Category Archives: Cyber

The Information – James Gleick


The Information

A History, a Theory, a Flood

James Gleick

Genre: History

Price: $2.99

Publish Date: March 1, 2011

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

From the bestselling author of the acclaimed Chaos and Genius comes a thoughtful and provocative exploration of the big ideas of the modern era: Information, communication, and information theory.    Acclaimed science writer James Gleick presents an eye-opening vision of how our relationship to information has transformed the very nature of human consciousness. A fascinating intellectual journey through the history of communication and information, from the language of Africa’s talking drums to the invention of written alphabets; from the electronic transmission of code to the origins of information theory, into the new information age and the current deluge of news, tweets, images, and blogs. Along the way, Gleick profiles key innovators, including Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Samuel Morse, and Claude Shannon, and reveals how our understanding of information is transforming not only how we look at the world, but how we live. A  New York Times  Notable Book A  Los Angeles Times  and  Cleveland Plain Dealer  Best Book of the Year Winner of the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award  


The Information – James Gleick

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Even coronavirus can’t stop Trump’s environmental rollbacks

On Thursday, political risk research and consulting firm the Eurasia Group released an updated version of its “Top Risks 2020” report to show how coronavirus has sped up the trends that worry the group the most. The new report warns that the public health crisis will pull attention and resources away from addressing climate change.

“With large-scale protest activity diminished because of social distancing, civil society actors will turn to cyber and online tools to apply pressure on companies and governments, most of which will have less appetite and ability to respond to climate change,” the report says.

In addition to climate action, environmental protection at large may be threatened. The Trump administration is in the process of implementing major environmental policy changes, such as a rule that would allow companies to kill birds without repercussions, a total overhaul of the bedrock National Environmental Protection Act, and new restrictions on the types of scientific research the EPA can use in decisions that affect public health. “The government has been trying to rush through and finalize rollbacks before the upcoming election,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental nonprofit. “Trump wants to be able to say ‘I accomplished all this.’”

Even with the nation’s attention turned to a public health crisis, the administration does not appear to be slowing down. On Wednesday night, the EPA officially opened the required 30-day comment period for its proposal to limit science that can be used in regulatory decisions. Due to the coronavirus, there will be no public hearing.

On Thursday, the comment period for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act closed, despite pleas for an extension from conservation groups. Also on Thursday, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told reporters that he did not plan to delay the commission’s regulatory actions during the pandemic. And earlier last week, a BLM spokesperson told E&E News that the agency did not plan to postpone oil and gas lease sales.

Typically, when policy changes are proposed, they have to undergo a robust public input process, said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Policy Director for the Center for Western Priorities. Legally, he said, agencies have to take the public’s comments into account, respond to them, and incorporate them into decision-making. “If you don’t actually have the public able to attend public meetings, able to really thoughtfully put together public comments, then that’s kind of short-circuiting that feedback process,” he said, and it allows agencies “to kind of move forward with whatever they want.”

More than 80 environmental organizations sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt on Thursday requesting that the department suspend major policy and regulation changes, oil and gas lease sales, and public comment periods for the immediate future.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Interior told Grist, “All DOI actions, including comment periods and lease sales, are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis and adjustments are being made to ensure we are allowing for proper public input, while protecting the health and safety of the public and our employees.”

While the public at large may not have the mental bandwidth or physical ability to participate in rulemaking procedures right now, environmental organizations are keeping the pressure on, especially in the courts. “We’ve got about 100 active lawsuits to protect our air, water and endangered species and thus far they are proceeding,” said Suckling. “The federal courts have not stalled any of them yet.”

On Wednesday, after the Trump administration proceeded with an auction for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental groups immediately filed a legal challenge to the sale. On Thursday, groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA for approving new chemicals without adequately informing the public, in violation of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

“[W]e are continuing to hold the Trump Administration accountable for its efforts to undermine our climate and clean air and water safeguards,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement to Grist. “The work may look different right now, but we’re still pushing forward to create the world we want to see together.”

