Archive for the ‘Policy’ Category

74% of US coal plants threatened by renewables, but emissions continue to rise

March 26th, 2019
Wind turbines near a coal plant.

Enlarge / Wind turbines spin as steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jäenschwalde coal-fired power plant. (credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report on Monday saying that in 2018, "global energy-related CO2 emissions rose by 1.7 percent to 33 Gigatonnes." That's the most growth in emissions that the world has seen since 2013.

Coal use contributed to a third of the total increase, mostly from new coal-fired power plants in China and India. This is worrisome because new coal plants have a lifespan of roughly 50 years. But the consequences of climate change are already upon us, and coal's hefty emissions profile compared to other energy sources means that, globally, carbon mitigation is going to be a lot more difficult to tackle than it may look from here in the US.

Even in the US, carbon emissions grew by 3.1 percent in 2018, according to the IEA. (This closely tracks estimates by the Rhodium Group, which released a preliminary report in January saying that US carbon emissions increased by 3.4 percent in 2018.)

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Posted in coal, electricity, Energy, Policy, science | Comments (0)

EU parliament passes controversial copyright overhaul [updated]

March 25th, 2019
The silhouette of a photographer and his camera are shown against an EU flag.

An EU flag at the European Parliament. (credit: European Parliament / Flickr)

Update: The European Parliament approved the new European copyright directive on Tuesday by a vote of 348 to 274. Our original story on the legislation follows.


On Tuesday, the European Parliament will vote on an overhaul of the EU's copyright system. The body will vote on a compromise announced last month that has received the backing of key European governments. An earlier version of the proposal was approved by the European Parliament last September.

The legislation is controversial, with two provisions receiving the bulk of the criticism. Article 11 aims to help news organizations collect more licensing fees from news aggregators like Facebook and Google News. Article 13 aims to help copyright holders to collect licensing fees from user-generated content platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

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Posted in Article 11, article 13, copyright, europe, European Copyright directive, Policy | Comments (0)

Music labels sue Charter, complain that high Internet speeds fuel piracy

March 25th, 2019
A man, surrounded by music CDs, uses a laptop while wearing a skull-and-crossbones pirate hat and holding one of the CDs in his mouth.

Enlarge / "Yarr, matey, a pirate would be lost at sea without a swift broadband connection." (credit: Getty Images | OcusFocus)

The music industry is suing Charter Communications, claiming that the cable Internet provider profits from music piracy by failing to terminate the accounts of subscribers who illegally download copyrighted songs. The lawsuit also complains that Charter helps its subscribers pirate music by selling packages with higher Internet speeds.

While the act of providing higher Internet speeds clearly isn't a violation of any law, ISPs can be held liable for their users' copyright infringement if the ISPs repeatedly fail to disconnect repeat infringers.

The top music labels—Sony, Universal, Warner, and their various subsidiaries—sued Charter Friday in a complaint filed in US District Court in Colorado. While Charter has a copyright policy that says repeat copyright infringers may be disconnected, Charter has failed to disconnect those repeat infringers in practice, the complaint said:

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Posted in Biz & IT, Charter, music piracy, Policy, Sony, universal, Warner | Comments (0)

$35 billion in research funding “now at stake” after Trump executive order

March 25th, 2019
Image of a protest

Enlarge / A protest near the UC Berkeley campus. (credit: Amy Osborne/AFP/Getty Imagess)

Over the past several years, college campuses have experienced a number of incidents related to free speech. These have included cases of disruptive protests, controversial speakers being "disinvited," and in rare cases, physical altercations. The speakers who have been the focus of these controversies are often identified with conservative causes. Notably, in early March, a conservative activist was assaulted on the UC Berkeley campus.

These high-profile incidents apparently inspired President Trump to issue a rather dramatic threat in early March: campuses that don't protect free speech could see their research funding cut. On Friday, he ostensibly followed through on this, issuing an executive order targeting "free inquiry" at colleges and universities. But the language of the order is vague enough that its consequences for research funding are completely opaque.

