Friday, August 9, 2019

“The Feds Try To End the Debate Over 5G Health Concerns—Data Sheet - Fortune” plus 1 more

“The Feds Try To End the Debate Over 5G Health Concerns—Data Sheet - Fortune” plus 1 more


The Feds Try To End the Debate Over 5G Health Concerns—Data Sheet - Fortune

Posted: 09 Aug 2019 04:18 AM PDT

This is the web version of Data Sheet, Fortune's daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered daily to your in-box, sign up here.

It's the question everyone wants to go away: are 5G wireless networks safe or are they a risk to human health?

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission and the Food and Drug Administration tried to put the question to bed once more. The FCC announced it would hold its radio frequency exposure limits for cell phones, cellular towers, and other wireless gear at current levels. The use of some new frequencies as part of the 5G rollout did not change the situation, the agency said. After a review of the scientific record and consultations with health agencies, "we find it appropriate to maintain the existing radio frequency limits, which are among the most stringent in the world for cell phones," Julius Knapp, chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology, said. That came backed with excerpted comments from Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. The "available scientific evidence to date does not support adverse health effects in humans due to exposures at or under the current limit" and "[n]o changes to the current standards are warranted at this time," Shuren explained in a letter cited in part by the FCC.

That's also the same conclusion that the scientific association the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, came to back in February, when it completed a review of recommended exposure limits and also agreed to maintain them at current levels.

But the announcements are unlikely to end the debate. Worriers can point to a few studies and the decision by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer to classify cellular radio waves as a possible carcinogen back in 2011. And countries like Belgium and Switzerland have delayed 5G networks over health concerns. On the other side, research from the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health, among others, have concluded there are no risks. And so round it goes. The WHO has a vast, new study underway that, perhaps, will offer a more definitive result. For a truly deep dive, check out the page maintained by the National Cancer Institute on cell phones and cancer research.

***

Following Monday's column on the rollout of Apple's new credit card, people have started receiving email invitations to apply from Apple. But not everyone has to wait. If you want to apply without an invite, open the Wallet app on your iPhone and press the plus sign to add a new card. Hit continue on the next screen and a screen opens with several options for new cards, including Apple Card. It takes about two minutes to complete the process. Then you're ready to start your weekend spending spree. Have a good one!

Aaron Pressman

On Twitter: @ampressman

Email: aaron.pressman@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Ask for forgiveness. A privacy lawsuit against Facebook over the collection of users' biometric data may proceed, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled on Thursday. Users in Illinois sued in 2015 alleging Facebook's collection and tagging of photos violated the state's Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Fighting back. Republican campaigns including the Trump election effort said they were freezing further spending on Twitter to protest the social network's treatment of the account of Sen. Mitch McConnell's campaign. Twitter temporarily locked the McConnell account after a video was shared that included protestors making verbal threats.

Fighting back, the sequel. After getting hit by various U.S. sanctions, Chinese electronics giant Huawei unveiled its own smartphone operating system called HarmonyOS. The idea is to create an alternative to Google's Android in case Huawei loses access to the software or needed updates. Still no word from the Trump administration on whether any American companies will be granted waivers to transact with Huawei, as the president promised back in June.

Addition by addition. Since chipmaker Broadcom was blocked from buying Qualcomm last year, CEO Hock Tan has turned his acquisitive eye on software companies. On Thursday, Tan announced his latest deal, agreeing to pay almost $11 billion for Symantec's enterprise business. The unit, which sells cybersecurity apps and services to companies and other large organizations, had revenue of $2.3 billion in its most recent fiscal year.

A real clunker. On Wall Street, Uber's stock tanked after the company reported dismal second-quarter earnings that missed analyst expectations with widening losses. Revenue rose 14% to $3.17 billion, less than analysts expected. Uber's stock price, which was already down 5% from its IPO, was down 9% in premarket trading on Friday.

FOR YOUR WEEKEND READING PLEASURE

A few longer reads that I came across this week that may be appealing for your weekend reading pleasure:

Was E-mail a Mistake? (The New Yorker)
The mathematics of distributed systems suggests that meetings might be better.

