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In Venezuela, 'Cutting-Edge' Cryptocurrency is Nowhere To Be Found
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '18 at 08:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's whatever-happened-here department:
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has made ambitious claims that the nation's petro cryptocurrency is backed by 5 billion barrels of petroleum reserves. But when reporters of Reuters conducted a months-long investigation, they found that petro is getting little to no traction in the nation or elsewhere. Reuters: Located in an isolated savanna in the center of the country, Atapirire is the only town in an area the government says is brimming with 5 billion barrels of petroleum. Venezuela has pledged those reserves as backing for a digital currency dubbed the "petro," which Maduro launched in February. This month he vowed it would be the cornerstone of a recovery plan for the crisis-stricken nation. But Atapirire residents say they have seen no efforts by the government to tap those reserves. And they have little confidence that their struggling village has a front-row seat to a revolution in finance. "There is no sign of that petro here," said homemaker Igdalia Diaz. She launched into a diatribe about her town's crumbling school, pitted roads, frequent blackouts and perpetually hungry citizens. It turns out that Venezuela's petro is hard to spot almost anywhere. Over a period of four months, Reuters spoke with a dozen experts on cryptocurrencies and oil-field valuation, traveled to the site of the pledged oil reserves and scoured the coin's digital transaction records in an effort to learn more. The hunt turned up little evidence of a thriving petro trade. The coin is not sold on any major cryptocurrency exchange. No shops are known to accept it.

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Google's $50 Titan Security Keys Are Now Available in the US
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '18 at 06:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
Last month, Google introduced its Titan Key -- a physical security key used for two-factor authentication -- and now it's widely available in the US. From a report: For $50, you'll get a USB security key and a Bluetooth security key as well as a USB-C to USB-A adapter and a USB-C to USB-A connecting cable. What happens if you lose them? From a report: A downside of physical keys is that if lose them, you're toast. That's why you have two keys -- one is meant to be a backup. Google says it can help you gain access to your account again but the recovery process can take days.

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Emails While Commuting 'Should Count as Work', Researchers Say
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '18 at 06:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's modern-world-work-life-tussle department:
Commuters are so regularly using travel time for work emails that their journeys should be counted as part of the working day, researchers say. From a report: Wider access to wi-fi on trains and the spread of mobile phones has extended the working day, a study from the University of the West of England says. The study examined 5,000 rail passengers on commuter routes into London as wi-fi became more available. "I am a busy mum and I rely on that time," one commuter told researchers. The study, to be presented at the Royal Geographical Society on Thursday, found that 54% of commuters using the train's wi-fi were sending work emails. Others were using their own mobile phone connections for work emails.

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Climate Change Could Lead To Nutrient Deficiency For Hundreds of Millions
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '18 at 05:30 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's human-nutrition department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Smithsonian: According to new research, rising carbon dioxide levels will sap some of the nutrients from our crops and lead to dietary deficiencies in millions of humans. In 2014, field trials of common food crops including wheat, rice, corn and soybeans showed that as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased, the levels of iron, zinc and protein decreased in the dietary staples by 3 to 17 percent. While the decrease in a few nutrients may not seem important in food secure countries, it could have a big impact in poorer nations.

In the new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers calculated the impact of declining nutrients on human health. According to a press release, the team looked at the impact of rising CO2 on 225 different types of food. Based on population estimates for 2050 and an expected rise of carbon dioxide from about 400 parts per million today to 550 ppm by mid-century, the team found that the nutrient deficiencies of those already suffering will worsen, and 175 million more people could join the 1.2 billion who are zinc deficient and 122 million people would be added to the 622 million who don't receive enough protein. About 1.4 billion women of childbearing age and children under 5 could see their iron intake drop by about 4 percent.

