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VW Officials Knew Since Last Year of Misleading Fuel Economy Claims ( 8

It's not just CO2 levels that Volkswagen manipulated; according to a wire story, Volkswagen officials knew at least a year ago that some of the company's officially-reported fuel-efficiency claims were overstated. From the linked article: Volkswagen's top executives knew a year ago that some of the company's cars were markedly less fuel efficient than had been officially stated, Sunday paper Bild am Sonntag reported, without specifying its sources. ... Months after becoming aware of excessive fuel consumption, former Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn decided this spring to pull one model off the market where the discrepancy was particularly pronounced, the Polo TDI BlueMotion, the paper cited sources close to Winterkorn as saying.

Israel Meets With Google and YouTube To Discuss Censoring Videos ( 141

An anonymous reader writes: Various sources report Israel's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely meeting with representatives of Google and YouTube to discuss censoring Palestinian videos believed to incite violence. Original aricle (in Hebrew) from Maariv The open question is how Google and Youtube will define "inciting violence." Currently, all foreign journalists in the Palestinian territories are required to register with the Israeli military, and all footage must be approved through the Israeli Military Censor's office before being released. However, according to the article in alternet individual Palestinians have been uploading videos showing violence by Israeli soldiers, including execution-style killings, and highlighting the living conditions in the territories, which Israeli authorities consider inflammatory.

Contractors or Not, Seattle Uber Drivers Might Get Collective Bargaining 60

The Seattle Times reports on a development in Seattle that might have implications for other cities with contentious relationships with transportation coordinating services like Uber. Seattle councilman Mike O'Brien has proposed a system under which drivers for Lyft, Uber, and similar companies would be represented in collective bargaining agreements with the companies they do work for. The proposal would require taxi companies, for-hire vehicle companies and app-based ride-dispatch companies, including Uber and Lyft, to negotiate agreements with drivers on issues such as payment and working conditions. The approach would be novel because of the drivers’ employment status. The National Labor Relations Act gives employees, but not independent contractors, the right to bargain as a union. ... Under O’Brien’s plan, a nonprofit organization would need to show support from a majority of a company’s drivers to be designated by the city as their bargaining representative. The organization would use a list of drivers provided by the company.

Amazon Reveals New Delivery Drone Design With Range of 15 Miles ( 133

reifman writes: Amazon released new video of its futuristic drones (honestly, the thought of them buzzing around is the only thing that makes me want to join the NRA) but there's some hopefulness here. Prime Air vehicles will take advantage of sophisticated 'sense and avoid' technology, as well as a high degree of automation, to safely operate beyond the line of sight to distances of 10 miles or more. 'It looks like science fiction, but it's real: One day, seeing Prime Air vehicles will be as normal as seeing mail trucks on the road.' Amazon said its drones fly under 400 feet and weigh less than 55 pounds.

Purdue Experiments With Income-Contingent Student Loans 152 writes: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel writes in the Washington Post that Purdue University is partnering with Vemo Education, a Reston-based financial services firm, to create income-share agreements, or ISAs, that its students can tap to pay for tuition, room and board. In return, students would pay a percentage of their earnings after graduation for a set number of years, replenishing the fund for future investments. Purdue president Mitch Daniels calls the contracts a constructive addition to today's government loan programs and perhaps the only option for students and families who have low credit ratings and extra financial need. "From the student's standpoint, ISAs assure a manageable payback amount, never more than the agreed portion of their incomes. Best of all, they shift the risk of career shortcomings from student to investor: If the graduate earns less than expected, it is the investors who are disappointed; if the student decides to go off to find himself in Nepal instead of working, the loss is entirely on the funding providers, who will presumably price that risk accordingly when offering their terms. This is true "debt-free" college."

However some observers worry that students pursuing profitable degrees in engineering or business would get better repayment terms than those studying to become nurses or teachers. "Income share agreements have the potential to create another option for students looking to pay for college while seeking assurances they will not be overwhelmed by future payments," says Robert Kelchen. "However, given the current generosity of federal income-based repayment programs and the likely hesitation of those who expect six-figure salaries to sign away a percentage of their income for years to come, the market for these programs may be somewhat limited."

