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David Cameron Says Brits Should Be Taught Imperial Measures

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the cripple-their-minds-while-they're-young dept.

United Kingdom 819

00_NOP writes: Children in the U.K. have been taught in metric measures in school since (at least) 1972, but yesterday British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that they should actually be taught in Imperial measures (which are still in use officially to measure road distances and speeds, but not really anywhere else). Is this because he hasn't a clue about science or because he is catering to a particular political base?

Hong Kong Protesters Use Mesh Networks To Organize

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the can't-stop-the-signal dept.

Communications 85

wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: Hong Kong's mass protest is networked. Activists are relying on a free app that can send messages without any cellphone connection. Since the pro-democracy protests turned ugly over the weekend, many worry that the Chinese government would block local phone networks. In response, activists have turned to the FireChat app to send supportive messages and share the latest news. On Sunday alone, the app was downloaded more than 100,000 times in Hong Kong, its developers said. FireChat relies on "mesh networking," a technique that allows data to zip directly from one phone to another via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ordinarily, if two people want to communicate this way, they need to be fairly close together. But as more people join in, the network grows and messages can travel further. Mesh networks can be useful for people who are caught in natural disasters or, like those in Hong Kong, protesting under tricky conditions. FireChat came in handy for protesters in Taiwan and Iraq this year."

California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the quis-custodiet-ipsos-drones? dept.

Government 109

schwit1 sends word that California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required warrants for surveillance using unmanned drones. In his veto message (PDF), Brown said, "This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances. There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution."

The article notes that 10 other states already require a warrant for routine surveillance with a drone (Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin). Further, Brown's claims about the bill's exceptions are overstated — according to Slate, "California's drone bill is not draconian. It includes exceptions for emergency situations, search-and-rescue efforts, traffic first responders, and inspection of wildfires. It allows other public agencies to use drones for other purposes — just not law enforcement."

Energy Utilities Trying To Stifle Growth of Solar Power

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the fortunate-sun dept.

Power 475

An anonymous reader writes: Incremental improvements have been slowly but surely pushing solar power toward mainstream viability for a few decades now. It's getting to the point where the established utilities are worried about the financial hit they're likely to take — and they're working to prevent it. "These solar households are now buying less and less electricity, but the utilities still have to manage the costs of connecting them to the grid. Indeed, a new study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argues that this trend could put utilities in dire financial straits. If rooftop solar were to grab 10 percent of the market over the next decade, utility earnings could decline as much as 41 percent." The utilities are throwing their weight behind political groups seeking to end subsidies for solar and make "net metering" policies go away. Studies suggest that if solar adoption continues growing at its current rate, incumbents will be forced to raise their prices, which will only persuade more people to switch to solar (PDF).

US Strikes ISIL Targets In Syria

timothy posted about a week ago | from the 140-characters-at-a-time dept.

The Military 475

Taco Cowboy writes The United States of America has launched airstrikes, along with some of its Arab partners such as Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Qatar, against ISIL targets in Syria. ... Before the airstrike was officially announced to the press, a Syrian man living in Raqqa, Syria, tweeted about the bombings and the sounds of air drones all over Raqqa. ... Tomahawk missiles were launched from USS Arleigh Burke in the Red Sea. Stealth fighters such as F-22s were also involved in the strike.

US Revamping Its Nuclear Arsenal

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the guess-they-ran-on-XP dept.

The Military 341

FreedomFirstThenPeac writes: As a former Cold Warrior (both launch officer side and staff analytical mathematician side), I now appreciate the bitterness I saw in former WW2 warriors when they would see a Japanese car. According to the NY Times, a new assembly plant in Kansas is "part of a nationwide wave of atomic revitalization that includes plans for a new generation of weapon carriers. This expansion comes under a president who campaigned for 'a nuclear-free world' and made disarmament a main goal of American defense policy." Mind you, Mutual Assured Destruction is a dangerous path, and one we managed to negotiate only because we were lucky (and we were) and because we were careful (and we were).

