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Deals of the Day (4-17-2014)

Liliputing -

If you’re looking for an affordable Chrome laptop with long battery life and decent performance, Acer’s C720 line of Chromebooks sells for $199 to $299 offer pretty great performance for the price. But if you’re looking for something really cheap, Acer’s offering refurbished versions of last year’s model at even lower prices. Today you can pick up […]

Deals of the Day (4-17-2014) is a post from: Liliputing

Kiev: Military operation in Ukraine southeast to go on despite Geneva agreement

RT -

Soon after the Geneva document, adopted at a four-side meeting between Ukraine, the US, the EU and Russia, was published, Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchytsa said Kiev is not bound by its recommendations.

According to Deshchytsa cited by RIA Novosti, “the troops in the East of the country are carrying out a special operation and can remain where they are.”

This comes despite the statement issued by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry following the meeting, which says:

“All sides have pledged to refrain from any form of violence, intimidation or provocative actions. The participants of the meeting strongly condemned and rejected all forms of extremism, racism and religious intolerance, including manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

Deshchytsa said the Ukrainian side has agreed on “joint efforts” with Russia “to start the process of de-escalation in eastern Ukraine.”

Speaking after the four-side meeting, US Secretary of State John Kerry also gave an assurance that the Ukrainian authorities are ready to ensure “inclusive and transparent” constitutional reform. All regions of Ukraine will be included in the work towards this reform, he said.

Ukraine will take de-escalation measures in the coming days, Kerry claimed, adding that Washington will “watch that very closely.”

“All of this, we are convinced, represents a good day’s work, but on the other hand, this day’s work has produced principles, and it has produced commitments and it has produced words on paper. And we are the first to understand and agree that words on paper will only mean what the actions taken as a result of those words produce,” Kerry said.

The top US diplomat again threatened Russia with “additional sanctions, additional costs as a consequence,” if there is no progress in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, he hinted some sanctions may be lifted if the de-escalation process goes well.

All sides of the conflict in Ukraine must refrain from violence and provocations, Kerry stressed. International meetings on Ukraine should continue, he said.

Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS Trusty Tahr Released

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes with this announcement: "Ubuntu Linux version 14.04 LTS (code named "Trusty Tahr") has been released and available for download. This updated version includes the Linux kernel v3.13.0-24.46, Python 3.4, Xen 4.4, Libreoffice 4.2.3, MySQL 5.6/MariaDB 5.5, Apache 2.4, PHP 5.5, improvements to AppArmor allow more fine-grained control over application, and more. The latest release of Ubuntu Server is heavily focused on supporting cloud and scale-out computing platforms such as OpenStack, Docker, and more. As part of the wider Ubuntu 14.04 release efforts the Ubuntu Touch team is proud to make the latest and greatest touch experience available to our enthusiast users and developers. You can install Ubuntu on Nexus 4 Phone (mako), Nexus 7 (2013) Tablet (flo), and Nexus 10 Tablet (manta) by following these instructions. On a hardware front, ARM multiplatform support has been added, enabling you to build a single ARM kernel image that can boot across multiple hardware platforms. Additionally, the ARM64 and Power architectures are now fully supported. See detailed release note for more information here and a quick upgrade to a newer version of Ubuntu is possible over the network."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Why are diamonds clear, but coal black?

Boing Boing -

When Superman wants to super impress Lois Lane, he takes a lump of coal and squeezes it in his super fist until it becomes a diamond. Which is super.

Unfortunately, it’s not a scientifically accurate analogy for the creation of diamonds in nature. So when journalist Stephen Ornes’ 6-year-old son, Sam, asks how coal, which is black, can turn into diamonds, which are clear, there are actually a couple of issues we have to address. First, we need to know where diamonds actually come from. Then, even though diamonds aren’t coal, you’re still left with the basic question Sam is trying to get at—why can pure carbon be black under some circumstances and clear under others? Turns out, the answer has a lot to do with why life, itself, is based on carbon.

