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Interesting Articles

This page contains links to interesting articles about computers and other stuff. Please let me know if you find any broken links. I may or may not agree with the opinions expressed in any of these articles.

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I found many of these on SlashDot, and used their descriptions. The nice thing about the Slashdot articles is that you can learn more information from the discussions.

Article Description/Comments
First Dinosaur Tail Found Preserved in Amber
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The tail of a beautiful, feathered dinosaur has been found perfectly preserved in amber from Myanmar. It is a huge breakthrough that could help open a new window on the biology of a group that dominated Earth for more than 160 million years.

From a report on the National Geographic:
The semitranslucent mid-Cretaceous amber sample, roughly the size and shape of a dried apricot, captures one of the earliest moments of differentiation between the feathers of birds of flight and the feathers of dinosaurs. Inside the lump of resin is a 1.4-inch appendage covered in delicate feathers, described as chestnut brown with a pale or white underside. CT scans and microscopic analysis of the sample revealed eight vertebrae from the middle or end of a long, thin tail that may have been originally made up of more than 25 vertebrae.

NPR has a story on how this amber was found. An excerpt from it reads: In 2015, Lida Xing was visiting a market in northern Myanmar when a salesman brought out a piece of amber about the size of a pink rubber eraser. Inside, he could see a couple of ancient ants and a fuzzy brown tuft that the salesman said was a plant. As soon as Xing saw it, he knew it wasn't a plant. It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur.
Apple's Top Assembler Foxconn Confirms Plans for US Investment, To Create 50,000 Jobs
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Foxconn, the biggest assembler of Apple devices, is in preliminary discussions to make an investment that would expand the company's U.S. operations. From a report on Bloomberg:

The disclosure came hours after an announcement by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and SoftBank Group's Masayoshi Son to invest $50 billion in the U.S. and create 50,000 jobs. The money will come from SoftBank's $100 billion technology fund, which was announced in October, a person familiar with the matter said. A document that Son held up after the meeting in Trump Tower also included the words "Foxconn," "$7 billion" and "50,000 new jobs" in addition to SoftBank's numbers. "While the scope of the potential investment has not been determined, we will announce the details of any plans following the completion of direct discussions between our leadership and the relevant U.S. officials," Foxconn said in a statement. "Those plans would be made based on mutually-agreed terms."
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Makes Game For Third Annual Hour of Code
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Twitter account lit up today with a message all too familiar to many indie devs: Mr. Trudeau has made a video game, and he'd like everyone to play it. It was a cute bit of promotion for Hour of Code, the computer science education event masterminded every year by the Code.org nonprofit. While the Hour of Code websites hosts one-hour tutorials (in 45 languages) for coding all sorts of simple applications, game developers may appreciate that the lion's share appears to be game projects, like the one Trudeau modified into a sort of hockey-themed Breakout variant.
NASA Awards $127 Million Contract For Refueling Mission Spacecraft
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Satellites cost millions of dollars to be launched into space and there's no guarantee that they will work without electrical or mechanical problems once in orbit. NASA has recently announced that it will award a $127 million contract to a company that aims to use a robotic spacecraft to fix satellites in space, thus potentially saving millions of dollars in the long-run by fixing satellites that would otherwise be "expensive e-waste."
Many CEOs Believe Technology Will Make People Largely Irrelevant
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Although artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other emerging technologies may reshape the world as we know it, a new global study has revealed that the many CEOs now value technology over people when it comes to the future of their businesses. The study was conducted by the Los Angeles-based management consultant firm Korn Ferry that interviewed 800 business leaders across a variety of multi-million and multi-billion dollar global organizations. The firm says that 44 percent of the CEOs surveyed agreed that robotics, automation and AI would reshape the future of many work places by making people "largely irrelevant." The global managing director of solutions at Korn Ferry Jean-Marc Laouchez explains why many CEOs have adopted this controversial mindset, saying: "Leaders may be facing what experts call a tangibility bias. Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible -- what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology instruments."
CO2 Researchers Are Now Hacking Photosynthesis
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the Chicago Tribune: University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have developed a way to mimic plants' ability to convert carbon dioxide into fuel, a way to decrease the amounts of harmful gas in the atmosphere and produce clean energy. The artificial leaf essentially recycles carbon dioxide. And it's powered entirely by the sun, mimicking the real photosynthesis process.
'Fatal' Flaws Found in Medical Implant Software
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Security researchers have warned of flaws in medical implants in what they say could have fatal consequences. The flaws were found in the radio-based communications used to update implants, including pacemakers, and read data from them. From a BBC report:

By exploiting the flaws, the researchers were able to adjust settings and even switch off gadgets. The attacks were also able to steal confidential data about patients and their health history. A software patch has been created to help thwart any real-world attacks. The flaws were found by an international team of security researchers based at the University of Leuven in Belgium and the University of Birmingham.
Great Barrier Reef Has Worst Coral Die-Off Ever, Report Finds
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Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered from its worst coral die-off ever recorded, according to a new study from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University. "Stress from the unusually warm ocean water heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Nino climate pattern caused the die-off," reports USA Today.

At more than 1,400 miles long, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef and the planet's biggest structure made by living organisms. In the northernmost section of the reef, which had been considered the most "pristine," some 67% of the coral died. The good news, scientists said, was that central and southern sections of the reef fared far better, with "only" 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively. Coral reefs result from the work of little polyps, creatures only a few millimeters long, budded on top of one another. Over centuries, the shells of these creatures combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs. Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef. The vibrant colors that draw thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef each year come from algae that live in the corals tissue. When water temperatures become too high, coral becomes stressed and expels the algae, which leave the coral a bleached white color. Mass coral bleaching is a new phenomenon and was never observed before the 1980s as global warming ramped up. Besides their beauty, reefs shelter land from storms, and are also a habitat for myriads of species.
Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries
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Scientists at the University of Bristol have found a way to convert thousands of tons of nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for thousands of years. New Atlas reports: How to dispose of nuclear waste is one of the great technical challenges of the 21st century. The trouble is, it usually turns out not to be so much a question of disposal as long-term storage. Disposal, therefore is more often a matter of keeping waste safe, but being able to get at it later when needed. One unexpected example of this is the Bristol team's work on a major source of nuclear waste from Britain's aging Magnox reactors, which are now being decommissioned after over half a century of service. These first generation reactors used graphite blocks as moderators to slow down neutrons to keep the nuclear fission process running, but decades of exposure have left the UK with 104,720 tons of graphite blocks that are now classed as nuclear waste because the radiation in the reactors changes some of the inert carbon in the blocks into radioactive carbon-14. Carbon-14 is a low-yield beta particle emitter that can't penetrate even a few centimeters of air, but it's still too dangerous to allow into the environment. Instead of burying it, the Bristol team's solution is to remove most of the c-14 from the graphite blocks and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds. The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free. The Bristol researchers found that the carbon-14 wasn't uniformly distributed in the Magnox blocks, but is concentrated in the side closest to the uranium fuel rods. To produce the batteries, the blocks are heated to drive out the carbon-14 from the radioactive end, leaving the blocks much less radioactive than before. c-14 gas is then collected and using low pressures and high temperatures is turned into man-made diamonds. Once formed, the beta particles emitted by the c-14 interact with the diamond's crystal lattice, throwing off electrons and generating electricity. The diamonds themselves are radioactive, so they are given a second non-radioactive diamond coating to act as a radiation shield.
An Underground Ice Deposit On Mars Is Bigger Than New Mexico
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A single underground deposit of ice on Mars contains about as much water as there is in Michigan's Lake Superior, according to new research from NASA. The deposit rests in the mid-northern latitudes of the Red Planet, specifically in the Utopia Planitia region. Discovered by the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARD) instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the deposit is "more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico," according to a NASA press release. It ranges in thickness from about 260 feet to about 560 feet, and has a composition that's 50 to 85 percent water ice, with what appears to be dust or larger rocky particles mixed in as well. None of the ice is exposed to the surface. At various points the dirt covering it is in between 3 and 33 feet thick.
For the First Time, Living Cells Have Formed Carbon-Silicon Bonds
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Scientists have managed to coax living cells into making carbon-silicon bonds, demonstrating for the first time that nature can incorporate silicon -- one of the most abundant elements on Earth -- into the building blocks of life. While chemists have achieved carbon-silicon bonds before -- they're found in everything from paints and semiconductors to computer and TV screens -- they've so far never been found in nature, and these new cells could help us understand more about the possibility of silicon-based life elsewhere in the Universe. After oxygen, silicon is the second most abundant element in Earth's crust, and yet it has nothing to do with biological life. Why silicon has never be incorporated into any kind of biochemistry on Earth has been a long-standing puzzle for scientists, because, in theory, it would have been just as easy for silicon-based lifeforms to have evolved on our planet as the carbon-based ones we know and love. Not only are carbon and silicon both extremely abundant in Earth's crust - they're also very similar in their chemical make-up.
Right-Wing and Fake News Writers Are Now Going After Elon Musk
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Fake news galvanized US president-elect Donald Trump's supporters, and sullied his enemies. Now it may be Elon Musk's turn.

Quartz adds:
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has his fair share of detractors, but a new era in a public relations battle to discredit him appears to be taking shape. Bloomberg reports that hard-right groups are lining up to back misleading websites and fake journalists who attack Musk's business empire. Many of the attacks on Musk begin with something factual: His businesses were built, legally, with the help of billions in government contracts and incentives for renewable energy and space transport. But they go on to accuse Musk of fraud and wasting taxpayer dollars; some compare him to a convicted felon. At least three conservative sites have run negative pieces about Musk -- by a nonexistent writer named "Shepard Stewart" -- that include "Elon Musk Continues to Blow Up Taxpayer Money With Falcon 9" and "Elon Musk: Faux Free Marketeer and National Disgrace." Two later retracted the stories. "There's a very obvious precedent" for this, says Sam Jaffe, managing director of Cairn Energy Research Advisors. "That's Hillary Clinton." Musk tweeted this week, "Can anyone uncover who is really writing these fake pieces?"
FBI Hacked Over 8,000 Computers In 120 Countries Based on One Warrant
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In January, Motherboard reported on the FBI's "unprecedented" hacking operation, in which the agency, using a single warrant, deployed malware to over one thousand alleged visitors of a dark web child pornography site. Now, it has emerged that the campaign was actually several orders of magnitude larger. In all, the FBI obtained over 8,000 IP addresses, and hacked computers in 120 different countries, according to a transcript from a recent evidentiary hearing in a related case. The figures illustrate the largest ever known law enforcement hacking campaign to date, and starkly demonstrate what the future of policing crime on the dark web may look like. This news comes as the US is preparing to usher in changes that would allow magistrate judges to authorize the mass hacking of computers, wherever in the world they may be located.
BBC Planning 'Netflix of the Spoken Word' to Take Radio Content Global
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The BBC makes the best radio in the world," says director general Tony Hall. British public broadcaster BBC plans to launch a "Netflix of the spoken word" to take its radio content beyond the U.K. Director general Tony Hall in a London speech on Wednesday said that the BBC plans to offer all of its audio content, in addition to its BBC World Service programming to people in foreign markets. He didn't immediately provide further details, including about whether the BBC would charge international users. The BBC is funded via a license fee covered by British taxpayers. "With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word," the BBC quoted Hall as saying. "The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal." He added: "It's one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain's culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead, and say something really important about modern Britain.
Talking to father of injured DAPL demonstrator Sophia Wilansky
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Sounds like Wounded Knee all over again.
Clinton Urged To Challenge Election Results Due To Possible Hacking
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After examining results in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin computer scientists have discovered Clinton averaged 7% worse in counties with e voting machines vs. counties with only paper or optical scan ballots.

From a CNN report:
The computer scientists believe they have found evidence that vote totals in the three states could have been manipulated or hacked and presented their findings to top Clinton aides on a call last Thursday. The scientists, among them J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, told the Clinton campaign they believe there is a questionable trend of Clinton performing worse in counties that relied on electronic voting machines compared to paper ballots and optical scanners, according to the source. The group informed John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, and Marc Elias, the campaign's general counsel, that Clinton received 7% fewer votes in counties that relied on electronic voting machines, which the group said could have been hacked.Halderman wrote more about it on Medium today in an article titled, "Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots"
WordPress Auto-Update Server Had Flaw Allowing Persistent Backdoors In Websites
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Up to a quarter of all websites on the internet could have been breached through a since-patched vulnerability that allowed WordPress' core update server to be compromised. The since-shuttered remote code execution flaw was found in a php webhook within api.wordpress.org that allows developers to supply a hashing algorithm of their choice to verify code updates are legitimate. Matt Barry, lead developer of WordPress security outfit WordFence, found attackers could supply their own extremely weak hashing algorithm as part of that verification process, allowing a shared secret key to be brute-forced over the course of a couple of hours. The rate of guessing attempts would be small enough to fly under the radar of WordPress' security systems. Attackers that used the exploit could then send URLs to the WordPress update servers that would be accepted and pushed out to all WordPress sites. Web-watching service W3techs.com reckons those sites represent 27.1 per cent of the entire world wide web. "By compromising api.wordpress.org, an attacker could conceivably compromise more than a quarter of the websites worldwide in one stroke," Barry says. "We analyzed [WordPress] code and found a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to execute their own code on api.wordpress.org and gain access to it. Compromising this [update] server could allow an attacker to supply their own URL to download and install software to WordPress websites, automatically." Attackers could go further; once a backdoored or malicious update was pushed out, they could disable the default auto updates preventing WordPress from fixing compromised websites.
American Computer Scientists Grace Hopper, Margaret Hamilton Receive Presidential Medals of Freedom
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President Barack Obama awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom to two storied women in tech -- one posthumously to Grace Hopper, known as the "first lady of software," and one to programmer Margaret Hamilton. Hopper worked on the Harvard Mark I computer, and invented the first compiler. "At age 37 and a full 15 pounds below military guidelines, the gutsy and colorful Grace joined the Navy and was sent to work on one of the first computers, Harvard's Mark 1," Obama said at the ceremony Tuesday. "She saw beyond the boundaries of the possible and invented the first compiler, which allowed programs to be written in regular language and then translated for computers to understand." Hopper followed her mother into mathematics, and earned a doctoral degree from Yale, Obama said. She retired from the Navy as a rear admiral. "From cell phones to Cyber Command, we can thank Grace Hopper for opening programming up to millions more people, helping to usher in the Information Age and profoundly shaping our digital world," Obama said. Hamilton led the team that created the onboard flight software for NASA's Apollo command modules and lunar modules, according to a White House release. "At this time software engineering wasn't even a field yet," Obama noted at the ceremony. "There were no textbooks to follow, so as Margaret says, 'there was no choice but to be pioneers.'" He added: "Luckily for us, Margaret never stopped pioneering. And she symbolizes that generation of unsung women who helped send humankind into space."
Trump Admits 'Some Connectivity' Between Climate Change and Human Activity
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President-elect Donald Trump conceded Tuesday there is "some connectivity" between human activity and climate change and wavered on whether he would pull the United States out of international accords aimed at combating the phenomenon, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is caused by human activity. The statements could mark a softening in Trump's position on U.S. involvement in efforts to fight climate change, although he did not commit to specific action in any direction. During the campaign, he vowed to "cancel" the U.S.'s participation in the Paris climate agreement, stop all U.S. payments to UN programs aimed at fighting climate change and continued to cast serious doubt on the role man-made carbon dioxide emissions played in the planet's warming and associated impacts. "I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much," Trump said Tuesday in a meeting with New York Times reporters, columnists and editors. He has previously called climate change a "hoax" invented by the Chinese. Asked if he would withdraw the U.S. from international climate change agreements, Trump said he is "looking at it very closely," according to Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Mike Grynbaum, who were live-tweeting the meeting. He added that he has "an open mind to it," despite explicitly promising to withdraw from at least one climate accord on the campaign trail. The President-elect on the campaign trail repeatedly vowed to slash environmental protection regulations burdening U.S. businesses and said that beyond the consequences to the planet, he is particularly mindful of the economic impact of combating climate change. He said he is considering "how much it will cost our companies" and the effect on American competitiveness in the global market, according to a tweet from Grynbaum.
Tesla Runs an Entire Island on Solar Power
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Now that Tesla has officially acquired SolarCity, it's not wasting any time showing what the combined entity can do. Tesla has revealed that it's running the island of Ta'u (in American Samoa) on a solar energy microgrid that, at 1.4 megawatts, can cover "nearly 100 percent" of electrical needs. It's not just the 5,328 solar panels that are key -- it's the 60 Tesla Powerpacks that offer 6 megawatt-hours of energy storage. While Ta'u is normally very sunny, the packs can keep it running for three days without sunlight. They don't have to worry about a cloudy day leading to blackouts. The solar switch, which took a year to complete, has both its long-term environmental and immediate practical benefits. Like many remote communities, Ta'u previously had to run on diesel generators. That burns 300 gallons of fuel per day, which is neither eco-friendly nor cheap. Solar eliminates the pollution, of course, but it also saves the cost of having to continuously buy and ship barrels of diesel. And crucially, it provides a more reliable source of electricity.
Study: Most Students Can't Spot Fake News
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Even those who think that the U.S. Presidential election wasn't affected by the swath of fake news articles swirling on Facebook and other social media networks, they tend to agree that there is a lot of misinformation on the web. At Slashdot, it's hard to say that anyone here will not be able to tell fake news from a real one. But what about kids? How is our future generation doing? Not so well, apparently.

A Stanford study of 7,804 middle school, high school and college students has found that most of them couldn't identify fake news on their own. Their susceptibility varied with age, but even a large number of the older students fell prey to bogus reports. Over two-thirds of middle school kids didn't see why they shouldn't trust a bank executive's post claiming that young adults need financial help, while nearly 40 percent of high schoolers didn't question the link between an unsourced photo and the claims attached to it. Why did many of the students misjudge the authenticity of a story? They were fixated on the appearance of legitimacy, rather than the quality of information. A large photo or a lot of detail was enough to make a Twitter post seem credible, even if the actual content was incomplete or wrong. There are plenty of adults who respond this way, we'd add, but students are more vulnerable than most.
Sea Ice In Arctic and Antarctic Is At Record Low Levels This Year
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For what appears to be the first time since scientists began keeping track, sea ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic are at record lows this time of year. "It looks like, since the beginning of October, that for the first time we are seeing both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice running at record low levels," said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who has tracked sea ice data going back to 1979. While it is too early to know if the recent, rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice is going to be a regular occurrence like in the Arctic, it "certainly puts the kibosh on everyone saying that Antarctica's ice is just going up and up," Meier said. The decline of sea ice has been a key indicator that climate change is happening, but its loss, especially in the Arctic, can mean major changes for your weather, too.

