Space

NASA Gets Its Marching Orders: Look Up! Look Out! 172

Posted by timothy
from the well-those-might-be-more-like-suggestions dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: HR 2039: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 (press release, full text, and as a pretty RGB bitmap) is in the House. In $18B of goodies we see things that actually resemble a space program. The ~20,000 word document is even a good read, especially the parts about decadal cadence. There is more focus on launch systems and manned exploration, also to "expand the Administration's Near-Earth Object Program to include the detection, tracking, cataloguing, and characterization of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects less than 140 meters in diameter." I find it awesome that the fate of the dinosaurs is explicitly mentioned in this bill. If it passes we will have a law with dinosaurs in it. Someone read the T-shirt. There is also a very specific six month review of NASA's "Earth science global datasets for the purpose of identifying those datasets that are useful for understanding regional changes and variability, and for informing applied science research." Could this be an emerging Earth Sciences turf war between NOAA and NASA? Lately it seems more of a National Atmospheric Space Administration. Mission creep, much?
United States

Inside the Military-Police Center That Spies On Baltimore's Rioters 184

Posted by timothy
from the cynics-were-optimists dept.
Lasrick writes: Adam Weinstein on a program designed to catch terrorists attacking Baltimore that is now being used to spy on protesters: 'On Ambassador Road, just off I-695 around the corner from the FBI, nearly 100 employees sit in a high-tech suite and wait for terrorists to attack Baltimore. They've waited 11 years. But they still have plenty of work to do, like using the intel community's toys to target this week's street protests.' Great read.
Government

American Psychological Association Hit With New Torture Allegations 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the protip-don't-torture-people dept.
sciencehabit writes: Did the American Psychological Association (APA) collude with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to enable the torture of detainees in the War on Terror? The answer won't be known until June, when an independent investigation is due to conclude. But at least one thing was made clear in a report from an independent group of psychologists based on e-mail exchanges between APA and CIA officials from 2003 to 2006: The world's largest professional organization for psychologists has maintained a surprisingly cozy relationship with the defense and intelligence community.
Government

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-stop-yelling dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that after more than a decade of wrenching national debate over the intrusiveness of government intelligence agencies, a bipartisan wave of support has gathered to sharply limit the federal government's sweeps of phone and Internet records. A bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the metadata surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of a 25-2, and is heading to almost certain passage in the House of Representatives. An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act. "It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security."

The Patriot Act is up for its first reauthorization since the revelations about bulk data collection. The impending June 1 deadline for reauthorization, coupled with an increase of support among members of both parties, pressure from technology companies and a push from the White House, have combined to make changes to the provisions more likely. The Snowden disclosures, along with data breaches at Sony Pictures, Target and the insurance giant Anthem, have unsettled voters and empowered those in Congress arguing for greater civil liberties protection — who a few years ago "could have met in a couple of phone booths," says Senator Ron Wyden. The Freedom Act very nearly passed both chambers of Congress last year, but it failed to garner the 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. It fell short by two votes.

However some say the bill doesn't go far enough. The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists. It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019. "This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards," says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform."
United States

US Switches Air Traffic Control To New Computer System 160

Posted by samzenpus
from the upgrade-complete dept.
coondoggie writes: The Federal Aviation Administration this week said it had completed the momentous replacement of the 40-year-old main computer systems that control air traffic in the US. Known as En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), the system is expected to increase air traffic flow, improve automated navigation and strengthen aircraft conflict detection services, with the end result being increased safety and less flight congestion. The FAA said the Lockheed Martin-developed ERAM systems “uses nearly two million lines of computer code to process critical data for controllers, including aircraft identity, altitude, speed, and flight path. The system almost doubles the number of flights that can be tracked and displayed to controllers.”
Books

Obama Announces e-Book Scheme For Low-Income Communities 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-a-book-and-you-get-a-book-and-you-get-a-book dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The White House has today launched an initiative encouraging top book publishers to supply $250 million worth of free e-books to low-income students. Partnering with local governments and schools nationwide, President Obama hopes that the e-book scheme will support low-income households who significantly trail the national average for computer ownership and digital connectivity. At Anacostia Library in Southeast Washington, D.C., Obama announced that libraries and schools in poorer communities would be supported by the scheme and efforts would be made to increase internet access at these establishments. Publishers involved in the program include Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Bloomsbury, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. NGOs, such as book donation charity Firstbook, and public libraries will also be working together to develop apps to support the digital reading program.
Encryption

FBI Slammed On Capitol Hill For "Stupid" Ideas About Encryption 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the stupid-is-as-stupid-does dept.
blottsie writes: At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the FBI endured outright hostility as both technical experts and members of Congress from both parties roundly criticized the law enforcement agency's desire to place so-called back doors into encryption technology. "Creating a technological backdoor just for good guys is technologically stupid," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a Stanford University computer science graduate. "That's just stupid. Our founders understood that an Orwellian overreaching government is one of the most dangerous things this world could have," Lieu said.
United States

