Government

US Government Weighing Sanctions Against Kaspersky Lab (cyberscoop.com) 21

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CyberScoop: The U.S. government is considering sanctions against Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab as part of a wider round of action carried out against the Russian government, according to U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the matter. The sanctions would be a considerable expansion and escalation of the U.S. government's actions against the company. Kaspersky, which has two ongoing lawsuits against the U.S. government, has been called "an unacceptable threat to national security" by numerous U.S. officials and lawmakers.

Officials told CyberScoop any additional action against Kaspersky would occur at the lawsuits' conclusion, which Kaspersky filed in response to a stipulation in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that bans its products from federal government networks. If the sanctions came to fruition, the company would be barred from operating in the U.S. and potentially even in U.S. allied countries.

Advertising

Facebook Sued Over Fake Ads (theguardian.com) 22

shilly writes: British finance expert Martin Lewis is suing Facebook for defamation, after a year of trying to persuade the company to stop accepting scam ads featuring his name and image. Facebook insists that he report to them every time he spots a scam; he wants them to check with him before they take money for an ad featuring his name or picture, so he can tell them if it's legit or not. "Lewis said he would not profit from any damages won, which he would donate to charities combating fraud, but that he hoped the action would prompt the site to stamp out scam adverts," reports The Guardian.
Security

New Attack Group Orangeworm Targets Healthcare Sector in US, Asia, and Europe: Symantec (symantec.com) 26

Security researchers at Symantec say a group of hackers has been targeting firms related to health care in order to steal intellectual property. The security firm observed a hacking team, called Orangeworm, compromise the systems of pharmaceutical firms, medical-device manufacturers, health-care providers, and even IT companies working with medical organizations in the US, Europe, and Asia markets. Victims don't appear to have been chosen at random but "carefully and deliberately." You can read the full report here.
Earth

Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans? (theatlantic.com) 262

Adam Frank, writing for The Atlantic: We're used to imagining extinct civilizations in terms of the sunken statues and subterranean ruins. These kinds of artifacts of previous societies are fine if you're only interested in timescales of a few thousands of years. But once you roll the clock back to tens of millions or hundreds of millions of years, things get more complicated.

When it comes to direct evidence of an industrial civilization -- things like cities, factories, and roads -- the geologic record doesn't go back past what's called the Quaternary period 2.6 million years ago. For example, the oldest large-scale stretch of ancient surface lies in the Negev Desert. It's "just" 1.8 million years old -- older surfaces are mostly visible in cross section via something like a cliff face or rock cuts. Go back much farther than the Quaternary and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust.

And, if we're going back this far, we're not talking about human civilizations anymore. Homo sapiens didn't make their appearance on the planet until just 300,000 years or so ago. [...] Given that all direct evidence would be long gone after many millions of years, what kinds of evidence might then still exist? The best way to answer this question is to figure out what evidence we'd leave behind if human civilization collapsed at its current stage of development.
Mr. Frank, along with Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, have published their research on the subject [PDF].
News

The Last Known Person Born in the 19th Century Dies in Japan at 117 (kottke.org) 167

Jason Kottke: As of 2015, only two women born in the 1800s and two others born in 1900 (the last year of the 19th century) were still alive. In the next two years, three of those women passed away, including Jamaican Violet Brown, the last living subject of Queen Victoria, who reigned over the British Empire starting in 1837. Last week Nabi Tajima, the last known survivor of the 19th century, died in Japan at age 117.
Music

The Music Industry Had a Fantastic 2017, Driven by Streaming Revenues (fastcompany.com) 75

An anonymous reader shares a report: Global recorded music revenues soared by $1.4 billion in 2017 largely due to the increased adoption of music streaming services among consumers, reports the Music Industry Blog. Global recorded music revenues reached $17.4 billion in 2017, putting it just a hair below 2008's $17.7 billion in revenues. That means that most of the decline in recorded music revenues over the past 10 years has now been reversed. Streaming was the largest driver of that growth, accounting for 43% of all revenues. In 2017 streaming revenues surged by 39%, topping out at $7.4 billion.
The Internet

