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Earth

Scottish Government Targets 66% Emissions Cut By 2032 (bbc.com) 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The Scottish government has outlined a new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 66% by 2032. Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham set out the government's draft climate change plan for the next 15 years at Holyrood. She also targeted a fully-decarbonized electricity sector and 80% of domestic heat coming from low-carbon sources. Ministers committed last year to cut harmful CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, with a new interim target of 50% by 2020. The previous interim target of 42% was met in 2014 -- six years early. However, the independent Committee on Climate Change said the decrease was largely down to a warmer than average winter reducing the demand for heating. Ms Cunningham said the new targets demonstrated "a new level of ambition" to build a low-carbon economy and a healthier Scotland. Goals to be achieved by 2032 include: Cutting greenhouse emissions by 66%; A fully-decarbonized electricity sector; 80% of domestic heat to come from low-carbon heat technologies; Proportion of ultra-low emission new cars and vans registered in Scotland annually to hit 40%; 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands restored; Annual woodland creation target increased to at least 15,000 hectares per year. The 172-page document sets a road map for decarbonizing Scotland. The aim -- although not new -- is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2032. Among the policies are making half of Scotland's buses low-carbon, full-decarbonizing the electricity sector and making 80% of homes heated by low-carbon technologies.
China

China Cancels Over 100 Coal-Fired Power Plants (reuters.com) 256

In an effort to improve air quality, the Chinese government has canceled over 100 coal-fired power plants in 11 provinces -- totaling a combined installed capacity of more than 100 gigawatts. Reuters reports: In a document issued on Jan. 14, financial media group Caixin reported, the National Energy Administration (NEA) suspended the coal projects, some of which were already under construction. The projects worth some 430 billion yuan ($62 billion) were to have been spread across provinces and autonomous regions including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai, Shaanxi and other northwestern areas. Putting the power projects on hold is a major step towards the government's effort to produce power from renewable sources such as solar and wind, and wean the country off coal, which accounts for the majority of the nation's power supply. To put it in perspective, some 130 GW of additional solar and wind power will be installed by 2020, equal to France's total renewable power generation capacity, said Frank Yu, principal consultant at Wood Mackenzie. "This shows the government is keeping its promise in curbing supplies of coal power," Yu said. Some of the projects will still go ahead, but not until 2025 and will likely replace outdated technology, he said.
Oracle

Labor Department Sues Oracle For Paying White Men More (usatoday.com) 285

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The administrative lawsuit is the latest from the Labor Department to take aim at the human resources practices of major technology companies. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Oracle makes software and hardware used by the federal government. "The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit," Oracle spokesman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. "Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit." The lawsuit is the result of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs review of Oracle's equal employment opportunity practices, the Labor Department said. According to the lawsuit, Oracle America paid white male workers more, leading to pay discrimination against women, African American and Asian employees. The Labor Department also accused Oracle of favoring Asians for product development and other technical roles, resulting in discrimination against non-Asian applicants. Oracle refused to comply with the Labor Department's investigation, which began in 2014, such as refusing to provide compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines and employee complaints of discrimination, according to the federal agency.
NASA

Earth Hit Record Hot Year in 2016: NASA (news.com.au) 256

Earth sizzled to a third-straight record hot year in 2016, government scientists have said. They mostly blame man-made global warming with help from a natural El Nino, which has since disappeared. From a report: Measuring global temperatures in slightly different ways, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that last year passed 2015 as the hottest year on record. NOAA calculated that the average 2016 global temperature was 14.84 degrees Celsius (58.69 degrees Fahrenheit) -- beating the previous year by 0.04 Celsius (0.07 degrees F). NASA's figures, which include more of the Arctic, are higher at 0.22 degrees (0.12 Celsius) warmer than 2015. The Arctic "was enormously warm, like totally off the charts compared to everything else," said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York, where the space agency monitors global temperatures. Records go back to 1880. This is the fifth time in a dozen years that the globe has set a new annual heat record. Records have been set in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2010 and 2005.
Government

