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Bloomberg To Put $500 Million Into Closing All Remaining Coal Plants By 2030
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 07:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's taking-matters-into-your-own-hands department:
In what marks the largest ever philanthropic effort to combat climate change, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pledging $500 million to close all of the nation's remaining coal plants by 2030 and put the United States on track toward a 100% clean energy economy. The New York Times reports: The new campaign, called Beyond Carbon, is designed to help eliminate coal by focusing on state and local governments. The effort will bypass Washington, where Mr. Bloomberg has said national action appears unlikely because of a divided Congress and a president who denies the established science of climate change. "We're in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years," Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement before the announcement, which he made in a commencement address at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Mother Nature is not waiting on our political calendar, and neither can we."

A spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said most of the money would be spent over the next three years, though the time frame could be extended. It will fund lobbying efforts by environmental groups -- in state legislatures, City Councils and public utility commissions -- that aim to close coal plants and replace them with wind, solar and other renewable power. Part of the cash also will go toward efforts to elect local lawmakers who prioritize clean energy. The campaign will be based on the need to avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change, but will also emphasize the economic benefits of switching to clean energy.

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Malware Spotted Injecting Bing Results Into Google Searches
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unspeakable-filthy-things department:
A new strain of malware intercepts and tampers with internet traffic on infected Apple Macs to inject Bing results into users' Google search results. The Register reports: A report out this month by security house AiroAV details how its bods apparently spotted a software nasty that configures compromised macOS computers to route the user's network connections through a local proxy server that modifies Google search results. In this latest case, it is claimed, the malware masquerades as an installer for an Adobe Flash plugin -- delivered perhaps by email or a drive-by download -- that the user is tricked into running. This bogus installer asks the victim for their macOS account username and password, which it can use to gain sufficient privileges to install a local web proxy and configure the system so that all web browser requests go through it. That proxy can meddle with unencrypted data as it flows in and out to and from the public internet.

A root security certificate is also added to the Mac's keychain, giving the proxy the ability to generate SSL/TLS certs on the fly for websites requested. This allows it to potentially intercept and tamper with encrypted HTTPS traffic. This man-in-the-middle eavesdropping works against HTTP websites, and any HTTPS sites that do not employ MITM countermeasures. When the user opens their browser and attempts to run a Google search on an infected Mac, the request is routed to the local proxy, which injects into the Google results page an HTML iframe containing fetched Bing results for the same query, weirdly enough. As for why, "it's believed the Bing results bring in web ads that generate revenue for the malware's masterminds," the report says.

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Maine Governor Signs Bill Banning ISPs From Selling Consumer Data Without Consent
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 06:11 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
Maine Governor Janet Mills has signed a law banning internet service providers from using, selling, or distributing consumer data without their content. The Hill reports: The Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Consumer Information would prohibit any ISPs in Maine from refusing to serve a customer, penalizing them or offering a discount in order to pressure consumers into allowing the ISP to sell their data. The law will take effect on July 1. Mills described the new law as "common sense," adding that "Maine people value their privacy, online and off." "The internet is a powerful tool, and as it becomes increasingly intertwined with our lives, it is appropriate to take steps to protect the personal information and privacy of Maine people," Mills said in a statement. "With this common-sense law, Maine people can access the internet with the knowledge and comfort that their personal information cannot be bought or sold by their ISPs without their express approval."

Some privacy activists say the Maine law is even stronger than the law California passed last year because it mandates that ISPs require explicit consent from customers to sell their personal data, while the California law requires consumers to request that their data not be sold by their own volition.

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Comcast Broke Law 445,000 Times In Scheme To Inflate Bills, Judge Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's not-really-surprising department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast yesterday was ordered to refund nearly 50,000 customers and pay a $9.1 million fine when a judge ruled that it violated Washington state consumer protection law hundreds of thousands of times. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Comcast in August 2016, accusing the nation's largest cable company of tricking customers into buying a "near-worthless 'protection plan' without disclosing its significant limitations." Buying the $5-per-month plan ostensibly prevented customers from having to pay each time a Comcast technician visited their home to fix problems covered by the plan. But in reality, the plan did not cover the vast majority of wiring problems, the AG's lawsuit said. Moreover, Washington state attorneys said that Comcast led customers to believe that they needed to buy a Service Protection Plan (SPP) to get services that were actually covered for free by the company's "Customer Guarantee."

