Categories
Covid 19

Milan doubles down on electric buses and orders 100 more

A public transport operator in Milan, Italy is lowing its fleet emissions by doubling down on electric buses.

According to Electric Cars Report, bus operator ATM has ordered 100 electric buses from Solaris. The city already has a bunch of electric buses in operation after taking delivery over the past two years.

Solaris is expected to fulfil the order in the first half of 2021. At this point there will be 275 zero-emission Solaris vehicles carrying passengers around the streets of the Italian city.

[Read: UK expected to bring diesel ban forward by another 5 years!]

In 2018, Milan debuted electric buses — also made by Solaris. The latest order of 100 buses, appears to be Milan’s single biggest electric bus order.

Milan isn’t the only European city that’s making the shift to electric buses.

Further north, Sweden has been betting big on electric buses made by Volvo — obviously. All being well, by the middle of next year Sweden is expected to have hundreds of electric buses in operation.


Published November 16, 2020 — 12:05 UTC

Categories
Covid 19

Trump’s tantrum tweets were a distraction tactic, new study says

In both the lead up to and the immediate aftermath of the US presidential election, President Donald Trump made claims of voter fraud and a rigged election, using all channels available to him, including Twitter. Despite the apparent lack of evidence for these accusations, they have arguably influenced the beliefs of millions of Americans.

Twitter has been a primary means by which the president has sought to set the agenda. Since he first took office, many people have speculated that some of Trump’s tweets were deployed to distract from negative media coverage. For example, when the press reported on the US$25m Trump University settlement, he tweeted about the Hamilton play controversy. When COVID-19 failed to “just go away” but instead took a stranglehold on the US, he tweeted about the “OBAMAGATE!” conspiracy theory.

At least some of these distractions seem to have worked. For example, our previous research showed how there was far greater public and media interest in the Hamilton controversy than the Trump University settlement. But the evidence had been anecdotal – until now.

Our new research presents the first empirical evidence that Trump’s tweets systematically divert attention away from topics that are potentially harmful to him. Perhaps even more importantly, we found that this diversion works and suppresses subsequent coverage of potentially harmful news stories.

We asked two questions: is potentially harmful media coverage followed by increased diversionary Twitter activity by Trump? And does such diversion reduce subsequent media coverage of that topic?

To test the hypotheses, we focused on the content of the New York Times (NYT) and ABC World News Tonight (ABC) headlines and all of the approximately 5,000 Trump tweets during his first two years in office. We chose the Mueller investigation into potential collusion with Russia as a harmful topic. We then selected a set of keywords – “jobs,” “China,” and “immigration” – that we assumed would be Trump’s go-to topics at the time, based on a systematic content analysis of his campaign materials and major talking points.

The team hypothesized that the more the NYT and ABC reported on the Mueller investigation, the more Trump’s tweets would mention jobs, China, and immigration, which – if the diversion were successful – would then be followed by less coverage of the Mueller investigation by NYT and ABC the following day. The logic is illustrated in the graphic below.

The word cloud on the left contains the 50 most frequent words from all articles in the NYT. The 50 most frequent words occurring in Trump’s tweets are on the right. Author provided

Our analyses provided strong evidence that Trump’s tweets were distracting the media. For example, we found that each ABC headline relating to the Mueller investigation was associated with 0.2 additional mentions of one of the keywords in Trump’s tweets. In turn, each additional mention of one of the keywords in a Trump tweet was associated with 0.4 fewer occurrences of the Mueller investigation than expected in the following day’s NYT.

To explore the robustness of these results, we also conducted an expanded analysis that considered the president’s entire Twitter vocabulary as a potential source of diversion. This analysis corroborated our findings: “jobs” and “China” were still Trump’s top picks, but “tax,” “crime,” and “North Korea” also featured prominently as diversionary topics.

We also conducted a battery of checks to rule out alternative explanations and strengthen our claims of causal relationships between: a) the Mueller/Russia coverage and Trump’s diversionary tweets, and b) his tweets and the subsequent decrease in Mueller/Russia coverage.

To illustrate, when we considered “placebo topics,” such as Brexit, no diversion was observed. These placebo topics presented no political threat to Trump and were selected to span a variety of unrelated domains, including football and gardening. In other words, only media reports on Mueller/Russia – but not reports on placebo topics – resulted in an increase in diversionary Trump tweets.

It may well be the case that the media is not aware of the influence that Trump’s tweeting has on them. The NYT, for example, has explicitly warned about the impact of Trump’s presidency on journalistic standards. But the fact that suppression occurs (when important stories are not followed up after Trump’s diversionary tweets) nonetheless implies that important editorial decisions may be influenced by factors relating to Trump’s tweets. This may well happen without the editors’ intention – or indeed against their stated policies.

Strategic diversion is not a new political tool. It was the topic of the 1997 film “Wag the Dog,” which saw commentators draw parallels to then-President Bill Clinton’s handling of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The former adviser to Boris Johnson, Lynton Crosby, famously used a dead cat analogy to describe the strategy. However, social media has allowed political leaders more direct and immediate access to their constituents and the media. Our analysis shows that they can use this pathway effectively to divert.

Even though Trump failed to be re-elected, he continues to use Twitter prolifically (despite some of his tweets being taken down for being misleading). As the reach of social media platforms continues to grow, other present and future leaders may engage in similar types of behavior in an attempt to steer the media narrative.

