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Iran unblocks Facebook, Twitter | TeleGeography

The Iranian government has reportedly unblocked access to social media websites like Facebook and Twitter on 16 September 2013, after four years of censorship, Reuters reports. However, no official statement from the Iranian government on the loosening of restrictions has been published thus far.


As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in January 2013 the government of Iran confirmed that it was working on the development of new smart filtering software which would enable internet users in the country to gain limited access to currently banned social networking sites.


Police chief Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam said at the time: ‘Smart control of social networks is better than filtering them completely.’ The government introduced a national intranet service which contains only approved content in the summer of 2009, while the conventional world wide web was heavily restricted to remove content which was considered as ‘un-Islamic’.

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Canada: Oil spill in Burrard Inlet could cost Vancouver up to $1.2 billion | Jenny Uechi | Vancouver Observer

Canada: Oil spill in Burrard Inlet could cost Vancouver up to $1.2 billion | Jenny Uechi | Vancouver Observer | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A major oil spill in the Burrard Inlet could cost the city up to $1.2 billion in lost economic opportunities, according to a new University of British Columbia (UBC) report.

The UBC Fisheries Economics Research Unit produced the report for the City of Vancouver, which is an intervenor in the federal review of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. Kinder Morgan is applying to expand the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen a day, which would increase the number of oil tankers through Burrard Inlet five-fold if approved.

According to the report, use of the seawall produces $145-$170 million of value annually to the local economy. Vancouver's beaches attract over three million people annually, its waterfront parks attract over five million and the seawall attracts over 2.7 million.

In the event of a 16 million litre oil spill at First or Second Narrows during the month of May, local revenue loss could be in the range of:


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The Second Job You Don’t Know You Have | Craig Lambert | POLITICO.com

The Second Job You Don’t Know You Have | Craig Lambert | POLITICO.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Technology has knocked the bottom rung out of the employment ladder, which has sent youth unemployment around the globe skyrocketing and presented us with a serious economic dilemma. While many have focused on the poor state of our educational system or the “jobless” recovery, another, overlooked factor behind this trend is the phenomenon of “shadow work.”


I define shadow work as all the unpaid jobs we do on behalf of businesses and organizations: We are pumping our own gas, scanning our own groceries, booking our travel and busing our tables at Starbucks. Shadow work is a new concept, so as yet, no one has compiled economic data on how many jobs we, the consumers, have taken over from (erstwhile) employees.


Yet it is surely a force shrinking the job market, and the unemployment it creates is structural. Thanks in part to this new phenomenon, widespread joblessness could become entrenched in the social landscape.

Consider what you now do yourself: You can bank on your cell phone, check yourself out at CVS or the grocery store without ever speaking to an employee, book your own flights and print your boarding pass at the airport without ever talking to a ticket agent—and that’s just in the last few years. Imagine what’s coming next.

In the modern economy, there is no bigger issue than jobs and the cost of maintaining a staff. For the vast majority of businesses, schools and nonprofits, personnel is the largest budget item. This includes, of course, both salaries and benefits. (The latter were once called “fringe benefits,” though the term “fringe” disappeared when the category outgrew anything resembling a fringe.)


Hiring, training and supervising employees augment the cost of personnel, and another outlay kicks in when workers retire—pensions, annuities and, for some employers, the gigantic healthcare costs that pile up from retirement until the end of life, which has become a lengthy period as life spans stretch into the 80s and 90s.

In recent years, salaries in real dollars have either remained static or dropped for most of the labor force. But the galloping cost of benefits—one rule of thumb pegs them at 40 percent of salary—has put steady pressure on employers. Health care expenses, in particular, have driven up this line item. In the United States, health care has become an enormous, seemingly uncontrollable sector, swelling relentlessly and growing far faster than the rest of the economy—much as cancer grows, without relationship to neighboring cells.

Short of a seismic change like universal single-payer health insurance with price controls on drugs and procedures, the upward pressure on employee benefits will continue. The upshot is a strong incentive to replace full-time employees with part-time, outsourced, overseas or contract workers, who receive no benefits. Better yet, simply lay people off—or hand off jobs to customers as shadow work.


