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Scientists Call For Global Moratorium On Gene Editing of Embryos

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 04:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Leading scientists have called for a global moratorium on the use of powerful DNA editing tools to make genetically modified children. The move is intended to send a clear signal to maverick researchers, and the scientific community more broadly, that any attempt to rewrite the DNA of sperm, eggs or embryos destined for live births is not acceptable. Beyond a formal freeze on any such work, the experts want countries to register and declare any plans that scientists may put forward in the future, and have these discussed through an international body, potentially run by the World Health Organization. Alongside technical debates about the possible benefits of creating genetically modified babies, the scientists said no decisions should be made to go ahead without broad public support. Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, calls for the moratorium with 16 other experts in the journal Nature. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Feng Zhang, who helped discover and develop the most common gene editing tool, CRISPR, contributed to the article. The call comes four months after Chinese researcher He Jiankui used human embryos modified with CRISPR to create twin girls resistant to HIV.

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Kamala Harris Introduces Bill To Send Millions To Local Governments For Tech Support

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 03:10
Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has introduced legislation that would allocate millions of dollars for local government to create dedicated teams that could "update and rebuild" government systems. The Verge reports: The United States Digital Service, an office established in 2014 after the widespread failures of, provides IT support for the federal government, bringing technologists into the government to work on tools like federal websites. It's continued to operate under the Trump administration, and some states, Harris' office notes, have experimented with similar teams. Harris' bill, the Digital Service Act, would provide an annual $50 million to the federal service, but it also goes further, allocating $15 million per year to state and local governments to create similar teams. Harris' bill, the Digital Service Act, would provide an annual $50 million to the federal service, but it also goes further, allocating $15 million per year to state and local governments to create similar teams. Under the plan, the national Digital Service would offer two-year grants, giving state and local governments between $200,000 and $2.5 million per year. Those governments would be required to take on 20 percent of costs and to spend at least half of the money on talent, rather than tech. The national Digital Service, under the proposal, would report bi-annually to Congress on the progress of the grantees. The bill would provide funding through 2027.

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Man Arrested For Selling One Million Netflix, Spotify, Hulu Passwords

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 02:30
Police in Australia have arrested a man who allegedly made AU $300,000 (US $211,000) running a website which sold the account passwords of popular online subscription services including Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, PSN, and Origin. From a report: The 21-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday in Sydney, Australia, following an international investigation by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police into the website Wicked Gen. The Wicked Gen website bragged that it had over 120,000 users and almost one million sets of account details, offering monthly and yearly membership plans for those who wanted "access to thousands of premium accounts across a huge range of services." The account passwords, however, were not obtained via legitimate means. Instead the details were typically obtained through credential stuffing using swathes of usernames and passwords leaked through other data breaches, without the knowledge of their genuine owners.

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ISPs Strike Deal With Vermont To Suspend State Net Neutrality Law

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 01:50
The state of Vermont has agreed to suspend enforcement of its net neutrality law pending the outcome of a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission. In October 2018, five industry groups representing major internet providers and cable companies sued Vermont seeking to block a state law barring companies that do not abide by net neutrality rules from receiving state contracts. But, as Ars Technica reports, "the lobby groups and state agreed to delay litigation and enforcement of the Vermont law in a deal that they detailed in a joint court filing yesterday." From the report: The delay will remain in place until after a final decision in the lawsuit seeking to reverse the FCC's net neutrality repeal and the FCC's preemption of state net neutrality laws. Vermont is one of 22 states that sued the FCC in that case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Tech companies and consumer advocacy groups are also opposing the FCC in the same case. Oral arguments were held last month, and DC Circuit judges will likely issue a decision in the coming months. An FCC loss in that case could entirely restore federal net neutrality rules, potentially making the Vermont law redundant. But a partial loss for the FCC could leave the federal repeal in place while allowing states to enforce their own net neutrality laws. The Vermont delay would remain in place until after all appeals are exhausted in the FCC case, which could potentially reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Renewable Energy Reduces the Highest Electric Rates In the Nation

