Monthly Archives: July 2017

#DYK that wildfire smoke is visible from space? A @NASAEarth satellite saw the Detwiler Wildfire near @YosemiteNPS:…

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Can food change the way people feel about refugees?

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Refugee chefs from 25 countries participated in this year’s Refugee Food Festival.

For 15 days in June, some of the world’s greatest refugee chefs played host to more than 10,000 diners during the second annual Refugee Food Festival.

80 chefs of 25 different nationalities showcased a wide range of dishes highlighting their culture and culinary skills. The big event was an even bigger success than last year, taking stage in 84 restaurants across six European countries. During the festival, each restaurant added new dishes to their regular dining menus and worked with the chefs to create truly unique dining experiences for their guests.

The card reads: "Now more than ever we need to stand with refugees. Add your name to the #WithRefugees petition to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility." Photo by Janou Zoet/UNHCR.

The festival wants to use the power of food to help change people’s perceptions of refugees.

The Refugee Food Festival is the product of French non-governmental organization Food Sweet Food and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). Together, they hope to change public perception of refugees, help refugees integrate into the local workforce, and encourage new experiences and interests in other cultures.

"None of us decides where to get born, so it is fundamental to remember the values of welcome and integration, which are strategic values ​​to build the future of our society," said Oscar Farinetti, the founder of Eataly, one of the participating restaurant chains, in an interview with the U.N.

Somali chef Hassan Hassan meets with diners. Photo by Yorgos Kyvemitis/UNHCR.

Mission aside, however, the food just looked pretty dang good.

In Lyon, France, chef Mohammad Elkhaldy, a refugee from Syria, offered up some mouth-watering Syrian dishes.

Elkhaldy at Substrat restaurant. Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Sri Lankan chef Nitharshini Mathyalagan added a number of her home dishes to the menu at Paris’ Lulu la Nantaise during the festival.

Mathyalagan in Paris. Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Photo by Benjamin Loyseau/UNHCR.

Ifrah Daha prepared a Somali "healthy meal" for guests at Les Filles in Belgium.

Daha with diners at Les Filles. Photo by Bea Uhart/UNHCR.

Photo by Bea Uhart/UNHCR.

Syrian chef Wesal helped revamp the brunch menu over at Madrid’s Elektra.

Wesal meets with diners. Photo by Jane Mitchell/UNHCR.

Photo by Jane Mitchell/UNHCR.

And at It Restaurant in Athens, Greece, Reza Golami served up authentic Afghan cuisine.

Afghan chef Reza Golami in the kitchen of It. Photo by Yorgos Kyvernitis/UNHCR.

Afghan dish man tou. Photo by Yorgos Kyvernitis/UNHCR.

According to the UNHCR, as of June 2017, as many as 65.6 million people have been forced from their homes worldwide, with 22.5 million of them claiming refugee status. A 2016 Pew Research poll found that more than half of Americans believe that the U.S. does not have a responsibility to take in refugees — and that’s a problem shared by a number of other countries.

The truth is that without help from welcoming countries, many refugees may never truly find a home again. To help them, it’s important to tackle the public opinion problem, and events like the Refugee Food Festival are great ways to do that.

Visit the Refugee Food Festival and UNHCR websites for more information on how you can help refugees. Source:

Have what it takes to be a Grist fellow? Don’t miss the application deadline!

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Listen up, procrastinators: You have a few days left to apply for Grist’s fall 2017 fellowship. The application deadline is Monday, July 31, 2017.

If you’re just now hearing about the fellowship, here’s the gist: We’re looking for early-career journalists to come work with us for six months and get paid. This time around, we’re looking for all-stars in two areas: environmental justice and video. You’ll find a full program description and application requirements here.

Our dynamic duo of current fellows just keeps raising the bar for excellence. Senior fellow Emma Foehringer Merchant reports on a shuttered army base in West Oakland that’s the source of a controversial redevelopment project. (Emma’s story is the second installment of our ongoing Extreme Community Makeover series.) And video fellow Vishakha Darbha tells the story of East Chicago, Indiana, which has been called “the next Flint” due to widespread lead contamination. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: We ❤️ our fellows.

So what are you waiting for? Oh, right, the last possible minute. As long as we receive your application by 11:59 p.m. PT on July 31, no judgment here.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Have what it takes to be a Grist fellow? Don’t miss the application deadline! on Jul 24, 2017. Source:

It’s not just banks anymore. Democrats want to break up all kinds of big business.

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Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks on Capitol Hill on March 2, 2015. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Democrats have a new message for American workers: Giant corporations are holding back the economy by cutting back on investment and hiring, and the party is going to put a stop to it.

The pitch for stricter enforcement of antitrust laws — preventing firms from getting too big and penalizing or dissolving those that are using their size to shut out rivals  — is full of lines that will come naturally to Democratic candidates on the stump. Free competition is a basic principle of American capitalism that could appeal to small business and independent voters, while a forceful attack on corporations, a familiar villain, might animate the party’s base.

