SEC rule change stifles key risk signal, disenfranchises retail investors

October 5, 2020 by  
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SEC rule change stifles key risk signal, disenfranchises retail investors Sara Murphy Mon, 10/05/2020 – 02:00 The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted Sept. 23 to amend its shareholder proposal rule , effectively depriving most retail investors of the ability to use the process to protect and advance their interests. In so doing, the SEC is dampening an important risk signal to corporate management and investors, especially with respect to environmental, social and governance issues. The change appears to have been heavily influenced by a network of corporate oil and gas interests, and is likely to be contested in court. First, some background. Shareholders in publicly traded companies have the right to vote on certain corporate matters. As most people cannot attend companies’ annual meetings, corporations offer shareholders the option to cast a proxy vote by mail or electronic means. While most proposals originate with company management, a growing investor movement uses shareholder proposals or resolutions to promote more sustainable business practices. This is becoming increasingly difficult for corporate boards to ignore. This process is codified under SEC Rule 14a-8, and investors with an interest in environmental protection and social justice consider it a useful way to proactively and constructively engage with the companies in their portfolio. Risk and opportunity signals Over time, the shareholder resolution process has evolved to offer an additional benefit. “Shareholder proposals provide an early warning signal of risks and opportunities for management and boards,” said Heidi Welsh, executive director of the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2). Shareholder proposals provide an early warning signal of risks and opportunities for management and boards. Si2 is a nonprofit organization that provides impartial research and analysis about corporate responsibility issues for institutional investors and maintains a rich database of information on shareholder resolutions, including support levels and the most detailed and precise issue taxonomy available in the marketplace. Si2’s data reveal that proponents were filing resolutions as far back as 2010 on issues that have risen to stark prominence in 2020 as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest over racial inequality have rippled through the business world. For example, the number of shareholder resolutions related to decent work — addressing topics such as minority pay disparity and income inequality — has steadily increased over the last decade (see chart below). Data source: Si2 Note: The chart above includes resolutions that were withdrawn (usually by agreement between the company and the proponent) or omitted (usually after the company successfully challenged the resolution at the SEC on procedural grounds). Such resolutions, while not ultimately submitted to a vote, still provide risk and opportunity signals. Average shareholder support for these resolutions also has increased over the same period, as reflected in the chart below. Data source: Si2 Note: The chart above includes only resolutions that went to a vote. Process changes and impacts The SEC’s decision alters the shareholder resolution process in several significant ways, including by: Increasing the value of stock shareholders need to own before they can submit proposals if they haven’t been invested for three years; Eliminating shareholders’ longstanding practice of pooling their shares to meet filing thresholds; and Raising the level of support shareholders need to resubmit a proposal from the previous year. The ownership threshold changes are substantial. For investors who have held a company’s securities for one year, the previous ownership threshold was $2,000 — it is now $25,000. This bar becomes higher still now that the practice of pooling shares has been prohibited. The SEC’s own impact analysis — which it published long after the public comment period on these amendments had closed — estimated that at 55 percent of all companies, less than 5 percent of investor accounts would be eligible to file a shareholder proposal under the amended rule. At 99 percent of all companies, three-quarters of investor accounts would be unable to meet the new proposal submission thresholds. “The sheer racism of a $25,000 threshold for submission (no matter the holding period) in a country with a racial wealth gap like ours is stunning,” said Rick Alexander, co-founder of The Shareholder Commons (TSC), in a LinkedIn post. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a press call that the amendments will modernize the shareholder proposal process to benefit all shareholders and public companies. “It’s all about having a credible demonstration that the proponent’s interests are aligned with all of the others’ interests from an investment or ownership standpoint,” Clayton said. SEC Commissioner Allison Herren Lee disagreed. “Today’s amendments do not serve shareholders or the capital markets more broadly,” Lee said in her statement of opposition . “They will have pronounced effects in two important respects. First, in connection with environmental, social and governance issues at a time when such issues — climate change, worker safety, racial injustice — have never been more important to long-term value. Second, in connection with smaller shareholders, Main Street investors, who will be dramatically disadvantaged by the changes we adopt today.” Industry support These outcomes appear to be part of the design. Bloomberg reporters Zachary Mider and Ben Elgin published an investigation in November 2019 that bolstered claims of a clandestine campaign by oil and gas interests to promote the rule amendments at the SEC. The investigation found evidence that a coalition of industry groups including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) — of which Exxon Mobil and Chevron are members — manipulated the public comment process to create the impression that droves of ordinary Americans passionately supported the rule revisions. The Business Roundtable (BRT) — a group that includes major companies such as Amazon, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase — expressed its support for the rule changes, despite a statement its member companies signed late last year to redefine the purpose of a corporation to one that delivers value to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. It may be no coincidence that the 2020 proxy season featured shareholder resolutions at six BRT signatories that sought to pin down what the companies’ purported stakeholder focus meant in practice. For example, the resolutions asked Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs to determine if the BRT statement “is reflected in our Company’s current governance documents, policies, long-term plans, goals, metrics and sustainability practices” and to publish their recommendations on “how any incongruities may be reconciled by changes to our Company’s governance documents, policies or practices.” The sheer racism of a $25,000 threshold for submission (no matter the holding period) in a country with a racial wealth gap like ours is stunning. A September analysis of BRT signatories found that they performed no better than their non-signatory counterparts on measures of stakeholder well-being related to the pandemic and social unrest over racial inequality. “The result [of the rule changes] will be fewer shareholder proposals,” said Amy Borrus, executive director of the Council of Institutional Investors, “and that is precisely the goal of the business lobby that pressed the SEC to make these changes. Simply put, CEOs and corporate directors do not like being second-guessed by shareholders on environmental, social and governance matters.” What happens next? The final rule amendments are slated to apply to any proposal that will go to a vote on or after Jan. 1, 2022. Many observers expect to see legal challenges that could forestall implementation. The outcome of the Nov. 3 election is also likely to influence the process considerably. Some stakeholders envision a more systemic shift. A September analysis by nonprofit organizations The Shareholder Commons and B Lab calls for comprehensive legislative and regulatory change to U.S. corporate and securities laws. The policy proposals revolve around a core concept: creating a legal structure that encourages the creation of “guardrails,” investor-sanctioned limits on corporate behavior that exploits vulnerable communities or common resources. The report proposes that the current amendments to Rule 14a-8 be reversed, and that the rule be further amended to clarify that proposals aimed at protecting social and environmental systems are proper matters for shareholders to bring before annual meetings. Such proposals would seem to be a necessary feature of our collective future, not our past. At a time when social and environmental stressors have an increasingly potent impact on the systems that support our economy, corporate accountability to a broad range of stakeholders is paramount. Pull Quote Shareholder proposals provide an early warning signal of risks and opportunities for management and boards. The sheer racism of a $25,000 threshold for submission (no matter the holding period) in a country with a racial wealth gap like ours is stunning. Topics Policy & Politics ESG Shareholder Activism Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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SEC rule change stifles key risk signal, disenfranchises retail investors

