Monday, February 5, 2007

Why getting married kills your social life?

Ever since I got married, my friends have treated me like I contracted a communicable disease. The dinner invites stopped, and the late-night phone calls, and then I started hearing of hot rooftop parties to which I hadn’t been invited. Of course, I changed a little, too. Without an incentive to man-hunt, I was less interested in going to parties and bars. Worse, I went from being an open book about my love life to one of those coy couple-people who always says, “Things are great.” It’s easy to spill about a lousy date when you know your friend will never meet the guy, but when you give a detailed account of a fight with your husband, she might tell you to leave him or say something inappropriate the next time the three of you are out to dinner.

As I became more circumspect, my friends found other friends who drank more, still smoked, and never looked at their watches. There were nights I declined an invite so Jake and I could stay home and watch a video (put marriage and Brooklynhood together, and it’s hard not to be a hermit). But there were nights I wanted to do anything but stay home, and everyone else was already out. Though I understood my sudden isolation, I felt wounded. I had become something I had vowed never to be: a married person without any friends.

I am not alone. Singles and parents have built-in communities, but the newly hitched exist in a social wasteland. Although there are bona fide smug marrieds who choose to check out of the social scene, many others do it only after being rejected by all their single friends. Janine, a 35-year-old married commercial producer, has felt the chill. “When your demographic changes,” she says, “your friends who aren’t in that demographic don’t necessarily adapt with you.” When she told her best friend, Daisy, she’d gotten engaged to her long-time boyfriend, “she looked at me and said, ‘What the fuck?’ She felt like I abandoned her. She wanted me to be that little old lady in Paris with her.”

These days they see each other less, and when they do, Daisy makes jabs. “I’m starting to get into cooking,” says Janine, “and when I tell her what I made, she’ll say, ‘Isn’t that cute, Betty Crocker, that you’re making dinner for your husband?’”

Sean, a 28-year-old grad student who moved to New York with his wife, Jennifer, last July, says they often stay in, even though they hate it. “There are a few times a month where we say, ‘We gotta get out of here.’ We wonder, Do we put an ad on Craigslist? Take up a sport together? We want to be included in other people’s lives because it enhances the value of our own.”

Though he admits they are often too tired to make plans—alone or with others—he’s also noticed that his colleagues seldom reach out to him. “Married people are thought of as not any fun, even if they are. I have good friends at NYU, and there are times they’ll talk about going out and not invite me. There is something stigmatized about a younger married couple.”

Those who find love later in life often get kudos from their friends who are relieved to see that they are happy, but young marrieds come off looking like Mormons, sexless drips who opted to end the partying for a settled life. “If you throw a birthday party, the married girls have to bring the husbands,” says Sarah, 26, an unmarried nonprofit programmer. “They only stay for dinner, because all the couples have curfews, and only the singles go to the bar. And no one smokes pot any more because, inevitably, they wind up with a partner who doesn’t.”

Jennifer, 30, has noticed her status has made her a pariah. “Your friends sort of step aside,” she says. “They’re waiting for you to reject them. Even my sisters were that way. I had to say to them, ‘I still have time for you guys and I also value alone time.’ You don’t have as much time when you’re married, but it’s not like you’re dead.”

Though singles are often very vocally unhappy when a friend decamps, Janine, the producer, says the most judgmental people are her unhappily married male friends. “They’ll say, ‘Gee, I sort of view you differently now. You were so young and available and hungry and you’d stay up all night working.’ I still do that! But they believe marriage is a trap, that you had your freedom and you gave it up. They put their feelings about their own wives onto you.”

Some young marrieds are so afraid to be stigmatized that they go overboard to denigrate their own marriage as a way of bonding with their still-single friends—something I have tried with varying degrees of success. “I’ll downplay my marriage when I talk to my negative friends,” says Janine. “I’ll say, ‘We’ve both been working so hard that we haven’t been out in a while,’ or ‘We’ve had in-laws visiting up the wazoo. You’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with all that.’” But the false modesty can be even more offensive than bragging. “They’ll hear me complaining and they’ll say, ‘Stop it. You’re making your relationship sound awful. Your life is great.’ And it is.”

