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  • Gaza's Only Power Plant Knocked Offline

    necro81 (917438) writes "Gaza's only power plant (see this profile at IEEE Spectrum — duct tape and bailing wire not included) has been knocked offline following an Israeli strike. Reports vary, but it appears that Israeli tank shells caused a fuel bunker at the plant to explode. Gaza, already short on electricity despite imports from Israel and Egpyt, now faces widening blackouts."

    711 comments | yesterday

  • The Misleading Fliers Comcast Used To Kill Off a Local Internet Competitor

    Jason Koebler (3528235) writes In the months and weeks leading up to a referendum vote that would have established a locally owned fiber network in three small Illinois cities, Comcast and SBC (now AT&T) bombarded residents and city council members with disinformation, exaggerations, and outright lies to ensure the measure failed. The series of two-sided postcards painted municipal broadband as a foolhardy endeavor unfit for adults, responsible people, and perhaps as not something a smart woman would do. Municipal fiber was a gamble, a high-wire act, a game, something as "SCARY" as a ghost. Why build a municipal fiber network, one asked, when "internet service [is] already offered by two respectable private businesses?" In the corner, in tiny print, each postcard said "paid for by SBC" or "paid for by Comcast." The postcards are pretty absurd and worth a look.

    243 comments | 2 days ago

  • Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

    U.S. officials today made public satellite imagery which they say proves that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine. One image dated July 25/26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

    562 comments | 2 days ago

  • VP Biden Briefs US Governors On H-1B Visas, IT, and Coding

    theodp writes: Back in 2012, Computerworld blasted Vice President Joe Biden for his ignorance of the H-1B temporary work visa program. But Joe's got his H-1B story and he's sticking to it, characterizing the visa program earlier this month in a speech to the National Governors Association as "apprenticeships" of sorts that companies provide to foreign workers to expand the Information Technology industry only after proving there are no qualified Americans to fill the jobs. Biden said he also learned from his talks with tech's top CEOs that 200,000 of the jobs that companies provide each year to highly-skilled H-1B visa holders could in fact be done by Americans with no more than a two-year community college degree.

    224 comments | about a week ago

  • States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

    An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Labor has released data that some proponents of raising minimum wage are touting as evidence that higher minimum wage promotes job growth. While the data doesn't actually establish cause and effect, it does "run counter to a Congressional Budget Office report in February that said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as the White House supports, would cost 500,000 jobs." The data shows that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages in January added jobs at a faster rate than those that didn't. Other factors likely contributed to this outcome, but some economists are simply relieved that the higher wage factor didn't have a dramatically negative effect in general.

    778 comments | about two weeks ago

  • World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use

    An anonymous reader writes: We've known for a while: the War on Drugs isn't working. Scientists, journalists, economists, and politicians have all argued against continuing the expensive and ineffective fight. Now, the World Health Organization has said flat out that nations should work to decriminalize the use of drugs. The recommendations came as part of a report released this month focusing on the prevention and treatment of HIV. "The WHO's unambiguous recommendation is clearly grounded in concerns for public health and human rights. Whilst the call is made in the context of the policy response to HIV specifically, it clearly has broader ramifications, specifically including drug use other than injecting. In the report, the WHO says: 'Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration. ...Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs." The bottom line is that the criminalization of drug use comes with substantial costs, while providing no substantial benefit.

    474 comments | about two weeks ago

  • US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers

    dcblogs (1096431) writes On the floor of U.S. Senate Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions delivered a scalding and sarcastic attack on the use of highly skilled foreign workers by U.S. corporations that was heavily aimed at Microsoft, a chief supporter of the practice. Sessions' speech began as a rebuttal to a recent New York Times op-ed column by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, investor Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson ... But the senator's attack on "three of our greatest masters of the universe," and "super billionaires," was clearly primed by Microsoft's announcement, also on Thursday, that it was laying off 18,000 employees. "What did we see in the newspaper today?" said Sessions, "News from Microsoft. Was it that they are having to raise wages to try to get enough good, quality engineers to do the work? Are they expanding or are they hiring? No, that is not what the news was, unfortunately. Not at all."

