Showing posts with label The Guardian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Guardian. Show all posts

Monday, April 26, 2021

"at some point, surplus became more important than feeding people"

"The global, industrialized food system faces increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact, given its voracious appetite for land is linked to mass deforestation, water pollution and a sizable chunk of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The implied trade-off has been that advances in agriculture have greatly reduced hunger and driven societies out of poverty due to improved productivity and efficiencies. But Mark Bittman, the American food author and journalist, argues in his new book Animal, Vegetable, Junk that these supposed benefits are largely illusionary.

In a sweeping deconstruction of the history of food, spanning the past 10,000 years of organized agriculture, Bittman takes in everything from Mesopotamian irrigation to the Irish famine to the growth of McDonald’s to posit the rise of uniformity and convenience in food has mostly benefited large companies, fueled societal inequities and ravaged human health and the environment. Al Gore, the former US vice president, has called the book a “must-read for policymakers, activists and concerned citizens looking to better understand our food system and how to fix it”.
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Mark Bittman, the American food author and journalist - "Animal, Vegetable, Junk"
Mark Bittman, the American food author and journalist - "Animal, Vegetable, Junk"

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The Guardian: "US Postal Service reportedly tracking social media posts"

"The US Postal Service has reportedly been monitoring social media posts, with a focus on people planning protests.

The surveillance procedure, known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), tracks social media activity that it describes as “inflammatory” and shares that information to government agencies, according to a government bulletin from 16 March obtained by Yahoo News. The program is part of the efforts of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement arm of the USPS.

The USPIS monitored social media accounts regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on 20 March, when the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy was scheduled to take place, according to the bulletin."
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Thursday, April 1, 2021

What background disqualifies a reporter from a story?

"Felicia Sonmez had to flee her home. In early 2020, after the death of the basketball player Kobe Bryant, Sonmez, a longtime breaking news reporter at the Washington Post, tweeted a link to a Daily Beast story about the 2003 rape allegation against Bryant. The tweet had no commentary and no editorializing by Sonmez, and yet on the day it appeared online, it was a lonely acknowledgment of Bryant’s compromised legacy amid a sea of uncritical praise for the dead athlete. In response, the reporter received a deluge of abuse from Bryant’s fans. They were angry at what they saw as Sonmez besmirching Bryant’s memory by acknowledging the accusation that he had been sexually violent towards a Colorado woman; they were willing to avenge this disrespect, or so they claimed, with more violence against women. The name-calling escalated into threats, and some of those threats seemed credible. Her home address was published online. For her own safety, Sonmez went briefly into hiding.

The story is sadly familiar to female journalists, who face harassment, threats, stalking, and other digital hostility as a strange and uncompensated condition of their jobs. But in many cases, these female journalists are defended by their employers. Such was the case for Taylor Lorenz, a New York Times reporter on digital culture who was targeted by Tucker Carlson and other rightwing instigators last month: the Times issued a statement standing by their reporter, and condemning the attacks against her."

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Thursday, March 25, 2021

On National Pay Day women in sports highlight inequality


Megan Rapinoe has taken her fight for equal pay to Congress as she testified on Wednesday in front of a committee examining “the economic harm caused by longstanding gender inequalities, particularly for women of color”.

The Olympic and World Cup champion testified at a hearing by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. In her opening statement, the soccer star told the committee that: “I am here today because I know firsthand that this is true. We are told in this country that if you just work hard and continue to achieve - you will be rewarded, fairly. It’s the promise of the American dream. But that promise has not been for everyone.

“The United States women’s national team has won four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals on behalf of our country. We have filled stadiums, broken viewing records, and sold out jerseys, all popular metrics by which we are judged.

“Yet despite all of this, we are still paid less than men – for each trophy, of which there are many, each win, each tie, each time we play. Less.”

