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Max Levchin talks about data, sensors and the plan for his new startup(s) | GigaOM Cleantech News

Max Levchin talks about data, sensors and the plan for his new startup(s) | GigaOM Cleantech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

After selling his second company, Slide, to Google for hundreds of millions of dollars, Max Levchin slipped into a state of blissful anonymity, focusing his energies on his kids and cycling. Of course, like most entrepreneurs, he eventually couldn’t resist the siren call of the startup life. Levchin, who was co-founder of PayPal is returning to the arena with HFV, which stands for Hard, Valuable Fun, a San Francisco-based venture that at best can be described as a R&D Lab crossed with an incubator. He started it in 2011 and so far has funded it himself.

 

It is not the first time Levchin has turned to such a structure. In early part of the 21st century, he started MRL Ventures, with backing from Peter Thiel, who was chief financial officer of PayPal. MRL resulted in ten startups; two became successful — Slide and Yelp — while one, AdRoll, briefly flirted with bright lights. Others withered away. Levchin is betting that lightning will strike twice. “It is the same approach, but this time it is around data,” said Levchin.

 

The Kiev, Ukraine-born entrepreneur made his big pitch at the DLD conference in Munich in a speech that needed parsing. So we ended up having a chat about his plans.

 

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Ridiculous Ruling In Ireland Requires ISP To Kick Those Accused (Not Convicted) Of File Sharing Off The Internet | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Ridiculous Ruling In Ireland Requires ISP To Kick Those Accused (Not Convicted) Of File Sharing Off The Internet | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

There just seems to be something about the way that some people's brains function (or not) when the word "piracy" is introduced.


Over in Ireland, there's been an incredibly long running battle over whether or not internet access providers need to kick people off the internet if they've been accused (not convicted) of file sharing three times.


Such "three strikes" rules have been put in place in a few countries, and the evidence shows that they don't work at all. Not even in the slightest. They don't slow down the rates of piracy for any extended period of time (sometimes they show a very brief drop before people figure out other ways). They certainly don't lead more people to buy content.


France, famously, led the way with the very first three strikes law, which the country has already dropped.

Over in Ireland, the fight over three strikes has been going on for nearly a decade. Back in 2008, the recording industry sued Eircom, the large Irish ISP, claiming that the company was required by law to implement a three strikes regime.


Eventually, in an effort to avoid legal costs, Eircom caved and agreed to implement a three strikes plan, but with a condition: the recording industry also had to pressure competing ISPs to implement a similar plan so that Eircom customers didn't go fleeing. The recording industry did just that.


The ISPs pushed back and seemed to be vindicated when the Irish Data Protection Commission ruled that a three strikes plan violated consumer privacy, and Irish judges found no legal basis for such rules.

Of course, the recording industry fought back, and a court flat out rejected the Data Protection Commission's findings, and insisted there wasn't any privacy issue at all with three strikes.


And, thus, we get back to the lawsuits against ISPs with a judge now ruling against ISP UPC and making some rather astounding statements in the process.


The judge, Brian Cregan, appears to have become a true believer in the myths that the recording industry is spreading, and to him "piracy" seems to justify any and all punishment, without any clear concern as to whether or not anyone's actually broken the law, or whether or not three strikes plans even work. These quotes are fairly astounding:


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LGA weaves sustainability into fabric of modern Toronto home | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com

LGA weaves sustainability into fabric of modern Toronto home | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

For many people, the idea of green living might give the impression of needing to make big changes to their lifestyle and home. A new house in Toronto, Canada, however, shows that needn't be the case. LGA's Bedford Park House is a modern home with green design embedded throughout.

LGA was actually approached to design the Bedford Park House by a cousin of Alex Tedesco, one of its senior associates. The brief required that it fit with the aesthetic of the neighborhood, protect the magnolia and Japanese maple trees on the site, be adaptable to the changing needs of a large family, and have private sections in which to live and sleep for when a family member is working unusual hours.

In addition to delivering these practical requirements, Tedesco wanted to create a healthy and sustainable home that still felt like a conventional Bedford Park residence. LGA says Tedesco took the opportunity to demonstrate how technologically-advanced green features could be woven seamlessly into the design.

The house covers an area of 3,100 sq ft (288 sq m) and is is designed to "project a warm modern appearance" without betraying its high-tech features. It was designed in such a way as to allow the trees in the garden to mature over time and so that they were framed by the views from indoors.


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Biggest shipping container restaurant in US gets ready to take its first booking | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com

Biggest shipping container restaurant in US gets ready to take its first booking | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A new restaurant due to open in the US is claimed to be the largest in the country to be built using shipping containers. The Smoky Park Supper Club in Asheville, North Carolina, is constructed from 19 containers and was built by shipping container construction firm SG Blocks.

