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Bleeding Edge Roundup

TECH

Florida sheriff pledges to arrest CEO Tim Cook if Apple resists crypto cooperation
By Cyrus Farivar
Ars Technica

A Florida sheriff has threatened to arrest Apple CEO Tim Cook, were a situation similar to Apple's resistance to government pressure in the ongoing San Bernardino terrorism investigation ever to arise in his jurisdiction. Last month, the government obtained an unprecedented court order under the All Writs Act, an obscure 18th-century statute, which would compel Apple to help. If the order stands up to legal challenges, Apple would be forced to create a new customized iOS firmware that would remove the passcode lockout on the seized iPhone 5C. Apple has said both publicly and in court filings that it will fight the order as much as possible, and the company has drawn support from many cryptographers, tech companies, and even the husband of a survivor of the attack.

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Go champion Lee Se-dol strikes back to beat Google’s DeepMind AI for first time
By Sam Byford
The Verge

AlphaGo wrapped up victory for Google in the DeepMind Challenge Match by winning its third straight game against Go champion Lee Se-dol yesterday, but the 33-year-old South Korean has got at least some level of revenge — he's just defeated AlphaGo, the AI program developed by Google's DeepMind unit, in the fourth game of a five-game match in Seoul. AlphaGo is now 3-1 up in the series with a professional record, if you can call it that, of 9-1 including the 5-0 win against European champion Fan Hui last year.

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Amazon eyes up education, plans a free platform for learning materials
By Ingrid Lunden
TechCrunch

Back in 2013, Amazon acquired (and continued to operate) online math instruction company TenMarks to gain a foothold in the online education space. Now it looks like Amazon is taking those learnings to the next level. The e-commerce giant plans to launch a free platform for schools and other educators to upload, manage and share educational materials. Signs indicate that the platform will be based around open educational resources (OER) and will come with a ratings system and interface that will resemble the commercial Amazon.com many of us already know and use.

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SUSTAINABILITY

A German City Has Banned Single-Serve Coffee Pods and Plastic Water Bottles
By Marie Doezema
VICE News

Coffee capsules have been taking hard hits in recent times, from a "Kill the K-Cup" video that went viral on Youtube last year to remarks by John Sylvan, one of the founders of Keurig's K-Cup, expressing remorse at ever having invented the now ubiquitous coffee pod.Yet the latest news on the coffee front is perhaps the most drastic: In January, the German city of Hamburg announced a ban on the purchase and use of coffee pods in all government-run buildings and institutions across the city. According to a Hamburg official, total consumption in 2014 in Germany was roughly three billion coffee capsules, which is estimated to equate to about 64 million pods consumed by Hamburg's 1.75 million inhabitants. The number is concerning, because the capsules' composition of plastic and aluminum is so hard to recycle.

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US government: We’ve found ‘holy grail’ of grid-scale battery tech
By Liam Tung
ZDNet

The research arm of the US Department of Energy (DoE) claims to have discovered game-changing energy-storage technologies that could accelerate the uptake of clean energy and make everything from smartphones to electric vehicles run for longer. Ellen Williams, director of DoE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), says it has achieved several breakthroughs in energy-storage technology that could transform the electrical grid. ARPA-E, which is modelled on the more widely-known Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), gained its first funding in 2009 under Barack Obama and formed part of the government's stimulus plan. The group is tasked with supporting "transformational energy projects" and, according to Obama, 45 ARPA-E backed projects have now secured more than $1.25bn in private-sector funding. ARPA-E has invested about $1.3bn across 475 projects over the past seven years.

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LABOR & ECONOMY

Labor for Trump?
By Jonah Waters
Jacobin Magazine

Norman Seabrook, the president of New York City’s Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), may soon join their ranks. Seabrook describes the billionaire as a friend, crediting him with creating “thousands of union jobs.” This news may come as a surprise to the more than five hundred workers at Donald Trump’s Las Vegas hotel who are currently locked in a bitter unionization campaign. Workers there face serious retaliation if they continue to push to form a union — one employee involved in the struggle was fired soon after workers voted to unionize late last year.

