An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from the NY Times: "[California state leaders] have rallied around a plan to build a 520-mile high-speed rail line from Los Angeles to San Francisco, cutting the trip from a six-hour drive to a train ride of two hours and 38 minutes. And they are doing it in the face of what might seem like insurmountable political and fiscal obstacles. The pro-train constituency has not been derailed by a state report this month that found the cost of the bullet train tripling to $98 billion for a project that would not be finished until 2033, by news that Republicans in Congress are close to eliminating federal high-speed rail financing this year, by opposition from California farmers and landowners upset about tracks tearing through their communities or by questions about how much the state or private businesses will be able to contribute."
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An anonymous reader writes "Linux Mint 12 was released today. It includes the new 'MGSE' (Mint Gnome Shell Extensions), a desktop layer on top of Gnome 3 that makes it possible for you to use Gnome 3 in a traditional way. MGSE's Gnome-2-Like experience includes features such as the bottom panel, the application menu, the window list, a task-centric desktop and visible system tray icons. MGSE is a 180-degree turn from the desktop experience the Gnome Team is developing with Gnome-Shell. At the heart of the Gnome-Shell is a feature called 'the Overview': 'The Shell is designed in order to minimize distraction and interruption and to enable users to focus on the task at hand. A persistent window list or dock would interfere with this goal, serving as a constant temptation to switch focus. The separation of window switching functionality into the overview means that an effective solution to switching is provided when it is desired by the user, but that it is hidden from view when it is not necessary.' The popularity of Mint 12 with MGSE may be an excellent barometer as to whether users prefer a task-centric or application-centric desktop."
patiwat writes "Thailand has warned Facebook users that they could face 3 to 15 years in jail if they press 'share' or 'like' on images or articles considered unflattering to the Thai monarchy. And it doesn't just apply to Thai subjects: a U.S. citizen was arrested and convicted while visiting Thailand for posting a link to an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol on his blog. Convictions for virtual lese majeste have sky-rocketed in recent years as efforts to defend the widely revered royal family from criticism have ramped up."
Barence writes "Why are IT staff treated with near universal contempt? This article discusses why everyone hates the IT department. From cultivating a culture of 'them and us,' to unrealistic demands from end users and senior management, to the inevitable tension created when employees try and bring their own equipment into the office, there are a variety of reasons for the lack of respect for IT."
theodp writes "The WSJ reports that China's Ministry of Education plans to phase out majors producing unemployable graduates. The government will soon start evaluating college majors by their employment rates, downsizing or cutting those studies in which more than 60% of graduates fail for two consecutive years to find work. What if the U.S. government were to adopt China's approach? According to the most recent U.S. census data, among the first majors to go: psychology, U.S. history and military technologies. Lest you computer programmers get too smug, consider this."
The Bad Astronomer writes "Rolf Olsen, an 'amateur' astronomer in New Zealand, took an amazing photo of a disk of material around the star Beta Pictoris, the first time this has been seen outside of professional observatories. Incredibly, he snagged it with just a 25 cm (10") telescope! A comparison with an earlier pic from a much larger observatory indicates he nailed it, making this a milestone for amateur astronomy."
hessian tips a story in BusinessWeek about Palantir, a system designed to aggregate disparate data points gathered by intelligence agencies and weave them into a more useful narrative. The article summarizes it thus: "Depending where you fall on the spectrum between civil liberties absolutism and homeland security lockdown, Palantir’s technology is either creepy or heroic." "The day Fikri drives to Orlando, he gets a speeding ticket, which triggers an alert in the CIA's Palantir system. An analyst types Fikri's name into a search box and up pops a wealth of information pulled from every database at the government's disposal. There's fingerprint and DNA evidence for Fikri gathered by a CIA operative in Cairo; video of him going to an ATM in Miami; shots of his rental truck's license plate at a tollbooth; phone records; and a map pinpointing his movements across the globe. All this information is then displayed on a clearly designed graphical interface that looks like something Tom Cruise would use in a Mission: Impossible movie."
