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Gmail allows 10 GB file sharing with Google Drive

Posted by arnon_k On November - 29 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — Frustrated that you can’t share files the size of your entire music collection via e-mail? Google wants to help.

Gmail users can now send files of up to 10 GB using Google Drive, the Web giant’s cloud-storage service.

That’s 400 times bigger than files that can be shared in a regular e-mail, according to a blog post by Google’s Gmail team.

And because the files are stored in the cloud, all recipients will always have the latest version of the file — in the case of a document that’s being amended over time, for example.
“So whether it’s photos from your recent camping trip, video footage from your brother’s wedding, or a presentation to your boss, all your stuff is easy to find and easy to share with Drive and Gmail,” the post reads.

Drive, and before that Google Docs, already allowed users to share large files. But the new feature is more streamlined, letting them do so without leaving Gmail.

Launched in April, Google Drive offers users 5 GB of free storage, with each additional 25 GB going for $2.49.

The move is part of an ongoing effort by Google to synchronize its various services, from Gmail to social network Google Plus to the Android mobile operating system. The ability to sync with Gmail offers Google a built-in edge over standalone cloud storage tools like Dropbox.

“Should services like Dropbox be concerned? Sort of,” wrote Ricardo Bilton of VentureBeat. “As the move shows, Google’s core strength is in its ability to connect and integrate its various services — even the unpopular ones — into one cohesive product. This gives Drive a clear edge over competing standalone cloud services, so expect Google to leverage it as much as possible.”

The file-sharing feature will be rolled out over the next few days, according to Google. Users must have opted in to Gmail’s “Compose” tool in order to use it.

Google announced this year that Gmail has more than 425 million active users.

The Shark Trade of the Arabian Sea

Posted by arnon_k On November - 29 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Burly, weathered crewmen emerge from the holds of fishing dhows hoisting hammerhead, silky and thresher sharks onto the decks. Smaller specimens are tossed from boat to boat, while the true giants, like tiger and bull sharks, are manhandled by several men before reaching the dock. Armed with gigantic steel hooks, workers heave each shark across the harbor to a concrete slab, which serves as tonight’s auction block. The sharks are lined up in orderly rows with pectoral fins pointing skyward, reminding me of the regimented pattern of white crosses in a military cemetery. I count 98 sharks on the slab. And this is just one boat’s catch in a single night. After being auctioned off to the highest bidder, the sharks are loaded into freezer trucks. Within minutes, the next boat approaches, disgorging more sharks onto the slab. As darkness falls to dawn, I witness more than 1,000 shark carcasses auctioned in a single night.

Shark fin is the prized ingredient of shark fin soup, a luxurious dish sought after in the Far East. As a photographer, I have documented sharks and the shark fin trade for over a decade. However, Arabia was not on my radar as a major shark-fishing region. After scouring obscure fisheries reports, I discovered that the region had only recently become one of the top global suppliers of sharks.

The most prolific catches I saw were made off Oman. Every night, freezer trucks and their finned cargo left Arabian Sea ports and raced across the desert. Their destination was along the Arabian Gulf in the megacity of Dubai where nightly shark fin auctions are held. The city now ranks amongst the top five export hubs for shark fins destined for Hong Kong, the global epicenter of the fin trade.

Diving expeditions along the length and breadth of the Arabian Peninsula reveal evidence that shark fishing is ubiquitous, even in some marine reserves. Ghost gill nets (either lost or discarded) blanket coral reefs and rocky pinnacles. Gill nets are unselective by design; in addition to snaring sharks, they entrap everything from endangered sea turtles to whales. Gill nets are banned in most countries, but use in this region is epidemic and their impacts are blatant. Some fishermen voiced concern to me about the recent, dramatic decline in the number of sharks they catch. With the exception of a few anomalies where sharks thrive, my expeditions echo their fears as underwater shark encounters are few and far between.

Today, Arabia’s shark populations sit on the precipice of degradation. However, the region is home to some of the most committed marine conservationists. Because of their work, I have hope for the future of Arabia’s sharks. Can Arabia transform their reputation from being a top supplier of shark fins to a leader in global shark conservation? I like to think so.

Former marine biologist Thomas P. Peschak spends more than 300 days a year pursuing marine conservation photography and ocean reportage. He previously wrote about South Africa’s sardine run for LightBox. See more of his work here.

