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Japan: Submarine Methane Raises the Stakes | Truthdig

Japan: Submarine Methane Raises the Stakes | Truthdig | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Japan has successfully captured natural gas from deep under the ocean by tapping into methane hydrates, using a new technology that could revolutionize the world’s energy supply. It is the first country to succeed in exploiting the gas.

 

The gas supplies locked into methane hydrates, also known as methane clathrates and “fire ice”, are potentially the largest single source of fossil fuels on the planet and for Japan, a country desperate for its own energy supplies, this could be an economic lifeline.

 

On the other hand, many would regard almost unlimited supplies of a new fossil fuel as bad news in a world where there is already climate change caused by man’s existing excess carbon emissions.

 

The announcement of the successful extraction of methane from underneath the sea floor off the Japanese coast came from the country’s Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry (METI). The tests by the state-owned Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) are continuing. It hopes to exploit the technology commercially in a new phase of drilling between 2016 and 2018.


According to the US Oil & Gas Journal, the test well is in 1,000 metres of water off the Atsumi and Shima peninsulas. The hydrate is a further 270 metres below the sea bed in the Nankai trough. 

This is well within economic reach for a pipeline from potential industrial and domestic users in central Japan. The hydrate is basically frozen methane and water, which forms in large lumps under the right temperature and pressure conditions.

 

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Netflix's secret weapon to conquer Europe: pay TV boxes | Janko Roettgers | GigaOM Tech News

Netflix's secret weapon to conquer Europe: pay TV boxes | Janko Roettgers | GigaOM Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Netflix launched in Germany and Austria on Tuesday after going live in France on Monday, and the company is set to announce launches in three additional European countries later this week. It’s one of Netflix’s most ambitious expansions to date, and it’s coming with a new set of partners: In Germany, Netflix struck an alliance with Deutsche Telekom, and, in France, it teamed up with Bouygues Telecom.


These partnerships could be a key part to Netflix’s expansion in Europe and provide a blueprint for further growth in the U.S. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom is adding Netflix’s app to its Entertain pay TV platform. In France, the app is going to be available on Bouygues Telecom‘s Android-based set-top boxes starting in November.


This isn’t the first time Netflix has struck these kinds of alliances with pay TV operators. However, in the past, cooperations were restricted to operators that were leasing TiVo’s DVR to their customers. Now, Netflix is taking the next step and bringing its app to additional set-top boxes.


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Brazil's Indigenous Seek Out City, End Up in Slums | NYTimes.com

Brazil's Indigenous Seek Out City, End Up in Slums | NYTimes.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

They huddle in a tight circle, shaking seed-filled maracas and shuffling in time to a rhythm that has pulsed through their tribes for generations. The dancers raise their voices in song, conjuring an ancient spirit that vibrates above the traffic roaring from a nearby expressway and the beat of funk music blasting from a neighbor's loudspeaker.


In this Brazilian favela, a dense hodgepodge of humble cinderblock homes filled with some of Rio de Janeiro's poorest residents, the indigenous people whose cultures predate recorded history are struggling to keep their traditions alive in the face of modernity. Seeking jobs and forced out of their native lands by loggers, miners and farmers, an estimated 22,000 Brazilian Indians now call the crowded favelas their home.


Deforestation continues to reshape the Amazon rain forest region that is home to a third of Brazil's indigenous people. The rate of deforestation rose 29 percent last year, compared with a year earlier, the Brazilian government reported last week.


"There are no more forests, no more fish. We've got to survive so we go to the cities. But they're so expensive, where can we live but the favelas?" asked Sandra Benites, a Guarani tribeswoman who moved to Rio's Complexo Sao Carlos slum in 2010 from the neighboring state of Espirito Santo. "Despite the problems, at least in the village you're surrounded by a community. In the city, you're alone."


Benites, a 39-year-old teacher who also uses her tribal name Ara Rete, joined other indigenous urbanites recently to celebrate a traditional ritual in Rio de Janeiro's Mare favela. The gatherings of about a dozen people, from as many tribes, provide a sense of community that helps them endure the "double discrimination" they face.


