MTorrice writes "In recent years, increasing numbers of patients worldwide have contracted severe bacterial infections that are untreatable by most available antibiotics. Some of the gravest of these infections are caused by bacteria carrying genes that confer resistance to a broad class of antibiotics called beta-lactams, many of which are treatments of last resort. Now a research team reports that some wastewater treatment plants in China discharge one of these potent resistance genes into the environment. Environmental and public health experts worry that this discharge could promote the spread of resistance."
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Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Guardian reports that while President Obama tried to portray a meeting with tech leaders as a wide-ranging discussion of broader priorities including ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website Healthcare.gov, senior executives from Apple, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Netflix said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA. 'We are there to talk about the NSA,' said one executive who was briefed on the company's agenda before the event. After meeting Obama and vice president Joe Biden for two-and-a-half hours, the companies issued a one-line statement. 'We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.' Many of the senior tech leaders had already made public their demand for sweeping surveillance reforms in an open letter that specifically called for a ban on the kind of bulk data collection that a federal judge ruled on Monday was probably unlawful. Obama seemed sympathetic to the idea of allowing more disclosure of government surveillance requests by technology companies, according to a tech industry official who was briefed on the meeting. Marissa Mayer brought up concerns about the potentially negative impact that could be caused if countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates, the official said. That would require technology companies to build data centers in each country — a costly problem for American Internet companies. The decision by the tech giants to press their case in such a public and unified way poses a problem for the White House. The industry is an increasingly influential voice in Washington, a vital part of the US economy and many of its most successful leaders are prominent Democratic political donors."
An anonymous reader writes "A 28-year-old man in Sweden has been fined 4.3 million SEK (~650,000 USD) for uploading one movie. 300,000 SEK of that was added because of the upload's low technical quality (Google translation of Swedish original). The court ruled that the viewer watching the pirated version of the movie had a worse experience than people watching it legally, thereby causing damage to the movie's reputation (full judgement in Swedish)."
An anonymous reader writes "We tend to take things like household appliances and other automation for granted, but as O'Reilly's Mike Loukides puts it: 'The Future Is All Robots. But Will We Even Notice? We've watched the rising interest in robotics for the past few years. It may have started with the birth of FIRST Robotics competitions, continued with the iRobot and the Roomba, and more recently with Google's driverless cars. But in the last few weeks, there has been a big change. Suddenly, everybody's talking about robots and robotics. ... I have no doubt that Google’s robotics team is working on something amazing and mind-blowing. Should they succeed, and should that success become a product, though, whatever they do will almost certainly fade into the woodwork and become part of normal, everyday reality. And robots will remain forever in the future. We might have found Rosie, the Jetsons’ robotic maid, impressive. But the Jetsons didn’t.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Tech publications and pundits alike have crowed about the benefits we're soon to collectively reap from healthcare analytics. In theory, sensors attached to our bodies (and appliances such as the fridge) will send a stream of health-related data — everything from calorie and footstep counts to blood pressure and sleep activity — to the cloud, which will analyze it for insight; doctors and other healthcare professionals will use that data to tailor treatments or advise changes in behavior and diet. But the sensors still leave a lot to be desired: 'smart bracelets' such as Nike's FuelBand and FitBit can prove poor judges of physical activity, and FitBit's associated app still requires you to manually input records of daily food intake (the FuelBand is also a poor judge of lower-body activity, such as running). FDA-approved ingestible sensors are still being researched, and it'd be hard to convince most people that swallowing one is in their best interests. Despite the hype about data's ability to improve peoples' health, we could be a long way from any sort of meaningful consumer technology that truly makes that happen."
schwit1 sends this excerpt from CBS: "'Enough' with the multivitamins already. That's the message from doctors behind three new studies and an editorial that tackled an oft-debated question in medicine: Do daily multivitamins make you healthier? After reviewing the available evidence and conducting new trials, the authors have come to a conclusion of 'no.' 'We believe that the case is closed — supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful,' concluded the authors of the editorial summarizing the new research papers, published Dec. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 'These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.' They went on to urge consumers to not 'waste' their money on multivitamins."
Preston Gralla hasn't really been following Microsoft since 1820, but he's been doing it so long that it sometimes seems as if he has. His popular Seeing Through Windows blog on Computerworld.com or possibly his IT World blog, The Power of One, may be the main reasons his name is familiar to a lot of people, but he's also written an amazing stack of IT-related books. Obviously, if you look at the lists of blog posts and books Preston has written, he writes about plenty besides Microsoft, and isn't particularly pro-Microsoft. In fact, when we asked him for tablet-buying advice, he recommended iOS tablets if you have plenty of budget, and maybe an Android tablet (specifically the Nexus 7) if your budget is a little tight. Windows? He didn't recommend Windows at all in this context. (Sorry, Microsoft.)
