Plans by French President Francois Hollande to impose further restrictions on the wearing of hijab in public are sparking deep fears among Muslims about their future in the southern European country.
“I can't work in public institutions, and now I can't work in private institutions,” Algerian graduate student Souad told Al-Arabiya website on Wednesday, April 10.
“In my opinion, this is a disastrous law.”
Worries have gripped French Muslims after Hollande reiterated support to a cross-party move to extend the ban on the wearing of hijab to the private sector.
The move followed a ruling by France’s top court that the dismissal of a Muslim woman from a private nursery school for refusing to remove her hijab amounted to "religious discrimination".
The French government criticized the verdict, with Interior Minister Manuel Valls describing the ruling as putting “secularism into question”.
“The Muslims here are French too, and we are proud of their presence,” Socialist Party MP Olivier Four told Al-Arabiya.
“But I agree with the president on the importance of issuing a law that will block the right wing from promoting a complete ban on headscarves.”
France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places in 2004.
Several European countries followed the French example.
France also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public in 2011.
A poll by the French marketing and opinion center BVA last month found that the majority of French support imposing tougher laws on the wearing of hijab in France.
In October, a poll by Ifop's opinion department found that almost half of French see Muslims as a threat to their national identity.
The poll also found that most French see Islam is playing too influential role in their society.
Muslim leaders have warned of repercussions of imposing further restrictions on hijab wearing in France.
“The balance is living our religious life in freedom and dignity and at the same time avoiding anything that may provoke the other,” Mohammed Moussaoui, President of the umbrella French Council of Muslim Faith, said.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six millions, Europe’s largest.
Muslims and their customs and traditions have been under the spotlight in recent years in France.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy had adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
Under Sarkozy, the French government had held a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.
The French government has also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight far-right leader Marine Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation.
Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: On Islam
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – The launch of the Facebook Home app has reignited the privacy debate over whether the social networking site is becoming too integrated in our lives.
Unveiled last week, Home integrates all of the social network's services into the operating system of Android phones. Instead of having to download apps to use Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and Facebook Camera, access to these features is consolidated into Facebook Home, which appears on the user's home screen.
Typically for a Facebook launch, it has attracted fierce criticism. CNN contributor Andrew Keen, an expert in the digital economy, said: "Facebook wants to know everything we do, so they can sell more advertising. It shows that Facebook has absolutely no respect for our privacy."
"They are by definition creepy, untrustworthy and they've proven that time and time again," he added.
Facebook has responded to the criticism following the launch in a blog post to say that the data Home would collect is no different from what the social networking site already tracks and that it is used internally to improve the user experience.
For tech-savvy digital natives, who share personal information frequently and tend to see value in such personal disclosures, the polemic around Home could be seen as a non-issue.
It also could be argued that privacy is a long-dead illusion that is fast becoming an outdated concept.
David Rowan, editor of technology magazine "Wired," thinks so. "Our concept of privacy is very much a 20th century idea," he told CNN at Names not Numbers, an idea-sharing and networking conference held in the UK recently.
"All that personal data you are giving to these private companies they are making money on and they decide how it's going to be used. You lose control of that data."
Commentators say that we should be asking tougher questions about that information is being used.
Read more: Using social media to predict the future
In his upcoming book "Who Owns the Future?" digital pioneer Jaron Lanier discusses how the world's biggest online services such as Google and Facebook are not in fact "free" because in return we are duly handing over information about ourselves that can be turned into big money.
Read more: 5 tips for controlling your privacy online
But can we really move beyond privacy? Keen thinks that if we don't act soon, we could. In his latest book, "Digital Vertigo", he argues that in California's Silicon Valley there are people who "have already discarded privacy as if it's like gas lighting -- an archaic thing which humans will move beyond."
Keen urges us to consider what privacy really means in the "Big Data Age."
He talks in apocalyptic terms about a "scary, nightmarish, dystopian future," where we live in a world of "radical transparency".
Technology seems to be moving ever closer to a world where every aspect of our existence is recorded, both at our will and not, and Keen argues that humans are not ready for this, this ability "to press the rewind button on your life".