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Even coronavirus can’t stop Trump’s environmental rollbacks

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Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight, due in part to climate change

Humanity is now the closest it has ever been to total annihilation. That might sound like something a character in an Avengers movie would say, but it’s actually a statement made by a group of 19 scientific experts and backed by 13 Nobel laureates. The Doomsday Clock, a symbol created in 1947 to represent humankind’s proximity to global catastrophe, is now just 100 seconds to midnight for the first time ever.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the group that manages the metaphorical clock, said the dual threats of nuclear war and climate change, compounded by the threat of “cyber-enabled information warfare” — which undermines society’s capacity to address these threats — has forced the globe mere seconds from midnight. “We now face a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay,” Atomic Scientists president and CEO Rachel Bronson said in a statement.

The experts at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists did not make this deliberation alone. For the first time, the group’s scientists were joined by members of The Elders, a network of global leaders assembled by Nelson Mandela in 2007. The hands of the Doomsday Clock have inched forward in three of the last four years thanks to a combination of nuclear proliferation, climate change, and civil unrest around the globe.

The clock was originally set at seven minutes to midnight in 1947, and has shifted forward and backward 23 times since then. In 1991, the clock was at 17 minutes to midnight — the furthest from apocalypse ever. In the past, scientists have moved the clock closer to midnight in response to developments like hydrogen bomb testing in the Soviet Union in 1953 and Cold War escalations in 1984.

There are ways to keep midnight at bay, scientists say. The U.S. and Russia could come back to the arms control negotiating table and reduce the risk of a nuclear arms race. The signatories of the Iran Deal could come together to limit nuclear development in the Middle East. The world’s nations could commit in earnest to the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement. Perhaps most important for long-term stability, the Bulletin says the international community should work to penalize the misuse of science, a trend that is on the rise thanks in part to the efforts of the Trump administration.


Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight, due in part to climate change

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It’s official: Parts of california are too wildfire-prone to insure

California is facing yet another real estate-related crisis, but we’re not talking about its sky-high home prices. According to newly released data, it’s simply become too risky to insure houses in big swaths of the wildfire-prone state.

Last winter when we wrote about home insurance rates possibly going up in the wake of California’s massive, deadly fires, the insurance industry representatives we interviewed were skeptical. They noted that the stories circulating in the media about people in forested areas losing their homeowners’ insurance was based on anecdotes, not data. But now, the data is in and it’s really happening: Insurance companies aren’t renewing policies areas climate scientists say are likely to burn in giant wildfires in coming years.

Between 2015 and 2018, the 10 California counties with the most homes in flammable forests saw a 177 percent increase in homeowners turning to an expensive state-backed insurance program because they could not find private insurance.

In some ways, this news is not surprising. According to a recent survey of insurance actuaries (the people who calculate insurance risks and premiums based on available data), the industry ranked climate change as the top risk for 2019, beating out concerns over cyber damages, financial instability, and terrorism. While having insurance companies on board with climate science is a good thing for, say, requiring cities to invest in more sustainable infrastructure, it’s bad news for homeowners who can’t simply pick up their lodgings and move elsewhere.

“We are seeing an increasing trend across California where people at risk of wildfires are being non-renewed by their insurer,” said California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in a statement. “This data should be a wake-up call for state and local policymakers that without action to reduce the risk from extreme wildfires and preserve the insurance market we could see communities unraveling.”

A similar dynamic is likely unfolding across many other Western states, according to reporting from the New York Times.

To understand the data coming out of California we can use my own family as an example: A few months after Grist published a story about how my parent’s neighborhood is trying to fortify itself against future forest fires, my mom’s insurer informed her and my stepfather that they’d need to get home insurance elsewhere. For two months they called one insurer after another, but no company would take their premiums. So they turned to the state program as the insurer of last resort — which costs about three times more than they’d been spending under their previous, private insurer.

