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Social Networks

'Social Media ID, Please?' Proposed US Law Greeted With Anger (computerworld.com) 145

The U.S. government announced plans to require some foreign travelers to provide their social media account names when entering the country -- and in June requested comments. Now the plan is being called "ludicrous," an "all-around bad idea," "blatant overreach," "desperate, paranoid heavy-handedness," "preposterous," "appalling," and "un-American," reports Slashdot reader dcblogs: That's just a sampling of the outrage. Some 800 responded to the U.S. request for comments about a proposed rule affecting people traveling from "visa waiver" countries to the U.S., where a visa is not required. This includes most of Europe, Singapore, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand... In a little twist of irony, some critics said U.S. President Obama's proposal for foreign travelers is so bad, it must have been hatched by Donald Trump.
"Travelers will be asked to provide their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and whatever other social ID you can imagine to U.S. authorities," reports Computer World. "It's technically an 'optional' request, but since it's the government asking, critics believe travelers will fear consequences if they ignore it..."
Democrats

US Patients Battle EpiPen Prices And Regulations By Shopping Online (cnn.com) 266

"The incredible increase in the cost of EpiPens, auto-injectors that can stop life-threatening emergencies caused by allergic reactions, has hit home on Capitol Hill," reports CNN. Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar reports that the argument "has now turned into civil war in the US Senate": One senator's daughter relies on Epi-Pen, while another senator's daughter is CEO of Mylan, the single company that is licensed to sell these injectors in the US. On the worldwide market there is no monopoly on these devices... Is it finally time to allow Americans to go online and fill their prescriptions on the world market?
Time reports some patients are ordering cheaper EpiPens from Canada and other countries online, "an act that the FDA says is technically illegal and potentially dangerous." But the FDA also has "a backlog of about 4,000 generic drugs" awaiting FDA approval, reports PRI, noting that in the meantime prices have also increased for drugs treating cancer, hepatitis C, and high cholesterol. In Australia, where the drug costs just $38, one news outlet reports that the U.S. "is the only developed nation on Earth which allows pharmaceutical companies to set their own prices."
United States

HAARP Holds Open House To Dispel Rumors Of Mind Control (adn.com) 131

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: HAARP -- the former Air Force/Navy/DARPA research program in Alaska -- will host an open house Saturday where "We hope to show people that it is not capable of mind control and not capable of weather control and all the other things it's been accused of..." said Sue Mitchell, spokesperson for the geophysical institute at the University of Alaska. "We hope that people will be able to see the actual science of it." HAARP, which was turned over to The University of Alaska last August, has been blamed for poor crop yields in Russia, with conspiracy theorists also warning of "a super weapon capable of mind control or weather control, with enough juice to trigger hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes."

The facility's 180 high-frequency antennas -- spread across 33 acres -- will be made available for public tours, and there will also be interactive displays and an unmanned aircraft 'petting zoo'. The Alaska Dispatch News describes it as "one of the world's few centers for high-power and high-frequency study of the ionosphere... important because radio waves used for communication and navigation reflect back to Earth, allowing long-distance, short-wave broadcasting."

Businesses

White House Is Planning To Let More Foreign Entrepreneurs Work In the US (recode.net) 109

Peter Hudson writes from a report via Recode: "After failing to get Congress to pass a 'startup visa' as part of broad immigration reform, the Obama administration is moving ahead with an alternative that would allow overseas entrepreneurs to live in the U.S. for up to five years to help build a company," reports Recode. "Already speaking out in favor of the new rules is PayPal co-founder Max Levchin: 'I believe that the most promising entrepreneurs from around the world should have the same opportunity I had -- the chance to deliver on their potential, here in America.' Levchin moved to the U.S. from the Soviet Union in 1991." There are three conditions that need to be met in order to be eligible to work in the U.S. under the new rule: the foreigner would have to own at least 15 percent of a U.S.-based startup, the foreigner would need to have a central role in the startup's operations, and the startup would need to have "potential for rapid business growth and job creation." The third requirement could be met by having at least $100,000 in government grants or $345,000 invested from U.S. venture investors. "Under [the International Entrepreneur Rule (PDF)] being formally proposed on Friday, the Department of Homeland Security would be empowered to use its existing authority to allow entrepreneurs to legally work in the country for two years, possibly followed by a one-time three-year extension," reports Recode. "While the public will have 45 days to comment, the rules aren't subject to congressional approval."
Microsoft

