dryriver writes with this excerpt from a thought-provoking report at the BBC: "China's Education Ministry says that about 400 million people — or 30% of the population — cannot speak the country's national language. Of the 70% of the population who can speak Mandarin, many do not do it well enough, a ministry spokeswoman told Xinhua news agency on Thursday. The admission from officials came as the government launched another push for linguistic unity in China. China is home to thousands of dialects and several minority languages. These include Cantonese and Hokkien, which enjoy strong regional support. Mandarin — formally called Putonghua in China, meaning 'common tongue' — is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. The Education Ministry spokeswoman said the push would be focusing on the countryside and areas with ethnic minorities."
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A week ago, we posted news that federal prosecutors were seeking jail time for Chad Dixon, an Indiana man who made money teaching others how to pass polygraph examinations. Now, reader Frosty Piss writes that Dixon "was sentenced Friday to eight months in prison. Prosecutors described Chad Dixon as a 'master of deceit.' Prosecutors, who had asked for almost two years in prison, said Dixon crossed the line between free speech protected under the First Amendment and criminal conduct when he told some clients to conceal what he taught them while undergoing government polygraphs. Although Dixon appears to be the first charged publicly, others offering similar instruction say they fear they might be next. 'I've been worried about that, and the more this comes about, the more worried I am,' said Doug Williams, a former police polygraphist in Oklahoma who claims to be able to teach people to beat what he now considers a 'scam' test."
An anonymous reader writes "Using a Lego Mindstorms set, a Mac, and optical character recognition, Austrian professor Peter Purgathofer created a makeshift ebook copier. From the article: 'It's sort of a combination of high tech meets low. The scanning is done by way of the Mac's iSight camera. The Mindstorms set does two things: Hits the page-advance button on the Kindle (it appears to be an older model, like the one in the picture above), then mashes the space bar on the Mac, causing it to take a picture.' Purgathofer calls the creation a 'reflection on the loss of long established rights.' Check out the Vimeo video for a demonstration."
Frosty P writes "Congressman Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, has proposed legislation (summary, full text) that would prohibit the agency from installing 'back doors' into encryption, the electronic scrambling that protects e-mail, online transactions and other communications. Representative Holt, a physicist, said Friday that he believed the NSA was overreaching and could hurt American interests, including the reputations of American companies whose products the agency may have altered or influenced. 'We pay them to spy,' Mr. Holt said. 'But if in the process they degrade the security of the encryption we all use, it's a net national disservice.'"
v3rgEz writes "Cambridge Consultants has rigged together about a hundred motion-triggered cameras around Kenyan watering holes to help catch and dissuade elephant poachers. 'The challenge was to create a remote monitoring system that was robust enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and animal attacks and could be easily hidden in any surroundings – all within the available budget,' according to one of the projects leads. And to help make sure all those cameras are being monitored, the team has released an iOS app that lets users review, tag, and flag images, tracking what kinds of animals pass by and keeping an eye open for any human predators on the prowl."
Eloquence writes "Three years ago, Musopen raised nearly $70,000 to create public domain recordings of works by Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, and others. Now they're running a new campaign with a simple but ambitious objective: 'To preserve indefinitely and without question everything Chopin created. To release his music for free, both in 1080p video and 24 bit 192kHz audio. This is roughly 245 pieces.'" Adds project organizer aarondunn: "His music will be made available via an API powered by Musopen so anyone can come up with ways to explore and present Chopin's life."
cold fjord writes "Another NSA story? The Wall Street Journal reports, 'The U.S. has intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria ... U.S. officials said they are on alert for Iran's fleet of small, fast boats in the Persian Gulf ... U.S. officials also fear Hezbollah could attack the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. While the U.S. has moved military resources in the region for a possible strike, it has other assets in the area that would be ready to respond to any reprisals by Syria, Iran or its allies. ... Israel has so far been the focus of concerns about retaliation from Iran and its Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah. The commander-in-chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said last week that an attack on Syria would lead to the "destruction of Israel." ... The Iranian message, intercepted in recent days, came from Qasem Soleimani, the head of Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force, and went to Iranian-supported Shiite militia groups in Iraq, according to U.S. officials.' What's interesting is this Washington Post story from 2011: Iran's Quds Force was blamed for attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq."
itwbennett writes "The federal judge presiding over the U.S. electronic books case against Apple has barred the company from striking deals that would ensure that it could undercut prices of other retailers in the e-book market and also prohibited Apple from letting any one publisher know what deals the company is striking up with other publishers. For its part, Apple said it plans to appeal the ruling (PDF), denying that it conspired to fix ebook pricing. Meanwhile, Amazon is alerting customers of their potential payout, which could be as much as $3.82 for every eligible Kindle book."
