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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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Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition: Labor, Faith, Health, Consumer, Business and Green Agreement | Nick Magrisso's Blog | NRDC.org

Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition: Labor, Faith, Health, Consumer, Business and Green Agreement | Nick Magrisso's Blog | NRDC.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

This week two seemingly unconnected announcements were made that will likely cast a big shadow over the state of Illinois for some time. Wednesday, Governor Bruce Rauner gave his first State of the State address. In the speech he outlined Illinois' grave economic position and repeatedly highlighted a desire to push new policies that will make the state more competitive and create jobs.

The same day, a new coalition was announced that could help make his wish come true: the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition.

At events in Springfield and Chicago, this unprecedented coalition of business interests, organized labor, interfaith groups, consumer advocates, and environmental groups announced shared goals to embrace clean energy and new job creation under a united banner. NRDC is a proud member of the coalition--and we think that looking at the state's energy economy is the perfect place to start to realize Governor Rauner's goal of making Illinois competitive. The coalition believes that some key policy tweaks will open the job flood gates to the tune of 32,000 jobs annually!

And we are not alone.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel threw his support behind the coalition's goals to grow the state and city's economy by creating new jobs in the clean energy industry, saying it is a "win-win for our environment and economy."

In Springfield I joined a similar announcement in the State Capitol with legislative leaders of the Illinois General Assembly, along with business partners and environmental colleagues who had a very similar message.

State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) summed up what was said by a labor leader from the buildings trades unions who stood at the Chicago event, saying, "This coalition is about three things - jobs, jobs, jobs."


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ESA successfully tests FLEX instrument, designed to create maps of photosynthetic activity | Chris Wood | GizMag.com

ESA successfully tests FLEX instrument, designed to create maps of photosynthetic activity | Chris Wood | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The European Space Agency (ESA) has successfully tested its Fluorescence Explorer mission (FLEX), which is vying for a spot on the organisation’s eight Earth Explorer satellite. The mission, which aims to create global maps of photosynthetic activity, will allow for the identification of vegetation suffering degrees of stress that simply aren’t visible to the human eye. It has the potential to significantly further our understanding of the global carbon cycle, and could have an impact on agricultural management.

Building a greater understanding of global crops is becoming increasingly important, with a joint study between MIT, the University of Hong Kong and Colorado State University predicting last year that a combination of air pollution and global warming could lead to a 10 percent drop in rice, wheat, corn and soy yields by 2050.

Satellites such as the recently deployed Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) – which is itself designed to predict droughts – are already tackling the problem, but the FLEX mission has the potential to significantly increase understanding and streamline agricultural efforts.


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A Sneak Peek At NASA’s New Satellite That Has Been 16 Years In The Making | Ari Phillips | ThinkProgress.com

A Sneak Peek At NASA’s New Satellite That Has Been 16 Years In The Making | Ari Phillips | ThinkProgress.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Adam Szabo, project scientist for the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite, talks about space weather with the casual familiarity that most people discuss weather on Earth.

“You look up every day and the sun is there; it looks pretty much the same,” said Szabo in a small conference room located deep within the NASA Goddard Center complex in Greenbelt, Maryland. “In reality it varies quite a bit.”

Szabo has been working on the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite, or DSCOVR, with a sense of urgency as the launch, scheduled for this Sunday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, nears. He will travel down to the site for the big day, where he will have to divide his attention between focusing on the launch and engaging VIP attendees such as a Congressional delegation and former Vice President Al Gore, a long-time proponent of the project.

Szabo speaks with a sharp Hungarian accent almost stereotypically appropriate of a space physicist. The rapid pace at which he delivers his remarks hints at the continuous and complex thought process taking place in the space inside his head. As project scientist, he said his real work will start after the launch, when he has to turn on all the instruments and start calibrating them as the satellite prepares for operation some six months later.


