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China Has Withheld Samples of a Dangerous Flu Virus
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
For over a year, the Chinese government has withheld lab samples of a rapidly evolving influenza virus from the United States -- specimens needed to develop vaccines and treatments, according to federal health officials, The New York Times reports. From the story: Despite persistent requests from government officials and research institutions, China has not provided samples of the dangerous virus, a type of bird flu called H7N9 [Editor's note: the link maybe paywalled; alternative source]. In the past, such exchanges have been mostly routine under rules established by the World Health Organization. Now, as the United States and China spar over trade, some scientists worry that the vital exchange of medical supplies and information could slow, hampering preparedness for the next biological threat. The scenario is "unlike shortages in aluminum and soybeans," said Dr. Michael Callahan, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard Medical School. "Jeopardizing U.S. access to foreign pathogens and therapies to counter them undermines our nation's ability to protect against infections which can spread globally within days." Experts concur that the world's next global pandemic will likely come from a repeat offender: the flu. The H7N9 virus is one candidate.

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Facebook Expands Its Express Wi-Fi Program For Developing Markets Via Hardware Partnerships
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's never-gonna-give-you-up department:
Facebook is today launching a partner program for its Express Wi-Fi initiative, which helps bring higher-speed connections to developing markets, including India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, and Tanzania. From a report: The program itself involves having local business owners install Wi-Fi hotspots, where internet service is provided by local ISPs, mobile network operators, and others that Facebook has partnered with. Now, Facebook is launching a new partner program that will allow access point manufacturers to build devices compatible with Express Wi-Fi. Its debut lineup of partners for "Express Wi-Fi Certified," as the partner program is called, include Arista, Cambium Networks, and Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS Company. Facebook first began testing Express Wi-Fi three years ago, and has since expanded it to the five above countries and 10 partners.

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Rights Groups Are Demanding That Google Doesn't Release A Censored Search Engine In China
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
More than a dozen tech NGOs and human rights groups have issued an open letter calling on Google to stop work on a censored search engine project in China. From a report: Organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access Now and others released the letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Tuesday, saying the tech giant's plans to release a censored version of its search engine app to users in China represent an "alarming capitulation by Google on human rights." The project, dubbed Dragonfly, was first reported by The Intercept earlier this month. According to audio of a staff meeting, obtained by the New York Times, Pichai said that "if we were to do our mission well, we are to think seriously about how to do more in China. However, he went on to say that Google was "not close to launching a search product in China."

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Internet Groups Urge US Court To Reinstate 'Net Neutrality' Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 09:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
A coalition of trade groups representing companies including Alphabet, Facebook Inc and Amazon.com, urged a U.S. appeals court to reinstate landmark "net neutrality" rules adopted in 2015 to guarantee an open internet. From a report: In a legal filing Monday, the Internet Association, Entertainment Software Association, Computer & Communications Industry Association, and Writers Guild of America West urged the reversal of the Trump administration decision to overturn the rules in December. "Rules regulating the conduct of (internet providers) continue to be needed to protect and promote an open internet," the groups wrote in a brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

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US Government Takes Steps to Bolster CVE Program
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 08:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's about-time department:
The US government is taking steps to fix the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) system that's been plagued by various problems in recent years. From a report: The CVE was created in 1999 by the MITRE Corporation using US government funding. It is a database that contains identifiers (tracking numbers) for security vulnerabilities. Since its creation, the CVE system has been adopted by the public and private sectors. Most modern cyber-security software use CVE numbers to identify and track cyber-attacks exploiting particular software bugs. Despite being a US creation, the system has been widely adopted in countries all over the globe, which use and recognize the CVE identifiers issued by MITRE's staff and industry partners. [...] On Monday, following a year-long investigation into the CVE program, the Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and MITRE Corporation. In these letters, the Committee outlined the investigation's findings and proposed courses of action to fix the issues found with the CVE system. According to the two letters, the Committee says it identified that inconsistent and largely diminishing DHS funding as one of the reasons the program has gone downhill and accumulated its huge backlogs.

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How 'Grand Theft Auto' Is Changing the Way the World Experiences Music
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 06:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: GTA V and its multiplayer GTA Online mode has already proven itself a thriving game and money maker for both developer Rockstar and publisher Take-Two -- with sales approaching 100 million copies and bringing in more than $6 billion, now one of the most successful video games in history is also becoming something else, perhaps not too unexpectedly: A powerful tool for music discovery. Use of music has always been something video game makers Rockstar prides itself on. From the Billy Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington songs found in L.A. Noire, a detective action-adventure game, to the mix of 1970s rock in The Warriors game, music is one of the more important elements of pop culture that the developers use to help create memorable times and places for its titles. Nowhere is that more evident than in the long-running Grand Theft Auto series. While the franchise has always featured some sort of working, in-game radio stations, each new iteration expanded on the concept. By 2013 and the release of GTA V, the game's 15 unique radio stations, packed with 240 fully licensed songs and pre-recorded on-air talent, had become nearly as important as the game itself. [...] In the five years since launch, GTA V and GTA Online gamers have listened to more than an estimated 75 billion minutes of music from the game's 18 radio stations, according to Rockstar's own analysis provided to Rolling Stone.

