Washington Governor Shuts Down Gigantic Fossil Fuel Project
Washington state Governor Jay Inslee scored a major win for environmentalists on Monday when he rejected a permit to build what would have been the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal.
The decision was a long time coming: In 2013, joint developers Tesoro Corporation and Savage Companies announced the proposed $210 million project, which they dubbed Vancouver Energy terminal. (Opponents, on the other hand, have appropriately named it the Tesoro Savage terminal.) The terminal would have covered 47 acres and sat along the Columbia River.
“When weighing all of the factors considered against the need for and potential benefits of the facility at this location,” wrote Inslee in a press release, “I believe the record reflects substantial evidence that the project does not meet the broad public interest standard necessary for the Council to recommend site certification.”
A coalition of groups, including the Columbia Riverkeeper and Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, has been vocally opposed to the terminal. For one, there’s the disproportionate impacts to Native American and Hispanic populations, which even the state recognized in its Final Environmental Impact Statement, noting possible delayed emergency response times, losses in property value, and noise pollution during construction and from the trains themselves.
Opponents have also cited concerns of increased fossil fuel dependence and potential oil train accidents, like the 2016 derailment in Oregon that destroyed more than a dozen train cars in the fire. Since then, activists have been adamantly protesting oil trains in Oregon, which shares a Columbia River border with Washington.
Glicerio Zurita, a community organizer with OneAmerica, one of the groups that’s been contesting the terminal, told Earther a lot of work has gone into convincing the state to get on board. Many of the Latino residents are immigrants and had no experience expressing their feelings to government representatives before they got involved in the battle against the terminal. Since the governor’s announcement rejecting the permit, Zurita says he’s received calls from people who were proud to see their hard work succeed—especially those people who testified against the terminal during the public comment period.
“All those people are celebrating right now because they played a key role in this battle,” Zurita told Earther in Spanish. “More than anything, [this effort] was about educating the Latino community because we have this big battle with immigration, and that makes it hard to focus on other issues.”
But they did, and they succeeded.
As The Seattle Times has reported, the oil terminal’s permitting process dragged on and became the longest Washington’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has ever seen, with about 250,000 public comments rolling in. In November, the council voted unanimously against the facility—which could have brought 360,000 barrels of crude oil from the Bakken Shale Formation all the way to the Port of Vancouver every day.
Inslee’s decision also follows Washington’s Port of Vancouver voting to end the terminal’s lease earlier this month. The project’s been doomed for some time now, but the companies still have 30 days to appeal Inslee’s decision.
Inslee seems to be taking a pretty hard anti-fossil fuel stance these days. Along with rejecting this project, he’s voiced concern over the Bureau of Land Management opening waters off the coast of Washington state to drilling, especially after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke decided Florida could get off the list.
Still, few things are completely off the table under this administration; Trump’s Department of Transportation even moved in December to repeal safeguards that would have made these so-called “bomb trains,” as opponents like to call them, a little bit safer, by requiring they all have modern electronically controlled pneumatic brake systems by 2021. More than 30 incidents have occurred with these oil trains since 2013, as Earthjustice has documented.
The rejection of this oil rail terminal means one less disaster waiting to happen.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
January 29, 2018 at 11:42PM
Waymo Gets Ready to Deploy Thousands of Self-Driving Minivans
It’s 2018, and Waymo is doing it live. Two months after the Alphabet self-driving car spinoff announced it would start running a truly driver-free service in Phoenix this year (as in, cars romping about with no one at the wheel), the company now unveils how it will do it: with the help of thousands more Chrysler Pacifica hybrids. The vehicles, built by Fiat Chrysler in Canada, will eventually make their way to the cities where Waymo is currently testing driverless tech. Waymo already uses 600 of the minivans to test its driverless software.