The Smoky Park Supper Club sits on a 1.8 acre (7,284 sq m) site on the side of the French Broad River, allowing customers to arrive by car, foot, bike or boat. The site was formerly brownfield and so required a thorough clean-up operation prior to the start of construction.

SG BLocks vice president of sales and business development David Cross tells Gizmag that it takes 8,000 kWh of energy to melt down used shipping containers and only 500 kWh to reuse them for construction. He estimates that, in using shipping containers, the construction of the Smoky Park Supper Club saved a potential 142,500 kWh of energy.

In order to reuse the containers, they must first be stripped of any exterior coatings. They can then have fresh coatings applied and be prepared for installation.


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The Anthropocene Myth | Andreas Malm | Jacobin Magazine

The Anthropocene Myth |  Andreas Malm | Jacobin Magazine | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Last year was the hottest year ever recorded. And yet, the latest figures show that in 2013 the source that provided the most new energy to the world economy wasn’t solar, wind power, or even natural gas or oil, but coal.

The growth in global emissions — from 1 percent a year in the 1990s to 3 percent so far this millennium — is striking. It’s an increase that’s paralleled our growing knowledge of the terrible consequences of fossil fuel usage.

Who’s driving us toward disaster? A radical answer would be the reliance of capitalists on the extraction and use of fossil energy. Some, however, would rather identify other culprits.

The earth has now, we are told, entered “the Anthropocene”: the epoch of humanity. Enormously popular — and accepted even by many Marxist scholars — the Anthropocene concept suggests that humankind is the new geological force transforming the planet beyond recognition, chiefly by burning prodigious amounts of coal, oil, and natural gas.

According to these scholars, such degradation is the result of humans acting out their innate predispositions, the inescapable fate for a planet subjected to humanity’s “business-as-usual.” Indeed, the proponents cannot argue otherwise, for if the dynamics were of a more contingent character, the narrative of an entire species ascending to biospheric supremacy would be difficult to defend.

Their story centers on a classic element: fire. The human species alone can manipulate fire, and therefore it is the one that destroys the climate; when our ancestors learned how to set things ablaze, they lit the fuse of business-as-usual. Here, write prominent climate scientists Michael Raupach and Josep Canadell, was “the essential evolutionary trigger for the Anthropocene,” taking humanity straight to “the discovery that energy could be derived not only from detrital biotic carbon but also from detrital fossil carbon, at first from coal.”

The “primary reason” for current combustion of fossil fuels is that “long before the industrial era, a particular primate species learned how to tap the energy reserves stored in detrital carbon.” My learning to walk at the age of one is the reason for me dancing salsa today; when humanity ignited its first dead tree, it could only lead, one million years later, to burning a barrel of oil.

Or, in the words of Will Steffen, Paul J. Crutzen, and John R. McNeill: “The mastery of fire by our ancestors provided humankind with a powerful monopolistic tool unavailable to other species, that put us firmly on the long path towards the Anthropocene.” In this narrative, the fossil economy is the creation precisely of humankind, or “the fire-ape, Homo pyrophilus,” as in Mark Lynas’s popularization of Anthropocene thinking, aptly titled The God Species.

Now, the ability to manipulate fire was surely a necessary condition for the commencement of large-scale fossil fuel combustion in Britain in the early nineteenth century. Was it also the cause of it?


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British Airways notifies frequent flyers of possible breach of their accounts | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

British Airways notifies frequent flyers of possible breach of their accounts | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Over the last few days, a large number of British Airways customers have found that reward points they accumulated for flights, called Avios, have disappeared from their accounts. Others have been locked out of their accounts completely.

Affected users have gathered on the flyertalk.com forum to share their experiences after calling the company’s call center, which according to reports, has been giving out “contradictory” information at times.

It seems that the incident is the result of hackers gaining access to a large number of accounts.

A user posted an email message he received from British Airways’s Executive Club team saying that the company “has become aware of unauthorized activity” on his account. The Executive Club is the name of BA’s frequent flyer program.

“This appears to have been the result of a third party using information obtained elsewhere on the Internet, via an automated process, to try to gain access to your Executive Club account,” the email said. “We understand this was login information relating to a different online service which you may have also used to access your Executive Club account.”

It is not unusual for hackers to try to access user accounts on multiple services once they obtain a large database of usernames and passwords from a hacked website. That’s because many users tend to use a single email address and password to log in on different online accounts, a practice that security experts have long advised against.


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Someone hijacked the Google of China to attack anti-censorship tools | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com

Someone hijacked the Google of China to attack anti-censorship tools | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

An unknown party hijacked widely used tools developed by Baidu, the largest search engine in China, this week in an apparent attempt to target online software used to get around Chinese censorship.

