schwit1 writes "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether police can search an arrested criminal suspect's cell phone without a warrant in two cases that showcase how the courts are wrestling to keep up with rapid technological advances. Taking up cases from California and Massachusetts arising from criminal prosecutions that used evidence obtained without a warrant, the high court will wade into how to apply older court precedent, which allows police to search items carried by a defendant at the time of arrest, to cell phones."
sciencehabit writes "A European publisher today terminated a journal edited by climate change skeptics. The journal, Pattern Recognition in Physics, was started less than a year ago. Problems cropped up soon afterward. In July, Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, noted 'serious concerns' with Pattern Recognition in Physics. As he wrote on his blog about open-access publishing, Beall found self-plagiarism in the first paper published by the journal. 'In addition,' says another critic, 'the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing.'"
First time accepted submitter neiras writes "Mozilla is building a map of publicly-observable cell tower and WiFi access points to compete with proprietary geolocation services like Google's. Coverage is a bit thin so far but is improving rapidly. Anyone with an Android phone can help by downloading the MozStumbler app and letting it run while walking or driving around. The application is also available on the F-Droid market." "Thin" is relative; it's quite a few data points since we first mentioned the pilot program a few months ago.
greatgreygreengreasy writes "In 2005, then-governor of North Dakota John Hoeven signed into law a bill 'ensuring drivers' ownership of their EDR (Electronic Data Recorder) data.' Now a U.S. senator, Hoeven (R-ND) has teamed up with Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, to introduce similar legislation at the Federal level. 'Under this legislation, EDR data could only be retrieved [for specific reasons].' The EFF has expressed concern in the past over the so-called black boxes and their privacy implications. This legislation, however, would not address the recent revelations by a Ford executive on their access to data, since in those cases, 'The vehicle owner or lessee consents to the data retrieval.' The bill has gained the support of about 20 senators so far."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire appeared to gasp and convulse for roughly 10 minutes before he finally died during his execution by lethal injection using a new combination of drugs. The new drugs were used because European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions — among them, Danish-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital. The state used a combination of the drugs midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone, the state corrections department told CNN. In an opinion piece written for CNN earlier this week, a law professor noted that McGuire's attorneys argued he would 'suffocate to death in agony and terror.' 'The state disagrees. But the truth is that no one knows exactly how McGuire will die, how long it will take or what he will experience in the process,' wrote Elisabeth A. Semel, clinic professor of law and director of the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. According to a pool report from journalists who witnessed the execution, the whole process took more than 15 minutes, during which McGuire made 'several loud snorting or snoring sounds.' Allen Bohnert, a public defender who lead McGuire's appeal to stop his execution in federal court on the grounds that the drugs would cause undue agony and terror, called the execution process a 'failed experiment' and said his office will look into what happened. 'The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled by what took place here today in their name.'"
vikingpower writes "In a landmark report on bushfires and climate change (PDF), the Australian Climate Council concludes that heat waves in Australia, as driven by climate change, are becoming more frequent — and that they get hotter. 'It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health services and other authorities prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions,' says the Council in the report. Sarah Perkins, one of the report's co-authors, was interviewed by The Guardian Australia. '"While we can't blame climate change for any one event, we can certainly see its fingerprint. This is another link in the chain." Perkins said her latest work had analyzed heatwave trends up to 2013. She said the trend "just gets worse – it's a bit scary really."' In 2009, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization signaled that a Southeast Australian heatwave was the hottest in 100 years."
An anonymous reader writes "Slate reports on new anti-science education coming out of Texas. The state has a charter school system called Responsive Education Solutions, which is publicly funded. Unfortunately, 'it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.' The biology workbook used in these schools actually reads, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." It also brings up social Darwinism as if it's an aspect of evolutionary theory and introduces doubt that the Earth is billions of years old. The article continues, 'To get around court rulings, Responsive Ed and other creationists resort to rhetoric about teaching "all sides" of "competing theories" and claiming that this approach promotes "critical thinking." In response to a question about whether Responsive Ed teaches creationism, its vice president of academic affairs, Rosalinda Gonzalez, told me that the curriculum "teaches evolution, noting, but not exploring, the existence of competing theories."' Other so-called education texts being used by the Responsive Ed program teach Western superiority and how feminism forced women to 'turn to the state as a surrogate husband.'"