The details are a bit sketchy. Ask "how many thousands," and you're told, ¯_(ツ)_/¯. So we could be talking 2,000 new self-driving minivans, or 50,000. Of course, those won't come all at one—this is one of those "rolling delivery" setups, with no public timeframe. “It’s really dependent on Waymo’s needs for the fleet,” says FCA spokesperson Dianna Gutierrez.
Today's news does prove two real things. One: Waymo is not waiting for the federal government to approve new vehicle exemptions that would let it deploy vehicles without steering wheels or pedals, like the ones General Motors plans to launch next year. Nine years after launching this whole industry as Google's self-driving car project, Waymo, now a standalone company under the Alphabet umbrella, is itching to get going. “Because our technology is ready today and we’re ready to scale today, our approach is to use a vehicle that’s on the market,” says Waymo spokesperson Johnny Luu.
Thanks to that head start and more than 4 million miles of testing on public roads, Waymo appears to be winning the race to develop driverless tech. And while the business model for making money off these robots is still opaque—will it sell its software to carmakers, or maybe manage its own nationwide fleet of self-driving taxis?—it's moving full speed ahead.
Takeaway number two: You may come in contact with these cars sooner than you think, especially if you live in one of the 25 cities where Waymo is currently testing the tech. The company announced just last week it will bring its testing apparatus to metro Atlanta, making Georgia the first southeastern state to have self-driving test cars its midst. (In May 2017, the Peach State passed a bill allowing robocars with proper insurance and registration on public roads.)
Driverless cars have a long way to go before perfection, before you can hop in a cabbie-free taxi that will take you anywhere you want to go. But Waymo’s new armada of test minivans mean you could drive alongside one soon.
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January 29, 2018 at 11:12PM
Health Experts Ask Facebook to Shut Down Messenger Kids
A coalition of 97 child health advocates sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday asking him to discontinue Messenger Kids, a new advertising-free Facebook app targeted at 6-to-12-year olds. Advocates say the app likely will undermine healthy childhood development for preschool and elementary-school-aged kids by increasing the amount of time they spend with digital devices.
The letter to Zuckerberg was signed by individuals and 19 nonprofits including Common Sense Media, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and Parents Across America, who say their concern stems from recent studies that link increased depression, poor sleeping habits, and unhealthy body image in children and teens with higher use of social media and digital devices.
For instance, a study by Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of iGen, found that social media use by teens is tied to significantly higher rates of depression. (Twenge signed the letter.) Another recent study found that adolescents who spend an hour a day chatting on social media report less satisfaction with nearly every aspect of their lives and 8th graders who use social media for six to nine hours per week are 47 percent more likely to report they are unhappy than their peers who use social media less often.
“Raising children in our new digital age is difficult enough,” the letter says. “We ask that you do not use Facebook’s enormous reach and influence to make it even harder.”
Facebook has said that it took precautions with Messenger Kids, including barring advertising, and giving parents more tools to control a child’s social media use. “But even if these safeguards are effective,” the letter says, “the app’s overall impact on families and society is likely to be negative, normalizing social media use among young children and creating peer pressure for kids to sign up for their first account.”
The letter adds to growing concerns about the impact of social media and smartphones on our minds and bodies. In January, two major Apple shareholders wrote a public letter to the company, citing some of the same studies, and asking Apple to address potential negative mental and physical effects of smartphone usage on children, including funding research and building better tools for parents.
The message to Zuckerberg, however, strikes a much less conciliatory tone. Advocates poked holes in Facebook’s stated motivation for launching the app, and pointed out features that were seemed to be designed for Facebook’s benefit.
When Facebook launched Messenger Kids in December, the company pitched it as a way to safeguard pre-teens who may be using unauthorized social media accounts. (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA requires parental permission to collect data on children under 13.) But advocates say pre-teens who already have a Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook account are unlikely to convert, especially when features are designed with younger users in mind. Instead, they say the app seems designed to hook children on social media at younger ages.
Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the nonprofit that helped organize the coalition, pointed to comments from David Marcus, Facebook’s head of Messenger. When the kids version launched, Marcus told TechCrunch that Facebook hired a special team to build creative tools for kids, like fidget spinner and dinosaur augmented reality masks, as well as crayon-style stickers. He said the filters would allow children to conduct longer conversations with grandparents, for example.
But iIf a 7-year-old can’t chat longer than 5 to 10 minutes, why extend it, says Golin. “Using filters and AR in order to extend the chat will only make it harder for kids to have real conversations without gimmicks in both the short and long run,” he says. “So here’s Facebook framing increased use and dependence on its tools as a benefit to 7-year-olds and grandparents when really its Facebook that’s the beneficiary.”
In a statement to WIRED, a Facebook spokesperson said, “Since we launched in December we’ve heard from parents around the country that Messenger Kids has helped them stay in touch with their children and has enabled their children to stay in touch with family members near and far. For example, we’ve heard stories of parents working night shifts being able read bedtime stories to their children, and moms who travel for work getting daily updates from their kids while they're away.”
Twenge, whose work was also cited in the public letter to Apple, says it’s a good first step that Messenger Kids doesn’t have ads and that parents can limit their kid’s contact list. But she says the company should have considered imposing time limits on children’s use of the app, citing research that correlates increased time on social media with detrimental effects.
The coalition is asking Facebook to shutter the app rather than improve it because there’s no need for children under age 12 to be on social media. High school students, on the other hand, use it as a resource, and those who use social media a little bit are happier than those who don’t at all, says Twenge but 6-, 7- and 8-year-olds lack the maturity, ability to deal with the anticipation and complex online relationships, or understanding of privacy. Facebook may have pitched it as a way to keep in touch with grandparents, but there are better options. “Call them on FaceTime,” Twenge says.
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January 29, 2018 at 11:12PM
Lawsuit Alleges University of Pittsburgh Covered Up Escaped Lab Monkey Infected With 'Select Agent'
A former immunology expert and laboratory director at the University of Pittsburgh alleges she was fired after blowing the whistle on safety violations at the university, including an incident when a laboratory monkey infected with a “select agent” escaped its cage, the Penn Record reported.
According to the Record, court documents show former university immunology professor and Regional Biocontainment Laboratory associate director Kelly Stefano Cole filed a lawsuit accusing university personnel of violating the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law by terminating her after she reported the escaped lab monkey to them:
Cole alleges she was told not to report the incident to federal authorities, and that she later learned a second incident involving a laboratory rabbit yet again infected with a “select agent” had similarly gone unreported. According to the Record, she also says the university subsequently began hitting her with minor infractions of rules like “improper sign-in procedures for the laboratories, improper laboratory attire and a paperwork discrepancy connected to various shipments of vials,” violations her colleagues were allegedly equally guilty of but not disciplined for, until she was eventually fired.
A select agent refers to varieties of biological agents that the Department of Health and Human Services or the United States Department of Agriculture believe could potentially “pose a severe threat to public health and safety”—a list that includes some pretty heavy hitters like hemorrhagic fevers and the plague, as well as diseases that can devastate livestock or plants. In other words, all of it’s pretty bad stuff, though the Penn Record report doesn’t shed any light on exactly which agent it was or the circumstances of the supposed lab breakouts.
In 2017, federal authorities completed a review of the University of Pittsburgh’s laboratory facilities after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleged widespread abuse of animals housed there, per the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service investigators deemed the accusations unfounded.
Gizmodo has reached out to the University of Pittsburgh for comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
January 29, 2018 at 11:06PM
Strava says it will simplify privacy settings and review app features after exposing military bases
Fitness app Strava has said it will review its privacy settings and features after it was found to have exposed the location of military bases across the world by releasing user activity data.
The Strava activity heatmap was supposed to be a fun and informative look at how the world works out. It ended up, however, putting Washington on alert after a student noticed flashes of activity in certain countries made it possible to identify military bases and other facilities operated by countries, including the U.S., in locations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Syria.