The assailants injected malicious code into the tools Baidu uses to serve ads on a wide range of Chinese Web sites and to provide analytics for Web developers, according to researchers. The code instructed the browsers of visitors to those sites to rapidly connect to other sites, but in a way that the visitors couldn't detect. That sent a flood of traffic to two anti-censorship tools offered by the group GreatFire hosted on GitHub, a popular site used by programmers to collaborate on software development. One of the tools targeted by the attack effectively allows Chinese users to access a translated version of the New York Times.

At times the attack made GitHub, which is used by programmers around the world and the U.S. government itself, unavailable for some users.

GitHub was briefly blocked inside China in 2013, but reinstated after an outcry from programmers. Because GitHub uses encryption to hide specific parts of the site, the Chinese government cannot selectively block only some of GitHub's content. But blocking the site wholesale could be damaging to China's economy because it is so widely used by the tech industry.

GreatFire reported its own site was the subject of a similar traffic flooding attack earlier this month.


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GitHub recovering from massive DDoS attacks | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com

GitHub recovering from massive DDoS attacks | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Software development platform GitHub said Sunday it was still experiencing intermittent outages from the largest cyberattack in its history but had halted most of the attack traffic.

Starting on Thursday, GitHub was hit by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that sent large volumes of Web traffic to the site, particularly towards two Chinese anti-censorship projects hosted there.

Over the next few days, the attackers changed their DDoS tactics as GitHub defended the site, but as of Sunday, it appears the site was mostly working.


A GitHub service called Gists, which lets people post bits of code, was still affected, it said. On Twitter, GitHub said it continued to adapt its defenses.

The attacks appeared to focus specifically on two projects hosted on GitHub, according to a blogger who goes by the nickname of Anthr@X on a Chinese- and English-language computer security forum.

One project mirrors the content of The New York Times for Chinese users, and the other is run by Greatfire.org, a group that monitors websites censored by the Chinese government and develops ways for Chinese users to access banned services.


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Why the Climate Change Movement Must Demand Energy Industry Nationalization | Bruce Lesnick | Truth-Out.org

Why the Climate Change Movement Must Demand Energy Industry Nationalization | Bruce Lesnick | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

"All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come."
- Victor Hugo

Ever since scientists discovered a runaway greenhouse effect on our nearest planetary neighbor, Venus, we've known that climate Armageddon is a possibility. Even though Venus is closer to the Sun than the Earth, Venus' thick cloud layer permits only one-sixth as much sunlight to reach the planet's surface. And while Mercury is nearly twice as close to the Sun as Venus, the surface on Venus is 10 percent hotter, measuring more than 864 degrees Fahrenheit. Why is Venus so hot? Its atmosphere is 97 percent carbon dioxide.

We know that human activities are adversely affecting Earth's climate. Scientists began to draw our attention to the link between fossil fuels, greenhouse gases and climate in the 1980s. Since then, the evidence for anthropogenic climate change has become overwhelming.

All that's left to debate is what to do about it.


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The Deadly Global War for Sand | Vince Beiser | WIRED.com

The Deadly Global War for Sand | Vince Beiser | WIRED.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The killers rolled slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.

Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his own 3-year-old boy.

Gunshots thundered through the house. Preeti Chauhan, Paleram’s daughter-in-law, rushed into Paleram’s room, her husband, Ravindra, right behind her. Through the open door, they saw the killers jump back on their bike and roar away.

Paleram lay on his bed, blood bubbling out of his stomach, neck, and head. “He was trying to speak, but he couldn’t,” Preeti says, her voice breaking with tears. Ravindra borrowed a neighbor’s car and rushed his father to a hospital, but it was too late. Paleram was dead on arrival.

Despite the masks, the family had no doubts about who was behind the killing. For 10 years Paleram had been campaigning to get local authorities to shut down a powerful gang of criminals headquartered in Raipur. The “mafia,” as people called them, had for years been robbing the village of a coveted natural resource, one of the most sought-after commodities of the 21st century: sand.

That’s right. Paleram Chauhan was killed over sand. And he wasn’t the first, or the last.


Our civilization is literally built on sand. People have used it for construction since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the 15th century, an Italian artisan figured out how to turn sand into transparent glass, which made possible the microscopes, telescopes, and other technologies that helped drive the Renaissance’s scientific revolution (also, affordable windows).


Sand of various kinds is an essential ingredient in detergents, cosmetics, toothpaste, solar panels, silicon chips, and especially buildings; every concrete structure is basically tons of sand glued together with cement.


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Phase3 Telecom expands fibre optic cable link in West Africa | The Guardian Nigeria

Phase3 Telecom expands fibre optic cable link in West Africa | The Guardian Nigeria | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

West Africa’s largest independent fibre optic infrastructure and telecommunications services provider – Phase3 Telecom has announced plans to commence the deployment of aerial fiber optic infrastructure from Kano in Nigeria to Gazaoua in the Republic of Niger.

