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Earth

Officials Sue Couple Who Removed Their Lawn 819

Posted by kdawson
from the revenge-of-the-lawn dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that Orange County officials are locked in a legal battle with a couple accused of violating city ordinances for replacing the grass on their lawn with wood chips and drought-tolerant plants, reducing their water usage from 299,221 gallons in 2007 to 58,348 gallons in 2009. The dispute began two years ago, when Quan and Angelina Ha tore out the grass in their front yard. In drought-plagued Southern California, the couple said, the lush grass had been soaking up tens of thousands of gallons of water — and hundreds of dollars — each year. 'We've got a newborn, so we want to start worrying about her future,' said Quan Ha, an information technology manager for Kelley Blue Book. But city officials told the Has they were violating several city laws that require that 40% of residential yards to be landscaped predominantly with live plants. Last summer, the couple tried to appease the city by building a fence around the yard and planting drought-tolerant greenery — lavender, rosemary, horsetail, and pittosporum, among others. But according to the city, their landscaping still did not comply with city standards. At the end of January, the Has received a letter saying they had been charged with a misdemeanor violation and must appear in court. The couple could face a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for their grass-free, eco-friendly landscaping scheme. 'It's just funny that we pay our taxes to the city and the city is now prosecuting us with our own money,' says Quan Ha."
Medicine

Gates Foundation Funds "Altruistic Vaccine" 259

Posted by samzenpus
from the needles-with-a-heart dept.
QuantumG writes "The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Queensland, Australia to develop a vaccine against dengue fever, a disease spread by mosquitoes. Unlike other vaccines, the 'altruistic vaccine' doesn't specifically protect the individual being bitten, but instead protects the community by stopping the transmission of the pathogen from one susceptible individual to another. The hope is to do this by effectively making their blood poisonous to mosquitoes, either killing them or at least preventing them from feeding on other individuals. Professor Paul Young explained how his work fell outside current scientific traditions and might lead to significant advances in global health — he said he could envision the vaccine being used around the world within 10 years, and it would be designed to be cheap and easy to implement."
It's funny.  Laugh.

The Pirate Bay Seeks Interesting Route To "Pay" Fine 545

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the crowd-sourced dept.
Drivintin is one of many who have written to tell us about how The Pirate Bay has taken an interesting approach to the 30 million SEK fine levied in their recent court case (which they said they wont pay). "The bill inspired anakata to devise a plan involving sending money to Danowsky's law firm, but not to pay the fine of course which they say will never be paid. Anakata's clever plan is called internet-avgift, internet-fee in English. Anakata encourages all Internet users to pay extremely small sums around 1 SEK (0.13 USD) to Danowsky's law firm, which represented the music companies at the Pirate Bay trial. The music companies will not benefit from this, instead it will cost them money to handle and process all the money."
Businesses

+ - The EU Strikes Back

Submitted by Anarchduke
Anarchduke (1551707) writes "The European Union has decided to find Intel anti-competitive and generally a giant corporate douchebag in that they illegally paid manufacturers to scrap or delay implementation of AMD chips in their product offerings. They also paid to make manufacturers stick to ratio of their chips versus AMD chips in their systems. Lenovo Notebooks, for example, were to have only Intel CPUs in them, while NEC was told it could have up to 20% of its desktop and notebook offerings contain competitor chips.

Previous infractions by Intel include giving illegal rebates to computer makers back in 2007 and paying retailers not to sell AMD based computer systems.

