Earth

EPA Announces Repeal of Major Obama-Era Carbon Emissions Rule (nytimes.com) 314

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source: The Trump administration announced Monday that it would take formal steps to repeal President Barack Obama's signature policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, setting up a bitter fight over the future of America's efforts to tackle global warming. At an event in eastern Kentucky, Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that his predecessors had departed from regulatory norms in crafting the Clean Power Plan, which was finalized in 2015 and would have pushed states to move away from coal in favor of sources of electricity that produce fewer carbon emissions. The repeal proposal, which will be filed in the Federal Register on Tuesday, fulfills a promise President Trump made to eradicate his predecessor's environmental legacy. Eliminating the Clean Power Plan makes it less likely the United States can fulfill its promise as part of the Paris climate agreement to ratchet down emissions that are warming the planet and contributing to heat waves and sea-level rise. Mr. Trump has vowed to abandon that international accord.

In announcing the repeal, Mr. Pruitt made many of the same arguments that he had made for years to Congress and in lawsuits: that the Obama administration exceeded its legal authority in an effort to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. (Last year, the Supreme Court blocked the rule from taking effect while courts assessed those lawsuits.) A leaked draft of the repeal proposal asserts that the country would save $33 billion by not complying with the regulation and rejects the health benefits the Obama administration had calculated from the original rule.

Television

Hulu Lowers Prices After Netflix Raises Theirs (variety.com) 108

Coincidentally, as Netflix raised their prices last week, Hulu decided to lower theirs. The streaming service is now offering a plan, which includes commercials, for $5.99 per month for the first year -- a short-term promotion aimed at luring new subs with the kickoff of the fall television and Hulu's expanded TV library lineup. Variety reports: Hulu's special offer for the limited-commercials plan is available through Jan. 9, 2018, only to new or returning Hulu subs. After one year, the regular $7.99 monthly price will kick in. Hulu offers a commercial-free option for $12 per month, and a live TV service (which includes access to original series like Emmy-winning "The Handmaid's Tale" and on-demand titles) for $40 monthly. A Hulu rep said the company's new promo is intended to draft off the fall 2017 TV season. As it looks for another original series on the order of "Handmaid's Tale" -- so far its only breakout hit -- Hulu has inked deals to bring thousands of current and older TV shows to the platform to armor-up in its battle with rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Open Source

OpenBSD 6.2 Released (openbsd.org) 114

basscomm writes: OpenBSD 6.2 has now been released. Check out the release notes if you're into that kind of thing. Some of the new features and systems include improved hardware support, vmm(4)/ vmd(8) improvements, IEEE 802.11 wireless stack improvements, generic network stack improvements, installer improvements, routing daemons and other userland network improvements, security improvements and more. Here is the full list of changes.
Advertising

Google Uncovers Russia-Bought Ads On YouTube, Gmail and Other Platforms (reuters.com) 345

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Google has discovered Russian operatives spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads on its YouTube, Gmail and Google Search products in an effort to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a person briefed on the company's probe told Reuters on Monday. The ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated entity that bought ads on Facebook, but may indicate a broader Russian online disinformation effort, according to the source, who was not authorized to discuss details of Google's confidential investigation. The revelation is likely to fuel further scrutiny of the role that Silicon Valley technology giants may have unwittingly played during last year's election. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow's goal was to help elect Donald Trump. Google has uncovered less than $100,000 in ad spending potentially linked to Russian actors, the source said.
Media

Windows 10 Update Removes Windows Media Player (betanews.com) 255

Recently made available Windows 10 update KB4046355 for the Fall Creators Update disables Windows Media Player from the operating system. BetaNews reports: While it could be argued that Windows Media Player is no longer an essential addition to Windows -- there are plenty of quality third-party alternatives, such as VLC Media Player, not to mention the Films & TV app in Windows 10 itself -- many users still rely on it. The feature's removal came to light when users installed KB4046355 on devices running Windows 10 version 1709 -- the Fall Creators Update. This update, referred to as FeatureOnDemandMediaPlayer, removes Windows Media Player from the OS, although it doesn't kill access to it entirely. If you want the media player back you can install it via the Add a Feature setting. Open Settings, go to Apps > Apps & Features, and click on Manage optional features.
Mars

SpaceX's Mars Vision Puts Pressure on NASA's Manned Exploration Programs (marketwatch.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: Entrepreneur Elon Musk's announcement late last month accelerating plans for manned flights to Mars ratchets up political and public relations pressure on NASA's efforts to reach the same goal. With Musk publicly laying out a much faster schedule than NASA -- while contending his vision is less expensive and could be financed primarily with private funds -- a debate unlike any before is shaping up over the direction of U.S. space policy. Industry officials and space experts consider the proposal by Musk's Space Exploration to land people on the red planet around the middle of the next decade extremely optimistic. Some supporters concede the deadline appears ambitious even for reaching the moon, while Musk himself acknowledged some of his projected dates are merely "aspirational." But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration doesn't envision getting astronauts to Mars until at least a decade later, a timeline NASA is finding increasingly hard to defend in the face of criticism that it is too slow.
Businesses

How Comcast is Shortchanging Customers In Vermont (wired.com) 144

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Comcast is suing Vermont's Public Utility Commission, claiming -- among many other things -- that its First Amendment rights have been violated. But as Susan Crawford argues at Backchannel, there are far too many holes in that argument. Crawford writes that 'Comcast, which Wall Street knows is essentially an unregulated public utility for high-speed internet access in the areas it covers, has unlimited resources to fight off this public-spirited regulator...[And] although there are many efforts in Vermont to provide fiber (including ECFiber), they're still small: Comcast isn't feeling any pressure to upgrade its lines to fiber. And, as [Craig] Moffett has reported, Comcast from now on will be growing through price hikes, not through building new lines. It's done with building new lines. The whole thing is dispiriting.'
Microsoft

Microsoft 'Was Sick', CEO Satya Nadella Says In New Book (intoday.in) 240

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just published a new book called Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone. An anonymous reader quotes India Today: Nadella's push for cultural shift -- and hiring "learn-it-alls" instead of "know-it-alls" -- is largely meant to jolt enthusiasm for a new era of innovation at the company. Microsoft had long depended on the success of its flagship Windows operating system and the royalties it gets for each PC sold with it. But the global PC market is declining, and Microsoft fell behind as Apple and Google led the shift to smartphones. Nadella doesn't take any shots at Microsoft's co-founder and first CEO Bill Gates -- who wrote the book's foreword -- or Ballmer. But he's frank about their disagreements, especially over Ballmer's disastrous $7.3 billion acquisition of Nokia's phone business in 2014.

