ananyo writes "The Guardian's technology editor, Charles Arthur, asks why researchers have remained largely silent in the wake of the revelation that the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology's standard for random numbers used for cryptography had been weakened by the NSA: 'The nature of the subversions sounds abstruse: the random-number generator, the 'Dual EC DRBG' standard, had been hacked by the NSA and the UK's GCHQ so that its output would not be as random as it should have been. That might not sound like much, but if you are trying to break an encrypted message, the knowledge that it is hundreds or thousands of times weaker than advertised is a great encouragement.' Arthur attributes the silence of UK academics, at least, to pressure from GCHQ. He goes on to say: 'For those who do care, White and Matthew Green, who teaches cryptography at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, have embarked on an ambitious effort to clean up the mess — one that needs help. They have created a non-profit organization called OpenAudit.org, which aims to recruit experts to provide technical assistance for security projects in the public interest, especially open-source security software.'"
schwit1 sends this excerpt from CBS: "'Enough' with the multivitamins already. That's the message from doctors behind three new studies and an editorial that tackled an oft-debated question in medicine: Do daily multivitamins make you healthier? After reviewing the available evidence and conducting new trials, the authors have come to a conclusion of 'no.' 'We believe that the case is closed — supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful,' concluded the authors of the editorial summarizing the new research papers, published Dec. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 'These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.' They went on to urge consumers to not 'waste' their money on multivitamins."
mdsolar tips this report: "Teams of lawmakers are working hard on bills to cut corn-based ethanol out of the country's biofuel mandate entirely, according to National Journal. It's the latest twist in America's fraught relationship with biofuels, which started in 2005 when Congress first mandated that a certain amount of biofuel be mixed into the country's fuel supply. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was then expanded in 2007, with separate requirements for standard biofuel on the one hand and cellulosic and advanced biofuels on the other. The latter are produced from non-food products like cornstalks, agricultural waste, and timber industry cuttings. The RFS originally called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million in 2011, and 500 million in 2012. Instead, the cellulosic industry failed to get off the ground. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to revise the mandate down to 6.5 million in 2010, and all the way down to zero in 2012. The cellulosic mandate has started to slowly creep back up, and 2014 may be the year when domestic production of cellulosic ethanol finally takes off. But then last month EPA did something else for the first time: it cut down the 2014 mandate for standard biofuel, produced mainly from corn. And now Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have teamed up on legislation that would eliminate the standard biofuel mandate entirely."
An anonymous reader writes "For years, the reaction of the big entertainment companies to digital disruption has been to try and restrict and control, a wrong-headed approach that was bound to backfire. But the entertainment companies were never known for being forward thinking whether it was radio in the 20s or cassette tapes in the 70s or VCRs in the 80s or Napster in the 90s. The reaction was the always the same. Take a defensive position and try to battle the disruptive force. And it never worked. And DRM was perhaps the worst reaction of all, place restrictions on your content that punish the very people who were willing to pay for it, while others were free to use it without restriction. It was an approach that never made much sense, and it's good to know that mounting evidence proves that's the case."
Sockatume writes "Since 2011, Amazon Instant Video has sold a series of Christmas shorts from Disney called 'Prep and Landing'. Unfortunately this holiday season, Disney has had a change of heart and has decided to make the shorts exclusive to its own channels. The company went so far as to retroactively withdrawn the shows from Amazon, so that customers who have already paid for them no longer have access. Apparently this reverse-Santa ability is a feature Amazon provides all publishers, and customers have little recourse but to go cap-in-hand to a Disney outlet and pay for the shows again."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "It turns out Facebook tracks the stuff that people type and then erase before hitting the post button. If you start writing a message, and then think better of it and decide not to post it, Facebook still adds it to the dossier they keep on you. From the article: 'Storing text as you type isn't uncommon on other websites. For example, if you use Gmail, your draft messages are automatically saved as you type them. Even if you close the browser without saving, you can usually find a (nearly) complete copy of the email you were typing in your Drafts folder. Facebook is using essentially the same technology here. The difference is that Google is saving your messages to help you. Facebook users don't expect their unposted thoughts to be collected, nor do they benefit from it.'"
Freshly Exhumed writes "What a father eats before his child is conceived may influence the chance a baby will be born with a birth defect, a new study suggests. Much of the focus on how diet relates to birth has been done on moms. A father's diet before conception plays a crucial role in the health of his offspring, researchers in Canada suggest. Sarah Kimmins, a researcher at McGill University in Montreal, said the study focused on vitamin B9, also known as folate, which is found in green leafy vegetables, cereal, fruit and meat. The researchers found that the mouse offspring of folate-deficient fathers had a 30 percent increased risk of birth defects, compared to those offspring who had received a sufficient amount of folate."