"The internet needs to learn how to forget. All it knows is how to remember. That's not very human," he says, arguing that forgetting is as essential to the human condition as remembering.
But, in today's world, the documentation of our every move and every desire is becoming increasingly inescapable. According to Rowan, "anybody who is using any kind of electronic device is giving up the practical ability to be untrackable."
So pervasive is the power of internet giants that the U.S. government launched an official "National Data Privacy Day" -- a drive to raise awareness among teenagers and young adults about the importance of maintaining what little privacy they may have left.
Keen draws similarities between the negative impacts of the industrial revolution and those of the digital world order, which, he says, "is in some ways more profound and far-reaching".
Just as "the downside of industrialization was pollution, data distribution and the invasion of our privacy is the pollution of the big data age." -www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange formally unveiled on Monday the latest release from the whistleblower site, Project K, calling it “the single most significant geopolitical publication that has ever existed.”
Speaking via Skype from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Assange introduced Project K on Monday morning to a group of journalists at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.
Nearly three years earlier to the day, Assange spoke at the Press Club in person to debut “Collateral Murder,” a video of US soldiers firing at Iraqi civilians that has since become one of WikiLeaks’ most well-recognized contributions to journalism. Since that release, WikiLeaks and the organization’s associates have become the target of a number of government investigations, with Assange himself having been confined to the embassy in London for nearly one year while awaiting safe passage to Ecuador where he was granted political asylum. Ongoing attempts to prosecute the journalists for sharing state secrets aside, however, Assange and company have now unloaded the organization’s biggest leak yet.
Project K, says Assange, contains roughly 1.7 million files composed of US Department of State diplomatic communications. And although the material has been classified, declassified and, in some instances, re-classified, the public’s inability to access and peruse the unredacted copies has made them nearly inaccessible.
“One form of secrecy is the complexity and the accessibility of documents,” WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson said during Monday’s event. “You could say that the government cannot be trusted with these documents.”
"He who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past,” Assange chimed in using his webcam in London to quote from George Orwell’s novel 1984.
“The US administration cannot be trusted with its control of its past,” he said. “That is the result of this information being hidden by secrecy, but more often being hidden in the borderline between secrecy and complexity.”
The 1.7 million cables released on Monday span the period of time between 1973 and 1976 when Henry Kissinger sat at the head the State Department under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. WikiLeaks has now combined their latest files with the previously-released State Department diplomatic cables that they published starting in 2010 after US Army Private first class Bradley Manning gained access to military intelligence servers and sent over 250,000 documents to the site, along with “Collateral Murder” and a trove of other documents.
By combining the earlier State Dept. memos with the new collection of Kissinger cables, Assange says WikiLeaks has created a database that gives journalists unprecedented access to roughly 2 million documents that paint a unique picture of the United States’ relationships with foreign nations during a number of presidential administrations.
That infrastructure, dubbed the WikiLeaks Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD), “is what Google should be like,” Assange said.
“This is a search system that investigative journalists can use effectively,” he said.
With the publishing of the State Dept. cables credited to Pfc. Manning, WikiLeaks previously brought to the public periphery a tome of material that largely focuses on US foreign policy at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The Kissinger cables though, said Assange, reveals a multitude about the US and other nations during a time when western society as we know it today really began to take form.
“The period of the 1970s in diplomacy is referred to as the ‘Big Bang.’ This is when the modern international order came to be,” Assange said at the press conference. “There is really only two periods: post-World War Two and the 1970s.”
During the ‘70s, vast decolonization caused the number of countries on the planet to go from only 104 to roughly 160. “To understand all of that complexity, the US State Dept. put together a system to harvest intelligence from its diplomats across the world,” Assange said of Project K.
Today, he added, the White House has “more direct control of the periphery.” During the 70s, however, “the relationship between ambassadors and their host government was more essential.” Project K helps shine a light on exactly how those interactions played out during a time when the Vietnam conflict, Watergate and the Cold War warranted the US to embark in a number of conversations with persons of all affiliations around the world.
