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While You Were Sleeping for July 2017


  • Source: Good

The Svalbard Global Seed Trust—a biodiversity vault located in the Arctic— houses the world's largest collection of seeds. Recently, high temperatures and heavy rain lead to melting permafrost which caused a flood, threatening the vault. "A lot of water went into the start of the tunnel and then it froze to ice, so it was like a glacier when you went in," said Hege Njaa Aschim, spokesperson for the Norwegian government. The concrete vault houses 4.5 million varieties of crops stored at -0.4 degrees Fahrenheit. "The seed vault is a biological Library of Alexandria, a priceless asset whose importance will only grow. It's valuable not only as a resource for any sort of doomsday scenario, but also as a record of one of humanity's most consequential achievements: agriculture," says Jamie Henn, co-founder and strategy and communications director at the nonprofit 350.org.

Source: Good

In late May, a noose was found at the Smithsonian Institute. The exhibit—displayed by the National Museum of African American History—features Civil War-era artifacts, including the metal coffin of a 14-year-old Mississippi boy who was lynched in 1955. The noose was the second one found that week at the Institute—the other was discovered hanging from a tree in front of Hirshhorn Museum, a contemporary art museum.

Source: New York Times

Trump's use of language is causing chaos for translators across the globe. Many interpreters have struggled while trying to convey the president's incoherency in ways that are clear in other countries—Trump lacks style (and logic, at times) with his diction and overuses many words (such as great, big, and beautiful). After reports circulated worldwide about Trump's firing of Comey, interpreters struggled with translating "nut job" into Japanese. Eventually they used henjin, a word used to describe someone who is eccentric or an oddball. "It isn't just his colloquialisms, but the demeaning way in which he talked about women, especially during the campaign," said Chikako Tsuruta, who interprets broadcasts by CNN, ABC, and CBS. "Our job now entails reading dictionaries of cultural expressions rather than conventional ones." The biggest problem, according to Tsruta, is the "occasional absence of logic from Trump's streams of consciousness. With simultaneous interpretation, the trick is to anticipate the speaker's intentions and tell a story, to be slightly ahead of the game. But when the logic is not clear or a sentence is just left hanging in the air, then we have a problem. You're interpreting, and then suddenly the sentence stops making sense, and we risk ending up sound stupid."

Source: Guardian

Five Dutch prisons are slated to be closed by the fall due to low crime rates. In 2013, the Dutch government closed 19 prisons—officials say the government doesn't have the means to fund such large, unoccupied facilities. (The Dutch rate of incarceration is roughly 69 incarcerations for every 100,000 people, while the US rate—the world's highest—is 716 per 100,000 people.) Studies reveal that decreased crime rates are due to the government's investment in rehabilitation services, less stringent drug laws, and electronic ankle tags that enable prisoners convicted of minor offenses to go back to work and society.

Source: Good News Network

In light of evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, it's illuminating to remember that the US has a history of meddling in the elections of other countries. The interference goes beyond just hacking into e-mails. According to Dov Levin, a Carnegie Mellon University researcher and political scientist, the US and the USSR/Russia have intervened at least 117 times in the elections of other countries between 1946 and 2000. One example of US intervention in a foreign election: In 2000, Slobodan Milosevic was running for reelection as president of Serbia. The US supported the opposing candidate, Yojislav Kostunica, by sending funding and offering other training and campaign support. "That assistance was crucial in enabling the opposition to win," said Levin.

Source: Guardian, NPR

New York law allows 14- and 15-year-olds to be married with parental consent and court approval—at 16 and 17, people can marry solely with parental consent. According to the group Unchained at Last, nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010. Of that number, at least 84 percent were minor girls married to adult men. In early June, Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to sign a bill banning marriages under the age of 17 in New York. The bill will make it harder for those to get married at 17 and will involve a series of mandatory court approvals and interviews. Any 17-year-old who wants to get married needs to be represented by an attorney who has received training in domestic violence.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal

Last spring, between 350 and 500 members of the Yakama Nation, a Native American tribal community in Washington, were displaced from 60 tribal-owned residencies. The reason: drug use, failure to pay rent, or overcrowded homes—as many as 18 people lived in one three-bedroom home. Sixty-seven-year-old Roberta Strong, the second-highest official in the Yakama Nation Tribal Council, was evicted due to her inability to pay rent during a period of unemployment. Even though she was able to start paying rent after her eviction notice, she still had to move out. A study done by the Federal Housing Administration revealed that Native Americans are four times more likely to move into houses that are overcrowded or in need of repairs. Delano Saluskin, the vice chairman of the Yakama Nation tribal council, stated, "It was a conscious decision: If these families cannot maintain their rental agreement and maintain the regulations about drug and alcohol, let's find families that can."

Source: Guardian

Hackers allied with the Russian government have developed a way to disrupt power grids. The malware, referred to by researchers as CrashOverride, is already known to have affected one power grid in Ukraine in December 2015—hackers shut down nearly one-fifth of the electrical systems in Kiev, leaving 225,000 people without power. CrashOverride could be a threat to US industrial power systems—it has the ability to wipe out the power in multiple locations at once with its "time bomb" functionality. The program is only the second instance of malware specifically designed to disrupt industrial power systems—the first was Stuxnet, a worm developed by the US and Israel to disrupt Iran's nuclear capability.

Source: The Washington Post

An analysis done by the research group Wood Mackenzie reported a decreasing demand for oil and an increased growth in renewable energy such as wind and solar power. The group predicted the demand for wind energy would grow at an annual rate of 6 percent and 11 percent for solar energy (compared to the 0.5 percent for oil). Oil companies like BP, Shell, and Total are at risk and have the opportunity to make a shift in their business by investing in renewables. "The momentum behind these [renewable] technologies is unstoppable now," said Valentina Kretzschmar, director of research at Wood Mackenzie. "They [the oil companies] are recognizing it is a megatrend; it's not a fad, it's not going away. There is definitely a risk to their core business." The companies would need to spend over $350 billion on wind and solar energy by 2035 to match the 12 percent market share they hold in oil and gas.

Source: Guardian

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