Sunday, January 28, 2007
In New Delhi, Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes off a headache and agrees to build Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh four new nuclear reactors. from sfgate.com
Rehabilitating Robert MosesBy Robin Pogrebin from NYTimes.com
FOR three decades his image has been frozen in time. The bulldozing bully who callously displaced thousands of New Yorkers in the name of urban renewal. The public-works kingpin who championed highways as he starved mass transit. And yes, the visionary idealist who gave New York Lincoln Center and Jones Beach, along with parks, roads, playgrounds and public pools...
With the city on the brink of a building boom unparalleled since Moses’ heyday — the reconstruction of Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, an overhaul of the Far West Side, sweeping redevelopment downtown — Ms. Ballon and other scholars argue that his legacy is more relevant than ever.
“Living in New York, one is aware there has been no evident successor or successors to Moses,” she said. “There aren’t master builders. Who is looking after the city? How do we build for the future?” All around New York State, she suggests, people tend to take for granted the parks, playgrounds and housing Moses built, now generally binding forces in those areas, even if the old-style New York neighborhood was of no interest to Moses himself. And were it not for Moses’ public infrastructure and his resolve to carve out more space, she argues, New York might not have been able to recover from the blight and flight of the 1970s and ’80s and become the economic magnet it is today.
“Every generation writes its own history,” said Kenneth T. Jackson, a historian of New York City at Columbia who with Ms. Ballon edited “Robert Moses and the Modern City: The Transformation of New York” (W. W. Norton), the catalog accompanying the exhibitions. “It could be that ‘The Power Broker’ was a reflection of its time: New York was in trouble and had been in decline for 15 years. Now, for a whole host of reasons, New York is entering a new time, a time of optimism, growth and revival that hasn’t been seen in half a century. And that causes us to look at our infrastructure.”
“A lot of big projects are on the table again, and it kind of suggests a Moses era without Moses,” he added...
The institutions involved in the exhibitions say they never sought to whitewash Moses’ legacy. “We set out to come to terms with the enormity of Moses’ achievements,” said Tom Finkelpearl, executive director of the Queens Museum. “I really anticipated that the show was going to be a major indictment of Moses, and I was genuinely surprised at the result.”
Each of the exhibitions has a different emphasis. “Remaking the Metropolis,” which opens at the Museum of the City of New York on Feb. 2, focuses on Moses’ roads, like the Henry Hudson Parkway and the Cross Bronx Expressway; major buildings and monuments (Lincoln Center, the United Nations); and parks (the expansion of Riverside Park, East River Park and recreational spaces in Central Park). Opening Feb. 4 at the Queens Museum of Art (whose forbidding stone building Moses had built for the 1939-40 World’s Fair), “The Road to Recreation” documents his expansion of roads and recreation in the 1930’s: some 416 miles of parkways and 658 playgrounds. “Slum Clearance and the Superblock Solution,” which opens on Jan. 31 at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University, focuses on Moses’ ambitious 1950s urban renewal program.
In today’s frenetic real estate market, some of those projects are now in the hands of private developers. “Look at what is happening to Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town,” Mr. Finkelpearl said, referring to the middle-class apartments that were recently sold, driving rents up. “That is so out of the spirit of Moses and the public-mindedness of Moses.”
The shows also document the Moses projects that were never built, like a controversial extension of Fifth Avenue through Washington Square Park, a bridge between the Red Hook section of Brooklyn and Battery Park, and two expressways, one slicing across Midtown and the other across Lower Manhattan.
MS. BALLON, who spent three years on research for the exhibitions and catalog, said she came away clear-eyed about Moses’ flaws, including his failure to grasp the social devastation caused by some of his projects. “He was perfectly positioned to recognize how any one thing had multiple consequences, like clearing a slum,” she said, yet “he purposely chose to ignore these things.”
But as she studied the archives and traveled the city, Ms. Ballon said, she “became more and more interested in the tangible things he accomplished,” feeling they were somewhat underrepresented in the Caro book.
