An 87-year-old is taking over Instagram with her Microsoft Paint creations

Concha García Zaera, an 87-year-old grandmother from Valencia, Spain, has become an overnight Instagram sensation.

Her account @conchagzaera – which at the time of writing boasts more than 90,000 followers – features her incredibly detailed artwork, all created using…wait for it: Microsoft Paint.

# dibujo #dibujoconpaint #conchadibujapaint#paint #marpinoscastillo

A post shared by Concha García Zaera (@conchagzaera) on

In an interview with Radio Valencia, Zaera says she used to take art classes in oil painting, but could not practice at home due to the strong smell of the paints. When her children gave her a computer, she discovered Microsoft Paint.

As UltimaHora reports, Zaera told the station that she gets most of her inspiration from postcards and landscapes. She does all of her work on Windows 7 and with a mouse. 

Per Vanguardia, Zaera used to post her artwork on Facebook, until one of her granddaughters suggested that she start using Instagram instead. On March 9, she had more than 300 followers. But then, Twitter user @femilimon shared a screenshot of her account.

The tweet went viral, and within the last week, Zaera’s follower count has soared from 361 to more than 90,000.

And rightfully so, because her computer-generated paintings are absolutely amazing.

She told Vanguardia that it takes at least two weeks to do each one and focuses intensely on the details. 

Still, Zaera is still unsure how her account got so popular.

No entiendo muy bien por qué os llaman tanta atención mis dibujos. Yo creo que son cosas muy sencillas [I do not understand very well why my drawings draw so much attention, I think they are very simple things],” she told Vanguardia. 

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/03/16/ms-paint-instagram-grandmother/

There’s A New Magic Day To Buy Plane Tickets

Ever wondered if there’s a magic number of days before a flight when tickets are at their cheapest?

Science has an answer: 70 days before takeoff is now, on average, when flights within the continental U.S. are at their absolute lowest price. And if you don’t nail 70 days ahead of your trip, you should usually book between 21 to 121 days in advance ― within a so-called “prime booking window” ― for the lowest possible prices. 

At least, that’s what newly released data tells us. The folks at CheapAir analyzed 917 million fares for 3 million trips taken in 2017, tracking ticket prices from about 320 days before takeoff all the way up to the day before. They calculated precisely which day each fare hit its lowest point, noting that the current cheapest day average ― 70 days in advance ― is earlier than last year’s sweet spot of 54 days. 

Some travelers may believe they’ll find the lowest of low prices when they book either at the last minute or as early as a flight is offered. This, according to present data, is clearly false.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/best-day-to-book-plane-ticket_us_56cf1648e4b03260bf759b79

Red Hat acquires CoreOS for $250 million in Kubernetes expansion

Red Hat, a company best known for its enterprise Linux products, has been making a big play for Kubernetes and containerization in recent years with its OpenShift Kubernetes product. Today the company decided to expand on that by acquiring CoreOS, a container management startup, for $250 million.

The company’s core products include CoreOS, a Linux distribution and Tectonic, a container management solution based on the open source Kubernetes container orchestration platform, originally developed by Google. (For more information on containers, see this article.)

CoreOs and Red Hat have been among the top contributors to Kubernetes, along with Google, FathomDB, ZTE Corporation, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Fujitsu and Mirantis.

Perhaps by working so closely on Kubernetes, CoreOS and Red Hat formed a bond, and it eventually made sense for them to come together and share customers and brain power. The companies also had competing Linux distros with CoreOS and Red Hat Atomic concentrating on containers, and perhaps the two can find some common developer ground by combining the two.

If the next generation of software is going to be in a hybrid cloud world where part lives on prem in the data center and part in the public cloud, having a cloud-native fabric to deliver applications in a single way is going to be critical. Red Hat’s president of products and technologies, Paul Cormier said that the combined companies are providing a powerful way to span environments.

“The next era of technology is being driven by container-based applications that span multi- and hybrid cloud environments, including physical, virtual, private cloud and public cloud platforms. Kubernetes, containers and Linux are at the heart of this transformation, and like Red Hat, CoreOS has been a leader in both the upstream open source communities that are fueling these innovations and its work to bring enterprise-grade Kubernetes to customers,” Cormier said in a statement.

As CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi told me in an interview last year, “As a company we helped create the whole container category alongside Google, Docker and Red Hat. We helped create a whole new category of infrastructure,” he said.

His company was early to the game by developing an enterprise Kubernetes product, and he was able to capitalize on that. “We called Kubernetes super-duper early and helped enterprises like Ticketmaster and Starbucks adopt Kubernetes,” he said.

He explained that Tectonic included four main categories, including governance, monitoring tools, chargeback accounting and one-click upgrades.

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst told us in an interview last year that his company also came early to containers and Kubernetes. He said the company recognized containers included an operating system kernel, which was usually Linux. One thing they understood was Linux, so they started delving into Kubernetes and containerization and built OpenShift.

CoreOS has raised $50 million since its inception in 2013. Investors include GV (formerly Google Ventures) and Kleiner Perkins, which appear to have gotten nice returns. The most recent round was a $28 million Series B in May 2016 led by GV. One interesting aside is that Google, which has been a big contributor to Kubernetes itself and whose venture arm helped finance CoreOS, was scooped by Red Hat in this deal.

The deal is expected to close this month, and given we only have one day left, chances are it’s done.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/30/red-hat-acquirescoreos-for-250-million-in-kubernetes-expansion/

Who sent the bomb that killed this newlywed man?

Image caption The couple got married on 18 February

A “wedding bomb” that killed a newly-married software engineer and left his wife grievously wounded has shattered the peace of a small town in India. Nearly a month after the incident, the police have made no headway. Soutik Biswas travels to the eastern state of Orissa to piece together the story of a killing that has riveted India.

On a bright summer afternoon on 23 February, five days after their marriage, Soumya Sekhar Sahu, a 26-year-old software engineer, and his 22-year-old wife Reema, were pottering around in the kitchen at his newly-built family home in Patnagarh, a drowsy, nondescript town in Orissa.

They were planning to grill eggplant and make some lentil soup for lunch when Soumya heard the clanging of the latch of their metal gate. A delivery man stood outside, holding a parcel addressed to him.

A fraying sticker on the box said it had been sent by SK Sharma from Raipur, some 230km (142 miles) away.

Reema remembers her husband opening the box in the kitchen, and finding a parcel covered in green paper with a white thread sticking out of it, while his 85-year-old grand-aunt Jemamani Sahu came up from behind to see what the parcel contained.

‘Surprise gift’

“This looks like a wedding gift,” Soumya Sekhar told his wife. “The only thing that I don’t know is the sender. I don’t know anyone in Raipur.”

As he pulled the thread, there was a flash of light and a huge explosion rocked the kitchen. The three were knocked off their feet, and collapsed on the tiled floor, bleeding profusely. The blast had ripped the plaster off the ceiling, blown apart the water purifier, sent the kitchen window flying into an adjacent field, and cracked the green painted walls.

The three writhed in pain on the blood-splattered floor. Jeemamani Sahu was on fire. “Save me. I think I am dying,” Soumya Sekhar groaned before losing consciousness.

Image caption A video grab of the kitchen moments after the incident

That was the last time Reema heard her husband speak.

The burns stung her face and arms. With smoke filling her lungs, she struggled to breathe. Her eardrum had punctured, so she barely heard the hum of panicky neighbours rushing in and asking whether the cooking gas cylinder had exploded. Her vision was blurring as debris clogged her eyes.

Still Reema managed to crawl to the bedroom, and pick up the phone to call her mother-in-law, a principal in a local college. She passed out before she could make the call.

Video footage from the house minutes after the blast shows distraught neighbours carrying away the three wounded residents in bed-sheets to a waiting ambulance. Soumya Sekhar and Jemamani Sahu, who both suffered from 90% burns, died as they were being moved to hospital. Reema is recovering slowly in a cramped room in the burns ward in a government hospital.

More than a month after the horrific murder, no one appears to have the faintest idea who killed Soumya Sekhar, described as a “genial and god fearing young man who worshipped a guru” by relatives and friends.

“We are simple people with simple lives. I have no enemies. My daughter has no enemies. My son-in-law had no enemies. I don’t suspect anybody, and I don’t know who could have done this,” Sudam Charan Sahu, Reema’s father, told me.

