Cars News and Reviews Make Your Children Vote - CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Tuesday

I've a confession to make: I'm not the helicopter kind of parent. I believe that if you don't fall, you don't learn to walk properly, never mind running, dancing and skiing. I'm the kind of mom who, when one of my children bangs their head against the table, would rush over and go, "Poor table! I hope it didn't get a dent." Everybody laughs, and the child with the banged head forgets to cry.

Similarly, I don't hound them about their homework, other than checking that it's done before, say, letting them hang out with a friend after school. But I stick by the bedtime routine, forgotten homework or not. They only miss handing in homework a few times before they learn.

However, I will hound them about this one thing: I will do what I can to get them to that voting booth come election day. Because voting is not a privilege: it is a civic duty. Besides, it's the smart thing to do.

In all US states, under the "Motor Voter" Act, you can register to vote as you get your driver's license (or get it renewed). So when your teen passes the driver's test and acquires that wallet card, they actually have to do something extra in order to NOT register to vote.

So that's great.

Until, that is, they go to college out of state.

Between leaving home, missing high school friends, learning to find your way around campus, having to feed yourself (or at least remember to show up at the cafeteria while it's open) - and oh, by the way, studying - it's not surprising that voting tends to fall in the cracks.

This is where parents come in. Never mind texting them to remind them of an upcoming test / interview / ball game. If you do nothing else, remind them to vote. And remind them. Until they do. Because as they say, "Bad politicans are elected by good people who don't vote."

The good news: it's fairly easy to vote even if you're away from your parents' residence. Some states allow students to declare their residence at the university campus. And many states allow voting by proxy or by absentee ballot. For the latter options, all you have to do is plan ahead a month or two.

So here's what you do: Firstly, if you are one of a growing minority who has decided not to get a driver's license (good for you!), you can register online, for instance at

Next, check (where you can check your voter status) and find the rules for absentee voting for your state.

Then follow the instructions to arrange for proxy voting or voting by mail.

This is actually the easy part. The harder portion of this deal is that everybody needs to vote intelligently. The Founding Fathers did not give the vote to women. You can call that discrimination and misogyny, but one could also argue that it was a prudent policy back in those days, when so many women were illiterate - and certainly most didn't read the newspapers. It's hard to see how you can cast an informed vote under those circumstances.

Now all adults have the vote, and most everybody can read. But you still have to be reading the news to know what's going on in the place where you vote. I mean, reading the Onion or watching the Daily Show is fun but doesn't really count.

So make a point of talking politics with your children. Bring up current events, casually (pushing too hard will turn off most teens, anyway). Schools offer US History in 8th or 9th grade: it is not too early to start talking about the workings of democracy, even way before they reach voting age. Because democracy is a marvelous thing, and we need to nurture it, especially among the young.



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Cars News and Reviews Why is Diesel More Expensive Than Gasoline?- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Sunday

If you drive a diesel car in the US like I do, you often find that diesel commands a higher per-gallon price than regular gasoline. You may also notice that in winter the price difference is higher than in summer, with the largest difference occurring in March.

This is because diesel is similar to home heating oil. Demand for heating fuel peaks around February; it is this competition that drives up the price for automotive diesel as well. This chart from illustrates very nicely how in the summer of 2000 diesel was quite a bit less expensive than gas, while in March of 2008 it was more expensive.

That's for the general picture. But there are usually regional differences. For instance, this winter of 2015 has been unusually cold for the US Northeast, whereas the western US has experienced record high temperatures. You can see that really well in this graphic.

For the months of January and February 2015, just about the entire world has seen higher temperatures than even in the three preceding decades (never mind the pre-industrial average). Everywhere except the northeastern United States.

Which is how the Senator from Oklahoma was able to declare that global warming is a hoax because he managed to make a snowball - which he duly brought into the Senate floor for Show And Tell. Which prompted a brilliant response from Senator Whitehouse, who is described by Crooks and Liars as "stepping up to the mic with his fact snowplow to clear away the mess." I highly recommend taking the four minutes to watch the Senator from Rhode Island give his rebuttal.

