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United States

Federal Wiretaps Down Slightly, Encryption Impact Decreases 18 18

coondoggie writes: According to the 2014 Wiretap Report, released today by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts a total of a total of 3,554 wiretaps were reported as authorized, with 1,279 authorized by federal judges and 2,275 authorized by state judges. Compared to the applications approved during 2013, the number approved by federal judges decreased 13% in 2014 and the number approved by state judges increased 8%. One state wiretap application was denied in 2014, the report stated.
United States

How the Next US Nuclear Accident Might Happen 72 72

Lasrick writes: Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson analyzes safety at US nuclear facilities and finds a disaster waiting to happen due to an over-reliance on automated security technology and private contractors cutting corners to increase profits. Gusterson follows on the work of Eric Schlosser, Frank Munger, and Dan Zak in warning us of the serious problems at US nuclear facilities, both in the energy industry and in the nuclear security complex.
Education

Microsoft To Launch Minecraft Education Portal For Teachers 50 50

Mickeycaskill writes: Microsoft wants to help educators use Minecraft to teach pupils about maths, history, creative design and other subjects and skills, claiming the game is already being used in classrooms in the US and UK. Minecraft developer Mojang was bought by Microsoft last year for $2.5 billion and the game has been featured in a number of HoloLens demos, an indication of how it sees the former indie phenomenon as more than just a game. "Very soon after Minecraft launched, we noticed teachers bringing the game into their classrooms," said a blog post. "Often inspired by the passion of their students, they started using Minecraft to design history lessons, teach language classes, explore mathematics, physics, computer science, writing, and more."
Education

Pew Survey Documents Gaps Between Public and Scientists 184 184

PvtVoid writes: A new Pew Research Study documents an alarming gap between public perception of scientific issues and the opinions of the scientists themselves, as measured by a poll of AAAS scientists. Even worse, the gap is partisan, with clear differences between Republicans and Democrats, and between conservatives and liberals. For example, while 98% of AAAS members agree with the statement that "Human beings and other living things have evolved over time", only 21% of conservatives agree, compared with 54% of liberals. Global warming, similarly, shows an ideological gap: 98% of AAAS scientists agreed with the statement that "the Earth is getting warmer mostly due to human activity", compared with 21% of conservatives and 54% of liberals. Encouragingly, almost everybody thinks childhood vaccines should be required (86% of AAAS members, 65% of conservatives, and 74% of liberals.) Go here for an interactive view of the data.
NASA

NASA To Waste $150 Million On SLS Engine That Will Be Used Once 128 128

schwit1 writes: NASA's safety panel has noticed that NASA's SLS program either plans to spend $150 million human-rating a rocket engine it will only use once, or will fly a manned mission without human-rating that engine.

"The Block 1 SLS is the 'basic model,' sporting a Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS), renamed the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS) for SLS. The current plan calls for this [interim] stage to be used on [the unmanned] Exploration Mission -1 (EM-1) and [manned] Exploration Mission -2 (EM-2), prior to moving to the [Exploration Upper Stage] — also to be built by Boeing — that will become the workhorse for SLS. However, using the [interim upper stage] on a crewed mission will require it to be human rated. It is likely NASA will also need to fly the [Exploration Upper Stage] on an unmanned mission to validate the new stage ahead of human missions. This has been presenting NASA with a headache for some time, although it took the recent ASAP meeting to finally confirm those concerns to the public."

NASA doesn't have the funds to human-rate it, and even if they get those funds, human-rating it will likely cause SLS's schedule to slip even more, something NASA fears because they expect the commercial manned ships to be flying sooner and with increasing capability. The contrast — a delayed and unflown and very expensive SLS vs a flying and inexpensive commercial effort — will not do SLS good politically. However, if they are going to insist (properly I think) that SpaceX and Boeing human-rate their capsules and rockets, then NASA is going to have to hold the SLS to the same standard.
The Almighty Buck

Scientist Union's Talks Stall Over Pay 78 78

HughPickens.com writes: The Sacramento Bee reports that the labor contract between California's state government and the 2,800 employees represented by the California Association of Professional Scientists expired this week, spotlighting yet again the long-running feud over whether the tiny union's members should earn as much as their peers in federal and local governments and private industry. "It's a challenge to keep people motivated," says Rita Hypnarowski. "We talk about retaining the best and the brightest, but I can see that's not going to happen." A recent survey by the Brown administration found that the total compensation for half of state-employed chemists is less than $8,985 per month ($5,715 in salary, plus $3,270 in benefit costs). That's 33 percent less than the median total compensation for federal chemists, nearly 13 percent less than the midpoint for local-government chemists and almost 6 percent below the private sector.