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An Exclusive Excerpt From ‘Trade Is War’ | Truthdig.com

An Exclusive Excerpt From ‘Trade Is War’ | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Below is an exclusive excerpt from ‘Trade Is War: The West’s War Against the World’ by Yash Tandon (OR Books, 2015).

In the book, Tandon—a Ugandan expert on international relations, politics and economics—argues that the “soft power” exerted by international powers through economic channels is anything but soft—and that free trade (or the refusal to adopt free trade policies) leads to physical violence, especially for poorer countries. To make his case, Tandon draws on both his extensive understanding of the Global South and his hands-on experience advising African leaders on trade agreements.

Here, Tandon describes how nongovernmental organizations and big agricultural corporations team up to override local agricultural custom, often at the expense of farmers:


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Senator McConnell's NSA gambit fails | Jordain Carney & Julian Hattem | The Hill

Senator McConnell's NSA gambit fails | Jordain Carney & Julian Hattem | The Hill | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Republican leader pledged to keep senators in Washington through the weekend to finish work on expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called his bluff.

Instead, when the smoke cleared in the early hours of Saturday morning, the 2016 presidential contender was the one with bragging rights.

The battle between the two Kentucky Republicans spilled over on the Senate floor, with Paul using procedural tactics to force the chamber into an early Saturday vote. He then used his leverage to kill off McConnell’s repeated attempts to reauthorize the expiring National Security Agency (NSA) programs — first for two months, then for eight days, then for five, then three, then two.

McConnell and the Republican leadership team had appeared confident even into Friday evening that they could kill the House-passed USA Freedom Act. They had planned to force the Senate into accepting a “clean” reauthorization of the provisions — set to expire at the end of the month — at least for a short while.

But Paul and other opponents of the “clean” renewal held firm, forcing McConnell to kick the can and adjourn the Senate without a clear path forward on how to prevent a shutdown of the NSA programs.

Leaving the Capitol, Republicans seemed confused on what their leader’s next steps would be.


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Sluggish Response to Santa Barbara Oil Spill Rings Alarm Bells for the Arctic | Giulia Stefani Blog | NRDC.org

Sluggish Response to Santa Barbara Oil Spill Rings Alarm Bells for the Arctic | Giulia Stefani Blog | NRDC.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

An oil pipeline near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County ruptured Tuesday morning, spewing about 105,000 gallons of oil onto the coast and into the Pacific Ocean. The spill was discovered by locals. By the time the Coast Guard arrived, the leak had already covered 4 miles of the coast, and after the broken pipe was reported, it took the Texas-based company that owns the pipeline, Plains All American Pipeline, several hours to shut off the leak.


That's a disaster in Santa Barbara. In the Arctic, an oil spill like this could be apocalyptic. Yet, just this month, President Obama gave Shell Oil approval to drill in the Arctic starting in July.


Up there, you don't have latte-sipping beach walkers to report spills. In the Arctic, spill cleanup is impossible. There is no proven method for containing and cleaning up an oil spill in those waters. Our nautical charts for the Arctic seafloor are incomplete. And then there are all the difficulties of staging a response. The weather is inclement and mercurial year-round, there is limited housing for support crews - and forget reliable cell service, wifi, or a major airport. It would take days, more likely weeks, to bring together the equipment and personnel needed to even begin to assess the damage. The cleanup effort after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill took more than three years, and even then, there were pools of oil left in some areas.


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Inside the weird, wonderful and award-winning Melbourne School of Design | Nick Lavars | GizMag.com

Inside the weird, wonderful and award-winning Melbourne School of Design | Nick Lavars | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

There was more than a touch of irony about the University of Melbourne's old architecture building. As the breeding ground for generations of Australia's designers and builders, the plain brick building had come to be known as one of the campuses most drab and uninspiring structures. But a simmering discontent boiled over in 2009, when the university announced plans to knock it down and start again. Now standing in its place is a multi award-winning building that's as visually arresting as it is environmentally-friendly. The Melbourne School of Design places a premium on sustainability and collaborative education, and through an inventive architectural approach it has married the two to produce a truly unique learning environment.