In yesterday's ruling, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw found that "Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act more than 445,000 times when it charged tens of thousands of Washingtonians for its Service Protection Plan without their consent," Ferguson's announcement said. Each wrongful monthly charge was a separate violation, so there were multiple violations per customer. Washington state attorneys sought more than $171 million, asking the judge to order Comcast to pay $88 million in restitution to customers and $83 million in fines. The $9.1 million fine Comcast was ordered to pay is a fraction of the amount sought by Washington. But Comcast's refunds to customers are separate from the fine, and it's not clear exactly how much they'll amount to.

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Russia Says It Will Soon Begin Blocking Major VPNs
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 04:51 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cease-and-desist department:
Russian telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor will start blocking major VPNs including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, IPVanish and HideMyAss, following through with its threat back in March. At the time, ten major VPN providers were ordered to begin blocking sites present in the country's national blacklist -- but almost all of them didn't comply. TorrentFreak reports: When questioned on the timeline for blocking, Roscomnadzor chief Alexander Zharov said that the matter could be closed within a month. If that happens, the non-compliant providers will themselves be placed on the country's blacklist (known locally as FGIS), meaning that local ISPs will have to prevent their users from accessing them. It is not yet clear whether that means their web presences, their VPN servers, or both. In the case of the latter, it's currently unclear whether there will be a battle or not. TorGuard has already pulled its servers out of Russia and ExpressVPN currently lists no servers in the country. The same is true for OpenVPN although VyprVPN still lists servers in Moscow, as does HideMyAss. Even if Roscomnadzor is successful in blocking any or all of the non-compliant services, there are still dozens more to choose from, a fact acknowledged by Zharov.

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Google Must Face Lawsuit Alleging Hiring Bias Against Conservatives, Judge Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pick-and-choose department:
Google will have to face a California lawsuit accusing the company of bias against conservative job candidates as part of a legal challenge first brought against the company by James Damore, author of the infamous 2017 "Google memo." The Verge reports: Damore exited the lawsuit last year and entered arbitration with the company. But the suit, which argues Google's hiring practices are biased against white and Asian people, conservatives, and men, will move ahead after surviving a dismissal motion from the company. In a statement, the law firm representing the plaintiffs said the suit will now move into the discovery phase. The plaintiffs in the case are seeking class certification to represent others they believe have been discriminated against, a decision the court will make at a later date. In legal filings, Google has disputed that conservatives are an identifiable class under the law. In a decision, the judge on the case said the court "indeed has doubts" about the viability of the idea, but it is, for the time being, letting the case move ahead. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

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For Two Hours, European Mobile Traffic Was Rerouted Through China
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 03:31 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's it's-only-news-because-it's-China department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: For more than two hours on Thursday, June 6, a large chunk of European mobile traffic was rerouted through the infrastructure of China Telecom, China's third-largest telco and internet service provider (ISP). The incident occurred because of a BGP route leak at Swiss data center colocation company Safe Host, which accidentally leaked over 70,000 routes from its internal routing table to the Chinese ISP. But instead of ignoring the BGP leak, like most ISPs, China Telecom re-announced Safe Host's routes as its own, and by doing so, interposed itself as one of the shortest ways to reach Safe Host's network and other nearby European telcos and ISPs. "But if any other ISP would have caused this incident, it would have likely been ignored," the reader adds. "Alas, it was China Telecom, and there's a backstory, as this is the same Chinese ISP that was accused last year in an academic paper of 'hijacking the vital internet backbone of western countries' for intelligence gathering purposes."

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Sony Scraps Japanese-style Egalitarian Salaries in Battle For AI Expertise
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 02:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's greenback-boogie department:
Sony will increase salaries by up to 20% for new recruits with high-tech skills in fields such as artificial intelligence, moving away from the traditional Japanese emphasis on seniority to better compete in a battle for talent that crosses industries and international borders. From a report: Traditionally, new graduates hired by Sony all receive the same entry-level salary, then are assigned a pay grade after more than a year based on their role. Starting this year, grades can be set for standout hires in as little as three months, resulting in annual salaries as much as 20% higher than colleagues'. Japanese companies have a deep-rooted tendency to pay new employees equally regardless of individual qualifications. But global competition for top talent -- particularly in the tech industry, where big American players like Google and Apple dominate -- has made it increasingly important to offer new graduates compensation in line with their abilities from the time they enter the company.

