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As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, "People who have accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the confounding Heartbleed Internet security flaw." Take note, though; the article goes on to immediately point out this does not mean that the HealthCare.gov site has been compromised: "Senior administration officials said there is no indication that the HealthCare.gov site has been compromised and the action is being taken out of an abundance of caution. The government's Heartbleed review is ongoing, the officials said, and users of other websites may also be told to change their passwords in the coming days, including those with accounts on the popular WhiteHouse.gov petitions page." Also at The Verge
Three former astronauts — Ed Lu, Tom Jones, and Bill Anders — say that reassuring figures about the rarity of asteroid collisions with Earth are perhaps too reassuring. The B612 Foundation, of which Lu is a director, has been established to draw public awareness to the risks of a large asteroid hitting a population center -- which these three men say is a far more serious public danger than has been acknowledged by NASA and other agencies. And beyond awareness, the Foundation's immediate goal is to raise money to " design and build an asteroid-finding space telescope and launch it by 2017," and then, Armageddon-style, to follow that up with technology to divert any asteroids whose path would threaten earth.
Gud (78635) points to this story in the Washington Post about students
having trouble with paying for both food and school. "I recall a number of these experiences from my time as grad student. I remember choosing between eating, living in bad neighborhoods, putting gas in the car, etc. Me and my fellow students still refer to ourselves as the 'starving grad students.' Today we laugh about these experiences because we all got good jobs that lifted us out of poverty, but not everyone is that fortunate. I wonder how many students are having hard time concentrating on their studies due to worrying where the next meal comes from. In the article I found the attitude of collage admins to the idea of meal plan point sharing, telling as how little they care about anything else but soak students & parents for fees and pester them later on with requests for donations. Last year I did the college tour for my first child, after reading the article, some of the comments I heard on that tour started making more sense. Like 'During exams you go to the dining hall in the morning, eat and study all day for one swipe' or 'One student is doing study on what happens when you live only on Ramen noodles!'
How common is 'food insecurity in college or high school'? What tricks can you share with current students?"
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The aficionados of beer and distilled spirits could be in for a major price-shock, if proposals by the Food and Drug Administration come to pass. Currently, breweries are allowed to sell unprocessed brewing by-products to feed farm animals. Farmers prize the nutritious, low-cost feed. But, new rules proposed by the FDA could force brewers to implement costly processing facilities or dump the by-products as waste. As one brewer put it, "Beer prices would go up for everybody to cover the cost of the equipment and installation.""
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson update their story on the NUMEC affair to take into account the recent release of hundreds of classified documents that shed additional light on the story. In the 1960s, the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) was found to be missing about a 100 pounds of bomb-grade uranium. Based on available evidence, Gilinsky and Mattson are convinced that the material ended up in Israel nuclear bombs. The newly release documents add more to the story, and Gilinsky and Mattson are calling on President Obama to declassify the remainder of the file."
waderoush (1271548) writes "In April 2012, former Snapfish CEO Ben Nelson provoked both praise and skepticism by announcing that he'd raised $25 million from venture firm Benchmark to start the Minerva Project, a new kind of university where students will live together but all class seminars will take place over a Google Hangouts-style video conferencing system. Two years later, there are answers – or the beginnings of answers – to many of the questions observers have raised about the project, on everything from the way the seminars will be organized to how much tuition the San Francisco-based university will charge and how its gaining accreditation. And in an interview published today, Nelson share more details about how Minerva plans to use technology to improve teaching quality. 'If a student wants football and Greek life and not doing any work for class, they have every single Ivy League university to choose from,' Nelson says. 'That is not what we provide. Similarly, there are faculty who want to do research and get in front of a lecture hall and regurgitate the same lecture they've been giving for 20 years. We have a different model,' based on extensive faculty review of video recordings of the seminars, to make sure students are picking up key concepts. Last month Minerva admitted 45 students to its founding class, and in September it expects to welcome 19 of them to its Nob Hill residence hall."
