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Submission + - Japan falsified whale hunting data in 1960s, according to study (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: Like fishermen, whale hunters sometimes alter the details of their catch. In the 1960s, Soviet Union (USSR) whalers illegally killed almost 180,000 cetaceans, but reported taking far lower numbers. Now, it seems that Japanese whalers in the North Pacific also manipulated their numbers around this time, according to a new study. The finding, which comes as Japan is readying to hunt whales for what it says are research purposes, raises new concerns about the country’s current endeavors; it also may invalidate several past studies on whale demographics and conservation, the authors say.

Submission + - Want a law passed? Bribe your Senator!

schwit1 writes: A survey of the Senators who voted for the secret fast track trade legislation — whose language has still not been published for the public to read — has found that they all received huge donations in the past few months from businesses that support the legislation, while the law was being written and voted on.

Some were Democrats who held back until they got a lot of cash donations, then voted yes. Some were Republicans who took the money up front and then wrote the legislation. All told more than a million dollars in bribes were handed over to senators to guarantee their "yay" votes.

Submission + - Banks Conspire 2

Jim Sadler writes: I'll keep it short. Why do banks, charge cards and others have such lousy password software? My bank allows twenty letters or numbers but not all combinations of letters and numbers. Then on top of that one can not use symbols or ASCI symbols in ones password. Needless to say pass phrases are also banned. For example "JackandJillwentupthehilltofetch1394pounds of worms." would be very hard to crack and very easy to recall.
              I can't imagine why such passwords would be so hard to handle for financial institutions and they have everything in the world to lose from sloppy security. So just why, considering that these institutions complain of mega money being lost, do they not have a better password system? Do they somehow gain when money goes missing?

Submission + - Canadian Prime Minister to Music Lobby: Here's Your Copyright Term Extension (michaelgeist.ca)

An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings in the budget may have taken most copyright observers by surprise, but not the music industry. The extension will reduce competition, increase costs for consumers, and harm access to Canadian Heritage, but apparently all it took was a letter from the music industry lobby to the Prime Minister of Canada. Michael Geist reports on a letter sent by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the music lobby on the day the change was announced confirming that industry lobbying convinced him to extend the term of copyright without any public consultation or discussion.

Submission + - Verizon Tells Customer He Needs 75Mbps For Smoother Netflix Video (arstechnica.com) 1

An anonymous reader writes: Verizon recently told a customer that upgrading his 50Mbps service to 75 Mbps would result in smoother streaming of Netflix video. Of course, that's not true — Netflix streams at a rate of about 3.5 Mbps on average for Verizon's fiber service, so there's more than enough headroom either way. But this customer was an analyst for the online video industry, so he did some testing and snapped some screenshots for evidence. He fired up 10 concurrent streams of a Game of Thrones episode and found only 29Mbps of connection being used. This guy was savvy enough to see through Verizon's BS, but I'm sure there are millions of customers who wouldn't bat an eye at the statements they were making. The analyst "believes that the sales pitch he received is not just an isolated incident, since he got the same pitch from three sales reps over the phone and one online."

Submission + - German Court Rules Adblock Plus Is Legal

An anonymous reader writes: Following a four-month trial, a German court in Hamburg has ruled that the practice of blocking advertising is perfectly legitimate. Germany-based Eyeo, the company that owns Adblock Plus, has won a case against German publishers Zeit Online and Handelsblatt. These companies operate Zeit.de, Handelsblatt.com, and Wiwo.de. Their lawsuit, filed on December3, charged that Adblock Plus should not be allowed to block ads on their websites. While the decision is undoubtedly a big win for users today, it could also set a precedent for future lawsuits against Adblock Plus and any other tool that offers similar functions. The German court has essentially declared that users are legally allowed to control what happens on their screens and on their computers while they browse the Web.

Submission + - Denver TSA Screeners Manipulated System in order to Grope Men's Genitals (cbslocal.com)

McGruber writes: The CBS affiliate in Denver reports: "Two Transportation Security Administration screeners at Denver International Airport have been fired after they were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers."

According to law enforcement reports obtained during the CBS4 investigation, a male TSA screener told a female colleague in 2014 that he “gropes” male passengers who come through the screening area at DIA.

“He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”

Although the TSA learned of the accusation on Nov. 18, 2014 via an anonymous tip from one of the agency’s own employees, reports show that it would be nearly three months before anything was done.

Feed Techdirt: USPTO Demands EFF Censor Its Comments On Patentable Subject Matter (google.com)

As you know, last year the Supreme Court made a very important ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, in which it basically said that merely doing something on a general purpose computer didn't automatically make it patentable. This has resulted in many courts rejecting patents and the USPTO being less willing to issue patents, based on that guidance. The USPTO sought to push out new "guidance" to its examiners taking the ruling into account. Soon after the Alice ruling, it issued some "Preliminary Examination Instructions." However, it then issued the so-called 2014 Interim Guidance on Subject Matter Eligibility and sought public comment through March 16 of this year.

Plenty of folks did comment, including the EFF. However, the USPTO apparently was offended at parts of the EFF's comment submission, claiming that it was an "improper protest." In response, the EFF refiled the comment, but redacted the part that the USPTO didn't like. Here's what page 5 of the document on the USPTO site looks like: However, EFF also added the following footnote (footnote 8) on page 6:

On April 2, 2015, the PTO contacted EFF to request that we remove a portion of these comments on the basis that they constituted an improper “protest.” We respectfully disagree that our comments were a protest under 35 U.S.C. 122(c). Rather, our comments discussed a specific application to illustrate our broader points about the importance of applying Alice. Nevertheless, to ensure these comments are considered by the Office, we have redacted the relevant discussion in this revised version of our comments. Our original comments remain available to the public at: https://www.eff.org/files/2015/03/18/eff_comments_regarding_ interim_eligibility_guidance.pdf.
And, of course, if you go to that link, you get the full, unredacted version of the EFF's filing.

