Government

Investigation Demanded Over Fake FCC Comments Submitted By Dead People (bbc.com) 115

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future has found another issue with the fake comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality. "The campaign group says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people," according to the BBC. The exact same comment was also submitted more than 7,000 times using addresses in Colorado, where a reporter discovered that contacting the people at those addresses drew reactions which included "I have never seen this before in my life" and "No, I did not post this comment. In fact, I disagree with this comment." Fight for the Future also knocked on doors in Tampa, Florida, where the few people who answered "were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with." An alleged commenter in Montana told a reporter she didn't even know what net neutrality was.

14 people have already signed Fight for the Future's official complaint to the FCC, which calls for notification of all people affected, an investigation, and the immediate removal of all fake comments from the public docket. "Based on numerous media reports, nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us," states the letter, "in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."

Fight for the Future says they've already verified "dozens" of instance of real people discovering a fake comment was submitted in their name -- and that in addition, more than 2,400 people have already used their site to contact their state Attorneys General demanding an investigation. They note the FCC has taken no steps to remove the fake comments from its docket, "risking the safety and privacy of potentially hundreds of thousands of people," while a campaign director at Fight for the Future added, "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."
Republicans

Hackers Have Targeted Both the Trump Organization And Democrat Election Data (arstechnica.com) 209

An anonymous reader writes: Two recent news stories give new prominence to politically-motivated data breaches. Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that last year Guccifer 2.0 sent 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee election data to a Republican operative in Florida, including their critical voter turnout projections. At the same time ABC News is reporting that the FBI is investigating "an attempted overseas cyberattack against the Trump Organization," adding that such an attack would make his network a high priority for government monitoring.

"In the course of its investigation," they add, "the FBI could get access to the Trump Organization's computer network, meaning FBI agents could possibly find records connected to other investigations." A senior FBI official (now retired) concedes to ABC that "There could be stuff in there that they [the Trump organization] do not want to become part of a separate criminal investigation."

It seems like everyone's talking about the privacy of their communications. Tonight the Washington Post writes that Trump's son-in-law/senior advisor Jared Kushner "discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports." And Friday Hillary Clinton was even quoted as saying, "I would have won had I not been subjected to the unprecedented attacks by Comey and the Russians..."
Displays

UCF Research Could Bring 'Drastically' Higher Resolution To Your Phone and TV (ucf.edu) 98

New submitter cinemetek quotes a report from University of Central Florida: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have developed a new color changing surface tunable through electrical voltage that could lead to three times the resolution for televisions, smartphones and other devices. Current LCD's are made up of hundreds of thousands of pixels that display different colors. With current technology, each of these pixels contain three subpixels -- one red, one green, one blue. UCF's NanoScience Technology Center (Assistant Professor Debashis Chanda and physics doctoral student Daniel Franklin) have come up with a way to tune the color of these subpixels. By applying differing voltages, they are able to change the color of individual subpixels to red, green or blue -- the RGB scale -- or gradations in between. By eliminating the three static subpixels that currently make up every pixel, the size of individual pixels can be reduced by three. Three times as many pixels means three times the resolution. That would have major implications for not only TVs and other general displays, but augmented reality and virtual-reality headsets that need very high resolution because they're so close to the eye.
Space

After Almost Two Years, The Air Force's Mysterious X-37B Space Plane Lands (space.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: The record-shattering mission of the U.S. Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane is finally over. After circling Earth for an unprecedented 718 days, the X-37B touched down Sunday at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida -- the first landing at the SLF since the final space shuttle mission came back to Earth in July 2011... The just-ended mission, known as OTV-4 (Orbital Test Vehicle-4), was the fourth for the X-37B program... The 29-foot-long (8.8 meters) X-37B looks like NASA's now-retired space shuttle orbiter, only much smaller; indeed, two X-37Bs could fit inside a space shuttle's cavernous payload bay...

Most of the X-37B's payloads and activities are classified, leading to some speculation that the space plane could be a weapon of some sort, perhaps a disabler of enemy satellites... But Air Force officials have always strongly refuted that notion, stressing that the vehicle is simply testing technologies on orbit. "Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control; thermal-protection systems; avionics; high-temperature structures and seals; conformal, reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems; and autonomous orbital flight, re-entry and landing," Captain AnnMarie Annicelli, an Air Force spokeswoman, told Space.com via email in March.