An anonymous reader writes "U.S. military researchers are asking industry for ideas on a futuristic uniform for Special Operations warfighters that involves agile air-conditioned armor with embedded computers, sensors, communications radios and antennas, signal processors, wearable displays, and health-monitoring systems. Among the technologies Special Operations Command officials are interested in most (PDF) are advanced armor to protect warfighters from bullets, shrapnel, and other battlefield threats, while preserving their mobility. The suit also may involve powered or unpowered robotic exoskeletons to improve warfighter performance and endurance, while enabling the warfighter to operate silently and unseen."
sciencehabit writes "2012 was a year of extreme weather: Superstorm Sandy, drought and heat waves in the United States; record rainfall in the United Kingdom; unusually heavy rains in Kenya, Somalia, Japan, and Australia; drought in Spain; floods in China. One of the first questions asked in the wake of such extreme weather is: 'Could this due to climate change?' In a report (huge PDF) published online today, NOAA scientists tackled this question head-on. The overall message of the report: It varies. 'About half of the events reveal compelling evidence that human-caused change was a [contributing] factor,' said NOAA National Climatic Data Center Director Thomas Karl. In addition, climate scientist Peter Stott of the U.K. Met Office noted that these studies show that in many cases, human influence on climate has increased the risks associated with extreme events."
An anonymous reader sends this news from the Wall Street Journal: "A 19-year-old model helicopter enthusiast was killed Thursday when a toy helicopter he was flying struck him in the head, a law-enforcement official said. Victim Roman Pirozek 'was known to be aggressive in his flying and often executed tricks. He was executing a trick when he was struck,' the official said. Mr. Pirozek – depicted in [this YouTube video] he posted in July — was flying a remote-controlled helicopter worth about $2,000 when it struck him, cutting off the top of his head, the official said. The Woodhaven, Queens, resident was pronounced dead at the scene. His father was with him at the time of the accident, the official said."
coolnumbr12 writes "The U.S. government has had enough of the Syrian Electronic Army's hacks of Western media and government outlets. A week after the SEA shut down the New York Times, the FBI Cyber Division unit has officially added the pro-Assad hacker collective to its wanted list. The FBI issued an advisory that included information about the SEA, its capabilities, and some of its more heinous attacks. The advisory also warns networks to be on the lookout for attacks, and that anyone found to be aiding the SEA will be seen as terrorists actively aiding attacks against the U.S. websites."
Trailrunner7 writes "In response to a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Department of Justice is preparing to release a trove of documents related to the government's secret interpretation of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. The declassified documents will include previously secret opinions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The decision by the Justice Department to release the documents is the second legal victory in recent weeks for the EFF related to the National Security Agency's intelligence collection programs. In August, the group won the release of a 2011 FISC opinion that revealed that the court ruled that some of the NSA's collection programs were illegal and unconstitutional. The newest decision will result in the release of hundreds of pages of documents related to the way the government has been interpreting Section 215, which is the measure upon which some of the NSA's surveillance programs are based. In a status report released Wednesday regarding the EFF's suit against the Department of Justice, attorneys for the government said that they will release the documents by Sept. 10."
An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times is reporting that the NSA has 'has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show. ... The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.'" You may prefer Pro Publica's non-paywalled version, instead, or The Guardian's.
cold fjord writes with this excerpt from The Hill: "The National Rifle Association joined the American Civil Liberties Union's lawsuit on Wednesday to end the government's massive phone record collection program. In a brief filed in federal court, the NRA argues that the National Security Agency's database of phone records amounts to a 'national gun registry.' 'It would be absurd to think that the Congress would adopt and maintain a web of statutes intended to protect against the creation of a national gun registry, while simultaneously authorizing the FBI and the NSA to gather records that could effectively create just such a registry,' the group writes. ... In its filing, the gun-rights group claims that the NSA's database would allow the government to identify and track gun owners based on whether they've called gun stores, shooting ranges or the NRA. 'Under the government's reading of Section 215, the government could simply demand the periodic submission of all firearms dealers' transaction records, then centralize them in a database indexed by the buyers' names for later searching,' the NRA writes."
paroneayea writes "MediaGoblin 0.5.0 Goblin Force is released with a slew of new features: authentication plugins including OpenID and Mozilla Persona support, a new notification system, a new "reprocessing framework", and more! The project is also making progress towards its long-awaited federation goals via the Pump API, as used in pump.io. Rockin'!" (If the name doesn't ring a bell, Wikipedia helps: MediaGoblin is "a free, decentralized Web platform (server software) for hosting and sharing digital media.")
