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Copper boom sparks conflict between mine and residents of Northern Cape town

News Feed
Monday, September 18, 2023

Conflict has erupted in Concordia, a small and rocky town of 5,000 people in the copper district of the Northern Cape.Copper 360, a JSE-listed mining company, has started mining in the town through its subsidiary Shirley Hayes-IPK (SHiP). Over the next few years, the company intends to extract thousands of tonnes of copper. This comes after Copper 360 announced a massive increase in its copper resources in the area.Right on the edge of the town is Wheal Julia, an old copper mine that has been resurrected by SHiP.Faced with their quiet way of life being upended, many oppose the mining taking place so close to their doorsteps. Moreover, few Concordia residents expect to get employment from the mine.Concordia is a Namaqualand “kleindorpie” (small town). It’s a 20km drive north-east of Springbok. The surroundings are rocky, sparse and semi-arid — except during the brief spring flower season when Namaqualand is blanketed by colourful wildflowers.A sign at the entrance to Concordia greets residents.The town used to be reserved for coloured people under apartheid. Nearly everyone here speaks Afrikaans as a first language.Much like the surrounding towns of Okiep, Springbok, and Nababeep, the town has a rich mining history. The entire Nama Khoi Municipality is centred around mining, which is the largest economic contributor and employs many of the residents of the municipality.About a five-minute drive from the town, on a dirt road, is Jubilee mine, owned by SHiP. Here, on 9 August, community members protested outside one of the mine’s gates. Reports are conflicting, but apparently stones were thrown between Concordia residents and mineworkers, most of whom are from Nababeep, about 20km away. Nevertheless, by the afternoon everyone went home.A protest took place at Jubilee mine in August.Then in the evening police officers went door-to-door in the town and arrested 29 people in their homes. Northern Cape police spokesperson Timothy Sam said that they were “investigating a case of public violence following the arrest[s]”.Shereen Fortuin, a Concordia community leader, said she was arrested outside her home at about 10pm on the day of the protest. A few people were jailed at Springbok, a few at Steinkopf, and the rest at Nababeep.“People who came and did nothing were arrested. That’s the way things are done,” said Fortuin.The arrested were released the next day.GroundUp met community leader Shereen Fortuin in Springbok, about a 20km drive from Concordia.Residents oppose the mining for several reasons. Some are convinced the company is mining illegally, but the company says that it has complied with legislation. It is the proximity of the mining to their homes that is the root of their concerns, and what this will mean for the future of the town.“They’re not coming to the table to tell us what is going on,” said Fortuin. Though the company provided the community with mining permits issued from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), residents say there has been a lack of consultation. They are worried about the intensity of the mining activity over an area which covers just over 19,000 hectares.At 69-years old, Billy Cloete was the oldest person arrested.Billy Cloete was the oldest person arrested after the protest in August.Cloete lives alone in his house in the centre of the town. The long cobblestone road to Cloete’s front yard was covered in flowers when we visited him. He worked in mining for 43 years. By the time he retired he had worked his way up to being a superintendent. More than once Cloete insisted that he is “not against development”.“It’s about the way they want to mine,” he said. “When I saw the areas where they want to work … I can’t let this happen to the people here.”He said he worked with explosives frequently throughout his mining career and explosives used in mines today are a lot more advanced than he used, he said, with a blast radius of 500m. “Mining is a fun thing. But it is also a very dangerous thing,” he said.He worries about pollution, the gases the explosives might let off, and whether people’s homes will be damaged. “I don’t have long to live anymore. I’m not worried about myself. I’m worried about our next generation.”“I’m very against the way they are doing things here in Concordia. The community is not being recognised.”This is a map from Copper 360’s 2019 Heritage Impact Assessment compiled by ASHA Consulting. The green circle was added by GroundUp to indicate Wheal Julia’s approximate location. The red dots are the locations of Jubilee and Homeep mines.Environmental Impact AssessmentCopper 360 and SHiP’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notes the use of explosives and the “potential risk” of “dust, noise and vibration associated with blasting of ore underground at two mines, Rietberg and Homeep, and in the open pit at Jubilee. All three of these mines are close to Concordia.The EIA also notes potential pollution of groundwater that the mines would then have to treat.The EIA states that the company will employ 178 people directly and will benefit at least 20 local businesses.Wheal JuliaThe area has a rich history of commercial copper mining stretching back to the 1800s. Commercial mining started in the 1860s. For many years copper ore was transported by the Cape Copper Company on the Namaqualand railway running from the towns of Okiep, Concordia and Nababeep (known today as the Okiep Copper District) to Port Nolloth harbour on the West Coast.Mina Henn lives on the outskirts of Concordia. This is the view of Wheal Julia mine from her home.In the 1940s the Okiep Copper Company (OCC) started operating and extracted ore at various sites during a copper boom. One such historic mine is Wheal Julia, located in Concordia. Jubilee, where the protest took place on 9 August, is also a historic mine.Right opposite the Wheal Julia mine, on the outskirts of Concordia, lives Mina Henn in a large eight-bedroom house that she and her husband moved to in 1978. She recalled how children stole apricots from the tree at the front of the house. The tree is still there.“My father worked for the mines. My husband worked for the mines … You could say the mines have always been the only big jobs,” said Henn.Mina Henn is worried about how mining will affect her.Nevertheless Henn is worried about how her house will be affected by mining at Wheal Julia and whether it will become dangerous for her and her family to live here much longer.Arthur Cloete, a cattle farmer, told us that Namaqualand’s dependency on mining has caused a lot of “social ills”. When the OCC closed down its mines in the early 2000s, people lost their jobs and were left in “social ruins” because the mines brought no long term benefits. He is concerned about how cattle farmers on the outskirts of Concordia will be affected by the mining at the Rietberg mine.He says the older people worked on the mines for “‘n appel en ‘n ui” (an apple and an onion – an Afrikaans idiom meaning very little). “It has always been our land. Our community never benefited. The day the mines closed, we were left with nothing,” said Cloete.Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson recently gave Mining Weekly an extensive interview. He said the company is currently “looking at about R12-billion to R15-billion worth of copper in the ground”.Nelson also said Wheal Julia “is a surface deposit that’s yielded fantastic results”.Nelson only responded briefly to GroundUp’s detailed questions and request for an interview. He emphasised that the mining activity was all legal.But is mining at Wheal Julia legal?The Concordia Communal Property Association (CPA), which falls under the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (TRANCRAA), runs recently established communally-owned land. The land rights were officially handed over to the community in late 2022. On 14 February 2023, the title deed for the land was successfully transferred to the CPA, “solidifying their status as the landowner”, according to Nama Khoi Local Municipality spokesperson Jason Milford.A community meeting was held on 24 August at the Concordia community hall. Over 100 residents attended. CPA chairperson Nuchey van Neel, addressing the meeting, said that the community had not been properly consulted about the intensity of the mining activities that would take place. This is despite a public consultation process that was held in 2020, an important component of any mine’s environmental impact assessment.“People didn’t understand exactly what would happen with this mining activity, where it will be, how it will affect people, and who will eventually get something out of it,” said van Neel.The Concordia community met on 24 August.Henk Smith is a lawyer who has for decades been representing communities in the Northern Cape against mines. He is now representing the Concordia community. At the meeting he stated that Copper 360’s EIA did not deal with Wheal Julia, and that SHiP had not been granted a permit to start mining there. (Other than reiterating that their activities were legal, Copper 360 did not address our question about this.)The EIA indeed only mentions three mines: Rietberg, Jubilee, and Homeep.As a result, Smith said, the permit given by the DMRE was flawed.And anyway, Smith added, “The law says you cannot mine within a town.” Community members cheered at this.He said Jubilee and Wheal Julia should be rehabilitated rather than resurrected. “It’s not for new mining and extractive industries,” said Smith. Several residents then took turns to voice their opposition to the mine.Lawyer Henk Smith has been representing mining companies in the Northern Cape for decades.ALSO READ: Northern Cape launches R80 Million enterprise fundIn his response to GroundUp Nelson said: “We record that the Copper 360 group of companies remains committed to the communities where it will be conducting mining operations, which includes Concordia. We are guided by our principles and values to improve the lives of those people, and future generations in the communities we engage with.”The DMRE acknowledged receipt of our questions but did not respond.Concordia is home to about 5,000 humans and a few other creatures.Published originally on Groundup | Liezl HumanThe post Copper boom sparks conflict between mine and residents of Northern Cape town appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