alphadogg writes: "Americans are optimistic about scientific inventions on the horizon, though are cautious about future uses of DNA, robots, drones and always-on implants, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey on future technology (PDF). Asked about the likelihood of certain advances 50 years from now, survey respondents were most sure that lab-grown custom organs for transplant will happen (81%). Only 19% expect humans will be able to control the weather by then. When asked how they felt about possible near-term advances, 65% thought robot caregivers for the elderly is a bad idea, 63% didn't want to see personal drones in U.S. airspace, and 66% thought parents altering the DNA of prospective children was a bad idea."
paroneayea writes: "GNU MediaGoblin and the Free Software Foundation have jointly run a campaign for privacy and federation on the web. The campaign is in its last day but has already passed the first two funding milestones, and is hoping to raise more with the possibility of bringing in multiple dedicated resources to the project. The project has also released a full financial transparency report so donors can know how they can expect their money to be used!"
RoccamOccam sends news that the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled that Michael Mann, a climate scientist notable for his work on the "hockey stick" graph, does not have to turn over the entirety of his papers and emails under Freedom of Information laws. Roughly 1,000 documents were turned over in response to the request, but another 12,000 remain, which lawyers for the University of Virginia say are "of a proprietary nature," and thus entitled to an exemption. The VA Supreme Court ruled (PDF), "the higher education research exemption's desired effect is to avoid competitive harm not limited to financial matters," and said the application of "proprietary" was correct in this case. Mann said he hopes the ruling "can serve as a precedent in other states confronting this same assault on public universities and their faculty."
Bennett Haselton writes: "I was an early advocate of companies offering cash prizes to researchers who found security holes in their products, so that the vulnerabilities can be fixed before the bad guys exploited them. I still believe that prize programs can make a product safer under certain conditions. But I had naively overlooked that under an alternate set of assumptions, you might find that not only do cash prizes not make the product any safer, but that nothing makes the product any safer — you might as well not bother fixing certain security holes at all, whether they were found through a prize program or not." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
An anonymous reader writes "Yahoo is most known for its search, email, and news services. But its U.S. web presence is only part of its corporate portfolio. It also owns large stakes in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba (a web services company based in China). Yahoo Japan is publicly traded, and Alibaba is heading toward an IPO, so both have a pretty firm valuation. The thing is: when you account for Yahoo's share of each and subtract them from Yahoo's current market cap, you get a negative number. Investors actually value Yahoo's core business at less than nothing. Bloomberg's Matt Levine explains: 'I guess this is fairly obvious, but it leads you to a general theory of the conglomerate discount, which is that a business can be worth less than zero (to shareholders), but a company can't be (to shareholders). ... A fun question is, as fiduciaries for shareholders, should Yahoo's directors split into three separate companies to maximize value? If YJHI and YAHI are worth around $9 billion and $40 billion, and Core Yahoo Inc. is worth around, I don't know, one penny, then just doing some corporate restructuring should create $13 billion in free shareholder value. Why not do that?'"
mr crypto (229724) writes "A group of scientists and food activists are launching a campaign to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new 'open source pledge' that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely."
schwit1 (797399) writes "There has been a huge surge in the number of hidden cannabis farms across Halesowen, Cradley Heath and Oldbury, towns on the outskirts of rural Shropshire some seven miles from central Birmingham. They require hydroponic lights for the marijuana plants to grow – and the huge amounts of excess heat given off make them easily spottable for a would-be criminal with a drone carrying infrared cameras. One such man says that after finding a property with a cannabis farm he and his crew either burgle or 'tax' the victim."
William Robinson (875390) writes "A new study from researchers at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has proposed the "water world" theory as the answer to our evolution, which describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life. While the scientists had already proposed this hypothesis called 'submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life' the new report assembles decades of field, laboratory and theoretical research into a grand, unified picture."
New submitter Chris Elkins (3620071) writes "Text messages [by public officials about government business] are now officially considered public records. An investigative reporter fought for access to what he believed were public records. He took his fight to the state and won. Mississippi open government and transparency advocates view this unanimous commission opinion as precedent-setting for all government bodies and public officials in the state."