An anonymous reader writes "GamePolitics reports that the Postal Regulatory Commission has ordered [PDF] the U.S. Postal Service to equalize the rates paid by mailers who send round trip DVDs, and concluding (sort of) a dispute that has been underway for more than four years. The new postage rates take effect on September 30th. Some mailers, prominantly Netflix, send their round-trip movie DVDs as 'letters,' but GameFly's gaming disks are sent in slightly bigger envelopes as 'flats' to avoid breakage, and so GameFly has paid a much higher postage rate. GameFly argued that this was unfair discriminatory treatment because USPS was providing special hand-sorting treatment for Netflix disks without charging Netflix for the extra handling. But now there's a new twist: the Postal Service wants to reclassify DVD mailing [PDF] as a competitive product, where the prices would not be limited by the rate of inflation, because it says that mailed DVDs compete with the internet, streaming services, and kiosks such as Redbox. The regulatory agency is accepting responses [PDF] from interested persons until September 11th to the Postal Service's latest comments on its request [PDF]."
rysiek writes "Remember MailPile, the privacy-focused, community-funded FOSS webmail project with built-in GPG support? The good news is, the funding campaign is a success, with $135k raised (the goal was $100k). The bad news is: PayPal froze MailPile's account, along with $45k that was on it, and will not un-freeze it until MailPile team provides 'an itemized budget and your development goal dates for your project.' One of the team members also noted: 'Communications with PayPal have implied that they would use any excuse available to them to delay delivering as much of our cash as possible for as long as possible.' PayPal doesn't have a great track record as far as fund freezing is concerned — maybe it's high time to stop using PayPal?"
dcblogs writes "Amazon has more than 100 job openings for people who can get a top secret clearance, which includes a U.S. government administered polygraph examination. It needs software developers, operations managers and cloud support engineers, among others. Amazon's hiring effort includes an invitation-only recruiting event for systems support engineers at its Herndon, Va., facility on Sept. 24 and 25. Amazon is fighting to win a contract to build a private cloud for the CIA. The project is being rebid after IBM filed a protest. In a recent federal lawsuit challenging the rebid, Amazon took a shot at IBM, describing the company as 'a traditional fixed IT infrastructure provider and late entrant to the cloud computing market.' Among the things IBM says in response, is that the government didn't look at Amazon's outage record. An analyst firm, Ptak Noel & Associates, concluded, in a report about the dispute, that CIA officials 'too casually brush off Amazon's outages' in evaluating the proposals."
Anita Hunt (lissnup) writes "Hot on the heels of Dave Cameron's demands to make such content universally 'opt-in,' the Independent reports 'Westminster computers were prevented from accessing sex sites 114,844 times last November alone and on 55,552 in April, while February saw just 15 and in June officials blocked 397 attempts.' No explanation has been offered for the variation, although it would be interesting to know if the fall in the number of recorded/reported attempts coincides with the date the FOI request was filed."
mdsolar sends this quote from Bloomberg: "More than 50 years into the age of nuclear energy, one of the biggest growth opportunities may be junking old reactors. Entergy Corp. (ETR) said Aug. 27 it will close its 41-year-old Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in 2014, making the reactor the fifth unit in the U.S. marked for decommissioning within the past 12 months, a record annual total. Companies that specialize in razing nuclear plants and hauling away radioactive waste are poised to benefit. Disposal work is 'where companies are going to make their fortune,' Margaret Harding, an independent nuclear-industry consultant based in Wilmington, North Carolina, said in an phone interview. Contractors that are usually involved in building reactors ... 'are going to be looking very hard at the decommissioning side of it.' [T]he U.S. nuclear fleet of 104 units is shrinking, even as Southern Co. and Scana Corp. build two units each. ... During a reactor decommissioning, the plant operator transfers radioactive fuel rods to cooling pools and, ultimately, to so-called dry casks for storage. Workers clean contaminated surfaces by sandblasting, chemical sprays and hydrolasing, a process that involves high-pressure water blasts, according to King. 'You do get to a point that you need someone to come in that has the equipment and the technology to actually dismantle the components,' she said. 'That typically is hired out.'"