The network, which will run from Kano state through Katsina state before arriving at Gazaoua will be 228 km long. It is expected to be completed in the coming months.

The Republic of Niger is a landlocked country that borders seven countries; Algeria, Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, and Nigeria. The lack of backbone infrastructure between the Republic of Niger and its neighbors leaves Niger unable to fully enjoy the broadband advantage to its fullest.

With one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in West Africa, Republic of Niger will now have the opportunity to leverage on the huge bandwidth capacity, which is available at the Nigerian coast in Lagos through the Phase3 telecom aerial fiber network. This development will also widen the market for under-sea cable owners in Nigeria while enhancing broadband development in the Republic of Niger.

This project is expected to enhance and solidify the objectives behind the Nigeria – Niger Joint Commission (NNJC) and the partnership/relationship between the two countries.

Chief Executive Officer, Phase3 Telecom, Stanley Jegede said the opportunities that the Internet delivers are critical to the acceleration of sustainable socio-economic inclusion and growth for the Republic of Niger.

According to him, this will open doors to new opportunities for residents to enjoy the benefits of the Internet, such as being able to work from the comforts of their home or study online.

He stressed that businesses in this region will also be better positioned to use the internet to boost productivity, offer better service, connect with customers faster and work anywhere at reduced costs.


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Be-Bound®'s curator insight, March 30, 4:17 AM

Birdiging the digital divide is a long and complew process and many ways exists, however the mots successful ones will be the simplest and quickest to implement.

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Ted Cruz embodies Republican climate change dilemma | Sabrina Siddiqui | The Guardian

Ted Cruz embodies Republican climate change dilemma | Sabrina Siddiqui | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Ted Cruz officially kicked off the long US presidential campaign when he declared his candidacy this week, but his anti-environmental rhetoric has already set the stage for a looming war over whether climate-change denial is a legitimate barrier to the most powerful job in the world.


Leading scientists are preparing for an American election in which global warming may receive much higher billing than before – and Republicans’ statements will be exposed to a level of scrutiny they have not formally had to deal with.


Cruz, the red-meat Texas senator with an army of conservative followers, raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he told the Texas Tribune that people who believe global warming is real are “the equivalent of the flat-Earthers”.

“It used to be it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” Cruz said.

The comments were emblematic of the environmental threat that has plagued the Republican party for years. Buoyed by the oil and gas companies and fossil-fuel-funder mega-donors that increasingly bankroll their campaigns, most prominent Republican politicians have either denied that climate change exists or refused to stake out a clear position, citing their personal lack of scientific knowledge.

But as the subject’s specter looms larger by the day, and as presumed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has stepped up her calls on the need to battle climate change as a potential signature issue, the “I’m not a scientist” line is infuriating scientists.

“I think, frankly, the Republican party is going to have to make a decision,” Michael Mann, director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center, who contributed to a Nobel Prize-winning landmark report on global warming, told the Guardian. “Are they going to move in the direction of logic and rationality, or are they going to continue to pursue this anti-scientific fringe movement within their party that is personified by people liked Ted Cruz?

“As long as the Koch brothers are pouring tens of millions of dollars into their campaigns,” Mann said, referring to the top conservative donors, “there’s going to be enough oxygen to keep these folks going.”


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Liberals get their own 'ALEC' -- it's called 'SiX' | Nathaniel Herz | Alaska Dispatch News

Liberals get their own 'ALEC' -- it's called 'SiX' | Nathaniel Herz | Alaska Dispatch News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Three Democratic legislators last week reported trips to Washington, D.C., in December to the kickoff conference of the State Innovation Exchange, a new group billed as the liberal counterpart to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which supplies conservative lawmakers with bills pushed by business interests and lobbyists.

Officials at SiX, as it calls itself, say it ultimately aims to give progressive lawmakers some of the same tools as ALEC, from template legislation to talking points, polling and even opposition research.

But while Alaska Democrats can learn from the strategies of their political opponents, the December conference didn't exactly leave them poised to overthrow Republican control, according to Rep. David Guttenberg, D-Fairbanks.

The event, held at a luxury hotel near the National Zoo, featured speeches from liberal luminaries like U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and President Barack Obama’s labor secretary, Thomas Perez. But it was short on specifics, Guttenberg said.

“I actually thought it was disappointing -- it’s like, ‘OK, what are we doing?’ ” Guttenberg said. “There wasn’t enough substance for me.”

Other Democrats who traveled to the conference -- with around $1,000 in costs covered by SiX -- were Sen. Johnny Ellis and Rep. Chris Tuck, both of Anchorage. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said he also spent time at the conference while in Washington for another event.