Antipater writes "NBCNews reports that Kurt DelBene, former head of Microsoft's Office division, will take over operations of Healthcare.gov on Wednesday. DelBene will replace Jeffrey Zients, who stepped in to lead the team fixing the health insurance website when it crashed and burned on its Oct. 1 launch. Zients is set to take over next month as senior White House economic adviser from Gene Sperling.'"
mdsolar tips this report: "Teams of lawmakers are working hard on bills to cut corn-based ethanol out of the country's biofuel mandate entirely, according to National Journal. It's the latest twist in America's fraught relationship with biofuels, which started in 2005 when Congress first mandated that a certain amount of biofuel be mixed into the country's fuel supply. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was then expanded in 2007, with separate requirements for standard biofuel on the one hand and cellulosic and advanced biofuels on the other. The latter are produced from non-food products like cornstalks, agricultural waste, and timber industry cuttings. The RFS originally called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million in 2011, and 500 million in 2012. Instead, the cellulosic industry failed to get off the ground. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to revise the mandate down to 6.5 million in 2010, and all the way down to zero in 2012. The cellulosic mandate has started to slowly creep back up, and 2014 may be the year when domestic production of cellulosic ethanol finally takes off. But then last month EPA did something else for the first time: it cut down the 2014 mandate for standard biofuel, produced mainly from corn. And now Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have teamed up on legislation that would eliminate the standard biofuel mandate entirely."
BigVig209 writes "In a follow-up to a story we discussed in May, the Chicago Tribune is reporting that London-based Datawind it will begin selling its $38 UbiSlate tablet computer in the U.S. early next year. 'The $38 7-inch touchscreen UbiSlate 7Ci tablet runs on Google's Android 4.0 and features a 1-gigahertz, single-core processor. It has 4 gigabytes of storage with microSD card slots for additional storage. The 7-inch display offers a resolution of 800x480 pixels.' The specs aren't the greatest, fastest, or most powerful, but, for under $50, they're still pretty decent."
toygeek writes "Earlier this year my family and I moved out into the woods, where high speed is simply not available. We traded in high speed for high latency, clean air and peace and quiet. We've made it work, and can even watch Netflix and Hulu while I'm off in another room working from home full time. Read along as I share some tips about how we've made it work, and the compromises we've had to make." It can be done; low-end DSL from AT&T is also what I somehow muddled through with for most of the last 18 months; though the connection often failed and the followup support was terrible, it worked well enough most of the time, and sure beat a 56K modem.
theodp writes "In another case of Microsoft's-loss-is-Google's-gain, GeekWire reports that Google has made a big hire from Microsoft, bringing aboard TED crowd-pleaser Blaise Agüera y Arcas, the well-known software architect and designer who was among the Redmond company's elite ranks of distinguished engineers. Known for his work on services including Photosynth and Bing Maps, Agüera y Arcas called the move 'the hardest decision of my life'. A stunning preview of Photosynth was released by Microsoft last week, and TED just released a video of Agüera y Arcas demonstrating the technology at a conference earlier this year."
With his popular Getting Started in Electronics, and Engineer's Mini-Notebook series and a number of different electronics kits sold at Radio Shack, Forrest Mims inspired countless scientists and engineers. Even though he received no formal academic training in science, Forrest has appeared in 70 magazines and scientific journals. He has worked as a consultant for the National Geographic Society, the National Science Teachers Association, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Today, Mims works on many scientific projects including climate change research. He's agreed to answer all your questions about science and engineering. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
sfcrazy writes "The Fedora Project has announced the release of Fedora 20, code named Heisenbug (release notes). Fedora 20 is dedicated to Seth Vidal, the lead developer of Yum and the Fedora update repository, who recently died in a road accident. Gnome is the default DE of Fedora, and so it is for Fedora 20. However unlike Ubuntu (where they had to create different distros for each DE) Fedora comes with KDE, XFCE, LXDE and MATE. You can install the DE of your choice on top of base Fedora."
cagraham writes "Google is currently testing a web-connected thermostat, similar to the popular Nest Thermostat, according to The Information. The device would display energy usage details, and allow user's to control it from a web app. This actually marks the second time Google has ventured into home energy, after their PowerMeter web app that was shut down in 2011. Web connected devices could allow Google access to a treasure trove of data on people's daily habits and routines."
SonicSpike writes "2013 may be a turning point for red-light cameras across the United States. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit largely funded by auto insurance companies, this year is the first time in nearly two decades that the number of American cities with red-light cameras has fallen — the systems were installed in 509 communities as of November 2013. While a single-year drop may not ultimately mean much, legislators across the country are increasingly agitated about the cameras. Bills are also pending in Florida and Ohio that would ban the devices entirely. A state representative in Iowa has also twice introduced legislation to ban RLCs (he was not successful). Part of this backlash has to do with the (sometimes accurate) perception that RLCs are a moneymaking scheme, pure and simple."
