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United States

McDonald's To Test Plastic-Straw Alternatives in US Later This Year (usatoday.com) 3

Under pressure by environmentalists, McDonald's has announced that it will start testing alternatives to plastic straws at select locations in the U.S. later this year. From a report: The burger giant also announced that it will adopt more eco-friendly paper straws across all its 1,361 restaurants in the United Kingdom and Ireland, a region where the company started testing the alternative to plastic straws earlier this year. The regional rollout begins in September. Single-use straws are the scourge of the packaging-waste world because they don't easily biodegrade and aren't really necessary for most people when it comes to gulping a soft drink. The activist group SumOfUs estimates that every day, McDonald's alone dispenses millions of plastic straws that customers soon discard, leaving them to litter beaches or clog waterways and fill trash dumps.
Government

Senate Votes To Reinstate ZTE Ban That's Nearly Shut Down the Company (theverge.com) 89

The U.S. Senate has voted to reinstate a ban on ZTE that prevents the Chinese telecom company from buying U.S. components and using U.S. software. As The Verge notes, "it's still not clear if the reversal will make it into law: it has to clear a conference with the House, and then avoid a veto from President Trump, who advocated for cutting a deal that would lift the ban." From the report: ZTE was hit with the trade ban by the U.S. Commerce Department in April after failing to following through with a punishment for violating sanctions on Iran and North Korea. That ban essentially shut down ZTE, which relies on U.S. parts like Qualcomm processors. Shortly thereafter, Trump said he would cut a deal to revive the company, and a deal was reached -- with additional penalties that the department said were uniquely stringent -- earlier this month.

But senators on both sides of the aisle immediately threatened to stop the deal and reinstate the ban, citing ZTE as a national security risk. And ultimately, a bipartisan group worked to get legislation introduced. The Senate voted 85 to 10 in support of reinstating the ban. It was included as an amendment on the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass piece of legislation that has already moved through the House.

The Courts

The Supreme Court Will Decide If Apple's App Store Is a Monopoly (wired.com) 161

The Supreme Court will review a 2011 class-action lawsuit against Apple, accusing the company of operating an illegal monopoly by not allowing iPhone users to download mobile apps outside of its own App Store, reducing consumer choice. The case, being referred to as Apple Inc. v. Pepper., could have wide-reaching implications for consumers as well as other companies like Amazon. Wired reports: The dispute is over whether Apple, by charging app developers a 30 percent commission fee and only allowing iOS apps to be sold through its own store, has inflated the price of iPhone apps. Apple, supported by the Trump administration, argues that the plaintiffs in the case -- iPhone consumers -- don't have the right to sue under current antitrust laws in the U.S.

The case marks a rare instance in which the court has agreed not only to hear an antitrust case, but also one where no current disagreement exists in the circuit courts. The outcome could change decades of antitrust legal precedent -- either strengthening or weakening consumer protections against monopolistic power. The case also represents a huge source of revenue for Apple; the company raked in an estimated $11 billion last year in App Store commissions alone.
The lawsuit centers around another Supreme Court case from 1977, Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, "which established what is known as the Illinois Brick Doctrine," reports Wired. "That rule says you can't sue for antitrust damages if you're not the direct purchaser of a good or service."
The Almighty Buck

Google To Invest $550 Million In Chinese E-Commerce Giant JD.com (yahoo.com) 26

hackingbear shares a report from Yahoo News: Google will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com, part of the U.S. internet giant's efforts to expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle rivals including Amazon.com. The two companies described the investment announced on Monday as one piece of a broader partnership that will include the promotion of JD.com products on Google's shopping service. This could help JD.com expand beyond its base in China and Southeast Asia and establish a meaningful presence in U.S. and European markets. For JD.com, the Google deal shows its determination to build a set of global alliances as it seeks to counter Alibaba, which has been more focused on forging domestic retail tie-ups.
The Military

President Trump Directs Pentagon To Create New 'Space Force' Military Branch (defensenews.com) 441

Gunfighter shares a report from Defense News: President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to sign an executive order directing the Pentagon to create a new "Space Force," a move that could radically transform the U.S. military by pulling space functions variously owned by the Air Force, Navy and other military branches into a single independent service.

