What if we covered the climate crisis like we did the start of the second world war?

What if we covered the climate crisis like we did the start of the second world war?
In the war, the purpose of journalism was to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it. We must approach our climate crisis the same way
By Bill Moyers
May 22 2019
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/22/climate-crisis-ed-murrow-bill-moyers

Today marks the official launch of Covering Climate Now, a project co-sponsored by The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. Joined by The Guardian and others partners to be announced, Covering Climate Now will bring journalists and news outlets together to dramatically improve how the media as a whole covers the climate crisis and its solutions. 

The following is an abridged version of the conference keynote speech by iconic TV newsman Bill Moyers, as prepared for delivery. A video version of the speech is available here. See here for more about the Covering Climate Now project.

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I have been asked to bring this gathering to a close by summing up how we can do better at covering the possible “collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world,” to quote the noted environmentalist David Attenborough, speaking at the recent United Nations climate summit in Poland.

I don’t come with a silver bullet. And I’m no expert on the topic. Like you, I am just a journalist whose craft calls for us to explain things we don’t understand. There’s so much I don’t understand that journalism became my continuing course in adult education. The subjects were so fascinating, and the work so fulfilling, that I kept at it “full speed ahead” for half a century, until two years ago, at the age of 83, I yielded finally to the side effects of a long life and retired (more or less). This is the first opportunity I have had since then to be with so many kindred spirits of journalism, and the camaraderie reminds me how much I have missed your company.

Many of us have recognized that our coverage of global warming has fallen short. There’s been some excellent reporting by independent journalists and by enterprising reporters and photographers from legacy newspapers and other news outlets. But the Goliaths of the US news media, those with the biggest amplifiers—the corporate broadcast networks—have been shamelessly AWOL, despite their extraordinary profits. The combined coverage of climate change by the three major networks and Fox fell from just 260 minutes in 2017 to a mere 142 minutes in 2018—a drop of 45%, reported the watchdog group Media Matters.

Meanwhile, about 1,300 communities across the United States have totally lost news coverage, many from newspaper mergers and closures, according to the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism. Hundreds of others are still standing only as “ghost newspapers.” They no longer have resources for even local reporting, much less for climate change. “Online news sites, as well as some TV newsrooms, are working hard to keep local reporting alive, but these are taking root far more slowly than newspapers are dying,” observes Tom Stites of Poynter in a report about the study. And, alas, many of the news outlets that are still around have ignored or misreported the climate story and failed to counter the tsunami of deceptive propaganda unleashed by fossil-fuel companies and the mercenaries, ideologues, and politicians who do their bidding.

But events educate, experience instructs, and so much destructive behavior has been caused by climate disruption that more Americans today than ever seem hungry to know what’s causing it, what’s coming and what can be done about it. We journalists have perhaps our last chance to help people grasp the magnitude of the threat. My friend and journalist-turned-citizen-activist Bill McKibben told me last week that because of the looming possibility of extinction, and in response to it from the emerging leadership among young people, we have reached a ‘climate moment’ with real momentum, and our challenge as we go forward is to dramatically change the zeitgeist—“to lock in and consolidate public opinion that’s finally beginning to come into focus.”

So, while I did not come with a silver bullet—there’s no such thing—I do want to share a couple of stories that might help us respond to this daunting task.

I’ll begin with how I first heard of global warming—before many of you in this room were born. It was 54 years ago, early in 1965, at the White House. Before I became President Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary (“over my dead body,” I might add,) I was his special assistant coordinating domestic policy. One day, two members of the president’s science-advisory committee came by the office. One of them was the famous oceanographer, Roger Revelle. Famous because only a few years earlier he had shaken up the prevailing consensus that the oceans were massive enough to soak up any amount of excess of carbon released on earth. Not so, Revelle discovered; the peculiar chemistry of sea water actually prevents this from happening.

