McGruber writes with this news from late last week: "The Guardian is reporting that Nicaragua has awarded a Chinese company a 100-year concession to build an alternative to the Panama Canal, in a step that looks set to have profound geopolitical ramifications. The new route will be a higher-capacity alternative to the 99-year-old Panama Canal, which is currently being widened at the cost of $5.2bn. Last year, the Nicaraguan government noted that the new canal should be able to allow passage for mega-container ships with a dead weight of up to 250,000 tonnes. This is more than double the size of the vessels that will be able to pass through the Panama Canal after its expansion, it said."
Okian Warrior writes "About a decade ago Slashdot ran an article about the Free State Project: an attempt to get 20,000 liberty-minded activists to move to one state (they chose NH) and change the political landscape. Eleven years on, the project is still growing and having an effect on statewide politics. NPR recently ran a program discussing the movement, its list of successes, and plans for the future. The FSP has a noticeable effect on politics right now — still 6,000 short of their 20,000 goal, and long before the members are scheduled to move to NH."
Lasrick writes "Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth take apart Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Tex.) Washington Post op/ed on climate science saying: 'Contrary to Smith's assertions, there is conclusive evidence that climate change worsened the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. Sea levels in New York City harbors have risen by more than a foot since the beginning of the 20th century. Had the storm surge not been riding on higher seas, there would have been less flooding and less damage. Warmer air also allows storms such as Sandy to hold more moisture and dump more rainfall, exacerbating flooding.'"
Lasrick writes "Lee Drutman is a political scientist with the Sunlight Foundation who does terrific work. In this article, he attempts to trace campaign donations made by one of the Koch Brothers and discovers just how difficult it is to do: 'The case of Charles G. Koch is a nice lesson in just how hard it is to determine who is breaking and who is abiding by campaign finance limits. It's hard to make accurate tallies of individual aggregate campaign contributions when the Federal Elections Commission doesn't require donors to have a unique ID, and when campaigns don't always reliably report donor names. Given this, it is unclear how the FEC would even enforce its own aggregate limit rules. The FEC's spokesperson told me that while the FEC welcomes complaints, it does not typically take enforcement initiative."'
Trailrunner7 writes "For many observers of the privacy and surveillance landscape, the revelation by The Guardian that the FBI received a warrant from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to require Verizon to turn over to the National Security Agency piles of call metadata on all calls on its network probably felt like someone telling them that water is wet. There have been any number of signals in the last few years that this kind of surveillance and data collection was going on, little indications that the United States government was not just spying on its own citizens, but doing so on a scale that would dwarf anything that all but the most paranoid would imagine." And now the Obama administration has defended the practice as a "critical tool."
andy1307 writes "According to Politico (and, paywalled, at The Wall Street Journal), the White House on Tuesday [released] plans to announce a set of executive actions President Barack Obama will take that are aimed at reining in certain patent-holding firms, known as 'patent trolls' to their detractors, amid concerns that the firms are abusing the patent system and disrupting competition. The plan includes five executive actions and seven legislative recommendations. They include requiring patent holders and applicants to disclose who really owns and controls the patent, changing how fees are awarded to the prevailing parties in patent litigation, and protecting consumers with better protections against being sued for patent infringement."
Bruce66423 submits a report from The Independent, writing that "a French primary election is made the stuff of farce after journalists defeat the 'secure' election system." From the article: An 'online-primary,' claimed as 'fraud-proof' and 'ultra secure,' has turned out to be vulnerable to multiple and fake voting. The four-day election has also the exposed the poisonous divisions created within the centre-right Union Pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) by the law permitting gay marriage which took effect last week. ... What was already shaping up as a tense and close election was thrown into utter confusion at the weekend. Journalists from the news site Metronews proved that it was easy to breach the allegedly strict security of the election and vote several times using different names."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Turkey's prime minister on Sunday rejected claims that he is a 'dictator,' dismissing protesters as an extremist fringe even as thousands returned to the landmark Istanbul square that has become the site of the fiercest anti-government outburst in years. With Turkish media otherwise giving scant reports about the protests, many turned to social media outlets for information on the unrest. 'There is now a menace which is called Twitter,' Erdogan said. 'The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.' 'The people are finally standing up, speaking up and fighting for their rights,' said Hakan Tas, a deputy for the Left Party in Berlin's local assembly, who took part in the protest."