Skyscrapers In HDR

The Folding Chair

US says North Korea must "get out of nuclear business"

North Korea must get out of the nuclear business, the chief U.S. negotiator said Monday, adding he believed the North "was prepared to negotiate" at the coming arms talks in Beijing.

He refused to comment on news reports that Pyongyang is prepared to freeze a key nuclear reactor and accept inspectors in exchange for 500,000 tons of heavy oil and other conditions.

"For us, the question is that we must implement the full September statement. The DPRK (North Korea) must get out of the nuclear business entirely," Christopher Hill told reporters in Tokyo, referring to a 2005 pledge in which the North agreed to give up its nuclear program in exchange for aid and security guarantees.

"For months and months, we have talked about a statement that exists only on paper. What we're looking for in Beijing is to see if we can move that statement onto the ground," he said. "The purpose of the exercise is to stop the North Koreans from operating this terrible nuclear reactor."

Hill added he believed Pyongyang "would come prepared to negotiate" after more than a year of stalled talks, but refused to elaborate.

Hill, who arrived here from Seoul, was to meet with Japanese officials before leaving on Wednesday. The next round of talks is to start in Beijing on Thursday among delegates of the two Koreas, China, Japan, the U.S. and Russia.

Also Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo would not consider giving North Korea energy aid unless the communist also came clean on its past abduction of Japanese nationals.

Pyongyang claims it has returned all surviving victims who were kidnapped to train its spies in Japanese language and culture. But Tokyo believes more Japanese are held by the communist regime.

"Japan will not be offering anything unless North Korea acts sincerely on the abduction problem," Abe told reporters late Monday.

Abe and Hill were responding to reports that Pyongyang has said it could freeze the reactor at its nuclear complex in Yongbyon and accept international Atomic Energy Agency inspections in exchange for light-water reactors and oil until the reactors are completed, reports AP.

Japan's Asahi newspaper reported Sunday that North Korea plans to demand more than 500,000 tons of crude oil a year in exchange for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear reactor and allowing limited inspections. The report cited Joel Wit, a former U.S. State Department official who met chief North Korean arms negotiator Kim Kye Gwan and other senior officials in Pyongyang.

North Korea was promised two light-water reactors under a 1994 deal to freeze its nuclear program, along with an annual supply of 500,000 tons of heavy fuel oil until the reactors were built. The deal was scrapped in 2002 when the nuclear crisis re-emerged and North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors.

Game over on global warming?

Everybody in the United States could switch from cars to bicycles.

The Chinese could close all their factories.

Europe could give up electricity and return to the age of the lantern.

But all those steps together would not come close to stopping global warming.

A landmark report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released Friday, warns that there is so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that even if concentrations held at current levels, the effects of global warming would continue for centuries.

There is still hope. The report notes that a concerted world effort could stave off the direst consequences of global warming, such as widespread flooding, drought and extreme weather.

Ultimately eliminating the global warming threat, however, would require radical action.

To stabilize atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide — the primary contributor to global warming — CO2 emissions would have to drop 70% to 80%, said Richard Somerville, a theoretical meteorologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

Such a reduction would bring emissions into equilibrium with the planet's ability to absorb carbon dioxide. The last time the planet was in balance was more than 150 years ago, before the widespread use of coal and steam engines.

What would it take to bring that kind of reduction?

"All truck, all trains, all airplanes, cars, motorcycles and boats in the United States — that's 7.3% of global emissions," said Gregg Marland, a fossil fuel pollution expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Closing all fossil-fuel-powered electricity plants worldwide and replacing them with windmills, solar panels and nuclear power plants would make a serious dent — a 39% reduction globally, Marland said.

His calculation doesn't include all the fossil fuels that would have to be burned to build the greener facilities, though.

Trees could be planted to absorb more carbon dioxide. But even if every available space in the United States were turned into woodland, Marland said, it would not come close to offsetting U.S. emissions.

"There is not enough land area," he said.

The United States accounts for nearly a quarter of the carbon dioxide released each year, according to government statistics. China, in second at about 15%, is gaining fast.

If the rest of the world returned to the Stone Age, carbon concentrations would still rise.

Carbon does not dissipate rapidly. Some is eventually absorbed by oceans and plants, but about half stays in the atmosphere. And there is no easy way to get it out.

