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Submission + - The Alternate Facts of Cable Companies (backchannel.com) 1

mirandakatz writes: New York's attorney general sued Spectrum earlier this month, essentially alleging that the cable company had blatantly lied about the internet speeds it was providing to customers. At Backchannel, Susan Crawford offers some much-need analysis of why this happened in the first place, and what if all means. Crawford writes that "in a world in which Spectrum faces little to no competition, now expects even less regulation than before, and has no need to spend money on better services, the lawsuit won’t by itself make much of a difference. But maybe the public nature of the AG’s assault—charging Spectrum for illegal misconduct—will lead to a call for alternatives...We’d get honest, straightforward, inexpensive service, rather than the horrendously expensive cable bundles we’re stuck with today."

Submission + - Republican Plans To Use Congressional Review Act To Kill Broadband Privacy Rules (ibtimes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona is planning to roll back privacy rules that restrict what internet service providers can do with customer data by using the Congressional Review Act. Doing so would prevent the FCC from ever issuing the rules again. Privacy advocacy group Public Knowledge is opposing the use of the CRA, calling it “entirely too blunt of an instrument” to use in the situation.

Submission + - Intel Suddenly Serious About Neuromorphic Chip Future (nextplatform.com)

kipperstem77 writes: A recent conversation we had with Intel turned up a surprising new addition to the machine learning conversation—an emphasis on neuromorphic devices and what Intel is openly calling “cognitive computing” (a term used primarily—and heavily—for IBM’s Watson-driven AI technologies). This is the first time to date we’ve heard the company make any definitive claims about where neuromorphic chips might fit into a strategy to capture machine learning, and marks a bold grab for the term “cognitive computing” which has been an umbrella term for Big Blue’s AI business.

Submission + - GoDaddy CEO: Americans Won't Be Smart Enough to Fill Tech Jobs for Decades

theodp writes: A day after his company joined the likes of Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Facebook in the Technology Companies amicus motion and brief against Trump's Executive Order on immigration, GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving advises Americans in FORTUNE that If You’re Against Outsourcing, You Should Support U.S. Visas For Skilled Foreigners. "With so much technical illiteracy in the US," Irving writes, "the H-1B visa program has become America’s secret weapon warding off economic catastrophe. Though STEM education is the clear long-term solution, the US is not going to see a vastly greater pipeline of domestic technical talent coming from our universities anytime soon. It will take us years, if not decades, to educate a new wave of students from elementary thru their advanced degrees. Until that next generation enters the elite technical workforce in mass, the most technical jobs (all 545,000 of them) will simply sit open if H-1B visas shrink or disappear." If Irving's piece gives you a sense of deja vu, Microsoft President Brad Smith similarly argued in 2012 that "an effective national talent strategy therefore needs to combine long-term improvements in STEM education in the United States with targeted, short-term, high-skilled immigration reforms." To bring this about, Smith suggested producing a crisis (video) would be key: "Sometimes when a small problem proves intractable, you have to make it bigger," Smith explained. "You have to make the problem big enough so that the solution is exciting enough to galvanize people’s attention and generate the will to overcome the hurdles that have been holding us back. I believe that if we can combine what we’re doing with respect to education with what we need to do with respect to immigration we have that opportunity ahead of us." So, is Big Tech now trying to make lemonade out of Trump's immigration lemons?

Submission + - How beer brewed 5,000 years ago in China tastes today (thestreet.com)

schwit1 writes: Stanford University students have recreated a Chinese beer using a recipe that dates back 5,000 years.

The beer “looked like porridge and tasted sweeter and fruitier than the clear, bitter beers of today”, said Li Liu, a professor in Chinese archaeology, was quoted by the university as saying.

Last spring, Liu and her team of researchers were carrying out excavation work at the Mijiaya site in Shaanxi province and found two pits containing remnants of pottery used to make beer, including funnels, pots and amphorae. The pits dated to between 3400BC and 2900BC, in the late Yangshao era.

They found a yellowish residue on the remains of the items, including traces of yam, lily root and barley.

The finding suggests that the Mijiaya site was home to China’s earliest brewery.

Submission + - Paypal disguises 13% price hike as 'Policy Update'. (paypal.com) 2

turbotalon writes: In an email sent to users February 7th, Paypal is disguising a 13% rate hike as a 'Policy Update.' Roughly one quarter of the 'policy changes' are rate hikes, yet their emailed summary glosses over the rate hike, focussing instead on a few of the 'policy changes' with one sentence at the end about 'changing some of the fees we charge'.

Additionally, they have added a "non-discouragement clause" for sellers that provides:

"In representations to your customers or in public communications, you agree not to mischaracterize PayPal as a payment method. At all of your points of sale (in whatever form), you agree not to try to dissuade or inhibit your customers from using PayPal; and, if you enable your customers to pay you with PayPal, you agree to treat PayPal’s payment mark at least at par with other payment methods offered."