A Conversation about Chemical Recycling

September 9, 2020 by  
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A Conversation about Chemical Recycling What is chemical recycling, and how does it factor in to the circular economy? Speakers Mark Costa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Eastman Chemical Company Joel Makower, Executive Editor, GreenBiz Holly Secon Wed, 09/09/2020 – 12:02 Featured Off

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A Conversation about Chemical Recycling

An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG

July 13, 2020 by  
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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG Mike Hower Mon, 07/13/2020 – 01:30 About six months ago, I wrote that 2020 would be a pivotal year for environmental, social and governance (ESG), and that what happens this year and over the next decade could determine the next century. While it would be the world’s biggest understatement to say 2020 isn’t turning out the way we all thought or hoped it would, I stand by my conclusion. This is a critical time for corporate sustainability. What we do or don’t do will change the world, but for reasons nobody could have predicted in December. The mass climate protests of 2019 and subsequent outpouring of major corporate climate commitments from the likes of Amazon, IKEA and Kering, among others, seemed to indicate that 2020 would be the year of the E in ESG — when corporate climate action hit critical mass. In January, the momentum built as Microsoft committed to becoming carbon-negative and BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink’s now-fabled letter to CEOs called the climate crisis a “defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” The climate crisis even topped the discussion list at the World Economic Forum Annual Summit in Davos. And then along came a global pandemic, and everything changed. As the world went into lockdown, ESG conversations shifted from the E to the S, or social — how companies were responding to COVID-19 in terms of employee health and welfare. The emphasis on the S intensified even further after the murder of George Floyd sparked a movement for racial justice and employees, customers and investors demanded companies take a stand.  As social issues move to the forefront of ESG discussions, 2020 is turning out to be the breakout year for the S. To better understand what this means for the future of corporate sustainability, thinkPARALLAX recently gathered investors and corporate sustainability practitioners from TPG, JUST Capital, Workday, The Estée Lauder Companies and KKS Advisors for a digital Perspectives discussion .  The S moves to the front seat In the long road trip of corporate sustainability, the S mostly has ridden in the backseat — with the E and G commandeering the wheel and Spotify playlist. That’s because social issues are tough to quantify.  While calculating a carbon footprint is comparatively easy, how does one create science-based targets for worker welfare or racial injustice? Sure, an organization can make efforts to diversify its board and workforce, or create programs to improve worker welfare, but this is only a start.  Addressing deeply rooted systemic inequalities requires a much greater commitment and means of measuring success. Until now, companies have gotten by with doing nothing or just the bare minimum. No longer, thanks to the events of 2020. “We’re at a turning point in ESG,” said Martin Whittaker, CEO of JUST Capital . “What’s happened in the past three months has done 20 years of S work.”  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:0] Moving forward, corporate board members, investors and executives will be expected to consider worker welfare and complex social issues such as racial inequality. “Companies are scrambling to address these issues, and everyone needs to throw out the manual and completely rethink how they approach equity in the workplace, because something is not working,” Whittaker said.  But as the S takes over the wheel, are environmental issues, the E, getting pushed into the backseat? No, said Alison Humphrey, director of ESG at TPG . “It’s just joined climate in the front seat.” E and S: better together The great thing about ESG is that it isn’t a zero-sum game. A renewed focus on the S actually might help companies do a better job of addressing environmental challenges because the two are linked. People of color or low-income socioeconomic status, for example, are suffering and will continue to suffer first and worst from the negative effects of the climate crisis, says Union of Concerned Scientists .  “There’s so much interesting intersectionality with social justice and climate — they are both so connected,” Humphrey said. “Climate work is hard and exhausting, and many people don’t feel the urgency or balk at the initial cost of the transition or fail to grasp how dependent humanity is on our ecosystems. In many ways, it mirrors many of the challenges with social justice — and you can’t address one without the other.” While measuring social impact remains difficult, this no longer will be an excuse for companies not to try.  “With this sharp focus on how integral social issues are to our ability to achieve an equitable society and make environmental progress, we will collectively need to get a lot better at measuring and communicating the S, just as we have with environmental topics,” said Aleksandra Dobkowski-Joy, executive director of ESG at The Estée Lauder Companies. Even before the events of 2020, Workday factored social impact into its environmental sustainability strategy, said Erik Hansen, director of sustainability at Workday. “The events of the past months have illustrated how valuable systems thinking is, and showing that we are a connected, global community. That connection between climate, the environment, people and health.” When Workday installed EV chargers at its headquarters, for example, this was not just so software engineers could come to work in a Tesla, Hansen said. It was also so that the company could minimize environmental impacts such as air pollution, which disproportionately hurt disadvantaged communities. Likewise, as Workday works toward its 100 percent renewable energy goal, the company is advocating for a just transition to clean energy that accounts for those who might be affected economically — such as workers in the fossil fuel industry — and ensure that nobody is left behind. One of the most effective ways to honor the E and the S might be focusing on the G, according to Anuj Shah, managing director at KKS Advisors : “One of the things we’ve looked at is how the G — the governance part — supersedes the E and the S. If you can get the G right, the E and S will follow.”  What racial justice means for business As mass protests erupted across the globe after the murder of Floyd, a chorus of companies voiced support for addressing racial inequality, and some even committed to doing something about it. But what comes next? “We’re at a point where we need to take substantive action, as individuals and as corporations, to deliver on social justice. I’m incredibly proud of the commitment made by The Estée Lauder Companies to promote racial equity, as a starting point for real progress and lasting change,” Dobkowski-Joy said. According to Humphrey, TPG came out with a statement and commitment to take action by first taking a step back to reflect on its role and how it can best address system inequalities as a private equity firm. “The question is, what is your company’s role in rectifying injustice in our system? This needs to come uniquely from each department, a top-down and bottom-up approach.” A hopeful future for ESG Despite the setbacks of 2020, there remains reason for hope. The ongoing global pandemic is shattering the longstanding myth that companies must sacrifice return to be a good corporate citizen — ESG funds are outperforming the wider market during this economic downturn.  And we are learning through much trial and error — emphasis on the “error” — how to address an intractable problem that harms everyone yet that no single government, organization or individual can solve alone. Relentless competition may be giving way to constructive collaboration. And these lessons might still be applied to address the ultimately more existential crisis of the climate.  [node:field-gbz-pull-quote:1] “In the midst of this tremendous upheaval, we’re all pulling together in ways which were unfathomable just months ago — and showing that collective action is actually possible,” Dobkowski-Joy said. Climate may begin to take on a new importance as a long-term threat to society as climate risk exposes inequities just as COVID-19 has, Whittaker said. “COVID-19 has taught us the importance of resilience, interdependence and systemic risk and how to address that — and how we can be more effective working together. I’ve seen a lot of collaboration over the last three months, which I wouldn’t have expected to see. I think it has brought out a lot of humanity in business which has all been about profit making.”  Shah of KKS was more cautiously optimistic. “I’m concerned that a lot of companies are going to feel pressure to maximize profits coming out of the pandemic into a new normal. ESG and short termism don’t necessarily go together. Long termism is a prerequisite for ESG.” However, Shah added that he has been inspired by the mass movement for racial justice being driven by the younger generation. As Millennials and Generation Z continue to take over the workforce and enter leadership roles, this activist mindset could change the future of ESG.  Humphrey suggested companies should take a look at business model resilience and how it is intertwined with ESG issues. “Perhaps we can focus less on the rolling back of budgets, which has happened for many companies across the board, and instead on how the pandemic has compelled us to look beyond one-off CSR and sustainability initiatives toward a more strategic, integrated and business-aligned approach to managing these 21st-century risks,” she said.  As we continue to push forward toward an uncertain future, the only certainty is that things will change. And it’s up to all of us to make sure that it’s for the better. Pull Quote What’s happened in the past three months has done 20 years of S work. We will collectively need to get a lot better at measuring and communicating the S, just as we have with environmental topics. Topics Corporate Strategy ESG Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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An unexpected breakout year for the social side of ESG

