Sexual Assault Allegations Sweep Hollywood

Sexual Assault Allegations Sweep Hollywood - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

From Terry Crews to Reese Witherspoon, celebrities are coming forward with their own stories of being sexually assaulted throughout their careers – and now that the floodgates have been opened, it doesn’t look like the allegations are going to stop any time soon.

Some celebrities who came forward were shockingly young – including America Ferrera, who wrote on Instagram, “First time I can remember being sexually assaulted I was 9 years old. I told no one and lived with the shame and guilt thinking all along that I, a 9 year old child, was somehow responsible for the actions of a grown man. I had to see this man on a daily basis for years to come. He would smile at me and wave, and I would hurry past him, my blood running cold, my guts carrying the burden of what only he and I knew – that he expected me to shut my mouth and smile back.”

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal, in which the film producer has been accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women throughout his career, women are tweeting and Facebooking their own stories tagged #MeToo.

Actress Angelina Jolie said, “I had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did,” Jolie told the New York Times. “This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”

“My heart was really racing. I was in a fight-or-flight moment,” Rosanna Arquette told the New Yorker of the experience. “He’s going to be working very hard to track people down and silence people,” she said. “To hurt people. That’s what he does.”

“It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed,” said Heather Graham. “If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse? While I still do feel guilty for not speaking up all those years ago, I’m glad for this moment of reckoning. To the countless other women who have experienced the gray areas: I believe you.”

What Do You Think?

Have you seen the #MeToo posts on Facebook and Twitter? Do you feel that we, as a society, need to take these allegations more seriously? I’d love to hear your take on it, so please leave a comment on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

The Tesla Semi Truck

Tesla’s Electric Semi Truck - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

As if Tesla CEO Elon Musk wasn’t already diving into several fields – one of them outer space – he just unveiled an electric semi-truck in California. The truck, which launches the company farther into the automotive market (where they already produce passenger cars, solar power elements, and energy storage solutions) and closer to Musk’s personal goal of creating a sustainable energy economy.

The truck itself includes a solar roof that’s integrated with battery storage and, in some cases, autonomous driving capabilities.

Tesla isn’t the only company developing electric semi-trucks, though. Bosch, Daimler, and Cummins are reportedly creating their own, and Siemens has a pilot program in place to figure out whether it’s a worthy investment. Some foreign companies and small startups are working on them, too, and another company – Proterra – is building electric buses.

Someone snapped a photo of the truck before its unveiling (you can see it here).

In order to sell the truck to the freight industry, though, the electric truck would have to cost less to operate than the trucks that are already running the roads.

An ordinary semi-truck costs between $100,000 and $140,000, but a battery pack to power an electric truck alone could cost that much – so it’s unclear where Tesla is going to save buyers money to entice them to make the switch. Here’s a great run-down on what Tesla could do to impress big customers in the freight industry.

The truck isn’t going into mass production just yet. It could be several years before you see the first Tesla semi rolling down the freeway, but proponents insist that it’s going to be better, more cost-effective, and healthier for the planet.

What Do You Think?

Did you watch Tesla’s semi-truck unveiling? What do you think of its features? I’d love to hear your opinion on the world’s first electric semi-truck, so please share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

What Happened at the UN Climate Conference?

What Happened at the UN Climate Conference - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Dozens of representatives from all over the world descended on the UN Climate Conference in mid-November, where French President Emmanuel Macron challenged Europe to “replace America” in financing major pushes toward keeping Earth’s climate safe.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised U.S. governors and mayors who are working to lower their communities’ greenhouse gas emissions – and some State Department officials are currently working on strengthening the Paris climate change agreement.

Environmental activist Kumi Naidoo of South Africa told George David Banks, a White House Official, “U.S. policies are killing our people.”

He wasn’t the only one.

Canada’s environmental minister Catherine McKenna said, “The world just doesn’t have time to wait for the United States to decide what it’s doing. We’re moving on.”

A relatively small number of American diplomats even bothered attending the summit, particularly in comparison to previous years. The Trump White House sent 48 people, while China sent 81 and Canada sent 161.

