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@The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy
Our Global Future in the 21st Century is based on "The Third Industrial Revolution" which finally connects our new ICT infrastructure with distributed energy sources that are both renewable and sustainable
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MA: State Legislature seeks to expand fund for water and sewer projects | The Salem News

MA: State Legislature seeks to expand fund for water and sewer projects | The Salem News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

As communities throughout the state struggle to replace crumbling water and sewer systems, lawmakers are homing in on ways to plug an ever-widening funding gap.


The sheer size of the needs facing local governments statewide — pegged by lawmakers at more than $21.4 billion in the next 20 years — is complicating those efforts, as are concerns about the state’s borrowing capacity.


The House is considering a bill to raise the spending cap for a low-interest, revolving loan program by $50 million a year to help local governments foot the bills for water, sewer and storm-water projects. The $138 million fund would be renamed the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust.


The current version of the bill is a fraction of an earlier proposal, which would have allowed $250 million in additional borrowing and spent $200 million on local projects. A Senate committee removed those provisions amid concerns about over-borrowing.


Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, said the legislation is a “step in the right direction,” but its funding is only a drop in the pan.


In 2012, a legislative task force called it one of the biggest fiscal challenges for local governments.


“Water and sewer pipes are typically out of sight and out of mind because they are underground, but they are crumbling under our feet,” said Beckwith, whose group lobbied hard for the $450 million in increased financing.


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UK Foreign Office Bars Public From Attending Conference On How It Will Finally Release Illegally-Withheld Public Records | Techdirt.com

UK Foreign Office Bars Public From Attending Conference On How It Will Finally Release Illegally-Withheld Public Records | Techdirt.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The UK has a rule that nearly all government documents become public after a certain time has elapsed. But last year, it was revealed that the UK's Foreign Office had failed to release a huge store of older documents -- over a million of them:


The Foreign Office has unlawfully hoarded more than a million files of historic documents that should have been declassified and handed over to the National Archives, the Guardian has discovered.

The files are being kept at a secret archive at a high-security government communications centre in Buckinghamshire, north of London, where they occupy mile after mile of shelving.

Most of the papers are many decades old -- some were created in the 19th century -- and document in fine detail British foreign relations throughout two world wars, the cold war, withdrawal from empire and entry into the common market.

They have been kept from public view in breach of the Public Records Acts, which requires that all government documents become public once they are 30 years old -- a term about to be reduced to 20 years -- unless the department has received permission from the lord chancellor to hold them for longer. The secret archive is also beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act.


Now that it has been forced to admit that it holds all these records of great historical -- and often great political -- interest, the Foreign Office is making them public at last. But as The Guardian reports, it seems it still doesn't quite get what that means:


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NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls | WashPost.com

NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.


A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.


The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.


The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage.


At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

No other NSA program disclosed to date has swallowed a nation’s telephone network whole. Outside experts have sometimes described that prospect as disquieting but remote, with notable implications for a growing debate over the NSA’s practice of “bulk collection” abroad.


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White House launches climate data project, calls on data innovators | GigaOM CleanTech

White House launches climate data project, calls on data innovators | GigaOM CleanTech | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Obama administration on Wednesday announced the Climate Data Initiative, a program that will utilize climate change-related data to unleash new tools for city planners and local governments to prepare for and fight against climate change. The initiative will bring together open government data — from groups like USGS, DOD, NOAA and NASA — and pair it with data, technology and new programs from companies like Google, Intel and ESRI.


During a live-streamed announcement from the White House, Obama administration advisor John Podesta issued a call to action for tech innovators to use this open data trove and available technology to build new tools for local communities to use. Because data about the changing climate is so complex and involves so many planetary systems — from sea to atmosphere to arctic data — the Obama administration put together one site to house all that data and new resources at Data.gov/climate.


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Big data Google-style comes under attack | NetworkWorld.com

Big data Google-style comes under attack | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The article in TIME is headlined “Google’s Flu Project Shows the Failings of Big Data.” However, critics says the real failing here is not with big data but with Google.


The article takes issue with a project named Google Flu Trends (GFT), pioneered by the Internet search giant to produce real-time monitoring of flu cases around the world using search data the company collects. The idea was that analyzing how many people are searching for flu terms in an area can predict where there are cases of the flu.


