United States

Trump Adviser Steve Bannon is Leaving White House Post (nytimes.com) 395

President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon left his position on Friday (alternative source) as the newly minted chief of staff John Kelly sought to bring order to a White House riven by infighting and power struggles, more than a dozen news outlets report. Maggie Haberman, reporting for The New York Times: The president and senior White House officials were debating when and how to dismiss Mr. Bannon. The two administration officials cautioned that Mr. Trump is known to be averse to confrontation within his inner circle, and could decide to keep on Mr. Bannon for some time. As of Friday morning, the two men were still discussing Mr. Bannon's future, the officials said. A person close to Mr. Bannon insisted the parting of ways was his idea, and that he had submitted his resignation to the president on Aug. 7, to be announced at the start of this week, but the move was delayed after the racial unrest in Charlottesville, Va.
IOS

iOS 11 Has a Feature To Temporarily Disable Touch ID (cultofmac.com) 138

A new feature baked into iOS 11 lets you quickly disable Touch ID, which could come in handy if you're ever in a situation where someone (a cop) might force you to unlock your device. Cult of Mac reports: To temporarily disable Touch ID, you simply press the power button quickly five times. This presents you with the "Emergency SOS" option, which you can swipe to call the emergency services. It also prevents your iPhone from being unlocked without the passcode. Until now, there were other ways to temporarily disable Touch ID, but they weren't quick and simply. You either had to restart your iPhone, let it sit idle for a few days until Touch ID was temporarily disabled by itself, or scan the wrong finger several times. The police, or any government agency, cannot force you to hand over your iPhone's passcode. However, they can force you to unlock your device with your fingerprint. That doesn't work if your fingerprint scanner has been disabled.
Earth

The Health Benefits of Wind and Solar Exceed the Cost of All Subsidies (arstechnica.com) 424

New submitter TheCoroner writes: A paper in Nature Energy suggests that the benefits we receive from moving to renewables like wind and solar that reduce air pollution exceed the cost of the subsidies required to make them competitive with traditional fossil fuels. Ars Technica reports: "Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.

This study ambitiously tries to estimate the benefits from emissions that were avoided because of the increase in wind and solar energy from 2007 through 2015, and to do so for the whole of the U.S. Millstein and colleagues looked at carbon emissions, as well as sulphur dioxides, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which contribute to poor air quality. There are other factors that also need to be considered. A rise in renewables isn't the only thing that has been changing in the energy sector: fuel costs and regulation have also played a role. How much of the benefit can be attributed to wind and solar power, and how much to other changes? The researchers used models that track the benefits attributable to renewable power as a proportion of the total reduction in emissions.

Science

Tiny Robots Crawl Through Mouse's Stomach To Release Antibiotics (newscientist.com) 15

Tiny robotic drug deliveries could soon be treating diseases inside your body. For the first time, micromotors -- autonomous vehicles the width of a human hair -- have cured bacterial infections in the stomachs of mice, using bubbles to power the transport of antibiotics. From a report: "The movement itself improves the retention of antibiotics on the stomach lining where the bacteria are concentrated," says Joseph Wang at the University of California San Diego, who led the research with Liangfang Zhang. In mice with bacterial stomach infections, the team used the micromotors to administer a dose of antibiotics daily for five days. At the end of the treatment, they found their approach was more effective than regular doses of medicine. The tiny vehicles consist of a spherical magnesium core coated with several different layers that offer protection, treatment, and the ability to stick to stomach walls. After they are swallowed, the magnesium cores react with gastric acid to produce a stream of hydrogen bubbles that propel the motors around. This process briefly reduces acidity in the stomach. The antibiotic layer of the micromotor is sensitive to the surrounding acidity, and when this is lowered, the antibiotics are released.
Communications

Guam Radio Stations Accidentally Conduct Emergency Alert Amid North Korea Threat (theguardian.com) 50

the_webmaestro writes: A couple of radio stations in Guam conducted an unscheduled test of the Emergency Alert Broadcast System, sending some residents -- already on edge due to the back and forth between the North Korean regime and the tweets made by the President of the United States -- into a panic. From the Guam Homeland Security/Office of Civil Defense Facebook page: "The Offices of Guam Homeland Security and Civil Defense (GHS/OCD), in conjunction with the Mariana Regional Fusion Center (MRFC), our federal and military partners, continue to monitor the recent events surrounding North Korea and their threatening actions. Residents and visitors may have noticed at 12:25 a.m., an unscheduled test of the Emergency Alert Broadcast System (EAS) was triggered from KTWG/KSTO AM. The message read: 'A BROADCAST STATION OR CABLE SYSTEM HAS ISSUED A CIVIL DANGER WARNING FOR THE FOLLOWING COUNTIES/AREAS: Guam, Guam; AT 12:25 AM ON AUG 15, 2017 EFFECTIVE UNTIL 12:40 AM. MESSAGE FROM KTWGKSTO.' The unauthorized test was NOT connected to any emergency, threat or warning. GHS/OCD has worked with KSTO to ensure the human error will not occur again. There is no scheduled test of the EAS or All Hazards Alert Warning System sirens today."