"We wanted to grow and we needed a new facility and new labs," Alan Pert, Director of the Melbourne School of Design, tells Gizmag. "When looking for somewhere to study, architecture students these days are looking for infrastructure as much as anything. We knew that the best schools have the best technology and so eventually we got the university behind it."

The university held an international design competition in 2009 and attracted entrants from all over the globe. But it would be Melbourne-based John Wardle Architects and Boston firm NADAAA who would win out, forming a cross-continental collaboration to design the university's newest learning hub.

The key demands outlined in the brief were that the building was to act as an ongoing research project for the future of academic environments and the future of design studio learning, it was to emphasize sustainability and perhaps most audaciously, to bring contemporary lessons in architecture to life.


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New class of "non-Joulian magnets" have potential to revolutionize electronics | Colin Jeffrey | GizMag.com

New class of "non-Joulian magnets" have potential to revolutionize electronics | Colin Jeffrey | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Magnets are at the heart of much of our technology, and their properties are exploited in a myriad ways across a vast range of devices, from simple relays to enormously complex particle accelerators. A new class of magnets discovered by scientists at the University of Maryland (UMD) and Temple University may lead to other types of magnets that expand in different ways, with multiple, cellular magnetic fields, and possibly give rise to a host of new devices. The team also believes that these new magnets could replace expensive, rare-earth magnets with ones made of abundant metal alloys.

About 175 years ago, physicist James Prescott Joule (the same person after which the unit of work energy, the joule, is named) discovered magnetostriction, where iron-based magnetic materials minutely distort in shape, but not in volume, when placed in a magnetic field. Since then, it has been pretty much accepted that this was the way all magnetic materials behaved.

The work conducted on iron alloys (including iron-gallium, iron-germanium, and iron-aluminum) by researchers at UMD and Temple, however, has resulted in the observation of a property never before encountered in magnetic materials: a change in volume whilst in the process of magnetization. As this was fundamentally different to the phenomenon discovered by Joule, the new magnets are called "non-Joulian magnets."


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Parched: A New Dust Bowl Forms in the US Heartland | Laura Parker | National Geographic Food

Parched: A New Dust Bowl Forms in the US Heartland | Laura Parker | National Geographic Food | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In Boise City, Oklahoma, over the catfish special at the Rockin' A Café, the old-timers in this tiny prairie town grouse about billowing dust clouds so thick they forced traffic off the highways and laid down a suffocating layer of topsoil over fields once green with young wheat.

They talk not of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but of the duster that rolled through here on April 27, clocked at 62.3 miles per hour.

It was the tenth time this year that Boise City, at the western end of the Oklahoma panhandle, has endured a dust storm with gusts more than 50 miles per hour, part of a breezier weather trend in a region already known for high winds.

"When people ask me if we'll have a Dust Bowl again, I tell them we're having one now," says Millard Fowler, age 101, who lunches most days at the Rockin' A with his 72-year-old son, Gary. Back in 1935, Fowler was a newly married farmer when a blizzard of dirt, known as Black Sunday, swept the High Plains and turned day to night. Some 300,000 tons of dirt blew east on April 14, falling on Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C., and, according to writer Timothy Egan in his book The Worst Hard Time, onto ships at sea in the Atlantic.

"It is just as dry now as it was then, maybe even drier," Fowler says. "There are going to be a lot of people out here going broke."

The climatologists who monitor the prairie states say he is right. Four years into a mean, hot drought that shows no sign of relenting, a new Dust Bowl is indeed engulfing the same region that was the geographic heart of the original. The undulating frontier where Kansas, Colorado, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma converge is as dry as toast. The National Weather Service, measuring rain over 42 months, reports that parts of all five states have had less rain than what fell during a similar period in the 1930s.


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Germany: M-net fibre subscribers reach 100,000 | TeleGeography.com

German regional telecoms operator M-net has revealed that it has signed up its 100,000th fibre customer.


The company, which primarily operates in the federal states of Bavaria and Hesse, is aiming to increase the number of households covered by its fibre-optic network to 600,000 by the end of the year.


