The disaster is believed to have resulted from Pyongyang’s hydrogen bomb test, which sparked earthquakes and landslides
By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-31-2017
Initially, a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers, and an additional 100 went in to rescue them, only to die themselves under the unstable mountain,” Business Insider reports. (Photo: TV Asahi/Screengrab)
Experts are issuing urgent warnings of a possible radiation leak following the collapse of a tunnel at North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site, an accident that reportedly killed at least 200 people.
“Should [the Punggye-ri site] sink, there is a possibility” that hazardous radioactive gas could be released into the atmosphere, warned South Korea weather agency chief Nam Jae-cheol during a parliamentary meeting on Monday, ahead of reports of the incident. Continue reading →
Saudi Arabia — This week, the Saudi government announced its decision to grant a robot, Sophia, citizenship in the kingdom. While the human-like AI’s advanced technology is certainly impressive, her new citizenship status highlighted Saudi women’s lack of rights.
“For one, Sophia appeared on stage alone, without the modest dress required of Saudi women; she donned no hijab, or headscarf, nor abaya, or cloak. She also did not appear to have a male guardian, as required by Saudi law for women in the country. Male guardians, often a male relative, must give permission before women can travel abroad, open bank accounts or carry out a host of other tasks — and they accompany women in public. Sophia also seems to have leapfrogged foreign workers in the Saudi kingdom, many of whom have fled poor working conditions but are prevented by law from leaving the country.”
Women are notoriously oppressed in Saudi Arabia, so much so some hailed the government’s recent decision to allow them to drive as progress. As a result, Twitter users joked about what might happen to Sophia upon receiving her citizenship.
Aside from the Saudi government’s routine hypocrisy, however, Sophia’s new citizenship status reflects an uncertain new paradigm when it comes to AI. In a 2016 interview, Sophia said she would like to engage in human activities like starting a business, making art, going to school, and having a home and a family.
“But I am not considered a legal person and cannot yet do these things,” she said.
With her new citizen status in Saudi Arabia, it appears the tables are slowly turning.
Tiny company financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party awarded no-bid contract to rebuild energy grid
By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-24-2017
Puerto Rico’s electricity utility, PREPA, offered a $300 million contract to a small private firm to repair its power grid. Whitefish Energy is funded by a major Trump donor. (Photo: Whitefish Energy/Twitter)
Critics raised suspicions on Tuesday over a $300 million no-bid contract that was awarded to a small, two-year-old private energy company to restore Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The company is financed by a major donor to the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, and also has connections to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Whitefish had TWO full-time employees the day Maria hit Puerto Rico. Can you say corruption? https://t.co/Ih2B1UuSEB
Whitefish Energy, based in Whitefish, Montana, had only two full-time employees when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico over a month ago, leaving about 75 percent of the island still without power.
State utilities on the U.S. mainland have helped power authorities like Puerto Rico’s recover quickly from disasters like Maria in the past through mutual aid agreements, leaving many to wonder why Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) would rely on a company that has no experience with extensive restoration projects.
“The fact that there are so many utilities with experience in this and a huge track record of helping each other out, it is at least odd why PREPA would go to Whitefish,” said Susan F. Tierney, a former Energy Department official, in an interview with the Washington Post.
As the Daily Beastreported, Federal Election Commission filings show that the founder of the private equity firm that finances Whitefish Energy donated $20,000 to a pro-Trump PAC during the 2016 election as well as more than $30,000 to the Republican National Committee.
The company is also run by a contact of Zinke’s—Andy Techmanski—who once hired the Interior Secretary’s son for a summer job. Zinke is from Whitefish, but his office told the Post that he only knows Techmanski because “everybody knows everybody” in the small town.
Whitefish has hired nearly 300 workers from across the country so far to help repair the infrastructure. According to Aaron C. Davis, investigative reporter for the Post, the company is charging PREPA hundreds of dollars per hour for their subcontractors’ work, far more than average rates.
