The Climate Train comes to town

first_imgThe on-board theatre educates pupilsin a fun, easily understandable way.(Image: Kathryn Fourie) The Climate Train has spent the pastmonth raising awareness around COP!7.(Image: Climate Train)MEDIA CONTACTS • Christelle TerreblancheIndalo Yethu+27 83 226 6458RELATED ARTICLES• COP!&: what’s possible, what’s not• Make a pledge to save our seas• Wear green for COP17• Brand SA hosts international media• New drive for greener carsKathryn FourieSkooching along the obviously-not-clean tar on my bottom, I’m trying to maintain a low eye-line to take a decent photograph of a wheelbarrow.Not the most interesting gardening artefact I know, but this one says ‘love me’ on it, painted in happy bright white letters. The shutter makes a satisfying click noise; I pull my face back from the view finder and am flustered when I catch the eyes of a tall man in a green t-shirt who is smiling under his arm at me.His hand is resting on a cow print bicycle with a solar panel attached behind the saddle. “Is this your bike?” he says.No, it’s not my bike unfortunately. Rather, it belongs to the travelling environmental activism collaborative that is the Climate Train.The tar I was sitting on is part of the passenger platform of the Pietermaritzburg train station, the second to last stop on the Climate Train’s journey to COP17 (the COP bit actually stands for Conference of the Parties, and yes, you guessed it this is the 17th meeting of this kind) in Durban.The much-anticipated climate conference opens on 28 November, with thousands of delegates flocking into Durban to debate crucial environmental issues.Spreading the environmental messageThe Pietermaritzburg train station is not a place I come to often, nor do a great percentage of the town’s people.It’s a forgotten historical spot, a redbrick brookie-laced building that hails straight out of a 1940s movie scene. I expect to see my grandad in his safari suit holding out his hand for me.Despite its charm, all around it the buildings have fallen into complete disrepair, equipment is abandoned, and shipping boxes are stacked and forgotten. Strangler figs eat their way through cement and brick.To me, it seems a very apt spot for a collaboration of artists to swoosh into town with a creative and vibrant environmental message.The Climate Train has been whizzing along South Africa’s railway tracks since 28 October, when it left Cape Town to visit 17 cities in seven provinces. It carried on board a true mixed bag of people and organisations; including poets, artists, environmentalists and even the occasional politician.Green awareness agency Indalo Yethu, Copart (Connecting our planet and re-imaging together), the British Council, the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa are the main bodies making the Climate Train a reality…but what is it really about?What’s happening on the Climate TrainAfter chatting to the man in the green t-shirt, who turns out to be a land artist called Simon Max Bannister (after Googling him later I discover he’s darn good at what he does), I step aboard the train to see what’s going down.A hand-drawn map shows a layout of the train, and it seems I’m at the door of the board room.Venturing in I find an enormous box with ‘Coral Art Reef Capsule’ stencilled across the front. It has portholes that let one peer in, and inside is a mesmerising kaleidoscope of crocheted corals.Through the train windows I can see the women responsible for this art work crocheting like mad, sitting around a plastic table covered in a rainbow of wool. It is utterly beautiful, and I have to resist the urge to break into the box and roll around in the squishy nest of woolly colours as I move on to the theatre coach.Here, Copart’s Dylan McGarry is talking to a group of schoolchildren and a couple of adults about using renewable energy sources. He is surrounded by tomato plants, sculptures, TV screens and people.I smile to myself as he says “That’s right! It takes a very long time for organic matter to turn into oil, so we should rather be using sunlight to power things which is way better for the environment and we don’t have to wait a bazillion years for it to make itself!”I always like it when science people use words like bazillion. It makes them so much more human.This is what the Climate Train is about, making the rather large and scary topic of climate change something that anyone can relate to. Using mixed mediums of art, drama and teaching as well as discussion forums, the topic of climate change is tackled from a