The U.S. military has said that it plans to review its own rules around how armed forces personnel can use wireless devices and apps, and now Strava itself confirmed it will rethink its privacy data options, which were actually fairly confusing, and other features.
In an open letter, CEO James Quarles said the company would review “features that were originally designed for athlete motivation and inspiration to ensure they cannot be compromised by people with bad intent.”
Quarles said Strava will place more emphasis on privacy and user data safety. He said the app would simplify those features inside the Strava to ensure that users were fully aware and able to control their data.
Finally, he said his company is “committed to working with military and government officials to address potentially sensitive data.”
Despite all of that, Strava’s global heatmap remains accessible as before.
This isn’t the first time that the company has fielded complaints for its handling of user data, particularly for female athletes. The sheer amount of personal information sucked up has made opting in and out of certain features advisable, while users themselves have previously requested more granular control of public/private information in the app.
via TechCrunch https://techcrunch.com
January 29, 2018 at 10:46PM
Crunch Report | Elon Musk’s flamethrowers bring in $5 million so far
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January 29, 2018 at 10:01PM
Game Night Brings Unexpected Terror in Horror Short Your Date Is Here
A mom, her little daughter, and Grandma’s vintage, romance-themed board game. What could possibly go wrong in this scenario... unless it turns out that the seemingly innocent game is actually a million times spookier than an Ouija board?
You don’t have to remember Mystery Date--the cheesy game aimed at the Barbie doll demographic that mixed Let’s Make a Deal with The Dating Game—to key into Zak White and Todd Spence’s Your Date Is Here, a horror short that imagines an evil presence has somehow invaded a slumber-party classic. But it may make you think twice before dusting off that thrift-store find on your next game night. And, weirdly, it might make you crave extra-cheese pizza.
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
January 29, 2018 at 09:48PM
Uber’s India rival Ola is expanding to Australia in first overseas move
2018 is the year for ride-hailing expansions. Fresh from China’s Didi moving into Brazil and Taiwan, Ola in India is taking the first steps to move into the Australian market and expand its rivalry with Uber.
Ola — which counts Didi as an investor — announced today that it has started recruiting drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in what will be its first expansion outside of India.
Founded in 2011, Ola claims over 125 million registered users and more than one million drivers across 110 cities in India. The company said it is working to gain the necessary approvals to launch its service in Australia, initially in those three cities. TechCrunch understands that there will be further information in the coming weeks. Ola’s initial plan is to launch private hire vehicles in Australia.
Media reports in India earlier this month linked the company with launches in Australia and New Zealand, while there have also been suggestions that it will move into Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Ola isn’t commenting on those expansions at this point, but sources close to the company told TechCrunch that there is “an appetite for international expansion.”
Australia itself is dominated by Uber, Ola’s foe in India, which operates in over 20 cities across the country and New Zealand. Ola isn’t the only new arrival, though. Europe’s Taxify — another company backed by Didi — moved into Australia via a Sydney launch in November. It has since expanded to Melbourne.
“We are very excited about launching Ola in Australia and see immense potential for the ride-
“With a strong focus on driver-partners and the community at large, we aim to create a high-quality and affordable travel experience for citizens and look forward to contributing to a healthy mobility ecosystem in Australia,” he added.Featured Image: Shutterstock
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January 29, 2018 at 09:46PM
Editor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary on what makes her a supreme icon
From her workouts to her dissents and sparkly collars, the Supreme Court justice has earned the moniker that lawyer Shana Knizhnik gave her back in 2013, with the Notorious RBG Tumblr. A new documentary about the 84-year-old Ginsburg debuted at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Julie Cohen, creator of Court TV’s Supreme Court Watch, and Betsy West, a filmmaker and professor at the Columbia School of Journalism, directed the film. Digital Trends spoke with RBG’s editor, Carla Gutierrez, about what she thinks viewers will learn about — and from — Ginsburg.
