Britain: Tidal Lagoon Power Stations

March 2nd, 2015

“Man needs only to exercise his engineering ingenuity to convert the ocean’s surge into a great national asset.”

-John F. Kennedy, July 16th, 1963

Via: Wired:

The world’s first electricity-generating tidal lagoons are to be built in six locations across Britain, with at least one already in the planning stage.

Four of them will be located in Wales — in Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Colwyn Bay — and there’ll be one each in Bridgewater in Somerset and West Cumbria. Tidal Lagoon Power, the firm behind the project, eventually believes that six lagoons could generate eight percent of the UK’s electricity for a cost of £12 billion. The plan is backed by energy secretary Ed Davey.

Here’s how it’ll work in the first location, Swansea Bay. A sea wall eight kilometres long will be built to encircle a large area of water three kilometres out from the coast, isolating it from the sea like a lagoon. Turbines will be set in the wall, which will then generate energy from the difference in water height four times a day as the tide rises and falls.

Hacksaw + Fiber: “Vandalism” in Arizona Shut Down Internet, Cellphone, Telephone Service Across State

February 28th, 2015

Via: Washington Free Beacon:

Cellphone, Internet, and telephone services across half of Arizona went dark on Wednesday after vandals sliced a sensitive fiber optic cable, according to those familiar with the situation. The incident is raising concerns about the safety of U.S. infrastructure.

The outage shut down critical services across large parts of the state, preventing individuals from using their phones, bank and ATM cards, and the Internet. Critical services, such as police and state government databases, as well as banks and hospitals, also were affected as a result of the vandalism.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Clause Everyone Should Oppose

February 28th, 2015

Via: Washington Post:

The United States is in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free-trade agreement with Mexico, Canada, Japan, Singapore and seven other countries. Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?

One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.

ISDS would allow foreign companies to challenge U.S. laws — and potentially to pick up huge payouts from taxpayers — without ever stepping foot in a U.S. court. Here’s how it would work. Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.

If that seems shocking, buckle your seat belt. ISDS could lead to gigantic fines, but it wouldn’t employ independent judges. Instead, highly paid corporate lawyers would go back and forth between representing corporations one day and sitting in judgment the next. Maybe that makes sense in an arbitration between two corporations, but not in cases between corporations and governments. If you’re a lawyer looking to maintain or attract high-paying corporate clients, how likely are you to rule against those corporations when it’s your turn in the judge’s seat?

If the tilt toward giant corporations wasn’t clear enough, consider who would get to use this special court: only international investors, which are, by and large, big corporations. So if a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wanted to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage, it could use ISDS. But if an American labor union believed Vietnam was allowing Vietnamese companies to pay slave wages in violation of trade commitments, the union would have to make its case in the Vietnamese courts.

Russian Opposition Politician Boris Nemtsov Shot Dead in Moscow

February 27th, 2015

Putin will “personally” investigate.


Via: Guardian:

Prominent Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov has been shot dead in Moscow. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and a sharp critic of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was reportedly shot four times in the chest by a killer in a passing car.

The killing took place in the very centre of Moscow late on Friday evening on a bridge near St Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin, two days before Nemtsov was due to lead a major opposition rally in Moscow.

More: “I’m afraid Putin will kill me”

‘Jihadi John’ from West London

February 26th, 2015

Via: Reuters:

The “Jihadi John” killer who has featured in several Islamic State beheading videos is Mohammed Emwazi, a Briton from a middle class family who grew up in London and graduated from college with a degree in computer programming, the Washington Post newspaper said.

Is Playing ‘Space Invaders’ a Milestone in Artificial Intelligence?

February 26th, 2015

Via: Los Angeles Times:

Computers have beaten humans at chess and “Jeopardy!,” and now they can master old Atari games such as “Space Invaders” or “Breakout” without knowing anything about their rules or strategies.

Playing Atari 2600 games from the 1980s may seem a bit “Back to the Future,” but researchers with Google’s DeepMind project say they have taken a small but crucial step toward a general learning machine that can mimic the way human brains learn from new experience.

The researchers chose the Atari 2600 platform in part because it offered an engineering sweet spot — not too easy and not too hard. They plan to move into the 1990s, toward 3-D games involving complex environments, such as the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise. That milestone could come within five years, said Hassabis.

“With a few tweaks, it should be able to drive a real car,” Hassabis said.

Austria: Bionic Reconstruction Gives Men First Prosthetic Hands Controlled by Mind

February 26th, 2015

Via: Guardian:

Three Austrians have had their injured hands replaced with bionic ones that they can control using nerves and muscles transplanted into their arms from their legs.

The three men are the first to undergo what doctors refer to as “bionic reconstruction”, which involves a voluntary amputation, the transplantof nerves and muscles and learning to use faint signals from them to command the hand.

People with bionic hands have in the past controlled them primarily with manual settings.

“This is the first time we have bionically reconstructed a hand,” said Dr Oskar Aszmann, of the Medical University of Vienna, who developed the approach with colleagues. “If I saw these kinds of patients five to seven years ago, I would have just shrugged my shoulders and said ‘there’s nothing I can do for you.’”

He said the procedure had its complications, including the need for patients to take anti-rejection medicines for the rest of their lives.

Aszmann and his colleagues described the cases of the three men in a report published in the online version of the Lancet on Wednesday. The men decided on amputation after having the bionic hand strapped on to their injured hand, to see how it might function.

U.S. Military Vehicles Paraded 300 Yards from the Russian Border

February 25th, 2015

Via: Washington Post:

U.S. military combat vehicles paraded Wednesday through an Estonian city that juts into Russia, a symbolic act that highlighted the stakes for both sides amid the worst tensions between the West and Russia since the Cold War.

The armored personnel carriers and other U.S. Army vehicles that rolled through the streets of Narva, a border city separated by a narrow frontier from Russia, were a dramatic reminder of the new military confrontation in Eastern Europe.

The Disappeared: Chicago Police Detain Americans at Abuse-Laden ‘Black Site’

February 25th, 2015

Via: Guardian:

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
Shackling for prolonged periods.
Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Unauthorized Drone Activity Over Paris

February 25th, 2015

Via: BBC:

Drones have appeared over landmarks in central Paris for the second night running and police are no closer to knowing who is operating them.

There were five sightings between 23:00 on Tuesday and 02:00 (01:00 GMT) on Wednesday, French media report.

Up to three drones were seen near the Invalides military museum, Place de la Concorde and two of the old city gates.

Flying drones over Paris at night is illegal and daytime flights require authorisation from the city.

Five drones were seen the previous night in similar areas, including the Eiffel Tower and above the US embassy, close to Place de la Concorde.

However, some of the latest drone flights have been captured on film and will be analysed by a 10-strong team of investigators set up after the first incidents.

The security threat from these drones is minimal.

Related? Secret Service Conducting Drone Exercises in U.S. Capital Region

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