The Courts

Ask Slashdot: Can a City Really Sue an Oil Company For Climate Change? (wired.com) 239

An anonymous reader writes: The city of Richmond, California, is suing Chevron, its largest employer and its largest public-safety scourge. But while industrial accidents like refinery fires are commonplace in the low-lying industrial town, that's not what this lawsuit is about. Richmond and six other California cities are suing oil companies for contributing to the changing climate, which threatens to inundate their shorelines. "In an era of federal deregulation and rising seas, these lawsuits feel increasingly urgent," writes deputy editor Adam Rogers. "The question is whether the courts will even see them as plausible."

The lawsuits face two big legal hurdles: getting scientific proof that climate change (and specific companies causing climate change) are to blame for the cities' woes, along with overcoming oil companies' contention that cities can't sue them at all, since at the federal level, they're beholden to the Clean Air Act. But the urban plaintiffs have a plan for that. They are not asking for new regulations or bans; they're asking for reparations for a problem they say oil companies willfully hid from them. "Oil and gas, like cigarettes, are products. The companies that sell them are liable for the damages they cause," says Sharon Eubanks, an attorney at Bordas & Bordas who was lead counsel in the Justice Department's RICO case against the Philip Morris tobacco company. "They have misled the public about the product's dangers."

Government

Paytm, India's Largest Digital Wallet App, Accused Of Handing Over User Data To The Government (buzzfeed.com) 19

Paytm, the largest mobile wallet app in India, has been accused of sharing with the Indian government the personal data of users in a geopolitically sensitive region. From a report: On Friday, the news agency released a video where a reporter went undercover and recorded Paytm's vice president, Ajay Shekhar Sharma, saying how the company had handed over personal data of users in the state of Jammu and Kashmir after Sharma personally received a call from the prime minister's office following incidents of stone-pelting by Kashmiri Muslims against India's armed forces, something that happens frequently in the region. "They told us to give them data, saying maybe some of the stone-pelters are Paytm users," Sharma says in the video. He also talks about his close ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organization known for being the ideological front of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The Courts

Judge Backs Parents, Saying Their 30-Year-Old Son Must Move Out (npr.org) 301

"Attention geeks living in their parents' basements!" writes PolygamousRanchKid , sharing this story from NPR: The promise of adventure didn't do it. Neither did the lure of independence, or the weight of his 30 years. Instead, it took a judge to pry Michael Rotondo from his parents' home. The couple won an eviction order against their son, after a judge argued with Rotondo for 30 minutes. "I don't see why they can't just, you know, wait a little bit for me to leave the house," Rotondo told Donald Greenwood, a justice on the Onondaga County Supreme Court...

Christina and Mark Rotondo resorted to legal action after a series of notes to their son (starting on Feb. 2) failed to get him to move out of their home in Camillus, New York, a town west of Syracuse. Those notes followed discussions that began last October. The notes to Michael Rotondo ranged from orders to leave and encouragement to get a job, to offers of more than $1,000 and help in finding a place... The notes escalated into a formally worded notice for Rotondo to leave that set a 30-day deadline -- which lapsed on March 15...

In a legal filing cited by CNYCentral, Rotondo said that in the eight years he has lived at his parents' house, he "has never been expected to contribute to household expenses, or assisted with chores and the maintenance of the premises," and that those conditions are simply part of an informal agreement. When he was in his early 20s, Rotondo briefly lived on his own, but he moved back in with his parents after losing a job...

The case is being seen as an extreme example of a growing trend. As NPR reported in 2016, a Pew study found that, "For the first time in more than 130 years, Americans ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation."

United States

Ask Slashdot: Did Baby Boomers Break America? (time.com) 518

"Automation taking jobs is only one symptom of a larger problem," argues an anonymous Slashdot reader, sharing a link to this excerpt from Steven Brill's new book Tailspin, which seeks to identify "the people and forces behind America's fifty-year fall -- and those fighting to reverse it." The excerpt has this intriguing title: "How Baby Boomers Broke America." As my generation of achievers graduated from elite universities and moved into the professional world, their personal successes often had serious societal consequences. They upended corporate America and Wall Street with inventions in law and finance that created an economy built on deals that moved assets around instead of building new ones. They created exotic, and risky, financial instruments, including derivatives and credit default swaps, that produced sugar highs of immediate profits but separated those taking the risk from those who would bear the consequences. They organized hedge funds that turned owning stock into a minute-by-minute bet rather than a long-term investment... Regulatory agencies were overwhelmed by battalions of lawyers who brilliantly weaponized the bedrock American value of due process so that, for example, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule protecting workers from a deadly chemical could be challenged and delayed for more than a decade and end up being hundreds of pages long. Lawyers then contested the meaning of every clause while racking up fees of hundreds of dollars per hour from clients who were saving millions of dollars on every clause they could water down...