Perhaps our paper can serve as a reminder to the media that its role in a democracy is to highlight the topics most important to their audiences and to serve the public interest. This sometimes means ignoring the red herrings laid out on Twitter. Thankfully, some journalists, scholars, and commentators have already worked this out.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Ullrich Ecker, Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Australian Research Council Future Fellow, University of Western Australia; Michael Jetter, Senior Lecturer in Economics, University of Western Australia, and Stephan Lewandowsky, Chair of Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Read next: Goodbye Space Force? What Joe Biden’s presidency means for space exploration

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Covid 19

Goodbye Space Force? What Joe Biden’s presidency means for space exploration

Donald Trump set bold goals for space exploration during his time in office – from crewed missions to the Moon and Mars to a Space Force. By contrast, his successor Joe Biden has been relatively quiet on space policy. So how is space exploration likely to change going forward?

It is clear is that there will be change. NASA’s current chief, Jim Bridenstine, has already announced he is stepping down. And we know that US human spaceflight policy rarely survives a change in the presidency.

That said, the amazing success of the crewed SpaceX launch to the International Space Station (ISS), however, means the commercial crew program is likely to keep running – taking the burden off NASA. Indeed, the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon by commercial company SpaceX is due for launch on November 14, with four astronauts bound for the ISS.

During the Trump administration, NASA also committed to the return of astronauts to the Moon in 2024 under the Artemis program. This is due for its first test launch (uncrewed) next year with Artemis-1. This builds on the Constellation program which was implemented by Republican president George W Bush in 2005 but was subsequently canceled by Democratic president Barack Obama due to its high cost and difficulty.

Artist's concept of Artemis-1.
Artist’s concept of Artemis-1. NASA

The only substantial clue as to the direction of a Biden presidency with regard to astronaut flights to the Moon can be found in a document by the Democratic Party entitled “Building a Stronger, Fairer Economy.” In one paragraph, the Democrats state that they “support NASA’s work to return Americans to the Moon and go beyond to Mars, taking the next step in exploring our solar system.”

No detail is offered on possible timelines. But, with international cooperation now a major feature of the Artemis program, it would be difficult for a fledgling Biden administration to unilaterally withdraw from the project. For example, Canada, the European Space Agency , and Japan are all formal partners in the construction of the Lunar Gateway – a lunar orbiting outpost designed to support multiple expeditions to the surface.

The program is also rapidly advancing research, particularly in terms of building materials, power supplies, and food production. Just this week, the European Space Agency awarded a contract to the British company Metalysis to develop techniques to simultaneously extract oxygen and metals from lunar soil.

The Trump administration also pushed for a first crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s – a much more difficult task due to the distances involved. The long journey would put astronauts at risk of high radiation exposure and psychological difficulties. Other huge challenges include weight restrictions and communication times.

An independent report by the Science and Technology Policy Institute in 2019 stated that a crewed Mars mission in the 2030s is currently unfeasible. It is unlikely Biden will try to resurrect this any time soon.

One of the more questionable implementations by the Trump administration was the formation of Space Force – a branch of the armed forces in space. The move highlights that the US views space as a potential war zone rather than a domain of purely scientific venture. But US citizens aren’t too impressed with the Space Force, mocking the logo and the uniforms. Indeed, the program has a public approval rating of only 31%.

So will it be scrapped? The disbanding of a branch of the armed forces has not been performed in the US before and there are doubtlessly many difficulties of reintegrating this back into the US Air Force. It is therefore likely to stay, possibly with reduced focus.

A fresh start for NASA?

Can we expect anything new? Biden has already pledged to sign executive orders that will undo most of the Trump administration’s work – in the same way that Trump undid most of Obama’s work.

The biggest indication of change is Bridenstine stepping down. When he was appointed in 2018, it was something of a surprise to the scientific community – he had no scientific qualifications and had previously indicated that he had doubts about climate change (which he changed his mind about when accepting the role). Yet he has proved to be an able leader of NASA.

On stepping down, he said he wanted to let somebody with a “close relationship with the president” take over. Who this might be is still a question, and will depend largely on the new president himself. Most heads of NASA have at least a degree in engineering or physics and, in the past, have headed a space center. This makes Jody Singer (the director of Marshall Space Flight Center), Mark Geyer (the director of Johnson Space Center), or Dennis Andrucyk (the director of Goddard Space Flight Center) potential candidates, as well as the current deputy administrator James Morhard. The field is thought to be largely open, though.

Image of Joe Biden.
Biden wants to tackle climate change. Gage Skidmore/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Biden has made it clear that tackling the climate emergency is a priority. While this is likely to be focused on industrial pollution limits and renewable energy sources, it does suggest that space policy could be more focused on Earth observation missions, such as the GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) program.

Potentially we could be looking at more satellites of this type; monitoring oil spills, deforestation, and carbon emissions. All of these possibilities are of course overshadowed by the financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And, given that a sustained source of money to support long-term projects such as the Artemis program is vital to their success, it is probably a case of believing it when we see it.

