An anonymous reader writes "As we in the U.S. settle in for Memorial Day weekend, this article points out how our cultural addiction to technology is making it less of a vacation than it used to be. 'The average smartphone user checks his or her device 150 times per day, or about once every six minutes. Meanwhile, government data from 2011 says 35 percent of us work on weekends, and those who do average five hours of labor, often without compensation — or even a thank you. The other 65 percent were probably too busy to answer surveyors' questions.' Even for those of us who don't have any work to do over the weekend, we'll probably end up reading all of our work-related emails as they roll in, and take time out of our day to think about what's going on — to the detriment of our weekend activities: 'A study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that new experiences fail to become long-term memories unless brains have downtime for review.' I imagine it's even worse for your average Slashdotter, who's likely plugged in to more technology at home and at work. How can we make our employers understand that downtime needs to remain downtime? 'It took labor unions 100 years to fight for nights and weekends off, some say, while smartphones took them away in about three years.'"
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00_NOP writes "'Universal Credit' — the plan to consolidate all Britain's welfare payments into one — is the world's biggest 'agile' software development project. It is now close to collapse, the British government admitted yesterday. The failure, if and when it comes, could cost billions and have dire social consequences. 'Some steps have been taken to try to rescue the project. The back end – the benefits calculation – has reportedly been shifted to a "waterfall" development process – which offers some assurances that the government at least takes its fiduciary duties seriously as it should mean no code will be deployed that has not been finished. The front end – the bit used by humans – is still meant to be “agile” – which makes some sense, but where is the testing? Agile is supposed to be about openness between developer and client and we – the taxpayers – are the clients: why can’t we see what our money is paying for?'"
An anonymous reader writes "Google has sent letters to app developers registered in Argentina saying they won't be able to accept payments on developers' behalf after June 27th. 'The change applies to both paid apps and apps that use in-app purchases. The move appears to be related to new, restrictive regulations the Argentine government has imposed on currency exchanges.' According to the Telegraph, 'The new regulations required anyone wanting to change Argentine pesos into another currency to submit an online request for permission to AFIP, the Argentine equivalent of HM Revenue & Customs. To submit the request, however, you first needed to get a PIN from AFIP, either online or in person. Having finally obtained your number, submitted your online request and printed out your permission slip, you could then present it at the bank or official cambio and buy your dollars. Well, that was the theory. In practice, the result was chaos. ... damming the flood has come at a huge cost to the economy, especially since the currency restrictions were coupled with another set of regulations that effectively imposed a near-total ban on any imported goods.'"
stry_cat writes "You may remember the story of Brandon Raub, who was detained without due process over some Facebook posts he made. Now with the help of the Rutherford Institute, he is suing his captors. According to his complaint [PDF], his detention was part of a federal government program code-named 'Operation Vigilant Eagle,' which monitors military veterans with certain political views."
An anonymous reader writes "Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice president responsible for the digital economy, wants to use 5 billion euros of European Union tax payers' money, together with matching funds from the chip industry, to recreate European success in semiconductors similar to that of Airbus. Because of its strategic importance to wealth creation Kroes wants Europe to reverse its decline in chip manufacturing and move back up from 10 percent to 20 percent of global production."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Apple could face a difficult time winning its court case against the U.S. Department of Justice over e-book pricing, according to the federal judge overseeing the trial. 'I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books,' U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said during a May 23 pretrial hearing, according to Reuters, 'and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that.' Apple's legal counsel is a bit perturbed over her comments. 'We strongly disagree with the court's preliminary statements about the case today,' Apple lawyer Orin Snyder wrote in a statement also reprinted by Reuters. The Justice Department has asserted that Apple, along with those publishers, conspired to raise retail e-book prices in tandem 'and eliminate price competition, substantially increasing prices paid by consumers.' Apple battles Amazon in the e-book space, with the latter company achieving great success over the past few years by driving down the price of e-books and Kindle e-readers; while Apple co-founder insisted in emails to News Corp executive James Murdoch (son of Rupert Murdoch), that Amazon's pricing was ultimately unsustainable, the online retailer shows no signs of flagging with regard to its publishing-industry clout."
holy_calamity writes "Digital currency Bitcoin is gaining acceptance with mainstream venture capitalists, reports Technology Review, but at the price of its famed anonymity and ability to operate without central authority. Technology investors have now ploughed millions of dollars into a handful of Bitcoin-based payments and financial companies that are careful to follow financial regulations and don't offer anonymity. That's causing tensions in the community of Bitcoin enthusiasts, some of whom feel their currency's success has involved abandoning its most important features."