Now, he said, humans have begun a “vast geophysical experiment.” We were about to burn, within a few generations, the fossil fuels that had slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years. Burning so much oil, gas, and coal would release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it would trap heat that otherwise would escape into space. Earth’s temperature could rise, causing polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise, flooding the earth’s coastal regions.

President Johnson took scientists seriously; as vice president, he had been chosen by President Kennedy to chair the intergovernmental committee overseeing NASA’s charge to put a man on the moon. So Revelle and his colleagues got the green light, and by the fall of 1965 they produced the first official report to any government anywhere on the possible threat to humanity from rising CO2 levels. On November 6, Lyndon Johnson became the first president to mention the threat in a message to Congress.

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Self-driving truck startup TuSimple will haul mail for USPS in two-week pilot

[Note:  This item comes from reader Randall Head.  DLH]

Self-driving truck startup TuSimple will haul mail for USPS in two-week pilot
By Kirsten Korosec
May 21 2019
https://techcrunch.com/2019/05/21/self-driving-truck-startup-tusimple-will-haul-mail-for-usps-in-two-week-pilot/

TuSimple, the self-driving truck startup that reached unicorn status earlier this year with a $1 billion valuation, is getting two weeks to prove its tech to the United States Postal Service.

The company announced Tuesday that it was awarded a contract to complete five round trips, for a two-week pilot, hauling USPS trailers more than 1,000 miles between the postal service’s Phoenix and Dallas distribution centers. A safety engineer and driver will be on board throughout the pilot.

TuSimple will run a series of its self-driving trucks for 22 hours each, which includes overnight driving, along Interstates 10, 20 and 30 corridors to make the trip through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The pilot is an important milestone for TuSimple. It marks the company’s first foray into Texas; it’s also a chance for TuSimple to validate its system with the U.S. government.

The USPS is just one of many (ahem Amazon) in the logistics and shipping business interested in using autonomous vehicle technology to cuts costs and improve safety and operations.

TuSimple, which launched in 2015 and has operations in San Diego and Tucson, Ariz., has been running daily routes for customers in Arizona. The company recently raised $95 million in a Series D funding round led by Sina Corp. The company is preparing to scale up its commercial autonomous fleet to more than 50 trucks by June.

TuSimple has raised $178 million to date in rounds that have included backers such as Nvidia and ZP Capital. Sina, operator of China’s biggest microblogging site Weibo, is one of TuSimple’s earliest investors.

16-Year-Olds Want a Vote. Fifty Years Ago, So Did 18-Year-Olds.

16-Year-Olds Want a Vote. Fifty Years Ago, So Did 18-Year-Olds.
By Maggie Astor
May 19 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/us/politics/voting-age.html

JAMESBURG, N.J. — Stuart Goldstein still has the red-and-white bumper stickers and other artifacts from 1969, when he helped persuade New Jersey lawmakers that 18-year-olds should be able to vote.

He was 18 himself then, working with two other college students, David DuPell and Ken Norbe, to build a political network that grew to 10,000 volunteers. They took students to Trenton in busloads and even sneaked into a Richard Nixon rally seeking his support. Theirs was an early salvo in a movement that would end in 1971 with the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21.

Fifty years later, there is a nascent movement to change the voting age again — this time to 16 — but there are some big differences between the efforts.

Then, liberal and conservative activists united behind a powerful argument that went back to World War II, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lowered the draft age to 18: Young people were being conscripted to fight America’s wars but couldn’t vote in its elections.

Today, there is no similarly popular argument. Indeed, a recent poll found that 75 percent of registered voters opposed letting 17-year-olds vote, and 84 percent opposed it for 16-year-olds. In March, when Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts proposed a 16-year-old voting age amendment to House Democrats’ sweeping voting rights bill, it failed 126 to 305, with almost half of her fellow Democrats voting against it and only one Republican in support.

Opponents in both parties have expressed doubts that 16-year-olds are mature enough to vote. But local, youth-led campaigns to lower the voting age have persisted since at least 2013, when Takoma Park, Md., gave 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote in municipal elections.