As you can see by the full filing, the EFF filing isn't some sort of improper protest. Rather it is a clear demonstration of how the USPTO does not appear to be living up to what the courts are saying in the wake of the Alice ruling. It is difficult to see what the USPTO was thinking in trying to silence the EFF's comment. It is beyond ludicrous on multiple levels. First, it suggests a skin so thin at the USPTO that you can see right through it. Second, it suggests that the USPTO doesn't want people to recognize that its guidance is problematic in light of what actual federal courts are saying. And, finally, it suggests (still) a complete lack of understanding of how the internet and freedom of expression works, thereby guaranteeing that the EFF's complete dismantling of the USPTO's guidelines will now get that much more attention...

Has anyone patented a method and system for self-inflicted shaming for being overly sensitive to someone pointing out your flaws?

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Submission + - The Milky Way May be 50 Percent Bigger Than Thought (discovery.com) 1

astroengine writes: A ring-like filament of stars wrapping around the Milky Way may actually belong to the galaxy itself, rippling above and below the relatively flat galactic plane. If so, that would expand the size of the known galaxy by 50 percent and raise intriguing questions about what caused the waves of stars. Scientists used data collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to reanalyze the brightness and distance of stars at the edge of the galaxy. They found that the fringe of the disk is puckered into ridges and grooves of stars, like corrugated cardboard. “It looks to me like maybe these patterns are following the spiral structure of the Milky Way, so they may be related,” astronomer Heidi Newberg, with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, told Discovery News.

Submission + - Sugar industry shaped NIH agenda on dental research (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: The sugar industry convinced the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) that studies that might persuade people to cut back on sugary foods should not be part of a national plan to fight childhood tooth decay, a new study of historical documents argues. The authors say the industry’s activities, which occurred more than 40 years ago, are reminiscent of the tobacco companies’ efforts to minimize the risks of smoking.

Submission + - Why Farmers Can't Repair Tractors (wired.com)

retroworks writes: First we had "planned obsolescence", the term coined by Vance Packard in 1960's bestseller "The Waste Makers". Next we had EULA agreements. Today, even farm tractor owners are not allowed to fix their agricultural equipment with wire and duct tape. Maker/Fixer Kyle Wiens of IFIXIT writes about trying to hack a neighbor's harvester, without success, in Wired News.

Submission + - DMCA Exemption Would Let Fans Run Abandoned Games (eff.org)

An anonymous reader writes: Games that rely on remote servers became the norm many years ago, and as those games age, it's becoming more and more common for the publisher to shut them down when they're no longer popular. This is a huge problem for the remaining fans of the games, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act forbids the kind of hacks and DRM circumvention that would be required for the players to host their own servers. Fortunately, the EFF and law student Kendra Albert are on the case. They've asked the Copyright Office for an exemption in the case of players who want to keep abandoned games alive. It's another important step in efforts to whittle away at overreaching copyright laws.

Submission + - Young people are 'lost generation' who can no longer fix gadgets... (telegraph.co.uk)

antdude writes: "Young people in Britain have become a lost generation who can no longer mend gadgets and appliances because they have grown up in a disposable world, the professor giving this year’s Royal Institution Christmas lectures has warned.

Danielle George, Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering, at the University of Manchester, claims that the under 40s expect everything to ‘just work’ and have no idea what to do when things go wrong..."

Submission + - Laws for thee but not for me.... (watchdog.org) 1

An anonymous reader writes: In a ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s top court found that a police officer who mistakenly interprets a law and pulls someone over hasn’t violated their Fourth Amendment rights.

If a police officer reasonably believes something is against the law, they are justified in initiating a traffic stop, says the U.S. Supreme Court. The problem? According to North Carolina traffic law, only one tail light needs to be functional. That means the initial stop, justified on these grounds, would have been illegal — and so would the seizure of the cocaine found in Heien’s car

“The result is a system in which “ignorance of the law is no excuse” for citizens facing conviction, but police can use their own ignorance about the law to their advantage,” notes the legal brief on the case by a coalition of civil rights organizations, including American Civil Liberties Union and Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank.

Although this was a traffic stop, imagine this applied to computer search & seizure. Suddenly, you could be facing "reasonable belief" that you committed a crime.

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that this will enable a Police State.

Submission + - Vinyl Record Pressing Plants Struggle to Keep Up With Demand

An anonymous reader writes: The WSJ reports that the revival of vinyl records, a several-year trend that many figured was a passing fad, has accelerated during 2014 with an astounding 49 percent sales increase over 2013 (line chart here). Some listeners think that vinyl reproduces sound better than digital, and some youngsters like the social experience of gathering around a turntable. The records are pressed at a handful of decades-old, labor-intensive factories that can't keep up with the demand; but since the increased sales still represent only about 2 percent of US music sales, there hasn't been a rush of capital investment to open new plants. Raw vinyl must now be imported to America from countries such as Thailand, since the last US supplier closed shop years ago. Meanwhile, an industry pro offers his take on the endless debate of audio differences between analog records and digital formats; it turns out there were reasons for limiting playing time on each side back in the day, apart from bands not having enough decent material.

Without life, Biology itself would be impossible.