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Power

In Preparation For Model 3, Tesla Plans To Double the Size of Its Supercharger Network This Year (fortune.com) 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: Tesla says it will double the number of electric vehicle chargers in its network this year as the automaker prepares for the production of its mass-market vehicle the Model 3. The plan, announced Monday in a blog post on the company's website, will grow its global network of Superchargers from more than 5,400 today to more than 10,000 by the end of the year. Tesla, which had previously announced in its annual shareholder letter plans to double the network in North America, did not disclose the cost of such an ambitious expansion. Many sites will soon enter construction to open in advance of the summer travel season, according to Tesla. The company says it will add charging locations within city centers as well as highway sites this year. The goal is to make "charging ubiquitous in urban centers," Tesla says in its blog post. The company says it will build larger sites along busy travel routes to accommodate several dozen Teslas simultaneously. These larger sites will also have customer service centers.
The Internet

America's Most-Hated ISP Is Now Hated By Fewer People (oregonlive.com) 97

"Comcast's customer service may actually be improving," writes an Oregon newspaper. An anonymous reader quotes their report: In the second year of Comcast's broad customer service overhaul, complaints to Oregon cable regulators are down 25%. They've also declined 40% since 2014. Complaints are falling nationally, too, according to the highly regarded American Customer Satisfaction Index. Its most recent report showed a surge in Comcast subscriber satisfaction... Two years ago, Comcast made Oregon the test bed for its customer service push, responding both to disparaging headlines and the prospect of growing competition from other telecom companies and from streaming video services.

The company is adding Apple-style retail stores around the metro area and introduced innovations to help consumers understand what they're paying for and when technicians will arrive for service calls. It's rolling out new tools nationally to help them improve their home Wi-Fi, and diagnosing problems before customers call to complain... For example, if several subscribers in the same neighborhood use the company's tool for testing internet speeds, that triggers an alert at Comcast to look for a problem in the local network. The company redesigned its bills to make it clearer what customers subscribe to, and what it costs, in hopes of reducing confusion and calls. And Comcast has a robust social media presence, fielding complaints on Twitter.

The article points out that Comcast's satisfaction scores are still below-average for cable TV providers, "and well below the median among internet service providers. And that's a low bar -- the telecom sector is among the most complained about under ACSI's rankings." Their figures show that the only ISPs in America with a lower score for customer satisfaction are Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, and MediaCom.
Government

CIA, FBI Launch Manhunt For WikiLeaks Source (cbsnews.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes CBS: CBS News has learned that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems. Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider -- either a CIA employee or contractor -- who had physical access to the material... Much of the material was classified and stored in a highly secure section of the intelligence agency, but sources say hundreds of people would have had access to the material. Investigators are going through those names.
Homeland security expert Michael Greenberger told one CBS station that "My best guest is that when this is all said and done we're going to find out that this was done by a contractor, not by an employee of the CIA."
Government

WikiLeaks Releases New CIA Secret: Tapping Microphones On Some Samsung TVs (fossbytes.com) 100

FossBytes reports: The whistleblower website Wikileaks has published another set of hacking tools belonging to the American intelligence agency CIA. The latest revelation includes a user guide for CIA's "Weeping Angel" tool... derived from another tool called "Extending" which belongs to UK's intelligence agency MI5/BTSS, according to Wikileaks. Extending takes control of Samsung F Series Smart TV. The highly detailed user guide describes it as an implant "designed to record audio from the built-in microphone and egress or store the data."

According to the user guide, the malware can be deployed on a TV via a USB stick after configuring it on a Linux system. It is possible to transfer the recorded audio files through the USB stick or by setting up a WiFi hotspot near the TV. Also, a Live Liston Tool, running on a Windows OS, can be used to listen to audio exfiltration in real-time. Wikileaks mentioned that the two agencies, CIA and MI5/BTSS made collaborative efforts to create Weeping Angel during their Joint Development Workshops.

Crime

US Prepares Charges To Seek Arrest of WikiLeaks' Julian Assange (cnn.com) 369

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: U.S. authorities have prepared charges to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell CNN. The Justice Department investigation of Assange and WikiLeaks dates to at least 2010, when the site first gained wide attention for posting thousands of files stolen by the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst now known as Chelsea Manning. Prosecutors have struggled with whether the First Amendment precluded the prosecution of Assange, but now believe they have found a way to move forward. During President Barack Obama's administration, Attorney General Eric Holder and officials at the Justice Department determined it would be difficult to bring charges against Assange because WikiLeaks wasn't alone in publishing documents stolen by Manning. Several newspapers, including The New York Times, did as well. The investigation continued, but any possible charges were put on hold, according to U.S. officials involved in the process then.
The U.S. view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference Thursday that Assange's arrest is a "priority." "We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks," he said. "This is a matter that's gone beyond anything I'm aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We've already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail." Meanwhile, Assange's lawyer said they have "had no communication with the Department of Justice."
Government

