Apple pulls Samsung Galaxy S III Mini from patent battle

eyeballSamsung scored a win today, as Apple agreed in a court filing to pull its infringement claims against the Galaxy S III Mini. The device had been accused along with anassortment of other devices in the second legal battle the two companies are engaged in with Judge Lucy Koh. Apple had included the Galaxy S III Mini because it was available for sale through Amazon.com, but Samsung argued that the device had not been officially released in the United States, and therefore shouldn’t be covered. Predicated upon Samsung’s word that the company was not selling the phone directly in the US, Apple agreed to drop it from the list of accused devices. It’s important to note that this kind of jostling is common at this stage of the game, with both companies ironing out which devices will be included in the pending trial. That said, the Mini isn’t clear just yet — Apple may still be able to include the device if Samsung reverses its stance and decides to sell the phone domestically.

SOURCE: APPLE FILING WITHDRAWING GALAXY S III MINI (PDF)

Cruise Ships Queen Mary 2 and Emerald Princess Hit By Suspected Norovirus

NYT2008112512091880CPassengers on two luxury cruise ships, including the prestigious Queen Mary 2, have come down with what is suspected to be a Norovirus bug. Cunard, which owns the Queen Mary 2, said there are 19 passengers with “active symptoms” as of Friday. The Centers for Disease Control web site states 194 passengers and 11 crew reported being ill during the voyage. The web site lists the causing agent of the illness as “unknown.” In a statement to ABC News, the cruise line said, “There has been an incidence of a mild gastrointestinal illness among the passengers on Queen Mary 2. This illness is suspected to be Norovirus, which is highly contagious and typically transmitted from person to person.” Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 is on a 12-day, round-trip sailing from New York to the Caribbean that departed Dec 22. According to the line’s website, the ship is docked in St. Lucia today.

RELATED: The Best Cruise Ships of 2012

There was a similar recent outbreak on a Princess cruise ship. Five percent of all passengers, 166, plus 30 crew, fell ill on the sailing on the Emerald Princess. The ship docked in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Thursday. On the popular CruiseCritic.com message boards, a member who claims to be on board the Queen Mary 2 wrote there was an outbreak of illness on the ship, but that all restaurants were still full. Although the buffet remained open the ship’s captain “recommended that people take all of their meals in the full-service restaurants rather than the buffet.” The poster also said the captain requested passengers suffering from the “gastro-intestinal upset” remain in their cabins and that “people not staying in their cabin would be reported to him, and he would then have to consider the consequences.” “The Captain is regularly updating the passengers and crew on the situation and is advising passengers with gastrointestinal symptoms to report to the medical centre. Unwell passengers are asked to comply with the doctor’s instructions and isolate themselves in their cabin until non-contagious,” the cruise line said. “They are also asked not to proceed ashore, and any shore excursion costs will be refunded. Room service is provided to affected passengers and every effort is made to make them as comfortable as possible.” Additionally, Cunard told ABC News “enhanced sanitation protocols have been employed to help minimize transmission to other passengers.”

“When this happens the ship’s crew will start cleaning the ship more thoroughly, buffets will be served by servers wearing gloves, there will be multiple announcements about hand washing and probably more hand sanitizer stations,” said Cruise Critic News Editor Dori Saltzman. “Additionally, the cruise ship must report this to the CDC. When the cruise ends, the ship will undergo an intensive cleaning, which may delay the next cruise by an hour or two. Another Cruise Critic poster claiming to be onboard said passengers were urged not to use public restrooms, but rather those in their cabins. The Health Protection Agency, a U.K. organization, said the instances of Norovirus are 83 percent higher than at this time last year. The ship had arrived in New York after a transatlantic sailing that originated in Southampton, England.

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FISA Passes: Warrantless Wiretapping Will Live on

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In a move sure to upset privacy advocates across the country, and perhaps spark action from the Supreme Court, the Senate on Friday morning passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by a vote of 73-23 and will send it to President Obama’s desk for signature. FISA allows the government to tap any conversation involving U.S. citizens without previously obtaining a warrant, as long as officials suspect those talks involve at least one person located outside of the United States. The bill passed the House in September, led to contentious arguments on the Senate floor this week, and extends a modern debate that became especially heated in the Bush era as the National Security Agency extended its powers without court regulation. Wired’s David Kravets explains the details of the latest legislation:

The FISA Amendments Act generally requires the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, a secret tribunal set up in the wake of President Richard M. Nixon-era eavesdropping, to rubber-stamp terror-related electronic surveillance requests. The government does not have to identify the target or facility to be monitored. It can begin surveillance a week before making the request, and the surveillance can continue during the appeals process if, in a rare case, the secret FISA court rejects the surveillance application.

