United States

Trump Proposes Rejoining Trans-Pacific Partnership (nytimes.com) 315

According to The New York Times, "President Trump told a gathering of farm state lawmakers and governors on Thursday morning that he was directing his advisers to look into rejoining the multicountry trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source)." The TPP was a contentious issue during the 2016 presidential election as both Democrats and Republicans attacked it. After signaling during the election that he would pull out of the trade deal "on day one" of his presidency, Trump followed through with his plans. From the report: Rejoining the 11-country pact could be a significant change in fortune for many American industries that stood to benefit from the trade agreement's favorable terms and Republican lawmakers who supported the pact. The deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration, was largely viewed as a tool to prod China into making the type of economic reforms that the United States and others have long wanted. Both Democrats and Republicans attacked the deal during the president campaign, but many business leaders were disappointed when Mr. Trump withdrew from the agreement, arguing that the United States would end up with less favorable terms attempting to broker an array of individual trade pacts and that scrapping the deal would empower China.

Mr. Trump's decision to reconsider the deal comes as the White House tries to find ways to protect the agriculture sector, which could be badly damaged by the president's trade approach. The risk of an escalating trade war with China has panicked American farmers and ranchers, who send many of their products abroad. China has responded to Mr. Trump's threat of tariffs on as much as $150 billion worth of Chinese goods by placing its own tariffs on American pork, and threatening taxes on soybeans, sorghum, corn and beef. Many American agriculturalists maintain that the easiest way to help them is to avoid a trade war with China in the first place. And many economists say the best way to combat a rising China and pressure it to open its market is through multilateral trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which create favorable trading terms for participants.

Security

New Tech Industry Lobbying Group Argues 'Right to Repair' Laws Endanger Consumers (securityledger.com) 146

chicksdaddy brings this report from Security Ledger: The Security Innovation Center, with backing of powerful tech industry groups, is arguing that letting consumers fix their own devices will empower hackers. The group released a survey last week warning of possible privacy and security risks should consumers have the right to repair their own devices. It counts powerful electronics and software industry organizations like CompTIA, CTIA, TechNet and the Consumer Technology Association as members... In an interview with The Security Ledger, Josh Zecher, the Executive Director of The Security Innovation Center, acknowledged that Security Innovation Center's main purpose is to push back on efforts to pass right to repair laws in the states.

He said the group thinks such measures are dangerous, citing the "power of connected products and devices" and the fact that they are often connected to each other and to the Internet via wireless networks. Zecher said that allowing device owners or independent repair professionals to service smart home devices and connected appliances could expose consumer data to hackers or identity thieves... Asked whether Security Innovation Center was opposed to consumers having the right to repair devices they purchased and owned, Zecher said the group did oppose that right on the grounds of security, privacy and safety... "People say 'It's just my washing machine. Why can't I fix it on my own?' But we saw the Mirai botnet attack last year... Those kinds of products in the wrong hands can be used to do bad things."

Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Founder John Perry Barlow Has Died At Age 70 (eff.org) 61

The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that its founder, John Perry Barlow, has passed away quietly in his sleep this morning. He was 70 years old. From the report: It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the Internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow's vision and leadership. He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance. Barlow was sometimes held up as a straw man for a kind of naive techno-utopianism that believed that the Internet could solve all of humanity's problems without causing any more. As someone who spent the past 27 years working with him at EFF, I can say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Barlow knew that new technology could create and empower evil as much as it could create and empower good. He made a conscious decision to focus on the latter: "I knew it's also true that a good way to invent the future is to predict it. So I predicted Utopia, hoping to give Liberty a running start before the laws of Moore and Metcalfe delivered up what Ed Snowden now correctly calls 'turn-key totalitarianism.'" Barlow's lasting legacy is that he devoted his life to making the Internet into "a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth... a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity."

