Nerval's Lobster writes that a survey from the Uptime Institute "suggests something it calls 'green fatigue' is setting in when it comes to making data centers greener. 'Green fatigue' is exactly as it sounds: managers are getting tired of the increasingly difficult race to chop their PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness. The PUE is a measure of a data center's efficiency. The lower the PUE, the better — and Microsoft and Google, with nearly limitless resources, have set the bar so high (or low, depending on your perspective) that it's making less-capitalized firms frustrated. Just a few years ago, the Uptime Institute estimated that the average PUE of a data center was around 2.4, which meant for every dollar of electricity to power a data center, $1.4 dollars were spent to cool it. That dropped to 1.8 recently, an improvement to be sure. But then you have companies such as Google and Microsoft building data centers next to rivers for cheap hydroelectric power in remote parts of the Pacific Northwest and reporting insanely low PUEs (below 1.1 in some cases). The Institute latest survey of data center operators shows only 50 percent of respondents in North America said they considered energy efficiency to be very important to their companies, down from 52 percent last year and 58 percent in 2011."
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An anonymous reader writes "For years, Bell Mobility customers in northern Canada were charged 75 cents a month for 911 emergency service. The problem is that cellphone users outside Whitehorse, Yukon, don't have access to 911 service. The Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories ruled against Bell this week, following a class action lawsuit which challenged the phantom cellphone 911 billings. Subject to a possible final appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, Bell will likely owe 30,000 northern cellphone subscribers some bucks."
puddingebola writes with an excerpt from the New York Times: "The Web site and several Twitter accounts belonging to The Financial Times were hacked on Friday by the Syrian Electronic Army in a continuing campaign that has aimed at an array of media outlets ranging from The Associated Press to the parody site The Onion, according to a claim by the so-called army. The Syrian Electronic Army said it seized control of several F.T. Twitter accounts and amended a number of the site's blog posts with the headline 'Hacked by Syrian Electronic Army.' Hackers used their access to the F.T.'s Twitter feed to post messages, including one that said, 'Syrian Electronic Army Was Here,' and another that linked to a YouTube video of an execution. Both messages were quickly removed.'"
From an article at the Houston Chronicle (not The Onion) comes a report of concern to anyone in a warm climate with, well, electronics. From the article: "According to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, invasive 'crazy ants' are slowly displacing fire ants in the southeastern United States. These 'Tawny Crazy Ants' have a peculiar predilection toward electronics as well. 'They nest in electronics and create short circuits, as they create a contact bridge between two points when they get electrocuted they release an alarm pheromone,' says UT research assistant Edward LeBrun. 'The other ants are attracted to the chemicals that other ants give off,' he adds. At this point, more ants arrive and create a larger nest." The L.A. Times also has a report, which says "Thus far, the crazy ants are not falling for the traditional poisons used to eliminate fire ant mounds. And when local mounds are destroyed manually, they are quickly regenerated. 'They don't sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests,' LeBrun said. 'There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom. You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. It's very expensive.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In a decision that's almost certainly going to result in this issue heading up to the Supreme Court, the Federal 1st Circuit Court of Appeals [Friday] ruled that police can't search your phone when they arrest you without a warrant. That's contrary to most courts' previous findings in these kinds of cases where judges have allowed warrantless searches through cell phones." (But in line with the recently mentioned decision in Florida, and seemingly with common sense.)
leathered writes "The BBC reports that some customers of UK retailer Marks and Spencer have reported that the store's contactless payment terminals have debited their cards despite being in their bags or pockets, sometimes paying twice when they have used another payment method. The cards are supposed to work only when the card comes within 4cm of the terminal. Customers of fast-food chain Pret a Manger have been reporting similar problems, and in both cases cited the customers weren't even aware they had been issued with NFC-enabled cards by their bank."
Techmeology writes "In response to declining utility of CALEA mandated wiretapping backdoors due to more widespread use of cryptography, the FBI is considering a revamped version that would mandate wiretapping facilities in end users' computers and software. Critics have argued that this would be bad for security (PDF), as such systems must be more complex and thus harder to secure. CALEA has also enabled criminals to wiretap conversations by hacking the infrastructure used by the authorities. I wonder how this could ever be implemented in FOSS."
