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+ - caught sharing DNA database with government->

Submitted by SonicSpike
SonicSpike writes: In 1996, a young woman named Angie Dodge was murdered in her apartment in a small town in Idaho. Although the police collected DNA from semen left at the crime scene, they haven’t been able to match the DNA to existing profiles in any criminal database, and the murder has never been solved.

Fast forward to 2014. The Idaho police sent the semen sample to a private lab to extract a DNA profile that included YSTR and mtDNA—the two genetic markers used to determine patrilineal and matrilineal relationships (it’s unclear why they reopened the case after nearly 20 years). These markers would allow investigators to search some existing databases to try to find a match between the sample and genetic relatives.

The cops chose to use a lab linked to a private collection of genetic genealogical data called the Sorenson Database (now owned by, which claims it’s “the foremost collection of genetic genealogy data in the world.” The reason the Sorenson Database can make such an audacious claim is because it has obtained its more than 100,000 DNA samples and documented multi-generational family histories from “volunteers in more than 100 countries around the world.”

Sorenson promised volunteers their genetic data would only be used for “genealogical services, including the determination of family migration patterns and geographic origins” and would not be shared outside Sorenson.

Despite this promise, Sorenson shared its vast collection of data with the Idaho police. Without a warrant or court order, investigators asked the lab to run the crime scene DNA against Sorenson’s private genealogical DNA database. Sorenson found 41 potential familial matches, one of which matched on 34 out of 35 alleles—a very close match that would generally indicate a close familial relationship. The cops then asked, not only for the “protected” name associated with that profile, but also for all “all information including full names, date of births, date and other information pertaining to the original donor to the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy project.”

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+ - French version of "Patriot Act" becomes law->

Submitted by Taco Cowboy
Taco Cowboy writes: Thanks to the cold blooded massacres of the Charlie Hebdo (and other) incidents at the hand of the bloody Islamist savages, where many innocent people were slaughtered, the French legislature passed, by a vote of 438 to 86, in the National Assembly with, 42 abstentions, the "Intelligence Service Bill", a French version of the Patriot Act, which awards the French intelligence a sweeping power to tap and intercept any kind of correspondence, including phone conversations, emails, social media, amongst others

The bill would decree that hosting providers and Internet service providers (from now on referred to as ISP) in France must get equipped with a “black box” that could retain all digital communication of the citizens, at any time

Slashdot carried an article ( ) about the possibilities that ISPs may leave France if the bill is passed. Now that the bill has passed, we will know in a short while if those ISP really pull out of France or not

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+ - Congressman Thomas Massie: "Clock ticking to scale back spy powers"->

Submitted by SonicSpike
SonicSpike writes: Congress faces a critical deadline, and time is running out. On June 1, 2015, three provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. The actions of the U.S. Congress between today and June 1st will affect the privacy and liberty of millions of innocent Americans.

The 2001 USA PATRIOT Act was drafted and swiftly passed in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks. Due to the nature of the crisis, the goal was simply to pass a bill as quickly as possible. Many congressmen did not have an opportunity to thoroughly read, analyze or vet the bill's numerous and lengthy provisions. In fact, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the original authors of the Patriot Act, later declared that he was shocked by how the law was used to spy on innocent Americans.

Congress and the American people now know, thanks to whistleblower leaks, that federal agencies like the National Security Agency regularly perform mass surveillance on Americans without bothering to obtain a warrant. As constitutional law scholar Randy Barnett wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "The National Security Agency has seized from private companies voluminous data on the phone and Internet usage of all U.S. citizens. ... This dangerously violates the most fundamental principles of our republican form of government." He concludes that "[s]uch indiscriminate data seizures are the epitome of 'unreasonable,' akin to the 'general warrants' issued by the Crown to authorize searches of Colonial Americans."

The Founders of this great nation fought and died to stop the kind of warrantless spying and searches that the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act authorize. What happens between now and June 1 depends on the American people. It is imperative that every freedom-loving American demand an end to these unconstitutional programs. At the very least, the expiring provisions of the Patriot Act should not be renewed. After that, the entire Patriot Act should be repealed so we can start over and establish law enforcement programs that respect our Constitution.

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+ - Thomas Massie-The Congressman That Owns A Tesla, Lives Off The Grid, Went To MIT->

Submitted by SonicSpike
SonicSpike writes: Congressman Thomas Massie does things differently in the House, perhaps because his path to politics was pretty unique: He graduated from MIT with degrees in engineering, started a technology company, sold that company, and moved back to Kentucky with his wife, Rhonda, where they now live entirely off-the-grid on a cattle farm. He was elected in 2012 special election out of a seven-way primary in a heavily Republican district and has been the thorn in the side Boehner and his allies ever since.

