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Communications

Alaska Gets 'Artificial Aurora' As HAARP Antenna Array Listens Again (hackaday.com) 12

Freshly Exhumed quotes Hackaday: The famous HAARP antenna array is to be brought back into service for experiments by the University of Alaska. Built in the 1990s for the US Air Force's High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, the array is a 40-acre site containing a phased array of 180 high-frequency antennas and their associated high-power transmitters. Its purpose is to conduct research on charged particles in the upper atmosphere, but that hasn't stopped an array of bizarre conspiracy theories.
A university space physics researcher will actually create an artificial aurora starting Sunday (and continuing through Wednesday) to study how yjr atmosphere affects satellite-to-ground communications, and "observers throughout Alaska will have an opportunity to photograph the phenomenon," according to the University. "Under the right conditions, people can also listen to HAARP radio transmissions from virtually anywhere in the world using an inexpensive shortwave radio."
Businesses

SoftBank Is Willing To Cede Control of Sprint To Get T-Mobile Merger Done, Says Report (phonedog.com) 27

According to Reuters, SoftBank is willing to cede control of Sprint to make a T-Mobile-Sprint merger happen. The company controls 83 percent of Sprint, but it'd reportedly be willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile. PhoneDog reports: It's said that SoftBank is growing frustrated with Sprint's lack of major growth in the U.S. market, and so it wants to merge with T-Mobile in order to better compete with Verizon and ATT. No talks between SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom are currently happening because of the FCC's 600MHz spectrum auction that prevents collusion between competing companies. Once the auction ends in April, though, it's expected that SoftBank will approached Deutsche Telekom about a deal.
The Almighty Buck

Accenture To Create 15,000 Jobs In US (reuters.com) 201

Accenture said on Friday it would create 15,000 "highly skilled" new jobs in the United States, as IT services firms brace for a more protectionist U.S. technology visa program under President Donald Trump. From a report on Reuters: The company, which is domiciled in Dublin, Ireland, said the new jobs would increase the company's U.S. workforce by 30 percent to more than 65,000 by the end of 2020. Accenture has more than 394,000 employees, of which about 140,000 are in India. IT services companies have come under the spotlight after Trump said that his administration would focus on creating more jobs for U.S. workers, who had been affected by the outsourcing of jobs abroad. Major IT service companies, particularly those based in India, fly engineers to the United States using H-1B visas to service clients, but some opponents argue they are misusing the visa program to replace U.S. jobs.
United States

EU Privacy Watchdogs Seek Assurances on US Data Transfer Pact (reuters.com) 36

European Union data privacy watchdogs will seek assurances from U.S. authorities that a move by U.S. President Donald Trump to crack down on illegal immigration will not undermine a transatlantic pact protecting the privacy of Europeans' data. From a report: European concerns have been raised by an executive order signed by Trump on Jan. 25 aiming to toughen enforcement of U.S. immigration law. The order directs U.S. agencies to "exclude persons who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents from the protections of the Privacy Act regarding personally identifiable information." The exemption of foreigners from the U.S. law governing how federal agencies collect and use information about people has stoked worries across the Atlantic about the new administration's approach to privacy and its impact on cross-border data flows.
Verizon

Sprint's New Unlimited Plan Adds HD Streaming, Four Lines For $90 (zdnet.com) 82

Take that, Verizon! Sprint's unlimited data plan now has HD video too. From a report: On February 16, Sprint upped its unlimited plan, launching the "best unlimited HD plan ever", according to its press release. The new plan matches Verizon Wireless' new unlimited plan by offering unlimited calls, text, data, HD video streaming, and 10 GB of mobile hotspot for $22.50 per line, for four lines. That equates to $90 per month for four lines, or half of what Verizon Wireless is charging. Sprint's plan requires the account owner to enable AutoPay, ensuring the bill is paid on time each month. For those who don't need four lines, the first line will set you back $50 per month, two lines of service will bump it $90 per month.
Government

Bipartisan Bill Seeks Warrants For Police Use of 'Stingray' Cell Trackers (usatoday.com) 111