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 00:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Coal is the primary fuel source for Midwest electric utilities. Michigan Technological University researchers found that increasing renewable and distributed generation energy sources can save Michigan electric consumers money. As renewable energy technologies and access to distributed generation like residential solar panels improve, consumer costs for electricity decrease. Making electricity for yourself with solar has become more affordable than traditional electricity fuel sources like coal. However, as three Michigan Tech researchers contend in a new study, while utility fuel mixes are slowly shifting away from fossil fuels toward renewable sources, Michigan utilities, and U.S. utilities broadly, continue a relationship with fossil fuels that is detrimental to their customers. In the paper, Prehoda and co-authors Joshua M. Pearce, Richard Witte Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Chelsea Schelly, associate professor of sociology, note that in the U.S., "70 percent of coal plants run at a higher cost than new renewable energy and by 2030 all of them will." The researchers provide a breakdown of savings per kilowatt hour by county that Michigan residents could achieve if they produce their own electricity with solar photovoltaic panels. The most significant impacts of distributed generation with solar are in the Upper Peninsula, where residential customers could see savings of approximately 7 cents per kilowatt hour. Assuming the average residential consumer uses 600 kilowatt hours of electricity monthly, this is a savings of $42 per utility bill. Downstate, the average savings per utility bill under the researchers' model is approximately $30 monthly. However, not all Michigan consumers can take advantage of the opportunity to self-generate, as some utilities are blocking additional net-metered distributed generation in their areas. The study has been published in the journal Energies.

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Google Play Apps With 150 Million Installs Contain Aggressive Adware

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 23:50
Researchers from Checkpoint Software have identified a massive adware campaign that invaded the Google Play Store with more than 200 highly aggressive apps that were collectively downloaded almost 150 million times. "The 210 apps discovered by researchers from security firm Checkpoint Software bombarded users with ads, even when an app wasn't open," reports Ars Technica. "The apps also had the ability to carry out spearphishing attacks by causing a browser to open an attacker-chosen URL and open the apps for Google Play and third-party market 9Apps with a specific keyword search or a specific application's page. The apps reported to a command-and-control server to receive instructions on which commands to carry out." From the report: Once installed, the apps installed code that allowed them to perform actions as soon as the device finished booting or while the user was using the device. The apps also could remove their icon from the device launcher to make it harder for users to uninstall the nuisance apps. The apps all used a software development kit called RXDrioder, which Checkpoint researchers believe concealed its abusive capabilities from app developers. The researchers dubbed the campaign SimBad, because many of the participating apps are simulator games. "With the capabilities of showing out-of-scope ads, exposing the user to other applications, and opening a URL in a browser, SimBad acts now as an Adware, but already has the infrastructure to evolve into a much larger threat," Checkpoint researchers wrote. The top 14 apps were collectively downloaded a whopping 75 million times, with the No. 1 app receiving 10 million installs and the next 13 getting 5 million downloads each. The next 53 each received 1 million downloads. The remainder received 500,000 or fewer downloads each. Checkpoint has a full list of all the apps here.

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ICANN Terminates AlpNames

CircleID - Pią, 2019-03-15 23:23

AlpNames has been sent a notice of termination by ICANN. Unlike many termination notices that specify a future date, the one they were sent has an immediate effect.

As reported in multiple fora over the last few days AlpNames had gone offline, and at time of writing still is. They've also become unresponsive. It's on the basis of this that ICANN decided to terminate their contract straight away.

What this means is that AlpNames has lost their "license" to sell domains from ICANN. The existing domains will have to be moved to another registrar, though it's unclear who will take over the domain portfolio. The registrar's back-office operations are with LogicBoxes, so it's fairly safe to assume that the data has been escrowed and will be available to the new registrar.

So what happened?

The Gibraltar based registrar was sent multiple notices by ICANN since the beginning of March but did not respond. Also, they owe ICANN fees.

As a registrar, their track record with abuse was far from stellar. Spamhaus has been listing them as one of the worst registrars for DNS abuse on the planet for a long time. ICANN's report on "competition, consumer trust and consumer choice" calls out AlpNames:

Alpnames Ltd., based in Gibraltar, was associated with a high volume of abuse from the .science and .top domain names. The Study notes that this registrar used price promotions that offered domain name registrations for USD $1 or sometimes even free. Moreover, Alpnames permitted registrants to randomly generate and register 2,000 domain names in 27 new gTLDs in a single registration process. Registering domain names in bulk using domain generation algorithms are commonly associated with cybercrime. However, there is currently no contractual prohibition or safeguard against the bulk registration of domains.

