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NASA

US Eyes Robot Moon Missions as it Prepares For Astronauts' Return (reuters.com) 13

The United States wants to send robotic explorers to the moon as soon as next year as a preparatory step toward sending astronauts back there for the first time since 1972, a NASA official said on Monday. From a report: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a series of lunar missions beginning next year aimed at developing the capacity for a return to the moon, said Cheryl Warner, a spokeswoman for NASA's Human Exploration Directorate. NASA will work with private companies, which have not yet been chosen, on the missions, Warner said in a phone interview. U.S. President Donald Trump in December signed a directive that he said would enable astronauts to return to the moon and eventually lead a mission to Mars. Last month he ordered the government to review regulations on commercial space flights.
Earth

Fake Earthquake Detected In Mexico City After Player's Goal In World Cup Match (abc7.com) 190

According to officials in Mexico, an artificial earthquake was reported in Mexico City that was possibly caused by "massive jumps during the goal from the Mexico national soccer team" on Sunday. KABC reports: Hirving Lozano scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, picking up Javier Hernandez's pass inside the penalty area and beating Mesut Ozil before shooting past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 10 yards. The goal decided the match -- a match Germany didn't expect to lose. Mexico upset Germany, the defending champion, 1-0. The loss meant Germany became the third defending champion in the last 16 years to lose its opening match at the World Cup. "Two monitoring stations in Mexico City picked up the temblor the same time Lozano scored, 35 minutes into the match," reports USA Today. "Seismologists in Chile also said that their instruments detected an artificial temblor at the same time."
Security

US Government Finds New Malware From North Korea (engadget.com) 90

Days after the historic North Korea-United States summit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Thursday warning of a new variant of North Korean malware to look out for. Called Typeframe, the malware is able to download and install additional malware, proxies and trojans; modify firewalls; and connect to servers for additional instructions. Engadget reports: Since last May, the DHS has issued a slew of alerts and reports about North Korea's malicious cyber activity. The department also pointed out that North Korea has been hacking countries around the world since 2009. And of course, don't forget that the U.S. also labeled that country as the source of Wannacry cyberattack, which notably held data from the UK's National Health Service hostage, and wreaked havoc across Russia and Ukraine. CNN was first to report the news.
Power

America's Nuclear Reactors Can't Survive Without Government Handouts (fivethirtyeight.com) 406

Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight: There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....

[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.

A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.

The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."
The Courts

The Silk Road's Alleged Right-Hand Man Will Finally Face a US Court (arstechnica.com) 73

It's been nearly five years since the FBI surrounded Ross Ulbricht in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library, arrested him, and grabbed the laptop from which he had run the dark web drug bazaar known as the Silk Road. Ulbricht went on trial in a New York courtroom, and is currently serving a life sentence without parole. But even now, the Silk Road saga still hasn't ended: Half a decade after Ulbricht's arrest, his alleged advisor, mentor and right-hand man Roger Clark will finally face a US court, too. From a report: On Friday, the FBI, IRS, DHS, and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced the extradition of 56-year-old Canadian man Roger Clark from a Thai jail cell to New York to face newly unsealed charges for his role in Silk Road's operation. The indictment accuses Clark, who allegedly went by the pseudonyms Variety Jones, Cimon, and Plural of Mongoose in his role as Silk Road's consigliere, of crimes ranging from narcotics trafficking to money laundering. But even those charges don't capture the outsize role Clark is believed to have played in building and managing the Silk Road, from security audits to marketing, and even reportedly encouraging Ulbricht to use violence to maintain his empire.

"As Ulbricht's right-hand man, Roger Clark allegedly advised him of methods to thwart law enforcement during the operation of this illegal ploy, pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process," writes FBI assistant director William Sweeney in a press statement. "Today's extradition of Roger Clark shows that despite alleged attempts to operate under the radar, he was never out of our reach."

AT&T

AT&T Completes $85 Billion Time Warner Acquisition (axios.com) 86

AT&T on Thursday evening said that it has completed its $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, just two days after a judge ruled that the deal, originally announced two years ago, could proceed over objections from U.S. antitrust regulators. From a report: The Department of Justice did not file for an emergency stay of the judge's ruling, per the judge's request, but still reserves the right to appeal. In a statement, Randall Stephenson, chairman and chief executive of AT&T said moving forward his company will bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers. "The content and creative talent at Warner Bros., HBO and Turner are first-rate. Combine all that with AT&T's strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," he said.
Privacy

Comey, Who Investigated Hillary Clinton For Using Personal Email For Official Business, Used His Personal Email For Official Business (buzzfeed.com) 444

An anonymous reader shares a report: Former FBI Director James Comey, who led the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of personal email while secretary of state, also used his personal email to conduct official business, according to a report from the Justice Department on Thursday. The report also found that while Comey was "insubordinate" in his handling of the email investigation, political bias did not play a role in the FBI's decision to clear Clinton of any criminal wrongdoing.

