The elimination of the Office of International Climate and Technology is another sign of the Trump administration’s retreat on global warming policy.
The oversupply of natural gas brought by hydraulic fracturing is driving out dirty coal, but it is also threatening zero-emissions nuclear power.
In the United States, its rival Lyft has been growing its market share — and that growth has fueled a huge haul of fund-raising — but it still remains a distant second in the market. And remember, this is a supposedly hobbled Uber, one plagued by internal strife, an exodus of executives, a rapidly deteriorating brand and an existential lawsuit stemming from the shady origins of its purchase of a self-driving car start-up.
But what Uber lacks in autonomous tech it makes up for in autonomous customers. No matter what it does, a lot of us just can’t seem to quit Uber. I’m not judging. I used Uber a dozen times in the past month, including three times last week. I use it for the same reason you do — it works really well.
Across many cities in the United States, Uber is one of the cheapest, safest, most convenient ways to get around. In many parts of the world, Uber is even more than that. This year, I met drivers in India who said the company had significantly improved their lives.
And many transportation scholars are giddy over Uber’s potential. They say it could improve congestion and expand access to transportation to the poor and people with disabilities. It could reduce our dependence on private cars, the most expensive, dangerous and inefficient machines we buy. It could become a catalyst for public transportation systems — a way to solve the “last-mile problem” that bedevils commuter trains — or perhaps a replacement for them: What if, instead of building fixed bus lines, cities subsidized Uber rides, allowing people the flexibility of car travel for the price of a bus?
Yet while it’s plausible that a generic car-sharing company could become such a global force for good, the whole idea begins to seem naïve when you start talking about Uber specifically. In addition to the internal recklessness cited in Mr. Holder’s report, this is a company that has repeatedly deceived, threatened, defied or simply ignored regulators and the press. It has systematically mistreated its drivers. (It has promised to address their concerns in a coming report.)
Even riders aren’t safe from its misbehavior. Last week, the technology news website Recode reported that an Uber executive, Eric Alexander, conducted his own investigation after an Uber passenger in India was raped by a driver in 2014. Mr. Alexander obtained the victim’s medical records, and he shared them with other Uber officials, including Mr. Kalanick. The executives reportedly even wondered whether the victim’s story was a conspiracy cooked up by Uber’s Indian rival, Ola.
In April, when my colleague Mike Isaac asked Uber about the executives’ conspiracy theory, Mr. Alexander denied it through a spokesman. That was a lie, but Mr. Alexander was fired only last week after other reporters began asking. Uber declined to comment.
If you can’t trust a company to respect your medical records when you report a rape on its service — and can’t expect that its executives will tell the truth when confronted about it — how could we begin to trust it on some of the loftier civic goals it and its boosters outline?
We can’t, obviously. Instead, it’s your job and mine to verify. Uber says it’s going to make its workplace more inclusive. It will abandon many of its brash cultural values. Its war room will become a peace room (literally). It will become Uber 2.0.
We should all hope it does. But we should do more than hope: There’s an Uber app on your phone. Think twice about tapping it, because if Uber remains terrible after this, we have only ourselves to blame.
By 2020, Japan plans on integrating more robots into society than anywhere else. Meet the visionaries and inventors who are working to achieve this goal.
The National Academy of Sciences said the Energy Department’s advanced research lab, known as ARPA-E, is making vital progress.
The industrial giant, whose jet engines propel air travelers and whose generators light millions of households, declared that it would be installing its first new leader in 16 years.
The locker room experience has been surprisingly rewarding. I’ve made many new friends with whom I can share both joys and sorrows. The women help me solve problems big and small, providing a sounding board, advice and counsel and often a hearty laugh that brightens my day.
And, as myriad studies have shown, they may also be helping to save my life.
As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”
In a study of 7,000 men and women in Alameda County, Calif., begun in 1965, Lisa F. Berkman and S. Leonard Syme found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties,” John Robbins recounted in his marvelous book on health and longevity, “Healthy at 100.”
This major difference in survival occurred regardless of people’s age, gender, health practices or physical health status. In fact, the researchers found that “those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits,” Mr. Robbins wrote. However, he quickly added, “Needless to say, people with both healthful lifestyles and close social ties lived the longest of all.”
In another study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1984, researchers at the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York found that among 2,320 men who had survived a heart attack, those with strong connections with other people had only a quarter the risk of death within the following three years as those who lacked social connectedness.
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center also found that social ties can reduce deaths among people with serious medical conditions. Beverly H. Brummett and colleagues reported in 2001 that among adults with coronary artery disease, the mortality rate was 2.4 times higher among those who were socially isolated.
In a column I wrote in 2013 called “Shaking Off Loneliness,” I cited a review of research published in 1988 indicating that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.”
People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.
Absent social interactions, blood flow to vital organs is likely to be reduced and immune function may be undermined. Even how genes are expressed can be adversely affected, impairing the body’s ability to turn off inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and even suicide attempts.
In a 2010 report in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Debra Umberson and Jennifer Karas Montez, sociology researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, cited “consistent and compelling evidence linking a low quantity or quality of social ties with a host of conditions,” including the development and worsening of cardiovascular disease, repeat heart attacks, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, cancer and slowed wound healing.