cervesaebraciator writes "Slashdot has reported before about the copyright nightmare of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' Speech. Now, questions of intellectual property and the legacy of Dr. King have caused his children to go to court. The estate, run by King's sons, claims the rights to the intellectual property and memorabilia of Dr. King as assets. Accordingly, it has filed suit against the non-profit Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Change, run by King's daughter, for plans to continue using King memorabilia once a royalty-free licensing agreement expires, (which the estate says will be in September). As is the case with increasing frequency, one is left to wonder about the implications intellectual property claims have for free speech when they can be applied to so public a figure as Dr. King."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joshua Mitnick reports that Israel and the U.S. carried out a missile test over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday morning that was detected by Russian surveillance systems. Israel's defense ministry eventually said a Sparrow rocket had been fired to simulate a ballistic missile attack on the Jewish state to test the Arrow interceptor system. The Arrow – which wasn't fired Tuesday – has been developed to defend against long range rockets primarily from Iran, a main patron of the Syrian regime. Arieh Herzog, a former Israeli missile defense director, says that the Sparrow missile is developed to simulate 'the worst threats' in the region so Israel can hone the capabilities of the Arrow III missile interceptor. Herzog speculated that the launch Tuesday was done at a considerably long range. Another Israeli expert said the incident could be seen as muscle flexing by the U.S. and Israel. 'You could say perhaps its show of strength to Syria and its Iranian ally — that Israel has a range of options at its disposal. And to place pressure on Assad and Iran that Israel takes [retaliation threats] seriously,' says Meir Javedanfar, a lecturer on Iranian politics at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. Pentagon press secretary George Little said the U.S. 'provided technical assistance and support to the Israeli Missile Defense Organization flight test of a Sparrow target missile over the Mediterranean Sea.' 'The United States and Israel cooperate on a number of long-term ballistic missile defense development projects to address common challenges in the region,' added Little. 'This test had nothing to do with United States consideration of military action to respond to Syria's chemical weapons attack.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Bruce Schneier has written an article about how our society is becoming increasingly averse to risk as we invent ways to reduce it. 'Risk tolerance is both cultural and dependent on the environment around us. As we have advanced technologically as a society, we have reduced many of the risks that have been with us for millennia. Fatal childhood diseases are things of the past, many adult diseases are curable, accidents are rarer and more survivable, buildings collapse less often, death by violence has declined considerably, and so on. All over the world — among the wealthier of us who live in peaceful Western countries — our lives have become safer.' This has led us to overestimate both the level of risk from unlikely events and also our ability to curtail it. Thus, trillions of dollars are spent and vital liberties are lost in misguided efforts to make us safer. 'We need to relearn how to recognize the trade-offs that come from risk management, especially risk from our fellow human beings. We need to relearn how to accept risk, and even embrace it, as essential to human progress and our free society. The more we expect technology to protect us from people in the same way it protects us from nature, the more we will sacrifice the very values of our society in futile attempts to achieve this security.'"
whoever57 writes "On Saturday, Oracle Team USA and Team New Zealand will begin racing for the America's Cup in the amazing AC72 boats. However, the Oracle team starts with a significant handicap. It was recently discovered that members of Oracle Team USA made illegal changes to the boats used in the America's Cup Series (which is sailed in the smaller AC45 boats). After a hearing on Friday, the International Jury has decided on the penalty: Team Oracle will have to pay a fine and sail without some team members. More significantly, they lose two points before starting the America's Cup races against Team New Zealand. A tiny amount of weight had been added to the kingpost, in violation of the measurement rules for the class. This was reported to the measurement committee some weeks ago after its discovery by boatbuilders working for America's Cup Regatta Management (ACRM), not members of Oracle Team USA."
