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Is Air Travel Really Bad For the Climate?
"The best way to get oneself somewhere with the least impact on the climate is a lot more complex than it may seem at first glance," writes Slashdot reader Dan Drollette (who is also the deputy editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists). Slashdot reader Lasrick also submitted their report. A few excerpts: - For a short distance taking a train may be better than flying, but there is some ambiguity for long-distance travel. But no matter what mode of travel we choose, the distance traveled strongly determines emissions. - Trends suggest that ground transportation is increasingly being electrified (with the potential for using renewable sources). However, there is likely no such technological breakthrough on the horizon for planes. Thus, flying less is an important long-term commitment because it helps to make sure there are more alternative transportation options, and shows where we want government and industry to prioritize efforts toward efficiency and transit... [I]f you choose to drive because it is more climate-friendly than flying short-haul, you are adding an extra car on the road while the plane would have flown anyway. However, in the long run, if many people choose to drive (hopefully in a full car), it is likely there will be fewer short-haul flights. Obviously, fewer passengers per vehicle will also increase the per-passenger carbon count, and right now short economy flights "generally have higher occupancy and lighter fuel loads," placing them just below a U.S. grid-powered electric car. And mode of transportation is still less important than distance traveled, though very short flights less than 1000 kilometres (621 miles) are more carbon intensive than longer flights "as they spend little time cruising, and are often not very direct." Energy sources also matter, since trains in Europe are largely electrified, while North America's trains burn fossil fuels. "In Europe, trains are by far the best choice in terms of climate benefits, even if that's not as true elsewhere." Thus the three worst choices right now are a large car (getting 15 miles per gallon), followed by a long (non-economy) business flight, and a "medium" car (getting 25 miles per gallon), while the three best choices are a solar-powered electric car (#3), a crowded U.S. school bus, and Eurostar rail. But it's important to remember that the majority of people don't fly, Dan Drollette reminds us, "And we should not be so focused on the carbon contributions of air travel (which only account for 2 percent of all carbon emissions) that we take our eyes off the causes of the other 98 percent of carbon emissions."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Researchers Determine the 120 Most Surveilled (CCTV) Cities In the World
dryriver writes: Comparitech.com has published a report and spreadsheet laying out how many CCTV cameras are in operation in 120 different cities around the world, and data for the crime rates in these cities. The report notes "We found little correlation between the number of public CCTV cameras and crime or safety." 8 of the 10 most surveilled cities are in China, even though London and Atlana also make the cut, and the report says that — depending on what numbers you believe — China will have between 200 Million and 626 Million CCTV cameras, or possibly even more, in operation by 2020. That would be almost 1 CCTV camera per 2 citizens in the country, and the number could go up. Outside of China, the top most-surveilled cities in the world are: London - 68.40 cameras per 1,000 peopleAtlanta - 15.56 cameras per 1,000 peopleSingapore - 15.25 cameras per 1,000 peopleAbu Dhabi - 13.77 cameras per 1,000 peopleChicago - 13.06 cameras per 1,000 peopleSydney - 12.35 cameras per 1,000 peopleBaghdad - 12.30 cameras per 1,000 peopleDubai - 12.14 cameras per 1,000 peopleMoscow - 11.70 cameras per 1,000 peopleBerlin - 11.18 cameras per 1,000 peopleNew Delhi - 9.62 cameras per 1,000 people With 4,000 cameras, Washington D.C. is #29 on the list. Other American cities include San Francisco (#39 with 2,753 cameras), San Diego (#43 with 3,600 cameras), Boston (#47 with 1,552 cameras), and New York City (#58 with 11,000 cameras). And the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that at least for their city the total "is likely an undercount, considering that San Diego police officials said they recently installed surveillance sensors on about half of a planned 8,000 'smart' street lights." Also on the list are Chennai India (#33 with 50,000 cameras), Auckland (#36 with 5,577 cameras), and Toronto (#44 with 14,955 cameras).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


