Modular phones are here, like it or not
By Matt Burns
In the near future, you may not be purchasing your phone in one piece. Many smartphone companies--including Motorola, LG, and Google--are betting that you may wish to purchase a platform that you can add and subtract components to on the fly. Want a better camera? Pop the old one out and chuck a new one in. Want a big speaker? A bigger battery? A kickstand? A breath mint holder? Go for it.
Apple is making so much clean energy, it formed a new company to sell it
By Jordan Golson
Apple has created a subsidiary to sell the excess electricity generated by its hundreds of megawatts of solar projects. The company, called Apple Energy LLC, filed a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to sell power on wholesale markets across the US. The company has announced plans for 521 megawatts of solar projects globally. It's using that clean energy to power all of its data centers, as well as most of its Apple Stores and corporate offices. In addition, it has other investments in hydroelectric, biogas, and geothermal power, and looks to purchase green energy off the grid when it can't generate its own power. In all, Apple says it generates enough electricity to cover 93 percent of its energy usage worldwide.
At last, a cure for feminism: sex robots
By Deborah Orr
Sex androids: should we be concerned? Professor Noel Sharkey, emeritus professor of robotics at Sheffield University, reckons that we should be. Speaking at the Cheltenham science festival, the academic warned that while he was “fairly liberal about sex”, he was worried about the effect such machines might have on people’s ability to form human relationships. Robotic sex toys are already available to consumers in the US and Japan. Amazingly, they tend to be crude approximations of women.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
The Second-Largest City In The U.S. Is On The Verge Of Being 100 Percent Renewable
By Samantha Page
Growing up alongside the car and electricity industries, Los Angeles has long been seen as one of the country’s most modern cities. But now, as our collective dependence on power has been found guilty of damaging our water, air, and climate, the city is taking steps to be part of the new future: a clean energy future. The City Council is going to consider a motion this month that would direct the municipal utility to determine how to move the city to 100 percent renewable energy. The motion already has broad support from council members, and Los Angeles officials confirmed that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) has begun work on the report, which will be developed with research partners, including the Dept. of Energy.
Taking This Photo Would Be Illegal in Utah
By Kaleigh Rogers
Another day, another factory farm with disgusting conditions and inhumane treatment. On Tuesday, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released details on an undercover investigation of a factory egg farm in Maine where dead chickens were left to rot until they mummified, and 4 million birds were each kept in cages smaller in area than a sheet of paper. But in some parts of the country, the agricultural sector is successfully campaigning for laws that would make it illegal to publicly expose these kind of conditions, and even snapping the photo at the top of this post would be against the law.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
Universal Basic Income Is Not Crazy
By Kevin O’Marah
This week, Switzerland voted on a proposed universal basic income nd saw it go down in a whopping defeat. The basic idea has been around for some time and boils down to paying each citizen an unconditional monthly income, which in the case of the Swiss was supposed to be around $30,000 per year. The concept has been called utopian, irresponsible, socialistic and any number of other approximate synonyms of “crazy”. If the Swiss vote is indicative of rational thinking, it should finally be dead. And yet, it lives.