Uncertain threats

The order itself actually lumps together two unrelated issues. The first is the cost of education relative to its likely payoff in terms of gainful employment; the order seeks to ensure better disclosure of this by colleges. That has been joined to what the order refers to as "free inquiry" issues, which the order defines as related to First Amendment compliance—meaning free speech on campuses.

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Posted in free speech, Policy, research, science, science funding | Comments (0)

Tesla sues Zoox over manufacturing and logistics secrets

March 24th, 2019
A store front with Tesla's name on it

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, Tesla sued four former employees and the self-driving startup Zoox for misappropriation of trade secrets. No, you're not having driverless-car lawsuit déjà vu—you're just remembering the time last year when Waymo and Uber settled their own trade secrets case after four days of trial.

Tesla’s suit, filed in the Northern California federal district court, alleges that four of its former employees took proprietary information related to “warehousing, logistics, and inventory control operations” when they left the electric automaker, and later, while working for Zoox, used that proprietary information to improve its technology and operations.

Tesla says the former employees—Scott Turner, Sydney Cooper, Christian Dement, and Craig Emigh—worked in product distribution and warehouse supervising. It alleges that they forwarded the trade secrets to their own personal email accounts or the accounts of other former Tesla employees. “You sly dog you …” Turner allegedly wrote in the body of an email he sent himself, attaching “confidential and proprietary Tesla receiving and inventory procedures, as well as internal schematics and line drawings of the physical layouts of certain Tesla warehouses,” the company's lawyers write in their complaint.

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Posted in cars, Policy, self-driving, Tesla, Zoox | Comments (0)

Sikorsky-Boeing joint effort for Army’s assault aircraft program makes first flight

March 22nd, 2019
Defiant helicopter

Enlarge / The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant. (credit: Sikorsky/Boeing)

The Sikorsky-Boeing SB-1 Defiant, one of two aircraft competing for the US Army's Future Long Range Assault Aircraft program, has finally made its first flight—a short bit of hovering around an airfield at a Sikorsky facility in West Palm Beach, Florida. The flight comes over 15 months after the Bell V-280 Valor (the other competitor for the program to replace the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk) took flight. But the reasons for the delay are pretty straightforward: the SB-1 prototype is only the fourth actual aircraft ever built using Sikorsky's Advancing Blade Concept rotor design, while the V-280 is based on the (relatively) mature technology behind the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor.

The Defiant helicopter uses two stacked, contra-rotating rigid composite rotors for its lift and a pusher propeller for thrust at high speeds. Since it is a true helicopter, it has a much smaller footprint than the V-280, which has two tiltrotors positioned at its wingtips. At least in theory, the Defiant will handle more like a traditional helicopter when maneuvering in tight quarters, such as the urban environments that the Army has placed particular emphasis on in its future war planning. Manipulation of the pitch of the rotors could make for more agile maneuvering.

That, however, remains theory.

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Posted in Army aviation, Biz & IT, blackhawk helicopter, Future Lift, Helicopters, Policy, S-97 Raider, SB-1 Defiant | Comments (0)

Boeing takes $5 billion hit as Indonesian airline cancels 737 MAX order

March 22nd, 2019
A Garuda Indonesia 737-800. The airline is moving to cancel orders for the 737 MAX after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes.

Enlarge / A Garuda Indonesia 737-800. The airline is moving to cancel orders for the 737 MAX after the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes. (credit: Boeing)

Indonesia's largest air carrier has informed Boeing that it wants to cancel a $4.9 billion order for 49 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft. Garuda Indonesia spokesperson Ikhsan Rosan said in a statement to the Associated Press that the airline was cancelling due to concern that “its business would be damaged due to customer alarm over the crashes.”

Garuda had originally ordered 50 737 MAX aircraft, and Boeing delivered the first of those aircraft in December of 2017. The airline already operates 77 older Boeing 737 models; two of the aircraft ordered were conversions from earlier orders for 737-800s. Garuda also flies Boeing's 777-300 ER, and the company retired its 747-400 fleet in the last few years—so the airline was looking for an economical long-range aircraft to fill in gaps.

