Let’s start getting excited about robots taking our jobs
By Andrew Heikkila
A society that fully embraces technological unemployment will be forced to make extremely personal and existential observations daily that most people put off until they’re over 60 and retired, after life has already “passed them by.” If history is lucky enough to repeat itself, perhaps we’ll see sequels to the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods — but we’ll never know until we start getting excited about robots taking our jobs.
Turn on 5G, turn off old landlines: FCC plans future of phone networks
By Jon Brodkin
Two votes taken by the Federal Communications Commission last thursday could have big implications for the transition to faster mobile networks and the discontinuance of old landline networks. The two votes aren't directly related, but they each prepare for a future that could rely more on wireless technologies for voice and Internet service. In one item, the FCC voted to open up high-frequency spectrum to help carriers create 5G networks that would be faster than existing 4G ones. The second vote will make it easier for carriers to turn off old landline phone networks as long as they replace them with either wired or wireless equivalents. Copper landlines can be replaced with fiber or wireless technology if they offer the same performance, reliability, coverage, access to 911, and compatibility with systems including medical monitoring devices.
Comcast expands $10 low-income Internet plan
By Jon Brodkin
Comcast's Internet Essentials program that provides $10-per-month Internet service to low-income families has been expanded to make about 1.3 million additional households eligible. Comcast created Internet Essentials in order to secure approval of its acquisition of NBCUniversal in 2011 and has decided to continue it indefinitely even though the requirement expired in 2014. Comcast says the 10Mbps plan has connected more than 600,000 low-income families since 2011, for a total of 2.4 million adults and children, and provided 47,000 subsidized computers for less than $150 each.
SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT
Solar tower generates electricity from molten salt, even when it’s dark
By Samantha Lee
It’s a bird (igniting in mid-air), it’s a (solar-powered) plane, it’s a new innovation in the world’s solar power repertoire: The Crescent Dunes solar energy plant, the world’s first utility-scale facility that stores solar power in molten salt, can supply electricity even when the sun don’t shine. This super-plant can even supply 10 hours of it, enough to power 75,000 homes.
Read the full article here.
Déjà vu: as with tobacco, the climate wars are going to court
By Dana Nuccitelli
Investigative journalism has uncovered a “web of denial” in which polluting industries pay “independent” groups to disseminate misinformation to the public and policymakers. The same groups and tactics were employed first by the tobacco industry, then fossil fuel companies. Big Tobacco has been to court and lost; now it’s Big Oil’s turn. Political leaders are choosing sides in this war.
3D-printing pen lets you print using plastic recycled from your own home
By Luke Dormehl
You may have heard of 3D-printing pens before: devices like the 3Doodler which turn plastic filaments into a gel that hardens in the air — letting users create impressive freehand sculptures in the process. But while these are all well and great, new Kickstarter project Renegade wants to solve the accompanying problem of cost and waste which comes with having to buy often pricey filaments for the pens in question. In aid of this mission, creator Daniel Edwards has invented a 3D-printing pen that works by recycling household plastic waste such as plastic bottles, files, and bags.
LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY
Clean energy won’t save us – only a new economic system can
By Jason Hickel
We need to switch to clean energy, and fast. This growing awareness about the dangers of fossil fuels represents a crucial shift in our consciousness. But I can’t help but fear we’ve missed the point. As important as clean energy might be, the science is clear: it won’t save us from climate change. Let’s imagine, just for argument’s sake, that we are able to get off fossil fuels and switch to 100% clean energy. There is no question this would be a vital step in the right direction, but even this best-case scenario wouldn’t be enough to avert climate catastrophe. The root problem is the fact that our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.
Social spending, not medical spending, is key to health
By Stuart Butler
Given the cost of health insurance, prescriptions, and deductibles, few Americans would be surprised to learn that we spend a much higher proportion of our economy on healthcare than other major countries. The major European countries, for instance, spend between about 9 and 12 percent of their GDP on health services. We spend more than 17 percent. But despite this heavy investment in medical services, we actually have similar or worse outcomes on several key measures of health, such as infant mortality and the prevalence of chronic diseases. So why do we get so little when we spend so much?