The Secret History of 'Easter Eggs' (The New York Times)
Yes, Google, Tesla, Amazon and others are still hiding quirky software surprises in their products, mostly to give you a chuckle.

The definitive story of how a controversial Florida businessman blew up MoviePass and burned hundreds of millions (Business Insider)
A four-month investigation chronicles the rise and fall of the movie-ticket-subscription startup MoviePass. We tell the story of cofounder Stacy Spikes, who sought to shake up the tired movie-theater business by starting a subscription service.

Somerville won $10 million to open a new high school and it went downhill from there (Boston Globe Magazine)
Two MIT friends had a big idea and national and community support. Why did their plan fail?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Privacy may not be dead but it's definitely teetering on the brink in this age of "surveillance capitalism," as Harvard Biz School emeritus professor Shoshana Zuboff has named it. But can you possibly escape the watchful eyes (and ears) of the tech giants like google, facebook, Amazon, Apple and others? Bloomberg Businessweek writer Joel Stein gave it a try. In a sometimes hilarious, sometimes sobering read, Stein explains all the steps he took. It wasn't easy.

I had decades of digital exhaust to clean up. "Your data across different companies is being pulled together by data brokers and ad companies. If the government asked for it and spent some time correlating, it probably wouldn't be that far off from what the Chinese government has," says Rob Shavell, the co-founder of Abine Inc., a company in Cambridge, Mass. I signed up for Abine's DeleteMe service, paying $129 a year for it to opt me out from databases run by brokers that sell my personally identifiable information. I gave DeleteMe all my current and previous home addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, and it removed me from 33 public-records crawlers—database services with names like Intelius and Spokeo, plus a whole lot of yellow pages.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Lost Your Job? Here's What to Tell Interviewers By Anne Fisher

Yet Another Wrinkle For WeWork Investors: An Unusual IPO Structure That Would Give a Tax Advantage to Insiders By David Z. Morris

Stephanie McMahon on the Future of the WWE, the 'Women's Revolution,' and Building a Community By Dale Rutledge

Exclusive: McAfee Is Acquiring NanoSec to Build Out Its Container-Focused Cloud Security Services By David Z. Morris

Samsung: The Galaxy Note 10 Has the Guts to Be Your 5G Streaming Video Game Console By Lisa Marie Segarra

Swing State Voting Systems Were Left Connected to the Internet for Months, Report Says By David Z. Morris

BEFORE YOU GO

A beautiful addition to the Beatles' canon or a shameful and opportunistic money grab? You be the judge. Next month, on the 50th anniversary of the release of their all-time great album Abbey Road, The Beatles (or at least the two living members of the band) will issue a special 50th anniversary edition. The new release includes remixed versions of all the songs plus previously unreleased demos and outtakes. It's available for preorder on iTunes for $30, but also appears to be coming to all your favorite streaming services, too.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

The Trump administration is suppressing climate science - Columbia Journalism Review

Posted: 07 Aug 2019 04:36 AM PDT

On Friday, Lewis Ziska, a climate scientist who specializes in plant physiology, left his job at the US Department of Agriculture after more than 20 years. On Monday, Helena Bottemiller Evich, a food and agriculture reporter at Politico, explained why. Ziska had worked on a groundbreaking study that found rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are causing rice to lose nutrients—a potential disaster for the 600 million people worldwide who rely on rice as a staple. Science Advances, the journal that published the study, expected that it would attract widespread interest, and advised its authors to prepare resources for the media. The Department of Agriculture refused. Officials spiked a press release promoting Ziska's work, and asked the University of Washington, a collaborator on the paper, not to promote it either. CNN requested an interview with Ziska. Agriculture's press office said no. That was a first, Ziska said.

Frustrated, Ziska decided to quit. Speaking with Politico, he "painted a picture of a department in constant fear of the president and Secretary Sonny Perdue's open skepticism about broadly accepted climate science, leading officials to go to extremes to obscure their work to avoid political blowback," Evich writes. "You get the sense," Ziska told her, "that things have changed, that this is not a place for you to be exploring things that don't agree with someone's political views." The situation "feels like something out of a bad sci-fi movie."