Perhaps many of Ginsburg’s fans who are too young to remember her 1993 confirmation hearing would describe her as a pugnacious little shorty with a 1,000 IQ, à la a certain Smart Guy. What they may not know is that Ginsburg has been fighting against discriminatory laws during her career. In 1972, she first argued before the Supreme Court in the Frontiero v. Richardson case. A female lieutenant in the United States Air Force requested spousal dependency for her husband and was denied, indicating there were different qualification criteria for her than for her male colleagues. The Court ruled in favor of Ginsburg’s argument that this was discriminatory, eight to one. “An amazing discovery for me was really learning what the work that was done during the women’s movement but on a legal level to fight for women’s rights and gender equality,” Gutierrez said.
While framed around four cases that highlight Ginsburg’s career, the documentary also gives insight into her background and family life. “We’re all affected by our intimate experiences,” Gutierrez said. “She grew up as a woman in the 1940’s, being one of 11 women of a class of 500 students in Harvard Law School. All those personal experiences have really shaped who she is.”
Finding her voice
Gutierrez says the directors, producers, researchers, and herself were able to find a trove of footage and images that help tell Ginsburg’s story, including material her upbringing in Brooklyn, New York in the 1930’s, and from Cornell and Harvard Universities in the 1950’s. On top of the images are excerpts from interviews with Ginsburg herself, her children, lawyers she’s worked with, childhood friends, and classmates. “There are men in the film but to me it feels a little bit like a film about an amazing woman and about women’s rights told through women’s voices and made by women,” Gutierrez said.
“We use her voice a lot,” Gutierrez added. She went through the C-SPAN footage of Ginsburg’s confirmation hearing, which lasted four days. “It gets very specific, and senators love to talk a lot,” she said. “It was really invaluable for us to take the time to watch everything so that you find the gems. She just had this energy. The way that she defended and explained her thinking and her way of looking at law as really special.”
Ginsburg’s voice can give context to other images from the Women’s Movement era, Gutierrez believes.
“You see the images over and over again, and they’re chanting for equality, and it’s an equality that a lot of us — it’s some sense of equality that we have taken for granted,” she said. “Really discovering the work that her and people like her have done in the background, behind those protests, behind the images that you see, it just adds to the appreciation and it also gives you strength for understanding what needs to be done from here on. And it’s just the right moment for it.”
Because some of the footage can be packed with legalese, directors West and Cohen tried to find ways the non-lawyers in the audience could still follow the arguments. In addition to using graphics of Ginsburg’s words, NPR’s legal affairs correspondent, Nina Totenberg, also weighs in. “It was a very personal interview, but she has a radio voice that doesn’t go away,” Gutierrez said of Totenberg. “She’s so knowledgeable, and she’s so used to explaining some of that legal stuff in the media to people that are not lawyers, so she was great at giving some context to specific cases we were covering.”
In her shoes
“One of the segment I enjoyed editing the most was when she first went to the Supreme Court to argue her first case as a lawyer,” Gutierrez said. “Hopefully people will feel like they’re going with her and feel her nerves.” To portray the intimidation of presenting a case before an all-male Court, Gutierrez used black-and-white images of the men’s portraits. This was before Sandra Day O’Connor took her seat in 1981 as the first female justice.
In addition to the historical cases, RBG shows personal photos and old 8mm film of Ginsburg. “There’s a part of the film where she talks about her mom and the two lessons she learned from her mom and one of them was never waste your time with emotions that are going to be wasteful, like jealousy and anger. Just keep putting your head down and do the work. That was really inspiring,” said Gutierrez.
Part of being an editor is knowing not only what to keep in but what to cut, such as a portion of Ginsburg’s nomination speech in the Rose Garden when she mentions her mother, who died when the justice was a teenager.