Net Neutrality Is Over Monday, But Experts Say ISPs Will Wait To Screw Us (inverse.com) 213

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Inverse: Parts of the Federal Communication Commission's repeal of net neutrality is slated to take effect on April 23, causing worry among internet users who fear the worst from their internet service providers. However, many experts believe there won't be immediate changes come Monday, but that ISPs will wait until users aren't paying attention to make their move. "Don't expect any changes right out of the gate," Dary Merckens, CTO of Gunner Technology, tells Inverse. Merckens specializes in JavaScript development for government and business, and sees why ISPs would want to lay low for a while before enacting real changes. "It would be a PR nightmare for ISPs if they introduced sweeping changes immediately after the repeal of net neutrality," he says.

While parts of the FCC's new plan will go into effect on Monday, the majority of the order still doesn't have a date for when it will be official. Specific rules that modify data collection requirements still have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, and the earliest that can happen is on April 27. Tech experts and consumer policy advocates don't expect changes to happen right away, as ISPs will likely avoid any large-scale changes in order to convince policymakers that the net neutrality repeal was no big deal after all.

Crime

UK Teen Who Hacked CIA Director Sentenced To 2 Years In Prison (gizmodo.com) 140

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: A British teenager who gained notoriety for hacking a number of high profile United States government employees including former CIA director John Brennan and former director of intelligence James Clapper was sentenced Friday to two years in prison. Eighteen-year-old Kane Gamble pleaded guilty to 10 separate charges, including eight counts of "performing a function with intent to secure unauthorized access" and two counts of "unauthorized modification of computer material," the Guardian reported.

Gamble, otherwise known by his online alias Cracka, was 15 at the time that he started his hacking campaigns. The alleged leader of a hacking group known as Crackas With Attitude (CWA), Gamble made it a point to target members of the U.S. government. The young hacker's group managed to successfully gain access to ex-CIA director John Brennan's AOL email account. The group hacked a number of accounts belonging to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, including his personal email, his wife's email, and his phone and internet provider account. The hackers allegedly made it so every call to Clapper's home phone would get forwarded to the Free Palestine Movement.

Open Source

Apple Open Sources FoundationDB (macrumors.com) 47

Apple's FoundationDB company announced on Thursday that the FoundationDB core has been open sourced with the goal of building an open community with all major development done in the open. The database company was purchased by Apple back in 2015. As described in the announcement, FoundationDB is a distributed datastore that's been designed from the ground up to be deployed on clusters of commodity hardware. Mac Rumors reports: By open sourcing the project to drive development, FoundationDB is aiming to become "the foundation of the next generation of distributed databases: "The vision of FoundationDB is to start with a simple, powerful core and extend it through the addition of "layers". The key-value store, which is open sourced today, is the core, focused on incorporating only features that aren't possible to write in layers. Layers extend that core by adding features to model specific types of data and handle their access patterns. The fundamental architecture of FoundationDB, including its use of layers, promotes the best practices of scalable and manageable systems. By running multiple layers on a single cluster (for example a document store layer and a graph layer), you can match your specific applications to the best data model. Running less infrastructure reduces your organization's operational and technical overhead." The source for FoundationDB is available on Github, and those who wish to join the project are encouraged to visit the FoundationDB community forums, submit bugs, and make contributions to the core software and documentation.
Power

White House Reportedly Exploring Wartime Rule To Help Coal, Nuclear (arstechnica.com) 270

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: According to reports from Bloomberg and E&E News, the Trump Administration has been exploring another way to help coal and nuclear generators: the Defense Production Act of 1950. The Act was passed under President Truman. Motivated by the Korean War, it allows the president broad authority to boost U.S. industries that are considered a priority for national security. On Thursday, E&E News cited sources that said "an interagency process is underway" at the White House to examine possible application of the act to the energy industry. The goal would be to give some form of preference to coal and nuclear plants that are struggling to compete with cheap natural gas.