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"The NCAA’s handling of the women’s basketball tournament is either malpractice or malfeasance. It’s one or the other. The issue is not just petty skimping on food, the withholding of the March Madness brand, the willful lack of promotion. Something much bigger is going on here, a kind of larceny. And Congress should make the NCAA crack open the books on it.

Short of stifling Geno Auriemma with a pillow while stealing his diamond championship rings, the NCAA could not work harder to smother the potential of the women’s tournament and rob it of revenue. This week, in response to a query about its financials, the NCAA insisted again that the women don’t turn a profit. This is patently unjustifiable. You know how much revenue NCAA Division I women’s basketball generated collectively in 2018-2019? Almost a billion dollars. "
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Monday, March 22, 2021

"the guilty seem to have no capacity even for remorse"


"After last week’s exhaustive inquiry by Clive Sheldon QC into how young people in football have been subjected to horrific sexual abuse during 25 years with no child protection, the nation this week will hear from survivors. In the testimony they give to a devastating BBC documentary series, they emphasise a constant theme: that their enforced silence for years did further dreadful damage to them, and how liberating it has been to speak out."
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Friday, March 19, 2021

"Oil firms knew decades ago fossil fuels posed grave health risks, files reveal"

"The oil industry knew at least 50 years ago that air pollution from burning fossil fuels posed serious risks to human health, only to spend decades aggressively lobbying against clean air regulations, a trove of internal documents seen by the Guardian reveal.

The documents, which include internal memos and reports, show the industry was long aware that it created large amounts of air pollution, that pollutants could lodge deep in the lungs and be “real villains in health effects”, and even that its own workers may be experiencing birth defects among their children.

But these concerns did little to stop oil and gas companies, and their proxies, spreading doubt about the growing body of science linking the burning of fossil fuels to an array of health problems that kill millions of people around the world each year. Echoing the fossil-fuel industry’s history of undermining of climate science, oil and gas interests released a torrent of material aimed at raising uncertainty over the harm caused by air pollution and used this to deter US lawmakers from placing further limits on pollutants."
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Thursday, March 18, 2021

National News: no mail fraud in PA found; check on your IRS stimulus payment; intelligence report highlights terrorists threats

"Postal Service finds no evidence of mail ballot fraud in Pa. case cited by top Republicans"

"U.S. Postal Service investigators found no evidence to support a Pennsylvania postal worker’s claim that his supervisors had tampered with mail-in ballots, according to an inspector general’s report — allegations cited by top Republicans to press baseless claims of fraud in the presidential election."

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 "The IRS has sent out 90 million stimulus payments."
"The Internal Revenue Service told financial institutions to expect roughly 90 million direct deposits amounting to $242.2 billion on March 17 in the initial distribution of the American Rescue Plan stimulus payments, according to a banking industry group.

Following the deposits, the IRS mailed an additional 150,000 checks amounting to $442 million, with a pay date of March 19, according to the Independent Community Bankers of America, based on a briefing from the IRS.

“Additional batches of payments will be sent in the coming weeks with the vast majority sent by direct deposit,” the group said in an online update to banking members. “Payments will also be sent through the mail as a check or debit card.” 
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"Racist extremists pose most deadly terrorist threat to US, intelligence report warns"
"Racially motivated extremists pose the most lethal domestic terrorism threats to the US, according to an unclassified intelligence report that warned that the threats could grow this year.

The blunt assessment, in a report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, echoes warnings made by US officials, including the FBI director, Christopher Wray, who testified earlier this month that the threat from domestic violent extremism was “metastasizing” across the country."
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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

National News: FBI facing challenge on background check; wood stove certification found lacking

"FBI facing allegation that its 2018 background check of Brett Kavanaugh was ‘fake’"
"The FBI is facing new scrutiny for its 2018 background check of Brett Kavanaugh, the supreme court justice, after a lawmaker suggested that the investigation may have been “fake”.