But I digress.

The uneven distribution of unseasonable cold and heat throughout the United States is clear from the fuel prices at the pump, summarised in the table below, which also shows the price difference between diesel and gasoline.

Price of regular unleaded gasoline and diesel ($ per gallon) and their differences for various regions in the US for the week of 16 March 2015. Data from

In the week of March 16, 2015, diesel was a whopping $0.80 higher than regular unleaded in New England ($0.83 for the Mid-Atlantic states). The price difference was much lower everywhere else, and there was hardly any price difference at all for the West Coast.

As we move into the spring the price difference will become much smaller even in the northeastern US - with any luck diesel may even become less expensive than regular gasoline over the summer.





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Cars News and Reviews How to Spread the Word about Climate Change - Even if You're Not a Climate Scientist- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Friday

When a large asteroid hit the earth, sixty-five million years ago, it kicked up a huge amount of dust. The dust dimmed the sun for so long that the surface of the earth cooled sufficiently to wipe out the dinosaurs (incidentally giving mammals a chance to develop into the rich variety we see today).

If such a threat were in our near future, CNN and all the other news channels would be screaming about it. There would be non-stop coverage, on what we could do to avert the disaster, and how to cope should it strike anyway, and how each of us would be affected. You couldn't get away from this news.

A similar threat is actually upon us, but going the other way: the earth is steadily warming. If we keep burning fossil fuels at today's rate, the average global temperature may rise by 4 degrees C by 2100. That doesn't sound like much, but the last time the world was 4C cooler on average, we were in an ice age, and life looked very different from the way it is today.

Global Warming from 1880 to 2013.

And it will keep warming past the year 2100. We don't know what life will look like when it's more than 4C warmer: it hasn't been that warm for millions of years.

This is an astonishing thought: the planet, our home, would be altogether a different place from what it is today. And while the changes appear slow on a human time scale, the warming is occurring at an unprecedented rate. Already species are feeling the pressure, and it is not clear how many will survive the changes that are very rapid on an evolutionary time scale. It's clear: we must do what we can to keep the warming below 2C.

You would think that would make the news.

But the other astonishing thing about this is that there has been a near-silence on climate change in the mainstream news media. What little there is, is often diluted because editors give equal time to climate change deniers.

Here's an example: In January 2015, a group of celebrities got together and wrote an Open Letter to World Leaders, urging them to fight climate change to ensure the wellbeing of all today, and of future generations.

It was not covered by mainstream media.

It's stunning. Go over the list of signatories to this open letter and try to tell me that not one of those names made you look up. If given any media attention, this letter could be a rallying cry across the planet.

I am not going to speculate on what does or does not move a copy editor or show producer to feature a climate change story. I do say that the fourth estate is failing its duty to informus. Besides, it's passing up on the biggest story of our time.

So here is what you and I can do about that.

We can help pass around the story ourselves. I've been giving climate talks, and have found that even the greenest cohorts still needs to hear the message more often, and more clearly: that global warming is happening, that it's happening now, that we humans are causing it, and that there is a window of time in which we can work to stave off the worst of the effects.

For those who are not into powerpoint talks, you can arrange to show movies on climate change. This is what I did recently. I started by going to my public library; I found the librarian who manages the library events, and pitched her my idea of showing selected parts of the documentary "Years of Living Dangerously".

The librarian put the event on the calendar. And she researched what it would take to show the movie in public. It wasn't on the list of the library's vendor of movie rights, but "Years" can be shown publicly for free if the organisers register the event at as a "watch party". We promoted the event through the library's channels and through local networks of climate activists and environmentalists.

I invited two climate scientists and a climate journalist to form a panel for a discussion after the movie, and to answer questions. I had met the journalist online (because that's how we live our lives now), and when I asked him to be on the panel, he agreed immediately. (The librarian also sent him a formal invitation, since it was a library event).

