Hugh Pickens writes "The Hill reports that GM has announced to employees at one of its facilities that it is suspending production of the Chevy Volt for five weeks and temporarily laying off 1,300 employees. Back when GM launched the beleaguered electric car, it boldly targeted sales of 10,000 in 2011 and 60,000 in 2012 but GM only sold 7,671 Volts in 2011 and just 1,626 so far this year. 'We needed to maintain proper inventory and make sure that we continued to meet market demand,' says GM spokesman Chris Lee. 'We see positive trends, but we needed to make this market adjustment.' Although President Obama promised he would buy a Volt 'five years from now, when I'm not president anymore,' the Volt has come under criticism from Republicans in Congress because of reports of its batteries catching on fire during testing. Ironically, the shutdown comes as gas prices are soaring, exactly the time when an electric car should be an easy sell." If it's still true that GM was taking a loss on every Volt sold, perhaps this is a blessing in disguise.
A few countries, like Estonia, have gone for internet-based voting in national elections in a big way, and many others (like Ireland and Canada) have experimented with it. For Americans, with a presidential election approaching later this year, it's a timely issue: already, some states have come to allow at least certain forms of voting by internet. Proponents say online elections have compelling upsides, chief among them ease of participation. People who might not otherwise vote — in particular military personnel stationed abroad, but many others besides — are more and more reached by internet access. Online voting offers a way to keep the electoral process open to them. With online voting, too, there's no worry about conventional absentee ballots being lost or delayed in the postal system, either before reaching the voter or on the way back to be counted. The downsides, though, are daunting. According to RSA panelists David Jefferson and J. Alex Halderman, in fact, they're overwhelming. Speaking Thursday afternoon, the two laid out their case against e-voting.
(Read more for more, and look for a video interview with Halderman soon).
(Read more for more, and look for a video interview with Halderman soon).
An anonymous reader writes "The Ann Arbor Public Schools defended their request for a $45 million bond for new computers by claiming that Apple eMacs aren't good enough for their Advanced Journalism class. A teacher told reporters that new PCs are needed to run WordPress, Google Docs, and Adobe InDesign CS6. WordPress and Google Docs are server-based applications that can be accessed with nearly any web browser. InDesign CS6 has not been released yet and its system requirements are unknown. As a web developer, I am impressed by the online newspaper published by the journalism class, but I question the need for new hardware. The district previously claimed that the old computers couldn't run its standardized testing software, although they far surpass the vendor's specifications. Does modern education really require cutting-edge computers, or are schools screaming 'think of the children' to win over tech-illiterate voters?" Whatever the answer to that question, exaggerated system requirements aren't the only driving force; the $45 million bond sought would not be dedicated only to replacing journalism program computers, note; it would also be used to fund other infrastructure upgrades, including some lower-tech updates, like new sound amplifiers in the district's classrooms. Ann Arbor schools' web site says that the district has (as of 2010, at least) 16,440 students. What are tech outlays like in the public schools where you live?
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months — averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon. But gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption. 'If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we'd see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump,' says Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research. A sharp rise in the prices of oil and gas would crimp the nation's budding economic recovery would cause big political problems at home for President Obama, who is already being attacked by Republican presidential candidates over gas prices and his overall energy policies. On the other hand, environmentalists see high gas prices as a helpful step toward the development of alternative energy. Secretary Treasury Steven Chu notably said in 2008 'we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe' to make Americans trade in their 'love affair with the automobile' for a marriage to mass transit. In the meantime President Obama is in a bind because any success in tightening sanctions on Iran could squeeze global oil supplies, pushing up prices and causing serious economic repercussions at home and abroad."
An anonymous reader writes "Symantec has identified a Malware embedded into a Iranian recipe app for Android that destroys images stored on a camera by stamping the cardboard image of Khomeini on it. The controversy stems from a bizarre February 1 ceremony that sought to recreate Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's triumphant return to Tehran in 1979 after 14 years of exile. Immediately fueling a firestorm of ridicule drawing a cult following online. The threat only appears to be focused in App for Farsi and only in third party app markets, according to Symantec."
PatPending sends this quote from an AFP report: "Interpol has arrested 25 suspected members of the Anonymous hackers group in a swoop covering more than a dozen cities in Europe and Latin America, the global police body said Tuesday. Operation Unmask was launched in mid-February following a series of coordinated cyber-attacks originating from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain,' Interpol said. The statement cited attacks on the websites of the Colombian Ministry of Defense and the presidency, as well as on Chile's Endesa electricity company and its National Library, among others. The operation was carried out by police from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain, the statement said, with 250 items of computer equipment and cell phones seized in raids on 40 premises in 15 cities. Police also seized credit cards and cash from the suspects, aged 17 to 40."
WrongSizeGlass writes "Ars is reporting that the 'inventor' of the concept of 'providing individual online presences for each of a plurality of members of a group of members,' claims that four million Facebook business account holders, including at least three major presidential candidates, are guilty of infringing his patent. He's suing Facebook for infringing on his patent as well as the three candidates. A Patent Office examiner rejected the patent claims, but the rejections have been appealed."
Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that Rick Santorum defended his robocalls urging Democrats in Michigan to vote in today's critical primary, a tactic that has come under withering criticism from rival Mitt Romney as a 'terrible dirty trick' and a 'new low for his campaign.' Santorum says he reached out to Democratic voters, who can vote in the primary, to show that 'we can attract voters we need to win states like Michigan,' and noted that the former Massachusetts governor has wooed Democrats in the past and used Santorum's own words endorsing him in the 2008 race on a robocall of his own. 'I didn't complain about it. I don't complain. You know what, I'm a big guy. I can take it.' Romney crossed party lines himself to vote for Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic primary over Bill Clinton in order to cause mischief for the general election. 'In Massachusetts, if you register as an independent, you can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary,' said Romney, who until he made an unsuccessful run for Senate in 1994 had spent his adult life as a registered independent."
choongiri writes "Elections Canada has just traced thousands of illegal phone calls made during the 2011 federal election to a company that worked for the Conservative Party across the country. The automated VOIP 'robocalls' appeared to be designed to stop non-Conservative voters from casting ballots in key ridings by falsely telling voters that the location of their polling stations had changed, causing them to go to the wrong location on election day. This news casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of Canada's Government. The Conservatives narrowly won their 'majority' by 6,201 votes in 14 ridings, with only 39% of the popular vote." For those as unfamiliar with the term "riding" in this context as I was, here's Wikipedia's explanation.
langelgjm writes "Bringing a lengthy legal battle to a close, New York City's Department of Education will today release detailed evaluation reports on individual English and math teachers as a result of a request under public information laws. The city's teachers union has responded with full page ads (PDF) decrying the methodology used in the evaluations. The court's decision attempts to balance the public interest in this data against the rights of individual teachers. Across the country, a large number of states are moving to evaluate teachers based on student performance in an attempt to raise student achievement in the U.S."
jfruh writes "Last night the White House hastily arranged a phone conference at which a 'Privacy Bill of Rights' was announced. It's an important document, not least because it affirms the idea that our data belongs to us, not to companies that happen to collect it. But it has a number of shortcomings, not least among them the companies aren't required to respect the rules laid out."
OverTheGeicoE writes "Here's a familiar story: a breast cancer survivor's mastectomy scars showed up on a TSA scan, which forced a horrifying pat-down ('feel-up' in her words) of the affected area. The woman decided that she would not subject herself to that again, and was barred from a later flight from Seattle to Juneau for that reason. But now the story takes an interesting turn: the woman is Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna, and once she finally made it back to Alaska she started sponsoring legislation to restrict TSA searches. Her many bills, if passed, would criminalize both pat-downs and 'naked scanning,' as well as require better health warnings for X-ray scanners and even studies of airport screenings' physical and psychological effects. Other states, including Utah and Texas, are considering similar legislation. For example, Texas State Rep. David Simpson is preparing to reintroduce his Traveler Dignity Act again in 2013 if he is re-elected. The last time that bill was being considered the Federal government threatened to turn all of Texas into a 'no-fly zone'."
An anonymous reader writes "Each year, the U.S. government places Canada on its piracy watch list, claiming that it is a pirate country similar to China or Russia. This year, Professor Michael Geist and Public Knowledge teamed up to respond to myths about Canadian copyright law with a submission to the USTR focusing on how Canadian law provides adequate and effective protection, how enforcement is stronger than often claimed, why Canada is not a piracy haven, and why Bill C-11 does not harm the interests of rights holders (critics of Bill C-11 digital lock rules will likely think this is self-evident)."
ndogg writes with news that Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has counterattacked those critical of conservative views on science, saying that they're 'anti-science' themselves. From a CBS report: "In his remarks Monday, Santorum went beyond his usual discussion of the importance of increasing domestic energy production to deliver a blistering attack on environmental activists. He said global warming claims are based on 'phony studies,' and that climate change science is little more than 'political science.' His views are not 'anti-science' as Democrats claim, Santorum said. 'When it comes to the management of the Earth, they are the anti-science ones. We are the ones who stand for science, and technology, and using the resources we have to be able to make sure that we have a quality of life in this country and (that we) maintain a good and stable environment,' he said to applause, and cited local ordinances to reduce coal dust pollution in Pittsburgh during the heyday of coal mining."
theodp writes "'As a nonprofit venture philanthropy firm,' boasts the billionaire-backed NewSchools Venture Fund, 'we raise philanthropic capital from both individual and institutional investors, and then use those funds to support education entrepreneurs who are transforming public education.' One recipient of the NewSchools' largesse is The Noble Network of Charter Schools, which received a $5,300,000 NewSchools 'investment', as well as a $1,425,000 grant from NewSchools donor Bill Gates. One way that Noble Street College Prep has been transforming education, reports the Chicago Tribune, is by making students pay the price — literally — for breaking the smallest of rules (sample infractions). Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended Noble after a FOIA filing revealed the charter collected almost $190,000 in discipline 'fees' — not 'fines' — last year from its mostly low-income students, saying the ironically exempt-from-most-district-rules charter school gets 'incredible' results and parents don't have to send their children there. Beyond the Noble case, some are asking a bigger question: Should billionaires rule our schools?"