Hitting the Books: High school students have spent a decade fighting Baltimore’s toxic legacy

There was a time in the last century when we, quite foolishly, believed incineration to be a superior means of waste disposal than landfills. And, for decades, many of America's most disadvantaged have been paying for those decisions with with their lifespans. South Baltimore's Curtis Bay neighborhood, for example, is home to two medical waste incinerators and an open-air coal mine. It's ranked in the 95th percentile for hazardous waste and boasts among the highest rates of asthma and lung disease in the entire country. 

The city's largest trash incinerator is the Wheelabrator–BRESCO, which burns through 2,250 tons of garbage a day. It has been in operation since the 1970s, belching out everything from mercury and lead to hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and chromium into the six surrounding working-class neighborhoods and the people who live there. In 2011, students from Benjamin Franklin High School began to push back against the construction of a new incinerator, setting off a decade-long struggle that pitted high school and college students against the power of City Hall.

In Fighting to Breathe: Race, Toxicity, and the Rise of Youth Activism in Baltimore, Dr. Nicole Fabricant, Professor of Anthropology at Towson University in Maryland, chronicles the students' participatory action research between 2011 and 2021, organizing and mobilizing their communities to fight back against a century of environmental injustice, racism and violence in one of the nation's most polluted cities. In the excerpt below, Fabricant discusses the use of art — specifically that of crankies — in movement building.

An industrial site in South Baltimore, dingy, yellowing buildings with gasses escaping tall smokestacks against a grey overcast sky. Fighting to Breathe is written in lime green capital block letters with the author's name running along the bottom edge of the cover in white text.
University of California Press

Excerpted from Fighting to Breathe: Race, Toxicity, and the Rise of Youth Activism in Baltimore by Nicole Fabricant, published by University of California Press. Copyright 2022.


Making Connections: Fairfield Houses and Environmental Displacement 

As the students developed independent investigations, they discovered what had happened in the campaigns against toxins that preceded their own struggle against the incinerator. They learned that the Fairfield neighborhood, before being relocated to its current site, had been situated near to where Energy Answers was planning to build their trash-to-energy incinerator. At the time of the students’ investigations, this area was an abandoned industrial site surrounded by heavy diesel truck traffic, polluting chemical and fertilizer industries, and abandoned brownfield sites.

Students read that the City had built basic infrastructure in Wagner’s Point, the all-white (though poor and white ethnic, to be clear) community on the peninsula in the 1950s, nearly thirty years before doing so in Fairfield, which was located alongside Wagner’s Point but all (or almost all) Black. As Destiny reiterated to me in the Fall of 2019: 

Wagner’s Point was predominantly white and Fairfield predominantly Black, but both communities were company towns, living in poverty, working in dangerous hazardous conditions, and forced to live in a toxic environment.... On the surface, this history can be read as a story of two communities, different in culture and race, facing the issue together. But this ignores the issue of racism that divided the two communities. For instance, Fairfield did not get access to plumbing... until well into the 1970s. This is an example of structural racism. It is also a story not told by our history books.

The students talked in small groups about systemic and structural racism and unfair housing policies. They investigated the evacuation of Fairfield Housing. They learned that former residents were forcibly relocated to public housing and were offered $22,500 for renters and up too $5,250 per household. They also received moving costs of up to $1,500 per household. When 14 households remained in Fairfield a decade later, then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke stated that he would prefer to move all residents out of Fairfield, but the city did not have any money for relocation. This history provoked Free Your Voice youth to think beyond their community to how structural racism shaped citywide decisions and policies. 

Despite attempts to integrate school systems in the 1950s and the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s intended, specifically, to mitigate racism in housing policies, the provision of public education and the regulation of housing practices remained uneven in the 1970s (and into the present). Students learned that in 1979 a CSX railroad car carrying nine thousand gallons of highly concentrated sulfuric acid overturned and the Fairfield Homes public housing complex was temporarily evacuated. That same year, they read, an explosion at the British Petroleum oil tank, located on Fairfield Peninsula, set off a seven-alarm fire. All of this led the students to deeper inquiry.