Bitcoin

Kodak Announces Its Own Cryptocurrency, Watches Stock Price Skyrocket (theverge.com) 135

Kodak has joined the cryptocurrency craze by launching its own KodakCoin, a cryptocurrency for photographers. As soon as the news was announced, Kodak's stock (KODK) jumped more than 60 percent. The Verge reports: KodakCoins will work as tokens inside the new blockchain-powered KodakOne rights management platform. The platform will supposedly create a digital ledger of rights ownership that photographers can use to register and license new and old work. Both the platform and cryptocurrency are supposed to "empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management," according to the press release. The digital currency is meant to create a new economy for photographers to receive payment and sell work on a secure platform. But while Kodak's proposed blockchain-powered platform and virtual coin sound good on paper, it's not clear why the photography company needs to use blockchain to achieve its goals, rather than just create another social media platform instead. It appears that Kodak, like the other tea and vape companies that received media attention last month for making the abrupt leap to blockchain, could just be trying to capitalize on the current cryptocurrency mania.
Businesses

VR Company Upload Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit (techcrunch.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Upload, formerly UploadVR, the virtual reality startup at the center of a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit filed earlier this year, has settled the case with its former employee and is aiming to put the ensuing damage behind it. The lawsuit, filed against the startup and its co-founders by former director of digital and social media Elizabeth Scott, alleged that the company had sought to create a "boy's club" environment and described "rampant" sexual behavior in the office, allegations that co-founders Will Mason and Taylor Freeman denied as "entirely without merit." The lawsuit is now over, according to people familiar with the matter, and though the terms of the agreement were undisclosed, some in the virtual reality community feel that the company has dodged a bullet in reaching some conclusion over the litigation.

"The matter has been concluded," was Upload's official statement. Neither Scott, nor her legal counsel, responded to a request for comment for this story. Upload has also released the following statement around the conclusion of the legal case. "Our primary focus at Upload is education, which we believe is the key to growing the mixed reality ecosystem. We are deeply committed to creating an inclusive community to empower the pioneers building the future."

Linux

You Can Help Purism Build the Secure Open Source Linux-based Librem 5 Smartphone (betanews.com) 109

BrianFagioli writes: Thankfully, consumers are starting to wake up and become more aware of security and privacy, and some companies, such as Purism, are designing products to safeguard users. The company's laptops, for instance, run an open source Linux-based operating system, called "PureOS" with a focus on privacy. These machines even have hardware "kill switches" so you can physically disconnect a webcam or Wi-Fi card. Today, Purism announces that it is taking those same design philosophies and using them to build a new $599 smartphone called Librem 5. The planned phone will use the GNOME desktop environment and PureOS by default, but users can install different distros too. Sound good? Well you can help the company build it through crowdfunding. "Purism, the social purpose corporation which designs and produces popular privacy conscious hardware and software, has revealed its plans to build the world's first encrypted, open platform smartphone that will empower users to protect their digital identity in an increasingly unsafe mobile world. After 18 months of R&D to test hardware specifications and engage with one of the largest phone fabricators, Purism is opening a self-hosted crowdfunding campaign to gauge demand for the initial fabrication order and add the features most important to users," says Purism.
Space

SpaceX Livestreams Sunday's Rocket Launch (space.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the 10 satellites for Iridium Communications is scheduled to liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:25 p.m. PDT (4:25 p.m. EDT/2025 GMT). The live webcast is expected to begin about 1 hour before the opening of the launch window, and you can watch it on SpaceX's website, or at Space.com. This is the second of eight planned Iridium launches with SpaceX. The launches will deliver a total of 75 satellites into space for the $3 billion Iridium NEXT global communications network. "Iridium NEXT will replace the company's existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space," according to a statement from Iridium. "It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more."
After the mission the booster rocket will attempt to land on a droneship. The droneships name is "Just Read The Instructions."
Republicans

The Republican Push To Repeal Net Neutrality Will Get Underway This Week (washingtonpost.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Washington Post: Federal regulators will move to roll back one of the Obama administration's signature Internet policies this week, launching a process to repeal the government's net neutrality rules that currently regulate how Internet providers may treat websites and their own customers. The vote on Thursday, led by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, will kick off consideration of a proposal to relax regulations on companies such as Comcast and AT&T. If approved by the 2-1 Republican-majority commission, it will be a significant step for the broadband industry as it seeks more leeway under government rules to develop new business models. For consumer advocates and tech companies, it will be a setback; those groups argue that looser regulations won't prevent those business models from harming Internet users and website owners. The current rules force Internet providers to behave much like their cousins in the legacy telephone business. Under the FCC's net neutrality policy, providers cannot block or slow down consumers' Internet traffic, or charge websites a fee in order to be displayed on consumers' screens. The net neutrality rules also empower the FCC to investigate ISP practices that risk harming competition. Internet providers have chafed at the stricter rules governing phone service, which they say were written for a bygone era. Pai's effort to roll back the rules has led to a highly politicized debate. Underlying it is a complex policy decision with major implications for the future of the Web.
Medicine