Nadella also refers to the company's previous organizational structure as a "confederation of fiefdoms" and recounts negative feedback received from employee surveys and emails. "The company was sick," Nadella writes. "Employees were tired. They were frustrated. They were fed up with losing and falling behind despite their grand plans and great ideas. They came to Microsoft with big dreams, but it felt like all they really did was deal with upper management, execute taxing processes and bicker in meetings..." He promises not to squander the new energy felt by employees after years of frustration. So far, it seems to be paying off; Microsoft shares have doubled since he took the top job in early 2014, and the company is attracting buzz for its work in AI, augmented reality and a new effort in futuristic computing.

A former Microsoft board member says Nadella "has made people believe in the future of Microsoft in a way that neither Bill nor Steve really did."
Earth

Carbon-Emitting Soil Could Speed Global Warming, Warns 26-Year Study (theguardian.com) 203

An anonymous reader quote the Guardian: Warming soil releases more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break... The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a groundbreaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems. Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in warming...

In the Science study, researchers examined plots of soil in the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts, a mixed hardwood forest in the U.S. They experimented by heating some of the plots with underground cables to 5C above normal levels, leaving others as a control. The long-term study revealed that in the first 10 years there was a strong increase in the carbon released from the heated plots, then a period of about seven years when the carbon release abated. But after this second calmer period, which the scientists attribute to the adjustment of the soil microbes to the warmer conditions, the release of carbon resumed its upward path. From 1991, when the experiment began, the plots subjected to 5C warming lost about 17% of the carbon that had been stored in the top 60cm of the soil, where the greatest concentration of organic matter is to be found...

Lead scientist Jerry Melillo, points out that currently 10 billion metric tons of carbon gets released into the atmosphere every year, but "The world's soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity, that will accelerate the global warming process. Once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip."
Open Source

Linux Now Has its First Open Source RISC-V Processor (designnews.com) 161

"SiFive has declared that 2018 will be the year of RISC V Linux processors," writes Design News. An anonymous reader quotes their report: When it released its first open-source system on a chip, the Freeform Everywhere 310, last year, Silicon Valley startup SiFive was aiming to push the RISC-V architecture to transform the hardware industry in the way that Linux transformed the software industry. Now the company has delivered further on that promise with the release of the U54-MC Coreplex, the first RISC-V-based chip that supports Linux, Unix, and FreeBSD... This latest development has RISC-V enthusiasts particularly excited because now it opens up a whole new world of use cases for the architecture and paves the way for RISC-V processors to compete with ARM cores and similar offerings in the enterprise and consumer space...

"The U54 Coreplexes are great for companies looking to build SoC's around RISC-V," Andrew Waterman co-founder and chief engineer at SiFive, as well as the one of the co-creators of RISC-V, told Design News. "The forthcoming silicon is going to enable much better software development for RISC-V." Waterman said that, while SiFive had developed low-level software such as compilers for RISC-V the company really hopes that the open-source community will be taking a much broader role going forward and really pushing the technology forward. "No matter how big of a role we would want to have we can't make a dent," Waterman said. "But what we can do is make sure the army of engineers out there are empowered."

ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects (brisbanetimes.com.au) 200

53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year...

Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.

Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."
Power

CNN Skeptical of Elon Musk's 'Big Promises' (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader writes: Tesla's electric semi-truck will be launched three weeks later than planned, CNN reports. It's been bumped to November 16th because Tesla says it's "diverting resources" to address problems with its Model 3 sedan production -- they've produced just 17.3% of the cars they'd planned -- and to make more batteries to send to areas hit by hurricanes. CNN notes Tesla's Model X "didn't start shipping until two years after it was supposed to roll out," and production of its Model S sedan "was also much slower than originally promised." Michelle Krebs, an analyst with Autotrader.com, complains Tesla "may well have far too much on its plate. It should focus and deliver on some key promises."

But Elon Musk "has a history of some pretty pie-in-the-sky promises," complained CNN business anchor Maggie Lake, citing Musk's claim that he had verbal approval for an underground hyperloop connecting New York City to Washington D.C. ("This is news to City Hall," said New York's press secretary at the time, and no actual approval has ever been produced.) Lake also noted Musk's promise to fix South Australia's blackout problems by building the world's largest lithium-ion battery within 100 days back in March. Last Friday Tesla signed a contract to begin the work, so the 100-day countdown has begun.

CNN's report ran under the headline "Elon Musk: Big Dreamer or Monorail Salesman?" -- referencing a satirical 1993 episode of The Simpson's. "Here's a spoiler alert," the segment concludes. "If you haven't seen that episode...the monorail plan doesn't work out too well. Let's put it that way."
Earth

100K Lose Power As America Faces Its Third Hurricane In Three Weeks (go.com) 119

An anonymous reader writes: The good news: Hurricane Nate was eventually downgraded to "a tropical storm" at 4:30 Sunday morning (EST), moving north-northeast with maximum winds of 70 mph. The bad news: 100,000 people don't have power in Mississippi and Alabama, and a tornado watch is in effect until 11 a.m. "Even though Nate has made landfall and will weaken today, we are still forecasting heavy rain from Nate to spread well inland towards the Tennessee Valley and Appalachian mountains," ABC News meteorologist Daniel Manzo said Sunday morning. Saturday the Gulf Coast near Biloxi, Mississippi was hit with 85 mph winds and a storm surge of between four to five feet. "Gulf Coast residents are waking up to a wet, windy -- and in some cases, powerless -- Sunday morning," reports ABC News, "but it's still not as devastating as they expected."
Youtube

YouTube Alters Algorithm To Promote News, Penalize Vegas Shooting Conspiracy Theories (usatoday.com) 372

An anonymous reader quotes USA Today: YouTube has changed its powerful search algorithm to promote videos from more mainstream news outlets in search results after people looking for details on the Las Vegas shooting were served up conspiracy theories and misinformation. YouTube confirmed the changes Thursday... In the days after the mass shooting, videos abounded on YouTube, some questioning whether the shooting occurred and others claiming law enforcement officials had deceived the public about what really happened...

