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Space

China's Giant Radio Telescope Begins Searching For Signals From Space (ctvnews.ca) 47

Years of work and millions of dollars later, China finished its alien-hunting telescope in May this year. Now the country says its telescope has begun its operation. The company flipped the switch over the weekend, hoping to find signals from stars and galaxies -- and more importantly from extraterrestrial life. The telescope also illustrates China's growing ambition to stay among the frontrunners in space efforts. AP reports: Beijing has poured billions into such ambitious scientific projects as well as its military-backed space program, which saw the launch of China's second space station earlier this month. Measuring 500 metres in diameter, the radio telescope is nestled in a natural basin within a stunning landscape of lush green karst formations in southern Guizhou province. It took five years and $180 million to complete and surpasses that of the 300-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a dish used in research on stars that led to a Nobel Prize. The official Xinhua News Agency said hundreds of astronomers and enthusiasts watched the launch of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope, or FAST, in the county of Pingtang. Researchers quoted by state media said FAST would search for gravitational waves, detect radio emissions from stars and galaxies and listen for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life. "The ultimate goal of FAST is to discover the laws of the development of the universe," Qian Lei, an associate researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told state broadcaster CCTV. "In theory, if there is civilization in outer space, the radio signal it sends will be similar to the signal we can receive when a pulsar (spinning neutron star) is approaching us," Qian said.
Education

How ITT Tech Screwed Students and Made Millions (gizmodo.com) 330

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares "a grim story about a company that screwed poor people, military veterans, and taxpayers to turn a profit." Gizmodo reports: By the time ITT Technical Institute closed its doors earlier this month, the for-profit college had been selling tenuous diplomas at exorbitant prices for more than 20 years...burying low-income and first-generation students in insurmountable debt, and evading regulators since the early 1990s...
ITT collected $178 million over two years just in federal education funding for veterans -- even while the company projected 33% of its students would ultimately default on their loans -- and last year 70% of the school's total revenue came directly from federal financial aid programs. Gizmodo spoke to one student who "will now spend the rest of his life paying back loans for a degree that is practically useless," after compounding interest turned his $70,000 loan into $200,000 in debt. "Like all of the former students interviewed by Gizmodo, he was placed in a job that did not require professional training" -- specifically, a game-testing position that didn't even require a high school diploma, while ITT "placed" another student in a $5.95-an-hour telemarketing job. Her assessment of ITT? "It was totally worthless."
China

Taiwan Asks Google To Blur Its Military Facilities In South China Sea (nbcnews.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Taiwan's defense ministry said on Wednesday it is asking Google to blur satellite images showing what experts say appear to be new military installations on Itu Aba, Taipei's sole holding in the disputed South China Sea. The revelation of new military-related construction could raise tensions in the contested waterway, where China's building of airstrips and other facilities has worried other claimants and the United States. The images seen on Google Earth show four three-pronged structures sitting in a semi-circle just off the northwestern shoreline of Itu Aba, across from an upgraded airstrip and recently constructed port that can dock 3,000-ton frigates. "Under the pre-condition of protecting military secrets and security, we have requested Google blur images of important military facilities," Taiwan Defense Ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said on Wednesday, after local media published the images on Itu Aba. The United States has urged against the militarization of the South China Sea, following the rapid land reclamation by China on several disputed reefs through dredging, and building air fields and port facilities. Defense experts in Taiwan said that based on the imagery of the structures and their semi-circular layout, the structures were likely related to defense and could be part of an artillery foundation.
Privacy

Assange Agrees to US Prison If Obama Pardons Chelsea Manning (theverge.com) 401

"If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to U.S. prison in exchange -- despite its clear unlawfulness," Wikileaks announced on Twitter Thursday. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Verge: WikiLeaks' statement was released one day before a Swedish appeals court decided to maintain a warrant for Assange's arrest over a 2010 rape charge. Assange has said that extradition to Sweden would lead to his eventual extradition to the US, where he could face charges related to WikiLeaks' publication of secret government documents... Assange has been living in political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012...

