dcblogs quotes a report from Computerworld: A new bill in Congress would give foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools priority in getting an H-1B visa. The legislation also "explicitly prohibits" the replacement of American workers by visa holders. This bill, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, was announced Thursday by its co-sponsors, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), longtime allies on H-1B reform. Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gives this bill an immediate big leg up in the legislative process. This legislation would end the annual random distribution, via a lottery, of H-1B visas, and replace it with a system to give priority to certain types of students. Foreign nationals in the best position to get one of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually will have earned an advanced degree from a U.S. school, have a well-paying job offer, and have preferred skills. The specific skills weren't identified, but will likely be STEM-related. "Congress created these programs to complement America's high-skilled workforce, not replace it," said Grassley, in a statement. "Unfortunately, some companies are trying to exploit the programs by cutting American workers for cheaper labor."
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An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: A new report authored by a group of independent U.S. scientists advising the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DoD) on artificial intelligence (AI) claims that perceived existential threats to humanity posed by the technology, such as drones seen by the public as killer robots, are at best "uninformed." Still, the scientists acknowledge that AI will be integral to most future DoD systems and platforms, but AI that could act like a human "is at most a small part of AI's relevance to the DoD mission." Instead, a key application area of AI for the DoD is in augmenting human performance. Perspectives on Research in Artificial Intelligence and Artificial General Intelligence Relevant to DoD, first reported by Steven Aftergood at the Federation of American Scientists, has been researched and written by scientists belonging to JASON, the historically secretive organization that counsels the U.S. government on scientific matters. Outlining the potential use cases of AI for the DoD, the JASON scientists make sure to point out that the growing public suspicion of AI is "not always based on fact," especially when it comes to military technologies. Highlighting SpaceX boss Elon Musk's opinion that AI "is our biggest existential threat" as an example of this, the report argues that these purported threats "do not align with the most rapidly advancing current research directions of AI as a field, but rather spring from dire predictions about one small area of research within AI, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)." AGI, as the report describes, is the pursuit of developing machines that are capable of long-term decision making and intent, i.e. thinking and acting like a real human. "On account of this specific goal, AGI has high visibility, disproportionate to its size or present level of success," the researchers say.
The encrypted email service once used by whistleblower Edward Snowden is relaunching today. Ladar Levison, the founder of the encrypted email service Lavabit, announced on Friday that he's relaunching the service with a new architecture that fixes the SSL problem and includes other privacy-enhancing features as well, such as one that obscures the metadata on emails to prevent government agencies like the NSA and FBI from being able to find out with whom Lavabit users communicate. In addition, he's also announcing plans to roll out end-to-end encryption later this year. The Intercept provides some backstory in its report: In 2013, [Levison] took the defiant step of shutting down the company's service rather than comply with a federal law enforcement request that could compromise its customers' communications. The FBI had sought access to the email account of one of Lavabit's most prominent users -- Edward Snowden. Levison had custody of his service's SSL encryption key that could help the government obtain Snowden's password. And though the feds insisted they were only after Snowden's account, the key would have helped them obtain the credentials for other users as well. Lavabit had 410,000 user accounts at the time. Rather than undermine the trust and privacy of his users, Levison ended the company's email service entirely, preventing the feds from getting access to emails stored on his servers. But the company's users lost access to their accounts as well. Levison, who became a hero of the privacy community for his tough stance, has spent the last three years trying to ensure he'll never have to help the feds break into customer accounts again. "The SSL key was our biggest threat," he says.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Apple is suing Qualcomm for roughly $1 billion, saying Qualcomm has been "charging royalties for technologies they have nothing to do with." The suit follows the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's lawsuit against Qualcomm earlier this week over unfair patent licensing practices. Apple says that Qualcomm has taken "radical steps," including "withholding nearly $1 billion in payments from Apple as retaliation for responding truthfully to law enforcement agencies investigating them." Apple added, "Despite being just one of over a dozen companies who contributed to basic cellular standards, Qualcomm insists on charging Apple at least five times more in payments than all the other cellular patent licensors we have agreements with combined." Apple also alleges that once it began cooperating with Korean authorities' antitrust investigation of Qualcomm, the company withheld $1 billion in retaliation. Korean regulators fined Qualcomm $854 million for unfair trade practices in December.
Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to "America First" policies at home and abroad. Reuters reports: As scattered protests erupted elsewhere in Washington, Trump raised his right hand and put his left on a Bible used by Abraham Lincoln and repeated a 35-word oath of office from the U.S. Constitution, with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts presiding.
Uber is paying $20 million to settle allegations that it duped people into driving for its ride-hailing service with false promises about how much they would earn and how much they would have to pay to finance a car. From a report: The FTC claimed that Uber was advertising an annual median income of over $90,000 per year for uberX drivers in New York and more than $74,000 for uberX drivers in San Francisco. But, as the commission found out, less than 10 percent of all drivers in those cities actually make that much. The complaint also alleges that Uber was inflating the hourly earnings on job boards like Craigslist. New drivers who financed a new car through Uber's Vehicle Solutions Program found out the company's claims were too good to be true as well. Although Uber told new drivers they would be able to lease a new car for around $119 per week, the actual lease rates never dipped below $200 from late 2013 to April 2015. And, despite its promise of delivering "the best financing options available," it turns out that Uber's rates were actually worse than consumers with similar credit scores could have gotten elsewhere. Adding insult to overpriced injury, Uber tacked on mileage limits to lease agreements that were advertised with unlimited mileage.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The Scottish government has outlined a new target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 66% by 2032. Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham set out the government's draft climate change plan for the next 15 years at Holyrood. She also targeted a fully-decarbonized electricity sector and 80% of domestic heat coming from low-carbon sources. Ministers committed last year to cut harmful CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, with a new interim target of 50% by 2020. The previous interim target of 42% was met in 2014 -- six years early. However, the independent Committee on Climate Change said the decrease was largely down to a warmer than average winter reducing the demand for heating. Ms Cunningham said the new targets demonstrated "a new level of ambition" to build a low-carbon economy and a healthier Scotland. Goals to be achieved by 2032 include: Cutting greenhouse emissions by 66%; A fully-decarbonized electricity sector; 80% of domestic heat to come from low-carbon heat technologies; Proportion of ultra-low emission new cars and vans registered in Scotland annually to hit 40%; 250,000 hectares of degraded peatlands restored; Annual woodland creation target increased to at least 15,000 hectares per year. The 172-page document sets a road map for decarbonizing Scotland. The aim -- although not new -- is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds by 2032. Among the policies are making half of Scotland's buses low-carbon, full-decarbonizing the electricity sector and making 80% of homes heated by low-carbon technologies.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A South Korean court on Thursday dismissed an arrest warrant against the head of Samsung Group, the country's largest conglomerate, amid a graft scandal that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. But the reprieve for Jay Y. Lee, 48, may only be temporary, as the special prosecutor's office said it would pursue the case. Lee, who has led Samsung since his father, Lee Kun-hee, suffered a heart attack in 2014, was still likely to face the same charges of bribery, embezzlement and perjury, legal analysts said, even if he is not detained. The special prosecutor's office said it would be continuing its probe but had not decided whether to make another arrest warrant request, and the setback would not change its plans to investigate other conglomerates. Spokesman Lee Kyu-chul said the prosecution was unconvinced by the Samsung chief's argument that he was a victim of coercion due to pressure from Park. The office has accused Lee of paying multi-million dollar bribes to Park's confidant, Choi Soon-sil, the woman at the heart of the scandal, to win support from the National Pension Service for a controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung Group affiliates. The merger helped cement Lee's control over the smartphones-to-biopharmaceuticals business empire.