As government was disabled from delivering on vital issues, the protected were able to protect themselves still more. For them, it was all about building their own moats. Their money, their power, their lobbyists, their lawyers, their drive overwhelmed the institutions that were supposed to hold them accountable -- government agencies, Congress, the courts... That, rather than a split between Democrats and Republicans, is the real polarization that has broken America since the 1960s. It's the protected vs. the unprotected, the common good vs. maximizing and protecting the elite winners' winnings... [I]n a way unprecedented in history, they were able to consolidate their winnings, outsmart and co-opt the forces that might have reined them in, and pull up the ladder so more could not share in their success or challenge their primacy.

Brill argues that the unprotected need things like "a realistic shot at justice in the courts," writing that instead "the First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy." And he shares these statistics about the rest of America today:
  • For adults in their 30s, the chance of earning more than their parents dropped to 50% from 90% just two generations earlier.
  • In 2017, household debt had grown higher than the peak reached in 2008 before the crash, with student and automobile loans staking growing claims on family paychecks.
  • Although the U.S. remains the world's richest country, it has the third-highest poverty rate among the 35 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development...

Has he identified the source of a societal malaise? Leave your own thoughts in the comments.

And is Brill's thesis correct? Did baby boomers break America?


Youtube

Two 18-Year-Olds Charged With Hacking YouTube's Most Popular Videos (variety.com) 37

An anonymous reader quotes Variety: Two 18-year-old French citizens have been arrested in Paris and charged with crimes related to the hack of Vevo's YouTube accounts last month that resulted in pro-Palestine messages being posted on several popular videos, according to prosecutors... Authorities allege the duo gained access to the YouTube account maintained by Vevo, to alter the content of multiple music videos, including Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" -- the most-viewed music video on YouTube in 2017, which recently surpassed 5 billion views.

The hackers also targeted videos by Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Chris Brown and Shakira, replacing their thumbnail images, video titles and descriptions. Vevo has since removed all changes the hackers made on its YouTube videos... Paris prosecutors charged Gabriel K.A.B. and with five criminal counts and Nassim B. with six counts, including "fraudulently modifying data contained in an automated data processing system."

Last month Fortune published quotes from a Twitter user who claimed responsibility for the attacks.

"Its just for fun i just use script 'youtube-change-title-video' and i write 'hacked' don t judge me i love youtube."
Privacy

Amazon Explains Why Alexa Recorded And Emailed A Private Conversation (mercurynews.com) 159

Amazon has issued the following statement about why their Alexa device recorded a woman's private conversation and then emailed it to one of her friends: Echo woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like "Alexa." Then, the subsequent conversation was heard as a "send message" request. At which point, Alexa said out loud "To whom?" At which point, the background conversation was interpreted as a name in the customers contact list. Alexa then asked out loud, "[contact name], right?" Alexa then interpreted background conversation as "right." As unlikely as this string of events is, we are evaluating options to make this case even less likely.
This apparently didn't satisfy the woman whose conversation was recorded, according to the Mercury News:
Now her family has unplugged all the devices, and although Amazon offered to "de-provision" the devices of their communications features so they could keep using them to control their home, Danielle and her family reportedly want a refund instead.

When reached Friday, an Amazon spokeswoman would not comment about whether the company will issue a refund.

Other smart home speakers carry similar privacy risks. Last year, for example, Google had to release a patch for its Home Mini speakers after some of them were found to be recording everything.

United States

Gamers Behind Fatal 'SWAT' Call Now Face Life In Prison (wlwt.com) 250

An anonymous reader writes: 18-year-old Casey Viner, who instigated the 911 call which led to a fatal shooting in Wichita (hiring Tyler Barriss to perform the actual call), is in big trouble. "If convicted on the 10 counts he faces, Viner could spend almost the rest of his life in prison and pay a $1,000,000 fine," reports a local Cincinnati news site. Ironically, Viner's father is a corporal with the county sheriff's department.

The 19-year-old intended target for the SWAT attack had supplied a real address in Wichita for a house where he used to live. But in an eerie coincidence, ten days before the fatal shooting in Wichita, Cincinnati police had responded to a similar SWAT call which had sent them to a house where Viner used to live. The local police said "the facts and circumstances and the verbiage were very, very similar."

