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Crime

Oklahoma Says It Will Now Use Nitrogen Gas As Its Backup Method of Execution 38

Posted by timothy
from the that's-not-the-only-cost dept.
schwit1 writes Yesterday, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that approves the use of nitrogen gas for executions in the state. The method, which would effectively asphyxiate death row inmates by forcing them to breathe pure nitrogen through a gas mask, is meant to be the primary alternative to lethal injection, the Washington Post reports.

Fallin and other supporters of the procedure say it's pain-free and effective, noting that the nitrogen would render inmates unconscious within ten seconds and kill them in minutes. It's also cheap: state representatives say the method only requires a nitrogen tank and a gas mask, but financial analysts say its impossible to give precise figures, the Post reports.

Oklahoma's primary execution method is still lethal injection, but the state's procedure is currently under review by the Supreme Court. Earlier this week, Tennessee suspended executions statewide following challenges to its own lethal injection protocol.
Math

Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe 36

Posted by timothy
from the from-here-you-can-see-forever dept.
StartsWithABang writes You're used to real numbers: that is, numbers that can be expressed as a decimal, even if it's an arbitrarily long, non-repeating decimal. There are also complex numbers, which are numbers that have a real part and also an imaginary part. The imaginary part is just like the real part, but is also multiplied by i, or the square root of -1. It's a simple definition: the Mandelbrot set consists of every possible complex number, n, where the sequence n, n^2 + n, (n^2 + n)^2 + n, etc.—where each new term is the prior term, squared, plus n—does not go to either positive or negative infinity. The scale of zoom visualizations now goes well past the limits of the observable Universe, with no signs of loss of complexity at all.
Security

Chrome 43 Should Help Batten Down HTTPS Sites 34

Posted by timothy
from the yes-yes-we-know dept.
River Tam writes The next version of Chrome, Chrome 43, promises to take out some of the work website owners — such as news publishers — would have to do if they were to enable HTTPS. The feature might be helpful for publishers migrating legacy HTTP web content to HTTPS when that old content can't or is difficult to be modified. The issue crops up when a new HTTPS page includes a resource, like an image, from an HTTP URL. That insecure resource will cause Chrome to flag an 'mixed-content warning' in the form of a yellow triangle over the padlock.
Earth

If Earth Never Had Life, Continents Would Be Smaller 27

Posted by timothy
from the war-of-concretion dept.
sciencehabit writes It may seem counterintuitive, but life on Earth, even with all the messy erosion it creates, keeps continents growing. Presenting here this week at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, researchers say it's the erosion itself that makes the difference in continental size. Plant life, for example, can root its way through rock, breaking rocks into sediment. The sediments, like milk-dunked cookies, carry liquid water in their pores, which allows more water to be recycled back into Earth's mantle. If not enough water is present in the mantle about 100 to 200 km deep to keep things flowing, continental production decreases. The authors built a planetary evolution model to show how these processes relate and found that if continental weathering and erosion rates decreased, at first the continents would remain large. But over time, if life never evolved on Earth, not enough water would make its way to the mantle to help produce more continental crust, and whatever continents there were would then shrink. Now, continents cover 40% of the planet. Without life, that coverage would shrink to 30%. In a more extreme case, if life never existed, the continents might only cover 10% of Earth.
Spam

Whoah, Small Spender! Steam Sets Limits For Users Who Spend Less Than $5 97

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-committed-or-just-involved dept.
As GameSpot reports, Valve has implemented a policy that reduces the privileges of Steam users unless those users have spent $5 through the service. Along the same lines as suggestions to limit spam by imposing a small fee on emails, the move is intended to reduce resource abuse as a business model. From the article: "Malicious users often operate in the community on accounts which have not spent any money, reducing the individual risk of performing the actions they do," Valve said. "One of the best pieces of information we can compare between regular users and malicious users are their spending habits as typically the accounts being used have no investment in their longevity. Due to this being a common scenario we have decided to restrict certain community features until an account has met or exceeded $5.00 USD in Steam." Restricted actions include sending invites, opening group chats, and taking part in the Steam marketplace.
Transportation

How Uber Surge Pricing Really Works 57

Posted by timothy
from the has-a-catchy-name-regardless dept.
minstrelmike writes with this analysis from Nicholas Diakopoulos of the Washington Post: At the core of Uber's wild success and market valuation of over $41 billion is its data and algorithmically fueled approach to matching supply and demand for cars. It's classic economics, supposedly....but is Uber's surge pricing algorithm really doing what they claim? Do surge prices really get more cars on the road?

