Apple is working on an AI system that wipes the floor with everyone else
By Steve Kovach
Siri is due for a big upgrade. Apple now has the tech in place to give its digital assistant a big boost thanks to a UK-based company called VocalIQ it bought last year. According to a source familiar with VocalIQ’s product, it’s much more robust and capable than Siri’s biggest competitors like Google Now, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana. In fact, it was so impressive that Apple bought VocalIQ before the company could finish and release its smartphone app.
I defeated a broken fridge through 3D printing
By Rod Berthold
How do you go about creating an unbroken duplicate of an existing part? Go to your local library, submit a file in .STL format, and they would take care of printing for you. The cost? A mere 10 cents per gram to pay for the filament material.
How the blockchain will clean up American politics
By Andrew Keen
Blockchain Revolution introduces blockchain as the new Internet—a technology that will once again change everything. Don and Alex Tapscott argue that the fundamentally transparent nature of blockchain technology—with its unalterable public ledger—will force politicians to be more honest about themselves and their intentions. Blockchain, they promise, will eventually disinfect the American political system—exposing dishonesty and triggering a more accountable political conversation.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
Senators demand US halt inquiries into climate denial by oil companies
By Alan Yuhas
Ted Cruz along with 4 other conservative senators say it’s a free speech issue. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman argues that covering up information from shareholders isn’t protected by free speech.
Australia removed from UN world heritage climate report
Representatives from Australia’s Department of Environment asked that references to how climate change is affecting world heritage sites in Australia be removed from a UN report. The fear being that it will have a negative impact on tourism. One of the scientific reviewers of the papers referred to this as an overreaction, saying the paper was very balanced and didn’t include any information anyone didn’t already know.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
H&M rapidly expands empire, but safety upgrades at factories 'painfully slow'
By Esther Han
As H&M rapidly expands its retail empire in Australia, the chain is being criticized for widespread labor rights violations and the "painfully slow" progress of safety renovations at factories. An Asia Floor Wage Alliance report, based on 251 interviews with workers from 17 H&M supplier factories in Cambodia and India, found women were being routinely fired during their pregnancy. Other common workplace abuses included illegal short-term contracts, low wages and forced overtime. Women in nine of 12 factories reported sexual harassment at work. "H&M's response to our report has been completely inadequate," the alliance's Anannya Bhattacharje told Fairfax Media from India. "H&M has told us they are testing out new practices with pilot factories, but when we asked them for the names of the factories they refused to tell us."
French strikes: situation getting better but crisis not over, says minister
By Nadia Khomami and Angelique Chrisafis
Strikes have continued at French oil refineries as part of an ongoing standoff with the government over labor reforms, as footage emerged apparently showing a middle-aged woman being pushed to the ground by a policeman. The protests are against François Hollande’s planned labour bill, which aims to make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers, and which was forced through parliament without a vote this month. Fuel shortages sparked by days of nationwide refinery strikes and blockades are easing across the country after several fuel depots were liberated by police, but the transport minister, Alain Vidalies, told journalists that although “the situation is getting better”, the crisis wasn’t over.
Deal to End Verizon Strike Gives Company Tools to Pare Work Force
By Noam Scheiber
The New York Times
Verizon reached a series of tentative agreements with unions representing nearly 40,000 striking workers over the holiday weekend, retreating on some of the major points of contention, including pension cuts and greater flexibility to outsource work. Workers have secured four-year “back-to-work” agreements that gives them a nearly 11 percent increase in pay over all, up from the 6.5 percent increase that Verizon had proposed before the strike, as well as modest ratification bonuses and profit-sharing.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
As Rich Nations Turn Their Backs
By The Editorial Board
The New York Times
The world is witnessing the largest exodus of refugees in generations, spawned by armed conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. But “witnessing” is perhaps the wrong word. Many world leaders, including those who run most of the richest countries, are choosing to look the other way. They are more interested in barricading their nations from the fallout of conflict than in investing in peacekeeping and stability.
EU Announces That All Scientific Articles Should Be Freely Accessible by 2020
By Jolene Creighton
This week was a revolutionary week in the sciences—not because we discovered a new fundamental particle or had a new breakthrough in quantum computing—but because some of the most prominent world leaders announced an initiative which asserts that European scientific papers should be made freely available to all by 2020. This would legally only impact research supported by public and public-private funds, which are a vast portion of the papers produced annually; however, the goal is to make all science freely available. Ultimately, the commitment rests on three main tenets: “Sharing knowledge freely,” “open access,” and “reusing research data.”
The EU referendum should be a matter for parliament
By David Mitchell
David Mitchell, of Peepshow fame, has some harsh words for Prime Minister David Cameron’s lack of leadership on the “Brexit” debate. “In Britain we get to choose our leaders, and dismiss them if we’re disappointed by the direction they’ve led us in. But we must surely reserve our bitterest disappointment for leaders who refuse to lead us anywhere at all. Calling this referendum is the worst thing Cameron has done to Britain. It’s such a hugely selfish and irresponsible act that I can hardly believe we’ve wasted so long talking about how he’s eviscerating the NHS, attacking the BBC and slashing disability benefits when, horrendous though those developments are, this crime is much greater because its consequences could be irreversible.”
To Save Our Justice System, End Racial Bias in Jury Selection
By Jon O. Newman
The New York Times
Both prosecutors and defense lawyers can exclude any number of prospective jurors for legitimate reasons — if a juror knows the defendant, has formed an opinion about the case or is unlikely to be impartial, but lawyers can also dismiss several more potential jurors simply because they do not want them. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Georgia prosecutors in Foster v. Chatman had illegally barred African-Americans from serving as jurors in a death penalty trial, but the decision does not end racial discrimination in jury selection. The best way to do that is to limit the number of jurors that lawyers can strike for no reason at all to just one or two per side.
Students seeking sugar daddies for tuition, rent
By Sarah Skidmore Sell
During her first year, Candice Kashani faced tuition and expenses that ran nearly $50,000, even after a scholarship. So she decided to check out a dating website that connected women looking for financial help with men willing to provide it, in exchange for companionship and sex — a "sugar daddy" relationship as they are known. Now, almost three years and several sugar daddies later, Kashani is set to graduate from Villanova University free and clear, while some of her peers are burdened with six-digit debts. As the cost of tuition and rent rises, so does the apparent popularity of such sites among students. But are they really providing financial relief, or signing women up for something more exploitative and dangerous than debt?
The Racial Divide in the Creative Economy
By Richard Florida
Across America, almost three-quarters of all creative class jobs nationwide are held by non-Hispanic white workers, compared to about nine percent by African Americans. By way of comparison, non-Hispanic whites make up roughly two thirds of the population compared to 12 percent for blacks. While 36 percent of all workers nationally are part of the creative class, 41 percent of white workers hold creative class jobs, while just 28 percent of black workers do. How does this pan out geographically? Are there some metros that do better on this score than others?