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The Almighty Buck

Can You Buy a License To Speed In California? 325

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Alex Mayyasi reports that in the parking lots of Silicon Valley's venture capital firms, expensive cars gleam in the California sun and a closer look reveals that the cars share a mysterious detail: they nearly all have a custom license plate frame that reads, 'Member. 11-99 Foundation.' Are the Bay Area's wealthy all part of some sort of illuminati group that identifies each other by license plate instead of secret handshakes? The answer is the state highway patrol — the men and women that most people interact with only when getting ticketed for speeding. A number of the frames read 'CHP 11-99 Foundation,' which is the full name of a charitable organization that supports California Highway Patrol officers and their families in times of crisis. Donors receive one license plate as part of a $2,500 'Classic' level donation, or two as part of a bronze, silver, or gold level donation of $5,000, $10,000, or $25,000. Rumor has it, according to Mayyasi, that the license plate frames come with a lucrative return on investment. As one member of a Mercedes-Benz owners community wrote online back in 2002: 'I have the ultimate speeding ticket solution. I paid $1800 for a lifetime membership into the 11-99 foundation. My only goal was to get the infamous 'get out of jail' free license plate frame.'

The 11-99 Foundation has sold license plate frames for most of its 32 year existence, and drivers have been aware of the potential benefits since at least the late 1990s. But attention to the issue in 2006-2008 led the foundation to stop giving out the frames. An article in the LA Times asked 'Can Drivers Buy CHP Leniency?' and began by describing a young man zipping around traffic — including a police cruiser — and telling the Times that he believed his 11-99 frames kept him from receiving a ticket. But the decision was almost irrelevant to another thriving market: the production and sale of fake 11-99 license plate frames. But wait — the CHP 11-99 Foundation also gives out membership cards to big donors. 'Unless you have the I.D. in hand when (not if) I stop you,' says one cop, 'no love will be shown.'"

Cost Skyrockets For United States' Share of ITER Fusion Project 174

sciencehabit writes: "ITER, the international fusion experiment under construction in Cadarache, France, aims to prove that nuclear fusion is a viable power source by creating a 'burning plasma' that produces more energy than the machine itself consumes. Although that goal is at least 20 years away, ITER is already burning through money at a prodigious pace. The United States is only a minor partner in the project, which began construction in 2008. But the U.S. contribution to ITER will total $3.9 billion — roughly four times as much as originally estimated — according to a new cost estimate released yesterday. That is about $1.4 billion higher than a 2011 cost estimate, and the numbers are likely to intensify doubts among some members of Congress about continuing the U.S. involvement in the project."

Video Phil Shapiro says 20,000 Teachers Should Unite to Spread Chromebooks (Video) 101

Phil Shapiro often loans his Chromebook to patrons of the public library where he works. He says people he loans it to are happily suprised at how fast it is. He wrote an article earlier this month titled Teachers unite to influence computer manufacturing that was a call to action; he says that if 20,000 teachers demand a simple, low-cost Chromebook appliance -- something like a Chrome-powered Mac mini with a small SSD instead of a hard drive, and of course without the high Mac mini price -- some computer manufacturer will bite on the idea. Monitors? There are plenty of used ones available. Ditto speakers and keyboards, not that they cost much new. The bottom line is that Phil believes Chromebooks, both in their current form factor and in a simpler one, could be "the" computer for schools and students. Maybe so, not that Android tablets are expensive or hard to use. And wait! Isn't there already a Chromebox? And even a Chromebase all-in-one Chrome-based desktop? In any case, Chrome-based computers look pretty good for schools and libraries, especially if and when prices for the simplest members of the family get down to where Phil thinks they should be. (Alternate video link)

Canada Introduces Privacy Reforms That Encourage Warrantless Disclosure of Info 99

An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, the government introduced the Digital Privacy Act (Bill S-4), the latest attempt to update Canada's private sector privacy law. Michael Geist reports that the bill includes a provision that could massively expand warrantless disclosure of personal information. Organizations will be permitted to disclose personal information without consent (and without a court order) to any organization that is investigating a contractual breach or possible violation of any law. This applies both past breaches or violations as well as potential future violations. Moreover, the disclosure occurs in secret without the knowledge of the affected person (who therefore cannot challenge the disclosure since they are not aware it is happening). Consider it a gift to copyright trolls, who won't need the courts to obtain information on thousands of Internet users."