Figuring out the ways in which structural racism shaped contemporary ideas about people, bodies, and space is something that Destiny often referred to when speaking publicly. Destiny explained that studying “history allowed us to see our community in a way that gave us the ability to build power or collective strength. So, how do you confront this history, this marketplace?” Building power within the school was about “re-education,” she said, but it was also about rebuilding social relationships across the community and helping residents to understand the structural conditions and histories sustaining inequities that others (especially white others) tried to explain away using racist stereotypes and tropes (e.g., Black youth as “thugs”; “they’re poor because they’re lazy”). These tropes subtly and not so subtly suggested racial and cultural inferiority.

As a group, the students worked to establish a presence in the community and to create spontaneous spaces for dialogue and discussion. They attended a Fairfield reunion in Curtis Bay Park during the summer of 2013, where approximately 150 former Fairfield Homes residents gathered to celebrate their history, reminisce, and have a cookout together. Gathered on the grass next to the Curtis Bay Recreation Center, former residents reminisced about what life was like in the projects. At one point, an elder participant shared with Destiny, “Fairfield was the Cadillac of housing projects.... We were all a family, we took care of one another.” The Free Your Voice students engaged with living history as they listened and learned.

For many of the students, the combined processes of reading texts and listening to elder residents’ stories moved them from numbness to awareness. Being able to discuss what they learned in sophisticated conversations with their peers and the experts they sought out helped to build their confidence as activists and adult interlocutors.

Arts and Performance in Movement Building: The Crankie 

While analysis and study were key to building change campaigns, the students also recognized that building a sociopolitical movement of economically disadvantaged people required more than mobilizing bodies. To be effective, they were going to have to move hearts and minds.

In 2014, Free Your Voice students decided to strengthen the emotional and relationship building aspects of their campaign by adopting art forms, including performance and storytelling, into their communication efforts. Destiny began a speech she delivered at The Worker Justice Center human rights dinner in 2015 by quoting W.E.B. Dubois: “‘Art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows beauty, that has music in its being and the color of sunsets in its handkerchiefs, that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance, too’” (Watford 2015). Art — in the form of a vintage performance genre known as “the crankie” and rap songs — became a tool the students utilized to tell their stories to much broader publics and to boost emotional connections with their allies. Performances particularly allowed youth to be creative and inventive. Their productions were often malleable. Sometimes, Free Your Voice youth would rewrite a script based on audience feedback. As a result, their performances were often improvisational, and they invited residents to be a part of the storytelling. This allowed the student-performers to develop strong narrative structures and especially realistic characters. 

Not only did students do art, but they also invited artists, including performers, to join the Dream Team to broaden both the appeal and impact of the Stop the Incinerator campaign. One artist at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Janette Simpson, spoke to me at length about the genesis of her commitment to Free Your Voice’s organizing, and how that commitment deepened and extended her work with other campaigns originating with The Worker Justice Center. Free Your Voice students approached Simpson, with their teacher Daniel Murphy acting as their mediator, about incorporating her work in theater into their campaign.12 They sent her a recent report on the environmental history of the peninsula and asked that she read it. That report became the hook that convinced Simpson to collaborate:

I had been thinking about how art and artists can serve social movements, and how artists also have agency in the making of their artwork. Or maybe thinking about autonomy. Free Your Voice youth suggested I read the Diamond report, which was written by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland Law School. I remember being like, Wow! What a story! All these visuals came to my mind... like the guano factories, the ships, these agricultural communities, this Black community versus the white community... the relationship to the water and the relationship to the city. So I decided I would try to illustrate a version of that report in a way. Like, what did people look like in 1800s, and what were they wearing? ... Then I realized that this is not my history, who am I to tell someone else’s story? I need to think more symbolically, and then it came to me to write this illustrative history as a fable or an allegory.