SiX launched late last year and aims to “turn the tide” back toward a more progressive agenda, said director Nick Rathod, a former liaison between Obama and state officials.

Republicans currently control 30 state legislatures, and 68 of 98 partisan chambers.

“For too long, it’s been a lot of defensive and pushing back on this onslaught to roll back environmental protections, roll back worker protections,” Rathod said in a phone interview from Washington. “We want to encourage legislators to really go on the offensive on ideas that support their working families in their states.”

SiX, however, has “a long way to go” to catch up with ALEC, said Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, the conservative group’s state chairman.

Keller said there are no more than six ALEC members in the Alaska Legislature, though in the past the group has claimed as many as nine.

ALEC holds conferences at which legislators sit with corporate representatives on task forces. Those small groups draft template bills that the legislators can take back to their home states, armed with talking points.

The group has recently seen the departure of several large corporate partners, however, including Google, which said ALEC was lying about climate change, and oil giant BP, which just announced its exit Monday.

Keller nonetheless just introduced legislation on insurance regulations, House Bill 159, that he said had been inspired by an ALEC colleague from Michigan. He said he welcomed the addition of a liberal counterpart to ALEC, saying the conservative group was a “good thing to aspire to.”

“The more the merrier -- it’s driven by demand,” Keller said. “May the tribe increase.”

Rathod said his group is fundamentally different from ALEC because of its non-corporate backers.


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New mobile-malware detection technique uses gestures | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

New mobile-malware detection technique uses gestures | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Mobile malware is a growing problem, but researchers from University of Alabama at Birmingham have figured out a new way of detecting when shady mobile apps get up to no good, such as trying to call premium-rate numbers unbeknowst to a phone’s owner.

The technique relies on using the phone’s motion, position and ambient sensors to learn the gestures that users typically make when they initiate phone calls, take pictures or use the phone’s NFC reader to scan credit cards.

Some mobile malware programs already abuse these services and security researchers expect their number will only increase.

The technology developed by the UAB researchers can monitor those three services and can check whether attempts to access them are accompanied by the natural gestures users are expected to make. If they’re not, they were likely initiated by malware.


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UK's "first eco-town" built green from the ground up | Stu Robarts GizMag.com

UK's "first eco-town" built green from the ground up | Stu Robarts  GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

An eco-town described as the UK's "most sustainable development" is moving closer to being occupied. The first residents are expected to move into North West Bicester later this year. Planning permission has also just been granted for up to 2,600 homes in the next stage of the project.

North West Bicester (pronounced "Bister") is one of four designated eco-towns in the UK announced by the government in 2007. The aim is to create a town that is good for the environment, good for the economy and a nice place to live.

It is also one of a handful of One Planet communities around the world. The One Planet scheme was set up by sustainability charity BioRegional. It aims to find ways for people and societies to reduce their level of consumption to an extent that is sustainable based on the amount of resources that the planet can provide.

In addition to homes that are highly sustainable, North West Bicester will offer a mix of affordable housing. Homes will be built to a minimum standard of code level 4 for Sustainable Homes and Sustainable Homes and BREEAM excellence. Residents will be able to access a community hub via mobile devices that will allows them to check car club availability, monitor energy usage and prices, check public transport information and communicate with other residents. Homes will also be future-proofed with climate change adaptation in mind.


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"Metallic grass" puts the heat on steam turbines | Dario Borghino | GizMag.com

"Metallic grass" puts the heat on steam turbines | Dario Borghino | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Researchers at at Drexel University have developed a metallic nanocoating derived from a virus of the tobacco plant that could lead to more efficient steam production, improving the performance of steam turbines, air conditioning and electronics cooling systems.

Water’s transition from liquid to gas has plenty of applications beyond the kitchen: water treatment plants, heating and AC systems, and the steam turbines that we use to produce electricity are all heavily dependent on this process. Making this transition even slightly more efficient than it is now could therefore have quite a big impact on our energy outlook.

The promise of such a breakthrough comes from an unexpected source – a virus common to tobacco plants. The tobacco mosaic virus was the very first virus to be identified, back in 1930, and has been studied in detail since then. It’s a simple organism that consists of a single strand of RNA surrounded by a dense network of coating proteins. Today, scientists think that this layout is ideal for building self-assembling nanostructures.


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Driverless cars poised to transform automotive industry | MINING.com

Driverless cars poised to transform automotive industry | MINING.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The newest Mercedes autonomous car looks like a car on the outside but like a lounge on the inside, with four swivel seats facing each other in a multimedia bubble of padded leather and walnut veneer.

The F 015 'Luxury in Motion' concept car unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year is completely self-driving but still has a steering wheel and brake if you want to swivel around and drive it manually.