My folks have spent a lot of money clearing trees and brush from around their house. They’ve covered the walls in hard-to-burn cement panels, and the roof with metal. But insurance risk maps don’t adjust for these improvements. Instead, insurance companies seem to have made the call that the changing climate, along with years of fire suppression, have made houses in the midst of California’s dry forests a bad bet, and therefore uninsurable.

“For us, because we’ve done good financial planning and our house is paid off, it’s just an extra expense,” said my mom, Gail Johnson Vaughan. “But we have friends who have no choice but to leave.”


It’s official: Parts of california are too wildfire-prone to insure

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Bitcoins now suck up as much energy as Las Vegas

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Bitcoins now suck up as much energy as Las Vegas

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Insurance experts rank climate change as top risk for 2019

It’s no secret that climate change comes at a cost — so much so that even the insurance industry has flagged it as a priority. According to a new industry survey, actuaries (the people who calculate insurance risks and premiums based on available data) ranked climate change as the top risk for 2019, beating out concerns over cyber damages, financial instability, and terrorism.

When actuaries correctly measure and manage climate risks, they can help nudge societies away from poor planning — such as overbuilding in high-risk coastal flood zones — and towards better choices — like building more resilient infrastructure designed to withstand anticipated sea level rise.

“The survey shows actuaries are engaged and tackling this risk frontier,” Steve Kolk, actuary and climate data scientist, told Grist. “It thrills me to see actuaries join the effort and help us all build a sustainable planet more quickly.”

The survey, published by the Joint Risk Management Section and two other organizations that represent professional actuaries, found that out of 267 actuaries surveyed, 22 percent identified climate change as their top emerging risk. It was also the top-ranked choice for combination risk and tied with cyber/interconnectedness of infrastructure for top current risk. It’s a dramatic shift from previous years, when climate change lagged well behind other dangers to people and property. In last year’s survey, only 7 percent of respondents rated climate change as the top emerging risk.

The survey results align with several current and future projections of climate change’s impact on the global economy. According to one estimate, natural disasters caused about $340 billion in damage across the world in 2017, with insurers paying out a record $138 billion. The insurance industry plays a huge role in the U.S. economy at $5 trillion (Insurance spending in 2017 made up about 11 percent of America’s GDP). Climate change can make a sizable dent on economic growth by disrupting supply chains and demand for products, and creating harsh working conditions, among other issues.

“Actuaries, on the whole, are recognizing not only the magnitude of rising climate-related risks but, more importantly, that they can play a positive role in helping society actively manage those risks,” said Robert Erhardt, associate professor of statistics at Wake Forest University.

While the report could signal a potential change in risk awareness, it may also have come down to timing: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released in October 2018, a few weeks before the survey.

“The effects of climate change became a common front-page story in the past year — and risk managers are taking notice,” Max Rudolph, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries who prepared the report, told E&E News.

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Insurance experts rank climate change as top risk for 2019

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How to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Zero Waste

It’s no secret that when the holidays come around most Americans go wild, hunting down the best deals, filling their shopping carts with goodies on Black Friday, Cyber Monday (week, really) and on till the New Year.

Now, I’m not here to condemn holiday shopping. It’s fun to give gifts?? and pick up a little something for yourself here and there. But when Americans are responsible for sending $11 billion worth of packing material?straight to the landfill every year, it’s?hard not to see that things have gotten very much out of hand.?And there are serious ramifications, too.

What starts as a cheery assortment of wrapping paper, ribbon and packing peanuts quickly becomes a pile of greenhouse-gas-leaching garbage as it undergoes bacterial composition. Trash like this also releases tonnes?of methane, a greenhouse gas with climate change impact that is more than 25 times?greater than that of carbon dioxide. We can’t go on like this!

It’s hard to set aside holiday traditions. I’m sure many of us have fond memories of waking up to see wrapped gifts glittering under the Christmas tree. But, as it stands today, this routine of?shipping gifts wrapped in plastic, cardboard, zip ties and Styrofoam, only to re-wrap them in non-recyclable paper and ribbon at their destination, is really taking its toll on the environment.

