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Our phones and gadgets are now endangering the planet
United Kingdom Created: 24 Sep 2018
The energy used in our digital consumption is set to have a bigger impact on global warming than the entire aviation industry.

It was just another moment in this long, increasingly strange summer. I was on a train home from Paddington station, and the carriage’s air-conditioning was just about fighting off the heat outside. Most people seemed to be staring at their phones – in many cases, they were trying to stream a World Cup match, as the 4G signal came and went, and Great Western Railway’s onboard wifi proved to be maddeningly erratic. The trebly chatter of headphone leakage was constant. And thousands of miles and a few time zones away in Loudoun County, Virginia, one of the world’s largest concentrations of computing power was playing its part in keeping everything I saw ticking over, as data from around the world passed back and forth from its vast buildings.

Most of us communicate with this small and wealthy corner of the US every day. Thanks to a combination of factors – its proximity to Washington DC, competitive electricity prices, and its low susceptibility to natural disasters – the county is the home of data centres used by about 3,000 tech companies: huge agglomerations of circuitry, cables and cooling systems that sit in corners of the world most of us rarely see, but that are now at the core of how we live. About 70% of the world’s online traffic is reckoned to pass through Loudoun County.

But there is a big problem, centred on a power company called Dominion, which supplies the vast majority of Loudoun County’s electricity. According to a 2017 Greenpeace report, only 1% of Dominion’s total electricity comes from credibly renewable sources: 2% originates in hydroelectric plants, and the rest is split evenly between coal, gas and nuclear power. Dominion is also in the middle of a huge regional controversy about a proposed pipeline that will carry fracked gas to its power plants, which it says is partly driven by data centres’ insatiable appetite for electricity. Clearly, then, the video streams, digital photographs and messaging that pour out of all those servers come with a price.

I was reminded of all this by the recently published book New Dark Age, by the British writer James Bridle. He cites a study in Japan that suggests that by 2030, the power requirements of digital services will outstrip the nation’s entire current generation capacity. He quotes an American report from 2013 – ironically enough, commissioned by coal industry lobbyists – that pointed out that using either a tablet or smartphone to wirelessly watch an hour of video a week used roughly the same amount of electricity (largely consumed at the data-centre end of the process) as two new domestic fridges.

If you worry about climate change and a cause celebre such as the expansion of Heathrow airport, it is worth considering that data centres are set to soon have a bigger carbon footprint than the entire aviation industry. Yet as Bridle points out, even that statistic doesn’t quite do justice to some huge potential problems. He mentions the vast amounts of electricity consumed by the operations of the online currency Bitcoin – which, at the height of the speculative frenzies earlier this year, was set to produce an annual amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to 1m transatlantic flights. And he’s anxious about what will happen next: “In response to vast increases in data storage and computational capacity in the last decade, the amount of energy used by data centres has doubled every four years, and is expected to triple in the next 10 years.”

These changes are partly being driven by the so-called internet of things: the increasing array of everyday devices – from TVs, through domestic security devices, to lighting systems, and countless modes of transport – that constantly emit and receive data. If driverless cars ever arrive in our lives, those same flows will increase hugely. At the same time, the accelerating rollout of the internet and its associated technologies in the developing world will add to the load.

About a decade ago, we were being told to fight climate change by switching off our TVs and stereos. If the battle is now even more urgent, how does it fit with a world in which router lights constantly flicker, and all the devices we own will be in constant, energy-intensive communication with distant mega-computers?

But some good news. Whatever its other ethical contortions, Silicon Valley has an environmental conscience. Facebook has pledged to, sooner or later, power its operations using “100% clean and renewable energy”. Google says it has already achieved that goal. So does Apple. Yet even if you factor in efficiency improvements, beneath many of these claims lies a reality in which the vast and constant demand for power means such companies inevitably use energy generated by fossil fuels, and then atone for it using the often questionable practice of carbon offsetting.

And among the big tech corporations, there is one big focus of worry: Amazon, whose ever-expanding cloud computing wing, Amazon Web Services, offers “the on-demand delivery of computer power, database storage … and other IT resources” and provides most of the computing power behind Netflix. This sits at the heart of data centres’ relentless expansion. Green campaigners bemoan the fact that the details of AWS’s electricity consumption and its carbon footprint remain under wraps; on its corporate website, the story of its use of renewable energy suddenly stops in 2016.

Besides, for all their power, even the most enlightened US giants obviously command only part of a global industry. To quote from that Greenpeace report: “Among emerging Chinese internet giants such as Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, the silence on energy performance still remains. Neither the public nor customers are able to obtain any information about their electricity use and CO2 target.” Irrespective of the good work carried out by some tech giants, and whether or not you take seriously projections that the entire communication technology industry could account for up to 14% of carbon emissions by 2040, one stark fact remains: the vast majority of electricity used in the world’s data centres comes from non-renewable sources, and as their numbers rapidly increase, there are no guarantees that this will change.

On the fringes of the industry, a few voices have been heard describing the kind of future at which most of us – expecting everything streamed as a right – would balk. They talk about eventually rationing internet use, insisting that people send black and white images, or forcibly pushing them away from binge-streaming videos. Their basic point, it seems, chimes with those occasions when the smartphone in your pocket starts to suddenly heat up: a metaphor for our warming planet, and the fact that even the most well-intentioned corporations may yet find that their supposedly unlimited digital delights are, in the dictionary definition of the term, unsustainable.

John Harris is a Guardian columnist
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Source: The Guardian, John Harris, 17 Jul 2018

Poor mental health at work 'widespread'
United Kingdom Created: 12 Sep 2018
Poor mental health affects half of all employees, according to a survey of 44,000 people carried out by the mental health charity Mind.

Only half of those who had experienced problems with stress, anxiety or low mood had talked to their employer about it.

That's something that must change, says Mind.

Fear, shame and job insecurity are some of the reasons people may choose to hide their worries.

Natalie Hunt, 34, from Salford, got her first job at 18. That role was working in a department store, serving customers, but she found it extremely stressful.

"It was dealing with complaints and helping people with queries. I'd had anxiety and depression as a teenager and the full-time job made me really anxious. I began to get shy and withdrawn, going more and more into myself, and I was worried about having a panic attack at work.

"Colleagues started to notice and eventually my boss wanted a word."

Under pressure
Natalie says that at the time, her employer didn't really understand or know what to do. There was no support. She then left the workplace altogether and took up an art course at college.

She now teaches art classes to people with mental health problems, and at a homeless shelter. She also works part-time in an office, even though sometimes she can go through stages of poor mental health.

Natalie says it makes a huge difference when the workplace is supportive - they have flexible hours and regular catch-ups.

"I first started back in the workplace with a bit of voluntary work in a charity shop, which was great. Because it was voluntary and part-time, I didn't feel pressured and it helped me regain some confidence. That was when I was 20.

"Now I run my own art classes for people with mental health conditions. It's lovely to be making a difference."

Mind says around 300,000 people lose their job each year due to a mental health problem.

The charity - along with The Royal Foundation, Heads Together and 11 other organisations - has created an online resource for employers and employees with information, advice, resources and training that workplaces can use to improve wellbeing.