The Woman Whose Phone 'Misdiagnosed HIV' (bbc.com) 166

An anonymous reader shares a report on BBC about a woman in Kenya, who downloaded a prank app that noted that she has HIV simply by "analyzing her fingerprint." While many people would have not trusted an app for such kind of diagnosis in the first place, and some would have figured that something is amiss about the app, the story tells the tale of people who are increasingly finding it hard to deal with the technological advances they see. From the report: Esther sells water on the side of the road in Kenya for a few dollars a day. She also owns a smartphone and ownership of such a device should, according to most of the received wisdom, empower its owner. But in fact it did quite the opposite for her when she acquired an app. It claimed to diagnose HIV simply by analysing her fingerprint on the touch screen. When researchers met her at her roadside workplace, she was worried. "She did not know if it was true and she was panicking," said researcher Laura de Reynal, who worked on a year-long study into the experiences of first-time smartphone users in Kenya. "And she wasn't the only one, there were others that came to us worried about this app and those were just the ones that were willing to speak out." The app was in fact a prank and anyone reading the comments on Google's Play Store would have seen that. However, many first-time smartphone users in Kenya get hold of apps via a friend's Bluetooth connection, rather than downloading them via the net, in order to save data. But the prank would not have been apparent via a Bluetooth share. "People are not able to understand the limits of the technology," said Ms de Reynal. "They think, because it was on a smartphone, it seems real and credible."
Twitter

Twitter Reinstates White Nationalist Leader's Account (buzzfeed.com) 470

An anonymous reader quotes BuzzFeed: On Saturday evening, Twitter reinstated -- with verification -- the account of Richard Spencer, a leading figure of the so-called alt-right movement, and the head of the white nationalist think tank, The National Policy Institute. Spencer's account was suspended mid-November as part of a larger cull of prominent alt-right accounts... However, according to Twitter, Spencer was banned on a technicality: creating multiple accounts with overlapping uses. Twitter's multiple account policy was put in place as a safeguard to help curb dog piling and targeted harassment. [Twitter] offered to reinstate one of Spencer's accounts if he agreed to follow the company's protocols.
Vox says the move "raises the question of to what extent Twitter intends to enforce the 'hateful conduct' policy." But the suspension had also been criticized by David Frum, a senior editor at the Atlantic, who wrote that "The culture of offense-taking, platform-denying, and heckler-vetoing...lets loudmouths and thugs present themselves as heroes of free thought. They do not deserve this opportunity... today, a neo-Nazi has more right to build an arsenal of weapons and drill a militia than to speak on Twitter." But BuzzFeed points out that though the account's been reinstated, Spencer "is now tip-toeing around the company's three strike policy, which carries a permanent suspension."
Education

Apple Introduces Swift Playgrounds App To Teach Kids To Code (theverge.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes: At their Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco today, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We believe coding should be a required language in all schools." To help achieve this goal, Apple introduced Swift Playgrounds, a new app that is meant to teach kids basic coding skills in Apple's chosen language. It teaches concepts like loops and conditionals, and uses an animated character tasked with performing simple challenges in a digital maze to help make learning fun. The app also offers suggested coding languages and will be completely free. Tim Cook described it as "a powerful new way for kids to learn to code," and went on to compare writing code to basic literacy. "I wish Swift Playgrounds was around when I was first learning to code," said Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi. "Swift Playgrounds is the only app of its kind that is both easy enough for students and beginners, yet powerful enough to write real code. It's an innovative way to bring real coding concepts to life and empower the next generation with the skills they need to express their creativity." Apple announced a host of new features and improvements made to iOS and Mac OS X. Not only did they announce that OS X will now be called macOS, but the first version update will be called macOS Sierra. One of the biggest new features of the new OS is support for Siri.
Social Networks

