Discovery sues over Kindle infringing patent

On the heels of a legal controversy surrounding the Kindle 2’s text-to-speech feature, Discovery Communications has now filed what appears to be a pretty solid lawsuit against Amazon claiming infringement on an e-book patent filed 10 years ago.

They worked very hard to make it as bullet proof as possible,” said David Lowry, an intellectual property attorney. “They prepared this patent to sue people…”

Interestingly enough, the patent filed in 1999 was approved in November of 2007, the same month that the first Kindle launched. And all of the hype and sales estimates have likely encouraged Discovery to finally take action…

It doesn’t appear as if Discovery’s motive is getting into the e-book or electronics businesses either, as they are predominantly a media and content company. But Discovery founder John S. Hendricks actually did quite a bit of work in the ’90s that would seem ahead of his time surrounding the digitization of media.

Hendricks really was ahead of his time. If your background included working with and for industries where patents were critical – you kept track of absolutely everything. Which he apparently did.

Newborn left behind on NZ plane – more than an ‘oops!”

New Zealand police are investigating whether a woman abandoned her baby after giving birth aboard a flight to Auckland from Samoa.

Initial reports say the woman, believed to be a 30-year-old Samoan, left the baby on the plane upon landing.

The baby was found by an airline worker in a toilet compartment more than an hour later, local media reported.

Mother and child have since been reunited and are being cared for in hospital, an airline statement said.

The woman was trying to exit the airport but had misplaced her passport, New Zealand TV quoted airport sources as saying.

When she sought the help of the authorities, they noticed she was pale and her clothing was blood-stained.

The newborn was found shortly afterwards by an airline worker. One source said the baby was found in the toilet rubbish bin.

There are many flavors of post-partum dementia. Be glad that everything appears to have worked out OK – so far. I hope she gets sufficient care over the next few months at a minimum.

Tony Blair has finally lost it

Political leaders have to “do God” if they are to engage properly with the modern world, even if they personally have no religious faith, says former prime minister Tony Blair.

Blair was notoriously reticent about discussing his own religious faith while prime minister, with his head of communications, Alastair Campbell, once famously saying: “We don’t do God.”

But since leaving Downing Street, Blair has converted to Catholicism and become increasingly open about the importance of religion to his thinking.

Which means he’s admitting the truth about something. For a change.

Writing in the New Statesman – guest-edited this week by Campbell – he suggested that even while still in office he felt that religion was a key to understanding the modern world. And he suggested that religious faith might be as significant to the new century as political ideology was to the last.

Blair said: “As the years of my premiership passed, one fact struck me with increasing force: that failure to understand the power of religion meant failure to understand the modern world.

Surely, there can be a place somewhere inside the convoluted construction of half-truths and agit-prop that politicians thrive upon – for truth, honesty, science and reality? Please!

After all, religion is just one of the oldest of failed ideologies that’s still hanging around.

Biohacking for fun and profit

Meredith Patterson is not your typical genetic scientist. Her laboratory is based in the dining room of her San Francisco apartment. She uses a plastic salad spinner as a centrifuge and Ziploc plastic bags as airtight containers for her samples. But the genetically modified organism (GMO) she is attempting to create on a budget of less than $500 could provide a breakthrough in food safety.

The 31-year-old ex-computer programmer and now biohacker is working on modifying jellyfish genes and adding them to yoghurt to detect the toxic chemical melamine, which was found in baby milk in China last year after causing a number of deaths, and kidney damage to thousands of infants. Her idea is to engineer yoghurt so that in the presence of the toxin it turns fluorescent green, warning the producer that the food is contaminated. If her experiment is successful, she will release the design into the public domain.

I haven’t had a huge amount of success so far,” says Patterson. “But science is often about failing until you get it right.” She has decided to invest in an electro porator she found on eBay for $150, which should speed things up. “It’s actually not that hard. It’s a bit like making yoghurt. And if there’s material left over from the experiment, I can eat it,” she says.

Patterson is just one of dozens of citizen scientists setting up their own gene laboratories in the hope of inventing new and useful organisms. A community is evolving to take advantage of low-cost, off-the-shelf genetic parts and increasing knowledge in biological engineering. International competitions such as the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) and io9 Mad Science contest have already produced a number of stars, with practical innovations in medicine, agriculture and biocomputing.

Yes, the tinfoil-hat brigade is already up in arms!

Continue reading

Bush memoir in the works


Former U.S. President George Bush’s memoir will include defining moments such as how he found faith and how he chose his running mate.

A contract with Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, was to be announced Thursday, Politico reported.