Maintaining current levels would require reducing worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 billion tons a year, federal statistics suggest.

For some perspective on that number, consider an icon of the green movement: a 2007 Toyota Prius. Driving it 12,000 miles releases 4,200 pounds of carbon dioxide.

If hybrid cars replaced all 245 million cars in the United States — more than a third of the cars in the world — the carbon savings would be less than 3% of the needed reduction.

Rapid industrial development in some of the most populous nations has compounded the problem. Their burgeoning emissions could swamp environmental gains in other countries.

In India, carbon dioxide emissions increased 39% between 1993 and 2004 — nearly double the global rate. The figure was 36% in Indonesia. China, which saw a 45% rise, now opens a coal-fired power plant every week to 10 days.

Given the scale of the problem, experts see no realistic way to lower the concentration of atmospheric carbon.

In fact, Robert Socolow, a carbon mitigation expert at Princeton University, said that even if the entire world stopped burning fossil fuels, carbon wouldn't approach pre-Industrial Revolution levels for several hundred years.

The only possibility now is to slow the buildup of carbon. If emissions can be reduced enough, the gradual process of warming can be stretched into centuries.

From this perspective, there is some hope. Though the savings from any one measure may look small, in combination, they could add up to something significant, experts said.

There is no shortage of ideas.

The Environmental Protection Agency's administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, said high-efficiency appliances and other products in the Energy Star program last year eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equal to the pollution from 23 million cars.

"As a citizen, each of us has an opportunity to make a difference," he said Friday after the release of the U.N. report.

He urged people to use compact fluorescent light bulbs, which provide the same light as a standard bulb on two-thirds of the energy.

Replacing one standard light bulb in every U.S. home would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

Tips from TerraPass Inc. of Menlo Park, Calif., include going back to clotheslines.

The company, which promotes alternative energy, says eliminating a family's dryer could save electricity equivalent to 1,016 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.

Socolow said the ultimate solution might rely on technology.

He said his research suggested that by improving energy efficiency now and phasing out fossil fuels over the next 100 years, carbon concentrations could remain within safe levels.

The biggest polluter, he said, should lead the way: "The U.S. is going to have to decarbonize."

Iran sets up centrifuges at big atom site

Iran has set up two cascades of 164 centrifuges each in its underground nuclear plant, laying a basis for full-scale enrichment of uranium and upping the stakes in a standoff with the West, European diplomats said on Monday.

The cascades were to be vacuum-tested shortly, without uranium feedstock inside, and fuel material would then be added if the trial runs were successful, they said.

The 328 centrifuges would be the vanguard of 3,000 planned for installation in the coming months.

Iran recently finished installing piping, electrical cables and other equipment needed to begin so-called "industrial-scale" enrichment in the vast subterranean complex, which is fortified and ringed by anti-aircraft guns in the central Iranian desert.

Firing up the cascades would dramatically sharpen Iran's confrontation with Western powers that pushed through limited U.N. sanctions on Tehran six weeks ago to try to curb what they suspect is a disguised effort to assemble atomic bombs.

The Islamic Republic, the world's No. 4 oil producer, says it wants solely civilian atomic energy from uranium enrichment.

Diplomats said the launch of the first two cascades may be the gist of Iran's planned announcement of "significant" nuclear progress on February 11, when it crowns 10 days of celebrations marking the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"Two cascades have been installed in the underground plant, but they are not running yet," said a European Union diplomat in Vienna, headquarters of the watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has inspectors at Natanz.

A diplomat from another EU country said the assembled cascades would be switched on shortly to run empty "to test the vacuum for a few days and then, if that is successful, UF6 (uranium feedstock gas) will be added".

"The Iranians appear to intend to have about six cascades (about 1,000 centrifuges) installed by the spring, and the rest of the 3,000 by around June," the first diplomat said.

Iran plans to rig up a total of 54,000 centrifuges at Natanz over the longer term.

There was no comment from Iran. On Friday, it denied reports abroad that it had begun installing the 3,000 centrifuges.


The IAEA declined comment. Such confidential information would be wrapped into a report the IAEA must deliver to the U.N. Security Council on February 21 on whether Iran has heeded a demand to stop enriching uranium.

