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Submission + - Sheriff's Raid to Find Blogger Who Criticized Him Ruled Unconstitutional (theintercept.com)

schwit1 writes: An appellate court in Baton Rouge ruled Thursday that a raid on a police officer’s house in search of the blogger who had accused the sheriff of corruption was unconstitutional.

The Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals argued that Sheriff Jerry Larpenter’s investigation into the blog ExposeDAT had flawed rationale: the alleged defamation was not actually a crime as applied to a public official.

The unanimous ruling from the three-judge panel comes after police officer Wayne Anderson and his wife Jennifer Anderson were denied assistance in local and federal court.

Submission + - Treasury Dept. Sits On Investigation Into Solar Energy Fraud Worse Than Solyndra (dailycaller.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The Treasury Department has been looking into potential fraud by solar panel companies that got taxpayer funding for more than three years, but has yet to release any findings

The Department recently indicated that applicants included ineligible costs or otherwise overstated the value of their solar energy investments by claiming approximately $1.3 billion in unwarranted cash grants. he Treasury Department said it would publish its findings by June 2015, but that never happened.

Submission + - VA Invests in Failed Solar Projects, Veterans Linger on Wait List (heartland.org)

An anonymous reader writes: The Department of Veteran's Affairs Inspector General has found the VA wasted millions on solar panel installations that don't work.

Evidently, the Veteran's Administration (VA), does not have enough money to hire new doctors or take other actions to reduce wait times and improve treatment for our nation's military veterans, but it does have money to spend installing solar panels at its facilities, according by the VA's Inspector General (IG) detailed by the Washington Free Beacon.

While the VA has been under fire for wasting federal dollars as veterans’ wait times and other failings have persisted at VA medical facilities nationwide, the IG report reveals the VA spent more than $408 million to install solar panels on its medical facilities, yet many of the projects have experienced significant delays and cost overruns with some solar projects failing to function at all.

In a report issued August 3, 2016, the VA IG reported the VA had consistently failed to effectively plan and manage its solar panel projects, resulting in significant delays and additional costs. An audit of 11 of the 15 solar projects awarded between fiscal years 2010 and 2013, found only two of the 11 solar panel projects were fully completed.

Submission + - The human impact on the natural environment is actually slowing down (sciencealert.com)

schwit1 writes: Researchers have found that while the impact of human activity on the planet is continuing to grow, it's now doing so at a slower rate than our economic and population growth.

This means that humans are still taking over the planet at the expense of many species and the natural world at large, but the upside is that the slowdown gives us reason for hope, as it suggests we're getting better at managing what we take from the environment.

"Seeing that our impacts have expanded at a rate that is slower than the rate of economic and population growth is encouraging," said lead researcher Oscar Venter from the University of Northern British Columbia in Canada. "It means we are becoming more efficient in how we use natural resources."

Submission + - BleachBit stifles investigation of Hillary Clinton

ahziem writes: The IT team for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used the open source cleaning software BleachBit to wipe systems "so even God couldn’t read them," according to South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy on Fox News. His comments on the "drastic cyber-measure" were in response to the question of whether emails on her private Microsoft Exchange Server were simply about "yoga and wedding plans."

Perhaps Clinton's team used an open source application because, unlike proprietary applications, it can be audited, like for backdoors. In response to the Edward Snowden leaks in 2013, privacy expert Bruce Schneier advised, "Closed-source software is easier for the NSA to backdoor than open-source software," in an article in which he stated he also uses BleachBit. Ironically, Schneier was writing to a non-governmental audience.

Submission + - Something "Unexpected" Happened When Seattle Raised The Minimum Wage

schwit1 writes: The latest research comes from the University of Washington which researched the impact of Seattle's recent minimum wage hike on employment in that city (as background, Seattle recently passed legislation that increased it's minimum wage to $11 per hour on April 1, 2015, $13 on January 1, 2016 and $15 on January 1, 2017). "Shockingly", the University of Washington found that Seattle's higher minimum wages "lowered employment rates of low-wage workers" (the report is attached in its entirety at the end of this post).

Yet, our best estimates find that the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance appears to have lowered employment rates of low-wage workers. This negative unintended consequence (which are predicted by some of the existing economic literature) is concerning and needs to be followed closely in future years, because the long-run effects are likely to be greater as businesses and workers have more time to adapt to the ordinance. Finally, we find only modest impacts on earnings. The effects of disemployment appear to be roughly offsetting the gain in hourly wage rates, leaving the earnings for the average low-wage worker unchanged. Of course, we are talking about the average result.



