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Power

Supreme Court Rules In Favor of Energy Conservation Program (yahoo.com) 84

mdsolar sends news that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a 6-2 ruling in favor of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's ability to create incentives for conserving energy and reducing demand on the power grid at peak times. The demand response program pays large electricity customers like retailers, schools and office buildings to reduce energy consumption on hot summer days and other times of peak demand. The reduction in power use means electric utilities don't need to turn on backup power plants, which cost more to run and boost electricity prices. ... The rule won wide praise from environmental groups because it curbed the need for utilities to build expensive and air-polluting power plants. The demand response program saved customers in the mid-Atlantic region nearly $12 billion in 2013, according to PJM Interconnection, which manages the wholesale power supply for all or part of 13 states. ... But the rule has meant millions in lost profits for utilities. Those companies argued that the program impermissibly targets retail customers.
Communications

The Telecommunications Ball Is Now In Cuba's Court 59

lpress writes: The FCC has dropped Cuba from its exclusion list (PDF), so there are now no restrictions on U.S. telecom company dealings with ETECSA, the Cuban government telecommunication monopoly, or any other Cuban organization. Last week the U.S. sent its second high-level telecommunication delegation to Cuba. The delegates were FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and other government officials plus representatives of Cisco, Comcast, and Ericsson. Some of the news: there are at least 6 proposals for an undersea cable between Havana and Florida; Cisco has proposed a Network Academy at Cuba's leading computer science university (Chinese infrastructure dominates today); 4G mobile connectivity was discussed and Google was conspicuously absent. The time for Cuba to act is now — while President Obama is still in office.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

NSA Wants To Dump the Phone Records It Gathered Over 14 Years (thenextweb.com) 56

According to The Next Web, the NSA would like to get rid of something that a lot of people wish they'd never had in the first place: phone records that the agency has collected over a decade and a half (more, really) of mass surveillance. However, the EFF wants to make sure that the evidence of snooping doesn't get buried along with the actual recorded data. From the article: [T]he government says that it can't be sued by bodies like the EFF. The organization is currently involved in two pending cases seeking a remedy for the past 14 years of illegal phone record collection. EFF wrote a letter (PDF) to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court last December which it has now made public, explaining that it is ready to discuss options that will allow destruction of the records in ways that still preserve its ability to prosecute the cases. It'll be interesting to see how this pans out: if the government doesn't agree to a discussion about how to handle these phone records, it's possible that they will remain on file for years to come. Plus, it could allow the NSA to avoid being held accountable for its illegal mass surveillance.
United States

US Could Lower Carbon Emissions 78% With New National Transmission Network (smithsonianmag.com) 346

mdsolar writes with this story from Smithsonian magazine about how building a national transmission network could lead to a gigantic reduction in carbon emissions. From the story: "The United States could lower carbon emissions from electricity generation by as much as 78 percent without having to develop any new technologies or use costly batteries, a new study suggests. There's a catch, though. The country would have to build a new national transmission network so that states could share energy. 'Our idea was if we had a national 'interstate highway for electrons' we could move the power around as it was needed, and we could put the wind and solar plants in the very best places,' says study co-author Alexander MacDonald, who recently retired as director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado."
The Internet

The Clock Is Ticking For the US To Relinquish Control of ICANN (betanews.com) 183

Mark Wilson writes: The U.S. is not afraid to throw its weight around; it likes not only to be involved in things, but to be in control. For decades, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) — the non-profit organization that manages IP addresses and domain names — has been overseen by the U.S. Department of Commerce, much to the chagrin of people around the world. Most upset are those who point to the independent nature of the internet, and the need for any body with global power to be similarly indpendent. Later this year ICANN is set — at long last — to completely separate from the U.S. government.

While this does hinge on U.S. government approval, by the end of September, ICANN could instead be in the hands of businesses, individuals, and multiple global governments. While the changing of hands should not alter the way ICANN operates, it is hoped that it will go some way to restoring faith that may have been lost after revelations about online surveillance by the NSA and other U.S. government agencies.

