An Ex-CIA Officer Speaks Out: The Italian Job – Published on Nov 3, 2015

Sabrina De Sousa is one of nearly two-dozen CIA officers who was prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced by Italian courts in absentia in 2009 for the role she allegedly played in the rendition of a radical cleric named Abu Omar. It was the first and only criminal prosecution that has ever taken place related to the CIA’s rendition program, which involved more than 100 suspected terrorists and the assistance of dozens of European countries.

But De Sousa, a dual US and Portuguese citizen, said she had nothing to do with the cleric’s abduction and has been wrongly accused. For the past decade, she has been on a global quest to clear her name. VICE News met up with De Sousa in Lisbon, Portugal–and other key figures connected to the case–for an exclusive interview about the steps she’s now taking in an effort to hold the CIA accountable for one of the most notorious counterterrorism operations in the history of the agency.

Watch: The Architect –

Problems Mount for the ‘Other’ College Debt – By Melissa Korn And  Aaron Kuriloff Oct. 8, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET

As education providers look to tap bond markets amid low rates, some investors grow wary

The bond markets are giving a new grade to America’s small colleges: A gentleman’s C.

Spooked by bad news out of the higher-education sector in recent months, including unexpected campus closures, potential mergers and poor enrollment projections, some prospective buyers are steering clear of bonds being sold by small, private colleges that don’t have national reputations, schools that rely heavily on tuition revenue, and those in regions facing population declines.

Moody’s Investors Service Inc. in September warned investors to expect closures at public and not-for-profit colleges to triple by 2017 from an average of five a year over the past decade, concentrated among the smallest schools. Some small schools have experienced several years of shrinking class sizes, which leaves fewer students paying for their relatively high fixed costs, and have lost market share to larger universities, Moody’s said.

Concerns about market forces were at play at Roseman University of Health Sciences in Henderson, Nev., when the school of about 1,500 students sought $67.5 million worth of bonds to pay for a new office and research building last spring. The process took two to three times longer than usual, said Ken Wilkins, the school’s vice president for business and finance. Standard & Poor’s had downgraded the 16-year-old school’s debt in February, and investors were asking about everything from the market viability of the school’s academic programs to its possible responses to increasingly far-fetched disaster scenarios.

“It felt excessive at times, especially those questions which we affectionately began to call the ‘asteroid questions,’” he said.


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Cities used to grow by accident. Sure, the location usually made sense—someplace defensible, on a hill or an island, or somewhere near an extractable resource or the confluence of two transport routes. But what happened next was ad hoc. The people who worked in the fort or the mines or the port or the warehouses needed places to eat, to sleep, to worship. Infrastructure threaded through the hustle and bustle—water, sewage, roads, trolleys, gas, electricity—in vast networks of improvisation. You can find planned exceptions: Alexandria, Roman colonial towns, certain districts in major Chinese cities, Haussmann’s Paris. But for the most part it was happenstance, luck, and layering the new on top of the old.

At least, that’s the way things worked for most of human history. But around the second decade of the 20th century, things changed. Cities started to happen on purpose. Beginning with New York City’s zoning laws in 1916, development began to occur by commission, not omission. Laws and regulations dictated the shape of the envelope. Functional decisions determined aesthetic outcomes—not always for the best.

So let’s jump to now: A century, plus or minus, after human beings started putting their minds toward designing cities as a whole, things are getting good. High tech materials, sensor networks, new science, and better data are all letting architects, designers, and planners work smarter and more precisely. Cities are getting more environmentally sound, more fun, and more beautiful. And just in time, because today more human beings live in cities than not.

In this year’s design issue, we’re telling the stories of some of those projects, from the detail of a new streetlight to a sacred city in flux, from masterful museums to infrastructure made for bikes (and the algorithms that run it all). The cities of tomorrow might still self-assemble haltingly, but done right, the process won’t be accidental. A city shouldn’t just happen anymore. Every block, every building, every brick represents innumerable decisions. Decide well, and cities are magic. —Adam Rogers

Esther Perel: Rethinking infidelity … a talk for anyone who has ever loved – Filmed March 2015 at TED2015

Infidelity is the ultimate betrayal. But does it have to be? Relationship therapist Esther Perel examines why people cheat, and unpacks why affairs are so traumatic: because they threaten our emotional security. In infidelity, she sees something unexpected — an expression of longing and loss. A must-watch for anyone who has ever cheated or been cheated on, or who simply wants a new framework for understanding relationships.

This is the Modern American Family – The Business of Life (Episode 2) – Vice News Published on May 6, 2015

The idea of the American family has changed dramatically over the past few decades: Young Americans are marrying later, finding marriage and parenthood to be less central concerns. But what does the structure of the modern American family mean for us, and how much is it costing us? To unpack the issue, we’ve enlisted author Ty Tashiro, New York Magazine’s Maureen O’Connor, and Mona Chalabi of FiveThirtyEight.

Introducing a new kind of talk show from VICE News. “The Business of Life” is a fresh perspective on the most important issues of our time, as told through the facts, figures, dollars, and cents that shape our world. Hosted by journalist Michael C. Moynihan, each episode brings together an eclectic panel of writers, thinkers, policy experts, and scholars to break down everything you need to make sense of the most complicated topics of our time.

