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NASA

NASA Is Studying A Manned Trip Around The Moon On A $23 Billion Rocket (buzzfeed.com) 236

An anonymous reader shares a report on NASA's ongoing work on a manned trip to the moon. From the report: Without a new administrator even nominated yet, NASA's acting head Robert Lightfoot on Wednesday requested a study of whether next year's first flight of the Space Launch System rocket, billed as the most powerful NASA has built, could have a crew of astronauts. "I know the challenges associated with such a proposition," Lightfoot said in a letter to his agency, citing costs, extra work, and "a different launch date" for the planned 2018 Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The mission would be launched by the massive SLS, which is still in development, then boosted by a European service module to put three astronauts inside the new Orion space capsule on a three-week trip around the moon. NASA first sent three astronauts around the moon in 1968 in the Apollo 8 mission. The last astronaut to stand on the moon, the late Gene Cernan returned to Earth in 1972. The new talk of a repeat moon-circling mission, aboard an untested spacecraft, has space policy experts variously thrilled, dismissive, and puzzled. "I frankly don't quite know what to say about it," space policy expert John Logsdon of George Washington University said. Writing on NASAWatch, Keith Cowing called the study request a "Hail Mary" pass to save the life of the SLS ahead of Trump installing a budget cutter to head the space agency. The Government Accountability Office estimates the costs of SLS and its two planned launches (a second, crewed mission is planned for 2023) at $23 billion.
Piracy

Kim Dotcom Can Be Extradited, Rules A New Zealand Court (reuters.com) 173

Kim Dotcom -- and Megaupload's programmers Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, as well as its advertising manager Finn Batato -- could soon be in a U.S. courtroom. A New Zealand judge just ruled they can all be extradited to the U.S. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: The Auckland High Court upheld the decision by a lower court in 2015 on 13 counts, including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, although it described that decision as "flawed" in several areas. Dotcom's lawyer Ron Mansfield said in a statement the decision was "extremely disappointing" and that Dotcom would appeal to New Zealand's Court of Appeal.

U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material. High Court judge Murray Gilbert said that there was no crime for copyright in New Zealand law that would justify extradition but that the Megaupload-founder could be sent to the United States to face allegations of fraud.

"I'm no longer getting extradited for copyright," Dotcom commented on Twitter. "We won on that. I'm now getting extradited for a law that doesn't even apply.
Displays

Some Recyclers Give Up On Recycling Old Monitors And TVs (vice.com) 266

An anonymous reader writes: "In many cases, your old TV isn't recycled at all and is instead abandoned in a warehouse somewhere, left for society to deal with sometime in the future," reports Motherboard, describing the problem of old cathode-ray televisions and computer monitors with "a net negative recycling value" (since their component parts don't cover the cost of dismantling them). An estimated 705 million CRT TVs were sold in the U.S. since 1980, and many now sit in television graveyards, "an environmental and economic disaster with no clear solution." As much as 100,000 tons of potentially hazardous waste are stockpiled in two Ohio warehouses of the now-insolvent recycler Closed Loop, plus "at least 25,000 tons of glass and unprocessed CRTs in Arizona...much of it is sitting in a mountainous pile outside one of the warehouses."
One EPA report found 23,000 tons of lead-containing CRT glass abandoned in four different states just in 2013.
Open Source

New Free O'Reilly Ebook: 'Open Source In Brazil' (oreilly.com) 52

An anonymous reader writes: Andy Oram, who's been an editor at O'Reilly since 1992, has written a new free report about how open source software is everywhere in Brazil. The country's IT industry is booming in Brazil -- still Latin America's most vibrant economy -- with open source software popular in both startups and in cloud infrastructure. Oram attributes this partly to the government's support of open source software, which over the last 15 years has built public awareness about its power and potential. And says the Brazil now has a thriving open source community, and several free software movements. Even small towns have hacker spaces for collaboration and training, and the country has several free software movements.
Cellphones

Should International Travelers Leave Their Phones At Home? (freecodecamp.com) 489

