Category Archives: Social Issues

After Matt Lauer firing, NBC gets ratings boost

Well! After my co-worker got to talk about our plans to move; and my boss just kept to himself; I get to talk about the latest media blitz:

While surely a week NBC wouldn’t want to repeat, Matt Lauer’s firing lured viewers to the Today show.

The NBC morning show beat ABC Good Morning America last week for the first week in three months, the Nielsen company said. Today had more viewers than GMA every day last week — the first time that has happened since last December.

NBC fired Lauer following a colleague’s charge of an inappropriate relationship that began in 2014, and since then other women have come forward to charge him with impropriety. Viewers were told of his dismissal at the top of last Wednesday’s show.

THEN one of our HYPERLOOP contacts “got his ass in a sling”

Hyperloop Co-Founder Steps Down Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

Following a report that detailed numerous sexual harassment and assault allegations against Shervin Pishevar, the venture capitalist is taking a leave of absence from Virgin Hyperloop One and VC firms Sherpa Capital and Silicon Foundry. Pishevar released a statement on Tuesday announcing his departure, saying that it was his own decision. He noted that he is going to focus on the defamation lawsuit he filed against Definers Public Affairs, the organisation Pishevar has claimed is responsible for a “smear campaign” against him

 

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The 3 Essential Ingredients for Cooking Up Transit That People Want to Ride

Streetsblog USA via California Rail News

Speed. Routes should be direct, instead of cutting labyrinthine paths across a city. Fare payment needs to be fast and easy, via off-board fare collection or tap-and-go entry at every door. Transit can’t get bogged down in traffic, either, so features like dedicated space on the street and priority at traffic lights are needed to keep things moving.
Frequency and Reliability. People won’t ride transit if they can’t depend on it…
Walkability and Accessibility. Transit works best when people can walk to it. That means both concentrating transit in compact, walkable places, and making it easier to walk to transit in places where pedestrian infrastructure is lacking…
On the Dublin buses you can pay your fare with a tap card. Passengers can walk past the farebox next to the driver to tap the card reader and not wait behind cash paying riders to dig out their money.

A Risky Proposition: The ‘Regulatory Hole You Could Drive a Train Through’

A long-overlooked loophole allows railroad infrastructure to be built with virtually no local permit requirements at all

 

n early 2012, residents of this sleepy town began to notice an unusual amount of activity around the Grafton & Upton rail yard at the north end of town. An old barn that had stood for over a century was knocked down. Bulldozers came out, clearing the land.

The tiny 16.5-mile railroad had been nearly defunct, but was purchased in 2008 by Jon Delli Priscoli, a major local developer with a penchant for railroads; he also owns a Thomas the Tank Engine theme park 70 miles away.

At least one town official who visited the site to ask about the construction said he was told that the railroad’s activities weren’t subject to review by the town.

In December 2012, Delli Priscoli finally unveiled his plans to more than 100 residents at a meeting in the municipal gym. The railroad yard, he announced, was to become a propane transfer or “transloading” facility, meaning that propane would be brought there by rail and unloaded onto tanker trucks to be distributed. With four 120-foot long, 80,000-gallon storage tanks to be filled by up to 2,000 train tank cars a year, it would be the biggest rail propane facility in Massachusetts.

Residents were dumbfounded: The location was in the middle of a residential neighborhood, less than 2,000 feet from an elementary school and atop the town’s water supply. But, aside from an application to the state’s fire marshal (still unapproved by publication date), the railroad’s owner had not requested nor obtained, town officials say, any local permits, environmental assessments, zoning variances — or permission.

And as residents would learn, it was the railroad’s position that it didn’t have to: Being a railroad, the Grafton & Upton was exempt from any state or local law that interfered with its business, a legal doctrine known as pre-emption.

As one resident put it, “You mean we have no rights?”

Around the country, in towns as small as Grafton and as large as Philadelphia and Chicago, communities are beginning to ask the same question as the domestic energy boom makes the expansion of railway infrastructure — to host trains carrying crude oil, propane and ethanol — a profitable venture indeed.

