- The Independent
Leaked recording from RNC fundraiser reveals ‘uproarious’ laughter from sponsors for ridicule of former first lady
- The Independent
Updates from Minnesota following protests overnight
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Joe Biden's nominee Wendy Sherman to be deputy secretary of state, the number two position at the department. The Senate backed the nomination by 56-42, as a handful of Republicans joined Biden's fellow Democrats to vote in Sherman's favor. Sherman, 71, a foreign policy veteran, ran into Republican resistance because she helped negotiate the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran, which was fiercely opposed by Republicans as well as some Democrats.
- The Independent
US president tells Russian counterpart he will not tolerate cyber-incursions or further election interference
- The Independent
Senator from Texas hauled in more than $5.3 million in 2021 first quarter
- Business Insider
4 reasons the Democratic push for a huge infrastructure package will be tougher than the stimulus scramble
The path ahead for Democrats on upwards of $3 trillion of infrastructure spending looks different from the one that produced a $1.9 trillion stimulus.
- Reuters Videos
Devotees, ash-smeared naked "naga sadhus" (Hindu holy men), Hindu saints, and members of the transgender community jostled for a dip in the waters of the river many Hindus consider holy, on a day considered auspicious in the Hindu calendar, with few wearing masks.Despite making virus tests mandatory for those entering the area, authorities struggled to implement other strict measures to curb COVID-19 transmissions due to the large numbers.
Global equity markets rose to a fresh record high on Wednesday as bond yields eased after data showed U.S. inflation was not rising wildly. Most Asia-Pacific share indexes followed Wall Street higher, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng leading gains in the region, while benchmark U.S. Treasury yields continued their decline, marking a fresh three-week low. Powell is scheduled to speak later in the day at the Economic Club of Washington.
- The New York Times
When Chris Precht, an Austrian architect and artist, first learned about nonfungible tokens, the digital collectibles taking the art world by storm, he was so enthralled, he said, he “felt like a little kid again.” So Precht, who is known for his work on ecological architecture, was devastated to learn that the artworks, known as NFTs, have an environmental footprint as mind-boggling as the gold-rush frenzy they’ve whipped up. “The numbers are just crushing,” he said from his studio in Pfarrwerfen, Austria, announcing that he was canceling his plans, one of a growing number of artists who are swearing off NFTs, despite the sky-high sums some have fetched at auctions. “As much as it hurts financially and mentally, I can’t.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Financially, for sure. Last month, a montage of art that had been turned into an NFT by the digital artist known as Beeple sold for more than $69 million at a Christie’s online auction. (Also last month, an NFT created from a New York Times technology column sold for more than $500,000, with the proceeds going to the Neediest Cases Fund, a Times-affiliated charity.) But, by Precht’s own calculations, creating the 300 items of digital art that he had planned to sell — 100 each of three art pieces — would have burned through the same amount of electricity that an average European would otherwise use in two decades, he said in an Instagram video late last month. What in the (warming) world? An NFT is a piece of artwork stamped with a unique string of code and stored on a virtual ledger called a blockchain. Fanned by viral marketing, hubris and perhaps some pandemic ennui, interest in the NFT market has exploded, driving up the price of digital artworks to fantastical levels. But blockchain technology, which also forms the basis of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, comes with enormous greenhouse-gas emissions. In a nutshell, when an artist uploads a piece of art and clicks a button to “mint” it, she or he starts a process known as mining, which involves complex puzzles, awesome computing power and a huge load of energy. That’s because Ethereum, the platform of choice for NFTs, uses a method called proof of work to create digital assets like nonfungible tokens. To successfully add an asset to the blockchain’s master ledger, miners must compete to solve a cryptographic puzzle, their computers rapidly generating numbers in a frenzied race of trial and error. As of mid-April, miners were making more than 170 quintillion attempts a second to produce new blocks, according to the trading platform Blockchain.com. (A quintillion is 1 followed by 18 zeros.) The miner who