This year, I urge you to consider trying out a new way to celebrate this season?? one that doesn’t leave a trail of garbage in its wake. It’ll be worth it, I promise!

Give a gift that needs no packaging?? an experience!

Purchase a yearlong membership to a local museum, pay the entrance fee for a state park you know they’d enjoy, get concert tickets. There are so many options!

Buy your gifts from eco-conscious companies who ship plastic-free.

More and more companies are catching on to the fact that plastic is not a shipping requirement. Here’s a nice roundup of eco-conscious sellers by our friends over at My Plastic Free Life.

Reuse holiday cards from last year.

Simply cut the decorative front off of any holiday cards you received the year before, then write the recipient’s name on the blank side. Free, cheap and eco-friendly!

Shop local.

It’s so much easier to avoid unnecessary packaging when you can pick the gifts out in person and take them home with you that day. Skip the bag at checkout, refuse the wrapping station and walk between shops if you’re able.

Set up a recycling station at home.

Make it easy to process recyclables by setting up an easy-to-access recycling station at home. Got a cardboard gift tag or paper shopping bag to toss? Pop it in the paper bin.

How do you keep your holiday shopping as low waste as possible?

Related Stories:

How to Have a Zero Waste Christmas
How to Throw a Stress-Free Zero Waste Holiday Party
Best Non-Paper Gift Wrapping Options

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Keep Your Holiday Shopping Zero Waste

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On the Future – Martin Rees


On the Future

Prospects for Humanity

Martin Rees

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: October 16, 2018

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Seller: Princeton University Press

A provocative and inspiring look at the future of humanity and science from world-renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees Humanity has reached a critical moment. Our world is unsettled and rapidly changing, and we face existential risks over the next century. Various outcomes—good and bad—are possible. Yet our approach to the future is characterized by short-term thinking, polarizing debates, alarmist rhetoric, and pessimism. In this short, exhilarating book, renowned scientist and bestselling author Martin Rees argues that humanity’s prospects depend on our taking a very different approach to planning for tomorrow. The future of humanity is bound to the future of science and hinges on how successfully we harness technological advances to address our challenges. If we are to use science to solve our problems while avoiding its dystopian risks, we must think rationally, globally, collectively, and optimistically about the long term. Advances in biotechnology, cybertechnology, robotics, and artificial intelligence—if pursued and applied wisely—could empower us to boost the developing and developed world and overcome the threats humanity faces on Earth, from climate change to nuclear war. At the same time, further advances in space science will allow humans to explore the solar system and beyond with robots and AI. But there is no “Plan B” for Earth—no viable alternative within reach if we do not care for our home planet. Rich with fascinating insights into cutting-edge science and technology, this accessible book will captivate anyone who wants to understand the critical issues that will define the future of humanity on Earth and beyond.

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On the Future – Martin Rees

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Is the government planning a crackdown on Keystone XL protesters?

Based on newly released emails, the American Civil Liberties Union suspects the government plans to treat Keystone XL protesters with counterterrorism tactics.

The ACLU sued the Trump administration on Tuesday to turn over more records detailing cooperation between the federal government and state officials in Montana in anticipation of protests against the planned Keystone XL pipeline.

The reason the ACLU is suing? It recently obtained emails through the Freedom of Information Act that provide “substantial evidence of federal preventative measures against Keystone XL protests,” according to the ACLU’s press release. And it’s concerned that government plans to surveil and police indigenous and environmental activists infringe on their First Amendment rights.

TransCanada, the company behind Keystone XL, expects to begin construction on the pipeline expansion next year. The once-dead pipeline project, revived by President Trump, would transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the Canadian tar sands through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, coming within a hundred miles of a dozen tribal lands.

