It’s National Mule Day

Tuesday's Horse

Updated 4:04 pm to add dressage video.

It’s National Mule Day. Let’s pay tribute to this multi-faceted and much used equine.

National Mule Day is recognized each year on October 26.

A mule is a hybrid cross between a male donkey and a female horse. The mule possesses the strength, intelligence, patience, perseverance, endurance, surefootedness and even temper of the donkey.

Appaloosa mare with beautiful Appaloosa mule offspring. Appaloosa mare with beautiful Appaloosa mule offspring.

Did you know that George Washington played a significant role in the development of the mule population in America? He recognized the value of the sturdy animal in agriculture and became the first American breeder.[1]

It didn’t take long before mules found a place in the grim business of war. A mule’s hide and hooves are tougher than a horse’s, and endure heat better. They carry heavier loads for longer distances, and eat a third less than horses doing the…

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Meet the tiny towns taking on climate change | Grist


Brian Gratwicke
Bigger isn’t always better
Meet the tiny towns taking on climate change
By Kate Yoder on Oct 26, 2016

Ugh! Everything is miserable, you might be thinking, plopping down on the couch. Climate change is too big and I’m too tired to deal with it. I’m just going to sit here watch Netflix for eternity.

Not so fast, lazypants. Take some inspiration from the tiny communities around the world that are taking the fight against climate change seriously, sluggish politicians and pessimistic couch potatoes be damned. When the rest of us just can’t even, these little towns could — and did.
The tornado-torn town that turned around
Greensburg’s hospital has its own wind turbine.
Greensburg’s hospital has its own wind turbine.REUTERS/Kevin Murphy

Greensburg, Kansas — the town that was flattened by a devastating tornado in 2007 — rebuilt itself to run on 100 percent renewable energy. It’s only the second U.S. city to do so after Burlington, Vermont.
After 95 percent of the town’s buildings were destroyed in the tornado, the town rebuilt everything to LEED-platinum standards, replaced its streetlights with LEDs, and began working with a local wind turbine company to move toward clean energy. Talk about turning a former foe into your greatest ally.
The village powered by tofu
tofu-factory-indonesia
REUTERS/Beawiharta


The village of Kalisari, on the Indonesian island Java, runs on an unusual form of cheap, renewable energy: the humble soybean. Four gallons of water are required to create one pound of everyone’s favorite spongy bean curd. The village’s 150 tofu businesses used to throw out that liquid, contaminating local water supplies — until they started using microorganisms to convert it into a clean-burning biogas.

That gas is piped into town, where it powers household stoves that previously ran on wood or gas. The Kalisari pilot project is going so well that the Indonesian government estimates tofu biogas could replace 62,000 tons of fossil fuels each year.
The solar community shining in the desert
KarmBuild

There’s a strange sight in a desert oasis not far from Cairo, Egypt: a cluster of sandstone buildings with solar panels built into their rooftops. Constructed by the solar technology company KarmBuild, the Tayebat Workers Village is Egypt’s first solar-powered community, housing 350 seasonal agricultural workers.
In Egypt, solar panels are often thought of as ugly and undesirable. The architects behind Tayebat are trying to change that assumption for the country as a whole.

wp-1477529289764.jpeg

The village that fought apathy — and won
ashton-hayes Andrew

AshtonHayes, a small town in the British countryside, set out to be the country’s first carbon-neutral community in 2006. But instead of using policy to regulate emissions, the community-led initiative focused on changing residents’ behavior. The townspeople strung up clotheslines, took fewer flights, and improved the insulation in their homes, shrinking their total carbon footprint by 40 percent so far.

Garry Charnook, the villager who jumpstarted the town’s low-carbon quest, told the New York Times: “There’s so much apathy. We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.” About 200 towns, cities, and counties from around the globe have reached out to the Ashton Hayes community to learn how, exactly, they squeezed their “apathy jelly” (what is that — a dessert?) and got to work.
The remote island working toward self-sufficiency

Brian Gratwicke

Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean more than a thousand miles from any major landmass, the tiny island of Tristan da Cunha can only be reached by a week-long sea crossing on a ship that leaves from Cape Town just eight times a year.

With that degree of isolation, it doesn’t make sense to rely on foreign imports. The locals have a plan to generate 30 to 40 percent of their own energy within five years. They’re working with U.K. architects on various sustainability projects, including a wind farm, a waste-to-energy incinerator, and communal kitchen gardens. All good solutions for a remote island community — or, really, anywhere.

There are more tales like these: One town is planning to get 80 percent of its electricity from food waste in the U.K.; solar panels are taking off in rural Bangladesh; villages are running on hydropower and microgrid in Pakistan. These stories give us some much-needed optimism — and a good reason to  get off the couch.

