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FEBRUARY 11, 2013
POPE’S DECISION TO COME OUT OF RETIREMENT STIRS CONTROVERSY
POSTED BY ANDY BOROWITZ
VATICAN (The Borowitz Report)—Pope Benedict XVI stunned the world for the second time in twenty-four hours today by announcing his decision to come out of retirement.
“I thought I was getting too old for this,” the Pope explained via his Twitter account, “but I’ve still got plenty left in the tank.”
The Pope’s abrupt unretirement left many fans wondering if his original decision was little more than a publicity stunt, but according to one Vatican source, “The situation was a lot more complicated than people know.”
“The Vatican doesn’t make resigning your job as Pope an easy thing to do,” the source said. “In his exit interview, they told him he would have to agree not to sign with another organized religion for three years. Plus, he was going to have to give his 1.5 million Twitter followers back to the Church. The Twitter thing was the deal-breaker.”
For his part, the newly unretired Pope took to his Twitter feed to announce his return in a nonchalant way: “So it turns out I’m not infallible. #FTW.”
- Pope Benedict XVI to resign: Top 10 tweets (metro.co.uk)
- Catholics worldwide react to resignation of Pope Benedict XVI (cbc.ca)
- Pope Benedict XVI to Resign on February 28 (mashable.com)
- The Pope resigns. Where are the tweets? (bizjournals.com)
- Pope Benedict XVI to Resign Due to Health Concerns (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- Pope Benedict XVI Resigns His Position, Citing Frailty And Age As Reason (fastcompany.com)
- CNN Uses Resignation News to Trash Pope, Catholic Church (breitbart.com)
- Could the man to replace Pope Benedict XVI be Canadian? (macleans.ca)
- Vatican Says Pope Resigning on Feb. 28 (world.time.com)
- The pope resigns, Twitter reacts (salon.com)
Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China
By KEITH BRADSHER and CHARLES DUHIGG
CHENGDU, China — One day last summer, Pu Xiaolan was halfway through a shift inspecting iPad cases when she received a beige wooden chair with white stripes and a high, sturdy back.
Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times
At first, Ms. Pu wondered if someone had made a mistake. But when her bosses walked by, they just nodded curtly. So Ms. Pu gently sat down and leaned back. Her body relaxed.
The rumors were true.
When Ms. Pu was hired at this Foxconn plant a year earlier, she received a short, green plastic stool that left her unsupported back so sore that she could barely sleep at night. Eventually, she was promoted to a wooden chair, but the backrest was much too small to lean against. The managers of this 164,000-employee factory, she surmised, believed that comfort encouraged sloth.
But in March, unbeknown to Ms. Pu, a critical meeting had occurred between Foxconn’s top executives and a high-ranking Apple official. The companies had committed themselves to a series of wide-ranging reforms. Foxconn, China’s largest private employer, pledged to sharply curtail workers’ hours and significantly increase wages — reforms that, if fully carried out next year as planned, could create a ripple effect that benefits tens of millions of workers across the electronics industry, employment experts say.
Other reforms were more personal. Protective foam sprouted on low stairwell ceilings inside factories. Automatic shut-off devices appeared on whirring machines. Ms. Pu got her chair. This autumn, she even heard that some workers had received cushioned seats.
The changes also extend to California, where Apple is based. Apple, the electronics industry’s behemoth, in the last year has tripled its corporate social responsibility staff, has re-evaluated how it works with manufacturers, has asked competitors to help curb excessive overtime in China and has reached out to advocacy groups it once rebuffed.
Executives at companies like Hewlett-Packard and Intel say those shifts have convinced many electronics companies that they must also overhaul how they interact with foreign plants and workers — often at a cost to their bottom lines, though, analysts say, probably not so much as to affect consumer prices. As Apple and Foxconn became fodder for “Saturday Night Live” and questions during presidential debates, device designers and manufacturers concluded the industry’s reputation was at risk.
“The days of easy globalization are done,” said an Apple executive who, like many people interviewed for this article, requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. “We know that we have to get into the muck now.”
Even with these reforms, chronic problems remain. Many laborers still work illegal overtime and some employees’ safety remains at risk, according to interviews and reports published by advocacy organizations.
But the shifts under way in China may prove as transformative to global manufacturing as the iPhone was to consumer technology, say officials at over a dozen electronics companies, worker advocates and even longtime factory critics.
