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When the remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped record-breaking rain on the East Coast this month, staircases into New York City's subway tunnels turned into waterfalls and train tracks became canals.
In Philadelphia, a commuter line along the Schuylkill River was washed out for miles, and the nation's busiest rail line, Amtrak's Northeast Corridor running from Boston to Washington, was shut down for an entire day.
Nearly a decade after Superstorm Sandy spurred billions of dollars in investment in coastal flooding protection up and down the East Coast — some of which remains unfinished — Hurricane Ida and other storms this summer provided a stark reminder that more needs to be done — and quickly — as climate change brings stronger, more unpredictable weather to a region with some of the nation's oldest and busiest transit systems, say transit experts and officials.
"This is our moment to make sure our transit system is prepared," said Sanjay Seth, Boston's "climate resilience" program manager. "There's a lot that we need to do in the next 10 years, and we have to do it right. There's no need to build it twice."
In New York, where some 75 million gallons (285 million liters) of water were pumped out of the subways during Ida, ambitious solutions have been floated, such as building canals through the city.
But relatively easy, short-term fixes to the transit system could also be made in the meantime, suggests Janno Lieber, acting CEO of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Installing curbs at subway entrances, for example, could prevent water from cascading down steps into the tunnels, as was seen in countless viral videos this summer.
More than 400 subway entrances could be affected by extreme rains from climate change in coming decades, according to projections from the Regional Plan Association, a think tank that plans to put forth the idea for a canal system.
"The subway system is not a submarine. It can't be made impervious to water," Lieber said. "We just need to limit how quickly it can get into the system."
In Boston, climate change efforts have focused largely on the Blue Line, which runs beneath Boston Harbor and straddles the shoreline north of the city.
This summer's storms were the first real test of some of the newest measures to buffer the vulnerable line.
Flood barriers at a key downtown waterfront stop were activated for the first time when Tropical Storm Henri made landfall in New England in August. No major damage was reported at the station.
New York subway workers place a "flood door" decal onto steel doors, installed nearly five years after Superstorm Sandy flooding at South Ferry subway station, in New York on Tuesday June 27, 2017 Photo credit: voa
Officials are next seeking federal funds to build a seawall to prevent flooding at another crucial Blue Line subway stop, says Joe Pesaturo, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The agency has also budgeted for upgrading harbor tunnel pumps and is weighing building a berm around an expansive marsh the Blue Line runs along, he said.
In Philadelphia, some flood protection measures completed in Superstorm Sandy's wake proved their worth this summer, while others fell short.
Signal huts that house critical control equipment were raised post-Sandy along the hard-hit Manayunk/Norristown commuter line, but it wasn't high enough to avoid damage during Ida, said Bob Lund, deputy general manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.
On the bright side, shoreline "armoring" efforts prevented damaging erosion in what was the highest flooding in the area since the mid-1800s. That has buoyed plans to continue armoring more stretches along the river with the cable-reinforced concrete blocks, Lund said.
If anything, he said, this year's storms showed that flood projections haven't kept up with the pace of environmental change.
"We're seeing more frequent storms and higher water level events," Lund said. "We have to be even more conservative than our own projections are showing."
In Washington, where the Red Line's flood-prone Cleveland Park station was closed twice during Hurricane Ida, transit officials have begun developing a climate resiliency plan to identify vulnerabilities and prioritize investments, said Sherrie Ly, spokesperson for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
That's on top of the work WMATA has undertaken the last two decades to mitigate flood risks, she said, such as raising ventilation shafts, upgrading the drainage systems and installing dozens of high-capacity pumping stations.
A subway train slows as it makes its way into the Broad Channel station next to a seawall installed after Superstorm Sandy washed out sections of the tracks in October 2012, in the Rockaways section of Queens, New York, on Oct. 21, 2014 Photo credit: voa
On balance, East Coast transit systems have taken laudable steps such as sketching out climate change plans and hiring experts, said Jesse Keenan, an associate professor at Tulane University in New Orleans who co-authored a recent study examining climate change risks to Boston's T.
But it's an open question whether they're planning ambitiously enough, he said, pointing to Washington, where subway lines along the Anacostia and Potomac rivers into Maryland and Virginia are particularly vulnerable.
Similar concerns remain in other global cities that saw bad flooding this year.
In China, Premier Li Keqiang has pledged to hold officials accountable after 14 people died and hundreds of others were trapped in a flooded subway line in Zhengzhou in July. But there are no concrete proposals yet for what might be done to prevent deadly subway flooding.
In London, efforts to address Victorian-age sewer and drainage systems are too piecemeal to dent citywide struggles with flooding, says Bob Ward, a climate change expert at the London School of Economics.