Chelsea Manning, a former US Army private, was convicted in 2013 for providing a trove of documents and videos to WikiLeaks, and is currently serving a 35-year sentence at the US Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was hospitalized after a reported suicide attempt in July, and this month went on a hunger strike to seek treatment for her gender dysphoria. Manning ended her hunger strike this week after the military agreed to allow her to have gender reassignment surgery. She still faces indefinite solitary confinement due to administrative charges related to her suicide attempt.

The tweet also included a link to a letter from Assange's attorney, Barry Pollack, calling on the Justice Department to be more transparent about its investigation into WikiLeaks -- and citing the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information. "Director Comey made it clear his conclusion was based on the necessity of proving criminal intent [and] noted that responsible prosecutors consider the context of a person's actions... Criminal prosecution is appropriate only when a person...was intending to aid enemies of the United States or was attempting to obstruct justice."
Robotics

Robot Snatches Rifle From Barricaded Suspect, Ends Standoff (latimes.com) 129

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes the L.A. Times: An hours-long standoff in the darkness of the high desert came to a novel end when Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies used a robot to stealthily snatch a rifle from an attempted murder suspect, authorities said Thursday. Officials said the use of the robot to disarm a violent suspect was unprecedented for the Sheriff's Department, and comes as law enforcement agencies increasingly rely on military-grade technology to reduce the risk of injury during confrontations with civilians.

"The robot was a game changer here," said Capt. Jack Ewell, a tactical expert with the Sheriff's Department -- the largest sheriff's department in the nation. "We didn't have to risk a deputy's life to disarm a very violent man."

It was only later when the robot came back to also pull down a wire barricade that the 51-year-old suspect realized his gun was gone.
China

China's Atomic Clock in Space Will Stay Accurate For a Billion Years (rt.com) 111

The space laboratory that China launched earlier this week has an atomic clock in it which is more accurate than the best timepiece operated by America's National Institute of Standards and Technology, according to Chinese engineers. The atomic called, dubbed CACS or Cold Atomic Clock in Space, will slow down by only one second in a billion years. In comparison, the NIST's F2 atomic clock, which serves as the United States' primary time and frequency standard, loses a second every 300 million years. From an RT report:"It is the world's first cold atomic clock to operate in space... it will have military and civilian applications," said Professor Xu Zhen from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, who was involved in the CACS project. An atomic clock uses vibrations of atoms to measure time, which are very consistent as long as the atoms are held at constant temperature. In fact, since 1967 the definition of second has been "9,192,631,770 vibrations of a cesium-133 atom." In a cold atomic clock, the atoms are cooled down with a laser to decrease the effect of atom movement on the measurements. CACS goes even further and eliminates the pull of Earth's gravity by being based in orbit.
The Military

The US Government Is Building A 'Drone Dragnet' For Battlefields (thestack.com) 25

The US government plans to launch "a three and a half year initiative to develop an urban drone detection system." An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: The Aerial Dragnet program is to use off-the-shelf commercial components and mostly established technologies and methods to create a network of floating or tethered platforms that will ultimately provide 95% efficient drone identification in urban areas up to 180 square kilometers. The call to proposers states that the total cost of the system for a city should be around $90,000, and would likely include the ability to identify the micro-Doppler signatures given off by UAVs -- and birds.
Unmanned aerial systems are becoming platforms "for hostile reconnaissance, targeting, and weapon delivery," warns the government document, noting drones are hard to detect because they're small and fly slowly at low altitudes. "In future urban battlegrounds, U.S. forces will be placed at risk by small UAVs which use buildings and naturally-occurring motion of the clutter to make surveillance impractical..."
The Military

Air Force Grounds $400 Billion F-35s Because of 'Peeling and Crumbling' Insulation (washingtonpost.com) 192

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the Washington Post: Less than two months after declaring the controversial F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ready for combat, the Air Force on Friday announced that it was temporarily grounding 15 of the jets after it discovered that insulation was "peeling and crumbling" inside the fuel tanks. The setback is the latest for the $400 billion system, the most expensive in the history of the Pentagon. The problem comes as the program, which for years faced billions of dollars in cost overruns and significant schedule delays, had begun to make strides.

