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United States

Submission + - TX Science Educator Fired - Was Non-Neutral re: ID (nytimes.com) 1

jeffporcaro writes: "Texas' Director of Science Curriculum was "forced to step down" for favoring evolution over intelligent design (ID). She apparently circulated an e-mail that was critical of ID — although state regulations require her not to have any opinion "on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral." I hope they don't enforce the same kind of neutrality regarding heliocentricity or other scientific "debates.""
XBox (Games)

Submission + - Xbox 360 Fall Dashboard Update Details Released

Nick Breen writes: The Xbox 360 firmware sees two major updates a year — in the Spring and the Fall. This year's Fall update is just about upon us. On Tuesday December 4th, Microsoft will unleash a flurry of new features and small tweaks to the way the Xbox 360 operates. Here are the highlights.
  • AVI Support — The max bitrate for these files is 5 Mbps with resolutions up to 1280x720 up to 30fps.
  • Parental Timer — Limit play time
  • Xbox Originals — Crash Bandicoot: Wrath of Cortex, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, Halo, Fable, Fuzion Frenzy, and Psychonauts for 1,200 MS Points.
  • XBLA Greatest Hits — Best-selling Xbox Live Arcade games for 800 Points.
  • Enhanced Online Profiles — You'll be able to look up friends of friends now, in sort of a social-networking-way.
  • Inside Xbox — RSS news feed from Xbox Central Headquarters on your Xbox 360 dashboard.
  • New Dashboard Layout
Security

Submission + - A U.S. pandemic would kill 1.7m, hospitalize 9m (computerworld.com)

Lucas123 writes: "A U.S. pandemic would exhaust antiviral medications, reduce basic food supplies, put ATMs out of service, shut down call centers, increase gas prices and up health insurance claims by 20%, according a test project developed by financial service firms. The pandemic paper planning scenario is used by 3,000 banks, insurance companies and security firms in preparing for disasters. The financial services groups are now sharing the pandemic flu exercise information, and all the scenarios are available for download."
Space

Submission + - New Theory Explains Periodic Mass Extinctions

i_like_spam writes: The theory that the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid impact, the K-T extinction, is well known and supported by fossil and geological evidence. Asteroid impact theory does not apply to the other fluctuations in biodiversity, however, which follow an approximate 62 million-year cycle. As reported in Science news, a new theory seems to explain periodic mass extinctions. The new theory found that oscillations in the Sun relative to the plane of the Milky Way correlate with changes in biodiversity on Earth. The researchers suggest that an increase in the exposure of Earth to extragalatic cosmic rays causes mass extinctions. Here is the original paper describing the finding.
Security

Submission + - Should We Rebuild America with Minneapolis Bridge? (popularmechanics.com) 2

mattnyc99 writes: The tragic collapse last night in Minneapolis of a truss bridge—one that the U.S. Dept. of Transportation found "structurally deficient" two years ago—raises an important issue beyond just the engineering of one single span. As national security expert Stephen Flynn pleads in an op-ed on American infrastructure in the wake of yesterday's disaster, "The blind eye that taxpayers and our elected officials have been turning to the imperative of maintaining and upgrading the critical foundations that underpin our lives is irrational and reckless." Do we need to start spending to rebuild America?
Privacy

Submission + - UCLA Probe Finds Taser Incident Out Of Policy (ucla.edu)

Bandor Mia writes: Last November, it was reported that UCLA cops Tasered a student, who forgot to bring his ID, at the UCLA library. While an internal probe by UCLAPD cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, an outside probe by Police Assessment Resource Center has found that the police actions on Mostafa Tabatabainejad were indeed out of UCLA policy. The probe was conducted at the behest of acting UCLA Chancellor Norman Abrams.

From the report:
"In light of UCLAPD's general use of force policy and its specific policies on pain compliance techniques, Officer 2's three applications of the Taser, taken together, were out of policy. Officer 2 did not take advantage of other options and opportunities reasonably available to de-escalate the situation without the use of the Taser. Reasonable campus police officers, upon assessing the circumstances, likely would have embraced different choices and options that appear likely to have been more consistent both with UCLAPD policy and general best law enforcement practices."

United States

Submission + - Minn. Bridge Collapse is Just the Beginning

ntmokey writes: The nation's infrastructure is aging, heavily used, and dangerous, according to Stephen Flynn, a national security expert who wrote an op-ed piece for Popular Mechanics. Flynn believes incidents like the collapse of Minnesota's I-35 bridge and the recent explosion of a steam pipe in New York City are wake-up calls to our nation's leaders that we need to invest more in the structures we rely on (sometimes without even knowing it) every day. Our ports, roadways, railroads, air traffic control and electricity systems are were all top-notch when they were installed by previous generations — but we've come to take them for granted and we're starting to feel the sting of neglect. Flynn's not just waving red flags in light of recent events either, he wrote a book about the pending crisis that was published in February.
Announcements

Submission + - Nanotech tablecloth that charges your laptop

moscowde writes: Research scientists at the University of Tokyo have come up with a unique sheet-like material that can transmit electrical energy over a large area to nearby devices without the need for direct contact, so it can be made into a tablecloth or wallpaper and your appliance can be anywhere on a surface to get charged. The system uses organic molecules as transistors, microelectromechanical switches, and miniature copper coils to transmit energy using electromagnetic induction. http://www.justchromatography.com/general/world-wi thout-wires
Sony

Submission + - Sony Blackballs Kotaku

CorSci81 writes: The popular gaming blog Kotaku recently posted a rumor speculating on the nature of Sony's big announcement to come at the GDC. As it turns out, they attempted to verify the rumor with Sony before publication and were greeted with threats if they proceeded with the story, which was left out of the original posting. It seems Sony really meant it and has uninvited the Kotaku staff from all future meetings including media events at the GDC. The fallout from this over the next few days should be interesting.
Software

Submission + - Software tweak could boost your car's gas mileage

coondoggie writes: "Think it's possible to improve your car's gas mileage just by downloading a new piece of software? Seems to be the case according to a Dutch scientist who this week said most modern cars could reduce fuel consumption by almost 3% by downloading software he and Ford worked to develop. John Kessels' software shuts on or off the car's alternator, which charges the car battery, when it is particularly inefficient for the engine to power it, thus improving the overall efficiency of the engine. A similar technique is used for hybrid cars. The software is not proprietary to Ford and can be used in any vehicle with an engine computer, which includes the vast majority of cars sold today, Kessel says. http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/1195 6"
Security

Submission + - U.S. cities don't make the intelligence cut

coondoggie writes: "For the second year running, no U.S. city has made the list of the world's top Intelligent Communities of 2007, as selected by global think tank Intelligent Community Forum. The ICF selects the Intelligent Community list based on how advanced the communities are in deploying broadband, building a knowledge-based workforce, combining government and private-sector "digital inclusion," fostering innovation and marketing economic development. http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/012407-icf-p tc.html"
Handhelds

Submission + - Switzerland bans the use of GPS units in cars.

An anonymous reader writes: If you're traveling with a GPS in your car to Switzerland, be very careful! As of January 10th, the Swiss authorities (ASTRA) have forbid the use of GPS systems in cars. They also banned the selling of car GPS units throughout the country.
The reason is that the software running on these devices reveal the location of traffic radars, through which less people have been fined in the recent years and thus Swiss authorities miss a lot of money. The controversial ban has been created a large commotion inside and outside the country, forcing the authorities to put an official document online [pdf — in Germans], with answers to most frequently asked questions.
GPS devices such as TomTom, Garmin, Mio, Navman, Medion, Route 66, Packard stand Ring, Sony and ViaMichelin are all in the banned list.

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