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Schoolmasters: A smart and sustainable prefabricated Scottish home | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Schoolmasters: A smart and sustainable prefabricated Scottish home | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

UK-based sustainable construction firm build different recently completed work on an energy-efficient prefabricated home located near Aberdeen, Scotland. Dubbed Schoolmasters, it follows Passivhaus principles and draws most of its required energy from renewable sources. Such things as lighting and heating can also be monitored and controlled with a smartphone or tablet.

The single-story Schoolmasters comprises a total floorspace of 195 sq m (2,098 sq ft), and features four bedrooms and three bathrooms, in addition to a lounge, kitchen, dining area, and office. Stuart Duncan, who designed the home, told Gizmag that it follows Passivhaus building principles, but that he didn't seek certification as he wanted more flexibility regarding its design.

Though connected to both the electric grid and water mains, much of the home's required electricity comes from a roof-based 5.5 kW PV array. As Schoolmasters was only completed in October 2014, it's still not clear exactly how well the home will perform year-round, nor what proportion of its electricity will derive from renewable sources, though it may well end up running solely from solar power.


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Microsoft, others paying Adblock Plus creator to stop blocking them | Andy Patrizio | NetworkWorld.com

Microsoft, others paying Adblock Plus creator to stop blocking them | Andy Patrizio | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A few weeks back, it was rumored that web content giants Microsoft, Google, and Amazon might sue the maker of Adblock Plus, the Firefox/Chrome plugin that blocks ad content on web pages.

Instead, they are bribing the company.

According to a new report from the Financial Times (registration required), Microsoft, Google, Amazon and content delivery provider Taboola have been quietly paying Eyeo, the German company that developed Adblock Plus, to let their links slip through Adblock Plus's filters.

Eyeo has what it calls "acceptable ads," which can be whitelisted and bypass its program filters. This tends to be for smaller companies with "non-intrusive" ads, according to Eyeo's site. Microsoft and the other companies are hardly small, and people often want to block them.

In fact, this is not new. Taboola, which counts MailOnline, Business Insider, and NBC News as customers, was added to the Adblock Plus whitelist last November to serve ads in the form of "sponsored content" at the bottom of news articles.


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New Zealand: Spark and Vocus form NZ fibre joint venture | TeleGeography.com

Spark (formerly Telecom New Zealand) has formed a joint venture with Australia’s Vocus Communications to carry out the installation of fibre optic infrastructure to support high speed data services.


The ‘Connect 8’ venture will deploy fibre networks in New Zealand for Spark’s business services unit Spark Digital, Vocus and other telecoms providers.


Chief Executive of Spark Digital, Tim Miles, commented: ‘The joint venture will allow Spark Digital to add Vocus Communications leadership and construction capability to our network delivery options. It also gives us more flexibility, supplier-capacity, and control over delivery time frames, therefore enabling more businesses to get on with unleashing their digital potential.’


In November 2014 Vocus completed the acquisition of FX Networks, an inter-city network operator with over 4,100km of fibre cable in New Zealand.

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Climate cranks up extinction threat to Borneo mammals | Tim Radford | Climate News Network

Climate cranks up extinction threat to Borneo mammals | Tim Radford | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

One in three of the mammal species of Borneo could see their habitat reduced by a third by 2080 − just because of climate change alone.

Given that the rainforests of Borneo are right now also being felled, burned and converted to commercial plantation, nearly half of all mammal species will lose more than a third of their remaining home range within the next 65 years.

Among the first to feel the heat will be those species that are already endangered – creatures such as the greater nectar bat, the otter civet, and the flat-headed cat.
Conservation challenge

Matthew Struebig, a tropical ecologist at the University of Kent, in the UK, and colleagues report in the journal Current Biology that they considered the challenge of conservation in one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots − but which is also under pressure from population growth, economic expansion and continued pressure on the last stands of one of the world’s great forests.

The researchers assembled a comprehensive map and inventory of data for 13 species of primate, 23 carnivores and 45 kinds of bat. Altogether, they examined 6,921 records and observations.


