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Submission + - Obama used a pseudonym in emails with Clinton, FBI documents reveal (

schwit1 writes: President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday. The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

The 189 pages the bureau released includes interviews with some of Clinton’s closest aides, such as Huma Abedin and Cheryl Mills; senior State Department officials; and even Marcel Lazar, better known as the Romanian hacker “Guccifer.”

In an April 5, 2016 interview with the FBI, Abedin was shown an email exchange between Clinton and Obama, but the longtime Clinton aide did not recognize the name of the sender.

"Once informed that the sender's name is believed to be pseudonym used by the president, Abedin exclaimed: 'How is this not classified?'" the report says. "Abedin then expressed her amazement at the president's use of a pseudonym and asked if she could have a copy of the email."

Submission + - Bill Gates: Voter Opposition to Globalization is 'A Huge Concern' 1

theodp writes: GeekWire reports that the groundswell of populist opposition to open markets and collaboration among countries is "a huge concern" to Bill Gates. "Globalization has had these huge benefits of speeding up innovation and causing product prices to be far lower than they would be otherwise," argued Gates. "But the fact that people, net, see it as a bad thing — and that a vote like the Brexit vote or some other votes are a move to 'Hey, we don’t like change, we want to set back the clock, we want to be more local in our thinking' — that’s a huge concern." Commenters didn't exactly see eye-to-eye with the world's richest man.

Submission + - Touts Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Disses Wolfram Language

theodp writes: Tech-backed, one of the leaders of the new CSforAll Consortium that was announced at the White House on Wednesday, took to its blog Thursday to say "Thanks, Tim [Cook], for supporting the effort to give every student the opportunity to learn computer science," giving a shout out to Apple for providing "resources for teachers who want to put Swift Playgrounds in their classrooms (a day earlier, the White House said Apple developed Swift Playgrounds "in support of the President’s call to action" for CS for All). Curiously, CEO Hadi Partovi argued Friday that "the Wolfram Language has serious shortcomings for broad educational use" in an EdSurge op-ed that was called a "response to a recent blog post by Stephen Wolfram" on Wolfram's ambitious plan to teach computational thinking in schools. Partovi's complaints? "It requires login for all but the simplest use cases, but doesn’t provide any privacy safeguards for young children (required in the U.S. through legislation such as COPPA). Also, a serious user would need to pay for usage, making implementation inaccessible in most schools. Lastly, it’s a bit difficult to use by students who struggle with English reading or writing, such as English language learners or early elementary school students." So, if you were a teacher trying to teach computational thinking skills to the 11-and-older set, would you be inclined to embrace Wolfram's approach, Apple's Swift Playgrounds, Microsoft TEALS' Java-centric AP CS curriculum, or something else (e.g., R, Tableau, Excel+VBA)?

Submission + - Working Round The 'Big Data Bottleneck' In Modern CPUs (

An anonymous reader writes: Modern CPU architecture is built to retrieve large chunks of data, to limit the number of time-consuming journeys between the central controller and the location of the data in memory banks. When you're fetching the first data block of a picture for Photoshop, bringing along the adjacent block makes sense, because you're probably going to need it. But when you're making ten calls to a 'sparse' dataset, where each of the items you want is resident in different memory allocation, and none of them have any relevant adjacent data, the architecture is fighting the intention.

Researchers from MIT have addressed the problem by creating a C++ extension that gathers these requests into one queue for each core, and then forces the cores to swap and negotiate which requests they can most efficiently handle for the minimum number of journeys to memory. In earluy tests, access to sparse datasets has been increased by up to four times using this method, and promises even greater increases with a dedicated architecture. Contributing researcher Vladimir Kiriansky explains why the teams called the extension 'Milk', and why the name also explains the challenge: "It’s as if, every time you want a spoonful of cereal, you open the fridge, open the milk carton, pour a spoonful of milk, close the carton, and put it back in the fridge."

Submission + - Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft in the War over Classrooms (

mirandakatz writes: In the two years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft's parent company, its discovered a brilliant new direction to take the game: it's turning it into a tool for education, creating both an innovative approach to classroom technology and an inspired strategy for competing with Google and Apple in the ed-tech market. "I actually never believed there would be a game that would really cross over between the commercial entertainment market and education in a mainstream way,” says cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito—but Minecraft has managed to do just that.

Submission + - L.A. sheriff uses robot to snatch rifle from barricaded suspect, end standoff (

schwit1 writes: An hours-long standoff in the darkness of the high desert came to a novel end when Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a robot to stealthily snatch a rifle from an attempted murder suspect, authorities said Thursday.

Officials said the use of the robot to disarm a violent suspect was unprecedented for the Sheriff's Department, and comes as law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on military-grade technology to reduce the risk of injury during confrontations with civilians.

Submission + - YouTube Has Quietly Begun "Censoring" Journalists Who Criticize Government (

schwit1 writes: Earlier this month, YouTube, the behemoth video-sharing website was accused of censoring users.

Claiming some of their videos had been barred from making money through the company’s ad services, YouTube hosts like Philip DeFranco spoke out against the policy, claiming over “a dozen of his videos had been flagged as inappropriate for advertising, including one dinged for ‘graphic content or excessive strong language.’

In a video entitled “YouTube Is Shutting Down My Channel and I’m Not Sure What To Do,” DeFranco called YouTube’s policy “censorship with a different name,” since users touching on what the company considers to be controversial subjects end up losing money. “If you do this on the regular, and you have no advertising,” DeFranco added, “it’s not sustainable.”

While YouTube has already confirmed its policy regarding what it considers unfit for monetization hasn’t changed, the issue might lie elsewhere now that the company seems more efficient in enforcing its own rules. As a matter of fact, the content policy changed in 2012, when YouTube first introduced its “ad-friendly” guidelines.

But while an algorithm is allegedly used to spot and “de-monetize” videos that break the company’s rules, many continue to accuse the company, currently owned by Google, of having “vague” descriptions of what its leadership considers ad-friendly.

YouTube rolled out its monetization tool in 2006, when ads consisted of videos that would pop up at the bottom of the user’s screen. If the user did not click on it, it would roll for about ten seconds before going away. But as ad executives pressured YouTube to “to do a better job at promoting its creators,” the relationship with its advertisers changed. As better and even more intrusive ads were added to YouTube videos, the company allegedly became more concerned with the content.

Those who are affected often complain about copyright claims, but some complain about another type of targeting — one that involves power players.

Submission + - The Unintended Consequence of Congress's Ban on Designer Babies (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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: (

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 (

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."

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