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Trump Accuses Google of Rigging Search Results To Favor 'Bad' News About Him
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 06:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's it's-Google's-turn-now department:
President Donald Trump says Google search results for "Trump News" show only negative coverage about him. From a report: The results present "only the viewing/reporting of Fake New (sic) Media," the president tweeted early Tuesday. He said it's a "very serious situation" that "will be addressed!" "In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of ... " he wrote in the first of two tweets at 5:24 a.m. ET.

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Tourism is Compromising the World's Largest Telescope
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 02:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's upon-closer-inspection department:
Thousands of people moved to let China build and protect Five-Hundred-Meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST), the world's largest telescope. And then the government drew in orders of magnitude more tourists, potentially undercutting its own science in an attempt to promote it. An excerpt: During the four-day Radio Astronomy Forum, Stierwalt and the other astronomers did, finally, get to see the actual telescope, taking a bus up a tight, tortuous road through the karst between town and telescope. As soon as they arrived on site, they were instructed to shut down their phones to protect the instrument from the radio frequency interference. But not even these astronomers, who want pristine FAST data for themselves, could resist pressing that capture button. "Our sweet, sweet tour guide continually reminded us to please turn off our phones," says Stierwalt, "but we all kept taking pictures and sneaking them out because no one really seemed to care." Come on: It's the world's largest telescope. Maybe their minder stayed lax because a burst here or there wouldn't make much of a difference in those early days. The number of regular tourists allowed at the site all day is capped at 3,000, to limit RFI, and they have to put their phones in lockers before they go see the dish. Krco says the site bumps up against the visitor limit most days. But tourism and development are complicated for a sensitive scientific instrument. Within three miles of the telescope, the government passed legislation establishing a "radio-quiet zone," where RFI-emitting devices are severely restricted. No one (not cellular providers or radio broadcasters) can get a transmitting license, and people entering the facility itself will have their electronics confiscated.

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Scientists Discover Hidden Deep-Sea Coral Reef Off South Carolina Coast
Posted by News Fetcher on August 28 '18 at 12:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's hidden-gem department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: Little is known about the natural resources of the deep ocean off the United States' Southeast coast from Virginia to Georgia, so Deep Search 2018 was created to learn more by exploring the deep sea ecosystems. The project, consisting of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the US Geological Survey, is nearing the end of its 15-day voyage aboard the research vessel Atlantis. A pair of dives in a submersible called Alvin confirmed the existence of the coral reef last week, and based on observations, researchers estimate the reef is at least 85 miles long. "This is a huge feature," expedition chief scientist Dr. Erik Cordes told HuffPost. "It's incredible that it stayed hidden off the US East Coast for so long." Cordes said the ecosystem is unlike anything he has seen, with "mountains" of corals.

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Chinese Phone Maker Huawei Risks Alienating Its Loyal Customer Base By Taking a Strong Stand Against Unlocking of Its Handsets, Users Say
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 09:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
A post on Irish technology news blog, which criticizes the recent works of the world's second largest smartphone maker Huawei, is being widely circulated across several Android communities, with most people agreeing with the concerns raised in the post. From the story: Huawei is the second largest smartphone manufacturer in the world, falling second only to Samsung having recently overtaken Apple. They're huge in Ireland and across the globe. As a company, they have done a number of great things for both the enthusiast and the general user alike, but amidst privacy concerns the company has started to lash out at the community which helped get it (and especially its sub-brand Honor) off of the ground. Not only have they begun to block users from unlocking the devices which they've paid for, they are now looking to make users return their already unlocked devices to their normal state, according to numerous reports on the forums of XDA-Developers and well known Magisk developer topjohnwu. "I am informed that a new Huawei OTA will render Magisk-installed devices from booting," the developer wrote. Magisk is a popular "root" solution used which gives a user access to their device's system files. Huawei was huge with the development community for a number of reasons, no less because their devices were some of the easiest to unlock out of all of the major manufacturers. You simply applied for your key online and promptly received it. It was a rather painless system, which allowed you to then install whatâ(TM)s known as a "custom ROM". A custom ROM is simply just a custom version of Android, free from all of the included pre-installed applications from Huawei. They often run better too, again because of the lack of bloat.