President Trump Misses 90-Day Deadline To Appoint a Cybersecurity Team After Alleged Russian Hacking (politico.com) 338

From a report: President-elect Donald Trump was very clear: "I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office," he said in January, after getting a U.S. intelligence assessment of Russian interference in last year's elections and promising to address cybersecurity. Thursday, Trump hits his 90-day mark. There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House on who would even be working on what. It's the latest deadline Trump's set and missed -- from the press conference he said his wife would hold last fall to answer questions about her original immigration process to the plan to defeat ISIS that he'd said would come within his first 30 days in office. Since his inauguration, Trump's issued a few tweets and promises to get to the bottom of Russian hacking -- and accusations of surveillance of Americans, himself included, by the Obama administration.
Education

States Are Moving To Cut College Costs By Introducing Open-Source Textbooks (qz.com) 123

In an effort to curb the rising cost of textbooks, which went up by 88% between 2006 and 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland and New York have announced initiatives that adopt open-source, copyright-free textbooks. The initiatives will reward colleges who adapt or scale the use of OER (open educational resources) -- "materials like electronic textbooks that typically use licenses that are far less restrictive than traditional, copyrighted textbooks," reports Quartz. From the report: The University System of Maryland recently announced that it would be giving out 21 "mini-grants" to seven community colleges and five public four-year schools. The grants will go to "faculty who are adopting, adapting or scaling the use of OER [open educational resources] in Fall 2017 through high-enrollment courses where quality OER exists," according to the announcement. Although the mini-grants are only $500 to $2,500 each, the effort in Maryland is expected to save 8,000 students up to $1.3 million in the Fall 2017 semester alone. That's a significant amount, but just a drop in the bucket of what students in the state spend on textbooks each year. Another big investment in open educational resources came in the budget passed in New York state last week. The news was somewhat buried by the fact that the budget includes free tuition for New York students whose families make up to $125,000 a year, but the state will also be putting $8 million into open source materials over the next fiscal year.
Facebook

Navy, Marines Prohibit Sharing Nude Photos In Wake of a Facebook Scandal (fortune.com) 132

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fortune: The Navy and Marine Corps issued new regulations that ban members from sharing nude photographs following a scandal involving military personnel sharing intimate pictures of their female colleagues -- some of which were taken without their knowledge -- in a secret Facebook group. The new statute, which was signed Tuesday by Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley, went into effect immediately and will be made permanent when the next edition of the Navy's regulations is printed, according to Navy Times. Military courts will handle violations of the new rule. The crackdown comes after a Facebook group was uncovered featuring naked photos of female service members. The group was eventually shut down by Facebook after a request from the Marine Corps. The Center for Investigative Reporting found that some of the photographs posted on the Facebook group may have been taken consensually, but others may not have been.
China

Baidu Announces New Open Platform To Help Speed Up Development of Self-Driving Cars (theverge.com) 27

Chinese tech giant Baidu has announced a new autonomous vehicle platform called Project Apollo, which aims to help speed up the development of self-driving cars. "Baidu says the platform encompasses both hardware and software, providing partners with the tech and open-source code needed to help their own vehicles perceive obstacles, plan their routes, and otherwise move around our world," reports The Verge. From the report: Baidu says it will first open up Project Apollo for cars operating in restricted environments in July, before offering it to vehicles driving in simple urban road conditions later this year. That's ahead of a gradual rollout of self-driving features that should see cars operating fully autonomously on highways and regular roads by 2020. The release comes as Baidu moves to position itself at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle industry. The Chinese company has aimed for the ambitious goal of getting a self-driving car to market by 2018, and is challenging rivals such as Google on its home turf, building a team of engineers based in Silicon Valley and scoring relevant permits so it can test vehicles in California.
United States

Steve Ballmer's New Project: Find Out How the Government Spends Your Money (theverge.com) 249

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer isn't satisfied with owning the Los Angeles Clippers and teaching at Stanford and USC. On Tuesday, the billionaire announced USAFacts, his new startup that aims to improve political discourse by making government financial data easier to access. A small "army" of economists, professors and other professionals will be looking into and publishing data structured similarly to the 10-K filings companies issue each year -- expenses, revenues and key metrics pulled from dozens of government data sources and compiled into a single massive collection of tables. From a report on The Verge: The nonpartisan site traces $5.4 trillion in government spending under four categories derived from language in the US Constitution. Defense spending, for example, is categorized under the header "provide for the common defense," while education spending is under "secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity." Spending allocation and revenue sources are each mapped out in blue and pink graphics, with detailed breakdowns along federal, state and local lines. Users can also search for specific datasets, such as airport revenue or crime rates, and the site includes a report of "risk factors" that could inhibit economic growth. The New York Times has the story on how this startup came to be.
Businesses

