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India: PM's Address at the Inaugural Session of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit | Press Information Bureau

Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s address at the inaugural session of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit in New Delhi today:

“I am very happy to be present here today in the midst of such a distinguished gathering on the occasion of the inaugural session of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2013. I would particularly like to extend a very warm welcome to the numerous foreign dignitaries who have come to Delhi from all over the world to attend this event.

Since 2001, the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit has evolved into a unique gathering in the global sustainable development calendar, attracting and providing a platform for some of the best minds and leaders from all over the world who have an abiding concern for protecting the fragile ecosystems of our planet. I congratulate The Energy and Resources Institute and Dr. Pachauri for this initiative and for their unstinted commitment to sustainable development.

The world community met in Rio last year on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the path-breaking Rio Summit of 1992. Rio+20 was a poignant reminder that the ambitious goals that we had set for ourselves at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 remain far from being realized. It also served to remind us that a meaningful consensus on environmental and ecological issues is perhaps harder to achieve today than it was some 20 years ago.

But, it is not as if we have achieved nothing during this period. We have witnessed an extraordinary and welcome growth of environmental consciousness in the world and we can take great satisfaction from the fact that sustainable development today is an accepted and integral part of international discourse. The global environmental agenda and the global development agenda are now closely inter-linked, with the economic, environmental and social pillars of sustainable development providing a sound framework. The Rio principles of 1992 are still seen as relevant and fundamental, and were reaffirmed at Rio+20.

 

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California tries to make strawberry patches safer by limiting one nasty pesticide | Susan Cosier | onEarth.org

California tries to make strawberry patches safer by limiting one nasty pesticide | Susan Cosier | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Plump, juicy, and delicious, strawberries are everywhere nowadays. The red berries, which bring splashes of color to cereal, ice cream, and salads, are available in stores all year long. In fact, we eat twice as many strawberries as we did in 2002, thanks largely to pesticides (insects and weeds love the fruit, too).

Those chemicals, however, can make people living near strawberry farms sick, so the state of California, where the vast majority of strawberries are grown, is restricting how farmers use one pesticide in particular.

Chloropicrin is a potent fumigant applied to the soil before crops are planted. It kills microbes, fungi, weeds, insects, worms—you name it. During World War I, armies used it as an agent of chemical warfare; it would penetrate gas masks and make soldiers vomit, forcing them to remove their masks, which would then leave them vulnerable to other, even more harmful gases.

Chloropicrin’s military days are over, but farmers in California used more than nine million pounds of it in 2012, 70 percent on strawberry fields, to increase yields. In recent years, the amount applied to crops has been increasing because an alternative, methyl bromide, is being phased out under international restrictions on ozone-depleting chemicals. This month the California Department of Pesticide Regulation set limits on chloropicrin use to help protect those who work, live, and go to school near the fields.


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New England’s energy threatened by natural gas line capacity | Luther Trumelle | New Haven Register

New England’s energy threatened by natural gas line capacity | Luther Trumelle | New Haven Register | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The president and chief executive officer of the organization that runs New England’s electric grid said Wednesday that the energy system in the region “is in a period of transition.”

ISO-New England’s Gordon van Welie said the region is facing at least three or four more winters in which a lack of transmission line capacity for natural gas — the predominant fuel used in running power plants in the six states — could create volatility in the pricing of electricity and “serious reliability challenges.” But van Welie stopped short of predicting the region could face brown-outs — reductions in power levels — or blackouts.

“We will continue to see volatility (in electric prices),” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have a mild winter thus far. But that’s not something that we can count on in the future.”

A combination of factors has led to the volatility of electric prices, van Welie said.

Prior to 2013, New England had a surplus of power plants available to generate electricity. But since then, he said operators of power plants have begun shutting down some of the older generation units, actions that will reduce the region’s generation capacity by 3,500 megawatts through 2017.

New Jersey-based NRG Energy shut down its Norwalk Harbor power plant in June 2013, taking 342 megawatts of generating capacity with it. At the end of 2014, the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant was shutdown, which reduced the region’s generation capacity by another 604 megawatts.

Even before the older power plants started to be retired, new power plants were being brought on line, with generating units capable of producing 15,000 megawatts being added. The majority of those power plants run on natural gas, which has increased the usage of natural gas for generation from 15 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2014.

But van Welie said construction of natural gas pipelines has not kept pace with the construction of the power plants that run on the fuel.


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Boom: North America's Explosive Oil-By-Rail Problem | The Weather Channel & Inside Climate News

On July 6, 2013, a train hauling two million gallons of crude oil exploded in the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic, killing 47 people. It took two days to put out the fire and devastated the small community.

