Friday, November 1, 2019

They’re not avocados, they’re ‘green gold,’

Small-scale  avocado growers armed with AR-15 rifles take turns manning a vigilante  checkpoint to guard against thieves and drug cartel extortionists in  this town in the Michoacan state, the heartland of world production of  the fruit locals call “green gold.” The region’s avocado boom,  fueled by soaring U.S. consumption, has raised parts of western Mexico  out of poverty in just 10 years. But the scent of money has drawn gangs  and hyper-violent cartels that have hung bodies from bridges and cowed  police forces, and the rising violence is threatening the newfound  prosperity. A recent U.S. warning that it could withdraw orchard  inspectors sent a shiver through the $2.4 billion-a-year export  industry. Some growers are taking up arms saying their crop is worth  fighting for. “If it wasn’t for avocados, I would have to leave to find  work, maybe go to the United States or somewhere else,” said one of  guards whose small avocado orchard earns him far more than he would get  from any other legal (or illegal) crop. Even though the region’s 15,000  or so avocado pickers earn an attractive wage for the region, the job is  seasonal and the physical demands of climbing trees with long poles to  get the avocados mean few can work beyond age 45. Mexico supplies about  43% of world avocado exports, almost all from Michoacan. The USDA has a  near-permanent delegation of inspectors posted in Mexico. (USA Today)

Turning wind into liquid energy

U.K.-based  energy firm Highview has begun to convert wind power into freezing  liquid, allowing the energy to be stored for when it’s especially  needed, during peak usage hours. The wind is compressed and cooled,  turning it into frozen liquid. When energy is needed, the system uses  the heat generated during the compression process to convert the liquid  back into a gas. Highview plans to re-purpose a traditional power plant  in northern England, where it will be able to offer energy to 25,000  homes. (BBC)

Screen time not so bad after all?

Despite  fears that device usage has sparked higher rates of depression and  anxiety, new research from Oxford suggests such concerns are unfounded.  In fact, researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute found that  moderate screen time — up to two hours a day — was associated with  positive social effects. One potential reason for the mixed messages  about screen time? It’s possible that those who are suffering from  mental health issues may gravitate to social media, making device usage  an effect or symptom of such conditions, not a cause. (Scientific American)

Motorola Solutions is announcing a new radio equipped with a voice assistant

In  what the company says is the first of its kind, the public safety radio  is called APX NEXT, builds upon the company’s prior APX two-way radios,  and the virtual assistant that controls it has been dubbed ViQi  (pronounced “Vicky”). The company’s news release said the radio  is FirstNet-ready, built with LTE connectivity, and is the first APX  radio to feature a touchscreen, designed for field use including with  rain or gloves. Motorola Solutions Chief Technology Officer said that  besides being able to control the radio, the virtual assistant responds  to commands like “ViQi, run a license plate,” and can also look  up driver’s license information and vehicle identification numbers. He  said other functions will come with future updates. In keeping with the  industry trend toward device inter-connectivity and data reception, APX  NEXT automatically switches to LTE broadband when LMR (land mobile  radio) signal is low, transmits its user’s location to a dispatcher’s  mapping console and allows for broadband software updates. The company’s  marketing push for its new touchscreen, voice-activated two-way radios  coincides with heavy investment in recent years to build or acquire new  technology for law enforcement and first responders. (GovTech)

A new survey reveals the major issues of concern for two generations of young Americans

According  to research from the Cause and Social Influence Initiative, Gen Z and  Millennial’s say social causes and movements that resonate in their own  lives are most important to them. Climate change tops the list, followed  by civil rights, immigration, healthcare reform, and mental health. The  Lead researcher said they also asked people from both generations about  their take on “fake news.” 

  • 77% percent of the 18- to 30-year-olds view that fake news is real and is in existence,
  • 73% believe that the election will be influenced by fake news, particularly on some of these social issues,
  • 48% of respondents said the country is off track,
  • 44% believe it’s further off track now than before the 2016 election.

Gun  safety dropped off the list of top social issues for 2019 compared to  one year ago, a big difference in interest about this issue between  these two age groups:

  • 84% of the gun-control conversation comes from Gen Z versus 16% coming from Millennial’s,
  • Once they become aware of an issue of concern, a majority of respondents said they would choose to act. 