“I wanted to investigate Moses with this emphasis on the physical form,” said Ms. Ballon, who specializes in 17th-century European architecture as well as American urbanism and architecture of the 20th century. She said she was impressed by the majesty and durability of projects like Jones Beach’s state park, with its costly brick and sandstone bathhouses; Orchard Beach in the Bronx, designed in a graceful crescent (after private bungalows were destroyed); and the city’s vast and stately public pools.
“The grandeur of those buildings — all for the public,” Ms. Ballon said. “He executed 17 urban renewal projects in nine years. That’s staggering.”
At Kips Bay Towers, the architect I. M. Pei “brought reinforced concrete construction to a new level of refinement,” Ms. Ballon added, “and the interior garden is a jewel.” And even the Moses-era housing projects and public buildings that were once scorned as grim and soulless are winning some appreciation because they were built fast and built to last.
At the same time the catalog she jointly edited includes some pointed criticism. Martha Biondi, a professor of African-American history at Northwestern, faults Moses’ prominent role in supporting MetLife’s decision to exclude blacks from renting apartments at Stuyvesant Town; Ms. Ballon notes his “antidemocratic methods and indifference to community values.”
As Mr. Jackson puts it, “He looks like a pretty good public servant who was in many ways a jerk.”
Yet Mr. Finkelpearl of the Queens Museum said the exhibition did not set out to make judgments on Moses’ character. “This show is not about Moses, the guy,” he said. “It’s about what Moses did.”...
Mr. Caro, though, argues that drawing such a distinction is impossible. “The man is inseparable from the story of the city of New York,” he said. “The city now is trying to come to grips with the problems he left.”
Much of the city’s current development seeks to redress Moses’ legacy, including efforts to reclaim the West Side waterfront (where he built the Henry Hudson Parkway) for public use. To improve mass transit, the city is trying to extend the No. 7 line to 11th Avenue, as well as finally create a Second Avenue subway 50 years after Moses passed over that possibility by funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into roads and bridges for automobiles.
Similarly, a major redesign of Lincoln Center by the architects Diller, Scofidio & Renfro aims to open up that campus and make it more inviting, rather than what was originally envisioned: an ivory tower for the performing arts with its back turned on Amsterdam Avenue.
Economically and psychologically it has taken city planners decades to forge the resolve to break ground again on a substantial scale. “We are in a period of time when we have finally overcome a fear of overdevelopment that was in part the result of Moses’ excesses,” said Daniel L. Doctoroff, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding. “Part of the reason we haven’t been able to do as much is because people overinterpreted the lessons from that period of time.”
THOUGH the city is building big again, the process by which it’s doing so is forever changed. Planners point out that whether a project is driven by the city, like the Javits Convention Center expansion; the state, which initially led efforts to redevelop the World Trade Center site; or a private developer, like the Related Companies’ Time Warner Center (or any number of architecturally ambitious condominium projects), checks and balances now guarantee that no one planner can wield the power of Moses.
With his multiple hats and broad authority as parks commissioner and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority chairman, Moses managed to steamroll community opposition and ignore preservation concerns. Today the Landmarks and Preservation Commission, established in 1965, reviews projects like the proposed 30-story tower by Norman Foster in the Upper East Side Historic District, whose height the commission rejected this month. The Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, adopted in 1975, ensures that a project undergoes a thorough public review process.
“Can there be another time when you can get big projects done all over the city?” Mr. Doctoroff said. “I think the answer is yes, and we’re in one now. Could you ever have one person who with imperiousness, with concentrated power, with lack of community input, could get things done? The answer is no.”
Nonetheless “with the exception of the stadium” — the Jets arena rejected for Manhattan’s Far West Side — “there hasn’t been a single project we have pushed through that hasn’t been approved,” he said of the city’s pet projects.
“This is by far the most ambitious development agenda since the 1930’s, but we do it with ample public input to ensure that we get things done sensitively,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “We have really learned to listen very carefully.”