That catastrophe had its origin in America. For five years, a boom in oil production has been taking place in the Bakkan Shale region of North Dakota. Oil from the Bakkan is transported across the U.S. and Canada by rail to refineries on the coasts – it was one of these trains that derailed in Lac-Megantic.


The sharp increase in domestic oil production has created jobs, decreased economic vulnerability to turmoil in the Middle East, and lowered prices of gasoline and home heating oil.


But there's another side to this story.


In "Boom," a joint investigation by The Weather Channel and InsideClimate News, we explore how the boom in oil has resulted in highly volatile crude oil being sent over aging, often defective rails in vulnerable railcars.


Rail accidents involving oil trains have been on the rise. But industry and regulators have been slow react. Will it take another Lac-Megantic to make America's towns and cities safer?


Read the full report here: stories.weather.com/boom


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Henry A. Giroux: Searching for Radical Democracy in the Ruins of Capitalism's Economic Depravity | Chuck Mertz | Truth-Out.org

Henry A. Giroux: Searching for Radical Democracy in the Ruins of Capitalism's Economic Depravity | Chuck Mertz | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The future demands a new political consciousness. We can't just wait for neoliberal economics to tear apart society and then build from scratch.


In this interview, Giroux both condemns the scourge of neoliberalism and its poisonous cynicism and attack on the critical imagination and argues for a radical democracy that has to be truly participatory and willing to give power to all people so that they can intervene in and shape values, policies, the practices that shape their lives.


For Giroux, resistance is impossible without education and a critical formative culture that addresses both the creation of new historical and political agents as well as the possibility of a new society. He also argues that resistance if it's to be successful, it needs to go beyond the fragmentation, sectarianism, and political purity that has plagued the left.


In pointing to a politics of hope, he argues that now is the time to develop systemic reforms, develop alternative public spheres, and a social movement that embraces a comprehensive view of politics and change.


Cultural critic Henry Giroux published his thoughts in the Truthout analysis article Authoritarianism, Class Warfare and the Advance of Neoliberal Austerity Policies. Author and cultural critic Henry Giroux holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies.


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Eighty People Control Half of the World's Wealth and All of the Elected Officials | Crystal Shepeard | Truth-Out.org

Eighty People Control Half of the World's Wealth and All of the Elected Officials | Crystal Shepeard | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting began in Davos, Switzerland. The meeting convenes “global leaders from across business, government, international organizations, academia and civil society for strategic dialogues which map the key transformations reshaping the world.” The hope is that the dialogue will lead to action on the part of the participating nations to improve conditions in their own communities, with an understanding that we are all globally connected. The idea is that the actions in one community can affect another anywhere in the world.

The current state of global economic inequality shows just how tenuous that connection is.

In what has now become tradition, Oxfam International, a confederation of organizations dedicated to fighting poverty, issued a report on the current state of economic inequality. Last year’s report sent shockwaves through the world by announcing that just 85 people controlled the same amount of wealth as the bottom 3 billion people combined. That was even more dramatic than 2010 when it took 388 people to control that much wealth.

Today, the bulk of the wealth is in the hands of just 80 people.

The reasons for the dramatic change are much as they have always been. The global recession had disproportionate negative effects on those in the middle and bottom of the economic scale. As most of the population slid down the scale, the recovery went quickly upwards. While the majority of the population relied on income, which decreased or disappeared, the rich had assets. Those assets grew in value just as the returns on investments began to bounce back. The rich got richer simply because with assets, it’s difficult to not remain wealthy.


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Message to the UK: The Fracking Bridge is Already Burning | Naomi Klein | Common Dreams

Message to the UK: The Fracking Bridge is Already Burning | Naomi Klein | Common Dreams | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

On a week-long trip to the UK last fall, I was struck by how quickly the push to open up the country to fracking has been escalating. Thankfully, activists are mounting a vigorous and creative response, and are more than up to the task of galvanizing the public to put a stop to this mad dash to extract.

That is not to say it will be easy. In rushing to exploit the UK’s shale gas reserves, the industry has spent millions on public relations and brazenly overridden the democratic will of British citizens by overturning laws that had prevented drilling under homes. The coalition government, meanwhile, has done the sector’s bidding at every turn.

We’ve seen all of this before. Indeed what is happening in the UK is modeled so closely on the U.S. experience that an October 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal spoke of “Plotting an American-Style Fracking Revolution in Britain.”

So it’s worth playing close attention to how that earlier plot played out, both in the United States and in my own country, Canada. The U.S. is not only where the gas companies honed various technologies used in fracking, but also where they honed their branding—like their pitch, originating in the early 1980s, that natural gas was a “bridge” to a clean energy future.