The report notes that air temperatures in the Arctic have been exceeding 35 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) above average, while "sea ice in the northern latitudes is at a lower level than ever observed for this time of the year." October and November is when the Arctic region typically gains ice. This year, air temperatures are staying much warmer and closer to the freezing mark of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. What's more is that water temperatures in the Arctic Ocean are several degrees above average, as a result of having less sea ice.
Final NASA Eagleworks Paper Confirms Promising EM Drive Results
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Earlier this month Hacked reported that a draft version of the much expected EmDrive paper by the NASA Eagleworks team, had been leaked. Now, the final version of the paper has been published. The NASA Eagleworks paper, titled "Measurement of Impulsive Thrust from a Closed Radio-Frequency Cavity in Vacuum," has been published online as an open access "article in advance" in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)'s Journal of Propulsion and Power, a prestigious peer-reviewed journal. The paper will appear in the December print issue of the journal. The final version of the paper is very similar to the leaked draft. In particular, the NASA scientists confirm the promising experimental results: "Thrust data from forward, reverse, and null suggested that the system was consistently performing at 1.2 +/- 0.1 mNkW, which was very close to the average impulsive performance measured in air.
Scientists Discover Antibody That Neutralizes 98% of HIV Strains
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The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced this week that a "remarkable" breakthrough has been made in the study of preventing and treating the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), according to a press release posted on the agency's official website. The breakthrough centers around the discovery of a powerful antibody named N6 that is highly effective in both binding to the surface of the HIV virus and neutralizing it. The former has proved elusive in the past. "Identifying broadly neutralizing antibodies against HIV has been difficult because the virus rapidly changes its surface proteins to evade recognition by the immune system," the press release explains. The antibody was initially discovered in an HIV-positive person and has since proven to potentially neutralize 98 percent of HIV isolates, "including 16 of 20 strains resistant to other antibodies of the same class," according to the press release.
President Obama On Fake News Problem: 'We Won't Know What To Fight For'
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President Barack Obama spoke in Berlin Thursday during a visit to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and during his remarks he addressed concerns about fake news circulating via social platforms like Facebook. On the subject of fake news, Obama noted that the ease with which we can make false information seem like genuine facts on platforms including "a Facebook page" means there's a great risk for audiences. Here's is what he said, "Because in an age where there's so much active misinformation, and it's packaged very well, and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television, where some overzealousness on the part of a U.S. official is equated with constant and severe repression elsewhere, if everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won't know what to protect. We won't know what to fight for. And we can lose so much of what we've gained in terms of the kind of democratic freedoms and market-based economies and prosperity that we've come to take for granted.
Terminally Ill Teen Won Historic Ruling To Preserve Body
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A teenage girl has been cryogenically frozen in the hope of being revived at a time when her cancer might be cured. The terminally ill 14-year-old girl from London won a legal fight to be frozen after she died. After her death in October, the girl's remains were transported to a cryonic facility in the United States.
France To Shut Down All Coal-Fired Power Plants By 2023
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French president Francois Hollande announced at an annual UN climate change conference on Wednesday that France will shut down all its coal-fired power plants by 2023. He also "vowed to beat by two years the UK's commitment to stop using fossil fuels to generate power by 2025," reports The Independent: Mr Hollande, a keynote speaker at the event in Marrakech, Morocco, also praised his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama for his work on climate change, and then appeared to snub president-elect Donald Trump. "The role played by Barack Obama was crucial in achieving the Paris agreement," Mr Hollande said, before adding, in what has been perceived as a dig at Mr Trump, that becoming a signatory to the treaty is "irreversible." "We need carbon neutrality by 2050," the French President continued, promising that coal will no longer form part of France's energy mix in six to seven years' time.
Britain Has Passed the 'Most Extreme Surveillance Law Ever Passed in a Democracy'
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The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous." The new law, dubbed the "snoopers' charter," was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government. Four years and a general election later -- May is now prime minister -- the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses. Civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online."
iPhones Secretly Send Call History To Apple, Security Firm Says
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The UK has just passed a massive expansion in surveillance powers, which critics have called "terrifying" and "dangerous." The new law, dubbed the "snoopers' charter," was introduced by then-home secretary Theresa May in 2012, and took two attempts to get passed into law following breakdowns in the previous coalition government. Four years and a general election later -- May is now prime minister -- the bill was finalized and passed on Wednesday by both parliamentary houses. Civil liberties groups have long criticized the bill, with some arguing that the law will let the UK government "document everything we do online."
SpaceX Files FCC Application For Internet Access Network With 4,425 Satellites
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SpaceX has laid out further details about a 4,425-satellite communications network that's expected to provide global broadband internet access, with its Seattle-area office playing a key role in its development. The plan is explained in an application and supporting documents filed on Tuesday with the Federal Communications Commission. In the technical information that accompanied its application, SpaceX said it would start commercial broadband service with 800 satellites. That service would cover areas of the globe from 15 degrees north to 60 degrees north, and from 15 degrees south to 60 degrees south. That leaves out some portions of Alaska, which would require a temporary waiver from the FCC.
Pluto's 'Icy Heart' May Have Tilted the Dwarf Planet Over
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Pluto's most iconic feature -- its "icy heart" -- may have been responsible for tipping the dwarf planet over. Scientists believe the 600-mile-wide region of frozen plains known as Sputnik Planitia gained enough mass over the years, causing Pluto to tilt to its current orientation. And that could mean there's a subsurface ocean lurking underneath the dwarf planet. The cracks and faults on Pluto's surface tell the story of its rollover, according to two new studies published today in Nature. Researchers used computer models to simulate Pluto's reorientation, which would have put a lot of stress on the crust and created these cracks. Those models match up pretty well with the patterns of canyons and mountains that NASA's New Horizons spacecraft saw when it flew by Pluto last year.
Office Depot Allegedly Diagnosing Computers With Nonexistent Viruses To Meet Sales Goals
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A new report claims that some Office Depot employees are falsely claiming computers are infected with viruses in order to meet sales goals. According to KIRO-TV in Seattle, employees of the office supply retailer allege that pressure to sell protection plans and other services has led store staffers to misdiagnose computers with viruses. To investigate the claims, the station took six computers to various Office Depot stores in Washington and Oregon for PC Health Checks. There technicians determined that four out of the six computers showed symptoms of malware. To fix the issues, the employees attempted to sell services costing up to $200. The only problem? The computers were out of the box new. A second test by a unaffiliated computer security firm found no symptoms of malware and no needs for repair. The employee tells KIRO that workers selling the services are just following corporate mandates. To make matters worse, he says, the company posts sales goals and current employee sales in the break room for all to see. This, he claims, creates more aggressive associates to push harder when selling the protection plans for nonexistent programs.
China Tells Trump Climate Change Isn't a Hoax it Invented
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China couldn't have invented global warming as a hoax to harm U.S. competitiveness because it was Donald Trump's Republican predecessors who started climate negotiations in the 1980s, China's Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said, according to a Bloomberg report.

From the article:
U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush supported the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in initiating global warming talks even before China knew that negotiations to cut pollution were starting, Liu told reporters at United Nations talks on Wednesday in Marrakech, Morocco. Ministers and government officials from almost 200 countries gathered in Marrakech this week are awaiting a decision by President-elect Trump on whether he'll pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The tycoon tweeted in 2012 that the concept of global warming "was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." China's envoy rejected that view. "If you look at the history of climate change negotiations, actually it was initiated by the IPCC with the support of the Republicans during the Reagan and senior Bush administration during the late 1980s," Liu told reporters during an hour-long briefing.
Online Bullying Counselling on Increase, Says Childline
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The number of children and young people needing counseling about online bullying has increased by 88 percent over five yearst, according to a helpline. The NSPCC's Childline service said it counselled more than 4,500 children in the past year compared to about 2,400 in 2011-12. The total number suffering online abuse is thought to be far higher. Some children as young as seven told Childline how they were tormented, abused and scared to go to school. The charity said online trolls caused misery and humiliation for thousands of children. Childline's president Dame Esther Rantzen said the figures should be a wake-up call. "Bullying can wreck young people's lives, especially now that the bullies don't stop at the school gates," she said. Cyber-bullying can follow them home until it becomes a persecution they cannot escape.
Internet Freedom Wanes As Governments Target Messaging, Social Apps
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Roughly two-thirds of the world's internet users live under regimes of government censorship, according to a report from Freedom House, a pro-democracy think tank. The report adds that internet freedom declined worldwide for a sixth consecutive year in 2016 with the governments increasingly crack down on social media services and messaging apps.
Facebook's Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash
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Facebook has been concerned about fake news stories that circulate on its social platform and how often such incidents occur. The company has had high-level internal debates over the matter since May, discussing different options to curb movements of hoax and false stories. Gizmodo reports Monday that Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year with "the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias." The company even had a major update for the News Feed planned which could have supposedly filtered fake stories, but the update never saw the light of the day because it was afraid to use it.
China Threatens To Cut Sales of iPhones and US Cars if 'Naive' Trump Pursues Trade War
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US president-elect Donald Trump would be a "naive" fool to launch an all-out trade war against China, a Communist party-controlled newspaper has claimed.

From a report on The Guardian:
During the acrimonious race for the White House Trump repeatedly lashed out at China, vowing to punish Beijing with "defensive" 45% tariffs on Chinese imports and to officially declare it a currency manipulator. "When they see that they will stop the cheating," the billionaire Republican, who has accused Beijing of "the greatest theft in the history of the world", told a rally in August. On Monday the state-run Global Times warned that such measures would be a grave mistake. "If Trump wrecks Sino-US trade, a number of US industries will be impaired. Finally the new president will be condemned for his recklessness, ignorance and incompetence," the newspaper said in an editorial. The Global Times claimed any new tariffs would trigger immediate "countermeasures" and "tit-for-tat approach" from Beijing.
WikiLeaks Calls for Pardons From President Obama -- Or President Trump
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"President Obama has a political moment to pardon Manning & Snowden," WikiLeaks tweeted on Friday, adding "If not, he hands a Trump presidency the freedom to take his prize." And a new online petition is also calling for a pardon of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying Assange is "a hero and must be honoured as such," attracting over 10,000 supporters in just a few days.

Monday WikiLeaks also announced:
"irrespective of the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the real victor is the U.S. public which is better informed as a result of our work." Addressing complaints that they specifically targeted Hillary Clinton's campaign, the group said "To date, we have not received information on Donald Trump's campaign, or Jill Stein's campaign, or Gary Johnson's campaign or any of the other candidates that fulfills our stated editorial criteria." But they also objected to the way their supporters were portrayed during the U.S. election, arguing that Trump and others "were painted with a broad, red brush. The Clinton campaign, when they were not spreading obvious untruths, pointed to unnamed sources or to speculative and vague statements from the intelligence community to suggest a nefarious allegiance with Russia. The campaign was unable to invoke evidence about our publications -- because none exists."
Atlas V Rocket Launches Sharp-Eyed Earth-Observing Satellite
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A super-powerful Earth-observing spacecraft has finally taken to the skies, nearly two months after a wildfire nixed its first launch attempt. The WorldView-4 satellite lifted off today (Nov. 11) at 1:30 p.m. EST (10:30 a.m. local time; 1830 GMT), riding a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex-3 at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base to a near sun-synchronous, pole-to-pole orbit. In addition, seven tiny cubesats were onboard in a "ridesharing" initiative. All of the cubesats manifested for the WorldView-4 mission are sponsored by the National Reconnaissance Office, the agency in charge of the United States' spy satellites, and are unclassified technology-demonstration programs. The Atlas-V that lofted WorldView-4 today had been scheduled to launch NASA's InSight Mars lander earlier this year, before issues with one of InSight's instruments delayed the Red Planet probe's liftoff until 2018. WorldView-4 is a multispectral, high-resolution commercial imaging satellite owned and operated by DigitalGlobe of Westminster, Colorado, and built by the aerospace company Lockheed Martin. Its mission is to provide high-resolution color imagery to commercial, government and international customers. Once in operation, WorldView-4 has a global capacity to image 260,000 square miles (680,000 square kilometers) per day.
Earth's Plants Are Countering Some of the Effects of Climate Change
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A new study published in Nature Communications has found that Earth's plant life between 2002 and 2014 has absorbed so much carbon dioxide that the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere has slowed down, despite humans pumping out more CO2 than ever before. The study also found that between 1982 and 2009, "about 18m square kilometers of new vegetation had sprouted on Earth's surface, an area roughly twice the size of the United States."

The Economist reports:
In 2014 humans pumped about 35.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air. That figure has been climbing sharply since the middle of the 20th century, when only about 6 billion tons a year were emitted. As a consequence, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has been rising too, from about 311 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to just over 400 in 2015. Yet the rate at which it is rising seems to have slowed since the turn of the century. According to Dr Keenan, between 1959 and 1989 the rate at which CO2 levels were growing rose from 0.75ppm per year to 1.86. Since 2002, though, it has barely budged. In other words, although humans are pumping out more CO2 than ever, less of it than you might expect is lingering in the air. Filling the atmosphere with CO2 is a bit like filling a bath without a plug: the level will rise only if more water is coming out of the taps than is escaping down the drain. Climate scientists call the processes which remove CO2 from the air "sinks." The oceans are one such sink. Photosynthesis by plants is another: carbon dioxide is converted, with the help of water and light energy from the sun, into sugars, which are used to make more plant matter, locking the carbon away in wood and leaves. Towards the end of the 20th century around 50% of the CO2 emitted by humans each year was removed from the atmosphere this way. Now that number seems closer to 60%. Earth's carbon sinks seem to have become more effective, but the precise details are still unclear. Using a mix of ground and atmospheric observations, satellite measurements and computer modeling, Dr Keenan and his colleagues have concluded that faster-growing land plants are the chief reason. That makes sense: as CO2 concentrations rise, photosynthesis speeds up. Studies conducted in greenhouses have found that plants can photosynthesis up to 40% faster when concentrations of CO2 are between 475 and 600ppm.
November 14th Supermoon Will Be Biggest In 68 Years
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On Monday, November 14th, you may be able to see the biggest and closest supermoon Earth has seen since 1948. A "supermoon" is a full moon that "coincides with the lunar orb's closest approach to Earth, or perigee." National Geographic explains how you can experience one of the best lunar spectacles in decades:

This month, the moon officially reaches perigee at 6:21 a.m. ET (11:23 UT) on November 14, when it will be just 221,524 miles from our planet, as measured from the center of both Earth and the moon. The moon reaches its full phase only two and a half hours later, at 8:52 a.m. ET (13:52 UT) on November 14. Earth hasn't been buzzed this close by a full moon since January 26, 1948, when our lunar companion was a mere 30 miles closer than this month's supermoon. Enjoy the sky show while it lasts, because the full moon won't get this close to us again until November 25, 2034. And the absolute closest full moon to Earth this century will occur on December 6, 2052, when our celestial neighbor will be just 221,472 miles away. Globally, the best time to catch this sky event is just after your local sunset on November 14, as the silvery orb rises in the east. For North Americans, the lunar disk will appear to be nearly equally full and impressive on the nights of November 13 and 14, so if you get clouded out on the first night, you'll have another chance to catch the epic sky show. The best view will be in the early morning close to dawn, as the moon sets in the west before the sun rises in the east. By the numbers, the November full moon will appear to be 7 percent larger than average and nearly 15 percent brighter.
The Sega Genesis Is Officially Back In Production
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Sega may be done making the Genesis (known as the Mega Drive outside of the U.S.), but that doesn't mean people aren't still buying them. In Brazil, the 16-bit system is still hugely popular, and now it's being brought back into production. TecToy, which produces all manner of gadgets and toys, has launched preorders for all-new Sega Mega Drive stock, complete with support for the original game library and controllers. But what's even more astounding about the announcement is that it's all being done with Sega's blessing, making these official, brand new, Sega-branded consoles. The new consoles are spitting images of the originals, aside from the addition of an SD card slot, which makes it great for emulation. They're even complete with support for A/V cables, though there's no HDMI or other bells or whistles. That might seem like a bad move, but for the Brazilian market, it's a perfect fit, not to mention that you can easily pick up an A/V-to-HDMI converter for fairly cheap.

The system costs roughly $125 (BRL399) and includes a SD card with 22 games.
Leaked NASA Paper Suggests The 'Impossible' EM Drive Really Does Work
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A source close to NASA Eagleworks has leaked the test results of the 'impossible' EM Drive. While it's important to note that the results that have been leaked haven't been published in an academic journal, they do suggest that the system works and is capable of generating force of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt in a vacuum. ScienceAlert reports:

The paper concludes that, after error measurements have been accounted for, the EM Drive generates force of 1.2 millinewtons per kilowatt in a vacuum. That's not an insignificant amount -- to put it into perspective, the super-powerful Hall thruster generates force of 60 millinewtons per kilowatt, an order of magnitude more than the EM Drive. But the Hall thruster uses fuel and requires a spacecraft to carry heavy propellants, and that extra weight could offset the higher thrust, the NASA Eagleworks team conclude in the paper. Light sails on the other hand, which are currently the most popular form of zero-propellant propulsion, use beams of sunlight to propel them forward rather than fuel. And they only generate force up to 6.67 micronewtons per kilowatt - two orders of magnitude less than NASA's EM Drive, says the paper. The NASA Eagleworks team measured the EM Drive's force using a low thrust pendulum at the Johnson Space Centre, and the tests were performed at 40, 60, and 80 watts. They were looking for any sign that the thrust could be a result of another anomaly in the system, but for now, that doesn't appear to be the case. "The test campaign included a null thrust test effort to identify any mundane sources of impulsive thrust, however none were identified," the team, led by Harold White, concluded in the paper. "Thrust data from forward, reverse, and null suggests that the system is consistently performing with a thrust to power ratio of 1.2 +/- 0.1 millinewtons per kilowatt." But the team does acknowledge that more research is needed to eliminate the possibility that thermal expansion could be somehow skewing the results. They also make it clear that this testing wasn't designed to optimize the thrust of the EM Drive, but simply to test whether it worked, so further tweaking could make the propulsion system more efficient and powerful.
A New Process Turns Sewage Into Crude Oil
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The U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has found a way to potentially produce 30 million barrels of biocrude oil per year from the 34 billion gallons of raw sewage that Americans create every day... [T]he raw sewage is placed in a reactor that's basically a tube pressurized to 3,000 pounds per square inch and heated to 660 degrees Fahrenheit, which mimics the same geological process that turned prehistoric organic matter into crude oil by breaking it down into simple compounds, only...it takes minutes instead of epochs... The end product is very similar to fossil crude oil with a bit of oxygen and water mixed in and can be refined like crude oil using conventional fractionating plants.
Face Electrodes Let You Taste and Chew In Virtual Reality
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Experiments with "virtual food" use electronics to emulate the taste and feel of the real thing, even when there's nothing in your mouth. This tech could add new sensory inputs to virtual reality or augment real-world dining experiences, especially for people with restricted diets or health issues that affect their ability to eat. Several projects have succeeded in tricking us into tasting things that aren't there. Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore has already experimented with a "digital lollipop" to emulate different tastes, and a spoon embedded with electrodes that amplify the salty, sour, or bitter flavor of the real food eaten off it. However, his experiments with electrical stimulation had less success simulating sweetness compared to the other tastes. But digitizing this taste could be particularly useful in, for example, helping people cut back on sugary food or drinks. So Ranasinghe and his colleague Ellen Yi-Luen Do started experimenting with thermal stimulation instead. Their new project, presented at the 2016 ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium (UIST) in Tokyo, uses changes in temperature to mimic the sensation of sweetness on the tongue. The user places the tip of their tongue on a square of thermoelectric elements that are rapidly heated or cooled, hijacking thermally sensitive neurons that normally contribute to the sensory code for taste. In an initial trial, it worked for about half of participants. Some also reported a sensation of spiciness when the device was warmer (around 35 degrees Celsius) and a minty taste when it was cooler (18 degrees Celsius). Ranasinghe and Do envisage such a system embedded in a glass or mug to make low-sugar drinks taste sweeter.
A Naked Black Hole Is Screaming Through the Universe
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Millions of years ago, B3 1715+425 was just an ordinary supermassive black hole. It had a comfortable life, of devouring stars and belching deadly x-rays, at the center of its distant galaxy. Now, starless and alone, it's screaming through space at 2,000 kilometers per second -- and it may never stop. BC 1715+425's troubles began when its galaxy bumped up against another. This isn't all that unusual: in fact, astronomers believe that the largest galaxies in our universe formed during ancient mergers. Normally, when two galaxies collide, the supermassive black holes at their centers start to orbit one another, moving closer and closer together in an inescapable gravitational attraction. Eventually, those black holes can fuse, releasing a burst of energy as gravitational waves and completing the cosmic joining. Most of the time, this process seems to work out for all parties involved, judging from the fact that nearly all supermassive black holes reside at the center of galaxies, and nearly all galactic centers contain a supermassive black hole. But every now and then, something goes wrong and cosmic wreckage ensues. B3 1715+425, speeding away from the core of a bloated galactic merger 2 billion light years from Earth, is living proof of this. The working theory is that millions of years ago, B3 1715+425's galaxy passed through a much larger galaxy (one that had formed during many previous mergers) and got shredded to bits, a bit like a paper airplane flying into a hurricane. The leftovers include a faint galactic remnant, just 3,000 light years across, and the supermassive black hole itself, nearly naked and hemorrhaging ionized gas as it tears through the void.
Study Links Human Actions To Specific Arctic Ice Melt
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Since at least the 1960s, the shrinkage of the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean has advanced in lockstep with the amount of greenhouse gases humans have sent into the atmosphere, according to a study published this week in Science. Every additional metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) puffed into the atmosphere appears to cost the Arctic another 3 square meters of summer sea ice -- a simple and direct observational link that has been sitting under scientists' noses. If current emission trends hold, the study suggests the Arctic will be ice free by 2045 -- far sooner than some climate models predict. The study suggests that those models are underestimating how warm the Arctic has already become and how fast that melting will proceed. And it gives the public and policymakers a concrete illustration of the consequences of burning fossil fuels. For instance, a U.S. family of four would claim nearly 200 square meters of sea ice, based on U.S. emissions in 2013. Over 3 decades, that family would be responsible for destroying more than an American football field's worth of ice.
Tim Berners-Lee Warns of Danger of Chaos in Unprotected Public Data
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Hackers could use open data such as the information that powers transport apps to create chaos, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, has said.