And while Moses had no interest in aesthetics (which may be one reason he could move so quickly), the current city administration emphasizes design in its approval of projects, with standards imposed by officials like Amanda M. Burden, the city planning commissioner, and David Burney at the Department of Design and Construction.
The subtitle of Mr. Caro’s book is “Robert Moses and the Fall of New York.” But ultimately, the exhibitions’ organizers say, they felt it was important to judge Moses’ impact on New York in the context of what happened across the nation during his tenure, like middle-class flight from cities and the construction of highways that spurred the rise of suburbs.
“What was happening in Detroit and St. Louis?” Mr. Finkelpearl said. “Those cities died. Maybe the city was in decline, but not relative to other cities.”
Ms. Ballon said: “Moses was symptomatic of a larger historical pattern. What was happening in New York was not so different from what was happening in other places.”
So if these exhibitions restore some of Moses’ stature, will they have the opposite effect on Mr. Caro’s? Not according to Mr. Jackson, who describes himself as a great admirer of Mr. Caro and uses “The Power Broker” in his courses on New York history. “I wish I’d written the book,” he said. But, he added, he also believes the times may call for a new take on Moses. “Did he get everything right?” Mr. Jackson said. “Of course not. He blazed a trail. Nothing stands forever. Not even ‘The Power Broker.’ ”
...It takes a nation of one to hold us back...That's the sign of a master...
Thursday, January 25, 2007
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - British scientists have succeeded in producing multiple generations of genetically altered, or transgenic, hens that produce functional pharmaceutical proteins in the whites of their eggs.
To transfer drug-making genes into chickens, Dr. Helen M. Sang, from the Roslin Institute in Midlothian, UK, and her associates used a lentivirus carrier from which all viral coding sequences were deleted. The genetic material was replaced with the gene regulating ovalbumin production combined with genes for making human interferon or an antibody targeting malignant melanoma.
"This construct is used to incorporate new protein genes into the chicken chromosome," Dr. Sang told Reuters Health. This was accomplished by injecting the lentiviral vector containing the coding sequences for the desired pharmaceutical protein into the fertilized embryo of a new laid egg.
When the resulting chick is old enough, it is then bred it and the offspring examined. "If the offspring are transgenic, we will see the new genes in every cell of their body, but only expressed in the oviduct," Sang continued.
In their paper in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers explain how a single transgenic cockerel was crossed to normal hens. Of 463 chicks they examined, 19 (4 percent) were transgenic.When transgenic hens lay eggs, the foreign protein is expressed in the oviduct where the egg white is made. In the case of interferon produced in egg white, the researchers were able to confirm that the compound was functional by showing that it was active against a test virus.
Sang hopes that using transgenic chickens to produce therapeutic proteins will "bring down the costs of drugs that currently are prohibitively expensive."
The Roslin Institute, renowned for its creation of Dolly the cloned sheep 10 years ago, is working in collaboration with gene therapy company Oxford BioMedica and biotech company Viragen to develop their transgenic chicken system as a large-scale biomanufacturing alternative for a variety of proteins.
"But it is still early days yet," said Sang. "We've made significant steps in developing a process that we hope will be an alternative production platform for protein drugs."
Ancient Fish Fills Missing Link
Excavations carried out over six years in the treeless, grassless, soil-less Ellesmere Island in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, 750 miles from the North Pole, have yielded a remarkable treasure: a 375-million-year-old, scaly, fin-legged, flat-headed, swivel-necked creature called Tiktaalik roseae. Named after the Inuit word for "large shallow-water fish," Tiktaalik fills in one of the most significant gaps in evolutionary history—the transition between swimming fish and the first animals to walk onto land.