This is an interview with Graham Morrison, who is one of four people behind the shiny-new Linux Voice magazine, which is printed on (gasp) paper. Yes, paper, even though it's 2014 and a lot of people believe the idea of publishing a physical newspaper or magazine is dead. But, Graham says, when you have a tight community (like Linux users and developers) you have an opportunity to make a successful magazine for that community. This is a crowdfunded venture, through Indiegogo, where they hoped to raise £90,000 -- but ended up with £127,603, which is approximately $214,288 as of this video's publishing date. So they have a little capital to work with. Also note: these are not publishing neophytes. All four of the main people behind Linux Voice used to work on the well-regarded Linux Format magazine. Graham says they're getting subscribers and newsstand sales at a healthy rate, so they're happily optimistic about their magazine's future. (Here's an alternate video link)
astroengine (1577233) writes "About 500 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus lives a star, which, though smaller and redder than the sun, has a planet that may look awfully familiar. With a diameter just 10 percent bigger than Earth's, the newly found world is the first of its size found basking in the benign temperature region around a parent star where water, if it exists, could pool in liquid form (abstract). Scientists on the hunt for Earth's twin are focused on worlds that could support liquid surface water, which may be necessary to brew the chemistry of life. "Kepler-186f is significant because it is the first exoplanet that is the same temperature and the same size (well, ALMOST!) as the Earth," David Charbonneau, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Previously, the exoplanet most like Earth was Kepler-62f, but Kepler-186f is significantly smaller. Now we can point to a star and say, 'There lies an Earth-like planet.'""
An anonymous reader writes with this announcement: "Ubuntu Linux version 14.04 LTS (code named "Trusty Tahr") has been released and available for download. This updated version includes the Linux kernel v3.13.0-24.46, Python 3.4, Xen 4.4, Libreoffice 4.2.3, MySQL 5.6/MariaDB 5.5, Apache 2.4, PHP 5.5, improvements to AppArmor allow more fine-grained control over application, and more. The latest release of Ubuntu Server is heavily focused on supporting cloud and scale-out computing platforms such as OpenStack, Docker, and more. As part of the wider Ubuntu 14.04 release efforts the Ubuntu Touch team is proud to make the latest and greatest touch experience available to our enthusiast users and developers. You can install Ubuntu on Nexus 4 Phone (mako), Nexus 7 (2013) Tablet (flo), and Nexus 10 Tablet (manta) by following these instructions. On a hardware front, ARM multiplatform support has been added, enabling you to build a single ARM kernel image that can boot across multiple hardware platforms. Additionally, the ARM64 and Power architectures are now fully supported. See detailed release notes for more information. A quick upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu is possible over the network."
We're thankfully long past the days when an emailed Word document was useless without a copy of Microsoft Word, and that's in large part thanks to the success of the OpenOffice family of word processors. "Family," because the OpenOffice name has been attached to several branches of a codebase that's gone through some serious evolution over the years, starting from its roots in closed-source StarOffice, acquired and open-sourced by Sun to become OpenOffice.org. The same software has led (via some hamfisted moves by Oracle after its acquisition of Sun) to the also-excellent LibreOffice. OpenOffice.org's direct descendant is Apache OpenOffice, and an anonymous reader writes with this excellent news from that project: "The Apache Software Foundation (ASF), the all-volunteer developers, stewards, and incubators of more than 170 Open Source projects and initiatives, announced today that Apache OpenOffice has been downloaded 100 million times. Over 100 million downloads, over 750 extensions, over 2,800 templates. But what does the community at Apache need to do to get the next 100 million?" If you want to play along, you can get the latest version of OpenOffice from SourceForge (Slashdot's corporate cousin). I wonder how many government offices -- the U.S. Federal government has long been Microsoft's biggest customer -- couldn't get along just fine with an open source word processor, even considering all the proprietary-format documents they're stuck with for now.
According to PC Mag, a "19-year-old Canadian was arrested on Tuesday for his alleged role in the breach of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website, the first known arrest for exploiting the Heartbleed bug. Stephen Arthuro Solis-Reyes (pictured) of London, Ontario faces one count of Unauthorized Use of Computer and one count of Mischief in Relation to Data." That exploit led to a deadline extension for some Canadian taxpayers in getting in their returns this year. The Register has the story as well. The Montreal Gazette has some pointed questions about how much the Canadian tax authorities knew about the breach, and when.
