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Submission + - U.S. tech groups press Obama on Chinese cybersecurity->

An anonymous reader writes: A collection of U.S. business and industry groups is urging President Obama to reason with Beijing on technology protectionism ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming visit to the States. According to a letter addressed to Obama on the 11th August, the group of 19 industry bodies are lobbying for China to scale back its cybersecurity measures. The American Chamber of Commerce in China, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers are among the focus groups. The lobbyists referred to a number of recent regulations which raise suspicion as to the country’s commitment to open markets.
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Submission + - 70th Anniversary: The Harrowing Story of the Nagasaki Bombing Mission->

Lasrick writes: A typhoon was coming, the fuel pump failed, they had to switch planes, things were wired incorrectly, they missed their rendezvous, they couldn’t see the primary target, they ran out of gas on the way home, and they had to crash-land. But the worst part was when the Fat Man atomic bomb started to arm itself mid-flight.
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Submission + - Answering Elon Musk on the dangers of Artificial Intelligence->

Lasrick writes: Stanford's Edward Moore Geist takes apart the recent panic over superintelligent machines in a terrific, thorough piece of analysis: 'Superintelligence is propounding a solution that will not work to a problem that probably does not exist, but Bostrom and Musk are right that now is the time to take the ethical and policy implications of artificial intelligence seriously. The extraordinary claim that machines can become so intelligent as to gain demonic powers requires extraordinary evidence, particularly since artificial intelligence (AI) researchers have struggled to create machines that show much evidence of intelligence at all.'
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Submission + - Is artificial intelligence really an existential threat to humanity?->

Lasrick writes: Edward Moore Geist, MacArthur Nuclear Security Fellow at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), takes apart the new book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, by Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom. In that book, Bostrom postulates that self-improving artificial intelligences could effortlessly enslave or destroy Homo sapiens if they so wished, and as Geist points out, those views have found an eager audience in Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates, among others. Although Geist feels that Bostrom and Musk are right that now is the time to take the ethical and policy implications of artificial intelligence seriously, the book propounds 'a solution that will not work to a problem that probably does not exist.' Geist goes on to analyze what may or may not be possible even with AI, but feels the book is a distraction: 'For all its entertainment value as a philosophical exercise, Bostrom’s concept of superintelligence is mostly a distraction from the very real ethical and policy challenges posed by ongoing advances in artificial intelligence.' This is a remarkable read.
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Submission + - Saudi Arabia's desire for nuclear energy is not a cover for a Bomb->

Lasrick writes: Researcher Lauren Sukin analyzes Saudi Arabia's increasing energy demand. By some estimates, the Kingdom's energy consumption is projected to grow by over 250 percent by 2028. 'Electricity needs have skyrocketed because of a combination of rising consumer and industrial demand and the country's increasing need for energy-guzzling water desalination.' And, Saudi Arabia’s conventional superiority and current US security guarantees are enough to solve regional security concerns. Seen from this perspective, Sukin writes that Saudi Arabia's desire for nuclear energy is not a cover for a bomb, but a desire to fix an energy security problem.
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Submission + - What the Iran deal means for blacklisted entities->

Lasrick writes: Nick Gillard and Dominic Williams look at what the Iran deal means for companies and entities that were previously blacklisted. 'Over the past decade, a global patchwork of legal measures has been sewn together by various national authorities with the aim of constraining Iran’s nuclear program. This patchwork makes up the global sanctions regime that Iran has fought so hard to end. Now, with the agreement of the Iranian nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we have been shown the plan the international community will use to try to untangle it.' Excellent information.
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Submission + - 70th Anniversary of Trinity Test: Reflecting on the Bomb

Lasrick writes: It's the 70th Anniversary of the Trinity atomic bomb test, and Dan Drollette pulls together a series of reflections, over time, by the scientists who were there: '“In the middle of May, on two separate nights in one week, the Air Force mistook the Trinity base for their illuminated [training] target. One bomb fell on the barracks building which housed the carpentry shop, another hit the stables, and a small fire started.' Other reflections show how perceptions changed over the years. A fascinating history of the beginning of the nuclear age.