New submitter ajitk writes "This year, call centers in the Philippines employed 50,000 more people than those in India. From the New York Times article: 'More Filipinos — about 400,000 — than Indians now spend their nights talking to mostly American consumers, industry officials said, as companies like AT&T, JPMorgan Chase and Expedia have hired call centers here, or built their own. ... Nevertheless, the financial benefits of outsourcing remain strong enough that the call center business is growing at 25 to 30 percent a year here in the Philippines, compared to 10 to 15 percent in India. In spite of its recent growth, the Philippines is a much smaller destination for outsourcing more broadly — India earns about 10 times as much revenue from outsourcing.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The attempted merger between AT&T and T-Mobile has fallen on hard times amid antitrust concerns, but there's a potential silver lining for T-Mobile — one that would give them a boost over competitors anyway. Reuters reports that T-Mobile USA would be entitled to a hefty breakup fee including $3 billion in cash as well as spectrum and roaming agreements. 'In a research note, Moody's said that could also lead to a network sharing deal between the two companies, reasoning that it "would make sense given the spectrum that AT&T will have to cede to T-Mobile and the 3G roaming agreement between the two." That would make life especially hard for No. 3 U.S. carrier Sprint, which has been one of the most vocal opponents of the AT&T/T-Mobile deal, going so far as to file a lawsuit. ... Smaller rivals such as MetroPCS and Leap Wireless may be affected even more because T-Mobile is eyeing similar customer segments.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The DoJ and ICE have once again taken up the banner of anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting by seizing over 130 domains allegedly involved in those activities. TorrentFreak points out that this newest digital raid happened just before 'Cyber Monday,' a time when consumers are encouraged to do a bunch of online shopping. From the article: 'Compared to previous seizure rounds, there are also some notable differences to report. This time the action appears to be limited to sites that directly charge visitors for their services. Most of the domains are linked to the selling of counterfeit clothing (e.g. 17nflshop.com), and at least one (autocd.com) sold pirated auto software. Last year several sites were taken down because they allowed their users to access free music and movie downloads, and these were followed by several streaming services a few months later. No similar sites have been reported in the current round.'"
PolygamousRanchKid writes with this quote from CNN about the future of airport security: "Earlier this year, the International Air Transport Association demonstrated its vision for the 'checkpoint of the future' — a series of neon-lit tunnels, each equipped with an array of eye-scanners, x-ray machines, and metal and liquid detectors. ... 'Known Travelers,' (those who have completed background checks with government authorities) for instance, will cruise through the light blue security corridor with little more than an ID check, while those guided through the yellow 'Enhanced' corridor will be subjected to an array of iris scans and sensitive contraband detectors. ... Feeling guilty? Got something to hide? A team of UK-based researchers claim to have developed a thermal lie-detection camera that can automatically spot a burning conscience. ... Professor Byeong-chun Lee, who established his reputation in 2005 as the driving force behind the world's first ever dog clone, has bought a new breed of super-sniffers to South Korea's Incheon Airport. They may look like an ordinary pack of golden Labrador Retrievers, but these dogs are all genetically identical to 'Chase,' a dog whose legendary snout kept him top of Incheon's drug-detection rankings right up until his retirement in 2007."
Hugh Pickens writes "Steve Green writes that even as defendants who defeated Righthaven in court and won their attorney's fees complain they haven't been paid a total of $216,000 and try to seize Righthaven assets, the copyright troll proved that it is alive and kicking by filing a brief that District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas was wrong to find an Oregon nonprofit was protected by fair use in posting an entire R-J story on the relationship between immigrants and Las Vegas police. A key factor in Mahan's decision was that the defendant, the Center for Intercultural Organizing in Portland, couldn't harm the market for a copyright to the story Righthaven obtained for lawsuit purposes from Stephens Media. Mahan also 'found that because the work was a news article, the totality of its content was informational and permissible for productive use by others,' Righthaven's outside attorney Shawn Mangano wrote in his brief that 'in reaching this erroneous conclusion, the district court failed to accord any degree of creative effort to the work (story) whatsoever.' In a second appeals brief, Mangano appeared to face an uphill challenge in arguing that Righthaven had standing to sue or should have been allowed to sue after amending its Stephens Media lawsuit contract to fix defects — assertions rejected so far by six Nevada judges. The defendants in the appeals have not yet filed their briefs, and it's likely to be months before the appeals court hears arguments on the cases."
New submitter sirjohn writes with the good news that "A small group of ICS and Nokia engineers have started working on a minimal bootstrap to bring fully functional Qt 5" to the Raspberry Pi, writing "Do you want to create the next big thing on embedded devices and have $35 to invest? You can now have a complete development environment with accelerated graphics for basically nothing. I think it's a big deal ..." Plus, Nokia is funding 400 of the boards and looking for ideas (and developers) to use them. The competition is stiff; there are already quite a few impressive ideas listed.
bazzalunatic writes "The common golden orb web spider wards off ants from attacking it on its web by spinning an ant repellent (pyrrolidine alkaloid) into its silk. It could be used to develop a new insect repellent for humans. 'This study is among the first to show animals incorporating a chemical defence as a response to the threat of predation,' says Professor Mark Elgar of the University of Melbourne."
MrSeb writes with this ExtremeTech excerpt aimed at the graphene enthusiasts out there: "You can add another crazy characteristic to graphene's ever-expanding list of 'wonder material' properties: It can now be used to create flexible, transparent thin-film transistors. ... using an inkjet printer. The discovery comes from researchers at the University of Cambridge, UK, who were trying to ameliorate the lackluster performance of existing inkjet-printed electronics. It's already possible to print standard CMOS transistors using different ferroelectric polymer inks, but the resultant circuit is so slow that it can't actually function as a computer. If graphene could replace or augment the interconnects or transistors, these circuits would be a lot faster — and that's what these Cambridge engineers have done. Furthermore, if you didn't think that was cool enough, the graphene-based ink that they've developed is transparent, too."