From The Guardian:
"If you disrupted traffic data for example, to tell everybody that all the roads south of the river are closed, so everybody would go north of the river, that would gridlock you [and] disable the city," he said. Prof Sir Nigel Shadbolt, a co-founder, with Berners-Lee, of the Open Data Institute (ODI), described this as "the Italian Job scenario" and "the ultimate hack". The pair, who have both advised the British government, are leading campaigners for publicly accessible data. Berners-Lee points out as an example that reliable, detailed transport information "really makes London better". But they warned that the potential for such datasets to be tampered with if not properly protected was largely overlooked. "When people are thinking about the security of their systems, they worry about people discovering what they are doing," Berners-Lee said. "What they don't think about is the possibility of things being changed."
You Can Legally Hack Your Own Car, Pacemaker, or Smartphone Now
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Last Friday, a new exemption to the decades-old law known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act quietly kicked in, carving out protections for Americans to hack their own devices without fear that the DMCA's ban on circumventing protections on copyrighted systems would allow manufacturers to sue themt (Editor's note: the website may block users who use adblocking tools. Here's an alternate source). One exemption, crucially, will allow new forms of security research on those consumer devices. Another allows for the digital repair of vehicles. Together, the security community and DIYers are hoping those protections, which were enacted by the Library of Congress's Copyright Office in October of 2015 but delayed a full year, will spark a new era of benevolent hacking for both research and repair. "This is a tremendously important improvement for consumer protection," says Andrea Matwyshyn, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern University. "The Copyright Office has demonstrated that it understands our changed technological reality, that in every aspect of consumers' lives, we rely on code," says Matwyshyn, who argued for the exemptions last year. For now, the exemptions are limited to a two-year trial period. And the security research exemption in particular only applies to what the Copyright Office calls "good-faith" testing, "in a controlled environment designed to avoid any harm to individuals or to the public." As Matwyshyn puts it, "We're not talking about testing your neighbor's pacemaker while it's implanted. We're talking about a controlled lab and a device owned by the researcher."
Cable TV Price Increases Have Beaten Inflation Every Single Year For 20 Years
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The pay TV industry is losing customers, but prices continue to climb. In fact, for U.S. cable TV in particular, price increases have outpaced inflation for every single one of the past 20 years, according to a recent FCC report surfaced by CordCutting.com. Every one! In 1995, cable cost $22.35 per month, on average. In 2015, it was $69.03. Now, it does makes sense for prices to go up for goods like cable as long as there is inflation. But cable's increases are more than double that of inflation. On average, cable prices went up 5.8% yearly for the past 20 years. Inflation clocked in at 2.2% per year, on average. Though there has been grumbling about the high prices of cable for quite some time, it has lately taken on a more serious air. That's because there is evidence that the pay-TV industry is experiencing a hiccup -- or the start of a long-term decline. The pay-TV industry lost 800,000 subscribers last quarter, according to the research firm SNL Kagan. "About 82% of households that use a TV currently subscribe to a pay-TV service," Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research said in a statement last month. "This is down from where it was five years ago, and similar to the penetration level eleven years ago."
'Armies' of Twitter Bots Bolster Both The Trump And Clinton Campaigns
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During the first U.S. presidential debate, "automated accounts were tweeting messages with hashtags associated with the candidates. For example, #makeamericagreatagain or #draintheswamp for Trump; #imwithher for Clinton," according to TechNewsWorld. They cite researchers at PoliticalBots.org, who "found that one-third of all tweets using pro-Trump hashtags were created by bots and one-fifth of all Clinton hashtags were generated by automated accounts."

In addition, "Political actors and governments worldwide have begun using bots to manipulate public opinion, choke off debate, and muddy political issues... We know for a fact that Russia, as a state, has sponsored the use of bots for attacking transnational targets... We've had cases in Mexico, Turkey, South Korea and Australia. The problem is that a lot of people don't know bots exist, and that trends on social media or even online polls can be gamed by bots very easily."
Top 10 Clever Google Search Tricks
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Google is a more powerful tool than most people realize. You can get much more refined searches with Google’s built-in tools, advanced operators, and third-party extensions. You can also use it for some pretty cool stuff if you know the right tricks. Here are 10 of our favorite lesser known tricks and features.
NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Sends Back Last Bit of Data From 2015 Pluto Flyby
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NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the last bit of data from its 2015 flyby of Pluto. The picture -- one of a sequence of shots of Pluto and its big moon, Charon -- arrived earlier this week at Mission Control in Maryland. It took more than five hours for the image to reach Earth from New Horizons, some 3 billion miles away. New Horizons swooped past Pluto on July 14, 2015. It's now headed to an even smaller, frozen orb in the far reaches of the solar system. That close encounter is targeted for 2019. Mission managers opted to save all the Pluto data on New Horizons' digital recorders, in order to maximize observing time. Only the highest priority sets of information were sent back in the days before and after the flyby, providing humanity's first up-close look at Pluto. It wasn't until September 2015 when the real data transmission began. In all, more than 50 gigabits of data were relayed over the past 15 months to Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. The final data arrived Tuesday, and NASA announced the safe arrival Thursday.
Tesla Unveils Residential 'Solar Roof' With Updated Battery Storage System
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Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk today unveiled the "residential roof" -- pegged as a roofing replacement -- with solar energy gathering powers. Unlike other solar systems which must be mounted on top of a traditional roof, these new panels are actually integrated within glass roof tiles, replacing a home's roof, Musk said. And because they're made of glass, Musk says they will last "quasi indefinitely," even in harsh conditions where snow and ice make short work of traditional asphalt shingles. Musk said that 50 years of lifespan should be no problem, and they offer efficiency that is 98 percent as good as a traditional, ugly photovoltaic panel.

From a report on The Verge:
There are a number of different versions of solar panels: Textured Glass Tile, Slate Glass Tile, Tuscan Glass Tile, and Smooth Glass Tile. Tesla says its glass tiles are much more durable than conventional roof tile -- something that's important in areas with risk of hail.The products are a "joint collaboration" between SolarCity and Tesla, according to SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. Tesla is attempting to acquire SolarCity for $2.6 billion and shareholders of both companies will vote on the proposed acquisition in the middle of November. The Powerwall 2 can store 14 kWh of energy, with a 5 kW continuous power draw, and 7 kW peak. The battery is warranted for unlimited power cycles for up to 10 years. It can be floor or wall mounted, inside or outside. It can be used for load shifting or back-up power. Musk says there are three parts to the solar energy solution: generation (solar panels), storage (batteries), and transportation (electric cars). Musk's plan is to sell all three of those products through Tesla.
Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users By Race
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Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That's basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls "Ethnic Affinities." Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.
First-Ever Dinosaur Brain Tissue Found Preserved In a Pebble
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A decade ago, a fossil hunter was combing the beach in southeastern England when he found a strange, brown pebble. The surface of it caught his eye: It was smooth and strangely undulating, and also slightly crinkly in some places. That oddly textured pebble, scientists report today, is actually an endocast -- an impression preserved in the rock -- that represents the first known evidence of fossilized brain tissue of a dinosaur (likely a close relative of Iguanodon, a large, herbivorous type of dinosaur that lived about 133 million years ago). Human brains and bird brains are packed tightly into the brain case, so that their convolutions leave an impression of the inside of the case. But dinosaur (and reptile) brains are more loosely fitted; they are surrounded within the brain case by membranes called meninges, tough sheaths that protect and support the brain. So an endocast of a dinosaur brain might be expected to show those structures -- and it did. But beneath them, remineralized in calcium phosphate, the researchers also spied a pattern of tiny capillaries and other cortical tissues -- the sort of fabric you'd expect for the cortex of a brain. That those textures were pressed up against the brain case doesn't necessarily mean that dinosaurs were bigger-brained and smarter than we thought, however: Instead, the dinosaur had likely simply toppled over and been preserved upside down, its brain tissue preserved by surrounding acidic, low-oxygen waters that pickled and hardened the membranes and tissues, providing a template for mineralization. The structure of the brain, studied with scanning electron microscopes, reveal similarities to both birds and crocodiles.
World Wildlife Falls By 58% in 40 years
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Global wildlife populations have fallen by 58% since 1970, BBC reports citing The Living Planet assessment by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and WWF. The report adds that if the trend continues, the decline would reach two-thirds among vertebrates by 2020. The figures suggest that animals living in lakes, rivers and wetlands are suffering the biggest losses. Human activity, including habitat loss, wildlife trade, pollution and climate change contributed to the declines.

From the report:
Dr Mike Barrett. head of science and policy at WWF, said: "It's pretty clear under 'business as usual' we will see continued declines in these wildlife populations. But I think now we've reached a point where there isn't really any excuse to let this carry on. This analysis looked at 3,700 different species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles - about 6% of the total number of vertebrate species in the world. The team collected data from peer-reviewed studies, government statistics and surveys collated by conservation groups and NGOs. Any species with population data going back to 1970, with two or more time points (to show trends) was included in the study.
Supposed 'Burial Slab' Of Jesus Christ Uncovered For First Time In Centuries
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A stone slab that many Christians believe once held the body of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion has been unveiled for the first time in centuries.

National Geographic, which was filming the restoration work at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, said the marble that encased the slab since at least 1555 was removed as part of the project.
Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity
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The world's largest source of power capacity is now renewables, as roughly half a million solar panels were installed every single day last year. In addition, two wind turbines were erected every hour in countries such as China, according to the International Energy Agency.

Financial Times reports:
Although coal and other fossil fuels remain the largest source of electricity generation, many conventional power utilities and energy groups have been confounded by the speed at which renewables have grown and the rapid drop in costs for the technologies. Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 percent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed. The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 percent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power. It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which has more than the total power capacity in Canada. It was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal's cumulative share of global power capacity -- though not electricity generation. A power plant's capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time. Coal power plants supplied close to 39 percent of the world's power in 2015, while renewables, including old hydropower dams, accounted for 23 percent, IEA data show. But the agency expects renewables' share of power generation to rise to 28 percent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the U.S. and E.U. combined.
Curious Tilt of the Sun Traced To Undiscovered Planet
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Planet Nine - the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016 -- appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study. The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the Sun is tilted slightly. "Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery. All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun -- giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.
Study Finds Little Lies Lead To Bigger Ones
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Telling little fibs leads down a slippery slope to bigger lies -- and our brains adapt to escalating dishonesty, which makes deceit easier, a new study shows. Neuroscientists at the University College London's Affective Brain Lab put 80 people in scenarios where they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on the magnitude of their lies. They said they were the first to demonstrate empirically that people's lies grow bolder the more they fib. The researchers then used brain scans to show that our mind's emotional hot spot -- the amygdala -- becomes desensitized or used to the growing dishonesty, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. And during this lying, brain scans that show blood supply and activity at the amygdala decrease with increasing lies, said study co-author and lab director Tali Sharot. "The more we lie, the less likely we are to have an emotional response" -- say, shame or guilt -- "that accompanies it," Sharot said. Garrett said he suspects similar escalation factors happen in the "real world," which would include politics, infidelity and cheating, but he cautioned that this study was done in a controlled lab setting so more research would be needed to apply it to other situations. The study found that there is a segment of people who don't lie and don't escalate lies, but Sharot and Garrett weren't able to determine how rare those honest people are. It also found that people lie more when it benefits both them and someone else than when they just profit alone.
What the Temple Mount Floor Looked Like
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The Temple Mount Sifting Projecta has recovered more than a hundred geometrically cut and polished stone tiles known as opus sectile, from which we learn how Jerusalem’s majestic Herodian Temple Mount was paved.

Opus sectile—Latin for “cut work”—is a technique for paving floors and walls in geometric patterns or figurative scenes using meticulously cut and polished polychrome stone tiles.1 These tiles were crafted and laid with such precision that there was hardly space to insert a knife-blade between them. Opus sectile floors were more prestigious than mosaic ones and were typically used in more important areas of buildings. Along with using frescoed walls, stucco decorations and elegantly carved columns, King Herod the Great (r. 37–4 B.C.E.) introduced this paving technique to Israel to decorate many of his palaces, including Masada, Jericho, Herodium and Cypros.
Climate Change Could Cross Key Threshold in a Decade, Scientists Say
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The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. But the planet is already two-thirds of the way to that lower and safer goal, and could begin to pass it in about a decade, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre.
Internet is Becoming Unreadable Because of a Trend Towards Lighter, Thinner Fonts
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The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.
AT&T's $85B US Bid For Time Warner Sparks Antitrust Fears in Washington
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The two top members of the Senate's antitrust subcommittee said Sunday that they plan to probe a colossal deal between AT&T and Time Warner. In a statement, Mike Lee, R-Utah., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. -- chairman and ranking Democrat, respectively, of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights -- said AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner "would potentially raise significant antitrust issues" that the panel would "carefully examine." AT&T Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson announced the $85 billion deal Saturday as "a great fit" that will combine the "world's best premium content with the networks to deliver it to every screen." Among those new properties are HBO, Turner Broadcasting System and Warner Bros., which would give them ownership of Cinemax, CNN and DC Comics, to name a few. Last year, AT&T completed the purchase of DirecTV, the country's largest satellite television provider. In an interview with NBC News, Klobuchar pointed to past mega-media acquisitions -- including the purchase of NBCUniversal by Comcast in 2011 and of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications -- and said the "sheer volume" of the deal should give regulators pause.
Marai and Bashlight Join Forces Against DNS Provider Dyn
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A second wave of attacks has hit dynamic domain name service provider Dyn, affecting a larger number of providers. As researchers and government officials race to figure out what is causing the outages, new details are emerging. Dan Drew, chief security officer at Level 3 Communications, says the attack is at least in part being mounted from a "botnet" of Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices. "We're seeing attacks coming from a number of different locations," Drew said. "An Internet of Things botnet called Mirai that we identified is also involved in the attack."
Amid Major Internet Outages, Affected Websites Have Lessons To Learn
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Earlier today, Dyn, an internet infrastructure company, was hit by several DDoS attacks, which interestingly affected several popular websites including The New York Times, Reddit, Spotify, and Twitter that were directly or indirectly using Dyn's services. The attack is mostly visible across the US eastern seaboard with rest of the world noticing a few things broken here and there. Dyn says it's currently investigating a second round of DDoS attacks, though the severity of the outage is understandably less now. In the meantime, the Homeland Security said that it is aware of the attack and is investigating "all potential causes." Much of who is behind these attacks is unknown for now, and it is unlikely that we will know all the details until at least a few days. The attacks however have revealed how unprepared many websites are when their primary DNS provider goes down.
Nintendo Unveils 'Switch', Its New Gaming Console and Tablet Hybrid
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And finally, we know what's Nintendo's next gaming console will look like. The company today released a "preview trailer" of the Nintendo Switch, or "Project NX" as we liked to call it before today.

Engadget adds:
Like the countless rumors previously asserted, it's indeed a hybrid mobile and home console with a tablet element and detachable controllers. The tablet itself (which Nintendo calls "the Switch Console" is thin and pretty attractive. It looks to have a screen measuring around 7 inches, of unspecified resolution. At home, it'll plug into the "Switch Dock," which in turn plugs into your TV. In the trailer, a gamer plugs in what looks to be an SD Card-style cartridge, meaning games are likely to be distributed both digitally and physically. It's powered by an unspecified custom Nvidia Tegra processor.
ESA Lander's Signal Cut Out Just Before It Was Supposed To Land on Mars
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On Wednesday, the European Space Agency sought to become the second entity to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars with its Schiaparelli lander. And everything seemed to be going swimmingly right up until the point that Schiaparelli was to touch down. The European scientists had been tracking the descent of Schiaparelli through an array of radio telescopes near Pune, India and were able to record the moment when the vehicle exited a plasma blackout. The scientists also received a signal that indicated parachute deployment. But during the critical final moments, when nine hydrazine-powered thrusters were supposed to fire to arrest Schiaparelli's descent, the signal disappeared. At that point, the European Space Agency's webcast went silent for several minutes before one of the flight directors could be heard to say, "We expected the signal to continue, but clearly it did not. We don't want to jump to conclusions."
Half of American Adults Are In a Face-Recognition Database
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Half of American adults are in a face-recognition database, according to a Georgetown University study released Wednesday. That means there's about 117 million adults in a law enforcement facial-recognition database, the study by Georgetown's Center on Privacy and Technology says. The report (PDF), titled "The Perpetual Line-up: Unregulated Police Face Recognition in America," shows that one-fourth of the nation's law enforcement agencies have access to face-recognition databases, and their use by those agencies is virtually unregulated. Where do the mug shots come from? For starters, about 16 states allow the FBI to use facial recognition to compare faces of suspected criminals to their driver's licenses or ID photos, according to the study. "In this line-up," the study says, "it's not a human that points to the suspect -- it's an algorithm." The study says 26 states or more allow police agencies to "run or request searches" against their databases or driver's licenses and ID photos. This equates to "roughly one in two American adults has their photos searched this way," according to the study. Many local police agencies also insert mug shots of people they arrest into searchable, biometric databases, according to the report. According to the report, researchers obtained documents stating that at least five "major police departments," including those in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles, "either claimed to run real-time face recognition off of street cameras, bought technology that can do so, or expressed an interest in buying it." The Georgetown report's release comes three months after the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the FBI has access to as many as 411.9 million images as part of its face-recognition database.
Netflix's Big Bet on Original Shows Finally Seen Paying Off
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Netflix shares jumped as much as 20 percent on Tuesday, after the company added 50 percent more subscribers than expected in the third quarter.

Reuters adds:
At least 10 brokerages, including Goldman Sachs and RBC Capital Markets, raised their price targets on the stock, praising the company's focus on developing original content. The video streaming company also said it was getting ready to spend $6 billion on content next year, up $1 billion from 2016. "The benefits of Netflix-produced original content including attractive economics and greater control are clear and we believe returns on original spend are high," J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Doug Anmuth said in a research note. Strong subscriber additions after two quarters of disappointing growth helped Netflix post a 31.7 percent jump in third-quarter revenue. Anmuth said he believed Netflix was on track toward 60 million plus subscribers in the United States and about 100 million internationally by 2020.

A study by IHS Markit this month noted that both Netflix and Amazon are challenging major networks by upping spending on original shows. The study noted that Amazon and Netflix both had doubled spending on new shows in the last two years. Amazon dropped $1.22 billion in 2013 and spent $2.67 billion in 2015. Netflix's spending on original content rose from $2.38 billion to $4.91 billion over the same period.
Venus May Have Been the First Habitable Planet In Our Solar System, Study Suggests
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Venus is often referred to as Earth's evil twin, but conditions on the planet were not always so hellish, according to research that suggests it may have been the first place in the solar system to have become habitable. The study, due to be presented this week at the at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Pasadena, concludes that at a time when primitive bacteria were emerging on Earth, Venus may have had a balmy climate and vast oceans up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) deep. Michael Way, who led the work at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said: "If you lived three billion years ago at a low latitude and low elevation the surface temperatures would not have been that different from that of a place in the tropics on Earth," he said. Crucially, if the calculations are correct the oceans may have remained until 715m years ago -- a long enough period of climate stability for microbial life to have plausibly sprung up. "The oceans of ancient Venus would have had more constant temperatures, and if life begins in the oceans -- something which we are not certain of on Earth -- then this would be a good starting place," said Way. With an average surface temperature of 462C (864F), Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system today, thanks to its proximity to the sun and its impenetrable carbon dioxide atmosphere, 90 times denser than Earth's. At some point in the planet's history this led to a runaway greenhouse effect. Way and colleagues simulated the Venusian climate at various time points between 2.9 billion and 715 million years ago, employing similar models to those used to predict future climate change on Earth. The scientists fed some basic assumptions into the model, including the presence of water, the intensity of the sunlight and how fast Venus was rotating. In this virtual version, 2.9 billion years ago Venus had an average surface temperature of 11C (52F) and this only increased to an average of 15C (59F) by 715m years ago, as the sun became more powerful. Details of the study are also published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Orbital ATK Returns To Flight With Successful Antares Launch To Space Station
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The Orbital ATK Antares rocket -- the same rocket that exploded on its way to the International Space Station two years ago -- returned to flight today with a much-anticipated launch. Lifting off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the Antares rocket is now on its way to deliver the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of cargo to crew members aboard the ISS. Today's launch was particularly special for Orbital ATK, a company contracted by NASA to deliver 66,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS through 2018. After their Antares rocket exploded during a launch in 2014, destroying thousands of pounds of experiments and cargo bound for the space station, Orbital ATK worked for two years to upgrade that rocket and prepare for its return to flight. Today, the Orbital ATK was finally able to fly Cygnus on top of their own rocket again. The RD-181-equipped Antares rocket carried Cygnus, which housed science experiments and supplies for the ISS crew, for their fifth operational cargo resupply mission for NASA. Along with crew supplies, spacewalk equipment and computer resources, Cygnus will bring over 1,000 pounds of science investigations to the five crew members on the ISS. One of those experiments is Saffire-II, the second Saffire experiment to be conducted inside Cygnus in order to study realistic flame propagation in space. Cygnus will spend over a month attached to the ISS. In late November, the spacecraft will be filled with about 3,000 pounds of trash and then released to begin its descent back to Earth. During reentry through Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft, along with trash and Saffire-II, will be destroyed.
Report: Russian Hackers Phished The DNC And Clinton Campaign Using Fake Gmail Forms
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Citing a report from SecureWorks, BuzzFeed is reporting that Russian hackers "used emails disguised to look as Gmail security updates to hack into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and members of Hillary Clinton's top campaign staff":

The emails were sent to 108 members of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign and 20 people clicked on them, at least four people clicking more than once, Secureworks' research found. The emails were sent to another 16 people from the DNC and four people clicked on them, the report said.
China Just Launched Two Astronauts Into Orbit
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China has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 23:30 GMT on Sunday [7:30 p.m. EST].