First time accepted submitter gallifreyan99 writes "Researchers from Duke revealed today that they had discovered nearly 5,900 gas leaks under the streets of Washington DC, including 12 that posed a serious risk of explosion. And it's not just Washington: a gas industry whistleblower who is part of the team showed this was happening in cities all over America."
angry tapir writes "The founder of the Silk Road underground website has forfeited the site and thousands of bitcoins, worth around $28 million at current rates, to the U.S. government. The approximately 29,655 bitcoins were seized from the Silk Road website when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) moved to close it in late September. 'The United States Marshals Service shall dispose of the Silk Road Hidden Website and the Silk Road Server Bitcoins according to law,' wrote Judge J. Paul Oetken, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in a court order that was issued this week. The ruling represents the largest-ever forfeiture of bitcoins. 'It is the intention of the government to ultimately convert the bitcoins to U.S. currency,' said Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York."
alphadogg writes "Two-year-old startup Wickr is offering a reward of up to $100,000 to anyone who can find a serious vulnerability in its mobile encrypted messaging application, which is designed to thwart spying by hackers and governments. The reward puts the small company in the same league as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, all of which offer substantial payouts to security researchers for finding dangerous bugs that could compromise their users' data. Wickr has already closely vetted its application so the challenge could be tough. Veracode, an application security testing company, and Stroz Friedberg, a computer forensics firm, have reviewed the software, in addition to independent security researchers."
dcblogs writes "Despite an expanding use of electronics in products, the number of people working as electrical engineers in U.S. declined by 10.4% last year. The decline amounted to a loss of 35,000 jobs and increased the unemployment rate for electrical engineers from 3.4% in 2012 to 4.8% last year, an unusually high rate of job losses for this occupation. There are 300,000 people working as electrical engineers, according to U.S. Labor Department data analyzed by the IEEE-USA. In 2002, there were 385,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, called the electrical engineering employment trend 'truly disturbing,' and said, 'just like America's manufacturing has been hollowed out by offshoring and globalization, it appears that electrical and electronics engineering is heading that way.'"
BUL2294 writes "95% of the world's ATM machines are still running Windows XP and banks are already purchasing extended support agreements from Microsoft. (some of the affected ATMs are running XP Embedded, which has a support lifecycle until January, 2016). 'Microsoft is selling custom tech support agreements that extend the life of Windows XP, although the cost can soar quickly—multiplying by a factor of five in the second year, says Korala. JPMorgan is buying a one-year extension and will start converting its machines to Windows 7 in July; about 3,000 of its 19,000 ATMs need enhancements before the process can begin...'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jay Frank writes that the big four music distributors and their sister publishers (Sony, Warner, UNI and EMI) make 15% more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both. Each label makes 'blanket license' deals with Streaming services with advances in the undisclosed millions, which is virtually the same as selling music in bulk; they receive these healthy licensing fees to cover all activity in a given period rather than allowing Streaming services to 'pay as they go.' 'Artists are up in arms, many are opting out of streaming services,' writes Frank. 'Lost in that noise is a voice that is seldom heard: that of the record companies. There's good reason for that: they're making more money from streaming and the future looks extremely bright for them.' The average 'premium' subscription customer in the U.S. was worth about $16 a year to a major record company, while the average buyer of digital downloads or physical music was worth about $14. Thus, year over year, the premium subscriber was worth nearly 15% more than the person who bought music either digitally or physically."