More specifically, we find that median wages for low-wage workers (those earning less than $11 per hour during the 2nd quarter of 2014) rose by $1.18 per hour, and we estimate that the impact of the Ordinance was to increase these workers’ median wage by $0.73 per hour. Further, while these low-wage workers increased their likelihood of being employed relative to prior years, this increase was less than in comparison regions. We estimate that the impact of the Ordinance was a 1.1 percentage point decrease in likelihood of low-wage Seattle workers remaining employed. While these low-wage workers increased their quarterly earnings relative to prior years, the estimated impact of the Ordinance on earnings is small and sensitive to the choice of comparison region. Finally, for those who kept their job, the Ordinance appears to have improved wages and earnings, but decreased their likelihood of being employed in Seattle relative other parts of the state of Washington.

Still not convinced? How about a recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco that finds that "higher minimum wage results in some job loss for the least-skilled workers—with possibly larger adverse effects than earlier research suggested."

Submission + - Bill Gates's Net Worth Hits $90 Billion (bloomberg.com)

schwit1 writes: The net worth of the world’s richest person Bill Gates hit $90 billion on Friday, fueled by gains in public holdings including Canadian National Railway Company and Ecolab Inc. Gates’s fortune is now $13.5 billion bigger than that of the world’s second-wealthiest person, Spanish retail mogul Amancio Ortega, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. At $90 billion, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder’s net worth is equal to 0.5 percent of U.S. GDP.

Submission + - U. of Chicago researchers use data to predict police misconduct (chicagotribune.com) 2

schwit1 writes: In two Loop office buildings about eight blocks apart, a pair of University of Chicago research teams are analyzing big data to answer a thorny question that has become especially charged in recent months: Will a police officer have an adverse interaction with a citizen?

The team from the university's Crime Lab is in the first stages of working with the Chicago Police Department to build a predictive data program to improve the department's Early Intervention System, which is designed to determine if an officer is likely to engage in aggressive, improper conduct with a civilian.

The other team, part of U. of C.'s Center for Data Science & Public Policy, is expected to launch a data-driven pilot of an Early Intervention System with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in North Carolina by the end of the summer. The center is working on similar efforts with the Los Angeles County sheriff's office and the Nashville and Knoxville police departments in Tennessee.

I am not hopeful seeing how a recent Chicago crime predictive program failed.

Submission + - Massachusetts to tax ride-hailing apps, give the money to taxis (reuters.com)

schwit1 writes: Massachusetts is preparing to levy a 5-cent fee per trip on ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft and spend the money on the traditional taxi industry, a subsidy that appears to be the first of its kind in the United States.

Ride services are not enthusiastic about the fee. "I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing potential competitors," said Kirill Evdakov, the chief executive of Fasten, a ride service that launched in Boston last year and also operates in Austin, Texas.

Submission + - McMaster University Researchers develop a new way to purify carbon nanotubes (phys.org)

schwit1 writes: Researchers at McMaster University have cleared that obstacle by developing a new way to purify carbon nanotubes — the smaller, nimbler semiconductors that are expected to replace silicon within computer chips and a wide array of electronics.

"Once we have a reliable source of pure nanotubes that are not very expensive, a lot can happen very quickly," says Alex Adronov, a professor of Chemistry at McMaster whose research team has developed a new and potentially cost-efficient way to purify carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes — hair-like structures that are one billionth of a metre in diameter but thousands of times longer — are tiny, flexible conductive nano-scale materials, expected to revolutionize computers and electronics by replacing much larger silicon-based chips.

A major problem standing in the way of the new technology, however, has been untangling metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes, since both are created simultaneously in the process of producing the microscopic structures, which typically involves heating carbon-based gases to a point where mixed clusters of nanotubes form spontaneously as black soot.

Only pure semiconducting or metallic carbon nanotubes are effective in device applications, but efficiently isolating them has proven to be a challenging problem to overcome. Even when the nanotube soot is ground down, semiconducting and metallic nanotubes are knotted together within each grain of powder. Both components are valuable, but only when separated.

Submission + - Chicago's Experiment in Predictive Policing Isn't Working (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics — the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city’s futuristic "heat list" — an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

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