@Z - News
Was Cuba's Mysterious Sonic Weapon Just Mosquito Gas?
September 21 '19 at 03:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unintended-consequences department:
Remember concerns about possible "sonic attacks" in Cuba? Long-time Slashdot reader kbahey shares an update:

In the wake of the health problems experienced over the past three years by US and Canadian staff in Havana, Cuba embassies, Global Affairs Canada commissioned a clinical study by a team of multidisciplinary researchers. Now, the working hypothesis is that the cause could instead be neurotoxic agents used in pesticide fumigation.

The BBC has more coverage on this, saying it may have been merely mosquito gas.

"The researchers found that since 2016, Cuba launched an aggressive campaign against mosquitoes to stop the spread of the Zika virus," reports the CBC:

The embassies actively sprayed in offices, as well as inside and outside diplomatic residences -- sometimes five times more frequently than usual. Many times, spraying operations were carried out every two weeks, according to embassy records...

The researchers are now looking to collaborate with Cuban officials to determine whether any Cubans suffered similar brain injuries...
Ubisoft To Send Cease & Desist Requests To DDoS Services Attacking 'Rainbox Six Siege' Players
September 21 '19 at 03:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's gaming-the-system department:
An anonymous reader writes: Ubisoft plans to send cease & desist legal letters to operators of DDoS-for-hire services, also known as DDoS booters or DDoS stressors. The company said it plans on making this step as part of a global action plan to curb DDoS attacks aimed at Rainbox Six Siege multiplayer servers.

The French video game company has been under a wave of DDoS attacks ever since last week when it launched the Operation Ember Rise update for the Rainbow Six Siege game. Along with the update, Ubisoft also performed a reset of multiplayer rankings. Following the reset, multiple players are suspected to have started launching DDoS attacks at the company's servers.

The cheating players have been using the DDoS attacks to trigger server lag and slow down matches. The goal was to annoy opponents, who in many cases would end up disconnecting and receiving a penalty for leaving the match, allowing the player who launched the DDoS attack to gain rank points undeserved. The DDoS attacks have been widespread as several players got wind of the trick and started renting DDoS firepower from online DDoS for-hire sites.
Ex-Google Engineer Says That Robot Weapons May Cause Accidental Mass Killings
September 21 '19 at 03:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rise-of-the-machines department:
"A former Google engineer who worked on the company's infamous military drone project has sounded a warning against the building of killer robots," reports Business Insider.

Long-time Slashdot reader sandbagger quotes their report:

Laura Nolan had been working at Google four years when she was recruited to its collaboration with the US Department of Defense, known as Project Maven, in 2017, according to the Guardian. Project Maven was focused on using AI to enhance military drones, building AI systems which would be able to single out enemy targets and distinguish between people and objects. Google canned Project Maven after employee outrage, with thousands of employees signing a petition against the project and about a dozen quitting in protest. Google allowed the contract to lapse in March this year. Nolan herself resigned after she became "increasingly ethically concerned" about the project, she said...

Nolan fears that the next step beyond AI-enabled weapons like drones could be fully autonomous AI weapons. "What you are looking at are possible atrocities and unlawful killings even under laws of warfare, especially if hundreds or thousands of these machines are deployed," she said.... Although no country has yet come forward to say it's working on fully autonomous robot weapons, many are building more and more sophisticated AI to integrate into their militaries. The US navy has a self-piloting warship, capable of spending months at sea with no crew, and Israel boasts of having drones capable of identifying and attacking targets autonomously -- although at the moment they require a human middle-man to give the go-ahead.

