Central African nations eye pipelines and hubs to end energy poverty
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:51
YAOUNDE, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Central African countries signed a deal on Thursday to create a regional oil and gas pipeline network and hub infrastructures which backers say will strengthen energy supply and reduce dependence on imports of refined products.
The project aims to construct three multinational oil and gas pipeline systems of around 6,500 km, storage depots, liquefied natural gas terminals, at least three refineries and gas-fired power plants linking 11 countries by 2030, according to project documents seen by Reuters.
The countries, including Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Chad, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Republic are all oil producers or have vast untapped oil and gas reserves but are dependent on refined products imports.
Most of them have little or no refining capacity and have been struggling with fuel and power shortages, made worse by the Ukraine crisis.
Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons of OPEC member Equatorial Guinea, told the forum ahead of the signing ceremony in Cameroon that the project was crucial to tackle energy poverty in the region.
He said the project was inspired by West Africa's gas pipeline linking Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana, and the European model where Rotterdam serves as a refining and distributing hub for several countries.
"It will not be cheap, or easy, but if it is done as a collaboration, it will work," he said, adding that the network will help get rid of trucks crisscrossing countries and boost the regional oil and gas market taking products where needed.
The memorandum of understanding for the project signed on Thursday by the African Petroleum Producers' Organization (APPO), one of the backers, and the Central Africa Business Energy Forum, will pave the way for feasibility studies.
Omar Farouk Ibrahim, Secretary General of APPO said the project was one of the most ambitious energy infrastructure projects whose completion has the potential to dramatically change the economies of participating countries.
"It shall take energy from areas of abundance to areas of need within the Central African subregion. It shall integrate and energize national economies of the Central Africa subregion," Ibrahim said. (Reporting by Amindeh Blaise Atabong Editing by Bate Felix and David Evans)
Not Good: Boom Overture Left Without Engines - One Mile at a Time
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:51
Boom Technology is a Colorado-based aeronautics company that has been working on bringing back supersonic passenger air travel. Specifically, the Boom Overture is supposed to become the new Concorde, and both American Airlines and United Airlines have already placed orders for the jet.
Things aren't looking so good at the moment for this to become a reality.
Rolls-Royce ends partnership with Boom Up until now Boom has been aiming for a final production design of the jet to be rolled out by 2025, and the jet to enter passenger service by 2029. One big question has involved what engines Boom would use for the Overture, since, you know, that's kind of a major detail for any plane, let alone a supersonic plane.
In 2020, Boom and Rolls-Royce launched a partnership, intended to advance the Boom Overture's engine program design, and to ''work together to identify a propulsion system that would complement Overture's airframe.''
After working together for over two years, Rolls-Royce isn't interested in this concept anymore. As noted by @jonostrower, Rolls-Royce will no longer pursue working on the Boom Overture. Here's what a spokesperson for Rolls-Royce had to say:
''We've completed our contract with Boom and delivered various engineering studies for their Overture supersonic program. After careful consideration, Rolls-Royce has determined that the commercial aviation supersonic market is not currently a priority for us and, therefore, will not pursue further work on the program at this time. It has been a pleasure to work with the Boom team and we wish them every success in the future.''
United has ordered the Boom Overture supersonic jet Do I still have to explain my skepticism for Boom Overture? I've been skeptical about the Boom Overture concept ever since it was announced, and people call me out on that. Fair enough, though let me explain. It's not that I don't want this to become a reality (as an avgeek I love the idea), but rather I just have a hard time taking the concept seriously.
Boom executives have been saying that the plane could be flying passengers by 2029. That's seven years from now. That's despite the fact that the plane's design was completely overhauled just a couple of months ago (in July 2022). We're not just talking minor differences, but the design went from three engines to four engines, and the plane's speed was reduced from Mach 2.1 to Mach 1.7.
On top of that, while Boom was collaborating with Rolls-Royce, there was no indication that the two companies had reached an agreement for an engine, beyond just exploring the concept together.
The timeline has seemed highly, highly unrealistic to me, and that made me question the feasibility of this altogether. I mean, just for context, the new Boeing 777X has experienced a delay of roughly five years, and that's for a plane based on an existing concept.
In seven years we're supposed to go from a cool rendering to a supersonic plane flying passengers? I just don't see that happening.
While this is a tangent, I also just don't see the need for supersonic travel anymore? Let's use New York to London as an example, since this is probably the prime (theoretical) market for a supersonic jet. Back in the day, airlines didn't have Wi-Fi, and didn't have flat beds in business class, so time on planes was largely ''wasted.''
Nowadays you can book a fully flat business class seat with a door, and stay connected to Wi-Fi the entire flight. Heathrow has a curfew, so how exactly would eastbound Boom Overture flights from New York to London be timed?
If the flight's block time is four hours, the time difference is five hours, and there's a curfew from 11:30PM until 6AM, how would that work? Flights would have to depart by 2PM at the latest for a same day arrival, and I'm not sure how that's better for the average traveler than just booking an overnight flight in a flat bed? You wouldn't ever want to book a redeye on this plane, since it won't feature flat beds.
It just seems like aside from the novelty of flying supersonic, there are very few situations where this is better than existing alternatives.
Rendering of the Boom Overture cabin Bottom line Rolls-Royce is no longer working on an engine for the Boom Overture supersonic jet. That's a major setback for this program, as Boom is stuck trying to find an engine manufacturer that can create something to the required specifications for supersonic travel.
I think it's pretty safe to say this plane won't be carrying any passengers by 2029'...
What do you make of Boom and Rolls-Royce cutting ties? Do any OMAAT readers still think this plane will be flying passengers anywhere around 2029?
TikTok's Takeover Of Marketing And Commerce In 2022
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:50
Zarnaz Arlia is the CMO of Emplifi, a leading customer experience platform.
TikTok is booming with more than 1 billion users! The video-focused social networking app overtook Google as the most popular site in 2021. In light of the app's massive growth over the last couple of years, there's still room for even further expansion in 2022. TikTok is changing the course of marketing and commerce, and with new commerce features and releases, brands of all sizes can buy ads, track performance and scale revenue.
Marketing On A Level Playing Field
TikTok provides marketers with a level playing field when it comes to reach and engagement. Unlike other platforms, TikTok's unique discovery algorithm gives every video an equal chance to go viral, regardless of how popular the content creator is.
According to TikTok, the For You feed algorithms are based on the preferences and activity history of individual users. That means no two For You feeds are going to be exactly the same as these recommendations have been carefully curated for each user. Users' For You feeds are shaped not only by their engagement through the feed itself, but also by new accounts they follow, as well as hashtags, sounds, effects and trending topics they explore.
Why does this matter for brands? Unlike Facebook and Instagram homepages, which largely consist of people you already know and channels you already follow, TikTok prioritizes videos from creators you've never seen before. The TikTok user interface is designed to keep people in the app for as long as possible.
TikTok is also helping brands with ad creation on its platform. It recently launched a Creative Center, which is designed to help advertisers understand what's working on the platform, in real time. With the Creative Center, brands can explore a showcase of the top-performing ads, view details on the latest platform trends and search through TikTok's audio library to help inspire their creative process.
Meanwhile, other social media apps are adapting to keep up with the TikTok trends. Recently, Instagram announced that their app would be taking a more video-focused approach to their platform moving forward. It's clear that short video content is here to stay.
Engaging With Influencers
More brands are entering into exclusive partnerships with creators on TikTok, which provide more meaningful and longer-lasting customer touchpoints. In 2021, 42% of U.S. marketers used TikTok for influencer marketing. The app's engagement features make it easier for influencers and brands to get user-generated content on their sponsored posts, which can generate brand awareness and create meaningful connections with target customers.
For example, Dunkin', one of the first brands to use influencer marketing on the platform, collaborated with TikToker Charli D'Amelio to create videos and launch new menu items. As a result of the partnership, Dunkin' saw a 57% spike in app downloads and a 20% sales boost for all cold brew coffees. This is just one example out of many!
Cashing In On Social Commerce
According to a new report from Accenture, social commerce is estimated to become a $1.2 trillion global market by 2025, accounting for 16.7% of total e-commerce spend. So, it shouldn't be a surprise to learn that TikTok is expanding its investment in social commerce. The company's goal is to triple its advertising revenue from about $4 billion last year to roughly $12 billion this year.
Although the social media app's goals may seem implausible, it's important to recognize TikTok's influence on commerce. For example, the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt has over 8 billion views. Additionally, a survey by Adweek-Morning Consult found that 49% of TikTok users have reported making a purchase after learning about the product or service on the platform.
Accenture conducted a survey of more than 10,000 global social media users, and 59% said they were more likely to buy from smaller brands when shopping on social media versus standard online browsing. Almost half of the respondents (44%) said they are more likely to buy a brand that they'd never heard of via social shopping channels.
By implementing a social commerce plan in their business strategy, brands can create content that's more likely to be interacted with, which helps them increase their brand's awareness and visibility.
Tips For Taking On TikTok
If you're convinced that your brand needs a TikTok strategy, here are tips to consider when getting started:
' Create authentic connections. A study found that 56% of users feel more positive about a brand after seeing it on TikTok and that ads on the platform are more ''creative'' and ''original'' than other digital platforms on average. By embracing a more personal tone or a behind-the-scenes approach, your brand could appear more relatable or trustworthy, allowing for more meaningful connections with customers.
' Engage with your audience. Between challenges, duets and shares, there are plenty of ways to engage with other users on TikTok. For example, when stay-home orders were in place in 2020, the mattress manufacturer Simmons saw the opportunity to challenge TikTok users to stage dive into their bed. More than 1 million users were inspired by #Snoozzzapalooza to take on the challenge. Finding new ways to creatively engage with your audience is likely to spark more engagement from them in return.
' Get involved with influencers. The right influencers can help you grow genuine relationships with your audiences on TikTok. However, it's important to identify the right influencer who embodies your brand's voice and personality or who shares a similar audience.
Acting Like A Creator
TikTok users spend nearly 14 hours per month on the app, so there's no time to waste when it comes to investing in TikTok. By joining the TikTok community, businesses can reach new audiences and increase brand awareness. But it's key for brands to act like creators, not a business, in order to create entertaining content that captures the TikTok community's attention. By taking the time to understand and embrace the creator mindset, you can grow a loyal fan base and build an active community.
Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
'We Have To Take Action' Against TikTok, FCC Commissioner Says
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:49
Photo Credit: Solen Feyissa
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has doubled down on his calls to ban TikTok, describing the short-form video-sharing app as ''a serious national security threat'' and warning that ''we have to take action.''The FCC commissioner just recently reiterated his far-reaching concerns about TikTok in an interview with Billboard, having previously entreated Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google CEO Sundar Pichai to remove the platform from their companies' respective app stores.
Owned by Beijing-headquartered ByteDance, TikTok has long been the subject of user-privacy pushback, bipartisan lawmaker scrutiny, government investigations (domestic and international), and lawsuits. Additionally, reports have indicated that China-based executives possess access to stateside TikTok users' data, and critics have further claimed that the Chinese Communist Party itself utilizes the platform to view sensitive personal information and shape global media trends.
But these points '' as well as TikTok's outright ban in India and multiple branches of the U.S. military '' haven't stopped the ultra-popular app from surpassing a reported one billion MAUs and reportedly receiving more traffic than Google.
Now, with Google and Apple having failed to block the highly controversial video-sharing service, Commissioner Carr is once again speaking out against TikTok. ''TikTok has disclosed that it's getting biometrics, face prints, voice prints, location date, search and browsing history, keystroke patterns,'' the FCC commissioner said in the mentioned interview. ''It's all that sensitive information that I'm very concerned about being accessed in China. There are serious national security concerns there.''
Additionally, Carr emphasized in the discussion that the need for government action will become even more pressing if Google and Apple continue to opt against booting TikTok from the Play Store and App Store, respectively.
''If they choose not to apply their app store policies to TikTok,'' he stated, ''then it becomes even more important for the government to take action. '... The ball will be squarely in the federal government's court to take swift and appropriate action to promote our national security.'' And in response to the proposed TikTok ban's potential impact on influencers and the music industry, which is capitalizing upon the app as a promotional tool, Carr underscored the comparative significance of the national security threat posed by the social media offering.
''But once we reach the decision that this is a serious national security threat, we have to take action [notwithstanding] the short-term economic consequences that could result,'' communicated Carr.
Amid this latest push to block TikTok in the U.S., the app's ByteDance parent has quietly taken preliminary steps to roll out a domestic streaming service. TikTok remains banned in India, as previously disclosed, but the nation's nearly 1.4 billion residents can still listen to music through ByteDance's Resso.
Pearce, Bevill, Leesburg, Moore, P.C. - The New $7,500 Tax Credit That Isn't
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:46
A highly-touted tax credit in the recently-passed Inflation Reduction Act is meant to incentivize Americans to purchase electric vehicles or other clean burning fuel vehicles. The bottom line, however, is that practically speaking YOU CAN'T GET IT.
Why few credits will be seen
As the new legislation is currently written, nearly all the electric vehicles sold today do not qualify for the new credit that begins in 2023. This is because:
The vehicle must be manufactured in North America ANDPowered by batteries with materials sourced in either the U.S. or from free trade partners ANDIf by some stroke of luck you find a new vehicle that qualifies, the price must be below $55,000 for a sedan and $80,000 for a van, truck or SUV. Tax code as behavior modification
The new electric vehicle tax credit is a classic example of the continued shift from using income taxes to pay for federal spending to using the tax code to get us to do what the government wants. In this case:
The government is trying to get manufactures to shift sourcing away from countries like China.The government wants to motivate the creation of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.The government wants to incentivize the manufacturing of lower-priced electric vehicles and alternative clean energy alternative vehicles. What this means for you
What this means for the average consumer is little to anything'...right now. If you have your sights set on getting an electric vehicle, make the decision without the influence of the credit. If maximizing the credit is important for you, you now need to pay attention to income limits and will need to wait for some time to see if the credit influences manufacturers to change their sourcing and assembly plans.
US DoE seeks to fund nuclear hydrogen production and use projects - H2 News
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:45
The Department of Energy recently announced that it is seeking applications for pink H2. The United States Department of Energy (DoE) has announced that it is seeking applications for nuclear hydrogen projects for ''Nuclear Coupled Hydrogen Production and Use.''
The call for pink H2 applications was made at the start of this month as a funding opportunity amendment. The nuclear hydrogen project applications are for a funding opportunity amendment meant to support the development of thermal integration into plants. This would make it possible for those power plants to achieve high-temperature H2 production. The opportunity also extends to end uses for nuclear power linked with hydrogen fuel.
The DoE Office of Nuclear Energy Light Water Sustainability Program issued the amendment in conjunction with the department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office.
The department's goal for selecting the recipients of the funding is that they will then design and develop the necessary heat extraction infrastructure for an industrial energy park or that they will develop H2-coupled end uses for pink H2 production, read a recent news release.
This nuclear hydrogen funding is meant to lead to first-of-a-kind energy developments and demonstrations. The activities supported by the funding have the potential to one day produce a demonstration of thermal energy extraction, distribution and control at thermal power levels between 20 and 300 megawatts thermal.
Furthermore, the DoE also intends that the demonstration activities resulting from the use of the funding will engage local communities. Additionally, they will support the department's overall energy justice and environmental priorities, which include providing disadvantaged communities with benefits.