As opposition has grown, they have cleverly funded studies stamped by big green organizations that understate fracking’s huge greenhouse gas impact; touted over-optimistic production forecasts; and in true shock doctrine style, tried to take advantage of geo-political crisis, like the gas cut-offs in Ukraine, to push through massive export plans that in any other circumstance could never gain legislative or public approval.

And when all else fails, government and industry have turned to criminalizing peaceful activism. They’ve dispatched heavily armed police against Indigenous communities blockading shale gas exploration in New Brunswick, Canada; gagged families impacted by drilling from criticizing the industry for an entire lifetime; and tried to charge as “terrorists” protesters in Oklahoma who unfurled a banner and dropped glitter at an oil and gas company’s office.


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"I'll Pretend I Can't Read." Colbert (and others) on Denier's Increasing Climate Confusion | Peter Sinclair | Climate Crocks

"I'll Pretend I Can't Read." Colbert (and others) on Denier's Increasing Climate Confusion | Peter Sinclair | Climate Crocks | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Above, Steven Colbert on the “I’m not a scientist” approach to climate denial. This kind of ridicule of an obviously dopey dodge has made climate denying politicians increasingly uncomfortable and looking for pathways to thread a difficult path between a Fox News addled base, and the increasingly obvious reality of climate change.

Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

It’s now official: 2014 was the warmest year on record. You might expect this to be a politically important milestone. After all, climate change deniers have long used the blip of 1998 — an unusually hot year, mainly due to an upwelling of warm water in the Pacific — to claim that the planet has stopped warming. This claim involves a complete misunderstanding of how one goes about identifying underlying trends. (Hint: Don’t cherry-pick your observations.) But now even that bogus argument has collapsed. So will the deniers now concede that climate change is real?

Of course not. Evidence doesn’t matter for the “debate” over climate policy, where I put scare quotes around “debate” because, given the obvious irrelevance of logic and evidence, it’s not really a debate in any normal sense. And this situation is by no means unique. Indeed, at this point it’s hard to think of a major policy dispute where facts actually do matter; it’s unshakable dogma, across the board. And the real question is why.

Below, President Obama has fun with it. “I’ll just pretend I can’t read.” The President’s mockery of the “I’m not a scientist” dodge stung so deeply that Speaker John Boehner excised that portion of the State of the Union address from the “official” Republican version posted on line, as has been noted here and elsewhere.


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NSA-grade spyware is up for sale, and the world's worst dictatorships are buying | Amar Toor & Russell Brandom | The Verge

In November 2005, during the dead of night, five black cars pulled up in front of the home of Moosa Abd-Ali Ali. The doors opened, and a group of men stepped out. They could’ve been officers, or maybe they were just hired muscle — such distinctions aren’t always clear in Bahrain. But Moosa knew they were sent by the government, and they had come for him.

Moosa was just 24 at the time, but he had already become a prominent anti-government activist within the small kingdom of Bahrain. He’d spent years protesting for equal employment rights and had been jailed and tortured on several occasions. When the cars pulled up outside his home that night, he had just served a nine-month prison sentence on charges that were never revealed to him.

The men barged into Moosa’s house and dragged him out into the streets of Al-Akar, the seaside village where he lived with his wife and young son. They took him to a quiet, darkened alleyway and took turns beating him. Then they raped him. If he didn’t stop his activism, they told him, they would do the same to his family.

Moosa didn’t leave his house for a week after the assault. On December 21st, 2005, he fled for London, after narrowly sliding by Bahraini security forces at the airport. "If I stayed in Bahrain I would have died in prison," he says. "I am sure of it."


He hasn't been home since.


Moosa became an activist at the age of 14, when he saw one of his favorite teachers being carried away in handcuffs by a group of policemen. He was politically naive at the time, but the teacher’s arrest lit a fire. Days later, he joined his very first protest — an act for which he was held at gunpoint in his home and sent to jail for five months.

Now 33, Moosa has spent most of his life campaigning for democracy and equal rights in Bahrain, a Middle East island nation of 1.3 million that has been ruled by the Khalifa family dynasty for more than 200 years. He’s been jailed seven times — "Not a small number," he says — and has endured brutal torture and assault at the hand of Bahraini officials.

Bahrain’s government has a long and dubious human rights record, especially when it comes to free speech. Even the smallest forms of dissent are regularly met with severe punishment, and the crackdown has only intensified following the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. This month, a prominent activist was sentenced to six months in prison over tweets that were critical of the country’s defense and interior ministries. Bahrain has also been a longtime ally of the United States and particularly the UK, a relationship the kingdom has maintained despite ongoing unrest.