If not, Iran faces the threat of broader sanctions.

"Iran is heading in the opposite direction from that sought by the Security Council," said the first EU diplomat.

Iranian media have repeatedly quoted hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying February 11 will be a day to "prove the Iranian nation's obvious right" to nuclear technology and that "great achievements" would be unveiled.

An intelligence source also said the two cascades were in place. "Iran wants to convey that they are on the verge of industrial-scale enrichment and, 'We cannot be stopped any more - we are a nuclear power'," the source told Reuters. "They are not there yet, but that's what they want the world to think."

Three-thousand centrifuges going nonstop could purify enough uranium for one bomb within a year, assuming Iran wants one.

Tehran has run two pilot cascades of 164 centrifuges in a small research-level wing of Natanz for months, enriching token amounts of uranium but more often "dry-spinning" them.

But Iran has struggled to get centrifuges to spin smoothly in unison without overheating or vibrations for sustained periods -- the key to producing volumes of enriched uranium.

Analysts say that even if Iran has 3,000 on line in Natanz by June, no sure thing given a litany of previous delays, it may well need another year to iron out technical glitches and a further year to generate usable quantities of nuclear fuel.

So, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei has said plenty of time remains for world powers and Iran to revive negotiations on a face-saving compromise which nuclear analysts and some diplomats say could entail capping Iran's programme short of "industrial scale" with trade benefits for Tehran in the bargain.

But a war of nerves between Iran and the West is worsening.

Washington has moved a second aircraft carrier group into the Gulf amid growing U.S. talk of a pre-emptive strike on Iran, while Tehran has barred entry to 38 IAEA inspectors with Western nationality, among the 200 designated to work in the country.

Nato airstrike kills Taleban leader who broke deal

A senior Taleban commander who tormented British troops in northern Helmand has been killed in an airstrike against rebels who have overrun the town of Musa Qala.

“This key Taleban leader was well known to have commanded insurgents within the Musa Qala district and was directly responsible for the recent uprising and insurgent attacks within Musa Qala,” said Squadron Leader Dave Marsh, a spokesman for Nato troops in the south.

Haji Naem Khan, a member of the Helmand provincial council, said: “Between nine and ten this morning they targeted and bombed the vehicle of Mullah Abdul Ghafour in Musa Qala. They killed him and five of his bodyguards. He was a very strong and influential guy in the area.”

Mullah Ghafour was notorious in northern Helmand for being a ruthless leader, a daring fighter and a vehement opponent of the British presence. It is believed that he led countless attacks against British troops over the summer and his death will be a blow for the morale of his rebel followers.

On Thursday he led a band of more than 200 in the storming of Musa Qala. They destroyed the government compound, took the local police and government officials hostage, set up barricades and flew the white Taleban flag over the district centre.

British troops fought pitched battles in the town in summer but withdrew in October after signing a peace deal with village elders who agreed to keep the Taleban out of the town.

Under the deal, which was criticised by American officials, the British and the Taleban had to remain three miles outside the town, which would be policed by a council of 50 village elders and their gunmen.

The deal held for four months but ended last month when the brother of Mullah Ghafour, Mullah Ibrahim, was killed in a Nato airstrike outside Musa Qala, along with eight other Taleban. Mullah Ghafour was said to be enraged and led the attack on Musa Qala in retaliation.

It was claimed by Taleban rebels that the airstrike breached the Musa Qala agreement but this was denied strenuously by Nato. “The event they claim was a breach . . . was clearly outside the area covered by the Musa Qala agreement,” a Nato statement said.

“This claim is purely a Taleban excuse to try to justify their attempt to destroy an arrangement that they perceived to not be to their advantage and was increasingly being supported within the town.”

In southern Helmand province, the RAF has carried out one of its biggest air drops to provide food, ammunition and fuel for 350 British soldiers in the isolated town of Garmsir.

Marines from Zulu Company, 45 Commando and soldiers of the Light Dragoons have been engaged in heavy fighting with Taleban ensconced in Jugroom Fort, a compound in the town.

Garmsir was the location for the dramatic operation by Marines strapped to Apache attack helicopters to pick up the body of a fallen comrade inside the compound last month.