“The United States makes a priority gaining influence and contacts and informants within opposition movements. Partly in order to corrupt them, partly in order to have bets on both the lead horse and the second in case there is a transition of power,” he said. But while American interest in the Soviet Union was largely a focal point of the US during the 1970s as one might expect, Assange said that the “titanic struggle” between the two bodies represents only a small sampling of the State Department’s interests during that time. The Kissinger Cables, at roughly one billion words, show that the US “is essentially checking the activity and inactivity of other empires,” said Assange. France, Spain, the UK, Australia and Sweden are all discussed in length in the cables, and even politicians still relevant today make appearances.
“Margaret Thatcher died last night and of course there is a great many cables about her,” said Assange, who put the figure of memos relating to the recently passed former prime minister at around 400.
Kissinger, who is alive and active today, is referenced in over 200,000 individual documents included in the trove. Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt — a critic of the whistleblower site and today the nation’s foreign minister — also makes a number of appearances in Project K as well.
Speaking to RT at the conference, Hrafnsson said that neither Kissinger nor the current Department of State has yet to respond to the leak — nor does he expect them to. On his part, however, Assange told RT that any formal federal investigation into this project will likely not dwell on any damages spawned by the leak, but instead will focus on how his organization managed to take 1.7 million documents and reverse engineer them in order to publish them in the public domain.
“Essentially,” said Assange, it’s “what Aaron Swartz was doing.”
“If the Department of Justice was to go after us for this release like they are attempting to prosecute us for previous releases involving US embassies documents, the approach would probably be along the lines of the approach that was taken was Swartz,” said Assange, “which is the sort of manner of acquisition as opposed to the classification for the matter.”
Hrafnsson said that WikiLeaks has been working on Project K and the PlusD database for roughly one year.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – At the Consumer Electronics Show in January Garmin showed off the K2 platform. They vowed many with their latest infotainment platform, including Daimler AG. According to their latest press release, future Mercedes Benz cars will now feature in-dash GPS navigation provided by Garmin. Over the next four years Garmin’s system will be fully integrated in to Mercedes Benz cars, it begins with the 2014 models. Mercedes Benz is yet to reveal which features of the entire platform it will be integrated in its cars, we can expect news to trickle in once they announce launch models in 2014.
The system in future Mercedes Benz cars will display important driver information such as the next upcoming turn on a secondary display that will be placed behind the steering wheel. The in-dash display will show navigation and maps. The navigation functions will be controllable through the system’s rotary controller or through the voice command functionality. Garmin’s system will also provide critical positiong information for Advanced Driver Assistance or (ADAS), this funtionality of the car helps drivers in challenging situations. For the sake of clarity, the entire infotainment system is not Garmin, it’s the navigation and maps related features that are going to be provided by it.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Google’s new patent filing indicates that the Google Glass may one day be used to control objects nearby. These objects may include copy machine, coffee maker, alarm system, garage door, TV or even the refrigerator. Glass will not only show information about that object, based on the technology described in this patent, it may also present a virtual control panel to interact with that object. The patent application is titled Wearable Computer with Superimposed Controls and Instructions for External Device and it gives us interesting view of what Google Glass might be able to do in the future.
This technology would also be able to work on its own. For example if the user approaches their garage door, Google Glass will automatically open it based on the user’s location. After the user leaves their garage, the door will automatically be closed. This technology certainly won’t work with every garage door or refrigerator. They’d have to be smart products that offer connectivity features such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or NFC. A feature that Glass can use to interact with it. This is reason enough to believe that it will take a lot of time before this technology makes it on to Google Glass. For all we know, it could just be another patented technology that would never see the light of day.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Over the past decade, new in-car electronics have helped us navigate and made more music easily available while driving. But if the work shown at Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC) is any indication, bigger and better changes are in store.
Among the many automotive seminars at this year's GTC, Honda showed off its development of a head-up display, while Audi discussed its initiatives to make urban driving safer.
