Science & Technology

EPA’s 4-Year Strategic Plan Doesn’t Mention ‘Climate.’ Not Once

by Jake Johnson – “This wasn’t an oversight, this is a deliberate strategy by this administration.” If President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hadn’t already made it abundantly clear that addressing climate change is near the very bottom of its list of priorities, the agency’s newly unveiled four-year “strategic plan” should remove all doubt, as it does not contain a single mention of “climate change”—or even just “climate.” The 38-page draft, quietly made available for public comment last week, also neglects to mention “carbon dioxide,” “greenhouse gases,” or “renewable energy.” By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s EPA made addressing climate change the first of the agency’s five stated goals in its 2014 strategic plan—which used the phrase “climate change” more than 40 times. Dr. Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager with the Union of Concerned Scientists, calledthe EPA’s scrubbing of climate change from its report “stunning,” and argued that it was no accident. “Climate...

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Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico

by Jessica Corbett – Promoting Renewable Future, Solar Companies and Nonprofits Rush to Puerto Rico As Congress on Thursday approved a $5 billion loan that will further burden the already bankrupt U.S. territory, various solar companies and nonprofits continued working together to offer aid to the storm-ravaged island while also promoting a more sustainable future and resilient energy system. On Thursday, the nonprofit Empowered By Light and Sunrun—the nation’s largest residential solar company—partnered with local leaders to install a 4kW solar array with battery storage at the Barrio Obrero fire station in San Juan. A second system will be installed at another fire station on Friday. More than 90 percent of the island’s power grid has not been restored since Hurricane Maria struck last month. The commonwealth’s power system was already hobbled by financial difficulties long before the hurricane devastated the island, and the federal government has been widely condemned for its slow and inadequatedisaster relief efforts. “It appears the federal emergency response is focused on diesel to...

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Hackers Broke Into U.S. Voting Systems in Minutes. Now They’re Helping Prevent Attacks

by Kira Lerner – “Our voting systems are not secure.” This July, eight months after Russians targeted U.S. election systems, hackers gathered at a conference in Las Vegas to prove just how vulnerable our system is to interference. In a matter of minutes, hackers were able to break into and gain remote control of voting machines, changing votes and potentially shutting down the system. “These machines were pretty easy to hack,” Jeff Moss, founder the world’s largest hacker conference, DEFCON, said Tuesday. Hackers with very little prior knowledge and limited resources were able to expose personal voter information and undermine the integrity of every piece of equipment they attempted to breach. Now, using that information, those hackers are teaming up with U.S. governors to try to make U.S. election systems more immune to interference. DEFCON, the National Governors Association, the Atlantic Council, and other academics released a report Tuesday finding that “our voting systems are not secure”...

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‘An Inferno Like You’ve Never Seen’: Deadly Wildfires Ravage California

by Jake Johnson – The “unprecedented” fires, fulfilling predictions of climate scientists, have forced tens of thousands from their homes. More than ten people have been killed, thousands have been left without power, and tens of thousands have been forced to evacuate as more than a dozen wildfires tore through Northern California overnight Monday, forcing Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in eight counties. “Presently, these fires continue their path of destruction,” Brown said in a statement late Monday. “Many residents had little time to flee due to the fires’ rapid and erratic rate of spread through the rural terrain. Tragically, these fires have already taken lives and emergency responders anticipate the number of fatalities could grow.” Brown also asked President Donald Trump—who spent his morning tweeting insults at ESPN host Jemele Hill and the NFL—to issue a disaster declaration. At least eighteen total wildfires have been counted, and firefighters have struggled...

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Tainted Honey: Bee-Poisoning Pesticides Found Globally

by Jessica Corbett – Lead researcher says there were “relatively few places where we did not find any” samples contaminated with neonics known to harm bees. Raising further concerns about the global food production system, a new study found that bees worldwide are being widely exposed to dangerous agricultural chemicals, with 75 percent of honey samples from six continents testing positive for pesticides known to harm pollinators. “What this shows is the magnitude of the contamination,” the study’s lead author, Edward Mitchell, a biology professor at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, told the Denver Post. He said there were “relatively few places where we did not find any” contaminated samples. For the study, published in the journal Science, Mitchell’s team of researchers examined nearly 200 samples for the five most commonly used neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics. They found: in North America, 86 percent of samples from contained one or more neonicotinoid; in Asia, 80 percent; in Europe (where there is...