Thanks to Obama, the rich paid more in taxes in 2013 than they did in 1980
By Dylan Matthews
President Obama has raised taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans so much that they actually paid more in 2013 than they did in 1980, before the Reagan and Bush tax cuts and the huge recent increase in inequality. That's the surprising conclusion of a new report from the Congressional Budget Office. The report tracks how incomes and taxes have evolved for different parts of the income distribution from 1979 to 2013. And one thing it suggests is that Obama's tax policies have led to a very significant increase in taxes for the richest 1 percent
Why inequality is worse for your wallet than a weak economy
By Jim Tankersley
The Washington Post
Two trends have socked American workers over the past three decades. The economy has grown more slowly than it did in the decades after World War II, and the growth we’ve seen has disproportionately boosted the incomes of the very rich. Both trends are important, but in a new paper, liberal economist Joshua Bivens argues that one of them was far more consequential for the vast majority of Americans. In his paper, he builds two alternate realities of the American economy from 1979 to 2007 to tease out whether slowing growth or widening inequality did more to depress incomes for the bottom 90 percent of US workers. In one model, growth changes but inequality stays the same. In the other, growth stays the same but inequality changes. Bivens finds that incomes for that broad group of workers would be 20 percent higher in 2007 if inequality had simply stayed at its average level for the three decades after the war. That’s double the increase you get from holding growth constant at higher, postwar levels but allowing inequality to rise as it did.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Saudi Arabia Removed From UN Human Rights Blacklist After 'Bullying, Threats and Pressure'
Muslim allies of Saudi Arabia piled pressure on UN chief Ban Ki-moon over the blacklisting of a Saudi-led coalition for killing children in Yemen, with Riyadh threatening to cut Palestinian aid and funds to other UN programs, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday. The United Nations announced on Monday it had removed the coalition from a child rights blacklist--released last week--pending a joint review by the world body and the coalition of cases of child deaths and injuries during the war in Yemen. Ban called the removal "one of the most painful and difficult decisions I have had to make," but that the threats from Muslim allies had raised "the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously," referring to places such as the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
The world lost more than $13 trillion last year because of war
By Ishaan Tharoor
The Washington Post
Violence and worsening conflict cost the world more than $13.6 trillion last year, according to an annual study of the toll of violence worldwide. That figure amounts to some 13 percent of global GDP. The analysis can be found within the Global Peace Index 2016 report, which is put out each year by the Institute of Economics and Peace, an Australia-based think-tank. It ranked 163 countries on the degree of peace within their borders. The results since the initiative began are not encouraging: "The last decade has seen a historic decline in world peace, interrupting the long term improvements since WWII," a press release indicates. Moreover, peace and safety, like the incomes of the rich and poor, are growing more unequal, with prosperous, relatively harmonious countries improving, according to the index, and countries already wracked by conflict and violence getting worse.
In Off-Grid Regions, Cheap Solar Kits Could Spread As Quickly As Mobile Phones
By Ben Schiller
It's easy to get a cheap solar panel in Uganda. You just pay a small deposit via a mobile phone and you can take home the equipment immediately. You install the system yourself and pay off the lease as if you were buying pay-as-you-go phone credit. This simplicity explains why San Francisco-based Fenix International has signed up 65,000 customers for its ReadySet battery and PV system in three years. By partnering with the country's leading phone operator, MTN, it's able to piggyback on a mature mobile payments system and agent network and take the mystery out of both solar and leasing.
Blood Donors Needed After Orlando Gay Club Shooting, But Queer Men Are Banned
By Jennifer Bendery
The Huffington Post
Local officials in Orlando are urging people to donate blood in response to the mass shooting at a gay club early Sunday that left at least 50 dead and another 53 injured. But any man who has had sex with another man in the past year is legally banned from giving blood because of a decades-old Food and Drug Administration policy, meaning gay and bisexual men can’t help their own community in the wake of what is now the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The FDA’s policy dates back to 1985, near the start of the AIDS epidemic, and it originally banned all gay and bisexual men from donating blood. The agency loosened its policy last year but with little practical effect: it now applies to any man who has had sex with another man in the past year.
Where the Poor Spend More Than 10 Percent of Their Income on Energy
By Adam Chandler
From childcare to payday loans, to the difficulty of buying in bulk and beyond, the list of what makes being poor so expensive is long already. And here’s another: energy-related expenses. The threshold beyond which experts believe energy ceases to be “affordable” is 6 percent of a household’s income. But for many lower-income households, even with declining energy prices, paying less than that benchmark is a fantasy. DeAndrea Newman Salvador, an economist and the founder of The Renewable Energy Transition Initiative, a nonprofit, studied the cost of home utilities in her native North Carolina and found that energy expenditures among low-earning households were staggeringly high.
Racism, mental disabilities are at the center of 2 Supreme Court death row cases next term
By Tara Golshan
In midst of a quieter, eight-justice Supreme Court term the Court announced this week that it will take up two death row cases next term. Neither case addresses the legality of capital punishment as a penalty but gives the court the ability to more generally question the criminal justice system. The first, concerning Duane Edward Buck, an African-American death row inmate, revolves around the racial implications in harsh rulings; the second, involving Barry James Moore, questions the "cruel and unusual" impact of solitary confinement on an inmate subject to the death penalty. The capital punishment sentencing is the common thread, raising the stakes in the both cases, while the Court addresses the practices and processes the criminal court and prison system tolerates and those it shouldn't.