The work was lauded in a book, “Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.” Google admitted at the time that not everyone who searches for flu terms would be sick, but it said it found “a close relationship” between search terms and flu cases.


The only problem is that it didn’t.


The journal Science released a reports showing some flaws in GFT. Specifically, it said that GFT’s predictions of flu cases were overestimated by 50% or more in some cases compared to figures produced by the federal Centers of Disease Control (CDC).


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Green Fracking? 5 Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy | National Geographic

Green Fracking? 5 Technologies for Cleaner Shale Energy | National Geographic | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

It may seem strange to hear the words "fracking" and "environmentally friendly" in the same sentence.


After all, hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which high-pressure chemically treated water is used to crack rock formations and release trapped oil and gas, is a dirty term to many environmentalists. Critics decry the practice for consuming vast amounts of fresh water, creating toxic liquid waste, and adding to the atmosphere's greenhouse gas burden, mostly because of increased risk of leaks of the potent heat-trapping gas, methane. (See related quiz, "What You Don't Know About Natural Gas.")


James Hill, chief executive of the Calgary, Alberta-based energy services firm GasFrac, is one of a handful of technology pioneers determined to change that. Hill's company has introduced a new fracking method that uses no water at all. Instead, GasFrac uses a gel made from propane—a hydrocarbon that's already naturally present underground—and a combination of what it says are relatively benign chemicals, such as magnesium oxide and ferric sulfate, a chemical used in water treatment plants. Over the past few years, GasFrac has used the process 2,500 times at 700 wells in Canada and the United States.


"We're actually using hydrocarbons to produce hydrocarbons," Hill said. "It's a cycle that's more sustainable."


GasFrac is one of a growing number of companies, including giant GE and the oil services firm Halliburton, that are pioneering technological improvements to mitigate some of the environmental downsides to the process that has spurred a North American energy boom. (See Interactive, "Breaking Fuel From Rock.") Besides GasFrac's water-free method, other companies are working on ways to use recycled frack water or non-potable brine in fracking. Some are working on replacing harsh chemicals used in the process with more benign mixtures, or to cleanse water that's been used in fracking. Other innovators are looking to replace diesel-powered drilling equipment with engines or motors powered by natural gas or solar energy, and to find ways to find and seal leaks that allow methane, a potent greenhouse gas, to escape.


Such efforts have even won cautious support from some environmental activists, who've decided that it may be more realistic to mitigate the consequences of fracking than to fight its use.


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White Space, the next internet disruption: 10 things to know | TechRepublic.com

In even the most developed countries, there are huge gaps in internet access. Fixed broadband access is unaffordable for 3.9 billion people around the world.


In the U.S., about 72 percent of people have home broadband internet access, but 60 million people are still living without it. According to Pew Research, part of the reason for this lag in adoption is the expense of broadband internet.


White Space stands to transform the way we purchase and use wireless internet. It isn't yet widely adopted, but this unlicensed, free form of broadband is gaining traction. Here are 10 things you should know to get up to speed on this disruptive technology.


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Vortex Schmortex -- How one utility cut winter power outages in half | Smart Grid News

Vortex Schmortex -- How one utility cut winter power outages in half | Smart Grid News | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Winter weather has put cities to the test this year. Frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall have created major problems for roadways, railways and airports. It’s also stressed electric power systems, with snow and ice leading to extensive power outages. These conditions hamper business productivity while also posing threats to health and human safety.


The weather has been particularly hard on southern cities that are not accustomed to heavy snowfall. One southern city, however, was in much better position to deal with the damage to electrical infrastructure from these storms. Chattanooga, Tenn., has built the most automated power system of its size in the U.S., which has helped the city realize a major reduction in the length and scope of power outages.


On Feb. 12, the city’s smart grid was again put to the test when a major snowstorm struck several southeastern states. Chattanooga was hit with up to 11 inches of wet, heavy snow, which downed trees and power lines throughout the region. As a result of the power system damage, about 36,000 homes and businesses experienced a sustained power outage of five minutes or longer.


Chattanooga’s smart grid, however, prevented power outages or automatically restored electric power to about 40,000 customers—an over 50% reduction in the number of customers who otherwise would have experienced a sustained outage. 


Local utility EPB has installed roughly 1,200 S&C IntelliRupter® PulseClosers with IntelliTeam® SG Automatic Restoration System to provide rapid response to power system disturbances. In the event of a power outage, the IntelliRupters communicate with each other over EPB’s fiber optic network to identify where the fault occurred, and then quickly reroute power to restore service to as many customers as possible.


