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Submission + - Virginia spent over half a million on cell surveillance that mostly doesn't work (muckrock.com)

v3rgEz writes: In 2014, the Virginia State Police spent $585,265 on a specially modified Suburban outfitted with the latest and greatest in cell phone surveillance: The DRT 1183C, affectionately known as the DRTbox. But according to logs uncovered by public records website MuckRock, the pricey ride was only used 12 times — and only worked 7 of those times. Read the full DRTbox documents at MuckRock.

Submission + - Deepest water found 1000km down, a third of way to Earth's core (newscientist.com)

schwit1 writes: JULES VERNE’s idea of an ocean deep below the surface in Journey to the Centre of the Earth may not have been too far off. Earth’s mantle may contain many oceans’ worth of water – with the deepest 1000 kilometres down.

“If it wasn’t down there, we would all be submerged,” says Steve Jacobsen at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, whose team made the discovery. “This implies a bigger reservoir of water on the planet than previously thought.”

This water is much deeper than any seen before, at a third of the way to the edge of Earth’s core. Its presence was indicated by a diamond spat out 90 million years ago by a volcano near the São Luíz river in Juina, Brazil.

Submission + - One of the biggest Fake News producers uncovered (npr.org)

Gunstick writes: Npr inteviewed the owner of a fake news company called Disinfomedia. They produce fake news to highlight the extremism of the white nationalist alt-right: "The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction," also interesting: "writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait." there's somewhere around 25 domains that are currently managed by Disinfomedia.

Submission + - Sea Ice In Arctic And Antarctic Is At Record Low Levels This Year (cnn.com)

dryriver writes: CNN reports: For what appears to be the first time since scientists began keeping track, sea ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic are at record lows this time of year. "It looks like, since the beginning of October, that for the first time we are seeing both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice running at record low levels," said Walt Meier, a research scientist with the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, who has tracked sea ice data going back to 1979. While it is too early to know if the recent, rapid decline in Antarctic sea ice is going to be a regular occurrence like in the Arctic, it "certainly puts the kibosh on everyone saying that Antarctica's ice is just going up and up," Meier said. The decline of sea ice has been a key indicator that climate change is happening, but its loss, especially in the Arctic, can mean major changes for your weather, too.

Submission + - Paperless Statements Not Always Best Choice Says New Report

HughPickens.com writes: Ann Carrns reports at the NYT that despite a push by financial institutions to switch customers to digital statements from paper, the traditional hard-copy version may work better for some people, in particuar particular, older, less educated and lower-income consumers who may lack fast Internet connections at home. According to a new report from the National Consumer Law Center, even consumers who know the Internet may simply prefer paper, because statement notifications can easily be overlooked in a deluge of email. Also unlike paper statements, which can be neatly collected and filed away, going paperless on multiple accounts will mean having that information scattered under different user names and passwords. You may also be surprised to learn you have to pay for copies of some older statements. "If you have a system for organizing your paper statements, you should think about how that's going to translate online," says Jim Bruene. Finally you may not be able to go back as far with paperless statements. At Verizon, cellphone customers get up to 12 months of past statements. Customers can also request older statements dating back seven years for $5 per copy.

Under federal law, banks must obtain consent from consumers to deliver statements electronically. But banks are sometimes aggressive in encouraging customers to opt out of receiving paper statements. Last summer, holders of some Chase credit cards received pop-up ads when they logged into their accounts online, asking them to switch to electronic statements. The notice said “Action Required,” even though no action was necessary if cardholders simply wanted to continue receiving paper statements. The screen showed buttons for “accept” and “manage my preferences,” but not for “decline.”

Submission + - NASA's Pioneering Female Physicist Honored

destinyland writes: Tuesday's State of the Union address included a shout-out to Katherine Johnson, the pioneering African American mathematician and physicist who calculated the trajectory of Alan Shepherd’s 1961 space trip. "Her reputation was so strong that John Glenn asked her to recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth," notes one technology reporter. NASA policy at the time was to not acknowledge the female contributors to scientific papers, though "She literally wrote the textbook on rocket science," according to one NASA official, noting that her impact literally reaches all the way to the moon. At a ceremony in November, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 97-year-old pioneer continues to encourage young people to also pursue careers in technology, science, engineering and math.