“This is on the front burner for everyone now,” said Gary Niekerk, a director of corporate social responsibility at Intel, which manufactures semiconductors in China. No one inside Intel “wants to end up in a factory that treats people badly, that ends up on the front page.”
The durability of many transformations, however, depends on where Apple, Foxconn and overseas workers go from here. Interviews with more than 70 Foxconn employees in multiple cities indicate a shift among the people on iPad and iPhone assembly lines. The once-anonymous millions assembling the world’s devices are drawing lessons from the changes occurring around them.
As summer turned to autumn and then winter, Ms. Pu began to sign up for Foxconn’s newly offered courses in knitting and sketching. At 25 and unmarried, she already felt old. But she decided that she should view her high-backed chair as a sign. China’s migrant workers are, in a sense, the nation’s boldest risk-takers, transforming entire industries by leaving their villages for far-off factories to power a manufacturing engine that spans the globe.
Ms. Pu had always felt brave, and as this year progressed and conditions inside her factory improved, she became convinced that a better life was within reach. Her parents had told her that she was free to choose any husband, as long as he was from Sichuan. Then she found someone who seemed ideal, except that he came from another province.
Reclining in her new seat, she decided to ignore her family’s demands, she said. The couple are seeing each other.
“There was a change this year,” she said. “I’m realizing my value.”
An Inspector’s Push
“This is a disgrace!” shouted Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer and Apple’s most important industrial partner.
It was March of this year and Mr. Gou — seen by activists as a longtime obstacle to improving conditions inside his factories — was meeting with his top deputies in Shenzhen, China. In 2011, The New York Times began sending Apple and Foxconn extensive questions about working conditions in factories manufacturing Apple products.The resulting articles in late January detailed problems ranging from excessive overtime and under-age workers to sometimes deadly hazards, such as workers’ using a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens at another manufacturer, and an explosion in Ms. Pu’s Foxconn plant that killed four workers.
In January, Apple publicly released the names of many of its suppliers for the first time. Additionally, the company made the unusual move of joining the Fair Labor Association, one of the largest workplace monitoring groups. Auditors from that association were soon inspecting Apple’s partners in China, starting with Foxconn.
Now, Mr. Gou was learning the results of those examinations. Foxconn was still failing to stop illegal overtime, the association’s lead inspector told Mr. Gou and his lieutenants, according to multiple people with knowledge of the meeting. The company was failing to keep student interns off night shifts. Foxconn had not put sufficient safety policies into practice and had exposed potentially hundreds of thousands of workers to at least 43 violations of Chinese laws and regulations.
“The world is watching!” Mr. Gou yelled, according to multiple people. “We are going to fix this, right here!”
But the inspector was not done.
He turned to the only Apple executive in the room, the senior vice president for operations, Jeff Williams. Apple needed to change as well, the inspector said. Apple, to its credit, had been working for years to improve conditions in overseas factories, but the company was treating such problems too much like engineering puzzles, the inspector said.
“Long-term solutions require a messier, more human approach,” that inspector, Auret van Heerden of the Fair Labor Association, told Mr. Williams. Instead of concentrating on writing more policies, Apple needed to listen better to workers’ complaints and advocacy groups’ recommendations.
Some of those suggestions surprised Mr. Williams, say people who worked with him. Since 2007, Apple had built one of the most extensive auditing programs in the electronics industry, inspecting over 800 facilities. It was a point of pride for both Mr. Williams and the company’s top leadership.
When Mr. Williams, who declined to comment for this article, returned from that March meeting to California, changes began. Among them, say people with firsthand knowledge, was the hiring of roughly 30 professionals into Apple’s social responsibility unit in the last year, which tripled the size of that division and brought high-profile corporate activists into the company. Two widely respected former Apple executives — Jacky Haynes and Bob Bainbridge — were recruited back to help lead the unit, reporting ultimately to Mr. Williams and the chief executive, Timothy D. Cook.
“Everyone knows Bob and Jacky,” said a former Apple executive. “It sends a message that Jeff and Tim expect everyone to get on board.”
Moreover, the company has reached out to advocates it once rebuffed. In late April, Apple allowed the first in a series of pollution audits by Ma Jun, a Chinese environmental advocate who works closely with dozens of other multinationals but whom Apple had refused to speak with until last year, according to Mr. Ma. In September, the company joined the Sustainable Trade Initiative, an advocacy group based in the Netherlands.
“They know now if they don’t participate, it is the same as saying nothing,” Mr. Ma said.