Long-time Slashdot reader Toe, The sums up what he learned from freeCodeCamp's Quincy Larson: "Before you travel internationally, wipe your phone or bring/rent/buy a clean one." Larson's article is titled "I'll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you." All the security in the world can't save you if someone has physical possession of your phone or laptop, and can intimidate you into giving up your password... Companies like Elcomsoft make 'forensic software' that can suck down all your photos, contacts -- even passwords for your email and social media accounts -- in a matter of minutes.... If we do nothing to resist, pretty soon everyone will have to unlock their phone and hand it over to a customs agent while they're getting their passport swiped... And with this single new procedure, all the hard work that Apple and Google have invested in encrypting the data on your phone -- and fighting for your privacy in court -- will be a completely moot point.
The article warns Americans that their constitutional protections don't apply because "the U.S. border isn't technically the U.S.," calling it "a sort of legal no-man's-land. You have very few rights there." Larson points out this also affects Canadians, but argues that "You can't hand over a device that you don't have."
Toys

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll (theverge.com) 130

It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.
AI

EU Moves To Bring In AI Laws, But Rejects Robot Tax Proposal (newatlas.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: The European Parliament has voted on a resolution to regulate the development of artificial intelligence and robotics across the European Union. Based on a raft of recommendations drafted in a report submitted in January to the legal affairs committee, the proposed rules include establishing ethical standards for the development of artificial intelligence, and introducing an insurance scheme to cover liability for accidents involving driverless cars. Not every element in the broad-ranging report was accepted by the Parliament though, with a recommendation to institute a "robot tax" roundly rejected. The robot tax proposal was designed to create a fund that manages the repercussions and retraining of workers made redundant through the increased deployment of industrial and service robots. But those in the robotics industry were supportive of the Parliamentary rejection, with the International Federation of Robotics suggesting to Reuters a robot tax would have been harmful to the burgeoning industry, stifling innovation and competitiveness. The European Parliament passed the resolution comfortably with 396 votes to 123, with 85 abstentions.
Businesses

Samsung Chief Lee Arrested In Corruption Investigation (reuters.com) 24

According to Reuters, Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee was arrested on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal that led parliament to impeach South Korean President Park Geun-hye. From the report: The 48-year-old Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd (005930.KS), was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Centre, where he had awaited the court's decision following a day-long, closed-door hearing that ended on Thursday evening. The judge's decision was announced at about 5:30 a.m. (2030 GMT) on Friday, more than 10 hours after Lee, the sprawling conglomerate's third-generation leader, had left the court. The same court rejected a request from prosecutors last month to arrest Lee. On Tuesday, the special prosecutor's office had requested a warrant to arrest him and another executive, Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin, on bribery and other charges. The prosecution said it had secured additional evidence and brought more charges against Lee in the latest warrant request. While Lee's detention is not expected to hamper day-to-day operation of Samsung Group companies, which are run by professional managers, experts have said it could affect strategic decision-making by South Korea's biggest conglomerate. Prosecutors have focused their investigations on Samsung's relationship with Park, 65, who was impeached by parliament in December and has been stripped of her powers while the Constitutional Court decides whether to uphold her impeachment. They accused Samsung of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to organizations linked to Choi to secure the government's backing for a merger of two Samsung units. That funding includes Samsung's sponsorship of the equestrian career of Choi's daughter, who is in detention in Denmark, having been on a South Korean wanted list.
Cellphones

FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone (recode.net) 209

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Your smartphone has an FM radio in it, only it's unlikely that you're able to use it. That's because in the U.S., less than half of phones actually have the FM tuner turned on. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who just recently assumed the top position at the regulatory agency under President Trump, thinks that should change. In remarks made to the North American Broadcasters Association yesterday, Pai said that it's a public safety issue. Both the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Association and an FCC advisory panel on public safety have advocated for turning on the FM radio capabilities in smartphones, since radio is a reliable source of information when internet or cellphone networks go down in severe weather. Although Pai thinks smartphones should have the FM chip turned on, he doesn't think the government should mandate it: "As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."
Sci-Fi

Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life (theverge.com) 186

"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.
Government

Bipartisan Bill Seeks Warrants For Police Use of 'Stingray' Cell Trackers (usatoday.com) 113

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday requiring police agencies to get a search warrant before they can deploy powerful cellphone surveillance technology known as "stingrays" that sweep up information about the movements of innocent Americans while tracking suspected criminals. "Owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn't give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Mich. "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times." The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, would require a warrant for all domestic law enforcement agencies to track the location and movements of individual Americans through GPS technology without their knowledge. It also aims to combat high-tech stalking by creating criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track someone's movements.
Transportation