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Rideshare Boycott Sparked By Murders In China
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '18 at 02:50 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's enough-is-enough department:
Following a string of murders by drivers of China's top ridesharing app, Didi Chuxing, users are deleting the app in large numbers and calling for others to boycott the service. According to The Atlantic, "the hashtag #BoycottDidi on Weibo has garnered more than 1 million views." From the report: Over the weekend, the driver confessed to local police to raping and stabbing his 20-year-old passenger on her way to a friend's birthday party. The murder is the second in three months -- this May, a young flight attendant was killed by her Didi driver. It is the third in a year -- last May, according to Caixin Global, another woman was strangled and killed by her driver. And it is the fourth in two years -- the year before that, a female teacher was robbed and killed after threats from her driver.

"As a platform, we have disappointed the public's trust in us and cannot shirk this responsibility," Didi said in a statement, admitting to failing to react quickly to another passenger's complaint filed against the driver the day before the murder. The rideshare company has suspended its Hitch services (as it did after the last murder) and fired two senior executives, one in charge of Hitch, its intercity carpooling service, and the other in charge of customer service. The Didi president, Jean Liu, oft-regarded as a hero for Chinese women in business, issued an apology on Tuesday. China's government is now cracking down on reform across the transportation sector.

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Texas Lawmakers Press NASA To Base Lunar Lander Program In Houston
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '18 at 12:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's space-city department:
Eric Berger writes via Ars Technica: The Apollo missions that flew to the Moon during the 1960s were designed and controlled by what is now known as Johnson Space Center, the home of the famous "Mission Control." Moreover, the astronauts that flew to the Moon all lived in Houston. It would stand to reason, therefore, that as NASA gears up to return to the Moon, major elements of this program would likewise be controlled from the Texas metropolis that styles itself "Space City." Times change, however. In recent months, the politically well-positioned Marshall Space Flight Center, in Huntsville, Alabama, has been quietly pressing leaders with NASA Headquarters for program management of mid- to large-size landers to the lunar surface, which would evolve into human landers. Sources indicated this effort was having some success.

However, Texas legislators have now begun to push back. On Tuesday, both of Texas' senators (John Cornyn and Ted Cruz), as well as three representatives with space-related committee chairs (John Culberson, Lamar Smith, and Brian Babin), wrote a letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "We support NASA's focus on returning to the Moon and using it as part of a stepping stone approach to place American boots on the surface of Mars in the 2030s," the Texas Republicans wrote. "As NASA reviews solicitations for lunar landers, we write to express our strong support for the establishment of NASA's lunar lander program at the Johnson Space Center." The letter reminds Bridenstine of Houston's strong spaceflight heritage.

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Google Debunks Trump's Claim It Censored His State of the Union Address
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 08:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's fake-news-from-the-head-of-state department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: President Donald Trump intensified his criticism of Google today, posting a native video of unknown origin to his Twitter account this afternoon claiming the search giant stopped promoting the State of the Union (SOTU) address on its homepage after he took office. It turns out the video he posted is not only misleading, but also contains what appears to be a fake screenshot of the Google homepage on the day in question. It has since been viewed more than 1.5 million times. In a statement given to The Verge, a Google spokesperson clarifies that the company promoted neither former President Barack Obama nor Trump's inaugural SOTU addresses in 2009 and 2017, respectively. That's because they were not technically State of the Union addresses, but "addresses to a joint session" of Congress, a tradition set back in 1993 so that new presidents didn't have to immediately deliver SOTU addresses after holding office for just a few weeks. Google resumed promoting Obama's SOTU address in 2010 and continued to do so through 2016, as he held office for all six of those years. With regards to the 2018 SOTU, Google says it did in fact promote it on its homepage. "On January 30th 2018, we highlighted the livestream of President Trump's State of the Union on the google.com homepage," reads Google's statement. "We have historically not promoted the first address to Congress by a new President, which is not a State of the Union address. As a result, we didn't include a promotion on google.com for this address in either 2009 or 2017."

