An anonymous reader writes "The value of bitcoin has surged through the $400 barrier for the first time, as unprecedented growth sees the virtual currency's value quadruple in just three months. Meanwhile, on 18 November, a Senate subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on virtual currencies like bitcoin and its lesser-known competitors litecoin and altcoin. The hearing comes after a unit of the Treasury Department earlier this year issued guidelines stating virtual currencies should be subject to the same anti-money-laundering laws as traditional currency-transfer businesses like Western Union."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Matthew Philips writes at Bloomberg that US Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Geneva on Friday to begin negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program and there is sudden optimism that a deal is in the offing. But the simple fact is that Iran would not be coming to the negotiating table without the US oil boom. Over the last two years, the US has increased its crude production by about 2 million barrels a day. According to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service (pdf), Iran's oil exports have been cut in half since 2011 (PDF), from 2.5 million barrels per day to a bit more than 1 million today. As a result, Iran has had to halt an equal amount of production. 'I think it's pretty clear that without the U.S. shale revolution, it never would have been possible to put this kind of embargo on Iran,' says Julius Walker. 'Without US production gains, I think we'd be looking at $150 a barrel.' Instead, international prices have hovered around $110, and are less than $100 in the US. According to data from Bloomberg, the combined carrying capacity of oil tankers leaving Iranian ports last month dropped 22 percent from September. 'They're having a very hard time finding buyers,' says Walker. If a deal gets done, the trick will be to ease Iranian oil back onto the broader market without disrupting prices. If not managed properly, flooding the market with Iranian crude could carry its own negative consequences by suddenly making fracked oil in the US unprofitable."
An anonymous reader writes "While far from a dictatorship, the United States has employed a number of paranoid tactics that delegitimize its democracy. And the motivation for doing so is — fear. That seems to be a long way from 'So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself: nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.' Where is the U.S. heading?"
SonicSpike writes with this excerpt from Politico: "Political campaigns will be allowed to accept — but not spend — the digital currency Bitcoin, under a proposed federal rule released Thursday. The Federal Election Commission draft would require campaigns to first convert any Bitcoins collected as donation to dollars. According to the proposal, the currency will count as an 'in-kind' contribution to a campaign — like a stock or bond. The FEC will not consider them currency. Campaigns are permitted to accept non-monetary contributions like stocks, private stocks, commodities, and equipment— but must list their value in dollars on campaign finance reports. Attorneys for Conservative Action Fund PAC asked the agency in September to decide if and how political candidates and outside groups are allowed to use the digital currency, in addition to U.S. dollars. "
v3rgEz writes "By September 14, 1960, Isaac Asimov had been a professor of biochemistry at Boston University for 11 years, and his acclaimed "I, Robot" collection of short stories was on its seventh reprint. This was also the day someone not-so-subtly accused him of communist sympathies in a letter to J. Edgar Hoover. They ominously concluded that "Asimov may be quite all right. On the other hand . . . . ." The "tip off" wasn't given much credit, but it didn't matter since Asimov's science fiction writing alone was enough to warrant FBI monitoring, particularly as the FBI hunted for the mysterious ROBPROF, a communist informant embedded in American academia. MuckRock has Isaac Asimov's FBI files in full, and a write up of the more interesting bits."
UnknowingFool writes "Citing growing health concerns about trans fat, the FDA today proposed measures to eliminate it from the U.S. food supply. While trans fat can still be used, the new measures now place the burden on food processors to justify the inclusion of it in a food product as experts have maintained that there is no safe level of consumption and no health benefits. Since 2006, the amount of trans fat eaten by the average American has declined from 4.5g per serving to less than 1g as restaurants and the food industry have reduced their use of it. There will be a 60-day public comment period for the new proposal."
ananyo writes "Key members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to justify every grant it awards as being in the 'national interest.' The proposal, included in a draft bill from the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and obtained by Nature, would force the NSF to document how its basic science grants benefit the country. The requirement is similar to one in a discussion draft circulated in April by committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). At the time, scientists raised concerns that 'national interest' was defined far too narrowly. The current draft bill provides a more expansive definition that includes six goals: economic competitiveness, health and welfare, scientific literacy, partnerships between academia and industry, promotion of scientific progress, and national defense. But many believe that predicting the broader impacts of basic research is tantamount to gazing into a crystal ball. 'All scientists know it's nonsense,' says John Bruer, president of James S. McDonnell Foundation and former co-chair of an NSF task force that examined requiring scientists to state the 'broader impacts' of their work in grant applications."