CIA Releases 13M Pages of Declassified Documents Online (bbc.com) 86

About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online. The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists. From a report on BBC: The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files. They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland. The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
United States

Russia Extends Edward Snowden's Asylum To 2020, To Offer Citizenship Next Year (cnn.com) 255

Whistleblower and former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has been allowed to remain in Russia for another three years and will next year qualify to apply for Russian citizenship. From a report on CNN: Edward Snowden's leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN. Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media. On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a "couple of years" in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as "the perfect inauguration gift" to President-elect Donald Trump. Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted him asylum soon after. In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia. That extension was due to expire this year.
Communications

Ambulances In Sweden Will Be Able To Hijack Car Radios During Emergencies (digitaltrends.com) 160

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: The Swedish government wants to make it impossible to be caught off guard by a speeding ambulance. Sure, their sirens are loud -- but soon they'll be able to take over your car's radio. Swedish students at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a way for emergency vehicles to transit radio signals to warn other vehicles of an approaching truck. It's called the EVAM System, according to Phys.org, and it's designed to send a signal over a specific FM radio band that'll interrupt music or radio and display a test message over the system's tuner display -- so long as the car is equipped with a Radio Data System (RDS). The number of crashes caused by muted sirens is on the rise, Florian Curinga, one of the students working on the project, said. That's because of improved sound insulation in cars. Emergency vehicles in Stockholm will begin testing the system this year. The EVAM System can also predict how far in advance the message needs to be broadcast, depending on traffic speed, according to Phys.org. It may also be helpful in warning drivers about upcoming accidents, the students added. EVAM will work on two-thirds of all vehicles on the road, Curinga said. All drivers need to do is have their radio systems turned on. If a message is broadcast then, they'll see it -- and hear it -- from the tuner.
Windows

Windows 10 Privacy Changes Appease Watchdogs, But Still No Data 'Off-Switch' (zdnet.com) 208

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced several privacy changes in Windows 10, but it didn't give users an option to completely opt-out of data-collection feature. The announcement came at a time to coincide with a statement by the Swiss data protection and privacy regulator, the FDPIC, which last week said it would drop its threats of a lawsuit after the company "agreed to implement" a string of recommendations it made last year. The news closed the books on an investigation that began in 2015, shortly after Windows 10 was released. Though the Swiss appear satisfied, other critics are waiting for more. The French data protection watchdog, the CNIL, was equally unimpressed by Microsoft's actions, and it served the company with a notice in July to demand that it clean up its privacy settings. In an email, the CNIL said that the changes "seem to comply" with its complaint, but it's "now analyzing more in [sic] details Microsoft answers in order to know whether all the failures underlined in the formal notice do now comply with the law." ZDNet adds: Microsoft still hasn't said exactly what gets collected as part of the basic level of collection, except that the data is used to improve its software and services down the line; a reasonable ask -- but one that nonetheless lacks specifics. Microsoft said it wants users to "trust" it. And while the likelihood that the company is doing anything nefarious with users' information is frankly unlikely, the running risk is that the data could somehow be turned over to a government agency or even stolen by hackers is inescapable. That risk alone is enough for many to want to keep what's on their computer in their homes. While changing the privacy controls is a move in the right direction, it's still short of what many have called for. By ignoring the biggest privacy complaint from its consumer users -- the ability to switch off data collection altogether -- Microsoft has favored the "just enough" approach to appease the regulators. Without a way to truly opt-out, Microsoft's repeated pledge (eight times in the blog post, no less) to give its users "control" of their data comes off as a hollow soundbite.
Communications

Amazon Seeks FCC Permission To Run Wireless Tests In Washington State (csmonitor.com) 24

