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Submission + - The Unintended Consequence of Congress's Ban on Designer Babies (technologyreview.com)

schwit1 writes: By tucking two crucial sentences inside a federal spending bill last year, the U.S. Congress effectively banned the human testing of gene-editing techniques that could produce genetically modified babies. But the provision, which is up for renewal this year, has also flustered proponents of a promising technique that could help mothers avoid passing certain devastating genetic disorders to their children.

The language in the bill is a clear reference to the use of techniques like CRISPR to modify the human germline (see “Engineering the Perfect Baby”). Most scientists agree that testing germline editing in humans is irresponsible at this point. But regulators have decided that the description also fits mitochondrial replacement therapy, which entails removing the nucleus from a human egg and transplanting it into one from a different person to prevent the transmission of debilitating or even deadly mitochondrial disorders to children.

Submission + - Hacked Soros Documents Reveal Some Big Dark Money Surprises (pjmedia.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The leak reveals Soros’ funding of a wide range of activities: the Black Lives Matter movement, influencing the European elections in 2014, swaying a Supreme Court decision, smearing political activists, and attacking the nation of Israel.

But you likely haven’t heard about these key “dark money” revelations. Soros has given $7 million to the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA and has dedicated $25 million to support Democrats and their causes. His fundraising matters politically, and should be a big story.

But The New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post, CBS News, and other major media outlets did not even report on the leak, much less the stories revealed by it.

Submission + - US army blames lost computer files for part of accounting nightmare (reuters.com)

Bruce66423 writes: "DFAS also could not make accurate year-end Army financial statements because more than 16,000 financial data files had vanished from its computer system. Faulty computer programming and employees’ inability to detect the flaw were at fault, the IG said."

Overall the report indicates that the army's accounts are massively fudged, and has been for years. The question is: Why has the executive branch failed to address the issue, and why hasn't congress ensured compliance with basic standards of behaviour. Meanwhile blaming the loss of computer files is the resort of the IT incompetent.

Submission + - Study: 6 Million Americans Exposed To High Levels of Chemicals In Drinking Water (businessinsider.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A new study out Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters looked at a national database that monitors chemical levels in drinking water and found that 6 million people were being exposed to levels of a certain chemical that exceed what the Environmental Protection Agency considers healthy. The chemicals, known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs, are synthetic and resistant to water and oil, which is why they're used in things like pizza boxes and firefighting foam. They're built to withstand the environment. But PFASs also accumulate in people and animals and have been observationally linked to an increased risk of health problems including cancer. And they can't be easily avoided, like with a water filter, for example.

Submission + - Comcast: FCC's Set-Top Box Proposal's Impossible. FCC: (consumerist.com)

dennisl80716606 writes: The FCC's got a proposal in the works right now that Comcast doesn't like. This is not a shock; Comcast has generally not liked any headlining proposals from the FCC in recent years. Some of the cable giant's complaints are undoubtedly just sound and noise, signifying nothing other than “we like profit, don't screw with our thing.” But maybe some of its technological complaints have merit.


First, a recap of where we stand right now:


Cable companies currently make a lot of money from mandatory equipment rental fees imposed on consumers. The FCC has a proposal in the works to make the cable set-top box market at least halfway competitive. That plan has support from the White House as well as from technology and consumer advocates. That proposal, of course, also has detractors. And among those detractors, Comcast has consistently been the most vocal.


That's the background. These many months in, Comcast has made its opinion known in filings and meetings with the FCC many times. So Ars Technica, as it does, took a look at the technological complaints that Comcast is making, and the rebuttals from the FCC.


The sum of Comcast's arguments, says Ars, is that it accuses the FCC of not actually knowing how TV works in 2016. The FCC's proposal would require providers to make “information flows” available to third-party providers, the same way that they are available on a company's own hardware. Three flows would be transmitted: one would be for content itself (“content delivery”), all the programming you tune to and watch. Another would be for “service discovery,” meaning all that handy data about channel listings and programming guides. And the third would be about “entitlements” — that's whether or not you can record or fast-forward given programming.


Sounds good, right? Except Comcast claims that there's no such thing: rather than information flowing out to cable boxes, it is stored on a server and customers basically reach in and grab it on-demand. Comcast's X1 cable platform is an internet-based system, not a broadcast one (which is why it's technologically possible, for example, to run Netflix on a modern Comcast box).


These on-demand requests, Comcast adds, are too individualized to be transmitted elsewhere. In other words, they're too tied to an individual account, and over a hundred little subsystems would get completely screwed up if Comcast tried to mess with them.


The FCC, however, does not think these arguments have much weight. An unnamed senior Commission official told Ars that the FCC is perfectly aware of how on-demand, IP-based systems work and that Comcast's pile of excuses is, well, no excuse.


The FCC official said that Comcast and others could comply by creating an API that would let third parties use their data for their own software uses. The API wouldn't need to know every single feature internal to Comcast; it would only need to be able to access the customer's permissions to access content. (Much the same way as third-party apps on your phone can access some of your Facebook content without knowing everything Facebook does or being Facebook.)


