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The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist

Soulskill posted 9 hours ago | from the suspect-wears-a-funny-hat dept.

United States 157

Advocatus Diaboli sends this report: The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither "concrete facts" nor "irrefutable evidence" to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept. ...The heart of the document revolves around the rules for placing individuals on a watchlist. "All executive departments and agencies," the document says, are responsible for collecting and sharing information on terrorist suspects with the National Counterterrorism Center. It sets a low standard—"reasonable suspicion"—for placing names on the watchlists, and offers a multitude of vague, confusing, or contradictory instructions for gauging it. In the chapter on "Minimum Substantive Derogatory Criteria"—even the title is hard to digest—the key sentence on reasonable suspicion offers little clarity.

'Optical Fiber' Made Out of Thin Air

Soulskill posted 11 hours ago | from the sufficiently-advanced-technology dept.

Communications 92

Dave Knott writes: Scientists from the University of Maryland say they have turned thin air into an "optical fiber" that can transmit and amplify light signals without the need for any cables. As described in the research, this was accomplished by generating a laser with its light split into a ring of multiple beams forming a pipe. Very short and powerful pulses from the laser are used to heat the air molecules along the beam extremely quickly. Such rapid heating produces sound waves that take about a microsecond to converge to the center of the pipe, creating a high-density area surrounded by a low-density area left behind in the wake of the laser beams. The lower density region of air surrounding the center of the air waveguide has a lower refractive index, keeping the light focused, and allowing the higher-density region (with its correspondingly higher index of refraction) to act like an optical fiber. The findings, reported in the journal Optica, have applications in long range laser communications, high-resolution topographic mapping, air pollution and climate change research, and could also be used by the military to make laser weapons.

The Department of Homeland Security Needs Its Own Edward Snowden

Soulskill posted 12 hours ago | from the any-volunteers? dept.

Government 169

blottsie writes: Out of all the U.S. government agencies, the Department of Homeland Security is one of the least transparent. As such, the number of Freedom of Information Act requests it receives have doubled since 2008. But the DHS has only become more adamant about blocking FOIA requests over the years. The problem has become so severe that nothing short of an Edward Snowden-style leak may be needed to increase transparency at the DHS.

Firefox 33 Integrates Cisco's OpenH264

Unknown Lamer posted yesterday | from the monty-does-it-better dept.

Firefox 166

NotInHere (3654617) writes As promised, version 33 of the Firefox browser will fetch the OpenH264 module from Cisco, which enables Firefox to decode and encode H.264 video, for both the <video> tag and WebRTC, which has a codec war on this matter. The module won't be a traditional NPAPI plugin, but a so-called Gecko Media Plugin (GMP), Mozilla's answer to the disliked Pepper API. Firefox had no cross-platform support for H.264 before. Note that only the particular copy of the implementation built and blessed by Cisco is licensed to use the h.264 patents.

Oso Disaster Had Its Roots In Earlier Landslides

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the learning-lessons dept.

Earth 56

vinces99 writes: The disastrous March 22 landslide that killed 43 people in the rural Washington state community of Oso involved the "remobilization" of a 2006 landslide on the same hillside, a new federally sponsored geological study concludes. The research indicates the landslide, the deadliest in U.S. history, happened in two major stages. The first stage remobilized the 2006 slide, including part of an adjacent forested slope from an ancient slide, and was made up largely or entirely of deposits from previous landslides. The first stage ultimately moved more than six-tenths of a mile across the north fork of the Stillaguamish River and caused nearly all the destruction in the Steelhead Haven neighborhood. The second stage started several minutes later and consisted of ancient landslide and glacial deposits. That material moved into the space vacated by the first stage and moved rapidly until it reached the trailing edge of the first stage, the study found. "Perhaps the most striking finding is that, while the Oso landslide was a rare geologic occurrence, it was not extraordinary," said Joseph Wartman, a University of Washington associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and a team leader for the study.

