The Guardian brings us Economist Thomas Piketty — Capitalism simply isn't working and here are the reasons why.
Piketty is a man for the times. For 1970s anxieties about inflation substitute today's concerns about the emergence of the plutocratic rich and their impact on economy and society. Piketty is in no doubt, as he indicates in an interview in today's Observer New Review, that the current level of rising wealth inequality, set to grow still further, now imperils the very future of capitalism. He has proved it.
It is a startling thesis and one extraordinarily unwelcome to those who think capitalism and inequality need each other. Capitalism requires inequality of wealth, runs this right-of-centre argument, to stimulate risk-taking and effort; governments trying to stem it with taxes on wealth, capital, inheritance and property kill the goose that lays the golden egg. Thus Messrs Cameron and Osborne faithfully champion lower inheritance taxes, refuse to reshape the council tax and boast about the business-friendly low capital gains and corporation tax regime.
Piketty deploys 200 years of data to prove them wrong.
Robert Krulwich at NPR writes, "Many have tried to outperform Ayumu (that's the chimp's name), but when you see how easy it is for him, how matter-of-factly he gets things right, it's clear he's got a talent that's built in. It's not a talent you'd expect a chimp to have, but, hey, this isn't a trick. Nature isn't pro-human or pro-chimp. It's just nature." [Contains link to YouTube video]
William Dunn, a Kansas State University engineer, and his research team have developed a patented technique that improves military security and remotely detects improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The same technique could help police during drug searches. Created with a grant from the US Marine Corps and private funding, the technique has promise in detecting the most common chemical explosives, nitrogen-rich explosives.
Dunn created a template-matching technique called signature-based radiation scanning to determine the presence of explosives. The template-matching technique works similar to a bar code. Dunn's team has created templates for nitrogen-rich explosives and if a material matches one of these templates, then it potentially contains nitrogen-rich explosives.
RT reports that
Kim Dotcom can have seized assets returned New Zealand High Court
The New Zealand High Court has ruled that Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom can be reunited with millions of dollars, property, cars, and artwork. It comes after the court denied an application by the Crown to extend the freezing of Dotcom's fortune. The application to continue the freeze on his assets was made on behalf of the United States, which wants to extradite and prosecute Dotcom for money laundering, online piracy, and conspiracy to commit piracy.
Gapes managed to successfully oppose the application by arguing that the original order was made on the back of a criminal jurisdiction prosecution, whereas the extension application was based on a "future action for civil forfeiture." The Criminal Proceeds Act allows extensions only on duration - not on new grounds, said Gapes.
Recording studios and movie labels have recently filed several civil law suits against the internet tycoon in the US. Earlier this month, six major Hollywood studios opened a huge lawsuit against Kim Dotcom and his colleagues. Among them are film giants 20th Century Fox, Disney, and Paramount. He was also sued earlier this month by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which alleged that he profited massively from the copyright infringement of music.
DZone has an interesting, if short, article about a young scammer who apparently understands what "snake oil" is and was selling the digital equivalent. He sold an app through the Google Play Store that purported to scan an Android device for malware but, in fact, did nothing. It did, however, keep its other promises such as no ads and a minimal impact on battery life.
A University of Western Ontario computer science student has been arrested by the RCMP and will face charges on allegations that he exploited the Heartbleed Internet vulnerability to steal confidential information from servers at the Canada Revenue Agency.
I've been hoping for properly modular mobile computing like in the desktop arena for two decades, and now I guess that means phones. So I am delighted at this news:
Project Ara brings the modular smartphone from concept to a reality; it almost seems like it should've made a cameo in The Lego Movie. The Ara consists of a metal endoskeleton, which is essentially the spine of the phone, and slots for replaceable components known as modules, which look a lot like tiles. (If you're reminded of Windows Phone when looking at the back, you won't be the first.) These tiled modules can include anything that makes your phone tick (processor, RAM, WiFi, power jack, baseband, display and battery, for instance), as well as plenty of other features like your camera, speakers and storage space.
A study looked into whether negative life events are more common in troubled neighborhoods, and if that amplifies adverse effects on health.
The indirect paths between neighborhood conditions and health through negative life event exposure are highly significant and large compared to the direct paths from neighborhood conditions to health. Our results indicate that neighborhood conditions can have acute as well as chronic effects on health, and that negative life events are a powerful mechanism by which context may influence health.