Coal is the compressed remains of ancient plants, dinosaur swamps sitting in the palm of your hand. But there are diamonds that are older than terrestrial plants. That fact alone should tell you that diamonds are not actually made from compressed coal. Instead, diamonds are probably formed deep in the Earth—much further down than the levels at which we find coal—where heat and pressure fuse atoms of carbon together into crystalline structures. Later, those crystals get vomited up from the depths with the help of volcanic vents. (You can read more about where diamonds really come from in a post I wrote back in 2012.)

It’s important to make the distinction between diamonds and coal because, if you don’t, then Sam’s question earns a misleadingly simple answer. Diamonds and coal are different colors because coal isn’t pure carbon. The stuff is loaded with impurities: Hydrogen, sulfur, mercury, and more. There’s a reason you don’t want to live next door to a coal-fired power plant and that reason is all the nasty stuff that gets released when the carbon in coal burns.

But that doesn’t mean pure carbon always looks like diamonds. As an example, George Bodner, professor of chemical education at Purdue University, points to carbon black—the black stuff you see when you burn something in the flame of a candle. Another good example, this one from David McMillin, a Purdue professor of inorganic chemistry, is graphite. Like diamond, graphite is carbon. Unlike diamond, it’s a shimmery, silvery black. So what gives?

This is where things get complicated, because the differences between diamonds and carbon black, or diamonds and graphite, happen at the molecular level.

Think about the illustration of an atom—the big ball of a nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons whirling through shells designated by energy level. An atom of carbon has six electrons. Two in the lowest shell, closest to the nucleus, and four in the second shell. The lowest shell can only hold two electrons, so, for carbon, that shell is full and stable—an old married couple with a minivan and a cat. But the second shell can hold eight electrons, and carbon only has half that number. That means the electrons in carbon’s outer shell are on the market. They can attract electrons from other atoms, swap and share, binding the atoms together and forming new molecules.

Once that happens, an idea called molecular orbital theory comes into play, because becoming part of a molecule seems to change how electrons go about their business. You can’t think of a molecule of two atoms as a couple of nuclei planets, each with its proprietary electron satellites still distinctly circling. Instead, the electrons of both atoms merge to the point that, when we talk about orbits, we’re talking about molecular orbits now, not atomic ones.

There are two types of molecular orbits, pi bonds and sigma bonds, and each of those has a bond and an antibond. (You can imagine them as twins, one of whom has an inherently evil moustache.) It’s the difference in bonding that makes diamonds clear and other forms of pure carbon black.

Diamonds are entirely constructed from sigma bonds. When two carbon atoms come together to form diamond, the electrons are snugly held, right in between the nuclei. The sigma bond is a tight bond. In molecular chemistry, the tightest bonds happen at the lowest orbitals … the lowest energy levels. So if your bond is very low energy, then its evil twin—the antibond—must be the opposite. Very, very high energy.

Why does this make the diamond clear? The secret is in that big difference between the bond and the antibond. When a photon of light energy slams into a stable material, it can pass through it, be absorbed, or be scattered back in the direction it came from. The net energy (or wavelength) of that photon is a critical factor. When a bunch of atoms are as tightly joined as the ones in a diamond, the photon has to have a lot of energy to be absorbed and excite an electron into an antibonding level; it’s like throwing a bowling ball at a brick wall. A molecule of diamond is like the wall. And by the time you get out the heavy construction equipment and hit that wall with enough force to take a piece out of it … well, that little piece is also going to contain a lot more energy. In this case of the photon is outside the relatively low-energy spectrum of visible light.

So it’s not really that diamonds are clear—that they don’t absorb any of the light that hits them. It’s that our eyes can’t see the colors of really high energy photons. “If you looked at it with UV eyes, you’d see something different,” McMillin said.

