After Signing US Climate Bill, Biden Plans More Executive Actions to Cut Emissions

Senior White House officials say even more action is coming on climate change. They’re telling the New York Times that U.S. President Joe Biden plans “a series of executive actions to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help keep the planet from warming to dangerous temperatures.”

Biden is on track to deploy a series of measures, including new regulations on emissions from vehicle tailpipes, power plants and oil and gas wells, the officials said.

In pushing more executive action, Mr. Biden is trying to make up for the compromises his party made on climate measures to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the largest single American investment to slow global warming. Democrats had to scale back some of their loftiest ambitions, including by agreeing to fossil fuel and drilling provisions, as concessions to Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, a holdout from a conservative state that is heavily dependent on coal and gas. Gina McCarthy, the White House climate adviser, said that regulatory moves, combined with the new legislation and action from states, could help Mr. Biden meet his promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by the end of the decade. The climate bill, she said, was “a starting point.”

“The president has not chosen to just look at Congress, he’s chosen to recognize that he has presidential authorities and responsibilities under the law to keep moving this forward,” she said. “And he’s going to continue to use those.” […] Ms. McCarthy noted the E.P.A. still has “broad authority” to regulate emissions from electricity generation. She also said the government is forging ahead with new regulations on soot and other traditional air pollutants, which will have the side benefit of cutting carbon emissions…. Mr. Biden has the executive authority to issue regulations through federal agencies, and under the Clean Air Act of 1970 can establish rules to address air pollution.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Drought-Stricken States To Get Less From Colorado River

For the second year in a row, Arizona and Nevada will face cuts in the amount of water they can draw from the Colorado River as the West endures an extreme drought, federal officials announced Tuesday. The Associated Press reports: The cuts planned for next year will force states to make critical decisions about where to reduce consumption and whether to prioritize growing cities or agricultural areas. The cuts will also place state officials under renewed pressure to plan for a hotter, drier future and a growing population. Mexico will also face cuts. “We are taking steps to protect the 40 million people who depend on the Colorado River for their lives and livelihoods,” said Camille Touton, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation.

The river provides water across seven states and in Mexico and helps feed an agricultural industry valued at $15 billion a year. Cities and farms are anxiously awaiting official estimates of the river’s future water levels that will determine the extent and scope of cuts to their water supply. That’s not all. In addition to those already-agreed-to cuts, the Bureau of Reclamation said Tuesday that states had missed a deadline to propose at least 15% more cuts needed to keep water levels at the river’s storage reservoirs from dropping even more. For example, officials have predicted that water levels at Lake Mead, the nation’s largest reservoir, will plummet further. The lake is currently less than a quarter full. “The states collectively have not identified and adopted specific actions of sufficient magnitude that would stabilize the system,” Touton said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ransomware Causes ‘Major’, Long-Lasting Outage for UK Health Service’s Patient Notes

The Independent reports that the UK’s National Health System is experiencing a major outage “expected to last for more than three weeks” after a third-party supplying the NHS’s “CareNotes” software was hit by ransomware.

Unfortunately, this leaves doctors unable to see their notes on patients, and the mental health trusts that provide care “across the country will be left unable to access patient notes for weeks, and possibly months.”

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has declared a critical incident over the outage, which is believed to affect dozens of trusts, and has told staff it is putting emergency plans in place. One NHS trust chief said the situation could possibly last for “months” with several mental health trusts, and there was concern among leaders that the problem is not being prioritised.

In an email to staff, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Nick Broughton, said: “The cyberattack targeted systems used to refer patients for care, including ambulances being dispatched, out of hours appointment bookings, triage, out of hours care, emergency prescriptions and safety alerts. It also targeted the finance system used by the trust…. An NHS director said: “The whole thing is down. It’s really alarming…we’re carrying a lot of risk as a result of it because you can’t get records and details of assessments, prescribing, key observations, medical mental health act observations. You can’t see any of it…Staff are going to have to write everything down and input it later.”

They added: “There is increased risk to patients. We’re finding it hard to discharge people, for example to housing providers, because we can’t access records.”

