Category Archives: Government

Transporting natural gas by rail through cities – a doomsday scenario

If you have read The Doomsday Book, you know that one thing terrorists look for is places that store potential energy. They especially like to release potential energy in crowded areas. This proposal brings big concentrations of potential energy right through the heart of many cities:

‘That Terrifies Me’: Trump Rule Allows Natural Gas Transport By Rail In Dense Areas

What makes it terrifying?

In an effort to boost natural gas exports, the Trump administration has reversed longstanding federal policy and approved transport of gas by rail anywhere in the country. Opposition has come from Hollywood stars, state attorneys general and local residents who worry about the danger this poses. But plans are moving ahead for a New Jersey project that calls for one of the longest such transport routes in the country: 200 miles through densely populated areas of the East Coast.

The gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale would first be sent by pipeline to a new liquefaction plant in the rural northeast part of the state. Refrigeration units would chill it to negative-260 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it becomes liquid and easier to ship. The part of the plan that scares a lot of people is the next step — transporting the gas by truck or rail down the busy I-95 corridor to a planned export terminal along the Delaware River in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Generally speaking we do not ship gasoline – another flammable liquid – this way. Gasoline is flowing in underground pipelines, which is much safer.

What could go wrong? It is easy to imagine a 50-car train of liquified natural gas. Each car has 30,000 gallons say of LNG, or about 100,000 kilograms of LNG . That is 1.5 million gallons of LNG total, or 5 million kilograms. And now a bomb blows up a part of the train. If all of the LNG ignites, that’s the energy equivalent of about 50,000 tons of TNT (ref). That is 3 times more energy than the energy released by the nuclear bomb at Hiroshima. Even if only a few cars ignite, it is still a huge explosion. It is a doomsday scenario in the making. This video shows the potential problems:

Communities at Risk: Hazards of LNG

The Doomsday Book” by Marshall Brain lays out this scenario in amazing detail and offers solutions to prevent this doomsday scenario from unfolding. You can order the book today on Amazon and other retailers.

The Russian computer Breach is a doomsday sceanrio for the nation’s security

This article tells the tale of the massive Russian computer attack:

Why the Russian hack is so significant, and why it’s close to a worst-case scenario

From the article:

Around the world, at least hundreds, but more likely thousands or tens of thousands of organizations — including companies, schools, think tanks and, notably, every major government agency — have been working frantically to see whether they’ve been affected by the suspected Russian hacking campaign and, if so, how much access the hackers had.

And:

The hackers’ lead time and extraordinary access mean victim organizations will have to choose between two unpleasant options: spending significant resources hunting through their computers in the hope that they can eradicate the hackers’ footholds or rebuilding their networks from scratch, said Suzanne Spaulding, the former head of what is now CISA and currently the director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

Plus we don’t yet know the full scale of what data was stolen, or how important/valuable it is.

The Doomsday Book” by Marshall Brain lays out this scenario in amazing detail and offers solutions to prevent this doomsday scenario from unfolding. You can order the book today on Amazon and other retailers.

Nuclear weapons agency (and many others) attacked by massive computer breach

Terrorism often comes in the form of bombs and poisons, but it can also come in the form of cyber attacks. There has been a massive attack in the United States stretching up to some of the most secure sites in the country:

Nuclear weapons agency breached amid massive cyber onslaught

The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation that has affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, officials directly familiar with the matter said.

The breach is so bad and so far reaching, it is thought that entire computer networks will need to be “burned to the ground” in order to lock them down again:

Hacked networks will need to be burned ‘down to the ground’

“We have a serious problem. We don’t know what networks they are in, how deep they are, what access they have, what tools they left,” said Bruce Schneier, a prominent security expert and Harvard fellow… The only way to be sure a network is clean is “to burn it down to the ground and rebuild it,” Schneier said.

An unbelievable situation for a country as advanced and powerful as the United States.

The Doomsday Book” by Marshall Brain lays out this scenario in amazing detail and offers solutions to prevent this doomsday scenario from unfolding. You can order the book today on Amazon and other retailers.

French Protestors rioting because of restrictions on photographing Police

Tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets in France to protect Article 24 of France’s Global Security Bill.

French lawmakers pass controversial bill that restricts the publication of images of police

French lawmakers passed a bill on Tuesday that critics say could make it harder for journalists and human rights advocates to hold police accountable. The Global Security Bill’s most controversial section — Article 24 — which was approved by lawmakers on Friday, forbids the publication of images that allow the identification of a law enforcement officer “with the intent to cause them harm, physically or mentally.”

And:

On Saturday, there were more protests against the bill with an estimated 22,000 people taking part in marches across France. In Paris the crowds included representatives of the media, along with some gilets jaunes (yellow vest) protesters and members of Extinction Rebellion.

Why is France’s new national security bill controversial?

The bill has been strongly criticised by journalists and rights groups who argue that it would curtail press freedom and lead to less police accountability. Those opposed to the legislation are concerned that, if it is enacted, it risks endangering journalists and other onlookers who film officers at work, especially during violent protests. They say documenting and sharing the actions of violent officers is essential in stopping future incidents of police brutality.