    529 comments | about two weeks ago

  • New York State Proposes Sweeping Bitcoin Regulations

    An anonymous reader writes On Thursday, Benjamin M. Lawsky, the superintendent of financial services, announced proposed regulations for virtual currency companies operating in New York. The "BitLicense" plan, which includes rules on consumer protection, the prevention of money laundering and cybersecurity, is the first proposal by a state to create guidelines specifically for virtual currency. "We have sought to strike an appropriate balance that helps protect consumers and root out illegal activity—without stifling beneficial innovation," he said in a statement.

    121 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Rand Paul and Silicon Valley's Shifting Political Climate

    SonicSpike sends this story from NY Magazine: Rand Paul appears to be making a full-court press for the affections of Silicon Valley, and there are some signs that his efforts are paying off. At last week's Sun Valley conference, Paul had one-on-one meetings with Thiel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ... Next weekend, Paul will get to make his case yet again as the keynote speaker at Reboot, a San Francisco conference put on by a group called Lincoln Labs, which self-defines as "techies and politicos who believe in promoting liberty with technology." He'll likely say a version of what he's said before: that Silicon Valley's innovative potential can be best unlocked in an environment with minimal government intrusion in the forms of surveillance, corporate taxes, and regulation. “I see almost unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley,” Paul has said, with "us" meaning libertarians.

    Today's Silicon Valley is still exceedingly liberal on social issues. But it seems more skeptical about taxes and business regulation than at any point in its recent history. Part of this is due to the rise of companies like Uber and Tesla Motors, blazing-hot start-ups that have been opposed at every turn by protectionist regulators and trade unions, in confrontations that are being used by small-government conservatives as case studies in government control run amok.

    533 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Australian Electoral Commission Refuses To Release Vote Counting Source Code

    angry tapir writes: The Australian Electoral Commission has been fighting a freedom of information request to reveal the source code of the software it uses to calculate votes in elections for Australia's upper house of parliament. Not only has the AEC refused an FOI request (PDF) for the source code, but it has also refused an order from the Senate directing that the source code be produced. Apparently releasing the code could "leave the voting system open to hacking or manipulation."

    112 comments | about two weeks ago

  • White House Punts On Petition To Allow Tesla Direct Sales

    First time accepted submitter neanderslob (1207704) writes Last Friday, over a year after the petition gained the required signatures for a response, the White House rejected a We the People petition to "Allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states." The letter went on to defend the administration by citing their initiatives "in promoting vehicle efficiency." In response, Tesla is firing back, blasting the White House for a lack of leadership on the issue and stating "138,469 people signed the petition asking the White House to allow Tesla Motors to sell directly to consumers in all 50 states. More than a year later, at 7.30pm EST on Friday as most of America prepared for the weekend, the White House released its disappointing response to those people. Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star." There's a legal issue here: the executive can't just wave state law aside. But they could suggest Congress write new laws instead of just noting that Congress would need to take action.

    382 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FCC Approves Subsidy Plan to Upgrade School and Library Networks

    The Washington Post reports that, "In a 3-2 vote along party lines Friday, the FCC greenlit a plan to spend $2 billion over the next two years on subsidies for internal networks. The move also begins a process to phase out some subsidies under the federal program, known as E-Rate, for services and equipment that are on the decline, such as pagers and dial-up Internet service." That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but as usual in politics it's the result of a messy process: The original plan called for spending $5 billion on WiFi over five years, in line with a push by the Obama administration to bring next-gen broadband and WiFi to 99 percent of students over the same period. Those funds would have partly come from savings as a result of transitioning away from supporting legacy technologies. The proposal would also have eliminated an existing requirement that E-Rate funds be spent first on broadband services before being applied to WiFi. In past years, the cost of broadband service meant that money was rarely left over for upgrading WiFi connections. But the FCC's proposal was ultimately scaled back late Thursday amid Republican objections that the E-Rate program can't afford the changes. The final proposal's two-year, $2 billion commitment accounts for the money the FCC has already set aside for WiFi upgrades, but it does not commit the FCC to funding WiFi upgrades at that same rate for the following three years.

    70 comments | about two weeks ago

  • A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System

    Lasrick (2629253) writes It isn't as if real analysis of Israel's "Iron Dome" isn't available, but invariably, whenever Israel has a skirmish the media is filled with glowing reports of how well the system works, and we always find out months later that the numbers were exaggerated. John Mecklin at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists looks at the coverage of Iron Dome in the recent exchanges between Israel and Hamas and finds the pattern is repeating itself. However, 'Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all,"' Includes a good explanation of the differences between Iron Dome (a 'rocket defense system') and missile defense systems pushed by the U.S.