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Climate Change: 'Abrupt,' 'Unpredictable,' 'Irreversible' and 'Highly Damaging' | BillMoyers.com

Climate Change: 'Abrupt,' 'Unpredictable,' 'Irreversible' and 'Highly Damaging' | BillMoyers.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

In a rare move, the world’s largest scientific society released a report nudging the public to wake up to the scientifically sound and increasingly frightening reality of climate change.


“As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change,” the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) wrote in the introduction to its new report, “What We Know.” “But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.”


“They are very clearly saying that we as the scientific community are completely convinced, based upon the evidence, that climate change is happening and human-caused,” said Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, the director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “The more people understand that the experts have reached this agreement, the more they in turn decide, ‘well, then I think it’s happening, and I think it’s human-caused, and I think it’s a serious problem, and in turn it increases people’s support for policy.”


The report noted that even though 97 percent of experts agree climate change is happening and we humans are causing it, Americans remain under the impression that the question is still unsettled. According to a 2013 report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 33 percent of Americans said they believed there was widespread disagreement among scientists and four percent said that “most scientists think global warming is not happening.” Only 42 percent of Americans knew that “most scientists think global warming is happening.”


These numbers suggest that disinformation circulated by the fossil fuel industry, utility companies and their political and media allies has successfully confused the public about the truth of global warming. Spreading the perception that scientists are still undecided is key to their strategy.


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Biotech plus wastewater equals free energy | SmartPlanet.com

Biotech plus wastewater equals free energy | SmartPlanet.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Yeast and hops are key ingredients in your favorite beer, but they also ferment downstream problems for brewers and wastewater treatment plants. Organic elements in brewery wastewater are oxygen-hungry pollutants that put considerable strain on wastewater treatment facilities.


Peter Kruger, brewmaster at Northern California's Bear Republic, knows this firsthand. "Like a lot of breweries, we have had phenomenal growth over last 10 years. It's been gradual, but we've switched from a brew pub mentality to that of a larger manufacturer -- one that makes substantial demands on public utilities," he says.


The brewery, which saw 40 percent growth for each of the past four years, felt those demands in the form of surcharges from the municipal treatment plant based on the wastewater's high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), something the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates under the Clean Water Act.


Over time, this became an untenable situation, but rather than adding a conventional aerobic digester to reduce BOD levels before wastewater leaves the plant, Bear Republic is using a new approach from Boston-based Cambrian Innovation. Cambrian has developed technology that essentially unlocks energy from the organic matter in the water, by flowing it through a bioelectric chemical reactor, in which bacteria eat the organic waste and release an electron.


The system uses that energy to create an electrical current, which, combined with carbon dioxide in the water, forms methane gas. (The technical term, on which Cambrian built its proprietary approach, is electromethanogenesis.) The methane is then pulled into a combined heat and power system to create electricity and heat water. When all is said and done, the system, called EcoVolt and built into portable cargo containers, creates more energy than it consumes.


Cambrian grew out of a NASA-funded project that sought ways to treat wastewater in space. Founder Matthew Silver pursued funding while earning his PhD in engineering systems from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Since 2006, he has attracted enough funding to grow the company to a team of 20 and advance the use of bioelectricy to treat wastewater while also generating energy. "Organics in wastewater actually contain a lot of energy. So if you can use the right technology, you can tap into that," Silver says.


The water coming out of the EcoVolt is 80 percent to 90 percent free of pollutants. That is plenty clean enough to send to the municipal wastewater plant, but to reuse the water, Bear Republic will need to first run it through a reverse osmosis system. Kruger's first goal is to replace the plant's air-cooled chillers, which are major energy hogs during summer, with water-based chillers using reused water from the EcoVolt. The company will also divert some water into irrigation and use some for washing down floors.


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Net neutrality: Industry MEPs want stricter rules against blocking rival services | European Parliment | Europa.eu

Net neutrality: Industry MEPs want stricter rules against blocking rival services | European Parliment | Europa.eu | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Internet providers should no longer be able to block or slow down internet services provided by their competitors, says the Industry Committee which on Tuesday approved rules to protect net neutrality. Under the latest draft EU “telecoms” package legislation, MEPs also voted against "roaming charges", extra costs for using a mobile phone in another EU country. These charges should be banned from 15 December 2015, MEPs say.


