Hugh Pickens writes "Gregg Laskoski reports in U.S. News and World Report that virtually all of the retail gasoline price volatility that Americans experienced this past year was connected to significant problems at refineries. It was those refineries' vulnerability that subjected U.S. consumers to the year's highest average price ever, $3.63 per gallon. February delivered the BP refinery fire in Cherry Point, Washington that led to gasoline price spikes all along the Pacific coast, refinery problems in the Great Lakes region pushed Chicago gas prices to an all-time high of $4.56 per gallon, and over the summer, west coast refineries incurred outages, and California saw record highs in most markets, with Los Angeles gasoline's average price peaking at $4.72/gallon in October. Finally after Reuters reported that some 7,700 gallons of fuel spilled from Phillips 66's Bayway refinery in Linden, NJ, after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey environmental protection officials said they were not made aware of a major spill at the Bayway plant, and the refinery failed to respond to inquiries from Reuters reporters. 'Too many times, history has shown us, the Phillips 66 response or lack thereof characterizes the standard practice of the oil industry. Refineries often fail or are slow to communicate problems that create significant disruptions to fuel supplies and spikes in retail gasoline prices. More often than not, scant information is provided reluctantly, if at all,' writes Laskoski. 'When such things occur is silence from refineries acceptable? Or does our government and the electorate who put them there have a right to know what's really going on?'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
theodp writes "The e-mail that Defendant Swartz's supplemental memorandum (pdf) cites as paramount to his fifth motion to suppress [evidence against him] is relevant, but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (pdf) in a court filing made on the same day Aaron Swartz committed suicide. In the 1-7-2011 e-mail Ortiz refers to, which was not produced for Swartz until Dec. 14th — almost two years after his 1-6-2011 arrest — a Secret Service agent reported to the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he was 'prepared to take custody anytime' of Swartz's laptop, although no one had yet sought a warrant to search the computer. In Prosecutor as Bully, Larry Lessig laments, 'They [JSTOR] declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the "criminal" who we who loved him knew as Aaron.' Swartz's family also had harsh words for MIT and prosecutors: 'Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron.' With MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest currently serving as a Trustee of JSTOR parent Ithaka as well as a Trustee of The MIT Corporation, one might have expected MIT to issue a statement similar to the let's-put-this-behind-us one JSTOR made on the Swartz case back in 2011."
An anonymous reader writes "A group of geothermal power engineers have created three reservoirs from a single well in a place where none existed previously. This is a breakthrough for Enhanced Geothermal System technology — people who need power often can't choose a spot where there happens to be a geothermal reservoir, and EGS could allow us to create them where needed. 'Last fall, engineers pumped cold water into the ground, cracking open fissures in the deep rock, a process known as hydroshearing. They then sealed one reservoir from the other using a new technology. They injected ground-up recycled plastic bottles, which plugged up the cracks in one reservoir while millions of gallons of cold water were being pumped in to create another. Then the plastic diffused, leaving behind three reservoirs. ... The U.S. Department of Energy, which is covering half the $43.8 million cost of the Newberry project, says if the initial indications hold up, the Newberry project would mark the first time in the world that multiple geothermal reservoirs have been created on purpose from a single well in a new area.'"
Qedward writes "The Norwegian Ministry of Finance seems to be taking a bit of stick at the moment. It wants all the existing cash registers in the country thrown out and replaced with new ones. Not surprisingly, this massive upgrade is not popular. But it is apparently being pushed through in an attempt to prevent cash registers' figures being massaged downwards in use so as to reduce tax. The Norwegian association of tax auditors said: 'The source code must be opened.' 'Without source code it is not possible to determine whether or "hidden" functionality exists or not. Just knowing that the tax authorities have access to the source code of the application, will reduce the effort to implement hidden functionality in the software.'"
jfruh writes "When Android was first introduced, it got much of its buzz in the open source community, and despite it being a mobile juggernaut backed by huge companies, it remains an open source project that anyone can submit code to. Thus, when a community patch that claimed to reduce the lag that still plagues the platform was created, it rocketed around various community code sites and was widely praised. The only problem: it didn't actually speed Android up."
New submitter fractalVisionz writes "The White House has officially responded to the petition to secure resources and funding to begin Death Star construction by 2016, as previously discussed on Slashdot. With costs estimated over $850,000,000,000,000,000 (that's $850 quadrillion), and a firm policy stating 'The Administration does not support blowing up planets,' the U.S. government will obviously decline. However, that is not to say we don't already have a Death Star of our own, floating approximately 120 miles above the earth's surface. The response ends with a call to those interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields of study: 'If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.'"
maijc writes "Computer activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday in New York City. He was 26 years old. Swartz was 'indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly mass downloading documents from the JSTOR online journal archive with the intent to distribute them.' He is best known for co-authoring the widely-used RSS 1.0 specification when he was 14, and as one of the early co-owners of Reddit."
