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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Senate Renews Warrantless Eavesdropping Act

December 28th, 2012 12:55 admin View Comments

Government

New submitter electron sponge writes “On Friday morning, the Senate renewed the FISA Amendments Act (PDF), which allows for warrantless electronic eavesdropping, for an additional five years. The act, which was originally passed by Congress in 2008, allows law enforcement agencies to access private communications as long as one participant in the communications could reasonably be believed to be outside the United States. This law has been the subject of a federal lawsuit, and was argued before the Supreme Court recently. ‘The legislation does not require the government to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application. The court’s rulings are not public.’” The EFF points out that the Senate was finally forced to debate the bill, but the proposed amendments that would have improved it were rejected.

Source: Senate Renews Warrantless Eavesdropping Act

China Set To Surpass US In R&D Spending In 10 Years

December 24th, 2012 12:04 admin View Comments

China

dcblogs writes “China is on track to overtake the U.S. in spending on research and development in about 10 years, as federal R&D spending either declines or remains flat. The U.S. today maintains a large lead in spending over China, with federal and private sector investment expected to reach $424 billion next year, a 1.2% increase. By contrast, China’s overall R&D spending is $220 billion next year, an increase of 11.6% over 2012, a rate similar to previous years. This finding is shared by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. ‘China’s investment as a percentage of its GDP shows continuing, deliberate growth that, if it continues, should surpass the roughly flat United States investment within a decade,’ it said in a report last month.”

Source: China Set To Surpass US In R&D Spending In 10 Years

2012 Another Record-Setter For Weather, Fits Climate Forecasts

December 21st, 2012 12:17 admin View Comments

Earth

Layzej writes “The Associated Press reports: ‘In 2012 many of the warnings scientists have made about global warming went from dry studies in scientific journals to real-life video played before our eyes. As 2012 began, winter in the U.S. went AWOL. Spring and summer arrived early with wildfires, blistering heat and drought. And fall hit the eastern third of the country with the ferocity of Superstorm Sandy. Globally, five countries this year set heat records, but none set cold records. 2012 is on track to be the warmest year on record in the United States. Worldwide, the average through November suggests it will be the eighth warmest since global record-keeping began in 1880 and will likely beat 2011 as the hottest La Nina year on record. America’s heartland lurched from one extreme to the other without stopping at “normal.” Historic flooding in 2011 gave way to devastating drought in 2012. But the most troubling climate development this year was the melting at the top of the world. Summer sea ice in the Arctic shrank to 18 percent below the previous record low. These are “clearly not freak events,” but “systemic changes,” said climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute in Germany. “With all the extremes that, really, every year in the last 10 years have struck different parts of the globe, more and more people absolutely realize that climate change is here and already hitting us.”‘”

Source: 2012 Another Record-Setter For Weather, Fits Climate Forecasts

Training Under Way For New Nuclear Plant Operators In S. Carolina

December 20th, 2012 12:48 admin View Comments

Power

“Start thinking about getting your tinfoil hat radiation hardened,” writes an anonymous reader, and excerpts thus from ABC News: “Southern Co. in Georgia and SCANA Corp. in South Carolina are the first to prepare new workers to run a recently approved reactor design never before built in the United States. Training like it will be repeated over the decades-long lifetime of those plants and at other new ones that may share the technology in years to come. Both power companies are building pairs of Westinghouse Electric Corp. AP1000 reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta and SCANA Corp.’s Summer Nuclear Station northwest of Columbia, S.C. While the nuclear industry had earlier proposed a larger building campaign, low natural gas prices coupled with uncertainty after last year’s disaster at a Japanese nuclear plant have scaled back those ambitions.” Getting a new nuclear plant approved is a long haul.

Source: Training Under Way For New Nuclear Plant Operators In S. Carolina

Obama Releases National Strategy For Information Sharing

December 20th, 2012 12:27 admin View Comments

Government

wiredmikey writes “President Obama on Wednesday released a national strategy designed to balance the sharing of information with those who need it to keep the country safe, while protecting the same data from those who would use it to cause harm. ‘The National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding’ outlines how the government will attempt to responsibly share and protect data that enhances national security and protects the American people. The national strategy will define how the federal government and its assorted departments and agencies share their data. Agencies can also share services and work towards data and network interoperability to be more efficient, the President said. The President aimed to address concerns over Privacy by noting, ‘This strategy makes it clear that the individual privacy, civil rights and civil liberties of United States persons must be — and will be — protected.’ The full document is available here in PDF format from the White House website.

Source: Obama Releases National Strategy For Information Sharing

Solar Panels For Every Home?