In addition, the Guam Power Authority (GPA) reported there were two scheduled outages, for emergency interruption of power, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., August 14: "Unrelated to the EAS unauthorized test, the Guam Power Authority (GPA) reported there were two scheduled outages, for emergency interruption of power, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., August 14 for customers located in Talofofo located along along Rte.17, Chalan J. Kindo, Vicente Borja Dr., Felix Dydasco St., Henry Simpson area to bus shelter by Bishop Street and other customers in these locations."

Businesses

Amazon Is Seeking $16 Billion Bond Sale For Whole Foods (bloomberg.com) 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Amazon is turning to the debt markets to fund the $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods and power Jeff Bezos's planned conquest of the supermarket business. The world's largest online retailer is selling $16 billion of unsecured bonds in as many as seven parts, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. In a sign of market interest, the longest portion of the offering, a 40-year security may yield 1.45 percentage points above Treasuries, down from initial talk of 1.6 percentage points to 1.65 percentage points, said the person, who asked not to be identified as the deal is private. The sale marks the first bond-market foray since 2014 for Amazon and will support the purchase of the organic-food chain, according to a company statement. The partnership, which rattled the grocery world when announced in June, is expected to reduce prices at Whole Foods, an iconic yet struggling high-end grocery trying to lure more low- and middle-income shoppers. The deal could intensify a price war in an industry beset by razor-thin margins and persistent deflation.
Businesses

Uber Investors Slam Travis Kalanick In Open Letter To Employees (gizmodo.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Benchmark Capital, one of Uber's largest investors, is trying to explain its legal feud with former CEO Travis Kalanick to the ride-sharing company's employees. Benchmark sued Kalanick for fraud last week, adding another controversy to the company's already disastrous summer. In an open letter to Uber employees, Benchmark slammed Kalanick's leadership of the company and said that he was purposely hindering the board's search for a replacement CEO. The firm also criticized Uber's slow response to the report compiled by Eric Holder and Tammy Albarran on harassment within Uber, and the stagnant search for a chief financial officer that has dragged on for more than two years.

"It has appeared at times as if the search was being manipulated to deter candidates and create a power vacuum in which Travis could return," the unsigned letter reads. "It's easy to reduce this situation to a battle of personalities. But this isn't about Benchmark versus Travis. It's about ensuring that Uber can reach its full potential as a company. And that will only happen if we get rid of the roadblocks and distractions that have plagued Uber, and its board, for far too long," Benchmark wrote in its letter. "Failing to act would have meant endorsing behavior that was utterly unacceptable in any company, let alone a company of Uber's size and importance."
Kalanick has responded to Benchmark through a spokesperson via The New York Times: "Like many shareholders, I am disappointed and baffled by Benchmark's hostile actions, which clearly are not in the best interests of Uber and its employees on whose behalf they claim to be acting. Since 2009, building Uber into a great company has been my passion and obsession. I continue to work tirelessly with the board to identify and hire the best CEO to guide Uber into its next phase of growth and ensure its continued success."
AMD

AMD Launches Radeon RX Vega 64 and Vega 56, Taking On GeForce GTX 1080 and 1070 (hothardware.com) 84

