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17 May 20:12

Gender inequity costs the United States $2 trillion in lost GDP

by Katica Roy

Everyone stands to gain if women are paid fairly and wealth is distributed more equitably. Not doing so means even rich people are losing out.

In the United States today, the top richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 60%. That is  about 150 million people. We haven’t seen this type of wealth concentration since the 1920s, right before the Great Depression.

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17 May 20:11

Dungeons & Dragons Will Stream a Massive Live Event Beginning Today

by Kaila Hale-Stern

Dungeons & Dragons fans are in for quite the weekend. D&D Live 2019: The Descent will stream 50 hours of D&D content straight into your screens and brains. The lineup that Wizards of the Coast has planned is unreal.

Starting at 2pm PDT (5 PM EST) today, May 17th, 2019, D&D aficionados can take part in the huge “immersive entertainment experience” that is The Descent, broadcasting live. Alongside live play, famous DMs, well-known creators, and actual rock concerts, this will be the place to get the “first glimpse of the 2019 storyline.” We’re promised that The Descent is even bigger and more ambitious than 2018’s Stream of Many Eyes. Around the world, work computers will cry out in joy as they are diverted to better purpose.

Watch everything through an embedded video dashboard, learn about the creators, and check out the full schedule for D&D Live 2019: The Descent at

What does The Descent have in store? This programming looks packed and impressive, and would have absolutely blown my mind when I used to scour the web for D&D info back in the ’90s using Netscape Navigator:

D&D Live 2019: The Descent brings fans more than 50 hours of must-see entertainment and introduces an unforgettable storyline.

D&D Live 2019: The Descent features game designers, performers, Dungeon Masters and rock musicians. Fans can watch Relics & Rarities, led by DM and storyteller Deborah Ann Woll and featuring Matthew Lillard and Janina Gavankar.

D&D designers Chris Perkins, Jeremy Crawford and Kate Welch will lead a 4-part live D&D story played by performers such as Joe Manganiello, Taran Killam, Mica Burton, Jerry Holkins, Travis & Clint McElroy, Matthew Mercer, Anna Prosser, Jim Zub and Patrick Rothfuss.

Amazing D&D creators such as HighRollers, Rivals of Waterdeep, Girls Guts Glory, MonarchsFactory, Nerd Poker, The Sirens, Drunks & Dragons, WebDM, D&D Beyond, and more will be broadcasting via Facebook Live, Mixer, Steam, Twitter, YouTube and all weekend long. Watch music performed live by Chris Funk from the Decemberists and featuring performances by Cardioid, Library Bards, Jason Charles Miller, the Mountain Goats, and the Magic Sword on Sunday night.

Not only is this content awesomely inclusive, but I’m really loving that hardcore players and casual D&D dabblers alike can all watch for free and feel like they’re part of this event wherever they are. Wizards of the Coasts’ organization here and ease of accessibility makes me wonder why more Cons and fan events can’t manage to stream or at least provide more video coverage of their goings-on. Con passes have soared in cost (if you can even manage to get them), and the extreme hassle of getting into popular panels mean that for many fans, they never get to experience live celebrations of their favorite properties. The Descent seems like the polar opposite of this geek-world problem.

“I can’t wait to share what D&D has been cooking up for D&D Live 2019: The Descent,” said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. “I’ve been trying to spoil it for weeks but Greg Tito keeps shutting that down. All I will say now is that it’s going to be hotter than Nine Hells. You really need to tune in to find out why!” I mean, you guys got Deborah Ann Woll, the McElroys, and the Mountain Goats for a D&D fest. Do you think we’d be anywhere else?

D&D Live 2019: The Descent starts at 2 PM PDT May 17th, 2019 and runs through May 19th. Yes, you have plans and can’t make it out to drinks this weekend. You can watch live here and also follow the hashtag #DnDLIVE2019 on social media for pictures, reactions, updates, and general wizardry.

(via Wizards of the Coast, image: Wizards of the Coast)

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17 May 16:44

New Device Translates Silent Thoughts Into Speech

by Joel Hruska

Researchers in multiple disciplines are making progress on technology that can translate silent micro-muscle movements into vocal speech, or even read the data directly from the brain. There's major progress being made in a critical, exciting field.

The post New Device Translates Silent Thoughts Into Speech appeared first on ExtremeTech.

17 May 16:40

Hewlett Packard Enterprise To Acquire Supercomputer Maker Cray for $1.3 Billion

by msmash
Hewlett Packard Enterprise will be buying the supercomputer maker Cray for roughly $1.3 billion, the companies said this morning. Intending to use Cray's knowledge and technology to bolster their own supercomputing and high-performance computing technologies, when the deal closes, HPE will become the world leader for supercomputing technology. From a report: Cray of course needs no introduction. The current leader in the supercomputing field and founder of supercomputing as we know it, Cray has been a part of the supercomputing landscape since the 1970s. Starting at the time with fully custom systems, in more recent years Cray has morphed into an integrator and scale-out specialist, combining processors from the likes of Intel, AMD, and NVIDIA into supercomputers, and applying their own software, I/O, and interconnect technologies. The timing of the acquisition announcement closely follows other major news from Cray: the company just landed a $600 million US Department of Energy contract to supply the Frontier supercomputer to Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2021. Frontier is one of two exascale supercomputers Cray is involved in -- the other being a subcontractor for the 2021 Aurora system -- and in fact Cray is involved in the only two exascale systems ordered by the US Government thus far. So in both a historical and modern context, Cray was and is one of the biggest players in the supercomputing market.

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17 May 16:30

Sad survey: 60% of male managers are “uncomfortable” working around women

by Melissa Locker

There’s an increase in male managers saying they are uncomfortable spending time with junior-level women. and SurveyMonkey just released the results of a survey on the state of men and women interacting in the workplace in the age of #MeToo. The results are frustrating. The data reveals that 60% of male managers say they are uncomfortable performing common workplace activities such as mentoring, working one on one, or socializing with a woman. That’s a 32% increase over last year.