After more than a dozen serious explosions, fires and spills around the country, those trains have become notorious. But an investigation by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and Al Jazeera America suggests a critical part of the energy-by-rail picture has largely escaped national attention: the rail industry is exploiting historic exemptions from state and local laws to build often-massive transfer and processing stations free from virtually any permit requirements and without regard for basic laws protecting the communities in which they are based.

Railroads are exploiting a large, surprising loophole in federal regulatory law, critics say, and they are doing so with the backing of an obscure federal agency, the Surface Transportation Board, which has been quietly creating what some call a “regulation-free zone” and asserting a jurisdiction over railroads that trumps health and safety laws.

The result is a “regulatory hole you could drive a train through,” says Ginny Sinkel Kremer, an attorney who represents the town of Grafton in its legal battles against the transloading facility and the STB.

Read More of this article by By Isaiah Thompson, Al Jazeera America

A revolution in interaction

Below is a reprint of a “McKinsey Quarterly” article from 1967.

A new study of interactions reveals how pervasive they are. As they increase in number, answers to fundamental questions about intergration, scale, and scope will change. But what will happen when workers can carry out their jobs in half the time?

February 1997 | byPatrick Butler, Ted W. Hall, Alistair M. Hanna, Lenny Mendonca, Byron Auguste, James Manyika, and Anupam Sahay

The modern world economy is in the early stages of a profound change in the shape of business activity. Two centuries ago, dramatic shifts in the economics of transformation—of production and transportation—precipitated the Industrial Revolution. An upheaval of equal proportions is about to be triggered by unprecedented changes in the economics of interaction.

Interactions—the searching, coordinating, and monitoring that people and firms do when they exchange goods, services, or ideas—pervade all economies, particularly those of modern developed nations. They account for over a third of economic activity in the United States, for example. More than that, interactions exert a potent but little understood influence on how industries are structured, how firms are organized, and how customers behave. Any major change in their level or nature would trigger a new dynamic in economic activity.

Just such a change is now beginning to occur. A convergence of technologies is set to increase our capacity to interact by a factor of between two and five in the near future. This enhanced interactive capacity will create new ways to configure businesses, organize companies, and serve customers, and have profound effects on the structure, strategy, and competitive dynamics of industries.

Yet business leaders will find it difficult to anticipate the opportunities and threats this change will present because our assumptions and thinking about strategy and organization are based much more on the economics of transformation than on the economics of interaction. To recognize, understand, and act on the hidden power of interactions, we will need to adopt new mindsets, new measurements, and new vocabularies.

Read more of this article

New York City getting easier to get around

Navigating the crowded streets of New York may be getting easier for millions of business travelers as the city sees the biggest boost in public transportation in recent memory.

On Sept. 13, the city opened the first new subway station in 26 years, ushering conference goers to the doorstep of the once isolated Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A citywide ferry system will extend service to the city’s outer boroughs over the next three years. The city’s bike share program is rapidly expanding, expected to double by 2017. And an app, created by the company that provides payment technology to over 60% of New York City cabs, has become the latest to allow riders to hail a taxi with the tap of a button.

So many options, says Chris Heywood, spokesman for the city’s destination marketing organization NYC & Company, “just makes the city more appealing and is a huge selling point for us as we try to draw more business travelers, more convention delegates and more leisure visitation.’’

Last year, a record 56.4 million people visited New York City, 12.2 million of them here on business, NYC & Company says.

Now, the 6.3 million people expected to attend meetings and conferences here this year no longer have to trek blocks or hunt for a cab to get to the city’s convention center, which lies a stone’s throw from the Hudson River. Last week, the 7 subway line began stopping at 34th Street and 11th Ave., the only subway stop south of 59th Street on the far West Side.

“The extension of the 7 line to the far West Side is a game changer in many ways, especially from a business  travel perspective,’’ Heywood said of the $2.42 billion project.

