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Power

Israel's Electric Grid Targeted By Malware, Energy Minister Says (timesofisrael.com) 37

itwbennett writes: While many are still debating how much risk there is of a catastrophic cyber attack on power grid and other critical infrastructure, Israel's Minister of Infrastructure, Energy and Water, Yuval Steinitz has good reason for warning 'of the sensitivity of infrastructure to cyber-attacks, and the importance of preparing ourselves in order to defend ourselves against such attacks.' On Tuesday Steinitz told attendees at CyberTech 2016 that the country's Public Utility Authority had been targeted by malware just one day earlier, and that some systems were still not working properly. Not long after news of the attack started to spread, Robert M. Lee, the CEO of Dragos Security, published his thoughts on the matter over on the SANS ICS blog.
Movies

RIP Alan Rickman, AKA Hans Gruber, Severus Snape (variety.com) 174

TigerPlish writes to note Variety's report on the death of actor Alan Rickman, who died after a short bout with cancer, and was surrounded by friends and family when he went. Rickman may be most familiar to you as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (especially in his final scene), or as Harry Potter's Snape, but his film career was long, crossing genre lines and extending into five decades.
Chrome

Nvidia GPUs Can Leak Data From Google Chrome's Incognito Mode (softpedia.com) 148

An anonymous reader writes: Nvidia GPUs don't clear out memory that was previously allocated, and neither does Chrome before releasing memory back to the shared memory pool. When a user recently fired up Diablo 3 several hours after closing an Incognito Mode window that contained pornography, the game launched with snapshots of the last "private" browsing session appearing on the screen — revealing his prior activities. He says, "It's a fairly easy bug to fix. A patch to the GPU drivers could ensure that buffers are always erased before giving them to the application. It's what an operating system does with the CPU RAM, and it makes sense to use the same rules with a GPU. Additionally, Google Chrome could erase their GPU resources before quitting."
Government

Entering the Age of Body-Worn Police Cameras (arstechnica.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes: Cyrus Farivar writes about what's being called a new era in policing: the era of body-worn cameras. They're gaining a foothold in departments around the U.S. after a year of increasing tensions between police and citizens, caused by a series of high-profile shootings. Several research groups are busily evaluating how the cameras affect the way police do their jobs. Many officers welcome the technology — in addition to providing evidence backing up the use of force, it often helps with investigations, capturing details they may miss at the time of an incident. Farivar even goes through a couple of simulated encounters, while pretending to be a cop. The camera easily shows him everything he did wrong. In this way, police officers can also review encounters for training purposes. As more departments adopt them, it's looking like a win-win — police benefit, and the public gets access to some much-desired accountability.
The Military

North Korea Claims It Detonated Its First Hydrogen Bomb (nytimes.com) 412

HughPickens.com writes: North Korea announced it has detonated its first hydrogen bomb, dramatically escalating the nuclear challenge from one of the world's most isolated and dangerous states. "This is the self-defensive measure we have to take to defend our right to live in the face of the nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States and to guarantee the security of the Korean Peninsula," said a North Korean announcer on the state-run network. "With this hydrogen bomb test, we have joined the major nuclear powers." The North's announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event that South Korea said was 30 miles from the Punggye-ri site where the North has conducted nuclear tests in the past.

"North Korea's fourth test — in the context of repeated statements by U.S., Chinese, and South Korean leaders — throws down the gauntlet to the international community to go beyond paper resolutions and find a way to impose real costs on North Korea for pursuing this course of action," says Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. According to the NY Times, the test is bound to figure in the American presidential campaign, where several candidates have already cited the North's nuclear experimentation as evidence of American weakness — though they have not prescribed alternative strategies for choking off the program. The United States did not develop its first thermonuclear weapons — commonly known as hydrogen bombs — until 1952, seven years after the first and only use of nuclear weapons in wartime.

News

Four Elements Added To Periodic Table (theguardian.com) 85

physburn writes: The Guardian reports that four new elements, with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117, and 118, have been formally added to the periodic table. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has now initiated the process of formalizing names and symbols for these elements. "The RIKEN collaboration team in Japan have fulfilled the criteria for element Z=113 and will be invited to propose a permanent name and symbol." 115 and 117, with the temporary names of ununpentium and ununseptium, will be named by researchers from Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore national labs in the U.S., as well as from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Russia. 118, known for now as ununoctium, will be named by the same group minus the Oak Ridge researchers. Professor Paul Karol said, "A particular difficulty in establishing these new elements is that they decay into hitherto unknown isotopes of slightly lighter elements that also need to be unequivocally identified, but in the future we hope to improve methods that can directly measure the atomic number, Z."
Medicine