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13 May 21:58

Forget the Anthropocene: We’ve Entered the Synthetic Age

by Christopher Preston

One fact about our time is becoming increasingly well-known. No matter how far you travel, no matter in which direction you point, there is nowhere on Earth that remains free from the traces of human activity. The chemical and biological signatures of our species are everywhere. Transported around the globe by fierce atmospheric winds, relentless ocean currents, and the capacious cargo-holds of millions of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, nowhere on Earth is free from humanity’s imprint. Pristine nature has permanently blinked out of existence.

These planetary changes have been characterized by geographers, geologists, and climate scientists as the end of one geological epoch, the Holocene, and the start of the next, the Anthropocene. In this newly designated ‘human age’, our species’ impact on the oceans, the land, and the atmosphere has become an inescapable feature of the earth. This idea that humanity has forced a geological transition is capturing people’s attention not just because changes in epochs are rare. It is attracting notice because our species is gripped by the idea that we possess planetary powers.

A second fact about our age is much less widely appreciated. We are changing how the planet works. It is not just that human activities have stained every corner of the planet. The simultaneous arrival of a range of powerful new technologies is starting to signal a potential takeover of Earth’s most basic operations by its most audacious species. From this time forward, technologies such as the gene-editing technique CRISPR and climate engineering will transform an already tainted planet into an increasingly synthetic whole.

This February, when the entomologist Ruth Mueller pried open a container of genetically modified mosquitoes in a high-security lab in the Italian town of Terni, she wasn’t just experimenting with a powerful new tool in biotechnology. She was implementing a change to the Mendelian laws of inheritance that govern all life on Earth.

The mosquitoes she released, each of them carrying a CRISPR-enabled ‘gene drive’ designed to spread through a group of mosquitoes, would test whether humans could successfully force a trait through the whole of a free-living population. The lab in which Mueller works has been carefully designed so that, for now, the change takes place on a limited scale and securely indoors. But gene drives can theoretically spread themselves unaided to any corner of the globe in which populations of interbreeding mosquitoes live. They change the genetic rules wherever they travel.

If the question is ‘How much does your research amend the planetary rules?’ the Mueller lab has plenty of company.

Early this summer, a research team from Harvard University will conduct the first field test of geoengineering the climate. They plan to use a high-altitude balloon to place reflective particles into the stratosphere above the arid landscapes of the US southwest. There they will examine how effectively the particles beat back incoming solar energy. Scaled up appropriately, the technology could in future be used to rewrite the planetary rules in a way that echoes the changes wrought by gene drives.

Anthropogenic climate change has already altered how heat moves through the system. As devastating as this is, up till now, climate change has never been a matter of intentional planning and design. Our species has never before attempted to calibrate what the sun will deliver. This thermal quotient has been baked into the physics of the solar system. Should a large-scale deployment of reflective particles into the stratosphere eventually happen, it will rewrite this equation in our own hand.

Technologies such as gene drives and climate engineering go a quantum leap beyond what stratigraphers were noting when they recommended renaming this epoch the Anthropocene. Accidental changes are entirely different from deliberate ones. David Keith, one of the researchers in the Harvard climate-engineering project, points out the huge difference between deliberately engineering something and simply making a mess. In the former, the sense of responsibility is much higher. Think of why murder is so much worse than manslaughter.

Unlike habitat destruction, carbon emissions, and other signatures of the Anthropocene epoch, the technologies being tested today are designed for consciously taking control of some of the key physical processes that shape our world. The bedrock laws of nature don’t disappear, of course, but they become subject to a deeper kind of manipulation. You could think of these as not simply ‘cosmetic’ changes but ‘metabolic’ ones. Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, and the conventions of atmospheric physics become subject to a delicate kind of renegotiation.

The crossing of this line represents radically new territory for both our species and for the planet. Nature itself will be shaped by processes redesigned and ‘improved’ by geneticists and engineers. We should call this transition the beginning of a ‘synthetic age’, a time in which background constants are increasingly replaced by artificial and ‘improved’ versions of themselves. This remaking of the metabolism of the earth strikes at the very core of how we understand our surroundings and our role in them.

Researchers, politicians, and people of all nations will split on the wisdom of crossing these thresholds. They are no doubt exciting prospects to some. But they are absolutely terrifying ones to others. Technologies this consequential must be subject to the fullest and most inclusive public scrutiny possible.

An Anthropocene epoch requires one kind of psychological adjustment. A synthetic age demands something considerably more.

The Synthetic Age: Outdesigning Evolution, Resurrecting Species, and Reengineering Our World by Christopher J Preston is published via The MIT Press.Aeon counter – do not remove

Christopher Preston

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

Image Credit: pattara puttiwong /

13 May 21:48

Game of Thrones castmembers laughing, smirking or gritting their teeth when asked if they like the final season

by Rob Beschizza

"Best season ever!"

I understand that the "looking up and to the right" marker for deception is a myth, but I also suspect that Peter Dinklage knows this.

Previously: Stuff Happens In Game Of Thrones

13 May 21:14

Supreme Court Deals Blow to Apple in Antitrust Case

by Issie Lapowsky
In Apple v. Pepper, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that Apple's App Store customers have standing to sue the company for antitrust violations.
13 May 20:38

Chevron's global exploration VP talks changing landscape, new challenges after first year in role

by Joshua Mann
Liz Schwarze has been Chevron's vice president of exploration for a year now. Here's what she's learned and what she says is changing about the job.
10 May 17:50

New Leventhal Exhibition: America Transformed

by Jonathan Crowe

The Leventhal Map Center’s latest exhibition, America Transformed: Mapping the 19th Century, opened last Saturday and runs until 10 November 2019.

During the 19th century, the United States expanded dramatically westward. Immigrant settlers rapidly spread across the continent and transformed it, often through violent or deceptive means, from ancestral Native lands and borderlands teeming with diverse communities to landscapes that fueled the rise of industrialized cities. Historical maps, images and related objects tell the story of the sweeping changes made to the physical, cultural, and political landscape. Moving beyond the mythologized American frontier, this map exhibition explores the complexity of factors that shaped our country over the century.

As usual, there’s a comprehensive online version, which is peppered with acknowledgements of the very white, very settler-colonialist perspective of the maps on display. Which are, of course, justified, but as far as I can see they’re asterisks and asides on an otherwise unchanged exhibit.