Public outcry over YouTube videos promoting conspiracy theories is just the latest online flap for the major U.S. Internet companies. Within hours of the attack, Facebook and Google were called out for promoting conspiracy theories... Helping drive YouTube's popularity is the "Up next" column which suggests additional videos to viewers. The Wall Street Journal found incidents this week in which YouTube suggested videos promoting conspiracy theories next to videos from mainstream news sources. YouTube acknowledged issues with the "Up next" algorithm and said it was looking to promote more authoritative results there, too.

At least one video was viewed over a million times, and Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein writes that "I've received emails from Google users who report YouTube pushing links to some of those trending fake videos directly to their phones as notifications." He's suggesting that from now on, YouTube's top trending videos should be reviewed by actual humans.
Cellphones

Alphabet's Balloons Will Bring Cellphone Service To Puerto Rico (wired.com) 65

An anonymous reader writes:Hurricanes Irma and Maria wiped out more than 90 percent of the cellphone coverage on Puerto Rico. Now the FCC has given "Project Loon" permission to fly 30 balloons more than 12 miles above the island for the next six months, Wired reports, to temporarily replace the thousands of cellphone towers knocked down by the two hurricanes.

Each balloon can service an area of 1,930 miles, so the hope is to restore service to the entire island of Puerto Rico and parts of the U.S. Virgin Islands. In May Project Loon, part of Google's parent company Alphabet, deployed its technology in Peru and later provided emergency internet access there during serious flooding. (Those balloons were acually launched from Puerto Rico.) These new Project Loon balloons will be "relaying communications between Alphabet's own ground stations connected to the surviving wireless networks, and users' handsets," according to the article, which reports that eight wireless carriers in Puerto Rico have already consented to the arrangement.

AI

Tim O'Reilly: Don't Fear AI, Fear Ourselves (wired.com) 72

Tim O'Reilly, publisher of geeky books, "seizes on this singular moment in history" for a futuristic new book of his own, according to this interview with Steven Levy. An anonymous reader writes: When it comes to artificial intelligence, O'Reilly sees a reason for optimism in the fact that we're already discussing biased algorithms. ("We had plenty of bias before but we couldn't see it.") O'Reilly ultimately believes AI won't take away our jobs, and even argues that we're defining it all wrong. "What we now call AI is just the next stage of us weaving our intelligence together into a greater whole. If you think about the internet as weaving all of us together, transmitting ideas, in some sense an AI might be the equivalent of a multi-cellular being and we're its microbiome, as opposed to the idea that an AI will be like the golem or the Frankenstein. If that's the case, the systems we are building today, like Google and Facebook and financial markets, are really more important than the fake ethics of worrying about some far future AI.

"We tend to be afraid of new technology and we tend to demonize it, but to me, you have to use it as an opportunity for introspection. Our fears ultimately should be of ourselves and other people."

O'Reilly calls financial markets "the first rogue AI," while also priasing innovators like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for moving humankind in new and positive directions. And he also calls Uber "a good metaphor for what's right and wrong in tech" because of its clashes with both its drivers and city governments.

"It's interesting that Lyft, which has been both more cooperative in general and better to drivers, is gaining share. That indicates there's a competitive advantage in doing it right, and you can only go so far being an ass."
Printer

New Open Source 3D Printer Can Print Without Human Intervention (autodrop3d.com) 49

Slashdot reader mmiscool shares some videos about "the next step in 3D printing": Autodrop3d is an open source system that solves the problem of needing a human to remove a 3D print from its print bed. Implemented as an open source hardware and software system, it allows for web based, multi-user print queue, automatic notifications, and web-based CAD design tools to all be integrated in one open source system. There's a video that shows the hardware in operation and a link to the web site with a Git repository for the software and hardware components.
Autodrop3D is now raising money on Kickstarter, promising to show their support for open source innovation by "releasing all of our documentation, design files, and software prior to the end of this Kickstarter campaign."

And for $75 pledges, "we will 3D print an object of your choice and mail it to you.... You will also receive our heartfelt thanks."
Education

Publishers Take ResearchGate To Court, Seek Removal of Millions of Papers (sciencemag.org) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Scholarly publishing giants Elsevier and the American Chemical Society (ACS) have filed a lawsuit in Germany against ResearchGate, a popular academic networking site, alleging copyright infringement on a mass scale. The move comes after a larger group of publishers became dissatisfied with ResearchGate's response to a request to alter its article-sharing practices. ResearchGate, a for-profit firm based in Berlin, Germany, which was founded in 2008, is one of the largest social networking sites aimed at the academic community. It claims more than 13 million users, who can use their personal pages to upload and share a wide range of material, including published papers, book chapters and meeting presentations.

Yesterday, a group of five publishers -- ACS, Elsevier, Brill, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer -- announced that ResearchGate had rejected the association's proposal. Instead, the group, which calls itself the "Coalition for Responsible Sharing," said in a October 5th statement that ResearchGate suggested publishers should send the company formal notices, called "takedown notices," asking it to remove content that breaches copyright. The five publishers will be sending takedown notices, according to the group. But the coalition also alleges that ResearchGate is illicitly making as many as 7 million copyrighted articles freely available, and that the company's "business model depends on the distribution of these in-copyright articles to generate traffic to its site, which is then commercialized through the sale of targeted advertising." The coalition also states that sending millions of takedown notices "is not a viable long-term solution, given the current and future scale of infringement Sending large numbers of takedown notices on an ongoing basis will prove highly disruptive to the research community." As a result, two coalition members -- ACS and Elsevier -- have opted to go to court to try to force ResearchGate's hand.

Earth

Neanderthal Ancestors May Be To Blame For Why You Can't Get a Tan (telegraph.co.uk) 118

turkeydance shares a report from The Telegraph: If you struggle to get a tan, consider yourself a night owl or are plagued with arthritis, then your Neanderthal ancestors could be to blame, a new genetic study has shown. Although Neanderthals are often portrayed in drawings as swarthy, in fact they arrived in Northern Europe thousands of years before modern humans, giving time for their skin to become paler as their bodies struggled to soak up enough sun. When they interbred with modern humans those pale genes were passed on. Likewise, genetic mutations which predispose people to arthritis also came from our Neanderthal ancestors, as did the propensity to be a night owl rather than a lark, as northern latitudes altered their body clocks. A raft of new papers published in the journals Science and the American Journal of Human Genetics has shed light on just how many traits we owe to our Neanderthal ancestors.