As Criticism Grows After Crashes, Boeing Committee May Recommend Organizational Changes
McGruber summarizes an article in the New York Times: A small committee of Boeing's board is expected to call for several meaningful changes to the way the company is structured. The commitee may recommend that Boeing change aspects of its organizational structure, call for the creation of new groups focused on safety and encourage the company to consider making changes to the cockpits of future airplanes to accommodate a new generation of pilots, some of whom may have less training. Currently, Boeing's top engineers report primarily to the business leaders for each airplane model, and secondarily to the company's chief engineer. "Under this model, engineers who identify problems that might slow a jet's development could face resistance from executives whose jobs revolve around meeting production deadlines," reports the New York Times. "The committee recommends flipping the reporting lines, so that top engineers report primarily to Boeing's chief engineer, and secondarily to business unit leaders. "Another key recommendation calls for establishing a new safety group that will work across the company..." "Though the committee did not investigate the two crashes of Boeing's 737 MAX jet, their findings represent the company's most direct effort yet to reform its internal processes after the accidents, which killed 346 people." Meanwhile, a scathing article in the New Republic outlines the need for change, criticizing "pilot errorists" who have attempted to shift focus and blame from Boeing's own missteps in creating "a self-hijacking plane": In the now infamous debacle of the Boeing 737 MAX, the company produced a plane outfitted with a half-assed bit of software programmed to override all pilot input and nosedive when a little vane on the side of the fuselage told it the nose was pitching up. The vane was also not terribly reliable, possibly due to assembly line lapses reported by a whistle-blower, and when the plane processed the bad data it received, it promptly dove into the sea. It is understood, now more than ever, that capitalism does half-assed things like that, especially in concert with computer software and oblivious regulators... [T]here was something unsettlingly familiar when the world first learned of MCAS in November, about two weeks after the system's unthinkable stupidity drove the two-month-old plane and all 189 people on it to a horrific death. It smacked of the sort of screwup a 23-year-old intern might have made -- and indeed, much of the software on the MAX had been engineered by recent grads of Indian software-coding academies making as little as $9 an hour, part of Boeing management's endless war on the unions that once represented more than half its employees. Down in South Carolina, a nonunion Boeing assembly line that opened in 2011 had for years churned out scores of whistle-blower complaints and wrongful termination lawsuits packed with scenes wherein quality-control documents were regularly forged, employees who enforced standards were sabotaged, and planes were routinely delivered to airlines with loose screws, scratched windows, and random debris everywhere. The MCAS crash was just the latest installment in a broader pattern...

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


The Ozone Layer Is On Track To Completely Repair Itself by the 2060s
pgmrdlm quotes a report from SBS: The world's ozone layer is on track to be completely healed by the 2060s, according to modelling by the UN's environmental agency (UNEP). In the past 19-years, parts of the ozone layer have recovered at a rate of one to three per cent every ten years, UNEP has found. If this continues, the Northern Hemisphere's ozone layer is set to heal completely by the 2030s, the Southern Hemisphere by the 2050s, and the polar regions in the following decade. As we rightly focus our energies on tackling climate change, we must be careful not to neglect the ozone layer and stay alert to the threat posed by the illegal use of ozone-depleting gases," UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement on Monday. "The recent detection of emissions of one such gas, CFC-11, reminds us that we need continued monitoring and reporting systems, and improved regulations and enforcement."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Did a Prehistoric Asteroid Breakup Shower Earth With Enough Dust To Change the Climate?