The FCC official also pointed out that the API was a suggestion — the rule proposed doesn't mandate any specific solution, but instead requires everyone to develop and pick some kind of open standard that works and then stick with it.


Comcast claims the API is a no-go even though of course there's the fact that to some degree, making cloud-based cable into an app you can run anywhere already works: Comcast has itself proven this with its X1 app for Samsung and Roku devices, in addition to having a fairly robust TV-everywhere login-based viewing option for cable customers to use on their computers and tablets.


So who's more right? Ars consulted an expert who works for neither Comcast nor the FCC. That expert says that his own company ran a successful proof-of-concept demonstration showing that “off-the-shelf equipment and open standards” work right now to let third-party hardware access Comcast's (and Google Fiber's) video stream. The catch: that demo used a CableCard, which kinda sorta failed miserably to launch and is being phased out as a product and standard.


So where do we go from here? That's a big old giant open question. We'll find out if the proposal goes through or not sometime in the coming months.




Set-top saga: Comcast says it's “not feasible” to comply with FCC cable box rules [Ars Technica]

Submission + - The F-35 is So Stealthy it Produced Training Challenges (airforcetimes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Reporting for Air Force Times Phillip Swarts writes, "The F-35 Lightning II is so stealthy, pilots are facing an unusual challenge. They're having difficulty participating in some types of training exercises, a squadron commander told reporters Wednesday. During a recent exercise at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, F-35 squadrons wanted to practice evading surface-to-air threats. There was just one problem: No one on the ground could track the plane. 'If they never saw us, they couldn’t target us,' said Lt. Col. George Watkins, the commander of the 34th Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The F-35s resorted to flipping on their transponders, used for FAA identification, so that simulated anti-air weapons could track the planes, Watkins said."

Submission + - Snowden Questions WikiLeaks' Methods (pcworld.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, has censured WikiLeaks’ release of information without proper curation. On Thursday, Snowden, who has embarrassed the U.S. government with revelations of widespread NSA surveillance, said that WikiLeaks was mistaken in not at least modestly curating the information it releases. “Democratizing information has never been more vital, and @Wikileaks has helped. But their hostility to even modest curation is a mistake,” Snowden said in a tweet. WikiLeaks shot back at Snowden that “opportunism won’t earn you a pardon from Clinton [and] curation is not censorship of ruling party cash flows.” The whistleblowing site appeared to defend itself earlier on Thursday while referring to its “accuracy policy.” In a Twitter message it said that it does “not tamper with the evidentiary value of important historical archives.”

Submission + - Judge Rules Political Robocalls Are Protected by First Amendment

Trailrunner7 writes: A federal judge has ruled that robocalls made on behalf of political candidates are protected by the First Amendment and cannot be outlawed. The decision came in a case in Arkansas, where political robocalls had been illegal for more than 30 years.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Court Judge Leon Holmes ruled that banning political robocalls amounts to an infringement of free speech protections and also constitutes prior restraint of speech. Political campaigns have been using robocalls for decades, and some states have sought to ban them, arguing that they are intrusive and violate recipients’ privacy. In the Arkansas case, the state attorney general put forward both of these arguments, and also argued that the calls can tie up phone lines, making them unusable in an emergency.

Holmes said in his decision that there was no evidence that political robocalls prevent emergency communications, and also said that the Arkansas statute should have banned all robocalls, not just commercial and political ones.

Submission + - Fact checking the DNC email hack

Presto Vivace writes: NSA Whistleblower: Not So Fast On Claims Russia Behind DNC Email Hack

they have not listed intruders or attempted intrusions to the DNC site. I suspect that’s because they did a quick and dirty look for known attacks. Of course, this brings up another question; if it’s a know attack, why did the DNC not have software to stop it? You can tell from the network log who is going into a site. I used that on networks that I had. I looked to see who came into my LAN, where they went, how long they stayed and what they did while in my network.

Further, if you needed to, you could trace back approaches through other servers etc. Trace Route and Trace Watch are good examples of monitoring software that help do these things. Others of course exist probably the best are in NSA/GCHQ and the other Five Eyes countries. But, these countries have no monopoly on smart people that could do similar detection software.

Question is do they want to fix the problems with existing protection software. If the DNC and OPM are examples, then obviously, they don’t care to fix weakness probably because the want to use these weaknesses to their own advantage.

Submission + - SPAM: The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students

schwit1 writes: Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core, and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true. Even in states with strong common standards and tests, racial achievement gaps persist. Last year, average math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress declined for the first time since 1990; reading scores were flat or decreased compared with a decade earlier.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - SPAM: Iran destroys 100,000 satellite dishes in crackdown

schwit1 writes: Iran destroyed 100,000 satellite dishes and receivers on Sunday as part of a widespread crackdown against the illegal devices that authorities say are morally damaging, a news website reported.

"The truth is that most satellite channels... deviate the society's morality and culture," he said at the event according to Basij News.

Under Iranian law, satellite equipment is banned and those who distribute, use, or repair them can be fined up to $2,800 (2,500 euros). Iranian police regularly raid neighbourhoods and confiscate dishes from rooftops.

Link to Original Source

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