All content is the sole property of VICE News. Materials presented are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Bank of America. Bank of America, VICE and/or their partners assume no liability for loss or damage resulting from anyone’s reliance on the information provided

GOP House Leaders Create ‘Action Group’ To Seize And Sell America’s Public Lands by Claire Moser – Guest Contributor Posted on May 1, 2015 at 12:46 pm

A group of Republican congressmen this week took an aggressive step in a campaign to seize and sell off America’s national forests and other public lands.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is leading the group. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICK BOWMER

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, is leading the group.

In launching what they are calling the “Federal Land Action Group,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) plan to develop a legislative framework for giving states control of America’s public lands. Calling the federal government a “lousy landlord for western states,” Rep. Stewart said “we simply think the states can do it better.”

Bishop, who is also chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, said that “this group will explore legal and historical background in order to determine the best congressional action needed to return these lands back to the rightful owners.”

This latest effort to transfer or dispose of national forests and public lands was immediately blasted by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, as being unwise, unpopular, and illegal.

“Building on the ideas of extremists like Cliven Bundy, House Republicans have formed a group to explore the idea that if you see a federal resource you like, maybe you can just take it,” said Grijalva in a statement. “There is no legal authority to give these lands away to developers and no chance the American people will support such a scheme.”

In addition to Bishop and Stewart, the group’s “Congressional team” includes Representatives Mark Amodei (R-NV), Diane Black (R-TN), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Cresent Hardy (R-NV), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). Bishop, who has long advocated for state seizure of America’s national forests and other public lands, has recently found more creative ways of pushing his Cliven Bundy-inspired agenda forward.

Earlier this week, Bishop attached a provision to a defense spending bill to delay the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act for at least 10 years. In addition to putting the bird at high risk of extinction, the measure would turn over management authority of 60 million acres of the bird’s habitat on U.S. public lands to individual states — an area 27 times the size Yellowstone National Park.

In a letter to House leaders, 26 environmental groups called the provision a “brazen power grab of federal lands.”

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Stanford 1, Harvard 0 – By Daniel Gross APRIL 24 2015 3:03 AM

Forget fossil-fuel divestment. Harvard could be greener—and save money—by doing what the California university already has.

Stanford University in June, 2011. --  Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Conny Liegl/Flickr

Stanford University in June, 2011. —
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Conny Liegl/Flickr

Stanford and Harvard have long competed to be the most elite American university. Harvard may lead in longevity (379 years to 130 years) and the number of presidents it’s graduated (8 to 1). But Stanford is kicking Harvard’s butt in one vital area: energy efficiency and emissions reductions.

Harvard students are fighting a so-far unsuccessful battle to get the university to sell off its giant endowment’s holdings in fossil-fuel companies. I have a generally low opinion of these efforts, for two principal reasons. First, as Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust correctly noted, it is absurd to divest stocks of companies such as ExxonMobil and Shell “at the same time that, as individuals and as a community, we are extensively relying on those companies’ products and services for so much of what we do every day.” Second, divestment is a passive-aggressive act. It would be far more effective for large, wealthy institutions to do something affirmative with their wealth and market power.

For example, Harvard could strike a bigger blow against fossil-fuel companies by installing superefficient heating and cooling equipment and then securing supplies of emissions-free energy to run them. That would hamper demand for coal and natural gas, empower upstart solar companies, and slash emissions massively. It could also save a ton of money.

And that’s exactly what Stanford’s just done.

For the past 30 years, Stanford relied on an on-campus co-generation plant for much of its energy needs. With a capacity of 50 megawatts, the plant burned natural gas to create electricity (which keeps the air conditioners and lights on) and then captured the excess heat generated in the process to make steam, which provided heat and hot water. Overall, the plant supplied 95 percent of the university’s electricity, heating, and cooling needs. But Stanford’s contract for the 30-year plant, operated by a subsidiary of General Electric, was slated to expire in March 2015.

The university knew it was going to have to make a big investment—somewhere between $300 million and $600 million—to replace it. “We looked at 10 different options for energy systems,” says Joseph Stagner, Stanford’s executive director of sustainability and energy management. Instead of replacing its quite efficient plant (think of a Honda accord) with the latest model (a Honda Accord Hybrid), Stanford is opting for the equivalent of a Tesla—a technologically advanced, electricity-powered, low-emissions replacement.

In scrapping the co-generation plant, Stanford will stop burning fossil fuels on campus. “Instead of importing natural gas, we decided to import electricity,” Stagner says. Then it will use that electricity to light, heat, and cool the campus in a very efficient way. When cooling buildings, Stagner says, Stanford found that “three-quarters of the time, we were creating as much waste heat as the campus actually needed for heating.” (For what is cooling if not the mere creation of undesired heat?) So Stanford built a new system that could capture that waste heat, and use it to provide hot water and heat to buildings. It built 22 miles of new piping for hot water to connect its buildings to a central facility, and built a software-powered system of electric heat pumps. The heat-recovery system lets Stanford capture about 57 percent of the waste heat from the chilled-water system. “That will be used to supply 93 percent of both the hot water and the heat used on campus,” Stagner says. (There’s a good video about Stanford’s efforts here.)

When it comes to producing heat and hot water, Stanford’s new plant will be 70 percent more energy efficient than the co-generation facility it is replacing. Now, to run the new plant—and to keep the lights and computers running—the university has to bring in a lot of electricity. But if Stanford were merely to replace the on-campus natural gas–fired generator with off-campus coal-fired generators, any gains on emissions would be muted.

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