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Dark Cloud Over Good Works of Gates Foundation 325

theodp writes "Justice Eta, a Nigerian infant, has an ink spot on his tiny thumb to show he was immunized against polio and measles thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But Justice still faces respiratory trouble, which locals call 'the cough' and blame on fumes and soot spewing from 300-foot flames at a nearby oil plant owned by Itallian energy giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Part one of an L.A. Times investigation reports that the world's largest philanthropy pours money into investments that are hurting many of the people its grants aim to help. With the exception of tobacco companies, the foundation's asset managers do not avoid investments in firms whose activities conflict with the mission to do good."

Space Plane to Offer 2 Hour Flight around the World 214

secretsather writes "Two hour flights to the other side of the world may seem like a scene from a science fiction movie; but the technology is in place, and a plane that can do just that is currently in development. While it looks like a scene from a flight simulator, the Astrox space plane is the real deal, and the Astrox Corporation says it could revolutionize the transportation industry. Traveling as fast as Mach 25 with at least 30 minutes of space shuttle-like views while in orbit is the highlight of this plane, and The Astrox Corporation, along with their partners, are claiming to have finally overcome their largest problem, mixing fuel."

Newest Energy Source — Pond Scum 289

An anonymous reader writes to tell us that several start up companies include one from MIT are looking at using (both natural and engineered) algae as source of bio-fuel. Since algae grows quickly and absorbs green house gases. From the article "Soybeans can give you 50 to 60 gallons of oil an acre compared to 75 to 125 gallons for canola, but algae is almost limitless because it grows so fast, so potentially you could get 10,000 gallons per acre."
The Internet

Top Q&A Sites Reviewed 79

prostoalex writes "MIT Technology Review runs a real-world test of top question and answer sites — AnswerBag, Amazon Askville, MSN Live Q&A, Wondir, Yahoo! Answers and Yedda. The sites are rated on the features and originality as well as availability of answers to the journalist's three questions: 'First, I searched each site's archive for existing answers to the question "Is there any truth to the five-second rule?" (I meant the rule about not eating food after it's been on the floor for more than five seconds, not the basketball rule about holding.) Second, I posted the same two original questions at each site: "Why did the Mormons settle in Utah?" and "What is the best way to make a grilled cheese sandwich?" The first question called for factual, historical answers, while the second simply invited people to share their favorite sandwich-making methods and recipes." The results might be surprising to some readers. While it's generally believed that small startups are better at building efficient solutions, the leaders of the MIT Technology Review are all sites built by Internet giants — Yahoo! Answers, MSN Live Q&A and Amazon Askville all ranked above the competing sites."

Piracy Outstripping Legal Video Sales? 294

b.burl writes to tell us a recently released report by the NDP Group supports the horror stories being fed to us by studio execs, but not quite in the way those execs would have you believe. The study shows a continued rise in video piracy compared to legal video sales. The largest target continues to be adult oriented content and TV shows, with only an estimated 5 percent being mainstream movie content. From the article: "[A]mong U.S. households with members who regularly use the Internet, 8 percent (six million households) downloaded at least one digital video file (10MB or larger) from a P2P service for free in the third quarter of 2006. Nearly 60 percent of video files downloaded from P2P sites were adult-film content, while 20 percent was TV show content and 5 percent was mainstream movie content."

Computer Characters Tortured for Science 306

Rob Carr writes "Considered unethical to ever perform again with humans, researcher Mel Slater recreated the Milgram experiment in a immersive virtual environment. Subjects (some of whom could see and hear the computerized woman, others who were only able to read text messages from her) were told that they were interacting with a computer character and told to give increasingly powerful electric shocks when wrong answers were given or the 'woman' took too long to respond. The computer program would correspondingly complain and beg as the 'shocks' were ramped up, falling apparently unconscious before the last shock. The skin conductance and electrocardiograms of the subjects were monitored. Even though the subjects knew they were only 'shocking' a computer program, their bodies reacted with increased stress responses. Several of the ones who could see and hear the woman stopped before reaching the 'lethal' voltage, and about half considered stopping the study. The full results of the experimental report can be read online at PLoS One. Already, some (like William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute) are asking whether even this sanitized experiment is ethical."

PayPal Launches Virtual Debit Card 212

IpSo_ writes "You can now use PayPal via a Virtual Debit Card when making online purchases anywhere MasterCard is accepted. Basically it generates a virtual card number each time you make a transaction online so you don't have to use your personal debit or credit card number. Will people be more comfortable making online purchases with this, or will it flop because its too much of an inconvenience?"

New Telescope Hunts for Earth Sized Planets 104

TENxOXR writes "The French-led Corot mission has taken off from Kazakhstan on a quest to find planets outside our Solar System. The space telescope will monitor about 120,000 stars for tiny dips in brightness that result from planets passing across their faces. The multinational mission will also study the stars directly to uncover more about their interior behavior."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Wired News 2006 Vaporware Awards 215

silentounce writes "Wired News has released the winners of its 9th annual Wired News Vaporware Awards. I won't list any of them in the summary because I don't want to spoil anyone's surprise. They have some interesting entries, one that is more a concept of a product than an actual product. I'm not sure how you can claim something is vaporware if it hasn't even been given a specific name or a developer yet, but apparently they think they can. "

Microsoft Bribing Bloggers With Laptops 308

Slinky writes "According to at least six bloggers, Microsoft has been sending out free top-of-the-line laptops pre-loaded with Vista as a 'no strings attached gifts'. This 'reward' for their hard work on covering tech in general is coincidentally right before the launch of Vista to consumers. To be clear, these weren't loans, they were gifts, and they were top-of-the-line Acer Ferrari laptops. Microsoft blogger Long Zheng broke the silence over the source of the freebies."

Microsoft Applies to Patent RSS in Vista 119

Cyvros wrote in with a link to Wired's Monkey Bites blog, which is featuring a post on Microsoft applying for a patent on RSS. As the article points out, this isn't as crazy as it seems at first blush. From the wording of the application, post author Scott Gilbertson interprets their move as a patent on RSS only within Vista and IE7. From the article: "The big mystery is what Microsoft is planning to do with the patents if they are awarded them. The sad state of patent affairs in the United States has led to several cases of Microsoft being sued for technologies they did arguably invent simply because some else owned a generic patent on them. Of course we have no way of knowing how Microsoft intends to use these patents if they are awarded them. They could represent a defensive move, but they could be offensive as well -- [self-described RSS inventor Dave] Winer may end up being correct. It would be nice to see Microsoft release some information on what they plan to do with these patents, but for now we'll just have to wait and see whether the US Patent and Trademark Office grants them."

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous