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News

Boston Public Schools Map Switch Aims To Amend 500 Years of Distortion (theguardian.com) 318

Students attending Boston public schools are now getting a more accurate depiction of the world after the school district rolled out a new standard map of the world that show North America and Europe much smaller than Africa and South America. From a report on The Guardian: In an age of "fake news" and "alternative facts", city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world. For almost 500 years, the Mercator projection has been the norm for maps of the world, ubiquitous in atlases, pinned on peeling school walls. Gerardus Mercator, a renowned Flemish cartographer, devised his map in 1569, principally to aid navigation along colonial trade routes by drawing straight lines across the oceans. An exaggeration of the whole northern hemisphere, his depiction made North America and Europe bigger than South America and Africa. He also placed western Europe in the middle of his map. Mercator's distortions affect continents as well as nations. For example, South America is made to look about the same size as Europe, when in fact it is almost twice as large, and Greenland looks roughly the size of Africa when it is actually about 14 times smaller.
Businesses

Indiana Considers Prohibiting Cities From Banning Airbnb (usnews.com) 164

"Indiana's cities and towns wouldn't be allowed to put their own restrictions on companies such as Airbnb under a proposal state lawmakers are considering," reports the Associated Press. Slashdot reader El Cubano writes: The proposed legislation would prohibit local government in the state from banning Airbnb rentals by their residents. There are exceptions for home owner associations (which will still be allowed to ban rentals in their communities) and 180-day per year cap.

It is interesting to see something like this being considered at the state level. Supporters say that they are trying to prevent knee-jerk regulations and to protect an innovative emerging market. At the same time, local authorities are upset that they will no longer have the option to make the determination for themselves.

The bill has already been approved by the Indiana House, as well as a key committee in the Indiana Senate.
Government

Apple Paid $0 In Taxes To New Zealand, Despite Sales of $4.2 Billion (nzherald.co.nz) 447

Apple paid no income tax to New Zealand's Inland Revenue Department for the last 10 years, according to an article shared by sit1963nz, prompting calls for the company to "do the right thing" even from some American-based Apple users. From the New Zealand Herald: Bryan Chaffin of The Mac Observer, an Apple community blog site founded in 1998...wrote that Apple was the largest taxpayer in the United States, but 'pays next to nothing in most parts of the world... [L]ocal taxes matter. Roads matter. Schools matter. Housing authorities matter. Health care matters. Regulation enforcement matters. All of the things that support civil society matter. Apple's profits are made possible by that civil society, and the company should contribute its fair share.'"
Apple's accounts "show apparent income tax payments of $37 million," according to an earlier article, "but a close reading shows this sum was actually sent abroad to the Australian Tax Office, an arrangement that has been in place since at least 2007. Had Apple reported the same healthy profit margin in New Zealand as it did for its operations globally it would have paid $356 million in taxes over the period."

"It is absolutely extraordinary that they are able to get away with paying zero tax in this country," said Green Party co-leader James Shaw. "I really like Apple products -- they're incredibly innovative -- but it looks like their tax department is even more innovative than their product designers."
Google

Google Glass Enters The Manufacturing Sector (npr.org) 61

NPR recently profiled one of the 100 factory workers now using Google Glass at the agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Google Glass tells her what to do should she forget, for example, which part goes where. "I don't have to leave my area to go look at the computer every time I need to look up something," she says. With Google Glass, she scans the serial number on the part she's working on. This brings up manuals, photos or videos she may need. She can tap the side of headset or say "OK Glass" and use voice commands to leave notes for the next shift worker...

Peggy Gullick, business process improvement director with AGCO, says the addition of Google Glass has been "a total game changer." Quality checks are now 20 percent faster, she says, and it's also helpful for on-the-job training of new employees... Tiffany Tsai, who writes about technology, says it's one of a growing number of companies -- including General Electric and Boeing -- testing it out... Companies working in the health care, entertainment and energy industries are listed as some of the Google Glass certified partners.