Scientists also now think that differences in hair color, mood and whether someone will smoke or have an eating disorder could all be related to inter-breeding, after comparing ancient DNA to 112,000 British people who took part in the UK Biobank study. The Biobank includes genetic data along with information on many traits related to physical appearance, diet, sun exposure, behavior, and disease and helps scientists pick apart which traits came from Neanderthals. Dr Janet Kelso, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Germany, said: "We can now show that it is skin tone, and the ease with which one tans, as well as hair color that are affected."

The Almighty Buck

Browsers Will Store Credit Card Details Similar To How They Save Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com) 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: A new W3C standard is slowly creeping into current browser implementations, a standard that will simplify the way people make payments online. Called the Payment Request API, this new standard relies on users entering and storing payment card details inside browsers, just like they currently do with passwords. The API is also a godsend for the security and e-commerce industry since it spares store owners from having to store payment card data on their servers. This means less regulation and no more fears that an online store might expose card data when getting hacked. By moving the storage of payment card details in the browser, the responsibility of keeping these details safe is moved to the browser and the user. Browsers that support the Payment Request API include Google Chrome, who first added support for it in Chrome for Android 53 in August 2016, and added desktop support last month with the release of Chrome 61. Microsoft Edge also supports the Payment Request API since September 2016, but the feature requires that users register a Microsoft Wallet account before using it. Firefox and Safari are still working on supporting the API, and so are browser implementations from Facebook and Samsung, both eager to provide a simpler payment mechanism than the one in use today.
Bug

Massive 70-Mile-Wide Butterfly Swarm Shows Up On Denver Radar System (bbc.com) 47

dryriver shares a report from BBC: A colorful, shimmering spectacle detected by weather radar over the U.S. state of Colorado has been identified as swarms of migrating butterflies. Scientists at the National Weather Service (NWS) first mistook the orange radar blob for birds and had asked the public to help identifying the species. They later established that the 70-mile wide (110km) mass was a kaleidoscope of Painted Lady butterflies. Forecasters say it is uncommon for flying insects to be detected by radar. "We hadn't seen a signature like that in a while," said NWS meteorologist Paul Schlatter, who first spotted the radar blip. "We detect migrating birds all the time, but they were flying north to south," he told CBS News, explaining that this direction of travel would be unusual for migratory birds for the time of year. So he put the question to Twitter, asking for help determining the bird species. Almost every response he received was the same: "Butterflies." Namely the three-inch long Painted Lady butterfly, which has descended in clouds on the Denver area in recent weeks. The species, commonly mistaken for monarch butterflies, are found across the continental United States, and travel to northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest during colder months. They are known to follow wind patterns, and can glide hundreds of miles each day.
AT&T

Sprint, T-Mobile Could Announce a Merger By Month's End (androidpolice.com) 47

Last month, it was reported that T-Mobile is close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with Sprint. Now, it appears that negotiations between the two companies are almost complete. Android Police reports: The report claims that Sprint and T-Mobile are putting the finishing touches on the merger, which will likely be announced at the quarterly earnings report at the end of this month. Some of the current discussion topics include Sprint's valuation (estimated to be around $29 billion), the location of the combined company's headquarters, and appointments to the executive management team. The merge is not expected to include a breakup/termination fee, meaning if one company backed out of the deal, there would be no financial penalty. This would align both companies to lobby government regulators for approval without any conflicts of interest. After AT&T called off its buyout of T-Mobile in 2011 due to government opposition, the company paid a $4 billion breakup fee to T-Mobile, which helped strengthen T-Mobile as a competitor. The report notes that while T-Mobile and Sprint's quarterly earnings reports have not been set, T-Mobile's was on October 24 last year, and Sprint's was the next day.
America Online

Regulate Facebook Like AIM (vice.com) 105

New submitter gooddogsgotoheaven shares a report from Motherboard arguing why the U.S. government should regulate Facebook like AIM: Sixteen years ago, the FCC approved a merger between American Online and Time Warner, but with several conditions. As part of the deal, AOL was required to make its web portal compatible with other chat apps. The government stopped AOL from building a closed system where everyone had to use AIM, meaning it had to adopt interoperability -- the ability to be compatible with other computer systems. The FCC required AOL to be compatible with at least one instant messaging rival immediately after the merger went through. Within six months, the FCC required AOL to make its portal compatible with at least two other rivals, or face penalties. The FCC's decision changed how we communicate with each other on the internet. By forcing AIM to make room for competition, a range of messaging apps and services, as well as social networks emerged. Instead of being limited to AIM, people who used AOL's portal could choose other platforms.

If Facebook were forced to make room for other services on its platform in the same way AOL made room for other chat apps, new services could emerge. "Facebook has to allow people to access their relationships however they want through other businesses or tools that are not controlled by Facebook," Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Open Markets Institute, said. "Having them control and mediate the structure of those relationships -- that's not right." Of course, people can opt out of Facebook and choose to use other, smaller social networks. But those businesses are essentially unable to thrive because of the hold Facebook has on how we communicate online. All our friends and family are already on Facebook, and because the platform is not regulated to allow competition, it's incredibly difficult for other, newer ones to emerge.

Communications

Hello, Mobile Operators? This is Your Age of Disruption Calling (mckinsey.com) 43

Analysts at McKinsey & Company write: For the better part of a decade, telecom companies have suffered through declining revenues, cash flow, and return on investment just as tech companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others have mushroomed by building their businesses on the operators' own infrastructure. While these tech visionaries have enjoyed well over $1 trillion in combined market-cap growth by innovating and thinking differently and adeptly, telecom companies have tried to compete by implementing the same old survival tactics: cutting costs, reducing the workforce, and timidly entering into new business adjacencies. The trouble is that playbook no longer applies. [...] We've seen this before in other capital-intensive industries. The airline industry, for example, despite incredible growth in travel during the early part of this century, destroyed economic value until 2015 when, for the first time, the industry-level average return on invested capital (ROIC) was just in excess of its cost of capital. This return to economic profitability was achieved through a combination of falling fuel prices; significant industry consolidation, especially in the United States; and the growth of ancillary revenues, such as checked-baggage fees. If global operators were to follow the airline industry's prior trajectory, the implications could be dramatic. That's not just for the operators that would see declining investment as capital and talent move into sectors with superior returns but also for current and future over-the-top (OTT) players, such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Netflix, who rely so heavily on the operators' networks and investments.
Businesses