"With today's Industry Committee vote the European Parliament has taken one great step towards consolidating the telecommunications single market. The committee has no only proposed abolishing retail roaming charges for voice, SMS and data by 15 December 2015, but also tabled substantive proposals, e.g. on efficient spectrum management, that will allow 4G and 5G deployment throughout Europe” said Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP, ES), who leads Parliament's work with the package.


"Moreover we have built in further safeguards for internet openness, by ensuring that users can run and provide applications and services of their choice as well as strengthening the internet as a key driver of competitiveness, economic growth, social development and innovation", she added. Her report was adopted by 30 votes to 12, with 14 abstentions.


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Laser makes internet backbone speeds four-times faster | NetworkWorld.com

Laser makes internet backbone speeds four-times faster | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed a laser that could quadruple internet speeds on the existing internet backbone.


In an interview with the Washington Post, Amnon Yariv, one of the developers and a former winner of the National Medal of Science, said the quadrupling of bandwidth is just the beginning for the technology.


"Our first run lasers, fabricated at Caltech, are capable of of a 4x increase in the number of bytes-per-second carried by each channel," Yariv said in an email interview with the Washington Post. "This number will increase with our continuing work, but even at this level, the economic advantages are very big."


According to the Post, the laser operates closer to a single frequency than any other laser created before, enabling it to increase the amount of data it can carry through fiber optic cables.


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Judge Rejects Latest Koch-Led Bid to Snuff Out Cape Wind | ReaderSupportedNews.org

Judge Rejects Latest Koch-Led Bid to Snuff Out Cape Wind | ReaderSupportedNews.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Wind won, and Bill Koch took another one in the crotch.


A U.S. District Court judge rejected a long-running legal effort by the Koch-funded Alliance for Nantucket Sound and other groups to strip the planned Cape Wind energy farm of its federal approvals, which have taken more than a decade to secure. Bill, a lesser-known Koch brother, has spent millions leading a battle against construction of the 130-turbine offshore wind array, which he says would mar his views of Nantucket Sound.


The alliance had alleged a laundry list of shortcomings in the federal government’s approval process. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, this was the alliance’s 15th legal challenge to the project, and the 15th to fail.


The judge did however, rule that some illegal shortcuts had been taken by two agencies in granting environmental approvals — wildlife-related problems that he ordered remedied. The Boston Herald reports:


Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service need to revisit Cape Wind’s impacts on migrating birds and endangered right whales in Nantucket Sound due to violations of environmental protection law.


“After more than a decade of delay and more than a dozen lawsuits largely funded by the oil and gas industry, Cape Wind has made it around the latest roadblock, with the judge agreeing the environmental review process has been thorough and transparent,” NRDC attorney Kit Kennedy said. “We’re confident that the remaining limited issues can be addressed swiftly by the federal government.”


Cape Wind President Jim Gordon described Friday’s ruling as an “incredibly important” one that “clears the way for completing” financing efforts — and that “will help pave the way for other coastal regions to utilize” offshore wind power.


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Why governments are keeping an open attitude toward Bitcoin | SmartPlanet.com

Why governments are keeping an open attitude toward Bitcoin | SmartPlanet.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

For centuries, government-issued fiat money has upheld two functions fairly well: being a store of value and serving as a medium of exchange. But developments over the past year suggest that technology might someday do these jobs better.


Since its launch in 2009, the virtual currency Bitcoin—which is not issued by a central bank but instead maintained on a peer-to-peer computer network much the way that file-sharing service BitTorrent exists on its users’ computers—has seen its circulation rise from less than two million four years ago to 12 million today. The number of daily Bitcoin transactions has surged from fewer than 5,000 to more than 60,000 in the past two years, and other crytocurrencies or related services, such as Ripple, Litecoin, Peercoin, Anoncoin and Zerocoin, have emerged. (Another reason Bitcoin has been a hot topic: its mysterious origins. It was created by a coder or group of coders named Satoshi Nakamoto who, then, mysteriously disappeared in 2011, declaring he, she or they had moved on to other things, which set off a quest to find the creator(s) that reached a fever pitch Thursday when Newsweek claimed to have found the man.)


