Freddybear writes: According to measurements from NASA solar observatories, the sun's magnetic field is about to reverse polarity. The event is predicted to occur within the next three to four months and will have effects throughout the solar system. These magnetic reversals happen regularly about every eleven years as part of the solar cycle.
Freddybear writes: "In its latest effort to protect followers of Islam in the U.S. the Obama Justice Department warns against using social media to spread information considered inflammatory against Muslims, threatening that it could constitute a violation of civil rights."... "The area’s top federal prosecutor, Bill Killian, will address a topic that most Americans are likely unfamiliar with, even those well versed on the Constitution; that federal civil rights laws can actually be violated by those who post inflammatory documents aimed at Muslims on social media. “This is an educational effort with civil rights laws as they play into freedom of religion and exercising freedom of religion,” Killian says in the local news story. “This is also to inform the public what federal laws are in effect and what the consequences are.”"
Maybe somebody in Congress could ask Attorney General Holder which parts of the Constitution he is willing to uphold.
Freddybear writes: Al Jazeera reports on protests by thousands of people in Bangladesh who want the government to enact the death penalty for bloggers who insult Islam.
"Supporters of Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamist group which draws support from tens of thousands of religious seminaries [and that has the backing of country's largest party, Jamaat-e-Islami], converged on Dhaka’s main commercial hub to protest against what they said were blasphemous writings by atheist bloggers, shouting “God is great — hang the atheist bloggers”.
“I’ve come here to fight for Islam. We won’t allow any bloggers to blaspheme our religion and our beloved Prophet Mohammed,” said Shahidul Islam, an imam at a mosque outside Dhaka....
The bloggers, who deny they are atheists, have sought capital punishment for those found guilty of war crimes during the nation’s liberation war [including the leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami]....
A well-known protester and blogger, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was killed reportedly by Jamaat supporters....
Zafar Sobhan, editor of the Dhaka Tribune,... said that... it was unlikely that a blasphemy law would be introduced... [and] that the march was less about a blasphemy law but was more of a reaction to calls for the death penalty for political party leaders being tried for war crimes...."
Freddybear writes: A state senator in Maryland has proposed a bill called the "The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013" to require teachers and school officials to distinguish between real guns and things that resemble or represent guns but which are not guns. This is in response to the suspension of a kindergarten child who was suspended for biting a toaster pastry into the shape of a gun. “I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top of it and kind of looked like a gun,” the seven-year-old told Fox News. “But it wasn’t,” he astutely added.
The bill also includes a section mandating counseling for school officials who fail to distinguish between guns and things that resemble guns. School officials who fail to make such a distinction more than once would face discipline themselves.
Freddybear writes: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren proposes a change to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) which would remove the felony criminal penalty for violating the terms of service of a website and return it to the realm of contract law where it belongs. This would eliminate the potential for prosecutors to abuse the CFAA in pursuit of criminal convictions for simple violations of a website's terms of service.
Freddybear writes: An exception for "law enforcement" built into online privacy protection laws makes it easy for prosecutors to obtain potentially incriminating private information from social media sites like Facebook, while defense lawyers have a hard time getting access to information which can help the defense
This is highlighted in an ongoing Portland murder case. In that case, the defense attorney has evidence of a Facebook conversation in which a key witness reportedly tells a friend he was pressured by police into falsely incriminating the defendant.
Facebook rebuffed the defense attorney’s subpoena seeking access to the conversation, citing the federal Stored Communications Act, which protects the privacy of electronic communications like e-mail – but which carves out an exemption for law enforcement, thus assisting prosecutors. “It’s so one-sided they cooperate 110 percent anytime someone in the government asks for information,” one Oregon attorney told the Portland Oregonian, citing a separate case in which Facebook withheld conversations that could have disproved a rape charge, but turned over the same conversations when the prosecution demanded them.
Freddybear writes: Former anti-GMO activist Mark Lynas, who opposed genetically modified food in the 1990's said recently, at the Oxford Farming Conference: "
I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.
