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Earth

Submission + - UT Professor Resigns Over Fracking Conflict of Interest (npr.org)

eldavojohn writes: Dr. Charles “Chip” Groat, lead author of a study claiming there was no link between fracking and water contamination, has resigned at the University of Texas along with Dr. Raymond Orbach, the head of UT's Energy Institute. The reason is that Groat served on the board of a drilling company and received compensation totaling over $1.5 million from that entity over the last five years including time he spent writing the study. After the Public Accountability Initiative gave the UT report a thorough beating for failing to mention this it sparked UT to recommend the report's withdrawal. PAI said the original report was “based on literature surveys, incident reports and conjecture” and criticized UT's press from downplaying the many caveats. PAI also said conclusions of the original report were “tentative,” that the press coverage was “inappropriately selective” and “seemed to suggest that public concerns were without scientific basis and largely resulted from media bias.” This study was also covered by Slashdot via MSNBC quoting Groat and calling fracking safe in theory but not in practice.
Earth

Submission + - Earthquakes Correlated with Texan Fracking Sites (lifeslittlemysteries.com) 1

eldavojohn writes: A recent peer reviewed paper and survey by Cliff Frohlich, of the University of Texas' Institute for Geophysics, reveals a correlation between an increase in earthquakes and the emergence of fracking sites in the Barnett Shale, Texas. To clarify, it is not the actual act of hydrofracking that induces earthquakes but more likely the final process of injecting wastewater into the site according to Oliver Boyd, a USGS seismologist. Boyd said, "Most, if not all, geophysicists expect induced earthquakes to be more likely from wastewater injection rather than hydrofracking. This is because the wastewater injection tends to occur at greater depth where earthquakes are more likely to nucleate. I also agree [with Frohlich] that induced earthquakes are likely to persist for some time (months to years) after wastewater injection has ceased." Frohlich added, "Faults are everywhere. A lot of them are stuck, but if you pump water in there, it reduces friction and the fault slips a little. I can't prove that that's what happened, but it's a plausible explanation." In the US alone this correlation has been noted several times.
Programming

Submission + - Diablo 3 Banhammer Dropped Just Before RMAH Goes Live (cinemablend.com)

eldavojohn writes: One thing Diablo 3 has that many other games do not is a "Real Money Auction House" (RMAH) that was set to go live today for players with two factor authentication. Of course, mere hours before that, Blizzard publicly announced they would follow through on their promises. Accounts they have identified as cheaters and botters have been banned "by the thousands." No official number is out but the news is indicating that as people get off of work and return home to their bot-wives and bot-kids they may find themselves without a valid Battle.net account (possibly tied to other games like SCII and WoW). Blizzard has also included many fixes to remove/dissuade many other exploits but if their past arcane attitude toward the "gamers of the game" is any indication, thousands will be unhappy.
Businesses

Submission + - Vermont Bans Fracking (cnn.com)

eldavojohn writes: Vermont is the first state to ban fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a process that was to revolutionize the United States' position into a major producer of natural gas. New York currently has a moratorium on fracking but it is not yet a statewide ban. Video of the signing indicates the concern over drinking water as the motivation for Vermont's measures (PDF draft of legislation). Slashdot has frequently encountered news debating the safety of such practices.
Democrats

Submission + - Domestic Drilling Doesn't Decrease Gasoline Prices (publicradio.org)

eldavojohn writes: As the political rhetoric heats up, there's something puzzling about drilling inside the United States. Essentially, it doesn't reduce what we pay at the pump. From the article, 'A statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump.' If the promises that politicians made when they opened US drilling were true, then we should be paying about $2 a gallon now. Instead it's $4 a gallon. Minnesota Public Radio pulls some choice quotes from both parties and wonders why this decades old empirical observation goes seemingly completely unnoticed.
Censorship