An anonymous reader writes "This being college graduation season, the insights provided by commencement speakers should be familiar by now: find work in a field you're passionate about, don't underestimate your own abilities, aim high, learn to communicate and collaborate with others, give something back to your community. Billionaire Mike Bloomberg, whose current job is Mayor of New York City, evidently decided to break the mold by advising less academically adept youngsters to consider a career in plumbing. High wages, constant demand, no offshore competition. 'Compare a plumber to going to Harvard College — being a plumber, actually for the average person, probably would be a better deal'. Ouch! And hey, like a lawyer, a plumber can always dabble in politics."
An anonymous reader writes "In results that may signal some discomfort with the enormous DIY promise of 3D printing and similar home-manufacturing technologies, a new Reason-Rupe poll finds that an otherwise gun control-weary American public thinks owners of 3D printers ought not be allowed to make their own guns or gun parts. Of course, implementing such a restrictive policy might be tad more difficult than measuring popular preferences." This poll is of only 1000 people, though; your mileage may vary.
Blug_fred writes "For the second edition, today is the time to celebrate Culture Freedom Day. While not as popular as HFD or SFD, celebrating Free Culture involves finding Free Culture artists, inviting them to your place and having them perform, display or talk about what their creation(s). Of course you can always simply project a couple of Free Culture movies and launch a discussion about their business models. Either way you can find all the happening for today here on the map and we sincerely hope there will be something of interest near you."
mcleland writes "The BBC reports that Nintendo is now using the content ID match feature in YouTube to identify screencap videos of people playing their games. They then take over the advertising that appears with the video, and thus the ad revenue. Nintendo gets it all, and the creators of these videos (which are like extended fan-made commercials for the games) get nothing. Corporate gibberish to justify this: 'In a statement, the firm said the move was part of an "on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media."'"
garymortimer writes "Geologists have long used seismology on the bottom of the ocean or have been throwing dynamite from snowmobiles when they look for oil. But now researchers at Centre for Integrated Petroleum Research, a joint venture between the University of Bergen and Uni Research, have found a new preferred method – using drones to map new oil reserves from the air. ... The group’s main task is to create digital maps in 3D of potential oil fields. Using laser scanners, infrared sensors and digital cameras, the researchers create realistic, virtual models. ... Pictures shot with the help of a drone complement the images from low-level terrain that the researchers already have in hand. The end result is more precise and complete 3D models."
hypnosec writes "Mozilla is not going ahead with its plans to block third-party cookies by default in the Beta version of its upcoming Firefox 22. Mozilla needs more time to analyze the outcome of blocking these cookies. The non-profit organization released Firefox Aurora on April 5 with a patch by Jonathan Mayer built into it which would only allow cookies from those websites which the user has visited. The patch would block the ones from sites which hadn't been visited yet. The reason for Mozilla's change in plans is that they're currently looking into 'false positives.' If a user visits one part of a group of site, cookies from that part will be allowed, but cookies from related sites in the group may be blocked, and they're worried it will create a poor user experience. On the other side of the coin, there are 'false negatives.' Just because a user may have visited a particular site doesn't mean she is comfortable with the idea of being tracked."
An anonymous reader writes "A meta-study published yesterday looked at over 12,000 peer-reviewed papers on climate science that appeared in journals between 1991 and 2011. The papers were evaluated and categorized by how they implicitly or explicitly endorsed humans as a contributing cause of global warming. The meta-study found that an overwhelming 97.1% of the papers that took a stance endorsed human-cause global warming. They also asked the 1,200 of the scientists involved in the research to self-evaluate their own studies, with nearly identical results. In the interest of transparency, the meta-study results were published in an open access journal, and the researchers set up a website so that anybody can check their results. From the article: '... a memo from communications strategist Frank Luntz leaked in 2002 advised Republicans, "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate." This campaign has been successful. A 2012 poll from U.S. Pew Research Center found less than half of Americans thought scientists agreed humans were causing global warming. The media has assisted in this public misconception, with most climate stories "balanced" with a "skeptic" perspective. However, this results in making the 2–3% seem like 50%. In trying to achieve "balance," the media has actually created a very unbalanced perception of reality. As a result, people believe scientists are still split about what's causing global warming, and therefore there is not nearly enough public support or motivation to solve the problem.'"
