None of us likes to admit that our emotional and intuitive reactions can be manipulated by what we see online. Nor do we like to discover offhandedly that our independent thoughts are often molded by what our friends and neighbors think. Cornell University researchers recently demonstrated this to us in their infamous Facebook study, in which users were duped into revealing their impressionable thoughts without knowing it. In the process, they also revealed that what we see online can be tailored to match what we say we like and don’t like.
Deep in the interior of British Columbia, Canada, in ranching country known for its short bursts of intense summer weather and dry, temperate winters, the makings of a quiet rebellion are taking root. It’s not the kind of thing that tech companies are prone to talk about here, except when it comes to lauding the growing success of Canada’s data services industry. Building a Canada-strong network in a market once ruled by U.S. expertise can be a political hot potato.
But check the register of IT companies for British Columbia’s popular recreational tourism corridor and the trend becomes clear. Kamloops, once dubbed the “Tournament Capital of Canada,” has a new marketplace taking shape, one that has less to do with hockey and yearly rodeos, and more to do with safeguarding proprietary rights.
Canada’s data security conundrum
Kamloops’ data services industry was already in the making when whistleblower Edward Snowden made his landmark announcement last year that the National Security Agency was accessing customer data. The revelations haven’t hurt Canadian companies like Telus, Rogers and Canada Bell, who have been working steadily to woo data customers.
But it has hurt relations between American telecommunications companies and international clients who anticipated that their data would remain a private matter under U.S. law.
Efforts have been underway for some time now to find a way to save the world’s coral reefs. Coral, which is often thought of incorrectly as a marine plant, perform an essential symbiotic role in our oceans that often benefit other organisms. Their incredible diversity allows them to replicate in a variety of environments and makes them essential to the world’s oceans. Home to more than 800 types of coral, the world’s coral reefs alone support the existence of more than 4,000 species of fish, many of which provide essential food for human populations. Other coral communities, such as those in the Red Sea, are also essential to marine life.
So, finding a way to stem the decline of coral has been a priority for marine scientists for the past several decades – at least since the late 1990s when scientists attempted unsuccessfully to replant coral in the Great Barrier Reef. According to the World Resources Institute’s 2011 report, Reefs at Risk Revisited, 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs face extinction from climate change, coastal development, pollution and overfishing.
And they are more than a form of marine animal. Often likened to the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, “coral reefs are harbingers of change,” the WRI states. The increasing extinction of coral is a clear indicator of the future of the world’s oceans.
The good news is that after years of research, scientists in Israel may have found a way to repopulate coral reefs. Dr. Baruch Rinkevich, senior scientist at Israel’s Institute of Oceanographic and Limnological Research, and Dr. Shai Shafir, chair of the department of Natural Science and Environmental Education at Oranim Academic College, have developed a means by which to regrow coral and replant it in its natural habitat.
Poultry producer Tyson Foods has announced that the Environmental Protection Agency is launching a criminal investigation into last May’s wastewater discharge at Tyson’s Monett, Missouri plant.
The information was revealed in Tyson’s Aug. 7 Securities and Exchange Commission filing, in which Tyson acknowledged that it is also being sued by the state of Missouri for the company’s part in allegedly causing a massive fish-kill in Clear Creek in May of this year.
There are numerous ways to measure the sustainability of a major city these days. Cutting-edge, energy-efficient transportation, renewable energy and recycling/reuse programs are all excellent indicators of a “green” municipal mindset. So is green real estate. Energy-efficient, certified real estate construction has been gaining prominence in recent years, so much so that it is now addressed in bylaws in many cities across North America.
So it’s also no surprise that the real estate group CBRE came up with a list of the top 30 U.S. cities to feature green commercial building construction. What is intriguing is the variation between cities when it comes to what defined that green emphasis.
We laud corporate social responsibility. As a society, we put those generous acts of concern that companies do at the top of the scale when it comes to trust and our concept of product reliability. Safeway’s many local donation campaigns, McDonald’s long-standing Ronald McDonald charities, the numerous companies that have donated to community hunger programs, child education and the like. In fact, these days, it would likely be harder to find a company that doesn’t have a well publicized CSR program than 20 that do.