Greenland, Antarctica ice melt speeding up, study finds

Posted by arnon_k On November - 29 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

(CNN) — Two decades of satellite readings back up what dramatic pictures have suggested in recent years: The mile-thick ice sheets that cover Greenland and most of Antarctica are melting at an increasing rate in a warming world.

That’s the conclusion of an international network of scientists who released their review of one of the biggest question marks in climate science Thursday.

The net loss of billions of tons of ice a year added about 11 millimeters — seven-sixteenths of an inch — to global average sea levels between 1992 and 2011, about 20% of the increase during that time, those researchers reported.

While that’s a small number, “Small changes in sea levels in certain places mean very big changes in the kind of protection of infrastructure that you need to have in place,” said Erik Ivins, a geophysicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and one of the contributors to Thursday’s study.
Long-term climate change fueled by a buildup of atmospheric carbon emissions is a controversial notion politically, but it’s one accepted as fact by most scientists. Previous estimates of how much the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets contributed to the current 3 millimeter-per-year rise in sea levels have varied widely, and the 2007 report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change left the question open.

While the 19-year average worked out to about 20% of the rise of the oceans, “for recent years it goes up to about 30 or 40%,” said Michiel van den Broeke, a professor of polar meteorology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The rest comes from thermal expansion — warmer water takes up more space.

The research released Thursday was backed by the European Union, NASA, the National Science Foundation and research councils in Britain and the Netherlands, with the findings published in this week’s edition of the peer-reviewed journal Science. The project involved 47 scientists who compared readings from various satellite-based methods, including radar and laser readings and measurements of the minute gravitational changes around the ice sheets.

They concluded that Greenland and two of the three ice sheets that cover Antarctica have lost an estimated 237 billion metric tons, give or take a few billion, in the past 19 years. The ice sheet that covers eastern Antarctica grew, but only by about 14 billion tons — not nearly enough to offset the losses from the layer that covers the western portion of the continent and the Antarctic Peninsula.

“Antarctica is losing mass, but it’s not losing as much mass as many of the reports had suggested,” Ivins said. “Greenland, on the other hand, is losing more mass today than it was in 1990 by a factor of five.”
Don’t panic: At the current rate, it would take between 3,000 and 7,000 years for those regions to become ice-free, said Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington.

“But we can see that the trend is towards increases, and that that’s something we do need to worry about,” Joughin said. “And that if we really want to have meaningful information that, you know, planners can use to build seawalls and things, there’s going to have to be a big push to improve our projections of sea level rise using models.”

In July, researchers watched as a stretch of unusually warm temperatures melted nearly the entire surface of the Greenland ice sheet.

The study’s lead author, Andrew Shepherd of Britain’s University of Leeds, said the results are the clearest evidence that the ice sheets are losing ground, and are intended to be the benchmark for climate scientists to use for future calculations.

“Any model that someone would use to predict sea level rise is only really as good as the data that goes into it,” Shepherd said. “And the fact that our data is twice or three times as reliable as the most recent overarching assessment has to give some weight to improving the value of those model predictions in the future.”

The findings were published as representatives of U.N. member states are gathered in Qatar in hopes of hammering out a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 pact aimed at reining in carbon emissions. That pact committed developing nations to reduce emissions with a goal of limiting the rise of global average temperatures to 2 degrees C (3.6 F) by 2100.

But global emissions have gone up by about 50% since Kyoto, the World Meteorological Organization reported last week. The pact largely exempted developing nations like China and India, now the No. 1 and No. 3 emitters. The No. 2 producer — the United States — never ratified Kyoto.

Why Palestine Won Big at the UN

Posted by arnon_k On November - 29 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

An instructive week after Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip tested Israel on the battlefield, the pacifist politicians who govern the West Bank notched a significant diplomatic win without much of a fight at all. Just before 5 p.m. New York time, the United Nations General Assembly voted 138 to 9 (with 41 abstentions) to bring Palestine aboard as a “non-member state.” Another 41 nations abstained. Assured of passage by a whopping majority, Israel and the United States noted their objections mildly and mostly for the record, their effort to limit the fallout for the Jewish state itself limited in the wake of Gaza.