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Air Pollution Causes 'Huge' Reduction in Intelligence, Study Reveals
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 06:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Air pollution causes a "huge" reduction in intelligence, according to new research, indicating that the damage to society of toxic air is far deeper than the well-known impacts on physical health. From a report: The research was conducted in China but is relevant across the world, with 95% of the global population breathing unsafe air. It found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person's education. "Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge," said Xi Chen at Yale School of Public Health in the US, a member of the research team. "But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education. If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education." The damage in intelligence was worst for those over 64 years old, with serious consequences, said Chen: "We usually make the most critical financial decisions in old age." Rebecca Daniels, from the UK public health charity Medact, said: "This report's findings are extremely worrying." [...] The new work, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, analysed language and arithmetic tests conducted as part of the China Family Panel Studies on 20,000 people across the nation between 2010 and 2014. The scientists compared the test results with records of nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide pollution.

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Big Telecom Is Using Robocalls To Fight a Net Neutrality Bill in California
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 05:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's no-shame department:
A group with financial ties to AT&T is sending automated messages claiming the law would raise cell phone bills. From a report: Big Telecom is once again trying to disrupt a net neutrality bill in California, this time by robocalling seniors to spread misinformation about the bill. "Your Assembly member will be voting on a proposal by San Francisco politicians that could increase your cellphone bill by $30 a month and slow down your data," says a voice on an automated call paid for by legal reform group the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC). "We can't afford higher cell phone bills. We can't afford slower data. We can't afford Senate Bill 822 (more popularly known as SB822)." The call urges constituents to contact their state representative and ask them to vote no on the bill, which passed a senate committee last week and will be heard in the Assembly this week. It even provides an option to automatically connect to the recipients' Assembly member. At the top of the call, it cites the non-profit Congress of California Seniors, leading many -- including state senator Scott Wiener, the net neutrality bill's author -- to believe the calls are targeting senior citizens specifically. "The industry has engaged in a massive misinformation campaign around this bill for months," Wiener told me over the phone. But the claim that cell phone bills will go up is not based on anything in the actual bill, which would simply restore the federal rules that telecom companies operated under from 2015 until the 2017 repeal, which only went into effect a few months ago.

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New Computer System Helps Slash Cholera Cases in Yemen By Predicting Where Outbreaks Will Occur
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 04:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's tech-for-good department:
Cholera cases in Yemen have been slashed by a new system that predicts where outbreaks will occur. From a report: Last year, there were more than 50,000 new cases in just one week -- this year, the numbers plummeted to about 2,500. The system has enabled aid workers to focus efforts on prevention several weeks in advance of an outbreak -- by monitoring rainfall. It comes as the UN says it is concerned about a possible "third wave" of the epidemic. The deployment of the technology has been coordinated by the UK's Department for International Development. [...] The UK's overseas aid department has worked with the Met Office to develop a system that predicts where cholera will occur four weeks ahead of time. The Met Office produces a rainfall forecast for Yemen. Using its supercomputers, it is to determine the specific amount of rain that will fall and pinpoint the areas it will hit within a 10km (six-mile) radius. These are important because downpours overwhelm the sewerage system and spread the infection. The forecasts are used in conjunction with a computer model developed by Prof Rita Colwell, at the University of Maryland, and Dr Antar Jutla, at West Virginia University. Together, this information enables scientists to predict the areas most likely to experience an outbreak, up to four weeks in advance.

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Facebook, Apple and Microsoft Are Contributing To OpenStreetMap
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 04:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's credit-where-it-is-due department:
At the recently concluded State of the Map conference in Milan, teams from Microsoft, Apple and Facebook presented their projects, describing how they are working with communities. From a report: The Microsoft Open Maps team has recently released open data on building footprints in the US. Microsoft was among the first to release satellite imagery for use by OpenStreetMap and the images are now integrated into the default editor. It also has a community of mappers directly contributing to OpenStreetMap in Australia. Apple has an internal volunteer programme that has around 5,000 staff contributing to Missing Maps, they've released building data for France and Denmark, and are engaged with data improvement projects around the world. Facebook is exploring how artificial intelligence-assisted tracing can help to improve the quality of OpenStreetMap data in Thailand. DigitalGlobe has made its satellite imagery available under a licence that will allow it to be used by the OpenStreetMap community to improve their mapping efforts. Telenav launched OpenStreetCam to help collect openly-licensed street imagery and has now released open data and code to explore how machine learning can enable the images to be used to improve OpenStreetMap with stop signs and turn directions.

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Y Combinator Plans To Start Doling Out $60 Million Next Year to Study Universal Basic Income
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 02:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
The research arm of Y Combinator plans to begin a study on universal basic income next year in which it will give unconditional cash payments to 3,000 participants. From a report: The test is partially intended to see if receiving routine payments will quell anxieties around losing jobs to automation. As Wired reports, the study will be called "Making Ends Meet." Under the plan, a thousand people would get $1,000 per month and the other 2,000 would get $50 per month to serve as a control group. Some of the participants would receive monthly payments for three years and some would get paid every month for five years. Sam Altman, CEO of Y Combinator, a highly successful startup accelerator that helped give rise to companies like Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit, announced the company's plans to research universal basic income -- or as he put it, "giving people enough money to live on with no strings attached" -- in a January 2016 blog post. Altman explained his belief that universal basic income will eventually be implemented across the nation as more jobs are automated and "massive new wealth gets created."

