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United States

Officials Say Russian Hackers Read Obama's Unclassified Emails 109

An anonymous reader points out that Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year. Some of President Obama's email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House's unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation. The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department's unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama's BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly. But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.

Department of Defense May Give Private Cloud Vendors Access To Top Secret Data 60

An anonymous reader sends news that the U.S. Department of Defense is pondering methods to store its most sensitive data in the cloud. The DoD issued an information request (PDF) to see whether the commercial marketplace can provide remote computing services for Level 5 and Level 6 workloads, which include restricted military data. "The DoD anticipates that the infrastructure will range from configurations featuring between 10,000 and 200,000 virtual machines. Any vendors selected to the scheme would be subject to an accreditation process and to security screening, and the DoD is employing the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program to establish screening procedures for authorized cloud vendors, and to generate procedures for continuous monitoring and auditing."
Social Networks

Twitter, American Express Letting People Purchase Goods Via Hashtag 106

Nerval's Lobster writes "What could possibly go wrong with this? American Express has announced a partnership with Twitter, giving customers the ability to sync "eligible cards" with the social network. Tweeting special product hashtags (i.e., #uselessjunk) will purchase a product via that synced card. American Express will then send a purchase-confirmation Tweet, and the usual shipping-and-handling of the product will commence. For Twitter, the partnership also holds significant advantages. If this initial foray succeeds, it could potentially evolve into a workable e-commerce model, and thus a separate stream of revenue for the social network aside from advertising. Also, research has shown that people tend to spend more money when using credit cards as opposed to cash. It's also quite possible that a streamlined online purchase mechanism—think any number of e-commerce Websites' "Buy Now" buttons—could compel potential customers to buy more often and in larger amounts."

China's Controversial Brain Surgery To Cure Drug Addiction 385

kkleiner writes "A small handful of doctors in China are using a highly controversial procedure to rid people of drug addiction by destroying a part of patients' brains. The procedure involves drilling small holes into the skulls of patients and inserting long electrodes that destroy a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This area, often referred to as the "pleasure center" of the brain, is the major nucleus of the brain's reward circuit. Is it worth being cured of addiction if, losing the addiction, we also lose part of who we are?" The practice has been officially banned, but apparently continues nonetheless.
Hardware Hacking

'Wiki Weapon Project' Wants Your 3D-Printable Guns 570

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Earlier this month, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson and a small group of friends who call themselves 'Defense Distributed' launched an initiative they've dubbed the 'Wiki Weapon Project.' Their goal: to raise $20,000 to design and release blueprints for the world's first entirely 3D-printable gun. If all goes according to plan, RepRap users will soon be able to turn the project's CAD designs into an operational firearm capable of shooting at least one standard .22 caliber bullet, all in the privacy of their own garage. Wilson and his handful of collaborators at Defense Distributed plan to use the money they raise to buy or rent a $10,000 Stratysys 3D printer and also to hold a 3D-printable gun design contest with a $1,000 or $2,000 prize for the winning entry — Wilson says they've already received gun design ideas from fans in Arkansas and North Carolina. Once the group has successfully built a reliable 3D-printed gun with the Stratysys printer, it plans to adapt the design for the cheaper and more widely distributed Reprap model. The group had already raised more than $2,000 through the fundraising platform Indiegogo, but the site took down their page and froze their funds on Tuesday. They're continuing to seek donations through their website via Paypal and Bitcoin."
Data Storage

Self-Wiping Hard Drives From Toshiba 268

Orome1 writes "Toshiba announced a family of self-encrypting hard disk drives engineered to automatically invalidate protected data when connected to an unknown host. Data invalidation attributes can be set for multiple data ranges, enabling targeted data in the drive to be rendered indecipherable by command, on power cycle, or on host authentication error."

Fighting Fires With Beams of Electricity 137

cylonlover writes "It's certainly an established fact that electricity can cause fires, but a group of Harvard scientists have presented their research on the use of electricity for fighting fires. In a presentation at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Dr. Ludovico Cademartiri told of how they used a unique device to shoot beams of electricity at an open flame over one foot tall. Almost immediately, he said, the flame was extinguished. 'Such a device could be used, for instance, to make a path for firefighters to enter a fire or create an escape path for people to exit, he said. The system shows particular promise for fighting fires in enclosed quarters, such as armored trucks, planes, and submarines.'"

