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Pedestrians, E-Scooters Are Clashing In the Struggle For Sidewalk Space
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 11:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's pending-litigation department:
Slashdot reader mileshigh writes: Activists in California have filed a federal lawsuit alleging that parked scooters littering sidewalks interfere with sidewalk accessibility for people with multiple types of disabilities and violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Many people have been wondering when this would happen since California courts are notoriously friendly to ADA complaints and lawsuits. Realistically, this type of lawsuit may well be the Achilles' heel of scooter-sharing services, especially if they're granted class-action status as this lawsuit is requesting. Will likely be the first of many. "Without full use of the sidewalk and curb ramps at street intersections, persons with mobility and/or visual impairments have significant barriers in crossing from a pedestrian walkway to a street," the suit alleges. "This is exacerbated when the sidewalk itself is full of obstructions and no longer able to be fully and freely used by people with disabilities."

The suit accuses the city of not maintaining streets and sidewalks in a way that doesn't discriminate against the disabled and allowing "dockless scooters used primarily for recreational purposes to proliferate unchecked throughout San Diego and to block safe and equal access for people with disabilities." The lawsuit also alleges the scooter companies have been allowed to "appropriate the public commons for their own profit."

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Elon Musk Offered Chinese Green Card
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 09:51 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's permanent-residency department:
hackingbear writes: During Elon Musk's trip to China for the ground-breaking of Tesla's first overseas factory, which will allow it to sell vehicles directly in the world's largest market for electric vehicles, he was offered a Chinese green card when he met with Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday in Beijing, where they discussed Tesla's China ambitions. "I love China and want to come here more often," Musk was quoted as saying in the report. "If you do, we can issue you a Chinese green card," the premier replied. Getting a Chinese "green card" has been described as "one of the most difficult tasks in the world." By 2017, only about 10,000 foreigners had been granted permanent residency since the program was introduced in 2004, out of an estimated 1 million foreigners living in China; recipients include Dutch scientist Bernard Feringa, who won the 2016 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

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GPU Accelerated Realtime Skin Smoothing Algorithms Make Actors Look Perfect
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's too-good-to-be-true department:
dryriver writes: A recent Guardian article about the need for actors and celebrities -- male and female -- to look their best in a high-definition media world ended on the note that several low-profile Los Angeles VFX outfits specialize in "beautifying actors" in movies, TV shows and video ads. They reportedly use a software named "Beauty Box," resulting in films and other motion content that are -- for lack of a better term -- "motion Photoshopped." After some investigating, it turns out that "Beauty Box" is a sophisticated CUDA and OpenGL accelerated skin-smoothing plugin for many popular video production software that not only smooths even terribly rough or wrinkly looking skin effectively, but also suppresses skin spots, blemishes, scars, acne or freckles in realtime, or near realtime, using the video processing capabilities of modern GPUs.

The product's short demo reel is here with a few examples. Everybody knows about photoshopped celebrities in an Instagram world, and in the print magazine world that came long before it, but far fewer people seem to realize that the near-perfect actor, celebrity, or model skin you see in high-budget productions is often the result of "digital makeup" -- if you were to stand next to the person being filmed in real life, you'd see far more ordinary or aged skin from the near-perfection that is visible on the big screen or little screen. The fact that the algorithms are realtime capable also means that they may already be being used for live television broadcasts without anyone noticing, particularly in HD and 4K resolution broadcasts. The question, as was the case with photoshopped magazine fashion models 25 years ago, is whether the technology creates an unrealistic expectation of having to have "perfectly smooth looking" skin to look attractive, particularly in people who are past their teenage years.

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Huawei Fires Employee Arrested In Poland Over Alleged Spying
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 08:31 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's bad-reputation department:
Chinese tech giant Huawei has fired Weijing Wang, an employee recently arrested in Poland over spying allegations despite security officials saying the espionage wasn't directly tied to the company. The staffer brought the company into "disrepute," according to a statement. Police also arrested a Polish citizen in connection to the case. Engadget reports: The incident comes at a particularly bad time for Huawei. On top of general distrust sparked by Western governments and intelligence agencies, CFO Wangzhou Meng is facing extradition to the U.S. over accusations she helped avoid sanctions. People are already suspicious, and the arrest doesn't do the company any favors.

Moreover, there are already potential consequences. Polish internal affairs minister Joachim Brudzinski has asked the European Union and NATO to coordinate any potential bans on Huawei gear. While Poland is still willing to work with China, the official wanted countries to clarify their stances. There's already been talk of reviewing Huawei's involvement in Poland's 5G network, and this might exacerbate the situation.