"I am hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces," Trump said during a meeting of the National Space Council. "That's a big statement. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force. Separate but equal. It is going to be something. So important," Trump added. "General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored." Dunford responded in the affirmative, telling Trump, "We got you."
The oddity of Trump's statement was that it was followed up with a White House readout that "contained no language related to the creation of a new military branch, leaving open the question of whether Trump has actually issued formal guidance to the military," reports Defense News. It is believed that Trump still needs the support of Congress to actually establish a space force.
Media

YouTube Videos From Some High-Profile Channels Have Disappeared (venturebeat.com) 91

Late last week, YouTube videos from several high-profile channels began to mysteriously disappear, puzzling both the owners of those channels and viewers. Some of these channels include MIT Open Courseware, Blender Foundation, Jamendo Music, India's Press Information Bureau, soccer club Sparta Praha, and England Rugby. In a statement, MIT Open Courseware said, "You may have noticed that we are having some trouble with our videos! Please stand by. The elves are working around the clock to fix the issue. There is still a ton of content you can use on MIT OCW's website that doesn't have video. Hang in there folks!" Ton Roosendaal, the chairman of Blender Foundation, has been tweeting his frustration at YouTube. The issue, which per Roosendaal YouTube is aware of, is yet to be resolved at the time of publication.

TorrentFreak, a news website which covers piracy and copyright issues, speculates that YouTube's piracy filters could be the bottleneck here.

YouTube has addressed the issue, says it is working to bring the videos back online.
NASA

US Eyes Robot Moon Missions as it Prepares For Astronauts' Return (reuters.com) 84

The United States wants to send robotic explorers to the moon as soon as next year as a preparatory step toward sending astronauts back there for the first time since 1972, a NASA official said on Monday. From a report: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is planning a series of lunar missions beginning next year aimed at developing the capacity for a return to the moon, said Cheryl Warner, a spokeswoman for NASA's Human Exploration Directorate. NASA will work with private companies, which have not yet been chosen, on the missions, Warner said in a phone interview. U.S. President Donald Trump in December signed a directive that he said would enable astronauts to return to the moon and eventually lead a mission to Mars. Last month he ordered the government to review regulations on commercial space flights.
Earth

Dutch Town Uses High-Tech Streetlights To Keep Their Bats Happy 78

Since streetlights disturb bats' internal sensors and rhythms and affect their feeding patterns, inner compasses, and general nocturnal behaviors, the Dutch town of Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop is taking action. The town is using special streetlights that emit a red color and use a wavelength that doesn't interfere with a bat's internal compass and lets them feed undisturbed. The Next Web reports: The lights [developed by Signify and the University of Wageningen and other NGO's active in conservation], being both beneficial for bats and humans alike, are also proving to be extremely energy saving, and is therefore also a big plus for the environment and the town's carbon footprint. The lights are connected LED lights that can be controlled remotely. This means that if there is one particular neighborhood in need of more or less light, this can be adjusted as needed.

Zuidhoek-Nieuwkoop, due to their specific natural surroundings, is keen on being a sustainable town. The town and its surrounding area are part of the nature-protection network Natura 2000, which protects breeding and nesting areas for rare and threatened species all over Europe.
Earth

Fake Earthquake Detected In Mexico City After Player's Goal In World Cup Match (abc7.com) 210

According to officials in Mexico, an artificial earthquake was reported in Mexico City that was possibly caused by "massive jumps during the goal from the Mexico national soccer team" on Sunday. KABC reports: Hirving Lozano scored the lone goal in the 35th minute, picking up Javier Hernandez's pass inside the penalty area and beating Mesut Ozil before shooting past Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 10 yards. The goal decided the match -- a match Germany didn't expect to lose. Mexico upset Germany, the defending champion, 1-0. The loss meant Germany became the third defending champion in the last 16 years to lose its opening match at the World Cup. "Two monitoring stations in Mexico City picked up the temblor the same time Lozano scored, 35 minutes into the match," reports USA Today. "Seismologists in Chile also said that their instruments detected an artificial temblor at the same time."
The Almighty Buck

Venmo Is Going All In On Mobile Payments (appleinsider.com) 52

Venmo, the PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app, is ending web support for its service. When the changes are all rolled out, users will only be able to make payments and charge users via the iOS or Android app. TechCrunch reports: The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo's monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows: "NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website -- this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com website may be limited."

