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Some Rivers Are So Drug-Polluted, Their Eels Get High on Cocaine

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 13:41
Joshua Rapp Learn, reporting for National Geographic: Critically endangered eels hyped up on cocaine could have trouble making a 3,700-mile trip to mate and reproduce -- new research warns. And while societies have long grappled with ways to cope with the use of illicit drugs, less understood are the downstream effects these drugs might have on other species after they enter the aquatic environment through wastewater. So, in the name of research, scientists pushed cocaine on European eels in labs for 50 days in a row, in an effort to monitor the effects of the experience on the fish. European eels have complex life patterns, spending 15 to 20 years in fresh or brackish water in European waterways before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to spawn in the Sargasso Sea just east of the Caribbean and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. While the eels are also farmed for food, the wild population is considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to dams and other waterway changes that block their migrations, overfishing, and different types of water pollution. The eels are vulnerable to trace concentrations of cocaine, particularly in their early lives, according to the researchers of a study published in Science of the Total Environment.

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FTC Will Examine Tech Platforms like Google, Facebook and Amazon as Part of Competition Review

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 13:02
The Federal Trade Commission will examine the questions surrounding powerful tech platforms like Google and Facebook as part of a review of consumer and competition policy issues beginning later this year. From a report: Hearings into these issues, announced by FTC Chairman Joe Simons on Wednesday, could help frame the agency's actions with regards to tech going forward. Simons indicated his examination of tech platforms would be broad and a major part of the review. "It's the network effects," he told reporters on Wednesday. "It's the fact that they're two-sided platforms. It's the interaction between privacy and competition. And it's all new, so it makes it very appropriate to have this be the subject of hearings and for us to get input on that."

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Another Universal Basic Income Experiment is Underway, This Time in Canada

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:23
Lindsay, a compact rectangle amid the lakes northeast of Toronto, is at the heart of one of the world's biggest tests of a guaranteed basic income. Technology Review: In a three-year pilot funded by the provincial government, about 4,000 people in Ontario are getting monthly stipends to boost them to at least 75 percent of the poverty line. That translates to a minimum annual income of $17,000 in Canadian dollars (about $13,000 US) for single people, $24,000 for married couples. Lindsay has about half the people in the pilot -- some 10 percent of the town's population. The report outlines that the Canadian province's vision for a basic income -- and the underlying experiment -- differs from that of the one we have seen in Silicon Valley. The report continues: The Canadians are testing it as an efficient antipoverty mechanism, a way to give a relatively small segment of the population more flexibility to find work and to strengthen other strands of the safety net. That's not what Silicon Valley seems to imagine, which is a universal basic income that placates broad swaths of the population. The most obvious problem with that idea? Math. Many economists concluded long ago that it would be too expensive, especially when compared with the cost of programs to create new jobs and train people for them. That's why the idea didn't take off after tests in the 1960s and '70s. It's largely why Finland recently abandoned a basic-income plan after a small test.

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Submarine Cables Could be Repurposed as Earthquake Detectors

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:48
In a paper published in Science, Giuseppe Marra, of Britain's National Physical Laboratory (NPL), proposes to shine a little light into the oceans by co-opting infrastructure built for an entirely different purpose. From a report: Dr Marra and his colleagues hope to use the planet's 1m-kilometre network of undersea fibre-optic cables, which carry the internet from continent to continent (see map), as a giant submarine sensor. Dr Marra is particularly interested in earthquakes. The dry bits of the planet are well-stocked with seismographs. The oceans are much less well covered, with only a handful of permanent sensors on the sea floor. This means that many small earthquakes go unrecorded because the vibrations they cause are too mild to be picked up by distant land-based sensors. The genesis of the idea is a good example of the way in which advances in one field of science can lead to new developments in other, apparently unrelated fields.

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San Francisco's City-Wide Fiber Internet Plan is Delayed, Future in Doubt

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 11:05
San Francisco's plan to build a city-wide gigabit fiber Internet service won't go forward this year, as city officials decided they need to do more research before asking voters to approve a ballot initiative. From a report: The universal broadband project "has suffered a setback as outgoing Mayor Mark Farrell will not place a tax measure on the November ballot to fund the project before he leaves office in the coming weeks," the San Francisco Examiner reported Sunday. The deadline for Farrell to submit the ballot initiative passed yesterday. In January, the city issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to find companies that are qualified to build the network. After examining the submissions, the city named three entities (Bay City Broadband Partners, FiberGateway, and Sonic Plenary SF Fiber) as "pre-qualified bidders."

