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Businesses

Net Neutrality Campaign To Show What the Web Would Be Like With a "Slow Lane" 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-so-fast dept.
blottsie writes In a move out of the anti-SOPA campaign playbook, Fight for the Future and other net neutrality activist groups have set up the Battle for the Net coalition, which plans to launch an "Internet slowdown day" later this month. No actual traffic will be slowed down. Instead, participating sites will display embeddable modules that include a spinning "loading" symbol and information about contacting the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the White House, and members of Congress.
Biotech

Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague 360

Posted by timothy
from the theocrat's-cookbook dept.
Foreign Policy has an in-depth look at the contents of a laptop reportedly seized this year in Syria from a stronghold of the organization now known as the Islamic State, and described as belonging to a Tunisian national ("Muhammed S."). The "hidden documents" folder of the machine, says the report, contained a vast number of documents, including ones describing and justifying biological weapons: The laptop's contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another. ... The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals. ... "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.

Comment: Re:This is good! (Score 1) 522

by Zak3056 (#47767829) Attached to: Limiting the Teaching of the Scientific Process In Ohio

A friend of mine from Georgia (the US state) described his high school biology lecture on evolution as "OK, today I'm legally required to tech evolution. We all believe in Jesus, right? OK, next topic."

I went to a catholic elementary school, and one of my 6th grade teachers was a nun named Sister Catherine-Joseph who taught two subjects: religion and science. Despite the obvious setup for failure, she taught both rigorously, and well. I HATED that woman with a passion, but she was, absolutely, a superior educator who would have smacked the shit out of someone with a ruler for daring to suggest that, "We all believe in Jesus, *wink wink*" was either suitable coverage or a valid refutation of evolution.

Microsoft

For Microsoft, $93B Abroad Means Avoiding $30B Tax Hit 316

Posted by timothy
from the what's-billed-vs-what's-owed dept.
walterbyrd (182728) writes "Microsoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company's most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years, and the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company's home state of Washington."

Comment: Re:Gravity isn't SF (Score 4, Insightful) 180

by Zak3056 (#47721871) Attached to: The 2014 Hugo Awards

Good science fiction is (almost) ALWAYS about people, and how they react in an environment that is altered by a technology, or an event, or some other external influence that simply wasn't imaginable until our understanding of the universe progressed (the science part of the fiction). While there are some examples that differ from this, if you take a look through your favorite stories, they almost all conform to this pattern.

In this case, it's an exploration of what happens to someone who is in orbit during an event that leads to Kessler Syndrome. I'm not saying the film deserved to win, but I think complaining that "this isn't science fiction" is decidedly unwarranted.

Transportation

Berlin Bans Car Service Uber 341

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-here dept.
An anonymous reader is just one of many who have pointed out that things don't look good for Uber in Berlin. Berlin has banned car service Uber, which allows users to summon a ride on their smartphone, for not offering drivers and vehicles licensed to carry passengers, or full insurance cover, the German capital said. The ban takes immediate effect and Uber risks fines of up to 25,000 euros each time it violates the city's Public Transport Act, Berlin authorities said in a statement. Uber said on Thursday it would appeal against the decision, accusing Berlin of denying its people choice and mobility. "As a new entrant we are bringing much-needed competition to a market that hasn't changed in years. Competition is good for everyone and it raises the bar and ultimately it's the consumer who wins," said Fabien Nestmann, German General Manager at Uber. Undaunted by the setback in Berlin, Uber has launched uberTAXI in Hong Kong.

Comment: It's called "puffery" (Score 1) 147

If I were selling a moving service, and I put out ads showing us moving an elephant, how on earth could I complain when a customer actually asked us to move an elephant? That's what was advertised, that's what they should deliver. End of story.

In your example, the ad showing the elephant would certainly be considered mere puffery and not give you a valid claim in court. See, e.g., Leonard v. Pepsico (in which a plaintiff tried to sue Pepsi for failing to deliver a Harrier jet as the prize in a contest based an a TV ad showing the jet as a prize).

The question is whether "unlimited" is a claim whose truth or falsity can be demonstrated, and what kind of expectations reasonable people have.

Comment: Wiretap laws are anachronistic (Score 1) 368

by langelgjm (#47657223) Attached to: Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

Besides, would you really want this to be a prevalent feature on smartphones?

Yes. With virtually every other form of electronic communication we have today, we know that it can be (and likely is being) recorded and archived. E-mail, SMS, Facebook messages, video camera footage (without audio), license plate location details through ALPR, credit card usage information, utility usage information through smart meters... heck, even WHO you call and for how long is being recorded by the phone company and shared with law enforcement, no warrant required, since that's "just metadata" recorded by a "pen register" and doesn't fall under wiretap laws.