Stadtwerke Munchen holds a 60% stake in M-net, while other shareholders include energy companies Stadtwerke Augsburg Energie, Allgau Uberlandwerk, N-ERGY, infra furth and Erlanger Stadtwerke.

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Netherlands: KPN expands LTE-A coverage to seven cities | TeleGeography.com

Dutch telecoms giant KPN has expanded its LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) network to cover seven major cities, according to reports from technology website Tweakers, citing a statement from the operator.


Users in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, The Hague, Groningen, Eindhoven and Tilburg can now access theoretical speeds up to 225Mbps, via compatible devices. The faster speeds are a result of KPN’s use of carrier aggregation (CA) technology, which combines frequencies in the 800MHz and 1800MHz bands.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in March this year KPN announced that it had trialled the Netherlands’ first tri-band CA solution, utilising frequencies in the 800MHz, 1800MHz and 2600MHz bands and allowing the telco to achieve peak download speeds of 297Mbps. Going forward, KPN plans to roll out tri-band CA in areas where high levels of data traffic has a negative effect on its download speeds.

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Oil rig fire causes 'rainbow sheen' in the Gulf of Mexico | Brian Ries | Mashable.com

Oil rig fire causes 'rainbow sheen' in the Gulf of Mexico | Brian Ries | Mashable.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

An oil rig fire in the Gulf of Mexico early Friday morning has caused "rainbow sheen" more than a mile long, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said it received a report at 2:50 a.m. from an offshore supply vessel that reported a fire on board an oil production platform.


The ship evacuated the crew of 28 workers on board who were taken ashore. No one was hurt in the incident.


The oil well was "shut in and production has ceased," the Coast Guard said, which noted that the platform had an estimated 4,000 barrels of crude oil on board in storage tanks.


But David Margulies, a spokesman for Texas Petroleum Investment Co, which owns the rig, told The Times-Picayune there were actually only 100 barrels — about 5,040 gallons — on board the platform.


"The production platform where the fire occurred gathers oil and then pumps it through a pipeline so there is little oil stored on site and all wells feeding the platform have been shut down," he said.


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New Browser Extension Decides How Trustworthy You Are | Jason Tanz | WIRED

New Browser Extension Decides How Trustworthy You Are | Jason Tanz | WIRED | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Three years ago, in a TEDGlobal talk, sharing-economy guru Rachel Botsman shared her vision of a “reputation dashboard”—a kind of credit report that tracks your online behavior across services like Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and Dogvacay and compiles it into a portable measurement of your trustworthiness. Amassing that data, Botsman proposed, would make reputation into a kind of currency. “In the 21st century,” she predicted, “new trust networks, and the reputation capital they generate, will reinvent the way we think about wealth, markets, power and personal identity, in ways we can’t yet even imagine.”

It’s a compelling vision, but so far it hasn’t been realized. That’s because, as I noted last year, the companies that have amassed the most reputation data aren’t eager to share it. “We’re in an early and competitive stage,” Monroe Labouisse, Airbnb’s director of customer service, told me at the time. “That asset—the trust, the data, the reputations that people are building—is hugely valuable. So I’m not sure why a company would give that up.”

A new company is trying to do an end-run around that intransigence by scraping publicly available information from various sharing-economy services and compiling it into a trust score between 0 and 100. Called Karma, it works as a browser extension—any time you pull up a supported site (which currently includes Airbnb, Craigslist, Dogvacay, Ebay, Etsy, RelayRides, and Vayable) a pop-up window will ask if you want to link your account to your Karma score. That score is calculated by looking at the reviews you’ve received—both the quantitative ratings (the number of stars, for instance) as well as a textual analysis of written comments.


Different services are weighted differently; intimate interactions like those powered by Airbnb and Dogvacay are deemed more relevant than relatively anonymous eBay sales, and more recent reviews also are weighted more heavily. The more services you link, the higher your potential score. (Of course, if you’ve misbehaved on one service, your score could fall—but then, you would probably choose not to link it in the first place.) When you peruse a supported service, you’ll see every user’s Karma score superimposed over their listings. It’s a little bit like the sharing-economy’s answer to Klout, that notorious Q rating for social media.