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Intelligence community works to get beyond Snowden stigma | Kenneth Corbin | CSO Online

The fallout from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's disclosures of widespread and covert government surveillance programs left a deep rift between the intelligence community and many leading technology companies, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

But does it have to be that way?

In remarks this week at the Brookings Institution, a top intelligence official offered a hopeful vision of government and tech working in common cause to protect national security, while at the same time developing and respecting meaningful safeguards for civil liberties and personal privacy.

"I hope that we'll be able to work together with industry to help us find better solutions to protect both privacy and national security," says Robert Litt, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

"One of the many ways in which Snowden's leaks have damaged national security is driving a wedge between government and providers and technology companies, so that some companies that formerly recognized that protecting our nation was a valuable and important public service they could perform, now feel compelled to stand in opposition," he adds. "I don't happen to think that's healthy, because I think that American companies have a huge amount to contribute to how we protect both privacy and national security."


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Microgrids: The Road to Local Energy Independence | Siemens.com

Microgrids: The Road to Local Energy Independence | Siemens.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Germany’s transition to a renewable energy economy is moving ahead at full steam. Already, renewables account for around 25 percent of the power mix. However, a lot more electricity from renewables will need to be funneled into the grid if Germany is to reach its energy transition target of an 80-percent share of renewables by 2050. In fact, this will require even more electricity from renewables than is currently needed in Germany during peak loads.

Yet even today, the installed capacity of renewables in Germany is pushing the country’s grid to the limit. Smart grids are needed to ensure that distributed power systems can constantly supply sufficient electricity to consumers, even as electricity production fluctuates with the weather. Unlike today’s grids, such intelligent networks will be able to balance power generation and consumption while distributing electricity, and they will do this all the way to the end consumer level.

To ensure the effectiveness of this approach, between 2011 and 2013 a research group led by Siemens built and tested a smart grid in the municipality of Wildpoldsried in the Allgäu region of southern Germany as part of the country’s IRENE (Integration of Regenerative Energy and Electric Mobility) project. As Dr. Michael Metzger, Project Manager for Siemens’s activities in the IRENE research network, explains Wildpoldsried was an ideal spot for the project to begin: “Even back in 2010, Wildpoldsried was using wind, solar, and biomass facilities to produce around twice as much electricity as it consumed. In other words, it already offered the conditions that we expect to see throughout Germany in the future.”


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Internet Comes Through For Developer Of Key Email Encryption Tool | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Internet Comes Through For Developer Of Key Email Encryption Tool | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Yesterday, we reposted Julia Angwin's article from ProPublica about how the guy behind GPG, a key tool for email encryption, Werner Koch, was basically broke, and that attempts to crowdfund money to keep going hadn't been all that successful. The story seemed to resonate with lots of people, and the donations started flowing.


After getting a grand total of just about €34,000 in 2014, he's already well over €100,000 this year, with most of that coming yesterday after Angwin's story went up.


On top of that, Stripe and Facebook each agreed to fund him to the tune of $50,000 per year (from each of them, so $100k total), and the Linux Foundation had agreed to give him $60k (though, Koch admits that the deal there was actually signed last week).

Either way, this is great to see, though it's unfortunate that it had to wait until an article detailing his plight came out. We've seen this sort of thing a few times now, such as when the Heartbleed bug made everyone realize that OpenSSL was basically supported by volunteers with almost no budget at all. Thankfully, the attention there got the project necessary funds to continue to keep us safe.


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South Africa: Vox to build national fibre network | Duncan McLeod | TechCentral

South Africa: Vox to build national fibre network | Duncan McLeod | TechCentral | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Vox Telecom, whose main shareholders last month decided against selling the company after considering offers from interested parties, now plans to build its own national fibre-optic broadband backbone to connect its business customers to its core network.

The deployment forms part of a broader, five-year strategy that it’s adopted after shareholders — Metier, RMB and Investec — decided to remove the for-sale sign.

Vox CEO Jacques du Toit says the company received a number of fair-value offers, but the shareholders decided against a sale because they felt they could get better returns by holding onto their asset. No due diligence was entered into with any party.

