drdread66 writes "A nationwide corn shortage brought on by last year's drought has started to curtail ethanol production. While this shouldn't be surprising to anyone, it raises public policy issues regarding ethanol usage requirements in motor fuel. Given that the energy efficiency of ethanol fuel is questionable at best, is it time to lift the mandate for ethanol in our gasoline?"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
First time accepted submitter CarlosF writes "Does Lunar New Year belong alongside those other red-letter days? Efforts to recognize Lunar New Year at the state and local level have been afoot for years. In 1994, San Francisco decided to close public schools on Lunar New Year, but this was largely a response to demographic reality rather than political pressure."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars is reporting that the patent-holding company, along with the heirs of Dutch programmer, Joannes Jozef Everardus Van Der Meer (deceased 2004), have filed suit against Facebook for violating two patents relating to social media web sites. The two patents in question were filed for back in 1998, a full four years before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg first entered university at Harvard. Among the claims made in the lawsuit is that Facebook's "Like" button violates one of Van Der Meer's patents. Facebook even cited one of Van Der Meer's patents in one of their own filings later on. The suit seeks unspecified damages."
McGruber writes "The Federal Times, a weekly print newspaper published by Gamnett Government Media Corp, is reporting that the Rapiscan Systems 'backscatter' passenger screening machines used by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration will likely be redeployed to federal buildings. Rapiscan System's backscatter machines have exposed passengers to radiation since they were first installed. As previously reported on Slashdot, TSA decided last month to stop using the machines because the manufacturer was unable to make changes to the machines that were mandated by Congress. Now TSA is attempting to sucker another federal agency into taking the nude-o-scopes."
walterbyrd writes "Microsoft scored a victory against Google-owned Motorola Mobility this week after a judge scrapped 13 of the latter party's patent claims in a years-long dispute over H.264-related royalties. Waged in U.S. and German courts, the battle involves three patents (7,310,374, 7,310,375, and 7,310,376) that Motorola licenses to Microsoft for several products, including the Xbox 360, Windows and Windows Phone. PJ is commenting on the case over at Groklaw.net."
An anonymous reader writes "Slate provides the first-person account of a CEO who received an e-mail with several business documents attached threatening to distribute them to competitors and business partners unless the CEO paid $150,000. 'Experts I consulted told me that the hacking probably came from government monitors who wanted extra cash,' writes the CEO, who successfully ended the extortion with an e-mail from the law firm from the bank of his financial partner, refusing payment and adding that the authorities had been notified. According to the article, IT providers routinely receive phone calls from their service providers if they detect any downtime on the monitors of network traffic installed by the Chinese government, similar to the alerts provided to telecom providers about VoIP fraud on their IP-PBX switches. 'Hundreds of millions of Chinese operate on the Internet without any real sense of privacy, fully aware that a massive eavesdropping apparatus tracks their every communication and move...' writes the CEO. 'With China's world and ours intersecting online, I expect we'll eventually wonder how we could have been so naive to have assumed that privacy was normal- or that breaches of it were news.'"
First time accepted submitter rogue-girl writes that a "Cairo Administrative Court announced earlier on Feb. 9 that a ruling has been issued to block YouTube within the country for 30 days. This decision comes after a lawsuit was filed back in September 2012 during the turmoil caused by the infamous trailer 'The Innocence of Muslims' spread through the popular video platform. The Court has also asked for all websites having published parts or the entire trailer to be banned for 30 days."
An anonymous reader writes "Distributel, an independent Canadian ISP, has fought back in a file sharing lawsuit by opposing a motion to disclose the names of subscribers alleged to have engaged in file sharing. The company did not oppose a similar request in November 2012, but says in court documents filed on Friday that several factors led to a change in position after it received another request for more names. Those concerns include evidence of copyright trolling, privacy issues, and weak evidence of actual infringement by its subscribers. The decision to fight back points to mounting ISP frustration in Canada with file sharing lawsuits that come after the Canadian government sent clear signals that such actions were unwelcome."
Wired reports that the 3-D printed AR-15 magazine from Defense Distributed we mentioned a few weeks back has been improved through design, and is now robust enough to last through firing (at least) several hundred rounds, rather than fewer than a hundred as in the previous iteration. CNET says the video demonstration on YouTube was first yanked, then restored, but as of now seems to have been yanked again.