10 May 16:37

Climate controversy, once just polarized, now becoming weird

Controversy over climate change has gone from hopelessly polarized to altogether weird.
09 May 19:24

The Evidence Is Strong: Air Pollution Seems to Cause Dementia

by Aaron Reuben
Air pollution is much worse for health than people had thought, increasing the risk of Alzheimer's significantly. Meanwhile, air quality is getting worse.
23 Apr 20:29

Energy Companies Should Recruit Where Google Does

Energy execs believe the industry has to be more proactive in going after the talent it wants.
23 Apr 18:59

We need to stop shaming women for wanting (or not wanting) to return to work

by Emily Oster

Women are often judged for choosing to stay at home, or for choosing to return to work. This is damaging and has to stop, argues one economist.

Nothing in the Mommy Wars takes on as much weight as the choice to return to work or not. A friend of mine has a son who was asked, “What kind of mom do you have? I have a stay-at-home mom,” to which my friend’s son responded, “Oh, I have a stay-at-work mom.”

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14 Apr 14:58

How The Rise of Skywalker Can Find Balance Between Star Wars‘s Legacy and the Future.

by Kate Gardner

Rey and Kylo Ren in 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'

In the immediate Twitter aftermath of the title of the final Skywalker Saga film, The Rise of Skywalker, being released, I noticed some worries that the film would retcon The Last Jedi in some way, shape, or form. The use of Skywalker in the title, the return of classic villain Palpatine… it could seem as though director JJ Abrams is returning to the past and relying on that dreaded concept of fanservice to calm frazzled nerves after The Last Jedi.

I disagree, as much as my feelings on The Last Jedi are as conflicted as possible. After re-watching the trailer more times than was probably healthy and spending a day analyzing the title and trailer, I think this perfectly continues what both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi started. It balances between the idea of the past as something that we should honor but move beyond.

The Force Awakens was all about those legacy feelings. Kylo Ren was fixated on emulating his grandfather Anakin Skywalker; he dresses like Darth Vader, complete with a mask, and speaks to the burnt Vader helmet as he begs his grandfather to show him what to do. On the flip side, the Skywalker saber calls to Rey; “that lightsaber was Luke’s, and his father’s before him, and now it calls to you” Maz Kanata tells Rey, before reminding her gently that the belonging she seeks is not behind her, but rather ahead. The entire film is about Luke Skywalker’s legacy and why it’s of paramount importance to find him and bring him back to the Resistance.

The Last Jedi subverts those legacy ideas by challenging the idea that Rey had to come from somewhere to be important. Kylo Ren, the child of Leia Organa and the grandchild of Anakin Skywalker, is the Dark Side incarnate; Rey, the child from nowhere is his equal in the Light. Luke Skywalker talks mockingly of his own legend and how he failed, and in a deleted scene Rey screams at him about how those legends meant something to her growing up.

In one of the later scenes, Kylo tells Rey to “let the past die… to kill it if you have to.” He says they must let it all die—the Jedi, Sith, and Resistance—in order to rule the galaxy. Rey rejects this, and later helps the Resistance escape as Luke Skywalker embodies his legend one last time to make the ultimate sacrifice. He says he will not be the last Jedi, but that might not be the case.

We’ve talked about Skywalker possibly being the new term for Force users in a previous post; it’s worth noting that in tie-in novel Thrawn: Alliances, it’s revealed that the Chiss alien species refers to their Force sensitives as Skywalkers. By taking on the name Skywalker as a mantle meaning “Force user” or even “hero,” Rey is honoring Luke and his life and sacrifice while moving past the binary of Jedi and Sith as a title. This isn’t to say there won’t be good and evil, but we might be abandoning the titles of the past in favor of something new.

Luke says in the trailer. “We’ve passed on all we know. A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.” He also says “we’ll always be with you. No one’s ever really gone.” This to me is the balance between the legacy of The Force Awakens and Kylo’s line in The Last Jedi. Luke, and those who have come before, will always be with both characters and audiences, and their legacy will live on. But it’s also time for a new hero to rise, and a new generation to take charge. They cannot let the past fight their battles for them.

There is a way to tell a story about honoring the past while still learning and moving past it. The prequels was about Anakin’s inescapable destiny, and the originals about Luke and his father’s legacy. The key line in the originals is “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” The sequels, which need to close out a saga about legacies, have to find a new take that isn’t either tragedy or following in one’s father’s footsteps. Something must change, otherwise we’ll get nine more films about the Skywalkers getting into mayhem.

The Force Awakens novelization opens with a poem from the Journal of the Whills, which reads:

First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight.

The first film ends on triumph, the second has a darker ending which has a light shining through in the form of Leia’s last line and the future of the Force being represented via a child on Canto Bight. Rey has learned so much on her journey, and now has the emotional maturity and tools to resolve the grey by doing away with the ideas of the past and seeing a future that her predecessors never would have seen.

Of course, I could be wrong and Abrams could find a way to retcon everything.. However, I have hope that the way this film seems to be headed, based on what little we do know, that it will be a perfect conclusion to the sequel trilogy and will have it’s own twists without necessarily undoing anything established in a previous film. Balance seems to be key, everyone.

(image: Lucasfilm)

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11 Apr 20:13

To get to the Moon in 2024, the rocket is just NASA's first headache

In the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, Alan Campbell, a project manager for space systems at the famed Draper Laboratory that built the computer which took astronauts to the Moon 50 years ago, is waiting for news from NASA.
11 Apr 20:13

Scientist superstar Katie Bouman designed algorithm for black hole image

Anonymous to the public just days ago, a US computer scientist named Katie Bouman has become an overnight sensation due to her role in developing a computer algorithm that allowed researchers to take the world's first image of a black hole.
11 Apr 20:13

Oh, We Don’t Sell Food At This Restaurant — We Purvey Provisions

by Evan Allgood

Greetings and welcome to Victual, an old-time public house and purveyor of fine provisions that has been foisted upon you by someone who lives in the West Village. Before you ask, yes, this Gingham shirt and denim apron are sewn directly into my skin to save time.