Submission + - China Calls for Even Firmer Internet Control (reuters.com)

eldavojohn writes: "Chinese state media has published a long article detailing why China needs to take even firmer stances on sites like Twitter and the internet as a whole or risk backlash to The Communist Party from "Internet Opinion." The commentary warned, 'Unless administration is vigorous, criminal forces, hostile forces, terrorist organizations and others could manipulate public sentiment by manufacturing bogus opinion on the Internet, damaging social stability and national security.' China seized upon the London riots recently to justify tighter internet censorship. The article, of course, ends with the conclusion that 'Clearly, in the future when developing and applying new Internet technologies, there must first be a thorough assessment, adopting even more prudent policies and enhancing foresight and forward thinking in administration.' While this provides China with their Emmanuel Goldstein and his Brotherhood, it should be noted that the People's Daily is often over the top."
The Internet

Submission + - Bill Clinton Suggests Internet Fact Agency (cnbc.com) 1

eldavojohn writes: Friday on CNBC, Bill Clinton gave an interview that is causing some unrest on popular news sites today. When asked if there is a role for government in terms of ensuring that the information out there is accurate he replied, "Well, I think it would be a legitimate thing to do. But if you wanted to do it--for example, you wanted to set up some sort of agency that would be a--ring the bell, you know, or--on the heavily visited sites, `This allegation has been made and here are the facts.' If the government were involved, I think you'd have to do two things, and--or if you had a multinational group like the UN. I think number one, you'd have to be totally transparent about where the money came from. And number two, you would have to make it independent. It would have to be like an independent--let's say the US did it, it would have to be an independent federal agency that no president could countermand or anything else because people wouldn't think you were just censoring the news and giving a different falsehood out. That is, it would be like, I don't know, National Public Radio or BBC or something like that, except it would have to be really independent and they would not express opinions, and their mandate would be narrowly confined to identifying relevant factual errors. And also, they would also have to have citations so that they could be checked in case they made a mistake. Somebody needs to be doing it, and maybe it's a worthy expenditure of taxpayer money. But if it's a government agency in a traditional sense, it would have no credibility whatever, particularly with a lot of the people who are most active on the Internet." His response has elicited responses ranging from a Ministry of Truth a la 1984 to discussion of genuine concern about internet rumors and falsehoods.
Government

Submission + - China Mandates Parental Controls for Online Games (chinadaily.com.cn)

eldavojohn writes: The quintessential nanny state is tightening its grip on online gaming a little further today as it announced that starting March 1st: 'online game companies must set up a web page, enquiry hotline and other special channels for parental supervision of their children. Besides, these companies shall authorize parents, who want to monitor and control their children playing online games, to take measures to limit or ban the playing. Also, the online game companies shall provide help to parents in supervising their children's online game accounts and preventing them from playing improper games, as part of the project.' If you're a parent, the new effort by the Ministry of Culture has surprising specific recommendations for you on how to regulate your child's gaming: 'The document suggested a school student play online games for less than two hours every week and spend no more than 10 yuan ($1.5) on playing online games every month.' The article (from the state media) ends with amusing speculation that the youth will simply acquire a fake adult ID to get back online. Stay tuned for more rules and regulations from China's new "Parental Watch Project."
Censorship

Submission + - Senators Bash ISPs; Push Extensive Net Neutrality (arstechnica.com)

eldavojohn writes: Remember when Verizon sued the FCC over net neutrality rules? Well, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Al Franken (D-MN) see it a bit differently and have authored a new working bill titled "Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011" (PDF). The bill lays out some stark clarity on what is meant by Net Neutrality by outright banning ISPs from doing many things including '(6) charg[ing] a content, application, or service provider for access to the broadband Internet access service providers' end users based on differing levels of quality of service or prioritized delivery of Internet protocol packets; (7) prioritiz[ing] among or between content, applications, and services, or among or between different types of content, applications, and services unless the end user requests to have such prioritization... (9) refus[ing] to interconnect on just and reasonable terms and conditions.' And that doesn't count for packets sent over just the internet connections but also wireless, radio, cell phone or pigeon carrier. ISPs would no longer be able to force users to sign up for phone or video nor would they be able to degrade any access to any legal content. Period. While Verizon's whining that the FCC has gone too far in their fist stabs at Net Neutrality, Cantwell and Franken have made it extraordinarily clear that the FCC has gone not far enough. Franken has constantly reiterated that this is the free speech issue of our time and Cantwell said, "If we let telecom oligarchs control access to the Internet, consumers will lose. The actions that the FCC and Congress take now will set the ground rules for competition on the broadband Internet, impacting innovation, investment, and jobs for years to come. My bill returns the broadband cop back to the beat, and creates the same set of obligations regardless of how consumers get their broadband."
Censorship