An anonymous reader writes "Michael Meeks has announced that the core of SUSE's LibreOffice team is moving over to Collabora, which will now be providing commercial LibreOffice support. 'It seems to me that the ability to say "no" to profitable but peripheral business in order to strategically focus the company is a really important management task. In the final analysis I'm convinced that this is the right business decision for SUSE. It will allow Collabora's Productivity division to focus exclusively on driving LibreOffice into Windows, Mac and Consulting markets that are peripheral to SUSE. It will also retain the core of the existing skill base for the benefit of SUSE's customers, and the wider LibreOffice community, of which openSUSE is an important part.'"
In August Phil Shapiro wrote an article that asked the question, Can 50 Closed Chicago Schools Become 50 Makerspaces? Now, in September, we have a ruminative interview with him about schools, makerspaces, and how making places where kids (and adults) can make things and generally tinker with tools and get used to the idea of working with their hands to create new things and to repair old ones. For many of us in previous generations, our "makerspace" was our garage or basement, and our mentor was Dad. Today, this doesn't seem to be the case in a lot of homes. Besides, working with others is safer than working alone, and even if we bowl alone there is no good social or biological reason for us to create alone -- especially if we have a congenial makerspace nearby.
nk497 writes "Amazon is bundling ebooks with print copies for the first time, via its Kindle MatchBook programme, admitting that 'bundling print and digital has been one of the most requested features from customers.' The digital copies won't all be free — as with AutoRip, which offers free MP3s for selected CDs and records — but Amazon promises to charge no more than $3 per digital copy. The programme will apply to books bought as far back as Amazon's 1995 launch. So far, only 10,000 books are listed as being part of Kindle MatchBook, but Amazon hopes to add more, telling publishers it 'adds a new revenue stream.'"
damnbunni writes "Frederik Pohl, one of the last Golden Age science fiction authors, passed away on September 2nd of respiratory distress, as reported on his blog. Pohl is perhaps best known for his Heechee Saga novels, beginning with Gateway in 1977, but his work in pulp magazines in the '30s and '40s helped give rise to science fiction fandom."
nbauman writes "According to Gina Kolata in the New York Times, The Institute of Education Sciences in the Department of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, has supported 175 randomized controlled studies, like the studies used in medicine, to find out what works and doesn't work, which are reported in the What Works Clearinghouse. Surprisingly, the choice of instructional materials — textbooks, curriculum guides, homework, quizzes — can affect achievement as much as teachers; poor materials have as much effect as a bad teacher, and good materials can offset a bad teacher's deficiencies. One popular math textbook was superior to 3 competitors. A popular computer-assisted math program had no benefit. Most educators, including principals and superintendents, don't know the data exists. 42% of school districts had never heard of the clearinghouse. Up to 90% of programs that seemed promising in small studies had no effect or made achievement scores worse. For example a program to increase 7th-grade math teachers' understanding of math increased their understanding but had no effect on student achievement. Upward Bound had no effect."
theodp writes "Friday saw the launch of Rupert Murdoch's AP Computer Science MOOC. Taught by an AP CS high school teacher, the Java-centric course has students use the DrJava lightweight development environment for the exercises. 'If this MOOC works,' said Amplify CEO Joel Klein, 'we can think of ways to expand and support it.' Only the first week's videos are posted; course content is scheduled to be presented through March, with five weeks thereafter set aside for AP Exam prep. Might as well check it out, you may have helped pay for it — a MOOC-related Amplify job listing notes that 'This position may be funded, in whole or in part, through American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funds.'"
eionmac writes "A new London skyscraper dubbed the 'Walkie Talkie' has been blamed for reflecting light which melted parts of a car parked on a nearby street."
mendax writes "The New York Times reports that the Russian government is warning its citizens to not travel to countries that have an extradition treaty with the United States, noting that 'detentions of Russian citizens in various countries, at the request of American law enforcement, have become more frequent.' The article reports the Russian foreign ministry as saying,'Experience shows that the judicial proceedings against those who were in fact kidnapped and taken to the U.S. are of a biased character, based on shaky evidence, and clearly tilted toward conviction.'"
sfcrazy writes "Kubuntu is one of those few GNULinux based distributions which brings the two leading technologies together — Ubuntu and KDE. There are quite a lot of businesses which are using this combination in their set-up. Until now there was no professional support available for Kubuntu users. To fill this gap the Kubuntu community has launched commercial support for businesses, organizations and individuals. The Kubuntu team is partnering with Emerge Open to offer this service which is called 'Kubuntu Commercial Support provided by Emerge Open'."