As a strategy, it only works with rational people (e.g., world powers with lots to lose) who might have irrational expectations that they will win in the long run. (The rapid fall of imperialist Russia was helpful — I have seen blackboard talks on this as a mathematical result in game theory. This speed minimized the time we spent in the high-risk regions while transiting from MAD to where we were in the 1990s). The Times article says, "The original idea was that modest rebuilding of the nation’s crumbling nuclear complex would speed arms refurbishment, raising confidence in the arsenal’s reliability and paving the way for new treaties that would significantly cut the number of warheads. Instead, because of political deals and geopolitical crises, the Obama administration is engaging in extensive atomic rebuilding while getting only modest arms reductions in return."

Mark Zuckerberg Throws Pal Joe Green Under the Tech Immigration Bus

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the sorry-pal dept.

United States 260

theodp (442580) writes "A month after he argued that Executive Action by President Obama on tech immigration was needed lest his billionaire bosses at Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC have to hire 'just sort of OK' U.S. workers, Re/code reports that Joe Green — Zuckerberg's close friend and college roommate — has been pushed out of his role as President of FWD.us for failing to Git-R-Done on an issue critical to the tech community. "Today, we wanted to share an important change with you," begins 'Leadership Change', the announcement from the FWD.us Board that Todd Schulte is the new Green. So what sold FWD.us on Schulte? "His [Schulte's] prior experience as Chief-of-Staff at Priorities USA, the Super PAC supporting President Obama's re-election," assured Zuckerberg in a letter to FWD.us contributors, "will ensure FWD.us continues its momentum for reform." Facebook, reported the Washington Post in 2013, became legally "dependent" on H-1B visas and subject to stricter regulations shortly before Zuckerberg launched FWD.us with Green at the helm."

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.

Democrats 392

An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."

Scotland Votes No To Independence

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the they-can-take-our-lives,-but-they'll-never-take-our-haggis dept.

United Kingdom 474

An anonymous reader sends this news from the BBC: Scotland voters decided to remain part of the United Kingdom on Friday, rejecting independence in a historic referendum. The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout. "Like millions of other people, I am delighted," Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. "It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end." Cameron promised new powers for Scotland in the wake of the vote, but also warned that millions of voices in England must also be heard, calling for a "balanced settlement" that would deliver more power to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Somewhat related: according to a Reuters poll, one in four Americans want their state to secede from the union.)

Snowden's Leaks Didn't Help Terrorists

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the what-they-want-you-to-think dept.

Government 183

HughPickens.com writes The Intercept reports that contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of Edward Snowden's revelations on NSA surveillance that examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups has found no correlation in either measure to Snowden's leaks about the NSA's surveillance techniques. According to the report "well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them (PDF)." In fact, concerns about terrorists' use of sophisticated encryption technology predates even 9/11.

Earlier this month former NSA head Michael Hayden stated, "The changed communications practices and patterns of terrorist groups following the Snowden revelations have impacted our ability to track and monitor these groups", while Matthew Olsen of the National Counterterrorism Center would add "Following the disclosure of the stolen NSA documents, terrorists are changing how they communicate to avoid surveillance." Snowden's critics have previously accused his actions of contributing from everything from the rise of ISIS to Russia's invasion of the Ukraine. "This most recent study is the most comprehensive repudiation of these charges to date," says Murtaza Hussain. "Contrary to lurid claims to the contrary, the facts demonstrate that terrorist organizations have not benefited from the NSA revelations, nor have they substantially altered their behavior in response to them."

Australian Police Arrest 15, Charge 2, For Alleged Islamic State Beheading Plot

timothy posted about two weeks ago | from the even-in-the-nicest-places dept.

Australia 165

The Washington Post reports (building on a short AP report they're also carrying) that "[Australian] police have arrested 15 people allegedly linked to the Islamic State, some who plotted a public beheading." According to the Sydney Morning Herald, of the arrestees, only two have been charged. From the Washington Post story: “Police said the planned attack was to be “random.” The killers were to behead a victim and then drape the body in the black Islamic State flag, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. ... Direct exhortations were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in [the Islamic State] to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a press conference, as the BBC reported. “So this is not just suspicion, this is intent and that’s why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have.”

Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the might-have-an-effect-on-the-scots-too dept.

Businesses 494

dcblogs writes: Scotland is not a major high-tech employment center, but it has good universities and entrepreneurial energy. About 70,000 people work in tech out of a total workforce of about 2.5 million, or about 3%. By contrast, financial services accounts for about 15% of employment in Scotland. But passions are high. "Honest, I've never been so scared in my life," said Euan Mackenzie about the prospect of separating from the U.K. He runs a 16-employee start-up, 1partCarbon, in Edinburgh, a platform that builds medical systems. "For tech start-ups, funding will be tougher to find and more expensive, there will be no local banks, access to EU markets and the freedom of movement will be curtailed," said Mackenzie. "As someone who enjoys risk and new opportunities, my company will remain in Scotland and make the best of whichever side prevails on Thursday, but the effect of independence on tech start-ups and the whole Scottish economy will be cataclysmic," he said.

Direct Sales OK Baked Into Nevada's $1.3 Billion Incentive Deal With Tesla

timothy posted about three weeks ago | from the not-that-they-should-need-to-ask-for-that dept.

Businesses 149

The new battery factory that Tesla has announced it will build in Nevada comes with some nice perks: specifically, with a package of tax incentives, road construction, and legislative protection from the kind of dealer cartels that have hindered Tesla's ability to sell cars in some other states. A Bloomberg wire story gives some details about the size of the deal that Nevada made to attract the company: The biggest chunk of the deal, Tesla's sales tax exemptions, is worth an estimated at $725 million. In addition, the company would save more than an estimated $300 million in payroll and other taxes through 2024. ... Among the bills approved in both houses was a provision phasing out and eliminating 1970s-era tax credits for insurance companies, which backers said would free up about $125 million over five years beginning in 2016 for transferable tax credits to Tesla. The package would also gut a pilot program approved just last year giving tax credits to the film industry, freeing up about $70 million for Tesla. ... Lawmakers also agreed to buy right of way to build a road connecting I-80 and U.S. 50, a project estimated to cost $43 million that will improve access to the industrial park from other regions of the state.

Cuba Calculates Cost of 54yr US Embargo At $1.1 Trillion

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the big-money dept.

United States 540

First time accepted submitter ltorvalds11 writes Cuba says its economy is suffering a "systematic worsening" due to a US embargo, the consequences of which Havana places at $1.1 trillion since Washington imposed the sanctions in 1960, taking into account the depreciation of the dollar against gold. "There is not, and there has not been in the world, such a terrorizing and vile violation of human rights of an entire people than the blockade that the US government has been leading against Cuba for 55 years," Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Abelardo Moreno told reporters. He also blamed the embargo for the difficulties in accessing internet on the island, saying that the United States creates an obstacle for companies providing broadband services in Cuba. Additionally, he said that the area is one of the "most sensitive" to the embargo, with economic losses estimated at $34.2 million. It is also the sector that has fallen "victim of all kinds of attacks" by the US, as violations of the Cuban radio or electronic space "promote destabilization" of Cuban society, the report notes. The damage to Cuban foreign trade between April 2013 and June 2014 amounted to $3.9 billion, the report said. Without the embargo, Cuba could have earned $205.8 million selling products such as rum and cigars to US consumers. Barack Obama last week signed the one-year extension of the embargo on Cuba, based on the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, created to restrict trade with countries hostile to the U.S..

Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks

timothy posted about three weeks ago | from the orchestrated-outrage-on-display dept.

Microsoft 246

reifman (786887) writes "A thousand unionized healthcare workers protested outside Microsoft's Seattle offices over its Nevada tax dodge on Friday. Microsoft shareholders have pocketed more than $5.34 billion in tax savings as Washington State social services and schools have taken huge cuts. In a hearing Wednesday, the Supreme Court suggested it may hold the Legislature in contempt and order it to repeal all tax breaks to restore proper funding to K-12 schools and universities." I suspect Microsoft's lawyers are careful to engage in legal tax avoidance rather than illegal tax evasion. Geekwire notes "The South Lake Union satellite facility is not a major office for Microsoft, compared to its presence in Redmond. It’s not clear why the workers didn’t protest at Microsoft headquarters."

