Andrew Wheeler, the new acting head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is intent, it seems, on continuing the brief but controversial legacy of his scandal-hit predecessor Scott Pruitt, who resigned last month. Among Wheeler’s first major aims, announced yesterday, is to ease regulations on how much pollution US-made cars emit. The EPA wants to lock current vehicle-efficiency standards – that is, the number of miles to the gallon for an engine – from 2020 to 2026. Obama-era guidelines had slated 2020 for a further tightening of the legislation but Wheeler claims that would raise the cost of car-manufacturing. The proposal, which the EPA wants to rollout federally, will irk California and the 13 other states that set their own fuel-efficiency standards, rules that are, on the whole, more stringent than the national ones. One thing is for certain: Wheeler’s opponents will exhaust all options before accepting the new legislation.
In recent years it has become difficult to hail a traditional taxi in most major cities without becoming ensnared in a conversation about how Uber or Lyft are ruining the industry. So much so that even people whose morals conflict with technology giants’ gig-economy approach to mobility – low pay for drivers, price hikes and the rating system – are using them. In Spain, resistance to ride-sharing apps flared up last week as thousands of taxi drivers took part in strikes that spread from Barcelona to Madrid. The protests ended on Wednesday evening as the government agreed to place a restriction on the number of licenses granted to Uber and equivalent services, meaning that there will be just one ride-sharing driver for every 30 taxi drivers throughout the country. Mobility seems to be one area where governments are prepared to legislate to restrict the market domination of big technology.
Last year London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, outlined a new vision. London, he said, was to become a truly 24-hour city – one that could put Berlin, Tokyo and even New York to shame. Alas, those sentiments have rung hollow for the city’s night owls. The past three years has seen an extraordinary decline in the number of late-night options open to party-hopping Londoners: 50 per cent of the city’s nightclubs closed in the five years to 2016. The appointment of an official “night tsar” did little to reverse the decline and only last month the borough of Hackney, renowned for its nightlife, brought in new licensing regulations that were described as the “toughest restrictions in Britain”. All is not lost, however. A new 24-hour club, in the style of Berlin’s notorious night spot Berghain is set to open later this month. Called Fold, it promises programming from techno and electro outfits such as Dimensions, Body Hammer and Make Me, and it will feature a unique membership scheme as well as a recording studio. Perhaps there’s hope for an open-all-hours city after all.
The Melbourne International Film Festival (Miff) opens its annual celebration of independent cinema today. In recent years the city has experienced a boom in the number of privately run theatres, a welcome trend when you consider how the rise of the multiplex has forced many smaller screening rooms around the world to close. Melbourne has long understood the value of an eclectic, city-grown arts landscape in attracting international talent, and this year’s Miff line-up embodies that philosophy. Island of the Hungry Ghosts, directed by Gabrielle Brady, won best documentary feature at Tribeca this year; Asghar Farhadi’s acclaimed Everybody Knows is another gem. Other screenings to watch are Now Sound by Melbourne’s own Tobias Willis, documenting the city’s thriving music scene, and Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki, a moving lesbian romance from Kenya that was banned in its home country.
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