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday requiring police agencies to get a search warrant before they can deploy powerful cellphone surveillance technology known as "stingrays" that sweep up information about the movements of innocent Americans while tracking suspected criminals. "Owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn't give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Mich. "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times." The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, would require a warrant for all domestic law enforcement agencies to track the location and movements of individual Americans through GPS technology without their knowledge. It also aims to combat high-tech stalking by creating criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track someone's movements.
Transportation

Nearly 56,000 Bridges Called Structurally Deficient (usatoday.com) 240

schwit1 quotes a report from USA Today: Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day, are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday. The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention. More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group. "America's highway network is woefully underperforming," said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization." The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.
Power

Utilities Vote To Close Largest Coal Plant In Western US (arstechnica.com) 199

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: At 2.25 gigawatts, Arizona's Navajo Generating Station is the biggest coal-burning power plant in the Western U.S. The plant, and the nearby Kayenta coal mine that feeds it, are located on the Navajo Indian Reservation, and the Navajo and Hopi peoples have had a conflicted relationship with coal since the plant opened in the 1970s. Almost all the 900-plus jobs at the mine and plant are held by Native Americans, and the tribes receive royalties to account for large portions of their budget. Negotiations were underway to improve the tribes' lease terms, which expire in 2019. But on Monday, the four utilities that own most of the plant voted to close it at the end of 2019. They decided that the plant's coal-powered electricity just can't compete with plants burning natural gas. A press release from Salt River Projects, which runs the plant, explained, "The decision by the utility owners of [Navajo Generating Station] is based on the rapidly changing economics of the energy industry, which has seen natural gas prices sink to record lows and become a viable long-term and economical alternative to coal power."
Space

ISRO Makes History, Launches 104 Satellites With Single Rocket (indiatimes.com) 157

neo12 writes: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) made history by launching 104 satellites in a single launch. The lift-off of PSLVC 37 at 9.28 am from Sriharikota was a perfect one. In 28 minutes, all 104 satellites were successfully placed into the Earth's orbit. 101 of the 104 satellites belong to six foreign countries, including 96 from the U.S. and one each from Israel, the UAE, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Kazakhstan. According to Times of India, "Russian Space Agency held a record of launching 37 satellites in one go during its mission in June 2014. India previously launched 23 satellites in a single mission in June 2015."
Microsoft

Microsoft Calls For 'Digital Geneva Convention' (usatoday.com) 139

Microsoft is calling for a digital Geneva Convention to outline protections for civilians and companies from government-sponsored cyberattacks. In comments Tuesday at the RSA security industry conference in San Francisco, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the rising trend of government entities wielding the internet as a weapon was worrying. From a report on USA Today: In the cyber realm, tech must be committed to "100% defense and zero percent offense," Smith said at the opening keynote at the RSA computer security conference. Smith called for a "digital Geneva Convention," like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts. In the 21st century such rules are needed "to commit governments to protect civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace," a draft of Smith's speech released to USA TODAY said. This digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.
Communications

US National Weather Service Suffered 'Catastrophic' Outage; Website Stopped Sending Forecasts, Warnings (miamiherald.com) 100

jo7hs2 quotes a report from Miami Herald: On a day when a blizzard is pasting Maine and Northern California faces a dire flooding threat, several of the National Weather Service's primary systems for sending out alerts to the public have failed. As of approximately 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time, products from the National Weather Service ceased disseminating over the internet, including forecasts, warnings and current conditions. The Weather Service's public-facing website, Weather.gov, has not posted updated information since the outage began. Ryan Hickman, chief technology officer for Allison House, a weather data provider, called the situation "catastrophic." Hickman said two core routers for transmitting information from the Weather Service offices out to satellites, which beam the information back to public service providers, had stopped working. Hickman added that another backup system known as the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) was also not operating.

Slashdot reader jo7hs2 notes: "The systems are back up as of Monday evening."