variety of different angles.A child will enjoy a creative play and the chance to paint all over a large sheet of paper, while an adult will relate to the exhibition coach filled with examples of alternative technologies and moreover, the opportunity to speak about environmental issues effecting their communities.Bringing the people’s concerns to COP17The Climate Train is as much about listening to disenfranchised communities around South Africa as it is about creating awareness around climate change.Station platforms are a subtle metaphor for a platform to allow voices to be heard, and it is the responsibility of the artists and organisers on board to take those messages to the end destination of COP17.McGarry, one of the creators of the original Climate Train idea, commented that he has been absolutely blown away by the response in some towns and horrified by many of the tales he has heard, especially those related to the mining industry.“The Climate Train has always been about opening up dialogue with people, we want to listen to what South African communities have to say; particularly those who are never given the opportunity to talk,” he said.But the mission of the Climate Train is not to preach about green issues, said McGarry, but rather to listen so that the people’s voices can be heard at COP17.COP17 ‘absolutely massive’After a long day filled with hundreds of schoolchildren, film crews, journalists and curious townsfolk; the Ambush group packs up all the indigenous trees from their Guerrilla Gardening initiative, they lift chairs and tables, pack up giant puppets and to be honest they look absolutely shattered.It’s bizarre seeing Bannister remove his installation art, like the cleverly split rock that he had placed on the tar and dressed with a sticky, dark stain of blood. In a few moments this very striking work of art is gone, and a wash of water later the ‘blood’ will trickle off the platform. Tomorrow this spot will simply be the station most of us don’t visit again.As we dismantle McGarry’s cleverly designed circular community conference table, crafted by his own hands which are now thrown in the air, he says “I have to protect this table, kids and graffiti, what can you do?”Blue ball point is scratched into the plain untreated wood; the Climate Train is far from a shiny glamorous PR circus, once you get past all the branding and media hype.Dirty, sweaty and exhausted, the crew talk about how they’re looking forward to departing for Durban the next day but are also a little nervous.“I haven’t ever been nervous about any kind of environmental march or gathering before” says Kyla Davis of the Well Worn Theatre Company and a member of Copart, “But it’s just that no-one knows what to expect with COP17. It seems like it’s going to be absolutely massive.”COP17 kicks off today in Durban. Just as Davis mentioned above, we are all curious to see what manifests at the conference, and as the Climate Train chugs its way into eThekwini we hope that the voices recorded on its month long journey will be heard among the din of the show.last_img read more

Fitness Trackers Are Still Waiting For Their “iPod Moment”

first_imgThe fitness-tracker market is exploding. There are a ton of new devices on the market to track steps, sleep, heart rate, and other bodily metrics, many unveiled earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. One reporter tried on 56 different models on display at the event.I don’t know if this Cambrian explosion of gadgets can be a good thing. Only one in ten consumers currently has a fitness tracker, which suggests that they have yet to become truly mainstream, despite their potential health benefits.What the market really needs is a mass extinction event, some Darwinian species-killer of a product that wipes out the less fit and leaves a few strong players to survive. We need some asteroid of a product that blows everyone else away.Looking For The iPod MomentThere are very few examples of this kind of category dominance.Let’s wind the clock back a decade. The year was 2004, and Apple’s iPod—the iconic music player that turned around the company’s fortunes and transformed it from a computer company into a consumer-electronics giant was on the verge of ubiquity. Its market share would peak at 92 percent. Apple CEO Steve Jobs bragged to Newsweek how the iPod and its iconic white earbuds were taking over cities:“I was on Madison, and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen.’” How did the iPod achieve ubiquity? Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, but it improved it, taking advantage of smaller hard drives to create a more compact yet capacious player than had previously existed. It also, crucially, improved the interface so that it was easy to play all those songs. Then Apple cunningly cornered the market on the parts needed to build similar devices. No one could catch up with it.Palm, too, back in the day, cornered the market on personal digital accessories—those contacts-and-calendars pocket computers which predated and anticipated smartphones.Survival Of The FittestI don’t see anyone in the fitness-tracker market employing similar tactics. There are plenty of examples of good design: Withings’ Activité Pop, for example, shines with its watch-like good looks and eight-month battery life.But the Activité Pop, at $150, just does steps and sleep tracking—a commodity offering. And its companion app, Withings Health Mate, is unremarkable, offering the same features you see in a host of similar fitness apps. It’s a good device, and its design will surely sell some people on it, but it’s not the killer we need.Likewise, I like the Runtastic Orbit, which is the best example I’ve found of integration between hardware, software, and services—but I have a hard time seeing it get the distribution it needs. And because it’s closely tied to Runtastic’s apps, it suffers from the extreme fragmentation that rules the fitness-app market, too.Fitbit is the leader in selling fitness trackers at retail right now, but their Charge and Surge models are, I feel, just keeping up with the competition, not breaking away.What about the Apple Watch? What about it, indeed? First of all, it’s a smartwatch, not a fitness tracker—and NPD reports that smartwatches are far behind fitness trackers in consumer interest and adoption. They’re more expensive, harder to keep charged, and more demandingly twiddly in their interfaces.Before Apple launched the iPod, it started offering iTunes software for managing collections of digital music, which gave it a ready-made audience. iTunes users became tied to the iPod, and vice versa—a virtuous cycle where software drove hardware sales. (I know it’s popular to complain about iTunes these days, but back in the 2000s, iTunes blew away competing tools for managing music libraries.)Apple had an opportunity to do something similar with HealthKit and its companion Health app, and it blew it, big time. HealthKit is glitchy and the Health app just isn’t very good. If Apple had strong fitness software and collections of workout and nutrition data—the health equivalent of those iTunes libraries—it would be set up for an easy entrance into the fitness-tracker market. Jawbone UP iPhone app ditches bandAs it is, I think the Apple Watch will do very well in the smartwatch category. I just don’t think many people will use its fitness features, and those interested in health tracking will gravitate to dedicated devices. Who wins in a fragmented hardware market? I think it will be the fitness apps that pull in data from the widest possible range of devices and sort it and make sense of it all. The leading contenders here include MyFitnessPal, Under Armour’s Connected Fitness group, and Jawbone, whose app no longer requires a companion Up. Indeed, if someone doesn’t come along with an iPod- or Palm-like smash hit that dominates the market, we may see fitness-tracking functions fade into smartphones. Our phones are with us constantly, after all, and we might as well think of them as wearables for all the time they spend in our pockets or otherwise on our persons.It’s a pity, because I can see a role for fitness trackers. While steps are trivial, more sophisticated movement analysis as well as heart-rate measurement and sleep tracking need a wrist-based device.If only there were one device to explain and define the market, the way the iPod did for MP3 players and Palm did for PDAs. Without that, the fitness-tracker market may rise and fall quickly—a blip in the evolutionary history of gadgets.Photos by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite Tags:#Apple Watch#Body#digital fitness#fitness apps#fitness trackers#jawbone#Jawbone Up#smartwatches#Withings#Withings Activité#Withings Activité Pop Related Posts What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … Why IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfacescenter_img The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technology Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement owen thomaslast_img read more

Weekly Report from Washington, D.C.

