The Courts

'Coal King' Is Suing John Oliver, Time Warner, and HBO (washingtonpost.com) 195

Reader Daetrin writes: Robert E. Murray, CEO of one of the largest coal mining companies in the US, is suing John Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner for defamation (alternative source) over a comedic report on the status of the coal industry in John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight". The report began with the decline of the coal mining industry, Trump's promises to revive it, and the plight of the workers involved, but was also highly critical of the business practices and safety record of Murray Energy Corporation and Robert Murray's leadership of the company. When the company was contacted about the piece before airing they responded with a cease and desist letter and threatened to sue. John Oliver continued with the segment anyway, saying "I didn't really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kinda forced my hand on that one."
Security

Facial Recognition Is Coming To US Airports (theverge.com) 128

Facial recognition systems will be coming to U.S. airports in the very near future. "Customs and Border Protection first started testing facial recognition systems at Dulles Airport in 2015, then expanded the tests to New York's JFK Airport last year," reports The Verge. "Now, a new project is poised to bring those same systems to every international airport in America." From the report: Called Biometric Exit, the project would use facial matching systems to identify every visa holder as they leave the country. Passengers would have their photos taken immediately before boarding, to be matched with the passport-style photos provided with the visa application. If there's no match in the system, it could be evidence that the visitor entered the country illegally. The system is currently being tested on a single flight from Atlanta to Tokyo, but after being expedited by the Trump administration, it's expected to expand to more airports this summer, eventually rolling out to every international flight and border crossing in the U.S. U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Larry Panetta, who took over the airport portion of the project in February, explained the advantages of facial recognition at the Border Security Expo last week. "Facial recognition is the path forward we're working on," Panetta said at the conference. "We currently have everyone's photo, so we don't need to do any sort of enrollment. We have access to the Department of State records so we have photos of U.S. Citizens, we have visa photos, we have photos of people when they cross into the U.S. and their biometrics are captured into [DHS biometric database] IDENT."
Iphone

Virgin Mobile Becomes World's First iPhone-Exclusive Carrier, Offers Year of Service For $1 (betanews.com) 89

BrianFagioli quotes a report via BetaNews: Goodness gracious, Virgin Mobile USA has made quite the bold moves today. The cellular service provider has become the world's first iPhone-exclusive carrier. In other words, it will no longer offer Android at all. Crazy, right? This is through a partnership with Apple, and Virgin will offer many versions of the device, including iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and SE. The craziness doesn't stop there, however, as there is even something much more exciting -- Virgin Mobile USA is offering unlimited talk, text and data for a dollar. No, that is not a typo -- a single buck will get you unlimited everything for up to a year! This is through a new scheme called "Inner Circle."
Privacy

California May Restore Broadband Privacy Rules Killed By Congress and Trump (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A proposed law in California would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing history. The California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, a bill introduced by Assembly member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) on Monday, is very similar to an Obama-era privacy rule that was scheduled to take effect across the US until President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated it. If Chau's bill becomes law, ISPs in California would have to get subscribers' opt-in consent before using browsing history and other sensitive information in order to serve personalized advertisements. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent at any time. The opt-in requirement in Chau's bill would apply to "Web browsing history, application usage history, content of communications, and origin and destination Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of all traffic." The requirement would also apply to geolocation data, IP addresses, financial and health information, information pertaining to minors, names and billing information, Social Security numbers, demographic information, and personal details such as physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.
United States

Etsy Slashes Almost a Quarter Of Its Staff In Attempt To Refocus (engadget.com) 54

Etsy, the online market for artisan and handmade goods, said on Wednesday that it will reduce its workforce by 15 per cent on top of another round of job cuts announced last month. From a report: CEO Josh Silverman announced this morning that Etsy was laying off 15 percent of its workforce. That's in addition to layoffs that were announced in early May; the total workforce reduction comes in at 22 percent, or about 230 employees. Silverman said the layoffs were part of an effort to focus on Etsy's "vital few initiatives," though he didn't specify exactly what parts of the company were being a drag. The only indication was that the company would focus on its "core marketplace."
Government

Trump Promises a Federal Technology Overhaul To Save $1 Trillion (technologyreview.com) 353