hackingbear writes "Yang Yuanqing, founder and CEO of Chinese PC maker Lenovo, will share $3.25 million from his bonus with some 10,000 staff in China and 19 other countries. 'Most are hourly manufacturing workers,' Lenovo spokeswoman Angela Lee said. 'As you can imagine, an extra $300 in a manufacturing environment in China does make an impact, especially to employees supporting families.' In its annual review last year, Lenovo raised Yang's base pay to $1.2 million and awarded him a $4.2 million discretionary bonus and a $8.9 million long-term incentive award. Yang owns 7.12% of Lenovo's shares, equivalent to about $720 million in stock."
cold fjord writes "The Washington Post reports, 'The CIA found that among a subset of job seekers whose backgrounds raised questions, roughly one out of every five had "significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections," according to the document, which was provided to The Washington Post by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The groups cited most often were Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda and its affiliates, but the nature of the connections was not described in the document. So sharp is the fear of threats from within that last year the NSA planned to launch at least 4,000 probes of potentially suspicious or abnormal staff activity .... The anomalous behavior that sent up red flags could include staffers downloading multiple documents or accessing classified databases they do not normally use for their work, said two people familiar with the software used to monitor employee activity.'"
An anonymous reader writes "New research has concluded that global warming is helping pests and diseases that attack crops to spread around the world. 'Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Oxford have found crop pests are moving at an average of two miles (3km) a year. The team said they were heading towards the north and south poles, and were establishing in areas that were once too cold for them to live in. The research is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.'"
The Hugo awards were presented last night, providing recognition to the best science fiction of the past year. The award for Best Novel was presented to John Scalzi for Redshirts, a comedic work playing on the trope of low-ranking officers frequently getting themselves killed in sci-fi works. Best Novella went to Brandon Sanderson for The Emperor's Soul, and Best Novelette went to The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi by Pat Cadigan. Best Graphic Story was awarded to the creators of Saga. Best Dramatic Presentation (long form) was given for Joss Whedon's The Avengers movie, and (short form) was presented for the "Blackwater" episode of the Game of Thrones TV show. The Best New Writer was Mur Lafferty. Here's a full list of the nominees and winners.
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "Forget the NSA — the DEA has been working hand-in-hand with AT&T on a database of records of every call that passes through AT&T's phone switches going back as far as 1987. The government pays AT&T for contractors who sit side-by-side with DEA agents and do phone records searches for them. From the article: 'For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counter narcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.'"
mdsolar writes in with news about negotiations between the Chinese and the UK over nuclear power plant investments. "The state-owned Chinese nuclear group that is in talks to invest in Britain's new nuclear program wants greater operational control of any new plants it finances, potentially creating a national security headache for the government. China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), is in talks with EDF of France on sharing the cost of building a new plant at Hinkley Point, Somerset, which has an estimated price tag of £14bn. But CGN has made it clear to EDF that it will only proceed if it is given more of a say in running other plants the two companies build together in the UK, according to people familiar with the talks."
An anonymous reader writes "America may be the land of the free, but upon arrival millions of visitors cross a legal purgatory at the U.S. border. It is an international legal phenomenon that is left much to the discretion of host countries. In some cases, this space between offers travelers far fewer rights than some of the least democratic and free countries on Earth. Limited access to legal counsel, unwarranted searches, and questionable rights to free speech to name a few. One of the more controversial — and yet still legally a contested grey area — are the rights travelers have in regards to electronics and device searches."
theodp writes "Slate's Allison Benedikt is ruffling some feathers with her recent manifesto, If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person. 'Not bad like murderer bad,' Benedikt writes, 'but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation's-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what's-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.' If your local school stinks and you send your child there, Benedikt explains, 'I bet you are going to do everything within your power to make it better.'"
coondoggie writes "The US Energy Department this week said it would spend $16 million for seventeen projects to help research and develop energy generating systems from waves, tides and currents. The energy agency says the US could generate up to 1,400 terawatt hours of potential power per year. One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, according to the agency."
Lasrick writes "Andrew Revkin at DotEarthblog posts an assessment of the drivers of wildfire trends in the American West. He shows a graph of fire activity for the past 400 years in the Yosemite-Mariposa area, and a rather surreal time-lapse video of the current Rim Fire now burning in and around Yosemite."