The only question I would ask is which company is the bigger bastard, Intel or Microsoft."
Republicans

+ - SPAM: Open Source textbooks for California

Submitted by T-1000
T-1000 (1461143) writes "The governor of California has launched a new initiative to compile open source textbooks for the state. He hopes that the plan will help cut costs and improve the quality of education. The effort seems very promising, but the state's complex standards and arduous textbook evaluation process will pose major challenges."
Link to Original Source
Privacy

Rapidshare Divulges Uploader Information 281

Posted by kdawson
from the thanks-for-sharing dept.
Gorgonzolanoid notes a post on TorrentFreak reporting that the German Rapidshare is divulging uploader information to rights holders. Record labels are apparently making creative use of "paragraph 101" of German copyright law, which gives them a streamlined process to ask a court to order disclosure of information such as an IP address. "In Germany, the file-hosting service Rapidshare has handed over the personal details of alleged copyright infringers to several major record labels. The information is used to pursue legal action against the Rapidshare users and at least one alleged uploader saw his house raided."
Biotech

Cosmetic Neurology 369

Posted by kdawson
from the we-have-a-pill-for-that dept.
The New Yorker has a long piece examining the growing trend of healthy people, not diagnosed with any mental condition, taking drugs that enhance mental functioning, including Adderall and Provigil. The profiles include a Harvard student, a professional poker player, a number of brain researchers, and a self-described transhumanist. "Zack [Lynch]... has a book being published this summer, called 'The Neuro Revolution'... In coming years, he said, scientists will understand the brain better, and we'll have improved neuroenhancers that some people will use therapeutically, others because they are 'on the borderline of needing them therapeutically,' and others purely 'for competitive advantage.' ... Even if today's smart drugs aren't as powerful as such drugs may someday be, there are plenty of questions that need to be asked about them. How much do they actually help? Are they potentially harmful or addictive? Then, there's the question of what we mean by 'smarter.' Could enhancing one kind of thinking exact a toll on others? All these questions need proper scientific answers, but for now much of the discussion is taking place furtively, among the increasing number of Americans who are performing daily experiments on their own brains. ... [A cognitive researcher said,] 'Cognitive psychologists have found that there is a trade-off between attentional focus and creativity. And there is some evidence that suggests that individuals who are better able to focus on one thing and filter out distractions tend to be less creative. ... I'm a little concerned that we could be raising a generation of very focused accountants.'"
Medicine

US Declares Public Health Emergency Over Swine Flu 695

Posted by kdawson
from the man-bird-pig dept.
mallumax sends word from the NYTimes that US government officials today declared a public health emergency over increasing cases of the swine flu first seen in Mexico. Here is additional coverage from CNN. From the Times: "American health officials [say]... that they had confirmed 20 cases of the disease in the United States and expected to see more as investigators fan out to track down the path of the outbreak. Other governments around the world stepped up their response to the incipient outbreak, racing to contain the infection amid reports of potential new cases from New Zealand to Hong Kong to Spain, raising concerns about the potential for a global pandemic. The cases in US looked to be similar to the deadly strain of swine flu that has killed more than 80 people in Mexico and infected 1,300 more." Reader "The man who walks in the woods" sends a link to accounts emailed to the BBC from readers in Mexico. While these are anecdotal, they do paint a picture of a more serious situation than government announcements have indicated so far.
Power

What We Can Do About Massive Solar Flares 224

Posted by kdawson
from the resistance-may-not-be-futile dept.
Reader resistant sends in an update to our discussion a month back on the possibility of violent space weather destroying power grids worldwide during the upcoming solar cycle. Wired is running an interview with Lawrence Joseph, author of "Apocalypse 2012: A Scientific Investigation into Civilization's End," and John Kappenman, CEO of electromagnetic damage consulting company MetaTech. The piece brings two new threads to the discussion: the recently discovered presence of an unusually large hole in Earth's geomagnetic shield, magnifying our vulnerability, and possible steps we can take over the next few years to make the power grid more robust against solar flares and coronal mass ejections. There's also that whole Mayan 2012 thing. Quoting John Kapperman: "What we're proposing is to add some fairly small and inexpensive resistors in the transformers' ground connections. The addition of that little bit of resistance would significantly reduce the amount of the geomagnetically induced currents that flow into the grid. In its simplest form, it's something that might be made out of cast iron or stainless steel, about the size of a washing machine. ...we think it's do-able for $40,000 or less per resistor. That's less than what you pay for insurance for a transformer. [In the US] there are about 5,000 transformers to consider this for. ... We're talking about $150 million or so. It's pretty small in the grand scheme of things."
Software