New submitter threc shares a report from MIT Technology Review: The tech world descended on Washington, D.C. yesterday to attend a tech summit at the White House. According to MIT Technology Review associate editor Jamie Condliffe: "Trump suggested he might relax his stance on immigration as a way to get tech leaders to help his cause. 'You can get the people you want,' he told the assembled CEOs. That sweetener may be a response to a very vocal backlash in the tech world against the administration's recent travel bans. Trump may hope that his business-friendly stance will offer enough allure: if tech giants scratch his back, he may later deign to scratch theirs." The report continues: "'Our goal is to lead a sweeping transformation of the federal government's technology that will deliver dramatically better services for citizens,' said Trump at the start of his meeting with the CEOs, according to the Washington Post. 'We're embracing big change, bold thinking, and outsider perspectives.' The headline announcement from the event was Trump's promise to overhaul creaking government computing infrastructure. According to Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and advisor, there's much to be done: federal agencies have over 6,000 data centers that could be consolidated, for instance, while the 10 oldest networks in use by the government are all at least 39 years old. The upgrade, said Trump, could save the country $1 trillion over the next 10 years."
Businesses

The Best And Worst ISPs According To Consumer Reports (dslreports.com) 90

In the August 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the nonprofit organization ranked internet service providers based off customer satisfaction. According to the report, many consumers still don't like their broadband and television provider, and don't believe they receive a decent value for the high price they pay for service. DSLReports summarizes the findings: The report [...] names Chattanooga municipal broadband provider EPB as the most-liked ISP in the nation. EPB was followed by Google Fiber, Armstrong Cable, Consolidated Cable and RCN as the top-ranked ISPs in the nation. Google Fiber "was the clear winner for internet service," notes the report, "with the only high score for value." Google Fiber also received high marks for customer support and service. But large, incumbent ISPs continue to be aggressively disliked due to high prices and poor customer service, according to the report. Despite endless annual promises that customer service is the company's priority, Comcast ranked number 27 out of the 32 providers measured. The company's survey results were weighed down by low consumer marks for value, channel selection, technical support, customer service and free video on demand offerings. The least-liked ISPs in the nation, according to the report, are: Charter (Spectrum), Cable ONE, Atlantic broadband, Frontier Communications, and Mediacom. Not coincidentally, the two largest ISPs in that list just got done with massive mergers or acquisitions that resulted in higher prices and worse service than consumers saw previously. MyRatePlan has a breakdown of ISP providers and plans by ZIP code.
Transportation

It's Too Hot For Some Planes To Fly In Phoenix (npr.org) 269

In Phoenix on Tuesday, temperatures were forecast to climb as high as 120 degrees Fahrenheit, causing more than 40 American Eagle regional flights out of Phoenix's international airport to be canceled. NPR reports: American Airlines said in a statement that the Bombardier CRJ aircraft used on some shorter routes have a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees. For bigger jets, the threshold is higher. The carrier says that, for example, Airbus aircraft have a maximum operating temperature of 127 degrees and that for Boeing, it is 126 degrees. As USA Today reports: "Extreme heat affects a plane's ability to take off. Hot air is less dense than cold air, and the hotter the temperature, the more speed a plane needs to lift off. A runway might not be long enough to allow a plane to achieve the necessary extra speed." Bianca Hernandez, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, tells NPR that Phoenix is seeing an unusually strong high-pressure system, which is causing the soaring temperatures.
Transportation

Driver Killed In a Tesla Crash Using Autopilot Ignored At Least 7 Safety Warnings (usatoday.com) 482

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: U.S. investigators said a driver who was killed while using Tesla's partially self-driving car ignored repeated warnings to put his hands on the wheel. In a 538-page report providing new details of the May 2016 crash that killed Ohio resident Joshua Brown in a highway crash in Florida, the National Transportation Safety Board described the scene of the grisly incident and the minutes leading up to it. The agency, which opened an investigation to explore the possibility that Tesla's Autopilot system was faulty, said it had drawn "no conclusions about how or why the crash occurred." The NTSB report appears to deliver no conflicting information. The agency said the driver was traveling at 74 miles per hour, above the 65 mph limit on the road, when he collided with the truck. The driver used the vehicle's self-driving system for 37.5 minutes of the 41 minutes of his trip, according to NTSB. During the time the self-driving system was activated, he had his hands on the wheel for a total of only about half a minute, investigators concluded. NTSB said the driver received seven visual warnings on the instrument panel, which blared "Hold Steering Wheel," followed by six audible warnings.
Government