UK Cabinet Office Adopts ODF As Exclusive Standard For Sharable Documents

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the won-the-battle,-working-on-the-war dept.

Software 160

Andy Updegrove writes: "The U.K. Cabinet Office accomplished today what the Commonwealth of Massachusetts set out (unsuccessfully) to achieve ten years ago: it formally required compliance with the Open Document Format (ODF) by software to be purchased in the future across all government bodies. Compliance with any of the existing versions of OOXML, the competing document format championed by Microsoft, is neither required nor relevant. The announcement was made today by The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude. Henceforth, ODF compliance will be required for documents intended to be shared or subject to collaboration. PDF/A or HTML compliance will be required for viewable government documents. The decision follows a long process that invited, and received, very extensive public input – over 500 comments in all."

Open-Source Blu-Ray Library Now Supports BD-J Java

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the hack-it-until-it-works dept.

Media 92

An anonymous reader writes: Updates to the open-source libbluray, libaacs, and libbdplus libraries have improved the open-source Blu-ray disc support to now enable the Blu-ray Java interactivity layer (BD-J). The Blu-ray Java code is in turn executed by OpenJDK or the Oracle JDK and is working well enough to play a Blu-ray disc on the Raspberry Pi when paired with the VLC media player."

Firefox 31 Released

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the baskin-robbins-edition dept.

Firefox 162

An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has released version 31 of its Firefox web browser for desktops and Android devices. According to the release notes, major new features include malware blocking for file downloads, automatic handling of PDF and OGG files if no other software is available to do so, and a new certificate verification library. Smaller features include a search field on the new tab page, better support for parental controls, and partial implementation of the OpenType MATH table. Firefox 31 is also loaded with new features for developers. Mozilla also took the opportunity to note the launch of a new game, Dungeon Defenders Eternity, which will run at near-native speeds on the web using asm.js, WebGL, and Web Audio. "We're pleased to see more developers using asm.js to distribute and now monetize their plug-in free games on the Web as it strengthens support for Mozilla's vision of a high performance, plugin-free Web."

UK Users Overwhelmingly Spurn Broadband Filters

timothy posted yesterday | from the but-it's-a-free-service dept.

United Kingdom 110

nk497 (1345219) writes "Broadband customers are overwhelmingly choosing not to use parental-control systems foisted on ISPs by the government — with takeup in the single-digits for three of the four major broadband providers. Last year, the government pushed ISPs to roll out network-level filters, forcing new customers to make an "active" decision about whether they want to use them or not. Only 5% of new BT customers signed up, 8% opted in for Sky and 4% for Virgin Media. TalkTalk rolled out a parental-control system two years before the government required it and has a much better takeup, with 36% of customers signing up for it. The report, from regulator Ofcom, didn't bother to judge if the filters actually work, however."

Netflix Reduces Physical-Disc Processing, Keeps Prices the Same

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the rising-overhead dept.

Movies 330

Nom du Keyboard writes: After seeing a drop in my DVD service from Netflix I got a customer service representative tonight to confirm that Netflix has ceased processing DVD returns on Saturdays nationwide. And that they did this without notifying their customers, or reducing prices to compensate for the reduced service. Given that the DVD selection still far outstrips their streaming selection, this may be news to others like myself who don't find streaming an adequate replacement for plastic discs. My experience up until recently, unlike Netflix's promise of a 1-3 day turnaround at their end which gives them lots of wiggle room to degrade service even further, had been of mailing in a DVD on day one, having them receive it and mail out my next selection on day two, and receiving it on day three. Now with them only working 5 days and many U.S. Post Office holidays, they're still getting the same money for significantly less. The Netflix shipping FAQ confirms the change, and a spokesperson said, "Saturdays have been low volume ship days for us."

For Now, UK Online Pirates Will Get 4 Warnings -- And That's It

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the on-high-alert dept.