But digital currencies have attracted not only entrepreneurs, but also thieves. In October, China's GBL exchange vanished, taking $4.1 million in users’ deposits along with it. In January, hackers broke into BIPS, which processes Bitcoin payments for merchants in Europe, and stole $1 million. Recently, a $400 million heist—one of the biggest in history—brought down Mt. Gox, the largest Bitcoin currency exchange, forcing it to file for bankruptcy. And the week after, $600,000 in Bitcoin was stolen from Flexcoin, which also closed its doors.


And yet, all these problems have only prompted people to defend Bitcoin and its kin. After all, Mt. Gox’s problems have not spread to any other virtual currency exchanges, and Bitcoin itself has remained fairly resilient. “I think it’s a significant event, but I think there’s a decent chance that it is part of what we would call this sort of shaking out of the industry as it matures and slowly becomes a little more regulated,” Benjamin M. Lawsky, New York state’s top financial regulator, told The New York Times.


His remarks suggest that governments in developed countries will likely continue to keep an open attitude toward digital currencies, mainly for two reasons.


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Australia May Soon Regret Giving Up Its Refusal To Accept Corporate Sovereignty In Trade Agreements | Techdirt.com

Australia May Soon Regret Giving Up Its Refusal To Accept Corporate Sovereignty In Trade Agreements | Techdirt.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Back in 2012, we wrote about Philip Morris suing Australia for requiring plain packets for cigarettes. Significantly, the company brought that action under a 1993 agreement between Australia and the government of Hong Kong. That's because Philip Morris was unable to use the far more important free trade agreement with the US, which Australia had wisely insisted should not contain a corporate sovereignty (ISDS) chapter. Given that experience of being sued by a company simply as result of introducing new laws to protect the health of its citizens, it's curious that the newly-installed Australian government seems to be reversing its position:


Australia's new free trade agreement (FTA) with South Korea, promoted as a win for Australian exports, includes a clause that could spell big trouble for Australia's environmental movement and sovereignty.

The FTA, agreed upon by both nations but yet to be ratified by parliament, includes an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions that allows overseas investors to challenge threats to their business interests in international courts.


As that article on newmatilda.com points out, if Australia does indeed ratify the agreement with South Korea, it may not have to wait long before ISDS gets used against it:


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AAAS: Climate risks irreversible change | Climate News Network

AAAS: Climate risks irreversible change | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) says there is a “small but real” chance that a warming climate will cause sudden and possibly unalterable changes to the planet.


This echoes the words used in its 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said climate change might bring “abrupt and irreversible” impacts.


In a report, What We Know, the AAAS makes an infrequent foray into the climate debate. The report’s significance lies not in what it says, which covers familiar ground, but in who is saying it: the world’s largest general scientific body, and one of its most knowledgeable.


The AAAS says: “The evidence is overwhelming: levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are rising. Temperatures are going up.


Springs are arriving earlier. Ice sheets are melting. Sea level is rising. The patterns of rainfall and drought are changing. Heat waves are getting worse, as is extreme precipitation. The oceans are acidifying.


“The science linking human activities to climate change is analogous to the science linking smoking to lung and cardiovascular diseases. Physicians, cardiovascular scientists, public health experts and others all agree smoking causes cancer.


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Batelco to offer fixed services at Bahrain Bay Development | Zawya.com

Batelco to offer fixed services at Bahrain Bay Development | Zawya.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Batelco, the Kingdom's leading integrated telecommunications service provider, has recently signed an agreement with Bahrain Bay Development which grants the operator a license to roll out its fiber access network within Bahrain Bay . This initiative is part of Batelco's continuous efforts to make its fixed services available to customers located in the up and coming new development areas.


Bahrain Bay is a fully masterplanned development, which will host a number of hotels, banks and high profile enterprise customers. In addition, the development is also planned to include various residential building projects.


With this in mind, Batelco is investing in the development of a state-of-the-art fibre optic network to ensure availability of its entire portfolio of enterprise and consumer products. This portfolio includes voice, private leased circuits, broadband and IPTV. Furthermore, the network will be designed to provide customers with fully redundant services to ensure business continuity, high service availability and uninterrupted services to the customers running crucial time sensitive operations.


"We are using the most advanced Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) technology in designing the infrastructure that will serve the needs and requirements of customers in this newly developed area," said Batelco Bahrain Chief Executive Rashed Abdulla.