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Coca Cola, Heinz And Other Major Food Companies Warn Climate Change Threatens Business | Emily Atkin | ThinkProgress.org

Coca Cola, Heinz And Other Major Food Companies Warn Climate Change Threatens Business | Emily Atkin | ThinkProgress.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Back in March, popular burrito chain Chipotle made news when ThinkProgress reported that climate change could threaten its guacamole supply. That report was based on a statement Chipotle made in its annual report to its investors, filed with the Securities Exchange Commission.


Chipotle took issue with the story, noting that its language about how climate change could affect guacamole was routine for annual reports and other SEC filings. The SEC requires companies to tell investors about any business risk they face, no matter how small. Indeed, companies mention things like freak accidents and terrorist attacks in these reports as well. In all, Chipotle just didn’t want its customers to become alarmed about a guacamole shortage (and in fact, guacamole hasn’t budged from the menu).


But as ThinkProgress noted at the time, the real story was not a guacamole shortage, but the emerging reality of doing business in a warming world. While politicians continue to bicker over whether or not climate change exists, companies now have no choice in the matter — they must acknowledge the science and the risk and disclose the reality of that risk to their investors’ pocketbooks. Whether that risk actually manifests itself is another matter, but the fact that companies are increasingly putting climate change on their threat lists speaks volumes to the severity of the problem.


Here are seven other big food companies that disclose to investors that climate change poses a threat to their products and bottom lines.


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Who Pays For Green Dreams? | Loren Steffy | Forbes.com

Who Pays For Green Dreams? | Loren Steffy | Forbes.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Renewable energy is coming to an economic crossroads, one that could have dire unintended consequences for some of the most vulnerable populations – the poor and the elderly.


As renewable energy expands, activists around the world are calling for programs that would supplant conventional fuels – coal, oil and, to a lesser extent, natural gas – with renewable sources such as wind and solar.


Programs such as the misguided fossil fuel divestiture movement, ignore the costs that forcing a move away from fossil fuels imposes on those who are slowest to embrace the change. While there are benefits to diversifying our fuel portfolio, in its current form, the growing use of renewables requires a subsidy from fossil fuels.


This isn’t a cost being foisted upon those who deny climate change.  Quite the opposite. In many cases, it is those who already face the biggest impact from global warming who are being saddled with the greatest cost for switching to renewables.


Caleb Rossiter, an adjunct professor with American University’s  School of International Service recently outlined his concerns with how the fossil fuel divestiture program could affect Africa:


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IL: Chicago's New Electric Garbage Trucks Give Trash the Silent Treatment | Andrew Tarantola | Gizmodo.com

IL: Chicago's New Electric Garbage Trucks Give Trash the Silent Treatment | Andrew Tarantola | Gizmodo.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

You know how I know it's garbage day? Because it's 5 am and it sounds like the trucks from Pump are getting busy on the curb. VROOOOOM, CRUNCH, SLAM, WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA, SLAM, CRUNCH, VROOOOOM. But some lucky Chicagoans will soon be able to sleep all the way through the night thanks to a new fleet of (mostly) silent dump trucks.


Built by Motiv, an electric vehicle company that first gained prominence with its electric school bus for Kings Canyon Unified School District in California, the new all electric garbage truck will run a 60 mile route while collecting and compacting an estimated 9 tons of trash every day. It is also expected to save 2,688 gallons of diesel and $11,000 in maintenance costs annually. Compact-y parts of the truck are still sure to make a racket, but the driving part will be mercifully whisper-quiet.


In all, Chicago aims to add at least 20 of these vehicles to its existing, 600-strong fleet over the next five years at a cost of $13.4 million. The electric truck will make its public debut on September 23rd at a Ride and Drive event put on by the CALSTART High-Efficiency Truck Users Forum—check it out before the vehicle is bathed in human refuse.


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European Commission Denies EU Public Right To Express Views On TAFTA/TTIP And CETA | Glynn Moody | Techdirt.com

European Commission Denies EU Public Right To Express Views On TAFTA/TTIP And CETA | Glynn Moody | Techdirt.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

One of the most glaring problems with TAFTA/TTIP is the lack of input from the public in whose name it is being negotiated. The great interest in providing feedback on the agreement can be seen from the one occasion when it was possible to voice an opinion -- the European Commission's consultation on the inclusion of a corporate sovereignty chapter.