Piracy 137

New submitter Tmackiller writes with an excerpt from VG247.com: The British government has decriminalised online video game, music and movie piracy, scrapping fuller punishment plans after branding them unworkable. Starting in 2015, persistent file-sharers will be sent four warning letters explaining their actions are illegal, but if the notes are ignored no further action will be taken. The scheme, named the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP), is the result of years of talks between ISPs, British politicians and the movie and music industries. The UK's biggest providers – BT, TalkTalk, Virgin and Sky – have all signed up to VCAP, and smaller ISPs are expected to follow suit. VCAP replaces planned anti-piracy measures that included cutting users' internet connections and creating a database of file-sharers. Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music trade body the BPI, said VCAP was about "persuading the persuadable, such as parents who do not know what is going on with their net connection." He added: "VCAP is not about denying access to the internet. It's about changing attitudes and raising awareness so people can make the right choice." Officials will still work to close and stem funding to file-sharing sites, but the news appears to mean that the British authorities have abandoned legal enforcement of online media piracy. Figures recently published by Ofcom said that nearly a quarter of all UK downloads were of pirated content." Tmackiller wants to know "Will this result in more private lawsuits against file sharers by the companies involved?"

Print Isn't Dead: How Linux Voice Crowdfunded a New Magazine

Unknown Lamer posted 2 days ago | from the something-about-paper dept.

The Media 56

M-Saunders (706738) writes The death of print has been predicted for years, and many magazines and publishers have taken a big hit with the rise of eBooks and tablets. But not everyone has given up. Four geeks quit their job at an old Linux magazine to start Linux Voice, an independent GNU/Linux print and digital mag with a different publishing model: giving profits and content back to the community. Six months after a successful crowdfunding campaign, the magazine is going well, so here is the full story.

Rupert Murdoch's Quest To Buy Time Warner: Not Done Yet

Unknown Lamer posted 2 days ago | from the please-give-up dept.

The Media 62

Presto Vivace (882157) writes It seems that Murdoch's desire to acquire Time Warner predates his acquisition of Fox, and continues in spite of Time Warner's recent refusal. The possible deal is important in and of itself, but it also affects the future leadership of Fox. From the article: "Murdoch's skill is not just hiring the right people; he has been able to maintain control over them. They have his support as long as they produce results. His executives are the hired help. There is never any threat to his control. When a Murdoch favourite begins to get more headlines than the chairman, the clock begins ticking for their departure. But with the Time Warner bid, that balance may change. Chase Carey has put together a deal that, because of Murdoch's history, is almost irresistible to him. But it's a deal only Carey can put together. If he succeeds, the $US160 billion company that will emerge will be an ungainly beast that will depend on Carey making the merger work. He's indispensable." Clearly we have not heard the last of this.

Activist Group Sues US Border Agency Over New, Vast Intelligence System

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the lets-see-what-you-have-there dept.

Government 82

An anonymous reader writes with news about one of the latest unanswered FOIA requests made to the Department of Homeland Security and the associated lawsuit the department's silence has brought. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has sued the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in an attempt to compel the government agency to hand over documents relating to a relatively new comprehensive intelligence database of people and cargo crossing the US border. EPIC's lawsuit, which was filed last Friday, seeks a trove of documents concerning the 'Analytical Framework for Intelligence' (AFI) as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. EPIC's April 2014 FOIA request went unanswered after the 20 days that the law requires, and the group waited an additional 49 days before filing suit. The AFI, which was formally announced in June 2012 by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), consists of "a single platform for research, analysis, and visualization of large amounts of data from disparate sources and maintaining the final analysis or products in a single, searchable location for later use as well as appropriate dissemination."

How One School District Handled Rolling Out 20,000 iPads

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the accident-waiting-to-happen dept.

Education 277

First time accepted submitter Gamoid writes This past school year, the Coachella Valley Unified School District gave out iPads to every single student. The good news is that kids love them, and only 6 of them got stolen or went missing. The bad news is, these iPads are sucking so much bandwidth that it's keeping neighboring school districts from getting online. Here's why the CVUSD is considering becoming its own ISP.

Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the writing-history dept.

Wikipedia 664

An anonymous reader writes A political battle has broken out on Wikipedia over an entry relating to the crash of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, with the Russian government reportedly removing sections which accuse it of providing 'terrorists' with missiles that were used to down the civilian airliner. A Twitter bot which monitors edits made to the online encyclopedia from Russian government IP addresses spotted that changes are being made to a page relating to the crash. All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) changed a Russian language version of a page listing civil aviation accidents to say that "The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers." That edit replaced text – written just an hour earlier – which said MH17 had been shot down "by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation."

Ars Editor Learns Feds Have His Old IP Addresses, Full Credit Card Numbers

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the no-stone-left-unturned dept.

United States 207

mpicpp writes with the ultimate results of Ars's senior business editor Cyrus Farivar's FOIA request. In May 2014, I reported on my efforts to learn what the feds know about me whenever I enter and exit the country. In particular, I wanted my Passenger Name Records (PNR), data created by airlines, hotels, and cruise ships whenever travel is booked. But instead of providing what I had requested, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) turned over only basic information about my travel going back to 1994. So I appealed—and without explanation, the government recently turned over the actual PNRs I had requested the first time.

The 76 new pages of data, covering 2005 through 2013, show that CBP retains massive amounts of data on us when we travel internationally. My own PNRs include not just every mailing address, e-mail, and phone number I've ever used; some of them also contain: The IP address that I used to buy the ticket, my credit card number (in full), the language I used, and notes on my phone calls to airlines, even for something as minor as a seat change.

High School Students Not Waiting For Schools To Go Online

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the on-my-own dept.

Education 82

lpress writes UCLA conducts an annual survey of first-time, full-time college freshman and this year they included questions about the use of online education sites like Coursera and The Khan Academy. It turns out that over 40 percent of the incoming freshmen were frequently or occasionally assigned to use an online instructional website during the past year and nearly 70 percent had used online sites on their own. Students enrolling in historically black colleges were much more likely than others to have used online teaching material. They also compile a "habits of mind" index, and conclude that "Students who chose to independently use online instructional websites are also more likely to exhibit behaviors and traits associated with academic success and lifelong learning." The survey covers many other characteristics of incoming freshmen — you can download the full report here

Exhibit On Real Johnny Appleseed To Hit the Road

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the wearing-a-cooking-pot-as-a-hat dept.

United States 71

An anonymous reader writes with this story about a traveling Johnny Appleseed exhibit set to hit the road sometime next year. If you picture Johnny Appleseed as a loner wearing a tin pot for a hat and flinging apple seeds across the countryside, experts say you're wrong. They're hoping that a traveling exhibit funded by an anonymous donation to a western Ohio center and museum will help clear misconceptions about the folk hero and the real man behind the legend. "We want people around the country to know the real person, not just the myths and folklore," said Cheryl Ogden, director of the Johnny Appleseed Educational Center and Museum at Urbana University in Urbana. "We want them to know John Chapman's values of hard work, compassion and generosity." Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed to generations of Americans, was a pioneer nurseryman in the late 18th and early 19th centuries credited with introducing apple trees to portions of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and West Virginia. While it's probably true that he lived outdoors and wore ragged clothes, at least sometimes, researchers doubt he wore a pot on his head or just gave his seedlings and nurseries away.

Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the we're-here dept.

United States 204

An anonymous reader writes On July 20, 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong would say later he thought the crew had a 90% chance of getting home from the moon, and only a 50% chance of landing safely. The scope of NASA's Apollo program seems staggering today. President Kennedy announced his moon goal just four years into the Space Age, but the United States had not even launched a human into orbit yet. Amazingly, just eight years later, Armstrong and Aldrin were walking on the moon.

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