If the DOE decides not to invoke Section 202(c), the president may turn to the Defense Production Act. According to a 2014 summary report (PDF) from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the act would allow the president to "demand priority for defense-related products," "provide incentives to develop, modernize, and expand defense productive capacity," and establish "a voluntary reserve of trained private sector executives available for emergency federal employment," among other powers. (Some even more permissive applications of the Act were terminated in 1957.) Using the Act to protect coal and nuclear facilities would almost certainly be more controversial, as the link between national defense and keeping uneconomic coal generators running is not well-established.
The Administration could apply the Act to "provide or guarantee loans to industry" for material-specific deliveries and production. "The president may also authorize the purchase of 'industrial items or technologies for installation in government or private industrial facilities,'" reports Ars.
Businesses

SmugMug Buys Flickr, Vows To Revitalize the Photo Service (usatoday.com) 60

On Friday, Silicon Valley photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug announced it had acquired Flickr, the photo-sharing site created in 2004 by Ludicorp and acquired in 2005 by Yahoo. SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA TODAY he's committed to revitalizing the faded social networking site, which hosted photos and videos long before it became trendy. Flickr will reportedly continue to operate separately, and SmugMug and Flickr accounts will "remain separate and independent for the foreseeable future." From the report: He declined to disclose the terms of the deal, which closed this week. "Flickr is an amazing community, full of some of the world's most passionate photographers. It's a fantastic product and a beloved brand, supplying tens of billions of photos to hundreds of millions of people around the world," MacAskill said. "Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the Internet." The surprise deal ends months of uncertainty for Flickr, whose fate had been up in the air since last year when Yahoo was bought by Verizon for $4.5 billion and joined with AOL in Verizon's Oath subsidiary.
Government

Could We Fund a Universal Basic Income with Universal Basic Assets? (fastcompany.com) 376

Universal Basic Incomes aren't really the issue, argues Fast Company staff writer Ben Schiller. "It's how you find $2 trillion to pay for it." One answer may come in the form of "universal basic assets" (UBA). UBA can mean a fund of publicly-owned infrastructure or revenue streams -- like Alaska's Permanent Fund which pays residents up to $2,000 a year from state oil taxes. Or, it can mean actual assets that drive down the cost of living, like tuition-free education and free public broadband. There are lots of proposals going around now that fall into these two camps...

Entrepreneur Peter Barnes has called for the creation of a Sky Trust that would both limit the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide revenue from carbon taxes. These "carbon dividends" solve two problems at once: income inequality and climate change. He would also tax corporations for using natural resources, on the thinking that the atmosphere, minerals and fresh water around us represent a "joint inheritance." He would also tax speculative financial transactions and use of the electromagnetic spectrum. The U.K. think-tank IPPR recently proposed a similar "sovereign wealth fund owned by and run in the interests of citizens." It would finance the fund with "a scrip tax of up to 3% requiring businesses to issue equity to the government, or pay a tax of equivalent value," sales of land owned by the U.K. monarchy, and higher inheritance taxes.

Blockchain can help. Blockchain technology could offer a way to divide publicly-owned infrastructure so it's genuinely publicly-owned. We could issue tokenized securities in the assets around us giving everyone a stake in their environment. Then they could trade those tokens on exchanges, like they were cryptocurrencies, or use the tokens as collateral on loans.

Businesses

Many Amazon Warehouse Workers are on Food Stamps (theintercept.com) 398

Many of Amazon's warehouse workers have to buy their groceries with food stamps through America's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, reports the Intercept. In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company's own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.

Though the company now employs 200,000 people in the United States, many of its workers are not making enough money to put food on the table... "The average warehouse worker at Walmart makes just under $40,000 annually, while at Amazon would take home about $24,300 a year," CNN reported in 2013. "That's less than $1,000 above the official federal poverty line for a family of four."

In addition Amazon uses temp workers who may also be on food stamps, notes the article, adding that in 2017 Amazon received $1.2 billion in state and local subsidies, while effectively paying no federal income tax.