Government

The FBI Defends Deploying Malware From A Tor Child Porn Site (gizmodo.com) 244

An anonymous reader writes: The FBI issued a press release about the 30-year prison sentence for a 58-year-old Florida man running "the world's largest child pornography website, with more than 150,000 users around the world." But their investigation involved what Gizmodo describes as "a decision controversial to this day" -- taking over the child pornography site and running it "for almost two weeks while distributing malware designed to unmask its visitors." Thursday the FBI described it as "a court-approved network investigative technique" which led to more than 1,000 leads in the U.S. and "thousands more" for law enforcement partners in other countries, leading to arrests in the EU, Israel, Turkey, Peru, Malaysia, Chile, and the Ukraine. Those 1,000 U.S. leads led to "at least 350 U.S-based individuals arrested", as well as actual prosecutions of 25 producers of child pornography and 51 hands-on abusers, while 55 children were "identified or rescued" in America, and another 296 internationally who were sexually abused.

Though Motherboard describes it as hacking "over 8,000 computers in 120 countries based on one warrant," the FBI calls it their "most successful effort to date against users of Tor's hidden service sites," adding that the agency "has numerous investigations involving the dark web." Though they'd soon became aware of the site's existence, "given the nature of how Tor hidden services work, there was not much we could do about it" -- until a foreign law enforcement agency discovered the site had "slipped up" by revealing its actual IP address, and notified the U.S. investigators. The FBI also says the investigation "has opened new avenues for international cooperation in efforts to prosecute child abusers around the world."

The site's two other administrators -- both men in their 40s -- were also given 20-year prison sentences earlier this year.
Government

California Seeks To Tax Rocket Launches, Which Are Already Taxed (arstechnica.com) 417

The state of California is looking into taxing its thriving rocket industry. The Franchise Tax Board has issued a proposed regulation for public comment that would require companies that launch spacecraft to pay a tax based upon "mileage" traveled by that spacecraft from California. Ars Technica reports: The proposal says that California-based companies that launch spacecraft will have to pay a tax based upon "mileage" traveled by that spacecraft from California. (No, we're not exactly sure what this means, either). The proposed regulations were first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, and Thomas Lo Grossman, a tax attorney at the Franchise Tax Board, told the newspaper that the rules are designed to mirror the ways taxes are levied on terrestrial transportation and logistics firms operating in California, like trucking or train companies. The tax board is seeking public input from now until June 16, when it is expected to vote on the proposed tax. The federal government already has its own taxes for commercial space companies, and until now no other state has proposed taxing commercial spaceflight. In fact most other states, including places like Florida, Texas, and Georgia, offer launch providers tax incentives to move business into their areas.
Government

Unmanned US Air Force Space Plane Lands After Secret, Two-Year Mission (reuters.com) 14

Irene Klotz, reporting for Reuters: The U.S. military's experimental X-37B space plane landed on Sunday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a classified mission that lasted nearly two years, the Air Force said. The unmanned X-37B, which resembles a miniature space shuttle, touched down at 7:47 a.m. EDT (1147 GMT) on a runway formerly used for landings of the now-mothballed space shuttles, the Air Force said in an email. The Boeing-built space plane blasted off in May 2015 from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard an Atlas 5 rocket built by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The X-37B, one of two in the Air Force fleet, conducted unspecified experiments for more than 700 days while in orbit. It was the fourth and lengthiest mission so far for the secretive program, managed by the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.
NASA

SpaceX Successfully Launches Its First Spy Satellite (arstechnica.com) 65

SpaceX successfully launched NROL-76, a classified U.S. intelligence mission, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center Monday. Sunday's launch attempt was scrubbed due to a sensor issue. From a report: Not much is known about the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-76 satellite, a classified payload, which will liftoff into low Earth orbit from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Transportation

Hyperloop One Announces 11 Possible US Routes, Completes Vegas Test Track (theverge.com) 270

An anonymous reader writes: Thursday Hyperloop One executives announced that they've finished constructing their 1,640-foot-long "DevLoop" test track in the desert outside Las Vegas. But they also revealed possible U.S. routes for their high-speed transportation solution "to initiate a nationwide conversation about the future of American transportation" -- five of them suggested by state transportation department officials from Texas, Florida, Colorado, Nevada and Missouri.

Last May the company invited pitches for routes to various cities, and Thursday's 11 pitches were chosen from 2,600 participants. These 11 pitches will compete with 24 other pitches from around the globe to be one of the three chosen to "work closely with Hyperloop One engineering and business development teams to explore project development and financing." And Thursday they also announced that "by year's end the company will have a team of 500 engineers, fabricators, scientists and other employees dedicated to bringing the technology to life."