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Buffalo Grid provides solar-powered phone charging for developing countries | GizMag.com

Buffalo Grid provides solar-powered phone charging for developing countries | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Mobile phones have proven invaluable for connecting communities in developing countries where there is no wired telecoms infrastructure. Often, however, there is no electricity infrastructure either, making device charging problematic. BuffaloGrid solves this by providing solar charging hubs to communities, and sharing its profits.


Virgin Media Business recently selected BuffaloGrid as one of the winners of its Three New Things contest, which sought out new technologies with the potential to change the lives of those who use them. The three winners were selected by a panel of tech experts from around 100 entries, plus BuffaloGrid also came second in the People's Favorite vote.


The idea for BuffaloGrid came from founder Phil Schluter, who has spent 20 years as a coffee trader in Africa. Schluter saw the benefits that mobile phones were bringing the local communities, but also the difficulties in charging that people were having without access to power. The original idea was for a bicycle generator, but over three years it has evolved through an ongoing design and development process, and intensive field research.


The BuffaloGrid is provided for free to entrepreneurs in the local community. Customers pay for the use of the device to charge their phone by sending a premium text message as payment. The entrepreneurs who own and manage the device then share in the profits generated by BuffaloGrid. The company also partners with local network operators to offer power as an added benefit to their mobile network.


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UK urges EU to cut energy reliance on Russia | FT.com

UK urges EU to cut energy reliance on Russia | FT.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The British government is pushing EU leaders to back a new energy security plan to wean Europe off Russian energy over the next 25 years by ramping up imports from new sources, including shale gas from the US and natural gas from Iraq.


The proposal, distributed to European capitals ahead of a summit in Brussels beginning on Thursday, also calls for speeding up development of a pipeline route through Azerbaijan and Turkey that would bring gas to Europe from the Caspian Sea, avoiding Russian territory.


Crises in Ukraine in 2006, 2009 and more recently have repeatedly illustrated the need to ensure Europe is not over-reliant on a limited number of sources of energy or vulnerable to external pressure,” reads the paper, referring to the current stand-off with Russia as well as previous crises where state-owned Gazprom cut off supplies to Ukrainian pipelines over pricing and unpaid debts.


Although most of the proposals included in the pre-summit “non-paper” have been mooted before, many have languished since the 2009 crisis, where the Ukrainian shutdown left much of south-eastern Europe without heat during a bitterly cold winter. Moscow has insisted it is a reliable supplier to Europe, noting supplies were not cut off at the height of the Cold War.


But EU diplomats said pre-summit deliberations have begun to focus on reviving such energy security proposals with the topic scheduled to be debated on Friday morning after leaders decide on new sanctions against Russia on Thursday night.


“Since the Russians turned off the gas last time, quite a lot has been done,” said an EU diplomat from a British ally involved in pre-summit deliberations. “That said, Europe is still very exposed.”


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Fukushima Fallout: Ailing US Sailors Sue TEPCO After Exposure to Radiation 30 Times Higher Than Normal | Truth-Out.org

Fukushima Fallout: Ailing US Sailors Sue TEPCO After Exposure to Radiation 30 Times Higher Than Normal | Truth-Out.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Three years after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, scores of U.S. sailors and marines are suing the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, for allegedly misleading the Navy about the level of radioactive contamination. Many of the servicemembers who provided humanitarian relief during the disaster have experienced devastating health ailments since returning from Japan, ranging from leukemia to blindness to infertility to birth defects.


We are joined by three guests: Lieutenant Steve Simmons, a U.S. Navy sailor who served on board the USS Ronald Reagan and joined in the class action lawsuit against TEPCO after suffering health problems; Charles Bonner, an attorney for the sailors; and Kyle Cleveland, sociology professor and associate director of the Institute for Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus in Tokyo.


Cleveland recently published transcripts of the Navy’s phone conversations about Fukushima that took place at the time of the disaster, which suggest commanders were also aware of the risk faced by sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan.


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Australia: Telehealth doesn't need fibre, the technology already exists: Experts | ZDNet

Australia: Telehealth doesn't need fibre, the technology already exists: Experts | ZDNet | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

One of the core principles of belief in why Australia needs to deploy a full fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) National Broadband Network (NBN) across the country is telehealth. However, in a panel session that should give FttP proponents nightmares, a quartet of health experts have identified the issues with increasing the use of telehealth as being cultural and operational, not bound by the speed of a data connection.