The New York Times recently spoke with activists from the movement 50 years ago, and people on different sides of the issue today, about the cause and the challenges of lowering the voting age.

1969: ‘Old enough to fight’

By the time New Jersey took it up in 1969, the voting age had been on the national radar for decades because of the draft. Through World War II, Korea and the early years of Vietnam, every president suggested it should change. But it didn’t — until the 1960s knocked American politics off its axis.

The activism of the era made it easy to mobilize liberals and students, many of whom were already involved in the antiwar and civil rights movements. “People were pretty revved up during that time to get involved in something,” said Mr. DuPell, who started the New Jersey campaign and recruited Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Norbe to join him. But campus unrest and violent protests helped fuel pushback that they were too immature to vote.

“It was kind of an uphill battle for us trying to convince people young people were responsible, because it was an era when, from a national political point of view, the national leaders were pitting young against old,” Mr. Goldstein, now 68, said. “Our thing was, ‘We’re going to try and work within the system.’ There was all this tumult going on across the country. We didn’t think that would help us convince people that they should lower the voting age.”

In April 1969, the Republican-led New Jersey Legislature approved a state constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18. And when summer came, Mr. DuPell, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. Norbe went home to build their organization — they called it the Voting Age Coalition Inc. of New Jersey — and round up support for the voter referendum needed to ratify the amendment.

They appointed county leaders, who appointed municipal leaders. They sold membership cards for a dollar and told the buyers to recruit 10 volunteers apiece. When President Nixon came to campaign for William Cahill, who was eventually elected governor, Mr. Goldstein and Mr. DuPell forged press credentials and sneaked into the rally with a sign seeking Nixon’s endorsement. Mr. Goldstein recalled that Secret Service agents carried him out, but their sign ended up in a front-page photo the next day.

Similar efforts were bubbling up in other states. Sometime in the spring, a group of students in Ohio contacted the New Jerseyans and asked if they, too, could use the “Voting Age Coalition” name. By January 1970, students in 13 states were organizing to lower the voting age.

Voters in New Jersey rejected their amendment, and the Voting Age Coalition started trying to lower the age to 19 instead. But it soon became clear that the momentum in Washington, driven by the combined force of the states, was building faster.

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Fighting Ebola When Mourners Fight the Responders

Fighting Ebola When Mourners Fight the Responders
An Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo — the second-largest in history — is escalating in part because locals don’t trust health workers and government officials.
By Joseph Goldstein
May 19 2019
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/19/world/africa/ebola-outbreak-congo.html

BENI, Democratic Republic of Congo — When Ebola came to this city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Janvier Muhindo Mandefu quit farming and got work burying the highly contagious bodies of Ebola victims.

But Mr. Muhindo is less afraid of Ebola than of the mourners he encounters at funerals. He and his burial team have been attacked by relatives of the dead, one swinging a hoe. Mourners have shouted at team members, accusing them of stealing the organs of corpses, and have threatened to throw them into the open graves. Last month a mourner brandished a hand grenade, he said, sending everyone scattering and leaving a 3-year-old Ebola victim unburied.

“Someone like me can be buried alive,” Mr. Muhindo said as his colleagues hosed down their trucks at the Red Cross compound after another day of burials.

This Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, the second-largest ever recorded, is now spiraling out of control. Despite some early success — helped by a new and effective vaccine — the disease has come roaring back in the past two months.

Efforts to combat the epidemic have been hobbled by attacks on treatment centers and health workers; deep suspicion of the national government, which is managing the eradication efforts; and growing mistrust of the international medical experts who have struggled to steer patients into the treatment centers, according to interviews with dozens of family members, politicians, doctors and health workers in recent weeks.

When a doctor was killed, and treatment centers attacked by gunmen or set on fire, front-line health workers suspended their work, giving the virus time to spread. Some medical and aid groups have decided to pull some of their personnel from the very areas where Ebola has hit hardest.

So far nearly 1,150 people have died in the outbreak, according to the World Health Organization. But that is a significant undercount, aid groups said in interviews. Health workers have been turned away regularly from homes where someone has died, leaving them unable to test for Ebola.