An anonymous reader writes "Rumors have surfaced that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will restrict bidding at their TV spectrum auction in 2015 to effectively favor smaller carriers. Specifically, when 'auction bidding hits an as-of-yet unknown threshold in a given market, the FCC would set aside up to 30MHz of spectrum in that market. Companies that hold at least one-third of the low-band spectrum in that market then wouldn't be allowed to bid on the 30MHz of spectrum that has been set aside.' Therefore, 'in all band plans less than 70MHz, restricted bidders—specifically AT&T and Verizon (and in a small number of markets, potentially US Cellular or CSpire)—would be limited to bidding for only three blocks.' The rumors may be true since AT&T on Wednesday threatened to not participate in the auction at all as a protest against what it sees as unfair treatment."
coondoggie (973519) writes "It's impossible to imagine the Internal Revenue Service or most other number-crunching agencies or companies working without computers. But when the IRS went to computers — the Automatic Data Processing system --there was an uproar. The agency went so far as to produce a short film on the topic called Right On The Button, to convince the public computers were a good thing."
An anonymous reader writes "The FBI insists that it uses drone technology to conduct surveillance in 'very limited circumstances.' What those particular circumstances are remain a mystery, particularly since the Bureau refuses to identify instances where agents deployed unmanned aerial vehicles, even as far back as 2006. In a letter to Senator Ron Paul last July, the FBI indicated that it had used drones a total of ten times since late 2006—eight criminal cases and two national security cases—and had authorized drone deployments in three additional cases, but did not actually fly them. The sole specific case where the FBI is willing to confirm using a drone was in February 2013, as surveillance support for a child kidnapping case in Alabama. New documents obtained by MuckRock as part of the Drone Census flesh out the timeline of FBI drone deployments in detail that was previously unavailable. While heavily redacted—censors deemed even basic facts that were already public about the Alabama case to be too sensitive for release, apparently—these flight orders, after action reviews and mission reports contain new details of FBI drone flights."
just_another_sean sends this followup to yesterday's discussion about the quality of open source code compared to proprietary code. Every year, Coverity scans large quantities of code and evaluates it for defects. They've just released their latest report, and the findings were good news for open source. From the article: "The report details the analysis of 750 million lines of open source software code through the Coverity Scan service and commercial usage of the Coverity Development Testing Platform, the largest sample size that the report has studied to date. A few key points: Open source code quality surpasses proprietary code quality in C/C++ projects. Linux continues to be a benchmark for open source quality. C/C++ developers fixed more high-impact defects. Analysis found that developers contributing to open source Java projects are not fixing as many high-impact defects as developers contributing to open source C/C++ projects."
guises writes: "A recent story discussing the cover of Byte Magazine reminded me of just how much we've lost with the death of print media. The Internet isn't what took down Byte, but a lot of other really excellent publications have fallen by the wayside as a result of the shift away from the printed page. We're not quite there yet, though. There seem to still be some holdouts, so I'm asking Slashdot: what magazines (or zines, or newsletters, or newspapers) are still hanging around that are worth subscribing to?"
msmoriarty writes: "According to a recent survey of 1,000 U.S.-based software developers, 56 percent expect to become millionaires in their lifetime. 66 percent also said they expect to get raises in the next year, despite the current state of the economy. Note that some of the other findings of the study (scroll to bulleted list) seem overly positive: 84 percent said they believe they are paid what they're worth, 95 percent report they feel they are 'one of the most valued employees at their organization,' and 80 percent said that 'outsourcing has been a positive factor in the quality of work at their organization.'"
SpankiMonki sends this news from The Guardian: "Children are arriving at nursery school able to 'swipe a screen' but lack the manipulative skills to play with building blocks, teachers have warned. They fear that children are being given tablets to use 'as a replacement for contact time with the parent' and say such habits are hindering progress at school. Addressing the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Colin Kinney said excessive use of technology damages concentration and causes behavioural problems such as irritability and a lack of control."
CanHasDIY (1672858) writes "In his yet-to-be-released book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, John Paul Stevens, who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 35 years, believes he has the key to stopping the seeming recent spate of mass killings — amend the Constitution to exclude private citizens from armament ownership. Specifically, he recommends adding 5 words to the 2nd Amendment, so that it would read as follows: 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.'
