Sociologist : When fracking becomes a mental health disaster

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“What’s stressful is the unknowns and how this industry is operating behind a curtain all the time.”

Fracking’s devastating impact on our health and the planet, not to mention its contributions to climate change, are extremely well-documented. What’s not as well understood, however, is how it impacts our mental health.

As it turns out, Colorado State University sociologist Stephanie Malin wrote in The Conversation, the answer is “quite a bit.” As she describes it, the problem is two-fold: stress and other direct impacts caused by the increased noise in the area, and then a feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it.

Citing her own research in the journal Energy Research & Social Science, Malin argues that fracking leads to serious mental health issues throughout Colorado — and that those affected are being overlooked.

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Showdown between Facebook and Australia

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SYDNEY (Reuters) – Facebook Inc FB.O will be “weakened” if it stops Australians from sharing news so the company can avoid paying for content under proposed laws, Australia’s top antitrust regulator said on Thursday.

Australia has proposed forcing Facebook and internet search giant Google GOOGL.O to pay local media outlets for content, drawing strong opposition from the U.S. companies in a dispute that is being watched by regulators and news organisations around the world.

Facebook said this month it would stop Australians from sharing local and international news on its website if the proposal becomes law. The company and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) are still negotiating before the regulator makes a formal recommendation to the government.

“It would be a shame for Australian democracy (and) it would be a shame for Facebook users if they took that course of action,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a speech delivered via Zoom.

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Frustrated, self-employed, and left behind by SBA loan programs

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‘Our government has failed us’: Frustrated, self-employed, and left behind by SBA loan programs

Like many businesses across Ohio, Nathan’s Barber Shop in Marion County was ordered to close its doors amid the coronavirus pandemic. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has since extended the state’s stay-home order until at least May, and Nathan Riddle, the shop’s owner and operator, is running out of options. It’s been more than a week since he filled out the application for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration—but he has yet to hear back from the agency.

“I think the worst part in all of this would be our local government telling us that we are mandated to shut down, and then give absolutely zero clarity on how or when we will receive any assistance,” Riddle says.

His frustration is echoed by countless sole proprietors, self-employed workers, and independent contractors across the United States who say they are being left behind by loan programs meant to provide them with relief from the effects of COVID-19. In addition to the SBA’s disaster loan assistance, these workers—some running businesses in which they are the sole employee, and others working on a contractor basis as 1099 employees—were supposed to qualify for loans under the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which allocated $349 billion for small business relief and was expanded to self-employed workers on Friday.

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Planet Plastic : How Big Oil and Big Soda kept a global environmental calamity a secret for decades

 

Recycling Company, SKM, Declared Bankrupt In Melbourne

Every human on Earth is ingesting nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week. These tiny pieces enter our unwitting bodies from tap water, food, and even the air, according to an alarming academic study sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, dosing us with five grams of plastics, many cut with chemicals linked to cancers, hormone disruption, and developmental delays. Since the paper’s publication last year, Sen. Tom Udall, a plain-spoken New Mexico Democrat with a fondness for white cowboy hats and turquoise bolo ties, has been trumpeting the risk: “We are consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic each week,” Udall says. At events with constituents, he will brandish a Visa from his wallet and declare, “You’re eating this, folks!”

With new legislation, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020, Udall is attempting to marshal Washington into a confrontation with the plastics industry, and to force companies that profit from plastics to take accountability for the waste they create. Unveiled in February, the bill would ban many single-use plastics and force corporations to finance “end of life” programs to keep plastic out of the environment. “We’re going back to that principle,” the senator tells Rolling Stone. “The polluter pays.”

The battle pits Udall and his allies in Congress against some of the most powerful corporate interests on the planet, including the oil majors and chemical giants that produce the building blocks for our modern plastic world — think Exxon, Dow, and Shell — and consumer giants like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, and Unilever that package their products in the stuff. Big Plastic isn’t a single entity. It’s more like a corporate supergroup: Big Oil meets Big Soda — with a puff of Big Tobacco, responsible for trillions of plastic cigarette butts in the environment every year. And it combines the lobbying and public-relations might of all three.

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Ad blocking takes off on mobile phones, a challenge for publishers

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 About 15% to 30% of website traffic is from people with ad-blocking software, online ad firm Blockthrough reports.

The number of people using ad-blocking technology on mobile browsers has surged to 527 million, an increase of 64% over the last three years, according to a report published Thursday. Combined with ad blocking on personal computers, that means a total of 763 million devices were running ad blockers in the fourth quarter of 2019, the report said.

That means about 15% to 30% of website traffic is using an ad blocker, said Marty Kratky-Katz, chief executive of Blockthrough, a Toronto-based company that helps publishers try to cope with ad blocking.

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How Google has become the biggest travel company

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For decades travel agents had a “lock” on vacations. Before the internet it was near impossible to find cheap fares yourself. And choosing the perfect hotel involved a lot of flicking through glossy brochures.

The “do it yourself” approach was a huge hassle. It was a lot easier to hire a knowledgeable travel agent. Then disruptor stocks like Booking.com (BKNG) and Expedia (EXPE) blew up the old model forever. With a few clicks, you could compare any flight or hotel in the world.