The insulation problem affects a total of 57 aircraft, the Air Force said, 42 of which are still in production... In a statement, Lockheed Martin said that "the issue is confined to one supplier source and one batch of parts." It emphasized that "this is not a technical or design issue; it is a supply chain manufacturing quality issue..." It is unclear how long the aircraft would be grounded, how long the problem would take to fix or what the larger affect on the program would be.

âoeWhile nearing completion, the F-35 is still in development, and challenges are to be expected," said an Air Force spokeswoman, adding "The F-35 program has a proven track record of solving issues as they arise, and we're confident we'll continue to do so."
Security

Alleged Hacker Lauri Love To Be Extradited To US (bbc.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: An autistic man suspected of hacking into U.S. government computer systems is to be extradited from Britain to face trial, a court has ruled. Lauri Love, 31, who has Asperger's syndrome, is accused of hacking into the FBI, the U.S. central bank and the country's missile defense agency. Mr Love, from Stradishall, Suffolk, has previously said he feared he would die in a U.S. prison if he was extradited. Earlier, his lawyer said his alleged hacking had "embarrassed" U.S. authorities. Tor Ekeland said the U.S. government "had very, very bad security and these hacks utilized exploits that were publicly-known for months." Mr Love's lawyers said he could face up to 99 years in prison if convicted of the hacking offenses. Mr Love's defense team argues his depression and Asperger's syndrome mean he should not be sent abroad, but U.S. prosecutors say he is using his mental health issues as an excuse to escape justice.
Government

House Committee: Edward Snowden's Leaks Did 'Tremendous Damage' (nbcnews.com) 278

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: The U.S. House intelligence committee on Thursday unanimously approved a blistering report on the activities of Edward Snowden, saying his disclosures of top-secret documents and programs did "tremendous damage" to national security. "The public narrative popularized by Snowden and his allies is rife with falsehoods, exaggerations, and crucial omissions," said the report by staff members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Contrary to Snowden's statements that he intended to reveal programs that intruded on the privacy of Americans, the House report concluded that the vast majority of the 1.5 million documents he stole "have nothing to do with programs impacting individual privacy interests. They instead pertain to military, defense, and intelligence programs of great interest to America's adversaries." The report said Snowden did not, as he claimed, try to express his concerns about potentially illegal intelligence gathering in a way that would qualify him as a whistleblower. The report was disputed by Snowden's ACLU-provided attorney. "This is a dishonest report that attempts to discredit a genuine American hero," said Wizner. "But after years of 'investigation,' the committee still can't point to any remotely credible evidence that Snowden's disclosures caused harm. The truth is that Edward Snowden and the journalists with whom he worked did the job that the House Intelligence Committee was supposed to do: bring meaningful oversight to the U.S. Intelligence community. They did so responsibly and carefully, and their efforts have led to historic reforms."
Security

Someone Is Learning How To Take Down the Internet, Warns Bruce Schneier (schneier.com) 237