Whatever the changes will be, it seems likely that there may be less funding for space missions. But, despite that, many scientists will be breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of not having to fight the kind of anti-science tweets that we have seen from Trump during his time in office on topics ranging from Covid-19 and vaccinations to climate change.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation by Ian Whittaker, Senior Lecturer in Physics, Nottingham Trent University and Gareth Dorrian, Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Space Science, University of Birmingham under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Read next: Apple defends the role of Gatekeeper after users can’t open Mac apps

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Covid 19

Apple defends the role of Gatekeeper after users can’t open Mac apps

Last week, Apple released the much-awaited macOS Big Sur update for everyone. While everyone rushed to get a new update, folks who didn’t update at that moment faced a peculiar problem: they couldn’t open their apps.

It’s a frustrating situation when you rely on your computer for work, but can’t do anything because a server is messed up. That’s right, as developer Jeff Johnson noted, the issue was caused by Apple’s Online Certificate Service Protocol (OCSP) server crashed — largely due to many users downloading the new update simultaneously.

The OCSP server is responsible for authenticating digital certificates of all apps — both Apple and third-party. Apple calls this feature Gatekeeper, and the company claims it helps to prevent apps without valid certificates from opening to maintain user security.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve downloaded your app from the App Store or not. So when users were trying to just open their apps, they had to wait for the OCSP server to authenticate the app for them, but they weren’t getting any response. The easiest solution was to turn off the internet to launch apps. Apple evidently fixed the problem in a few hours.

After the incident, security researcher Jeffery Paul wrote a blog alleging that macOS sends app hashes to Apple every time you run them. He also accused the company of knowing your rough location. Later, developer Jacopo Jannone explained that the company doesn’t really send hashes to servers every time you launch apps.

In response, Apple has updated its support page called “Safely open your apps” by defending its Gatekeeper mechanism and said the company never collects users data for it:

Gatekeeper performs online checks to verify if an app contains known malware and whether the developer’s signing certificate is revoked. We have never combined data from these checks with information about Apple users or their devices. We do not use data from these checks to learn what individual users are launching or running on their devices.

Notarization checks if the app contains known malware using an encrypted connection that is resilient to server failures.

The Cupertino tech giant noted that next year it’ll launch a project to reduce server dependencies and even give its users an option to opt-out of these security measures. We’ll have to wait for the implementation to see how they act in real-life usage. Hopefully, we won’t have to face the frustration of waiting for a server to authenticate an app that you downloaded and used plenty of times.

For more gear, gadget, and hardware news and reviews, follow Plugged on Twitter and Flipboard.

Published November 16, 2020 — 11:42 UTC

Categories
Covid 19

Scoop up these 10 smartphone accessories at early Black Friday prices

TLDR: These 10 smartphone accessories expand the power of your device — at savings up to 69 percent.

No one wants to admit it, but everyone knows it’s true. The smartphone is the center of our universe. 

It’s where all information comes. It’s where all communication is done. And especially in these shut-in days of COVID, it’s our portal to the larger world.

Considering its central place in our lives, it may be time to trick out your phone — or those of your nearest and dearest — with a handful of essential accessories. From speakers to headphones, from tripods to power batteries, the 10 items assembled here as part of TNW Deals’ Pre-Black Friday Sale are all designed to maximize your smartphone’s abilities — and their prices are designed to save you some money as well.

Plus, if you enter the coupon code “SAVE15NOV” during checkout, you can get an added 15 percent off your final total.

Apple Powerbeats3 Wireless Earphones – $66.30 (Reg. $129) with SAVE15NOV

Part of Apple’s partnership with Beats, the Powerbeats3 “get a lot of things right,” according to TechRadar. The improved ergonomic design serves up authentic, wide-ranging sound with dynamic highs and powerful lows powered by dual-driver acoustics. The flexible, secure-fit earhooks provide a personalized and comfortable fit, which matches up with the 12-hour battery. Plus with Fast Fuel, a 5-minute charge is all you need for up to an hour of playback.

Soundfreaq Sound Spot Compact Bluetooth Speaker – $55.25 (Reg. $79) with SAVE15NOV

Big sound can come from small packages. Designed to be tiny, but mighty, this Sound Spot speaker delivers rich sound and power you might not expect given its travel-friendly size. With 7 hours of battery life per charge, this speaker also comes with tone control settings so users can adjust the audio to suit their musical taste.

TREBLAB Z2 Bluetooth Noise-Cancelling Headphones – $67.15 (Reg. $259) with SAVE15NOV

The Z2s feature twice the sound, twice the battery life, and twice the convenience of other headphones, while the Sound2.0 technology with aptX and T-Quiet active noise-cancellation creates brilliant audio while drowning out unwanted background noise. An Amazon’s Choice product honoree, they’re designed to cradle your ear and sit securely for a comfortable all-day fit.

All-in-One AI 360° Smart Face Tracking Tripod – $24.65 (Reg. $49) with SAVE15NOV

This tripod doesn’t just have the ability to rotate a full 360 degrees. With its built-in AI features, this camera will actually lock on to your face and track you while it shoots. Once it’s fired up, you’ll get great photos and video, all without ever touching your phone.

U-STREAM Home Streaming Studio with Light and Tripod – $42.50 (Reg. $99) with SAVE15NOV

Sometimes, a great camera isn’t enough, so the U-STREAM gives you all the accessories to bring your own personal production studio everywhere you go. The package features a 10-inch ring light with three distinct lighting options so you’ll always look your best. And it can all be positioned correctly with the adjustable tripod stand that extends up to a full 52 inches high.