E-commerce Is Concentrating Jobs, Not Killing Them (axios.com) 105

A reader shares a report: The growing popularity of online shopping has hit traditional retailers hard, culminating in a spate of retail bankruptcies and store closures in recent years. But according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the retail apocalypse has actually created nearly as many jobs as it has killed. Though e-commerce and other non-store retailers have hired nearly as many workers as traditional retailers have cut, these new jobs are much more geographically concentrated.
Google

Bluetooth Won't Replace the Headphone Jack -- Walled Gardens Will (theverge.com) 380

Last year, when it was rumoured that the then upcoming iPhone models -- 7 and 7 Plus -- won't have the 3.5mm audio jack, The Verge's Nilay Patel wrote that if Apple does do it, it would be a user-hostile and stupid move. When those iPhone models were official announced, they indeed didn't have the audio jack. Earlier this week, Android-maker Google announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones that also don't feature the decades-old audio jack either, a move that would likely push rest of the smartphone makers to adopt a similar change. The rationale behind killing the traditional headphones jack, both Apple and Google say, is to move to an improved technology: Bluetooth. But there is another motive at play here, it appears. Patel, writes for The Verge: As the headphone jack disappears, the obvious replacement isn't another wire with a proprietary connector like Apple's Lightning or the many incompatible and strange flavors of USB-C audio. It's Bluetooth. And Bluetooth continues to suck, for a variety of reasons. Newer phones like the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, and the Pixel 2 have Bluetooth 5, which promises to be better, but 1. There are literally no Bluetooth 5 headphones out yet, and 2. we have definitely heard that promise before. So we'll see. To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they're building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they're taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn't always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. The playbook is simple: last year, Apple dropped the headphone jack and replaced it with its W1 system, which is basically a custom controller chip and software management layer for Bluetooth. The exemplary set of W1 headphones is, of course, AirPods, but Apple also owns Beats, and there are a few sets of W1 Beats headphones available as well. You can still use regular Bluetooth headphones with an iPhone, and you can use AirPods as regular Bluetooth headphones, but the combination iPhone / W1 experience is obviously superior to anything else on the market. [...] Google's version of this is the Pixel Buds, a set of over-ear neckbuds that serve as basic Bluetooth headphones but gain additional capabilities when used with certain phones. Seamless fast pairing? You need Android N or higher, which most Android phones don't have.
China

Beijing Startup Offers Engineers $1M Salary Plus Options in Battle For Talent (financialpost.com) 119

An anonymous reader shares a Financial Post report: Beijing ByteDance Technology is the brainchild of entrepreneur Zhang Yiming. The company is best known for a mobile app called Jinri Toutiao, or Today's Headlines, which aggregates news and videos from hundreds of media outlets. In five years, the app has become one of the most popular news services anywhere, with 120 million daily users. Toutiao is on pace to pull in about US$2.5 billion in revenue this year, largely from advertising. It was just valued at more than US$20 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, roughly the same as Elon Musk's SpaceX. In China, the Beijing company is controversial because of its recruiting. ByteDance hires top performers from such giants as Baidu and Tencent Holdings, sometimes raising salaries 50 per cent and tossing in stock options. "Our philosophy is to pay the top of the market to get the best," says the slight 34-year-old in an interview at the company's headquarters, his first with foreign media. "The company that wants to achieve the most, you need the best talent." Top performers can make US$1 million in salary and bonus a year, plus options, according to people familiar with its hiring. Total compensation can exceed US$3 million.
United States

US Jobs Dropped By 33,000 In September, Likely Due To Storms (npr.org) 128

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: The U.S. economy shed 33,000 jobs in September, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while unemployment fell to 4.2 percent. The September payrolls drop broke a nearly 7-year streak of continuous job gains. But economists caution that the drop is likely representing the short-term consequences of bad weather, not a long-term shift in the job market. Before this report, the economy had added an average of about 175,000 jobs per month; the unemployment rate has been at 4.3 or 4.4 percent since April. Job growth in September was expected to be lower than usual because of the effects of several devastating hurricanes. Economists did not generally predict an actual decline, but a not-so-stellar report was widely anticipated.
Moon

Vice President Pence Vows US Astronauts Will Return To the Moon (engadget.com) 224

Before astronauts go to Mars, they will return to the Moon, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday and in a speech at the National Air and Space Museum today. He touts "humans exploration and discovery" as the new focus of America's space program. This "means establishing a renewed American presence on the moon, a vital strategic goal. And from the foundation of the moon, America will be the first nation to bring mankind to Mars." Engadget reports: There have been two prevailing (and opposing) views when it comes to U.S. endeavors in human spaceflight. One camp maintains that returning to the moon is a mistake. NASA has already been there; it should work hard and set our sights on Mars and beyond. The other feels that Mars is too much of a reach, and that the moon will be easier to achieve in a short time frame. Mars may be a medium-to-long-term goal, but NASA should use the moon as a jumping-off point. It's not surprising that the Trump administration is valuing short-term gains over a longer, more ambitious project. The U.S. will get to Mars eventually, according to Pence, but the moon is where the current focus lies.
Slashdot.org

20 Years of Stuff That Matters 726

Today we're marking Slashdot's 20th birthday. 20 years is a long time on the internet. Many websites have come and gone over that time, and many that stuck around haven't had any interest in preserving their older content. Fortunately, as Slashdot approaches its 163,000th story, we've managed to keep track of almost all our old postings - all but the first 2^10, or so. In addition to that, we've held onto user comments, the lifeblood of the site, from 1999 onward. As we celebrate Slashdot's 20th anniversary this month, we thought we'd take a moment to highlight a few of the notable or interesting stories and discussions that have happened here in the past decade and a half. This is part of our 20-year anniversary celebration, and we've set up a page to coordinate user meet-ups. We'll be continuing to run some special pieces throughout the month, so keep an eye out for those.

Read on for a trip down memory lane.

Update: Slashdot founder CmdrTaco has taken to Medium with some of his own Slashdot nostalgia.
EU

Three-Quarters of All Honey On Earth Has Pesticides In It (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: About three quarters of all honey worldwide is contaminated with pesticides known to harm bees, according to a new study. Though the pesticide levels were below the limit deemed safe for human consumption, there was still enough insecticide in there to harm pollinators. The finding suggests that, as one of the study authors said, "there's almost no safe place for a bee to exist." Scientists analyzed 198 honey samples from all continents, except Antarctica, for five types of pesticides called neonicotinoids, which are known to harm bees. They found at least one of the five compounds in most samples, with the highest contamination in North America, Asia, and Europe. The results are published today in the journal Science.