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Researchers Invent a Way to Speed Intel's 3D XPoint Computer Memory

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 10:30
Memory modules using Intel's 3D XPoint technology are on their way, and researchers in North Carolina have already figured out how to make them better. New submitter mnemotronic writes: At the 45th ICSA (International Symposium on Computer Architecture), a group of researchers from North Carolina State University led by Prof. Yan Solihin proposed a method called lazy consistency to speedup write operations to 3d XPoint memory. XPoint, developed by Intel and Micron, is non-volatile, cheaper and denser than DRAM but requires more power and writing takes longer. The method proposed reduces write overhead times from 9% to 1% by incorporating a checksum to the cache memory system. The researchers were not able to verify their approach on actual XPoint memory, as those products only recently started sampling. They tested using simulations and DRAM and plan to verify when Intel's modules become more widely available.

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EU Takes First Step in Passing Controversial Copyright Law That Could 'Censor the Internet'

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:45
The European Union has taken the first step in passing new copyright legislation that critics say will tear the internet apart. From a report: This morning, the EU's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) voted in favor of the legislation, called the Copyright Directive. Although most of the directive simply updates technical language for copyright law in the age of the internet, it includes two highly controversial provisions. These are Article 11, a "link tax," which would force online platforms like Facebook and Google to buy licenses from media companies before linking to their stories; and Article 13, an "upload filter," which would require that everything uploaded online in the EU is checked for copyright infringement. (Think of it like YouTube's Content ID system but for the whole internet.) EU lawmakers critical of the legislation say these Articles may have been proposed with good intentions -- like protecting copyright owners -- but are vaguely worded and ripe for abuse.

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AMC is Creating a Rival Service To MoviePass

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 09:00
AMC said on Wednesday it is creating a VIP tier of its loyalty program, a subscription movie theater pass called AMC Stubs A-List, which will allow users to see three movies a week in AMC theaters for $20 a month. From a report: The offering rivals that of MoviePass, a subscription movie service with longstanding tensions in negotiating pricing and theater distribution agreements with AMC. Tensions between AMC and MoviePass had gotten so bad that last year that AMC said it would try to block MoviePass. MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe told Axios in an interview in January that MoviePass brought in 1 million tickets for AMC in December alone. Like MoviePass, the AMC subscription will let users see a certain number of films for a monthly flat fee, but will only be viewable in AMC theaters.

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Uber Tests Cheaper Fares For Riders Who Are Willing To Wait Longer

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: The ride-hailing company has started testing a feature that gives riders the option to trade a shorter wait for a cheaper fare. "Prices are lower at 17:00," Uber recently advised an Uber employee who requested a ride in Berkeley, California, and tweeted a screenshot of the feature. The image showed the Uber employee that he could request a ride "now" (4:56pm local time) for $10.18, or wait until 5pm and pay $8.15, about 25% less. "If you're OK leaving later, we'll request your ride at 17:00 for a lower price," Uber's app stated. The option to wait longer in exchange for a cheaper ride is being tested among all Uber employees in San Francisco and Los Angeles, a company spokeswoman told Quartz in an email. "Affordability is a top reason riders choose shared rides, and we're internally experimenting with a way to save money in exchange for a later pickup," she said.

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Urgent Needs To Prepare For Manmade Virus Attacks, Says US Government Report

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 05:00
A major U.S. government report warns that advances in synthetic biology now allow scientists to have the capability to recreate dangerous viruses from scratch; make harmful bacteria more deadly; and modify common microbes so that they churn out lethal toxins once they enter the body. The Guardian reports: In the report, the scientists describe how synthetic biology, which gives researchers precision tools to manipulate living organisms, "enhances and expands" opportunities to create bioweapons. "As the power of the technology increases, that brings a general need to scrutinize where harms could come from," said Peter Carr, a senior scientist at MIT's Synthetic Biology Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The report calls on the U.S. government to rethink how it conducts disease surveillance, so it can better detect novel bioweapons, and to look at ways to bolster defenses, for example by finding ways to make and deploy vaccines far more rapidly. For every bioweapon the scientists consider, the report sets out key hurdles that, once cleared, will make the weapons more feasible. The Guardian references a case 20 years ago where geneticist Eckard Wimmer recreated the poliovirus in a test tube. Earlier this year, a team at the University of Alberta built an infectious horse pox virus. "The virus is a close relative of smallpox, which may have claimed half a billion lives in the 20th century," reports The Guardian. "Today, the genetic code of almost any mammalian virus can be found online and synthesized."