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The US Government Has Amassed Terabytes of Internal WikiLeaks Data
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 07:11 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's trying-to-make-its-case department:
An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a Gizmodo report, written by national security reporter and transparency activist Emma Best: Late last year, the U.S. government accidentally revealed that a sealed complaint had been filed against Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Shortly before this was made public, the FBI reconfirmed its investigation of WikiLeaks was ongoing, and the Wall Street Journal reported that the Department of Justice was optimistic that it would be able to extradite Assange. Soon after, portions of sealed transcripts leaked that implicate WikiLeaks and Assange in directing hackers to target governments and corporations. The charges against Assange have not been officially revealed, though it's plausible that the offenses are related to Russian hacking and the DNC emails. The alleged offenses in the complaint notwithstanding, the government has an abundance of data to work with: over a dozen WikiLeaks' computers, hard drives, and email accounts, including those of the organization's current and former editors-in-chief, along with messages exchanged with alleged Russian hackers about DNC emails. Through a series of search warrants, subpoenas, equipment seizures, and cooperating witnesses, the federal government has collected internal WikiLeaks data covering the majority of the organization's period of operations, from 2009 at least through 2017.

< article continued at Slashdot's trying-to-make-its-case department >

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Is Elon Musk Serious About Building A Flying Tesla?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 04:30 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-needing-roads department:
An anonymous reader quotes Inc:
It's inevitable, really. Musk's two largest companies, Tesla Motors and SpaceX, make electric cars and rockets.... Musk tweeted about a "SpaceX option package" for the next Tesla Roadster in June of last year. The upgrade was described as including about "10 small rocket thrusters arranged seamlessly around car. These rocket engines dramatically improve acceleration, top speed, braking & cornering. Maybe they will even allow a Tesla to fly..."
Musk then hinted even more strongly at the possibility of a flying Tesla this week when he retweeted a GIF of a flying DeLorean from "Back to the Future," saying: "The new Roadster will actually do something like this." He then went on to describe how small SpaceX air thrusters will be used to essentially turn a Tesla Roadster into a hovercraft or perhaps... something with an even higher vertical range.

Two years ago Musk insisted flying cars
were noisy and annoyed the people on the ground -- although you could argue this shows he'd been thinking about the mechanics of flying cars, and when it's an appropriate time to use rocket thrusters.
Inc's headline? "Elon Musk Has Plans For a Tesla / SpaceX Flying Car (And He's Serious. Probably."

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Earth's Magnetic Field Is Acting Up and Geologists Don't Know Why
Posted by News Fetcher on January 13 '19 at 01:50 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bi-polar-disorder department:
schwit1 quotes Nature:
Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth's north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet's core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world's geomagnetism experts into a rare move. [T]hey are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet's magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones. The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 -- but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now.

"The error is increasing all the time," says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Centers for Environmental Information.... By early 2018, the World Magnetic Model was in trouble. Researchers from NOAA and the British Geological Survey in Edinburgh had been doing their annual check of how well the model was capturing all the variations in Earth's magnetic field. They realized that it was so inaccurate that it was about to exceed the acceptable limit for navigational errors.
Nature's article was updated on January 9th to inform readers that the release of the corrected World Magnetic Model, which should restore accuracy through the end of 2019, has now been postponed from January 15th to January 30th -- "due to the ongoing US government shutdown."

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Ask Slashdot: Is Today's Technology As Cool As You'd Predicted When You Were Young?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 09:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's back-to-the-future department:
"How does the actual, purchaseable consumer technology available in 2019 compare to what you -- back in the 1960s, '70s, '80s or '90s -- thought consumer technology might look like around the year 2020?" asks Slashdot reader dryriver.

Is today's consumer technology as advanced, inventive, groundbreaking and empowering as you imagined it would be 30, 40, 50 years ago? Or is the "technological future that has now actually arrived" different, in various ways, from how you'd hoped/imagined it might be a few decades back?

If so, what was different in your "future technologies imagination" than what is available to buy today?

Each generation received different dreams from the pop culture of their time. Back in 1969 an 18-year-old Kurt Russell starred in a Disney movie with a malfunctioning mainframe. By 1984 one TV series showed David Hasselhoff with his own talking self-driving car. But how close did your own personal predictions come, asks the original submission.
"Do today's technological gadgets manage to live up to how you imagined tech around the year 2020 would be, or do they fall short of what you hoped/imagined might exist by today?