So I guess you’ll be wondering—what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist."
To vilify GMOs is to be as anti-science as climate-change deniers, he says. To feed a growing world population (with an exploding middle class demanding more and better-quality food), we must take advantage of all the technology available to us, including GMOs. To insist on “natural” agriculture and livestock is to doom people to starvation, and there’s no logical reason to prefer the old ways, either. Moreover, the reason why big companies dominate the industry is that anti-GMO activists and policymakers have made it too difficult for small startups to enter the field.
Freddybear writes: If your computer has been cracked and subverted for use by a botnet or other remote-access attack, is it legal for you to hack back into the system from which the attack originated? Over the last couple of years three legal scholars and bloggers have debated the question on The Volokh Conspiracy weblog. The linked webpage collects that debate into a coherent document.
"The debaters are:
Stewart Baker, a former official at the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson with a large cybersecurity practice. Stewart Baker makes the policy case for counterhacking and challenges the traditional view of what remedies are authorized by the language of the CFAA.
Orin Kerr, Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law at George Washington School of Law, a former computer crimes prosecutor, and one of the most respected computer crime scholars. Orin Kerr defends the traditional view of the Act against both Stewart Baker and Eugene Volokh.
Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law, founder of the Volokh Conspiracy, and a sophisticated technology lawyer, presents a challenge grounded in common law understandings of trespass and tort."
Freddybear writes: A recent report from the US Energy Information Agency says that US carbon emissions are the lowest they have been in 20 years, and attributes the decline to the increasing use of cheap natural gas obtained from fracking wells.
Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, said the shift away from coal is reason for "cautious optimism" about potential ways to deal with climate change. He said it demonstrates that "ultimately people follow their wallets" on global warming.
"There's a very clear lesson here. What it shows is that if you make a cleaner energy source cheaper, you will displace dirtier sources," said Roger Pielke Jr., a climate expert at the University of Colorado.
Freddybear writes: Ubisoft games using the UPLAY DRM infrastructure may compromise the security of PC's on which they are installed. Any website can call up a function of the UPLAY browser plugin, which is silently installed by those Ubisoft games, to run arbitrary code or commands on your PC.
Freddybear writes: Last Friday, Maryland became the first state to ban employers from asking for access to the social media accounts of employees or applicants. Lawmakers in the US House and Senate are working on legislation that would ban the practice nationally.
Freddybear writes: US Ninth Circuit Court has handed down it's decision in US v Nosal, which concerned whether violation of terms of service could be made a federal crime.
From the ruling: "[W]e hold that the phrase “exceeds authorized access” in the CFAA does not extend to violations of use restrictions. If Congress wants to incorporate misappropriation liability into the CFAA, it must speak more clearly."
This decision contradicts rulings in several other district courts.
Freddybear writes: A study of online gamers in the Steam community finds that those who are friends with cheaters are more likely to begin cheating themselves.
"First up, cheats stick together. The data shows that cheaters are much more likely to be friends with other cheaters.
Cheating also appears to be infectious. The likelihood of a fair player becoming labelled as a cheater in future is directly correlated with this person's number of friends who are cheaters. So if you know cheaters you are more likely to become one yourself. Cheating spreads like flu through this community.
Finally, being labelled as a cheat seems to significantly affect social standing. Once a person is labelled as a cheat, they tend to lose friends. Some even cut themselves off from friends by increasing their privacy settings."
Freddybear writes: A recent EPA report which claimed that "fracking" could cause hydrocarbon pollution of the water table was based on 900-foot deep wells (much deeper than the usually 300-foot deep water wells) which penetrated into the gas field.
"In short, they drilled into the natural gas reservoir that has long attracted industry producers. It may the single most productive moment in EPA history."
Freddybear writes: Politically-connected Philip Falcone’s proposed LightSquared Inc. wireless service caused interference to 75 percent of global-positioning system receivers examined in a U.S. government test, according to a draft summary of results.