The amendment (Amendment No. 14) to the US Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Funding Opportunity Announcement was issued by the Department of Energy Idaho Operations Office. Further to the announcement of the new interest in nuclear hydrogen, it the amendment also lengthened the due day by which to apply. It is now October 11, 2022, after having previously been September 14, 2022. The amendment also updated the available funding table, which is available for viewing on the Department of Energy website.
Apple event had an unusually dark tone, emphasizing emergency features
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:44
When Apple held its annual launch event for the iPhone 13 in 2021, it started with a joyful video featuring jazz dancers celebrating the natural beauty of California (which can be captured with an iPhone camera, of course).
The undertone of Apple's iPhone 14 launch this week was darker. After zooming in on Apple's headquarters from space, it kicked off with a video highlighting users who wrote letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook saying that they almost died '-- but were saved by their Apple Watch calling 911.
"Dear Apple: My dad was flying our small plane to Vermont. I was asleep in the back seat. I woke up when we were crashing into the tops of the trees. The plane broke into six pieces and we were miles away from civilization in the freezing cold. Then, all of a sudden, my Apple Watch started ringing," said one character named Hannah.
Other characters in the short video told stories of falling into a frozen stream, getting trapped inside a trash compactor and witnessing a cardiac episode in a restaurant.
Saving lives in emergency situations was the major theme of Apple's launch this year, and many of the most notable new features the company announced were oriented toward safety.
The most significant new iPhone capability this year is called "Emergency SOS via satellite," which can send a message for help even if there's no cell service around for miles. Users can also share their location with family or friends in the Find My app.
Apple's example of how the feature works showed a hiker with a broken leg on top of a mountain ridge calling for a helicopter. Later, Apple mentioned winding back roads as another place where iPhone users might be out of range.
But this feature could be useful in outside wilderness settings. Wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters can cut cell service, and having the ability to contact emergency services or tell your family where you are can literally be a lifesaver in those circumstances.
Another example: Apple's $799 or more watch, the Ultra, has an 86-decibel siren that can be heard 600 feet away, and compass features that allow the user to retrace their steps without the internet.
As with the satellite feature, Apple advertised it as a helpful tool for backcountry adventurers, but it could also be useful in more mundane settings. Imagine sounding the alarm as a deterrent to an attacker, or using the retracing feature to find your way back to your car after a disaster in your community has interrupted cell service.
Apple also announced this week that iPhones and Apple Watches, using motion sensors, can now call 911 if they detect a car crash has occurred.
"We truly hope you never need it, but that you will feel a little bit safer every time you get in the car," an Apple presenter said, moments before showing images of a driver getting hit by an air bag in slow motion after crashing.
Apple's launch events are designed to do one thing: build demand for Apple's new products. The company now wants to make the iPhone even more "essential" for its users through safety features, giving users reasons not to switch to competing Android devices.
Will these features meaningfully increase iPhone adoption and sales? It turns out, Apple has at least considered the possibility in the past.
In a disclosure with the ESG group CDP published in January 2019, Apple representatives wrote about potential business opportunities stemming from climate change, citing a previous version of the "SOS" feature as an example of Apple's work to build features for emergency situations.
"As severe weather events become more frequent, consumers may come to value more highly the immediate and ubiquitous availability of reliable mobile computing devices for use in situations where transportation, power and other services may be temporarily interrupted," Apple representatives wrote.
Apple cited the 9/11 disaster and "extreme weather events" like hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, and Harvey that are occurring more frequently.
"Over time, as people begin to experience severe weather events with greater frequency, we expect an increasing need for confidence and preparedness in the arena of personal safety and the well-being of loved ones," Apple wrote in the disclosure.
Apple's not the only consumer electronics company that is developing safety features for its devices. But Apple's devices also have a robust lineup of health features, like fall detection for seniors and heart monitoring, which underscore its overall safety pitch.
"iPhone is there when you need it most," one presenter said at the launch event. "That confidence is especially important in moments where your safety is at risk."
We may be seeing the start of a new messaging strategy at Apple: Its devices are the ones you want when things go wrong.
Readout of White House Listening Session on Tech Platform Accountability - The White House
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:38
Although tech platforms can help keep us connected, create a vibrant marketplace of ideas, and open up new opportunities for bringing products and services to market, they can also divide us and wreak serious real-world harms. The rise of tech platforms has introduced new and difficult challenges, from the tragic acts of violence linked to toxic online cultures, to deteriorating mental health and wellbeing, to basic rights of Americans and communities worldwide suffering from the rise of tech platforms big and small.Today, the White House convened a listening session with experts and practitioners on the harms that tech platforms cause and the need for greater accountability. In the meeting, experts and practitioners identified concerns in six key areas: competition; privacy; youth mental health; misinformation and disinformation; illegal and abusive conduct, including sexual exploitation; and algorithmic discrimination and lack of transparency.
One participant explained the effects of anti-competitive conduct by large platforms on small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs, including restrictions that large platforms place on how their products operate and potential innovation. Another participant highlighted that large platforms can use their market power to engage in rent-seeking, which can influence consumer prices.
Several participants raised concerns about the rampant collection of vast troves of personal data by tech platforms. Some experts tied this to problems of misinformation and disinformation on platforms, explaining that social media platforms maximize ''user engagement'' for profit by using personal data to display content tailored to keep users' attention'--content that is often sensational, extreme, and polarizing. Other participants sounded the alarm about risks for reproductive rights and individual safety associated with companies collecting sensitive personal information, from where their users are physically located to their medical histories and choices. Another participant explained why mere self-help technological protections for privacy are insufficient. And participants highlighted the risks to public safety that can stem from information recommended by platforms that promotes radicalization, mobilization, and incitement to violence.
Multiple experts explained that technology now plays a central role in access to critical opportunities like job openings, home sales, and credit offers, but that too often companies' algorithms display these opportunities unequally or discriminatorily target some communities with predatory products. The experts also explained that that lack of transparency means that the algorithms cannot be scrutinized by anyone outside the platforms themselves, creating a barrier to meaningful accountability.
One expert explained the risks of social media use for the health and wellbeing of young people, explaining that while for some, technology provides benefits of social connection, there are also significant adverse clinical effects of prolonged social media use on many children and teens' mental health, as well as concerns about the amount of data collected from apps used by children, and the need for better guardrails to protect children's privacy and prevent addictive use and exposure to detrimental content. Experts also highlighted the magnitude of illegal and abusive conduct hosted or disseminated by platforms, but for which they are currently shielded from being held liable and lack adequate incentive to reasonably address, such as child sexual exploitation, cyberstalking, and the non-consensual distribution of intimate images of adults.
The White House officials closed the meeting by thanking the experts and practitioners for sharing their concerns. They explained that the Administration will continue to work to address the harms caused by a lack of sufficient accountability for technology platforms. They further stated that they will continue working with Congress and stakeholders to make bipartisan progress on these issues, and that President Biden has long called for fundamental legislative reforms to address these issues.
Attendees at today's meeting included:
Bruce Reed, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of StaffSusan Rice, Assistant to the President & Domestic Policy AdvisorBrian Deese, Assistant to the President & National Economic Council DirectorLouisa Terrell, Assistant to the President & Director of the Office of Legislative AffairsJennifer Klein, Deputy Assistant to the President & Director of the Gender Policy CouncilAlondra Nelson, Deputy Assistant to the President & Head of the Office of Science and Technology PolicyBharat Ramamurti, Deputy Assistant to the President & Deputy National Economic Council DirectorAnne Neuberger, Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging TechnologyTarun Chhabra, Special Assistant to the President & Senior Director for Technology and National SecurityDr. Nusheen Ameenuddin, Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and MediaDanielle Citron, Vice President, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, and Jefferson Scholars Foundation Schenck Distinguished Professor in Law Caddell and Chapman Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of LawAlexandra Reeve Givens, President and CEO, Center for Democracy and TechnologyDamon Hewitt, President and Executive Director, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under LawMitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Corporation and Chairwoman of the Mozilla FoundationKarl Racine, Attorney General for the District of ColumbiaPatrick Spence, Chief Executive Officer, SonosPrinciples for Enhancing Competition and Tech Platform Accountability
With the event, the Biden-Harris Administration announced the following core principles for reform:
Promote competition in the technology sector. The American information technology sector has long been an engine of innovation and growth, and the U.S. has led the world in the development of the Internet economy. Today, however, a small number of dominant Internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, to engage in rent-seeking, and to gather intimate personal information that they can use for their own advantage. We need clear rules of the road to ensure small and mid-size businesses and entrepreneurs can compete on a level playing field, which will promote innovation for American consumers and ensure continued U.S. leadership in global technology. We are encouraged to see bipartisan interest in Congress in passing legislation to address the power of tech platforms through antitrust legislation.Provide robust federal protections for Americans' privacy. There should be clear limits on the ability to collect, use, transfer, and maintain our personal data, including limits on targeted advertising. These limits should put the burden on platforms to minimize how much information they collect, rather than burdening Americans with reading fine print. We especially need strong protections for particularly sensitive data such as geolocation and health information, including information related to reproductive health. We are encouraged to see bipartisan interest in Congress in passing legislation to protect privacy.Protect our kids by putting in place even stronger privacy and online protections for them, including prioritizing safety by design standards and practices for online platforms, products, and services. Children, adolescents, and teens are especially vulnerable to harm. Platforms and other interactive digital service providers should be required to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of young people above profit and revenue in their product design, including by restricting excessive data collection and targeted advertising to young people.Remove special legal protections for large tech platforms. Tech platforms currently have special legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that broadly shield them from liability even when they host or disseminate illegal, violent conduct or materials. The President has long called for fundamental reforms to Section 230.Increase transparency about platform's algorithms and content moderation decisions. Despite their central role in American life, tech platforms are notoriously opaque. Their decisions about what content to display to a given user and when and how to remove content from their sites affect Americans' lives and American society in profound ways. However, platforms are failing to provide sufficient transparency to allow the public and researchers to understand how and why such decisions are made, their potential effects on users, and the very real dangers these decisions may pose.Stop discriminatory algorithmic decision-making. We need strong protections to ensure algorithms do not discriminate against protected groups, such as by failing to share key opportunities equally, by discriminatorily exposing vulnerable communities to risky products, or through persistent surveillance.###
Amazon ads top engagement ranking, but TikTok holds innovation crown | Marketing Dive
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:37
Dive Brief: Consumers view ads on Amazon as more relevant and engaging than those on other leading digital media platforms, putting the e-commerce giant at the top of Kantar's latest Media Reactions report . The analysis ranks channel perceptions among both consumers and marketers. Amazon unseated TikTok for the No. 1 spot in the annual analysis, though ByteDance's video-sharing app is still seen as more fun and innovative than competitors and landed as second-best. Spotify climbed four spots to the No. 3 slot, with the top five rounded out by Google and then Snapchat. Influencer marketing replaced podcast ads as the online format carrying the most equity, a reversal of 2021 trends. Even as marketers are primed to increase their digital investments in several areas, including the metaverse, consumers for the third year running favored ''real-world'' offline advertising the most. Dive Insight: There's been a substantial shift toward performance marketing channels over the past year or so, embodied by the surge in retail media networks that leverage wells of shopper data to better target campaigns. Just as brands have allocated more spending in marketplaces where sponsored product and display listings can be linked with e-commerce sales, consumers, too, seem to be coming around to the idea.
Amazon led Kantar's third annual Media Reactions report, with respondents finding ads on the service more relevant, useful and of better quality than those served elsewhere. The tech giant is aware this is a burgeoning strength and has started calling out ad sales gains to investors.
Amazon's advertising services segment, which it started breaking out in earnings at the start of 2022, grew 18% year-on-year to $8.76 billion in the second quarter . E-commerce ads came in at number two overall in terms of equity with consumers in Kantar's report, behind influencer marketing and ahead of podcast ads, which dropped two spots from last year .
While Amazon topped the Media Reactions rankings on a platform basis among consumers, TikTok continued to hold the crown of most innovative for the third year. The app broke into the mainstream during the pandemic thanks to a scrolling video feed powered by an ingenious algorithm that creates viral trends overnight.
Consumer perceptions contrast with that of marketers, who ranked Instagram as their preferred media brand for the second year in a row followed by Google, YouTube (which Google owns) and then TikTok. Instagram is comparatively mature in relation to advertising, but recently enacted a pivot to video and pushing more recommended posts that proved frustrating to users and influencers alike . It rolled back some changes following strong backlash.
TikTok, which is owned by Chinese tech conglomerate ByteDance, has become a flashpoint for controversy in its own right for data privacy and security reasons. That has not warded off marketers eager to reach a global audience that tends to skew toward the younger crowd. Eighty-four percent of marketers polled by Kantar plan to up their spending on TikTok in the months ahead.
''Last year, marketers were wary of placing trust in TikTok as it was a rising platform '-- but this year TikTok hit the sweet spot of maintaining its innovation status whilst having earned marketers' trust,'' said Pablo Gomez, head of creative and media at Kantar in Singapore and APAC media lead, in a statement. ''As a result, more marketers are planning to spend more on TikTok than any other global ad platform in 2023."
TikTok's mastery of short-form video has spurred rivals like Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat to quickly introduce copycat features. Marketers, in turn, are chasing the boom.
Online video, video streaming and social media stories are the top three channels set to receive a net increase in budget allocations between 2022 and 2023, per Kantar. A net 61% of marketers are also ramping up activity in the metaverse, a concept that's garnered a lot of buzz but has yet to be proven at scale or meaningfully realized on the technology front. Kantar indicated that some of this focus could be misplaced in a challenging macroeconomic environment marked by inflation and volatile media trends.
"Marketers continue to be lured by the siren call of the new and shiny, such as embracing attention as a new metric and the metaverse as a new channel '-- but it is imperative to maintain a holistic understanding of ad platforms and what consumers think of them," said Jane Ostler, executive vice president of creative and media solutions at Kantar, in a statement.
TikTok Is the New Google for Some Young People - Tech News Briefing - WSJ Podcasts
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:37
This transcript was prepared by a transcription service. This version may not be in its final form and may be updated.
Zoe Thomas: This is your Tech News Briefing for Monday, August 29th. I'm Zoe Thomas for the Wall Street Journal. When you've got a question, let's say what's the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies, or how do I balance my finances, where do you turn for information? Friends? Family? The Google search bar? Well, more people these days are turning instead to TikTok. The app may be known for viral dance trends and practical jokes, but users are increasingly choosing it to find information and news. On today's show Cordelia James from our personal tech team joins us to discuss why searching TikTok for information can be risky and how to verify what you find there. That's after these headlines.Facebook parent Meta has agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused the platform of allowing third parties, including the now defunct consulting firm Cambridge Analytica, of accessing private user data. A court filing from Friday showed the parties have reached an agreement in principle, but didn't provide many other details. Meta declined to comment on the potential settlement agreement. Attorneys for the plaintiffs couldn't be reached for comment. The suit followed revelations that Cambridge Analytica, which had worked for former president Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, had improperly gathered and used data on Facebook users. Following the incident, Facebook agreed to pay fines in the US and UK and make changes to its privacy practices. The company hasn't admitted to any wrongdoing, and Cambridge Analytica, which closed in 2018, has denied wrongdoing.We report exclusively that Panasonic is in talks with Tesla to build an additional roughly $4 billion electric vehicle battery plant in the US. Sources say Oklahoma is looking like the top contender for the new plant's location. In July Panasonic announced plans to build an EV plant in Kansas, and people familiar with the plan say the two facilities would be twins with similar capacity. EV makers, including Tesla, are looking to boost production of EV batteries amid supply chain disruptions and increased demand. Password manager LastPass said last week that some of its source code and proprietary information was stolen, but added that no information on its more than 33 million users had been taken. Cyber security experts recommend using password managers to store unique login details because hackers often use credentials stolen from a breach on one site to steal from people who use the same logins on multiple platforms. LastPass says it's implemented additional security measures and is working with a cyber security and forensics firm.SpaceX and T-Mobile say they plan to work together to use satellites to provide voice and data coverage across the US, even in remote areas that don't currently have service. At an event last week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the plan would mean, "No dead zones anywhere." Our reporter Thomas Gryta says the idea is to turn SpaceX's Starlink satellites into the equivalent of cell phone towers.