“‘Weeks’ is an unreasonable period,” argues Slashdot reader Bruce66423, wondering why it couldn’t be resolved with a seemingly simple restore from backups?

And Alan Woodward, a professor of cybersecurity at Surrey University, warns the Guardian that “Even if it was ransomware … that doesn’t mean data was not stolen.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Is Insider Trading ‘Common’ in NFTs? (And is It Really Insider Trading?)

What happened after U.S. prosecutors indicted an NFT marketplace’s product manager for insider trading? Vice reports:

The reaction among crypto investors was largely characterized by surprise, and an acknowledgement that trading on insider information (considered by some to be A-OK in private markets) is rampant in the space. “Bro they are prosecuting insider trading on NFTs. we’re all fucked,” said one pseudonymous user in reply to a tweet about the case by Steven Zheng, director of research at The Block. “This is pretty shocking. I can’t imagine any NFT or DeFi developer doesn’t somehow profit from insider trading,” said another.

Of course, not every NFT investor sees this kind of activity as acceptable. Traders themselves first brought Chastain’s activity to light in September using blockchain records. A pseudonymous NFT trader, who goes by Zuwu, pointed out those trades, which were easily traceable to Chastain’s publicly-known Etheruem address.

Unlike Chastain, other NFT traders involved in potential insider trades are often too careful to leave traces. When they do, blockchain sleuths are quick to uncover those signs of unsavory behavior and call them out — a recent phenomenon that attempts to bring some justice to an otherwise permissive market.

As a result, that surprise move by the U.S. Department of Justice has NFT traders wondering what’s on the horizon for this largely unregulated industry. “Insider trading is a pretty common problem in the NFT space, especially in the case of hyped-up NFT collections as lots of stuff on the market is being driven by FOMO,” Fedor Linnik, an NFT trader and creator, told Motherboard.
The article also explores the question of whether the NFT marketplace falls under same restrictions as stock trading, with a professor of securities law calling it “somewhat misleading” to label this an “insider trading” case.

Even to call it a wire fraud case is a stretch, the professor tells them, adding “If it goes to a jury they will wonder why they should care whether someone traded jpegs ahead of them being moved around on a webpage.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

America’s FAA Shifts Gears Slightly on Certifying Future ‘Flying Taxi’ Pilots

Flying cars — or even electric flying taxis — are the dream of several well-funded manufacturers building “electric vertical-takeoff and landing aircraft” (or eVTOLs).
But will they face stricter government regulations than anticipated? Long-time Slashdot reader
wired_parrot reports that America’s Federal Aviation Administration has shifted gears — “revising it certification requirements for eVTOLS from small aircraft to a powered-lift category.” (The original submission cites a “growing number” of issues for the industry to resolve — and asks whether this raises concerns about the viability of the whole potential eVTOL market.)

Meanwhile, AVWeb reports:
According to a Reuters report, the impetus for the shift came from an ongoing audit by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General. The IG said so-called Urban Air Mobility vehicles present the FAA with “new and complex safety challenges….”

In a written response to a request for clarification, an FAA spokesperson told AVweb:

“The FAA’s top priority is to make sure the flying public is safe. This obligation includes our oversight of the emerging generation of eVTOL vehicles. The agency is pursuing a predictable framework that will better accommodate the need to train and certify the pilots who will operate these novel aircraft.
“Our process for certifying the aircraft themselves remains unchanged. All of the development work done by current applicants remains valid and the changes in our regulatory approach should not delay their projects. As this segment of the industry continues to grow, we look forward to certifying innovative new technologies that meet the safety standards that the public expects and deserves.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

How US Billionaires Can Avoid Paying Income Taxes

On April 15th Americans filed their taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (or IRS). But on the same day ProPublica was reporting a difference between “the rich and the rest of us” — that their wealth just isn’t easily defined:

For one, wages make up only a small part of their earnings. And they have broad latitude in how they account for their businesses and investments. Their incomes aren’t defined by a tax form. Instead, they represent the triumph of careful planning by skilled professionals who strive to deliver the most-advantageous-yet-still-plausible answers to their clients. For them, a tax return is an opening bid to the IRS. It’s a kind of theory….

