National / International News
Labels like "organic" and "grass-fed" don't capture the beef industry's true environmental impact, researchers say. Why not have a label that assesses water use, land use and greenhouse gas emissions?
Commander Chris Hadfield is arguably the most famous astronaut of the modern era, not just because of his trips to space. He won a massive following using Twitter and Instagram, and even singing David Bowie covers on YouTube.
Now, he's gathered thousands of photographs he took from space, and whittled them down into a book called "You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes."
Here are some highlights from our conversation:
You’ve got more than 1 million Twitter followers. They seem to love what you do. Why do you think that is?
Such a tiny little group of people have had a chance, not just to leave the Earth, but to spend half a year off the Earth. Using the capability of social media, with all those followers, [I was able to say], “Hey, if you’re interested, look what we can see from here. Look how you look. You are here.”
At one point, my son sent a note, he said, “Hey, why don’t you ask everybody what they want to see?”
Everybody said, “I want a picture of my home town.” Which made me laugh, because it’s kind of like narcissistic. But then I thought about it. People are proud of where they’re from but also want to see where I’m from a perspective and in proportion to everyone else. I want to see how I fit in.
— Chris Hadfield (@Cmdr_Hadfield) October 15, 2014
What’s next for you? Will we see you piloting a commercial space mission?
I know several of the guys flying… Virgin Galactic. It’s a very interesting commercial first step. It goes straight up and falls straight back down, so it really is just the first step. Sir Richard admits that. But he’s looking for ways to apply it. Maybe it can go straight up and land somewhere else. Maybe we could get from New York to LA in 30 minutes or something.
I don’t think I’m going to be the pilot of it. I’ve been a pilot my whole life and I’ve had such a richness of experience. I flew in space three times, and helped build two space stations, and commanded this one that’s up there.
A little taste of a ride like that would be like a Formula 1 driver going for a quick ride in somebody else’s car, but if someone gives me the opportunity, I”ll go for sure. But I don’t think I’m going to be the pilot.
What’s your favorite space movie?
I really like Galaxy Quest. But I also like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Those are my two favorites.
This year’s holiday shopping spree will be preceded by a strong holiday hiring spree.
As big-box and online warehouse retailers announce their seasonal employment plans, economists are predicting 2014 will be the best year for holiday jobs since 1999, with more than 800,000 temporary hires in the final three months of the year. Retailers hired 786,200 seasonal workers in 2013, according to the annual forecast published by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
Individual companies that serve the holiday trade have more robust hiring plans than last year. UPS has announced it will double its seasonal employment boost to 95,000. Amazon announced Thursday it will add 80,000 temps at fulfillment and sortation centers across the country, as it staffs up an expanding nationwide delivery network.
“Last year, Amazon converted thousands of seasonal employees into regular full-time roles after the holidays,” Amazon spokesperson Nina Lindsey says. “And we’re really excited to be expecting to do the same this year.” Last year, about 15 percent of temps who got holiday work were brought on for full-time, permanent jobs, according to the company’s press release.
Lindsey would not provide an average wage. According to one staffing agency, these jobs appear to offer above the minimum wage, in the $11 to $15 per hour range.
“In this kind of economy, with this lack of safety net, any job is often better than no job,” says Stephanie Luce, professor of labor studies at the City University of New York. But she also pointed out that many job-seekers are underemployed in this economy — working temporary or part-time jobs and wanting full-time permanent work.
“You’re taking this job — it might even be your second job or third job — but you’re just trying to patch together many temp jobs, seasonal jobs, part-time jobs to make a living,” Luce says. “And it’s not really not a sustainable model.”
Georgetown University public policy professor Harry Holzer, who served as chief economist in the Labor Department during the Clinton Administration, said many of these jobs don’t deliver a significant long-term benefit to job-seekers.
“If the job is really short-term, I doubt that anyone’s going to be impressed by it when they look at someone’s work experience,” said Holzer. “If it’s a little longer, and if you can argue that you picked up a skill on the job, then potentially it could have a positive effect.”
Holzer said that during the 1990s, when the U.S. had full employment, most people taking temporary seasonal jobs for the holidays probably wanted to work short-term to make extra money—either because they were semi-retired, or simply didn't want year-round work. Now, he said, temporary seasonal workers are more likely to be people struggling with unemployment or underemployment.
Bono has apologized for a recent self-promotion stint, albeit in a video promoting his new album release on CD and vinyl.
The U2 frontman apologized to everyone who was annoyed after the band's new album "Songs of Innocence" just showed up in their iTunes accounts last month. All 500 million iTunes users received the free download.
In a Facebook video posted Oct. 14, Bono said he got carried away with the "beautiful idea" of the auto-download, but artists are "prone to a drop of megalomania" and he feared the album wouldn't be heard.
The download was announced Sept. 9 at the Apple event unveiling the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and Apple Watch. Apple automatically sent the album for free to active iTunes accounts, and for some people with certain settings, that meant an automatic download too.
Billboard reported last week the album had been downloaded 26 million times, and 81 million people had listened to at least one song — it's not clear how many actually meant to.
Health officials transferred Dallas nurse Nina Pham to the National Institutes of Health facility in Maryland Thursday.
Now both Dallas nurses infected by a patient with the disease have been sent to specialty hospitals with biocontainment units. There are four such hospitals in the U.S., with sites in Maryland, Georgia, Nebraska and Montana.