Thomas Gryta: So you're using the same radio frequencies that the ground network would use, but you're sending them from the sky. This isn't easy to do, and it will be a low bandwidth connection, so it can handle text messages, but you aren't going bring up Google Maps on this. T-Mobile said it plans to offer the service for free to customers.
Zoe Thomas: The companies plan to start testing text messaging services by the end of next year. The plan still needs regulatory approval from the Federal Communications Commission, which couldn't be reached for comment. And Google says it plans to identify healthcare facilities that provide abortion services in its maps and search functions following the Supreme Court ruling in June that overturned Roe V. Wade. The company says it's been working on the update for months and will rely on information provided by a business or authoritative data sources for the labels. All right, coming up, more young people are turning to TikTok for answers online. Should Google be worried? We'll discuss after the break. For more than 20 years, if you wanted to find information on the internet, you Googled it. There are other search engines, of course, but Google is the one that became a verb. Now that trend seems to be shifting. Millions of people, especially young people are turning to TikTok for answers.
Speaker 3: Why would I Google something when I can go on TikTok, watch a 15 second video, gives me the full low down on how to make something, if something's good, how-
Speaker 4: TikTok is legit better than Google for a lot of things. Go to the TikTok search bar and search "How to cut a watermelon." You're going to find 500 videos that are insanely better than anything you'd find on Google.
Speaker 5: Anything you can imagine you can find on TikTok, and not only can you find it quick, but you can find it in video form.
Zoe Thomas: M, but how trustworthy are the answers you might find on TikTok? And what does Google think of this trend? Cordelia James reported on this for the Wall Street Journal's personal tech team and she joins us now. Hey Cordelia. Thanks for being here.
Cordelia James: Hi Zoe. Thank you so much for having me.
Zoe Thomas: Okay, so more people are turning to TikTok to find answers, but what kinds of questions are they asking?
Cordelia James: Yeah, so an internal survey at Google found that 40% of young people, so people between the ages of 18 and 24, are using TikTok as a source of information for all kinds of things. Some examples like fitness ideas, fashion inspiration, things to do, places to go, travel, food recommendations, recipes, all kinds of things that you can find on an app that gives you a lot more visual results than a typical Google search, as well as something that's super quick and fast.
Zoe Thomas: I mean, some of those questions seem like things you might already turn to social media for. What to do on a weekend or fashion tips. Should Google be worried?
Cordelia James: So Google actually doesn't have too much to worry about just yet, I would say, mostly because the survey that they did found that more often than not, people would still use Google in addition to TikTok. However, for those who only rely on TikTok as the key source of information, that can be a little troublesome because not all of the results that they might get immediately on the app are always accurate.
Zoe Thomas: Okay, so what makes it problematic then for the people who are turning to TikTok for information?
Cordelia James: Yeah, so TikTok's algorithm gives you information based on your interests and what videos are the most popular at the time. When it comes to those kinds of videos, they don't necessarily always have to come from reliable sources. So if you're using the app to search for information, such as, let's say, health advice, but you're not really getting it from an actual nutritionist, then you might be using some of these skills and these tips from someone that might actually do you more harm than good. So you want to make sure that you're going off platform to do a little extra research to make sure you're getting information from an accurate and trusted source.
Zoe Thomas: Did you find any examples of where that was happening?
Cordelia James: So an example of this would be an avocado hack, which was often circulating around the app, and which different users would see videos of someone placing an avocado in a container filled with water and putting it in their fridge and it was supposedly allowing their avocados to last a little bit longer without turning brown. However, the FDA eventually had to come out and say that, "Hey, that's actually not really safe due to pathogens in the water that could actually cause all kinds of illnesses."
Zoe Thomas: Other social media platforms have been criticized for the amount of misinformation that's on their platform. Is that something TikTok has to deal with as well, and how is it addressing that?
Cordelia James: Most definitely. So TikTok was actually in the news a lot earlier this year regarding misinformation circulating regarding the war in Ukraine. So after that, the app has... Mind you, this app is still in its infancy, so this is something that it's still readily trying to work on and trying to find ways to address. It's just that the fact that it has such a strong influence that makes this really scary at times. But since then, the app has partnered with a bunch of independent fact checking organizations and it makes sure to screen videos even before it gets on the app, as well as when users report them directly. So it's a team between using technology as well as real people to make sure that the information going out there is actually safe or not harmful.However, that can be really hard. It's harder for the algorithm to pinpoint misinformation exactly. Compared to, say, a symbol or something that's inappropriate or something along those lines. So it's definitely something that they're still having to work on. But the good news is that TikTok told me that if a video is deemed false, it is removed from the platform completely. If it is true or it doesn't have any harmful misinformation, it stays up. But if fact checking is still underway or the information is still unsubstantiated, then it won't be in the for you page, but it might still appear in search. So that's something that you have to make sure that you're looking out for.
Zoe Thomas: Okay, so for the people who do want to use TikTok as a search engine, what do they need to bear in mind when they're looking up questions?
Cordelia James: So a few things to keep in mind if you're using the app as a search engine. Think about what it is that you're trying to use and apply to your actual everyday life. So things such as medical information or financial information might have a lot more risk than, say, you just choosing what kind of restaurant you want to go to. But regardless of it, you should make sure that the videos that you are choosing to watch are actually from people that you can trust or organizations that you can trust.
Zoe Thomas: Cordelia, you spoke to some TikTok users who used the platform to search for information. When you spoke to them, were they skeptical of the kinds of information they found in these videos, or did they just take it at face value?
Cordelia James: A lot of people really took things at face value. The people that I spoke to, often it just wasn't really a big concern for them on the app. These are things that just seemed like very everyday, low risk situations, or at least they might seem like, because you might not really feel the need to do any additional leg work. Because it's like... While you're on these apps, it feels like you're talking to a trusted friend. These are creators that you've followed for an extended period of time, you probably trust a lot more. You just have to make sure that you're aware of the fact that not everything that you hear on TikTok is right and you want to make sure you're practicing your media literacy skills to make sure you're getting the best information. Also, TikTok did mention to me that when it comes to verified check marks, something to just keep in mind is that that's meant to say that this person is who they say they are, not necessarily that they are an expert on whatever topic that they're talking about.
Zoe Thomas: All right. That's Cordelia James from our personal tech team. Thanks for joining us, Cordelia.
Cordelia James: Thanks again, Zoe.
Zoe Thomas: Okay, that's it for today's Tech News Briefing. Don't forget, if you're a fan of the show, please take a second to leave a review and a five star rating. It helps other people find the show and lets us know you like what we're doing. And if you want more tech stories, check out our website, wsj.com. I'm Zoe Thomas for the Wall Street Journal. Thanks for listening.
TikTok is upending the music industry and Spotify may be next
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:37
Benee performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 18, 2022 in Manchester, Tennessee.
Josh Brasted | Wireimage | Getty Images
Zoi Lerma was working at a Los Angeles bagel shop in early 2020 when she first heard the song "Supalonely" by Benee.
She liked it so much that she choreographed a dance to the tune and posted it on TikTok. Her video has since amassed more than 45 million views, turning her into a TikTok celebrity and helping to make Benee a global sensation.
As of Sept. 2, "Supalonely" has appeared in more than 5.7 million videos from thousands of TikTok users. Benee performed two sold-out arena shows in New Zealand in October 2020, and she was nominated for new artist of 2020 at the People's Choice Awards. Her hit song has gone platinum, meaning it's sold the equivalent of 1 million copies, in eight countries, and has more than 2.1 billion streams across all platforms.
"When it started trending on TikTok and picking up on TikTok, I would hear it on the radio or, you know, hear it in stores," Lerma, who's now 20, said in an interview with CNBC. "I would hear it everywhere."
Far from her days in a hot Southern California kitchen, Lerma now has 6 million followers on TikTok and makes a living by promoting music on the app and using her influence to partner with brands. She's also part of the TikTok Creator Fund, which pays popular contributors when their videos take off.
TikTok, owned by China's ByteDance, is turning the music business on its head by increasingly becoming a hit-making machine. Artists can go from obscurity to global superstardom, thanks to a viral video that could be posted by a complete stranger. Even Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" reentered the charts in 2020 after a clip of a man drinking cranberry juice on a skateboard exploded on the app.
Record labels, artists and creators are all trying to figure out how to profit in the new TikTok-dominated world and to make sure they're not getting left behind.
While ByteDance is best known for its viral social media app TikTok, the Beijing-based company is now bolstering its ability in semiconductor design. ByteDance won't be manufacturing chips to sell to others, but it will be designing semiconductors that it requires for specific applications internally.
Artur Widak | Nurphoto | Getty Images
"If a song is going viral on TikTok, and the artist is unsigned, and as a result, it's getting a million streams on Spotify, the labels are scrambling to sign that song or that artist," said Tatiana Cirisano, a music industry analyst and consultant at Midia Research. "They're obsessed with expanding their market share and making sure they don't lose any market share to independent artists."
TikTok's importance is undeniable. A year ago, the app topped 1 billion monthly users. Last month, a Pew Research Center survey found that 67% of teens in the U.S. use TikTok, and 16% said they are on it almost constantly.
The rest of the social media industry has been trying to play catch-up. Facebook and Instagram parent Meta, for example, has been pumping money into its short video feature called Reels.
While TikTok's financials are still confidential because ByteDance is private, industry analysts say the app is winning a bigger piece of the online ad market, as brands follow eyeballs.
No. 1 stream driverIn 2021, over 175 songs that trended on TikTok charted on the Billboard Hot 100, twice as many as the prior year, according to TikTok's annual music report.
"It's a household name and it's really effective," said Mary Rahmani, a former TikTok executive who last year founded the agency and record label Moon Projects. "It's still the No. 1 platform that drives to streams."
In terms of the current flow of dollars in the music industry, TikTok's main influence lies in its ability to push listeners to services like Apple Music and Spotify.
In 2021, Spotify paid out over $7 billion in royalties, according to a company report. The company pays record labels, artists and other rights holders based on their "streamshare," which is calculated monthly. An artist who receives one out of every 1,000 streams in the U.S. for the month would bring in $1 of every $1,000 paid to rights holders from the U.S. royalty pool.
TikTok is positioned to cash in on its role as music industry tastemaker, but the company hasn't disclosed its plans. But there are some hints to the parent company's thinking.
In May, ByteDance, filed a trademark application for "TikTok Music" with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The service would allow users to play, share, purchase and download music, according to the filing. A TikTok spokesperson didn't provide any additional details and sent CNBC a general statement about the company's role in the music industry.
"With hundreds of songs generating over 1 billion video views and dozens of artists signing record deals as a result of success on the platform, TikTok starts trends that reverberate throughout the culture, the industry, and the charts," the statement said.
TikTok currently has partnerships and licensing agreements with major labels like Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, all deals that were signed between 2020 and 2021. Cirisano of Midia Research said artists aren't paid directly based on how often their music is viewed or used.
Music isn't a new market for TikTok. In 2017, ByteDance acquired a startup called Musical.ly, which was a popular app that allowed users to create videos using other people's music. ByteDance merged the service with its homegrown TikTok app the following year.
'Brand-new fan base'Singer-songwriter Jay Sean, whose hit single "Down" topped the Billboard charts in 2009, started posting on TikTok in 2019 as a fun way to express himself and be creative. He now has more than 460,000 followers on the app and said it's exposed him to the younger generation.
"I'm reaching a brand-new fan base," Sean said in an interview. "I've been doing music for 20 years, so some of them were just kids when my music came out and they're starting to discover my back catalog through this. So it really is quite a fascinating tool for that."
Like many major labels and managers, Sean also has used TikTok as a tool to discover new artists. He signed the singer V(C)yah after finding her on TikTok, where she has more than 470,000 followers.
"Now she's going from this girl who used to be singing in her bedroom on TikTok to being in LA, working on an album and working with mainstream massive producers who have produced megahits for so many big artists," Sean said.
Jeremy Skaller, co-founder of the management, media and production company The Heavy Group, warned of the risks of skyrocketing to fame that can come with TikTok's virality. Not everyone is prepared for what comes next, he said.
"Once a label signs you for $1 million, the pressure to perform trumps the art, which is why getting a deal too soon can mess up what otherwise might have been a beautiful, long career," Skaller said.
Even established artists are facing challenges on TikTok.
The artist Halsey complained recently about the pressure to post on the app, writing in a TikTok video, "My record company is saying that i can't release [new music] unless they can fake a viral moment on tiktok."
Halsey's label, Capitol Music, later released a statement on Twitter pledging support for the singer.
Cirisano said artists used to rely on their label for marketing. But with TikTok fame, they're now doing much of their promotion themselves.
"It's just a hugely demanding thing for artists," Cirisano said, "in addition to everything else that they're already doing," which is frustrating for a lot of them.
But there are benefits as well. Some artists can parlay their TikTok following into greater riches without the help of a label, a path that was almost impossible before social media.
Loren Medina, owner of Guerrera PR, said music marketing is a "different world" than it was 10 years ago. Medina, who worked at Sony from 2005 through 2009, now represents avant-garde Latin artists like Jessie Reyez and Omar Apollo. Historically, she said, for artists to make it, they needed to be a priority for a label that would be willing to back them financially.
"It was just so different," she said. "We had to actually hire street teams to go out on the street and give people flyers, give people CDs. There was much more face to face, hand to hand."
Labels are still very important in the industry, but they "are not the end all be all," she said. Artists are now using the huge audiences they reach on TikTok to create a dedicated fan base that can end up buying lots of merchandise and filling up bars and concert halls.
One of Medina's clients is Kali Uchis, whose song "telepata" blew up on TikTok and now has over 700 million streams on Spotify. Though Uchis had an established career before going viral, Medina said the exposure on the app was what ultimately pushed her to global stardom. She won top Latin song for "telepata" and top Latin female artist at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards.
"Her career blossomed, really, really, really blossomed because of one song on TikTok," she said. "That wasn't going to be a single, and so we had to pivot and sort of just restructure everything and make that song the focus because it exploded."
Services like Zebr have popped up to try and streamline the work that comes with TikTok celebrity. Record labels and artists can use Zebr to pay creators to use a piece of music in their content. The app allows creators to choose which campaigns they want to work on and handles the payment process.
Zebr CEO Josh Deal, who was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 in Europe for entertainment this year, said labels and artists have gotten much smarter with their approach to marketing on TikTok.
"A lot of the time they were just kind of throwing money at agencies and hoping for them to place it with their influencers," he said. "Now, the strategy is becoming a lot more refined. They're understanding why tracks are breaking and how they're breaking. And it's really just sort of reverse engineering that."
