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Communications

Senate Votes To Kill FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules (pcworld.com) 402

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) 311

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.
Education

Disney Thinks High Schools Should Let Kids Take Coding In Place of Foreign Languages 328

theodp writes: Florida lawmakers are again proposing a contentious plan that would put coding and foreign language on equal footing in a public high school student's education. Under a proposed bill students who take two credits of computer coding and earn a related industry certification could then count that coursework toward two foreign language credits.

"I sort of comically applaud that some would want to categorize coding as a foreign language," said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "Coding cannot be seen as an equivalent substitute." Disclosure records show that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has three lobbyists registered to fight in support of the bill. Disney did not return an email seeking comment, but State Senator Jeff Brandes said the company's interest is in a future workforce... Disney has provided signature tutorials for the nation's Hour of Code over the past three years, including Disney's Frozen princess-themed tutorial.
Education

Should College Tuition Vary By Major, Based On the College's Costs For the Major? (qz.com) 537

Registered Coward v2 writes: Vault, in a blog post, discusses whether colleges should base tuition on the actual cost of providing the education rather than on a one-price-for-all-credits basis. Their argument is based on a Quartz article that shows engineering and science degrees cost schools a lot more than liberal arts degrees for a variety of reasons, including higher professor salaries and equipment/infrastructure costs. As a result, those majors are subsidized by the cheaper ones even though they also have the highest earnings in aggregate. The new paper on the topic estimates that it typically costs the universities more than $62,000 to educate an engineer (including professor salaries, facilities fees, and administrative costs), while an English or business major costs nearly half that. Quartz has a chart embedded in its report that shows the cost of education by major at the University of Florida. There's also another chart that shows the earnings of past graduates, up to age 45, minus the cost of each degree. According to the paper, even though it costs more for an engineering degree, it pays off.
United States

Is The Tech Industry Driving Families Out of San Francisco? (nytimes.com) 386

Why does San Francisco now have fewer children per capita than any of America's largest 100 cities? An anonymous reader writes: A move to the suburbs began in the 1970s, but "The tech boom now reinforces the notion that San Francisco is a place for the young, single and rich," according to the New York Times. "When we imagine having kids, we think of somewhere else," one software engineer tells the paper. The article describes "neighborhoods where employees of Google, Twitter and so many other technology companies live or work" where the sidewalks make it seem "as if life started at 22 and ended somewhere around 40."

Or is San Francisco just part of a larger trend? "California, which has one of the world's 10 largest economies, recently released data showing the lowest birthrate since the Great Depression. And the Los Angeles Times argues California's experience may just be following national trends. The drop "likely stems from the recession, a drop in teenage pregnancies and an increase in people attending college and taking longer to graduate, therefore putting off having children, said Walter Schwarm, a demographer at the Department of Finance."

So is this part of a larger trend -- or something unique about San Francisco? The New York Times also quotes Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, who believes technology workers are putting off families when they move to the Silicon Valley area because they anticipate long working hours. There's also complaints about San Francisco's public school system -- 30% of its children now attend private schools, the highest percentage of any large American city. But according to the article, Peter Thiel believes that San Francisco is just "structurally hostile to families."
Earth

SpaceX Details Its Plans For Landing Three Falcon Heavy Boosters At Once (arstechnica.com) 101

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: As part of the process to gain federal approval for the simultaneous landing of its Falcon Heavy rocket boosters in Florida, SpaceX has prepared an environmental assessment of the construction of two additional landing pads alongside its existing site. The report considers noise and other effects from landing up to three first stages at the same time. After undergoing a preliminary review by the U.S. Air Force, the document has been released for public comment. As part of the document, SpaceX also says it would like to build a Dragon capsule processing facility on the landing zone to support refurbishment of the Dragon 2 spacecraft, designed to carry crew into orbit. The 130-foot-long facility would provide a "temporary" facility for vehicle propellant load and propulsion system servicing. When it originally designed its Landing Zone 1 facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, for the single Falcon 9 first stage booster, the company envisioned the need for one main pad approximately 200 feet across, and four smaller contingency pads, each approximately 150 feet in diameter. The chosen site had enough acreage to accommodate all five pads. Improvements in the rocket's landing navigation guidance system obviated the need for the contingency pads with the Falcon 9, however. So now the company wants to use the additional space to construct two concrete landing pads, each with an approximate diameter of 282 feet surrounded by an approximate 50-foot-wide hard-packed soil "apron." This would give SpaceX three landing pads and the ability to bring back all three Falcon Heavy boosters to land while also retaining the option to land one or two on drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the potential for a dozen Falcon 9 launches and landings each year, the document says SpaceX may eventually make six Falcon Heavy launches a year, potentially returning an additional 18 boosters to the Florida-based site. The new pads and crane sites would be configured to allow parallel processing of landed boosters. With U.S. Air Force Approval, construction could begin as early as this spring.
Crime