First time accepted submitter Clark Schultz writes "Vladimir Putin plans to send the country's top domestic students abroad in an effort to prepare engineers, doctors, and scientists with the most modern education. The initiative comes with a catch: Students must return to Mother Russia to work. Though critics say that the students may be tempted to stay abroad after receiving their advanced degrees, Putin is confident they will be properly motivated to keep up their end of the bargain. As one advocate notes, the 'brilliant' practice of educating Russians at top global universities dates back to the times of Peter the Great."
bigmammoth writes "Wikimedia has been a long time supporter of royalty free formats, but is now considering a shift in their position. From the RfC: 'To support the MP4 standard as a complement to the open formats now used on our sites, it has been proposed that videos be automatically transcoded and stored in both open and MP4 formats on our sites, as soon as they are uploaded or viewed by users. The unencumbered WebM and Ogg versions would remain our primary reference for platforms that support them. But the MP4 versions 'would enable many mobile and desktop users who cannot view these unencumbered video files to watch them in MP4 format.' This has stirred a heated debate within the Wikimedia community as to whether the mp4 / h.264 format should be supported. Many Wikimedia regulars have weighed in, resulting in currently an even split between adding the H.264 support or not. The request for comment is open to all users of Wikimedia, including the broader community of readers. What do you think about supporting H.264 on Wikimedia sites?"
ilikenwf writes "A new release from the files obtained by Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA collects millions of text messages per day. These are used to gain travel plans, financial data, and social network data. The majority of these texts and data belong to people who are not being investigated for any crime or association. Supposedly, "non-US" data is removed, but we all know that means it is sent to a partner country for analysis, which is then sent back to the NSA."
judgecorp writes "Syed Hussain, already serving time for helping to plot attacks against UK targets, got another four months for refusing to divulge the password of a USB stick the police and GCHQ wanted to examine. The USB was believed to contain data about a suspected fraud unconnected with national security, and Hussain claimed to have forgotten it under stress, He later remembered it and it turned out to be a password he had used on other systems investigated by the police."
coondoggie writes "Apple today agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to iTunes customers in order to settle FTC complaints about charges incurred by children in kids' mobile apps without their parents' consent. 'As alleged in the Commission's complaint, Apple violated this basic principle by failing to inform parents that, by entering a password, they were permitting a charge for virtual goods or currency to be used by their child in playing a children's app and at the same time triggering a 15-minute window during which their child could make unlimited additional purchases without further parental action."
An anonymous reader writes "Philip Guo, an Asst. Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, has written a thoughtful article on his education in programming. Guo explains that he was no particular coding wizard while growing up, but when he jumped into a CS major when he went to college at MIT, he received all sorts of passive and active encouragement — simply because he 'looked the part.' He says, 'Instead of facing implicit bias or stereotype threat, I had the privilege of implicit endorsement. For instance, whenever I attended technical meetings, people would assume that I knew what I was doing (regardless of whether I did or not) and treat me accordingly. If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless. Nobody ever talked down to me, and I always got the benefit of the doubt in technical settings.' Guo compares this to the struggles faced by other minority groups and women to succeed in a field that is often more skeptical of their abilities. 'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'"
In late November, Andy Wingo pushed a new register VM to Guile's (the GNU implementation of the Scheme language) master branch. It brought a number of performance improvements, but led to a bit of a conceptual mismatch between the compiler's direct-style intermediate language and the virtual machine. Earlier this week Andy Wingo announced a new continuation-passing style intermediate language for Guile. From the article: "To recap, we switched from a stack machine to a register machine because, among other reasons, register machines can consume and produce named intermediate results in fewer instructions than stack machines, and that makes things faster. To take full advantage of this new capability, it is appropriate to switch at the same time from the direct-style intermediate language (IL) that we had to an IL that names all intermediate values. ... In Guile I chose a continuation-passing style language. ... Guile's CPS language is composed of terms, expressions, and continuations. It was heavily inspired by Andrew Kennedy's 'Compiling with Continuations, Continued' paper. ... The optimizations I have currently implemented for CPS are fairly basic. Contification was tricky. One thing I did recently was to make all non-tail $call nodes require $kreceive continuations; if, as in the common case, extra values were unused, that was reflected in an unused rest argument. This required a number of optimizations to clean up and remove the extra rest arguments for other kinds of source expressions: dead-code elimination, the typical beta/eta reduction, and some code generation changes." The article describes the CPS language provided by Guile and explains the reasons behind choosing CPS over SSA or A-Normal Form. The Guile manual contains draft documentation. The new VM and Intermediate Language will be released with Guile 2.2, which should be out later this year.