Sockatume writes "The IEC, the standards body which wrote the phone charger specification used in the EU, has approved a standardised laptop charger. While the 'DC Power Supply for Portable Personal Computer' doesn't have a legal mandate behind it, the IEC is still optimistic that it will lead to a reduction in electronics waste and make it easier to find a replacement charger. Unfortunately the technical documentation does not seem to be available yet, but previous comments indicate that it will be a barrel plug of some kind." I wish they'd push a yank-resistant and positive-connecting plug along the lines of Apple's MagSafe.
mrspoonsi writes "Business Insider Reports: The National Security Agency described for the first time a cataclysmic cyber threat it claims to have stopped On Sunday's '60 Minutes.' Called a BIOS attack, the exploit would have ruined, or 'bricked,' computers across the country, causing untold damage to the national and even global economy. Even more shocking, CBS goes as far as to point a finger directly at China for the plot — 'While the NSA would not name the country behind it, cyber security experts briefed on the operation told us it was China.' The NSA says it closed this vulnerability by working with computer manufacturers. Debora Plunkett, director of cyber defense for the NSA: One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver — to actually use this capability — to destroy computers."
tsu doh nimh writes "Security experts have long opined that one way to make software more secure is to hold software makers liable for vulnerabilities in their products. This idea is often dismissed as unrealistic and one that would stifle innovation in an industry that has been a major driver of commercial growth and productivity over the years. But a new study released this week presents perhaps the clearest economic case yet for compelling companies to pay for information about security vulnerabilities in their products. Stefan Frei, director of research at NSS Labs, suggests compelling companies to purchase all available vulnerabilities at above black-market prices, arguing that even if vendors were required to pay $150,000 per bug, it would still come to less than two-tenths of one percent of these companies' annual revenue (PDF). To ensure that submitted bugs get addressed and not hijacked by regional interests, Frei also proposes building multi-tiered, multi-region vulnerability submission centers that would validate bugs and work with the vendor and researchers. The questions is, would this result in a reduction in cybercrime overall, or would it simply hamper innovation? As one person quoted in the article points out, a majority of data breaches that cost companies tens of millions of dollars have far more to do with other factors unrelated to software flaws, such as social engineering, weak and stolen credentials, and sloppy server configurations."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that in Germany, Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States, hundreds of Amazon.com workers went on strike just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months. Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff members in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, says that 1,115 employees joined the strike at three sites. 'Amazon must realize it cannot export its anti-union labor model to European shores. We call on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers,' says Philip Jennings of the global trade union UNI. Verdi organized several short stoppages this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective-bargaining agreements ... The union says Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs and that other retailers pay overtime, but Amazon does not. 'What Amazon is doing is taking this American race-to-the-bottom roadshow to Germany and trying it out on our German brothers and sisters,' says David Freiboth. Amazon has defended its wage policies, saying that employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale of logistics companies in Germany. Amazon also says it prefers to address employment issues with worker councils at individual sites rather than through negotiations with the union. Amazon says that there have been no delays to deliveries ... adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network during the Christmas period to ensure delivery times. A delegation of German workers was set to rally at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle along with U.S. unions. 'We're standing in solidarity with them. We are asking that Amazon respect the union there in Germany and negotiate in a way that is acceptable to Verdi,' says Kathy Cummings of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which was also attending the protest in Seattle."
PolygamousRanchKid writes with news that GM's outgoing CEO doesn't agree with the National Law and Policy Center's call for GM to repay the loss made by the Treasury from their bailout. From the article: "GM CEO Dan Akerson rejects any suggestion that the company should compensate for the losses. He says Treasury officials took the same risk assumed by anyone who purchases stock. Akerson said that GM repaid all the debt issued by the government beginning in December 2008 when George W. Bush was still president and extending into the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. He added that it was the Treasury's decision ... to take an ownership stake in the form of company shares."
sciencehabit writes "Cats have been part of human society for nearly 10,000 years, but they weren't always string-chasers and lap-sitters. Ancient felines hunted crop-destroying rats and mice for early farmers, and in return we provided food and protection. At least that's what scientists have long speculated. Now, they can back it up. Cat bones unearthed in a 5000-year-old Chinese farming village indicate that the animals consumed rodents and that some may have been cared for by humans. The findings provide the earliest hard evidence of this mutually beneficial relationship between man and cat."
KentuckyFC writes "Spin glasses may be esoteric but they are also one of the more fascinating phenomena in physics. They are disordered magnets in which the atoms interact with each other to create conflicting configurations that compete for stability. That makes spin glasses metastable. They can seem firm and constant but a small change to the configuration in one part of the lattice can ripple through the magnet like wildfire. Now a German physicist has created 'Spin Glasses: The Game,' a two person board game that reproduces all the complexity and excitement of...err... spin glasses. The players compete to configure their atoms in a way that dominates the lattice when the game ends. The board game is available in German or as a free downloadable cut out version in English. Is this the geekiest game ever made?"