Reading the full text of the update reveals the following fees are increasing:
  Standard transaction fee
  International currency exchange fees
  In-store transaction fees
  Micro-payment fees
  Cross-border transaction fees

Submission + - New York Sues Charter Over Slow Internet Speeds (reuters.com)

An anonymous reader writes: New York filed a lawsuit on Wednesday accusing Charter Communications Inc of short-changing customers who were promised faster internet speeds than it could deliver. The lawsuit in State Supreme Court in Manhattan accused Charter's Spectrum unit, until recently known as Time Warner Cable, of systematically defrauding customers since 2012 by promising and charging for services it knew it could not offer. At least 640,000 subscribers signed up for high-speed plans but got slower speeds, and many subscribers were unable to access promised online content such as Facebook, Netflix, YouTube and various gaming platforms, the complaint said. The lawsuit seeks "full restitution" for customers, as well as hefty civil fines. Among the allegations in the complaint was an accusation that Time Warner Cable leased older-generation modems to 900,000 subscribers knowing that the modems could not achieve faster internet speeds.

Submission + - Iridium flares phasing out (skyandtelescope.com)

g01d4 writes:

Reflective surfaces of other satellites occasionally catch the Sun and temporarily brighten by several magnitudes as they glide across the sky, but there's nothing like the flare produced by an Iridium satellite. Each of the approximately 66 Iridiums in orbit have three door-sized aluminum antennae treated with highly reflective, silver-coated Teflon for temperature control. When the angle between observer and satellite is just right, sunlight reflecting off an antenna can cause the satellite to surge from invisibility up to magnitude –8.5 in a matter of seconds.

The existing constellation of satellites is being replaced with newer models with less reflecting antenna. A few older models might be left in parking orbits but in a few years the flares will mostly be a thing of the past.

Several years ago the Smithsonian had an Iridium conveniently hanging such that you could create your own flare with your camera's flash. Anyone else do that?

Submission + - US Government Employees Banned from Sharing Publicly Funded Science (popsci.com) 1

Layzej writes: Popular Science reports that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is now barred from communicating with the public and The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees from sharing the results of its taxpayer-funded research with the broader public.
The memo outlining these new rules has not been made public, but the ban reportedly includes everything from summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets. Scientists are still able to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals, but they are unable to talk about that research without prior consent from their agency.
This is not the first time that public science has been hamstrung by a gag order. To this day, the quantity of oil spewed into the ocean during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill remains something of a mystery. Many of the scientists who worked on the spill were hired by BP and barred from speaking on it. But gag orders—while always troublesome—have usually been limited to one specific issue. Right now, the EPA and USDA have been forbidden to speak about all of their scientific research. It means that many of the kinds of stories we now cover will never see the light of day.

Submission + - Is Mt Everest shrinking? (phys.org) 1

OffTheLip writes: Recent scrutiny into the officially recorded height of the worlds tallest mountain will lead to a re-measurement. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal in 2015 is being eyed as the reason.

India's surveyor general Swarna Subba Rao said, We will remeasure it,Two years have passed since the major Nepal earthquake and there's doubt in the scientific community that it did in fact shrink.

A team will depart once winter passes to take measurements to determine the current height Everest.

Submission + - U.S. solar industry power generation jobs pass oil, coal and gas combined (computerworld.com)

Lucas123 writes: In 2016, the solar workforce in the U.S. increased by 25% to 374,000 employees, compared to 187,117 electrical generation jobs in the coal, gas and oil industries. Solar employment, which includes both photovoltaic electricity and concentrated solar steam generators, accounts for 43% of the electric power generation workforce — the largest share of workers in that sector. Fossil fuel generation employment now accounts for 22%. In addition to losing ground in employment, net power generation from coal sources declined by 53% between 2006 and September 2016; electricity generation from natural gas increased by 33%; and solar grew by over 5,000% —from 508,000 megawatt hours (MWh) to just over 28 million MWh.

Submission + - Dropbox Kept Files Around for Years Due to 'Delete' Bug (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Dropbox engineers have fixed what appears to be a very ancient bug that during the past two weeks has resurfaced previously deleted folders for several Dropbox users. In some of the complaints users reported seeing folders they deleted in 2009 reappear on their devices overnight. After seeing mysterious folders appear in their profile, some users thought they were hacked.

Last week, a Dropbox employee provided an explanation to what happened, blaming the issue on an old bug that affected the metadata of soon-to-be-deleted folders. Instead of deleting the files, as users wanted and regardless of metadata issues, Dropbox choose to keep those files around for years, and eventually restored them due to a blunder. In its File retention Policy, Dropbox says it will keep files around a maximum 60 days after users deleted them.

Submission + - SMS vulnerabilities in Samsung Galaxy phones (contextis.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Context Information Security discovered new ways to break old technologies inside Samsung Galaxy devices with attacks delivered over SMS. From the article:

We found bugs in Samsung Galaxy phones that can be triggered remotely via SMS, which when combined provide opportunities for ransomware peddlers. Samsung Mobile Security Team were quick to fix the issues, providing a decent example of how coordinated disclosure should happen.


Submission + - Trump Administration Freezes all Grant Activity at EPA

PvtVoid writes: From the Washington Post: An email went out to employees in the agency’s Office of Acquisition Management within hours of President Trump’s swearing-in on Friday.

“New EPA administration has asked that all contract and grant awards be temporarily suspended, effective immediately,” read the email, which was shared with The Washington Post. “Until we receive further clarification, which we hope to have soon, please construe this to include task orders and work assignments.”

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