The city saw a monsoon-like drenching in July that prompted tube station closures.
"There just isn't the level of urgency required," Ward said. "We know these rain events will get worse, and flooding will get worse, unless we significantly step up investment."
Other cities, meanwhile, have moved more swiftly to shore up their infrastructure.
Tokyo completed an underground system for diverting floodwater back in 2006 with chambers large enough to fit a space shuttle or the Statue of Liberty.
Copenhagen's underground City Circle Line, which was completed in 2019, features heavy flood gates, raised entryways and other climate change adaptations.
How to pay for more ambitious climate change projects remains another major question mark for East Coast cities, said Michael Martello, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher who co-authored the Boston study with Keenan.
Despite an infusion of federal stimulus dollars during the pandemic, Boston's T and other transit agencies still face staggering budget shortfalls as ridership hasn't returned to pre-pandemic levels.
The stunning images of flooding this summer briefly gave momentum to efforts to pass President Joe Biden's $3.5 trillion infrastructure plan. But that mammoth spending bill, which includes money for climate change preparedness, is still being negotiated in Congress.
"It's great to have these plans," Martello said. "But has to get built and funded somehow." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Climate Change, Subways, Summer Storms, Hurricane Ida
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has finally started rolling out end-to-end encrypted chat backups for iOS and Android users globally. With the new update, if a user chooses to back up his chat history with end-to-end encryption, it will be accessible only to him, and no one will be able to unlock the backup. Neither WhatsApp nor the backup service provider will be able to access their end-to-end encryption backup.
"With end-to-end encrypted backups, no other messaging service at WhatsApp's scale will provide this level of security for people's messages -- from sending and transit, to receiving and storing in the cloud," the company said in a post. The feature will be rolling out "slowly" for people on the latest version of the app.
he feature will be rolling out "slowly" for people on the latest version of the app. | Photo by AARN GIRI on Unsplash
Once the feature rolls out, open WhatsApp, go to Settings > Chats > Chat Backups > End-to-End Encrypted Backup, and then follow the prompts. One can now secure their end-to-end encrypted backup with either a password of their choice or a 64-digit encryption key which means that no one else but only the user will be able to access the backup.
"This feature will provide people with more privacy and security for their digital conversations and that's a responsibility that we don't take lightly. Given this, we are rolling this out slowly to ensure a consistent and reliable user experience for people on iOS and Android around the world," the company added. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: encryption, encrypted, whatsapp, people, backup, End-to-end Encryption
A luxurious house makeover might seem to be an expensive and overwhelming task but it doesn't necessarily have to drill holes in your pocket. A few small changes and the right decor pieces can make a huge difference to the way your home looks. Keyur Zaveri, VP of Design at Furlenco shares some ideas that could give your home a rich look.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication
While it may feel intuitive to keep adding expensive decor to your home to give it the luxurious touch, in today's ageless is really more. Simplifying your space can give your home a classy look. Invest in a few accent decor pieces - a lamp, wall art, decor for a centre table that are cohesive and work well together in the theme of your room as opposed to having numerous things that do not look like they belong together. Resist the temptation to buy over-the-top accessories and unnecessary furniture, which make your home look bulky.
Resist the temptation to buy over-the-top accessories and unnecessary furniture, which make your home look bulky. | Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash
The most important part of creating a luxurious house is to add furniture that is comfortable and elegant. Good furniture, paired with stylish soft furnishings is the first step to creating a beautiful house. Pillows & Cushions of various sizes and accent throws can instantly make a home feel more inviting. Play around with the colours and fabrics of the furniture and find soft furnishing that complements the centrepieces. Invest in good quality fabrics like velvet, linen or suede to upholster your furniture. You can even try textured fabrics like denim blue and faux leather.
Pillows & Cushions of various sizes and accent throws can instantly make a home feel more inviting. | Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Lighting can make all the difference to the vibe of your house and help you create a luxurious, beautiful looking space. Using multiple sources of light that draw attention to various corners in the house can make a space look very well put together. Invest in ceiling lamps, floor lamps, table lamps, and accent light fixtures to highlight your favourite areas in the house. While it is advisable to keep a single colour and tone of light, the intensity and direction can be played around to enhance the ambience of the space.
Lighting can make all the difference to the vibe of your house and help you create a luxurious, beautiful looking space. | Photo by Karan Nagpal on Unsplash
Layering works wonders everywhere- be it a chic coat or blazer over your outfit that adds extra charm, or adding decor pieces to your furniture for a luxe look. Carpets add splendour and exquisiteness, instantly changing the way a room looks. Area rugs under tables and sofas help in defining spaces and can blend together the whole look. Experiment with some elegant runners near your beds, on top of your dining tables, or even your bathrooms. You can also add wall coverings and window coverings for a more inclusive aesthetic.