Click through for more information, and the list of the 11 U.S. cities being suggested for hyperloop destinations.
Transportation

JetBlue and Boeing Are Betting Big On Electric Jet Startup 'Zunem Aero' (theverge.com) 163

A new startup called Zunum Aero is aiming to reinvent how users travel short distances, such as from San Francisco to Los Angeles. "The Kirkland, Washington-based company [...] plans to build a fleet of hybrid electric jets to sell to major carriers for service on densely traveled regional routes like San Francisco to Los Angeles or Boston to Washington, DC, "reports The Verge. Two aviation giants, Boeing and JetBlue, are reportedly backing the startup. From the report: Lower operating costs (i.e., no fueling) will allow carriers to reduce fares by 40 to 80 percent, they predict. And by flying a smaller aircraft that would be subject to fewer TSA regulations, Zunum claims it will take less time to go through security before boarding one of its planes. Zunum aims to build several models of hybrid-electric propulsion jets. At launch, its first class of aircraft will be tiny, in the 10-15 foot range, with a 10-passenger capacity and a range of up to 700 miles on a single charge. (Think San Francisco to Portland or Atlanta to DC.) Those planes can be expected to roll off the assembly line by the early 2020s, the company's CEO Ashish Kumar told The Verge. By the 2030s, as electric battery technology improves, Zunum hopes to build larger aircraft that can carry up to 50 passengers and travel up to 1,000 miles on a single charge. (Think Seattle to LA or Boston to Jacksonville, Florida.) Zunum's aircraft will feature hybrid electric motors with the capacity to accept recharging power from a variety of sources. Because airplanes are typically kept in service for up to 30 years, Kumar says its important for Zunum's aircraft to be future proof. That means designing them to be compatible with future battery designs and range-extending generators, with an eye toward ultimately switching from hybrid propulsion to fully electric motors once the technology catches up.
Earth

Manatee No Longer An Endangered Species (miamiherald.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes the Miami Herald: The manatee -- for decades the poster mammal for environmental decline in Florida -- is officially no longer an endangered species. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that the manatee will instead be designated "threatened" -- a status change that reflects a boom in population over the last decade. In February, Florida wildlife managers released preliminary results of an annual count that recorded 6,620 manatees lumbering in the warm waters of Florida's lagoons, springs and canals... "We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees," Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club, said in a statement. "A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee's long- term survival."
It was the third consecutive year to see an increase in the estimated population of manatees.
Space

SpaceX Makes Aerospace History With Successful Launch, Landing of a Used Rocket (theverge.com) 260

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."
Communications

Senate Votes To Kill FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules (pcworld.com) 404

The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. PCWorld adds: The Senate's 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago. Thursday's vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC's privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them. The Senate's resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a "gold mine of data" about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. Kate Tummarello, writing for EFF: [This] would be a crushing loss for online privacy. ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent. We can still kill this in the House: call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.
Mars

Trump Adds To NASA Budget, Approves Crewed Mission To Mars (nbcnews.com) 313

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: President Donald Trump signed a law on Tuesday authorizing funding for a crewed NASA mission to Mars. The new bill (S.442) adds a crewed mission to the red planet as a key NASA objective and authorizes the space agency to direct test human space flight programs that will enable more crewed exploration in deep space. The space agency has $19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts this October. Trump had allocated $19.1 billion for NASA in his budget, which is slightly down from the current year, but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program. The commander in chief signed the bill surrounded by astronauts and his former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who both sponsored the bill. Getting to Mars, though, isn't expected to happen during the Trump presidency. NASA has its sights set on getting to the red planet in the 2030s. In the near term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.
Stats

America's Most Affordable Cities For Tech Workers: Seattle, Austin, and Pittsburgh (prnewswire.com) 127

"Seattle tech workers who own their homes can expect to have about $2,000 more in disposable income each month than tech workers in the Bay Area," according to a new study from LinkedIn and Zillow. An anonymous reader writes: "For technology workers who rent, Seattle, Austin and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came out on top among the housing markets analyzed, with the Bay Area at #4..." the two companies reported. "Salaries for other industries don't hold up as well in the San Francisco area, though. Even highly-paid finance workers keep only about 32 percent of their incomes after paying for housing and taxes. In Charlotte or Chicago, they can pocket a median of 61 percent."

The Bay Area's high housing prices are apparently offset by the high salaries paid there to tech workers, according to the study. Even so, both home owners and renters pay roughly half the median income for housing on the west coast, "while a rental in the middle of the country costs more like 25 percent of the median income."