We visited Concordia, where 29 people were arrested for protesting against a mineThe post Copper boom sparks conflict between mine and residents of Northern Cape town appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Conflict has erupted in Concordia, a small and rocky town of 5,000 people in the copper district of the Northern Cape.

Copper 360, a JSE-listed mining company, has started mining in the town through its subsidiary Shirley Hayes-IPK (SHiP). Over the next few years, the company intends to extract thousands of tonnes of copper. This comes after Copper 360 announced a massive increase in its copper resources in the area.

Right on the edge of the town is Wheal Julia, an old copper mine that has been resurrected by SHiP.

Faced with their quiet way of life being upended, many oppose the mining taking place so close to their doorsteps. Moreover, few Concordia residents expect to get employment from the mine.

Concordia is a Namaqualand “kleindorpie” (small town). It’s a 20km drive north-east of Springbok. The surroundings are rocky, sparse and semi-arid — except during the brief spring flower season when Namaqualand is blanketed by colourful wildflowers.

A sign at the entrance to Concordia greets residents.

The town used to be reserved for coloured people under apartheid. Nearly everyone here speaks Afrikaans as a first language.

Much like the surrounding towns of Okiep, Springbok, and Nababeep, the town has a rich mining history. The entire Nama Khoi Municipality is centred around mining, which is the largest economic contributor and employs many of the residents of the municipality.

About a five-minute drive from the town, on a dirt road, is Jubilee mine, owned by SHiP. Here, on 9 August, community members protested outside one of the mine’s gates. Reports are conflicting, but apparently stones were thrown between Concordia residents and mineworkers, most of whom are from Nababeep, about 20km away. Nevertheless, by the afternoon everyone went home.

A protest took place at Jubilee mine in August.

Then in the evening police officers went door-to-door in the town and arrested 29 people in their homes. Northern Cape police spokesperson Timothy Sam said that they were “investigating a case of public violence following the arrest[s]”.

Shereen Fortuin, a Concordia community leader, said she was arrested outside her home at about 10pm on the day of the protest. A few people were jailed at Springbok, a few at Steinkopf, and the rest at Nababeep.

“People who came and did nothing were arrested. That’s the way things are done,” said Fortuin.

The arrested were released the next day.

GroundUp met community leader Shereen Fortuin in Springbok, about a 20km drive from Concordia.

Residents oppose the mining for several reasons. Some are convinced the company is mining illegally, but the company says that it has complied with legislation. It is the proximity of the mining to their homes that is the root of their concerns, and what this will mean for the future of the town.

“They’re not coming to the table to tell us what is going on,” said Fortuin. Though the company provided the community with mining permits issued from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), residents say there has been a lack of consultation. They are worried about the intensity of the mining activity over an area which covers just over 19,000 hectares.

At 69-years old, Billy Cloete was the oldest person arrested.

Billy Cloete was the oldest person arrested after the protest in August.

Cloete lives alone in his house in the centre of the town. The long cobblestone road to Cloete’s front yard was covered in flowers when we visited him. He worked in mining for 43 years. By the time he retired he had worked his way up to being a superintendent. More than once Cloete insisted that he is “not against development”.

“It’s about the way they want to mine,” he said. “When I saw the areas where they want to work … I can’t let this happen to the people here.”

He said he worked with explosives frequently throughout his mining career and explosives used in mines today are a lot more advanced than he used, he said, with a blast radius of 500m. “Mining is a fun thing. But it is also a very dangerous thing,” he said.

He worries about pollution, the gases the explosives might let off, and whether people’s homes will be damaged. “I don’t have long to live anymore. I’m not worried about myself. I’m worried about our next generation.”

