Top Stories

December 22, 2015


US Congress accepts bill banning plastic microbeads in skincare products

Plastic microbeads used in soaps, body washes and other personal-care products will be phased out starting in 2017 under US legislation approved by Congress and sent to the president. Lawmakers said the bill was needed to protect fish and wildlife that are ingesting the tiny beads after they are rinsed down the drain and discharged into lakes and rivers. The tiny plastic particles do not dissolve and can persist in the environment for decades. Senator Rob Portman called microbeads devastating to wildlife and human health. Once signed into law, the legislation phasing out microbeads should protect Lake Erie and other waterways now being polluted, Portman said. “The Great Lakes have survived many a foe – severe pollution, oil spills, discharge from refineries, zebra mussels and attempts to steal our water, just to name a few,” said Rep. Fred Upton. “We are going to fight any activity that puts our beloved Great Lakes in jeopardy.” (CBS News)


Juniper breach: Tech companies urged to investigate “rogue code”

The US government is investigating unauthorised code inserted in software from Juniper Networks, after the networking equipment maker warned its customers that the “backdoor” could be used to spy on them. Juniper’s announcement is the first time a major technology firm has discovered the addition of such “rogue code”, according to experts, who suggest that it was likely planted by a nation state or sophisticated criminals. The latest investigation findings by security consultancy Comsecuris suggest that the US National Security Agency (NSA) may be responsible for that backdoor, at least indirectly. Evidence suggests that the Juniper culprits repurposed an encryption backdoor previously believed to have been engineered by the NSA. Rival equipment maker Cisco Systems has launched a product review to look for tampering. Security experts said they expect other technology companies to conduct similar investigations. (Reuters; Reuters; Wired)


Apple says UK surveillance push risks paralysing global tech sector

Apple has launched a counteroffensive against the UK’s proposed new surveillance law, saying the measures risk paralysing vast reaches of the technology sector across the globe and even sparking “serious international conflicts”. Apple’s move is part of a concerted effort by tech titans to regain the trust of customers, damaged by the spying revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The UK’s proposed bill would give police and security services access to the records of every UK citizen’s internet use without the need for judicial authorisation. But companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and Microsoft are submitting evidence to the UK parliament, arguing that the proposals will set a dangerous precedent, and could create an “international legal minefield”. Apple’s statement also argues that provisions requiring companies to adopt weaker standards of encryption would result in “the personal data of millions of law-abiding citizens [being] less secure”. (FT)*

Technology & Innovation

Geely bets on high-tech, new-energy cars

Chinese auto maker Geely hopes to reinvent itself as an innovator through new-energy and Internet-equipped vehicles. The company must be willing to abandon its old ways to achieve the transformation, according to chairman Li Shufu. “To make our factories fit for advanced manufacturing and high environmental standards, we have built anew after tearing down almost all the old. We put up to tens of billions of yuan into each factory,” Li said. Geely has factories in more than 10 cities across the country. Its factory in the northwestern city of Lanzhou was expanded earlier this year, improving annual capacity from 50,000 cars to 120,000 cars. Geely announced last month that it is aiming for new-energy cars to account for more than 90 percent of all sales by 2020. But the new-energy car transition could be bumpy. New-energy cars only make up a tiny share of car sales, and with the government expected to roll out fewer subsidies, the competition will become fiercer. (Eco-Business)

Corporate Reputation

Activists target relationship between BP and British Museum

A group of 25 “actor-vists” dressed as BP executives hosted a fake farewell party inside the British Museum’s Great Court on Sunday, marking the departure of the museum’s director, Neil MacGregor. The theatre group behind the protest, BP or not BP?, have obtained emails under the Freedom of Information Act revealing “cosy” relationships between BP staff and the museum’s director. The British Museum will soon decide whether to renew its 5-year sponsorship deal with the oil giant. The protest comes just a week after 10 performers were arrested at the Musee du Louvre during the Paris climate talks, when they challenged the museum’s sponsorship by the oil companies, Total and Eni. Rhiannon Kelly, one of the London activists, said: “The Paris climate deal has made the direction of travel clear – we must shift to a fossil free culture. So, when the British Museum decides whether or not to renew its sponsorship deal with BP, it must be ethics and the future of the planet that determines the outcome – not personal relationships.”(Blue and Green Tomorrow)

Image Source: A handful of nurdles by gentlemanrook / CC BY 2.0

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