Nolan is urging countries to declare an outright ban on autonomous killing robots, similar to conventions around the use of chemical weapons.
In Hong Kong, Protesters and Police Are Now Doxxing Each Other
September 21 '19 at 01:12 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's war-on-privacy department:
As protests continue to rock Hong Kong, social media sites are now being used to share names, photos, phone numbers, ages and occupationa of individuals "on both sides of the protest line," reports the Guardian:

Supporters of the Hong Kong government have sought to identify masked protesters at demonstrations, while protesters themselves also appear to have taken part, sharing private information about police officers and their families across Telegram... Hong Kong's privacy commission said it had received 1,376 complaints and 126 enquiries between 14 June and 18 September regarding personal information being leaked online, according to Stephen Kai-yi Wong, privacy commissioner for personal data. While journalists have become a high-profile target, about 40% of cases involve police officers while the rest concern government officials, community leaders, the families of police officers, and other citizens, Wong said....

Craig Choy, a spokesperson for Hong Kong's Progressive Lawyers Group and a specialist in data protection law, said the high volume of cases was unprecedented in Hong Kong... The privacy commission has referred nearly 1,000 cases for criminal investigation and consideration for prosecution. Eight people were arrested in July for doxxing police officers, according to Hong Kong Free Press. Choy said doxxing of police began after officers stopped wearing badge numbers on their uniforms when they attended protests -- leading protesters to attempt to identify officers independently as police tactics and arrests began to escalate.
Does America's First Commercial Offshore Wind Farm Portend a Clean Energy Revolution?
September 21 '19 at 01:12 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's mighty-wind department:
In the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Slashdot reader Dan Drollette describes visiting one of North America's biggest experiments in renewable energy, off the coast of Rhode Island.
As the only commercial offshore wind farm in North America, Block Island is "setting the stage for what could be a rapid explosion in the number of commercial offshore windmills on the entire East Coast of the United States, assuming they leap the latest set of ever-changing legal hurdles set by fossil-fuel friendly regulators in Washington, DC."

The goal of the Block Island test wind farm -- which started construction in the summer of 2015 and started generating some power in December 2016 -- is to see if it is technologically, environmentally, and scientifically possible to transfer offshore wind power technology from Europe to North America... This five-turbine, 30-megawatt endeavor has been effectively acting as a multi-year, real-world experiment in offshore wind power for the United States, paving the way for offshore wind farms on the northeast coast and the mid-Atlantic that could each be as much as 600 times the size of this test site, with hundreds of turbines generating electricity for hundreds of thousands of homes from just one full-scale, industrial-sized wind farm. There are more than a dozen large offshore "wind lease areas" suitable for wind farms currently up for bid from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, stretching from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Massachusetts alone is soliciting contracts for 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind development (half have now been sold), which is more than 50 times the size of this pilot project off of Block Island.... Once it is built and running, the Massachusetts project off Martha's Vineyard alone will provide enough energy to power at least 230,000 households, or about a third of the state's residential energy demand.

< article continued at Slashdot's mighty-wind department >
Did You Know Gaming? extra Vol 2
September 21 '19 at 12:00 PM
By DidYouKnowGaming? from DidYouKnowGaming?:
Kapow Toys to Stock Unicron For UK and EU
September 21 '19 at 11:11 AM
By onslaught24 from TFW2005:
<img width="600" height="400" src="https://news.tfw2005.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2019/09/Unicron.jpg" alt="" />

Kapow Toys, a major retailer over in the UK, have announced via their Facebook page that they will be stocking HasLab Unicron for the UK/EU! Collectors across the pond will be able to place their pre-orders via Kapow’s site and said pre-orders WILL COUNT TOWARDS THE OVERALL CROWDFUNDING GOAL. Kapow Toys’s crowdfunding begins this week and ends October 6th. Pricing and further details are unavailable at this time.  Unicron comes with a display stand to support both robot and planet mode, an alternate chin, a Galvatron mini-figure that is to scale with Unicron, and has a slew of other unprecedented, » Continue Reading.

The post Kapow Toys to Stock Unicron For UK and EU appeared first on Transformer World 2005 - TFW2005.COM.
SpaceX Tries Buying Out Homeowners Around Starhopper's Texas Launchpad
September 21 '19 at 10:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's personal-space department:
SpaceX "built its experimental spaceport in and around Boca Chica Village, a decades-old community of about 20 elderly residents," reports Business Insider.