ICYMI: We asked the NYT how the Trump headline that caused a backlash ended up on the front page

The Department of Agriculture denied Ziska's account; it declined to promote his findings due to scientific concerns raised by career staffers, it said. But the department previously cleared the study, and it was externally peer reviewed, too. And Ziska's case fits a worrying broader trend. As Evich previously reported, Agriculture has declined to publicize dozens of climate-related studies since 2017; a sweeping climate-change response plan was never published at all. It's not just Agriculture. Across the administration, departments and agencies have strived to keep climate science out of the public eye since Donald Trump took office.

In some quarters, even the words "climate change" have been banned. In 2017, officials at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a unit of the Department of Agriculture, told staff that they should instead say "weather extremes" in their work; according to emails obtained by The Guardian, the phrase "reduce greenhouse gases" was also blacklisted. The same year, references to the dangers of climate change were scrubbed from the websites of the White House and the Interior Department. The Environmental Protection Agency removed a whole section of its website containing climate-change information, citing a need to "update" its language; more than two years later, the page does not appear to have been reinstated. As I reported for CJR last year, the EPA also moved to cut its funding of the Bay Journal, a newspaper established under the Clean Water Act to report on environmental issues in the Chesapeake Bay. (The Bay Journal sued under the First Amendment; the EPA backed down.) In November, the White House tried to bury a dire climate report—that drew on the work of 13 federal agencies—by releasing it over Thanksgiving. (The attempt backfired.) According to E&E News, the US Geological Survey, too, has removed climate references from press releases.

Nor is Ziska the only government official to lose his job over this administration's climate stance. In 2017, Joel Clement, who was studying the impact of climate change on Alaska at the Interior Department, was reassigned to an accounting job collecting royalties from oil and gas companies; he spoke out, then resigned. In February, Maria Caffrey, who was modelling sea level and storm surge projections for the National Park Service, was effectively forced out after refusing to let officials excise references to man-made climate change from her report. Just last week, Rod Schoonover wrote, in a New York Times op-ed, that he decided to quit his job at the State Department after his bosses blocked written testimony from his office to the House Intelligence Committee on the national-security implications of the climate crisis. "I believe such acts weaken our nation," Schoonover said.

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The Trump White House is an informational water cannon; the endless noise of the president's tweets and rallies disorients reporters, leads our coverage, and—all too often—distracts attention from the stories officials don't want us to cover. As Evich notes, agency intransigence "means research from scores of government scientists receives less public attention" than it should; "Climate-related studies are still being published without fanfare in scientific journals, but they can be very difficult to find." We need to work harder to find them, and to noisily promote them where the government will not. Let's not be complicit in the state's suppression of science.

Below, more on climate science:

  • The big picture: In May, the Times's Coral Davenport and Mark Landler outlined the Trump administration's latest assaults on climate science. "Parts of the federal government will no longer fulfill what scientists say is one of the most urgent jobs of climate science studies: reporting on the future effects of a rapidly warming planet."
  • The bigger picture: Somini Sengupta and Weiyi Cai reported yesterday, also for the Times, that a quarter of humanity could run out of water in the near future. According to newly published data, "From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress… Climate change heightens the risk."
  • Improving coverage: CJR and The Nation are partnering on Covering Climate Now, a new project that aims to improve the visibility and quality of the media's treatment of the climate story. So far, more than 60 news organizations have agreed to dedicate a week of coverage to climate change in September. Your newsroom can get involved here.