That’s why Moosa fled to London. If he couldn’t continue fighting from within Bahrain, he could at least do it from Bahrain’s closest and historically most important global partner. (Bahrain was effectively a British protectorate until 1971.) He was granted asylum in 2006, his wife and child joined him a year later, and for a while, it seemed as if he was finally safe.

He found a job as a cameraman for a Bahraini news agency and embedded himself within London’s community of exiled activists. He was definitely still on the Bahraini government’s radar — his high-profile demonstrations and sizable social media following made sure of it — but he was finally free to protest, and his torturers were now thousands of miles away. Or so he thought.


One day in 2011, Moosa opened the Facebook Messenger app on his iPhone. What he saw was chilling: someone else typing under his name to an activist friend of his in Bahrain. Whoever it was kept posing personal questions prodding for information, and Moosa watched unfold right before eyes. He panicked.


"It was like, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening?’" he recalls. He changed his password, alerted his friend, and stopped using Facebook Messenger — but the intrusions kept coming.


In another instance, Moosa noticed that someone posing as him solicited his female Facebook friends for sex — part of an effort, it seemed, to blackmail or perhaps defame him in Bahrain’s conservative media. Facebook was only the beginning. Unbeknownst to him, Moosa’s phone and computer had been infected with a highly sophisticated piece of spyware, built and sold in secret. The implant effectively commandeered his digital existence, collecting everything he did or said online.


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Canada: The bloom is off the boom: How Alberta blew it | Mitchell Anderson | iPolitics.ca

Canada: The bloom is off the boom: How Alberta blew it | Mitchell Anderson | iPolitics.ca | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Looks like the party’s over in Alberta — and the hangover will be a doozy. Collapsing global oil prices mean the high-cost, low-value oilsands industry has suddenly skidded from “unstoppable force” to full stop. For years Canadians were told that Alberta is destined to be a global energy superpower — a message backed by millions in publicly-funded cheerleading and a chorus of uncritical coverage in the mainstream media.

Out in the real world, capital markets were cooling for years on such overheated hype, with some oilsands investment funds shedding more than two-thirds of their value since 2008. The slow, steady decline in investor confidence accelerated into free-fall in the last six months, with blue-chip energy companies like Suncor losing billions in book value since last June.

So what does Alberta have to show for some 24 billion barrels of conventional crude and bitumen that have so far come out of the ground? The province is currently over $12 billion in debt and is projected to run a budget deficit of $500 million this year, the seventh consecutive year in the red for a province that prides itself on having a sharp fiscal pencil.

Resource prices often go through boom and bust cycles, and this is certainly not the first in Alberta, as evidenced by a certain iconic bumper sticker. Yet to fully grasp Canada’s colossal lost opportunity, we need to look toward our Norwegian neighbours.

Norway, like Canada, was scaling up its petroleum industry in the early 1970s. It endured the same cyclical rides in resource pricing, and negotiated terms with many of the same foreign companies.

Yet Norway now has over $1 trillion socked away in its sovereign wealth fund, a dedicated repository of all petroleum revenues. Even if oil was worth nothing tomorrow, the country would still have no public debt, fully funded social programs that we can only dream of, and a very large nest egg to transition to a new economy.

So where is our nest egg?


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CO: High-volume fracking site worries residents on Weld-Boulder County border | Karen Antonacci | Daily Camera

CO: High-volume fracking site worries residents on Weld-Boulder County border | Karen Antonacci | Daily Camera | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Anne Harper found out about the 12 wells because of an orange cat.

While Harper and her neighbor drove around trying to locate the cat's owner, fracking came up as a topic of conversation, and Harper learned of a new site going in 1,200 feet away from her home in the Pleasant View Ridge community.

Pleasant View Ridge is a cluster of farm properties split by Weld County Road 1 between unincorporated Boulder and Weld counties.

Roughly three miles south of Colo. 119, WCR 1 intersects with WCR 18, a dirt road narrow enough so that the eight families that live at the end often pull over to the side of the road to let one another pass.

Encana Corp. is planning to put 12 hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells on a private property adjacent to WCR 18, less than a quarter-mile from Boulder County.

"I panicked; I lost it ... I was crying," Harper said, referring to when she contacted the private property owner and confirmed that the 12 Encana wells were going in directly west of her home.

The state designates that new oil and gas wells must be set back at least 500 feet from homes.

Encana already has six wells in three different locations on the private property, securing permission from the owner, who owns both the surface and the mineral rights.

The 12 new wells would start fairly close to WCR 18 and then fan out almost two miles north. One well would end adjacent to the Weld County side of WCR 1, a stone's throw from unincorporated Boulder County, which has a moratorium on all new oil and gas development applications.