Their website's "About" page says, under the headline, "Our Big Mission": "The Eye Tribe intends to become the leading provider of eye control technology for mass market consumer devices by licensing the technology to manufacturers." Their only product at the moment is a $99 development kit ($142.50 with shipping and VAT). Some people may want to say, "This is old news. Wasn't there an open source project called Gaze Tracker that was originally developed to help handicapped people interact with the world?" Yes, there was. The Eye Tribe is an outgrowth of the Gaze Tracker research group, which is still going strong and still offers its software for free download (from SourceForge) under an open source license. The company's funding comes in large part from a government grant. In the interview (below), The Eye Tribe CEO Sune Johansen notes that they have just started shipping their development kit, and that they hope to start selling an eye control kit for tablet computers to the general public before long, but he doesn't want to commit to a specific shipping date because they don't want to sell to end users until "...we have enough applications out there so that it makes sense for the consumers to buy it directly."
Recently presented at Linuxconf.au was Glyphy, a text renderer implemented using OpenGL ES2 shaders. Current OpenGL applications rasterize text on the CPU using Freetype or a similar library, uploading glyphs to the GPU as textures. This inherently limits quality and flexibility (e.g. rotation, perspective transforms, etc. cause the font hinting to become incorrect and you cannot perform subpixel antialiasing). Glyphy, on the other hand, uploads typeface vectors to the GPU and renders text in real time, performing perspective correct antialiasing. The presentation can be watched or downloaded on Vimeo. The slide sources are in Python, and I generated a PDF of the slides (warning: 15M due to embedded images). Source code is at Google Code (including a demo application), under the Apache License.
Bruce Perens writes "Codec2 is the Open Source ultra-low-bandwidth speech codec capable of encoding voice in 1200 Baud. FreeDV (freedv .org) is an HF (global-range radio) implementation that uses half the bandwidth of SSB, and without the noise. Here are three speeches about where it's going."
- David Rowe: Embedding Codec2: Open Source speech coding on a low-cost microprocessor, at Linux.conf.au 2014. YouTube, downloadable MP4.
- Bruce Perens: FreeDV, Codec2, and HT of the Future (how we're building a software-defined walkie-talkie that's smarter than a smartphone), at the TAPR/ARRL Digital Communications Conference 2013. Blip.tv, YouTube
- Chris Testa on the .Whitebox handheld software-defined radio design that is the RF portion of HT of the Future, which was also shown at the TAPR conference.
Lasrick writes "The Doomsday Clock remains at 5 minutes to midnight. In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and members of the UN Security Council, the Bulletin announced its decision and how it was made. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin's Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains." Reasons for the clock remaining at five minutes include the U.S. and Russian not doing much for disarmament increasing nuclear weapon stockpiles in India and China, stalled efforts to reduce carbon emissions globally, and "killer robots."
retroworks writes "The New York Times has an interesting story on how NSA put transmitters into the USB input devices of PCs, allowing computers unplugged from the Internet to still be monitored, via radio, from up to 8 miles away. The article mainly reports NSA's use of the technology to monitor Chinese military, and minor headline reads 'No Domestic Use Seen.' The source of the data was evidently the leak from Edward J. Snowden."
theodp writes "Fresh off their wildly-hyped Hour of Code, Code.org headed to Washington last Thursday where H-1B visas were prescribed as the cure for U.S. kids' STEM ills. 'The availability of computer science to all kids is an issue that warrants immediate and aggressive action,' Code.org told Congress. "Comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund,' suggested Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi, is 'among the policies that we feel can be changed to support the teaching and learning of more computer science in K-12 schools. We hope you can be allies in our endeavors on Capitol Hill.' Also testifying with Partovi was inventor and US FIRST founder Dean Kamen, who also pitched the benefits of H-1B visas (PDF). 'We strongly encourage Congress to pass legislation that directs H-1B visa fees to enable underserved inner-city and rural schools to participate in FIRST,' Kamen testified. 'Specifically, these fees should support efforts to enable underserved inner-city and rural schools to participate in FIRST.'"