GOP platform to call for return to Glass-Steagall
By Peter Schroeder
Both major political parties are now calling for an overhaul of the financial industry through the return of Glass-Steagall, a Depression-era banking law. Paul Manafort, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign manager, told reporters gathered in Cleveland Monday that the GOP platform would include language advocating for a return of that law, which was repealed under President Bill Clinton. “We also call for a reintroduction of Glass-Steagall, which created barriers between what big banks can do,” he said. Including that language in the GOP platform comes shortly after Democrats agreed to similar language in their own, calling for an “updated and modernized version” of the law.
GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT
Why Does Tunisia Produce So Many Terrorists?
By Christian Caryl
still don’t have all the details, but it would appear that the man behind the horrific terrorist attack in Nice, France, was Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a 31-year-old deliveryman and petty criminal. Bouhlel, who was killed by police at the scene, was a French citizen. But the detail that many terrorism experts immediately zeroed in on was his country of origin: Tunisia. That’s right: The country that is often hailed as “the success story of the Arab Spring” because it has actually managed to stick with democracy since the downfall of its dictator in 2011. That Bouhlel is Tunisian once again raises the question: Why is liberal Tunisia, of all places, producing so many terrorists?
The future delivery of emergency aid
By Holly Young
The challenges faced by organisations charged with responding to humanitarian crises have never been greater. While a growing number of people around the world are affected by conflict, disease and natural disasters, the funding to provide emergency aid to them has never been so stretched. The financial deficit for humanitarian action is now believed to be $15bn. The first World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul in May this year, was a key opportunity to tackle these issues. The event brought together thousands of leaders from the UN, NGOs and agencies involved in delivering humanitarian support. One of the key outcomes from the summit was the Grand Bargain, a new humanitarian financing agreement signed by 30 representatives from a range of aid agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, and donors, including the UK’s Department for International Development. The “bargain” is that donors will be more flexible on where their funding goes, and aid agencies, in turn, will be more transparent and efficient in how they spend it.
When no one was watching, Congress passed a pretty important bill to improve foreign aid
By Dylan Matthews
On July 5, the US Congress did something remarkable: It passed a law. In a time of historic gridlock, the fact that the House and Senate were able to agree on much of anything, much less a bill that President Obama quickly signed, is fairly remarkable. It’s even more impressive when the bill in question is a substantial piece of legislation on a fairly divisive, important topic. The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2016, however, was able to beat the odds. It first passed the House by voice vote in December, and then an altered version passed the Senate unanimously in June. On the 5th, the House agreed to the Senate's changes, sending the law to Obama, who signed it on the 15th.
One Reason School Segregation Persists: White Parents Want it that Way
By Dana Goldstein
A key question in the raging debate over school segregation is how much the personal choices of white and wealthy parents contribute to the isolation of poor children of color in separate and often subpar schools. Past research shows that when asked, American parents claim that academic performance is their greatest priority when selecting schools for their children, but a new study by Steven Glazerman and Dallas Dotter of Mathematica Policy Research looked for “revealed” preferences: the conclusions that could be drawn not by talking to parents, who might feel pressured to give socially acceptable responses. They examined how 22,000 applicants of varying races and classes actually ranked 91 public charter schools and 110 district schools, at the pre-K, elementary school, middle school, and high school levels. They’re finding: parents preferred high test scores, schools closer to home, and schools where their own child would be alongside more peers of his or her same race and class.
Can co-operatives help in prison rehabilitation?
By Dave Nicholson
One thing former British Prime Minister David Cameron and former Justice Secretary Michael Gove agree on is the need for prisons to become places of rehabilitation. Tory MP Guy Opperman suggested a way forward when he asked: “Why can’t you have a charity running a prison or a church/community coming together to take charge and turn around low grade prisoners? Mr Cameron echoed Mr Opperman by calling for “bids for new prisons from those charities and others who wish to work with specific types of offender” and announcing that “We are going to bring the academies model that has revolutionised our schools to the prisons system.” If this model is adopted, Dave Nicholson lays out what services such charities could provide that would enable prisons “to play their part in rehabilitating offenders as they should”?
Cleveland Has Survived Deindustrialization and a Burning River. Can It Survive Donald Trump?
By Dale Maharidge
Dale Maharidge worries about the city of his birth as Donald Trump’s army—and those who oppose it—descend upon it for the Republican National Convention. The fear is both literal and figurative. For the former, there’s the potential for violence. For the latter, much of the rest of America may not “get” Cleveland.