Given mistakes in Dallas, health officials are talking about whether certain hospitals should be designated to treat Ebola cases. But there really aren’t any Ebola experts, no super doctors who have special tricks. Doctors say treating Ebola is actually pretty straightforward business.
“Most of the treatment issues really are the generic treatment of very, very sick people with multiple organs that are failing, and most reasonable-sized hospitals can do that competently,” says Dr. Bob Wachter of University of California-San Francisco.
Wachter says with Ebola, what matters more than medical brilliance is organizational acumen, where everyone from the hospital CEO to the top nurse to the waste hauler knows how to handle something this infectious.
“That’s really, really hard, and I don’t think every single hospital will be able to sort that out,” he says.
The events over the past week in Dallas drive that home, but what’s happened there shouldn’t come as a shock. Remember, estimates suggest nearly 100,000 people die from hospital acquired infections every year. Mistakes in hospitals happen; they’re expected. With the danger of Ebola there’s increasing talk in the healthcare world that these cases should go top hospitals.
But Dr. Ricardo Martinez, who oversaw EMS efforts for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says every hospital needs to be better prepared.
“There are other diseases coming, so we should be able to provide some level of protection that not only care for the patient but contain the spread,” he says.
Martinez says if Doctors without Borders can protect many of its workers in field-like settings, U.S. hospitals should be able to do the same.
The stock market jitters of the last week have numerous causes: ebola panic, Europe's economic slump, the settling in of weak economic growth and the imminent end of the Fed's bond-buying program.
The effects, beyond temporary shifts in stock prices, are less evident. But stock market volatility can have a real-world impact.
"In research I've looked at 19 previous stock market jitters in the U.S.," says Nicholas Bloom, professor of economics at Stanford University. "These are normally followed by nasty contractions. And the reason is reasonably easy to see."
Bloom says that volatility can lead to uncertainty, and when individuals and businesses are uncertain about the future, they put off big purchases.
"So, for example, firm investment tends to drop very heavily. If you look at consumers you see it’s consumer durables that drops a lot. So things like new cars, furniture, clothing," he says.
And a lack of investment, whether it's by companies or consumers, has a real effect on the economy. But before you lock up your credit cards, Bloom says the volatility we’ve seen this week is all smoke and no fire--so far.
First, consider stock prices.
"I think at this point, if, say, we were lucky and things stopped today, didn’t get any worse, probably not too big of an impact," says Russ Kinnel, director of mutual fund research for Morningstar.
Kinnel says shares have lost--at most--the gains from one year of a five year rally.
Then consider the stock volatility. One common measurement is the VIX.
"It’s risen by about 50 percent over the last week," says Bloom. "Historically big jumps that I’ve examined have a VIX increase of more than 100 percent. They also lasted around a month."
In other words, if the current volatility doesn't last, its effects shouldn't linger either.
"After it’s out of the news, you know, people’s perceptions and sentiment tend to shift back," says Gary Thayer, macro strategist at Wells Fargo. "And that’s I think what we’re likely to see here."
Online advertising has long been dominated by the click and impression — how much an ad is shown to users. Now the industry is establishing a new metric: our attention.
People click on the average Internet display ad about .1 percent of the time. It's a dismal fraction for advertisers, and it doesn't tell the full story. Ads can have a large branding impact on us even if we don't click on them. That's why advertisers need metrics that deliver a more nuanced picture, says Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile.
His company is the first to have its techniques for quantifying attention certified by the Media Ratings Council, an organization that determines if an audience measurement tool is “valid, reliable, and effective.” For years, Chartbeat has been measuring attention for web content — trying to determine if we are really engaging with websites, or just happen to have the tab open while watching a cat video elsewhere. The company is now taking the tools it built for content and applying them to advertising.
To analyze our engagement, Chartbeat measures things like how we move the mouse, scroll, and tap on our keyboards. “All of those signals effectively allow us to get a picture of behavior,” Haile says, “it gives us a sense of when attention is happening or when someone is distracted.”
Chartbeat's content analytics have been especially popular with news organizations. They use it and other services to see what articles engage readers. You might recognize a few of Chartbeat's clients: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN. Now, some are starting to use it for ads as well.
Jon Slade directs digital advertising for the Financial Times. With attention metrics, he says, “I'm able to value engagement and commercialize it.” That helps the site compete against websites with a larger volume of content that people interact with more superficially. The metrics are changing how the Financial Timessells ads. Advertisers can now pay for how long people will see and engage with an ad instead of how many times it will be shown and clicked on. It's quality over quantity, Slade says — a huge shift for online advertising, and a better business model for those who create content.
This shift in the advertising industry could be a big boost for news sites. In the words of Trevor Fellows, “the recognition that not all impressions are equal is huge.”
Fellows is the chief revenue officer for The Wall Street Journal. He says attention metrics will show advertisers it's worth paying to have ads displayed next to engaging content. It's a way for news sites to stand out from the soup that is the Internet.
Fellows predicts it will be a while before engagement becomes a standard measurement in the advertising industry. “A change of this magnitude is going to be a long time in becoming commonplace,” he says. Advertisers still quibble over the old metrics—how to determine whether an ad has actually been viewed and intentionally clicked.When it comes to human attention there's more going on than just the push of a button.
Growing numbers of lenders are getting tech savvy, remotely disabling debtors' cars and tracking customer data to ensure timely payment of subprime auto loans.
The debate began not with discussions about the economy or even about Obamacare, but about whether candidate Charlie Crist should be allowed to have a small fan to keep him cool.