The talks, meant to help governments make progress on a lofty goal of keeping the global average temperature rise below 2°C (that’s 3.6°F), led head of the UN’s environment program Erik Solheim to say, “One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future.”

The whole world is incredibly off-course to reach the goal, which scientists say isn’t enough anyway. However, Britain has rapidly begun phasing out coal power over the past two years, and China has canceled plans for more than 100 coal plants to invest in solar, wind and nuclear power resources instead.

What Do You Think?

Do you think the U.S. should focus on reducing carbon emissions to help the world meet its goal of keeping Earth’s global temperature increase under 2°C? Are you familiar with the things that will happen if the world fails to meet the goal? I’d love to hear your opinion, so please feel free to share it on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

Cards Against Humanity vs. the Border Wall

Cards Against Humanity vs. the Border Wall - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

The popular (and often profane) card game Cards Against Humanity ran a huge Christmas promotion on the premise of stopping President Donald J. Trump’s proposed border wall – and it worked. The campaign, limited to a set number of customers, sold out within hours.

So what did they do?

The company retained a law firm focusing on eminent domain issues to, as they say, “make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built.” (Never mind that if push comes to shove, the expense the government will bear for duking things out in court will come directly from taxpayers’ pockets.)

They combined the campaign with wry humor and a short video linking the president with the responsibility for the end of the world.

In the past, Cards Against Humanity released a science-themed expansion pack to its game to benefit women in STEM fields, and used profits from another campaign to pay for workers at its printing factory in China to take a weeklong vacation. But in another promotion, they did nothing but dig a hole (seriously).

While it’s unclear whether the wall will even be built, it is true that the card game company purchased border land in an attempt to drag out the process by becoming a thorn in the president’s side. According to their frequently asked questions, one of which asks, “What are you saving America from?”, Cards Against Humanity says, “Injustice, lies, racism, the whole enchilada.”

What Do You Think?

Is this a good idea and a clever marketing plan, or is it immensely stupid? I’d love to hear your take on it, so please feel free to share your opinion on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

Wine Country Fires Worst on Record, Experts Say

Why Did Wildfires Consume Wine Country in October - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

California’s Wine Country was ravaged by wildfires through most of October, marking the deadliest fire season the U.S. has ever seen. Firefighters from all over the country, including New York, traveled in to help as the death toll rose.

With more than 220,000 acres destroyed and thousands of people evacuated from their homes, experts are scrambling to explain why. Part of the reason is that wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour fed the flames and carried embers, and another part is that October is notorious for being one of the worst months each year. (The last big wildfire in California, the Valley Fire, destroyed 1,955 structures in 2015.)

“By the end of the summer and into early fall the state’s vegetation is tinder dry,” said Jan Null, a California meteorologist and owner of Golden Gate Weather. “The bottom line is that the culmination of these patterns makes October a particularly tragic month for wildfires in California.”

There was a significant amount of rain last winter in California, which means there’s more fuel for the fire. That rain caused tremendous growth in bushes, grasses, and trees – in fact, vegetation grew more this year than it has in decades. After 5 months of historically hot and dry weather, it all served as tinder for the fires. It was uncharacteristically hot, particularly in San Francisco, this summer; the area set a record when it hit 106 degrees on September 1 (the city has been tracking its weather for 150 years).

Scientists are suggesting that climate change has something to do with it, as rising temperatures make vegetation drier.

“A warmer world will have drier fuels,” said Mike Flannigan, director of the Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science at the University of Alberta in Canada. “Drier fuels will mean it’s easier for fires to start and spread.” He also says that heavy rainfall may not be enough to offset the effects. “You only need a week of hot, dry, windy weather before you can have a raging inferno,” he said.

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a 2016 study that said forests in the western U.S. were more likely to burn due to climate change, and that the areas susceptible would continue to grow.

What Do You Think?

What’s behind the raging wildfires in California this fire season? Could any of them have been prevented, or is this part of the cycle the whole earth goes through? Do you feel it could be due to climate change? I’d love to hear your take on it, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino

 

Coal Plants Are Closing – But Why?