My analysis suggests that rather than motivating a fresh supply of drivers, surge pricing instead re-distributes drivers already on the road.
Adds minstrelmike: The writer goes on to analyze 4 weeks of pricing info from 5 areas in D.C. and plotted prices versus wait times. "Price surging can work in any of three ways: by reducing demand for cars (less people want a car for a higher price), by creating new supply (providing an incentive for new drivers to hit the roads), or by shifting supply (drivers) to areas of higher demand."

It moves current drivers from one side of town to the other. It does not put new drivers on the road. It can't because the prices change every 3-5 minutes."
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Battlefront Game Trailer Is So Realistic It Looks Like Movie Footage 97

Posted by timothy
from the cgi-is-cheaper-than-actors dept.
MojoKid writes It has been a tremendous week for Star Wars fans. First we got to see Han Solo and Chewbacca make an emotional reappearance in the newest Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer (the second official trailer Disney has put out). Now, Electronic Arts is treating us to a visual smorgasbord of cinema-quality footage showing the forthcoming Star Wars Battlefront game. Battlefront will support to up 40 players divided between the Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire, all shooting it out and playing with some of the coolest Star Wars vehicles and weapons around. We're talking jetpacks, AT-AT war machines, AT-STs, TIE Fighters, X-wings, and more. Though the trailer allegedly shows actually "game engine footage," it's questionable whether or not it's actual gameplay or just pre-rendered cut scenes from the game engine. Either way, it's still pretty impressive.
Power

Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power 259

Posted by timothy
from the one-hand-giveth dept.
HughPickens.com writes Diane Cardwell reports in the NYT that many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar power, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. The economic threat has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity. "Hawaii is a postcard from the future," says Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

But utilities say that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts. "At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don't keep that balance things go unstable," says Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility's main control room. But the rooftop systems are "essentially invisible to us," says Ching, "because they sit behind a customer's meter and we don't have a means to directly measure them." The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. "Hawaii's case is not isolated," says Massoud Amin. "When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there's going to be problems."
The Courts

DIA Polygraph Countermeasure Case Files Leaked 67

Posted by timothy
from the well-someone-is-fibbing dept.
George Maschke writes AntiPolygraph.org (of which I am a co-founder) has published a set of leaked Defense Intelligence Agency polygraph countermeasure case files along with a case-by-case analysis. The case files, which include polygraph charts and the exact questions used, suggest that the only people being "caught" trying to beat the polygraph are those using crude, unsophisticated methods that anyone who actually understood polygraph procedure and effective countermeasures (like, say, a real spy, saboteur, or terrorist) would ever use. AntiPolygraph.org has previously published polygraph community training materials on countermeasures that indicate they lack the ability to detect countermeasures like those described in our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF) or in former police polygraph examiner Doug Williams' manual, How to Sting the Polygraph . Williams, who was indicted last year after teaching undercover federal agents how to pass a polygraph, is scheduled to stand trial on May 12 in Oklahoma City.
Cellphones

Does Lack of FM Support On Phones Increase Your Chances of Dying In a Disaster? 260

Posted by timothy
from the well-if-you-put-it-that-way dept.
theodp writes You may not know it," reports NPR's Emma Bowman, "but most of today's smartphones have FM radios inside of them. But the FM chip is not activated on two-thirds of devices. That's because mobile makers have the FM capability switched off. The National Association of Broadcasters has been asking mobile makers to change this. But the mobile industry, which profits from selling data to smartphone users, says that with the consumer's move toward mobile streaming apps, the demand for radio simply isn't there." But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says radio-enabled smartphones could sure come in handy during times of emergency. So, is it irresponsible not to activate the FM chips? And should it's-the-app-way-or-the-highway Apple follow Microsoft's lead and make no-static-at-all FM available on iPhones?
The Military

US Military To Recruit Civilian Cybersecurity Experts 54

Posted by timothy
from the which-masters-would-you-prefer? dept.
An anonymous reader writes The U.S. Army is to create a new cybersecurity division, Cyber Branch 17, and is also considering launching a cyber career track for civilians, according to an announcement made this week by Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon. Cardon, who currently heads the U.S. Army's cyber command, ARCYBER, spoke to the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on Tuesday about the growing threats and capabilities used in cyber warfare. He argued that creating a cyber career management field for civilians would result in an easier recruitment process, as opposed to recruiting internally and trying to retain the talent, he said. Cardon maintains that recruiting and retaining talent in the field is often challenging, given internal employment constraints surrounding compensation and slow hiring processes.
The Courts

FBI Overstated Forensic Hair Matches In Nearly All Trials Before 2000 118

Posted by timothy
from the why-the-house-wins-so-often dept.
schwit1 writes The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory's microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country's largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
Google

