Slaveholding Presidents, Gravity Train, Weed World, More

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How many of our presidents owned slaves? 

There are two ways of interpreting your question. Either: How many presidents owned slaves at some point in their lives? Or: How many presidents owned slaves while serving as chief executive? Many books get the answers to these questions wrong, and when I speak on the presidents and ask these two questions, audiences invariably low-ball the answer to both.

It comes as a shock to most Americans’ sensibilities that more than one in four U.S. presidents were slaveholder: 12 owned slaves at some point in their lives. Significantly, 8 presidents owned slaves while living in the Executive Mansion. Put another way, for 50 of the first 60 years of the new republic, the president was a slaveholder.
Following is the number of slaves each of the 12 slaveholding presidents owned. (CAPS indicate the president owned slaves while serving as the chief executive):[1]

–         GEORGE WASHINGTON (between 250-350 slaves)
–         THOMAS JEFFERSON (about 200)
–         JAMES MADISON (more than 100)
–         JAMES MONROE (about 75)
–         ANDREW JACKSON (fewer than 200)
–         Martin Van Buren (one)
–         William Henry Harrison (eleven)
–         JOHN TYLER (about 70)
–         JAMES POLK (about 25)
–         ZACHARY TAYLOR (fewer than 150)
–         Andrew Johnson (probably eight)
–         Ulysses S. Grant (probably five)

It’s a commonplace that Abraham Lincoln never trafficked in slaves, much less owned them – indeed, he “freed the slaves.” But here’s the shocker: Although the slave trade had been abolished in the District of Columbia in 1850, slaves inhabited the capital for another 15 years – till the end of the Civil War. Dwell on that thought: Lincoln fought the Civil War in a slave city – the Great Emancipator inhabited a White House staffed by slaves.

A number of presidents benefited electorally from “the peculiar institution,” especially the four earliest presidents from the then-largest slave state, Virginia. To understand why, one must go back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, when Southern delegates argued that black slaves should be counted as complete persons, while Northern delegates didn’t want them counted at all since they were not citizens and couldn’t vote. To get over this hurdle and create a unified nation (their highest priority), the delegates decided to negotiate: the North proposed counting black slaves as half a person, and the South countered with three-quarters, so they compromised at three-fifths.

Read all of this HERE.

Gravity Train as Energy Storage

Energy grids running on renewable energy sources need storage. The most common way to store energy on a grid scale is through “pumped” hydropower, where the excess energy available during off-peak is used to pump and store water at a higher elevation, which can then be released to produce electricity as gravity pulls it down to a lower elevation again. The Taum Sauk Hydroelectric Power Station in Missouri works exclusively on pumped-storage. Pumped hydro is effective, but needs lot of water and a suitable site for storage. Can the same principles be applied without using water as the prime mover?

A California-based company called Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) has come up with a unique land-based alternative that could provide grid scale energy storage using electric locomotives.


Much more to read, and lots of pictures, found HERE.

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Weed World

Lessons from Marijuana Legalization Around the Globe

In the blink of an eye, global debates about cannabis regulation have shifted from “whether” to “how.” In 2014, Uruguay became the first nation to explicitly regulate cannabis from seed to sale. Its preferred strategy? State-regulated production, cannabis clubs, and personal growing. Meanwhile, four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have moved ahead with legal regulation, Colorado and Washington being the first, and the federal government seems unlikely to intervene. More states, possibly even California, look set to follow. Likewise, in the rest of the world, there are a number of gray-area regulatory systems, including in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Spain. All offer insights into how the United States—and other countries—might tackle the “how.”


In 2015, researchers at RAND produced an exhaustive study on cannabis legalization. The core insight was that “legalization is not simply a binary choice between making the production, sale, and possession of the drug legal on the one hand and continuing existing prohibitions on the other.” The report’s authors suggest that, if states do pursue legalization, a state monopoly, in which the government controls price, production methods, and quantities produced, is likely the most attractive supply model. Drug policy experts Professor Mark Kleiman and Jeremy Ziskind offer a similar analysis in their contribution to the London School of Economics Expert Group on the Economics of Drug Policy Report, writing, “The debate over how to legalise cannabis tends to assume that for-profit commercial enterprise is the default option. Legalising cannabis on the alcohol model may, however, be the second-worst option (behind only continued prohibition).”

Legalization regimes have two facets: rules for medical marijuana and rules for recreational marijuana. In the United States, states have opted for a spectrum of models to deal with medical marijuana. Some states’ medical laws are considered so lenient as to constitute de facto legalization, for example in parts of California. New Jersey and New York, due to regulatory design or a lack of support from their governors, have witnessed a bumpier rollout and greater restrictions on supply and qualifying ailments. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has made clear his lack of support for medical marijuana, and he initially stalled implementation. Meanwhile, New York State, viewed as having the strictest regulations in the country, has a long implementation process that will stretch into 2016. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has overseen continued protests, most notably from parents of sick children suffering from a range of illnesses, from brain tumors to seizure disorders, over the slow progress.

Finish reading all this HERE.

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