Daimler, the maker of Mercedes and inventor of the original automobile, wants to be among the first to re-invent the car, CEO Dieter Zetsche said at the CES, which he says will become more than just a means of transport and will turn into a mobile living space.

German rival Audi, Tesla, Google and a number of other companies are working on their own versions of driverless cars, fulfilling the forecasts that they will be a reality on the roads perhaps as soon as the end of this decade.

In fact, all the technology needed for a self-driving car exists already. Current features like adaptive cruise control and self-parking preview what a fully autonomous car can do.

It is likelier to be legal and liability issues that slow down actual deployment. That and social acceptance of such a radical change could dampen the trend more than a lack of technology.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a recent interview, however, that the change in thinking could be no different than the shift from elevators manned by operators to today's completely automatic elevators.

There is little question that driverless cars will improve fuel economies not only because they smooth out the braking and accelerating of human drivers, but also because they improve traffic flow by finding optimal routes and mitigating congestion. The lower accident rate will mean fewer traffic jams from that cause as well.

Also, there will be fewer cars on the road because a single driverless car per family can take both parents to work, drop the kids off at school, pick them up afterwards and obviate the need for the two or three-car family.

A recent study from the University of Michigan suggests, however, that overall fuel consumption could increase because the cars on the road will get a lot more use. But of course that can be balanced out by greater reliance on non-fossil fuel energy to power the cars.


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Cyprus: Cyta is planning to launch 4G network with nationwide coverage | TeleGeography.com

Cypriot state-owned operator Cyta has disclosed that it is currently in the process of deploying its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network. The cellco revealed that it had selected an equipment contractor in November 2014 and is now building a 4G network with nationwide coverage, while also upgrading and modernising its mobile infrastructure.

As previously reported by CommsUpdate, Cyta’s rivals MTN and PrimeTel launched 4G services earlier this month. MTN’s LTE network, which provides average downlink/uplink speeds of 40Mbps/14Mbps, is currently available in Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol, Famagusta and Paphos, while PrimeTel claims 4G LTE population coverage of 50%.

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Growth without reform can never be achieved | Khaled Almaeena | Al Arabiya News

Growth without reform can never be achieved | Khaled Almaeena | Al Arabiya News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

All over the world, we see huge movements of young men and women across all levels of society. They have made their mark and impact on education, politics, economics, banking and sports. Add to that the entertainment industry.

Achievers in various arenas are moving fearlessly and impacting lives and changing the course of history. There is a generational transformation. Ambitious, dedicated and qualified young people are entering the job market and pushing for change. Their unrestricted, unconventional philosophy and out-of-the-ordinary approach is helping society to change. This modernizing attitude and flair has also affected the bureaucracy.

All this is good and we should learn from societies that are far ahead of us and in a state of continuous development. However, to do that we should have a society based on the principles of education, employment and empowerment. As long as our educational institutions are churning out parrots we will not make any headway!

"As long as we believe that we have the right to a job because of our nationality, the goal of producing and gaining will not materialize"


Khaled Almaeena

As long as we do not have a meritocratic society and the love of excellence, we cannot progress. As long as we believe that we have the right to a job because of our nationality, the goal of producing and gaining will not materialize.

So how can we produce future leaders in all levels of society?


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IL: Nation’s biggest nuclear firm makes a play for green energy money | Ray Henry | Bradenton Herald

IL: Nation’s biggest nuclear firm makes a play for green energy money | Ray Henry | Bradenton Herald | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The biggest player in the beleaguered nuclear power industry wants a place alongside solar, wind and hydroelectric power collecting extra money for producing carbon-free electricity.

Exelon Corp., operator of the largest fleet of U.S. nuclear plants, says it could have to close three of them if Illinois rejects the company’s pitch to let it recoup more from consumers since the plants do not produce greenhouse gases.

Chicago-based Exelon essentially wants to change the rules of the state’s power market as the nuclear industry competes with historically low prices for natural gas. Dominion Resources Inc. recently closed the Kewaunee Power Station in Wisconsin for financial reasons, and Entergy Corp. likewise shuttered its Vermont Yankee plant.

Plans for a new wave of U.S. nuclear plants have been delayed or cancelled, aside from three projects deep into construction at Plant Vogtle south of Augusta, Georgia; V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia, South Carolina; and Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in eastern Tennessee. Electric utilities in those states do not face competition.

Nuclear plants provide about 97 percent of the electricity supply in Exelon’s Midwest market, according to company filings.

“We’re not looking for a bailout from market conditions,” said Joseph Dominguez, executive vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs at Exelon. “We are looking for policy support that every other technology receives in Illinois that produces zero-carbon electricity with the exception of nuclear.”