Here is tonight’s Bill of Fare, inscribed on distressed parchment and encased in a leather book fashioned from the boots of old blacksmiths. Please note that the Bill of Fare changes every twenty minutes. (checks pocket watch, laughs) In all seriousness, our chef is quite mercurial, and the Bill of Fare does change.

Oh, you can’t discern the Bill of Fare because it’s hilariously dark in here? I’ll just light another lantern. How’s that? Almost completely imperceptible? Perfect.

May I get you begun with some hydration? Ah, already inquiring about the potables, are we! Indeed. If you turn to the Libations portion of the Bill of Fare, you will find Drams, Elixirs, Tinctures, Tonics, Concoctions, Potions, Antidotes, and of course Ambrosias. No matter what you order, it is sure to arrive in a vessel that embarrasses you.

Fine selections! Let me just jot them down with my quill. Might I also entice you with one of our Preambles? Perhaps a litter of linened piglets? Or a trio of Franco-fried Russet potatoes, dusted with maritime sodium and nestled in a pine basket repurposed from a tiny but historically significant ship? Fantastic; I’ll put that order interior and return post-haste with your libations.

Here we are: a goblet for you, sir; a decanter for this fine fellow; and for the lady, some sort of old-timey test tube in a wobbly wooden rack. All of our elixirs are absinthe-based, except of course for the port, which is port-based. Prost! Now, (folds hands) may I share with you this eve’s particulars?

We have a hamburger sandwich malingering on reclaimed hunks of cottage loaf; that’s cooked fairly uncommon. We have an artisanal-baked macaroni pasta ravaged with Camembert and humiliated with savory trimmings. And we have millet. Just a small pile of raw millet, unwinding in a clay bowl hand-blasted right here in our pottery. That’s market price, which is 49 doubloons.

Marvelous! Now, pardon the inquisition, but could I possibly coax you, like a lost fawn, in the direction of the Embellishments? Oh, “sides” is such a filthy little word, as gauche as “food” or “drink” or “hi.” (shudders) We don’t serve food; we purvey provisions. Speaking of whence, I shall now venture not-ungently into that good back area and fetch your comestibles.

Ah, you are so enamored with your rations that you would like to commend the chef! Alas, he must decline for legal reasons.

Due to a string of unseemly harassment claims, our chef is no longer permitted within fifty feet of our patrons, or even the wait staff. He actually conveyed all of your victuals tonight via a system of pulleys hand-pulled right here in our pullery. Rest assured, he will still receive a mighty portion of tonight’s profits, and every other night’s, as he is still somehow the majority owner.

So! Who left room for Confections?

11 Apr 20:10

These are the best 10 cities for women workers in America

by Christopher Zara

Wisconsin’s capital city is notable for its low unemployment rate among women workers.

Sparkly coastal metropolises like New York and San Francisco may get the lion’s share of attention from the business press, but maybe it’s time we gave Madison, Wisconsin, or Plano, Texas, a second look.

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11 Apr 20:05

reading room | Have humans ushered-in a new geological epoch?


group: World Science Foundation
story title: Have humans ushered-in a new geological epoch?
author: by Julie Rossman + Laura Dattaro
date: August 2016

— the story —

Humanity’s impact on the Earth is now so profound that a new geological epoch — called the Anthropocene — needs to be declared, according to an official expert group who presented the recommendation to the International Geological Congress.

Next time you eat on a chicken wing, pay attention to where you discard the left-over bones. You might be telling future archaeologists about a very specific moment in time — when human beings became so dominant over the planet that we began to create a new geological epoch.

This new time period of vast human influence is known as the Anthropocene, and according to a cadre of experts called the Anthropocene Working Group, that epoch has already been under way for more than 60 years.

In August 2016 the Anthropocene Working Group recommended to the International Geological Congress that geologists declare the 1950s the end of our current epoch, the Holocene — and the beginning of a new one, the Anthropocene. The Holocene began approx. 12,000 years ago, after the close of the last major ice age. While the previous epoch, the Pleistocene, lasted for nearly 1.8 million years.

The current Holocene epoch is the 12,000 years of stable climate (since the last ice age) — when all human civilization developed on Earth. But the extreme acceleration since the mid-20th century of: carbon dioxide emissions, sea level rise, changes to the natural eco-system of plant life + animal life, and the transformation of land by deforestation + development — all mark the end of that slice of geological time, the experts argue. The Earth is so profoundly changed that the Holocene epoch must give way to the Anthropocene epoch.

What is marking the Anthropocene as a new epoch? Some signals include plastic pollution, concrete, and the soot produced by power plants. But the biggest may be the radioactive elements that were released around the globe during mid-century nuclear testing — hence the 1950s delineation.

Humans also appear to have set off a major extinction event: causing species to die-off en masse across the globe, the 6th extinction in Earth’s history.

And with the creation and proliferation of the domestic chicken, now the most common bird in the world — your dinner plate could be holding the bones that will become (for future human + computer intelligences) what dinosaur skeletons are to us: evidence of a long-departed species that once ruled its planet.

on the web | pages

Anthropocene Working Group • by | home

the Anthropocene project | home

International Geological Congress | home

on the web | reading

the Guardian | The Anthropocene epoch: scientists declare dawn of human-influenced age
deck: Experts say human impact on Earth so profound that Holocene must give way to new epoch.
deck: Our new epoch defined by: nuclear tests, plastic pollution, domesticated chicken.


— notes —

IUGS = the International Union of Geological Sciences

[ story file ]

story title: reading room | Have humans ushered-in a new geological epoch?
deck: from: World Science Foundation
year: 2019
section: blog

[ end of file ]

03 Apr 20:24

Facebook Has Been Asking for Email Passwords to Verify New Accounts

by Ryan Whitwam

You would think that after all its recent privacy missteps, Facebook would exercise a little more caution when it implements new features. Alas, this is Facebook, so it's still blundering from one crisis to the next.

The post Facebook Has Been Asking for Email Passwords to Verify New Accounts appeared first on ExtremeTech.

01 Feb 17:26

The Cruelty and Danger of Anti-Choice Panic Over “Infanticide”

by Kylie Cheung

Abortion rights protest sign

Welcome to The Week in Reproductive Justice, a weekly recap of all news related to the hot-button issue of what lawmakers are allowing women to do with their bodies!

