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United States

32% of All US Adults Watch Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 199

Nearly a third of all US adults admit to having downloaded or streamed pirated movies or TV-shows, a new survey has found. Even though many are aware that watching pirated content is not permitted, a large number of pirates are particularly hard to deter. According to a report from TorrentFreak: This is one of the main conclusions of research conducted by anti-piracy firm Irdeto, which works with prominent clients including Twentieth Century Fox and Starz. Through YouGov, the company conducted a representative survey of over 1,000 respondents which found that 32 percent of all US adults admit to streaming or downloading pirated video content. These self-confessed pirates are interested in a wide variety of video content. TV-shows and movies that still play in theaters are on the top of the list for many, with 24 percent each, but older movies, live sports and Netflix originals are mentioned as well. The data further show that the majority of US adults (69%) know that piracy is illegal. Interestingly, this also means that a large chunk of the population believes that they're doing nothing wrong.
United States

Google Uses Search To Push Its Products: WSJ (usatoday.com) 59

Ads for Google and related companies were found in the top spot in 91% of 25,000 searches related to items, according to a report on WSJ. For example, a search for "phones" would produce ads for Google Pixel, which the company launched last year. From a report: Similar results were found for searches on "Watches" or "smoke detector," which produced ads for Android smartwatches and Nest devices, respectively. In a statement, Google says their marketing programs are "carefully designed" to not impact outside advertisers. "All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes -- set to tougher levels than our customers -- to govern the use of our own ads products." The auction is a process deciding which ads will appear for users when they type in certain search queries. Strategies such as using relevant keywords give advertisers a better shot at their ad appearing on a search results page.
Transportation

Tesla Avoids Recall After Autopilot Crash Death (bbc.com) 151

Tesla will not be ordered to recall its semi-autonomous cars in the US, following a fatal crash in May 2016. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration closed its investigation after it found no evidence of a defect in the vehicle. From a report: Joshua Brown was killed when his car collided with a lorry while operating in Autopilot mode. Tesla has stated Autopilot is only designed to assist drivers, who must keep their hands on the wheel. The feature is intended to be used on the motorway, where is lets cars automatically change lanes and react to traffic. The NHTSA report said data from the car showed that "the driver took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision". Bryan Thomas from the NHSTA said the driver should have been able to see the lorry for seven seconds, which "should have been enough time to take some action".
Education

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60 (nytimes.com) 271

Students at elite colleges are even richer than experts realized, according to a new study based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records. At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League -- Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown -- more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent. From a report on the NYTimes (alternate non-paywall link): Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college -- universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings (you can find more on our definition of "elite" at the bottom). In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all. Colleges often promote their role in helping poorer students rise in life, and their commitments to affordability. But some elite colleges have focused more on being affordable to low-income families than on expanding access. "Free tuition only helps if you can get in," said Danny Yagan, an assistant professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the authors of the study.
Oracle

Labor Department Sues Oracle For Paying White Men More (usatoday.com) 284

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The administrative lawsuit is the latest from the Labor Department to take aim at the human resources practices of major technology companies. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Oracle makes software and hardware used by the federal government. "The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit," Oracle spokesman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. "Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit." The lawsuit is the result of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs review of Oracle's equal employment opportunity practices, the Labor Department said. According to the lawsuit, Oracle America paid white male workers more, leading to pay discrimination against women, African American and Asian employees. The Labor Department also accused Oracle of favoring Asians for product development and other technical roles, resulting in discrimination against non-Asian applicants. Oracle refused to comply with the Labor Department's investigation, which began in 2014, such as refusing to provide compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines and employee complaints of discrimination, according to the federal agency.
United States

Russia Extends Edward Snowden's Asylum To 2020, To Offer Citizenship Next Year (cnn.com) 255

Whistleblower and former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden has been allowed to remain in Russia for another three years and will next year qualify to apply for Russian citizenship. From a report on CNN: Edward Snowden's leave to remain in Russia has been extended until 2020, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has confirmed to CNN. Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor, sought asylum in Russia in June 2013 after leaking volumes of information on American intelligence and surveillance operations to the media. On Tuesday, Zakharova announced an extension of a "couple of years" in a Facebook post that criticized former CIA acting director Michael Morell for an opinion piece he wrote suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin should consider returning Snowden to the United States as "the perfect inauguration gift" to President-elect Donald Trump. Snowden settled in Moscow after initially traveling to Hong Kong following his 2013 public disclosure of classified information. The Russian government granted him asylum soon after. In August 2014, Snowden received a three-year extension to his leave to remain in Russia. That extension was due to expire this year.
Transportation

Uber Sues City of Seattle To Block Landmark Driver Union Ordinance (geekwire.com) 116