Since choreographing the hit video to "Supalonely," Lerma has partnered with artists and labels to promote music. She gets hired to work on particular songs, but keeps a lot of creative control over what she posts.
"They don't really tell you what dance to make, or like how they want it to look," Lerma said. "You kind of just get to have your own freedom with what you want to make."
WATCH: Streaming business is inherently profitable
Mr. President, You Have Protected Your Family by Banning TikTok for Them. What About Your Country? | CSQ | C-Suite Quarterly
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:36
The greatest enemy our country faces today is not some terrorist group or powerful army. It's actually in the pocket of almost every teenager in America: TikTok.
While media and business executives talk about developing a strategy for the social video app, there's only one TikTok strategy that truly makes sense: deleting the app and banning the company from operating in the U.S.
With its reaction to Speaker Nancy Pelosi's recent visit to Taiwan'--launching missiles'--the Chinese government has made clear they do not share many of our values. And in many ways, TikTok is more dangerous than any missile'--and it's aimed right at our homes and families.
As someone who has founded a major motion picture production company and co-founded and partially owns Triller, an innovative video platform that empowers creators around the world, I understand the power of media to shape and influence hearts and minds. At my companies, I've always tried to use that power for good: giving storytellers from all backgrounds the freedom to make amazing content. Unfortunately, TikTok uses creators to do the dirty work of a hostile government.
Making things more dangerous, the very fabric of America has never been at a greater risk of imploding than it is right now. We are at a pivotal moment in time and culture, with a paradigm shift in the way we and our children are living our lives. Most frighteningly, we are inviting and acting as the catalyst to what very well may become the greatest weapon to ever be created with the intent to destroy America from the inside out. It is what happens when our most powerful geopolitical enemy uses the social media technology our open and innovative economy created to use our free exchange of information against us. That all comes from one simple, devastatingly dangerous app: TikTok.
If someone offered you free Netflix in exchange to unfettered access to your entire life, would you take that deal? Would you give a media company the ability to access, copy, and share any and all data on your phone, and the ability to turn the microphone and camera on at will without you knowing, listening to every word, watching your every move, reading every email and text message?
When put that way, of course not!
However, teenagers and young people are doing this exact same thing today, but instead of handing that data over to a publicly traded American company like Netflix, they are turning over control of their devices to TikTok's parent company ByteDance'--which is partially owned by the Chinese government. Through TikTok, the Chinese Communist Party is effectively infiltrating our lives, telling us what to watch, and pushing selected information to minds that can be easily influenced. The Chinese Communist Party has been crystal clear about its view that America is a rival. They are attacking us from within.
TikTok likes to market itself as a fun, harmless app that allows kids to make silly videos tuned to popular music. It has taken off among preteens and teens, who spend hours a day letting ByteDance's algorithm tell them what to watch. According to a study from Forrester , 63% of Americans between 12 and 17 used TikTok on a weekly basis in 2021, surpassing Instagram to become the most popular app among that age group.
That type of dependence from young people on a typical company from a Western country that operates independently from government influence would probably not be ideal. This is much worse. While American investment firms have chased the money and invested in it, at the end of the day, TikTok is a product owned by ByteDance'--a company with deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party and ultimately controlled by the government of China.
To put it simply, people with TikTok downloaded on their phones are knowingly allowing a sworn enemy to America, Americans, and our way of life to have 24/7 access to their most private moments, files, pictures, emails, and basically everything else in their lives. The enemy is not even at the gates: They are in our pockets and on our nightstands.
This is not speculation or hyperbole. It is fact. BuzzFeed obtained over 80 audio recordings of internal TikTok meetings, confirming that the Chinese Communist Party had unfettered access to all of TikTok's data. And TikTok has been proven to censor content that puts China and its geopolitical allies in a bad light, such as China's persecution of the Uighurs in the Xinjiang region. Ultimately, it is an app that knows everything important about your family member'--and always acts in the interest of the Chinese government.
By sharing viral TikTok videos and treating it like any other social app, we are letting the Chinese government infiltrate our homes. Once they are inside your digital world, it becomes almost impossible kick them out. There are tentacles you can't even see that are reading your private messages and tracking your location.
The research shows TikTok can scan an entire hard drive, access contact lists, and see all apps installed on a device. It also routinely communicates between your phone and its servers in China. That means that your most sensitive personal information, passwords, and movements'--and potentially, cameras inside your home'--are accessible to a government that is more than willing to confront the United States.
TikTok is even logging every keystroke, according to TechCrunch , and not giving users an option to open in-app links in an external browser. That means when people are using links discovered through TikTok to enter credit card numbers or other personal information, servers in mainland China are taking note.
TikTok advises its PR team to downplay the China associations, and it seems to be working. Far too many prominent journalists, business leaders, and politicians appear to use TikTok on their personal devices, and there are certainly many more who are indirectly exposed due to family members who use the app. This behavior potentially puts the country at risk and could share important secrets with a geopolitical enemy.
To be fair, TikTok's parent ByteDance is not the only company that has found itself compromised by the Chinese government'--but it is the most dangerous of them because of its impact on American teens and access to the most personal data. China has acquired small ''golden shares'' in private media companies, using government-backed funds to buy influence'--including a board seat and/or veto rights'--in strategically important companies, as Reuters has reported. Through an arrangement like this, the Chinese Communist Party now controls the ByteDance board.
While China may be a major trading partner and at times economic collaborator, its government views the United States as an ideological enemy, and has not been shy about flexing its muscle through media. We know the Chinese government has enforced strict censorship on Hollywood movies, forcing major studios to cave and remove potentially controversial content such as references to Tibet or homosexuality in exchange for access to its lucrative movie market. China wants to set the bounds of what topics of conversation are acceptable. With its ownership of TikTok, it has a powerful tool to do that. This is literally the Chinese government'--in your pocket.
Revealingly, China understands the danger of TikTok when unleashed on its own people. The international version is banned in its own country, with Chinese locals forced to use a separate app, Douyin. China also knows how poisonous the app is for young people, as Douyin limits youths to 40 minutes per day and does not allow overnight use. The Chinese government is much happier to see TikTok used 24/7 by Western children, shaping malleable hearts and minds. This way, there are also more opportunities to play the long game: gathering intelligence on children to use against them later.
TikTok may be the greatest Trojan horse in history. Instead of a handful of soldiers, it has tapped into hundreds of millions of brains. This will end with the enemy at the gates'--one we are welcoming with open arms. We need to take a stance before it's too late. It's time to delete this app for good'--and for the good of the country.
Report after report has been published imploring Washington to take a stance and do something about the fact that the Chinese government is in our homes. The greatest geopolitical threat to our nation has access to our entire lives.
One of the commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently sent Apple and Google a takedown notice instructing them to remove TikTok from the App Store and Play Store. That instruction was ignored.
As a result, we either have to believe the FCC commissioner has some side motive and breaking the law or, more likely, that he is in a position to see what TikTok really is. Given that he is one of the most informed people in our government about digital communication apps and has access to and information on TikTok that others don't, for him to demand such a measure means he has good reason to call for this ban.
Furthermore, the armed forces has banned TikTok from government devices, and no member of the U.S. government is allowed to have TikTok on their phones. In fact, when you were still a candidate, President Biden, you banned the use of TikTok by anyone on your campaign even before you were president, starting when you were running.
There are a number of very good open-source studies showing how TikTok circumvents the normal protections the App and Play Stores offer consumers. They are doing it in plain sight. They just believe we care more about upsetting our preteen or teenage children by taking away their TikTok than we do about our own personal or national security.
Are they right? Are we willing to hand our future over to the Chinese government? I sure hope not.
I ask you, Mr. President, will you protect us? While children may not be thrilled with you making the right decision, to protect us and our families, you have protected yours by banning its use among your family and those close to you. Will you do the same for us, for our families? Will you put our safety before your popularity?
Ryan Kavanaugh is the 26th highest grossing movie producer of all time and the co-founder of Triller, one of three fastest growing social media apps. Ryan also founded and built the second largest sports agency in the United States and sold one of the largest television companies in the world with over 40 series on the air.
Zelensky to headline US defense industry conference | The Hill
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:36
Office of the Ukrainian PresidentUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address U.S. defense contractors later this month when he headlines the annual Future Force Capabilities Conference and Exhibition hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA).
Zelensky is scheduled to speak at the event Sept. 21, according to the program for the event available on the NDIA's website. Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's minister of defense, is also scheduled to speak that day.
News of the appearances was first reported by Reuters, which noted that the officials will speak via video link. Zelensky is expected to appeal for more weapons for his country during his speech, the outlet added.
News of the Ukrainian president's speech to the NDIA '-- whose membership includes defense industry giants like Raytheon Technologies, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics '-- comes as Kyiv looks to fend off Russia's invasion as it drags through its sixth month.
Falling gas prices give Democrats a sense of optimism for NovemberHere's how Biden has shifted the war on terrorEight defense contractors '-- including Raytheon, Lockheed and General Dynamics '-- attended a meeting at the Pentagon in April to discuss how the U.S. could speed up production to help Ukraine fend off Moscow's war.
The U.S. has committed $15.2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including $14.5 billion since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
On Thursday, the U.S. unveiled a $675 million weapons package to Ukraine, including additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, additional high-speed anti-radiation missiles and more than 5,000 anti-armor systems, among other equipment.
Tags Future Force Capabilities Conference and ExhibitionNational Defense Industrial AssociationOleksii ReznikovOleksii ReznikovRussia-Ukraine conflictUkraineVolodymyr ZelenskyVolodymyr Zelensky
A statement from BYU Athletics regarding the investigation of the Aug. 26 volleyball match | byucougars.com
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:36
Jon McBride | Posted: 9 Sep 2022 | Updated: 11 Sep 2022
As part of our commitment to take any claims of racism seriously, BYU has completed its investigation into the allegation that racial heckling and slurs took place at the Duke vs. BYU women's volleyball match on August 26. We reviewed all available video and audio recordings, including security footage and raw footage from all camera angles taken by BYUtv of the match, with broadcasting audio removed (to ensure that the noise from the stands could be heard more clearly). We also reached out to more than 50 individuals who attended the event: Duke athletic department personnel and student-athletes, BYU athletic department personnel and student-athletes, event security and management and fans who were in the arena that evening, including many of the fans in the on-court student section.
From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event. As we stated earlier, we would not tolerate any conduct that would make a student-athlete feel unsafe. That is the reason for our immediate response and our thorough investigation.
As a result of our investigation, we have lifted the ban on the fan who was identified as having uttered racial slurs during the match. We have not found any evidence that that individual engaged in such an activity. BYU sincerely apologizes to that fan for any hardship the ban has caused.
Our fight is against racism, not against any individual or any institution. Each person impacted has strong feelings and experiences, which we honor, and we encourage others to show similar civility and respect. We remain committed to rooting out racism wherever it is found. We hope we can all join together in that important fight.
There will be some who assume we are being selective in our review. To the contrary, we have tried to be as thorough as possible in our investigation, and we renew our invitation for anyone with evidence contrary to our findings to come forward and share it.
Despite being unable to find supporting evidence of racial slurs in the many recordings and interviews, we hope that all those involved will understand our sincere efforts to ensure that all student-athletes competing at BYU feel safe. As stated by Athletics Director Tom Holmoe, BYU and BYU Athletics are committed to zero-tolerance of racism, and we strive to provide a positive experience for everyone who attends our athletic events, including student-athletes, coaches and fans, where they are valued and respected.
'We'll Steal Your Soul' '' Biden's Monkeypox Spox Has a Penchant for Pentagrams, Occultism, and Satanism.
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:35
WASHINGTON, D.C. '' On August 2nd, President Biden appointed Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, as the White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator. Also the CDC's Division Director for HIV Prevention, he previously served in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration in the New York City Health Department.
Daskalakis is known for his efforts in the world of HIV and other diseases affecting the LGBTQ+ community, having attended New York University Medical School, followed by a residency, fellowship, and additional masters degree from Harvard Medical School. In an interview with The Atlantic in 2014, he said ''I learned my bedside manner from East Village drag queens.'' He attended Columbia University as an undergraduate and was a ''general and religion double major.'' Raised by Greek Orthodox immigrants in Arlington, Virginia, a review of Dr. Daskalakis's social media presence reveals a penchant for pentagrams and other Satanic symbolism, The National Pulse can reveal.
Biden's new appointee's social media activity points to disturbing occultist behavior.Daskalakis's social media presence is disturbing, to say the least. Alongside his partner Michael MacNeal, the pair launched a ''goth'' gym in New York, which originally ran out of the high-profile Equinox gym chain, before spinning off into its own brand based in a former gay nightclub that in turn had taken over an old church in Manhattan: Monster Cycle.
Monster Cycle's social media is replete with Satanic imagery.Monster Cycle's social media pages are full of references to Satanism, the devil, burning crosses, and pentagrams, and more. While the gym got fawning coverage from the New York Times (below) in 2014, its review on ''SweatConcierge'' made references to ''alarming'' imagery and ''terrifying'' co-ed locker rooms.
The New York Times gave glowing coverage to the Satanic gym.''There's light even in darkness,'' MacNeal told the New York Post in the same year '' which correlates directly with a quote tattooed across the chest of Joe Biden's monkeypox co-ordinator, his partner Dr. Daskalakis.
''I have learned there is light even in the darkest places,'' Daskalakis's tattoo reads.''I have learned there is light even in the darkest places,'' Daskalakis's tattoo of a pentagram reads. He also has ink showing the corpse of a dead creature, as well as a serpent, a head with three eyes, and what appears to be a Saint-like figure or even a depiction of Jesus Christ across his stomach.
It's not the only reference to Christ the pair '' Daskalakis and MacNeal '' make in their social media posts. A series of images from 2012 appear to depict a seance, or Ouija board ceremony with a lit crucifix depicting Jesus Christ, laying on a pentagram on the table.
Satanic imagery is commonplace with Daskalakis.Another image from the same night shows MacNeal with a producer friend, Bianca Grey, using the Ouija board with the crucifix. Another image, from 2011, shows Daskalakis appearing to mock Christ in the depiction of the Last Supper.
MacNeal and Grey with the Ouija board.Biden, who claims to be Catholic, hired Daskalakis as his Monkeypox co-ordinator this year.The concerning imagery and association hardly stops there. An October 2011 image shows the White House staffer wearing a pentagram helmet with an upside-down cross above it. MacNeal, in the background, appears to be wearing a crown of thorns.
Further pentagram imagery can be seen scattered across the Monster Cycle's social media pages featuring either of the pair, or their friends. A 2014 post on Facebook states: ''We'll steal your soul.''
One of the accounts Daskalakis follows on Instagram is The Satanic Temple TV, which describes its mission statement as:
We will entertain and challenge, delight and disgust. We will explore the artistic, political and transgressive roots of modern Satanism. We will give voice to our diverse communities as Satanists, atheists and social justice activists in a global society.
Dr. Demetre follows The Satanic Temple.The pair '' MacNeal and Daskalakis '' also appear to have been ''married'' in a dark and occult ceremony in 2013. Prior to meeting MacNeal, Daskalakis did not have the plethora of occult tattoos he now sports.