Speaking at the Connect conference in Melbourne on Thursday, a panel consisting of professor Branko Celler, chief scientist at the CSIRO; Lyn Davies, managing director of Tunstall Healthcare; Stephen Leeder, professor of public health and community medicine, University of Sydney; and Dr Elaine Saunders, managing director, Blamey Saunders agreed that telehealth could start saving governments money today, if only the will existed to implement it.


"Telehealth is a solution, the technology is here, the patients have never been the problem ... but we have some quite overwhelming organisational, workplace culture issues that are really hard to overcome — plus the absence of a proper funding model to scale up nationally telehealth," said Celler.


The panel was in agreement that telehealth, if implemented properly, is not a technical issue, but one that changes the entire delivery method of health service.


"When you are looking at technologies most effectively to solve the health problems we have, that doesn't necessarily mean doing things the old way but with an internet connection," said Saunders. "It means that you've got the latitude to do things quite, quite differently. That means we need our leaders in government to be open to suggestions about solutions, not about specific products."


"I think the real barrier [to widespread telehealth adoption] is thinking about things in the old way," she said.


Without proper incentives and general practitioner engagement, Davies said that any telehealth program is doomed, and it isn't a cure-all for issues in the health sector.


"[Telehealth] is not the only answer, and everybody knows that we can't sustain the Medicare system by just adding more onto it," she said.


"We have to realise those cost savings, first in some ways, so it's the chicken and egg ... before telehealth has some mainstream capability."


Professor Leeder said it is important for Australia to realise that many aspects of telehealth are being done in other places around the world.


"My estimate is that we are 20 years behind," he said.


"The problems of connectivity of patients to their professional careers, whether they be 100 metres down the road or 1,000 kilometres away, have been dealt with.


"You don't need a whole bunch of new technology to do that, it's there, it's working ... it's a question of implementing it."


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Emerging nations want uncensored Internet access, Pew survey shows | NetworkWorld.com

Emerging nations want uncensored Internet access, Pew survey shows | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A study released today by the Pew Research Center shows that majorities in 22 of 24 developing nations surveyed want their access to the Internet to be free of government censorship, including 70%+ majorities in half of the countries that were included.


South American countries like Venezuela (89%), Chile (86%), Brazil (80%) and Argentina (80%) posted some of the highest margins of respondents saying that an uncensored Internet is an important thing, as did Middle Eastern and North African countries like Lebanon (86%), Egypt (83%), Jordan (69%) and the Palestinian Territories (62%).


According to the Pew Center, support for a censorship-free Internet tended to be higher in countries with more general access to the Internet – limited access in countries like Uganda and Pakistan is reflected in their lower support numbers, which were 49% and 22% respectively.


Some countries, of course were exceptions, the researchers said – Venezuela and Egypt both showed more hostility to censorship than their usage numbers might have suggested, while Internet-savvy Russia’s mark of 63% was surprisingly low. The study notes that “other Pew Research surveys have also found relatively low support for democratic rights and institutions in Russia and Pakistan.”


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Pilots complain that glare from the world’s biggest solar power plant is blinding them | Quartz.com

Pilots complain that glare from the world’s biggest solar power plant is blinding them | Quartz.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Airplane pilots reported that they were blinded by the intense sunlight reflecting off some of the 340,000 mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System on the California-Nevada border. Yet six months elapsed before their reports reached the regulator that oversees the plant, which is located near the Las Vegas airport.


The mirrors, called heliostats, focus the sun on 459-foot-high (140 meter) towers that contain water-filled boilers. The concentrated sunlight boils the water to create steam, driving turbines that generate 377 megawatts of carbon-free electricity. The heat is so blistering that it has melted the feathers of birds in mid-flight.


Planes fly far too high to be affected by the heat—but by not the light. “From the pilot’s seat of my aircraft the brightness was like looking into the sun,” reported one pilot as his small plane climbed from 6,000 to 12,000 feet after taking off from the Boulder City, Nevada, airport. In a report he filed with the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), the pilot wrote that, “In my opinion the reflection from these mirrors was a hazard to flight because for a brief time I could not scan the sky in that direction to look for other aircraft.”


He’s not alone. “Daily, during the late morning and early afternoon hours we get complaints from pilots of aircraft flying from the northeast to the southwest about the brightness of this solar farm,” reported an air traffic controller at an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)  center that monitors the airspace in southern California. A pilot of a commercial jetliner told him the light reflected from the Ivanpah mirrors “was nearly blinding.”