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It hit 63 degrees in Antarctica on Tuesday | Reem Nasr | CNBC.com

It hit 63 degrees in Antarctica on Tuesday | Reem Nasr | CNBC.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Antarctica may have experienced its warmest day ever recorded on Tuesday, with the temperature reading of 63.5°F, reports The Weather Underground.

Tuesday's record high temperature follows another high reading of 63.3°F set just the day before. Until this week's heat wave, the highest-known recorded temperature on the continent was 62.6°F back in 1976.

The Antarctic Peninsula where the readings were made "is one of the fastest warming spots on Earth," reports The Weather Undergound. The website cites studies from 2012 that show the world is warming at a quickening pace.

Five nations and territories have tied or hit all-time high temperature records so far this year.


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The Often Overlooked Role of Natural Gas in the Israel-Palestine Conflict | Michael Schwartz | Mother Jones

The Often Overlooked Role of Natural Gas in the Israel-Palestine Conflict | Michael Schwartz | Mother Jones | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Guess what? Almost all the current wars, uprisings, and other conflicts in the Middle East are connected by a single thread, which is also a threat: these conflicts are part of an increasingly frenzied competition to find, extract, and market fossil fuels whose future consumption is guaranteed to lead to a set of cataclysmic environmental crises.

Amid the many fossil-fueled conflicts in the region, one of them, packed with threats, large and small, has been largely overlooked, and Israel is at its epicenter. Its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when Israeli and Palestinian leaders began sparring over rumored natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Gaza. In the ensuing decades, it has grown into a many-fronted conflict involving several armies and three navies. In the process, it has already inflicted mindboggling misery on tens of thousands of Palestinians, and it threatens to add future layers of misery to the lives of people in Syria, Lebanon, and Cyprus. Eventually, it might even immiserate Israelis.

Resource wars are, of course, nothing new. Virtually the entire history of Western colonialism and post-World War II globalization has been animated by the effort to find and market the raw materials needed to build or maintain industrial capitalism. This includes Israel's expansion into, and appropriation of, Palestinian lands. But fossil fuels only moved to center stage in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship in the 1990s, and that initially circumscribed conflict only spread to include Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, and Russia after 2010.


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Are we ready for the next volcanic catastrophe? | Bill McGuire | The Guardian

Are we ready for the next volcanic catastrophe? | Bill McGuire | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

If you were one of the 10 million air travellers shaking your fist at the departures board in April 2010, you will appreciate the fact that – even in this tectonically peaceful realm – we ignore volcanic threats at our peril. Despite being nothing to write home about in terms of size, the eruption from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano brought air travel chaos to the UK and mainland Europe when its ash cloud grounded an astonishing 107,000 flights in the biggest air traffic shutdown since the second world war.


The eight days of mayhem brought airline CEOs to the point of apoplexy and, once the ash had settled, the air travel business was left with a €1.3bn bill. The threat posed by Icelandic eruptions has since been recognised and added, retrospectively, to the UK’s National Risk Register, in the hope that next time we will be better prepared.


But what about volcanic explosions further afield? These, it appears, are still regarded as posing no threat to our country, and so can be safely ignored. But turn the clock back 200 years and there is at least one event that suggests we ought to think twice.


In April 1815, the biggest known eruption of the historical period blew apart the Tambora volcano, on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, 12,000km from the UK. What happened next testifies to the enormous reach of the biggest volcanic blasts.


The Tambora volcano had shown no signs of life for 1,000 years; a single eruption in the previous five millennia provided the only indication that magma was still churning far beneath. It is very likely that the residents of the island considered the volcano extinct, and possible even that they did not know the impressive 4,300m (14,107ft) mountain – at the time, probably the highest in the East Indies – was a volcano at all.


This all changed, however, with the rumblings and earthquakes of 1812, a full three years before the climactic blast. Over time, the seismic shocks were superseded by steam blasts and small ash explosions, engendering increasing trepidation on the island and signalling that something bigger might be imminent. It was.


On 5 April 1815, a titanic explosion hurled a cloud of ash to a height of more than 30km. Violent, but short-lived, the blast lasted just two hours, after which the volcano returned to a state of brooding menace.


According to the lieutenant governor, Thomas Stamford (later Sir Stamford) Bingley Raffles, to whom volcanologists are indebted for his accounts of the eruption, the detonation was so loud that it was mistaken across Java for cannon fire, causing consternation among the British troops, which had ousted the Dutch and French forces just a few years earlier.

But the blast was small beer in comparison with what followed. After five days of relative calm, the climactic phase of the eruption began with a colossal explosion that launched a towering column of ash to the edge of space.


For four or five days, utter blackness reigned across the island as the hurricane blasts of hot ash and scalding gas – known as pyroclastic flows – scoured the flanks of the volcano of everything and everyone, and drifts of ash metres thick entombed what few signs of life remained.


