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Solar-panel skin could make Dutch homes energy neutral | GizMag.com

Solar-panel skin could make Dutch homes energy neutral | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Around 60 percent of the homes in the Netherlands are row house terraces, with around a quarter of those built in the post-war period. While these constructions characterize much of the Dutch urban landscape, they weren't exactly built with energy efficiency as their first priority. A team of Delft University students has developed a concept for a solar-powered skin designed to optimize energy usage, while also preserving this classic Dutch architecture.


The skin covers the exterior of the existing house from font to back, one side fitted with glass and photovoltaic panels to harvest the energy from the sun, while the other contains added insulation to trap the heat indoors. According to team, this concept demonstrates how 1.4 million similarly built Dutch homes could become entirely energy neutral.


Critical to the skin's effectiveness is its adaptability. During winter, the skin encloses the house entirely to contain heat, then in the autumn and spring it opens partially to provide ventilation. In the hotter months of the year, it is opened up completely to maximize airflow using what is known as the "stack effect." This refers to a difference in density between the indoor and outdoor air which in turn creates a buoyancy force, driving natural ventilation through the building.


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Microsoft throws down the gauntlet in business intelligence | Derrick Harris | GigaOM Tech News

Microsoft throws down the gauntlet in business intelligence | Derrick Harris | GigaOM Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Microsoft is not content to let Excel define the company’s reputation among the world’s data analysts. That’s the message the company sent on Tuesday when it announced that its PowerBI product is now free. According to a company executive, the move could expand Microsoft’s reach in the business intelligence space by 10 times.

If you’re familiar with PowerBI, you might understand why Microsoft is pitching this as such a big deal. It’s a self-service data analysis tool that’s based on natural language queries and advanced visualization options. It already offers live connections to a handful of popular cloud services, such as Salesforce.com, Marketo and GitHub. It’s delivered as a cloud service, although there’s a downloadable tool that lets users work with data on their laptops and publish the reports to a cloud dashboard.

James Phillips, Microsoft’s general manager for business intelligence, said the company has already had tens of thousands of organizations sign up for PowerBI since it became available in February 2014, and that CEO Satya Nadella opens up a PowerBI dashboard every morning to track certain metrics.


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Mass surveillance 'endangers fundamental human rights,' says study | Loek Essers | NetworkWorld.com

Mass surveillance 'endangers fundamental human rights,' says study | Loek Essers | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Mass Internet surveillance endangers fundamental human rights and has not helped to prevent terrorist attacks, a top European human rights body concluded after analyzing documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013.

The leaks detailing government mass surveillance programs have shown “compelling evidence” of “far-reaching, technologically advanced systems” put in place by U.S. intelligence services and their partners to collect, store and analyze communication data on a massive scale, which threaten fundamental privacy rights, a report by the legal affairs and human rights committee of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe found. States should do more to protect whistleblowers like Snowden, the report said.

The parliamentary assembly can’t create legislation, but has the right to hold the governments of Council of Europe member states to account over their human rights records. It can also press those states, including those in the European Union and some in the former Soviet Union, to achieve and maintain democratic standards.

Its legal affairs committee is “deeply concerned” about the mass surveillance practices and found that mass surveillance does not appear to have contributed to the prevention of terrorist attacks, contrary to earlier assertions made by senior intelligence officials. “Instead, resources that might prevent attacks are diverted to mass surveillance, leaving potentially dangerous persons free to act,” it said.

That conclusion puts the committee at odds with those who have called for more surveillance powers in the EU in the wake of the shootings at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The EU’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator for instance has called on the European Commission to oblige Internet companies to share encryption keys with police and intelligence agencies to fight terrorism. That’s a remarkable suggestion given that Internet companies including Google and Facebook have just begun encrypting their traffic because of the Snowden revelations.

The committee’s report, released on Monday, instead calls on countries to promote wide use of encryption technology and to “resist any attempts to weaken encryption and other Internet safety standards.” That, it said, will help protect citizens’ privacy and also help countries defend national security from spying by rogue states, terrorists and ordinary criminals.


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Alan Turing's "hidden" manuscript heads to auction | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com

Alan Turing's "hidden" manuscript heads to auction | Ben Coxworth | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Among his many achievements, British computer science pioneer Alan Turing created one of the first theoretical models of a general-purpose computer, helped develop the concept of artificial intelligence, and was in charge of breaking the German Enigma cypher during World War II.


