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In China, facial-recognition technology is being deployed to take out the trash

Business Quartz

Puzzled residents can now use their phones to help sort out trash, and their faces to access special bins.
'China’s biggest tech giants have a message for city residents driven crazy by the country’s strict new trash-sorting rules: there’s an app for that. As part of a national effort to help the country improve its low recycling rates, Shanghai ushered in new rules this month that require people and businesses to separate trash into four categories—or face fines for getting it wrong. The rules spurred a massive discussion on social media, sending the phrase “what kind of rubbish are you?” trending. Now Alipay, the mobile payment arm of Chinese fintech giant Ant Financial , has a new mini-app that uses the same image-sorting artificial intelligence that’s behind facial recognition and adapts it to trash. The company said yesterday (July 15) that the program allows users to scan waste items using the cameras on their smartphones and informs them which category—wet or dry, recyclable or harmful waste—the trash belongs to. Overall, Alipay offers more than 70 mini-programs related to trash sorting, including an e-commerce option—Ant was spun out of e-commerce giant Alibaba after all—to help people sell recyclables from their homes. Alibaba’s e-commerce competitor JD.com has also developed an open-source trash-sorting program using image recognition that other businesses can adapt. Meanwhile, it’s giving household users a voice-based app to which they can pose questions about their trash, the company told Quartz. JD’s opening its image recognition for other businesses to sort garbage. JD didn’t say how many have adopted the technologies since it rolled out the program in July. Shanghai is not the only city in China to implement the trash-sorting rule— 45 cities (in Chinese) are supposed to implement this rule by the end of 2020, including capital Beijing. China lags behind neighbors like South Korea when it comes to recycling rates. Some neighborhoods in China’s capital have already made a start—with the help of technology, of course. A residential community in Beijing’s Xicheng district, for instance, is using facial recognition to allow residents to open trash bins for different kinds of trash, and to earn points after classifying the trash successfully. Residents can then use the points to exchange them for goods. Echo Huang contributed to this post.'

Survey: Newark Among America’s Most Stressed Out Cities

Business CBS New York

The personal finance website ranked the most and least stressed cities in country, comparing 180 cities based on work stress, financial stress, family stress, and health and safety stress.
'NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A new survey from Wallethub says Newark, New Jersey, is home to some very stressed out Americans. The personal finance website ranked the most and least stressed cities in country, comparing 180 cities based on work stress, financial stress, family stress, and health and safety stress. According to their rankings, Newark is the third most stressed city. Detroit came in first, and Cleveland came in second. RELATED STORY: Author Steve McClatchy Offers Advice On Fighting Job Burnout New York, meanwhile, is the 53rd most stressed city. The survey says Fremont, California, is the least stressed city in the country. To check out WalletHub’s full list and learn more about their survey, click here .'

Crypto Mama and the SEC’s “Escape Room”—The Ledger

Business Fortune

Here's what a selection of entrepreneurs and executives had to say about cryptocurrency technology and regulation on a roundtable at Fortune's inaugural Brainstorm Finance conference in Montauk, N.Y.
'Here's what a selection of entrepreneurs and executives had to say about cryptocurrency technology and regulation on a roundtable at Fortune's inaugural Brainstorm Finance conference in Montauk, N.Y.'