Secret tribunals? Spying? Why would this matter if the only international calls are (speaking from personal experience) the ones you’re making to your Filipino grandma talking about her day?Salon’s Alex Pareene details the big-picture of why FISA is so tricky:

The FISA Amendments Act makes a joke of the entire Fourth Amendment “warrant” requirement, as the government now can seek “programmatic warrants” that allow them to indiscriminately collect massive amounts of data from broadly defined “targets” over the course of a year.

There is a tiny sliver hope if you aren’t a fan of FISA and really like the Fourth Amendment. AsThe Verge’s Adi Robertson reports, there have have been efforts to get the Supreme Court involved.

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NOW TRENDING: Putin Signs U.S. Adoption Ban

keyboardNot exactly surprising, but devastating nonetheless. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill on Friday that will ban all overseas U.S. adoptions. The unprecedented move is part of a harsh response by Putin for a U.S. law that targets alleged human-rights violators—a feud that escalated after a Russian judge on Friday acquitted the only official to go to trial in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer whose case inspired the U.S. law. While some top Russian officials—including the foreign minister—have been outspoken against the ban, it easily passed both houses of Parliament and Putin signed it less than 24 hours after it appeared on his desk. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said to the state news agency that “practically, all adoption stops on Jan. 1.”

Did Instagram Really Lose 25% of Users?

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Instagram lost 4 million of its 16.4 million daily active users over the Christmas holiday, according to the usage trend monitors at AppData — but let’s not jump to conclusions.The New York Post connects the (incomplete) data to last week’s revolt against Instagram’s new terms of service, but looking at AppData’s graph below, the dip doesn’t quite match up with the rage. (Update 12:21 p.m.: Facebook has denied the trend, because of course it would. “This data is inaccurate. We continue to see strong and steady growth in both registered and active users of Instagram,” the company said in a statement to The Verge. Read on for why we think that might just be true.)

Instagram got everyone all freaked out around December 17, a day when AppData, whose “numbers reflect trends in usage” rather than exact user counts, actually shows an increase. Could the drop in users have to do with the holidays? Everyone posted turkeys on Thanksgiving and presents on Christmas, plus the controversy sustained itself long enough that test family dinner-table conversations about Instagram — or, you know, some time away from your phone and some more time spent with said family — might be enough to amount to this kind of drop-off:

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Special Report: Inside the West’s economic war with Iran

White House handout shows U.S. President Obama talks with Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Rhodes and Senior Advisor Axelrod in the Oval Office

(Reuters) – In his first week as U.S. president, Barack Obama told Iran’s leaders he would extend a hand if they would “unclench their fist” and persuade the West they weren’t trying to build a nuclear bomb. So far, they have not. In response, the United States and the European Union this year took a step they had long resisted, imposing trade sanctions to choke off Iran’s lifeblood: oil revenue. It was financial warfare, and it carried grave risks. Until recently, Iran was the world’s fourth largest exporter of oil, providing just under three percent of internationally traded supply. The campaign to take that oil off the market risked driving up world oil prices, disrupting the international payments system and stifling a fragile global economic recovery. In interviews, senior U.S. and European officials described the intense diplomatic maneuvering they undertook to enact the sanctions without causing an oil shock. Obama warned allies that oil sanctions were the only way to avert a new war between Israel and Iran. U.S. envoys pressed Iraqi, Libyan and, above all, Saudi officials to pump up their own crude supplies. Washington and its allies massaged skittish oil markets with carefully calibrated messages. U.S. diplomats journeyed to southern Iraq to inspect plans for new oil terminals that could help blunt the loss of Iranian shipments. The challenge, American officials said, was to clamp down on Iran’s oil exports while mitigating the risks of an oil crisis. CONTINUE READING