Area rugs under tables and sofas help in defining spaces and can blend together the whole look. | Photo by Sina Saadatmand on Unsplash
You can add a small yet noticeable metallic touch to upgrade your interiors. However, you must be careful to not overdo it; the key to going bling is to keep the metallic accessories minimal. Consider golds, bronzes, copper or silver hues and incorporate them in cushions, lamps, accent walls, lighting fixtures, or centrepieces. You should ensure that each finish is a thoughtful addition to your space.
You can add a small yet noticeable metallic touch to upgrade your interiors. | Photo by Stephanie Harvey on Unsplash
Incorporating these tips can do wonders for your home decor. You can make your home luxurious, without costing an arm and a leg. More than anything it's about making the right choices that give your house look clean and classy.
(Article originally published on IANS Life) (IANS/MBI)
Keywords: metallic, lighting, fabrics, invest, luxurious, furniture
India may not see a billion smartphone users even by the end of this decade and there are seven key challenges to achieve 100 per cent smartphone penetration, according to a new report. With the shrinking addressable base for smartphones, India is likely to have 887.4 million smartphone users by 2030, said the report by Gurugram-based market intelligence firm techARC.
The new smartphone user acquisition has been on a decline since 2018, after 4G drove switch to smartphones as it ushered several new use cases and forced feature phone users to upgrade. This, however, is not the case with 5G, which can substantially bring out a new use case for the mobile users compelling the feature phone users to move to a smartphone.
Affordability is the first concern even if users would discover their own use cases. "This is on account of both - investment in the device and the recurring data cost. Even to own a device, it's a substantial increase in the outlay for around 200-250 million users who cannot spent more than Rs 1,500 on a mobile device," said Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC.
Even to own a device, it's a substantial increase in the outlay for around 200-250 million users who cannot spent more than Rs 1,500 on a mobile device. | Photo by rupixen.com on Unsplash
Second reason is that there are no models that could self-subsidise the smartphones for this potential audience, who are on the other side of the fence waiting to join the smartphone arena. "Advertising-based revenue and value-added driven revenues are negligible for such audiences where advertisers would not be ready to spend much as this is not their target audience," the report mentioned. So, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) cannot work out any model of recovering partial cost of the device upfront and then realising the gap in due course through other streams.
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) cannot work out any model of recovering partial cost of the device upfront and then realising the gap in due course through other streams. | Photo by Zac Ong on Unsplash
The third key reason is that the OEM ecosystem is gradually moving away from the entry segment. All major OEMs have disinvested out of the entry segment (less than Rs 5,000) where the first-time smartphone user would fall. Rather OEMs are moving to higher average selling price (ASP) as consumers are willing to spend more (15-35 per cent) on their next upgrade/replacement of smartphones.
The fourth reason is that the OEMs are adding more features and functions to their smartphones to facilitate paying users leverage more from the device by consuming content and other services, which are subscription based. The interest of OEMs is gradually moving in this direction, where they could increase the lifetime value (LTV) per smartphone user by getting a pie of the services that the users are paying for.
"Another reason is that attempts such as a hybrid smart-feature phone, haven't paid off well. Though it has got in additional 80-85 million users into the digital ecosystem using fundamental digital services, majority of the featurephone users haven't accepted this 'workaround' wholeheartedly," said Kawoosa.
Attempts such as a hybrid smart-feature phone, haven't paid off well. | Photo by The Average Tech Guy on Unsplash
The sixth reason is that globally, we are witnessing prices of components going up on the one or another pretext. This is only forcing the OEMs to increase the cost of the devices and in a very hypersensitive market like smartphones, it is very challenging for the OEMs to frequently trade-off between input costs and the market opportunities.
Globally, we are witnessing prices of components going up on the one or another pretext. | Photo by Yiorgos Ntrahas on Unsplash
Finally, the entire smartphone ecosystem is interested in investing in opportunities which are rewarding. For example, when we compare education and gaming as two areas of immense opportunity, the entire smartphone ecosystem has preferred to make considerable investments in gaming than education. "There is hardly any OEM focusing on making devices affordable so that more and more students could benefit from digital means of education. But over the past two years, we have seen several OEMs making gaming smartphones in the affordable segments," the report argued. The result: At 4.9 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for smartphone subscriber growth, India may not have a billion smartphone users even by 2030. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: gaming, education, affordable, market, report, reason, device