cold fjord writes "Curtis Morrison, co-founder of the Progress Kentucky PAC, which had previous issued an apology over a racially charged tweet about Senator McConnell's wife (former Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao), has admitted to bugging Senator McConnell. Morrison admitted he was behind the recording and said a grand jury is investigating the situation. "[Assistant] U.S. attorney, Bryan Calhoun, telephoned my attorney yesterday, asking to meet with him next Friday as charges against me are being presented to a grand jury," Morrison wrote on Salon. Morrison writes that after releasing the recording, his personal life took a negative turn. 'I've never doubted that making the recording was ethical.' He also says that he doesn't believe his actions were illegal, but admits he could be prosecuted for them."' Morrison has said that one of his inspirations was Julian Assange. Given the current direction of government activity, he may simply have been trying to build a suitable resume for future federal employment."
Lucas123 writes "After striking out at getting private investors to fund a new prototype, Safe Gun Technology (SGTi) is hoping it can generate $50,000 through a crowdfunding effort to build an assault-style rifle with fingerprint biometrics technology. Handgun and shotgun prototypes would follow shortly thereafter, the company said. SGTi, which is using the Indiegogo crowdfunding site for its Fund Safe Guns campaign, has so far raised just over $1,600. Several companies are working on developing smart gun technology, which can identify an authorized user through fingerprint, handgrip or RFID recognition techniques. Last week, a Massachusetts congressman submitted a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include smart gun technology in their weapons." I'm looking forward to the best car analogy that anyone can come up with on this topic.
Taco Cowboy points out reports in The Register and The Jerusalem Post (along with a paywalled article at the WSJ) that say "[Iranian hackers are] responsible for a wave of computer attacks on U.S. corporations, with targets including oil, gas and electricity companies. Unlike the cyber incursions from China, the goal of the Iranian attacks is sabotage rather than espionage. The cyber attacks are seen as attempts to gain control of critical processing systems. The attacks on oil, gas and power firms have so far concentrated on accruing information on how their systems work – a likely first step in a co-ordinated campaign that would eventually result in attacks aimed at disrupting or destroying such infrastructure."
Earlier this year we discussed a petition on the White House's 'We The People' site asking the administration to adopt the metric system as the standard system of measurement in the U.S. Today, the administration issued a disappointing response. Simply put: they're not going to do anything about it. They frame their response as a matter of preserving a citizen's choice to adopt whatever measurement system he wants. Quoting Patrick D. Gallagher of the National Institute of Standards and Technology: "... contrary to what many people may think, the U.S. uses the metric system now to define all basic units used in commerce and trade. At the same time, if the metric system and U.S. customary system are languages of measurement, then the United States is truly a bilingual nation. ... Ultimately, the use of metric in this country is a choice and we would encourage Americans to continue to make the best choice for themselves and for the purpose at hand and to continue to learn how to move seamlessly between both systems. In our voluntary system, it is the consumers who have the power to make this choice. So if you like, "speak" metric at home by setting your digital scales to kilograms and your thermometers to Celsius. Cook in metric with liters and grams and set your GPS to kilometers. ... So choose to live your life in metric if you want, and thank you for signing on."
An anonymous reader writes "Ron Paul lost his two cybersquatting complaints against RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org. In the case of RonPaul.org, Paul was been found guilty of 'reverse domain name hijacking'. A reverse domain name hijacking finding means that the arbitration panel believes the case was filed in bad faith, resulting in the abuse of the administrative process. The panel ruled this way since Paul filed the case after the owner of RonPaul.org had already offered to give him the domain for free. The panel also ruled against Paul for the RonPaul.com domain name."
BStorm writes "The Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has been making headlines around the world, for allegedly smoking crack. This story was first broken by gawker.com, which is now crowd-funding $200,000 to buy the video in question. What do you look for to determine if a video has been faked? Of course I am only interested in the technical details and not the tawdry details related to this case ;) I live in Toronto, so the video still frame posted on Gawker certainly does look like Rob Ford."
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?"