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OpenBSD Disables Intel CPU Hyper-Threading Due To Security Concerns

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 02:00
The OpenBSD project announced today plans to disable support for Intel CPU hyper-threading due to security concerns regarding the theoretical threat of more "Spectre-class bugs." Bleeping Computer reports: Hyper-threading (HT) is Intel's proprietary implementation of Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT), a technology that allows processors to run parallel operations on different cores of the same multi-core CPU. The feature has been added to all Intel CPUs released since 2002 and has come enabled by default, with Intel citing its performance boost as the main reason for its inclusion. But today, Mark Kettenis of the OpenBSD project, said the OpenBSD team was removing support for Intel HT because, by design, this technology just opens the door for more timing attacks. Timing attacks are a class of cryptographic attacks through which a third-party observer can deduce the content of encrypted data by recording and analyzing the time taken to execute cryptographic algorithms. The OpenBSD team is now stepping in to provide a new setting to disable HT support because "many modern machines no longer provide the ability to disable hyper-threading in the BIOS setup."

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GitHub, Medium Remove Public ICE Employee Data Repository

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 22:30
owenferguson shares a report from Obscene Works: Medium.com and GitHub have today quashed the release of a set of data comprising of all the ICE employees who openly list themselves on LinkedIn.com. All the data released was gathered from publicly listed LinkedIn profiles. The data was assembled by Sam Lavigne of http://lav.io/ and was published as a repository on GitHub, and announced via an article on Medium.com.

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GitHub, Medium Willfully Destroy Public ICE Employee Data Repository

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 22:30
owenferguson shares a report from Obscene Works: Medium.com and GitHub have today conspired to quash the release of a set of data comprising of all the ICE employees who openly list themselves on LinkedIn.com. The data was assembled by Sam Lavigne of http://lav.io/ and was published as a repository on GitHub, and announced via an article on Medium.com (link to a copy is available here, as the original has since been deleted by corporate.) GitHub, which was recently acquired by Microsoft, also deleted the shared data, but a copy was made first, and it is available here and also as a single archive here.

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Bumbling Hacker 'Bitcoin Baron' Sentenced To 20 Months In Prison

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 20:50
An anonymous reader writes: "A hacker once considered 'the Internet's most inept criminal' received on Monday a prison sentence of 20 months in prison for launching DDoS attacks against the city of Madison, Wisconsin -- attacks which caused delays and outages to various municipality services, including its 911 emergency call center," reports Bleeping Computer. He was sentenced for this attack in particular, part of a plea deal, but his attacks span over two years. The hacker, Randall Charles Tucker, 23, known as Bitcoin Baron, never bothered hiding his attacks, advertised them on Twitter, and used public chats and Skype to brag about his deeds. According to a timeline of events, Tucker carried out all of these hacks -- most of which were downright silly -- as a way to boost his reputation before going to jail for stabbing his father with a prison knife. The plan backfired when authorities linked him to the hacks and received another 20 months in prison on top of the original 18 months.

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New 'Tent' Assembly Line Is 'Way Better' Than Conventional Factory, Says Tesla CEO

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 20:10
A few days ago, Elon Musk announced a "new general assembly line" made with "minimal resources." As Ars Technica reports, this new tented facility "is seemingly the first phase of an entirely new building, dubbed 'Factory 2.0.'" From the report: The tent is easily visible from the nearby Warm Springs BART station platform. When Ars visited on Monday afternoon, there appeared to be cranes and forklifts moving around the site. We could not easily see inside the long white temporary structure, but there did not appear to be any newly completed vehicles rolling off the lines in the adjacent parking lot. Still, one automotive expert that Ars spoke with said that a new temporary manufacturing facility on the same site as conventional automotive factories was unprecedented in the industry. Dave Sullivan, an analyst with Auto Pacific, told Ars that he wondered what was wrong with Tesla's existing facilities, if Musk decided the company needed more capacity. "It's almost a sign of desperation," he said. "It's a sprint to be profitable in the third quarter." Ars notes that "each tent is 53-feet-high by 150-feet-long -- there seem to be several connected in a long line, mounted with aluminum framing." In a tweet, Musk said: "It's actually way better than the factory building. More comfortable & a great view of the mountains."