"Net Neutrality" Coiner Tim Wu Is Running For Lt. Governor of New York

timothy posted about three weeks ago | from the well-tim's-a-good-name dept.

Government 40

speedplane (552872) writes Tim Wu, the popular Columbia Law Professor, author of The Master Switch, and the guy who coined the term Net Neutrality, is running for Lieutenant Governor of the great state of New York. He "has waged a shoestring anti-establishment campaign," that is well underway, and has even begun receiving attacks from the incumbent: "It has not always been smooth for Mr. Wu .... Surrogates for Mr. Cuomo have pounced on his admitted lack of 'message discipline' for comments he made comparing net neutrality to the suffragist movement (which he says were taken out of context) and sympathizing with Airbnb (which he says is 'fair game' because he has a 'wait-and-see approach' to regulating start-ups)."

Obama Administration Seeks $58M To Put (Partly) Toward Fighting Ebola

timothy posted about a month ago | from the let's-order-a-pizza-and-a-dishwasher dept.

Medicine 105

The Associated Press reports (here, as carried by the Washington Times) that The White House is asking Congress for $58 million above current levels to speed the production of promising drugs to fight Ebola and additional flexibility for the Department of Homeland Security to cope with the thousands of unaccompanied Central American children still arriving at the southern border. ... [T]he $58 million request for the Centers for Disease Control would help the agency ramp up production and testing of the experimental drug called ZMapp, which has shown promise in fighting the Ebola epidemic in western Africa. It would also help keep the development and manufacturing of two Ebola vaccines on track. The White House request also seeks to use $10 million in unused balances at the Department of Health and Human Services to help with the Ebola outbreak in Africa. The scarcity of ZMapp, the most promising treatment known for Ebola, is such that the third U.S. doctor to have been returned after being infected by the disease will be treated without it.

White House Names Google's Megan Smith As CTO

timothy posted about a month ago | from the let's-see-about-getting-that-cable-fixed dept.

Google 75

itwbennett writes that, as expected, The White House has named long-time Google executive Megan Smith as the government's new CTO, in charge of improving technology and the use of data across agencies. Smith most recently served as vice president at Google's tech lab, Google[x]. She previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, helped design early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan in Tokyo. She holds bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT, and just might be, as noted in a previous Slashdot post, the first US CTO worthy of the title. Also on Thursday, the White House named Alexander Macgillivray, a former general counsel and head of public policy at Twitter, as deputy U.S. CTO.

Code.org Discloses Top Donors

timothy posted about a month ago | from the friends-but-also-buddies dept.

Education 59

theodp (442580) writes "Under the leadership of Code.org, explained the ACM, it joined CSTA, NCWIT, NSF, Microsoft and Google in an effort "to reshape the U.S. education system," including passing a federal law making Computer Science a "core subject" in schools. If you're curious about whose money helped fuel the effort, Code.org's Donors page now lists those who gave $25,000+ to $3,000,000+ to the K-12 CS cause (the nonprofit plans to raise $20-30 million for 2015-16 operations). Microsoft is at the top of the list as a Platinum Supporter ($3,000,000+), while Bill Gates is Gold ($1,000,000+), and Steve Ballmer is Silver ($500,000+). Interestingly, six of Code.org's ten biggest donors are also Founders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us tech immigration reform PAC."

Kernel Developer Dmitry Monakhov Arrested For Protesting Ukraine Invasion

timothy posted about a month ago | from the man's-inhumanity-to-man dept.

Censorship 205

sfcrazy (1542989) writes, based on a report from Ted T'so, that Kernel developer Dmitry Monakhov was detained for 15 days for disobeying a police officer. The debacle came about when Monakhov decided to protest the recent invasion into Ukraine by Russian armed forces. Monakhov is using Twitter to keep people informed about his experience with the Russian judicial system; a human translator can probably do a better job than Google in this case.

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