The decision represents a notable shift in product direction for Venmo. Though best known as a mobile payments app, the service has also been available online, similar to PayPal, for many years.

Security

US Government Finds New Malware From North Korea (engadget.com) 92

Days after the historic North Korea-United States summit, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on Thursday warning of a new variant of North Korean malware to look out for. Called Typeframe, the malware is able to download and install additional malware, proxies and trojans; modify firewalls; and connect to servers for additional instructions. Engadget reports: Since last May, the DHS has issued a slew of alerts and reports about North Korea's malicious cyber activity. The department also pointed out that North Korea has been hacking countries around the world since 2009. And of course, don't forget that the U.S. also labeled that country as the source of Wannacry cyberattack, which notably held data from the UK's National Health Service hostage, and wreaked havoc across Russia and Ukraine. CNN was first to report the news.
Power

America's Nuclear Reactors Can't Survive Without Government Handouts (fivethirtyeight.com) 442

Slashdot reader Socguy shares an article from FiveThirtyEight: There are 99 nuclear reactors producing electricity in the United States today. Collectively, they're responsible for producing about 20% of the electricity we use each year. But those reactors are, to put it delicately, of a certain age. The average age of a nuclear power plant in this country is 38 years old (compared with 24 years old for a natural gas power plant). Some are shutting down. New ones aren't being built. And the ones still operational can't compete with other sources of power on price... without some type of public assistance, the nuclear industry is likely headed toward oblivion....

[I]t's the cost of upkeep that's prohibitive. Things do fall apart -- especially things exposed to radiation on a daily basis. Maintenance and repair, upgrades and rejuvenation all take a lot of capital investment. And right now, that means spending lots of money on power plants that aren't especially profitable... Combine age and economic misfortune, and you get shuttered power plants. Twelve nuclear reactors have closed in the past 22 years. Another dozen have formally announced plans to close by 2025.

A professor of engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University points out that nuclear power is America's single largest source of carbon emissions-free electricity -- though since 1996, only one new plant has opened in America, and at least 10 other new reactor projects have been canceled in the past decade.

The article also describes two more Illinois reactors that avoided closure only after the state legislature offered new subsidies. "But as long as natural gas is cheap, the industry can't do without the handouts."
United Kingdom

Prosecution of UK News Photographer Collapses After Recording Disproves Police Testimony (wordpress.com) 205

Slashdot reader Andy Smith writes: Slashdot reported last September how I was arrested while standing in a field near a road accident, as I photographed the scene for a newspaper. I was initially given a police warning for "obstruction", but the warning was then cancelled and I was prosecuted for resisting arrest and breach of the peace. These are serious charges and I was facing a prison sentence. Fortunately we had one very strong piece of evidence: A recording of my arrest. Not only did the recording prove that two police officers' testimony was false, but it caught one of them boasting about how he had conspired with a prosecutor to arrest and prosecute me. Yesterday the case was dropped, and now the two police officers and the prosecutor face a criminal investigation.
Open Source

'Open Source Security' Loses in Court, Must Pay $259,900 To Bruce Perens (theregister.co.uk) 116

Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond -- and he's also Slashdot reader #3872. Now he's just won a legal victory in court. "Open Source Security, maker of the grsecurity Linux kernel patches, has been directed to pay Bruce Perens and his legal team almost $260,000 following a failed defamation claim," reports The Register. Slashdot reader Right to Opine writes: The order requires Spengler and his company to pay $259,900.50, with the bill due immediately rather than allowing a wait for the appeal of the case. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's attorneys will represent Perens during OSS/Spengler's appeal of the case.

