Short Takes: News From All Over

By Naomi Buck, The Walrus
Germans love Linda. She’s sweet and nice looking. She’s also a potato. Linda — or at least the patent on her — is owned by Europlant, a German agribusiness manufacturer that is trying to pull her from the market and replace her with a more disease-resistant type of potato called Belana. But fans of Linda, like farmer Karsten Ellenberg, with help from Slow Foods groups and Greenpeace, are trying to keep Linda alive by preserving strands of their favorite potato for possible use in other countries. ‘She doesn’t belong to a company,’ says Ellenberg, ‘she belongs to the common good.’ — Bennett Gordon

Power Glass
By Blaine Brownell, Transstudio
Power Glass may change the way you look through windows. XsunX, a California-based tech company, has developed a translucent coating that can harvest solar energy shining on windows, but also allows viewers see through it. This way, monolithic office buildings could be covered in energy conductors, and the employees could still see out. The company claims that Power Glass has ‘as much as a 100% efficiency-to-cost gain’ over those big black solar panels that people are used to, in part because it’s produced at just a fourth of the cost. (Thanks, WorldChanging.) — Bennett Gordon

The Unseen, Uncounted Casualties of the Death Penalty
By Michael Kroll, New America Media
For witnesses to state-sponsored executions, the experience can be horribly traumatic when something goes wrong, as things often do. But even when all goes according to plan, executions can be psychologically damaging for those who watch. Michael Kroll, who witnessed his friend’s execution, tells the stories of wardens and executioners who have been deeply scarred by the process of putting people to death. Said one warden who presided over approximately 75 executions: ‘Sometimes I wonder whether people really understand what goes on down here and the effects it has on us.’ — Bennett Gordon

With Hurricane Threat to New York, Allstate Cancels Policies, Leaving Homeowners Vulnerable
By Saeed Shabazz, Amsterdam News via Voices that Must Be Heard
With towns still picking up the pieces left by Katrina and an especially powerful hurricane season forecasted, the insurance giant Allstate has taken preemptive measures against providing insurance to those most likely to be hit by a hurricane. The company recently announced it would not renew policies for 28,000 homeowners in and around New York City, and many believe the company did so because of the elevated risk of insuring homes that could be hit by a hurricane. The move has New York residents in an uproar, and state Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester) is pushing legislation that would get ‘tough on regulating these out of control insurers.’ — Nick Rose

Apocalypse Now. No, Wait … Now.
By Brian Arnot, High Plains Messenger
Amy Frykholm, author of Rapture Culture: Left Behind in Evangelical America, sits down with High Plains Messenger to talk about End of Days. Frykholm says that Rapture culture — a lifestyle born of the belief in the coming apocalypse — began as a ‘countercultural movement’ and didn’t exist before the 20th century. Now, with popular fiction like Left Behind selling like there’s no tomorrow, the Rapture culture has gone mainstream, and with a makeover to boot. Where Rapture fiction once portrayed Christians as poor, rural, and old-fashioned people, the pious now drive nice cars and wear fancy clothes, clothes that are presumably left behind. — Bennett Gordon

Why ‘Own Label’ Releases are a Vital Tool for Classical Musicians
By Robert Maycock, The Independent
Classical musicians aren’t known for their rebellious nature, and the genre tends to resist seismic shifts. Even so, the last few years have seen an explosion in the number of independent record labels that strive for quality rather than profits. With outfits like handling the production of classical artists’ discs, musicians have been freed from the bottom-line constraints of traditional labels. Operating with low overhead and offering a fast turnaround, these labels bring with them a spate of modern technological options that’s expanding the possibilities of classical music and, they hope, bringing the music and the listener closer together. — Nick Rose

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