Hohem iSteady X 3-Axis Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer – $58.65 (Reg. $79) with SAVE15NOV

You don’t realize the importance of a gimbal to shooting clean video until you’re using an ultra-light smartphone gimbal stabilizer like the iSteadyX. With its upgraded motor and all-new iSteady 3.0 algorithm, you’ll get brilliantly smooth camera motions that look like a Hollywood Steadi-Cam. Combined with the Hohem Pro App, the iSteady X can even follow some built-in cinematic templates to create truly epic videos.

CharbyEdge Pro 6-in-1 Universal Cable – $21.25 (Reg. $30) with SAVE15NOV

Whether you’ve got an iPhone or an Android, a tablet, a MacBook or even wireless earphones, this 6-in-1 charging cable is ready to juice your devices back to life. Packed with Lightning, USB-C, Micro USB and other convenient connectors, this cable hooks up to virtually anything. And in addition to 6.5 feet of durable connectivity, it also pushes up to 100 watts of power, the fastest possible speed for MacBooks, laptops, smartphones, and other USB electronics.

Naztech Wireless Power Hub 5 – $38.25 (Reg. $54) with SAVE15NOV

With four high-speed USB ports and a built-in wireless fast charger, this power hub can bring back up to five devices at the same time. And the wireless power feed can restore an iPhone or Apple Watch at twice the speed of other Qi-enabled chargers. Meanwhile, the clean, space-saving design fits nicely anywhere, while the individual docking stations keep all devices neatly arranged while charging without unsightly wires everywhere.

Porta 3-in-1 Power Bank – $42.50 (Reg. $119) with SAVE15NOV

This 3-in-1 charger lets you power up AirPods and an Apple Watch wirelessly, while a cable feeds power to your iOS or Android phone. At only 5 inches long and able to fit in the palm of your hand, you can carry it at all times, packed with 8,000mAh of available power. And it comes in three cool colors too.

Zendure SuperHub Charger and Hub with Dual PD – $59.50 (Reg. $99) with SAVE15NOV

Make no mistake — this credit-card-sized power adapter and hub is more than just a charger. While it will definitely charge up to three USB-A and USB-C devices, the SuperHub also features 5Gbps data transfer, so you can use it as your ordinary USB hub as well. You can even use the SuperHub to connect your compatible phone, tablet, or laptop to a high-resolution display and enjoy up to 4K video seamlessly.

Prices‌ ‌are‌ ‌subject‌ ‌to‌ ‌change.‌ ‌

Categories
Covid 19

I cry at work — and you should too

Now you might be one of those super cool and collected people that never cry at work, but I’m willing to admit my faults: I’m a huge crybaby. While this is a tough thing to admit, I’m convinced there are people out there who’ve done the same.

The last time I shed tears on the job was a few years ago. I was going through something very tough in my personal life and I broke down on a communal sofa in a packed WeWork in East London.

Nobody said anything to set me off, it just happened — and let me tell you, they weren’t pretty tears.

I looked like something out of a horror film and I’d definitely forgotten to wear waterproof mascara that day.

[Read: 4 ridiculously easy ways you can be more eco-friendly]

As I gathered myself and darted to the bathroom to try and regain my dignity I was struck by peoples‘ reaction — or lack thereof.

Some people stared but mostly everyone ignored me. Maybe they were afraid to pry, maybe they didn’t want to interfere, or who knows, maybe they thought it was better to just let me be.

Now, I’m aware that sobbing at work wasn’t one of my proudest moments — but I have often wondered why I felt so embarrassed when the truth is, I simply couldn’t, or didn’t want to, hold the tears in any longer. So, why do we cry at work, and why do we feel so weird about it?

The science behind crying

On the surface, the science behind crying is pretty simple. We cry when we feel happy or sad. Tears are triggered by a range of feelings.

In fact, this Time piece which quotes Ad Vingerhoets, a professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, explains it well:

“Crying is more than a symptom of sadness. It’s triggered by a range of feelings — from empathy and surprise to anger and grief — and unlike those butterflies that flap around invisibly when we’re in love, tears are a signal that others can see. That insight is central to the newest thinking about the science of crying.”

The reasons why we’re likely to cry depending on our age via Ad Vingerhoets, a professor at Tilburg University.

Scientists and thinkers have been fascinated by crying for centuries.

“The Old Testament describes tears as the by-product of when the heart’s material weakens and turns into water. Later, in Hippocrates’ time, it was thought that the mind was the trigger for tears. A prevailing theory in the 1600s held that emotions — especially love — heated the heart, which generated water vapor in order to cool itself down. The heart vapor would then rise to the head, condense near the eyes and escape as tears,” Vingerhoets told Time.

In 1662, Danish scientist Niels Stensen discovered that tears originated in the lacrimal gland. It was at this point that scientists started to look at what possible evolutionary benefit could be conferred by water pouring out of our eyes.

Since then, many more scientists have come forward with their own theories. In 1985, biochemist William Frey said that crying was a way of removing toxic substances from our blood during times of stress.

Other more plausible theories look at how tears can trigger bonding and connections between humans. Using crying to bond on a primal level makes sense to me, but it seems to have an adverse effect in our modern working environment.