“I’m very against the way they are doing things here in Concordia. The community is not being recognised.”

This is a map from Copper 360’s 2019 Heritage Impact Assessment compiled by ASHA Consulting. The green circle was added by GroundUp to indicate Wheal Julia’s approximate location. The red dots are the locations of Jubilee and Homeep mines.

Environmental Impact Assessment

Copper 360 and SHiP’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notes the use of explosives and the “potential risk” of “dust, noise and vibration associated with blasting of ore underground at two mines, Rietberg and Homeep, and in the open pit at Jubilee. All three of these mines are close to Concordia.

The EIA also notes potential pollution of groundwater that the mines would then have to treat.

The EIA states that the company will employ 178 people directly and will benefit at least 20 local businesses.

Wheal Julia

The area has a rich history of commercial copper mining stretching back to the 1800s. Commercial mining started in the 1860s. For many years copper ore was transported by the Cape Copper Company on the Namaqualand railway running from the towns of Okiep, Concordia and Nababeep (known today as the Okiep Copper District) to Port Nolloth harbour on the West Coast.

Mina Henn lives on the outskirts of Concordia. This is the view of Wheal Julia mine from her home.

In the 1940s the Okiep Copper Company (OCC) started operating and extracted ore at various sites during a copper boom. One such historic mine is Wheal Julia, located in Concordia. Jubilee, where the protest took place on 9 August, is also a historic mine.

Right opposite the Wheal Julia mine, on the outskirts of Concordia, lives Mina Henn in a large eight-bedroom house that she and her husband moved to in 1978. She recalled how children stole apricots from the tree at the front of the house. The tree is still there.

“My father worked for the mines. My husband worked for the mines … You could say the mines have always been the only big jobs,” said Henn.

Mina Henn is worried about how mining will affect her.

Nevertheless Henn is worried about how her house will be affected by mining at Wheal Julia and whether it will become dangerous for her and her family to live here much longer.

Arthur Cloete, a cattle farmer, told us that Namaqualand’s dependency on mining has caused a lot of “social ills”. When the OCC closed down its mines in the early 2000s, people lost their jobs and were left in “social ruins” because the mines brought no long term benefits. He is concerned about how cattle farmers on the outskirts of Concordia will be affected by the mining at the Rietberg mine.

He says the older people worked on the mines for “‘n appel en ‘n ui” (an apple and an onion – an Afrikaans idiom meaning very little). “It has always been our land. Our community never benefited. The day the mines closed, we were left with nothing,” said Cloete.

Copper 360 CEO Jan Nelson recently gave Mining Weekly an extensive interview. He said the company is currently “looking at about R12-billion to R15-billion worth of copper in the ground”.

Nelson also said Wheal Julia “is a surface deposit that’s yielded fantastic results”.

Nelson only responded briefly to GroundUp’s detailed questions and request for an interview. He emphasised that the mining activity was all legal.

But is mining at Wheal Julia legal?

The Concordia Communal Property Association (CPA), which falls under the Transformation of Certain Rural Areas Act (TRANCRAA), runs recently established communally-owned land. The land rights were officially handed over to the community in late 2022. On 14 February 2023, the title deed for the land was successfully transferred to the CPA, “solidifying their status as the landowner”, according to Nama Khoi Local Municipality spokesperson Jason Milford.

A community meeting was held on 24 August at the Concordia community hall. Over 100 residents attended. CPA chairperson Nuchey van Neel, addressing the meeting, said that the community had not been properly consulted about the intensity of the mining activities that would take place. This is despite a public consultation process that was held in 2020, an important component of any mine’s environmental impact assessment.

“People didn’t understand exactly what would happen with this mining activity, where it will be, how it will affect people, and who will eventually get something out of it,” said van Neel.

The Concordia community met on 24 August.

Henk Smith is a lawyer who has for decades been representing communities in the Northern Cape against mines. He is now representing the Concordia community. At the meeting he stated that Copper 360’s EIA did not deal with Wheal Julia, and that SHiP had not been granted a permit to start mining there. (Other than reiterating that their activities were legal, Copper 360 did not address our question about this.)

The EIA indeed only mentions three mines: Rietberg, Jubilee, and Homeep.

As a result, Smith said, the permit given by the DMRE was flawed.

And anyway, Smith added, “The law says you cannot mine within a town.” Community members cheered at this.

He said Jubilee and Wheal Julia should be rehabilitated rather than resurrected. “It’s not for new mining and extractive industries,” said Smith. Several residents then took turns to voice their opposition to the mine.

Lawyer Henk Smith has been representing mining companies in the Northern Cape for decades.

ALSO READ: Northern Cape launches R80 Million enterprise fund

In his response to GroundUp Nelson said: “We record that the Copper 360 group of companies remains committed to the communities where it will be conducting mining operations, which includes Concordia. We are guided by our principles and values to improve the lives of those people, and future generations in the communities we engage with.”

The DMRE acknowledged receipt of our questions but did not respond.

Concordia is home to about 5,000 humans and a few other creatures.

Published originally on Groundup | Liezl Human

The post Copper boom sparks conflict between mine and residents of Northern Cape town appeared first on SAPeople - Worldwide South African News.