Facebook Expands Parental Leave Policy For All Employees Globally ( 94

Reuters reports that Mark Zuckerberg's not the only Facebook employee who will enjoy a nice chunk of time off to spend with a new baby; the company is expanding its parental leave policy (and posting on Facebook about it). The benefit includes up to four months of paid leave, to all full-time employees, including those outside the U.S., regardless of sex, within a new child's first year. That means that new parents of either sex will be allowed to take a longer absence; previously, non-U.S. employees who were not primary caregivers were granted four weeks of leave. From the Reuters story: [Facebook HR head Lori Matloff] Goler said the new policy will primarily help new fathers and employees in same-sex relationships outside the United States, noting that it will not change maternity leave already available to employees worldwide. ... Technology companies in Silicon Valley have been rushing to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits to help recruit and retain employees. Many high-tech workers, however, do not take advantage of such benefits for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.

Ethics: A Good Reason To Sit Further Away From Your Boss ( 69

schwit1 writes to point out an interesting finding about ethics in the workplace, but one that might not surprise anyone in the vast majority of workplaces: namely, that sitting far from your boss has some important advantages when it comes to stopping the spread of unethical behavior; ethics are a chief focus of researcher Gijs van Houwelingen . The research, published in the Journal of Management, sought to find out "how spatial distance between higher and lower management" affects the spread of behaviour and fair procedures in the work place.

"Distance is a very useful tool that can be used to stop negative behaviours from spreading through an organization,... It creates the freedom to make up your own mind."


Cortana Coming To iOS, For 2000 Beta Testers ( 27

TechCrunch, InformationWeek, PC World, and other sources report that Microsoft's voice-recognition based personal assistant app Cortana is coming to iOS for a small group of beta testers. From TechCrunch: According to the description that accompanies the test build of Cortana for iOS, Microsoft explains how the assistant can help Windows users with iPhones connect the two platforms. For example, Microsoft suggests how you can set reminders on your PC – like a reminder to pick up milk on the way home – then be notified via your iPhone when you’re on the road. ... Testers report that the beta build is being distributed by Apple’s TestFlight. As one blogger and earlier tester points out that could mean only a small number of testers will be brought on initially, given TestFlight’s limitation of 2,000 testers per application. That may also explain why a good many who signed up for Cortana’s beta are saying that have still yet to receive their invite at this time. (A staged rollout is another possibility.)

Canadian, UK Law Professors Condemn Space Mining Provisions of Commercial Space Act ( 170

MarkWhittington writes: The Commercial Space Launch Act, which includes provisions allowing American companies the right to keep resources that they mine in space, was recently signed into law by President Barack Obama. While the act has been hailed as groundbreaking in the United States, the space mining title has gotten an angry reaction overseas. In an article in Science Alert, Gbenga Oduntan, Senior Lecturer in International Commercial Law, University of Kent, condemned the space mining provisions as environmentally risky and a violation of international law. Ram Jakhu, a professor at Canada's McGill University's Institute of air and space law, adds that space mining is a violation of the Outer Space Treaty and should not be allowed.

Swedish Court Says ISPs Can't Be Forced To Block Pirate Bay 19

The Next Web reports that a district court in Sweden has ruled that it cannot simply force ISPs to block The Pirate Bay, despite its role in large-scale copyright violation. A coalition of copyright holders including Sony and a group representing the Swedish film industry wanted the court to force Swedish ISP Bredbandsbolaget to curtail access, as courts have done in various cases around the world. The court found that Bredbandsbolaget couldn’t be held responsible for the copyright infringement of its customers’ actions while using the service as it doesn’t constitute a crime under Swedish law, according to the report. As such, it’s also not liable for any of the fines. While it could still be overturned by a higher authority appeals court, the group representing the copyright holders will have to pay the ISPs legal costs thus far, which is more than $150,000 according to TorrentFreak. (And here's TorrentFreak's report.) Update: 11/29 15:55 GMT by T : Oops -- sorry, we've mentioned this once already.

