Category Archives: Alerts

Appointed FCC Broadband Adviser Arrested For Million Dollar Fraud Allegation

By: Nick Statt of The Verge

A broadband adviser selected by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to run a federal advisory committee was arrested last week on claims she tricked investors into pouring money into a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The adviser, Elizabeth Pierce, is the former chief executive of Quintillion, an Alaska-based fiber optic cable provider operating out of Anchorage. In her capacity as CEO, Pierce allegedly raised more than $250 million from two New York-based investment companies using forged contracts with other companies guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue. Pierce resigned from Quintillion in August of last year, and she stepped down from her role in Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) the following month.

“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” US attorney Geoffrey Berman said in prepared remarks, as reported by the WSJ. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counter-party signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.” Pierce was trying to raise money to help build out a fiber optic system that would wire Alaska with high-speed internet and better help connect it to networks in other US states. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Pierce was tapped by Pai in April of last year to be the chair of the BDAC, which he formed “to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access, or broadband, by reducing and removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.” According to broadband industry news and advocacy website Stop the Cap, Pierce may have gotten on Pai’s radar by complaining about how cumbersome it was to bring internet access to parts of the country like Alaska.

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Berkeley Discovers A Way To Recycle Wasted Heat

By: MIchael Irving of NewAtlas

Waste heat generated by electronics is a big problem. Not only can it damage components if it gets out of hand, but it represents a large amount of energy going to waste. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley have developed a thin film that could be built into computers, cars or factories to capture and recycle the energy from waste heat.

Many existing systems that tap into this energy source work on the thermoelectric principle, which generates electricity through the temperature difference between two sides of a material. That works well for devices like the JikoPower, which captures heat from pots and pans while cooking to charge phones, but it’s not much use for smaller temperature differences between the hot and cold sides of a material.

The UC Berkeley team wanted to create a device that could tap into what’s known as low-quality waste heat, which involves temperatures below 100° C (212° F). To do so, the new film works on the principle of pyroelectric energy conversion, which can work with lower temperatures and more gradual changes. That makes it ideal for use in electronics.

“We know we need new energy sources, but we also need to do better at utilizing the energy we already have,” says Lane Martin, senior author of the study. “These thin films can help us squeeze more energy than we do today out of every source of energy.”

The team built prototype devices that supplied heat and electric fields to pyroelectric films just 50 to 100 nanometers thick, and measured the temperature and amount of electricity they generated. The devices managed to achieve an energy density of 1.06 Joules per cm3, a power density of 526 W per cm3, and a Carnot efficiency of 19 percent. According to the team, all of these figures are new records for this kind of pyroelectric energy conversion.

The researchers say their work helps improve our understanding of pyroelectric physics, which in turn can improve how these devices are designed. In future, the films could be optimized for individual systems, depending on how much heat is being lost and at what temperature.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is create a protocol that allows us to push the extremes of pyroelectric materials so that you can give me a waste-heat stream and I can get you a material optimized to address your problems,” says Martin.

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7 Inmates Killed In Mass Casualty Accident

By: DWAYNE MCLEMORE, TEDDY KULMALA AND EMILY BOHATCH of The State

Seven inmates were killed during fights that lasted more than seven hours at a South Carolina prison Sunday night and into Monday morning, according to officials.

At least six emergency agencies responded to the “mass casualty incident” at Lee Correctional Institution in Lee County that resulted in the seven inmate deaths and 17 other inmates requiring medical attention, the S.C. Department of Corrections announced early Monday morning.

The fight, which spanned three dorms, was likely gang related, and spawned from a disagreement over territory, contraband and cellphones, SC Department of Corrections Director Brian Stirling said.

“These folks are fighting over real money and real territory while they’re incarcerated,” Stirling said.

Though most of the autopsies have yet to be performed, it appears that many of the prisoners died from stabbing or slashing wounds from “shanks,” Lee County Coroner Larry Logan said. The official cause of death will not be determined until after the autopsies.

Videos that reportedly were taken by inmates inside the prison and shared to social media show the grisly scene after the riot.