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The Trader Joe’s Lesson: How to Pay a Living Wage and Still Make Money in Retail
By Sophie Quinton
The Atlantic

The average American cashier makes $20,230 a year, a salary that in a single-earner household would leave a family of four living under the poverty line. But if he works the cash registers at QuikTrip, it's an entirely different story. The convenience-store and gas-station chain offers entry-level employees an annual salary of around $40,000, plus benefits. Those high wages didn't stop QuikTrip from prospering in a hostile economic climate. While other low-cost retailers spent the recession laying off staff and shuttering stores, QuikTrip expanded to its current 645 locations across 11 states.

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GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT

Kerry stresses need to end Syria, Yemen conflict in talks with Saudis
Reuters

US Secretary of State John Kerry stressed the need to move now to end the conflicts in Syria and Yemen in talks with top Saudi officials on Friday, a senior US official said. Kerry also sought to reassure officials of the importance of US-Saudi ties a day after President Barack Obama was quoted in a US magazine as saying regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran need to "share the neighborhood" and establish a "cold peace." "Kerry emphasized that now is the time to keep moving forward toward ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen," a senior US State Department official said in an email. Washington and allies including Saudi Arabia and Turkey back opposition groups representing political and armed factions in Syria's civil war while Russia and Iran support President Bashar al-Assad. In another regional conflict, Riyadh and a coalition of Arab states entered Yemen's civil war a year ago in an attempt to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh ousted him.

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UK government faces questions over plans to send troops to Libya
By Patrick Wintour and Crist Stephen
The Guardian

The UK parliament’s foreign affairs select committee is to ask the government whether it intends to send as many as 1,000 non-combat troops to Libya in an attempt to train a Libyan army capable of driving out Islamic State from the country. Senior members of the committee were told in Tunis last week that the formation of a Libyan government of national unity (GNA), which was announced on Saturday, would pave the way this week for a European conference on military intervention including the UK defence secretary, Michael Fallon.

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UN touts federalism ahead of Syria talks
Deutsche Welle

Staffan de Mistura, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria charged with mediating peace talks between the various factions in the conflict, said this week that federalism was still on the table ahead of UN-brokered negotiations to end the five-year conflict. De Mistura told Al Jazeera on Thursday that "all Syrians have rejected division [of Syria] and federalism can be discussed at the negotiations." The proposal has been touted by various actors in the conflict, including Moscow. On February 29, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's key ally Russia said the proposal could be a means to bring about peace if all sides to the war agreed on it. However, Riad Hijab, head of the Saudi-backed HNC - a Syrian opposition umbrella group - on Monday decried "the idea of federalism," saying it was the "prelude to the partitioning of Syria."

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AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

Are Conservative Christians ‘Religious Extremists’?
By Jonathan Merritt
The Atlantic

In her 2003 book, The Fundamentals of Extremism: The Christian Right in America, Kimberly Blaker argues that Conservative Christians share striking similarities with Taliban terrorists Conflating leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family with Islamic fundamentalists. She also argues that America’s traditionalist Christians are seeking to indoctrinate youth with oppressive views of women, minorities, and LGBT persons through mind-control tactics and intimidation. With new data showing that most Americans consider the beliefs and practices of traditionalist Christians to be ‘extreme’, Jonathan Merritt asks if it’s fair to apply the same descriptor to ISIS militiamen and soup kitchen volunteers simply because both groups believe it is their duty to convert “non-believers.”

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What Liberals Can Learn From the NRA
By David Cole
The New York Times

The New York Daily News recently called Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s chief executive, a “terrorist.” The passion underlying such condemnations may be understandable, especially in the wake of the horrific mass shootings that often prompt them. But this rhetoric does little to change the gun debate, and most likely reinforces gun owners’ worst fears about how liberals see them. Rather than demonize the NRA’s strategies, liberals should emulate them. The organization is, after all, the most effective civil rights group in the United States today.

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Teaching kids philosophy makes them smarter in math and English
By Jenny Anderson
Quartz

Schools face relentless pressure to up their offerings in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. Few are making the case for philosophy, but maybe they should. Nine- and 10-year-old children in England who participated in a philosophy class once a week over the course of a year significantly boosted their math and literacy skills, with disadvantaged students showing the most significant gains, according to a large and well-designed study.

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Bleeding Edge Roundup

Bleeding Edge Roundup