Du Toit says the process has allowed Vox to “clean up shop” and consolidate its operations.

“We got the house in order. We learnt a phenomenal amount about ourselves and our competitors and what they think about us. The nicest thing was that we underestimated the value of the Vox brand. We’re now in a great spot to take the business to the next level.”

Vox’s fibre plans represent its first investment into network infrastructure, says Du Toit. “We will slowly deploy infrastructure to our customers, starting with 100Mbit/s fibre circuits.”

But, he says: “We have no intention of being a [terrestrial fibre operator like] Dark Fibre Africa or [a submarine cable operator like] Seacom.”

Vox will provide services using its own network and will also lease capacity where it makes sense.


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This Berkeley, CA startup & its energy machines are about to take off | Katie Fehrenbacher | GigaOM Clean Tech

This Berkeley, CA startup & its energy machines are about to take off | Katie Fehrenbacher | GigaOM Clean Tech | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A decade ago the sprawling artist compound just off of Ashby Avenue in an industrial part of West Berkeley, Calif, was filled with flame-throwing robots, stacks of shipping containers and towering Burning Man-inspired sculptures. During my college years at the University of California, Berkeley, and for several years afterwards, the place — then called The Shipyard — was the stuff of legend, hosting shows where huge metal art machines battled each other, and organizing events titled things like How to Destroy the Universe Festival.

Today it’s the headquarters of All Power Labs, an energy startup that emerged out of the ashes of the collective as a way for engineer artist, and all-around-noncomformist Jim Mason to provide power for the compound after the city of Berkeley repeatedly turned off their electricity. “The city was not excited about our interpretation of the building code,” Mason recalled of the group’s offgrid beginnings last week during an interview in All Power Lab’s offices, which sit just above their open machining and fabrication workshops.


Instead of art machines, the place now produces machines that make distributed clean energy and are mostly shipped to the developing world.


Over the past seven years, the group has been building devices called gasifiers that take plant waste (like walnut shells and wood chips) and turn it into electricity with a byproduct of biochar. It’s decades old technology — which was popular during World War II and is still used on a large industrial scale today — but Mason’s vision was to shrink down the tech to a personal scale, not just to run The Shipyard off the grid, but also to make it available to anyone who wanted to make it or buy it.


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Netflix to Launch in Japan in Fall of 2015 | Todd Spangler | Variety.com

Netflix to Launch in Japan in Fall of 2015 | Todd Spangler | Variety.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Netflix will launch a streaming-video subscription service in Japan this fall, the company announced Wednesday.

At launch, Netflix Japan will include a number of Japanese films and TV series, as well as Netflix originals including “Marco Polo” and the upcoming “Daredevil” from Marcel, the company said. Netflix tweeted the news Wednesday via its U.S. Twitter account.

“With its rich culture and celebrated creative traditions, Japan is a critical component of our plan to connect people around the world to stories they love,” Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement. “As we expand into Asia, we’re excited Netflix members increasingly will have access to some of their favorite movies and TV shows no matter where they are.”

Japan — which would mark Netflix’s first foray into Asia — is an obvious and attractive market for Netflix. The country had 36.7 million broadband households as of 2013, behind only China (188.9 million) and the U.S. (91.3 million), according to the International Telecommunication Union.

Netflix told investors last month that it expects to aggressively expand internationally — aiming to be in some 200 countries by 2017 (up from about 50 today). Late in Q1, the company is slated to roll out service in Australia and New Zealand.


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Rising mercury levels in tuna may make the fish off-limits in a few years | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org

Rising mercury levels in tuna may make the fish off-limits in a few years | Brian Palmer | onEarth.org | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Back in the early 1970s, the Smithsonian Institution loaned a bunch of preserved fish to a team of chemists at the University of California, Irvine. The animals had already been dead for 80 or so years, but that’s why George Miller and his colleagues needed them—to settle a debate about mercury. Some scientists worried that pollution from coal-fired power plants and gold mining was concentrating mercury in the oceans. Others argued that humans couldn’t possibly alter the chemistry of the unfathomably vast seas. Miller wanted to compare mercury levels in the Smithsonian’s tuna, caught between 1878 and 1909, to those of modern fish.

