Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees

Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

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Major discovery bolsters Big Bang theory of universe

starry skyWashington (AFP) – Waves of gravity that rippled through space right after the Big Bang have been detected for the first time, in a landmark discovery that adds to our understanding of how the universe was born, US scientists said Monday.  The waves were produced in a rapid growth spurt 14 billion years ago, and were predicted in Albert Einstein’s nearly century-old theory of general relativity but were never found until now.

The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a theory that the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in barely the blink of an eye — was announced by experts at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  The detection was made with the help of a telescope called BICEP2, stationed at the South Pole, that measures the oldest light in the universe.  If confirmed by other experts, some said the work could be a contender for the Nobel Prize.

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Facebook buying 11,000 drones to connect Africa

Solara_50_drone

Facebook is in negotiations to buy a drone manufacturer with the aim of using its high-altitude autonomous aircraft to beam internet connections to isolated communities in Africa, according to reports.  The social networking company is one of the main backers of the internet.org project, which aims to connect the large parts of the world which remain offline.  Today, only 2.7 billion people – just over one-third of the world’s population – have access to the internet, according to Facebook. Other founding members include Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung.

 

Now TechCrunch reports that Facebook intends to buy the maker of advanced solar-powered drones which can remain in the air for up to five years at a time, in the hope that they can be modified to provide internet connectivity for those on the ground.  Titan Aerospace’s drones fly so high – up to 65,000 feet – that they can effectively operate as satellites with far lower operating costs, which the company calls “atmospheric parking”. The Solara 50 and 60 models can carry up to 100kg of equipment.

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Arizona border town sits atop 100 narco-tunnels

The Border Patrol keeps watch on this Arizona town with cameras, patrol cars and agents on foot in order to prevent the illegal entry of undocumented immigrants and drugs, so that traffickers have switched to sending their goods underground. Their 100 underground crossings make Nogales the narco-tunnel capital of the world.  In a town of almost 21,000 inhabitants, there are abandoned stores and houses very close to the border wall, which facilitates illegal excavations to bring drugs from the neighboring town of Nogales, Mexico.  ”What happens is that there are underground drainage systems in both of the Nogales cities, so trafficking organizations smuggle drugs through those drains to bring their contraband” into the U.S., Border Patrol spokesman Andres Adame said.  Authorities have found narco-tunnels under residential and commercial neighborhoods and public parking, which forced the city to remove all the parking meters that were on International street beside the border wall.  ”What they were doing was to park a car with no floor over an entry to the drains, crossed the packages over the border, put the cement cover back in place, and – you won’t believe this – they had a hydraulic jack,” Nogales Mayor Arturo Garino told Efe.

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1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.  The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.  To the question “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of those surveyed answered incorrectly.  In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion” and only 48 percent said “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”  Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.

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Astronomers fooled by shiny, but tiny, black hole

A bright black hole in the Pinwheel galaxy has been shining us on, astronomers say – this intergalactic trickster puts out light like a big black hole but it’s really quite tiny. M 101 ULX-1, described in the journal Nature, may force scientists to keep hunting for more “intermediate” black holes – and rethink their understanding of them.  Black holes are thought to be remains of dead stars whose entire mass has collapsed to a tiny point. They warp space-time so badly that not even light can escape. The small ones created by single stars can be up to roughly 30 times the mass of our sun. The supermassive ones at the centers of galaxies can be billions of solar masses.

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Going to Mars: Billionaire Dennis Tito plans manned mission with possible 2017 launch

orbitalcygnus

Billionaire Dennis Tito, tired of being told that we can’t send humans to Mars just yet, on Wednesday revealed his scheme for launching two astronauts to the red planet as early as December 2017.  Dubbed “Inspiration Mars,” the flyby mission would exploit a rare alignment of Earth and Mars that minimizes the time and the fuel it would take to get to Mars and back home again. The astronauts would come within 100 miles of the Martian surface before being slung back to Earth.  “It would be a voyage of around 800 million miles around the sun in 501 days,” Tito testified Wednesday at a hearing of the House subcommittee on space. “No longer is a Mars flyby mission just one more theoretical idea. It can be done. Not in a matter of decades, but in a few years.”

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How Somebody Forced the World’s Internet Traffic Through Belarus and Iceland

This is a deeply technical but potentially very troubling story. Imagine one day you’re using the Internet the same way you do every day. Reading the news, shopping, sending email, checking your bank and credit card balances. Maybe even doing some work for your employer.  Typically, but not always, the bits being sent from your computer, tablet or phone will flow from where you are to where they need to be via the most direct route available.  But what if they didn’t? What if someone slipped in between you and the various servers you’re connecting with and diverted your traffic elsewhere, funneling it through a choke point of their choosing, so they could capture, copy and analyze it? Your data takes some extra — and imperceptible — milliseconds to get where it’s going and ultimately everything you’re doing online works just fine. But your traffic has been hijacked by parties unknown and you’re none the wiser that it has happened.