Foxconn has also shifted. After the meeting with the Fair Labor Association, Foxconn announced that by July 2013, no employee would be allowed to work more than an average of 49 hours a week — the limit set by Chinese law. Previously, some Foxconn employees worked schedules that approached 100 hours a week. No other major manufacturer has pledged to abide by China’s work-hour laws in such a public manner. Foxconn, which is based in Taiwan, also promised to increase wages, so employees’ total pay would not decline despite fewer hours — the equivalent of a 50 percent raise for many workers, analysts say.
With 1.4 million employees in China — the most of any private company — Foxconn is setting a bar that all manufacturers will be judged against, say executives at other companies.
“When the largest company raises wages and cuts hours, it forces every other factory to do the same thing whether they want to or not,” said Tony Prophet, a senior vice president at Hewlett-Packard. “A firestorm has started, and these companies are in the glare now. They have to improve to compete. It’s a huge change from just 18 months ago.”
Foxconn, in a statement, said that it was “committed to ensuring that we provide a safe and healthy working environment for all our employees,” and that the company had regularly increased wages over the last three years.
Secrecy and Transparency
Despite those reforms, however, worker advocates inside Apple and with outside groups say the electronics industry’s problems will not genuinely diminish until Apple — the world’s most valuable company — starts filling a public leadership role similar to that of companies in other industries with overseas problems, like Nike in footwear manufacturing and Patagonia in apparel.
Such public leadership and transparency can run counter to a culture of secrecy that pervades Apple. Employees often don’t know what their lunch companions or next-door office mates are working on. This secrecy has helped Apple stay ahead of competitors, but has been a problem when it spills into the broader corporate culture, say past executives.
“It’s remarkable how the paranoia in Silicon Valley prevents companies from cooperating, even on something like corporate social responsibility,” said Mr. van Heerden of the Fair Labor Association, who added that his work with Apple, Foxconn and other companies was confidential.
While Apple is the only electronics company to join Mr. van Heerden’s monitoring group, it has not opened up in some other ways. Apple has declined to release audit reports on the hundreds of facilities the company has inspected. After two factory explosions last year, Apple did not share investigative reports with other companies so they might avoid similar accidents. Apple does not, in general, publicly identify terminated suppliers or factories that have violated Apple’s supplier code of conduct.
Moreover, Apple’s growing team of safety and corporate responsibility experts are typically prohibited from sharing their findings at conferences, in academic journals or other forums where their insights could be absorbed by other companies, according to former members of that team.
“Apple is scared that if we open the kimono too wide, it will ruin what has made Apple special,” said one former company official. “But that’s the only way to really improve things. If you don’t share what you know, then no one else gets a chance to learn from your mistakes and discoveries.”
Apple declined requests for interviews. In a statement, it said the company embraced its “unique position to lead” and had taken working conditions very seriously for a long time. “No one in our industry is doing as much as we are, in as many places, touching as many people as we do. Through years of hard work and steadfast commitment, we have set workplace, dormitory and safety standards, sought help from the world’s leading experts, and established groundbreaking educational programs for workers.”
“We have been upfront about the challenges we face and are attacking issues aggressively,” the statement continues. “We believe deeply in transparency and have demonstrated this through reporting our shortcomings and exposing violations.”
At a conference in May, Mr. Cook, the chief executive, said that the company was “going to double down on secrecy on products.”
He added, however, that “there’s going to be other things that we do that we’re going to be the most transparent company in the world on. Like social change. Supplier responsibility. On what we’re doing for the environment. We’re going to be the most transparent, because we think that transparency is so important in these areas, and that if we are, other people will copy what we’re doing.”
This year, Apple began publishing monthly summaries of suppliers’ compliance with overtime standards. In October, Apple hosted other technology companies for a private discussion on responses to excessive work hours overseas. While Apple’s annual supplier responsibility reports do not contain details on specific factories, they are still among the most thorough in the electronics business.
But Apple has not sought the high-profile leadership opportunities that have set off transformations in other industries. Nike, for instance, has convened public meetings of labor, human rights, environmental and business leaders to discuss how to improve overseas factories. The clothing retailer Gap Inc. has invited outside organizations to critique its purchasing practices and publish their findings. Patagonia shares its factory audits with competitors and has been a vocal supporter of a centralized audit report clearinghouse that lets companies share information.
“That’s the standard Apple has to meet,” said a former Apple executive. “That’s how a leader transforms an industry.”
A More Human Touch
Almost 200 miles southeast of the factory where Ms. Pu received her new chair is another plant that is experimenting with improving workers’ quality of life — and shows the trade-offs of such gains.