Perens was sued for comments on his blog and here on Slashdot that suggested that OSS's Grsecurity product could be in violation of the GPL license on the Linux kernel. The court had previously ruled that Perens' statements were not defamatory, because they were statements by a non-attorney regarding an undecided issue in law. It is possible that Spengler is personally liable for any damages his small company can't pay, since he joined the case as an individual in order to preserve a claim of false light (which could not be brought by his company), removing his own corporate protection.

Open Source

Why OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority for the Open Source Community (linuxjournal.com) 120

"Despite its low profile, OpenStreetMap is arguably one of the most important projects for the future of free software," argues Glyn Moody, author of Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution, in a new Linux Journal article shared by long-time Slashdot reader carlie: The rise of mobile phones as the primary computing device for billions of people, especially in developing economies, lends a new importance to location and movement. Many internet services now offer additional features based on where users are, where they are going and their relative position to other members of social networks. Self-driving cars and drones are two rapidly evolving hardware areas where accurate geographical information is crucial. All of those things depend upon a map in critical ways, and they require large, detailed datasets. OpenStreetMap is the only truly global open alternative to better-known, and much better-funded geodata holdings, such as Google Maps.

The current dominance of the latter is a serious problem for free software -- and freedom itself. The data that lies behind Google Maps is proprietary. Thus, any open-source program that uses Google Maps or other commercial mapping services is effectively including proprietary elements in its code. For purists, that is unacceptable in itself. But even for those with a more pragmatic viewpoint, it means that open source is dependent on a company for data that can be restricted or withdrawn at any moment....

Although undoubtedly difficult, creating high-quality map-based services is a challenge that must be tackled by the Open Source community if it wants to remain relevant in a world dominated by mobile computing. The bad news is that at the moment, millions of people are happily sending crucial geodata to proprietary services like Waze, as well as providing free bug-fixes for Google Maps. Far better if they could be working with equal enthusiasm and enjoyment on open projects, since the resulting datasets would be freely available to all, not turned into corporate property. The good news is that OpenStreetMap provides exactly the right foundation for creating those open map-based services, which is why supporting it must become a priority for the Open Source world.

Firefox

Firefox's Pocket Tries to Build a Facebook-Style Newsfeed That Respects Your Privacy (theverge.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: Pocket, which lets you save articles and videos you find around the web to consume later, now has a home inside Firefox as the engine powering recommendations to 50 million people a month. By analyzing the articles and videos people save into Pocket, [Pocket founder and CEO Nate] Weiner believes the company can show people the best of the web -- in a personalized way -- without building an all-knowing, Facebook-style profile of the user.

"We're testing this really cool personalization system within Firefox where it uses your browser history to target personalized [recommendations], but none of that data actually comes back to Pocket or Mozilla," Weiner said. "It all happens on the client, inside the browser itself. There is this notion today... I feel like you saw it in the Zuckerberg hearings. It was like, 'Oh, users. They will give us their data in return for a better experience.' That's the premise, right? And yes, you could do that. But we don't feel like that is the required premise. There are ways to build these things where you don't have to trade your life profile in order to actually get a good experience."

Pocket can analyze which articles and videos from around the web are being shared as well as which ones are being read and watched. Over time, that gives the company a good understanding of which links lead to high-quality content that users of either Pocket or Firefox might enjoy.

I use Firefox, but I don't use Pocket. Are there any Slashdot readers who want to share their experiences with read-it-later services, or thoughts about what Firefox is attempting?
Education

We're All Getting Dumber, Says Science (fastcompany.com) 551

dryriver shares a report from Fast Company: Researchers at Norway's Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research now have scientific proof of something we've long suspected -- we're all getting dumber. In their paper, "Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused," which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg report that IQ scores have been steadily dropping since the 1970s.

The study consisted of analyzing 730,000 IQ test results gleaned from young men entering Norway's compulsory military service from 1970 to 2009. They found that scores declined by an average of seven points per generation, a reversal of the so-called "Flynn effect" where IQ was seen to be rising during the first part of the 20th century. The decline may be due to environmental factors, but because the researchers couldn't find consistent trends among families, Bratsberg and Rogeberg discounted factors like parental education, family size, increased immigration, and genetics as significant causes.