With the recent release of the film The Imitation Game, he's now becoming known to a whole new generation. It's only fitting, therefore, that a rare collection of his scientific notes is about to head to auction.

The handwritten notes are contained within 56 pages of a notebook, which has never been seen by the public. Judging by its content, it dates from 1942, at which time Turing was working on cracking the Enigma code at Bletchley Park north of London.


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Cubitat has all the ingredients of a compact home | Bridget Borgobello | GizMag.com

Cubitat has all the ingredients of a compact home | Bridget Borgobello | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Canadian architectural studio Urban Capital, in collaboration with Italian designer Luca Nichetto, has recently presented its "plug & play" concept cube which could transform any space into a fully functioning apartment.


Dubbed Cubitat, the multi-purpose cube measures 10 x 10 x 10 ft (3 x 3 x 3 m) and comes equipped with a kitchen, bedroom, entertaining area, bathroom, laundry and storage space. The space-saving design is conceptualized to easily and quickly furnish a small building into a compact home without the need for further renovations or additions.

"It’s like that feeling when you open up a brown cardboard package that just arrived in the mail," says Urban Capital. "When you lift that thing out of the box and set it down on the table and smile knowing how well it’s going to fit into your life. Just like that, except it’s your house.

Resembling a Rubik's cube, each of Cubitat's four vertical faces has a different purpose and function. One side features a fully equipped kitchen with built-in sink, oven, stove top, dishwasher, refrigerator and an enormous amount of cupboard space.


Adjacent to the kitchen is the entertaining lounge wall, equipped with flat screen television, integrated book shelves, further storage space and a hidden double bed which slides out from underneath the cabinet.


Turning the corner again, an entire side of the module is dedicated to wardrobe and storage space, while the fourth side of the cube features a hidden European laundry and access to the bathroom which is located inside the structure of the Cubitat.


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Snowpocalypse: How Global Warming Creates Gargantuan Blizzards | Cliff Weathers | AlterNet.org

Snowpocalypse: How Global Warming Creates Gargantuan Blizzards | Cliff Weathers | AlterNet.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Severe winter storm events often prompt naysayers to mock, “Where’s that global warming?” But while the concept may seem to conflict with rising global temperatures, these storms are actually obvious evidence of man-made climate change.

Climate change, say scientists, fuels the increasing intensities of winter storms. Warmer temperatures allow the atmosphere to hold more moisture and create heavier than normal precipitation. Climatologists agree that global warming will continue to make these storms worse over time.

Weather is different from climate, scientists point out. Weather is what we experience on a day-to-day basis; climate — especially in regards to climate change — is more about long-term trends. While each describes environmental conditions, they’re on different scales of time and space. Climatologists are not in the business of watching daily and regional forecasts, they consider the larger context in which weather operates and describe long-term climate trends and how they relate to ongoing weather events.

In regard to winter weather, climatologists are looking at two different trends. First, global temperatures are 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than they were 135 years ago when measurements were first taken with accuracy. Second, what were once-in-a-lifetime snowfalls are now commonplace. There’s growing belief among climatologists that these two trends are closely related. Blizzards are generated from disturbances at the boundaries between Arctic and tropical air masses.


When these fronts collide, and especially when the air mass temperatures are vastly different, it creates storms. The more divergent the air masses, the more likely the resulting storm will be large. So, as our air grows warmer and holds more moisture, the result is a lot more snow when weather fronts meet. And while you can’t attribute any one storm to the effects of climate change, a clear trend of more intense storms points in that direction.

"We're loading the dice or stacking the deck toward more intense blizzards,” research meteorologist Marshall Shepherd told CNN.


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At Davos, Technology CEOs Discuss the Digital Economy | Don Tapscott Blog | HuffPost.com

At Davos, Technology CEOs Discuss the Digital Economy | Don Tapscott Blog | HuffPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Davos: One of the most anticipated discussions at this year's meeting was the plenary session on The Digital Economy. Given that I wrote the book that coined that term 20 years ago, I attended with great interest.

On the panel were Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Unfortunately, the group didn't really explore the state of the digital economy, but rather centered on all the great things technology is doing around the world. The discussion started on this bright note when the moderator asked whether each panelist was optimistic or pessimistic about the impact of technology on society. To this group the question was a rhetorical one, and predictably all panelists expressed great enthusiasm for what has been accomplished and the great strides the future holds in store.

They said that digital technologies used in areas from education to farming to healthcare have transformed communities and raised living standards around the world. As broadband capacity is rolled out to the four corners of the world, standards of living will increase even more.