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Old People Can Produce As Many New Brain Cells As Teenagers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 07:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's senior-momentum department:
Long-time Slashdot reader Futurepower(R) shares this article about a newly-published study which counters previous theories that neurons stop developing after adolescence:
Healthy men and women continue to produce new neurons throughout life, suggesting older people remain more cognitively and emotionally intact than previously believed, researchers found. For decades it was thought that adult brains were hard-wired and unable to form new cells. But a Columbia University study found older people continued to produce neurons in the hippocampus -- a part of the brain important for memory, emotion and cognition -- at a similar rate to young people....
However, the researchers also noted fewer blood vessels and connections between cells in the older brains, which Ms Boldrini said "may be linked to compromised cognitive-emotional resilience" in the elderly.
The article suggests these newest findings may be hotly debated.
"They come just a month after a University of California study suggested adults do not develop new neurons."

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Should America Build a Virtual Border Wall? Or Just Crowdfund It...
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 05:50 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's making-security-virtual-again department:
As America's government faces its longest-ever shutdown over the president's demands for border wall funding, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested "possible alternatives to a physical wall," according to one Silicon Valley newspaper:
Among the president's justifications for a wall is to stop drugs from coming into the United States, so Pelosi proposed spending "hundreds of millions of dollars" for technology to scan cars for drugs, weapons and contraband at the border. "The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing," Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said during her weekly press conference.
That didn't go over well with Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group that on Friday started a petition asking Democrats to drop plans for a "technological wall" that it says could threaten Fourth Amendment rights that guard against unreasonable searches and seizures. "Current border surveillance programs subject people to invasive and unconstitutional searches of their cell phones and laptops, location tracking, drone surveillance, and problematic watchlists," the group's petition says...
In December, the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General released a report that showed searches of electronic devices at the border were up nearly 50 percent in 2017. The report also found that border agents were not always following standard operating procedures for searches, including failing to properly document such searches. In addition, information copied by agents were not always deleted as required.
The article also notes that Anduril Industries -- founded by Oculus Rift designer Palmer Luckey (and funded by Peter Thiel) -- is one of several companies already working on "a virtual border wall."
< article continued at Slashdot's making-security-virtual-again department >

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California Lawmaker Wants to Ban Paper Receipts, Require Digital Ones
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 04:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's silicon-values department:
A California assemblyman has introduced a law barring retailers from printing paper receipts unless a customer requests one. Otherwise they'd be required to provide proof-or-purchase receipts "only in electronic form."
:
An anonymous reader quotes CNBC:
Stores that give out printed receipts without first being asked by the customer could be subject to fines [of $25 per day, up to $300 per year].... Proponents of the bill say the legislation would help reduce waste as well as contaminants in the recycling stream from toxins often used to coat the paper-based receipts... Up to 10 million trees and 21 billion gallons of water are used annually in the U.S. to create receipts, according to Green America, a green ecology organization. It said receipts annually generate 686 million pounds of waste and 12 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, or the equivalent of 1 million cars on the road...
Then again, the use of electronic receipts raises some privacy concerns since retailers usually require an email address for an electronic receipt and companies will then be able to potentially track and collect more data about customers.
If the bill passes, digital receipts would become California's default option on January 1, 2022.

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Did a Russian Robotics Company Fake This Tesla-Robot Crash?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 03:01 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bad-robots department:
Last Saturday a firm which rents promotional robots claimed that one of their robots broke free from a line of robots, only to be hit by a self-driving Tesla.
Though video of the incident has now been viewed over 1.2 million times, Wired followed up on the company's claim that "Nevada police" were investigating the incident.
Or weren't. Aden Ocampo Gomez, a public information officer with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, said he couldn't find any record of such an incident. And anyway, he says, "We don't report to that kind of incident on private property."
Wired also challenged Promobot's claim that their robot was hit by "a self-driving Tesla car":
Teslas don't have a "full self-driving" mode. Autopilot, the automaker's semiautonomous system, is made for highways, not the sort of private road shown in a video of the alleged crash published by the robotics company. Promobot seems to start falling over just a moment before the car gets to it. And that video appears to show a rope snaking away from the incident -- the sort that could be used, say, to pull down a robot that hadn't been hit by a car at all.
When Wired contacted the company for a comment, they didn't respond.

The company's press release also claims that after the collision "most likely there is no way to restore" their robot -- and yet the Daily Dot reports Promobot "does not intend to pursue reparations".

