By Peter Ward October 7, 2016
Air Pollution Kills Millions
Do people in poorer countries breathe worse air? The Washington Post attempted to answer that question this week using graphs and charts.
A World Health Organization Report published last week found that 92% of people worldwide breathe unhealthy air, and about 3 million deaths per year stem from high levels of air pollution. That number of at-risk people rises to 98% in urban areas of low and middle income countries.
The data shows that in 2012, the most recent data available, there were more than 1.1 million deaths caused by air pollution in low and middle income countries in the Western Pacific. In contrast, the number of air pollution-related deaths in Europe’s high income countries reached 289,000.
The article also mapped out the worst affected areas in East Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and the U.S. Rust Belt.
“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it, they have a benchmark,” Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant director general for family, women and children’s health told The Washington Post. “When dirty air blankets our cities, the most vulnerable urban populations — the youngest, oldest and poorest — are the most impacted.”
Yahoo Searched Customers’ Emails
Yahoo finds itself in the news for the wrong reasons again this week, as an investigation by Reuters revealed how the company built a custom program to search its customers’ incoming emails.
Yahoo, which recently announced it is to be bought by Verizon, revealed last month “state-sponsored” hackers had compromised 500 million customer accounts in 2014.
The most recent Reuters investigation revealed that Yahoo had built a software program to scan hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts, after receiving requests for information from the National Security Agency and FBI.
Google and Microsoft, two of the largest U.S. email service providers told Reuters that they had not received a similar request from the U.S. government but would not have complied if they did.
“We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘No way’,” a spokesman for Google said in a statement.
U.S. law states that phone and internet companies have to provide customer data to aid intelligence-gathering efforts, but many companies have pushed back against sweeping data collection such as that seen in Yahoo’s email sweep. Apple made the most high-profile stand, refusing to make a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone during the investigation into the San Bernardino shooting in 2015.
Pence’s Gambling Windfall
Cases of money influencing politicians are abundant, especially so during election season. The latest controversy to be unearthed comes from the International Business Times, which looked into the campaign donations to Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence.
The investigation into the finances shows that the casino industry has pumped money into Pence’s campaigns since 2011, and in return the Indiana governor used his power to help gambling interests.
Over the past five years, Pence has received roughly $2.2 million from Indiana gaming operators and their lobbying firms. During that time Pence signed tax legislation benefiting the gaming industry, and allowed legislation permitting riverboat operators to move their casinos on shore. “I do not support an expansion of gaming in Indiana,” Pence said in March 2013, just two months after becoming governor. Pence also wanted to outlaw internet gaming, and said, “I’ve never bought a lottery ticket.”
The IBT article claims that the flow of money to Pence has rendered ineffective the state’s pay-to-play laws, which are supposed to make sure government decisions on issues such as gaming licenses are based on public interest rather than favoritism.
Global Debt Hits $152 Trillion
The IMF has urged governments to take action after global debt hit a record $152 trillion. But the institution has also advised some countries to borrow and spend more to boost growth.
Global debt, both public and private, reached 225% of the global economic output last year, according to the IMF’s new Fiscal Monitor report. That figure is up from 200% in 2002. About two-thirds of the 2015 total is owed by private sector borrowers.
The organization has warned that while debt levels across different countries is varied, the sheer size of the overall debt could threaten the global economy’s fragile recovery. Vitor Gaspar, the director of the IMF’s fiscal affairs department said: “$152 trillion is a record high. In places around the world we have excessive debt. In some places we have debt, in particular non-financial corporations’ debt, growing very fast.
“A crucial message from the fiscal monitor is that when private debt is on an unsustainable path it is important to intervene early on in the process to make sure financial crises and recessions can be prevented.”
But the IMF’s message seems to be mixed. At the time the report was published, IMF managing director Christine Lagarde was urging the governments that have “fiscal space” to borrow and spend more to boost weak growth.
The Week’s Top Headlines
Theranos Retreats From Blood Tests – John Carreyrou, Christopher Weaver, The Wall Street Journal
Twitter stock plunges 19% on report that Google and Disney won’t make a bid – Biz Carson, Business Insider
Walmart Is Radically Slowing New Store Openings – Phil Wahba, Fortune
A record number of U.S. billionaires are immigrants – Thomas Heath, The Washington Post
Lagarde Says Rapid Accord With DoJ Better for Deutsche Bank – Simone Meier, Bloomberg News
Workers to protest at McDonald’s stores across US over sexual harassment claims – Jana Kasperkevic, The Guardian
Facebook introduces a new way for you to sell your old junk – Damon Beres, Mashable
Everything Google launched at its October 4 event – Matt Burgess, Amelia Heathman, Wired
California wants to give self-driving cars more leeway in public – Andrew Krok, CNET
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