Ralph Spoilsport writes: Aaron Swartz committed suicide. As a teenager, he helped create an early version of RSS and later played a key role in stopping a controversial online piracy bill in Congress. He also downloaded zillions of articles from JSTOR. JSTOR declined to press charges. MIT, where it happened, gave less of a clear signal, so the Feds went after him. They wanted him bad for his efforts re: RECAP, a system that gave Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law. He was arrested and charged with felonies. He committed suicide two years to the day of his arrest. Lessig gives his testimonial here and Cory Doctorow gives tribute to this young tragic genius here. This is an enormous tragedy and blow to Access To Knowledge activists the world over.
Ralph Spoilsport writes: A coalition of 17 publishing companies has shut down library.nu and ifile.it, charging them with pirating ebooks. This comes less than a month after megaupload was shut down, and SOPA was stopped. If the busting of cyberlockers continues at this pace and online library sharing dismantled, this under-reported story may well be the tip of a very big iceberg — one quite beyond the P&L sheets of publishers and striking at basic human rights as outlined in the contradictions of the UN Charter. Is this a big deal — a grim coalition of corporate power? Or just mopping up some scurvy old pirates? Or somewhere in between? Those concerned with the future of file sharing should watch these events closely.
Ralph Spoilsport writes: Proponents of marijuana legalization, which is on the California ballot in 2010, have hit a Facebook wall in their effort to grow an online campaign to rethink the nation's pot laws. Facebook initially accepted ads from the group Just Say Now, running them from August 7 to August 16, generating 38 million impressions and helping the group's fan page grow to over 6,000 members. But then they were abruptly removed. Should the phone company prevent phone calls on pot legalisation? If not, then what makes Facebook so special?
Ralph Spoilsport writes: It seems digg has banned laughingsquid. Why this is so is anyone's guess. Digg ain't talkin' and everyone else is puzzled. Is this pernicious? Or some kind of a non-malicious screw up? Or something in between? Any ideas out there?
Ralph Spoilsport writes: Major annoucement from First Solar: $1 per watt solar modules. The entire announcement is HERE. This is an extremely important price barrier breakthrough. Inexpensive PV solar is critical to maintaining an industrial society in a postCarbon context, and is a great example of how green tech can and will be central to business plans over the next few decades as we transition out of the age of fossil fuels. Solar has its obvious problems (doesn't work in the dark, etc.) but finally cost is becoming not one of them.
Ralph Spoilsport writes: One of the recurring fears in a digitally linked global economy is the scenario where there is an electronic "run on the bank", a scenario that would make the run on banks of the early 1930s look like a pocketful of change. Even Bill Maher in his broadcast of 20.FEB.09 mused to the effect of "What would happen if the Chinese took all their money out?" Well it seems that Doomsday Scenario passed already, on 15.SEP.09. It seems that in a period of minutes, $550 billion dollars disappeared electronically from the Federal Reserve System in the form of liquidated money market funds. This story was told by Rep. Kanjorski (D-PA). Now, whether this was the Chinese doing a panic withdrawal or the major banks pulling out all stops to cover their bad debts is unknown at this time, but it does show one important thing: technology permitted a panic sell-off of unprecedented proportions that could have been completely catastrophic. What is also distressing is that there has been ZERO media coverage on this.
Ralph Spoilsport writes: "In Southeast Turkey, the archeologistKlaus Schmidt has discovered an 11,000 year old temple. Normal civilisation theory suggests that agriculture created cities, and cities created monuments. This discovery suggests just the opposite — people got together to build a huge monument to their religion, and in order to sustain it, communities were formed and agriculture (already in development) quickly followed on to sustain the population. Truly a startling find with significant implications."
Ralph Spoilsport writes: "AP reports: NASA may be going to the same old moon with a ship that looks a lot like a 1960s Apollo capsule, but the space agency said Monday that it's going to do something dramatically different this time: Stay there.
The goal is to have a base at the South Pole permanently staffed by 2024. Why the South Pole? It get more Sun, making solar power more doable. The cost? Expensive. From TFA: "The tooth fairy is not going to drop $500 to $800 billion on NASA," McCurdy said. "Being creative on the moon can sometimes get you confined to the moon."
Can we/should we do it? 800 billion bucks buys a boatload of pretty little probes — how much science can we get out of an $800 billion moon base compared to hundreds of probes of ever increasing sophistication? Is putting a half dozen hairless apes on the moon a good idea? Come on slashdotters! Where are we with this issue?"