The report from the office of the inspector general "identified numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account (a Gmail account) to conduct FBI business." In three of the five examples, investigators said Comey sent drafts he had written from his FBI email to his personal account. In one instance, he sent a "proposed post-election message for all FBI employees that was entitled 'Midyear thoughts,'" the report states. In another instance, Comey again "sent multiple drafts of a proposed year-end message to FBI employees" from his FBI account to his personal email account.

Communications

Comcast Says It Isn't Throttling Heavy Internet Users Anymore (cnet.com) 175

Comcast, which has been throttling speeds to slow down heavy internet users since 2008, has had a change of heart. From a report: Comcast has deactivated this "congestion management" system, according to an announcement this week. "As reflected in a June 11, 2018 update to our XFINITY Internet Broadband Disclosures, the congestion management system that was initially deployed in 2008 has been deactivated. As our network technologies and usage of the network continue to evolve, we reserve the right to implement a new congestion management system if necessary in the performance of reasonable network management and in order to maintain a good broadband Internet access service experience for our customers, and will provide updates here as well as other locations if a new system is implemented."
Power

Solar Has Overtaken Gas, Wind As Biggest Source of New US Power (bloomberg.com) 364

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Despite tariffs that President Trump imposed on imported panels, the U.S. installed more solar energy than any other source of electricity in the first quarter. Developers installed 2.5 gigawatts of solar in the first quarter, up 13 percent from a year earlier, according to a report Tuesday from the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research. That accounted for 55 percent of all new generation, with solar panels beating new wind and natural gas turbines for a second straight quarter.

The growth came even as tariffs on imported panels threatened to increase costs for developers. Giant fields of solar panels led the growth as community solar projects owned by homeowners and businesses took off. Total installations this year are expected to be 10.8 gigawatts, or about the same as last year, according to GTM. By 2023, annual installations should reach more than 14 gigawatts.

Businesses

Seattle Repeals Tax That Upset Amazon (apnews.com) 335

Last month, the Seattle City Council introduced a new tax that would charge firms $275 per worker a year to fund homelessness outreach services and affordable housing. This greatly upset Amazon, Seattle's biggest private sector employer, which threatened to move jobs out of the city. Today, The Associated Press reports that Seattle leaders have repealed the tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks after they fought the measure. From the report: The City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday to reverse a tax that it unanimously approved just a month ago to help provide services in the city. The Seattle region has one of the highest homelessness numbers in the U.S. Amazon, Starbucks and other businesses sharply criticized the tax as misguided. The online retailer, the city's largest employer, even temporarily halted construction planning on a new high-rise building near its Seattle headquarters in protest. Mayor Jenny Durkan and a majority of the council have said they scrapped the tax to avoid a costly political fight as a coalition of businesses moved to get a referendum overturning the tax on the November ballot.
China

Senate Will Try To Reverse ZTE Deal Via a Must-Pass Defense Bill (politico.com) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate leaders agreed Monday to include language in the annual defense spending bill that would reverse the Trump administration's decision to save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE after it was caught violating the terms of a 2017 penalty agreement by making illegal sales to Iran and North Korea. The language will be part of an amendment in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, a $716 billion defense policy bill, H.R. 5515 (115).

If the Senate amendment becomes law, it would automatically reinstate the seven-year prohibition until Trump has certified to Congress that ZTE has met certain conditions. It also would ban all U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing telecommunications equipment and/or services from ZTE, a second Chinese telecommunications firm, Huawei, or any subsidiaries or affiliates of those two companies. The amendment language "prohibits the federal government from doing business with ZTE or Huawei or other Chinese telecom companies" and puts the company back on the sanctions list and "holds ZTE accountable for violating their previous commitment," Cotton said.
The senators supporting the amendment include Democratic minority leader Chuck Schumer and two Republican Senators -- Sen Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). "I and obviously every other senator believes the death penalty is the appropriate punishment for their behavior," Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told reporters after Ross briefed senators on the department's latest ZTE action. "They're a repeat bad actor that should be put out of business. For eight years, ZTE was able to run wild and be able to become the fourth-largest telecom company in the world." If the Senate amendment becomes law, "I would expect there wouldn't be a ZTE," Cotton added.
Businesses