And yet, even though an unprecedented 150,000 responses were received -- the vast majority of which were against any kind of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) measures -- a top European politician recently announced that there are no plans to take ISDS out of CETA, the almost-finished trade agreement between the EU and Canada that represents a kind of warm-up for TAFTA/TTIP.


Since the European Commission refuses to take into account the public's views directly, people have turned to another mechanism to make their voices heard: a special kind of EU-wide petition called a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). If sufficient signatures are obtained from around the EU, the European Commission is obliged to respond, but the bar to make that happen is set quite high:


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Sprint, Windstream traffic routing errors hijacked other ISPs | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com

Sprint, Windstream traffic routing errors hijacked other ISPs | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Internet traffic routing errors made by U.S. operators Sprint and Windstream on the same day last week underscore a long-known Internet weakness, posing both security and reliability issues.


Both of the errors involved Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), an aging but crucial protocol that is used by networking equipment to route traffic between different providers. Traffic routes are “announced” using BGP, and the changes are then taken up by routers around the world.


But network providers frequently make erroneous announcements—known as “route hijacking”—which can shut off services, causing reliability issues or be used for certain kinds of cyberattacks.


For about a day starting last Tuesday, Sprint made a BGP announcement that directed Internet traffic from an ISP in Macedonia through its own network, wrote Doug Madory, a senior analyst with Dyn’s Renesys division, which monitors how global Internet traffic is routed.


On the same day, Windstream commandeered traffic destined for Saudi Telecom, and then a day later for networks in Gaza and Iceland, besides three in China, Madory wrote.


It’s not uncommon for operators to make such errors through misconfiguration. But Madory wrote that the problem of BGP route hijacking “has gone from bad to downright strange.”


“While we now detect suspicious routing events on an almost daily basis, in the last couple of days we have witnessed a flurry of hijacks that really make you scratch your head,” he wrote.


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Drought bites as Amazon’s ‘flying rivers’ dry up | Jan Rocha | Climate News Network

Drought bites as Amazon’s ‘flying rivers’ dry up | Jan Rocha | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The unprecedented drought now affecting São Paulo, South America’s giant metropolis, is believed to be caused by the absence of the “flying rivers” − the vapour clouds from the Amazon that normally bring rain to the centre and south of Brazil.


Some Brazilian scientists say the absence of rain that has dried up rivers and reservoirs in central and southeast Brazil is not just a quirk of nature, but a change brought about by a combination of the continuing deforestation of the Amazon and global warming.


This combination, they say, is reducing the role of the Amazon rainforest as a giant “water pump”, releasing billions of litres of humidity from the trees into the air in the form of vapour.


Meteorologist Jose Marengo, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, first coined the phrase “flying rivers” to describe these massive volumes of vapour that rise from the rainforest, travel west, and then − blocked by the Andes − turn south.


Satellite images from the Centre for Weather Forecasts and Climate Research of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) clearly show that, during January and February this year, the flying rivers failed to arrive, unlike the previous five years.


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How LEDs Are Going To Change The Way We Look At Cities | Ucilia Wang | Forbes.com

How LEDs Are Going To Change The Way We Look At Cities | Ucilia Wang | Forbes.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Ed Ebrahimian loves to stare out the plane window on night flights home to Los Angeles. Next time you fly into L.A. late, take a good look and see why. Five years ago a bright orange blanket of light used to saturate the city and stain the air above. Today it’s a metropolis aglow with tens of thousands of cool silvery pinpoint lights. The grid is clearer. The skies are blacker.


“The lights look like candles now, and they aren’t glaring at all,” Ebrahimian gushes. “The sky glow is the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my life.”


Ebrahimian has good reason to be enthused. As director of L.A.’s Bureau of Street Lighting, he’s overseeing one of the largest relighting projects in the world, spending $57 million to retrofit the city’s 215,000 lights, which come in more than 400 styles. The money has gotten him only to lamppost number 155,000 after five years. Replacing the remaining 60,000, including most of the decorative ones, will cost $50 million more.