Why it feels good

I’ve always felt ashamed of crying in public and I really don’t know why, probably because of how I expect the people around me will react.

However, it feels so nonsensical as I’ve got absolutely no issues with laughing hysterically or even crying with laughter around coworkers — so why do I feel ashamed about shedding a few tears when I feel the need to?

Some people will tell you that crying at work is unprofessional — heck, it’s even more frowned upon if you’re a woman — but let me tell you something: we’re all human and although some of us do it more often than others, we all cry — or are at least capable of doing so.

I didn’t choose to cry that day, it simply happened, and I felt better for it afterward — but I did feel like I had to apologize about somehow making other people feel uncomfortable.

Science tells us crying can makes us feel better. Crying for long periods of time releases oxytocin and endogenous opioids, otherwise known as endorphins.

So, if crying is modestly cathartic — and some experts believe it triggers the same positive reaction you get after exercising — why should we stop ourselves from doing it at work?

Well, some anthropologists say it violates the so-called “display rules,” which is another fancy way of saying cultural norms for socialization.

According to a survey cited by Huffpost, 41% of women have cried at work at some point in their careers, compared to just 9% of men surveyed.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, has also admitted to shedding tears at work. In an interview with India’s Mint newspaper, she said, “I don’t really believe that we are one type of person, Monday through Friday, 9-to-5, and then a different type of person in the nights and weekends. I think we are, all of us, emotional beings and it’s okay for us to share that emotion at work.”

I think it’s safe to say that, overall, we need to feel much more comfortable with expressing our emotions — and having someone as accomplished as Sandberg admitting to crying on the job is a positive step towards that.

The COVID-19 pandemic may mean most us of will be working from home for the foreseeable future and while we’re of course able to cry freely in the privacy of our homes, I just hope we enjoy the same freedom to do so if and when we return to the office.

So my parting advice to you is this: If you need to cry, cry. Crying is not a reflection of who you are at work but merely an expression of your feelings at one given moment in time.

Published November 13, 2020 — 11:46 UTC

Categories
Covid 19

What Biden’s environmental plans mean for electric vehicles

This article was originally published by Steve Schaefer on Clean Fleet Report, a publication that gives its readers the information they need to move to cars and trucks with best fuel economy, including electric cars, fuel cells, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and advanced diesel and gasoline engines.

The Green New Deal has received a lot of attention since it was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in early 2019. But how many people have actually read it and know what’s in it?

The bill isn’t long, as bills go, but it’s dense. I’ve tried to pull out the main points below. You can read the complete text of the bill here.

President-elect Joe Biden has a lengthy description of his ambitious climate plan on his website. It’s based on the Green New Deal and contains many specific proposals.  I walk you through it below.

In the interests of space and clarity, I am using an outline format with bullet points in some parts of this post.

The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal, H.RES.109, is not a law—It’s a framework for dealing with the climate crisis while also boosting job creation and addressing systemic racism and discrimination. It was named in the spirit of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, which helped pull America out of the Great Depression in the 1930s. It also is meant to reflect the efforts and sacrifices that the United States made during World War II.

On February 7, 2019, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bill’s sponsor, introduced the Green New Deal in the U.S. House of Representatives of the 116th Congress, 1st Session, along with 68 other cosigners.

To back up its climate change proposals, the bill references the October 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the November 2018 Fourth National Climate Assessment Report.

The reasons given for presenting the bill were:

  • Human activity is the dominant cause of climate change.
  • Climate change leads to many catastrophic results, including sea level rise, wildfires, storms, droughts.
  • Global warming more than two degrees Celsius will create even greater issues, such as mass migrations, lost economic output, destruction of coral reefs and damage to infrastructure.

The stated climate goal is to keep global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C. This means reducing greenhouse gases by 40 to 60 percent by 2030 with the longer-term goal of net zero global emissions by 2050. These numbers reflect the latest scientific consensus and commitments now being made by large corporations and other nations, as built into the Paris Climate Accord of 2015. The United States is officially out of the Paris Agreement as of November 4, 2020, but will presumably re-enter it next year under a Biden presidency.

The actions described in the Green New Deal would commit the United States, a major emitter, to  taking a leading role in fighting climate change. It lays out a 10-year plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a “fair and just” transition, creating millions of good new jobs building a sustainable infrastructure and industries, as well as securing clean air and water, climate resiliency, healthy food, access to nature and a sustainable environment.

The Green New Deal also promotes justice and equity for people of color, indigenous communities, migrant communities, deindustrialize communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income communities, women, the elderly, the unhoused, disabled and youth.