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You Can Now Profile Python Using Arm Forge
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's compilation-optimization department:
Python "is often described as being slow when it comes to performance... But is that truly the case?" writes Patrick Wohlschlegel, Arm's senior product manager for infrastructure and high-performance computing tools.
Slashdot reader igor.sfiligoi writes:
Effectively profiling Python has always been a pain. Arm recently announced that their Arm Forge is now able to profile both Python and compiled code.
It's available for any hardware architecture, Wohlschlegel writes, adding that developers "typically assume that most of the execution time is spent in compiled, optimized C/C++ or Fortran libraries (e.g. NumPy) which are called from Python..."
"How confident are you that your application is not wasting your precious computing resources for the wrong reasons?"

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How Etsy Sellers and Big Business Make Money on Public Domain Art
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 01:41 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's oldies-but-goodies department:
"Some people have figured out how to turn reselling public domain content into side hustles," reports Motherboard:
On Etsy, there are thousands of listings for downloadable prints and lithographs that are in the public domain. The concept is pretty simple: these merchants round up and download the most visually beautiful art in the public domain, and then sell prints on Etsy. But some of them don't even go that far and just sell digital files of the art. Then, the buyers can print out the prints at whichever size they want and use them as they please...
With that being said, there's also big companies like Walmart that are also trying to earn money off art in the public domain... Similarly, the Museum of Modern Art is selling "Red Canna" by Georgia O'Keeffe, which is now in the public domain, for $166.50 (on sale from $185). For the love of god, don't pay $166.50 for something you could download for free and print yourself for less than $16.
Of course, none of this is bad necessarily. The public domain exists in part so that people can give formerly copyrighted works new life -- sometimes an iconic painting simply needs to become a bedspread. But now that many new works are available for free, it's worth having a quick look around if you're thinking of buying vintage art. You might be able to get it for free elsewhere.

To be fair, the Museum of Modern Art is a non-profit -- and reportedly avoids all government funding.

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Legendary Mathematician Sir Michael Atiyah Dies at Age 89
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 12:21 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's terminal-points department:
"One of the world's foremost mathematicians, Prof Sir Michael Atiyah, has died at the age of 89," reports the BBC.

"He has been described to me by more than one professor of mathematics as the best mathematician in this country since Sir Isaac Newton," his brother tells the BBC. Slashdot reader OneHundredAndTen shared their report:

Sir Michael was best known for his co-development of a branch of mathematics called topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem. His research also involved deep insights relating to mathematical concepts known as "vector bundles". His work in these areas has helped theoretical physicists to advance their understanding of quantum field theory and general relativity.

In September, Atiyah also claimed to have proved the 160-year-old Riemann hypothesis.

"If the hypothesis is proven to be correct," New Scientist reported, "mathematicians would be armed with a map to the location of all such prime numbers, a breakthrough with far-reaching repercussions in the field."

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German Police Ask Router Owners For Help In Identifying a Bomber's MAC Address
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 11:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's got-your-number department:
An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: German authorities have asked the public for help in surfacing more details and potentially identifying the owner of a MAC address known to have been used by a bomber in late 2017... The MAC address is f8:e0:79:af:57:eb. Brandenburg police say it belongs to a suspect who tried to blackmail German courier service DHL between November 2017 and April 2018. The suspect demanded large sums of money from DHL and threatened to detonate bombs across Germany, at DHL courier stations, private companies, and in public spaces. [The bomb threats were real, but one caught fire instead of exploding, while the second failed to explode, albeit containing real explosives.]

Investigators called in to negotiate with the bomber managed to exchange emails with the attacker on three occasions, on April 6, 2018, April 13, 2018, and April 14, 2018. One of the details obtained during these conversations was the bomber's MAC address, which based on the hardware industry's MAC address allocation tables, should theoretically belong to a Motorola phone... Now, they're asking router owners to check router access logs for this address, and report any sightings to authorities. Investigators want to know to what routers/networks the bomber has connected before and after the attacks, in order to track his movements and maybe gain an insight into his identity.

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Do Social Media Bots Have a Right To Free Speech?
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 09:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tweet-land-of-liberty department:
One study found that 66% of tweets with links were posted by "suspected bots" -- with an even higher percentage for certain kinds of content. Now a new California law will require bots to disclose that they are bots.

But does that violate the bots' freedom of speech, asks Laurent Sacharoff, a law professor at the University of Arkansas.