dp619 writes "The tactic of patenting open source software to guard against patent trolls and the weaponization of corporate patent portfolios is gaining momentum in the FOSS community. Organizations including the Open Innovation Network, Google and Red Hat have built defensive patent portfolios (the latter two are defending their product lines). This approach has limitations. Penn State law professor Clark Asay writes in an Outercurve Foundation blog examining the trend, 'Patenting FOSS may help in some cases, but the nature of FOSS development itself may mean that patenting some collaboratively developed inventions is inherently more difficult, if not impossible, in many others. Consequently, strategies for mitigating patent risk that rely on FOSS communities patenting their technologies include inherent limitations. It's not entirely clear how best to reform patent law in order to better reconcile it with alternative models of innovation. But in the meantime, FOSS still presents certain advantages that, while dimmed by the prospect of patent suits, remain significant.'"
jones_supa writes "Bill Gates is once again the world's richest person. He recaptured the title from Mexican investor Carlos Slim, as Microsoft hit a five-year high. It is the first time Gates has held the mantle since 2007. His fortune is valued at $72.7 billion, up 16 percent year-to-date. At the same time, Mr. Slim's América Móvil, the largest mobile-phone operator in the Americas, has dropped 14 percent this year after Mexico's Congress passed a bill that could quash the billionaire's market dominance. That's helped erase more than $3 billion from the tycoon's net worth. What comes to Bill Gates, most of his fortune is held in Cascade Investment LLC, a holding entity through which he owns stakes in more than a dozen publicly traded companies and several closely held operations. He has donated $28 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
alphadogg writes "A data center in Sweden has cut its energy bills by a million dollars a year using seawater to cool its servers, though jellyfish are an occasional hazard. Interxion, a collocation company in the Netherlands that rents data center space in 11 countries, uses water pumped from the Baltic Sea to cool the IT equipment at its facilities in Stockholm. The energy used to cool IT equipment is one of the costliest areas of running a data center. Companies have traditionally used big, mechanical chillers, but some are turning to outside air and evaporative techniques as lower-cost alternatives."
Via Phoronix comes news that Ubuntu is revisiting replacing Firefox with Chromium as the default browser. Reasons include that Chromium is the basis of Ubuntu Touch and their new web apps platform, and using a single browser for all versions of Ubuntu would simplify maintenance. From the article: "Expressed shortcomings of switching to Google's Chromium open-source web-browser is that data migration from Firefox isn't too obvious, extensions don't migrate between browsers, Chromium isn't supported on all architectures (e.g. PowerPC), the browser doesn't work with the Orca screen reader and doesn't integrate well for accessibility reasons, there is no native PDF plug-in, and Chromium is said to have worse performance under memory pressure. There were also some concerns expressed about differences with WebApps in Chromium. ... It looks like the switch to Chromium will happen in the name of a better user experience for the desktop with Chrome/Chromium now arguably surpassing Firefox in its features and performance while pushing Chromium as the default leads to a more consistent experience across Ubuntu form factors from phones/tablets to the desktop." The Ubuntu community will have their input solicited as the next step. The Ubuntu Developer Summit session has notes and a full video of today's discussion.
New submitter zlives writes in with news that Florida's DOT changed some language in their yellow light timing regulations, leading to a decrease in the yellow delay. Especially at lights with red light cameras. "From the article: 'Red light cameras generated more than $100 million in revenue last year in approximately 70 Florida communities, with 52.5 percent of the revenue going to the state. The rest is divided by cities, counties, and the camera companies. In 2013, the cameras are on pace to generate $120 million.' I wonder what the camera company cut is?" At least one area has promised to undo the reduction now that they have been caught.