+ - Google funds Wine to improve Photoshop use

Submitted by Justin-the-computer-goon
Justin-the-computer-goon (666) writes "FROM Tectonic.co.za In an email to the Wine mailing list late last week, Google software engineer Dan Kegel described how Google has been contracting the CodeWeavers Wine team to improve support for PhotoshopCS on Linux and how Google employees are using their free time to fix Wine bugs. Kegel writes: "Google uses Wine primarily as the basis for the Linux port of our photo management software, Picasa. In fact, the Linux version is exactly the Windows build of Picasa, bundled with a lightly patched version of Wine. Most of the work in that port was to improve Wine so it could handle Picasa, and that work is still going on. Codeweavers did the initial port, and Googlers Lei Zhang, Nigel Liang, and Michael Moss are improving Wine further for Picasa 2.7." In a survey a year ago Photoshop was the application voted to be the most important application to port to Linux. Wine is an emulation application tat allows users to run Windows software on Linux. "Google also sponsored some work by Codeweavers to improve support for Photoshop ('cause so many people want it) and for Dragon Naturally Speaking ('cause even Linux users get RSI). While not yet perfect, those apps are a lot more usable now as a result. In particular, Photoshop CS and CS2 are quite usable indeed. (See http://wiki.winehq.org/AdobePhotoshop for details.)," Kegel writes. Kegel also points out that he and other Google employees are using their 20% time to work on and fix Wine bugs. Google famously allows its employees to use 20 percent of their time to work on projects of their own interest. More details on Google's work on Wine can be found here."
Social Networks

Academics To Predict Next Twitter and Its Pitfalls 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the peer-into-my-crystal-ball dept.
An anonymous reader writes "University researchers in the UK have put together a team tasked with predicting the next big thing in terms of communication technologies, in a bid to tackle ethical pitfalls before they become a problem. This is in the wake of the rise of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, which has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of personal information available online."
Medicine

Are Human Beings Organisms Or Living Ecosystems? 397

Posted by Soulskill
from the little-of-column-a,-little-of-column-b dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Every human body harbors about 100 trillion bacterial cells, outnumbering human cells 10 to one. There's been a growing consensus among scientists that bacteria are not simply random squatters, but organized communities that evolve with us and are passed down from generation to generation. 'Human beings are not really individuals; they're communities of organisms,' says microbiologist Margaret McFall-Ngai. 'This could be the basis of a whole new way of looking at disease.' Recently, for example, evidence has surfaced that obesity may well include a microbial component. Jeffrey Gordon's lab at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published findings that lean and obese twins — whether identical or fraternal — harbor strikingly different bacterial communities that are not just helping to process food directly; they actually influence whether that energy is ultimately stored as fat in the body. Last year, the National Institutes of Health launched the Human Microbiome Project to characterize the role of microbes in the human body, a formal recognition of bacteria's far-reaching influence, including their contributions to human health and certain illnesses. William Karasov, a physiologist and ecologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison, believes that the consequences of this new approach will be profound. 'We've all been trained to think of ourselves as human,' says Karasov, adding that bacteria have usually been considered only as the source of infections, or as something benign living in the body. Now, Karasov says, it appears 'we are so interconnected with our microbes that anything studied before could have a microbial component that we hadn't thought about.'"
Programming

Worst Working Conditions You Had To Write Code In? 1127

Posted by samzenpus
from the 150-of-us-in-a-shoebox-in-the-middle-of-the-road dept.
sausaw writes "I recently had to write code in a hot dusty room for 20 days with temperatures near 107F (~41C); having nothing to sit on; a 64 Kbps inconsistent internet connection; warm water for drinking and a lot of distractions and interruptions. I am sure many people have been in similar situations and would like to know your experiences."

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