A recent poll by the Institute of Directors found less than one in five firms offered mental health training for managers.

Poor relationships with line managers, along with workload, have the biggest negative impact on employees' mental health, the survey found - closely followed by poor relationships with colleagues.
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Source: BBC News, 11 Sep 2018

Sperm Count Zero
USA Created: 12 Sep 2018
A strange thing has happened to men over the past few decades: We’ve become increasingly infertile, so much so that within a generation we may lose the ability to reproduce entirely. What’s causing this mysterious drop in sperm counts—and is there any way to reverse it before it’s too late?

Men are doomed. Everybody knows this. We're obviously all doomed, the women too, everybody in general, just a waiting game until one or another of the stupid things our stupid species is up to finally gets us. But as it turns out, no surprise: men first. Second instance of no surprise: We're going to take the women down with us.

There has always been evidence that men, throughout life, are at higher risk of early death—from the beginning, a higher male incidence of Death by Mastodon Stomping, a higher incidence of Spiked Club to the Brainpan, a statistically significant disparity between how many men and how many women die of Accidentally Shooting Themselves in the Face or Getting Really Fat and Having a Heart Attack. The male of the species dies younger than the female—about five years on average. Divide a population into groups by birth year, and by the time each cohort reaches 85, there are two women left for every man alive. In fact, the male wins every age class: Baby boys die more often than baby girls; little boys die more often than little girls; teenage boys; young men; middle-aged men. Death champions across the board.

Now it seems that early death isn't enough for us—we're on track instead to void the species entirely. Last summer a group of researchers from Hebrew University and Mount Sinai medical school published a study showing that sperm counts in the U.S., Europe, Australia, and New Zealand have fallen by more than 50 percent over the past four decades. (They judged data from the rest of the world to be insufficient to draw conclusions from, but there are studies suggesting that the trend could be worldwide.) That is to say: We are producing half the sperm our grandfathers did. We are half as fertile.

The Hebrew University/Mount Sinai paper was a meta-analysis by a team of epidemiologists, clinicians, and researchers that culled data from 185 studies, which examined semen from almost 43,000 men. It showed that the human race is apparently on a trend line toward becoming unable to reproduce itself. Sperm counts went from 99 million sperm per milliliter of semen in 1973 to 47 million per milliliter in 2011, and the decline has been accelerating. Would 40 more years—or fewer—bring us all the way to zero?

I called Shanna H. Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist at Mount Sinai and one of the lead authors of the study, to ask if there was any good news hiding behind those brutal numbers. Were we really at risk of extinction? She failed to comfort me. “The What Does It Mean question means extrapolating beyond your data,” Swan said, “which is always a tricky thing. But you can ask, ‘What does it take? When is a species in danger? When is a species threatened?’ And we are definitely on that path.” That path, in its darkest reaches, leads to no more naturally conceived babies and potentially to no babies at all—and the final generation of Homo sapiens will roam the earth knowing they will be the last of their kind.

If we are half as fertile as the generation before us, why haven't we noticed? One answer is that there is a lot of redundancy built into reproduction: You don't need 200 million sperm to fertilize an egg, but that's how many the average man might devote to the job. Most men can still conceive a child naturally with a depressed sperm count, and those who can't have a booming fertility-treatment industry ready to help them. And though lower sperm counts probably have led to a small decrease in the number of children being conceived, that decline has been masked by sociological changes driving birth rates down even faster: People in the developed world are choosing to have fewer children, and they are having them later.

The problem has been debated among fertility scientists for decades now—studies suggesting that sperm counts are declining have been appearing since the '70s—but until Swan and her colleagues' meta-analysis, the results have always been judged incomplete or preliminary. Swan herself had conducted smaller studies on declining sperm counts, but in 2015 she decided it was time for a definitive answer. She teamed up with Hagai Levine, an Israeli epidemiologist, and Niels Jørgensen, a Danish endocrinologist, and along with five others, they set about performing a systematic review and meta-regression analysis—that is, a kind of statistical synthesis of the data. “Hagai is a very good scientist, and he also used to be the head of epidemiology for the Israeli armed forces,” Swan told me. “So he's very good at organizing.” They spent a year working with the data.

The results, when they came in, were clear. Not only were sperm counts per milliliter of semen down by more than 50 percent since 1973, but total sperm counts were down by almost 60 percent: We are producing less semen, and that semen has fewer sperm cells in it. This time around, even scientists who had been skeptical of past analyses had to admit that the study was all but unassailable. Jørgensen, in Copenhagen, told me that when he saw the results, he'd said aloud, “No, it cannot be true.” He had expected to see a past decline and then a leveling off. But he couldn't argue when the team ran the numbers again and again. The downward slope was unwavering.

Almost all the scientists I talked to stressed that not only were low sperm counts alarming for what they said about the reproductive future of the species—they were also a warning of a much larger set of health problems facing men. In this view, sperm production is a canary in the coal mine of male bodies: We know, for instance, that men with poor semen quality have a higher mortality rate and are more likely to have diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease than fertile men.

Testosterone levels have also dropped precipitously, with effects beginning in utero and extending into adulthood. One of the most significant markers of an organism's sex is something called anogenital distance (AGD)—the measurement between the anus and the genitals. Male AGD is typically twice the length of female, a much more dramatic difference than height or weight or musculature. Lower testosterone leads to a shorter AGD, and a measurement lower than the median correlates to a man being seven times as likely to be subfertile and gives him a greater likelihood of having undescended testicles, testicular tumors, and a smaller penis. “What you are seeing in a number of systems, other developmental systems, is that the sex differences are shrinking,” Swan told me. Men are producing less sperm. They're also becoming less male.

I assumed that the next thing Swan was going to tell me was that these changes were all a mystery to scientists. If only we could figure out what was causing the drop in sperm counts, I imagined, we could solve all the attendant health problems at once. But it turns out that it's not a mystery: We know what the culprit is. And it's hiding in plain sight.

The sixth floor of the Rigshospitalet, a hospital and research institution in Copenhagen, houses the Department of Growth and Reproduction. The babies are all a few floors downstairs—on six, the unit is populated not with new parents but with doctors and researchers hunched over mass spectrometers and gel imagers and the like. I was there to meet Niels E. Skakkebæk, an 82-year-old pediatric endocrinologist, who founded the department in 1990. After walking me through the lab, he showed me to his office, a cramped, closet-like space—modest for someone who is a giant in his field. Male fertility and male reproductive health, Skakkebæk told me, are in full-blown crisis. “Here in Denmark, there is an epidemic of infertility,” he said. “More than 20 percent of Danish men do not father children.”

Skakkebæk first suspected something was going wrong in the late '70s, when he treated an infertile patient with an abnormality in the cells of the testes that he had never seen before. When he treated a second man with the same abnormality a few years later, he began to investigate a connection. What he found was a new form of precursor cells for testicular cancer, a once rare disease whose incidence had doubled. Moreover, these precursor cells had begun developing before the patient was even born. “He had the insight that testicular cancer, which is a cancer of young men, is something that is actually originated in utero,” Swan told me. And if these testes had somehow been misdeveloping in utero, Skakkebæk asked himself, what else was happening to these babies before they were born?

Eventually, Skakkebæk linked several other previously rare symptoms for a condition he called testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS), a collection of male reproductive problems that include hypospadias (an abnormal location for the end of the urethra), cryptorchidism (an undescended testicle), poor semen quality, and testicular cancer. What Skakkebæk proposed with TDS is that these disorders can have a common fetal origin, a disruption in the development of the male fetus in the womb.

So what was causing this disruption? To say there is only a single answer might be an overstatement—stress, smoking, and obesity, for example, all depress sperm counts—but there are fewer and fewer critics of the following theory: The industrial revolution happened. And the oil industry happened. And 20th-century chemistry happened. In short, humans started ingesting a whole host of compounds that affected our hormones—including, most crucially, estrogen and testosterone.

The scientists I talked to were less cautious about embracing this explanation than I expected. Down the hall from Skakkebæk's office, I met Anna-Maria Andersson, a biologist whose research has focused on declining testosterone levels. “There has been a chemical revolution going on starting from the beginning of the 19th century, maybe even a bit before,” she told me, “and upwards and exploding after the Second World War, when hundreds of new chemicals came onto the market within a very short time frame.” Suddenly a vast array of chemicals were entering our bloodstream, ones that no human body had ever had to deal with. The chemical revolution gave us some wonderful things: new medicines, new food sources, faster and cheaper mass production of all sorts of necessary products. It also gave us, Andersson pointed out, a living experiment on the human body with absolutely no forethought to the result.

When a chemical affects your hormones, it's called an endocrine disruptor. And it turns out that many of the compounds used to make plastic soft and flexible (like phthalates) or to make them harder and stronger (like Bisphenol A, or BPA) are consummate endocrine disruptors. Phthalates and BPA, for example, mimic estrogen in the bloodstream. If you're a man with a lot of phthalates in his system, you'll produce less testosterone and fewer sperm. If exposed to phthalates in utero, a male fetus's reproductive system itself will be altered: He will develop to be less male.

Women with raised levels of phthalates in their urine during pregnancy were significantly more likely to have sons with shorter anogenital distance as well as shorter penis length and smaller testes. “When the [fetus's] testicles start making testosterone, which is about week eight of pregnancy, they make a little less,” Swan said. “That's the nub of this whole story. So phthalates decrease testosterone. The testicles then do not produce proper testosterone, and the anogenital distance is shorter.”

The problem is that these chemicals are everywhere. BPA can be found in water bottles and food containers and sales receipts. Phthalates are even more common: They are in the coatings of pills and nutritional supplements; they're used in gelling agents, lubricants, binders, emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. Not to mention medical devices, detergents and packaging, paint and modeling clay, pharmaceuticals and textiles and sex toys and nail polish and liquid soap and hair spray. They are used in tubing that processes food, so you'll find them in milk, yogurt, sauces, soups, and even, in small amounts, in eggs, fruits, vegetables, pasta, noodles, rice, and water. The CDC determined that just about everyone in the United States has measurable levels of phthalates in his or her body—they're unavoidable.

What's more, there is evidence that the effect of these endocrine disruptors increases over generations, due to something called epigenetic inheritance. Normally, acquired traits—like, say, a sperm count lowered by obesity—aren't passed down from father to son. But some chemicals, including phthalates and BPA, can change the way genes are expressed without altering the underlying genetic code, and that change is inheritable. Your father passes along his low sperm count to you, and your sperm count goes even lower after you're exposed to endocrine disruptors. That's part of the reason there's been no leveling off even after 40 years of declining sperm counts—the baseline keeps dropping.

With all due respect to Dr. Swan and the problems of extrapolating beyond one's data, I wanted to get back to What It All Means. The answer, I thought, might be found at the 13th International Symposium on Spermatology, which took place in May, on Lidingö, a small island in the inner Stockholm archipelago. A hundred spermatologists in one place: You'd think (incorrectly) that the jokes would be good. Skakkebæk had told me I'd be able to find some dissenters to the conclusions of Swan's meta-analysis there, but what I witnessed instead was the final vanquishing of the few remaining doubters.

At the welcome dinner (reindeer and rooster), I met Hagai Levine, the Israeli co-author of the Hebrew University/Mount Sinai meta-analysis. Levine, who is 40, told me we had reasons to worry. “I'm saying that we should hope for the best and prepare for the worst,” he said. “And that is the possibility that we will become extinct. That's a possibility we must seriously consider. I'm not saying it's going to happen. I'm not saying it's likely to happen. I'm not saying that's the prediction. I'm just saying we should be prepared for such a possibility. That's all. And we are not.”

His session the next morning—“Are Spermatozoa at the Verge of Extinction?”—would be the defining event of the conference: It cast a shadow over all the other talks. At a panel discussion that followed his presentation, Levine continued his argument for addressing the causes of the crisis, saying, “My default, if I don't know, is that it is up to the manufacturers of chemicals to prove that their chemicals are safe. But I don't feel like I need any more evidence to take action with chemicals already known to disrupt the endocrine system.”

The organizer of the symposium, Lars Björndahl, a Swedish spermatologist who had presented earlier in the morning, urged caution. “I have great respect for epidemiological studies, but we should remember that mathematical correlations don't prove that there is a causative relation,” he said. Questions from the audience—often taking the form of statements—were much along the same lines: Be careful of a bias toward the assumption that all these things are connected. Levine nodded with only a hint of chagrin, like a patient professor waiting hopefully for his students to catch up.

David Mortimer, who runs a company that designs and establishes assisted-conception laboratories, was one of the only members of the audience willing to question Levine's study itself. He pointed out that methods for measuring sperm had changed dramatically over the time period of the study and that the old studies were profoundly unreliable.

Levine was ready with an answer. “So that's one of the reasons we also conducted a sensitivity analysis,” he said from the stage, “with studies with sample collection only after 1995—and the slope was even steeper. So that could not explain the decline we see after 1995.”

“I've never said there was no decline in sperm counts,” Mortimer said, a bit defensively. Levine, who had been so gracious and engaged with his critics, began to look a little tired. He rallied, though, when the group agreed to put out a joint statement about the crisis. The chairs of the symposium called on the world to acknowledge that male reproductive health was essential for the survival of the species, that its decline was alarming and should be studied, and that at present it was being neglected in funding and attention.

Mortimer came around and ended up signing the statement. When I caught up with him later, he wasn't nearly as dismissive of the study's conclusions as I expected. He agreed there was little question that sperm counts were dropping, and he even embraced some of the direst predictions of scientists like Levine. “The epigenetics are the scary bit,” he told me, “because what we're doing now affects the future of the human race.” When even the skeptics are scared, it's probably time to pay attention.

Can anything be done? Over the past 20 years, there have been occasional attempts to limit the number of endocrine disruptors in circulation, but inevitably the fixes are insubstantial: one chemical removed in favor of another, which eventually turns out to have its own dangers. That was the case with BPA, which was partly replaced by Bisphenol S, which might be even worse for you. The chemical industry, unsurprisingly, has been resistant to the notion that the billions of dollars of revenue these products represent might also represent terrible damage to the human body, and have often followed the model of Big Tobacco and Big Oil—fighting regulation with lobbyists and funding their own studies that suggest their products are harmless. The website for the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association, has a page dedicated to phthalates that mostly consists of calling Shanna Swan's research “controversial” and asserting that her “use of methodologies that have not been validated and unconventional data analysis have been criticized by the scientific community.” (Cited critics of Swan include Elizabeth Whelan, now deceased, an epidemiologist famous for fighting the regulation of chemicals from her position as president of the American Council on Science and Health, which has received funding from Chevron, DuPont, and other companies in the plastic business.)

Assuming that we're unable to wean ourselves off plastics and other marvels of modern science, we may be stuck innovating our way out of this mess. How long we're able to outrun the drop in sperm count may depend, finally, on how good we get at IVF and other fertility treatments. When I spoke with Marc Goldstein, a urologist and surgeon at Weill Cornell medical center in New York City, he said that while there was “no question I've seen a big increase in men with male-factor infertility,” he wasn't worried for the future of the species. Assisted reproduction would keep the babies coming, no matter how sickly men's sperm become.

It's true that fertility treatments have already given men with extremely low sperm counts the chance to be fathers. Indeed, by looking at their cases, we can glimpse what our low-sperm-count future might look like. We know that it will be arduous to conceive, and expensive—so expensive that having children may no longer be an option available to all couples. A fertility-treatment-dependent future is also unlikely to produce a birth rate anywhere near current levels.

Not long ago, I spoke with Chris Wohl, a research materials/surface engineer at the NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia, who spent six years trying to conceive a child. Both he and his wife had fertility problems: Wohl's sperm count was under 2 million per milliliter—the average count we'd expect to reach, at the current rate, by 2034. “We started in the normal way of trying to have kids,” he said, “and after a few years, we said, ‘Okay, let's talk to some folks.’ ” They went through several rounds of intrauterine insemination. “And then after that sixth time, we said, ‘This isn't working. We need to kind of up our technology game.’ So we went to a reproductive endocrinologist and went through several rounds of IVF. And then when that failed, we were going to look into adoption. That's when somebody came forward and said that they would be a surrogate for us.” Finally, with the surrogate, the process worked. He and his wife now have a healthy, strong-willed 4-year-old girl.

So perhaps that's the solution: As long as we hover somewhere above Sperm Count Zero, and with an assist from modern medicine, we have a shot. Men will continue to be essential to the survival of the species. The problem with innovation, though, is that it never stops. A new technology known as IVG—in vitro gametogenesis—is showing early promise at turning embryonic stem cells into sperm. In 2016, Japanese scientists created baby mice by fertilizing normal mouse eggs with sperm created via IVG. The stem cells in question were taken from female mice. There was no need for any males.
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Source: GQ Magazine, Daniel Noah Halpern 04 Sep 2018

Bay Area city blocks 5G deployments over cancer concerns
USA Created: 11 Sep 2018
The Bay Area may be the center of the global technology industry, but that hasn’t stopped one wealthy enclave from protecting itself from the future.

The city council of Mill Valley, a small town located just a few miles north of San Francisco, voted unanimously late last week to effectively block deployments of small-cell 5G wireless towers in the city’s residential areas.

Through an urgency ordinance, which allows the city council to immediately enact regulations that affect the health and safety of the community, the restrictions and prohibitions will be put into force immediately for all future applications to site 5G telecommunications equipment in the city. Applications for commercial districts are permitted under the passed ordinance.

The ordinance was driven by community concerns over the health effects of 5G wireless antennas. According to the city, it received 145 pieces of correspondence from citizens voicing opposition to the technology, compared to just five letters in support of it — a ratio of 29 to 1. While that may not sound like much, the city’s population is roughly 14,000, indicating that about 1% of the population had voiced an opinion on the matter.

Blocks on 5G deployments are nothing new for Marin County, where other cities including San Anselmo and Ross have passed similar ordinances designed to thwart 5G expansion efforts over health concerns.

These restrictions on small cell site deployments could complicate 5G’s upcoming nationwide rollout. While 5G standards have yet to be standardized, one model that has broad traction in the telecommunications industry is to use so-called “small cell” antennas to increase bandwidth and connection quality while reducing infrastructure and power costs. Smaller antennas are easier to install and will be loss obtrusive, reducing the concerns of urban preservationists to unsightly tower masts that have long plagued the deployment of 4G antennas in communities across the United States.

Perhaps most importantly, these small cells emit less radiation, since they are not designed to provide as wide of coverage as traditional cell sites. The telecom industry has long vociferously denied a link between antennas and health outcomes, although California’s Department of Public Health has issued warnings about potential health effects of personal cell phone antennas. Reduced radiation emissions from 5G antennas compared to 4G antennas would presumably further reduce any health effects of this technology.

Restrictions like Mill Valley’s will make it nearly impossible to deploy 5G in a timely manner. As one industry representative told me in an interview a few months ago, “It takes 18 months to get the permit to deploy, and 2 hours to install.” Multiplied by the hundreds of sites required to cover a reasonably-sized urban neighborhood, and the 5G rollout goes beyond daunting to well-near impossible.

While health concerns have bubbled in various municipalities, those concerns are not shared globally. China, through companies like Huawei, is investing billions of dollars to design and build 5G infrastructure, in hopes of stealing the industry crown from the United States, which is the market leader in 4G technologies.

Those competitive concerns have increasingly been a priority at the FCC, where chairman Ajit Pai and his fellow Republican commissioners have pushed hard to overcome local concerns around health and historical preservation. The commission voted earlier this year on new siting rules that would accelerate 5G adoption.

Mill Valley’s ordinance is designed to frustrate those efforts, while remaining within the letter of federal law, which preempts local ordinances. Mill Valley’s mayor has said that the city will look to create a final ordinance over the next year.
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Source: TechCrunch, Danny Crichton, 11 Sept 2018

Microwave Weapons Are Prime Suspect in Ills of U.S. Embassy Workers
USA Created: 3 Sep 2018
Doctors and scientists say microwave strikes may have caused sonic delusions and very real brain damage among embassy staff and family members.

During the Cold War, Washington feared that Moscow was seeking to turn microwave radiation into covert weapons of mind control.

More recently, the American military itself sought to develop microwave arms that could invisibly beam painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads. The aims were to disable attackers and wage psychological warfare.

Now, doctors and scientists say such unconventional weapons may have caused the baffling symptoms and ailments that, starting in late 2016, hit more than three dozen American diplomats and family members in Cuba and China. The Cuban incidents resulted in a diplomatic rupture between Havana and Washington.

The medical team that examined 21 affected diplomats from Cuba made no mention of microwaves in its detailed report published in JAMA in March. But Douglas H. Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a recent interview that microwaves were now considered a main suspect and that the team was increasingly sure the diplomats had suffered brain injury.

“Everybody was relatively skeptical at first,” he said, “and everyone now agrees there’s something there.” Dr. Smith remarked that the diplomats and doctors jokingly refer to the trauma as the immaculate concussion.

Strikes with microwaves, some experts now argue, more plausibly explain reports of painful sounds, ills and traumas than do other possible culprits — sonic attacks, viral infections and contagious anxiety.