Microsoft Is Buying LinkedIn For $26.2 Billion (microsoft.com) 365

Microsoft on Monday announced it is acquiring LinkedIn, the social network for professionals, for a whopping sum of $26 billion -- or $196 per share, in cash. The transactions, the companies say, has already been approved by both boards. As part of the agreement, LinkedIn will get to keep its branding, and will become part of Microsoft's productivity and business processes segment. Jeff Weiner will remain CEO of LinkedIn, and now report to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. In a statement, Nadella said: The LinkedIn team has grown a fantastic business centered on connecting the world's professionals. Together we can accelerate the growth of LinkedIn, as well as Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics as we seek to empower every person and organization on the planet.LinkedIn has over 430M members on its network. LinkedIn's purchase marks Microsoft's 196th acquisition of another company -- it is incidentally also its most expensive purchase. Four years ago, Weiner laughed at the idea of a Microsoft buyout. Update: 06/13 13:31 GMT by M :According to Bloomberg, LinkedIn shares surged 49 percent in premarket trading in New York to $194.63. Microsoft fell 3.7 percent to $49.60.
Businesses

Cable Industry Threatens To Sue If FCC Tries To Bring Competition To Cable Set Top Boxes (techdirt.com) 100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: Back in February the FCC voted on a new plan to open up the traditional cable box to competition. According to a fact sheet being circulated by the agency (pdf), under the FCC's plan you'd still pay your cable company for the exact same content, cable operators would simply have to design systems -- using standards and copy protection of their choice -- that delivered this content to third-party hardware. The FCC's goal is cheaper, better hardware and a shift away from the insular gatekeeper model the cable box has long protected. Given this would obliterate a $21 billion captive market in set top box rental fees -- and likely direct consumers to more third-party streaming services -- the cable industry has been engaged in an utterly adorable new hissy fit. And now, the industry is also threatening a lawsuit. Former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell is arguing that the FCC has once again overstepped its regulatory authority: "An agency of limited jurisdiction has to act properly within that jurisdiction," Powell said, making it abundantly clear the NCTA does not believe the FCC has not done so in this case. He said that the statute empowers the FCC to create competition in navigation devices, not new services. "Every problem does not empower an FCC-directed solution. The agency is not an agency with unbridled plenary power to roam around markets and decide to go fix inconveniences everywhere they find them irrespective of the bounds of their authority."
Facebook

Top Tech Firms Urged To Step Up Online Abuse Fightback (theguardian.com) 247

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Guardian: Top tech companies are talking to grassroots organisations across the globe to organise a fightback on their platforms against online abuse, hate speech, misogyny and stalking. Facebook, Twitter and Google are reaching out to women's groups, NGOs and communities in Africa, America, India, Europe and the Middle East as the scale of abuse online continues to increase. But their attempts to foster a "counter-speech" movement to challenge the violent misogyny, racism, threats, intimidation and abuse that flood social media platforms have prompted some of the communities they are trying to empower to question whether they are ducking their own responsibilities. Sarah Green, of the End Violence against Women coalition, said: "Any moves by social media companies to support, encourage and empower individuals and groups to resist and counter abuse is very welcome."
Graphics

Amazon Launches Free Game Engine Lumberyard 56

Dave Knott writes: Amazon has both announced and released a new, free game engine, Lumberyard, which offers deep integration with its Amazon Web Services server infrastructure to empower online play, and also with Twitch, its video game-focused streaming service. Lumberyard is powerful and full-featured enough to develop triple-A current-gen console games, with mobile support is coming down the road. Its core engine technology is based on Crytek's CryEngine. However, Lumberyard represents a branch of that tech, and the company is replacing or upgrading many of CryEngine's systems. Monetization for Lumberyard will come strictly through the use of Amazon Web Services' cloud computing. If you use the engine for your game, you're permitted to roll your own server tech, but if you're using a third-party provider, it has to be Amazon. Integration of Amazon's Twitch video streaming tools at a low level also helps to cement that platform's dominance in the game streaming space. Alongside Lumberyard, the company has also announced and released GameLift, a new managed service for deploying, operating, and scaling server-based online games using AWS. GameLift will be available only to developers who use Lumberyard, though it's an optional add-on. The game engine is in beta, but is freely usable and downloadable today.
Education