The factory, in Chongqing, makes computers for Hewlett-Packard, a company with little of Apple’s glamour. It is operated by Quanta, a little-known Taiwanese manufacturer.
Inside the plant, amid thousands of workers in bright white uniforms, are occasional flashes of pink worn by people like Zhang Xuemei, a bubbly 19-year-old with glinting earrings whose sole job is to chat with co-workers.
For eight hours a day, Ms. Zhang collects complaints about the factory’s free meals and dorms. She listens to workers who are divorcing, homesick or arguing with managers. When she finds someone suffering, she refers them to the company’s full-time doctor or professional counselors.
Quanta’s 10-story dormitories feel like a college campus. There is a free movie theater, television rooms, a large martial arts gym, two spacious karaoke bars, a huge cafeteria and an aerobics hall playing a Chinese remix of “Gangnam Style.”
Neither Quanta nor Hewlett-Packard claims it has solved every labor woe. And the amenities are partly selfish: one of the biggest problems for Chinese factories is that workers are constantly leaving. Hewlett-Packard hopes that by improving living conditions, turnover and training costs will fall.
“You can tweak the line and get one second out of the process, but if the people turn over every three months, think what that does to your quality,” said Mr. Prophet, the Hewlett-Packard executive.
Last year, a worker advocacy group criticized another Quanta plant, in Shanghai, for harsh working conditions found at many factories, including extensive overtime and poor food. In Chongqing, Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay slightly higher prices initially so that Quanta can offer workers a better quality of life. Such payments are the price all companies should bear for more humane factories, say Hewlett-Packard executives.
There are costs for workers, too. Quanta’s employees earn slightly less than their peers at Foxconn. What’s more, Quanta’s emphasis on hours that are easier on employees means they are prohibited from overtime shifts that advocates say are abusive, but which some workers insist they want.
Zhang Jiang, a slim 21-year-old, previously assembled laptop computers at another company in Shanghai. Each week, he sent the bulk of his pay home so his younger brother could stay in school. Overtime was like a blessing, he said.
But last summer, fed up with the 25-hour train trip to see his family, Mr. Zhang moved to Chongqing and joined Quanta. He enjoys the better facilities and dorms. He frequently visits his parents’ home. But his take-home pay has fallen by nearly a third and the thought that his brother may have to drop out of school so he can help the family gnaws at Mr. Zhang. Instead of working in the factory each night, he spends hours playing an online game, Dungeon Fighter.
“I’d like to work 80 hours a week,” he said.
Change Is Hard
Hewlett-Packard also makes products at Foxconn factories, as does almost every major electronics firm. Foxconn, more than any other company, has proved that Chinese plants can deliver obsessive attention to quality. The company has helped make China into a manufacturing juggernaut through strict discipline that is visible everywhere, even in the salutes managers give visiting executives.
That discipline, say former Apple executives, is one reason every iPhone is put together so well.
It is also one reason the reforms enjoyed by employees like Ms. Pu — who received the new chair — have not spread quickly. Though Foxconn has trained managers to treat employees more gently, foremen still use profanity and intimidation, workers say.
“The managers speak in a manner that often feels like a threat,” said Mou Kezhang, who works in iPad quality assurance at the Foxconn factory in Chengdu.
Foxconn, in a statement, said it had “always been among the fastest to adopt change and reform.” Its policy, the company said, is “to treat employees with respect and if we find any transgressions, they are immediately investigated and addressed.”
In the last two years, Hewlett-Packard has increasingly moved its manufacturing to Quanta. Foxconn has not fought particularly hard to win that business back, according to Hewlett-Packard officials. Often, the quality-of-life improvements requested by Western electronics executives come at the cost of a supplier’s bottom line. Even within Apple, tensions erupt because executives often believe improvements should be financed by suppliers, whereas suppliers say changes are not feasible unless Apple pays more.
And ultimately, some workers themselves resist reforms. In March, when Foxconn announced that workers’ hours would be reduced to China’s legal limits, employees began complaining. “Absolutely I’d like to do overtime to work more than 60 hours, but now there’s a ceiling on it,” said Ma Changqiao, a 23-year-old at Foxconn’s Chongqing factory.
Change is hard, say officials at multiple companies. Reforming labor conditions in a country as large as China will probably take decades, and labor abuses are an ever-evolving problem without just one right answer.