Earlier in the outbreak, the police would remove these bodies from homes, at gunpoint if necessary, said Philemon Kalondero, 39, who is often the first member of his Ebola response team to arrive at a grief-stricken home.

“The new protocol is that we just abandon the body,” he said. “They will learn their lesson when they get sick.”

Initial Optimism

When the outbreak was discovered last summer, health workers had reason to worry. This part of eastern Congo has long been beset by dozens of armed groups fighting over land, natural resources, ethnicity and religion — including one outfit with ties to the Islamic State.

Yet optimism ran strong among the arriving wave of international health experts and humanitarian workers, many of whom had experience treating Ebola, an often fatal disease caused by a virus that is transmitted by body fluids. 

They came with lessons learned from the outbreak that tore across West Africa starting in 2013, killing more than 11,000 people. And they were buoyed by a recent success: the speedy containment of an outbreak in western Congo. 

They also brought medical advances: a strikingly effective vaccine, experimental treatments, and a transparent container known as the “cube” that Ebola patients live inside, reducing the transmission risk to doctors and visitors. 

Some of the responders hoped that big outbreaks were already a thing of the past.

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Tesla: Insane or Clever

Tesla: Insane or Clever
Elon Musk makes it easy to dismiss his grandiose — unhinged, even — descriptions of his product plans. But if we look past the hyperbole, we see a serious threat for legacy automakers who don’t know and love software.
By Jean-Louis Gassée
May 19 2019
https://mondaynote.com/tesla-insane-or-clever-b7a8e1479f6b

“I feel very confident predicting 1 million autonomous robo-taxis for Tesla next year,”

When Elon Musk utters these words at Tesla’s Autonomy Day late April, a song plays inside my head: They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!. I imagine two burly men in white coats coming on stage, wrapping Elon in a tight jacket, and whisking him to a padded cell. (I last heard the song in the late sixties while I was still in France. The refrain obviously made a lasting impression.)

One view is that Musk is deranged. Seriously. Not a little bit like someone with a passion for labels that adorn Camembert boxes (a tyriosémiophile). No, more like someone who keeps announcing the closure of Tesla retail stores, only to partially countermand his order within days; like someone who gets in serious trouble with the SEC for falsely claiming “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420/share, and then getting sued and fined to the tune of $40M; or like someone who claims the mythical $35K Model 3 has finally become available, removes it from the Tesla site a little later, waits a few beats and then claims it actually is available but you have to order by phone or in person, followed by a price increase a couple of weeks later.

Over the years, these zigzags, the lofty promises and changing stories have become a Musk trademark. In the past, I’ve wondered when and how Tesla’s autocratic founder would “exaggerate too much” and cause shareowners to give the CEO, who owns about 20% of the company, more time with his family and SpaceX.

For a brief moment, I wonder if the surreal “1 million robo-taxis by 2020” is going to be the turning point. But, no. Instead of calling for a psychiatric intervention, most observers just shrug off Musk’s grandiose talk as clever publicity. We’ve seen his lofty pronouncements before, perhaps not this grand, he’s outdoing himself this time, but we’ve been immunized.

AI expert Kai-Fu Lee of Apple, Silicon Graphics, Microsoft, and Google fame used the best antidote for such folly, Twitter humor:

“If there are a million Tesla robo-taxis functioning on the road in 2020, I will eat them.”
In Musk’s “different” mind, an overnight Over The Air software update transforms a million Tesla cars out in the field into Full Self Drive (FSD) vehicles by the end of next year. But wait, there’s more: FSD will upend the math of automotive depreciation, usually the largest financial drain when owning a car. Electrek, a site dedicated to electric vehicles, reproduces a Musk tweet in which he claims a million mile life for a Tesla:

On that basis, Musk explains how Tesla owners will make money [as always, edits and emphasis mine]:

“The average Tesla car is currently parked for 22 hours per day. Starting next year, owners will be able to flip a switch inside the Tesla app, and send out their car to pick up and drop off passengers autonomously, earning an estimated 65 cents per mile in fares. […] owners might be able to earn $30,000 in gross revenue from their cars per year, or more than $300,000 in revenue over the 11-year lifespan of their car. With a basic version of the Model 3 costing $38,000 after incentives, self-driving Tesla robotaxis could become a profitable side business for owners…”
…and…

“The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today is that it is financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla, […] it will be like owning a horse in three years. I mean, fine if you want to own a horse. But you should go into it with that expectation.”
This, Musk says, will transform Tesla into a $500 billion company participating in a $3 trillion autonomous-mobility-as-a-service market. Right around the corner.

Regrettably, Musk’s self-indulgence — his PR as performance art — has cauterized our nerve endings, leading to a jaded look at the more substantial technical parts of the Autonomy Day presentation (full video here, slides here, a helpful CleanTechnica technical commentary here). Indeed, some of the tasty technical morsels must be consumed with caution, especially when it comes to the processing power of Tesla’s autonomous driving computer, or the claim that the company’s use of video cameras is vastly superior to the lidars (3D laser scanners) used by everyone else, Waymo (part of the Alphabet/Google empire) in particular.

But, if we make a patient effort to see through the PR excesses, we see an interesting image come into focus, a picture of Tesla winning the war with its software weapons and its vertical integration.

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In some countries, many use the internet without realizing it

In some countries, many use the internet without realizing it
By LAURA SILVER AND AARON SMITH
May 2 2019
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/05/02/in-some-countries-many-use-the-internet-without-realizing-it/

What is the internet? And who is an internet user? The questions may seem straightforward, but more than a decade of research in the United States and abroad suggests that some people who use the internet may not be aware that they’re doing so. Results from recent Pew Research Center surveys in the U.S. and 11 emerging economies show that confusion about what the internet is stems from two different – but related – sources.

First, many people who use smartphones are unaware that the apps and browsers on their devices involve using the internet. In the Center’s survey of emerging economies, as many as 38% of those who say they do not use the internet also indicate that they have a phone that connects to the internet. Due to differences in internet use across these countries, this group represents as much as 14% of the total adult population in South Africa, or as little as 3% in Venezuela.

These mismatches are often highest in developing countries and can even extend to people who use their smartphones to do things that necessitate using the internet for tasks such as looking for or applying for jobs.

Across 11 developing countries surveyed in fall 2018, one of the defining factors in people’s awareness they are using the internet is whether they have access to a home or office computer. Majorities of “unconscious internet users” (that is, those who say they do not use the internet, but do use social media, a smartphone or a feature phone) lack access to a home computer or tablet, meaning they likely visit the internet primarily through a mobile phone. In three countries, those with lower levels of education are also somewhat more likely to be unconscious internet users, though in most countries there is no relationship with educational attainment. But, while older people are somewhat less likely to use the internet, smartphones or social media than younger people, they are not more likely to be unconscious users.

This phenomenon extends to advanced economies as well: Previous surveys by the Center have found that a small share of people in nearly every country surveyed underreport internet use. Estimates that account for social media use and smartphone ownership tend to be somewhat larger than those that only include people’s self-reported internet use. For example, 90% of South Koreans say they use the internet, when asked, but 97% of South Koreans report using the internet, owning a smartphone or using social media – a gap of 7 percentage points.

Other developed countries also show gaps between these narrow and broad measures of internet use, including Spain (7 percentage points), Italy (5 points) and France (4). And in our most recent technology-focused survey of U.S. adults, conducted in January and February, one-quarter of those who say they do not use the internet do indicate they own a smartphone – although since relatively few Americans do not go online, that group works out to just 2% of the total adult population.

Second, apart from a lack of awareness that smartphones and feature phones connect to the internet, many people who use social media and messaging apps appear unaware that the platforms themselves are part of the broader internet. This is a relatively well-known phenomenon in the case of Facebook: Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer, was once quoted as saying, “People actually confuse Facebook and the internet in some places.” And in countries like the Philippines, Facebook offers a free version that allows users to visit the site without incurring mobile data charges.