But now "SpaceX is trying to buy as much of Boca Chica Village as it can and move people out...following an accidental brush fire, public-safety notices warning of the possibility for explosions, and a push to have the Federal Aviation Administration approve orbital-class launches with larger rockets."

"When SpaceX first identified Cameron County as a potential spaceport location, we did not anticipate that local residents would experience significant disruption from our presence," the letter said. "However, it has become clear that expansion of spaceflight activities as well as compliance with Federal Aviation Administration and other public safety regulations will make it increasingly more challenging to minimize disruption to residents of the Village... SpaceX is offering you three times the independently appraised fair market value of your property," the letter said. "The offer is good through two weeks from the date of this letter...."

For those who commit to a sale, SpaceX said it would cover closing and other real-estate costs. It also comes packaged with an additional perk. "SpaceX recognizes that your close proximity to its operations has offered a unique opportunity to experience at close-hand the development of what will be the world's most advanced rocket. In appreciation of your support, we will offer all residents of the Village who accept the purchase offer the opportunity to continue their connection with the development of Starship by extending an invitation to attend future private VIP launch viewing events that are unavailable to the public."

< article continued at Slashdot's personal-space department >
Could A Scalp-Zapping Cap Help Reverse Male Balding?
September 21 '19 at 10:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's electric-dreams department:
"An electric patch makes hairless mice grow fur and may reverse balding in men when fitted inside a specially designed baseball cap," reports New Scientist:

At the moment, men who don't want to go bald can treat hair loss using minoxidil lotion, finasteride pills or hair transplant surgery. But minoxidil doesn't work for everyone, finasteride can reduce sex drive and fertility, and surgery is painful and expensive. Stimulating the scalp with electric pulses has also been shown to restore hair growth. However, it isn't a very practical treatment because it involves being hooked up to a machine or battery pack for several hours a day.

To overcome this hurdle, Xudong Wang at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his colleagues have developed a wireless patch that sticks to the scalp and generates electric pulses by harnessing energy from random body movements. The 1-millimetre-thick plastic patch contains layers of differently-charged materials that produce electricity when they come into contact and separate again -- a phenomenon known as the triboelectric effect. When the flexible patch was attached to the backs of rats, their movements caused it to bend and stretch, activating the triboelectric effect. The resulting electric pulses stimulated faster hair re-growth in shaved rats compared with minoxidil lotion and inert saline solution...

Wang also tested the patch on his father, who has been going bald for the past few years. "It helped him to grow a lot of new hairs after one month," Wang says. His team has now designed a baseball cap that encases the whole scalp in the triboelectric materials to stimulate hair growth, and is seeking approval to test it in men in a clinical trial... However, the hat will only work in men who are currently losing their hair or have recently become bald, because the skin loses its ability to generate new hair follicles after many years of baldness, Wang says.
Makers of Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Respond To Criticism of Healthfulness
September 21 '19 at 10:42 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Impossible-dreams department:
Last week NBC News ran an opinion piece by a certified nutritionist arguing that plant-based/meat-free alternatives at major fast food chains "aren't actually any healthier."
Bloomberg got a response from two of the major meat-substitute companies:
According to Impossible, the attacks are all part of a "smear campaign to sow fear and doubt about plant-based meat." The company said its burgers and other offerings are better for people than animal products, delivering as much protein and bioavailable iron as beef without the associated downsides. And "processed" criticism doesn't fly, it said in a statement, given that all food involves some kind of processing. Beyond makes similar claims about its foods. "We know that consumers are increasingly pulling away from red and processed meat because of the levels of cholesterol and associated health baggage," said Will Schafer, vice president of marketing. The company also touts what it calls a simple production process that's more humane and sustainable than livestock production.