“I reported this to management and was told that they were going to do nothing about it,” wrote the air traffic controller to the ASRS, a 37-year-old program established by the FAA and NASA and administrated by the space agency in California. “I have no idea what can be done about this situation, but being a passenger on an aircraft that flew through this airspace and saw it for myself, I would say that something needs to be done. It is extremely bright and distracting.”


Here’s the scary part: The pilot and the air traffic controller filed their complaints in August 2013. But the reports did not reach the California Energy Commission, which oversees Ivanpah and other solar thermal power plants, until March 10, 2014.


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Jim Cash's curator insight, July 18, 4:58 AM

The fact that nothing is going to be done about this is very concerning. Having pilots blinded on take-off and landing is incredibly dangerous, what's to stop a blinded pilot straying into the path of an oncoming plane or stalling and crashing? It's a matter of time until an aircraft strays into that area and either hits one of the towers or has parts of his/her plane damaged by the extreme heat radiation.

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UK: British Newspapers Giving Away Six Months of Free Broadband | Stop the Cap!

UK: British Newspapers Giving Away Six Months of Free Broadband | Stop the Cap! | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

While broadband prices in North America now typically exceed $50 a month, competition in the United Kingdom has brought Internet access pricing down to as low as zero as part of a promotion between BT — Britain’s largest telecom company and Northern & Shell, a newspaper publisher and owner of Channel 5.


Readers of the Daily Star and Daily Express found a four page pullout this week offering six months of free, unlimited use 16Mbps BT broadband service. After six months, the price rises to a discounted rate of $26.50 a month.


Those taking advantage of the offer also get free access to sports channel BT Sport. Readers take advantage of the offer by phoning a toll-free 0800 number or visiting the BT website with offer codes published in the newspapers.


In Britain, newspaper publishers struggling to hold readership are increasingly launching marketing campaigns that bundle broadband, television, and newspaper service into a discounted bundle package. The offers are an effort to stem declines in readership of printed newspapers and can be moderately effective if the price is right.


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EU: Telco industry will never make broadband widely available | Christian Engstrom Blog | Neurope.eu

EU: Telco industry will never make broadband widely available | Christian Engstrom Blog | Neurope.eu | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The Telco industry has worked diligently to make itself synonymous with the internet service provider industry, in a strategic effort dating back over a decade. From the deceptive renaming of “IT” to “ICT” in order to include the Telco industry, via the buyout of all small ISPs to consolidate power with the old national Telco monopolies, all is part of a regulatory capture to prevent the Internet.


The telephony industry is obsolete. It has no further value proposition to the market. It tries to charge me ten cents per minute for a 9,600 bits-per-second connection when I have an always-on 100,000,000 bits-per-second connection at a flat rate. In addition, the telephony connection can only be used for a low-grade voice application, whereas my hundred megabits are general-purpose. In short, the Telco industry has no value proposition whatsoever.


The problem is that the Telco industry understands this, that their industry is dead in the water in the face of the internet, and has therefore worked diligently to prevent the Internet from reaching critical household mass. They have done this both in terms of preventing bandwidths where its cash cow - voice calls - are threatened as a concept, and by outright sabotaging voice applications such as Skype in their networks.


The old national Telco monopolies see it as their duty to protect their old voice call cash cow, and force people to use it if they are also using the underlying data services. This is the kind of behaviour we normally drag into court for illegal anticompetitive behaviour.


This tragedy started in the late 1990s as the old national Telco monopolies, usually privatized to some degree, bought all the small mom-and-pop ISPs before they had grown to a major threat. The old national monopolies understood perfectly what was about to happen. In only one of the few markets where this didn’t fully succeed, in Sweden, apartments were fibered with 100 megabits per second full-duplex as early as 1999 - fifteen years ago. That’s what could have been in all of Europe, fifteen years ago. Instead, in most other markets and member states, the Telco industry managed a regulatory capture to prevent the future’s most critical infrastructure from taking hold and threatening their previous, now obsolete, business.


The Telco industry has pulled a number of stunts toward legislators in trying to convince legislators they will provide bandwidth for households, when in reality, there are not and were never any such plans. They are, and have been, stalling for time. There is no intention whatsoever to eliminate their obsolete industry by providing modern communications lines to everybody.


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