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Scientists develop flags that produce energy from wind and sun

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Researchers at the University of Manchester have designed flags that can produce energy via wind and solar power.

In a statement Monday, the university said that the flags used “flexible piezoelectric strips and flexible photovoltaic cells.”

Photovoltaic refers to a way of directly converting light from the sun into electricity, while piezoelectric strips enable the flag to generate power via movement.

The university added that the flags were able to power remote sensors and small-scale portable electronics that can be used for tasks such as pollution, sound and heat monitoring.

“Wind and solar energies typically have intermittencies that tend to compensate each other,” Andrea Cioncolini, a co-author of the study and senior lecturer in thermal hydraulics, said in a statement.

“The sun does not usually shine during stormy conditions, whereas calm days with little wind are usually associated with shiny sun,” he added, explaining that this made wind and solar “particularly well suited for simultaneous harvesting.”

The research was published in the journal Applied Energy, and represents the latest novel and interesting way of producing energy.

In 2014, for example, researchers in Canada designed a headset with a chinstrap manufactured from piezoelectric fiber composites that was able to harvest energy as the jaw moved.

A year later, researchers in the U.K. announced the development of a wearable energy generator powered with urine.

At the time, the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol described how miniaturized microbial fuel cells (MFCs) had been “embedded” into a pair of socks.

When a user walks, their urine is pumped, fueling the fuel cells and powering a wireless transmitter that sends a signal to a PC. The UWE said that MFCs contained bacteria that “generate electricity from waste fluids.”

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Venezuela skirts U.S. sanctions by funneling oil sales via Russia

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President Nicolas Maduro is funneling cash flow from Venezuelan oil sales through Russian state energy giant Rosneft as he seeks to evade U.S. sanctions designed to oust him from power, according to sources and documents reviewed by Reuters.

The sales are the latest sign of the growing dependence of Venezuela’s cash-strapped government on Russia as the United States tightens a financial noose around Maduro, who it describes as a dictator.

With its economy reeling from years of recession and a sharp decline in oil production, Venezuela was already struggling to finance imports and government spending before Washington imposed tough restrictions on state oil company PDVSA in January.

Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of exports from the OPEC nation and the lion’s share of government revenues. Maduro has accused U.S. President Donald Trump of waging economic war against Venezuela.

Since January, Maduro’s administration has been in talks with allies in Moscow about ways to circumvent a ban on clients paying PDVSA in dollars, the sources said. Russia has publicly said the U.S. sanctions are illegal and it would work with Venezuela to weather them.

Under the scheme uncovered by Reuters, Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA has started passing invoices from its oil sales to Rosneft.

The Russian energy giant pays PDVSA immediately at a discount to the sale price avoiding the usual 30-to-90 day timeframe for completing oil transactions and collects the full amount later from the buyer, according to the documents and sources.

“PDVSA is delivering its accounts receivable to Rosneft,” said a source at the Venezuelan state firm with knowledge of the deals, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Major energy companies such as India’s Reliance Industries – PDVSA’s largest cash-paying client – have been asked to participate in the scheme by paying Rosneft for Venezuelan oil, the documents show.

Rosneft, which has heavily invested in Venezuela under President Vladimir Putin, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Venezuela’s oil ministry, its information ministry, which handles media for the government, and PDVSA did not respond to questions.

Asked about the transactions, a spokesperson for Reliance said it had made payments to Russia and Chinese companies for Venezuelan oil. The spokesperson said the payments were deducted from money owed by Venezuela to those countries, but did not provide further details.

“We are in active dialogue with the U.S. Department of State on our dealings on Venezuelan oil to remain compliant with U.S. sanctions,” the spokesperson said.

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Toyota shows off electric vehicle concept Rhombus

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Toyota brought a crop of hybrid and fully electric vehicles to the Shanghai Auto Show this year.

The Rhombus, pictured above, is a concept car for a battery-powered electric vehicle targeted at consumers born after 1990, according to a release. The vehicle was developed by TMEC, the company’s research and development base in China.

A single swivel seat at the front replaces the typical two-seat driver’s row, while two seats in the back make up a lounge-like area.

Toyota said it plans to roll out more than 10 battery electric vehicle models globally in the next five or six years, with a sales target of more than 5.5 million electrified vehicles worldwide by 2030.

The C-HR and IZOA battery electric models that premiered in Shanghai will be the first such vehicles to launch in China under the Japanese automaker’s brand. Sales are expected to begin next year.

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Russia Stable Runet law will further separate country from internet

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The new Stable Runet law would give the Russian communications regulator, known as Roskomnadzor, broader powers to monitor network traffic and potentially provide a “kill switch” to disconnect Russia from the wider internet in the event of cyberattack. Essentially, the law is meant to help create a digital drawbridge between Russia and the rest of the world that the country can raise in an emergency.

While the Kremlin says the law is meant to increase security, many observers, especially human rights groups, have speculated it will further increase censorship initiatives from Putin’s government.

That’s because the law was proposed by the same group of lawmakers in Russia who recently passed a law criminalizing the spread of online news that disrespects the government, said Aleksandr Yampolskiy, CEO of network security rating company SecurityScorecard.

“First, they made the language very broad. If you operate a network in Russia, you are required to create a way to have government oversight of that information,” he said.

The law also lacks specifics, Yampolskiy said, an indication the Kremlin is building in some wiggle room for how exactly it will be enforced.

“The language is deliberately vague and broad, so that will also be something for [business] to consider, since it’s unclear what you are going to have to do to comply,” he said.

But it will probably become another tool to enforce positive messaging about Putin’s government, Yampolskiy said.

The law also doesn’t provide much information as to how it will be accomplished technologically, said Natalia Gulyaeva, head of the Moscow intellectual property, media and technology practice group for law firm Hogan Lovells.

“Theoretically, the law encompasses installing new equipment on data transfer points in order to secure functionality of [the] Russian part of Internet in case of any global shutdowns,” she said. “The authors of the law have not provided any comments on the technical side of the law.”

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