Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MIT Students To Get Free Bitcoins This Fall

MIT Students To Get Free Bitcoins This Fall

MIT Students To Get Free Bitcoins This Fall

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:38 AM PDT

Next year, MIT undergrads will pay $43,498 in tuition year, but hey, at least they’re getting 1oo free Bitcoins.

MIT’s Bitcoin Club arranged the giveaway in hopes of turning the cryptocurrency into a viable payment model.

The Bitcoin Club raised $500,000, most of it coming from a wealthy MIT alumnus, to make the project a reality.

Few stores in the Cambridge area currently accept the currency, but with 4,528 undergrads having 100 Bitcoins burning a hole in their digital pocket, that could yet change.

Iraqis Defy Security Concerns To Vote in First National Elections Since U.S. Exit

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:34 AM PDT

Iraqis went to the polls Wednesday amid a massive security effort, for the first national elections since the exit of U.S. forces in 2011.

Two bombings highlighted the security risks in the country, where sectarian violence has spiked in the last year. One roadside bomb killed two women walking to a polling station in the northern town of Dibis, and another bomb in the area injured five soldiers on an army poll, the Associated Press reports.

Hundreds of thousands of troops and police—many of whom were allowed to vote Monday so they could provide security on Wednesday—were safeguarding polling stations as Iraqis voted, according to the AP. Iraqi authorities closed the nation's airspace and banned vehicles to limit the threat of car bombings.

Roughly 22 million people were registered to vote in the parliamentary elections, with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite part expected to win the most seats but come short of a majority. The final results will not be available for several weeks.

In central Baghdad, checkpoints were set up roughly every 500 yards. Streets were largely deserted, and most stores were closed, the AP reports. Buses were used to ferry voters to the polls in parts of the city.

A surge in attacks last year led to the highest death toll since 2007, when President George W. Bush announced a surge of U.S. troops to quell worsening violence in Iraq.

[Associated Press]

Will Donald Sterling Give Up Clippers Or Fight?

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:29 AM PDT

Now that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has dropped the hammer on Clippers owner Don Sterling for his racist comments, what happens next? Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million, banned Sterling for life and is putting pressure on him to sell the franchise, but Sterling might not go quietly. The league could force a sale if enough owners vote to do so, but Sterling could put up a fight and a heated legal battle could ensue.

In the The Los Angeles Times, Notre Dame sports economics professor Richard Sheehan said "If he truly doesn't want to sell, I'm going to guess he could tie this up for the rest of his life. It would be an absolute disaster."

General Motors Bailout Cost Taxpayers $11.2 Billion

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:24 AM PDT

U.S. taxpayers lost more than $11.2 billion as a result of the federal bailout of General Motors, according to a government report released Wednesday.

The $11.2-billion loss includes a $826-million write-off in March from government investments in the “Old GM” before the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, the report said. The U.S. government spent $49.5 billion to bail out GM, and after the company’s bankruptcy in 2009, the government’s investment was converted to a 61 percent equity stake in the company. The Treasury gradually sold off its stock in GM, selling its last shares in December 2013.

The Center for Automative Research said last year that the taxpayer bailout of GM saved 1.2 million jobs and avoided the loss of $129.2 billion in personal income in 2009 and 2010. Of the $78.2 billion the U.S. Treasury spent bailing out the auto industry through its Troubled Asset Relief Program, $58.0 billion was repaid, according to the report.

GM is currently being investigated by the Justice Department and regulators for its handling of a defect in an ignition switch that led to more than 10 deaths.

How a Smartphone Device Aims to Detect Oral Cancer

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:16 AM PDT

While oral cancer is relatively straightforward for dentists to diagnose, there is a smartphone device that is supposed to be a low-cost solution for detecting cancerous oral lesions in parts of the world where access to dentists is extremely limited.

Scientific American just profiled a team led by Dr. Manu Prakash at Stanford University that has developed an easy-to-use screening device called OScan, which attaches to a smartphone or digital camera so health workers can take photos of a patient's mouth and digitally send them to an offsite expert for analysis—expediting diagnoses to help saving lives.