In graphite, on the other hand, one quarter of the bonds are pi bonds. In a pi bond, the electrons have a little bit more leeway, like toddlers on a tether. They’re still tightly held, but the nuclei don’t confine them so much and they roam more through the material. And the difference between the bond and the antibond is less extreme. If a sigma bond is a brick wall, the pi electrons are more like bowling pins. Relatively low energy photons can energize them. In fact, graphite virtually absorbs every colored photon in the visible spectrum. None come through or scatter back toward us and we therefore see black. (It’s worth noting that this absorption isn’t like a black hole, where energy has almost no chance of escaping. Instead, in graphite, the energy is absorbed, but then exits again in a changed state—as much smaller bundles of heat energy.)

The difference between sigma-bonded diamonds—which throw off photons outside the spectrum of visible light—and pi-bonded graphite—which absorbs all colors of visible light is extreme. The fact that both are carbon is pretty important, because it means that carbon is extremely versatile. And that, George Bodner said, is what makes carbon such a great element to build life around. “You need strong bonds because you want this thing held together. But there are also times when you want it to, under right conditions, to open up or react. Carbon is so good at that, better than anybody else. And life on this planet evolved around that.”

Photo: Shutterstock

This is why US farmers are closely monitoring Ukrainian conflict

RT -

According to McClatchy DC, the upheaval in Ukraine has many farmers and food producers bracing for possible disruptions in the country’s supply chain and ability to receive loans for planting. Meanwhile, any potential Western sanctions on Russia’s own wheat output could also have repercussions felt on American farms and elsewhere.

“This is a region where we have been facing stiff competition from Ukraine,” Thomas Sleight, the president and CEO of the U.S. Grains Council, said to the news service. “Longer term, everyone is waiting to see what effect credit availability will have on Ukrainian farmers’ willingness to plant and continue expanding their acreage of wheat and corn.”

Currently, Ukraine is the world’s third-largest corn exporter and the sixth-largest wheat exporter. Russian is the fifth-largest wheat exporter, and imports a significant amount of US corn and poultry products.

Ukraine’s rise in corn and wheat production – as well as Brazil’s – has coincided with a decline in growth in the United States, leading many to think it would become one of the US’ chief competitors. Previously, analysts predicted corn acreage in the US would continue to fall, but Ukraine’s recent instability may cause farmers to rethink that outcome and plant more corn.

If the ongoing conflict continues or escalates, it could result in higher grain and corn prices across the globe. As noted by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, wheat prices rose three percent to their highest level in two weeks on Monday, and have risen 12 percent since the start of 2014.

"The rising tensions have people concerned about their ability to sell into the world market, and that the U.S. may get some of that business," said Brian Hoops, the president of brokerage Midwest Market Solutions to the Journal. "Ukraine farmers are also struggling with the ability to secure input financing to plant another wheat crop."

Complicating the situation is the fact that a lack of rain across the American Great Plains region, which has seen only small rainfall in the last six months, also restricts future wheat growth.

Since both the Russian ruble and Ukrainian hyrvnia have declined against the US dollar – 10 percent and 35 percent, respectively – there’s also concern that not only will US products become too expensive to import, but also that farmers in those countries will sit on their own crops until their currency rises again. If that’s the case, it could mean restricted global supplies and even higher prices.

So far, however, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council spokesman Toby Moore said there’s no indication that is what’s happening – an important sigh considering Russia is the US’ second-largest importer of poultry.

“As far as our members are concerned, it’s pretty much been business as usual, no threats. They’re importing product,” he told McClatchy. “The bigger concern is the decline in the value of the ruble, which makes our products more expensive in Russia. But so far, so good.”