The report also identified the best cities for health workers -- Phoenix, Indianapolis, and Boston -- as well as for finance workers, who do best in Charlotte, Chicago and Dallas. The top 15 cities for tech workers also included those same cities except Chicago and Phoenix, while also including known tech hotspots like Denver, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. But surprisingly the top 15 best cities for tech workers also included Detroit, Nashville, St. Paul (Minnesota) and Tampa, Florida.
Medicine

Unproven Stem Cell Treatments Blind 3 Women (npr.org) 108

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Scientists have long hoped that stem cells might have the power to treat diseases. But it's always been clear that they could be dangerous too, especially if they're not used carefully. Now a pair of papers published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine is underscoring both the promise and the peril of using stem cells for therapy. In one report, researchers document the cases of three elderly women who were blinded after getting stem cells derived from fat tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida. The treatment was marketed as a treatment for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. Each woman got cells injected into both eyes. In a second report, a patient suffering from the same condition had a halt in the inexorable loss of vision patients usually experience, which may or may not have been related to the treatment. That patient got a different kind of stem cell derived from skin cells as part of a carefully designed Japanese study. The Japanese case marks the first time anyone has given induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to a patient to treat any condition. The report about the three women in their 70s and 80s who were blinded in Florida is renewing calls for the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the hundreds of clinics that are selling unproven stem cell treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, autism and stroke.
Medicine

West African Village Weighs Using Genetically Modified Mosquitoes In Malaria Fight (scientificamerican.com) 112

New submitter omaha393 writes: A public engagement campaign is underway in the hopes of convincing Burkina Faso residents to allow the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to combat deadly mosquito-borne pathogens. GM mosquitoes rely on a technology called "gene drives." Different gene drives offer different solutions, typically leading to subsequent broods being sterile, predominantly male, resistant to infection or nonviable due to toxic traits. Researchers in this case are only in the preliminary stages of releasing sterile males but hope to begin wider releases of GM mosquitoes in about 6 years.

Burkina Faso is not the only country to pursue GM mosquitoes in efforts to prevent disease. Brazil has become a testing ground for wide release, and last fall voters in Florida Keys approved measures to begin releasing GM mosquitoes to fight the spread of Zika. Both the WHO and the U.S. FDA have approved the technique, but skeptics are critical of the method.

Transportation

UPS Develops 'Rolling Warehouse' System In Which Drones Are Launched From Atop Trucks (bloomberg.com) 41

mi writes: A Bloomberg article describes a test conducted by UPS on Monday, "launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa, Florida. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet." The company is looking to design a "rolling warehouse" system in which a drone is "deployed from the roof of a UPS truck and flies at an altitude of 200 feet to the destination." It returns after dropping off the package while the truck is already on its way to the next stop.
Twitter

Maybe It's Time For Jack Dorsey To Pick a Company (theoutline.com) 37

To Jack Dorsey, running two high-profile companies -- Twitter and Square -- at the same time doesn't seem like a problem. In an earlier interview with The New York Times, he said, "I can split my time and be present at both companies every single day." But despite how confidently Dorsey seems about his leadership roles at both the companies, investors and journalists keep asking him this question. And there's a reason why, both the companies are unprofitable (for now, at least), and pretty much every social media app that emerges on the face of the Earth is able to gain more users and figure out a better business plan than the decade-old Twitter. In a column on The Outline, Adrianne Jeffries writes: This question popped up again this week on Twitter's earnings call. Twitter missed its fourth quarter revenue targets. The stock is down and advertising revenue is down. User growth plateaued a year ago. Bloomberg estimated that Twitter has about 140 million daily active users, which was recently surpassed by the much-younger Snapchat. [...] Unlike Twitter, Square has real competitors, including PayPal, Intuit, and Stripe. "Twitter's got a niche where it owns that niche," said Jay Ritter, a professor at the Department of Finance at the University of Florida who specializes in IPOs. "Square, on the other hand, has competition. It is not something where it owns a niche. There are other ways to have easy electronic payments. And consequently, investors are more concerned about, is Square going to be able to get sufficient size that it then becomes profitable? Or is a competitor going to wind up dominating the market?" That's one reason why investors, and probably Dorsey himself, are still seduced by Twitter. While Twitter has seen user growth stall -- a very bad sign for a social network -- it's still able to capture a lot of mindshare, and some investors believe that that means there is still a windfall to be made. Facebook, after all, saw its stock cut in half after its IPO only to rebound and march steadily upward. At this point, it's clear that Facebook has a solid business and terrifying staying power. That's what Twitter investors want: to dominate a market, trap advertisers, and conquer the world. The possibility that maybe Twitter has no competitors because there is no money to be made in microblogging is sidelined. As Ritter said, "Just because it's a winner-take-all market doesn't mean it's a profitable winner-take-all market."
Space

SpaceX Plans to Start Launching Rockets Every Two To Three Weeks (fortune.com) 104

Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, plans to launch its Falcon 9 rockets every two to three weeks, its fastest rate since starting launches in 2010, once a new launch pad is put into service in Florida next week. From a report: The ambitious plan comes only five months after a SpaceX rocket burst into flames on the launch pad at the company's original launch site in Florida. SpaceX, controlled by billionaire Elon Musk, has only launched one rocket since then, in mid-January. "We should be launching every two to three weeks," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in an interview on Monday.

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