In particular, a growing number of analysts cite an eerie phenomenon known as the Frey effect, named after Allan H. Frey, an American scientist. Long ago, he found that microwaves can trick the brain into perceiving what seem to be ordinary sounds.

The false sensations, the experts say, may account for a defining symptom of the diplomatic incidents — the perception of loud noises, including ringing, buzzing and grinding. Initially, experts cited those symptoms as evidence of stealthy attacks with sonic weapons.

Members of Jason, a secretive group of elite scientists that helps the federal government assess new threats to national security, say it has been scrutinizing the diplomatic mystery this summer and weighing possible explanations, including microwaves.

Asked about the microwave theory of the case, the State Department said the investigation had yet to identify the cause or source of the attacks. And the F.B.I. declined to comment on the status of the investigation or any theories.

The microwave idea teems with unanswered questions. Who fired the beams? The Russian government? The Cuban government? A rogue Cuban faction sympathetic to Moscow? And, if so, where did the attackers get the unconventional arms?

At his home outside Washington, Mr. Frey, the scientist who uncovered the neural phenomenon, said federal investigators have questioned him on the diplomatic riddle and that microwave radiation is considered a possible cause.

Mr. Frey, now 83, has traveled widely and long served as a contractor and a consultant to a number of federal agencies. He speculated that Cubans aligned with Russia, the nation’s longtime ally, might have launched microwave strikes in attempts to undermine developing ties between Cuba and the United States.

“It’s a possibility,” he said at his kitchen table. “In dictatorships, you often have factions that think nothing of going against the general policy if it suits their needs. I think that’s a perfectly viable explanation.”

Developing a new class of weapons

Microwaves are ubiquitous in modern life. The short radio waves power radars, cook foods, relay messages and link cellphones to antenna towers. They’re a form of electromagnetic radiation on the same spectrum as light and X-rays, only at the opposite end.

While radio broadcasting can employ waves a mile or more in length, microwaves range in size from roughly a foot to a tiny fraction of an inch. They’re seen as harmless in such everyday uses as microwaving foods. But their diminutive size also enables tight focusing, as when dish antennas turn disorganized rays into concentrated beams.

The dimensions of the human head, scientists say, make it a fairly good antenna for picking up microwave signals.

Mr. Frey, a biologist, said he stumbled on the acoustic effect in 1960 while working for General Electric’s Advanced Electronics Center at Cornell University. A man who measured radar signals at a nearby G.E. facility came up to him at a meeting and confided that he could hear the beam’s pulses — zip, zip, zip.

Intrigued, Mr. Frey traveled to the man’s workplace in Syracuse and positioned himself in a radar beam. “Lo,” he recalled, “I could hear it, too.”

Mr. Frey’s resulting papers — reporting that even deaf people could hear the false sounds — founded a new field of study on radiation’s neural impacts. Mr. Frey’s first paper, in 1961, reported that power densities 160 times lower than “the standard maximum safe level for continuous exposure” could induce the sonic delusions.

His second paper, in 1962, pinpointed the brain’s receptor site as the temporal lobes, which extend beneath the temples. Each lobe bears a small region — the auditory cortex — that processes nerve signals from the outer and inner ears.

Investigators raced to confirm and extend Mr. Frey’s findings. At first they named the phenomenon after him, but eventually called it the microwave auditory effect and, in time, more generally, radio-frequency hearing.

The Soviets took notice. Not long after his initial discoveries, Mr. Frey said, he was invited by the Soviet Academy of Sciences to visit and lecture. Toward the end, in a surprise, he was taken outside Moscow to a military base surrounded by armed guards and barbed-wire fences.

“They had me visiting the various labs and discussing the problems,” including the neural impacts of microwaves, Mr. Frey recalled. “I got an inside look at their classified program.”

Moscow was so intrigued by the prospect of mind control that it adopted a special terminology for the overall class of envisioned arms, calling them psychophysical and psychotronic.

Soviet research on microwaves for “internal sound perception,” the Defense Intelligence Agency warned in 1976, showed great promise for “disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel.”

Furtively, globally, the threat grew.

The National Security Agency gave Mark S. Zaid, a Washington lawyer who routinely gets security clearances to discuss classified matters, a statement on how a foreign power built a weapon “designed to bathe a target’s living quarters in microwaves, causing numerous physical effects, including a damaged nervous system.”

Mr. Zaid said a N.S.A. client of his who traveled there watched in disbelief as his nervous system later unraveled, starting with control of his fingers.

Washington, too, foresaw new kinds of arms.

In Albuquerque, N.M., Air Force scientists sought to beam comprehensible speech into the heads of adversaries. Their novel approach won a patent in 2002, and an update in 2003. Both were assigned to the Air Force secretary, helping limit the idea’s dissemination.

The lead inventor said the research team had “experimentally demonstrated” that the “signal is intelligible.” As for the invention’s uses, an Air Force disclosure form listed the first application as “Psychological Warfare.”

The Navy sought to paralyze. The Frey effect was to induce sounds powerful enough to cause painful discomfort and, if needed, leave targets unable to move. The weapon, the Navy noted, would have a “low probability of fatalities or permanent injuries.”

In a twist, the 2003 contract was awarded to microwave experts who had emigrated to the United States from Russia and Ukraine.

It is unknown if Washington deploys such arms. But the Pentagon built a related weapon known as the Active Denial System, hailing it in a video. It fires an invisible beam meant to deter mobs and attackers with fiery sensations.

Russia, China and many European states are seen as having the know-how to make basic microwave weapons that can debilitate, sow noise or even kill. Advanced powers, experts say, might accomplish more nuanced aims such as beaming spoken words into people’s heads. Only intelligence agencies know which nations actually possess and use such unfamiliar arms.

The basic weapon might look like a satellite dish. In theory, such a device might be hand-held or mounted in a van, car, boat or helicopter. Microwave arms are seen as typically working over relatively short distances — across the length of a few rooms or blocks. High-powered ones might be able to fire beams across several football fields, or even for several miles.

The episode in Cuba
The Soviet collapse in 1991 cut Russia’s main ties to Cuba, a longtime ally just 90 miles from the United States. The shaky economy forced Moscow to stop providing Havana with large amounts of oil and other aid.

Vladimir Putin, as Russia’s president and prime minister, sought to recover the economic, political and strategic clout that the Soviets had lost. In December 2000, months after the start of his first presidential term, Mr. Putin flew to the island nation. It was the first visit by a Soviet or Russian leader since the Cold War.

He also sought to resurrect Soviet work on psychoactive arms. In 2012, he declared that Russia would pursue “new instruments for achieving political and strategic goals,” including psychophysical weapons.

In July 2014, Mr. Putin again visited Cuba. This time he brought a gift — the cancellation of some $30 billion in Cuban debt. The two nations signed a dozen accords.

A Russian spy ship, Viktor Leonov, docked in Havana on the eve of the beginning of reconciliation talks between Cuba and the United States in early 2015, and did so again in subsequent years. Moscow and Havana grew so close that in late 2016, the two nations signed a sweeping pact on defense and technology cooperation.

As a candidate, Donald Trump faulted the Obama administration’s normalization policy as “a very weak agreement” and threatened to scrap it on reaching the White House. Weeks after he won the election, in late November 2016, the American embassy in Havana found itself battling a mysterious crisis.