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator and former prosecutor who serves on the judiciary committee, is calling on the newly-confirmed attorney general, Merrick Garland, to help facilitate “proper oversight” by the Senate into questions about how thoroughly the FBI investigated Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing. "
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"Natural but deadly: huge gaps in US rules for wood-stove smoke exposed"
"In 2015, the US government required that newer models of wood stoves perform better and began spending millions of dollars to subsidize the transition away from older models. Now, an investigation by state environment officials is revealing a critical flaw in that plan: the latest stoves might not be any less polluting than the previous ones.

A review of 250 wood-burning stove certifications found unexplained data omissions and atypical lab practices. When the officials retested about a dozen of the heaters in their own labs, they were not able to reproduce the certification results. They found many stoves were polluting as much as the previous models. One was producing so much pollution that it wouldn’t have met the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever standards from 1988."
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Saturday, March 13, 2021

Toronto's urban center "grappling with a housing shortage and affordability crisis"

Before I retired I had the opportunity to visit Toronto a few times. As Canada largest city, they have rejected a technology based development to take a more human approach. As Franklin continues the discussion on development and affordable housing, their work may provide some ideas we can use.
"Canada’s largest city is moving towards a new vision of the future, in which affordability, sustainability and environmentally friendly design are prioritized over the trappings of new and often untested technologies.

In announcing its new vision this week for Quayside, Toronto has backed away from many of the previous plan’s most futuristic promises, a move experts say reflects growing skepticism over technology’s role in urban planning decisions."
What is the new vision?
"Waterfront Toronto today launched an international competition to secure a development partner for the Quayside lands. The first step in this effort is to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to identify potential development proponents with the proven experience, design portfolio, financial resources, and shared vision necessary to bring Quayside to reality.  

“The people of Toronto have told us that they want to see a bold vision realized on the waterfront that reflects the confident, welcoming, and imaginative civic spirit of our city,” said Stephen Diamond, Chair of the Board for Waterfront Toronto. 

“We are looking for leaders in the development field that will share our ambition to create a place that fuses Quayside to the water, and provides more beauty, utility, and originality than previously imagined. We want Quayside to be timeless, adaptive, and to propel us into our rightful place among the great waterfronts of the world,” Diamond concluded. 

Quayside will usher in a new chapter in Toronto development. It will remind people of everything they want from living in the city and demonstrate what is possible when vision, passion, and design excellence are brought together. " 
Continue reading about the development planning for Quayside:

Opening quote from The Guardian gets into more of the background on the rejected development approach:

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Guardian: "What if the most important election of the year is happening right now in Alabama?"

"This month, 5,800 Amazon warehouse employees in Bessemer, Alabama, will be voting on whether or not to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union in what could turn out to be the most important election of the year.

While the Bessemer fulfillment center itself is a drop in the bucket when compared to Amazon’s roughly 500 facilities around the country, this could be the ballot heard around the world. If successful, this election would mark the first unionized Amazon facility in the US.

Over the past 26 years, Jeff Bezos has built himself a private empire. Amazon is now the second largest employer in the US, after Walmart, and the fifth largest in the world. The more than 800,000 Amazon employees across the country represent a population between the size of Maine and Montana. Globally, the company employs more than 1 million workers."
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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

"human operators will do little to offset the biases of AI programming"

"The New York police department has acquired a robotic police dog, known as Digidog, and has deployed it on the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and, most recently, the Bronx. At a time that activists in New York, and beyond, are calling for the defunding of police departments – for the sake of funding more vital services that address the root causes of crime and poverty – the NYPD’s decision to pour money into a robot dog seems tone-deaf if not an outright provocation.

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents parts of Queens and the Bronx, put it on Twitter: “Shout out to everyone who fought against community advocates who demanded these resources go to investments like school counseling instead. Now robotic surveillance ground drones are being deployed for testing on low-income communities of color with underresourced schools.”
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The Guardian: "'Sexism stands at the door': 11 female film-makers written out of mainstream Hollywood history"

"Everything we’re told about cinema is that it’s shaped by men. If women feature at all in many Hollywood histories, it’s to look gorgeous on screen and lead interesting personal lives off it.