When the explosions ceased and the darkness finally lifted, the view revealed was a vision of Tolkien’s Mordor; a grey landscape within which nothing lived or moved. The top 500m of the volcano was gone, blasted into smithereens, and replaced by a 6km-wide maw from which steam spiralled skywards.


Communities on the flanks of the volcano had vanished, along with the lives of around 12,000 men, women and children. These, perhaps, were the lucky ones, as a further 60,000 survivors of the eruption succumbed slowly and agonisingly to famine or disease.

But the consequences were not confined to this Indonesian backwater.


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Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’ | Evelyn Nieves | AlterNet

Fracking Town’s Desperate Laid-off Workers: ‘They Don’t Tell You It’s All a Lie’ | Evelyn Nieves | AlterNet | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

From the looks of it, the nation’s boomtown is still booming. Big rigs, cement mixers and oil tankers still clog streets built for lighter loads. The air still smells like diesel fuel and looks like a dust bowl— all that traffic — and natural gas flares, wasted byproducts of the oil wells, still glare out at the night sky like bonfires. 


Not to mention that Walmart, still the main game in town, can’t seem to get a handle on its very long lines and half­ empty shelves. 


But life at the center of the country’s largest hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom has definitely changed. The jobs that brought thousands of recession­-weary employment­-seekers to this once peaceful corner of western North Dakota over the last five years have been drying up, even as the unemployed keep coming.


Downtown, clutches of men pass their time at the Salvation Army, watching movies or trolling Craigslist ads on desktop computers. The main branch of the public library is full, all day, every day, with unemployed men in cubbyholes. And when the Command Center, a private temporary jobs agency, opens every morning at 6am, between two and three dozen people are waiting to get in the door.

Some of these job seekers are sleeping in their trucks, in utility sheds, behind piles of garbage by the railroad tracks, wherever they can curl up.

Only a year ago, Williston’s shale oil explosion was still gushing jobs. From 2010 to 2014, thanks to the Bakken shale oil patch, it was the fastest growing small city in the nation. Williston nearly tripled in size, from 12,000 to 35,000 people. But the number of active rigs used to drill new wells in the Bakken dropped to 111 in March, the lowest number since April 2010, according to state figures. Low oil prices have prompted drilling to slow down, and companies big and small have been laying off workers and cutting hours.

City officials paint a rosy picture. They cite North Dakota Job Service reports that maintain there are 116 jobs in Williston for every 100 residents, point to North Dakota’s ranking among oil­-producing states (number two, after Texas), call the oil production slowdown a blip and say the oil patch is still growing.

But the city’s job numbers do not match the reality on the ground.


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WATCH: Nebraska farmer silences oil and gas committee with invitation to drink water tainted by fracking | Tom Boggioni | Raw Story

WATCH: Nebraska farmer silences oil and gas committee with invitation to drink water tainted by fracking | Tom Boggioni | Raw Story | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Appearing before a Nebraska Oil & Gas Conservation committee hearing, a local farmer received nothing but silence from the pro-fracking members of the board after he invited them to drink glasses of water tainted by fracking.

In the video, uploaded to YouTube by BoldNebraska, Nebraskan James Osborne used his 3 minutes before the committee to visually explain what fracking waste can do to the water table, dramatically pouring out water containing his own “private mixture” of fracking additives.

The committee is holding public hearings on a proposal by an oil company to ship out-of-state fracking wastewater into Nebraska where it will be dumped into a “disposal well” in Sioux County. According to a report, the Terex Energy Corp wants to truck as much as 10,000 barrels a day of the chemical-laden fracking wastewater to a ranch north of Mitchell, Nebraska for disposal.

Explaining that he has ties to the oil industry and that he is still on the fence about fracking, Osbourne explained fluid dynamics to the board while pouring out three cups of the sludgy water that could result from spills or from seeping into the water table.

Referring to earlier testimony, Osbourne said, “So you told me this morning that you would drink this water,” as he indicated the cups.

“So would you drink it? Yes or no?” he asked, only to be met by silence by the stone-faced group before a member explained they wouldn’t be answering any questions.


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China ramps up the rhetoric on climate change | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network

China ramps up the rhetoric on climate change | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Zheng Guogang, head of the China Meteorological Administration, says future variations in climate are likely to reduce crop yields and damage the environment.

In one of the strongest official statements to date on the challenges faced, Zheng told China’s official Xinhua news agency that climate change could have a “huge impact” on the country, with a growing risk of climate-related disasters.

“To face the challenges from past and future climate change, we must respect nature and live in harmony with it,” Zheng said. “We must promote the idea of nature, and emphasise climate security.”


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