Velcroman1 writes "Banking giant JPMorgan Chase has filed a patent application for an electronic commerce system that sounds remarkably like Bitcoin — but never mentions the controversial, Internet-only currency. The patent application was filed in early August but made publicly available only at the end of November; it describes a 'method and system for processing Internet payments using the electronic funds transfer network.' The system would allow people to pay bills anonymously over the Internet through an electronic transfer of funds — just like Bitcoin. It would allow for micropayments without processing fees — just like bitcoin. And it could kill off wire transfers through companies like Western Union — just like Bitcoin. There are 18,126 words in the patent application. 'Bitcoin' is not one of them."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Tulsa World reports that in their zeal to tout their faith in the public square, conservatives in Oklahoma may have unwittingly opened the door to a wide range of religious groups, including satanists who are now seeking to put their own statue next to a Ten Commandments monument on the Statehouse steps. The Republican-controlled Legislature in Oklahoma authorized the privately funded Ten Commandments monument in 2009, and it was placed on the Capitol grounds last year despite criticism from legal experts who questioned its constitutionality. But the New York-based Satanic Temple saw an opportunity and notified the state's Capitol Preservation Commission that it wants to donate a monument too. 'We believe that all monuments should be in good taste and consistent with community standards,' Lucien Greaves wrote in letter to state officials. 'Our proposed monument, as an homage to the historic/literary Satan, will certainly abide by these guidelines.' Brady Henderson, legal director for ACLU Oklahoma, said if state officials allow one type of religious expression, they must allow alternative forms of expression, although he said a better solution might be to allow none at all on state property. 'We would prefer to see Oklahoma's government officials work to faithfully serve our communities and improve the lives of Oklahomans instead of erecting granite monuments to show us all how righteous they are,' says Henderson. 'But if the Ten Commandments, with its overtly Christian message, is allowed to stay at the Capitol, the Satanic Temple's proposed monument cannot be rejected because of its different religious viewpoint.'"
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.'"
An anonymous reader writes with news of a device built by a company in the U.K. which uses pulses of electromagnetic energy to disrupt the electronic systems of modern cars, causing them to shut down and cut the engine. Here's a description of how it works: "At one end of a disused runway, E2V assembled a varied collection of second-hand cars and motorbikes in order to test the prototype against a range of vehicles. In demonstrations seen by the BBC a car drove towards the device at about 15mph (24km/h). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.''It's a small radar transmitter,' said Andy Wood, product manager for the machine. 'The RF [radio frequency] is pulsed from the unit just as it would be in radar, it couples into the wiring in the car and that disrupts and confuses the electronics in the car causing the engine to stall.'"
Z80xxc! writes "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed during a CBS 60 Minutes interview that the company is working on a service called 'Prime Air' to deliver packages by autonomous octocopter drones within 30 minutes of hitting the 'buy' button. The plan still requires more testing and FAA approval, but Bezos predicts it'll be available to the public in the next 4-5 years. With a lot of backlash against drones, and some towns even offering bounties to shoot them down, will this technology ever take off, or is this just another one of Amazon's eccentric CEO's fantastical flight ideas?"
Charliemopps writes "For 20 years the password for the U.S. nuclear arsenal was '00000000.' Kennedy instituted a security system on all nuclear warheads to prevent them from being armed by someone unauthorized. It was called PAL, and promised to secure the entire US arsenal around the world. Unfortunately for Kennedy (and I guess, the whole world) U.S. military leadership was more concerned about delaying a launch than securing Armageddon. They technically obeyed the order but then set the password to 8 Zeros, or '00000000'."
rtoz writes "The American intelligence service — NSA — infected more than 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malicious software designed to steal sensitive information, documents provided by former NSA-employee Edward Snowden show."
Microsoft released the Xbox One today, putting the next-gen console war into full swing. A common theme throughout most of the reviews is that properly evaluating the system is going to take time. Not only are updates for the console continuing to roll out, but the usefulness of some of its technology will depend on what game-makers and other content producers can do with it. Digital Foundry says, "It is willing to make the trades on gaming power in order to potentially revolutionize the way we interact with entertainment in the living room." The Penny Arcade Report calls the hardware and UI a "confusing mess" — until you learn to use it, at which point the hands-free navigation is fast and convenient. Polygon's review is once again visually-oriented, providing a good look at the UI, comparing the controller with the Xbox 360's controller, and giving a demonstration of how Kinect recognizes users. Their conclusion is that while "Kinect isn't a fully realized product yet," "the Xbox One feels like it's from the future." iFixit has a full teardown of the Xbox One, giving it a repairability score of 8/10 (the Kinect sensor gets 6/10). HotHardware has more details about the console's internals, including power consumption and temperature readings. Eurogamer has a compilation of launch coverage, including launch title reviews.