Seattle's landmark law that lets drivers for ride-hailing companies decide if they want to bargain collectively was set to go into effect today, but an Uber subsidiary has sued to block key rules of the ordinance governing which drivers get to vote on unionization and other key rules. From a report: Uber subsidiary Rasier filed a petition in King County Superior Court Tuesday to block recently-published rules from Seattle's department of Finance and Administrative Services that cover issues like which drivers get a say in whether they want to unionize, working conditions subject to bargaining and how an organization gets certified to represent drivers exclusively. In court documents, Uber called the city's process flawed and asked the court to suspend the new rules. Uber wants the city to go back and tweak the rules so that they better reflect driver conditions in the ride-hailing industry. "The City failed to provide comprehensive rules and disregarded the facts and circumstances of drivers and the industry," according to Uber's petition. "Moreover, the Cityâ(TM)s rules are inconsistent with fundamental labor law principles ensuring every worker has a voice in whether to be represented by a labor organization."
AT&T

AT&T Denies Refunds For DirecTV Now Customers, Despite the Service's Performance Issues (techcrunch.com) 88

A number of consumers report they're unable to get a refund for their subscription to AT&T's recently launched streaming service, DirecTV Now -- something they've requested after being unhappy with the new service's performance. From a report on TechCrunch: According to several postings on AT&T's official forums, customers found the only way to get help was through a hard-to-find chat feature, and when they asked the AT&T reps about refunds, the customers were told they were not offered. Writes one user with the handle EIUdrummerboy, after attempting to get a refund via chat, the rep told them specifically: "We do not currently have a policy in place to offer any refunds."
China

China, Europe Drive Shift To Electric Cars as US Lags (reuters.com) 466

Electric cars will pick up critical momentum in 2017, many in the auto industry believe - just not in North America. Tighter emissions rules in China and Europe leave global carmakers and some consumers with little choice but to embrace plug-in vehicles, fuelling an investment surge, said industry executives gathered in Detroit this past week for the city's annual auto show. From a report: "Car electrification is an irreversible trend," said Jacques Aschenbroich, chief executive of auto supplier Valeo, which has expanded sales by 50 percent in five years with a focus on electric, hybrid, connected and self-driving cars. In Europe, green cars benefit increasingly from subsidies, tax breaks and other perks, while combustion engines face mounting penalties including driving and parking restrictions. China, struggling with catastrophic pollution levels in major cities, is aggressively pushing plug-in vehicles. Its carrot-and-stick approach combines tens of billions in investment and research funding with subsidies, and regulations designed to discourage driving fossil-fueled cars in big cities. The road ahead for electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States, however, could have more hairpin curves.
Transportation

Flying Car Prototype Ready By End of 2017, Says Airbus CEO (venturebeat.com) 140

Airbus plans to test a prototype for a self-piloted flying car as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads by the end of the year, the aerospace group's chief executive said on Monday. From a report: Airbus last year formed a division called Urban Air Mobility that is exploring concepts such as a vehicle to transport individuals or a helicopter-style vehicle that can carry multiple riders. The aim would be for people to book the vehicle using an app, similar to car-sharing schemes. "One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground," Airbus CEO Tom Enders told the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, adding he hoped the Airbus could fly a demonstration vehicle for single-person transport by the end of the year. "We are in an experimentation phase, we take this development very seriously," he said, adding that Airbus recognized such technologies would have to be clean to avoid further polluting congested cities.
Transportation

Driverless Electric Shuttle Deployed In Downtown Las Vegas (yahoo.com) 79

schwit1 quotes the Associated Press: There's a new thrill on the streets of downtown Las Vegas, where high- and low-rollers alike are climbing aboard what officials call the first driverless electric shuttle operating on a public U.S. street. The oval-shaped shuttle began running Tuesday as part of a 10-day pilot program, carrying up to 12 passengers for free along a short stretch of the Fremont Street East entertainment district.

The vehicle has a human attendant and computer monitor, but no steering wheel and no brake pedals. Passengers push a button at a marked stop to board it. The shuttle uses GPS, electronic curb sensors and other technology, and doesn't require lane lines to make its way.

The shuttle -- which they've named Arma -- is traveling at 15 miles per hour, and the ride is smooth, according to the mayor of Las Vegas. ("It's clean and quiet and seats comfortably.") They've blocked all the side streets, so the shuttle doesn't have to deal with traffic signals yet, though eventually they'll install special transmitters at every intersection to communicate whether the lights are red or green, and the city plans to deploy more of the vehicles by the end of the year.
Transportation

California's Bullet Train Hurtles Towards a Multibillion-Dollar Overrun (latimes.com) 408

schwit1 quotes the Los Angeles Times: California's bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that's just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by the Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion.