MojoKid writes: AMD has finally launched its Radeon RX Vega series of graphics cards today, based on the company's next generation Vega 10 GPU architecture. There are three base card specs announced, though there are four cards total, with a Limited Edition air-cooled card as well. Three of the cards have 64 NGCs (Next Generation Compute Units) with 4096 stream processors, while Radeon RX Vega 56 is comprised of 56 NCGs with 3584 SPs. Base clocks range from roughly 1150 to 1400MHz, with boost clocks from 1470MHz to 1670MHz or so. All cards come with 8GB of HBM2 and sport 484GB/sec of memory bandwidth, except for Vega 56, which has a bit less, at 410GB/s. They are power-hungry as well, ranging from the 345 Watt liquid-cooled Radeon RX Vega 64, to the 295 Watt air-cooled RX Vega 64 and 210 Watt Radeon RX Vega 56. Performance-wise, Radeon RX Vega 64 is neck-and-neck with NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080, winning some and losing some, with flashes of strength in DirectX 12-based games and benchmarks. Vega 64 also maintains generally better minimum frame rates versus GTX 1080. Radeon RX Vega 56 is a more credible midrange threat that handily out-performs a GeForce GTX 1070 across the board. In DX12 gaming, Radeon RX Vega 56 stretches its lead over the similarly-priced GTX 1070. Both cards, however, are more power-hungry, louder and run hotter than NVIDIA's high-end GeForce GTX 1080. Radeon RX Vega 64 cards will retail for $499 (Liquid Cooled cards at $699), while Radeon RX Vega 56 drops in at $399. All cards should be available at retail starting today.
Amiga

A New Amiga Will Go On Sale In Late 2017 (theregister.co.uk) 185

An anonymous reader quote the Register: The world's getting a new Amiga for Christmas. Yes, that Amiga -- the seminal Commodore microcomputers that brought mouse-driven GUIs plus slick and speedy graphics to the masses from 1985 to 1996... The platform died when Commodore went bankrupt, but enthusiasm for the Amiga persisted and various clones and efforts to preserve AmigaOS continue to this day. One such effort, from Apollo Accelerators, emerged last week: the company's forthcoming "Vampire V4" can work as a standalone Amiga or an accelerator for older Amigas... There's also 512MB of RAM, 40-and-44-pin FastIDE connectors, Ethernet, a pair of USB ports and MicroSD for storage [PDF]. Micro USB gets power to the board.
A school in Michigan used the same Amiga for 30 years. Whenever it broke, they actually phoned up the high school student who original set it up in 1987 and had him come over to fix it.
AI

Elon Musk + AI + Microsoft = Awesome Dota 2 Player (theverge.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes the Verge: Tonight during Valve's yearly Dota 2 tournament, a surprise segment introduced what could be the best new player in the world -- a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI. Engineers from the nonprofit say the bot learned enough to beat Dota 2 pros in just two weeks of real-time learning, though in that training period they say it amassed "lifetimes" of experience, likely using a neural network judging by the company's prior efforts. Musk is hailing the achievement as the first time artificial intelligence has been able to beat pros in competitive e-sports... Elon Musk founded OpenAI as a nonprofit venture to prevent AI from destroying the world -- something Musk has been beating the drum about for years.
"Nobody likes being regulated," Musk wrote on Twitter Friday, "but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too."

Musk also thanked Microsoft on Twitter "for use of their Azure cloud computing platform. This required massive processing power."
Communications

iOS 10 Quietly Deprecated A Crucial API For VoIP and Communication Apps (apple.com) 122

neutrino38 warns that iOS 10 includes a significant change "overlooked by the general public": It deprecates an API that is crucial for VoIP and other instant messaging applications that enable keeping one socket active despite the fact that the application would run in the background. As a replacement, developers need to use PushKit: when an incoming call is to be forwarded to an iOS VoIP client, the VoIP infrastructure needs to:

- withold the call
- contact Apple push infrastructure using a proprietary protocol to wake up the client app remotely
- wait for the application to reconnect to the infrastructure and release the call when it is ready

This "I know better than you" approach is meant to further optimize battery life on iOS devices by avoiding the use of resources by apps running in background. It has also the positive effect of forcing developers to switch to a push model and remove all periodic pollings that ultimately use mobile data and clog the Internet. However, the decision to use an Apple infrastructure has many consequences for VoIP providers:

- the reliability of serving incoming calls is directly bound to Apple service
- Apple may revoke the PushKit certificate. It thus has life and death decision power over third-party communication infrastructures
- organizations wanting to setup IPBX and use iOS client have no option but to open access for the push services of Apple in their firewall
- It is not possible to have iOS VoIP or communication clients in network disconnected from the Internet - Pure standard SIP clients are now broken on iOS

The original submission argues that Apple is creating "the perfect walled garden," adding that "Ironically, the only VoIP 'app' that is not affected is the (future?) VoLTE client that will be added to iOS one day."
NASA

NASA Looks At Reviving Atomic Rocket Program (newatlas.com) 122

Big Hairy Ian shares a report from New Atlas: When the first manned mission to Mars sets out, it may be on the tail of an atomic rocket engine. The Space Race vintage technology could have a renaissance at NASA after the space agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama signed a contract with BWXT Nuclear Energy to develop updated Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) concepts and new fuel elements to power them.