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of

These 4 companies’ excellence in innovation spans multiple categories

Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech awards for 2023 honor 119 innovations that are paying dividends right now—and hold the potential to drive further progress over the next five years. We decided to give four organizations an additional Excellence in Innovation award to acknowledge the breath of their ingenuity. Among well-known companies, Adobe and the Walt Disney Co. have been busy imbuing multiple areas of their businesses with new technologies. Meanwhile, Phasecraft has taken on the big, essential challenge of figuring out how quantum-computing software should work. And Wiliot’s fresh approach to the internet of things can help companies wrangle everything from groceries to gadgetry. Adobe: AI everywhere—but responsibly Years before the rise of ChatGPT and Midjourney, Adobe knew that AI would be both a solution and a problem. In late 2019, the company introduced the Content Authenticity Initiative, in collaboration with The New York Times and Twitter, as a “nutrition label” for digital content, allowing users to see, for instance, if an image had been doctored in Photoshop. That’s led to the launch of open-source tools for developers and technical standards for the industry. [Illustration: Ard Su] Adobe envisions a system in which users can click on an online image to reveal details about its origins. It has debuted a “content credentials” symbol that can be inserted through apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Bing Image Creator. The company has also demoed a website for comparing an image to its original version. To boost adoption, it’s partnering with camera makers; media organizations, including The New York Times; and other tech companies, such as Microsoft. Discussions with social networks are ongoing. Dana Rao, Adobe’s general counsel and chief trust officer, says the idea emerged when the company was merely teasing new AI features but has gained traction over the past year with the rise of viral deepfakes. “It will be imperative,” he says, “for people to have a way to know what they can believe.” At the same time, Adobe is pushing ahead with its own AI advancements, including image generation in Photoshop, object removal for videos in Premiere Pro, and a text-based video editor that lets users move text around by copying and pasting a computer-generated transcript. The Content Authenticity Initiative is Adobe’s way of shining a light on these capabilities—both from Adobe and others—instead of snuffing them out. “When we think about the consequences of AI,” Rao says, “the answer isn’t going to be, ‘Stop using it.’ ” —Jared Newman Phasecraft: The software side of quantum Quantum computers promise to upend whole industries and our understanding of the world, but despite billions in investment and some scientific feats, they still can’t do much. By carefully manipulating tiny physical building blocks known as qubits, the machines aim to exploit the weird behavior of the subatomic world and process vast amounts of data more quickly than classical computers can. To date, the effectiveness of quantum computers has been limited by the challenges involved in increasing the number of qubits from a few hundred to many thousands. [Illustration: Ard Su] U.K.-based Phasecraft is building algorithms to help nudge these noisy, finicky machines to quantum advantage sooner. “The more we can do on the algorithm side, the less we have to wait for the hardware to improve,” says cofounder Toby Cubitt (yes, his name sounds the same as qubit). By redesigning an algorithm for simulating electrons, Phasecraft researchers cut the number of qubits required by a factor of a million, approaching a point that will enable existing quantum computers to work. Experimenting on industry-leading machines at IBM, Google, and Rigetti (and with $21 million in venture funding), the 20-person startup is building an AI-enhanced software pipeline to tackle the physics-modeling problems that could unlock breakthroughs in batteries and solar energy. Cubitt, a professor of quantum information at University College London, expects the first useful computations within three years. Getting there will require Phasecraft to keep developing “a really deep understanding of how the hardware works on a physics level,” he says. “And sometimes even the hardware companies don’t know this.” —Alex Pasternack The Walt Disney Co.: From ads to virtual stages People think of the House of Mouse as an entertainment behemoth, but over the past year, Disney has been seriously flexing its tech chops on a number of fronts: A new internal ad server allows the company programmatic ad capability to process more than 5 billion advertising impression queries per day across Hulu and Disney+, and new special-effects technology is transforming studios. When The Mandalorian debuted in 2019, it reinvigorated interest in the Star Wars universe while simultaneously revolutionizing green-screen technology and virtual filmmaking. Earlier this year, Disney debuted the latest evolution of that StageCraft technology for ESPN: Catalyst Stage deploys massive LED displays with real-time rendering to create 3D studio environments. Using such cutting-edge technology systems as GhostFrame, Unreal Engine, and Disguise XR, Catalyst Stage allows producers to put talent anywhere—football locker rooms, outdoor basketball courts, hockey rinks—and create multiple designs and backdrops for SportsCenter sets, all without leaving the studio. [Illustration: Oscar Duarte] To achieve that, the company created a breakthrough user-interface technology called GRACE (Graphic Real-time Automation and Control Environment) that integrates all of those tech systems within the existing ESPN production ecosystem, allowing Disney technologists to manipulate and move seamlessly between 3D virtual scenes on the stage. “For us, the technology that became available and could work synchronously was something we all recognized as a big leap in possibility,” says Christiaan Cokas, Disney Entertainment and ESPN director for creative automation and studio technology. “That’s what the Catalyst Stage is—a dance of so much technology working together seamlessly in order to make the magic happen.” —Jeff Beer Wiliot: The internet of things, only better and cheaper The “internet of things” may no longer be the term du jour, in part because the idea failed to meet its original promise of connecting billions of dumb objects to the cloud in service of mitigating all manner of potential supply-chain disruptions. But IoT technology remains a key to confronting some of our biggest business and environmental challenges. Wiliot makes an inexpensive Bluetooth beacon tag that can be attached to everything from food to drugs to apparel, enabling real-time tracking of location and condition. The stamp-size tag—powered by radio waves in the environment—contains an ARM processor and a radio, and it continually sends signal data collected from its various sensors to the Wiliot cloud for analysis. The results can be viewed via an app. In one use case, a COVID vaccine maker affixed a Wiliot tag to its vials to make sure the vaccine remained cool enough to retain its potency. Wiliot recently introduced sensors that can monitor humidity levels, which could help protect a range of products, from produce to electronics. [Illustration: Simo Liu] “It’s hard to appreciate how dark and offline the physical world is,” says Wiliot chief marketing officer Steve Statler. “As we talk to our customers, we realize that it’s really kind of a random form of chaos out there in terms of how we handle our supply chains.” The Tel Aviv, Israel–based company has raised more than $250 million in funding and now counts 30 of the world’s 500 largest businesses as customers. It’s primarily focused on providing its tags to traditional grocery retailers, who have relatively little visibility into their supply chains: “We’re enabling brick-and-mortar grocery stores to survive and thrive against larger, digital-first competitors,” Statler says. —Mark Sullivan The companies behind these technologies are among the honorees in Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech awards for 2023. See a full list of all the winners across all categories and read more about the methodology behind the selection process.

Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech awards for 2023 honor 119 innovations that are paying dividends right now—and hold the potential to drive further progress over the next five years. We decided to give four organizations an additional Excellence in Innovation award to acknowledge the breath of their ingenuity. Among well-known companies, Adobe and the Walt Disney Co. have been busy imbuing multiple areas of their businesses with new technologies. Meanwhile, Phasecraft has taken on the big, essential challenge of figuring out how quantum-computing software should work. And Wiliot’s fresh approach to the internet of things can help companies wrangle everything from groceries to gadgetry. Adobe: AI everywhere—but responsibly Years before the rise of ChatGPT and Midjourney, Adobe knew that AI would be both a solution and a problem. In late 2019, the company introduced the Content Authenticity Initiative, in collaboration with The New York Times and Twitter, as a “nutrition label” for digital content, allowing users to see, for instance, if an image had been doctored in Photoshop. That’s led to the launch of open-source tools for developers and technical standards for the industry. [Illustration: Ard Su] Adobe envisions a system in which users can click on an online image to reveal details about its origins. It has debuted a “content credentials” symbol that can be inserted through apps such as Adobe Photoshop and Bing Image Creator. The company has also demoed a website for comparing an image to its original version. To boost adoption, it’s partnering with camera makers; media organizations, including The New York Times; and other tech companies, such as Microsoft. Discussions with social networks are ongoing. Dana Rao, Adobe’s general counsel and chief trust officer, says the idea emerged when the company was merely teasing new AI features but has gained traction over the past year with the rise of viral deepfakes. “It will be imperative,” he says, “for people to have a way to know what they can believe.” At the same time, Adobe is pushing ahead with its own AI advancements, including image generation in Photoshop, object removal for videos in Premiere Pro, and a text-based video editor that lets users move text around by copying and pasting a computer-generated transcript. The Content Authenticity Initiative is Adobe’s way of shining a light on these capabilities—both from Adobe and others—instead of snuffing them out. “When we think about the consequences of AI,” Rao says, “the answer isn’t going to be, ‘Stop using it.’ ” —Jared Newman Phasecraft: The software side of quantum Quantum computers promise to upend whole industries and our understanding of the world, but despite billions in investment and some scientific feats, they still can’t do much. By carefully manipulating tiny physical building blocks known as qubits, the machines aim to exploit the weird behavior of the subatomic world and process vast amounts of data more quickly than classical computers can. To date, the effectiveness of quantum computers has been limited by the challenges involved in increasing the number of qubits from a few hundred to many thousands. [Illustration: Ard Su] U.K.-based Phasecraft is building algorithms to help nudge these noisy, finicky machines to quantum advantage sooner. “The more we can do on the algorithm side, the less we have to wait for the hardware to improve,” says cofounder Toby Cubitt (yes, his name sounds the same as qubit). By redesigning an algorithm for simulating electrons, Phasecraft researchers cut the number of qubits required by a factor of a million, approaching a point that will enable existing quantum computers to work. Experimenting on industry-leading machines at IBM, Google, and Rigetti (and with $21 million in venture funding), the 20-person startup is building an AI-enhanced software pipeline to tackle the physics-modeling problems that could unlock breakthroughs in batteries and solar energy. Cubitt, a professor of quantum information at University College London, expects the first useful computations within three years. Getting there will require Phasecraft to keep developing “a really deep understanding of how the hardware works on a physics level,” he says. “And sometimes even the hardware companies don’t know this.” —Alex Pasternack The Walt Disney Co.: From ads to virtual stages People think of the House of Mouse as an entertainment behemoth, but over the past year, Disney has been seriously flexing its tech chops on a number of fronts: A new internal ad server allows the company programmatic ad capability to process more than 5 billion advertising impression queries per day across Hulu and Disney+, and new special-effects technology is transforming studios. When The Mandalorian debuted in 2019, it reinvigorated interest in the Star Wars universe while simultaneously revolutionizing green-screen technology and virtual filmmaking. Earlier this year, Disney debuted the latest evolution of that StageCraft technology for ESPN: Catalyst Stage deploys massive LED displays with real-time rendering to create 3D studio environments. Using such cutting-edge technology systems as GhostFrame, Unreal Engine, and Disguise XR, Catalyst Stage allows producers to put talent anywhere—football locker rooms, outdoor basketball courts, hockey rinks—and create multiple designs and backdrops for SportsCenter sets, all without leaving the studio. [Illustration: Oscar Duarte] To achieve that, the company created a breakthrough user-interface technology called GRACE (Graphic Real-time Automation and Control Environment) that integrates all of those tech systems within the existing ESPN production ecosystem, allowing Disney technologists to manipulate and move seamlessly between 3D virtual scenes on the stage. “For us, the technology that became available and could work synchronously was something we all recognized as a big leap in possibility,” says Christiaan Cokas, Disney Entertainment and ESPN director for creative automation and studio technology. “That’s what the Catalyst Stage is—a dance of so much technology working together seamlessly in order to make the magic happen.” —Jeff Beer Wiliot: The internet of things, only better and cheaper The “internet of things” may no longer be the term du jour, in part because the idea failed to meet its original promise of connecting billions of dumb objects to the cloud in service of mitigating all manner of potential supply-chain disruptions. But IoT technology remains a key to confronting some of our biggest business and environmental challenges. Wiliot makes an inexpensive Bluetooth beacon tag that can be attached to everything from food to drugs to apparel, enabling real-time tracking of location and condition. The stamp-size tag—powered by radio waves in the environment—contains an ARM processor and a radio, and it continually sends signal data collected from its various sensors to the Wiliot cloud for analysis. The results can be viewed via an app. In one use case, a COVID vaccine maker affixed a Wiliot tag to its vials to make sure the vaccine remained cool enough to retain its potency. Wiliot recently introduced sensors that can monitor humidity levels, which could help protect a range of products, from produce to electronics. [Illustration: Simo Liu] “It’s hard to appreciate how dark and offline the physical world is,” says Wiliot chief marketing officer Steve Statler. “As we talk to our customers, we realize that it’s really kind of a random form of chaos out there in terms of how we handle our supply chains.” The Tel Aviv, Israel–based company has raised more than $250 million in funding and now counts 30 of the world’s 500 largest businesses as customers. It’s primarily focused on providing its tags to traditional grocery retailers, who have relatively little visibility into their supply chains: “We’re enabling brick-and-mortar grocery stores to survive and thrive against larger, digital-first competitors,” Statler says. —Mark Sullivan The companies behind these technologies are among the honorees in Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech awards for 2023. See a full list of all the winners across all categories and read more about the methodology behind the selection process.

