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Earth

White House Approves Sonic Cannons For Atlantic Energy Exploration 272

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-waiting-on-my-sonic-screwdriver dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The White House on Friday gave final approval to allow the use of sonic cannons in finding energy deposits underneath the ocean floor on the U.S. Atlantic seaboard. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says that finding energy resources off the Atlantic seaboard "could generate thousands of jobs, but has also acknowledged that the process will harm sea creatures." Sonic cannons "fire sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine." Mammals such as whales and dolphins that communicate through sound will most likely be affected, but scientists aren't sure to what extent. They also aren't sure how the cannons will affect fish and other sea creatures or how any physiological effects on them may impact the fishing industries of the U.S. and the other countries who rely on seafood that migrate into and out of the Atlantic Ocean.
Power

EPA Mulling Relaxed Radiation Protections For Nuclear Power 230

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-new-member-of-the-x-men-per-100,000-normals dept.
mdsolar sends this news from Forbes: Both proponents and opponents of nuclear power expect the Environmental Protection Agency in coming months to relax its rules restricting radiation emissions from reactors and other nuclear facilities. EPA officials say they have no such intention, but they are willing to reconsider the method they use to limit public exposure—and the public's level of risk.

At issue is a 1977 rule that limits the total whole-body radiation dose to any member of the public from the normal operation of the uranium fuel cycle—fuel processing, reactors, storage, reprocessing or disposal—to 0.25 millisieverts per year. (This rule, known as 40 CFR part 190, is different from other EPA regulations that restrict radionuclides in drinking water and that limit public exposure during emergencies. Those are also due for revision.) "We have not made any decisions or determined any specifics on how to move forward with any of these issues. We do, however, believe the regulation uses outdated science, and we are thinking about how to bring the regulation more in line with current thinking," said Brian Littleton, a chemical engineer with EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air."
Government

Drone Search and Rescue Operation Wins Fight Against FAA 77

Posted by Soulskill
from the compelling-reasons-to-get-lost-in-the-woods dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Back in February, officials at the Federal Aviation Administration told a Texas search-and-rescue team they couldn't use drones help locate missing persons. The team, which is called EquuSearch, challenged the FAA in court. On Friday, the court ruled (PDF) in favor of EquuSearch, saying the FAA's directive was "not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency's final conclusion." EquuSearch intends to resume using the drones immediately. This puts the FAA in the position of having to either initiate formal proceedings against EquuSearch, which is clearly operating to the benefit of society (as opposed to purely commercial drone use), or to revisit and finalize its rules for small aircraft entirely. The latter would be a lengthy process because "Congress has delegated rule making powers to its agencies, but the Administrative Procedures Act requires the agencies to provide a public notice and comment period first."
Advertising

Dealing With 'Advertising Pollution' 418

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-we-please-come-up-with-a-new-funding-model dept.
theodp writes: "Everyone gets that advertising is what powers the internet, and that our favorite sites wouldn't exist without it," writes longtime ad guy Ken Segall in The Relentless (and annoying) Pursuit of Eyeballs. "Unfortunately, for some this is simply license to abuse. Let's call it what it is: advertising pollution." CNN's in-your-face, your-video-will-play-in-00:25-seconds approach, once unthinkable, has become the norm. "Google," Segall adds, "is a leader in advertising pollution, with YouTube being a showcase for intrusive advertising. Many YouTube videos start with a mandatory ad, others start with an ad that can be dismissed only after the first 10 seconds. Even more annoying are the ad overlays that actually appear on top of the video you're trying to watch. It won't go away until you click the X. If you want to see the entire video unobstructed, you must drag the playhead back to start over. Annoying. And disrespectful." Google proposed using cap and trade penalties to penalize traditional polluters — how about for those who pollute the Internet?
Biotech

Genetically Modifying an Entire Ecosystem 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the evolve-big-or-evolve-home dept.
New submitter structural_biologist writes: Genes normally have a 50-50 chance of being passed from parent to offspring, but scientists may have figured out a way to create genes that show up in offspring with a much higher frequency. "One type of gene drive influences inheritance by copying itself onto chromosomes that previously lacked it. When an organism inherits such a gene drive from only one parent, it makes a cut in the chromosome from the other parent, forcing the cell to copy the inheritance-biasing gene drive—and any adjacent genes—when it repairs the damage." When introduced into the wild, organisms containing gene drives would breed with the population, quickly spreading the modified genes throughout the ecosystem. While the technology could help prevent the spread of malaria and manage invasive species, many scientists worry about the wide-ranging effects of such a technology and are calling for its regulation.
Books

Amazon Isn't Killing Writing, the Market Is 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-amazon's-not-driving-writing-to-the-hospital dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has been struggling for price control of the book and ebook markets for years, battling publicly and privately with publishers while making a lot of authors nervous. With yesterday's announcement of "Kindle Unlimited," a Netflix-like ebook subscription service, Amazon is reaching their endgame in disrupting the book-selling business. But there are other companies doing the same thing, and an article at TechCrunch makes the case that it's the general market, rather than any company in particular, that's making it harder for authors to earn a living. "Driving the prices lower isn't likely to expand the market of readers, since book prices don't seem to be the deciding factor on whether someone reads a book (time is). But those lower prices directly shrink the incomes of authors, who lack any other means of translating their sales into additional revenue. That's why I don't think the big revolution for writers and other content producers will come from Amazon, but rather from startups like Patreon, which allow producers to build audiences directly and develop their own direct subscription model with their most fervent fans."
Role Playing (Games)

Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the roll-for-initiative dept.
An anonymous reader writes: This year is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Dungeons & Dragons, and it's getting a lot of mainstream attention. Long-time and former players are examining the game's influence and its legacy, even as it's being introduced to yet another generation of kids. "For countless players, Dungeons & Dragons redirected teen-age miseries and energies that might have been put to more destructive uses. How many depressed and lonely kids turned away from suicide because they found community and escape in role-playing games? How many acts of bullying or vandalism were sublimated into dice-driven combat? ... How many underage D.U.I.s never came to pass because spell tables were being consulted late into the night?" Meanwhile, as people who played the game long ago have grown into adults producing their own works, our culture has reaped the benefits of D&D's influence. "The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the 'weird fiction' author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Dan Harmon (Community) and Chris Weitz (American Pie)."
Transportation

Japan To Offer $20,000 Subsidy For Fuel-Cell Cars 156

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-a-bit-easier-being-green dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Toyota is on track to launch the first consumer fuel-cell car in Japan next year, and the country's Prime Minister says the government wants to assist the new alternative to gas-driven vehicles. Shinzo Abe announced that Japan will offer subsidies of almost $20,000 for fuel cell cars, which will decrease the Toyota model's cost by about 28%. He said, "This is the car of a new era because it doesn't emit any carbon dioxide and it's environmentally friendly. The government needs to support this. Honda is also planning to release a fuel-cell car next year, but experts expect widespread adoption to take decades, since hydrogen fuel station infrastructure is still in its infancy."
Moon

NASA: Lunar Pits and Caves Could House Astronauts 157

Posted by Soulskill
from the assuming-we-ever-go-back dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers have documented hundreds of holes on the lunar surface. These aren't simply craters, but actual pits ranging from 5 to 900 meters across. Scientists suspects many of these will lead to underground cave systems, which NASA says would be great spots for an astronaut habitat once we get back to the Moon. "A habitat placed in a pit — ideally several dozen meters back under an overhang — would provide a very safe location for astronauts: no radiation, no micrometeorites, possibly very little dust, and no wild day-night temperature swings," said Robert Wagner of Arizona State University. He says it's time to send probes into a few of these pits to see what they're like: "Pits, by their nature, cannot be explored very well from orbit — the lower walls and any floor-level caves simply cannot be seen from a good angle. Even a few pictures from ground-level would answer a lot of the outstanding questions about the nature of the voids that the pits collapsed into. We're currently in the very early design phases of a mission concept to do exactly this, exploring one of the largest mare pits."
The Almighty Buck

New Digital Currency Bases Value On Reputation 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the for-everyone-who-wanted-to-rep-grind-in-real-life dept.
An anonymous reader writes: If digital currencies are fundamentally different than physical ones, why do they work in the same way? That's a question being asked by Couchbase co-founder J. Chris Anderson, who's building a currency and transaction system where reputation is the fundamental unit of value. "Unlike with bitcoin—which keeps its currency scarce by rewarding it only to those who participate in what amounts to a race to solve complex cryptographic puzzles—anyone will be able to create a new Document Coin anytime they want. The value of each coin will be completely subjective, depending on who creates the coin and why. 'For example, the coin my disco singer friend created and gave me at my barbeque might be what gets me past the rope at the club,' Anderson says. A coin minted by tech pundit Tim O'Reilly might be highly prized in Silicon Valley circles, but of little interest to musicians. 'It's a bit like a combination of a social network with baseball trading.'" Anderson isn't aiming to supplant Bitcoin, or even challenge the money-exchange model that drives society. But he's hoping it will change the way people think about currency, and open up new possibilities for how we interact with each other.
Crime

World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use 474

Posted by Soulskill
from the WHO-already-dismissed-by-old-people-as-being-a-bunch-of-potheads dept.
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.
Programming

US Senator Blasts Microsoft's H-1B Push As It Lays 18,000 Off Workers 529

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the good-for-nothing-lazy-programmers dept.
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."
Medicine

Gene Therapy Converts Heart Cells Into "Biological Pacemakers" 26

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the tick-tock dept.
Zothecula (1870348) writes Pacemakers serve an invaluable purpose, by electrically stimulating a recipient's heart in order to keep it beating at a steady rate. The implantation of a pacemaker is a major surgical procedure, however, plus its presence in the body can lead to complications such as infections. Now, for the first time, scientists have instead injected genes into the defective hearts of pigs, converting unspecialized heart cells into "biological pacemakers." Research Paper (abstract, full text paywalled).
Privacy

Australian Website Waits Three Years To Inform Customers of Data Breach 35

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the better-never-than-late dept.
AlbanX (2847805) writes Australian daily deals website Catch of the Day waited three years to tell its customers their email addresses, delivery addresses, hashed passwords, and some credit card details had been stolen. Its systems were breached in April 2011 and the company told police, banks and credit cards issuers, but didn't tell the Privacy Commissioner or customers until July 18th.

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