The status of “non-member state” — emphasis on the “state” — puts Palestine the same level of diplomatic recognition as the Vatican, which is technically a sovereign entity. The Holy See has its own ambassadors but, for a few, may be better known for its busy post office off St. Peter’s Square, where tourists queue for what quiet thrills are afforded by a Vatican stamp cancelled with the Pope’s postmark.

Palestine already has post offices. The particular marker of sovereignty it sought from the U.N. is even more bureaucratic: Access to international organizations, especially the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Experts on international law say that, armed with the mass diplomatic recognition of the 150 or so nations it counts as supporters, Palestine will be in a position to bring cases against Israel, which has occupied the land defined as Palestine – the West Bank and the Gaza Strip – since 1967.

The ICC, as it’s known, is on record as inclined to regard Israel’s more than 100 residential settlements on the West Bank as a crime of war. (The Jewish state pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza in 2005, and argues that it no longer qualifies as its “occupier” under international law. Critics argue otherwise.) The physical presence of the settlements in other words would give Palestine a ready-made case to drag Israel before the court — or to threaten dragging it before the court. In the dynamics of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the real power lay in the threat. But in his last UN address, in September, Abbas began to lay the foundation for charges based not on the settlements but on the violent behavior of some individual settlers, who attack Palestinian neighbors and vandalize property and mosques. Settler attacks have skyrocketed in the last two years, according to UN monitors, and now account for the majority of the political violence on the West Bank, despite the lingering popular impression of Palestinian terrorism dating back decades. On the West Bank, at least, the reality has changed.

“If you were in my place, what would you do?” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked TIME in a recent interview. “We will not use force against the settlers. I can use the court, but it’s better for the Israelis not to push us to go to the court. They should put an end to these acts committed by the settlers.” His address to the General Assembly in advance of the vote Thursday made the stakes plain enough: Abbas blasted Israel for “the perpetration of war crimes” and “its contention that it is above international law.”

Abbas’ effort actually got an unlikely boost from Israel’s eight-day offensive in Gaza. Operation Pillar of Defense focused on attacking Hamas, the militant Islamist group that has governed Gaza since 2007. Hamas, and more radical groups also operating in Gaza, lost scores of fighters and rocket launchers to Israeli airstrikes. But by standing up to overwhelming Israeli military power for more than a week – and sending missiles toward major cities previously left untouched – the militants stirred a defiant pride and solidarity across the Palestinian community.

“The armed resistance of Hamas in Gaza gave the people hope and the impressions that this is the only way to fight against the ongoing occupation,” Majed Ladadwah, 46, told TIME 0n a Ramallah street, in the West Bank.. “I can’t say they won,” said Ladadwah, who works at a bank “but they surely gained a lot of points for Hamas in the streets of Palestine.”

That logic was pointed out to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visited Jerusalem to coax him toward a cease-fire. In the days that followed, Netanyahu’s government stopped threatening to punish Abbas for going to the UN, a move Israel has called a threat to the peace process, which has been stalled for at least four years.

At the same time, European nations rallied around Abbas, intent on shoring up a leader who is secular, moderate – and already at political risk for cooperating with Israel to suppress armed resistance even before Gaza seized the world’s attention. Many of the “marquee” countries of Western Europe that Netanyahu had hoped to vote against Palestine statehood, such as France, instead lined up behind Abbas. Others, including Britain, abstained, after seeking assurances that Palestine will not to go the ICC, or that negotiations with Israel will resume. Abbas has already promised the latter. Thursday morning brought news that Israel had lost Germany, a stalwart ally in the wake of the Holocaust, to the abstention column. “If there is a poor turnout, a poor vote, the radicals gain,” India’s U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters.

For their part, Palestinians overwhelmingly back the measure, despite an assortment of disappointments with Abbas – for wasting a year trying to get full UN membership in 2011, and for not visiting Gaza during the fighting, as foreign diplomats did. “We are for the UN bid because we anticipate this will help us legally to pursue our struggles and gain our rights,” says Ladadwah, the bank employee who spoke admiringly of Hamas’ stand in Gaza. Hamas itself said it backs the diplomatic effort, as do other factions.

“This is called resistance, whether armed resistance or peaceful resistance,” said Mahmoud Khames, 34, an unemployed West Bank resident, in advance of the vote. “It’s not a soccer match that someone has to win. Resistance is a matter of freeing one’s self and his people from the Israeli occupation.”

With reporting by Rami Nazzal/Rama

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