An anonymous reader writes with this quick bite from the H: "Just a few days after the one year anniversary of the release of the first version of OpenOffice from the Apache Foundation (Apache OpenOffice 3.4) on 8 May 2012, the project can now boast 50 million downloads of the Open Source office suite. 10 million of those downloads happened since the beginning of March. In contrast, LibreOffice claimed it had 15 million unique downloads of its office suite in all of 2012."
ananyo writes "Scientists working 2.4 kilometers below Earth's surface in a Canadian mine have tapped a source of water that has remained isolated for at least a billion years. The researchers say they do not yet know whether anything has been living in it all this time, but the water contains high levels of methane and hydrogen — the right stuff to support life. Micrometer-scale pockets in minerals billions of years old can hold water that was trapped during the minerals' formation. But no source of free-flowing water passing through interconnected cracks or pores in Earth's crust has previously been shown to have stayed isolated for more than tens of millions of years (paper abstract)."
Founded just to cover the SCO/Caldera UNIX lawsuits back in 2003, Groklaw has proven itself a great place to read and discuss many of the major tech trials since. And today, it turns ten: "We made it. A decade of Groklaw as of today. Who'd a thunk it? Not I. When I started, I thought I'd do a little fiddling around for a couple of months to learn how to blog. But then all you guys showed up and taught me some important things that I didn't know, and vice versa I hope, and here we are, on our 10th anniversary, still going strong, together on a very different path than I originally imagined. The important moment for me was when I realized the potential we had as a group and decided to try to surf this incredible wave all of you created by contributing your skills and time. I saw we could work as a group, explain technology to the legal world so lawyers and judges could make better decisions, and explain the legal process to techies, so they could avoid troubles and also could be enabled to work effectively to defend Free and Open Source Software from cynical 'Intellectual Property' attacks from the proprietary world." This despite a smear campaign by SCO and nearly shutting down in 2009. And it's archived in the Library of Congress.
davecb writes "The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has recently published two notices for patent examiners relating to patent interpretation, and in particular computer-related/business method type patents saying: 'for example, what appears on its face to be a claim for an "art" or a "process" may, on a proper construction, be a claim for a mathematical formula and therefore not patentable subject matter.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Andy Oram reports on the quality, security, and community driving open source adoption. 'All too often, the main force uniting competitors is the fear of another vendor and the realization that they can never beat a dominant vendor on its own turf. Open source becomes a way of changing the rules out from under the dominant player. OpenStack, for instance, took on VMware in the virtualization space and Amazon.com in the IaaS space. Android attracted phone manufacturers and telephone companies as a reaction to the iPhone.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Back in April 2012, the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and a number of publishers for allegedly colluding to raise the price of e-books on the iBookstore. As part of its investigation into Apple's actions, the Justice Department collected evidence which it claims demonstrates that Apple was the 'ringmaster' in a price fixing conspiracy. Specifically, the Justice Department claims that Apple wielded its power in the mobile app market to coerce publishers to agree to Apple's terms for iBookstore pricing."
danomac writes "Canipre, a Canadian anti-infringement enforcement company, has been using photos on their official website without permission. This company hopes to bring U.S.-style copyright lawsuits to Canada, and they are the company behind Voltage's current lawsuits. It says right on their website, 'they all know it's wrong, and they're still doing it' overlaid on top of the image used without permission. Multiple photos from different photographers are used; none of them with permission. Canipre's response? 'We used a third party vendor to develop the website and they purchased images off of an image bank,' they said, trying to pass the blame to someone else. Some of the photos were released under the Creative Commons, meaning they could have used the photos legally if they'd provided proper attribution."
Today The New Yorker unveiled a project called Strongbox, which aims to let sources share tips and leaks with the news organization in a secure manner. It makes use of the TOR network and encrypts file uploads with PGP. Once the files are uploaded, they're transferred via thumb-drive to a laptop that isn't connected to the internet, which is erased every time it is powered on and booted with a live CD. The publication won't record any details about your visit, so even a government request to look at their records will fail to find any useful information. "There’s a growing technology gap: phone records, e-mail, computer forensics, and outright hacking are valuable weapons for anyone looking to identify a journalist’s source. With some exceptions, the press has done little to keep pace: our information-security efforts tend to gravitate toward the parts of our infrastructure that accept credit cards." Strongbox is actually just The New Yorker's version of a secure information-sharing platform called DeadDrop, built by Aaron Swartz shortly before his death. DeadDrop is free software.