New Type of 'Flow Battery' Can Store 10 Times the Energy of the Next Best Device ( 53

sciencehabit writes: Industrial-scale batteries, known as flow batteries, could one day usher in widespread use of renewable energy—but only if the devices can store large amounts of energy cheaply and feed it to the grid when the sun isn't shining and the winds are calm. That's something conventional flow batteries can't do. Now, researchers report that they've created a novel type of flow battery that uses lithium ion technology—the sort used to power laptops—to store about 10 times as much energy as the most common flow batteries on the market. With a few improvements, the new batteries could make a major impact on the way we store and deliver energy. The research, from the National University of Singapore, has one big flaw in particular: speed. It's 'very innovative' work, says Michael Aziz, a flow battery expert at Harvard University. But he adds that even though the novel battery has a high energy density, the rate at which it delivers that power is 10,000 times slower than conventional flow batteries, far too slow for most applications. Wang and his colleagues acknowledge the limitation, but they say they should be able to improve the delivery rate with further improvements to the membrane and the charge-ferrying redox mediators.

Driverless Cars Will Compete -- But Only With Each Other -- In Formula E Races 37

Formula E racing pits single-seat electric cars against each other in high-speed track competition, but the cars -- aside from their powertrain -- are conventional enough, complete with a steering wheel and a human at the wheel. Now, though, the Formula E series will also incorporate self-driving cars. From the article: Ten teams, each with two cars, will square off against each other in hour-long races on the same circuits that the Formula E cars will hurtle around. The cars will be the same as the next in order to get the teams’ developers to focus on creating better algorithms and artificial intelligence to win. It takes inspiration from how the Formula E teams were required to run the same cars in the event’s debut season, which meant there was more focus on the development of battery technology.

Pursuit of Slenderness May Mean No More Headphone Jack In iPhone 7 ( 327

An intriguing rumor reported by PC Mag (and initially reported in this Japanese blog) holds that Apple may drop from its iPhone 7 the standard mini-jack plug on the phone, in favor of Bluetooth and Lightning connectors. From PC Mag's article: The big question is just how such a move might affect all the other headphones one can buy, as well as the other devices Apple makes. While we can envision some manufacturers making iPhone-exclusive variants of their headphones, we doubt that Apple's potential decision to chop out the headphone jack is going to suddenly make for a market full of Lightning-only headphones and earbuds. There are, after all, plenty of non-iPhone devices that still use the 3.5mm connection. And, of course, you could just pair any ol' pair of Bluetooth headphones or earbuds with the iPhone 7.

2 Planets Can Share the Same Orbit, In 3 Different Ways 61

StartsWithABang writes: One of the most important characteristics of a planet, at least according to the IAU definition, is that it clear its orbit of all other bodies. But if we allowed for a special caveat — the possibility of two similarly-sized objects sharing the same orbit — could we have a stable configuration where that occurred? Surprisingly, not only is the answer yes, but there are three ways to do it: to have one at the L4/L5 Lagrange point of the other, to have a close-orbiting binary planet, or to have orbit-swapping worlds, where they periodically change spots with one another. Unbelievably, our Solar System has a history of all three!

Pwned Barbies Spying On Children? Toytalk CEO Downplays Hacking Reports ( 81

McGruber writes: Earlier this year Mattel unveiled "Hello Barbie," a $74.99 wi-fi equipped interactive doll. Users press a button on Barbie's belt to start a conversation and the recorded audio is processed over the internet so that the doll can respond appropriately. The doll also remembers the user's likes and dislikes.

Now Security Researcher Matt Jakubowski claims that he has managed to hack the Hello Barbie system to extract wi-fi network names, account IDs and MP3 files, which could be used to track down someone's home. "You can take that information and find out a person's house or business. It's just a matter of time until we are able to replace their servers with ours and have her say anything we want," Jakubowski warned. Mattel partnered with ToyTalk to develop "Hello Barbie." ToyTalk CEO Oren Jacob said: "An enthusiastic researcher has reported finding some device data and called that a hack. While the path that the researcher used to find that data is not obvious and not user-friendly, it is important to note that all that information was already directly available to Hello Barbie customers through the Hello Barbie Companion App. No user data, no Barbie content, and no major security or privacy protections have been compromised to our knowledge." A petition by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood asking Mattel to drop the doll has already been signed by over 6,000 people.

NOTE: The original reporting of this hack appears to have been this NBC-Chicago newscast.