A year prior, the pair saw reality drag star Sharon Needles in concert. Needles was found, in that year, to be using explicitly racist imagery in performances, as well as deploying the ''n-word'' freely. At the time, a denial was issued, but others have since expressed similar experiences with Needles, alleging 9/11 jokes, as well as frequent use of the word n*gger.
In 2021, Needles was accused of exposing a 15-year-old fan to drugs and alcohol, as well as images of his penis, and inappropriate touching. His accuser, Annecy, said the drag queen ''gave me weed shotguns pretty much kissed me on the mouth a billion times,'' later adding, ''beer is gross Sharon made me try it and I spat it everywhere.''
MacNeal tagged his tweet about Needles, ''#HellYeah'' which is also a strapline for his occult gym.
Daskalakis's work has been lauded by leading gay magazine The Advocate, which published another Biden hire '' Sam Brinton '' defending a website called 'Rent Boy' that was known for connecting older homosexual men with boys.
During the period of writing this article, Daskalakis has taken his Instagram page private, although The National Pulse has archived much of the content.
You can support the investigative work of The National Pulse by clicking here.
Therapist says she's seen influx of 'COVID babies' who haven't hit milestones and can barely speak | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:35
A New Jersey speech therapist says she's recently seen a wave of infants and toddlers 'unable to communicate' after being born during the pandemic - one of several now-surfacing consequences of school and day care closures seen over the past few years.
The phenomenon, speech pathologist Nancy Polow says, is part of a concerning trend in kids born during or shortly before the pandemic, who are 'falling behind' on key milestones due to a lack of social interaction during that time span.
Compounding the crisis, when parents sought help, they were often met with lockdown-related roadblocks , such as masking restrictions, the challenge of tele-health appointments for toddlers, and fear of in-person therapy.
Now that restrictions have lessened, Polow says, parents are scrambling to address these failures, signing up for pricey speech therapy sessions to repair the damage done to their young - shelling out as much as $1,000 a month in the process.
A growing body of academic research also supports Polow's claims of children born over the past three or so years possessing weaker verbal skills - with many staying silent well past their first birthdays and in some cases, even their second.
'We call these children COVID babies,' Polow, a pathologist with more than 45 years experience, told NJ.com in a recent interview where she and several other speech experts warned of the rapidly emerging crisis.
New Jersey speech therapist Nancy Polow says she's recently seen a wave of infants and toddlers 'unable to communicate' after being born during the pandemic - one of several now-surfacing consequences of school and day care closures seen over the past few years
'I have never seen such an influx of infants and toddlers unable to communicate,' Polow told the outlet Friday, for a feature story titled 'A Troubling Silence.'
'There's not anything else wrong,' she said of the kids who are pouring into her speech center in Milburn, New Jersey, 'other than they lost out on the socialization.'
Speech is only one area where children are lagging since the pandemic, Polow says, with several other studies showing that 'Covid'-era kids are also seeing delays in other activities such as crawling and walking.
Verbal delays, however, are often the first sign of broader developmental issues, the expert warned - one of several now-surfacing repercussions of the restrictions.
Many families have turned to private therapy practices such as Polow's - which can cost more than $1,000 a month and are not commonly covered by insurance.
Those sessions, Polow says, in many cases turned out unfruitful, due to issues such as masking restrictions, tele-health challenges for toddlers, and a lack of doctors willing to see patients in person.
Experts believe the speech delays are a direct result of fewer interactions with adults and other children during the pandemic.
The phenomenon, Polow says, is part of an concerning trend in kids born during or shortly before the pandemic, who are 'falling behind' on key milestones due a lack of social interaction
Now Polow says she and her staff are working with countless kids and parents to regain those losses over the next few months, and get the 'Covid babies' back on track.
'If we get them young enough, then they become age appropriate,' Polow said. 'Then they reach their milestones.'
Meanwhile, she and other experts warn that many other children amid the furor over the sudden coronavirus outbreak had slipped through the cracks, not only with speech delays but with developmental issues such as autism.
Janice Prontnicki, director of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said this was also due to babies spending less time around family and child care providers, who might have noticed a delay or confirmed a parent's fears.
'We were missing kids that should have been picked up sooner,' Prontnicki told NJ.com.
Polow says therapists like her are now working with countless kids and parents to regain these losses over the next few months, and get the 'Covid babies' back on track. Pictured, a speech therapist works with a 10-year-old child
Meanwhile, Polow says her speech center is still seeing 'lots and lots' of COVID babies. It's also seen an increase in what she called 'COVID children' - kids who missed two years of preschool or spent their entire kindergarten year in virtual learning.
'Parents do feel guilty, and I think their biggest question that they are asking is, "Should I have come sooner?"' she said, adding that the damage can always be undone with the proper treatment.
That treatment, however, may not be easily accessible for lower-income families, said Ediza Lahoz Valentino, a social worker at the Jane H. Booker Family Health Center in Neptune, New Jersey.
The reason for speech delays, experts say, is fewer interactions with adults and other children during the pandemic. A kindergarten student attends class wearing a face shield and a mask at the Resurrection Catholic School in Los Angeles, California, in February 2021
'Some of them don't have access to a computer or a tablet or a smartphone to be able to access therapy virtually,' Lahoz Valentino said. 'That in itself was challenging.'
Speech problems are also cropping up in preschoolers whose early social needs were put on the back burner during the chaos and fear generated by COVID-19, speech and health experts said.
Scientists including Dr Dana Suskind, a surgeon at Chicago University, suggest a lack of social contact with family and relatives due to restrictions is behind the shift.
The long-term impact of the pandemic on children is not yet clear, but experts have warned keeping children away from their peers for so long with lockdowns is bound to have harmed their development.
A growing body of academic research supports these claims.
Children born during the Covid pandemic are behind on key developmental steps compared to their peers, it has been revealed (stock image)
Speaking to USA Today, Spencer explained that normally babies begin to walk and become more physically active during the spring and summer months.
But since Covid hit, she has not seen this occurring as often. She said: 'They're still growing, because they always grow, but it's at a slower pace.'
Dr Dana Suskind, a surgeon at Chicago University, also suggested a lack of social contact in early years could have affected youngster's development
Further evidence of slower development in the youngest children were revealed by Emily Levitt, the vice president of one of America's largest tutoring networks called Sylvan learning.
She said that recently they had been inundated with requests for lessons from parents with children less than three years old.
'We often get this question of, "Is this child pandemic behind or are they actually behind?",' she explained.
'And getting to the correct answer for each child is not always easy.'
Mother left in shock after being told 18-month-old daughter lagging behind pre-pandemic childrenA mother has told of her shock after it was revealed her 18-month-old toddler was lagging behind pre-pandemic children.
Anissa Perra-Grooms, who lives in Kansas City, Montana, had her daughter Elvira in February 2020 just as the virus was starting to spread around the world.
She kept her at home for as long as possible, saying it was the safest and most convenient option.
But at Elvira's 18-month appointment she got a shock, after finding her daughter was lagging behind in language development.
She was able to say just a dozen words or so, whereas children at her age are normally able to say at least 50.
She said: 'Every parent thinks their child is the smartest child ever, and I firmly believe that she's super intelligent.'
But the finding left her 'totally clueless' feeling both worried and then guilty.
Elvira has now caught up with other children after being signed up to an early childhood education program, which sees her mix with others her own age.
Scientific evidence on how 'Covid' children's development is behind the curve is piling up.
A paper published in the prestigious research journal JAMA in January this year that looked at 225 children born in 2020 revealed babies were less likely to be crawling and smiling at themselves in a mirror within six months. It also showed they had reduced social and problem solving skills.
And a UK-based survey of teachers released last month found those teaching children in the early grades were now seeing more biting and hitting in the classroom than previously.
After reviewing more than 280 educational settings, British-based charity Ofsted has also suggested in a report that children are struggling with basic skills such as writing and speaking in the wake of the pandemic.
They said some teachers even said they had seen youngsters lack confidence in group activities, and struggle to share and take turns.
Similarly, Brown University scientists, who assessed 1,000 children, found there was a 23 percent dive in 'pandemic' babies scores in three cognitive tests.
Suskind suggests the changes may be down to keeping children away from family and relatives for too long due to Covid.
She explained: 'Learning doesn't start on the first day of school, but the first day of life.'
Every social interaction the child has gives instructions to their brain on how to communicate developing social skills, she said.
But if a child's brain is kept away from social settings, it is going to wire itself on the assumption that the environment will always be like that.
More than a million neural connections are formed every day up to the age five, she claimed, when the brain completes at least 85 percent of its development.
To conserve energy the brain will then also begin to shave off brain cells that are rarely used '-- which could include some linked to socializing.
Schools across America closed in-person learning when Covid arrived, as officials scrambled to respond to the outbreak. Many classrooms remained shuttered into 2021, despite warnings that it could harm the youngest in society.
There have also been warnings that orders to wear face masks in schools are negatively impacting learning. Other scientists have suggested that wearing face masks could be to blame for the slowdown in the development of social skills in children.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams ended the city's mask mandate for schools and child care centers in March, but the city's Education Department still 'strongly' recommends they be worn indoors.
Dr Ashley Ruba, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Child Emotion Lab, previously told CNN: 'There are sensitive periods in early childhood development in which language development and emotional development are really rapidly developing for the first few years of life.'
She added that developing children need to see others' subtle verbal or facial cues to accurately discern how someone is feeling.
Also affected during this time was children's mental health, studies show, with an international report by the UN agency this summer finding that two years of restrictions have led to 'significant mental health consequences' for young people.
The study, conducted in June, estimated that more than a billion people around the world are living with a mental health disorder as a result - a quarter more than pre-Covid.
However, that rise was even more concentrated among children, 'potentially reflecting the deep impact of school closures.'
Curbs imposed to control Covid led to feelings of 'social isolation, disconnectedness and uncertainty about the future,' the report added.
The admission comes despite the WHO hailing China's lockdowns at the start of the pandemic and warning that lifting measures too early in Britain may cause a 'deadly resurgence' in 2020.
Schools were closed nationally at least twice over the course of the pandemic, with students also forced to learn from home because of individual closures.
More than 100 countries also shut down schools during the peak of the first wave.
A Brown University study also found children born during the pandemic had weaker verbal skills.
A Brown University study also found children born during the pandemic had weaker verbal skills. It found that social distancing measures including face masks are suspected of causing young children's development to have dropped by at least 23 percent during the pandemic
Brown University scientists Sean CL Deoni, Jennifer Beauchemin, Alexandra Volpe, and Viren D'Sa, penned the review, in conjunction with the global consulting firm Resonance, collecting data from 1,600 children - and their caregivers - who have been enrolled in the study between the ages of 0 and 5 on a rolling basis.
The probe analyzed the cognitive development of the youngsters through infancy, childhood and adolescence, and looked at how average development scores in three key areas had been affected during the COVID era.
It found that social distancing measures including face masks are suspected of causing young children's development to have drop by up to 23 percent during the COVID pandemic.
Air conditioner tech is outdated. These are AC options for a hotter future. - The Washington Post
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 16:34
This week, Californians got a reminder of one of the most vexing paradoxes of global warming. With temperatures well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in some regions on Tuesday night, hundreds of thousands of the state's residents received beeping text alerts to notify them that the power grid, straining under the weight of millions of air-conditioning units, was about to collapse. Save power now, the text warned, or face rolling blackouts.
Consumers conserved, and the state's electricity grid made it out of a record-breaking hot day relatively unscathed. Still, as temperatures rise worldwide, more people are going to need to install air conditioners. But as currently sold, AC units can actually make global warming worse: On hot days, they suck tons of electricity from the grid, and their chemical refrigerants can accelerate global warming.
This is why researchers and start-ups are hoping to create new, cutting-edge AC units. AC technology has seen only ''incremental improvements over the past 100 years,'' said Ankit Kalanki, a manager at Third Derivative, a climate tech accelerator co-founded by the energy think tank RMI. ''There has not been a step change in innovation.''
The good news is that companies are hurrying to develop more efficient ACs. The question is whether they will be ready in time.
Current ACs aren't going to cut it
Over the next few decades, the global demand for air conditioning is expected to skyrocket. According to the International Energy Agency, the number of AC units in buildings across the world should reach 5.6 billion by 2050, up from only around 2 billion units today.
But unless air conditioning gets an efficiency revamp, all those ACs are going to put unprecedented strain on the electricity grid. Air conditioners and electric fans already account for approximately 10 percent of electricity consumption worldwide. On extremely hot days, AC efficiency drops, as the units have to work harder to move heat from indoors to outdoors. During a heat wave, millions of people come home and turn on their ACs at the same time, somewhere between the hours of 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. When that happens, air conditioning can account for a whopping 60 to 70 percent of electricity demand, and shake grids like California's.
Meanwhile, the key component of modern air conditioners '-- chemicals known as refrigerants '-- have been the bane of the atmosphere for decades. ACs work by exposing a liquid refrigerant, a chemical with a low boiling point, to hot indoor air. That heat causes the refrigerant to evaporate into gas, cooling the air. A compressor then turns the refrigerant back into liquid and repeats the process.
The problem is that refrigerants can leak out of air conditioners, both during use and, more commonly, when the ACs are discarded. Early ACs were largely made with chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which were responsible for one of the first truly global climate anxieties: the hole in the ozone layer. CFCs were phased out by the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to counteract ozone hole depletion, and eventually replaced by hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs.
But HFCs have their own problem '-- they are greenhouse gases that, in the short term, are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. An amendment to the Montreal Protocol has HFCs set to phase down dramatically by the mid-2040s; in the meantime, however, they're still contributing to global warming.
There are a lot of ways to make existing AC technology more efficient. Some newer AC units use different refrigerants, such as one known as R-32, which has less planet-warming potential than other hydrofluorocarbons and also takes less energy to compress, thus saving electricity. Other units use technology known as ''variable speed compressors,'' that allow the unit to run on different settings. The compressor can speed up if it's 100 degrees Fahrenheit and sweltering, or slow down if it's only 85 degrees. That can help save on electricity and utility bills.
And more advanced models are just around the corner. Kalanki was one of the leaders of an initiative at RMI known as the Global Cooling Prize, which rewarded manufacturers who could produce affordable AC prototypes that would be at least five times better for the climate than existing models. Two companies received the prize in tandem: Gree Electric Appliances and Daikin Industries. Both used traditional vapor compression technology but with improved refrigerants and clever designs that could change settings in response to outdoor temperatures.
Europe wants to get off Russian gas. Climate-friendly AC offers a way to do that.
Other companies, start-ups, and researchers are investigating whether they can ditch vapor compression entirely. A start-up called Blue Frontier uses a liquid that sucks moisture from the air and stores it in a tank to control the temperature. According to the company, this approach could save up to 60 percent of the electricity required to run an AC year-round. And a group of researchers at Harvard University has developed an air conditioning prototype that they call coldSNAP. The prototype doesn't use a refrigerant, but uses a special coating on a ceramic frame to evaporate water to cool the indoor space without adding moisture to the air. ''Because we don't have the vapor compression system and the energy of trying to release and compress the refrigerants, the energy consumption of these systems is far, far lower,'' said Jonathan Grinham, one of the researchers on the project.
What to look for when buying
Some of these new designs may take years to reach the market, and when they do, they may still be more expensive than conventional ACs. But in the meantime, Kalanki says, there are still lots of options to buy a more efficient AC unit.''There are technologies that are two to three times more efficient than the most common ACs on the market today,'' Kalanki said. ''The challenge is that adoption is very low.'' Most consumers, he argues, are just looking at the sticker price on an air conditioning unit, and ignoring the fact that buying a more expensive unit upfront could save them money in the long run.