United States

Surprising Support Among Americans For Purchasing Smart Guns (jhsph.edu) 464

Lucas123 writes: A new survey from Johns Hopkins revealed that 59% percent of Americans, if they were to buy a new handgun, are willing to purchase a smart gun. More surprisingly, the web-based survey of almost 4,000 people found that four in 10 gun owners and 56% of political conservatives would buy a smart gun. "The results of this study show that there is potentially a large commercial market for smart gun technology," said Julia Wolfson. "This has been one of the biggest arguments against smart guns, that people just don't want them. This research shows otherwise."
Power

At How Much Risk Is the US's Critical Infrastructure? (csoonline.com) 162

itwbennett writes: There is growing evidence that intrusions into the power grid and other critical infrastructure by hostile foreign nation states are real and happening. But there's "much less agreement over how much of a threat hackers are," writes Taylor Armerding. "On one side are those – some of them top government officials – who have warned that a cyber attack on the nation's critical infrastructure could be catastrophic,"writes Armerding. Others are crying FUD, including C. Thomas, a strategist at Tenable Network Security, who got some attention when he argued in an op-ed that the biggest threat to the U.S. power grid not a skilled hacker, but squirrels, are crying FUD. Who has it right? Agreement seems to coalesce around two points: 1) the cyber security of industrial control systems remains notoriously weak and 2) hostile hackers will improve their skills over time. So, while we haven't reached "catastrophe" yet, a properly motivated terrorist group could become a cyber threat.
Businesses

Trump Says He'd Make Apple Build Computers In the US (businessinsider.com) 875

mrspoonsi writes with Business Insider's report that presidential candidate Donald Trump says he'd like to make Apple "start building their damn computers and things in this country instead of other countries." From the article: Trump's ultimatum to the most valuable company in the world was made towards the end of a 45-minute speech he gave at Liberty University in Virginia on Monday. The most popular candidate in the Republican party said he would impose a 35% business tax on American businesses manufacturing outside of the United States. Apple has manufactured its Mac Pro at a factory in Texas since 2013, but the vast majority of its products (including the iPhone) are largely made and assembled in China. How Trump would force Apple's supply chain, which relies heavily on a vast network of suppliers and large factories throughout Asia, to be brought stateside remains unknown. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently called the U.S. tax code "awful for America." If Trump (or anyone) thinks this is a good idea, why start or stop with Apple?
Encryption

Clinton Hints At Tech Industry Compromise Over Encryption (huffingtonpost.co.uk) 345

An anonymous reader writes: At the Democratic presidential debate last night, Marques Brownlee asked the candidates a pointed question about whether the government should require tech companies to implement backdoors in their encryption, and how we should balance privacy with security. The responses were not ideal for those who recognize the problems with backdoors. Martin O'Malley said the government should have to get a warrant, but skirted the rest of the issue. Bernie Sanders said government must "have Silicon Valley help us" to discover information transmitted across the internet by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. He thinks we can do that without violating privacy, but didn't say how. But the most interesting comment came from Hillary Clinton. After mentioning that Obama Administration officials had "started the conversation" with tech companies on the encryption issue, one of the moderators noted that the government "got nowhere" with its requests. Clinton replied, "That is not what I've heard. Let me leave it at that." The implications of that small comment are troubling.
Programming

The President Wants Every Student To Learn CS. How Would That Work? (npr.org) 317

theodp writes: The very first proposal President Obama put forth in his final State of the Union address Tuesday night for his remaining year in office was "helping students learn to write computer code." While the President wants every student to learn CS, NPR notes that getting a new, complex, technical subject onto the agendas of our public schools is a massive challenge, prompting it to ask, How Would That Work? That Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella attended the SOTU address as Michelle Obama's guest suggests the President is counting on the kindness of tech titans to help make things happen. Microsoft and Obama have worked together to try to get CS in the schools since at least 2006, when Microsoft announced a $1 million donation to NCWIT, which it indicated would facilitate "taking the discussion to a national stage" at a Washington, D.C. Innovation and Diversity Town Hall co-sponsored by the NSF and keynoted by then-Senator Barack Obama. "Most of all, what inspires me about this program [NCWIT] are the prospects of my two daughters," Obama said at the time (video). "I want them to go as far as their dreams may take them. And, unfortunately because of long historic discrimination in the areas of gender, we can't be assured of that."
Transportation