Miller reported good news: Although both the fin de siècle and 1970s fish were high in mercury, the levels had remained steady. The mercury in fish was mostly naturally occurring, according to Miller’s 1972 article in Science, and human activity was not to blame.

Marine biologists and hydrologists have long questioned Miller’s conclusions. But even if he were right, the oceans are not infinite. Eventually, humans would burn enough coal and mine enough gold to increase the seas’ mercury levels, and that extra mercury would find its way into the fish we eat. A study published yesterday in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry suggests that day has come. Mercury levels in fish are indeed rising, and it’s probably going to get worse.

Over the past 17 years, the researchers conclude, the concentration of mercury in yellowfin tuna has increased by approximately 3.8 percent annually. At the current rate of mercury emission, they could become a very dangerous thing to eat in a decade or two.

When we dig a lump of coal out of the ground and burn it for energy, significant amounts of mercury are released into the atmosphere. Coal-fired power plants emit more than 500 tons of mercury per year worldwide, according to United Nations data.


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Climate Change’s Bottom Line | Burt Helm | NYTimes.com

Climate Change’s Bottom Line | Burt Helm | NYTimes.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

It was 8 degrees in Minneapolis on a recent January day, and out on Interstate 394, snow whipped against the windshields of drivers on their morning commutes. But inside the offices of Cargill, the food conglomerate, Greg Page, the company’s executive chairman, felt compelled to talk about global warming.

“It would be irresponsible not to contemplate it,” Mr. Page said, bundled up in a wool sport coat layered over a zip-up sweater. “I’m 63 years old, and I’ve grown up in the upper latitudes. I’ve seen too much change to presume we might not get more.”

Mr. Page is not a typical environmental activist. He says he doesn’t know — or particularly care — whether human activity causes climate change. He doesn’t give much serious thought to apocalyptic predictions of unbearably hot summers and endless storms.

But over the last nine months, he has lobbied members of Congress and urged farmers to take climate change seriously. He says that over the next 50 years, if nothing is done, crop yields in many states will most likely fall, the costs of cooling chicken farms will rise and floods will more frequently swamp the railroads that transport food in the United States. He wants American agribusiness to be ready.

Mr. Page is a member of the Risky Business Project, an unusual collection of business and policy leaders determined to prepare American companies for climate change. It’s a prestigious club, counting a former senator, five former White House cabinet members, two former mayors and two billionaires in the group. The 10 men and women who serve on the governing committee don’t agree on much. Some are Democrats, some Republicans.

Even when it comes to dealing with climate change, they have very different perspectives. Some advocate a national carbon tax, some want to mandate companies to disclose their climate risks. Mr. Page suggests that the world may be able to get by without any mandatory rules at all. Some members want to push investors to divest from fossil fuel companies. Several favor construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, while one member has spent more than $1 million lobbying to stop it. But they all do agree on one issue: Shifts in weather over the next few decades will most likely cost American companies hundreds of billions of dollars, and they have no choice but to adapt.

The committee started in June as a way to promote a study that it commissioned, “Risky Business: The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States.” But it has since evolved into a loose network of missionaries who publicize the report’s ominous data far and wide, in talks at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, briefings with the American Farm Bureau Federation and breakfast meetings with local chambers of commerce.


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Frank Gehry’s "paper bag" – a new architectural icon for Australia? | Helen Clark | GizMag.com

Frank Gehry’s "paper bag" – a new architectural icon for Australia? | Helen Clark | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

American architect Frank Gehry’s first work in Australia was officially opened Monday. The AUD180 million (US$138 million) Dr Chau Chak Wing Building is part of the business school at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and will house over 1,600 students and staff. Australia’s Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove has called it "the most beautiful squashed brown paper bag I've ever seen."

