Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill called the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act," but instead of resulting in more broadband deployment, the legislation would make it more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service. From a report: The Virginia House of Delegates legislation proposed this week by Republican lawmaker Kathy Byron would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. Among other things, a locality wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. That speed threshold is low enough that it can be met by old DSL lines in areas that haven't received more modern cable and fiber networks. Even if that condition is met, a city or town would have to jump through a few hoops before offering service. The municipality would have to pay for a "comprehensive broadband assessment," and then issue a request for proposals giving for-profit ISPs six months to submit a plan for broadband deployment. After receiving proposals from private ISPs, the local government would have to determine whether providing grants or subsidies to a private ISP would be more cost-effective than building a municipal broadband network.
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To many, eBay serves as a convenient conduit for shifting unwanted goods and buying items at a fraction of their MSRP. But the online shopping emporium has long been a popular platform for fake products, with luxury goods such as fashion accessories and jewelry high on eBay counterfeiters' agenda. eBay is attempting to fix that. From a report: To counter this, eBay has revealed plans to introduce a new authentication program later this year, with a broad focus on "high-end" goods and launching initially as a trial with fashion items such as handbags. Dubbed eBay Authenticate, the new service will be powered by a "network of professional authenticators," and is ultimately designed to encourage buyers to part with cash on expensive items, safe in the knowledge that the merchandise is legitimate.
For the first time for a bumblebee and a bee species in the U.S., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the bumblebee an endangered species. The protected status goes into effect on February 10, and includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. NPR reports: "Today's Endangered Species listing is the best -- and probably last -- hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee," NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement from the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrates. "Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers." Large parts of the Eastern and Midwestern United States were once crawling with these bees, Bombus affinis, but the bees have suffered a dramatic decline in the last two decades due to habitat loss and degradation, along with pathogens and pesticides. Indeed, the bee was found in 31 states and Canadian provinces before the mid- to late-1990s, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register. But since 2000, it has been reported in only 13 states and Ontario, Canada. It has seen an 88 percent decline in the number of populations and an 87 percent loss in the amount of territory it inhabits. This means the species is vulnerable to extinction, the rule says, even without further habitat loss or insecticide exposure. Canada designated the species as endangered in 2012.
Nintendo has released more details about its upcoming Nintendo Switch gaming console. We have learned that the console will be launching on March 3rd worldwide, and in North America the console will be available for $299.99. What's more is that it won't feature region-locking for software, meaning you can play games from any region no matter where you buy your console. CNET reports: There will also be a Nintendo Switch online service that will be a paid service. It will launch as a trial with pricing to be announced later in 2017. For fans of imports of Japanese exclusives, it was announced the new system will have no region locking -- a big break from tradition for Nintendo. The Switch itself is said to have battery life from 2.5 to 6 hours and can be charged over USB-C. Nintendo says it will have portable battery accessories also available to charge on the go. The Joy-con is the name for new controller, usable in a combined controller style or separated into two halves to let two players play together. It will also be available in a range of colors for people who want to mix things up. The Joy-con has a whole bunch of clever tricks -- motion control, IR sensor, haptic feedback -- and a series of 'versus' game ideas called "1, 2, Switch" that let you play games (like a quick draw shooting game) without needing to look at the screen, just face each other down with the Joy-con controllers. Other games announced that need you to keep the full Joy-con all to yourself include 'Arms', a robotic boxing battle game, and Splatoon 2. Plus the new Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, which aims to deliver a 'sandbox' experience across many realms outside the Mushroom kingdom, including the real world. And this time his cap has come to life. For the more serious RPG fans, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was also announced for the Nintendo Switch. Followed by a very small tease for Fire Emblem Warriors. All up, Nintendo says there are over 80 games in development for the Nintendo Switch. If you live in New York, "a limited quantity of pre-orders for the #NintendoSwitch will begin on 1/13 at 9AM while supplies last," Nintendo NY tweeted.
