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Submission + - WikiLeaks takes down DNC Chair after damaging release (cnn.com) 1

SonicSpike writes: Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced Sunday she is stepping down as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee at the end of the party's convention, which is set to begin here Monday.

The Florida congresswoman's resignation — under pressure from top Democrats — comes amid the release of leaked emails showing DNC staffers favoring Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the party's 2016 primary contest.

Submission + - SpaceX Just Nailed Its Second Falcon 9 Ground Landing (wired.com)

SonicSpike writes: SpaceX just launched a rocket into space, then landed a substantial part of it back on solid ground for the second time. And the only reason they were able to do it was because they weren’t afraid to fail. Probably some engineering skill, too. And money.

Last night’s launch was the commercial spaceflight company’s ninth mission to the International Space Station. Its payload was a Dragon capsule loaded with two and a half tons of gear, most impressive of which is the International Docking Adaptor—a crucial modification that will give the next generation of space capsules access to the station.

SpaceX Releases Rockets-Eye View of Yesterday’s Landing
The Dragon, which should arrive at the ISS in the next two days, also has a handheld DNA sequencer, so the astronauts on board can finally figure out what’s inside all those aliens they’ve been capturing for the past decade. Just kidding, it’s for tissue from mice, and other little organisms with Earthly origins. Besides the tech and the science, the capsule is loaded with creature comforts like like food, water, and oxygen. Astronauts, what a bunch of prima donnas.

Getting that payload into orbit is priority one, but the main attraction was the landing. Not only is it a very cool engineering feat, but these landings save the company about $60 million worth of non-exploded rocket every time. So far, the company has landed four times before—once on the ground, three times on a drone barge in the middle of the ocean. Once SpaceX starts relaunching these things, they will be at a huge advantage over commercial spaceflight competitors like Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance, and Sierra Nevada.

Submission + - SPAM: US House to Vote on Curbing NSA Surveillance in Wake of Orlando Shooting

SonicSpike writes: An internal Republican fight is emerging over an anti-surveillance amendment passed by the House each of the past two years, but which foes say must be defeated this year in light of the Orlando shootings.

The measure, sponsored by Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky (and graduate of MIT), would effectively prohibit the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies from searching data collected incidentally on American citizens during surveillance of non-U.S. citizens outside of the country.

The House is set to vote on the provision Thursday as an amendment to the fiscal 2017 Defense Department spending bill, H.R. 5293, which is on the House floor.

The same amendment was passed last year by the House as part of the fiscal 2016 defense spending bill in a 255-174 vote across party lines. The previous year, it passed by a 293-123 vote. Both times, it was stripped out in negotiations with the Senate over a final bill that went to the president.

At issue is the amendment’s prevention of queries or searches of information or communications collected under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, without a warrant.

That FISA program is intended to focus on foreign terrorism suspects. But inevitably, information is collected about U.S. citizens in the course of this surveillance. Massie and Democratic co-sponsor Zoe Lofgren of California, and others, suggest Section 702 can be used as a "back-door" way to spy on U.S. citizens.

Opponents of Massie’s amendment say it would prevent intelligence agencies from being able to query or search for someone by name in the Section 702 database, simply because he is an American citizen, to see what is known about him.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Drop the Supersonic Aircraft Ban, Watch Business Boom (wsj.com)

SonicSpike writes: In an Op-Ed from the WSJ:

Today’s aircraft designers are able to run hundreds of computer simulations to discover “quiet supersonic” designs that substantially curtail perceived noise. NASA has been investing in noise-abatement research like this since the mid-1980s, and now private startups are also getting into the game, with at least two U.S. companies, Boom and Aerion, in preproduction of affordable supersonic passenger jets.

So long as the FAA maintains the supersonic ban, these companies have a reduced incentive to implement noise-abatement technologies and gain access to the lucrative coast-to-coast market. But the agency’s official position—offered in a 2008 public statement—is that it will forgo issuing a noise standard for supersonic travel until the “designs become known and the noise impacts of supersonic flight are shown to be acceptable.”

And that’s the catch: Without an official noise standard, how are America’s aviation companies to know what counts as acceptable? No company is going to spend millions of dollars producing a quiet supersonic aircraft behind a veil of ignorance, only to discover later that the FAA does not find it to be quiet enough.