The city’s subway system will gain an even more significant addition next year, when the first phase of a new Second Avenue line is expected to be finished in December. It will mark the first major expansion of the city’s subway network in over half a century.

“The number 7 and opening of the Second Avenue subway … reflect a serious recognition we have to invest in our infrastructure,’’ says Mitchell  Moss, director of NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation. The numerous other  transportation initiatives taking place are significant as well. “We’ve spent a lot on fixing, repairing and investing in the maintenance of the system. But it’s also clear we can’t just maintain it. We need to expand it. That’s the real change.’’

Citi Bike, New York’s bike share program, will increase from 6,000 to 12,000 bikes in the next two years. Bicycles became available in Queens for the first time last month, and new stations will soon be popping up on Manhattan’s Upper East and West side, and deeper into the borough of Brooklyn.

There are also plans to expand the city’s ferry service by 2018 to the Lower East Side, Astoria, Queens and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

For those visitors who prefer cabs to ferries and trains, there is now another app allowing a cab to be summoned via a tap on a smartphone.

Way2ride’s hailing function launched in July. The app is from Verifone, which provides in-cab technologies to nearly 14,000 of the city’s 20,000 yellow and green cabs. It is joining over 70 apps for taxis and hired car services, including Uber and Lyft, that are in New York City according to the NYU’s Rudin Center.

“What the last few years have shown is there is a demand among consumers for the ability to hail a cab with a phone … and we’re in a unique position to be able to provide the scale that consumers would expect of a taxi-hailing app,’’ says Jason Gross, vice president of strategy and innovation for Verifone, adding that would-be riders who’ve downloaded the Way2ride app can send requests to a taxi’s existing equipment.  The app, which previously just facilitated the payment of the driver, will roll out the e-hail function in several other cities, including Miami, Las Vegas, and Washington, D.C., in October.

Heywood says that it’s not just the accessibility of New York’s public transit that makes it appealing to visitors, but the affordability as well.

“We’re not a city that requires you to rent a car,’’ said Heywood who noted that unlike some other cities where the price of a subway ride increases based on geographic zones, a business trekker or tourist can travel from Manhattan to Coney Island for $2.75. “Take the Citi Bike … pick up a ferry, then take a subway. There’s so many different ways you can mix and match all of our public transportation options and really have fun with it as well.’’

9 French Words We Should Be Using in English

French has many “why don’t we have a word for that?” words and even more that are just plain beautiful. Here’s a short list of my 9 favorite French words.

dépayser (verb) To leave your comfort zone

This seems like an appropriate place to begin because this word describes something that is fundamental to learning any foreign language: exiting your zone of comfort. The verb dépayser contains the word pays, which means “country”, and the prefix de-, which, like in English, can suggest removal or negation. So a literal one-word translation might be something like “decountrify.” To be dépaysé (adj) – “decountrified” – is to be out of your element, to break or change your habits, to be disoriented. The noun dépaysement – “decountrification” – can be translated as “culture shock” or “disorientation” or “change of scene.” Dépayser can also be used reflexively – se dépayser – so you can even “decountrify” yourself or break your habits. So, while you don’t literally have to leave your country to leave your comfort zone, this word suggests a fundamental relationship between your habits and your culture. It may be the very antidote to this next word…

Nombrilisme

noun: self-centeredness, egoism, self-absorption

Nombril is navel or belly button, so this word is literally “bellybuttonism” and roughly translates as self-centeredness, egoism, self-absorption, etc. It is petty and detail-oriented, concentrating on a single issue to the exclusion of all else, a certain kind of childishness. English also has “navel-gazing” by the way, but nombrilisme seems to capture so much more by elevating it to the status of a doctrine – its an -ism after all! And it doesn’t stop at the individual bellybutton; it can refer to a collective, national navel-gazing, a tendency to relate everything back to one’s own country, e.g. nombrilisme américain, nombrilisme français, etc. If you want to learn a foreign language you’re going to have to stop gazing at your navel – get out there and decountrify yourself!