He recommends that buyers look at three things when considering an AC unit: The type of refrigerant used, the efficiency rating, and whether the unit has a variable-speed compressor or not. Those metrics can tell consumers whether their unit is likely to cost them thousands of dollars in electricity bills down the line, and whether it will add unduly to the problem of climate change.
Ultimately, he added, the government needs to set stricter performance standards for air conditioners so that all ACs on the market '-- not just higher-end ones '-- are efficient and safe for the planet. ''There are regulations in place to set the floor for air conditioners,'' he said. ''But that floor is a bit too low.''
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New Merchant Code Approved for Card Purchases of Guns, Ammunition
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 15:50
An international standards body has approved the creation of a merchant category code for gun retailers to identify credit card sales of guns and ammunition.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)'--an independent non-governmental body based in Geneva, Switzerland that creates standards across various industries, including the financial services industry'--has approved the new merchant category code for gun and ammunition stores, according to a Sept. 9 announcement from Amalgamated Bank, a New York-based bank that had applied to ISO for the merchant category code.
The approval took place at a meeting on Sept. 7, ISO confirmed to The Epoch Times in an email. Members of the Registration and Maintenance Management Group ''were unable to reach a decision regarding this application,'' which resulted to the decision being ''escalated to the ISO/TC 68/SC9 leadership (as per current process) who then met on the same day.'' The leadership oversees standards for retail financial services.
''Considering the application met all the criteria from ISO 18245 and no material arguments pertaining to the approval criteria outlined in the ISO 18245 standard to reject the code were made, SC9 leadership has approved this MCC application in order to comply with the standard,'' the ISO told The Epoch Times.
Merchant category codes comprise four digits and are used to classify retailers across various industries.
The approval from ISO enables banks that process payments from gun retailers to decide whether they should assign the new category code to gun merchants. The code could help monitors track where a person spends money via card, but wouldn't show what specific items were purchased.
Currently, credit card companies classify retailers with other merchants as either ''5999: Miscellaneous retail stores'' or ''5941: Sporting Goods Stores,'' according to CBS News. While a new merchant category for firearm stores has been approved, it doesn't have a code value assigned just yet, as of late Sept. 9.
Amalgamated Bank, which calls itself ''America's socially responsible bank,'' said that its decision to push for creating the new code is ''the result of nearly three years of research and partnership with issue experts at Guns Down America and Giffords Law Center and broad support from elected officials, pension funds, and others across the United States.''
Amalgamated Bank was founded by union workers nearly 100 years ago. The bank first tried to apply to create the gun merchant code in July 2021, but the application had been denied twice by the ISO, after which it applied again for the new merchant category code in June this year, reported CBS News.
Bank Urges Card Companies to Adopt New Category CodeFollowing the ISO approval, Amalgamated Bank is calling for credit card companies that typically follow the ISO standards to implement the new merchant category, but it is unclear whether the companies will adopt it.
Priscilla Sims Brown, the president and CEO of the bank, said on Sept. 9: ''We all have to do our part to stop gun violence. And it sometimes starts with illegal purchases of guns and ammunition.''
''The new code will allow us to fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales,'' she said in a statement. ''This action answers the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence and we are proud to have led the broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials that achieved this historic outcome.''
The bank in its release announcing the approval of the new merchant code also shared separate statements from multiple New York officials and lawmakers who support the move, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, New York State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, and New York State Rep. Chantel Jackson.
A coalition of national gun violence prevention groups including Guns Down America, Giffords, Brady, and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence issued a joint statement applauding the approval of the new code, saying that the decision ''paves the way for credit card companies to help law enforcement preempt mass shootings and firearm trafficking by identifying suspicious patterns of firearms and ammunition purchases'' via the code for the 9,000 federally licensed firearms dealers across America. ''Some of the nation's worst mass shootings, including Aurora, Colorado; San Bernardino, California; Orlando; and Las Vegas involved electronic payments,'' they noted.
CriticismsSome groups have criticized the ISO approval. Mark Oliva, the managing director for public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a U.S. trade association for the firearms industry, told The Center Square that the code's creation was ''flawed on its premise.''
''Those who believe it will help law enforcement do not provide details on what should be considered suspicious purchases,'' Oliva told the outlet.
He separately told Gothamist: ''This decision chills the free exercise of constitutionally protected rights and does nothing to assist law enforcement with crime prevention or holding criminals accountable. Attaching codes specific to firearm and ammunition purchases casts a dark pall by gun control advocates who are only interested in disarming lawful gun owners.''
Lars Dalseide, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), the lobbying arm of the gun rights advocacy group NRA, told The Center Square: ''Implying that firearm purchases are suspicious demonstrates an obvious bias these attorneys general hold against anyone who chooses to exercise a fundamental constitutional right.
''Creating specific credit card codes for firearms lays the groundwork for a de facto firearm registration. Suggesting otherwise is either shortsighted or deceptive,'' Dalseide added. ''The true travesty is that New Yorkers and Californians must continue facing the violent criminals pushed back on the streets thanks to these two attorneys general reckless soft-on-crime policies.''
Credit Card Companies Respond to ApprovalCongressional Democrats Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) previously announced on Sept. 2 that they reached out to the CEOs of MasterCard, American Express, and Visa, seeking support for the creation of the new merchant category code and to ''request information about their reported opposition to Amalgamated Bank's application for such a code.''
The politicians cited a report from CBS News in June that said that it had obtained documents that show ''employees from domestic and international credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, pushed back on an application to create a merchant category code for firearm and ammunition sellers.''
Following ISO's approval of the new merchant category code, a spokesperson for Mastercard told outlets: ''we now turn our focus to how it will be implemented by merchants and their banks as we continue to support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders.''
''This is exactly how we would manage the process for any other appropriate [merchant category code], like a bicycle shop or sporting goods store,'' the Mastercard spokesperson said.
An American Express spokesperson said that when ISO develops a new code, the company works with third-party processors and partners on the implementation. ''It is important to note that [merchant category] codes are one of many data points that help us understand the industries in which our merchants operate,'' the spokesperson told outlets. ''We are focused on ensuring that we have the right controls in place to meet our regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities, as well as prevent illegal activity on our network.''
In a statement on Sept. 10, Visa said it would adopt the ISO's new merchant code.
''Following ISO's decision to establish a new merchant category code, Visa will proceed with next steps, while ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules,'' it said, reported The Associated Press.
Update: This article has been updated to include separate statements from ISO and Visa.
Mimi Nguyen Ly covers world news with a focus on U.S. news. Contact her at email@example.com
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech Bivalent COVID-19 Vaccines for Use as a Booster Dose | FDA
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 15:20
For Immediate Release: August 31, 2022 Espa±ol
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorizations (EUAs) of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to authorize bivalent formulations of the vaccines for use as a single booster dose at least two months following primary or booster vaccination. The bivalent vaccines, which we will also refer to as ''updated boosters,'' contain two messenger RNA (mRNA) components of SARS-CoV-2 virus, one of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and the other one in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 18 years of age and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for use as a single booster dose in individuals 12 years of age and older.
The monovalent COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized or approved by the FDA and have been administered to millions of people in the United States since December 2020 contain a component from the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.
What you need to know:
The authorized bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, or updated boosters, include an mRNA component of the original strain to provide an immune response that is broadly protective against COVID-19 and an mRNA component in common between the omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages to provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant. The BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant are currently causing most cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and are predicted to circulate this fall and winter. In June, the agency's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted overwhelmingly to include an omicron component in COVID-19 booster vaccines.For each bivalent COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA based its decision on the totality of available evidence, including extensive safety and effectiveness data for each of the monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, safety and immunogenicity data obtained from a clinical study of a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that contained mRNA from omicron variant BA.1 lineage that is similar to each of the vaccines being authorized, and nonclinical data obtained using a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that contained mRNA of the original strain and mRNA in common between the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant.Based on the data supporting each of these authorizations, the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines are expected to provide increased protection against the currently circulating omicron variant. Individuals who receive a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine may experience side effects commonly reported by individuals who receive authorized or approved monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.With today's authorization, the monovalent mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are not authorized as booster doses for individuals 12 years of age and older.The agency will work quickly to evaluate future data and submissions to support authorization of bivalent COVID-19 boosters for additional age groups as we receive them.Who is eligible to receive a single booster dose and when:
Individuals 18 years of age and older are eligible for a single booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent if it has been at least two months since they have completed primary vaccination or have received the most recent booster dose with any authorized or approved monovalent COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals 12 years of age and older are eligible for a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent if it has been at least two months since they have completed primary vaccination or have received the most recent booster dose with any authorized or approved monovalent COVID-19 vaccine.''The COVID-19 vaccines, including boosters, continue to save countless lives and prevent the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) of COVID-19,'' said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. ''As we head into fall and begin to spend more time indoors, we strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to consider receiving a booster dose with a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine to provide better protection against currently circulating variants.''
The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent contain mRNA from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The mRNA in these vaccines is a specific piece of genetic material that instructs cells in the body to make the distinctive ''spike'' protein of the original virus strain and the omicron variant lineages BA.4 and BA.5. The spike proteins of BA.4 and BA.5 are identical. ''The FDA has been planning for the possibility that the composition of the COVID-19 vaccines would need to be modified to address circulating variants. We sought input from our outside experts on the inclusion of an omicron component in COVID-19 boosters to provide better protection against COVID-19. We have worked closely with the vaccine manufacturers to ensure the development of these updated boosters was done safely and efficiently. The FDA has extensive experience with strain changes for annual influenza vaccines. We are confident in the evidence supporting these authorizations,'' said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. ''The public can be assured that a great deal of care has been taken by the FDA to ensure that these bivalent COVID-19 vaccines meet our rigorous safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality standards for emergency use authorization.''
For each of the bivalent COVID-19 vaccines authorized today, the FDA evaluated immunogenicity and safety data from a clinical study of a booster dose of a bivalent COVID-19 vaccine that contained a component of the original strain of SARS-CoV-2 and a component of omicron lineage BA.1. The FDA considers such data as relevant and supportive of vaccines containing a component of the omicron variant BA.4 and BA.5 lineages. Furthermore, data pertaining to the safety and effectiveness of the current mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, which have been administered to millions of people, including during the omicron waves of COVID-19, contributed to the agency's evaluation.
Data Supporting the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent Authorization
To evaluate the effectiveness of a single booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent for individuals 18 years of age and older, the FDA analyzed immune response data among approximately 600 individuals 18 years of age and older who had previously received a two-dose primary series and one booster dose of monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine. These participants received a second booster dose of either the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine or Moderna's investigational bivalent COVID-19 vaccine (original and omicron BA.1) at least 3 months after the first booster dose. After 28 days, the immune response against BA.1 of the participants who received the bivalent vaccine was better than the immune response of those who had received the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
The safety of a single booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent for individuals 18 years of age and older is supported by safety data from a clinical study which evaluated a booster dose of Moderna's investigational bivalent COVID-19 vaccine (original and omicron BA.1), safety data from clinical trials which evaluated primary and booster vaccination with the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and postmarketing safety data with the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine.
The safety data accrued with the bivalent vaccine (original and omicron BA.1) and with the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine are relevant to the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent because these vaccines are manufactured using the same process.
The clinical study that evaluated the safety of a booster dose of the bivalent vaccine (original and omicron BA.1) included approximately 800 participants 18 years of age and older who had previously received a two dose primary series and one booster dose of the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, and then at least 3 months later, received a second booster dose with either the monovalent Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine or Moderna's investigational bivalent COVID-19 vaccine (original and omicron BA.1).
Among the study participants who received the bivalent vaccine, the most commonly reported side effects included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection, nausea/vomiting and fever.
Data Supporting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent Authorization
To evaluate the effectiveness of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent for individuals 12 years of age and older, the FDA analyzed immune response data among approximately 600 adults greater than 55 years of age who had previously received a 2-dose primary series and one booster dose with the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. These participants received a second booster dose of either the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine or Pfizer-BioNTech's investigational bivalent COVID-19 vaccine (original and omicron BA.1) 4.7 to 13.1 months after the first booster dose. After one month, the immune response against BA.1 of the participants who received the bivalent vaccine was better than the immune response of those who had received the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
The safety of a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent for individuals 12 years of age and older is based on safety data from a clinical study which evaluated a booster dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's investigational bivalent COVID-19 vaccine (original and omicron BA.1), safety data from clinical trials which evaluated primary and booster vaccination with the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and postmarketing safety data with the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
The safety data accrued with the bivalent vaccine (original and omicron BA.1) and with the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine are relevant to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID 19 Vaccine, Bivalent because these vaccines are manufactured using the same process.
The clinical study that evaluated the safety of a booster dose of the bivalent vaccine (original and omicron BA.1) included approximately 600 participants greater than 55 years of age who had previously received a 2-dose primary series, one booster dose of the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and then 4.7 to 13.1 months later, received a second booster dose of either the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine or Pfizer-BioNTech's investigational bivalent COVID-19 vaccine (original and omicron BA.1). Among the study participants who received the bivalent vaccine, the most commonly reported side effects included pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.
The fact sheets for both bivalent COVID-19 vaccines for recipients and caregivers and for healthcare providers include information about the potential side effects, as well as the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis.
With today's authorization, the FDA has also revised the EUA of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to remove the use of the monovalent Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for booster administration for individuals 18 years of age and older and 12 years of age and older, respectively. These monovalent vaccines continue to be authorized for use for administration of a primary series for individuals 6 months of age and older as described in the letters of authorization. At this time, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine remains authorized for administration of a single booster dose for individuals 5 through 11 years of age at least five months after completing a primary series of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
The amendments to the EUAs were issued to Moderna TX Inc. and Pfizer Inc.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
Dutch city becomes world's first to ban meat adverts in public | Netherlands | The Guardian
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 15:09
A Dutch city will become the first in the world to ban meat adverts from public spaces in an effort to reduce consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
Haarlem, which lies to the west of Amsterdam and has a population of about 160,000, will enact the prohibition from 2024 after meat was added to a list of products deemed to contribute to the climate crisis.
Adverts will not be allowed on Haarlem's buses, shelters and screens in public spaces, prompting complaints from the meat sector that the municipality is ''going too far in telling people what's best for them''.
Recent studies suggest global food production is responsible for one-third of all planet-heating emissions, with the use of animals for meat accounting for twice the pollution of producing plant-based foods.
Forests that absorb carbon dioxide are felled for the grazing of animals while fertilisers used for growing their feed are rich in nitrogen, which can contribute to air and water pollution, climate change and ozone depletion. Livestock also produces large quantities of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Ziggy Klazes, a councillor from the GroenLinks party, who drafted the motion banning meat advertising, said she had not known the city would be the world's first to enforce such a policy when she proposed it.
She told the Haarlem105 radio channel: ''We are not about what people are baking and roasting in their own kitchen; if people wanted to continue eating meat, fine '... We can't tell people there's a climate crisis and encourage them to buy products that are part of the cause.
''Of course, there are a lot of people who find the decision outrageous and patronising, but there are also a lot of people who think it's fine.
''It is a signal '' if it is picked up nationally, that would only be very nice. There are many groups of GroenLinks who think it is a good idea and want to try it.''
