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United Kingdom

Living In Nuclear Disaster Fallout Zone Would Be No Worse Than Living In London, Research Suggests (bristol.ac.uk) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from University of Bristol, England: New research suggests that few people, if any, should be asked to leave their homes after a big nuclear accident, which is what happened in March 2011 following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Professor Thomas's team used the Judgement or J-value to balance the cost of a safety measure against the increase in life expectancy it achieves. The J-value is a new method pioneered by Professor Thomas that assesses how much should be spent to protect human life and the environment. The researchers found that it was difficult to justify relocating anyone from Fukushima Daiichi, where four and a half years after the accident around 85,000 of the 111,000 people who were moved out by the Japanese government had still not returned. After the world's worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, in what was then part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union (USSR), the J-value method supported relocation when nine months' or more life expectancy would be lost due to radiation exposure by remaining. Using the J-value method, 31,000 people would have needed to be moved, with the number rising to 72,000 if the whole community was evacuated when five per cent of its residents were calculated to lose nine months of life or more.

Philip Thomas, Professor of Risk Management in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Bristol, said: "Mass relocation is expensive and disruptive. But it is in danger of becoming established as the prime policy choice after a big nuclear accident. It should not be. Remediation should be the watchword for the decision maker, not relocation." For comparison, the average Londoner loses four and a half months to air pollution, while the average resident of Manchester lives 3.3 years less than his/her counterpart in Harrow, North London. Meanwhile, boys born in Blackpool lose 8.6 years of life on average compared with those born in London's borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The results are published in a special issue of Process Safety and Environmental Protection, a journal from the Institution of Chemical Engineers.
Communications

More Than a Million Pro-Repeal Net Neutrality Comments Were Likely Faked (hackernoon.com) 99

Jeff Kao from Hacker Noon used natural language processing techniques to analyze net neutrality comments submitted to the FCC from April-October 2017 and found that at least 1.3 million pro-repeal net neutrality comments were faked. From the report: NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans' identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality. My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions. In this post, I will point out one particularly egregious spambot submission, make the case that there are likely many more pro-repeal spambots yet to be confirmed, and estimate the public position on net neutrality in the "organic" public submissions. [The key findings include:]

1. One pro-repeal spam campaign used mail-merge to disguise 1.3 million comments as unique grassroots submissions.
2. There were likely multiple other campaigns aimed at injecting what may total several million pro-repeal comments into the system.
3. It's highly likely that more than 99% of the truly unique comments were in favor of keeping net neutrality.

The Almighty Buck

Tesla's Electric Semi Trucks Are Priced To Compete At $150,000 (theverge.com) 87

Last week, Tesla unveiled its new four-motor electric Semi but left out one key detail -- the price. "Now that's changed: the regular versions of the 300-mile and the 500-mile trucks will cost $150,000 and $180,000 each," reports The Verge. "There is also a 'Founders Series' which will cost $200,000 per truck." Tesla does note that the prices are "expected" leaving the company some wiggle room on the final pricing. From the report: If those prices and specs stick then Tesla has a potentially disruptive offering with Semi. Most long-haul diesel trucks are priced around $120,000 and cost tens of thousands of dollars to operate each year. Tesla claims its all-electric Semi will provide more than $200,000 in fuel savings alone over the lifespan of the truck.
The Courts

AT&T, Comcast Lawsuit Has Nullified a City's Broadband Competition Law (arstechnica.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: AT&T and Comcast have convinced a federal judge to nullify an ordinance that was designed to bring more broadband competition to Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Metro Council last year passed a "One Touch Make Ready" rule that gives Google Fiber or other new ISPs faster access to utility poles. The ordinance lets a single company make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles itself, instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. AT&T and Comcast sued the metro government in U.S. District Court in Nashville, claiming that federal and local laws preempt the One Touch Make Ready rule. Judge Victoria Roberts agreed with AT&T and Comcast in a ruling issued Tuesday. Google Fiber is offering service in Nashville despite saying last year that it was waiting for access to thousands of utility poles. "We're reviewing [the] court ruling to understand its potential impact on our build in Nashville," a Google spokesperson said this week, according to The Tennessean. "We have made significant progress with new innovative deployment techniques in some areas of the city, but access to poles remains an important issue where underground deployment is not a possibility."
The Almighty Buck

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Surpasses $100 Billion Net Worth (bloomberg.com) 42

Amid optimism for Amazon's Black Friday sales, Jeff Bezos' net worth jumped above $100 billion on Friday. The Amazon CEO's fortune reportedly surged $2.4 billion to $100.3 billion, after the retailer's shares grew more than 2 percent on Black Friday. Bloomberg reports: Online purchases for the day are up 18.4 percent over last year, according to data from Adobe Analytics, and investors are betting the company will take an outsized share of online spending over the gifting season. The $100 billion milestone makes Bezos, 53, the first billionaire to build a 12-figure net worth since 1999, when Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates hit the mark. Bezos's fortune rose $32.6 billion this year through Thursday, the largest increase of anyone on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 500 richest people. Amazon have climbed 5 percent this week alone.
Star Wars Prequels