Historically AlpNames was linked to Famous Four Media, which changed ownership in the last few months.

AlpNames has about 700 thousand names in new gTLDs. I'm not sure how big they were in legacy gTLDs or if there were any ccTLD domains under management.

Written by Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions

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More under: Domain Management, Domain Names, ICANN

Tesla's New Model Y SUV Hits the Right Note By Playing It Safe

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 23:10
Last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company's brand new electric SUV, the Model Y. The car is only slightly larger than the Model 3 and shares 75% of its parts, leaving many people wanting more. But, as USA Today reports, "The ho-hum reaction to Tesla's new electric SUV is, oddly enough, exactly what the company needs. [F]or a company that needs a little less pizzazz and a little more substance to make good on its promise to become a sustainable force in the auto industry, the Model Y hit the right marks." From the report: It's essentially a crossover version of the Tesla Model 3 compact car, bearing the design hallmarks of a hatchback and sharing the same architectural platform as its car sibling. That Tesla devotees weren't rewarded with sizzling new features on the Model Y illustrates that the company is getting serious about selling vehicles. After all, a compact SUV is precisely what Americans want: a driveable vehicle that puts safety first and flash second. Versions with five and seven seats will be available, with starting prices ranging from $39,000 for the base version to $60,000 for a performance model. If Musk had tried to break new technological barriers or adopt outlandish styling on the Model Y, he would have risked making the vehicle too difficult to manufacture and unappealing to conventional SUV buyers. The first-available model will start at $47,000 and arrive in fall 2020. You can place a refundable deposit of $2,500 to secure your place in line when the vehicle becomes available. The base model of the Model Y -- the $39,000 version -- won't be available until "sometime in 2021," Musk said. Families can make the Model Y their primary vehicle since the battery range goes from 230 miles to 300 miles depending on the version. That stacks up well against other EVs on the market, such as the Chevrolet Bolt's 238 and the Hyundai Kona's 258. And while techies might not find the Model Y exhilarating, it will come equipped with software and sensors capable of autonomous driving, whenever it becomes legal. But buyers will have to pay for the system upgrade of $3,000 to $5,000.

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The Intercept Shuts Down Access To Snowden Trove

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 22:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: First Look Media announced Wednesday that it was shutting down access to whistleblower Edward Snowden's massive trove of leaked National Security Agency documents. Over the past several years, The Intercept, which is owned by First Look Media, has maintained a research team to handle the large number of documents provided by Snowden to Intercept journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. But in an email to staff Wednesday evening, First Look CEO Michael Bloom said that as other major news outlets had "ceased reporting on it years ago," The Intercept had decided to "focus on other editorial priorities" after expending five years combing through the archive. "The Intercept is proud of its reporting on the Snowden archive, and we are thankful to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for making it available to us," Bloom wrote. He added: "It is our hope that Glenn and Laura are able to find a new partner -- such as an academic institution or research facility -- that will continue to report on and publish the documents in the archive consistent with the public interest." Poitras reprimanded First Look Media for its decision to shut down its archives, and lay off 4 percent of its staff who had maintained them. "This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we've all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle," she wrote. "Late Thursday evening, Greenwald tweeted that both he and Poitras had full copies of the archives, and had been searching for a partner to continue research," reports The Daily Beast.

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Apple Dealt Legal Blow as Jury Awards Qualcomm $31 Million

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 21:50
Apple violated three Qualcomm patents and should pay the chipmaker $31 million for infringing on its technology, a jury decided Thursday, giving Qualcomm momentum as it heads into another legal skirmish with the iPhone maker next month. From a report: Qualcomm, which filed the suit in July 2017, alleged Apple had used its technology without permission in some versions of its popular iPhone. The jury awarded Qualcomm the full amount it requested at the start of the two-week trial, which was held in San Diego. One disputed Qualcomm patent covers technology that lets a smartphone quickly connect to the internet once the device is turned on. Another deals with graphics processing and battery life. The third addresses technology that shifts traffic between a phone's apps processor and modem. The $31 million in damages -- or $1.41 per infringing iPhone -- is a drop in the bucket for Apple, a company that briefly became a $1 trillion company last year. But it marks an important victory for Qualcomm, burnishing its reputation as a mobile components innovator. The win also lends credibility to the notion that much of the company's innovation is reflected in iPhones.