The ban also covers holiday flights, fossil fuels and cars that run on fossil fuels. The ban is delayed until 2024 due to existing contracts with companies that sell the products.
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Sander van den Raadt, the leader of the Trots Haarlem group, said: ''It is remarkable that the municipality of Haarlem is holding a large poster campaign that you can be yourself in Haarlem and love whoever you want, but if you like meat instead of soft grass, 'the partronising brigade' will come and tell you that you are completely wrong.''
Greenpeace research suggests that to meet the EU target of net zero emissions by 2050, meat consumption must be reduced to 24kg per person per year, compared with the current average of 82kg, or 75.8kg in the Netherlands, which is the EU's biggest meat exporter.
Cardiologist: Supplements Causing Heart Arrhythmias in Young People
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 14:03
Cardiologists told Insider people under 30 are developing heart problems from taking herbal supplements. Common supplements like fish oil and bitter orange have been linked to heart problems. Loose federal regulations mean supplements may contain unlisted, risky ingredients. Have you experienced health problems, or had a patient experience health problems, due to supplements? Email senior wellness reporter Allana Akhtar: firstname.lastname@example.org Loading Something is loading.
Cardiologists are sounding the alarm on herbal supplements, which are giving their young patients heart problems.
California-based cardiologist Dr. Danielle Belardo said the most common cause of heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, presenting in her 20-something patients stems from taking herbal supplements.
Belardo said her patients come in taking herbs like bitter orange and ephedra, both linked to irregular heartbeats in case studies and clinical research.
It's not always straightforward to sort out which compound is the culprit, since Belardo's patients often take multiple supplements, and the supplement trend is growing faster than researchers can keep up.
"This is drawing on the cusp of what we know with regards to herbal supplements and arrhythmia," Belardo told Insider. "Since there's such poor regulation of the formulation, the purity, and the efficacy of these herbals, we don't have any robust literature to tell us exactly what's causing what."
Belardo isn't the only doctor raising the alarmThe US does not closely regulate the $1.5 trillion wellness industry, meaning supplement makers are not required by law to provide proof of safety or strength of their product.
However, the number of Americans taking dietary supplements has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic's start. In Southern California, Belardo says she often sees patients with heart problems who "gravitate towards alternate therapies and herbals and supplements."
Now, Belardo says, she has started probing her patients on what over-the-counter pills they take '-- and she isn't alone.
After tweeting out to her 70,000 followers that she was seeing young people sickened by supplements, she had other cardiologists, ER doctors, and internists around the country say they've experienced the same phenomenon.
Dr. Martha Gulati, a California-based cardiologist and president-elect of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology, is among them. Gulati told Insider she is concerned that many people falsely believe taking "natural" remedies means the items are safer than pills made in a lab.
"I think that's reflective of the growing alternative medicine, and, essentially, pseudoscience in this space," Belardo said.
Emerging evidence that popular supplements are linked to heart problemsAs Belardo mentioned, trying to find evidence to support the benefits or risks of a supplement is tricky. There are few robust studies to go by, so most of the evidence we have comes in the form of case studies '-- individual cases that doctors report in journals or articles.
Insider has reported on cases where patients showed up to the hospital with serious health problems from taking vitamin, herbal, and hormone supplements.
Supplements that have been linked to arrhythmia in published research include:
Bitter orange, also called citris aurantium, has been linked to arrhythmia, per Belardo. The National Institutes of Health acknowledges bitter orange might cause irregular heartbeat, but said more research is needed to show a direct link.Ephedra and ephedrine alkaloids, compounds the US banned in 2004 for causing arrhythmia, heart attack, stroke, and death. The compound still shows up in supplements despite the ban: a 2021 case study of a 56-year-old with an arrhythmia showed he took an herbal pill containing ephedrine alkaloids.Fish oil, taken at a dose of one gram a day or more, might increase the risk for a type of irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation, according to several clinical studies. Gulati said fish oil can also interact with blood thinners to cause dangerous bleeding.There are question marks on other supplements, such as ashwagandha, an evergreen shrub touted by celebrities for its perceived stress-reduction. The herb might have caused arrhythmia in some case studies, Belardo said, including one 2022 report that suggested the herb caused arrhythmias in a 73-year-old woman. The heart condition stopped when she no longer took ashwagandha. Researchers have not found a link between ashwagandha and heart problems in clinical studies.
Stop believing everything you hear on social media, cardiologists sayBelardo acknowledges the appeal of alternative medicine, particularly for patients who might feel neglected by the medical system. But she has seen first-hand that people are getting health advice from social media, and often it isn't true. And while young people are typically at a lower risk for arrhythmia, that doesn't mean they're immune.
"The truth is, when you look at sometimes the top health podcasts or the top health influencers, oftentimes they are not people who are recommending guideline-based, evidence based-medicine recommended by all the major academic medical organizations," Belardo said. For evidence-based advice, she recommended checking guidance from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
Gulati agreed, warning that the current fanfare over natural supplements can be alluring and misleading.
"Be an informed consumer, don't be influenced by social media," Gulati said. "Be smart about what you're putting into your body and do a little bit of research about it. Just because it's sold over-the-counter doesn't make it safe."
Have you experienced health problems, or had a patient experience health problems, due to supplements? Email the author at email@example.com.
Biden Dept. of Interior releases new names of federal lands deemed 'racist and derogatory' | Fox News
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 13:50
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The Biden administration's Department of the Interior on Thursday announced the replacement names for nearly 650 geographical features that had names deemed "racist and derogatory."
The Board on Geographic Names voted on the final names to replace the names of landmarks on federal lands that feature the term "squaw," the department said in a news release.
The removal of the term, which the department says has "historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women," is part of an ongoing effort to review and replace derogatory names from federal usage.
"I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming," said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. "That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long."
OREGON TO RENAME ITS SWASTIKA MOUNTAIN
Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland said the that the effort is "charting a path for an inclusive America." (Getty Images)
Haaland thanked the organizations involved in the renaming process and said the effort is "charting a path for an inclusive America."
The list of new names can be found on the U.S. Geological Survey website, along with a map of locations.
Some renamed federal lands included: Squaw Gulch, a valley in Placer County, California, to Mani'pa Gulch; Squaw Lake in Hinsdale County, Colorado, to Grizzly Lake; and Squaw Mountain, a summit in Utah County, Utah, to Kyhv Peak.
Haaland first announced the effort to rename federal lands with names deemed derogatory last year. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
The department's Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force, which was created last year as part of the renaming effort, received more than 1,000 recommendations for name changes, with nearly 70 Tribal governments participating in nation-to-nation consultation, which yielded several hundred more recommendations.
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The department said that while the new names are immediately effective for federal use, the public may continue to propose name changes for any features, including the ones in Thursday's announcement.
Adults Aged 35''44 Died At Twice The Expected Rate Last Summer, Life Insurance Data Suggests | ZeroHedge
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 13:39
Authored by Margaret Menge via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
Death claims for working-age adults under group life insurance policies spiked well beyond expected levels last summer and fall, according to data from 20 of the top 21 life insurance companies in the United States.
Louisiana National Cemetery on August 20, 2021 in Zachary, Louisiana. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)Death claims for adults aged 35 to 44 were 100 percent higher than expected in July, August, and September 2021, according to a report by the Society of Actuaries, which analyzed 2.3 million death claims submitted to life insurance firms.
The report looked at death claims filed under group life insurance policies during the 24 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, from April 2020 to March 2022. The researchers used data from the three years before the pandemic to set a baseline for the expected deaths.
While COVID-19 played some role in the majority of the excess deaths for adults over the age of 34 during the two pandemic years, the opposite was true for younger people. For people 34 and younger, the number of excess non-COVID deaths was higher than those related to COVID, the data show.
During the third quarter of last year, deaths in the 25-to-34 age bracket were 78 percent above the expected level and, for people aged 45 to 54, 80 percent higher than expected. Excess mortality was 53 percent above the baseline for adults aged 55 to 64.
The Society of Actuaries (SOA) asked all 20 of the participating life insurance companies how they determine the cause of death for the purpose of recording claims. Of the 18 that responded, 17 said they list COVID-19 as the cause of death if it's listed anywhere on the death certificate, while eight of the 18 said they go further and communicate with relatives and the medical examiner and look at other sources to try to determine the true cause of death.
One life insurance company stated that it recorded COVID-19 as the cause of death only when it could be determined to be the primary cause of death on a death certificate.
The report also notes that white-collar workers had the highest number of excess deaths during the two years studied. The group, which includes accountants, lawyers, computer programmers, and most other jobs done in an office setting, had 23 percent more deaths than expected.
The sharp increase of deaths among working-age people was first brought to light by Scott Davison, CEO of the Indianapolis-based life insurance company OneAmerica, who said in a virtual press conference on Dec. 30, 2021, that his company and the life insurance industry as a whole was seeing a 40 percent increase in deaths among people ages 18 to 64.
Davison said at the time that this represented the highest death rates in the history of the life insurance business, and that an increase in mortality of just 10 percent would constitute a ''three-sigma'' event, a once-in-200-year catastrophe.
OneAmerica is one of the 20 companies that contributed data for the SOA report. The others include Aflac, Anthem, The Hartford, Lincoln Financial Group, MetLife, New York Life, and Principal Financial.
Edward Dowd, a hedge fund manager who has been studying excess mortality for the past several months and has an upcoming book on the topic, Cause Unknown, says the rate of deaths among young people is alarming. He pointed out that excess deaths peaked around the time the Biden administration mandated COVID-19 vaccines and companies rushed to comply.
''Temporally, in that three-month period, the change was such that, there was something that occurred,'' he said. ''Well, we all know what occurred in August, September, and October. It was Biden's mandates on Sept. 9, and a lot of corporations anticipating those mandates.''
President Joe Biden on Sept. 9, 2021, mandated COVID-19 vaccines for federal employees and health care workers in facilities certified by Medicare and Medicaid. The same day, the president tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with implementing a nationwide vaccine mandate on private businesses with 100 or more employees.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about combatting the coronavirus pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington, DC. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the OSHA mandate in January but allowed the mandate for health care workers to remain in place.
The campaign to vaccinate the majority of the population against COVID-19 is the largest vaccination campaign in the history of the world.
As of Aug. 31, about 90 percent of Americans 18 or older had gotten at least the first dose of one of the COVID-19 vaccines, and 77 percent had gotten both a first and a second dose.
Dr. Robert Malone, a physician and research scientist credited with the invention of the mRNA technology for use in vaccines, says excess mortality must always be studied to determine whether a vaccine or medicine really is safe.
''Excess mortality should be a signal, a trigger,'' he told The Epoch Times. ''When we see excess mortality like that'--basically if you're running a clinical trial and you see this kind of excess mortality, you stop the trial. And you investigate the cause before you proceed. And if you're marketing a drug, generally, with this kind of data, you stop the distribution of the drug until you have sorted it out.''
Dr. Robert Malone, inventor of mRNA vaccines, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole on Aug. 5, 2022. (Bobby Sanchez for The Epoch Times)Malone mentioned what he calls the ''classic example'' of thalidomide, a morning sickness medication prescribed to a small number of pregnant women in the United States in the late 1950s and early '60s that was effective in treating morning sickness, but caused severe deformities in their unborn children.
The drug maker had pressured the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the drug, but the FDA refused, based on the deformities that had been reported.
Read more here...
Covid breakthrough: Antibody find may mean no more booster jabs '-- 'real revolution' | Science | News | Express.co.uk
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 13:30
Coronavirus booster vaccines to be offered to over 50s in Autumn Invalid email
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The antibodies were isolated from the immune systems of recovered COVID-19 patients by immunologist Dr Natalia Freund of Tel Aviv University in Israel and her colleagues. The team's latest work builds on the findings of a previous study they conducted back in October 2020, at the height of the pandemic. In that investigation, the researchers sequenced all the B immune system cells from the blood of people in Israel who had recovered from the original SARS-CoV-2 variant '-- isolating nine antibodies produced by the patients' immune systems.
It turns out that some of these antibodies are particularly effective when it comes to neutralising the Delta and Omicron variants of Covid.
Dr Freund explained: ''In the previous study, we showed that the various antibodies that are formed in response to infection with the original virus are directed against different sites of the virus.
''The most effective antibodies were those that bound to the virus's 'spike' protein, in the same place where the spike binds the cellular receptor ACE2.
''Of course, we were not the only ones to isolate these antibodies, and the global health system made extensive use of them until the arrival of the different variants of the coronavirus, which in fact rendered most of those antibodies useless.''
Repeated boosters in the face of new coronavirus variants may soon not be needed (Image: Getty Images)
The two antibodies neutralise all Covid variants '-- including Omicron '-- with up to 95% efficiency (Image: Getty Images)
In the new study, the team revealed that two other antibodies '-- known as TAU-1109 and TAU-2310 '-- bind the viral spike protein in a different area to most of the other antibodies, a fact that made them less effective against the original Covid variant.
In contrast, however, this makes them very effective at neutralising the Delta and Omicron variants.
Dr Freund said: ''According to our findings, the effectiveness of the first antibody, TAU-1109, in neutralising the Omicron strain is 92 percent, and in neutralising the Delta strain, 90 percent.
''The second antibody, TAU-2310, neutralises the Omicron variant with an efficacy of 84 percent, and the Delta variant with an efficacy of 97 percent.''
READ MORE: Covid: New strains possible in Winter as UK begins booster campaign
The antibodies were isolated by immunologist Dr Natalia Freund of Tel Aviv University and her team (Image: Tel Aviv University)
Here in the UK, the NHS is expecting a surge of Covid cases this winter (Image: Express.co.uk)
Dr Freund believes that the surprising effectiveness of these two antibodies might be related to the evolution of the virus.
She explained: ''The infectivity of the virus increased with each variant because, each time, it changed the amino acid sequence of the part of the spike protein that binds to the ACE2 receptor, thereby increasing its infectivity and at the same time evading the natural antibodies that were created following vaccinations.
''In contrast, the antibodies TAU-1109 and TAU-2310 don't bind to the ACE2 receptor binding site, but to another region of the spike protein '-- an area of ''the viral spike that for some reason does not undergo many mutations.
''They are therefore effective in neutralising more viral variants. These findings emerged as we tested all the known COVID strains to date.''
These tests, the researchers explained, were conducted both against live viruses in laboratory cultures and against pseudoviruses '-- safe substitutes typically created by combining the proteins found on the surface of one virus with the core genome of another, deactivated virus.
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The antibody treatment could remove the need for Covid booster vacinnes (Image: Express.co.uk)
Dr Freund believes that this discovery of the antibodies will enable a ''real revolution'' in the fight against COVID-19.
She added: ''We need to look at the COVID-19 pandemic in the context of previous disease outbreaks that humankind has witnessed.
''People who were vaccinated against smallpox at birth and who today are 50 years old still have antibodies, so they are probably protected, at least partially, from the monkeypox virus that we have recently been hearing about.
''Unfortunately, this is not the case with the coronavirus. For reasons we still don't yet fully understand, the level of antibodies against COVID-19 declines significantly after three months, which is why we see people getting infected again and again '-- even after being vaccinated three times.''
Dr Freund concluded: ''In our view, targeted treatment with antibodies and their delivery to the body in high concentrations can serve as an effective substitute for repeated boosters, especially for at-risk populations and those with weakened immune systems.