AGCO plans to have 200 workers using Google Glass by the end of this year.
Communications

Southwest Airlines Is Doing Away With Pneumatic Tubes, Paper Tickets (consumerist.com) 92

As part of Southwest's biggest tech upgrade in its 45 years of existence, the company will doing away with several of its antiquated practices, including paper tickets and the use of pneumatic tubes to send messages at airports. Consumerist reports: The airline says the goal of these upgrades is to keep planes moving in and out of airports as quickly as possible. "We're looking for minutes," Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven told Bloomberg. "How do I save a minute here, a minute there? In 2017, we are more deliberate in our continuous improvement efforts." The new reservation system will allow Southwest to accept foreign money -- something its rivals can already do -- bounce back faster from storms, and have more control over price changes and schedules. Ramp workers will be getting tablets with real-time information to speed up airplanes' "turn time" -- how quickly they can deboard and reboard passengers and take off again. Tarmac staffers also won't be using pneumatic tubes anymore to send notes via canister about lost luggage and other communications to the cargo workers in charge of calculating jet weight and balance. Digital transmissions will replace that system, as well as printouts for workers who transport bags to and fro. Customers will be seeing changes as well, as the new reservation system means Southwest can ditch paper tickets altogether and stick with electronic tickets only.
Security

Windows 10 UAC Bypass Uses Backup and Restore Utility (bleepingcomputer.com) 58

An anonymous reader writes: "A new User Access Control (UAC) bypass technique relies on altering Windows registry app paths and using the Backup and Restore utility to load malicious code without any security warning," reports BleepingComputer. The technique works when an attacker launches the Backup and Restore utility, which loads its control panel settings page. Because the utility doesn't known where this settings page is located, it queries the Windows Registry. The problem is that low-privileged users can modify Windows Registry values and point to malware. Because the Backup and Restore utility is a trusted application, UAC prompts are suppressed. This technique only works in Windows 10 (not earlier OS versions) and was tested with Windows 10 build 15031. A proof-of-concept script is available on GitHub. The same researcher had previously found two other UAC bypass techniques, one that abuses the Windows Event Viewer, and one that relies on the Windows 10 Disk Cleanup utility
AMD

Microsoft Locks Ryzen, Kaby Lake Users Out of Updates On Windows 7, 8.1 (kitguru.net) 419

Artem Tashkinov writes: In a move that will shock a lot of people, someone at Microsoft decided to deny Windows 7/8.1 updates to the users of the following CPU architectures: Intel seventh (7th)-generation processors (Kaby Lake); AMD "Bristol Ridge" (Zen/Ryzen); Qualcomm "8996." It's impossible to find any justification for this decision to halt support for the x86 architectures listed above because you can perfectly run MS-DOS on them. Perhaps, Microsoft has decided that the process of foisting Windows 10 isn't running at full steam, so the company created this purely artificial limitation. I expect it to be cancelled soon after a wide backlash from corporate customers. KitGuru notes that users may encounter the following error message when they attempt to update their OS: "Your PC uses a processor that isn't supported on this version of Windows." The only resolution is to upgrade to Windows 10.
Transportation

Volkwagen Finally Pleads Guilty On 'Dieselgate' Charges (cnet.com) 115

Friday Volkswagen admitted in court that they'd committed fraud in their diesel emissions tests, also pleading guilty to falsifying statements and obstruction of justice. An anonymous reader quotes CNET: It marks the first time VW admitted guilt in any court in the world, according to a VW spokesman speaking to Reuters. The judge overseeing the case in the U.S. District Court in Detroit accepted the plea and will issue a sentence at a hearing on April 21. "The agreements that we have reached with the US government reflect our determination to address misconduct that went against all of the values Volkswagen holds so dear," Volkswagen said in an emailed statement... The road to Dieselgate's conclusion still has plenty of pavement, though. The company is still under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Internal Revenue Service. And that's in the US alone.
"VW AG is pleading guilty to all three counts because it is guilty on all three counts," the company's general counsel told the judge. Reuters also reports that VW offered to buy back half a million vehicles just in America, and agreed to spend up to $25 billion in the U.S. to address claims from unhappy owners.
Privacy

How The FBI Used Geek Squad To Increase Secret Public Surveillance (ocweekly.com) 164

