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1,343 Russian towns still lack communications services | TeleGeography.com

According to a study completed by the Ministry of Communications (MinSvyaz), 1,343 Russian localities – each with a population between 500 and 10,000 – still lack access to basic internet and mobile services.


Online news outlet ComNews.ru notes that most of the areas in question are situated in Stavropol Krai, the Republic of Bashkortostan, Novosibirsk Oblast, the Republic of Dagestan and the Karachay–Cherkess Republic.


At the end of 2013, there were said to be more than 17,500 recognised localities in Russia, meaning that approximately 7.7% of the population still lack access to communication services.

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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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Amelia Andersdotter is Right about Europe’s Copyright Laws – They are Archaic and are in Need Radical Revision | Paul T Kidd's Blog

Amelia Andersdotter is Right about Europe’s Copyright Laws – They are Archaic and are in Need Radical Revision | Paul T Kidd's Blog | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it
I am back now to the day that I spent in the European Parliament last November (2013) and the conversation I had with Amelia Andersdoter, who at the time was a Member of the European Parliament. Sadly she was not re-elected in the elections held in May 2014, which is a shame for she was a breath of fresh-air among stale politicians who are, on the whole, too keen to pander to powerful vested interest, and in doing so, criminalise ordinary people for doing what is natural – participating in and sharing culture.

Following my discussion with Amelia I undertook some research to understand more about her thinking. Her views on matters relating to copyright and the internet are, I believe, well considered and reflect a 21st century mind, which stands in sharp contrast to the 18th century industrial era minds of those who will, in the end, determine European copyright laws. Most of these people are unelected and include a group of people with vested interests, and their minds are firmly planted in 18th century industrial era thinking.

I fully agree with Amelia’s point that we should not be criminalising ordinary people who download content from the internet for non-commercial purposes such as teaching and participating in culture. Most of the people who do this would never purchase this cultural content in the normal course of events, and would not therefore be able to access it. To deny them access to this cultural content is to deny them access to culture.

Charging people to access something which is a fundamental to being human – culture – also highlights what is wrong with the modern world where just about everything is considered to be a commercial transaction, and nothing is of value unless it has economic value. It is time to role back this insidious practice, and to make much more cultural content available, for free. So we should be encouraging people to download cultural content and also providing them with facilities to use this material in creative ways.

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Are We Approaching the End of Human History? | Noam Chomsky Perspectives | BillMoyers.com

Are We Approaching the End of Human History? | Noam Chomsky Perspectives | BillMoyers.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The likely end of the era of civilization is foreshadowed in a new draft report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the generally conservative monitor of what is happening to the physical world.


The report concludes that increasing greenhouse gas emissions risk “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” over the coming decades. The world is nearing the temperature when loss of the vast ice sheet over Greenland will be unstoppable. Along with melting Antarctic ice, that could raise sea levels to inundate major cities as well as coastal plains.


The era of civilization coincides closely with the geological epoch of the Holocene, beginning over 11,000 years ago. The previous Pleistocene epoch lasted 2.5 million years. Scientists now suggest that a new epoch began about 250 years ago, the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has had a dramatic impact on the physical world. The rate of change of geological epochs is hard to ignore.


One index of human impact is the extinction of species, now estimated to be at about the same rate as it was 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the Earth. That is the presumed cause for the ending of the age of the dinosaurs, which opened the way for small mammals to proliferate, and ultimately modern humans. Today, it is humans who are the asteroid, condemning much of life to extinction.


The IPCC report reaffirms that the “vast majority” of known fuel reserves must be left in the ground to avert intolerable risks to future generations. Meanwhile the major energy corporations make no secret of their goal of exploiting these reserves and discovering new ones.


A day before it ran a summary of the IPCC conclusions, The New York Times reported that huge Midwestern grain stocks are rotting so that the products of the North Dakota oil boom can be shipped by rail to Asia and Europe.


One of the most feared consequences of anthropogenic global warming is the thawing of permafrost regions. A study in Science magazine warns that “even slightly warmer temperatures [less than anticipated in coming years] could start melting permafrost, which in turn threatens to trigger the release of huge amounts of greenhouse gases trapped in ice,” with possible “fatal consequences” for the global climate.


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Reading Hamilton From the Left | Christian Parenti Blog | BillMoyers.com

Reading Hamilton From the Left | Christian Parenti Blog | BillMoyers.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Two hundred years ago, Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded by then Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel at Weehawken, New Jersey. Their conflict, stemming from essays Hamilton had penned against Burr, was an episode in a larger clash between two political ideologies: that of Thomas Jefferson and the anti-Federalists, who argued for an agrarian economy and a weak central government, versus that of Hamilton and the Federalists, who championed a strong central state and an industrial economy.