first_imgDuring the week of April 23, lawmakers continued to discuss tax law changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as well as the possibility of a second tax bill this year. The IRS is currently reviewing a series of questions from bipartisan House lawmakers on the IRS’s Tax Day systems glitch.CongressThe Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) issued reports on federal tax baseline projections and macroeconomic modeling. Also, the JCT issued a report on solvency of multiemployer pension plans.House. A bipartisan group of House Ways and Means Committee tax writers sent Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter a letter expressing certain concerns.Senate. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) held an April 24 hearing to examine early impressions of the new tax law.TreasuryProactive processes to identify and mitigate potential misuse of electronic payments systems are needed, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA Ref. No. 2018-40-031)In addition, the Treasury has outlined its progress in enforcing President Trump’s regulatory reform, undertaken primarily to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens, (TDNR SM-0366)IRSMeanwhile, the IRShas updated FAQs on ACA coverage, medical expense deductions and more.Delegated authority on matters related to agent for consolidated group.will provide guidance on the new information reporting obligations for certain life insurance contract transactions under Code Sec. 6050Y. The IRS has delayed reporting requirements under Code Sec. 6050Y until the final regulations are issued, (IR-2018-104; Notice 2018-41).will host webcasts for National Small Business Week, April 29 to May 5, (IR-2018-105).extended temporary relief provided for Wisconsin energy emergencies (Notice 2018-39).will spotlight cybersecurity awareness through Nationwide Tax Forums during 2018 given the recent tax law modifications and the prevailing cybersecurity threat, (IR-2018-106).modified the annual limit on 2018 HSA contribution deductions for individuals with family coverage under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) (IR-2018-107; Rev. Proc. 2018-27).provided the  general rules and specifications for reproducing paper and computer-generated substitute for certain forms, (Rev. Proc. 2018-24).warned taxpayers of a new twist on an old phone scam as criminals use telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) to lure them into paying nonexistent tax bills, (IR-2018-103).clarified the difference between initial contacts and contacts for investigative collection.issued tips on income received as tips, what to do after tax-filing deadline and amending tax returns.spotlighted Taxpayer Bill of Rights: Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.released a Fact Sheet regarding depreciation deductions that were changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97), (FS-2018-9).RatesIn addition, the IRS provided the:applicable federal rates for May 2018 (Rev. Rul. 2018-12);nationwide average purchase price of residences in the United States to issuers of qualified mortgage bonds and mortgage credit certificates (Rev. Proc. 2018-28);nonconventional source fuel reference price for calendar year 2017, (Notice 2018-32); andforeign housing expense exclusion/deduction amounts for tax year 2018, (Notice 2018-33).Finally, the Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT) will hold a public meeting on Thursday, June 7, 2018.An energy company could not include hedging gains and losses in its income because the law specifically limits the definition of income to income from oil and gas property.Login to read more tax news on CCH® AnswerConnect or CCH® Intelliconnect®.Not a subscriber? Sign up for a free trial or contact us for a representative.last_img read more

‘We are headed for a very dark period.’ Brazil’s researchers fear election of far-right presidential candidate

first_imgJair Bolsonaro leads in the polls for Brazil’s presidential election. Beset by economic woes and dissatisfied with the left-wing politicians in power for most of the past 15 years, Brazil appears poised to make a hard turn and elect a far-right candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, as its next president. His rapid ascent has unnerved local researchers, who worry about the future of Brazilian science, the protection of the country’s biodiversity, and its role in the global struggle against climate change.“I think we are headed for a very dark period in the history of Brazil,” says Paulo Artaxo, a climate change researcher at the University of São Paulo (USP) in São Paulo, Brazil. “There is no point sugarcoating it. Bolsonaro is the worst thing that could happen for the environment.”Bolsonaro has vowed to withdraw Brazil from the 2015 Paris agreement, which requires nations to reduce greenhouse emissions to combat climate change, and he plans to eliminate the Ministry of the Environment and fold its duties into the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Supply. The “Myth”—as his supporters call him—has also said, while campaigning in the Amazon, that Brazil has “too many protected areas” that “stand in the way of development.”Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)The 63-year-old congressman and former army captain fell just short of winning a majority in the primary election earlier this month, and he heads into a 28 October runoff with a large lead in the polls over left-wing scholar Fernando Haddad. The plight of Brazil’s research establishment, which has endured sharp budget cuts in recent years, has had little mention in the campaigning so far. When recently asked about his possible choice for science minister, Bolsonaro named Brazilian astronaut and former air force pilot Marcos Pontes, a member of his party, as his top preference.A draft campaign document focusing on science—first revealed last week by the Brazilian newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo—offers additional insight into his plans. It pledges to more than double the level of R&D investment in the next 4 years, but would focus most of the extra money and attention on applied sciences such as space and robotics, rather than on basic research at universities.Under the slogan “Brazil above everything, God above all,” Bolsonaro’s campaign exalts national pride, military discipline, and a zero-tolerance, iron-fist stance against crime. Famous for inflammatory remarks about women and minorities, Bolsonaro openly cherishes the 21-year military dictatorship that started with a coup in 1964. Jair Bolsonaro, front-runner for Brazil’s presidency, is a scary prospect for some.  ‘We are headed for a very dark period.’ Brazil’s researchers fear election of far-right presidential candidate Victor Moriyama/Stringer/Getty Images center_img Historically, Bolsonaro has had little to do with science, and he recently sparred with the academic community, authoring legislation to favor an unproven cancer therapy. A general he picked to craft his science and education plans defended the teaching of creationism this week, telling O Estado de S. Paulo that students need to know that “Darwin existed,” but not necessarily to “agree with him.”Climate change is one scientific issue Bolsonaro has touched on. He hasn’t specifically questioned that humans are driving global warming, but his son, a popular Brazilian congressman, has done so in a video that celebrates the climate policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. And Bolsonaro has indicated that the Paris agreement’s mandate threatens Brazil’s national sovereignty, especially in the Amazon region, where deforestation for farming and cattle ranching has driven most of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.Through law enforcement and mechanisms such as incentives for sustainable practices, Brazilian authorities have substantially reduced Amazon deforestation in the past 13 years, and the nation’s commitment to the Paris climate change accord requires it to continue that trend. Bolsonaro’s campaign instead promises to promote agriculture and mining in the region. One of the generals helping develop the candidate’s policies told O Estado de S. Paulo last week that he missed the days when road builders could cut down trees in the Amazon without being bothered by environmental authorities.Unfettered development of the Amazon would be a “grave mistake,” says Eduardo Assad, a climate change and agricultural scientist at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation in Campinas. He adds that studies show Brazil’s agricultural production could be doubled by exploiting abandoned or degraded pastures and farmland—“without any additional deforestation.”Haddad, a 55-year-old professor of political science at USP, offers more moderate views, focusing on social justice and sustainable development. But corruption scandals that culminated in the impeachment of Brazil’s then-President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016 and the recent imprisonment of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is closely associated with Haddad, have darkened his prospects. In a poll out on 15 October, he trailed Bolsonaro 41% to 59%.Haddad’s campaign has pledged to “rebuild the national science, technology, and innovation system” and provide ample public funding to help double the intensity of the country’s R&D expenditure to 2% of gross domestic product (GDP) by the year 2030. In his campaign’s draft science document, Bolsonaro pledges even more R&D investment, 2.5% of GDP by the end of his term, in 2022.Many researchers doubt that either candidate can fulfill such pledges. “I’ve heard this promise many times before,” says Fernando Peregrino, a science policy expert and president of Confies in Brasília, a national network of foundations that support scientific research and higher education. Brazil lacks the economic policies and fiscal stability to provide generous support for R&D, he believes.Bolsonaro plans to rely heavily on the private sector to boost R&D spending, through economic incentives and partnerships. “Our greatest deficit is in innovation,” says economist Marcos Cintra, president of the Brazilian Research and Innovation Agency in Rio de Janeiro, who is helping craft Bolsonaro’s R&D proposals.As for public spending, the campaign document calls for a “greater balance” between “curiosity-oriented research and research directed towards missions and goals.” Brazil’s Ministry of Education now receives 60% of federal R&D funds, compared with the Ministry of Defense’s 1.5%, and Cintra argues defense should get more. “One of the political difficulties is that public research in Brazil still has a strong academic bias, without focus or specific priorities,” Bolsonaro’s campaign document says.Luiz Davidovich, president of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences in Rio de Janeiro, agrees that it’s important to define national priorities and strategic goals, but says academic and intellectual freedom must also be preserved.Whoever wins the election, scientists here are unlikely to see any relief soon. Federal funding for the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communication has fallen by more than half since 2013, and the budget proposal for 2019—drafted by the current administration—predicts another 10% cut below this year’s.“Even for the most optimistic of us, it’s looking bad,” Artaxo says. Andre Coelho/Bloomberg/Getty Images By Herton EscobarOct. 16, 2018 , 5:10 PMlast_img read more