What I find interesting is how Stevens maintains that the Amendment only protects armament ownership for those actively serving in a state or federal military unit, in spite of the fact that the Amendment specifically names 'the People' as a benefactor (just like the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth) and of course, ignoring the traditional definition of the term militia. I'm personally curious about his other 5 suggested changes, but I guess we'll have to wait until the end of April to find out."
theodp (442580) writes "As Google Glass goes on sale [ed: or rather, went on sale] to the general public, GeekWire reports that Bill Gates has already snagged one patent for 'detecting and responding to an intruding camera' and has another in the works. The invention proposes to equip computer and device displays with technology for detecting and responding to any cameras in the vicinity by editing or blurring the content on the screen, or alerting the user to the presence of the camera. Gates and Nathan Myhrvold are among the 16 co-inventors of the so-called Unauthorized Viewer Detection System and Method, which the patent application notes is useful 'while a user is taking public transportation, where intruding cameras are likely to be present.' So, is Bill's patent muse none other than NYC subway rider Sergey Brin?" A more cynical interpretation: closing the analog hole. Vaguely related, mpicpp pointed out that Google filed a patent for cameras embedded in contact lenses.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jonathan Kaiman reports at The Guardian that China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more ... warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. 'Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the U.S.,' says Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading. 'The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.' Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia's rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth's climate. But researchers say, too much of any one thing is never good. 'Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns,' says co-author Renyi Zhang. China's leaders are aware of the extent of the problem and will soon revise China's environmental protection law for the first time since 1989 ... 'The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward,' says Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. 'These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data.'"
An anonymous reader tips news of an incident in a Pennsylvania high school in which a student, Christian Stanfield, was being bullied on a regular basis. He used a tablet to make an audio recording of the bullies for the purpose of showing his mother how bad it was. She was shocked, and she called school officials to tell them what was going on. The officials brought in a police lieutenant — but not to deal with the bullies. Instead, the officer interrogated Stanfield and made him delete the recording. The officer then threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct, and Stanfield was forced to testify before a magistrate, who found him guilty. Stanfield's mother said, "Christian's willingness to advocate in a non-violent manner should be championed as a turning point. If Mr. Milburn and the South Fayette school district really want to do the right thing, they would recognized that their zero-tolerance policies and overemphasis on academics and athletics have practically eliminated social and emotional functioning from school culture."
Update: 04/17 04:36 GMT by T : The attention this case has gotten may have something to do with the later-announced decision by the Allegheny County District Attorney's office to withdraw the charges against Stanfield.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University have concluded, after extensive analysis of 1,779 policy issues, that the U.S. is in fact an oligarchy and not a democracy. What this means is that, although 'Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance,' 'majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.' Their study (PDF), to be published in Perspectives on Politics, found that 'When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.'"
An anonymous reader writes "We've heard a few brief accounts recently of the housing situation in San Francisco, and how it's leading to protests, gentrification, and bad blood between long-time residents and the newer tech crowd. It's a complicated issue, and none of the reports so far have really done it justice. Now, TechCrunch has posted a ludicrously long article explaining exactly what's going on, from regulations forbidding Google to move people into Mountain View instead, to the political battle to get more housing built, to the compromises that have already been made. It's a long read, but well-researched and interesting. It concludes: 'The crisis we're seeing is the result of decades of choices, and while the tech industry is a sexy, attention-grabbing target, it cannot shoulder blame for this alone. Unless a new direction emerges, this will keep getting worse until the next economic crash, and then it will re-surface again eight years later. Or it will keep spilling over into Oakland, which is a whole other Pandora's box of gentrification issues. The high housing costs aren't healthy for the city, nor are they healthy for the industry. Both thrive on a constant flow of ideas and people.'"
jammag writes: "Heartbleed has dealt a blow to the image of free and open source software. In the self-mythology of FOSS, bugs like Heartbleed aren't supposed to happen when the source code is freely available and being worked with daily. As Eric Raymond famously said, 'given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.' Many users of proprietary software, tired of FOSS's continual claims of superior security, welcome the idea that Heartbleed has punctured FOSS's pretensions. But is that what has happened?"