A CFO’s take on climate and risk management

July 13, 2020 by  
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A CFO’s take on climate and risk management Vincent Manier Mon, 07/13/2020 – 01:00 Just a couple of months into 2020, the world was amid significant discussion about the core purpose of businesses, led by BlackRock CEO Larry Fink calling for corporate America to take control of its carbon footprint and major companies, including Microsoft and Delta , making ambitious zero-carbon pledges. When COVID-19 arrived, we saw the impact that global crises have overnight, teaching the corporate sphere valuable lessons about risk mitigation. Economic estimates predict that the pandemic will decrease global GDP by 3 percent in 2020, and at our current pace, climate change is estimated to decrease the global GDP by anywhere from 2.5 percent to 7.5 percent by 2050 . While climate risk remains an often overlooked or undervalued factor in risk management programs, there is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. There is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. The current COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of prioritizing resilience by exposing the fragility of global supply chains and dysfunctional systems across businesses and forcing them to change the way they plan and operate to factor in large-scale crises. Hospitals, for example, felt the disastrous impact of vulnerable supply chains, and needed to plan for alternative sources of personal protective equipment to keep their medical workers and staff safe. These learnings must be applied to similar risk brought about by climate change — businesses need to prepare for the impact of devastating weather events on supply chains and infrastructure they rely on to remain safe and operational. As key members of the financial team, risk managers need to grasp the implications of sustainability across the organization, from strategic risks posed by new regulations to operational risks posed by extreme weather and financial risks with regards to taxes and insurance. As we continue to fight climate change, understanding the strategic, operational and financial risks — and the tools available to assess and plan for them — will help finance teams take a more forward-facing approach to risk management and avoid repeating past mistakes. Strategic risk factors Four key risk factors are associated with strategic risk and sustainability: economic changes; corporate responsibility; regulatory risk; and reputational risk. From an economic standpoint, there have been major shifts brought about by decarbonization and diversifying portfolios — consider the rapid decline of the coal industry, for example. In addition, companies are being held more accountable for their impact on the environment, with pressure coming from all sides, including customers, investors, competitors and regulators. Increased regulation and legal requirements around resource management and carbon reduction, as well as required carbon reporting, can result in major fines if not complied with. Finally, reputational risk, while hard to quantify, can be enormous, particularly in today’s political climate and as both internal and external stakeholders become more educated on the action against climate change. Operational risk factors Sustainability also can affect how businesses approach operations, such as supply-chain optimization, procurement strategies, data privacy and security. For instance, the finance team can make more informed decisions around power purchase agreements, onsite and offsite renewable energy, decentralization and microgrids, energy independence and cost savings opportunities when factoring climate risk into the overall procurement strategy. There are also more direct operational risks to consider as a result of climate change in the form of extreme weather events, which continue to increase in both frequency and intensity. Businesses must account for the possibility of outages, damages and closures, all of which can threaten the ability to protect employees, assets and data centers (which can pose new risks in terms of data privacy and leaks) and, ultimately, to keep the business operational. Financial risk factors Climate change poses significant financial risks to an organization as sustainability policies and corporate initiatives can affect taxes, insurance, resource management, energy sourcing, investor support and even intangible assets such as goodwill — for instance, the impalpable value that customers and investors place on a company’s ability to reduce its footprint. From changes in insurance premiums and coverage to identifying financial benefits of electrification, there are almost countless financial risks and opportunities for the financial team to assess. Sustainability planning also opens the door to integrating new technologies to save money, such as alternative energy vehicles, which bring financial benefits all their own. Integrating climate risk strategy Integrating climate risk into new or existing risk management programs can seem daunting, but the financial team can leverage strategic assessments to make the process simpler. For instance, vulnerability assessments allow businesses to understand where climate change is most likely to affect them. Scenario assessments can provide a forward-looking view of the potential impact, so finance teams can plan ahead to mitigate future developments. The world’s current state is illuminating the need for resilience to global events we may not be able to foresee or control. With climate change being the next undeniable threat, it’s on the shoulders of the financial team to ensure that companies are adequately prepared for different climate events to improve their resilience and mitigate the associated risks. The strategic planning used now to prepare for these issues may encourage innovation and new methods of operating that not only benefit the bottom line but also prepare a business for when unexpected events do occur. This also offers opportunity to strategically prepare and recover from events in a way that helps reduce climate change and improve the environment on a global scale. Pull Quote There is an urgent need to integrate resiliency into core business strategy if businesses want to continue to thrive — or even remain operational. Topics Risk & Resilience Climate Change Finance & Investing Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Shutterstock