950 Jobs Lost to Closing Coal Plants in Texas - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Coal plants all over the country are closing – most notably in Texas – despite President Trump’s campaign promises to increase coal jobs and bring the industry roaring back to life.

Director of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt claimed that there was a “war on coal,” but that doesn’t seem to be the case in light of the data from the EPA itself.

Coal jobs have been dwindling over the past several decades, not due to economic concerns or other factors, but because worldwide demand for coal is shrinking. Renewable energy has largely replaced fossil fuels, and it’s steadily becoming more affordable.

A Department of Energy report, issued on August 23, says, “The biggest contributor to coal and nuclear plant retirements has been the advantaged economics of natural gas-fired generation.”

Considering the retirement of several processing facilities, according to the report, the future of coal looks even more bleak. That’s particularly true when you consider the “clean coal” myth; coal is not inherently a clean energy like wind or solar is. When people refer to clean coal, what they’re talking about is carbon capture and storage, or CCS – and the technology for it has been around for decades. It involves capturing carbon and “storing” it under the earth’s surface, rather than releasing it into the atmosphere, which some scientists say is dangerous. Further, it’s expensive to implement; plant owners would have to retrofit the technology in older plants and create new underground storage facilities, costing about $100 billion per year. The math just doesn’t add up when there are more affordable alternatives.

As of right now, 79 percent more coal processing plants are closing than experts and the White House expected. The plants closing in Texas, owned by a company called Luminant, will cost local economies 950 jobs.

Luminant says that the plants are closing due to an “oversupplied” renewable energy market and the fact that natural gas and wholesale electricity’s prices are lower than ever. The plants that are closing haven’t brought in revenue for the company in quite some time, according to executives.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your take on what’s happening in the coal industry, so please share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on my Twitter feed.

Carlos Gamino

McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce Debacle

McDonald’s Szechuan Sauce Debacle - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

How far would you go for a packet of McDonald’s Szechuan sauce?

If you’re like most people, you’d go about as far as your local McDonald’s… but thousands of fans are doing crazy things for a sauce that was made popular again thanks to a comedy show called “Rick and Morty.”

The show’s Season 3 premier featured the sauce, which was originally unveiled in 1998 for a limited time, and fans demanded McDonald’s re-release it.

The unveiling was a little disappointing for many fans, though, who claimed that the sauce wasn’t available at their locations. (It’s not as if there are more pressing issues to worry about.)

For others, getting their hands on just one packet caused quite a stir – such as a woman from Macomb, Michigan, who got her own and traded it for… wait for it… a car. The woman, Rachel Marie, is a 23-year-old graphic designer who drove 45 minutes to wait hours for the sauce to become available.

“By the time that happened, there were hundreds of people waiting,” Marie said. “The line snaked around the building.”

That particular location had just 20 packets available, but she and a friend each snagged one. Instead of smearing it on McNuggets, though, Marie traded one packet for a 2000 Volkswagen Golf MK4.

Because fans made such a big deal over the sauce, which can be made at home, McDonald’s is bringing it back this winter. Part of the company’s statement says, “Szechuan sauce is coming back once again this winter,” a statement from the company reads. “And instead of being one-day-only and limited to certain restaurants, we’re bringing back more — a lot more — so that any fan who’s willing to do whatever it takes for Szechuan sauce will only have to ask for it at a nearby McDonald’s.”

What Do You Think?

Personally, I think trading a car for a packet of sauce is overkill – but I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please, share them on my Facebook page or join the conversation on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino

Detroit Man Offers to Turn Himself In to Police for Facebook “Shares”

Redford Township Police Department Facebook Shares - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

A Detroit man going by the name “Champagne Torino” promised to turn himself in to police for outstanding warrants if his post got 1,000 shares on the social networking site. In an act of generosity, he also offered to pick up trash around the police station and bring donuts for whomever was working at the time.

The Redford Township Police Department accepted the challenge, writing on their Facebook page:

“CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Mr. Champagne Torino has issued the RTPD a challenge. As you can see below, if we can have this post SHARED 1000 times, he will turn himself in to RTPD on his existing warrants, clean up blight on public school property, and bring us a dozen donuts. Donuts!!!! He promised us donuts! You know how much we love Donuts!