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Satellite imagery reveals mystery ‘supergun’ in Chinese desert

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Satellite imagery has revealed two unusually large artillery pieces, measuring about 80 ft and 110 ft respectively, at a test centre for armour and artillery northwest of Baotou in China.  The two pieces, which are horizontally mounted, are mounted on a concrete pad that appeared between September 2010 and December 2011, when the two pieces were first captured by satellite imagery. Images provided by Astrium confirmed that the objects were still in place in July 2013.  The 2011 imagery clearly depicts a series of what appear to be targets in front of the 110 ft piece, suggesting some kind of penetration testing for high-velocity projectiles.

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Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across US, world

LOS ANGELES (AP) — It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church. Several hundred people, including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.  Nearly three dozen gatherings dubbed “atheist mega-churches” by supporters and detractors have sprung up around the U.S. and Australia – with more to come – after finding success in Great Britain earlier this year. The movement fueled by social media and spearheaded by two prominent British comedians is no joke.

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A Romanian Scientist Claims to Have Developed Artificial Blood

Science, in all its grand ambition and contemporary sophistication, doesn’t quite have what it takes yet to replicate anything like blood. It not only delivers oxygen and essential nutrients, but also serves a host of other functions crucial for our survival, such as fighting infections, healing injuries and regulating hormones.  So far, researchers have concentrated the bulk of their efforts on the more modest goal of creating something that can at least effectively carry out the vital role of transporting oxygen throughout the body.  This kind of “artificial blood” would be a useful substitute for critical circumstances such as medical emergencies, when the body can’t do this on its own. It could also be designed to be sterile, unlike real blood, which can be infected and infect others during a transfusion. And while donated blood requires refrigeration, a synthetic version could be made to last longer and be readily available for various life-or-death situations, even on the battlefield.

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Exclusive: ‘Jaw-dropping’ breakthrough hailed as landmark in fight against hereditary diseases as Crispr technique heralds genetic revolution

A breakthrough in genetics – described as “jaw-dropping” by one Nobel scientist – has created intense excitement among DNA experts around the world who believe the discovery will transform their ability to edit the genomes of all living organisms, including humans.  The development has been hailed as a milestone in medical science because it promises to revolutionise the study and treatment of a range of diseases, from cancer and incurable viruses to inherited genetic disorders such as sickle-cell anaemia and Down syndrome.  For the first time, scientists are able to engineer any part of the human genome with extreme precision using a revolutionary new technique called Crispr, which has been likened to editing the individual letters on any chosen page of an encyclopedia without creating spelling mistakes.

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China unveils moon rover for lunar mission set to launch in December

China-unveils-moon-roverSHANGHAI, Nov. 5 (UPI) — Officials in Shanghai have unveiled a moon rover they say will be launched with the Chang’e-3, China’s third lunar probe set to be fired into space next month.  Designed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, the six-wheeled rover is equipped with four cameras, and is designed to climb hills and cross over obstacles, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.  “It will move really slowly,” planning its route only after observing and detecting the surrounding environment, said Xiao Jie, one of the rover’s designers.  Two mechanical legs will dig into the moon’s surface to collect samples.  It will have a solar panel to generate electricity but is also equipped with a nuclear battery using plutonium-238 that can provide years of power, officials said.

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Ben Franklin Wasn’t Allowed to Write the Declaration of Independence Because They Thought He’d Sneak In Bad Jokes

Franklin Was the Best Writer … But He Was Also a Prankster

Today I Found Out notes:

Franklin was known for putting more subtle jokes in many of his other papers that only the most astute would spot. He was so famous for this that, according to Ormand Seavey, editor of Oxford’s edition of Ben Franklin’s autobiography, when they were deciding who should write the Declaration of Independence, they partially chose Jefferson over the significantly more qualified and respected Franklin, as some feared Franklin would embed subtle humor and satire in it that wouldn’t be recognized until it was too late to change. Knowing this document would likely be examined closely by the nations of the world at that time, they chose to avoid the issue by having the much less gifted writer, Jefferson, write it instead, with Franklin and three others to help Jefferson draft it.

