Longest Floating Structure in History Sets Out To Clean the Ocean-in-2016

Courtesy of True Activist:

An ambitious new project is hoping to help clean the world’s oceans with a trash collector that is reportedly the longest floating structure in recorded world history.

Back in 2013 we reported that a 19-year-old developed a plan to clean up the world’s oceans in just 5 years, removing 7,250,000 tons of plastic. However, last week, Boyan Slat (now 20), founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, announced that this awesome project will be deployed in 2016.

Slat’s invention consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world. Working with the flow of nature, his solution to the problematic shifting of trash is to have the array span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel as the ocean moves through it. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from smaller forms, such as plankton, and be filtered and stored for recycling. The issue of by-catches, killing life forms in the procedure of cleaning trash, can be virtually eliminated by using booms instead of nets and it will result in a larger areas covered. Because of trash’s density compared to larger sea animals, the use of booms will allow creatures to swim under the booms unaffected, reducing wildlife death substantially.

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Image Credit: theoceancleanup.com Continue reading

Did Germany Secretly Fund Israel’s Nuclear Weapons?

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Courtesy of Rebecca Miller @ The National Interest::

The conservative German daily Die Welt, well-known for its unflinching support for Israel, recently published an article stating “with near certainty” that the Federal Republic of Germany, or West Germany, helped finance Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s.

According to the Welt report, in 1961 West Germany agreed to loan $500 million to Israel over ten years. Although the official purpose of this funding was said to be the development of the Negev Desert— where Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor is located— it is widely suspected that the money was actually meant to finance Israel’s nuclear weapons program.

This agreement was reportedly hatched during a 1960 meeting between then-Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. Franz Josef Strauss, a former West German defense minister, previously claimed Ben Gurion and Adenauer discussed Israel’s nuclear weapons program during a meeting in Paris in 1961.

This top secret initiative was reportedly named “Aktion Geschäftsfreund,” which translates as “Operation Business Partner.” It bypassed both the Israeli cabinet and the German parliament, with the money being funneled through Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau, a West German-government owned development bank.

The Welt report comes after former Israeli President Shimon Peres (who was the head of Israel’s nuclear-weapons program at the time of its inception in the 1950s) denied that funding for Israel’s nukes came from Germany earlier this month.

The Welt article dismissed this denial, however, arguing that when it comes to German-Israeli cooperation on nuclear weapons, secret-keeping is part of the game. (Indeed, the practice—or art, rather—of secret-keeping with regards to sensitive matters of defense should be expected of any regime, nuclear or otherwise.) Continue reading

Quantum Scientists Break Aluminium ‘Monopoly’

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Credit: TUDelft/Tremani

Courtesy of Phys.org:

A Majorana fermion, or a Majorana particle, is a fermion that is its own antiparticle. Discovering the Majorana was the first step, but utilizing it as a quantum bit (qubit) still remains a major challenge. An important step towards this goal has just been taken by researchers from TU Delft in today’s issue of Nature Physics. It is a nearly thirty-year-old scientific problem that has just been resolved: demonstrating the difference between the even and odd occupation of a superconductor in high magnetic fields. Thus far, this was only possible in aluminium, which is incompatible with Majoranas. This result enables the read out and manipulation of quantum states encoded in prospective Majorana qubits.

Qubit

Qubits store information similarly to normal (digital) bits. While a bit represents either 0 or 1, a qubit utilizes the laws of quantum mechanics, making it possible to be in a superstate of 0 and 1 simultaneously. This enables solving several mathematical problems much faster than the most capable supercomputers ever built. Several research groups and companies around the globe are pursuing the development and prototyping of such a powerful quantum computer, including QuTech at the Delft University of Technology in The Netherlands.

Majoranas

A qubit encoded by Majorana’s is a promising building block for a practical quantum computer. Until now, it was a major challenge to read out such a Majorana qubit. In order to do so, one needs to determine whether the number of the electrons is even or odd, or, in other words, what the parity state is. The measurement of the parity of superconductors has been performed for the last thirty years, however, successful experiments were exclusively done on aluminium while all attempts addressing different superconducting materials, such as vanadium or niobium, have failed. This is a major issue for Majorana research as superconductivity is required to survive in high magnetic fields, at which aluminium ceases to be a superconductor. Continue reading

EU dropped pesticide laws due to US pressure over TTIP, documents reveal

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Chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia-Bercero (R) and chief US negotiator Dan Mullaney hold a press conference in Washington, DC after a new round of talks on creating a transatlantic free trade zone, 19 May. Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy of Arthur Neslen @ The Guardian:

EU moves to regulate hormone-damaging chemicals linked to cancer and male infertility were shelved following pressure from US trade officials over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) free trade deal, newly released documents show.

Draft EU criteria could have banned 31 pesticides containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). But these were dumped amid fears of a trade backlash stoked by an aggressive US lobby push, access to information documents obtained by Pesticides Action Network (PAN) Europe show.

On 26 June 2013, a high-level delegation from the American Chambers of Commerce (AmCham) visited EU trade officials to insist that the bloc drop its planned criteria for identifying EDCs in favour of a new impact study.

Minutes of the meeting show commission officials pleading that “although they want the TTIP to be successful, they would not like to be seen as lowering the EU standards”.

The TTIP is a trade deal being agreed by the EU and US to remove barriers to commerce and promote free trade.

Responding to the EU officials, AmCham representatives “complained about the uselessness of creating categories and thus, lists” of prohibited substances, the minutes show.

The US trade representatives insisted that a risk-based approach be taken to regulation, and “emphasised the need for an impact assessment” instead.

On 2 July 2013, officials from the US Mission to Europe visited the EU to reinforce the message. Later that day, the secretary-general of the commission, Catherine Day, sent a letter to the environment department’s director Karl Falkenberg, telling him to stand down the draft criteria.

“We suggest that as other DGs [directorate-generals] have done, you consider making a joint single impact assessment to cover all the proposals,” Day wrote. “We do not think it is necessary to prepare a commission recommendation on the criteria to identify endocrine disrupting substances.” Continue reading

UK Government Quietly Rewrites Hacking Laws to Give GCHQ Immunity

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GCHQ’s main building in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
GCHQ/Crown Copyright

If you can be held to account by a ‘law’, well just change the ‘law’ and hey presto it’s ‘legal’ though statutes are not lawful but the actions of psychopaths entrenching in for the long haul. Expect more ‘laws’ to give legitimacy to unlawful acts committed by the government against the citizenry but we are far from the nadir of where totalitarianism will take us.

Courtesy of Sebastian Anthony @ Ars technica UK:

The UK government has quietly passed new legislation that exempts GCHQ, police, and other intelligence officers from prosecution for hacking into computers and mobile phones.

While major or controversial legislative changes usually go through normal parliamentary process (i.e. democratic debate) before being passed into law, in this case an amendment to the Computer Misuse Act was snuck in under the radar as secondary legislation. According to Privacy International, “It appears no regulators, commissioners responsible for overseeing the intelligence agencies, the Information Commissioner’s Office, industry, NGOs or the public were notified or consulted about the proposed legislative changes… There was no public debate.”

Privacy International also suggests that the change to the law was in direct response to a complaint that it filed last year. In May 2014, Privacy International and seven communications providers filed a complaint with the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT), asserting that GCHQ’s hacking activities were unlawful under the Computer Misuse Act. Continue reading