On April 27th the world’s biggest pop star of the moment, the New York City-born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) kicked off her enormous world tour with a sell-out concert —in Seoul, the capital of South Korea, followed by a date in Hong Kong, before going on to Bangkok, Singapore and Jakarta. Surprising, perhaps, as any self-respecting Western pop superstar used to begin their world tours almost exclusively in America or Britain.
Does her “Born this Way ball” tour provide yet more evidence that the economic pendulum has now made its full swing from West to East? Alan Ridgeway, the worldwide promoter for the shows, certainly seems to think so.
Americans will have to wait until next year. And what of poor old downgraded Europe? The little monsters there will have to wait until September or October to see their idol. And it looks as if someone from Standard & Poor’s might have drawn up the itinerary.
Engineers have conducted a test-run of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link, days before its public launch.
Officials, reporters and company bosses were on board for the 300 km/h (190mph) train’s maiden voyage, which the government has promised will halve the journey time to under five hours.
China is planning to roll out high-speed lines across the country.
But the project has come under fire for its high cost - the Beijing-Shanghai line cost 215bn yuan ($33bn; £21bn).
And the government has earmarked a further 700bn yuan for the rest of the project, which would see 16,000km of track being laid by 2020.
Police have clashed with demonstrators in the Italian Alps over the construction of a new high-speed rail link with France.
Tunnelling is set to start for a line from Turin to Lyon, which is expected to cut the travel time by nearly half.
Local residents built barricades to prevent heavy machinery from starting work in the picturesque Val di Susa, in northern Italy.
Police used fire hoses and tear gas to disperse them.
San Jose Mercury: Central Valley plan snags on politics
The plan for high-speed rail in California is to start on the Fresno side of the San Joaquin River, between Bakersfield and Chowchilla, and go until the money runs out.
The Central Valley, for many reasons, is a practical place to begin. The land is broad and flat and relatively inexpensive, and the federal government, which is contributing billions of dollars, requires it.
The first section will one day form the spine of a system connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco, officials say. But there is no money guaranteed to build the rest, and the initial tracks, through towns like Wasco and Madera, are conspicuously far from where most people live.
I’ve just read a long post about the cycling mindset in New York City by Felix Salmon, thanks to Phiil Gyford and Jason Kottke. It’s worth a read, and I think the thesis is worth considering. There’s an almost throwaway line towards the beginning:
In other cities, especially in places like Copenhagen or Utrecht, bicycles are ubiquitous and everybody knows how to behave on and around them. But we’re not there yet.
As it turns out, I’ve just visited Amsterdam (which, like Utrecht, is in the Netherlands) and Copenhagen. (At some point I might write about all the other places I’ve been in a summer of copious leisure.) I think there are some mildly interesting observations on cycling in those cities that I should write about.
They both share the mindset, which I think Salmon is right to say is missing in New York (and which is poorly appreciated in London) that cyclists are a distinct form of traffic. Both have almost universal cycle lanes on major roads, but also clearly delimited cycle paths (or prohibitions) in pedestrian areas. Motor traffic in both knows cyclists exist, and defers to them far more than I’d expect in most British (or American) cities, which I’m sure leads to a virtuous circle of good behaviour generally.
However, I enjoyed being a pedestrian far more in Copenhagen. Amsterdam’s geography, especially within the central ring, is constrained by the canals, leading to narrow roads, and very narrow pavements. The roads tend to be about the same “weight”, so when you reach a junction, you have to stop and consider (unlike most London streets, where you can usually be much more blithe crossing minor roads). Together, those probably would have been tolerable, but there’s one other factor.
Pervasive cyclists are a shock when you’re used to motor traffic. I tend to rely (too much?) on hearing, but of course bicycles make no (or little) noise. As a result, every time I had to cross a street (and it was often), I felt like I had to make far more of an effort than I did at home.
There was also a feeling I had that cyclists were top of the food chain. As I said, cars tended to watch out for and defer to them. (There’s no way you can overtake on a narrow cobbled street; anyway, it comes to a junction in only fifty metres, so why bother?) I ended up being a little afraid of them.
By contrast, Copenhagen does have the longer streets, and pedestrian crossings (which make little sense on the smaller Amsterdam roads); the latter were almost universally obeyed by cyclists, and when they weren’t, at least they seemed aware of foot traffic.
I accept that my experiences were only for a few days, in summer, and in the centre of both cities. Surely Amsterdam gets more spread out as you move away from Centraal. Still, it’s probably telling that the piece of advice I was repeatedly given when visiting the city was that I should be cycling, and that I regretted not doing so.
Today Europe changed its clocks for daylight saving time, two weeks after the US did. I’m not going to take part in the twice-a-year ritual of suggesting that the UK should move a further hour ahead, or the counter-complaints that changing clocks is silly. Instead, I’m going to praise the way Europeans change their clocks, and criticise the way Americans do.
The core of the question is, when do you actually change the clocks? Obviously, doing so during the night is the right answer, but the European scheme is subtly better: everyone changes their clocks forward and back at 0100 GMT. By contrast, the American scheme has the change happening at 0100 local time.
Why’s the European scheme better? It means it’s obvious what time it is everywhere, at the (smallish) cost of making the local time for each change different. As an example, let’s say it’s 2:30 GMT this morning in Berlin; half an hour after the clocks have gone forward. The local time is now 3:30 CEDT; in Helsinki, it’s 4:30, and in London, 2:30 BST.
Contrast that with the time in Chicago, at 3.30 am on the morning the US enters daylight savings time. It’s easy to find the time in New York: it’s an hour ahead, at 4:30 am. In San Francisco, though, it’s not the usual two hours behind, but three, at half past midnight; they won’t enter DST for another hour and a half. Instead of the clocks all moving forward, there’s a wave of confusion.
Now, I’ll admit it’s easier for Europe to do this. It only spans three time zones, whereas the continental US spans four, and including Alaska and Newfoundland, six (although the latter is only a half-hour). Making the change simultaneous would mean that, say, Juneau would have a local change at midnight while in St. John’s the change would be as late as half past five in the morning.
Easy or not, though, I prefer the European approach. It’s certainly easy to code around.
This doesn’t happen every day. In fact, I’d be a bit surprised if it’s ever happened before:
Both the Daily Mail and the Guardian have the same headline. It feels wrong, somehow.
From their 16-page special on the sea, here’s The Economist contrasting Icelandic and European Union fishing policies:
Iceland offers lessons for other countries. The essential elements of its policies are to give fishermen rights that offer a reasonable expectation of profitable long-term fishing by encouraging the conservation of stocks. The system is clear, open and fairly simple, and it is well policed. It thus enjoys the respect of fishermen. And it is based, crucially, upon scientists’ assessments of stocks, not politicians’ calculations of electoral advantage.
For years, the [European Union] has simultaneously discouraged and promoted fishing, even as stocks have declined. … Modernisation aid supposedly ended in 2005, but the union’s fisheries fund, which supports everything from aquaculture and sustainable development to the “adjustment” of the fleet, is set to spend €4.3 billion in 2007-13. Spain, the most voracious piscivore and the biggest recipient of aid, will get €1.13 billion.
In few EU countries is fishing economically crucial. Nowhere does it account for even 1% of GDP.
The cry for subsidised fuel arises largely because European boats must travel ever farther to find fish (as a general rule, it takes nearly half a tonne of fuel to catch one tonne of fish). [My emphasis.]
I’m not sure I agree with their conclusion that a derivatives market in fish would be a good idea, but I do like the excoriating tone of the review of the Common Fisheries Policy.