snydeq writes "The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Innovation Act, dealing trolls a severe blow despite opposition from universities looking to protect patents, InfoWorld's Simon Phipps reports. The act cleared the House of Representatives with an overwhelming majority of 325 to 91 despite opposition from the organizations most likely to feed new patents to the trolls. 'So bravo to the Innovation Act. It's far from perfect, as the EFF documents and as I commented before the holiday. But it's a step in the right direction, and the tidal surge of support it's seeing suggests legislators' appetite for proper patent reform is finally growing strong enough for them to contemplate substantial change.'"
New submitter Emilio Hodge writes "Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, President Jacob Zuma announces. He was 95." Mandela's death is covered by lots of news sources, of course, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.
cartechboy writes "We've seen Tesla run into regulatory issues in Texas. And North Carolina. This time, it's Ohio, where car dealers are playing an entertainingly brazen brand of hardball. The Ohio Dealers Association is backing an anti-Tesla amendment to Ohio Senate Bill 137--which turns out to be an unrelated, uncontroversial proposal about drivers moving left when they see emergency vehicles (The bill is headed for adoption.) The sudden and subtle amendment would ban Tesla from selling its electric cars directly to customers, who place their orders online with the company after learning about the Model S in company-owned stores. A hearing on the amendment was suddenly scheduled for today; Tesla is fighting back by outlining the economic benefits to Ohio--after taking some legislators for a ride in the Model S (a Tesla tactic that has worked before)."
Not content with blacklisting certain kinds of pornography, writes an anonymous reader, according to this news from The Guardian, "The UK government is to order broadband companies to block extremist websites and empower a specialist unit to identify and report content deemed too dangerous for online publication. The crime and security minister, James Brokenshire, said on Wednesday that measures for censoring extremist content would be announced shortly. The initiative is likely to be controversial, with broadband companies already warning that freedom of speech could be compromised."
An anonymous reader writes "Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since much of Indonesia's telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore. The NSA has a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan. Japan had refused to take part."
cold fjord writes "France24 reports, "Beijing on Saturday announced it was setting up an 'air defence identification zone' over an area that includes islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China, in a move that could inflame the bitter territorial row. Along with the creation of the zone in the East China Sea, the defence ministry released a set of aircraft identification rules that must be followed by all planes entering the area, under penalty of intervention by the military. Aircraft are expected to provide their flight plan, clearly mark their nationality, and maintain two-way radio communication allowing them to 'respond in a timely and accurate manner to the identification inquiries' from Chinese authorities. The outline of the new zone ... covers a wide area of the East China Sea between South Korea and Taiwan that includes the Tokyo-controlled islands known as the Senkakus to Japan and Diaoyous to China. "China's armed forces will adopt defensive emergency measures to respond to aircraft that do not cooperate in the identification or refuse to follow the instructions," according to the ministry. ' The Politico adds, "Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday the United States is 'deeply concerned'" over the move. Spiegel Online has background on the conflict with Japan and on related regional issues. This announcement follows the recent publication in Chinese state media of maps showing nuclear strike plans against the U.S."
squiggleslash writes "The concerns, legitimate or otherwise, about genetically modified foods such as Monsanto's Round-up Ready soy-beans, may be causing unintended consequences: Monsanto's rivals such as BASF are selling 'naturally' mutated seeds where extreme exposure to ultra-violet is used to increase the rate of mutations in seeds, a process called mutagenesis. These seeds end up with many of the same properties, such as herbicide resistance, as GM seeds, but inevitably end up with other, uncontrolled, mutations too. The National Academy of Sciences warns that there's a much higher risk of unintentionally creating seeds that have active health risks through mutagenesis than by other means, including relatively controlled genetic engineering, presumably because of the blind indiscriminate nature of mutations caused by the process. But because mutagenesis is effectively an acceleration of the natural system of evolution, it's very difficult to regulate."
cold fjord writes "Yahoo reports, 'Indonesian politicians plan to quiz former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in Russia about revelations Australia tapped the phone of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The move came as Indonesian protesters again laid siege to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, burning images of Tony Abbott, throwing eggs and calling for a hard line against Australia. More than 1600 police were deployed to the Australian and US embassies and at several other potential targets in the capital after reports that hardline group the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) planned to hold the rallies ... Indonesian media reported MPs had 'permission' from Moscow to go to Russia to meet with Snowden ... The Jakarta Post said a delegation of Russian politicians was in Indonesia this week to discuss the Australian phone tapping revelations. Indonesia also launched an investigation into local telecommunications companies to see what role they may have played.'"
