• Schools anxious over state broadband uncertainty

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho school officials say the statewide broadband Internet service is influencing almost every aspect of their students' education, but a recent court battle has put the service in jeopardy. The Idaho Statesman (http://bit.ly/1wTC2Xm ) reports that students at schools like Kuna Middle School depend on the high-speed Internet access for classroom assignments and for taking statewide achievement tests. However, a November court ruling called the state's $60 million broadband contract illegal. State officials like Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna have voiced their support of continuing the service but the future of Idaho's broadband is unknown.

  • Corn industry cautiously optimistic about China's market opening

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    China’s Ministry of Agriculture took U.S. exporters by surprise Wednesday, suddenly re-approving the import of Sygenta’s GM corn variety known as MIR 162. The Asian nation also approved imports of two varieties of biotech soybeans from DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience, confirmed U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the U.S.-China trade forum in Chicago. U.S. corn exports have been effectively blocked from China since November 2013, following the detection of Syngenta’s MIR 162 in a shipment sent by Cargill grain exporters. Although MIR 162 is approved for planting in the U.S., it had not yet been approved for distribution in China. Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co.

  • Jackson County holds off enforcement of GMO ban

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Jackson County won't be enforcing the ban on genetically modified crops approved by voters last May until a lawsuit filed by alfalfa famers is resolved. The Mail Tribune (vhttp://bit.ly/1wUiHVP) reports an agreement to that effect has been filed in federal court in Medford. The ban was to go into effect in June. The ballot measure was put up by organic farmers fearful that genetically modified sugar beets grown for seed by the Swiss biotech giant Syngenta would contaminate organic crops. A spokesman for Syngenta did not return calls for comment about its status in Jackson County. OSU Extension Service administrator Phil Van Buskirk says he is not aware of anyone now growing GMO sugar b

  • Obama: Debate to lift Cuban trade embargo not expected soon

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says it will likely be a while before Capitol Hill begins a debate about possibly lifting the trade embargo with Cuba, which must be done by Congress. Obama spoke Friday during his year-end news conference, shortly before he was leaving the White House for a Hawaii vacation. The news conference came two days after the president made the surprise announcement that he was moving to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba after half a century of Cold War acrimony. Obama has said it's clear that isolating Cuba has not worked. He says changes in Cuba could come quickly, or slower than he would like to see, but that change will come.

  • Time Warner Cable hikes customer fees for sports channels, Internet modems

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Time Warner Cable will soon charge its 15 million customers for watching sports as the major cable provider tries compensating for the rising costs of broadcasting local channels and athletic programming. Effective Jan. 1, the cable company will charge subscribers a new $2.75-per-month fee for sports programming. Other changes include a 9-month-old broadcasting TV surcharge increasing from $2.25 to $2.76 per month, and an $8-per-month Internet modem lease, up from $5.99. Subscribers who pay for HBO movie channels selectively on an “a la carte” basis will see those rates increase on their bills from $14.99 to $16.99. But, customers who get those channels as part of a package deal will not be charged mor

  • Court: Internet phone providers must pay phone tax

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Companies that provide Internet-based phone service must be taxed the same as traditional telephone companies, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday. Voice over Internet Protocol providers operate "telephone lines" even though their calls are initially transmitted through broadband networks, the court ruled 6-0. The ruling means they are subject to annual state property tax assessments on telephone companies, which are calculated based on the size of their service networks. The ruling comes amid an ongoing debate on whether VoIP should be regulated differently than other phone service. Verizon and AT&T have been lobbying Iowa lawmakers to deregulate VoIP, saying it would spur investment in technology an

  • Security flaws allow global cellular eavesdropping

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    BERLIN (AP) — Security flaws in a system used by cellphone carriers around the world could open the door to wide-ranging surveillance of mobile phone traffic, according to a German researcher who discovered the problem. The issue affects a telecommunications standard called Signaling System 7, or SS7, which is used by carriers to manage connections between cellular networks. The Berlin-based Security Research Lab, which discovered the problem in August, said a skilled person could exploit the flaws to eavesdrop on the phone calls, text messages and data traffic of billions of people.

  • 5 reasons the Wii U won the console war in our house

    Richard Hall | Published: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    The console war is a messy one, but the Wii U stood out amidst the competition. Here's why.

  • Cyprus: initial offshore drilling finds no gas

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Cyprus' Energy Ministry says initial exploratory drilling by an Italian-Korean consortium off Cyprus' southern coast has failed to find significant quantities of gas. The ministry said Friday that the SAIPEM 10000 rig belonging to the Eni-Kogas consortium drilled to a depth of 5,800 meters (19,000 feet) without success. The ministry said new drilling will begin elsewhere inside an area, or block, where Cyprus has licensed the consortium to search for fossil fuels. The consortium had identified six potential gas fields inside the block. Cyprus has also licensed France's Total and U.S. firm Noble Energy to search for offshore gas.

  • Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans broadly back tight regulations on commercial drone operators, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll, as concerns about privacy and safety override the potential benefits of the heralded drone revolution. The FAA is expected to propose restricting drones weighing less than 55 pounds to flights under 400 feet high, forbid nighttime flights, and require drones be kept within sight of their operators. It also may require drone operators to get pilot's licenses, which would be controversial. Critics say the skills needed to fly a manned aircraft are different from those needed to operate a drone.