skids quotes a report from Phys.Org: Wearable sensors that monitor heart rate, activity, skin temperature and other variables can reveal a lot about what is going on inside a person, including the onset of infection, inflammation and even insulin resistance, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Altogether, the team collected nearly 2 billion measurements from 60 people, including continuous data from each participant's wearable biosensor devices and periodic data from laboratory tests of their blood chemistry, gene expression and other measures. Participants wore between one and eight commercially available activity monitors and other monitors that collected more than 250,000 measurements a day. The team collected data on weight; heart rate; oxygen in the blood; skin temperature; activity, including sleep, steps, walking, biking and running; calories expended; acceleration; and even exposure to gamma rays and X-rays. "We want to study people at an individual level," said Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics. "We have more sensors on our cars than we have on human beings," said Snyder. In the future, he said, he expects the situation will be reversed and people will have more sensors than cars do.
Slashdot reader skids adds: "IT security being in the state it is, will we face the same decision about our actual lives that we already face about our social lives/identities: either risk very real hazards of misuse of your personal data, or get left behind?
Slashdot reader skids adds: "IT security being in the state it is, will we face the same decision about our actual lives that we already face about our social lives/identities: either risk very real hazards of misuse of your personal data, or get left behind?
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Pharmaceutical giant CVS announced Thursday that it has partnered with Impax Laboratories to sell a generic epinephrine auto-injector for $109.99 for a two-pack -- a dramatic cut from Mylan's Epipen two-pack prices, which list for more than $600 as a brand name and $300 as a generic. The lower-cost auto-injector, a generic form of Adrenaclick, is available starting today nationwide in the company's more than 9,600 pharmacies. Its price resembles that of EpiPen's before Mylan bought the rights to the life-saving devices back in 2007 and raised the price repeatedly, sparking outcry. Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy, said the company felt compelled to respond to the urgent need for a more affordable alternative. "Over the past year, nearly 150,000 people signed on to a petition asking for a lower-cost epinephrine auto-injector option and millions more were active in social media searching for a solution," she said in a statement. The price of $109.99 for the alternative applies to those with and without insurance, CVS noted. And Impax is also offering a coupon to reduce the cost to just $9.99 for qualifying patients. Also in the press statement, Dr. Todd Listwa of Novant Health, a network of healthcare providers, noted the importance of access to epinephrine auto-injectors, which swiftly reverse rapid-onset, deadly allergic reactions in some. "For these patients, having access to emergency epinephrine is a necessity. Making an affordable epinephrine auto-injector device accessible to patients will ensure patients have the medicine they need, when they need it."
Last week, Tesla announced that its Gigafactory has begun mass production of lithium-ion battery cells in Nevada. But the company failed to mention one thrilling detail in their January 4 announcement: the Gigafactory could be powered by the world's largest solar rooftop installation. According to an investor handout, a 70-megawatt (MW) solar array along with ground solar panels could let the factory operate entirely on clean energy. Inhabitat reports: The 70 MW solar array would be around seven times larger than any rooftop arrays currently installed, according to Tesla's exciting handout released by Electrek and confirmed as genuine by The Verge. The rooftop array currently boasting the title of world's largest is a 11.5 MW installation in India. The United States' biggest rooftop array is a 10 MW array atop a California Whirlpool distribution center. SolarCity will likely manufacture the solar panels, according to The Verge, as Tesla acquired the solar energy company in November. Powerpacks will store any excess energy generated by the vast solar installation. Tesla said in the handout the "all-electric" factory will be able to run with greater efficiency and will produce zero carbon emissions. Heating and water use at the Gigafactory will also be sustainable. In the handout, Tesla said a large part of heating for the building would come from waste heat obtained from production processes. Also, "Gigafactory's closed-loop water supply system uses six different treatment systems to efficiently re-circulate about 1.5 million liters (that's around 400,000 gallons) of water, representing an 80 percent reduction in fresh water usage compared with standard processes." Tesla even said they're building a recycling facility at the Gigafactory that will be able to "safely reprocess" battery cells, packs, and modules to obtain metal usable in new cells.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Americans living in rural areas are more likely to die from five leading causes of death than people living in urban areas, according to a new government report. Many of these deaths are preventable, officials say, with causes including heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. Approximately 46 million Americans -- about 15 percent of the U.S. population -- currently live in rural areas. According to the CDC report, several demographic, environmental, economic, and social factors might put rural residents at higher risk of death from these conditions. Rural residents in the U.S., for example, tend to be older and sicker than their urban counterparts, and have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. People living in rural areas also report less leisure-time physical activity and lower seatbelt use than their those living in urban areas and have higher rates of poverty, less access to health care, and are less likely to have health insurance. Specifically, the report found that in 2014, deaths among rural Americans included: 25,000 from heart disease; 19,000 from cancer; 12,000 from unintentional injuries; 11,000 from chronic lower respiratory disease; 4,000 from stroke. The percentages of deaths that were potentially preventable were higher in rural areas than in urban areas, the authors report. For the study, the researchers analyzed numbers from a national database. The CDC suggests to help close the gap, health care providers in rural areas can: Screen patients for high blood pressure; Increase cancer prevention and early detection; Encourage physical activity and healthy eating; Promote smoking cessation; Promote motor vehicle safety; Engage in safer prescribing of opioids for pain.
Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Switzerland has agreed its own new data transfer agreement with the United States, basing the framework on the deal struck by the European Union (EU) following the invalidation of Safe Harbour. The previous arrangement was invalidated because of concerns about U.S. mass surveillance but Switzerland says the new Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield will allow Swiss companies to transfer customer data without the need for additional contractual guarantees. The Swiss Federal Council, a seven member executive council that is effectively the head of government in Switzerland, claim citizens will benefit from additional protections and the ability to contact an ombudsman about data issues. Although not part of the EU, Switzerland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and has several bilateral agreements with the EU that sees it adopt many of the bigger bloc's policies. The Federal Council says the alignment between the EU and the Swiss transatlantic data sharing partnerships is good news for multinational organizations.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: A team of researchers from universities across the U.S. has identified different fingerprinting techniques that can track users when they use different browsers installed on the same machine. Named "cross-browser fingerprinting" (CBF), this practice relies on new technologies added to web browsers in recent years, some of which had been previously considered unreliable for cross-browser tracking and only used for single browser fingerprinting. These new techniques rely on making browsers carry out operations that use the underlying hardware components to process the desired data. For example, making a browser apply an image to the side of a 3D cube in WebGL provides a similar response in hardware parameters for all browsers. This is because the GPU card is the one carrying out this operation and not the browser software. According to the three-man research team led by Assistant Professor Yinzhi Cao from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh University, the following browser features could be (ab)used for cross-browser fingerprinting operations: [Screen Resolution, Number of CPU Virtual Cores, AudioContext, List of Fonts, Line, Curve, and Anti-Aliasing, Vertex Shader, Fragment Shader, Transparency via Alpha Channel, Installed Writing Scripts (Languages), Modeling and Multiple Models, Lighting and Shadow Mapping, Camera and Clipping Planes.] Researchers used all these techniques together to test how many users they would be able to pin to the same computer. For tests, researchers used browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, IE, Opera, Safari, Maxthon, UC Browser, and Coconut. Results showed that CBF techniques were able to correctly identify 99.24% of all test users. Previous research methods achieved only a 90.84% result.
To combat the robot revolution, the European Parliament's legal affairs committee has proposed that robots be equipped with emergency "kill switches" to prevent them from causing excessive damage. Legislators have also suggested that robots be insured and even be made to pay taxes. "A growing number of areas of our daily lives are increasingly affected by robotics," said Mady Delvaux, the parliamentarian who authored the proposal. "To ensure that robots are and will remain in the service of humans, we urgently need to create a robust European legal framework." CNNMoney reports: The proposal calls for a new charter on robotics that would give engineers guidance on how to design ethical and safe machines. For example, designers should include "kill switches" so that robots can be turned off in emergencies. They must also make sure that robots can be reprogrammed if their software doesn't work as designed. The proposal states that designers, producers and operators of robots should generally be governed by the "laws of robotics" described by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The proposal also says that robots should always be identifiable as mechanical creations. That will help prevent humans from developing emotional attachments. "You always have to tell people that robot is not a human and a robot will never be a human," said Delvaux. "You must never think that a robot is a human and that he loves you." The report cites the example of care robots, saying that people who are physically dependent on them could develop emotional attachments. The proposal calls for a compulsory insurance scheme -- similar to car insurance -- that would require producers and owners to take out insurance to cover the damage caused by their robots. The proposal explores whether sophisticated autonomous robots should be given the status of "electronic persons." This designation would apply in situations where robots make autonomous decisions or interact with humans independently. It would also saddle robots with certain rights and obligations -- for example, robots would be responsible for any damage they cause. If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Schneier on Security: President Obama has changed the rules regarding raw intelligence, allowing the NSA to share raw data with the U.S.'s other 16 intelligence agencies. The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches. The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people. Here are the new procedures. This rule change has been in the works for a while. Here are two blog posts from April discussing the then-proposed changes.