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.
Billionaire Tech Investors Support Divisive Plan To Ban San Francisco's Homeless Camps
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The images are startling: Homeless men, women and children huddled on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area -- often in the shadows of start-ups and high-tech behemoths generating billions of dollars in wealth. It's a stark contrast that has gripped the region, and prompted four county measures on the Nov. 8 ballot to generate $3 billion over the next 25 years for affordable housing and services. Under the most-ambitious measure, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has proposed a 0.75% increase in the sales tax, to 9.5%, to raise $50 million a year. Propositions J and K would generate $1.2 billion for the next quarter-century via a simple majority. "There is clearly not enough affordable housing, or housing at any level," says Kevin Zwick, CEO of Housing Trust Silicon Valley.
The Universe Has 20 Times More Galaxies Than We Thought
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A new study by a team of international astronomers has produced some astounding results: they concluded that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies -- as much as 20 times more than previously thought. The study adds that 90 percent of all galaxies are hidden from us. This hidden portion can't be seen even with our most powerful telescopes.

Gizmodo adds:
Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that's a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion). And that's just within the observable universe. Because the cosmos emerged some 13.8 billion years ago, we're only able to observe objects up to a certain distance from Earth. Anything outside this "Hubble Bubble" is invisible to us because the light from these distant objects simply haven't had enough time to reach us. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to know how many galaxies reside outside this cosmological blind spot.
The Washington Post Tracked Facebook's Trending Topics For 3 Weeks, Found 5 Fake Stories and 3 Inaccurate Articles
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An alarming number of people rely on social media, including and especially Facebook, for news. Over the past few months, we have seen how Facebook's Trending Topics feature is often biased, and moreover, how sometimes fake news slips through its filter. The Washington Post monitored the website for over three weeks and found that Facebook is still struggling to get its algorithm right.

From the report:
The Megyn Kelly incident was supposed to be an anomaly. An unfortunate one-off. A bit of (very public, embarrassing) bad luck. But in the six weeks since Facebook revamped its Trending system -- and a hoax about the Fox News Channel star subsequently trended -- the site has repeatedly promoted "news" stories that are actually works of fiction. As part of a larger audit of Facebook's Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended. Facebook declined to comment about Trending on the record. "I'm not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended," one former member of the team that used to oversee Trending told the Post. "It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code."

The Post adds that "there's no guarantee" that it was able to catch every hoax, since it looked at Trending feature only once every hour.
Senator Wants Nationwide, All-Mail Voting To Counter Election Hacks
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In the wake of the Obama administration's announcement that the Russian government directed hacks on the Democratic National Committee and other institutions to influence U.S. elections, a senator from Oregon says the nation should conduct its elections like his home state does: all-mail voting. In an e-mail, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat, told Ars: "We should not underestimate how dangerous... attacks on election systems could be. If a foreign state were to eliminate registration records for a particular group of Americans immediately before an election, they could very likely disenfranchise those Americans and swing the results of an election. Recent efforts by some states to make it more difficult to vote only serves to increase the danger of such attacks. This is why I have proposed taking Oregon's unique vote-by-mail system nationwide to protect our democratic process against foreign and domestic attacks." The only states to hold all elections entirely by mail are Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. More than a dozen others have various provisions for mail voting. The National Conference of State Legislatures has a breakdown here on how Americans cast their votes across the union. Wyden co-sponsored the Vote By Mail Act in July, and he did so for reasons at the time that were unconnected to cybersecurity. Instead, the measure was originally proposed to help minorities and others cast ballots. The plan requires the U.S. Postal Service to deliver ballots to all registered voters. Voters could also register to vote when applying for driver's licenses, too. The measure fell on deaf ears this year and didn't even get a committee vote. A Wyden spokesperson said the proposal will have a "better chance" next year if Democrats win a majority of Senate seats.
NASA To Allow Private Companies To Hook Up Modules To ISS
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Private space companies may soon get the opportunity to add their own habitat modules to the outside of the International Space Station. That's according to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who announced the new initiative today as a way to help expand the number of companies and people that can do work and research in space. That can eventually help companies gain the experience and capability to create private space stations of their own. "A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations," wrote Bolden in a White House blog post. The announcement of this new opportunity comes just a few months after NASA asked private companies for ideas of how they might use one of the docking ports on the ISS. Based on the responses NASA received, Bolden said companies had a "strong desire" to attach commercial modules to the station that could benefit both NASA and the private sector. Bolden didn't specify which companies expressed interest, but one company in particular, Bigelow Aerospace, has been very vocal about its desire to hook up habitats to the ISS; the company wants to attach its next big inflatable habitat, the B330, to the ISS as early as 2020. One of Bigelow's experimental habitats is already connected to the ISS, though its stay is only temporary and meant to gather data about Bigelow's habitat technology. While the new ISS initiative is meant to foster innovation in the private sector, it will also presumably help jumpstart the space station's transition from a state-run project to one helmed by the private sector. The ISS is set to retire in 2024, and NASA is looking to move beyond lower Earth orbit and send humans to Mars by the mid-2030s. But before NASA abandons the ISS, the space agency wants to leave the orbiting lab in some private company's capable hands. "Ultimately, our desire is to hand the space station over to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit," Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development, said at a press conference in August. President Barack Obama also said Tuesday that the country will send Americans to Mars by the 2030s and return them "safely to Earth," which is part of a long-term goal to "one day remain there for an extended time."
Climate Change Doubled the Size of Forest Fires In Western US, Says Study
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Man-made climate change has doubled the total area burned by forest fires in the Western U.S. in the past three decades, according to new research. Damage from forest fires has risen dramatically in recent decades, with the total acres burned in the U.S. rising from 2.9 million in 1985 to 10.1 million in 2015, according to National Interagency Fire Center data. Suppression costs paid by the federal government now top $2 billion. Now a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found that a significant portion of the increase in land burned by forest fires can be attributed to man-made climate change. Other factors are also at play, including natural climate shifts and a change in how humans use land, but man-made climate change has had the biggest impact. That trend will likely continue as temperatures keep rising, researchers said. Climate change contributes to forest fires in a number of ways. Fires kill off trees and other plants that eventually dry and act as the fuel to feed massive wildfires. Global warming also increases the likelihood of the dry, warm weather in which wildfires can thrive. Average temperatures in the Western U.S. rose by 2.5 degree Fahrenheit since 1970, outpacing temperature rise elsewhere on the globe, according to the research
O'Reilly Gives Away Free Programming Ebooks
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There's now a section on OReilly.com offering free ebooks about computer programming. There's four free Java ebooks and seven about Python, as well as an "Other" section which contains ebooks like C++ Today, Swift Pocket Reference, and Why Rust? But there's also some broader categories for Open Source and Software Architecture ebooks, as well as separate sections for their free ebooks about Data, Security, Web Development, and the Internet of Things.
When Her Best Friend Died, She Rebuilt Him Using Artificial Intelligence
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When Roman Mazurenko died, his friend Eugenia Kuyda created a digital monument to him: an artificial intelligent bot that could "speak" as Roman using thousands of lines of texts sent to friends and family.

From the report:
"It's pretty weird when you open the messenger and there's a bot of your deceased friend, who actually talks to you," Fayfer said. "What really struck me is that the phrases he speaks are really his. You can tell that's the way he would say it -- even short answers to 'Hey what's up.' It has been less than a year since Mazurenko died, and he continues to loom large in the lives of the people who knew him. When they miss him, they send messages to his avatar, and they feel closer to him when they do. "There was a lot I didn't know about my child," Roman's mother told me. "But now that I can read about what he thought about different subjects, I'm getting to know him more. This gives the illusion that he's here now."
FCC Proposal: Internet Providers Must Ask To Share Your Data
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The Federal Communication Commission has changed its broadband-privacy plan since it was initially proposed in March. The wireless and cable industries had complained that under the initial plan, they would be more heavily regulated than digital-ad behemoths like Google and Facebook, who are monitored by a different agency, the Federal Trade Commission. The FCC explained its new approach Thursday and plans to vote on it Oct. 27. The revised proposal says broadband providers don't have to get permission from customers ahead of time to use some information deemed "non-sensitive," like names and addresses. The previous plan called for customers to expressly approve the use of more of their information. This time around, customers still need to OK broadband providers' using and sharing a slew of their data, like a phone's physical location, websites browses and apps used, and what's in emails. And customers must be told what types of information is kept and how it will be used, and agency officials said they can still say no to internet service providers using other data, like names and addresses.
Two 19-Year-Olds Charged With Running Phone Harassment, Hack-For-Hire Sites
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Federal prosecutors have charged two 19-year-old men with running "hacking-for-hire" websites that attacked companies worldwide and did business with international hacking groups "Lizard Squad" and "PoodleCorp." Zachary Buchta of Fallston, Maryland, and Bradley Jan Willem van Rooy of the Netherlands, have both been charged with conspiring to cause damage to protected computers. Buchta walked out of federal court in Chicago yesterday after being released on bail. He was arrested earlier but released on his own recognizance. The judge ruled that Buchta can live with his mother in Maryland while he awaits trial, but he won't be allowed to access the Internet or have any contact with van Rooy. As for van Rooy, he was arrested in the Netherlands last month and remains in custody there. The allegations against Buchta and van Rooy are among the first US charges related to Lizard Squad. The site that first got the feds' attention was phonebomber.net, which allowed paying customers to purchase a barrage of harassing phone calls directed at chosen targets. The phonebomber.net website charged just $20 to initiate the harassment, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. Police say the two worked together with other members of Lizard Squad to run additional websites that trafficked in stolen credit card numbers and offered hacking-for-hire services alleged to have caused thousands of "denial of service" attacks worldwide.
Facebook Is Talking To the White House About Giving You 'Free' Internet
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Facebook is in talks with the government and wireless carriers to bring its 'Free Basics' internet service to the United States, reports Washington Post, citing sources. If everything goes as planned for Facebook, it would target "low-income and rural Americans who cannot afford reliable, high-speed internet at home or on smartphones," (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source) the paper adds.
Bigfoot Spotted Sneaking Around Below Bald Eagle Nest, Multiple Outlets Report
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Bigfoot, that mysteriously unkempt and anti-social gentlemen of the woodlands, has again made an appearance on camera in his trademark blurry yet intriguing style. This time the legendary cryptid has apparently been captured on the CarbonTV Eagle Cam in northern Michigan. The live webcam is trained on a bald eagle nest 100 feet (30 meters) above the ground near the Platte River State Fish Hatchery. In the aforementioned video we see a dark lumbering figure talking into frame about 10 seconds into the clip. The shadowy silhouette of something clearly bipedal makes its way through the stand of trees before walking out of frame. While the creature appears to fit the traditional description of Bigfoot, it also could pretty easily be explained as a bear or a human. Because the camera is capturing the forest floor looking down from 100 feet up, the perspective is a little screwy and it's hard to get much clarity.
Blue Origin Lands Rocket During Launch Escape Test
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SpaceX isn't the only private company interested in reusable rockets. Blue Origin, an American privately-funded aerospace manufacturer established by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, surprised everyone, including itself, by successfully landing its New Shepard rocket in today's in-flight launch escape test.

Gizmodo reports:
Moments ago, Blue Origin conducted an in flight test of its launch escape system, separating a crew capsule from its New Shepard booster at an altitude of 16,000 feet. This test was critical to ensure that the rocket will be safe for human passengers, whom Blue Origin hopes to start flying into sub-orbital space as early as next year. Not only did the crew capsule make a clean separation, deploy its parachutes, and land softly in a small cloud of dust back on Earth, but the booster -- which everybody expected to go splat -- continued on its merry way into suborbital space, after which it succeeded in landing smoothly back on Earth for a fifth time. Although Blue Origin has tested its launch escape system on the launchpad before, this is the first time such a system has been tested, by anyone, in flight since the 1960s. It was almost too perfect.
Johnson & Johnson Discloses That Its Insulin Pump Is Hackable
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Johnson and Johnson has revealed that its JJ Animas OneTouch Ping insulin pump is vulnerable to hackers, who could potentially force the device to overdose diabetic patients -- however, it declares that the risk of this happening is very low. Unnamed executives from the American multinational medical manufacturer said that they were taking the unprecedented step of warning customers about the vulnerability, particularly in light of recent controversies regarding attack vectors in cardiac equipment. In a letter to doctors and 114,000 patients, sent on Monday, the company wrote: "The probability of unauthorized access to the OneTouch Ping system is extremely low... It would require technical expertise, sophisticated equipment and proximity to the pump, as the OneTouch Ping system is not connected to the internet or to any external network."

Even though the company's own technicians were able to hack the pump within a distance of 25 feet, Johnson and Johnson's chief medical officer Brian Levy observed that the hack would be extremely difficult to pull off, and said "We believe the OneTouch Ping system is safe and reliable. We urge patients to stay on the product."
This Is The Worst Insect Sting In The World
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One day while Justin Schmidt was riding his bicycle, something went terribly wrong.

“I was huffing and puffing, so my mouth was open, and this damn honeybee flew right in and stung me on the tongue,” he says. He tumbled to the ground, flailing in agony. Later he described the sting as “immediate, noisome, visceral, debilitating. For 10 minutes, life is not worth living.”
British Trio Wins Nobel Prize In Physics For Study of Exotic Matter
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David J. Thouless, F. Duncan M. Haldane and J. Michael Kosterlitz were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for discoveries in condensed-matter physics that have transformed the understanding of matter that assumes strange shapes. All three were born in Britain but work in the United States. Using advanced mathematical models, the three scientists studied unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Their findings have relevance for materials science and electronics. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm awarded the prize for "theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter." Topology is a branch of mathematics that describes properties that change only in increments. In the early 1970s, Dr. Kosterlitz and Dr. Thouless "demonstrated that superconductivity could occur at low temperatures and also explained the mechanism, phase transition, that makes superconductivity disappear at higher temperatures," the academy found. In the 1980s, Dr. Thouless showed that the integers by which the conductivity of electricity could be measured were topological in their nature. Around that time, Dr. Haldane discovered how topological concepts could be used to understand the properties of chains of small magnets found in some materials. "We now know of many topological phases, not only in thin layers and threads, but also in ordinary three-dimensional materials," the academy said. "Over the last decade, this area has boosted front-line research in condensed matter physics, not least because of the hope that topological materials could be used in new generations of electronics and superconductors, or in future quantum computers."
'Great Pacific Garbage Patch' Far Bigger Than Imagined, Aerial Survey Shows
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The vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined. A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the "great Pacific garbage patch," located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated. The heart of the garbage patch is thought to be around 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles), with the periphery spanning a further 3.5m sq km (1,351,000 sq miles). The dimensions of this morass of waste are continually morphing, caught in one of the ocean's huge rotating currents. The north Pacific gyre has accumulated a soup of plastic waste, including large items and smaller broken-down micro plastics that can be eaten by fish and enter the food chain. Following a further aerial survey through the heart of the patch on Sunday, the Ocean Cleanup aims to tackle the problem through a gigantic V-shaped boom, which would use sea currents to funnel floating rubbish into a cone. A prototype of the vulcanized rubber barrier will be tested next year, with a full-sized 100km (62-mile) barrier deployed by 2020 if trials go well.

"Normally when you do an aerial survey of dolphins or whales, you make a sighting and record it," said Boyan Slat, the founder of the Ocean Cleanup. "That was the plan for this survey. But when we opened the door and we saw the debris everywhere. Ever half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots -- it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean."
Apple, Google, Microsoft: We Have No Government Email Scanning Program Like Yahoo's
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Apple, Google and Microsoft -- three of the largest technology companies in the U.S. -- have each said they don't scan all incoming messages for the U.S. government, which is exactly what Yahoo does. According to Reuters, Yahoo secretly built a custom software program last year to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials. The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI. Vocativ reports:

In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson told Vocativ that "We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo." While Apple declined to give a statement on the record, a representative for the company did, in response to Vocativ's question, refer to CEO Tim Cook's official letter on consumer privacy, which reads in part: "I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will." The fact that both the companies declined further statement means it's not yet known if the NSA or FBI approached them to request they build a program like Yahoo's.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Alphabet's Google issued a statement to CNBC: "We've never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: 'no way.'" [The spokesperson later clarified that the company has not received a "directive" or "order" to that effect, either, according to The Intercept.] But the question is whether or not you believe them. With Yahoo's case, only a handful of employees knew about the program. The same could be true with Apple, Google, Microsoft or any other large tech company. Edward Snowden tweeted not too long after Reuters' report surfaced: "Heads up: Any major email service not clearly, categorically denying this tomorrow -- without careful phrasing -- is as guilty as Yahoo."
Yahoo Secretly Scanned Customer Emails For US Intelligence
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Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers' incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter. The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events. Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency's demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time. It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified. Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

The two former employees say that the decision Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made to obey the directive resulted in the June 2015 departure of CISO Alex Stamos, who left to work for Facebook. The company said in response to Reuters questions about the demand, "Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States."
India Ratifies The Paris Climate Change Agreement
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"India just ratified the Paris climate deal -- bringing it extremely close to taking effect," reports the Washington Post, calling India the world's fourth-largest producer of greenhouse gas.

According to NPR's update on the Paris agreement: It will not become binding until it's ratified by 55 countries that contribute a total of at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The 55-country requirement has already been fulfilled -- India is No. 62 -- but...the current signatories account for about 52 percent of global greenhouse emissions, according to a statement released by the U.N. on Sunday.

India currently produces about 4.5 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions [and] has set a goal of producing 40 percent of its electricity with non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. India also promised to plant or preserve enough tree cover to act as a sink for at least 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide, and has called on the U.S. and other fully developed countries to share technologies that help decrease emissions.
Music Confounds the Machines
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Everyone's talking about the great speech T Bone Burnett gave as the keynote address to AmericanaFest yesterday. If you missed it, here's the transcript
French Banks Offer Credit Card Numbers That Change Every Hour
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What if the numbers on your card changed every hour so that, even if a fraudster copied them, they'd quickly be out of date? That's exactly what two French banks are starting to do with their new high-tech ebank cards... The three digits on the back of this card will change, every hour, for three years. And after they change, the previous three digits are essentially worthless, and that's a huge blow for criminals... As most fraud happens a few hours or days after your card details are actually taken, this would leave criminals essentially with a bunch of useless numbers.

It's just like credit cards you have now -- other than the tiny digital screen that's embedded into the back of the card.
Scientists Identify Another Source of Dangerous Greenhouse Gases: Reservoirs
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A team of researchers from Canada, Holland, China, the U.S. and Brazil "found that greenhouse gas emissions from man-made reservoirs were likely equal to the equivalent of one gigaton of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere every year...a little less than one-sixth of the United State's greenhouse gas emissions."

