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Bleeding Edge Roundup

DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

Physicists Achieve Atomic Data Storage
By Michael Byrne
Motherboard

Researchers from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have created a rewritable data-storage device capable of storing information at the level of single atoms representing single bits of information. The technology, which is described in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnology, is capable of packing data as dense as 500 terabytes per square inch. Theoretically, the device could store the entire contents of the US Library of Congress within a 0.1-mm-wide cube—though the proof-of-concept demonstrated by the group topped out at 1 kilobyte.

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Uber Takes to the Skies
By Robinson Meyer
The Atlantic

On Tuesday, DigitalGlobe, a satellite-imagery company, announced that it will provide high-resolution pictures of the planet’s surface to Uber. DigitalGlobe is the primary provider of satellite imagery to Google, Apple, and the U.S. government. Though some of this imagery may eventually appear in the app, DigitalGlobe representatives said that Uber seems much more interested in pulling information about the ever-changing urban roadways out of the pictures.

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Google’s latest transparency report shows record government data requests
By John Russell
TechCrunch

Google saw a record number of data requests from law enforcement agencies worldwide during the second half of 2015 as the request total passed the 40,000 mark for the first time. That’s up from 35,365 in the first half of the year and 30,140 one year previous, according to the tech giant’s latest transparency report. Google’s transparency report is an important resource since it provides a glimpse at how international governments and states are trying to use and access our data. And also, importantly, it is an indicator as to how much information Google — one of the world’s biggest holders of internet data — gives up in these cases.

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SUSTAINABILITY & ENVIRONMENT

Denmark leads Europe in tackling food waste
By Irene Hell
Deutsche Welle

Denmark, with only 5.7 million people, has more initiatives against food waste than any other European country. This has largely been attributed to a nongovernmental organization called Stop Wasting Food (Stop Spild Af Mad),  which has contributed to a major milestone: Denmark has managed to reduce food waste by a quarter since 2010. In September 2016, the Danish government will establish a subsidy pool for projects that save food, with funding of more than 5 million Danish kroner (about 670,000 euros).

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Google uses AI to cut data centre energy use by 15%
By Adam Vaughan
The Guardian

The servers that power billions of web searches, streamed films and social media accounts are estimated to account for around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Google is believed to have one of the biggest fleets of them in the world. On Wednesday, the software giant said it had proved it could cut total energy use at its data centres by 15% by deploying machine learning from Deepmind, the British AI company it bought in 2014 for around £400m. Such centres require significant energy for cooling, as well as constant adjustments to air temperature, pressure and humidity, to run as efficiently as possible.

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Methane Pollution Is About To See A Serious Cut From This Stinky Source
By Sydney Pereira
Think Progress

Methane is a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential over 25 times that of carbon dioxide, but over a 20 year period it can be 86 times more potent. 20 percent of all methane emissions caused by human activities come from landfills. Last Friday, the EPA announced new rules that will cut landfills’ methane emissions by a third. They are expected to reduce methane emissions by around 334,000 tons a year in 2025. That is equivalent to reducing 8.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

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LABOR, TRADE, & ECONOMY

Decline and fall: how American society unraveled
By George Packer
The Guardian

In or around 1978, America's character changed. For almost half a century, the United States had been a relatively egalitarian, secure, middle-class democracy, with structures in place that supported the aspirations of ordinary people. You might call it the period of the Roosevelt Republic. Americans were no less greedy, ignorant, selfish and violent then than they are today, and no more generous, fair-minded and idealistic. But the institutions of American democracy, stronger than the excesses of individuals, were usually able to contain and channel them to more useful ends. Human nature does not change, but social structures can, and they did.

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Effecting behavior change in a world of automated financial advisors
By Tom Davenport & James Guszcza
Deloitte University Press

Many judgments and decisions today are increasingly being made by (or with the help of) smart machines—computer algorithms that employ codified knowledge, understand and generate language, and learn over time. This development offers great potential advantages in terms of decision quality, productivity, and other benefits, although it has created considerable anxiety about potential job loss. One aspect of more automated decisions that few observers have addressed is the potential for human workers to focus on behavioral and change issues.