US Senate Targets Patent Trolls 56

Posted by timothy
from the crimes-of-opportunity dept.
New submitter jeffkoch writes: Last year, the United States Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to combat patent trolls when it was killed by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressional-insider newspaper Roll Call reports today that, "Knowing Reid would no longer control the Senate's legislative schedule in 2015, staff for John Cornyn, (a Republican from Texas), and Charles E. Schumer, (a Democrat from New York)", began work in February to assemble a new bill and to build support among fellow members of the Senate. Patent law is usually not a partisan issue, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk on several occasions including in his 2014 State of the Union speech. The last overhaul of United States patent law, the America Invents Act, took several years to be developed. The U.S. Congress is likely to act on the proposed legislation before they recess in August. "Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it's time for that to end," Schumer said in a statement. "This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules."
Education

White House Outsources K-12 CS Education To Infosys Charity 84

Posted by timothy
from the perhaps-someone-besides-mama-cass-is-getting-fat dept.
theodp writes: In December, the White House praised the leadership of Code.org for their efforts to get more computer science into K-12 schools, which were bankrolled by $20 million in philanthropic contributions from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Mark Zuckerberg. On Monday, it was announced that Infosys Foundation USA will be partnering with Code.org to bring CS education to millions of U.S. students. Infosys Foundation USA Chair Vandana Sikka, who joins execs from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon execs on Code.org's Board, is the spouse of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikka. The announcement from the tax-deductible charity comes as India-based Infosys finds itself scrutinized by U.S. Senators over allegations of H-1B visa program abuses.
The Military

The United States Just Might Be Iran's Favorite New Nuclear Supplier 161

Posted by samzenpus
from the company-store dept.
Lasrick writes: Nick Gillard from Project Alpha points out that for more than 3 decades, Iran has purchased goods for its nuclear program largely from the shadows. With the Framework Agreement, that will almost certainly change: "According to the US State Department, one of the agreement's provisions creates a dedicated procurement channel for Iran's nuclear program. This channel will monitor and approve, on a case-by-case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer to Iran of certain nuclear-related and dual-use materials and technology." That is terrific news for US companies, because Iran is known to covet US-made parts required for their program, most of which are "dual-use."
Businesses

Disney Replaces Longtime IT Staff With H-1B Workers 624

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-no-longer-needed dept.
Lucas123 writes: Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. Last Friday, the partnership was a sponsor of an H-1B briefing at the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers. The briefing was closed to the press. One of the briefing documents obtained after the meeting stated, "H-1B workers complement — instead of displace — U.S. Workers." Last October, however, Disney laid off at least 135 IT staff (though employees say it was hundreds more), many of them longtime workers. Disney then replaced them with H-1B contractors that company said could better "focus on future innovation and new capabilities." The fired workers believe the primary motivation behind Disney's action was cost-cutting. "Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing," one former employee said. Disney officials promised new job opportunities as a result of the restructuring, but the former staff interviewed by Computerworld said they knew of few co-workers who had landed one of the new jobs. Use of visa workers in a layoff is a public policy issue, particularly for Disney. Ten U.S. senators are currently seeking a federal investigation into displacement of IT workers by H-1B-using contractors. Kim Berry, president of the Programmer's Guild, said Congress should protect American workers by mandating that positions can only be filled by H-1B workers when no qualified American — at any wage — can be found to fill the position."
Government

Senate Advances "Secret Science" Bill, Sets Up Possible Showdown With President 348

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-others-eyes-only dept.
sciencehabit writes: Republicans in Congress appear to be headed for a showdown with the White House over controversial "secret science" legislation aimed at changing how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses scientific studies. A deeply divided Senate panel yesterday advanced a bill that would require EPA to craft its policies based only on public data available to outside experts. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar measure. But Democrats and science groups have harshly criticized the approach, and the White House has threatened a veto.
Encryption

Why Crypto Backdoors Wouldn't Work 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-math dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Your devices should come with a government backdoor. That's according to the heads of the FBI, NSA, and DHS. There are many objections, especially that backdoors add massive security risks.

Would backdoors even be effective, though? In a new writeup, a prominent Stanford security researcher argues that crypto backdoors "will not work." Walking step-by-step through a hypothetical backdoored Android, he argues that "in order to make secure apps just slightly more difficult for criminals to obtain, and just slightly less worthwhile for developers, the government would have to go to extraordinary lengths. In an arms race between cryptographic backdoors and secure apps, the United States would inevitably lose."
The Military

US Successfully Tests Self-Steering Bullets 216

Posted by Soulskill
from the bad-news-for-Neo dept.
mpicpp sends this report from The Independent: The United States Department of Defense has carried out what it says is its most successful test yet of a bullet that can steer itself towards moving targets. Experienced testers have used the technology to hit targets that were actively evading the shot, and even novices that were using the system for the first time were able to hit moving targets. The project, which is known as Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance weapon, or Exacto, is being made for the American government's military research agency, DARPA. It is thought to use small fins that shoot out of the bullet and re-direct its path, but the U.S. has not disclosed how it works. Technology in the bullet allows it to compensate for weather and wind, as well as the movement of people it is being fired at, and curve itself in the air as it heads towards its target.
Medicine