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Square Obtains New York State Cryptocurrency License

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 19:40
The payment company Square has obtained a license to offer New York state residents the ability to buy and sell bitcoin through its Cash App, the company announced on Monday. "This makes Square the ninth firm to have obtained a so-called 'BitLicense' by the New York State Department of Financial Services," reports Reuters. From the report: To grant the license, the financial watchdog conducted a comprehensive review of Square's app, including its anti-money laundering, anti-fraud and cybersecurity policies, NYDFS said in statement. Square also holds a money-transmitter license from NYDFS. The San Francisco-based company, best known for selling a device that enables small businesses to accept credit card payments easily, first enabled bitcoin purchases on its app in other states in January.

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Portland Kicks Off Smart City Initiative With Traffic Sensor Safety Project

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 19:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: Portland, Oregon officials claim its city has some of the best bike data in the United States -- data revealing how many people ride bicycles, where they're going and what streets they're using. Their collection of that data, however, has been as low-tech as it gets: city staffers and volunteers stand out on street corners for two hours at a time and count. Now, the city is aiming for more comprehensive, accurate data collection with the installation of 200 sensors installed on street lights on three of Portland's deadliest streets: Southeast Division St., SE Hawthorne Blvd. and 122nd St. The Traffic Sensor Safety Project, for a price tag of just over $1 million, represents the first major milestone for the Smart City PDX initiative. It relies on GE's Current CityIQ sensors, which are powered with Intel IoT technology and use AT&T as the data carrier. GE, Intel and AT&T have already worked together to deploy smart streetlight sensors in San Diego.

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T-Mobile and Sprint Ask For Merger Approval

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 18:30
According to documents filed Monday, T-Mobile and Sprint have formally asked the FCC to approve their proposed merger. Axios reports: In their filing, the companies said that the deal would "generate substantial public interest benefits for the customers of T-Mobile and Sprint and for U.S. wireless customers as a whole, and do not give rise to any competitive harms." "The merger unlocks the door to new broadband choices and capabilities for consumers across the country while accelerating the arrival of transformative 5G services that will produce innovation, jobs, and economic growth for our country," the companies said. Basically, the two companies have to prove to the FCC that the deal benefits consumers, and avoid antitrust concerns currently being investigated by the Department of Justice.

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Uber 'Neglected' Simulation Testing For Its Autonomous Vehicles, Says Report

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:50
According to a report from The Information, Uber allegedly "neglected" simulation testing for its autonomous vehicles. "The publication's sources claim that there was a dearth of investment in the simulation software, and lots of incompatible code between the autonomous vehicle software and simulation software Uber is developing internally," reports Engadget. "However, the sources said there isn't a direct link between the lack of investment and the fatal accident involving one of Uber's autonomous taxis and a pedestrian." From the report: It's worth noting that the Unreal Engine-powered simulation software is still relatively new. The Information writes that the suite wasn't developed until after self-driving project lead Anthony Levandowski was fired mid-2017. To add insult to injury, initially, there were also differences in pay between simulation engineers and other engineers in the department. The end goal was to release a self-driving car in Arizona this year, codenamed "Roadrunner," to compete with Waymo's offering just outside of Phoenix.

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Facebook Ordered To Explain Deleted Profile

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 17:10
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Facebook has been ordered by a UK high court judge to reveal who told it to delete the profile of a jazz musician and his band, six months after he died. The Times reports that the firm said it had acted on a request but had declined to reveal to the family who had instructed it. Mirza Krupalija's partner Azra Sabados says she is certain that it was not a family member or friend. She said losing his posts and messages felt like losing him "a second time." Mr Krupalija, who lived in Sarajevo, suffered a fatal heart attack just after his 57th birthday in 2016. Ms Sabados said she spent a year talking to Facebook before pursuing legal action. Ms Sabados' lawyer Greg Callus from the law firm 5BR confirmed to the BBC that Facebook is now required to provide the details under what is legally known as a Norwich Pharmacal Order -- where Facebook is innocent but may have information about a third party who could be involved in wrongdoing. The firm will have 21 days to respond.

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