Some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them, says Bruce Schneier. He adds that these attacks are of much larger scale -- including the duration -- than the ones we have seen previously. These attacks, he adds, are also designed to test what all defense measures a company has got -- and they ensure that the company uses every they have got, leaving them with no choice but to demonstrate their defense capabilities to the attacker. He hasn't specifically shared details about the organizations that are under attack, but what little he has elaborated should give us a chill. From his blog post: [...] This all is consistent with what Verisign is reporting. Verisign is the registrar for many popular top-level Internet domains, like .com and .net. If it goes down, there's a global blackout of all websites and e-mail addresses in the most common top-level domains. Every quarter, Verisign publishes (PDF) a DDoS trends report. While its publication doesn't have the level of detail I heard from the companies I spoke with, the trends are the same: "in Q2 2016, attacks continued to become more frequent, persistent, and complex." There's more. One company told me about a variety of probing attacks in addition to the DDoS attacks: testing the ability to manipulate internet addresses and routes, seeing how long it takes the defenders to respond, and so on. Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services. Who would do this? It doesn't seem like something an activist, criminal, or researcher would do. Profiling core infrastructure is common practice in espionage and intelligence gathering. It's not normal for companies to do that. Furthermore, the size and scale of these probes -- and especially their persistence -- points to state actors. It feels like a nation's military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar. It reminds me of the US's Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities.
Government

North Korea Conducts Fifth Nuclear Test -- The Largest One Yet (cnn.com) 243

TMB writes: As reported by CNN, North Korea has conducted its 5th nuclear test, the largest yet at 10 kilotons. Before the test was reported, Slashdot reader hcs_$reboot reported: A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has been detected in North Korea, amid reports the country had been preparing for its fifth nuclear test. South Korea's Yonhap news agency said it had been an "artificial quake." The U.S. Geological Survey said the tremor had been detected in the north-east of North Korea, close to a known nuclear test site. The earthquake occurred close to the surface, the USGS said. The shallow depth and precise timing of the quake suggests it was man-made. North Korea says it has tested a nuclear warhead and that the test showed the warhead "has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets."
Government

White House Names Retired Air Force General As First Cyber Security Chief (reuters.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The White House on Thursday named a retired U.S. Air Force general as the government's first federal cyber security chief, a position announced eight months ago that is intended to improve defenses against hackers. Gregory Touhill's job will be to protect government networks and critical infrastructure from cyber threats as federal chief information security officer, according to a statement. President Barack Obama announced the new position in February alongside a budget proposal to Congress asking for $19 billion for cyber security across the U.S. government. Touhill is currently a deputy assistant secretary for cyber security and communications at the Department of Homeland Security. He will begin his new role later this month, a source familiar with the matter said. Grant Schneider, who is the director of cyber security policy at the White House's National Security Council, will be acting deputy to Touhill, according to the announcement. wiredmikey adds from a report via SecurityWeek.Com: The White House today announced that Brigadier General (retired) Gregory J. Touhill has been named the first Federal Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Back in February, President Barack Obama unveiled a cybersecurity "national action plan" (CNAP) which called for an overhaul of aging government networks and a high-level commission to boost security awareness. As part of the plan, the White House said it would hire a federal CISO to direct cybersecurity across the federal government. General Touhill is currently the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications in the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The key hire comes at a time when the government needs cybersecurity talent more than ever. Earlier this week a report published by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee said the data breaches disclosed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) last year were a result of culture and leadership failures, and should not be blamed on technology.
China

China Plans To Build A Deep-Sea 'Space Station' In South China Sea (huffingtonpost.co.uk) 73

China is ramping up its space efforts, it appears. A Chinese company named KuangChi Science plans to launch balloons from Hangzhou, in eastern China. HuffingtonPost reports: China is stepping up efforts to build a deep-sea underwater 'space station' in the South China Sea. If the plans go ahead, the station would be located 3000 metres below the surface, inhabited by humans, and would be used to hunt for minerals. There are also concerns that it would be used for military purposes in territories that are hotly contested between China and other nations, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. The news comes from a Science Ministry presentation that revealed China's current five-year economic plan (till 2020). Despite no further details or blueprints being made public, the presentation ranked this project as second in a list of 100 science and technology priorities according to Bloomberg.
Robotics

Pentagon Chiefs Fear Advanced Robot Weapons Wiping Out Humanity (mirror.co.uk) 265

