A New York town just placed a moratorium on crypto mining

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As cryptocurrency becomes a more important force in the world market, more companies are cropping up to mine it. And that, in turn, is becoming a problem for places where these miners are setting up. The town of Plattsburgh, New York, has become the…
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Texas town ditches its bus service for ride-sharing app Via

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Via, the app-based ride-sharing service, is replacing bus services for an entire town in Texas, according to CBS This Morning. It’s the latest evidence of US cities forgoing investments in public transportation in favor of partnerships with privately held technology startups.

Under the deal, residents of Arlington, Texas, who own a smartphone can use Via’s app to summon one of 10 commuter vans that will be operating primarily in the city’s downtown area. Fares will only be $ 3 a ride, or $ 10 for a weekly pass, thanks to direct subsidies from the city. Via will replace a fleet of charter buses that had been operating in Arlington for four years.

Asked by CBS if he sees buses and light rail as “passé,” Arlington mayor Jeff Williams said,…

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Cape Town Has More Time to Solve Its Water Crisis. How Will It Use It?

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Earlier this year, there was serious reason to believe that Cape Town, in South Africa, was going to become the first major city in the world to run out of water. Now, the ominous “Day Zero” deadline of the water crisis has shifted to August 27, back from earlier estimates that had it occurring in either March or April.

August 27 is well within the part of the year where the region usually experiences heavy rainfall. As such, city officials have said that it’s no longer appropriate to set a date without taking that precipitation into consideration, according to a report by Buzzfeed.

However, this isn’t to say that the threat is over. If there’s as little rainfall this year as there was in 2017, Day Zero will hit in early 2019.

Residents are being praised for their efforts to conserve water, which have helped push Day Zero back into next year. Buzzfeed reports that Cape Town typically uses around 1.2 billion liters of water per day, but as of late, daily consumption has fallen between 510 and 520 million liters.

Even so, the city requires a more long-term solution for its water needs. The current water crisis came from reduced rainfall leading to a three-year drought, which is only more likely to happen in a climate-changed future.

There have been a litany of suggestions to help Cape Town out of its current shortage, ranging from desalinating ocean water to dragging up a seven-ton iceberg from the Canary Islands (yes, really). As Quartz points out, Cape Town could also learn from cities like Melbourne, Australia, which has maintained more conservative water habits following a similar drought. In Melbourne, both mandatory and voluntary measures in water use — ranging from fines for daytime lawn watering, to rebates for buying more efficient washing machines — have cut water use almost in half since 1996.

The end goal is still the same, but the expanded time frame could offer up solutions that weren’t feasible when there were only weeks left until resources ran out. The amount of rain that comes over the next several months will be crucial, and authorities will have to take full advantage of the brief reprieve to come up with an action plan.

The post Cape Town Has More Time to Solve Its Water Crisis. How Will It Use It? appeared first on Futurism.


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Microsoft’s Soundscape app helps blind people get around town with 3D audio cues

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After roughly four years in the making, Microsoft’s Soundscape app for guiding people with vision impairment around cities is now available for iOS in the US and the UK. The aim is to provide 3D audio cues that not only help you find your chosen destination – whether that’s a university building or a coffee shop – but also to make you aware of exactly where you are and what’s around you as you walk. Microsoft says that Soundscape achieves this by pairing with a stereo headset and calling out the names of roads and landmarks that you pass by.…

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Brilliant Ideas That Buy Us Time Before Cape Town Reaches Day Zero

In just over 100 days, researchers expect Cape Town to run out of water. The South African megacity has traditionally enjoyed abundant rains during winter and a warm, pleasant climate during summer, but after three years of drought, experts now expect the city’s water system to collapse on June 4, 2018.

Currently, Cape Town’s citizens have access to 13.2 gallons of water per day, about a quarter of what the average American uses daily and equivalent to little more than a six-minute shower. Experts predict water levels in the six dams that feed the city will fall below 13.5 percent of their capacity on June 4, effectively leaving the city dry. On that “Day Zero,” nearly four million residents could see their water rationed to 6.6 gallons per day per person.

As time runs out for Cape Town, the brightest minds in Africa and beyond are scrambling for last-ditch solutions to stave off the crisis. Here are some of the most ambitious ideas that may buy time while the city sets up desalination plants and hopes for rain.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

Proposed solution: Drag an iceberg down to Western Cape

What is it? As wild as it sounds, computer simulations have shown we could transport a mammoth clump of ice thousands of miles while retaining more than half its mass during the journey. A 2009 study by French software firm Dassault Systemes showed that it is possible to tow an iceberg with a weight of seven metric tons from the Canary Islands to the northwest coast of Africa in under five months and with a loss of only 38 percent of its mass.