There's a lot of competition out there and on its way for Beyond and Impossible, including from Kellogg Co. and Tyson Foods Inc., which sold its stake in Beyond before that company went public. The Native Foods vegan chain and Ted's Montana Grill, co-founded by Ted Turner, are making their own veggie burgers, emphasizing what they call "whole" ingredients. "It just seems to go against the grain to me if you want to eat healthier that you would choose manufactured, chemically-produced products," said George McKerrow, Ted's chief executive officer and co-founder... Gene Grabowski, a partner at the communications firm kglobal, predicted a long fight between the real-meat and fake-meat forces. Much is at stake. A Barclays reports estimates the plant-based sector could reach $140 billion in sales globally in the next decade.

< article continued at Slashdot's Impossible-dreams department >
Oracle's New Supercomputer Has 1,060 Raspberry Pis
September 21 '19 at 08:12 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's board-games department:
An anonymous reader quotes Tom's Hardware:
One Raspberry Pi can make a nice web server, but what happens if you put more than 1,000 of them together? At Oracle's OpenWorld convention on Monday, the company showed off a Raspberry Pi Supercomputer that combines 1,060 Raspberry Pis into one powerful cluster.

According to ServeTheHome, which first reported the story, the supercomputer features scores of racks with 21 Raspberry Pi 3 B+ boards each. To make everything run well together, the system runs on Oracle Autonomous Linux... Every unit connects to a single rebranded Supermicro 1U Xeon server, which functions as a central storage server for the whole supercomputer. The Oracle team also created custom, 3D printed brackets to help support all the Pis and connecting components...

ServeTheHome asked Oracle why it chose to create a cluster of Raspberry Pis instead of using a virtualized Arm server and one company rep said simply that "...a big cluster is cool."
Today is Code for America's 'National Day of Civic Hacking'
September 21 '19 at 08:12 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hacking-for-change department:
"The biggest day of the year for civic technologists, the National Day of Civic Hacking, is Saturday, Sept. 21, and, as such, affiliated groups across the country are preparing their events," reports Government Technology:

The National Day of Civic Hacking, simply put, is a day in which civic technologists and others interested in serving their communities come together in the service of tech projects aimed at doing just that. This is the seventh year for the event, which is organized in large part by the national nonpartisan and nonprofit civic tech group Code for America (CfA). This year, CfA has once again convened its many member brigades in the service of the National Day of Civic Hacking...

To help facilitate projects, CfA&'s brigade network has identified three potential starting points for participants. The first is mapping out the record clearance project from the user's perspective. With many jurisdictions doing things like decriminalizing marijuana, there have become new opportunities for record clearance. The idea here is to be centered on the user's experience seeking conviction relief from government agencies.

Next, the brigade network suggests developing a services usability scorecard for evaluating the accessibility of the expungement process and policies in states. Finally, they also recommend creating a user-friendly know your rights website, complete with digital resources for those who have criminal convictions on their records.

If you're in the U.S. this web page offers to find a local event near you. (I attended my local event in 2013.) GeekWire notes this year one event will even be held at Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond.

Related news and updates on social media will be using the hashtag #HackForChange
Transformers: Cyberverse Power Of The Spark 1-Step Changer Jazz New Stock Images
September 21 '19 at 06:11 AM
By Black Convoy from TFW2005:
<img width="600" height="531" src="https://news.tfw2005.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2019/09/01-Cyberverse-One-Step-Jazz.jpg" alt="" />

Via ToyWiz, we can share for you new stock images the new Transformers: Cyberverse Power Of The Spark 1-Step Changer Jazz. We have a look at this simple but fun 1-Step version of Jazz which comes with a “Dual Boom Blast” gimmick. We hope this means we may finally see Jazz in the new Cyberverse cartoon any time soon. This figure will be released in an upcoming wave together with unchanged re-releases of 1-Step Changer Megatron, Bumblebee and Hot Rod in the new “Power of the Spark” packaging design. Click on the bar to see the mirrored images after » Continue Reading.