Help us win this challenge and clean up blight in Redford at the same time! It’s as easy as a SHARE of this post.”

Despite the promise, though, Mr. “Torino” failed to bring donuts (let alone turn himself in), even after the post garnered more than 4,500 shares.

What Do You Think?

Do you enjoy watching police departments interact with their communities like this? I certainly do – and it’s happened several times (like this, this, and this), but I’d love to hear your take on it. Please share your thoughts on Facebook (but preferably on my page, not a police department’s page) or on Twitter!

Carlos Gamino

Meddling in an Election, One Facebook Ad at a Time

Meddling in an Election, One Facebook Ad at a Time - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Facebook handed over vital information on ad buys to special prosecutor Robert Mueller in early September, claiming that Russian groups had purchased up to $100,000 in ads designed to divide and conquer the American electorate.

A Facebook official told TechCrunch that Facebook is “continuing to cooperate with the relevant U.S. authorities” during the investigation into whether President Donald J. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to snag the presidency.

Facebook may not know the full extent of the ads purchased by Russians during the election season, though. That’s because anyone can buy ads on Facebook with a “self-service” tool that doesn’t require human interaction.

Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos issued a statement that said, in part, “There have been a lot of questions since the 2016 US election about Russian interference in the electoral process. In April we published a white paper that outlined our understanding of organized attempts to misuse our platform… In reviewing the ad buys, we have found approximately $100,000 in ad spending from June of 2015 to May of 2017 — associated with roughly 3,000 ads — that was connected to about 470 inauthentic accounts and Pages in violation of our policies. Our analysis suggests these accounts and pages were affiliated with one another and likely operated out of Russia.”

The fake accounts, according to CNN, were linked to a pro-Kremlin “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency.

What Do You Think?

Do you believe the Trump campaign worked with Russia to win the 2016 presidential election, or do you think Russia acted alone? Do you think these ad buys were part of a bigger scheme instituted by the Russian government, or were the people who bought these ads acting alone?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to share them on my Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #FacebookAds!

Carlos Gamino

Was Your Identity Compromised by Equifax?

Did the Equifax Data Breach Affect You - Carlos GaminoBy Carlos Gamino

Two Equifax executives are retiring after a massive data breach affected nearly 150 million people in the U.S., and the company has come under fire for its response.

Equifax apparently learned of a huge data breach that leaked the private, credit-related information of 44 percent of Americans on July 29, more than a month before the company notified consumers that their data was compromised. (Equifax was silent about the breach until September 7.)

The hack involved names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers, according to Equifax. Nobody knows – at least according to the company – who carried out the cyberattack or what they’re doing with the information.

Instead of letting consumers know they were at-risk, Equifax executives chose to hire a private cybersecurity firm to investigate the issue… and three executives sold off about $2 million in stock during the month the company knew about the breach but refrained from telling the public. (Equifax issued a statement that said the execs “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares,” but there’s an investigation underway that may reveal a different story.)

Equifax has set up a website – www.EquifaxSecurity2017.com – and a call center that you can reach at 866-447-7559 to offer impacted Americans access to a free credit-monitoring service. Despite a shaky rollout, the program seems to be working now.

You can find out whether you were affected by visiting Equifax’s website and entering your last name plus the last six digits of your Social Security number. (Never mind that that’s the type of information Equifax already let slip through their fingers.)

A large number of states have begun class-action lawsuits against the company for those affected, which experts say will soon be consolidated into regional suits.

“Equifax probably injured 143 million people, which is kind of a record,” said John Coffee, the professor at Columbia Law School who directs the schools Center on Corporate Governance.

What Do You Think?

Was your information affected by Equifax’s data breach, and if it was, have you enrolled in the company’s indentity theft protection program? Will you participate in one of the class-action lawsuits? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the company’s month-long cover-up and the executives’ sales of $2 million in stock, too, so please let me know what you’re thinking on my Twitter feed or on my Facebook page – and use the hashtag #EquifaxDataBreach to join the conversation.

Carlos Gamino