Due to new federal air pollution regulations, more than 32 power plants across the country will be forced to close their doors, according to a recent Associated Press survey. Those plants, which are mostly coal-fired, discharge enough electricity to supply more than 22 million households, the survey notes, and their closure will lead to job layoffs, depleted tax revenues, and a considerable hike in electric bills. The areas that will be hit hardest are the Midwest and in the coal belt (Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky), where dozens of plants will likely be retired.
The field of private space ventures is gaining a new competitor, Stratolaunch Systems, the brainchild of former Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. According to press reports, Allen is prepared to commit at least $200 million of his own fortune to the creation of a launch vehicle he believes will allow for inexpensive launches of satellites into low Earth orbit.
Members of the House Homeland Security Committee unveiled legislation Thursday that would authorize the cybersecurity functions of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and establish a quasi-governmental entity to coordinate cybersecurity information-sharing with the private sector. The bill, called the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act (PrECISE), would station a national clearinghouse for information relating to potential attacks on critical infrastructure, such as electric grid, water facilities, and financial service systems.
The narrative continues over smartphone privacy issues involving the data logging program Carrier IQ, which was recently found to be installed on about 150 million handsets worldwide, including many popular Android, iOS, Nokia, and Blackberry devices. Controversy over the invasive software stemmed from allegations that Carrier IQ has the ability to record an array of device information, including keystrokes, text messages, web browsing, and user location, all without the user’s knowledge or expressed consent.
Government climate dignitaries and the Associated Press hailed the “landmark” deal reached Sunday at the United Nations' global-warming summit in Durban, South Africa. According to environmentalist groups, however, the agreement represented a failure of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) to “save” the world from supposedly “dangerous” carbon dioxide emissions.
The current political debate over “jobs” ignores a vital component of jobs and the economy: Government make-work jobs are simply another form of welfare; jobs produced by the private sector that help the economy are productive jobs. In places like North Dakota, where the economy is now benefiting from an oil boom, the importance of genuinely productive labor has been understood from the beginning of frontier America. The winter wheat farmers of the Dakotas led an unglamorous like of rising before dawn, eating a big breakfast by a hard-working wife who herself had worked long, hard days, and then turning the land into crops. These families created wealth; they work produced goods and services that people wanted.
No members of Congress or President Obama’s cabinet bothered to show up at this year’s United Nations climate summit in Durban, South Africa. Attendance at the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17), meanwhile, was down about 70 percent from the 2009 global-warming conference. And the media said very little about the gathering.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks began releasing documents last week related to what it calls the “mass surveillance industry,” a little-known but expansive underworld of contractors offering tools for governments — from brutal dictatorships to more moderate Western states — to monitor citizens and hunt down dissidents. Furious activists reacted to the revelations by calling for stricter controls and measures to hold the firms accountable as “accomplices” to mass murder.
Much of the alarmism about alleged climate change is predicated on computer models purporting to demonstrate that global surface temperatures are rising at an alarming rate and are certain to cause all manner of disaster, from droughts and frigid winters to floods and scorching summers. But how reliable are these models and their forecasts?
Here’s a headline the world’s 400 million-plus users of smartphones don’t want to read:
“Your smartphone is probably spying on you.”