Their families had introduced them, and the two had been engaged for a little more than a year. Reema’s father, a garments trader, adopted her from his younger brother because he wanted a daughter after his two sons, and his brother had three daughters. The cheerful and pretty girl went to a local college and graduated with an Oriya language degree.

Soumya Sekhar’s parents were both college teachers – his father taught zoology. He had studied computer science and worked with info-tech companies in Mysore and Chandigarh, before joining a Japanese electronics firm in Bangalore two months ago.

Image caption More than 800 people attended the reception at Mr Sahu’s house

“They met a few times before the marriage in presence of their families. They were a happy couple. Why would someone want to kill him?” Soumya Sekhar’s father, Rabindra Kumar Sahu, 57, said.

The only indication of something amiss seems to be one mysterious call that Soumya Sekhar received when he was in Bangalore.

“The call came last year,” Reema told me. “We were talking on the phone, and he said there was a call coming in. And I vaguely remember he put me on hold, and later told me, ‘I got a threatening call. A man on the line told me not to marry.'”

He didn’t mention any more calls, and by the time the marriage happened, “we had completely forgotten about the call”.

Two dozen investigators have questioned more than 100 people – friends and relatives of the couple mainly – in four cities in connection with the killing. They have scoured mobile phone records, and scanned laptops and phones belonging to the couple.

Hopes were raised when cyber sleuths found the parcel had been tracked online twice from a private computer institute in Kalahandi district, some 119km away, leading to speculation that the killer may have been following it. But eventually they found it was the courier company itself that had been tracking the consignment.

Crude bomb?

The only thing the police know for sure is that the parcel was sent from Raipur, under a false name and address. The killer, who paid 400 rupees ($6.14; £4.35) for the delivery, had chosen the courier company carefully: there were no CCTV cameras in their office, and the parcel was not scanned.

The parcel then made a 650km journey on three buses and passed through four pairs of hands before reaching Patangarh on 20 February. The delivery man made a run the same evening to Soumya Sekhar’s residence, but returned without delivering the package because “he saw a big marriage reception going on at the place”, Dilip Kumar Das, the local manager of the courier company, explained. Three days later, the man finally delivered the parcel at the gate.

Forensic experts are still trying to ascertain how sophisticated the bomb was. On the face of it, investigators say, it appeared to be a fairly crude device wrapped in jute thread which spewed white smoke after the blast.

Image caption One of the last pictures of the couple at the reception

The lack of strong leads means that the investigators are contemplating several motives behind the killing.

Was it the work of a spurned or scorned lover? The police still have no clue, but say they are investigating why Soumya Sekhar deleted his Facebook account weeks before his marriage and opened a new one.

Was the killing related to a property dispute in the Sahu family, where Soumya Sekhar was the only son and the natural heir? Investigators say they need to question more family members before coming to any conclusions.

Did the murder have anything to do with a feud that Reema had in her secondary school, when a classmate harassed her and her parents had to lodge a complaint with the principal? It seems highly unlikely because the incident happened nearly six years ago.

Also, how did the sender of the bomb manage to get his hands on an explosive and pack and send it to the target so easily? Was it a contract killing? “This is a fiendishly complex case,” Balangir’s senior police official Sashi Bhusan Satpathy said. “This was the work of a fairly knowledgeable person well-versed in the arts of bomb making.”

Reema is still in hospital, and her tragedy became a spectacle on Monday when a family member whipped out his mobile phone and recorded her breaking down after she discovered from an old newspaper in her room that her husband had been killed in the blast. For nearly three weeks, her family hadn’t broken the news to her. Now, she was crying inconsolably.

“You lied to me, you didn’t tell me the truth,” she wailed at her father, as he broke down. By the evening, the video of this private moment of grief was showing on local TV.

“We thought maybe this would move the government to step up the investigation and arrest the culprit soon,” her father said.

“That’s all we want.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-43497820

Ocean plastic could treble in decade

Image copyright SPL

The amount of plastic in the ocean is set to treble in a decade unless litter is curbed, a major report has warned.

Plastics is just one issue facing the world’s seas, along with rising sea levels, warming oceans, and pollution, it says.

But the Foresight Future of the Sea Report for the UK government said there are also opportunities to cash in on the “ocean economy”.