With a budget of approximately $ 10 million, engineers could fit the iceberg with an insulating skirt to reduce melting and then tether it to a boat traveling at a speed of about one knot (1.1 miles per hour).

How will it help? After docking, the water would have to be distributed across the city, which would presumably add to the staggering costs of the operation. However, with Day Zero looming, the investment may be worth it. The Abu Dhabi-based National Adviser Bureau told Gulf News that the average iceberg could provide up to 20 billion gallons of fresh water. The Daily Maverick did the math: If such a wild idea were to come true, it could solve Cape Town’s water crisis for almost half a year.

Image Credit: I-Drop Water

Proposed solution: I-Drop Water

What is it? Launched in 2015, this South African nonprofit distributes water purification systems to shops and grocery stores as a way to reach the most people while keeping water affordable. The filters remove viruses, bacteria, and sediments from the water, and a central station monitors the distribution units through an embedded SIM card, so shopkeepers pay for each gallon of dirty water they purify and sell.

How will it help? In the wake of the Cape Town crisis, Swedish group Bluewater, which also produces water purifiers, teamed up with I-Drop to distribute more systems across southern Africa. The goal is to keep the price of water lower compared to single-use bottles, while also tackling the growing problem of plastic pollution in the continent’s main urban centers. When Day Zero hits Cape Town and people are left with less than seven gallons a day, recycled dirty water could provide a life-saving top up.

Image Credit: Greenchain Engineering

Proposed solution: Greenchain Engineering

What is it? The South African startup targets the entire water supply chain, providing rain harvesting systems as well as improving the management of gray water, which is not drinkable but can be used to wash dishes, run a washing machine, or take a shower. Although a lack of rain is currently Cape Town’s main problem, citizens could harvest rain from short showers from their roofs. The system filters and distributes water collected this way.

How will it help? The startup has started a conversation with the Cape Town municipality to roll out their services on a large scale. While equipping every roof with a water harvesting system may not stop Day Zero from arriving, it could help the city manage the limited resources left and potentially prevent future crises once the rain comes back.

Image Credit: Warka Water

Proposed solution: Fog catchers

What is it? They come in various forms, from a simple square sail stretched between two poles to a complex tent-like structure, but their goal is the same: capture every droplet of moisture in the air and turn it into drinkable water.

The intricate fabric of a fog catcher traps condensation, be it from post-rain humidity or morning mist, and channels it into a container. The devices are designed to meet the needs of remote communities that have to rely on erratic rains for their daily water supply, and they’ve proven so popular people now use them everywhere in the world, from South America to Africa.

How will it help? Innovator Grant Vanderwagen is piloting a simple version of fog catchers in Cape Town. Although the idea is still little more than a proof of concept, the entrepreneur told VentureBurn that a single unit could produce up to 10,000 liters (2,200 gallons) of water per month, depending on the weather.

Image Credit: Creative Commons

Proposed solution: #defeatdayzero

What is it? While the H2O (Hack Two Day Zero) hackathon held in Cape Town on February 9 and 10 was not a solution in itself, the array of fresh ideas generated could help the city get through the crisis.

How will it help? The participants had two days to work together and come up with a prototype that addresses short and long term implications of severe drought. The winning team created Tiny Loop, a battery-operated shower to prolong showers while using less water. They now have a cash prize to use to bring their project to life, and it could help citizens maintain proper hygiene during the crisis.

Image Credit: Tiny Eco / @TinyLoopSA

The post Brilliant Ideas That Buy Us Time Before Cape Town Reaches Day Zero appeared first on Futurism.


Design the Look and Taste of Your Dream Beer in ‘Brew Town’ Craft Beer Simulator from ‘Fist of Awesome’ and ‘Neon Horizon’ Developers

AppBox Media, responsible for Neon Horizon [Free] among many others, and Nicoll Hunt’s studio I Fight Bears, of Fist of Awesome [$ 0.99] and Maximum Car [Free] fame, are teaming up on something decidedly different for both developers. It’s a beer crafting simulation game called Brew Town, and it’s arriving on iOS and Android March 22nd. Like creating games in Game Dev Story, in Brew Town you’ll be responsible for creating new and interesting beers, then stocking and (hopefully) selling them to eager customers. As we all know how fun it is creating silly game types in Game Dev Story, I think Brew Town will take things to the next level with their robust custom bottle creator. Check it out and the rest of the game in this trailer.

This isn’t the first time we’ve done some brewin’ on our mobiles, as the excellent 2013 sim Fiz: Brewery Management Game offered a similar experience a few years back and is still a super fun game. Brew Town looks like it goes in a pretty different direction though, literally building all the various pieces of an actual brewing town, and of course the incredible level of customization for all your wacky beer ideas.

