UK: Politicians Exempt Themselves from New Wide-Ranging Spying Laws

December 4th, 2016

Via: Independent:

Politicians have exempted themselves from Britain’s new wide-ranging spying laws.

The Investigatory Powers Act, which has just passed into law, brings some of the most extreme and invasive surveillance powers ever given to spies in a democratic state. But protections against those spying powers have been given to MPs.

Research Credit: Jb

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda to Run Electric-Car Division

December 4th, 2016

Via: Green Car Reports:

It’s now abundantly clear that Toyota is changing course when it comes to zero-emission vehicles.

After years of promoting hydrogen fuel cells while shunning and disparaging battery-electric cars, the company now plans to introduce a mass-market electric car by 2020.

The fact that Toyota is reportedly only now assembling the team to develop that car indicates how recent this decision seems to be.

But the company’s choice of leader for the team indicates the company is taking electric cars very, very seriously indeed.

Toyota has appointed CEO Akio Toyoda to lead its electric-car division personally, according to a Reuters report.

The company hopes putting Toyoda—the grandson of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda—in charge will speed the development, a spokesperson told the news service.

Apple Confirms Work on Autonomous Systems for Transportation

December 3rd, 2016

Via: Electrek:

Apple’s car plans have long been kept under wrap by the company itself, but a new regulatory filing shows it publicly address the industry for the time. In a letter to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) uncovered by VentureBeat, Apple urges the government not to restrict testing of self-driving vehicles…

In the letter, written by Apple’s director of product integrity Steve Kenner, the company comments on the recently announced plan from the U.S. Department of Transportation to ensure that there’s a safe deployment of ” highly automated vehicles.”

In the letter, Apple explains that it uses machine learning in a variety of different aspects, including with transportation technology.

Hawaii’s Forecast: Icy and Dangerous Conditions. No, Really.

December 2nd, 2016

Via: USA Today:

Forget the swimsuits for Hawaii and pack raincoats and winter parkas.

The National Weather Service issued a winter-storm warning until 6 p.m. Saturday local time, with heavy, flooding rainfall across the chain of Pacific islands and up to 30 inches of snow on the peaks of the Big Island.

Drifting snow, freezing fog and gusting wind are forecast for the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes above 11,000 feet. Visibility could be less than a quarter-mile, making driving and hiking dangerous.

“A winter storm warning means significant amounts of snow,” the weather service said early Friday local time. “This will make travel very hazardous or impossible.”

Gallery of Cold War Ruins

December 2nd, 2016

Via: Washington Post:

This rapid-fire upgrade in technologies combined with both nations’ relentless manufacture of missiles left a quiet mark across the remote parts of each country. Early-generation nuclear missile silos were left to rust and quietly collapse, marking the map like a secret Braille. To the uninitiated, defunct Cold War sites give little outward indication of their former purpose. Many of these facilities were designed to be obscure, showing only a small surface footprint that barely hinted at the extent of what was hidden just below the earth’s surface. Aside from former missileers and a small, passionate network of urban explorers, these long-ago vacated sites remain largely unknown, scattered across the globe in varying states of decay.

Uber Now Tracks Passengers’ Locations Even After They’re Dropped Off

December 1st, 2016

Via: NPR:

Uber’s latest update allows the ride-hailing app to track user location data even when the application is running in the background. The change in location data gathering is quite apparent — after the update is completed, Uber prompts users to accept the new policy by enabling their phones to make the change.

Previously, Uber only collected data from the user if the rider had the application open. Now, if a rider calls for an Uber and closes the app, Uber says it will continue to collect location data up until five minutes after the ride ends. That means Uber can see where you end up after you leave the car.

Los Angeles: Unclaimed Dead To Be Buried In Mass Grave

November 30th, 2016

I thought this would be one for the Collapse category, but it doesn’t really fit because the practice is standard operating procedure:

The county has interred unclaimed remains every year since 1896.

Via: Los Angeles Daily News:

Many were homeless. Most are now nameless. A few came from families hopeless of having enough money to give their loved ones a decent burial.

The cremated remains of 1,430 down-and-out Los Angeles County residents will be laid to rest Wednesday at a mass grave at the L.A. County Crematory and Cemetery in Boyle Heights.

“This holiday season, many of us are reminded of how fortunate we are to be surrounded by our loved ones,” said Supervisor Don Knabe, who will attend his last pauper’s funeral before retiring Friday after 20 years of representing the 4th District, in a statement.

“These are individuals who, for one reason or another, have no one but the county to provide them with a respectful and dignified burial.”

The simple but solemn ceremony, with prayers conducted in many languages for each of the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faiths, has become an end-of-year ritual at the five-acre potter’s field.

The county has interred unclaimed remains every year since 1896.

A Radioactive Berry-Picking Boom Outside Chernobyl

November 30th, 2016

Via: CNBC:

While many rural towns across Eastern Europe face economic struggle, the Ukrainian region of Polesia, 200 miles east of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site, has become something of a boomtown for foragers seeking mushrooms and berries — nearly all of which are contaminated with radiation.

The berry picking brings in money for locals as well. A picker can earn $20 to $30 a day, whereas a local schoolteacher earns $80 a month.

However, Brown also says there could be some hidden costs — the berries end up in the hands of European customers who often do not know they are ingesting foods containing radioactive isotopes. In addition, Brown notes, the berries can be labeled organic, since radioactivity is not covered under common organic designations.

And the locals who are harvesting the berries may be suffering the effects of accumulated radiation. There is evidence of higher rates of certain birth defects and diseases in some of the areas affected by the disaster.

More: The Harvests of Chernobyl

Oil Prices Surge 7% After OPEC Output Cut

November 30th, 2016

Update: OPEC Agrees to Cut Production in Drive to End Record Glut

Via: Reuters:

Oil prices jumped as much as 8 percent on Wednesday to a five-week high as some of the world’s largest oil producers gathered in Vienna to try to agree to a production cut that could be bigger than expected.

An OPEC source said the group had agreed on a plan to cut output based on an outline hammered out in Algiers in September.

Brent crude futures for delivery in January were up $3.54, or 7.6 percent, at $49.92 a barrel by 8:31 a.m. ET (1331 GMT), recovering from a drop of nearly 4 percent on Tuesday and on course for their biggest one-day move in nine months. Brent crude for delivery in February was up $3.76 at $51.08 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $3.16, or 7 percent, to $48.39 a barrel, a one-week high.

Trump’s Pick for Treasury Secretary: Former CIO at Goldman Sachs, Helped Start George Soros Investment Fund

November 30th, 2016

L.A. Times background from a couple of weeks ago:

Mnuchin, chief executive of New York-based hedge fund Dune Capital Management, spent 17 years early in his career at Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner and eventually chief information officer, before leaving in 2002. He then started an investment fund with billionaire investor George Soros, a prominent Hillary Clinton supporter, before co-founding Dune. Mnuchin, along with other investors, made a windfall after purchasing the failed bank IndyMac in 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis, and selling it for a substantial profit in 2015.

Via: Business Insider:

President-elect Donald Trump is set to name his Treasury secretary as soon as Wednesday, The New York Times reports.

His pick is the former Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, who served as the national finance chair on Trump’s presidential campaign.

Mnuchin spent 17 years with Goldman Sachs, and his father worked at the bank for 30 years in stock trading.

Mnuchin was chief information officer at Goldman Sachs before leaving the firm in 2002. He also worked briefly for George Soros.

During the depths of the financial crisis, a group led by Mnuchin bought troubled housing lender Indymac. After renaming the company OneWest, Mnuchin served as chairman of the firm until selling it to CIT Group in 2015.

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