Trump To Overhaul H-1B Visa Program To Encourage Hiring Americans (theguardian.com) 619

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: In a bid to court working class voters, Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday to revamp a temporary visa program used to bring foreign workers to fill jobs in the U.S. The president will use a visit to a manufacturing company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a crucial state he snatched from Hillary Clinton in the election, to promote his latest "Buy America Hire America" offensive. Trump's executive order will call on government departments to introduce reforms to ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the "most skilled or highest paid applicants," a senior administration official said. The executive order will also call for the "strict enforcement" of laws governing entry to the U.S. of labor from overseas, with a view to creating higher wages and employment rates for U.S. workers. The order will also call on government departments to "take prompt action to crack down on fraud and abuse" in the immigration system, a senior administration official said. The administration official sad: "Right now H-1B visas are awarded by random lottery and many of you will be surprised to know that about 80% of H-1B workers are paid less than the median wage in their fields. Only 5% to 6%, depending on the year, of H-1B workers command the highest wage tier recognized by the Department of Labor. [...] If you change that current system that awards visas randomly, without regard for skill or wage, to a skills-based awarding, it makes it extremely difficult to use the visa to replace or undercut American workers [...] It's a very elegant way of solving very systemic problems in the H-1B guest worker visa."
Government

Trump Administration Kills Open.Gov, Will Not Release White House Visitor Logs (techdirt.com) 268

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: It will never be said that the Trump presidency began with a presumption of openness. His pre-election refusal to release his tax returns set a bit of precedent in that regard. The immediate post-election muffling of government agency social media accounts made the administration's opacity goals um clearer. So, in an unsurprising move, the Trump administration will be doing the opposite of the Obama administration. The American public will no longer have the privilege of keeping tabs on White House visitors. TIME reports: "The Trump Administration will not disclose logs of those who visit the White House complex, breaking with his predecessor, the White House announced Friday. White House communications director Michael Dubke said the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy was due to 'the grave national security risks and privacy concerns of the hundreds of thousands of visitors annually.' Instead, the Trump Administration is relying on a federal court ruling that most of the logs are 'presidential records' and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act." So, to further distance himself from the people he serves (and the people who elected him), Trump and his administration have shut down the transparency portal put in place by the previous Commander-in-Chief: "White House officials said the Administration is ending the contract for Open.gov, the Obama-era site that hosted the visitor records along with staff financial disclosures, salaries, and appointments. An official said it would save $70,000 through 2020 and that the removed disclosures, salaries and appointments would be integrated into WhiteHouse.gov in the coming months."
Education

Maryland Awards 21 Grants To Prepare 'Open Source' Textbooks (usmd.edu) 98

"The University System of Maryland has awarded 21 "mini grants" to university faculty to "help them expand open education resources," reports OpenSource.com. Recipients of the grants are also given time off to prepare courses that use open textbooks, and will receive personalized support and training on effective course design. An anonymous reader writes: "Although our faculty view textbooks as essential, some of our students see them as a luxury they cannot afford," said Community College of Baltimore County President Sandra Kurtinitis. "Having access to open educational resources will provide some financial relief for our students as well as contribute to their academic success." The cost of textbooks has risen 812% since 1978, the school system said in an announcement, "outpacing even the cost of medical services and new housing. Nationally, students spend an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks."

The Maryland Open Source Textbook initiative started in 2013 "to provide a state-wide opportunity for faculty to explore the promise of open education resources to reduce students' cost of attendance while maintaining, or perhaps even improving, learning outcomes." Since then it's helped replace traditional textbooks in over 60 different courses at 14 public institutions across the state, resulting in a cumulative cost savings of over $1 million for 3,500 students. "In addition to saving students money, faculty have gained the ability to adapt and customize their instructional materials to ensure they are aligned with their pedagogical methods to best meet their students' needs," the school system reports. "In follow up surveys with students participating in the MOST initiative, 93% reported that the open educational resource content they used was the same or better quality than traditional textbooks."

Sci-Fi

Steve Wozniak Predicts The Future (usatoday.com) 198

USA Today asked Steve Wozniak to predict what the world will look like in 2075 -- one hundred years after the founding of Apple. An anonymous reader writes: "He's convinced Apple, Google and Facebook will be bigger in 2075," according to the article -- just like IBM, which endured long past its founding in 1911. Pointing to Apple's $246.1 billion in cash and marketable securities, Wozniak says Apple "can invest in anything. It would be ridiculous to not expect them to be around... The same goes for Google and Facebook."

