Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post that morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency's surveillance activities and officials are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support. 'It is not clear whether or when Obama might travel the 23 miles up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to visit Fort Meade, the NSA's headquarters in Maryland,' writes Nakashima, 'but agency employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.' Though Obama has asserted that the NSA's collection of virtually all Americans' phone records is lawful and has saved lives, the administration has not endorsed legislation that would codify it. And his recent statements suggest Obama thinks some of the NSA's activities should be constrained. 'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. 'They feel they've been hung out to dry, and they're right.' Former officials note how President George W. Bush paid a visit to the NSA in January 2006, in the wake of revelations by the New York Times that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. soil beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on morale was tremendous,' Brenner said. 'There's been nothing like that from this White House.' Morale is 'bad overall' says another former NSA official. 'It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Lindsay Abrams reports at Salon that the Obama administration is offering wind farms 30 years of leeway to kill and harm bald and golden eagles. The new regulations, which were requested by the wind industry, will provide companies that seek a permit with legal protection, preventing them from having to pay penalties for eagle deaths (PDF). An investigation by the Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration's reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. President Obama has championed the pollution-free energy, nearly doubling America's wind power in his first term as a way to tackle global warming. Scientists say wind farms in 10 states have killed at least 85 eagles since 1997, with most deaths occurring between 2008 and 2012, as the industry was greatly expanding. Most deaths — 79 — were golden eagles that struck wind turbines. However the scientists said their figure is likely to be 'substantially' underestimated, since companies report eagle deaths voluntarily and only a fraction of those included in their total were discovered during searches for dead birds by wind-energy companies. The National Audubon Society said it would challenge the decision."
sfcrazy writes "A team of extremely creative people have created a really inexpensive bullet time set-up using Raspberry Pis — and the whole set-up costs less than a professional DSLR camera. The rig looks more like the LHC at CERN using nearly half a kilometre of network cables, 48 Raspberry Pis fitted with cameras and PiFace Control. The rig worked perfectly — in terms of doing what a bullet time set-up should do. Raspberry Pis achieved the Hollywood's 'frozen time' effect at a much lesser cost."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "MarineLink reports that a fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) aircraft has been successfully launched from the submerged 'USS Providence' (SSN 719). The drone flew a several-hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to the submarine, offering a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy's submarine force. 'Developing disruptive technologies and quickly getting them into the hands of our sailors is what our SwampWorks program is all about,' says Craig A. Hughes, Acting Director of Innovation at the Office of Naval Research. 'This demonstration really underpins ONR's dedication and ability to address emerging fleet priorities.' The XFC UAS — eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System — was fired from the submarine's torpedo tube using a 'Sea Robin' launch vehicle system designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors. Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface, where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence's Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful mission."
crookedvulture writes "AMD's recently introduced Radeon R9 290X is one of the fastest graphics cards around. However, the cards sent to reviewers differ somewhat from the retail units available for purchase. The press samples run at higher clock speeds and deliver better performance as a result. There's some variance in clock speeds between different press and retail cards, too. Part of the problem appears to be AMD's PowerTune mechanism, which dynamically adjusts GPU frequencies in response to temperature and power limits. AMD doesn't guarantee a base clock speed, saying only that the 290X runs at 'up to 1GHz.' Real-world clock speeds are a fair bit lower than that, and the retail cards suffer more than the press samples. Cooling seems to be a contributing factor. AMD issued a driver update that raises fan speeds, and that helps the performance of some retail cards. Retail units remain slower than the cards seeded to the press, though. Flashing retail cards with the press firmware raises clock speeds slightly, but it doesn't entirely close the gap, either. AMD hasn't explained why the retail cards are slower than expected, and it's possible the company cherry-picked the samples sent to the press. At the very least, it's clear that the 290X exhibits more card-to-card variance than we're used to seeing in a PC graphics product."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes with news that a few CS folks are working on a way to present opposing viewpoints without angering the reader. From the article: "Computer scientists have discovered a way to number-crunch an individual's own preferences to recommend content from others with opposing views. The goal? To burst the 'filter bubble' that surrounds us with people we like and content that we agree with. A recent example of the filter bubble at work: Two people who googled the term 'BP.' One received links to investment news about BP while the other received links to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, presumably as a result of some recommendation algorithm." From the paper's abstract: "We found that recommending topically relevant content from authors with opposite views in a baseline interface had a negative emotional effect. We saw that our organic visualization design reverts that effect. We also observed significant individual differences linked to evaluation of recommendations. Our results suggest that organic visualization may revert the negative effects of providing potentially sensitive content."
