Category Archives: Technology

These machines scrub greenhouse gases from the air – an inventor of direct air capture technology shows how it works

One ‘mechanical tree’ is about 1,000 times faster at removing carbon dioxide from air than a natural tree. The first is to start operating in Arizona in 2022.
Illustration via Arizona State University

Klaus Lackner, Arizona State University

Two centuries of burning fossil fuels has put more carbon dioxide, a powerful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere than nature can remove. As that CO2 builds up, it traps excess heat near Earth’s surface, causing global warming. There is so much CO2 in the atmosphere now that most scenarios show ending emissions alone won’t be enough to stabilize the climate – humanity will also have to remove CO2 from the air.

The U.S. Department of Energy has a new goal to scale up direct air capture, a technology that uses chemical reactions to capture CO2 from air. While federal funding for carbon capture often draws criticism because some people see it as an excuse for fossil fuel use to continue, carbon removal in some form will likely still be necessary, IPCC reports show. Technology to remove carbon mechanically is in development and operating at a very small scale, in part because current methods are prohibitively expensive and energy intensive. But new techniques are being tested this year that could help lower the energy demand and cost.

We asked Arizona State University Professor Klaus Lackner, a pioneer in direct air capture and carbon storage, about the state of the technology and where it’s headed. Continue reading

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‘Good News for Seniors’: Becerra Orders Medicare to Reassess Premium Hike

“It is unconscionable,” said one advocate welcoming the announcement, “for Medicare premiums to increase this dramatically because of one corporation’s greed.”

By Brett Wilkins.  Pubished 1-10-2022 by Common Dreams

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced on January 10, 2022 that he was ordering a review of a planned 15% hike in the Medicare Part B premium. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

As the head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that he was ordering a review of a planned 15% hike in the Medicare Part B premium for 2022, healthcare reform advocates stressed the need for Congress to pass a Build Back Better bill with a provision allowing the federal government to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said that he was instructing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) “to reassess the recommendation for the 2022 Medicare Part B premium”—a hike that progressive critics said was largely the result of the pharmaceutical industry’s outrageous profiteering. Continue reading

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The glaring problem with a recent multinational pledge against nuclear war

Five of the world’s most powerful countries took a stand against nuclear weapons. So why are they modernising and increasing their stockpiles?

By Paul Rogers.  Published 1-8-2022 by openDemocracy

A ballistic missile and launcher in a military parade, North Korea, 2013 | Stefan Krasowski, CC BY 2.0

Last Monday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – signed a joint pledge to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The pledge states that:

“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.  As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.  We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.” Continue reading

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What will 2022 bring in the way of misinformation on social media? 3 experts weigh in

A cutout display at a protest highlighted the connection between social media and the real-world effects of misinformation.
Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images

Anjana Susarla, Michigan State University; Dam Hee Kim, University of Arizona, and Ethan Zuckerman, UMass Amherst

At the end of 2020, it seemed hard to imagine a worse year for misinformation on social media, given the intensity of the presidential election and the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic. But 2021 proved up to the task, starting with the Jan. 6 insurrection and continuing with copious amounts of falsehoods and distortions about COVID-19 vaccines.

To get a sense of what 2022 could hold, we asked three researchers about the evolution of misinformation on social media. Continue reading

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Unpatented Shot Dubbed ‘The World’s Covid-19 Vaccine’ Wins Emergency Approval in India

“This announcement is an important first step in vaccinating the world and halting the pandemic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, a U.S.-based vaccine scientist.

By Jake Johnson.  Published 12-28-2021 by Common Dreams

Image; ZeeNews

An unpatented Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine, and the pharmaceutical firm Biological E. Limited received emergency-use authorization from Indian regulators on Tuesday—news that the jab’s creators hailed as a potential turning point in the push to broaden global vaccine access.

“This announcement is an important first step in vaccinating the world and halting the pandemic,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, said in a statement. Continue reading

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Rights Groups Accuse Tech Giants of Throttling Content on Abortion Pills

“More Americans are going to need accurate information on abortion,” said one communications director. “But these platforms have algorithms that surface the opposition and misinformation and misleading content.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 12-27-2021 by Common Dreams

As anti-choice lawmakers ramp up attacks on reproductive freedom across the United States, new reporting on Monday raised alarm about Big Tech companies limiting access to scientifically accurate content from abortion rights organizations while allowing the spread of misinformation.

Representatives from multiple pro-choice groups told The Hill‘s Rebecca Klar about their struggles trying to circulate credible information on accessing medication abortion—which typically involves two medicines, mifepristone and misoprostol—through platforms including Facebook and Google-owned YouTube. Continue reading

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UN fails to agree on ‘killer robot’ ban as nations pour billions into autonomous weapons research

Humanitarian groups have been calling for a ban on autonomous weapons.
Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty Images

James Dawes, Macalester College

Autonomous weapon systems – commonly known as killer robots – may have killed human beings for the first time ever last year, according to a recent United Nations Security Council report on the Libyan civil war. History could well identify this as the starting point of the next major arms race, one that has the potential to be humanity’s final one.

The United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons debated the question of banning autonomous weapons at its once-every-five-years review meeting in Geneva Dec. 13-17, 2021, but didn’t reach consensus on a ban. Established in 1983, the convention has been updated regularly to restrict some of the world’s cruelest conventional weapons, including land mines, booby traps and incendiary weapons. Continue reading

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New Analysis Reveals Why Repealing 2001 AUMF ‘Will Not Be Enough to Kill the War on Terror’

As the executive branch’s power to authorize military activities has metastasized under four administrations since 9/11, oversight of “counterterrorism operations” across the globe has crumbled.

By Kenny Stancil.  Published 12-14-2021 by Common Dreams

new-analysis-reveals-why-repealing-2001-aumf-will-not-be-enough-kill-war-terror

A new analysis published Tuesday by the Costs of War Project details how the power of U.S. presidents to greenlight military activities has grown since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force was first enacted, demonstrating why simply repealing the measure now won’t be enough to end so-called “counterterrorism operations” across the globe.

Drawing on Congressional Research Service data updated through August 6, the report documents where and how the 2001 AUMF has been used—and also highlights how counterterrorism operations have taken place in dozens of additional nations without the aid of the law that launched the so-called “War on Terror” just one week after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Continue reading

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‘Utterly Obscene’: Just 8 Pfizer and Moderna Investors Became $10 Billion Richer After Omicron Emerged

“Pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create,” said one justice campaigner.

By Jon Queally.  Published 12-5-2021 by Common Dreams

In the first week that the Omicron variant sparked global fears of a new wave of infections, a small handful of investors and executives with Pfizer and Moderna—currently the world’s preeminent makers of Covid-19 vaccines—saw over $10 billion in new wealth, with the Moderna’s CEO alone adding over $800 million to his personal fortune.

Based on data compiled by Global Justice Now and released Saturday, “just 8 top Pfizer and Moderna shareholders” added a combined $10.31 billion to their fortunes last week after stock prices soared in response to the emergence of Omicron. According to a statement by the group: Continue reading

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‘Bombshell’: Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an “in-plain-sight national security threat,” one expert warned that “a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 12-3-2021 by Common Dreams

Photo: Unsplash

Multiple news outlets revealed Friday that Apple notified at least 11 U.S. State Department officials that their iPhones were recently hacked by an unknown party or parties with spyware developed by the private Israeli firm NSO Group.

The “bombshell,” first reported by Reuters, comes after Apple sued NSO Group last month in an effort to protect iPhone users from its Pegasus spyware, which the Israeli company claims to only sell to government law enforcement and intelligence agencies and was the focus of a major reporting project earlier this year. Continue reading

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