rueger writes "We live and breathe Netflix, but sometimes want to watch programs downloaded from the 'net. I've been carrying them downstairs on a USB stick, but would prefer to run a small media server on my Mint Linux box. As usual, I thought this would be simple. Install a package on my PC, and use our Netgear NeoTV Max box to play stuff off of the server. Plex was highly recommended, and installed easily, but will see some .mkv files, but not others, for no obvious reason. The one file that does show up plays fine, except that subtitles don't work. And it completely refuses to see the partition full of music. A quick tour of the Plex forums suggests that making this work would take more hours than I'm prepared to spend. Serviio looked good too, and 'sees' my music, and sees the movie folders that Plex couldn't, but won't show the actual .mkv files. And again, it looks like configuring the thing could consume half of my life. So I'm asking: is there a fairly simple, works-right-out-of-the-box, fairly resource friendly media server that will just allow me to play movies that I download without a lot of headaches? (One obvious issue is that movies and TV shows downloaded can be in a any of a dozen formats. I'd love it if the server dealt with that. I'm also open to suggestions for a Roku style box that does Netflix well, but which will also play nicely with a media server. And if any or all of these things can also let me play streaming video off the web (like BBC iPlayer content), I'll be in heaven.)"
dp619 writes "The Outercurve Foundation has published a defense of freeloaders as part of a blog series on how businesses can participate in open source. '...in the end, it's all about freeloaders, but from the perspective that you want as many as possible. That means you're "doing it right" in developing a broad base of users by making their experience easy, making it easy for them to contribute, and ultimately to create an ecosystem that continues to sustain itself. Freeloaders are essential to the growth and success of every FOSS project.'"
An anonymous reader writes "CBS recently aired a segment on its 60 Minutes TV newsmagazine critical of what it referred to as the 'Cleantech' industry, i.e. clean energy startups, often founded by Silicon Valley/IT businessmen and engineers. Correspondent Lesley Stahl adapted the familiar confrontational 60 Minutes style when interviewing venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, an investor in biofuel startup KiOR and dozens of other clean energy businesses, then following up with other industry experts who appear to refute Khosla's assertions. Stahl ran down a list of high profile taxpayer-subsidized industry failures and suggests that private investors such as Khosla seem to be losing money as well. Khosla has just responded in the form of an open letter to CBS News which lists allegedly false and inaccurate statements in the 60 Minutes program, while pointing out that the fossil fuels industry is also heavily subsidized by government. Khosla, a longtime general partner at Kleiner Perkins before starting his own firm, was one of four Stanford graduate students who co-founded Sun Microsystems in the early 1980s. Physicist and climate blogger Joseph Romm posted a response to what he referred to as the '60 Minutes hit job on clean energy' last week; other environmentalists have also weighed in."
sunbird writes "Edward Snowden is joining the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit committed to defending public-interest journalism which exposes law-breaking in government. Co-founder Glenn Greenwald said, 'We began this organization to protect and support those who are being punished for bringing transparency to the world's most powerful factions or otherwise dissent from government policy. Edward Snowden is a perfect example of our group's purpose, as he's being persecuted for his heroic whistleblowing, and it is very fitting that he can now work alongside us in defense of press freedom, accountability, and the public’s right-to-know.' The foundation is presently raising money and awareness for a variety of open-source encryption tools. Please consider donating to my favorite: the LEAP Encryption Access Project."
jfruh writes "Recently Business Insider caused a minor stir among developers with dreams of riches with a story about a nameless Google engineer who's making $3 million a year. Who is this person, and how unusual are pay scales like this inside the Googleplex? Phil Johnson uses public information to try to figure out the answer. His conclusion: the $3 million engineer may exist, but is a rare bird indeed if so."
