Mars

NASA Will Award You $5,000 For Your Finest Mars City Idea 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-to-mars dept.
coondoggie writes: NASA this week said it would look to the public for cool ideas on how to build a sustainable environment on Mars with the best plan earning as much as $5,000. With the Journey to Mars Challenge, NASA wants applicants to describe one or more Mars surface systems or capabilities and operations that are needed to set up and establish a technically achievable, economically sustainable human living space on the red planet. Think air, water, food, communications systems and the like.
Biotech

Apple's Plans For Your DNA 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the download-a-parkinson's-cure-from-itunes dept.
An anonymous reader writes: MIT's Technology Review breaks news that Apple is working with scientists to create apps that collect and evaluate users' DNA. "The apps are based on ResearchKit, a software platform Apple introduced in March that helps hospitals or scientists run medical studies on iPhones by collecting data from the devices' sensors or through surveys." A source says Apple's plan is to enable users to easily share their DNA information with medical workers and researchers performing studies. "To join one of the studies, a person would agree to have a gene test carried out—for instance, by returning a "spit kit" to a laboratory approved by Apple. The first such labs are said to be the advanced gene-sequencing centers operated by UCSF and Mount Sinai."
EU

Europe Vows To Get Rid of Geo-blocking 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the this-article-only-available-at-select-latitudes dept.
AmiMoJo writes: The European Commission has adopted a new set of initiatives for digital technologies that aims to improve access to online services for everyday users. Among other things, Europe vows to end geo-blocking, which it describes as "a discriminatory practice used for commercial reasons," and lift other unwarranted copyright restrictions. Consumers will have the right to access content they purchased at home in other European countries. "I want to see every consumer getting the best deals and every business accessing the widest market – wherever they are in Europe," Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says.
News

Two Programmers Expose Dysfunction and Abuse In the Seattle Police Department 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-keep-your-heads-down dept.
reifman writes: Programmers Eric Rachner and Phil Mocek are now the closest thing Seattle has to a civilian police-oversight board. Through shrewd use of Washington's Public Records Act, the two have acquired hundreds of reports, videos, and 911 calls related to the Seattle Police Department's internal investigations of officer misconduct. Among some of Rachner and Mocek's findings: a total of 1,028 SPD employees (including civilian employees) were investigated between 2010 and 2013. (The current number of total SPD staff is 1,820.) Of the 11 most-investigated employees—one was investigated 18 times during the three-year period—every single one of them is still on the force, according to SPD.

In 569 allegations of excessive or inappropriate use of force (arising from 363 incidents), only seven were sustained—meaning 99 percent of cases were dismissed. Exoneration rates were only slightly smaller when looking at all the cases — of the total 2,232 allegations, 284 were sustained. This is partly why the Seattle PD is under a federal consent decree for retraining and oversight. You can check out some of the typically excellent Twitter coverage by Mocek from his #MayDaySea coverage.
Displays

Oculus Rift Launching In Q1 2016 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the virtually-immediately dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has announced that their Rift virtual reality headset will be coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2016. They've also posted a couple images of the final consumer headset design. The device was Kickstarted in August, 2012. Consumer-level release dates have slowly slipped further and further out since then, though they've shipped two different development kits. Ars points out that a 2016 launch date will bring the Oculus Rift to market after the Valve/HTC VR headset, and possibly after Sony's Project Morpheus.
Businesses

Apple Gets Antitrust Scrutiny Over Music Deals 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the apple-a-day-keeps-the-competition-at-bay dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is probing Apple after its acquisition of Beats Electronics, and its various deals with record labels to sell music through the iTunes store. As part of the acquisition, Apple now owns the music streaming service created by Beats, and they're planning to release a new version sometime soon. This makes their ties to the record labels, already deep because of iTunes, even stronger — and could affect the labels' relationships with other streaming services, like Spotify. Investigators want to know if Apple is using these business deals as leverage for "curtailing ad-supported music and pushing more songs into paid tiers of service at higher rates."
Space

SpaceX Launch Abort Test Successful 40

Posted by Soulskill
from the failed-correctly dept.
An anonymous reader writes: As we discussed yesterday, SpaceX launched a prototype this morning to test its Dragon passenger capsule in an aborted launch. The test was a success — the capsule separated cleanly, propelled itself to a safe distance, deployed its parachutes, and lowered gently down to a water landing, where it remained floating. You can watch video of the test on SpaceX's website — skip to 15:40 to get right to it. Externally, everything seems to have gone fine. I'm sure we'll hear in the coming weeks whether the downrange distance was ideal, whether they hit their splashdown target, and how the crash test dummy inside the capsule weathered the abort!
Medicine

The Medical Bill Mystery 332

Posted by Soulskill
from the $70-convenience-charge-to-process-the-convenience-charge dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Elisabeth Rosenthal writes in the NY Times that she has spent the past six months trying to figure out a medical bill for $225 that includes "Test codes: 105, 127, 164, to name a few. CPT codes: 87481, 87491, 87798 and others" and she really doesn't want to pay it until she understands what it's for. "At first, I left messages on the lab's billing office voice mail asking for an explanation. A few months ago, when someone finally called back, she said she could not tell me what the codes were for because that would violate patient privacy. After I pointed out that I was the patient in question, she said, politely: 'I'm sorry, this is what I'm told, and I don't want to lose my job.'" Bills variously use CPT, HCPCS or ICD-9 codes. Some have abbreviations and scientific terms that you need a medical dictionary or a graduate degree to comprehend. Some have no information at all. A Seattle resident received a $45,000 hospital bill with the explanation "miscellaneous."