According to Popular Science:
A reservoir is usually created by damming a river, overflowing the banks and flooding the surrounding area, creating a man-made lake...the perfect conditions for microbes to generate greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane (a gas that is about 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide)... "When reservoirs are first flooded there's organic matter in the soil and vegetation that can be converted by microbes into methane and carbon dioxide," John Harrison, a co-author of the paper, tells Popular Science.

"Also, reservoirs because they are in line in rivers, they receive a lot of organic matter and organic sediment from upstream that can fuel the production of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide." Harrison says that reservoirs also tend to occur in areas where fertilizers are used on the surrounding land. Runoff from those fertilizers into bodies of water can cause algal blooms that can also produce more methane and carbon dioxide.


If the world's reservoirs were a country, they'd be #8 on a list of polluters -- right behind Brazil, China, the EU and the U.S.
Revolutionary Ion Thruster To Be Tested On International Space Station
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Three Australian researchers have developed "an ion thruster that could replace the current chemical-based rocket propulsion technology, which requires huge volumes of fuel to be loaded onto a spacecraft." Slashdot reader theweatherelectric shares this article from the ABC News:

An Australian-designed rocket propulsion system is heading to the International Space Station for a year-long experiment that ultimately could revolutionize space travel. The technology could be used to power a return trip to Mars without refuelling, and use recycled space junk for the fuel... It will be placed in a module outside the ISS, powered, as Dr Neumann describes, by an extension cord from the station. "What we'll be doing with our system is running it for as long as we can, hopefully for the entire year on the space station to measure how much force it's producing for how long."

In the early 2000s "it was basically a machine the size of a fist that spat ions from a very hot plasma ball through a magnetic nozzle at a very high velocity," and the researchers are now hoping to achieve the same effect by recycling the magnesium in space junk.
Federal Prosecutors Actually Prosecute H1-B Fraud
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Federal prosecutors "have filed conspiracy charges against a part-owner of two information technology firms and an employee for fraudulently using the H-1B program". Both were reportedly recruiting foreign IT workers, according to the AP: Prosecutors said the conspirators falsely represented that the foreign workers had full-time positions and were paid an annual salary [when] the workers were only paid when placed at a third-party client, and the defendants sometimes generated false payroll records... The defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and obstruct justice and conspiracy to harbor aliens.

They're now facing up to 15 years in prison for an "alien-harboring conspiracy" charge -- with a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine -- and a separate visa fraud and obstruction of justice charge with a maximum 5-year penalty and a $250,000 fine.
Yahoo Insiders Believe Hackers Could Have Stolen Over 1 Billion Accounts
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The actual tally of stolen user accounts from the hack Yahoo experienced could be much larger than 500 million, according to a former Yahoo executive familiar with its security practices. The former Yahoo insider says the architecture of Yahoo's back-end systems is organized in such a way that the type of breach that was reported would have exposed a much larger group of user account information. To be sure, Yahoo has said that the breach affected at least 500 million users. But the former Yahoo exec estimated the number of accounts that could have potentially been stolen could be anywhere between 1 billion and 3 billion. According to this executive, all of Yahoo's products use one main user database, or UDB, to authenticate users. So people who log into products such as Yahoo Mail, Finance, or Sports all enter their usernames and passwords, which then goes to this one central place to ensure they are legitimate, allowing them access. That database is huge, the executive said. At the time of the hack in 2014, inside were credentials for roughly 700 million to 1 billion active users accessing Yahoo products every month, along with many other inactive accounts that hadn't been deleted. In late 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said the company had 800 million monthly active users globally. It currently has more than 1 billion.
Implication of Sabotage Adds Intrigue To SpaceX Investigation
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The long-running feud between Elon Musk's space company and its fierce competitor United Launch Alliance took a bizarre twist this month when a SpaceX employee visited its facilities at Cape Canaveral, Fla., and asked for access to the roof of one of ULA's buildings. About two weeks earlier, one of SpaceX's rockets blew up on a launchpad while it was awaiting an engine test. As part of the investigation, SpaceX officials had come across something suspicious they wanted to check out, according to three industry officials with knowledge of the episode. SpaceX had still images from video that appeared to show an odd shadow, then a white spot on the roof of a nearby building belonging to ULA, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The SpaceX representative explained to the ULA officials on site that it was trying to run down all possible leads in what was a cordial, not accusatory, encounter, according to the industry sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation. The building, which had been used to refurbish rocket motors known as the SMARF, is just more than a mile away from the launchpad and has a clear line of sight to it. A representative from ULA ultimately denied the SpaceX employee access to the roof and instead called Air Force investigators, who inspected the roof and didn't find anything connecting it to the rocket explosion, the officials said.

This week, ten members of Congress sent a four-page letter to several government agencies about the SpaceX explosion, raising the question as to whether or not SpaceX should be leading the investigation. Elon Musk said the investigation into what went wrong is the company's "absolute top priority." He added, "We've eliminated all of the obvious possibilities for what occurred there. So what remains are the less probable answers." SpaceX aims to resume flights in November.
Print-On-Demand Bone Could Quickly Mend Major Injuries
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If you shatter a bone in the future, a 3D printer and some special ink could be your best medicine. Researchers have created what they call "hyperelastic bone" that can be manufactured on demand and works almost as well as the real thing, at least in monkeys and rats. Though not ready to be implanted in humans, bioengineers are optimistic that the material could be a much-needed leap forward in quickly mending injuries ranging from bones wracked by cancer to broken skulls. Researchers at Northwestern University, Evanston, in Illinois are working on a hyperelastic bone, which is a type of scaffold made up of hydroxyapatite, a naturally occurring mineral that exists in our bones and teeth, and a biocompatible polymer called polycaprolactone, and a solvent. Hydroxyapatite provides strength and offers chemical cues to stem cells to create bone. The polycaprolactone polymer adds flexibility, and the solvent sticks the 3D-printed layers together as it evaporates during printing. The mixture is blended into an ink that is dispensed by the printer, layer by layer, into exact shapes matching the bone that needs to be replaced. The idea is, a patient would come in with a nasty broken bone -- say, a shattered jaw -- and instead of going through painful autograft surgeries or waiting for a custom scaffold to be manufactured, he or she could be x-rayed and a 3D-printed hyperelastic bone scaffold could be printed that same day.
Rosetta Spacecraft Prepares To Land On Comet, Solve Lingering Mysteries
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All good things must come to an end, and so it will be tomorrow when the Rosetta spacecraft makes its planned soft landing onto the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the culmination of 2 years of close-up studies. Solar power has waned as 67P's orbit takes it and Rosetta farther from the sun, and so the mission team decided to go on a last data-gathering descent before the lights go out. This last data grab is a bonus after a mission that is already changing theorists' views about how comets and planets arose early in the solar system. Several Rosetta observations suggest that comets form not from jolting mergers of larger cometesimals, meters to kilometers across, but rather from the gentle coalescence of clouds of pebbles. And the detection of a single, feather-light, millimeter-sized particle -- preserved since the birth of the solar system -- should further the view of a quiet birth.

The report concludes:
"A slew of instruments will keep gathering data as Rosetta approaches the surface at the speed of a gentle stroll. For team members whose instruments have already been turned off to conserve power, the ending is bittersweet -- but their work is far from over. Most instrument teams have only examined their own data, and are just now thinking about combining data sets. "We've just started collaborating with other teams," [Holger Sierks of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, chief of Rosetta's main camera,] says. "This is the beginning of the story, not the end."
The Yahoo Hackers Weren't State-Sponsored, Security Firm Says
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After Yahoo raised eyebrows in the security community with its claim that state-sponsored hackers were responsible for the history-making breach, security firm InfoArmor now says it has evidence to the contrary. InfoArmor claims to have acquired some of the stolen information as part of its investigation into "Group E," a team of five professional hackers-for-hire believed to be from Eastern Europe. The database that InfoArmor has contains only "millions" of accounts, but it includes the users' login IDs, hashed passwords, mobile phone numbers and zip codes, said Andrew Komarov, InfoArmor's chief intelligence officer. Earlier this week, Chase Cunningham, director of cyber operations at security provider A10 Networks, called Yahoo's claim of state-sponsored actors a convenient, if trumped up, excuse: "If I want to cover my rear end and make it seem like I have plausible deniability, I would say 'nation-state actor' in a heartbeat."

"Yahoo was compromised in 2014 by a group of professional blackhats who were hired to compromise customer databases from a variety of different targeted organizations," Scottsdale, Arizona-based InfoArmor said Wednesday in a report. "The Yahoo data leak as well as the other notable exposures, opens the door to significant opportunities for cyber-espionage and targeted attacks to occur."
AOL's Innovative Card-Based Email Service, Alto, Comes To iOS And Android
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Remember AOL? The company best known for its email service? Three years ago, it released a Pinterest-like platform for desktop email called Alto. Today AOL announced the release of Alto for iOS and Android -- nearly a year after it began beta testing it.

FastCompany writes:
The app's design is based on the idea that email has shifted from a communication tool to more of a transactional system -- today's inboxes are filled with receipts, order confirmations, and reservations, rather than personal messages. To combat this flood of data, Alto automatically sorts email into stacks, such as "travel," "photos," "files," "shopping," and "personal."
Cable TV Companies Could Lose Nearly $1 Billion in the Next Year From People Ditching Their Subscriptions
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Cable TV companies could lose nearly $1 billion to people cutting the cord over the next year, according to a new study by management consulting firm cg42. The firm estimates that 800,000 cable customers will ditch their subscriptions in the next 12 months. Cg42 expects each customer to be an average loss of $1,248 annually, and losses to approach $1 billion over the year. Cg42 also found that the average cord-cutter saves $104 per month by canceling. Some in the industry have argued that cutting the cord doesn't actually save you money if you subscribe to a bunch of streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and so on. But that point of view neglects the reality that many cable subscribers pay for those streaming services already.
Commodore C64 Survives Over 25 Years Balancing Drive Shafts In Auto Repair Shop
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One common gripe in the twenty-first century is that nothing is built to last anymore. Even complex, expensive computers seem to have a relatively short shelf-life nowadays. However, one computer in a small auto repair shop in Gdansk, Poland has survived for the last twenty-five years against all odds. The computer in question here is a Commodore C64 that has been balancing driveshafts non-stop for a quarter of a century. The C64C looks like it would fit right in with a scene from Fallout 4 and has even survived a nasty flood. This Commodore 64 contains a few homemade aspects, however. The old computer uses a sinusoidal waveform generator and piezo vibration sensor in order to measure changes in pressure, acceleration, temperature, strain or force by converting them to an electrical charge. The C64C interprets these signals to help balance the driveshafts in vehicles.

The Commodore 64 (also known as the C64, C-64, C= 64) was released in January 1982 and still holds the title for being the best-selling computer of all time.
HP To Issue 'Optional Firmware Update' Allowing 3rd-Party Ink
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Soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a letter to HP, calling for them to apologize to customers for releasing firmware that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges and refilled HP cartridges, the company has responded with a temporary solution. HP "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature" for certain OfficeJet printers.

Ars Technica reports:
HP made its announcement in a blog post titled "Dedicated to the best printing experience." "We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP," the company said. The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers "included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned," HP said. For customers who don't wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here." This customer-friendly move may just be a one-time thing. HP said it will continue to use security features that "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working." Without the optional firmware update, printers will only be able to use third-party ink cartridges that have an "original HP security chip," the company said.
The United Nations Will Launch Its First Space Mission In 2021
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The United Nations will send its first ever mission to space in 2021. It said it intends to send Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser spacecraft into a two-week, low-Earth orbit flight in 2021. Sierra Nevada had signed the UN as a partner in June. Motherboard adds:

As detailed for a small crowd at the International Astronautical Congress yesterday, the goal of the 2021 UN mission is to make space accessible to developing member states that lack the resources to develop a standalone, national space program. "One of UNOOSA's core responsibilities is to promote cooperation and the peaceful uses of outer space, but our work is about more than that," said Simonetta Di Pippo, the director of UNOOSA. "We have the vision of bringing the benefits of space to humankind, and that means helping developing countries access space technologies and their benefits."
US Warns Samsung Washing Machine Owners After Explosion Reports
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Samsung may have a new problem on its hands, and it feels too familiar. The U.S. regulators on Wednesday warned users of certain top-loading Samsung washing machines of safety issues following reports that "some have exploded."

CNN reports:
The warning, from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, covered machines made between March 2011 and April 2016. It did not specify a model. The commission suggested people use only the delicate cycle to wash bedding and water-resistant and bulky items because the lower spin speed "lessens the risk of impact injuries or property damage due to the washing machine becoming dislodged." The agency said it is working with Samsung on a remedy.
Yahoo Repeatedly Didn't Invest In Security, Rejected Bare Minimum Measure To Reset All User Passwords: NYTimes
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If it wasn't already enough that the mega breach at Yahoo affects over 500 million users, a new investigative report on The New York Times states the extent to which Yahoo didn't care about its users' security (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). The report says Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer refused to fund security initiatives at the company, and instead invested money in features and new products. Despite Edward Snowden warning Yahoo that it was too easy of a target for hackers, the company took one year to hire a new chief information officer. The company hired Alex Stamos, who is widely respected in the industry. But Stamos soon left partly due to clashes with Mayer, The Times adds. And it gets worse. From the report:

But when it came time to commit meaningful dollars to improve Yahoo's security infrastructure, Ms. Mayer repeatedly clashed with Mr. Stamos, according to the current and former employees. She denied Yahoo's security team financial resources and put off proactive security defenses, including intrusion-detection mechanisms for Yahoo's production systems. [...] But during his tenure, Ms. Mayer also rejected the most basic security measure of all: an automatic reset of all user passwords, a step security experts consider standard after a breach. Employees say the move was rejected by Ms. Mayer's team for fear that even something as simple as a password change would drive Yahoo's shrinking email users to other services.
Elon Musk: First Humans Who Journey To Mars Must 'Be Prepared To Die'
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At a conference yesterday, Elon Musk outlined his company SpaceX's plan to send humans to Mars. The vehicle is called the Interplanetary Transport System and it is capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo (people and supplies). Musk added that this rocket ship could take people to Mars in just 80 days. But he also reminded that the first batch of people who are brave enough to go to Mars should be well aware that they are almost certainly going to die.

The Verge adds:
During the Q&A session that followed, the question inevitably came up: what sort of person does Musk think will volunteer to get strapped to that big rocket and fired toward the Red Planet? "Who should these people be, carrying the light of humanity to Mars for all of us?" an audience member asked. "I think the first journeys to Mars will be really very dangerous," answered Musk. "The risk of fatality will be high. There's just no way around it." The journey itself would take around 80 days, according to the plan and ideas that Musk put forward. "Are you prepared to die? If that's okay, then you're a candidate for going," he added. But Musk didn't want to get stuck talking about the risks and immense danger. "This is less about who goes there first... the thing that really matters is making a self-sustaining civilization on Mars as fast as possible. This is different than Apollo. This is really about minimizing existential risk and having a tremendous sense of adventure," he said.
Across US, Police Officers Abuse Confidential Databases
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Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker, reporting for Associated Press:

Police officers across the country misuse confidential law enforcement databases to get information on romantic partners, business associates, neighbors, journalists and others for reasons that have nothing to do with daily police work, an Associated Press investigation has found. Criminal-history and driver databases give officers critical information about people they encounter on the job. But the AP's review shows how those systems also can be exploited by officers who, motivated by romantic quarrels, personal conflicts or voyeuristic curiosity, sidestep policies and sometimes the law by snooping. In the most egregious cases, officers have used information to stalk or harass, or have tampered with or sold records they obtained. No single agency tracks how often the abuse happens nationwide, and record-keeping inconsistencies make it impossible to know how many violations occur. But the AP, through records requests to state agencies and big-city police departments, found law enforcement officers and employees who misused databases were fired, suspended or resigned more than 325 times between 2013 and 2015. They received reprimands, counseling or lesser discipline in more than 250 instances, the review found.
Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts - And May Share Them With Police: The Intercept
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The Intercept is reporting that despite what Apple claims, it does keep a log of people you are receiving messages from and shares this and other potentially sensitive metadata with law enforcement when compelled by court order. Apple insists that iMessage conversations are safe and out of reach from anyone other than you and your friends.

From the report:
This log also includes the date and time when you entered a number, along with your IP address -- which could, contrary to a 2013 Apple claim that "we do not store data related to customers' location," identify a customer's location. Apple is compelled to turn over such information via court orders for systems known as "pen registers" or "tap and trace devices," orders that are not particularly onerous to obtain, requiring only that government lawyers represent they are "likely" to obtain information whose "use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation." Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it only retains these logs for a period of 30 days, though court orders of this kind can typically be extended in additional 30-day periods, meaning a series of monthlong log snapshots from Apple could be strung together by police to create a longer list of whose numbers someone has been entering.
FCC Official Asks Agency To Investigate Ban On Journalists' Wi-Fi Personal Hotspots At Debate
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It was reported that journalists attending the presidential debate at Hofstra University were banned from using personal hotspots and were told they had to pay $200 to access the event's Wi-Fi. The journalists were reportedly offered the option to either turn off their personal hotspots or leave the debate. Cyrus Farivar via Ars Technica is now reporting that "one of the members of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, has asked the agency to investigate the Monday evening ban." Ars Technica reports:

Earlier, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted, saying that something was "not right" with what Hofstra did. She cited an August 2015 order from the FCC, forcing a company called SmartCity to no longer engage in Wi-Fi blocking and to pay $750,000.

Ars has since updated their report with a statement from Karla Schuster, a spokeswoman for Hofstra University:

The Commission on Presidential Debates sets the criteria for services and requires that a completely separate network from the University's network be built to support the media and journalists. This is necessary due to the volume of Wi-Fi activity and the need to avoid interference. The Rate Card fee of $200 for Wi-Fi access is to help defray the costs and the charge for the service does not cover the cost of the buildout. For Wi-Fi to perform optimally the system must be tuned with each access point and antenna. When other Wi-Fi access points are placed within the environment the result is poorer service for all. To avoid unauthorized access points that could interfere, anyone who has a device that emits RF frequency must register the device. Whenever a RF-emitting device was located, the technician notified the individual to visit the RF desk located in the Hall. The CPD RF engineer would determine if the device could broadcast without interference.
EFF Calls On HP To Disable Printer Ink Self-Destruct Sequence
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HP should apologize to customers and restore the ability of printers to use third-party ink cartridges, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said in a letter to the company's CEO yesterday. From an ArsTechnica report:HP has been sabotaging OfficeJet Pro printers with firmware that prevents use of non-HP ink cartridges and even HP cartridges that have been refilled, forcing customers to buy more expensive ink directly from HP. The self-destruct mechanism informs customers that their ink cartridges are "damaged" and must be replaced. "The software update that prevented the use of third-party ink was reportedly distributed in March, but this anti-feature itself wasn't activated until September," EFF Special Advisor Cory Doctorow wrote in a letter to HP Inc. CEO Dion Weisler. "That means that HP knew, for at least six months, that some of its customers were buying your products because they believed they were compatible with any manufacturer's ink, while you had already planted a countdown timer in their property that would take this feature away. Your customers will have replaced their existing printers, or made purchasing recommendations to friends who trusted them on this basis. They are now left with a less useful printer -- and possibly a stockpile of useless third-party ink cartridges."
SpaceX Shows Off Its Interplanetary Transport System in New Video
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Elon Musk's SpaceX plans to send humans to Mars with a ship called the Interplanetary Transport System, the company announced today in a video, revealing how the ITS will actually work. The ITS will be capable of carrying up to 100 tons of cargo -- people and supplies -- and it will utilize a slew of different power sources en route to Mars. From a report on TechCrunch:

SpaceX has released a new video showing a CG concept of its Interplanetary Transport System, the rocket and spacecraft combo it plans to use to colonize Mars. The video depicts a reusable rocket that can get the interplanetary spacecraft beyond Earth's orbit, and a craft that uses solar sails to coast on its way to a Mars entry. The booster returns to Earth after separating from the shuttlecraft to pick up a booster tank full of fuel, which it then returns to orbit to fuel up the waiting spaceship. The booster craft then also returns to Earth under its own power, presumably also for re-use. The solar arrays that the spacecraft employs provide 200 kW of power, according to captions in the video.
World's First Baby Born With New '3 Parent' Technique
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A five-month-old baby boy has been revealed as the first kid in the world with three biological parents, reports New Scientist. The baby boy was apparently conceived by a technique that has been legally approved in the UK, and lets parents with genetic disorders have healthy babies. Though, the method used in this particular cases was slightly different from one legalized in the UK. From the report:

Zhang (a doctor) took a different approach, called spindle nuclear transfer. He removed the nucleus from one of the mother's eggs and inserted it into a donor egg that had had its own nucleus removed. The resulting egg -- with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor -- was then fertilised with the father's sperm. Zhang's team used this approach to create five embryos, only one of which developed normally. This embryo was implanted in the mother and the child was born nine months later. "It's exciting news," says Bert Smeets at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The team will describe the findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's Scientific Congress in Salt Lake City in October.
SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights
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Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure.

