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Submission + - How Ludwig van Beethoven Invented the Taximeter: a true story, with some caveats (thirdcarriageage.com)

arctother writes: "In 1876, a new technology for managing interactions between drivers and passengers promised to transform the cab-riding experience. ... This proto-taximeter was not just a device for calculating cab fares: it was a technological means to intervene in person-to-person interaction at a site of social and class anxiety. As such, it bears more than a passing resemblance to the cab-reforming technology of today."

Submission + - New California declares "independence" from rest of state (cbsnews.com)

PolygamousRanchKid writes: With the reading of their own version of a Declaration of Independence, founders of the state of New California took the first steps to what they hope will eventually lead to statehood. CBS Sacramento reports they don't want to leave the United States, just California. The state of New California would incorporate most of the state's rural counties, leaving the urban coastal counties to the current state of California.

But unlike other separation movements in the past, the state of New California wants to do things by the book, citing Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution and working with the state legislature to get it done, similar to the way West Virginia was formed.

"Yes. We have to demonstrate that we can govern ourselves before we are allowed to govern," said founder Tom Reed.

Submission + - Australian raptors deliberately spread fires

An anonymous reader writes: If you've been counting the ways the Australian environment is trying to kill you, you can now add "arson" to the list. According to a six-year study published in The Journal of Ethnobiology, observers have confirmed Aboriginal rangers have been observing for years: birds of prey routinely carry burning or smouldering sticks into dry grassy areas to scare small mammals into fleeing so they can be pack-hunted more effectively. This has implications for environmental management, since the best firebreak will not protect your controlled burn from a "firehawk" determined to breach it.

Submission + - We All Nearly Missed The Largest Underwater Volcano Eruption Ever Recorded (sciencealert.com)

schwit1 writes: She was flying home from a holiday in Samoa when she saw it through the airplane window: a "peculiar large mass" floating on the ocean, hundreds of kilometres off the north coast of New Zealand.

The Kiwi passenger emailed photos of the strange ocean slick to scientists, who realised what it was – a raft of floating rock spewed from an underwater volcano, produced in the largest eruption of its kind ever recorded.

"We knew it was a large-scale eruption, approximately equivalent to the biggest eruption we've seen on land in the 20th Century," says volcanologist Rebecca Carey from the University of Tasmania, who's co-led the first close-up investigation of the historic 2012 eruption.

"Underwater eruptions are fundamentally different than those on land," says one of the team, geophysicist Michael Manga from UC Berkeley.

"There is no on-land equivalent."

Submission + - Can Government Officials Have You Arrested for Speaking to Them? (theatlantic.com)

schwit1 writes: If a citizen speaks at a public meeting and says something a politician doesn’t like, can the citizen be arrested, cuffed, and carted off to the hoosegow?

Suppose that, during this fraught encounter, the citizen violates some law—even by accident, even one no one has ever heard of, even one dug up after the fact—does that make her arrest constitutional?

Deyshia Hargrave, meet Fane Lozman. You need to follow his case.

Hargrave is a language arts teacher in Kaplan, Louisana. She was arrested Monday after she questioned school-district policy during public comment at a school board meeting.

She asked why the superintendent of schools was receiving a five-figure raise when local teachers had not had a permanent pay increase in a decade. As she was speaking, the school-board president slammed his gavel, and a police officer told her to leave. She left, but once she went into the hall, the officer took her to the ground, handcuffed her, and arrested her for “remaining after having been forbidden” and “resisting an officer.”

Fane Lozman, whose case will be argued in front of the Supreme Court on February 27, faced the same fate at a meeting of the Riviera Beach, Florida, city council in November 2006. Lozman, remarkably enough, has made his way to the high court more or less without assistance twice in the past four years, arguing two different aspects of his acrimonious dispute with the Riviera Beach city government. The first case, which Lozman won, asked whether his motorless plywood “floating home” was actually a “vessel” subject to federal admiralty law. (Answer, via Justice Stephen Breyer: “Um, no.”) The second case is about police tactics at public meetings; its result could make a profound difference to citizens like Hargrave who want to talk back to local officials without a trip to jail.

Remember, plaintiffs must show that retaliation was the motive for the arrest. (In Lozman, that wasn’t hard: Meeting transcripts showed that the council wanted to “intimidate” Lozman and let him “feel the unwarranted heat.”) Unlike prosecutors, police officers don’t have immunity, and neither do elected officials who order them to silence citizens. There’s no “presumption” that an arrest is based on “legitimate grounds.”