Judge Rules AT&T Can Acquire Time Warner (wsj.com) 172

A federal judge said Tuesday that AT&T's $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros. From a report: U.S. District Judge Richard Leon announced his decision in a packed courtroom, ruling that antitrust enforcers at the Justice Department had not proven their case against the merger. The decision, in one of the biggest antitrust cases in decades, is a milestone victory for AT&T as it looks to reposition itself in a rapidly evolving media landscape. Its deal for Time Warner, valued at roughly $80 billion, has been pending since October 2016. The acquisition means AT&T will be the nation's top pay-TV distributor, through its ownership of DirecTV, as well as the owner of some of the country's most sought-after channels: Time Warner's Turner networks -- including CNN, TBS and TNT -- as well as HBO, the most popular U.S. premium network.
Crime

Police Departments Are Training Dogs To Sniff Out Thumb Drives (cnet.com) 159

A CNET report provides some insight on an elite K-9 search class that trains dogs to sniff out electronics, including phones, hard drives and microSD cards smaller than your thumb. From the report: Only one out of every 50 dogs tested qualifies to become an electronic storage detection, or ESD, dog, says Kerry Halligan, a K-9 instructor with the Connecticut State Police. That's because it's a lot harder to detect the telltale chemical in electronics than it is to sniff out narcotics, bombs, fire accelerants or people, she says. But Labrador retrievers like Harley, with their long snouts and big muzzles, can pick up even the faintest olfactory clues. These tech-seeking dogs are helping law enforcement find child pornography stashed in hidden hard drives, uncover concealed phones, nab white-collar evidence kept on hard drives and track calls stored on SIM cards. The most famous case occurred in 2015, when a Labrador retriever named Bear found a hidden flash drive containing child pornography in the home of former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle. The district attorney called the discovery vital to Fogle's conviction.
United States

US Sanctions Russians Over Military, Intelligence Hacking (reuters.com) 159

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on three Russian individuals and five companies on Monday, saying they had worked with Moscow's military and intelligence services on ways to conduct cyber attacks against the United States and its allies. From a report: "The United States is engaged in an ongoing effort to counter malicious actors working at the behest of the Russian Federation and its military and intelligence units to increase Russiaâ(TM)s offensive cyber capabilities," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. "The entities designated today have directly contributed to improving Russia's cyber and underwater capabilities through their work with the FSB and therefore jeopardize the safety and security of the United States and our allies," Mnuchin said, using an acronym for Russia's Federal Security Service.
Businesses

Net Neutrality Repeal Is Official (cnet.com) 332

The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, which had required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content, took effect on Monday. The rules, enacted by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2015, prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites. CNET: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has called the Obama-era rules "heavy-handed" and "a mistake," and he's argued that they deterred innovation and depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks. To set things right, he says, he's taking the FCC back to a "light touch" approach to regulation, a move that Republicans and internet service providers have applauded.

But supporters of net neutrality -- such as big tech companies like Google and Facebook, as well as consumer groups and pioneers of the internet like World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee -- say the internet as we know it may not exist without these protections. "We need a referee on the field who can throw a flag," former FCC Chairman and Obama appointee Tom Wheeler said at MIT during a panel discussion in support of rules like those he championed. Wheeler was chairman when the rules passed three years ago.
We expect to see some protests today as the tussle to convince House representatives to reinstate the regulations continues. Some members of Congress are still fighting to overturn the ruling, so there's hope for a net neutrality return if legislators agree to it.

Further reading: The Washington Post published an interview of Pai over the weekend. In the interview, Pai remained bullish that the FTC could stop abuses. He also criticized Senate Dems and others for spreading misinformation during net neutrality debate. Over at CNET, Ajit Pai has written an op-ed, in which ... he is defending his move. Fight for the Future: The FCC repeal of net neutrality goes into effect TODAY, but Congress can still stop it and save the Internet.
Government

In the Trump Administration, Science Is Unwelcome. So Is Advice. (nytimes.com) 708

Anonymous readers share a report: As President Trump prepares to meet Kim Jong-un of North Korea to negotiate denuclearization, a challenge that has bedeviled the world for years, he is doing so without the help of a White House science adviser or senior counselor trained in nuclear physics. Mr. Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser, a position created during World War II to guide the Oval Office on technical matters ranging from nuclear warfare to global pandemics. As a businessman and president, Mr. Trump has proudly been guided by his instincts. Nevertheless, people who have participated in past nuclear negotiations say the absence of such high-level expertise could put him at a tactical disadvantage in one of the weightiest diplomatic matters of his presidency.

"You need to have an empowered senior science adviser at the table," said R. Nicholas Burns, who led negotiations with India over a civilian nuclear deal during the George W. Bush administration. "You can be sure the other side will have that." The lack of traditional scientific advisory leadership in the White House is one example of a significant change in the Trump administration: the marginalization of science in shaping United States policy. There is no chief scientist at the State Department, where science is central to foreign policy matters such as cybersecurity and global warming. Nor is there a chief scientist at the Department of Agriculture: Mr. Trump last year nominated Sam Clovis, a former talk-show host with no scientific background, to the position, but he withdrew his name and no new nomination has been made.