Apple, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft Sign White House Pledge For Equal Pay (fortune.com) 263

In honor of Women's Equality Day, an anonymous reader shares with us a festive report from Fortune: More than two months after the White House first announced its Equal Pay Pledge for the private sector, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and other major industry players have signed on. By taking the pledge, which was first introduced at the United State of Women Summit in June of this year, companies promise to help close the national gender pay gap, conduct annual, company-wide pay analyses, and review hiring and promotion practices. The new signees were announced in a White House statement on Friday -- which also happens to be Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Apple, which announced earlier this year that it has no pay gap, released a statement promising to dig even deeper into compensation. "We're now analyzing the salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants of all our employees worldwide. If a gap exists, we'll address it," the company said in a statement. Twenty-nine companies signed the pledge on Friday, bringing the total number of signatories to 57. The pledge is part of a $50-million, White House-led initiative to expand opportunities for and improve the lives of women and girls. The consortium members issued a statement via Whitehouse.gov's press release: "The Employers for Pay Equity consortium is comprised of companies that understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, including ensuring that all individuals are compensated equitably for equal work and experience and have an equal opportunity to contribute and advance in the workplace. We are committed to collaborating to eliminate the national pay and leadership gaps for women and ethic minorities. Toward that end, we have come together to share best practices in compensation, hiring, promotion, and career development as well as develop strategies to support other companies' efforts in this regard. By doing so, we believe we can have a positive effect on our workforces that, in turn, makes our companies stronger and delivers positive economic impact." The consortium members include: Accenture, Airbnb, BCG, Care.com, CEB, Cisco, Deloitte, Dow, Expedia, EY, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Jet.com, L'Oreal USA, Mercer, PepsiCo, Pinterest, Rebecca Minkoff, Salesforce, Spotify, Staples, Stella McCartney, and Visa.
Communications

Sprint Charging 'Unlimited' Users $20 More for Unthrottled Video (dslreports.com) 88

Sprint has a new "unlimited" data plan for users that want to watch videos in full-HD (1080p) screen resolution. Dubbed "Unlimited Freedom Premium" plan, it offers the same features as the "Unlimited Freedom" plan with the bonus of allowing users to stream videos in full-HD. Also, it costs $20 extra. DSLReports points out the obvious:Last week we noted that Sprint unveiled its new Unlimited Freedom plan, which provides unlimited text, voice and data for $60 a month for one line, $40 a month for a second line, and $30 a month for every line thereafter (up to a maxiumum of 10). But the plan also, following on T-Mobile's heels, throttles all video by default to 480p, a move that has raised the hackles of net neutrality advocates.
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Crashes Its Second Flight (theverge.com) 169

Not too long after it completed its first test flight, the Airlander 10 -- the world's largest aircraft -- has crashed its second test flight. Since the 300-foot long aircraft contains 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, the crash was all but sudden. You can see in a video posted to YouTube from witnesses on the ground that the aircraft slowly descended to the ground, nose first. The BBC has published some close-up photos of the cockpit, which sustained damages. There were no injuries in the crash, according to a tweet from Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company did also deny eyewitness reports of the aircraft being damaged in a collision with a telegraph pole.
Patents

US Trade Judge Clears Fitbit of Stealing Jawbone's Trade Secrets (reuters.com) 13