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Scientists Measure 1.3-Billion-Volt Thunderstorm, the Strongest on Record

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 21:10
An anonymous reader shares a report: Scientists in India observed the highest-voltage thunderstorm ever documented with the help of a subatomic particle you might not hear much about: the muon. The researchers operate the GRAPES-3 telescope, which measures muons, particles that are similar to electrons but heavier. Specifically, the Gamma Ray Astronomy at PeV EnergieS Phase-3 (GRAPES-3) muon telescope measures high-energy particles from outer space called cosmic rays. It typically picks up 2.5 million muons each minute, mapped on a 13-by-13 grid across the sky. But during thunderstorms, it experiences quick changes to the amount of muons it receives. The GRAPES-3 researchers added electric field monitors to the experiment, and devised a way to turn these muon fluctuations into measurements of the voltage of passing storms. A storm on December 1, 2014, led to a relatively enormous 2 percent decrease in the amount of muons that the experiment received. According to their methods, published in Physical Review Letters, this would be equivalent to a 1.3-billion-volt electric potential in the thunderhead. This doesn't refer to a single lightning bolt, but rather the strength of the electric field caused by positively charged water molecules carried by convection to the top of the cloud while negatively charged ice remains lower down. For comparison, most lightning bolts have 100 million volts of electric potential between their ends. Subway tracks carry less than 1,000 volts.

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Android Q Will Kill Clipboard Manager Apps in the Name of Privacy

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 20:30
Bolstering privacy is one of the primary focuses for Google in Android Q, the latest version of its mobile operating system, and that may spell trouble for some of your favorite apps. From a report: In Android Q, Google has restricted access to clipboard data as previously rumored, which means most apps that currently aim to manage that data won't work anymore. Having an app that sits in the background and collects clipboard data can be a handy way to recall past snippets of data. However, that same mechanism could be used for malicious intent. Google's playing it safe by restricting access to clipboard data to input method editors (you might know those as keyboards). Foreground apps that have focus will also be able to access the clipboard, but background apps won't.

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Amazon Gets an Edge With Its Secret Squad of PhD Economists

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 19:50
An anonymous reader shares a report: With help from outside researchers, Amazon's economists are working on a way to measure inflation using thousands of transactions across its own platform. Automatically analyzing product descriptions allows them to better assess the quality of a dress or a juicer or a bathmat, theoretically creating a more accurate, up-to-date index of how much things cost. That's just one way Amazon is using the squad of economists it has recruited in recent years. The company has turned so many businesses, from retailing to cloud computing, inside out. Now Amazon is upending the traditional role of economists within companies, as well as the field of economics. Amazon is now a large draw from the relatively small talent pool of PhD economists, which in the United States grows by about only 1,000 new graduates every year. Although the definition of "economist" is fuzzy, the discipline is generally understood as the study of how people use resources and respond to incentives. In the past few years, Amazon has hired more than 150 PhD economists, making it probably the largest employer in the field behind institutions like the Federal Reserve, which has hundreds of economists on staff. It was the only company with a recruiting booth at the American Economics Association's annual conference in January, handing out free pens and logoed stress balls.

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EU Expected To Hit Google with Another Massive Antitrust Fine

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 19:10
If you thought the European Commission was done hitting Google with massive fines, think again. From a report: Having already whacked the U.S. company with a $2.7 billion fine in 2017 (for disadvantaging comparison-shopping rivals in its search results) and a $5 billion fine last year (for disadvantaging software rivals in the Android ecosystem,) the Commission will reportedly issue another financial penalty next week. The fine's imminent nature was reported Friday by the Financial Times, citing three unnamed sources. The Commission and Google both declined to provide comment on the report. It is all about Google's restrictions on the "AdSense for Search" boxes that third-party websites use to make it easier for users to search their sites. Searches conducted through the boxes bring up Google ads and, with Google having such a dominant position in the European online search advertising market, the Commission warned the company in 2016 that it believed the company was illegally abusing its position.