Los Angeles is a dramatic front in an important and overlooked battle facing the rapidly urbanizing world: the struggle between light and dark. Cities and businesses want more light everywhere for commercial and safety reasons, but our decades-long saturation bombing of the darkness is blowing holes in electricity budgets, confusing and killing wildlife, and completely erasing our view of the stars, the inspiration for millennia of scientists, poets and explorers. “What was once a most common human experience has become most rare,” writes Paul Bogard, author of The End of Night, a book that assails the world’s unchecked light pollution.


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Canada: World's Last Remaining Forest Wilderness at Risk | Stephen Leahy | Truth-Out.org

Canada: World's Last Remaining Forest Wilderness at Risk | Stephen Leahy | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The world’s last remaining forest wilderness is rapidly being lost – and much of this is taking place in Canada, not in Brazil or Indonesia where deforestation has so far made the headlines.


A new satellite study reveals that since 2000 more than 104 million hectares of forests – an area three times the size of Germany – have been destroyed or degraded.


“Every four seconds, an area of the size of a football (soccer) field is lost,” said Christoph Thies of Greenpeace International.


The extent of this forest loss, which is clearly visible in satellite images taken in 2000 and 2013, is “absolutely appalling” and has a global impact, Thies told IPS, because forests play a crucial in regulating the climate.


The current level of deforestation is putting more CO2 into the atmosphere than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes together, he said, adding that “governments must take urgent action” to protect intact forests by creating more protected areas, strengthening the rights of forest communities and other measures, including convincing lumber, furniture manufacturers and others to refuse to use products from virgin forests.


Greenpeace is one of several partners in the Intact Forest Landscapes initiative, along with the University of Maryland, World Resources Institute and WWF-Russia among others, that uses satellite imagery technology to determine the location and extent of the world’s last large undisturbed forests.


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Illegal deforestation is growing problem for climate | Alex Kirby | Climate News Network

Illegal deforestation is growing problem for climate | Alex Kirby | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A report by the US non-governmental organisation, Forest Trends, says 49% of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture.


It says that most was driven by foreign demand for agricultural products, including palm oil, beef, soya and wood products – and  the impact on forest-dependent people and on biodiversity is “devastating”.


The report, funded by the UK Department for International Development, estimates that the illegal conversion of tropical forests for commercial agriculture produces 1.47 gigatonnes (1,470,000,000 tonnes) of carbon a year − equivalent to 25% of the European Union’s annual fossil fuel-based emissions. NASA said in 2012 that tropical deforestation had accounted for about 10% of human carbon emissions from 2000 to 2005.


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PESTICIDES: Syngenta asks EPA to raise tolerance level for 'bee-killing' chemical | eenews.net

Seed and crop management company Syngenta Crop Protection LLC has petitioned U.S. EPA to increase the legal tolerance for a neonicotinoid pesticide residue in several crops -- in one case increasing the acceptable level by 400 times, according to a notice in today's Federal Register.


Syngenta, one of the biggest manufacturers of pesticides, wants to increase the allowable threshold for residues of thiamethoxam, a pesticide that has been linked to the decline of honeybees and other pollinators over the past several decades.


The petition would apply to alfalfa, barley, corn and wheat, both the crop itself and the straw and stover left over after cultivation. Syngenta is seeking to increase the levels from as low as 1.5 times for stover from sweet corn to as much as 400 times for hay from wheat.


Neonicotinoid pesticides are one of many factors that scientists say have caused a dramatic decline in pollinators, insects and animals that help crop production by carrying pollen from one plant to another. The United States has lost more than half its managed honeybee colonies in the last 10 years, according to the Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit dedicated to the protection of pollinators and their ecosystems.


Scientists say neonicotinoids can suppress bees' immune systems, making them more vulnerable to viruses and bacteria. The Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to phase out neonicotinoids on wildlife refuges nationwide starting in January 2016 (Greenwire, Aug. 1).