An anonymous reader shares a TechCrunch report: The Arizona attorney general is soliciting outside legal counsel to pursue a consumer fraud lawsuit against the beleaguered blood testing startup Theranos, according to a document posted on the state's procurement website. AZ's AG has so far declined to comment on any action, but the document contends Theranos may have defrauded customers in the state and the office is now seeking proposals to assist it in possible legal action "against Theranos, Inc. and its closely related subsidiaries for violations of the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act arising out of Theranos Inc.'s long-running scheme of deceptive acts and misrepresentations relating to the capabilities and operation of Theranos blood testing equipment." Theranos ran its consumer portion of the business in Arizona and even worked with the state government to change laws allowing consumers to request blood tests without a doctor's permission. But, as the document cites, a myriad bad test results, including those raised in a series of Wall street Journal articles, raised concerns with the attorney general's office.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday accused Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV of illegally using hidden software to allow excess diesel emissions to go undetected, the result of a probe that stemmed from regulators' investigation of rival Volkswagen AG. From a report: FCA shares plummeted as the maximum fine is about $4.6 billion. The EPA action affects 104,000 U.S. trucks and SUVs sold since 2014, about one-sixth the vehicles in the Volkswagen case. The EPA and California Air Resources Board told Fiat Chrysler it believes its undeclared auxiliary emissions control software allowed vehicles to generate excess pollution in violation of the law. Fiat Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne angrily rejected the allegations at a hastily-assembled conference call with reporters, saying there was no wrongdoing and the company never attempted to create software to cheat emissions rules by detecting when the vehicle was in test mode.
An anonymous reader shares a GeekWire report: Amazon just made a big statement about its continued growth aspirations, announcing that it plans to add another 100,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. over the next 18 months, an increase of more than 55 percent in its domestic workforce. The growth would push Amazon's U.S. workforce to more than 280,000 people by mid 2018. Amazon said in an announcement that the jobs will be available to people "all across the country and with all types of experience, education and skill levels -- from engineers and software developers to those seeking entry-level positions and on-the-job training."
Some deals are too good to be true. And, for Amazon, they will cost the company. From a report on Recode: A Canadian enforcement agency announced today that Amazon Canada will pay a $1 million fine for what could be construed as misleading pricing practices. The investigation centered on the practice of Amazon displaying its prices compared to higher "list prices" -- suggested manufacturer prices (MSRPs) designed as marketing gimmicks to make people think they are getting a deal, even though it's often the case that no shopper ever pays that price. "The Bureau's investigation concluded that these claims created the impression that prices for items offered on www.amazon.ca were lower than prevailing market prices," Canada's Competition Bureau said in a statement. "The Bureau determined that Amazon relied on its suppliers to provide list prices without verifying that those prices were accurate."