In the American political imagination, Jefferson is rural, idealistic and democratic, while Hamilton is urban, pessimistic and authoritarian. So, too, on the US left, where Jefferson gets the better billing. Michael Hardt recently edited a sheaf of Jefferson’s writings for the left publisher Verso.


Reading “Jefferson beyond Jefferson,” Hardt casts him as a theorist of “revolutionary transition.” We like Jefferson’s stirring words about “the tree of liberty” occasionally needing “the blood of patriots and tyrants,” and his worldview fits comfortably with a “small is beautiful” style localism. We recall Jefferson as a great democrat. When Tea Partiers echo his rhetoric, we dismiss it as a lamentable misunderstanding.


But in reality, Jefferson represented the most backward and fundamentally reactionary sector of the economy: large, patrimonial, slave-owning, agrarian elites who exported primary commodities and imported finished manufactured goods from Europe. He was a fabulously wealthy planter who lived in luxury paid for by slave labor. Worse yet, he raised slaves specifically for sale.


“I consider the labor of a breeding woman,” Jefferson wrote, “as no object, and that a child raised every 2 years is of more profit than the crop of the best laboring man.”


Even if it could somehow be dislodged from the institution of slavery, Jefferson’s vision of a weak government and an export-based agrarian economy would have been the path of political fragmentation and economic underdevelopment. His romantic notions were a veil behind which lay ossified privilege.


Hamilton was alone among the “founding fathers” in understanding that the world was witnessing two revolutions simultaneously. One was the political transformation, embodied in the rise of republican government. The other was the economic rise of modern capitalism, with its globalizing networks of production, trade and finance. Hamilton grasped the epochal importance of applied science and machinery as forces of production.


In the face of these changes, Hamilton created (and largely executed) a plan for government-led economic development along lines that would be followed in more recent times by many countries (particularly in East Asia) that have undergone rapid industrialization. His political mission was to create a state that could facilitate, encourage and guide the process of economic change — a policy also known as dirigisme, although the expression never entered the American political lexicon the way its antonym, laissez-faire, did.


To be sure, Hamilton was living in the era of “bourgeois” revolutions and the state he was building was a capitalist state, complete with the oppressive apparatus that always involves. Hamilton did not oppose exploitation. Like most people of his age, he saw child labor as normal and defended the rights of creditors over debtors. But regarding slavery, he firmly and consistently opposed it and was a founder of the Society for Manumission of Slaves. It was Hamilton — not Jefferson — who had the more progressive vision.


Even today, Hamilton’s ideas about state-led industrialization offer much. Consider the crisis of climate change. Alas, we do not have the luxury of making this an agenda item for our future post-capitalist assembly. Facing up to it demands getting off fossil fuels in a very short time frame. That requires a massive and immediate industrial transformation, which must be undertaken using the actually existing states and economies currently on hand. Such a project can only be led by the state — an institution that Hamilton’s writing and life’s work helps us to rethink.


Unfortunately, many environmental activists today instinctively avoid the state. They see government as part of the problem — as it undoubtedly is — but never as part of the solution. They do not seek to confront, reshape and use state power; the idea of calling for regulation and public ownership, makes them uncomfortable.


And so green activism too often embodies the legacy of Jefferson’s antigovernment politics. It hinges on transforming individual behavior, or on making appeals to “corporate social responsibility.”


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OH: Anti-fracking bill of rights will be on Gates Mills November ballot after village officials change stance | Sara Dorn | Cleveland.com

OH: Anti-fracking bill of rights will be on Gates Mills November ballot after village officials change stance | Sara Dorn | Cleveland.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Voters will decide in November whether to ban future gas and oil wells in the village.


A group called Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills began collecting signatures on a petition in August to have the anti-fracking bill of rights placed on the ballot. It's a measure other cities have tried, though it's unclear whether it will protect them from unwanted gas and oil wells.


The group formed when Mayor Shawn Riley announced his plans in January for villagers to pool their land to prepare for industrial gas wells in the village. They fear the plan invites drillers, and they prefer a solution that prohibits them.


City officials refused to work with the residents to find a plan both were comfortable with, according to the group's spokesman Bob Andreano.


"Nobody really wants fracking in the village, it's just about how are we going to prevent it, and from their perspective they thought, 'We aren't going to prevent it' so how can we control it," Andreano said. "You're not necessarily going to be able to tell the oil companies when and where they can drill, so to put this trust together, I don't think they are going to fall for that."


