schwit1 writes "With New Year's Eve only days away, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expects this to be one of the deadliest weeks of the year on the roads. But now a new weapon is being used in the fight against drunk driving. ... Florida is among several states now holding what are called 'no refusal' checkpoints. It means if you refuse a breath test during a traffic stop, a judge is on site, and issues a warrant that allows police to perform a mandatory blood test."
theodp writes "It's I-told-you-so time for Slashdot commenter frnic, who smelled a crime last March after reading that New York City had dropped $722 million on its still-under-development CityTime Attendance System. Nine months later, US Attorney Preet Bharara charged 'four consultants to the New York City Office of Payroll Administration ... for operating a fraudulent scheme that led to the misappropriation of more than $80 million in New York City funds allocated for an information technology project known as "CityTime."' Three of the four consultants were also charged — along with a consultant's wife and mother — with using a network of friends-and-family shell corporations to launder the proceeds of the fraud. Dept. of Investigations Commissioner Rose Gill Hearn called it a shame that 'supposed experts hired and paid well to protect the city's interests were exposed as the fox guarding the hen house.'"
CBC reports on sad news for Star Wars fans: "Grant McCune, a special effects artist who earned an Oscar for his work on the 1977 film Star Wars, has died. He was 67. McCune died Monday at his home in Hidden Hills, Calif., of pancreatic cancer. McCune created scenes with miniatures, models and special effects for dozens of movies, including Spaceballs, Ghostbusters II and 2008's Rambo. He began in special effects in 1975 when he and friend Bill Shourt were hired to make a giant white shark model for Steven Spielberg's Jaws. They got no credit for the film, but McCune caught the eye of the film community and he became chief model maker for Star Wars, where he created R2-D2 and many of the creatures that populate the film."
orzetto writes "Italian newspaper La Repubblica reports that YouTube and similar websites based on user-generated content will be considered TV stations (Google translation of Italian original) in Italian law, and will be subject to the same obligations. Among these, a small tax (500 €), the obligation to publish corrections within 48 hours upon request of people who consider themselves slandered by published content, and the obligation not to broadcast content inappropriate for children in certain time slots. The main change, though, is that YouTube and similar sites will be legally responsible for all published content as long as they have any form (even if automated) of editorial control. The main reason for this is probably that it will force YouTube to assume editorial responsibility for all published content, which facilitates the ongoing € 500M lawsuit of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi against YouTube because of content copyrighted by Berlusconi's TV networks that some users uploaded on YouTube. Berlusconi's Spanish TV station, TeleCinco, was previously defeated in court on the grounds that YouTube is not a content provider."
tetrahedrassface writes "Solar maximum is supposed to be occurring, and everything from satellite communications to your toaster or radio could be affected. The only problem is that this just isn't happening, and NASA continues to revise downward the original prediction. In fact, the new forecast for Solar Cycle 24 is a lot smaller, and is now pegged at almost 40% of what was previously predicted. Recently, two scientists at the National Solar Observatory have followed the lead of a prominent Russian scientist, who almost five years ago forecast a dearth of sunspots and the subsequent cooling of Earth for the next several cycles. With Britain currently experiencing the coldest winter in over 300 years, and no new sunspots for the last week, are we heading for a Dalton Minimum, or worse still, yet another Maunder?"
Toe, The writes "A perennial icon of New Year's Eve is the geodesic ball which first dropped in Times Square in 1907. Over the past century, there have been seven iterations of this ball. The first one, made out of iron and wood, weighed 400 pounds and sported one hundred 25-watt bulbs. The current ball weighs almost six tons and uses 32,256 Philips Luxeon Rebel LEDs. The designers expect there to be more tech improvements to the ball soon. What do you think of the ball and the bizarre status it holds in our culture? How would you change it for years to come?"
broggyr writes "Seems it didn't take long to hack the Windows Phone 7 marketplace. Quoting WPCentral: 'For developers, the weakness in Microsoft's DRM for Windows Phone 7 applications has been well known for quite some time, and there have been calls for Microsoft to address these concerns ... Since then, a "white hat" developer has provided WPCentral with a proof-of-concept program that can successfully pull any application from the Marketplace, remove the security and deploy to an unlocked Windows Phone with literally a push of a button. Alternatively, you could just save the cracked XAP file to your hard drive. Neither the app nor the methodology is public, and it will NOT be released ... It is important to note that this was all done within six hours by one developer.'"