Tim Cook Told Trump Tech Employees Are 'Nervous' About Immigration (cnbc.com) 322

Behind the scenes at the White House tech CEO meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook told President Donald Trump that technology employees are "nervous" about the administration's approach to immigration, CNBC reports, citing a source familiar with the exchange. From the report: The source said the president told the CEOs on Monday that the Senate's health-care bill needs "more heart." That would be a second known instance of the president criticizing the GOP plan in private meetings. To that, the source said, Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also "needs more heart." Cook cited the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it "would be great" if the president could "send them a signal." Here's what executives of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft said.
The Internet

Cable Lobby Tries To Stop State Investigations Into Slow Broadband (arstechnica.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Broadband industry lobby groups want to stop individual states from investigating the speed claims made by Internet service providers, and they are citing the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules in their effort to hinder the state-level actions. The industry attempt to undercut state investigations comes a few months after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary that claims the ISP defrauded and misled New Yorkers by promising Internet speeds the company knew it could not deliver. NCTA-The Internet & Television Association and USTelecom, lobby groups for the cable and telecom industries, last month petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for a declaratory ruling that would help ISPs defend themselves against state-level investigations. The FCC should declare that advertisements of speeds "up to" a certain level of megabits per second are consistent with federal law as long as ISPs meet their disclosure obligations under the net neutrality rules, the groups said. There should be a national standard enforced by the FCC instead of a state-by-state "patchwork of inconsistent requirements," they argue. Another cable lobby group, the American Cable Association (ACA), asked the FCC to approve the petition in a filing on Friday. An FCC ruling in favor of the petition wouldn't completely prevent states from filing lawsuits, but such a ruling would make it far more difficult for the states to protect consumers from false speed claims.
United States

Swiss Supercomputer Edges US Out of Top Spot (bbc.com) 64

There have only been two times in the last 24 years where the U.S. has been edged out of the top spot of the world's most powerful supercomputers. Now is one of those times. "An upgrade to a Swiss supercomputer has bumped the U.S. Department of Energy's Cray XK7 to number four on the list rating these machines," reports the BBC. "The only other time the U.S. fell out of the top three was in 1996." The top two slots are occupied by Chinese supercomputers. From the report. The U.S. machine has been supplanted by Switzerland's Piz Daint system, which is installed at the country's national supercomputer center. The upgrade boosted its performance from 9.8 petaflops to 19.6. The machine is named after a peak in the Grison region of Switzerland. One petaflop is equal to one thousand trillion operations per second. A "flop" (floating point operation) can be thought of as a step in a calculation. The performance improvement meant it surpassed the 17.6 petaflop capacity of the DoE machine, located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The U.S. is well represented lower down in the list, as currently half of all the machines in the top 10 of the list are based in North America. And the Oak Ridge National Laboratory looks set to return to the top three later this year, when its Summit supercomputer comes online. This is expected to have a peak performance of more than 100 petaflops.
The Courts

Offensive Trademarks Must Be Allowed, Rules Supreme Court (arstechnica.com) 252

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called "The Slants," will be able to trademark the name of his band. It's also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark. The court unanimously held that a law on the books holding that a trademark can't "disparage... or bring... into contemp[t] or disrepute" any "persons, living or dead," violates the First Amendment. Tam headed to federal court years ago after he was unable to obtain a trademark. In 2015, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in Tam's favor, finding that the so-called "disparagement clause" of trademark law was unconstitutional.
Government

198 Million Americans Hit By 'Largest Ever' Voter Records Leak (zdnet.com) 119

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.
Businesses

E-Commerce's Biggest Obstacle May Be Slow Postal Services (thestreet.com) 236

Long-time Slashdot reader rudy_wayne writes: J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison recently said that e-commerce companies' biggest challenge is that they are all expanding their businesses and pushing for faster delivery, but UPS, Fedex and especially the United States Postal Service aren't able to keep up, at least not at same cost that exists today, because they're not increasing their delivery capacity at the same rate e-commerce is growing, He said this will cause a supply and demand issue "that's going to be apparent here pretty soon."
Cellphones