arrives at the right answer first is the winner, and gets her or his asset added to the blockchain. The system is intentionally designed to be onerous, ostensibly to make it transparent and competitive, and to prevent cheating. Bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, also uses the energy intensive proof-of-work model. According to an estimate backed up by independent researchers, the creation of an average NFT has a stunning environmental footprint of over 200 kilograms of planet-warming carbon, equivalent to driving 500 miles in a typical American gasoline-powered car. Other attempts to calculate the energy use of blockchain have also arrived at gargantuan numbers. Researchers at Cambridge University have estimated that mining Bitcoin uses more electricity than entire countries like Argentina, Sweden or Pakistan. A recently published paper in the journal Nature Communications warned that, if left unchecked, cryptomining in China could undercut the nation’s climate goals. “I know it’s difficult to comprehend,” said Susanne Köhler, an expert in life cycle analysis at Aalborg University in Denmark who carried out a life-cycle analysis of blockchain technology. “You just click on a button or type a few words, and then suddenly you burn so much energy.” Making the problem worse, Köhler said, was that solving the puzzles becomes more competitive and more difficult as interest in blockchain grows and more people start mining. “So it doesn’t become more energy efficient over time, like other technologies do,” she said. “It just leads to a bigger emissions impact, unless their energy is carbon free.” This is not the first time the art world has grappled with its role in climate change. There has been concern at art museums over fossil-fuel funding, with some choosing to end lucrative oil company sponsorships. But NFTs have been particularly controversial, because the hype over digital tokens has been seen as a long-awaited shot for many smaller artists to finally garner more exposure, recognition and serious money for their work. “Why is it when the little guys get a foothold,” the designer Gareth Stangroom, also known as @fire_hydrant_man, said in response to Precht’s announcement, “everyone’s on their case about the ethics of it — instead of criticizing the big players that have been abusing our planet for decades?” Joanie Lemercier, a French artist known for his futuristic light sculptures, was one of the first to dig into NFTs’ environmental consequences. He had just released six tokenized videos, inspired by platonic solids, which were snapped up by buyers. But he had heard of the growing alarm over Bitcoin’s energy use, which worried him: Lemercier has also been involved in climate activism, campaigning for a move away from coal. He turned to Memo Akten, a computational engineer and artist carried out some of the first calculations specific to NFTs and posted them on a site he named CryptoArt.wtf. “It turns out my release of six crypto-artworks consumed in 10 seconds more electricity than the entire studio over the past 2 years,” Lemercier wrote on his website. He said he was putting future NFT releases on hold. “It felt like madness to even consider continuing that practice.” “It’s really a big boom and the prices have been going crazy. But it can’t continue like this,” Lemercier said. “So there’s a sense that there is a very limited amount of time to make as much money as possible. So that’s why many dismiss this energy impact.” The fallout has spread. Last month, the art app ArtStation canceled a drop of NFTs from a group of popular artists just hours after announcing it, after a backlash formed over the environmental impact. “It’s clear that now is not the right time,” ArtStation said. “It’s our hope that at some point in the future we’ll be able to find a solution that is equitable and ecologically sound.” There has been pushback against the environmental concerns. In a recent post on Medium titled “No, CryptoArtists Aren’t Harming the Planet,” the NFT trading platform Super Rare addressed what it argued were misconceptions about the tokens’ emissions footprint. Blockchains like Ethereum were more like a train running all day, the authors said, and the transactions like seats on the train. NFTs, therefore, do not add emissions, they argued, just like a train would keep running regardless of how many passengers were on board. However, Alex de Vries, a Dutch data scientist whose site, Digiconomist, tracks the sustainability of digital currencies, said that analogy did not hold up. “If one person doesn’t take a plane, it might not make a difference,” de Vries said, using a slightly different analogy. “But if a whole lot of people take planes, there’s more emissions from flying.” Promises by some platforms to invest in carbon offsets have been met with