City Dwellers Ignore Infrastructure at Their Peril

Business theatlantic.com

Power grids don’t only exist when they fail.
'Infrastructure is everything you don’t think about. The roads you drive on. The rigs and refineries that turn fossil fuel into the gas that makes your car go. The electricity that powers the street lights and lamps that guide your way. All these technologies vanish into the oblivion of normalcy. Until they break. Then everyone notices. That’s what happened Saturday night in New York City when a power outage struck Midtown Manhattan, from Hell’s Kitchen north to Lincoln Center and from 5th Avenue west to the Hudson River. The blackout darkened the huge, electric billboards of Times Square, forced Broadway shows to cancel performances, and even disabled some subway lines. According to reports , the outage was caused by a transformer fire within the impacted region. Power was fully restored by early the following morning. It was not the first or the most severe blackout to hit the Big Apple—another took out the whole city on the same date in 1977, and yet another struck in the summer of 2003. The causes vary—a series of lightning strikes instigated the 1977 event, and a remote software error caused the one in 2003. But deferred maintenance, increased demand, climate change-driven weather calamities, and even the threat of cyberattack puts infrastructure at greater risk. A quick primer on how electricity works: First, power plants create it, mostly by burning fuel (or smashing atoms) that heats water to make steam that spins a turbine. (Hydroelectric generators harness the flow of water to spin turbines directly.) Those turbines move a generator, which produces electricity from the resulting kinetic energy. Plants then use transformers to step up the voltage of generated electricity and send it down high-voltage lines, which lose less energy in transit. Once it reaches its destination, other transformers step the voltage down to deliver it to substations, and eventually directly to customers. Saturday’s blackout was most likely caused by a disabled transformer at an area substation. There are at least 50 of those in New York City, which are fed in turn by at least 24, higher-voltage transmission substations. When it comes to power, New York is unusual because of the city’s age and the density of its population, both residential and commercial. That produces different risks and consequences. In Atlanta, where I live, storms often down trees, which take out above-ground power lines. In the West, where wildfires are increasingly common, flames frequently engulf and dismantle power infrastructure. But across the whole of New York City—not just Manhattan—over 80 percent of both customers and the electrical load are serviced by underground distribution from area substations. That makes smaller problems less frequent, but bigger issues more severe. When a transformer goes down in a populous place like Manhattan, it has a greater impact than it would on Long Island, say, or in Westchester County, where density is lower. The amount of power that central Manhattan uses on a regular basis also contributes to that impact: Times Square, the theater district, hundreds of skyscrapers—it’s a substantial load. In New York’s case, supplying that load is not usually the problem. Generating facilities can be located near or far away from where their power is used, and New York City draws power from a couple dozen plants. Some of it is imported from upstate. But much of New York’s power is still generated locally, in large part at plants along the waterfronts of Queens. Those plants are older, and more susceptible to disruption from local calamities, especially severe weather. When peak demand surges—most common during heat waves like the ones that struck the region in 2006 and 2011—the older, less efficient generating stations have a harder time keeping up, and brownouts or blackouts become more likely. Superstorms can also disrupt Manhattan’s delivery infrastructure, despite the fact that it’s underground. In 2011, Hurricane Irene threatened to flood traffic and subway tunnels, also putting underground delivery at risk. The next year, Hurricane Sandy disrupted a third of the city’s electrical capacity. Flooding shut down five transmission substations. Other infrastructure was affected too, including natural gas and steam services (the latter provide heat and hot water, crucial during winter and for emergency facilities like hospitals). Sandy inundated the subway tunnels, which rely on pumps to bilge out the water. Electrical failures can disrupt the cleanup process as much as flooding can. And once a subway station gets incapacitated, the impact cascades throughout the system. On Saturday night, when the midtown blackout occurred, the MTA was forced to cut service on some lines impacted by signal or station outages. Failure, fire, and flood aren’t the only dangers that can befall transformer substations. Power infrastructure can be an appealing target for terrorism because the sites are poorly protected and the economic impact of a successful attack can be high—particularly in a city like New York. Cyberattacks are also possible. This March, a denial of service attack impacted electrical systems in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, two major population centers. Intelligence suggests that the risk of similar foreign attacks is currently elevated. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee discussed those risks in a hearing the day before the Midtown Manhattan blackout. One way to mitigate these dangers is to make utility infrastructure less susceptible to single points of failure. Underground distribution tends to make it easier to reach electrical customers via multiple paths. Regulatory agencies like the New York State Reliability Council also impose requirements on utility service. Con Edison, which powers almost all of New York City, is expected to design its network to operate even if some of its components fail or are lost to disaster. But new risks associated with climate change, cyberwarfare, and other factors haven’t necessarily been accounted for in the design and operation of utility infrastructure. The perils build on one another. Climate change amplifies the frequency of heat waves, which increases electrical load, which puts greater pressure on infrastructure. At the same time, it increases the likelihood of superstorms that can cause flooding, fire, and other disasters that might disrupt nodes in the network. When utility operators designed their equipment years or decades ago, they made assumptions about load, storm surge, and other factors. Those estimates might no longer apply. Worse, planning and implementing updates to those systems is often stymied by paltry funding, strained political will, or other accidents. The utility industries are pushing for transformation, as it were, in infrastructure design, including efforts to make the “edges” of the grid more resilient and redundant . But those plans are similarly snared in the traps of outdated investment and regulation. Worse still, the same climatological, economic, and political instabilities that help increase the likelihood of electrical-grid collapse might also increase the risk of deliberate attacks to the grid, or reduce the agility of emergency response when accidents like this weekend’s Manhattan transformer fire occur. None of these factors wafted up to street level Saturday night, as New Yorkers muddled through the inconvenience of a few hours without power. If anything, the scenes aboveground seemed inspiring, delightful even. Broadway musical casts and Carnegie concert musicians hosted impromptu sidewalk performances for disappointed theater-goers. Citizens took it upon themselves to direct traffic in chaotic intersections. As New Yorkers are wont to do, city dwellers celebrated these and similar acts as telltale signs of the city’s vibrancy and resilience. When the power came back on, the horde of shadows cheered in unison as electric lamps fueled by burning coal miles away restored them to the technicolor of modern, artificial light. No injuries were reported during the blackout. But such a generous response is only possible because power disruptions are still rare, especially absent the forewarning that accompanies a major hurricane or a serious thunderstorm. The chaos caused by similar, more frequent events would quickly snuff out the surprise and delight of unelectrified life. The theater performers would sneak home out the back, wondering if the union would consider yet another disrupted performance complete. The citizen constables would spare their bodies, out of fear or boredom. The cheers would turn to groans, as the uncertainty and nuisance of the city’s physical caprices would wear thin. Worsening political and economic circumstances would only fuel this fire. The July 13, 1977 blackout came amidst a widespread economic crisis, the Son of Sam serial killings, a heat wave, and other social stressors. The looting and vandalism that accompanied that blackout 42 years ago were surely underwritten by the increased crime of the age and the totality of the blackout, which wiped out power to the whole city for two days. But those and worse effects are still possible. If you didn’t notice, things aren’t so great in 2019, either. The blackout is a warning that infrastructure doesn’t only exist when it breaks. That’s true not just for New Yorkers, but for most of the U.S. population, who are scattered across regions with lower density, reduced wealth, and more fickle public-service response. Whether it sleeps or not, a city is like an iceberg: You only see the smallest bit of it above ground, but all of it is melting.'