Lasrick writes: "Meghan McGuinness of the Bipartisan Policy Center writes about the Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative, a collaborative effort between the center's Energy and Homeland Security Projects. She points out that over half the attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure sectors last year were on the energy sector. Cyber attacks could come from a variety of sources, and 'a large-scale cyber attack or combined cyber and physical attack could lead to enormous costs, potentially triggering sustained power outages over large portions of the electric grid and prolonged disruptions in communications, food and water supplies, and health care delivery.' ECGI is recommending the creation of a new, industry-supported model that would create incentives for the continual improvement and adaptation needed to respond effectively to rapidly evolving cyber threats. The vulnerability of the grid has been much discussed this last week; McGuinness's recommendations are a good place to start."
McGruber (1417641) writes "Return-free filing might allow tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes for free and in minutes. Under proposals authored by several federal lawmakers, it would be voluntary, using information the government already receives from banks and employers and that taxpayers could adjust. The concept has been endorsed by Presidents Obama and Reagan and is already a reality in some parts of Europe. Sounds great, except to Intuit, maker of Turbotax: last year, Intuit spent more than $2.6 million on lobbying, some of it to lobby on four bills related to the issue, federal lobbying records show."
First time accepted submitter Iarwain Ben-adar (2393286) writes "The OpenBSD has started a cleanup of their in-tree OpenSSL library. Improvements include removing "exploit mitigation countermeasures", fixing bugs, removal of questionable entropy additions, and many more. If you support the effort of these guys who are responsible for the venerable OpenSSH library, consider a donation to the OpenBSD Foundation. Maybe someday we'll see a 'portable' version of this new OpenSSL fork. Or not."
April 15, 2014 isn't just a full moon: it's Tax Day in the U.S. That means most American adults have already submitted a tax return, or an extension request, to the IRS and -- except for a few lucky states -- to their state governments as well. I filed my (very simple) tax return online. After scanning the free options, since I live in a state -- Texas -- that does not collect personal income tax, I chose Tax Act's free services. That meant enduring a series of annoying upgrade plugs throughout the process, but I could live with that; I have no reason to think it was better or worse than TurboTax or any of the other e-Filing companies, but I liked Tax Act’s interface, and it seemed less skeevy in all those upgrade plugs than the others I glanced at. The actual process took an hour and 19 minutes once I sat down with the papers I needed. My financial life is pretty simple, though: I didn't buy or sell a house, didn't buy or sell stocks outside of a retirement account mutual fund, and didn't move from one state to another. How do you do your taxes? Do you have an argument for one or another of the online services, or any cautionary tales? Do you prefer to send in forms on paper? Do you hire an accountant? (And for readers outside the U.S., it's always interesting to hear how taxes work in other countries, too. Are there elements of the U.S. system you'd prefer, or that you're glad you don't need to deal with?)
An anonymous reader writes "Amazon Web Services has cut its prices on 40-plus consecutive occasions, at times leading the charge, at other times countering similar moves by Microsoft and Google. This article at CRN includes some interesting behind-the-scenes trivia about how Amazon keeps costs down, including some interesting speculation — for example, that perhaps the reason Amazon's Glacier storage is so cheap is that maybe it might be based at least partly on tape, not disk (Amazon would not comment). The article also explains that the company will only pay for its employees to fly Economy, and that includes its senior executives. If they feel the need to upgrade to Business or First Class, they must do so from their own pocket. And instead of buying hardware from an OEM vendor, AWS sources its own components – everything from processors to disk drives to memory and network cards — and uses contract manufacturing to put together its machines."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. "We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them," says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota's plants. "When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything."
According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn't get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota's factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota's Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. "We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again," says Kawai. "To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.""