sandbagger writes "Canada's science documents are literally being taken to the dump. The northern nation's scientific community has been up in arms over the holidays as local scientific libraries and records offices were closed and their shelves — some of which contained century old data — emptied into dumpsters. Stephen Harper's Tory government is claiming that the documents have been digitized. The scientists say, 'The people who use this research don’t have any say in what is being saved or tossed aside.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Over the past six months, we've all grown a bit more skeptical about who controls our data, and what they do with it. An article at The Guardian says it's time for people to start migrating en masse away from proprietary map providers to OpenStreetMap in order to both protect our collective location data and decide how it is displayed. From the article: 'Who decides what gets displayed on a Google Map? The answer is, of course, that Google does. I heard this concern in a meeting with a local government in 2009: they were concerned about using Google Maps on their website because Google makes choices about which businesses to display. The people in the meeting were right to be concerned about this issue, as a government needs to remain impartial; by outsourcing their maps, they would hand the control over to a third party. ... The second concern is about location. Who defines where a neighborhood is, or whether or not you should go? This issue was brought up by the American Civil Liberties Union when a map provider was providing routing (driving/biking/walking instructions) and used what it determined to be "safe" or "dangerous" neighborhoods as part of its algorithm.'"
First time accepted submitter Sensei_knight writes "How serendipitous! Today I see Slashdot also has an article linking caffeine to long-term memory, but I digress. Recently I returned to college in my 30s, after battling a childhood sleep disorder, and I now discover staying awake might be the least of my troubles. Now that I failed a few classes I'm trying to analyze and overcome the causes of this recent disaster. Two things are obvious: First, it takes me way too long to complete tasks (as if suffering from time dilation) — tests take me approximately twice the amount of time to finish [and the amount of time it takes to study and do homework is cumulative and unsustainable]. Secondly, I just can't seem to remember a whole lot. I know sleep and memory are very closely related, perhaps that's why I have never been able to commit the times tables to memory. My research on the subject of memory has not been very fruitful, therefore I want to ask for input into which angle/direction I should look into next. As for cognitive speed, I have completely drawn a blank."
ilikenwf writes "The Nightingale developers have announced version 1.12.1 of the media player, forked from the now defunct Songbird (RIP). Improvements include a new localization infrastructure, enhanced stability, battery drain fixes for OS X, Unity integration fixes, libnotify integration, new first run pages, and more (Release Notes). If you already use Nightingale, the automatic update feature should have notified you of the release. If not, get the new version here."
An anonymous reader writes "According to a report from Gizmodo, a U.S. Appeals Court has invalidated the FCC's Net Neutrality rules. From the decision: 'Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such. Because the Commission has failed to establish that the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules do not impose per se common carrier obligations, we vacate those portions of the Open Internet Order.' Could this be the final nail in the coffin for Net Neutrality? Or will the FCC fight back? This submitter really, really hopes they fight back..."
An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times reports that an argument over texting ended in a cellphone user's death when a retired police officer in the audience shot him in a theater near Tampa, Florida on Monday. The report notes that 'cinema executives acknowledged during a trade conference last year that they debated whether to accommodate younger viewers by allowing text messages during some movies.'"
Qedward writes with this except from CIO. "Japan is planning to tax sales of foreign online content such as e-books, apps and downloaded music by late 2015. Japanese who purchase electronic content from foreign firms like Amazon.com through overseas servers don't have to pay consumption tax, currently at 5% but slated to rise to 8% in April. That has made foreign content cheaper than apps, MP3 downloads, software, and e-books distributed domestically. Physical products purchased from abroad are hit with consumption tax when they clear customs in Japan, but no such levy exists for online goods. The government plans to close the loophole and make foreign vendors selling consumer goods register with tax authorities and pay the tax. Japanese corporations that buy foreign electronic content such as business software, however, will have to pay the tax directly to the Japanese tax authorities, Nikkei Asian Review reported this morning."
jfruh writes "A former Oracle sales manager is suing the database company for what he called racially discriminatory salary-setting practices. Ian Spandow wanted to transfer a high-performing salesman from Oracle's India office to California. When he requested a salary of $60,000 a year or more for the employee, equivalent to what his white American counterparts received, he was told instead to offer $50,000, which was 'good money for an Indian.' When Spandow protested, he was himself summarily fired."