Which is what she did, alongside Terrel Jones (whose childhood lived experiences I detailed in chapter 2). Terrel and Simpson created a crankie, an old storytelling art form popular in the nineteenth century that includes a long, illustrated scroll wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box that has a viewing screen and the scroll is then hand-cranked, hence the name “crankie.” While the story is told, a tune is played or a song is sung. Terrel and Simpson created a show for the anti-incinerator campaign that was performed throughout the city for audiences of all ages and walks of life. The Holey Land, as their show was titled, was an allegory about the powerful connection between people and the place they call home. In this tale, the Peninsula People and the magic in their land are threatened when a stranger with a tall hat and a shovel shows up with big ideas for “improving” their community. As storybook images scroll past the viewing screen, the vibrant and colorful pictures of a peninsula rich in natural resources, including orange and pink fish, slowly get usurped by those of the man with the shovel building his factories, and the Peninsula People are left to ponder the fate of their land. The story ends with a surprising twist, and a hopeful message about a community’s ability to determine their own future.

Hitting the Books: High school students have spent a decade fighting Baltimore’s toxic legacy

There was a time in the last century when we, quite foolishly, believed incineration to be a superior means of waste disposal than landfills. And, for decades, many of America's most disadvantaged have been paying for those decisions with with their lifespans. South Baltimore's Curtis Bay neighborhood, for example, is home to two medical waste incinerators and an open-air coal mine. It's ranked in the 95th percentile for hazardous waste and boasts among the highest rates of asthma and lung disease in the entire country. 

The city's largest trash incinerator is the Wheelabrator–BRESCO, which burns through 2,250 tons of garbage a day. It has been in operation since the 1970s, belching out everything from mercury and lead to hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and chromium into the six surrounding working-class neighborhoods and the people who live there. In 2011, students from Benjamin Franklin High School began to push back against the construction of a new incinerator, setting off a decade-long struggle that pitted high school and college students against the power of City Hall.

In Fighting to Breathe: Race, Toxicity, and the Rise of Youth Activism in Baltimore, Dr. Nicole Fabricant, Professor of Anthropology at Towson University in Maryland, chronicles the students' participatory action research between 2011 and 2021, organizing and mobilizing their communities to fight back against a century of environmental injustice, racism and violence in one of the nation's most polluted cities. In the excerpt below, Fabricant discusses the use of art — specifically that of crankies — in movement building.

An industrial site in South Baltimore, dingy, yellowing buildings with gasses escaping tall smokestacks against a grey overcast sky. Fighting to Breathe is written in lime green capital block letters with the author's name running along the bottom edge of the cover in white text.
University of California Press

Excerpted from Fighting to Breathe: Race, Toxicity, and the Rise of Youth Activism in Baltimore by Nicole Fabricant, published by University of California Press. Copyright 2022.


Making Connections: Fairfield Houses and Environmental Displacement 

As the students developed independent investigations, they discovered what had happened in the campaigns against toxins that preceded their own struggle against the incinerator. They learned that the Fairfield neighborhood, before being relocated to its current site, had been situated near to where Energy Answers was planning to build their trash-to-energy incinerator. At the time of the students’ investigations, this area was an abandoned industrial site surrounded by heavy diesel truck traffic, polluting chemical and fertilizer industries, and abandoned brownfield sites.

Students read that the City had built basic infrastructure in Wagner’s Point, the all-white (though poor and white ethnic, to be clear) community on the peninsula in the 1950s, nearly thirty years before doing so in Fairfield, which was located alongside Wagner’s Point but all (or almost all) Black. As Destiny reiterated to me in the Fall of 2019: 

Wagner’s Point was predominantly white and Fairfield predominantly Black, but both communities were company towns, living in poverty, working in dangerous hazardous conditions, and forced to live in a toxic environment.... On the surface, this history can be read as a story of two communities, different in culture and race, facing the issue together. But this ignores the issue of racism that divided the two communities. For instance, Fairfield did not get access to plumbing... until well into the 1970s. This is an example of structural racism. It is also a story not told by our history books.