In Honda's seminar, Victor Ng-Thow-Hing, Principal Scientist at the Honda Research Institute in Mountain View, California, showed head-up display technology that makes current production examples look extremely primitive. Instead of simply projecting a speed readout or turn-by-turn directions on the windshield, Ng-Thow-Hing demonstrated work in augmented reality, projecting location sensitive information useful to drivers.
In one example, street names were projected onto the windshield in such a way as to appear to be signs on actual buildings. Ng-Thow-Hing explained that merely showing a flat street name on the windshield leads to drivers having difficulty adjusting between the 2D information of the label and the 3D world outside of the car.
This type of projection would be extremely useful in cities, where street signs can often be difficult to find amongst the urban clutter. And a clear indication of street names would lead to less confusion and stress for drivers.
Ng-Thow-Hing also showed two driver assistance projections, the first using a nine-square grid projection high up on the windshield to give drivers better situational awareness. The driver's car is always in the center square, while the other eight squares appear red when another car is in that space. This grid projection would serve the same purpose as current blind spot monitors, but also work as a quick driver reference to see note cars to the front and back.
The second example projected the path of the driver's car when waiting to make a turn through an intersection, coloring the path in red when oncoming traffic made going ahead with the turn unsafe. Ng-Thow-Hing pointed out that drivers cannot always correctly estimate the distance and speed of traffic coming through an intersection, and so make mistakes that can lead to a crash. With this system, sensors would see the oncoming traffic and the car's processor would determine when the driver could safety make a left turn through the intersection.
The urban problem
Giving Audi's presentation was Mario Tippelhofer, an engineer working out of Volkswagen's Electronic Research Lab south of San Francisco. He prefaced Audi's work by noting that urban populations have increased in the U.S. more than 80 percent of the population now lives in an urban area.
Most accidents in urban areas are caused by traffic, passengers distracting the driver, driver stress, and the constant search for parking, according to Audi's research.
Audi's Urban Intelligent Assist program attempts to address the causes of these accidents through a variety of technologies. One application presented by Tippelhofer was termed Smart Parking. Essentially, instead of a car's navigation routing you to a final destination, it would take you to an available parking space near the final destination. San Francisco has already installed smart parking meters, which detect when cars are parked next to them. This data can let the car know about available spaces before you start on a journey, and can update based on changing parking availability.
Complementing that technology was another application called Seamless Navigation, which would let you effortlessly send a destination from a smartphone to the car's navigation system. The car would then route to available parking, and your phone would provide walking directions to the actual destination.
Audi's parking applications would make it unnecessary to circle block after block looking for parking, and potentially causing an accident while scanning for an open spot.
Other technologies that Audi is looking to implement involve predicting traffic problems, helping drivers merge or make lane changes, and detecting when the driver's attention is away from the road ahead.
Tippelhofer said that Audi would be demonstrating some of these technologies this year.
Under the tech hood
Both the Honda and Audi technology initiatives go beyond current cabin electronics, which generally center around navigation, hands-free phone, and digital audio features. What might make these developments possible is the technology offered by Nvidia in the form of its Tegra line of graphical processing units.
At the GTC, Nvidia's Automotive Applications Manager Dave Anderson offered CNET some context for how automakers could deploy these new technologies. Nvidia's primary automotive product is the Visual Computing Module (VCM), a piece of hardware that includes a Tegra processor and will process sensor inputs from around the car, then output visual information for the driver.
Anderson touted how automakers can design a car's systems around the VCM, and plug the latest version of the module into the car at the time of production. As an example, he cited Tesla, which began designing the Model S to use Nvidia's Tegra 2 GPU. By the time the Model S was ready for production, Nvidia had released its Tegra 3 chip. The architecture let Tesla use the latest chip, keeping the car's electronics current.
The VCM mostly solves the problem of automakers releasing cars with cabin electronics two or three years old.
Nvidia's VCM currently sees use in models from Audi, Lamborghini, and BMW. As Nvidia has only made its VCM available for two years so far, many more automakers could be jumping on the bandwagon.