Applehu Akbar writes: CNN reports this week on a paper describing a hypothesis that the breakup of a large asteroid 466 million years ago generated enough dust in Earth's orbit to substantially change the terrestrial climate for an extended period. This would have triggered an 'Ordovician icehouse' climate event, with major effects on biology. "The 93-mile-wide asteroid was in the asteroid belt located between Mars and Jupiter when it collided with something else and broke apart, creating a wealth of dust that flooded the inner solar system..." CNN reports. "To understand how this process unfolded, the researchers found evidence of space dust locked in 466-million-year-old rocks that were once on the sea floor." The paper argues that to this day, that collision "still delivers almost a third of all meteorites falling on Earth."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Debian May Need To Re-Evaluate Its Interest In 'Init System Diversity'
"Debian Project Leader Sam Hartman has shared his August 2019 notes where he outlines the frustrations and issues that have come up as a result of init system diversity with some developers still aiming to viably support systemd alternatives within Debian," reports Phoronix: Stemming from elogind being blocked from transitioning to testing and the lack of clarity into that, Hartman was pulled in to try to help mediate the matter and get to the bottom of the situation with a lack of cooperation between the elogind and systemd maintainers for Debian as well as the release team. Elogind is used by some distributions as an implementation of systemd's logind, well, outside of systemd as a standalone daemon. Elogind is one of the pieces to the puzzle for trying to maintain a modern, systemd-free Linux distribution. Various issues were raised that are trying to be worked through albeit many Debian developers face time limitations and other factors like emotional exhaustion. Hartman noted in his August notes, "I think we may be approaching a point where we need to poll the project -- to have a GR and ask ourselves how committed we are to the different parts of this init diversity discussion. Reaffirming our support for sysvinit and elogind would be one of the options in any such GR. If that option passed, we'd expect all the maintainers involved to work together or to appoint and empower people who could work on this issue. It would be fine for maintainers not to be involved so long as they did not block progress. And of course we would hold the discussions to the highest standards of respect."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


'Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates' Premieres on Netflix
hcs_$reboot shared this report about Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates, a new three-part documentary that debuted Friday on Netflix from Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim: The Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist is asked what his worst fear is. It's not family tragedy or personal pain. "I don't want my brain to stop working," he responds... A portrait emerges of a visionary who gnaws on his eyeglasses' arms, downs Cokes and is relentlessly optimistic that technology can solve social ills. He is also someone who reads manically -- he'll scrutinize the Minnesota state budget for fun -- and who is a wicked opponent at cards... While the series is largely sympathetic toward its subject, Guggenheim nevertheless presses Gates on everything from the federal antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s to his relationship with his mother. In a phone interview, Gates acknowledged that he balanced the camera's intrusion with the chance to tell the world -- and recruit help -- about his efforts to help the planet and the poor... Each episode in the series introduces three huge global issues the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has tackled recently -- safe sanitation technology, polio eradication and nuclear power -- and then switches back in time to see how Gates solved other complex issues in his life as a younger man. "The series doesn't do a traditional cradle-to-grave portrait of him. He wasn't interested in that. I wasn't interested in that," said the filmmaker. Instead, he wanted to find out the source of his relentless optimism and his push to do all these great things.... Gates himself said he appreciated Guggenheim serving as a reality check for many of the seemingly intractable public health issues that his foundation has tackled. "I'm not that objective. It was interesting, through Davis' eyes, to have him say, 'Are you sure?' Well, I'm not sure," said Gates. "So I thought that was good. It made me step back." At one point, Gates admits to eating Tang straight out of the jar.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Ask Slashdot: How Will 2019 Look To People 20 Years From Now?