A Beacon in the Smog®

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Did your smart thermostat contribute to last week’s big cyberattack? | Grist

Massive Attack
Did your smart thermostat contribute to last week’s big cyberattack?
By Heather Smith on Oct 26, 2016 3:33 pm

In the future, we will live and work in buildings where the heat, lighting, and appliances are controlled by smart, internet-connected devices that save energy and money and help the grid work more efficiently. Isn’t that great? It seems great.

But then, what to do with the news last week that a robo-mob of clever internet-enabled gadgets was hijacked and used to temporarily bring down many of the most popular websites in the U.S.? Could our smart thermostats go rogue and help take out the internet?

It doesn’t look like internet-connected energy-saving devices were affected by the cyberattack, experts say. So this attack is not a reason to avoid buying or using them. It is, though, a reminder to make sure all of your smart devices are protected by top-notch security.

Here’s what you need to know:

What was the deal with this attack?

The Internet of Things — or IoT, for short — consists of more than 6 billion devices connected to the internet: security cameras, Fitbits, learning thermostats, what have you. Last week, hackers used malware named Mirai to create a botnet gang of several hundred thousand of these gadgets and attack Dyn, one of a handful of companies that direct traffic across the internet. An estimated 1,200 websites, including Twitter, Reddit, and the New York Times, didn’t so much go down as become impossible to find, because Dyn was too flooded with meaningless requests from Mirai’s zombie bot army to help real humans get where they were trying to go.

Dyn weathered that attack (and the attack after that, and the attack after that attack), but the episode left a lot of people wondering just how great the Internet of Things is after all.

Here’s how Justine Bone, CEO of MedSec, which studies security in internet-enabled medical devices, described the IoT security challenge to me: When you have a bad chip in your high-tech toaster, there’s not too much that can go wrong. Maybe you get some bad toast out of it. Maybe it catches on fire. But when a whole series of badly designed devices are connected to the internet, that can make everyone miserable, not just toast eaters. “An army of toasters can cause trouble,” she said.

You’re sure my thermostat wasn’t involved?

Yes. Here’s how we know: Brian Krebs, a former reporter for the Washington Post who now runs his own site on computer security, became an involuntary expert in Mirai when someone used it to attack his site in September. Attacks like this are fairly common (they’re called distributed denial-of-service, or DDoS, attacks), but the size of the one on his site attracted some attention. Akamai, the company that keeps Krebs’ site running, claimed at the time that it was one of the largest botnet attacks in the history of the internet.

A few weeks after the attack on Krebs, the source code for Mirai was publicly released onto the internet, probably to confuse any law enforcement agencies trying to trace the program back to its source. The code revealed that Mirai works by constantly scanning the internet for IoT gadgets with usernames and passwords that are still set to the factory defaults. Mirai then uses those passwords to make itself administrator of the devices.

So here’s where your thermostat gets a pass. None of the passwords used by the Mirai code are for smart home energy-saving devices.

Craig Young, a security researcher with Tripwire, told Consumer Reports, “I would be confident in saying that most popular IoT devices have not been exposed to the Mirai threat — thermostats, fridges, name-brand cameras, smart outlets, and lighting.”

Thermostat company Nest, perhaps the most well-known maker of smart home energy-saving gadgets, believes none of its products were affected: “To our knowledge, no Nest device has been involved in any of the recent attacks,” it said in a statement.

So what devices were hijacked?

Last week’s attack primarily involved security cameras and digital video recorders being used for surveillance.

The hackers who write botnet software are looking for the low-hanging fruit — usernames and passwords that will let them unlock as many devices as possible. So they targeted products from a handful of companies that make low-cost electronics in high volume, and with terrible security features.

Most consumers who buy easily hackable devices aren’t thinking about internet security — in part because DDoS attacks and the like target public websites rather than individuals. “People just plug in these things and forget about them,” Krebs said when I called him to ask about the latest attack.

“People want to blame the Russians or something, but there’s lots of blame to go around,” Krebs continued. “This is a case of some companies wanting to own this market and dumping cheap hardware and flimsy software. The IoT storm has been a decade in the making, and now it’s happening. The longer we ignore it, the harder it is to fix.”

Many of the insecure devices hijacked last week contain hardware manufactured by Chinese company XiongMai Technologies. When word got out about this, XiongMai announced that it had tightened its security standards and was recalling millions of cameras — even as it threatened legal action against media outlets that it said were issuing “false statements” about the company.

How can I make sure my smart gadgets are protected going forward?

Figuring out how secure your devices are can be tricky, but it’s important — not just to make sure you don’t facilitate DDoS attacks, but to protect your personal data and ensure that you’re the one controlling the heating, lighting, etc., in your home.

A device with good security will require you to come up with a new username and password before you connect it to the internet. A device with not-so-great security will make it possible to change the factory default username and password. A device with terrible security will come with a factory-installed username and password that you can’t change, making it a sitting duck for any program crawling the web and looking for machines that can be turned into zombie minions.