The Almighty Buck

$950 Million Large Hadron Collider Upgrade 'Could Upend Particle Physics' (theguardian.com) 196

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A massive project to supercharge the world's largest particle collider launched on Friday in the hope that the beefed-up machine will reveal fresh insights into the nature of the universe. The approximately $950 million Swiss franc mission will see heavy equipment, new buildings, access shafts and service tunnels installed, constructed and excavated at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the particle physics laboratory on the edge of Geneva.

The upgrade will make the collider far more sensitive to subtle quirks in the laws of physics, and physicists hope these anomalies will pry open the door to entirely new theories of the universe. If the upgrade goes to plan, the proton beams in the souped-up accelerator, known as the high-luminosity LHC, or HL-LHC, will be so intense that the number of collisions in the machine will be five to 10 times greater than today. The upgrade is expected to take eight years. While new magnets and beam instruments will be installed when the LHC is switched off for two years in 2019, most of the required equipment will be fitted in a longer shutdown from 2024 to 2026, when the revamped machine will switch back on again.

The Courts

The Silk Road's Alleged Right-Hand Man Will Finally Face a US Court (arstechnica.com) 74

It's been nearly five years since the FBI surrounded Ross Ulbricht in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library, arrested him, and grabbed the laptop from which he had run the dark web drug bazaar known as the Silk Road. Ulbricht went on trial in a New York courtroom, and is currently serving a life sentence without parole. But even now, the Silk Road saga still hasn't ended: Half a decade after Ulbricht's arrest, his alleged advisor, mentor and right-hand man Roger Clark will finally face a US court, too. From a report: On Friday, the FBI, IRS, DHS, and prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced the extradition of 56-year-old Canadian man Roger Clark from a Thai jail cell to New York to face newly unsealed charges for his role in Silk Road's operation. The indictment accuses Clark, who allegedly went by the pseudonyms Variety Jones, Cimon, and Plural of Mongoose in his role as Silk Road's consigliere, of crimes ranging from narcotics trafficking to money laundering. But even those charges don't capture the outsize role Clark is believed to have played in building and managing the Silk Road, from security audits to marketing, and even reportedly encouraging Ulbricht to use violence to maintain his empire.

"As Ulbricht's right-hand man, Roger Clark allegedly advised him of methods to thwart law enforcement during the operation of this illegal ploy, pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process," writes FBI assistant director William Sweeney in a press statement. "Today's extradition of Roger Clark shows that despite alleged attempts to operate under the radar, he was never out of our reach."

Businesses

Verizon's New Phone Plan Proves It Has No Idea What 'Unlimited' Actually Means (gizmodo.com) 165

Verizon has unveiled its third "unlimited" smartphone plan that goes to show just how meaningless the term has become in the U.S. wireless industry. "In addition to its Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited plans, Verizon is now adding a premium Above Unlimited plan to the mix, which offers 75GB of 'unlimited' data per month (as opposed to the 22GB of 'unlimited' data you get on less expensive plans), along with 20GB of 'unlimited' data when using your phone as a hotspot, 500GB of Verizon cloud storage, and five monthly international Travel Passes, which are daily vouchers that let you use your phone's wireless service abroad the same as if you were in the U.S.," reports Gizmodo. Are you confused yet? From the report: And as if that wasn't bad enough, Verizon has also updated its convoluted sliding pricing scheme that adjusts based on how many phones are on a single bill. For families with four lines of service, the Above Unlimited cost $60 per person, but if you're a single user the same service costs $95, which really seems like bullshit because if everything is supposed to be unlimited, it shouldn't really make a difference how many people are on the same bill. As a small concession to flexibility, Verizon says families with multiple lines can now mix and match plans instead of having to choose a single plan for every line, which should allow families to choose the right service for an individual person's needs and help keep costs down. The new Above Unlimited plan and the company's mix-and-match feature arrives next week on June 18th.

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