mmell writes: Apparently, owning 700 acres of land in Hawaii isn't enough -- Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has filed suit to force owners of several small parcels of land to sell to the highest bidder. The reason? These property owners are completely surrounded by Zuckerberg's land holdings and therefore have lawful easement to cross his property in order to get to theirs. Many of these land owners have held their land for generations, but seemingly Mr. Zuckerberg can not tolerate their presence so close to his private little slice of paradise. Landowners such as these came to own their land when their ancestors were "given" the land as Hawaiian natives. If successful in his "quiet title" court action, Mr. Zuckerberg will finally have his slice of Hawaii's beaches and tropical lands without having to deal with the pesky presence of neighbors who were on his land before he owned it. Who knew that Hawaiians were just another kind of Native Americans? CNBC reports: "The cases target a dozen small plots of so-called 'kuleana' lands that are inside the much larger property that Zuckerberg bought on Kauai. Kuleana lands are properties that were granted to native Hawaiians in the mid-1800. One suit, according to the Star-Advertiser, was filed against about 300 people who are descendants of an immigrant Portuguese sugar cane plantation worker who bought four parcels totaling two acres of land in 1894. One of that worker's great-grandchildren, Carlos Andrade, 72, lived on the property until recently, the paper said. But the retired university professor told the Star-Advertiser that he is helping Zuckerberg's case as a co-plaintiff in an effort to make sure the land is not surrendered to the county if no one in his extended clan steps up to take responsibility for paying property taxes on the plots."
Nearly a third of all US adults admit to having downloaded or streamed pirated movies or TV-shows, a new survey has found. Even though many are aware that watching pirated content is not permitted, a large number of pirates are particularly hard to deter. According to a report from TorrentFreak: This is one of the main conclusions of research conducted by anti-piracy firm Irdeto, which works with prominent clients including Twentieth Century Fox and Starz. Through YouGov, the company conducted a representative survey of over 1,000 respondents which found that 32 percent of all US adults admit to streaming or downloading pirated video content. These self-confessed pirates are interested in a wide variety of video content. TV-shows and movies that still play in theaters are on the top of the list for many, with 24 percent each, but older movies, live sports and Netflix originals are mentioned as well. The data further show that the majority of US adults (69%) know that piracy is illegal. Interestingly, this also means that a large chunk of the population believes that they're doing nothing wrong.
Amazon is working on self-driving cars, according to a new patent that deals with the complex task of navigating reversible lanes. From a report on The Guardian: The patent, filed in November 2015 and granted on Tuesday, covers the problem of how to deal with reversible lanes, which change direction depending on the bulk of the traffic flow. This type of lane is typically used to manage commuter traffic into and out of cities, particularly in the US. Autonomous vehicles, the patent warns, "may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lane", leading to a worst-case scenario of them driving headfirst into oncoming traffic. More generally, the inability to plan for reversible lanes means cars and trucks can't optimize their routes by getting into the correct lane well in advance, something that could otherwise prove to be one of the benefits of self-driving cars. Amazon's solution to the problem could have much larger ramifications than simply dealing with highway traffic in large cities. The patent proposes a centralized roadway management system that can communicate with multiple self-driving cars to exchange information and coordinate vehicle movement at a large scale.
President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning's prison sentence yesterday, reducing her time required to serve behind bars from 35 years to just over seven years. Prior to the commutation, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Roughly 24 hours have passed since the news broke and it appears that Assange will not hand himself in to the Department of Justice. The Independent reports: Mr Assange's lawyers initially seemed to suggest that promise would be carried through -- telling reporters that he stood by his earlier comments -- but it appears now that Mr Assange will stay inside the embassy. The commitment to accept extradition to the U.S. was based on Ms Manning being released immediately, Mr Assange's lawyer told The Hill. Ms Manning won't actually be released until May -- to allow for a standard 120-day transition period, which gives people time to prepare and find somewhere to live, an official told The New York Times for its original report about Ms Manning's clemency. "Mr. Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning's sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought," Barry Pollack, Assange's U.S.-based attorney, told the site. "Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately."