Climate action goals

The bill contains a long menu of goals and tasks, but the main ones for climate action include:

  • Building climate change resiliency against disasters
  • Repairing U.S infrastructure
  • Moving to 100 percent clean, renewable, zero-emission power, including smart power grids
  • Upgrading existing buildings
  • Growing clean manufacturing
  • Working with farmers and ranchers to remove pollution and greenhouse gases
  • Overhauling transportation systems to remove pollution and greenhouse gases
  • Mitigating and managing the effects of climate change
  • Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and restoring natural ecosystems
  • Cleaning up hazardous waste
  • Sharing technology, products, and services with other countries
  • Protecting public lands, water and oceans

Economic and social goals

The economic and social goals include:

  • Having the federal government account for the complete environmental and social costs and impacts of emissions in existing laws
  • Creating new policies and programs
  • Protecting frontline and vulnerable communities
  • Providing resources, training and education to all people
  • Making public investments in research and development of clean technology
  • Investing in economic development, including high-quality union jobs that pay prevailing wages and have family medical leave, vacations, retirement and security
  • Strengthening and protecting the rights of workers to organize, unionize and bargain collectively
  • Enacting and enforcing trade rules, procurement standards and border adjustments
  • Obtaining informed consent of indigenous peoples for decisions that affect them and their territories
  • Ensuring a business environment without unfair competition
  • Providing to all people of the United States:
    • High-quality healthcare
    • Affordable, safe and adequate housing
    • Economic security
    • Clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food and access to nature

The Green New Deal is a proposal, not a law, and is wide-ranging in its scope. I have shown only the outline of it above. If its goal is to move the conversation forward, it has already been successful. However, we need to work on enacting the parts of it that we can over the next decade to keep the global average temperature down.

Joe Biden’s plan

As president, Joe Biden will have a huge task before him. His climate plan borrows the spirit and many of the specific proposals from the Green New Deal. Its goal is a national effort “to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure and an equitable clean energy future.”

The $2 trillion plan creates millions of construction, skilled trade and engineering jobs to build this new infrastructure while providing pathways for workers of all ages and people from all backgrounds.

The investments will be in Infrastructure, the auto industry, transit, the power sector, buildings, housing, innovation, agriculture and conservation and environmental justice. The plan includes good union jobs and rights to collectively bargain and organize that we saw in the Green New Deal. It asks employers who benefit from this program to pay at least $15 per hour and provide paid leave and overtime.

The plan promotes diversity in hiring and keeps jobs local. There will be job training and pre-apprenticeship programs, too. It also commits the country to helping workers from industries that drove our economy, but are now declining, such as coal and oil, to retrain for the new green economy.

Key elements of the Biden plan

These are key elements for the building out the infrastructure and a clean energy future.

  • Build a modern infrastructure – The plan outlines using American labor to transform the transportation infrastructure by fixing the railroads and investing in municipal transportation networks. It also includes steps to revitalize communities across the country by ensuring clean drinking water, expanding 5G broadband to all and cleaning up brownfield properties, including old powerplants, landfills, and abandoned mines.
Proterra electric bus
Biden’s plan would support American-made electric buses
  • Help the U.S. auto industry to be leaders – The plan will create a million new jobs in manufacturing, supply chains and infrastructure.  It also works to increase demand for American-sourced clean vehicles, especially in fleets, while encouraging consumers and manufacturers to move to EVs through programs like the Clean Cars for America proposal to swap out old cars. The plan will make major EV infrastructure investments, including building half a million EV charging stations. This effort will create good jobs that support vehicle electrification, including training programs. Another requirement for EV growth is to accelerate battery research and development. Specific references in the plan include converting all 500,000 buses in the U.S. to American-made zero-emission vehicles and establishing ambitious vehicle emission standards.
  • Have a carbon-free power sector by 2035 – Biden plans to create millions of jobs in the clean energy sector, for example moving from iron casting and steel fabrication to solar and wind industries jobs. The plan lays out a goal to build out the electrical grid to support the electrical transportation and battery storage infrastructure, create tax incentives and financing options to involve the private sector, and establish a technology-neutral standard for utilities and grid operators. This will help to achieve carbon-free energy by 2035. The plan also discusses leveraging and improving existing infrastructure to handle the new technology, including funding research investments and tax incentives for carbon sequestration for existing powerplants and the development of green hydrogen.
  • Make major investments in energy-efficient buildings – The plan includes creating a million jobs to upgrade four million homes and weatherize two million more, as well as building 1.5 million affordable new energy-efficient homes. The goal is to cut the carbon footprint of the national building stock by 50 percent by 2035. Financial incentives include almost 25 percent of the retrofit savings going back to state and local governments. Families can get rebates and low-cost financing to upgrade home appliances to high-efficiency ones and replace old windows. Schools are slated for modernization, too, aiming especially at low-income urban and rural schools.
  • Invest in clean energy innovation – Biden wants the U.S to be a world energy leader, and plans to procure $400 billion for batteries, EVs and upgrading of industrial manufacturing processes over the next four years. This includes creating a new Advanced Research Projects Agency on Climate that looks at a variety of low-carbon options. He wants to bolster the supply chains for clean industries, invest in national labs and strengthen land-grant and historically Black Colleges and Universities.
  • Advance sustainable agriculture and conservation – Biden proposes creating a Civilian Climate Corps that works on conservation and climate resistance. This includes science-based forest management, restoring wetlands, repairing irrigation systems, planting trees, restoring coastal ecosystems and more. The plan includes creating more than a quarter million jobs cleaning up old mining sites and plugging abandoned oil and gas wells. The plan will work with farmers on the next generation of agriculture and conservation. This means leveraging new technologies, techniques and equipment, choosing new crops and sequestering carbon. It also involves changing trade policies to protect workers, bolstering the security of the food supply and making sure farmers have access to fair markets. There’s even a plan to help minority farmers get equal opportunity and protect farmworkers.
  • Secure environmental justice and equitable economic opportunity – Biden’s plan includes making sure that disadvantaged communities receive 40 percent of spending for clean energy and energy deployment, clean transit and transportation, affordable and sustainable housing, training and workforce development, pollution remediation and development of a clean water infrastructure. This involves creating a screening tool to identify disadvantaged communities like that currently used in California. Biden will overhaul and update existing programs and establish a new Climate and Environmental Justice Division within the Justice Department.

