France to Ban All New Oil and Gas Exploration; Reduce Nuclear Power Use

June 24th, 2017

Via: Independent:

France is to stop granting licences for oil and gas exploration as part of a transition towards environmentally-friendly energy being driven by Emmanuel Macron’s government.

Nicolas Hulot, the “ecological transition” minister said a law would be passed in the autumn.

“There will be no new exploration licences for hydrocarbons,” he told BFMTV.

The minister, previously famed in France for his environmental activism and nature documentaries, also outlined proposals to increase the taxation on diesel and to “make decisions faster” to curtail pollution.

Mr Macron said he was opposed to exploration for gas and favoured a ban on fracking during his election campaign, particularly in the overseas territory of French Guiana.

But Mr Hulot was among those warning that any ban would trigger lawsuits from energy companies and saying change must be imposed gradually.

Around 75 per cent of France’s electricity is currently provided by nuclear power stations, with the industry employing around 200,000 people and led by state-owned EDF.

A law was passed last year to reduce the nuclear proportion to 50 per cent by 2025, sparking controversy over potential job losses and the closure of up to 20 reactors.

Mr Macron reinstated his commitment to the law last month but has evaded concrete targets for the ultimate aim of making France run completely on renewable energy.


Excessive Lead Levels Found in Almost 2,000 Water Systems Across All 50 States

June 24th, 2017

Via: USA Today:

While a harsh national spotlight focuses on the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., a USA TODAY NETWORK investigation has identified almost 2,000 additional water systems spanning all 50 states where testing has shown excessive levels of lead contamination over the past four years.

The water systems, which reported lead levels exceeding Environmental Protection Agency standards, collectively supply water to 6 million people. About 350 of those systems provide drinking water to schools or day cares. The USA TODAY NETWORK investigation also found at least 180 of the water systems failed to notify consumers about the high lead levels as federal rules require.

Many of the highest reported lead levels were found at schools and day cares. A water sample at a Maine elementary school was 42 times higher than the EPA limit of 15 parts per billion, while a Pennsylvania preschool was 14 times higher, records show. At an elementary school in Ithaca, N.Y., one sample tested this year at a stunning 5,000 ppb of lead, the EPA’s threshold for “hazardous waste.”


Brutal Kangaroo: CIA Malware for Air Gapped Systems

June 24th, 2017

Via: WikiLeaks:

Today, June 22nd 2017, WikiLeaks publishes documents from the Brutal Kangaroo project of the CIA. Brutal Kangaroo is a tool suite for Microsoft Windows that targets closed networks by air gap jumping using thumbdrives. Brutal Kangaroo components create a custom covert network within the target closed network and providing functionality for executing surveys, directory listings, and arbitrary executables.

The documents describe how a CIA operation can infiltrate a closed network (or a single air-gapped computer) within an organization or enterprise without direct access. It first infects a Internet-connected computer within the organization (referred to as “primary host”) and installs the BrutalKangaroo malware on it. When a user is using the primary host and inserts a USB stick into it, the thumbdrive itself is infected with a separate malware. If this thumbdrive is used to copy data between the closed network and the LAN/WAN, the user will sooner or later plug the USB disk into a computer on the closed network. By browsing the USB drive with Windows Explorer on such a protected computer, it also gets infected with exfiltration/survey malware. If multiple computers on the closed network are under CIA control, they form a covert network to coordinate tasks and data exchange. Although not explicitly stated in the documents, this method of compromising closed networks is very similar to how Stuxnet worked.


Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails for Gmail Ads

June 24th, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

Google is stopping one of the most controversial advertising formats: ads inside Gmail that scan users’ email contents. The decision didn’t come from Google’s ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft Corp. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google’s senior vice president of cloud. “What we’re going to do is make it unambiguous,” she said.

Ads will continue to appear inside the free version of Gmail, as promoted messages. But instead of scanning a user’s email, the ads will now be targeted with other personal information Google already pulls from sources such as search and YouTube. Ads based on scanned email messages drew lawsuits and some of the most strident criticism the company faced in its early years, but offered marketers a much more targeted way to reach consumers.


Amazon: Delivery Drone ‘Beehives’?

June 23rd, 2017

Via: The Verge:

Amazon’s drone delivery program stopped being a joke a while ago, but the company still has to overcome serious challenges to make the technology actually work. One of these is getting drones near enough to large populations so they’re more efficient than regular road delivery. Amazon has an idea for that though: Huge. Drone. Beehives.

