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U.S. House panel debates giving local news outlets ‘lifeline’ in ad fight

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bipartisan U.S. efforts to give news outlets new tools to collectively negotiate with large tech firms collecting the bulk online advertising revenue won support on Tuesday at a U.S. House Committee hearing on the fate of local journalism. 

U.S. newspapers have cut thousands of jobs as the industry’s ad revenue has fallen 65% to $16.4 billion since 2005, while companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc have seen a dramatic jump in online ad revenue. 

The bill, which gives small publishers a four-year safe harbor to band together to negotiate with online platforms, won industry backing at an antitrust subcommittee hearing Tuesday. 

The bill, which would exempt publishers from some antitrust rules, was introduced by the chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on antitrust, David Cicilline, a Democrat, and Representative Doug Collins, the top Republican on the panel. 

At the hearing, Cicilline said local journalism had been pushed “to the verge of extinction” and that the bill would provide “a much-needed lifeline to local publishers who have been crushed by Google and Facebook.”

Facebook to create 500 jobs in new London engineering center

LONDON (Reuters) - Facebook will create 500 new tech jobs in London by the end of 2019, including 100 roles in artificial intelligence, with many working on systems to detect and remove malicious content, fake accounts and harmful behavior, it said on Wednesday. 

The social media giant said it will employ more than 3,000 people in the capital by the end of the year across three sites, including its new engineering center in Soho, central London. 

“These hundreds of new jobs demonstrate not only our commitment to the UK but also our determination to proactively detect and remove malicious content,” Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at a London Tech Week event. 

Facebook said London was its biggest engineering center outside the United States, with 1,800 people employed in technology and engineering by the end of the year. 

 

 

Britain to become first G7 country with net zero emissions target

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will toughen its climate targets and commit to reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the government said late on Tuesday, becoming the first G7 nation to set such a goal.

The country currently aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. However, campaigners say this does not go far enough to meet pledges made under the 2015 Paris climate agreement to try to limit a rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.

“Reaching net zero by 2050 is an ambitious target, but it is crucial that we achieve it to ensure we protect our planet for future generations.”

Legislation will be put before parliament on June 12 to amend the existing climate change act to incorporate the new target, the statement said.

Britain’s independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, last month said that the country should move to the new target, which would require more renewable electricity generation and could require the phasing out of new petrol and diesel cars by at least 2035.

Households would also need to be weaned off natural gas heating and switch to low-carbon alternatives such as hydrogen or heat pumps.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), welcomed the move.

“Some sectors will need clear pathways to enable investment in low-carbon technologies, and it is vital that there is cross-government coordination on the policies and regulation needed to deliver a clean future,” she said.

Britain hopes its decision will encourage other countries to adopt more ambitious climate targets and said that a further assessment will take place within five years to confirm whether other countries are taking similar action.

North Korea steps up measures to prevent spread of African swine fever

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea has stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly African swine fever, its main state newspaper said on Wednesday, breaking its silence on the outbreak which was first reported in late May.

In late May, North Korea reported an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), South Korea’s agriculture ministry said but the North has not made any official comment on its outbreak.

North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper said on Wednesday nationwide preventive measures are being carried out to contain the virus, quoting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as saying “prevention is the key to production in livestock industry”.

“Increasing livestock production goes hand in hand with raising farm animals safe from various diseases,” said Kim according to the newspaper.

“Once highly contagious diseases like African swine fever are spread .... herds of farm animals could die.”

Preventative measures include disinfecting farms and restricting sales of pork and processed meat, the newspaper said.

North Korea raises mainly chicken, ducks and rabbits. Its pig population was 2.6 million as of 2017, according to data from Statistics Korea.

In the wake of the North’s outbreak, South Korea has stepped up disinfection measures near the shared border to keep the viral disease spreading to the South.

Uber picks Melbourne as test site for flying taxi service

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Uber Technologies said it will use Australia’s second-largest city, Melbourne, as the first international test site for the group’s planned flying taxi service.

The U.S. ride sharing firm had previously chosen Dubai as the first test site outside the United States for its UberAIR service but reopened its request for proposals last month after launch delays in the Middle Eastern city.

Uber said on Tuesday it will begin test flights of the pilotless aircraft in Melbourne and U.S. cities Dallas and Los Angles in 2020 before commercial operations begin in 2023.

“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” Susan Anderson, Regional General Manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, said in an emailed statement.

“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for UberAir.”

The test flights will transport passengers from one of seven Westfield shopping centers in Melbourne to the city’s main international airport. The 19km journey from the central business district to the airport is expected to take 10 minutes by air, compared with the 25 minutes it usually takes by car.

The electric, on-demand air taxis can be ordered by customers through smartphone apps in the same way Uber’s road-based taxi alternatives are hailed.

Uber’s planned air fleet includes electric jet-powered vehicles - part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing aircraft - running multiple small rotors capable of both vertical take-off and landing and rapid horizontal flight.