curtwoodward writes "Tony Hsieh made a fortune turning Zappos into a customer service-obsessed online shoe store. But as an investor, his newest obsession is ... robots? Welcome to the hardware boom, where startups making connected gadgets, smart vehicles, and drones are catching investors' eyes. A combination of cheaper components and crowdfunded pre-orders are behind the surge. But as the woman running Hsieh's hardware investments can tell you, getting those grand plans actually built overseas is the hard part."
benrothke writes "With Adobe Flash, it's possible to quickly get a pretty web site up and running; something that many firms do. But if there is no content behind the flashy web page, it's unlikely anyone will return. In The Digital Crown: Winning at Content on the Web, author Ahava Leibtag does a fantastic job on showing how to ensure that your web site has what it takes to get visitors to return, namely great content." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
DavidGilbert99 writes "Two and a half years after he was arrested at his New York apartment by the FBI, LulzSEc member-turned-FBI informant Hector Monsegur (aka Sabu) is set to be sentenced in the South District of New York court at 4pm local time on Monday where he could face up to 124 years in jail. However, following his cooperation with the US authorities, Monsegur is likely to get a much reduced sentence and could avoid jail completely. His sentencing has been adjourned numerous times for unknown reasons, and if the FBI have any more use for him, then we could see it delayed again."
theodp writes "'You go to these charters,' gushed Bill Gates in 2010, 'and you sit and talk to these kids about how engaged they are with adults and how much they read and what they think about and how they do projects together.' Four years later, Gates is tapping his Foundation to bring charter schools to Washington State, doling out grants that included $4.25 million for HP CEO Meg Whitman's Summit Public Schools. So what's not to like? Plenty, according to Salon's The Truth About Charter Schools, in which Jeff Bryant delves into the dark side of the charter movement, including allegations of abuse, corruption, lousy instruction, and worse results. Also troubling Bryant is that the children of the charter world's biggest cheerleaders seem never to attend these schools ('A family like mine should not use up the inner-city capacity of these great schools,' was Bill Gates' excuse). Bryant also cites Rethinking Schools' Stan Karp, who argues that Charter Schools Are Undermining the Future of Public Education, functioning more like deregulated 'enterprise zones' than models of reform, providing subsidized spaces for a few at the expense of the many. 'Our country has already had more than enough experience with separate and unequal school systems,' Karp writes. 'The counterfeit claim that charter privatization is part of a new 'civil rights movement', addressing the deep and historic inequality that surrounds our schools, is belied by the real impact of rapid charter growth in cities across the country. At the level of state and federal education policy, charters are providing a reform cover for eroding the public school system and an investment opportunity for those who see education as a business rather than a fundamental institution of democratic civic life. It's time to put the brakes on charter expansion and refocus public policy on providing excellent public schools for all.'"
An anonymous reader writes in with this story about how people's belief in climate change shifts with the temperature. "Last week's polar vortex weather event wasn't only hard on fingers, toes and heating bills. It also overpowered the ability of most people to make sound judgments about climate change, in the same way that heat waves do, according to a new study published in the Jan. 11 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. Researchers have known for some time that the acceptance of climate change depends on the day most people are asked. During unusually hot weather, people tend to accept global warming, and they swing against it during cold events."