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Fitbit did not steal rival Jawbone's trade secrets, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled on Tuesday, dashing Jawbone's hopes of securing an import ban against Fitbit's wearable fitness tracking devices. The judge, Dee Lord, said that there had been no violation of the Tariff Act, which gives the commission the power to block products that infringe U.S. intellectual property, because "no party has been shown to have misappropriated any trade secret." The ruling means Jawbone comes away with nothing from a complaint it filed with the trade agency in July 2015, accusing Fitbit of infringing six patents and poaching employees who took with them confidential data about Jawbone's business, such as plans, supply chains and technical details. Jawbone first sued Fitbit last year over trade secret violations in California state court, where the case is still pending. The companies, both based in San Francisco, are also litigating over patents in federal court.
Crime

FBI Authorized Informants To Break The Law 22,800 Times In 4 Years (dailydot.com) 106

blottsie quotes a report from the Daily Dot: Over a four-year period, the FBI authorized informants to break the law more than 22,800 times, according to newly reviewed documents. Official records obtained by the Daily Dot under the Freedom of Information Act show the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave informants permission at least 5,649 times in 2013 to engage in activity that would otherwise be considered a crime. In 2014, authorization was given 5,577 times, the records show. USA Today previously revealed confidential informants engaged in "otherwise illegal activity," as the bureau calls it, 5,658 times in 2011. The figure was at 5,939 the year before, according to documents acquired by the Huffington Post. In total, records obtained by reporters confirm the FBI authorized at least 22,823 crimes between 2011 and 2014. Unfortunately, many of those crimes can have serious and unintended consequences. One of the examples mentioned in the Daily Dot's report was of an FBI informant who "was responsible for facilitating the 2011 breach of Stratfor in one of the most high-profile cyberattacks of the last decade. While a handful of informants ultimately brought down the principal hacker responsible, the sting also caused Stratfor, an American intelligence firm, millions of dollars in damages and left and estimated 700,000 credit card holders vulnerable to fraud."
Power

New Mexico Nuclear Accident Ranks Among the Costliest In US History (latimes.com) 319

mdsolar quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations. The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department's credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste. But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews. "The direct cost of the cleanup is now $640 million, based on a contract modification made last month with Nuclear Waste Partnership that increased the cost from $1.3 billion to nearly $2 billion," reports Los Angeles Times. "The cost-plus contract leaves open the possibility of even higher costs as repairs continue. And it does not include the complete replacement of the contaminated ventilation system or any future costs of operating the mine longer than originally planned."
Businesses

Bill Gates's Net Worth Hits $90 Billion (bloomberg.com) 175

schwit1 quotes a report from Bloomberg: The net worth of the world's richest person Bill Gates hit $90 billion on Friday, fueled by gains in public holdings including Canadian National Railway Company and Ecolab Inc. Gates's fortune is now $13.5 billion bigger than that of the world's second-wealthiest person, Spanish retail mogul Amancio Ortega, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. At $90 billion, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder's net worth is equal to 0.5 percent of U.S. GDP. Less than two weeks ago, Bill Gates topped Forbes' "100 Richest Tech Billionaires In The World 2016" (Warning: may be paywalled) list with an estimated fortune of $78 billion.
Communications

Comcast Says There's 6 Million Unhappy DSL Users Left To Target (dslreports.com) 141

Karl Bode, writing for DSLReports: As we noted last week, cable is effectively demolishing phone companies when it comes to new broadband subscriber additions, and Comcast still says the company has plenty of room to grow. Comcast and Charter alone added 500,000 net broadband subscribers last quarter, while the nation's biggest telcos collectively lost 360,783 broadband users during the same period. With AT&T and Verizon backing away from unwanted DSL users, and Windstream Frontier and CenturyLink only eyeing piecemeal upgrades, the bloodshed is far from over. Speaking this week at the Nomura 2016 Media, Telecom & Internet Conference, Comcast VP Marcien Jenckes stated that the company has plenty of unhappy DSL customers left to nab. In fact, Comcast says the company still has around 6 million DSL subscribers in its territory, many of which are likely frustrated by outdated speeds.
Government

Nuclear Waste Accident 2 Years Ago May Cost More Than $2 Billion To Clean Up (arstechnica.com) 20