Earth

Banned Chemicals From 1970's Persist In Deepest Reaches of the Pacific Ocean, Study Shows (bbc.com) 74

walterbyrd quotes a report from BBC: Scientists were surprised by the relatively high concentrations of pollutants like PCBs and PBDEs in deep sea ecosystems. Used widely during much of the 20th Century, these chemicals were later found to be toxic and to build up in the environment. The results are published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution. The team led by Dr Alan Jamieson at the University of Newcastle sampled levels of pollutants in the fatty tissue of amphipods (a type of crustacean) from deep below the Pacific Ocean surface. The pollutants found in the amphipods included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were commonly used as electrical insulators and flame retardants. PCB production was banned by the U.S. in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a UN treaty signed in 2001. From the 1930s to when PCBs were banned in the 1970s, the total global production of these chemicals is estimated to be in the region of 1.3 million tons. Released into the environment through industrial accidents and discharges from landfills, these pollutants are resistant to being broken down naturally, and so persist in the environment. The authors of the study say that the deep ocean can become a "sink" or repository for pollutants. They argue that the chemicals accumulate through the food chain so that when they reach the deep ocean, concentrations are many times higher than in surface waters.
The Almighty Buck

Nobody Is Moving, Especially Millennials (nymag.com) 489

For a fun new entry into millennials are lazy, consider this: According to new data tracked down by Richard Fry for Pew Research, just 20 percent of 25- to 35-year-olds (Old Millennials, if you will) reported having lived at a different address the previous year. From a report on NYMag: In 2000, a full 26 percent of Gen-Xers -- then at the same age range -- had reported making a move in the previous year. In 1963, members of the Silent Generation moved at a 26 percent rate, too. The census data being used here doesn't include college-dorm moves prevalent with 18- to 24-year-olds, so those young'uns are left out of the analysis. The 20 percent rate is the lowest level of young adult mobility in half a century, Fry reports, and all this with millennials getting married, owning homes, and having kids less than previous generations. Student debt and less favorable lending rates may be driving down homeownership -- imagine that -- which further reduces movement. Psychologically, this also means that young adults are more stuck with their personalities and faded of memory compared with their more mobile peers.
Businesses

Bay Area Tech Job Growth Has Rapidly Decelerated (mercurynews.com) 161

An anonymous reader shares a MercuryNews report: Job growth in the tech industry used to zoom like a race car, but these days, hiring by this principal driver of the Bay Area's economy chugs along more like a family SUV. The technology industry's job growth in the nine-county region has dramatically decelerated, according to this newspaper's analysis of figures released by state labor officials and Beacon Economics. Tech's annual job growth throttled back to 3.5 percent, or 26,700 new jobs, in 2016. That's much slower than the 6 percent annual gain of 42,300 jobs in 2015, or the 6.4 percent gain in 2014. And while the industry's 3.5 percent growth last year is still a sturdy annual pace, Bay Area technology companies have already disclosed plans to slash about 2,000 jobs in the first three months of 2017.
Government

CS Professor Argues Silicon Valley Is Exploiting Both H-1B Visas And Workers (huffingtonpost.com) 316

schwit1 quotes Norm Matloff, a CS professor at the University of California at Davis, on H-1B visa programs: The Trump administration has drafted a new executive order that could actually mean higher wages for both foreign workers and Americans working in Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley companies, of course, will not be happy if it goes into effect... Their lobbyists claim there is a "talent shortage" among Americans and thus that the industry needs more of such work visas. This is patently false. The truth is that they want an expansion of the H-1B work visa program because they want to hire cheap, immobile labor -- i.e., foreign workers.

To see how this works, note that most Silicon Valley firms sponsor their H-1B workers, who hold a temporary visa, for U.S. permanent residency (green card) under the employment-based program in immigration law. EB sponsorship renders the workers de facto indentured servants; though they have the right to move to another employer, they do not dare do so, as it would mean starting the lengthy green card process all over again.

Computerworld also argues this year's annual H-1B visa lottery "may be different, because of President Donald Trump," reporting that the lottery has historically favored the largest firms heavily. "In the 2015 fiscal year, for instance, the top 10 firms received 38% of all the H-1B visas in computer occupations alone. All these firms, except for Amazon and to a partial extent IBM, are outsourcers."
Transportation