This week was a particularly emotional one for reproductive justice advocates, as a proposed Virginia law meant to fully protect the rights and safety of people who have abortions later into their pregnancies led to an onslaught of hateful and deceitful rhetoric from anti-choice politicians and leaders, who have taken to calling later abortions “infanticide” and “murder.”

Democratic Virginia state Delegate Kathy Tran introduced H.B. 2491, a bill to codify the right to third trimester and later abortions in extreme health circumstances. Of course, this right is already delineated in Roe v. Wade, and has saved untold numbers of women’s lives, and spared many others the devastation and trauma of being forced to go through the entire process of giving birth, only to watch their baby suffer and die due to severe health conditions.

As many advocates and medical professionals have pointed out, several tests to discover severe fetal abnormalities aren’t even possible until around 20 weeks of pregnancy, necessitating full protections for access to abortion care at later stages. About 90 percent of abortions take place in the first trimester of pregnancy, and bans on abortion at later stages are aimed to solve a “problem” that doesn’t exist. The only thing such bans accomplish is hurting women when unfortunate and often dangerous circumstances arise in their pregnancies.

But for all the misinformed, deeply ugly conservative outrage at Tran’s bill and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s declared support for it, all their reasoning is just an excuse, and conservatives loathe abortions earlier in the pregnancy just as much. Opposition to later abortions isn’t somehow a sensible, middle-ground stance—not from the same people who support fetal heartbeat bans that effectively ban all abortions, and not from the same people who want you to think a pregnant person’s personal health care decision is somehow equatable to committing murder.

It seems it can’t be stated enough these days, but women and pregnant people are human beings with the human right to autonomy, safety, and privacy in their bodies; “personhood” is inextricably bound to bodily autonomy, and cannot be conferred upon unborn fetuses without first taking it away from a pregnant person.

Backlash against Tran’s bill has drawn medical professionals, advocates, and people who have had abortions to speak up in support of the bill, and reject the lies and misogyny its opponents rely on for their messaging.

“There are many reasons why patients have abortions after 20 weeks; complications happen as the pregnancy progresses, my patient’s health is impacted, and we perform tests to make sure the fetus is healthy. This is why this decision is made based on medical advice, not politics,” OB/GYN and abortion provider Dr. Daniel Grossman wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “Additionally, I see patients who need abortions after 20 weeks because the restrictions to abortion made it difficult for them to get care earlier. Everything from medically unnecessary waiting periods and ultrasound laws to shuttering of clinics and insurance bans create delays.”

There are many reasons why patients have abortions after 20 weeks; complications happen as the pregnancy progresses, my patient’s health is impacted, and we perform tests to make sure the fetus is healthy. This is why this decision is made based on medical advice, not politics.

— Dr. Daniel Grossman (@DrDGrossman) January 31, 2019

Dr. Grossman additionally broke down how other countries’ restrictions on later abortions tend to differ from the U.S., as other industrialized countries offer widely accessible and often publicly funded abortion care. Additionally, permitting pregnant people to safely access later abortion hardly makes the U.S. “extreme,” as abortion opponents want you to think: 65 countries permit later abortions for fetal and health anomalies.

The anti-choice movement’s reliance on spreading lies that invoke emotion and outrage is hardly new. This is the entire basis of the movement, offering a foundation for all its cruelty and contradictions. Speaking of contradictions, reproductive justice writer and activist Renee Bracey Sherman summed up the core of the anti-choice movement’s hypocrisy on Wednesday: “It’s irritating seeing conservatives up in arms about hypothetical abortion situations and willfully misunderstanding abortion, yet they were silent when two children died in ICE’s custody and as a pregnant folks miscarry in jails across the country due to lack of healthcare,” she wrote.

It’s so irritating seeing conservatives up in arms about hypothetical abortion situations and willfully misunderstanding abortion, yet they were silent when two children died in ICE’s custody and as a pregnant folks miscarry in jails across the country due to lack of healthcare.

— Renee Bracey Sherman (@RBraceySherman) January 31, 2019

Plenty more advocates, women, and people who have had abortions have also spoken out, and it’s their voices we should be listening to over the vitriolic, ignorant panic spewing from anti-choice writers and leaders.

Some have pointed out how access to abortion as an option, and certainly access to later abortion in more complicated circumstances, is fundamental to healthy family life, and women’s full access to public life.

“’If your mother had had an abortion, you wouldn’t exist.’ The best answer I’ve heard to that: ‘Actually, it’s because my mother had an abortion that I do exist,’” feminist writer Jill Filipovic wrote in a tweet. “Reproductive choice means women have options. It enables us to escape abuse, build healthy families, build our lives.”

Guardian writer Moira Donegan responded to a Twitter user who argued pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant should face the “consequences” for their actions by pointing out how this frequent anti-choice talking point belies yet another hypocrisy: “Something I’ve noticed from the anti-choice brigade: depending on the context, pregnancy and parenthood are either unparalleled, beautiful miracles that women shouldn’t give up, or grueling and terrible punishments that women deserve to endure for having sex,” she said.

In a bitter twist of irony, Virginia’s H.B. 2491 has arguably never been more necessary. With Roe v. Wade and its full protections on the line in today’s judicial landscape, it’s incumbent on states to codify these protections into their laws. The horrifying depth of backlash against this bill should hardly be surprising from an anti-choice movement that routinely relies on lies, and even violence and scare tactics, to get its ugly point across.

Yet, pushback against HB 2491 and Delegate Kathy Tran feels even more abrasive than usual. The conservative fight against HB 2491 is rooted in the demonization and dehumanization of women and pregnant people, so we see them not as human beings with a wide range of experiences, circumstances, and needs, but as murderers. Language like this often yields alarming consequences—and needless to say, but if self-proclaimed pro-lifers actually cared about life and safety, they’d take a long hard look at what their words may incite.

A case that could dismantle abortion rights goes to SCOTUS

This week, lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights filed an emergency motion asking the Supreme Court to block legislation in Louisiana that would dismantle abortion rights. The legislation in question imposes medically unnecessary, difficult requirements on abortion clinics, and shuts down clinics that can’t meet these requirements. It could go into effect early as this Monday pending action from the Supreme Court, although there are some concerns about what it could mean if the Supreme Court upholds the law.