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The 'Scunthorpe Problem' Has Never Really Been Solved
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 06:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pain-in-the-ass department:
dmoberhaus writes: Yesterday, a writer for SB Nation named Natalie Weiner posted a screenshot of a rejection form she received when she tried to sign up for a website. Her submission was rejected because a spam algorithm considered her last name "offensive." After she posted about this, hundreds of other people with similarly "offensive" last names sounded off about how they had experienced similar issues. As it turns out, this phenomenon is so widespread that it has a name among computer scientists. It's called the Scunthorpe problem and it's been a scourge of the internet since the beginning. Motherboard spoke to content moderation experts about its origins and why it's such a hard problem to solve 20 years later. A big reason why the problem has yet to be solved is "because creating effective obscenity filters depends on the filter's ability to understand a word in context," reports Motherboard. "Despite advances in [AI], this is something that even the most advanced machine-learning algorithms still struggle with today." "This works both ways around," Michael Veale, a researcher studying responsible machine learning at University College London, told Motherboard. "Cock (a bird) and Dick (the given name) are both harmless in certain contexts, even in children's settings online, but in other cases parents might not want them used. Equally, those wanting to abuse a system can find ways around it."

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Locals Reportedly Are Frustrated With Alphabet's Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's road-rage department:
More than a dozen people who work near Waymo's office in Chandler, Arizona, have complained about the self-driving cars to The Information. "One women said that she almost hit one of the company's minivans because it suddenly stopped while trying to make a right turn, while another man said that he gets so frustrated waiting for the cars to cross the intersection that he has illegally driven around them," reports CNBC. From the report: The anecdotes highlight how challenging it can be for self-driving cars, which are programmed to drive conservatively, to master situations that human drivers can handle with relative ease -- like merging or finding a gap in traffic to make a turn. Waymo has been testing its vehicles in the Phoenix suburbs for little more than a year and is widely seen as the furthest along in the self-driving car space, but its safety drivers have to take control of the vehicles regularly, people with direct knowledge of the issues tell The Information.

A Waymo spokesperson said its cars are "continually learning" and that "safety remains its highest priority" during testing. The spokesperson also said that Waymo is using feedback from its early rider program to improve its technology, though it declined to comment specifically on the intersection complaints mentioned in The Information story. The company has previously said that it plans to launch a commercial self-driving taxi service before the end of the year, but that its service will still include a Waymo employee in each car as a "chaperone."

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WhatsApp Warns Free Google Drive Backups Are Not End-To-End Encrypted
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 05:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's public-service-announcement department:
On November 12th, WhatsApp users on Android will be able to back up their messages to Google Drive for free and it won't count towards Google Drive storage quotas. But, as WhatsApp warns, those messages will no longer be protected by end-to-end encryption. ZDNet reports: While Apple iOS users may elect to use iCloud backup storage options, Android users store theirs through Google Drive -- but alongside the changes, WhatsApp has reminded users that once communication, chat, and media is transferred away from the app, end-to-end encryption is no longer in place. Some users may think that backup services will have the same level of protection as the app. However, this is not the case and the reminder is important for those interested in protecting their privacy. In WhatsApp support documents, this separation is now explicitly mentioned. "Media and messages you back up aren't protected by WhatsApp end-to-end encryption while in Google Drive," WhatsApp says.

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CERN's Pioneering Mini-Accelerator Passes First Test
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 04:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's particle-physics department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Nature: An experiment at CERN has demonstrated a new way of accelerating electrons to high energies -- one that could dramatically shrink the size of future particle accelerators and lower their costs. The technique is the latest entrant in a hot race to develop a technology called plasma wakefield acceleration. The method uses waves in plasma, a soup of ionized atoms, to push electrons to ever-higher energies over distances much shorter than those required in today's particle accelerators. Several laboratories have demonstrated plasma wakefield acceleration using two different approaches; most teams use laser beams to create the plasma waves needed. The latest work is the first to show that protons can also induce the waves and achieve electron acceleration -- a technique that may have advantages over the others because protons can carry high energies over long distances.

In this case, researchers diverted protons that would usually be fed into the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe's particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland, and instead inserted them into the wakefield accelerator, called the Advanced Wakefield Experiment (AWAKE). The machine worked as expected and created a consistent beam of accelerated electrons. "That, for us, was a major achievement," says Matthew Wing, a physicist at University College London, who is deputy spokesperson for AWAKE. "It essentially says that the method works, and it's never been done before." The work is described in Nature on 29 August.