The Texas researchers pointed out that social interactions can enhance good health through a positive influence on people’s living habits. For example, if none of your friends smoke, you’ll be less likely to smoke. According to the researchers, the practice of health behaviors like getting regular exercise, consuming a balanced diet and avoiding smoking, excessive weight gain and abuse of alcohol and drugs “explains about 40 percent of premature mortality as well as substantial morbidity and disability in the United States.”
Lack of social interactions also damages mental health. The emotional support provided by social connections helps to reduce the damaging effects of stress and can foster “a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” the Texas researchers wrote.
Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and author of the 2016 book “The Happiness Track,” wrote, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.
“In other words,” Dr. Seppala explained, “social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”
She suggested that a societal decline in social connectedness may help to explain recent increases in reports of loneliness, isolation and alienation, and may be why loneliness has become a leading reason people seek psychological counseling. By 2004, she wrote, sociological research revealed that more than 25 percent of Americans had no one to confide in. They lacked a close friend with whom they felt comfortable sharing a personal problem.
For those seeking a health-promoting lifestyle, it’s not enough to focus on eating your veggies and getting regular exercise. Dr. Seppala advises: “Don’t forget to connect.”
Any reduction of his involvement in Uber — even if temporary — would be significant, given that he molded the ride-hailing service in his own brash image. Mr. Kalanick has faced particular scrutiny in recent months as Uber has worked to overcome scandals, including employees detailing sexual harassment and systematic attempts to evade law enforcement personnel in some cities.
The discussions by the nine-member board preceded a report from Mr. Holder’s investigation, scheduled to be released on Tuesday. In recent months, Uber has fired more than 20 employees for infractions including sexual harassment and discrimination.
“This starts at the very top,” said Micah Alpern, a principal at A. T. Kearney, a top management and consulting firm. “They need to start from scratch to create a new culture entirely.”
Uber declined to comment on the company discussions, which were held at the Los Angeles offices of Covington & Burling, the law firm where Mr. Holder works. Mr. Kalanick, through a spokesman, declined to comment. News of the discussions was previously reported by Reuters.
The internal drama at Uber has gripped the broader technology industry, as the ride-hailing company has come to symbolize how start-up culture can go awry. Yet even in Silicon Valley, where propriety can take a back seat to profits, the claims about Uber’s corporate culture have been startling, including widespread sexual harassment and the mishandling of the medical records of a woman raped by an Uber driver.
Uber Investigation Leads to Shake-Up
Uber’s current crisis stems from claims in February from a former engineer, Susan Fowler, that she had been routinely sexually harassed when she worked at the company and that the human resources department had done little to help her. An outpouring of other cases followed, and Uber retained at least two law firms — including Covington & Burling — to look into the matters.
Uber has since faced other problems, including an intellectual property dispute over self-driving car technology with Waymo, the self-driving car business that operates under Google’s parent company. Uber also is dealing with a Justice Department investigation into tools that it used to evade law enforcement personnel in cities where the authorities were trying to shut down its ride-hailing service. Many executives have left the company in recent months.
Even so, Mr. Kalanick’s position has for months seemed secure, especially because of how the company is structured. Uber’s board follows a “founder-friendly” governance structure, made popular in Silicon Valley by Google and Facebook. Seven of Uber’s nine board members hold so-called super-voting shares, allowing them to have a stronger say in the board room. Four director seats are empty.
Because Mr. Kalanick and a few allies hold a majority of those shares, his position has been safe — and would most likely remain so, even if he took a leave.
Some Uber board members have expressed support for Mr. Kalanick. Garrett Camp and Ryan Graves, who have been with Uber since its early days, have long believed that Mr. Kalanick’s leadership was necessary to buck an aggressive incumbent taxi industry. Arianna Huffington, the founder of the Huffington Post who is also an Uber board member, has publicly attested to Mr. Kalanick’s willingness to change.
J. William Gurley and David Bonderman, two venture capitalists and independent board members who also hold super-voting shares, were worried about the company’s management, the people with knowledge of the matter said. Outside investors were also nervous about the string of scandals and have called board members directly about their concerns.
Mr. Kalanick’s executive allies were in a trickier position. One of the recommendations in Mr. Holder’s report was that Mr. Michael, Uber’s senior vice president of business and a close confidant of Mr. Kalanick’s, be asked to leave the company, according to the three people. The firm’s recommendations also include other sweeping changes at the company.
Mr. Michael has not resigned, nor has he been asked to do so, according to a person familiar with the matter, but he was evaluating his options.
This year, Uber’s general counsel and some board members recommended that Mr. Michael take leave from his position at the company until the results of the Holder report were delivered, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Michael, who has been at the center of three controversies at Uber, refused to step down, and Mr. Kalanick did not force him to do so.
Mr. Michael did not respond to a request for comment.
Employees and close watchers of the company worry that even the most damning conclusions of the Holder investigation could be ignored.
“Any response without complete buy-in from the top is a complete waste of time,” said Stephen Hirschfeld, a partner at the labor law firm Hirschfeld Kraemer who regularly investigates corporate harassment issues. “It can have an even worse impact on company morale if people already know it’s a total joke.”
The attorney general signed an order this week to end the practice of requiring corporate wrongdoers to make payments to outside groups or causes.
The average nationwide gasoline price on Friday was the lowest for this time of year since 2005, despite OPEC cutbacks and Middle East tensions.