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EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal | Arthur Neslen | The Guardian

EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal | Arthur Neslen | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On the morning of 2 July 2013, a high-level delegation from the US Mission to Europe and the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study. By the end of the day, the EU had done so.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.


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University of Hawai‘i system divests from fossil fuels | Jeremy Hitta | Kaleo.org

University of Hawai‘i system divests from fossil fuels | Jeremy Hitta | Kaleo.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The University of Hawai‘i voted on Thursday to divest its $66 million endowment from coal, oil and gas companies. The decision, voted on the Board of Regents working with faculty and students, makes UH the largest university yet to join the worldwide divestment movement.

“The Board approached its discussion on divestment with the spirit of collaboration," said Randy Moore, UH Board of Regents Chair and member of the Task Group on Divestment and Sustainability."The divestment task group was comprised of faculty, students, administrators and board members. The result was a superb collaborative effort and the final outcome represented the best of shared governance.”

The Board of Regents will immediately begin divestment from companies that produce fossil fuels and complete it by June 30, 2018.

The task group that reached the decision to divest pointed out that the divestment itself will not directly reduce emissions of the gases causing global warming. Rather, they hope that the "value of divestment is to galvanize the University community as well as the greater community, to take action to invest in the production of alternative energy (such as wind and solar), to make energy-saving investments, and to change institutional as well as individual behaviors."


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Monsanto And Syngenta About To Receive Dozens Of Patents On Unpatentable Plants | Glyn Moody | Techdirt

Monsanto And Syngenta About To Receive Dozens Of Patents On Unpatentable Plants | Glyn Moody | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Last month we wrote about the strange case of unpatentable plants becoming patentable in Europe thanks to a decision from the European Patent Office's Enlarged Board of Appeal. That cleared the way for companies to obtain such patents, and according to this post on the "no patents on seeds" site -- I think you can probably work out where its biases lie -- that's about to happen:

the European Patent Office (EPO) is about to grant 30 patents on plants derived from conventional breeding to Monsanto and its affiliated companies. The Swiss company Syngenta can expect to receive around a dozen patents very soon. Many of the patents claim vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cauliflower, carrots and lettuce.

Leaving aside the important question of whether it should be possible to obtain patents on plants, there are some other issues.


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The Grid Will Not Be Disrupted -- Why Tesla’s Powerwall Won’t Catalyze a Solar Revolution | Will Boisvert | The Breakthrough

The Grid Will Not Be Disrupted  -- Why Tesla’s Powerwall Won’t Catalyze a Solar Revolution | Will Boisvert | The Breakthrough | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The announcement two weeks ago of Tesla Motor’s cheap new lithium-ion storage batteries set the renewable energy world on its ear. Breathless commentators pronounced them a revolutionary advance heralding cheap, ubiquitous electricity storage that would make solar power a 24/7-power source for the masses. Elon Musk, Tesla’s wunderkind CEO, fed these hopes at the glitzy product launch for the 10 kilowatt-hour (KWh) Powerwall home storage battery.

“You could actually go, if you want, completely off the grid,” he told them. “You can take your solar panels, charge the battery packs, and that’s all you use.”

Powerwalls would let developing countries “leapfrog” straight to a solar-plus-storage electricity system, he explained, and the 100-kWh utility-scale Powerpack version would have a world-historical effect. Just 160 million Powerpacks would suffice to “transition” the United States to “sustainable energy,” he said, adding, “With 900 million [Powerpacks] you can…make all the electricity generation in the world renewable — and primarily solar.”

But does all the messianic talk of battery-powered “disruption” and solar triumphalism stack up? Hardly. For all their ballyhooed price reductions, Tesla batteries are still way too feeble and expensive to come even within hyping distance of neither a reliable power supply, nor an off-grid revolution.


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The Texas ban on fracking bans is a stunning act of hypocrisy | Brian Palmer | OnEarth.org

The Texas ban on fracking bans is a stunning act of hypocrisy | Brian Palmer | OnEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In an audacious rebuke to the energy industry that more or less rules the state of Texas, the city of Denton banned fracking in November. This week, the empire struck back. Governor Greg Abbott signed a law that prohibits local governments from outlawing fracking in their cities and towns: a statewide ban on fracking bans.