During the session I frequently felt that that neither the optimistic statements of hope or anecdotes of those whose lives have improved adequately dealt with the challenge of the digital economy. I was tempted to quote Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid."


The Digital Economy has become THE Economy. Yes, technology has created many wonders, but if we look at the macro level, the scorecard on economic results of technology are so far troublesome. Technology has unquestionably been at the heart of some negative developments including massive structural unemployment; growing social inequality where the benefits and wealth generated by technology have been asymmetrical; a fracturing of public discourse; and the loss of privacy and the rise of a surveillance society to name a few.


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Harvard researchers dig into Maine's growing food economy | Meredith Goad | The Portland Press Herald

Harvard researchers dig into Maine's growing food economy | Meredith Goad | The Portland Press Herald | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

For all the excitement around Maine food and the state’s farm-to-table movement, a lot is unknown about the changing agricultural economy.

What kind of policies does Maine need in order to increase the amount of locally grown foods consumed here and exported around the globe? Which economic development strategies work best for the farmers who grow apples and cucumbers and the food entrepreneurs who turn those crops into chutneys, pickles and other value-added products? How does Maine compare with other states that are mining their own Gold Rush food economies, and how can we accelerate our growth? Do we need better distribution channels? Better packaging? Or is it something else?

The answers to some of these questions may be available as early as this spring, when Harvard researchers release the findings of the Maine Food Cluster Project, an in-depth analysis of what is making Maine’s food economy tick and how it can be strengthened.

“We really don’t want to do a study for the sake of a study,” said Craig Denekas, president of the Libra Foundation, which has provided up to about $300,000 for the project through an endowment that honors the late Duane D. “Buzz” Fitzgerald, former CEO of Bath Iron Works.

“Our hope is to really articulate what it is that can be done,” Denekas continued, “and provide some ideas that might not already be on the table.”

The project is being spearheaded by the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School. The researchers are using a sophisticated Web tool that Harvard developed that can analyze government data in specific ways to look for and analyze “clusters,” or particularly powerful segments of an economy.

“Napa Valley is a wine cluster for any number of reasons, including the weather and the soil,” Denekas said, “but, in addition, there’s the interest in food and nearby Silicon Valley and all kinds of interesting things happening there that made it explode the way it did.”

The new research examines whether something similar is happening in Maine, what factors are driving it, and how to help it grow further. Denekas pointed to an “explosion of first-rate restaurants everywhere” in Maine, as well as the growth of community supported agriculture, women-owned farms and artisan food businesses. “There are some really interesting things happening,” he said.


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How Did 80 People Get Half of the World’s Wealth? | Alexander Reed Kelly | Truthdig.com

How Did 80 People Get Half of the World’s Wealth? | Alexander Reed Kelly | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Oxfam reports that just 80 people possess the same quantity of wealth as 3.5 billion others. On RT’s Crosstalk, economist Michael Hudson discusses how this happened with Oxfam official Max Lawson and Richard Wellings at London’s Institute for Economic Affairs.

Hudson begins, “According to every economics textbook and all the Nobel prizes for the last 40 years, this can’t be happening. According to the economics textbooks, the wealthy get rich by adding to production. You earn what you make and they’re wealth creators. But in fact what they’re producing isn’t wealth, it’s poverty. And they do this largely because—I think you can think of them as being creditors. They’re creditors to the bottom 99 percent that are debtors and renters. If you look at these wealthiest families, there are a number of common denominators: They didn’t earn their income, and yet economists only look at how people earn their income. President Obama last week said, “Well, if you have the desire to get rich and you work hard, you can do it.” But that’s not how these families got their wealth.”

Lawson adds, “Our figures show that the top group of people—the 80 people now—and of the billionaires… about a third now inherited their wealth. And that figure’s increasing all the time. And this is the point the French economist Piketty made in his famous book last year, that we’re rapidly returning to an era that we thought had been consigned to the history books, an era that we associate with The Great Gatsby or maybe Victorian times in Britain where wealth is inherited and all of the things that come with that. So it’s not just the capture of political power in this generation, it’s about using your money to shore up the future of your children and your children’s prospects. So it really is a kind of ossification of society, if you like, a stratification, which we think is deeply, deeply harmful, because it’s ultimately bad for the economy, it’s bad for meritocracy. And I agree that it’s a problem in the west, it’s a problem in rich countries, but I lived for many years in the developing world and it’s certainly a problem, for example, in South Africa where I lived, a deep, deep problem of inequality there. It’s such an issue that it’s now attacking the success that we’ve seen in the war on poverty in many of these developing countries, is being threatened by inequality there too. So it’s a problem all over the world. It’s not just in the U.K. and the U.S., it’s a problem as much in South Africa an India as it is here in London.”