An anonymous reader writes: The Los Angeles Times is estimating that an explosion that occurred at a New Mexico nuclear waste dumping facility in 2014 could cost upwards of $2 billion to clean up. Construction began on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico's Carlsbad desert in the 1980s. The site was built to handle transuranic waste from the US' nuclear weapons program. The WIPP had been eyed to receive nuclear waste from commercial power-generating plants as well. According to the LA Times, the 2014 explosion at the WIPP was downplayed by the federal government, with the Department of Energy (DoE) putting out statements indicating that cleanup was progressing quickly. Indeed, a 2015 Recovery Plan insisted that "limited waste disposal operations" would resume in the first quarter of 2016. Instead, two years have passed since the incident without any indication that smaller nuclear waste cleanup programs around the US will be able to deliver their waste to the New Mexico facility any time soon. The 2014 explosion apparently occurred when engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were preparing a drum of plutonium and americium waste -- usually packed with kitty litter (yes, kitty litter) -- and decided to "substitute an organic material for a mineral one."
Businesses

Massachusetts Will Tax Ride-Sharing Companies To Subsidize Taxis (reuters.com) 445

Massachusetts will tax ride-sharing services -- 20 cents for each ride -- with 25% of the money raised going into a special fund for the taxi industry (according to an article shared by schwit1 ). Reuters reports: Ride services are not enthusiastic about the fee. "I don't think we should be in the business of subsidizing potential competitors," said Kirill Evdakov, the chief executive of Fasten, a ride service that launched in Boston last year and also operates in Austin, Texas. Some taxi owners wanted the law to go further, perhaps banning the start-up competitors unless they meet the requirements taxis do, such as regular vehicle inspection by the police...

The fee may raise millions of dollars a year because Lyft and Uber alone have a combined 2.5 million rides per month in Massachusetts... The 5-cent fee will be collected through the end of 2021. Then the taxi subsidy will disappear and the 20 cents will be split by localities and the state for five years. The whole fee will go away at the end of 2026.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the law, which specifically bans ride-sharing services from passing those costs on to their drivers or riders. And the article notes that Taiwan has also hit Uber with a $6.4 million tax bill, while Seattle has passed a new law allowing ride-sharing drivers to unionize.
Government

Will Internet Voting Endanger The Secret Ballot? 219

MIT recently identified the states "at the greatest risk of having their voting process hacked". but added this week that "Maintaining the secrecy of ballots returned via the Internet is 'technologically impossible'..." Long-time Slashdot reader Presto Vivace quotes their article: That's according to a new report from Verified Voting, a group that advocates for transparency and accuracy in elections. A cornerstone of democracy, the secret ballot guards against voter coercion. But "because of current technical challenges and the unique challenge of running public elections, it is impossible to maintain the separation of voters' identities from their votes when Internet voting is used," concludes the report, which was written in collaboration with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the anticorruption advocacy group Common Cause.
32 states are already offering some form of online voting, apparently prompting the creation of Verified Voting's new site, SecretBallotAtRisk.org.
AI

Chicago's Experiment In Predictive Policing Isn't Working (theverge.com) 191

The U.S. will phase out private prisons, a move made possible by fewer and shorter sentences for drug offenses, reports the BBC. But when it comes to reducing arrests for violent crimes, police officers in Chicago found themselves resorting ineffectively to a $2 million algorithm which ultimately had them visiting people before any crime had been committed. schwit1 quotes Ars Technica: Struggling to reduce its high murder rate, the city of Chicago has become an incubator for experimental policing techniques. Community policing, stop and frisk, "interruption" tactics --- the city has tried many strategies. Perhaps most controversial and promising has been the city's futuristic "heat list" -- an algorithm-generated list identifying people most likely to be involved in a shooting.

The hope was that the list would allow police to provide social services to people in danger, while also preventing likely shooters from picking up a gun. But a new report from the RAND Corporation shows nothing of the sort has happened. Instead, it indicates that the list is, at best, not even as effective as a most wanted list. At worst, it unnecessarily targets people for police attention, creating a new form of profiling.