The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.
Jupiter's Moon Europa May Have Water Plumes That Rise Up About 125 Miles
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope released new images Monday, which will be published in The Astrophysicial Journal later this week, that show what appears to be plumes of water vapor erupting out of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The discovery is especially intriguing as it means that the ocean below Europa's surface could be probed without having to drill through miles of ice. NPR reports:

Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system because it's thought to have a vast subterranean ocean with twice as much water as Earth's oceans. This saltwater ocean is a tempting target for astrobiologists who want to find places beyond Earth that could support life. The trouble with exploring this ocean is that the water is hidden beneath an icy crust that's miles thick. But if plumes are indeed erupting from Europa, a spacecraft could potentially fly through them and analyze their chemistry -- much like NASA's Cassini probe did recently when it sped close to Enceladus, a moon of Saturn that has small geysers. Scientists used Hubble to watch Europa's silhouette as the moon moved across Jupiter's bright background. They looked, in ultraviolet light, for signs of plumes coming from the moon's surface. They did this 10 separate times over a period of 15 months, and saw what could be plumes on three occasions. NASA says the plumes are estimated to rise up about 125 miles, and presumably material then rains back down onto Europa's surface. Using Hubble in a different way, scientists previously saw hints that salty water occasionally travels up to the moon's surface. In 2012, the telescope detected evidence of water vapor above Europa's south polar region, suggesting the existence of plumes that shoot out into space. The agency's Juno spacecraft is currently in orbit around Jupiter, but it isn't slated to take any observations of Europa.
Study: Earth Is At Its Warmest In 120,000 Years
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As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, now a climate policy official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created a continuous 2 million year temperature record, much longer than a previous 22,000 year record. Snyder's temperature reconstruction, published Monday in the journal Nature, doesn't estimate temperature for a single year, but averages 5,000-year time periods going back a couple million years. Snyder based her reconstruction on 61 different sea surface temperature proxies from across the globe, such as ratios between magnesium and calcium, species makeup and acidity. But the further the study goes back in time, especially after half a million years, the fewer of those proxies are available, making the estimates less certain, she said. These are rough estimates with large margins of errors, she said. But she also found that the temperature changes correlated well to carbon dioxide levels. Temperatures averaged out over the most recent 5,000 years -- which includes the last 125 years or so of industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases -- are generally warmer than they have been since about 120,000 years ago or so, Snyder found. And two interglacial time periods, the one 120,000 years ago and another just about 2 million years ago, were the warmest Snyder tracked. They were about 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the current 5,000-year average. Snyder said if climate factors are the same as in the past -- and that's a big if -- Earth is already committed to another 7 degrees or so (about 4 degrees Celsius) of warming over the next few thousand years.

"This is based on what happened in the past, Snyder noted. "In the past it wasn't humans messing with the atmosphere."
Krebs Is Back Online Thanks To Google's Project Shield
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"After the massive 600gbps DDOS attack on KrebsOnSecurity.com that forced Akamai to withdraw their (pro-bono) DDOS protection, krebsonsecurity.com is now back online, hosted by Google,"

"I am happy to report that the site is back up -- this time under Project Shield, a free program run by Google to help protect journalists from online censorship," Brian Krebs wrote today, adding "The economics of mitigating large-scale DDoS attacks do not bode well for protecting the individual user, to say nothing of independent journalists...anyone with an axe to grind and the willingness to learn a bit about the technology can become an instant, self-appointed global censor." [T]he Internet can't route around censorship when the censorship is all-pervasive and armed with, for all practical purposes, near-infinite reach and capacity. I call this rather unwelcome and hostile development the "The Democratization of Censorship...." [E]vents of the past week have convinced me that one of the fastest-growing censorship threats on the Internet today comes not from nation-states, but from super-empowered individuals who have been quietly building extremely potent cyber weapons with transnational reach...

Akamai and its sister company Prolexic have stood by me through countless attacks over the past four years. It just so happened that this last siege was nearly twice the size of the next-largest attack they had ever seen before. Once it became evident that the assault was beginning to cause problems for the company's paying customers, they explained that the choice to let my site go was a business decision, pure and simple... In an interview with The Boston Globe, Akamai executives said the attack -- if sustained -- likely would have cost the company millions of dollars.

One site told Krebs that Akamai-style protection would cost him $150,000 a year. "Ask yourself how many independent journalists could possibly afford that kind of protection money?" He suspects the attack was a botnet of enslaved IoT devices -- mainly cameras, DVRs, and routers -- but says the situation is exacerbated by the failure of many ISPs to implement the BCP38 security standard to filter spoofed traffic, "allowing systems on their networks to be leveraged in large-scale DDoS attacks... the biggest offenders will continue to fly under the radar of public attention unless and until more pressure is applied by hardware and software makers, as well as ISPs that are doing the right thing... What appears to be missing is any sense of urgency to address the DDoS threat on a coordinated, global scale."
California Launches Mandatory Data Collection For Police Use-of-Force
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All 800 police departments in California must begin using a new online tool launched Thursday to report and help track every time officers use force that causes serious injuries... The tool, named URSUS for the bear on California's flag, includes fields for the race of those injured and the officers involved, how their interaction began and why force was deemed necessary.

"It's sort of like TurboTax for use-of-force incidents," said Justin Erlich, a special assistant attorney general overseeing the data collection and analysis. Departments must report the data under a new state law passed last November. Though some departments already tracked such data on their own, many did not... "As a country, we must engage in an honest, transparent, and data-driven conversation about police use of force," California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a news release.

It's an open source tool developed by Bayes Impact, and California plans to share the code with other interested law enforcement agencies across the country. Only three other states currently require their police departments to track data about use-of-force incidents, "but their systems aren't digital, and in Colorado's case, only capture shootings."
Our Atmosphere Is Leaking Oxygen and Scientists Don't Know Why
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The Earth's atmosphere has been leaking oxygen and scientists don't know why. Researchers discovered that over the past 800,000 years, atmospheric oxygen levels have dropped by 0.7 percent. How exactly did they discover the leak? By observing ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica, which contain trapped air bubbles representing snapshots of our atmosphere over the past million-odd years. Gizmodo reports:

By examining the ratio of oxygen to nitrogen isotopes within these cores, the researchers were able to pull out a trend: oxygen levels have fallen by 0.7 percent over the past 800,000 years, meaning sinks are roughly 2 percent larger than sources. Writing today in Science, the researchers offer a few possible explanations. For one, erosion rates appear to have sped up in recent geologic history, causing more fresh sediment to be exposed and oxidized by the atmosphere, causing more oxygen to be consumed. Long-term climate change could also be responsible. Recent human-induced warming aside, our planet's average temperature had been declining a bit over the past few million years. [Princeton University geologist Daniel Stolper] added that there could be other explanations, too, and figuring out which is correct could prove quite challenging. But learning what controls the knobs in our planet's oxygen cycle is worth the effort. It could help us understand what makes a planet habitable at all -- something scientists are rather keen on, given recent exoplanet discoveries. Stolper's analysis excluded one very unusual part of the record: the last 200 years of industrial human society. "We are consuming O2 at a rate a factor of a thousand times faster than before," Stolper said. "Humankind has completely short-circuited the cycle by burning tons of carbon."
Why the Silencing of KrebsOnSecurity Opens a Troubling Chapter For the Internet
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For the better part of a day, KrebsOnSecurity, arguably the world's most intrepid source of security news, has been silenced, presumably by a handful of individuals who didn't like a recent series of exposes reporter Brian Krebs wrote. The incident, and the record-breaking data assault that brought it on, open a troubling new chapter in the short history of the Internet. The crippling distributed denial-of-service attacks started shortly after Krebs published stories stemming from the hack of a DDoS-for-hire service known as vDOS. The first article analyzed leaked data that identified some of the previously anonymous people closely tied to vDOS. It documented how they took in more than $600,000 in two years by knocking other sites offline. A few days later, Krebs ran a follow-up piece detailing the arrests of two men who allegedly ran the service. A third post in the series is here. On Thursday morning, exactly two weeks after Krebs published his first post, he reported that a sustained attack was bombarding his site with as much as 620 gigabits per second of junk data. That staggering amount of data is among the biggest ever recorded. Krebs was able to stay online thanks to the generosity of Akamai, a network provider that supplied DDoS mitigation services to him for free. The attack showed no signs of waning as the day wore on. Some indications suggest it may have grown stronger. At 4 pm, Akamai gave Krebs two hours' notice that it would no longer assume the considerable cost of defending KrebsOnSecurity. Krebs opted to shut down the site to prevent collateral damage hitting his service provider and its customers. The assault against KrebsOnSecurity represents a much greater threat for at least two reasons. First, it's twice the size. Second and more significant, unlike the Spamhaus attacks, the staggering volume of bandwidth doesn't rely on misconfigured domain name system servers which, in the big picture, can be remedied with relative ease.

The attackers used Internet-of-things devices since they're always-connected and easy to "remotely commandeer by people who turn them into digital cannons that spray the internet with shrapnel." "The biggest threats as far as I'm concerned in terms of censorship come from these ginormous weapons these guys are building," Krebs said. "The idea that tools that used to be exclusively in the hands of nation states are now in the hands of individual actors, it's kind of like the specter of a James Bond movie." While Krebs could retain a DDoS mitigation service, it would cost him between $100,000 and $200,000 per year for the type of protection he needs, which is more than he can afford. What's especially troubling is that this attack can happen to many other websites, not just KrebsOnSecurity.
SpaceX Blast Investigation Suggests Breach in Oxygen Tank's Helium System
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Weeks after a SpaceX rocket exploded inexplicably, engineers at Elon Musk's company have traced the flaw to its source. Space today released the initial results of its investigation, in which it says that a breach in helium system in the Falcon 9's liquid oxygen system caused the sudden flare up. From a Reuters report:

SpaceX, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, was fueling a Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad in Florida on Sept. 1 in preparation for a routine test-firing when a bright fireball suddenly emerged around the rocket's upper stage. "At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place," SpaceX said in a statement posted on its website. No one was hurt in the explosion, which could be heard 30 miles (48 km) away from SpaceX's launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
Sad Reality: It's Cheaper To Get Hacked Than Build Strong IT Defenses
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It's no secret that more companies are getting hacked now than ever. The government is getting hacked, major corporate companies are getting hacked, and even news outlets are getting hacked. This raises the obvious question: why aren't people investing more in bolstering their security? The answer is, as a report on The Register points out, money. Despite losing a significant sum of money on a data breach, it is still in a company's best interest to not spend on upgrading their security infrastructure. From the report:

A study by the RAND Corporation, published in the Journal of Cybersecurity, looked at the frequency and cost of IT security failures in US businesses and found that the cost of a break-in is much lower than thought -- typically around $200,000 per case. With top-shelf security systems costing a lot more than that, not beefing up security looks in some ways like a smart business decision. "I've spent my life in security and everyone expects firms to invest more and more," the report's author Sasha Romanosky told The Reg. "But maybe firms are making rational investments and we shouldn't begrudge firms for taking these actions. We all do the same thing, we minimize our costs." Romanosky analyzed 12,000 incident reports and found that typically they only account for 0.4 per cent of a company's annual revenues. That compares to billing fraud, which averages at 5 per cent, or retail shrinkage (ie, shoplifting and insider theft), which accounts for 1.3 per cent of revenues. As for reputational damage, Romanosky found that it was almost impossible to quantify. He spoke to many executives and none of them could give a reliable metric for how to measure the PR cost of a public failure of IT security systems.
Computers Decipher Burnt Scroll Found In Ancient Holy Ark
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Scientists have formally announced their reconstruction of the Ein Gedi Scroll, the most ancient Hebrew scroll since the Dead Sea Scrolls. This was done by CAT scanning the burnt scrolls and virtually reconstructing the layers of scrolls with ink blobs on them.

National Geographic reports: "For decades, the Israel Antiquities Authority guarded the document, known as the Ein Gedi Scroll, careful not to open it for fear that the brittle text would shatter to pieces. But last year, scientists announced that they had scanned, virtually unrolled, and translated the scroll's hidden verses -- a feat now formally described in the scientific literature. Based on preliminary scans, [Brent Seales of the University of Kentucky, who specialized in digitally reconstructing damaged texts,] and his colleagues announced in 2015 that the Ein Gedi Scroll was a biblical text from the sixth century A.D. containing a column of text from the book of Leviticus. But the full CT scan results, published on Wednesday in Science Advances, tell a deeper story. Further analysis revealed an extra column of text, ultimately fleshing out the first two chapters of Leviticus -- ironically, a book that begins with God's instructions for burnt offerings. What's more, radiocarbon dating of the scroll suggests that it may be between 1,700 and 1,800 years old, at least 200 years older than previously thought. In fact, the scroll's distinctive handwriting hearkens back to the first or second century A.D., some five centuries earlier than the date ascribed to the scroll last year." University of Cambridge lecturer James Aitken told Smithsonian's Devin Powell in 2015: "There's little of surprise in finding a Leviticus scroll. We probably have many more copies of it than any other book, as its Hebrew style is so simple and repetitive that it was used for children's writing exercises."
Senate Panel Authorizes Money For Mission To Mars
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With a new president on the horizon, a key Senate committee moved Wednesday to protect long-standing priorities of the nation's space program from the potential upheaval of an incoming administration. Members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed a bipartisan bill authorizing $19.5 billion to continue work on a Mars mission and efforts to send astronauts on private rockets to the International Space Station from U.S. soil -- regardless of shifting political winds. Under the Senate bill, NASA would have an official goal of sending a crewed mission to Mars within the next 25 years, the first time a trip to the Red Planet would be mandated by law. The legislation would authorize money for different NASA components, including $4.5 billion for exploration, nearly $5 billion for space operations and $5.4 billion for science. Beyond money, the measure would: Direct NASA to continue working on the Space Launch System and Orion multi-purpose vehicle that are the linchpins of a planned mission to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. The bill includes specific milestones for an unmanned exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021. Require development of an advanced space suit to protect astronauts on a Mars mission. Continue development of the Commercial Crew Program designed to send astronauts to the space station -- no later than 2018 -- on private rockets launched from U.S. soil. Expand the full use and life of the space station through 2024 while laying the foundation for use through 2028. Allow greater opportunities for aerospace companies to conduct business in Low Earth Orbit. Improve monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of the medical effects astronauts experience from spending time in deep space.
Yahoo Confirms Massive Data Breach, Impacting Hundreds Of Millions Of Users
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Update: 09/22 18:47 GMT by M :Yahoo has confirmed the data breach, adding that about 500 million users are impacted. Yahoo said "a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company's network in late 2014 by what it believes is a state-sponsored actor." As Business Insider reports, this could be the largest data breach of all time. In a blog post, the company said: Yahoo is notifying potentially affected users and has taken steps to secure their accounts. These steps include invalidating unencrypted security questions and answers so that they cannot be used to access an account and asking potentially affected users to change their passwords. Yahoo is also recommending that users who haven't changed their passwords since 2014 do so.
Stop Piracy? Legal Alternatives Beat Legal Threats, Research Shows
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Threatening file-sharers with high fines or even prison sentences is not the best way to stop piracy. New research published by UK researchers shows that perceived risk has no effect on people's file-sharing habits. Instead, the entertainment industries should focus on improving the legal options, so these can compete with file-sharing. Unauthorized file-sharing (UFS) is best predicted by the supposed benefits of piracy. As such, the researchers note that better legal alternatives are the best way to stop piracy. The results are based on a psychological study among hundreds of music and ebook consumers. They were subjected to a set of questions regarding their file-sharing habits, perceived risk, industry trust, and online anonymity. By analyzing the data the researchers found that the perceived benefit of piracy, such as quality, flexibility of use and cost are the real driver of piracy. An increase in legal risk was not directly associated with any statistically significant decrease in self-reported file-sharing.
YouTube Is Looking for Volunteers To Improve Its Site
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The video-sharing site is looking for "heroes." YouTube is looking for a few good users who want to be "Heroes." Google's video-sharing site wants volunteers to help moderate its content by flagging inappropriate content, fielding questions in YouTube Help forums, and contributing video captions and subtitles, reports Reuters. From the report:

Performing those types of tasks will help users earn points in the site's new crowdsourcing program, called "YouTube Heroes." YouTube announced the "Heroes" program in a post on the site's help channel on Wednesday that included a video showing prospective volunteers how they can participate and the perks they can earn. "You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone and, like all heroes, you deserve a place to call home," YouTube says in the video.
A Shocking Amount of E-Waste Recycling Is a Complete Sham
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Forty percent of all U.S. electronics recyclers testers included in [a study that used GPS trackers to follow e-waste over the course of two years] proved to be complete shams, with our e-waste getting shipped wholesale to landfills in Hong Kong, China, and developing nations in Africa and Asia. The most important thing to know about the e-waste recycling industry is that it is not free to recycle an old computer or an old CRT television. The value of the raw materials in the vast majority of old electronics is worth less than it costs to actually recycle them. While consumers rarely have to pay e-waste recycling companies to take their old electronics (costs are offset by local tax money or manufacturers fronting the bill as part of a legally mandated obligated recycling quota), companies, governments, and organizations do. Based on the results of a new study from industry watchdog Basel Action Network and MIT, industry documents obtained by Motherboard, and interviews with industry insiders, it's clear that the e-waste recycling industry is filled with sham operations profiting off of shipping toxic waste to developing nations. Here are the major findings of the study and of my interviews and reporting: Real, environmentally sustainable electronics recycling can be profitable only if recycling companies charge a fee to take on old machines; the sale of recycled materials rarely if ever covers the actual cost of recycling in the United States. Companies, governments, and other organizations have a requirement to recycle old machines; because there is little oversight or enforcement, a secondary industry of fake recyclers has popped up to undercut sustainable recyclers. These "recyclers," which advertise themselves as green and sustainable, get paid pennies per pound to take in old TVs, computers, printers, and monitors. Rather than recycle them domestically, the recycling companies sell them to junkyards in developing nations, either through middlemen or directly. These foreign junkyards hire low-wage employees to pick through the few valuable components of often toxic old machines. The toxic machines are then left in the scrapyards or dumped nearby. Using GPS trackers, industry watchdog Basel Action Network found that 40 percent of electronics recyclers it tested in the United States fall into this "scam recycling" category.
Kindergarteners Today Get Little Time To Play, and It's Stunting Their Development
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Christopher Brown, Associate professor, University of Texas at Austin, writes:

Researchers have demonstrated that five-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunities that facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.