Longtime reader schwit1 writes: Huge technological leaps forward in drones, artificial intelligence and autonomous weapon systems must be addressed before humanity is driven to extinction, say chiefs of Pentagon
From a report: Air Force General Paul Selva, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the US Defense Department, said so-called thinking weapons could lead to: "Robotic systems to do lethal harm... a Terminator without a conscience." When asked about robotic weapons able to make their own decisions, he said: "Our job is to defeat the enemy" but "it is governed by law and by convention." He says the military insists on keeping humans in the decision-making process to "inflict violence on the enemy. [...] That ethical boundary is the one we've draw a pretty fine line on. It's one we must consider in developing these new weapons," he added. Selva said the Pentagon must reach out to artificial intelligence tech firms that are not necessarily "military-oriented" to develop new systems of command and leadership models, reports US Naval Institute News .
Government

The Unsettling Relationship Between Russia and Wikileaks (dailymail.co.uk) 271

schnell writes: The New York Times is reporting on the informal but seemingly symbiotic relationship between Russian hackers attacking American targets and Wikileaks (Warning: may be paywalled) as their favorite spot for disseminating the embarrassing results. New York Times reports: "American officials say Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks probably have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services. But the agendas of WikiLeaks and the Kremlin have often dovetailed." When it comes to embarrassing the U.S. government, Russia and Wikileaks' Julian Assange doubtlessly have common interests. But the reporters' analysis of leaks over the past several years raises a question of whether this is just a natural alliance of a source for incriminating documents and a motivated publisher, or does Wikileaks focus on the U.S. and downplay revelations about authoritarian regimes like Russia's as a result of the cozy relationship? nickovs adds: The New York Times is reporting how Russia often benefits when Julian Assange reveals the West's secrets. The article discusses Assange's change in stance regarding Russia over the years and how the Kremlin appears to support, and benefit from, the leaks that he publishes. The New York Times reports: "United States officials say they believe with a high degree of confidence that the Democratic Party material was hacked by the Russian government, and suspect that the codes may have been stolen by the Russians as well. That raises a question: Has WikiLeaks become a laundering machine for compromising material gathered by Russian spies? And more broadly, what precisely is the relationship between Mr. Assange and Mr. Putin's Kremlin?" Daily Mail (non paywalled source) reports: "In 2010 Assange was arrested in London on allegations of rape stemming from Sweden and released on bail. He described the arrest as a plot to extradite him to the U.S. where he could be investigated over the diplomatic cables leak, which greatly harmed American relations with the rest of the world while Clinton was Secretary of State. Putin also called the charges against Assange 'politically motivated' and said he is being 'persecuted for spreading the information he received from the U.S. military regarding the actions of the USA in the Middle East, including Iraq.' Russian officials have also suggested that Assange be given a Nobel Prize, and in 2012 paid to stream his TV show on state-backed network Russia Today. The Times also claims that Assange was offered a visa by Russia in 2011, though WikiLeaks has denounced this as false..."
The Courts

Revived Lawsuit Says Twitter DMs Are Like Handing ISIS a Satellite Phone (theverge.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A long-standing lawsuit holding Twitter responsible for the rise of ISIS got new life today, as plaintiffs filed a revised version of the complaint (PDF) that was struck down earlier this month. In the new complaint, the plaintiffs argue Twitter's Direct Message service is akin to providing ISIS with physical communications equipment like a radio or a satellite phone. The latest complaint is largely the same as the one filed in January, but a few crucial differences will be at the center of the court's response. The plaintiffs also offer new arguments for why Twitter might be held responsible for the attack. In the dismissal earlier this month (PDF), District Judge William Orrick faulted the plaintiffs for not articulating a case for why providing access to Twitter's services constituted material aid to ISIS. "Apart from the private nature of Direct Messaging, plaintiffs identify no other way in which their Direct Messaging theory seeks to treat Twitter as anything other than a publisher of information provided by another information content provider," the ruling reads. At the same time, the judge found that the privacy of those direct messages "does not remove the transmission of such messages from the scope of publishing activity." The new complaint includes some language that might address that concern, explicitly comparing Twitter to other material communication tools. "Giving ISIS the capability to send and receive Direct Messages in this manner is no different than handing it a satellite phone, walkie-talkies or the use of a mail drop," the new complaint reads, "all of which terrorists use for private communications in order to further their extremist agendas." The Safe Harbor clause has been used in the past to protect service providers from liability for hosting data on their network. However, "Brookings Institute scholar Benjamin Witters argued against protecting Twitter under the Safe Harbor clause, claiming that the current reasoning would also protect companies that actively offer services in support of terrorists."
United States