In 2011 a gynecology doctor took his computer for repairs at Best Buy's Geek Squad. But the repair technician was a paid FBI informant -- one of several working at Geek Squad -- and the doctor was ultimately charged with possessing child pornography, according to OC Weekly. An anonymous reader quotes their new report: Recently unsealed records reveal a much more extensive secret relationship than previously known between the FBI and Best Buy's Geek Squad, including evidence the agency trained company technicians on law-enforcement operational tactics, shared lists of targeted citizens and, to covertly increase surveillance of the public, encouraged searches of computers even when unrelated to a customer's request for repairs. Assistant United States Attorney M. Anthony Brown last year labeled allegations of a hidden partnership as "wild speculation." But more than a dozen summaries of FBI memoranda filed inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse this month in USA v. Mark Rettenmaier contradict the official line...

Other records show how [Geek Squad supervisor Justin] Meade's job gave him "excellent and frequent" access for "several years" to computers belonging to unwitting Best Buy customers, though agents considered him "underutilized" and wanted him "tasked" to search devices "on a more consistent basis"... evidence demonstrates company employees routinely snooped for the agency, contemplated "writing a software program" specifically to aid the FBI in rifling through its customers' computers without probable cause for any crime that had been committed, and were "under the direction and control of the FBI."
The doctor's lawyer argues Best Buy became an unofficial wing of the FBI by offering $500 for every time they found evidence leading to criminal charges.
Transportation

California Says Autonomous Cars Don't Need Human Drivers (bloomberg.com) 201

Currently, California law requires that all self-driving cars used for testing purposes be done with a human behind the wheel, so that they can take control if necessary. While California has been fairly strict on how self-driving cars are to be used in the state, they appear to be relaxing several of the rules. "The state's Department of Motor Vehicles released proposed regulations Friday for autonomous vehicles, dropping an earlier requirement that a human driver had to be present while testing on public roads," reports Bloomberg. "The DMV also backed down on a previous rule that vehicles needed a steering wheel and pedals for the operator to take back control." From the report: "When we think of driverless vehicles they can either have conventional controls, which are steering wheels, pedals, things like that, or they cannot," said California DMV Chief Counsel Brian Soublet during a conference call with reporters. If companies test vehicles without conventional controls, they have to show the California DMV that they have approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, he added. NHTSA said in early 2016 that self-driving software systems, not just humans, can be considered drivers. "If California was going to keep that level of development activity in the state, what they did was necessary and timely," said Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an automotive consulting firm. "They kind of had to do it because at some point manufacturers can't move autonomous vehicles forward without getting controls out of cars." The proposed regulations have a 45-day public comment period that ends April 24. That will be followed by a public hearing. During Friday's conference call, the California DMV said the rules should be completed by the end of the year.
Government

New Bill Would Allow Employers To Demand Genetic Testing From Workers (businessinsider.com) 397

capedgirardeau quotes a report from Business Insider: A little-noticed bill moving through the U.S. Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. Giving employers such power is now prohibited by U.S. law, including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a "workplace wellness" program. The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. The 2008 genetic law prohibits a group health plan -- the kind employers have -- from asking, let alone requiring, someone to undergo a genetic test. It also prohibits that specifically for "underwriting purposes," which is where wellness programs come in. "Underwriting purposes" includes basing insurance deductibles, rebates, rewards, or other financial incentives on completing a health risk assessment or health screenings. In addition, any genetic information can be provided to the employer only in a de-identified, aggregated form, rather than in a way that reveals which individual has which genetic profile. There is a big exception, however: As long as employers make providing genetic information "voluntary," they can ask employees for it. Under the House bill, none of the protections for health and genetic information provided by GINA or the disabilities law would apply to workplace wellness programs as long as they complied with the ACA's very limited requirements for the programs. As a result, employers could demand that employees undergo genetic testing and health screenings.
Privacy

Hey CIA, You Held On To Security Flaw Information -- But Now It's Out. That's Not How It Should Work (eff.org) 246