We counted at least 16 other billionaires (along with hundreds of other ultrawealthy people, including hedge fund managers and former CEOs) among the stimulus check recipients. This is just how our system works. It’s why, in 2011, Jeff Bezos, then worth $18 billion, qualified for $4,000 in refundable child tax credits. (Bezos didn’t respond to our questions.) A recent study by the Brookings Institution set out with a simple aim: to compare what owners of privately held businesses say they earn with the income that appears on the owners’ tax returns. The findings were stark: “More than half of economic income generated by closely held businesses does not appear on tax returns and that ratio has declined significantly over the past 25 years.”

That doesn’t mean business owners are illegally hiding income from the IRS, though it’s certainly a possible contributor. There are plenty of ways to make income vanish legally. Tax perks like depreciation allow owners to create tax losses even as they expand their businesses… “Losses” from one business can also be used to wipe out income from another. Sometimes spilling red ink can be lots of fun: For billionaires, owning sports teams and thoroughbred racehorses are exciting loss-makers. Congress larded the tax code with these sorts of provisions on the logic that what’s good for businesses is good for the economy. Often, the evidence for this broader effect is thin or nonexistent, but you can be sure all this is great for business owners. The Brookings study found that households worth $10 million or more benefited the most from being able to make income disappear….

In the tax system we have, billionaires who’d really rather not pay income taxes can usually find a way not to. They can bank their accumulating gains tax-free and deploy tax losses to wipe out whatever taxable income they might have. They can even look forward to a few thousand dollars here and there from the government to help them raise their kids or get through a national emergency.
This system also means it’s much harder to catch underreported income on the tax returns of the wealthy, the article points out. And with so many legal deducations, it’s also hard to prove the low incomes really exceed what the law allows. Even then, the wealthy can still hire an army of the best tax lawyers to make their case in court.

And now thousands of auditors have left the agency — and have not been replaced. The end result? “Audits of the wealthy have plummeted.

“Business owners have still more reason to be bold….”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Bipartisan Proposed Legislation To Curtail Secretive Email Seizure

“A bipartisan proposal in both the House and Senate would sharply limit the ability to seize emails without notice to the owner,” writes longtime Slashdot reader hawk. “It places a six-month limit on the length of gag orders in warrants.” The Hill reports: The Government Surveillance Transparency Act, sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from both chambers, puts limitations on gag orders that seek to block tech companies from altering users whose data has been seized. It targets a practice brought into the spotlight after journalists from CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post all had their records seized by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The bill requires law enforcement agencies to notify surveillance subjects that their email, location and web browsing data has been seized, aligning with current practices for phone records and bank data.

“When the government obtains someone’s emails or other digital information, users have a right to know,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a release. “Our bill ensures that no investigation will be compromised, but makes sure the government can’t hide surveillance forever by misusing sealing and gag orders to prevent the American people from understanding the enormous scale of government surveillance, as well as ensuring that the targets eventually learn their personal information has been searched.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Congressional Bills Would Ban Tech Mergers Over $5 Billion

Senator Elizabeth Warren and House Representative Mondaire Jones have introduced legislation in their respective congressional chambers that would effectively ban large technology mergers. Engadget reports: The Prohibiting Anticompetitive Mergers Act (PAMA) would make it illegal to pursue “prohibited mergers,” including those worth more than $5 billion or which provide market shares beyond 25 percent for employers and 33 percent for sellers. The bills would also give antitrust regulators more power to halt and review mergers. They would have authority to reject mergers outright, without requiring court orders. They would likewise bar mergers from companies with track records of antitrust violations or other instances of “corporate crime” in the past decade. Officials would have to gauge the impact of these acquisition on labor forces, and wouldn’t be allowed to negotiate with the companies to secure “remedies” for clearing mergers.

Crucially, PAMA would formalize procedures for reviewing past mergers and breaking up “harmful deals” that allegedly hurt competition. The Federal Trade Commission has signaled a willingness to split up tech giants like Meta despite approving mergers years earlier. PAMA might make it easier to unwind those acquisitions and force brands like Instagram and WhatsApp to operate as separate businesses.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.