“It was very emotional, and we had that moment for a long time in the film, but just the way the whole segment was being built, it just did not belong there,” said Gutierrez. “Letting go, even though it was such a beautiful moment, it made that whole chunk of the film a lot stronger.”
After coming to the U.S. from Peru as a teenager, Gutierrez learned to speak English and eventually enrolled in Stanford University’s documentary program.
“I identify myself as an immigrant,” she said. “I identify myself really strongly with the U.S. Latino community here.”
Gutierrez has been working on films since 2005 and has four films she’s worked on come to the Sundance Film Festival; one has been nominated for an Academy Award. She said what draws her to documentaries is “the possibility of intimacy, because I find that the very personal, intimate stories can really build empathy and compassion… I feel like there’s a power in documentary storytelling that can really make people open to other people’s experiences.”
She can’t wait until her oldest child sees RBG. (Her youngest isn’t yet old enough to appreciate the documentary, she said.) While her two children have grown up with a working mother and a father who splits the work of raising them and running a household, Gutierrez also wants them to understand the history Ginsburg helped shape.
While many have an image of Ginsburg as a progressive voice in the Supreme Court, Gutierrez said the documentary shows how much the justice relies upon precedent.
“She’s not an activist judge,” Gutierrez said. “She’s so strategic and so careful with what she puts on paper. She has an amazing legal mind. I learned by listening to other people explain it how she’s setting up precedence for the future in her dissents; so, she’s thinking long-term.”
When we asked Gutierrez what snack viewers should have on hand when watching RBG, she suggested an everything bagel — a nod to the Brooklyn roots of both Ginsburg and Notorious B.I.G. We also wanted to know what she thinks draws so many generations of women to see the Notorious RBG as a role model.
“You have this older woman that is so sharp and so strong, and you have the image of an older Jewish grandmother that is putting this strength on paper, that is being a really strong voice for defending what she believes in,” she said. “Some combination that makes her really special.”
This article is part of a series of reports from the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Digital Trends was a guest of Adobe during the event.
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January 29, 2018 at 09:08PM
China Denies That It Gifted the African Union an HQ Building Stuffed Full of Surveillance Devices
The government of China has long held an interest in building bridges with countries across Africa, which it sees as both a major opportunity for economic investment and a chance to project geopolitical power. But while mutual solidarity is nice and all, the Chinese want to leave as little to chance as possible in their influence-building project on the continent, per a recent investigation by French newspaper Le Monde.
According to the paper, China gifted the $200 million African Union headquarters building in Adis Ababa—where representatives from all 55 African countries meet—at full cost as an ostensible show of goodwill. But after AU staff discovered strange server activity between midnight and 2am local time in January 2017, subsequent investigation and sweeps of the building found that Chinese engineers left backdoors in computer servers allowing access to “all sensitive content” as well as left recording devices in desks and walls.
Le Monde alleges that use of the building may have allowed the Chinese government access to pretty much everything the AU was doing from January 2012 to January 2017—something potentially invaluable for a government looking to benefit from Africa’s massive development potential and vast resources. Sources told Le Monde that it can be an uphill battle to get government officials there to take cybersecurity seriously and the AU remains “very exposed” to both Chinese espionage as well as the intelligence services of many other interested powers.
Chinese ambassador to the AU Kuang Weilin told reporters in Ethiopia the idea they had bugged the embassy was “absurd” and “very difficult to understand,” per the BBC.
Weilin said that the report was inaccurate and “I really question its intention. I think it will undermine and send a very negative message to people. I think it is not good for the image of the newspaper itself ... Certainly, it will create problems for China-Africa relations.”
According to Reuters, regional leaders like Rwandan President Paul Kagame have also denied the reports and insisted that nothing is done in the AU building that is particularly secretive anyhow.
“I don’t think spying is the specialty of the Chinese,” Kagame said. “We have spies all over the place in this world. But I will not have been worried about being spied on in this building.”
via Gizmodo http://gizmodo.com
January 29, 2018 at 08:48PM