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Submission + - Bipartisan bill seeks warrants for police use of 'stingray' cell trackers (usatoday.com)

Tulsa_Time writes: 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."

Submission + - Iron-age potters accidentally recorded Earth's magnetic field strength

Solandri writes: We've only been able to measure the Earth's magnetic field strength for about 2 centuries. During this time, there has been a gradual decline in the field strength. In recent years, the rate of decline seems to be accelerating, leading to some speculation that the Earth may be losing its magnetic field — a catastrophic possibility since the magnetic field is what protects life on Earth from dangerous solar radiation. Ferromagnetic particles in rocks provide a long-term history which tells us the poles have flipped numerous times. But uncertainties in dating the rocks prevents their use in understanding decade-scale magnetic field fluctuations.

Now a group of archeologists and geophysicists have come up with a novel way to produce decade-scale temporal measurements of the Earth's magnetic field strength from before the invention of the magnetometer. When iron-age potters fired their pottery in a kiln to harden it, it loosened tiny ferromagnetic particles in the clay. As the pottery cooled and these particles hardened, it captured a snapshot of the Earth's magnetic field. Crucially, the governments of that time required pottery used to collect taxed goods (e.g. a portion of olive oil sold) to be stamped with a royal seal. These seals changed over time as new kings ascended, or governments were completely replaced after invasion. Thus by cross-referencing the magnetic particles in the pottery with the seals, researchers were able to piece together a history of the Earth's magnetic field strength spanning from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century BCE. Their findings show that large fluctuations in the magnetic field strength over a span of decades are normal.

Submission + - More Serotonin, Less Motivation? It Depends on the Circumstances (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: A new study in mice shows that increasing serotonin, one of the major mediators of brain communication, affects motivation – but only in certain circumstances. Furthermore, the study revealed that the short and long term effects of increased serotonin levels are opposed – a completely unforeseen property of this neurotransmitter’s functional system.

A surprising behavioral effect, discovered in mice by neuroscientists at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU), in Lisbon, Portugal, strongly suggests that serotonin is involved in a biological mechanism which affects the animals’ motivation. The study has now been published in the online open access journal eLife.

Serotonin, one of the chemical “messengers”, or neurotransmitters, in the brain, is used by neurons to communicate with each other. It plays an important role in the regulation of sleep, movement and other behaviors which are essential for animal survival. But for motivation in particular, it was unclear whether serotonin was involved.

Submission + - Trump's White House's favorite encrypted app is "marketing over substance" (cyberscoop.com)

Patrick O'Neill writes: "Paranoid" White House staffers now use Confide, an app promising encrypted and disappearing communications that protects against eavesdropping on all fronts. The app promises "military grade encryption" but delivers zero details on what that means. There is no white paper, no independent audit, and questions from cryptographers about possibly critical vulnerabilities. “It’s a triumph of marketing over substance,” Professor Alan Woodward said.

Submission + - A US-born NASA scientist was detained at the border until he unlocked his phone (theverge.com)

mspohr writes: "Bikkannavar says he was detained by US Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the CBP agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn’t supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar’s phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn’t know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device.
The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled “Inspection of Electronic Devices” and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. “I was cautiously telling him I wasn’t allowed to give it out, because I didn’t want to seem like I was not cooperating,” says Bikkannavar. “I told him I’m not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it.”
Courts have upheld customs agents' power to manually search devices at the border, but any searches made solely on the basis of race or national origin are still illegal. More importantly, travelers are not legally required to unlock their devices, although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not. “In each incident that I’ve seen, the subjects have been shown a Blue Paper that says CBP has legal authority to search phones at the border, which gives them the impression that they’re obligated to unlock the phone, which isn’t true,” Hassan Shibly, chief executive director of CAIR Florida, told The Verge. “They’re not obligated to unlock the phone.”

Submission + - Nanorods Emit and Detect Light, Could Lead to Displays That Communicate via Li-F (ieee.org)

schwit1 writes: Ever since 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, quantum dots have been in a market struggle to displace light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a backlight source for liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

Now an advance by a team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in South Korea and Dow Chemical may turn the display market on its head by eliminating the need for backlights in LCD devices. They have produced a LED pixel out of nanorods capable of both emitting and detecting light.

Submission + - Prosthetic Arm Control Improved Using Spinal Nerve Signals

CanadianRealist writes: Current prosthetic arms are usually controlled by detecting signals from the user twitching muscles in the shoulder or arm. This allows only a limited number of possible movements, such as grasp and release. Researchers have developed a new technique that interprets signals from motor neurons in the spinal cord, allowing for a greater range of control of an arm. Signals from nerves associated with hand and arm movements were mapped to the corresponding movements. Test subjects were able to move a virtual prosthetic arm with greater freedom than has been achieved with muscle-controlled prosthetics. (A virtual prosthetic arm was used rather than a real one as this work is still in the early stages.)