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Piracy is Ethically Acceptable For Many Harvard Lawyers, Research Finds
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 02:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Most people know all too well that it's against the law to share a pirated copy of a movie or TV-show. Law and ethics are not always in sync. Not even among those who are schooled as lawyers. From a report: This is the conclusion of an intriguing new study conducted among Harvard lawyers by Prof. Dariusz Jemielniak and Dr. Jerome Hergueux. The research, published in The Information Society journal, found that many lawyers believe that casual piracy is ethically acceptable. The researchers polled the perceptions of more than 100 international Masters of Law (LL.M.) students at Harvard, who all have a law degree. They were asked to evaluate how acceptable various piracy scenarios are, on a five-point scale going from very unacceptable to very acceptable.

The piracy scenarios ranged from downloading a TV-show or movie which isn't legally available, through pirating music to simply save money, to downloading content for educational or even commercial purposes. In total, 19 different alternatives were presented. While the researchers expected that lawyers would have conservative ethical positions when it comes to piracy, the opposite was true. The average of all answers was 3.23, which means that it leans toward the "acceptable" point of the scale. "We find that digital file sharing ranks relatively high in terms of ethical acceptability among our population of lawyers -- with the only notable exception being infringing copyright with a commercial purpose," the researchers conclude.

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Congress To Investigate Deepfakes
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
The House Intelligence Committee will next week examine the risks posed by deepfakes, artificial intelligence technology that can create realistic-looking fake videos, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said this week. From a report: Schiff, a California Democrat, said he feared that Russia could engage in a "severe escalation" of its disinformation campaign targeting the United States ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. "And the most severe escalation might be the introduction of a deep fake -- a video of one of the candidates saying something they never said," Schiff said.

Schiff made the comments during an interview with CNN's Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday. He said that while the doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral on social media two weeks ago was not a deepfake, it was an example of how manipulated media could be used.
"That was what's called a cheap fake; very easy to make, very simple to make, real content just doctored," Schiff sad. "But if you look back at how impactful the Mitt Romney videotape about the 47% was, you could imagine how a videotape that is more incendiary could be election-altering."

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FedEx Reduces Amazon Ties as Retailer Flexes Delivery Muscles
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 12:51 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
FedEx said it wouldn't renew its U.S. air-delivery contract with Amazon.com, paring a key customer relationship as the largest online retailer deepens its foray into freight transportation. From a report: The delivery giant will instead focus on "serving the broader e-commerce market" with U.S. package volume from online shopping expected to double by 2026, according to a FedEx statement Friday. The Amazon contract expires at the end of this month, and doesn't cover international services or domestic operations at other units such as FedEx's ground deliveries. FedEx's surprise move signals that the No. 2 U.S. courier will bank on smaller e-commerce customers that lack Amazon's bargaining power for big volume discounts. Amazon's emergence as a logistics giant is piling pressure on FedEx and United Parcel Service for cheaper and speedier deliveries, as the e-commerce powerhouse builds its own aircraft fleet and delivery capabilities. FedEx said Amazon represented 1.3% of sales last year.

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Want Someone's Personal Data? Give Them a Free Donut
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department:
Technology services provider Probrand has carried out a study at a cyber expo attended by UK security professionals, where attendees voluntarily shared sensitive data including their name, date of birth and favourite football team -- all to get their hands on a free donut. From a report: "We wanted to put this theory to the test and see just how willing people were to give up their data," says Mark Lomas, technical architect at Probrand. "We started by asking conversational questions such as 'How are you finding the day? Got any plans for after the event?' If someone happened to mention they were collecting their kids from school, we then asked what their names and ages were. One individual even showed a photograph of their children." As part of the task, Probrand also asked more direct questions such as, 'Which football team do you support?', 'What type of music are you into?' and 'What is your favourite band?' Whether asking questions transparently as part of a survey, or trying to adopt more hacker-type methods, they were alarmed to find how easy it was to obtain personal data -- which many people may be using as the basis of their passwords.