Members of the union perform a wide variety of tasks, everything from fighting food-borne illnesses to mopping up the Refugio State Beach oil spill. For example, Cassandra McQuaid left a job last year at the Department of Public Health's state-of-the-art Richmond laboratories where she tracked foodborne illnesses. It's the kind of vital, behind-the-scenes work that goes unnoticed until an E. coli outbreak makes headlines and local health officials need a crack team of scientists to unravel how it happened. "It really came down to money," says McQuaid. "I just couldn't live in the Bay Area on a state salary."
Education

Struggling University of Phoenix Lays Off 900 128 128

An anonymous reader writes: The struggles facing for-profit colleges continue. The University of Phoenix announced poor quarterly earnings yesterday, and the institution has laid off 900 workers since September. Enrollment is down 14% since last year, and the CEO of its parent company, Apollo Education Group, says enrollment is likely to drop from 206,000 to about 150,000 next year. Apollo's stock has lost more than half its value since the beginning of the year. "Tighter regulations on for-profits and the Obama administration's push to make community college free top the list of headwinds. And non-profit universities have entered the online education space, where for-profit schools once held center stage."
News

Analysis: Iran's Nuclear Program Has Been an Astronomical Waste 290 290

Lasrick writes: Business Insider's Armin Rosen uses a fuel-cost calculator from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to show that Iran's nuclear program has been "astronomically costly" for the country. Rosen uses calculations from this tool to hypothesize that what Iran "interprets as the country's 'rights' under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty is a diplomatic victory that justifies the outrageous expense of the nuclear program." Great data crunching.
United Kingdom

UK's National Computer Museum Looks For Help Repairing BBC Micros 66 66

tresho writes: 1981-era 8-bit BBC Micro computers and peripherals are displayed in a special interactive exhibit at the UK's National Museum of Computing designed to give modern students a taste of programming a vintage machine. Now, the museum is asking for help maintaining them. "We want to find out whether people have got skills out there that can keep the cluster alive as long as we can," said Chris Monk, learning coordinator at the organization.

"Owen Grover, a volunteer at the museum who currently helps maintain the cluster of BBC Micro machines, said they held up well despite being more than 30 years old. The BBC Micro was 'pretty robust,' he said, because it was designed to be used in classrooms. This meant that refurbishing machines for use in the hands-on exhibit was usually fairly straightforward. 'The main problem we need to sort out is the power supply,' he said. 'There are two capacitors that dry out and if we do not replace them they tend to explode and stink the place out. So we change them as a matter of course.'"
Privacy

Surveillance Court: NSA Can Resume Bulk Surveillance 155 155

An anonymous reader writes: We all celebrated back in May when a federal court ruled the NSA's phone surveillance illegal, and again at the beginning of June, when the Patriot Act expired, ending authorization for that surveillance. Unfortunately, the NY Times now reports on a ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which concluded that the NSA may temporarily resume bulk collection of metadata about U.S. citizens's phone calls. From the article: "In a 26-page opinion (PDF) made public on Tuesday, Judge Michael W. Mosman of the surveillance court rejected the challenge by FreedomWorks, which was represented by a former Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican. And Judge Mosman said that the Second Circuit was wrong, too. 'Second Circuit rulings are not binding' on the surveillance court, he wrote, 'and this court respectfully disagrees with that court's analysis, especially in view of the intervening enactment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act.' When the Second Circuit issued its ruling that the program was illegal, it did not issue any injunction ordering the program halted, saying that it would be prudent to see what Congress did as Section 215 neared its June 1 expiration."
Canada

Quebec Government May Force ISPs To Block Gambling Websites 59 59

New submitter ottawan- writes: In order to drive more customers to their own online gambling website, the Quebec government and Loto-Quebec (the provincial organization in charge of gaming and lotteries) are thinking about forcing the province's ISPs to block all other online gambling websites. The list of websites to be blocked will be maintained by Loto-Quebec, and the government believes that the blocking will increase government revenue by up to $27 million (CAD) per year.
The Courts

Apple Loses Ebook Price Fixing Appeal, Must Pay $450 Million 95 95

An anonymous reader writes: A federal appeals court ruled 2-1 today that Apple indeed conspired with publishers to increase ebook prices. The ruling puts Apple on the hook for the $450 million settlement reached in 2014 with lawyers and attorneys general from 33 states. The Justice Dept. contended that the price-fixing conspiracy raised the price of some e-books from the $10 standard set by Amazon to $13-$15. The one dissenting judge argued that Apple's efforts weren't anti-competitive because Amazon held 90% of the market at the time. Apple is unhappy with the ruling, but they haven't announced plans to take the case further. They said, "While we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values. We know we did nothing wrong back in 2010 and are assessing next steps."
Earth

Ask Slashdot: What To Do With Empty Toner Cartridges? 181 181

New submitter MoarSauce123 writes: Over time I accumulated a number of empty toner cartridges for a Brother laser printer. Initially, I wanted to take a local office supply chain store up on their offer to give me store credit for the returned cartridge. For that credit to be issued I would have to sign up for their store card providing a bunch of personal information. The credit is so lousy that after the deduction from the sales price of a new toner cartridge the price is still much higher than from a large online retailer. And the credit only applies to one new cartridge, so I cannot keep collecting the credit and then get a cartridge 'for free' at some point.

I also looked into a local store of a toner refill chain. Their prices are a bit better, but the closest store is about half an hour away with rather odd business hours. Still, at the end they charge more than the large online retailer asks for a brand new cartridge. For now I bring the empty cartridges to the big office supply store and tell them that I do not want their dumb store credit. I rather have big corp make some bucks on me than throw these things in the trash and have it go to a landfill. Are there any better options? Anything from donating it to charity to refilling myself is of interest.
Space

What If You Could See Asteroids In the Night Sky? 54 54

An anonymous reader writes: As part of Asteroid Day a 360-degree video rendering the night sky with the population of near-earth asteroids included has been created by 'Astronogamer' Scott Manley. The video shows how the Earth flies through a cloud of asteroids on its journey around the sun, and yet we've only discovered about 1% of the near earth asteroid population.