Paleontologist Neil Shubin, of the University of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History, and his colleague Ted Daeschler, of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, planned their Arctic search with great care. Three hundred seventy-five million years ago, the Canadian Arctic was near the equator, with a subtropical climate—a plausible place for an aquatic creature to venture from surf to turf. "Looking at the evolutionary tree, and knowing something about evolution and Earth history, we predicted there would be a Tiktaalik-like creature up there," Shubin says.
The four- to nine-foot-long creature had fins, which held limblike bones forming a shoulder, elbow, and wrist that could do a push-up; broad ribs and scales; and a neck that allowed the animal to swivel its head. "That the skull was disconnected from the shoulder is something we would not have expected in an animal that was still a fish," Daeschler says. "Our hypothesis is that it was an adaptation to shallow water and gave the animal more ability to hunt."
"What is really exceptional about Tiktaalik is that it is not some esoteric branch of evolution," Shubin says. "We are not looking at an evolutionary dead end. When we look at the origin of the neck in Tiktaalik, the origin of the wrist in Tiktaalik, we are talking about human history. We can trace our own history back to things like this. The transition we are seeing in these Devonian fish is a piece of our distant past."
>>Another great resource on this discovery is http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/
Burning Man dispute heats up with suit
Thursday, January 25, 200Burning Man tickets went on sale this month -- just in time for a lawsuit over who owns the name and logo associated with the annual end-of-summer gathering of 40,000 fire-loving artists in the Nevada desert.
Neon artist John Law, one of the event's three creators, who in 1990 helped relocate Burning Man from a San Francisco beach to a dry Nevada lakebed, is suing his two partners over the rights to the Burning Man name and logo.
Law's federal suit says he was defrauded of his one-third share of the Burning Man trademark's value over the years since 1996, when he left the organization. His two business partners, Larry Harvey and Michael Mikel, have recently tried to claim sole ownership over the Burning Man trademarks, violating an agreement between the three, Law alleged.
Now 48, the former Cacophony Society leader who used to host dance parties in Laundromats, scale the Golden Gate Bridge at night and crash the Chronicle holiday party with a posse of 100 Santas now wants the name Burning Man and its logo released to the public so anybody can use it.
If that's not possible, Law wants to collect on the creative capital he put into Burning Man -- whatever a judge determines it's worth.
"If Burning Man is really a movement, the name should belong to everyone, not three guys who don't get along anymore," Law said.
NEW ORLEANS - Wanted: Idealistic teachers looking for a Peace Corps-style adventure in a city in distress.
Some of New Orleans' most desperate, run-down schools are beset with a severe shortage of teachers, and they are struggling mightily to attract candidates by appealing to their sense of adventure and desire to make a difference. Education officials are even offering to help new teachers find housing.
"There's been an incredible outpouring of sympathy toward New Orleans. We feel we're trying to say, `Here's a clear path to go down if you want to act on that emotion,'" said Matthew Candler, chief executive of the nonprofit New Schools for New Orleans, which is trying to recruit teachers.
The school system in New Orleans was in desperate condition even before Hurricane Katrina struck 17 months ago, with crumbling buildings, low test scores and high dropout rates.
After the storm, some of the worst of the worst public schools were put under state control, and those are the ones finding it particularly hard to attract teachers. The 19 schools in the state-run Recovery School District have 8,580 students and about 540 teachers, or about 50 fewer than they need _ a shortage so severe that about 300 students who want to enroll have been put on a waiting list.
"Recruiting is a challenge," said Kevin George, principal of Rabouin High School in downtown New Orleans. "The housing market is terrible. The area has a poor image due to the violence. ... And then there's just coming into a place that historically had just a terrible track record of education."
In hopes of finding at least 150 new teachers for the state-run district in the 2007-08 school year, when more schools are expected to open, education officials are trying to recruit candidates at job fairs, on the Web or through newspaper ads that show the raised hands of students and read plaintively: "We need you ... so do they."
The Recovery School District is also working with a real estate agent to help candidates find affordable housing. In addition, it plans to collaborate with Teach for America, which pairs college graduates with a school-in-need for two years.