Velcroman1 writes "A manned mission to Mars would be the greatest adventure in the history of the human race. And one man knows how to make it a reality. In fact, he just wrote the book on it — literally. Joel Levine, senior research scientist with NASA's Langley Research Center and co-chair of NASA's Human Exploration of Mars Science Analysis Group, just published 'The Human Mission to Mars: Colonizing the Red Planet.' The book reads like a who's who of Mars mission science, featuring senators, astronauts, astrophysicists, geologists and more on getting to Mars, studying its atmosphere and climate, the psychological and medical effects on the crew and other details. The most interesting bit: Levine presents is a solution for funding the trip, something unprecedented for NASA: advertising. 'The suggestion is marketing to different corporations and professional sports leagues for advertising, which is something NASA never does.'"
Techmeology writes "GSM eavesdropping has been demonstrated at the Chaos Computer Club Congress in Berlin using a €10 Motorola phone and open source GSM firmware. Karsten Nohl and Sylvain Munaut replaced the firmware on the phone, enabling them to process all the data it received. They used already available rainbow tables to decrypt data being sent to and from other mobile phones. They have no plans to release the hack publicly, however they expect others to successfully attempt the hack. Mr. Nohl said the objective was to raise awareness of GSM's insecurity."
theodp writes "'The web is better when it's social,' declared Google as it unveiled its OpenSocial initiative. Sounds great, right? Well, maybe not so much, unless you're keen on giving companies the capability to 'exponentially' bombard you with advertising across all of your social networking sites. On Thursday, the USPTO published Google's patent application for Propagating Promotional Information on a Social Network, which the search giant explains 'generally relates to creating and providing promotional information (e.g., advertising, public service announcements, etc.) to users of a social network (e.g., FACEBOOK, MYSPACE, ORKUT, LINKEDIN, TWITTER, etc.).' By doing so 'across multiple social networks,' Google adds, 'the impact of the other promotional information may exponentially expand to other users of a social network."
lothos writes with news that China has arrested thousands more people and shuttered 60,000 websites in an ongoing anti-pornography crackdown. "Wang Chen, director of the Information Office of the State Council, said at a news conference that some 350 million pieces of pornographic and indecent internet content were eliminated, according to the Xinhua report. The government launched a special campaign a year ago to rid the internet of pornographic and vulgar content, Xinhua reported. Overall, the campaign included 2,197 criminal cases involving 4,965 people who violated Chinese law by disseminating pornography via the internet or mobile phones, the news agency said. Of those, 58 people received prison sentences exceeding five years."
realperseus writes "The American telecommunications satellite Galaxy 15 has been brought under control after spending most of the year traversing the sky and wreaking havoc upon its neighbors. The satellite is currently at 98.5 degrees west longitude (from 133 west). An emergency patch was successfully uploaded, ensuring that the conditions which caused it to 'go rogue' will not occur again. Once diagnosis and testing have been completed, Intelsat plans to move the satellite back to 133 west."
Frosty P writes "As a result of the US Government's complete failure to investigate credible warnings about 'Underwear Bomber' Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from none other than Abdulmutallab's father, senior American counterterrorism officials say they have altered their criteria so that a single-source tip can lead to a name being placed on the watch list. Civil liberties groups warn that it is now even more likely that individuals who pose no threat will be swept up in America's security apparatus, leading to potential violations of their privacy and making it difficult for them to travel. 'They are secret lists with no way for people to petition to get off or even to know if they're on,' said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union."
jcombel writes with this link to The Smoking Gun, which says "As part of an international criminal probe into computer attacks launched this month against perceived corporate enemies of WikiLeaks, the FBI has raided a Texas business and seized a computer server that investigators believe was used to launch a massive electronic attack on PayPal." Computerworld has a story, as well.
cylonlover writes "In a new, more efficient approach to solar powered microelectronics, researchers have produced a microchip which directly integrates photovoltaic cells. While harnessing sunlight to power microelectronics isn't new, conventional set-ups use a separate solar cell and battery. What sets this device apart is that high-efficiency solar cells are placed straight onto the electronics, producing self-sufficient, low-power devices which are highly suitable for industrial serial production and can even operate indoors."