Some of this may seem to be a niche issue, mostly of interest to survey researchers. But measurement matters for our understanding of political phenomena and how people access information. As many policies and programs are structured around reaching the population that is not online – “internet for all” – it’s important to have a clear and accurate reading of who is and is not online. Our research also suggests that the dominance of certain providers – especially Facebook and WhatsApp – is important to this understanding given that considerable shares in some countries appear to be using them without even realizing that they’re going online.

Focus groups conducted in the Philippines in March 2018 highlighted the extent to which people used Facebook as a portal to the internet at large, relying on it as a website for online dating, finding jobs and acquiring news, along with general uses like messaging, sharing pictures with family and video calls. As two participants highlighted in one exchange, “It seems like almost all people in the world have Facebook … it seems impossible if you don’t have [a Facebook account].” Indeed, the Philippines stands out for having the largest share of people among these 11 countries who say they use Facebook but also report not being online (12%). Similarly, as much as 10% of the population in South Africa reports using WhatsApp but not using the internet.

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Now Apps Can Track You Even After You Uninstall Them

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Reed.  David’s comment:’I don’t know what people might think about being harassed when they uninstall an app, by the app vendor.
But I think that uninstall trackers are a Thing suggests an industry that views users are “Subjects” to be manipulated at will. We certainly ought to know in advance that the app creator views us that way.’ DLH]

Now Apps Can Track You Even After You Uninstall Them
New trackers make it easy for developers to identify fed-up users and pester them with targeted ads.
By Gerrit De Vynck
Oct 22 2018
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-22/now-apps-can-track-you-even-after-you-uninstall-them

If it seems as though the app you deleted last week is suddenly popping up everywhere, it may not be mere coincidence. Companies that cater to app makers have found ways to game both iOS and Android, enabling them to figure out which users have uninstalled a given piece of software lately—and making it easy to pelt the departed with ads aimed at winning them back.

Adjust, AppsFlyer, MoEngage, Localytics, and CleverTap are among the companies that offer uninstall trackers, usually as part of a broader set of developer tools. Their customers include T-Mobile US, Spotify Technology, and Yelp. (And Bloomberg Businessweek parent Bloomberg LP, which uses Localytics.) Critics say they’re a fresh reason to reassess online privacy rights and limit what companies can do with user data. “Most tech companies are not giving people nuanced privacy choices, if they give them choices at all,” says Jeremy Gillula, tech policy director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy advocate.

Some providers say these tracking tools are meant to measure user reaction to app updates and other changes. Jude McColgan, chief executive officer of Boston’s Localytics, says he hasn’t seen clients use the technology to target former users with ads. Ehren Maedge, vice president for marketing and sales at MoEngage Inc. in San Francisco, says it’s up to the app makers not to do so. “The dialogue is between our customers and their end users,” he says. “If they violate users’ trust, it’s not going to go well for them.” Adjust, AppsFlyer, and CleverTap didn’t respond to requests for comment, nor did T-Mobile, Spotify, or Yelp.

Uninstall tracking exploits a core element of Apple Inc.’s and Google’s mobile operating systems: push notifications. Developers have always been able to use so-called silent push notifications to ping installed apps at regular intervals without alerting the user—to refresh an inbox or social media feed while the app is running in the background, for example. But if the app doesn’t ping the developer back, the app is logged as uninstalled, and the uninstall tracking tools add those changes to the file associated with the given mobile device’s unique advertising ID, details that make it easy to identify just who’s holding the phone and advertise the app to them wherever they go.

The tools violate Apple and Google policies against using silent push notifications to build advertising audiences, says Alex Austin, CEO of Branch Metrics Inc., which makes software for developers but chose not to create an uninstall tracker. “It’s just generally sketchy to track people around the internet after they’ve opted out of using your product,” he says, adding that he expects Apple and Google to crack down on the practice soon. Apple and Google didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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