Georgia Governor Names First Woman as Chief of Staff as Current Officeholder Exits for Georgia Power

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp say he will name the first woman chief of staff as the current officeholder leaves to work for Georgia Power Co. Kemp said Tuesday that he would name Lauren Curry to the post on Jan. 15, when Trey Kilpatrick departs

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday said he would name the first woman chief of staff as the current officeholder leaves to work for Georgia Power Co.Kemp said he would name Lauren Curry to the post on Jan. 15, when Trey Kilpatrick departs.The Republican governor said Curry, currently deputy chief of staff, will be the first woman to fill that role for a Georgia governor. Georgia Power, the largest unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co., is hiring Kilpatrick as senior vice president of external affairs.Curry was earlier chief operating officer and director of government affairs and policy for Kemp. She's had a long career in Georgia state government, previously working for the Environmental Protection Division, the Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Economic Development, and as a press assistant to then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.Brad Bohannon, now Kemp's director of government affairs and policy, will become deputy chief of staffKilpatrick will oversee economic recruitment, lobbying and public relations work for Georgia Power.Kilpatrick has been Kemp's chief of staff for three years. He previously worked for Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson for 10 years in roles including chief of staff. Kemp's hiring of Kilpatrick was seen as an effort to build bridges to the state's business community after Kemp won office as an insurgent Republican in 2018.The utility said Kilpatrick was suited to the role because of his involvement in economic development activities.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Editorial Roundup: Illinois

Champaign News-Gazette. November 26, 2023.