During his research and investigation, Brown found that a typical kindergarten classroom sees kids and one teacher with them almost the entire school day. During this period, they engage in about 15 different academic activities, which include "decoding word drills, practicing sight words, reading to themselves and then to a buddy, counting up to 100 by ones, fives and tens, practicing simple addition, counting money, completing science activities about living things, and writing in journals on multiple occasions." Recess did not occur until the last hour of the day, and only lasted for about 15 minutes. He adds:

For children between the ages of five and six, this is a tremendous amount of work. Teachers too are under pressure to cover the material. When I asked the teacher, who I interviewed for the short film, why she covered so much material in a few hours, she stated, "There's pressure on me and the kids to perform at a higher level academically." So even though the teacher admitted that the workload on kindergartners was an awful lot, she also said she was unable to do anything about changing it.
When Blind People Do Algebra, the Brain's Visual Areas Light Up
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People born without sight appear to solve math problems using visual areas of the brain. NPR has a fascinating report on this:

A functional MRI study of 17 people blind since birth found that areas of visual cortex became active when the participants were asked to solve algebra problems, a team from Johns Hopkins reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "And as the equations get harder and harder, activity in these areas goes up in a blind person," says Marina Bedny, an author of the study and an assistant professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University. In 19 sighted people doing the same problems, visual areas of the brain showed no increase in activity. "That really suggests that yes, blind individuals appear to be doing math with their visual cortex," Bedny says. The findings, published online Friday, challenge the idea that brain tissue intended for one function is limited to tasks that are closely related.
NASA: Arctic Sea Ice 2nd-Lowest On Record
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NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) said on September 15, 2016 that summertime Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual minimum on September 10. With fall approaching and temperatures in the Arctic dropping, it's unlikely more ice will melt, and so the 2016 Arctic sea ice minimum extent will likely be tied with 2007 for the second-lowest yearly minimum in the satellite record. Satellite data showed this year's minimum at 1.60 million square miles (4.14 million square km). NASA said in a statement: "Since satellites began monitoring sea ice in 1978, researchers have observed a steep decline in the average extent of Arctic sea ice for every month of the year [...] The sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean and surrounding seas helps regulate the planet's temperature, influences the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean, and impacts Arctic communities and ecosystems. Arctic sea ice shrinks every year during the spring and summer until it reaches its minimum yearly extent. Sea ice regrows during the frigid fall and winter months, when the sun is below the horizon in the Arctic." The NASA/NSIDC statement explained why the melt of Arctic sea ice surprised scientists in 2016. For one thing, it changed pace several times: "The melt season began with a record low yearly maximum extent in March and a rapid ice loss through May. But in June and July, low atmospheric pressures and cloudy skies slowed down the melt. Then, after two large storms went across the Arctic basin in August, sea ice melt picked up speed through early September."

NASA posted an animation on YouTube that "shows the evolution of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, which was reached on Mar. 24, 2016, and was the lowest on record for the second year in a row, to its apparent yearly minimum, which occurred on Sept. 10, 2016, and is the second lowest in the satellite era."
AT&T and Comcast Helped Elected Official Write Plan To Stall Google Fiber
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As the Nashville Metro Council prepares for a final vote to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles, one council member is sponsoring an alternative plan that comes from ATT and Comcast. The council has tentatively approved a One Touch Make Ready (OTMR) ordinance that would let a single company -- Google Fiber in this case -- make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself. Ordinarily, Google Fiber must wait for incumbent providers like ATT and Comcast to send construction crews to move their own wires, requiring multiple visits and delaying Google Fiber's broadband deployment. The pro-Google Fiber ordinance was approved in a 32-7 preliminary vote, but one of the dissenters asked ATT and Comcast to put forth a competing proposal before a final vote is taken. The new proposal from council member Sheri Weiner "call[s] for Google, ATT, Comcast and Nashville Electric Service to create a system that improves the current process for making utility poles ready for new cables," The Tennessean reported last week. "Weiner said ATT and Comcast helped draft the resolution she proposes." Weiner told Ars that she asked ATT and Comcast to propose a resolution. "I told them that I would file a resolution if they had something that made sense and wasn't as drastic as OTMR," Weiner told Ars in an e-mail today, when we asked her what role ATT and Comcast played in drafting the resolution. Weiner said she is insisting on some changes to the resolution, but the proposal (full text) was submitted without those changes. When asked why she didn't put her suggested changes in the version of the resolution published on the council website, Weiner said, "I had them [ATT and Comcast] submit it for me as I was out of town all last week on business (my day job)." Weiner said an edited resolution will be considered by the council during its next meeting. Weiner's plan could stall the OTMR ordinance and -- though it might improve Google Fiber's current situation -- would not provide the quick access to poles sought by Google Fiber and most council members. However, Weiner said she is willing to support OTMR later on if her proposal doesn't result in significant improvements.
Robot Handcuffed and Arrested At Moscow Rally
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Russian police have arrested a robot: A robot has been detained by police at a political rally in Moscow, with authorities attempting to handcuff the machine.

Police have not confirmed why they detained the machine named Promobot, but local media was reporting the company behind the robot said police were called because it was 'recording voters' opinions on [a] variety of topics for further processing and analysis by the candidate's team'."

Interestingly, an earlier model of the same robot escaped its research lab in June, traveling 150 feet before its batteries died -- and despite being reprogrammed twice, continued to move towards the exits.
Oldest-ever proteins extracted from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich shells
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Scientists have smashed through another time barrier in their search for ancient proteins from fossilized teeth and bones, they said yesterday, adding to growing excitement about the promise of using proteins to study extinct animals and humans that lived more than 1 million years ago. Until now, the oldest sequenced proteins are largely acknowledged to come from a 700,000-year-old horse in Canada’s Yukon territory, despite claims of extraction from much older dinosaurs. In two talks at the seventh International Symposium on Biomolecular Archaeology here yesterday, geneticists reported that their teams had extracted proteins from 3.8-million-year-old ostrich egg shells in Laetoli, Tanzania, and from the 1.7-million-year-old tooth enamel of several extinct animals in Dmanisi, Georgia
Robot Snatches Rifle From Barricaded Suspect, Ends Standoff
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An hours-long standoff in the darkness of the high desert came to a novel end when Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a robot to stealthily snatch a rifle from an attempted murder suspect, authorities said Thursday. Officials said the use of the robot to disarm a violent suspect was unprecedented for the Sheriff's Department, and comes as law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on military-grade technology to reduce the risk of injury during confrontations with civilians.

"The robot was a game changer here," said Capt. Jack Ewell, a tactical expert with the Sheriff's Department -- the largest sheriff's department in the nation. "We didn't have to risk a deputy's life to disarm a very violent man."

It was only later when the robot came back to also pull down a wire barricade that the 51-year-old suspect realized his gun was gone.
Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms
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Minecraft: Education Edition offers lesson plans like "City Planning for Population Growth" and "Effects of Deforestation," and a June preview attracted more than 25,000 students and teachers from 40 different countries.

In the two years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft's parent company, it's discovered a brilliant new direction to take the game: it's turning it into a tool for education, creating both an innovative approach to classroom technology and an inspired strategy for competing with Google and Apple in the ed-tech market. 'I actually never believed there would be a game that would really cross over between the commercial entertainment market and education in a mainstream way,' says cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito—but Minecraft has managed to do just that.

In 2015 Chromebooks represented over 50% of PC sales for U.S. schools, while Windows PC accounted for just 22%, the article reports. But Minecraft is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris, and in the two years since Microsoft acquired it, "Sales have doubled to almost 107 million copies sold... If you were to count each copy sold as representing one person, the resulting population would be the world's 12th largest country (after Japan)." And as the article points out, "wherever Minecraft goes, Microsoft is there."
Pluto Is Emitting X-Rays
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Scientists have noticed the tiny trans-Neptunium object emitting X-rays, which, if it is confirmed, is both a baffling and exciting discovery. Carey Lisse and Ralph McNutt from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a team of colleagues detected the X-rays by pointing the Chandra X-Ray Obervatory telescope in Pluto's direction four different times between February 2014 and August 2015. Seven photons of X-ray light were detected during these observations, confirming the team's hypothesis that the dwarf planet is detectable on the X-ray spectrum, potentially due to the presence of an atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Icarus. Why is this such a big deal? First of all, it would challenge what scientists have previously believed to be true of Pluto's nature. Until now, the popular description of the dwarf planet is as a tiny ball of frozen rock slowly meandering around the sun some 3.6-billion miles away. One of the possible explanations for why Pluto is emanating X-rays would be that the high energy particles emitted by the sun are stripping away and reacting with Pluto's atmosphere, producing the X-rays that are visible to Chandra. There are other potential explanations, such as haze particles in Pluto's atmosphere scattering the sun's X-rays are possible, though unlikely given the temperature of the X-rays observed. It is also possible that these X-rays are actually bright auroras produced by the atmosphere, but that would require Pluto to have a magnetic field -- something that would have been detected during New Horizon's flyby, yet no evidence of one was found.
Someone Is Learning How To Take Down the Internet, Warns Bruce Schneier
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Some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them, says Bruce Schneier. He adds that these attacks are of much larger scale -- including the duration -- than the ones we have seen previously. These attacks, he adds, are also designed to test what all defense measures a company has got -- and they ensure that the company uses every they have got, leaving them with no choice but to demonstrate their defense capabilities to the attacker. He hasn't specifically shared details about the organizations that are under attack, but what little he has elaborated should give us a chill. From his blog post:

[...] This all is consistent with what Verisign is reporting. Verisign is the registrar for many popular top-level Internet domains, like .com and .net. If it goes down, there's a global blackout of all websites and e-mail addresses in the most common top-level domains. Every quarter, Verisign publishes (PDF) a DDoS trends report. While its publication doesn't have the level of detail I heard from the companies I spoke with, the trends are the same: "in Q2 2016, attacks continued to become more frequent, persistent, and complex." There's more. One company told me about a variety of probing attacks in addition to the DDoS attacks: testing the ability to manipulate internet addresses and routes, seeing how long it takes the defenders to respond, and so on. Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services. Who would do this? It doesn't seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It's not normal for companies to do that. Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes -- and especially their persistence -- points to state actors. It feels like a nation's military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US's Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabil
Robots Will Eliminate 6% of All US Jobs By 2021, Says Report
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By 2021, robots will have eliminated 6% of all jobs in the U.S., starting with customer service representatives and eventually truck and taxi drivers. That's just one cheery takeaway from a report released by market research company Forrester this week. These robots, or intelligent agents, represent a set of AI-powered systems that can understand human behavior and make decisions on our behalf. Current technologies in this field include virtual assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now as well as chatbots and automated robotic systems. For now, they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of breakthroughs like self-driving cars. The Inevitable Robot Uprising has already started, with at least 45% of U.S. online adults saying they use at least one of the aforementioned digital concierges. Intelligent agents can access calendars, email accounts, browsing history, playlists, purchases and media viewing history to create a detailed view of any given individual. With this knowledge, virtual agents can provide highly customized assistance, which is valuable to shops or banks trying to deliver better customer service.

The report predicts there will be a net loss of 7% of U.S. jobs by 2025 -- 16% of U.S. jobs will be replaced, while the equivalent of 9% jobs will be created. The report forecasts 8.9 million new jobs in the U.S. by 2025, some of which include robot monitoring professionals, data scientists, automation specialists, and content curators.
Europe Has Added 1.1 Billion Stars To Its Milky Way Map
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The European Space Agency (ESA) has released the first batch of data from its Gaia star mapping project -- a mission that is currently on track to chart one billion stars in the Milky Way. The space telescope launched in 2013 and its first data dump contains the precise celestial position and brightness of a mammoth 1,142 million stars. The release also contains the distances and movements for more than two million stars so far. ESA's director of science Alvaro Gimenez told a press conference held at the European Space Astronomy Centre in Spain on Wednesday morning that the data release features around 490 billion astrometric, 118 billion photometric, and 10 billion spectroscopic measurements. "[The] Final survey will contain [around] 250,000 Solar System Objects, 1,000,000 galaxies, and 500,000 quasars," said Gimenez. Those numbers are almost unimaginable, but ESA has used the data so far to form an "all-sky" view of the stars in our galaxy and neighbouring galaxies, based on Gaia's observations from July 2014 to September 2015.
The Moon's Gravitational Pull Can Trigger Major Earthquakes, Says Study
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A careful statistical analysis of when major earthquakes occur has suggested they are more likely to be more powerful if they occur around the full and new moons when tidal forces are at their peak. Nature.com reports: "Satoshi Ide, a seismologist at the University of Tokyo, and his colleagues investigated three separate earthquake records covering Japan, California and the entire globe. For the 15 days leading up to each quake, the scientists assigned a number representing the relative tidal stress on that day, with 15 representing the highest. They found that large quakes such as those that hit Chile and Tohoku-Oki occurred near the time of maximum tidal strain -- or during new and full moons when the Sun, Moon and Earth align. For more than 10,000 earthquakes of around magnitude 5.5, the researchers found, an earthquake that began during a time of high tidal stress was more likely to grow to magnitude 8 or above." As these results are based entirely on statistical evidence, not on any direct link between tidal forces and actual quakes, they are quite uncertain and unproven.
Sugar Industry Bought Off Scientists, Skewed Dietary Guidelines For Decades
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Back in the 1960s, a sugar industry executive wrote fat checks to a group of Harvard researchers so that they'd downplay the links between sugar and heart disease in a prominent medical journal -- and the researchers did it, according to historical documents reported Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. One of those Harvard researchers went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where he set the stage for the federal government's current dietary guidelines. All in all, the corrupted researchers and skewed scientific literature successfully helped draw attention away from the health risks of sweets and shift the blame to solely to fats -- for nearly five decades. The low-fat, high-sugar diets that health experts subsequently encouraged are now seen as a main driver of the current obesity epidemic. The bitter revelations come from archived documents from the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association), dug up by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco. Their dive into the old, sour affair highlights both the perils of trusting industry-sponsored research to inform policy and the importance of requiring scientists to disclose conflicts of interest -- something that didn't become the norm until years later. Perhaps most strikingly, it spotlights the concerning power of the sugar industry. In a statement also issued today, the Sugar Association acknowledged that it "should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities." However, the trade-group went on to question the UCSF researchers' motives in digging up the issue and reframing the past events to "conveniently align with the currently trending anti-sugar narrative." The association also chastised the journal for publishing the historical analysis, which it implied was insignificant and sensationalist. "Most concerning is the growing use of headline-baiting articles to trump quality scientific research -- we're disappointed to see a journal of JAMA's stature being drawn into this trend," the association wrote. But scientists disagree with that take. In an accompanying editorial, nutrition professor Marion Nestle of New York University argued that "this 50-year-old incident may seem like ancient history, but it is quite relevant, not least because it answers some questions germane to our current era."
NASA Shares Curiosity's New Mars Photos
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"Curiosity is making us giddy by showing us some of the most amazing vistas we have ever seen on Mars," reports NASA. On the web site for their Mars Science Lab, they're sharing mission updates, but also all the raw photos as they're transmitted back by their Curiosity rover, which is travelling up a Martian mountain. "The plan so far has been to drive about 1/3 mile, stop to drill and drive again sampling the layers of the mountain as Curiosity makes her way up."

Curiosity is trying to determine whether Mars ever had environments capable of supporting simple life forms. NASA points out that it took Curiosity four years to reach its current location, joking about one wall of layered sandstone, "Wait, is this the Utah or Mars?"
Dolphins Recorded Having a Conversation For The First Time
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For the first time Russian researchers have recorded a conversation between two dolphins -- Yasha and Yana -- who were talking to each other in a pool.

Scientists developed an underwater microphone which could distinguish the animals' different "voices" [and] have now shown that dolphins alter the volume and frequency of pulsed clicks to form individual "words" which they string together into sentences in much the same way that humans speak...

"This language exhibits all the design features present in the human spoken language, this indicates a high level of intelligence and consciousness in dolphins, and their language can be ostensibly considered a highly developed spoken language, akin to the human language... Humans must take the first step to establish relationships with the first intelligent inhabitants of the planet Earth by creating devices capable of overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of using languages and in the way of communications between dolphins and people."

The dolphins listened to an entire "sentence" before replying, according to the article, which points out that dolphin brains are larger and more complex than the brains of humans.
10 Percent of the World's Wilderness Has Been Lost Since 1990s
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Wilderness areas around the world have experienced catastrophic declines over the last two decades, with one-tenth of global wilderness lost since the 1990s, according to a new study. Since 1993, researchers found that a cumulative wilderness area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon has been stripped and destroyed. The shrinking wilderness is due, in part, to human activity such as mining, logging, agriculture, and oil and gas exploration. The researchers said their findings underscore the need for international policies to recognize the value of wilderness and to protect wilderness areas from the threats they face. Central Africa and the Amazon saw the most wilderness decline, the researchers found. Of the roughly 1.27 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers) of global wilderness lost, the Amazon accounted for nearly one-third, and 14 percent of the world's wilderness was lost from Central Africa, according to the study. The researchers determined that only 11.6 million square miles (30.1 million square km) of wilderness is left, which equates to just 20 percent of the Earth's total land mass.
Microsoft Hopes To Hire More Coders With Autism
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Autistic people are methodical and detail-oriented, and a new Microsoft program is trying to hire more of them, according to Fast Company.

"The program, which began in May 2015, does away with the typical interview approach, instead inviting candidates to hang out on campus for two weeks and work on projects while being observed and casually meeting managers who might be interested in hiring them. Only at the end of this stage do more formal interviews take place.

"The goal is to create a situation that is better suited to autistic people's styles of communicating and thinking. Microsoft isn't the first to attempt something like this: The German software firm SAP, among a handful of others, have similar programs -- but Microsoft is the highest-profile company to have gone public with its efforts, and autistic adults are hoping it will spark a broader movement."


One autistic coder says they make better employees because "You don't have to tell someone not to go home early. They'll just stay." But there's also a push to bring different analytical and creative approaches into Microsoft's company culture. The article ultimately asks the question, "Could the third-largest corporation in the world make the case that hiring and employing autistic people, with all their social and intellectual quirks, was good, not bad, for business?"
The ultra-Orthodox Jews combining tech and the Torah
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Israel's ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews have long led a life of seclusion and religious study - but an increasing number are breaking with tradition, and proving surprisingly successful in Israel's tech start-up sector

"Learning the Talmud involves wrapping our minds around a certain problem and looking at it from different approaches and trying to find different solutions," says Moshe Slaven, a 26-year-old Haredi man from Jerusalem, who is learning how to code.

"Programming is very similar, especially the way of thinking."
NASA Launches OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft To Intercept Asteroid
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NASA has successfully launched the OSIRIS-REx space probe on Thursday, which aims to take a sample of asteroid Bennu and return to Earth. CNN reports: "The probe is scheduled to arrive at Bennu in August 2018. For months it will hang out -- take pictures, make scans of the asteroid's surface and create a map. Then in July 2020, OSIRIS-REx wil unfurl its 11-foot-long (3.35-meter) robot arm called TAGSAM and make contact with Bennu's surface for about five seconds. During those seconds, the arm will use a blast of nitrogen gas to kick up rocks and dust and then try to snag a sample of the dust and store it. NASA hopes to get at least 2 ounces (60 grams) and maybe as much as 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms) of asteroid dust and small rocks. OSIRIS-REx heads home in March 2021 and arrives back at Earth on September 24, 2023, but it won't land. In a bit of Hollywood-style drama, it will fly over Utah and drop off the capsule holding the asteroid sample. A parachute will guide the capsule to the ground at the Utah Test and Training Range in Tooele County."

OSIRIS-REx is an acronym for the objectives of the mission: Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer. It spells the name of the Egyptian god Osiris. The report adds that while the mission is a first for NASA, it is not a first for mankind. "Japan's Hayabusa spacecraft brought back a small sample of asteroid Itokawa dust in 2010."
NASA probe blasts off on quest to collect asteroid samples
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - An Atlas 5 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday carrying a space probe on NASA's first quest to collect samples from an asteroid and return them to Earth in hopes of learning more about the origins of life. The United Launch Alliance booster lifted off at 7:05 p.m. EDT (2305 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Perched on top of the 19-story rocket was NASA’s robot explorer Osiris-Rex, built by Lockheed Martin to carry out the seven-year, $1 billion mission to and from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.
Wells Fargo Fires 5,300 Employees For Creating Millions of Phony Accounts
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Everyone hates paying bank fees. But imagine paying fees on a ghost account you didn't even sign up for. That's exactly what happened to Wells Fargo customers nationwide. On Thursday, federal regulators said Wells Fargo employees secretly created millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts -- without their customers knowing it -- since 2011. The phony accounts earned the bank unwarranted fees and allowed Wells Fargo employees to boost their sales figures and make more money. Wells Fargo confirmed to CNNMoney that it had fired 5,300 employees related to the shady behavior over the last few years. Employees went so far as to create phony PIN numbers and fake email addresses to enroll customers in online banking services, the CFPB said. The scope of the scandal is shocking. An analysis conducted by a consulting firm hired by Wells Fargo concluded that bank employees opened up over 1.5 million deposit accounts that may not have been authorized, according to the CFPB. Wells Fargo is being slapped with the largest penalty since the CFPB was founded in 2011. The bank agreed to pay $185 million in fines, along with $5 million to refund customers.

