Daily TIPs: Texting Privacy, Energy Spending, Electronic Medical Records, DARPA Cutbacks, & More

Court Finds Text Messages Are Private
You can now text your BFF to your heart’s content and not worry about somebody reading the transcript, thanks to a federal court ruling. CNET News reports that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the government must get a user’s consent before getting a service provider to turn over copies of text messages. The ruling came in a case where police supervisors in Ontario, CA, wanted to see officers’ messages to determine if they were work-related.

FDA Targets Internet Nostrums
The Internet not only provides a handy source of information about diseases and their treatments, it can also link ill people to sellers of purported remedies, offering cures without any scientific proof they actually work. Now the Food and Drug Administration has sent warning letters to 25 companies that market pills, lotions, and tonics that claim to cure cancer, the Los Angeles Times reports. The FDA fears the fake cures could interfere with legitimate treatments or otherwise harm patients

Doctors Don’t Use Electronic Records
Digitizing health records can improve the quality of medical care by speeding access to information and reducing errors. But the New York Times reports that a new study shows fewer than 20 percent of the nation’s doctors have adopted electronic records. A big part of the problem is that small, private practices don’t want to spend the $15,000 to $20,000 per doctor it would take to make the conversion.

House Bill Would Spend More on New Energy
A spending bill for fiscal year 2009 would increase spending on energy research by 21 percent, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports. The House Appropriations subcommittee approved the bill, raising the budget for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to $4.86 billion. Among the provisions: $100 million to establish two dozen new Energy Frontier Research Centers

Home Uses Solar Panels to Produce Hydrogen
Speaking of energy frontiers, Scientific American brings us the story of a New Jersey man who’s taken his home off the grid by installing solar panels on his roof and using their power to split tap water into hydrogen he can use when the sun’s not shining. The project cost $500,000, of which $400,000 came as grants from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Whether such a setup could be made economically feasible is an open question.

DARPA Suffers Loss of Personnel and Funds
The Department of Defense is diverting $32 million from the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency to other, “higher-priority” areas, according to Wired. Apparently DARPA is having trouble finding enough qualified people to fill its program manager jobs. Also, delays in the approval process for research project mean the money isn’t getting allocated

4-H Wants Boost in Science Education
Fearing the country isn’t producing enough scientists and engineers to keep the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world, the National 4-H Council went to Washington this week to lobby members of Congress to promote science to youngsters, says the Wall Street Journal. 4-H wants funding for programs that give kids hands-on experience with science, such as building rockets. The council pledges to prepare one million of the nation’s youth for science careers by 2013.

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