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Controversial climate change-inspired skyscraper could become Czech Republics tallest building

October 18, 2019 by  
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Inspired by the apocalyptic imagery from climate change projections, sculptor David ?erný and architect Tomáš Císa? from the studio Black n´ Arch have proposed a visually striking skyscraper that’s sparked controversy with its inclusion of an enormous shipwreck-like structure. Dubbed the TOP TOWER , the project proposed for Prague rises to a height of 450 feet, which means that if built, the tower would be the tallest building in the Czech Republic. The project is led by developer Trigema who aims to create a multifunctional, LEED Gold high-rise that includes rental apartments, a public observation area and commercial uses on the lower floors. TOP TOWER has been proposed to be located near the metro station Nové Butovice on the new nearly one-kilometer-long pedestrian zone in Prague. This location is outside of the protected urban conservation zone and would be far enough away from the city center that it would not disrupt the historic city skyline. Taking advantage of its height, the building would offer a public observation area at the highest point of the building where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of Prague .  Rental housing will make up the majority of the mixed-use TOP TOWER, while offices, retail and a multifunctional cultural center will be located on the lower levels. Parking will be tucked underground. The rusty shipwreck-like sculpture integrated into the building will offer opportunities for outdoor spaces and additional landscaping. Related: Computer modeling informed the whimsical design of this experimental home “We have been preparing the TOP TOWER project for more than two years and the final version was preceded by eight other alternative solutions. During this time, we have collected and are still collecting suggestions from experts, state and local authorities, and of course the local public, whose representatives have already been and will continue to hold a number of participatory meetings,” says Marcel Soural, Chairman of the Board of Trigema a.s. Trigema estimates that the construction for TOP TOWER will begin in 2021 and take less than three years complete.  + TOP TOWER Images via Trigema

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President Obama says Army is exploring rerouting the Dakota Access Pipeline