wiredmikey writes: Security researchers have a uncovered a Mac OS based espionage malware they have named "Quimitchin." The malware is what they consider to be "the first Mac malware of 2017," which appears to be a classic espionage tool. While it has some old code and appears to have existed undetected for some time, it works. It was discovered when an IT admin noticed unusual traffic coming from a particular Mac, and has been seen infecting Macs at biomedical facilities. From SecurityWeek.com: "Quimitchin comprises just two files: a .plist file that simply keeps the .client running at all times, and the .client file containing the payload. The latter is a 'minified and obfuscated' perl script that is more novel in design. It combines three components, Thomas Reed, director of Mac offerings at Malwarebytes and author of the blog post told SecurityWeek: 'a Mac binary, another perl script and a Java class tacked on at the end in the __DATA__ section of the main perl script. The script extracts these, writes them to /tmp/ and executes them.' Its primary purpose seems to be screen captures and webcam access, making it a classic espionage tool. Somewhat surprisingly the code uses antique system calls. 'These are some truly ancient functions, as far as the tech world is concerned, dating back to pre-OS X days,' he wrote in the blog post. 'In addition, the binary also includes the open source libjpeg code, which was last updated in 1998.' The script also contains Linux shell commands. Running the malware on a Linux machine, Malwarebytes 'found that -- with the exception of the Mach-O binary -- everything ran just fine.' It is possible that there is a specific Linux variant of the malware in existence -- but the researchers have not been able to find one. It did find two Windows executable files, courtesy of VirusTotal, that communicated with the same CC server. One of them even used the same libjpeg library, which hasn't been updated since 1998, as that used by Quimitchin."
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Shortly after the American College of Education (ACE) in Indiana fired IT administrator Triano Williams in April, 2016, it found that it no longer had any employees with admin access to the Google email service used by the school. In a lawsuit [PDF] filed against Williams in July, 2016, the school alleges that it asked Williams to return his work laptop, which was supposed to have the password saved. But when Williams did so in May that year, the complaint says, the computer was returned wiped, with a new operating system, and damaged to the point it could no longer be used. ACE claimed that its students could not access their Google-hosted ACE email accounts or their online coursework. The school appealed to Google, but Google at the time refused to help because the ACE administrator account had been linked to William's personal email address. "By setting up the administrator account under a non-ACE work email address, Mr Williams violated ACE's standard protocol with respect to administrator accounts," the school's complaint states. "ACE was unaware that Mr Williams' administrator account was not linked to his work address until after his employment ended." According to the school's court filing, Williams, through his attorney, said he would help the school reinstate its Google administrator account, provided the school paid $200,000 to settle his dispute over the termination of his employment. That amount is less than half the estimated $500,000 in harm the school says it has suffered due to its inability to access its Google account, according to a letter from William's attorney in Illinois, Calvita J Frederick. Frederick's letter claims that another employee set up the Google account and made Williams an administrator, but not the controlling administrator. It says the school locked itself out of the admin account through too many failed password attempts. Williams, in a counter-suit [PDF] filed last month, claims his termination followed from a pattern of unlawful discrimination by the school in the wake of a change in management. Pointing to the complaint she filed with the court in Illinois, Frederick said Williams wrote a letter [PDF] to a supervisor complaining about the poor race relations at the school and, as a result of that letter, he was told he had to relocate to Indianapolis.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Oracle is being sued by the Labor Department for paying white men more than their counterparts and for favoring Asian workers when recruiting and hiring for technical roles. The administrative lawsuit is the latest from the Labor Department to take aim at the human resources practices of major technology companies. The Labor Department warned the lawsuit could cost Oracle hundreds of millions in federal contracts. Oracle makes software and hardware used by the federal government. "The complaint is politically motivated, based on false allegations, and wholly without merit," Oracle spokesman Deborah Hellinger said in a statement. "Oracle values diversity and inclusion, and is a responsible equal opportunity and affirmative action employer. Our hiring and pay decisions are non-discriminatory and made based on legitimate business factors including experience and merit." The lawsuit is the result of an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs review of Oracle's equal employment opportunity practices, the Labor Department said. According to the lawsuit, Oracle America paid white male workers more, leading to pay discrimination against women, African American and Asian employees. The Labor Department also accused Oracle of favoring Asians for product development and other technical roles, resulting in discrimination against non-Asian applicants. Oracle refused to comply with the Labor Department's investigation, which began in 2014, such as refusing to provide compensation data for all employees, complete hiring data for certain business lines and employee complaints of discrimination, according to the federal agency.