An anonymous reader writes "A report released this morning looks at the maintainability level of the Firefox codebase through five measures of architectural complexity. It finds that 11% of files in Firefox are highly interconnected, a value that went up significantly following version 3.0 and that making a change to a randomly selected file can, on average, directly impact eight files and indirectly impact over 1,400 files. All the data is made available and the report comes with an interactive Web-based exploratory tool." The complexity exploration tool is pretty neat.
ananyo writes "Global warming is changing the location of Earth's geographic poles, according to a study published this week. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast towards northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds — or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year (abstract). The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss. Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of Earth's spin. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning sphere, its spin axis will tilt directly towards the position of the loss — exactly as the team observed for Greenland."
Georgia Tech and Udacity — the online courseware project led by Sebastian Thrun — have announced a plan to offer an accredited M.S. Computer Science program online. The two organizations are also working with AT&T. This is the first time a major university has made an actual degree available solely through the MOOC format. Getting a degree in this manner is going to be much cheaper than a traditional degree: "... students also will pay a fraction of the cost of traditional on-campus master’s programs; total tuition for the program is initially expected to be below $7,000." U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have quickly become one of the most significant catalysts of innovation in higher education. As parents know all too well, America urgently needs new ideas about how to make higher education accessible and affordable. This new collaboration between Georgia Tech, AT&T and Udacity, and the application of the MOOC concept to advanced-degree programs, will further the national debate — pushing from conversations about technology to new models of instruction and new linkages between higher education and employers." Georgia Tech is looking at the big picture: "At present, around 160,000 master’s degrees are bestowed in the United States every year in computer science and related subject disciplines; the worldwide market is almost certainly much larger, perhaps even an order of magnitude larger."
New submitter hguorbray writes "One of my favorite Sci-Fi authors of all time, Gene Wolfe, will be honored with the Damon Night Grand Master award at the Nebula Awards weekend in San Jose this weekend. This Thursday night he will be doing a reading and Q&A along with Connie Willis (author of the Doomsday Book, Blackout/All Clear, etc.) at the San Jose Hilton. There will be a mass book signing event Friday including these authors and many others presented by San Francisco's Borderlands Books." Here are this year's Nebula Award nominees. The awards will be presented at a ceremony starting 7pm ET on Saturday.
wiredmikey tips this AFP report: "Russia on Tuesday said it had detained an alleged American CIA agent working undercover at the U.S. embassy who was discovered with a large stash of money as he was trying to recruit a Russian intelligence officer. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB, ex-KGB) identified the man as Ryan C. Fogle — third secretary of the political section of Washington's embassy in Moscow — and said he had been handed back to the embassy after his detention. Photographs published show his alleged espionage equipment including wigs, a compass, torch and even a mundane atlas of Moscow as well as a somewhat old fashioned mobile phone. Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Fogle was carrying 'special technical equipment, written instructions for recruiting a Russian citizen, a large sum of money and means for changing a person's appearance.' The FSB also said the U.S. intelligence service has made repeated attempts to recruit the staff of Russian law enforcement agencies and special services. The incident comes amid a new chill in Russian-U.S. relations sparked by the Syrian crisis and concern in Washington over what it sees as President Vladimir Putin's crackdown on human rights."
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from BetaBeat: "The Department of Homeland Security appears to have shut down the ability to use Dwolla, a mobile payment service, to withdraw and deposit money into Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin trading platform. ... A representative for Dwolla told Betabeat that the company is 'not party' to this matter and encourages those with questions to reach out to Mt. Gox or the DHS. 'The Department of Homeland Security and U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland issued a 'Seizure Warrant' for the funds associated with Mutum Sigillium's Dwolla account (a.k.a. Mt. Gox),' he said. 'In light of the court order, procured by the Department of Homeland Security, Dwolla has ceased all account activities associated with Dwolla services for Mutum Sigillum while Dwolla's holding partner transferred Mutum Sigillium's balance, per the warrant.'"