sandbagger writes "The Large Hadron Collider is the world's biggest science experiment. When spinning, it reportedly generates up to six gigs of data per second. Today's six-terabyte tape cartridges fill rapidly when you're creating that amount of material. The Economist reports that despite the advances in SSDs and hard drives, tape still seems to be the way to go when you need to store massive amounts of digital assets."
theodp writes "'The night watchman of the future,' explains the NY Times' John Markoff, 'is 5 feet tall, weighs 300 pounds and looks a lot like R2-D2 – without the whimsy. And will work for $6.25 an hour.' California-based Knightscope has developed a mobile robot known as the K5 Autonomous Data Machine as a safety and security tool for corporations, as well as for schools and neighborhoods. 'But what is for some a technology-laden route to safer communities and schools,' writes Markoff, 'is to others an entry point to a post-Orwellian, post-privacy world.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Following a BBC report showing abnormal variation in the number of people taken into police custody with mental health problems, concerns have been raised about the legal definition of "mental illness". Prof. Steve Fuller argues that a much sharper legal distinction is required to ensure criminals with mental disorders are not released without appropriate treatment. Fuller distinguishes between two cases: a 'client', who pays a therapist and enjoys a liberal, level-playing field in face-to-face interactions, and a 'patient' who is being treated by a doctor for a particular disorder. If the former relationship cannot be established due to person's mental state, then the latter one should be enforced. Thus, Fuller calls for 'a return to institutions analogous to the asylums of the early 19th century.'"
The L.A. Times has a short but compelling article about the state of the art (and coming state of the art) in dedicated networking technology in one of the applications where you'd expect the customers to care most about it: connecting financial trading centers. Milliseconds count, and the traders count milliseconds. From the article, one example: "[New York-based networking company] Strike, whose ranks include academics as well as former U.S. and Israeli military engineers, hoisted a 6-foot white dish on a tower rising 280 feet above the Nasdaq Stock Market's data center in Carteret, N.J., just outside New York City. Through a series of microwave towers, the dish beams market data 734 miles to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange's computer warehouse in Aurora, Ill., in 4.13 milliseconds, or about 95% of the theoretical speed of light, according to the company. Fiber-optic cables, which are made up of long strands of glass, carry data at roughly 65% of light speed."
The much-discussed health care finance sign-up website HealthCare.gov has benefited from the flurry of improvements that have been thrown at it in the last several weeks. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid spokesman Aaron Albright told Fox News Saturday that "[w]ith the scheduled upgrades last night and tonight, we're on track to meet our stated goal for the site to work for the vast majority of users." CMM spokeswoman Julie Bataille. "said the installation of new servers Friday night helped improved the response times and error rates, even with heavier-than-usual weekend traffic." If you've used the site this weekend, what has your experience been like?
ananyo writes "Bowing to scientists' near-universal scorn, the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology has fulfilled its threat to retract a controversial paper which claimed that a genetically modified (GM) maize causes serious disease in rats after the authors refused to withdraw it. The paper, from a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, and published in 2012, showed 'no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data,' said a statement from Elsevier, which publishes the journal. But the small number and type of animals used in the study means that 'no definitive conclusions can be reached.' The known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat 'cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups,' it added. Today's move came as no surprise. Earlier this month, the journal's editor-in-chief, Wallace Hayes, threatened retraction if Séralini refused to withdraw the paper, which is exactly what he announced at a press conference in Brussels this morning. Séralini and his team remained unrepentant, and allege that the retraction derives from the journal's editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years."
v3rgEz writes "Wish you were a little more organized? Have trouble finding that archived contract when you actually need it? Don't feel too bad: The National Security Agency has the same problem, claiming that its contract database is stored manually and impossible to search by topic, category, or even by vendor in most cases."
itwbennett writes "A timely CareerBuilder survey finds that 23% of IT pros spend the holiday with coworkers, either in the office or at another location. But the findings vary widely by city. In Boston, for example, you're pretty sure to be on your own for the holiday — only 6% of coworkers there nosh together. While in Atlanta (35%) or Dallas (30%) things are downright chummy."
KentuckyFC writes "The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence or SETI is one of the highest profile projects in science. And yet its biggest challenge is in generating the funds required to scour the skies for signs of intelligent life. Government funding agencies generally ignore SETI so most funding comes from wealthy patrons such as Paul Allen who has donated $30 million for the construction of a radio interferometer designed to scour the skies for signs of ET. But the lack of other donors means this facility is still incomplete and only partially operational. But one astrobiologist has a solution. Why not create a lottery bond that allows investors to buy shares that yield a fixed rate of interest but also generates enough cash to fund ongoing SETI projects? To add an element of spice, this bond is also a lottery: when the search finally succeeds, a subset of the shareholders will receive a payout from the kitty. This is a fund that is likely to have global appeal but will need a financial institution willing and capable of taking it on. Any suggestions?"