Council was supposed to vote earlier this month whether to submit the legislation to the board of elections, but Law Director Margaret Cannon said the petition didn't have enough signatures.


Council decided not to address the bill of rights at that meeting, and scheduled a special meeting for Aug. 26, 11 days before the petition was due to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.


It depended on who you asked. Cannon said 10 percent of the city's 1,976 registered voters needed to sign the petition and adding more signatures wasn't an option since the group had already filed the petition with the board of elections.


Residents argued they needed 10 percent of the number who voted in the last general municipal election — less than the 134 signatures they had already gathered.


The village charter refers to state law in its rules for petitions. The group's lawyer cites Article 18: Section 14 of the Ohio Constitution, which states that "the percentage of electors required to sign any petition provided for herein shall be based upon the total vote cast at the last preceding general municipal election."


Once residents heard Cannon's opinion at the Aug. 12 meeting, they gathered more than 200 signatures on a new petition. But then Riley called and said Cannon had changed her mind.


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Privacy International Lodges Legal Challenge To Official Secrecy Surrounding GCHQ Spying | Glyn Moody | Techdirt.com

Privacy International Lodges Legal Challenge To Official Secrecy Surrounding GCHQ Spying | Glyn Moody | Techdirt.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Although the scale of the surveillance being carried out by the NSA and GCHQ is daunting, digital rights groups are starting to fight back using the various legal options available to them. That's particularly the case for the UK, where activists are trying to penetrate the obsessive secrecy that surrounds GCHQ's spying activities.


Back in December, we wrote about three groups bringing an action against GCHQ in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and how Amnesty International is using the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) to challenge the spying.


Another organization that filed a complaint against the UK government at the IPT is Privacy International. But not content with that, it has now taken further legal action, this time in order to obtain information about GCHQ's role in the "Five Eyes" system, the global surveillance club made up of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand:


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How Online Black Markets Have Evolved Since Silk Road's Downfall | Andy Greenberg | WIRED.com

How Online Black Markets Have Evolved Since Silk Road's Downfall | Andy Greenberg | WIRED.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

When the FBI tore down the billion-dollar drugs-and-contraband website Silk Road last October, its death made room for a new generation of black-market bazaars—many with better defenses against the Feds.


Nearly a year later, more drugs are sold online than when the Silk Road ruled the dark web, according to a study by the Digital Citizens Alliance last April. Here’s how the world of anonymous ecommerce has mutated and evolved over the last year.


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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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A Smartphone Sidewalk Pops Up on a Busy Street in China | Gizmodo.com

A Smartphone Sidewalk Pops Up on a Busy Street in China | Gizmodo.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Back in mid-July, a two-way walking lane appeared in Washington, D.C. One side was a dedicated path for smartphone users and the other for people not hunched over their devices.


It wasn't put there by the city, rather it was part of a National Geographic behavioral science show "Mind Over Masses." However, now it would seem one city in China doesn't think it's such a bad idea. Engadget reports that Chongqing has co-opted NatGeo's safety experiment for one part of the city known as "Foreigner Street."


The act of smartphone-obsessed pedestrianism (which I learned just now) is known as "phubbing," a portmanteau of the phrase "phone snubbing." Although a dedicated walking path seems like a needless idea, smartphone-related pedestrian injuries are a real problem. A report last March from the University of Buffalo stated that there are more distracted walking injuries per mile than injuries from distracted driving, including everything from falling down stairs to stepping into oncoming traffic.


Whether this will be a permanent feature of Chongqing's streets is uncertain, but a dedicated smartphone lane wouldn't be the first measure a city's taken to protect people from their own (de)vices. Back in 2008, Britain created a "Safe Text" street by wrapping padding around lampposts to help prevent distracted texting injuries. So a smartphone lane might seem ridiculous, or as a throwaway behavioral experiment as it was intended, but statistics would suggest that in some areas—they just might be needed. [Engadget]

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The spaceship is landing! Apple's circular HQ begins to take shape | Prigg & Woollaston | DailyMail.co.uk

The spaceship is landing! Apple's circular HQ begins to take shape | Prigg & Woollaston | DailyMail.co.uk | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Apple's futuristic new campus, which Steve Jobs first submitted the application for in 2011, will be a mile in circumference, feature glass walls and solar panels and cover 175 acres.


‘This will be one of the most environmentally sustainable developments on this scale anywhere in the world,'’ said Apple’s Whisenhunt.


In the centre will be an enclosed arboretum and orchard complete with thousands of fruit, oak, and olive trees according to the San Jose Mercury-News.