Addressing the issue of component cost, Anderson said that Nvidia can offer less capable but cheaper versions of the VCM. As an example, he noted that where Audi uses an advanced version that enables such features as Google Earth integration in its navigation, Volkswagen is deploying a simpler version in the new Golf, which we saw unveiled at the Paris auto show last year.
The presentations at the GTC, and Nvidia's own automotive offerings, show a huge technological potential for the automotive industry, with future models that can make driving more convenient and, hopefully, accident-free. In fact, they make today's car technology look very primitive.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – So, there's a few reasons that some insanely awesome specs for what's purported to be Google's next Nexus phone by LG just popped up less than 48 hours after the introduction of Samsung's new Android flagship, the Galaxy S4.
It could be that someone associated with Google or LG thought it might be a good idea to leak the details in order to take some wind out of Samsung's sails and give us a glimpse at some sweet next-generation hardware that's just a few months off. OR, we're just getting hella-trolled.
So I recommend grabbing Gandhi and heading to the sea to find enough grains of salt to take with this one, but it's still compelling enough to pass on.
Android and Me claims to have received an unverified tip that Google plans to release a Nexus 5 phone around October of this year and is currently evaluating prototypes from multiple manufacturers, including one from LG code-named "Megalodon."
Here's the drool-worthy list of rumored specs for the Megalodon:
5.2" 1920x1080 OLED Display
2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
16MP rear camera by OmniVision capable of recording 4k video
2.1MP front camera capable of recording 1080p video
3300 mAh Lithium Polymer battery
Front stereo speakers
Qualcomm RF360 (LTE 150 Mbps & HSPA+)
It's also rumored to come in the standard 16/32/64GB storage options and feature some sort of gesture-based controls.
There's an awful lot about this that seems suspect or too good to be true, but there's nothing wrong with setting expectations high if we ever want to see the next revolutionary device.
And in case you're wondering, "Megalodon" refers to a terrifying prehistoric shark that was many times the size of a modern Great White. Perhaps it's an apropos name for a device that could lead us into the next stage of the smartphone wars. Only problem is, right now neither Megalodon is known to actually exist.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) -- MEASURING the value of a good is much trickier than measuring the cost, since value inherently involves consideration of a hypothetical: what would your life be like without that good?
Economists commonly use two measures to assign monetary value to some good or service: the "compensating variation" and the "equivalent variation". The compensating variation asks how much money we would have to give a person to make up for taking the good away from them while the equivalent variation asks how much money someone would give up to acquire the good in question. The term "consumer surplus" refers to an approximation to these theoretically ideal measures.
If we want to estimate "the value of Google search" we have to look at both the commercial and non-commercial aspects of search: users are searching for answers to questions (some of which are commercial in nature) and advertisers are searching for customers for (mostly) commercial transactions. So is useful to break the problem up into two pieces: the value of ads to advertisers and publishers, and the value of search results to users.
Suppose Google were to disappear tomorrow. In the first instance, advertisers and publishers would lose a lot of visitors to their web sites. How much are those lost visitors worth to them? This is the question I tried to answer in the "value of Google" study. The tricky part is ascribing a value to the advertisers of those web site visitors, but it turns out there is a way to infer that value from advertising bidding behavior. This allows us to get a back-of-the-envelope estimate of the immediate loss in value from Google vanishing.
Of course, "if Google did not exist, man would have to invent it". So we would expect that as the weeks went on, users would start to use other search engines, and advertisers would spend advertising dollars in different ways, and publishers would find other ways to get ad dollars for their web sites.
So the long-run loss in value would be substantially less than the immediate impact. Ultimately the lost value would be the difference between Google and the next best advertising alternative but that would be almost impossible to estimate given the available data.
Turning to the user side, we drew on the work of Yan Chen, Grace YoungJoo Jeon and Yong-Mi Kim of the University of Michigan to estimate the value of online search in general.
Some of us are old enough to remember what life was like before search engines. We had to look through a pile of reference books to find the answers to basic questions. Even small questions, like how to spell a word, or whether it was likely to the rain the next day, required some effort to answer. Even trivia was hardly trivial: finding obscure facts involved substantial research.