Coldeagle writes "It looks as if CNET's parent company, CBS, has laid down the law: 'Just one day after CNet named the Dish "Hopper," a new TV recording system that's drawing rave reviews in the tech press, to an awards shortlist, the site's parent company stepped in and nixed the accolade. Because of a legal battle between CBS and Dish over the Hopper's ad-skipping technology, CBS laid down a ban: CNet won't be allowed to even review Dish products, much less give them awards.' Got to love modern day freedom of the press!"
hypnosec writes "Following news that a Java 0-day has been rolled into exploit kits, without any patch to fix the vulnerability, Mozilla and Apple have blocked the latest versions of Java on Firefox and Mac OS X respectively. Mozilla has taken steps to protect its user base from the yet-unpatched vulnerability. Mozilla has added to its Firefox add-on block-list: Java 7 Update 10, Java 7 Update 9, Java 6 Update 38 and Java 6 Update 37. Similar steps have also been taken by Apple; it has updated its anti-malware system to only allow version 22.214.171.124 or higher, thereby automatically blocking the vulnerable version, 126.96.36.199." Here are some ways to disable Java, if you're not sure how.
astroengine writes "Russian drilling operations at Lake Vostok, Antarctica, have succeeded in collecting a long-sought core sample of water frozen into the borehole from the glacier-covered, 20 million-year-old lake they cracked into last year. 'The first core of transparent lake ice, two meters long, was obtained on Jan. 10, at a depth of 3,406 meters (11,174.5 feet). Inside it was a vertical channel filled with white bubble-rich ice,' stated the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, part of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring."
redletterdave writes "Only a small number of U.S. cities can boast fiber optic connections, but in China, it's either fiber or bust. China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has now ordered all newly built residences to install fiber optic connections in any city or county 'where a public fiber optic telecom network is available.' The new standards will take effect starting on April 1, 2013, and residents will be able to choose their own ISP with equal connections to services. The Chinese government reportedly hopes to have 40 million families connected to fiber networks by 2015."
Hugh Pickens writes "Louise Radnofsky reports that a study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine has found U.S. life expectancy ranks near the bottom of 17 affluent countries. The U.S. is at or near the bottom in nine key areas of health: infant mortality and low birth weight; injuries and homicides; teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections; prevalence of HIV and AIDS; drug-related deaths; obesity and diabetes; heart disease; chronic lung disease; and disability. Americans fare worse than people in other countries even when the analysis is limited to non-Hispanic whites and people with relatively high incomes and health insurance, nonsmokers, or people who are not obese. The report notes that average life expectancy for American men, at 75.6 years, was the lowest among the 17 countries and almost four years shorter than for Switzerland, the best-performing nation. American women's average life expectancy is 80.8 years, the second-lowest among the countries and five years shorter than Japan's, which had the highest expectancy. 'The [U.S.] health disadvantage is pervasive — it affects all age groups up to age 75 and is observed for multiple diseases, biological and behavioral risk factors, and injuries,' say the report's authors. The authors offered a range of possible explanations for Americans' worse health and mortality, including social inequality, limited availability of contraception for teenagers, community designs that discourage physical activity such as walking, air pollution as well as individual behaviors such as high calorie consumption. The report's authors were particularly critical of the availability of guns. 'One behavior that probably explains the excess lethality of violence and unintentional injuries in the United States is the widespread possession of firearms and the common practice of storing them (often unlocked) at home,' reads the report. 'The statistics are dramatic.'"
redletterdave writes "IBM's super-computer Watson briefly went from smart to smart ass with the help of the Urban Dictionary. According to Eric Brown, an IBM research assistant, he and his 35-person team wanted to get Watson to sound more like a real human. After teaching IBM's super-computer the entire Urban Dictionary, however, Watson simply couldn't distinguish polite discourse from profanity. Watson unfortunately learned all of the Urban Dictionary's bad habits, including throwing in overly-crass language at random points in its responses; in answering one question, Watson even reportedly used the word 'bullshit' within an answer to one researcher's question. In the end, Brown and his team were forced to remove the Urban Dictionary from Watson's vocabulary, and additionally developed a smart filter to keep Watson from swearing in the future."
hypnosec writes "Anonymous has filed a petition with the U.S. Government asking the Obama administration to make Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks a legal form of protest. Anonymous has argued that because of advancements in internet technology, there is a need for new ways of protest. The hacking collective doesn't consider DDoS as a form of attack and equates it to hitting the 'refresh' button on a webpage. Comparing these attacks to the 'occupy' protests, Anonymous notes that instead of people occupying an area, it is their computers occupying a website for a particular period of time."