They say this is predicted to double to $3 trillion (£2 trillion) by 2030.

The report says much more knowledge is needed about the ocean. The authors say the world needs a Mission to “Planet Ocean” to mirror the excitement of voyaging to the moon and Mars.

The Foresight reports are written by experts to brief ministers on medium and long-term issues of significance. This one has been signed off by ministers from four different departments as the authors emphasise the need for a joined-up oceans policy.

One of the authors, Prof Edward Hill from the UK National Oceanography Centre told BBC News: “The ocean is critical to our economic future. Nine billion people will be looking to the ocean for more food. Yet we know so little of what’s down there.

“We invest a lot of money and enthusiasm for missions to space – but there’s nothing living out there. The sea bed is teeming with life. We really need a mission to planet ocean – it’s the last frontier.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The report projects an increase in the industrial capture of fish

Another of the authors, the chief scientist for the UK government’s environment department Ian Boyd, agreed: “The ocean is out of sight, out of mind,” he said.

He told BBC News: “There’s a continuous process of exploring for new things to exploit in the oceans, and that’s happening faster than we scientists can keep up with. My suspicion is legislation is also struggling to keep up – and obviously there are risks in that.”

He said offshore wind farms, oil industries and mining firms were spreading into unexplored areas. “Scientists need to get in there faster than the commercial people or at least at the same time – to put proper regulation in place to govern those industries.”

The report highlights many concerns, including the current worry about ocean plastic litter, which it forecasts will treble between 2015 and 2025.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionA giant build-up of plastic was captured by underwater photographer Caroline Power

But it stresses that the ocean is being assailed from many different types of pollution – including run-off pesticides and fertilisers from farms, industrial toxins like PCBs, and pharmaceuticals.

The authors say if governments can identify ways of protecting biodiversity in the seas, there are riches to be harvested – including nodules of metals and possibly even cures for cancer.

They predict that the biggest industrial growth in the seas will come from offshore wind, followed by marine aquaculture and fish processing. The report also projects an increase in industrial capture of wild fish.

This latter suggestion alarmed Rachel Jones, a marine expert from London Zoo, ZSL. She told BBC News: “Given that 90% of global fisheries are either at or in excess of sustainable catch levels, I can’t really see how they are going to expand capture fisheries.”

Follow Roger on Twitter.

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-43477233

Six days after a ransomware cyberattack, Atlanta officials are filling out forms by hand

Atlanta (CNN)Residents can’t pay their water bill or their parking tickets. Police and other employees are having to write out their reports by hand. And court proceedings for people who are not in police custody are canceled until computer systems are functioning properly again.

More than six days after a ransomware attack shut down the city of Atlanta’s online systems, officials here are still struggling to keep the government running without many of their digital processes and services.
The city said on Twitter that all court dates set for Wednesday will be rescheduled and all applications for jobs with the city are suspended until further notice.
    On Tuesday officials told city employees to turn their computers and printers back on for the first time, part of an ongoing assessment of the impacts of the cyber breach, which took place on March 22.
    The city also said on Twitter Wednesday that “there is no evidence to show that customer or employee data has been compromised.” But city officials have urged employees and customers to contact credit agencies and monitor their bank accounts as a precaution.
    Details about the attack itself remain thin. So far, authorities have only confirmed that the city experienced a ransomware cyberattack and city officials received a written demand related to it.
    Atlanta’s public-safety services such as 911, police, and fire-rescue are unaffected, officials say, as are systems related to the functioning of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport.
    At a news conference Monday Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said that hackers had asked for $51,000, but there has been no formal confirmation of a ransom amount.
    “I just want to make the point that this is much bigger than a ransomware attack,” she said. “This is really an attack on our government, which means it’s an attack on all of us.”
    Ransomware is malicious software that blocks users from accessing some or all of their computer systems by locking them out until a ransom is paid. Officials haven’t said whether the city was going to pay the ransom.
    “Everything is up for discussion,” was the Mayor’s reply when asked directly by reporters whether the city would pay up.

    Law enforcement response

    A private company, SecureWorks, has been brought in to investigate the breach. SecureWorks and the city’s incident response team are working with law enforcement, including the FBI, Homeland Security and the Secret Service, as well as independent forensics experts and educational partners like Georgia Tech, to determine exactly what happened.
    “We have completed the investigation and containment phases,” SecureWorks CEO Mike Cote said on Monday. “We are transitioning to the recovery phase to include the methodical restoration of critical systems.”