If police can act without accountability, they are free to do any heinous thing they want to citizens.

According to Cecile Coudriou, president of Amnesty International France: “If people cannot film anything in the streets when the police may sometimes have an illegal use of force it’s a very worrying message to send”

‘Republicans Remain Opposed to Any Policies That Would Reduce Fossil-Fuel Use’

‘Republicans Remain Opposed to Any Policies That Would Reduce Fossil-Fuel Use’

Back in the U.S., the relief of Donald Trump’s long good-bye will begin yielding to the stark reality that his party remains fundamentally pathological. No issue highlights this depressing reality more clearly than climate change. For more than a decade, the GOP has stood alone among major right-of-center parties in industrialized democracies worldwide in its refusal to endorse climate science. But during the Trump era, the party’s rhetorical emphasis shifted. The major Republican point of agreement is now to insist on fossil-fuel use as an inherent good.

This is a worst-case-scenario when it comes to Climate Change – an entire political party and tens of millions of voters all opposed to solving the problem at the root of the climate change crisis. The only hope we have is to stop burning fossil fuels immediately, and start pulling carbon back out of the atmosphere, and to probably deploy geoengineering measures as well. To have an entire political party opposing these measures is planetary suicide.

Geoengineering: A Horrible Idea We Might Have to Do
Geoengineering May Be the Answer to Climate Change

The Doomsday Book” by Marshall Brain lays out this scenario in amazing detail and offers solutions to prevent this doomsday scenario from unfolding. You can order the book today on Amazon and other retailers.

The world’s coming fresh water crisis will be a catastrophe for many major cities

We can see the fresh water catastrophe coming, but will we do enough in time to avert it? This video lays out the problem:

Explained | World’s Water Crisis | FULL EPISODE | Netflix

According to the video, these cities are on the brink of a fresh water crisis unless action is taken:

  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Jakarta
  • London
  • Beijing
  • Istanbul
  • Tokyo
  • Bangalore
  • Barcelona
  • Mexico City

Other well known problem areas are dry places like Las Vegas, Saudi Arabia (and many other desert areas in the Middle East and Africa), parts of China and India, etc. These places currently rely on aquifers that are going to soon be empty.

Some of the large urban areas are coastal so they will eventually resort to mass desalination (with its own pollution and energy problems, but better than dying of thirst), but a place like Mexico City or Las Vegas may not be so lucky.

This article paints a dire picture:

More than 3 billion people affected by water shortages, data shows – UN warns about consequences of not conserving water and tackling climate crisis

Water shortages are now affecting more than 3 billion people around the world, as the amount of fresh water available for each person has plunged by a fifth over two decades, data has shown. About 1.5 billion people are suffering severe water scarcity or even drought, as a combination of climate breakdown, rising demand and poor management has made agriculture increasingly difficult across swathes of the globe.

With human populations continuing to rise, the problems only get worse unless something causes the human population to crash.

One possible solution is purely economic. Municipal water in a place like Las Vegas might be a penny per gallon today. If it rises to 50 cents or a dollar per gallon, then people will treat water differently. It might mean the end of golf courses and giant artificial lakes in the desert:

Misinformation is dividing people, destroying facts and skewing reality

This is a fascinating article with a number of real world examples of how misinformation, disinformation and malinformation are destroying civil society:

Misinformation Has Created a New World Disorder – Our willingness to share content without thinking is exploited to spread disinformation

Online misinformation has been around since the mid-1990s. But in 2016 several events made it broadly clear that darker forces had emerged: automation, microtargeting and coordination were fueling information campaigns designed to manipulate public opinion at scale. Journalists in the Philippines started raising flags as Rodrigo Duterte rose to power, buoyed by intensive Facebook activity. This was followed by unexpected results in the Brexit referendum in June and then the U.S. presidential election in November—all of which sparked researchers to systematically investigate the ways in which information was being used as a weapon.

An example:

Take, for example, the edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that circulated in May 2019. It was a genuine video, but an agent of disinformation slowed down the video and then posted that clip to make it seem that Pelosi was slurring her words. Just as intended, some viewers immediately began speculating that Pelosi was drunk, and the video spread on social media. Then the mainstream media picked it up, which undoubtedly made many more people aware of the video than would have originally encountered it.

A pair of solutions:

In a healthy information commons, people would still be free to express what they want—but information that is designed to mislead, incite hatred, reinforce tribalism or cause physical harm would not be amplified by algorithms. That means it would not be allowed to trend on Twitter or in the YouTube content recommender. Nor would it be chosen to appear in Facebook feeds, Reddit searches or top Google results.

Until this amplification problem is resolved, it is precisely our willingness to share without thinking that agents of disinformation will use as a weapon. Hence, a disordered information environment requires that every person recognize how he or she, too, can become a vector in the information wars and develop a set of skills to navigate communication online as well as offline.

The ultimate expression of this will be AI that can detect things like hate speech, misinformation, lies, intentionally altered or falsified content, etc. and effectively eliminate them from the public square. When that happens, the world will be a much better place.