The students talked in small groups about systemic and structural racism and unfair housing policies. They investigated the evacuation of Fairfield Housing. They learned that former residents were forcibly relocated to public housing and were offered $22,500 for renters and up too $5,250 per household. They also received moving costs of up to $1,500 per household. When 14 households remained in Fairfield a decade later, then-Mayor Kurt Schmoke stated that he would prefer to move all residents out of Fairfield, but the city did not have any money for relocation. This history provoked Free Your Voice youth to think beyond their community to how structural racism shaped citywide decisions and policies. 

Despite attempts to integrate school systems in the 1950s and the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s intended, specifically, to mitigate racism in housing policies, the provision of public education and the regulation of housing practices remained uneven in the 1970s (and into the present). Students learned that in 1979 a CSX railroad car carrying nine thousand gallons of highly concentrated sulfuric acid overturned and the Fairfield Homes public housing complex was temporarily evacuated. That same year, they read, an explosion at the British Petroleum oil tank, located on Fairfield Peninsula, set off a seven-alarm fire. All of this led the students to deeper inquiry.

Figuring out the ways in which structural racism shaped contemporary ideas about people, bodies, and space is something that Destiny often referred to when speaking publicly. Destiny explained that studying “history allowed us to see our community in a way that gave us the ability to build power or collective strength. So, how do you confront this history, this marketplace?” Building power within the school was about “re-education,” she said, but it was also about rebuilding social relationships across the community and helping residents to understand the structural conditions and histories sustaining inequities that others (especially white others) tried to explain away using racist stereotypes and tropes (e.g., Black youth as “thugs”; “they’re poor because they’re lazy”). These tropes subtly and not so subtly suggested racial and cultural inferiority.

As a group, the students worked to establish a presence in the community and to create spontaneous spaces for dialogue and discussion. They attended a Fairfield reunion in Curtis Bay Park during the summer of 2013, where approximately 150 former Fairfield Homes residents gathered to celebrate their history, reminisce, and have a cookout together. Gathered on the grass next to the Curtis Bay Recreation Center, former residents reminisced about what life was like in the projects. At one point, an elder participant shared with Destiny, “Fairfield was the Cadillac of housing projects.... We were all a family, we took care of one another.” The Free Your Voice students engaged with living history as they listened and learned.

For many of the students, the combined processes of reading texts and listening to elder residents’ stories moved them from numbness to awareness. Being able to discuss what they learned in sophisticated conversations with their peers and the experts they sought out helped to build their confidence as activists and adult interlocutors.

Arts and Performance in Movement Building: The Crankie 

While analysis and study were key to building change campaigns, the students also recognized that building a sociopolitical movement of economically disadvantaged people required more than mobilizing bodies. To be effective, they were going to have to move hearts and minds.

In 2014, Free Your Voice students decided to strengthen the emotional and relationship building aspects of their campaign by adopting art forms, including performance and storytelling, into their communication efforts. Destiny began a speech she delivered at The Worker Justice Center human rights dinner in 2015 by quoting W.E.B. Dubois: “‘Art is not simply works of art; it is the spirit that knows beauty, that has music in its being and the color of sunsets in its handkerchiefs, that can dance on a flaming world and make the world dance, too’” (Watford 2015). Art — in the form of a vintage performance genre known as “the crankie” and rap songs — became a tool the students utilized to tell their stories to much broader publics and to boost emotional connections with their allies. Performances particularly allowed youth to be creative and inventive. Their productions were often malleable. Sometimes, Free Your Voice youth would rewrite a script based on audience feedback. As a result, their performances were often improvisational, and they invited residents to be a part of the storytelling. This allowed the student-performers to develop strong narrative structures and especially realistic characters. 

