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Government

House Approves Bill To Force Public Release of EPA Science (ap.org) 7

schwit1 quotes a report from Associated Press: House Republicans are taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, targeting the way officials use science to develop new regulations. A bill approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled House would require that data used to support new regulations to protect human health and the environment be released to the public. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said "the days of 'trust me' science are over," adding that the House bill would restore confidence in the EPA's decision-making process. Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty and other Democrats said the bill would cripple EPA's ability to conduct scientific research based on confidential medical information and risks privacy violations by exposing sensitive patient data. The bill was approved 228-194 and now goes to the Senate. According to The Hill, "The bill would also require that any scientific studies be replicable, and allow anyone who signs a confidentiality agreement to view redacted personal or trade information in data."
Nintendo

Your Save Data Is Not Safe On the Nintendo Switch (arstechnica.com) 32

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In a post-launch update to our initial Nintendo Switch review, we noted that there is no way to externally back up game save data stored on the system. A recent horror story from a fellow writer who lost dozens of hours of game progress thanks to a broken system highlights just how troublesome this missing feature can be. Over at GamesRadar, Anthony John Agnello recounts his experience with Nintendo support after his Switch turned into a useless brick for no discernible reason last week (full disclosure: I know Agnello personally and have served with him on some convention panels). After sending his (under warranty) system to Nintendo for repair, Agnello received a fixed system and the following distressing message from the company two days later: "We have inspected the Nintendo Switch system that was sent to us for repair and found that the issue has made some of the information on this system unreadable. As a result, the save data, settings, and links with any Nintendo Accounts on your system were unable to be preserved." Agnello says he lost 55 hours of progress on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, as well as more progress on a few other downloadable games. While he was able to redownload the games that were deleted, he'd have to start from scratch on each one (if only all that progress was easily, instantly unlockable in some way...)
Space

SpaceX Makes Aerospace History With Successful Launch, Landing of a Used Rocket (theverge.com) 60

Eloking quotes a report from The Verge: After more than two years of landing its rockets after launch, SpaceX finally sent one of its used Falcon 9s back into space. The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this evening, sending a communications satellite into orbit, and then landed on one of SpaceX's drone ships floating in the Atlantic Ocean. It was round two for this particular rocket, which already launched and landed during a mission in April of last year. But the Falcon 9's relaunch marks the first time an orbital rocket has launched to space for a second time. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk appeared on the company's live stream shortly after the landing and spoke about the accomplishment. "It means you can fly and refly an orbital class booster, which is the most expensive part of the rocket. This is going to be, ultimately, a huge revolution in spaceflight," he said. "It's been 15 years to get to this point, it's taken us a long time," Musk said. "A lot of difficult steps along the way, but I'm just incredibly proud of the SpaceX for being able to achieve this incredible milestone in the history of space."
IBM

IBM Technology Creates Smart Wingman For Self-Driving Cars (networkworld.com) 22

coondoggie quotes a report from Network World: IBM said that it has patented a machine learning technology that defines how to shift control of an autonomous vehicle between a human driver and a vehicle control processor in the event of a potential emergency. Basically the patented IBM system employs onboard sensors and artificial intelligence to determine potential safety concerns and control whether self-driving vehicles are operated autonomously or by surrendering control to a human driver. The idea is that if a self-driving vehicle experiences an operational glitch like a faulty braking system, a burned-out headlight, poor visibility, bad road conditions, it could decide whether the on-board self-driving vehicle control processor or a human driver is in a better position to handle that anomaly. If the comparison determines that the vehicle control processor is better able to handle the anomaly, the vehicle is placed in autonomous mode," IBM stated. "The technology would be a smart wingman for both the human and the self-driving vehicle," said James Kozloski, manager, Computational Neuroscience and Multiscale Brain Modeling, IBM Research and co-inventor on the patent.
AT&T

AT&T Receives $6.5 Billion To Build Wireless Network For First Responders (reuters.com) 26

The First Responder Network, FirstNet, an independent arm of the Department of Commerce, has awarded a contract to AT&T to build a nationwide wireless broadband network to better equip first responders. "FirstNet will provide 20MHz of high-value, telecommunications spectrum and success-based payments of $6.5 billion over the next five years to support the network buildout," AT&T said in its announcement. Reuters reports: The effort to set up a public safety network was triggered by communications failures during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, when first responders were unable to effectively communicate as they used different technologies and networks. The FirstNet network will help emergency medical personnel, firefighters and police officers communicate vital information on one single network in real time, as opposed to using thousands of separate, incompatible systems. The rollout of the network, which will cover will cover all states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia, will begin later this year, AT&T said on Thursday. AT&T will spend about $40 billion over the period of the 25-year agreement to build, operate and maintain the network.
United States

