Modernizing our voting procedures to reflect 21st century realities
By Michael DeCesare
By the 2018 midterm election, more than 230 million Americans will use a smartphone on a daily basis. That’s more than 95 percent of all adult Americans. By contrast, in 2012’s presidential election, fewer than six in 10 Americans eligible to vote came out to perform their civic duty. What’s more, in 2014’s midterms, that number dropped to a staggeringly low 36 percent — or about 10 percent of the entire population. When those who didn’t turn up were asked why, almost one in three said they were simply too busy. This is an understandable response, especially when you think about the fact that the way we vote really hasn’t changed in centuries. You drive to the voting center, stand in line — sometimes for hours — and either pull a lever or write in your decision. It’s an archaic system that’s not only inefficient, but also incredibly insecure. But what if, instead of expecting people to go to a polling location, we took the ballot box to them, through their smartphones, tablets and laptops?
FBI says utility pole surveillance cam locations must be kept secret
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has successfully convinced a federal judge to block the disclosure of where the bureau has attached surveillance cams on Seattle utility poles. The decision Monday stopping Seattle City Light from divulging the information was expected, as claims of national security tend to trump the public's right to know. However, this privacy dispute highlights a powerful and clandestine tool the authorities are employing across the country to snoop on the public—sometimes with warrants, sometimes without. Just last month, for example, this powerful surveillance measure—which sometimes allows the authorities to control the camera's focus point remotely—helped crack a sex trafficking ring in suburban Chicago.
A Drone Is Flying Abortion Pills to Northern Ireland, Where Abortion Is Illegal
By Melanie Ehrenkrantz
A woman in Northern Ireland was given a three-month sentence (the same length of time Brock Turner will serve for sexual assault) suspended for one year for buying pills online to induce her own abortion. That's because abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland. So on Tuesday, June 21, a drone will fly from Ireland to the region to deliver abortion pills to spotlight the lengths to which people in Northern Ireland must go to for a safe abortion. The Abortion Drone is a joint effort between Alliance for Choice, Rosa, Labour Alternative and Women on Waves. It aims to symbolize the obstacles of Irish people living in a region where abortion is illegal.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
This Machine Turns Your Food Waste Into Gas For Cooking
By Elyse Wanshel
The Huffington Post
HomeBiogas, based in Beit Yanai, Israel, is a biogas system that turns food and organic waste into clean cooking gas, and its byproduct can be used as liquid plant fertilizer. Best part? It easy to assemble and can be placed in your own backyard. You can place all kinds of organic waste including meat, dairy and even used kitty litter into the system. Once inside, bacteria inside the digester will decompose the organic material and release biogas. Homebiogas, which costs $995 for a limited time, runs without electricity and its daily gas output is equivalent to about 6 kilowatt-hours of energy.
Greenland Hits Record 75°F, Sets Melt Record As Globe Aims At Hottest Year
BY Joe Romm
Last Thursday, Greenland’s capital hit 75°F, the highest temperature ever recorded there in June—in a country covered with enough ice to raise sea levels more than 20 feet. It comes hot on the heels of the hottest May on record for the entire globe. NASA says there is a 99 percent chance this will be the hottest year on record—even though the current record-holder for hottest year, 2015, had blown out the previous record-holder, 2014. Some might note a worrisome pattern, driven by ever-rising levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.
US Chamber of Commerce joins anti-solar crusade
By Ben Adler
The US Chamber of Commerce is the latest conservative group to start spreading anti-solar messages. In an email sent to supporters on Wednesday, the chamber attacks net metering, a policy in place in many states that pays people with solar panels on their roofs for the electricity they feed into the grid. The group also posted a video on YouTube last week making its anti–net metering case. This is fairly new territory for the chamber, according to energy regulation experts.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
What Can Labor Learn from Bernie
By Joe Burns
The Bernie Sanders campaign has injected socialism into the mainstream discourse for the first time in decades. Young Sanderistas have rallied behind social-democratic demands that fly in the face of forty years of neoliberal policy, and polls show that millennials are surprisingly receptive to socialist ideas. The positive response to Sanders’s avowed democratic socialism — and to his call for a political revolution — opens the door for a discussion all but absent from today’s labor movement: the importance of socialist ideas to a successful trade union movement.
The Less Affordable Care Act?
By Van Newkirk II
A spate of news stories about the undeniable successes of the Affordable Care Act in providing insurance coverage to the vast majority of Americans also underlines one of its core failures: That coverage remains unaffordable for many of those who don’t have employer or public insurance.