So one way to measure the value of online search would be to measure how much time it saves us compared to methods we used in the bad old days before Google. Based on a random sample of Google queries, the UM researchers found that answering them using the library took about 22 minutes while answering them using Google took 7 minutes. Overall, Google saved 15 minutes of time. (This calculation ignores the cost of actually going to the library, which in some cases was quite substantial. The UM authors also looked at questions posed to reference librarians as well and got a similar estimate of time saved.)
I attempted to convert this time to dollar savings using the average wage and came up with about $500 per adult worker per year. This may seem like a lot, but it works out to just $1.37 a day. I would guess that most readers of this blog get $1.37 worth of value per day out of their search engine use.
When doing this calculation, it is important to take account of the fact that since the cost of getting answers is now so low, we ask a lot more questions. When getting an answer involved a trip to the library and 22 minutes to answer an average question, we only attempted to get answers to important questions. Now that it involves only a few minutes at a search engine to answer questions, we ask many more—and a lot less valuable—questions.
Said another way, we wouldn't bother to even to go to the library unless we were willing to spend at least 22 minutes (on average) to find the answer. Now that it takes us only a few seconds or minutes to get an answer, we ask a lot of frivolous questions (along with the important ones, of course.)
Taking this effect into account involves estimating a "demand curve for questions" as a function of the "cost of getting answers". I don't know any serious research on this topic, so I made a rough approximation to that demand curve and came up with the $1.37 a day figure. It could be larger or it could be smaller, but I think that is the right order of magnitude.
There are many other ways to estimate the value of the internet and the services it provides. However, to the extent that they are based on current practices, they likely underestimate the long-term value of the internet.
It is now possible for everyone on the planet to have access to all the information humans have ever produced. The barriers to this utopian dream are not technological, but legal and economic. When we manage to solve these problems, we will be able to unlock vast pools of human potential that have hitherto been inaccessible. In the future this will be viewed as a turning point in human history, and economic advances generated by global access to all information will be recognised as the true value of the internet.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Fresh water. The planet has only so much to meet the needs of a growing world population. And global warming throws more uncertainty into the mix by increasing chances of extreme weather, such as more intense droughts in some places.
Dry spells, such as the devastating drought that gripped much of the United States last year, come with economic costs in the developed world and deadly consequences in poorer countries.
There is no secret source of water of the future. Conservation is the best answer, agreed panelists at a discussion held Thursday here at the New York Academy of Sciences.
Better than building
Using the available water is much cheaper than building more reservoirs, pipelines, desalinization plants (to remove salt from seawater) and other infrastructure, said panelist Brian Richter, director of global freshwater strategies for The Nature Conservancy. [Dry and Drying: Images of Drought]
"'I related it to my personal banking account,'" Richter said, quoting a friend. "'If I am overdrafting my personal bank account it is going to do me no good to open up another account.' You can't build your way out of the problem. We are not making any new water."
The good news is, he said, "We're wasting so much, so there is a lot of potential to do a whole lot better."
History shows that conservation is realistic, said panelist Peter Gleick, co-founder of the nonprofit Pacific Institute.
Between 1900 and 2005, the U.S. gross domestic product (goods and services produced by the economy) grew rapidly. Water use paralleled this growth until 1980, then it leveled off.
"The assumption that our demand for water has to go up with population and economy is a false assumption," Gleick said.
In reality, it is unlikely the United States could have found the water it needed if water withdrawals had continued to grow, he said.
A number of factors tamped down demand for water over the past three decades, he said. Irrigation systems have become more efficient, losing less water to evaporation; Americans are eating less beef, which requires water to raise; toilets, washing machines and industrial processes require less water; Americans are reusing treated wastewater, although "we don't do it much and could do it more," Gleick said.
In fact, wastewater treatment infrastructure could be distributed within particular areas, rather than centralized in a single plant, allowing water to be recycled within those areas. Wastewater would be treated, redistributed to users, then returned for treatment, reducing the substantial costs associated with pumping water across long distances, noted Upmanu Lall of Columbia University's The Earth Institute.