To get a better sense of just how widespread neonic contamination is, Mitchell and his colleagues analyzed 198 worldwide honey samples collected as a citizen science project between 2012 and 2016. They found that 75 percent of honey contained at least one of the five tested neonics, and 45 percent of samples had two or more. Honey from North America, Asia, and Europe was most contaminated, while the lowest contamination was in South America. Neonic concentrations were relatively low: on average, 1.8 nanograms per gram in contaminated honey -- below the limits set as safe for people by the EU.

Facebook

Facebook To Build $1 Billion Data Center In Virginia (cnn.com) 44

It's official: Facebook will be investing $1 billion in a new data center in Henrico County, which is just outside Richmond, Virginia. According to CNNMoney, Facebook is putting $750 million into construction and $250 million to multiple solar facilities that will power the data center. From the report: The investment is expected to create 100 full-time jobs. Facebook will receive about $19 million in state tax exemptions through 2035, according to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Facebook already has data centers in Oregon, North Carolina and Iowa. Centers in Fort Worth, Texas; Los Lunas, New Mexico; and New Albany, Ohio are currently under construction. "One of the many important factors in our search for a new data center location is being able to source clean and renewable energy. We also look for great partnerships within the local community, robust infrastructure ... and a strong pool of local talent," Rachel Peterson, Facebook's director of data center strategy, said in a statement.
Power

Tesla Still On Top In US Electric Vehicle Sales, GM Close Behind (arstechnica.com) 105

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Americans bought more electric vehicles in September than any other month this year. According to Inside EV's monthly sales report, 21,325 battery EVs and plug-in hybrid EVs found homes last month. That's 20 percent more than this time last year and the second highest number ever. 2017 looks like it will be a record year; a total of 159,614 EVs were sold, a figure that should easily be eclipsed by the end of October. Tesla leads the pack, thanks to healthy increases in both Model S and Model X sales this month. Tesla may suffer some good-natured teasing about frequently missed deadlines, but you could set your watch by the regularity of its quarter-ending jump in deliveries. Barring some unforeseen circumstance, the Model S will remain the best-selling EV for the third year running. Like the overall trend, sales for the startup EV maker are up compared to last year, and even if the Model 3 continues to frustrate, we expect it to break the 50,000 car barrier by year-end.

General Motors is the only other company within reach of Tesla, whether we're talking about range or sales volume. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is now on sale in all 50 states and finding traction -- 2,632 sold in September and more than 14,000 on the road in 2017 so far. That still only gets it to fifth overall on the score chart, and there are three months left to go. The Chevy Volt, the Bolt's plug-in hybrid EV stablemate, is still the second-most popular EV among American buyers, but its sales have leveled off for the last few months. Toyota is the only other OEM to make the top five, less than 300 units behind the Volt.

Movies

Nearly 4 Million People In US Still Subscribe To Netflix DVDs By Mail (recode.net) 186

The biggest Netflix-related news today is that the company is raising its streaming videos prices, from $9.99 a month to $10.99. But there is another interesting nugget of information to consider: Netflix still has 3.7 million DVD subscribers in the U.S. who get their discs delivered through the mail for the same $7.99 a month it had previously cost. Recode reports: That's down 17 percent from a year ago, and is much smaller than Netflix's nearly 52 million domestic streaming subscribers, but it's still sizable. Netflix first separated out its DVD and streaming subscription services in July 2011, charging $7.99 each ($15.98 for both). Streaming was originally an added bonus for DVD subscribers at no extra cost. Are you one of the 3.7 million Netflix users who still get DVDs sent in the mail? If so, what's keeping you from embracing the digital age and streaming movies via the internet?
Government

Russian Hackers Exploited Kaspersky Antivirus To Steal NSA Data on US Cyber Defense: WSJ (wsj.com) 221

An NSA contractor brought home highly classified documents that detailed how the U.S. penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks. The contractor used Kaspersky antivirus on his home computer, which hackers working for the Russian government exploited to steal the documents, the WSJ reported on Thursday (the link could be paywalled; alternative source), citing multiple people with knowledge of the matter. From the report: The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor's use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, these people said. The theft, which hasn't been disclosed, is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a rare glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software product to spy on the U.S. The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn't discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter. Having such information could give the Russian government information on how to protect its own networks, making it more difficult for the NSA to conduct its work. It also could give the Russians methods to infiltrate the networks of the U.S. and other nations, these people said. Ahead of the publication of WSJ report, Kaspersky founder Eugene Kaspersky tweeted, "New conspiracy theory, anon sources media story coming. Note we make no apologies for being aggressive in the battle against cyberthreats."
Businesses

Netflix is Raising Its Prices, Again (mashable.com) 277

Jason Abbruzzese, writing for Mashable: Get ready to pay just a bit more for your Netflix subscription. The streaming video service will be raising prices on its middle and top tier plans in the U.S. starting in November. Subscribers who currently pay for the standard $9.99 service will be charged $10.99. The price of the premium tier will rise from $11.99 to $13.99. Good news for people on the basic $7.99 plan -- that price is staying put, for now. The U.S.-only price hikes will begin to go into effect in November, varying depending on individuals' billing cycles. Starting on Oct. 19, subscribers will be notified and given at least 30 days notice about the increase.
Firefox

Mozilla To End All Firefox Support For XP, Vista In June 2018 (bleepingcomputer.com) 131

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bleeping Computer: Mozilla announced today plans to stop all support for the Firefox browser on Windows XP and Vista in June 2018. Earlier this year, Mozilla already moved Firefox users on XP and Vista machines to the Firefox 52 ESR (Extended Support Release). The move of XP and Vista users to Firefox ESR was previously announced in December 2016, when Mozilla also said it would provide a final answer on Firefox support for XP and Vista in September 2017. Well, that date has arrived (and passed), and after an internal review, Mozilla announced it would sunset all support for Firefox on the two Windows platforms. Mozilla joins Google, who dropped support for XP and Vista back at version 50, released in April 2016. Microsoft has stopped XP and Vista support in April 2014 and April 2017, respectively.
Advertising

Facebook Fought Rules That Could Have Exposed Fake Russian Ads (bloomberg.com) 193

According to Bloomberg, Facebook has for years fought to avoid being transparent about who's behind election-related ads online. "Since 2011, Facebook has asked the Federal Election Commission for blanket exemptions from political advertising disclosure rules -- transparency that could have helped it avoid the current crisis over Russia ad spending ahead of the 2016 U.S. election," reports Bloomberg. From the report: Communications law requires traditional media like TV and radio to track and disclose political ad buyers. The rule doesn't apply online, an exemption that's helped Facebook's self-serve advertising business generate hundreds of millions of dollars in political campaign spots. When the company was smaller, the issue was debated in some policy corners of Washington. Now that the social network is such a powerful political tool, with more than 2 billion users, the topic is at the center of a debate about the future of American democracy. Back in 2011, Facebook argued for the exemption for the same reasons as internet search giant Google: its ads are too small and have a character limit, leaving no room for language saying who paid for a campaign, according to documents on the FEC's website. Some FEC commissioners agreed, while others argued that Facebook could provide a clickable web link to get more information about the ad.