The developers’ own description sums up Brew Town quite well: “A tycoon game like no other, Brew Town is all about you crafting your way to success. Want to make an almond flavoured stout? Go right ahead. You’d rather have a caramel-nougat IPA with a space-themed label? Step right up. How about a chili-infused red ale with a bright orange bottle featuring a GIANT T-REX ON FIRE? Let’s just say you’ve come to the right place.” Given the previous work of all involved, I really can’t wait to get my hands on Brew Town. It’s scheduled to release next month on March 22nd for free, so get your taste buds ready. Until then you can find some more information as well as a bunch of awesome custom bottles at Brew Town’s official website.


Apple Southlake Town Square in Dallas-Fort Worth joins US stores closing for renovations

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Apple’s Southlake Town Square outlet — located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — will close for renovations on Sunday, March 4.
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West Virginia Town of 3,000 Received 21 Million Opioid Pills Over 10 Years

Dangerous Deluge

An ongoing investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee has found that drug companies are dumping staggering amounts of highly addictive and dangerous opioid pills into small towns in West Virginia. Over the course of ten years (2006 – 2016) nearly 21 million pills of hydrocodone and oxycodone were sent to just two pharmacies in Williamson, West Virginia, a tiny town with a population of only 3,191, according to the latest census data.

The state could be considered an epicenter of the national opioid crisis, as West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the entire country, according to the CDC.

A set of letters sent to two pharmaceutical distributors, Ohio-based Miami-Luken and Illinois-based HD Smith, were released by the committee earlier this week. The letters lay out the distribution data to the town and asks the companies to respond to the exorbitant number of opioid pills making their way into this rural region. The two pharmacies in Williamson are located just blocks from each other.

In 2008 alone, Miami-Luken also delivered enough opioid pills to supply every person in Kermit, West Virginia — a town of only 406 people — with 5,624 pills. In another instance of “pill dumping,” the company delivered 4.4 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to Oceana, West Virginia (population 1,394).

Speaking to the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the committee heads Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) said: “We will continue to investigate these distributors’ shipments of large quantities of powerful opioids across West Virginia, including what seems to be a shocking lack of oversight over their distribution practices.”

Holding Them Accountable

In response to the release of the letters, HD Smith made a statement to the Washington Post saying that the company “operates with stringent protection of our nation’s healthcare supply chain. The company works with its upstream manufacturing and downstream pharmacy partners to guard the integrity of the supply chain, and to improve patient outcomes. The team at H.D. Smith will review the letter and will respond as necessary.”

Miami-Lukin representatives said that the company is “fully cooperating” with the inquiry and will be “providing them with all the information they’re requesting.”

Law enforcement is cracking down on the opioid epidemic, which is responsible for 115 deaths each day in the United States. A staggering 40 percent of those deaths can be attributed to prescription drugs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will scour reports compiled by the agency to search for clues about companies dispensing ridiculous amounts of these drugs to disproportionately populated regions. “That will help us make more arrests, secure more convictions and ultimately help us reduce the number of prescription drugs available for Americans to get addicted to or overdose from,” he said. 

The Future of Pain Management
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New York City is also taking a stand against pharmaceutical companies by pursuing legal action against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid drugs for misrepresenting their product and flooding the market with the dangerous drug.

Holding bad actors accountable is just one of the battles this epidemic has unleashed on the country. Getting people off of these drugs and preventing future addicts from forming is perhaps a much bigger concern. Technologies are being developed to reduce the symptoms of opioid withdrawal. Meanwhile, scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are working on a non-addictive opioid, which could help patients manage pain in a much safer manner.

The post West Virginia Town of 3,000 Received 21 Million Opioid Pills Over 10 Years appeared first on Futurism.


Cape Town Is Running Out of Water. Can We Prevent A Global Crisis?

Running Dry

At the end of April, the South African city of Cape Town may become the world’s first major city to run out of water. The city has spent the last three years in a drought, one so severe it normally would be expected only every 100 years or more. The bad news: scientists estimate that thanks to climate change, droughts like this will probably happen in the region much more often than once every 100 years. The worse news: what’s happening in Cape Town may start happening all over the world.

Recent research suggests that even if the international community manages to keep global temperatures from rising more than the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2° C (3.6° F), the changes we’ve already set into motion will leave at least a quarter of the world’s land more arid that it already is. Other research has suggested that by and large, hot weather will become more common, with 74% of the population experiencing dangerous heat waves by 2100.