Amazon has filed an application with the U.S. federal government that details plans to experiment with wireless communications technology. The application asks the FCC for permission "to test undisclosed prototypes and their related software for five months in and around its Seattle headquarters," reports Christian Science Monitor. "The experiments will involve mobile devices and anchored stations alike, according to an FCC application made public last week and first reported by Business Insider's Eugene Kim, who noted the project could be part of Amazon's drone-delivery initiatives or something even more novel." From the report: In recent years, Google and Facebook have begun conducting wireless experiments of their own with FCC approval, pursuing a number of innovative projects, such as self-driving cars, as Mr. Kim reported. Amazon, meanwhile, has focused on its aspirations of drone delivery service for its online retail business -- a service the firm has pursued in Britain and several other countries as well. Given the company's wide-ranging interests, it is difficult to anticipate precisely what the tests entail. Last year alone, Amazon unveiled projects to change the way people grocery shop, offer drivers a voice-activated driving assistant, and ship cargo with its own branded planes, as the Monitor reported. Amazon's application to the FCC notes that the tests would begin indoors at the Seattle headquarters then later move outdoors to a customer service site more than 220 miles away, in Kennewick, Wash. The tests would last five months, beginning as early as Feb. 11, 2017, the documents state.
Privacy

Hackers Corrupt Data For Cloud-Based Medical Marijuana System (bostonglobe.com) 144

Long-time Slashdot reader t0qer writes: I'm the IT director at a medical marijuana dispensary. Last week the point of sales system we were using was hacked... What scares me about this breach is, I have about 30,000 patients in my database alone. If this company has 1,000 more customers like me, even half of that is still 15 million people on a list of people that "Smoke pot"...
" No patient, consumer, or client data was ever extracted or viewed," the company's data directory has said. "The forensic analysis proves that. The data was encrypted -- so it couldn't have been viewed -- and it was never extracted, so nobody has it and could attempt decryption." They're saying it was a "targeted" attack meant to corrupt the data rather than retrieve it, and they're "reconstructing historical data" from backups, though their web site adds that their backup sites were also targeted.

"In response to this attack, all client sites have been migrated to a new, more secure environment," the company's CEO announced on YouTube Saturday, adding that "Keeping our client's data secure has always been our top priority." Last week one industry publication had reported that the outage "has sent 1,000 marijuana retailers in 23 states scrambling to handle everything from sales and inventory management to regulatory compliance issues."
The Internet

Thousands Of Cubans Now Have Internet Access (ap.org) 70

There's been a dramatic change in one of the world's least-connected countries. An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Since the summer of 2015, the Cuban government has opened 240 public Wi-Fi spots in parks and on street corners across the country... The government estimates that 100,000 Cubans connect to the internet daily. A new feature of urban life in Cuba is the sight of people sitting at all hours on street corners or park benches, their faces illuminated by the screen of smartphones connected by applications such as Facebook Messenger to relatives in Miami, Ecuador or other outposts of the Cuban diaspora...

Cuban ingenuity has spread internet far beyond those public places: thousands of people grab the public signals through commercially available repeaters, imported illegally into Cuba and often sold for about $100 -- double the original price. Mounted on rooftops, the repeaters grab the public signals and create a form of home internet increasingly available in private rentals for tourists and cafes and restaurants for Cubans and visitors alike.

The article also points out that last month, for the first time ever, 2,000 Cubans began receiving home internet access.
Transportation

California's Bullet Train Hurtles Towards a Multibillion-Dollar Overrun (latimes.com) 408

schwit1 quotes the Los Angeles Times: California's bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that's just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by the Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property. The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won't happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.

