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+ - Smithsonian Museum Digitizes Entire Collection, Plans Release on New Year's Day

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art, will release their entire collections online Jan. 1, 2015, providing unprecedented access to one of the world’s most important holdings of Asian and American art. The vast majority of the 40,000 artworks have never before been seen by the public, and more than 90 percent of the images will be in high resolution and without copyright restrictions for noncommercial use. The Freer and Sackler galleries are the first Smithsonian and the only Asian art museums to digitize and release their entire collections, and in so doing join just a handful of museums in the U.S. The release is the result of a massive staff effort to photograph and create digital records for its objects, requiring almost 6,000 staff hours in the past year alone and resulting in more than 10 terabytes of data and 50,000 images. The galleries also hosted the Smithsonian’s Rapid Capture Pilot Project, an emerging method of quickly and efficiently digitizing vast numbers of smaller objects."

+ - The shale boom won't stop climate change; it may make it worse. ->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Energy expert H-Holger Rogner walks through the realities of the shale-gas boom, the 'game-changer' that has brought about a drop in energy prices and greatly reduced carbon emissions. But despite the positive impact on carbon emissions, Rogner points out that the cheap gas brought about by fracking shale may already be affecting investments into renewable energy, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency by offering more attractive investment opportunities: 'At today’s prices of $4 to $5 per million British thermal units, gas-fired electricity holds a definite competitive advantage over new nuclear construction and unsubsidized renewables.' But natural gas is still a fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide. 'A much higher share of natural gas in the energy mix would eventually raise emissions again, especially if gas not only displaces coal but also non-fossil energy sources. Moreover, methane, the chief component of natural gas, is itself a heat-trapping greenhouse gas with 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide. If total methane leakage—from drilling through end use—is greater than about 4 percent, that could negate any climate benefits of switching from coal and oil to gas.' Terrific information."
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+ - Canadian Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Warrantless Cellphone Searches->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "In a surprising decision, a split Supreme Court of Canada ruled this morning that police can search cellphones without a warrant incident to an arrest. The majority established some conditions, but ultimately ruled that it could navigate the privacy balance by establishing some safeguards with the practice. Michael Geist notes that a strongly worded dissent disagreed, emphasizing the privacy implications of access to cellphones and the need for judicial pre-authorization as the best method of addressing the privacy implications. The U.S. Supreme Court's June 2014 decision in Riley addressed similar issues and ruled that a warrant is needed to search a phone."
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+ - Cloak and Dagger from Tripoli: How Libya Gave Up its WMD->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "This is the first installment of a five-part series exploring the painstaking diplomacy and intelligence efforts that led Libya and its quixotic leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi, to relinquish that country's weapons of mass destruction. Author William Tobey is a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He was most recently deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration, managing the US government’s largest program to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism by detecting, securing, and disposing of dangerous nuclear material. A fascinating story."
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+ - Shale: Gas, Oil...and Nuclear Waste?-> 1

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Chris Neuzil is a senior scientist with the National Research Program of the US Geological Survey who thinks the qualities of shale make it the perfect rock in which to safely and permanently house high-level nuclear waste. Given the recent discovery that water is much more of an issue than originally thought for the tuff rock at Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Utah, the unique qualities of shale, along with its ubiquitous presence in the US, could make shale rock a better choice for the 70,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel currently sitting above ground at nuclear power facilities throughout the country. France, Switzerland, and Belgium are all considering repositories in shale, but it hasn't been studied much in the US. 'Shale is the only rock type likely to house high-level nuclear waste in other countries that has never been seriously considered by the US high-level waste program. The uncertain future of Yucca Mountain places plans for spent nuclear fuel in the United States at a crossroads. It is an opportunity to include shale in a truly comprehensive examination of disposal options.'"
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+ - Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering on 2012 Election 1

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing a political advantage for a political party by manipulating district boundaries to concentrate all your opponents votes in a few districts while keeping your party's supporters as a majority in the remaining districts. For example, in North Carolina in 2012 Republicans ended up winning nine out of 13 congressional seats even though more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans statewide. Now Jessica Jones reports that researchers at Duke are studying the mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. Mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a series of district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders. Their work was governed by two principles of redistricting: a federal rule requires each district have roughly the same population and a state rule requires congressional districts to be compact. Using those principles as a guide, they created a mathematical algorithm to randomly redraw the boundaries of the state’s 13 congressional districts. "We just used the actual vote counts from 2012 and just retabulated them under the different districtings," says Vaughn. "”If someone voted for a particular candidate in the 2012 election and one of our redrawn maps assigned where they live to a new congressional district, we assumed that they would still vote for the same political party."

The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. "If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don't end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started," says Mattingly. But North Carolina State Senator Bob Rucho is unimpressed. "I'm saying these maps aren't gerrymandered," says Rucho. "It was a matter of what the candidates actually was able to tell the voters and if the voters agreed with them. Why would you call that uncompetitive?""