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'They're Right': Citing Climate, DA Drops Charges Against Coal Blockaders | | Jon Queally Blog | BillMoyers.com

'They're Right': Citing Climate, DA Drops Charges Against Coal Blockaders | | Jon Queally Blog | BillMoyers.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A local district attorney in Massachusetts surprised parties on all sides on Monday after he sided with two climate justice activists who employed a “necessity defense” to justify their use of a small lobster boat to block the path of an enormous coal freighter trying to dock at the Brayton Point Power Station in the town of Somerset last year.


Several serious charges were brought against the two men, Jay O’Hara and Ken Ward, for their attempt to wedge their boat, the Henry David T., between the dock and an approaching coal freighter, the Energy Enterprise, on May 13, 2013. (Read Common Dreams original reporting on the action here.)


For the brazen act of civil disobedience both O’Hara and Ward faced many thousands of dollars in fines and as much as two years in jail, but it was Bristol County DA Sam Sutter who decided that all charges in the case would be dropped after he determined that their expressed purpose — to put an end to the carbon-spewing pollution directly related to the current climate change crisis — was an adequate and defensible position. Sutter dropped all charges against the two.


And he did more than that. Following an agreement between his office and O’Hara and Ward which would see the most serious charges — including conspiracy — dropped and fines replaced with orders of restitution (both men agreed to pay $2,000), Sutter emerged from the local court house to express why he thought the two activists were ultimately justified in their creative protest.


“Because of my sympathy with their position, I was in a dilemma,” Sutter told the crowd of approximately 100 people outside. “I have a duty to go forward to some extent with this case and to follow the applicable case law, but they were looking for a forum to present their very compelling case about climate change.”


He added: “I do believe they’re right, that we’re at a crisis point with climate change.”


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NASA taps SpaceX, Boeing to carry astronauts to space | Dara Kerr | CNET.com

NASA taps SpaceX, Boeing to carry astronauts to space | Dara Kerr | CNET.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In a surprise move, NASA picked both Boeing and SpaceX to be the first private companies to shuttle astronauts to the International Space Station. The agency announced Tuesday that the aerospace companies were awarded contracts worth a combined total of $6.8 billion.


"We know going to space is hard," NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders said during a press conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Tuesday. "We are counting on them to deliver our most precious cargo."


Chicago-based Boeing and Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX beat their other competitors for the NASA contract, which entails building space taxis that will take astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. The new contract is essential since NASA shut down its Space Shuttle program in 2011.


The spacecraft to be used by NASA are Boeing's CST-100 and SpaceX's Dragon V2. Both spacecraft can carry a crew of seven astronauts and launch on a variety of rockets. Boeing will receive $4.2 billion and SpaceX will get $2.6 billion. NASA said the difference in the amount of the contracts is based on the companies' proposals.


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ITV urges UK to implement US-style retransmission scheme | Michelle Clancy | RapidTVNews.com

ITV urges UK to implement US-style retransmission scheme | Michelle Clancy | RapidTVNews.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it
In the US, pay-TV companies are required to compensate free-to-air broadcasters to carry their content, in the form of retransmission fees. It’s an important revenue source for the likes of NBC, CBS and FOX in the US, and contributes to their budget for content carriage.



In the UK, ITV is now calling for a replication of the model in its home market, urging regulators to compel major pay-TV platforms to pay UK public service broadcasters fairly for the transmission of their channels.

Research carried out by NERA Economic Consulting concludes that introducing payments to broadcasters for retransmitting their content would end what is effectively a “multi-million pound subsidy to Sky and Virgin".“

In 2013, US free-to-air broadcasters received around $3.3 billion in retransmission payments, NERA noted, also claiming that the fees account for less than 3% of cable operators’ revenues, and “have little or no impact on pay-TV prices".

SNL Kagan meanwhile has found that retransmission consent fees add up to the equivalent of 8.9% of total fees distributors pay for basic-cable and regional-sports networks – and that percentage is expected to rise to just under 13% by 2017.   

The research house also noted that rising retrans fees are a factor in escalating programming costs – others were the additional expense of TV everywhere and digital rights agreements, increasing costs for sports rights and cable network programming, and additional channel launches.   

NERA said that UK public service broadcasters invest around $4.89 billion on programming – with ITV alone spending almost $1.63 billion a year – the vast majority of which is invested in original UK content, it argued.