NASA Wants To Zap Space Junk With Lasers 148

Hugh Pickens writes "MIT Technology Review reports that various ideas have been floated for removing space junk, most of them hugely expensive, but now James Mason at NASA Ames Research Center has come up with the much cheaper option of zapping individual pieces of junk with a ground-based laser, to slow them down so that they eventually de-orbit. Mason estimates that a device to test the reversal of the Kessler syndrome could be put together for a million dollars, which would have to be shared by many space-faring nations, to avoid the inevitable legal issues that using such a device would raise. 'The scheme requires launching nothing into space — except photons (PDF) — and requires no on-orbit interaction — except photon pressure. It is thus less likely to create additional debris risk in comparison to most debris removal schemes,' writes Mason. 'Eventually the concept may lead to an operational international system for shielding satellites and large debris objects from a majority of collisions as well as providing high accuracy debris tracking data and propellant-less station keeping for smallsats.'"

Underwater Nuclear Power Plant Proposed In France 314

nicomede writes "The French state-owned DCNS (French military shipyard) announced today a concept study for an underwater nuclear reactor dedicated to power coastal communities in remote places. It is derived from nuclear submarine power plants, and its generator would be able to produce between 50 MWe and 250MWe. Such a plant would be fabricated and maintained in France, and dispatched for the different customers, thus reducing the risk for proliferation."

IBM's Patent-Pending Traffic Lights Stop Car Engines 423

theodp writes "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't let your engine idle. The USPTO has just published IBM's patent application for a 'System and Method for Controlling Vehicle Engine Running State at Busy Intersections for Increased Fuel Consumption Efficiency.' Here's how Big Blue explains the invention: 'The present disclosure is directed to a method for managing engines in response to a traffic signal. The method may comprise establishing communications with participating vehicles; responding to a stop status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: receiving a position data from each participating vehicles; determining a queue of participating vehicles stopped at the traffic signal; determining a remaining duration of the stop status; sending a stop-engine notification to the list of participating vehicles stopped at the traffic signal when the remaining duration is greater than a threshold of time; responding to a proceed status indicated by the traffic signal, further comprising: sending a start-engine notification to a first vehicle in the queue; calculating an optimal time for an engine of a second vehicle in the queue to start; and sending the start-engine notification to the second vehicle at the optimal time.' IBM notes that 'traffic signals may include, but are not limited to, traffic lights at intersections, railway crossing signals, or other devices for indicating correct moments to stop and to proceed.'"

Oil Leak Could Be Stopped With a Nuke Screenshot-sm 799

An anonymous reader writes "The oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico could be stopped with an underground nuclear blast, a Russian newspaper reports. Komsomoloskaya Pravda, the best-selling Russian daily, reports that in Soviet times such leaks were plugged with controlled nuclear blasts underground. The idea is simple, KP writes: 'The underground explosion moves the rock, presses on it, and, in essence, squeezes the well's channel.' It's so simple, in fact, that the Soviet Union used this method five times to deal with petrocalamities, and it only didn't work once."

Arizona Trialing System That Lets Utility System Control Home A/Cs 393

AzTechGuy writes "Arizona Public Service Co., Arizona's largest power company, is implementing a test program that would put customers' thermostats under their control to help balance power needs during critical peak usage times. APS will be able to remote control the customers' thermostats to control power draw from their A/C when there is a critical power transmission issue on the grid. Customers will be able to override these settings if they desire."

Robots To Clear the Baltic Seafloor of WW-II Mines 286

An anonymous reader writes "A Russian company is building a massive natural gas pipeline that will run across the Baltic Sea floor. But first, they must clear some of the 150,000 unexploded bombs sitting at the bottom of the sea, left there by the Russian and German armies in the 1940s. About 70 of these mines, each filled with 300 kg of explosive charge, sit in the pipeline's path, mostly in its northern section just south of Finland. And so the company contracted to remove the mines is bringing in robots to do the dirty work. Here's how it will work: A research ship deploys the robot to the seabed, where it identifies the exact location of the explosive. After sounding a warning to surrounding ship traffic, scaring fish away using a small explosive, and then emitting a 'seal screamer' of high intensity noises designed to make the area around the blast quite uncomfortable for marine mammals, Bactec's engineers erupt a 5 kg blast, forcing the mine to detonate. This process ensures the safety of humans plus any animals living in the surrounding environment. The operation concludes with the robot being redeployed to clear up the scrap of the now-destroyed bomb."

"Of course power tools and alcohol don't mix. Everyone knows power tools aren't soluble in alcohol..." -- Crazy Nigel