Microsoft Brings Its Embrace-Extend-Extinguish Game To K-12 Schools? 168

theodp writes: A year after it paid $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft, Microsoft has announced a partnership with Code.org that makes a Minecraft-themed introduction to programming a signature tutorial of this year's Hour of Code, which hopes to reach 200 million schoolchildren next month in what the Microsoft-funded nonprofit is billing as the largest learning event in history. "A core part of our mission to empower every person on the planet is equipping youth with computational thinking and problem-solving skills to succeed in an increasingly digital world," said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a press release, which also notes that "Microsoft is gifting Windows Store credit to every educator who organizes an Hour of Code event worldwide." Of the Minecraft tutorial, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi gushed, "Compared to what you would otherwise be doing for school, this is, like, the best thing ever."
Technology

Pocket SCiO Spectrometer Sends Chemical Composition of Anything To Smartphones 82

MojoKid writes: Is that a tricorder in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? All joking aside, the handheld SCiO could truly make you feel like a member Bones McCoy's medical team. The SCiO turns science fiction into science fact by shrinking mass spectrometry technology used in traditional lab settings into a device small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. While pricey handheld spectrometers have been available for researchers, the SCiO is the first such device marketed directly at consumers. To get the SCiO down to a reasonable price point, Consumer Physics uses near-IR spectroscopy and optics typically found in smartphones to measure the light reflected from any given object. Held at a distance of 5 to 15 mm from the intended target, SCiO captures reflected spectrum data and uploads it to its own cloud platform. The company's proprietary algorithms then analyze the data and send the information back down to your smartphone (SCiO require a Bluetooth connection). Reportedly, this whole process occurs within 1.5 seconds. The hope is to empower consumers to learn more about the world around them and even about the things that we put in our mouth. You'll be able to ascertain nutritional information about the foods you eat without having to rely on labels, or even determine the ripeness of fruits and vegetables with the push of a button. The Whole Foods crowd will be all over this, one would think.
Privacy

FCC CIO: Consumers Need Privacy Controls In the Internet of Everything Era 46

Lemeowski writes: Who is responsible for ensuring security and privacy in the age of the Internet of Things? As the number of Internet-connected devices explodes — Gartner estimates that 25 billion devices and objects will be connected to the Internet by 2020 — security and privacy issues are poised to affect everyone from families with connected refrigerators to grandparents with healthcare wearables. In this interview, U.S. Federal Communications Commission CIO David Bray says control should be put in the hands of individual consumers. Speaking in a personal capacity, Bray shares his learnings from a recent educational trip to Taiwan and Australia he took as part of an Eisenhower Fellowship: "A common idea Bray discussed with leaders during his Eisenhower Fellowship was that the interface for selecting privacy preferences should move away from individual Internet platforms and be put into the hands of individual consumers." Bray says it could be done through an open source agent that uses APIs to broker their privacy preferences on different platforms.
Microsoft

Microsoft: No More 'Patch Tuesday' For Windows 10 Home Users 141

citpyrc writes: According to the Register, Microsoft is making some changes to how it rolls out updates in Windows 10. Home users will receive updates as they come out, rather than queueing them all up on "patch Tuesday." Business users will have the option to set their own update cycle, so they can see if any of the patches accidentally break anything for home users before trying them out. There will also be an optional peer-to-peer updating mechanism for Windows 10. Microsoft announced a service called Advanced Threat Analytics, which employs various machine learning techniques to identify malware on a network. As a premium service, top-dollar customers can pay for Microsoft to monitor black-hat forums and alert the company if any of its employees' identities are stolen.
The Almighty Buck

Global Learning XPRIZE Senior Director Matt Keller Answers Your Questions 4

A couple of weeks ago you had a chance to ask former Vice President of One Laptop per Child, and current Senior Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE Matt Keller about education and the competition. The XPRIZE challenges teams from around the world to develop open source software that will allow children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic with a Grand Prize of $10 million. Below you will find his answers to your questions.

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