Here's an interesting thought exercise from Slashdot reader dryriver : What is likely to be so different about living in 2039 that it makes our current present in 2019 feel badly dated in many ways? And can we learn lessons about what we are not doing particularly well today in 2019 -- in the technology field for example -- by imagining ourselves looking back at a long bygone 2019 from 20 years in the future...? Will everything from our current clothing, 4K 2D TVs and film VFX to our computer games, Internet, cars, medical care options and tech gadgets look "terribly dated" to them? Will people in 2039 look at us from their present and think "why couldn't they do X, Y, Z better in 2019?", just as we tend to look 20 years back and wonder "why couldn't they do X, Y, Z better in 1999?" The original submission argues that "If we could understand today how we look 'from 20 years in the future', including the mistakes we are making compared to how things are (possibly) done in 2039, we might get a better understanding of how we should be doing things today." So leave your own thoughts in the comments. How will 2019 look to people 20 years from now?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


GNU's Former Kernel Maintainer Shares 'A Reflection on the Departure of Richard Stallman'
Thomas Bushnell, BSG, founded GNU's official kernel project, GNU Hurd, and maintained it from 1990 through 2003. This week on Medium he posted "a reflection on the departure of RMS." There has been some bad reporting, and that's a problem. While I have not waded through the entire email thread Selam G. has posted, my reaction was that RMS did not defend Epstein, and did not say that the victim in this case was acting voluntarily. But it's not the most important problem. It's not remotely close to being the most important problem. This was an own-goal for RMS. He has had plenty of opportunities to learn how to stfu when that's necessary. He's responsible for relying too much on people's careful reading of his note, but even that's not the problem. He thought that Marvin Minsky was being unfairly accused. Minsky was his friend for many many years, and I think he carries a lot of affection and loyalty for his memory. But Minsky is also dead, and there's plenty of time to discuss at leisure whatever questions there may be about his culpability. RMS treated the problem as being "let's make sure we don't criticize Minsky unfairly", when the problem was actually, "how can we come to terms with a history of MIT's institutional neglect of its responsibilities toward women and its apparent complicity with Epstein's crimes". While it is true we should not treat Minsky unfairly, it was not -- and is not -- a pressing concern, and by making it his concern, RMS signaled clearly that it was much more important to him than the question of the institution's patterns of problematic coddling of bad behavior. And, I think, some of those focusing themselves on careful parsing of RMS's words are falling into the same pitfall as he.... Minsky was RMS's protector for a long long time. He created the AI Lab, where I think RMS found the only happy home he ever knew. He kept the rest of the Institute at bay and insulated RMS from attack (as did other faculty that also had befriended RMS). I was around for most of the 90s, and I can confirm the unfortunate reality that RMS's behavior was a concern at the time, and that this protection was itself part of the problem... Bushnell also calls Stallman "a tragic figure. He is one of the most brilliant people I've met, who I have always thought desperately craved friendship and camaraderie, and seems to have less and less of it all the time. This is all his doing; nobody does it to him. But it's still very sad. As far as I can tell, he believes his entire life's work is a failure..." But Bushnell concludes that "It is time for the free software community to leave adolescence and move to adulthood, and this requires leaving childish tantrums, abusive language, and toxic environments behind."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Home Depot and Lowe's Accused of Scanning Millions of Customers Faces
JustAnotherOldGuy tipped us off to this story. The Daily Mail reports: Home Depot and Lowe's are secretly using facial recognition technology to track customer movement in their stores, violating privacy laws in Illinois, plaintiffs in two class action lawsuits say. The plaintiffs, who are Illinois residents, allege the two big box retailers are using the technology without properly notifying customers or seeking their consent, as required by state law... The collection of the biometric data requires written notification, a statement of purpose for the collection of that data and duration for which it will be kept, and written consent from the individuals from which the data is being collected, the lawsuits both state. Neither store, according to both lawsuits, met the benchmarks set in the Illinois law, also know as BIPA and which was enacted in 2008. "Plaintiffs and the class members did not consent to the disclosure or dissemination of their biometric identifiers," say both of the class actions. No evidence is provided for the allegations, although the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed last year that Lowe's was using facial recognition, citing mentions in its 2018 privacy policy. However, IPVM, a camera surveillance industry news site, noted that the privacy policy this year no longer has references to the technology... Walmart also was testing the technology, according to the ACLU, and Madison Square Garden was considering using it. The civil rights organization points out on its website that "stores have a strong financial incentive to collect as much information about their customers as they can get. And we do know that when it comes to this kind of cutting-edge technology, which is taking the human race to places it's never been before, the public has a right to know what stores are doing with it, if anything, so they can vote with their feet if they don't like it."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Was Cuba's Mysterious Sonic Weapon Just Mosquito Gas?
Remember concerns about possible "sonic attacks" in Cuba? Long-time Slashdot reader kbahey shares an update: In the wake of the health problems experienced over the past three years by US and Canadian staff in Havana, Cuba embassies, Global Affairs Canada commissioned a clinical study by a team of multidisciplinary researchers. Now, the working hypothesis is that the cause could instead be neurotoxic agents used in pesticide fumigation. The BBC has more coverage on this, saying it may have been merely mosquito gas. "The researchers found that since 2016, Cuba launched an aggressive campaign against mosquitoes to stop the spread of the Zika virus," reports the CBC: The embassies actively sprayed in offices, as well as inside and outside diplomatic residences -- sometimes five times more frequently than usual. Many times, spraying operations were carried out every two weeks, according to embassy records... The researchers are now looking to collaborate with Cuban officials to determine whether any Cubans suffered similar brain injuries...