But this narrative has been warped, consciously and not, by the men who have dominated film-making for almost a century, ignoring the women who made films, challenged the studio system – and helped bring it down.

The battle for equality on the screen is still being fought. Things are slowly changing for the better – witness ChloĆ© Zhao’s victory at Sunday’s Golden Globes – but it comes too late for generations who have been locked out of Hollywood’s corridors of power. Their stories are still too-little discussed. Here are 11 women whose ill-treatment illustrates Hollywood’s alternative history." 
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Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Guardian: "AstraZeneca and Moderna’s contrasting rewards for fighting Covid hardly seem fair"

In my reporting for Franklin Matters, I like to use the line "to follow the money" and in so doing I focus on the Finance Committee, Town Council and School Committee. So this article on the profit approach of the vaccine makers caught my eye.

"Compare and contrast. AstraZeneca is currently producing COVID vaccines for no profit and still manages to get beaten up by opportunists in Brussels. Over in the US, Moderna is hailed as a national saviour while shouting from the rooftops about how its commercial prospects have been transformed by its own COVID vaccine.

Moderna’s full-year statement on Thursday was extraordinary. The company expects to generate revenues of $18.4bn (£13.1bn) year from deals it has signed to supply its vaccine, which is priced at $30–$36 a shot, so is definitely intended to produce a chunky profit margin. That revenue forecast is enormous. For comparison, AstraZeneca’s entire established portfolio – for cancer, cardiovascular, respiratory treatments and more – generated sales of $26.6bn last year.

The backstories to the vaccines are very different, of course. Moderna was a loss-making biotechnology firm that has poured billions into developing messenger RNA technology (also used in the BioNtech/Pfizer product) and a successful return on that investment was never guaranteed. AstraZeneca has merely accelerated original research done at Oxford University – and a condition of the partnership was “at cost” pricing for all the deals to date."
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The Guardian: "Will I have to wear a mask after getting the COVID vaccine? The science explained"

"Public health authorities want people to keep wearing masks and social distancing, even after they receive a vaccine. This might seem counterintuitive – after all, if someone gets a vaccine, aren’t they protected from the coronavirus?

The answer is complicated: the vast majority of people who are vaccinated will be protected from Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, vaccinated people may still be able to transmit the virus, even though they do not display any symptoms.

“We know now the vaccines can protect, but what we haven’t had enough time to really understand is – does it protect from spreading?” said Avery August, professor of immunology at Cornell University.

That is because the the SARS-CoV-2 virus may still colonize the respiratory tract, even as systemic immune cells protect the overall body from the disease it causes – Covid-19."
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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Guardian: "Drug-sniffing dog finds cereal frosted with $2.8m worth of cocaine in Ohio"

"US customs agents made a surprise discovery when a sniffer dog investigated what looked to be a perfectly innocent shipment of frosted cereal, only to discover that the sugar coating was in fact a large amount of cocaine.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Bico, a narcotic detector dog with US Customs and Border Protection, uncovered the haul of drugs in a shipment of breakfast cereal from South America that was headed to Hong Kong.

“Officers found white powder and the flakes were coated in a grayish substance after the dog alerted on the shipment,” the paper reported.

The value of the drug was estimated at $2.8m."
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Sunday, February 21, 2021

Remember H1N1? There are more, one is H5N8

"A H5N8 strain of bird flu has been detected in humans for the first time, among seven workers who were infected at a Russian poultry plant in December.

There is no evidence of the strain being transmitted between humans, but Russia has reported the transmission to the World Health Organization.

The workers now feel well, and “the situation did not develop further”, according to Dr Anna Popova, head of consumer health watchdog Rospotrebnadzor. She said the workers had been infected during an outbreak of the strain at the plant."
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Thursday, February 18, 2021

What good journalism does

"Revealed: chemicals giant sold Louisiana plant amid fears over cost of offsetting toxic emissions"

"Chemicals giant DuPont decided to sell a plant in south Louisiana that emits a likely cancer causing pollutant, citing “major concerns” that government agencies would regulate its emissions to protect the community living nearby, internal documents seen by the Guardian reveal.