  • Children's Hospital settles over data breach

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    BOSTON (AP) — Boston Children's Hospital has agreed to pay $40,000 and bolster its patient data security following a data breach that compromised the personal information of more than 2,100 patients, the state attorney general's office announced Friday. The judgment, entered in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges the hospital failed to protect the health information of the patients, about 1,700 of whom were children. The data — including names, birthdates, diagnoses and surgery dates — was on a hospital-issued unencrypted laptop stolen from a doctor on official business in Argentina in May 2012. The information had been sent in an email from a colleague.

  • Amazon, Macmillan reach multiyear deal

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Another major publisher has reached a multiyear deal with Amazon.com. Amazon and Macmillan CEO John Sargent confirmed this week that they had agreed to terms for both print and electronic books. The deal will allow Macmillan to set prices for e-books, an arrangement known as the "agency model," and appears similar to agreements Amazon reached in the past two months with Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster. Authors at Macmillan range from Jonathan Franzen and Hilary Mantel to Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly.

  • Dropped your phone in water? The fix isn't rice

    Published: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    Dropped your mobile phone in the toilet? Forget the urban myth about sticking it in rice. But there is hope, in the form of a pair of competing companies that use a combination of vacuum and low heat to vaporize the water out of devices. The methods, these companies say, get water-impaired electronics up and running — with their data and settings intact, USA TODAY reports. TekDry and competitor DryBox offer a similar service: place your device inside the kiosk and wait for a few minutes as a vacuum pump depressurizes the container and low heat helps boil away the water vapor. It can dry out cell phones, laptops and other electronics in as little as 20 minutes, for about $20.

  • FBI confirms North Korea behind Sony hack

    Published: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    The FBI confirmed Friday that North Korea was behind the cyber attacks on Sony Pictures, according to USA TODAY. "As a result of our investigation, and in close collaboration with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, the FBI now has enough information to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,'' a FBI statement said. "While the need to protect sensitive sources and methods precludes us from sharing all of this information, our conclusion is based, in part, on similarities in specific lines of code, encryption algorithms, data deletion methods, and compromised networks."

  • Smashing Pumpkins' Corgan looks ahead, not back

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    LONDON (AP) — The Smashing Pumpkins are dead. Long live the Smashing Pumpkins. It's fair to say lead singer Billy Corgan has an ambivalent relationship with his band — as well as with the music industry, the media, fellow musicians and his fans. "People say, 'Are you going to break up the band?'" Corgan said backstage before a recent London show. "What band is there to break up? There is no band." Corgan may be the Pumpkins' only remaining original member, but the non-band has just released its eighth studio album, "Monuments to an Elegy." A slice of grungy pop-rock featuring guitarist Jeff Schroeder, who joined the Pumpkins in 2007, and Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, it's received good reviews — though not good

  • New exhibit at rocket center honors pioneering scientist

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — It sounds like a dream: an engine that can run for a thousand days without stopping and propel a spacecraft to the farthest reaches of the solar system on less than 1,000 pounds of fuel. But it's real, it's called ion or electric propulsion, NASA is already using it, and one of its early pioneers worked with Wernher von Braun in Huntsville in the 1950s and '60s. This week, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center honored the early ion propulsion work of Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger with a new exhibit featuring ion spacecraft models he designed. "It was really quite visionary, the technology he was developing," space center curator Ed Stewart said Thursday.

  • Stephen Colbert retires his 'Report' and the host he played

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    NEW YORK (AP) — Stephen Colbert is dead. Stephen Colbert is immortal? Long live Stephen Colbert! Nine years of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" came to an end Thursday night along with its mythical presiding pundit, as the real-life Stephen Colbert bade the audience farewell. He was last seen gliding through the clouds in the backseat of Santa's sleigh beside Alex Trebek (don't ask). Before that, after offing the Grim Reaper and declaring himself immortal (don't ask), he led a glorious singalong in the studio with a room of luminaries ranging from "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart, Andy Cohen and Big Bird to George Lucas, Arianna Huffington and Henry Kissinger.

  • Hack attack spurs call for more NKorea sanctions

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Suspicions that North Korea was behind a destructive hacking attack against Sony Pictures and a threat against movie theaters are intensifying calls for tougher U.S. steps to cut that country's access to hard currency and declare it once more as a state sponsor of terrorism. At first glance, U.S. options for responding to the hacking attack are limited. Bringing the shadowy hackers to justice appears a distant prospect. A U.S. cyber-retaliation against North Korea would risk a dangerous escalation. And North Korea is already targeted by a raft of sanctions over its nuclear weapons program.

  • Gift Guide: Strong photo, video gear options

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    ATLANTA (AP) — What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon, GoPro and Domke. ___ — Nikon D750 camera ($2,300 body only; $3,000 kit with 24-120mm lens): I couldn't find anything to complain about the D750 after spending a few weeks with it. The handsome digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR, deserves the accolades it has received so far. Under the hood is a full-frame, 24.3 megapixel sensor capable of capturing sharp images rich with a solid range of accurate color and tonal quality. The D750 can shoot full high-definition video at 60 frames per second — crucial for any kind of slow-motion work. I was most impressed with the color pur

  • Auschwitz victim suitcases get high-tech storage

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Auschwitz museum says some of the victims' 3,800 suitcases have been put into a state-of-the-art protective storage room partly funded by the European Union. Spokesman Pawel Sawicki told The Associated Press on Friday that 1,800 suitcases have been placed into air-conditioned, fireproof storage cupboards tailored to fit the various sizes of luggage. Another 2,000 suitcases are on display but will be rotated into the storage room. Many of the suitcases are signed by their owners. One is from Else Sara Ury, a German-language Jewish author of children's books popular in Germany in the 1920s and '30s. She died in an Auschwitz gas chamber in 1943. More than 1.