Submission + - Former Stanford dean explains why helicopter parenting is ruining children (washingtonpost.com)

schwit1 writes: Julie Lythcott-Haims noticed a disturbing trend during her decade as a dean of freshmen at Stanford University. Incoming students were brilliant and accomplished and virtually flawless, on paper. But with each year, more of them seemed incapable of taking care of themselves.

At the same time, parents were becoming more and more involved in their children's lives. They talked to their children multiple times a day and swooped in to personally intervene anytime something difficult happened.

From her position at one of the world's most prestigious schools, Lythcott-Haims came to believe that mothers and fathers in affluent communities have been hobbling their children by trying so hard to make sure they succeed, and by working so diligently to protect them from disappointment and failure and hardship.

Submission + - Giant Survival Ball Will Help Explorer Survive a Year on an Iceberg

HughPickens.com writes: Ben Yeager writes in Outside Magazine that Italian explorer Alex Bellini plans to travel to Greenland’s west coast, pick an iceberg, and live on it for a year as it melts out in the Atlantic. But it is a precarious idea. Bellini will be completely isolated, and his adopted dwelling is liable to roll or fall apart at any moment, thrusting him into the icy sea or crushing him under hundreds of tons of ice. His solution: an indestructible survival capsule built by an aeronautics company that specializes in tsunami-proof escape pods. " I knew since the beginning I needed to minimize the risk. An iceberg can flip over, and those events can be catastrophic.” Bellini plans to use a lightweight, indestructible floating capsules, or “personal safety systems" made from aircraft-grade aluminum in what’s called a continuous monocoque structure, an interlocking frame of aluminum spars that evenly distribute force, underneath a brightly painted and highly visible aluminum shell. The inner frame can be stationary or mounted on roller balls so it rotates, allowing the passengers to remain upright at all times.

Aeronautical engineer Julian Sharpe, founder of Survival Capsule, got the idea for his capsules after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. He believes fewer people would have died had some sort of escape pod existed. Sharpe hopes the products will be universal—in schools, retirement homes, and private residences, anywhere there is severe weather. The product appeals to Bellini because it’s strong enough to survive a storm at sea or getting crushed between two icebergs. Bellini will spend almost all of his time in the capsule with the hatch closed, which will pose major challenges because he'll have to stay active without venturing out onto a slippery, unstable iceberg. If it flips, he’ll have no time to react. “Any step away from [the iceberg] will be in unknown territory,” says Bellini. “You want to stretch your body. But then you risk your life.”

Submission + - UK Government Admits Intelligence Services Allowed To Break Into Any System (techdirt.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Recently, Techdirt noted that the FBI may soon have permission to break into computers anywhere on the planet. It will come as no surprise to learn that the US's partner in crime, the UK, granted similar powers to its own intelligence services some time back. What's more unexpected is that it has now publicly said as much, as Privacy International explains:

        The British Government has admitted its intelligence services have the broad power to hack into personal phones, computers, and communications networks, and claims they are legally justifed to hack anyone, anywhere in the world, even if the target is not a threat to national security nor suspected of any crime.

That important admission was made in what the UK government calls its "Open Response" to court cases started last year against GCHQ.

Submission + - Space CAN expand faster than the speed of light

StartsWithABang writes: You know the fundamental principle of special relativity: nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But space itself? That's not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Two years after coming up with special relativity, Einstein devised the equivalence principle, and thus began the development of general relativity, where space itself would have properties that changed over time, responding to changes in matter and energy. This includes the ability for it to expand, even faster than the speed of light, if the conditions are right.

Submission + - MH370 Beacon Battery May Have Been Expired (cnbc.com)

Limekiller42 writes: Malaysia's transport ministry released its preliminary report on the disappearance of MH370 that disappeared almost a year ago during flight and has yet to be located. The report states that the maintenance records for the solid state flight data recorder underwater locater beacon expired in December of 2012 and there is no evidence it was replaced prior to aircraft going missing.