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Ubisoft To Send Cease & Desist Requests To DDoS Services Attacking 'Rainbox Six Siege' Players
An anonymous reader writes: Ubisoft plans to send cease & desist legal letters to operators of DDoS-for-hire services, also known as DDoS booters or DDoS stressors. The company said it plans on making this step as part of a global action plan to curb DDoS attacks aimed at Rainbox Six Siege multiplayer servers. The French video game company has been under a wave of DDoS attacks ever since last week when it launched the Operation Ember Rise update for the Rainbow Six Siege game. Along with the update, Ubisoft also performed a reset of multiplayer rankings. Following the reset, multiple players are suspected to have started launching DDoS attacks at the company's servers. The cheating players have been using the DDoS attacks to trigger server lag and slow down matches. The goal was to annoy opponents, who in many cases would end up disconnecting and receiving a penalty for leaving the match, allowing the player who launched the DDoS attack to gain rank points undeserved. The DDoS attacks have been widespread as several players got wind of the trick and started renting DDoS firepower from online DDoS for-hire sites.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


Ex-Google Engineer Says That Robot Weapons May Cause Accidental Mass Killings
"A former Google engineer who worked on the company's infamous military drone project has sounded a warning against the building of killer robots," reports Business Insider. Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger quotes their report: Laura Nolan had been working at Google four years when she was recruited to its collaboration with the US Department of Defense, known as Project Maven, in 2017, according to the Guardian. Project Maven was focused on using AI to enhance military drones, building AI systems which would be able to single out enemy targets and distinguish between people and objects. Google canned Project Maven after employee outrage, with thousands of employees signing a petition against the project and about a dozen quitting in protest. Google allowed the contract to lapse in March this year. Nolan herself resigned after she became "increasingly ethically concerned" about the project, she said... Nolan fears that the next step beyond AI-enabled weapons like drones could be fully autonomous AI weapons. "What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed," she said.... Although no country has yet come forward to say it's working on fully autonomous robot weapons, many are building more and more sophisticated AI to integrate into their militaries. The US navy has a self-piloting warship, capable of spending months at sea with no crew, and Israel boasts of having drones capable of identifying and attacking targets autonomously -- although at the moment they require a human middle-man to give the go-ahead. Nolan is urging countries to declare an outright ban on autonomous killing robots, similar to conventions around the use of chemical weapons.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


In Hong Kong, Protesters and Police Are Now Doxxing Each Other
As protests continue to rock Hong Kong, social media sites are now being used to share names, photos, phone numbers, ages and occupationa of individuals "on both sides of the protest line," reports the Guardian: Supporters of the Hong Kong government have sought to identify masked protesters at demonstrations, while protesters themselves also appear to have taken part, sharing private information about police officers and their families across Telegram... Hong Kong's privacy commission said it had received 1,376 complaints and 126 enquiries between 14 June and 18 September regarding personal information being leaked online, according to Stephen Kai-yi Wong, privacy commissioner for personal data. While journalists have become a high-profile target, about 40% of cases involve police officers while the rest concern government officials, community leaders, the families of police officers, and other citizens, Wong said.... Craig Choy, a spokesperson for Hong Kong's Progressive Lawyers Group and a specialist in data protection law, said the high volume of cases was unprecedented in Hong Kong... The privacy commission has referred nearly 1,000 cases for criminal investigation and consideration for prosecution. Eight people were arrested in July for doxxing police officers, according to Hong Kong Free Press. Choy said doxxing of police began after officers stopped wearing badge numbers on their uniforms when they attended protests -- leading protesters to attempt to identify officers independently as police tactics and arrests began to escalate.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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