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Strong Wind Topples a Wind Turbine in Japan
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's can't-withstand department:
An anonymous reader writes: Strong gusts brought by Typhoon Cimaron on Friday, August 24, toppled a massive wind turbine in western Japan, local media reported. The 60-meter-tall turbine was located in a park on Awaji Island, 275 miles west of Tokyo, but was wrenched from its base in the early hours of Friday morning as the typhoon pummeled a large part of the Japanese archipelago. Fortunately no one was under the wind turbine when it came down, or indeed on it. Built in 2002, the turbine had been out of commission since May last year after being struck by lightning, according to the Japan Times. News footage showed how the turbine had been torn from its base by the strong winds, with its 20-meter-long blades badly damaged by the impact with the ground. It's not yet clear if the base had been weakened in some way prior to the typhoon.

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GlobalFoundries Stops All 7nm Development: Opts To Focus on Specialized Processes
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-of-plans department:
GlobalFoundries has made a major strategy shift announcement. The contract maker of semiconductors says it is ceasing development of bleeding edge manufacturing technologies and stop all work on its 7LP (7 nm) fabrication processes, which will not be used for any client. From a report: Instead, the company will focus on specialized process technologies for clients in emerging high-growth markets. These technologies will initially be based on the company's 14LPP/12LP platform and will include RF, embedded memory, and low power features. Because of the strategy shift, GF will cut 5% of its staff as well as renegotiate its WSA and IP-related deals with AMD and IBM. GlobalFoundries was on track to tape out its clients' first chips made using its 7 nm process technology in the fourth quarter of this year, but "a few weeks ago" the company decided to take a drastic strategical turn, says Gary Patton. The CTO stressed that the decision was made not based on technical issues that the company faced, but on a careful consideration of business opportunities the company had with its 7LP platform as well as financial concerns. On the heels of this announcement, AMD said today that it will move all of its 7nm production on both CPUs and GPUs to TSMC.

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Federal Judge Rules Against Trump Administration on 3-D Gun Blueprint Case
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
A federal judge on Monday issued a preliminary injunction continuing a prohibition on the Trump administration proposal to make available blueprints for so-called ghost guns, untraceable weapons that can be manufactured on a 3-D printer, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said. From a report: California was one of 20 states led by Washington that won the decision from U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik in Seattle. The injunction extends a ruling last month that barred the Trump administration from taking steps that would allow the firm Defense Distributed to disseminate 3-D gun blueprints. "When the Trump Administration inexplicably gave the green light to distribute on the internet blueprints of 3D-printed, untraceable ghost guns, it needlessly endangered our children, our loved ones and our men and women in law enforcement," Becerra said in a statement. "The Trump Administration's actions were dangerous and incompetent."

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Raspberry Pi's PoE HAT Ships For $20, Tosses in a Free Fan
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's gizmo-updates department:
Raspberry Pi is offering a Power-over-Ethernet HAT board for the RPi 3 Model B+ for $20 that ships with a small fan. Per blog LinuxGizmo, the "802.3af-compliant 'Raspberry Pi PoE HAT' allows delivery of up to 15W over the RPi 3 B+'s USB-based GbE port without reducing the port's up to 300Mbps bandwidth." From the report: The Raspberry Pi PoE HAT features a fully isolated switched-mode power supply with 37-57V DC, Class 2 input and 5V/2.5A DC output. The HAT connects to both the 40-pin header and a new PoE-specific 4-pin header introduced with the B+ located near the USB ports. To enable PoE, you need power sourcing equipment, which is either "provided by your network switch or with power injectors on an Ethernet cable," writes the foundation in a blog post.

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Ubuntu and CentOS Are Undoing a GNOME Security Feature
Posted by News Fetcher on August 27 '18 at 10:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what's-happening department:
An anonymous reader writes: Current versions of Ubuntu and CentOS are disabling a security feature that was added to the GNOME desktop environment last year. The feature's name is Bubblewrap, which is a sandbox environment that the GNOME Project added to secure GNOME's thumbnail parsers in July 2017, with the release of GNOME 3.26. In recent years, security researchers have proven that thumbnail parses can be an attack vector [1, 2, 3]. Ubuntu Security Tech Lead Alex Murray said the Ubuntu team chose to disable Bubblewrap inside Ubuntu because they did not have the time to perform a security audit. Murray blamed the many CPU bugs (Spectre, Meltdown, etc.), which kept the team busy and prevented them to audit the feature.

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