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Puget Sound orcas circle ferry carrying artifacts

SEATTLE —A large pod of orcas swam around a Washington state ferry in an impressive display as it happened to be carrying tribal artifacts to a new museum at the ancestral home of Chief Seattle, and some people think it was more than a coincidence.  Killer whales have been thrilling whale watchers this week in Puget Sound, according to the Orca Network, which tracks sightings.  But they were especially exciting Tuesday when nearly three-dozen orcas surrounded the ferry from Seattle as it approached the terminal on Bainbridge Island. On board were officials from The Burke Museum in Seattle who were moving ancient artifacts to the Suquamish Museum.  The artifacts were dug up nearly 60 years ago from the site of the Old Man House, the winter village for the Suquamish tribe and home of Chief Sealth, also known as Chief Seattle. The Burke, a natural history museum on the University of Washington campus, is known for Northwest Coast and Alaska Native art.

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Greenland’s Rare Earths Gold Rush

Gravgaard_GreenlandRare2_650.jpgBenedikte Vahl, a retired schoolteacher, has just one hope for Narsaq, her hometown of colorful wooden houses on a fjord in southern Greenland: that a mine will open soon in nearby Kuannersuit, bringing badly needed jobs and investment. Times are so tough that, over the past five years, more than 600 of her neighbors have left an already small municipality of 7,000. Mining might be the last hope. “I see no other solution,” Vahl says.  Kuannersuit has long been of interest to geologists. It is filled with pretty stones such as the pink tugtupite (“reindeer blood” in Greenlandic) and is home to more than 200 rare minerals, 15 of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. But these days, all eyes are on the region’s so-called rare earth elements — raw materials essential to technology products such as cell phones, wind turbines, and hybrid cars. For years, China has held a near monopoly on the global supply, controlling an 85 percent share. (That figure is down from a high of 95 percent a year ago, thanks to U.S. and Australian efforts to start mining their own rare earths.) Kuannersuit contains as much as 10 million tons of such metals and could potentially produce 40,000 tons a year. In total, Greenland could potentially produce upward of 20 to 25 percent of the world’s supply.

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Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?

Japanese man and woman lean away from each otherAi Aoyama is a sex and relationship counsellor who works out of her narrow three-storey home on a Tokyo back street. Her first name means “love” in Japanese, and is a keepsake from her earlier days as a professional dominatrix. Back then, about 15 years ago, she was Queen Ai, or Queen Love, and she did “all the usual things” like tying people up and dripping hot wax on their nipples. Her work today, she says, is far more challenging. Aoyama, 52, is trying to cure what Japan‘s media calls sekkusu shinai shokogun, or “celibacy syndrome”.  Japan’s under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating, and increasing numbers can’t be bothered with sex. For their government, “celibacy syndrome” is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world’s lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060. Aoyama believes the country is experiencing “a flight from human intimacy” – and it’s partly the government’s fault.

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Pew study finds online dating growing in popularity, negative experiences ‘relatively’ common

NEW YORK —Online dating is shedding its stigma as a refuge for the desperate, but people who use sites such as Match.com and eHarmony are still in the minority.  Thirty-eight percent of Americans who are “single and looking” say they’ve used an online dating site or mobile dating app, according to a new study.  The report published Monday from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project suggests that attitudes toward online dating “have progressed in a clearly positive direction.” In fact, 59 percent of Internet users agree that online dating is a good way to meet people. That’s up from 44 percent in 2005.  As Americans shop, socialize and entertain themselves online, a growing number are turning to the Internet to find dates. Some 11 percent of people who started a long-term relationship in the past decade say they met their partner online. Even so, only 10 percent of Americans say they’ve tried online dating.

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Is Saddam Hussein’s fortune in a warehouse in Moscow? Mystery over £16.75bn piles of cash left at airport for six years

A cargo of 20billion euros in cash (£16.75billion) has lain unclaimed at a Moscow airport for six years amid allegations it could be the secret fortune of Saddam Hussein.  The stash, now under high security in a cargo depot, is held on 200 wooden pallets each worth 100 million euros, enough to keep the entire NHS going for almost two months.  Russian customs have demanded the real owner of the booty “presents himself” to claim the fortune, but while a number of bogus and unconvincing attempts have been made to obtain it, no-one has satisfied the authorities that they are the rightful recipient.  ‘It is possible that this is the money of Saddam Hussein,’ an anonymous intelligence source told Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.  The cash mountain, all in 100 euro notes, was flown to Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow from Frankfurt on 7 August 2007 and it has remained frozen there ever since.

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Hacking firm hints at cybercrime’s professional elite

LAST June, one of the world’s most advanced hacker groups hit a problem. The US defence contractor whose systems it wanted to access only allowed a small set of trusted IP addresses to connect to their network. In an unusual move – hackers typically go for the low-hanging fruit – the group hacked the company that provided the IP whitelisting service, enabling it to forge access certificates.  This group, which calls itself Hidden Lynx, was given a vague face last week when antivirus software-maker Symantec released a report profiling it. Believed to be based in China, the group is known only through traces of malicious software bearing its mark found in the compromised computers of some of the world’s largest companies.

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