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California Declared Totally Drought Free For First Time in Seven Years

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 18:30
California was declared totally drought free for the first time in more than seven years this week, following unusually abundant winter rains and snowfall statewide, according to the government's weekly report on U.S. drought conditions. From a report: The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest survey reflected an astonishing turnaround - at least for now - from a severe, prolonged dry spell that reduced irrigation supplies to farmers, forced strict household conservation measures and stoked a spate of deadly, devastating wildfires. A relatively small swath of California's southern-most region, including most of San Diego County, remains labeled "abnormally dry" on the drought map index, as does a tiny patch at the state's extreme northern end along the Oregon border. But this week marks the first time since mid-December of 2011 that 100 percent of the state has been classified as being free of drought, defined as a moisture deficit severe enough to cause social, environmental or economic ills. Conditions were classified as normal across 93 percent of the state.

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Beto O'Rourke's Secret Membership in America's Oldest Hacking Group

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 17:50
One thing you might not know about Beto O'Rourke, the former Texas congressman who just entered the race for president is that while a teenager, O'Rourke acknowledged in an exclusive interview to Reuters, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history. From the report: The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft's Windows. It's also known for inventing the word "hacktivism" to describe human-rights-driven security work. Members of the group have protected O'Rourke's secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O'Rourke as one of their own. Slashdot interviewed members of the Cult of the Cow in 1999 -- which gave bizarre answers.

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WordPress Now Powers Over One-Third of the Top 10 Million Sites on the Web

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 17:19
WordPress now powers over 1/3rd of the top 10 million sites on the web, according to W3Techs. From a blog post: Our market share has been growing steadily over the last few years, going from 29.9% just one year ago to 33.4% now. We are, of course, quite proud of these numbers! The path here has been very exciting. In 2005, we were celebrating 50,000 downloads. Six years later, in January 2011, WordPress was powering 13.1% of websites. And now, early in 2019, we are powering 33.4% of sites. Our latest release has already been downloaded close to 14 million times, and it was only released on the 21st of February.

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Kids From At Least 112 Countries, Including the US, Go on Strike To Protest Climate Change

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 16:30
It started 29 weeks ago when 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg began skipping school on Fridays to protest climate change by standing outside of her nation's parliament building. Today, kids from more than 110 countries, including the United States, are following Thunberg's lead and will play hooky from classes for something they think is ultimately more important: preventing the warming of their planet. Live updates, from The Guardian. Further reading: Thousands of scientists are backing the kids striking for climate change.

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Facebook Readies AI Tech To Combat 'Revenge Porn'

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 15:52
Facebook said on Friday it would use AI to combat the spread of intimate photos shared without people's permission, sometimes called "revenge porn," on its social networks. From a report: The new technology is in addition to a pilot program that required trained representatives to review offending images. "By using machine learning and artificial intelligence, we can now proactively detect near nude images or videos that are shared without permission," the social networking giant said in a blog post. "This means we can find this content before anyone reports it." A member of Facebook's community operations team would review the content found by the new technology, and if found to be an offending image, remove it or disable the account responsible for spreading it, the company added.

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Apple Says Spotify Wants 'the Benefits of a Free App Without Being Free'

Slashdot - Pią, 2019-03-15 15:11
Apple has responded to Spotify's European Commission (EC) complaint. In a press release, the company said that Spotify "seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem ... without making any contributions to that marketplace." It added that the App Store has generated $120 billion for developers while offering users a secure platform, and that Spotify is seeking to side to sidestep the rules that every other app follows. From a report: "Spotify has every right to determine their own business model, but we feel an obligation to respond when Spotify wraps its financial motivations in misleading rhetoric about who we are," the company wrote. Spotify's main argument was that Apple's own music service, Apple Music, isn't subject to the same restrictions of its own app. "[A]pps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store," wrote CEO Daniel Ek. "We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions -- including Apple Music." It added that Apple had often stymied it on app updates and locked it out of Apple services, "such as Siri, HomePod and Apple Watch." Finally, it noted that Apple had blocked communication with its own customers on things like special offers. In response, Apple addressed each complaint point by point, while criticizing Spotify's treatment of musicians and artists. It said that it has approved nearly 200 app updates, and "the only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every app follows."

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