      RansomWare attack exposes IT vulnerabilities

    Officials are being tight-lipped about specifics. Bottoms likened the circumstances to “a hostage situation.”
    “Just as we wouldn’t give away too much information if there was a physical hostage, we do have to be careful,” she said. “I can tell you that we are working around the clock.”
    A handful of city employees contacted by CNN Tuesday declined to comment, saying they were told not to discuss the attack.
    Meanwhile, officials are focused on establishing manual workarounds for divisions that have been impacted.
    “We have teams that are going to every single department,” Atlanta Chief Operating Officer Richard Cox said Monday. “We’re mapping out the manual processes so that we position ourselves to take care of the city and keep it running if this is to go into the future.”
    In other words, some city officials are filling out forms by hand. Asked how long such a process is sustainable, Bottoms cracked a joke.
    “Well, it was a sustainable model until we got computer systems, so … for some of our younger employees, it will be a nice exercise in good penmanship.”

    Services available in person

    Some services that are not available online can be accessed in person by coming to City of Atlanta offices.
    Among them: new water service requests and hydrant-meter renewals and returns. Most planning services are still available in person, but officials say processing times may take longer than normal. And residents needing inspections or help with zoning can still access services by appearing in person or by calling the department.
    But the city said Wednesday on Twitter that its Municipal Court does not have the ability to process ticket payments — online or in person.
    Officials say anyone set for a walk-in Municipal Court appearance will be rescheduled automatically without penalty and that no failure-to-appear warrants will be issued during this time. They recommend checking with the Georgia Department of Driver Services if the case involves the status of a driver’s license.

      Watch this robot get attacked by ransomware

    The city’s payroll is also unaffected, Cox confirmed last week.
    The Mayor said the cyberattack underscored the need to shore up critical systems.
    “Just as much as we really focus on our physical infrastructure, we need to focus on the security of our digital infrastructure,” Bottoms said. “I am looking foward to us really being a national model of how cities can shore themselves up and be stronger because of it.”

    Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/27/us/atlanta-ransomware-computers/index.html

    Anti-Vaxxers Are Sharing Tactics Online On How To Avoid Mandatory Vaccines, And Its Pretty Scary

    So, if you’re not outraged enough already over a previous post about the bizarre behavior of the anti-vaccine crew, here’s another example that is immoral, dishonest and can even put the lives of others in serious risk.

    If you want to work in the healthcare industry, where you are exposed to bacteria, viruses and all kinds of illness and disease more often than regular people, it just makes sense that your immune system is as robust and strong as it possibly can be. Not just for yourself, but for those that you come in contact with too, as their own immune systems can be severely compromised and any infection can quickly become life threatening.

    Therefore, most employers make it mandatory that healthcare professionals are fully vaccinated, even against ‘minor’ things like the flu. This brings a dilemma for anti-vaxxers who want to be doctors, nurses etc. as they have to choose between their ill-founded principles, and the realities of medical science.

    Now, there appears to be a Facebook group for these people to share their tips and hints of how to cheat the system, and enter the healthcare world unvaccinated. From getting friends receipts, to finding stores that give receipts before the shot so they can run away, these people are infuriatingly brazen about their selfish behavior. Some even go as far as to refuse TB testing or x-rays. Because things were so much better when we were ‘pure’ without these forced, evil-government ‘toxins’ and dying in our 30’s, right?

    Scroll down below to check out the posts for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below. Do they have a point? Or is this just plain wrong? Join the conversation!

    There are more and more posts on social media explaining how one can avoid vaccines

    Image credits: Naval Surface Warriors

    And some of the posts offer an insight into why anyone would want to do that

    Commenters were quick to share their advice

    And it’s not only vaccines, someone asked advice on how to avoid being tested for tuberculosis

    But the scariest bit has to be people asking advice on how to avoid the shots while trying to land a job in a hospital

    Even some people who claim to be already working in the medical field admit to avoiding vaccines

    Discussions like these are more common than you might think

    People reacted strongly to the posts

    Read more: http://www.boredpanda.com/anti-vaxxers-lie-mandatory-work-flu-vaccination/

    Scott Pruitt Just Gutted Rules To Fight The Nations Second Biggest Toxic Pollution Threat

    WASHINGTON ― The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Thursday to scrap Obama-era rules tightening restrictions on disposal of coal ash, the toxic byproduct from coal-fired power plants that has caused major water contamination problems across the country.

    EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt billed the new proposal as a bid to give states more independence over coal ash disposal, though he moved to reconsider the 2015 regulation in September at the request of fossil fuel utilities.

    The EPA’s announcement makes no mention of the risks coal ash poses to human health and the environment. Rather, the agency justified its move by noting it is expected to save the utility sector between $31 and $100 million annually.

    “Today’s coal ash proposal embodies EPA’s commitment to our state partners by providing them with the ability to incorporate flexibilities into their coal ash permit programs based on the needs of their states,” Pruitt said in a statement.

    Coal-fired power plants in the United States produce roughly 140 million tons of coal ash per year, containing toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, selenium and other carcinogenic substances. The waste product is typically stored in wet ponds, nearly 46 percent of which operated without liners to prevent hazardous chemicals from seeping into groundwater, according to 2012 data released by the EPA.

    Living within a mile of a wet coal ash storage pond poses a greater health threat than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, raising the risk of cancer to one in 50, an EPA study from 2010 found. Children are particularly at risk of learning disabilities, birth defects, asthma and cancer, with 1.54 million living near such storage sites, according to EPA data cited by the Sierra Club.

    “This is the second biggest toxic pollution threat in our country, and we need to clean it up – not make things easier for polluters,” Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans said in a statement. “People living near more than a thousand toxic coal ash sites are at risk. They face contaminated drinking water, toxic dust in the air, and serious health threats just because the EPA is choosing to side with polluters over the public.”

    In 2014, the EPA catalogued 158 cases where coal ash compromised water quality, including 22 that involved recycled waste product. And a government study in 2012 estimated that the damage to fish and wildlife at 21 disposal sites came at a cost of more than $2.3 billion, “enough money to construct 155 landfills with state-of-the-art composite liners and leachate collection systems.”

    The rule change marks the Trump administration’s latest rollback of clean water regulations  at a time when drinking water contamination crises are proliferating across the country. In February 2017, less than a month after taking office, President Donald Trump signed a bill to allow coal companies to dump waste into streams. In June, the EPA moved to repeal the 2015 Waters of the U.S. rule that extended 1972 Clean Water Act protections to roughly 20 million acres of wetlands and streams. The agency formally suspended the rule on Jan. 31.

    Scrapping the only federal rules on coal ash presents a major problem  in the face of storms, floods and other extreme weather made more frequent and intense by climate change. When Hurricane Maria made landfall over Puerto Rico last year, flood waters swelled the river in the city of Guayama, wreaking havoc on the city’s 42,000 residents and distributing its five-story-tall tower of coal ash.

    Coal ash in particular has long been a hot-button issue in the utility industry. In 2014, Duke Energy, one of the country’s biggest power companies, spilled nearly 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, causing one of North Carolina’s biggest environmental disasters in its history. In 2016, then Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed a bill that dramatically watered down legislation forcing Duke to clean up its coal ash pits without requiring the company to excavate the waste or provide clean water to residents near the pond. Yet, two years later, the company is still battling environmentalists and regulators in the state as the utility seeks to pass the cleanup costs onto ratepayers in the form of a price hike.

    In a separate legal fight over coal ash, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s biggest public utility, last month appealed a federal judge’s order to clean up decades of coal ash environmentalists say poisoned water in the Volunteer State. Eighteen states and an alliance of big corporate interests urged an appeals court to overturn the decision last month.

    Gutting the EPA’s rules on coal ash pollution takes some pressure off the utilities, but thrusts the industry back into the sort of “regulatory uncertainty” Pruitt vowed to alleviate. In 2014, before the EPA passed its coal ash rule, the American Coal Ash Association, a trade group, complained about “regulatory uncertainty that has impeded the beneficial use of coal ash for half a decade.”