The whole project is expected to cost more than $68 billion.
Government

Amateur Scientists Find New Clue In D.B. Cooper Case, Crowdsource Their Investigation (kare11.com) 136

Six months after the FBI closed the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history -- after a 45-year investigation -- there's a new clue. An anonymous reader quotes Seattle news station KING: A band of amateur scientists selected by the Seattle FBI to look for clues in the world's most infamous skyjacking may have found new evidence in the 45-year-old case. They're asking for the public's help because of new, potential leads that could link DB Cooper to the Puget Sound aerospace industry in the early 1970s. The scientific team has been analyzing particles removed from the clip-on tie left behind by Cooper after he hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet in November 1971. A powerful electron microscope located more than 100,000 particles on old the JCPenny tie. The team has identified particles like Cerium, Strontium Sulfide, and pure titanium.

Tom Kaye, lead researcher for the group calling itself Citizen Sleuths, says the group is intrigued by the finding, because the elements identified were rarely used in 1971, during the time of Cooper's daring leap with a parachute from a passenger jet. One place they were being used was for Boeing's high-tech Super Sonic Transport plane...

Interestingly, it was even a Boeing aircraft that Cooper hijacked, and witnesses say he wasn't nervous on the flight, and seemed familiar with the terrain below.
Government

Petition With Over 1 Million Signatures Urges President Obama To Pardon Snowden (cnet.com) 273

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: More than 1 million people signed onto a petition asking President Barack Obama to pardon Edward Snowden, proponents of the pardon said Friday. The campaign began in September, when Snowden, his attorney Ben Wizner from the ACLU, and other privacy activists announced they would formally petition Obama for a pardon. Snowden leaked classified NSA documents detailing surveillance programs run by the U.S. and its allies to journalists in 2013, kicking off a heated debate on whether Americans should be willing to sacrifice internet privacy to help the government protect the country from terrorist attacks. Obama and White House representatives have said repeatedly that Snowden must face the charges against him and that he'll be afforded a fair trial. In the U.S., a pardon is "an expression of the president's forgiveness and ordinarily is granted in recognition of the applicant's acceptance of responsibility for the crime and established good conduct for a significant period of time after conviction or completion of sentence," according to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. It does not signify innocence. Also on Friday, David Kaye urged Obama to consider a pardon for Snowden. Kaye, the special rapporteur to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the freedom of expression, said U.S. law doesn't allow Snowden to argue that his disclosures were made for the benefit of the public. The jury would merely be asked to decide whether Snowden stole government secrets and distributed them -- something Snowden himself concedes he did. In response to the petition, Edward Snowden tweeted: "Whether or not this President ends the war on whistleblowers, you've sent a message to history: I feared no one would care. I was wrong."
Earth

Moon Express Raises $20 Million In Series B-1, Fully Funds Trip To The Moon (techcrunch.com) 63

The company competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize, Moon Express, has raised $20 million in funding and announced that they have now fully financed their mission to the moon. The company made history last year as it became the first private company to receive permission to travel to the moon. Moon Express plans to launch their MX-1E spacecraft to the moon at the end of 2017 with the goal of winning the $20 million grand prize in the X-Prize competition. TechCrunch reports: If successful, Moon Express would become the first private company and the fourth entity in history to soft-land on the moon. The first three entities were all government-funded superpowers from the U.S., USSR and China. Of course to win that title, Moon Express will need to beat the other X-Prize competitors including SpaceIL from Israel, Team Indus from India (carrying the Japanese team HAKUTO as a payload), and the international team Synergy Moon. Each company has had launch contracts confirmed by X-Prize, a requirement to remain in the competition. The first company to soft-land on the Moon, travel 500 meters across its surface, and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth will win the grand prize of $20 million. There's also $5 million up for grabs for the company that comes in second. Perhaps the most challenging of the X-Prize requirements is the deadline. To win the prizes, competitors must complete all tasks by the end of 2017. Although the X-Prize Foundation has pushed the deadline back before. What makes the Google Lunar X-Prize competition especially unique is that it required participants to obtain 90% of their funding from private sources. In theory, this would encourage profit-driven business plans, kick-starting a wave of lunar-based commercialization.
United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 538

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
The Internet

Virginia 'Broadband Deployment Act' Would Kill Municipal Broadband Deployment (arstechnica.com) 200

Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill called the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act," but instead of resulting in more broadband deployment, the legislation would make it more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service. From a report: The Virginia House of Delegates legislation proposed this week by Republican lawmaker Kathy Byron would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. Among other things, a locality wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. That speed threshold is low enough that it can be met by old DSL lines in areas that haven't received more modern cable and fiber networks. Even if that condition is met, a city or town would have to jump through a few hoops before offering service. The municipality would have to pay for a "comprehensive broadband assessment," and then issue a request for proposals giving for-profit ISPs six months to submit a plan for broadband deployment. After receiving proposals from private ISPs, the local government would have to determine whether providing grants or subsidies to a private ISP would be more cost-effective than building a municipal broadband network.
Earth

US Puts Bumblebee On the Endangered Species List For First Time (npr.org) 130

For the first time for a bumblebee and a bee species in the U.S., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the bumblebee an endangered species. The protected status goes into effect on February 10, and includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. NPR reports: "Today's Endangered Species listing is the best -- and probably last -- hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee," NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement from the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrates. "Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers." Large parts of the Eastern and Midwestern United States were once crawling with these bees, Bombus affinis, but the bees have suffered a dramatic decline in the last two decades due to habitat loss and degradation, along with pathogens and pesticides. Indeed, the bee was found in 31 states and Canadian provinces before the mid- to late-1990s, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register. But since 2000, it has been reported in only 13 states and Ontario, Canada. It has seen an 88 percent decline in the number of populations and an 87 percent loss in the amount of territory it inhabits. This means the species is vulnerable to extinction, the rule says, even without further habitat loss or insecticide exposure. Canada designated the species as endangered in 2012.
Medicine

Rural Americans At Higher Risk From Five Leading Causes of Death: CDC (cbsnews.com) 373

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Americans living in rural areas are more likely to die from five leading causes of death than people living in urban areas, according to a new government report. Many of these deaths are preventable, officials say, with causes including heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. Approximately 46 million Americans -- about 15 percent of the U.S. population -- currently live in rural areas. According to the CDC report, several demographic, environmental, economic, and social factors might put rural residents at higher risk of death from these conditions. Rural residents in the U.S., for example, tend to be older and sicker than their urban counterparts, and have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. People living in rural areas also report less leisure-time physical activity and lower seatbelt use than their those living in urban areas and have higher rates of poverty, less access to health care, and are less likely to have health insurance. Specifically, the report found that in 2014, deaths among rural Americans included: 25,000 from heart disease; 19,000 from cancer; 12,000 from unintentional injuries; 11,000 from chronic lower respiratory disease; 4,000 from stroke. The percentages of deaths that were potentially preventable were higher in rural areas than in urban areas, the authors report. For the study, the researchers analyzed numbers from a national database. The CDC suggests to help close the gap, health care providers in rural areas can: Screen patients for high blood pressure; Increase cancer prevention and early detection; Encourage physical activity and healthy eating; Promote smoking cessation; Promote motor vehicle safety; Engage in safer prescribing of opioids for pain.
Privacy

Switzerland Agrees To Its Own New Data Sharing Pact With the US (silicon.co.uk) 15

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Switzerland has agreed its own new data transfer agreement with the United States, basing the framework on the deal struck by the European Union (EU) following the invalidation of Safe Harbour. The previous arrangement was invalidated because of concerns about U.S. mass surveillance but Switzerland says the new Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield will allow Swiss companies to transfer customer data without the need for additional contractual guarantees. The Swiss Federal Council, a seven member executive council that is effectively the head of government in Switzerland, claim citizens will benefit from additional protections and the ability to contact an ombudsman about data issues. Although not part of the EU, Switzerland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and has several bilateral agreements with the EU that sees it adopt many of the bigger bloc's policies. The Federal Council says the alignment between the EU and the Swiss transatlantic data sharing partnerships is good news for multinational organizations.

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