In September, six months after Foxconn agreed to a Fair Labor Association request for new internship rules, two worker advocacy groups found that students in nonmanufacturing courses were being improperly forced to work at a Foxconn plant in north central China. One student studying preschool education said she was prohibited from quitting her internship and was compelled to work night shifts. Afterward, Mr. Gou of Foxconn issued apologies to wronged interns and the responsible official was fired.
Today, Foxconn’s internship program continues — a testament, executives say, to Foxconn’s commitment to a program that can benefit thousands of students, even when making improvements is hard and stumbles are inevitable. Changing the company’s culture is slow going. But the needed reforms, executives at Apple and Foxconn hope and believe, are falling into place.
- Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China – NYTimes.com (mikedaisey.blogspot.com)
- Signs of Changes Taking Hold in Electronics Factories in China (adafruit.com)
- Working Conditions in China: Supply and Demand (marginalrevolution.com)
- Conditions at Apple suppliers’ factories in China improving (macdailynews.com)
- Can the N.Y. Times ride Apple all the way to a Pulitzer? (tech.fortune.cnn.com)
- News Summary: Factory fire kills 14 in China (miamiherald.com)
- Improvements at Foxconn’s China factory (tuaw.com)
- The Learning Network Blog: Lesson Plan | Ten Ways to Investigate Transition in China (learning.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Foxconn’s Apple factories start to show signs of improved working conditions (theverge.com)
- Jaguar to build factory in China in joint venture (miamiherald.com)
Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – » Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Compared Anti-Union Law To Tithing At Church
Bold Progressive by Zaid Jilani
Michigan’s Republican Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has taken to Twitter to defend his administration’s push for an anti-union “Right To Work” law which would allow workers to be represented by unions without having to pay union dues.
Here’s one weak defense Calley offered for enacting “Right To Work.” He said that he isn’t required to donate to any church he attends, so workers should be able to represented by unions in the workplace without being asked to pay dues:
Calley’s analogy widely misses the mark. Unions represent workers at their workplace and need dues to be able to do that. Almost all people have to work to be able to provide for their families, and representation in the workplace is explicitly part of a democratic society.
Unlike the workplace, religious worship is a fundamentally private and voluntary activity and is not subject to the same government oversight (and for good reason).
If Calley wants to invoke the church, he should listen to one of its most famous men, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here’s what he had to say about “right to work”:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.
Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”
Thousands of Michiganders are expected to converge on the capitol today to protest against the so-called “Right To Work” bill.
- Right-to-work: Grand Rapids lawmaker, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley get into Twitter tiff over issue (mlive.com)
- Gov. Snyder signs right-to-work law, calls it ‘major day in Michigan’s history’ (mlive.com)
- A guide to Michigan’s “Right to Work” assault on workers (mbcalyn.com)
- Michigan Dems warn Snyder of negative state, national impact of right-to-work law (freep.com)
- Labor Unions = Dodo Birds (rightistblog.wordpress.com)
- Freedom From Unions in Michigan (realclearpolitics.com)
- Unions Begin Long War After Stunning Blow in Michigan – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- The Latest Right to Work State: Michigan? (townhall.com)
- Snyder administration against all state ballot propoals except emergency financial manager law, Lt. Gov. Calley says (mlive.com)
- LABOR OF SHOVE:Hot Dog Vendor’s Gear Trashed at Union Protest (foxnews.com)
Remaking The Republican Party
Mitt Romney’s poor performance among minority voters, single women, and young people has led many top Republicans to call for an overhaul of the party’s image. Here are some options the GOP is considering to extend its appeal:
· Start nominating hipper, more relatable 65-year-old men
· Begin rolling the R’s in “deportation” and “border fence”
· A bunch of abortions and stuff—whatever the gals want
· Change nothing and wait for rest of country to come to its senses
· Project youthful vibe by requiring Republican congressmen to walk around Capitol doing yo-yo tricks
· Change party mascot to a Hispanic elephant
· Start one of those Twitter hashtags
· Eh, fuck it—just disenfranchise as many people as possible
- Infographic: Remaking The Republican Party (theonion.com)
- Remaking the Republican Party (theburningplatform.com)
- Romney Promises Any Pennsylvanian Who Votes For Him Can Have Ann Romney For One Hour | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source (mbcalyn.com)
- Entire Nation Now Undecided After 4 Debates | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source (mbcalyn.com)
- The Implosion of the Republican Party is A “Gift” to America (mbcalyn.com)
- Massie urges GOP split to remake ‘party of Lincoln’ (chasvoice.blogspot.com)
- Romney Pitches In To Repair Thousands Of Downed Romney-Ryan Lawn Signs | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source (mbcalyn.com)
- Charlie Crist joins the Democrats: What drives a political chameleon? (csmonitor.com)
- On this day in 1865, Slavery was Abolished by the REPUBLICAN PARTY (grandoldpartisan.typepad.com)
- The death of the Republican party? (mhasegawa.com)
Newark Mayor Cory Booker to live on food stamp budget
By Annalyn KurtzNovember 21, 2012: 11:46 AM ET
Newark Mayor Cory Booker rescued a neighbor from a burning building, invited Hurricane Sandy victims to his home, and rushed to the aid of a pedestrian hit by a car. Now he’s going to live on a food stamp budget for a week in solidarity with Americans who feed their families on the government assistance program.
