Tesla Motors announced today it has completely repaid the $465 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy the company received in 2010. The funds were generated by Tesla through a recent sale of their stock, worth close to a billion dollars. The stock price had risen sharply after the company reported its first profitable quarter (and the stock still sits roughly 50% higher than before their earnings release). Today's payment of $451.8 million finished off both the loan's principal and its interest, nine years before the final payment was due. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said, 'I would like to thank the Department of Energy and the members of Congress and their staffs that worked hard to create the ATVM program, and particularly the American taxpayer from whom these funds originate. I hope we did you proud.'
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FuzzNugget writes "A contributor at ScienceBlogs.com has compiled and published a shockingly long list of systematic attacks on scientific research committed by the Canadian government since the conservatives came to power in 2006. This anti-scientific scourge includes muzzling scientists, shutting down research centers, industry deregulation and re-purposing the National Research Council to align with business interests instead of doing real science. It will be another two years before Canadians have the chance to go to the polls, but how much more damage will be done in the meantime?"
An anonymous reader writes "When in early 2010 Google shared with the public that they had been breached in what became known as the Aurora attacks, they said that the attackers got their hands on some source code and were looking to access Gmail accounts of Tibetan activists. What they didn't make public is that the hackers have also accessed a database containing information about court-issued surveillance orders that enabled law enforcement agencies to monitor email accounts belonging to diplomats, suspected spies and terrorists. Whether this was the primary goal of the attacks as well as how much information was exfiltrated is unknown. current and former U.S. government officials interviewed by the Washington Post say that the database in question was possibly accessed in order to discover which Chinese intelligence operatives located in the U.S. were under surveillance."
New submitter QuantumPion writes "The Environmental Protection Agency released draft guidelines last month that could significantly relax radiation hazard standards in the case of a radiological event in the United States by using risk-based decisions. The goal is to have limits that make sense in an emergency that are different from the limits in day-to-day life. From the article: 'Currently, the only guidance are the extremely strict standards that apply for EPA Superfund sites and nuclear plant decommissioning, which are as low as 0.010–0.025 rem/year, far below the natural background levels in the U.S. of 0.300 rem/year, and even well below the average amount of radioactive materials that Americans eat each year. And these guidelines aren’t really different from the 1992 PAG, except in the area of long-term cleanup standards and, perhaps, standards for resettlement. What’s the big deal here? As radworkers, we’re allowed to get 5 rem/year. 2 rem/year doesn’t rate a second thought. ... No one has ever been harmed by 5 rem/year, so setting emergency levels at 2 rem/year is pretty mild and more than reasonable. ... Think of it this way. The situations covered by these new guidelines are similar to someone dying of thirst who has the chance to drink fresh water having 2,000 pCi per gallon of radium in it. While the safe drinking water levels are 20 pCi/gal for Ra, 2,000 pCi/gal is of no threat, especially if you’re going to die from imminent dehydration. Of course, a bag of potato chips has 3,500 picocuries, so go figure.'"
Lucas123 writes "U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) is pushing a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include 'personalization technology' in their weapons. Tierney said he got the idea for The Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In it Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes his fingerprints, becomes inoperable when a bad guy picks it up. 'This technology, however, isn't just for the movies — it's a reality,' Tierney said. Tierney pointed to a myriad of cases where the smart gun tech could prevent children from being harmed or killed in firearms accidents. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the NRA, said he knows of no gun owners who would want smart gun technology on their weapons. Wallace said any technology that may impede the proper function of a weapon is a problem. He pointed to the fact that any integrated processor technology would also require a battery of some kind, which could pose a system failure if it lost power."