A Colorado Group Wants To Ban Smartphones For Kids (apnews.com) 386

An anonymous reader quotes the AP: Colorado officials have cleared the language of a proposed ballot measure that would establish the nation's first legal limits on buying smartphones for children. Backers of the move to forbid the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13 would now need about 300,000 voter signatures for the proposal to make the 2018 ballot. The ban would require cellphone retailers to ask customers about the age of the primary user of a smartphone and submit monthly reports to the Colorado Department of Revenue on adhering to the requirement. Retailers who sell a phone for use by a youngster could be fined $500, after a warning.
A Denver-area dad is leading the campaign -- a board certified anesthesiologist who says children change when they get a cellphone. "They go from being outgoing, energetic, interested in the world and happy, to reclusive. They want to spend all their time in their room. They lose interest in outside activities."
Google

Google Fights Bay Area Housing Prices With Pre-Fab Housing (siliconvalley.com) 294

An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: With rental costs skyrocketing and homes out of reach for many, Google has hit on a solution that may help it attract workers to the crushingly expensive Bay Area. The tech giant plans to buy 300 units of modular housing to serve as temporary employee accommodations on its planned "Bay View" campus at NASA's Moffett Field, according to a source familiar with the plan. Experts heralded the move as not only good for Google, but as a potential template for others to follow as the high cost of construction combined with expensive real estate make affordable housing hard to come by... Modular housing has the potential to be "a real game changer" for the Bay Area housing crunch, said Matt Regan, senior vice-president of public policy at the Bay Area Council, a business group of which Google is a member...

The Bay Area boasts many sites suitable for modular rental housing, undeveloped so far largely because the cost of traditional building is too high for the rent the facilities could generate, Regan said. With prefab housing costing up to 50 percent less, "all of a sudden sites like that become economically feasible to develop," Regan said.

United States

Louisville's Fiber Internet Expansion Opposed By Koch Brothers Group (usatoday.com) 229

Slashdot reader simkel shared an article from the Courier-Journal: A group affiliated with the Koch brothers' powerful political network is leading an online campaign against Mayor Greg Fischer's $5.4 million proposal to expand Louisville's ultra-fast internet access... Critics argue that building roughly 96 miles of fiber optic cabling is an unnecessary taxpayer giveaway to internet service providers, such as Google Fiber, which recently announced plans to begin building its high-speed network in the city. "Fundamentally, we don't believe that taxpayers should be funding broadband or internet systems," said David Williams, president of the taxpayers alliance, which is part of industrialists Charles and David Koch's political donor network... The group says $5.4 million is a misuse of taxpayer funds when the city has other needs, such as infrastructure and public safety.
To shore up public support, the mayor has begun arguing that high-speed connectivity would make it cheaper to install crime-monitoring cameras in violent neighborhoods.
The Military

Pentagon Cyberweapons 'Disappointing' Against ISIS (nytimes.com) 118

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Times: It has been more than a year since the Pentagon announced that it was opening a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing Cyber Command, then six years old, to mount computer-network attacks... "In general, there was some sense of disappointment in the overall ability for cyberoperations to land a major blow against ISIS," or the Islamic State, said Joshua Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council until March. "This is just much harder in practice than people think..."

Even one of the rare successes against the Islamic State belongs at least in part to Israel, which was America's partner in the attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities. Top Israeli cyberoperators penetrated a small cell of extremist bombmakers in Syria months ago, the officials said. That was how the United States learned that the terrorist group was working to make explosives that fooled airport X-ray machines and other screening by looking exactly like batteries for laptop computers... The information helped prompt a ban in March on large electronic devices in carry-on luggage on flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Britain.

Citing military officials, the Times also reports that "locking Islamic State propaganda specialists out of their accounts -- or using the coordinates of their phones and computers to target them for a drone attack -- is now standard operating procedure."
Piracy

Alleged KickassTorrents Owner Considers 'Voluntary Surrender' To the US (torrentfreak.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year a Polish court ruled that Artem Vaulin, the alleged owner of the defunct torrent site KickassTorrents, can be extradited to the United States. The decision came as a disappointment to the defense team, which quickly announced an appeal. Vaulin has since been released on bail and currently resides in a Warsaw apartment. His release has made it easier to communicate with his attorneys in the United States, who have started negotiations with the U.S. Government. While the extradition appeal is still ongoing, it now appears that under the right conditions Vaulin might consider traveling to the United States voluntarily, so he can "resolve" the pending charges. This is what the defense team states in a motion for a status conference (pdf), which was submitted earlier this week.

Slashdot Top Deals