Diplomats and their families recounted high-pitched sounds in homes and hotel rooms at times intense enough to incapacitate. Long-term, the symptoms included nausea, crushing headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems and hearing loss.

The State Department filed diplomatic protests, and the Cuban government denied involvement. In May, the F.B.I. opened an investigation and its agents began visiting Havana a half year after the incidents began. The last major one hit that summer, in August, giving the agents relatively little time to gather clues.

In September 2017, the Trump administration warned travelers away from Cuba and ordered home roughly half the diplomatic personnel.

Rex W. Tillerson, who was then the secretary of state, said the embassy’s staff had been targeted deliberately. But he refrained from blaming Cuba, and federal officials held out the possibility that a third party may have been responsible.

In early October, President Trump expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, producing a chill between the nations. Administration critics said the White House was using the health issue as a pretext to end President Barack Obama’s reconciliation policy.

The day after the expulsions, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a closed, top secret hearing on the Cuba situation. Three State Department officials testified, as did an unnamed senior official of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Hypothesis

Early this year, in January, the spooky impact of microwaves on the human brain never came up during an open Senate hearing on the Cuba crisis.

But in a scientific paper that same month, James C. Lin of the University of Illinois, a leading investigator of the Frey effect, described the diplomatic ills as plausibly arising from microwave beams. Dr. Lin is the editor-in-chief of Bio Electro Magnetics, a peer-reviewed journal that explores the effects of radio waves and electromagnetic fields on living things.

In his paper, he said high-intensity beams of microwaves could have caused the diplomats to experience not just loud noises but nausea, headaches and vertigo, as well as possible brain-tissue injury. The beams, he added, could be fired covertly, hitting “only the intended target.”

In February, ProPublica in a lengthy investigation mentioned that federal investigators were weighing the microwave theory. Separately, it told of an intriguing find. The wife of a member of the embassy staff, it reported, had looked outside her home after hearing the disturbing sounds and seen a van speeding away.

A dish antenna could fit easily into a small van.

The medical team that studied the Cuba diplomats ascribed the symptoms in the March JAMA study to “an unknown energy source” that was highly directional. Some personnel, it noted, had covered their ears and heads but experienced no sound reduction. The team said the diplomats appeared to have developed signs of concussion without having received any blows to the head.

In May, reports emerged that American diplomats in China had suffered similar traumas. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the medical details of the two groups "very similar” and “entirely consistent" with one another. By late June, the State Department had evacuated at least 11 Americans from China.

To date, the most detailed medical case for microwave strikes has been made by Beatrice A. Golomb, a medical doctor and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego. In a forthcoming paper to be published in October in Neural Computation, a peer-reviewed journal of the MIT Press, she lays out potential medical evidence for Cuban microwave strikes.

She compared the symptoms of the diplomats in Cuba to those reported for individuals said to be suffering from radio-frequency sickness. The health responses of the two groups, Dr. Golomb wrote, “conform closely.”

In closing, she argued that “numerous highly specific features” of the diplomatic incidents “fit the hypothesis” of a microwave attack, including the Frey-type production of disturbing sounds.

Scientists still disagree over what hit the diplomats. Last month, JAMA ran four letters critical of the March study, some faulting the report for ruling out mass hysteria.

But Mr. Zaid, the Washington lawyer, who represents eight of the diplomats and family members, said microwave attacks may have injured his clients.

“It’s sort of naïve to think this just started now,” he said. Globally, he added, covert strikes with the potent beams appear to have been going on for decades.

Francisco Palmieri, a State Department official, was asked during the open Senate hearing if “attacks against U.S. personnel in Cuba” had been raised with Moscow.

“That is a very good question,” Mr. Palmieri replied. But addressing it, he added, would require “a classified setting.”

For his part, Mr. Frey says he doubts the case will be solved anytime soon. The novelty of the crisis, its sporadic nature and the foreign setting made it hard for federal investigators to gather clues and draw conclusions, he said, much less file charges.

“Based on what I know,” he remarked, “it will remain a mystery.”
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Source: New York Times, William J. Broad, 01 Sep 2018

Former ICNIRP commission member: NTP shows clear RF cancer risk, guidelines obsolete
USA Created: 29 Aug 2018
In a new paper, “Clear evidence of cell-phone RF radiation cancer risk” published in the journal IEEE Microwave Magazine, Dr James C Lin states that the results of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) cell phone radiation study suggest that current radio frequency (RF) exposure guidelines are inadequate to protect human health (1). Furthermore, the paper recommends that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-assess the research and consider upgrading the classification of RF radiation from "possibly carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2B) to probably carcinogenic (i.e., Group 2A).

Although Dr. Lin raises some criticisms of the NTP study in this and an earlier paper (1, 2), he recognizes the importance of this research to the field and the implications of the study findings for public health (2).

He praised the FDA and the NTP for the initiation and conduct of the study and emphasized the need for the “U.S. government to step in and conduct such research programs and not leave the matter entirely to the cell-phone industry” due to his concern that “The wireless industry has had nearly free reign to develop and distribute cellular mobile phones and related RF devices as they see fit.”

Dr. Lin was one of fourteen experts convened by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to review the National Toxicology Program’s cell phone radiation study in March of this year. He is a professor of electrical engineering, bioengineering, physiology, and biophysics at the University of Illinois, Chicago. His publications include ten books, hundreds of papers and book chapters, and he has made hundreds of presentations at professional conferences. He has served on the editorial board of fifteen professional journals and has received numerous awards and honors throughout his distinguished career.

Following are key passages from Dr. Lin’s paper (1):

“On 28 March 2018, following a thorough review of the draft NTP reports, pathologists and toxicologists on the peer-review panel concluded that, among other observations, there was statistically significant and “clear evidence” that both GSM- and CDMA-modulated RF radiation had led to the development of malignant schwannoma (a rare form of tumor) in the heart of male rats (of the Harlan-Sprague-Dawley strain). Further, there was “equivocal evidence” for the same schwannoma risk among female rats.

The panel also noted that there were unusual patterns of cardiomyopathy, or damage to heart tissue, in both RF-exposed male and female rats when compared with concurrent control animals. In addition, based on statistical significance, the panel concluded that the pathology findings showed indications of “some evidence” for RF-dependent carcinogenic activity in the brain of male rats, specifically glioma. However, the findings for female rats were deemed as providing only “equivocal evidence” for malignant gliomas when compared with concurrent controls.” (pp. 16-17)


“The NTP cell-phone RF exposure study is, by far, the largest study of its kind [5]. It was expensive and time consuming, and there may even have been better ways to perform the study. Nevertheless, it highlights that prolonged exposure to RF radiation at, or a little above, currently existing RF exposure regulation levels could lead to tumor development. The current RF exposure guidelines of 1.6 or 2.0 W/kg are promulgated with a reduction factor of 50 as a safety margin for the general public and to provide protection against presumed hazardous biological effects in humans [5], [6]. The finding that RF exposure could lead to dose-dependent cancer development at levels that are the same or three times above current exposure guidelines is significant.