An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government came a step closer to formalising its plans to make Asian language study compulsory for schools this week. It has released a draft curriculum for public consultation which reveals plans to include Indonesian, Korean and french language in the curriculum. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard publicly stated in September 2012 that in response to the "staggering growth" in the region, the government would be instigating 25 key measures to strengthen and exploit links with Asia. The plan includes the requirement that one third of civil servants and company directors have a "deep knowledge," thousands of scholarships for Asian students, and the opportunity for every schoolchild to learn one of four "priority" languages- Chinese, Hindi, Japanese or Indonesian."
mspohr writes with news that Apple might be in a bit of hot water over its policy of offshoring revenues to favorable tax jurisdictions. Only they take it a step further, from the article: "Apple relied on a 'complex web of offshore entities' and U.S. tax loopholes to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. taxes on $44 billion in offshore income over the past four years ... The maker of iPhones and iPads used at least three foreign subsidiaries that it claims are not 'tax resident in any nation' to help it avoid paying billions in 'otherwise taxable offshore income,' the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said in a statement yesterday."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Location is everything when choosing the site of a data center. Firms such as Microsoft and Google and Facebook spend a lot of time looking into the costs of land, power, regulation and taxes before placing their respective data centers in a particular place. Sometimes, that local tax bill comes into play in a big way. Just ask the National Security Agency which learned it faces a multimillion-dollar annual state tax on the power consumed by its new data center in Camp Williams, south of Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a series of email exchanges between the feds and the state, with the NSA protesting a $2.4 million tax on its annual power expenditure, pegged at about $40 million. Harvey Davis, director of installations and logistics for the NSA, sent a letter (subsequently quoted by the newspaper) to state officials that made the logistics argument: 'Long-term stability in the utility rates was a major factor in Utah being selected as our site for our $1.5bn construction at Camp Williams. HP325 [the new law] runs counter to what we expected.'" This would be the data center William Binney et al claim is logging almost all domestic communication.
colinneagle writes "Scripps News reporters discovered 170,000 records online of customers of Lifeline, a government program offering affordable phone service for low-income citizens, that contained everything needed for identity theft . Last year, the FCC 'tightened' the rules for the program by requiring Lifeline phone carriers to document applicants' eligibility, which led to collecting more sensitive information from citizens. A Scripps News investigative team claims it 'Googled' the phone companies TerraCom Inc. and YourTel America Inc. to discover all of the files. A Scripps reporter asked for an on-camera interview with the COO of TerraCom and YourTel after explaining the files were freely available online. That did not happen, but shortly thereafter the customer records disappeared from the internet. Then, the blame-the-messenger hacker accusations and mudslinging began. Although the Scripps reporters videotaped the process showing how they found the documents, attorney Jonathon Lee for both telecoms threatened the 'Scripps Hackers' with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)."
kkleiner writes "The FDA is finalizing its review of the antibacterial agent triclosan common to many soaps and other health/household products after four decades of use. Recent studies suggest the chemical may be harmful to animals and could interfere with the human immune system along with increasing the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The agency has been slow to cast a verdict, to much criticism considering its widespread use."
judgecorp writes "Government institutions are among the targets of an attack on Pakistani bodies, which originates in India, according to reports. The campaign is using vulnerabilities in Microsoft software to install the HangOver malware, according to Norwegian security firm Norman Shark (PDF). From the article: 'In the attacks on Pakistani organizations, spear phishing emails were sent out purporting to contain information on "ongoing conflicts in the region, regional culture and religious matters," according to Norman. Norman could not provide direct attribution to the attacks, but its report did note the following: "The continued targeting of Pakistani interests and origins suggested that the attacker was of Indian origin." Snorre Fagerland, principal security researcher in the Malware Detection Team at Norman, told TechWeekEurope it appeared Pakistani government bodies had been attacked.'"