The Louisiana law would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, which is simply unnecessary considering how objectively rare it is for abortion to result in complications necessitating an emergency hospital visit. In other words, the law is all about stigma and shutting down clinics, and is transparently ideologically motivated, as it has the potential to shut down the last remaining clinics in Louisiana, and force nearly all Louisiana women to travel out-of-state for basic health care.

In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled on a similar law in Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, determining that such laws created an undue burden for women seeking abortion care because of their large-scale effect of shutting down clinics. With a similar law now before them, advocates are now concerned the Whole Women’s Health decision could essentially be reversed, threatening to shutter access to abortion, and render abortion a right in theory only.

Idaho lawmakers introduce legislation to make abortion murder

Two Idaho state lawmakers have introduced the Abortion Human Rights Act this week, a bill that would mandate that anyone who receives or provides abortions would be charged with murder. The Idaho state murder statute already recognizes the killing of a human embryo or fetus, but notably prohibits prosecuting women who have abortions or abortion providers, which makes it seem more likely the statute is meant to protect pregnant women from violence. However, the proposed bill would remove this key exception from the statute.

The bill mirrors similar, increasingly common legislation to sweepingly ban abortion via fetal heartbeat bans. Regardless of the constitutionality of such laws, they serve to reinforce and build upon abortion stigma, or potentially launch court battles that could make it to the Supreme Court and either dismantle or do away with Roe v. Wade altogether.

It should, at this point, go without saying, but these are dangerous times for women and pregnant people. The Trump administration has emboldened extremists and ushered in an era of normalized attacks on our most fundamental human rights. It’s never been more important to listen to the voices of medical experts, concerned reproductive justice advocates, and certainly, more than anything, people who have actually had abortions and deserve to be included in every single conversation that takes place about what we can and can’t do with our bodies.

Tune in next week to see what lawmakers will try next in their never-ending mission to derail reproductive justice!

(image: Rena Schild /

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23 Jan 21:34

Welcome to the Dystopia: Amazon Unveils Scout Delivery Robots

by Ryan Whitwam

We've all heard about Prime Air, the drone delivery program currently hamstrung by US restrictions on commercial drones. However, the company just rolled out a new ground-based robotic delivery service in one community north of Seattle. It's called Amazon Scout.

The post Welcome to the Dystopia: Amazon Unveils Scout Delivery Robots appeared first on ExtremeTech.

23 Jan 21:32

'I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.'

by msmash
Kashmir Hill, a reporter at Gizmodo, spent weeks trying to avoid and block Amazon -- and every service that is owned by Amazon or uses Amazon's web services (AWS). She went to great lengths such as getting her own custom-built VPN. Turns out, it is impossible to keep Amazon off your life. An excerpt from the report: Launched in 2006, AWS has taken over vast swaths of the internet. My VPN winds up blocking over 23 million IP addresses controlled by Amazon, resulting in various unexpected casualties, from Motherboard and Fortune to the U.S. Government Accountability Office's website. (Government agencies love AWS, which is likely why Amazon, soon to be a corporate Cerberus with three "headquarters," chose Arlington, Virginia, in the D.C. suburbs, as one of them.) Many of the smartphone apps I rely on also stop working during the block.

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23 Jan 21:32

'Bobs Burgers' embroidery portraits of every Belcher family character

by Xeni Jardin

'Bobs Burgers' fans and stitching crafters, get ready to flip out.

“I made the entire Belcher family into embroidery hoops,” says IMGURian loveandasandwich, aka Chelsea Bloxsom.

“All done on 8 inch embroidery hoops. Cotton fabric backing, felt details. I glued the excess fabric onto the back so they make great personalized wall art.”

Here they are, and they're magnificent.

“Yes I take custom orders and yes I sell my little guys!” Here is her Instagram.

She's also behind Warewolf press on Etsy.

23 Jan 21:31

The Deep Ties Between the Catholic Anti-Abortion Movement and Racial Segregation

by Gillian Frank

The video of MAGA hat-wearing Covington Catholic High School students, who were in Washington DC for the March for Life, in a tense standoff with Black Israelites and a Native American contingent from the Indigenous People’s March, has become hotly debated national news.


23 Jan 21:31

The World of the Book: Talking with Elizabeth McCracken

by Alana Mohamed

The story of candlepin bowling is one of secrets, spooks, and love according to novelist Elizabeth McCracken in her forthcoming novel, Bowlaway, out February 5 from Ecco. When Bertha Truitt is found abandoned in a cemetery in Salford, Massachusetts, no one has any idea what to make of her. Not Joe Wear, the watchman hiding in plain sight. Not Leviticus Sprague, the refined doctor whose race makes him an anomaly in Salford. And certainly not the townsfolk, who dream discomfiting dreams of Bertha. Nevertheless, she integrates herself into the town, opening a candlepin bowling alley and proclaiming herself its inventor. Her mysterious appearance will haunt several generations of Truitts as the bowling alley passes hands from the early 1910s and nearly through the century.

In McCracken’s hands this sprawling timeline shrinks and bites, with poetic lines that dissect warring human emotions with precision and delicacy. Take, for example, McCracken on being falsely accused: “The way falseness made you doubt yourself, it deformed your very shadow, the grammar of your soul.” It’s delightful to watch McCracken play with time, incorporating real events into the lives of her characters, like the deadly Great Molasses Flood that brought Boston to a stop in 1919. These tricks of time help us to follow a family whose fate in inextricably linked to New England’s most New England sport—candlepin bowling.

Recently, we discussed


The Rumpus: At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I wanted to ask you about incorporating the Great Molasses Flood into the novel. It’s a personal fascination of mine. Could you talk about why you included that in there and why that was so important to you?