+ - We are in the midst of the worst Ebola outbreak in human history->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "After four decades of confining Ebola outbreaks to small areas, experts acknowledged in an October 9 New England Journal of Medicine article that “we were wrong” about the scope of the current situation. At the present transmission rate, the number of Ebola cases in West Africa doubles every two to three weeks. Early diagnosis is the key to controlling the epidemic, but that's far easier said than done: 'And there are several complicating factors. For one thing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 60 percent of all Ebola patients remain undiagnosed in their communities.' A transmission rate below 1 is necessary to keep the outbreak under control (instead of the current rate of 1.5 to 2), and the authors detail what's in the works to help achieve early detection, which is crucial to reducing the current transmission rate."
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+ - Why is the cost of generic drugs surging?->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Excellent explanation by Jeremy Green: 'What explains the sudden spike in generic drug prices? To answer that question, it’s important to understand how generic drugs emerged as a private sector solution to the public health problem of pharmaceutical access, and why our assumptions about the competitive nature of the generic drug sector may be unfounded. It turns out we may have put too much faith in the competitive nature of the generic drug sector, and that thanks to a largely invisible group of middlemen, it isn’t nearly the free market that we imagined.' Worth reading in full."
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+ - Mahdism: How does religion really influence Iranian nuclear policy?->

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Many observers of American Christianity are familiar with the notion of an "end times" and a return of Jesus to earth. More radical believers of this notion have welcomed climate change, nuclear war, and other threats to mankind because, to them, this chaos and destruction fulfills Biblical prophecy. Islam has its own version: Mahdism: 'Shia Muslims believe that the Mahdi, born in the ninth century and also known as the Hidden Imam or the Twelfth Imam, is the Prophet Mohammed’s last legitimate successor. They believe that he has gone into occultation—the state of being blocked from view—but will eventually return...reappear along with Christ...restore peace and justice, saving the world from the chaos into which it would otherwise descend.' In this article, Ariane Tabatabai discusses the idea that Mahdism informs Iran's public policy, especially its nuclear policy, providing hardliners with an excuse to hasten the Mahdi's return. Terrific analysis."
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+ - Head of FCC Proposes Increasing Internet School Fund

Submitted by Rambo Tribble
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The commissioners at the FCC are expected to vote, on December 11, on a proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler to increase the funding for the nation's largest educational technology subsidy program, E-Rate, by 62 percent. The proposal is intended to be paid for by higher fees on phone service. The increased cost is pegged at $1.92 a year, per telephone line. Support for the proposal, or lack thereof, appears to be falling along partisan lines. To quote Wheeler, however, "Almost two-thirds of American schools cannot appropriately connect their students to the 21st century." National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García adds, "Today's announcement will go a long way to help level the digital playing field for our country's students and ensuring equity.""

+ - How Medical Care Is Being Corrupted in the US 1

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Pamela Hartzband And Jerome Groopman write in an op-ed in the NYT that hidden financial forces are beginning to corrupt medical care in the US and undermine the bond of trust between doctors and patients because insurers, hospital networks and regulatory groups have put in place rewards and punishments that can powerfully influence your doctor’s decisions. "For example, doctors are rewarded for keeping their patients’ cholesterol and blood pressure below certain target levels. For some patients, this is good medicine, but for others the benefits may not outweigh the risks. Treatment with drugs such as statins can cause significant side effects, including muscle pain and increased risk of diabetes," write the authors. "Physicians who meet their designated targets are not only rewarded with a bonus from the insurer but are also given high ratings on insurer websites. Physicians who deviate from such metrics are financially penalized through lower payments and are publicly shamed, listed on insurer websites in a lower tier."

According to Hartzband and Groopman these measures are clearly designed to coerce physicians to comply with the metrics. Thus doctors may feel pressured to withhold treatment that they feel is required or feel forced to recommend treatment whose risks may outweigh benefits. Some insurers are offering a positive financial incentive directly to physicians to use specific medications. For example, WellPoint, the largest for-profit managed health care company in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, recently outlined designated treatment pathways for cancer and announced that it would pay physicians an incentive of $350 per month per patient treated on the designated pathway (PDF). The authors propose a public website to reveal the hidden coercive forces that may specify treatments and limit choices through pressures on the doctor. "Medical care is not just another marketplace commodity. Physicians should never have an incentive to override the best interests of their patients.""

+ - Fish tagged for research become lunch for gray seals->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When scientists slap an acoustic tag on a fish, they may be inadvertently helping seals find their next meal. The tags, rods a few centimeters long that give off a ping that can be detected from up to a kilometer away, are often used to follow fish for studies on their migration, hunting, or survival rates. Researchers working with 10 gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) who were captive for a year have now reported that the animals—including the female seal pictured above, named Janice—can learn to associate the pings with food. If the findings hold true in the wild, the authors warn, they could skew the results of studies trying to analyze fish survival rates or predation."
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+ - What if Congress Votes a Pipeline and Nobody Comes?

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Tim Mullaney reports at CNBC that as Congress rushes to approve the long-delayed Keystone XL pipeline, it is questionable whether or not the controversial pipeline will make as much of a difference as proponents expect. The so-called "heavy oil" extracted from sand in Alberta, which the proposed pipeline would carry to Nebraska, en route to refineries on the Gulf Coast, will cost between $85 and $110 to produce, depending on which drilling technology is used, according to a report in July by the Canadian Energy Research Institute, a nonprofit whose work is often cited by Keystone proponents. But crude oil futures now hover near four-year lows as sustained concerns over a glut in world markets continued to weigh heavily on prices and oil ministers from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait resisted calls to lower production to prevent further price declines. CERI' s analysis squares with the views of other experts, who have pointed to low prices as a sign that economic facts, at least for now, don't match political rhetoric coming from Washington, where Keystone has been a goal for both Republicans and for Senate Democrats from oil-producing states. "Anything not under construction [is] at risk of being delayed or canceled altogether," says Dinara Millington

The situation is broadly similar to that faced by an earlier proposal to build a natural-gas pipeline from Alaska to the Midwest says energy economist Chris Lafakis. After being approved by then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in 2007, the pipeline was never built, because newly discovered supplies of gas in the Lower 48 states pushed gas prices down by about two-thirds. "If oil were to stay as cheap as it is right now," says Lafakis, "you might very well get that Palin pipeline scenario.""

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