''COVID-19 infection can cause serious illness, and we know that providing antibodies in the first day following infection can stop the spread of the virus.
''It is therefore possible that by using effective antibody treatment, we will not have to provide booster doses to the entire population every time there is a new variant.''
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Communications Biology.
Cancers in Adults Under 50 Have Increased Dramatically Around The Globe : ScienceAlert
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 13:20
Cancer has long been part of the human story. But a new review has shown that, recently, something has shifted.
Since 1990, the number of adults under the age of 50 developing cancer has increased dramatically around the world.
What's concerning is that the increase in early-onset cancers doesn't seem to be slowing down '' and improvements in screening alone don't seem to be able to fully explain the trend.
"We found that this risk is increasing with each generation," says one of the researchers, Shuji Ogino, a pathologist and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"For instance, people born in 1960 experienced higher cancer risk before they turn 50 than people born in 1950 and we predict that this risk level will continue to climb in successive generations."
It's not a groundbreaking notion that cancers are on the rise in modern society.
Researchers are already aware that since the 1940s and 1950s, there's been an increase in people getting late-onset cancer, which means developing cancer after the age of 50.
But what the team wanted to find out was whether early-onset cancer '' or the rate of cancer in people under the age of 50 '' was increasing too.
To do this, they needed to look at people born in the 1950s and 1960s but study their rate of cancer from the 1990s onwards.
The review looked at data across 14 cancer types: breast, colorectal (CRC), endometrial, esophageal, extrahepatic bile duct, gallbladder, head and neck, kidney, liver, bone marrow, pancreas, prostate, stomach, and thyroid cancer.
All of these cancers had been shown by global cancer data to be on the rise in adults under the age of 50 between the years 2000 and 2012.
But the researchers took things one step further and reviewed any available studies that could shed light on possible risk factors for these cancers.
They also looked for clues in the literature describing any unique clinical and biological characteristics of tumors of early-onset cancers, compared to those of late-onset cancers that are diagnosed after 50.
The goal, to quote the title of the paper, was to figure out: "Is early-onset cancer an emerging global epidemic?"
According to their results, the answer is yes. At least, this seems to be the case since the 1990s.
"The incidence of later-onset CRC (in those born in the late 19th and early 20th centuries) started to increase in the 1950s whereas that of early-onset CRC (in those born in the mid-20th century) did not start to increase until the early 1990s," the researchers write in the paper.
So what has changed to make those turning 50 after the 1990s more at risk of early-onset cancer?
One of the biggest changes is increased screening, which has undoubtedly contributed to the increased detection rates of early-onset cancers.
But the team notes that this on its own doesn't seem to be able to fully explain the change '' particularly as some early-onset cancers are on the rise even in countries that don't have screening programs.
"A genuine increase in the incidence of early-onset forms of several cancer types also seems to have emerged," the team writes in the paper.
On top of simply being better at finding early-onset cancers nowadays, the evidence suggests that the 'shift' in cancer rates actually happened earlier, when those now in their middle ages were children, around the middle of the last century.
It's no secret that our lives changed a lot since then '' particularly since the rise of highly processed foods '' and the clues suggest that some combination of diet, lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures, and microbiome, are involved.
"Among the 14 cancer types on the rise that we studied, eight were related to the digestive system," explains epidemiologist Tomotaka Ugai from Harvard Medical School.
"The food we eat feeds the microorganisms in our gut. Diet directly affects microbiome composition and eventually, these changes can influence disease risk and outcomes."
Other risk factors include sugary beverages, type 2 diabetes, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and alcohol consumption, all of which have significantly increased since the 1950s.
Interestingly, while adult sleep duration hasn't drastically changed over the past few decades, children are getting a lot less sleep than they were decades ago, the team notes.
Of course, this study is far from conclusive. It's a review of existing studies. So the team wasn't able to make any changes here and directly measure the impacts.
They also didn't have much data from low- and middle-income countries to go on, but suggest that "the rise of early-onset cancers is likely to be increasingly prominent in those countries, potentially leading to a global early-onset cancer pandemic".
The team will now continue their work and hope to be able to set up longitudinal cohort studies going forward, which will involve young children being followed up over several decades.
"Without such studies, it's difficult to identify what someone having cancer now did decades ago or when one was a child," says Ugai.
The long-term hope is that we can educate people to lead healthier lifestyles in their early years, to reduce the risk of early-onset cancers.
But there's still a lot more work to be done to fully understand just how we got here, and where to go next.
The research has been published in Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology.
Excise duty for vaping products - Canada.ca
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 13:19
An excise duty on vaping products, as announced in Budget 2022, is being implemented on October 1, 2022 through the introduction of a new excise duty framework. The excise duty applies to vaping substances that are manufactured in Canada or imported and that are intended for use in a vaping device in Canada.
Manufacturers of vaping products are required to get a vaping product licence from the CRA. Importers are required to apply for a registration from the CRA.
Manufacturers and importers are also required to register for the vaping stamping regime. All vaping products entering the Canadian duty-paid market are required to be packaged with an excise stamp affixed to the product. The excise stamps shows that duties have been paid.
The information described on this webpage is based on the Excise Act, 2001 and its regulations including the amendments under Bill C-19, Budget Implementation Act, 2022, No. 1.
Senior Naval Officer submits official complaint against Naval Inspector General for covering up federal crimes - TRMLX
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 12:51
A Senior Naval Officer submitted an official complaint against the Naval Inspector General, Vice Admiral John Fuller, on August 26, 2022. The complaint cites VADM Fuller's dereliction of duty for covering up federal crimes committed by several Navy leaders.
A portion of the complaint against VADM FullerThe complaints against VADM Fuller are:
'' Vice Admiral Fuller dismissed and refused to investigate credible allegations of unlawful actions committed by Admiral Grady. This coverup may have contributed to Admiral Grady's unlawful actions being hidden from the United States Senate. Admiral Grady was confirmed by the Senate as the 12th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff three weeks after a complaint against him was filed.
'' Vice Admiral Fuller, claiming to have ''no evidence,'' dismissed and refused to investigate Vice Admiral Nowell (then Chief of Naval Personnel) for his unlawful violations of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The evidence provided to Vice Admiral Fuller was the same evidence a Federal Judge relied on to issue a preliminary injunction against the Navy (which the Supreme Court confirmed).
'' Vice Admiral Fuller's own supervisor, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, knowingly permitted fraudulent activity to occur regarding violations of federal law, including 21 USC § 360bbb-3 and 42 USC§ 262(k). An investigation would have made this violation public and is an indication of the double standard within the highest ranks of the civilian and uniformed leadership of the military.
Nine officers, across four branches of the military, signed a whistleblower report on August 15, 2022, with damning allegations and evidence against the Department of Defense involving crimes related to the execution of the Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate.
Truth For Health Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity which has been a key ally for servicemembers who have been deprived of their rights, issued a press advisory which states,
Evidence has now been made public that Vice Admiral Fuller covered up violations of service members' Constitutional rights and violations of multiple articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), resulting in the destruction of the lives of so many Service Members and their families. Vice Admiral Fuller could face a Court Martial and possible dismissal from the Navy for his crimes.
Evidence has been mounting for months highlighting the violation of servicemember's religious rights as well as proving that the DOD did not have an FDA approved vaccine in its possession, a key stipulation of the mandate issued by the Secretary of Defense.
Crypto Investor Paradigm Argues Infrastructure Providers Should Not Be Subject to US Treasury Sanctions
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 00:50
Frederick Munawa is a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covers blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.
Crypto investment firm Paradigm published a nuanced legal argument amid concerns of potential sanctions by the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that would target blockchain base layer participants such as miners and validators.
The post was published on Thursday and comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed by users who believe OFAC exceeded its authority when it sanctioned Tornado Cash smart contract addresses last month.
Paradigm acknowledged that sanctions can be an important tool to preserve national security, but said it believes base layer participants merely record and order data (which may include sanctioned addresses), but do not actively control sanctioned assets. Paradigm further suggested that stringent regulation would eventually push blockchain innovation offshore, making it more difficult to track crypto transactions for legitimate national security purposes.
Paradigm explained that a blockchain ''base layer'' is essentially a ''communications protocol and technology infrastructure,'' much like the internet. As such, the base layer must be free from censorship and preserve neutrality in order to maintain its utility as a public good.
''It is widely accepted that the public switched telephone network and the switching centers that allow telephones around the globe to communicate are not expected to filter communications and exclude sanctioned persons. The same argument applies to the infrastructure of the internet. Crypto's base layer is no different,'' the post read.
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Frederick Munawa is a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covers blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.
Frederick Munawa is a Technology Reporter for Coindesk. He covers blockchain protocols with a specific focus on bitcoin and bitcoin-adjacent networks.
The case for building something wonderful alone
Sun, 11 Sep 2022 00:49
I've been building Derw alone since sometime last year. Recently, someone asked if I was working on with others - and the answer is no, and it's kinda intentional.
As I touched on in my last post , the community is something I'm planning to build once I get to 1.0.0. But what about building a team? Languages like Roc managed to build a team even before the repo was public, with several people contributing 100+ commits. I think that's super cool - and I'm a strong believer in making things better by working together . That said, there's benefits to avoiding working with others directly.
Working alone means you don't have to share the context of your changes with others. It doesn't mean that you don't keep track of changes that you have made, nor that you don't report them. But if there's a change I wish to make, I can do so without consulting others. This is particularly useful, for example, when I want to rewrite a file from TypeScript to Derw. No collisions with other PRs, no need to warn anyone ''hey I'm going to rewrite this file''.
You're able to keep to your own schedule, and adjust it as necessary. Everyone has their own priorities, and without waiting for someone to finish something and without someone waiting for you to finish something, you're able to move at your own pace. End users will have an impact on that timeline, if you listen to them, but when you're working mostly on your spare time, it's important to be able to take some days off and go play games instead.
Work teams go off and have workshops and meetups and parties to discuss their vision for the product they're working on. In open source projects, you don't have that luxury. Visions and plans have to be communicated in text, and often falls second place to just working on the vision inside your head. Shared goals have to be established through long conversations and RFCs. Working alone you don't need that to the same extent: if you intend to have users, you need to tell them roughly what your goals are with a project, but you don't need to have a back and forth discussion on a feature. You can just build it. That isn't to say that other people's visions for your project isn't useful - nor does it mean that you never need to discuss a feature with someone. But you can do that on demand, as needed, and that makes it easier to execute.
If one of your goals with a project is simply to learn, when you build something alone, you have to learn all the awkward parts as well as the familiar parts. You might only have used webpack in the past but your project is more suited to esbuild. You've never had to interact with garbage collection in Node but to get the performance you want, it becomes relevant. A team can help steer you with their collective knowledge of all these random pieces, but self-learning can work just as well.
Some view development styles like Elm's as a flaw, that working in mostly isolation defeats the point of open source. I don't see it that way: a creator with a strong opinion and direction leads to a purer, more cohesive creation. It might not do everything the community wants, or it might implement things in a way that someone did not prefer. But early on into a library, framework or language's lifeline, it is especially important to have a driving force, someone who can see where they want to take it - and act on it. Later on, it may make sense to share that load and become a Python-style BDFL. Early on, being pulled in multiple directions can fragment both the vision and the implementation.
With Derw, I will likely stay working without a core team for a good amount of time - probably past 1.0.0. I can make all the different features like built-in testing, built-in formatting, multiple target languages and package management work in a Derw-like way because I have the context of what I want Derw to be, and how the pieces should fit together. Eventually it will probably make sense to onboard others who can contribute along the line my own vision, but I suspect that will not be possible for a while. I still reach out to people when I have an idea I want to discuss: coworkers, friends, chat, Twitter. These inputs are great, and valuable, and have led to several nice aspects of Derw. But I can take this collective knowledge on a specific feature and implement it myself, and that's likely the best way for a new language.
Like this post? Follow me on Twitter to stay updated, star Derw on Github, or sponsor me on Github to help support my work.
Meta Introduces B-to-B Targeting Segments
Sat, 10 Sep 2022 04:14
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Fri, 09 Sep 2022 03:50
Last month, one of the many items being ''fact-checked'' and covered up (literally covered up) on Facebook was a post suggesting that Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is worth $29 million. I can't find any documented source for this claim'--it seems to originate from a website called ''CA Knowledge,'' which reports that Ocasio-Cortez, among other things, owns several luxury cars and and a multimillion-dollar stock portfolio. As far as I can tell, there's no data to back this up (although Google doesn't always tell me the whole truth these days).
But, if the AOC wealth claim is wrong, the USA Today fact-check is downright insane: Their take is that Ocasio-Cortez, according to her own ''most recent financial disclosure'' has assets of between $3,000 and $45,000, and student debt of between $15,000 and $50,000. In other words, they rate her ''net worth'' as near zero, or possibly negative. Anyone who's seen the clothes she wears, the places she dines, the galas she attends, would know that we are not looking at a person with a net worth of nothing.
She earns $174,000 per year, by the way.
But of course, it's not through salaries'--stupidly high though they are'--that our congressmen become rich and ultimately wealthy. Anyone who has a share in controlling the largest budget on the planet has valuable influence. Big business spends billions of dollars every year lobbying because the results are worth trillions. The House Ethics Committee may claim they have stringent rules about accepting gifts, but look at the results: How often does a long-serving congressman leave office poorer than he was at the start? When was the last time you met a congressman who actually had to worry about the cost of groceries or power or gasoline? Never.
And Ocasio-Cortez may not be worth $29 million or even a fraction of that'--but no one doubts that she's never going to have to worry about money again for the rest of her life.
The problem is not that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but that the politicians get richer, period. If someone can come up with a cogent argument for why we pay congressmen more than the median U.S. income, I'd be delighted to hear it. I think being in Congress should impose a debt that congressmen must pay off through physical labor'--after every term served, they should have to work in a coal mine for a year.
What are we expected to think when we watch Biden shipping billions of dollars overseas to the Ukraine (whose energy industry has employed so many congressmen's kids)? What are we expected to think when we see Biden selling our strategic gas reserve to China ? We're expected to think nothing at all because Washington, D.C., considers it to be none of our business.
We've been told that it's not only crazy but seditious and borderline illegal to question Our Democracy ' or suggest that our elections may not be fair. But, again, what do the results suggest? Does the government we have resemble anything anyone would vote for? Do congressmen in any way resemble the voters whom they in theory represent?
You may work the whole year and, after expenses and taxes, end up with approximately zero dollars left over. Young Americans can't afford a house or a car, can't afford to get married or have kids'--can't even afford to save for those things: The average savings of Americans under 35 is $11,200. Which means that, in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's age group, the average American has less in total savings than AOC earns every month. That money doesn't just disappear into thin air'--it goes into the pockets of the people who preach to us about coming times of stringency and food shortages .
Good system, right?
If America is approaching a breaking point, it has nothing to do with culture wars (or at least, not directly). It is simply a matter of theft: Our work and our lives are being stolen by politicians who make it clear through their actions'--and, increasingly, through their words'--that they in no way consider themselves accountable to the voters. Politicians don't even bother making promises anymore: They simply tell us that our view of reality is wrong. There's no recession; things are going great. Bad times are, in fact, good times. Hot is cold . Our money is their money. War is peace.
A government, like any institution, can be said to be working for those whom they are most worried about pleasing. Does anyone think America's government is worried about pleasing Americans?