Businesses

The World Isn't Prepared for Retirement (bloomberg.com) 319

An anonymous reader writes: Most online quizzes are relatively mindless, promising to reveal which vegetable, sandwich or rock band best represents your personality. That was not the case for a short online test given to 16,000 people in 15 countries this year. It revealed just how unprepared a good chunk of the world is for retirement. The three-question test, given as part of the Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey 2018, measured how well people understand basic financial concepts. Many of the participants failed the quiz, with big potential consequences for their future security.

Beyond the sobering lack of financial literacy, there were some rather curious data in Aegon's annual survey, published on Tuesday. For example, some 20 percent of workers surveyed in China envisioned spending retirement with a robot companion. But before we get to that, take a look at this question -- which only 45 percent of people around the world got right: Q. Do you think the following statement is true or false? "Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund."

The possible answers? True, false, do not know and refuse to answer. Sixteen percent of people got it wrong. "Do not know" was chosen by 38 percent. In the U.S., 46 percent of workers got it right. Good for you, America -- though Germany beat you handily. (The answer, in case you were wondering, is false.) It was an inflation question that had the highest percentage of wrong answers, however. More than 20 percent of workers didn't grasp how higher inflation hurts their buying power. Given that declining health was the most-cited retirement worry, at 49 percent, and health care is an area (in the U.S., especially) with high cost inflation, well, that makes the subject something older folks should have down cold.

AI

Secret Pentagon AI Program Hunts Hidden Nuclear Missiles (reuters.com) 40

Slashdot reader drdread66 shares this article from Reuters: The U.S. military is increasing spending on a secret research effort to use artificial intelligence to help anticipate the launch of a nuclear-capable missile, as well as track and target mobile launchers in North Korea and elsewhere. The effort has gone largely unreported, and the few publicly available details about it are buried under a layer of near impenetrable jargon in the latest Pentagon budget. But U.S. officials familiar with the research told Reuters there are multiple classified programs now under way to explore how to develop AI-driven systems to better protect the United States against a potential nuclear missile strike.

If the research is successful, such computer systems would be able to think for themselves, scouring huge amounts of data, including satellite imagery, with a speed and accuracy beyond the capability of humans, to look for signs of preparations for a missile launch, according to more than half a dozen sources. The sources included U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the research is classified. Forewarned, the U.S. government would be able to pursue diplomatic options or, in the case of an imminent attack, the military would have more time to try to destroy the missiles before they were launched, or try to intercept them.

Reuters calls it "one indicator of the growing importance of the research on AI-powered anti-missile systems," adding "The Pentagon is in a race against China and Russia to infuse more AI into its war machine, to create more sophisticated autonomous systems that are able to learn by themselves to carry out specific tasks."

One official told Reuters that an AI prototype for tracking missile launchers is already being tested.
Government

Unresolved Login Issue Prevented Florida 'Concealed Weapon' Background Checks For Over a Year (tampabay.com) 193

An anonymous reader quotes the Tampa Bay Times For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to conduct national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public... The employee in charge of the background checks could not log into the system, the investigator learned. The problem went unresolved until discovered by another worker in March 2017 -- meaning that for more than a year applications got approved without the required background check.

During that time, which coincided with the June 12, 2016 shooting at Pulse nightclub that left 50 dead, the state saw an unprecedented spike in applications for concealed weapons permits. There were 134,000 requests for permits in the fiscal year ending in June 2015. The next 12 months broke a record, 245,000 applications, which was topped again in 2017 when the department received 275,000 applications... There are now 1.8 million concealed weapon permit holders in Florida.

The employee with the login issue, who has since been fired, "told the Times she had been working in the mailroom when she was given oversight of the database in 2013. 'I didn't understand why I was put in charge of it.'"
Government

Two Quantum Computing Bills Are Coming To Congress (gizmodo.com) 76

Quantum computing has made it to the United States Congress. "Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world, and we cannot afford to fall behind," said Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) in a statement passed to Gizmodo. "We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology -- our future depends on it." From the report: The bill introduced by Harris in the Senate focuses on defense, calling for the creation of a consortium of researchers selected by the Chief of Naval Research and the Director of the Army Research Laboratory. The consortium would award grants, assist with research, and facilitate partnerships between the members. Another, yet-to-be-introduced bill, seen in draft form by Gizmodo, calls for a 10-year National Quantum Initiative Program to set goals and priorities for quantum computing in the US; invest in the technology; and partner with academia and industry. An office within the Department of Energy would coordinate the program. Another group would include members from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate research and education activity between agencies. Furthermore, the draft bill calls for the establishment of up to five Quantum Information Science research centers, as well as two multidisciplinary National Centers for Quantum Research and Education.

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