Scientists used rocks and soil collected by the Apollo 14 moonwalkers in 1971 to calculate the age of the moon. It turns out that it is much older than scientists suspected, coming in at 4.51 billion years old. ABC News reports: A research team reported Wednesday that the moon formed within 60 million years of the birth of the solar system. Previous estimates ranged within 100 million years, all the way out to 200 million years after the solar system's creation, not quite 4.6 billion years ago. The scientists conducted uranium-lead dating on fragments of the mineral zircon extracted from Apollo 14 lunar samples. The pieces of zircon were minuscule -- no bigger than a grain of sand. The moon was created from debris knocked off from Earth, which itself is thought to be roughly 4.54 billion years old. Some of the eight zircon samples were used in a previous study, also conducted at UCLA, that utilized more limited techniques. Melanie Barboni, lead author of the study from the University of California, Los Angeles, said she is studying more zircons from Apollo 14 samples, but doesn't expect it to change her estimate of 4.51 billion years for the moon's age, possibly 4.52 billion years at the most. The study was published today in the journal Science.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As part of the process to gain federal approval for the simultaneous landing of its Falcon Heavy rocket boosters in Florida, SpaceX has prepared an environmental assessment of the construction of two additional landing pads alongside its existing site. The report considers noise and other effects from landing up to three first stages at the same time. After undergoing a preliminary review by the U.S. Air Force, the document has been released for public comment. As part of the document, SpaceX also says it would like to build a Dragon capsule processing facility on the landing zone to support refurbishment of the Dragon 2 spacecraft, designed to carry crew into orbit. The 130-foot-long facility would provide a "temporary" facility for vehicle propellant load and propulsion system servicing. When it originally designed its Landing Zone 1 facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, for the single Falcon 9 first stage booster, the company envisioned the need for one main pad approximately 200 feet across, and four smaller contingency pads, each approximately 150 feet in diameter. The chosen site had enough acreage to accommodate all five pads. Improvements in the rocket's landing navigation guidance system obviated the need for the contingency pads with the Falcon 9, however. So now the company wants to use the additional space to construct two concrete landing pads, each with an approximate diameter of 282 feet surrounded by an approximate 50-foot-wide hard-packed soil "apron." This would give SpaceX three landing pads and the ability to bring back all three Falcon Heavy boosters to land while also retaining the option to land one or two on drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the potential for a dozen Falcon 9 launches and landings each year, the document says SpaceX may eventually make six Falcon Heavy launches a year, potentially returning an additional 18 boosters to the Florida-based site. The new pads and crane sites would be configured to allow parallel processing of landed boosters. With U.S. Air Force Approval, construction could begin as early as this spring.
What may come as no surprise to cable TV or internet subscribers, Comcast remains among the least-liked companies in American history, according to a new survey from 24/7 Wall Street. From DSL Reports: [The survey] combines data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, JD Power and Associates and a Zogby Analytics poll, and lists Comcast as the "most hated company in America." Comcast had made some small strides in the ACSI rankings last year, but even with minor improvements still consistently battles Charter for last place in most customer satisfaction and service studies. "The company')s internet services received the fourth worst score out of some 350 companies. In J.D. Power's rating of major wireline services, only Time Warner Cable -- recently subsumed by Charter -- received a worse score in overall satisfaction," notes the report, which adds that Comcast received the worst scores in consumer costs, billing, and reliability. "In 24/7 Wall St.'s annual customer satisfaction poll conducted in partnership with Zogby, nearly 55% of of respondents reported a negative experience with the company, the second worst of any corporation." Comcast finds itself ahead of numerous banks and airlines, but it isn't alone in the rankings among telecom providers. Dish Network is ranked eighth, the report noting that 47% of those polled reported a negative service experience with the company. Also on the list at tenth is Sprint, which had the worst customer service rating out of the more than 100 companies included in the survey. "More than half of Sprint customers polled reported a negative customer service experience with the company," the study found.
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, JetBlue announced something miraculous for travelers. Every one of its passengers will have access to free in-flight high-speed Wi-Fi, which it calls "Fly-Fi." This is on every single aircraft in its fleet. In other words, if you are flying JetBlue, you get free high-speed internet "JetBlue's Fly-Fi, which clocks in at broadband speeds beating sluggish and pricey Wi-Fi offerings onboard other carriers, keeps customers connected with an Internet experience similar to what they have at home, including the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once. The service enables JetBlue to deliver Amazon Video streaming entertainment to customers onboard to their personal devices, as well as web surfing and chatting on favorite messaging apps," says JetBlue. The vice president of JetBlue, Jamie Perry, explains, "It's 2017 and our customers expect to be connected everywhere, whether that be from the comfort of their sofa or 35,000 feet above it. That's why we're so proud that JetBlue is now the only airline to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi, live TV and movies for all customers on every plane."