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Preview: Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Sci-Tech Science & Technology News


South Dakota bill leaves evolution skepticism up to teachers

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:42:14 UT

A House committee on Wednesday is set to consider the measure, which would give legal protection to teachers who want to discuss "in an objective scientific manner the strengths and weaknesses" of the subjects. Critics argue that the measure is bad for students and that allowing teachers to teach any science curriculum they choose could subject school districts to litigation. South Dakota Sen. Jeff Monroe, the bill's prime sponsor, said teachers should be able to talk about weaknesses in scientific theories, but he disputed that it would allow for creationism to seep into school teachings. Wells said one high school senior told her that he wouldn't come to her class if she dropped evolutionary theory and picked up intelligent design, which holds that certain features of life forms are so complex that they can best be explained by an origin from an intelligent higher power.

Court considers constitutionality of Ohio execution process

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 23:23:18 UT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal appeals court plans to consider arguments over the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection process as the state tries to start carrying out executions once again. A related issue is whether Ohio has a realistic chance of finding an alternative drug — a barbiturate called pentobarbital — that once was widely used in executions but has become difficult or, in Ohio's case, impossible to obtain. Ohio announced its three-drug method in October, and said it had enough for at least four executions, though records obtained by The Associated Press indicated the supply could cover dozens of procedures. Attorneys for death row inmates said Magistrate Judge Michael Merz got it right in last month's ruling, when he said that the "three-drug midazolam protocol creates a substantial risk of serious harm." On Feb. 10, Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich delayed eight executions to allow time for the appeals court arguments.

Yahoo salvages Verizon deal with $350 million discount

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 21:40:11 UT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Yahoo is taking a $350 million hit on its previously announced $4.8 billion sale to Verizon in a concession for security lapses that exposed personal information stored in more than 1 billion Yahoo user accounts. After the Verizon deal closes, any future bills stemming from the hack will be shouldered by Altaba Inc. — a company that will become the caretaker of Yahoo's remains, which will include about $7 billion in cash and lucrative stakes in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan. Verizon's willingness to accept some of the lingering risks from Yahoo's security breaches underscores the wireless carrier's desire to become a bigger player in the digital advertising market. Google and Facebook currently dominate, but Verizon believes there's room to grow. Because most people already have smartphones, wireless carriers such as Verizon have turned to price cuts and promotions to lure customers from each other. Verizon now wants to bolster that with Yahoo's technology, as well as its many users and popular websites devoted to sports, finance, entertainment and news.

Online options for Oscar-nominated flicks expand Tuesday

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 18:24:28 UT

Online options for Oscar-nominated flicks expand Tuesday NEW YORK (AP) — More movies and cheaper options arrive online Tuesday for movie fans still needing to catch up on Oscar-nominated flicks. Of the 62 full-length movies and shorts nominated for any category , 45 are available in some form online. Watching all 46 online will cost at least $173, assuming you already have subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or HBO Now. Focusing on just best picture and the four acting categories will still cost you nearly $70, not including the monthly subscriptions. None of the nine best picture nominees is available through a subscription service. Buying downloads usually cost about $15 for standard definition or $20 for HD. In addition to the best picture flicks, you'll need to watch six more movies to catch everyone nominated for the four acting categories. "Captain Fantastic," ''Florence Foster Jenkins," ''Loving" and "Nocturnal Animals" are available for rent. Shorts HD runs screenings at theaters, libraries and museums across the country. In major cities, the ceremony itself will be streamed online at and the ABC app if you can't get to a TV. Availability depends on where you live; only a handful of ABC stations are offered this way. For the E! channel's red carpet coverage, you'll need a subscription with an online TV service or a traditional cable or satellite provider.

Historic Manhattan cathedral activates eco-friendly power

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:55:16 UT

The system is designed to harness clean, renewable power to regulate the temperature of the cathedral and adjoining buildings.

Italy cabbies clash with riot police during strike over Uber

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:13:56 UT

ROME (AP) — Thousands of Italian taxi drivers protesting legislation they say will favor Uber clashed with riot police Tuesday, intensifying a weeklong cab strike that has crippled transportation in Rome, Milan and Turin. The cabbies marched through Rome and protested in front of parliament, at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic Party and finally at the infrastructure ministry, where officials were meeting with union representatives to try to work out a settlement.

The Latest: Court weighs debate over Ohio execution process

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:43:39 UT

A federal appeals court is weighing arguments over the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection process as the state tries to start carrying out executions once again. State attorneys say they've provided plenty of evidence to show that the contested first drug in Ohio's three-drug method will put inmates into a deep state of unconsciousness. A federal appeals court is hearing arguments over the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection process as the state tries to start carrying out executions once again. State attorneys say they've provided plenty of evidence to show that the contested first drug in Ohio's three-drug method will put inmates into a deep state of unconsciousness.