Today, with NASA once again considering the challenges of sending astronauts to Mars, the nuclear option is back on the table as part of the agency's Game Changing Development program. Under this, NASA has awarded BMXT, which supplies nuclear fuel to the U.S. Navy, a $18.8-million contract running through September 30, 2019 to look into the possibility of developing a new engine using a new type of fuel. Unlike previous designs using highly enriched uranium, BMXT will study the use of Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU), which has less than 20 percent of fissile uranium 235. This will provide a number of advantages. Not only is it safer than the highly enriched fuel, but the security arrangements are less burdensome, and the handling regulations are the same as those of a university research reactor. If NASA determines next month that the LEU engine is feasible, the project will conduct testing and refine the manufacturing process of the Cermet fuel elements over the course of a year, with testing of the full-length Cermet fuel rods to be conducted at Marshall.

Slashdot reader Big Hairy Ian adds: "At the very least it looks much more feasible than Project Orion."

Communications

The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claims To Run (bbc.com) 127

Zaria Gorvett, writing for BBC: In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War. It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, "MDZhB", that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it's been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it's joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues. Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as "dinghy" or "farming specialist". And that's it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz. It's so enigmatic, it's as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as "the Buzzer." It joins two similar mystery stations, "the Pip" and the "Squeaky Wheel." As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.
Security

Password Power Rankings: a Look At the Practices of 40+ Popular Websites (helpnetsecurity.com) 127

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Nothing should be more important for these sites and apps than the security of the users who keep them in business. Unfortunately, Dashlane found that that 46% of consumer sites, including Dropbox, Netflix, and Pandora, and 36% of enterprise sites, including DocuSign and Amazon Web Services, failed to implement the most basic password security requirements. The most popular sites provide the least guidance when it comes to secure password policies. Of the 17 consumer sites that failed Dashlane's tests, eight are entertainment/social media sites, and five are e-commerce. Most troubling? Researchers created passwords using nothing but the lowercase letter "a" on Amazon, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Venmo, and Dropbox, among others. GoDaddy emerged as the only consumer website with a perfect score, while enterprise sites Stripe and QuickBooks also garnered a perfect score of 5/5. Here's a screenshot of how each consumer/enterprise website performed.
Transportation

VC Firm Benchmark Capital, An Early Investor In Uber, Sues Travis Kalanick For Fraud (axios.com) 21

Dan Primack, reporting for Axios: The battle between Benchmark Capital and Travis Kalanick just went nuclear, with the venture capital firm suing the former Uber CEO for fraud, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The complaint was filed earlier today in Delaware Chancery Court. Key graph, per the suit: "Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, to entrench himself on Uber's Board of Directors and increase his power over Uber for his own selfish ends. Kalanick's overarching objective is to pack Uber's Board with loyal allies in an effort to insulate his prior conduct from scrutiny and clear the path for his eventual return as CEO -- all to the detriment of Uber's stockholders, employees, driver-partners, and customers." Why it matters: If Benchmark's suit is successful, Kalanick would be kicked off Uber's board of directors -- thus eliminating any faint hopes of him returning to the company in a substantial role.
AMD

AMD Ryzen Threadripper Launched: Performance Benchmarks Vs Intel Skylake-X (hothardware.com) 121

Reader MojoKid writes: AMD continues its attack on the desktop CPU market versus Intel today, with the official launch of the company's Ryzen Threadripper processors. Threadripper is AMD's high-end, many-core desktop processor, that leverages the same Zen microarchitecture that debuted with Ryzen 7. The top-end Ryzen Threadripper 1950X is a multi-chip module featuring 16 processor cores (two discrete die), with support for 32 threads. The base frequency for the 1950X is 3.4GHz, with all-core boost clocks of up to 3.7GHz. Four of the cores will regularly boost up to 4GHz, however, and power and temperature permitting, those four cores will reach 4.2GHz when XFR kicks in. The 12-core Threadripper 1920X has very similar clocks and its boost and XFR frequencies are exactly the same. The Threadripper 1920X's base-clock, however, is 100MHz higher than its big brother, at 3.5GHz. In a litany of benchmarks with multi-threaded workloads, Threadripper 1950X and 1920X high core-counts, in addition to strong SMT scaling, result in the best multi-threaded scores seen from any single CPU to date. Threadripper also offers massive amounts of memory bandwidth and more IO than other Intel processors. Though absolute power consumption is somewhat high, Threadrippers are significantly more efficient than AMD's previous-generation processors. In lightly-threaded workloads, Threadripper trails Intel's latest Skylake-X CPUs, however, which translates to lower performance in applications and games that can't leverage all of Threadripper's additional compute resources. Threadripper 1950X and 1920X processors are available starting today at $999 and $799, respectively. On a per-core basis, they're less expensive than Intel Skylake-X and very competitively priced.
Software