If you’re going to connect something to the internet, go with a brand that emphasizes its attention to security. Companies that are trying to establish or maintain a reputation for security will be much more motivated to patch a security hole than companies that don’t mention security at all.

Smart thermostat makers Nest, Ecobee, and Tado have security information clearly posted on their websites. Nest goes even further; it’s owned by Google, which offers a reward to anyone who can find a security hole in the system. In contrast, thermostat manufacturer Trane, whose various past security holes are described in this blog post, does not highlight security on its website.

“At the end of the day, security is just a symptom of the quality of the product,” said Bone. “If a product is badly designed, that will flow through to mistakes in the underlying software.”

Going for a cheap, off-brand model is not a good idea. “Basically, you get what you pay for,” said Krebs.

What’s the solution to all this poor security?

As security expert Bruce Schneier put it after the attack on Krebs, “the economics of the IoT mean that it will remain insecure unless government steps in to fix the problem. This is a market failure that can’t get fixed on its own.”

The owners of the security cameras that are being used to attack the internet don’t know that their devices have been taken over. Meanwhile, the manufacturers are busy trying to sell new models, instead of patching up old ones. “There is no market solution,” Schneier concludes, “because the insecurity is what economists call an externality: it’s an effect of the purchasing decision that affects other people. Think of it kind of like invisible pollution.”

But neither Bone nor Krebs have faith that governments will effectively regulate the Internet of Things, especially given the hot mess that is international trade. More than anything, they think it will be the fear of losing customers that will motivate companies to tighten up their security.

So, do I even want to be a part of this Internet of Things?

Well, you’re reading this on the internet, so you’re already partway there. If you like gadgets, don’t be frightened off from buying smart devices as long as they’re from reputable and well-reviewed companies.

On the other hand, if you think gadgets are overrated, you can feel smug in knowing that there are plenty of low-tech ways to conserve energy.

A Beacon in the Smog®

© 1999-2016 Grist Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Grist is powered by WordPress.com VIP.

WATCH: Clayton Thomas Mueller on Expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline | Global Justice Ecology Project


http://globaljusticeecology.org/watch-clayton-thomas-mueller-on-expansion-of-kinder-morgan-trans-mountain-pipeline/

‘They Always Break!’ Latest Pipeline Leak Underscores Dangers of DAPL | Global Justice Ecology Project

‘They Always Break!’ Latest Pipeline Leak Underscores Dangers of DAPL
Posted on October 26, 2016 by GJEP staff

A major crude oil pipeline in Oklahoma sprung a leak late Sunday night; the company has yet to provide an estimate of volume spilled
By Deirdre Fulton
Underscoring once again the dangers of America’s unreliable fossil fuel infrastructure, a significant U.S. oil pipeline has been shut down after a leak was reported Monday morning.

Enterprise Products Partners said Monday it had shut its Seaway Crude Pipeline, a 400,000-barrel per day conduit that transports crude oil from Cushing, Oklahoma to Gulf coast refineries. The leak occurred Sunday night in an industrial area of Cushing. The company did not provide an estimate of the volume spilled, but said there was no danger to the public.

“Oil pipelines break, spill, and leak—it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of where and when.”
—Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

“Seaway personnel continue to make progress in cleaning up the spill, substantially all of which has been contained in a retention pond at Enbridge’s facility,” the company said in a news release (pdf), explaining that the pipeline is a “50/50 joint venture” between Enterprise and Enbridge Inc. “Vacuum trucks are being used to recover the crude oil and return it to storage tanks on-site.”

“The impacted segment of the legacy pipeline has a capacity of 50,000 barrels,” the release added, “however the actual amount of crude oil released will be significantly less and won’t be determined until recovery efforts are complete.”

The incident comes after another pipeline rupture in Pennsylvania early on Friday, where 55,000 gallons of gasolinepoured into the Susquehanna River, and about one month after a major gasoline pipeline run by Colonial Pipeline Co. had to halt pumping for a couple of weeks due to a spill in Alabama.

Meanwhile, UPI reports that “[t]he release from the Seaway pipeline is the second associated with the Cushing storage hub in less than a month. Plains All American Pipeline reported problems with infrastructure from Colorado City [Texas] to Cushing earlier this month.”

Environmentalists, Indigenous people, and energy companies are in the midst of a heated debate over pipeline safety. Water protectors and their allies along the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) have been saying for months that the project threatens their right to safe drinking water.

“Oil pipelines break, spill, and leak—it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of where and when,” 13-year-old Anna Lee Rain YellowHammer, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, wrote in a recent appeal.

“With such a high chance that this pipeline will leak,” she wrote of the Enbridge-backed DAPL, “I can only guess that the oil industry keeps pushing for it because it doesn’t care about our health and safety. The industry seems to think our lives are more expendable than others’.”
Copyright © 2016 · All Rights Reserved · Global Justice Ecology Project

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