Much of federal civil-rights law is set up to deter this kind of official bully-boy tactics. And a glimpse at any given front page in 2018 should convince even a cloistered Supreme Court justice that police attacks on free speech are still a problem.

Submission + - Mixed up menu options send off ballistic missile (alert). (washingtonpost.com)

minstrelmike writes: The lousy menuing system for the emergency alert system in Hawaii is what caused an employee to accidentally send out a ballistic misslie--this is not a drill--tweet. Airplane manufacturers learned early on not to put the switch to dump all fuel right next to some other commonly used switch like landing gear down.

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Submission + - Stupid Patent of the Month: Sending positive messages to your phone

slimshady76 writes: EFF's latest SPOTM entry details U.S. Patent No. 9,069,648 where a patent is granted for “Systems and methods for delivering activity based suggestive (ABS) messages.”
The patent describes sending “motivational messages,” based “on the current or anticipated activity of the user,” to a “personal electronic device.” The patent provides examples such as sending the message “don't give up” when the user is running up a hill. The examples aren’t limited to health or exercise. For example, the patent suggests sending messages like “do not fear” and “God is with you” when a “user enters a dangerous neighborhood.”
The patent’s description of its invention is filled with silly, non-standard acronyms like ABS for “activity based suggestive” messages or EBIF for “electronic based intelligence function.” These silly acronyms create an illusion of complexity where plain, descriptive language would reveal the mundane nature of the supposed invention. For example, what the patent grandly calls EBIF appears to be nothing more than standard computer processing.

Submission + - Google Doodles the Diversity Talk, Struggles to Walk the Diversity Walk

theodp writes: On Monday, Google commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a Google Doodle from guest artist Cannaday Chapman. Back in 2014, Google finally disclosed racial diversity data for the first time, revealing that its tech workforce was only 1% Black. "Put simply," wrote Google HR Chief Laszlo Bock, "Google is not where we want to be when it comes to diversity." So, how have things changed over the years? According to Google's 2014-2017 'Our Workforce Composition' Charts, not much.

Submission + - New Study Claims That The "Black Death" Was Spread By Humans, Not Rats (bbc.com)

dryriver writes: The BBC reports: Rats were not to blame for the spread of plague during the Black Death, according to a study. The rodents and their fleas were thought to have spread a series of outbreaks in 14th-19th Century Europe. But a team from the universities of Oslo and Ferrara now says the first, the Black Death, can be "largely ascribed to human fleas and body lice". The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, uses records of its pattern and scale. The Black Death claimed an estimated 25 million lives, more than a third of Europe's population, between 1347 and 1351. "We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe," Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News. "So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there]." He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by: 1) rats 2) airborne transmission 3) fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes. In seven out of the nine cities studied, the "human parasite model" was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak. It mirrored how quickly it spread and how many people it affected. "The conclusion was very clear," said Prof Stenseth. "The lice model fits best.It would be unlikely to spread as fast as it did if it was transmitted by rats. It would have to go through this extra loop of the rats, rather than being spread from person to person." Plague is still endemic in some countries of Asia, Africa and the Americas, where it persists in "reservoirs" of infected rodents. According to the World Health Organization, from 2010 to 2015 there were 3,248 cases reported worldwide, including 584 deaths. And, in 2001, a study that decoded the plague genome used a bacterium that had come from a vet in the US who had died in 1992 after a plague-infested cat sneezed on him as he had been trying to rescue it from underneath a house.

Submission + - New Antifungal Provides Hope In Fight Against "Superyeast" Plagueing Hospitals (sciencedaily.com)

dryriver writes: Candida auris is a type of yeast that has turned up in hospitals around the world and lead to the death of some patients. Microscopic yeast are a menace in hospitals. The fungi can grow in the nooks and crannies of medical equipment and hospital surfaces and can cause infections in patients with weakened immune systems. Microscopic yeast have been wreaking havoc in hospitals around the world — creeping into catheters, ventilator tubes, and IV lines — and causing deadly invasive infection. C. auris is particularly problematic because it loves hospitals, has developed resistance to a wide range of antifungals, and once it infects a patient doctors have limited treatment options. But in a recent Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy study, researchers confirmed a new drug compound kills drug-resistant C. auris, both in the laboratory and in a mouse model that mimics human infection.

