November 8, 2013

Mortenson's book about education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Three Cups of Tea, has sold 4 million copies since it came out in 2006.     Photo: Viking/AP Images

"Three Cups of Tea" Author's Charity Owed $1.2 Million

Insurance company to pay in settlement

The Central Asia Institute—a charity co-founded by Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea (Penguin Books, 2006)—will receive $1.2 million from the Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company in a settlement over the costs of a lawsuit and an investigation into the Institute, attorneys told The Associated Press.

Mortenson and his charity faced legal troubles two years ago, when 60 Minutes and author Jon Krakauer published reports that Mortenson had mismanaged his non-profit and lied in his best-selling books, which recount his experiences building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and include the Three Cups sequel, Stones into Schools (Penguin Books, 2010).

Four readers filed a lawsuit claiming that Mortenson had lied to inflate sales, but it was tossed out by the district court, a ruling upheld by the appeals court. Still, Mortenson and his charity sustained $1.8 million in legal fees.

The Institute, whose mission is to promote education in Pakistan and Afghanistan, sued the insurance company on the basis that all defense costs should have been covered.

The $1.2 million settlement, finalized Wednesday, is awaiting approval by U.S. District Court. The parties have until December 6 to file dismissal papers.

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Super Typhoon Haiyan over Panay in the Philippines on Nov. 8, 2013.     Photo: NASA/Wikimedia

Super Typhoon Hits Philippines

235 mph winds recorded

The typhoon currently devastating the central Philippines is perhaps the strongest storm ever.

Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall early Friday morning and continues to move into four other Philippine islands across the archipelago. With sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts as strong as 235 mph, Haiyan easily meets the threshold for a Category 5 hurricane, the highest category on the scale.

“The intensification of Super Typhoon Haiyan is being fueled by ‘ideal’ environmental conditions—namely low wind shear and warm ocean temperatures,” The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reports.

It will take further analysis after the storm passes to establish whether it was a record, but the storm is already stronger than Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy when they made landfall in the United States. Hurricane Katrina's top wind speed was 120 mph, it was only Category 1 when it made landfall in Louisiana, and Sandy, a mere post-tropical cyclone, topped-out at 80 mph when it landed in New Jersery.

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Google Street View car     Photo: Seabamirum/Flickr

Brazil Asks Google Street View for Answers

Google allegedly gathering data illegally

Brazil is demanding answers over Google's reported data collection from its Street View vehicles, which have recently been mapping the World Cup country. Brazilian authorities will begin to fine Google anywhere between $45,000 and $450,000 a day if a reply is presented by the end of Saturday, reports BBC News.

The Street View vehicles are equipped with 360-degree cameras and antennas, which are used to create the 3-D renderings that compliment Google Maps. However, the vehicles seem to be gathering more than just pictures. U.S. and European courts have already fined Google for illegally gathering personal data through open Wi-Fi networks using Street View technology, according to BBC News. "The company collected the secret and personal data of Brazilians using open Wi-Fi networks as it has already done in almost 30 countries where there have been similar allegations,” said The Brazilian Institute of Computer Policy and Rights in a statement.

Google claims that all data collection equipment was removed from its vehicles in 2010 after other countries, including the U.S., filed complaints. Conversely, Google was forced to pay $195,000 in Germany for illegal data collection early this year, reports RT News. Google also paid $7 million in a US case, which found emails, passwords, and web histories had been stored in Street View vehicles between 2008 and 2010.

Nearly 3,000 cities and 40 countries can be viewed with Google Street View.

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Lady Gaga, in the middle of making all your solar panels work better     Photo: punxie89/Flickr

Pop Music Benefits Green Energy

Solar cells big fans of Lady Gaga

Researchers at Queen Mary University and Imperial College London are reporting that exposing solar cells to pop music makes them convert sunlight into electricity up to 50 percent more efficiently.

Solar cells, expensive to produce, create up to 40 percent more electricity while listening to the higher pitches found in pop and rock music. Similar tests conducted with classical music, typically of darker tones than pop, did not yield the same beneficial effects.

"There are lots of places where this might be useful," says Queen Mary University researcher Steve Dunn, referring to the strategic placing of solar panels in noisy public places. "On top of air-conditioning units, on military vehicles or on military personnel where lightweight power sources can be used to supplement heavy power requirements."

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