Late Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced (PDF) the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners. The public service prize was awarded to the Guardian and the Washington Post. The Washington Post was given the award for its role in revealing widespread surveillance by the NSA, "...marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security," and the Guardian for sparking "...a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy." Snowden released a statement praising the Pulitzer board: "Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance. This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. "
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The U.S. biomedical science system 'is on an unsustainable path' and needs major reform, four prominent researchers say. Researchers should 'confront the dangers at hand,' the authors write, and 'rethink' how academic research is funded, staffed, and organized. Among other issues, the team suggests that the system may be producing too many new researchers and forcing them to compete for a stagnating pool of funding."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them of tax debts they never knew about: often a debt incurred by their parents. The government is confiscating their checks, sometimes over debts 20—30 years old. For example, when Mary Grice was 4 (in 1960), her father died ... 'Until the kids turned 18, her mother received survivor benefits from Social Security ... Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family in 1977. ... Four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. ... "It was a shock," says Grice, 58. "What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can't prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus."' The Treasury Department has intercepted ... $75 million from debts delinquent for more than 10 years according to the department's debt management service. 'The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.'"
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Tom Wigley is one of the world's top climate scientists, and in this interview he explains his outspoken support for both nuclear energy and research into climate engineering. Wigley was one of the first scientists to break the taboo on public discussion of climate engineering as a possible response to global warming; in a 2006 paper in the journal Science, he proposed a combined geoengineering-mitigation strategy that would address the problem of increasing ocean acidity, as well as the problem of climate change. In this interview, he argues that renewable energy alone will not be sufficient to address the climate challenge, because it cannot be scaled up quickly and cheaply enough, and that opposition to nuclear power 'threatens humanity's ability to avoid dangerous climate change.'"
First time accepted submitter WebAgeCaveman (3615807) writes in with news about just how big the stolen smartphone black market is. "A black market of shops and traders willing to deal in stolen smartphones has been exposed by a BBC London undercover investigation. Intelligence was received that some shops across a swathe of east London were happy to buy phones from thieves. Two traders were filmed buying Samsung S3 and iPhone 4 devices from a researcher posing as a thief - despite him making it clear they were stolen. The shops involved have declined to comment."
Bennett Haselton writes "If you read no further, use either the BestParking or ParkMe app to search all nearby parking garages for the cheapest spot, based on the time you're arriving and leaving. I'm interested in the question of why so few people know about these apps, how is it that they've been partially crowded out by other 'parking apps' that are much less useful, and why our marketplace for ideas and intellectual properly is still so inefficient." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
dcblogs (1096431) writes "A study of New York City's tech workforce found that 44% of jobs in the city's 'tech ecosystem,' or 128,000 jobs, 'are accessible' to people without a Bachelor's degree. This eco-system includes both tech specific jobs and those jobs supported by tech. For instance, a technology specific job that doesn't require a Bachelor's degree might be a computer user support specialist, earning $28.80 an hour, according to this study. Tech industry jobs that do not require a four-year degree and may only need on-the-job training include customer services representatives, at $18.50 an hour, telecom line installer, $37.60 an hour, and sales representatives, $33.60 an hour. The study did not look at 'who is actually sitting in those jobs and whether people are under-employed,' said Kate Wittels, a director at HR&A Advisors, a real-estate and economic-development consulting firm, and report author.. Many people in the 'accessible' non-degree jobs may indeed have degrees. For instance. About 75% of the 25 employees who work at New York Computer Help in Manhattan have a Bachelor's degree. Of those with Bachelor's degrees, about half have IT-related degrees."
An anonymous reader writes "Even though many independent bookstores around the country blame their closing on competition from Amazon.com, bookstores in Seattle are booming thanks to Amazon's growth. It turns out many of the thousands of new workers at their downtown headquarters are avid readers who prefer shopping at the local stores. '"A lot of our customers work at Amazon," said Tracy Taylor, the general manager at the Elliott Bay Book Company, one of the city's largest independent booksellers. The store, about a mile from Amazon headquarters, last year earned what Ms. Taylor called the "first substantial profit" in almost 20 years, enough to even pay employee bonuses.'"
barlevg (2111272) writes "In May 2012, in the midst of an FTC investigation into Google's search practices, the law school at George Mason University in Northern Virginia hosted a conference attended by congressmen, regulators and staffers. The topic: competition, search and social media. What none of the attendees of the conference knew was that Google was pulling many of the strings behind the event, even going so far as to suggest invited speakers. This event, as documented in The Washington Post is just a snapshot of the operations of one of the largest and highest spending lobbying entities in DC, a far cry from the one-man shop it started out as nine years ago, from a company "disdainful" of Washington's "pay-to-play" culture."