And American society is not alone. In India, Mahatma Gandhi introduced the concept of trusteeship to companies in the early 1900s, encouraging them to take a leading role in social responsibility. So, the Indian parliament’s landmark legislation in 2013 that large companies must donate 2 percent of their earnings to CSR projects each year is really not earth-shaking when it comes to social perspectives in the world’s largest democratic nation.
If you have ever traveled to a densely tropical area, you have probably taken anti-malaria medications. You probably also know that protecting yourself from the disease isn’t a piece of cake. My earliest childhood memories of living in Central America included a battery of shots that protected us from everything from typhus to yellow fever. When it came to shielding us from the bite of a malaria-borne mosquito however, protection was a bit more complex, and involved a regimen of either weekly or daily medications that served as a protective shield from the potentially fatal effects of the disease.
And since it depended upon good memory skills and sometimes the right immune system, the doses weren’t always 100 percent effective in warding off the disease. Although none of my family contracted it, we knew scientists and researchers who, even with their acute instincts for regimen, still ended up contracting malaria.
But the real problem today with anti-malaria meds isn’t the chance that they won’t work, but that the majority of the victims aren’t able to afford a lengthy prescription. That’s because most people who contract malaria aren’t incidental travelers from North America who are on a business trip or an excursion to see the local sights, but residents who would never be able to afford the cost of lifelong prescriptions.
Just when we started to forget about Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, the activist organization is back in the news. This time it isn’t the covert tactics of the National Security Agency, Guantanamo prisoners or the touchy nature of the federal government’s overseas relations that Wikileaks is fingering, but the Australian government.
On Tuesday Wikileaks released information about a gag order that prevented Australia’s media from informing the public about investigations into a multi-national graft case. In addition to publishing the information on its website, Wikileaks also released notice of the gag order to the Guardian in the U.K.
According to the Guardian, the Supreme Court of Victoria said it placed the ban “to prevent damage to Australia’s international relations.” What has critics particularly concerned, however, is the nature of the gag order, which prevents Australian media from even acknowledging that there is a ban in place.
“Who is brokering our deals, and how are we brokering them as a nation? Corruption investigations and secret gag orders for ‘national security’ reasons are strange bedfellows,” asserts Wikileaks.
According to its website, the gag order relates to the “secret 19 June 2014 indictment of seven senior executives from subsidiaries of Australia’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).” Those indictments and the ongoing investigations are linked to a scandal that surfaced in 2012 concerning alleged payments between RBA staff and government officials in Asia.
Lurking inside your bed, your couch, your carpet and the upholstery of your car is a secret arsenal. You can’t see it, you can’t usually smell it, and most of the time, you’re likely unaware that it’s even there.
The U.S. chemical industry will tell you that it’s there to save lives. And the truth is, in many cases it has. Since 1976 when the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed, says the North American FlameRetardant Alliance (NAFRA), deaths from furniture and furnishing fires have dropped dramatically. According to studies conducted during 1981-1985 and 2000-2007, “The number of fire deaths fell by 64 percent for furniture and furnishings [f&f] fires.” The American Chemistry Council (ACC) attributes that reduction to flame-retardant chemicals that slow the spread of a devastating house fire.
Chemical flame retardants: Are they helping?
But critics ask, at what cost? Improved technology now places the cause of some cancers, developmental problems and other diseases squarely on the types of chemicals we use in our homes. Substances that have long been used with the blessings of TSCA, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers and phosphate esters, are now showing up in our water, our food and have been detected in the air we breathe. Research has also linked childhood developmental problems to the chemicals found in our furniture and other upholstery
Organizations like Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Health Care Without Harm and Practice Green Health have long argued that spraying the interior of our beds and upholstery doesn’t just change the flammability of the furniture, it just subjects their users to an onslaught of toxic chemicals on a daily basis, and that there are better, safer ways to address f&f fire risk in our homes.
For those who aren’t familiar with the expression, tax inversion occurs when companies purchase property in another country in order to change their tax base to another, more financially advantageous location. Northern Ireland is the latest geographic sector to benefit from burgeoning U.S. firms like Google and Facebook, which are said to be thriving under more generous tax provisions. Biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which earlier this month attempted to purchase U.K. pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, is also suspected of trying to change its physical address.