To access the 12 wells, Encana plans to use WCR 18, which is owned and maintained by Encana and two nearby surface owners, according to Encana spokesman Doug Hock.

But Harper and the neighbors who live east of her are concerned about oil tankers using the road too much once the wells go in and blocking in the homes that use that private road.

"We're landlocked back here," she said.

But most of all, Harper said she is worried that the 12 wells and proposed five-acre site for tanks and related facilities will be an unwelcome concentration of oil and gas operations in a rural residential area.


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Canada: Report claims geothermal creates more jobs than Site C | Peter Caulfield | Journal of Commerce

Canada: Report claims geothermal creates more jobs than Site C | Peter Caulfield | Journal of Commerce | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

According to Geothermal Energy: The Renewable and Cost Effective Alternative to Site C, 1,100 megawatts – the same amount as Site C – of geothermal power projects would create more sustainable employment for surrounding communities.

"While Site C promises only 160 permanent jobs, U.S. Department of Energy

statistics indicate that the equivalent amount of geothermal energy would produce 1,870 permanent jobs. This does not include jobs that result from the direct use of geothermal heat, which are also significant."

However, said Alison Thompson, managing director of Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), which published the report, geothermal projects would result in fewer construction jobs than the Site C dam.

"Geothermal projects would be spread around the province, not all on one site," she said. "And, unlike Site C, they would not be built all at once. They would be staggered, with construction beginning in the highest-priority regions first."

According to Dave Conway, a Site C spokesman, the $7.9 billion project will create about 10,000 person-years of direct construction employment, and 33,000 person-years of total employment during development and construction.

Construction will take about eight years.

This includes seven years for the construction itself and one year for commissioning, site reclamation and demobilization.

Thompson said geothermal energy has other advantages over hydro.


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BHP Billiton cuts shale rigs on oil collapse | BBC News

BHP Billiton cuts shale rigs on oil collapse | BBC News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The falling oil price has forced the world's biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, to cut its US shale oil operation by 40%.

It is reducing the number of rigs from 26 to 16 by the end of the June.

However, BHP said it expected increased productivity to boost output by some 50% over the period.

BHP Billiton has promised not to reduce dividends to shareholders despite dramatic price falls in all its main commodities - iron ore, copper and oil.

Oil prices have fallen by more than half since last summer, with the price of both Brent and US crude now below $50 a barrel.


Chief executive Andrew Mackenzie said: "In petroleum, we have moved quickly in response to lower prices.


"The revised drilling programme will benefit from significant improvements in drilling and completions efficiency."


In 2011, BHP spent $20bn breaking into the shale oil and gas market buying Petrohawk Energy and Chesapeake Energy in Louisiana and Texas.


Mr Mackenzie said the group's drilling operations would now focus on its Black Hawk field in Texas.


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Former Head of GCHQ Warns Of 'Ethically Worse' Kinds Of Spying If Unbreakable Encryption Is Allowed | Glyn Moody | Techdirt

Former Head of GCHQ Warns Of 'Ethically Worse' Kinds Of Spying If Unbreakable Encryption Is Allowed | Glyn Moody | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In their attempts to kill off strong encryption once and for all, top officials of the intelligence services are coming out with increasingly hyperbolic statements about why this should be done. Here's another, this time from a former head of GCHQ, Sir David Omand:

Sir David, who was director of GCHQ from 1996-97, said: "One of the results of Snowden is that companies are now heavily encrypting [communications] end to end.

"Intelligence agencies are not going to give up trying to get the bad guys. They will have to get closer to the bad guys. I predict we will see more close access work."

According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which reported his words from a talk he gave earlier this week, by this he meant things like physical observation, bugging rooms, and breaking into phones or computers. Omand went on:


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Crippling and 'potentially historic' blizzard to slam Northeast | Andrew Mach | PBS News Hour

Crippling and 'potentially historic' blizzard to slam Northeast | Andrew Mach | PBS News Hour | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A crippling and potentially historic winter storm was approaching a large swath of the northeastern United States on Sunday, which officials and forecasters warned could dump up to three feet of snow, produce high winds and cause power outages and flight cancellations between Monday and Wednesday.

Blizzard warnings and watches went in effect on Sunday morning for more than 29 million people in areas along the coast from central New Jersey to the Canadian border.

The National Weather Service predicted the storm could be responsible for life-threatening conditions and extremely dangerous travel due to heavy snowfall and strong winds that could down power lines and tree limbs late Monday through Tuesday.


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Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests | Chrystia Freeland | The Guardian

Even plutocrats can see profound inequality isn’t in their interests | Chrystia Freeland | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Not so long ago, inequality was a dirty word. The experience of my friend Branko Milanovic, the world’s foremost expert on global income inequality, was typical. “I was once told by the head of a prestigious thinktank in Washington DC that the thinktank’s board was unlikely to fund any work that had income or wealth inequality in its title,” Milanovic recalled in his 2011 book on the subject.