One video, which was shot from what looks like a catwalk on the upper level of a cellblock, shows towels or clothing items on the floor and a long trail of what appears to be smeared blood leading to a larger puddle of blood near a wall. Another video shows a bloody man lying on his side against a wall, not moving.

The seven victims were identified Monday morning. Logan said coroner’s offices from across the state reached out to him and offered to assist on the numerous autopsies.

An inmate told The Associated Press that bodies at the prison were “literally stacked on top of each other” and that hours after the violence started, no correctional officers or medical personnel attended to the dead or dying.

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New Documents Show Shell Predicted The Dangers Of Fossil Fuel Decades Ago

By: Josh Gabbatiss of The Independent

Oil giant Shell was aware of the consequences of climate change, and the role fossil fuels were playing in it, as far back as 1988, documents unearthed by a Dutch news organisation have revealed.

They include a calculation that the oil company’s products alone were responsible for 4 per cent of total global carbon emissions in 1984.

They also predict that changes to sea levels and weather would be “larger than any that have occurred over the past 12,000 years”.

As a result, the documents foresee impacts on living standards, food supplies and other major social, political and economic consequences.

In The Greenhouse Effect, a 1988 internal report by Shell scientists, the authors warned that “by the time the global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilise the situation”.

They also acknowledged that many experts predicted an increase in global temperature would be detectable by the end of the century.

They went on to state that a “forward-looking approach by the energy industry is clearly desirable”, adding: “With the very long time scales involved, it would be tempting for society to wait until then before doing anything.

“The potential implications for the world are, however, so large that policy options need to be considered much earlier. And the energy industry needs to consider how it should play its part.”

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Portugal Ran 100% Of It’s Energy On Renewable Energy March 2018

By: Michael Coren of Quartz

Portugal’s renewable electricity production exceeded monthly consumption for what is likely the first time, in March, according to the nation’s transmission system operator, REN.The average renewable generation for the month exceeded 103% of consumption, beating out the last record (99.2%), set in 2014.

It almost certainly won’t be the last time. The country is predicting that renewables will satisfy its mainland electricity needs by 2040, ultimately eliminating the electricity sector’s greenhouse gas emissions. Although most of last month’s electricity came from water and wind (link in Portuguese), the country relied on some fossil fuel and imported electricity. Water- and wind-generated power can be rather unpredictable, so even as total renewable generation exceeded Portugal’s electricity consumption for the month (as well as some exports), Portugal needed those sources to even out supply.

An international debate is gathering steam about whether 100% renewable energy is possible (or even advisable). Portugal’s feat, the result of decades of investment in low-carbon technology, shows it is possible, but plenty of caveats remain. The grid only ran on 100% renewables for relatively short periods: two 70 hour spans (Portugal managed a four-day streak in 2016). But imports and conventional generation from natural gas were still needed to balance the grid because solar and wind can vary significantly. The proposition that a full year’s worth of peaks and valleys can be managed with renewables alone has yet to be tested. During the same period last year, renewables supplied only 6% of Portugal’s electricity (thanks in part to a drought that reduced its hydro capacity).

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Facebook Announced 87% of Users Could Have Had Their Data Leaked By Cambridge Analytica

By: Troy Wolverton of Business Insider

Facebook made a bombshell admission about the security of its users’ personal information on Wednesday, in a startling revelation that’s almost certain to worsen the privacy crisis currently hanging over the world’s largest social network.

“Most” of Facebook’s 2 billion users may have had their personal data skimmed from the site by “malicious actors,” the company said in a blog post by Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer. Facebook said it has disabled the feature in its site’s search function that enabled the data scrapping, but the fact that so much user data may have been vulnerable was another setback to the company’s efforts to restore confidence with users.

Meanwhile, up to 87 million users may have been affected by the leak of personal information to Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica — a number that was much bigger than previous estimates.

Facebook has been reeling since a whistleblower disclosed that Cambridge Analytica had managed to get hold of user data and used it to target voters with emotional and divisive messages during the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Schroepfer disclosed the new information about privacy compromises on Wednesday in a post describing changes the company has made to its service, to better protect users’ personal data.