In a patent application published yesterday, Amazon described how “multi-level fulfillment centers for unmanned aerial vehicles” could help put drones where they’re needed. The application notes that due to “their large footprint,” current warehouses are located “on the outskirts of cities where space is available.” But multi-story drone centers could be built vertically, rather than horizontally, allowing them to be placed within “downtown districts and/or other densely populated urban areas.” And, of course, making them high-rises would let the drones fly in and out without getting dangerously close to pedestrians at street level.

Amazon’s application includes sketches of a number of differently shaped buildings and interior views, showing how human employees would load-up the drones with packages.


Facial Recognition Is Coming to U.S. Airports, Fast-Tracked by Trump

June 21st, 2017

Via: The Verge:

Soon, it may be hard for visa holders to board an international flight without submitting to a facial geometry scan. Customs and Border Protection began testing facial recognition systems at Dulles Airport in 2015, then expanded the tests to New York’s JFK Airport last year. Face-reading check-in kiosks will be appearing at Ottawa International Airport this spring, and British Airways is rolling out a similar system at London’s Heathrow Airport, comparing faces captured at security screenings with a separate capture at the boarding gate. Now, a new project is poised to bring those same systems to every international airport in America.

Called Biometric Exit, the project would use facial matching systems to identify every visa holder as they leave the country. Passengers would have their photos taken immediately before boarding, to be matched with the passport-style photos provided with the visa application. If there’s no match in the system, it could be evidence that the visitor entered the country illegally. The system is currently being tested on a single flight from Atlanta to Tokyo, but after being expedited by the Trump administration, it’s expected to expand to more airports this summer, eventually rolling out to every international flight and border crossing in the US.


How Just 14 People Make 500,000 Tons of Steel a Year in Austria

June 21st, 2017

Via: Bloomberg:

The plant, a two-hour drive southwest of Vienna, will need just 14 employees to make 500,000 tons of robust steel wire a year—vs. as many as 1,000 in a mill with similar capacity built in the 1960s. Inside the facility, red-hot metal snakes its way along a 700-meter (2,297-foot) production line. Yet the floors are spotless, the only noise is a gentle hum that wouldn’t overwhelm a quiet conversation, and most of the time the place is deserted except for three technicians who sit high above the line, monitoring output on a bank of flatscreens. “We have to forget steel as a core employer,” says Wolfgang Eder, Voestalpine’s chief executive officer for the past 13 years. “In the long run we will lose most of the classic blue-collar workers, people doing the hot and dirty jobs in coking plants or around the blast furnaces. This will all be automated.”


Michigan: Airport Police Officer Attacked in Possible Terror Incident

June 21st, 2017

Via: NBC:

An officer for Bishop International Airport was stabbed Wednesday in a possible terror-related incident in Flint, Michigan, sources told NBC News.

The attacker allegedly shouted “Allahu akbar” before stabbing Lieutenant Jeff Neville, who was bleeding from the neck, sources and witnesses at Bishop International Airport said.

Neville is a member of the airport’s Department of Public Safety and a retired Genesee County Sheriff’s Department lieutenant.

Law enforcement officials said the suspect is from Quebec and has a Canadian passport.


Fraud: Britain Charges Barclays, Ex-Bosses Over ‘Unlawful’ Qatari Deal

June 20th, 2017

Via: Reuters:

Barclays (BARC.L) and four former top executives have been criminally charged over undisclosed payments to Qatari investors during a 12 billion pound ($15 billion) emergency fundraising in 2008.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Tuesday it was charging Barclays with conspiracy to commit fraud and unlawful financial assistance, making it the first bank to face criminal charges over actions taken during the financial crisis.

Barclays said it was considering its position and awaiting further information about the charges, which follow a five-year SFO inquiry into how it avoided the fate of Lloyds (LLOY.L) and RBS (RBS.L) by staving off a state bailout.

The SFO also charged former top Barclays executives John Varley, Roger Jenkins, Thomas Kalaris and Richard Boath after investigating a two-part fundraising that included a $3 billion Barclays loan to the wealthy Gulf state.


London Mosque Attack: Man, 48, Arrested on Suspicion of Attempted Murder

June 19th, 2017

Via: Guardian:

A man has died and eight others have been injured after a van ploughed into a group of people near a north London mosque in an attack police are treating as terrorism.

A 48-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder. Two people hit by the van were said to be “very seriously injured”.

The prime minister, Theresa May, who was woken to be told of the early morning attack in Finsbury Park, said in a statement from Downing Street that the “hatred and evil” of the kind seen in the attack would never succeed.

May said the attack had “once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives – this time, British Muslims as they left a mosque, having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year”.


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