First time accepted submitter Rebecka writes with bad news, quoting an IB Times report: "Just as the 2013 hurricane season is about to begin, one of the U.S.' main weather satellites failed this week. The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, also known as GOES-13, reportedly ceased to operate as of Tuesday, making it impossible to predict weather patterns on the East Coast." A note at NOAA's page for the GOES family of satellites says "GOES-13 imaging and sounding operations suspended. Recovery efforts for GOES-13 continue and the spacecraft health and safety are nominal. GOES-14 is being activated." You can follow the progress on the agency's page of General Satellite Messages.
itwbennett writes "According to an announcement on a French government website, police have stopped current searches for missing adults and will not accept new search requests. 'Such 'searches in the interests of the family' were conducted under an administrative procedure almost a century old, introduced to help families separated during the upheavals of World War I to find missing relatives,' according to the French Ministry of the Interior. In a letter to police chiefs announcing the changes, the Ministry advised them to instead 'direct people towards social networks on the Internet, which offer interesting possibilities.'"
judgecorp writes "Supporters of the Communications Data Bill (also known as the Snooper's Charter) have lost no time in calling for the Bill to be revived, in response to yesterday's brutal murder of a soldier on the streets of Woolwich, South London. The Bill would have allowed monitoring of all online communications — including who people contact and what websites they visit — but was shelved after Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg opposed it, effectively splitting Britain's coalition government on the issue. Now the fear of new terrorism could rekindle support, based on the argument that even 'lone wolf' attackers use the Internet."
walterbyrd writes "Late last year, a vigorous and secretive patent troll began sending out thousands of letters to small businesses all around the country, insisting that they owed between $900 and $1,200 per worker just for using scanners. The brazen patent-trolling scheme, carried out by a company called MPHJ technologies and dozens of shell companies with six-letter names, has caught the attention of politicians. MPHJ and its principals may have gone too far. They're now the subject of a government lawsuit targeting patent trolling—the first ever such case. Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell has filed suit in his home state, saying that MPHJ is violating Vermont consumer-protection laws."
Tesla Motors announced today it has completely repaid the $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy the company received in 2010. The funds were generated by Tesla through a recent sale of their stock, worth close to a billion dollars. The stock price had risen sharply after the company reported its first profitable quarter (and the stock still sits roughly 50% higher than before their earnings release). Today's payment of $451.8 million finished off both the loan's principal and its interest, nine years before the final payment was due. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, 'I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the ATVM program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate. I hope we did you proud.'
FuzzNugget writes "A contributor at ScienceBlogs.com has compiled and published a shockingly long list of systematic attacks on scientific research committed by the Canadian government since the conservatives came to power in 2006. This anti-scientific scourge includes muzzling scientists, shutting down research centers, industry deregulation and re-purposing the National Research Council to align with business interests instead of doing real science. It will be another two years before Canadians have the chance to go to the polls, but how much more damage will be done in the meantime?"
An anonymous reader writes "When in early 2010 Google shared with the public that they had been breached in what became known as the Aurora attacks, they said that the attackers got their hands on some source code and were looking to access Gmail accounts of Tibetan activists. What they didn't make public is that the hackers have also accessed a database containing information about court-issued surveillance orders that enabled law enforcement agencies to monitor email accounts belonging to diplomats, suspected spies and terrorists. Whether this was the primary goal of the attacks as well as how much information was exfiltrated is unknown. current and former U.S. government officials interviewed by the Washington Post say that the database in question was possibly accessed in order to discover which Chinese intelligence operatives located in the U.S. were under surveillance."