According to reports a bush fire burned down John McAfee's home in Belize on Thursday. The local fire department was unable to to contain the blaze and the the two main buildings were completely destroyed. Property Manager Noel Codd (who was not there at the time) estimated the value of the buildings at $250,000 each. Despite the reported cause of the fire, McAfee says that the destruction of his compound was no accident. We caught up with him to talk about why he thinks the fire was set and what he plans to do now. Read below to see what he had to say.
riverat1 writes "After being embarrassed when the Europeans did a better job forecasting Sandy than the National Weather Service Congress allocated $25 million ($23.7 after sequestration) in the Sandy relief bill for upgrades to forecasting and supercomputer resources. The NWS announced that their main forecasting computer will be upgraded from the current 213 TeraFlops to 2,600 TFlops by fiscal year 2015, over a twelve-fold increase. The upgrade is expected to increase the horizontal grid scale by a factor of 3 allowing more precise forecasting of local features of weather. The some of the allocated funds will also be used to hire some contract scientists to improve the forecast model physics and enhance the collection and assimilation of data."
cold fjord writes "A healthcare provider has sued the Internal Revenue Service and 15 of its agents, charging they wrongfully seized 60 million medical records from 10 million Americans ... [The unnamed company alleges] the agency violated the Fourth Amendment in 2011, when agents executed a search warrant for financial data on one employee – and that led to the seizure of information on 10 million, including state judges. The search warrant did not specify that the IRS could take medical information, UPI said. And information technology officials warned the IRS about the potential to violate medical privacy laws before agents executed the warrant, the complaint said." Also at Nextgov.com.
girlmad writes "Despite moves by government to get Google, Amazon and Apple to admit they make sales in the UK and US, and therefore should pay tax on these earnings, this article argues these are empty threats and that any taxes paid will get returned to the tech giants in government grants and subsidies. Tough luck to the small firms out there."
theodp writes "The last thing Wired's Mat Honan remembered before awaking on the self-driving boat that dropped him on the island was sitting through a four-hour Google I/O keynote in Moscone Center and hearing Google CEO Larry Page promote a vision of a utopia where society could be free to innovate and experiment, unencumbered by government regulations or social norms. 'Welcome to Google Island,' a naked-save-for-a-pair-of-eyeglasses Larry Page tells Honan. 'As soon as you hit Google's territorial waters, you came under our jurisdiction, our terms of service. Our laws — or lack thereof — apply here. By boarding our self-driving boat you granted us the right to all feedback you provide during your journey. This includes the chemical composition of your sweat. Remember when I said at I/O that maybe we should set aside some small part of the world where people could experiment freely and examine the effects? I wasn't speaking theoretically. This place exists. We built it.'"
Techmeology writes "In response to declining utility of CALEA mandated wiretapping backdoors due to more widespread use of cryptography, the FBI is considering a revamped version that would mandate wiretapping facilities in end users' computers and software. Critics have argued that this would be bad for security (PDF), as such systems must be more complex and thus harder to secure. CALEA has also enabled criminals to wiretap conversations by hacking the infrastructure used by the authorities. I wonder how this could ever be implemented in FOSS."
An anonymous reader writes "The Australian government has secretly censored over 1,000 web sites through a hitherto-unused internet censorship law. In April the Melbourne Free University was blocked without any explanation. Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act allows the government to close web sites without warning to "uphold laws, protect public revenue and safeguard national security". This is open to abuse as Australians only have limited free speech rights which already make it difficult for the press to report corruption."
Today eight members of the U.S. Congress have sent a letter to Google's Larry Page, asking him to address a number of privacy concerns about Google Glass. In the letter (PDF), they brought up the company's notorious Street View data collection incident, and asked how the company was planning to avoid a similar privacy breach with Glass. They also ask how Google is going to build Glass to protect the privacy of non-users who may not want their every public move to be recorded. Further, they ask about the security of recordings once they are made: "Will Google Glass have the capacity to store any data on the device itself? If so, will Google Glass implement some sort of user authentication system to safeguard stored data? If not, why not?" Google has until July 14th to respond.
An anonymous reader writes "Sheriffs in 13 Northeast Florida counties announced an online system Thursday for residents to report suspicious activity they think may be terrorism-related. The site provides examples of red flags to watch for, such as people with an unusual interest in building plans or who are purchasing materials useful in bomb making. Important places to watch include hobby stores and dive shops."