Feds Say It's Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water 314

Posted by timothy
from the my-amount-of-fluoride-right-or-wrong-but-my-amount-of-fluoride dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Federal health officials Monday changed the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time since 1962, cutting by almost half the maximum amount of fluoride that should be added to drinking supplies. The Department of Health and Human Services recommended 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water instead of the long-standing range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams. The change is recommended because now Americans have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when fluoridation was first introduced in the United States,' Dr. Boris Lushniak, the deputy surgeon general, told reporters during a conference call.
United States

Declassified Report From 2009 Questions Effectiveness of NSA Spying 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the moving-at-the-speed-of-government dept.
schwit1 writes: With debate gearing up over the coming expiration of the Patriot Act surveillance law, the Obama administration on Saturday unveiled a 6-year-old report examining the once-secret program code-named Stellarwind, which collected information on Americans' calls and emails. The report was from the inspectors general of various intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

They found that while many senior intelligence officials believe the program filled a gap by increasing access to international communications, others including FBI agents, CIA analysts and managers "had difficulty evaluating the precise contribution of the [the surveillance system] to counterterrorism efforts because it was most often viewed as one source among many available analytic and intelligence-gathering tools in these efforts."

"The report said that the secrecy surrounding the program made it less useful. Very few working-level C.I.A. analysts were told about it. ... Another part of the newly disclosed report provides an explanation for a change in F.B.I. rules during the Bush administration. Previously, F.B.I. agents had only two types of cases: "preliminary" and "full" investigations. But the Bush administration created a third, lower-level type called an "assessment." This development, it turns out, was a result of Stellarwind.
Government

German Intelligence Helped NSA Spy On EU Politicians and Companies 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the der-rubberschtampen dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've known for some time already that intelligence agencies operate beyond rules, laws, and regulations. Now, we learn that the NSA and the German intelligence service, BND, lied and withheld information about misuse from the German Chancellor's Office.

"The BND realized as early as 2008 that some of the selectors were not permitted according to its internal rules, or covered by a 2002 US-Germany anti-terrorism "Memorandum of Agreement" on intelligence cooperation. And yet it did nothing to check the NSA's requests systematically. It was only in the summer of 2013, after Edward Snowden's revelations of massive NSA and GCHQ surveillance, that the BND finally started an inquiry into all the selectors that had been processed. According to Der Spiegel, investigators found that the BND had provided information on around 2,000 selectors that were clearly against European and German interests. Not only were European businesses such as the giant aerospace and defense company EADS, best-known as the manufacturer of the Airbus planes, targeted, so were European politicians—including German ones.

However, the BND did not inform the German Chancellor's office, which only found out about the misuse of the selector request system in March 2015. Instead, the BND simply asked the NSA to make requests that were fully covered by the anti-terrorism agreement between the two countries. According to Die Zeit, this was because the BND was worried that the NSA might curtail the flow of its own intelligence data to the German secret services if the selector scheme became embroiled in controversy.
Security

Pentagon Discloses Network Breach By Russian Hackers 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the digital-diplomatic-incident dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Pentagon has disclosed that Russian hackers were able to breach one of its secure networks earlier this year, and referred to the attack as a "worrisome" incident. "Earlier this year, the sensors that guard DOD's unclassified networks detected Russian hackers accessing one of our networks," said defense secretary Ash Carter yesterday during a speech at Stanford University. Carter warned Russia that the U.S. Department of Defense would retaliate with cyber campaigns should it see fit. "Adversaries should know that our preference for deterrence and our defensive posture don't diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary," said Carter. He added in a prepared statement that the Russian hackers had been able to gain access to an "unclassified network" but had been "quickly identified" by a team of cyberattack experts who managed to block the hackers "within 24 hours." The cybersecurity response team had quickly analyzed the hack patterns and code and identified the intruders as Russian, before "kicking them off the network."
Crime

Gen. Petraeus To Be Sentenced To Two Years Probation and Fine 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-tall-before-the-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Petraeus, a now-retired U.S. Army General, has already agreed to plead guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. As part of the agreement with prosecutors filed in March, the government will not seek any prison time. Instead, Petraeus will agree to pay a $40,000 fine and receive two years of probation, according to court documents. The recommendations are not binding on the federal judge who will preside at the hearing Thursday afternoon in Charlotte.
Government

Bloomberg Report Suggests Comcast & Time Warner Merger Dead 99

Posted by timothy
from the it's-very-ill dept.
andyring writes: According to Bloomberg News, the Time Warner/Comcast merger of raw evil is dead. Comcast plans as early as tomorrow to withdraw the merger proposal, "after regulators decided that the deal wouldn't help consumers, making approval unlikely" according to the story. If so, that means regulators won't have the chance to kill it themselves.