Legislators Take Aim At Star Wars Battlefront II, EA Over 'Gambling In Games' (polygon.com) 45

dryriver writes: A number of pay-to-win microtransaction FPS games, including Dirty Bomb and the $60 Star Wars Battlefront II, have drawn the ire of legislators in countries like Belgium and the United States. Not only are advanced characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and various weapons and abilities in these games "locked" -- you pay for them in hard cash, or play for them for dozens and dozens of tedious hours -- the games also feature so called "Loot Boxes," which are boxes that contain a random item, weapon, character or ability. So like playing slot machines in Vegas, each time you can get something good, something mediocre or something totally crap. You cannot determine with any certainty what you will get for your real-world dollars or in-game achievements. Angry Reddit users recently downvoted a blundering statement by EA on the topic with a whopping 249,000 downvotes -- an all time downvote record on Reddit, shocking EA into retreating from its pay-to-win model and announcing unspecified "changes" now being made to Star Wars Battlefront II. Legislators in a number of countries have also sharply criticized "Loot Boxes" and "microtransactions" in games, with one legislator in Belgium vowing to have the sale of such games banned completely in the EU, because children are essentially being forced to "gamble with real money" in these games. Forbes has written a great piece about how EA is now essentially stuck with a $60 Star Wars game that cost a lot to make but probably cannot be monetized any further, because there is considerable risk of all games with loot boxes, microtransactions and "pay to win" monetization models being completely banned from sale in a number of different countries now. The morale of the story? Maybe people should not pay a game developer any more than the $40-60 they paid when they thought they "bought" the game in the first place.
United Kingdom

Pornhub Owner May Become the UK's Gatekeeper of Online Porn (yahoo.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Yahoo News: Mindgeek may be the most powerful company that you've never heard of, or at least, a company you'll claim never to have heard about in polite company. It's the conglomerate that owns some of the world's most visited porn sites, including Pornhub, RedTube and YouPorn. Far from simply being a popular and free way for people to consume adult content, it may soon have a powerful political role in the UK that will ensure its dominance for decades to come. That's because, within the next year, Mindgeek may become the principal gatekeeper between the country's internet users and their porn. In April, the UK passed the Digital Economy Act 2017, legislation that mandated that any website showing adult content must verify the ages of its visitors. It was pushed through in response to concerns that children were being corrupted by easy access to and exposure to adult content at an early age. Section 15(1) of the bill requires that "pornographic material" not be published online, on a "commercial basis," unless it is "not normally accessible by those under 18." The bill has several flaws, not least the number of vague proposals it contains, and the ad hoc definition of what pornography actually is. Section 17 of the same act outlined the creation of an "age-verification regulator," the digital equivalent of a bouncer standing between you and your porn. This gatekeeper will have the right, and duty, to demand you show proof of age, or else refuse you access. In addition, the body will be able to impose fines and enforcement notices on those who either neglect or circumvent the policy. [...] The Open Rights Group believes that the BBFC will then hand over the actual mechanisms of the age verification platform to a third party in the private sector. Mindgeek has had several conversations with officials and is currently pushing its own age verification platform, AgeID. If selected, this platform could become the principal wall between Britons and their pornography -- giving Mindgeek enormous power in the market.
Open Source

Linux Pioneer Munich Confirms Switch To Windows 10 (techrepublic.com) 215

The German city of Munich, once seen as a open-source pioneer, has decided to return to Windows. Windows 10 will be rolled out to about 29,000 PCs at the city council, a major shift for an authority that has been running Linux for more than a decade. From a report: Back in 2003 the council decided to to switch to a Linux-based desktop, which came to be known as LiMux, and other open-source software, despite heavy lobbying by Microsoft. But now Munich will begin rolling out a Windows 10 client from 2020, at a cost of about Euro 50m ($59.6m), with a view to Windows replacing LiMux across the council by early 2023. Politicians who supported the move at a meeting of the full council today say using Windows 10 will make it easier to source compatible applications and hardware drivers than it has been using a Linux-based OS, and will also reduce costs associated with running Windows and LiMux PCs side-by-side.
Businesses

Mobile Homes Are So Expensive Now, Hurricane Victims Can't Afford Them (bloomberg.com) 211

An anonymous reader shares a report: Hurricane victims emerging from ravaged trailer parks are discovering that the U.S. mobile-home market has left them behind. In Florida and Texas, dealerships are swarmed by buyers looking to rebuild their lives after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but many leave disappointed. The industry, led by Warren Buffett's Clayton Homes, is peddling such pricey interior-designer touches as breakfast bars and his-and-her bathroom sinks. These extras, plus manufacturers' increased costs for labor and materials, have pushed average prices for new double-wides up more than 20 percent in five years, putting them out of reach for many of the newly homeless.
Privacy