At its source
New York City itself offers an example of good planning, said Adam Freed, director of the Nature Conservancy’s Global Security Water Program, who said that cities are often focal points for the global water crisis. [Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points]
About 2,000 square miles (5,180 square kilometers) of watershed (land that drains into a particular waterway) has been set aside in the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley to supply the city with clean water. By investing in protecting the watershed from pollution, the city has saved itself the much larger costs associated with treating the water it needs, Freed said.
This strategy of protecting the water at its source needs to be replicated elsewhere, he said.
Water and money
The private sector has an important role to play, said Brooke Barton, who leads the water program of Ceres, an organization that advocates for sustainable leadership in business.
A number of large companies, such as Coca-Cola and Ford, have recently made commitments to address water use. But the private sector still has far to go, she said. In a study conducted last year, Ceres researchers found that many large companies were far behind the curve with regard to water conservation, Barton said.
The investment community is likely to play an important role in change by pushing companies to gather more data about risks associated with water use, she said.
The cost of water use is often hidden, changing water's price could affect usage, just as gas consumption changes with price, Richter pointed out, with a caveat: "We do have to be careful not to raise the price out of the (range of) affordability of the poor.”
Warming brought by climate change is expected to intensify the water cycle — the processes by which water travels between the oceans, land and atmosphere — by increasing evaporation. This is expected to cause changes in extreme weather, including more heat waves and heavy downpours, as well as intense droughts in some, not necessarily the same, places.
These changes will affect water resources, Gleick said.
“Our water systems were designed for yesterday’s climate, and managed for yesterday’s climate,” he said.
Although current changes are the result of human activity, climate change itself isn’t a new phenomenon. Lall said that in the past, nature has shown great variability, at least as large as anything projected for the future. Knowledge of this history can provide a place to start with regard to adaptation, he said.
"We have to deal with variability," Gleick said. "But climate change may also impose unexpected problems that our past experience isn't sufficient to deal with."-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Chubby caterpillars show that scientists have engineered a plant with oily leaves, an advance that could enhance biofuel production and lead to improved food for animals.
The results, published in the current issue of The Plant Cell, show that researchers could use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves—an uncommon occurrence for most plants.
Traditional biofuel research has focused on improving the oil content of seeds, in part because oil production in seeds occurs naturally. Little research, however, has been done to examine the oil production of leaves and stems, as plants don’t typically store lipids in these tissues.
Christoph Benning, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Michigan State University, led a collaborative effort with colleagues from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC).
“Many researchers are trying to enhance plants’ energy density, and this is another way of approaching it,” Benning says. “It’s a proof-of-concept that could be used to boost plants’ oil production for biofuel use as well as improve the nutrition levels of animal feed.”
Benning and his colleagues began by identifying five genes from one-celled green algae. From the five, they identified one that, when inserted into Arabidopsis thaliana, successfully boosted oil levels in the plant’s leaf tissue.
To confirm that the improved plants were more nutritious and contained more energy, the research team fed them to caterpillar larvae. The larvae that were fed oily leaves from the enhanced plants gained more weight than worms that ate regular leaves.
For the next phase of the research, Benning and his colleagues will work to enhance oil production in grasses and algae that have economic value. The benefits of this research are worth pursuing, Benning says.
“If oil can be extracted from leaves, stems, and seeds, the potential energy capacity of plants may double,” he says. “Further, if algae can be engineered to continuously produce high levels of oil, rather than only when they are under stress, they can become a viable alternative to traditional agricultural crops.”
Moreover, algae can be grown on poor agricultural land—a big plus in the food vs. fuel debate, he adds.
“These basic research findings are significant in advancing the engineering of oil-producing plants,” says Kenneth Keegstra, GLBRC scientific director and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.
“They will help write a new chapter on the development of production schemes that will enhance the quantity, quality, and profitability of both traditional and nontraditional crops.”-www.shfaqna.com/English