"The American people are financing Amazon's pursuit of an e-commerce monopoly every step of the way: first, with tax breaks, subsidies, and infrastructure improvements meant to lure fulfillment centers into town, and later with federal transfers to pay for warehouse workers' food."
The Almighty Buck

What Happens When Restaurants Go Cashless (usatoday.com) 450

There's a new trend starting: restaurants that won't accept cash. USA Today reports: Restaurant owners say ordering is faster from customers who slap down plastic instead of dollars, cutting a few seconds out of the process. But most of the benefits appear to accrue to the restaurants: less time taken counting bills, reduced pilferage, no armored-car fees or fear of stickups. It's a risky strategy. For starters, upscale Millennials -- among the most coveted of diners because of their youth and affluence -- prefer to pay in cash, according to Bankrate.com data. Also, more than a third of Americans between the ages of 18 and 37 do not have a credit card. For customers, patronizing restaurants that don't take cash means one less payment option when they need a quick meal during an all-too-short lunch hour. Plus, it raises questions about whether it discriminates against cardless teens and the poor... A committee in Chicago is weighing Alderman Edward Burke's proposed requirement that merchants accept cash. Massachusetts has had a Discrimination Against Cash Buyers rule on the books since 1978... Lana Swartz, co-editor of the book Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff, says "One of the cornerstones of American capitalism is everyone's money is equal."
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports: Many business owners would rather be cashless. Cash actually costs money -- banks charge fees for cash deposits and to handle coins... And counting and checking cash and preparing it for deposit takes up time a manager could spend with staff or customers... Millions of consumers use little or no cash. In a survey released last month by the financial services company Capital One, only 21 percent of 2,000 people questioned said cash was their most common way to pay for things. But going cashless isn't a slam-dunk. Some customers who want to use cash point to a statement on paper money: "This note is legal tender for all debts public and private." However, the Federal Reserve says on its website that private companies can make their own policies about cash unless there is a state law saying otherwise.
One Houston restauranteur changed his mind about going cashless, saying "You can't compete if you think you're going to create a whole set of rules and expect people to follow them." One Chicago restauranteur admits that "it has generated the most negative pushback of anything we've ever done," estimating revenue fell 2% just from angry cash customers who never returned.

But he persisted because his eight restaurants had experienced six burglaries, break-ins or armed robberies over the last eight years -- and got "dozens and dozens" of counterfeit bills from customers -- while by going cashless, he no longer has to pay for bank fees and armored car pickups.
Earth

Lyft Announces It Will Make All Rides Carbon Neutral (cnn.com) 37

Lyft announced it will spend millions of dollars to make all its rides carbon neutral. An anonymous reader quotes CNN Money: The San Francisco-based ride-hailing company announced Thursday that it will pay for a range of environmentally beneficial projects to compensate for the emissions from the millions of car journeys it provides every week. The tactic, known as carbon offsets, is a way for Lyft to do something about climate change without changing its business model. Lyft will fund initiatives including forestry projects, renewable energy ventures and capturing emissions from landfills.

The efforts will put Lyft among the 10 largest voluntary offset programs in the world, according to 3Degrees, the renewable energy company Lyft is partnering with to find suitable projects... Lyft will track how many miles its drivers cover -- and the make and model of their vehicles -- to calculate exactly how many emissions it must offset. The company will not limit itself just to the carbon footprint from when passengers are in Lyft vehicles, but will also include the mileage its drivers rack up on their way to pick people up.

Lyft co-founder John Zimmer believes that within their first year they'll offset over a million metric tons of carbon -- "equivalent to planting tens of millions of trees or taking hundreds of thousands of cars off the road."

Zimmer told CNN that "With great scale comes great responsibility."
The Almighty Buck

Wells Fargo Agrees to $1 Billion Fine Over Home and Auto Loan Abuses (reuters.com) 64

Wells Fargo got hit with a $1 billion fine Friday -- the largest ever issued by America's consumer protection agency. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: Taken together, the mortgage and auto programs ensnared more than 600,000 customers and will require nearly $300 million in refunds, the bank has said. The programs allowed Wells Fargo to earn fees from unneeded car insurance and penalties on mortgage paperwork that the bank had botched. For homebuyers, Wells Fargo promised to "rate lock" or freeze the interest rate for borrowers who got their mortgage paperwork finished within a few weeks. When that deadline slipped and it was the bank's fault, Wells Fargo could blame the customer. The penalty for late mortgage paperwork often topped $1000, according to a borrower lawsuit...