The mayor’s office has yet to announce the full details of his plan, but the budget should amount to about $4.44 a day for food, based on data from the United States Department of Agriculture.
As of fiscal year 2011, average monthly food stamp benefits in New Jersey totaled $133.26 per person.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton underwent the same experiment in September, on a budget of $4.16 a day and kept a daily journal on Facebook. Here’s part of his entry from Day 4.
So I’m surviving on an apple and handful of peanuts, and the coffee I took to the office until dinner. I’m tired, and it’s hard to focus. I can’t go buy a sandwich because that would be cheating – even the dollar menu at Taco Bell is cheating. You can’t use SNAP benefits at any restaurants, fast food or otherwise. I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget. It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude. If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.
Booker plans to live off the food stamp budget for a week, starting Tuesday, December 4, and he will document the experience on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. He signed on to the project after a back-and-forth conversation with Twitter user @MWadeNC.
The mayor is now using the Twitter hashtag #SNAPChallenge to promote the project, after the official name for food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker to live on food stamp budget (economy.money.cnn.com)
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker to live on food stamp budget (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Cory Booker to Live on Food Stamps (theroot.com)
- Just When You Think Cory Booker Couldn’t Be More Awesome (politicalsocialworker.wordpress.com)
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker To Live Off Food Stamps For A Week (praisedc.com)
- Cory Booker to Live Off Food Stamps (newser.com)
- Cory Booker to use Twitter dispute over food stamps to ‘dispel stereotypes’ (nj.com)
- Update: Just When You Think Cory Booker Couldn’t Be More Awesome (politicalsocialworker.wordpress.com)
- Cory Booker, And One Of His Twitter Followers, Plan To Live Off Food Stamps For A Week (mediaite.com)
- Newark Mayor Cory Booker To Live Off Food Stamps For A Week (newsone.com)
How Hurricane Sandy forced NYC to reconnect with pay phones
With cell phone service knocked out and no electricity in many parts of New York City in the wake of superstorm Sandy, people are waiting in lines to use a relic from the past – the pay phone.
“I didn’t even know they were working,” New York City resident Leslie Koch said about the public pay phones in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Earlier this week Koch celebrated her blast with the past when she used the antiquated device by taking a picture of it and posting it to her Twitter account with a caption that said, “This is called a pay phone. Used one today to call my mom from #NYC.”
Koch is one of many New Yorkers who had been walking past pay phones on a daily basis and didn’t pay them any attention.
“It’s funny what’s hiding in plain sight,” Jordan Spak, a 32-year-old television marketer told theJournal. “It’s invisible, but when you need it, it’s there.”
In the storm’s aftermath, throngs of residents are using the old-fashioned contraptions as a last resort to connect to family and friends, because millions of people lost power during the storm rendering their cellphones, iPads, computers and other state-of-the-art technology useless.
Alison Caporimo, 24, who lives in Manhattan, told the Journal she didn’t even know how to operate a public pay phone before Tuesday admitting, “I lost a lot of coins” while trying to figure out how to use the outdated machine.
Although many New Yorkers are dependent on modern gadgetry, during times of distress, such as after the 11 September terrorist attacks, the city has become reliant on pay phones that usually stay in service even during flooding. In fact, one of the most daunting challenges with using the devices during an emergency is keeping them free of coin overloads, the Journal reported.
“During disasters, we sometimes have to empty them every day,” Thomas Keane, chief executive officer of Pacific Telemanagement Services, said. “It takes 300 to 400 calls a day for that to happen.”
The dependency on the retro technology this week comes just months after New York announced a pilot programme to convert several pay phones around the city into free Wi-Fi hotspots.