“Introducing retransmission fees would have clear benefits to the UK creative industries and the wider economy - as well as to viewers right across the UK - by enabling PSBs to continue to invest in the original programming people love to watch,” said Adam Crozier, CEO at ITV.


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'Tiny banker' malware targets US financial institutions | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com

'Tiny banker' malware targets US financial institutions | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A banking trojan, known for its small size but powerful capabilities, has expanded the number of financial institutions it can collect data from, according to security vendor Avast.


Tiny Banker, also known as Tinba, was discovered around mid-2012 after it infected thousands of computers in Turkey.


The malware is just 20K in size and can inject HTML fields into websites when it detects a user has navigated to a banking site, asking for a range of sensitive information banks would never request during an online session.


A version analyzed by Avast showed Tiny Banker has been customized to target many new financial institutions, many of which are based in the U.S. such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Chase, wrote Jaromir Horejsi, an Avast malware analyst.


A screenshot bearing Wells Fargo’s logo showed how Tiny Banker asks for more information when a person logs into their account. It shows a bogus warning about a system update, asking users to provider more information to verify their identity.


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Netflix And Infringement Called Out During Australian Copyright Forum, But One Major Studio Admits Windowed Releases Are Stupid | Tim Cushing | Techdirt.com

Netflix And Infringement Called Out During Australian Copyright Forum, But One Major Studio Admits Windowed Releases Are Stupid | Tim Cushing | Techdirt.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Being a good Australian means waiting weeks or months for movies or software and then paying an exorbitant amount for them. It took all the way until 2013 for the Australian government to finally allow its adult gamers to buy games for adults, after years of deciding that if the content was too harsh for the (government's idea of a) 15-year-old's sensibilities, then no one could have it.

All sorts of IP-reform discussions by rights holders and government reps have taken place over the last several months. Not included (much): the public, which is expected to purchase content and abide by the new rules, whatever they end up being. The foremost subject is still piracy, despite the fact that the business model(s) suck. (See also: the Australian Tax.)

And it's still what's on everyone's minds, at least indirectly. ZDNet reports on some interesting comments from the Online Copyright Infringement Forum recently held in Sydney, Australia. But at least there's some admission that the business model is at least part of the problem.


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United Way Worldwide to begin accepting donations in Bitcoin | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com

United Way Worldwide to begin accepting donations in Bitcoin | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

United Way Worldwide announced Monday that it will begin taking donations in Bitcoin, the digital currency.


Bitcoin users can now use the currency for donations to the United Way's Innovation Fund, a part of the United  Way dedicated to updating the organization through "technology, relationships and efficiency." Coinbase, one of the leading Bitcoin payment platforms, is partnering with the charity to let those interested donate directly from their digital Bitcoin wallets to the fund. According to a page on the United Way's Web site, anyone from around the world can donate to the fund using Bitcoin.


Bitcoin is making steady progress in gaining more mainstream acceptance, with companies ranging from Home Depot and Target to local food trucks jumping on board. eBay's PayPal announced last week that it will soon be offering developers of its Braintree payment platform the option to accept Bitcoin as a method of payment, also through a partnership with Coinbase.


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U.S., U.K. Could Spy on Deutsche Telekom Network: Der Spiegel | Bloomberg.com

U.S., U.K. Could Spy on Deutsche Telekom Network: Der Spiegel | Bloomberg.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The U.S. National Security Agency and its U.K. counterpart GCHQ gained secret access to the networks of German Web providers including Deutsche Telekom AG as it sought to peer into computers all over the world, Der Spiegel reported, citing documents provided by Edward Snowden.


The agencies conducted an operation called Treasure Map, which sought close to real-time access to individual routers as well as computers, smartphones and tablets connected to the Internet, Spiegel reported yesterday in an e-mailed preview of an article to be published tomorrow. The New York Times reported the existence of Treasure Map last year.


Deutsche Telekom said it’s investigating the allegations and hasn’t found evidence of manipulation or external access to its networks. The company, in an e-mailed statement, said it has informed German authorities and is reviewing its networks with external information-technology experts.


Access by foreign security agencies would be “completely unacceptable,” the Bonn-based company said in its statement.