This is a craven act of ideological hypocrisy. The American political right claims to love local government and local control—it’s one of the reasons they want to drown the federal government in a bathtub. If you don’t believe me, here are a wide variety of conservative sources making this very point:


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4 Cities That Are Getting Rid Of All Of Their Garbage | Jessica Leber | FastCoExist.com

4 Cities That Are Getting Rid Of All Of Their Garbage | Jessica Leber | FastCoExist.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Achieving "zero waste" might seem impossible, but these cities have implemented plans that are getting them very close. Now it's time for the rest of the world to follow along.


New York City not too long ago had a landfill you could see from space. Now it has a plan to get to "zero waste" in the next 15 years—a task that might seem impossible to anyone who has wandered the city’s litter-strewn streets on a weekend and tried to find a public trash can that’s not overflowing.

So how does the nation’s largest city go about getting rid of its garbage? And what is zero waste anyway? Since the term became a buzzword two decades ago, it’s been adopted as a goal by many cities around the world. In practice, however, "zero" is a goal that's out of reach for even the most well-meaning cities. They can go far—even to 90% reduction of landfill waste—but the last bit requires a higher-level of change than cities can usually achieve, such as getting more industries to design their products for zero waste in the first place.

But there are a few cities around the world that have become leaders in the zero-waste movement. While New York City has gotten a start—with a pilot composting program and a long-needed ban on styrofoam containers—it still has a long way to go.


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Cutting warming to 1.5°C could put food supply at risk | Alex Kirby | Climate News Network

Cutting warming to 1.5°C could put food supply at risk | Alex Kirby | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As world leaders try to agree how to prevent global warming from heating the planet by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, scientists have tackled an altogether thornier question: can we keep the rise below 1.5°C?

The lower target − demanded by more than 100 countries as a safer goal − is attainable, they say. But there will be little room for error, and getting there will mean not only cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but actually removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

That is not possible with the technology now available. And even if it could one day be done, it would probably have forbiddingly harmful consequences for world food supplies.

However, limiting temperature rise by 2100 to less than 1.5°C is still feasible, say the researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany, and colleagues. They report their findings in the journal Nature Climate Change.


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At trade talks, U.S., E.U. ready for fight on genetically modified crops | Michael Birnbaum | WashPost.com

At trade talks, U.S., E.U. ready for fight on genetically modified crops | Michael Birnbaum | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Many Europeans see American farming and its reliance on genetically modified crops as more Frankenstein than Farmer in the Dell.

Now, the opposition here to U.S. agricultural practices is threatening to become a major battle in discussions starting next month that could sweep away trade barriers between the United States and Europe.

Many here worry that a trade pact would ease regulations that have made it difficult for genetically modified crops and products to reach European shores. Genetically modified crops are broadly unpopular in Europe, and farmers and environmentalists fear that if trade restrictions are lowered, both genetically modified seeds and U.S.-grown genetically modified products would quickly take over European farmland and grocery stores.

Some farmers are hoping to stop the talks if rules that govern their work are thrown into the mix, and they are determined to keep U.S. industrial farming an ocean’s-length away.

U.S. crops inspire fear among everyone from French wine producers to German corn growers. Many European farmers say that plants that are carefully engineered to do everything from boosting production to repelling pests have uncertain environmental consequences and, once growing, spread uncontrollably via pollen that can float for miles on the wind.

But in the United States, many farmers wring extra profit out of each acre they plant with the new seeds, and the technology has quickly cornered the U.S. market despite lingering concerns from environmentalists and consumers. In the United States last year, genetically modified crops comprised 88 percent of all corn, 94 percent of cotton and 93 percent of soybeans, according to Agriculture Department figures. In the European Union, they covered less than 1 percent of farmland, mostly in Spain, according to the European Commission.

“We will fight this until we cannot fight any more” if it appears that restrictions on growing genetically modified crops are about to be loosened, said Reinhard Jung, the head of the Brandenburg Farmers’ Federation. Jung’s 25 spotted brown cows grazed calmly one recent afternoon on a field behind his squat, red-brick farmhouse. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes with our agriculture that the Americans made with theirs,” he said, adding that American farms have become industrial in scale, unlike the postage-stamp plots in Germany.

With talks expected to begin within weeks, Europeans and Americans are still finalizing the topics where they will try to find an agreement, but officials on both sides say that genetically modified crops are almost certain to be part of a broader discussion about easing restrictions on the flow of agricultural products in both directions.

Few involved in the discussions expect European concerns over genetically modified products to endanger the entire trade pact, but analysts say the brouhaha could limit the extent to which agriculture is part of the final agreement.

Just two genetically modified crop types are approved for planting in the European Union, out of a far wider range of species used elsewhere. But one of the two, a BASF potato, is no longer marketed; the other, a Monsanto corn breed, is banned for growing in France, Germany and elsewhere, despite findings from both U.S. and E.U. food regulators that the produce is safe.

The foot-dragging on further approvals has long infuriated U.S. officials and businesses who say that Europeans are ignoring science in favor of superstition.


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Indonesia: Telkom to launch Indihome 4K TV service | TeleGeography.com

PT Telkom Indonesia (Telkom) is beefing up its Indihome Fiber-branded, triple-play broadband service with the imminent launch of a very high resolution 4K television (4K TV) service for residential customers.


Earlier this week, Telkom’s director of consumer services, Dian Rachmawan, confirmed the plan saying: ‘Customers of Indihome Fiber in Indonesia will soon be able to enjoy 4K TV service. This is a trend that is currently one of the most talked about in the technology world, and Telkom will bring it to customers’ homes’.

Telkom is working with set-top-box (STB) supplier and content provider to deliver high quality television services to Indihome Fiber 4K customers and intends to integrate the new services with its existing IPTV platform in Indonesia, as well as developing hybrid platforms to work with Android-based systems.


4K TV requires a minimum 50Mbps connection to deliver the service and Telkom says it is testing it on the live Indihome Fiber network, ahead of a full launch.


Currently Indihome Fiber service coverage has reached 160 cities across Indonesia, with service coverage being built upon in each of these cities as Telkom looks to sign up a total of three million subscribers by the end of 2015.

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UK: BT to expand G.Fast trials to Swansea | TeleGeography.com

British fixed line incumbent BT is to test G.Fast technology in the Welsh city of Swansea, according to Tech Week Europe. With the telco set to provide around 100 premises in Swansea with broadband connectivity capable of providing downlink speeds of up to 500Mbps, these trials will follow on from previously announced large scale pilots which are to be carried out in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and Gosforth, Newcastle later this summer.


It is understood that in the trials BT is specifically seeking to examine how G.Fast can serve multi-dwelling units such as apartment blocks and business premises, while also looking at the economic impact of such services on small and medium businesses.


In addition, the report notes that BT is also planning to establish a new test lab at the BT Tower in Swansea, providing academics, start-ups and other communications providers a place to trial G.Fast-based applications and technology.


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Small Texas Town Don't Need No Stinkin' CenturyLink | community broadband networks

Small Texas Town Don't Need No Stinkin' CenturyLink | community broadband networks | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The people in Kemp,TX, population 1,100, have officially said "adios" to CenturyLink and now give their business to a local wireless provider, reports Government Technology. According to the article, the community grew tired of slipshod service and repeated service interruptions:

At one point, the city lost its Internet connection for five days. “That was the last straw because that was detrimental to us, because we depend on the Internet so much more, especially with our phone system," said [City Administrator Regina] Kiser. "We had just gone with the voice over IP [Internet protocol] when our system went down for five days, so you try to call city hall about various things, including the police department, and there was no phone. So, that was horrible.”

After a year of requests from the municipality for better service went unheeded, government officials decided it was time to make some changes:


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Can Mozilla Halt Firefox’s Slide and Break Up the Mobile Internet Duopoly? | George Anders | MIT Technology Review

Can Mozilla Halt Firefox’s Slide and Break Up the Mobile Internet Duopoly? | George Anders | MIT Technology Review | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In Silicon Valley, most pioneers pursue big ideas and giant personal fortunes with equal zeal. Then there’s Mozilla, an innovation dynamo that refuses to get rich.

