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."
theodp writes "Among the patents granted to Facebook this week by the USPTO is one for Inferring Household Income for Users of a Social Networking System. 'For example,' Facebook explains, 'an assumption might be made about a user that reads CNN.com and nytimes.com every day that the user is in a higher income bracket than another user that only reads TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com on the theory that a user who reads newspapers might be assumed to make more money than a user who only reads celebrity gossip blogs.' Advertisements such as those for travel packages, cars, and home mortgages, Facebook adds, 'are targeted to users based on income bracket,' which might also be inferred by 'gathering and analyzing different types of information about a user's geographic location.' Hey, what could go wrong?"
walterbyrd sends this news from Techworld: "A Microsoft storage patent that was used to get a sales ban on products from Google-owned Motorola Mobility in Germany has been invalidated by the German Federal Patent Court. Microsoft's FAT (File Allocation Table) patent, which concerns a 'common name space for long and short filenames' was invalidated on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Federal Patent Court said in an email Friday. She could not give the exact reasons for the court's decision before the written judicial decision is released, which will take a few weeks."
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have announced that measles cases in the U.S. spiked this year, rising to three times their recent average rate. It's partly due to a greater number of people traveling to the U.S. when they're infectious, but also because a frustrating number of people are either failing to have their children vaccinated, or are failing to do so in a timely manner. Dr. Thomas Friedman said, 'Around 90 percent of the people who have had measles in this country were not vaccinated either because they refused, or were not vaccinated on time.' Phil Plait adds, 'In all three of these outbreaks, someone who had not been vaccinated traveled overseas and brought the disease back with them, which then spread due to low vaccination rates in their communities. It's unclear how much religious beliefs themselves were behind the outbreaks in Brooklyn and North Carolina; it may have been due to widespread secular anti-vax beliefs in those tight-knit groups. But either way, a large proportion of the people in those areas were unvaccinated.'"
New submitter chrylis writes "SCOTUSblog is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted an appeal in Alice v. CLS Bank, a case in which the Federal Circuit ruled haphazardly that the particular patents in question were invalid but did not address the issue of software patents generally. 'The case will provide a new test of the Patent Act’s most basic provision — Section 101, which broadly outlines what kinds of inventions are patentable. One of the long-standing exceptions to the types of inventions mentioned in that section is that an abstract idea can never be patented. That issue arises frequently these days, especially with rapidly developing technology in computer software. The EFF wrote a summary of the issues in the case when it was before the Federal Circuit this spring. The case files are also available."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Josh Gerstein writes on Politico that President Barack Obama told Chris Matthews in an interview recorded for MSNBC's 'Hardball' that he'll be reining in some of the snooping conducted by the NSA, but he did not detail what new limits he plans to impose on the embattled spy organization. 'I'll be proposing some self-restraint on the NSA. And...to initiate some reforms that can give people more confidence,' said the President who insisted that the NSA's work shows respect for the rights of Americans, while conceding that its activities are often more intrusive when it comes to foreigners communicating overseas. 'The NSA actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people's emails, not listening to the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the NSA's more aggressive. It's not constrained by laws.' During the program, Matthews raised the surveillance issue by noting a Washington Post report on NSA gathering of location data on billion of cell phones overseas. 'Young people, rightly, are sensitive to the needs to preserve their privacy and to retain internet freedom. And by the way, so am I,' responded the President. 'That's part of not just our First Amendment rights and expectations in this country, but it's particularly something that young people care about, because they spend so much time texting and-- you know, Instagramming.' With some at the NSA feeling hung out to dry by the president, Obama also went out of his way to praise the agency's personnel for their discretion. 'I want to everybody to be clear: the people at the NSA, generally, are looking out for the safety of the American people. They are not interested in reading your emails. They're not interested in reading your text messages. And that's not something that's done. And we've got a big system of checks and balances, including the courts and Congress, who have the capacity to prevent that from happening.'"
snydeq writes "The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Innovation Act, dealing trolls a severe blow despite opposition from universities looking to protect patents, InfoWorld's Simon Phipps reports. The act cleared the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority of 325 to 91 despite opposition from the organizations most likely to feed new patents to the trolls. 'So bravo to the Innovation Act. It's far from perfect, as the EFF documents and as I commented before the holiday. But it's a step in the right direction, and the tidal surge of support it's seeing suggests legislators' appetite for proper patent reform is finally growing strong enough for them to contemplate substantial change.'"
