America’s Clutter Problem

BY JOSH SANBURN 

When the Amazon packages arrive at her door, Dana Harvey experiences one of two feelings: Ecstasy or Nausea. Harvey, 54, is a family therapist in Los Angeles who also practices another kind of therapy–retail.

She readily admits to indulging in those fleeting moments of joy that come from purchasing. But Harvey also realized the moments were piling up all around her. Her 8-ft.-long pine dining table soon disappeared under mountains of clothes, purses and books. She began making excuses about why her house was a wreck. Eventually she stopped having friends over. She was too embarrassed.

Last year, Harvey hired a professional organizer to help her get her things in order and curb her spending. Together, they threw out or donated bags and bags of shoes, scarves, jewelry, hats, appliances, stuffed animals and unused makeup. Some items still had their tags attached. Today, more often than not, Harvey can find a place for the possessions she decided to keep. She often includes “Clear 10 Things” on her daily to-do list. Her home is less cluttered. Her friends stop by more. Her dining table is a table again. But as spring arrives, she still feels the pull of her iPad, the seasonal clothes and deals just waiting for her online.

For middle-class Americans, it’s never been easier to feel consumed by consumption. Despite the recession, despite a brief interlude when savings rates shot up and credit-card debt went down, Americans arguably have more stuff now than any society in history. Children in the U.S. make up 3.1% of the world’s kid population, but U.S. families buy more than 40% of the toys purchased globally. The rise of wholesalers and warehouse supermarkets has packed our pantries and refrigerators with bulk items that often overflow into a second fridge. One-click shopping and same-day delivery have driven purchasing to another level altogether, making conspicuous consumption almost too easy.

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How the world ran out of a critical technology that powers our cars, phones, and more

BY HAMZA MUDASSIR 

There’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious. The U.S. is currently reviewing its supply of the technology, following a landmark executive order from President Joe Biden.

The president also pledged $37 billion to cover the short-term costs of rebuilding and securing America’s supply of semiconductors, which are a fundamental part of microchips and thus integral to everything from computers to smartphones to renewable energy and military hardware.

The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production, and Tesla shut down its Model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the U.K., Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well.

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These researchers have found a way to turn a common plastic into high-value molecules

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More than 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been produced in the last six decades.

However, recycling plastic can be difficult as the most common process involves melting and reworking the material.

A new process developed by the University of California can turn polyethylene into useful smaller molecules.

If you thought those flimsy disposable plastic grocery bags represented most of our plastic waste problem, think again. The volume of plastic the world throws away every year could rebuild the Ming Dynasty’s Great Wall of China – about 3,700 miles long.

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IQ rates are dropping in many developed countries and that doesn’t bode well for humanity

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 IQ rates are dropping and we’re too stupid to figure out why.

 An intelligence crisis could undermine our problem-solving capacities and dim the prospects of the global economy.

IQ rates are falling across Western Europe, and experts are scratching their heads as to why.May 22, 2019, 2:31 AM MDT

People are getting dumber. That’s not a judgment; it’s a global fact. In a host of leading nations, IQ scores have started to decline.

Though there are legitimate questions about the relationship between IQ and intelligence, and broad recognition that success depends as much on other virtues like grit, IQ tests in use throughout the world today really do seem to capture something meaningful and durable. Decades of research have shown that individual IQ scores predict things such as educational achievement and longevity. More broadly, the average IQ score of a country is linked to economic growth and scientific innovation.

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An AI analysis of 500,000 studies shows how we can end world hunger

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An Indian farmer dries harvested rice from a paddy field in Assam.

Ending hunger is one of the top priorities of the United Nations this decade. Yet the world appears to be backsliding, with an uptick of 60 million people experiencing hunger in the last five years to an estimated 690 million worldwide.

To help turn this trend around, a team of 70 researchers published a landmark series of eight studies in Nature Food, Nature Plants, and Nature Sustainability on Monday. The scientists turned to machine learning to comb 500,000 studies and white papers chronicling the world’s food system. The results show that there are routes to address world hunger this decade, but also that there are also huge gaps in knowledge we need to fill to ensure those routes are equitable and don’t destroy the biosphere.

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Will we ever trust crowds again?

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If socializing makes you cringe, you’re not alone. Scientists say the pandemic is re-shaping our senses of fear and disgust, and it’s unclear how long the change will last.

WATCHING A RERUN of the 1990s sitcom Seinfeld gave me the first inkling that COVID-19 might be rearranging my mind for the long term. On the screen, the characters sat across the table from each other at Monk’s Café. Kramer flopped into the frame, draping his arm around another occupied chair. As his arm touched another person, I physically recoiled.

By then, my hometown of New Orleans was a few weeks into the pandemic, and I was already stepping off the curb whenever a stranger approached. If someone slipped by my paranoia and caught me unaware on the sidewalk, I held my breath and rolled my eyes as they barged past. Those behaviors felt natural, even though by mid-March, scientists were already pointing out the low risk of coronavirus transmission in the outdoors. All of my friends reported feeling something similar, and one told me that she had to turn off the TV if a subway scene came on. We’re not alone. Even as some states begin to reopen, most Americans—regardless of political affiliation—say that they’re uncomfortable going into crowded situations, indoors and out, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Neuroscientists and psychologists propose that people aren’t cringing around strangers and crowds because of pre-existing senses of fear or disgust. Instead, many in society are simultaneously learning a new emotional experience.