Submission + - Senate bill would let FBI read your emails without a court order (cnet.com)

SonicSpike writes: The Senate Intelligence Committee last week approved a bill that would make it easier for the government to read what you're writing online.

The 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act, if enacted into law, would let the FBI obtain email records without a court order. All the agency would need is a National Security Letter, which lets the FBI get information from companies about their customers without alerting the person being investigated. Currently, the FBI can access phone records that way, but not emails.

The bill is the latest move by the federal government to shore up its powers when it comes to surveilling citizens. The government has been battling Apple and other tech companies for more access to data stored on devices. Law enforcement argues it can't fight crimes unless it has access to information on mobile gadgets. Technology companies and rights groups argue that features like strong encryption, which scrambles data so it can be read only by the intended recipient, are needed to keep people safe and protect privacy.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Tuesday in a joint statement that the 2017 Intelligence Authorization Act makes it easier for the government to keep Americans safe.

Submission + - How the FAA Shot Down "Uber for Planes" (fee.org)

SonicSpike writes: Imagine traveling from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard in under an hour and for less than $70. Believe it or not, this option was available from Flytenow’s website or app, by looking for a general aviation pilot who was making that trip, and then splitting the cost with that pilot and whoever else was sharing the flight.

Entrepreneurs were bringing private air travel to the masses until Flytenow’s leadership met with members of the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure that they were complying with all laws and regulations.

Instead of embracing this service, the FAA used tortuous logic to ban Flytenow and other online flight-sharing websites because it considered these to be “common carriers” (such as Delta Airlines). Private pilots cannot possibly comply with the myriad regulations that apply to the large airlines.

In what follows, Flytenow founders Alan Guichard and Matt Voska explain why the federal government should make the FAA allow flight sharing to get off the ground.

Submission + - John McAfee denied Libertarian Party nomination for President (reason.com)

SonicSpike writes: In a decisive rout for pragmatism over purity, the Libertarian Party has nominated former New Mexico Republican Governor and 2012 nominee Gary Johnson for president. Johnson came within an eyelash of winning on the first ballot, pulling 49.5 percent of the vote, just short of the required majority. (Libertarian activist Austin Petersen and software magnate John McAfee came in second and third, respectively, with 21.3 percent and 14.1 percent.) With sixth-place finisher Kevin McCormick (and his 0.973 percent of the vote) booted from the second ballot, Johnson sailed through with 55.8 percent.

Submission + - SPAM: FDA Imposes a Slow-Motion Ban on E-Cigarettes

SonicSpike writes: Today the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced what amounts to a slow-motion ban on e-cigarettes, ignoring the pleas of harm reduction advocates who say it makes no sense to prevent smokers from switching to nicotine products that are indisputably much less hazardous than the ones they are using now. The FDA rule, a preliminary version of which was published two years ago, effectively requires e-cigarette manufacturers to get their products approved as "new tobacco products," an expensive, arduous, and time-consuming process that will be prohibitive for most, if not all, of them.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - What Government Can Learn From Moore's Law (reason.com)

SonicSpike writes: In an open marketplace, a business that doesn't evolve to offer better goods and services at ever-more-affordable prices simply won't survive. That reality is particularly well-understood in places like Silicon Valley, which has been shaped by a folk understanding of Moore's Law, named for Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, who first observed in the 1970s that the number of transistors that fit on a computer chip doubles every two years, yielding cheaper and more powerful computers at a rapid rate. The result is a world in constant motion where risktaking is rewarded almost above all else.

"In today's fast-paced information age, everyone is expected to be constantly innovating and reinventing their business at the speed of 'Moore's Law,'" my Mercatus colleague Adam Thierer says. "Firms have to tear up their business plans every couple of years."

But while virtually all industries are engaged in a constant race to meet consumer needs, there's one sector where no such impetus need be present. "Governments never tear up any old law; they stay on the books seemingly forever," Thierer says. As a result, taxpayers at the federal, state, and local levels end up getting the same or worse services at higher and higher prices—exactly the opposite of what happens in the private sector.

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