But the stigma now attached to the 737 MAX 8 may have spoiled that relationship. The airline also has orders in for 14 of Airbus' A330neo, a wide-body design comparable to Boeing's 787 Dreamliner; the airline also flies 24 earlier-model A330s. If Garuda successfully breaks its deal with Boeing, the likely winner will be Airbus. Airbus' A320neo is the most comparable aircraft to the 737 MAX in cost and range.

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Posted in Biz & IT, Boeing 737 MAX, Policy | Comments (0)

FCC has to pay journalist $43,000 after hiding net neutrality records

March 22nd, 2019
Shredded documents with a magnifying glass and the words,

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Nicholas Rigg)

The Federal Communications Commission has settled a case over its refusal to comply with a public records request, agreeing to pay $43,000 to a journalist who sued the commission.

Freelance writer Jason Prechtel filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the FCC in mid-2017, asking for data that would identify who made bulk comment uploads in the proceeding that led to the repeal of net neutrality rules. Prechtel was trying to research comments that were falsely attributed to people without their knowledge.

The FCC didn't comply with the request and allegedly didn't even approve or deny the FOIA request within the legally allotted timeframe, so Prechtel sued the commission in September 2017. One year later, a US District Court judge presiding over the case ordered the FCC to stop withholding certain records sought by Prechtel, although the ruling didn't give Prechtel everything he asked for.

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Posted in ajit pai, FCC, FOIA, Net Neutrality, Policy | Comments (0)

AT&T’s “5G E” is actually slower than Verizon and T-Mobile 4G, study finds

March 22nd, 2019
Screenshot from an AT&T commercial showing text that reads,

Enlarge / Screenshot from an AT&T commercial. (credit: AT&T)

AT&T's "5G E" service is slightly slower than Verizon's and T-Mobile's advanced 4G LTE networks, a study by OpenSignal has found.

As Ars readers know, AT&T renamed a large portion of its 4G network, calling it "5G E," for "5G Evolution." If you see a 5G E indicator on an AT&T phone, that means you're connected to a portion of AT&T's 4G LTE network that supports standard LTE-Advanced features such as 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation. All four major carriers have rolled out LTE-Advanced. But while Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile accurately call it 4G, AT&T calls it 5G E.

Sprint sued AT&T, alleging that AT&T is gaining an unfair advantage by making false and misleading claims to consumers.

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Posted in 4G, 5G, 5g e, AT&T, Biz & IT, LTE, lte-advanced, Policy, Sprint, t-mobile, verizon | Comments (0)

Photographer loses lawsuit over use of her photo in political mailer

March 21st, 2019
An image from the RNC flyer. We're quite sure that our use of this image is fair, since we're engaging in comment and criticism about this photo and its role in the lawsuit.

Enlarge / An image from the RNC flyer. We're quite sure that our use of this image is fair, since we're engaging in comment and criticism about this photo and its role in the lawsuit. (credit: RNC / Erika Peterman)

When Erika Peterman saw photographs she had taken in a flyer put out by the Republican National Committee, she wasn't happy about it. Peterman was a supporter of Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate for Montana's at-large seat in Congress in the 2017 special election. The Montana Democratic Party had hired Peterman to take photographs of Quist at a Democratic Party event. The photographs showed Quist wearing a cowboy hat and holding a guitar.

The RNC had downloaded three of the photos from Quist's campaign Facebook page and used them in a campaign mailer attacking Quist. Peterman sued the Republican Party, arguing that the mailer infringed her copyright. But in a February ruling, a federal judge rejected Peterman's arguments, ruling that the Republicans' use of her image was fair use.

"The mailer uses Quist's musicianship to criticize his candidacy, subverting the purpose and function" of Peterman's original photographs, Judge Dana Christensen wrote. Her ruling noted that Peterman had charged the Montana Democrats a flat $500 to cover the event and had published the photographs on social media, suggesting that she had no expectation of making further money from them.

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Posted in copyright, erika peterman, fair use, Greg Gianforte, Policy, Rob Quist | Comments (0)