    It’s unclear whether Pruitt’s new rule promotes recycling coal ash for other uses. Coal ash can be used to pave roads, though the environmentalists say even that poses pollution risks. And last year, Purdue University researchers announced new technology to sift rare earth elements ― highly-valued components used in electronics and renewable energy hardware ― out of coal ash waste.

    Thomas Adams, executive director of the American Coal Ash Association, said he hopes the next part of the EPA’s announcement will include changing a rule that mandates companies to go through a risk evaluation when stockpiling more than 12,400 tons of coal ash for anything other than road projects. The EPA set the threshold in 2015 based on what Adams called an “arithmetic error” that he argued hurts the market for using coal ash in cement manufacturing or to fill structures such as building foundations. He said he hopes the EPA will raise the limit to 75,000 tons.

    “It [the rule] depresses the market,” he told HuffPost by phone.

    Thursday’s announcement is part of a broader effort by the Trump administration to end a perceived “war” on coal waged by the Obama administration. Last year, the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group petitioned the EPA to roll back the Obama-era coal ash rule, calling it ”burdensome, inflexible, and often impracticable.” The organization of some 80 utilities warned that regulating coal ash disposal would “result in significant economic and operational impacts to coal-fired power generation,” and could even force power plants to shut down.

    The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/epa-coal-ash-rule_us_5a999023e4b0a0ba4ad2e630

    Amazon is cutting hundreds of corporate jobs, according to a new report

    In a rare move for the online retail giant, Amazon is laying off hundreds of corporate workers in its Seattle headquarters and elsewhere, according to a Seattle Times report.

    The corporate cuts come after an eight-year hiring spree, taking the company from 5,000 in 2010 to 40,000 in its Seattle headquarters and gobbling up several retail businesses throughout the country.

    However, according to the report, Amazon’s rising employee numbers over the last two years left some departments over budget and with too many staff on hand. In the last few months, the company implemented hiring freezes to stem the flow of new workers, cutting the number of open positions in half from the 3,500 listed last Summer.

    The layoffs will mainly focus on Amazon’s Seattle office, but there have already been cuts in some of its retail subsidiaries in other parts of the country, such as the Las Vegas-based online footwear retailer Zappos, which had to lay off 30 people recently. And the company behind Diapers.com, Quidsi, had to cut more than 250 jobs a year ago.

    The moves suggest Amazon may be trying to rein in spending and consolidate some of its retail businesses.

    It’s important to note that cutting out a few hundred workers at a company with tens of thousands of employees is not unusual — and is pretty small in comparison to other established tech giants that have had to lay off far more recently. For instance, Microsoft had to lay off thousands of employees starting late last year — though most of those employees affected were outside of the United States.

    The cuts also don’t indicate Amazon, which employs more than half a million people globally, has any intentions of cutting more or of slowing down its hiring practices elsewhere. According to its most recent quarterly earnings report, the company has upped its global workforce by 66 percent over the last year. Amazon currently has more than 4,000 job listings on its site for Seattle.

    We have yet to hear back from Amazon about the latest report, but a spokesperson for the company told The Seattle Times the move was part of the company’s annual planning process and that, “We are making head count adjustments across the company — small reductions in a couple of places and aggressive hiring in many others.”

    According to the report, several employees have already been told they’ve been laid off and those layoffs are expected to be completed in the next few weeks.

    “For affected employees, we work to find roles in the areas where we are hiring,” the spokesperson said.

    Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/02/12/amazon-is-cutting-hundreds-of-corporate-jobs-according-to-a-new-report/

    Claims ‘cheating’ may have swayed Brexit poll

    Image copyright PA
    Image caption Mr Wylie answered questions from MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sports committee

    The UK may not have voted for Brexit if it had not been for “cheating” by the Leave campaign, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica has claimed.

    Christopher Wylie said Vote Leave and other pro-Brexit groups had a “common plan” to get round spending controls.

    He told MPs they all used Aggregate IQ, a “franchise” of the data analytics firm, to target swing voters, using information drawn from CA’s databases.

    Cambridge Analytica said it had played “no role” in the Brexit referendum.

    The firm accused Mr Wylie, who it said had no “direct knowledge” of its work after he left the firm in July 2014, of peddling “false information, speculation, and completely unfounded conspiracy theories”.

    And Vote Leave have denied accusations that they broke the spending rules during the UK’s 2016 referendum on whether or not to stay in the European Union.