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Google to Use Balloons for Puerto Rico Phone Service

Alphabet Inc is sending high-altitude balloons to provide phone service to island devastated by Hurricane Maria. Alphabet Inc, the company that controls Google, is sending special balloons to Puerto Rico to help restore phone service after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month. The US Federal Communications Commission said it had approved the company’s application to provide the emergency cellular service to Puerto Rico. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to regain communications services. The FCC said on Friday that 83 percent of cell sites remain out of service, while wireless communications company are deploying temporary sites. Alphabet, which announced its Project Loon in 2013 to use solar-powered, high-altitude balloons to provide internet service in remote regions, said in an FCC filing it was working to “support licensed mobile carriers’ restoration of limited communications capability” in Puerto Rico. Earlier on Friday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced...

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Peak Oil Demand is Near: General Motors Says the Future is ‘all-electric’

by Joe Romm – GM, Ford, and China strongly embrace electric cars, signaling trouble for Big Oil. “General Motors believes in an all-electric future,” Mark Reuss, GM’s head of global product development, announced in a corporate press release Monday. These are remarkable words for a company that has become a global behemoth over the past century by making and selling tens of millions of cars, SUVs, and light trucks that run on liquid fossil fuels. When you add in plans from huge, fast-growing markets like China and India to quickly shift to EVs and end the sale of petrol cars, it’s clear that upending the car market will also upend the oil market. Reuss said GM would accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs), with two new EV models coming out in 2018, and “at least” another 18 by 2023. On the same day, Ford Motor Co. announced it would release 13 new EV models in the next five years. The...

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Dozens of Trump Rallies Around the Nation Originated With Russian Propaganda Groups

by Mark Sumner – Many Trump supporters who turned up to rallies weren’t obeying Russia indirectly through instructions passed on by Paul Manafort or … Donald Trump. According to The Daily Beast, many Dixie-humming Trumpers got their orders from Russia the old-fashioned way: directly. The August 20, 2016 events were collectively called “Florida Goes Trump!”, and they were billed as a “patriotic state-wide flash mob,” unfolding simultaneously in 17 different cities and towns in the battleground state.  These get-togethers were organized by a group calling itself “Being Patriotic.” The problem with these good citizens isn’t that they supported Trump, it’s that they weren’t. Citizens, that is. Or even in the United States. It now appears that the group was simply a front for Russian propagandists. And their events were not by any means restricted to Florida. Being Patriotic had 200,000 followers and the strongest activist bent of any of the suspected Russian Facebook election pages that...

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Climate Scientists Predicted the Rise in Super-hurricanes Like Maria, Irma, and Harvey

by Joe Romm – But deniers are still trying to shout down any talk of a climate-hurricane link, calling it “idle chatter.” Hurricane Maria, currently on a collision course with Puerto Rico, intensified explosively in one day from a Category 1 storm to Category 5 superstorm. The Prime Minister of Dominica said Tuesday that Maria caused “mind boggling” devastation when it tore through his island nation. “As see storms like Irma and now Maria intensify from tropical disturbances to Category 5 hurricanes in record time, we see hints of yet another potential threat,” climatologist Michael Mann told ThinkProgress via email. “We may have less time to prepare and react to monster storms, hindering our adaptive capacity to deal with their devastating impacts.” Climate science deniers have sought to dismiss scientists’ discussion of the link between human-caused climate change and more intense hurricanes as “idle chatter.” It is anything but. Maria is the...

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Walker and Trump’s Foxconn Deal May Be Worst in American History

by Robert Kraig – Governor Scott Walker and Donald Trump claim their $3 billion subsidy to Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn will create thousands of jobs in Wisconsin. But when you dig into the numbers, the Foxconn deal looks like one of the biggest swindles in American history, a scandal waiting to happen. While it is Governor Walker and not Trump who is really cutting this deal, it sets a dangerous precedent, which could affect every state. To understand how big the threat is, it is important to understand just how bad the Foxconn deal really is, and to look closely at what they’re proposing. The magnitude of the public expenditure is stunning. It is not really a tax break, but a direct public subsidy of $3 billion dollars. Bribing big companies to stay or leave, and therefore allowing profitable corporations to exact public resources while shifting costs onto everyone else,...