I had no qualms asking the scientists, since they are listed on Climate Voices. This website shows climate scientists who have volunteered to be available for public outreach; an interactive map makes it easy to find them. Finding nearby scientists was nice because my library has zero travel budget for its guests, and also because this way we caused hardly any carbon emissions for travel. Of course, you can also ask any of the Climate Voices scientists to give a standalone presentation on climate change.

"Years of Living Dangerously" is a great documentary because it's made like a Hollywood movie: It speaks to the heart, where you want the message to sink in. Its "reporters" are famous people.

It also comes in nine hour-long episodes. There is no way you can show all that in one sitting.

So I chose the pieces that were relevant to my state, because those are the ones that speak most to the audience. The total run time was about 75 minutes. I made sure to introduce the movie with a reminder that, as intense and depressing the documentary may be, there are people working on solutions right now, and I listed a few examples, including the efforts going on in our town.

After the screening, I asked each of the panelists to summarise what they saw would be the major climate change impacts in our area. Actually, one of the panelists had come down with a bad cold so had to cancel his appearance, but the remaining two were magnificent, spelling out the relevant science clearly and without dumbing down.

Then they patiently fielded questions from the audience with the same clarity and at high scientific level. I would love to lavish praise on them by name; unfortunately I can't (it's in the nature of writing an anonymous blog). But it's easy to see why the panelists made themselves available for public outreach: they are excellent communicators.

Afterwards, we mingled and connected, and kept at it until the library closed for the night. At the door the librarian had put a stack of flyers with a list of further viewing and reading; many movies and books on that list were at the library, so we could come back, when the library was open again, and check out the items.

There were 35-40 people in the audience. For a bitterly cold Friday night I thought that was a very good crowd, and I was happy.

Arranging a viewing like this takes some planning, but it's really worth reaching all those people. However, if you want to watch the documentary with a smaller circle of friends, you could do it in someone's living room, and you don't need to register it since it woudln't be a public viewing. You can stream "Years of Living Dangerously" if you have the Showtime channel (use Showtime Anytime); it's also available on Netflix. If you do it often you can buy the 5-DVD set.

I really believe this: it's best if you don't watch this by yourself. I've seen parts of this documentary three times now, and it still hits as hard as the first time. It's very, very well made. And rumour has it there will be a second season.

I hope this inspires you to organise a viewing. You can do this. You can help get the word out on climate change - and you don't have to be a climate scientist to do so.


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Cars News and Reviews Climate Change Achieves Voldemort Status- CARS NEWS AND REVIEWS

Posted by Carmella Ross on Monday

I've written before on the importance of names. Names are so powerful, that when they are attached to powerful beings, you must use the names with great care. In fact, you're better off not using their name at all, lest you incur their terrible wrath.

So what to do, if a powerful Thing is about to wreak havoc on your constituents?

As any Harry Potter fan can tell you, the easiest way for a government to insist that an existential threat doesn't exist is to ban all mention of its existence. Thus in the magic world Voldemort is referred to as the "Dark Lord", or "He Who Must Not Be Named", or simply "You Know Who". Because of course everyone knows who is it you're talking about.

It seems that the state of Florida has adopted the same tack when faced with the existential threat of climate change, which is slated to wipe out most of its celebrated coastline: Officials in Florida's Department of Environmental Protection have been ordered not to use the terms "climate change" or "global warming" in official documents.

This is so that the booming real estate business in places like Miami beach can run its exuberant course. Before the sea moves in.

Because the kind of engineering wizardry that has built the Dutch coastal defences will be quite powerless to keep the rising sea out of Florida where the ground is porous. So the sea, like a Dementor, will seep in, permeating the southern tip of the state with a dank despair and prompting an evacuation of all land life, before eventually making it succumb.

Avada Kedavra.


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