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Book Subtitles Are Getting Ridiculously Long. Blame it on SEO.
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 11:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
How many words can you fit in a subtitle? For a slew of modern books, the answer seems to be as many as possible. From a report: Just look at Julie Holland's "Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy," Erin McHugh's "Political Suicide: Missteps, Peccadilloes, Bad Calls, Backroom Hijinx, Sordid Pasts, Rotten Breaks, and Just Plain Dumb Mistakes in the Annals of American Politics" and Ryan Grim's "We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement." Blame a one-word culprit: search.

Todd Stocke, senior vice president and editorial director at Sourcebooks, said that subtitle length and content have a lot to do with finding readers through online searches. "It used to be that you could solve merchandising communication on the cover by adding a tagline, blurb or bulleted list," he said. But now, publishers "pack the keywords and search terms into the subtitle field because in theory that'll help the book surface more easily." He should know. Sourcebooks will publish Shafia Zaloom's "Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today's Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Sexual Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More" in September.

Amazon allows up to 199 characters for a book's title and subtitle combined, making the word combination possibilities, if not endless, vast. Anne Bogel, host of the podcast "What Should I Read Next?," is not generally a fan of the trend. "I don't feel respected as a reader when I feel like the subtitle was created not to give me a feeling of what kind of reading experience I may get, but for search engines," she said. When Bogel asked author friends how they came up with their subtitles, several told her they can't even remember which words they ended up using. That being said, sometimes titular long-windedness works.

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Smartphone Shipment Forecast Cut To 1.35 Billion For 2019 as Uncertainty Prevails
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's Uncertainty-Prevails department:
Research firm Canalys: Canalys released its updated global smartphone forecasts on 28 May 2019. The latest numbers show that smartphone shipments will reach 1.35 billion units in 2019, a year-on-year decline of 3.1%. Due to the many uncertainties surrounding the US/China trade talks, the US Executive Order signed on 15 May and subsequent developments, Canalys has lowered its forecasts to reflect an uncertain future. Canalys' base assumption is that restrictions will be imposed stringently on Huawei, once the 90-day reprieve expires, having a significant impact on its ability to roll-out new devices in the short term, especially outside of China. Canalys anticipates that Huawei is taking steps to mitigate the effect of component and service supply issues, but its overseas potential will be hampered for some time. The US and China may eventually reach a trade deal to alleviate the pressure on Huawei, but if and when this will happen is far from clear.

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Walmart Will Stock Your Fridge With Groceries While You're Not Home
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 10:11 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
A new service from Walmart will bring groceries straight from the store to your refrigerator. All that's needed is trust. From a report: As part of Walmart's new InHome Delivery service, the retailer's workers will deliver groceries right into a home or garage refrigerator, the company said Friday. Customers don't have to be home during deliveries. Walmart customers will be able to select the InHome option and a delivery date when ordering groceries online. An employee will then pick up the items at the store, deliver them to the house and place items that require cold storage in the refrigerator, Walmart said. To offer access to the home, customers will need to have a smart device that allows one-time entry. As for concerns over having strangers in the home, Walmart said employees will be equipped with a wearable camera that can be viewed live or accessed at a later time. Deliveries will be made by employees who've worked at the local store for at least a year.

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NASA To Open International Space Station To Tourists
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 08:51 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's wow department:
NASA is to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020, priced at $35,000 per night. From a report: The US space agency said it would open the orbiting station to tourism and other business ventures. There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS. NASA said that private astronauts would be permitted to travel to the ISS for up to 30 days, travelling on US spacecraft. "NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before," chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York. NASA said that private commercial entities would be responsible for determining crew composition and ensuring that the private astronauts meet the medical and training requirements for spaceflight. The two companies hired by NASA are Elon Musk's SpaceX, which will use its Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building a spacecraft called the Starliner.