Researchers Build True Random Number Generator From Carbon Nanotubes (ieee.org) 144

Wave723 writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a true random number generator that was created with single-walled semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Researchers at Northwestern University printed a SRAM cell with special nanotube ink, and used it to generate random bits based on thermal noise. This method could be used to improve the security of flexible or printed electronics. From the report: "Once Mark Hersam, an expert in nanomaterials at Northwestern University, and his team had printed their SRAM cell, they needed to actually generate a string of random bits with it. To do this, they exploited a pair of inverters found in every SRAM cell. During normal functioning, the job of an inverter is to flip any input it is given to be the opposite, so from 0 to 1, or from 1 to 0. Typically, two inverters are lined up so the results of the first inverter are fed into the second. So, if the first inverter flips a 0 into a 1, the second inverter would take that result and flip it back into a 0. To manipulate this process, Hersam's group shut off power to the inverters and applied external voltages to force the inverters to both record 1s. Then, as soon as the SRAM cell was powered again and the external voltages were turned off, one inverter randomly switched its digit to be opposite its twin again. 'In other words, we put [the inverter] in a state where it's going to want to flip to either a 1 or 0,' Hersam says. Under these conditions, Hersam's group had no control over the actual nature of this switch, such as which inverter would flip, and whether that inverter would represent a 1 or a 0 when it did. Those factors hinged on a phenomenon thought to be truly random -- fluctuations in thermal noise, which is a type of atomic jitter intrinsic to circuits." Hersam and his team recently described their work in the journal Nano Letters.
Power

Mass Market Hopes For Battery-free Cell Phone Technology (reuters.com) 102

Mark Hanrahan, writing for Reuters: Researchers in the United States have unveiled a prototype of a battery-free mobile phone, using technology they hope will eventually come to be integrated into mass-market products. The phone is the work of a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and works by harvesting tiny amounts of power from radio signals, known as radio frequency or 'RF' waves. "Ambient RF waves are all around us so, as an example, your FM station broadcasts radio waves, your AM stations do that, your TV stations, your cellphone towers. They all are transmitting RF waves," team member Vamsi Talla told Reuters. The phone is a first prototype and its operation is basic - at first glance it looks little more than a circuit board with a few parts attached and the caller must wear headphones and press a button to switch between talking and listening.
Technology

How a Port Misconfiguration Exposed Critical Infrastructure Data (helpnetsecurity.com) 49

An anonymous reader writes: Attacks hitting companies' electrical systems are possible, especially when information that provides insight into those systems' weak points is freely accessible online. If you think that such a thing is unlikely, you probably haven't yet heard about the most recent discovery made by UpGuard researchers: an open port used for rsync server synchronization has left the network of Power Quality Engineering (PQE) wide open to malicious attackers. They managed to access and exfiltrate 205 GB of data from PQE's servers, up until the moment when the company secured its systems two days later after being notified of the problem.
Transportation

Cyber Threats Prompt Return of Radio For Ship Navigation (reuters.com) 133

Jonathan Saul reports via Reuters: The risk of cyber attacks targeting ships' satellite navigation is pushing nations to delve back through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology. Ships use GPS (Global Positioning System) and other similar devices that rely on sending and receiving satellite signals, which many experts say are vulnerable to jamming by hackers. About 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea and the stakes are high in increasingly crowded shipping lanes. Unlike aircraft, ships lack a back-up navigation system and if their GPS ceases to function, they risk running aground or colliding with other vessels. South Korea is developing an alternative system using an earth-based navigation technology known as eLoran, while the United States is planning to follow suit. Britain and Russia have also explored adopting versions of the technology, which works on radio signals.

Cyber specialists say the problem with GPS and other Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) is their weak signals, which are transmitted from 12,500 miles above the Earth and can be disrupted with cheap jamming devices that are widely available. Developers of eLoran - the descendant of the loran (long-range navigation) system created during World War II - say it is difficult to jam as the average signal is an estimated 1.3 million times stronger than a GPS signal. To do so would require a powerful transmitter, large antenna and lots of power, which would be easy to detect, they add.

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