“We believe these changes will better protect people’s information while still enabling developers to create useful experiences,” he said in the post. “We know we have more work to do — and we’ll keep you updated as we make more changes”

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China Claims North Korea Agrees To Denuclearize

By: CNBC

China said on Wednesday it won a pledge from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to denuclearize the Korean peninsula during a meeting with President Xi Jinping, who pledged in return that China would uphold its friendship with its isolated neighbor.

After two days of speculation, China announced on Wednesday that Kim had visited Beijing and met Xi during what the official Xinhua news agency called an unofficial visit from Sunday to Wednesday.

The trip was Kim’s first known journey abroad since he assumed power in 2011 and is believed by analysts to serve as preparation for upcoming summits with South Korea and the United States.

Beijing has traditionally been the closest ally of secretive North Korea, but ties have been frayed by North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and China’s backing of tough U.N. sanctions in response.

Xinhua cited Kim as telling Xi that the situation on the Korean peninsula is starting to improve because North Korea has taken the initiative to ease tensions and put forward proposals for peace talks.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearisation on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” Kim Jong Un said, according to Xinhua.

North Korea is willing to talk with the United States and hold a summit between the two countries, he said.

“The issue of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved, if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill, create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” Kim said.

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Shooter Dead and Two Injured in Great Mills High School Shooting

By: Kathleen Joyce of Fox

A gunman who shot and wounded two students at Great Mills High School in Maryland was killed Tuesday after engaging an armed school resource officer, an official said.

The shooter was the only fatality. A female student was critically injured and a male student was also shot but is in stable condition at a hospital, authorities said.

“Our school resource officer was alerted to the event. he pursued the shooter, engaged the shooter, fired a round at the shooter,” St. Mary’s County Sheriff Tim Cameron said. “The shooter fired a round as well. In the hours and days to come, we’ll be able to determine if our school resource officer’s round struck the shooter.”

The resource officer, who wasn’t immediately identified, was not injured. Cameron said the gunman died after being transported to a local hospital.

Earlier, the school was placed on lockdown and students were being evacuated to Leonardtown High School to be reunified with their parents.

The Maryland State Police along with the FBI and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are on the scene assisting with the investigation. The scene at the school which has about 1,600 students and is near the Patuxent River Naval Air Station was said to be “contained.”

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Whistleblowers Expose Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Data Mining Practices

By: Paul Lewis of The Guardian

Hundreds of millions of Facebook users are likely to have had their private information harvested by companies that exploited the same terms as the firm that collected data and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica, according to a new whistleblower.

Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012, told the Guardian he warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach.

“My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data,” he said.

Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused.

Parakilas, whose job was to investigate data breaches by developers similar to the one later suspected of Global Science Research, which harvested tens of millions of Facebook profiles and provided the data to Cambridge Analytica, said the slew of recent disclosures had left him disappointed with his superiors for not heeding his warnings.

“It has been painful watching,” he said, “because I know that they could have prevented it.”

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U.S. Loses Bid To Stop Youth Climate Change Lawsuit

By: Jonathan Stempel of Reuters

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected the U.S. government’s bid to halt a lawsuit by young people claiming that President Donald Trump and his administration are violating their constitutional rights by ignoring the harms caused by climate change.

By a 3-0 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the administration had not met the “high bar” under federal law to dismiss the Oregon lawsuit, which was originally brought in 2015 against the administration of President Barack Obama.

The potentially far-reaching case is one of a handful seeking to have courts address global warming and its causes.

Twenty-one plaintiffs, now aged 10 to 21, accused federal officials and oil industry executives of knowing for decades that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels destabilise the climate, but refusing to do anything about it.

They said this has deprived them of their due process rights to life, liberty and property, including to live in a habitable climate.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene, Oregon in November 2016 refused to dismiss the lawsuit, saying a quick dismissal without addressing the merits could sanction the government’s alleged “knowing decision to poison the air.”

In seeking to overturn that ruling, the government said letting the case proceed could lead to burdensome litigation, and provoke a “constitutional crisis” by pitting courts against Trump and the many other Executive Branch officials named as defendants.

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