Champaign News-Gazette. November 26, 2023. Editorial: PAC’s shenanigans another sign of political class’ disrespect for law, IllinoisNo one is ever going to brag about the effective oversight of campaign spending in Illinois. Campaign disclosure rules were written to be ineffective, and the Illinois State Board of Elections designed to be pretty much toothless.But the board does do its job within the limits of its authority. The Chicago Tribune recently reported what can happen when it does.Connected Democrats funded a political action committee — All for Justice — to elect two Democrats to the seven-member Illinois Supreme Court.The PAC spent more than $7.3 million to put Justices Elizabeth Rochford and Mary Kay O’Brien in office.But it failed to disclose the millions it spent until nearly three months after the November 2022 general election.As a consequence, the PAC faced substantial fines for its violations of state law.The committee responded by transferring nearly $150,000 to another committee, the Chicago Independent Alliance.The Tribune story reported that the committees have the same address as the Andreou & Casson law firm, which was founded by Luke Casson.Who is Casson? State election records show he’s the chairman and treasurer of All for Justice. He’s further identified as counsel for Senate President Don Harmon and the political director of Oak Park’s Democratic Party, “Harmon’s political base,” according to the Tribune.Casson was considerably less than forthcoming when contacted by the Tribune. His responses included, “I didn’t know,” “I had no knowledge (of the fines)” and “That’s none of your business.”Asked if he made the transfer to avoid what turned out to be a $99,500 fine for noncompliance, he said, “It wasn’t. I just said we don’t have any comment.”Campaign disclosure rules are intended to allow voters to find out who’s backing whom in our costly election process.All for Justice spent more than $7 million on behalf of two candidates, roughly a third of total campaign expenditures.Spending on that level obviously contributed to the wins by Rochford and O’Brien. Rochford collected 55 percent of the vote in her race while O’Brien won narrowly with 51.1 percent.The elections board isn’t giving up on collecting the fine. It contends that administrative rules make PAC officers — in this case Casson — “personally liable” for payment.People will just have to wait and see how that works out. But the transfer speaks volumes about the committee leaders’ desire to follow the law.Millions of dollars flowed into All for Justice from organized labor, lawyers and lawyer groups and Democratic politics. But Harmon, Casson’s political buddy, was among the biggest donors, contributing $700,000 from campaign committees he controls.Harmon declined to answer questions about the fine-dodging transfer. But he did issue a bold statement saying “all political committees” have a “responsibility” and “duty” to comply with the law.Politics is, by its nature, a tough and sometimes dirty business. But the transfer ploy demonstrates a level of clever sleaze and evasion showing — once again — how little respect the political class has for both the law and the people of Illinois.Chicago Sun-Times. November 27, 2023. Editorial: Thousands of babies born prematurely in Illinois are part of a deadly national trendA new report by the March of Dimes underscores the need for elected officials, government and the healthcare system to do more to save lives, especially Black women and babies.If that’s not enough evidence we are failing pregnant mothers and their babies, a new report by the March of Dimes offers still more sobering figures. The report gives Illinois a grade of D+ for the number of preterm births in 2022. Out of 128,315 births last year, 10.57% — or 12,139 babies — were born prematurely, putting our state’s youngest residents and their mothers at risk for all sorts of health issues, not to mention premature death.And these numbers continue to be even more alarming for women and babies of color, especially Black women and infants. The preterm birth rate for Black women in Illinois is 1.6 times higher than the rate among all other women, according to the March of Dimes report.“It’s unfortunate that we only see a modest improvement” in pre-births nationally and locally, Elizabeth Oladeinde, director of maternal and child health for the March of Dimes’ Chicago office, told us. “We know more work needs to be done.”A major reason Illinois received such low marks for preterm births: Too many pregnant women lack access to health care, Oladeinde said.Hospitals closing in the Chicago area have made it harder for women, particularly women of color, to regularly see health providers throughout their pregnancy — a key way to keep pregnant women healthy, leading to far fewer preterm births. Other hospitals — Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center, St. Bernard Hospital and Advocate South Suburban Hospital — have reduced or eliminated maternal health services, Oladeinde notes.Too little access to health care“You have these (health care) deserts, and lack of care for the population in and around that area,” forcing women to travel farther distances, making it harder for them to get the regular care they need, she said. Another factor: the ongoing staffing shortage among nurses, midwives and other health care providers, Oladeinde adds.There is some good news about how we’re doing: Illinois is one of 37 states, along with the District of Columbia, that has extended Medicaid health insurance coverage to low-income women from 60 days to one year postpartum. And Illinois is one of 39 states, plus Washington, D.C., to have adopted the Medicaid expansion, which allows expectant mothers greater access to preventive care during pregnancy.Also, the state is one of 44 that has a federally funded mortality review committee that analyzes each maternal death to better understand and address the causes. The state’s most recent report on these deaths, which covered 2018 through 2020, concluded that 91% of pregnancy-related deaths might have been preventable, our WBEZ colleague Kristen Schorsch reported this month.The March of Dimes’ Oladeinde is right — “we are ahead of the game” in these areas — but there is much more elected officials in Illinois and state government should be doing to improve the dismal numbers.The state has said it will help pay for doula care, joining 11 states and D.C. that already reimburse non-medical companions who physically and emotionally support a woman throughout childbirth.Another way the state can bring down the alarming number of mother and infant deaths is for the Illinois General Assembly to approve and Gov. J.B. Pritzker to sign a law that provides for paid family leave.And the health care system — hospitals, licensing bodies, medical schools and others — should make tackling implicit bias a top priority by offering robust training and engaging in regular conversation about why some patients’ health conditions routinely go undiagnosed or underdiagnosed. More awareness and action means more lives saved.While the problem of preterm births and maternal and infant deaths may seem insurmountable, advocates like Oladeinde are right to remain optimistic.“We have to keep moving ahead,” she said. “Preventing just one death is a win.”Saving women and babies’ lives should be an easy goal to prioritize. Too many lives are depending on it.Chicago Tribune. November 26, 2023. Editorial: Wind farms in Lake Michigan make no economic sense. Springfield ought to sink that idea.There’s a bill floating around in Springfield that would establish a wind farm in the waters of Lake Michigan.Residents in high-rises with lake views need not be alarmed. Nothing being envisioned poses a visual threat to their vistas. The turbines would go on the Far South Side, nearest to heavy industrial areas that aren’t known for being picturesque.The idea ought to be killed anyway for reasons having nothing to do with aesthetics. It’s unneeded, prohibitively expensive and would be funded by hiking your electric bills, which already are considerably higher than they were a few years ago.But let’s start at the beginning.Democratic state Sen. Robert Peters and state Rep. Marcus C. Evans Jr., both South Side lawmakers, last year introduced the measure, which would require the state to contract with the developers of the new wind power facility and have utilities charge customers accordingly. They argued the project, which would feature up to 12 turbines and generate up to 150 megawatts of power, would help the environment and also create jobs for the economically disadvantaged South Side.The bill had some momentum in the spring session, passing the House on a convincing 85-21 vote. Ultimately, it stalled in the Senate.So the General Assembly did what lawmakers do when they don’t want to just say no to their colleagues. They passed a law requiring the Illinois Power Agency, the state body tasked with negotiating power procurement on behalf of utility customers, to study the issue along with several other energy projects wanting state help.That report is due in March.Lawmakers no doubt will wait for the IPA to weigh in before making any final decisions. But, unless they ignore economic rationality — something they’ve been known to do, especially when it comes to energy policy — they will take a pass. The economics of offshore wind power, already poor when the bill surfaced, have grown considerably worse since then.Consider that several major offshore wind projects planned in the Atlantic, off this nation’s East Coast, have been deep-sixed or gone on life support in recent months. The problems are essentially the same in all cases. Costs have ballooned far higher than originally projected thanks to supply-chain snarls and sharply higher interest rates.Danish wind power giant Orsted last month canceled two large developments planned off the southern coast of New Jersey, prompting Gov. Phil Murphy to accuse the company of breaking promises and jeopardizing its credibility.Other planned projects off New York and Massachusetts either are tottering or returning to the drawing board.In Massachusetts, developers of two massive wind farms have gone so far as to pay the state $108 million to free them of power-purchase contracts that had become financially infeasible. They intend to rebid with the state, at considerably higher prices.There’s a lot of debate right now about the future of wind power off the East Coast. Is the industry merely enduring a hiccup or are these issues killing Atlantic offshore wind in the cradle?Most likely, wind farms in the Atlantic eventually will happen. The Biden administration is banking on substantial ocean development to meet its carbon goals. The Great Lakes are another story.To date, there are no wind farms in the Midwestern portion of the Great Lakes. A relatively small 20-megawatt project proposed off Cleveland in Lake Erie is struggling to obtain financing and may need to be rethought.There are simple reasons the oceans are a far better bet for siting wind power than the Great Lakes. First, saltwater doesn’t freeze nearly as quickly as fresh water. Frozen lake waters add substantially to the cost of wind power and also hinder operations, making them potentially less efficient.Then there’s public acceptance. Oceanic wind farms can be located far enough out to sea that they can’t be seen from the shore. That’s not the case in Lake Michigan.More generally in terms of energy policy, state lawmakers have resorted again and again over the past decade to promoting various clean-energy initiatives — typically in the form of electric-bill surcharges financing nuclear plant bailouts, utility-run energy efficiency programs, renewable energy, social equity in energy policy, etc. — that the last thing we need is yet another add-on to your monthly ComEd bill bankrolling something that provides so little bang for the buck.The economics are so crummy that even some environmental groups oppose the bill. The Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago estimates the Lake Michigan project would require power prices of at least 20 cents per kilowatt-hour. Onshore wind power in Illinois is economic at prices more like 2 or 3 cents. That’s quite the markup.ELPC also believes, since the lake bed is held in public trust, that allowing it to be used for private gain potentially violates the law.The economic development case for wind is poor as well. Wind power, once in operation, is a low employment industry. There are construction jobs, of course, but those are temporary. The industry’s real job-creation engine is in manufacturing the turbines.More practically, Illinois has lots of open land where more wind power can be installed far more cost effectively as the state strives to meet its ambitious clean-energy goals.In Europe, where offshore wind has been a reality for years, domestic energy sources are less abundant, making the case for offshore wind more compelling.Windmills in the lake are an idea whose time hasn’t come. There’s plenty of green-energy opportunity without messing with Lake Michigan.Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Meet the small and mighty tech companies of 2023