There are about 12,000 public pay phones in New York City, 27,000 fewer than 20 years ago, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, which regulates the city’s pay phones.
- New Yorkers reconnect with Pay Phones (worldbulletin.net)
- New Yorkers reconnect with pay phones in storm’s aftermath (vancouverdesi.com)
- Pay Phones Are Suddenly Important Again Because Of Sandy (wnyc.org)
- The Brief Renaissance of the Pay Phone (theatlanticwire.com)
- After Sandy, Wired New Yorkers Get Reconnected With Pay Phones (allthingsd.com)
- New York’s Poor Weather Friend (andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com)
- Photo Of The Day (joemygod.blogspot.com)
- In New York, the Pay Phone Makes a Comeback, However Briefly (theatlanticcities.com)
- Did You Think Pay Phones Were Just Public Toilets Before Sandy? (updates.jezebel.com)
- Is It Time To Commit To Ongoing Payphone Availability? (mobile.slashdot.org)
Could Plasma Jet Thrusters Kickstart Interplanetary Travel?
by NANCY ATKINSON on NOVEMBER 1, 2012
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter
A great offshoot from commercial space companies getting a foothold in real missions to orbit is that the old entrepreneurial space spirit seems to have been revived. People are attempting to develop and build what could be breakout space technologies, sometimes in their garages or basements. A new Kickstarter project is especially exciting, as it is looking to build a prototype electric pulsed plasma jet thruster, and the engineers behind the project say this could be used for reliable, high performance, low cost interplanetary space transportation.
UPDATE: HyperV has reached its Kickstarter goal and will be funded.
A group plasma physics researchers started a company about 8 years ago called HyperV, and they have come up with a new design for basic pulsed plasma jet technology. It runs on superheated ionized particles, and the engineers envision it could be used for orbital maneuvering, asteroid/comet rendezvous, orbital debris cleanup and interplanetary transportation.
They say that using this kind of electric propulsion would significantly reduce the mass and weight of spacecraft, resulting in more affordable missions. Although there are other types of electric propulsion systems that have been used for space travel – with mixed results — the HyperV team believes their new design offers solutions to problems in previous designs, and will ultimately provide cheaper and more robust space travel.
The team describes their project:
We believe our thruster technology has the potential to be just as efficient as existing electric thrusters (such as ion and Hall effect thrusters) and with similar specific impulse. But our advantages will be derived from a thruster that is less complex (and much more robust), which can use a variety of propellants including gases, inert plastics, and propellants derived from asteroids, Mars, the Moon, etc., It will also be far cheaper to build, and can be more readily scaled to larger sizes and very high power levels than current electric propulsion systems. Our plasma thruster technology should be scalable from a few kilowatts all the way up to megawatts of average power. The electricity which is needed to power electric thrusters would most likely come from new high performance solar panels, but could also utilize other compact energy sources. From a practical viewpoint for satellite design, our thruster will have much higher thrust per unit area than ion or Hall thrusters, thus taking up less room on the rear of the spacecraft.
They predict their prototype could produce a specific impulse (Isp) of 2000 sec, which is an equivalent to an exhaust velocity of 20,000 m/s.
They are looking to raise $69,000 by November 3, 2012 to get their project started. At the time of this writing, the team has just over $54,000.
Here’s a video from HyperV:
“We invite you, the citizens of Earth, to join with us as we design, construct, test, and execute this demonstration,” the team wrote on their Kickstarter page. “The culmination of this project will be an all-up, laboratory demonstration of our prototype thruster.”
- Will Plasma Jet Thrusters “Kickstart” Interplanetary Travel? (vr-zone.com)
- Could plasma jet thrusters ‘kickstart’ interplanetary travel? (phys.org)
- Could Plasma Jet Thrusters Kickstart Interplanetary Travel? (universetoday.com)
- Crowdfunded Plasma Jet Thruster for Spacecraft? (news.discovery.com)
- Company crowd-funds interplanetary travel with plasma jet project (deathandtaxesmag.com)
- Plasma Jet Electric Thrusters for Spacecraft Kickstarter (nextbigfuture.com)
- Cheap ‘Plasma Jet’ for Space Propulsion Aim of Kickstarter Campaign (livescience.com)
- Plasma Jet Electric Thrusters on Kickstarter (buildtheenterprise.org)
- Plasma Jet Electric Thrusters for Spacecraft by Chris Faranetta (kickstarter.com)
- Cheap ‘Plasma Jet’ for Space Propulsion Aim of Kickstarter Campaign (space.com)
Rare Supernova Pair are Most Distant Ever
by NANCY ATKINSON on NOVEMBER 2, 2012
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High-resolution simulation of a galaxy hosting a super-luminous supernova and its chaotic environment in the early Universe. Credit: Adrian Malec and Marie Martig (Swinburne University)
Some of the earliest stars were massive and short-lived, destined to end their lives in huge explosions. Astronomers have detected some of the earliest and most distant of these exploding stars, called ‘super-luminous’ supernovae — stellar explosions 10–100 times brighter than other supernova types. The duo sets a record for the most distant supernova yet detected, and offers clues about the very early Universe.