The post Transformers: Cyberverse Power Of The Spark 1-Step Changer Jazz New Stock Images appeared first on Transformer World 2005 - TFW2005.COM.
Developer Takes Down Ruby Library After He Finds Out ICE Was Using It
September 21 '19 at 05:42 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's moral-code department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: A software engineer pulled a personal project down after he found out that one of the companies using it had recently signed a contract with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The engineer, Seth Vargo, cited the ICE's "inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages," as the reason for taking down his library. The project was called Chef Sugar, a Ruby library for simplifying work with Chef, a platform for configuration management. Varga developed and open-sourced the library while he worked at Chef, and the library was later integrated into Chef's source code.

Earlier this week, a Twitter user discovered that Chef was selling $95,000-worth of licenses through a government contractor to the ICE. The news didn't go well with Vargo, who, yesterday, September 19, took down the Chef Sugar library from both GitHub and RubyGems, the main Ruby package repository, in a sign of protest. "I have a moral and ethical obligation to prevent my source from being used for evil," Vargo wrote on the now-empty Chef Sugar GitHub repository. Vargo's actions didn't go unnoticed, and in a blog post published later in the day, Chef Software CEO Barry Crist said the incident impacted "production systems for a number of our customers." The Chef team fixed the issue by scouring some of the older Chef Sugar source code and re-uploading it on their own GitHub account. Following public criticism of the contract, Chef Software CEO Barry Crist responded by saying the company had been a long-time ICE collaborator for years, since the previous administration, long before ICE became the hated agency it is today.

< article continued at Slashdot's moral-code department >
India Is Planning a Huge China-Style Facial Recognition Program
September 21 '19 at 03:12 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's copy-cat department:
India is planning to set up one of the world's largest facial recognition systems, potentially a lucrative opportunity for surveillance companies and a nightmare for privacy advocates who fear it will lead to a Chinese-style Orwellian state. Bloomberg reports: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government will open bids next month to build a system to centralize facial recognition data captured through surveillance cameras across India. It would link up with databases containing records for everything from passports to fingerprints to help India's depleted police force identify criminals, missing persons and dead bodies. The government says the move is designed to help one of the world's most understaffed police forces, which has one officer for every 724 citizens -- well below global norms. It also could be a boon for companies: TechSci Research estimates India's facial recognition market will grow sixfold by 2024 to $4.3 billion, nearly on par with China.

But the project is also ringing alarm bells in a nation with no data privacy laws and a government that just shut down the internet for the last seven weeks in the key state of Kashmir to prevent unrest. While India is still far from implementing a system that matches China's ability to use technology to control the population, the lack of proper safeguards opens the door for abuses.
Mysterious Magnetic Pulses Discovered On Mars
September 21 '19 at 12:42 AM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's nighttime-events department:
Initial results from NASA's InSight lander suggest that Mars' magnetic field wobbles in inexplicable ways at night, hinting that the red planet may host a global reservoir of liquid water deep below the surface. National Geographic reports: In addition to the odd magnetic pulsations, the lander's data show that the Martian crust is far more powerfully magnetic than scientists expected. What's more, the lander has picked up on a very peculiar electrically conductive layer, about 2.5 miles thick, deep beneath the planet's surface. It's far too early to say with any certainty, but there is a chance that this layer could represent a global reservoir of liquid water.

On Earth, groundwater is a hidden sea locked up in sand, soil, and rocks. If something similar is found on Mars, then "we shouldn't be surprised," says Jani Radebaugh, a planetary scientist at Brigham Young University who was not involved with the work. But if these results bear out, a liquid region at this scale on modern Mars has enormous implications for the potential for life, past or present. So far, none of these data have been through peer review, and details about the initial findings and interpretations will undoubtedly be tweaked over time. Still, the revelations provide a stunning showcase for InSight, a robot that has the potential to revolutionize our comprehension of Mars and other rocky worlds across the galaxy.
Transformers Galaxies Issue #2 Cover B By Alex Milne
September 20 '19 at 10:40 PM
By Black Convoy from TFW2005:
<img width="395" height="600" src="https://news.tfw2005.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2019/09/Transformers-Galaxies-02-Cover-B-by-Alex-Milne.jpg" alt="" />

Fan favorite artist Alex Milne has just shared, via his Twitter account, the cover art of the upcoming Transformers Galaxies Issue #2. The Transformers Galaxies series is an spin-off of the new main Transformers ongoing series 2019 featuring secondary characters and their background story. The first issue will arrive this September 25 telling the Constructicons’ past in Cybertron. The second issue brings us a great art for Cover B with the six Constructicons drawn by Alex Milne with colors by Josh Perez. This issue is expected for release on Oct 16, 2019. Click on the bar to see the mirrored cover » Continue Reading.