The Biden plan will:

  • Build a modern infrastructure
  • Help the U.S. auto industry to be leaders
  • Have a carbon-free power sector by 2035
  • Make major investments in energy-efficient buildings
  • Invest in clean energy innovation
  • Advance sustainable agriculture and conservation
  • Secure environmental justice and equitable economic opportunity

President-elect Joe Biden’s environmental plan will be an enormous undertaking, but it will put America on the path to being environmentally responsible over the next 10 to 15 years, when it’s crucial, and create millions of good jobs for those who need them. After four years of inaction and rollbacks, it’s a very welcome sign.

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SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

Published November 14, 2020 — 17:00 UTC

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Start 2021 by learning every programming hot button, all in one giant uber-bundle of training

TLDR: The Premium Learn to Code 2021 Certification Bundle collects 26 courses with training in dozens of major coding disciplines every programmer needs to know.

While the latest U.S. jobs report shows the country slowly rebounding fiscally from the COVID-19 pandemic, don’t be fooled — the job market is as fierce today as it’s ever been in our lifetimes.

To land the kind of job you want these days, you’re going to have to stand out over some serious competition. Part of that means having qualifications that jump off your CV and get a hiring manager’s attention. Like the fact that about half of the jobs paying over $57,000 a year require applicants to have at least some coding knowledge. And jobs that require coding skills end up paying about $22,000 a year more than jobs that don’t.

With the overwhelming volume of knowledge coming out of The Premium Learn to Code 2021 Certification Bundle ($59.99, over 90 percent off from TNW Deals), you should have no trouble adding some interesting new bullet points to your skills array.

This assortment is absolutely no joke, including 26 different courses covering all manner of introductory to advanced coding for a newbie to devour. 

Just as with actually coding, there’s no predetermined entry point with all this training. But also just like real life, users will find on-ramps from which to start your programming journey through a host of different doorways.

You can go the classic route and learn basics like website building, databases and more with courses like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: Certification Course for Beginners, JavaScript Beginner Bootcamp, or PHP and MySQL: Certification Course for Beginners.

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And once you’re finished with all those…well, you’re still not even through half of the content stockpile in this collection.

Regularly valued at over $3,800, this massive learning treasure trove is practically being given away at less than $3 per course, only $59.99.

Read next: What Biden’s environmental plans mean for electric vehicles

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If you know machine learning is important, but you’re not sure how, this training is for you

TLDR: The Machine Learning for Beginners Bootcamp Bundle covers the concepts and application of thinking machines from the ground up over three courses.

This week in “The Future is Thinking Machines,” Whole Foods stores started selling a plant-based milk created almost entirely by artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, machines are also analyzing social media posts to track how COVID is impacting mental health. And Blizzard Entertainment has trained computers how to cannily remove toxic players from the chat in their uber-popular Overwatch online multiplayer game.

All those stories dropped this month, proving that machine learning is everywhere, impacting every industry, and making its digital presence felt in every corner of our lives.

Even if you aren’t trying to break into a job programming machines how to think and react on their own, understanding this amazingly explosive new tech area is important — because it’s probably already impacting you. The Machine Learning for Beginners Bootcamp Bundle ($19.99, over 90 percent off, from TNW Deals) is your perfect overview.

Under the guidance of instructor and technology expert Idan Gabrieli, this first-timer friendly three-course collection will help students understand everything they need to know about machine learning and its growing footprint in our modern world.

In Machine Learning for Absolute Beginners: Level 1, Gabrieli introduces you to artificial intelligence and thinking machines without requiring you to know loads of math or programming. From concepts and definitions, absolute beginners will even start examining a model for deep teaching a machine — and start doing it themselves.

By Machine Learning for Absolute Beginners: Level 2, the training expands to include Python and the Pandas data science library, two huge building blocks in creating thinking machines.

Finally, Machine Learning for Absolute Beginners: Level 3 aims even higher, examining some data science and visualization practices newbies wouldn’t have even thought possible at the beginning. Students will use the popular Matplotlib and Seaborn data science library to create various charts and methods for displaying data that’s at the heart of how computers read and interpret the findings.

Perfect for aspiring product managers and engineers, this deep dive into machine learning is usually a $600 training collection. Right now, it’s significantly less, just $19.99 while this offer lasts.

Read next: Why entrepreneurs need to stop glorifying persistence

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How existing streetside tech can be reinvented for the future

This article was originally published by Stephen Goldsmith on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News.

The times they are a-changing, and local officials are on the front lines of the social, technical and operational changes that are sweeping the country. The federal government may or may not assist cities and states with these new realities, but for local officials, the key to success over the next ten years will be effectiveness. Operational excellence requires not only improvements to routine activities on which the public depends, but also the ability to see how today’s assets can be tomorrow’s opportunities.