The tentatively titled “Decision Points” traces the former president’s early life leading up to his decision to run for president of the United States, with the final chapter centering on the financial crisis.

“He wanted to do something different — less conventional and chronological, not an exhaustive history,” one person told the Washington publication.

A coloring book would be more appropriate.

We must be doing something right. Saudis whine about future income.

Daylife/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi King and his cousin Dickie

Strict measures across the world to act against climate change could seriously affect the economies of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

Countries talking about reducing dependence on oil could impact our economy,” Mohammad al-Sabban of the Saudi ministry of petroleum told an OPEC energy conference…

“We are ready to bear our fair share of cost of addressing climate change but no more,” said Sabban…a senior economic adviser at the Saudi oil ministry.

He cited an independent study by consultants Charles Rivers, which stated that policies to mitigate climate change could remove 5-20 percent of Saudi and other Gulf countries’ GDP.

“Efforts to cut CO2 and at the same time reduce energy dependency on imported oil “is a very serious behavior that could impact our economy,” he said.

The fact that the rest of the world may save on their energy production – may build a better world for future generations to live in – seems not to have sunk into the brain of this particular kingly servant.

So much for “work that Americans won’t do”


Wages and employment increased for legal workers after raids on six Swift & Co. meat-packing plants in several U.S. states in 2006.

Noting that the plants raided were back in production within five months, Jerry Kammer of the Center for Immigration Studies said there was “good evidence” that the number of U.S.-born workers increased, concluding that the plants “could operate without the presence of illegal workers,” The Hill reported.

The non-partisan center examined what happened after raids on Swift & Co. facilities in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Utah, in which 1,300 undocumented workers were arrested. Another 400 workers without authorization to work in the United States were found through company screening.

“At the four facilities for which we were able to obtain information, wages and bonuses rose on average 8 percent with the departure of illegal immigrants,” Kammer said.

In fact, over the course of the last decade of employers in meat-packing bringing in illegals as scabs, average wages dropped at least 40%. Did they give you any price cuts at the supermarket?

Kentucky counties fined for posting Commandments in courthouses

Two southern Kentucky counties where officials posted copies of the Ten Commandments in courthouses have been ordered by a federal judge to pay more than $400,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union and citizens who successfully challenged the displays.

Judge Coffman’s decision is the latest ruling in a court fight that began a decade ago. The counties don’t have to pay immediately because aspects of the case are still being appealed. But if the counties ultimately lose, taxpayers could be on the hook for the bill if insurance doesn’t cover it.

The counties argued to Coffman that the fee request from the ACLU was unreasonable. The attorneys spent too much time on some tasks such as legal research, billed for some things they shouldn’t have and sought fees that were too high, the counties argued.

Coffman disagreed on every point, ruling that the ACLU fee request was reasonable for a complex case that required 1,300 hours of work over 10 years. She also noted that the counties’ own actions ran up the legal bill in the case. The counties started the court battle by posting standalone copies of the Ten Commandments that were “indisputably unconstitutional” at the time, then fought all the way to the US supreme court to defend their actions, Coffman said.

“The defendants ‘cannot litigate tenaciously and then be heard to complain about the time necessarily spent … in response,'” Coffman wrote, citing an earlier court opinion.

Such schmucks. I know most of you agree about how tiresome these nutballs can be in their quest for theocratic rule of the United States. But, the egregious nature of people who whine about paying up for the cost of a battle they started themselves – and lost – is beyond tolerance.

Gates news conference: Stop-Loss will end

The military will phase out its “stop-loss” program, the contentious practice of holding troops beyond the end of their enlistments, for all but extraordinary situations, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced.

The decision to phase out stop loss by 2011 comes in combination with an announcement that soldiers affected by the program will receive a $500-a-month bonus while they are in extended service.

Currently, the Army is the only service that uses the stop-loss program. As of January, 13,217 soldiers had tours extended under the stop-loss policy.

Gates said the change is one he has wanted to implement since he became secretary of defense…

Gates also announced at a wide-ranging news conference that the Defense Department will pay for families of fallen troops to travel to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present for the return of their deceased family members.

The announcement about funding the trips to Dover comes as the Pentagon prepares to allow the media to record the return of fallen troops from overseas, if the families of the troops permit it…

He briefly talked about his own trip to Dover earlier this week, getting emotional as he described going to the back of the plane carrying the coffins.

“I went to the back of the plane by myself and spent time with each of the transfer cases,” he said, his voice beginning to choke up. “I think I’ll stop there.”

RTFA. More openness in this branch, this secretary of war, than there has been since you know when.