The device is being tested in India, where in most rural parts of the country there's statistically one dentist per 250,000 people—oral cancer goes unnoticed and therefore untreated. The incidence of oral cancer is 12.6 cases per 100,000 people, an unusually high rate. In south-central Asia, oral cavity cancer ranks in the three most common cancers in the population.

Worldwide statistics on oropharyngeal cancer are grim, particularly in developing countries (which consume fully 71% of the world's tobacco). The World Health Organization reports that "sharp increases in the incidence rates of oral/pharyngeal cancers have been reported for several countries and regions such as Denmark, France, Germany, Scotland, central and eastern Europe and to a lesser extent Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the USA."

Heisman Winner Winston Suspended By Baseball Team

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 11:06 AM PDT

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) — The Florida State baseball team has indefinitely suspended Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, who is a relief pitcher for the Seminoles.

Baseball coach Mike Martin said in a statement Wednesday that Winston was issued a citation the night before, but he did not give specifics. The Leon County Sheriff’s Office has declined comment.

The 20-year-old Winston was investigated last year when a fellow Florida State student reported that he raped her. But prosecutors said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him.

Winston led Florida State to the national championship last season as a freshman, starring in the undefeated Seminoles’ 34-31 victory over Auburn in the championship game.

He threw 40 touchdown passes on the season and ran for four more.

Football coach Jimbo Fisher says he supports Martin’s decision.

Watch a Baby Lamb Learn to Walk

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:52 AM PDT

When this baby lamb got an infection in his joints that prevented him from walking, his human created a bouncer out of a canvas shopping bag and a bungee cord to help him find his footing.

Watch here as the adorable little creature bounces around, building up strength in his limbs. Not baaaa-d at all. (Sorry.)

White House: Oklahoma Execution Not Done Humanely

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:49 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — The White House says a botched execution of a death row inmate in Oklahoma fell short of the humane standards required when the death penalty is carried out.

Officials halted Clayton Lockett’s execution Tuesday when he convulsed violently and tried to lift his head after a doctor declared him unconscious. He later died of an apparent heart attack.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Barack Obama believes evidence shows the death penalty doesn’t effectively deter crime. But he says Obama believes some crimes are so heinous that the death penalty is merited. He says the crimes in Lockett’s case are indisputably heinous.

But Carney says the U.S. has a fundamental standard that the death penalty must be carried out humanely. He says everyone would recognize that this case fell short.

First Lady Announcing Pledges for Vets, Families

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:47 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — First lady Michelle Obama announced pledges from foundations and corporations totaling more than $160 million Wednesday to help veterans and their families get the services they need as the country adjusts to a postwar footing.

Calling this a “pivotal moment for our military families and for our country” as the war in Afghanistan ends, the first lady said military families should never have to face the challenges associated with the transition to civilian life alone.

Appearing at a conference of philanthropic groups, Mrs. Obama warned that with fewer homecoming videos and welcome-home parades for returning troops likely in future years, “we cannot allow ourselves to forget their service to our country. … We’ve got to show our military families that our country is there for them not just while they’re in uniform but for the long haul.”

The first lady highlighted the launch of the Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge, under which more than 30 organizations are making commitments to provide a range of services over the next five years, including $62 million in existing commitments and $102 million in new pledges over the next five years.

Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, noted that the launch comes after reports that up to 40 patients at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care Center may have died because of care delays.

“The Phoenix tragedy, Fort Hood shooting and the latest Pentagon suicide numbers all sadly underscore the urgent need for a sustained, national effort to ensure all our vets get the care and support they deserve,” Rieckhoff said in a statement. “This challenge is much more than the government can handle alone. These leading foundations have made a bold, visionary commitment.”

Vikki Spruill, CEO of the Council on Foundations, said those making pledges would work in areas including homelessness, employment, training, education and community integration. The council also is creating an online Veterans Philanthropy Exchange to help charitable organizations share ideas and information on how to help military families.

Donald Cooke, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation’s senior vice president for philanthropy, said philanthropies are a key resource for veterans because of their presence in communities around the nation. He called foundations and corporations with a stake in their communities “the secret to how we’re going to help our veterans come home.”

The announcement is part of a series of events marking the third anniversary of Joining Forces, the initiative created by Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden to support military families and veterans.