25-year-old Tyler Barriss also faces a life sentence for false information which resulted in a death -- as well as several local charges. And Thursday a federal grand jury also indicted Barriss "for a threat that caused an evacuation of a high-profile FCC hearing" into net neutrality regulations just two weeks before the fatal Wichita shooting, "and another threat eight days later that targeted FBI headquarters."

Barriss's lawyer insists that his client wasn't responsible for the Wichita death, blaming instead a "gung-ho, crazy cop."
Medicine

U.S. Passes 'Right to Try' Law Allowing Experimental Medical Treatments (chicagotribune.com) 136

schwit1 shared this article from the Washington Post: The House on Tuesday passed "right to try" legislation that would allow people with life-threatening illnesses to bypass the Food and Drug Administration to obtain experimental medications, ending a drawn-out battle over access to unapproved therapies. President Trump is expected to quickly sign the measure, which was praised by supporters as a lifeline for desperate patients but denounced by scores of medical and consumer groups as unnecessary and dangerous...

The FDA would be largely left out of the equation under the new legislation and would not oversee the right-to-try process. Drug manufacturers would have to report "adverse events" -- safety problems, including premature deaths -- only once a year. The agency also would be restricted in how it used such information when considering the experimental treatments for approval. Patients would be eligible for right-to-try if they had a "life-threatening illness" and had exhausted all available treatment options. The medication itself must have completed early-stage safety testing, called Phase 1 trials, and be in active development with the goal of FDA approval.

One Congressman opposing the bill argued that eliminating FDA oversight would "provide fly-by-night physicians and clinics the opportunity to peddle false hope and ineffective drugs to desperate patients," noting that the bill is opposed by over 100 patient advocacy and consumer groups.
Cloud

Microsoft Wins A Big Cloud Deal With America's Intelligence Community (spokesman.com) 45

wyattstorch516 shared this story from the AP: Microsoft Corp. said it's secured a lucrative cloud deal with the intelligence community that marks a rapid expansion by the software giant into a market led by Amazon.com Inc. The deal, which the company said Wednesday is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, allows 17 intelligence agencies and offices to use Microsoft's Azure Government, a cloud service tailored for federal and local governments, in addition to other products Microsoft already offers, such as its Windows 10 operating system and word processing programs.

The cloud agreement gives Microsoft more power to make its case to the Pentagon as it goes up against competitors like International Business Machines Corp., Oracle Corp. and Amazon for the agency's winner-take-all cloud computing contract for up to 10 years.

That contract is expected to be worth billions of dollars, according to the article, adding that "the Defense Department has said it intends to move the department's technology needs -- 3.4 million users and 4 million devices -- to the cloud to give it a tactical edge on the battlefield and strengthen its use of emerging technologies."

One Microsoft executive said this week's deal reinforces "the fact that we are a solid cloud platform that the federal government can put their trust in."
The Courts

Tesla Agrees To Settle Class Action Over Autopilot Billed As 'Safer' (reuters.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Tesla on Thursday reached an agreement to settle a class action lawsuit with buyers of its Model S and Model X cars who alleged that the company's assisted-driving Autopilot system was "essentially unusable and demonstrably dangerous." The lawsuit said Tesla misrepresented on its website that the cars came with capabilities designed to make highway driving "safer." The Tesla owners said they paid an extra $5,000 to have their cars equipped with the Autopilot software with additional safety features such as automated emergency braking and side collision warning. The features were "completely inoperable," according to the complaint. Under the proposed agreement, class members, who paid to get the Autopilot upgrade between 2016 and 2017, will receive between $20 and $280 in compensation. Tesla has agreed to place more than $5 million into a settlement fund, which will also cover attorney fees.
Wireless Networking

FBI Tells Router Users To Reboot Now To Kill Malware Infecting 500,000 Devices (arstechnica.com) 80

The FBI is advising users of consumer-grade routers and network-attached storage devices to reboot them as soon as possible to counter Russian-engineered malware that has infected hundreds of thousands devices. Ars Technica reports: Researchers from Cisco's Talos security team first disclosed the existence of the malware on Wednesday. The detailed report said the malware infected more than 500,000 devices made by Linksys, Mikrotik, Netgear, QNAP, and TP-Link. Known as VPNFilter, the malware allowed attackers to collect communications, launch attacks on others, and permanently destroy the devices with a single command. The report said the malware was developed by hackers working for an advanced nation, possibly Russia, and advised users of affected router models to perform a factory reset, or at a minimum to reboot. Later in the day, The Daily Beast reported that VPNFilter was indeed developed by a Russian hacking group, one known by a variety of names, including Sofacy, Fancy Bear, APT 28, and Pawn Storm. The Daily Beast also said the FBI had seized an Internet domain VPNFilter used as a backup means to deliver later stages of the malware to devices that were already infected with the initial stage 1. The seizure meant that the primary and secondary means to deliver stages 2 and 3 had been dismantled, leaving only a third fallback, which relied on attackers sending special packets to each infected device.

