June 29, 2016

Global Challenges Foundation - Global Catastrophic Risks 2016 [Executive Summary] 5-15min

The global catastrophic risks in this report can be divided into two categories. Some are ongoing and could potentially occur in any given year. Others are emerging and may be very unlikely today but will become significantly more likely in the coming decades. The most significant ongoing risks are natural pandemics and nuclear war, whereas the most significant emerging risks are catastrophic climate change and risks stemming from emerging technologies. Even where risks remain in the future, there are things we can do today to address them. ... The relative likelihood and urgency of the different risks matters when deciding how to respond. Even though the level of uncertainty is extreme, rational action requires explicit assessments of how much attention the different risks deserve, and how likely they are. The views of the authors on these vexed questions, based on our reading of the scientific evidence, are summarised in the following table. More information can be found in the full version of this report.

Global catastrophe
Popular Mechanics - How the U.S. Patent Office Got So Screwed Up 5-15min

Starting in the early 2000s, the rights and protections conferred by a U.S. patent have eroded to the point that they are weaker today than at any time since the Great Depression. A series of Supreme Court decisions and then the most important patent-reform legislation in sixty years, signed into law in 2011, have made it so. The stated purpose of the reform has been to exterminate so-called patent trolls—those entities that own patents (sometimes many thousands of them) and engage in no business other than suing companies for patent infringement. The reforms have had their desired effect. It has become harder for trolls to sue. But they've made it harder for people with legitimate cases, people like Norred, to sue, too. ... According to many inventors, entrepreneurs, legal scholars, judges, and former and current USPTO officials, the altered patent system harms the independent, entrepreneurial, garage-and-basement inventors, who loom as large in our national mythology as the pilgrim and the pioneer.

Bloomberg - The Story of Britain’s Biggest Insider-Trading Trial 5-15min

What made the case fascinating—what had the entire London financial scene watching and waiting for the precedent it might set—was that the defendants’ version of events wasn’t so different from that of the prosecution. Parvizi and the others acknowledged joining up to trade. They acknowledged disguising their activities with encrypted devices and burner phones. But, they maintained, they’d never knowingly traded on information that was, legally speaking, “insider.” The men said their investments, even those that were incredibly well-timed, stayed on the legal side of the line between privileged information and well-informed rumor. ... The trial ran for four months, and at times Courtroom 3 became a circus. Anderson suffered a heart scare after two days on the stand, repeatedly delaying the proceedings. A reality-TV star sat in the audience. Harrison, making the most of the judge’s direction that the men could come and go as they pleased, barely showed up. Parvizi maintained his cool, even when his character was being savaged. During cross-examination, the lead prosecutor observed that lying appeared to come easily to him. Matter-of-factly, Parvizi replied, “Of course.”

Rolling Stone - Zika: The Epidemic at America's Door 5-15min

Of the 1,301 mosquito-borne cases recorded in the U.S., 97 percent of them are in Puerto Rico, neither a state nor a sovereign nation, but whose people are, nonetheless, U.S. citizens. As of early June, the start of Puerto Rico's long, hot and rainy summer, there are 1,259 recorded cases on the island, though some health officials believe the true number may be more than 80,000. ... unlike Ebola, which causes gruesome symptoms often followed by death, Zika is somewhat of a stealth virus. Most people infected will have no symptoms. Some may come down with conjunctivitis or break out in a skin rash, or experience muscle or joint pain or run a fever. Within a week or so, all of the symptoms, if they even emerged, are gone. In a certain number of cases, however, this may only be the beginning. ... the CDC estimates that it could cost $10 million to care for one microcephalic child. Zika, which seems to be particularly drawn to neurological tissue, may also cause swelling of the brain or spinal cord in adults, and has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune neurological condition that can cause severe, if usually temporary, paralysis. ... But the scariest aspect of Zika is how little scientists actually know about it. ... Zika was first discovered in 1947 in the Zika Forest of Uganda, where researchers were studying the impact of mosquito-borne viruses on rhesus monkeys. Over the next 60 years, there were only 14 documented cases of Zika in humans, mainly in Africa and parts of southern Asia. ... given the prevalence of a host of factors, ranging from effective sanitation to the ubiquity of window screens and air conditioning, this kind of outbreak anywhere in the continental U.S., and much of Europe, for that matter, is unlikely.

Vox - Why LaCroix sparkling water is suddenly everywhere 5-15min

Over the past decade, Americans have done something that would have once seemed downright un-American: They've given up soda. And when you’re craving a can of pop, LaCroix is a decent substitute. Unlike tap water, it has carbonation and a little flavor. Unlike a countertop SodaStream, it's cheap, readily available, and portable. Close your eyes, wrap your hand around the perspiring aluminum can, and you could be holding a Coca-Cola. LaCroix is succeeding as methadone for the soda addict. ... LaCroix isn’t the only brand to benefit from the sparkling water boom. But it’s the one that’s risen to the coveted status of lifestyle brand, not just generating loyalty but becoming part of how we define ourselves. The secret behind LaCroix’s rise is a mix of old-fashioned business strategy and cutting-edge social marketing. When Americans wanted carbonated water, LaCroix was positioned to give them them fizzy water. Then, sometimes by accident, LaCroix developed fans among mommy bloggers, Paleo eaters, and Los Angeles writers who together pushed LaCroix into the zeitgeist.