The federal document outlines far-reaching management problems: significant delays in environmental planning, lags in processing invoices for federal grants and continuing failures to acquire needed property. The California High-Speed Rail Authority originally anticipated completing the Central Valley track by this year, but the federal risk analysis estimates that that won't happen until 2024, placing the project seven years behind schedule.

The whole project is expected to cost more than $68 billion.
Businesses

SpaceX Accident Cost it Hundreds of Millions (fortune.com) 67

Elon Musk's SpaceX lost more than a quarter of a billion dollars in 2015 after a botched cargo run to the International Space Station and the subsequent grounding of its Falcon 9 rocket fleet, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. From a report: The accident derailed SpaceX's expectations of $1.8 billion in launch revenue in 2016, an analysis of the privately held firm's financial documents showed, according to the Journal, which said it had obtained the documents. SpaceX declined to comment on the Journal's report. In a statement emailed to Reuters, SpaceX chief financial officer Bret Johnsen said the company "is in a financially strong position" with more than $1 billion in cash reserves and no debt.
Education

Millennials Earn 20 Percent Less Than Boomers Did At Same Stage of Life (usatoday.com) 495

According to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, even though they are better educated. Their median household income is $40,581, and their home ownership rate is lower, while their student debt is drastically higher. USA Today reports: The analysis of the Fed data (PDF) shows the extent of the decline. It compared 25 to 34 year-olds in 2013, the most recent year available, to the same age group in 1989 after adjusting for inflation. Education does help boost incomes. But the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989. The home ownership rate for this age group dipped to 43 percent from 46 percent in 1989, although the rate has improved for millennials with a college degree relative to boomers. The median net worth of millennials is $10,090, 56 percent less than it was for boomers. Whites still earn dramatically more than Blacks and Latinos, reflecting the legacy of discrimination for jobs, education and housing. Yet compared to white baby boomers, some white millennials appear stuck in a pattern of downward mobility. This group has seen their median income tumble more than 21 percent to $47,688. Median income for black millennials has fallen just 1.4 percent to $27,892. Latino millennials earn nearly 29 percent more than their boomer predecessors to $30,436. The analysis fits into a broader pattern of diminished opportunity. Research last year by economists led by Stanford University's Raj Chetty found that people born in 1950 had a 79 percent chance of making more money than their parents. That figure steadily slipped over the past several decades, such that those born in 1980 had just a 50 percent chance of out-earning their parents. This decline has occurred even though younger Americans are increasingly college-educated. The proportion of 25 to 29 year-olds with a college degree has risen to 35.6 percent in 2015 from 23.2 percent in 1990, a report this month by the Brookings Institution noted.
The Internet

Virginia 'Broadband Deployment Act' Would Kill Municipal Broadband Deployment (arstechnica.com) 200

Virginia lawmakers are considering a bill called the "Virginia Broadband Deployment Act," but instead of resulting in more broadband deployment, the legislation would make it more difficult for municipalities to offer Internet service. From a report: The Virginia House of Delegates legislation proposed this week by Republican lawmaker Kathy Byron would prohibit municipal broadband deployments except in very limited circumstances. Among other things, a locality wouldn't be allowed to offer Internet service if an existing network already provides 10Mbps download and 1Mbps upload speeds to 90 percent of potential customers. That speed threshold is low enough that it can be met by old DSL lines in areas that haven't received more modern cable and fiber networks. Even if that condition is met, a city or town would have to jump through a few hoops before offering service. The municipality would have to pay for a "comprehensive broadband assessment," and then issue a request for proposals giving for-profit ISPs six months to submit a plan for broadband deployment. After receiving proposals from private ISPs, the local government would have to determine whether providing grants or subsidies to a private ISP would be more cost-effective than building a municipal broadband network.
Earth

US Puts Bumblebee On the Endangered Species List For First Time (npr.org) 130

For the first time for a bumblebee and a bee species in the U.S., the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has designated the bumblebee an endangered species. The protected status goes into effect on February 10, and includes requirements for federal protections and the development of a recovery plan. NPR reports: "Today's Endangered Species listing is the best -- and probably last -- hope for the recovery of the rusty patched bumble bee," NRDC Senior Attorney Rebecca Riley said in a statement from the Xerces Society, which advocates for invertebrates. "Bumble bees are dying off, vanishing from our farms, gardens, and parks, where they were once found in great numbers." Large parts of the Eastern and Midwestern United States were once crawling with these bees, Bombus affinis, but the bees have suffered a dramatic decline in the last two decades due to habitat loss and degradation, along with pathogens and pesticides. Indeed, the bee was found in 31 states and Canadian provinces before the mid- to late-1990s, according to the final rule published in the Federal Register. But since 2000, it has been reported in only 13 states and Ontario, Canada. It has seen an 88 percent decline in the number of populations and an 87 percent loss in the amount of territory it inhabits. This means the species is vulnerable to extinction, the rule says, even without further habitat loss or insecticide exposure. Canada designated the species as endangered in 2012.
Medicine