Not only did students do art, but they also invited artists, including performers, to join the Dream Team to broaden both the appeal and impact of the Stop the Incinerator campaign. One artist at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Janette Simpson, spoke to me at length about the genesis of her commitment to Free Your Voice’s organizing, and how that commitment deepened and extended her work with other campaigns originating with The Worker Justice Center. Free Your Voice students approached Simpson, with their teacher Daniel Murphy acting as their mediator, about incorporating her work in theater into their campaign.12 They sent her a recent report on the environmental history of the peninsula and asked that she read it. That report became the hook that convinced Simpson to collaborate:

I had been thinking about how art and artists can serve social movements, and how artists also have agency in the making of their artwork. Or maybe thinking about autonomy. Free Your Voice youth suggested I read the Diamond report, which was written by a team of researchers from the University of Maryland Law School. I remember being like, Wow! What a story! All these visuals came to my mind... like the guano factories, the ships, these agricultural communities, this Black community versus the white community... the relationship to the water and the relationship to the city. So I decided I would try to illustrate a version of that report in a way. Like, what did people look like in 1800s, and what were they wearing? ... Then I realized that this is not my history, who am I to tell someone else’s story? I need to think more symbolically, and then it came to me to write this illustrative history as a fable or an allegory.

Which is what she did, alongside Terrel Jones (whose childhood lived experiences I detailed in chapter 2). Terrel and Simpson created a crankie, an old storytelling art form popular in the nineteenth century that includes a long, illustrated scroll wound onto two spools. The spools are loaded into a box that has a viewing screen and the scroll is then hand-cranked, hence the name “crankie.” While the story is told, a tune is played or a song is sung. Terrel and Simpson created a show for the anti-incinerator campaign that was performed throughout the city for audiences of all ages and walks of life. The Holey Land, as their show was titled, was an allegory about the powerful connection between people and the place they call home. In this tale, the Peninsula People and the magic in their land are threatened when a stranger with a tall hat and a shovel shows up with big ideas for “improving” their community. As storybook images scroll past the viewing screen, the vibrant and colorful pictures of a peninsula rich in natural resources, including orange and pink fish, slowly get usurped by those of the man with the shovel building his factories, and the Peninsula People are left to ponder the fate of their land. The story ends with a surprising twist, and a hopeful message about a community’s ability to determine their own future.

ChatGPT (barely) passed graduate business and law exams

There's plenty of concern that OpenAI's ChatGPT could help students cheat on tests, but just how well would the chatbot fare if you asked it to write a graduate-level exam? It would pass — if only just. In a newly published study, University of Minnesota law professors had ChatGPT produce answers for graduate exams at four courses in their school. The AI passed all four, but with an average grade of C+. In another recent paper, Wharton School of Business professor Christian Terwiesch found that ChatGPT passed a business management exam with a B to B- grade. You wouldn't want to use the technology to impress academics, then.

The research teams found the AI to be inconsistent, to put it mildly. The University of Minnesota group noted that ChatGPT was good at addressing "basic legal rules" and summarizing doctrines, but floundered when trying to pinpoint issues relevant to a case. Terwiesch said the generator was "amazing" with simple operations management and process analysis questions, but couldn't handle advanced process questions. It even made mistakes with 6th grade-level math.

There's room for improvement. The Minnesota professors said they didn't adapt text generation prompts to specific courses or questions, and believed students could get better results with customization. At Wharton, Terwiesch said the bot was adept at changing answers in response to human coaching. ChatGPT might not ace an exam or essay by itself, but a cheater could have the system generate rough answers and refine them.

Both camps warned that schools should limit the use of technology to prevent ChatGPT-based cheating. They also recommended altering the questions to either discourage AI use (such as focusing on analysis rather than reciting rules) or increase the challenge for those people leaning on AI. Students still need to learn "fundamental skills" rather than leaning on a bot for help, the University of Minnesota said.

The study groups still believed that ChatGPT could have a place in the classroom. Professors could teach pupils how to rely on AI in the workplace, or even use it to write and grade exams. The tech could ultimately save time that could be spent on the students, Terwiesch explains, such as more student meetings and new course material.