Named after the Chinese-Australian billionaire who contributed a total of AUD25 million towards the cost, and whose son Eric attends the university, the building was first approved in 2010 and work began in November 2012.

The most striking feature of the building is its east-facing sandstone colored, undulating facade. The building is made from 320,000 handmade bricks, set an angles so tricky that one of Australia’s master bricklayers had to come out of retirement to complete the project.

Why brick? "The 19th century buildings in Sydney are still the most accessible," said Gehry. "There is a humanity about them and the modern buildings can be cold and off-putting so the idea of using brick was a part of the (building) community here, there is a brick culture."

Sir Cosgrove agreed, saying that "the traditional notions of hallowed sandstone quadrangles, spires and large lecture halls as symbols of tertiary education have been reinvented."


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UK: Historic EDSAC computer component becomes part of reconstruction | David Szondy | GizMag.com

UK: Historic EDSAC computer component becomes part of reconstruction | David Szondy | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A piece of cybernetic history returned home as a long-lost component of the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (EDSAC), one of the first practical general purpose computers, was returned to Britain from the United States. The electronics chassis was given to the The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) at Bletchley Park, where it will be used as part of the EDSAC reconstruction project and raises the possibility that more surviving parts may be recovered in the future.

In its heyday, EDSAC was one of the bleeding edge "electronic brains." Inspired by the ideas of computer pioneer John von Neumann, it was built in the late 1940s just after the Second World War by a team under Sir Maurice Wilkes in the Mathematical Laboratory of the University of Cambridge, and is credited by the University as the first "stored-program electronic digital computer."

Though Alan Turing was at Cambridge while EDSAC was being built, he didn't have a hand in its construction because he and Wilkes had fundamental disagreements about computer design, with Turing wanting simple hardware for experts while Wilkes preferred American-style reliance on hardware; making the computer what would today be called "user friendly."


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Turkey: Superonline, Telekom Austria partner to improve international connectivity | TeleGeography.com

Turkcell’s fixed broadband subsidiary Superonline has partnered with Telekom Austria Group to deploy a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) point of presence (PoP) in Istanbul.


According to the Turkish ISP, the interconnection that will connect the PoP has a capacity of 8Tbps capacity and utilises 100Gbps technology.


The collaboration underlines Istanbul’s strategic location as a global data hub. Superonline’s data centres and infrastructure began to host the PoP last month.

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Georgia: Mobitel launches 4G in 30 cities | TeleGeography.com

Georgian mobile operator Mobitel, which provides services under the brand Beeline, has announced the commercial launch of its 4G LTE network.


Coverage of the new high speed service is currently available in 30 towns and cities across the country, including the capital Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi, Telavi, Kobuleti, Poti, Zugdidi, Senaki, Rustavi, Gori, Samtredia, Zestafoni and Senaki. Mobitel, which is backed by the Vimpelcom group, states that 4G customers can surf the internet at average downstream speeds of between 10Mbps and 20Mbps.


A number of LTE internet tariffs are on offer, ranging in price from GEL1 (USD0.5) for 200MB of data (valid for one day), to GEL15 for an allowance of 5GB (30 days), while the ‘Beeline Mix’ tariff bundles range in price from GEL2 for the daily package of 500MB of data, 50 voice minutes and 500 SMS to GEL20 for 2GB and unlimited calls and SMS.


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UK-US surveillance regime was unlawful ‘for seven years’ | Owen Bowcott | The Guardian

UK-US surveillance regime was unlawful ‘for seven years’ | Owen Bowcott | The Guardian | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared on Friday that regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.

The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.

An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.

Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.

The decision, in effect, refines an earlier judgment issued by the tribunal in December, when it ruled that Britain’s current legal regime governing data collection through the internet by intelligence agencies – which has been recently updated to ensure compliance – did not violate the human rights of people in the UK.