Deutsche Telekom and Cologne, Germany-based Netcologne were marked on a leaked graphic with red dots, indicating surveillance access points, Spiegel reported. Netcologne didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment yesterday.


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Brazil building Amazon observation tower to monitor climate change impact | AFP--The Guardian

Brazil building Amazon observation tower to monitor climate change impact | AFP--The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Brazil is building a giant observation tower in the heart of the Amazon to monitor climate change and its impact on the region's sensitive ecosystem, a newspaper has reported.


The Amazon Tall Tower Observatory is a project of Brazil's National Institute of Amazonian Research and Germany's Max Planck Institute, O Estado de São Paulo said.


The tower, which will rise 325 metres from the ground, will be equipped with high-tech instruments and an observatory to monitor relationships between the jungle and the atmosphere. It will gather data on heat, water, carbon gas, winds, cloud formation, carbon absorption and weather patterns.


The project has been seven years in the making, with a site finally being selected far from any human presence, about 100 miles from Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, project coordinator Antonio Manzi told the newspaper.


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New Zealand's Prime Minister Isn't Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance | Edward Snowden | The//Intercept

New Zealand's Prime Minister Isn't Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance | Edward Snowden | The//Intercept | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Like many nations around the world, New Zealand over the last year has engaged in a serious and intense debate about government surveillance. The nation’s prime minister, John Key of the National Party, has denied that New Zealand’s spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. This week, as a national election approaches, Key repeated those denials in anticipation of a report in The Intercept today exposing the Key government’s actions in implementing a system to record citizens’ metadata.


Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance.


The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.


If you have doubts, which would be quite reasonable, given what the last year showed us about the dangers of taking government officials at their word, I invite you to confirm this for yourself. Actual pictures and classified documentation of XKEYSCORE are available online now, and their authenticity is not contested by any government. Within them you’ll find that the XKEYSCORE system offers, but does not require for use, something called a “Five Eyes Defeat,” the Five Eyes being the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and yes, New Zealand.


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Why the Kashmir Floods Have Been So Deadly | Tanvi Misra | CityLab.com

Why the Kashmir Floods Have Been So Deadly | Tanvi Misra | CityLab.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Junaid Rashid finally got his father on the phone today. For the past six days, he had no idea if his family in Srinagar city was safe. Rashid's family and an estimated 600,000 others have been stranded in India's flooded Kashmir region for the past week.


"In my 30 years, I haven't seen a flood like this," says Rashid, a doctor based in Delhi. An estimated 200 people have lost their lives on the Indian side of the contested border (another 250 or more are estimated to have died on the Pakistani side). As rescue operations continue, the number is only going up.


How can there have been so many fatalities in a region long known to be flood-prone?


It happened because of a combination of urban policy and program failures, says Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator at the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People.


The flood zones surrounding the waterways that run through the Kashmir region are not clearly demarcated based on how much flood load the river can carry. Because of this, no clearly defined rules or regulations exist about where it's safe to build. The result is what Thakkar calls "encroachment" of the river bed—residential and government buildings (even hospitals) have been cropping up on vulnerable areas near the Jhelum River. The river "embankments," meant to stop the flooding, only give a "false sense of security," he says, enabling more careless building.


Local water bodies such as lakes have also been neglected, and so their water-holding capacity is negligible. Existing and future hydropower projects are partly responsible.  


"These projects, all of them involve damming of rivers, submergence, deforestation, tunneling of the rivers, blasting, diversion of the rivers," Thakkar says. All of those processes increase the possibility of landslides and flash-floods.


The problem lies in the way government and builders in India have been intervening in traditional urban planning and management practices, says Saleem Beg of the Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage.


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Four Ways Industrial Ag Is Destroying the Soil - and Your Health | Hannah Bewsey & Katherine Paul | Truth-Out.org

Four Ways Industrial Ag Is Destroying the Soil - and Your Health | Hannah Bewsey & Katherine Paul | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Not anymore, according to soil health experts—unless the apple comes from a tree grown in healthy, organic soil.

According to Australian soil scientist Christine Jones, as reported by Courtney White in his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, apples have lost 80 percent of their vitamin C. 