    379 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Asteroid Mining Bill Introduced In Congress To Protect Private Property Rights

    MarkWhittington writes: "Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) announced on Thursday that he was introducing a bill along with Rep, Derek Kilmer (D-WA) called the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014 (PDF). The act is designed to protect the private property rights for entities mining asteroids and to otherwise encourage asteroid mining. The bill is in apparent reaction to efforts by companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries to locate and mine Earth approaching asteroids for their resources.

    The crucial part of the short piece of legislation states that the resources mined from an asteroid would be the property of the entity undertaking the operation. This language gets around the provision of the Outer Space Treaty that says states are forbidden to establish national sovereignty over celestial bodies, which would be a prerequisite to the United States allowing a private entity to own an asteroid. It rather grants mineral rights to the asteroid, something the treaty does not mention. There is no enforcement mechanism in the event of a dispute with another country, however."

    181 comments | about three weeks ago

  • After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart

    The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."

    219 comments | about three weeks ago

  • UK Gov't Plans To Push "Emergency" Surveillance Laws

    beaker_72 (1845996) writes The Guardian reports that the UK government has unveiled plans to introduce emergency surveillance laws into the UK parliament at the beginning of next week. These are aimed at reinforcing the powers of security services in the UK to force service providers to retain records of their customers phone calls and emails. The laws, which have been introduced after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that existing laws invaded individual privacy, will receive cross-party support and so will not be subjected to scrutiny or challenged in Parliament before entering the statute books. But as Tom Watson (Labour backbench MP and one of few dissenting voices) has pointed out, the ECJ ruling was six weeks ago, so why has the government waited until now to railroad something through. Unless of course they don't want it scrutinised too closely.

    147 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

    mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: Here's what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. ... Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal's footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations (PDF) that explores the technological paths available for the world's 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc. It offers a sobering conclusion: We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.

    389 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Buzz Aldrin Pressures Obama For New Space Exploration Initiative

    MarkWhittington writes: While he has initiated the social media campaign, #Apollo45, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin is also using the occasion to campaign for an expansion of American space exploration. According to a Tuesday story in the Washington Post, Aldrin has expressed the wish that President Obama make some sort of announcement along those lines this July 20. The idea has a certain aspect of deja vu. Aldrin believes that the American civil space program is adrift and that some new space exploration, he prefers to Mars, would be just the thing to set it back on course. There is only one problem, however. President Obama has already made the big space exploration announcement. Aldrin knows this because he was there. President Obama flew to the Kennedy Space Center on April 15, 2010, with Aldrin accompanying as a photo op prop, and made the announcement that America would no longer be headed back to the moon, as was the plan under his predecessor George W. Bush. Instead American astronauts would visit an Earth approaching asteroid and then, decades hence, would land on Mars.

    78 comments | about three weeks ago

  • When Beliefs and Facts Collide

    schnell writes A New York Times article discusses a recent Yale study that shows that contrary to popular belief, increased scientific literacy does not correspond to increased belief in accepted scientific findings when it contradicts their religious or political views. The article notes that this is true across the political/religious spectrum and "factual and scientific evidence is often ineffective at reducing misperceptions and can even backfire on issues like weapons of mass destruction, health care reform and vaccines." So what is to be done? The article suggests that "we need to try to break the association between identity and factual beliefs on high-profile issues – for instance, by making clear that you can believe in human-induced climate change and still be a conservative Republican."

    725 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Lessig's Mayday PAC Scrambling To Cross Crowd Funding Finish Line

    First time accepted submitter SingleEntendre (1273012) writes "Time is running out for the Mayday PAC to reach its latest crowd funding goal of $5M. The total currently stands at $4.5M. Led by Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the Mayday PAC seeks to reduce the influence of money in US politics by 2016, primarily by identifying and supporting congressional candidates who share this vision. If phase 2 is successful, with matching funds the total raised will be $12M. A self-imposed deadline arrives at of midnight tonight, July 4th, Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time (HAST)." (And now the total's at $4,700,066.)

    117 comments | about three weeks ago

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