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German Data Protection Commissioners Take Action Against EU Data Transfers To US Under 'Safe Harbor' Program | | Glyn Moody | Techdirt

German Data Protection Commissioners Take Action Against EU Data Transfers To US Under 'Safe Harbor' Program | | Glyn Moody | Techdirt | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

We pointed out last year that one of the knock-on effects of Edward Snowden's revelations about massive NSA (and GCHQ) spying on Europeans was a call to suspend the economically-critical Safe Harbor program. Without Safe Harbor, it would be illegal under European law for companies like Google and Facebook to take EU citizens' personal data outside the EU, which would make it more difficult to run those services in their present form.


Nothing much happened after that call by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee -- not least because it does not have any direct power to formulate EU policy -- but the unhappiness with Safe Harbor has evidently not gone away.

Heise Online reports that two of Germany's data protection commissioners -- those for the cities of Berlin and Bremen -- have started proceedings against the transfer of data to the US under the Safe Harbor agreement (original in German.) This seems to represent a hardening of their position.


The Heise article quotes another data protection commissioner, this time for the city of Hamburg, as saying that the mood among his colleagues was more confrontational now. Similarly, the commissioner for Berlin commented:


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It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the rebirth of satellite Internet | Matt Weinberger | NetworkWorld.com

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's the rebirth of satellite Internet | Matt Weinberger | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

SpaceX, Facebook, Virgin Galactic and Google have all announced major initiatives that would help connect the world -- especially developing nations -- to the Internet. But the next thing in worldwide connectivity isn't going to be in underground cables, so much as it will be over your head. It starts with satellites, but it gets a lot weirder.

Back in the nineties, when we first started to understand the promise of this whole "Internet" thing, satellite Internet access represented the promise of the future: High speeds, delivered anywhere, without waiting for your local phone company or cable provider to build out the infrastructure necessary for broadband access. The reality was less glamorous.

Massive latency issues (a beam has to bounce from space and back, generally not great for your everyday user experience in the age of Netflix) and a generally low quality of service, coupled with the demise of prominent satellite Internet providers in the wake of the dot-com bust, meant that cable and DSL connections thrived while satellite waited for its time to come around again.

Indeed, a few years ago, a new breed of satellite Internet providers started popping up, propelled back to relevancy by advances in satellite technology. Just for example, Eutelsat put KA-SAT in orbit in December 2010, providing broadband to most of Europe with 70Gbps distributed over 80 spot beams. Then when the ViaSat-1 launched in October, 2011, it had 140Gbps of bandwidth, earning it the Guinness record for the world's highest capacity satellite, more than every other satellite covering North America -- combined.

The FCC clearly agrees that satellite broadband has made great strides, and started to include satellite Internet services in its annual broadband reports for the first time ever in 2013. That came with the caveat that these connections are still not great, but getting better and more reliable.

There's a ton of room for providers who want to help people in remote or sparsely-populated areas get online, both at home and abroad, dovetailing nicely with the Obama administration's stated goal of getting more Americans online in service of furthering education and stimulating the economy. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic announced plans to help a venture called OneWeb put up to 2,400 satellites into low-earth orbit, offering broadband access to many thousands in conjunction with local partners.


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The World’s Email Encryption Software Relies on One Guy, Who is Going Broke | Julia Angwin | NetworkWorld.com

The World’s Email Encryption Software Relies on One Guy, Who is Going Broke | Julia Angwin | NetworkWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The man who built the free email encryption software used by whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as hundreds of thousands of journalists, dissidents and security-minded people around the world, is running out of money to keep his project alive.

Werner Koch wrote the software, known as Gnu Privacy Guard, in 1997, and since then has been almost single-handedly keeping it alive with patches and updates from his home in Erkrath, Germany. Now 53, he is running out of money and patience with being underfunded.

"I'm too idealistic," he told me in an interview at a hacker convention in Germany in December. "In early 2013 I was really about to give it all up and take a straight job." But then the Snowden news broke, and "I realized this was not the time to cancel."