The documents show the multibillion-dollar company worried in 2011 about the potential cost of offsetting its emissions of the “likely human carcinogen”, chloroprene, and so moved to sell the plant, the Pontchartrain Works facility.

The company codenamed the sale “Project Elm” in an apparent bid to keep the deal, completed in 2015, secretive. It is also alleged the company withheld details of its own research to offset emissions from the plant’s new owners."
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"Fake Doctors, Fake Documents: How a Russian Doping Lie Fell Apart"
"If the cover-up was to work, the high jumper Danil Lysenko realized far too late, he had better familiarize himself with the Moscow hospital where Russian track and field officials had insisted he had undergone a battery of medical tests.

The details mattered. The tests were the centerpiece of Russia’s explanation for why antidoping officials had been unable to locate Lysenko in the spring of 2018.

The punishment mattered, too: Athletes found guilty of so-called whereabouts failures — effectively failing to make themselves available for random drug tests — can face suspensions of up to two years. Those caught lying, falsifying documents or obstructing investigators risked even worse. Either sanction, though, would most likely keep Lysenko, a talented high jumper who has just turned 21, from representing Russia at the Tokyo Olympics."
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Sunday, February 7, 2021

National news -> "Seditionaries: FBI net closes on Maga mob that stormed the Capitol"

"As prosecutors from the House of Representatives prepare to present their case against Donald Trump at his impeachment trial next week for incitement of insurrection, supporters who heeded his call on 6 January to “fight like hell” and went on to storm the Capitol Building are finding themselves in far greater legal peril.

The trial that kicks off in the US Senate on Tuesday could lead to a further vote that would permanently debar Trump from holding office in the future. By contrast, the mob of fervent Maga acolytes who broke into the US Capitol following an incendiary rally headlined by Trump could face prison for up to 20 years.

One month after the events which left five people dead including a US Capitol police officer, there is no sign of the Department of Justice and FBI letting up in their relentless pursuit of the insurrectionists. In the past week alone there have been arrests of alleged rioters in Seattle, Washington; Las Vegas, Nevada; Corinth, Texas; Garner, North Carolina; and Marion, Illinois."
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Friday, January 29, 2021

Do you drink bottled water?

"For years, the debate has raged on: which is better, bottled water, or tap?

Despite its ever-growing popularity in the US, bottled water is atrocious for the environment. To quote Harvard University’s Office for Sustainability, “The entire life cycle of bottled water uses fossil fuels, contributes to global warming, and causes pollution.”

Although water bottles are recyclable, Americans throw away about 80% of the bottles they use – and, by some estimates, Americans use 1,500 plastic bottles of water every second. Plastic bottles contribute immensely to global environmental crises, in part due to the fact that they disintegrate into microplastics, the presence of which are so ubiquitous researchers recently discovered them in the placentas of unborn babies. Bottled water takes 2,000 times the energy to produce and ship than its tap equivalent. The extraction and manufacturing processes used by bottled water corporations can also have negative environmental and economic effects, and amount to the privatization and commodification of a limited and invaluable resource to which all should have a universal right."

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Thursday, January 28, 2021

The Guardian: ‘A remarkable phenomenon’: billions of cicadas set to emerge across eastern US

"Billions of cicadas that have spent 17 years underground are set to emerge across large areas of the eastern US, bringing swarming numbers and loud mating calls to major towns and cities.

The periodic cicadas – bugs with strikingly red eyes, black bodies and orange wings – burrow underground as nymphs and suck fluids from the roots of plants as they grow, eventually bursting into the open as adults in mass synchronized events.

The last such event for 15 states including New York, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia occurred in 2004. The cicadas emerge in a 17-year cycle, meaning they will appear this year once temperatures are warm enough, expected to be mid-May."
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