Drivers stung by insurance fees were wrongly pushed into policies that they did not need... Insurers working for Wells Fargo pushed policies onto more than 500,000 customers who already had coverage, the bank has said.

The penalty comes 18 months after Wells Fargo "admitted it opened sham accounts for customers -- a practice that likely ensnared millions...

Wells Fargo agreed to the new $1 billion fine "without admitting or denying wrongdoing."
The Almighty Buck

Kurzweil Predicts Universal Basic Incomes Worldwide Within 20 Years (hackernoon.com) 303

Google's director of engineering Ray Kurzweil made a startling prediction at the 2018 TED conference. Hacker Noon reports: "In the early 2030s, we'll have universal basic income in the developed world, and worldwide by the end of the 2030s. You'll be able to live very well on that. The primary concern will be meaning and purpose," he said onstage at the annual event...

Kurzweil believes that by 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence. It's not inconceivable then that AI will be distributing UBI to humans based on algorithms that are capable of crunching numbers in ways we cannot follow. Indeed, what we call the "State" in even just 10 years time may have been transformed by AI and blockchain tech in a way whereby even our experience of consensus decision making and democracy itself may have evolved.

Government

Senate Confirms Climate Denier With No Scientific Credentials To Head NASA (nytimes.com) 511

On Thursday, the Senate confirmed Trump's NASA nominee Jim Bridenstine, seven and a half months after being nominated to lead the agency. "The Senate confirmed Mr. Bridenstine, an Oklahoma congressman, as the new NASA administrator in a stark partisan vote: 50 Republicans voting for him and 47 Democrats plus two independents against," reports The New York Times. "The vote lasted more than 45 minutes as Republicans waited for Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona to cast his lot." Slashdot reader PeopleAquarium writes about some of Bridenstine's anti-LGBT and non-scientific views: Bridenstine ran a planetarium once, and peddled a debunked argument made by climate change skeptics, claiming that global temperatures "stopped rising 10 years ago." He said "the people of Oklahoma are ready to accept" an apology from then-President Barack Obama for what Bridenstine called a "gross misallocation" of funds for climate change research instead of weather forecasting. In further news, our rockets will now be coal powered, and gay people aren't allowed in space.
Government

Government Accidentally Releases Documents On 'Psycho-Electric' Weapons (popularmechanics.com) 89

schwit1 shares a report from Popular Mechanics: The government has all kinds of secrets, but only a true conspiracy theorist might suspect that "psycho-electric weapons" are one of them. So it's odd that MuckRock, a news organization that specializes in filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with state and federal government bodies, received mysterious documents about mind control, seemingly by accident. Journalist Curtis Waltman was writing to the Washington State Fusion Center (WSFC), a joint operation between Washington State law enforcement and the federal government to request information about Antifa and white supremacist groups. He got responses to the questions he asked, but also a file titled "EM effects on human body.zip." At least some of the images appear to be part of an article in Nexus magazine describing a 1992 lawsuit brought by one John St. Clair Akewi against the NSA. Akewi claimed that the NSA had the "ability to assassinate U.S. citizens covertly or run covert psychological control operations to cause subjects to be diagnosed with ill mental health" and was documenting their alleged methods.
Earth

'Sea Nomads' Are First Known Humans Genetically Adapted To Diving (nationalgeographic.com) 106

schwit1 shares a report from National Geographic: Most people can hold their breath underwater for a few seconds, some for a few minutes. But a group of people called the Bajau takes free diving to the extreme, staying underwater for as long as 13 minutes at depths of around 200 feet. These nomadic people live in waters winding through the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, where they dive to hunt for fish or search for natural elements that can be used in crafts. Now, a study in the journal Cell offers the first clues that a DNA mutation for larger spleens gives the Bajau a genetic advantage for life in the deep.

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