Elizabeth McCracken: I’m from the Boston area. There are a lot of little things in the book that are inspired by my great love of books like The Book of Lists and The People’s Almanac. I can’t remember whether that’s the first place I read about it, but I also remember hearing about it when I was growing up in Boston. For years, I’ve had a photograph of the aftermath that my friend gave me. It’s one of those things that I’ve put into things and had to take out because it had nothing to do with anything, which is unfortunately part of my process. I was delighted to suddenly discover that I was writing a book where it made sense to put it in. Henry Dunow—who is my agent and a dear friend—when he read it, he thought I had made it up. He wondered if I had made up that and candlepin bowling, because he’s not a New Englander. In those cases I was delighted that somebody could think that I had made up such things, and then was almost even disappointed that I had not.

Rumpus: I started with the Great Molasses Flood because I’m curious how you create this world that’s fictional and a little whimsical, but still incorporate all these historical details. Do you feel beholden to the history attached to some of these things?

McCracken: I definitely did for the Great Molasses Flood. I’m one of those people who have to go back and realize that my characters have aged twenty years, but only ten years have passed. But somebody came up to me and said, “This molasses flood, does it have to happen in 1919?” and I said, “Yes! Absolutely, that is not something I’m willing to fudge.” I read a great book on the Molasses Flood called Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo, who describes where the various aid stations and mortuaries were located. It was important to me that I got that right.

One of the reasons I’ve always been interested in it, besides the fact that it’s strange, is that in the Boston area, it has attendant myths to it. It was said that in the 1960s on hot days, you could smell molasses because it was just so caught in the bricks and the cobblestone of downtown Boston. And that also on horse hooves and carriage wheels, the stickiness was carried as far as Worcester. I just love those details that seem sort of natural, but almost immediately felt legendary.

Rumpus: This book is such a New England type of novel. I was wondering about the research you had to do for this novel because it spans so many decades.

McCracken: Part of it is that I am a New Englander and I feel very New England-ish. I now live in Texas, which makes me feel like even more of a New Englander than I ever have before in my life. Originally I thought of setting the book in Somerville, Massachusetts, which is where I lived for about nine years, and I felt very constrained by history. I kept thinking, “Would this be possible in Somerville at this time?” The minute I decided to make it an imaginary city, I felt much freer. I wrote a book that was about vaudeville and the movies, and then I was really obsessed with getting everything right, because it happened all in actual places. With this book, I can’t remember how long I tried to make it an actual place, I just remember the thrill of making it imaginary.

Rumpus: There’s a point in the book when the narrator says of Bertha that she’s “the oddest combination of the past and the present that anyone had ever met.” This seems to apply to the book as well because you have characters like Dr. Sprague and Joe Wear, where you have to walk this line of balancing these older attitudes against a contemporary readership with newer ideas. Was that a challenge for you at all? 

McCracken: I don’t think so, only because I don’t think I thought of it as I was writing. There’s a huge amount that when I’m writing that happens on a subconscious level. I try to, as much as I can, plunge into the world of the book. There’s a lot of stuff that ends up coming out in the book that I didn’t—I mean, I did put it there purposefully in some way—but it wasn’t sort of an intellectual exercise to get it in.

Rumpus: Are you really regimented; do you keep notes in a notebook that you return to, or does it happen more loosely?

McCracken: For this book, the process went differently than any other thing I’d written. I worked really long hours when I was able to, and I also wrote this faster than any novel I’d written before. I wrote the first draft relatively quickly and then I kept revising it. To me, that helped with being able to access the subconscious. When I say draft, I mean I typed it over and then if there was a part of the book that wasn’t working, I would type that part over and over, so that revision process felt like writing.

Part of it is that I knew less about what was going to happen in this book when I started writing it than almost any other novel I’ve ever written. I simply started writing it and then figured things out as I was going along. So, the first draft ended up being sort of the plan for it. There are some things that are the same, but there were more characters initially, and the ending was different and really quite bad. I wince to think of the corny thing I did at the end of the first draft.

Rumpus: I read that you liked titles and titling chapters and such so I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about settling on the title for this book.

McCracken: It was one of those things where I came up with the title, and then I had to go back and change the name of the bowling alley. Originally, [the alley] was just called Truitt’s all the way through. Because this is a book that has been so overstuffed with stuff, that I imagined it was going to have a wordy title, but none of the ones that I came up with were any good. I liked the idea that [Bowlaway] sort of explained the setting of the story from the beginning. But I also like the fact that it’s a weirdly dreamy name, and that there are bowling alleys called “Bowlaway” across the country.

Rumpus: I didn’t know that!

McCracken: For a while, I went to Amazon to see when the book would be up, but the thing that was for sale was a vintage match book for a bowling alley called The Bowlaway that would come up instead, which I found very pleasing.

Rumpus: What, initially, kind of sparked your interest in bowling and why did you think it would be a good vehicle for this story?

McCracken: Often I like having a bit of material to wrap a novel around. Part of it is to do research and part of it is to have an anchor, so I knew I wanted to do that. I love reading both giant, multigenerational sagas and novels that don’t have that, but I feel like I could wander for a long time—forever—in a draft if I didn’t have some sort of bit of material at the heart of the book. Also, I always like having a one-sentence answer when somebody says, “So what’s your novel about?”

I bowled as a kid, and I knew that I wanted to write a very New England novel. It really feels like there is little that is as New England as candlepin, especially because people still play candlepin bowling in Massachusetts. I like the idea of writing something that regional.

Rumpus: It seems like your revision process is quite demanding, so I’m wondering how you decide what actually needs to be there. Are there ever any tensions that arise between you and your editor where you have to fight for something to be included?

McCracken: Historically, I have. But this book, I haven’t, partly because I’m less precious—or maybe I’m better at leaving things out? I can’t say. When my work does something strange that I can’t quite intellectually justify, I try to trust it anyhow. There are things that might be hard for me to explain why they seem essential to the book, but I feel that they are. There was a lot originally—and maybe there one or two sentences residually left—in which Dr. Sprague was a very prolific painter. There was going to be a giant retrospective of his work at the end of the book, and I understood why I was taken with the idea, but that it didn’t have anything to do with what happens in the book. Part of it was that I enjoyed describing a bunch of different paintings, but I also really loved the idea of—and maybe one day I’ll write about it—every now and then you’ll hear about a large collection of a previously unknown painter. I really liked the idea of writing about that. I think I read a newspaper article about such an artist while I was working on the book and I thought, “That’s great! I’ll cram that in!” But I knew after I had already written it that I could neither intellectually nor emotionally justify keeping it in there.