Rural Americans At Higher Risk From Five Leading Causes of Death: CDC (cbsnews.com) 373

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS News: Americans living in rural areas are more likely to die from five leading causes of death than people living in urban areas, according to a new government report. Many of these deaths are preventable, officials say, with causes including heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory disease. Approximately 46 million Americans -- about 15 percent of the U.S. population -- currently live in rural areas. According to the CDC report, several demographic, environmental, economic, and social factors might put rural residents at higher risk of death from these conditions. Rural residents in the U.S., for example, tend to be older and sicker than their urban counterparts, and have higher rates of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity. People living in rural areas also report less leisure-time physical activity and lower seatbelt use than their those living in urban areas and have higher rates of poverty, less access to health care, and are less likely to have health insurance. Specifically, the report found that in 2014, deaths among rural Americans included: 25,000 from heart disease; 19,000 from cancer; 12,000 from unintentional injuries; 11,000 from chronic lower respiratory disease; 4,000 from stroke. The percentages of deaths that were potentially preventable were higher in rural areas than in urban areas, the authors report. For the study, the researchers analyzed numbers from a national database. The CDC suggests to help close the gap, health care providers in rural areas can: Screen patients for high blood pressure; Increase cancer prevention and early detection; Encourage physical activity and healthy eating; Promote smoking cessation; Promote motor vehicle safety; Engage in safer prescribing of opioids for pain.
Privacy

Switzerland Agrees To Its Own New Data Sharing Pact With the US (silicon.co.uk) 15

Mickeycaskill quotes a report from Silicon.co.uk: Switzerland has agreed its own new data transfer agreement with the United States, basing the framework on the deal struck by the European Union (EU) following the invalidation of Safe Harbour. The previous arrangement was invalidated because of concerns about U.S. mass surveillance but Switzerland says the new Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield will allow Swiss companies to transfer customer data without the need for additional contractual guarantees. The Swiss Federal Council, a seven member executive council that is effectively the head of government in Switzerland, claim citizens will benefit from additional protections and the ability to contact an ombudsman about data issues. Although not part of the EU, Switzerland is a member of the European Economic Area (EEA) and has several bilateral agreements with the EU that sees it adopt many of the bigger bloc's policies. The Federal Council says the alignment between the EU and the Swiss transatlantic data sharing partnerships is good news for multinational organizations.
Privacy

Fingerprinting Methods Identify Users Across Different Browsers On the Same PC (bleepingcomputer.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: A team of researchers from universities across the U.S. has identified different fingerprinting techniques that can track users when they use different browsers installed on the same machine. Named "cross-browser fingerprinting" (CBF), this practice relies on new technologies added to web browsers in recent years, some of which had been previously considered unreliable for cross-browser tracking and only used for single browser fingerprinting. These new techniques rely on making browsers carry out operations that use the underlying hardware components to process the desired data. For example, making a browser apply an image to the side of a 3D cube in WebGL provides a similar response in hardware parameters for all browsers. This is because the GPU card is the one carrying out this operation and not the browser software. According to the three-man research team led by Assistant Professor Yinzhi Cao from the Computer Science and Engineering Department at Lehigh University, the following browser features could be (ab)used for cross-browser fingerprinting operations: [Screen Resolution, Number of CPU Virtual Cores, AudioContext, List of Fonts, Line, Curve, and Anti-Aliasing, Vertex Shader, Fragment Shader, Transparency via Alpha Channel, Installed Writing Scripts (Languages), Modeling and Multiple Models, Lighting and Shadow Mapping, Camera and Clipping Planes.] Researchers used all these techniques together to test how many users they would be able to pin to the same computer. For tests, researchers used browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, IE, Opera, Safari, Maxthon, UC Browser, and Coconut. Results showed that CBF techniques were able to correctly identify 99.24% of all test users. Previous research methods achieved only a 90.84% result.
Government

Obama Changed Rules Regarding Raw Intelligence, Allowing NSA To Share Raw Data With US's Other 16 Intelligence Agencies (schneier.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Schneier on Security: President Obama has changed the rules regarding raw intelligence, allowing the NSA to share raw data with the U.S.'s other 16 intelligence agencies. The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches. The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people. Here are the new procedures. This rule change has been in the works for a while. Here are two blog posts from April discussing the then-proposed changes.

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