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A 21st Century Left Rises: Syriza’s Victory and Its Relevance for the U.S. and the World | Alan Minsky | Truthdig.com

A 21st Century Left Rises: Syriza’s Victory and Its Relevance for the U.S. and the World | Alan Minsky | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Greek election Sunday night produced a historic moment, one that millions of people have long awaited: Syriza’s triumph was the first time that a radical-left party has won an election in Europe since the Cold War began (and arguably, ever). The euphoric celebrations in Athens came as no surprise—very little lifts people’s hearts like the dream of a truly egalitarian society.

Of course, after five years of economic austerity, life in Greece these days is more nightmare than dream.

Now that the Greek people have defied the global ruling class by electing Syriza, the question shifts to whether the coordinated forces of global neoliberal capitalism will allow an alternative economic model to take root, one that prioritizes the welfare of the common people over that of the 1 percent. What happens next in the country where democracy was born is of the utmost importance to people around the world, including in the oligarchic United States.

Before addressing the extremely difficult circumstances facing the next Greek government, let’s stay focused on why this moment is so huge—and not just because it will roil international markets and destabilize the euro. Those things are very important, but let’s think even bigger.


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How Climate Change May Lead to Bigger Blizzards | Tim Molloy | FRONTLINE | PBS.org

How Climate Change May Lead to Bigger Blizzards | Tim Molloy | FRONTLINE | PBS.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

With every winter storm, including the blizzard hitting the Northeast this week, climate change skeptics return to a familiar argument: If the world is getting warmer, why am I stuck out here, shoveling so much snow?

Climate scientists tell FRONTLINE that blizzards don’t refute evidence of climate change — in fact, climate change can make blizzards more intense. The first thing people need to understand, they say, is the difference between climate and weather.

“Weather is telling us what is happening at a particular time,” said Rutgers Climate Institute co-director Anthony Broccoli. “Climate is telling us the statistics of the weather we experience. One analogy that is often used is that weather determines what clothes you wear on a particular day, but climate describes what clothes you have hanging in your closet.”

So what will we be wearing in the future? Climate change may mean that people in cold regions will spend fewer days in snow boots. But on the days they need them, they’ll really need them.

“You have to remember that there are two factors that result in heavy snow: It has to be cold enough to snow, and the atmosphere has to be moist,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of Geosciences and International Affairs at Princeton University.

Winters will likely get shorter as a result of climate change, Oppenheimer said. “On the other hand,” he said, “during the period when it is cold enough to snow, if you’ve got enough moisture in the air, you can get some wicked big snowstorms.”

Why does climate change lead to more moisture?


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U.S. And India Announce ‘Cooperation’ On Climate Change | Emily Atkin | Think Progress

U.S. And India Announce ‘Cooperation’ On Climate Change | Emily Atkin | Think Progress | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday that the two countries will work together to fight global climate change, laying out a set of goals that the two countries hope “will expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.”

While not a concrete emissions reductions agreement like the one Obama reached with China this past November, the deal includes efforts to cooperate on reducing emissions of fluorinated gases, invigorate India’s promotion of clean energy investment, and partner to reduce the debilitating air pollution that has plagued many of India’s cities.

The agreement also emphasized that the countries would “cooperate closely” for a “successful and ambitious” agreement at the Paris climate talks at the end of the year. During that conference, 196 nations are expected to meet and tentatively agree a course of action to respond to climate change. It is widely considered the last chance for a global agreement that could feasibly keep the rise in global average temperatures under 2°C.


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An increasingly rare type of solar farm goes online in California | Katie Fehrenbacher | GigaOM Clean Tech News

An increasingly rare type of solar farm goes online in California | Katie Fehrenbacher | GigaOM Clean Tech News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

When the huge solar farm just outside of Las Vegas called Ivanpah opened up in early 2014, many lamented that this type of solar plant, called solar thermal, could soon become a dinosaur. Late last week another of these large solar thermal farms was officially turned on, and it truly could be one of the last of this size built in the U.S., thanks to a one-two punch of changing incentives and economics.


Large utility-scale solar panel farms use rows and rows of solar panels to directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Solar thermal farms, on the other hand, uses mirrors to concentrate sunlight to heat liquid that produces steam and makes electricity from a turbine. These sites are essentially using the heat of the sun to produce electricity.