Vachement

adverb: very, truly

When we examine those symbols that lie at the very heart of French culture and identity, there is one that we cannot ignore: the cow – la vache – an animal so important to this country of cheese and cream that it has transcended description and association to become an adverb, which can be applied to just about any verb or adjective for emphasis. The word is vachement, which literally translates to “cowly” and just means very, extremely, truly – a more colorful and emphatic très. Listen for it and you will hear it constantly – but no one seems to realize they are saying “cowly”! Vachement is part of the fabric of everyday expression, its connection to la vache seemingly obscured, a testament to the supreme ubiquity achieved by the cow in France. It is all things and no things.

Chauve-souris

noun: bat

Chauve means bald and souris means mouse, so a chauve-souris – a bat – is literally a “bald mouse.” And while I can somewhat understand the association, it seems like its lack of hair is one of the more mundane traits that distinguish the bat from the mouse. What about FLIGHT, for example?! Shouldn’t it be a souris volante (“flying mouse”)? Maybe the person who gave the bat its French name encountered it for the first time while it was sleeping. But even then, you’d think “upside-down mouse” would come to mind before “bald mouse.” This is, at any rate, a very strange mouse – vachement bizarre.

Avoir le cafard

idiom: to be depressed

Are you feeling blue? Down in the dumps? Well my friend, it sounds like you’ve got the cockroach. Avoir le cafard literally means “to have the cockroach.” And really, who wouldn’t be feeling a little down if they were stuck with one of those things.

 

Chou

noun: cabbage; adj: cute

The noun chou means cabbage, as well as a host of other vegetables when combined with certain other words: chou de Bruxelles is Brussels sprout, chou chinois is bok choy, chou-fleur is cauliflower, chou-rave is kohlrabi and the list goes on. But cabbage in the French language transcends the mere culinary: it can be a term of endearment for a child (mon petit chou = “my little cabbage”), a baby (bout de chou = “piece of cabbage”) or for a significant other (je t’aime, mon chou ! = “I love you, my cabbage!”); as an adjective it can mean adorable, lovely, cute sweet etc. Tu m’as apporté des fleurs ?! Comme tu es chou ! – “You brought me flowers?! How cabbage of you!” Regarde ce bébé-là, comme il est (vachement) chou – “look at that baby, isn’t he just (cowly) cabbage!”

Ronronner

verb: to purr

The verb ronronner is not only excellent practice for your French r-gargling, but by pronouncing it correctly you will already be doing the thing it describes: purring (like a cat) or humming (like an engine).

Coccinelle

noun: ladybug/ladybird

This word is just plain fun to say. It springs forth from the soft palate and bounces back before slithering out through the teeth, only to liquefy back across the entire palate. It takes your mouth on a one-word journey across five consonants and three vowels that are alternatingly sharp, bright, bouncy, and fluid. And to what creature is bestowed the honor of this ecstatic word? Why it’s none other than the humble ladybug to the Americans, ladybird to the British. And whether you know it as ladybug or ladybird, I think we can all agree that this is a pretty unimaginative way to refer to a polka-dotted flying thing. Francophones: 1, Anglophones: 0

Dépanneur

noun: repair person (European French); corner store (Québécois French)

And finally, a shoutout to my friends in Québec – I haven’t forgotten you! A list of all the amazing words and expressions to be found in Québécois French will have to wait for the next article. In the meantime, I leave you with dépanneur, by far not the most interesting or entertaining French-Canadian word, but a favorite for personal reasons. In standard French, a panne is a breakdown or failure of a machine. The verb dépanner means to fix, repair, mend, but takes on the broader meaning of to help out or to come to the rescue. A dépanneur (in standard French) is by extension a repair person or a mechanic. The Québécois take this idea to its logical conclusion: a dépanneur is the corner store where you buy your booze and chips. A frequent panne that I encounter is lack of beer and chips. In Montréal, the dépanneur was always there to help.