Like many people who build security software, Koch believes that offering the underlying software code for free is the best way to demonstrate that there are no hidden backdoors in it giving access to spy agencies or others. However, this means that many important computer security tools are built and maintained by volunteers.

Now, more than a year after Snowden's revelations, Koch is still struggling to raise enough money to pay himself and to fulfill his dream of hiring a full-time programmer. He says he's made about $25,000 per year since 2001 — a fraction of what he could earn in private industry. In December, he launched a fundraising campaign that has garnered about $43,000 to date — far short of his goal of $137,000 — which would allow him to pay himself a decent salary and hire a full-time developer.

The fact that so much of the Internet's security software is underfunded is becoming increasingly problematic. Last year, in the wake of the Heartbleed bug, I wrote that while the U.S. spends more than $50 billion per year on spying and intelligence, pennies go to Internet security. The bug revealed that an encryption program used by everybody from Amazon to Twitter was maintained by just four programmers, only one of whom called it his full-time job. A group of tech companies stepped in to fund it.


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California is left high and dry by cannabis growers | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network

California is left high and dry by cannabis growers | Kieran Cooke | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Take a flight over the densely forested area in California’s northern coastal region and it’s not hard to spot the marijuana plantations, their bright green plants standing out in clearings in the surrounding vegetation.

But now the big-money cannabis industry is being blamed for adding to water shortage problems caused by a three-year drought that has seriously affected California’s huge agricultural sector.

Although cultivating and using marijuana is illegal under US Federal law, California state law allows marijuana growing – as long as it is for medicinal purposes.

However, the rules governing who can and cannot grow pot are complex – and openly flouted by thousands of growers, both big and small-time operators.

A report by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) estimates that, in this northern region of the state, marijuana growing doubled between 2009 and 2012.

Marijuana plants are extremely thirsty, consuming between five and 10 gallons of water per day, depending on the phase of their growing cycle. Officials at the CDFW say that marijuana growers are sucking up precious water resources, exacerbating water shortages and threatening fish in the area’s lakes and streams.

Marijuana growing is particularly prevalent in an area of northern California known as The Emerald Triangle, encompassing Mendocino, Humbolt and Trinity counties. Some estimates say the crop accounts for up to 40% of the region’s economy.


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Scientists may have finally solved the mystery of the missing BP oil | Terrence McCoy | WashPost.com

Scientists may have finally solved the mystery of the missing BP oil | Terrence McCoy | WashPost.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

It was July of 2010, more than a week after the final plugging of a calamitous oil leak near the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, and a sense of confusion was quickly spreading throughout the scientific community. An estimated 4.2 million barrels had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico from an oil well. But within weeks of that spill, about one-half of the oil inexplicably went missing.

“What we’re trying to figure out is: Where is all the oil at? There’s still a lot of oil that’s unaccounted for,” said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, who oversaw the federal response to a catastrophe that President Obama called the “worst environmental disaster America has ever faced.” One day, oil skimmers had been scooping out of the water 25,000 barrels of oil. Then the next, they were only snaring 200 barrels. What was going on?

The drama spawned a scientific debate. Some researchers thought the oil had moved somewhere else. Others thought it had dissipated. Others pleaded for more time — they would find the missing oil. According to Nature, a sense of “panicked mania” settled over researchers. “We would love to find it to do more research on” the oil plume, said Terry Hazen of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “But it’s not there.”

A pair of recent studies, however, point to the possibility the oil was there all along — it was just hiding. According to papers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Environmental Science & Technology, while everyone was frenetically searching the waters for oil, millions of gallons of it quietly sank to the ocean floor. But it’s not exactly clear how much; estimates vary wildly in the studies.


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Renee Lim's curator insight, February 14, 7:52 AM

I think this news is very interesting, as we learn in science that oil is less dense than water thus it floats, but this news article suggests that the oil became denser than the water, causing it to sink. It is also worrying, as it seems that the marine creatures will be suffering from the increased amount of oil underwater.