The ACLU obtained emails revealing that federal employees discussed an “interagency team” to “deal with safety and security concerns related to the Keystone XL project.” It also found evidence indicating that the Department of Justice held “anti-terrorism” and “social networking and cyber awareness” trainings in Montana.

These records “suggest that additional documents documents exist, which the government continues to withhold, detailing plans for protests,” the ACLU said in a press release. The organization filed its original records requests in January, after it got its hands on Department of Homeland Security analysis that characterized pipeline opponents as “environmental rights extremists” intent on “criminal disruptions and violent incidents.”

During the Dakota Access pipeline protests in 2016, Standing Rock activists were watched over by drones and monitored on social media. The company behind that pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, hired the private security firm TigerSwan to launch a military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists, who TigerSwan labeled “jihadists.” Police used tear gas and water cannons against protesters. Some Standing Rock activists now face years in jail.

“Evidence that the federal government plans to treat Keystone XL protests with counterterrorism tactics, coupled with the recent memory of excessive uses of force and surveillance at the Standing Rock protests, raises immense concerns about the safety of indigenous and environmental protestors who seek to exercise their First Amendment rights,” writes Jacob Hutt, who filed the ACLU information requests, in a blog post.

There’s a long tradition of environmental activists facing charges of “ecoterrorism,” a word coined by libertarian activist Ron Arnold in the 1983. As we wrote last month, the term picked up steam in the ’80s and ’90s, and was eventually named the “the No. 1 domestic terrorism threat” by the FBI in 2004. Yet a 2013 study that found “there is no documented evidence of harm coming to humans as a result of actions by radical environmentalists.”

Despite their relatively peaceful protests, it seems that environmental activists are still viewed by the government — and by oil companies — as a threat.

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Is the government planning a crackdown on Keystone XL protesters?

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The Department of Defense wants to protect itself from climate change threats it’s helping to spur

The Department of Defense may be one of the only parts of the Trump administration that openly admits that climate change is a threat. On Monday, President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes $717 billion in spending and advises the military to prep for climate-related flooding and sea-level rise. The nearly trillion-dollar package will be spent on “the finest planes, and ships, and tanks, and missiles anywhere on Earth,” Trump said from Fort Drum in upstate New York.

Problem is: This same federal agency, which is actively planning for global warming, is getting new toys that are capable of emitting tons of carbon.

CNBC outlined some of the big-ticket items in the DoD’s goodie bag. They include: $7.6 billion for 77 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, $85 million for 72 Black Hawk utility helicopters, and $1.56 billion for three coastal combat ships (the Navy had only requested one).

A single F-35 fighter has an internal fuel capacity of nearly 18,498 pounds. If each of the 77 fighter jets uses up just one tank, that would amount to more than 1.4 million pounds of fuel. A Black Hawk helicopter has a 360-gallon fuel tank, and the combat ships each can lug nearly 150,000 gallons.

Although it’s been difficult to get hard numbers on the DoD’s total carbon footprint, it’s largely accepted that the U.S. military is likely the single biggest energy consumer in the world. The department said that it sent out more than 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2014 — roughly the amount of C02 the entire country of Romania produced that year — but that number excludes hundreds of overseas bases, vehicles, and anything classified as a national security interest.

Basav Sen, climate justice project director at the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies, pointed to another climate threat: The White House, even before President Trump, has made securing access to oil and gas a national security imperative. And indeed, the U.S.’s latest security strategy outlines “energy dominance” as a key priority — which includes protecting global energy infrastructure from “cyber and physical threats.” He points to the Iraq War as a recent example of the U.S. intervening in an oil-producing region with the intent of securing the crude supply.

“When you’re pumping money into the military, you’re not just pumping money into an institution that burns a lot of fossil fuels and emits a lot of greenhouse gases,” Sen says, adding that funds also go to providing armed protection to the fossil fuel industry under the guise of national security. “That is really, really disturbing.”


The Department of Defense wants to protect itself from climate change threats it’s helping to spur

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