And the message is part of a broader economic agenda Democrats are announcing Monday as they lay out a campaign platform for next year’s midterm elections.

But while U.S. corporations are undoubtedly getting bigger and more powerful, there is no consensus among economists about how this trend is affecting ordinary households, and no clear answer to whether breaking them up would relieve the economic frustration that contributed to President Trump’s victory in November.

For about a century, federal regulators have worked to prevent large firms from gaining too much power. When only a few firms control one industry, they can behave like monopolies, which cut down production to drive up prices. Not only do consumers pay more, but as the pace slows down in offices and factories, workers have more trouble finding jobs.

This strategy does not succeed when firms have more competition, because their rivals will simply offer more of the same product at a reduced price.

Recently, though, more corporations have been consolidating their control over more sectors of the economy, and critics have argued that regulators have been looking the other way. Under the Democratic proposal, regulators would enforce broader and stricter standards for companies seeking mergers that could reduce competition in their industry.

For the biggest deals, the merging corporations’ lawyers would have to persuade a judge that merging would be beneficial. Democrats also propose establishing a new federal watchdog to report on large firms that are using their size to keep competitors out of the market.

Those reports would be referred to regulators at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice. The white paper identifies beer, food, cable, airlines and eyeglasses as products that might have become more expensive for ordinary consumers because the industries are controlled by a few big firms.

Economists have assembled compelling evidence that mergers in particular industries have caused prices to rise. In 2008, for example, the companies that brew Miller Lite and Coors Lite in the United States merged, and prices promptly soared from around $9.75 to around $10.40 for a 12-pack, economists found. Meanwhile, other popular beers, such as Corona Extra and Heineken, became cheaper.

Other studies have reached similar conclusions in sectors outside of beer — gasolinedishwashers and more. Reviewing the evidence overall, John Kwoka, an economist at Northeastern University, has argued that regulators have been too lenient, failing to protect consumers from exploitation by major firms.

Based on these case-by-case studies of particular firms, industries and products, it is difficult to say whether a lack of competition is a serious issue for the economy overall, and there is not much research yet on how corporate consolidation has affected consumers and workers in general.

Dean Baker, an economist and a founder of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, pointed out that preventing monopolies from forming — that is, antitrust enforcement — is a “classic populist theme,” one that animated the American left a century ago. Yet he argued that today, the economy has different problems, such as the inequality created by the financial sector.

“I think antitrust is part of the story, but not the major part,” Baker said in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this year.

For decades, the consensus among economists has favored a laissez-faire approach to corporate concentration. In the past few years, however, consolidation has reached historically high levels, and some researchers have begun to worry.

Just last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study by a pair of economists at New York University who argued that declining competition had allowed corporations to invest less in plants, equipment and research. When corporations have fewer competitors, looking for ways to operate more efficiently or producing goods and services of better quality might not be worth the effort.

And when corporations have less competition, they can make more money by selling fewer products at higher prices. They can invest less in their facilities as a result.

Lackluster corporate investment is an important reason that economic expansion has been frustratingly slow for years. When corporations spend less, their suppliers can hire fewer people as well. A lack of competition “explains a big chunk of why investment is low in the U.S. today,” Thomas Philippon, one of the authors of the new paper, told The Washington Post.

“It’s not just investment in plant and equipment. It hangs over all forms of expansion in businesses,” said Robert Hall, an economist at Stanford University. “Hiring workers is subject to the same drag.”

The issue is still under investigation, but Hall pointed out that with fewer and fewer firms in charge of American industries, the models that experts have long relied on for understanding and making predictions about the U.S. economy need another look. “The formulas we used to rely on that basically assumed competition are more and more suspect,” he said. Source:

Mortenson Create AR App For Visualising Construction

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Students at the University of Washington will be able to use a mobile augmented reality (AR) app to see what the new CSE2 computer science building will look like when it is completed in January 2019. The app was developed by Mortenson Construction to aid in visualising construction.

Use of AR and virtual reality (VR) in construction has been growing. The new app was developed by Mortenson Construction’s in-house technology team. The app allows users to see a new build project from the outside in AR, then use VR to go inside the building to see the lobby, workroom, robotics lab and offices. Mortenson are hoping that the app will generate interest and engagement from students and staff.

“A typical campus construction project like CSE2 can last two years or more,” Kinsman said. “This window presents a tremendous opportunity to engage the public, and to build excitement around campus. AR and VR represent a vast improvement over traditional public engagement methods like flyers, fencing signage or a website. We are scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

Mortensen have also been working with DAQRI, the creators of an AR smart helmet to test other AR construction applications, noting that AR headsets have great potential for helping with construction projects, making construction sites safer and potentially speeding up project build times.

The company first began using VR and AR technology to help model the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2000. A project some said was impossible due to the lack of 90-degree angles, but mas made possible due to clever use of VR modelling technology borrowed from the manufacturing and aerospace industries.

VRFocus will continue to bring you news of new apps and developments in VR and AR in the construction industry. Source:

Richard Branson: As soon as you lose interest in the future, you are consigning yourself (and your business!) to the past…

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