ChatGPT (barely) passed graduate business and law exams

There's plenty of concern that OpenAI's ChatGPT could help students cheat on tests, but just how well would the chatbot fare if you asked it to write a graduate-level exam? It would pass — if only just. In a newly published study, University of Minnesota law professors had ChatGPT produce answers for graduate exams at four courses in their school. The AI passed all four, but with an average grade of C+. In another recent paper, Wharton School of Business professor Christian Terwiesch found that ChatGPT passed a business management exam with a B to B- grade. You wouldn't want to use the technology to impress academics, then.

The research teams found the AI to be inconsistent, to put it mildly. The University of Minnesota group noted that ChatGPT was good at addressing "basic legal rules" and summarizing doctrines, but floundered when trying to pinpoint issues relevant to a case. Terwiesch said the generator was "amazing" with simple operations management and process analysis questions, but couldn't handle advanced process questions. It even made mistakes with 6th grade-level math.

There's room for improvement. The Minnesota professors said they didn't adapt text generation prompts to specific courses or questions, and believed students could get better results with customization. At Wharton, Terwiesch said the bot was adept at changing answers in response to human coaching. ChatGPT might not ace an exam or essay by itself, but a cheater could have the system generate rough answers and refine them.

Both camps warned that schools should limit the use of technology to prevent ChatGPT-based cheating. They also recommended altering the questions to either discourage AI use (such as focusing on analysis rather than reciting rules) or increase the challenge for those people leaning on AI. Students still need to learn "fundamental skills" rather than leaning on a bot for help, the University of Minnesota said.

The study groups still believed that ChatGPT could have a place in the classroom. Professors could teach pupils how to rely on AI in the workplace, or even use it to write and grade exams. The tech could ultimately save time that could be spent on the students, Terwiesch explains, such as more student meetings and new course material.

Twitter engineers can still use ‘GodMode’ to tweet as any account, claims whistleblower

Twitter has a new whistleblower, as another former employee has sounded the alarm about security issues, according toThe Washington Post. The new complainant, who has spoken with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), says any Twitter engineer still has access to an internal program — formerly called “GodMode” — that lets them tweet from any account.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleges GodMode (now renamed to “privileged mode”) remains on the laptop of any engineer who wants it, requiring only a production computer and a simple code change from “FALSE” to “TRUE.” Screenshots of the code, included in an October complaint filed with the FTC, show a warning to anyone attempting to use it: “THINK BEFORE YOU DO THIS.”

This isn't the first time Twitter security has drawn scrutiny. In 2020, teenage crypto scammers hacked the company’s internal systems, sending fake tweets from the accounts of President Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Musk and others. Twitter’s at-the-time executives said they had fixed the issue and launched a “comprehensive information security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of nonpublic consumer information.”

However, Twitter’s first whistleblower, Peiter Zatko, disputed that. Another engineer claimed at the time that GodMode was still widely available.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Tesla CEO Elon Musk leaves the Phillip Burton Federal Building on January 24, 2023 in San Francisco, California. Musk testified at a trial regarding a lawsuit that has investors suing Tesla and Musk over his August 2018 tweets saying he was taking Tesla private with funding that he had secured. The tweet was found to be false and cost shareholders billions of dollars when Tesla's stock price began to fluctuate wildly allegedly based on the tweet. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The new complainant’s filing says the incident led to Twitter reopening the case, which sparked the discovery that engineers could also delete or restore anyone’s tweets. (Regular Twitter users can't do either.) He also claims Twitter can’t log who, if anyone, uses or abuses any of the special privileges.

The new whistleblower’s complaint was filed by Whistleblower Aid, the same nonprofit firm representing Zatko. The FTC is reportedly interviewing former Twitter employees about the allegations.

Twitter engineers can still use ‘GodMode’ to tweet as any account, claims whistleblower

Twitter has a new whistleblower, as another former employee has sounded the alarm about security issues, according toThe Washington Post. The new complainant, who has spoken with Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), says any Twitter engineer still has access to an internal program — formerly called “GodMode” — that lets them tweet from any account.

The whistleblower’s complaint alleges GodMode (now renamed to “privileged mode”) remains on the laptop of any engineer who wants it, requiring only a production computer and a simple code change from “FALSE” to “TRUE.” Screenshots of the code, included in an October complaint filed with the FTC, show a warning to anyone attempting to use it: “THINK BEFORE YOU DO THIS.”