So what's the problem? "Medical bills and explanation of benefits are undecipherable and incomprehensible even for experts to understand, and the law is very forgiving about that," says Mark Hall. "We've not seen a lot of pressure to standardize medical billing, but there's certainly a need." Hospitals and medical clinics say that detailed bills are simply too complicated for patients and that they provide the information required by insurers. But with rising copays and deductibles, patients are shouldering an increasing burden. One recent study found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors. An audit by Equifax found that hospital bills totaling more than $10,000 contained an average error of $1,300. "There are no industry standards with regards to what information a patient should receive regarding their bill," says Cyndee Weston, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association. "The software industry has pretty much decided what information patients should receive, and to my knowledge, they have not had any stakeholder input. That would certainly be a worthwhile project for our industry."
Transportation

Self-Driving Big Rigs Become a Reality 172

Posted by Soulskill
from the life-imitates-maximum-overdrive dept.
drinkypoo writes: We've been discussing the importance of automating over-the-road trucking here on Slashdot whenever self-driving vehicles come up in conversation. Jalopnik reports that the Freightliner "Inspiration Truck" will be the first autonomous commercial truck to drive on American roads. It's been given the green light to start testing its self-driving technology on the roads of Nevada. A human will be present at the wheel at all times, and will take control whenever the truck is in more populated areas. "Given a big trucks' long stopping distances and limited maneuverability, driving one requires the ability to correctly predict what's going to happen far out ahead. That requires foresight and intuition that are difficult to program into computers."
Government

Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the gee-that's-a-shame dept.
schwit1 writes with news that political support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is drying up because of the secrecy involved in developing it. Members of Congress can read the bill if they want, but they need to be located in a single room within the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center, and they can't have their staff with them. They can't have a copy, they can't take notes, and they can only view one section at a time. And they're monitored while they read it. Unsurprisingly, this is souring many members of Congress on the controversial trade agreement.

"Administration aides say they can’t make the details public because the negotiations are still going on with multiple countries at once; if for example, Vietnam knew what the American bottom line was with Japan, that might drive them to change their own terms. Trade might not seem like a national security issue, they say, but it is (and foreign governments regularly try to hack their way in to American trade deliberations)."
Canada

Canadian Town Outlaws Online Insults To Police and Officials 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-canadians-are-so-rude dept.
Pig Hogger writes: The Canadian town of Granby, Québec, just strengthened its municipal bylaw that prohibits insulting police officers and town officials by extending its "jurisdiction" to online postings. Fines range from $100 to $1,000. The town's mayor said, "In my opinion, if I threaten you via my keyboard, it's as though I am making that threat right in front of you. For me, it's the same thing." Critics worry about the implications for freedom of speech, and wonder why police and officials should get protection an average citizen does not.
Businesses

Uber Forced Out of Kansas 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the click-your-heels dept.
mpicpp sends news that Uber has been forced to leave Kansas. The company says a bill pushed through the state legislature (SB117) makes it impossible for the company to operate there. The bill had been vetoed by Kansas governor Sam Brownback, but lawmakers secured enough votes to override it. "The measure requires drivers for ride-hailing companies to undergo background checks through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and hold additional auto insurance coverage for the period in which they have turned on the mobile app that connects them to riders."
Space

As Hubble Breaks a Distance Record, We Learn Its True Limits 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-can't-find-my-sunglasses dept.
StartsWithABang writes: You might think that, when it comes to finding the most distant objects in the Universe, all we need is a good telescope, to leave the shutter open, and wait. As we accumulate more and more photons, we're bound to find the most distant, faint objects out there. Sure, Hubble just broke its own cosmic distance record, but it's certainly not the most distant. Thinking so misses an important fact: the Universe is expanding! And with that expansion, the wavelength of the light we can see gets redshifted. Ultraviolet light winds up in the infrared, infrared light winds up in the microwave, and the most distant galaxies that are out there are invisible, even to Hubble. Here are Hubble's limits, and how the James Webb Space Telescope will overcome them.
Privacy

French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the privacy-surrenders dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: Thanks to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and other instances of terrorism, the French legislature has voted 438 to 86 in favor of the "Intelligence Service Bill," essentially a French version of the Patriot Act. It awards the French intelligence services sweeping powers to tap and intercept any kind of digital correspondence, including phone conversations, emails, and social media.

The bill decrees that hosting providers and Internet service providers in France must be equipped with a "black box" that can retain all digital communications from customers. "The new law would create a 13-member National Commission to Control Intelligence Techniques, which would be made up of six magistrates from the Council of State and the Court of Appeals, three representatives of the National Assembly, three senators from the upper house of Parliament and a technical expert. ... The only judicial oversight is a provision that allows the commission to lodge a complaint with the Council of State, but lawyers are doubtful that it could be convened on a routine basis." We previously discussed news that ISPs may leave France in protest if the bill was passed. Now we'll know shortly if those ISPs will live up to their word.
United Kingdom

Visualizations of Rebel Alliances In the UK Government 32

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-a-member-of-the-house-of-commons-and-a-traitor dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I just published an article and thought it might be of interest to Slashdot readers. It's about a collection visualizations I created based on public voting data from The Public Whip project, which collects and normalizes voting data from the UK House of Commons. The visualizations show relationships between MPs, with a focus on agreement rates, and more interestingly — rebellion.