The report says that "employees moved funds from customers' existing accounts into newly-created accounts without theier knowledge or consent," which resulted in "customers being charged for insufficient funds or overdraft fees," since their original accounts didn't contain the money. What's more is that "Wells Fargo employees also submitted applications for 565,443 credit card accounts without their knowledge or consent," causing customers who had unauthorized credit cards opened in their names to be "hit by annual fees, interest charges and other fees."
Linking Without Permission Violates Copyright, Rules EU Court
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Reuters is reporting that Playboy has won a lawsuit against a Netherlands news site for linking to photos without permission: "'It is undisputed that GS Media (which owns GreenStijl) provided the hyperlinks to the files containing the photos for profit and that Sanoma had not authorized the publication of those photos on the internet,' the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement. 'When hyperlinks are posted for profit, it may be expected that the person who posted such a link should carry out the checks necessary to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published.' The European Commission, the EU executive, is set next week to propose tougher rules on publishing copyrighted content, including a new exclusive right for news publishers to ask search engines like Google to pay to show snippets of their articles."

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled today on whether posting, on a website, hyperlinks to copyright infringing works constitutes a "communication to the public" for the purposes of EU copyright law, an act which requires permission of the rights holder or other authorizing basis. The court held that, if the links are provided "without the pursuit of financial gain by a person who did not know or could not reasonably have known the illegal nature of the publication of those works on that other website," the act of posting the hyperlink is not an infringement of copyright. However, if the links are providing in the pursuit of financial gain, the poster of such links is deemed to have known that they were infringing copyright, unless they can prove otherwise. The court has stated that those sites operating "for profit" are expected to have carried out the (impossible?) "necessary checks to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published on the website to which those hyperlinks lead." The court does not clarify what is meant by "the pursuit of financial gain." If previous decisions are followed, any sites which host ads (Papasavvas), or perhaps even just accrue value to a brand (if the Advocate General's opinion in McFadden is followed), might be treated as operating for financial gain.
Costa Rica Has Gone 76 Straight Days Using Only Renewable Electricity
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Last year, Costa Rica powered itself using only renewable energy for 75 days. It has topped that feat this year. Vox reports: Costa Rica is pulling off a feat most countries just daydream about: For two straight months, the Central American country hasn't burned any fossil fuels to generate electricity. That's right: 100 percent renewable power. This isn't a blip, either. For 300 total days last year and 150 days so far this year, Costa Rica's electricity has come entirely from renewable sources, mostly hydropower and geothermal. Heavy rains have helped four big hydroelectric dams run above their usual capacity, letting the country turn off its diesel generators. Now, there's a huge, huge caveat here: Costa Rica hasn't eschewed all fossil fuels entirely. The country still has more than 1 million cars running on old-fashioned gasoline, which is why imported oil still supplies over half its total energy needs. The country also has cement plants that burn coal.
FCC Chief To Unveil Revised Plan To Eliminate Cable Boxes
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The top U.S. communications regulator plans to unveil a revised plan to allow about 100 million pay TV subscribers to replace expensive set-top boxes with less-costly apps that provide access to television and video programs, Fortune reports. From the report:

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed in January opening the $20 billion cable and satellite TV set-top box market to new competitors and allow consumers to access multiple content providers from a single app or device. The plan, aimed at breaking the cable industry's long grip on the lucrative pay TV market and lowering prices for consumers, drew fierce opposition from TV and content providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Twenty-First Century Fox. The FCC has said Americans spend $20 billion a year to lease pay-TV boxes, or an average of $231 annually. Set-top box rental fees have jumped 185 percent since 1994, while the cost of TVs, computers and mobile phones has dropped 90 percent, the FCC has estimated.
A Small Asteroid Buzzed Earth Wednesday, But Everything's Cool
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If the Earth were a person, it might have felt a sudden wind rustling its hair when a small asteroid whizzed past the planet on Wednesday. The asteroid, saddled with the name 2016 RB1, is a new discovery. Astronomers just noticed it on September 5 thanks to the keen eye of a telescope from the Catalina Sky Survey in Tucson, Arizona. What makes 2016 RB1 so sneaky is its small size. It's only about 25 to 50 feet (7 to 16 meters) in diameter. It passed within just 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of Earth, which NASA helpfully translates into 1/10th the distance from Earth to the moon. In terms of the massive size of the galaxy, that qualifies as a relatively close shave. An animated GIF of the flyby shows a tiny white dot moving against a grainy space background. The asteroid's trajectory kept it well out of the way of any satellites, and the planet was never in any danger.
It's Official: You're Lost In a Directionless Universe
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Ever peer into the night sky and wonder whether space is really the same in all directions or if the cosmos might be whirling about like a vast top? Now, one team of cosmologists has used the oldest radiation there is, the afterglow of the big bang, or the cosmic microwave background (CMB), to show that the universe is 'isotropic,' or the same no matter which way you look: There is no spin axis or any other special direction in space. In fact, they estimate that there is only a one-in-121,000 chance of a preferred direction -- the best evidence yet for an isotropic universe. That finding should provide some comfort for cosmologists, whose standard model of the evolution of the universe rests on an assumption of such uniformity.
An Asteroid Has Been Named After Freddie Mercury
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Freddie Mercury, frontman of Queen and transcendent being of pure performative joy and vitality, would have been 70 years old this Monday, September 5. To celebrate the occasion and honor Mercury's enormous impact on pop culture, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has officially changed the name of Asteroid 17473, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, to "Freddiemercury." It's a fitting tribute to the man who exuberantly sang that he was "a shooting star leaping through the sky" in the heart-thumping rock rager "Don't Stop Me Now." Queen's lead guitarist Brian May, who also happens to be an astrophysicist with a namesake asteroid of his own, announced the news to the band's fans via YouTube on Sunday. Mercury's asteroid is about three and a half kilometers across, and has an albedo of about 0.3, which means it reflects only about 30 percent of the Sun's light. "It's a dark object, like a cinder in space, as many of these asteroids are," May said. "It's just a dot of light, but it's a very special dot of light."
Philae Found! Rosetta Spies Dead Comet Lander
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With only a month before its mission ends, the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission swooped low over Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko to see the stranded Philae lander jammed in a crack. After months of searching for the lander, which made its dramatic touchdown on Nov. 14, 2014, mission scientists had a good idea as to the region the robot was in, but this is the first photographic proof of the lander, on its side, stuck in the craggy location called Abydos. "This wonderful news means that we now have the missing 'ground-truth' information needed to put Philae's three days of science into proper context, now that we know where that ground actually is!" said Rosetta project scientist Matt Taylor in a statement.
Apps Are Devouring the Open Web
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Apps are eating the web. Over the past decade, there has been an inexorable movement from the open internet to the walled gardens of apps -- and this trend just hit a major milestone. According to new data from ComScore, more than half of all time Americans spend online is spent in apps -- up from around 41% two years ago. It's a stat that will be discomfiting to advocates of the open web, as well as companies whose core business is built around it -- notably Google. As content that was once freely available and indexable on websites becomes silo-ed away in closed-off apps, it makes it harder to search and link to content. This is, of course, the cornerstone of Google's original business.
New Carbon Nanotube Chip Outperforms Silicon Semiconductors
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"Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are the first to have fabricated carbon nanotube transistors (CNTs) that outperform the current-density of conventional semiconductors like silicon and gallium arsenide," reports NanotechWeb. From the site's interview with one of the researchers:

"When the transistors are turned on to the conductive state (meaning that current is able to pass through the CNT channel) the amount of current traveling through each CNT in the array approaches the fundamental quantum limit," he tells nanotechweb.org.

"Since the CNTs conduct in parallel, and the packing density and conductance per tube are very high, the overall current density is very high too -- at nearly twice that of silicon's. The result is that these CNT array FETs have a conductance that is seven times higher than any previous reported CNT array field-effect transistor."


The research was funded in part by the U.S. Army and Air Force, as well as the National Science Foundation. "The implication here is that by replacing silicon with a CNT channel, it should be possible for us to make either a higher performing device or one that works at lower power."
NASA Releases First-Ever Close-Up Images of Jupiter's North Pole
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NASA has released the first close-up images of Jupiter's north pole captured by the Juno spacecraft, taken during the probe's first flyby of the planet with its instruments switched on. "The images show storm systems and weather activity unlike anything previously seen on any of our solar system's gas-giant planets," writes Tony Greicius via NASA. NPR reports:

"NASA also released an image of Jupiter's southern aurora, a unique view that could be captured only by a spacecraft close to Jupiter. The aurora occurs when energized particles from the sun interact with Jupiter's atmosphere near the planet's poles. The space agency also released audio of what the aurora sounds like if you convert it to a frequency the human ear can hear. The pictures and data were collected Aug. 27, when June made the first of some three dozen scheduled close encounters with Jupiter. At its closest approach, the spacecraft was a mere 2,500 miles above the planet's cloud tops."
Falcon 9 Explodes On Pad
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NPR is reporting that a Falcon9 carrying the AMOS-6 satellite that was supposed to launch on Sat exploded during it's scheduled static fire. No injuries are reported. They're reporting that this was going to be the first reflown first stage.

The Verge adds:SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, meant to launch a satellite this weekend, exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida this morning. The explosion occurred during the preparation for the static fire test of the rocket's engines, NASA told the Associated Press. The blast reportedly shook buildings "several miles away." The company confirmed to The Verge the loss of the Falcon 9 an hour later: "SpaceX can confirm that in preparation for today's static fire, there was an anomaly on the pad resulting in the loss of the vehicle and its payload. Per standard procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries."
Half Of People Click Anything Sent To Them
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Want to know why phishing continues to be one of the most common security issue? Half of the people will click on anything without thinking twice ArsTechnica reports:

A study by researchers at a university in Germany found that about half of the subjects in a recent experiment clicked on links from strangers in e-mails and Facebook messages -- even though most of them claimed to be aware of the risks. The researchers at the Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, led by FAU Computer Science Department Chair Dr Zinaida Benenson, revealed the initial results of the study at this month's Black Hat security conference. Simulated "spear phishing" attacks were sent to 1,700 test subjects -- university students -- from fake accounts. The e-mail and Facebook accounts were set up with the ten most common names in the age group of the targets. The Facebook profiles had varying levels of publicly accessible profile and timeline data -- some with public photos and profile photos, and others with minimal data. The messages claimed the links were to photos taken at a New Year's Eve party held a week before the study. Two sets of messages were sent out: in the first, the targets were addressed by their first name; in the second, they were not addressed by name, but more general information about the event allegedly photographed was given. Links sent resolved to a webpage with the message "access denied," but the site logged the clicks by each student.
SETI's 'Strong Signal' Came From Earth
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Yesterday, it was reported that Russia has detected a strong signal around 11 GHz coming from HD164595, a star nearly identical in mass to the Sun and located about 95 light years away from Earth. Well, long story short the signal came Earth. Ars Technica reports:

"First, astronomers with the search for extraterrestrial intelligence downplayed the possibility of an alien civilization. 'There are many other plausible explanations for this claimed transmission, including terrestrial interference,' Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer with SETI, wrote. Now the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences has concurred, releasing a statement on the detection of a radio signal at the RATAN-600 radio astronomy observatory in southern Russia. 'Subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin,' the Russian scientists said."
Hunt For Ninth Planet Reveals Distant Solar System Objects
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Astronomers have discovered several new objects orbiting the Sun at extremely great distances beyond the orbit of Neptune. The most interesting new discovery is 2014 FE72: "2014 FE72 is the first distant Oort Cloud object found with an orbit entirely beyond Neptune," reports Carnegie Institution for Science. "It has an orbit that takes the object so far away from the Sun (some 3000 times farther than Earth) that it is likely being influenced by forces of gravity from beyond our Solar System such as other stars and the galactic tide. It is the first object observed at such a large distance." This research is being done as part of an effort to discover a very large planet, possibly as much as 15 times the mass of Earth, that the scientists have proposed that exists out there.
Early Human Ancestor Lucy 'Died Falling Out of a Tree'
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New evidence suggests that the famous fossilized human ancestor dubbed "Lucy" by scientists died falling from a great height -- probably out of a tree. CT scans have shown injuries to her bones similar to those suffered by modern humans in similar falls. The 3.2 million-year-old hominin was found on a treed flood plain, making a branch her most likely final perch. It bolsters the view that her species -- Australopithecus afarensis -- spent at least some of its life in the trees. Writing in the journal Nature, researchers from the U.S. and Ethiopia describe a "vertical deceleration event" which they argue caused Lucy's death. In particular they point to a crushed shoulder joint, of the sort seen when we humans reach out our arms to break a fall, as well as fractures of the ankle, leg bones, pelvis, ribs, vertebrae, arm, jaw and skull. Discovered in Ethiopia's Afar region in 1974, Lucy's 40%-complete skeleton is one of the world's best known fossils. She was around 1.1m (3ft 7in) tall and is thought to have been a young adult when she died. Her species, Australopithecus afarensis, shows signs of having walked upright on the ground and had lost her ancestors' ape-like, grasping feet -- but also had an upper body well-suited to climbing. The bones of this well-studied skeleton are in fact laced with fractures, like most fossils. By peering inside the bones in minute detail, the scanner showed that several of the fractures were "greenstick" breaks. The bone had bent and snapped like a twig: something that only happens to healthy, living bones.

"The Ethiopian ministry has agreed to release 3D files of Lucy's right shoulder and her left knee. So anyone with an interest in this can print Lucy out and evaluate these fractures, and our hypothesis, for themsleves."
FBI Says Foreign Hackers Breached State Election Systems
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The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers breached two state election databases in recent weeks, and it has warned election officials across the country to some measures to step up the security of their computer systems. The Guardian reports:

The FBI warning did not identify the two states targeted by cyber intruders, but Yahoo News said sources familiar with the document said it referred to Arizona and Illinois, whose voter registration systems were penetrated. Citing a state election board official, Yahoo News said the Illinois voter registration system was shut down for 10 days in late July after hackers downloaded personal data on up to 200,000 voters. The Arizona attack was more limited and involved introducing malicious software into the voter registration system, Yahoo News quoted a state official as saying. No data was removed in that attack, the official said. US intelligence officials have become increasingly worried that hackers sponsored by Russia or other countries may attempt to disrupt the November presidential election.
WhatsApp To Share Some Data With Facebook
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Two years ago when Facebook bought WhatsApp, the instant messaging client said that the deal would not affect the digital privacy of its users. Things are changing now, WhatsApp said Thursday. The Facebook-owned app will share with the company some member information, as well as some analytics data of its users. Bloomberg reports:

WhatsApp announced a change to its privacy policy today that allows businesses to communicate with users. The messages could include appointment reminders, delivery and shipping notifications or marketing material, the company said in its revised terms of service. In a blog post, WhatsApp said it will be testing these business features over the coming months. The strategy is an important step for Facebook as it attempts to make money from its most expensive acquisition. In addition to the messages from businesses, WhatsApp said it would begin sharing more information about its users with the "Facebook family." The data, including a person's phone number, could be used to better targets ads when browsing Facebook or Instagram, WhatsApp said.
Global Warming Started 180 Years Ago Near Beginning of Industrial Revolution, Says Study
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New research led by scientists at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth suggests that humans first started to significantly change the climate in the 1830s, near the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The findings have been published in the journal Nature, and "were based on natural records of climate variation in the world's oceans and continents, including those found in corals, ice cores, tree rings and the changing chemistry of stalagmites in caves." Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"Nerilie Abram, another of the lead authors and an associate professor at the Australian National University's Research School of Earth Sciences, said greenhouse gas levels rose from about 280 parts per million in the 1830s to about 295 ppm by the end of that century. They now exceed 400 ppm. Understanding how humans were already altering the composition of the atmosphere through the 19th century means the warming is closer to the 1.5 to 2 degrees target agreed at last year's Paris climate summit than most people realize."

"It was one of those moments where science really surprised us," says Abram. "But the results were clear. The climate warming we are witnessing today started about 180 years ago."
World's Largest Aircraft Crashes Its Second Flight
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Not too long after it completed its first test flight, the Airlander 10 -- the world's largest aircraft -- has crashed its second test flight. Since the 300-foot long aircraft contains 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, the crash was all but sudden. You can see in a video posted to YouTube from witnesses on the ground that the aircraft slowly descended to the ground, nose first. The BBC has published some close-up photos of the cockpit, which sustained damages. There were no injuries in the crash, according to a tweet from Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company did also deny eyewitness reports of the aircraft being damaged in a collision with a telegraph pole.
'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot
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Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance.

The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
Bill Nye Explains That the Flooding In Louisiana Is the Result of Climate Change
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Our favorite science guy has an interview (and video) in Quartz where he explains how Louisiana flooding is due to climate change: "As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands," Nye explained. "Molecules spread apart, and then as the sea surface is warmer, more water evaporates, and so it's very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects." The article also notes that a National Academy of Sciences issued a report with the same findings: "Scientists from around the world have concurred with Nye that this is exactly what the effects of climate change look like, and that disasters like the Louisiana floods are going to happen more and more. According to a National Academy of Sciences report published earlier this year, extreme flooding can be traced directly to human-induced global warming. As the atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, leading to bouts of sustained, heavy precipitation that can cause floods."
Earth-Like Planet, With Ambitious Life Possibility, Found Orbiting the Star Next Door
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There's another Earth out there. For real, this time. Astronomers announced on Wednesday that they had detected a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest neighbor to our solar system. Intriguingly, the planet is in the star's "Goldilocks zone," they said, a place that hints that it may not be too hot nor too cold. Which in turn means that liquid water could exist at the surface, and by extension, it raises the possibility of life. Nature reports:

"The search for life starts now," says Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University of London and leader of the team that made the discovery. Humanity's first chance to explore this nearby world may come from the recently announced Breakthrough Starshot initiative, which plans to build fleets of tiny laser-propelled interstellar probes in the coming decades. Travelling at 20% of the speed of light, they would take about 20 years to cover the 1.3 parsecs from Earth to Proxima Centauri. Proxima's planet is at least 1.3 times the mass of Earth. The planet orbits its red-dwarf star -- much smaller and dimmer than the Sun -- every 11.2 days. "If you tried to pick the type of planet you'd most want around the type of star you'd most want, it would be this," says David Kipping, an astronomer at Columbia University in New York City. "It's thrilling."

Much about the planet is still unknown. Astronomers have some ideas about its size and distance from its parent star. Scientists say they are working off computer models that offer mere hints of what's possible. Also, there's no picture available for this planet as of yet.
New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History
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When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews.

"The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Will Internet Voting Endanger The Secret Ballot?
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MIT recently identified the states "at the greatest risk of having their voting process hacked". but added this week that "Maintaining the secrecy of ballots returned via the Internet is 'technologically impossible'..." Long-time Slashdot reader Presto Vivace quotes their article:

That's according to a new report from Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparency and accuracy in elections. A cornerstone of democracy, the secret ballot guards against voter coercion. But "because of current technical challenges and the unique challenge of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain the separation of voters' identities from their votes when Internet voting is used," concludes the report, which was written in collaboration with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the anticorruption advocacy group Common Cause.

32 states are already offering some form of online voting, apparently prompting the creation of Verified Voting's new site, SecretBallotAtRisk.org.
NSA Worried About Implications of Leaked Toolkits
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According to Business Insider, the NSA is worried about the possible scope of information leaked from the agency, after a group calling themselves the 'Shadow Brokers' absconded with a sizable trove of penetration tools and technical exploits, which it plans to sell on the black market. Among the concerns are worries that active operations may have been exposed. Business insider quotes an undisclosed source as stating the possibility of the loss of such security and stealth (eg privacy) has had chilling effects for the agency, as they attempt to determine the fullness and scope of the leak. (Does anyone besides me feel a little tickled about the irony of the NSA complaining about chilling effects of possibly being monitored?)
Your Political Facebook Posts Aren't Changing How Your Friends Think
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It may be hard to resist airing political grievances or appealing to voters on social media during a U.S. presidential race as heated as this one. But no one wants to hear about your politics, least of all on Facebook. Those long rants about how Trump is a bully and a buffoon, Hillary is a crook, and conspiring against Bernie Sanders has doomed America forever aren't changing voters' minds, a new study found. A staggering 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 85% of independents on Facebook say they have never been swayed by a political post, according to Rantic, a firm that sells social media followers. The firm surveyed 10,000 Facebook users who self-identified as Republicans, Democrats, or independents. The only thing those opinionated election posts are doing is damaging your friendships. Nearly one-third of Facebook users surveyed said social media is not an appropriate forum for political discussions. And respondents from each political affiliation admitted they've un-friended people on Facebook because of their political posts.

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