Facebook wouldn't budge. It warned that FEC proposals for more political ad disclosure could hinder free speech in a 2011 opinion written by Marc Elias, a high-powered Democratic lawyer who later became general counsel for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. Colin Stretch, a top Facebook lawyer, said the agency "should not stand in the way of innovation," and warned that such rules would quickly become obsolete. When it came time for the FEC to decide in June 2011, the agency's six commissioners split on a 3-3 vote. Facebook didn't get its exemption, so an advertiser using its platform was still subject to a 2006 ruling by the FEC requiring disclosure. But the company allowed ads to run without those disclaimers, leaving it up to ad buyers to comply.

Patents

US Congress Investigates Patent 'Gifts' That Evade Inter Partes Review (arstechnica.com) 55

AnalogDiehard writes: Congress created the Inter Partes Review (IPR) in 2012 within the U.S. Patent Office Patent Trials and Appeals Board (PTAB) as a faster and cheaper way to challenge and invalidate bad patents. The IPR expense is a fraction of the cost of a multimillion dollar patent court trial; it is loved by patent challengers and hated by patent owners. The pharmaceutical company Allergen has exploited a novel tactic to evade the IPR process: they hand them to a Native American Indian tribe for safekeeping. Under the arrangement, the tribes earn millions in royalties as long as the patents are valid, they license them back to Allergan, and the patents under the tribes' ownership is immune from lawsuits via sovereign immunity. Under the colonial-era concept of "sovereign immunity" which is codified in the 11th amendment, certain groups like states, universities, and tribes are immune from lawsuits, thus the drug patents are shielded from the IPR process leaving only a full blown multimillion dollar court trial for generic drug companies. This tactic is also attracting the attention of non-practicing entities -- the polite term for "patent trolls" -- and one such NPE company has already exploited sovereign immunity with the intention to sue Apple for infringement.

But court cases have limited the scope of sovereign immunity (especially for commercial activity), and now Congress is investigating Allergan over the tactic that has Congress not only greatly concerned about competition in the drug industry (and exorbitant prices of pharmaceuticals), but also the questionable use of the sovereign immunity law. The four lawmakers who signed the letter to Allergan state: "The unconventional maneuver has received considerable criticism from the generic competitors challenging the drug's patents under the process Congress created (IPR) to enable timelier review of such challenges (read: a fraction of the cost of a court trial)." The letter also notes that the key ingredient in the patent was set to expire in 2014 and that Allergan had filed more patents to extend patent protection to 2024, a signal that Congress is watching for exploitation of patent law to enable "perpetual patents" widely used by the pharmaceuticals.

Government

US Senate Panel Approves Self-Driving Car Legislation (reuters.com) 123

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill to speed self-driving cars to market without human controls and bar states from imposing regulatory road blocks. The bill still must be approved by the full Senate. The U.S. House passed a similar version last month unanimously. General Motors Co, Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co and others have lobbied for the landmark legislation. Despite some complaints from Republicans, the Senate bill does not speed approval of self-driving technology for large commercial trucks after labor unions raised safety and employment concerns. The measure, the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would allow automakers to win exemptions from current safety rules that prohibit vehicles without human controls. States could still set rules on registration, licensing, liability, insurance and safety inspections, but not performance standards.
EU

EU Takes Ireland To Court For Not Claiming Apple Tax Windfall (reuters.com) 192

Philip Blenkinsop, reporting for Reuters: The European Commission said on Wednesday it was taking Ireland to the European Court of Justice for its failure to recover up to 13 billion euros ($15.3 billion) of tax due from Apple, a move labeled as "regrettable" by Dublin. The Commission ordered the U.S. tech giant in August 2016 to pay the unpaid taxes as it ruled the firm had received illegal state aid, one of a number of deals the EU has targeted between multinationals and usually smaller EU states. "More than one year after the Commission adopted this decision, Ireland has still not recovered the money," EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said, adding that Dublin had not even sought a portion of the sum.
Businesses

Steemit Is a Social Network That Pays You For Your Posts In Cryptocurrency (wired.com) 54

New submitter mirandakatz writes: Our relationships with most social media are sneakily transactional: We log onto Facebook or Instagram and wind up paying the platforms with our attention and ad clicks. A new social network aims to turn that on its head by paying users for their posts. Steemit runs on Steem, a cryptocurrency that currently has a market cap of $294 million -- and users have made more than $1.2 million in American dollars on the network. At Backchannel, Andrew McMillen takes a deep dive into Steemit, writing that 'By removing the middlemen and allowing users to profit directly from the networks they participate in, Steemit could provide a roadmap to a more equitable social network...Or users could get bored or distracted by something newer and shinier and abandon it. Fortunes could vanish at any moment, but someone stands to get rich in the process.'
Businesses

Dawn of Solar Age Declared as PV Beats All Other Forms of Power (bloomberg.com) 396

Solar power blossomed faster than for any other fuel for the first time in 2016, the International Energy Agency said in a report suggesting the technology will dominate renewables in the years ahead. From a report: The institution established after the first major oil crisis in 1973 said 165 gigawatts of renewables were completed last year, which was two-thirds of the net expansion in electricity supply. Solar grew by 50 percent, with almost half new plants built in China. "What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV," Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said in a statement accompanying the report published on Wednesday in Paris. "We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022." This marks the sixth consecutive year that clean energy has set records for installations. Mass manufacturing and a switch by governments away from fixed payments for renewables forced down the cost of wind and solar technology. The IEA expects about 1,000 gigawatts of renewables will be installed in the next five years, a milestone that coal only accomplished after 80 years. That quantity of electricity surpasses what's consumed in China, India and Germany combined.
Government