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Facebook Suspends App Pre-installs on Huawei Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's further-crackdown department:
Facebook is no longer allowing pre-installation of its apps on Huawei phones, the latest blow for the Chinese tech giant as it struggles to keep its business afloat in the face of a U.S. ban on its purchase of American parts and software. From a report: Customers who already have Huawei phones will still be able to use its apps and receive updates, Facebook told Reuters. But new Huawei phones will no longer be able to have Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps pre-installed. Smartphone vendors often enter business deals to pre-install popular apps such as Facebook. Apps including Twitter and Booking.com also come pre-installed on Huawei phones in many markets. Twitter declined to comment and Booking did not respond to a request.

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Google Warns of US National Security Risks From Huawei Ban
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 07:31 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Google has warned the Trump administration it risks compromising US national security if it pushes ahead with sweeping export restrictions on Huawei [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], as the technology group seeks to continue doing business with the blacklisted Chinese company. Financial Times: Senior executives at Google are pushing US officials to exempt it from a ban on exports to Huawei without a licence approved by Washington, according to three people briefed on the conversations. The Trump administration announced the ban after the US-China trade talks collapsed, prompting protests from some of the biggest US technology companies who fear they could get hurt in the fallout.

Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei's smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software. Google argues a Huawei-modified version of Android would be more susceptible to being hacked, according to people briefed on its lobbying efforts. Huawei has said it would be able to develop its own operating system "very quickly."

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EverQuest's Long, Strange 20-Year Trip Still Has No End in Sight
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 06:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
The world has immensely changed since 1999, when a company in Southern California launched an online game called EverQuest that would go on to serve as the model for many more titles to come in the massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) space. And unlike many games that sought to replace it over the years, this one is still going strong.

ArsTechnica has a long-form piece on the old game, its journey and what it has evolved into now. An excerpt from the story: This sword-and-sorcery-based game was developed by a small company, 989 Studios, but it eventually reached its pinnacle under Sony Online Entertainment after SOE acquired that studio roughly a year after the game's launch. Today, EQ marches on with a dedicated player base and another developer, Daybreak Games, at the helm. I've been a dedicated player since the early days, and others like me would likely acknowledge the game peaked early. A variety of factors have whittled down the once-mighty player base since: many just simply walked away, either busy with life or quit because it took up too much time. The impact of World of Warcraft over time is also undeniable.

But while it's no longer a leading game in the MMO space by any stretch (WoW does hold that title), today's EQ retains a small but dedicated fanbase whose members complain as much as they praise it. And in an era where most games have a shelf life of four to six months, EQ has officially spanned four presidential administrations largely off that kind of support. [...] The game still has a trickle of new players, according to Longdale, but it's understandably hard to attract a whole new generation of young players to a DirectX 9 game with 15-year-old player models and a broken Z-axis (that's correct, you can't go straight up and down in EQ like in WoW) where solo play is darn near impossible.

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Model Aircraft Pilots Angry Over Drone Laws
Posted by News Fetcher on June 07 '19 at 06:10 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flying-emotions department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: People who fly model aircraft are angry that proposed drone rules could damage their much-loved hobby. They argue they should not be classed as drone pilots. The new laws are intended to make airspace safer amid increasing drone use. The British Model Flying Association (BMFA) met the Aviation Minister Baroness Vere this week to discuss its concerns. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is currently consulting on proposals for a drone registration scheme that is due to become law in November. It has received 6,000 responses from BMFA members. David Phipps, chief executive of BMFA, said the proposed rules, which would see all pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles required to register, pay for a license and take competency tests every three years are "disproportionate" for model-aircraft flyers.

"We have established an excellent safety record that surpasses commercial aviation over a century of flying. European laws grant special recognition to model flying, saying it should be treated differently but the UK has not done this." He acknowledged that while "some" would regard the proposed registration fee of 16.50 pounds as "not a lot of money", it still represented "a barrier to entry" especially for young people getting involved in the hobby. He added that plans for a safety test "which will be answering a few questions on the CAA's website" were far less rigorous than his organization's own safety tests. He worried that many of his members would simply ignore the new rules and "go under the radar." "It is becoming more and more obvious that we as aero modelers are being targeted because of the commercial value of the airspace that we occupy," said Cliff Evans, a model aircraft hobbyist who's unhappy with the new proposals. "I and all other modelers that I know find this offensive and unnecessary."

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