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Should Utilities Build Charging Stations for Electric Cars?

by Martha T. Moore – Faced with deadlines to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road, states are being asked to decide whether utility companies can build electric vehicle charging stations — and pass on the cost to their customers. Building more charging stations could help alleviate “range anxiety,” the fear of running out of charge with no station in sight, and therefore stimulate sales of the clean-air-friendly cars. But in some states, officials say that letting the utility industry build more stations would force all electricity consumers to pay for a service that only a few, relatively affluent, people will use. In California, home to nearly half the electric vehicles (EVs) now on U.S. roads, the Public Utilities Commission last year approved plans for three of the state’s largest utilities — Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric — to...

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The False Equivalence Plaguing our Discussions of Climate Change

by Joe Romm – The national GOP rejects science and any serious action. Everyone else in the U.S. and world is on the other ‘side’ The “both sides do it” approach to modern journalism is both pervasive and dangerous. Nowhere is that clearer than in coverage of climate change, especially in an era where the most extreme climate science deniers are running the federal government. Consider the recent “series of pieces about America’s polarized climate debate” in Axios. The first was “What Republicans are getting wrong about climate change.” The second was “What liberals get wrong about climate change.” You may already be noticing a journalistic bias, a thumb on the scale. In the headline, Axios pits an actual political party, the Republicans, on one side versus “liberals” on the other. In reality, as the National Journal wrote in 2010, “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears...

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Hydrogen Bomb vs Atomic Bomb: What’s the Difference? (VIDEO)

Experts say the fundamental difference between a hydrogen and atomic bomb is the detonation process. North Korea has long sought the means to deliver an atomic warhead to the United States, its sworn enemy, and Sunday’s nuclear test followed reports it could load a hydrogen bomb onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Hydrogen bombs, or H-bombs, are far more powerful than the relatively simple atomic weapons North Korea was believed to have tested so far. As opposed to the atomic bomb – the kind dropped on Japan by the US in the closing days of World War II – the hydrogen bomb can be 1,000 times more powerful. North Korea’s first three nuclear tests from 2006 to 2013 were atomic bombs on roughly the same scale as the ones used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which together killed more than 200,000 people. However, Sunday’s test is estimated to have a yield of about 100 kilotons,...

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NYT: 3 Providers of Critical Election Services were Hacked by Russians Before 2016 Vote

by ericlewis0 – From The New York Times: The calls started flooding in from hundreds of irate North Carolina voters just after 7 a.m. on Election Day last November. Dozens were told they were ineligible to vote and were turned away at the polls, even when they displayed current registration cards. Others were sent from one polling place to another, only to be rejected. Scores of voters were incorrectly told they had cast ballots days earlier. In one precinct, voting halted for two hours. Susan Greenhalgh, a troubleshooter at a nonpartisan election monitoring group, was alarmed. Most of the complaints came from Durham, a blue-leaning county in a swing state. The problems involved electronic poll books — tablets and laptops, loaded with check-in software, that have increasingly replaced the thick binders of paper used to verify voters’ identities and registration status. She knew that the company that provided Durham’s software, VR Systems, had been penetrated...

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Cybersecurity Advisors Resigned en Masse Due to Trump’s ‘insufficient attention’

by Jen Hayden – With the deluge of bad news, especially Hurricane Harvey, you might have missed this important news item. Last week, one-quarter of the nation’s leading cybersecurity advisors walked off the job, resigning in a group letter. Their reason? Donald Trump and his administration are ignoring their dire warnings about our nation’s cybersecurity. From Defense One: More than one-quarter of a panel tasked with advising the Homeland Security Department on cybersecurity and infrastructure protection resigned en masse Monday, citing President Donald Trump’s “insufficient attention” to the nation’s cyber vulnerabilities, among other complaints. Resigning members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council also cited the president’s failure to single out neo-Nazis and white supremacists for condemnation after a violent protest earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia. “The moral infrastructure of our nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built,” the council members stated in a group resignation letter. The resigning...