First time accepted submitter memnock writes "ABC new reports: 'Political organizations can't accept contributions in the form of bitcoins, at least for now, The Federal Election Commission said Thursday. The commission passed on a request by the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee, to use the digital currency. That group had asked the FEC recently whether it could accept bitcoins, how it could spend them and how donors must report those contributions. It was not immediately clear whether the same ruling would apply to individual political candidates.' Slashdot reported earlier this week that other federal agencies have taken positions that may recognize or regulate the currency."
mdsolar sends this quote from an article about the politics of solar energy: "Clean energy technology has always been an easy punching bag for conservatives. Propelled by growing strain of global warming denial within their party, Republicans in Congress have proposed to slash funding for renewable energy programs in half this year, and mocked the idea of a green economy as “groovy” liberal propaganda. Their argument, as laid out by House Republicans and libertarian organs like the Cato Institute and Reason magazine, is that the federal government shouldn't 'pick winners and losers' in the energy markets or gamble taxpayer dollars on renewable-energy loans to companies like Solyndra, the Silicon Valley solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving $535 million in federal loan guarantees. The assumption has always been that, without heavy government subsidies, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power would never be able to compete with fossil fuels. But something funny has happened to renewables that major power companies and their Republican allies didn't see coming. Over the past two years, the solar industry has skyrocketed, with one new solar unit installed every four minutes in the US, according to the renewable energy research group Greentech Media. The price of photovoltaic panels has fallen 62 percent since January 2011. Once considered a boutique energy source, solar power has become a cost-competitive alternative for many consumers, costing an average $143 per megawatt-hour, down from $236 in the beginning of 2011. Backed by powerful conservative groups, public utilities in several states are now pushing to curb the solar industry, and asking regulators to raise fees and impose new restrictions on solar customers. And as more people turn to rooftop solar as a way to reduce energy costs—90,000 businesses and homeowners installed panels last year, up 46 percent from 2011—the issue is pitting pro-utilities Republicans against this fledgling movement of libertarian-minded activists who see independent power generation as an individual right. In other words, the fight over solar power is raging within the GOP itself."
An anonymous reader writes "The Washington post reports on the progress of a piece of legislation many hoped would address the glut of meaningless software patents used as weapons by patent trolls. Unfortunately, the provision that would have helped the USPTO nix these patents has been nixed itself. The article credits IBM, Microsoft, and other companies with huge patent portfolios for the change, citing an 'aggressive lobbying campaign' that apparently succeeded. Quoting: 'A September letter signed by IBM, Microsoft and several dozen other firms made the case against expanding the program. The proposal, they wrote, "could harm U.S. innovators by unnecessarily undermining the rights of patent holders. Subjecting data processing patents to the CBM program would create uncertainty and risk that discourage investment in any number of fields where we should be trying to spur continued innovation." ... Last week, IBM escalated its campaign against expanding the CBM program. An IBM spokesman told Politico, "While we support what Mr. Goodlatte's trying to do on trolls, if the CBM is included, we'd be forced to oppose the bill." Insiders say the campaign against the CBM provisions of the Goodlatte bill has succeeded. The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a markup of the legislation Wednesday, and Goodlatte will introduce a "manager's amendment" to remove the CBM language from his own bill. IBM hailed that change in a Monday letter to Goodlatte.'"
langelgjm writes "As /. reported, last Thursday Wikileaks released a draft text of the intellectual property chapter in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Since then, many commentators have raised alarm about its contents. But what happens when you mix the leaked text together with Perl regular expressions and R's network analysis packages? You get some neat visualizations showing just how isolated the United States is in pushing for extreme copyright and patent laws."
SonicSpike writes with this snippet from The Guardian: "As the technology to print 3D firearms advances, a federal law that banned the undetectable guns is about to expire. The New York senator Chuck Schumer says he is seeking an extension of the law before it expires on 9 December. Schumer said the technology of so-called 3D printing has advanced to the point where anyone with $1,000 and an internet connection can access the plastic parts that can be fitted into a gun. Those firearms cannot be detected by metal detectors or x-ray machines. Schumer says that means anyone can download a gun cheaply, then take the weapons anywhere, including high-security areas. The Democrat is pushing the extension along with Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Bill Nelson of Florida. The effort was announced on Sunday."
mdsolar writes with this excerpt from the New York Times: "Japan took a major step back on Friday from earlier pledges to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shutdown of its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had made previous targets unattainable. The announcement cast a shadow over international talks underway in Warsaw aimed at fashioning a new global pact to address the threats of a changing climate. Under its new goal, Japan, one of the world's top polluters, would still seek to reduce its current emissions. But it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 1990, rather than the 6 percent cut it originally promised or the 25 percent reduction it promised two years before the 2011 nuclear disaster."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Matthew Wald reports in the NYT the the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with the gasoline supply, the first time it has taken steps to slow down the drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. The move drew bitter complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists, who see the corn-based fuel blend as a weapon to fight climate change and was also unwelcome news to farmers, coming at a time when a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production. "Boy, my goodness, are the oil companies going to benefit from this," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "We're all just sort of scratching our heads here wondering why this administration is telling us to produce less of a clean-burning American fuel." But the EPA says that a big part of the problem was that automobile fuel systems and service stations were not set up to absorb more than about 10 percent ethanol. Most cars on the road are limited to the current mixture, called E10, and there has been little demand by consumers for more. Reasons for the turnaround are many: The boom in domestic oil drilling has dimmed the urgency to find other alternatives to Mideast petroleum. Demand for gasoline has slumped. And criticism of the environmental impacts of corn ethanol has dimmed its luster nationally. The chill on ethanol will certainly affect the industry's powerhouse, corn ethanol. But the risk is far greater for smaller sectors of the industry still struggling to get out of the gate — those aimed at producing next-generation biofuels like "cellulosic" ethanol, made from ingredients like switchgrass and corn stalks. "I don't know if the EPA is aiming for uncertainty, but they may inadvertently create it," says Jan Koninckx, the global business director of biorefineries for DuPont. "The impact could be that another country will lead this rather than the U.S.""
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."
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."