Macbook Saves Man's Life During Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting (chron.com) 175

A 37-year-old credits his MacBook Pro laptop with saving his life during a shooting at the baggage claim of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. An anonymous reader quotes WPLG Miami: He placed it in his backpack, but didn't think of it when he felt an impact on his back during the shooting... When the bloodshed was over, he said he went to the men's restroom and saw a bullet hole on the laptop. He gave it to FBI agents. And he was in shock when they found a 9 mm bullet in his backpack. That was when he realized a gunman aimed to kill him, but the laptop took the bullet for him. "If I didn't have that backpack on, the bullet would have shot me between the shoulders," Frappier said.
Space

SpaceX Gets the Green Light To Resume Rocket Launches (fortune.com) 44

Elon Musk's SpaceX rocket company has been cleared to resume flying following a launch pad explosion four months ago, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Friday. From a report on Fortune: The decision clears SpaceX to attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites as early as Monday, a day later than originally planned. SpaceX, owned by Tesla Motors Chief Executive Officer Musk, on Friday declined to comment about what caused the delay. Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is targeted for around 10:26 a.m. PST/1:26 p.m. EST. The FAA, which oversees commercial U.S. space launches, oversaw SpaceX's investigation into why a Falcon 9 rocket burst into flames on a launch pad in Florida as it was being fueled for a routine, prelaunch test on Sept. 1. The accident destroyed the $62 million booster and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite that had been partly leased by Facebook to expand Internet access in Africa.
Books

Library Creates Fake Patron Records To Avoid Book-Purging (heraldnet.com) 258

An anonymous reader writes: Chuck Finley checked out 2,361 books from a Florida library in just nine months, increasing their total circulation by 3.9%. But he doesn't exist. "The fictional character was concocted by two employees at the library, complete with a false address and driver's license number," according to the Orlando Sentinel. The department overseeing the library acknowledges their general rule is "if something isn't circulated in one to two years, it's typically weeded out of circulation." So the fake patron scheme was concocted by a library assistant working with the library's branch supervisor, who "said he wanted to avoid having to later repurchase books purged from the shelf." But according to the newspaper the branch supervisor "said the same thing is being done at other libraries, too."
Government

Florida Senator: No Permit Needed For Driverless Cars In Florida (politifact.com) 131

In response to the California Department of Motor Vehicles ordering Uber's autonomous vehicles off the roads in San Francisco due to a lack of a permit, Florida state Sen. Jeff Brandes said he welcomes the company with open arms. Brandes tweeted: "Hey @Uber, unlike California we in Florida welcome driverless cars -- no permit required. #OpenForBusiness #FlaPol." PolitiFact reports: Several car companies are developing fully autonomous or self-driving cars operated by computers and testing them in some states. But it could be several years before they are broadly publicly available due to the cost, questions about liability and the technology and as state government officials grapple with oversight. While California's law requires a permit, that's not the case in Florida. "Florida has the least restrictive active state laws for the operation of autonomous vehicles," said John Terwilleger, an attorney at Gunster, Yoakley -- Stewart in West Palm Beach. Terwilleger represents a company that is involved in developing and using autonomous vehicles in Florida. In 2012, the Florida Legislature passed a law co-sponsored by Brandes that allowed a person with a valid driver's license to operate an autonomous vehicle. Before companies could test autonomous cars, they had to submit proof that they had $5 million in insurance. But in 2016, the Florida Legislature passed new rules that eliminated some of the previous requirements, including the $5 million in insurance. The new law also got rid of the requirement that a human operator be present in the vehicle, as long as an operator can be alerted in case of technology failure and stop the vehicle. Since there is no permit for autonomous vehicles, the state has no information regarding how many Floridians own one, said Beth Frady, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Florida law treats an autonomous vehicle in the same manner as any other motor vehicle operating on our roads, said Chris Spencer, a spokesman for Brandes. "There are no requirements for additional permitting, licensing, or approval from any state or local government body to operate an autonomous vehicle on our roads," he said. That's still the case, even though Florida was the location of the first fatality involving a self-driving car. In May, Joshua Brown, was killed when his Tesla while on autopilot crashed into a tractor-trailer in Williston.
Businesses

Chicago Electronics Recycler Faked Tear-Downs, Sent Hazardous Waste To Overseas Landfills (arstechnica.com) 91