Hitman GO for iOS - a 3D boardgame

Boing Boing -

[Video Link] The graphics for Hitman GO are beautiful. I have not played it yet. Can someone who has please review it in the comments? Is it worth $5, plus all the in-app purchases required to move to the next chapters? Hitman GO is a turn-based puzzle game where you will strategically navigate fixed spaces on a grid to avoid enemies, infiltrate well-guarded locations and take out your target on beautifully rendered diorama-style set pieces. Hitman GO

Growing Pot Got These Siblings As Much Prison Time As Driving Drunk And Killing Someone

Socialism OnLine! -

URL: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/15/siblings-pot-missouri-prison-time-driving-drunk-killing-someone_n_5052094.html

Growing Pot Got These Siblings As Much Prison Time As Driving Drunk And Killing Someone. In Missouri, if you kill someone while driving drunk, you could go to prison for -- at most -- 15 years. That's what Natalie and David DePriest are serving -- for growing marijuana. Police found 12 mature plants and eight sprouts in their condo, and when the pair went to court, the judge issued the maximum sentence.

Topic(s): Geography:  Vote Up/Down

How to introduce open source to your public library

LXer -

I was intrigued to read this recent article in The Guardian about public libraries’ new role as community problem solvers. If you read carefully into this article you’ll notice the author talks about libraries becoming more involved with "proactive community engagement."This means that libraries are looking to community members as partners to help solve community problems. In the open source community, we’re familiar with how well these methods can work. In open source, different players contribute to group projects according to their own personal strengths. The results can be far greater than anyone originally imagines.

Members of Congress will continue to receive free copies of Hustler

RT -

Every lawmaker in the United States Senate and House of Representatives has been sent a copy of Larry Flynt’s adult magazine since 1983, and the following year the publisher even went to court with the US Postal Service after 260 congressmen complained.

Thirty years later, Hustler spokesperson Arthur Sando now tells the National Journal that he’s sure some of those monthly issues aren’t being enjoyed as much as other unsolicited mail, but the magazine shows no sign of stopping.

"We assume, at this point, that staff members are either reading it or tossing it,” Sando told the Journal’s Matt Vasilogambros.

According to Vasilogambros, in fact, many House and Senate staffers have actually found their own, unique ways of getting use from the monthly delivery.

On Thursday, the National Journal printed a handful of examples from congressional staff members who explained anonymously how they handle what has simply become routine for many.

“I let interns know they will receive an interesting magazine and they should just throw it away,” one unnamed staffer told Vasilogambros.

“I ‘forget’ to mention it to interns and wait to watch the look of horror on their face when they open it in a congressional office,” said another.

Others, however, have put a bit more effort into their monthly magazine pranking.

“I have a friend that I asked one day if he liked to read,” recalled another anonymous staffer. “He said, ‘Sure, I read a bit.’ Since then, I have sent him every random book our office has received, including a couple Hustlers for some refreshing material. He still has no idea it's me.”

“For a while, the interns, after their initial shock and befuddlement, were directed to save the Hustlers,” added another. “We eventually gave a coworker the whole year's supply for Secret Santa and then she would mail them to her boyfriend in Iraq. Certainly one of the least-heralded ways the office supported our troops.”

More than three decades ago, Flynt began sending the complimentary copies of his controversial magazine, accompanied at first with a letter saying they were being mailed so that congressmembers would be "well informed on all social issues and trends."

“I felt that they should be informed with what's going on in the rest of the world,” Flynt recalled to the Salt Lake Tribune in a 2006 interview. “Some of them didn't appreciate it much.”

The US District Court for the District of Columbia said in 1986 that Flynt couldn’t be stopped from sending the copies because “An order prohibiting even just the mailing of Hustler to Congress would deny our ‘profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open....,’” quoting from an earlier, precedent-setting case.

“Unlike solicitations sent to the home, mailings to Congress may contribute, for better or worse, to public dialogue and discussion,” the court ruled.

Lavrov: Russia, US, EU, Ukraine agree on de-escalation roadmap

RT -

The document calls for an “immediate start of a nationwide national dialogue within the framework of the constitutional process, which must be inclusive and accountable,” Lavrov said.