This implies that the safety margin may be no more than a factor of three. In fact, one recommendation (IEEE C95.1-2005) has a set of guidelines under controlled environments that allows local SARs of the brain and heart to be as much as 10 W/kg [7]. An SAR of 10 W/kg is considerably higher than the 1.5, 3.0, and 6.0 W/kg used in the NTP study.” “Because all tissue and organs were similarly exposed and had comparable SARs, it is important for the NTP team to perform a statistical comparison of total primary malignancies in all tissue and organs observed in RF-exposed and concurrent control rats before issuing its final report. Given that hyperplasia (the enlargement of tissue or organs caused by an increased rate of cell growth in the initial stage of cancer development) often leads to neoplasm, the statistical analysis should also include findings of hyperplasia.” (p. 18)


“The FDA should be applauded for initiating and the NIEHS/NTP praised for having sponsored the research and conducted the cell-phone RF radiation studies. It’s important for the U.S. government to step in and conduct such research programs and not leave the matter entirely to the cell-phone industry. The wireless industry has had nearly free reign to develop and distribute cellular mobile phones and related RF devices as they see fit. The completion of this NTP study should not signify the end of the U.S. government’s role in supporting RF biological effects research because we continue to be exposed to more RF radiation every day [8], [9].” (p. 20)


“Malignant schwannoma in rat hearts were the most salient findings from the NTP RF bioassay. Acoustic schwannomas in human brains and malignant schwannomas in rat hearts were independently observed from two different body tissues in humans and rats. There could actually be a link between Schwann cells that wrap around both nerve tissues in the heart and along the auditory nervous system.” (p. 22)


“Because all tissue and organs were similarly exposed and had comparable SARs, it is important for the NTP team to perform a statistical comparison of total primary malignancies in all tissue and organs observed in RF-exposed and concurrent control rats before issuing its final report. Given that hyperplasia (the enlargement of tissue or organs caused by an increased rate of cell growth in the initial stage of cancer development) often leads to neoplasm, the statistical analysis should also include findings of hyperplasia.” (p. 22)

[Note: I provided similar suggestions for analysis of the data in my critique of the NTP study. (3)]


“Now that the NTP review panel has concluded there is clear evidence of carcinogenicity from long-term RF exposure in rats, is it conceivable that the IARC would upgrade its epidemiology-based classification of RF exposure to the next level of carcinogenicity to humans?
As noted earlier, the existing RF exposure guidelines of 1.6 or 2.0 W/kg are promulgated with a reduction factor of 50, as a safety margin for the general public. The finding that long-term RF exposure could lead to cancer development in rats at levels that are the same as or no greater than a factor of three above these exposure guidelines is significant.

While complacencies abound for short-term exposure guidelines in terms of providing safety protection, an outstanding question persists concerning the adequacy of these guidelines for safe, long-term exposure to RF radiation at or below 1.6 or 2.0 W/kg. Perhaps the time has come to judiciously reassess, revise, and update these guidelines." (pp. 22-23)


References

(1) Lin JC. Clear evidence of cell-phone RF radiation cancer risk. IEEE Microwave Magazine. 19(6):16-24. Sep/Oct 2018. DOI: 10.1109/MMM.2018.2844058. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8425056/

(2) Lin JC. The NTP cell phone RF radiation health effects project. IEEE Microwave Magazine. 18(1): 15-17. Jan/Feb 2017. DOI: 10.1109/MMM.2016.2616239. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7779288/

(3) Moskowitz JM. Comments about the NTP cell phone radiation studies. School of Public Health, UC Berkeley. Submitted to the National Toxicology Program, Mar 12, 2018. http://bit.ly/NTPcommentsJMM180312
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Source: SaferEMR, Joel M. Moskowitz, 28 Aug 2018

A majority of U.S. teens are taking steps to limit smartphone and social media use
USA Created: 29 Aug 2018
It’s not just parents who are worrying about their children’s device usage. According to a new study released by Pew Research Center this week, U.S. teens are now taking steps to limit themselves from overuse of their phone and its addictive apps, like social media. A majority, 54% of teens, said they spend too much time on their phone, and nearly that many – 52% – said they are trying to limit their phone use in various ways.

In addition, 57% say they’re trying to limit social media usage and 58% are trying to limit video games.

The fact that older children haven’t gotten a good handle on balanced smartphone usage points to a failure on both parents’ parts and the responsibilities of technology companies to address the addictive nature of our devices.

For years, instead of encouraging more moderate use of smartphones, as the tools they’re meant to be, app makers took full advantage of smartphones’ always-on nature to continually send streams of interruptive notifications that pushed users to constantly check in. Tech companies even leveraged psychological tricks to reward us each time we launched their app, with dopamine hits that keep users engaged.

Device makers loved this addiction because they financially benefited from app sales and in-app purchases, in addition to device sales. So they built ever more tools to give apps access to users’ attention, instead of lessening it.

For addicted teens, parents were of little help as they themselves were often victims of this system, too.

Today, tech companies are finally waking up to the problem. Google and Apple have now both built in screen time monitoring and control tools into their mobile operating systems, and even dopamine drug dealers like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have begun to add screen time reminders and other “time well spent” features.

But these tools have come too late to prevent U.S. children from developing bad habits with potentially harmful side effects.

Pew says that 72% of teens are reaching for their phones as soon as they wake up; four-in-ten feel anxious without their phone; 56% report that not have their phone with them can make them feel lonely, upset or anxious; 51% feel their parents are distracted by phones during conversations (72% of parents say this is true, too, when trying to talk to teens); and 31% say phones distract them in class.

The problems are compounded by the fact that smartphones aren’t a luxury any longer – they’re in the hands of nearly all U.S. teens, 45% of whom are almost constantly online.

The only good news is that today’s teens seem to be more aware of the problem, even if their parents failed to teach balanced use of devices in their own home.

Nine-in-ten teens believe that spending too much time online is a problem, and 60% say it’s a major problem. 41% say they spend too much time on social media.

In addition, some parents are starting to take aim at the problem, as well, with 57% reporting they’ve set some screen time restrictions for their teens.

Today’s internet can be a toxic place, and not one where people should spend large amounts of time.

Social networking one the top activities taking place on smartphones, reports show.

But many of these networks were built by young men who couldn’t conceive of all the ways things could go wrong. They failed to build in robust controls from day one to prevent things like bullying, harassment, threats, misinformation, and other issues.

Instead, these protections have been added on after the fact – after the problems became severe. And, some could argue, that was too late. Social media is something that’s now associated with online abuse and disinformation, with comment thread fights and trolling, and with consequences that range from teen suicides to genocide.

If we are unable to give up our smartphones and social media for the benefits they do offer, at the very least we should be monitoring and moderating our use of them at this point.

Thankfully, as this study shows, there’s growing awareness of this among younger users, and maybe, some of them will even do something about it in the future – when they’re the bosses, the parents, and the engineers, they can craft new work/life policies, make new house rules, and write better code.
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Source: TechCrunch, Sarah Perez, 24 Aug 2018

Logged off: meet the teens who refuse to use social media
United Kingdom Created: 29 Aug 2018
Generation Z has grown up online – so why are a surprising number suddenly turning their backs on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat?.