More than 500 million people worldwide use Mozilla products. The company’s Firefox Internet browser is the top choice in countries ranging from Germany to Indonesia. But the company has no venture capital backing, no stock options, no publicly traded shares. It hardly ever patents its breakthroughs. Instead, Mozilla has a business model that’s as open and sprawling as the World Wide Web itself, where everything is free and in the public domain.

For a long time, it seemed as if Mozilla’s idealistic engineers understood the future better than anyone. By building the Firefox browser with open-source software, Mozilla made it easy for all kinds of people to cook up improvements that the whole world could use. Independent developers in dozens of countries pitched in, creating add-ons that speeded up downloads, blocked unwanted ads, and performed other useful services. Firefox rapidly became the browser in which state-of-the-art development took place–on shoestring budgets.

Suddenly, though, the Internet looks nightmarish to Mozilla. Most of the world now gets online on mobile devices, and about 96 percent of smartphones run on either the Apple iOS or Google Android operating systems. Both of these are tightly controlled worlds. Buy an iPhone, and you’ll almost certainly end up using Apple’s Web browser, Apple’s maps, and Apple’s speech recognition software. You will select your applications from an Apple-curated app store. Buy an Android phone, and you will be steered into a parallel world run by Team Google. The public-spirited, ad hoc approaches that defined Mozilla’s success in the Internet browser wars have now been marginalized. Developers don’t stay up late working on open-source platforms anymore; instead, they sweat over the details needed to win a spot in Apple’s and Google’s digital stores. Rival operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows have largely fallen by the wayside as well.


"Many of the principles we associate with the Web–openness, decentralization and the ability of anyone to publish without asking permission from others–are at risk,” declared a lengthy blog post written in November 2014 by Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit vehicle that serves as the company’s ultimate owner.


No matter that users and software developers seem to be thriving in this more structured new milieu, with nearly one billion Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones being sold each year. From Baker’s perspective, “frankly, this direction for the Internet sucks.”


Baker’s antidote: Firefox OS, a totally different operating system for smartphones, built on the same collegial, open-source principles that make the Firefox browser such a success. Mozilla has entered this battle with financial resources less than one-hundredth those of Apple and Google. And the organization is even shorter on time: the incumbents have enjoyed nearly a decade’s head start in some crucial markets. Is it too late for a radical attempt to crack the mobile duopoly?


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NY: Riverkeeper sues over oil train rules | Khurram Saeed | LoHud.com

NY: Riverkeeper sues over oil train rules | Khurram Saeed | LoHud.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Riverkeeper is suing the federal government, claiming new rules for oil trains leave the public and environment vulnerable to accidents or spills.

Critics say the U.S. Department of Transportation regulations for moving crude oil by rail are too weak, offer too much time for private industry to implement mandated tougher tank car safety standards like thicker shells and better brakes, and contain too many loopholes.

“It’s time to stop taking little toddler steps and take the sort of action that will truly protect New Yorkers and that’s why we’re going to court,” Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said.

There have been six fiery derailments of trains hauling Bakken crude oil in the last six months, Gallay said.

Gallay said up to 25 percent of all crude shipments from in the Bakken shale oil formation in North Dakota and Montana passes through the metro New York/New Jersey area. In Rockland, as many as 30 oil trains a week, each carrying 3 million gallons of Bakken crude, travel the CSX River Line.

Riverkeeper’s challenge, filed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City on May 15, follows another lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental and citizen groups, including the New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, in federal court in San Francisco.

A DOT spokesman said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Gallay said the biggest flaws in the new rules, announced May 1, permit trains to go too fast outside of “high threat urban areas,” allow outdated DOT-111 tank cars to remain in service for up to 10 years and keep localities in the dark about when explosive crude oil passes through their communities.

Ironically, the oil industry is also suing the USDOT, taking issue with the timetables for retrofitting rail cars and installing new brake systems.


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