Would Unconditional Basic Income Make Us Happier?
By Kira Newman
On June 5, Swiss voters weighed in on a referendum for universal basic income, a policy that would give every person, rich or poor, working or not, a modest amount of money per year—no strings attached. Although Switzerland voted against the referendum, it’s the first time an entire country has weighed in on the idea. The United States and Canada conducted limited experiments with similar policies in the 1970s, but momentum stalled amid changing political tides and controversy over the results. Now, basic income is back on the table.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Learning from Namibia
By Joseph Stiglitz and Anya Schiffrin
Sandwiched between Angola and South Africa, Namibia suffered mightily during the long struggle against apartheid. Yet, since winning independence from South Africa in 1990, this country of 2.4 million people has achieved enormous gains, especially in the last couple of years. A big reason for Namibia’s success has been the government’s focus on education. While people in advanced countries take for granted free primary and secondary education, in many poor countries, secondary education, and even primary schools, require tuition. Indeed, governments are often advised to impose tuition as a form of “cost recovery.” In Namibia, however, public primary education is free; and, as of the current school year, so is public secondary education.
Olympic exclusion zone: the gentrification of a Rio favela
By Jo Griffin
As Babilônia undergoes rapid gentrification, residents are waiting to hear if they will be rehoused 40 miles away in Santa Cruz, in the west of Rio–a consequence of the city’s prize-winning Morar Carioca plan, introduced in 2010 to upgrade all favelas as part of the social legacy of the Olympics. In Babilônia, the plan provided for the removal of homes in three “risky” categories: those in Areas of Environmental Protection; those whose residents receive social rent and who have been rehoused; and homes in “areas of risk”, where rains can trigger landslides. But some fear the ultimate goal of such efforts–like those whereby armed police seize control of and then occupy favelas controlled by drug gangs–is gentrification.
Civil Liberties Keep Americans Safe
By Conor Friedersdorf
After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government changed its domestic policies in a lot of ways that did little to keep its residents safer from terrorism, even as it infringed on civil liberties and weakened basic protections against government abuses. Air travelers endured years taking off their shoes and throwing away their water bottles at the behest of an incompetent TSA bureaucracy that still misses most guns. The NYPD sent undercover officers to profile Muslim American students, even going on a river rafting trip to spy on them, only to generate zero leads. The NSA built a domestic system of mass surveillance that affects all U.S. residents. There is no evidence that any of it made Americans safer.
The White House Wants to Use Artificial Intelligence to Solve Mass Incarceration
By Jack Smith IV
Taxpayers spend $39 billion a year on jailing 2.3 million people, making the U.S. the country with the highest incarceration rates in the world. And while technology is radically reshaping every aspect of our economy and society, none of our advances in computing and data are helping to stem the tide of mass incarceration. At a workshop in the capital last Tuesday, White House senior adviser Lynn Overmann of the Office of Science and Technology Policy called on the technologists of the country to figure out how to use data and technology to end widespread incarceration, according to Government Technology. Overmann wants artificial intelligence and machine learning programs that improve screening processes, scan body camera footage for police misconduct and make sentencing more fair.
How Mass Shootings Could Change America's 'Third Spaces'
By Laura Bliss
As the names of the victims roll out, questions about the safety of Pulse’s physical space have come up. Some wonder whether a more heavily secured bar, with metal detectors, pat-downs, and guards, would have prevented the attack. Jersey barriers, bollards, CCTV, and restricted areas have transformed urban spaces since 9/11, especially in the public areas outside federal buildings and financial districts. Metal detectors and beefed-up security personnel are now the status quo at many sports stadiums and concert arenas. These measures seem to be here to stay, but are they effective?
Pew’s 2016 News Media Report is a Tough Read for Journalism
By Natasha Lomas
The Pew Research Center’s latest annual State of the News Media report underlines how successful technology giants continue to be at creaming off digital ad profits, even as traditional news media faces ever intensifying pressure to find a way to sustainably fund journalism. The ongoing irony being that the journalism ‘product’ is routinely passed around as ‘content’ keeping users engaged on the same tech platforms that are the primary beneficiaries of growth in digital advertising. Pew’s 2016 report notes that total US digital ad spending, covering any digital ads on social media, search engines, or any other kind of website, grew another 20 per cent in 2015, to almost $60 billion. And this at a time when in the newspaper industry it’s been a story of shrinking budgets and substantial job losses.