For 17-year-old Mary Amanuel, from London, it happened in Tesco. “We were in year 7,” she remembers, “and my friend had made an Instagram account. As we were buying stuff, she was counting the amounts of likes she’d got on a post. ‘Oooh, 40 likes. 42 likes.’ I just thought: ‘This is ridiculous.’”

Isabelle, an 18-year-old student from Bedfordshire who doesn’t want to disclose her surname, turned against social media when her classmates became zombified. “Everyone switched off from conversation. It became: ‘Can I have your number to text you?’ Something got lost in terms of speaking face to face. And I thought: ‘I don’t really want to be swept up in that.’” For 15-year-old Emily Sharp, from Staines in Surrey, watching bullying online was the final straw. “It wasn’t nice. That deterred me from using it.”

It is widely believed that young people are hopelessly devoted to social media. Teenagers, according to this stereotype, tweet, gram, Snap and scroll. But for every young person hunched over a screen, there are others for whom social media no longer holds such an allure. These teens are turning their backs on the technology – and there are more of them than you might think.

*SNIP* read the entire article via the source link below...
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Source: Guardian, Sirin Kale, 29 Aug 2018

Isle Of Man: Phone mast for Ramsey hospital?
United Kingdom Created: 16 Aug 2018
Phone company Sure has applied for permission to build a phone mast in the grounds of Ramsey Cottage Hospital.

The application (18/00786/B) would see a 12m high structure and equipment cabin located to the rear of the building near to the existing boiler house.

The chimneys for the boiler house are higher than the proposed tower at 15m.

The area surrounding the hospital is predominantly residential, and other than the Grove Museum, where it would have to be 22m high, there is little scope for the development of a phone mast.

The application states: ’Although radio coverage at Ramsey Cottage Hospital is, just for voice calls, is about acceptable, reliable data usage is sporadic.

’With the development of mobile communications moving to a pure IP basis, reliable data coverage is essential.

’With Sure now being the mobile phones service provider to the government, there is now a concentration of mobile devices at the hospital.

’In addition, as the hospital has a high density of customers using their mobile devices while waiting, the network load in this area is particularly.’

The application continues that the mast would assist with the furthering of the government’s Digital Inclusion Strategy 2016-2021 to aid more people access the internet and move more services online.

Sure added: ’To summarise, we consider that this application suggests the optimum location and design for a proposed site.

’The current mobile network plots, combined with the number of customer complains received, demonstrate that there is a definite need for a site in this area to alleviate the extremely poor mobile network coverage in the estate.

’The location and appearance have been carefully considered to best utilise the existing infrastructure to minimise visual impact.

’As such, we believe the development as proposed is in accordance with planning guidance.’

To comment on the plans, visit https://services.gov.im/planning and search 18/00786/B
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Source: Isle Of Man Today, 09 Aug 2018

MTN faces court challenge to illegal roll-out of cell masts
South Africa Created: 16 Aug 2018
The filing of the papers follows almost two years of public outrage against these illegal cell towers.

THE Durban Anti-Cell Mast Alliance (DACMA), a residents lobby group created in 2017 to protest the illegal roll-out of MTN cell masts across Durban, lodged papers on Friday in the Durban High Court, asking for a review of the ‘secret deal’ that cellular company MTN concluded with the eThekwini Municipality in April 2016.

According to DACMA spokesperson Niki Moore, in terms of this deal, eThekwini Head of Disaster Management Vincent Ngubane absolved MTN from any regulatory processes when they put up their infrastructure across the city.

The filing of the papers follows almost two years of public outrage against these illegal cell towers. Despite numerous newspaper reports, community activism, council questions, applications via PAIA, legal correspondence and public meetings, neither eThekwini municipality nor MTN have done anything to explain how this situation came about, or whether they intend to rectify it.

Moore said in court papers, a group of applicants asked for an urgent High Court review of this ‘secret deal’. She said MTN and eThekwini Metro are accused of disregarding by-laws, disregarding town planning schemes, contravening national legislation such as NEMA, health and safety guidelines and the Civil Aviation Act, contravening Section 33 of the Constitution, contravening PAIA, contravening PAJA, contravening the Municipal Systems Act, and committing fraud.

“We have been forced to go to court because both MTN and eThekwini Municipality have consistently lied about this secret arrangement. This infrastructure roll-out was completely unprocedural and secret, with the result that MTN put up cell masts, hundreds of them, next to creches, schools, old age homes, on people’s pavements, in play parks, right outside their homes – with absolutely no consultation, no site planning, no permissions, no scoping, no public process,” said Moore.

She said the research the group had done had shown that the roll-out was completely unnecessary, as none of the masts increased cellular connectivity in areas where it was actually required.

“MTN has done the cellular telephone industry no favours. By proceeding illegally and unprocedurally, they have raised huge concerns about their industry in the minds of the public. Now people are really talking about cell masts, and the effects they are having on property prices, the environment, and people’s health.”

While DACMA is not against the need for reliable communication technologies, they believe there are better ways to go about it. At the moment, the impact of long-term high-frequency microwaves on humans and the environment is relatively unresearched – and the research that does exist is causing alarm amongst scientists.

“The cell companies hide behind the fact that they abide by so-called ‘international limits’, but they suppress the fact that these limits have been unchanged since 1998, are based on discredited science, and do not take into account the massive changes in technology in the last ten years. We know that cell masts are unsightly, and that no-one wants to live near one, but we still don’t know what they are doing to us and our environment,” said Moore.

She said it was nonsense that municipalities, who make money out of cell mast rental can dismiss any community concerns about the unverified effects of cell masts from the people who are forced to live right next to them.

“We are hoping that this court case will make both municipalities and mobile telephone companies stop and think about their reckless actions.”

Councillor Chris Pappas also recently reported that the Democratic Alliance (DA) in eThekwini would continue to vote against the erection of cell towers unless reasonable and unbiased information was provided by the municipality regarding health effects on residents and impact on property values.

Pappas said the DA wants the City to conduct an independent study into the health effects of cell towers and the impacts of cell towers on property values, as well as to provide an updated and comprehensive policy on telecommunications infrastructure in the city. This came after a Town Planning Appeals Committee meeting recently, which was attended by an assembly of mobile network operators (cell phone companies) and companies who build cell masts and then rent out the space.

“The public should be aware that the City of eThekwini will not be considering health effects of any particular mast when adjudicating appeals and objections. So if your chief concern in objecting to a cell mast is the health concern you will be wasting your R5 000 appeal fee. However, it is residents’ constitutional right to appeal and the decision will rest with individuals whether to appeal or not,” he said.

Pappas said there were other very relevant issues on which residents can appeal, and these appeals must be based on scientifically proven facts or justified town planning reasons.

The illegal MTN roll-out in Durban sparked concerns about the sudden proliferation of cell masts across the country. As a result of public concern, citizens across South Africa founded a national lobby group National Alliance Against Cell Masts (NAACM). The aim of this group is to assist people to combat unwanted and unnecessary cell masts in South Africa, to pressure the South African government into revising microwave radiation limits from cell masts, and to lobby for communication technologies that are less potentially harmful.

Contact 031 205 8331 or 071 932 8925 or email info@naacm.co.za
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Source: Berea Mail, Lauren Walford, 09 AUg 2018

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