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The Republicans Just Passed a Platform That Would Eviscerate Workers’ Rights
By Victoria Albert
In These Times

In a not particularly unexpected move, the party platform eviscerates the “hard working American,” denying workers of their right to unionize while targeting their most vulnerable communities. Perhaps the strongest anti-union feature of the Republican Party’s platform is the call for national right-to-work (RTW) legislation. RTW laws, the bane of unions nationwide, prevent unions from collecting fees from non-members, who nevertheless benefit from unions’ grievance and bargaining services. The platform claims that these laws will “protect the economic liberty of the modern workforce,” but in fact, they do just the opposite.

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GLOBAL CONFLICT & DEVELOPMENT

WhatsApp officially un-banned in Brazil after third block in eight months
By Staff and Agencies
The Guardian

Brazil’s federal supreme court has suspended a judge’s ruling ordering mobile phone companies to indefinitely block access to Facebook’s WhatsApp – the third such decision against the popular phone messaging app in eight months. The Rio de Janeiro judge Daniela Barbosa ruled that access to the application should be blocked immediately because WhatsApp’s owner, Facebook, had shown “total disrespect for Brazilian laws”. Her decision said Facebook was repeatedly asked to intercept messages sent through the service to help in a criminal investigation in the city of Caxias, outside Rio. But hours later, her ruling was reversed by supreme court president Ricardo Lewandowski, who said that it seemed “scarcely reasonable or proportional.”

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India's big move into solar is already paying off
by Huizhong Wu
CNN

The price of solar power has plummeted in recent months to levels rivaling that of coal, positioning the renewable source as a viable mainstream option in a country where 300 million people live without electricity. Solar prices are now within 15% of coal, according to KPMG. If current trends hold, the consultancy predicts electricity from solar will actually be 10% cheaper than domestic coal by 2020. And that could turn out to be a conservative forecast. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made access to electricity a top priority, and has set the goal of making 24-hour power available to all 1.3 billion Indians.

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It’s Time for Development Banks to Start Listening
By Maina Kiai
Foreign Policy

Almost a year ago, the United Nations set the Sustainable Development Goals, an ambitious blueprint for governments and financiers to use their political power and resources to end poverty, hunger, and disease. But the success (or failure) of this effort won’t depend on just the usual big players. Far more important than governments and international donors are the individuals and civic organizations that will help design, carry out, and monitor the development projects on which the whole scheme depends. Without vibrant civil societies, the Sustainable Development Goals are dead in the water.

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AMERICAN COMMUNITIES

The War on Drugs Has Made Policing More Violent
By Jonathan Blanks
Democracy Journal

American policing today has become increasingly aggressive and, at times, even predatory. Policies and tactics have evolved to make police contact more confrontational. In so doing, they have increased the chances of violence and fatal uses of force. This has been particularly true of efforts aimed at fighting the Drug War. Police are incentivized to initiate unnecessary contact with pedestrians and motorists, and they do so most often against ethnic and racial minorities. Such over-policing engenders resentment among minority communities and jeopardizes public safety.

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We Still Need a Future to Believe In
By Various Contributors
The Nation

While Bernie Sanders came achingly close, he won’t arrive in Philadelphia with enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. Even so, Sanders and his supporters made an unprecedented insurgent bid—winning 22 states, 43 percent of the popular vote, and almost 1,900 delegates, and raising nearly $230 million, mostly in small donations. Looking ahead to next year, how do progressives build on this political revolution? What are the key battles to take on, issues to drive, strategies to embrace? On the eve of the Democratic National Convention, The Nation asked a group of progressive activists and leaders to mull these questions over.

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Federal Judge Strikes A Critical Blow Against Wisconsin’s Voter Suppression Law
By Ian Millhiser
Think Progress

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Wisconsin handed down a decision that will drastically weaken that state’s voter ID law. Although the decision leaves the law in place, it permits voters who are unable to obtain an ID to sign an affidavit at the polls testifying to that inability and to receive a ballot. The decision provides that “any voter who completes and submits an affidavit shall receive a regular ballot, even if that voter does not show acceptable photo identification” and that “no person may challenge the sufficiency of the reason given by the voter for failing to obtain ID.” Thus, the state will not be able to prevent voters from casting a ballot by claiming that an individual voter is able to obtain an ID through reasonable efforts.

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FUTURE LEFT PODCAST EP. 15: Zoltan Istvan Wants YOU To Live Forever

FUTURE LEFT PODCAST EP. 15: Zoltan Istvan Wants YOU To Live Forever

Future Left Podcast Ep. 14: Race and Policing in America

Future Left Podcast Ep. 14: Race and Policing in America