“My attitude is: I don’t care if it’s legal,” Obama said in a speech in Los Angeles this week. “It’s wrong.”
What I often appreciate about Obama is his ability to come right to the core of the issue, which often doesn’t have to do with pragmatism, or partisanship (although, he’s been known to trump that card as well), but ethics. Few presidents have had the moxie to aim for the moral bull’s-eye as many times as Obama and hit it squarely on the mark.
What’s the size of a clunky ice cooler and essential to that off-grid lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of? If you guessed a solar power inverter, then you may be just the techie Google is hoping to hear from. At a time when computers can fit in the palm of your hand and miniaturized pacemakers can be less than 42 millimeters in size and less than 2 cubic centimeters in volume, it may seem surprising that we’re still dealing with solar inverters that can be as big as your grandmother’s knitting chest.
Google’s Green Team has come up with an ingenious answer: Offer what every hobby industrialist has always wanted — $1 million for the guy or gal that can come up with a way to shrink the technology.
For those who are unacquainted with power inverters, it’s that essential piece of equipment that allows us to actually utilize the power we gain through the solar panels or wind turbines. It converts the direct current (DC) that’s stored from say, a solar array, to the alternating current (AC) we use to power appliances.
The concept of a national carbon tax is a hard sell for most people these days. According to a recent poll, only 34 percent of U.S. respondents said they would support taxing fossil fuels like oil, gas or natural gas.
But support for a carbon tax changes dramatically when it comes to scenarios in which the funds are either reimbursed to taxpayers or used to fund renewable energy projects. The 798 respondents were surveyed for each question according to their political affiliations in order to determine what resonated with each of three specific political groups (Republican, Independent and Democrat). The poll was conducted by the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and the University of Michigan Center for Local, State and Urban Policy this year.
Sixty percent of those surveyed gave thumbs-up to the more creative form of a carbon tax where it is then used to fund renewable energy. Half (51 percent) of those who identified themselves as Republican said they would support a tax that was then reused for greener purposes. An estimated 54 percent of Independents and 70 percent of Democrats said they would support the idea as well.
If U.S. appliance manufacturers have their way, consumers who purchase washers, dryers and other appliances based on their Energy Star ratings won’t be able to sue their makers if the energy savings aren’t as good as promised.
A House bill sponsored by Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and co-sponsored by Peter Welch (D-Vt.) would remove consumers’ ability to launch class-action litigation against a manufacturer if actual energy savings did not reflect what the Energy Star rating stated at the time of sale.
The bill, which was submitted for review July 12, has the backing of several large appliance makers, including Whirlpool and LG, which are members of Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). Welch was an honorary co-chair of ASE at the time of the bill’s submission. He now serves as honorary vice-chair.
When it comes to updating your neighborhood power plant these days, nothing is certain. But for NRG, California’s largest power plant operator, that message came home last month with an odd twist: The city of Oxnard voted to place a moratorium on the construction of a plant that would replace the current structure at its oceanside location. The reason? Climate change.
Until June 30 of this year, Hobby Lobby was best known for its arts and craft supplies and do-it-yourself home decor options. But on July 1, that all changed.
As a result of a Supreme Court decision that its owners – and those of other “closely held” companies – did not have to provide insurance coverage for birth control, Hobby Lobby was catapulted into the partisan spotlight. A name that was once synonymous with candle-making supplies is now the poster child for businesses that object to Affordable Care Act regulations on what a company must provide for its workers.
But it isn’t the only business fighting this battle. Hobby Lobby’s unexpected court win gained the most attention, but the ACA was actually being challenged by approximately 100 small, privately-owned businesses. These companies, largely because of religious views, took exception to the idea that the insurance they provide might make it easier for women to access birth control.
And what many have been surprised to hear is that one of the largest proponents of this view (and a litigant in a battle against ACA) is the owner of an organic foods label. He’s well known for his sustainability outlooks and wholesome focus on principles that are often assumed go with, well, more liberal values.
But Michael Potter, owner of Eden Foods, makes no apology for the dichotomy between his objection to being required to pay for his workers’ birth control and his progressive stance on back-to-basics farm food.