Look at a streetlight — what do you see? Right now, it may be just a light. But soon you should be able to see a miniature, vertical mall capable of supporting air and sound sensors, 5G cells, responsive signage, and more.

How about a street sweeper or garbage truck — look more closely and instead of just a piece of machinery you might also see a rolling sensor platform that examines streets for potholes or, as in Fort Collins, scans the path for obstructions.

When I was mayor of Indianapolis, the director of our innovation team suggested that we look differently at the underground pipes that connected our intersection signals. In addition to their original usage, they could also be leased to companies that wanted to expand their fibre-optic infrastructure and provide better services to our constituents.

As deputy mayor of New York City, almost every week a vendor brought me an idea about how an existing asset could be converted into something more valuable. One in particular I remember suggested that the city redeploy 10,000 old payphones that littered the city, often unused or broken but still wired to power. Eventually, after an RFI (request for information) process, that idea turned into LinkNYC – citywide kiosks that bring free street-level broadband access and digital information to residents by taking advantage of that underutilized infrastructure and the creativity of city officials and third parties. The shiny kiosks that replaced the tattered phones also brought hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue to the city.

In another instance, creative NYC environmental officials used lidar photos to identify building roofs that were well-positioned to support solar panels. By combining an innovative idea with information brought to the public, the city could create value and assist the environment through an adaptive use.

Kerb appeal

One emerging asset class desperately crying out for reimagination now is the lowly kerb and sidewalk  — a crumbling city expenditure where pedestrians trip and accessibility literally falls apart, requiring city lawyers and public works employees to collaborate on improvements. Like the obsolete pay phone structures, why can’t the kerb become something more?

Capturing, reimagining and unlocking the full value of this asset requires a bold local government environment open to challenging thoughts, combined with new technologies and data. New ideas about assets generally emerge when a city gathers insights that combine an understanding of broad changes with knowledge of potential new uses. A new conceptualization often originates outside of the city department tasked with the management of the asset because the use may be unrelated to that department’s day-to-day activities.

I recently interviewed Gabe Klein and Ahmed Darrat of Cityfi to see how they thought about the future of the kerb and sidewalk. As prior city employees, (Klein as Transportation Director in D.C. and Chicago and Darrat in senior management and advisory roles at the Seattle Department of Transportation) they bring both in-depth knowledge of government practices and insights from the cities and private vendors they now advise.

Klein predicted the large number of current disrupting factors such as COVID-19, increasingly ubiquitous delivery vehicles, scooters and bike shares will produce opportunities. Since proposed and current uses which compete for kerb or sidewalk space rely on devices that generate and capture data, one could both redefine the sidewalk itself as well as the data it powers as assets. For example, insights gathered from sidewalk usage and parking demand and turnover can assist transportation departments and health officials now working on reimagining streets for café tables or conversion to bike lanes.

To accomplish these data-driven enhancements, Darrat explains that cities need a platform that allows them to move from analogue to digital and in turn maintain a “two way relationship at the kerb and be exchanging information in real time because operations at the kerb require real time dynamic management.”

New value from old assets

Senior leaders in local government must be open to viewing a future where they can develop new revenue sources from old assets. Unlocking this value will require a few basic steps:

  • First, someone in city hall needs to own the responsibility of challenging the status quo.
  • Second, that person should broadly solicit ideas from both the private sector and from internal operating departments.
  • Third, any new private sector relationships must take into consideration that there are unknown risks to these projects. Officials must incorporate the best of private sector creativity while protecting the public by mitigating and understanding potential risks. Any view of the future will come with risk. The city should bear some of the risk but, in turn, capture a portion of the future upside to keep incentives aligned. A partnership which produces new value, given the uncertainty of any new big idea, should allow the city to exit the arrangement at regular intervals, pursuant to a previously agreed-on schedule. The city should clearly understand any data privacy or security issues and communicate them to the public.
  • Fourth, any change will require making the case for what the city will do with the proceeds. For example, a kerb project could provide revenue to support better public transit services.
  • Fifth, to accomplish these goals, procurement needs to take a new approach. The mayor should advocate for an expedited, transparent and competitive solicitation for ideas – a complete departure from the traditional RFP. The classic methods of procurement, which start with a prescription of what the public entity wants and require a long time from start to finish, both suffocate innovation and do not easily accommodate constant technological improvements. In essence, to produce new value from an old asset, the city is purchasing not just a service but also innovation. Hundreds of pages of procurement minutia should be replaced with a two-page RFI that asks how to better use the city’s poles, kerbs, rooftops or garbage trucks. Procurement should be rapid. Each month lost harms city revenue and often city residents. One improvement in some cities involves taking an unsolicited proposal viewed as excellent and conducting what the private sector calls a go shop: an expedited procurement process where the entity involved takes a good idea and, to guarantee transparency, actively solicits competing bids for a specified period of time.

Changing lifestyles, new technologies and shrinking budgets should force city hall toward more creative ways to support residents. Reimagining public assets like the sidewalk and kerb through new, innovations-centered processes might be just the recipe to challenge old assumptions.


SHIFT is brought to you by Polestar. It’s time to accelerate the shift to sustainable mobility. That is why Polestar combines electric driving with cutting-edge design and thrilling performance. Find out how.

Published November 15, 2020 — 09:00 UTC