An anonymous reader sends this news from the Washington Post: "U.S. intelligence services carried out 231 offensive cyber-operations in 2011, the leading edge of a clandestine campaign that embraces the Internet as a theater of spying, sabotage and war, according to top-secret documents [from Edward Snowden]. Additionally, under an extensive effort code-named GENIE, U.S. computer specialists break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious U.S. control. Budget documents say the $652 million project has placed 'covert implants,' sophisticated malware transmitted from far away, in computers, routers and firewalls on tens of thousands of machines every year, with plans to expand those numbers into the millions. ... The implants that [an NSA group called Tailored Access Operations (TAO)] creates are intended to persist through software and equipment upgrades, to copy stored data, 'harvest' communications and tunnel into other connected networks. This year TAO is working on implants that “can identify select voice conversations of interest within a target network and exfiltrate select cuts,” or excerpts, according to one budget document. In some cases, a single compromised device opens the door to hundreds or thousands of others."
usacoder writes with news of Craig Zucker, former CEO of the company behind Buckyballs, the popular neodymium magnet toys that were banned by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in July 2012. Zucker ran a brief campaign to drum up opposition to the government's ban, but it didn't turn out to be enough. Unfortunately for Zucker, the story didn't end there. Despite the magnets being labeled as not for kids, the Commission filed a motion to find him personally liable for the costs of a product recall, estimated at around $57 million. "Given the fact that Buckyballs have now long been off the market, the attempt to go after Mr. Zucker personally raises the question of retaliation for his public campaign against the commission. Mr. Zucker won't speculate about the commission's motives. 'It's very selective and very aggressive,' he says. ... Mr. Zucker says his treatment at the hands of the commission should alarm fellow entrepreneurs: 'This is the beginning. It starts with this case. If you play out what happens to me, then the next thing you'll have is personal-injury lawyers saying "you conducted the actions of the company, you were the company."'"
rjmarvin writes "Cities are taking coding to the streets through projects like Code for America and CityNext, working with governments on multiple levels to better serve constituents with mobile and cloud technologies. The 'Peace Corps for geeks' is using technology to make everyday life in cities run more smoothly, providing a way to 'connect technologists and designers with their government to solve important problems and reimagine how government could work.'"
An anonymous reader writes "It's a common trope that most poor people are poor because they're lazy or just inherently bad with money. But a new study (abstract) makes a fascinating find: being poor actually reduces your cognitive capabilities when thinking about money. 'In a series of experiments run by researchers at Princeton, Harvard, and the University of Warwick, low-income people who were primed to think about financial problems performed poorly on a series of cognition tests, saddled with a mental load that was the equivalent of losing an entire night's sleep. Put another way, the condition of poverty imposed a mental burden akin to losing 13 IQ points, or comparable to the cognitive difference that's been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults.' This makes the difficulty in climbing out of poverty much easier to understand. The researchers also demonstrated causality by showing that thinking about a very small expense led to no impairment, while thinking about a very large expense did. They confirmed this by looking at a group of farmers in India who tend to receive most of their income at one time — immediately following their harvest. Shortly before that payment, when the farmers had very little money, their scores dropped as well."
theodp writes "Writing in The Atlantic, Phil Nichols makes a convincing case for why educational technologies should be more like graphing calculators and less like iPads. Just messing around with TI-BASIC on a TI-83 Plus, Nichols recalls, 'helped me cultivate many of the overt and discrete habits of mind necessary for autonomous, self-directed learning.' So, with all those fancy iPads at their schools, today's kids must really be programming up a storm, right? Wrong. Nichols, who's currently pursuing a PhD in education, laments, 'The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools, but like those that came before, its ostensibly subversive shell houses a fairly conventional approach to learning. Where Texas Instruments graphing calculators include a programming framework accessible even to amateurs, writing code for an iPad is restricted to those who purchase an Apple developer account, create programs that align with Apple standards, and submit their finished products for Apple's approval prior to distribution.'"
judgecorp writes "BT has proudly announced it will switch off its dial-up service on 1 September. But it turns out it isn't the end of the line for dial-up modems in the UK. BT charges £17.25 per month for dial-up, and broadband is only £10, so anyone who can switch across probably has by now. There are areas where broadband is not available, and BT reckons it still has 1000 dial-up customers who can't move to ADSL. For them, BT recommends a switch to Plusnet — an ISP which offers cheaper dial-up prices and is owned by .... BT."