    Cambridge Analytica, which is facing claims it amassed the data of millions of Facebook users without their consent and used it in political campaigns, is under investigation by the Information Commissioner.

    MPs have said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to decline an invitation to appear before them is “astonishing” amid reports he will testify before a US Congressional committee inquiry into data privacy.

    Former Vote Leave volunteer Shahmir Sanni has claimed the official Leave campaign may have used a different pro-Brexit group, BeLeave, to get round spending controls by giving it £625,000 but requiring it to spend the money on Aggregate IQ – a Canadian data firm Vote Leave used for its digital advertising.

    Vote Leave, which would have gone over its campaign spending limit of £7m if it had spent the money itself, has denied the claims, which are being investigated by the Electoral Commission.

    Vote Leave says that it only donated the money to BeLeave after the Electoral Commission gave it the go-ahead.

    Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a key Vote Leave figure, dismissed the allegations, adding that the referendum was a “free and fair vote”.

    He said: “I think that some of the allegations have already been investigated by the Electoral Commission, twice in fact, and it’s clear from those investigations that actually there wasn’t anything that went on that was wrong.”

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    Media captionChristopher Wylie says the company’s operations were an example of “modern-day colonialism”

    Appearing before the Commons Media Committee, Mr Wylie said he was “absolutely convinced” that Vote Leave, BeLeave and other groups were working together and had a “common plan”.

    “All of these companies somehow, for some reason, all decided to use AIQ,” he said.

    “When you look at the accumulation of evidence, I think it would be completely unreasonable to come to any other conclusion other than this must be co-ordination.”

    Mr Wylie told MPs he had met Dominic Cummings, Vote Leave’s campaign director, in November 2015, and that shortly afterwards the campaign group had hired Aggregate IQ.

    He rejected Cambridge Analytica’s assertion that it was not linked to Aggregate IQ, saying that although they were separate corporate entities, Aggregate IQ was essentially a “franchise” of Cambridge Analytica and its parent firm SCL Group.

    At the time of their meeting, he said, Cambridge Analytica was working for rival Brexit group Leave.EU and Vote Leave had got the “next best thing” by hiring a firm “that can do everything that Cambridge Analytica can do but with a different billing name”.

    He said he was sure Aggregate IQ had drawn on Cambridge Analytica databases during the referendum, saying it “baffled” him how a firm in the UK for only a couple of months had “created a massive targeting operation” without access to data.

    Image copyright Getty Images
    Image caption The Electoral Commission is looking into the activities of Vote Leave and other campaign groups

    “You can’t have targeting software that does not access the database,” he said.

    The data, he suggested, was used to aim material to between five and seven million people Aggregate IQ believed could be persuaded to vote for Brexit.

    “They were targeting a very specific cohort,” he said.

    “They posited that if x per cent of these people turn out, they can win. I think it is incredibly reasonable to say AIQ played a very significant role in Leave winning.”

    On the basis of Aggregate IQ’s use of data and political activities in other countries, he said questions had to be asked as to whether it was “compliant” with the law during the referendum.

    “I think it is completely reasonable to say there could have been a different outcome of the referendum had there not been, in my view, cheating.”

    ‘Good sense’

    Lawyers for Aggregate IQ have said the firm had “never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica” while Mr Cummings said the claims were “factually wrong” and the Electoral Commission had approved donations in the run-up to the referendum.

    In a statement, Cambridge Analytica said it had sub-contracted some work to Aggregate IQ in 2014 and 2015 but that claims it worked with them on the EU referendum were “entirely false”.

    “Beyond an early-stage sales pitch to Vote Leave, Cambridge Analytica had no interaction with that group or any of their vendors,” it said.

    During a debate later in the Commons, Conservative Sir Edward Leigh suggested the claims of undue influence had been “grossly exaggerated” and the British electorate had had “the good sense to make up their mind” when it came to backing Brexit by a 52% to 48% margin.

    But Labour MP Frank Field said that although he supported Brexit, he believed that if offences had been committed “the full weight of the law” should be thrown at anyone found culpable.

    Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith said ministers should not pre-empt the findings of the independent Electoral Commission’s investigations into whether any campaigners breached political finance rules.

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    Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43558876