There's Now a Dark Web Version of Wikipedia (vice.com) 18

An anonymous reader shares a report: In many parts of the world, like North America, using Wikipedia is taken for granted; hell, there are even Twitter accounts to track government employees editing the internet's free encyclopedia while on the clock. But in other places, like Turkey or Syria, using Wikipedia can be difficult, and even dangerous. To make using Wikipedia safer for at-risk users, former Facebook security engineer Alec Muffett has started an experimental dark net Wikipedia service that gives visitors some strong privacy protections. The project is unofficial; for now, Wikipedia isn't involved. So it's a bit janky. The service uses self-signed certificates that may trigger a security warning in Tor, so you have to manually white-list the addresses, which takes a couple minutes.
Movies

A Third of Americans Still Buy and Rent Videos (qz.com) 111

An anonymous reader writes: One-third of Americans still buy and rent videos, in addition to using streaming services like Netflix and YouTube, NPD Group found in its annual Entertainment Trends in America report. The research firm surveyed more than 7,000 members of its US online panel about their entertainment consumption during August 2017. Family films are still popular buys because kids will watch them over and over again. Spotty broadband service in rural America makes buying and renting more reliable than streaming for some. And some people just like to own and collect movies. Overall, 54% of people surveyed said they still buy or rent video.
Education

More Young People Are Becoming Farmers (axios.com) 106

An anonymous reader shares a report: "For only the second time in the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old is increasing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest Census of Agriculture," the WashPost's Caitlin Downey reports in a front-pager with the lovely headline, "A growing movement." 69% of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees -- significantly higher than the general population.
Businesses

Thank You, Phish Fans, For Caring About Net Neutrality (theoutline.com) 70

If you venture over to Battle For the Net, which encourages internet users to call Congress to advocate for the preservation of net neutrality rules, you'll find something peculiar: Several of the top sites that direct calls are Phish-related. (Phish is an American rock band.) From a report: As someone on Twitter pointed out, the traffic from phish.net -- which describes itself as "a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans" -- appears to be coming from a pop-up message that greets visitors to the site. The same pop-up, which directs to www.battleforthenet.com, appears when you visit the site's forums and setlist pages. So, it appears that Phish fans, while in the midst of discussing their favorite extended noodling sessions, are leading the charge to save us from our impending telecom-dominated hellscape. Thanks, guys!" Phish.net sees over 400,000 unique visitors each month, according to web analytics firm SimilarWeb. In July, the website served over one million unique visitors.
Youtube

Brands Pull YouTube Ads Over Images of Children (reuters.com) 110

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lidl, Cadbury maker Mondelez, Mars and other companies have pulled advertising from YouTube after the Times newspaper found the video sharing site was showing clips of scantily clad children alongside the ads of major brands. Comments from hundreds of pedophiles were posted alongside the videos, which appeared to have been uploaded by the children themselves, according to a Times investigation. One clip of a pre-teenage girl in a nightie drew 6.5 million views. The paper said YouTube, a unit of Alphabet subsidiary Google, had allowed sexualized imagery of children to be easily searchable and not lived up to promises to better monitor and police its services to protect children. In response, a YouTube spokesman said: "There shouldn't be any ads running on this content and we are working urgently to fix this."
Businesses

Belgium Denounces Loot Boxes as Gambling; Hawaiian Legislator Calls Them 'Predatory' (arstechnica.co.uk) 194

Peter Bright, writing for ArsTechnica: Belgium's Gaming Commission has ruled that loot boxes -- in-game purchases where what you receive is randomized and only known once you open the box -- are gambling. The country's minister of justice, Koen Geens, has said that he wants to see them banned Europe-wide, reports PC Gamer. Amid outcry over the use of loot boxes in Overwatch and Star Wars Battlefront 2, the Belgian Gaming Commission decided last week to look into the issue, with Commission Director Peter Naessens specifically saying that the combination of paying money and receiving something "dependent on chance" prompted the investigation. Rather swiftly, it seems, the Commission has made its decision. In October, the US' Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rejected calls to classify loot boxes as gambling. It told Kotaku that since players receive some reward from opening the loot box -- even if it's useless or unwanted -- that it's not gambling. As such, loot box games will receive neither ESRB's "Real Gambling" nor "Simulated Gambling" labels, the former of which automatically gives a game an "Adults Only" rating. Many retailers refuse to sell A-O games, so giving every title that uses loot boxes such a rating would likely be harmful to their sales. The question of whether loot boxes are gambling may see some new scrutiny in the US. Hawaiian Democratic State Representative Chris Lee has described loot boxes as predatory behavior.

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