Submission + - The missile impasse in the Iran negotiations->

Lasrick writes: Upon resuming talks to end the nuclear crisis with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) in 2013, Iran made it clear that its missile program was behind a redline and would not be negotiated away. The missile program, Tehran argued, was an entirely separate issue from the nuclear program, part of the country's conventional capabilities and not aimed at deploying non-conventional weapons such as nuclear warheads. Last week, Tehran's missile program arose—seemingly suddenly—as an obstacle with the potential to derail the process altogether. Ariane Tabatabai explores the fascinating history of Iran's missile program, the largest in the Middle East, and asks whether negotiators for countries that hold such diametrically opposed views of the Iranian missile program can reach a compromise. We should know the answer to that within the next day or two.
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Submission + - How the Biggest, Most Expensive Oil Spill in History Changed Almost Nothing

merbs writes: Tthe biggest oil spill in US history, despite incurring the largest environmental fine on the books—$18.7 billion, handed down this month—has done almost nothing to change the nation’s relationship to oil. Five years after the spill, and, by BP’s count, $54 billion in projected total expenses, there have been no serious legislative efforts to improve the oversight or regulation of the United States’ still-expanding offshore oil operations. Public opinion of deepwater drilling barely budged during the ordeal; today, a majority of Americans favor doing even more of it.

Submission + - Alpha vs. Gamma Biodiversity, Eastern Cougars, and Nuclear Energy->

Lasrick writes: Dawn Stover explores "alpha" and "gamma" biodiversity, and finds that most discussions focus on the former when it comes to policy regarding energy solutions for a changing climate: 'Can nuclear energy save biodiversity? ...Experts agree that climate change is also exacerbating biodiversity loss (and will increasingly do so), and some are making a case that biodiversity should be considered along with factors such as greenhouse gas emissions and cost when choosing among future energy sources.' Great read.
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Submission + - How the next US nuclear accident will happen->

Lasrick writes: Anthropologist Hugh Gusterson analyzes safety at US nuclear facilities and finds a disaster waiting to happen due to an over-reliance on automated security technology and private contractors cutting corners to increase profits. Gusterson follows on the work of Eric Schlosser, Frank Munger, and Dan Zak in warning us of the serious problems at US nuclear facilities, both in the energy industry and in the nuclear security complex.
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Submission + - Business Insider: Iran's nuclear program has been an astronomical waste->

Lasrick writes: Business Insider's Armin Rosen uses a fuel-cost calculator from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to show that Iran's nuclear program 'has been astronomically costly for the Islamic Republic.' Rosen uses calculations from this tool to hypothesize that what Iran 'interprets as the country's "rights" under the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty is a diplomatic victory that justifies the outrageous expense of the nuclear program.' Great data crunching.
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Submission + - Lawrence Krauss on the Pope's encyclical: Not even close?->

Lasrick writes: Lawrence Krauss muses on the hoopla surrounding Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change, and finds the document lacking: 'It is ironic that while the scientific community has long tried to raise warning signals and induce action to address human-induced climate change, an encyclical from the pope on this subject is being taken by many as an ultimate call to action on this urgent issue.'
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Submission + - Should nuclear devices be used to stop asteroids?->

Lasrick writes: Seth Baum ponders whether nuclear devices should be kept on hand for the purpose of destroying near-Earth objects (NEOs) that pose a threat to the planet. Baum acknowledges that 'The risk posed by NEOs is not zero, but it is small relative to the risk posed by nuclear weapons." Even so, Baum writes, since the consequences of an NEO hitting the earth would be catastrophic, keeping 10 or 20 nuclear devices available might be a good idea, and would be 'insignificant compared to the thousands now held in military arsenals.' An interesting read.
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Submission + - Uber puts passengers at risk with a flawed driver-approval process->

Mark Wilson writes: Uber, the San Francisco-based private taxi firm, is putting its passengers in grave danger. The company uses a computerized driver sign-up system that can be easily fooled into authorizing drives with fake insurance papers. The transport network exploded onto the scene a few years ago, and a whistleblower claims that it is all too easy to cheat the system making it possible for virtually anyone to sign up to be an Uber driver.

The vulnerability was found to have been exploited in London where there are around 15,000 Uber drivers in operation. The scam has been demonstrated by The Guardian who worked with a whistleblower to fraudulently sign up as a driver. It was achieved using fabricated insurance papers from a made up company with a fake letterhead.

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Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"