Ars Technica reports, probably to no one's surprise, that U.S. elected officials are unlikely to start seeing Edward Snowden as a righteous whistleblower rather than a traitor to the U.S. government. From the article:"[Sunday], the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and her House counterpart, Mike Rogers (R-MI), both emphasized there would be no mercy coming from Washington. 'He was trusted; he stripped our system; he had an opportunity—if what he was, was a whistle-blower—to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say I have some information,' Feinstein told CBS' Face The Nation. 'But that didn’t happen. He’s done this enormous disservice to our country, and I think the answer is no clemency.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Despite what we hear about how much the U.S. government is struggling with a website, it is reassuring that most of government entities can update their websites within a day after they are asked to. This conclusion is the result of research done by the Networking Systems Laboratory at the Computer Science Department of the University of Houston. The research team tracked government websites and their update times, and found that 96% of the websites were updated within 24 hours after President Obama signed HR 2775 into law, ending the Government shutdown. Worth noting that two websites took 8 days to update. It is interesting that the team was able to use the shutdown as an opportunity to study the efficiency of the IT departments of various parts of Government."
First time accepted submitter Paddy_O'Furniture writes "Four prominent scientists have penned a letter urging those concerned about climate change to support nuclear energy, saying that renewables such as wind and solar will not be sufficient to meet the world's energy needs. Among the authors is James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist, whose 1988 testimony before the United States Congress helped launch discussions of global warming into the mainstream."
An anonymous reader writes "Edward Snowden is calling for international help to persuade the U.S. to drop its espionage charges against him. Snowden said he would like to testify before the U.S. Congress about National Security Agency surveillance and may be willing to help German officials investigate alleged U.S. spying in Germany. Snowden is quoted as saying that the U.S. government 'continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense.' He continues, 'I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Andrea Peterson reports in the Washington Post that one of Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's big policy initiatives has been expanding the quality and quantity of high-speed Internet access throughout the city. However incumbent providers, particularly Comcast, have invested heavily in defeating McGinn in the mayoral election. While Comcast denies there is any connection between McGinn's broadband policies and their donations, the company has given thousands of dollars to PACs that have, in turn, given heavily to anti-McGinn groups. One of McGinn's core promises in the 2009 campaign was to 'develop a city-wide broadband system.' The mayor considered creating a citywide broadband system as a public utility, like water or electricity. But aides say that would have been too expensive, so the mayor settled on public-private partnerships using city-owned dark fiber. This dark fiber was laid down starting in 1995, and the mayor's office now says there are some 535 miles of it, only a fraction of which is being used. In June, the partnership, called Gigabit Squared, announced pricing for its Seattle service: $45 dollars a month for 100 Mbps service or $80 a month for 1 Gbps service plus a one-time installation cost of $350 that will be waived for customers signing a one-year contract. For comparison, Comcast, one of the primary Internet providers in the area, offers 105 Mbps service in the area for $114.99 a month, according to their website. If Comcast is indeed attempting to sway the election, it would fall in line with a larger pattern of telecom interests lobbying against municipal efforts to create their own municipal broadband systems or leveraging city-owner fiber resources to create more competition for incumbent providers. Peterson writes, '...if Comcast's donations help Murray defeat McGinn, it will send a powerful message to mayors in other American cities considering initiatives to increase broadband competition.'"
mdsolar writes "An Arizona utility commissioner is asking for all the key players in a debate over a solar energy policy in the state to reveal any additional secret funding of nonprofits or public relations campaigns. The probe comes after Arizona Public Service, the state's largest utility, admitted last week that it had been secretly contributing to outside nonprofits running negative ads against solar power. As The Huffington Post reported Friday, APS recently admitted that it had lied for months about paying the 60 Plus Association, a national conservative organization backed by the Koch brothers, to run ads against current solar net-metering policy. APS is currently pushing the Arizona Corporation Commission to roll back the policy, which allows homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar energy systems to make money by selling excess energy back to the grid. Solar proponents say that the policy has facilitated a solar boom in the state, and that changing it could have a huge negative impact on future growth."
Bruce66423 writes "From the article: 'In a statement to MPs on Monday about last week's European summit in Brussels, where he warned of the dangers of a "lah-di-dah, airy-fairy view" about the dangers of leaks, the prime minister said his preference was to talk to newspapers rather than resort to the courts. But he said it would be difficult to avoid acting if newspapers declined to heed government advice.' So that will achieve something won't it? Don't these politicians understand that blocking publication in just the UK achieves nothing? The information is held outside the UK, and will be published there; all he's doing is showing his real colors."
An anonymous reader writes "The California attorney general and the state's top election watchdog named the 'Koch brothers network' of donors and dark-money nonprofits as the true source of $15 million in secret donations made last year to influence two bitterly fought ballot propositions in California. State officials unmasked the Kochs' network as part of a settlement deal that ends a nearly year-long investigation into the source of the secret donations that flowed in California last fall."