The redundant mechanisms for delivering the later stages address a fundamental shortcoming in VPNFilter -- stages 2 and 3 can't survive a reboot, meaning they are wiped clean as soon as a device is restarted. Instead, only stage 1 remains. Presumably, once an infected device reboots, stage 1 will cause it to reach out to the recently seized ToKnowAll.com address. The FBI's advice to reboot small office and home office routers and NAS devices capitalizes on this limitation. In a statement published Friday, FBI officials suggested that users of all consumer-grade routers, not just those known to be vulnerable to VPNFilter, protect themselves.
The Justice Department and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have also issued statements advising users to reboot their routers as soon as possible.
Privacy

Zimbabwe is Introducing a Mass Facial Recognition Project With Chinese AI Firm CloudWalk (qz.com) 33

An anonymous reader shares a report: In March, the Zimbabwean government signed a strategic partnership with the Gunagzhou-based startup CloudWalk Technology to begin a large-scale facial recognition program throughout the country. The agreement, backed by the Chinese government's Belt and Road initiative, will see the technology primarily used in security and law enforcement and will likely be expanded to other public programs.

[...] Zimbabwe may be giving away valuable data as Chinese AI technologists stand to benefit from access to a database of millions of Zimbabwean faces Harare will share with CloudWalk. [...] CloudWalk has already recalibrated its existing technology through three-dimensional light technology in order to recognize darker skin tones. In order to recognize other characteristics that may differ from China's population, CloudWalk is also developing a system that recognizes different hairstyles and body shapes, another representative explained to the Global Times.

Government

Apple Will Report Government Requests To Remove Apps From the App Store (theverge.com) 17

In its bi-annual transparency report today, Apple said that it will soon start reporting government requests to take down apps from the App Store. These requests will relate to alleged legal and/or policy provision violations, Apple says. The Verge reports: These numbers will tell us just how often governments are trying to block access to certain apps, and how many of those orders are actually obeyed. Google doesn't yet report these numbers specifically for the Play Store. As for takedown requests over the last year, governments around the world sent requests for information on 29,718 devices. Data was provided in 79 percent of cases. Governments also requested information on 3,358 Apple accounts, and data was provided in 82 percent of cases.
Businesses

US Reaches Deal To Keep Chinese Telecom ZTE in Business (reuters.com) 103

The Trump administration told lawmakers the U.S. government has reached a deal to put Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp back in business, a senior congressional aide said on Friday. From a report: The deal, communicated to officials on Capitol Hill by the Commerce Department, requires ZTE to pay a substantial fine, place U.S. compliance officers at the company and change its management team, the aide said. The Commerce Department would then lift an order preventing ZTE from buying U.S. products.

ZTE was banned in April from buying U.S. technology components for seven years for breaking an agreement reached after it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea. The Commerce Department decision would allow it to resume business with U.S. companies, including chipmaker Qualcomm Inc.

Facebook

Facebook Accused of Conducting Mass Surveillance Through Its Apps (theguardian.com) 92

A court case in California alleges that Facebook used its apps to gather information about users and their friends, including some who had not signed up to the social network, reading their text messages, tracking their locations and accessing photos on their phones. The Guardian reports: The claims of what would amount to mass surveillance are part of a lawsuit brought against the company by the former startup Six4Three, listed in legal documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo as part of a court case that has been ongoing for more than two years. The allegations about surveillance appear in a January filing, the fifth amended complaint made by Six4Three. It alleges that Facebook used a range of methods, some adapted to the different phones that users carried, to collect information it could use for commercial purposes.

"Facebook continued to explore and implement ways to track users' location, to track and read their texts, to access and record their microphones on their phones, to track and monitor their usage of competitive apps on their phones, and to track and monitor their calls," one court document says. But all details about the mass surveillance scheme have been redacted on Facebook's request in Six4Three's most recent filings. Facebook claims these are confidential business matters. It has until next Tuesday to submit a claim to the court for the documents to remain sealed from public view.

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