December 14th, 2012 12:10 admin View Comments

Power

Hugh Pickens writes “David Crane and Robert F.Kennedy Jr. write in the NY Times that with residents of New Jersey and New York living through three major storms in the past 16 months and suffering sustained blackouts, we need to ask whether it is really sensible to power the 21st century by using an antiquated and vulnerable system of copper wires and wooden poles. Some have taken matters into their own hands, purchasing portable gas-powered generators to give themselves varying degrees of grid independence. But these dirty, noisy and expensive devices have no value outside of a power failure and there is a better way to secure grid independence for our homes and businesses: electricity-producing photovoltaic panels installed on houses, warehouses and over parking lots, wired so that they deliver power when the grid fails. ‘Solar panels have dropped in price by 80 percent in the past five years and can provide electricity at a cost that is at or below the current retail cost of grid power in 20 states, including many of the Northeast states,’ write Crane and Kennedy. ‘So why isn’t there more of a push for this clean, affordable, safe and inexhaustible source of electricity?’ First, the investor-owned utilities that depend on the existing system for their profits have little economic interest in promoting a technology that empowers customers to generate their own power. Second, state regulatory agencies and local governments impose burdensome permitting and siting requirements that unnecessarily raise installation costs. While it can take as little as eight days to license and install a solar system on a house in Germany, in the United States, depending on your state, the average ranges from 120 to 180 days.”

Source: Solar Panels For Every Home?

US Refuses To Sign ITU Treaty Over Internet Provisions

December 14th, 2012 12:04 admin View Comments

The Internet

An anonymous reader writes “The United States said today that it will not sign an international telecommunications treaty thanks to the inclusion of Internet-related provisions. According to the BBC, the U.K. and Canada have also pledged not to sign the treaty in its current form, while delegates from Denmark, the Czech Republic, Sweden, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and Kenya also have reservations.”

Source: US Refuses To Sign ITU Treaty Over Internet Provisions

Gov’t Report Predicts Cyborgs, Rise of China for 2030

December 11th, 2012 12:39 admin View Comments

Technology

colinneagle writes “Yesterday the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which is made up of 17 U.S. government intelligence agencies, released the 140-page report Global Trends 2030 Alternate Worlds. In all four of the alternative visions of the future, U.S. influence declines and it may be regarded more as a ‘first among equals.’ By 2030, the West will be in decline and Asia will wield more overall global power than the U.S. and Europe combined. ‘China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030,’ the report states. ‘Megatrends’ include an overall reduction of poverty and the ‘growth of a global middle class.’ NIC also sees a potential world of scarcities as the demand for food and water increase as the world’s population swells from 7.1 billion to 8.3 billion people. Advances in health technologies will help people live longer, but 60% of the world’s population is expected to live in an urban environment. The report also addresses technological augmentation: ‘Successful prosthetics probably will be directly integrated with the user’s body. Brain-machine interfaces could provide “superhuman” abilities,enhancing strength and speed, as well as providing functions not previously available.’”

Source: Gov’t Report Predicts Cyborgs, Rise of China for 2030

Chinese Firm Wins Bid For US-Backed Battery Maker

December 10th, 2012 12:18 admin View Comments

The Almighty Buck

theodp writes “On September 13, 2010, President Obama called A123 Systems from the Oval Office to congratulate them on opening the nation’s first manufacturing facility to mass-produce electric vehicle batteries, which the White House noted was made possible by a $249 million Recovery Act grant the company received the prior August. ‘When folks lift up their hoods on the cars of the future,’ the President said, ‘I want them to see engines and batteries that are stamped: Made in America. And that’s what you guys are helping to make happen.’ But on Saturday, the assets of A123 Systems were auctioned off to the Wanxiang Group, a large Chinese auto parts maker. Wanxiang agreed to pay $256 million for A123′s automotive and commercial operations, including its three factories in the United States. Forbes reports that A123′s stock, which closed at 7 cents a share on Friday, is now worthless.”

Source: Chinese Firm Wins Bid For US-Backed Battery Maker

UN Summit Strikes Climate Deal Promising “Damage Aid” To Poor Nations

December 9th, 2012 12:20 admin View Comments

Earth

Hugh Pickens writes writes “BBC reports that UN climate talks in Doha have closed with a historic shift in principle agreed to by nearly 200 nations extending the Kyoto Protocol through 2020 and establishing for the first time that rich nations should move towards compensating poor nations for losses due to climate change. Until now rich nations have agreed to help developing countries to get clean energy and adapt to climate change, but they have stopped short of accepting responsibility for damage caused by climate change elsewhere. ‘It is a breakthrough,’ says Martin Khor of the South Center — an association of 52 developing nations. ‘The term Loss and Damage is in the text — this is a huge step in principle. Next comes the fight for cash.’ US negotiators made certain that neither the word ‘compensation,’ nor any other term connoting legal liability, was used, to avoid opening the floodgates to litigation – instead, the money will be judged as aid. Ronny Jumea, from the Seychelles, told rich nations earlier that discussion of compensation would not have been needed if they had cut emissions earlier. ‘We’re past the mitigation [emissions cuts] and adaptation eras. We’re now right into the era of loss and damage. What’s next after that? Destruction?’ While the United States has not adopted a comprehensive approach to climate change, the Obama administration has put in place a significant auto emissions reduction program and a plan to regulate carbon dioxide from new power plants. ‘What this meeting reinforced is that while this is an important forum, it is not the only one in which progress can and must be made,’ says Jennifer Haverkamp, director of the international climate programs at the Environmental Defense Fund. The disconnect between the level of ambition the parties are showing here and what needs to happen to avoid dangerous climate change is profound.’”

Source: UN Summit Strikes Climate Deal Promising “Damage Aid” To Poor Nations

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