New submitter terbeaux writes "The documentary TPB AFK follows the creators of The Pirate Bay — Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm — through their technical and logistical trials of keeping TPB online as well as their court appearances in Sweden. After its premiere at Berlin International Film Festival, TechCrunch is reporting that TPB AFK is now available under a Creative Commons license for purchase, download on TPB, or viewing on YouTube. The budget for the film was raised on Kickstarter, where the makers achieved twice the funding goal in the allotted month-long funding campaign. The film already has 40,000 YouTube views, 19,000 torrent seeders, and over 2,000 paid downloads. There are public screenings happening world-wide."
dreamstateseven writes "In a not-so-unexpected move, the Department of Homeland Security has concluded that travelers along the nation's borders may have their electronics seized and the contents of those devices examined for any reason whatsoever — all in the name of national security. According to legal precedent, the Fourth Amendment — the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures — does not apply along the border. The memo highlights the friction between today's reality that electronic devices have become virtual extensions of ourselves housing everything from e-mail to instant-message chats to photos and our papers and effects — juxtaposed against the government's stated quest for national security. By the way, the government contends the Fourth-Amendment-Free Zone stretches 100 miles inland from the nation's actual border."
New submitter ElDuque writes "Slate's top story today is a long, heavily-researched article about the life of, and case against, Aaron Swartz. It covers the formative years of both Mr. Swartz and the free information / open knowledge movement he felt so strongly about. Quoting: 'Aaron Swartz is a difficult puzzle. He was a programmer who resisted the description, a dot-com millionaire who lived in a rented one-room studio. He could be a troublesome collaborator but an effective troubleshooter. He had a talent for making powerful friends, and for driving them away. He had scores of interests, and he indulged them all. ... He was fascinated by large systems, and how an organization’s culture and values could foster innovation or corruption, collaboration or paranoia. Why does one group accept a 14-year-old as an equal partner among professors and professionals while another spends two years pursuing a court case that’s divorced from any sense of proportionality to the alleged crime? How can one sort of organization develop a young man like Aaron Swartz, and how can another destroy him?'"
Presto Vivace sends this news from the Hill: "House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said Friday that they plan to re-introduce the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) next week during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. The bill is aimed at improving information-sharing about cyber threats between government and industry so cyberattacks can be thwarted in real time. ... It would also encourage companies to share anonymous cyber-threat information with one another, and provide liability protection for businesses so they don't get hit with legal action for sharing data about cyber threats. " You may recall CISPA from last year, when it was hailed as being even worse than SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. We discussed why it was a bad bill back then; the new version is reportedly identical, so all of the same reasons will apply. The bill stalled last year against White House plans to veto it. Congressman Rogers said this about privacy fears: "We're talking about exchanging packets of information, zeroes and ones, if you will, one hundred millions times a second. So some notion that this is a horrible invasion of content reading is wrong. It is not even close to that." Don't worry folks; it's just zeroes and ones.
theodp writes "Got Milk? Got Milk Delivery Patent? Perhaps unfamiliar with the concept of the Milkman, the USPTO has granted Amazon.com a patent for the Recurring Delivery of Products , an idea five Amazon inventors came up with to let customers schedule product deliveries to their doorsteps or mailboxes on a recurring basis, without needing to submit a new order every time. 'For instance,' the filing explains, 'a customer may request delivery of one bunch of bananas every week and two gallons of milk every two weeks.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The U.S. Department of Justice has just settled with book publisher Macmillan in an ongoing case over the price of e-books, bringing its number of settlements with big-name publishers up to five. Justice claims that those five publishers, along with Apple, agreed to 'raise retail e-book prices and eliminate price competition, substantially increasing prices paid by consumers.' Apple competes fiercely in the digital-media space against Amazon, which often discounts the prices of Kindle e-books as a competitive gambit; although all five publishers earn significant revenues from sales of Kindle e-books, Amazon's massive popularity among book-buyers — coupled with the slow decline of bricks-and-mortar bookstores — gives it significant leverage when it comes to lowering those e-book prices as it sees fit. But Justice and Apple seem determined to keep their court date later this year."