Submission + - China Promises to Stop Skype and Similar Services (pcmag.com)

eldavojohn writes: Cheap internet phone services are under threat by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology that has called them 'illegal internet phone services.' Although no actions have been specified the article notes that 'China says only major telecom companies have the right to offer services that link computers and telephones. Companies like Skype operate in a gray area, and experts say the notice is a warning to them not to grow too big.' Skype and similar services may join the censored ranks of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in China.
Advertising

Submission + - CALM Act Passed (commlawblog.com)

eldavojohn writes: About a year ago, legislation to control the volume of TV commercials was introduced and has recently passed. This problem has dated back to the 1960s but after the president signs the bill, broadcasters will be subject to regulations of the Advanced Television Systems Committee on what is "too loud." Of the last 25 quarterly reports from the FCC, this has been the number one consumer complaint in 21 of them. Within a year you should start to notice the difference and not notice a commercial forcing you to turn down the TV during breaks of your regular programming.
Earth

Submission + - BP's Gulf Spill Report Shows String of Failures (bp.com) 1

eldavojohn writes: News is out of BP's report on the gulf spill that shifts some of the blame on to other companies like Transocean that worked with BP in erecting the Deepwater Horizon rig. If you were affected by the spill, you might find the video, executive summary and 193 page report an interesting read. The summary outlines six or seven major failures in safety and engineering that all built up to the deaths of eleven workers and widespread contamination of the gulf. From incorrectly using seawater instead of drilling fluid to misinterpreting pressure test results, this report is just BP's side of the story as the blowout preventer has been pulled up and is still on its way to NASA where it will be analyzed by government investigators who will be able to compile their own report.
Advertising

Submission + - PR Firm Settles with FTC on Fake Game Reviews (nytimes.com)

eldavojohn writes: So you pay a PR firm like Reverb to generate some positive buzz for your new mobile game and what do they do? Hire employees to post fake glowing reviews of your game on the platform it's being distributed on. The FTC says that's not okay due to new regulations from last year the FTC is making paid reviews disclose that they are paid reviews. Originally the fear was that this regulation would target the small time blogger but this news of Reverb settling with the FTC over fake game reviews shows that the FTC is also targeting big PR firms and said 'We hope that this case will show advertisers that they have to be transparent in their practices and help guide other ad agencies.' The article says that fake reviews like those alleged in the complaint (PDF) are pretty much the norm on iTunes and Reverb denies that this settlement is any acknowledgment of wrongdoing — rather just a time saver over a costly court battle. Will this continue? Will the FTC continue to make examples of big PR firms? Wait and see.
Government

Submission + - FTC Introduces New Orders for Intel; No bundling (bloomberg.com)

eldavojohn writes: Today a decision was handed down (PDF) from the FTC that underlined new guidelines for Intel in the highly anticipated investigation. Biggest result: the practices Intel employed like bundling prices to get manufacturers like Dell to block sales of competitors' chips like AMD must stop. No word yet on whether or not Intel will face monetary fines from the FTC like they did in Europe over the same monopolistic practices.
Censorship

Submission + - China Accepts WTO Ruling on US Entertainment (go.com)

eldavojohn writes: Via Game Politics, the US and China have signed an agreement decided by the World Trade Organization that will open the floodgates for US entertainment media to be sold in China. Previously China had argued that censoring certain video games, books, movies, etc gave them just cause to block all US entertainment. The other component was that China charged the United States with having a monopoly on such items when they were available through bootlegs and other unlicensed mediums inside China. The WTO ruled that censorship was not justification for erecting illegal trade barriers and both countries seemed to agree. It's unclear just how much this will affect distribution in China nor does it make it clear whether or not this puts more pressure on China to combat copyright violations inside its borders. It should be interesting to see the RIAA and MPAA response to this once it is in effect on March 19th of 2011.

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