That hasn’t stopped Democrats from believing that he’s sometimes their best option for getting their legislation through the House. Last June, Rep Lofgren convinced Massie to take on the role as lead sponsor of an amendment to a major defense bill that would to end so called “back door” searches by the NSA.

It’s incredibly unlikely some of Massie’s legislation — particularly his bill with Pocan to repeal the PATRIOT Act — would ever pass the House, let alone get through the Senate. But putting Massie’s name on a bill could have other benefits: Massie is able to tout the legislation in places Democrats won’t go.

Increasingly, in fact, Massie has become a go-to member of the Republican conference for Democratic members looking for a GOP member to sponsor legislation on everything from surveillance, to industrial hemp, to cell-phone unlocking legislation.

But his early opposition to surveillance programs have drawn him accolades from the Democratic side of the aisle, as has his willingness to buck his party leadership. And as the House and Senate attempt to re-authorize portions of the PATRIOT Act in the coming month, Massie plans on being at the center of that debate — again with a Democrat. He recently introducing a bill with Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan to repeal that 2001 law passed in the wake of 9/11 and overhaul many of the NSA’s surveillance programs.

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+ - #GamerGate meet up in Washington DC subjected to bomb threat->

Submitted by Motor
Motor writes: The consumer revolt going by the title #GamerGate arranged a real life event last night in a bar in Washington DC. The event was attended by a wide variety of people from all walks of life — all tired of the corruption and extremist gender politics in games media.

Despite efforts by so-called Social Justice Warriors to get it stopped by emailing and tweeting the bar owners, the meet up went ahead as planned — and a fine time was had by all. Later in the evening the event was temporarily halted as a bomb threat was called into the police.

The police are looking into the matter and bomb threats made in the US capital are, shall we say, no joke. It's going to be interesting to see the outcome of the investigation. Especially given some of the poorly-judged tweets sent by anti-gamers in the run up to the event.

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Comment: Re:Masstransit is more energy efficient than perso (Score 1) 280

by rwa2 (#49586889) Attached to: New Study Suggests Flying Is Greener Than Driving

Not just that, there are a LOT of efficiencies that airplanes can take advantage of that are just not available to ground transportation. For distances above ~400 miles, air freight can be more efficient than even a freight train for hauling just about anything with a higher value per pound than rocks and gravel.

* gas turbine engines can reach peak thermodynamic efficiencies of ~50% around 30,000 feet, where the intake air is coldest but not too thin. Any combustion engine running at surface conditions can do maybe 20 - 30% efficiency tops.
* air at 30,000 feet is still thin enough to greatly reduce drag compared to ground transportation. Only the vacuum tube trains like Elon Musk's "Hyperloop" will be able to beat that ... at enormous expense.

Not to mention all of the "bonus efficiencies" not related to lower ton-mile/fuel costs that you get "for free"
* Time is money, and air freight also happens to be the fastest mode of transportation. It actually takes more fuel to cruise slower than the design cruise speed of Mach 0.84 or whatever.
* just need an airport with a mile or two of runway at each end, no other infrastructure needs to be built between point A and point B
* lots of old used passenger airplanes are refurbished for freight for relatively cheap at the end of their passenger service life
* lots of excess airport capacity at night when the passengers aren't flooding them

The "distances above 400 miles" is a pretty significant caveat, of course... that's roughly the break-even point for the extra fuel you need to get your cargo airplane up to 30,000 feet so you can save enough fuel during cruise/descent.

Also, with electric batteries and brushless motors also gradually approaching 50% efficiency (when taking advantage of regenerative braking), ground transportation kinda has a shot at achieving gas-turbine-like energy efficiency... at sufficiently slow speeds to keep drag down.

I highly recommend this book:

Comment: Re:This move is rational for a public company (Score 5, Interesting) 631

by rwa2 (#49583253) Attached to: Disney Replaces Longtime IT Staff With H-1B Workers

Yep, that, and Disney is... special. I left Disney IT just before last October; it had already become a pretty stressful place to work. Morale was already super-low, because they had just launched the new version of their website that they'd been working on for 5 years and everyone was burned out from working *crunch* shifts through nights and weekends trying to finish developing the thing and then helping it limp along during its initial years. Coming out of development mode and going into sustainment mode, and then they burned through lots of operations budget dealing with all of the tech debt from the rush job, and then made up for it by laying off a bunch of good managers (like mine) and trying to put the squeeze on the remaining staff.

Since Disney is one of the top brands in the US, they actually take pride in how little they can pay their employees (er, "cast members") below market rates, in exchange for being associated with The Mouse. Burnout and turnover was pretty high, few people lasted more than three years (incidentally the amount of time until their pension vests). I got tired of the squeeze and took a job elsewhere for much higher pay. Also managed to snag a guy interviewing for my old job at Disney because his recruiter told him to ask me about his concerns over work/life balance.