These were the days when Mitt Romney said discussions of income inequality should be conducted only in quiet rooms and when an American private equity tycoon compared an effort to raise taxes on his industry to Hitler’s invasion of Poland. To mention the increasing concentration of wealth at the very top was to court accusations of class envy – indeed, in his 2011 book, even Bill Clinton admonished Barack Obama for his tone in talking to and about America’s super-rich. After my book, Plutocrats, was published in 2012, I was even – and I know this will shock you – disinvited to a Davos dinner party!

Just three years later, inequality hasn’t merely become a subject fit for polite company, it has become de rigueur. It was a central preoccupation at a conference on inclusive capitalism at the Mansion House and Guildhall last May. The event was organised by Lady Lynn de Rothschild and the opening speaker was Prince Charles. And at Davos, income inequality has gone from taboo to top of the agenda.

There’s a good reason for this pivot. Rising inequality is becoming so pronounced it is impossible to ignore. The latest jaw-dropping statistic is Oxfam’s calculation that by next year, the top 1% will own more of the world’s wealth than the bottom 99%. What is less apparent is how those of us who have been worried about income inequality for a long time should respond to the embrace of this issue by the plutocrats themselves.

It is easy to be sceptical. But we should welcome the plutocratic critique of plutocracy. Here’s why. Surging income inequality is a symptom of a broader transformation in how capitalism is working in the 21st century. This change has brought tremendous benefits – it has helped to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the emerging markets and provided cheaper goods and services, and many brand new ones, for us in the industrialised world. But it is also hollowing out the incomes and wealth of the western middle class, even as it enriches those at the very top.

This distributional shift is the great economic and political challenge of our time. It will tear some societies apart. The successful ones will be those that figure out how to solve it together.

The technology revolution, which has been turbo-charged by globalisation, is an economic upheaval comparable in its scale and scope to the Industrial Revolution. Just as the Industrial Revolution did not bring the end of farming, the technology revolution won’t bring the end of manufacturing. But just as the agricultural sector shrank as a share of the overall economy, particularly in terms of employment, the relative size of the industrial sector will decline, too.

Mike Moffatt, an economist at the Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario, likes to use the example of Gary Works, in Indiana, to illustrate what is going on. It was once the world’s largest steel mill and remains the largest integrated steel mill in North America. At its postwar peak, Gary Works employed 30,000 people and could produce 6m tons of steel a year. Today, Gary can produce more than 7m tons of steel working at full capacity, but it takes just 5,000 workers to do that.

The same forces that have transformed Gary Works are changing every sphere of human activity. This isn’t just about the assembly line any more – 99% of us are, metaphorically, Gary steel workers.

The lucky 0.1% own a Gary Works or have invented the technologies that transformed them, and the rest of the top 1% work for them. Until now, these winners in our winner-take-all economy have backed a set of political measures – weaker unions, deregulation, lower taxes – which have exacerbated the distributional impact of the new economy.

As even Davos Man has realised, that is not sustainable.


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Social conscience is key to cutting household energy | Tim Radford | Climate News Network

Social conscience is key to cutting household energy | Tim Radford | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Altruism is alive and well and living in California. An extended experiment involving more than 100 households suggests that people are more likely to reduce energy use if they believe it is good for the environment rather than good for their pockets.

Those who tuned into the messages about public good saved, on average, 8% on their fuel bills, while households with children reduced their energy use by 19%. But people who were repeatedly reminded that they were using more power than an economy-conscious neighbour altered their consumption hardly at all.

Environmental economist Magali Delmas and research fellow Omar Asensio, of the University of California Los Angeles, report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they were investigating behaviour-altering messages that might encourage energy savings, as Americans could potentially save 20% a year − or 123 million tonnes of carbon.


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‘We Are Going to Destroy the Greek Oligarchy System’ | Alexander Reed Kelly | Truthdig.com

‘We Are Going to Destroy the Greek Oligarchy System’ | Alexander Reed Kelly | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Yanis Varoufakis is tipped to become finance minister of what may become Greece’s leading party after legislative elections Sunday. He tells Britain’s Channel 4 what Syriza will do if it takes power.

Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason asks Varoufakis, who teaches economics at the University of Athens, “what will you do to [Greece’s] oligarchy, concretely?”

Varoufakis responds, “We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built, for decade after decade, a system, a network that viciously sucks of the energy and economic power from everybody else in society.”