About 13 million pages of declassified documents from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been released online. The records include UFO sightings and psychic experiments from the Stargate programme, which has long been of interest to conspiracy theorists. From a report on BBC: The move came after lengthy efforts from freedom of information advocates and a lawsuit against the CIA. The full archive is made up of almost 800,000 files. They had previously only been accessible at the National Archives in Maryland. The trove includes the papers of Henry Kissinger, who served as secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, as well as several hundred thousand pages of intelligence analysis and science research and development.
A power blackout in Ukraine's capital Kiev last month was caused by a cyber attack and investigators are trying to trace other potentially infected computers and establish the source of the breach, utility Ukrenergo told Reuters on Wednesday. From the report: When the lights went out in northern Kiev on Dec. 17-18, power supplier Ukrenergo suspected a cyber attack and hired investigators to help it determine the cause following a series of breaches across Ukraine. Preliminary findings indicate that workstations and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, linked to the 330 kilowatt sub-station "North", were influenced by external sources outside normal parameters, Ukrenergo said in comments emailed to Reuters. "The analysis of the impact of symptoms on the initial data of these systems indicates a premeditated and multi-level invasion," Ukrenergo said.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: A Dutch developer illegally accessed the accounts of over 20,000 users after he allegedly collected their login information via backdoors installed on websites he built. According to an official statement, Dutch police officials are now in the process of notifying these victims about the crook's actions. The hacker, yet to be named by Dutch authorities, was arrested on July 11, 2016, at a hotel in Zwolle, the Netherlands, and police proceeded to raid two houses the crook owned, in Leeuwarden and Sneek. According to Dutch police, the 35-years-old suspect was hired to build e-commerce sites for various companies. After doing his job, the developer also left backdoors in those websites, which he used to install various scripts that allowed him to collect information on the site's users. Police say that it's impossible to determine the full breadth of his hacking campaign, but evidence found on his laptop revealed he gained access to over 20,000 email accounts. Authorities say the hacker used his access to these accounts to read people's private email conversations, access their social media profiles, sign-up for gambling sites with the victim's credentials, and access online shopping sites to make purchases for himself using the victim's funds.
Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
The New York Times is reporting that President Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning's sentence. What this translates to is a reduced sentence for Manning, from 35 years to just over seven years. Since Manning has already served a majority of those years, she is due to be released from federal custody on May 17th. The Verge reports: While serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Manning leaked more than 700,000 documents to Wikileaks, including video of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters employees. In 2013, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in the leak and has been held at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth for the past three years. Julian Assange, who has long been sought by U.S. and EU authorities for extradition on Swedish rape charges, had previously pledged to surrender himself to U.S. authorities if Manning was pardoned. Born Bradley Manning, Chelsea announced her gender transition the day after the verdict was handed down. "I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female," she said in a statement. "Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible." Obtaining the resulting medical treatments was extremely difficult for Manning, and was the subject of significant and sustained activism. After a lawsuit, Manning was approved for hormone therapy in 2015. In September 2016, she launched a hunger strike, demanding access to gender reassignment surgery; the military complied five days later.