Rumpus: You mention that idea of an artist retrospective for a later novel, but I was wondering how you keep these tidbits straight about these historical stories and weird myths.

McCracken: I’m one of those writers who has many, many notebooks with the first three pages are full and then I forget about them. I mostly take notes when I’m working on something continually, but a lot of the stuff just cycles back in my brain. Like I said, I had wanted to write about spontaneous combustion and the Great Molasses Flood for years now. I had wanted to write about fire, in general. I guess I’m a literary pyromaniac. I like writing about this stuff even if it has nothing to do with the book and I finally got it in a little bit in this book.

Rumpus: I’m wondering what the impetus is for putting all these very real, but very strange situations into your fiction. It doesn’t feel like you’re inserting it into the story as an aside, but that you’re incorporating them into your world.

McCracken: [Laughs] Why do I insist on doing that? Is that the question?

Rumpus: I suppose!

McCracken: Part of me has always felt that real life is intensely weird and much weirder than people sometimes give it credit for. I’ve always been interested in that both in fiction and nonfiction. I went to graduate school in the late ‘80s at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and even though my friends didn’t write basic things that you would think of when you use the words “minimalism” or “realism,” one of the models of what we passed around to each other was domestic minimalism, amazing stuff. I love Raymond Carver’s work, for instance. But I remember even then thinking that realism seemed to me to be a spectrum and not one thing, though when people used the word realism, they were usually attaching it to a writer like Carver or Updike. I think the late ‘80s were a time where there was an idea—not to the people I went to school with and certainly not to many of my teachers—but, this notion that a story looked a certain way and any way that you stepped away from that was like a deviation in a weird way. And I’ve always been interested in deviation and deviance, so…

Rumpus: I do like what you’re saying about realism being a spectrum because there is something very real about your work, but it also feels really whimsical and young, like it’s approaching reality with fresher eyes. Do you ever feel other people influencing in your work or other trends in your work, where you have to take a step back and kind of re-attune yourself to that type of approach to realism?

McCracken: Like anybody, I’m a writer of my time. I love it when people say, “Who are you influenced by?” and you get this chance to mention other writers that you love. But actually, nobody really knows what they’re influenced by and how strange things make their way into your work. I think there are very few writers who are not influenced by everything they read and ingest, whether it’s the highest-minded art or the ads you read on the subway.

Rumpus: Who did you envision the narrator to be?

McCracken: So, I never think of a third-person narrator as a who, but always as a what. When I was in a philosophy class as an undergrad at Boston University, the teacher once referred to God as a “gaseous invertebrate” and I think of my third-person narrator as being a gaseous invertebrate. My students can tell you that I sometimes get quite exercised when people talk about third-person narrators as though they are people, in terms of what the third-person narrator knows or feels. They can go places, they can see things, but I don’t think of them as believing things in the way that human beings do.

Rumpus: There’s something weirdly creepy about the entire novel. You talk about this, all these bits of fascination, but were there any other characters you had a lot of affection for? Or were there any you found more difficult to write?

McCracken: I have a lot of affection for Joe Wear, who was really a quite minor character in early drafts. I ended up putting a lot more of him into the book. And I mean, I like ‘em all. The character who I had the hardest time writing was probably Minna. That was partially because in early drafts of the book a lot more happened away from the bowling alley, but I realized that the book didn’t work when it was away from the bowling alley. The whole thing that I knew about Minna was that she wanted nothing to do with the bowling alley. She felt quite elusive to me because I needed to get her back to the bowling alley at least once and she didn’t want to go.

Rumpus: I’m going to attempt a last question, which is kind of like that “who inspires you” question, but more specifically, do you have any suggested reading or supplementary materials one might think of as accompanying this book? This is a very selfish question on my part.

McCracken: I feel like I have often tried to write something that has the feel of those black and white cartoons from the 1930s by the Fleischers like Betty Boop but also related and I feel like this book is the closest I’ve gotten to that. Something that’s both dark and jolly and kind of scary at the same time.

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23 Jan 21:29

The Sensible Math of Knocking Over Absurdly Large Dominoes

by Rhett Allain
Using a small domino to topple a taller one, you could in theory take down a domino the size of a skyscraper. Here's how it would work.
23 Jan 21:27

Why Free Software Evangelist Richard Stallman is Haunted by Stalin's Dream

by msmash
Richard Stallman recently visited Mandya, a small town about 60 miles from Bengaluru, India, to give a talk. On the sidelines, Indian news outlet FactorDaily caught up with Stallman for an interview. In the wide-ranging interview, Stallman talked about companies that spy on users, popular Android apps, media streaming and transportation apps, smart devices, DRM, software backdoors, subscription software, and Apple and censorship. An excerpt from the interview: If you are carrying a mobile phone, it is always tracking your movements and it could have been modified to listen to the conversations around you. I call this product Stalin's dream. What would Stalin have wanted to hand out to every inhabitant of the former Soviet Union? Something to track that person's movements and listen to the person's conservations. Fortunately, Stalin could not do it because the technology didn't exist. Unfortunately for us, now it does exist and most people have been pressured or lured into carrying around such a Stalin's dream device, but not me. I am suspicious of new digital technology. I expect it to have new malicious functionalities. It has happened so many times that I have learned to expect this, so I have always checked before I start using some new digital technology. I asked to find out what is nasty about it and I found out these two things. It was something like 20 years ago, and I decided it was my duty as a citizen to refuse, regardless of whatever convenience it might offer me. To surrender my freedom in this way was failing to defend a free society. This is why I do not have a portable phone. I refuse to carry a portable phone. I never have one and unless things change, I never will. I do use portable phones, lots of different ones. If I needed to call someone right now, I would ask one of you, "Could you please make a call for me?" If I am on a bus and it is late and I need to tell somebody that I am going to arrive late, there is always some other passenger in the bus who will make a call for me or send a text for me. Practically speaking, it is not that hard.

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23 Jan 21:18

World Bank defection helps highlight appeal of green financing

Closed-end funds raised for renewable energy hit an all-time high of $42.3bn in 2018