If that’s the case, can other cities use what happened in Cape Town as a lesson, to prevent it from recurring?

Predicting and Preparing

According to Piotr Wolski, a researcher in climate and hydrology at the University of Cape Town, close-term preparation for a drought like the one baking the Western Cape is currently a very difficult proposition.

“Preparation is about being able to tell when and whether the drought like this is approaching, on a relatively short term,” Wolski told Futurism. “You are talking this year, next year, perhaps two years’ time. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to forecast droughts like this on those time scales.”

On a longer time scale, one of the best tools water management officials have in planning for extreme events are climate models: computer programs able to simulate the future conditions of a particular part of the world.

Climate models essentially divide the the world into a grid and attempt to solve a series of equations for each square of the grid. Each equation proscribes how the square’s starting variables — factors like temperature, precipitation, air pressure, and other meteorological values — will change over time, given expected solar radiation and greenhouse gas concentrations.

“The way you can use this information is, if the risks have changed, significantly, then that tells you that you can’t use past observation and data to estimate yet how you need to prepare [for climate change],” says Friederike Otto, a senior climate scientist at Oxford University, who uses such models to predict how much climate change influences severe weather events all over the world. She said that some countries, like the U.K., have already begun factoring climate change and its effects, like sea level rise or extreme rainfall, into how they plan infrastructure; others may need to experience an extreme event, like Cape Town’s drought, before they are spurred into action.

In February, Otto and Wolski will begin a project examining the factors that contributed to the three-year dearth of rainfall in the Western Cape region. It turns out that though climate change is a worldwide event, its influence can be patchy; for example, in the Mediterranean, climate change has strongly influenced the risk of extreme heat waves, making them relatively frequent. Meanwhile, in eastern Africa, Otto’s work has found that climate change has had relatively little influence on local drought events.

By comparing present conditions to models run with pre-industrial levels of greenhouse gases, Otto can estimate to what degree climate change influenced an extreme event. She noted that a lot of insurance companies today mainly base their risk-modeling on observed data; however, in the future, that won’t work in places that experience strong regional changes.

“In places where climate change really changes the risk of extreme events, you can’t do that; you will get the wrong answers,” Otto said. “If climate change is a big driver of the risk, then you have to use climate model simulations of the present day and the future to base your infrastructure planning on, and your water management.”

Water(less) World

In the long term, Wolski’s team hopes that their research on climate change in the Cape Town area will help local officials prepare for what’s ahead.

“There is the term of “new normal,” being thrown about, and in a way there’s a misconception about what this means,” Wolski said. “We’ll still have wet years, and we’ll have to cope with floods. But if these droughts are becoming more severe, more frequent, or longer, you have to make the water supply system a bit more robust, more resilient.” 

Our Warming World: The Future of Climate Change [INFOGRAPHIC]
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The region’s current system is designed with the capacity to handle two years of below-average rainfall; droughts lasting much longer have historically been very rare. If models show that climate change has played a large role in extending the Western Cape drought, that system might need to be redesigned, or augmented by a different source of water. The town is currently exploring using either groundwater or desalination plants to supplement surface water, though Wolski says that the high price of desalination means groundwater is being favored.

Elsewhere, Wolski sees some important lessons from Cape Town that can be applied to water management and climate preparation. In particular, he suggests that the current crisis showed the importance of maintaining an updated water system, even when the reality of climate change doesn’t yet seem pressing.

During the region’s last drought, a less severe season in 2003, the city implemented a plan of action to prevent leaks and water losses. The plan was so successful that the city has seen almost no increase in water demand in the last 15 years, despite strong population growth. As as result, plans to update the city’s water system were “just sort of on the slow burner all the time.”

“In my opinion, this is a very crucial element in understanding why the water supply system hasn’t been improved very much: it hasn’t been made ready for a drier climate, so to speak, and essentially there was no incentive,” Wolski said. “Compare normal pressure from population growth and pressure from climate change, and population growth dominates… So it wasn’t until we [lost] the climate lottery, drew a short straw with a quite severe drought, that we realized how much work we had to do.”

The post Cape Town Is Running Out of Water. Can We Prevent A Global Crisis? appeared first on Futurism.


CleanEmail is like a Hyperloop to Inbox Zero Town

Having had the pleasure of working with TNW full-time for over three years now, I’ve accumulated more email in my work inbox than I ever thought I’d receive in a lifetime. I remember trying to develop good habits to keep it clean back when I started here, but they were all in vain – and now I’ve got some 70,000 messages taking up more than 70 percent of my allotted 30GB of G Suite storage. I’ve devised a number of search filters to help with all that unwanted mail, but Gmail isn’t designed for triaging messages in such large volumes…

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