Other notable stories: 

  • Yesterday, The New York Times continued to attract criticism over a print headline—"Trump urges unity vs. racism"—that was desperately lacking in skepticism; at one point, #CancelNYT trended on Twitter. Gabriel Snyder, CJR's public editor for the Times, checked in with Dean Baquet, the paper's executive editor. The headline, which Baquet pointed out he did not write, was "bad," Baquet said. "The masthead and senior leadership get the front page at night, and I think we've gotten casual about when we look at it." The headline, of course, points to a broader criticism: that the Times's coverage of the present moment is insufficiently urgent. But Baquet "doesn't see this moment in American history as particularly aberrant," Snyder writes.
  • In April, The Markup, a much-hyped investigative startup focused on the tech world, imploded following an extraordinary public spat between Julia Angwin, its founding editor, and Sue Gardner, its CEO; Angwin was fired—she said Gardner had an anti-tech agenda; Gardner disputed this—and six of the site's seven editorial staffers quit in solidarity. Now The Markup is back on track—without Gardner, but with Angwin, the six staffers who quit, and two new leaders, Nabiha Syed, formerly an executive at BuzzFeed, and Evelyn Larrubia, formerly the editor of Marketplace. (Angwin and the editorial staff continued to be paid during the hiatus.) The Times's Marc Tracy has more.
  • Toni Morrison, the Nobel and Pulitzer prize-winning writer and editor, died this week. She was 88. Tributes poured forth: Morrison "not only made me confront my blackness, she made me love it," CNN's Lisa Respers France wrote; "Even as we celebrate her as a novelist, we should remember her also as a titan of criticism and a shepherd of an entire generation of black writers," Slate's Ismail Muhammad added. On Twitter, a video circulated of Morrison slapping down an ignorant inquiry from a journalist—asked if she planned to write books "that incorporate white lives into them substantially," Morrison replied, "You can't understand how powerfully racist that question is, can you?"
  • For CJR's series on the world of criticism, Alexandria Neason spoke with Dart Adams, a longtime music journalist; Naima Cochrane, a music writer and former industry executive; and David Dennis Jr., a music writer and academic, about past coverage of R. Kelly. "There was a belief that as objective journalists, we needed to cover the art separate from the artist," Dennis says. "But as we've come to learn, you cannot separate the art and the artist. R. Kelly had underage girls in the studio with him."
  • The CBS–Viacom merger could be announced as soon as tomorrow—and Vice wants a piece of the action. Nancy Dubuc, its CEO, "has made a deal with CBS-Viacom a strategic imperative," Vanity Fair's William D. Cohan reports. "Not only does the deal make a lot of sense to her… but if she could only get back inside a real corporation, she might have a chance to resurrect her own once-high-flying career," Dubuc believes.
  • In 2017, a district court dismissed a libel claim that Sarah Palin brought against the Times; at issue was an editorial linking a crosshairs graphic produced by a Palin PAC to the shooting, in 2011, of Rep. Gabby Giffords and six other people in Tucson, Arizona. Yesterday, Politico's Josh Gerstein reports, an appeals court revived the case, ruling that the prior dismissal violated Palin's procedural rights. The case will now likely go to trial.
  • NPR is making layoffs. Fewer than 10 people will lose their jobs; Nancy Barnes, NPR's editorial director, stressed that the move was "not about saving money," but rather part of a pivot that will boost the broadcaster's investigative output and coverage of climate change, the opioid crisis, and pharmaceuticals, NPR's David Folkenflik reports. National security reporter David Welna, a 37-year veteran of NPR, was among those to see their jobs cut. He wrote colleagues: "I hope none of you will ever be treated this way."
  • On Monday, the government of India stripped Jammu and Kashmir state of the limited autonomy it enjoys under the constitution, effectively placing it under federal control. The region is on lockdown; officials blocked phone and internet services, curtailing local journalists' efforts to cover the crisis. One of them, Qazi Shibli, is in police custody.
  • And for The New York Times Magazine, Matt Flegenheimer explores how Bill de Blasio, the New York City mayor and 2020 presidential candidate, became a media punching bag. "Aides say de Blasio has taken much of his coverage personally," Flegenheimer writes. "'You don't understand,' he told a staff member once. 'They hate me.'"

ICYMI: NPR kills journalist's piece over her accent

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.
Jon Allsop is a freelance journalist. He writes CJR's newsletter The Media Today. Find him on Twitter @Jon_Allsop.

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