November 3, 2016 by  
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Will President Barack Obama take action on the Dakota Access Pipeline ? In an interview with NowThis posted this week he said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is exploring “ways to reroute” the oil pipeline protested by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe members and their supporters in North Dakota . President Obama’s statement sounded hopeful but may not result in action soon; the president said he would let the confrontation “play out for several more weeks.” When asked if his administration would intervene in the conflict over the Dakota Access Pipeline, President Obama said, “We’re monitoring this closely and I think as a general rule, my view is that there is a way for us to accommodate sacred lands of Native Americans . I think right now the Army Corps is examining whether there are ways to reroute this pipeline in a way.” Related: In surprise announcement, US government blocks the Dakota Access Pipeline Some people didn’t seem pleased with the president’s comments. In a statement, Morton County Chairman Cody Schulz said, “Rather than creating further uncertainty, the President should be sending us the support and resources necessary to enforce the law and protect people’s right to peacefully protest.” Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Vicki Granado said they didn’t know of any reroute considerations and they still expected to obtain an easement to start building the pipeline portion that would pass beneath the Missouri River. When asked about treatment of the protesters, President Obama said, “I mean, it’s a challenging situation. I think that my general rule when I talk to governors and state and local officials whenever they’re dealing with protests – including, for example, during the Black Lives Matters protests – is there’s an obligation for protesters to be peaceful and there’s an obligation for authorities to show restraint.” He said he hoped everyone could have the opportunity to be heard with both sides avoiding situations where people could be hurt. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement, “We believe President Obama and his administration will do the right thing.” You can watch NowThis’s interview with the president here . Via NowThis Twitter and NPR Images via Nick Knupffer on Flickr and Sacred Stone Camp on Facebook

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BREAKING: Cecil the lion’s brother Jericho killed by poachers

August 1, 2015 by  
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While the world is still mourning the loss of Cecil the lion, devastating news out of Zimbabwe reveals that his brother Jericho was killed today by poachers hunting illegally in the park. After Cecil was killed by American dentist Walter Palmer , experts feared that Cecil’s cubs would be killed by a rival lion looking to take over the pride, but Jericho had reportedly come to the rescue, protecting Cecil’s cubs . According to Johnny Rodrigues, Chairman for Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force , Jericho was slain Saturday at 4pm, but no further details were available. Read the rest of BREAKING: Cecil the lion’s brother Jericho killed by poachers

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BREAKING: Cecil the lion’s brother Jericho killed by poachers

Architects ‘Turn Around’ an Aging Victorian Home to Flood it With Natural Light

August 1, 2015 by  
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Tesla’s Elon Musk Bets $1 Million (for Charity) that Model S Will be Ready on Time

August 29, 2011 by  
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The Model S electric sedan, schedule for a late 2012 release. Photo: Tesla Motors It’ll be there in late 2012, I swear! Elon Musk , the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX and the chairman of SolarCity , has made a $1 million bet with auto journalist Dan Neil (well, Neil is only betting $1,000, so it’s an asymmetric bet). The dispute is about the timing of the Model S electric seda… Read the full story on TreeHugger

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Bharat Electronics showcases $75 solar-powered Android tablet

August 8, 2011 by  
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Nandini Moulik: Solar powered tablet Designed by Bharat Electronics Limited India-based Bharat Electronics Limited has announced the development of a $75 solar-powered tablet. The company has been able to design, manufacture and ship 2000 sample tablets in less than five months. Maintaining an approach to low cost computing, these tablets will be much handy in power deficit rural areas. BEL, a leading manufacturer of radars and communication equipments for the defense department in India, has bagged this order from the Ministry of Rural Development of India. The Managing Director and Chairman of BEL, Ashwani Kumar Dutt, was proud to announce the launching of solar powered tablets within a record low time period. Running Android 2.2, this tablet is equipped with a solar powered power back up and will allow data storage through a cloud based server. The tablet will store data to the central server running on a solar powered battery. The tablet comes in a decent leather pouch with a keyboard connected through a cable. Other specifications have not yet been disclosed, but it seems that this $75 Android tablet is practically viable than the previous $35 Sakshat tablet, launched by Kapil Sibal. The subsidized $35 tablet released by Indian HRD ministry could not gain steam owing to its manufacturing cost and features. Tablet manufacturing is picking up in India, and this Android tablet has been designed indigenously to create waves in the market. Other factors like running capacity of the tablet, durability and maintenance are to be considered as these are specially meant for the economically backward class. The tablet may not be modish in appearance, but will surely serve the purpose. BEL has targeted to release 600,000 tablets by this November that will boost its revenue significantly through this first civilian order. Given the falling prices of tablets in the world, this cheaply priced and indigenously built Android tablet is ready to take on any low priced tablet in the international market. The price and customization facilities may pose few challenges to BEL in the future, but this has been a commendable achievement for the organization to manufacture 2000 solar powered tablets within a record time. BEL has taken up this project with a long term vision, as it spent about $1.5 million in creating additional facilities to produce modernized versions of solar powered tablets for the students. Although, this tablet is not available for the masses, but BEL is not ruling out the possibility of manufacturing for the commoners in future. Via: Trak

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