When Mason notes Varoufakis knows what happened the “last time somebody tried to take power from the Greek oligarchy,” Varoufakis replies that “the good fight has to be fought independently of costs.”


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Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc's insight:

Based on the Exit Polls, Syriza has a 12 point lead as the polls close.

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U.S. Trade Agreement with Asia-Pacific Countries Must Have Strong Environmental Provisions | Jake Schmidt's Blog | NRDC.org

U.S. Trade Agreement with Asia-Pacific Countries Must Have Strong Environmental Provisions | Jake Schmidt's Blog | NRDC.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The U.S. and eleven other countries are in the final stages of a trade agreement - the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - that would, if completed, be the biggest trade agreement in recent history. It would cover countries accounting for over forty percent of the world's trade and economic output.


It will have far reaching implications for public health, environmental and conservation protection in the U.S. and around the world. If it is to truly reflect a "21st Century Trade Agreement" as President Obama has outlined, it will need to include meaningful, binding, and enforceable environmental provisions and not include back-door mechanisms that undercut bedrock protections for people's health and the planet. That was the message in a letter that leading environmental and conservation groups recently sent to the U.S.

This trade agreement is being negotiated with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, U.S., and Vietnam. These countries are major actors on key environmental and conservation issues facing the world.


TPP countries account for over a third of the global fisheries catch and deploy a number of unsustainable fishing practices; are significant exporters and importers of a wide range of wildlife products (such as rhino horn and other parts from critical endangered species); are key timber producer, processing, and consumer countries, including several associated with illegal logging and trade; and account for around one-quarter of the world's global warming pollution that is driving climate change.

As a result, any trade agreement with these countries must address the key environmental and conservation challenges facing us in the 21st century, such as destruction of our oceans, wildlife, forests, public health, and climate. The U.S. has pushed for a minimum set of conservation protections in the TPP Environment Chapter - just one of 29 TPP chapters. But the devil is in the details and there are a number of aspects that the U.S. has resisted including in the agreement and provisions that could undermine key environmental safeguards.


Unfortunately due to arcane rules pushed by the U.S., we have no idea what is in this agreement and won't know until the final deal is reached as the documents are kept secret. But we do have some insights into a couple of aspects, including the Environment Chapter, thanks to leaks of earlier versions of the negotiating documents. And the signs from those leaks were troubling enough that NRDC, Sierra Club, and WWF raised serious concerns back in January about the reported language in the Environment Chapter.


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Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process | Dahr Jamail | Truth-Out.org

Mourning Our Planet: Climate Scientists Share Their Grieving Process | Dahr Jamail | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

I have been researching and writing about anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) for Truthout for the past year, because I have long been deeply troubled by how fast the planet has been emitting its obvious distress signals.

On a nearly daily basis, I've sought out the most recent scientific studies, interviewed the top researchers and scientists penning those studies, and connected the dots to give readers as clear a picture as possible about the magnitude of the emergency we are in.

This work has emotional consequences: I've struggled with depression, anger, and fear. I've watched myself shift through some of the five stages of grief proposed by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance I've grieved for the planet and all the species who live here, and continue to do so as I work today.

I have been vacillating between depression and acceptance of where we are, both as victims - fragile human beings – and as perpetrators: We are the species responsible for altering the climate system of the planet we inhabit to the point of possibly driving ourselves extinct, in addition to the 150-200 species we are already driving extinct.

Can you relate to this grieving process?

If so, you might find solace in the fact that you are not alone: Climate science researchers, scientists, journalists and activists have all been struggling with grief around what we are witnessing.


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WA: Oso Landslide Research Paves Way for Future Hazard Evaluations | USGS.gov

WA: Oso Landslide Research Paves Way for Future Hazard Evaluations | USGS.gov | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The large landslide that occurred on March 22, 2014 near Oso, Washington was unusually mobile and destructive. The first published study from U.S. Geological Survey investigations of the Oso landslide (named the “SR530 Landslide” by Washington State) reveals that the potential for landslide liquefaction and high mobility are influenced by several factors, and the landslide process at Oso could have unfolded very differently (with much less destruction) if initial conditions had been only subtly different.

A major focus of the research reported this week is to understand the causes and effects of the landslide’s high mobility. High “mobility” implies high speeds and large areas of impact, which can be far from the landslide source area. Because high-mobility landslides overrun areas that are larger than normal, they present a significant challenge for landslide hazard evaluation. Understanding of the Oso event adds to the knowledge base that can be used to improve future hazard evaluations.