Spanish power giant Abengoa celebrated the opening last Friday of a huge 280 MW solar thermal farm called Mojave Solar, built just outside of Barstow, California. The project can provide enough solar power for 90,000 homes in California, and was built across 2 square miles.


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Keystone vote fails in Senate | Elana Schor | POLITICO.com

Keystone vote fails in Senate | Elana Schor | POLITICO.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Senate’s first vote to cut off debate on its Keystone XL pipeline legislation failed Monday night on a 53-39 vote, as Democrats mounted their first successful filibuster of the new Congress.

That means Republicans who had hoped to pass a Keystone bill this week are now preparing for even longer debate over the pipeline. Republicans immediately continued their series of votes on the pipeline Monday night.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had moved to end debate on a bill yanking President Barack Obama’s authority over Keystone around midnight Thursday, sparking the ire of Democrats who accused him of prematurely cutting off debate.

“That’s politics,” one Senate GOP aide said in an interview of Democrats’ insistence on more votes before agreeing to end the Keystone debate. “At what point are these amendments no longer a sincere effort to improve the bill and just an effort to kill it by delay — that’s a determination Leader McConnell is going to have to make at some point.”

The Keystone bill’s backers initially eyed an end to pipeline votes this week. But legislation once viewed as an easy layup for the new GOP Senate is now starting to become mired in partisan resistance from as the Democratic minority digs in its heels on McConnell’s vow for freewheeling debate.


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Bank of England's Carney: Tech firms' tax 'very small' | Tom Espiner | BBC News

Bank of England's Carney: Tech firms' tax 'very small' | Tom Espiner | BBC News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The governor of the Bank of England has said powerful technology firms are among those who take advantage of international tax deals.

Mark Carney said: "The amount of tax that's actually paid by technology companies is very small relative to the returns."

He was speaking at a BBC-hosted debate at the World Economic Forum, in Davos.

Tackling tax avoidance is high on the agenda of several organisations at the moment, including the G20 and EC.

"We should recognise, actually, some of the firms which take most advantage of international tax rules are technology companies," Mr Carney said.

Technology industry body TechUK said that international tax deals were used by many organisations.

"These issues extend far beyond the tech sector, and predate the internet economy," said a TechUK spokeswoman in London.

"Global corporate tax rules have become outdated, complex and opaque," she added. "The way to remedy this is for governments, working collaboratively, to take action to bring the rules up to date, and make them simpler and more transparent."


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Warka Water promises to harness safe drinking water from the air | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Warka Water promises to harness safe drinking water from the air | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As water shortage is a serious issue in many parts of the world, a means of efficiently harnessing safe drinking water from thin air without the need of expensive infrastructure could be a real lifesaver. Italy's Architecture and Vision is developing an off-grid bamboo tower called Warka Water that promises just that: the firm says it could collect an annual average of up to 100 liters (26.4 US gallons) of water per day.

Once completed, Warka Water will rise to a height of 10 m (33 ft), weigh 60 kg (132 lb), and be secured to the ground with eight guide ropes. The tower consists of a lightweight woven bamboo structure, while an inner plastic mesh retains water droplets from passing fog, which fall into a collector and a large tank. Any rainwater and overnight dew also collects in the tank.

Warka Water will sport a canopy that offers shade to people drawing the collected water, and a series of rotating mirrors which Architecture and Vision says will be sufficient to keep birds away. No electricity is required for any part of the passive water-harnessing process, and the firm says the bamboo structure will take six people four days to construct. On-site assembly should take four people just three hours, without the need for cranes or any other building machinery.


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BeSupplychain's curator insight, Today, 3:56 AM

La bonne prise en compte dès la conception des contraintes logistiques (zones excentrées, absence de matériel de manutention, moyens de transport limités) a permis d'apporter une vraie solution pour l'apport d'eau en  zone désertique.


C'est une belle ingénierie pour concevoir la solution tout en utilisant des matériaux simples et  des modalités de montage adaptées aux conditions locales

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India knows climate change is happening—it just has to decide what to do about it | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

India knows climate change is happening—it just has to decide what to do about it | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Expectations for President Obama’s trip to India were all over the map, much like the president himself. Some predicted major progress on climate change, while others said he was “going to India basically for a parade.”

We got a little bit of both. The parade got pretty heavy media coverage, since it gave the opportunity to publish lots of colorful pictures. Don’t you just love parades?