Former Justice Stevens: Campaign Cash Isn’t Speech

Posted: 30 Apr 2014 10:45 AM PDT

(WASHINGTON) — Campaign donations pay for more than political ads and should not be protected as free speech, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens told a Senate panel Wednesday in urging them to rein in the billions of dollars shaping elections.

The retired justice reminded lawmakers that political donations funded the burglary at the Watergate office complex under President Richard Nixon. That break-in at the Democratic National Committee is not speech, Stevens argued in a rare appearance of a former justice in the Senate.

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech. Speech is only one of the activities that are financed by campaign contributions and expenditures. Those financial activities should not receive precisely the same constitutional protections as speech itself,” Stevens said. “After all, campaign funds were used to finance the Watergate burglary, actions that clearly were not protected by the First Amendment.”

Stevens has been a critic of his former colleagues’ decisions that have opened the floodgates for unlimited donations and super PACs.

At issue are the millions of dollars that influence elections — if not determine their outcome — with various degrees of openness. Recent Supreme Court rulings have permitted individuals and corporations to write unlimited checks to independent political committees, while other groups can accept cash and disclose the donors’ identities months or years later, if ever.

“These tactics have no apparent purpose other than to conceal the sources of funds,” Federal Election Commission vice chairwoman Ann Ravel said.

Ravel was not testifying in her FEC role but in her capacity as a former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s version of the FEC that leveled a record $1 million fine against the Center to Protect Patient Rights and Americans for Responsible Leadership. Their recipient, the Small Business Action Committee PAC, also had to return millions of dollars in donations from those groups.

“Using shell corporate entities, wire transfers and fund-swapping with no apparent purpose other than to hide the sources of funds, these national networks skirt disclosure rules with relative ease,” Ravel said, detailing the funding for a group that sought to influence the outcomes of two statewide ballot initiatives in 2012.

Democrats have been vocal in criticizing the new rules and those who take advantage of them, including some of their allies. Republicans, meanwhile, have embraced the system and used the rules to power well-funded groups such as Americans for Prosperity.

That group, for instance, operates under rules that allow it to keep donors’ identities secret, unlike those who give to groups like the Republican National Committee. The conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have backed Americans for Prosperity with millions, but understanding their impact in real time is impossible because they technically do not operate as political groups.

“Our democracy is at risk. That’s the problem here,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat who chairs the Senate Rules Committee that hosted the hearing.

But Republicans did not share that concern, especially as it relates to the Koch brothers.

“Let’s stop demonizing citizens who exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, the top Republican on the panel. “The First Amendment does not allow us to silence those who oppose us.”

Countered Democratic Sen. Tom Udall: “Money and speech are the same thing? This is tortured logic.”

The New Mexico lawmaker said elections should be protected and “they should not be for sale to the highest bidder.”

Schumer said the Senate this year would schedule a vote on Udall’s proposed constitutional amendment that would limit federal candidates’ ability to raise and spend money. The measure also would regulate and limit the ability of super PACs to impact elections.

Changes to the Constitution are incredibly difficult and the vote was more political than practical. The vote, however, would force Republicans to either defend unlimited money in campaigns or put them in the awkward position of condemning their allies.

Wednesday’s hearing by the Senate Rules Committee was the first since the Supreme Court’s ruling that lifted limits on how much total money individual donors can give to candidates. The court left in place a limit on how much individual candidates can take from each donor, but the justices cleared the way for donors to give the maximum amount to every candidate.

“I’m still looking for the word ‘money’ in the First Amendment,” said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

For instance, the Karl Rove-supported American Crossroads super PAC raised almost $5.2 million last month from three organizations and 21 individuals. The average donation was more than $218,000. The largest donation — $2 million — came from former Univision owner Jerry Perenchio. A trust tied to Oklahoma coal executive Joseph Craft III gave $500,000, as did Arkansas-based investment manager Warren Stephens and Kentucky-based self-storage mogul B. Wayne Hughes.

“It’s a thin line between what’s unseemly and what is a bribe,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Despite their unrelenting criticism of the Kochs and Rove, Democrats are not bypassing the super PAC circuit.

Fred Eychaner, the founder of Chicago-based Newsweb Corp., wrote a $4 million check to the Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group with ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The group raised $11 million during the first three months of the year, including $2 million from James Simons, founder and chairman of investment firm Renaissance Technologies.


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