This isn't the first time Twitter security has drawn scrutiny. In 2020, teenage crypto scammers hacked the company’s internal systems, sending fake tweets from the accounts of President Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Musk and others. Twitter’s at-the-time executives said they had fixed the issue and launched a “comprehensive information security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality, and integrity of nonpublic consumer information.”

However, Twitter’s first whistleblower, Peiter Zatko, disputed that. Another engineer claimed at the time that GodMode was still widely available.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Tesla CEO Elon Musk leaves the Phillip Burton Federal Building on January 24, 2023 in San Francisco, California. Musk testified at a trial regarding a lawsuit that has investors suing Tesla and Musk over his August 2018 tweets saying he was taking Tesla private with funding that he had secured. The tweet was found to be false and cost shareholders billions of dollars when Tesla's stock price began to fluctuate wildly allegedly based on the tweet. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

The new complainant’s filing says the incident led to Twitter reopening the case, which sparked the discovery that engineers could also delete or restore anyone’s tweets. (Regular Twitter users can't do either.) He also claims Twitter can’t log who, if anyone, uses or abuses any of the special privileges.

The new whistleblower’s complaint was filed by Whistleblower Aid, the same nonprofit firm representing Zatko. The FTC is reportedly interviewing former Twitter employees about the allegations.

Tesla’s Model Y could fall foul of new EV tax credit eligibility rules

Certain variants of Tesla's Model Y may not qualify for the $7,500 federal EV tax credit based on the IRS's latest guidelines, a situation that Elon Musk has called "messed up." It looks as though the five-seat Long Range version of the hatchback is too expensive as a car and not considered an SUV, so it falls outside the current guidelines. That could change, though, as the rules won't be finalized until March 2023.

The IRS has divided vehicles into two categories: vans, SUVs and pickup trucks under $80,000, and other vehicles under $55,000. For the first category, the vehicle must have 4-wheel drive or be rated at more than 6,000 pounds of gross weight. It also has to meet four of five other characteristics, most notably front and rear axle clearances of 18 centimeters or higher and a running clearance of at least 20 centimeters (no Model Y meets these specs).

Tesla Model Y tax credits
Internal Revenue Service

According to the IRS, only the 7-seat variants of the Model Y qualify as SUVs in the category up to $80,000, while the 5-seat vehicles (Long Range, AWD and Performance) are in the $55,000 section. The 7-seaters comfortably fall under the $85,000 limit, but all the 5-seaters exceed the $55,000 price, so they don't qualify.

 Tesla doesn't have a specific AWD variant of the Model Y in the US (both the Long Range and Performance models are AWD), so it's not clear which model the IRS is referring to. The 5- and 7-seat versions cost the same, starting at $65,990 for the Long Range version before destination and order charges.  

Critics are pointing out that far more polluting hybrid vehicles qualify for the tax credits, including two Jeeps, the Audi Q5 e Quattro, BMW X5 xDrive45e and Ford's Escape PHEV. However, if someone buys a Jeep Wrangler with 56 MPGe (23 MPG after the battery is depleted) instead of a Tesla Model Y with 122 MPGe, then the government clearly isn't doing the most it can to reduce carbon emissions. The IRS has invited consumers to comment on the matter, and Musk encouraged people to do so in a tweet. 

Scientists may have found an affordable way to destroy forever chemicals

A team of scientists may have found a safe and affordable way to destroy “forever chemicals.” PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are found in many household items, including non-stick Teflon pans and dental floss. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, at least 12,000 such substances exist today. They all share one common feature between them: a carbon-fluorine backbone that is one of the strongest known bonds in organic chemistry. It’s what gives PFAS-treated cookware its non-stick quality. However, that same characteristic can make those substances harmful to humans.