The primary reasons respondents gave for choosing not to act is that they don’t know what to do, they think “it’s not my place,” or they believe they are unable to make a difference. (Sunshine Sachs)

Law Enforcement Predicts Growing Black Market For Vaping

States  across the country, including Minnesota, are investigating a rise in  vaping-related illnesses and deaths. In some states, public health  officials have even declared an emergency. In addition to efforts by the  medical community, law enforcement agencies are tracking down  operations that sell illegal vaping products. The police department in  New Hope, Minnesota, recently worked with a task force that netted more  than 76,000 vaping cartridges containing THC, a chemical found in  marijuana. A similar bust was recently reported by Wisconsin  authorities. That operation was described by investigators as one of the  biggest illegal vaping rings in the country. Public health officials  are trying to differentiate between potential causes of illness from  legal vaping products and those illegally laced with THC. The Minnesota  Department of Health has seen three deaths and more than 80 cases of  vaping-related lung injury, and is reviewing 39 others. Authorities  believe black markets can still thrive in states where marijuana has  been legalized, there’s added cost for the product sold in dispensaries,  which can make underground markets more attractive to buyers looking  for cheaper products. A similar scene could develop for vaping products  containing dangerous chemicals. However, until more information is  collected and policymakers enact more regulations, police will continue  to track down tips and educate the public about the potential dangers of  vaping, particularly off-market products. (Public News Service)

Man wins $200,000 lottery prize on the way to his last chemotherapy treatment

A  retired Department of Transportation worker who is battling colon  cancer and nearing the end of his treatment, won a $200,000 lottery  prize, according to the North Carolina Education Lottery. The man from  Pink Hill, North Carolina, said he first purchased a $1 ticket and won a  measly $5. Last minute, he decided to trade in the $5 for two more  tickets. When he scratched the first one, he won nothing. But then he  scratched the second ticket. “I saw all those zeroes and I froze,” he told the lottery.  “I didn’t believe it until I gave it to the clerk at the counter to  scan. When it showed, ‘Go to lottery headquarters,’ I started shaking. I  couldn’t believe it.” Needless to say, the lottery win made a good day an even better one. “I was already happy because it was my last round of chemo. Winning this made it my lucky day.”  He said he had medical insurance, but a part of the the lottery win  will go towards paying off some of the treatment costs that weren’t  covered by his policy. The rest will be saved “for the future.” After taxes, he took home $141,501. (AZ Family)

 

Social media is waging a sexually charged war on fruits and veggies

In  July, Facebook and Instagram quietly updated the Facebook Community  Standards language regarding permissible sexual expression on the social  media platforms. (These guidelines cover Instagram, too.) Under the new  terms (officially enacted in September), eggplant or peach emojis  cannot be used with sexual statements about being horny as it now  qualifies as “Sexual Solicitation.” This can get a user’s  account flagged or removed. The  Facebook Community Standards language is quite broad, not naming the  emojis specifically but referring to “[commonly used] sexual emojis or emoji strings” as criteria which qualify as “Suggestive Elements.” Facebook and Instagram said in a statement that “[Content]  will only be removed from Facebook and Instagram if it contains a  sexual emoji alongside an implicit or indirect ask for nude imagery, sex  or sexual partners, or sex chat conversations. We aren’t taking action  on simply the emojis.” Nude photos where emojis cover genitalia,  butts or female nipples are also now formally not allowed, as are any  links or info leading to pornographic or otherwise adult material. Porn  stars feel explicitly targeted by the new standards. (XBiz)

 

Twitter to ban all political advertisements on its platform

Twitter  will ban all political advertisements starting November 22nd, the  company announced recently. Both candidate and issue-based ads will be  prohibited on Twitter globally, with a few exceptions, including for ads  in support of voter registration, the Twitter CEO announced. The  changes are not about free expression, but about advertisers paying to  force their political message on users. He noted that online ads have  created new issues for “civic discourse” — like “deep fakes,”  realistic videos that make it look like people have said or done things  they did not. Political advertising makes up only a small sliver of  Twitter’s overall revenue. The company does not break out specific  figures each quarter, but said political-ad spending for the 2018  midterm election was less than $3 million. (New York Post)

Friday Feels Awesome With:

  • All Saints’ Day
  • Author’s Day
  • Autistic Speaking Day
  • Calzone Day
  • Dia de Los Muertos (Day of The Dead)
  • Extra Mile Day
  • Fountain Pen Day (First Friday)
  • Give Up Your Shoulds Day
  • Hockey Mask Day
  • Love Your Lawyer Day (First Friday)
  • National Brush Day
  • National Deep Fried Clams Day
  • National Family Caregiver Day
  • National Family Literacy Day
  • National Go Cook For Your Pets Day
  • National Jersey Friday (First Friday)
  • National Sports Fan Day
  • Plan Your Epitaph Day
  • Prime Meridian Day
  • World Vegan Day
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