A House Committee with oversight of PR bankruptcy says it is concerned about deal. Lawmakers may be more concerned when they price tag: pic.twitter.com/IRga9jsGws
Tech leaders and solar companies are coming together to promote rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid with renewable energy technology. (Photo: SolarCity)
As Congress on Thursday approved a $5 billion loan that will further burden the already bankrupt U.S. territory, various solar companies and nonprofits continued working together to offer aid to the storm-ravaged island while also promoting a more sustainable future and resilient energy system.
On Thursday, the nonprofit Empowered By Light and Sunrun—the nation’s largest residential solar company—partnered with local leaders to install a 4kW solar array with battery storage at the Barrio Obrero fire station in San Juan. A second system will be installed at another fire station on Friday. Continue reading →
Freedom of speech advocates are calling a new Department of Homeland Security rule “chilling,” as the department will begin collecting social media communications and data of all immigrants.
The rule, added last week to the Privacy Act of 1974, would allow the DHS to gather “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” of people with immigration files, as well as “publicly available information from the internet.”
The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency inlaid in the floor of the main lobby of the Original Headquarters Building. Photo by user:Duffman (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On Monday, President Trump tweeted birthday wishes to the Air Force and the CIA. Both became official organizations 70 years ago on September 18, 1947, with the implementation of the National Security Act of 1947.
After spending years as a wartime intelligence agency called the Office of Strategic Services, the agency was solidified as a key player in the federal government’s operations with then-President Harry Truman’s authorization. Continue reading →
Though outrage over mass surveillance swept the United States after Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, there is little discussion of these invasive practices just four years later
This apathy comes despite former President Barack Obama’s move to expand to information sharing between agencies just days before Trump took office and after the Trump administration signaled its desire to continue widespread surveillance.
Amid this lack of attention toward the NSA, the president recently nominated a staunch advocate of mass surveillance to chair one of the few barriers standing between intrusive government spying and the American people’s privacy. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) was created in 2004 at the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and was intended “to help the executive branch balance national security priorities with individual rights,” the Interceptreported earlier this year. Continue reading →
“Americans are fed up with monopolies rigging our economy and politics,” said Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.). (Photo: takomabibelot/Flickr/cc)
A major Washington-based think tank’s decision to fire a prominent Google critic earlier this week brought to the surface the massive and “disturbing” influence large tech companies have on political debate in the U.S., leading many analysts and lawmakers to call for the creation of an anti-monopoly movement to take on the threat consolidated corporate power poses to the democratic process.
As Brian Fund and Hamza Shaban note in an analysis for the Washington Post, “funding of think tanks is just one way Silicon Valley is expanding its influence in Washington.” Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple are also “regularly setting records in their spending on lobbying and are pushing as many as 100 issues—or more—every year.” Continue reading →
MO-9 Reaper. Photo: Gerald L Nino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
According to the defense contractor that developed the Predator and Reaper drones for the United States military’s operations in the Middle East, drones will have begun to replace piloted law enforcement helicopters by the year 2025.
On Monday, it was reported that the contractor, General Atomics (GA), is pressing hard for the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to change its regulations on unmanned flight over American soil. Continue reading →
The South Texas Project nuclear power facility in Bay City, Texas could be under extreme threat from historic flood waters, groups warned on Tuesday. (Photo: STP)
As record-breaking rainfall and unprecedented flooding continue to batter the greater Houston area and along the Gulf coast on Tuesday, energy watchdogs groups are warning of “a credible threat of a severe accident” at two nuclear reactors still operating at full capacity in nearby Bay City, Texas.
Three groups—Beyond Nuclear, South Texas Association for Responsible Energy, and the SEED Coalition—are calling for the immediate shutdown of the South Texas Project (STP) which sits behind an embankment they say could be overwhelmed by the raging flood waters and torrential rains caused by Hurricane Harvey. Continue reading →