For the first time ever, you could find all the special deals and hidden gems only travel agents knew about. Meanwhile Priceline (now Booking.com) has made investors rich. Its stock shot up 25,000% in two decades, as you can see here:

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Tim Berners-Lee unveils global plan to save the web

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Inventor of web calls on governments and firms to safeguard it from abuse and ensure it benefits humanity

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has launched a global action plan to save the web from political manipulation, fake news, privacy violations and other malign forces that threaten to plunge the world into a “digital dystopia”.

The Contract for the Web requires endorsing governments, companies and individuals to make concrete commitments to protect the web from abuse and ensure it benefits humanity.

“I think people’s fear of bad things happening on the internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater,” Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, told the Guardian. “If we leave the web as it is, there’s a very large number of things that will go wrong. We could end up with a digital dystopia if we don’t turn things around. It’s not that we need a 10-year plan for the web, we need to turn the web around now.”

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Human actors are changing the spread of disinformation

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Disinformation campaigns used to consist of trolls and bots orchestrated and manipulated to produce a desired result. Increasingly, though, these campaigns are able to find willing human participants to amplify their messages and even generate new ones on their own.

The big picture: It’s as if they’re switching from employees to volunteers — and from participants who are in on the game to those who actually believe the disinformational payload they’re delivering.

Why it matters: Understanding this changing nature is critical to preparing for the next generation of information threats, including those facing the 2020 presidential campaign.

Speaking at Stanford University Tuesday, researcher Kate Starbird — a University of Washington professor who runs a lab that studies mass participation — traced the change across the stories of three different campaigns.

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Political operatives are faking voter outrage with millions of made-up comments to benefit the rich and powerful

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A fierce battle over the regulation of the internet was riddled with millions of fake comments in the most prolific known instance of political impersonation in US history.

Sarah Reeves sat on her couch in Eugene, Oregon, staring at her laptop screen in furious disbelief. She was reading the website of a government agency, where her mother appeared to have posted a comment weighing in on a bitter policy battle for control of the internet. Something was very wrong.

For a start, Annie Reeves, who loved to lead children’s sing-alongs at the Alaska Zoo, had never followed wonky policy debates. She barely knew her way around the web, let alone held strident views on how it should be regulated — and, according to her daughter, she definitely didn’t post angry comments on government websites.

But Sarah Reeves had a more conclusive reason to feel sure her mother’s name had been taken in vain: Annie Reeves was dead. She died more than a year before the comment was posted.

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We’re about to find out if airlines really did stuff too many seats on their planes. We might not like the result

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Forget comfort, are these seats, on display by Spirit Airlines at an airline industry conference in Los Angeles last month, too close to be safe? The FAA will test to see if U.S. airlines meet evacuation time requirements

Many Americans will likely be rooting for 720 volunteers to fail, miserably, when they participate in a series of FAA tests next month to see if today’s larger, wider and taller passengers can safely evacuate an airplane in less than 90 seconds.

But if those volunteers do fail it could become for the rest of us the best illustration ever of the old warning to be careful for what you wish – you just might get it.

Upon orders contained in legislation passed last year by Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration in November will conduct 12 days of aircraft emergency evacuation tests. Last year, when Congress was considering the bill to reauthorize the FAA and its administration of safe air operations in this country not nearly enough votes could be mustered to support various proposals reintroduce elements of economic regulation back into the world of air travel. But so incensed were our federal lawmakers by U.S. airlines’ maniacal stuffing of more and more seats – each of them seemingly designed by medieval torture machine makers – into their planes that a large majority in both houses eagerly voted to order the FAA to conduct a new round of evacuation tests.

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76 billion opioid pills: Newly released federal data unmasks the epidemic

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 The data in the DEA database tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States, including oxycodone, above.

America’s largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills from 2006 through 2012 as the nation’s deadliest drug epidemic spun out of control, according to previously undisclosed company data released as part of the largest civil action in U.S. history.

The information comes from a database maintained by the Drug Enforcement Administration that tracks the path of every single pain pill sold in the United States — from manufacturers and distributors to pharmacies in every town and city. The data provides an unprecedented look at the surge of legal pain pills that fueled the prescription opioid epidemic, which has resulted in nearly 100,000 deaths from 2006 through 2012.

Just six companies distributed 75 percent of the pills during this period: McKesson Corp., Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart, according to an analysis of the database by The Washington Post. Three companies manufactured 88 percent of the opioids: SpecGx, a subsidiary of Mallinckrodt; ­Actavis Pharma; and Par Pharmaceutical, a subsidiary of Endo Pharmaceuticals.

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How Tech is creating data “cravability,” to make us digitally obese

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Are you taking in too much information every day? If so, be on the lookout for this potentially dangerous new condition.

Obesity and dramatic overweight are a huge global problem, costing an estimated $450 billion per year in the U.S. alone, where more than two-thirds of people are overweight and an estimated 35.7% are considered obese. But that’s just physical obesity. The exact same processes that companies use to trick us into wanting to eat and eat are also being used to get us to spend more and more time online.

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