Federals agents have accused Brian Brundage, the former owner of Chicago-based electronics recycling company Intercon Solutions and current owner of EnviroGreen Processing, of fraud for failing to properly break down and recycle electronic devices according to federal guidelines. Brundage allegedly shipped Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) from old computer and TV monitors, which contained "hazardous amounts of lead," and batteries to overseas landfills for disposal. The leftover electronics that weren't shipped overseas were destroyed inappropriately at his businesses or stored in warehouses, which is forbidden by federal guidelines. Ars Technica reports: According to the indictment (PDF), Brundage also improperly resold many of the electronics he acquired. Between 2009 and 2015, Brundage received shipments of calculators from an unnamed technology company in Texas with instructions to disassemble the calculators and recycle them accordingly. But Brundage apparently resold the calculators to another company based in Tampa, Florida, which purchased and sold used electronics. In exchange for the shipments of calculators, Brundage allegedly had the company in Tampa directly pay some of Brundage's personal expenses. Those expense include between $31,000 and $39,000 per year for a nanny and $26,000 to $42,000 per year for a housekeeper, as well as tens of thousands of dollars for jewelry expenses and payments to an Indiana-based casino. Among the more colorful accusations in the US government's indictment of Brundage: the businessman allegedly went to lengths to fool third-party auditors into giving his companies the certifications necessary to keep doing business as an e-recycler. Brundage allegedly invited unknowing customers on sham tours of Intercon's facility. Once there, he "directed Intercon's warehouse staff to set up a staged disassembly line to make it falsely appear as though Intercon regularly processed e-waste in a manner that was consistent with its public representations." The Chicago Tribune published a feature on Intercon in 2007. In it, Brundage is quoted saying, "We put old products on a disassembly line. We break each item down to raw materials and send them off to be smelted and reused." He added, "nothing that leaves here goes to a landfill."
Google

Google Publishes Eight National Security Letters (techcrunch.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Google dropped a single National Security Letter into its most recent transparency report without much fanfare, but today the company published eight more NSLs in an attempt to shed more light on government surveillance of Google users. The eight letters published today were sent to Google from FBI offices across the country. Cumulatively, the NSLs seek broad access to content for around 20 user accounts. The names of the targets are redacted, but most of the letters seek access to Gmail accounts. The NSLs were sent to Google over a five-year period, from 2010 to 2015, with the majority coming from the Charlotte, North Carolina field office of the FBI. Others came from Florida, Arizona, New York, and California. "In our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, today we begin to make available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) we have received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations," Richard Salgado, Google's director of law enforcement and information security, wrote in a blog post. Google has fought to make the letters public in part because the FBI can issue them without prior judicial oversight.
Iphone

Florida Court Says Suspected Voyeur Must Reveal His iPhone Passcode To Police (bbc.com) 184

A Florida appeals court has reversed a decision by a previous judge and ruled that a suspected voyeur can be made to reveal his iPhone passcode to police. "The defendant was arrested after a woman out shopping saw a man crouch down and aim what she believed was a smartphone under her skirt," reports BBC: Store CCTV captured footage of a man crouched down, holding an illuminated device and moving it towards the victim's skirt, according to court documents published by news site Courthouse News. Aaron Stahl was identified by law enforcement officers who reviewed the footage, according to court documents. After his arrest, Mr Stahl initially agreed to allow officers to search his iPhone 5, which he told them was at his home. However, once it had been retrieved by police - but before he had revealed his passcode - he withdrew consent to the search. The trial court had decided that Mr Stahl could be protected by the Fifth Amendment, which is designed to prevent self-incrimination. However, Judge Anthony Black's formal opinion to the court quashed the decision. Judge Black referred to a famous Supreme Court case, Doe v US 1988, in which Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that a defendant could be made to surrender a key to a strongbox containing incriminating documents but they could not "be compelled to reveal the combination to his wall safe." "We question whether identifying the key which will open the strongbox - such that the key is surrendered - is, in fact, distinct from telling an officer the combination," wrote Judge Black. "More importantly, we question the continuing viability of any distinction as technology advances."
Mars

SpaceX Delays First Crewed Flight Of Its Dragon Capsule For NASA (theverge.com) 39

NASA says the first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Dragon vehicle has been delayed until May 2018. From a report on The Verge: In the wake of its September 1st rocket explosion, SpaceX has officially delayed the first crewed flight of its Crew Dragon vehicle -- the capsule that the company is building to take NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Originally planned for late 2017, the first flight of the Crew Dragon with people on board is now slated to take place in May of 2018, according to a NASA blog post. Prior to that flight, SpaceX will perform a demonstration mission of Crew Dragon in November 2017 -- a flight that won't include any astronauts. There had been heavy speculation that the flight would be delayed following the accident, in which a Falcon 9 rocket exploded as it was being fueled on a Florida launch pad. And SpaceX says the move was made as the company finalizes its investigation into the accident. "As this investigation has been conducted, our Commercial Crew team has continued to work closely with NASA and is completing all planned milestones for this period," SpaceX said in a statement to The Verge. "We are carefully assessing our designs, systems, and processes taking into account the lessons learned and corrective actions identified. Our schedule reflects the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation."

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