Now, ask yourself, who benefits from that fact that it's difficult for the average citizen to record their phone calls? And why is it that every entity with any significant power or revenue records their phone calls, and simply informs you of that fact without offering any choice? How exactly does it benefit me that all my interactions with Comcast or AT&T are recorded and kept by them and I have nothing?

Maybe you think there should be more protections for all the other forms of communication and data, but that's not going to happen. And just like it was in the interest of law enforcement for them to be able to record you, but not for you to be able to record them, I think you need to think hard about whether you really want to preserve an illusion of privacy, or actually be able level the playing field.

Comment: Never ethical, never private, never secure (Score 1) 164

by jbn-o (#47642071) Attached to: F-Secure: Xiaomi Smartphones Do Secretly Steal Your Data

Location data and contact/address data are sensitive yet inextricably linked to how people use trackers (also known as cell phones and other portable electronic devices). Whether the device conveys GPS coordinates, can be tracked to a remarkably small area via cell tower triangulation, or unknown (to the user) parties get the information from a proprietor (such as Apple), the privacy loss inherent in ordinary tracker operation makes it impossible to "avoid storing sensitive data on the phone".

This is no accident. When societies face the combination of nonfree software (both in OS and programs people are encouraged to install later), devices that are as close to always-on as is possible for mobile computing, and a userbase as persistently distracted away from focusing on their civil liberties as most tracker users are (no thanks to sites like /. which carry stories like these without any ethical critique to go alongside the corporate-written stockprice-sensitive spin) results like these are the outcome. Add to that the unethical ways in which trackers are made (such as Apple turning a blind eye to the environment in China or expoiting workers at Pegatron even worse than at Foxconn but Apple is certainly not alone in any of this) and you have an ugly recipe for abuse from end-to-end. Many thanks to people including Richard Stallman for compiling useful information about all of this and for his many years of warning people against nonfree software.

Comment: Proprietary power is always anti-user. (Score 0) 267

by jbn-o (#47619659) Attached to: Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

It's news because so many people are never taught to think of software freedom. Instead sites like this one shill for Microsoft, Apple, and a weaker "open source" message that was designed to draw attention away from ethical examination of the issue. Cutting off service and not providing programs for various systems are just two of the things proprietors with the power they wield over users. Software freedom would mean letting users maintain older OSes as much as they want to, backport programs they found valuable, and run builds of modern programs as much as desired.

You're quite right to point out that Apple is no friend on these grounds. But this shouldn't be looked at in terms of business; the effect on the user is far more important. Proprietors are the same in how they treat people because the heart of any nonfree software is unethical power over someone else's use of a computer. Richard Stallman reminds us that Apple uses this same leverage to pressure users into malicious "upgrades":

Using the lever of "You have a choice, but unless you say yes, your old activities will stop working" is something that Apple has done before, with malicious "upgrades". Apple ostensibly doesn't force people to accept the new nasty thing; it just punishes them if they don't.

Nobody should be obliged to work on developing programs and nobody should have the power to prevent users from developing the software.

Comment: If it's that important to you... (Score 1) 218

by langelgjm (#47591009) Attached to: The Great Taxi Upheaval

Obviously with license plate scanners driving a car doesn't solve the anonymity problem. If being anonymous is that important to you, ride a bicycle or use public transit. Even where public transit doesn't directly accept cash, you can almost always purchase the RFID or smart card with cash. There will be a record of your trips, but it won't be linked to you.

FYI, public transit is often the transportation mode of choice for the marginalized.

Comment: The knowledge works both ways (Score 1) 218

by langelgjm (#47590999) Attached to: The Great Taxi Upheaval

Yes, records of the customers should make drivers safer. That knowledge also works in the other direction:

Last night I got a safety alert message from my university in DC saying that a female student had hailed a cab, and the driver had tried to sexually assault her. She escaped, and the driver took off and has not been found. The only description of the cab was a "silver van".

I've heard lots of worries that with Uber, "you don't know who's driving you" - but that's even more true with a regular cab. If this incident had happened with Uber, there would have been an electronic record of the hail, GPS tracking of the vehicle, etc. Maybe if you happen to get the cab number you can check in with the company to see which driver was operating at the time, but who is going to remember a cab number when they're being assaulted?

Mystics always hope that science will some day overtake them. -- Booth Tarkington

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