ENVIRONMENT

Surprise Discovery: Bacteria Has Evolved to Eat Plastic

Scientists have accidentally boosted the enzyme that's breaking down ocean plastic—and that's a huge step.

In the Pacific Ocean, at least 79,000 metric tons of plastic waste are floating across an area exceeding 1.5 million square kilometers. The latest measurements of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch revealed that it's constantly growing and that its accumulation of plastic is accelerating. Also increasing is the world's plastic consumption. We use over 320 million metric tons annually, the majority of which ends up in our oceans. This decade saw more plastic produced than any other in history. Since 1992, China has been importing nearly half of the planet's plastic waste for recycling. But starting this year, the country is refusing all nonindustrial plastics and limiting imports of paper waste. Suddenly, this recyclable material is falling into landfills because recycling plants can't keep up.

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ENVIRONMENT

Can compost fight climate change?

Farmers and scientists want to use the dirt beneath our feet to save the air above our heads

The headlining culprit in climate change warnings is the collection of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere that come burning fossil fuels. You might be surprised, then, to learn that agriculture's effect on the health of the Earth's safety blanket is nearly as large as that of greenhouse gases. Clearing forests for farmland, tilling fields, raising livestock and spraying herbicides and pesticides—all of these practices contribute to the rising CO2 levels in the air. Now, new studies have started to point to compost as a tool for improving farming practices and reducing agriculture's effects on the environment.

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TECHNOLOGY

GPS trackers for kids must focus on security

Do the benefits of knowing a child’s location outweigh the risks of giving that information to hackers?

For busy, working parents, parents of children who take public transportation to school, parents of children with special needs and parents who simply want to know where their children are in case of emergencies, more and more GPS devices promise to track a child's location and broadcast it to the parents' phones. These watches, wristbands and phone-sized devices are immediately attractive to a worried parent. Many offer features beyond tracking, including communication, distress signals, augmented reality, water sensing and more. What parent doesn't want to better protect the children by keeping them away from dangerous places and situations?

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CULTURE

The NYC Subway: Endless Repairs and a Desperate Future

A history of stalled construction, deferred maintenance and funding problems have left the subway with a seemingly hopeless future

The subway system, winding beneath, through and over the streets of New York City, moves almost six million people every day. The system stretches over 665 miles of track from Manhattan to Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. The subway opened in 1904 with 28 stations in Manhattan and, though it now connects the five boroughs through 472 stations, many regular riders complain that not much else has changed in the last 114 years. Some trains are more often delayed than not. And while the city's population is, again, rising and overcrowding on subway platforms continues to cause problems, the city has basically stopped building new subways. Why? And why can't the MTA keep its trains running smoothly and on-time?

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ISSUES

How to Become a U.S. citizen: Immigration 101

A guide to the naturalization process, what comes before and what happens after

With all the talk surrounding immigration, we thought it would be useful to break down the actual process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

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POLITICS

Five Upcoming Supreme Court Decisions to Watch

In the 2017-2018 term, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court will hear several major cases with national implications

Topics in this term's major cases include technological privacy, religious freedom, anti-discrimination laws, immigration and the President, sports gambling and political gerrymandering, among many others. The Court's deliberation on these cases will begin in the coming months but the discussions surrounding them have been going on for years, and will continue long after the decisions are made. Before the end of this term, the Court will have heard something close to 70 cases, chosen from an average of 7,000 petitions. Here are five of the most important cases to follow.

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ISSUES

How Has Clarence Thomas Survived the #MeToo Movement?

What the campaign against sexual harassment has revealed about past allegations against the Supreme Court justice.

Since 1991, Clarence Thomas has served as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court with a lifetime term.

Yet shortly before his nomination to the post, Anita Hill testified before a Senate committee that Thomas had sexually harassed her for three years at two different government organizations where they had worked together. Nearly three decades before #MeToo, Hill's testimony was the first major public allegation and investigation into sexual harassment in the workplace. It sparked a divisive discussion about harassment, power, trust and culpability across the country.

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ISSUES

Exploring the controversies surrounding the Peace Corps

Volunteers look to change the world but the agency's practices have been debated for decades

In February 2013, 23-year-old Peace Corps volunteer Nick Castle died in a hospital at West China Hospital of Sichuan University of a gastrointestinal illness. He had fallen into a coma after feeling sick for months, losing weight and, finally, collapsing in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province. Carrie Hessler-Radelet, the director of the Peace Corps in 2013, told the New York Times that the agency had been examining and revising its entire practice since the death of another volunteer in Morocco in 2009.

Deaths in the Peace Corps are not frequent but they rightly call into question the program's training processes, medical resources and the security of volunteers.

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