And that orange you just ate to help ward off a cold? It’s entirely possible that it contains no vitamin C at all.

study looking at vegetables from 1930 to 1980, found that iron levels had decreased by 22 percent, and calcium content by 19 percent.  In the United Kingdom, from 1940 to 1990, copper content in vegetables fell by 76 percent, and calcium by 46 percent. The mineral content in meat was also significantly reduced. 

Food forms the building blocks of our bodies and health. Soil forms the basis for healthy food. Unhealthy soil grows poor quality food. And poor quality food means poor health. 

Even our mental health is linked to healthy soil, rich in microbes

So what’s happened to our soil? It’s been under assault since the advent of modern industrial agriculture, with its monocrops, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.

The term “biodiversity” evokes images of a rich variety of plants—trees, flowers, grasses, fruits, vegetables—mixed in with an equally diverse collection of animals, insects and wildlife, all co-existing in a lush environment.

But there’s a whole world of biodiversity that lives beneath the surface of the earth—at least in areas where the soil hasn’t been destroyed. And that biodiversity is essential for the growth of nutrient-rich foods.


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CA: Environmentalists Sue Over Crude-by-Rail Safety | Molly Samuel | KQED.org

CA: Environmentalists Sue Over Crude-by-Rail Safety | Molly Samuel | KQED.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The environmental group Earthjustice is suing the U.S. Department of Transportation over the safety of the rail cars used to carry crude oil to California and around the country. Old tank cars, known as DOT-111s, have been involved in a number of fiery accidents.


In July, Earthjustice asked the DOT to issue an emergency order that would prohibit the use of unsafe tanks cars to carry volatile crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken formation. Now the group is suing, saying transportation officials never responded to that petition.


The DOT has proposed regulations that would eventually replace the unsafe cars. But it could take years for those rules to phase in, said Patti Goldman, an attorney at Earthjustice.


“They would still allow these railcars to be shipping crude oil and hazardous materials for about four more years,” she said. “And that’s just too long to expose the public to these types of risks.”


Earthjustice filed the lawsuit with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the Sierra Club and ForestEthics.


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The price of free trade is unchecked climate change | Naomi Klein Op Ed | The Globe and Mail

The price of free trade is unchecked climate change | Naomi Klein Op Ed | The Globe and Mail | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

During the globalization wars of the late nineties and early 2000s, I used to follow international trade law extremely closely. But I admit that as I immersed myself in the science and politics of climate change, I stopped paying attention to trade. I told myself that there was only so much abstract, bureaucratic jargon one person could be expected to absorb, and my quota was filled up with emission mitigation targets, feed-in tariffs, and the United Nations’ alphabet soup of UNFCCCs and IPCCs.


Then about three years ago, I started to notice that green energy programs – the strong ones that are needed to lower global emissions fast – were increasingly being challenged under international trade agreements, particularly the World Trade Organization’s rules.In 2010, for instance, the United States challenged one of China’s wind power subsidy programs on the grounds that it contained supports for local industry that were considered protectionist. China, in turn, threatened to bring a dispute against renewables subsidies in five U.S. states.


This is distinctly bizarre behaviour to exhibit in the midst of a climate emergency. Especially because these same governments can be counted upon to angrily denounce each other at United Nations climate summits for not doing enough to cut emissions, blaming their own failures on the other’s lack of commitment. Yet rather than compete for the best, most effective supports for green energy, the biggest emitters in the world are rushing to the WTO to knock down each other’s windmills.


As one case piled on top of another, it seemed to me that it was time to delve back into the trade wars. And as I explored the issue further, I discovered that one of the key, precedent-setting cases pitting “free trade” against climate action was playing out in Ontario – my own backyard.


Suddenly, trade law became a whole lot less abstract.


Sitting at the long conference table overlooking his factory floor, Paolo Maccario, an elegant Italian businessman who moved to Toronto to open a solar factory, has the proud, resigned air of a captain determined to go down with his ship. He makes an effort to put on a brave face: True, “the Ontario market is pretty much gone,” but the company will find new customers for its solar panels, he tells me, maybe in Europe, or the United States. Their products are good, best in class, and “the cost is competitive enough.”


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