Submission + - Senators Push Trump Administration for Clarity on Privacy Act Exclusions

Trailrunner7 writes: 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 issues 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 say in the letter to Kelly.

Submission + - Wikipedia Bans Daily Mail As 'Unreliable' Source (theguardian.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group “generally unreliable." The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organisation Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors. The editors described the arguments for a ban as “centred on the Daily Mail’s reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication." The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia but does not control its editing processes, said in a statement that volunteer editors on English Wikipedia had discussed the reliability of the Mail since at least early 2015. It said: “Based on the requests for comments section [on the reliable sources noticeboard], volunteer editors on English Wikipedia have come to a consensus that the Daily Mail is ‘generally unreliable and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. This means that the Daily Mail will generally not be referenced as a ‘reliable source’ on English Wikipedia, and volunteer editors are encouraged to change existing citations to the Daily Mail to another source deemed reliable by the community. This is consistent with how Wikipedia editors evaluate and use media outlets in general – with common sense and caution.”

Submission + - Four of Iceland's main volcanoes all preparing for eruption (icelandmonitor.mbl.is)

Applehu Akbar writes: Because Iceland is the one exposed place on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, it has long been a paradise for vulcanologists. At any given time at least one of its 130 volcanoes is doing...something interesting. Now that four of Iceland's largest volcanoes are showing signs of impending eruption, the world may be in for another summer of ash. Katla, Hecla, Bárðarbunga and Grímsvötn have all had major activity in the past, including vast floods from melting glaciers, enough ash to ground aircraft over all of Europe, volumes of sulfur that have induced global nuclear winter for a decade at a time, and clouds of poisonous fluoride gas.

When the mountains of Iceland speak, the whole world listens.

Submission + - Its time to have a talk about Slashdot technology 3

hackwrench writes: On top of not fixing the problems that Slashdot has. the new owners have added an annoying ad that persistently blocks actual usage on every load.
Slashdot also frequently launches users some distance into comments for no explicable reason.
It doesn't do Unicode.
The new interface is horrendous. Fortunately it can be switched off.
Features that used to be free are now subscription-only items.
Let's all hash it out. Not just technological issues but editorial grievances as well. And how many of us are on a moderation ban list for some long forgotten stupid reason?

Submission + - Paypal disguises 13% price hike as 'Policy Update'. (paypal.com) 2

turbotalon writes: In an email sent to users February 7th, Paypal is disguising a 13% rate hike as a 'Policy Update.' Roughly one quarter of the 'policy changes' are rate hikes, yet their emailed summary glosses over the rate hike, focussing instead on a few of the 'policy changes' with one sentence at the end about 'changing some of the fees we charge'.

Additionally, they have added a "non-discouragement clause" for sellers that provides:

"In representations to your customers or in public communications, you agree not to mischaracterize PayPal as a payment method. At all of your points of sale (in whatever form), you agree not to try to dissuade or inhibit your customers from using PayPal; and, if you enable your customers to pay you with PayPal, you agree to treat PayPal’s payment mark at least at par with other payment methods offered."

Reading the full text of the update reveals the following fees are increasing:
  Standard transaction fee
  International currency exchange fees
  In-store transaction fees
  Micro-payment fees
  Cross-border transaction fees

Submission + - Richard Hatch Dies at 71 (tmz.com)

computerman413 writes: TMZ reports that Richard Hatch has passed away at 71 from pancreatic cancer. Hatch played Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica, and had a recurring role as terrorist Tom Zarek on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.

Submission + - House Passes Email Privacy Bill

Obfiscator writes: The US House of Representatives passed a bill to require federal agencies to obtain a warrant before being granted access to email communications. From the article: "This Act will fix a constitutional flaw in ECPA, which currently purports to allow the government to compel a provider to disclose email contents in some cases without a warrant, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Email Privacy Act ensures that the content of our emails are protected in the same way that the Fourth Amendment protects the items we store in our homes."

The full text of the bill is here, although somewhat hard to read since it's a modification of a previous bill. This appears to be the most relevant part: "a governmental entity may require the disclosure by a provider of electronic communication service of the contents of a wire or electronic communication that is in electronic storage with or otherwise stored, held, or maintained by that service only if the governmental entity obtains a warrant issued using the procedures described in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure."

Submission + - Politics Have Turned Facebook Into a Steaming Cauldron of Hate (backchannel.com) 1

mirandakatz writes: America has never been more divided, and on social media, people are blocking, muting, and unfriending each other left and right. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel argues that Facebook is the last place we should be having political discussion right now: "We know the “filter bubble” about which Eli Pariser first wrote back in 2011 is part of the problem—it limits the viewpoints we see to those that reflect the opinions we already have. And yet we double down on that bubble, muting and blocking and unfriending people who think differently from us, if they make it into our social streams at all. We hate ourselves a tiny bit for this. And yet, if we do the opposite—engage on social media with people who hold different viewpoints—it almost always goes sideways." If you really want to understand people who don't think the same way as you? Get off of Facebook, and into the real world.

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