The most important agreement reached during the talks, according to Lavrov, states that the Ukrainian crisis “must be resolved by the Ukrainians themselves concerning an end to the conflict” including those related to “detaining protesters, occupying buildings” and, in the long run “the start of true constitutional reform.”

“Among the steps that have to be taken are: the disarmament of all the illegal armed groups, and the return of all the occupied administrative buildings,” Lavrov told journalists at the Thursday briefing.

“An amnesty for all the protesters must take place, except of those who committed grave crimes,” the Foreign Minister added.

Full Geneva statement on Ukraine http://t.co/DLxGzv1ylq pic.twitter.com/CQ7gBejUBu

— Stuart Millar (@stuartmillar159) April 17, 2014

The issue of illegal armed groups and seized buildings concerns all the regions of Ukraine, Lavrov stressed.

“It is impossible to solve the problem of illegally seized buildings in one region of Ukraine when the illegally seized buildings are not freed in another,” he said.

“Those who took power in Kiev as a result of a coup - if they consider themselves as representing the interests of all the Ukrainians - must show the initiative, extend a friendly hand to the regions, listen to their concerns, and sit down with them at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said the document does not give any guidelines on the future political system of Ukraine.

“We did not use any terms… There are federations where the rights of the regions are limited, and there are unitary states in name only where the regions have broad authority,” he explained.

The goal of the meeting was to send a signal to the Ukrainians that they are responsible for stability in the country and must ensure that “each region can protect its history and language,” Lavrov stressed.

“Only then will Ukraine be a strong state, a proverbial bridge between the East and the West,” Lavrov said.

The Russian side on Thursday provided US and EU representatives with documents passed on from south-eastern Ukrainians, which contain “a thorough vision of how their interests should be reflected in the new [Ukrainian] constitution.”

The OSCE’s (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) monitoring mission must play “the leading role” in assisting the Ukrainian authorities to resolve the crisis, Lavrov stressed, adding that Russia “will support” the mission’s work.

The Geneva meeting has given Russia “hopes” that “the US and the EU are genuinely interested in a trilateral cooperation with Russia aimed at convincing the Ukrainian to sit down at the negotiation table,” Lavrov said.

According to the Russian top diplomat, the Americans now have a “decisive influence” on the Kiev authorities, which should be used for resolving the crisis.

Russia “does not want to send any troops to Ukraine,” Lavrov stressed, answering journalists’ questions. Moscow’s chief concern is that the rights of all the Ukrainian regions, including those with Russian-speaking majorities, must be taken into account in the constitutional reform.

“We have absolutely no wish to send our troops to Ukraine, to the territory of a friendly state, to the land of a brotherly nation. This is against the fundamental interests of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov said.

Calling the recent NATO statements on Ukraine’s neutrality “unacceptable,” Lavrov stressed that pushing for changes in the country’s non-aligned status will “undermine the efforts to resolve the crisis” in Ukraine.

“The fact that Ukraine has chosen non-aligned status and enshrined it in its law must be respected by all and there should not be any attempts to doubt it or to erode its meaning,” the Russian Foreign Minister stressed.

Ahead of the quadrilateral talks, Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry, while EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton saw Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andrey Deshchytsa. Both meetings were held behind closed doors.

Tor Blacklisting Exit Nodes Vulnerable To Heartbleed

Slashdot -

msm1267 (2804139) writes "The Tor Project has published a list of 380 exit relays vulnerable to the Heartbleed OpenSSL vulnerability that it will reject. This comes on the heels of news that researcher Collin Mulliner of Northeastern University in Boston found more than 1,000 vulnerable to Heartbleed where he was able to retrieve plaintext user traffic. Mulliner said he used a random list of 5,000 Tor nodes from the Dan.me.uk website for his research; of the 1,045 vulnerable nodes he discovered, he recovered plaintext traffic that included Tor plaintext announcements, but a significant number of nodes leaked user traffic in the clear."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


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