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Google Is Revamping the Wear OS Smartwatch UI
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 04:10 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
Google is bringing a new user interface to Wear OS, along with a new feed of information from Google Assistant, faster access to Google Fit, and a more information-dense view of your notifications. The Verge examines all these new changes one by one: The most important change is the one you see above: a feed of information from Google Assistant. It's designed to show you relevant info about your day, like calendar details, package-tracking info, and the weather. Next are notifications, which operate basically the same as before. They still mostly mirror what's on your phone. Dismissing a notification on your watch will do the same on your phone, and many apps will allow you to quick reply with suggested chips. But the best feature here is that Google is going back to a more information-dense display that puts all your notifications on a single, scrollable pane instead of having them fill the entire screen one by one.

Swiping left will now take you to the new Google Fit interface, which shows the two new rings that Google is has created to track your health. One is "move minutes" and the other is "heart points." Last but not least, swiping down takes you to a slightly revamped Quick Settings pane, which adds two oft-requested buttons: one for finding your phone and another for Google Pay. More (but perhaps not enough) Wear OS watches come with NFC now, and the Google Pay button will make sure that the chip is on and ready to pay when you walk up to the point-of-sale terminal.

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Air Canada Mobile App Breach Affects 20,000 People
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 02:50 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's locked-down department:
Air Canada told customers in an email today that the personal information for about 20,000 customers "may potentially have been improperly accessed" via a breach in its mobile app. As a precaution, the airline locked down all 1.7 million accounts until customers change their passwords. CBC.ca reports: The app stores basic information such as a user's name, email address and telephone number, all of which could have been improperly accessed. Any credit card information on file would have been encrypted and as such protected, the company says. But additional data such as a customer's Aeroplan number, passport number, Nexus number, known traveller number, gender, birth date, nationality, passport expiration date, passport country of issuance and country of residence could have been accessed, if users had them saved in their profile on the app. Air Canada said it hasn't detected any improper log-in activity since last Friday, and it is in the process of contacting the 20,000 people directly affected.

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OCR Software Dev Abbyy Exposes 200,000 Customer Documents
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 02:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's privacy-woes department:
A misconfigured MongoDB server belonging to Abbyy, an optical character recognition software developer, allowed public access to customer files. From a report: Independent security researcher Bob Diachenko discovered the database on August 19 hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform. It was 142GB in size and it allowed access without the need to log in. The sizeable database included scanned documents of the sensitive kind: contracts, non-disclosure agreements, internal letters, and memos. Included were more than 200,000 files from Abbyy customers who scanned the data and kept it at the ready in the cloud. "Some collection names like 'documentRecognition,' or 'documentXML' hinted that database would be part of a data recognition company infrastructure," Diachenko writes in a blog post today.

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Nintendo Shuts Down Tool Used To Build Pokemon Fan Games
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 01:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Since 2007, Pokemon Essentials has been a crucial part of the Pokemon fan game community. As a free mod for the paid RPG Maker software, Pokemon Essentials offers all the graphics, music, maps, and tilesets a fan game maker needs to craft their own Poke-adventure. Fans of the tool congregated around the PokeCommunity forums and a dedicated Pokemon Essentials wiki to download files, share creations, and discuss the scene. Earlier this week, however, PokeCommunity forum moderator Marin announced that "the Pokemon Essentials wikia and all downloads for it have been taken down due to a copyright claim by Nintendo of America." That means "we will not allow Pokemon Essentials or any of its assets to be hosted or distributed on PokeCommunity," the announcement reads. "We sincerely apologize that we have to do this, but there is no going around it." Fandom, the company that hosts the wiki, confirmed to the Verge that it had "received a DMCA notice on behalf of Nintendo notifying us of content that was in violation of its copyright holdings. After carefully assessing the violations in regards to the Pokemon Essentials wiki, we came to a decision to take it down."