Nearly 56,000 Bridges Called Structurally Deficient (usatoday.com) 240

schwit1 quotes a report from USA Today: Nearly 56,000 bridges nationwide, which vehicles cross 185 million times a day, are structurally deficient, a bridge construction group announced Wednesday. The list is based on Transportation Department data. The department scores bridges on a nine-point scale, and while the deficient ones might not be imminently unsafe, they are classified in need of attention. More than one in four bridges (173,919) are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction work, according to the ARTBA analysis. State transportation officials have identified 13,000 bridges along interstates that need replacement, widening or major reconstruction, according to the group. "America's highway network is woefully underperforming," said Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis. "It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization." The five states with the most deficient bridges are Iowa with 4,968, Pennsylvania with 4,506, Oklahoma with 3,460, Missouri with 3,195 and Nebraska with 2,361. The eight states where at least 15% of the bridges are deficient are: Rhode Island at 25%, Pennsylvania at 21%, Iowa and South Dakota at 20%, West Virginia at 17%, and Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma at 15%.
Earth

Iron Age Potters Accidentally Recorded the Strength of Earth's Magnetic Field (npr.org) 106

Solandri writes: We've only been able to measure the Earth's magnetic field strength for about two centuries. During this time, there has been a gradual decline in the field strength. In recent years, the rate of decline seems to be accelerating, leading to some speculation that the Earth may be losing its magnetic field -- a catastrophic possibility since the magnetic field is what protects life on Earth from dangerous solar radiation. Ferromagnetic particles in rocks provide a long-term history which tells us the poles have flipped numerous times. But uncertainties in dating the rocks prevents their use in understanding decade-scale magnetic field fluctuations.

Now a group of archeologists and geophysicists have come up with a novel way to produce decade-scale temporal measurements of the Earth's magnetic field strength from before the invention of the magnetometer. When iron-age potters fired their pottery in a kiln to harden it, it loosened tiny ferromagnetic particles in the clay. As the pottery cooled and these particles hardened, it captured a snapshot of the Earth's magnetic field. Crucially, the governments of that time required pottery used to collect taxed goods (e.g. a portion of olive oil sold) to be stamped with a royal seal. These seals changed over time as new kings ascended, or governments were completely replaced after invasion. Thus by cross-referencing the magnetic particles in the pottery with the seals, researchers were able to piece together a history of the Earth's magnetic field strength spanning from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century BCE. Their findings show that large fluctuations in the strength of the magnetic field over a span of decades are normal.
The study has been published in the journal PNAS.
Microsoft

Microsoft Calls For 'Digital Geneva Convention' (usatoday.com) 144

Microsoft is calling for a digital Geneva Convention to outline protections for civilians and companies from government-sponsored cyberattacks. In comments Tuesday at the RSA security industry conference in San Francisco, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the rising trend of government entities wielding the internet as a weapon was worrying. From a report on USA Today: In the cyber realm, tech must be committed to "100% defense and zero percent offense," Smith said at the opening keynote at the RSA computer security conference. Smith called for a "digital Geneva Convention," like the one created in the aftermath of World War II which set ground rules for how conduct during wartime, defining basic rights for civilians caught up armed conflicts. In the 21st century such rules are needed "to commit governments to protect civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace," a draft of Smith's speech released to USA TODAY said. This digital Geneva Convention would establish protocols, norms and international processes for how tech companies would deal with cyber aggression and attacks of nations aimed at civilian targets, which appears to effectively mean anything but military servers.
Databases

Story Of a Country Which Has Built a Centralized Biometrics Database Of 1.1B People But Appears To Be Mishandling It Now (mashable.com) 57