Since they’re so durable from a molecular perspective, PFAS can stay in soil and water for generations. Scientists have shown that prolonged exposure to them can lead to an increased risk of some cancers, reduced immunity and developmental effects on children. Researchers have spent years trying to find a way to destroy the carbon-fluorine bond that makes PFAS so stubborn, but a breakthrough could be in sight.

In a study published Thursday in the journal Science, a group of chemists from UCLA, Northwestern University and China found that a mixture of sodium hydroxide, a chemical used in lye, and an organic solvent called dimethyl sulfoxide was effective at breaking down a large subgroup of PFAS known as perfluoro carboxylic acids or PFCAs. When lead author Brittany Trang heated the mixture between 175 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit (about 79 to 121 degrees Celsius), it began breaking down the bonds between the PFAS molecules. After a few days, the mixture can even reduce any fluorine byproducts into harmless molecules. The sodium hydroxide is part of what makes the mixture so potent. It bonds with PFAS molecules after the dimethyl sulfoxide softens them and hastens their breakdown.

Professor William Dichtel, one of the study's co-authors, told The New York Times there’s a lot of work to be done before the solution works outside the lab. There’s also the enormity of the problem. In February, scientists estimated that humans are putting approximately 50,000 tons of PFAS chemicals into the atmosphere every year. Another recent study found that rainwater everywhere on Earth is unsafe to drink due to the ubiquity of those substances. However, scientists are understandably excited about Trang’s discovery since it may help researchers find other novel ways to destroy PFAS.

College textbook maker Pearson eyes NFTs to claim a cut of second-hand sales

NFT advocates often tout the technology's ability to grant the creator a cut of second-hand sales as one of its major attributes. Artists can earn from one of their digital creations years after first selling it. Others are looking at NFTs to earn a buck from the secondary market too, including the publishers of college textbooks.

Pearson, which said in 2019 it would focus on digital textbook sales, wants a piece of the action. “In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” CEO Andy Bird told Bloomberg this week. “The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life."

There's an obvious reason why students resell textbooks. They're expensive! Students often have to spend hundreds of dollars on required materials each semester — or even hundreds of dollars on a single textbook. Selling on a textbook when it's no longer needed just makes sense.

Turning textbooks into NFTs and banking on the blockchain to track ownership of them (from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” as Bird put it) seems unnecessary, though. Digital rights management already exists and doesn't need to go anywhere near cryptocurrency. Pearson has a $15 per month subscription service for its textbooks as well.

Bird could simply be bloviating about a zeitgeisty technology to try and keep Pearson's investors happy — even though NFT sales have plummeted this year. In any case, there's still not much he or Pearson could do to stop students from screenshotting every page of a textbook before selling it on.

College textbook maker Pearson eyes NFTs to claim a cut of second-hand sales

NFT advocates often tout the technology's ability to grant the creator a cut of second-hand sales as one of its major attributes. Artists can earn from one of their digital creations years after first selling it. Others are looking at NFTs to earn a buck from the secondary market too, including the publishers of college textbooks.

Pearson, which said in 2019 it would focus on digital textbook sales, wants a piece of the action. “In the analogue world, a Pearson textbook was resold up to seven times, and we would only participate in the first sale,” CEO Andy Bird told Bloomberg this week. “The move to digital helps diminish the secondary market, and technology like blockchain and NFTs allows us to participate in every sale of that particular item as it goes through its life."

There's an obvious reason why students resell textbooks. They're expensive! Students often have to spend hundreds of dollars on required materials each semester — or even hundreds of dollars on a single textbook. Selling on a textbook when it's no longer needed just makes sense.

Turning textbooks into NFTs and banking on the blockchain to track ownership of them (from “owner A to owner B to owner C,” as Bird put it) seems unnecessary, though. Digital rights management already exists and doesn't need to go anywhere near cryptocurrency. Pearson has a $15 per month subscription service for its textbooks as well.

Bird could simply be bloviating about a zeitgeisty technology to try and keep Pearson's investors happy — even though NFT sales have plummeted this year. In any case, there's still not much he or Pearson could do to stop students from screenshotting every page of a textbook before selling it on.