STLR Link Roundup – March 24, 2014

Obama Administration Takes Technological Action Against Climate Change

A week after the Senate Democrats hosted an overnight session highlighting climate change, the Obama administration launched the Climate Data Initiative, a broad effort to harness the power of data and data-driven tools to help communities across America prepare for the effects of climate change. Key components of the initiative include the launch of—a website which contains data and resources pertaining to sea-level rise and coastal flooding and which will eventually provide data sets of other climate impacts, including those on human health, the food supply, and the energy infrastructure—and private sector initiatives, such as committing cloud computing resources for the use of climate scientists and developing web-based tools to help Americans understand the local climate change impacts, by companies like Google and Microsoft. Although the Climate Data Initiative follows several earlier climate change initiatives by the Obama Administration, including an order for the development of tougher fuel efficiency standards for large trucks, President Obama’s legacy on climate change will likely be determined by his forthcoming review of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

Citizen Science” Start-up Tests for Damaged DNA

Exogen Biotechnology, a crowdfunded startup based in Berkeley, California, wants to create a worldwide database to track the correlations between DNA damage, lifestyle and environmental factors, and disease. The company sells DNA damage testing kits and analyzes the blood samples returned to the company for DNA damage. Using the demographic information submitted along with the blood samples, Exogen scientists place people on a DNA damage risk continuum based on age, lifestyle, and environmental factors. The company hopes to run the data through the peer review process and to sell the DNA testing kits to medical professionals if the kits prove to be diagnostically useful.

As with any biotechnology project, Exogen’s project raises privacy concerns, some of which are mitigated by Exogen’s standard privacy policy which allows customers to remove all personal information from the company’s databases. Another issue—the intentional or accidental leak of private information to insurance companies and employers—is covered by the 2008 Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits insurance companies and employers from discriminating based on DNA. The first case under this Act was settled recently.

Landmark YouTube Lawsuit Settled

Google and Viacom have settled their 7-year lawsuit over YouTube’s alleged copyright infringement of Viacom’s media clips. Although the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, sources familiar with the settlement said that no money changed hands. The lawsuit began in 2007 when Viacom filed a $1 billon suit under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act against YouTube, a Google subsidiary, for allowing users to post “tens of thousands” of Viacom-owned video clips from shows including “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “South Park” without Viacom’s permission. Viacom was concerned that the piracy would divert audience traffic from cable television and other media sources to YouTube, thereby cutting into Viacom’s traditional advertising revenue streams.

The settlement followed Google’s victory in federal court, where U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton had ruled that YouTube was protected under a “safe harbor” provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act granting immunity to websites if they quickly remove infringing material after being notified by copyright owners. Prior to the settlement, Viacom had been appealing the decision in the Second Circuit. With the resolution of the lawsuit, both parties have stated that they are looking into the possibility of future business partnerships.

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