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NASA Shocker: Last Month was Hottest July, and Hottest Month, on Record

by Joe Romm – It’s the first time we’ve seen such a record month in the absence of an El Niño boost. THE GISTEMP MONTHLY TEMPERATURE ANOMALIES SUPERIMPOSED ON A 1980-2015 MEAN SEASONAL CYCLE. CREDIT: NASA July 2017 has narrowly topped July 2016 as the hottest July on record, according to a shocking analysis by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) released Tuesday. As a result, July 2017 is statistically tied with August 2016 (and July 2016) as the hottest month on record. What’s so surprising here is that records for warmest month or year almost invariably occur when the underlying human-caused global warming trend gets a temporary boost from an El Niño’s enhanced warming in the tropical Pacific. But whereas 2016 set its temperature records boosted by one of the strongest El Niño’s on record, 2017 is setting records in the absence of any El Niño at all. “Yes, it’s surprising...

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Utah Utility Wants to Triple Monthly Charges for Solar Customers

by Mark Hand – Nevada is still recovering from rooftop solar policy similar to Utah utility’s plan. Utah’s largest electric utility company wants to place new charges on rooftop solar customers, a proposal that critics say would unfairly penalize the customers; in addition, they fear it could lead to a scenario similar to the one that recently played out in Nevada, with rooftop solar companies abandoning the state after policymakers weakened the net metering system. Rocky Mountain Power’s plan would nearly triple monthly customer charges and peak-time usage charges for rooftop solar customers, although the company says the new charges are necessary to create an equitable system between solar and non-solar customers. The Utah Public Service Commission is holding a hearing on Wednesday to get public input on the company’s controversial proposal. Next week, the commission plans to hold a multi-day hearing where Rocky Mountain Power, solar companies, and other official intervenors in...

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Fearing Censorship, Govt. Scientists Leak Alarming Climate Report

by Julia Conley – Scientists at 13 federal agencies released a draft of a report showing that the U.S. is currently being impacted by climate change. A leaked draft of an extensive federal climate change report is causing alarm on Tuesday—both because of its findings, which make clear that the U.S. is currently experiencing the effects of climate change, and because of statements by the report’s authors, who say they’re concerned President Donald Trump will try to suppress the paper. The 543-page report by scientists from 13 federal agencies details rapidly rising temperatures in the United States since 1980 and cites global events including an extreme heat wave in Europe in 2003 and in Australia in 2013, as concrete examples of climate change, saying that both examples offer “relatively strong evidence” that humans are contributing to global warming. The authors write that they have “a medium degree of confidence” that rising temperatures throughout...

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Disaster For Big Pharma As 50% Of People Report Quitting Pills For CBD

by Carey Wedler/ANTIMEDIA – According to a recent survey conducted by cannabis market research firm the Brightfield Group and HelloMD, nearly half of CBD (cannabidiol) users give up prescription drugs and over the counter medications in favor of the non-psychoactive substance. According to a recent survey conducted by cannabis market research firm the Brightfield Group and HelloMD, an online medical cannabis community, nearly half of CBD (cannabidiol) users give up prescription drugs and over the counter medications in favor of the non-psychoactive substance. The survey of over 2,400 respondents found forty-two percent of CBD users — whether they used marijuana-derived CBD or hemp-derived CBD — “have left their traditional medications behind altogether and now use cannabis instead.” The survey summarized that roughly “66% of CBD users indicated that CBD products are either ‘more effective’ or ‘much more effective’ in relieving their medical conditions than are over-the-counter (OTC) products.” Further, “pproximately 52% of this consumer group indicated that their CBD products are either ‘more effective’...

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NFL Ends Concussion Research Partnership $16 Million Short of $30 Million Commitment

by Lindsay Gibbs – The “unrestricted gift” came with too many strings for the National Institute of Health. Back in 2012, the NFL made a heavily publicized $30 million commitment to the National Institute of Health to fund concussion research, which the league wanted the public to see as a commitment it was taking head safety in football seriously. But as ESPN’S Outside the Lines reported this week, that partnership is set to expire next month even though the NFL — which is projected to reach $14 billion in revenue this year — failed to give the NIH $16 million of the promised funds. In other words, the league fulfilled less than half of its obligations to the NIH. “The NFL’s agreement with ends August 31, 2017, and there are no current research plans for the funds remaining from the original $30 million NFL commitment,” the NIH said in a statement. The relationship between the...

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