 

UK insurer Legal & General picks Amazon for first pensions blockchain deal

LONDON (Reuters) - British insurer Legal & General has teamed up with Amazon to establish what it said is the first blockchain system for corporate pension deals.

The insurer said it would use a managed blockchain system launched by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to handle bulk annuities, which involve Legal & General taking over companies’ defined benefit or final salary pension schemes.

Blockchain suits “the long-term nature of annuities business as it allows data and transactions to be signed, recorded and maintained in a permanent and secure nature over the lifetime of these contracts, which can span over 50 years,” Thomas Olunloyo, CEO of Legal & General Reinsurance said.

Blockchain was originally conceived 10 years ago as the basis for the cryptocurrency bitcoin. It is a shared database that can securely process and settle transactions without the need for third-party checks.

Banks and other financial firms have invested millions of dollars in blockchain systems to cut costs and complexity of unwieldy back- and mid-office processes.

But few projects have been deployed at any scale so far, as questions remain over regulation, reliability and cost.

Tesla is serious about a possible record quarter, not so serious about a submarine car

(Reuters) - Tesla Inc has “a decent shot at a record quarter on every level”, Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, soothing concerns about weak demand for the electric car maker’s sedans.

Tesla’s stock rose 3.6% to $225 in extended trading, and Musk also said the company was on track to hit its volume production goal by the end of this year.

Musk was treated as a star by investors at the annual meeting, receiving applause as he laid out plans for global expansion and going so far as to tell an inquiring investor that Tesla engineers “actually have a design for a submarine car”. He said making one would be a distraction and have a small market.

Analysts have questioned whether there is global demand for the hundreds of thousands of Model 3 sedans and other vehicles Tesla aims to produce, after deliveries fell 31% in the first quarter. Rivals are stepping up efforts and Tesla continues to invest heavily in expansion.

Musk’s positive comments on Tuesday echoed his forecast last month that the company was on track to hit record deliveries in the second quarter.

Tesla previously said it plans to deliver 90,000 to 100,000 vehicles to customers in the second quarter versus 63,000 vehicles in the first, and is aiming to deliver 360,000 to 400,000 vehicles in 2019.

The Sprinkle Group announces launch of online newspaper Sprinkle Daily

The Sprinkle Group today has announced the launch of its online newspaper Sprinkle Daily. Sprinkle Daily presents an exciting combination of international Fintech news as well as blogging updates from influencers, Denise Lopez and Jessica Folcker, in a multilingual format.

The Stockholm-based online newspaper brands itself as the “economic news center of the future”, delivering journalistic profiling based on solid research on sustainable investments that pave the way for the new world economy. By using the analytical approach, Sprinkle Daily examines the plethora of new production methods and companies that lead the development towards a sustainable future for humanity.

Many of these new ideas and thinking have emerged in the former so-called Third World and Sprinkle Daily will keep an eye on these, which requires a solid researcher with the ability to see new investment objects and provide a competent analysis of its potential and weaknesses.

“The release of Sprinkle Daily is more than just another financial publication. In Sprinkle Daily, we will transform economic journalism by focusing on commercial solutions for the long term survival of humanity on Earth. This means sustainable economics, blockchain technology, entrepreneurial ingenuity, and investments opportunities that are a part of the solution, not the problem. This is an exhilarating task, and we are all looking forward to providing our readers with a modern economic journalistic perspective of a sustainable economy”, says Sprinkle Daily Editor-in-Chief, Peter Rinaldo.

US renewables capacity overtakes coal for the first time

Renewables now make up 21.56 per cent of US generation capacity, compared to 21.55 per cent for coal, according to official figures The US now boast more renewables power capacity than coal, according to analysis of official US government data released today that marks a significant turning point in the superpower's shift to a low-carbon grid.

The data, released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and analysed by the SUN DAY campaign, reveals power capacity from biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind now accounts for 21.56 per cent of US generation capacity. By contrast, coal plants account for 21.55 per cent - a share that is expected to keep falling as coal plant closures in some states gather pace.

The record came thanks to a surge in new solar and wind installations in the first four months of this year, with more than 1.5GW of new wind capacity and more than 1.4GW of new solar capacity coming online during the period. Both solar and wind installations are growing at a fast clip in the US, with the share of the nation's generating capacity provided by utility-scale solar alone more than doubling over the past three years, and wind's share of the capacity mix increasing from 6.43 per cent to 8.25 per cent.

By May 2022, FERC suggests renewable energy sources could account for a quarter of total US installed capacity. The agency also indicates that convential energy sources are moving into decline. "Net capacity by nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas combined could actually decline by 24MW [by May 2022]; that is, retirements would exceed additions," the SUN DAY campaign said. "While net growth by just natural gas is projected to be 18,530MW, that is more than offset by net losses for coal (12,409MW), nuclear (5,106MW), and oil (1,039MW). And even natural gas' projected net growth will be dwarfed by that of wind (25,117MW) and almost equaled by that of utility-scale solar (14,846 MW)." Capacity is not the same as generation, and on any given day coal could still be providing more power across the US than renewables.