skepticism, given the enormity of the carbon footprint from NFTs. Saying, “Don’t worry! We’ll pay for carbon offsets” is the equivalent of setting a house on fire then placing a single potted plant on the burned property as “compensation,” the freelance illustrator Bleached Rainbows said on Twitter. Ethereum has said it is reducing its footprint by moving toward a different model called “proof of stake,” which doesn’t require miners to compete to add assets to the blockchain. The new model instead rewards miners based on how much cryptocurrency they already own, vastly cutting down on the computational work, and by extension, associated emissions. But since announcing the idea several years ago, Ethereum has been vague on when the change will actually happen. Dankrad Feist, a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation, a nonprofit that is working with the network on the switch, said by email that the effort would take another six to 12 months. “Switching to proof of stake is not trivial for a network that currently already secures hundreds of billions of dollars in value, that’s why it unfortunately can’t happen overnight or there would be a high risk of failure,” Feist said. “I’m quite impatient about this and trying to push the merge as much as possible without overly compromising Ethereum’s security.” Some smaller NFT platforms, including one known as Hic Et Nunc, have already started using proof of stake, attracting artists like Lemercier. By cutting down on the number-crunching required, Hic Et Nunc doesn’t just reduce energy consumption; it also seeks to roll back the cost of listing NFTs, which can reach many hundreds of dollars, according to Rafael Lima, the founder of Hic Et Nunc. “It’s just a more efficient algorithm,” he said. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
Millions are participating in the Kumbh Mela even as India overtakes Brazil in Covid infections.
Even with social distancing there was plenty of humour, glamour and surprises at the virtual event.
- The Independent
Less support for requirement to carry card with them to enter a business
- USA TODAY
A group of senators introduced the 'CRUISE Act' which would override the CDC's restrictions on the cruise industry and allow ships to sail.
- Reuters Videos
Extending its 2021 rally, Bitcoin reached fresh heights on Tuesday (April 13).The digital currency hit $62,741 a day ahead of Coinbase's initial public offering.The largest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange's listing on the Nasdaq is considered a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates.Bitcoin, the world's biggest cryptocurrency, is gaining mainstream acceptance as an investment and a means of payment.Smaller rival Ethereum also reached a record high of $2,205.Major firms including BNY Mellon, Mastercard and Tesla are among those to have embraced or invested in cryptocurrencies.Bitcoin topped $60,000 early last month, fueled by Tesla's move to buy $1.5 billion of the digital currency for its balance sheet.The multi-fold rise in cryptocurrencies is also driven by investors seeking high-yielding assets amid low interest rates.
- Associated Press
Princes William and Harry paid tribute Monday to their grandfather, Prince Philip, remembering his wit, sense of duty and barbecue skills. The brothers, who are at the center of a royal family rift, issued separate statements about Philip, who died last week at 99. Prince Harry, who stepped away from royal duties last year and now lives in California, has arrived in the U.K. to attend Philip's funeral service Saturday at Windsor Castle.
Germany's two rivals to succeed Angela Merkel as conservative chancellor candidate in a September election went head to head on Tuesday to win the support of lawmakers, exposing deep rifts within the parliamentary bloc. The race between Armin Laschet, leader of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), and Markus Soeder, head of the Bavarian CSU sister party, has descended into a messy spat just two days after both vowed to make a quick and amicable decision. However, after the meeting of both parliamentary parties, the two men said they wanted a decision to be made this week.
- Business Insider
Boehner noted that the former president misled voters by spreading lies about the election even before it happened.
- WBAL - Baltimore Videos
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday signed more than 60 bills into law.
- The Independent
Fox News host under fire for defending white nationalist conspiracy theory
- Business Insider
Biden meets with bipartisan group on $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, saying he's open to negotiate
Biden insisted the meeting with both Republican and Democratic lawmakers wasn't just "window dressing" and that he's willing to talk size and scope.