Anyway, what were we just talking about? Oh, right—climate change. President Obama and Prime Minster Narendra Modi announced enhanced “cooperation” on global warming issues, which will “expand policy dialogues and technical work on clean energy and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies.”


It’s not exactly what global warming activists were hoping for, but perhaps their expectations were unreasonable, given that an emissions agreement like the one struck between the United States and China in November takes months of talks and planning behind the scenes. Political insiders warned reporters before the India trip that Obama and Modi hadn’t been able to lay the necessary groundwork for a repeat performance.


Still, expanded partnership between the two nations is significant. Take solar power, for example. Shortly after taking office in May, Modi raised the country’s solar-power generation target from 20 gigawatts to 100 gigawatts by 2022. That’s an ambitious target. No country has ever produced that much solar power, and India currently generates only three gigawatts—about as much as California. But it also represents a major opportunity for U.S. companies like SunEdison, which recently announced plans to open up a huge solar panel factory in India.


There are many other reasons to remain optimistic about carbon reductions in India, currently the word’s third largest emitter. The politics, for example, are slightly less complicated than in the United States, where climate change has become—for reasons that continue to baffle me—a partisan wedge issue. According to Anjali Jaiswal, director of the India Initiative at NRDC (which publishes Earthwire), the country has very few climate deniers. Climate change is sort of in your face there. The swings are dramatic—going from hot and dry to cool and soggy with incredible speed—and most people admit to noticing shifts in the region’s historic climate patterns.


Many Indians also feel such climate swings more acutely than Americans. Despite rapid urbanization, approximately one in three Indians still work in agriculture, and extreme weather events like drought cause extreme hardship.


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UK: Queen's University Belfast to create world's largest flat-pack bridge | David Szondy | GizMag.com

UK: Queen's University Belfast to create world's largest flat-pack bridge | David Szondy | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Flatpack furniture is one thing, but flatpack bridges? That may seem like reaching, but over 50 of them been constructed in the UK and Ireland, and civil engineers at Queen's University Belfast announce that work will soon begin on the world's longest flatpack arch bridge.

The arch is one of the greatest engineering achievements of human history. Perfected over 2,000 years ago by the Romans, there are examples in bridges and buildings all over Europe that date back almost as long. However, stone arches aren't easy to build. They need skilled masons, special forms made out of wood or steel, and a lot of patience. Even modern arch bridges made out of poured or pre-stressed concrete require a lot of time and labor to construct.

That changed when Professor Adrian Long of Queen's University Belfast invented the FlexiArch system. Developed over 10 years in collaboration with the Macrete Ireland concrete company, it maintains the principle of the Roman arch while greatly simplifying its construction. In the conventional technique, tapered blocks are cemented together on a form, but the FlexiArch uses precast one-meter blocks set in lengths and backed with a flexible polymeric membrane.

The result of this is that the arch rings lie flat on the truck beds that transport them to the building site. A crane with a specially designed lifting bar picks up the rings, which fold under their own length to form an arch – each segment locking against its neighbor. The arch is set into place, secured, and then concrete infilling, roadway finishing, and leveling are added. According to Queen's University, the bridge arches take only four to eight hours to erect instead of months.


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2 Simple Maps That Reveal How American Agriculture Actually Works | Joe Satran | HuffPost.com

2 Simple Maps That Reveal How American Agriculture Actually Works | Joe Satran | HuffPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Driving through the farmlands of Iowa looking for fresh food to eat is a lot like sailing through the ocean looking for fresh water to drink. In the ocean, you're surrounded by water that you can't drink; in Iowa, you're surrounded by food you can't eat. Even though Iowa generates the second-highest amount of revenue of any state off its crops -- $17 billion in 2012 -- the overwhelming majority of that comes from field corn, which is destined mostly for animal feed and ethanol, not dinner plates.

I came upon this startling fact while trying to answer a seemingly simple question: What crop generates the most money in each state?


The Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistical Service produces reams of data on such matters, so I figured the question would be easy to answer. But it turned out to be trickier than I thought, because when I pulled the data, I realized that in most states, the biggest crop was one that was used mostly for animal feed.


For well over half the states, field corn, soybeans or hay was the crop that generated the most cash in 2012, the latest year for which data are available. Though a small share of some of these crops does eventually get eaten by humans, in the form of things like soy lecithin and high-fructose corn syrup, most of it is fed to animals raised for meat or dairy.

