By samzenpus from Slashdot's water-dissolving-and-water-removing department
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mames McWilliams writes in the NYT that with California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes. 'Who knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or 3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint of food products — that is, the amount of water required to produce them — is important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent of its water to agriculture.' But for those truly interested in lowering their water footprint, those numbers pale next to the water required to fatten livestock. Beef turns out to have an overall water footprint of roughly four million gallons per ton produced (PDF). By contrast, the water footprint for "sugar crops" like sugar beets is about 52,000 gallons per ton; for vegetables it's 85,000 gallons per ton; and for starchy roots it's about 102,200 gallons per ton.
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By timothy from Slashdot's at-what-margin-do-you-pivot? department
There's been some positive news in the last year (and the last few) for American cellphone customers: certainly there's more visible competition for their business among the largest players in the market. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that while more competition may translate into some more attractive service bundles, flexibility in phone options, or smoother customer service, it doesn't actually mean that the customers are on average reaping one of the benefits that competition might be expected to provide: lower price. Instead, the bills for customers on the major wireless providers have actually gone up
, if not dramatically, in recent months — which means U.S. cell service remains much more expensive than it is in many other countries. The article could stand a sidebar on MVNOs
and other low-cost options, though -- I switched to one of these from AT&T, and now pay just under $40 for one version of the new normal of unlimited talk and text, plus quite limited (1GB) data, but still using AT&T towers. Has your own cost to talk gone up or down?Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's in-violation-of-the-go-along-to-get-along-directive department
As reported by the Washington Post, Edward Snowden <a>denies in no uncertain terms the idea that he failed to go through proper channels</a> to expose what he thought were troubling privacy violations being committed by the NSA, and that he observed as a contractor employed by the agency. The article begins: "[Snowden] said he repeatedly tried to go through official channels to raise concerns about government snooping programs but that his warnings fell on the deaf ears. In testimony to the European Parliament released Friday morning, Snowden wrote that he reported policy or legal issues related to spying programs to more than 10 officials, but as a contractor he had no legal avenue to pursue further whistleblowing."
Further, "Elsewhere in his testimony, Snowden described the reaction he received when relating his concerns to co-workers and superiors. The responses, he said, fell into two camps. 'The first were well-meaning but hushed warnings not to "rock the boat," for fear of the sort of retaliation that befell former NSA whistleblowers like Wiebe, Binney, and Drake.' All three of those men, he notes, were subject to intense scrutiny and the threat of criminal prosecution."Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's sure-you-want-to-know? department
Georgetown researcher (and executive dean of Georgetown's medical school) Howard Federoff
has taken a "systems" approach to diagnostics for certain chronic diseases. By comparing blood samples taken from patients who subsequently developed Alzheimer's to blood samples after the disease has manifested, Federoff has identified markers and created a blood test that is described as "90 percent accurate"
(the BBC article does not delve into the ratio of false positives to false negatives) in predicting whether a currently healthy patient is likely to develop Alzheimer's in the following three years. Understandably, this raises some ethical and practical questions
. What would you do differently if this test came back positive for yourself? Or for a parent? Here's the (paywalled) paper
, at Nature Medicine
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By timothy from Slashdot's zum-beispiel department
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from an intriguing article at TechDirt about the sometimes very low-tech methods of the East German Stasi. They may have been using more pencils than computers, but they were gathering information on their targets using the same kind of metadata whose significance the U.S. government has lately been downplaying: "They amassed dossiers on about one quarter of the population of the country during the Communist regime. But their spycraft — while incredibly invasive — was also technologically primitive by today's standards. While researching my book Dragnet Nation, I obtained the above hand drawn social network graph and other files from the Stasi Archive in Berlin, where German citizens can see files kept about them and media can access some files, with the names of the people who were monitored removed. The graphic shows forty-six connections, linking a target to various people (an 'aunt,' 'Operational Case Jentzsch,' presumably Bernd Jentzsch, an East German poet who defected to the West in 1976), places ('church'), and meetings ('by post, by phone, meeting in Hungary')."Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's School-Complaints-Lead-to-Chicago-Area-Shutdown-For-Social-App-Yik-Yak department
The Chicago Tribune reports that Yik Yak, a mobile app that can (among other things) be used for anonymous communications, has drawn complaints from several local schools, who are unhappy that students can use it to bully or pester others."'The problem, as you might imagine, is that the anonymity is empowering certain individuals to post comments about others that are hurtful, harassing and sometimes quite disturbing,' Joseph Ruggiero, head of the Upper School at Francis W. Parker School in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, wrote in an email to parents last week. ... In light of the controversy, Yik Yak's co-founder said the company was disabling the app in the Chicago area and will attempt to specifically prevent it from being used on high school or middle school grounds."Read Replies (0)