Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: The Guardian reports that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly, accusing the NSA of violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country's strategic industries. "Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately. Corporate information – often of high economic and even strategic value – was at the center of espionage activity," said Rousseff. "Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the UN and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted." Rousseff's angry speech was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who was waiting in the wings to deliver his own address to the UN general assembly, and represented the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Washington's efforts to smooth over Brazilian outrage over NSA espionage have so far been rebuffed by Rousseff, who has proposed that Brazil build its own internet infrastructure. "Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable."
cold fjord writes: McClatchy reports, "The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold its first public hearing Thursday related to NSA’s once secret collection of telephone and internet data since the existence of the program was disclosed last June. The committee previously discussed the matter behind closed doors after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked details about the agency's programs to the media. This time, committee members will talk publicly about proposed reforms... Since Snowden’s leaks to the media, the Obama administration has declassified documents that detailed NSA violations, including the collection of tens of thousands of emails of Americans in a program designed to target foreigners. In response, the secret court that oversees NSA surveillance programs, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, ruled the program unconstitutional, forcing the NSA to change its practices. Administration officials have downplayed the violations although some members of Congress have said they demonstrate NSA has needs more aggressive oversight."
cagraham writes: Facebook has teamed up with payment processors PayPal, Braintree, and Stripe, in an attempt to simplify mobile payments. The system allows Facebook members (who have turned over their credit and billing info) to click a "Autofill with Facebook" button when checking-out on a mobile app. Facebook will then verify the details, and securely transfer a user's info over to the payment processing company. The move is likely aimed at gathering more data on user behavior, which can be used to increase the prices Facebook charges for mobile ads. Whether or not the feature takes off however, will depend almost entirely on how willing users are to trust Facebook with their credit card data.
dryriver writes: China's Education Ministry says that about 400 million people — or 30% of the population — cannot speak the country's national language. Of the 70% of the population who can speak Mandarin, many do not do it well enough, a ministry spokeswoman told Xinhua news agency on Thursday. The admission from officials came as the government launched another push for linguistic unity in China. China is home to thousands of dialects and several minority languages. These include Cantonese and Hokkien, which enjoy strong regional support. Mandarin — formally called Putonghua in China, meaning "common tongue" — is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. The Education Ministry spokeswoman said the push would be focusing on the countryside and areas with ethnic minorities. For decades, the ruling Communist Party has promoted Mandarin in an attempt to unite the most populous nation in the world. But government efforts have been hampered by the sheer size of the country and a lack of investment in education, particularly the rural areas, says the BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing.
sciencehabit writes: 2012 was a year of extreme weather: Superstorm Sandy, drought and heat waves in the United States; record rainfall in the United Kingdom; unusually heavy rains in Kenya, Somalia, Japan, and Australia; drought in Spain; floods in China. One of the first questions asked in the wake of such an extreme weather is: “Is this due to climate change?”
In a report published online today, NOAA scientists tackled this question head-on. The overall message of the report: It varies. “About half of the events reveal compelling evidence that human-caused change was a [contributing] factor,” said NOAA National Climatic Data Center Director Thomas Karl. In addition, climate scientist Peter Stott of the U.K. Met Office noted that these studies show that in many cases, human influence on climate has increased the risks associated with extreme events.
coondoggie writes: The US Energy Department this week said it would spend $16 million for seventeen projects to help research and develop energy generating systems from waves, tides and currents. The energy agency says the US could generate up to 1,400 terawatt hours of potential power per year. One terawatt-hour of electricity is enough to power 85,000 homes, according to the agency.
Jim_Austin writes: Teams of hundreds of young scientists--including many grad students and postdocs--staffed the Large Hadron Collider and helped make one of the most important scientific discoveries in recent decades. Now they must compete for just a handful of jobs.
cold fjord writes: The Guardian reports, "The high court has granted the Metropolitan police extended powers to investigate whether crimes related to terrorism and breaches of the Official Secrets Act have been committed following the seizure of data at Heathrow from David Miranda... At a hearing... lawyers for Miranda said they had agreed to the terms of wider police powers to investigate a hard drive and memory sticks containing encrypted material that were seized on 18 August. Previously the inspection had been conducted on the narrower grounds of national security. Following the court ruling, the police will now be allowed to examine the material to investigate whether a crime of "communication of material to an enemy" has been committed as well as possible crimes of communication of material about members of the military and intelligence services that could be useful to terrorists."
sciencehabit writes: The XPrize Foundation has scrapped its high-profile $10 million genomics challenge set for next month after attracting only two competitors to the sequencing contest.
The Archon Genomics XPRIZE began with much fanfare 7 years ago with the aim of boosting medical genomics by offering a $10 million award to the first team to sequence 100 human genomes in 10 days for no more than $10,000 each. After complaints about the tight deadline and unclear judging criteria, the foundation revised the rules in October 2011: The objective was to sequence the genomes of 100 centenarians with high accuracy and 98% completeness within 30 days for $1000 or less. Interest was tepid, however, and only two of the eight contenders in the original contest registered by the 31 May deadline—the company Ion Torrent, and George Church’s lab at Harvard University.
MojoKid writes: "A few weeks back, HotHardware examined whether a new GPU like the GeForce GTX 660 could breathe new life into an older quad-core gaming system built in mid 2008. The answer concluded was definitely yes — but many readers asked to reconsider the question, this time using a lower-end dual-core Core 2 Duo. The Core 2 Duo CPU chip used was a first-generation C2D part based on Intel's 65nm Conroe core. It's clocked at 3GHz with 4MB of L2 cache and has a 1333MHz FSB. The CPU was paired with 3GB of DDR2-1066 memory. The long and short of it is, you can upgrade the graphics card on a six year-old dual core machine and expect to see a noticeable improvement in game performance — significant gains in fact, up to 50 percent or more."
Nerval's Lobster writes: "The U.S. Department of Justice has just settled with book publisher Macmillan in an ongoing case over the price of e-books, bringing its number of settlements with big-name publishers up to five. Justice claims that those five publishers, along with Apple, agreed to “raise retail e-book prices and eliminate price competition, substantially increasing prices paid by consumers.” Apple competes fiercely in the digital-media space against Amazon, which often discounts the prices of Kindle e-books as a competitive gambit; although all five publishers earn significant revenues from sales of Kindle e-books, Amazon’s massive popularity among book-buyers—coupled with the slow decline of bricks-and-mortar bookstores—gives it significant leverage when it comes to lowering those e-book prices as it sees fit. But Justice and Apple seem determined to keep their court date later this year."
Orome1 writes: Adobe has pushed out an emergency Flash update that solves two critical vulnerabilities (CVE-2013-0633 and CVE-2013-0634) that are being actively exploited to target Windows and OS X users, and is urging users to implement it as soon as possible. According to a security bulletin released on Thursday, the OS X exploit targets Flash Player in Firefox or Safari via malicious Flash content hosted on websites, while Windows users are targeted with Microsoft Word documents delivered as an email attachments which contain malicious Flash content. Adobe has also announced its intention of adding new protections against malicious Flash content embedded in Microsoft Office documents to its next feature release of Flash Player.
poetmatt writes: Techdirt notes that a new trade agreement is being released which will reintroduce the same IP maximalist issues from ACTA, SOPA and TPP previously, this time named TAFTA.
FTA: "More details are starting to come out as the main EU negotiator for ACTA, Karel de Gucht, came to DC to see about getting things kicked off, on an agreement that's being called TAFTA — the Trans Atlantic "Free Trade" Agreement. Of course, instead of recognizing the lessons from previous failed efforts to push for broken maximalist policies, it appears that the plan is to try, try again.