The police argue they've updated the algorithm and improved their techniques for using it. But the article notes that the researchers began following the "heat list" when it launched in 2013, and "found that the program has saved no lives at all."
Cellphones

IPv6 Achieves 50% Reach On Major US Carriers (worldipv6launch.org) 148

Long-time Slashdot reader dyork brings new from The Internet Society: IPv6 deployment hit a milestone this month related to the four major US providers (Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, AT&T): "IPv6 is the dominant protocol for traffic from those mobile networks to major IPv6-capable content providers."
A graph on their "World IPv6 Launch" site shows those carriers are now delivering close to 55% of their traffic over IPv6 to major IPv6-capable content providers -- up from just 37.59% in December. "This is really remarkable progress in the four years since World IPv6 Launch in 2012, and the growth of IPv6 deployment in 2016 is showing no signs of abating." In fact, the NTIA is now requesting feedback from organizations that have already implemented IPv6, noting that while we've used up all the 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, IPv6 offers 340 undecillion IP addresses -- that is, 340 followed by 36 digits.
Businesses

How the H-1B Visa Program Impacts America's Tech Workers (computerworld.com) 332

Computerworld is running an emotional report by their national correspondent Patrick Thibodeau -- complete with a dramatic video -- arguing that America's H-1B Visa program "has also become a way for companies to outsource jobs." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the article accompanying the video: The vast majority of people who work in IT did everything right: They invested in their education, studied difficult subjects, kept their skills updated... But no job is safe, no future entirely secure -- something IT workers know more than most. Given their role, they are most often the change agents, the people who deploy technologies and bring in automation that can turn workplaces upside down. To survive, they count on being smart, self-reliant and one step ahead...

Over the years, Computerworld reporter Patrick Thibodeau has interviewed scores of IT workers who trained their visa-holding replacements. Though details each time may differ, they all tell the same basic story. There are many issues around high-skilled immigration, but to grasp the issue fully you need to understand how the H-1B program can affect American workers.

Security

Computer Science Professor Mocks The NSA's Buggy Code (softpedia.com) 179

After performing hours of analysis, a computer science professor says he's "not impressed" by the quality of the recently-leaked code that's supposedly from an NSA hacking tool. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The professor, who teaches Software Vulnerability Analysis and Advanced Computer Security at the University of Illinois, Chicago, gripes about the cryptography operations employed in the code of an exploit called BANANAGLEE, used against Fortinet firewalls. Some of his criticism include the words "ridiculous", "very bad", "crazy" and "boring memory leaks".

"I would expect relatively bug-free code. And I would expect minimal cryptographic competence. None of those were true of the code I examined which was quite surprising," the professor told Softpedia in an email.

If these were cyberweapons, "I'm pretty underwhelmed by their quality," professor Checkoway writes on his blog, adding that he found "sloppy and buggy code," no authentication of the encrypted communication channel, 128-bit keys generated using 64 bits of entropy, and cypher initialization vectors that leaked bits of the hash of the plain text...
Medicine

Marijuana Provides More Pain Relief For Men Than Woman, Says Study (psypost.org) 144

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PsyPost: Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) found that men had greater pain relief than women after smoking marijuana. In this study, the researchers analyzed data from two double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies looking at the analgesic effects of cannabis in 42 recreational marijuana smokers. After smoking the same amount of either an active or placebo form of cannabis, the participants immersed one hand in a a cold-water bath until the pain could no longer be tolerated. Following the immersion, the participants answered a short pain questionnaire. After smoking active cannabis, men reported a significant decrease in pain sensitivity and an increase in pain tolerance. Women did not experience a significant decrease in pain sensitivity, although they reported a small increase in pain tolerance shortly after smoking. "These findings come at a time when more people, including women, are turning to the use of medical cannabis for pain relief," said Ziva Cooper, PhD, associate professor of clinical neurobiology (in psychiatry) at CUMC. "Preclinical evidence has suggested that the experience of pain relief from cannabis-related products may vary between sexes, but no studies have been done to see if this is true in humans." You can view the results of the study online in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

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