Indeed, in 2018 data from the US Energy Information Administration suggests renewables accounted for just over 17 per cent of total electricity generation, compared to coal's share of 27 per cent. Official figures show that despite a series of coal plant closures overall US greenhouse gas emissions still ticked upwards last year, as rising emissions from transport and industry brought to an end a recent downward trend. And yet, there is growing evidence that the US energy sector is quietly edging towards a coal wind down, despite President Trump's vocal support for the industry. Moreover, the country move towards a full blown coal phase out within 18 months, depending on the result of next year's Presidential election.

The update comes as leading Democrat candidates vying to secure the nomination for next year's presidential race seek to outbid each other with a series of pledges to ensure the US becomes a net zero emission economy by mid-century. Meanwhile, billionaire media mogul and environmental campaigner Michael Bloomberg last week officially launched a new $500m campaign - dubbed Beyond Carbon - which will lobby and support states in a bid to ensure all US coal plants are closed by 2030. It increasingly looks as if Bloomberg's calls for a post-coal future will be entirely in line with market trends. (By:BusinessGreen staff)

These European Startups Are Helping to Address the Microplastic Problem

The issue puts us and ocean life at risk, but companies and governments are starting to address the issue.

Microplastics the tiny pieces of plastic that range from the size of a sesame seed to microscopic particles are increasingly showing up in our oceans, air and on our dinner plates, and this has scientists in the European Union alarmed.

On April 30, the European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors released a scientific opinion calling for a wider, evidence-based policy response to pre-empt the growing risks of microplastic pollution. The opinion cautioned the European Commission to broaden existing policy to prevent and reduce microplastic pollution while also increasing international cooperation for research, monitoring and risk assessment.

“With the rise of microplastic pollution, we need to understand how microplastics interact with people and planet so we can take action,” said Carlos Moedas, commissioner for research, science and innovation. Microplastic’s potential threat to humans According to a study in the journal Science, highlighted by a recent report by Elizabeth Royte in National Geographic, five to 14 million tons of plastics flow into our oceans every year.

Scientists have identified 144 aquatic species that have ingested microplastics, and as Royte writes, “more than half of those end up on our dinner plates.” In addition to the negative effects microplastics have on other species and our environment, scientists are increasingly beginning to examine them as a source of concern for humans as well potentially adversely affecting the food supply, or via adverse mechanical or chemical effects to the body after ingestion.

Unsplash Research into the human impact is still ongoing but the overall reduction of microplastics seems to be an initiative many people can get behind, as evidenced by countries such as Britain and Sweden banning plastic microbeads to some degree in 2018. European startups tackling the microplastic problem With tons of plastics entering our oceans each year, recycling and repurposing plastic is one way to combat the problem. Some of the most innovative technologies come from startups that work on recycling or simply repurposing the plastic waste.

According to its website, Bratislava-based Leitner Technologies uses a process of thermal depolymerization to recycle plastic waste into “Plastoil,” low sulfur oil that can be used as fuel machines or for heating. Heat and pressure used to mold plastics during the recycling process strains their molecular structure, limiting the ability to create a recycled product of the same quality as the original that was made with virgin resin. APK, a company from Merseburg, Germany, has built a recycling plant that leverages technology for recycling plastic waste that yields single-origin, new-quality plastics, effectively giving longer life to recycled plastics. And Dutch startup Ioniqa, which was part of Impact Hub’s Plastic Free Ocean Accelerator program in 2018, is looking to do the same.

Its depolymerisation technology removes impurities, takes out colorants and recycles PET plastic (a common thermoplastic polymer resin) to its original raw materials, making it more attractive for reuse. Of course, another way to ensure that future generations can see more fish swimming in the sea than plastic is to reduce the use of plastics all together a feat much easier said than done. But Dutch startup Straw by Straw is looking to decrease the 36.4 billion plastic drinking straws they say are used in Europe every year by leveraging hollow grain stocks left over from harvest. Considering that a plastic straw weighs less than a gram, an estimated 15,000 tons of plastic waste could be avoided.

Every piece of plastic not ending up in the world's oceans is a success -- yet compared to the up to 14 million tons of plastic already floating in the sea globally, measures focussing on individual products are just not enough. A little over a year ago, the EU clamped down on single-use plastics such as straws, and the European Commission’s most recent opinion will hopefully serve to continue debate and innovation surrounding the reduction and eradication of microplastics from our environment. While the microplastics problem is receiving more attention from governments worldwide, as evidenced by 57 governments to date taking the Clean Seas pledge, the issue will likely not be solved wholly in the public sector. Citizens and businesses will also need to reduce the use of and better recycle plastics to ensure that our oceans remain clean for the next generation. (By Jim Glade)

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