Court: website alleging police corruption shouldn’t have been shut down

Lafayette, Louisiana is known as the capital of Cajun culture—and it’ll now also exist as a reference point in First Amendment case law.

On Monday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that previously allowed a website created by current and former members of the Lafayette Police Department, describing allegations of top-to-bottom corruption, to be shuttered. (City officials denied the site’s allegations.)

Initially, the Lafayette Police sued the owners of the site and got a magistrate judge to order that the site be “closed and removed immediately.” This was a way for that court to avoid influencing a prospective jury pool in a related civil case.

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Verizon brought back unlimited data plans—but it was an accident

Verizon Wireless did away with unlimited data plans last year, forcing monthly limits onto all customers signing new contracts. Customers with unlimited plans before the switchover could keep them indefinitely, unless they decided to sign a new contract in order to get a cheaper (subsidized) phone.

That was true until a tiny miracle occurred this past weekend. Customers who went to Verizon’s website to purchase a new, subsidized phone found that they were able to keep their unlimited plans, Droid Life reported Saturday.

Verizon admitted its mistake and won’t force the customers onto limited plans. Some customers apparently had trouble completing their orders for unlimited data plans, but those who did not run into trouble can keep the unlimited data. A statement Verizon sent to Droid Life today reads as follows:

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All public Facebook posts ever made are now searchable

Breaking Bad may be gone, but the debate over whether Skyler was an annoying character will rage on forever.

Facebook Graph Search now includes posts and status updates in its results, according to a Facebook blog post Monday. Such searches will accept modifiers like time—“All of my posts from 2012” for instance—location, or people who participated.

This new aspect of Graph Search will take advantage of Facebook’s recently-announced hashtags. One intended purpose is for users to search posts among different social groups for topic matter, e.g., “posts about Breaking Bad by my friends.” Graph Search will also allow searches based on tagged locations (“Posts from the Empire State Building”) or involvement of other users (“Posts my friend John Smith has commented on”).

The search is still subject to privacy controls, so users won’t be able to see results they couldn’t view otherwise. But this opens up all public posts ever, as well as any posted shared directly to each user, to aggregation, and it’s worth noting that Facebook updates are set to be public by default. Ostensibly, Facebook hopes this will create a Twitter-like feed of activity that users can view and interact with.

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Bang With Friends hugs it out with Zynga, settles on new name “The Next Bang”

Two months ago, Zynga sued Bang With Friends, a smartphone app company that helps Facebook friends find out which one of their friends they’d like to do the hibbity-dibbity with. (Cupid’s target doesn’t alert that person unless they have chosen you back. Tricky!) Unsurprisingly, the makers of “Words with Friends” charged the younger upstart with trademark infringement among other allegations.

On Monday, the two companies officially settled their differences.

An unnamed spokesperson for the new company, The Next Bang, e-mailed Ars to say that the dispute has been swept under the rug.

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Is downloadable game size increasing faster than broadband speeds?

Sony UK Managing Director Fergal Gara caused a bit of a to-do in the gaming world today when he revealed, via a Eurogamer interview, that the digital download of PS4 launch title Killzone: Shadow Fall was “cracking on for 50GB.” That’s a pretty hefty file size whether you’re comparing it to the 500GB of hard drive space built in to every PS4 or to the broadband speeds in most US homes these days.

Of course, you can still buy the game on a disc rather than clogging up your broadband with that massive download. The PS4 also offers the ability to start playing a downloading game before it is completely finished. Still, that whopper of a file size got us thinking: have game sizes been increasing faster or slower than broadband download speeds in recent years? That is to say, does a game take more or less time to download, on average, than it did in the recent past?

Soliciting some gamers’ experiences in this regard got a wide range of responses. Some people felt that big games are much more annoying to download today than they were a few years ago. Others said their downloads are much faster now, mainly due to an improved Internet connection compared to the one they used to have. We could throw our own experience into this mix, but to get something more than anecdotal conjecture, we were going to need some hard data.

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FTC will pay 139,357 cramming victims an average of $39 each

One day before a potential government shutdown, the the Federal Trade Commission announced that it was mailing 139,357 checks collectively worth $5.4 million to consumers and businesses “who were victimized by a massive fraudulent operation that placed unwanted charges on their telephone bills”—aka cramming—by a company called Inc21.

Ars has been covering the shady practice of cramming for five years. In this scheme, consumers are billed for services that they never asked for, likely ignored, and yet continue to be billed for. (Ars editor Nate Anderson even detailed his own experience with cramming.) It happens in the ISP industry, in the landline telephone industry, and increasingly in the mobile phone industry. Earlier this year, the FTC filed its first civil suit against Wise Media, LLC, a Georgia company accused of consistently engaging in the practice.

In regard to Monday’s action, Inc21’s owners pled guilty back in December 2012 to related charges initially brought in 2010. Back then, Inc21 was accused of fraudulently raking in $19 million over five years through cramming.

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Researchers unveil first thought-controlled bionic leg

In this month’s New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Center for Bionic Medicine at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago revealed their success with a robotic prosthetic leg that “learns” to operate based on feedback from the brain of the person it is attached to. The bionic leg could make it possible for people with above-knee amputations to walk, climb stairs, and move the leg while seated, much like a natural leg.

The bionic leg, the result of work under an $8 million research grant from the Department of Defense, uses sensors to pick up electromyographic (EMG) impulses from nerves in the remaining thigh muscle tissue in the patient’s leg. The researchers were able to give the patient the ability to control the leg’s actions by thinking about moving the leg.

“EMG signals were decoded with a pattern-recognition algorithm and combined with data from sensors on the prosthesis to interpret the patient’s intended movements,” the team, headed by RIC lead scientist Levi Hargrove, wrote in the article. “This provided robust and intuitive control of ambulation—with seamless transitions between walking on level ground, stairs, and ramps—and of the ability to reposition the leg while the patient was seated.”

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