To get more meaningful results, I decided to strip away those crops that are used largely for animal feed, and focus on crops that people actually eat. I plotted the results on a map, which revealed some surprising trends:


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Climate pushes Doomsday Clock close to midnight | Alex Kirby | Climate News Network

Climate pushes Doomsday Clock close to midnight | Alex Kirby | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The two main “extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity” are more acute than at any time in the last 30 years, according to scientists in the US.

One is the possibility of nuclear war − even a limited one. The other is climate change, which the scientists say “looms over all of humanity”. Either means that “the probability of global catastrophe is very high” without urgent action.

The warning comes from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ science and security board, which has moved the hands of the historic Doomsday Clock forward two minutes. They now stand at three minutes to midnight.

The board says in a statement: “In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernisations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required. . .

“These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth.”


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Link between NSA and Regin cyberespionage malware becomes clearer | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Link between NSA and Regin cyberespionage malware becomes clearer | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Keylogging malware that may have been used by the NSA shares signficant portions of code with a component of Regin, a sophisticated platform that has been used to spy on businesses, government institutions and private individuals for years.

The keylogger program, likely part of an attack framework used by the U.S. National Security Agency and its intelligence partners, is dubbed QWERTY and was among the files that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked to journalists. It was released by German news magazine Der Spiegel on Jan. 17 along with a larger collection of secret documents about the malware capabilities of the NSA and the other Five Eyes partners—the intelligence agencies of the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“We’ve obtained a copy of the malicious files published by Der Spiegel and when we analyzed them, they immediately reminded us of Regin,” malware researchers from antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab said Tuesday in a blog post. “Looking at the code closely, we conclude that the ‘QWERTY’ malware is identical in functionality to the Regin 50251 plugin.”

Moreover, the Kaspersky researchers found that both QWERTY and the 50251 plug-in depend on a different module of the Regin platform identified as 50225 which handles kernel-mode hooking. This component allows the malware to run in the highest privileged area of the operating system—the kernel.

This is strong proof that QWERTY can only operate as part of the Regin platform, the Kaspersky researchers said. “Considering the extreme complexity of the Regin platform and little chance that it can be duplicated by somebody without having access to its source code, we conclude the QWERTY malware developers and the Regin developers are the same or working together.”

Der Spiegel reported that QWERTY is likely a plug-in of a unified malware framework codenamed WARRIORPRIDE that is used by all Five Eye partners. This is based on references in the code to a dependency called WzowskiLib or CNELib.


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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Sink the Middle Class | Truth-Out.org

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Sink the Middle Class | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Six years into his presidency, President Obama is now taking heat from a surprising place: congressional Democrats, who are lining up against his plan to force the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress without any debate whatsoever.

If approved, the TPP, or as I like to call it, the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement - SHAFTA - would create a whole new set of rules regulating the economies of 12 countries on four different continents bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, because the TPP is being negotiated almost entirely in secret, we don't know a lot about it.

What we do know about it, though, comes almost entirely from leaks, and those leaks paint a pretty scary picture.

Thanks to groups like WikiLeaks, we now know the TPP would give big pharmaceutical companies virtual monopoly patent power, let corporations sue countries in international courts over regulations that those corporations don't like, and gut environmental and financial rules.

Given facts like this, you'd think that President Obama would want Congress to actually take the time and debate whether or not the TPP is a good idea for the US public.

But that's apparently not the case.


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Oil talks show potential for U.S.-Cuba relations | Bill Loveless | USAToday.com

Oil talks show potential for U.S.-Cuba relations | Bill Loveless | USAToday.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The U.S. and Cuba held their highest-level diplomatic talks in nearly 40 years in recent days, the latest development in efforts by Washington and Havana to end their decades-long freeze in diplomatic and commercial relations.

These meetings in Havana, led by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson and her Cuban counterpart, Josefina Vidal, understandably attracted widespread attention, far more so than earlier discussions between U.S. and Cuban officials over oil drilling. But those oil talks, like bilateral consultations on migration and other issues, illustrate the potential for greater collaboration between the two countries.

Since 2012, representatives of the U.S. State Department, the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have met with counterparts from the Cuban government, as well as from Mexico, Bahamas and Jamaica, to consider how best to respond to an oil spill in the north Caribbean, including off Cuba's coast. The meetings, in Bahamas, Jamaica, Mexico and the U.S., were prompted by worries over the explosion of BP's Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and the potential for a similar disaster among drilling projects in Cuban waters, fewer than 100 miles from Florida.