Police in Peoria, IL raided the home of a 27 year-old resident who set up a parody Twitter account for the Peoria mayor. The raid did not result in any arrests, but computers and phones were seized and the residents questioned. The police are investigating the account for breaking a law forbidding "impersonating a public official". If the case moves forward, the alleged owner of the account, Michelle Pratt, could face a $2,500 fine and up to a year in jail.
Even if it is eventually dropped, this could have a chilling effect on satirical political speech and seems like a massive overstep by a local police force to save face for an elected official.
In the aftermath of the Snowden revelations in mid-2013, moderators at /r/technology configured filters to automatically censor posts containing "politicized" words, based on findings by creq. This censorship appears to be ongoing. The banned words include NSA, Comcast, Anonymous, CISPA, SOPA, Swartz, FCC, net neutrality, GHCQ, EFF, ACLU, and others.
The admins claim they simply configured their bots to delete "politicized" posts. Yet their filters (which were not announced or explained) effectively precluded meaningful discussion of contemporary issues. Could this reflect willing government collaboration by Reddit's admins, or might they have been served with an NSL to force compliance?
While many will have forgotten about the steam explosion and subsequent graphite fire at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in what is now Ukraine (and many readers won't have been born when it happened), there are still very many people working on making it environmentally safer than it would otherwise be, or were, up until a few days ago.
The damaged reactor was encased in a hastily built 'sarcophagus' to minimise the mixing of radioactive debris with the general environment, especially the dust. The 'sarcophagus' was showing signs of collapse, which would have released a considerable amount of radioactive dust, so as a co-operative endeavour between the Ukraine, the European Union and the USA, the Chernobyl Shelter Fund was set up in 1997 to create an environmentally safe confinement that would last at least 100 years.
The new, safe confinement structure is being built on rails to be moved over the existing buildings, and a major milestone in the project has been achieved this month, as the first half of the new structure has been built and moved into a holding position: that's 12,800 tonnes moved just over 100 metres sideways.
However, progress is threatened by Ukraine's political and economic crisis. Ukrainian officials say the project, originally scheduled for completion in 2015, will not be finished on time. Additionally, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which partially funds the project, is not expecting contributions from Ukraine in the near term.
Edited to reflect stalled progress missed by the submitter.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a wage slave typing: "I hate my job. I hate my job. I hate my job," on a keyboard, for ever. That's what a Manhattan court typist is accused of doing, having been fired from his post two years ago, after jeopardizing upwards of 30 trials, according to the New York Post. Many of the court transcripts were "complete gibberish" as the stenographer was allegedly suffering the effects of alcohol abuse, but the one that has caught public attention contains the phrase "I hate my job" over and over again.
We've collectively been around the professional block many times. What's the most spectacular flameout you've seen?
A new app launching in New York promises coffee connoisseurs the opportunity to enjoy limitless coffee for $45/month. We already know of the health benefits from drinking coffee so now you can save your wallet whilst you save yourself.
The app offers access to a half dozen independent coffee shops to begin with but this is likely to expand over time. Don't want to commit to $45/month? They also offer pre-paid 10-25 cup plans.
A study by Princeton and Northwestern universities shows that a small group of elite have control over the general population and the government only supports the rich and powerful while the masses have no say whatsoever. The 42 page report concludes "we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America's claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."
A CAPTCHA variant has been tested that uses faces instead of words. A number of images including faces and non faces are randomised (rotated, placed in random locations in a canvas), with coloured shape distortion overlaid; the solver has to mark the locations of two matching faces.
The researchers found that this alternative was easy for humans to solve and user friendly, while also being secure against automated attack. It addresses the language/alphabet dependency challenges of text-based CAPTCHAs while remaining intuitive and simple for human users. In addition, the success of the proposed CAPTCHA also confirms that humans can match faces under severe distortion with high accuracy
The global network of links between the world's airports looks robust but contains a hidden weakness that could lead to entire regions being cut off.
From the article:
An example is St Petersburg airport in Tampa Bay, Florida. This has 24 connections and only 24 flights. Close this airport and the airports it connects to are all cut out of the global network. That makes the world airline network rather unusual. "It is surprising, insofar as there exists a highly resilient and strongly connected core consisting of a small fraction of airports together with an extremely fragile star-like periphery," say Verma and co.
The Guardian brings us the reason this winter was unusually awful for the US.
China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America, according to scientists in the US. A team from Texas, California and Washington state has found that pollution from Asia, much of it arising in China, is leading to more intense cyclones, increased precipitation and more warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole.
As we suffer through a winter of discontent (it is still snowing here in the north east) do you actually believe that China will change policies, or will they continue to "stop global warming" through extensive use of coal?