Woz predicted portable laptops back in 1982, and now says that by 2075, we could also see new cities built from scratch in the deserts, with people wearing special suits to protect them from the heat. AI will be ubiquitous in all cities, as consumers interact with smart walls to communicate -- and to shop -- while home medical devices will allow self-diagnosis and doctor-free prescriptions. And according to the article, Woz "is convinced a colony will exist on the Red Planet. Echoing the sentiments of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose Blue Origin start-up has designs on traveling to Mars, Wozniak envisions Earth zoned for residential use and Mars for heavy industry." (Though he doesn't have high hopes that we'll ever meet aliens.)

Woz is promoting the Silicon Valley Comic Con next weekend. (Not coincidentally, its theme is "The Future of Humanity: Where Will We Be in 2075?") During the interview, Woz pointed at a colleague's iPhone, smiled broadly and said it "shows you how exciting the future can be."
Government

GOP Congressman Defending Privacy Vote: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet' (washingtonpost.com) 305

Wisconsin congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. defended his decision to help repeal broadband privacy rules by telling a constituent, "Nobody's got to use the Internet." An anonymous reader quotes the 73-year-old congressman: "And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet... Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don't think it's my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice... That's what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives."
"The congressman then moved on to the next question," reports The Washington Post, but criticism of his remarks appeared on social media. One activist complained that the congressman's position was don't use the internet if you don't want your information sold to advertisers -- drawing a clarification from the congressman's office.

"Actually he said that nobody has to use the Internet. They have a choice. Big difference."
The Military

US Navy Bans Vaping On Ships (go.com) 230

The U.S. Navy announced today that it will no longer allow sailors to use electronic cigarettes on ships, following several reports of explosives and injuries. ABC News reports: Naval commanders said in a statement Friday that the temporary electronic cigarette policy aims to protect sailors and the fleet. It starts next month. Officials cited overheated batteries in vaping equipment as the problem. Explosions have led to fires, first-degree burns and facial disfigurement. During a recent eight-month stretch, 12 incidents put sailors out of work for a combined 77 days. Injuries also restricted some to light duty for a total of five months.
Google

Google Is Working On a Tool For Managing Job Applicants (axios.com) 64

Google is quietly testing "Google Hire," a job applicant tracking system that appears to rival services like Greenhouse and Lever, Axios is reporting. From the report: The service lets employers post job listings, then accept and manage applications, according to job listing links spotted by Axios reader Colin Heilbut. So far, several tech companies seem to be using (or testing) Google Hire, including Medisas, Poynt, DramaFever, SingleHop, and CoreOS.
Privacy

Microsoft Says US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Requests More Than Doubled (reuters.com) 42

Microsoft Corp says it received at least a thousand surveillance requests from the U.S. government that sought user content for foreign intelligence purposes during the first half of 2016. From a report: The amount, shared in Microsoft's biannual transparency report, was more than double what the company said it received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the preceding six-month interval, and was the highest the company has listed since 2011, when it began tracking such government surveillance orders. The scope of spying authority granted to U.S. intelligence agencies under FISA has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, sparked in part by evolving, unsubstantiated assertions from President Donald Trump and other Republicans that the Obama White House improperly spied on Trump and his associates.
Programming

More Americans Now Work Full-Time From Home Than Walk and Bike To Office Jobs (qz.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: In the United States, the past decade has been marked by booming cities, soaring rents, and a crush of young workers flocking to job-rich downtowns. Although these are heady days for pavement-pounding urbanists, a record 2.6% of American employees now go to their jobs without ever leaving their houses. That's more than walk and bike to work combined. These numbers come from a Quartz analysis of data from the U.S. census and the American Community Survey. The data show that telecommuting has grown faster than any other way of getting to work -- up 159% since 2000. By comparison, the number of Americans who bike to work has grown by 86% over the same period, while the number who drive or carpool has grown by only 12%. We've excluded both part-time and self-employed workers from these and all results. Though managers are the largest group of remote workers, as a percentage of a specific occupation computer programmers are the most over-represented. Nearly 8% of programmers now work from home, following a staggering increase of nearly 400% since 2000.
Communications

T-Mobile Spends $8 Billion as Big Winner of FCC Auction (cnet.com) 48

T-Mobile, Dish Network and cable giant Comcast emerged as the big winners in the government's wireless spectrum auction. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission announced the winners of its $19.8 billion spectrum auction Thursday. T-Mobile spent $8 billion in the auction and won the biggest number of licenses, according to the FCC. Dish Network was in second, committing $6.2 billion, and Comcast spent a total of $1.7 billion. Verizon, which had committed ahead of time to participating in the auction, did not bid, the FCC said. The broadcast incentive spectrum auction has been one of the agency's most complex and ambitious auctions to date. The auction, which began last year, was conducted over two major stages. A so-called backwards auction took place last year in which TV broadcasters agreed to give up wireless spectrum that the government later sold in a so-called forward auction to wireless providers.

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