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Facebook Says It Aims To Power Itself With 100% Renewable Energy by 2020
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department:
Facebook says it is aiming to buy renewable energy to cover 100 percent of its electricity use by the end of 2020, joining companies such as Citigroup and Ikea in setting that deadline for achieving its goal. From a report: By 2020, Facebook plans to power its global operations with 100% renewable energy, and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 75%. It's the next step in ramping up the company's work to move to renewables over the last several years. "There's the expectation that we have as a company that we think this is good for communities and this is good for the world as a whole, but it's also good business sense," says Bobby Hollis, the company's head of global energy. "We really integrate this into our entire business planning process to make sure that we go into places where renewables make sense." In 2017, the company's carbon footprint was 979,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent -- roughly as much as the emissions from more than 100,000 homes, according to an EPA calculator. The company's data centers, which were supporting the data of 2.1 billion people a month by the end of 2017, account for nearly two-thirds of that footprint (other business activities, including construction and employee commutes and travel, account for 38%).

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California Moves To Require 100% Clean Electricity by 2045
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
California's assembly has voted to move the state's electricity completely off fossil fuels. The state assembly this week passed S.B. 100, a proposal to transition California to 100 percent emissions-free electricity sources by 2045. A report adds: The Assembly voted 43-32 in favor of the legislation Tuesday. It would eliminate the reliance on fossil fuels to power homes, businesses and factories in the world's fifth-largest economy, accelerating a shift already under way. The state currently gets about 44 percent of its power from renewables and hydropower. California has positioned itself to lead the battle against climate change by cutting emissions even as the Trump administration has worked to roll back the state's stringent auto pollution standards and prop up ailing coal-fired power plants. Earlier this year, California became the first U.S. state to mandate solar rooftop panels on almost all new homes. It would be the second state to require 100 percent carbon-free power after Hawaii.

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Microsoft Obliquely Acknowledges Windows 0-day Bug Published on Twitter
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 12:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department:
A privilege escalation flaw in Windows 10 was disclosed earlier this week on Twitter. From a report: The flaw allows anyone with the ability to run code on a system to elevate their privileges to "SYSTEM" level, the level used by most parts of the operating system and the nearest thing that Windows has to an all-powerful superuser. This kind of privilege escalation flaw enables attackers to break out of sandboxes and unprivileged user accounts so they can more thoroughly compromise the operating system. Microsoft has not exactly acknowledged the flaw exists; instead it offered a vague and generic statement: "Windows has a customer commitment to investigate reported security issues, and proactively update impacted devices as soon as possible. Our standard policy is to provide solutions via our current Update Tuesday schedule." So, if the flaw is acknowledged (and it's certainly real!) then the company will most likely fix it in a regular update released on the second Tuesday of each month.

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How Many Days Americans Waste Commuting In The Course Of A Lifetime, Mapped By City
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 10:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tussle-continues department:
An anonymous reader writes: Have you ever stopped to think that over the course of your lifetime, you will likely spend hundreds of days commuting back and forth from home and work? If not, we've got a great map that's sure to make you question what you're doing with your life. The good folks over at Educated Driver used Census Bureau data on average daily roundtrip commute times in hundreds of cities nationwide to calculate how much time Americans spend traveling to and from work over the course of their lives. (They assumed a 45-year career working 250 days a year.) The results, mapped by city, are pretty horrifying.

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FCC Can Define Markets With Only One ISP as 'Competitive', Court Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '18 at 10:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
An appeals court has upheld a Federal Communications Commission ruling that broadband markets can be competitive even when there is only one Internet provider. From a report: The FCC "rationally chose which evidence to believe among conflicting evidence," the court ruling said. The FCC voted last year to eliminate price caps imposed on some business broadband providers such as AT&T and Verizon. The FCC decision eliminated caps in any given county if 50 percent of potential customers "are within a half mile of a location served by a competitive provider." This is known as the "competitive market test." Because of this, broadband-using businesses might not benefit from price controls even if they have just one choice of ISP.

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