supplements during pregnancy and the early years could have a beneficial effect on a child’s health in later life. Some countries such as France have instituted this as a routine public health measure.”

The main source of vitamin D in the body comes from exposing the skin to sunlight, although a diet of oily fish can provide some of the vitamin. Research has previously suggested that lighter skin colour and hair colour evolved in populations moving to parts of the globe with less sun to optimise production of vitamin D in the body. A lack of vitamin D can affect bone development, leading to rickets; in pregnant mothers, poor bone health can be fatal to both mother and child at birth, hence there are selective pressures in favour of people who are able to produce adequate vitamin D.

This new study supports this hypothesis, having found a significant number of vitamin D receptor binding sites in regions of the genome with genetic changes more commonly found in people of European and Asian descent. It is probable that skin lightening as we migrated out of Africa resulted from the necessity to be able to make more vitamin D and prevent rickets: vitamin D deficiency led to pelvic contraction resulting in increased risk of fatality of both mother and unborn child, effectively ending maternal lineages unable to find ways of increasing availability of the vitamin.

“Vitamin D status is potentially one of the most powerful selective pressures on the genome in relatively recent times,” says Professor George Ebers, Action Medical Research Professor of Clinical Neurology and one of the senior authors of the paper. “Our study appears to support this interpretation and it may be we have not had enough time to make all the adaptations we have needed to cope with our northern circumstances.”

via Vitamin D found to influence over 200 genes, highlighting links to disease | BreakThrough Digest Medical News.