The post Transformers Galaxies Issue #2 Cover B By Alex Milne appeared first on Transformer World 2005 - TFW2005.COM.
Two Arrested In $10 Million Tech Support Scam That Preyed On the Elderly
September 20 '19 at 07:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's sneaky-bastards department:
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Two individuals were arrested this week in connection with a fraud scheme that manipulated thousands of victims into paying for invented tech services that they didn't need. The Department of Justice announced that the two individuals Romana Leyva, 35, and Ariful Haque, 33, were arrested Wednesday for their alleged participation in the fraud scheme, which involved convincing victims -- many of whom were elderly -- in both the U.S. and Canada that they needed tech and virus protection services that were neither real nor required.

Between March 2015 and December 2018, both Ariful and Haque were allegedly involved with the fraud ring responsible for the crimes. According to an unsealed indictment, the scheme involved targeting victims with pop-up windows -- sometimes under the guise of being a legitimate tech company -- that claimed their computer had been infected with a virus and directed them to call a number for technical support. In some cases, the message threatened that if the individual closed the window or shut down their computer, it would either bork their device or result in a "complete data loss." Once users contacted the number, they were connected with a fake technician. To convince victims to hand over money, after receiving "permission" from the victim, the fraud ring allegedly remotely accessed the individual's computer, loaded an anti-virus tool that's available for free online, and informed the individual that their computer was infected with a virus (which, again, was a lie). The DOJ says the scheme was able to successfully scam "at least" 7,500 victims out of a combined $10 million.

Both of the individuals arrested are charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment.
Systemd-homed: Systemd Now Working To Improve Home Directory Handling
September 20 '19 at 07:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department:
Freshly Exhumed shares a report from Phoronix, detailing a new set of systemd capabilities shown off by lead developer Lennart Poettering at the annual All Systems Go conference: Improving the Linux handling of user home directories is the next ambition for systemd. Among the goals are allowing more easily migratable home directories, ensuring all data for users is self-contained to the home directories, UID assignments being handled to the local system, unified user password and encryption key handling, better data encryption handling in general, and other modernization efforts. Among the items being explored by systemd-homed are JSON-based user records, encrypted LUKS home directories in loop-back files, and other next-gen features to offering secure yet portable home directories. Systemd-homed is currently being developed in Lennart's Git tree but hopes to see it merged for either systemd 244 (the current cycle) or systemd 245.
TiVo Tests Running Pre-Roll Ads Before DVR Recordings
September 20 '19 at 07:42 PM
By BeauHD from Slashdot's how-to-lose-customers-101 department:
As noted by Zatz Not Funny, TiVo is testing pre-roll video ads that start playing when customers view one of their recordings. The Verge reports: The ad spots are noticeably low-res and worse quality than the DVR'd content that starts playing afterward, according to one TiVo owner who has been served spots for Amazon, Keurig, and Toyota. It sounds like the users can fast-forward through the ads, but doing so is "not that seamless."

There are several potential reasons for TiVo ramping up advertising. Maybe the company plans to offer an ad-supported subscription with lower (or no) monthly fees compared to what regular customers are paying (similar to Amazon's Kindle devices with ads). No one who has paid for a lifetime subscription or even a monthly plan will be pleased to see pre-roll ads. TiVo also handles DVR functionality for many midsized and international cable providers. Squeezing in ads wherever possible could be something that those companies are pushing for as more of their customers spend increased time streaming shows and movies elsewhere.
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