Google To Propose QUIC As IETF Standard 66

Posted by timothy
from the ok-now-do-it-this-way dept.
As reported by TechCrunch, "Google says it plans to propose HTTP2-over-QUIC to the IETF as a new Internet standard in the future," having disclosed a few days ago that about half of the traffic from Chrome browsers is using QUIC already. From the article: The name "QUIC" stands for Quick UDP Internet Connection. UDP's (and QUIC's) counterpart in the protocol world is basically TCP (which in combination with the Internet Protocol (IP) makes up the core communication language of the Internet). UDP is significantly more lightweight than TCP, but in return, it features far fewer error correction services than TCP. ... That's why UDP is great for gaming services. For these services, you want low overhead to reduce latency and if the server didn't receive your latest mouse movement, there's no need to spend a second or two to fix that because the action has already moved on. You wouldn't want to use it to request a website, though, because you couldn't guarantee that all the data would make it. With QUIC, Google aims to combine some of the best features of UDP and TCP with modern security tools.
Censorship

Joseph Goebbels' Estate Sues Publisher Over Diary Excerpt Royalties 231

Posted by timothy
from the new-meaning-for-moral-rights dept.
wabrandsma writes with this from The Guardian: The estate of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda, is taking legal action against the publisher Random House over a new biography, claiming payment for the use of extracts from his diaries. Peter Longerich's biography of Goebbels is to be published in May (Random House/ Siedler). Longerich, who is the professor at Royal Holloway's Holocaust Research Centre, maintains this case has important censorship implications. 'If you accept that a private person controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries, then – theoretically – you give this person the right to control research,' he said.
Businesses

DOJ Could Nix Comcast-Time Warner Merger 73

Posted by timothy
from the they-have-a-monopoly-on-that dept.
jriding (1076733) writes The Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger has been in the works for so long, it's starting to feel like the impending monopolistic telecom Frankenbaby was inevitable. But the Justice Department may kibosh the deal for violating antitrust laws, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Communications

Norway Will Switch Off FM Radio In 2017 236

Posted by timothy
from the video-sought-by-police-for-questioning dept.
New submitter titten writes The Norwegian Ministry of Culture has announced that the transition to DAB will be completed in 2017. This means that Norway, as the first country in the world to do so, has decided to switch off the FM network. Norway began the transition to DAB in 1995. In recent years two national and several local DAB-networks has been established. 56 per cent of radio listeners use digital radio every day. 55 per cent of households have at least one DAB radio, according to Digitalradio survey by TNS Gallup, continuously measuring the Norwegian`s digital radio habits.
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: What Features Would You Like In a Search Engine? 239

Posted by timothy
from the esp-heads-the-list dept.
New submitter nicolas.slusarenko writes Nowadays, there is one dominant search engine in the world among few alternatives. I have the impression that the majority of users think that it is the best possible service that could be made. I am sure that we could have a better search engine. During my spare time I been developing Trokam, an online search engine. I am building this service with the features that I would like to find in a service: respectful of user rights, ad-free, built upon open source software, and with auditable results. Well, those are mine. What features would you like in a search engine?
Privacy

The Upsides of a Surveillance Society 210

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-it's-not-all-upside? dept.
theodp writes Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"
Transportation

Dutch Prosecutors Launch Criminal Investigation Against Uber For Flouting Ban 47

Posted by timothy
from the red-lights-and-red-tape dept.
An anonymous reader writes Dutch prosecutors have announced that they are prosecuting taxi-hailing giant Uber for continuing to disregard last December's ban on the company offering its unlicensed UberPOP service in the Netherlands. The statement declares 'The company Uber is now a suspect...This means a preliminary examination will be started to collect evidence that Uber is providing illegal transportation on a commercial basis,'. Dutch police presented evidence to the prosecutors of UberPOP drivers in Amsterdam ignoring the ban, and at the time of writing the UberPOP service is still available via Uber's Amsterdam website [https://www.uber.com/cities/amsterdam]. Though Uber inspires new litigation on a weekly basis in the territories in which it is seeking to consolidate its services, this is the first time it has been the subject of a criminal prosecution.
Earth

Resistance To Antibiotics Found In Isolated Amazonian Tribe 51

Posted by timothy
from the strong-willed-organisms dept.
sciencehabit writes When scientists first made contact with an isolated village of Yanomami hunter-gatherers in the remote mountains of the Amazon jungle of Venezuela in 2009, they marveled at the chance to study the health of people who had never been exposed to Western medicine or diets. But much to their surprise, these Yanomami's gut bacteria have already evolved a diverse array of antibiotic-resistance genes, according to a new study, even though these mountain people had never ingested antibiotics or animals raised with drugs. The find suggests that microbes have long evolved the capability to fight toxins, including antibiotics, and that preventing drug resistance may be harder than scientists thought.