“The light of these supernovae contains detailed information about the infancy of the Universe, at a time when some of the first stars are still condensing out of the hydrogen and helium formed by the Big Bang,” said Dr. Jeffrey Cooke, an astrophysicist from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, whose team made the discovery.
The team used a combination of data from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the Keck 1 Telescope, both located in Hawaii.
“The type of supernovae we’ve found are extremely rare,” Cooke said. “In fact, only one has been discovered prior to our work. This particular type of supernova results from the death of a very massive star (about 100 – 250 times the mass of our Sun) and explodes in a completely different way compared to other supernovae. Discovering and studying these events provides us with observational examples to better understand them and the chemicals they eject into the Universe when they die.”
Super-luminous supernovae were discovered only a few years ago, and are rare in the nearby Universe. Their origins are not well understood, but a small subset of them are thought to occur when extremely massive stars, 150 to 250 times more massive than our Sun, undergo a nuclear explosion triggered by the conversion of photons into electron-positron pairs. This process is completely different compared to all other types of supernovae. Such events are expected to have occurred more frequently in the early Universe, when massive stars were more common.
This, and the extreme brightness of these events, encouraged Cooke and colleagues to search for super-luminous supernovae at redshifts, z, greater than 2, when the Universe was less than one-quarter of its present age.
“We used LRIS (Low Resolution Imaging Spectrometer) on Keck I to get the deep spectroscopy to confirm the host redshifts and to search for late-time emission from the supernovae,” Cooke said. “The initial detections were found in the CFHT Legacy Survey Deep fields. The light from the supernovae arrived here on Earth 4 to 6 years ago. To confirm their distances, we need to get a spectrum of their host galaxies which are very faint because of their extreme distance. The large aperture of Keck and the high sensitivity of LRIS made this possible. In addition, some supernovae have bright enough emission features that persist for years after they explode. The deep Keck spectroscopy is able to detect these lines as a further means of confirmation and study.”
Cooke and co-workers searched through a large volume of the Universe at z greater than or equal to 2, and found two super-luminous supernovae, at redshifts of 2.05 and 3.90 — breaking the previous supernova redshift record of 2.36, and implying a production rate of super-luminous supernovae at these redshifts at least 10 times higher than in the nearby Universe. Although the spectra of these two objects make it unlikely that their progenitors were among the first generation of stars, the present results suggest that detection of those stars may not be far from our grasp.
Detecting the first stars allows us much greater understanding of the first stars in the Universe, Cooke said.
“Shortly after the Big Bang, there was only hydrogen and helium in the Universe,” he said. “All the other elements that we see around us today, such as carbon, oxygen, iron, and silicon, were manufactured in the cores of stars or during supernova explosions. The first stars to form after the Big Bang laid the framework for the long process of enriching the Universe that eventually produced the diverse set of galaxies, stars, and planets we see around us today. Our discoveries probe an early time in the Universe that overlaps with the time we expect to see the first stars.”
- Rare Supernova Pair are Most Distant Ever (universetoday.com)
- Two Superluminous Supernovae Discovered (sci-news.com)
- Oldest, Farthest Star Explosions Discovered in Distant Universe (space.com)
- Super-rare, super-luminous supernovae are likely explosion of universe’s earliest stars (eurekalert.org)
- Superbright star explosion is most distant known (newscientist.com)
- Oldest, farthest supernova explosions discovered (mnn.com)
- Distant super-luminous supernovae found (spacedaily.com)
- Astronomers Spot The Oldest Star Explosions Ever (businessinsider.com)
- Two massive stars which exploded 12.5bn years ago are ‘the oldest supernovae yet found’ (dailymail.co.uk)
- Twin dazzling supernovas detected (vancouverdesi.com)