Those drilling efforts by Brazil's Petrobras, Spain's Repsol, Malaysia's Petronas and Petroleos de Venezuela, came up dry, and any resumption in exploration soon is unlikely, given the declines in oil prices and oil-company spending. But concerns over the potential for a Macondo-like accident in Cuban waters whenever drilling begins there again remain for the U.S. as well as Cuba.

"Many said this was going to make oil barons out of the Castros," Lee Hunt, the former president of the International Association of Drilling Contractors, told me the other day. Hunt helped organize and pay for the workshops, first as head of IADC and then privately after his retirement from the trade group in 2012.

"Well, you can take that line of thought, but in fact assisting the Cubans with offshore safety was really mostly in the interests of the United States, in terms of ecological and economic interests," said Hunt, who was in Washington for a meeting with José Cabañas Rodríguez, Cuba's top diplomat in the U.S.


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MA: Cape Wind dealt another blow Christine Legere | South Coast Today

MA: Cape Wind dealt another blow Christine Legere | South Coast Today | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Bad news continues to plague the $2.6 billion Cape Wind proposal to construct 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.

ISO New England confirmed Monday that it had suspended Cape Wind from participating in the New England wholesale markets. ISO New England can’t comment on a specific participant beyond confirming the suspension, spokeswoman Marcia Blomberg wrote in an email.

“But in general, suspensions are a result of a participant not maintaining a minimum amount of collateral and/or assurance policy,” Blomberg wrote.

ISO New England is an independent, not-for-profit company authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to coordinate and direct the flow of electricity throughout the New England region, overseeing the billion dollar markets where wholesale electricity is bought and sold.

Cape Wind’s spokesman Mark Rodgers called the suspension from participation in wholesale markets irrelevant, since the wind turbines have yet to be constructed.

“Cape Wind will be qualified well in advance of coming online and actually producing energy for sale,” Rodgers wrote in an email.

The proposed offshore wind farm's woes began Jan. 6, when NStar and National Grid announced the end of power purchase agreements with Cape Wind because the company had missed a Dec. 31 deadline for securing project financing and completing other significant milestones.


Without buyers for its energy, renewable energy experts say it will be nearly impossible for Cape Wind to secure the financing required for construction.


Cape Wind could have paid the utilities to extend the contracts, but company President James Gordon instead invoked a clause that allows for an extension of the agreements if there are unanticipated delays. Gordon cited years of litigation as the cause of the delays. 


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OK: Court Will Decide If Fracking Companies Can Be Held Responsible For Earthquakes | Emily Atkin | Think Progress

OK: Court Will Decide If Fracking Companies Can Be Held Responsible For Earthquakes | Emily Atkin | Think Progress | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Oklahoma’s highest court is about to make a decision that could really shake up the way fracking companies do business in the state.

In the coming months, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court will decide whether two oil companies should be held financially responsible for injuries suffered by a woman during a 2011 earthquake thought to have been caused by drilling activity. If the woman’s lawsuit is successful, it could set a legal precedent for future earthquake claims against oil and gas companies in Oklahoma.

In other words, oil and gas wells in Oklahoma would “become economic and legal-liability pariahs,” attorney Robert Gum said in comments reported by the Tulsa World.


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PA: Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking | Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian

PA: Children given lifelong ban on talking about fracking | Suzanne Goldenberg | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Two young children in Pennsylvania were banned from talking about fracking for the rest of their lives under a gag order imposed under a settlement reached by their parents with a leading oil and gas company.

The sweeping gag order was imposed under a $750,000 settlement between the Hallowich family and Range Resources Corp, a leading oil and gas driller. It provoked outrage on Monday among environmental campaigners and free speech advocates.

The settlement, reached in 2011 but unsealed only last week, barred the Hallowichs' son and daughter, who were then aged 10 and seven, from ever discussing fracking or the Marcellus Shale, a leading producer in America's shale gas boom.

The Hallowich family had earlier accused oil and gas companies of destroying their 10-acre farm in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania and putting their children's health in danger. Their property was adjacent to major industrial operations: four gas wells, gas compressor stations, and a waste water pond, which the Hallowich family said contaminated their water supply and caused burning eyes, sore throats and headaches.

Gag orders – on adults – are typical in settlements reached between oil and gas operators and residents in the heart of shale gas boom in Pennsylvania. But the company lawyer's insistence on extending the lifetime gag order to the Hallowichs' children gave even the judge pause, according to the court documents.


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