Publish Georgia's State Laws, You'll Get Sued For Copyright and Lose (arstechnica.com) 107

Presto Vivace writes: If you want to read the official laws of the state of Georgia, it will cost you more than $1,000. Open-records activist Carl Malamud bought a hard copy, and it cost him $1,207.02 after shipping and taxes. A copy on CD was $1,259.41. The "good" news for Georgia residents is that they'll only have to pay $385.94 to buy a printed set from LexisNexis. Malamud thinks reading the law shouldn't cost anything. So a few years back, he scanned a copy of the state of Georgia's official laws, known as the Official Georgia Code Annotated, or OCGA. Malamud made USB drives with two copies on them, one scanned copy and another encoded in XML format. On May 30, 2013, Malamud sent the USB drives to the Georgia speaker of the House, David Ralson, and the state's legislative counsel, as well as other prominent Georgia lawyers and policymakers. Now, the case has concluded with U.S. District Judge Richard Story having published an opinion (PDF) that sides with the state of Georgia. The judge disagreed with Malamud's argument that the OCGA can't be copyrighted and also said Malamud's copying of the laws is not fair use. "The Copyright Act itself specifically lists 'annotations' in the works entitled to copyright protection," writes Story. "Defendant admits that annotations in an unofficial code would be copyrightable."

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace adds: "It could have been worse, at least he was not criminally charged liked Aaron Schwartz."

Network

Comcast Launches Contract-Free Xfinity Prepaid Internet Service (theverge.com) 23

Comcast has been testing its Xfinity prepaid internet service for several years and now it appears to be ready for the masses. "The package allows consumers to pay for internet service on a pay-as-you-go basis, with refills ranging from seven to 30 days," reports The Verge. From the report: Comcast is partnering with Boost Mobile to sell the $80 prepaid internet starter kits, which come with a wireless DOCSIS 3.0 gateway and 30 days of service. Download speeds measure up to 10 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps for uploads, and refills start at $15 for one week. The prepaid plans works anywhere within Xfinity's coverage area, and while there's no credit check involved, you do have to be 18 years or older to sign up. The partnership also gives Boost Mobile customers $5 off refills. At launch, customers will be able to find the the Xfinity starter kits at Boost Mobile stores around Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. The company plans to roll out the kits to all 4,000 stores (that are within Comcast's coverage area) by the end of the year.
Twitter

Twitter Will No Longer Count Usernames Against a Tweet's 140-Character Limit (phonedog.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: Last year, Twitter updated its service so that photos, videos, and other media wouldn't count against your 140-character limit. Now it's excluding another feature from that limit. Twitter is now rolling out an update that excludes usernames from your tweet's 140-character limit. This means that you can tag as many people in your tweet as you'd like, but still have 140 characters for your actual message. With this change, Twitter is also tweaking how usernames are shown when you're @ replying to people. Now you'll see "Replying to" followed by user names at the top of your tweet, rather than a long string of user names in the tweet itself. Tapping this will show you exactly who you're replying to. This update is now rolling out to Twitter.com as well as the Twitter apps for Android and iOS.
The Almighty Buck

Streaming Services Generated More Than 50% of All US Music Industry Revenue in 2016 (variety.com) 22

Janko Roettgers, reporting for Variety: Streaming music services were for the first time ever responsible for more than 50 percent of all U.S. music industry revenue in 2016, according to new numbers released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) Thursday. Paid and ad-supported streaming together generated 51 percent of music revenue last year, to be precise, bringing in a total of $3.9 billion. In 2015, streaming music was responsible for 34 percent of the music industry's annual revenue. Much of that increase can be attributed to a strong growth of paid subscriptions to services like Spotify and Apple Music. Revenue from paid subscription plans more than doubled in 2016, bringing in $2.5 billion, with an average of 22.6 million U.S. consumers subscribing to streaming services last year. The year before, subscription services had an average of 10.8 million paying subscribers.
Android

Microsoft To Sell Customized Edition of Samsung Galaxy S8 Android Smartphones (zdnet.com) 62

Done with selling its own phones, Microsoft is getting back at the smartphone business. This time, selling Samsung's Android powered flagship S8 and S8 Plus smartphone. From a report: Microsoft says it is making available for pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ Microsoft Edition. Both phones will be available for purchase beginning April 21 at brick-and-mortar US Microsoft Store locations. Details as to exactly what "Microsoft Edition" means are scarce. But based on an email I received from a Microsoft spokesperson, I believe this means these phones will need to be unboxed inside a Microsoft Store, connected to the Microsoft Store Wi-Fi and automatically populated with Microsoft apps, including Office, OneDrive, Cortana, Outlook, and more Microsoft apps.
Google

Google Plans To Alter JavaScript Popups After Abuse From Tech Support Scammers (bleepingcomputer.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: Chromium engineers are discussing plans to change how JavaScript popups work inside Chrome and other similar browsers. In a proposal published on the Google Developers portal, the Chromium team acknowledged that JavaScript popups are consistently used to harm users.