"Even though bots are abstract entities, we might think of them as having free speech rights to the extent that they are promoting or promulgating useful information for the rest of us," Sacharoff says. "That's one theory of why a bot would have a First Amendment free speech right, almost independent of its creators." Alternatively, the bots could just be viewed as direct extensions of their human creators. In either case -- whether because of an independent right to free speech or because of a human creator's right -- Sacharoff says, "you can get to one or another nature of bots having some kind of free speech right."
In previous Bulletin coverage, the author of the new California law dismisses the idea that the law violates free speech rights. State Sen. Robert Hertzberg says anonymous marketing and electioneering bots are committing fraud. "My point is, you can say whatever the heck you want," Hertzberg says. "I don't want to control one bit of the content of what's being said. Zero, zero, zero, zero, zero, zero. All I want is for the person who has to hear the content to know it comes from a computer. To me, that's a fraud element versus a free speech element."
< article continued at Slashdot's tweet-land-of-liberty department >

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Car Manufacturers Want To Monitor Drivers Inside Their Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 09:41 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's see-you-on-the-road department:
Startups are demonstrating "sensor technology that watches and analyzes drivers, passengers and objects in cars" reports Reuters -- a technology that "will mean enhanced safety in the short-term, and revenue opportunities in the future."

SonicSpike shares their report:
Whether by generating alerts about drowsiness, unfastened seat belts or wallets left in the backseat, the emerging technology aims not only to cut back on distracted driving and other undesirable behavior, but eventually help automakers and ride-hailing companies make money from data generated inside the vehicle... Data from the cameras is analyzed with image recognition software to determine whether a driver is looking at his cellphone or the dashboard, turned away, or getting sleepy, to cite a few examples... European car safety rating program Euro NCAP has proposed that cars with driver monitoring for 2020 should earn higher ratings...
But automakers are more excited by the revenue possibilities when vehicle-generated data creates a more customized experience for riders, generating higher premiums, and lucrative tie-ins with third parties, such as retailers. "The reason (the camera) is going to sweep across the cabin is not because of distraction ... but because of all the side benefits," said Mike Ramsey, Gartner's automotive research director. "I promise you that companies that are trying to monetize data from the connected car are investigating ways to use eye-tracking technology...." Carmakers could gather anonymized data and sell it. A billboard advertiser might be eager to know how many commuters look at his sign, Ramsey said. Tracking the gaze of a passenger toward a store or restaurant could, fused with mapping and other software, result in a discount offered to that person.

< article continued at Slashdot's see-you-on-the-road department >

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SpaceX to Lay Off 10% of Its Workers
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 08:20 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's zero-hour department:
An anonymous reader quotes CNN:
SpaceX is laying off 10% of its 6,000-person workforce as it tackles two hugely expensive projects. Elon Musk's rocket company said its finances are healthy, but that it needs to make cuts so its most ambitious plans can succeed. "To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based Internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company," the company said in a statement....
The company earns tens of millions of dollars per launch. SpaceX was recently valued at $30.5 billion after initiating a $500 million equity sale in December. The company also took on about $250 million in debt last year in its first loan sale, according to the Wall Street Journal. But SpaceX's new products are expected to cost billions to develop. In September, Musk estimated SpaceX would spend between $2 billion and $10 billion developing an ultra-powerful spaceship and rocket system, recently renamed Starship and Super Heavy.
SpaceX plans to use the technology to fly tourists to space and, potentially, one day send humans to Mars... SpaceX is also developing a constellation of satellites that could one day beam high-speed internet down to the Earth. SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said during a TED Talk last year that she expects the satellite constellation to cost about $10 billion to deploy. The company has already made headway on both projects.

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Marriott Faces Multiple Class-Action Lawsuits Over Hotel Reservation Data Breach
Posted by News Fetcher on January 12 '19 at 05:40 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's time-to-pay-the-price department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Vox: More than 150 people who previously stayed in Marriott properties are suing the hotel chain in a federal class-action lawsuit, claiming that Marriott didn't do enough to protect them from a data breach that exposed more than 300 million guests' personal information, including names, credit card information, and passport numbers. The suit, which was filed Maryland federal district court on January 9, claims that Marriott did not adequately protect guest information before the breach and, once the breach had been discovered, "failed to provide timely, accurate, and adequate notice" to guests whose information may have been obtained by hackers.

According to the suit, Marriott's purchase of the Starwood properties [in 2016] is part of the problem. "This breach had been going on since 2014. In conducting due diligence to acquire Starwood, Marriott should have gone through and done an accounting of the cybersecurity of Starwood," Amy Keller, an attorney at DiCello Levitt & Casey who is representing the Marriott guests, told Vox. "In so doing, it should have caught -- at the very least -- that there was some suspicious activity concerning the database where a lot of consumer information was contained." Instead, Keller said, the breach continued for an additional two years after the acquisition, until Marriott caught it in September 2018. And even then, the suit claims, the company waited until November to tell guests about the breach.

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