HAARP Holds Open House To Dispel Rumors Of Mind Control (adn.com) 148

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: HAARP -- the former Air Force/Navy/DARPA research program in Alaska -- will host an open house Saturday where "We hope to show people that it is not capable of mind control and not capable of weather control and all the other things it's been accused of..." said Sue Mitchell, spokesperson for the geophysical institute at the University of Alaska. "We hope that people will be able to see the actual science of it." HAARP, which was turned over to The University of Alaska last August, has been blamed for poor crop yields in Russia, with conspiracy theorists also warning of "a super weapon capable of mind control or weather control, with enough juice to trigger hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes."

The facility's 180 high-frequency antennas -- spread across 33 acres -- will be made available for public tours, and there will also be interactive displays and an unmanned aircraft 'petting zoo'. The Alaska Dispatch News describes it as "one of the world's few centers for high-power and high-frequency study of the ionosphere... important because radio waves used for communication and navigation reflect back to Earth, allowing long-distance, short-wave broadcasting."

Robotics

'Octobot' Is The World's First Soft-Bodied Robot (sciencemag.org) 44

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Researchers have created the first completely soft-bodied robot, dubbed the 'octobot.' The palm-sized machine's exterior is made of silicone. And whereas other soft robots have had at least a few hard parts, such as batteries or wires, the octobot uses a small reservoir of hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The basic design can be scaled up or down, increasing or decreasing fuel capacity depending on the robot's job. As the field of soft robotics advances, the scientists envision these robots being used for marine search and rescue, oceanic temperature sensing, and military surveillance. The report adds: "When the hydrogen peroxide washes over flecks of platinum embedded within the octobot, the resulting chemical reaction produces gas that inflates and flexes the robot's arms. As described online today in Nature, the gas flows through a series of 3D-printed pneumatic chambers that link the octobot's eight arms; their flexing propels it through water."
The Military

The US Army Has Too Many Video Games (vice.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard report:The US Army sees itself in a transitional period. Unlike a decade ago, soldiers are training less today on how to conduct "stability" operations for a counter-insurgency campaign, and more on what the Army does best: fighting other armies. But training is expensive and requires time and a lot of space. Training a gunner for an M-1 Abrams tank means reserving time on a limited number of ranges and expending real ammunition. So to lower costs and make training more efficient -- in theory -- the Army has adopted a variety of games to simulate war. There's just a few problems. Some of the Army's virtual simulators sit collecting dust, and one of them is more expensive and less effective than live training. At one base, soldiers preferred to play mouse-and-keyboard games over a more "realistic" virtual room. Then again, the Army has cooler games than you do. M-1 tank gunners, for example, can train inside a full-scale, computerized mock-up of their station called the Advanced Gunnery Training System, which comes inside a large transportable container. Instead of looking through real sights down a range, the soldier squints through a replica and sees a virtual simulacrum of, say, an enemy tank. Push a button and the "cannon" fires. The Army fields similar systems for the Stryker, a wheeled armored troop transport that fits an optional 105-millimeter gun. Soldiers train inside another simulated gunnery station for the M-2 Bradley fighting vehicle. Another system, Common Driver, simulates a variety of military vehicles.

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