Cindy Cohn, writing for EFF: The dark side of this story is that the documents confirm that the CIA holds on to security vulnerabilities in software and devices -- including Android phones, iPhones, and Samsung televisions -- that millions of people around the world rely on. The agency appears to have failed to accurately assess the risk of not disclosing vulnerabilities to responsible vendors and failed to follow even the limited Vulnerabilities Equities Process. As these leaks show, we're all made less safe by the CIA's decision to keep -- rather than ensure the patching of -- vulnerabilities. Even spy agencies like the CIA have a responsibility to protect the security and privacy of Americans.
United States

Americans Are Having Less Sex Than 20 Years Ago, Study Finds (arstechnica.com) 391

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: American adults reported having nine fewer romps a year in the early 2010s than they did in the late 1990s -- dropping from an average of about 62 times a year between 1995 and 2000 to around 53 a year between 2010 and 2014. Researchers saw declines across ages, races, religions, education levels, employment statuses, and regions. They linked the sagging numbers to two trends: an increase in singletons over that period -- who tend to have less sex than married or partnered people -- plus a slow-down in the sex lives of married and coupled people. But the drivers of those trends are still unclear. The study is based on data from a long-standing national survey called the General Social Survey (GSS). It involves a nationally representative sample of Americans over 18 years old, surveyed most years between 1972 and 2014. The new study involved responses from 26,620 Americans. Specifically, researchers found that married people's annual whoopee frequency dropped from an average of nearly 69 in the 1995-2000 period to just below 56 in the 2010-2014 period. The unmarried saw their lovemaking drop from 54 per year to 51 in the same timeframes. Meanwhile, the number of people without steady partners -- married or otherwise -- rose from 26 percent of survey respondents in 2006 to 33 percent in 2014. People who took the biggest hits in the bedroom since the 1990s were those with a college degree (about 15 fewer times a year) and people living in the South (about 13 fewer times a year). The study has been published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Businesses

China's ZTE Pleads Guilty, Will Pay $1.19 Billion For Violating US Trade Sanctions (reuters.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE Corp will plead guilty and pay $1.19 billion ($892 million in the Iran case) to settle allegations it violated U.S. laws that restrict the sale of American-made technology to Iran and North Korea, the company and U.S. government agencies said on Tuesday. ZTE entered into an agreement to plead guilty to conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, obstruction of justice and making a material false statement, the U.S. Justice Department said. The Commerce Department investigation followed reports by Reuters in 2012 that ZTE had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of hardware and software from some of the best-known U.S. technology companies to Iran's largest telecoms carrier. Between January 2010 and January 2016, ZTE directly or indirectly shipped approximately $32 million of U.S.-origin items to Iran without obtaining the proper export licenses from the U.S. government. ZTE then lied to federal investigators during the investigation when it insisted that the shipments had stopped, Justice said. It also took actions involving 283 shipments of controlled items to North Korea, authorities said. Shipped items included routers, microprocessors and servers controlled under export regulations for security, encryption and anti-terrorism reasons.
Government

WikiLeaks Reveals CIA's Secret Hacking Tools and Spy Operations (betanews.com) 447

Mark Wilson, writing for BetaNews: WikiLeaks has unleashed a treasure trove of data to the internet, exposing information about the CIA's arsenal of hacking tools. Code-named Vault 7, the first data is due to be released in serialized form, starting off with "Year Zero" as part one. A cache of over 8,500 documents and files has been made available via BitTorrent in an encrypted archive. The plan had been to release the password at 9:00am ET today, but when a scheduled online press conference and stream came "under attack" prior to this, the password was released early. Included in the "extraordinary" release are details of the zero day weapons used by the CIA to exploit iPhones, Android phones, Windows, and even Samsung TVs to listen in on people. Routers, Linux, macOS -- nothing is safe. WikiLeaks explains how the "CIA's hacking division" -- or the Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI) as it is officially known -- has produced thousands of weaponized pieces of malware, Trojans, viruses and other tools. It's a leak that's essentially Snowden 2.0. In a statement, WikiLeaks said CIA has tools to bypass the encryption mechanisms imposed by popular instant messenger apps Signal, Confide, WhatsApp (used by more than a billion people), and Telegram.

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