To combat this threat, Google engineers say they plan to make JavaScript modals, like the alert(), confirm(), and dialog() methods, only work on a per-tab basis, and not per-window. This change means that popups won't block users from switching and closing the tab, putting an end to any overly-aggresive tactics on the part of the website's owner(s).

There is no timeline on Google's decision to move JavaScript popups to a per-tab model, but Chromium engineers have been debating this issue since July 2016 as part of Project OldSpice. A similar change was made to Safari 9.1, released this week. Apple's decision came after crooks used a bug in Safari to block users on malicious pages using popups. Crooks then tried to extort payment, posing as ransomware.

Music

Safe Harbor Cost the US Music Industry Up To $1B in Lost Royalties Per Year, Study Finds (musicweek.com) 143

An anonymous reader shares a report: For the first time, researchers have quantified the "value gap" and its impact on the US recorded music industry. A study published yesterday (March 29) by Washington, DC-based economy think tank the Phoenix Centre For Advanced Legal And Economic Public Policy Studies attempted to calculate how much revenue the recording industry loses from the distortions caused by the safe harbor provisions. Entitled Safe Harbors And The Evolution of Music Retailing, the study was conducted by T. Randolph Beard, George S. Ford and Michael Stern who applied "accepted economic modelling techniques" to simulate revenue effects from royalty rate changes on YouTube. It showed that if YouTube were to pay the recorded music industry market rates, similar to what other streaming services pay, its economic contributions to the sector would be significantly bigger. The premises used by the Phoenix Centre economists was that, according to the music recording industry, YouTube evades paying market rates for the use of copyrighted content by exploiting the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's "safe harbor" provisions, which allow to post creative content online in good faith and remove it if rights holders so require. Using 2015 data, the Phoenix Centre found that "a plausible royalty rate increase could produce increased royalty revenues in the US of $650 million to over one billion dollars a year."
Social Networks

Facebook Announces Crowdfunding Service To Back Causes Such As Medical Needs (androidandme.com) 56

Facebook said today it is introducing a crowdfunding feature to help users back causes such as education, medical needs, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergencies and funerals. The new tool, which appears to offer similar features as GoFundMe, allows users 18 or older to "raise money for themselves, a friend or someone or something not on Facebook." From a report: Personal Fundraisers are available in several specific categories, and require a 24-hour review process. Here are the covered categories for now:
Education: such as tuition, books or classroom supplies.
Medical: such as medical procedures, treatments or injuries.
Pet Medical: such as veterinary procedures, treatments or injuries.
Crisis Relief: such as public crises or natural disasters.
Personal Emergency: such as a house fire, theft or car accident.
Funeral and Loss: such as burial expenses or living costs after losing a loved one.

United Kingdom

Britain Wants Tech Firms to Tackle Extremism (fortune.com) 117

Britain will tell Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft on Thursday to do more to stop extremists posting content on their platforms and using encrypted messaging services to plan attacks. From a report: Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday tech companies should stop offering a "secret place for terrorists to communicate," after British parliament attacker Khalid Masood was widely reported to have sent encrypted messages moments before he killed four people last week. Rudd has summoned the Internet companies to a meeting to urge them to do more to block extremist content from platforms like Facebook and Google's YouTube, but a government spokesman said encryption was also on the agenda. "The message is the government thinks there is more they can do in relation to taking down extremist and hate material and that is what they are going to be talking about this afternoon," the prime minister's spokesman said on Thursday.
Television

Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola Urge Fans To Watch Films in Cinemas, Not On Netflix (theguardian.com) 302

Christopher Nolan and Sofia Coppola have urged audiences to see their films in the cinema at a time when the movie industry is reckoning with the growing popularity of video on demand and streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon. From a report: Presenting their forthcoming films at CinemaCon, the annual convention organised by the National Association of Theatre Owners, the directors said that they hoped fans opted to watch them at movie theatres, where they were "meant to be seen." Nolan made his comments during a presentation of his second world war drama Dunkirk, at which he previewed footage from the film. "This is a story that needs to carry you through the suspenseful situation, and make you feel like you are there, and the only way to do that is through theatrical distribution," Nolan told the audience. "I am depending and relying on all of you to try to present this film in the best way possible." Coppola echoed Nolan's comments during a Focus Features presentation for The Beguiled, a remake of the Clint Eastwood civil war drama starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman.

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