DavidGilbert99 writes "The founder of eBay, the parent company of PayPal, Pierre Omidyar has called on U.S. prosecutors to have mercy on the 14 members of Anonymous who are appearing in court this week facing up to 15 years in jail and a $500,000 fine for their part in a DDoS attack against PayPal in 2010. Despite thousands of Anons taking part, and most of the damage being done by two major botnets, the 14 are set to bear all the responsibility if U.S. prosecutors have their way."
binarstu writes "Suzanne Nossel, writing for CNN, reports that 'a survey of American writers done in October revealed that nearly one in four has self-censored for fear of government surveillance. They fessed up to curbing their research, not accepting certain assignments, even not discussing certain topics on the phone or via e-mail for fear of being targeted. The subjects they are avoiding are no surprise — mostly matters to do with the Middle East, the military and terrorism.' Yet ordinary Americans, for the most part, seem not to care: 'Surveillance so intrusive it is putting certain subjects out of bounds would seem like cause for alarm in a country that prides itself as the world's most free. Americans have long protested the persecution and constraints on journalists and writers living under repressive regimes abroad, yet many seem ready to accept these new encroachments on their freedom at home.'"
jfruh writes "One of the most potent aspects of Anonymous is, well, its anonymity — but that isn't absolute. Eric Rosol was caught by federal authorities participating in a DDoS attack on a company owned by Koch Industry; for knocking a website offline for 15 minutes, Rosol got two years of probation and had to pay $183,000 in restitution (the amount Koch paid to a security consultant to protect its website ater the attack)." The worst part? From the article: "Eric J. Rosol, 38, is said to have admitted that on Feb. 28, 2011, he took part in a denial of service attack for about a minute on a Web page of Koch Industries..."
sciencehabit writes "Theoretical physicists have forged a connection between the concept of entanglement — itself a mysterious quantum mechanical connection between two widely separated particles — and that of a wormhole — a hypothetical connection between black holes that serves as a shortcut through space (first abstract, second abstract). The insight could help physicists reconcile quantum mechanics and Einstein's general theory of relativity, perhaps the grandest goal in theoretical physics."
curtwoodward writes "Nearly four years after the concept was introduced, MIT spinout Superpedestrian has started selling its $700 'Copenhagen wheel' kits that promise to turn any old bike into an electric-powered, smartphone-connected dynamo, simply by swapping out the back wheel. But they're not alone: a competing startup called FlyKly has already raised $700,000 worth of pre-orders for a similar device. Superpedestrian, which holds exclusive license to the MIT patents covering the Copenhagen wheel, clearly thinks there's some foul play going on. 'Their founder actually dropped by our lab at MIT a year and a half ago, saying he wants to collaborate, and spent quite some time with the Copenhagen wheel team. We'll leave it at that,' Superpedestrian founder Assaf Biderman said."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that the 600 horsepower Porsche Carrera GT is notoriously difficult to handle, even for professional drivers. Known as the car actor Paul Walker was riding in when he died, there is no suggestion anyone was to blame for Walker's crash but Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson says drivers are on a 'knife edge' handling the car and described it as 'brutal and savage". 'It is a phenomena — mind blowingly good. Make a mistake — it bites your head off.' Todd Trimble, an exotic car mechanic in Las Vegas, says the Carrera GT is a 'very hard car to drive.' It's (a) pure racer's car. You really need to know what you're doing when you drive them. And a lot of people are learning the hard way.' The sports car has a top speed of 208 mph, a very high-revving V10 engine and more than 600 horsepower says Eddie Alterman, editor-and-chief of Car and Driver magazine. 'This was not a car for novices,' says Alterman. Having the engine in the middle of the car means it's more agile and turns more quickly than a car with the engine in the front or in the rear so it is able to change direction 'very quickly, very much like a race car,' adds Alterman. The Carrera GT is also unusual because it has no electronic stability control which means that it's unforgiving with mistakes. 'Stability control is really good at correcting slides, keeping the car from getting out of shape,' says race car driver Randy Pobst. Alterman concludes that learning to drive a car like a Carrera GT can be extremely tricky. 'Every car is sort of different. And this one, especially since it had such a hair-trigger throttle, because it changed directions so quickly, there is a lot to learn.'"
sciencehabit writes "This morning, an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a lawsuit in a New York court in an attempt to get a judge to declare that chimpanzees are legal persons and should be freed from captivity. The suit is the first of three to be filed in three New York counties this week. They target two research chimps at Stony Brook University and two chimps on private property, and are the opening salvo in a coordinated effort to grant 'legal personhood' to a variety of animals across the United States. If NhRP is successful in New York, it would upend millennia of law defining animals as property and could set off a 'chain reaction' that could bleed over to other jurisdictions, says Richard Cupp, a law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and a prominent critic of animal rights. 'But if they lose it could be a giant step backward for the movement. They're playing with fire.'"
New submitter Raging Bool writes "The BBC is reporting that acquired phobias or aversions by mice can be passed on to subsequent generations. From the article: 'Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations. A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their 'grandchildren.''"