To be fair, I did get a lot of experience working at Disney... since they don't believe in "reduce variation" they had one of almost everything in production somewhere since old sites never died but were always maintained for use by some niche customer (er, "guest" / "partner"). I'm sure my Disney friends and co-workers will turn out all right or better than they were at that puppy mill, I actually kinda feel more concerned for the H1Bs that will be tending to their fires and burning through their lives at both ends.

Comment: Re:Ironic Slashvertisment... (Score 1) 123

by rwa2 (#49579469) Attached to: Interviews: Ask Fark Founder Drew Curtis a Question

Sounds like Drew will fit right in with Congress, where we have senators who never sent email sitting on the technology committee.

While I'm saddened that Drew has had to "clean up" Fark of its foobies and more aggressively moderate racist photoshop themes and pics, I applaud more tech geeks taking the plunge into politics. Here's hoping for a campaign that's more transparently data-driven by the people being represented than money-driven by shadow financiers.

+ - Scientist says "The Universe is a hologram", People speak out->

Submitted by citpyrc
citpyrc writes: "Up until now, this principle has only been studied in exotic spaces with negative curvature. This is interesting from a theoretical point of view, but such spaces are quite different from the space in our own universe. Results obtained by scientists at TU Wien (Vienna) now suggest that the holographic principle even holds in a flat spacetime", like ours.
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Comment: Re:Taste (Score 1) 629

by rwa2 (#49562333) Attached to: Pepsi To Stop Using Aspartame

Weird... I never worried about anything I ingest. But Sucralose / Splenda was the first thing that I ever drank that gave me an instant headache (and I almost never get headaches), and now I go out of my way to make sure that the stuff I buy doesn't have it in the ingredients list.

+ - Using Adderall in the Office to Get Ahead

Submitted by writes: The NYT reports that drugs like Adderall were once only prescribed to help children with attention deficit disorders focus on their school work but then college students found those drugs could increase their ability to study. Now a growing number of workers use them to help compete. What will happen as these drugs are more widely used in the workplace? According to Anjan Chatterjee, the use of neurotechnologies to enhance healthy people’s brain function could easily become widespread. "If anything, we worship workplace productivity by any means. Americans work longer hours and take fewer vacations than most others in the developed world. Why not add drugs to energize, focus and limit that annoying waste of time — sleep?" Julian Savulescu says that what defines human beings is their extraordinary cognitive power and their ability to enhance that power through reading, writing, computing and now smart drugs. "Eighty-five percent of Americans use caffeine. Nicotine and sugar are also cognitive enhancers," says Savulescu.

But congnitive neurologist Martha Farah, says that regular use on the job is an invitation to dependence. "I also worry about the effect of drug-fueled productivity on people other than the users," says Farah. "It is not hard to imagine a supervisor telling employees that this is the standard they should aspire to in their work, however they manage to do it (hint, hint). The eventual result will be a ratcheting up of “normal” productivity, where everyone uses (and the early adopters’ advantage is only fleeting)."

+ - LED technology could boost WiFi speeds up to ten times->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Oregon University have developed a new LED technology which has the potential to increase WiFi bandwidth by ten times. The engineering team hopes that the technology could help solve bandwidth problems caused by overcrowding and multimedia streaming. The system could for example be integrated with existing WiFi systems at events, in coffee shops, at airport terminals and in multiple-device homes to reduce bandwidth strain. The first prototype, WiFO, uses LEDs which rank outside of the human visual spectrum. The diodes emit an invisible stream of light measuring approximately one square meter to deliver the data. Despite the small area of usability, the research team demonstrated that the technology could be used across a hybrid network that switches between the LED transmitters and the existing WiFi system.
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+ - If Earth never had life, continents would be smaller-> 1

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: It may seem counterintuitive, but life on Earth, even with all the messy erosion it creates, keeps continents growing. Presenting here this week at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, researchers say it's the erosion itself that makes the difference in continental size. Plant life, for example, can root its way through rock, breaking rocks into sediment. The sediments, like milk-dunked cookies, carry liquid water in their pores, which allows more water to be recycled back into Earth’s mantle. If not enough water is present in the mantle about 100 to 200 km deep to keep things flowing, continental production decreases. The authors built a planetary evolution model to show how these processes relate and found that if continental weathering and erosion rates decreased, at first the continents would remain large. But over time, if life never evolved on Earth, not enough water would make its way to the mantle to help produce more continental crust, and whatever continents there were would then shrink. Now, continents cover 40% of the planet. Without life, that coverage would shrink to 30%. In a more extreme case, if life never existed, the continents might only cover 10% of Earth.
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Parts that positively cannot be assembled in improper order will be.