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New super-enzyme eats plastic bottles six times faster

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Breakthrough that builds on plastic-eating bugs first discovered by Japan in 2016 promises to enable full recycling

A super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two.

The super-enzyme, derived from bacteria that naturally evolved the ability to eat plastic, enables the full recycling of the bottles. Scientists believe combining it with enzymes that break down cotton could also allow mixed-fabric clothing to be recycled. Today, millions of tonnes of such clothing is either dumped in landfill or incinerated.

Plastic pollution has contaminated the whole planet, from the Arctic to the deepest oceans, and people are now known to consume and breathe microplastic particles. It is currently very difficult to break down plastic bottles into their chemical constituents in order to make new ones from old, meaning more new plastic is being created from oil each year.

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A new startup is recruiting gig workers to help landlords evict people from their homes, calling it the fastest-growing moneymaking gig because of COVID-19

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A new startup is recruiting gig workers to help landlords evict people who can’t afford to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Civvl, which Motherboard described as “Uber, but for evicting people,” has posted job listings across the US that encourage gig workers to join the app and work as eviction crew members.

Civvl notes that landlords are looking to hire workers to evict tenants who can’t afford to pay rent, advertising the gig as the “FASTEST GROWING MONEY MAKING GIG DUE TO COVID-19.”

The CDC is imposing a moratorium on all evictions across the US, but Civvl’s terms appear to pass on responsibility to landlords to ensure that evictions carried out through the startup are legal.

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‘We were shocked’: RAND study uncovers massive income shift to the top 1%

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The median worker should be making as much as $102,000 annually—if some $2.5 trillion wasn’t being “reverse distributed” every year away from the working class.

Just how far has the working class been left behind by the winner-take-all economy? A new analysis by the RAND Corporation examines what rising inequality has cost Americans in lost income—and the results are stunning.

A full-time worker whose taxable income is at the median—with half the population making more and half making less—now pulls in about $50,000 a year. Yet had the fruits of the nation’s economic output been shared over the past 45 years as broadly as they were from the end of World War II until the early 1970s, that worker would instead be making $92,000 to $102,000. (The exact figures vary slightly depending on how inflation is calculated.)

The findings, which land amid a global pandemic, help to illuminate the paradoxes of an economy in which so-called essential workers are struggling to make ends meet while the rich keep getting richer.

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World wildlife plummets more than two-thirds in 50 years: index

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Graphic outlining the environmental degredation of the oceans caused by human activity.

Global animal, bird and fish populations have plummeted more than two-thirds in less than 50 years due to rampant over-consumption, experts said Thursday in a stark warning to save nature in order to save ourselves.

Human activity has severely degraded three quarters of all land and 40 percent of Earth’s oceans, and our quickening destruction of nature is likely to have untold consequences on our health and livelihoods.

The Living Planet Index, which tracks more than 4,000 species of vertebrates, warned that increasing deforestation and agricultural expansion were the key drivers behind a 68 percent average decline in populations between 1970 and 2016.

It warned that continued natural habitat loss increased the risk of future pandemics as humans expand their presence into ever closer contact with wild animals.

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CDC: 94% of Covid-19 deaths had underlying medical conditions

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This image depicts the exterior of the CDC’s “Tom Harkin Global Communications Center” located on the organization’s Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia.

 ATLANTA, Ga. (WEYI) – The Centers for Disease Control released information showing how many people who died from COVID-19 had comorbidities or underlying conditions as they are sometimes referred to by doctors.

According to the CDC, comorbidity is defined as: ” more than one disease or condition is present in the same person at the same time. Conditions described as comorbidities are often chronic or long-term conditions. Other names to describe comorbid conditions are coexisting or co-occurring conditions and sometimes also “multimorbidity” or “multiple chronic conditions.”

Comorbidity and underlying conditions can both be used to describe conditions that exist in one person at the same time. These can also contribute to a persons death who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

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The Economic Model of Higher Education Was Already Broken. Here’s Why the Pandemic May Destroy It for Good

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Logan Armstrong, a Cincinnati junior, works while sitting inside a painted circle on the lawn of the Oval during the first day of fall classes on at Ohio State University on Aug. 25, 2020.

Karabell is an author, investor, and commentator. He is the president of River Twice Research. His forthcoming book is Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power.

With the fall semester upon us, colleges and universities unveiled their plans for students—and many are just as quickly upending those plans. The University of North Carolina and Notre Dame recently announced they were changing their on campus plans as COVID-19 cases spiked. Many other universities are sure to follow. Already, universities ranging from Syracuse to Ohio State are suspending hundreds of students for violating social distancing rules, while COVID-19 outbreaks are on the rise on campuses such as the University of Alabama. While there is considerable variety in the actual plans, ranging from mostly in-person to all virtual, they all share one imperative: to maintain an economic model that is as imperiled by the pandemic as the hardest hit service industries.

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