New submitter QuantumPion writes "The Environmental Protection Agency released draft guidelines last month that could significantly relax radiation hazard standards in the case of a radiological event in the United States by using risk-based decisions. The goal is to have limits that make sense in an emergency that are different from the limits in day-to-day life. From the article: 'Currently, the only guidance are the extremely strict standards that apply for EPA Superfund sites and nuclear plant decommissioning, which are as low as 0.010–0.025 rem/year, far below the natural background levels in the U.S. of 0.300 rem/year, and even well below the average amount of radioactive materials that Americans eat each year. And these guidelines aren’t really different from the 1992 PAG, except in the area of long-term cleanup standards and, perhaps, standards for resettlement. What’s the big deal here? As radworkers, we’re allowed to get 5 rem/year. 2 rem/year doesn’t rate a second thought. ... No one has ever been harmed by 5 rem/year, so setting emergency levels at 2 rem/year is pretty mild and more than reasonable. ... Think of it this way. The situations covered by these new guidelines are similar to someone dying of thirst who has the chance to drink fresh water having 2,000 pCi per gallon of radium in it. While the safe drinking water levels are 20 pCi/gal for Ra, 2,000 pCi/gal is of no threat, especially if you’re going to die from imminent dehydration. Of course, a bag of potato chips has 3,500 picocuries, so go figure.'"
Lucas123 writes "U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) is pushing a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include 'personalization technology' in their weapons. Tierney said he got the idea for The Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In it Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes his fingerprints, becomes inoperable when a bad guy picks it up. 'This technology, however, isn't just for the movies — it's a reality,' Tierney said. Tierney pointed to a myriad of cases where the smart gun tech could prevent children from being harmed or killed in firearms accidents. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the NRA, said he knows of no gun owners who would want smart gun technology on their weapons. Wallace said any technology that may impede the proper function of a weapon is a problem. He pointed to the fact that any integrated processor technology would also require a battery of some kind, which could pose a system failure if it lost power."
An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government came a step closer to formalising its plans to make Asian language study compulsory for schools this week. It has released a draft curriculum for public consultation which reveals plans to include Indonesian, Korean and french language in the curriculum. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly stated in September 2012 that in response to the "staggering growth" in the region, the government would be instigating 25 key measures to strengthen and exploit links with Asia. The plan includes the requirement that one third of civil servants and company directors have a "deep knowledge," thousands of scholarships for Asian students, and the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian."
mspohr writes with news that Apple might be in a bit of hot water over its policy of offshoring revenues to favorable tax jurisdictions. Only they take it a step further, from the article: "Apple relied on a 'complex web of offshore entities' and U.S. tax loopholes to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes on $44 billion in offshore income over the past four years ... The maker of iPhones and iPads used at least three foreign subsidiaries that it claims are not 'tax resident in any nation' to help it avoid paying billions in 'otherwise taxable offshore income,' the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a statement yesterday."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Location is everything when choosing the site of a data center. Firms such as Microsoft and Google and Facebook spend a lot of time looking into the costs of land, power, regulation and taxes before placing their respective data centers in a particular place. Sometimes, that local tax bill comes into play in a big way. Just ask the National Security Agency which learned it faces a multimillion-dollar annual state tax on the power consumed by its new data center in Camp Williams, south of Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a series of email exchanges between the feds and the state, with the NSA protesting a $2.4 million tax on its annual power expenditure, pegged at about $40 million. Harvey Davis, director of installations and logistics for the NSA, sent a letter (subsequently quoted by the newspaper) to state officials that made the logistics argument: 'Long-term stability in the utility rates was a major factor in Utah being selected as our site for our $1.5bn construction at Camp Williams. HP325 [the new law] runs counter to what we expected.'" This would be the data center William Binney et al claim is logging almost all domestic communication.
colinneagle writes "Scripps News reporters discovered 170,000 records online of customers of Lifeline, a government program offering affordable phone service for low-income citizens, that contained everything needed for identity theft . Last year, the FCC 'tightened' the rules for the program by requiring Lifeline phone carriers to document applicants' eligibility, which led to collecting more sensitive information from citizens. A Scripps News investigative team claims it 'Googled' the phone companies TerraCom Inc. and YourTel America Inc. to discover all of the files. A Scripps reporter asked for an on-camera interview with the COO of TerraCom and YourTel after explaining the files were freely available online. That did not happen, but shortly thereafter the customer records disappeared from the internet. Then, the blame-the-messenger hacker accusations and mudslinging began. Although the Scripps reporters videotaped the process showing how they found the documents, attorney Jonathon Lee for both telecoms threatened the 'Scripps Hackers' with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)."