Officials for the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board have recommended a nationwide lowering of the blood-alcohol level considered safe for operating a car. The threshold is currently 0.08% — the NTSB wants to cut that to 0.05%. "That's about one drink for a woman weighing less than 120 lbs., two for a 160 lb. man. More than 100 countries have adopted the .05 alcohol content standard or lower, according to a report by the board's staff. In Europe, the share of traffic deaths attributable to drunken driving was reduced by more than half within 10 years after the standard was dropped, the report said. NTSB officials said it wasn't their intention to prevent drivers from having a glass of wine with dinner, but they acknowledged that under a threshold as low as .05 the safest thing for people who have only one or two drinks is not to drive at all. ... Alcohol concentration levels as low as .01 have been associated with driving-related performance impairment, and levels as low as .05 have been associated with significantly increased risk of fatal crashes, the board said."
An anonymous reader writes "Mozilla on Tuesday officially launched Firefox 21 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Improvements include the addition of multiple social providers on the desktop as well as open source fonts on Android. In the changelog, the company included an interesting point that's worth elaborating on: 'Preliminary implementation of Firefox Health Report.' Mozilla has revealed that FHR so far logs 'basic health information' about Firefox: time to start up, total running time, and number of crashes. Mozilla says the initial report is pretty simple but will grow 'in the coming months.' You can get it now from Mozilla."
TheSync writes "The long-awaited remake of Carl Sagan's amazing Cosmos series, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey, will be coming to Fox television next year. It will star astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Surprisingly, Seth MacFarlane of Family Guy fame is an executive producer. MacFarlane was introduced to Carl Sagan's widow Ann Druyan by deGrasse Tyson, and MacFarlane helped them pitch the show to Fox executives."
An anonymous reader writes "If an imposing 2300-year old Mayan temple situated at the Nohmul complex in northern Belize was on your list of things to see before you die, you're too late. The monument was essentially destroyed by a construction crew in order to provide gravel for road construction. Archaeologists expressed shock, as Nohmul (the "great mound") was a major Mayan religious center in its day. While the pyramid was situated on private property, such historical sites are supposedly protected by ordinance, and officials may file criminal charges."
vikingpower writes "The winner of this year's World Press Photo award, Paul l Hanssen, is under fire for allegedly having photoshopped the winning picture. The Hacker Factor is detailing the reasons and technicalities for the accusations. ExtremeTech also runs an item about the possible faking. Upon questions by Australian news site news.com.au, Hanssen answers his photo is not a fake. The whole story, however, is based upon somewhat thin proof: three different times in the file's Adobe XMP block; this does not necessarily mean that more than one file was used in order to obtain a composite image." Update: 05/14 20:04 GMT by S : World Press Photo says the photo is genuine.
Picass0 writes with distressing news from the AP wire, about the AP: "The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a 'massive and unprecedented intrusion' into how news organizations gather the news." They obtained call records from a number of desk phones, and the personal phones of many news editors. The DOJ has not commented, but it may be related to the possibility that the CIA director leaked information on a foiled terror plot in Yemen last year.
This may be a coincidence, but according to MapLight, Senators who voted last week for the bill allowing states to directly collect taxes on sales via the Internet, AKA The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, received 40 times as much campaign donation money (yes, that's four-oh, not just four) from businesses in favor of the bill as those who voted against it received from businesses that were against Internet sales taxes. Was this bribery? Of course not! We're not some piddly fifth-world country. But it's a prime example of how money influences politics here in the good old USA, and it's far from the only one we've seen lately. In this video, MapLight Program Director Jay Costa shares a bunch more with us, along with tips on how to spot this sort of thing and some steps we voters can take to fight against both direct and indirect influence-buying. Note that all this is totally non-partisan; the politicians with the most influence -- whether local, state or federal -- get most of the available special interest money no matter what other agenda(s) they may have. And for those who want to learn more about who is spending their dollars to influence your representatives, Jay also suggests a look at these two money-in-politics resources: FollowTheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.
ananyo writes "Volcanologists detonated explosive charges buried in a meadow in Ashford, New York, blowing 12 small craters in the ground and throwing debris 80 meters in the air. The aim was to recreate, in true-to-life detail, what happens when a volcanic eruption punches through Earth's crust. The work could guide the way that active volcanoes are monitored, and could help safety officials to decide where to restrict public access at volcanoes such as Italy's Stromboli, where dozens of tourists arrive every night to watch spectacular fire fountain displays."