In a bid to get more Indians to have a birth certificate or any sort of ID card, India announced Aadhaar project in 2009. At the time, there were more Indians without these ID cards than those with. As a result of this, much of the government funding for the citizens were disappearing before they could see them. But according to several security experts, lawyers, politicians and journalists, the government is using poor security practices, and this is exposing the biometrics data -- photo, name, address, fingerprint, iris info -- of people at risk. More than 1.1 billion people -- and 99 percent of all adults -- in India have enrolled themselves to the system. From a report: "There are two fundamental flaws in Aadhaar: it is poorly designed, and it is being poorly verified," Member of Parliament and privacy advocate, Rajeev Chandrasekhar told Mashable India. Another issue with Aadhaar is, Chandrasekhar explains, there is no firm legislation to safeguard the privacy and rights of the billion people who have enrolled into the system. There's little a person whose Aadhaar data has been compromised could do. [...] "Aadhaar is remote, covert, and non-consensual," he told Mashable India, adding the existence of a central database of any kind, but especially in the context of the Aadhaar, and at the scale it is working is appalling. Abraham said fingerprint and iris data of a person can be stolen with little effort -- a "gummy bear" which sells for a few cents, can store one's fingerprint, while a high-resolution camera can capture one's iris data. The report goes on to say that the Indian government is also not telling how the data is being shared with private companies. Experts cited in the story have expressed concerns that those companies (some of which are run by people who were previously members of the team which designed the framework of Aadhaar) can store and create a parallel database of their own. On top of that, the government is making Aadhaar mandatory for availing several things including registration for nation-wide examinations, but in the beginning it promised Aadhaar will be used only to help poor get grocery at subsidized prices.
Communications

US National Weather Service Suffered 'Catastrophic' Outage; Website Stopped Sending Forecasts, Warnings (miamiherald.com) 100

jo7hs2 quotes a report from Miami Herald: On a day when a blizzard is pasting Maine and Northern California faces a dire flooding threat, several of the National Weather Service's primary systems for sending out alerts to the public have failed. As of approximately 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time, products from the National Weather Service ceased disseminating over the internet, including forecasts, warnings and current conditions. The Weather Service's public-facing website, Weather.gov, has not posted updated information since the outage began. Ryan Hickman, chief technology officer for Allison House, a weather data provider, called the situation "catastrophic." Hickman said two core routers for transmitting information from the Weather Service offices out to satellites, which beam the information back to public service providers, had stopped working. Hickman added that another backup system known as the Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) was also not operating.

Slashdot reader jo7hs2 notes: "The systems are back up as of Monday evening."

Security

Michael Flynn Resigns As Trump's National Security Adviser (go.com) 892

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: President Donald Trump's embattled national security adviser Michael Flynn, who faced questions about a call to the Russian ambassador prior to the inauguration, has resigned. Retired Army General Keith Kellogg was named acting national security adviser to replace Flynn. ABC News reported Monday that Flynn called Vice President Mike Pence on Friday to apologize for misleading him about his conversation with the ambassador in November. Flynn previously denied that he spoke about sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia for its suspected interference in the 2016 election, a claim repeated by Pence in January. An administration official later claimed Pence was relying on information provided to him by Flynn. In his resignation later, Flynn cited the "fast pace of events" for "inadvertently" briefing "the Vice President Elect and others with incomplete information regarding [his] phone calls with the Russian Ambassador." You can view Flynn's full resignation letter, as provided by the White House, here.
Robotics

Elon Musk: Humans Need To Merge With Machines Else They Will Become Irrelevant in AI Age (cnbc.com) 251

Billionaire Elon Musk is known for his futuristic ideas. So it didn't come as a surprise when on Monday at the World Government Summit in Dubai, he predicted that over time we will see a "closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence." He added, via a CNBC report: "It's mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output." Musk explained what he meant by saying that computers can communicate at "a trillion bits per second", while humans, whose main communication method is typing with their fingers via a mobile device, can do about 10 bits per second. In an age when AI threatens to become widespread, humans would be useless, so there's a need to merge with machines, according to Musk. "Some high bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps achieve a symbiosis between human and machine intelligence and maybe solves the control problem and the usefulness problem," Musk explained.
Businesses

Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses (fortune.com) 47

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.
NASA

US-Born NASA Scientist Detained At The Border Until He Unlocked His Phone (theverge.com) 626

Sidd Bikkannavar works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After racing solar-powered cars in Chile, he had trouble returning to America. mspohr quote The Verge: Bikkannavar says he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the Customs and Border Protection agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn't supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar's phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn't know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device...

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled "Inspection of Electronic Devices" and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. "I was cautiously telling him I wasn't allowed to give it out, because I didn't want to seem like I was not cooperating," says Bikkannavar. "I told him I'm not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it."

While border agents have the right to search devices, The Verge reports that travelers aren't legally required to unlock their phones, "although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not." They also report that Bikkannavar "was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN," adding that the cybersecurity team at JPL "was not happy about the breach."

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