Posture Affects Standing, and Not Just the Physical Kind (nytimes.com) 77

An anonymous reader writes: As somebody who sits in front of a computer most of the day, and has for a number of years, this article at the NY Times struck a bit close to home. It compiles a list of the negative consequences of poor posture. There are the obvious ones, like neck and muscle pain, joint problems, digestive issues, and so forth. But there are social problems, too. We're probably all aware that slouching can give a worse first impression than standing straight, but there's also evidence it can influence who a mugger picks to rob, and how you feel. "In a study of 110 students at San Francisco State University, half of whom were told to walk in a slumped position and the other half to skip down a hall, the skippers had a lot more energy throughout the day (abstract)." So take this as your yearly reminder, fellow keyboard-hunchers — sit up straight, move around every so often, and maybe invest in that standing desk.
Government

FAA's Drone Laws Clash With Local Regulations (nytimes.com) 115

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has finally started to roll out its new rules for small drones. The agency was notably slow to do so — slow enough that many cities, counties, and states beat them to it. Now, the FAA's rules are clashing with established and more developed rules, frustrating local lawmakers and confusing drone hobbyists. "Lawmakers said the agency's drone rules did not go as far as many states and municipalities that are explicitly banning flights within cities and over homes, strengthening privacy protections and imposing steep criminal and financial penalties on violators."

The FAA's slow and unilateral response is causing local officials to fight the nationwide regulations. "There was not supposed to be such a divide between local and federal drone regulations. Congress instructed the FAA three years ago to write laws for drones, a nascent technology at the time. Yet the agency struggled to create first-time rules for the category that would balance a public outcry over safety concerns with the economic benefits drone makers promised from the machines." Meanwhile, tech companies focused on drone development are pleased with the FAA's light touch. There are hobbyists on each side of the issue; some are glad to avoid more restrictive and complicated local regulations, while others wish the government would do more to slow the rush of unprepared and reckless new drone owners.

News

Nicolas Cage To Return Rare Stolen Dinosaur Skull To Mongolia (nytimes.com) 95

HughPickens.com writes: Nicolas Cage is known as an avid collector, with interests that include real estate, rare cars and comic books: In 2011, he sold a like-new copy of Action Comics No. 1, which featured the first appearance of Superman, for $2.1 million. Now Katie Rogers reports at the NY Times that Cage has agreed to turn over the skull of a Tyrannosaurus bataar. It was the star artifact in a natural history-themed luxury auction in Manhattan, and was sold for $276,000 to an anonymous buyer eight years ago. "Cultural artifacts such as this Bataar Skull represent a part of Mongolian national cultural heritage," says Glenn Sorge. "It belongs to the people of Mongolia. These priceless antiquities are not souvenirs to be sold to private collectors or hobbyists." Several skeletons of the Tyrannosaurus bataar, a large, carnivorous dinosaur that was a close relative of Tyrannosaurus rex, have been returned to Mongolia in recent years. The private sales of such artifacts have worried paleontologists because it makes it harder for the scientific community to learn more about how the dinosaurs once lived. "We're losing science, we're losing education, we're losing valuable specimens," says Kevin Padian, a paleontologist at University of California, Berkeley.
AI

BBC Launches Machine-Translated Synthetic Voiceovers (bbc.co.uk) 24

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC News service is trialling a tool which provides synthesized journalist voice-overs in different languages, with translation provided by unspecified established online translation services. Although the simulated speech in the BBC video betrays itself with the characteristic staccato flow most associated with Stephen Hawking, the result is above average in terms of natural-sounding speech. However, journalists still need to clean up the returned translations, particularly as the initial test involves Russian and Japanese, and oriental auto-translations can prove embarrassing.
News

Flint, Michigan Declares State of Emergency Over Lead In Children's Blood (washingtonpost.com) 303

schwit1 writes: The Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan released a study in September that confirmed what many Flint parents had feared for over a year: The proportion of infants and children with above-average levels of lead in their blood has nearly doubled since the city switched from the Detroit water system to using the Flint River as its water source, in 2014. "City officials have also said the use of corrosive Flint River water also damaged Flint's water infrastructure after state regulators never required the river water be treated to make it less corrosive." FEMA is now supplying bottled water to the city.
Businesses