Submission + - Anonymous Social App Raises Controversy on College Campuses

HughPickens.com writes: Jonathon Mahler writes in the NYT that in much the same way that Facebook swept through the dorm rooms of America’s college students a decade ago, the social app Yik Yak, which shows anonymous messages from users within a 1.5-mile radius is now taking college campuses by storm. "Think of it as a virtual community bulletin board — or maybe a virtual bathroom wall at the student union," writes Mahler. "It has become the go-to social feed for college students across the country to commiserate about finals, to find a party or to crack a joke about a rival school." And while much of the chatter is harmless, some of it is not. “Yik Yak is the Wild West of anonymous social apps,” says Danielle Keats Citron. “It is being increasingly used by young people in a really intimidating and destructive way.” Since the app’s introduction a little more than a year ago, Yik Yak has been used to issue threats of mass violence on more than a dozen college campuses, including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State University and Penn State. Racist, homophobic and misogynist “yaks” have generated controversy at many more, among them Clemson, Emory, Colgate and the University of Texas. At Kenyon College, a “yakker” proposed a gang rape at the school’s women’s center.

Colleges are largely powerless to deal with the havoc Yik Yak is wreaking. The app’s privacy policy prevents schools from identifying users without a subpoena, court order or search warrant, or an emergency request from a law-enforcement official with a compelling claim of imminent harm. Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, argues that "banning Yik Yak on campuses might be unconstitutional," especially at public universities or private colleges in California where the so-called Leonard Law protects free speech. She said it would be like banning all bulletin boards in a school just because someone posted a racist comment on one of the boards. In one sense, the problem with Yik Yak is a familiar one. Anyone who has browsed the comments of an Internet post is familiar with the sorts of intolerant, impulsive rhetoric that the cover of anonymity tends to invite. But Yik Yak’s particular design can produce especially harmful consequences, its critics say. “It’s a problem with the Internet culture in general, but when you add this hyper-local dimension to it, it takes on a more disturbing dimension,” says Elias Aboujaoude.” “You don’t know where the aggression is coming from, but you know it’s very close to you.”

Submission + - Secrecy around police surveillance equipment proves a case's undoing (washingtonpost.com)

schwit1 writes: The case against Tadrae McKenzie looked like an easy win for prosecutors. He and two buddies robbed a small-time pot dealer of $130 worth of weed using BB guns. Under Florida law, that was robbery with a deadly weapon, with a sentence of at least four years in prison.

But before trial, his defense team detected investigators' use of a secret surveillance tool, one that raises significant privacy concerns. In an unprecedented move, a state judge ordered the police to show the device — a cell-tower simulator sometimes called a StingRay — to the attorneys.

Rather than show the equipment, the state offered McKenzie a plea bargain.

Today, 20-year-old McKenzie is serving six months' probation after pleading guilty to a second-degree misdemeanor. He got, as one civil liberties advocate said, the deal of the century.

Submission + - Fake Komodia root SSL certs in use by over +100 companies (forbes.com)

Billly Gates writes: Lenovo and Superfish are not the only companies who used the fake root SSL certificates by Komodia to spy and decrypt network traffic. Komodia advertises its products including a SSL-digestor to rid the obtrusive thing we call encryption and security. So far game accelerators are mentioned as some have seen these certs installed with Asus lan accelerator drivers.

Submission + - Why does Google Maps need to track who I'm calling on my cell phone? 5

cyanman writes: I see the latest update to Google maps for Android wants permission to monitor phone numbers I talk to on my phone?

Specifically the new permissions for v9.1.2 (Dec 5 2014) require:
Maps also needs access to:
"Allows the app to determine the phone number and Device ID's, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call."

As I see this, you give Google carte blanche to monitor and record who you talk to on your phone. Maybe this is while you are connected to Google Maps, but it is not restricted by the terms I read here. WTF? The least invasive thing I can think of here is that Google wants to start leveraging the numbers you call for marketing purposes. As if the fact that I spoke to someone on my hone means they want Google tracking them too.

Looking at from Google Play the update (or maybe just Maps) has been downloaded over a billion times. I'm sure that 99.99% of the folks never read a thing and just click the "gimme free update please" button, but surely I'm not the only person foolish enough to ask how much arm twisting the NSA had to do to get Google to monitor who I call on my phone within Google Maps.

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