Nassau County Republicans Propose ‘Taxpayer Bill Of Rights’ To Combat Property Tax Reassessment

Business CBS New York

The massive property tax reassessment on Long Island earlier this year could force thousands of residents to pay thousands more in property taxes next year.
'MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The massive property tax reassessment on Long Island earlier this year could force thousands of residents to pay thousands more in property taxes next year. Now, several homeowners are teaming up with local lawmakers to make sure they aren’t caught off guard again, CBSN New York’s Jennifer McLogan reported Monday. Some members of Republican members of Nassau County’s Legislature contend the county’s property reassessment is arbitrary, secretive and violates state and federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process. MORE :  Many Nassau County Residents Getting Bad News: Property Tax Reassessment Not In Their Favor Nassau’s GOP majority is proposing a bill of rights aimed at providing protections for taxpayers, in the controversial property assessment process. (Photo: CBSN New York) “The reassessment was done in a rushed fashion. It has resulted in a massive amount of errors. It has resulted in confusion among the residents and a lack of faith in the process,” GOP presiding officer Richard Nicolello said. MORE :  Nassau County Residents Blast Property Tax Reassessment The “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” proposal unveiled Monday demands grievance results be sent promptly, with the exact amount homeowners will pay with the new assessed value. “The public has a right to know how their taxes were determined,” one legislator said. “The county executive no longer has the ability to change the level of assessment simply at whim,” another said. “We have new data today which will give taxpayers a more fair and accurate position as to what those taxes will be,” another lawmaker said. MORE :  Many Homeowners Miffed By Nassau County Property Tax Reassessment Process The Department of Assessment, the GOP majority said, must disclose the formula or algorithm by which the assessed property value is determined. Last spring, a group of Nassau homeowners sued for that information. However, proponents of overhauling Nassau’s antiquated assessment system, which has been frozen since 2010, claim Republicans are encouraging rage and fear in order to retain their majority come November. About half of Nassau’s 400,000 properties are going down next year. Several outside examinations performed by experts revealed, “The assessments are about as fair and accurate as can be achieved.”'