Tech Giant SAP Seeks To Hire More Autistic Adults (cio.com) 165

itwbennett writes: In May 2013, SAP launched its Autism at Work program, with the goal of recruiting and hiring 'hundreds of people' with autism worldwide. Now the company is expanding the program, and is looking to have people on the autism spectrum make up 1 percent of its total workforce (~650 people) by 2020, says José Velasco, head of the Autism at Work program at SAP. So far, autistic workers fulfill all kinds of roles in IT — from software testing, data analysis, quality assurance to IT project management, graphic design, finance administration and human resources, Velasco says, and the potential for new roles is expanding rapidly.
News

Providing Addresses for 4 Billion People Using Three Words (mondaynote.com) 393

HughPickens.com writes: 75% of the Earth's population, i.e. four billion people, effectively "don't exist" to modern computer systems because they have no physical address. The "unaddressed" can't open a bank account, can't deal properly with a hospital or an administration, and can even struggle to get a delivery. Now Frédéric Filloux writes at Monday Note that What3Words, a London startup, is seeking to solve this problem by providing a combination of three words, in any language, that specify every 3-meter by 3-meter square in the world. Each square has a 3-word address that can be communicated quickly, easily and with no ambiguity. Altogether, 40,000 words combined in triplets label 57 trillion squares. Thus far, the system has been built in 10 languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swahili, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish and, starting next month, Arabic. All together, this lingua franca requires only 5 megabytes of data, small enough to reside in any smartphone and work offline. Each square has its identity in its own language that is not a translation of another.

Messy addressing systems have measurable consequences. UPS, the world's largest parcel delivery provider, calculated that if its trucks merely drove one mile less per day, the company would save $50m a year. In United Kingdom, bad addressing costs the Royal Mail £775m per year. "One might say latitude and longitude can solve this. Sure thing. Except that GPS coordinates require 16 digits, 2 characters (+/-/N/S/E/W), 2 decimal points, space and comma, to specify a location of the size of a housing block," writes Filloux. "Not helpful for a densely populated African village, or a Mumbai slum." The system is already being used to deliver packages in the favelas in Brasil with Cartero Amigo, solar lights to the Slums in India with Pollinate-Energy and mosquito traps in Tanzania with in2care. For What3Words, the decisive boost will come from its integration in major mapping suppliers such as Google Maps or Waze.

Businesses

LSD Microdosing Gaining Popularity For Silicon Valley Professionals (rollingstone.com) 446

An anonymous reader writes: Rolling Stone reports that an unusual new trend is popping up around the offices of Silicon Valley companies: taking tiny doses of LSD or other psychedelic drugs to increase productivity. "A microdose is about a tenth of the normal dose – around 10 micrograms of LSD, or 0.2-0.5 grams of mushrooms." According to the article, the average user is a 20-something looking to improve their creativity and problem-solving skills. Some users report that the LSD alleviates other problems, like anxiety or cluster headaches. That said, it's important to note that such benefits are not supported by scientific research — yet.
News

Engineers Nine Times More Likely Than Expected To Become Terrorists (washingtonpost.com) 497

HughPickens.com writes: Henry Farrel writes in the Washington Post that there's a group of people who appear to be somewhat prone to violent extremism: Engineers. They are nine times more likely to be terrorists than you would expect by chance. In a forthcoming book, Engineers of Jihad, published by Princeton University Press, Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog provide a new theory explaining why engineers seem unusually prone to become involved in terrorist organizations. They say it's caused by the way engineers think about the world. Survey data indicates engineering faculty at universities are far more likely to be conservative than people with other degrees, and far more likely to be religious. They are seven times as likely to be both religious and conservative as social scientists. Gambetta and Hertog speculate that engineers combine these political predilections with a marked preference towards finding clearcut answers.

Gambetta and Hertog suggest that this mindset combines with frustrated expectations in many Middle Eastern and North African countries (PDF), and among many migrant populations, where people with engineering backgrounds have difficulty in realizing their ambitions for good and socially valued jobs. This explains why there are relatively few radical Islamists with engineering backgrounds in Saudi Arabia (where they can easily find good employment) and why engineers were more prone to become left-wing radicals in Turkey and Iran.

Some people might argue that terrorist groups want to recruit engineers because engineers have valuable technical skills that might be helpful, such as in making bombs. This seems plausible – but it doesn't seem to be true. Terrorist organizations don't seem to recruit people because of their technical skills, but because they seem trustworthy and they don't actually need many people with engineering skills. "Bomb-making and the technical stuff that is done in most groups is performed by very few people (PDF), so you don't need, if you have a large group, 40 or 50 percent engineers," says Hertog. "You just need a few guys to put together the bombs. So the scale of the overrepresentation, especially in the larger groups is not easily explained."

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