IRS Awards $7 Million Fraud Prevention Contract To Equifax (politico.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Politico: The IRS will pay Equifax $7.25 million to verify taxpayer identities and help prevent fraud under a no-bid contract issued last week, even as lawmakers lash the embattled company about a massive security breach that exposed personal information of as many as 145.5 million Americans. A contract award for Equifax's data services was posted to the Federal Business Opportunities database Sept. 30 -- the final day of the fiscal year. The credit agency will "verify taxpayer identity" and "assist in ongoing identity verification and validations" at the IRS, according to the award. The notice describes the contract as a "sole source order," meaning Equifax is the only company deemed capable of providing the service. It says the order was issued to prevent a lapse in identity checks while officials resolve a dispute over a separate contract. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted the IRS decision.
The Courts

Judge Blasts Waymo V. Uber Lawyers, Delays Trial Until December (arstechnica.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The federal judge presiding in the Waymo v. Uber lawsuit has delayed trial for another two months after castigating lawyers on both sides of the case for being dishonest and telling "half-truths." "I'm going to give you a schedule, and we're not going to argue about it," U.S. District Judge William Alsup said after a one-hour hearing today. "We're going to pick the jury on November 29. We will start the trial on December 4, and it will run until December 20." The trial will decide whether Uber has misappropriated trade secrets from Waymo, Google's self-driving car spinoff.

Over the course of a 90-minute hearing today, the two sides had a heated dispute over what documents were produced and when depositions happened. Waymo lawyer Charles Verhoeven said that tens of thousands of documents were only handed over after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently ruled that Uber must hand over the "due diligence" report produced by Stroz Friedberg. "To say that this volume is surprising is an understatement," said Verhoeven. "It's shocking. It's unbelievable."

Privacy

US Studying Ways To End Use of Social Security Numbers For ID (securityweek.com) 311

wiredmikey quotes a report from Security Week: U.S. officials are studying ways to end the use of social security numbers for identification following a series of data breaches compromising the data for millions of Americans, Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, said Tuesday. Joyce told a forum at the Washington Post that officials were studying ways to use "modern cryptographic identifiers" to replace social security numbers. "I feel very strongly that the social security number has outlived its usefulness," Joyce said. "It's a flawed system." For years, social security numbers have been used by Americans to open bank accounts or establish their identity when applying for credit. But stolen social security numbers can be used by criminals to open bogus accounts or for other types of identity theft. Joyce said the administration has asked officials from several agencies to come up with ideas for "a better system" which may involve cryptography. This may involve "a public and private key" including "something that could be revoked if it has been compromised," Joyce added.
Transportation

Fully Driverless Cars Could Be Months Away (arstechnica.com) 160

An anonymous reader shares a report: Real driverless cars could come to the Phoenix area this year, according to a Monday report from The Information's Amir Efrati. Two anonymous sources have told Efrati that Google's self-driving car unit, Waymo, is preparing to launch "a commercial ride-sharing service powered by self-driving vehicles with no human 'safety' drivers as soon as this fall." Obviously, there's no guarantee that Waymo will hit this ambitious target. But it's a sign that Waymo believes its technology is very close to being ready for commercial use. And it suggests that Waymo is likely to introduce a fully driverless car network in 2018 if it doesn't do so in the remaining months of 2017. [...] According to a report on The Information, Waymo's service is likely to launch first in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb where Waymo has done extensive testing. Waymo chose the Phoenix area for its favorable weather, its wide, well-maintained streets, and the relative lack of pedestrians. Another important factor was the legal climate. Arizona has some of the nation's most permissive laws regarding self-driving vehicles. "Arizona's oversight group has met just twice in the last year, and found no reason to suggest any new rules or restrictions on autonomous vehicles, so long as they follow traffic laws," the Arizona Republic reported in June. "The group found no need to suggest legislation to help the deployment." According to the Arizona Republic, a 2015 executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey "allows universities to test vehicles with no driver on board so long as a licensed driver has responsibility for the cars and can take control remotely if the vehicle needs assistance." Waymo is getting ready to take the same approach.
Transportation

Missouri Considers Hyperloop Route Between St. Louis and Kansas City (theverge.com) 154

Missouri officials are forming a public-private partnership to study the feasibility of building a hyperloop route between St. Louis and Kansas City. The study is being supported by Hyperloop One, and conducted by a consortium of groups, including the Missouri Department of Transportation, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, the KC Tech Council, the University of Missouri System, and the Missouri Innovation Center in Columbia. The Verge reports: St. Louis to Kansas City is a 248-mile route that takes around three hours and 40 minutes by car, or about 55 minutes by plane (not including time spent traveling to the airport, security lines, etc.). Hyperloop One claims the trip would just take 31 minutes using its system of aerodynamic pods traveling through nearly airless tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. Of course, that depends on building hundreds of miles of tubes, either above ground on pylons along a highway like I-70, or through underground tunnels. The Missouri study will explore all these options, as well the amount of state money that would be needed to build it. The study will cost about $1.5 million, and will be paid for using private funds, Missouri officials said.
Communications

Judge Recommends ISP and Search Engine Blocking of Sci-Hub in the US (torrentfreak.com) 196

Sci-Hub, which is regularly referred to as the "Pirate Bay of Science," faces one of the strongest anti-piracy injunctions we have seen in the US to date, reports TorrentFreak. From the article: Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan. Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site. In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site. While the request is rather unprecedented for the US, as it includes search engine and ISP blocking, Magistrate Judge John Anderson has included these measures in his recommendations. Judge Anderson agrees that Sci-Hub is guilty of copyright and trademark infringement. In addition to $4,800,000 in statutory damages, he recommends a broad injunction that would require search engines, ISPs, domain registrars and other services to block Sci-Hub's domain names. If the U.S. District Court Judge adopts this recommendation, it would mean that Internet providers such as Comcast could be ordered to block users from accessing Sci-Hub.
United Kingdom

UK Government Could Imprison People For Looking At Terrorist Content (betanews.com) 271

Mark Wilson writes: Not content with trying to "combat" encryption, the UK government also wants to criminalize looking at terrorist content. The leading Conservative party has announced plans which threaten those who "repeatedly view terrorist content online" with time behind bars. New laws will be introduced that could see consumers of terrorist content imprisoned for up to 15 years. The same maximum sentence would face those who share information about police, soldiers or intelligence agencies with a view to organizing terrorist attacks.

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