‘We love California, and by adding over 2,500 new and indigenous trees that truly belong here,’ Oppenheimer said, ‘we're bringing back the beautiful orchards that once made up this valley.’


Campus 2 was designed by Sir Foster's firm Foster and Partners. The architectural experts also designed Wembley Stadium, London City Hall and The Gherkin.


'The concept of the building,' Oppenheimer said, 'is collaboration and fluidity. It'll provide a very open-spaced system, so that at one point in the day you may be in offices on one side of the circle and find yourself on the other side later that day.'


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Why our brains are wired to ignore climate change | Matthew Hutson Opinion | WashPost.com

Recently I learned about “Prius repellent” — a tricked-out truck takes deep swigs of diesel and spews black smog all over a tailing vehicle, preferably a hybrid. These ominous clouds signal that, in our national conversation about climate change, something has gone very wrong.


George Marshall, a founder of the Climate Outreach think tank, tries to get us talking productively in his intelligent and genial new book, “Don’t Even Think About It.” He visits with fellow environmentalists, with psychologists and policy analysts, and with political opponents — even sharing a few laughs in the lair of 40 Texas tea partyers — to try to understand just why people are so prone to deny or ignore climate change.


Some of the answers are familiar. Humans respond most urgently to threats that are present, concrete and definite — a mugger, say. But climate change is gradual, hard to observe and indefinite, at least in terms of its eventual magnitude and effects on our personal lives. Addressing it requires making palpable sacrifices now in order to prevent unclear costs in the distant future.


Global warming also doesn’t automatically raise our moral hackles, as there’s no clear enemy who wants to destroy our world. If anyone is to blame, the culprit is me, you and everyone we know. So it’s in our own self-interest — though perhaps not in the interest of our future selves, those poor schlubs — to play down the danger, if not outright deny it.


In 42 short chapters, Marshall also covers some less-obvious ground. For instance, you might think that surviving a weather disaster would raise your alert level on climate change. Not always — near-misses give people a sense of invulnerability. What’s more, after a community floods or burns to the ground, people just want to get their lives back to normal and not worry about some even larger threat.


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An American in Paris--Netflix Expands in Europe | The Economist

An American in Paris--Netflix Expands in Europe | The Economist | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

AMERICAN internet giants such as Google and Amazon are the target of much criticism in Europe these days, accused of avoiding taxes, invading privacy and competing unfairly with local firms. The latest transatlantic tech firm to ruffle feathers is Netflix, a fast-growing company that offers streaming video on demand (SVOD) over the internet and which has already got conventional broadcasters and pay-TV companies worried back home in America.


Netflix has been signing up viewers in Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Nordic countries; and next week it starts invading the continental heartland, beginning with France. Television companies, telecoms firms and other on-demand video providers fear for their customer bases and profits.


Canal+, a French pay-TV firm that launched its own SVOD service three years ago, called CanalPlay, is rustling up new programmes and adding other features to get viewers to stay. Sky Deutschland, a German pay-TV firm, has slashed the monthly charge for its SVOD service, Snap, to €3.99 ($5.16)—it had previously cost up to €9.90. Maxdome, a video on demand (VOD) subsidiary of ProSiebenSat.1, another German media firm, has just bought a job lot of popular American series.


At first sight, Europe seems a tougher market than America for Netflix to crack. Americans generally pay $70-80 a month to a cable company to watch television; so Netflix, at $8-9, must seem a mere bagatelle by comparison. European viewers can often choose from a wealth of high-quality programmes, free or fairly cheap, from public and private broadcasters, many of which provide streaming “catch-up” viewing at no extra cost. Rodolphe Belmer, a Canal+ executive, says it will be hard for Netflix to beat the choice of 8,000 films and TV shows that CanalPlay offers.


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10 years in tech: The crazy cellphone ideas of 2004 | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com

10 years in tech: The crazy cellphone ideas of 2004 | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A year is a long time in smartphone technology today, so remember if you can the changes that have taken place over the last decade.


In 2004, Apple had only just started working on development of its iPhone and no one outside the company knew about it, Samsung was focused on the South Korean market, and the hottest thing in wireless was the success of the I-mode mobile Internet service in Japan.


As I watched Apple’s launch of its new iPhones and smartwatch this week, I was reminded of a trip I took exactly a decade ago to the ITU’s Telecom Asia expo in Busan, South Korea. As Tokyo correspondent for IDG, I was used to seeing advanced phones in Japan but some of the handsets in South Korea looked positively futuristic.


Recalling those phones, it’s amazing to think how technology has changed in the last decade, and how smartphones have changed our lives.


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