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Earth

Nature Lover Vladimir Putin Flies With the Cranes 285

Hugh Pickens writes "Russian President Vladimir Putin is a nature lover. In 2007, the bare-chested president rode a horse through Siberia. In 2008, he fired a tranquilizer gun at a rare Siberian tiger. In 2010, he used a crossbow to shoot darts at an enormous whale in a fog-shrouded bay to collect tissue samples. Now Der Spiegel reports that on his way east to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Putin stopped at the Arctic Circle to fulfill a mission for which the Kremlin says he prepared assiduously for a year and a half: helping to save an endangered species of crane. In a meadow some 2,000 kilometers northeast of Moscow, Putin donned a white jumpsuit and black aviator goggles before swinging himself into the seat of an ultralight aircraft and as loudspeakers played the recorded call of a mother crane, Putin lifted off and a group of orphaned white Siberian cranes followed, allowing the aircraft to lead them south toward their winter habitat. On the first attempt, only one of the young cranes followed him up, which Putin said was because a high tail wind had caused the hang glider to accelerate too fast. On the second attempt, five birds followed Putin, but only two stuck with him for the full 15-minute flight. Putin's flight, given many minutes of airtime on Russian television, provoked an array of contemptuous jokes on the Internet, one of the most popular being: 'So Putin is off to wintering with cranes. Does this mean he's not going to be back before spring?' The Russian president, however, hit back at critics telling reporters at the conclusion of APEC summit that, 'It's true that not all flew right away, but the ones that didn't fly were the weak cranes' apparently alluding to the errant ways of those involved in protests that have hit Russia over the last year."

Comment Discount is on the wrong version (Score 1) 210

This discount is on the version that you have to hook to your computer in order to update. A single $25 discount seems inappropriate for this devices.

I would rather see a discount on the free-3G/wifi version of the unit. In this product, you get free 3G for life. An ad-supported model makes more sense because you continue to receive a service in exchange for continuing to receive ads. It would also allow them to update those ads more often.

The best solution would be to discount the reader a bit *and* discount each kindle book you buy, say maybe by 10%.

Government

Feds Prep For E-Gov Shutdown 290

dcblogs writes "If the federal government is shutdown midnight Friday, the feds plan to stop updating government Web sites that aren't delivering essential services. 'Most Web sites will not continue, only those Web sites that are part of these accepted activities would continue to operate,' the senior White House official said Tuesday. 'Accepted activities,' refers to essential, life and safety-related government services. The IRS, however, will continue to accept tax returns filed electronically and to process payments. 'We need to be able to collect the money that is owed to the U.S. government,' the official said. Paper-based returns won't be processed."
Image

Town Gets Patent On Being the Center of Europe Screenshot-sm 169

An anonymous reader writes "And you thought software patents were going to far? How about geography patents? Apparently, as a part of the weird fight over what place in Europe represents the 'geophysical center of Europe,' the Austrian town of Frauenkirchen has received a patent (Austrian patent AM 7738/2003) declaring it the center of Europe. Not clear how one 'infringes' on such a patent, but then again, it's not clear why anyone's patenting this either."
Image

Beaver Dam Visible From Space Screenshot-sm 286

ygslash writes "The Hoover Dam no longer holds the title of the world's widest dam. Satellite photos of northern Alberta, Canada, show that several families of beavers have apparently joined forces to build a dam 850 meters wide, more than twice as wide as the Hoover Dam."
Privacy

FBI Taps Cell Phone Microphones in Mafia Case 274

cnet-declan writes "We already knew the FBI can secretly listen in to car conversations by activating microphones of systems like OnStar. A new Mafia court case suggests that the FBI can do the same thing to cell phones. The judge's opinion and some background information [pdf] are available for reading online. The most disturbing thing? According to the judge, the bug worked even if the phone appeared to be 'powered off.' Anyone up for an open-source handset already?" From the article: "This week, Judge Kaplan in the southern district of New York concluded that the 'roving bugs' were legally permitted to capture hundreds of hours of conversations because the FBI had obtained a court order and alternatives probably wouldn't work. The FBI's 'applications made a sufficient case for electronic surveillance,' Kaplan wrote. 'They indicated that alternative methods of investigation either had failed or were unlikely to produce results, in part because the subjects deliberately avoided government surveillance.'"

U.S. Secretly Tapping Bank Databases 537

The Washington Post and New York Times are reporting on a Bush administration initiative that has tapped into a vast global database of confidential financial transactions for nearly five years. Relying on a presidential emergency declaration made under the International Emergency Economic Powers, the administration has been surveilling the data from the SWIFT database, which links about 7,800 banks and brokerages and handles billions of transactions a year. From the article:
Together with a hundredfold expansion of the FBI's use of "national security letters" to obtain communications and banking records, the secret NSA and Treasury programs have built unprecedented government databases of private transactions, most of them involving people who prove irrelevant to terrorism investigators.

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