Thursday, March 17, 2011

NY paywall coming soon.

The New York Times announced "digital subscriptions" on Thursday, revealing the long-awaited details of its paywall plan. Starting March 28, non-subscribers will be able to read only 20 online articles for free each month.

Home delivery subscribers can continue to access online and app content for free. Non-subscribers can choose from three packages: $15 per month for Web access and smartphone content; $20 for Web plus access to the Times iPad app; and $35 for Web, tablet and smartphone access.

There's still some room for free, though: Readers who reach online Times articles through links from search engines, blogs and social media will be able to access those individual articles, even if they have reached the 20-article monthly limit.

But for some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links. The New York Times' press release on its plan did not specify which search engines will be affected, but a Times article on the plan said there will be a five-link limit through Google (GOOG, Fortune 500).

The homepage at and all section fronts will remain free to browse at all times. The "Top News" section will remain free on the Times' smartphone and tablet applications.


WTF: Nazi books suddenly huge in Britain.

Booze: 14 surprising facts about beer.

Lame: GOP-run House votes to terminate Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Media: Fox News' union-busting crusade.

McDonald's partners with WWF on sustainability plan.

A step in the right direction. From Fast Company:
Most people who buy a Big Mac aren't concerned about where it came from--or whether the accompanying fries are made using sustainable palm oil. But apparently, McDonald's cares. The company recently announced its Sustainable Land Management Commitment, a pledge to work with suppliers that ensure agricultural raw materials and packaging come from sustainable sources. First up: beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil, and packaging.

McDonald's started looking at its supply chain impact in 2009. As part of a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, the fast food chain invited in the nonprofit for an unfettered look at what McDonald's buys, how much it purchases, and who it buys from. The WWF performed a detailed analysis, and came up with the five categories listed above as a starting point. "This year is mostly about goals and targets," says Bob Langert, VP of Corporate Responsibility at McDonald's.

The top priority for McDonald's is cleaning up the beef supply chain. "Beef has its fair share of impacts on the world, and we have a role to play to reduce its impact. We have done a carbon footprint analysis, and beef rises to the top as the number one priority," says Langert. In concrete terms, that means keeping track of and reducing CO2 emissions from farms, as well as developing a program to trace and certify sustainable beef in the Amazon to make sure that no beef from deforested areas is used.

McDonald's next priority is the poultry supply chain, and more specifically, the impact of poultry feed on rainforest destruction. " The impacts of how animal feed like soya is grown and raised is almost equal to the impact of the animal itself," explains Langert. McDonald's has already committed to a moratorium on soya purchased from deforested areas in the Amazon. The company is still trying to figure out next steps.

Most of McDonald's goals are still being formulated--the most comprehensive goal this far is for palm oil (the company plans to use only certified sustainable palm oil by 2015). And foodies hoping for the chain to start using only local, grass-fed organic beef should look elsewhere. But whenever a gigantic corporation like McDonald's shifts its food policies in the right direction, attention must be paid.

US alarmed at Japan's nuclear crisis response.

I feel terrible for Japan, but their attempt to contain this crisis seems even less competent than BP during the oil spill. Helicopters with buckets of water? Item.
U.S. officials are alarmed at how the Japanese are handling the escalating nuclear reactor crisis and fear that if they do not get control of the plants within the next 24 to 48 hours they could have a situation that will be "deadly for decades."

"It would be hard to describe how alarming this is right now," one U.S. official told ABC News.

President Obama has been briefed by nuclear experts.

The Japanese have evacuated most of the reactor personnel from the Fukushima nuclear complex and are rotating teams of 50 workers through the facility in an attempt to cool it down.

"We are all-out urging the Japanese to get more people back in there to do emergency operation there, that the next 24 to 48 hours are critical," the official said. "Urgent efforts are needed on the part of the Japanese to restore emergency operations to cool" down the reactors' rods before they trigger a meltdown.

"They need to stop pulling out people—and step up with getting them back in the reactor to cool it. There is a recognition this is a suicide mission," the official said.

The official said the United States is in very deep consultations with Japanese about the way forward and that the only thing that has been favorable is the wind pattern that is blowing the contaminated material out to sea instead south towards Tokyo and other populated areas, but that can't be counted upon.

The U.S. official says experts believe there is a rupture in two, maybe three of the six reactors at the Fukushima power plant, but as worrisome is the fact that spent fuel rods are now exposed to the air, which means that substances like cesium, which have a long half-life, could become airborne.

"That could be deadly for decades," the official said.

There is a growing concern around the world that a nuclear catastrophic disaster is in the works.

"There is talk of an apocalypse and I think the word is particularly well chosen," European Union's energy commissioner G√ľnther Oettinger said today, according to various reports. "Practically everything is out of control. I cannot exclude the worst in the hours and days to come."