Nigerians starved of electricity access turn to solar

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 11:56:17 UT

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The surprise was finding that people dependent on candles, batteries, kerosene and fuel for generators in countries without a secure supply of electricity spend more on power than solar options. In Nigeria, for the cost of powering a small generator for two hours they offer enough solar power to light a house, cool a room with a fan and charge cell phones for about eight hours. Just 25 percent of its 170 million people have access to regular electricity, and the West African nation has the highest outage rate on the continent, 32 a month averaging eight hours each, according to the Overseas Private Investment Corp ., the U.S. government's independent investment agency. [...] figures inspired former U.S. President Barack Obama to create Power Africa, bringing together technical and legal experts, the private sector and governments. "Do you know how many families' lives have been destroyed because of fires caused by candles, kerosene, electrical fires?" he asked in a telephone interview from his home in Abuja, Nigeria's capital.

Exact Sciences reports 4Q loss

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 11:28:52 UT

Exact Sciences reports 4Q loss (AP) — Exact Sciences Corp. on Tuesday reported a loss of $37.2 million in its fourth quarter. The average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of 39 cents per share. The molecular diagnostics company posted revenue of $35.2 million in the period, which also beat Street forecasts. For the year, the company reported that its loss widened to $167.2 million, or $1.63 per share.

NASA aims to measure vital snow data from satellites

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 07:15:18 UT

DENVER (AP) — Instrument-laden aircraft are surveying the Colorado high country this month as scientists search for better ways to measure how much water is locked up in the world's mountain snows — water that sustains a substantial share of the global population. One-sixth of the world's population gets most of its fresh water from snow that melts and runs into waterways, said Ed Kim, a NASA researcher and lead scientist for SnowEx. Four sensors will measure snow density: three other types of radar, plus a passive microwave instrument, which detects how much of the Earth's natural microwave radiation the snow is blocking. Aircraft will take the instruments on multiple passes over two areas in western Colorado, Grand Mesa and Senator Beck Basin. Water utilities, farmers, public safety agencies and wildland firefighters track the updates closely to help predict how much drinking and irrigation water will be available in the spring and whether they will face floods or fire-inducing droughts. SNOTEL collects data from individual points, but the "holy grail of mountain hydrology" is a way to estimate the distribution of snow water equivalent across broad mountain landscapes, said Molotch, who is also director of the University of Colorado's Center for Water, Earth Science and Technology. Government agencies that forecast the spring runoff say satellite data on snow water equivalent would help them, although they base their predictions on multiple sources of information, including rain, temperature and current river flows.

Uber to investigate sexual harassment claim by engineer

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:24:58 UT

LONDON (AP) — Uber's chief executive ordered an investigation Monday into a sexual-harassment claim made by a female engineer who said her prospects at the company evaporated after she complained about advances from her boss. "Upper management told me that he 'was a high performer' (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part," she wrote. Rigetti's remarks will strike a nerve among those trying to bolster the number of women in science and engineering, who have long argued that the male-dominated atmosphere discourages talented women from seeking careers in the sector. "The answer to that is for companies to take proactive steps to increase the number of women who want to enter these fields and to make sure that they encounter a level playing field once they get there," Rhode said.

AP, other media ask judge to order release of iPhone records

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 18:57:33 UT

"While it is undisputed that the vendor developed the iPhone access tool, the government has identified no rational reason why knowing the vendor's identity is linked in any way to the substance of the tool, much less how such knowledge would reveal any information about the tool's application," lawyers for the news organizations wrote in the filing to the U.S. District Court in Washington. The news organizations sought to learn more about the mysterious transaction that cut short a legal dispute in which the government won a court order to force Apple Inc. to unlock the work phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife killed 14 people in the December 2015 San Bernardino attack. "Release of this information goes to the very heart of FOIA's purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity — here, the decision to pay public funds to an outside entity in possession of a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans," the lawyers wrote.

WhatsApp adds 'status' feature in not do past and future

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 17:22:30 UT

NEW YORK (AP) — In a nod to its past as well as its future, WhatsApp is adding a "status" feature that lets users tell their contacts what they are up to. The company says its users spend more than 50 billion messages each day, including 3.3 billion photos, 760 million videos and 80 million GIFs — the animated images that make many popular internet memes.

New Zealand judge upholds Kim Dotcom extradition ruling

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 06:17:14 UT

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand judge on Monday upheld an earlier court ruling that flamboyant internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom and three of his colleagues can be extradited to the U.S. to face criminal charges. The decision comes five years after U.S. authorities shut down Dotcom's file-sharing website Megaupload and filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering against the men. U.S. prosecutors say that Megaupload raked in at least $175 million, mainly from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows and movies. Out on bail soon after, he released a music album, started another internet file-sharing company called Mega, and launched a political party which unsuccessfully contested the nation's 2014 election.

Scientists hold rally in Boston to protest threat to science

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 22:41:20 UT

The scientists, some dressed in white lab coats, called on President Donald Trump's administration to recognize evidence of climate change and take action on various environmental issues. Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies renewable energy solutions to climate change, said scientists are responding to the Trump administration's "anti-science rhetoric."