The drug works through a novel mechanism. Unlike other antifungals that poke holes in yeast cell membranes or inhibit sterol synthesis, the new drug blocks how necessary proteins attach to the yeast cell wall. This means C. auris yeast can't grow properly and have a harder time forming drug-resistant communities that are a stubborn source of hospital outbreaks. The drug's target — a yeast enzyme called Gwt1 — is also highly conserved across fungal species, suggesting the new drug could treat a range of infections.

The drug is first in a new class of antifungals, which could help stave off drug resistance. Even the most troublesome strains are unlikely to have developed workarounds for its mechanism of action, says study lead Mahmoud A. Ghannoum, PhD, professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

Submission + - Confirmed issue with Google Chromecast and Google Home causes temporarily Wifi d (myce.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Google Cast devices, like the Chromecast and Google Home cause temporarily Wifi dropouts for users around the world. The issue has been confirmed for routers from Asus, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Link or Synology. In some cases the router is totally inaccessible for a while, other users report the router only disconnects from the internet. TP-Link and Linksys have confirmed the issue.

Submission + - CES 2018: Tech Industry Leaders Talk DACA, H1-B (ieee.org)

Tekla Perry writes: Panelists at CES 2018 last week were encouraged by President Trump's short-lived indication of support for any DACA deal. But even with the subsequent turmoil, it's clear something will happen soon, because “from the Senate Republican staffers I’ve talked to, their bosses think we have hit a point of no return," said one panelist.

The group also discussed H-1B visas, and the pressure the bottleneck in moving green card applications forward is having on H-1B's. Said a representative from Microsoft, Microsoft immediately sponsors anyone the company hires on an H-1B visa for a green card, and considers them permanent workers.

The panelists also debated whether a point-based merit system represents a reasonable path forward, and other potential solutions to the tech-worker immigration mess.

Submission + - Why is liberal California the poverty capital of America? (latimes.com) 1

schwit1 writes: The generous spending has not only failed to decrease poverty; it actually seems to have made it worse.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, some states — principally Wisconsin, Michigan, and Virginia — initiated welfare reform, as did the federal government under President Clinton and a Republican Congress. Tied together by a common thread of strong work requirements, these overhauls were a big success: Welfare rolls plummeted and millions of former aid recipients entered the labor force.

The state and local bureaucracies that implement California’s antipoverty programs, however, resisted pro-work reforms. In fact, California recipients of state aid receive a disproportionately large share of it in no-strings-attached cash disbursements. It’s as though welfare reform passed California by, leaving a dependency trap in place. Immigrants are falling into it: 55% of immigrant families in the state get some kind of means-tested benefits, compared with just 30% of natives.

Submission + - Soy Wiring Coming Back to Bite Import Car Manufacturers (hackaday.com) 4

An anonymous reader writes: Over at Hackaday, there's an interesting article about a little-known problem plaguing many newer vehicles from the likes of Honda, Toyota, and Kia. The car makers used soy-insulated wiring to cut costs and "Go Green", but owners in rural areas are finding the local wildlife finds the wiring irresistible; thousands of dollars in damage has been done by rats and other critters eating wiring harnesses.

The author asks the Hackaday community to brainstorm solutions to this unique problem, as owners of effected vehicles have had to resort to sprinkling their driveway with coyote urine and putting rat traps on the wheels.

Submission + - SpaceX and Boeing Slated for Manned Space Missions By Year's End (fortune.com)

schwit1 writes: SpaceX’s crewed test flight is slated for December, after an uncrewed flight in August. Boeing will also be demonstrating its CST-100 Starliner capsule, with a crewed flight in November following an uncrewed flight in August.

NASA’s goal is to launch crews to the ISS from U.S. soil, a task that has fallen to Russia’s space program since the retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle program in 2011. NASA began looking for private launch companies to take over starting in 2010, and contracted both SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to pursue crewed launches. The push to restore America’s crewed spaceflight capacity has been delayed in part, according to a detailed survey by Ars Technica, by Congress redirecting funds in subsequent years.

The test flights could determine whether Boeing or SpaceX conducts the first U.S. commercial space launch to the ISS. Whichever company gets that honor may also claim a symbolic U.S. flag stuck to a hatch on the space station. Sources speaking to Ars describe the race between the two companies as too close to call, and say that a push to early 2019 is entirely possible. But in an apparent vote of confidence, NASA has already begun naming astronauts to helm the flights.

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