Ford Just Invested $1 Billion In Self-Driving Cars (usatoday.com) 113

An anonymous reader quote USA Today: Ford Motor is betting $1 billion on the world's self-driving car future. The Detroit automaker announced Friday that it would allocate that sum over five years to a new autonomous car startup called Argo AI, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., and will have offices in Michigan and California. Ford's financial outlay is part of a continuing investment strategy anchored to transforming the car and truck seller into a mobility company with a hand in ride-hailing, ride-sharing and even bicycle rentals.
Lucas123 writes: Argo AI founders CEO Bryan Salesky, and COO Peter Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. Argo AI's team will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle, expected in 2021. Ford said it could also license the software to other carmakers.
Government

Senators Push Trump Administration For Clarity On Privacy Act Exclusions (onthewire.io) 135

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A group of influential lawmakers, including Sen. Ed Markey and Sen. Ron Wyden, are pressing the Trump administration for answers about how an executive order that includes changes to the Privacy Act will affect non-U.S. persons and whether the administration plans to release immigrants' private data. The letter comes from six senators who are concerned about the executive order that President Trump issued two weeks ago that excludes from privacy protections people who aren't U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The order is mostly about changes to immigration policy, but Trump also included a small section that requires federal government agencies to exclude immigrants from Privacy Act protections. On Thursday, Markey, Wyden, and four other senators sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jon Kelly, asking a series of 10 questions about how the exclusion would be implemented, what it would cost, and whether the government plans to release the private data of people affected by the order. "These Privacy Act exclusions could have a devastating impact on immigrant communities, and would be inconsistent with the commitments made when the government collected much of this information," the senators said in the letter to Kelly. In the letter, the lawmakers ask Kelly whether people affected by the order will be allowed full access to their own private data that has been collected by the government. They also ask how the government plans to identify U.S. persons in their databases and what policies DHS will apply to separate them from non-U.S persons. The letter also asks for clarification on how the executive order will affect the Privacy Shield pact between the U.S and the European Union. That agreement enables companies to move private data between countries under certain data protection laws.
The Almighty Buck

The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster (vice.com) 120

Jason Koebler quotes a report from Motherboard: The scourge of ticket bots and the immorality of the shady ticket scalpers using them is conventional wisdom that's so ingrained in the public consciousness and so politically safe that a law to ban automated ticket bots passed both houses of Congress unanimously late last year, in part thanks to a high-profile public relations campaign spearheaded by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. But no one actually involved in the ticket scalping industry thinks that banning bots will do much to slow down the secondary market. Seven years after his Los Angeles office was raided by shotgun-wielding FBI agents, Ken Lowson, the man who invented ticket bots, told Motherboard's Jason Koebler he's switched teams. Now, he's out to expose the secrets of the ticket industry in a bid to make sure tickets are sold directly to their fans.
The Courts

Former CIA Analyst Sues Defense Department To Vindicate NSA Whistleblowers (theintercept.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: In 2010, Thomas Drake, a former senior employee at the National Security Agency, was charged with espionage for speaking to a reporter from the Baltimore Sun about a bloated, dysfunctional intelligence program he believed would violate Americans' privacy. The case against him eventually fell apart, and he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor, but his career in the NSA was over. Though Drake was largely vindicated, the central question he raised about technology and privacy has never been resolved. Almost seven years have passed now, but Pat Eddington, a former CIA analyst, is still trying to prove that Drake was right. While working for Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., Eddington had the unique opportunity to comb through still-classified documents that outline the history of two competing NSA programs known as ThinThread and Trailblazer. He's seen an unredacted version of the Pentagon inspector general's 2004 audit of the NSA's failures during that time, and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests. In January, Eddington decided to take those efforts a step further by suing the Department of Defense to obtain the material, he tells The Intercept. "Those documents completely vindicate" those who advocated for ThinThread at personal risk, says Eddington.
Microsoft

Microsoft Allowed To Sue US Government Over Email Surveillance (bloomberg.com) 56

A judge has ruled that Microsoft is allowed to sue the U.S. government over a policy that prevents the tech company from telling its users when their emails are being intercepted. From a report on Bloomberg: The judge said Microsoft has at least made a plausible argument that federal law muzzles its right to speak about government investigations, while not ruling on the merits of the case. "The public debate has intensified as people increasingly store their information in the cloud and on devices with significant storage capacity," U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle said in Thursday's ruling. "Government surveillance aided by service providers creates unique considerations because of the vast amount of data service providers have about their customers."

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