benrothke writes "One of the challenges in reading The Plateau Effect: Getting from Stuck to Success is figuring how to classify it. Amazon has it ranked mainly in applied psychology, but also time management and inexplicable personal finance. In some ways it is all of the above and more. In fewer than 300 pages, the authors reference myriad different areas of science, mathematics, psychology and more; in the effort to show the reader how they can elevate themselves from the stuff in life that glues them to the status quo." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
sciencehabit writes "The carnivorous humped bladderwort, found on all continents except Antarctica, is a model of ruthless genetic efficiency. Only 3% of this aquatic plant's DNA is not part of a known gene, new research shows. In contrast, only 2% of human DNA is part of a gene. The bladderwort, named for its water-filled bladders that suck in unsuspecting prey, is a relative of the tomato. The finding overturns the notion that this repetitive, non-coding DNA, popularly called 'junk' DNA, is necessary for life."
jfruh writes "Michael Dell's plan to take the company he founded private, with help from Microsoft, isn't going smoothly. Corporate raider and major Dell stockholder Carl Icahn has presented a rival plan that would shut Michael Dell out. Perhaps predictably, the Dell board isn't sold on Icahn's idea, saying it will leave the company short of cash, even though they haven't been able to fully evaluate it yet."
Sockatume writes "The Sunday Times has revealed that analytics firm Ipsos MORI and 4G network EE attempted to sell detailed information on 27m subscribers' activities to various parties including the UK's police forces. The data encompasses the gender, postcode and age of subscribers, the sites they visit and times they are visited, and the places and times of calls and text messages. Ipsos MORI were reportedly 'bragging that the data can be used to track people and their location in real time to within 100 meters' in negotiations. Ipsos MORI has rushed to contradict this in an effort to save face, stating that the users are anonymized and data is aggregated into groups of 50 or more, while location is only precise to 700m. Despite their prior enthusiasm, the police have indicated that they will no longer go ahead with the deal. It is not clear whether the other sales will go ahead."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars takes a look at what Ubuntu Touch has to offer so far. From the article: 'It can't be stressed enough that even in this updated form, Ubuntu Touch is nowhere near usable as a mainstream mobile operating system. Canonical makes no claim that it is. For now, the software is about half development environment and half proof-of-concept tech demo. As such, we aren't going to be evaluating Ubuntu Touch using quite the same criteria we'd use for a shipping product—we're going to be focusing more on how the OS looks and works and less on how it performs. As we get closer to Ubuntu 14.04 and presumably Ubuntu Touch's retail availability, we'll certainly be revisiting it with a more critical eye.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Worldwide levels of the chief greenhouse gas that causes global warming have hit a milestone, reaching an amount never before encountered by humans, federal scientists said. Carbon dioxide was measured at 400 parts per million at the oldest monitoring station in Hawaii, which sets the global benchmark. More than half of plants and a third of animal species are likely to see their living space halved by 2080 if current trends continue."
An anonymous reader writes "A change from 'need' based financial aid to a 'merit' based system coupled with a 'high tuition, high aid,' model is making it harder for poor students to afford college. According to The Atlantic: 'Sometimes, colleges (and states) really are just competing to outbid each other on star students. But there are also economic incentives at play, particularly for small, endowment-poor institutions. "After all," Burd writes, "it's more profitable for schools to provide four scholarships of $5,000 each to induce affluent students who will be able to pay the balance than it is to provide a single $20,000 grant to one low-income student." The study notes that, according to the Department of Education's most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad's bank account.'"
Dr. Mark Post hopes to bring the dream of cultured meat one step closer to reality when he unveils his high tech hamburger in London. The five ounce burger is composed of 20,000 strips of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory at a cost of $325,000 (provided by an anonymous donor.) From the article: "The hamburger, assembled from tiny bits of beef muscle tissue grown in a laboratory and to be cooked and eaten at an event in London, perhaps in a few weeks, is meant to show the world — including potential sources of research funds — that so-called in-Vitro meat, or cultured meat, is a reality."