There’s a trope that good things come in small packages—and indeed the winners in the Small and Mighty category live up to their name. Each of the companies below has fewer than 50 employees, but they have all shown an agility in innovation that aims to solve some of the largest problems on the planet—from increasing equitable access to healthcare to measuring the environmental impact of planting millions of trees, and from turning your car into a seamless payment platform and being able to charge it with a more durable and safe battery. AmplifyMDFor increasing access to healthcare beyond a single “urgent care” video visitThere’s a shortage of doctors in the U.S. that by some estimates will exceed 124,00 in the next 10 years—particularly among specialists. Coupled with an aging population and a broken insurance system, just finding an accessible, affordable healthcare provider has become harder than it needs to be, especially if you have heart or lung disease or mental health issues. AmplifyMD’s Virtual Care platform streamlines access to an extensive cohort of telemedicine practitioners in more than 15 different specialties. This means that hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities of any size can match patients to the right provider and take care of it all, from scheduling, to care, to billing. It’s already lowered patients’ 30-day readmission rates by over a third. Car IQFor turning your car into a payment platformPay for gas, food, and other necessities with your car? Car IQ‘s Pay technology essentially turns cars and trucks into credit cards by making the vehicle able to transact directly with merchants. It currently enables fleets to gather data through telematics and sensors to get fuel levels, odometer readings, and location, then offers a seamless way for the driver to locate the nearest gas station where it confirms and enables it to pay without a card. In July 2023, Car IQ partnered with Visa to expand its network. Right now, Car IQ Pay is accepted at Shell, Sunoco, Kum & Go, Circle K, Sinclair, and others nationwide. The company says that makes more than 25,000 fuel stations with plans to increase to 55,000 by the end of the year. South 8 TechnologiesFor turning a liquefied gas electrolyte into a better charging option for EVs even in extreme temperaturesThe hottest summer on record and the sheer number of natural disasters have shown how fragile our power sources are. And while EVs are helping ease some of the impacts on our climate, the technology that powers most of them—lithium-ion batteries—while cost-effective, is old and was originally developed for mobile phones and laptops. When you press it into use in vehicles, there’s a risk, particularly of failure and fire. That’s why South 8 Technologies developed its liquefied gas electrolyte solution that is capable of withstanding extremes of temperature. VeritreeFor creating an exacting way to measure the impact of nature, carbon, and biodiversity projectsWhen planting trees and purchasing carbon offsets have become common ways for companies to check boxes on their ESG reports, Veritree maintains its platform is connecting businesses with solutions that are making a verified impact. For example, the technology provides a way to manage a network of restorative projects, while the dashboard monitors data on tree planting to ensure they are being counted accurately. Results are then published to the blockchain for added security. The companies behind these technologies are among the honorees in Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech awards for 2023. See a full list of all the winners across all categories and read more about the methodology behind the selection process.

There’s a trope that good things come in small packages—and indeed the winners in the Small and Mighty category live up to their name. Each of the companies below has fewer than 50 employees, but they have all shown an agility in innovation that aims to solve some of the largest problems on the planet—from increasing equitable access to healthcare to measuring the environmental impact of planting millions of trees, and from turning your car into a seamless payment platform and being able to charge it with a more durable and safe battery. AmplifyMDFor increasing access to healthcare beyond a single “urgent care” video visitThere’s a shortage of doctors in the U.S. that by some estimates will exceed 124,00 in the next 10 years—particularly among specialists. Coupled with an aging population and a broken insurance system, just finding an accessible, affordable healthcare provider has become harder than it needs to be, especially if you have heart or lung disease or mental health issues. AmplifyMD’s Virtual Care platform streamlines access to an extensive cohort of telemedicine practitioners in more than 15 different specialties. This means that hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities of any size can match patients to the right provider and take care of it all, from scheduling, to care, to billing. It’s already lowered patients’ 30-day readmission rates by over a third. Car IQFor turning your car into a payment platformPay for gas, food, and other necessities with your car? Car IQ‘s Pay technology essentially turns cars and trucks into credit cards by making the vehicle able to transact directly with merchants. It currently enables fleets to gather data through telematics and sensors to get fuel levels, odometer readings, and location, then offers a seamless way for the driver to locate the nearest gas station where it confirms and enables it to pay without a card. In July 2023, Car IQ partnered with Visa to expand its network. Right now, Car IQ Pay is accepted at Shell, Sunoco, Kum & Go, Circle K, Sinclair, and others nationwide. The company says that makes more than 25,000 fuel stations with plans to increase to 55,000 by the end of the year. South 8 TechnologiesFor turning a liquefied gas electrolyte into a better charging option for EVs even in extreme temperaturesThe hottest summer on record and the sheer number of natural disasters have shown how fragile our power sources are. And while EVs are helping ease some of the impacts on our climate, the technology that powers most of them—lithium-ion batteries—while cost-effective, is old and was originally developed for mobile phones and laptops. When you press it into use in vehicles, there’s a risk, particularly of failure and fire. That’s why South 8 Technologies developed its liquefied gas electrolyte solution that is capable of withstanding extremes of temperature. VeritreeFor creating an exacting way to measure the impact of nature, carbon, and biodiversity projectsWhen planting trees and purchasing carbon offsets have become common ways for companies to check boxes on their ESG reports, Veritree maintains its platform is connecting businesses with solutions that are making a verified impact. For example, the technology provides a way to manage a network of restorative projects, while the dashboard monitors data on tree planting to ensure they are being counted accurately. Results are then published to the blockchain for added security. The companies behind these technologies are among the honorees in Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech awards for 2023. See a full list of all the winners across all categories and read more about the methodology behind the selection process.

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