Short Takes: News From All Over

California Solar Plan Expected to Pass
By Leif Utne,
The Golden State is about to tap its largest potential energy resource in a big way. The ‘Million Solar Roofs’ initiative, a proposal to spur construction of residential solar power through $3 billion in utility rebates, is expected to unanimously pass the California Public Utilities Commission on January 12. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger brought the plan to the commission in December after it stalled last year in the state legislature over a partisan dispute over whether to require union labor. ‘With rising energy prices and continued air pollution, this is exactly the kind of landmark initiative California needs,” Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate for Environment California, told the Associated Press. ‘From this, we’re going to see cleaner air, affordable solar energy, and California regaining its world leadership in solar power.” The program will make California the largest producer of solar power in the nation, and second in the world only to Germany.

Floating Neutrinos
By Staff,
Haven’t you ever wanted to just glue a bunch of trash together and float across a major ocean? Think about it: Lolling around on a big Styrofoam pontoon, flopping into the water anytime you see something colorful or delicious. Here’s your chance. The Neutrinos are recruiting. At you can sign up, find tips on building your own raft, and read the ideas that led the now mythic ‘Poppa Neutrino’ to begin his amazing voyages in first place. — Ty Otis

Pay-Per-Mile Car Insurance: It’s Coming
By Jeremy Faludi, WorldChanging
Cars: Can’t live with ’em, can’t afford ’em either. Even if you can reduce how much you spend on gas, the insurance is still going to be expensive. But not for long. Some companies are beginning to offer Pay-Per-Mile insurance where those who drive less pay less. What’s easier on the wallet could be easier on the environment too: Rewarding people who drive less should help reduce car pollution. — Bennett Gordon

Women’s Pages: Next Time You Read About ‘What Women Want,’ Check the Research — It’s Likely to be Flimsy
By Reyhan Harmanci, San Francisco Chronicle
Trend stories about the status of women are as ubiquitous as those Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus books. Assertions that smart women have trouble finding suitable husbands tend to make headlines and sell papers. Reyhan Harmanci expertly dissects this phenomenon, calling attention to the faulty research and ‘sketchy anecdotal musings’ that serve as the basis for many of these stories. Unfortunately, Harmanci ends her piece with the assertion that ‘women are more vulnerable to bad reporting’ — a statement that is both sketchy and anecdotal. — Bennett Gordon

Cult of Character
By Silja J.A. Talvi, In These Times
Do you live in a ‘City of Character?’ If Bill Gothard has his way you soon will. He’s the leader of the Character Training Institute (CTI), a business that sells inspirational and training tools for cities, schools, and even jails. These materials are intended to instill the 49 ‘Character Qualities’ in the recipient through inspirational phrases and illustrations of cute animals acting out the individual traits. Coincidentally, Gothard also heads the religious Institute for Basic Life Principles. Attempts at making the two organizations distinct go past comical, although the only thing CTI has more of than character right now is money. — Nick Rose

Student Surveys a Boon for Marketers
By Staff, Minnesota Public Radio‘s ‘Midmorning’
Marketers long ago cut out the parent middleman to vie for kids’ pocket change. Commercials play directly on young people’s desires. ‘Viral’ marketing — paying groups’ alphas to spread the word about products — has even been extended to the playground. But according to Chris Hoofnagle, senior counsel to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, marketers have kept at least one lucrative go-between: high schools. Speaking on Minnesota Public Radio’s Jan. 9 ‘Midmorning’ program, Hoofnagle explained how marketing companies — under the legal cover of collecting information for scholarship opportunities — use surveys handed out by teachers to collect data on students and sell it to the likes of credit card companies and the military. Check out EPIC’s ‘Student Privacy’ site for a rundown on kids’ rights and how to protect them. — Hannah Lobel

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