An anonymous reader writes "The Telegraph reports, 'Britain's spies are to be given a "licence to speed" for the first time, under changes to motoring laws. While James Bond would no doubt have scorned such niceties, officers in MI5 and MI6 are currently required to obey the rules of the road, even when national security is under threat. Now Robert Goodwill, the transport minister, intends to add the Security Service and the Secret Intelligence Service to the group of agencies with permission to break the speed limit.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lauran Neergaard writes at the Christian Science Monitor that doctors are warning that if Congress cuts food stamps, the federal government could be socked with bigger health bills because over time the poor wind up seeking treatment in doctors' offices or hospitals as a result. 'If you're interested in saving health care costs, the dumbest thing you can do is cut nutrition,' says Dr. Deborah Frank of Boston Medical Center, who founded the Children's HealthWatch pediatric research institute. 'People don't make the hunger-health connection.' Food stamps feed 1 in 7 Americans and cost almost $80 billion a year, twice what it cost five years ago. The doctors' lobbying effort comes as Congress is working on a compromise farm bill that's certain to include food stamp cuts. Republicans want heftier reductions than do Democrats in yet another partisan battle over the government's role in helping poor Americans. Conservatives say the program spiraled out of control as the economy struggled and the costs are not sustainable. However research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that a cut of $2 billion a year in food stamps could trigger in an increase of $15 billion in medical costs (PDF) for over the next decade. Other research shows children from food-insecure families are 30 percent more likely to have been hospitalized for a range of illnesses. 'Food is medicine,' says Massachusetts Representative Jim McGovern, who has led the Democrats' defense of the food stamp program. 'Critics focus almost exclusively on how much we spend, and I wish they understood that if we did this better, we could save a lot more money in health care costs.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Diversifying the tech industry is a prominent topic these days, with much analysis being done on colleges and companies that employ software engineers. But exam data shows the gap is created much earlier — it's almost overwhelming even before kids get out of high school. From the article: 'Ericson's analysis of the data shows that in 2013, 18 percent of the students who took the exam were women. Eight percent were Hispanic, and four percent were African-American. In contrast, Latinos make up 22 percent of the school-age population in the U.S.; African-Americans make up 14 percent. (I don't need to tell you that women make up about half.) There are some states where not a single member of one of these groups took the test last year. No women in Mississippi or Montana took it. Seven states had no Hispanic students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. And 10 states had no Black students take the exam: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Utah. In some of these states, there simply aren't many students of any race or gender taking the test, which helps explain the dearth of young women and minorities. (Indeed, no women or minorities took the exam in Wyoming—but that's because no students at all took it.) But Idaho had nearly 50 students taking it, and Utah had more than 100.'"
New submitter Forty Two Tenfold writes "Electricity prices across Europe dropped last month as mild temperatures, strong winds and stormy weather produced wind power records in Germany, France and the UK, according to data released by Platts. The price decline was more marked in Germany, where the average day-ahead baseload price in December fell 10% month over month to €35.71/MWh. On a daily basis, December was a month of extremes for Germany, with day-ahead base prices closing on December 10 and 11 at less than €60/MWh – the highest over-the-counter levels seen all year – only to fall to its lowest level December 24 to €0.50/MWh."
sciencehabit writes "Hidden ruins are customary in the wild jungles of South America or on the white shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Now, researchers have uncovered a long-lost culture closer to Western civilization — in New England. Using aerial surveys created by LiDAR, a laser-guided mapping technique, the team detected the barely perceptible remnants of a former 'agropolis' around three rural New England towns (abstract). Near Ashford, Connecticut, a vast network of roads offset by stone walls came to light underneath a canopy of oak and spruce trees. More than half of the town has become reforested since 1870, according to historical documents, exemplifying the extent of the rural flight that marked the late 1800s. Some structures were less than 2 feet high and buried in inaccessible portions of the forest, making them essentially invisible to on-the-ground cartography."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Conor Friedersdorf has written a tongue-in-cheek article in The Atlantic advising New Jersey Governor Chris Christie how he can use the NSA playbook to successfully defend himself of the charges that a senior member of his staff was involved in shutting down George Washington Bridge traffic, a stunt meant to punish the mayor of an affected town for opposing his reelection. Christie's NSA-inspired explanation would include the following points: There are almost 9 million people in New Jersey, and only one was targeted for retribution, an impressively tiny error rate lower than .001 percent; The bridge closure was vital to national security because [redacted]; Since the George Washington Bridge is a potential terrorist target, everything that may or may not have happened near it is a state secret; Going after a political rival is wrong but it's important to put this event in context; Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich was the only target of non-compliant behavior. No other Fort Lee resident was ever targeted for retribution, and any delays that any Fort Lee resident experienced were totally inadvertent and incidental; Finally a panel will be formed to figure out how to restore the public's faith in Chris Christie. "To some readers, these talking points may seem absurd or deliberately misleading," concludes Friedersdorf, "but there isn't any denying that so far they're working okay for the NSA.""