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Power

Report: Nuclear Plants Should Focus On Risks Posed By External Events 109

Posted by timothy
from the it-might-be-this-knob-or-maybe-that-one dept.
mdsolar (1045926) writes "Engineers at American nuclear plants have been much better at calculating the risk of an internal problem that would lead to an accident than they have at figuring the probability and consequences of accidents caused by events outside a plant, a report released Thursday by the National Academy of Science said. Accidents that American reactors are designed to withstand, like a major pipe break, are "stylized" and do not reflect the bigger source of risk, which is external, according to the study. That conclusion is one of the major lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan in 2011, which began after an earthquake at sea caused a tsunami.
Patents

Bose Sues New Apple Acquisition Beats Over Patent Violations 158

Posted by timothy
from the stick-it-in-your-ear dept.
Bose has taken issue with some of the technology embodied in products in Apple's newly acquired Beats line of headphones. As Ars Technica reports, Bose is suing Apple, claiming that the Beats products violate five Bose patents, covering noise cancellation and signal processing Although Bose never mentions Apple in the 22-page complaint, the acquisition price of the private company may have played a part in spurring Bose to sue. The suit doesn't include a specific damage demand. Bose has also filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission against Beats over the same infringement claims. That means the patent lawsuit filed in federal court will be stayed while the ITC case gets resolved first.
Cellphones

Greenpeace: Amazon Fire Burns More Coal and Gas Than It Should 279

Posted by timothy
from the not-enough-greenwashing dept.
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The biggest thing that sets the Amazon Fire Phone apart from its Android and Apple competitors probably isn't the clean interface or the unlimited photo storage—it's the dirty power behind it. When Fire users upload their photos and data to Amazon's cloud, they'll be creating a lot more pollution than iPhone owners, Greenpeace says. Apple has made a commitment to running its iCloud on 100 percent clean energy. Amazon, meanwhile, operates the dirtiest servers of any major tech giant that operates its own servers—only 15 percent of its energy comes from clean sources, which is about the default national average." Greenpeace's jaundiced eye is on Amazon more generally; the company's new phone is just an example. Maybe Amazon or some other provider could take a page from some local utilities and let users signal their own preferences with a (surcharged) "clean energy" option.
Earth

Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation' 301

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-blame-the-schools dept.
mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.
Space

How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth 212

Posted by Soulskill
from the call-ahead-before-dropping-by dept.
schwit1 writes: On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth's atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. "If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA. Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

"Analysts believe that a direct hit could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn't even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps. ... According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion, or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair." Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: "The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general."
Earth

Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate 369

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the captain-planet-warned-you dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes A new study shows that ground water in the Colorado basin is being depleted six times faster than surface water. The groundwater losses, which take thousands of years to be recharged naturally, point to the unsustainability of exploding population centers and water-intensive agriculture in the basin, which includes most of Arizona and parts of Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Because ground water feeds many of the streams and rivers in the area, more of them will run dry.
United States

The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the suspect-wears-a-funny-hat dept.
Advocatus Diaboli sends this report: The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither "concrete facts" nor "irrefutable evidence" to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. ...The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. "All executive departments and agencies," the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standard—"reasonable suspicion"—for placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on "Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria"—even the title is hard to digest—the key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity.
Government

The Department of Homeland Security Needs Its Own Edward Snowden 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-volunteers? dept.
blottsie writes: Out of all the U.S. government agencies, the Department of Homeland Security is one of the least transparent. As such, the number of Freedom of Information Act requests it receives have doubled since 2008. But the DHS has only become more adamant about blocking FOIA requests over the years. The problem has become so severe that nothing short of an Edward Snowden-style leak may be needed to increase transparency at the DHS.
Businesses

The Daily Harassment of Women In the Game Industry 956

Posted by Soulskill
from the requiring-a-cultural-shift dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Brianna Wu, leader of a game development studio, has an article exposing the constant harassment of women in the games industry. She says, "I'm not writing this piece to evoke your sympathy. I'm writing to share with you what prominent, successful women in the industry experience, in their own words." She goes through the individual stories of several women targeted by this vitriol, and tries to figure out why it happens. Quoting: "We live in a society that's sexist in ways it doesn't understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. ... This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it. ... Growing a thicker skin isn't the answer, nor is it a proper response. Listening, and making the industry safer for the existence of visible women is the best, and only, way forward."
Cellphones

Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be 290

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
Privacy

Snowden Seeks To Develop Anti-Surveillance Technologies 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the snowden-brand dept.
An anonymous reader writes Speaking via a Google Hangout at the Hackers on Planet Earth Conference, Edward Snowden says he plans to work on technology to preserve personal data privacy and called on programmers and the tech industry to join his efforts. "You in this room, right now have both the means and the capability to improve the future by encoding our rights into programs and protocols by which we rely every day," he said. "That is what a lot of my future work is going to be involved in."
The Almighty Buck

States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth 777

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Labor has released data that some proponents of raising minimum wage are touting as evidence that higher minimum wage promotes job growth. While the data doesn't actually establish cause and effect, it does "run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs." The data shows that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages in January added jobs at a faster rate than those that didn't. Other factors likely contributed to this outcome, but some economists are simply relieved that the higher wage factor didn't have a dramatically negative effect in general.
Advertising

Dealing With 'Advertising Pollution' 394

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-we-please-come-up-with-a-new-funding-model dept.
theodp writes: "Everyone gets that advertising is what powers the internet, and that our favorite sites wouldn't exist without it," writes longtime ad guy Ken Segall in The Relentless (and annoying) Pursuit of Eyeballs. "Unfortunately, for some this is simply license to abuse. Let's call it what it is: advertising pollution." CNN's in-your-face, your-video-will-play-in-00:25-seconds approach, once unthinkable, has become the norm. "Google," Segall adds, "is a leader in advertising pollution, with YouTube being a showcase for intrusive advertising. Many YouTube videos start with a mandatory ad, others start with an ad that can be dismissed only after the first 10 seconds. Even more annoying are the ad overlays that actually appear on top of the video you're trying to watch. It won't go away until you click the X. If you want to see the entire video unobstructed, you must drag the playhead back to start over. Annoying. And disrespectful." Google proposed using cap and trade penalties to penalize traditional polluters — how about for those who pollute the Internet?
The Almighty Buck

Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills 753

Posted by samzenpus
from the your-money-is-no-good-here dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about how a cashless society might work and how far-off in the future it is. "...We're not there yet, but a cashless society is not as fanciful as it seems. Recent research suggests that many believe we will stop using notes and coins altogether in the not-too-distant future. New payments technologies are rapidly transforming our lives. Today in the U.S., 66 percent of all point-of-sale transactions are done with plastic, while in the U.K. it's just under half. But while a truly cashless society is some time away yet, there is raft of groundbreaking technologies that will make cash a mere supporting act in the near future."
Medicine

CDC Closes Anthrax, Flu Labs After Potentially Deadly Mix-Ups Come to Light 89

Posted by timothy
from the try-the-new-super-vaccine dept.
In the wake of two potentially deadly accidents, the CDC yesterday announced the temporary closure of both the anthrax and flu research labs at the agency's Atlanta headquarters. The New York Times reports: In one episode last month, at least 62 C.D.C. employees may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after potentially infectious samples were sent to laboratories unequipped to handle them. Employees not wearing protective gear worked with bacteria that were supposed to have been killed but may not have been. All were offered a vaccine and antibiotics, and the agency said it believed no one was in danger. “We have a high degree of confidence that no one was exposed,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the C.D.C. director. Credit David Goldman/Associated Press In a second accident, disclosed Friday, a C.D.C. lab accidentally contaminated a relatively benign flu sample with a dangerous H5N1 bird flu strain that has killed 386 people since 2003. Fortunately, a United States Agriculture Department laboratory realized that the strain was more dangerous than expected and alerted the C.D.C. ... The anthrax and flu labs will remain closed until new procedures are imposed, Frieden said. For the flu lab, that will be finished in time for vaccine preparation for next winter’s flu season, he said.

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