Obama Proposes $4 Billion Investment In Self-Driving Cars (transportation.gov) 276

An anonymous reader writes: The Obama Administration has unveiled a proposal for a 10-year, $4 billion investment in the adoption of autonomous car technology. The money would fund pilot projects to, among other things, "test connected vehicle systems in designated corridors throughout the country, and work with industry leaders to ensure a common multistate framework for connected and autonomous vehicles." The administration says it has an interest in cutting the death toll — over 30,000 people each year in the U.S. — associated with traffic accidents. The proposal also calls for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to work with industry to resolve regulatory issues before they inhibit development of self-driving cars. "This is the right way to drive innovation," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
Security

Teen Hacks US Intelligence Chief's Personal Accounts (vice.com) 132

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, has now joined the CIA's John Brennan in having his personal online accounts hacked. A teenage hacker known as 'Cracka' has claimed responsibility for the hack, reporting that he had infiltrated Clapper's home telephone, online accounts and his personal email, as well as his wife's Yahoo account. Cracka had managed to change the settings on Clapper's Verizon Fios account so that any calls to his home number were redirected to the Free Palestine Movement group in California.
The Military

US Modernizes Nuclear Arsenal With Smaller, Precision-Guided Atomic Weapons (nytimes.com) 230

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that the Pentagon has been developing the B61 Model 12, the nation's first precision-guided atom bomb. Adapted from an older weapon, the Model 12 was designed with problems like North Korea in mind: Its computer brain and four maneuverable fins let it zero in on deeply buried targets like testing tunnels and weapon sites and its yield can be dialed up or down depending on the target, to minimize collateral damage. The B61 Model 12 flight-tested last year in Nevada and is the first of five new warhead types planned as part of an atomic revitalization estimated to cost up to $1 trillion over three decades. As a family, the weapons and their delivery systems move toward the small, the stealthy and the precise.

And some say that's the problem. The Federation of American Scientists argues that the high accuracy and low destructive settings means military commanders might press to use the bomb in an attack, knowing the radioactive fallout and collateral damage would be limited. Increasing the accuracy also broadens the type of targets that the B61 can be used to attack. Some say that a new nuclear tipped cruise missile under development might sway a future president to contemplate "limited nuclear war." Worse yet, because the missile comes in nuclear and non-nuclear varieties, a foe under attack might assume the worst and overreact, initiating nuclear war. In a recent interview, General James Cartwright, a retired four-star general who last served as the eighth Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says the overall modernization plan might change how military commanders looked at the risks of using nuclear weapons. "What if I bring real precision to these weapons?" says Cartwright. "Does it make them more usable? It could be."

Government

TPP Signing Ceremony To Take Place In February (freezenet.ca) 192

Dangerous_Minds writes: New Zealand officials are hoping that the TPP signing ceremony is to take place in February in Auckland, New Zealand. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it is expected that all 12 countries are going to sign the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Those 12 countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S., and Vietnam. Note: signing doesn't necessarily make the agreement law, but it is one critical step closer to ratification.
Republicans

Marco Rubio: We Need To Add To US Surveillance Programs (dailydot.com) 343

Patrick O'Neill writes: The debate over surveillance hit the 2016 race for the White House again on Sunday when Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said he wants to add to American surveillance programs, many of which were created after 9/11. He invoked a recent shooting of a Philadelphia police officer by a man who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. "This the kind of threat we now face in this country," Rubio said. "We need additional tools for intelligence." Rubio also addressed the NSA leaks that led to this debate: "Edward Snowden is a traitor. He took our intelligence information and gave it to the Chinese and gave it to the Russians. We cannot afford to have a commander-in-chief who thinks people like Edward Snowden are doing a good public service."

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