Computer reconstructions of the landslide source-area geometry make use of high-resolution digital topographic (lidar) data, and they indicate that the Oso landslide involved about 8 million cubic meters (about 18 million tons, or almost 3 times the mass of the Great Pyramid of Giza) of material. The material consisted of sediments deposited by ancient glaciers and in streams and lakes near the margins of those glaciers. The landslide occurred after a long period of unusually wet weather. Prolonged wet weather increases groundwater pressures, which act to destabilize slopes by reducing frictional resistance between sediment particles.

The slope that failed at Oso on March 22, 2014 had a long history of prior historical landslides at the site, but these had not exhibited exceptional mobility.


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Africa: Dream of Remote Internet Connections Still Up in the Air | Gareth Willmer | AllAfrica.com

Africa: Dream of Remote Internet Connections Still Up in the Air | Gareth Willmer | AllAfrica.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

New technologies using balloons, drones and unusual satellites have been tested in recent years with the aim of improving global access to high-speed internet. The hope is that some of these innovative technologies could help narrow and eventually eliminate the global digital divide.

Several billion people around the world - some estimates say around three billion - are still without internet infrastructure, many of them in developing countries. Often they are in areas remote from fibre-optic cables or too poor for expensive satellite access.

While the development of new technologies has been welcomed and major global companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have made moves to invest in them, the dream of internet access for all, in particular reaching the so-called 'last mile' of remote communities may still be some way off.

The hard truth is that communities are different so a 'one size fits all' approach is unlikely to be successful. In addition, some of the promising technologies may require regulatory changes which could be a lengthy process.

Fibre-optic cable is the backbone of much of the West's internet infrastructure, but for some regions the technology is currently too costly and difficult to deploy in more remote areas, or areas where people have more limited financial resources.

Frank McCosker, general manager of affordable access and smart financing at the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, believes fibre is not a panacea for bridging the global digital divide.

"You'd probably only get to about (another) 2.1 billion people in an affordable way," McCosker tells SciDev.Net. "There's still this question of how you deal with the next five to six billion."


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How the CIA made Google | Nafeez Ahmed | Medium.com

How the CIA made Google | Nafeez Ahmed | Medium.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.


In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.


US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.


What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.


There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.


As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.


Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.


The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.


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Three Immediate Ways to Stave Off Ocean Collapse | Sarah Chasis's Blog | NRDC.org

Three Immediate Ways to Stave Off Ocean Collapse | Sarah Chasis's Blog | NRDC.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Our ocean animals are headed the way of the dinosaurs. Mass extinctions of fish, marine mammals and other aquatic life, could occur within decades. That's the unfathomable--but all too real--conclusion of a widely-reported new study published in the journal Science.

And as you might guess, the authors point to humans as the cause of this problem. Our industrial activities are destroying precious ocean habitats across the globe. But they also say we have the power to solve it....if we act quickly.

Thankfully, there are 3 immediate actions the U.S. government can take to stave off this ocean collapse across the world and right here off our shores.

  1. This week--the U.S. government can help advance a United Nations treaty to enhance habitat protections for all international waters.
  2. Any day now--The Department of the Interior is expected to release its five-year offshore drilling plan. If we really want to revive our oceans, we need this plan to keep important valuable habitats off limits from the oil industry.
  3. On February 11th--a Mid-Atlantic ocean council will vote on whether to preserve deep-sea coral canyons right off our eastern seaboard, which are critical areas for ocean life.


If we want to avoid future generations viewing Finding Nemo as a window into a world we've lost, these are solutions at hand that we must prioritize as a nation.


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Thanks to Instagram, photographers are showing us what climate change looks like across the globe | Susan Cosier | onEarth.org

Thanks to Instagram, photographers are showing us what climate change looks like across the globe | Susan Cosier | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A boy sitting amid a flooded Jakarta, a Peruvian glacier's final ice harvester, a Nigerian girl walking among heaps of burning garbage, a southwestern pier jutting out into the open air, no water in sight. This is what a warming planet looks like—and the images can all be found on Instagram. Photographer James Whitlow Delano started a social media project called Everydayclimatechange this month, and everyone's invited to check it out and join in.

Photographers on five continents are documenting the causes and consequences of global warming, capturing everything from floods to coal mining to deforestation to drought, reminding us that climate change is haunting, captivating, real, and, well, happening everywhere. Want to share your own warming corner of the globe? Just tag it #EveryDayClimateChange.


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Mitch McConnell Cut Off Keystone XL Debate So Republicans Can Meet With The Koch Brothers | Jason Easley | PoliticusUSA

Mitch McConnell Cut Off Keystone XL Debate So Republicans Can Meet With The Koch Brothers | Jason Easley | PoliticusUSA | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Outraged Senate Democrats are livid because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly cut off debate on the Keystone XL bill so that Republicans could attend a weekend conference with the Koch brothers.

Video of McConnell cutting off debate:


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